Archive for October 31st, 2013

October 31, 2013

A Pleasant Comedy

Called a Mayden-head Well Lost. As it hath beene publickly acted at the Cocke-pit in Drury-land with much Applause by her Majesties Servants. Written by Thomas Heywood. First published in 1634 this was a popular play that was reprinted several times. The plot was typically labyrinthine and involved Julia the daughter of the Duke of Milan who discovers she is pregnant just before she is supposed to be marrying the Prince of Parma.

The introductory ‘Letter to the Reader’ is interesting as in sounds a note of caution to indicate that innocent entertainment like this might become a bone of contention: ‘this can be drawn within the critical censure of that most horrible Histriomatix, whose uncharitable doome having damned all such to the flames of Hell, hath itself already suffered a most remarkeable fire here upon earth’. Histriomatix was written by the puritan William Prynne and was a scathing attack on the Rennaissance theatre and festivals such as Christmas. It was a foretaste of the religious turmoil that was just around the corner.

The image is an engraving from the front page and shows a scene from the play. Most of the men are dressed in doublet, hat and falling band, but note the clown on the right of the table in a long checkered petticoat and striped hat. This was the uniform of the fool; Tom Skelton of Muncaster Castle, the original Tom Fool was roughly contemporary and was painted in a similar garb. Julia is pictured in a petticoat, bodice and a decorated collar.


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October 31, 2013

The English Hermite

or, Wonder of this AGE.

A short pamphlet printed in 1655 that detailed the lifestyle of Roger Crab who it seems had left the rat race and taken on the new age lifestyle and veganism 300 years or so before the Summer of Love. The title goes on to explain. Notice the capitalised nouns. Very seventeenth century.

Being a relation of the life of ROGER CRAB, living neer Uxbridg, taken from his own mouth, shewing his strange reserved and unparallel’d kind of life, who counteth it a sin against his body and soule to eat any sort of Flesh, Fish or living Creature, or to drinke any Wine, Ale or Beere. He can live with three farthings a week.

The first page goes on helpfully to list his diet and what his clothes are made of:

His constant food is Roots and Hearbs, as Cabbage, Turneps,  Carrets, Dock-leaves, and Grasse; also Bread and Bran, without Butter or Cheese: His Cloathing is Sack-cloath.

In the introduction, the anonymous publisher describes Roger’s clothes:

“His apparel is as meane also, he weares a sackcloth frock and no band on his neck”

Here is Roger pictured (in an engraving facing the title page) in his garden, wearing his sackcloth frock (and no band); generally thought of as a porter’s uniform, breeches, shoes and perhaps a shirt underneath. He is also wearing a wide brimmed hat, probably from his hat shop in Chesham which he sold before taking up the hermit’s existence. The house (a mean cottage of his own building) is behind him, though in this copy of the engraving we can only see part of the roof and a small curlicue of smoke rising from a fire. © The Trustees of the British Museum

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