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Had it but been five hundred, though some sixty
When every great man had his Vice stand by him,
I could consent, that then this
your grave choice
As the times are, who is it will receive you?
5 Cokely and Vennor.] Cokely is elsewhere mentioned by Jonson as master of a puppet-show; he seems also to have been famous for tricks of legerdemain. Of Vennor, his superior in the art, I can give the reader no information. In Taylor's Cast over the Water, he mentions
"Poor old Vennor, that plain dealing man,
Who acted 'England's Joy' at the Old Swan."
If the Vennor of the text be, as I suppose, the son of this person, he seems to have turn'd aside from the plain dealing of his
6 And take his Almain-leap into a custard.] In the earlier days, when the City kept a fool, it was customary for him, at public entertainments, to leap into a large bowl of custard set on purpose: there is an allusion to this piece of mirth in Shakspeare. WHAL. Whalley alludes to All's well that end's well. "You have made a shift to run into it, boots and all, like him that leapt into the custard." A. ii. S. 5.
Our old dramatists abound with pleasant allusions to the enormous size of these "quaking custards," which were served up at the
Stranger and newer and changed every hour.
Or fashion now, they take none from us.
Are got into the yellow starch, and chimney-sweepers To their tobacco, and strong waters, Hum,
Meath and Obarni.' We must therefore aim
city feasts, and with which such gross fooleries were played. Thus
"I'll write the city annals
In metre, which shall far surpass Sir Guy
Wit in a Const.
Indeed, no common supply was required; for, besides what the Corporation (great devourers of custard) consumed on the spot, it appears that it was thought no breach of city manners to send, or take some of it home with them for the use of their ladies. In the excellent old play quoted above, Clara twits her uncle with this practice :
"Nor shall you, sir, as 'tis a frequent custom,
'Cause you're a worthy alderman of a ward,
Supply the large defect."
Are got into the yellow starch, and chimney sweepers
Meath and Obarni.] The ridiculous fashion, affected both by the great and small vulgar, of having their ruffs and linen stiffened with a kind of yellow starch was an object of satire to the wits of Jonson's age. It was first brought into vogue by Mrs. Turner, one of the persons employed by the countess of Essex in the poisoning
At extraordinary subtle ones now,
As the best men and women.
Tissue gowns, Garters and roses, fourscore pound a pair,
Embroider'd stockings, cut-work smocks and shirts,
Than e'er they were of true nobility! [Exit INIQ.
You go to earth, and visit men a day.
of sir Thomas Overbury and as she was soon after executed for her dealings in that affair, with a yellow starched ruff about her neck, the mode became for a time disreputable. WHAL.
Enough, and more than enough has been produced on this tritest of all subjects, yellow starch. On the strong waters mentioned in the quotation, Whalley has nothing; and I have very little to the purpose. Meath is familiar to every reader under the name of metheglin. Hum, I have always understood to be an infusion of spirits in ale or beer. It is mentioned by several of our old dramatists, and appears to have been considered as a kind of cordial. Thus Fletcher: "Lord, what should I ail! what a cold I have over my stomach; would I had some hum!" Wild Goose Chace. Obarni is probably a preparation of usquebaugh; but this is merely conjecture. The word is an árak λeyoμɛvov, (as far as my knowledge reaches,) and I have endeavoured in vain to ascertain the meaning
So far as human frailty. So, this morning,
And look how far your subtilty can work
You shall have both trust from us, and employment.
Sat. Only thus more I bind you,
To serve the first man that you meet; and him
[Shews him FITZDOTTREL coming out of his house
You shall see first after your clothing. Follow him:
Pug. Any conditions to be gone.
Sat. Away then.
SCENE II. The Street before FITZDOTTREL'S House.
Y, they do now name Bretnor, as before
They talk'd of Gresham, and of doctor Fore
Franklin, and Fiske, and Savory, he was in too;
8 Ay, they do now name Bretnor, as before
They talk'd of Gresham, and of doctor Foreman,
Franklin, and Fiske, and Savory, he was in too.] These were pretenders to soothsaying, in other words, receivers of stolen goods,
But there's not one of these that ever could
They have their crystals, I do know, and rings,
As I have done this twelvemonth. If he be not
pimps, and poisoners. They were all, with the exception of Bretnor, who came later into notice, connected with the infamous countess of Essex and Mrs. Turner, in the murder of sir Thomas Overbury. Of Foreman the reader will find some account in a note to the Silent Woman, A. iv. S. 1. Gresham succeeded him in the service of Mrs. Turner, and being, as Arthur Wilson says, "a rotten engine," was preserved, like his predecessor, from the gallows by an early death. Franklin was hanged at the same time with Mrs. Turner, "a swarthy, sallow, crook-backed fellow, (Wilson says,) as sordid in his death as pernicious in his life, and deserving not even so much as memory, p. 82. He was the purveyor of the poison. Fiske is often mentioned by Lilly; and appears to have been just such another ignorant and impudent impostor as himself and Dr. Foreman. "He was a licentiate in physick, exquisitely skilful in the art of directions upon nativities, and had a good genius in performing judgment thereupon -Oh learned esquire!" this pathetic apostrophe is to the dupe of these miscreants, the worthy Ashmole, "he died about the seventyeighth year of his age, poor." Lilly's History, p. 44. Fiske is introduced as a cheating rogue, in Fletcher's Rollo Duke of Normandy. if they be not, &c.] It is not a little amusing to find Fitzdottrel deep in the Dialectics of Chrysippus. This is the very syllogism by which that acute philosopher triumphantly proved the reality of augury. De Divinatione, Lib. 1. § 71.