love and marriage in very cold weather

I was reading an old story from the 1590s and couldn’t help giggling over the gender politics and the power-play between the two characters.  Cold weather plays a key part – and here we are right now in the UK in the middle of snow and ice – so it seems appropriate to modernise some of the spelling and the grammar, and insert some random pictures, to share chapter one of Thomas Deloney’s Jack of Newbury with you.  I like this story partly because it  shows us a wonderfully civilised alternative to Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’ plot.   Furthermore, in ‘The Winter’s Tale’ we are told that a sad tale is best for winter – Deloney seems to have thought differently. Chapter Two is my next post, and Chapter Three took a while to construct.

THE PLEASANT HISTORY of JOHN WINCHCOMB, In his younger years called Jack of Newbery, the famous and worthy Clothier of England:  CHAPTER I.
In the days of King Henry the eighth, that most noble and victorious Prince, in the beginning of his reign, John Winchcomb, a broadcloth Weaver, dwelt in Newbery, a town in Berkshire: who for that he was a man of a merry disposition, and honest conversation, was wondrous well beloved of rich and poor, especially because in every place where he came, he would spend his money with the best, and was not any time found a churl of his purse. Wherefore being so good a companion, he was called of old and young Jack of Newbery: a man so generally well known in all his country for his good fellowship, that he could go in no place but he found acquaintance; by means whereof, Jack could no sooner get a crown, but straight he found means to spend it: yet had he ever this care, that he would always keep himself in comely and decent apparell, neither at any time would he be overcome in drink, but so discreetly behave himselfe with honest mirth and pleasant conceits, that he was every gentleman’s companion.
After that Jack had long led this pleasant life, being (though he were but poor) in good estimation, it was his masters chance to die, and his dame to be a widow, who was a very comely auncient woman, and of reasonable wealth. Wherefore she, having a good opinion of her man John, committed unto his government the guiding of all her work-folks, for the space of three years together; in which time she found him so carefull and diligent, that all things came forward and prospered wondrous well. No man could entice him from his business all the weeke, by all the intreaty they could use: insomuch that in the end some of the wild youths of the towne began to deride and scoff at him.Doubtless, quoth one, I doubt some female spirit hath inchanted Jack to his treadles, and conjured him within the compass of his loome, that he can stir no further. You say truth, quoth Jack, and if you have the leisure to stay til the charme be done, the space of sixe dayes and five nights, you shall find me readie to put on my holy day apparell, and on Sunday morning for your paines, I will give you a pot of ale over against the Maypole. Nay, quoth another, I’ll lay my life, that as the salamander cannot live without the fire, so Jack cannot live without the smell of his dames smock.

the salamander of myth and legend lived in fire

a real salamander - needless to say, they don't much like fire at all

And I marvel, quoth Jack, that you, being of the nature of the herring (which so soone as he is taken out of the sea, streight dyes), can live so long with your nose out of the pot.

it was widely (and wrongly) believed that herring die unusually quickly once out of water. Anything to do with herring was apparently seen as comic in the sixteenth century.

 Nay, Jack, leave thy jesting, quoth another, and goe along with us, thou shalt not stay a jot. And because I will not stay nor make you a liar (quoth Jack), I’ll keepe me here still: and so, farewell.
Thus then they departed, and after they had for half a score times, tried him to this intent, and saw he would not be led by their lure, they left him to his own will. Nevertheless, every Sunday in the afternoon and every holyday, Jack would keep them companie; and hee as merrie as a pie,

magpie - clever, resourceful, and apparently also cheerful

 and having still good store of money in his purse, one or other would ever be borrowing of him, but never could he get pennie of it againe; which when Jack perceived, he would never after carry above twelve pence at once in his purse, and that being spent, he would streight returne home merrily, taking his leave of the company in this sort.My masters, I thanke you, tis time to pack home.
For he that wants money is counted a mome.
And twelve pence a Sunday being spent in good cheare.
To fifty-two shillings amounts in the yeare.
Enough for a craftsman that lives by his hands,
And he that exceedes it shall purchase no lands.
For that I spend this day, I’ll work harder to morrow.
For woe is that party that seeketh to borrow.
My money doth make me full merry to be,
And without my money none careth for me.
Therefore wanting money, what should I do here.
But haste home, and thanke you for all my good cheere.

Twelve pence to a shilling; twenty shillings to a pound.

Thus was Jack’s good government and discretion noted of the best and substantiallest men of the towne, so that it brought his great commendation, and his dame thought her selfe not a little blest to have such a servant, that was so obedient unto her, and so careful for her profit; for shee had never a prentise that yeelded her more obedience than hee did, or was more dutiful; so that by his good example, hee did as much good as by his diligent labour and travaile; which his singular vertue being noted by the widow, shee began to cast very good countenance to her man John, and to use very much talke with him in private; and first by way of communication, she would tell unto him what suters she had, and the great offers they made her, what gifts they sent her, and the great affection they bare her, craving his opinion in the matter.
When Jack found the favour to be his dame’s secretarie, he thought it an extraordinary kindnesse; and guessing by the yarne it would prove a good web, began to question with his dame in this sort.  Although it becommeth not me your servant to prie into your secrets, nor to be busie about matters of your love; yet for so much as it hath pleased you to use conference with me in those causes, I pray you let me intreat you to know their names that be your suitors, and of what profession they be.
‘Tarrie, John (saith shee), that you shall, and I pray thee take a cushion and sit downe by me.
Dame (quoth hee) I thank you; but there is no reason I should sit on a cushion till I have deserved it. If thou hast not thou mightest have done, said she: but faint souldiers never find favour.
John replied, That makes me indeede to want favour; for I durst not try maydens, because they seeme coy; nor wives, for feare of their husbands; nor widows, doubting their disdainfulnesse.
Tush, John (quoth she), he that feares and doubts womankind cannot be counted mankind: and take this for a principle: all things are not as they seeme. But let us leave this, and proceede to our former matter. My first suitor dwells at Wallingford, his trade a tanner, a man of good wealth, and his name is Craftes, of comely personage, and very good behaviour, a widower, well thought of amongst his neighbours: he hath proper land, a faire house and well furnished, and never a childe in the worlde, and he loves mee passing well.
Why then, dame, quoth John, you were best to have him.
Is that your opinion, quoth she; now trust me so it is not mine; for I find two speciall reasons to the contrary: the one is, that he being over-worne in yeares makes me overloath to love him; and the other that I know one neerer hand.
Believe me, dame (quoth Jack), I perceive store is no sore, and proffered ware is worse by ten in the hundred than that which is sought; but I pray ye who is your second suitor?
John, quoth she, it may seem immodestly in me to bewray my loves secrets; yet seeing thy discretion, and being perswaded of thy secresy, I will show thee. The other is a man of middle yeare, but yet a batchelor, by occupation a taylor, dwelling at Hungerford: by report a very good husband, such a one as hath crownes good store, and to me he professes much good will; for his person he may please any woman.
Aye, dame, quoth John, because he pleaseth you.
Not so, said she, for my eyes are unpartiall judges in that case: and albeit my opinion may be contrary to others, if his art deceive not my eye-sight, he is worthy of a good wife, both for his person and conditions.
Then, trust me, dame (quoth John), forsomuch as you are without doubt of your selfe that you will prove a good wife, and so well persuaded of him, I should thinke you could make no better choise.
Truly, John (quoth she), there is also two reasons that move me not to like of him: the one, that being so long a ranger, he would at home be a stranger; and the other that I like better of one nearer hand.
“Who is that ? quoth Jack. Saith she, the third suitor is the parson of Spinhome land, who hath a proper living; he is of holy conversation and good estimation, whose affection to me is great.
No doubt, dame (quoth John), you may do wondrous well with him, where you shall have no care but to serve God, and to make ready his meate.
Oh John (quoth she), the flesh and the spirit agrees not; for he will be so bent to his booke, that he will have little minde of bed: for one months studying for a sermon, will make him forget his wife a whole yeare.
Truly, dame, (quoth John), I must needs speake in his behalfe, and the rather, for that he is a man of the Church, and your neare neighbor, to whom (as I guesse) you beare the best affection: I doe not thinke that he will be so much bound to his booke, or subject to the spirit, but that he will remember a woman at home or abroad.
Well, John (quoth she), I wis my minde is not that way, for I like better of one nearer at hand.
No marvell (quoth Jack), you are so peremptory, seeing you have so much choise; but I pray you, dame (quoth he), let mee know this fortunate man that is so highly placed in your favour.
John (quoth shee), they are worthy to know nothing, that cannot keep something; that man (I tell thee) must goe namelesse: for he is lord of my love, and king of my desires: there is neither tanner, taylor, nor parson, may compare with him: his presence is a preservative to my health, his sweete smiles my hearts solace, and his words heavenly musike in my eares.
Why, then, dame (quoth John), for your bodies health, your hearts joy, and your eares delight, delay not the time, but entertaine him with a kisse, make his bed next yours, and chop the match in the morning.
Well, quoth she, I perceive thy consent is quickly got to any, having no care how I am matcht, so I be matcht, I wis, I wis, I could not let thee goe so lightly, being loth that any one should have thee, except I could love her as well as my selfe.
I thanke you for your kindnesse and good will, good dame, quoth hee; but it is not wisdome for a young man that can scantily keep himself to take a wife; therefore I hold it the best way to lead a single life; for I have heard say that many sorrows follow marriage, especially where want remains; and besides, it is a hard matter to find a constant woman: for as young maids are fickle, so are old women jealous: the one a grief too common, the other a torment intolerable.
What, John (quoth she), consider that maidens ficklenesse proceedes of vaine fancies, but old womens jealousie of superabounding love, and therefore the more to be borne withall.
But, dame, quoth hee, many are jealous without cause: for is it sufficient for their mistrusting natures to take exceptions at a shadow, at a word, or a look, at a smile, nay, at the twinkle of an eye, which neither man nor woman is able to expell. I knew a woman that was readie to hang her selfe, for seeing but her husbands shirt hang on a hedge with her maides smockes.
I grant that this furie may haunt some (quoth shee), yet there is many other that complaine not without great cause.
Why is there any cause that should make jealousie? quoth John.
Aye, by Saint Mary is there, quoth she: for would it not grieve a woman (being one every way able to delight her husband) to see him forsake her, despise and contemne her, being never so merry as when he is in other company, sporting abroad from morning till noon, from noon till night; and when he comes to bed, if he turn to his wife, it is in such sullenness and wearisome drowsie lameness, that it brings rather lothsomeness than any delight: can you, then, blame a woman in this case to be angrie and displeased? I tell you what, among brute beasts it is a griefe intolerable: for I heard my grandame tell, that the bel-weather of her flocke, fancying one of the eawes above the rest, and seeing Gratis the shepheard abusing her, could by no meanes beare that abuse; but watching opportunity for revenge, on a time found the said shepheard sleeping in the field, and suddenly ran against him in such violent sort, that by the force of his wreathed homes he beat the brains out of the shepheards head and slew him. If, then, a sheepe could not indure that injurie, thinke not that women are so sheepish to suffer it.
Beleeve me (quoth John), if every hornemaker should be so plagued by a horned beast, there should be lesse hornes made in Newberie, by many in a yeare. But, dame (quoth he), to make an end of this prattle, because it is an argument too deepe to bee discussed betweene you and I, you shall heare mee sing an old song, and so wee will depart to supper.
A maiden faire I dare not wed.
For feare to have Acteons head.
A maiden blacke is often proude,
A maiden little will be loud.
A maiden that is high of groath.
They say, is subject unto sloath.
Thus faire or foule, yea, little or tall,
Some faults remaine among them all.
But of all the faults that be.
None is so bad as jealousie.
For jealousie is fierce and fell,
And burnes as hot as fire in hell:
It breeds suspicion without cause,
And breakes the bonds of reason’s lawes.
To none it is a greater foe
Than unto those where it doth grow.
And God keepe me both day and night
From that fell, fond and ugly spright:
For why of all the plagues that be
The secret plague is jealousie.
Therefore I wish all women kind.
Never to beare a jealous minde.
Well said, John (quoth she), thy song is not so true, but thy voyce is as sweete: but seeing the time agrees with our stomackes, though loth, yet will we give over for this time, and betake our selves to our suppers. Then calling the rest of her servants, they fell to their meale merrily, and after supper, the goodwife went abroade for her recreation, to walke awhile to one of her neighbours, and in the meane space John got him up into his chamber, and there began to meditate on this matter, bethinking with himselfe what he were best to doe: for well he perceived that his dames affection was great towards him: knowing, therefore, the womans disposition, and withall that her estate was reasonable good, and considering beside that he should find a house ready furnished, servants readie taught, and all other things for his trade necessarie, he thought it best not to let slip that good occasion, lest he should never come to the like. But again, when he considered her years to be unfitting to his youth, and that she that sometime had been his dame, would (perhaps) disdaine to be governed by him that had been her poor servant, that it would prove but a bad bargain, doubting many inconveniences that might grow thereby, he therefore resolved to be silent, rather than to proceed further: wherefore he got him straight to bed, and the next morning settled himself close to his business. His dame coming home, and hearing that her man was gone to bed, took that night but small rest, and early in the morning hearing him up at his work merrily singing, she by and by arose, and in seemly sort attyring her self, she came into the work-shop and sat her down to make quills.
Quoth John, good morrow, dame, how doe you to day?
God a mercie, John (quoth she), even as well as I may; for I was sore troubled in my dreames; me thought two doves walked together in a corn field. the one (as it were) in communication with the other, “without regard of pecking up any thing to sustain themselves; and after they had with many nods spent some time to their content, they both fell hard, with their prettie bills, to pecke up the scattered corne left by the wearie reapers’ hand.

She is describing pigeons mating.

At length (finding them- selves satisfied) it chanced another pigeon to light in that place, with whom one of the first pigeons at length kept companie; and after, returning to the place where she left her first companion, perceiving he was not there, she kindly searching up and down the high stubble to find him, lighted at length on a hog fast asleep, wherewith, me thought, the poor dove was dismaid, that presently she fell down in a trance. I, seeing her legges faile and her wings quiver, yielding her self to death, moved with pittie, ran unto her, and thinking to take up the pigeon, me thought I had in my hands my owne heart, wherein me thought an arrow stuck so deep, that the blood trickled down the shaft, and lay upon the feathers like the alder pearled dew on the green grass, which made me to weep most bitterlie; but presently me thought there came one to me crowned like a queene, who told my heart would die except in time I got some of that sleeping hog’s grease to heal the wounds thereof; whereupon I came in all haste to the hog, with my heart bleeding in my hand, who (me thought) grunted at me in most churlish sort, and vanisht out of my sight; whereupon coming straight home, me thought I found this pig rustling among my goodes, wherewith I presently awaked, suddainely after midnight, being all in a sweat and very ill: and I am sure you could not choose but hear me groan.
Trust me, dame, I heard you not (quoth John), I was so sound a-sleep.
And thus (quoth she) a woman may die in the night before you will have the care to see what she ailes, or aske what she lackes; but truly, John (quoth she), all is one, for if thou shouldest have come, thou couldest not have got in, because my chamber doore was lockt; but while I live, this shall teach me wit, for henceforth I will have no other locke but a latch, till I am married.
Then, dame (quoth he), I perceive though you be curious in your choice, yet at length you will marrie.
I, truely (quoth she), so thou wilt not hinder mee.
Who I? quoth John; on my faith, dame, not for a hundred pounds; but rather will further you to the uttermost of my power.
Indeed (quoth she), thou hast no reason to shew any discourtesie to me in that matter, although some of our neighbours doe not stick to say that I am sure to thee alreadie.
If it were so (quoth John), there is no cause to denie it or to be ashamed therof, knowing my selfe far unworthy of so high a favour. Well, let this talk rest, quoth shee, and take there thy quills, for it is time for me to go to market. Thus the matter rested for two or three days, in which space she daily devised which way she might obtain her desire, which was to marrie her man; many things came in her head, and sundrie sleights in her minde, but none of them did fit her fancy, so that she became wondr’ous sad, and as civill as the nine Sibyls: and in this melancholie humour she continued three weeks or a month, till at last it was her lucke upon a Bartholomew day (having a fayre in the towne) to spy her man John give a pair of gloves to a proper maid for a fayring, which the mayden with a bashfull modestie kindely accepted, and requited it with a kisse; which kindled in her an inward jealousie: but notwithstanding very discreetly she covered it, and closely passed along unspied of her man or the maide.

Patron saint of printers, St Bartholomew's Day was in August, and an occasion for a holiday and fair.

She had not gone farre but she met with one of her suitors, namely, the tayler, who was very fine and briske in his apparell, and needes would bestow wine upon the widow, and after some faint denial, meeting with a gossip of hers, to the taverne they went, which was more courtesie than the tayler could ever get of her before, showing her self very pleasant and merrie; and finding her in such a pleasing humour, the tayler, after a new quart of wine, renewed his olde suit. The widow with patience heard him, and gently answered, that in respect of his great good will long time borne unto her, as also in regard of his gentlenesse, cost and curtesie at that present bestowed, she would not flatly denie him. Therefore (quoth she), seeing this is not a place to conclude of such matters, if I may intreate you to come to my poor house on Thursday next, you shall be heartily welcome, and be further satisfied of my mind: and thus preferred to a touch of her lips, he payde the shot and departed. The taylor was scant out of sight, when she met with the tanner; who, albeit he was aged, yet lustily he saluted her, and to the wine she must, there was no nay. The widow, seeing his importunacie, called her gossip, and along they walked together. The old man called for wine plentie, and the best cheere in the house; and in heartie manner he bid the widowe welcome. They had not sitten long, but in comes a noyse of musitians in tawny coats, who (putting off their caps) asked if they would have any musicke.
The widow answered no, they were merrie enough.
Tut, quoth the olde man, let us heare, good fellowes, what ye can doe, and plaie me The Beginning of the World.

A lewd innuendo: this tune, also known as 'Sellenger's Round' accompanies a dance where the couple approach each other and then move further away repeatedly.

Alas ! quoth the widow, you had more need to hearken to the ending of the world.
Why, widow, quoth he, I tell thee the beginning of the world was the begetting of children; and if you find me faultie, send for the sexton. He had no sooner spoke the word, but the parson of Speen with his corner cap popt in at the dore, who, seeing the widow sitting at the table, craved pardon, and came in.
Quoth she, for want of the sexton, here is the priest if thou need him.
Mary (quoth the tanner), in good time; for by this meanes wee need not go farre to be married.
Sir, quoth the parson, I shall doe my best in convenient place.
Wherein? quoth the tanner.
To wed her my selfe, quoth the parson.
Nay, soft, sayd the widow, one swallow makes not a sommer, nor one meeting a marriage; as I lighted on you unlookt for, so came I hither unprovided for the purpose.
I trust, quoth the tanner, you came not without your eyes to see, your tongue to speak, your ears to hear, your hands to feel, nor your legs to go.
I brought my eyes, quoth she, to discern colours; my tongue, to say no to questions I like not; my hands, to thrust from me the things that I love not; my ears, to judge twixt flattery and friendship; and my feet, to run from such as would wrong me.
Why, then, quoth the parson, by your gentle abiding in this place, it is evident that here are none but such as you like and love.
God forbid I should hate my friends (quoth the widow), whom I take all these in this place to be.
But there is divers sorts of love, quoth the parson.
You say truth, quoth the widow; I love your selfe for your profession, and my friend the tanner for his courtesie and kindnesse, and the rest for their good company.
Yet (quoth the parson), for the explaining of your love, I pray you, drinke to him you love best in the companie.
Why (quoth the tanner), have you any hope of her love?
Believe me (saith the parson), as much as another.
Why, then, parson, sit down, said the tanner; for, you that are equal with me in desire, shall surely be half with me in the shot: and so, widow, on Gods name, fulfil the parsons request.
Seeing (quoth the widow), you are so pleasantly bent, if my courtesie might not breed contention between you, and that I may have your favour to show my fancie, I will fulfill your request.
Quoth the parson, I am pleased howsoever it be.
And I, quoth the tanner.
Why, then (quoth she), with this cup of claret wine and sugar, I heartily drink to the minstrels boy.
Why, is it he you love best? quoth the parson.
I have reason, said she, to like and love them best that will be least offended with my doings.
Nay, widow (quoth they), we meant you should drinke to him whom you loved best in the way of marriage.
Quoth the widow, you should have said so at first; but, to tell you my opinion, it is small discretion for a woman to disclose her secret affection in an open assembly: therefore, if to that purpose you spake, let me entreat you both to come home to my house on Thursday next, where you shall be heartily welcome, and there be fully resolved of my mind: and so with thanks at this time. I’ll take my leave. The shot being paid and the musitians pleased, they all departed, the tanner to Wallingford, the parson to Speen, and the widow to her own house; where in her wonted solemnesse she settled her self in her business.

Against Thursday, she dressed her house fine and brave, and set her selfe in her best apparel: the taylor, nothing forgetting his promise, sent to the widow a good fat pig and a goose. The parson, being as mindful as he, sent to her house a couple of fat rabbits and a capon; and the tanner came himself, and brought a good shoulder of mutton, and half a dozen chickens; beside he brought a good gallon of sack, and half a pound of the best sugar. The widow received this good meat, set her maid to dress it incontinent, and when dinner time drew near, the table was covered, and every other thing provided in convenient and comely sort.

At length the guests being come, the widow bade them all heartily welcome. The priest and the tanner, seeing the taylor, mused what he made there; the taylor, on the other side, marvelled as much at their presence. Thus looking strangely one at another, at length the widow came out of the kitchen, in a faire traine gowne stucke full of silver pinnes, a fine white cap on her head, with cuts of curious needle worke under the same, and an apron before her as white as the driven snow: then very modestly making curtsie to them all, she requested them to sit down, but they straining curtesie the one with. the other, the widow with a smiling countenance took the parson by the hand, saying: Sir, as you stand highest in the church, so is it meete you should sit highest at the table, and therefore I pray you sit downe there on the bench side; and, sir, said she to the tanner, as age is to be honoured before youth for their experience, so are they to sit above batchelors for their gravitie; and so she set him downe on this side the table, over against the parson. Then coming to the taylor, she said: Batcheler, though your lot be the last, your welcome is equal with the first; and seeing your place points out it selfe, I pray you take a cushion and sit down. And now (quoth shee), to make the board equall, and because it hath been an old saying, that three things are to small purpose if the fourth be away; if so it may stand with your favour, I will call in a gossip of mine to supplie this voide place.
With a good will, quoth they.
With that, she brought in an olde woman with scant ever a good tooth in her head, and placed her right against the bachelor; then was the meat brought to the board in due order by the widows servants, her man John being chiefest servitor. The widow sate down at the tables end between the parson and the tanner, who in very good sort carved meat for them all, her man John waiting on the table.

After they had sitten a while and well refreshed themselves, the widow, taking a crystal glasse filled with claret wine, drank unto the whole companie, and bade them welcome. The parson pledged her, and so did all the rest in due order; but still in their companie the cup passed over the poor old woman’s nose: insomuch that at length the old woman (in a merie vein) spake thus unto the companie: I have had much good meate among you, but as for the drink, I can nothing commend it.
Alas ! good gossip (quoth the widow), I perceive no man hath drunke to thee yet.
No, truly, quoth the old woman; for churchmen have so much mind of young rabbets, old men such joy in young chickens, and batchelors in pigs flesh take such delight, that an old sow, a tough henne, or a gray cony, are not accepted: and so it is seene by me, else I should have been better remembred.
Well, olde woman, quoth the parson, take here the leg of a capon to stay thy mouth.
Now, by Saint Anne, I dare not, quoth she.
Not? wherefore? said the parson.
Marrie, for feare lest you should goe home with a cruch, quoth she.
The taylor sayd, then taste here a peece of goose.
Now, God forbid, sayd the olde woman; let goose goe to his kinde: you have a young stomacke, eat it your selfe, and much good may it doe your heart, sweet young man.
The old woman lacks most of her teeth, quoth the tanner, and therefore a peece of tender chicke is fittest for her.
If I did lacke as many of my teeth, quoth the old woman, as you lacke points of good husbandrie, I doubt I should starve before it were long. At this the widow laught heartily, and the men were stricken into such a dumpe, that they had not a word to say. Dinner being ended, the widow with the rest rose from the table, and after they had sitten a prittie while merrily talking, the widow called her man John to bring her a bowl of fresh ale, which he did.
Then said the widow: My masters, now for your courtesie and cost I heartily thank you all, and as requitall of all your favour, love and good will, I drink to you, giving you free libertie when you please to depart.
At these words, her suitors looked so sourly one upon another, as if they had been newly champing of crabs,


not crabs but sour crab apples

which, when the taylor heard, shaking up himself in his new russet jerkin, and setting his hat on one side, he began to speak thus. I trust, sweet widow (quoth he), you remember to what end my coming was hither to day. I have long time been a suitor unto you, and this day you promised to give me a direct answer.
Tis true, quoth she, and so I have; for your love I give you thanks, and when you please you may depart.
Shall I not have you? said the taylor.
Alas! (quoth the widow) you come too late.
Good friend (quoth the tanner), it is manners for young men to let their elders be served before them: to what end should I be here if the widow should have thee; a flat deniall is meet for a saucie suitor: but what saiest thou to me, faire widow ? (quoth the tanner).
Sir, said she, because you are so sharp set, I would wish you as soon as you can to wed. Appoint the time your selfe, quoth the tanner.
Even as soon (quoth she) as you can get a wife; and hope not after mee, for I am already promised.
Now, tanner, you may take your place with the tayler, quoth the parson, for indeede the widow is for no man but my selfe.
Master parson (quoth she), many have runne neere the goale, and yet lost the game, and I cannot help it though your hope be in vaine; besides, parsons are but newly suffered to have wives, and for my part I will have none of the first head.
What (quoth the taylor), is your merriment growne to this reckoning; I never spent a pig and a goose to so bad a purpose before; I promise you when I came in I verily thought that you were invited by the widow to make her and me sure together, and that the jolly tanner was brought to bee a witness to the contract, and the old woman fetcht me for the same purpose: else I would never have put up with so many drie bobs at her hands.
And surely, quoth the tanner, I knowing thee to be a taylor, did assuredly thinke that thou wast appointed to come and take measure for our wedding apparell.
But now we are all deceived, quoth the parson, and therefore as we came fooles, so we may depart hence like asses.
That is as you interpret the matter, said the widow; for I ever doubting that a concluding answer would breed a fire in the end among you every one, I thought it better to be done at one instant, and in mine owne house, than at sundry times and in common taverns; and as for the meat you sent, as it was unrequested of me, so had you your part thereof, and if you thinke good to take home the remainder, prepare your wallets, and you shall have it.
Nay, widow, quoth they, although we have lost our labours, we have not altogether lost our manners; that which you have, keep, and God send to us better luck, and to you your hearts desire, and with that they departed.

The widow, being glad she was thus rid of her guests, when her man John with all the rest sat at supper, she sitting in a chair nearby, spake thus unto them. Well, my masters, you saw that this day your poore dame had her choise of husbands, if she had listed to marrie, and such as would have loved and maintained her like a woman.
Tis true, quoth John, and I pray God you have not withstood your best fortune.
Trust me (quoth she), I know not but I have; I may thanke mine owne foolish fancie.

Thus it past on from Bartholomewtide till it was neere Christmas, at what time the weather was so wonderfull colde, that all fast running rivers round about the towne were frozen very thicke. The widow, being very loth any longer to lie without companie, in a cold winters night made a great fire, and sent for her man John: having also prepared a chair and a cushion, she made him sit down therein, and sending for a pint of good sack, they both went to supper.

In the end bed time comming on, she caused in a merriment to pluck off his hose and shoes, and caused him to be laid in his masters best bed, standing in the best chamber, hung round about with very faire curtaines. John, being thus preferred, thought himselfe a gentleman, and lying soft, after his hard labour and a good supper, quickly fell asleepe.


Jack must have felt like Sly, the tinker from ‘The Taming of the Shrew’

About midnight, the widow being cold on her feet, crept into her mans bed to warm them. John, feeling someone lift up the clothes, asked who was there.
Good John, it is I, quoth the widow; the night is so extreme cold, and my chamber walls so thin, that I am like to be starved in my bed; wherefore rather than I would any way hazzard my health, I thought it much better to come hither and trie your curtesie, to have a little roome beside you.

John, being a kinde young man, would not say her nay, and so they spent the rest of the night both together in one bed. In the morning betime she rose up and made her self ready, and willed her man John to run and fetch her a linke with all speede: For, quoth she, I have earnest businesse to doe this morning. Her man did so; which done, she made him to carry the linke before her, until she came to Saint Bartholomews chapel, where sir John the priest with the clerk and sexton stoode waiting for her. John, quoth she, turne into the chappell, for before I goe further, I will make my prayers to Saint Bartholomew, so shall I speed the better in my businesse. When they were come in, the priest according to his order came to her, and asked where the bridesgroome was.
Quoth she, I thought he had been here before me. Sir (quoth she), I will sit downe and say over my beads, and by that time he will come. John mused at this matter, to see that his dame should so suddenly be married, and he hearing nothing thereof before. The widow rising from her prayers, the priest told her that the bridegroom was not yet come.
Is it true? quoth the widow; I promise you I will stay no longer for him, if he were as good as George a Green, and therefore dispatch, quoth shee, and marrie mee to my man John.
Why, dame (quoth he), you do but jest,
I trowe. John (quoth she), I jest not, for I mean it shall bee; and stand not strangely, but remember that you did promise me on your faith not to hinder me when I came to the church to be married, but rather to set it forward; therefore set your link aside, and give me your hand, for none but you shall be my husband. John, seeing no remedy, consented, because he saw the matter could not otherwise be amended; and married they were presently. When they were come home, John entertained his dame with a kisse; which the other servants seeing, thought him something saucie. The widow caused the best cheer in the house to be set on the table, and to breakfast they went, causing her new husband to be set in a chair at the tables end, with a faire napkin laid on his trencher; then she called out the rest of her servants, willing them to sit down and take part of their good cheer. They, wondering to see their fellow John sit at the tables end in their old masters chair, began heartily to smile, and then openly laughed at the matter, especially because their dame so kindly sate by his side; which she perceiving, asked if that were all the manners they could show before their master: I tell you, quoth she, he is my husband, for this morning wee were married, and therefore hence forward looke you acknowledge your duty towards him.
The folks looked one upon another, marvelling at this strange newes, which when John perceived, he said: My masters, muse not at all, for although by God’s providence and your dames favour, I am preferred from being your fellow to be your master, I am not thereby so much puffed up in pride, that any way I can forget my former estate; notwithstanding, seeing I am now to hold the place of a master, it shall be wisdom in you to forget what I was, and to take me as I am; and in doing your diligence, you shall have no cause to repent that God made me your master. The servants, hearing this, as also knowing his good government before time past their yeares with him in dutifull manner.

The next day the report was over all the town that Jack of Newberie had married his dame, so that when the woman walked abroad every one bad God give her joy; some said that she was matcht to her sorrow, saying that so lusty a young man as he would never love her, being so ancient. Whereupon the woman made answer, that she would take him down in his wedding shoes, and would try his patience in the prime of his lustiness: whereunto many of her gossips did likewise encourage her. Every day, therefore, for the space of a month after she was married, it was her ordinary custom to go forth in the morning among her gossips and acquaintance to make merry, and not to return home till night, without any regard of her household, of which, at her coming home, her husband did very oftentimes admonish her in very gentle sort, showing what great inconvenience would grow thereby: the which sometime she would take in gentle part, and sometime in disdaine, saying:
I am now in very good case, that he which was my servant but the other day will now be my master; this it is for a woman to make her foote her head. The day hath beene when I might have gone forth when I would, and come in againe when it had pleased me, without controlement; and now I must bee subject to every Jacks checke. I am sure (quoth shee) that by my gadding abroad and careless spending I waste no goods of thine. I, pitying thy povertie, made thee a man and master of the house, but not to the end I would become thy slave. I scorn, I tell thee true, that such a youngling as thy self should correct my conceit and give me instructions, as if I were not able to guide my self; but yfaith, yfaith, you shall not use me like a babe, nor bridle me like an ass: and seeing my going abroad grieves thee, where I have gone forth one day I will go abroad three, and for one hour I will stay five.
Well (quoth her husband), I trust you will be better advised: and with that he went from her about his business, leaving her sweating in her fustian furies.

Thus the time past on, till on a certain day she had been abroad in her wonted manner and staying forth very late, he shut the doors and went to bed. About midnight she comes to the door and knocks to come in: to whom he, looking out of the window, answered in this sort.
Wife, is it you that keep such a knocking? I pray you get hence, and request the constable to provide you a bed, for this night you shall have no lodging here.
I hope, quoth she, you will not shut me out of doors like a dog, or let me lie in the streets like a strumpet.
Whether like a dog or drab, quoth hee, all is one to me, knowing no reason but that as you have stayed out all day for your delight, so you may lie forth all night for my pleasure; both birds and beasts, at the nights approach, prepare to their rest, and observe a convenient time to return to their habitation; look but upon the poor spider, the frog, the fly, and every other silly worm, and you shall see all these observe time to return to their homes; and if you, being a woman, will not doe the like, content your self to bear the brunt of your own folly, and so farewell.

The woman, hearing this, made piteous moan, and in very humble sort intreated him to let her in, and to pardon this offence, and while she lived vowed never to do the like. Her husband at length being moved with pity towards her, slipt on his shoes, and came down in his shirt: the door being opened, in she went quaking, and as he was about to lock it again, in very sorrowful manner she said: Alacke, husband, what hap have I, my wedding ring was even now in my hand, and I have let it fall about the door; good sweet John, come forth with the candle, and help me to seek it.
The man incontinent did so, and while he sought for that which was not there to be found, she whipt into the house, and quickly clapping to the door, she lockt her husband out: he stood calling with the candle in his hand to come in, but she made as if she heard not. Anon she went up into her chamber, and carried the key with her; but when he saw she would not answer, he presently began to knock as loud as he could at the door. At last, she thrust her head out at the window, saying: Who is there?
Tis I, quoth John; what mean you by this? I pray you come down and open the door that I may come in.
What, sir, quoth she, is it you? Have you nothing to do but dance about the streets at this time of night, and like a spirit of the Butterie hunt after crickets? Are you so light that the house cannot hold you?
Nay, I pray thee, sweet heart, quoth he, do not gybe any longer, but let me in.
Ah, sir, remember, quoth she, how you stood even now at the window, like a judge on the bench, and in taunting sort, kept me out of my own house. How now, Jack, am I even with you I. What, John, my man, were you so lusty to lock your dame out of doors? Sirra, remember you bade me go to the constable to get lodging, now you have leisure to try if his wife will prefer you to a bed, you, sir sauce, that made me stand in the cold till my feet did freeze, and my teeth chatter, while you stood preaching of birds and beasts; telling me a tale of spiders, flies, and frogs: go try now if any of them will be so friendly to let thee have lodging. Why go you not, man? Fear not to speak with them; for I am sure you shall find them at home: think not they are such ill husbands as you, to be abroad at this time of night.

With this, John’s patience was greatly moved, insomuch that he deeply swore that if she would not let him in, he would break down the door.
Why, John, quoth shee, you neede not be so hot, your clothing is not so warm; and because I think this will be a warning unto ye against another time, how you shut me out of my house, catch, there is the key; come in at thy pleasure, and look thou go to bed to thy fellows, for with me thou shalt not lie to night. With that, she clapt to the casement, and got her to bed, locking the chamber door fast. Her husband, that knew it was in vaine to seeke to come into her chamber, and being no longer able to endure the cold, got him a place among his apprentices, and there slept soundly. In the morning his wife rose betime, and merrily made him a cawdle, and bringing it up to his bed, asked him how he did.

A cawdle for a sick body. Take lemmon posset drink and thicken it with the yolks of eggs, and sweeten it with sugar.

Quoth John, Troubled with a shrew, who the longer she lives the worse she is: and as the people of Illyria kill men with their lookes, so she kills her husbands heart with untoward conditions. But trust me, wife, quoth he, seeing I find you of such crooked qualities, that (like the spider) ye turn the sweet flowers of good counsell into venomous poison, from henceforth I will leave you to your own wilfulness, and neither vex my minde, nor trouble my self to restrain you: the which if I had wisely done last night, I had kept the house in quiet, and my selfe from cold.
Husband (quoth shee), think that women are like starlings, that will burst their gall before they will yield to the fowler:

I haven't managed to track down this belief about starlings

or like the fish scolopendra, that cannot be touched without danger notwithstanding:

Scolopendra: this isn't what he means - but it's a great picture anyway

as the hard Steele doth yield to the hammers stroke, being used to his kind, so will women in their husbands, where these are not too much curst: and seeing ye have sworn to give me my will, I vow likewise that my wilfulnesse shall not unkind you. I tell you, husband, the noble nature of women is such, that for their loving friends they will not stick (like the pellican) to pierce their own hearts to do them good:

Self-sacrifice: the myth is that a pelican will peck its own flesh to feed its young

a real pelican - superb in flight

and therefore forgiving each other all injuries past, having also tried one another’s patience, let us quench these burning coals of contention with the sweete juice of a faithfull kisse, and shaking hands, bequeath all anger to the eating up of this cawdle. Her husband courteouslie consented: and after this time, they lived long together, in most goodly, loving and kind sort, till in the end she dyed, leaving her husband wondrous wealthy.

Some notes I couldn’t quite make myself delete – you might find them interesting.

[1]  The salamander became a symbol of enduring faith.  Coincidentally, the legendary salamander was also associated with weaving: A 12th-century letter supposedly from Prester John says, “Our realm yields the worm known as the salamander. Salamanders live in fire and make cocoons, which our court ladies spin and use to weave cloth and garments. To wash and clean these fabrics, they throw them into flames.”

[2]  Myths about herring cut two ways: one group claims sudden death out of water, another group claims unexpected endurance.  Generally, though, referring to herring in the sixteenth century invokes a range of jokes and clowning

[5] a mischievous and greedy spirit, found in taverns where the landlord is dishonest or ungrateful.  They can eat the entire contents of a larder in one night.  The reference to crickets is a mystery to me so far.

[6] A soothing lemon & egg drink.  The Cooks Guide: Or, Rare Receipts for Cookery, 1654
A cawdle for a sick body.  Take lemmon posset drink and thicken it with the yolks of eggs, and sweeten it with sugar.
Lemon posset involves cream, sugar and lemon juice – see

[7] reported in Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 9:4

[8] Not the modern scorpion, but a mythical sea-creature, reputed to be able to disgorge its bowels to dislodge any fishing-hook. Mentioned by Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, II.xii:
Spring-headed Hydraes, and sea-shouldring Whales, / Great whirlpooles, which all fishes make to flee, / Bright Scolopendraes, arm’d with siluer scales, / Mighty Monoceroses, with immeasured tayles.

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5 Responses to “love and marriage in very cold weather”

  1. Josie Buckland Says:

    Enjoyed this! Should be working! Might even try the lemmon possett myself! Sounds quite nice!

  2. Josie Buckland Says:

    whoops a typo! Posset! Am particularly fond of herring also but am not sure what that says about me given the various connotations!

  3. Lou Bess Says:

    Hello! I really enjoyed this story. Chose that photo of posset in blue ramequin from hundreds of others & it brought me here. Exactly the posset I had at Lussmanns Fish & Grill in St Albans, Hertfordshire, on a trip to England in May. I forgot to take a photo of my pudding!
    I “will” make posset soon as I wish to write about a fine day in St Albans on my travel page at a very good travel community website. Meantime, do you know if I might show “this” photo on my England travel page? Thank you and hope I’m not being a bother. (Followed footnote 6 to BBC Food link but BBC has removed that recipe now.)
    Best regards!

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