Richard Brathwait

J. W. Ebsworth, introduction to Strappado for the Divell (1878) v-xxx.

"Good wine," says the Proverb, "needs no bush." Nevertheless, while wine is in demand, there hangeth out the advertising bunch of leaves above the door where it is offered to consumers, reminding them of care having been taken to keep the barrel from the sun's scorching heat, when it was brought and stored. So it is with Richard Brathwaite, whose Strappado for the Diuell is now ready for the entertainment of revellers. "Taste and try!" is all that is absolutely necessary to be said or sung; yet are we called on, by our friend whose labours have provided this choice and accurate reprint, to write a few lines of introduction.

In sooth, the book well deserved to be copiously annotated, for, like others by the same author, it is full of quaint allusions to subjects out of the common road of thought and conversation, even in the days when it was first given to the world. It, moreover, illustrates the time by innumerable jocular quips and cranks, proverbs, and a detailed record of the contemporary customs, so that every thoughtful Shakesperian student may rejoice at now possessing the book. It was published in 1615, when Beaumont and Shakespeare had reached their last year, but while most of the other great dramatists were at their best. It exemplifies alike the laborious trifling which continued to find favour among the wits, as it had done during the reign of the Virgin Queen; and also that robust and boisterous vivacity, suited to men of adventurous spirit and hardihood at the time of England's greatest intellectual vigour. Of late there has been felt an increased interest in all of Richard Brathwaite's writings, and certainly his Strappado for the Diuell well deserved to be made more generally accessible to students. Fairly to do justice to it, a commentary equalling it in bulk, although without redundancy of annotation, would be required. This is at present deemed inexpedient. The book is offered entire, unadulterated, a verbatim reprint, but nothing more. Those who have detected the inaccuracies of most modern editions of old authors will be, doubtless, gratified at securing such an exact reproduction of this rare work as may be deemed equivalent to the original.

An excellent portrait of Richard Brathwaite is in the frontispiece of his book, A Survey of History; or, A Nursery for Gentry: Contrived and Comprized in Intermixt Discourse upon Historicall and Poeticall Relations, 1638. It is one of William Marshall's choice engravings, an elaborate composition in eight compartments; the oval portrait forms the centre. With pointed beard, stiff horizontal moustache, and cleanly shaven cheeks, it gives us such a likeness of the man as carries its own warrant of fidelity. The full point-lace collar falls over a slashed doublet of dark velvet. The strongly-marked features betoken a somewhat fierce animalism: great capacity and impetuosity. The eyes are already dimmed; they show in their worn and wearied expression a remembrance of bygone revels, not altogether pleasant. They have lost the joyous light of youth, and under the knotted brow look out sadly upon the world. A stalwart combatant is this, ready at all times for a struggle against any odds that offer. He bears the bruises and the scars, in furrowed front and sunken cheek; but evidently he is unsubdued, though weakened, and will "die game," with his face to the foe. He has drank deeply of the cup proffered to him, and has known the bitterness of after-reflections. He has clasped hands firmly in friendship, and has struck hard, when needful, at those who may have hated, but dared not scorn him. Yet this face, with its wealth of varied memories, is of a man no older than forty-eight years! It is thus certified in the engraving. The flame must have burnt fiercely, to have calcined so much in that short time. With this portrait in view we the better understand and prize his works.

He is believed to have been born about 1588, and this would make the portrait, marked "aetatis 48," to be representative of him at two years earlier date than when it was published, in 1638, in A Survey of History. It corresponds more closely with William Marshall's full length of him, as "Barnaby," merrily enjoying his newly-lighted pipe at the ale-house door, than with the lean-visaged yet smooth-browed decorous gentleman in a plaited ruff, whose portrait is prefixed to the Psalms of David, in the same year 1638. Joseph Haslewood writes of this second oval portrait, subscribed, "quanquam O," that it "appears to have been intended for our author, when advanced in years." But Brathwaite can scarcely have been represented as more than two years older than the portrait issued almost simultaneously, in the Survey, wherein his age is stated. Elsewhere, in his biographical account, Haslewood refers to this "engraved title to the Psalms, where he has a more aged appearance, probably adopted as the sedate Christian moralist — a character he seemed desirous uniformly to sustain in all his serious and religious pieces." It may be that the biographer intends to admit a certain amount of falsification in the Psalms, portrait: that it was, in fact, like the picture of an actor "in character," more or less disguised in its sedateness. Otherwise, we should be led to believe that the assigned date of our author's birth may have been a trifle too late. We hold firmly by a belief in the literal fidelity of the original portrait in the Survey, with its motto "Meliori nascimur aevo."

It is not necessary to repeat here the short account of his life given by his loving biographer. In few of his labours had Haslewood so satisfactorily acquitted himself as when he gave back the Barnabae Itinerarium to the world. He left little for after-gleaners. The first duty now is to reprint Brathwaite's various works with scrupulous fidelity: the second is to add to them such a comprehensive and exhaustive introduction with annotations as they well deserve. From first to last they throw light on our English social history at the most interesting period, from before the time of Shakespeare's final retirement to Stratford, throughout the struggle of the Commonwealth against the Monarchy, and beyond the Restoration until 1673. So voluminous an author, one who wrote with a flying pen, and loved to record his own habits, whims, and experiences, beside his allusions to contemporary topics, must reward the student of literature. Nor is he ever wearisome, except by an excess of sparkle and point. His vivacity sometimes fatigues readers who cannot keep pace with his sportive sallies. But he is no mere witling, and quibbler with words. He offers subjects for thought, and would himself have scorned to be considered a jester or buffoon for idle hours. He has some kinship with George Wither, his contemporary; resembling him alike in the pastoral poems, and in the pungency of his Satires. In the under-current of religious seriousness the two writers are not so far apart as might be imagined. Both were confessors, not martyrs, enduring persecutions for conscience sake. Brathwaite proved his sincerity and fortitude in manifold sufferings for the Royal cause, but he seems to have led a much happier and more jovial life than Wither, who was always in opposition amid a factious minority; always coming into collision with authority, and suffering imprisonments or humiliation, without much benefit to any cause that he chose to advocate. Both men deserve our affectionate remembrance, and are unlikely to be forgotten in the coming age. There will be made a diligent search for every scrap of writing that they left behind them. Except the dreary religious poetry whereunto they piously turned in later years (as a compensation for having earlier indulged in much satirical "stripping and whipping" of whatever they believed to be Social Abuses), they wrote few things which the world is inclined to cast aside as it "alms for oblivion."

Even without assuming the received date of Brathwaite's birth to be slightly post-dated, we find him certainly reaching the venerable age of eighty-five years. That he retained his mental faculties until the end, or very near the end, seems to be clearly proved. Whatever may have been the wild excesses of his youth, the actions and the words of his closing days were such as secured respect. Anthony a Wood, who is by no means lavish of praise, declares that "he left behind him the character of a well-bred gentleman and good neighbour;" and his later biographer gladly adds, "a consistent christian and upright man." As to his appearance, attire, and disposition, "Tradition reports him to have been in person below the common stature, well-proportioned, and one of the handsomest men of his day; remarkable for ready wit and humour; charitable to the poor in the extreme, so much so as to have involved himself in difficulties by it. He commonly wore a light grey coat, red waistcoat, and leather breeches. His hat was a high-crowned one, and beyond what [height] was common in those days, when such hats were worn. His equals in life bestowed on him the name of Dapper Dick, by which he was universally known. In disposition he was as admirable as in person; and, always taking from the gaiety of heart a conspicuous part in the neighbourhood in promoting the festivities of Christmas, those good times gone by long beheld him the darling of that side of the country."

We need feel no scruple in borrowing one more paragraph from Joseph Haslewood, for it assists to bring before the reader Brathwaite's Cavalier spirit of hospitality, already mentioned. Soon after 1639, when he married his second wife, a loyal Scotch widow lady, he quitted his own family-residence at Burneshead, in Lancashire, which was probably in disorder and difficulties, and, as it seems, removed to Catterick, her jointure manor-house, in Yorkshire. "The fevered state of the times might in part occasion his quitting the family residence at Burneshead. Brathwaite was 'a subject sworn to loyalty,' and not likely under any sway at that lawless period to escape the common wrack of power. Lavish hospitality in support of the royal cause on the one hand, and contributions imperiously demanded and violently enforced in the name of either the Parliament or the Usurper upon the other, would serve equally to impoverish his hereditary property, and make a removal to the newly-acquired estate at Appleton a matter of convenience to prevent shading family honours. He declares himself to have been 'a resolute sufferer for both' sovereign and country, and depicts the very impaired state of his fortune at the Restoration, in a Poem addressed To his Majesty upon his happy arrivall in our late discomposed Albion (1660), which he describes as written 'by him who ever held his intimacy of Loyalty a sufficient reward for all his sufferings; and his house most happy in the hospitality of your [the king's] servants.'

My ruin'd fortunes I shall nere bemone,
Though I have felt as much as any one
Of the Delinquent's whip: I'm still the man
I was, before the Civill warrs began;
Those capitall grand-bugbears had no power
T' affright your servant, though they might devour
That small remainder which he then possest;
Wherein they grew half-sharers at the least."

Thus loyal to King and Church he held his way with cheerfulness, despite the troubles and material losses which it was his lot to encounter. He uses the whip of the Satirist, sometimes playfully, and sometimes in grim earnest; but in his hands it is not the implement of ruthless cruelty and destruction that it would have been if wielded by a Puritan fanatic. This was no narrow-minded sectary, incapable of feeling any bright influence of joy and beauty from the world that lay before his purblind eyes. No prurient moralist was he, secretly enslaved by desire for the luxuries he could not compass, but openly denounced, in language more offensive than the love-ditties which the Precisians declared to be idolatrous and blasphemous. It is not laid upon us to attempt to reconcile the self-contradictions of such a complex character as Brathwaite's, where the reveller and gallant is conjoined to the austere moralist and pious churchman. We see that he was of open-handed liberality and robust geniality, yet religious-minded withal. Like him, in those days, were many others, so that he was not an eccentric humourist, flighty, and almost unintelligible, but a fair sample of a large class of men. Most of them fought for the king's cause against the tyranny of faction, and suffered sore hardships without losing heart or hope; in many cases yielding up their lives, as well as their estates, in attestation of their loyalty. With this clue to an understanding of the man himself, the writings of Richard Brathwaite become doubly valuable. He is not only an illustrator of rural customs, and of transitory habits in the busy city-life; not only is he of assistance to the commentator who desires to learn more of the obsolete phraseology and folk-lore belonging to our richest dramatic literature. He is all this, but he is also a bold and genial Englishman, representative in no small degree of other Cavaliers, who had been roysters and revellers without ceasing to be gentlemen and christians.

As to the manner in which he looked upon the prim Sectaries, the men whom later days designated the "unco guid and rigidly righteous," we have a notable example in the present volume, on p. 109. It is an address "to the Precision, that dares hardly looke (because th' art pure, forsooth) on any book, saue Homilies," &c. He gibbets the class of men for posterity, by a reference to this one being

—wont to slay
His cat for killing mice on th' Sabboth day.

We desire not to imitate our author in one thing, viz., the keeping back readers from his book by an accumulation of prefatory matter. Among the few printed copies of the Strappado, still remaining, there are differences in the arrangement of the leaves. Imperfections, similar to what we find in the rare Drolleries and early song-books, arise chiefly from the books having been roughly used in frequent perusal. Even in the best libraries, where any apparently unmutilated volume of such class may be stored, it has been generally made complete (like the unique first 4to. of Hamlet, 1603), by intermixture of several imperfect exemplars. Our publisher and printer, with whom had rested the labour of preparing this reproduction, has spared no pains to make it as nearly as possible an exact reprint of Brathwaite's interesting pages. In them we see the author at an early part of his joyous life. He was not more than twenty-seven years old when it was published. Some parts of it may have been written earlier, but we do not think this is probable. He was a quick producer, and seems to have generally flung out whatever he wrote without much delay. Elaboration suited not his humour, and it is not likely that he kept many unused manuscripts long beside him. When he had executed any piece of work that his own judgment approved, as worthy of being tossed out to an expectant public of good fellows, he probably searched amid his loose papers, the fly-leaves of favourite volumes whereon he had jotted down some odd thoughts in epigrammatic form. With the aid of such waifs and strays as these (tokens of their fugitive character remaining visible at this day), he would increase the bulk of his book until it looked big enough to face the world. Even when consistently paged, his volumes are often composed of several distinct works. Separate titles, dedications, tables of errata, and other camp-followers are accumulated in each. They resemble the highland clans that followed the standard of Prince Charles Edward, each under its own feudal leader, and his chosen subordinates; so that they look less like a disciplined army, than a melee of ill-disciplined and incongruous forces, ready at a word to fall asunder.

Thus, in the present volume, we find his Love's labyrinth; or, the true-Louers knot: including The disastrous fals of two star-crost Lovers Pyramus and Thysbe, following, with no poetic or logical link of connection, closely after the Strappado for the Devill. Even so in Nature's Embassie: or, the wilde-mans Measures, 1621, (already reprinted at Boston by Mr. Robert Roberts, in 1877): the charming Shepheard's Tales, with its separate title-page, and Omphale, or, the Inconstant Shepheardesse, beside His Odes, or Philomel's Tears, all of the same date, are formed into one volume, consecutively-paged in the reprint.

There seems to be good reason for believing that the author designed Nature's Embassie to be accepted as a continuation of A Strappado for the Devill. After our present p. 234 had followed two leaves having signature and direction. "Place this and the leafe following after the end of the First Booke." In lines addressed, at that place, "To the equall Reader," he is told,

—if these ierks, so lightly laid on, smart,
Thoull finde rare whipping cheere i the Second Part,
Where Furies run diuision on my song:
Patience awhile, and thou shalt haue 't ere long.

We entertain no doubt whatever that the Second Part thus announced was none other than the book published in 1621, under the full title of Natures Embassie; or, The Wilde-mans Measures: Danced naked by twelve Satyres, with sundry others contained in the next Section. That no close connection exists between the two works, and that no declaration is made to the effect that "this is the promised Second part of the Strappado," are facts of infinitely small weight in the balance against the supposition. Puritanism was growing more powerful, and there had evidently been objections raised against the introduction of the Devil's name into the title of the earlier volume. As to connection, there is still less between the component parts of the present, and many another volume, by the same author, than there is between the Strappado and the Wilde-men's Measures. So much need was felt for a "taking title," and the appearance of novelty, that the publisher, Richard Whitaker, would be indisposed to risk the success of the book, in 1621, by permitting the author to call it the "Second Part," even of the successful Strappado. As a matter of fact, we know that two years later the unsold copies were helped into circulation by fresh title-pages, with the more acceptable name of Shepheard's Tales. The two books ought never hereafter to be separated.

Although his name appeared thus prominently, and caused all this connection, the "Devill" had left very few of his hoof-marks behind him in the books. Personally, he resembles the "harmless fairy," whom Stephano and Trinculo found to lead them into a reeking horse-pond (where no horses came, any more than to Venice). He is conspicuous by his absence. It might have been said, "omitted by particular desire." Brathwaite has given us the fitting explanation, so far as it goes, in his reference to the [Greek characters] as the Spirit of Detraction: this it is that receives the whipping, as is due. He writes (on p. 33) of his "sharp tooth'd Satire," but he is not venomous. He rebukes the poetasters for their fantastical and mischievous perversions of language and thought, "transform'd from English to Italienate." By their indiscriminate adulation of the unworthy, for self-interest, he declares they "bring The Art of Poetry to Ballading." He knows well the price likely to be paid by any true Poet who dare to rebuke the vices of the Court, "As some have done, and have been mew'd up for't." He hesitates not to speak his indignant scorn of those who act as poetic panders to luxury,

As they runne still in that high-beaten way
Of errour, by directing men amisse,
Penning whole volumes of licentiousnesse,
Descanting on my Ladies Rosie lip,
Her Cinthian eie, her bending front, her trip,
Her bodies motion, notion of her time,
All which they weaue vp in a baudy Rime.

Even in his address "To his Booke" he had glanced at the prevalent error of allowing rich and powerful offenders to escape unpunished, while those in lower condition were treated with severity.

—let this be vnderstood,
Great men though ill they must be stiled good,
Their blacke is while, their vice is vertue made:
But 'mongst the base call still a spade a spade.
If thou canst thus dispense (my booke) with crimes,
Thou shalt be hugg'd and honour'd in these times.

As Shakespeare puts it: "that in the Captain's but a choleric word, which in the Soldier were rank blasphemy." It may not improbably be, that the thought in Brathwaite's mind was to make the Devil the representative of evil-greatness: "spiritual wickedness in high places," and to hint, by his title, that he was not afraid of laying on the lash, if it were deserved, because of the dignity in station held by the culprit. No honest men need fear him, they are avowedly "out of the survey of his Strappado;" but those who prove "Recreant" by consorting with "the swartie miscreants of Lucifer," are fairly warned of his intentions.

We find little here of that strange perversion or confusion of ideas that meets us in all the art and literature of the middle-ages, and still survives to our day, by which the horror against sin and its embodiment in the Arch Spirit of Evil is joined with a sense of the ludicrous, prompting to jests and buffoonery, even to contemptuous scorn; as though we held it to be true, that Ben Jonson took as title for one of his Comedies, The Devil is an Ass. Those dangerous tamperings with solemn thoughts, traversing them by daylight, shrinking appalled from them in darkness and solitude, were not besetting failings with Brathwaite. He was of healthier taste and sounder judgment. His "Civell Divell" is an ensnaring wanton, whose place of resort and evil enticements are painted with marvellous power and distinctness; affording a companion picture to John Dickinson's finished portraiture of the downfall of "the faire Valeria," in his Greene in Conceipt, 1598, or Thomas Cranley's Amanda; or, The Reformed Whore, 1635. But it was not any inability to make a "righte merrie Ieste" on the subject of the Arch-enemy, that kept Brathwaite to more legitimate sources of humour; as any one can see who turns to p. 95, and reads the laughter-stirring tale, which Admetus used to relate in his hearing, whilst he sat roasting a crab-apple by the fire, on winter nights. It briefly shows the misery of a hen-pecked husband whose helpmate was "an arrant Devill of her tongue," and how (after a time-honoured custom) the poor man sought consolation in "a potte of nappy Ale:" how this prototype tam O'Shanter stayed too long at the ale-house fortifying himself against the home-comforts of his wife's tongue, which he knew to be awaiting his return; and how, instead of Alloway Kirk full of witches, he encountered what seemed to him the very Leader of that unholy revel. His absence of fear is accounted for by himself in words of wisdom:

Good Spirit, if thou be, I need no charme,
For well I know thou will not doe me harm:
And if the Devill; sure, me thou shouldst not hurt,
I wed'd thy Sister, and am plagued for 't.
The Spirit, well-approuing what he said,
Dissolv'd to ayre, and quickly vanished.

No less true in humour, and longer sustained, is the excellent poem "Upon a Poets Palfrey, lying in Lauander, for the discharge of his Provender," (p. 156). To be "laid in lavender" was a mild euphemism for being in pawn. With wit that tires neither its exhibitor nor the reader, he courses through a multitude of suppositions, incidentally repeating to us the cry of Shakespeare's Richard III., "A horse, a horse, a kingdom for a horse!" and the very line from Marlow's Tambourlaine which Pistol mocks, "Hallow, ye pamper'd Iades of Asia, what draw but thirty miles aday?" Don Quixote's Rozinante, the Trojan Horse, Phaeton's borrowed coursers of the Sun, are brought in, with a snaffle, to trot before us. As the mother of the minotaur, Queen Pasiphae, is mentioned, we might have expected to encounter Queen Semiramis; "that injured queen, by chroniclers so coarse, Has been accused, I doubt not by conspiracy, Of an improper friendship," &c. But no, we never mention her. The wonderful performing-horse of Banks the conjuror (which was burnt, with its master, in Italy, because this cleverness was believed to be of magic), appears in the twelfth and fifteenth verses. The Pageants and religious moralities, from Adam and Eve to Noah and his ark, which were represented at Bartholornew-Fair, are glanced at. So are Duke Humphrey's dinner-less guests. This poem alone might make the volume precious to us.

In a Satyre, called "The Coni-borrowe," we find a palpable allusion to one of the characters in Shakespeare's Pericles, "the damned door-keeper" Boult. The public hangman is mentioned in the proverbial saying of "going to Heaven by Derick in a string:" there was a tune known about that time, with a burden "Take 'm, Derrick!" See our Bagford Ballads, (p. 778). Brathwaite's abhorrence of wantonness is spoken with a convincing earnestness, such as few writers have equalled. He uses strong language, but it is because he feels strongly and will not palter with the truth. Our only surprise is that he has not taken his place higher, in the ranks of poetic Satirists, as he deserved, while men inferior to him in command of words, and less impressed with an indignant scorn against uncleanness, are belauded, if not read, as though they were the masters of their art. The clearness, the colloquial English, the force and brilliancy of his style, at his best, merit the highest praise. This volume cannot fail to make thoughtful readers desirous of knowing more of Richard Brathwaite.

That the writer of such scathing rebukes of lustful dalliance should also be the author of some wanton trifling, as "A Marriage Song," can only be explained by our recollection of the tyranny of moods in destroying self-consistency, and especially by our making allowance for the warmth of the poetic temperament. One never can depend on these Satirists being entirely truthful. They have first revelled in iniquity, and then turn approvers or king's evidence, and bear witness against old associates to secure their own escape from punishment. No one knew this better than our greatest poet. When Jacques in the forest of Arden claimed the privilege of satirising whomsoever he would, to blow on them with "as large a charter as the wind," he made the banished Duke tell what would happen.

Most mischievous foul sin in chiding sin;
For thou thysef hast been a libertine,
As sensual as the brutish sting itself;
And all the embossed sores, and headed evils,
That thou with license of free foot hast caught,
Would'st thou disgorge into the general world.

Our author is singularly free from the worst vices of these ill-conditioned "censors of the age." He had never been so debauched with pleasures, and he never became so malignant in his vituperation, as most of the gang who assume the vile hangman's office for hangman's wages.

While there is such richness of allusion to contemporary matters in his pages, that scarcely one among them fails to yield something valuable to the student of antiquity, we are apt to forget the genuine sweetness and musical fluency of his best lyrics. The rich flow of his lines makes him pleasant reading, even on such comparatively dull subjects as his address to the Alderman of Kendall, or the companion poem To the Northern Sparks, the Cottoneers (in both of which, nevertheless, appear a multitude of ripe suggestions to cultivated students). We see in these latter the promotors of those industrious communities at Wakefield, Bradford, and the other manufacturing towns of the North, whom Brathwaite knew well, and could bring before us both in their hours of steady labour at the loom, and in their wakes and revels, May-games on the green, with Robin Hood and Morris-dancers:

One footing actively Wilson's delight,
Descanting on this note, I have done what's right,
Another ioying to be nam'd 'mongst them,
Were made Men-fishers of poore fisher-men.
The third as blith as any tongue can tell,
Because he's found a faithfull Samuel.
The fourth is chanting of his Notes as gladly,
Keeping the tune for th' honour of Arthura Bradly.
The 5. so pranke, he scarce can stand on ground,
Asking who'le sing with him Mal Dixons round? &c.

There is poetic grace and daintiness of expression in the charming little lyric, (on p. 93,)

Foolish I, why should I grieue
To sustaine what others feele?
What suppose, fraile women leaue
Those they lou'd, should I conceale
Comfort's rest,
From my brest,
For a fickle, brittle woman?
Noe, Noe, Noe,
Let her goe,
Such as these be true to no man.

Long retired hast thou beene,
Sighing, on these barren rocks,
Nor by sheepe nor shepheard seene,
Now returne vnto thy flockes,
Shame away,
Doe not stay,
With these mouing-louing women,
They remoue
From their loue;
Such as these doe oft vndoe men. &c.

So, too, with its own charm of music and deep affection, more quaint in form and expression, The funeral Elegy, (on pp. 242, 243,) has the true ring of poetry. And he who likes not "Admetus's Sonnet" is hard to please.

The breezy freshness of Browne's Pastorals fans our brow as we read that hearty song of The Woodman, Arthur Standish (pp. 168 to 172), with all its nice discrimination of timber and thicket greenery.

To some readers the so-called "Epigrams" descriptive of various characters, such as The Courtier, The Wooer, will commend themselves; a class of compositions then in fashion, and such as Brathwaite excelled in. There is also work worth studying in his it "Panegirick Embleame, intituled, Saint George for England." It has the tenderness and intricate lingering cadences of the old romances: as befitted days when knights and ladies were content to yield ungrudgingly their time to a perusal or recital of such tales of maiden's sorrow and knightly valour.

No more need we add, unless we were to annotate his every page, in commendation of this worthy, too-long neglected, but never quite-forgotten. We have not written half the praise we could have ventured, not a tenth part of his due, but those who read him without prejudice will find a hearty friend in Richard Brathwaite, fresh and wholesome, like this first day of Spring.

J. W. E.
March 21st, 1878.