MORTON. If we may credit the book called The merrie conceited Jests of George Peele, he was quite as much of a sharper as a joker.
BOURNE. He was the veriest knave that ever escaped transportation, if they represent the truth, and we have some reason to think they are not much exaggerated: in one instance he invited a gentleman of property to sleep at his house, and next morning ran away with his guest's clothes and money. Several of these jests form the incidents of a comedy attributed to Shakespeare, called The Puritan, or the Widow of Watling Street, the earliest known edition of which is in 1607, though most likely acted some time earlier. The principal character is George Pieboard, obviously a pun upon "Peele," and the jests are followed pretty exactly.
MORTON. I suppose the Merry conceited Jests were not printed until the subject of them was dead.
BOURNE. I suppose not; and throughout Peele is spoken of as a person then dead, though Wood and Tanner inform us that they were written by himself; and he died, unquestionably, before 1598.