Naming Names II

Mark Hailwood

Puritan names are of course the most well known for their originality – famously satirised by Ben Jonson in the character ‘Zeal-of-the-land Busy’ in Bartholomew Fair – but here is one I hadn’t encountered before: the seventeenth-century Yorkshire nonconformist and autobiographer Joseph Lister named his son ‘Accepted’.

If this seems a bit presumptuous, you might appreciate the cruel irony of the fact that Accepted had been partially disabled following a fall from a horse – hardly an encouraging sign of providential favour.

Norwich Entertainments – Part II: Pieces of plays and the spatial turn

Brodie Waddell

On October 17th, 1677, a month before Bartholomew Laskey arrived with his monstrous hairy child, the Norwich Mayor’s Court licenced Mr Robert Parker ‘to act pieces out of Playes &c for 14 daies at the Redd lion’ and John Argent ‘to make shew of such tricks as are mentioned in his patent at the Angell’.¹

Norwich Mayor’s Court Book, 17 Oct. 1677

Norwich Mayor’s Court Book, 17 Oct. 1677: Norfolk Record Office, NCR Case 16a/25, f. 9 (Sorry about the poor reproduction. The documents were only available on microfilm.)

These are exactly the sort of tantalisingly vague references to popular entertainments that one expects to find in early modern legal records. The ‘pieces of plays’ and unspecified ‘tricks’ surely amused their audiences, and the title ‘Mr’ suggests that at least Parker earned a decent livelihood, so they probably represent typical examples of provincial urban popular culture in the late seventeenth century. Continue reading

Naming Names

Mark Hailwood


As you can see from this quick sample of first names of Reading alehouse keepers, taken from a list compiled in 1622, originality was not a priority when it came to early modern naming practices. It always catches the eye then when a more unusual name crops up in the archives. A recent favourite of mine is another Reading alehouse keeper: Valentine Skeate sounds as though he could be from the pages of a Dickens novel.

Keeping your eyes peeled for interesting names can add a bit of light relief to archive grubbing, especially when you are working through rather dry list material. Feel free to share any of your own that you come across.

[Part II in the series is here]

Do I have to kill the snake?

Brodie Waddell

From McSweeney’s via The Edge:

FAQ: The “Snake Fight” Portion Of Your Thesis Defense

Q: Do I have to kill the snake?

A: University guidelines state that you have to “defeat” the snake. There are many ways to accomplish this. Lots of students choose to wrestle the snake. Some construct decoys and elaborate traps to confuse and then ensnare the snake. One student brought a flute and played a song to lull the snake to sleep. Then he threw the snake out a window.

I’m very grateful to my doctoral examiners, who told me at the start of my viva that the snake I would be fighting was rather small and hinted that it had a blindspot on its left side. That made the whole process much less stressful.

An (a)historical headache?

Mark Hailwood

We know that our ancestors inhabited a very different mental universe from our own – that they thought very differently from us – but a much harder question for historians to address is whether our ancestors lived in a world that felt physically different from our own. Are physical experiences ahistorical? Does the experience of stubbing a toe transcend all variations across time and space? Or were our ancestors hardier than us, less sensitive to pain perhaps?

Let’s try narrowing this question down a bit by focusing on one particular physical state that will be familiar to most of us: the hangover. But did our seventeenth-century forebears get them? They didn’t use the term (the Oxford English Dictionary suggests it is a twentieth-century Americanism), but they certainly suffered from them. A broadside ballad that warned against the dangers of drinking too much on the Sabbath day cautioned that men who did so often found themselves incapacitated for as many as two days after:

From Ale-house to Ale-house, they’d ramble and roam
And may be at night they’d come staggering home;
Their Wives have been careful to get them to bed,
Next morning the liquor has lain in their head;
So that beside all their vast charges and cost,
Both Monday and Tuesday they commonly lost.

If anything, we might wonder whether our ancestors experienced their hangovers even more severely than we do if they stretched over two days. But there is another explanation. In a ballad entitled ‘Monday’s Work‘ we hear of the symptoms that followed the morning after a Sunday drinking bout. They may sound familiar:

Last night I was shot
Through the braines with a Pot [of ale],
and now my stomacke doth wamble.*

*[Wamble, surely a word that should enjoy a renaissance, defined by the OED thus: ‘Of the stomach or its contents: To be felt to roll about (in nausea).’]

Yet this condition did not have these ballad drunkards opting for a ‘duvet day’. They had another remedy in mind:

A piece of salt Hogge,
And a haire of the old Dogge
is good to cure our drunken Noddles.

That often debated hangover cure – getting back on the bottle – dates back to at least the sixteenth-century. It might explain why Tuesday too was often a hangover day, but it was deemed effective by the famous diarist Samuel Pepys.  The morning after drinking ‘a great deal of wine’ at The Dolphin on Tuesday 2nd April 1661, Pepys awoke with his ‘head akeing from last night’s debauch’. No doubt he complained of this to the friends with whom he took lunch, for they encouraged him to ‘drink two drafts of sack [a Spanish white wine] to-day to cure me of last night’s disease,’ Pepys was sceptical at first, but the proposed tonic seemed to do the trick: ‘which I thought strange but I think find it true.’

So what does this tell us about the timelessness of physical experiences? Not much perhaps, but it is clear that finding an effective way of dealing with a hangover is one experience that unites us with our early modern forbears.

Norwich entertainments – Part I: A monstrous hairy child and a boneless girl

Brodie Waddell

On 17 November 1677, the Norwich Mayor’s Court decreed that

Mr Bartholomew Laskey had leave to make shew of a Monstrous Hayree Chyld for 10 daies from this day.

I came across this when looking for something else, but I couldn’t help but make a note of it. And, as I discovered, there were licences like this recorded throughout this period.

About a year later, on 5 October 1678

Isaac Cookesone produced a Lycecne under the seale of his Majesty’s Office of Revells to make shew of a Girle of 16 yeares of age without Bones, and he hath 14 dayes given him to make shew of her at the Lower half Moone in the Market place, He Keeping good order & Houres

Norwich, it seems, was a city that knew how to have a good time.

This is definitely not my area of expertise and I didn’t try to investigate the context of the orders, so I’d welcome ideas. But a few thoughts immediately come to mind… Continue reading


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