Whores, Pimps and Panders – Bartholomew Fair

These fragments follow on from the post on tumbling and rope-tricks at Bartholomew Fair, and come from a curiously grumpy little pamphlet which takes its reader on a guided tour of the fair in order to highlight its dangers.

Bartholomew Faire begins on the twenty fourth day of August, and is then of so vast an extent that is contained in no lesse than four parishes, namely Christ Church, Great and Little Saint Bartholomewes, and Saint Sepulchres.  Hither resort people of all sorts, High and Low, Rich and Poore, from cities, townes, and countreys.  And all conditions, good and bad, vertuous and vitious, Knaves and fooles, Cuckholds and Cuckoldmakers, Bauds, Whores, Pimps and Panders, Rogues and Rascalls, the little loud-one and the witty wanton.

And now that we may the better take an exact survey of the whole Faire.  First let us enter in to Christ Church Cloysters which are now hung so full of pictures that you would take that place or rather mistake it for Saint Peters in Rome. Being arrived through the long walke to Saint Bartholomewes hospital, that place appeares to me a fucking Exchange, and may be so termed not unfitly, for there many a handsome wench exchanges her maidenhead for a small favour.  She comes not hither with her sweet-heart, to serve her owne turne only, but also to satisfie his desire; according to the old saying one good turne deserves another.

Let us now make a progresse into Smith-field, which is the heart of the Faire, where in my heart I think there are more motions in a day to be seene, than are in a terme in Westminster Hall to be had.  But whilst you take notice of the severall motions there, take this caution along with you, let one eye watch narrowly that no one make a motion into your pocket.  The Faire is full of gold and silver drawers, just as Lent is to the Fishmonger so is Bartholomew Faire to the Pickpocket.  The Citty-Marshalls are as dreadfull to these youngsters as the Plague is to our London actors, that refraines them from playing, so they hinder them from working. You may quickly know these nimble youths and likely find them very busie bodies in quarrells, sometimes in discourse with their wenches for most part to be found in a crowd or throng of people.  Their buttocks walke up and down the Faire very demurely.

It is remarkable and worth your observation to behold the strange sights and confused noise of the Faire.  Here a Knave in a fools costume with a trumpet sounding, or on a drumme beating, invites you and would perswade you to see his puppets.  There’s a Rogue like a wild woodman desires your company to view his motion; on the other side Hocus Pocus with three yards of ribbin in his hand shewing his art.  You shall see a gray goose-cap with a larke in his mouth, standing in his boothe shaking a rattle or scraping a fiddle with which children are taken.  All these together make such a distracted noise that you would think Babell were not comparable to it.  Here there are also your gamesters in action. Some turning of a whimsey, others throwing for pewter, who can quickly dissolve a round shilling into a three half penny saucer.

Well fare the Ale houses therein, yet better may a man fare in the pig markets of Pasty Nooke or Pye corner where pigges are in all houres of the day on the stalls piping hot, and would cry come eate me, but they are so damnable deare, and the reckonings for them are so saucy that a man had as good licke his fingers in a baudy house, as at this time come into one of those houses, where the fat greasy Hostesse instructs Nick Froth her tapster to aske a shilling more for a pigs head of a woman big with child, than of another ordinary customer.

Farewell to the Faire. Preserve your Purses, whilst you please your eyes.

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