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Conversation Custom Dining Men

We will have a paire of sausages

I haven’t blogged in a while due to lack of time, but today I found myself reading the wonderful John Florio’s First Fruites (1578), an Anglo Italian dictionary and phrasebook. It’s one of my favourite Elizabethan texts since it reveals much about how people interacted with each other in the course of daily life. Regular readers of the blog will already have read my earlier posts from First Fruites, and my little potted biography of Florio, but anyone else interested can find them here.

Today’s extract is a conversation between two men who meet on the street, and their subject matter is surprisingly contemporary.

‘God save you sir.’
‘The like I wishe to you.’
‘I commend me unto your lordship.’
‘When shal we see one another?’
‘When it pleaseth you.’
‘When will your lord come to the Court?’
‘Tomorrow, if it please God.’
‘I have seene a fayre damsell, I wyl goe and make her some musicke with Violes, or els Lute as soon as I have dyned.’
‘Will you that I keep you companie?’
‘Gladly, and I will give you two or three quartes of wine.’
‘I will go with you.’
‘I will knowe of her if shee will please to come and sup with me, I will be glad of her companie.’
‘Methinks she is very courteous.’
‘Verily she is very gallant.’
‘What do you think of the two women that go there together?’
‘Methinkes they are three.’
‘So me thinkes too.’
‘One of them is maried.’
‘It is so certaine.’
‘I would I had the like, and that she were mine.’
‘So would I also.’
‘Well I will go and walk in Cheape to buy something.’
‘And what will you buy?’
‘I will buy a hat, a payre of white Stockens, and I will buy me a payre of Pumpes.’
‘Tell me, how like you this sword and this dagger? Is it good?’
‘Me thinkes it is very good. I would I had the like for a Crowne.’
‘These Gloves, are they well perfumed?’
‘Yes certainly: who hath perfumed them?’
‘An English man.’
‘My garters are a good colour, and so are my Stockens also.’
‘So they are, where bought you them?’
‘On Cheape, they cost me ten shillings.’
‘Me thinks that is cheape.’
‘And me thinks it is deare.’
‘I will ride into the country.’
‘How long will you tarry there?’
‘I will tarry a month.’
‘What will you do so long?’
‘I will see the killing of some Buck if I can, afore I returne to the citie.’
‘Is there a great plentie?’
‘Yes, very great.’
‘Have you a horse?’
‘No sir, but I will buy one or else I will hyre one.’
‘What shall you pay a day?’
‘I know not, but I beleeve a shilling.’

Once his friend has returned from tarrying in the countryside, the two arrange to meet for breakfast:


‘You have tarried long in the country.’
‘I could not come sooner.’
‘Tomorrow morning I will come to you.’
‘Come, and you shall be welcome. I will break my fast with you and we will have a paire of sausages. They please me very well.’
‘And also me.’
‘But we must have some wine.’
‘We will have some, if there be any in London.’
‘I will go and put me on a cleane shirt, because I sweate very much. It is hot.’

Books Printing Shakespeare

A reference to Shakespeare?

Reading a digitised copy of a 1688 edition of John Florio’s English-Italian Dictionary (original in the Henry E Huntington Library), I was, as usual, intrigued by the scribblings in the margins. However, what really caught my eye was this note alongside the entry for ‘Bragiare – To burn to coals or cinders’:



It struck me that the jotted ‘Shaks’ might be a reference to Shakespeare. Since Shakespeare uses ‘carbonado’ in Henry IV (1) ,’let him make a carbonado of me’, to refer to a grilled piece of meat, and ‘carbonadoed’ in The Winter’s Tale, ‘how a usurer’s wife…longed to eat adders’ heads and toads carbonaoed’ (see Crystal, David, Shakespeare’s Words, Penguin, 2002) it is tempting to assume this seventeenth century reader is indeed referring to Shakespeare in his or her scribbled marginalia. I’d love to know what others think.

Conversation Entertainment Household

Good lord what dainty knacks you have

Following on from the blog post on John Florio, more conversations from the wonderful Frutes. I’ve chosen some of the most interesting and charming snippets.

First up, the weather:

A: What weather is it abroade?
S: It raines, it thunders, it snowes, it freeseth, it hailes and there is a great winde.
A: Goe to the windowe and looke better.
S: It is sharp, ill, close, darke, cruell, and stormie weather.
A: We will doe as they doe at Prato then.
S: And how doe they doe at Prato when it raines?
A: They let it raine, and keepe home.

Writing a letter:


S: Give me my deske, and some pen and ynke and paper.
L: I have no paper: neither is there any in the house.
S: Go buie some, here is monie.
L: How much shall I buye?
S: A quire: but let it be good, and that it doo not sinke.
L: It is verie dear of late.
S: Let it cost what it will, I must needes have some.

Chatting on the street:

G: Why do you stand barehedded? You do your self wrong.
E: Pardon me good sir, I doe it for my ease.
G: I pray you be covered, you are too ceremonious.
E: I am so well that me thinks I am in heaven.
G: If you love me, put on your hat.
E: I will doe it to obay you, not for any pleasure that I take in it.
G: What? Will you rather stand than sit?
E: I am very well. Good lord what dainty knacks you have here.
G: I have nothing but a few trifles.
E: What device is this, if a man may knowe?
G: It is a kinde of sweete water, very far fecht.
E: What do you doo with it, if it be lawful to know?
G: I use it to wash mine eyes and my face.
E: In truth it is very good, and verie sweete.
G: I praie you take a little that I have, for my sake.
E: Not for anie thing in the world.
G: I have some more, take it if you love me.


E: Fie, what an ill favoured woman I see passe through the streete.
G: Which, she that is clad in mourning apparell?
E: Yea sir, I thinke shee mourneth because shee is more foule than corruption it selfe.
G: Naie, you may say that she is more ill favored, more uglie, more loathsome, more foule and filthie than sinne and usurie it selfe.
E: Onelie the sight of her is able to make the whole Cleargie to gueld themselves.
G: I never sawe a finer remedie for love.
E: She would keepe the whole order of priestes chaste.

Making plans:

B: Oh, what a fine cleere night it is.
S: I will wager it will freeze before day.
B: I thinke so too because the skie is full of starres.
A: Will you be within to morrow morning?
B: I will endevour my selfe to be within.
A: I will come to you at seven of the clocke or there abouts.
B: You shall be welcome, and after dinner (God willing) wee will goe to some plaie, or to the Beare-baiting.
A: To some plaie if you will. I do not greatlie fansie the Bear-baiting, by reason of the filthie stinke that is there.
B: In trueth, that stinke is able to infect a man.
A: I perceive you begin to be sleepie, and therefore I bid you good night.
B: By the grace of God, I will lie a bed to morrow morning untill eight or nine of the clocke.

Going to bed:

M: Lay downe the bed, for I will goe sleepe.
L:  It is laid downe alreadie.
M: Dresse the bed, lift up that bolster.
L: It is too high alreadie.
M: Put another pillowe upon it.
L: I mervaile how you can lie with your head so high.
M: Lay one coverlet more upon it.
L: Which? That light or heavie one?
M: Which thou wilt, the quilt or the Irish rugge. Drawe the curtains, that the Moone shine not in his face, and lift up that boord-windowe.
L: Shall I help you off with your hose?
M: No, I am not so lazie yet.
L: Shall I untie your pointes?
M: Snuffe that candle, where are the snuffers?
L: I knowe not where they are. Oh here they be. I sawe them not.
M: Put on thy spectacles, forgetfull as thou art. Cast not that candle snuffe upon the ground.
L: Will you have the warming pan?
M: What to doo? It is not yet so colde.
L: Methinkes it is verie colde and sharpe weather.
M: A good fire in the chamber would doo no hurt.
L: I will with all diligence.
M: Oh what a good and soft bed this is.
L: Doo you want anie thing? Shall I put out the candle?
M: No truely, let the candle alone, for I will reade a Chapter.
L: What booke will you reade now you are a bed?
M: The Bible. I can not fall asleepe without reading.
L: They saye it is most wholsome to lye on the right.
M: What noyse is it I heare in that corner?
L: Belike they are either mice, ratts, or weasells.
M: Now I see I shall not sleepe all night.
L: Doubt you not, you shall sleepe well enough. Heere is a cat.
M: I will make them afraid with my snorting.
L: If you snort loud they will all runne away.
M: I cannot sleepe without something on my head.
L: Here is a night cap warme, cleane and neate.
M: I thank thee now goe a-Gods name.
L: I praie God I may sleepe well.
M: Amen, and God graunt I fall into no temptation.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved
Biography Books Conversation Italy London Monarchy Shakespeare

To talke in the darke

Today’s post is on the life of John Florio (1553-1625), Italian language teacher and contemporary of Shakespeare.

John’s father, Michael, was a former Franciscan monk, who escaped the Inquisition and fled to England during the reign of Edward VI. In 1550, Michael began preaching at a newly-formed Italian Protestant church in London, but after falling out of favour with other members of the church, he turned to teaching Italian in order to support his family. Two of his more famous students included Henry Herbert, second earl of Pembroke, and Lady Jane Grey.

In 1554, the Catholic Mary Tudor ascended the throne, and Michael, like many foreign exiles, was forced to leave England. He and his family settled in Soglio, Switzerland, near the Italian border. At the age of ten, John was sent to study under the Italian refugee Vergerio, a former bishop, but when his father died, he returned to Soglio, and by 1576 John Florio was back in England.

In London, John turned his hand to teaching Italian, and in 1578 he published his first handbook, Florio his Firste Fruites, which he dedicated to Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester. First Fruites is comprised of forty-four chapters of typical conversations and interactions, and a guide to Italian grammar.


Page from Florio’s First Fruites (1578). Right click to open a large image in a new tab.
Around the time he published his First Fruites, Florio moved to Oxford, where he taught Italian at the university and became friends with the poet Samuel Daniel. He married Daniel’s sister in 1580 and they baptized their first child, Joane, in Oxford in 1585. Their second child, Edward, was born in 1588, and another, Elizabeth, in 1589. During his time in Oxford, Florio published A shorte and briefe narration of the two navigations and discoveries to the northweast partes called Newe Fraunce (1580), an English  translation of Ramusio’s Italian version of the work by Jacques Cartier. 

In 1583 Florio and his family returned to London, and for two years he was employed by the French embassy as a tutor to the daughter of the French ambassador. During this time it is believed he also worked as a spy for Francis Walsingham, a common activity, and one undertaken by many literary men, including Christopher Marlowe. Florio was also occupied translating newsletters from Italy, which he published in one pamphlet, A letter lately written from Rome, by an Italian gentleman to a freende of his in Lyons in Fraunce (1585).

In 1591 Florio published a second language book entitled Florios Second Frutes, which contained 6000 Italian proverbs in the appended Gardine of Recreation; the largest list of proverbs to be published in the 16th century.

Second Frutes (1591)

  Proverbs from Second Frutes 

Second Frutes was aimed at the upper classes, and contains a wealth of fascinating conversations surrounding daily life, such as visiting the theatre, playing tennis, and attending dinner parties. Interest in languages and all things Italian was at its height in England at this time, and as his biographer notes, ‘Florio offered the Elizabethans a vehicle for discovering Italy, its language, and its Renaissance culture without necessarily travelling to the continent.’ 

In 1598, Florio published the first edition of a Worlde of Wordes, or Most Copius, and Exact Dictionarie in English and Italian. According to the titles he lists at the beginning of the book, he consulted seventy-two works by 16th century writers, to provide over 44,000 entries in English and Italian. But his most famous work was published in 1603; a translation of Montaigne’s Essais, entitled The Essayes, or, Morall, Politike and Militarie Discourses. By this point he had severable well-connected patrons including Lady Elizabeth Grey, Lady Penelope Rich and Lady Mary Neville. This translation of Montaigne was a source of inspiration for Walter Raleigh, Ben Jonson, John Webster and William Shakespeare.  

Florio’s star was in the ascendant, and in 1604 he was appointed groom of the privy chamber, and reader in Italian, and as private secretary to Queen Anne. He tutored the royal family in Italian and French, and revised his dictionary, which he republished in 1611 as Queen Anna’s New World of Words. This new edition included almost 70,000 entries, and covers such subjects as history, astrology, philosophy and medicine. This edition also included an engraved portrait of Florio, which can be seen above.

In 1617, Florio remarried a woman named Rose Spicer, and when the queen died in 1619, he lost his place at court. Later that year he and his wife were living in poverty in Fulham. Here he worked on a third edition of his dictionary. In October 1625, Florio died of plague, and his wife followed him to the grave a year later. Their daughter Aurelia went on to marry the surgeon James Molins and they had at least nine children.

Florio and Shakespeare were contemporaries and almost certainly knew each other. Shakespeare demonstrates familiarity with Florio’s work in Love’s Labour’s Lost, and in The Tempest, in which he includes a passage from Florio’s translation of Montaigne (2.1). At least twelve plays feature Italy or Italian names. Some theorists have speculated that Shakespeare himself was an Italian, and others that Shakespeare was indeed Florio; the theory going that John’s father Michael was born in Messina to Giovanni Florio and Guglielma Crollalanza (Shakes-pear in English). That he fled to England and assumed the identity of a dead English cousin, his son John then inheriting the real surname Shakespeare.

The Tempest, First Folio (A4r)

Like all authorship theories, there is little evidence to support such claims, and Shakespeare and Florio probably knew each other through the intimate and tight-knit world of the court and London publishers.

John Florio was the leading language teacher of the early 17th Century. His knowledge of Italian Renaissance literature and his elegant writing contributed, according to his biographer, ‘to the regeneration of English humanism in the latter part of the sixteenth century and to its consolidation at the beginning of the seventeenth.’

From a modern perspective, Florio’s work, particularly the two Frutes, provides charming and revealing evidence of every day life and interaction in 17th Century London, which makes a rich contribution to our understanding of the world of Shakespeare.

You can read some of Florio’s entertaining conversations here

Source: Desmond O Connor, DNB

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