Category Archives: Men

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.’

Custom Etiquette Love Men Women

To the Faire Murderess of my Soul


More today from the entertaining book of compliments from 1699. The author devotes quite a few pages to guiding his male readers through the process of writing a love letter, and provides some possible greetings and signatures for his readers to adopt. He also presents a series of sample letters which can be copied in an effort to woo the ladies, and below the suggested greetings are two of the most entertaining.


Suggested droll greetings when writing a love letter to a mistress:

To the most gracious Queen of my Soul
To the most illustrious Princess of my Heart
To the Countess Dowager of my Affections
To the Baroness of my Words and Actions
To the Peerles Paragon of Exquisite Formosity
To the Empress of my Thoughts
To the Lilly-white-hands of my Angelical Mistress
To the Ninth Wonder of the World
To the most Accomplished Work of Nature, and the Astonishment of all Eyes
To the Faire Murderess of my Soul
To the Rose of pure Delight
To the Choise Nutmeg of Sweetest Consolation
To her who is Day without Night, a Sun full of Shade, a Shade full of Light, Mistress, Etcetera

Suggested signatures:

Your Gally-Slave
Your Always burning Salamander
Your Continual Martyr
Your poor Worm, that must of necessity die, if trod upon by the foot of your disdain
The Vassal of your Severest Frowns



A Cockney to his Mistress

My Dear Peggie

I have here sent thee these Lines writ with my tears, and a little blacking that our Maid rubs my Father’s Shoes with, that I may unload a whole Cart-load of grief into the Warehouse of thy bosome. Truly Peggie, I think I shall die, for I can neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, nor wake. Nothing that my mother can buy, either in Cheap-side or Newgate-Market will go down with me. My mother sees me looking as pale as the Linen in Moor-fields, and moping in the Chimney corner. She jeers me, saying, What are you love-sick Tom? I cry and make a noise like a Cat upon the Tiles. But let all the world say what they will, I will pout and be sick, and my Father and Mother shall lose their eldest Son, but I’ll have Peggie, that I will. I beseech thee not to omit any occasion of writing to me, that since I cannot kiss thy hand, I may kiss the Letters that thy hand did write. The Bearer hereof is our Cook-maid, one that pitties my condition, and is very trusty. I have therefore engaged her to call and see thee every time she goes to Market. My Mothers Rings are all close lockt up, else I would steal one to send it thee. However I intreat thee to accept of the good will for the deed, and to take in good part the endeavours of thy most faithful servant.


As I was going to steal a ring, my Father came in, taken suddently and desperately ill. The Physicians were sent for, and by their whispering, assure me that he cannot live. As soon as he is dead I shall not fail to visit thee.


A Countrey Bumpkin to his Mistress

Sweet honey, Jone

I have here sent thee a thing, such a one as the Gentlefolks call a Love Letter. T’was indicted by my self after I had drank two or three draughts of Ale. Truly Jone, my parents never brought me up to speak finely, but this I can say in downright terms, I love thee. Marry, Jone, many times and oft have I fetcht home thy Cows when no body knew who did it. Marry, Jone, when thou didst win the Garland in the Whitson-holidayes, I was sure to be drunk that night for joy. I know thou dost love Will the Tayler, but I can tell thee Jone, I think I shall be a better man than he shortly; I am learning to play the Fiddle, so that if thou wilt not yeild the sooner, I will ravish thee with my musick. Tis true I never yet gave thee a Token, but I have here sent thee a piece of silver Ribband. I bought it in the Exchange, where all the folks shouted at me. But what wilt thou give me, Jone? Alas, I ask for nothing but thy self. What a happy day that would be, to see us with our best Cloathes on, at Church, and the Parson saying, I Tom, take thee Jone. I would take thee, and hug thee, and then away to the Alehouse for the Canaries and the Sillabubs and the Shoulder a Mutton and gravie, with a hey down derry and a diddle diddle dee. Thus having no more to say, I rest in assurance of thy good will. Honestly, truly, and blewly.


If you enjoyed this, you’ll enjoy the same author’s hyperbolic compliments for women here at The Stars Borrow Light From Your Radiant Eyes

Etiquette Men

Do not glare upon thy snot

The following extracts come from a book of manners, written by the Italian Giovanni Della Casa. This edition was published in English in 1576. I’ve standardised the spelling since the text would otherwise prove rather difficult to read.

When thou hast blown thy nose, use not to open thy handkerchief, to glare upon thy snot, as if you had pearls and Rubies fallen from thy brains.

A man must leave to yawn much, as that it seems to proceed of a certain weariness that shows that he that yawneth could better like to be elsewhere than there in that place, as wearied with the company, their talk, and their doings. And sure, albeit a man be many times disposed to yawn, yet if he be occupied with any delight, or earnest matter to think upon, he shall have no mind to do it. But if he be lumpish & idle, it is an easy matter to fall into it. And therefore, when a man yawneth, in place where there be slothful and idle folks that have nothing to doe, the rest, as you may see many times, yawn again for company by & by. And I have many times heard learned and wise men say, that A yawner meaneth as much in Latin as a careless and idle body. Let us then fly from these conditions that loathe the eyes, the ears, & the stomach. For in using these fashions, we do not only show that we take little pleasure in the company, but we give them occasion to judge amiss of us

It is ill to see a Gentleman settle himself to do the needs of Nature in the presence of men: And after he hath done, to truss himself again before them. Neither would I have him (if I may give him counsel) when he comes from such an occupation, so much as wash his hands in the sight of honest company: for yet the cause of his washing puts them in mind of some filthy matter that hath been done apart. And by the same reason, it is no good manner, when a man chanceth to see, as he passeth the way, a loathsome thing, that will make a man to cast [turn] his stomach, to turn unto the company, & show it them. And much worse, to reach some stinking thing unto a man to smell it, as it is many a man’s fashion to do, with importunate means, thrusting it unto their nose, saying: ‘Oh, I pray you, how this doth stink’. Where they should rather say, ‘smell not unto it: for it hath an ill scent.’

And as these and like fashions offend the senses: to grind the teethe, to whistle, to make pitiful cries, to rub sharp stones together, and to file upon Iron, [and] do much offend the ears and would be left in any case. Neither must we refrain those things alone, but we must also beware we do not sing, and specially alone, if we have an untuneable voice, which is a common fault with most men.

It is also an unmannerly for a man to lay his nose upon the cup where another must drink: or upon the meat that another must eat, to the end to smell unto it, because it may chance there might fall some drop from his nose that would make a man to loath it

Let a man take heed he does not begrease his fingers so deep that he befile the napkins, for it is an ill sight to see it: neither is it good manners to rub your greasy fingers upon the bread you must eat. The servants that be appointed to wait upon the table must not (in any way) scratch and rub their heads, nor any part else in the sight of their Lord & Master. Nor thrust their hands in any of those parts of their body that be covered, as some careless fellows do, holding their hands in their bosom, or under the flaps of their coats behind them. But they must bear them abroad without any suspicion and keep them (in any case) washed & clean without any spot of dirt upon them. And they that carry the dishes, or reach the cup, must beware at that time they do not spit, cough or sneeze.

It is a rude fashion some men use, to lie lolling asleep in that place where honest men be met together, of purpose to talk. For his so doing shows that he doth not esteem the company, and little reckoneth of their talk. And more than that, he that sleepeth wonts (for the most part) to do some foul thing, to behold, or hear, and many times they awake sweating and drivelling at the mouth. And in like manner, to rise up where other men do sit and talk, and to walk up and down the chamber is no point of good manner. Also there be some that so buskell themselves, reach, stretch and yawn, writhing now one side, and then another, that a man would think they had some fever upon them: A manifest sign that the company they keep doth weary them.

Likewise do they very ill that now & then pull out a letter out of their pocket, to read it as if they had great matters of charge, and affairs of the common weal committed unto them. But they are much more to be blamed that pull out their knives or their scissors, and do nothing else but pare their nails, as if they made no account at all of the company, and would seek some other solace to passe the time away.

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Custom Men Swordplay

The true Arte of Defence

Yesterday I had the good fortune to witness a display of Elizabethan sword-fighting. The display, which took place outside in the sunshine, consisted of three very skilled (and very tall) men in protective (Elizabethan-style) clothing demonstrating a variety of Elizabethan swordplay techniques. I had imagined the spectacle would resemble the sword-fights I’ve seen in the theatre; all breathless energy and nimble footwork. The reality was very different, much more sedate, (although this was in part due to the fact it was a demonstration; in the video below it’s much faster). The combatants approached each other slowly, and with caution, which makes a great deal of sense since both are holding potentially lethal weapons. The footwork was steady, no sudden Errol Flynn leaps forward. Balance is very important, since in a serious sword-fight, tripping over a clump of grass is liable to offer an opponent an easy victory. Initially the group demonstrated some defensive practise exercises, which when combined together formed a sort of martial arts dance. Less like fighting, more like balletic fencing. The object is to defend at all possible times while looking for an opening in an opponent’s defence; a simple mistake can lead to a fatal wound. Much to my surprise hands formed a large part of the defence; thrusting at an opponent with the sword in one hand, using the other hand to block their blade. According to the lead swordsman, in Elizabethan England duelling often occurred without gloves or any protective clothing, and it is impossible to imagine any gentleman walking away unscathed after such an encounter.

From simple defensive exercises, the display moved on to double-weapon combat, in which each man fought with a sword and a dagger. The dagger, much larger than the one which usually dances before Macbeth’s eyes, serves much as the hand had done in the earlier exercises, to defend, but is naturally more robust, and can also be used to attack as well as block. The combination of the sword and the dagger together was compelling, and as the impressive display picked up pace, the air was filled with the authentic clink and whoosh as dagger met dagger and blades cut the air.

Finally came the spears. The most dangerous of the weapons on display; longer than a sword, but with the added advantage of maintaining considerable distance between opponents, which puts the man armed only with a sword or dagger at a distinct disadvantage. It wasn’t hard to understand why the many descriptions of atrocities and massacres which occurred in early modern Europe involved these deadly weapons; babies spiked on the ends of spears is a recurring image in texts concerned with religious and political bloodshed. Spears were almost certainly used in serious fights to the death and armed combat. The elegant swords meanwhile would often be used in duelling, which has a long and complex history and was used to settle disputes and recover honour. Surprisingly, losing a duel didn’t equate with loss of honour. In fact quite the opposite. The very fact a man elected to duel demonstrated his bravery. Duelling to the death was also surprisingly uncommon. The intention was to display virility and masculinity, not to butcher one’s opponent. In fact it was rare for a man to be killed in a duel, although several sensational duels did end in death.

After the display we were invited to handle (cautiously) the replica Elizabethan swords. Weighing a few kilos each, they were much heavier than they appeared; I was barely able to lift a sword off the ground, let alone wield it over my head. The dagger was easier to manage, shorter, obviously, and less heavy. It had a rounded end and a hefty hilt, and dangling it at my side I tried to imagine what it must have been like to have something of that weight permanently suspended from a belt. The larger sword would have been impossible to wear casually, and even in a hilt it would have been considerably dangerous and impractical. The display taught me much about the reality of swords and swordplay in Shakespeare’s England. Actors like Shakespeare would also have handled these weapons, whether on the stage, or to protect themselves on the mean streets of London. Ben Jonson killed the actor Gabriel Spenser in a duel, and perhaps Shakespeare walked along bankside to the Globe with a dagger clinking at his side.

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