Yesterday I heared one say to the Countess, “Your ladyship, that Gib has been at the books again. Look! He has pulled down those and clawed a page from this.”
Her ladyship sighed and sayt, “When next I see him I shall tell him to have a care, and return them to the shelves.”
The man made no answer. He thinks her a fool. But after she had quit the book room he sayt, “If I see that Gib, I’ll sink him in the river and say he ran away.”
Whither would I run? I cannot feed myself, for I was took from my mother too soon to learn. I have no friends to teach me. Those here who should be my friends give me evil looks, and some have offered to fight me.
But always I turn away with mild eyes, keeping my ears pricked and my coat flat. (I mean the coat I was born with, not the coat my lord gave me). That shows I take no offence and will give none.
Once I have my proper place in this household it may be otherwise. We shall see.
Meantime, rather than read her ladyship’s books I thought it meet that I should make some little books of mine own and set down a true relation of my life so far.
I had some pens put by. (I cannot cut them for myself.) And when that bloodie knave who wished to drown me was gone, I came from my hiding place among the books and made free with his ink and paper.
Writ this foul night by me, Gib.
That will make him know his place.
And in my next little book I shall tell of my birth and bringing up, and of how I made my lord’s akwayntance.
There’s no date or place name on the original document, but events related in subsequent papers indicate that it was probably written at Cowdray House in West Sussex around December 1581.
The writer signs himself Gib, written as Kip in the original. (See About These Posts for a comment on his use of consonants.) Later in the papers there are indications that he was named Bevis after the legendary hero Bevis of Southampton. However, Gib is the name he uses so I’ve stuck with it.
According to the OED, Gib (short for Gilbert) was a popular name for cats, leading to the use of “gib” to mean a cat, especially a male cat, and later, a castrated one.