75:  Of my Lord, and a Filthie Book

Small close-up of Gib's face.My lord has been here, very mopish.  

I’ve not seen my lady Moll of late, but I hear tell she too is full of discontentments.  Has there been some unkindness from Her Majestie?  Or a scandal?  This is a thing I must discover.

I know what it is to be dumpish.  I pitie my lady Moll, and my lord.

My niece arrkst me, “What ails his Harryship?”

I reproved her.  “Our Earl’s name is Harry, but few may call him that.  Least of all you.”

Her words grieved me, for it come to me that now my sister is gone from this world none will ever call me, in jest, your Gibship.

And what ails our Earl?  Well, the Earl of Essicks and the great fleet that is to have at Spain sailed without him.  He could not go.

I heared tell that when he wished to join Essicks and save Calley [Calais] from the Spanish, Her Majestie sayt No.  But that time Essicks did not go neither.

Perchance my lord hoped this time Her Majestie might change her mind.  Certes, he kept close to the Lord Admiral, but nowt came of that.  ’Tis cruel to have a door closed in your face and no window to slip through.  As we cats know.

At the Cats’ Field, Nero gave A black cat looking excitednewes of the expedition.  There was over one hundred ships, and more sailors and soldiers than he could number.  Many fine gentlemen sailed with them.

“They’ll be sick and spewing now,” sayt Nero.  “Let’s hope their stomachs settle before they have to draw their swords.”

Some were mazed to see Nero with us, because he’d spake of going.

Nero sayt his old master was much recovered from his illness, and it was his dutie to stay with him.  And still he would not tell whither they ships were bound, though he claims to know.

I gave better newes.

I rose up and called, “Friends, I have in my house a book of filth, which I believe my lord brought with him.  In short, friends, it shows a new way for men and women to rid theirselves of their turds.”

“What’s wrong with the old way?” called a queen cat.

“Come they from their mouths now?” called another.  “Who’d have thought it?”

That got a great screech from all. 

Linkin cried, “What?  Dare we speak of lords and ladies intricated in so nastie a business?”

A man and woman in full Elizabethan dress with impressively large white ruffs.
The fellow that writ the book: John Harington, with his wife Mary Rogers.  Portrait by Hieronymus Custodis.

“We do,” sayt I.  “For lords and ladies do it.  And cats too.”

Another screech.

“The fellow that writ this book tells men and women to follow our example and cover their filthiness.  Indeed, he loves us cats so well he has made a strange device for them that we may fish in.”

“Fish for what?” arrkst my niece.

A diagram of the water-closet invented by John Harington.
Gib was obviously impressed by the fish swimming in the privy’s cistern.  I suspect they’re in the diagram to show the water’s clean.

All screeched mightily when I sayt our Earl was privy to this great effusion of knowledge.

We made such a merrie night of it I fear I must pass the morrow sleeping.

Oh, I grow old.  I believe I’ve seen fifteen winters.  In truth, seating myself and holding my pen makes my bones to ache.  So I write less, while my young skoller is fire-hot to learn more.  Why, I do not know.  Soon she will have kits to rear.

Come winter when she’ll be at leisure, I shall show her the filthie book I told of.  It may be more to her liking than poesie or flossfy [philosophy].

Editor's Note. Small image of a quill pen.If Gib and his niece managed to work their way through John Harington’s New Discourse of a Stale Subject, called the Metamorphosis of Ajax (1596) they did well. Though short, it’s not an easy read.  

His booklet outlines a design for a water-closet, forerunner to our flushing toilet, and is full of classical allusions, references to events and people, digressions, doubles-entendres and puns.  Ajax = a jakes (slang for a toilet, or what the Elizabethans called a privy).

John – later Sir John – Harington (1561-1612) was one of Elizabeth I’s many godchildren.  She appears to have been fond of him, though he often infuriated her.  She was offended by this work, probably because of its satirical references rather than its subject matter.  However, John was forgiven, and a water-closet installed in Richmond Palace.  There’s an artist’s vision in the Folger Shakespeare Library of how the finished product might look.

And the Southampton connection?  John Harington claimed to have first discussed the idea of his privy at Wardour Castle, the home of Sir Matthew Arundell.  Sir Matthew was the father-in-law of Gib’s Lady Moll (the Earl’s sister Mary).

The Earl, Lady Mary, her husband Thomas Arundell, and Sir Henry Danvers – the same Sir Henry who was later sought for murder – were all there.  No doubt they had as much fun with the topic as Gib and his friends did.


31 thoughts on “75:  Of my Lord, and a Filthie Book

  1. April Munday October 13, 2016 / 1:07 am

    The joys of modern technology. I quite like the idea of a water closet where the floor is strewn with lavender.

    Liked by 3 people

    • toutparmoi October 13, 2016 / 1:19 am

      Are you looking at the Folger pic? I wouldn’t mind a loo that resembled a four-poster. Most commodious. (Sorry. Sir J.H’s punning habit is catching.) What worries me is the copy of Spenser’s Faerie Queen sitting handy. Is it intended as reading matter, or…? We know the other use book pages could be put to.

      Liked by 3 people

    • April Munday October 13, 2016 / 1:54 am

      I am looking at the Folger drawing. It didn’t occur to me that the Faerie Queen might be there for reading purposes. I suspect Folger had a low opinion of it.

      Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi October 13, 2016 / 1:57 am

      Fie! For shame! But I, too, suspect the artist may not have liked it. It never grabbed me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday October 13, 2016 / 2:31 am

      It just seemed unlikely that an Elizabethan would want to linger in the water closet with a book of poetry.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Rachel McAlpine October 14, 2016 / 9:19 am

      When you think of their diet (meat in every course?) it was probably a long job.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Chris White October 13, 2016 / 1:54 am

    A wonderful post as purr usual.(sorry) Although I did feel quite seasick at one stage. I suppose the Book of filth is similar to a Littlewoods catalogue.
    Or not. All the best. Chris.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi October 13, 2016 / 11:48 am

      Now you mention it, part of the book does indeed resemble a catalogue, with designs and costings; other parts …


  3. Mick Canning October 13, 2016 / 2:52 am

    Oh, these new engines and inventions shall never catch on!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Soul Gifts October 13, 2016 / 1:35 pm

    I never knewt the water closet for catching filth harkened back to the days of His Gibship 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Christine Valentor October 13, 2016 / 1:36 pm

    I wonder why Bess did not let Southampton and Essex go to Calais? Was she trying to protect them?

    Great post as always! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi October 14, 2016 / 12:03 am

      Thanks! Elizabeth delayed, rather than stopped, the departure of Essex and his troops for Calais. That’s because she was negotiating with Henri IV of France over what he would give her in return for her military aid.

      She hoped for Calais itself – previously an English possession. Then Calais fell to the Spanish, so there was no point in Essex going. Instead, a joint English/Protestant Dutch fleet set off for Spain.

      Southampton’s situation was different. Elizabeth had already made it clear that he wasn’t going anywhere. Maybe she was wary of Essex’s influence over him?

      On the other hand, Elizabeth always chose which of her courtiers could (or couldn’t) go on military expeditions. They were eager for adventure and glory, and that may have been one of her ways of managing them. A reminder that wars were fought on her behalf, not theirs?

      Liked by 2 people

    • Christine Valentor October 14, 2016 / 6:42 am

      Yes. Thanks for the info/ explanation. I had read that Bess was no warmonger, always trying to keep the peace, as opposed to the men in her administration.

      Southampton was (I believe) Bess’ ward? And there is always the juicy (although unsubstantiated) rumor that he may have been her son. (Also Essex was ‘rumored’ to be her son.) However, even if there was no truth to the rumors, she may have felt motherly toward them? Or maybe she just wanted to control them.

      Anyway, it is quite fascinating! Especially as seen through the eyes of the cat! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. larrypaulbrown October 13, 2016 / 11:48 pm

    Oh my! And when I read your title I thought Gib had resorted to porn. How trashy of me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi October 14, 2016 / 12:15 am

      Shame on you! When I think back to Gib’s poetick creations, his most lascivious descriptions are reserved for food. Perhaps that’s the feline idea of porn?

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Robyn Haynes October 16, 2016 / 10:08 am

    I enjoyed the description of the water closet. I actually saw a cat taught to use a toilet once. An inside cat living in a high rise. Don’t much like the idea of them fishing in it though. Tree frogs like to live in toilets so I suppose cats might fish for those

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi October 16, 2016 / 11:52 am

      I’ve heard of a few cats using toilets, too. A friend had one which started using hers of its own accord, but most would have to be trained, I think.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Robyn Haynes October 16, 2016 / 12:35 pm

      They are very particular about their hygiene in my experience.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. lindseylivings October 19, 2016 / 2:31 pm

    The water closet is pretty interesting. Never would have thought of that!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Timi Townsend October 20, 2016 / 11:04 am

    But I, for One, do most like, indeed, Spenser’s _The Fairie Queene_. In fact, I Myself would call it Indispensable Reading (most Terrible Pun intended!). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi October 20, 2016 / 11:21 am

      My favourite is Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, which influenced Spenser. John Harington made the first English translation of it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Timi Townsend October 20, 2016 / 11:25 am

      I knowe not one John Harington, although his Descendant, perhaps, one hight Kit Harington, is a Favorite of Mine in a Very Anachronistic Way indeed, in a kind of Playe Called A Game of Thrones. You may have Heard of its Like?

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi October 20, 2016 / 11:30 am

      In sooth, I love GoT. And I’ve heard tell that Kit is one of John’s descendants.


  10. Timi Townsend October 20, 2016 / 11:28 am

    On another Topic relating to his Gibship, I also suffer when Seated and Holding the Pen… Old Age is somewhat Loathesome, but the Alternative, as my Deare Grannie always did saye, is not to be Wisht for! I certainly do Hope for Many More Winters for Gib the Cat…

    Liked by 1 person

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