79:  Hard Times For All

Gib reclining on a cushion, looking thoughtful.Of late I’ve heared nowt but talk of hard times.

The harvest was poor – the third such we’ve had, I believe.  My sister was still living when many began to hunger.

I knew that Fortune favoured me, so I daily offered thanks for the fire I have to warm me and the choice meats I eat.

I oft saw rats about this house.  Bold (I thought) from empty bellies.

My niece made a great show of catching and killing them.  My sister taught her well.  The servants say they never saw so good a ratter.

I took pride in her deeds until I saw her creep into the book-chamber lugging a live rat.  She let it loose by the wall cloth, where it hid itself.  Then she settled herself to wait.

I guessed that when a servant came into the room she would chase out that poor rat and kill it, to great applauds.

I reproved her for such sly doings.  I told her we’re employed to keep vermin from the house, not bring them in for private sport.

She sayt, “How else may I win the freedom of this house and continue my education?”

I had no answer for that.

I saw little of my lord this winter past.  I believe he stayed in London condoling with the most noble Earl of Essicks who was (I hear) so dismayed by Her Majestie’s ill-usage after his heroick action at Cadiz that he took to his bed.  And stayed there.

Whereas the King of Spain was so shamed he swore revenge.  He sent his fleet against us.

“That’s the tricksie Spanish for you,” sayt Nero.  “Coming at us out of season.”

Our own ships were laid up for winter.  Then, when they were made readie to defend us, a wicked wind prevented them from putting to sea.

All that dwell along this coast were much afeared until we learnt that the Spanish met with foul weather.  They lost so many ships they had no choice but to return home.  Certes, they will come again.

A dark-haired, serious-faced young Elizabethan woman.
The Countess of Derby, Elizabeth Stanley (nee de Vere), granddaughter of William Cecil, Lord Burghley).  Artist unknown.

Next, Linkin brought newes that the Earl of Essicks has been scruffing the Countess of Darby [Derby].

That’s the girl they wisht my lord to marry.  Old Lord Purrlie’s granddaughter.  What scandal she has brought on her family!

How wise my lord was to refuse to wed such a light-tail.

“Essicks denies it.  He swears that he has not engaged in wickedness with any woman since he set forth for Cadiz,” sayt Linkin. “So perchance he scruffed her before he went.”

Linkin also sayt that my lord spake some unkind words about another Earl, who sayt my lord lied.  So they agreed to fight, as men and cats of honour do.

The Queen learnt of it.  They was summoned to Court.  The Lords of her Council assured the other Earl that my lord never spake against him.  They were made friends again. 

Head and soldiers of a young man reclining on grass with his head propped on one hand.
The other Earl: Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland (1564-1632), by Nicholas Hilliard c.1595.  He’d been proposed as a husband for Elizabeth de Vere, but she declined the match.  He married Dorothy Perrot (nee Devereux), one of Essex’s glamorous sisters.

Linkin and Nero were fire-hot to know what my lord had sayt, but I’d heard no word of the quarrel.

This talk of scandal cheered me, but there was ill newes at home.  

My lord lacks money and owes much to many.  Some of his lands may be sold.

My lord was a good son to his mother when her old husband died and left debts.  He permitted her to sell one of his manors.

Now more may be sold to ease his own burdens.  And I hear he has permission from Her Majestie to travel oversea.

Oh, I fear that blind goddess Fortune may be making ready to turn her wheel and cast me down.

A woman whose face is hidden by her long hair turns a wheel with various animals on it; a monkey, dogs, a large spotted cat, and a donkey. Set against the background of a moon with human facial features.
The Moon and Fortune. By an unknown artist, late 15th century.

With my lord gone, my very house might be sold about my ears.

What will become of me?  I’m too old to find a new place.  I thought to end my days here.

To cheer myself I called my niece to me.

She sprang onto the table, took my pen and dipped it, and sat ready.  “What shall I write?” she arrkst.

In truth, I felt like my lord hisself with his secretarie.

My heart swelled, and four lines of verse come to me.

As an aged queen-cat looks with joy, 
On all her pretty kitlings’ deeds of youth, 
So I, who turn on Fortune’s careless toy, 
Find all my comfort in your wit and truth.

“A few lines,” sayt I.  “Some fine words you’ve heared from me.”

She scarce paused for thought.  She wrote, very neat:

How my joynts ake when I rise from my bed.  I need to piss.  We old cats cannot hold our water as you young cats can.  Why is there no fire in this hearth?  Must I go to the kitchin and lie there neath the table like a common cat?

I now comprehend why many say it is not wise to educate females, for then their insolencie will know no bounds.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorGib probably wrote this in March 1597.  In February, the 23 year old Earl of Southampton had handed his estates over to three attorneys for administration.  The reason given was his debts, some of which were inherited from his father.

G.P.V. Akrigg (one of the Earl’s biographers) is convinced the Earl had to pay Lord Burghley £5000 for declining marriage to his granddaughter, but (oddly) Akrigg doesn’t mention this as a likely cause of debt.  Instead, he suggests that the Earl had been living “very lavishly”, though doesn’t offer any details.  However, Earls weren’t expected to be tightwads: I think most Elizabethans would have been shocked and demoralised by the sight of a thrifty Earl.


33 thoughts on “79:  Hard Times For All

  1. Christine Valentor January 4, 2017 / 2:43 pm

    Fair Coz! Glad am I too see you returnt from voyages! I have felt much lack with no newes of late from Gib, and thus read most voraciously. Pity Southampton, mired it debt as he be. Mehopes the voyages were to your liking!

    Liked by 3 people

    • toutparmoi January 4, 2017 / 4:45 pm

      For those kind words, good coz, I give thee thanks!
      But I fear I’ve neglected my friends while I’ve been on holiday, and still have a lot of catching up to do.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Christine Valentor January 4, 2017 / 5:00 pm

      Make haste and hie thee hence to the blog where followers await. Wishing you a new year of the happiest!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. larrypaulbrown January 4, 2017 / 3:48 pm

    Aha ! Old cats and old men do have something in common besides enjoying a good prowl. And I could certainly insert my 2 cents about an educated female but, this old man knows better. It’s so good to see your name pop up again.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi January 4, 2017 / 4:51 pm

      Thanks! I feel for Gib, with his sharp young niece nearby.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. roshendalal January 4, 2017 / 4:04 pm

    great post–hope he keeps his warm hearth–there are so many nuances in this–even education for females, how to survive in a difficult world..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Soul Gifts January 4, 2017 / 4:57 pm

    Oh I have missed these stories about scruffings and misoginy – I trust you had a good holiday. Long may Gibbs continue to reign 🙂 wishing you and the kitlings a purr-fect 2017

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 4, 2017 / 5:01 pm

      Yes, I had a great holiday, thanks. I need to catch up with your blog – I hope the year has started well for you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Soul Gifts January 4, 2017 / 5:04 pm

      It has thanks – I’ve changed the header today, so don’t think you’ve gone to the wrong site 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. M. L. Kappa January 4, 2017 / 6:51 pm

    Happy New Year!🎉Here’s to many more cat adventures 🌺

    Liked by 1 person

  6. April Munday January 4, 2017 / 8:37 pm

    Happy New Year. What a great joy to hear from Gib again. His niece is both clever and witty, a nice counterbalance to his grumpiness.

    I agree about thrifty earls. I suspect they were unfashionable in every age before Victoria’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 4, 2017 / 10:20 pm

      Happy New Year to you, April. Yes, I’m afraid Gib is turning into a querulous old cat; I hope his year brings more scandal to cheer him up.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday January 4, 2017 / 10:32 pm

      I’m sure there will be a lot more scandal in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Val January 5, 2017 / 1:21 am

    Yes, young cats can hold their water better than old, and I have some memory of scruffings…
    I’m so glad you’re back to the blog, I’ve missed your posts about Gib and his kin.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 5, 2017 / 8:49 am

      Thanks Val. I still have a lot of catching up to do on other people’s blogs.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. cadburycat January 5, 2017 / 1:28 am

    So pleased you are back. As lover of cats – and of Queen Puss- I have missed you

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 5, 2017 / 8:08 am

      Thanks! And I do hope the lack of respect often shown by Gib and his friends towards Queen Puss doesn’t offend you.


    • cadburycat January 5, 2017 / 8:10 am

      Of course not. Wherever they are, cats are in charge.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Rachel McAlpine January 5, 2017 / 9:37 am

    Toutparmoi, you make history irresistible. And it’s never too late. Like Gib’s niece, I now know everything I need to know about the times and characters of his world.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Robyn Haynes January 5, 2017 / 12:52 pm

    Welcome back Gib! I have missed your tales of late. Your niece might just secure that warm hearth for you in your dotage. I say provide her with all the education she can absorb.. Wonderful pictures Denise. I especially liked Blind Fortune.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 5, 2017 / 3:01 pm

      I like the Blind Fortune one, too. There’s something surreal about it, and the fact that the moon has a face makes it strangely modern. The moon and fortune are ever-changing, so I can see the connection there, but I’ve no idea what the animals on her wheel signify.


  11. Mick Canning January 6, 2017 / 12:29 am

    Good to see you back, Denise. I trust the holiday was good. I think Gib could do with one now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 6, 2017 / 7:44 am

      Yes, I had a great time, thanks. From where I sit, it seems Gib’s life has been one long holiday – unlike most cats of his day. But he’s certainly feeling his age.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Eugenia January 8, 2017 / 4:17 am

    Glad to see you back! I enjoy your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Claremary P. Sweeney January 15, 2017 / 12:33 pm

    Happy to see you’ve enjoyed a good respite and are returned to us for the new year. I read this out loud to Roxie and she hissed at the comment on educating females. She’s very proud of her intellect and all of her other amazing qualities. She loves Gib’s niece!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 15, 2017 / 7:15 pm

      Thanks, Clare. Yes, Roxie and Gib’s niece do sound like kindred spirits.

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.