When I saw Linkin, I told him he would not believe what I’d read in the Irish book.
He told me I would not believe what he’d learnt in the master’s chamber.
“In truth,” he sayt, “there was so much learned talk of the Irishes’ history, laws, and customs I grew weary, and slept.”
Then he sayt, “The Earl of Essex does not wish to go to Ireland because his enemies here will work against him whilst he’s away.”
“Haply,” sayt I, “he need not bide there long.”
Linkin sayt, “I fear Ireland may be the ruination of him. Certes, it was the ruination of his father, who gave some Irish lords a good dinner and then murdered them. Can you credit it?”
“To hear of so bloodie a banquet would surely please all,” sayt I, hopeful.
But Linkin sayt this tale was not fit for our parlement. Malicious cats might spread the word that noble Essex and our Earl hoped to do the same. He arrkst what I’d heard.
I told him of the book with pictures. And of what I’d read therein that gave me to believe the Irishes were kin to us cats.
He sayt that together we’d learnt enough, and went to tell his Irish committy friends.
No invitation for me to accompany him.
When any cat at Titchfield had informations to give out, they came calling, “Newes, newes,” beneath the windows. Then all knew to assemble at our Field.
In London we had to wait for Paws to summon us. She sent her minions across the rooves to cry, “Parle, parle.”
Linkin and his friends had ready their report, which he gave out to great applauds.
“Ireland,” sayt Linkin, “is a land of mists and bogs. It seems a very paradise for us cats, were it not for the wolves, which are many.
“Some say that the wild Irishes change theirselves into wolves. But that’s an idle superstition. Who would choose to be a wolf, kin to dogs?
“The Irishes understand neither the good protestant religion nor the bad popish one. But they hate protestants because they hate the English.
“The English chased them out of their possessions. And is’t not true that we cats hate those who chase us?
“There are English folks who’ve lived in Ireland since the old times. Some say they’ve grown more wicked than the Irishes, for they suck Irishness with their mothers’ milk. As we suck our catness.
“How is that wicked? Do not all kits take the nature of their mothers who first frame and fashion them?
“There is great store of fish and fowls in Ireland. A cat could dine well there. The Irish eat of flesh, and their chiefest drink is milk. They seldom eat of bread. Sometimes they take a drink called Uskwi-Bow [usquebaugh]. Stinking stuff, I believe, but cats need not drink it. There is much water in Ireland.
“Certes, they’re kin to us, for they care nowt for marriage. They part at their first quarrel, then find another wife or husband.
“But they do not lack for courage. They are brave soldiers, and when they come to fight they give out fierce cries to affright their enemy. As we do.
“They fight not in the field, but hide by river-crossings or narrow paths where they know their enemy will pass. They pounce, then flee into the trees. And are not trees a place of safety for us?
“Some say it were better to fight them in winter, when the trees are bare and they cannot hide theirselves. But I hear the Earl of Essex will set forth in spring. May the Queen Cat of Heaven protect him!”
“If he goes to kill our Irish kin, she won’t,” came a call.
Other cats sayt they wished to see Ireland for theirselves, and arrkst if it was many ways from Paws’ yard.
The cat from the Spain Committy (aggrieved, for she’d wished to tell of Ireland) sayt there was but two roads, and both led to a wild sea that must be crossed. That was why the newes she’d sought from Ireland was late in coming.
Linkin sayt, most gracious, “I long to hear it, for my informations came from English households. I pray some cat on a ship that’s crossed the Irish sea will send newes soon.”
Tricks acquired her knowledge of Ireland from John Derrick’s book, but Linkin – and perhaps other cats on the Irish Committy – must have heard some discussion of Edmund Spenser’s A View of the The Present State of Ireland.
Written around 1596, it wasn’t published until 1633, but a number of people would have seen manuscript copies.
A View is in the form of a dialogue between Irenius, who has lately come from Ireland, and Eudoxus, who asks him questions.
In brief, the Irish are the most barbarous nation in Christendom, more in need of civilising than the English were before the Norman Conquest.
The original Anglo-Norman colonists in Ireland have become as bad as the Irish.
To subdue the country by conventional warfare would be too expensive. The best strategy would be to establish a series of well-supplied garrisons from where recalcitrant Irish could be starved into submission.
Then the land could be repopulated by English settlers with Irish tenants. A Lord Deputy should continue to rule Ireland on behalf of the Crown, but with the additional support of a Lord Lieutenant. Spenser probably had the Earl of Essex in mind for the latter role, but would Essex have wanted it?
He certainly wasn’t keen on leading the latest attempt to subdue Ireland.