113:  I Propose a Revel

A dark-eyed woman with loosely arranged reddish gold hair.
The Pretty Penny, better known as Penelope, Lady Rich (nee Devereux).  Elizabeth Vernon’s cousin, and the Earl of Essex sister.

Linkin sayt to me, “There’s no call for you to go to Essex House, now our Earl and the Earl of Essex are gone to Ireland.  And I hear tell that our Earl’s Puss [Bess] and the Pretty Penny have quit that house, too.”

“What?” I cried.  “Those ladies were at Essex House?  With our Earl?  Why did you not tell me?”

“I couldn’t swear to the truth of it,” sayt he, narrowing his eyes most amiable.

He’d wished to keep me as his secretarie, more like.  In case he should require more informations on Ireland for Paws’ fool parlement.

A parlement where I had no voice, because I, having no household of mine own, was not a member.

Then it came to me.  While all waited for newes from Ireland, I would make a Revel.

A night of mirth and merriment, such as we had in Titchfield.  With no Paws to tell us to keep our thoughts to ourselves or leave.

I went to tell Onix of my plat [plan].  He was taking the sun in his doorway.

A black and white cat seated in the doorway of an Elizabethan house.When I spake of songs and interludes, he grew timorous.

“By interludes,” he arrkst, “mean you plays?  Such performances are not permitted here.”

“I do not mean a play,” sayt I.  “My uncle made a play, and I enacted a maggot.  A play requires preparations.  I mean no more than a merry tale or two.  Linkin knows of a banquet where all the guests were murdered.  Who would not wish to hear of that?”

Onix scarce heeded me.  “There was a playhouse here for the better sort,” he sayt.  “My mother’s mother had employment there.”

“What?” I cried.  “Linkin never told me of a playhouse in these parts.”

“’Tis long gone,” sayt he.  “And when some players wished to make another, none would have it.  No, not even the Lord Chamberlain hisself, though those same players were his servants.”

Then Onix told me that all here in Black-Fryes [Blackfriars] had sayt a common playhouse would be a great annoyance.

A fair, delicate-featured woman in a black gown with a white ruff and a voluminous white head-dress.
Elizabeth, Lady Russell (nee Cooke).  A leader of the anti-playhouse faction in Blackfriars.

All manner of lewd and vagrant persons would come hither under colour of resorting to plays, but in truth to make mischief.  Breaking of windows, picking and stealing, wauling and brawling.

He sayt, “The streets would be so pestered with rogues no honest folks could go about their business in good time.   As my mistress must, when she is sent for.

“Nor honest cats neither.  Strangers would affront us by leaving their excrements by our gates and their marks against our walls.  We would have much ado to o’er mark them.

“And what,” he arrkst, “if it should please the Queen Cat of Heaven to visit sickness on this citie?  Having our streets so throng would imperil all.  Best that common playhouses be kept without the citie walls, where such evils belong.”

I remembered all the cats that came to our Field to see my uncle’s play, and the revel-rout that followed hard upon it.  Onix spake true.

To assuage him, I told him my Revel would not be for common cats.  We would invite our private friends.

“We don’t have any friends,” sayt Onix.

I sayt, “When next you see Picker and Stealer, tell them of a Spring Revel that only they we invite may attend.  You’ll be mazed to learn how many friends we have.” 

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe Earl of Southampton’s wife, Elizabeth (Bess) Vernon was close to her cousin Penelope, Lady Rich (1563-1607) – the Earl of Essex’s sister.  When the Earls left for Ireland, Penelope and Bess travelled to Chartley Manor in Staffordshire, formerly the Devereux family home.

Chartley Manor

The precinct of Blackfriars in London takes its name from a large Dominican monastery that once stood there.  Parts of the monastery were used by government for meetings of parliament and the Privy Council, which might explain how the cats of nearby St Paul’s got the idea for their parlement.

When the monastery became a Crown property in 1538, some parts continued to be used for government purposes.  Others were leased out.  From 1576 to 1584 select companies of choirboy actors from the royal chapels and St Paul’s gave performances in a small theatre there.

In 1596 the joiner-turned-actor/developer James Burbage (c.1531-1597) acquired part of the property to construct a playhouse for his company of adult actors.  This company had as its patron George Carey, Lord Hunsdon, and they were known as Lord Hunsdon’s Men.  (In 1597 when he was appointed Lord Chamberlain, they became the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.)

The company needed a new playhouse.  The lease of the land in Shoreditch (north of the city wall) where their current playhouse The Theater stood, was about to expire.

The prospect of a “common playhouse” in Blackfriars caused an outbreak of nimbyism among the residents.  They petitioned the Privy Council asking that the project be stopped.  Which it was, but not before James Burbage had spent around £1000 on the premises.

A leading petitioner was Elizabeth, Lady Russell, who styled herself Countess of Bedford even though her husband died before his father and never inherited the title of Earl.  Lady Russell was the aunt of Sir Robert Cecil, who’d replaced his father William Cecil, Lord Burghley, as the most powerful man in England.

Other notable signatories were Lord Hunsdon himself, and the printer Richard Field who’d published William Shakespeare’s first printed works: the narrative poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.  Because Richard Field was also from Stratford upon Avon, some of Shakespeare’s biographers assume he was a friend.  If so, Shakespeare, a member of Lord Hunsdon’s Men, might not have felt too pleased with him.


18 thoughts on “113:  I Propose a Revel

  1. April Munday November 16, 2017 / 7:42 pm

    A revel sounds like fun, but I’m already worried about what could go wrong.

    I used to work in Blackfriars and there’s no sign of the monastery that I could see. The Great Fire destroyed a lot of buildings in that area.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 17, 2017 / 8:45 am

      The original monastery sounds big – apparently the Dominicans were granted 5 acres in 1276, and allowed to reconstruct part of the city wall as their boundary. Sad that there’s now no trace, other than the name.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday November 17, 2017 / 8:57 am

      I have to confess that I’ve never thought much about where the monastery might have been. Now that I’ve had a quick look at a couple of websites I think there’s a good chance that one of the offices I worked in was on the site of the monastery. I feel some research coming on.

      Liked by 2 people

    • April Munday November 17, 2017 / 9:22 am

      That’s fascinating. I clicked on the map, but I can’t tell. I worked in Farringdon Street, below Holborn Viaduct, which is more or less where the Fleet ran and the monastery was bordered by the Fleet.

      I wish I’d known at the time. I’d have made an effort to find out more.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 17, 2017 / 9:29 am

      That map’s great. I read somewhere else that Blackfriars station is on the monastery site, but my knowledge of what’s exactly where in modern Blackfriars is too hazy to guess whether that’s likely to be correct. What do you think?

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday November 17, 2017 / 9:38 am

      If the monastery site was 5 acres it probably includes the station, but that makes me wonder if it didn’t go right down to the Thames. The station isn’t far from the river.

      Ever since I read that there was a river there that now runs underground I’ve wanted to know more about Blackfriars. By then, of course, I wasn’t living in London anymore. I worked, at different times, for 2 companies who had their head offices there and I was more interested in Fleet Street than I was in what was on the other side of Farringdon Street. More fool me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 17, 2017 / 9:45 am

      Sounds like you need to do a day trip! Last time I was in London I saw a little trickle of water coming out by the Blackfriars Bridge – apparently the remains of the River Fleet. Disappeared waterways fascinate me.


    • April Munday November 17, 2017 / 9:54 am

      I’ve never seen that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve crossed that bridge, but it must be several hundred. When I worked for the second company I used to walk from Waterloo Station and I crossed the Thames on Blackfriars Bridge. I enjoyed the view of St Paul’s, which might be why I missed the outflow of the Fleet.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. colonialist November 16, 2017 / 8:08 pm

    I am mazed to learn of the revels that spring from a playhouse. How fitting that one bearing a title not her own would petition against allowing such a place within the walls..
    Only invited friends? A cunning plan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 17, 2017 / 8:57 am

      Theatre-goers are a well-behaved lot nowadays. Considering the Elizabethan propensity for violence at every level of society, I don’t think I’d want an over-excited and probably inebriated crowd surging through the streets of my suburb every afternoon either.


  3. Rachel McAlpine November 19, 2017 / 3:11 pm

    That’s the way, Tricks—when you’re being left out of the loop, take the initiative!


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