117: The Progress of Picker & Stealer

A fluffy black, white and ginger cat against the night sky.
Tricks – Mistress of the Revels.

I was not joyed when Picker and Stealer wished to give newes.

They believed they could say whate’er they chose to all cats of their akwayntance.  And none durst strike them a blow, because they fought as they spake.  In turns.

Onix had told me they’d once attacked him at his own door, swearing he’d given them evil looks as they passed by.

No sooner had he kicked one off than the other sprang on him anew.    He’d feared for his verie life.

But I’d wished for a Revel where all would speak free, so when Picker and Stealer came forward I sayt, “These witty sisters have friends in places high and low.  They gather more newes in a sennight [week] than most can in a year.  Lend them your ears.”

“Or they’ll tear them from your heads!” called a cat from the dark.

A lean tabby cat on a roof at night.

“I’ll lend Stealer the tip of one,” called another.  “She has need of it.”

“The cat that bit off hers has more need of a vomitive!” cried Onix, bold of a sudden.


“Friends,” sayt I, “at this our Revel we may slander great folks.  Yea, and great cats too.  None shall be punished for it.  So if you choose to spread the newes Picker and Stealer bring, I pray you name them not.  Else everie paw might be turned against them, and they silenced forever.”

Then I sat, hoping I’d took the winds of wickedness from those sisters’ sails.

Even so, they sayt too much.  And too little.  Viz.

“We may be queens, but it’s not in summer that we make our progress.  Queen Puss used to set forth then, and eat her friends’ estates bare.

“We make our circumambulation of this town in the Fasting Time at winter’s end [Lent], but we eat well enough. 

“For ’tis then that pigeons will risk all for a blackened crust, and fishwives cease to watch their wares when a friend comes with a cup of warm ale.

“Few ever chase us far, for fear they’ll fall and brake a leg.

“First, we travelled eastward and passed beyond the Tower to learn the newes from the keys [quays].

The Tower of London, a view from across the river.

“There we heard tell that the Hector was making readie for Constantinople.  What pitie our Turkey friend here was not with us!  He could be on his way home now.

Picker is sorry that Kettie did not know of the ship that sailed for Constantinople.

“Aboard the Hector is a most ingenious gift for the Emperor of the Turks, because he’s had nowt to cheer him since he strangled all his brothers.

“The weather came warm, so we turned from the river and went among the vasty fields where playhouses lie. 

“Fancy, if you can, how mazed we were to find that one playhouse had fled our scene!

“A cat there sayt men came and carried it away.  They have a plat to bear it over the river, and raise it anew on the south bank.  Thievery!

“We slipped into the other playhouse, and stayed long enough to snap an oyster or four.  The play was of some fool named Harry, as all fools are.

“That was not the onlie comedie we saw.  By the Tower we watched London’s Harry – we mean Lord Essex, for Lord Southampton is but his ’prentice – gather his soldiers before they made this town their stage.

“After we turned homeward we met a cat who lodges with the doctor of astrologick fame.  Shall we tell you what the stars say of Essex?”

All spake at once then.  Some called for more of the Turkey Emperor, others to know what the learned doctor had discovered.

I wished to hear more of the play, but kept that thought hid.

Instead, I sayt we would meet again on the morrow, when Picker and Stealer could answer all.

And to myself I vowed I’d slay them single or together before I’d yield my place as Mistress of the Revels.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorPicker and Stealer got around, even if they didn’t do the circumambulation they boasted of.

First eastward, possibly as far as Blackwall.  Though certainly not as far as Gravesend, about 20 miles downriver, from where the Hector sailed for Constantinople in February 1599.

Next, back towards the Tower and Tower Hill where the Earl of Essex assembled his troop before the parade through London which Tricks and Onix saw.  Then north to Shoreditch – still a rural area beyond the city wall – which had two playhouses, the Theatre and the Curtain.  There they found the Theatre had disappeared.  So on to the Curtain, where (Lent being over and the playhouse open) they may have seen a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry V.

A major excursion for two cats, and it took them a couple of months.

As for the vanishing playhouse:  James Burbage, who died in 1597 shortly after his Blackfriars project fell through, had owned the Theatre, which he’d built on leased land.

A portrait thought to be of Richard Burbage (1567-1618)

The Theatre closed when the lease expired, and the actors had temporary use of the Curtain.

James Burbage’s sons Cuthbert and actor Richard, with the other actor/shareholders in the company (John Heminges, Will Kemp, Augustine Phillips, Thomas Pope, and William Shakespeare), leased some land across the river in Southwark.

The Burbage brothers then invited the actors to help finance the new playhouse they planned to build, in return for a share of the box-office profits.  It was built from the materials taken from the Theatre.

Nowadays the replica playhouse in Southwark is called Shakespeare’s Globe, but I can’t help thinking it should be known as Burbages’.


21 thoughts on “117: The Progress of Picker & Stealer

  1. Chris White December 15, 2017 / 2:17 am

    Good morning all you pussycats
    And how are you I pray
    And did you dream perchance methinks
    Of feasts on Christmas day ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 15, 2017 / 6:34 am

      Just the sort of song Tricks would like sung at one of her Revels 🙂


  2. Monica Graff December 15, 2017 / 2:26 am

    Poor Picker. I’m afraid that’s not a very flattering photo of the fellow. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 15, 2017 / 6:35 am

      She’s endeavouring to look sympathetic. Just doesn’t have the face for it, I’m afraid.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 15, 2017 / 6:56 am

      Thanks to you, Larry.


  3. April Munday December 15, 2017 / 3:43 am

    I hope that Picker and Stealer don’t push Tricks out. She’s far more entertaining than they are.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. chattykerry December 15, 2017 / 4:40 am

    I think I agree about the Globe being called Burbages’ theatre. Despite the reviews I really enjoyed the recent series about Shakespeare, with all the punk music and references.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 15, 2017 / 7:13 am

      I heard about the punk Shakespeare from another blogger. I’m keeping an eye out for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Catwoods December 15, 2017 / 9:31 am

    I absolutely adore seeing history from the viewpoint of Tricks and the other cats! Fascinating! They are perfectly positioned for observation!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 15, 2017 / 4:30 pm

      They are indeed. And cats seem particularly well-suited to commenting on the society they live in. They know the importance of obtaining employment or “a place” in someone’s household, they’re obsessed with matters of hierarchy and status, they’re not averse to fighting, and they love news and gossip.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Val December 17, 2017 / 6:29 am

    What an unruly crowd at the start of this episode! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 17, 2017 / 6:51 am

      Over-excited, I’d say, after hearing about the bloody banquet. That’s an Elizabethan audience for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. sevenroses December 20, 2017 / 9:57 am

    I wish this cat colony had been my history teacher alas!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Travel Past & Present January 14, 2018 / 2:49 pm

    The idea of a disappearing theatre is intriguing. Do you think it was removed piece by piece and rebuilt or was it an unorganized demolition ?
    I wonder too how the cats get away with their Tudor spelling – or perhaps their own unique version – when the comments police try to make me use US spelling, which I try to avoid.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 15, 2018 / 9:53 pm

      My understanding is that The Theatre was very carefully taken down piece by piece, under the supervision of the builder who would be responsible for putting it together again over the river.

      Some of the cats’ spelling is definitely Elizabethan, and some is how English words sound to feline ears: they have a problem with human names.


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