64:  Word of Murder

Yesterday passed most pleasant.  I kept close to my lord and saw nowt amiss.  There was choice meats served for dinner, and I ate of them.

A cook standing by a tab;e cutting up game birds while a cat attempts to steal one.
– by Frans Snyders (1579-1657)

I believe we must thank my lady Moll’s cook, because my lord’s cook was not in the kitchen when I looked in. 

Today I saw my lord and a pawful of his gentlemen ride out.  Some had hawks (vile birds that have been known to take kitlings) on their wrists.  I arrkst myself if they was going to Tommik’s house.

This evening it was my intent to visit my sister, but Linkin came by calling, “Newes, hot newes, now,” beneath our windows.

I slipt out and made haste to our Field.  My sister was there before me.  She had with her my pretty little niece, who was the Maggot in our play.

Linkin walked to the centre of our circle.  He told us that his mistress had been to visit friends in another country [county], and come home with word of murder.

Two brothers, seduced by the devil and accompanied by their friends, attacked a gentleman with divers weapons.

The younger of these brothers had a pistol loaded with powder and a lead bullet, and he shot said gentleman.  The bullet (sayt Linkin) passed through his body, most like through his heart.

Then the brothers fled.  None knows where they are, but many say they rode this way.  The hue and cry has been proclaimed.

Linkin sayt they will soon be taken.  For who would be so fool as to hazard theirselves to help them?

A young cat from our stable was present.  I knowed she was thinking the same as I, but we kept our thoughts well hid. 

Viz, that these brothers and their friends are the gentlemen we spake of not long since

And I’d guessed they’re hid at Tommik’s house, where my lord may be now.

Other cats called their liking of Linkin’s newes.  It joyed them to hear of men tormenting each other instead of us poor cats.  Then most ran off.  I saw that the stable cat made haste away, too.  Doubtless she wished to be first home with the newes.

Once all were gone, Nero, Linkin, my sister (with her kit, all ears) and I met for private talk, as is our custom.

My sister arrkst, “What do they call the murdered man?”

Head and shoulders of the young Earl, wearing a black doublet and flat white lace collar.
Henry (pronounced Harry) Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, who turned 21 on Sunday 6 October 1594. A miniature by Nicholas Hilliard.

Linkin sayt, “Harry.”

“And he that kilt him?”

“Sir Harry.”

My little niece sayt, “Our Earl is Harry, too.  When all men have the same name, it’s small wonder they’re so wicked.   You call Harry, and all come running.  Who could know which is a villain and which a lord?”

I believe she spake in jest, but I reproved her.  I told her she may speak of my lord as his lordship, or as our Earl, but never as Harry.  That’s not respective [respectful].

She gave me a saucie look.

Nero sayt, “Most like they miscreants are at the coast, seeking a passage to France.  My master is ever willing to do his duty, and will give what aid he can.”

I’m not sure what Nero meant by that.  Aid to whom?

Linkin sayt, “Pistols are cowards’ weapons.  And rich folks think theirselves above the law.  I hope for newes of their arrests soon.”

(Linkin hears that kind of talk in his household of prating puritans.)

I contented myself with saying that I did not expect to hear owt in my household, so far removed am I from the talk of common gossips.

I write this late.  My lord has not returned this night, and I do not think he will.

One of a pair of 16th Century wheellock pistols held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
One of a pair of 16th Century wheellock pistols held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met’s page has more pictures and info about them.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorGib must have written this late on Monday 7 October 1594.  The previous Friday, the Danvers (or Davers) brothers, Sir Charles and Sir Henry, burst into a house in Corsham, Wiltshire, where a gentleman called Henry Long was dining with friends.

There are conflicting accounts of what happened next.  Pre-meditated murder, or a matter of honour that went wrong?  However, the coroner’s inquest (held on Saturday) found that Sir Henry Danvers shot and killed Henry Long.

The death was the result of a longstanding feud between the Long and Danvers families.  Both Danvers brothers were friends of the young Earl of Southampton.  They’d already led the adventurous life he aspired to.

Sir Charles, the elder, was born c. 1568.  He saw military service in the Netherlands, where he was knighted in 1588.  He’d also travelled widely in Europe, collecting books along the way, and seems to have been well-regarded by his contemporaries.

Sir Henry, the younger, was born c. 1573.  Much the same age as Gib’s Earl, he’d already served in the Netherlands, first as a page to Renaissance male role-model Sir Philip Sidney (who died as a result of a wound received at the Battle of Zutphen 1586), and later as a soldier.  In 1591 he accompanied the Earl of Essex to Normandy on a campaign to support the protestant Henri of Navarre, the nominal King of France.  The Earl of Essex knighted Henry Danvers for his part in the siege of Rouen.

Military commanders could confer knighthoods in the field.  Young Elizabethan men coveted this type of knighthood, rather than that of a “carpet-knight”.


52:  On Being Melancolie

Nero arrkst me why I’ve told no tales of late.

I sayt, “I’m composing sonnets.  I have no time for trifles.”

Nero cleansed his paws, nibbling between his claws most careful.  I guessed he did not know what a sonnet is.  I told him of my sonnet in honour of my friend Smokie.  And of another I have in mind.  A platonick conceit on my soul.

A head and shoulders miniature portrait of a young man in a black doublet with a wide white collar posing with his hand upon his heart.
A miniature of a young man, believed to be Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586). It’s painted in the style of Isaac Oliver, probably after Sidney’s death. © V&A Museum, London.

Nero looked scornful.

“The great Sirrup Sit-Knee, the flower of our age,” sayt I, “is famed for his sonnets.”

“Be he a man or a cat?”

“A man.  All praise him most high, and strive to emulate him.”

“Then Sit-knee must be gone from this world, and past giving offence to any,” sayt Nero.

“True,” I sayt.  “He died heroick.  The Earl of Essicks [Essex] has his sword.  And his wife, to the great annoyance of Her Majestie.”

We sat a while in silence.

Then Nero sayt, “Your sister says we see little of you because it makes you mopish to think of other poets running after our Earl.  She says it was ever in your nature to be dumpish.”

My sister should learn to hold her tongue.  You would think she had kits enough to keep her busy.  But no, she must spread lies abroad.

I sayt, “Friend, we poets are never mopish or dumpish.  That’s for the common sort.  We are melancolie.”

“Melancolie?” arrkst he, liking the word.

“We long for what we cannot have.  Our loves are unrequited.”

“I long for plump oysters when there’s none to be had,” sayt Nero.

“Then,” sayt I, “think on your oysters and follow me to yonder eglantine.”

White climbing rose

Nero sayt, “I call that a rose.”

A miniature portrait of a young man dressed in black and white, the colours of Elizabeth I. He is standing among white roses with his hand on his heart.
Looking melancolie: a young man, believed to be Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, by Nicholas Hilliard c1587.  © V&A Museum, London.

I sayt, “Eglantine signifies Her Majestie.  All feign to love her. Now we must lay our paws upon our hearts to signify that we are of a poetick disposition, and love-sick.  That makes us melancolie.”

I showed him what I meant by that.

But we cats are not so made that we can put our paws upon our hearts without we lie on our backs.

And when we lie on our backs, our friends think we are inviting them to fight us in play.

Nero leapt on me.  I kicked him off, and told him it was his turn to seem melancolie.

He did it well.

“You have,” sayt I, “the blackest face of woe I ever saw.”  And I leapt on him.

Looking melancolie: the Earl of Southampton in his late teens. Attributed to John de Critz the Elder. (Via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)


A painting of a dappled blue and white cat lying on its back with its paw on its heart.
Looking melancolie: not so straightforward for the Earl of Southampton’s cat.

Then what did we see but the Mad Cat peeking at us over a little wall.  He was standing on his back legs, which he is most apt to do.  He holds his paws at his sides, for balance.

I arrkst him if he could place a paw upon his heart without falling down.

“And think,” sayt Nero, “of your mistress eating an egg, and not offering you a morsel.”

I sayt, “There is nowt more poetickal than a cruel mistress.”

“My good mistress never would be cruel,” sayt he.  “She will call me to my supper soon.”

But our melancolie looks had joyed him, and he came to sit with us beneath the roses.

Editor's Note. Small image of a quill pen.Sir Philip Sidney – Gib’s Sirrup Sit-Knee – (1564-1586) was regarded by his contemporaries as the perfect Renaissance courtier: a soldier, scholar, author, and patron of the arts.

As a writer, he’s best remembered now for his influential sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella, and for his essay The Defence of Poesie on the value of imaginative writing.

He died of gangrene as the result of a leg wound received at the battle of Zutphen (in the Netherlands) where he was fighting for the Dutch Protestant cause against the Spanish.  He was married to Frances, the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham; in 1590 she married Queen Elizabeth’s young favourite the Earl of Essex (1565-1601), who’d also distinguished himself at Zutphen.  I think the Earl of Essex and the Earl of Southampton regarded Sir Philip Sidney as what we would call their role model.