Lost Shakespeare sonnet unearthed?

In the four hundredth anniversary year of William Shakespeare’s death, laid to rest in Holy Trinity church in Stratford in 1616, a storm of excitement and controversy has erupted over the claimed discovery of a lost Shakespeare sonnet, which if proved genuine would change the cannon forever and which for its content has wide ranging implications over the question of the Bard’s purported Catholicism.

The single Elizabethan page, Elizabethan on quilted paper at least, and seeming to be in that classic, scrolling “Secretary” script, was unearthed in papers once belonging to the American couple The Wallaces, who came to England in the 1920’s to read through half of the millions of documents in the National Archive. In doing so they uncovered an original signature and two court cases, one relating to Shakespeare’s time on Silver Street, another when the Bard was accused of ‘Murder and Affray’ in Southwark by the corrupt Surrey Sherriff Sir William Gardiner, in 1596. Which ties the Bard directly to the theatrical entrepreneur Francis Langley, who built the Swan in Paris Gardens, and two still mysterious ladies, Dorothy Soeur and Anne Lee.

It remains a mystery though as to why the Wallaces, who grew increasingly paranoid about the British Establishment watching them, or filching their discoveries, and eventually returned to Wichita Falls in Texas to use their considerable investigative powers to unearth their own private oil well during the Texan boom, never revealed the existence of the sonnet, which is signed ws.

It’s form is classic Iambic Pentameter too and with the accepted Shakespearian rhyming structure, and though the page is now under lock and key, awaiting spectral analysis on the ink, its lack of punctuation and variable spelling points to its authenticity.  It is reproduced here with only some modern spellings for clarity:

when somer blushes with the dropping leaf
and all the naked worlde uncloaks its shame
when calvin winter stalks the earth beneath
mouthing ffalse psalters to the god of blame
i build cathedrals to a joyous eve
erect profanelye alters to her grace
and like a preacher make the worlde believe
her beauties constant and her truthe her face
for all the seasons halte within her thrall
as though she might hatche eges outside their nest
make spring of winter somer from the fall
or bring forth sweet milk from a virgin brest
so i on trees in forests prick her name
in falling adam loves to fall again

Critics of the find however point to the fact that the papers were also in the hands of the notorious nineteenth century scholar and forger John Payne Collier, who was so publically discredited and disgraced in The Athaneum Magazine. The Shakespeare story is in fact filled with frauds and hoaxes.  Scholars also point to textual oddities such as the American, or perhaps New World usage of the term Fall, for Autumn, of course punning on the Fall in the Biblical Garden of Eden, when Eve tempted Adam with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, bringing controversy and debate as to whether the term was even in currency at the period.

References to Calvinism and False doctrines have also raised a storm of new claims and counter claims that Shakespeare was in fact a secret Catholic, a theory, with the Reformation, resisted in Protestant England for four hundred years.  One of the most exciting aspects of the find though is a barely legible scrawl at the bottom of the page, which relates to a payment for a bundle of lute strings, of one shilling and a penny, and dates it to 1599, the year the wooden Globe Theatre was put up on Bankside.  The sonnet has increased interest and speculation though because of its strong sexual innuendo and references to pricking pages of love poetry on trees, in forests. Perhaps specific echoes of Orlando and Rosalind in the Forest of Arden, and of old Adam too, from one of Shakespeare’s best loved plays, As You Like It, also believed to have been written in 1599.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DX DELIVERY AND YOUR PASSPORT TO BAD PRACTICE AND EXACT EXPLOITATION?

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Perhaps Petar Cvetkovic, the CEO of the mail and self-styled logistics company DX (their slogan is ‘delivered exactly’) might engage in one of those jolly TV programmes where management secretly mucks in on the shop floor and gets to know what it’s really like. More likely he has a managerial horror of becoming that much scorned White Van Man, from the way people are generally treated by his ‘management’, in their case a very inexact use of the word too.

Why should the fifty five year old executive even bother though? After all, according to Company Check, he holds the directorship of 16 listed companies and has resigned from the board of another 11. Over the last few months and weeks though Phoenix Ark Press have done it for him, with a man on the ground working out of their depot in Penrith. The result, Mr Cvetkovic, is disgust with the way people are exploited and the stupidity of the company ‘ethic’ too. It comes with freely delivered advice to the good British public never to go near DX, and, if you can, to order via Royal Mail, Parcel Force, DPD or another other rival. These days it’s only a little pause for thought, after all, and a discerning movement of the finger, in choosing retail Companies who use different operatives.

Except if you’re expecting one of Her Majesty’s great British passports through the post though, because apparently DX have the monopoly. They deliver other things too, Wiggle packages, Boo Hoo (hoo), White Stuff, Parcel Monkey, the monkeys, and so on, but one of their mainstays are our great British Passports. Quite a responsible and, in those bygone days when British business meant anything truly positive, if it ever did, even a thing commanding a tiny degree of respect? It certainly results in drivers being vetted for criminal records, credit issues, general dodgieness and so on.

Perfectly proper, as perhaps is some kind of penalty for not delivering your passport through the right letterbox. Except that there seems to be a standard and appalling 8 weeks wait to even work, with no concern or apology, and virtually no proper training either. While DX thinks it has the right to impose a £250 fine for every miss-posted letter of transit. With a three week wait for your first pay cheque too, doesn’t that strike you as a kind of bonded labour, that having a British passport was supposed to have abolished long since, and perhaps not entirely legal either? A three strikes and you’re out system would be far more reasonable, and less damaging to people’s real lives too. But maybe it’s only cynics or multi-company executives who fail to treat others like grown-ups, and start with the premise that everyone else is a crook, lazy or irresponsible, and not them at all.

Even such a fine might be justifiable, if the rewards given to their drivers matched the responsibility they are expected to carry. But, like the value of delivering your bicycle repair kit, or lovely White Stuff, so the drivers are paid 50p per passport, and 46p per mile. Apparently, that has not changed in at least 6 years. Now in rural areas that does present a margins problem, yet in that £72 or £82 charged by HM Passport office for processing our passports, what exactly does Her Majesty’s government set aside from you and us for p and p, to deliver perhaps hefty profits so exactly to DX owners and bosses? How many are issued per week too, and how much are our passports worth in the wider sense too? ‘Civis Britanicus Sum’? Fat chance. Any information request must go to them, and as for DX, they never answer any questions. Meanwhile, since 46p per mile is what any self-employed person is allowed to offset against tax in petrol, it might be worth HM Revenue investigating DX’s accounts to see if they are claiming on that too, to double their profits. We have not done so yet.

That level of pay though may prove fairly acceptable in such high density places as Manchester or London, despite one walk out there, but with no variance or weighting in what DX people get Nationwide, while in rural areas like Cumbria it amounts to pretty exact exploitation. Not least because drivers are expected to provide their own vehicles, Sat Navs, pay their fuel, while waiting to be paid, incur all the wear and tear costs of thrumming up and down the M6, or over impossible if beautifully scenic roads, so recently suffering floods and appalling and dangerous conditions. Laughably they have to pay £60 a month rental on those signing machines too, you have to fiddle with on your doorstep, so DX looks professional and serious.   So, on certain routes, the promise given of about £120 per day to invite drivers in turns out to be impossible to achieve for new drivers, even working 9 hours, and sometimes 12. That seems to be pretty exact misrepresentation too.

We calculated though, exactly or not, that some of their drivers are really touching the minimum wage, despite the responsibility of handling your vital passport, and being punished outrageously for getting it wrong too. With the pressures they’re putting on drivers, and the people running their shabby depots, arguably life threatening pressures in these recent weather conditions and famous Cumbrian flooding, it is far more likely they will get it wrong, and walk out as well. Meanwhile, the hard core of drivers sew up the easiest and most lucrative routes, (perhaps who can blame them considering such a culture of basic intimidation), and the real strain is put on the people coming through, not used to the topography, and often quickly walking out, as our bloke did.

What exactly will DX do about all this? It seems, exactly nothing at all. Precisely because the company was born out of the strikes by the Royal Mail through the seventies, before becoming privately owned in 2006, and with the rise of internet shopping too, that’s done such harm in many areas we may all be waking up to. While, in our experience, DX cares not a fig for the people it takes on so contemptuously as self-employees, and is perfectly willing to loose too. Allegedly, when one London depot tried to resist it by standing together, they sacked everyone and hired agency staff, until they could get more long term drivers. Noble British strike breaking, to ensure Mr Cvetkovic’s salary, and such vital services as passport delivery too? Not when the ‘culture’ of that company is so cynical and depressing, top to bottom. You would have thought prominent retail companies too have some small concern with what reputation is attached to the arrival of their Label in the post.

Then, in 2014, and with 3000 employees, DX floated itself on the AIM small company stock exchange. Which, considering informed commentators like Tom Whinifreth call that badly regulated market ‘the AIM casino’, makes you pause too. If you’re a concerned or even a ruthless shareholder then, you might prick up a wary ear to the opinion of the company from several on the inside. Or listen to one member of the public last week, after spending three hours on the phone complaining, and having looked up consumer comments he described as flooding onto the internet, to match the bad weather. Just pit that against stopping to ask directions of a smiling Royal Mail girl, in her smart red van, who beamed at the concern they show for their people, the perks they offer, the holiday incentives and the shares too.

Not vast money an hour, the Royal Mail, but actually it isn’t all about money, and goes with a real air of respect for lives, for work, safety and some job satisfaction. Take too the experience of a car blowing up near Kendal and borrowing water for the engine, from a bloke, it turns out, who had just packed in DX and now works for Parcel Force. From both the point of view of good business practice and treatment of people, eventually such a fly by night attitude to a workforce makes a business both distasteful and potentially unsustainable, as it tries to hold the market. Especially if prospective drivers get to know of the risks they are taking going near DX.

Their vaunted logistical business exactitude might be directed then to a little easy software investment and development, or time given to supporting warehouse managers, working a 70 hour week, or warning drivers of seriously blocked routes and so on. Instead it is clearly turned on to the thought that anyone in need of a job will do such work in the end, and so can run on just parcelling them off into the wild, blue yonder, and seeing who is desperate enough to sink or swim. In our humble, White Van Man opinion though, and for lots of reasons, the writing is certainly on their forcibly rented signature machines.

If Britain was really great too, perhaps Her Majesty Passport’s Office, that boasts a ‘Good Practice’ code, might use such a monopoly contract to inculcate some real culture again, top to bottom, by suggesting anyone handling our once World valued passports should be given a little more respect and value too. Indeed try to ensure it, by giving it back to Parcel Force, DPD, or The Royal Mail! Meanwhile the public too might spare a thought on the doorstep for people trying to cross tough terrain, to often unnumbered or unnamed houses, and give even a DX person a little smile and a real thanks, considering what they really earn. In the meantime, out of respect for the jobs DX drivers are forced to do, if not their culture, next time we’ll vote with our feet, especially now the car’s ruined, and we’re proudly Ex-Delivery, and get a passport in person. Then take a well-earned holiday! Exactly.

 

If you’re interested in any of the social and cultural issues in this article please share and reblog via Social Media and vote with your fingers.

 

 

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RADIO FOUR RAISES ITS GAME!

If you missed Tina C – Her Story on Radio 4 tonight 6.30-7pm rush back and listen. Is the bubblingly hysterical Christopher Green the new Chris Morris, the genius of his age behind the much attacked Brass Eye? Um, no idea, but thank God programmes like that are being broadcast mainstream and more strength to Mssss Green’s brilliant elbow. Go on, listen…

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SHAKESPEARE’S BROTHER – EDMUND SHAKESPEARE

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Published work on Edmund Shakespeare, London and Southwark, back on July 1st 2012, was too long, so it has been reworked into short storytelling chapters, the first of which starts today. There are still a few errors, or slight mistakes to be checked back with our original notebooks, though there are very definitive elements to come too. It is a thrilling adventure in Shakespeare and local history. The chapters will become part of the project Shakespeare’s Brother, posted above. Readers are very much encouraged to write in with corrections, or to point out glaring errors.

SHAKESPEARE’S BROTHER – The biography of a borough and an unrecorded life

by David Clement-Davies

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The…

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THE SHAKESPEARE BLOG – SOUTHWARK, CURE’S COLLEGE AND THE ORDER OF NOBLE POVERTY

St._Cross_Hospital,_Winchester_-_geograph.org.uk_-_638

I blogged last week on the founding in 1588 of the little Alms House run by Saviour’s Church, Cure’s College, on Maid Lane in Southwark, where the Rose, Globe and finally Hope theatres stood, by the Stewes and the river. Parish Gardens, that centre of theatre, brothels and bear-baiting, was nicknamed ‘The Bear College”. I also said that the draconian rules for those 16 local poor folk, men and women, laid down by that saddler to Queen Elizabeth, Thomas Cure, were a forewarning of the dreaded Workhouses to come, that Dickens so pilloried in novels like Oliver Twist. I’m certainly convinced that the shape of modern Capitalism and many of the woes we face today were born in Tudor London. In that privatisation of Church land called The Reformation, but most especially in the explosion of Private enterprise from the walled City, that turned the old English idea of Empire, lost in France, into an Empire of trade around the World. So the East India Company was founded in the same year the little wooden Globe theatre went up, 1599, and in 1605, I think, the Virginia Bay Companies too, that led the expansion in the Americas and the race, especially with the Dutch, for brave new worlds. The East India Company would of course define British power and Foreign Policy for Centuries, owning private armies and putting up their first little fort in Madras in 1607, the year Shakespeare’s brother Edmund died and was buried in Southwark. That same year there is a record of Hamlet being performed on board an East Indian ship, The Red Dragon, off the coast of Sierra Leone. It was formerly a warship called The Spirit of Malice and is mentioned in AL Rowse’s book on the astrologer Simon Foreman. The echoes of such a dynamic time are all over Shakespeare, of course in The Tempest, but also in Falstaff’s descriptions of himself in The Merry Wives of Windsor, in terms of Continents and Countries. Then there is that strange, almost unintelligible dedication on the cover of the sonnets about ‘well wishing adventurers’ setting forth. Those vital player’s patrons The Herbert brothers were of course major share holders in those City Companies, as the idea of sharers and private enterprise is also reflected in Shakespeare’s own theatrical Company, whose leading members had fingers in several little business pies in London, like groceries and sea-coal. In 1612 the first ‘Free Standing Lotterie’ was launched in the city too, to fund New World endeavours, and from common purses too, which all 13 original American colonies would soon take up. I’ve said before they were remarkably early origins then to that so-called ‘American Dream’ (and Shakespeare is filled with dreaming) born in London and the City. It was of course all about trade but also private banking and ownership, along with the massively lucrative beer trade, that in terms of private wealth remains true to this day.

Meanwhile, although Elizabethan ‘social security’ nets were remarkably fragile, they were there, in Parish organisation, although with the often hypocritical and allied hands of Church and State control. Take the unconsecrated graves of prostitutes and the poor at ‘Crossbones’ in Southwark. While there is that telling note in one of the St Saviour’s Records, of a payment ‘to send a woman out of the parish’, as Wards tried to deal with the growing issue of the Urban Poor in London and to fob it off on neighbouring parishes. In the meantime much of the condition South of the River grew into a true nightmare, with places like the Marshalsea Prison on Long Southwark, but also those Liberties themselves, areas of independent jurisdiction, that also spawned Crime, prostitution and slums like ‘The Rookeries’, where Daniel Defoe sets much of Moll Flanders. Despite all our worries then about Banking scandals today and the inequality of rules and playing fields, it was probably only the changing of the laws of debt in the 19th Century that saw true social reform. It is also true that the one old photo I have seen of Cure’s College, by the time it had developed into a stone structure by the early 19th Century, is very forbidding indeed.

Yet I got a fascinating insight into modern Alms Houses the other day when I helped a friend move rooms at the oldest Alms House in England, in Winchester, at The Hospital St. Cross and The Order of Noble Poverty. Of course the links with Winchester and Southwark were very strong indeed. It is very doubtful that poverty was ever considered especially noble in England, outside the beliefs and Orders of sections of the Church, but it is a charming and very historic place, rather like an Oxford College, and dominated by a huge Norman stone Church. It boasts the title of the oldest charitable institution in England. Incidentally scenes from the brilliant Wolf Hall, now running on the BBC, were shot here. It’s a pity I didn’t get to bump into Mark Rylance then and ask such a fantastic actor and former Artistic Director at the modern Globe why he believes the silly and impossible theory that Shakespeare was the Earl of Oxford. It just happens to be that the beneficiaries at St Cross today are all men, and refer to one another as ‘Brothers’, while at Cure’s College there were certainly men, women and children too. You do not have to be of any Religion, I believe, and Cure’s founding document specifically laid down that members had to be of a Protestant faith, though the Brothers today are required to attend Matins in the Church in their red robes. But in return they have charming rooms, peace and quiet, friendship and excellent and highly subsidised lunches too. They are not, as the poor of Cure’s College certainly were, required to work for their bed and board. I didn’t see around the whole place, like The 100’s Hall where a hundred locals were fed regularly, and my dog Rascal upset the ordered tranquility a little when we wandered into the Garden, but that and other Alms Houses in Winchester and around England are a testament to an ancient and noble tradition.

David Clement-Davies February 2nd 2015

For writers in the Sixteenth Century it was hard to survive, books and plays often supported by private donations. We seem to have returned to that time, in some ways, so please realise that the research on Edmund Shakespeare and Southwark represents two years of unpaid work.  If you enjoy these blogs then and can afford to support Phoenix Ark Press, please donate below.  Many thanks.

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The photo shows the main Courtyard of St Cross,medieval but edged by an original Tudor balcony.

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THE RASCAL’S RETURN

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RASCAL IN GREECE AND AFTER ARRIVING IN ENGLAND

Just a quick post on one of the lovlier elements of trying to live between Corfu and Hampshire and that was befriending Rascal the super dog on the island! When I left in December it was bite the bullet time though, so I got injections, a pet passport and microchip. But just too late, and along with the prohibitive costs of flying him over and the potential trauma of having to send him in cargo to the UK, he had to be left with a friend. Never fear, the Ark is here, and that redoubtable Dutch lady Louisa, who told me about the possibility of Rascal being driven overland. It cost £300, so I hope the Rascal’s grateful, but this post is really to recommned Clare and Stimatis at Delfini.

From start to finish Clare set my mind at rest, with constant texts about their travels, via ferry to Igoumanitsa, to the Italian mainland and up through Germany. I was almost jealous of the journey. When I drove to Bedfordshire to meet the pup they were sweet, clearly love and understand animals, both cats and dogs, and I saw the excellent travelling cages they have and the three very contented dogs they had brought back, including mine. Their transport business is not limited to pets but they travel regularly between the UK and Corfu, so if you are minded to adopt, be aware of the options before you think it all too difficult.

To visit Delfini’s website just CLICK HERE

DCD

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THE SHAKESPEARE BLOG – THE MYSTERY AND MAGIC OF RESEARCH

Shakespeare-Testament

An American friend has just asked, in this very free form Shakespeare and London blog, what it is like doing the research itself, in the backrooms and the stacks of great libraries?  A worthy digression, I think, about real life in London, past and present, and the hunt for Edmund Shakespeare or his brother.  Although I first heard about Edmund’s tombstone in St Saviour’s church from a schoolteacher in a pub up in Clapham, and had already started a pretty bogus novel, perhaps that search really began in earnest when I heard a London lecture by Professor Alan Nelson from Berkley University, talking to a small audience in that church about the St Saviours Token Books. Then another to his theatre students down in the lecture hall at the modern Globe reconstruction, explaining how to use the main resources – the London Metropolitan and the National Archives. So talking of the detective work around wills especially, mostly held in the National Archives, among all those pipe rolls and government documents, but also giving that name of the place Edmund Shakespeare was in 1607, the Vine Tavern on Maid Lane in Southwark.   I should say that from start to finish in that search though I have found the academics mostly pretty uncooperative, and of course there is a competition that surrounds everything to do with Shakespeare.  Alan Nelson is doing his own biography of the bard for the 2016 anniversary, but I do think he might have been more forthcoming, as might others, especially James Shapiro’s UK publishers.  Perhaps anyone on the hunt for the bard succumbs to that twinge of paranoia or jealousy that infected that American couple, the Wallaces, who unearthed the Mountjoy Court case early last century and the Silver Street story, but came to believe the British Establishment were spying on them and trying to steal their work.  To add a semi psychic twinge to the Wallace’s peculiar talents, perhaps needed in the imagining of any past, they returned to Texas during the oil rush determined to strike black gold and did exactly that.

But so I set off, in my little Gold Peugeot, to the main centre of the work done, the London Metropolitan Archive in Clerkenwell.   Like every area in London proper, visiting that much changed part of the city of course has its own place in the jigsaw, because scrubby and little-streeted Clerkenwell, with its rough market and emergent cappuccino shops, its modern Turkish immigrants or its Roumanian dominated strip bar, was in Shakespeare’s day the Clerk’s Well, where clerks, scribes and limners settled and Dutch and Flemish immigrants probably ended up in brothels too. There were other major wells, like The Bridewell, Hanwell and so on. Those limners later morphed into the printers and booksellers who especially congregated around St Paul’s Cathedral and Paternoster Row, and modern St Paul’s, with Wren’s proud dome, as opposed to the wood steepled church, of course still looms up now and then among the constuctions.  The idea of wells though, in a City once famous for its clean and pure springs, as Peter Ackroyd says, became as redolent in my head as the 212 parish churches that defined both the development of London and the creation of Reformation records too, or as important as the river itself. So the topography of the place became vital, passing streets like Bowling Green Alley, among so many in London echoing that popular sport, once played out in open fields, as eagerly as archers practiced at Newington Butts, or falconers hunted on the Morefields .  Like visiting the still working pub on the corner of Cowross and Turnmill Streets, near to Smithfield market, which was once George Wilkin’s brothel tavern, where the young Mary Mountjoy stayed with her lover Stephen Bellot.  That would have been in a near rural district outside the now vanished City wall and Smithfield was both a market and a place of popular burnings. Then there is that original remnant of a wattle and daub Elizabethan tenement building, through the arch approaching the very ancient St Bartholemew’s Church, just down the road, that once also had a spittal, or hospital.

Where I was coming from became just as important too, living in Lambeth, in a little flat on Gilbert Road in Kennington, that just happened to have the name of another of Shakespeare’s brother’s – Gilbert. Richard was the other. Kennington, with it’s Dog House pub, probably on the site of one of the old dog houses that surrounded London, once on lands of The Black Prince and where Sir John Fastolf, who fought at Agincourt and that echo of Jack Falstaff, owned land as well as a tavern, the Boar’s Head, in Southwark. I got to know much more about the area in the light of the Shakespeare research. For instance that Lambeth was once the Lamb’s Bath on the river, or that the little market street ‘Lower Marsh’, like ‘Upper Ground’ in Paris Gardens, testified to the effective swamp land this was South of the unembanked river, haunt of cutpurses and gypsies. Hence on Maid Lane too the Globe theatre had been ‘forced out of a marish’ in 1599, or a marsh, as Ben Jonson records in his long poem The Exacration Against Vulcan. Of course the astrologer Simon Foreman also lived in Lambeth, marrying in St Mary’s, beside Lambeth Palace, now the modern Garden Museum. But right at the end of Gilbert Road, turning into Renfrew Road and running into Kennington Lane, the search also began for another lost Elizabethan theatre, the wooden playhouse in Newington Butts, where Shakespeare may have played. On Kennington Lane the names of some ugly Council Estates, like Othello and Brutus Court, testify to its presence, perhaps in the circle that is now a garden, although a mile from the river down Newington Causeway it proved too far out, which is why Henslowe cashed in by building The Rose on Maid Lane. The most likely source of any extant records or clues was at its local church too, St Mary’s Newington, there being nothing in the Metropolitan Archive, which still has a thin sliver of medieval curtain wall looking especially incongrous on Kennington Park Road. A vicar I had befriended told me that Giles Frazer had taken over there, the Cannon who resigned at St Paul’s over the Occupy London protests, but whether he had become too much of a celebrity, was too busy, or thinks Shakespeare and the players unimportant to the plight of the modern urban poor, he never got back to me. That modern poverty is of course much in evidence, especially around the Elephant and Castle, that rather swamps the lost area of Newington Butts.

The London Metropolitan Archive itself though is in an unremarkable little street in Clerkenwell north of the river, faced by a large deconsecrated church and a playground, once a plague burial ground, I think.  Through the glass door, once you’ve pressed the button, and have signed in with the usually polite but disinterested security guard, up you go, see-through plastic Metropolitan bag in hand, to deposit any closed bags in the locker room.  Much the same process and security as in the British Library, where I spent a great deal of time too, reading their copy of Frances Meres’s book, or learning more of Kit Marlowe.   The place is modern, efficient and helpful, and the sourcing is done on a row of computers, mostly, or via the shelved parish record catalogues. Your hand written order chits are then slipped into the order box, to await delivery in the glass sided and temperature regulated reading room beyond.  Pencils and sharpeners in hand you then await the thrilling delivery of those buff boxes, filled with vestry minutes, token books, wills, covenants, scraps of semi-legible medieval paper, hand drawings, or leases, to unfurl them on the reading tables, open delicate volumes on large v-shaped foam reading mounts, keep the tomes open with heavy lead book snakes, or fall fast asleep.  I admit I have never been very good with libraries, easily distracted, keen to flirt, hungry for discoveries that take a long time,  Yet when Shakespeare is in the frame, or that particular period, there is a very special thrill getting your hands on original Elizabethan paper.  As Alan Nelson pointed out of the Token Books, which are just like long restaurant menus, bound with breaking linen threads, all hand written lists of Southwark locals and purchases of Communion Tokens, paper far long-lasting than anything we would produce today, often with particular watermarks. Summoning up images of that first paper mill on the Thames that saw its founder knighted by the Queen, as the establishment have always knighted captains of industry. This was the very beginnings of the printed word though.

So what are you exactly holding there, as you search for that golden moment that never comes, the sight of an unknown record of Shakespeare, or his brother Edmund?  Well, the loose leafed vestry minutes from St Saviours, for instance, are often single or double folds of paper, scratched with fading black ink, often with the minute instincts of the accountant or secretary and hard to read. But so the thrill begins of seeing those words on the covers of the Token Books, that are already numinous places in your head – “Ye Liberty of the Clink, “Ye Libertie of Bankside, “Ye Liberty of Paris Gardens.” Then there is the variable spelling, especially of names, the accounting of pounds and pence, L an i, and the Elizabethan confusion with f, ff, and s.  At first too you have no idea who these hieroglyphs refer to at all, until, screwing up your eyes and your brain too, an english sentence suddenly pops out  and firms up in your  mind- “To the widowe Bradshawe”, “paid to the bishop to bringe water from the Thames in their cartes” –  “A forenoon toll of ye greate bell“, “Paid to the sexton for the burning of mens bones“.  Lives, love, commerce, the past, the church, begin to echo in your head, flicker like candle light, and just for a moment the jigsaw becomes clear, until it is lost again in a maze of broken pieces.  Depending too perhaps on whether or not you believe in ghosts, or trying to get to some harder truth, the conjunction of realities and falsehoods that makes any life, it can be both depressing and even frightening sometimes doing that lonely research.  Take for instance the year 1603, five years before Edmund Shakespeare’s little tragedy, when Queen Elizabeth I finally died, I think in March, after standing for hours on her feet.  As with the death of King James, meaningfully or not, plague hit London very hard that year, and its echo is held in the St Saviour’s Burial Register.  That, like some of the Token Books, is too fragile to be released into the eager hands in the Reading Room and so is on microfilm now. But look at that year patterned on a scrolling neon screen, a patient etherised upon a table, and you will get an astoundingly dark taste of that time.  I believe the average monthly mortality rates in the parish of Southwark were something like 80 deaths, nasty, short and brutal enough, but in May that “Suma Mensis” rises to something like 200, then around 350, to over five hundred by July. So the agonising litany unfolds, in a year that took the player and original Globe sharer Will Kemp too – “A man in the street”, “A servant dropped by the wall”, “A woman in ye Church yard” “A Gentleman”, “A boy”, “A girl” “A stranger”.This was Shakespeare’s real and very dangerous London and remember that Southwark, across the river and outside London wall, was only one Parish among those 212. By October the tally has climbed to over 850 dead and then, the next month, it suddenly dips again.  What lets you really touch it across the centuries though, gives the sense that that great church of St Saviours had become almost besieged by the dead, is the physical sigh of relief you can detect in that unknown vestryman’s hand, as below the list of the fallen a scrolling line trails off down the page.  The plague had finally broken, taking over 100,000 lives across London, and it also shows that although some believed it was a visitation by God, or the ‘foul miasma’s’ of the brothels, bear pits and theatres, these people must have known that it had a pathology.  You sigh and look out of the window at a winter night, or leaves coming on the trees, and wonder what it all signifies, or if it is a tale told by an idiot.

That’s the dark stuff though, compared with the fun of the hunt, and those moments of greater satisfaction.  The egg on the face moment of thinking I had found a reference to a Ben Jonson play in the ‘records’ of Cure’s College, the accumulating data of the centuries, the fascinating snippets about a death ‘in sui felo’, a suicide at the house at Bank End that was overturned in such a rowdy liberty because it would have meant a daughter did not inherit when her father drowned in the river, the approach to the local poor shown in a payment “to send a woman out of the Parish“, and the real thrill of linking the Vine Tavern where Edmund died, to the founding of that local fraternity at St Margaret’s Church on Long Southwark, in the reign of Henry VI, and its ownership by John Le Hunte, Edward Hunt Esquire’s ancestor.  There is another very remarkable thing you of course learn at the London Metropolitan Archive too, as you chat to the staff about the Guilds structures in London, the 12 great Livery Companies, or who might have fallen into what parish, and in what particular Ward, as a group of uneager schoolboys arrive to try something else with the computers, or a lone figures plods away at their own family history. Namely that before Henry VIII’s shattering Reformation itself there simply are no records, apart from a scrap of a document from the Magna Carta period referring to the rights of a Man.  In that sense Shakespeare’s or the Tudor age is a kind of beginning of modern time, in that crowding but still deeply rural and wooden London, and in the municipalization of us all. Nothing ever so certain as Death and Taxes! In the restructuring of the Church into parishes too and the very founding of Parish Registers of christenings, weddings and funerals, in the suring up of Sir Names, so often based on trades, once called The Mysteries, in the all-consuming account of daily expenditure, and in the move from the fable and the chronicle to the conception of modern history and sociology. Then of course there is that secularisation of theatre, or players, the explosion of printing, literature and poetry and of course the man of the moment and all time, Shakespeare, with his strange, eventful histories. A man who knew so well how both the records and people lie, or veil, but that the real history is the history of the human heart, mind and soul.

David Clement-Davies January 24th 2015   

For writers in the Sixteenth Century it was hard to survive, books and plays often supported by private donations. We seem to have returned to that time, in some ways, so please realise that the research on Edmund Shakespeare and Southwark represents two years of unpaid work.  If you enjoy these blogs then and can afford to support Phoenix Ark Press, please donate below.  Many thanks.

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The image is a Wikipdia photgraph of Shakespeare’s Stratford will, written in the classic ‘secretary’ hand, not Shakespeare’s but a scrivener’s, but with his signature at the bottom.

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THE SHAKESPEARE BLOG – THE STRANGE CASE OF EDMUND SHAKESPEARE AND MR JONSON!

220px-Benjamin_Jonson_by_Abraham_van_Blyenberch

One of the less succesful moments in the search through St Saviour’s records for Edmund Shakespeare, his immortal brother William and Southwark in general was when I stumbled on a payment in the London records “For Mr Jonson’s Book“. It came in an odd place though, namely the loose leaf records of Cure’s College, that little Southwark Alms house founded in 1588. You have to know the difficulty of reading those records, most especially deciphering variously spelled names, and gradually beginning to recognise them too, to understand why, as your eyes start to deteriorate or your pencil blunts in the London Metropolitan Archive, you can suddenly give into the tendency to convince yourself of a Eureka moment.

The first and real Eureka moment was when I had linked the lease of that tavern where Edmund Shakespeare very probably died in December 1607, The Vine on Maid Lane, directly to a local Southwark fraternity granted Livery back in 1460, The Brotherhood of Our Lady of Assumption, and given rights by the King at Westminster, Henry VI, to buy local land of up to Sixty Marks. That was a true window on the history of the entire area because it established the significance of St Margaret’s Church, in the middle of Long Southwark and right opposite the Tabard. Which linked lay church life to the growth of London and commerce in general, in a very louche area, famous for the Bishops of Winchester licensing those ‘Winchester Geese’, for bear and bull-baiting and later for its theatres too. Peter Avergne and John Le Hunte were two of those livery wearing church wardens who invested in both The Vine and The Axe on Maid Lane, in a riverside district of perhaps 300 inns by Shakespeare’s day. John Le Hunte is clearly the direct ancestor of Edward Hunt, Esquire, who by Elizabeth’s reign owned sizeable land in Southwark called ‘Hunt’s Rents’ and bequeathed the Vine tavern to his pregnant wife Mary, also in 1588. His will is up on line. From there many discoveries arose, from the appearance of ‘pleyers’ working for the church back in the 15th Century and performing around St Margaret’s Cross, to the story of the rebel Jack Cade. Who marched from Blackheath and sacked the City in the real beginning of the Wars of the Roses, and fought the Battle of London Bridge, meeting the Bishop of Winchester, William Waynflete, inside St Margaret’s. Cade and his men were staying just opposite at the White Hart Inn, a few doors up from the Tabard. The very catholic and originally Norman church of St Margarets was of course suppressed at the Reformation, and turned into a local compter prison. As the big church, St Mary’s Ovaries Priory, was renamed St Saviours and Bermondsey abbey was broken up too. The Tudor revolution had begun and Southwark was hit dramatically.

But there was a valid reason for my false Eureka moment over “Mr Jonson’s book”, which at the time I thought might be a payment for a lost play by Ben Jonson himself, perhaps the missing “Isle of Dogges”, because of the date of 1598, or possibly “Every Man in his Humour”. Though there are no extant records for the Globe theatre, and Phillip Henslowe’s account books remain the prime source for the period and the theatres, it was not so absurd to assume, in the ad hoc nature of early impresarios and payments from the bag in local churches too, that Henslowe’s hand had got in here somehow. After all Henslowe was both vestryman and warden of St Saviours, which he lived right next door to at the Bell, for several years with his son-in-law the great actor Edward Alleyn. Whose name appears with Henslowe’s on The Great Enqueste in James’s reign, when a scandal developed at the church over abuse of money for the poor. The other reason is those ancient papers for St Margaret’s, St Saviours, and Cures College too, are all bunched together in those buff boxes in the London Metropolitan archive.

Heart in mouth I turned to The Shakespeare Institute in Stratford and Professor Martin Wiggins, a Jonsonesque figure himself in his leathers and Doc Martins. Martin was encouraging at first, although it was tellingly the price of the payment, which I hadn’t written down properly, that raised the greatest question mark. He explained that plays of the period were worth £5 or £6, although Henslowe often gave advances of 20 shillings to writers, which is incidentally the same amount that was paid for Edmund Shakespeare’s funeral. True to any writer’s concern with money, fame and fortune though, as I sought for the book I was trying to write too, I rushed back to the archives only to discover that this payment for ‘Mr Jonson’s Book” was for a mere tuppence! On further eye-scrunching scrutiny of those often illegible papers, if on very good and thick Elizabethan paper, it turned out that this Mr Jonson was just a local scrivener, his little ‘book’ perhaps for copying something, or making an accounts book for the church, and my hopes were dashed.

Yet never be disheartened too easily in the search for such a fascinating period. This goodly scrivener became another of the local figures coming back to life along the river, characters dimly discernible through the veil of financial records, like the Sexton paid at a time of obvious plague “for the burning of men’s bones”, or one “Widow Bradshawe”, one of the local beneficiaries of a place at that alms house, Cure’s College, whose name appears repeatedly. With the likes of Henslowe himself, Ned Alleyn and lost Edmund Shakespeare, they help build a fascinating sociological history of Southwark and theatreland, much about London’s poor too, among whom the players moved constantly. As fascinating as the characters in the Token Books or Vestry Minutes, in trouble with local Constables for refusing to buy Communion Tokens, at various times of heightened religious tensions, or marked down for the number of women moving in with them. Or as the foul mouthed watermen and taverners along the river, among the Stewes, or the sudden occurence of new professions in the marriage and christening records of St Saviours; like shipwrights or a ‘Hansom man’, one of the first moving ‘taxis’, joined with the arrival in Southwark of printers and publishers called ‘men in books’. An odd tale for a blog, in an age when millions of words are spewed out onto the web every day, and so losing so much value, meaning and power. But I am still convinced that was an age as revolutionary to the world of thought, because of printing, reform and theatres, as the internet or the closing of the London Stationers office only as recently as 2005 is to the now.

David Clement-Davies January 22 2015

For writers in the Sixteenth Century it was hard to survive, books and plays often supported by private donations. We seem to have returned to that time, in some ways, so please realise that the research on Edmund Shakespeare and Southwark represents two years of unpaid work.  If you enjoy these blogs then and can afford to support Phoenix Ark Press, please donate below.  Many thanks.

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The image is taken from Wikipedia and is a portrait of Ben Jonson.

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THE SHAKESPEARE BLOG – SOUTHWARK, SHOES, SCANDALS AND SADDLERS

220px-Southwark_Cathedral_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1498322

One of the most famous of all Shakespeare’s soliloquies must be Henry V’s immortal “St Cripsin’s Day” speech, but few know its special significance to a Southwark audience, in particular at the Globe. Agincourt of course took place on October 25th 1415, the feast of Crispin Crispianus, brother Saints who would have had special significance to soldiers because they were the patron saints of cobblers and shoemakers. Of course Southwark, as well as being theatreland and crowded with taverners and watermen along the river and Long Southwarke, the great thoroughfare across the bridge, was, as an area of ‘the stink trades’, butchery, tanning and leather working, also a great centre for cobblers. Indeed, when Henry VIII called St Saviour’s ‘a verie great churche’ it was also at a time when he granted incorporation to the Guild of Leatherworkers and one Leonard Scragges as Warden. The associations with the leather trade would continue, particularly in the presence of one Thomas Cure, Warden of St Saviour’s, as Phillip Henslowe would become too, and saddler to Queen Elizabeth I herself.

The Cures became a prominent Southwark family and are mentioned several times in Al Rowse’s book on the astrologer Simon Foreman, who specifically referenced visits to the Globe to see Macbeth and The Tempest. There were two Thomas Cures, father and son, but one Cure attended Foreman’s wedding, further along the river in Lambeth, in the Church of St Mary’s Lambeth, which today is the Garden Museum. Elias Ashmole, William Tredescent and Captain Bligh were all buried there, but Foreman’s house was just across the road, all in the shadow of the beautiful Elizabethan building and seat of the archbishops of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace. There is a wonderful inscription on the wall outside St Mary’s regarding a bequest of £100 to be used for the education of two local boys, yearly, but which specifically forbids it to ‘Watermen, chimney sweeps and Catholiks’!

The social role and purpose of the church was one that would be specifically challenged in Southwark at St Saviours in the days when Henslowe was a Warden and also running his theatres and the Royal Barge House, along with being ‘Master of the Game’. Then a scandal erupted around their use of alms for the poor and the building of a huge new refectory, when the number of Vestrymen had risen to 80 strong. An act was even mooted in the parliament, though in the end the Wardens appeared to have reformed themselves. They were already running a local school and alms house though called Cure’s College, which appears constantly in the records I was searching through in my hunt for Edmund Shakespeare. It stood on Maid Lane too and by the 18th Century had become a forbidding stone institution around a central garden. It was founded though in 1588 in the Will of Thomas Cure, who died in the same year as Edward Hunt, that owner of the Vine Tavern on Maid Lane and direct descendent of John Le Hunte, one of the Brethren of that Brotherhood of Our Lady of Assumption at St Margaret’s Church on Long Southwarke, repressed at the Reformation. Cure’s bound will is one of the more remarkable documents in a collection I think so important I even approached the Liberal MP Simon Hughes to try and establish a special Southwark-Shakespeare collection, though to no avail.

There will be a further blog of the importance of Southwark to the Reformation battle itself, especially in a church that lay at the beginning of the Canterbury Road, where Becket had preached, and which later became highly prominent in Mary’s attempt to take England back to Catholicism too, because she staged the Marian heresy trials inside the church. But Thomas Cure was of a very Elizabethan religious stamp, veering towards that puritanism that would spread in London closer to James’s I’s reign, at least on the surface. His will establishes provision for 16 local poor, men and women, but also the rules under which the college functioned. So they had to kneel at dawn and dusk, on the ringing of the hand bell, and recite the Lord’s Prayer. They had to work for their upkeep too, and Cure laid down specific fines against brawling, swearing and fornicating. It all makes starker reading in the light of Southwark’s especially colourful reputation, that land of theatres, brothels and gamboling houses, but is absolutely the prototype for the hated Victorian Workhouse. Except in Shakespeare’s day it was a much humbler affair with the records full of little payments to buy a cloak or hose, stockings, for one of the boys or girls, to send for a Doctor, or to buy bread. I have wondered if Phillip Henslowe’s own hand is on those records, as he continued to fill his purse from his entertainments, but it gives a fascinating picture of local life and of the very thin social support networks they had.

David Clement-Davies 20 January 2015

For writers in the Sixteenth Century it was hard to survive, books and plays often supported by private donations. We seem to have returned to that time, in some ways, so please realise that the research on Edmund Shakespeare and Southwark represents two years of unpaid work.  If you enjoy these blogs then and can afford to support Phoenix Ark Press, please donate below.  Many thanks.

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The image is a Wikipedia photo of Southwark Cathedral, renamed St Saviour’s at the Reformation but originally part of St Mary’s Overies priory. Thomas Cure was a Warden here as was the famous Phillip Henslowe and for a time his Son-in-Law the actor Edward Alleyn. Shakespeare’s youngest brother Edmund was buried inside the church on December 31st, 1607, at the age of 27.

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THE SHAKESPEARE BLOG – WHERE DID THE SHAKESPEARE’S LIVE IN SOUTHWARK?

London_Bridge_(1616)_by_Claes_Van_Visscher

One of the more intriguing questions in trying to reconstruct Elizabethan Southwark and follow the clues to Shakespeare’s life and story too, with so little evidence, is where he lived.  Today virtually nothing of that wooden, largely rural, Elizabethan world remains, swallowed by concrete and the spawning Metropolis.  There is of course St Saviour’s church, which only became Southwark Cathedral in 1905.  Although described by Henry VIII himself as a ‘verie great churche’, perhaps third after the abbey and St Paul’s, where Becket had preached the night before his murder and on the Canterbury Road too, it was far more dilapidated in Shakespeare’s day, especially after the Dissolution.   Then, beyond what was the Liberty of The Clink, where Winchester House stood,walking into the neighbouring Liberty of Bankside, there is the little ‘wherryman’s seat’, a  slice of stone in the wall, where a waterman sat, in a district of watermen, overseeing fares up and down the river.  It is just off that line of modern restaurants that includes The Real Greek, up from the Anchor pub.  Once the stewes stood here, the famous brothel houses, and since a colorful surveyor’s map in the Metropolitan Archive describes it as allowing space for ‘two cartes de front’, ie side by side, that topography has changed little.  Walk down that street and the circular shape of the buildings testifies to the site of the old bear-baiting pit, even today,  that I think also became the site of Henslowe’s Hope theatre in 1614.  Walk on and you get to what was once earthen Maid Lane, modern Park Street, where you can see the outline of and information signs for the famous Globe theatre.  Down from that, away from Southwark Cathedral and on the other side of the street, but inside a modern building, are the foundations of Phillip Henslowe’s Rose Theatre.  On from there you will pass into what was once the liberty of Paris Gardens. There Sam Wannamaker’s great reconstruction of The Globe stands, near to or on what was once The Swan theatre, hence the name of the Swan Restaurant.

Start again from St Saviour’s though and you begin to get another flavour of the times. Hard by the wall there is still a Green Dragon Court, which testifies to the existence of the ubiquitous Green Dragon Inn there and the records of St Saviours are full of babies born in the Green Dragon.  Through there, running onto Borough High Street, was once Frying Pan Alley and there stood The Frying Pan. It was a builder’s merchant and Henslowe’s accounts are full of purchases from the Frying Pan of ‘tymber and nailes’ for his theatres, and also his houses and tenements.  Both sides of the Church then had chained gates, as there were all over London, that could be raised in time of threat or revolt, to block off the streets.  Where Henslowe himself lived was on Clink Street, effectively running out of the West door of the church, at The Bell on Clink street, I think on the river side of the Street and effectivly number 4, according to the Token books.  It did not put him opposite or hard by the prison, the Clink, the bishop’s prison by Winchester House, as some have it.  You would not expect someone of Henslowe’s status, not only an impressario but later Warden of the Church, Master of the Game and Keeper of the Royal Barge House, to live right opposite a prison, though his accounts also record him lending money to writers to bail them out of Clink.  But walk back through Green Dragon Court and you get to the noisy modern Borough High Street, overcrowded by the railway bridge, leading up to and over modern London bridge and to London Bridge Station.  That was once earthen Long Southwarke, the main southern entry point to the walled City over the river.  It’s western side has shifted fifty yards, since old London Bridge was fifty yards to the east.  But along it were wooden two-storied Elizabethan taverns and tenements, in an area that had 300 taverns and where the records show the Bishop of Winchester granted licences for the tavern owners to fetch water from the Thames in their carts.

Down Borough High Street though, on the left walking away from the river and along a little alley, a sign on the side of a printer’s shop testifies to the presence of Chaucer’s immortal Tabard Inn.  The White Hart Inn was just up the way, beyond the still standing George,  on the same side of the street.  There Jack Cade stayed with his men during his rebellion under Henry VI, as Shakespeare recorded in his play, touching colour that was very local to him too. There too Sir John Fastalf’s servant Payne went to see Cade, as is recorded in a letter in the Paston letters.  I think Shakespeare new of that history and translated real characters like Payne and John Fastalf into Falstaff. Almost right opposite Cade met and was double crossed by the Bishop of Winchester, William Waynflete, inside the old St Margaret’s Church, so central to our and Edmund’s story.  He fled to Rochester, then Susex, was captured, decapitated and paraded through the city with his head in his lap.  From St Margaret’s of course, dissolved at the Reformation and turned into a Compter, there are records of ‘pleyers’ performing in the 15th Century, the old Mystery and Miracle plays.  St Margaret’s Cross stood on the site of the modern War Memorial, which was also the starting point for St Margaret’s then Southwark Fair.  The Norman Church stood there, in the middle of the King’s Highway, right up to Hogarth’s day, and afterwards it became the site of the Town hall and is now a Slug and Lettuce bar.    Walk down the road and you get to the remaining wall of the notorious Marshalsea Prison, where Ben Jonson and Gabriel Spenser went in 1597, and so would Dickens’ father.  St George the Martyr church beyond was the place Henry V stopped in 1415 on his return from Agincourt to be heralded by minstrels.  St George’s though was the effective lytch gate into the southern city and ‘london’ then, surrounded by open countryside and St George’s Fields and Winchester Park. Where Elizabethans hunted, picnicked and went falconing.  The maps all show wooden ribbon developments along Long Southwarke and the river, though immigration and building was taking off in Shakespeare’s time.  Beyond the road ran to Newington, and the archery fields of Newington butts, where there was another wooden theatre Shakespeare may well have performed at as a young man.  Though only a mile away, in what is the modern Elephant and Castle, it proved too far out for the wealthy city folk and partly led to Henslowe’s building of the Rose on Maid Lane.

So back on Maid Lane, near that marker for the Globe, look around and ask where The Vine tavern stood, where Edmund is recorded in 1607 and very probably died too, since he was buried on this side of the river.  It was in a grouping of ‘Hunt’s Rents’, passed down from that Warden of St Margaret’s under Henry VI, John Le Hunte, to his ancestor Edward Hunt Esquire. It may have been hard by The Globe, or further back towards Clink Street in what is modern Vineopolis, but it had first belonged to the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Assumption at St Margaret’s. There will be another blog on the lease.  There were of course other taverns along Maid Lane you can pick out from the scruffy Token Books, like the Three Tonnes and the Elephant, mentioned by Shakespeare in Twelfth Night, appealing to a very local crowd.  Following those Token Books, as street names themselves began to sure up, is a fascinating business, through the three neighbouring riverside liberties of the Clink, Bankside and Paris Gardens. Another Liberty was The Mint, and there are also seperate Token Books for The High Street, namely Long Southwark.  But so you pick up names like Pepper Stairs, The Boar’s Head Tavern, Molestrand, Pigeon Stairs, Upper Ground, in Paris Gardens, and so on.  A poor and tightly packed area of watermen and the ‘stink trades’, butchery and tanning, brothels, many taverns, bear and bull-baiting arenas, and of course theatres, Southwark was a very hard district, and of course London’s entertainment centre par excellence.  It had its grace though, in the surrounding parks, and it is interesting that bouts of plague affected the low, bunched waterside houses much more than the wide High Street.

So, as you get a feel for the place as it was then, the question remains where did Shakespeare himself live and work?  We know from unpaid tax rolls of 1595 and 1596 that he had lived in St Helen’s for a time, which was a Parish just beyond modern Holborn, by the Bishop’s Gate through the wall and north of the river in the City proper. That road ran straight up through the wall, passed the Bedlam Hospital to Shoreditch, where The Theatre, built by James Burbage, and The Curtain theatre stood.  St Helen’s seems to have been an area much favoured by musicians.  From the Court case involving Mary Mountjoy and Stephen Bellot we know that for a time, probably around 1604, though the case was later, Shakespeare lodged on affluent Silver Street, which was a street of Silver workers originally, and also was the site of the hall of the Barber Surgeons.  It was by the Cripplegate through the wall, which would allow easy visits by Edmund and his unknown lady, who lived in the Morefields.  But early ‘biographers’ of Shakespeare suggest that he lived in Southwark for as many as ten years.  He would certainly have commuted there too, on foot, by wherry or on horseback.  The famous Shakespeare antiquarian Edmund Malone claimed possession of a now lost document also placing Shakespeare on Clink Street. Meanwhile  though another document relating to the Bishop of Winchester, and suggesting Shakespeare had Winchester’s protection, put him, by 1598, I think, in a ‘domus et aliorum’, a house with others.  Was that a house attached to the Globe construction on Maid Lane, with other players and the Burbages, though it would have been a very noisy place to work?  It is of course possible that it was the Vine itsel, if that was known to the players.  Then of course it is perfectly possible that Shakespeare lodged and wrote in different places when in London and Southwark.  Interestingly Peter Ackroyd points out that the church spire mentioned most in the plays was St Olave’s, and though there were several St Olave’s inside the city, long gone St Olave’s Church was east of Old London Bridge, on the water. At one point half its graveyard was washed away by the tide. Perhaps Shakespeare even had a room to light a working candle on Long Southwark itself, where he could watch the welter of humanity streaming into the city.

David Clement-Davies January 12th 2015

For writers in the Sixteenth Century it was hard to survive, books and plays often supported by private donations. We seem to have returned to that time, in some ways, so please realise that the research on Edmund Shakespeare and Southwark represents two years of unpaid work.  If you enjoy these blogs then and can afford to support Phoenix Ark Press, please donate below.  Many thanks.

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The picture shows a Wikipedia image of the 1616 Vischer engraving of old London Bridge and St Saviour’s Church. 

 

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