Beggars Bush: A Perambulation through the Disciplines of History, Geography, Archaeology, Literature, Philology, Natural History, Botany, Biography & Beggary

Announcement: Andrew Yarranton England’s Improvement 1677

In England’s Improvement by Sea and Land to outdo the Dutch without fighting Andrew Yarranton wrote “We are almost as Beggars-bush, and we cannot tell how to help our selves”. The work was one of the first promoting inland navigation on rivers & canals, amongst other modern economic ideas (including the establishment of a national land registry). It was influential because it gave the economic arguments for such projects rather than the technical aspects of their construction.
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Posted: March 30th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers | Tags: , , | No Comments »


Sticky: Erasmus as a source for ‘Cast our Caps’

In the play ‘The Beggars Bush’ the election of Clause as the King of the Beggars in Act II Scene 1 is celebrated with a song sung by “orator” Higgen. The song was reproduced as a seperate text in many collections of songs. It is generally ascribed to John Fletcher. Much of the beggars material in ‘The Beggars Bush’ was taken from the rogue literature of the late sixteenth and early seventeeth century. However, the source for the song is a much earlier and more respectable text – The Colloquies’ of Desiderius Erasmus, the “Prince of Christian Humanists”

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Posted: December 28th, 2014 | Filed under: Writers, The Play | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »


Sara M Hardwich Plutus Adonis A Mythical Hero 1884

“Beggar’s Bush is no place for a woman, much less a lady.”

“Old Badmin is a decently dressed rogue, and does the devil’s work in our village so cleverly, it takes two honest men to lay hold of him in the act and deed of villainy. Card sharper, poacher, retailer of rum and gin without a licence, and many a sober man’s sober son has he ruined and sent across seas, having picked his bones and used him for a cat’s paw. All last winter his small farm, Beggar’s Bush, was a rendezvous for the scum of the parish, to-night is this, year’s inauguration ; a first and last carousel.”

“Amongst those turf bogs no man of your father’s weight could find a footing. They skirt Beggar’s Bush ; there, yonder, is the farm, more than one path leads from it to St. Cuthbert’s. None but fools or madmen would try the moors to-night, even with an experienced guide. A slip into these treacherous dykes, and the strongest traveller fares the worst; his frantic, efforts do but engulf him the more surely.”

“Beggar’s Bush deserted, got a tenant after some time, a quiet, sober man, seemingly intent upon digging and drying, and re-claiming the land by a system of drainage. The farm was his own, he said, and had been let to a very bad tenant by his agents, determining him to see after the property himself.”

I hesitate to include this tedious execrable novel in the list of literary references – I do so for completeness, not as an encouragement to read it.

The usage of Beggars Bush is characteristic of the imagination expended by the author. As well as a bad man called Badmin, the book includes Constable Duffer and a villain called Marmaduke Chatterson. He, inexplicably, is also the husband of the heroine’s nursemaid Prudence, before his supposed death on the Lusitania, reappearance, further disappearance mysteriously connected with the heroine’s father drowning in a bog and deathbed repentance in a workhouse. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: June 26th, 2012 | Filed under: Writers | Tags: | No Comments »


John Clavell A Lost Prologue to The Beggars Bush ?1637

A Begger haunts, where he good Dole receives

The Nigard stoppes, for he, his prayers, deceaves,

Your Liberall Charrity from open Palmes

Makes us this confident to Aske your Almes

The Beggers have their Motives: Soe have wee

They crye their loss of Limbes, Age, Insanitiee

Theise our Infant days w’yee, yet: our Playes

(Though wee act none but such as got the Bayes)

Are Old: our habites too are meane: the same

Our action maimed, decrepit, feeble, Lame,

All movers of compassion: Let that fall

(as usuill) & your Charity mends all

For as A generall Rule wee ever make it

Not what? Or how we Act? But how you take it.

This prologue to Fletcher & Massinger’s play The Beggars Bush (1622) survives in one manuscript copy in the notebook of John Clavell, with notes, copy letters, epigrams and remedies.  They were probably written by Clavell in 1637 when he was in Ireland. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: May 24th, 2012 | Filed under: Writers, Speculations, The Play | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »


W. T. Moncrieff Gipsy Jack, or, The Napoleon of humble life c.1834

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Posted: April 20th, 2012 | Filed under: Writers | Tags: , , , | No Comments »


Sticky: Anthologies – why the OED and Brewer’s Dictionary were wrong

The Oxford English Dictionary gives under Beggars:

8. Special combinations. . . “beggar’s-bush, a bush under which a beggar finds shelter (name of ‘a tree near Huntingdon, formerly a noted rendezvous for beggars’ – Brewer), fig. beggary, ruin;”.

This is taken from E. Cobham Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1868 and all editions until recently when the entry was dropped) which gave;

“Beggars Bush. To go by beggar’s bush, or Go home by beggar’s bush – i.e. to go to ruin. Beggar’s Bush is the name of a tree which once stood on the left hand of the London road from Huntingdon to Caxton; so called because it was a noted rendezvous for beggars. These punning phrases and proverbs are very common.”

This is partly true and partly false – perhaps more correctly this was false when it was first published, but through the influence of these two reference works has become common usage. It has been applied as a post facto explanation for the existence of the place name — see for example Donnybrook, Dublin and the histories of Dublin). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: October 18th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers, Speculations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »


Samuel Taylor Coleridge Beggars Bush 1815

It is fairly well known that the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge liked the play by Fletcher and Massinger (though then regarded as by Beaumont & Fletcher). In Table Talk (17 February 1833) he was recorded as saying ”In the romantic drama Beaumont and Fletcher are almost supreme. Their plays are in general most truly delightful. I could read the Beggar’s Bush from morning to night. How sylvan and sunshiny it is!” However, he expressed reservations about their plots, which he described as “wholly inartificial” and lamented that no “gentleman and scholar can he found to edit these beautiful plays!” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: September 3rd, 2011 | Filed under: Writers, Speculations, The Play | Tags: , , | No Comments »


Philip Henslowe c.1555-1616

Philip Henslowe provides a link between the area of a cluster of early Beggars Bush place names in Sussex and many of the early authors who used Beggars Bush in their works. He is best known for his “Diary”, which is the main primary source for the day to day workings of Elizabethan theatre. He was an entrepreneur with wide business and family links in London and Sussex. I cannot show that he ever used the phrase, but he must have been aware of it. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: June 27th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers, Speculations, The Play | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »


Dublin, Donnybrook – False Trails Lazars Hill

In 1573 “the Old Shore” of South Dublin continued to Townsend Street, then called Lazey or Lazar’s Hill (also Louseyhill, Louzy Hill and Lowsyhill) from the leper hospital. This is too far away to have any direct connection with Beggars Bush at Donnybrook.
I have encountered an article by Sean Donnelly which speculates that connects the two sites in Dublin through Poor Robin’s An Almanack of the old and new fashion (1694) which says “Since the King of the Beggars was married to the Queen of the Sluts at Lowzy-Hill near Beggars-Bush, being most splendidly attended by a ragged Regiment of Mumpers.” I do not believe this has anything to do with Dublin. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: May 30th, 2011 | Filed under: Places, Writers | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »


Clause “King of the Beggars”

Clause, King of the Beggars, is a central character in The Beggars Bush (1622) and the later versions of it. At the end of the play it is revealed that he is actually Gerrard, a deposed Earl of Flanders, who before the action starts has rescued his heir Florez and apprenticed him to an English merchant Goswin, whose business and name Florez has inherited. Gerrard has taken the disguise of Clause the beggar, but his natural authority has lead to his election as the King of the beggars, in the episode which formed the droll The Lame Commonwealth. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: May 30th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers, Speculations, The Play | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »