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

Henry Tubbe On the Dominical Nose of O. C. 1653-5

The satirical verse On the Dominical Nose of O[Liver] C[Romwell] contains evidence of the popularity and distribution of the play The Beggars Bush. It refers to the character Higgen, the Orator Beggar.

Now blesse us Heav’n! what Prodigie is this?
A Blazing Star! a Metempsycosis
Of fierie Meteors! a blew, bloody Ghost
Transform’d to bee the Leader of an Host!
A Monument of that Mortalitie
Which ruines Kings, & Kingdoms doth defie;
. . .

A bonny Nose! a Nose for Sweet Pig-wiggin!
An eloquent Nose! a Nose for Oratour Higgin!
. . .


Professor Bensly identified the allusion in line 200 to Fletcher’s & Massinger’s Beggars’ Bush in which Higgin, one of the beggars, declares himself the Orator in election for Clause as the King of Beggars (Act 2 Scene 1) which was the basis for the droll The Lame Commonwealth.  Professor Bensly suggests that the ‘nose’ is a reference to the later scene where the villain Hemskirke is tied a tree while Higgen tortures him by tickling his nose with a rush (Act 3 Scene 3 l.70-89).

The poem consists of 220 lines of classical and other abusive allusions must have been written after December 1653 as it refers to Cromwell as Lord Protector but before 1655 when Tubbe died.

Henry Tubbe

Henry Tubbe was admitted to St John’s College, Cambridge, in 1635 aged 17. His father was a soldier who died in 1625 of wounds received in the Low Countries, and his mother died in 1625. He was educated as Whitgift’s school in Croydon. He took his MA in 1642 but probably left soon after, as attempts by his patrons to obtain a fellowship failed. Tubbe was a Royalist, and many Royalist Fellows, including the poet John Cleveland, were ejected at about the same time for refusing to take the Covenant. By 1648 he was in the household of the Marquis of Hertford in London, already affected by deafness. He then became tutor to the sons of the Earl of Thanet, at Hothfield, near Ashford, Kent.

Tubbe refers elsewhere to Beaumont and Fletcher’s Humorous Lieutenant. He was familiar with Hamlet and several works of Jonson. It seems unlikely that Tubbe saw the play performed. He might have done so while a student, but the theatres were closed in 1640. It is more likely that he had access to a copy of the 1647 First Folio of “Beaumont and Fletcher” plays, most probably while in London as part of the Hertford household.

During his lifetime Tubbe only had six lines published. His editor admits, “I am afraid that Tubbe, if he is to be called a poet, is not a poet of the same order as many of his contemporaries. He has neither the spiritual ardour of Crashaw, the artistic nicety of Carew, nor the devil-may-care lightheartedness of Suckling. He had vast literary ambitions, as is seen by the care with which he collected and classified his compositions even his familiar letters ; but the fact that he included among them so many that were not strictly original points to a lack of strong inspiration, and suggests doubts of the originality of some poems which have not yet been traced to others. In eulogy and in vituperation he tends to hyperbole, and some of his best lines are spoilt by the bathos of those that succeed . . .  Tubbe was not in the forward movement of his age . . . But if Tubbe lacks the artistic restraint and polish of the later school, he is free also from its conventional tameness of expression. His language has a racy energy which too often is in excess of the energy of the thought.” That certainly applies to his panygeric poem on Cromwell’s nose.


G. C. Moore Smith, Henry Tubbe Oxford Historical and Literary Studies Vol 5 (1915)

On the Dominical Nose of O. C.

Bentley, G.E., The Jacobean and Caroline Stage, vol.III, Oxford, 1956 (1967 edition)

Posted: March 30th, 2011 | Filed under: The Play | Tags: , , | No Comments »

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