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

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 »


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 »


Rainsford St Theatre Dublin The Royal Merchant or Beggars Bush 1734

In her memoir and history A Narrative of a Residence in Ireland 1814 to 1815 (Henry Colburn, London, 1817, p.68) the writer Anne Plumptre recorded the following incident in Dublin, which seems to have taken place in 1734.

In response to an extravagant production of Henry VIII at the new Aungier Street theatre the rival Rainsford Street theatre put on a play she describes as The Royal Merchant or Beggars Bush “in which a mock pageant of the coronation of King Clause threw such complete ridicule on the serious one in Henry the Eighth that the latter ceased to attract. Thus the keen edge of the satire being blunted, King Clause also speedily sank into oblivion.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: April 21st, 2012 | Filed under: The Play | 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 »


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 »


John Fletcher

John Fletcher (1579-1625) was born in Rye, Sussex, and came from a staunchly Protestant family including many clergymen. He is connected with Sussex, where there are many early Beggars Bush place names and the phrase was known to be in use. He can also be assumed to have encountered the Huntingdon Beggars Bush site, or Saxton’s Five Counties Map through studying at Cambridge, his father’s appointments, or his patrons. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: May 15th, 2011 | Filed under: The Play | Tags: , , , | No Comments »


Francis Beaumont

Francis Beaumont (1584-1616) was the son of an eminent and wealthy judge. His family included recusants on both sides. He was born in Leicestershire, and educated at Oxford, before moving on to the Inns of Court in 1600. He became associated with Ben Jonson and the Mermaid theatre, although Jonson is reported to have said “Beaumont loved too much himself and his own verses”. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: May 15th, 2011 | Filed under: The Play | Tags: , | No Comments »


Philip Massinger

Philip Massinger (1583-1640) was the son of an MP who was steward to the Earl of Pembroke. He was born at or near the Pembroke seat at Wilton near Salisbury, and educated at Oxford until 1606. It is not known when he began to write but in 1620 John Taylor noted him as a well-known playwright. He wrote with various playwrights, but he collaborated mainly with John Fletcher after Francis Beaumont ceased to write. After Fletcher’s death Massinger carried on as chief writer for the King’s Men, until his death in 1640 in Bankside. He is reputed to have been buried in the same grave is Fletcher. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: May 15th, 2011 | Filed under: The Play | Tags: , , | No Comments »


William Godwin Diary 1800-1816

William Godwin (1756-1836) was at the centre of the radical intellectual and political life of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Godwin’s wife was Mary Wollstonecraft, their daughter Mary Shelley and his son-in-law Percy Shelley. He was also linked to most important figures in British cultural history feature,  including Samuel Taylor Coleridge (another admirer of the play), Charles James Fox, William Hazlitt, Charles and Mary Lamb, Richard Brinsley Sheridan and William Wordsworth, Godwin’s diary runs from 6 April 1788 and until 26 March 1836 and includes several references to The Beggars Bush play, which Godwin read on several occasions, though there is no record that he saw it at the theatre. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: May 15th, 2011 | Filed under: The Play | Tags: | No Comments »