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

Jane Anger Her Protection for Women 1589

“The great Patrimonies that wealthy men leave their children after their death, make them rich: but vice and other marthriftes happening into their companies, never leave them until they bee at the beggers bush, where I can assure you they become poore.”


This is one of the earliest recorded literary uses of the phrase. It is used in a literary sense of falling into poverty, in this instance by one’s own folly. The author did not feel any need to elaborate or explain it. This suggests it was already in common use. The usage is similar to the earlier alternative beggarly attributes – Isabel Plumpton’s Beggars Staffe and William Bullein’s Beggars Barne. There is no suggestion that it was a real location.


Her Protection for Women was a pamphlet published in London in 1589 of which only one original copy survives. It appears to be a response to Boke His Surfeit in Love, with a farwel to the folies of his own phantasie (1588) by Thomas Orwin.

A modern study says: “Protection is peppered with classical Latin quotes, feminist interpretations of the Bible, jabs at men and their poor logic, and references to events of antiquity, to strong and virtuous women classical and contemporary women, and to women’s inherent moral superiority. Well does Anger refute Orwin’s claim that women are lustful and untrustworthy”. It is an erudite work, mixing classical learning with the colloquial; Anger quotes Plato and Tibullus, but also refers to the Wise Men of Gotham, a popular chapbook story.

Jane Anger

The title page gives “Jane Anger” in large type at the top, and below “Written by Ja. A. Gent.”. This fits the type of pseudonyms chosen to suit the content of the work. No convincing evidence has been put forward for the identity, or gender, of the author.


Further Reading

Travitsky, B.S. and Cullen, P., eds, The early modern Englishwoman; a facsimile library of original works, Part 1, Printed writings, 1500-1640, Aldershot, 1996

Purkiss, Diane, Material Girls: The Seventeenth-Century Woman Debate, p.69ff in Brant, Clare, & Purkiss, Diane, (eds) Women, Texts and Histories 1575-1760, Routledge, London and New York, 1992

DNB Jane Anger

Posted: March 13th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

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