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

Poor Robin (William Winstanley) An Almanack of the old and new fashion 1694

“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.”

The entry is characteristic of the Poor Robin almanacs, reporting the fictional event in splendid style. “Mumper” is a Cant word for beggar. At this time “slut” did not necessarily imply sexual licence, but encompassed slovenly, untidy or disorderly women generally: in this context all are implied I see no reason to assume that this is a reference to a real event. The King of the Beggars was a common character, not just from the Beggars Bush play by Fletcher & Massinger.

Lowzy (lousy) Hill is likely to be a fictional location, the louse being a symbol of beggars in prints (see John Taylor). There was a Lowzy-Hill in Dublin (also known as Lazy Hill) from Lazars Hill, which comes from the Hospital founded in 1216, which treated lepers. There was also a Beggars Bush in Dublin recorded by 1573, but they are at least a mile apart. There is no reason to assume that the pamphlet, written in Essex and published in London, referred to an actual event in Dublin for which no other record survives.


“Poor Robin” was the fictional author of a series of almanacs published from 1667 to 1756, and other similar works. Almanacs were the most popular type of book published in Early Modern England, and Poor Robin’s amongst the best known. See Adam Foulweather for an earlier example.

William Winstanley

The earliest editions have been attributed to William Winstanley (?-1698) of Quendon, near Saffron Waldon, Essex. He was a prolific writer of collections, excerpts and anecdotes.  He adopted the name “Poor Robin”, which is recorded in 1641 as a character, for an almanac which was suppressed in 1662. The almanacs combined real events with parody and trivia. They included a normal calendar plus another celebrating the births of characters such as Mother Shipton, Doctor Faustus and Cardinal Richelieu. In style these and other works of Winstanley adopted the style of John Taylor the Water Poet. His portrait titled “Poor Robin” appears in “Poor Robin’s Jests, or the Compleat Jester” (1667) which includes poems attributed to Francis Kirkman.  He is the likely author of the 1694 almanac, although DNB notes a marked falling off in quality and originality after 1675.

Sources and Further Reading

Poor Robin, an almanack of the old and new fashion, or an ephemeris jestingly solid and jocosiously serious, wherein the reader may find (if he be endued with five degrees beyond the longitude of [J]ack Adam’s capacity) many remarkable things worthy his choicest observation : containing a two-fold kalendar, viz. the Julian, English, or old account, and the round-heads, whimzey-heads, maggot-heads, paper-scull’d, slender-witted, Mugletonian, or fanatick account, with their several saints-days, and observations upon every month : being the second after bissextile, or leap-year
The two and thirtieth impression. written by Poor Robin, 1694

avilable on EEBO

William E. Burns, ‘Winstanley, William (d. 1698)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2005

Donnelly, Sean, ‘Not so wicked as to commit sacrilege:’ a theft at Christmas 1721 from the Chapel of St Nicholas Without, Francis Street, Dublin

available at



Posted: April 9th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Leave a Reply