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

Henry Chettle – probably not “H.C.”

The Dialogue of Silvynne and Peregrynne contains the earliest literary reference to an identified contemporaneous location, at Philipstown, (now Daingean), County Offally, Ireland;

“Then they passed aloofe for feare of the greate ordynaunce of the forte, which dismayed them mightely, but yet they burned the moste parte of the subberbs withowt the north gate called beggars bush to the hinderance, and undoinge of many an honest subiect.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: April 25th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Sir Thomas Browne Christian Morals 1682

The popular author and doctor used the phrase Beggars Bush in Christian Morals (written before 1682, though not published until 1716). He uses the phrase in the standard literary sense, but in an unusual classical context. His usage establishes the the usage of the phrase outside the vernacular. The most likely origin is through the play by Fletcher & Massinger; there is evidence that his son saw it. There is  no direct evidence that Browne saw or read it and there are other sources from which he may have acquired the phrase. His and his son’s library included the works of Ben Jonson. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: April 7th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Adam Foulweather A wonderfull, strange and miraculous astrologicall prognostication 1591

A Wonderfull … Astrologicall Prognostication (1591) is a pamphlet by “Adam Fouleweather Student in Asse-tronomy” which has been attributed to Thomas Nashe (“unconvincingly” according to DNB). It was one of a trio of mock prognostications, the others by ‘Francis Fairweather’ and ‘Simon Smellknave’ do not survive. It ridicules the popular prognostications that were published with almanacs. It claimed it was “Discovering such wonders to happen this yeere, as neuer chaunced since Noes floud. Wherein if there be found one lye, the author will lose his credit for ever.”
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Posted: March 27th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Christopher Saxton’s Five Counties Map 1576

Saxton’s county maps were the first national cartographic survey of England. They, and later maps based on them, were very important for the preservation and distribution of the place name & literary phrase Beggars Bush. They may have contributed to the mistaken connection of beggars with the site at Godmanchester near Huntingdon.

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Posted: March 20th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Martin Marprelate The Epistle 1588

“And as the matter is made knowne vnto my Lorde the preacher is sure to go by the worst and the recusant to carrie all the honestie: Yea the preacher shalbe a busie enuious fellow one that doth not obserue the booke and conforme himself according vnto order and perhaps go home by beggars bush for any benefice he hath to liue vpon. For it may be the Bb. will be so good vnto him as to depriue him for not subscribing.  As for the recusant, he is known to be a man that must have liberty of his conscience. Is this good dealing brethren.”

Text & Usage

The Epistle was a pamphlet of 54 pages published in October 1588 in response to A Defense of the Government established in the Church of England for Ecclesiastical Matters (1587) by Dr John Bridges. It was the first of a series of anonymous tracts supporting the presbyterian cause against Archbishop Whitgift’s attempts to impose uniformity of worship and promote the power of bishops over clergy. The Epistle stated it was “Printed overseas, in Europe, within two furlongs of a Bounsing Priest, at the cost and charges of M. Marprelate, Gentlemen”.
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Posted: March 13th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Robert Greene A Quip for an Upstart Courtier 1592

“These with Syrenlike allurement so entised these quaint squires, that they bestowed al their flowers vpon them for fauours, they themselues walking home by Beggar’s Bush for a penance.”


This is earliest mention of Beggar’s Bush recorded in the OED. It is characteristic of the literary usages. The phrase is clearly a literary one, involving the fall of the favoured through their own foolishness. Elsewhere in the same work Greene uses the term Weeping Cross in the same context, which was earlier used by William Bullein.
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Posted: March 12th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »