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

Sticky: Laugharne, Carmarthenshire Beggars Bush 1909 ?

The name is a “Hoisting Place” on the Laugharne Common Walk. This is a ceremony of beating the bounds held once every three years, when the people of the town, led by the Portreeve and the officials of the Court, retrace the town’s ancient boundaries. Ritual “hoisting” is used to remind younger walkers of the location and name of Hoisting Places – more civilised than the more corporal ways of getting young boys to remember bounds in some historical records. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: May 21st, 2011 | Filed under: Places | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

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

Isabel Plumpton Plumpton Correspondence 1506

“Sir for God sake take an end, for we are brought to begger staffe, for you have not to defend them withall.”

This comes from a moving personal letter from Isabel Plumpton (“your bedfellow”) to her husband Sir Robert Plumpton urging him to end the litigation that was ruining them. Sir Robert, Warden of Knaresborough Castle, was involved in numerous legal cases involving his inheritence, and actions by Sir Richard Empson, the King’s Agent. His title to the estates was bound up in such a way that he could not sell it to raise money to cover the costs. Having lost at York Assizes he had gone to London to appeal. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

William Bullein A Dialogue Against the Fever Pestilence 1564

“Fellowes are so braine sicke now adaies if thei haue but tenne shillynges, yea, though thei doe borowe it, will be twoo or three times a yere at Westminster haule ; let wife or children begge ; & in the ende thei go home many miles, by foolam crosse, by weepyng cross, by beggers Barne, and by knaues Acre, &c. This commeth of their lawing ; then thei crie, might doe ouer come right, would I had knowen as muche before, I am undone, &c. “


The text includes classical references, items from morality plays, and early usages of popular turns of phrase. The phrase”to go home by” is identical with early examples of the Beggars Bush phrase. The alternative places are all proverbial. This shows that the usage with Beggars Bush is only a variation of a proverbial phrase. The context is almost identical to the circumstances of the Plumpton Correspondence using the similar Beggar Staff.
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Posted: March 10th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »