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BOUT the same time flourished Thomas Tusser, one of
our earliest didactic poets, in a science of the highest utility, and which produced one of the most beautiful poems of antiquity. The vicissitudes of this man's life have uncommon variety and novelty for the life of an author, and his history conveys some curious traces of the times as well as of himself. He seems to have been alike the sport of fortune, and a dupe to his own discontented disposition and his perpetual propensity to change of situation.
He was born of an antient family, about the year 1523, at Rivenhall in Essex ; and was placed as a chorister, or singingboy, in the collegiate chapel of the castle of Wallingford in Berkshire". Having a fine voice, he was impressed from Wallingford college into the king's chapel. Soon afterwards he was admitted into the choir of saint Paul's cathedral in London ; where he made great improvements under the instruction of John Redford the organist, a famous musician. He was next sent to Eton-school, where, at one chastisement, he received fifty-three stripes of the rod, from the severe but celebrated master Nicholas Udall 6. His academical education was at Trinity-hall in Cambridge: but Hatcher affirms, that he was from Eton admitted a scholar of King's college in that university,
a This chapel had a dean, fix prebendaries, six clerks, and four choristers. It was diffolved in 1549.
• Udall's English interludes, mentioned above, were perhaps written for his scho.
lars. Thirty-five lines of one of them are quoted in Wilson's Arte of Logike, edit. 1567. fol. 67. a. “ Suete maistreffe " whereas, &c.”
under the year 1543°. From the university he was called up to court by his singular and generous patron William lord Paget, in whose family he appears to have been a retainer". In this department he lived ten years: but being disgusted with the vices, and wearied with the quarrels of the courtiers, he retired into the country, and embraced the profession of a farmer, which he successively practised at Ratwood in Sussex, Ipswich in Suffolk, Fairstead in Essex, Norwich, and other placés ‘. Here his patrons were fir Richard Southwell', and Salisbury dean of Norwich. Under the latter he procured the place of a singing-man in Norwich cathedral. At length, having perhaps too much philosophy and too little experience to succeed in the business of agriculture, he returned to London: but the plague drove him away from town, and he took shelter at Trinity college in Cambridge. Without a tincture of careless imprudence, or vicious extragance, this desultory character seems to have thrived in no vocation. Fuller says, that his stone, which gathered no moss, was the stone of Sisyphus. His plough and his poetry were alike unprofitable. He was by turns a fiddler and a farmer, a grasier and a poet with equal success. He died very aged at London in 1580, and was buried in faint Mildred's church in the Poultry S.
Some of these circumstances, with many others. of less consequence, are related by himself in one of his pieces, entitled the Author's Life, as follows.
'Though heereto best couldst counsel every
one, As it may in thy HUSBANDRIE appeare Wherein afresh thou liust among vs here,
C MSS. Catal. Præpos. Soc. Schol. Coll. Regal. Cant.
d Our author's HUSBANDRIE is dedi. cated to his son Lord Thomas Paget of Beaudesert, fol. 7. ch. ii. edit. ut insr.
e In Peacham's MINERVA, a book of emblems printed in 1612, there is the de. vice of a whetstone and a scythe with these lines, fol. 61. edit. 4:0. They tell me, TUSSER, when thou wert
alive, And hadit for profit:turned euery stone, Where cre chou calcft thou couldīt
So like thy felfe a number more are wont,
ftone blunt, &c.
6 See his Epitaph in Stowe's Surv. LOND. p. 474. edit. 1618. 4to. And Fuller's WORTHIES, P. 334.
What robes how bare, what colledge fare !
Of fillie boies !
The livery, or veftis liberata, often called robe, allowed annually by the college.
· To the passages lately collected by the commentators on Shakespeare, to prove that Breast signifies voice, the following may be added from Ascham's Toxophi. LUS, He is speaking of the expediency of educating youth in finging. • Trulye
two degrees of men, which have the
highest offices under the king in all this “ realme, shall greatly lacke the vse of
finginge, preachers and lawyers, be. “ cause they shall not, withoute this, be “ able to rule theyr BRESTES for euerye “ purpose, &c." fol. 8. b. Lond. 1571. 4to. Bl. Lett.
It came to pas, thus beat I was :
To me, poore lad !
To London hence, to CAMBRIDGE thence,
I got at last.
Through Uenus' toies, in hope of ioies,
Of cheerfull hew :
And compas trew, &ck.
powers to take boys from any choir for the use of the chapel of king Edward the sixth. Under the year 1550, says Strype, there was a grant of a commission “ to Philip Van Wilder gen«« tleman of the Privy Chamber, in anie churches or chappells ss within England to take to the king's use, such and as many
k Fol. 155. edit. 1586. See also The UTHORS EPISTLE to the late lord William get, wherein be doth discourse of his owne
bringing up, &c. fol. 5. And the Epistle
singing children and choristers, as he or his deputy shall think
good',' And again, in the following year, the master of the king's chapel, that is, the master of the king's singing-boys, has licence - to take up from time to time as many children [boys] " to serve in the king's chapel as he shall think fito.” Under the year 1454, there is a commission of the fame fort from king Henry the sixth, De ministrallis propter folatium regis providendis, for procuring minstrels, even by force, for the solace or entertainment of the king: and it is required, that the minstrels so procured, should be not only skilled in arte minstrallatus, in the art of minstrelsy, but membris naturalibus elegantes, handsome and elegantly shaped". As the word Minstrel is of an extensive signification, and is applied as a general term to every character of that species of men whose business it was to entertain, either with oral recitation, music, gesticulation, and singing, or with a mixture of all these arts united, it is certainly difficult to determine, whether fingers only, more particularly fingers for the royal chapel, were here intended.
The last clause may perhaps more immediately seem to point out tumblers or posture-masters o. But in the register of the capitulary acts of York cathedral, it is ordered as an indispensable qualification, that the chorister who is annually to be elected the boy-bishop, should be competenter corpore formosus. I will transcribe an article of the register, relating to that ridiculous ceremony. “ Dec. 2. 1367. Joannes
Dat. April. Strype's Mem. Eccl. “ the queen and cardinal [Pole] looking ii. p. 538.
on; whereat she was observed to laugh m Ibid. p. 539. Under the same year, “heartily, &c.” Strype's Eccl. Mem. iii. a yearly allowance of sol. is specified, p. 312. ch. xxxix. Mr. Astle has a roll “ to find fix singing children for the king's of some private expences of king Edward “ privy chamber.” Ibid. I presume this the second : among which it appears, that appointment was transmitted from pre fifty shillings were paid to a person who ceding reigns.
danced before the king on a table, • Rym FOED. xi. 375.
“lui fift tres - grandement rire." And o Even so late as the present reign of that twenty shillings were allowed to anqueen Mary, we find tumblers introduced other, who rode before his majesty, and for the diversion of the court. In 1556,
osten fell from his horse, at which his maat a grand military review of the queen's jesty laughed hcartily, de queux roi rya pensioners in Greenwich park, “came a grantement. The laughter of kings was # Tumbler and played many pretty feats, thought worthy to be recorded.