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ABOUT 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. 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, under the year 1543. From the university he was called up to court by his singular and generous patron William
This chapel had a dean, six prebendaries, six clerks, and four choristers. It was dissolved in 1549.
Udall's English interludes, mentioned above, were perhaps written for his scholars. Thirty-five lines of one of
them are quoted in Wilson's ARTE OF LOGIKE, edit. 1567. fol. 67. a. "Suete maistresse whereas," &c.
MSS. Catal. Præpos. Soc. Schol. Coll. Regal. Cant.
lord Paget, in whose family he appears to have been a retainerd. 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 places. Here his patrons were sir 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 extravagance, 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 saint Mildred's church in the Poultry.
d Our author's HUSBANDRIE is dedicated to his son Lord Thomas Paget of Beaudesert, fol. 7. ch. ii. edit. ut infr.
[It was first inscribed to his father Lord William Paget, 1586.-PARK.]
e In Peacham's MINERVA, a book of emblems printed in 1612, there is the device of a whetstone and a scythe with these lines, fol. 61. edit. 4to.
They tell me, TUSSER, when thou wert
And hadst for profit turned euery stone,
To sharpen others, when themselves are blunt.-PARK.]
f See LIFE OF SIR THOMAS POPE, 2d edit. p. 218.
*[If Tusser was born in 1523, he could not die very aged in 1580; as he was only 57. If he went to college in 1543, aged 20, staid there three years, and then followed the court for ten years, he must have been 33 at least when he married: this brings us to 1556, and the very next year produced the first edition of his Husbandry which seems too
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.
What robes how bare, what colledge fare!
Thence for my voice, I must, no choice,
The better brest, the lesser rest,
To serue the queer, now there now heer :
But marke the chance, myself to vance,
With REDFORD there, the like no where,
From PAULES I went, to EATON sent,
short a space to furnish the practical
See his Epitaph in Stowe's SURV. LOND. p. 474. edit. 1618. 4to. And Fuller's WORTHIES, p. 334.
[Fuller only collects the date of his death to be about 1580.-PARK.]
h The livery, or vestis 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 TOXOPHILUS. He is speaking of the expediency of educating youth in singing. "Trulye two degrees of men, which haue the highest offices under the king in all this realme, shall greatly lacke the vse of singinge, preachers and lawyers, because they shall not, withoute this, be able to rule theyr BRESTES for euerye purpose," &c. fol. 8. b. Lond. 1571. 4to. Bl. lett.
The fault but small, or none at all,
TO LONDON hence, to CAMBRIDGE thence,
There ioy I felt, there trim I dwelt, &c.
At length he married a wife by the name of Moone, from whom, for an obvious reason, he expected great inconstancy, but was happily disappointed.
Through Uenus' toies, in hope of ioies,
I chanced soone to finde a Moone,
Which well and fine, methought, did shine,
And compas trew, &c.k
Before I proceed, I must say a few words concerning the very remarkable practice implied in these stanzas, of seizing boys by a warrant for the service of the king's chapel. Strype has printed an abstract of an instrument, by which it appears, that emissaries were dispatched into various parts of England with full 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 gentleman of the Privy Chamber, in anie churches or chappells within England to take to the king's use, such and as many singing children and choristers, as he or his deputy shall think good1." And again, in the following year, the master of the king's chapel, that is, the master of the king's
* Fol. 155. edit. 1586. See also THE AUTHORS EPISTLE to the late lord William Paget, wherein he doth discourse of his owne bringing up, &c. fol. 5. And the
EPISTLE to Lady Paget, fol. 7. And his rules for training a boy in music, fol. 141. Dat. April. Strype's MEM. ECCL. ii. p. 538.
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 fit." Under the year 1454, there is a commission of the same sort from king Henry the Sixth, De ministrallis propter solatium 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 singers only, more particularly singers for the royal chapel, were here intended. The last clause may perhaps more immediately seem to point out tumblers or posture-masters. 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 forI will transcribe an article of the register, relating to that ridiculous ceremony. "Dec. 2. 1367. Joannes de Quixly confirmatur Episcopus Puerorum, et Capitulum ordinavit, quod electio episcopi Puerorum in ecclesia Eboracensi de cetero fieret de Eo, qui diutius et magis in dicta ecclesia laboraverit, et magis idoneus repertus fuerit, dum tamen competenter sit cor
observed to laugh heartily," &c. Strype's ECCL. MEM. iii. p. 312. ch. xxxix. Mr. Astle has a roll of some private expences of king Edward the, Second: among which it appears, that fifty shillings were paid to a person who danced before the king on a table, "et lui fist tres-grandement rire." And that twenty shillings were allowed to another, who rode before his majesty, and often fell from his horse, at which his majesty laughed heartily, de queux roy rya grantement. The laughter of kings was thought worthy to be recorded.