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THE FIRST PRINTING Verbatim Reprint
CONVERSATION, AS IT WAS BY THE SOCIAL FIRESIDE, IN THE TIME OF THE TUDORS.
[Mem.—The following is supposed to be an extract from the
diary of the Pepys of that day, the same being Queen
Elizabeth's cup-bearer. He is supposed to be of ancient and
noble lineage; that he despises these literary canaille;
that his soul consumes with wrath, to see the queen stooping
to talk with such; and that the old man feels that his
nobility is defiled by contact with Shakespeare, etc., and
yet he has got to stay there till her Majesty chooses to
YESTERNIGHT toke her maiste ye queene a fantasie such as she sometimes
hath, and had to her closet certain that doe write playes, bokes, and such
like, these being my lord Bacon, his worship Sir Walter Ralegh, Mr. Ben
Jonson, and ye child Francis Beaumonte, which being but sixteen, hath yet
turned his hand to ye doing of ye Lattin masters into our Englishe tong,
with grete discretion and much applaus. Also came with these ye famous
Shaxpur. A righte straunge mixing truly of mighty blode with mean, ye more
in especial since ye queenes grace was present, as likewise these
following, to wit: Ye Duchess of Bilgewater, twenty-six yeres of age; ye
Countesse of Granby, thirty; her doter, ye Lady Helen, fifteen; as also
these two maides of honor, to-wit, ye Lady Margery Boothy, sixty-five, and
ye Lady Alice Dilberry, turned seventy, she being two yeres ye queenes
I being her maites cup-bearer, had no choice but to remaine and beholde
rank forgot, and ye high holde converse wh ye low as uppon equal termes, a
grete scandal did ye world heare thereof.
In ye heat of ye talk it befel yt one did breake wind, yielding an
exceding mightie and distresfull stink, whereat all did laugh full sore,
Ye Queene.—Verily in mine eight and sixty yeres have I not heard the
fellow to this fart. Meseemeth, by ye grete sound and clamour of it, it
was male; yet ye belly it did lurk behinde shoulde now fall lean and flat
against ye spine of him yt hath bene delivered of so stately and so waste
a bulk, where as ye guts of them yt doe quiff-splitters bear, stand comely
still and rounde. Prithee let ye author confess ye offspring. Will my Lady
Lady Alice.—Good your grace, an' I had room for such a thunderbust
within mine ancient bowels, 'tis not in reason I coulde discharge ye same
and live to thank God for yt He did choose handmaid so humble whereby to
shew his power. Nay, 'tis not I yt have broughte forth this rich
o'ermastering fog, this fragrant gloom, so pray you seeke ye further.
Ye Queene.—Mayhap ye Lady Margery hath done ye companie this favor?
Lady Margery.—So please you madam, my limbs are feeble wh ye weighte
and drouth of five and sixty winters, and it behoveth yt I be tender unto
them. In ye good providence of God, an' I had contained this wonder,
forsoothe wolde I have gi'en 'ye whole evening of my sinking life to ye
dribbling of it forth, with trembling and uneasy soul, not launched it
sudden in its matchless might, taking mine own life with violence, rending
my weak frame like rotten rags. It was not I, your maisty.
Ye Queene.—O' God's name, who hath favored us? Hath it come to pass
yt a fart shall fart itself? Not such a one as this, I trow. Young Master
Beaumont—but no; 'twould have wafted him to heaven like down of
goose's boddy. 'Twas not ye little Lady Helen—nay, ne'er blush, my
child; thoul't tickle thy tender maidenhedde with many a mousie-squeak
before thou learnest to blow a harricane like this. Wasn't you, my learned
and ingenious Jonson?
Jonson.—So fell a blast hath ne'er mine ears saluted, nor yet a
stench so all-pervading and immortal. 'Twas not a novice did it, good your
maisty, but one of veteran experience—else hadde he failed of
confidence. In sooth it was not I.
Ye Queene.—My lord Bacon?
Lord Bacon.-Not from my leane entrailes hath this prodigy burst forth, so
please your grace. Naught doth so befit ye grete as grete performance; and
haply shall ye finde yt 'tis not from mediocrity this miracle hath issued.
[Tho' ye subjct be but a fart, yet will this tedious sink of learning
pondrously phillosophize. Meantime did the foul and deadly stink pervade
all places to that degree, yt never smelt I ye like, yet dare I not to
leave ye presence, albeit I was like to suffocate.]
Ye Queene.—What saith ye worshipful Master Shaxpur?
Shaxpur.—In the great hand of God I stand and so proclaim mine
innocence. Though ye sinless hosts of heaven had foretold ye coming of
this most desolating breath, proclaiming it a work of uninspired man, its
quaking thunders, its firmament-clogging rottenness his own achievement in
due course of nature, yet had not I believed it; but had said the pit
itself hath furnished forth the stink, and heaven's artillery hath shook
the globe in admiration of it.
[Then was there a silence, and each did turn him toward the worshipful Sr
Walter Ralegh, that browned, embattled, bloody swashbuckler, who rising up
did smile, and simpering say,]
Sr W.—Most gracious maisty, 'twas I that did it, but indeed it was
so poor and frail a note, compared with such as I am wont to furnish, yt
in sooth I was ashamed to call the weakling mine in so august a presence.
It was nothing—less than nothing, madam—I did it but to clear
my nether throat; but had I come prepared, then had I delivered something
worthy. Bear with me, please your grace, till I can make amends.
[Then delivered he himself of such a godless and rock-shivering blast that
all were fain to stop their ears, and following it did come so dense and
foul a stink that that which went before did seem a poor and trifling
thing beside it. Then saith he, feigning that he blushed and was confused,
I perceive that I am weak to-day, and cannot justice do unto my powers;
and sat him down as who should say, There, it is not much yet he that hath
an arse to spare, let him fellow that, an' he think he can. By God, an' I
were ye queene, I would e'en tip this swaggering braggart out o' the
court, and let him air his grandeurs and break his intolerable wind before
ye deaf and such as suffocation pleaseth.]
Then fell they to talk about ye manners and customs of many peoples, and
Master Shaxpur spake of ye boke of ye sieur Michael de Montaine, wherein
was mention of ye custom of widows of Perigord to wear uppon ye headdress,
in sign of widowhood, a jewel in ye similitude of a man's member wilted
and limber, whereat ye queene did laugh and say widows in England doe wear
prickes too, but betwixt the thighs, and not wilted neither, till coition
hath done that office for them. Master Shaxpur did likewise observe how yt
ye sieur de Montaine hath also spoken of a certain emperor of such mighty
prowess that he did take ten maidenheddes in ye compass of a single night,
ye while his empress did entertain two and twenty lusty knights between
her sheetes, yet was not satisfied; whereat ye merrie Countess Granby
saith a ram is yet ye emperor's superior, sith he wil tup above a hundred
yewes 'twixt sun and sun; and after, if he can have none more to shag,
will masturbate until he hath enrich'd whole acres with his seed.
Then spake ye damned windmill, Sr Walter, of a people in ye uttermost
parts of America, yt capulate not until they be five and thirty yeres of
age, ye women being eight and twenty, and do it then but once in seven
Ye Queene.—How doth that like my little Lady Helen? Shall we send
thee thither and preserve thy belly?
Lady Helen.—Please your highnesses grace, mine old nurse hath told
me there are more ways of serving God than by locking the thighs together;
yet am I willing to serve him yt way too, sith your highnesses grace hath
set ye ensample.
Ye Queene.—God' wowndes a good answer, childe.
Lady Alice.—Mayhap 'twill weaken when ye hair sprouts below ye
Lady Helen.—Nay, it sprouted two yeres syne; I can scarce more than
cover it with my hand now.
Ye Queene.—Hear Ye that, my little Beaumonte? Have ye not a little
birde about ye that stirs at hearing tell of so sweete a neste?
Beaumonte.—'Tis not insensible, illustrious madam; but mousing owls
and bats of low degree may not aspire to bliss so whelming and ecstatic as
is found in ye downy nests of birdes of Paradise.
Ye Queene.—By ye gullet of God, 'tis a neat-turned compliment. With
such a tongue as thine, lad, thou'lt spread the ivory thighs of many a
willing maide in thy good time, an' thy cod-piece be as handy as thy
Then spake ye queene of how she met old Rabelais when she was turned of
fifteen, and he did tell her of a man his father knew that had a double
pair of bollocks, whereon a controversy followed as concerning the most
just way to spell the word, ye contention running high betwixt ye learned
Bacon and ye ingenious Jonson, until at last ye old Lady Margery, wearying
of it all, saith, 'Gentles, what mattereth it how ye shall spell the word?
I warrant Ye when ye use your bollocks ye shall not think of it; and my
Lady Granby, be ye content; let the spelling be, ye shall enjoy the
beating of them on your buttocks just the same, I trow. Before I had
gained my fourteenth year I had learnt that them that would explore a cunt
stop'd not to consider the spelling o't.'
Sr W.—In sooth, when a shift's turned up, delay is meet for naught
but dalliance. Boccaccio hath a story of a priest that did beguile a maid
into his cell, then knelt him in a corner to pray for grace to be rightly
thankful for this tender maidenhead ye Lord had sent him; but ye abbot,
spying through ye key-hole, did see a tuft of brownish hair with fair
white flesh about it, wherefore when ye priest's prayer was done, his
chance was gone, forasmuch as ye little maid had but ye one cunt, and that
was already occupied to her content.
Then conversed they of religion, and ye mightie work ye old dead Luther
did doe by ye grace of God. Then next about poetry, and Master Shaxpur did
rede a part of his King Henry IV., ye which, it seemeth unto me, is not of
ye value of an arsefull of ashes, yet they praised it bravely, one and
Ye same did rede a portion of his "Venus and Adonis," to their prodigious
admiration, whereas I, being sleepy and fatigued withal, did deme it but
paltry stuff, and was the more discomforted in that ye blody bucanier had
got his wind again, and did turn his mind to farting with such villain
zeal that presently I was like to choke once more. God damn this windy
ruffian and all his breed. I wolde that hell mighte get him.
They talked about ye wonderful defense which old Sr. Nicholas Throgmorton
did make for himself before ye judges in ye time of Mary; which was
unlucky matter to broach, sith it fetched out ye quene with a 'Pity yt he,
having so much wit, had yet not enough to save his doter's maidenhedde
sound for her marriage-bed.' And ye quene did give ye damn'd Sr. Walter a
look yt made hym wince—for she hath not forgot he was her own lover
it yt olde day. There was silent uncomfortableness now; 'twas not a good
turn for talk to take, sith if ye queene must find offense in a little
harmless debauching, when pricks were stiff and cunts not loathe to take
ye stiffness out of them, who of this company was sinless; behold, was not
ye wife of Master Shaxpur four months gone with child when she stood uppe
before ye altar? Was not her Grace of Bilgewater roger'd by four lords
before she had a husband? Was not ye little Lady Helen born on her
mother's wedding-day? And, beholde, were not ye Lady Alice and ye Lady
Margery there, mouthing religion, whores from ye cradle?
In time came they to discourse of Cervantes, and of the new painter,
Rubens, that is beginning to be heard of. Fine words and dainty-wrought
phrases from the ladies now, one or two of them being, in other days,
pupils of that poor ass, Lille, himself; and I marked how that Jonson and
Shaxpur did fidget to discharge some venom of sarcasm, yet dared they not
in the presence, the queene's grace being ye very flower of ye Euphuists
herself. But behold, these be they yt, having a specialty, and admiring it
in themselves, be jealous when a neighbor doth essaye it, nor can abide it
in them long. Wherefore 'twas observable yt ye quene waxed uncontent; and
in time labor'd grandiose speeche out of ye mouth of Lady Alice, who
manifestly did mightily pride herself thereon, did quite exhauste ye
quene's endurance, who listened till ye gaudy speeche was done, then
lifted up her brows, and with vaste irony, mincing saith 'O shit!' Whereat
they alle did laffe, but not ye Lady Alice, yt olde foolish bitche.
Now was Sr. Walter minded of a tale he once did hear ye ingenious
Margrette of Navarre relate, about a maid, which being like to suffer rape
by an olde archbishoppe, did smartly contrive a device to save her
maidenhedde, and said to him, First, my lord, I prithee, take out thy holy
tool and piss before me; which doing, lo his member felle, and would not