Archive for the ‘Shakespeare’s Letters’ Category

One of Hobson’s porters

January 18, 2008

Rather late to be of any use to the book, but here’s a great scene from Middleton’s A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, which links Hobson, Cambridge’s carrier, to a Bell Inn, and suggests a system of porters carrying letters through London.

Enter Porter.

Yellowhammer. How now?

Porter. A letter from a gentleman in Cambridge. [He gives a letter.]

Yellowhammer. Oh, one of Hobson’s porters. Thou art welcome! — I told thee, Maud, we should hear from Tim. [He reads.] Amantissimis carissimisque ambobus parentibus patri et matri.

Maudlin. What’s the matter?

Yellowhammer. Nay, by my troth, I know not. Ask not me. He’s grown too verbal; this learning is a great witch.

Maudlin. Pray, let me see it; I was wont to understand him. [She takes the letter and translates ignorantly.] Amantissimus charissimus: he has sent the carrier’s man, he says; ambobus parentibus: for a pair of boots; patri et matri: pay the porter or it makes no matter.

Porter. Yes, by my faith, mistress. There’s no true construciton in that. I have took a great deal of pains and come from the Bell sweating. Let me come to ‘t, for I was a scholar forty years ago. [He takes the letter.] ‘Tis thus, I warrant you. [He construes.] Matri: it makes no matter; ambobus parentibus: for a pair of boots; patri: pay the porter; amantissimis carissimis: he’s the carrier’s man, and his name is Sims. — And there he says true, forsooth; my name is Sims indeed. I have not forgot all my learning. A money matter; I thought I should hit on ‘t.

Yellowhammer. Go, thou art an old fox! [Giving money] There’s a tester for thee.


A tester is a sixpenny piece.


The Bell Inn on Carter Lane

December 30, 2007

So the carriers chapter has just appeared in Shakespeare Quarterly.

Shakespeare and the Carriers

David Kathman immediately sent me some more information about the Bell Inn in Carter Lane, from his own researches:

“I read your article in the new Shakespeare Quarterly, “Shakespeare and the Carriers”, with great interest. I’ve been doing a lot of research over the past few years on London inns, as part of a broader study of places other than playhouses where plays were performed in sixteenth-century London. I’ve found a ton of previously unknown documentary evidence about the physical structure of these inns, as well as the identities of their owners and leaseholders …

“The Bell in Carter Lane was not a playing inn, but I’ve kept an eye out for it in my researches because of its Shakespeare connection, as documented in your article. I’ve found that it was originally part of the endowment of Peterborough Abbey, and that from the dissolution of that Abbey in 1541 until at least the 1666 fire, it was owned by the Bishop of Peterborough (Northants.). The leaseholder in 1598, at the time of Quiney’s letter to Shakespeare, was William Haughton, citizen and innholder of London. He married Mary Wowen in St. Gregory by St. Paul’s (the Bell’s parish) on 25 January 1598, had children baptized there in 1601 (Margaret, 25 March) and 1603 (Alexander, 13 February), and on 13 February 1603 made his will, in which he bequeathed to his wife Mary his lease to “all that Messuage or Inne called by the Signe of the Bell sett or beinge in Carter Lane in London”. I’m not sure where Haughton was from, but it’s possible that he might have been the son of Henry Haughton, who held the lease on the Bell in Gracechurch Street from 1574 to 1601, including the years when that inn hosted plays. I wrote a bit about this William Haughton and the Bell in Carter Lane in an article in Research Opportunities in Medieval Drama 44 (2005), “Citizens, Innholders, and Playhouse Builders, 1543-1622”, specifically on pp. 45-46. That was the first thing I published about any of my inn researches, and much of what I wrote in that article has been overtaken by subsequent research; for example, I now know that Henry Haughton of the Bell in Gracechurch Street was a citizen and saddler, not a citizen and innholder as I speculated in the article.

“You suggest on p. 442 that the “Mistress Griffin” mentioned in a letter of 25 October 1598 may have been the landlady of the Bell in Carter Lane. At first I thought this was unlikely, because William and Mary Haughton were the leaseholders then. But Mary’s maiden name, before she married her first husband Osward Wowen in St. Gregory’s on 16 February 1585, was Mary Griffin, so it’s possible that William Parsons or Richard Quiney still referred to her by that name. This is one of many things on my list requiring further research.”

In response, I suggested that Mistress Griffin might be Mary’s mother, and asked if Dave knew who had the lease before Haughton. Dave replied,

“No, I don’t, but given that Mary Griffin-Wowen-Haughton was apparently living in the parish for some time before she married Haughton, I suspect that her previous husband, Oswand Wowen, was the leaseholder of the Bell, and that William Haughton took it over after he married her. I agree that it’s not very likely that she was still known as “Mistress Griffin” in 1598, but perhaps that was her mother, as your suggest, or her sister. Or maybe even her daughter, though that would imply that she was married to a Griffin and had children with him before she married Wowen. Now I’m curious, and will have to figure all this out.”

Very interesting. It sounds as if the Griffin connection was longstanding, so perhaps, as so often, it’s the women, Mary Griffin-Wowen-Haughton, who’s the hidden stable centre to the Bell Inn’s apparent changes of hand. I wonder if anyone else is pursuing all this?