Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Brave Lord Willoughby"

Today is the "fifteenth day of July" and on this day in 1588, Peregrine Bertie, 13th Baron Willoughby de Eresby, won a victory over the Spanish near Breda in the Netherlands. It was immortalized in a popular ballad (see below) as well as a lute solo by John Dowland.

An excellent biography and reproduction of a painting, recently identified as Willoughby, may be found here.

My Lord Willoughbies Welcome Home
To the tune of Lord Willoughby
The fifteenth day of July, with glist'ning speare & shield,
A famous fight in Flanders was foughten in the field:
The most couragious officers were the English captains three,
But the bravest in the Battel was brave Lord Willoughby.

The next was Captain Norris a valiant man was he;
The other Captain Turner, that from field would never flee;
With fifteen hundred fighting men, alas, there was no more,
They fought with forty thousand then, upon that bloody shore.

"Stand to it, noble Pike-men, and look you round about;
And shoot you right, you Bow-men, and we will keep them out;
You Musquet and Calliver men, do you prove ture to me,
I'le be the foremost man in fight," says brave Lord Willoughby.

And then the bloody enemy they fiercely did assail,
They fought it out most furiously not doubting to prevail,
The wounded men on both sides fell most piteous for to see,
Yet nothing could the courage quell of brave Lord Willoughby.

For seven hours in all mens view the fight endured sore,
Until our men so feeeble grew that they could fingt no more,
And them upon dead horses full savourly they eat
And drank the puddle water, they could no better get.

And when they fed so freely, they kneeled on the ground,
And praised God devoutely for the courage they had found,
And beating up their colours the fight they did renew,
And turning toward the Spanyards, a thousand more they slew.

The sharp steel-pointed Arrows and Bullets thick did flye;
Then did our valiant Souldiers charge on most furiously,
Which made the Spaniards waver, they thought it best to flee,
They fear'd the stout behaviour of brave Lord Willoughby.

Then quoth the Spanish general, "Come let us march away,
I fear we shall be spoiled all, if that we longer stay,
for yonder comes Lord Willoughby, with courage fierce and fell:
He will not give one inch of way for all the Devils in Hell."

And then the fearful enemy was quickly put to flight,
Our men pursued courageously and rout their forces quite,
And at last they gave a shout, which echoed through the sky,
"God and St. George for England!" the conquerors did cry.

This news was brought to England will all the speed might be,
And then our gracious Queen was told of this same victory,
Oh, this is brave Lord Willoughby my love that ever won,
Of all the Lord of honour, tis he great deed hath done.

For souldiers that were maimed and wounded in the fray,
Our Queen allowed a pension of fifteen pence a day,
Besides all costs and charges she quit and set them free,
And this she did all for the sake of brave Lord Willoughby.

Then courage, noble English men, and never be dismaid,
If that we be but one to ten we will not be afraid
To fight with forraign Enemies, and set our Country free,
And thus I end the bloody bout of brave Lord Willoughby.

This text is drawn from Percy's, Reliquairies of English Poetry.

Willoughby is certainly someone Luke Knowlton would have known of, if not actually known personally.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Throughout this project I have had in my mind at least, if not actually on the record player, a soundtrack of Elizabethan music. It is heavy on the Dowland even though his First Book of Songs was not published until 1597, because I find his music endlessly fascinating. I have also been delving into the consort songs of William Byrd and it has become the joke in our house that we are the "Come to me Grief Forever" all the time channel.

I wanted to share some of the recordings I've been listening to in an ongoing series of posts called Soundtrack. The first album is L'Oiseau-Lyre 443 187-2, a reissue of a 1981 recording with Anthony Rooley and the Consort of Musicke, called William Byrd: Psalmes, Sonets & Songs. The collection has selections from Byrd's 1588, Psalmes, Sonets and songs of sadnes and pietie, made into Musicke of five parts. The book contained at the end the two funeral elegies for Sir Philip Sidney, the aforementioned "Come to me Grief Forever," and the ravishingly beautiful, "O that Most Rare Breast." The poetry of the latter at least having been penned by Sidney's dear friend Sir Edward Dyer. The CD ends with those two numbers as well and is well worth seeking out. It is out of print but copies do turn up on Amazon.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Writing Tables

Wednesday viij. February 1586/87. "...out to the stationer to have some notebooks made and then to Mr. Adams to have two sets of writing tables made, one with an almanac and the other without, both to have leather covers, and the covers to be made so they might keep out the damp better than that I did have of him last year..."

In this passage from his journal, Luke goes to the stationer and orders up some additional notebooks for his journal, accounts and other notes. He then goes to Franke Adams, one of several manufacturers in London in this period, and has him make some “writing tables.” He is not buying furniture, rather he is buying what was at the time (1587) fairly new technology for writing. The “tables” were coated paper/card stock that might be written on with ink, black lead (graphite) or silverpoint and then cleaned off and used again and again. Luke might write his journal entries directly into a notebook, but more often he would use the tables as a temporary scratch pad and then make a fair copy later in his notebooks.

Peter Stallybrass has written an excellent article on the subject which appeared in the Shakespeare Quarterly. The writing tables were quite small, about the size of a deck of cards, like the example at Houghton Library of Harvard University. They were bound with a multi-year almanac, perfect for the businessman on the go, and made up of paper/card stock coated with gesso and shellac. I would expect that the stock itself would need to be substantial because gesso is by its nature very prone to cracking and flaking on a flexible surface, but that might not be the case. I expect also it would want to have quite a high glue content to really bind it all together. The tables came with erasing instructions in some of the earlier editions and the owner is warned not to allow the just cleaned tables to rest against each other when they are wet, suggesting a tendency towards stickiness.

I plan to conduct some experiments to determine the composition of the coating and I will be writing to Professor Stallybrass for any advice he might have on their construction. I will also need to get over to Houghton and take a look at the example there. Then I will have to make some and see how they actually work.

Stallybrass, Peter; Chartier, Roger; Mowery, j. Franklin; Wolfe, Heather. “Hamlets Tables and the Technology of Writing in Renaissance England,” Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 4 (Winter, 2004), pp. 379-419.

What is this anyway?

Artifacts of a Life is an exercise in the creation of the objects of daily life of a fictional person from the past. In this case they are the possessions of an Elizabethan captain of cavalry, Luke Knowlton. It is part of a greater persona development meta-project that I have been working on for several years in the Society for Creative Anachronism as part of the A&S 50 Challenge. As part of this intensive study, I have created a journal of Luke's daily life which may be read at: This blog will detail the research and construction of various objects mentioned in the journal.