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In the beginning of the reign of king James, his justice was exemplary on thieves and robbers. The land then swarmed with people which had been soldiers, who had never gotten (or else quite forgotten) any other vocation. Hard it was for peace to feed all the idle mouths which a former war did breed; being too proud to beg, too lazy to labour. Those infected the highways with their felonies; some presuming on their multitudes, as the robbers on the northern road, whose knot (otherwise not to be untied) Sir John cut asunder with the sword of Justice.
He possessed king James how the frequent granting of pardons was prejudicial to justice, rendering the judges to the contempt of insolent malefactors; which made his majesty more sparing afterward in that kind. In a word, the deserved death of some scores preserved the lives and livelihoods of more thousands; travellers owing their safety to this judge's severity many years after his death, which happened anno Domini 16..
JOHN COURCY, baron of Stoke-Courcy in this county, was the first Englishman who invaded and subdued Ulster in Ireland; therefore deservedly created earl thereof.* He was afterward surprised by Hugh Lacy (co-rival for his title), sent over into England, and imprisoned by king John in the Tower of London.
A French castle, being in controversy, was to have the title thereof tried by combat, the kings of England and France beholding it. Courcy being a lean lank body, with staring eyes (prisoners, with the wildness of their looks, revenge the closeness of their bodies) is sent for out of the Tower, to undertake the Frenchman; and, because enfeebled with long durance, a large bill of fare was allowed him, to recruit his strength. The Monsieur, hearing how much he had eat and drunk, and guessing his courage by his stomach, or rather stomach by his appetite, took him for a cannibal, who would devour him at the last course; and so he declined the combat.
Afterwards the two kings, desirous to see some proof of Courcy's strength, caused a steel helmet to be laid on a block before him. Courcy, looking about him with a grim countenance (as if he intended to cut with his eyes as well as with his arms), sundered the helmet at one blow into two pieces, striking the sword so deep into the wood, that none but himself could pull it out again.
Being demanded the cause why he looked so sternly, "Had I," said he, "failed of my design, I would have killed the kings and all in the place;" words well spoken because well taken, all persons present being then highly in good humour. Hence it is, that the lord Courcy, baron of Kingrone, second baron in
The effect of what follows is taken out of the Irish Annals, at the end of Camden's Britannia.-F.
Ireland, claimed a privilege (whether by patent or prescription, charter or custom, I know not) after their first obeisance, to be covered in the king's presence, if process of time hath not antiquated the practice.
His devotion was equal to his valour, being a great founder and endower of religious houses. In one thing he foully failed, turning the church of the Holy Trinity in Down into the church of St. Patrick, for which (as the story saith) he was condemned never to return into Ireland, though attempting it fifteen several times, but repelled with foul weather. He afterwards went over, and died in France, about the year 1210.
MATTHEW GOURNAY was born at Stoke-under-Hamden in this county, where his family had long flourished since the Conquest, and there built both a castle and a college. But our Matthew was the honour of the house, renowned under the reign of king Edward the Third, having fought in seven several signal set battles:* viz.-1. At the siege of Algiers, against the Saracens; 2. At the battle of Benemazin, against the same. 3. Sluce, a sea-fight against the French; 4. Crescy, a landfight against the same; 5. Ingen, 6. Poictiers, pitched fights against the French; 7. Nazaran, under the Black Prince, in Spain. His armour was beheld by martial men with much civil veneration, with whom his faithful buckler was a relic of
But it added to the wonder, that our Matthew, who did lie and watch so long on the bed of honour, should die in the bed of peace, aged ninety and six years,† about the beginning of king Richard the Second. He lieth buried under a fair monument in the church of Stoke aforesaid, whose epitaph, legible in the last age, is since (I suspect) defaced.
Sir AMIAS PRESTON, Knight, was descended of an ancient family, who have a habitation at Cricket, nigh Crewkerne in this county. He was a valiant soldier, and active seaman; witness in 88, when he seized on the admiral of the Galiasses, wherein Hugh de Moncada the governor, making resistance, with most of his men, were burnt or killed, and Mr. Preston (as yet not knighted) shared in a vast treasure of gold taken therein.†
Afterwards, anno 1595, he performed a victorious voyage to the West Indies,§ wherein he took, by assault, the isle of Puerto Santo, invaded the isle of Coche, surprised the fort and town of Coro, sacked the stately city of St. Jago, put the town of Cumana to ransom, entered Jamaica with little loss, some
* Camden's Britannia, in this county. Camden's Elizabeth, in 88.
+ Camden, ut prius.
Hackluyt's Travels, part III. page 578.
profit, and more honour; safely returned, within the space of six months, to Milford Haven in Wales.
I have been informed, from excellent hands, that, on some distaste, he sent a challenge to Sir Walter Raleigh; which Sir Walter declined, without any abatement to his valour (wherein he had abundantly satisfied all possibility of suspicion), and great advancement of his judgment; for, having a fair and fixed estate, with wife and children, being a privy councillor, and lordwarden of the Stanneries, he thought it an uneven lay to stake himself against Sir Amias, a private and (as I take it) a single person; though of good birth and courage, yet of no considerable estate. This also is consonant to what he hath written so judiciously about duels, condemning those for ill honours where the hangman gives the garland."* However, these two knights were afterwards reconciled, and Sir Amias (as I collect) died about the beginning of the reign of king James.
GILDAS, surnamed the WISE, was born in the city of Bath; and therefore it is that he is called Badonicus.† He was eight years junior to another Gildas, called Albanius, whose nativity I cannot clear to belong to our Britain. He was also otherwise sur-styled Querulus, because the little we have of his writing is only "a complaint." Yet was he none of those whom the Apostle condemneth. These are, "murmurers, complainers," &c. (taxing only such who either were impious against God, or uncharitable against men; complaining of them either without cause or without measure); whilst our Gildas only inveigheth against the sins, and bemoaneth the sufferings, of that wicked and woeful age wherein he lived; calling the clergy Montes Malitiæ; the Britons generally, Atramentum Seculi.
He wrote many books, though we have none of them extant at this day (some few fragments excepted, inserted amongst the manuscript canons), but his aforesaid history. This makes me more to wonder that so learned a critic as Dr. Jerrard Vossius§ should attribute the comedy of "Aulularia" in Plautus to this our Gildas, merely because that comedy is otherwise commonly called "Querulus;" whereas indeed their language is different: that in "Aulularia" tolerably pure (though perchance coarser than the rest in Plautus); whilst the style of Gildas is hardly with sense to be climbed over, it is so harsh and barbarous. Besides, I do not believe that Gildas had a drop of comical blood in his veins, or any inclination to mirth and festivity; and if he had prepared any thing scenical to be acted on the theatre, certainly it would have been a tragedy relating to the ruin and
• History of the World, lib. v. page 548.
Usher, De Britannica Ecclesiæ Primordio, in his Chronologies.
‡ Jude 18.
In his second book de Historicis Latinis, in the end of the 25th chapter.;
destruction of his nation. Some variety there is about the date of his death, which most probably is assigned anno 570.
MAURICE SOMERSET carried this county of his nativity about with him in his name; and was bred first a Cistercian monk in Ford Abbey; then studied in Oxford, and became a good writer both in prose and verse. His deserts preferred him abbot of Wells, which in his old age he resigned, loving ease above honour. Some books he dedicated to his diocesan, Reginald bishop of Bath; and flourished anno 1193.*
ALEXANDER of ESSEBIE is (saith my authort) by some accounted a Somerset, by others a Stafford-shire man; and therefore by our fundamental laws (laid down in our preface, to decide differences about nativities) falls to the share of this county. He was the prince of English poets in his age; and in imitation of Ovid de Fastis, put our Christian festivals into verse, setting a copy therein to Baptista Mantuanus.
Then, leaving Ovid, he aspired to Virgil, and wrote the History of the Bible (with the lives of some saints) in an heroical poem; and, though falling far short of Virgil, went beyond himself therein. He afterward became prior of Esseby Abbey,‡ belonging to the Augustins; and flourished under king Henry the Third, anno Domini 1220.
ADAMUS de MARISCO, or ADAM of MARSH, was born in this county, where there be plenty of marshes in the fenny part thereof. But I take Brent-marsh, as the principal, the most probable place for his nativity. It seemeth that a foggy air is no hinderance to a refined wit, whose infancy and youth in this place was so full of pregnancy. He afterwards went to Oxford, and there became D. D. It is argument enough to persuade any indifferent man into a belief of his abilities, because that Robert Grosthead, that learned and pious bishop of Lincoln, made use of his pains, that they might jointly peruse and compare the Scripture. He became afterwards a Franciscan friar in Worcester, and furnished the library thereof with most excellent manuscripts; for then began the emulation in England betwixt monasteries, which should outvie other for most and best books. He flourished anno Domini 1257. I cannot grieve heartily for this Adam's loss of the bishopric of Ely, because Hugo de Balsham his co-rival got it from him, the founder of Peter-house in Cambridge.
* Pits, ætat. 12, num. 271.
† Bale, de Scriptoribus Britannicis, Cent. iv. num. 29.
Quære. Where is this? F.-Answer. Canons Ashby, or Esseby, was a small priory of Black Canons in Northamptonshire.-ED.
§ Bale, de Scriptoribus Britannicis, Cent. iv. num. 12; and Pits, in anno
SINCE THE REFORMATION.
HENRY CUFFE was born at St. George Hinton in this county, as the late Lord Powlett, baron thereof, did inform me, though none of that name left there at this day. He was afterwards fellow of Merton College in Oxford, and secretary to Robert earl of Essex, with whom he engaged in his rising, anno 1600, being arraigned at Westminster for his life. Sir Edward Cook (then but the queen's attorney) disputed syllogistically against him; whom Cuffe, an admirable logician, could, cæteris paribus, well have encountered. But power will easily make a solecism to be a syllogism. The most pregnant proof brought against him was a verse out of Lucan alleged by him; for, when the earl, sitting in consultation with his complices, demanded their advice, whether he should proceed in their design, or desist, Mr. Cuffe returned,
"Viribus utendum est quas fecimus; arma ferenti
This, I may say, proved his neck-verse, being attested against him; for which he suffered. He wrote an excellent book " the difference of the ages of man ;" a rare piece indeed, though not altogether so hard to be procured, as worthy to be perused.
[S. N.] Sir JOHN HARRINGTON, Knight; where born I know not sure I am he had a fair estate at Kelston near Bath in this county; and is eminent for his confessor extraction.t
His father, only for carrying a letter to the Lady (afterwards queen) Elizabeth, by Bishop Gardiner kept twelves months in the Tower, and made to spend 1000 pounds ere he could get free of that trouble.
His mother, servant to the Lady Elizabeth, was, by Gardiner's command, sequestered from her as an heretic, and her husband enjoined not to keep company with her.
Queen Elizabeth was godmother to this Sir John; and he was bred in Cambridge, where Doctor Still was his tutor; but whether whilst he was fellow of Christ's or master of St. John's, is to me unknown. He afterward proved one of the most ingenious poets of our English nation: witness his translation of Orlando Furioso out of the Italian, dedicated to the Lady Elizabeth, since queen of Bohemia, and the several pieces of his own invention.
It happened that, while the said Sir John repaired often to an ordinary in Bath, a female attendress at the table, neglecting other gentlemen who sat higher, and were of greater estates, applied herself wholly to him, accommodating him with all necessaries, and preventing his asking any thing with her officiousShe being demanded by him the reason of her so careful
• The words of the poet are somewhat different.-F.
In his continuance of Bishop Godwin, in his Bishops of Winchester.