piece on how the lustful Richard Burbage got
pipped at the post
by the even more self-indulgent William Shakespeare (Bikwil No. 19,
May 2000) didn’t pass without comment, so much so that I’ve been urged to
tell all about the originator of that gossip, John Manningham, and to
quote some more goings-on from his diary.
little is known of Manningham’s life. So far, all I’ve
been able to uncover is that he was a lawyer in the
so-called Middle Temple at the end of the reign of
Elizabeth I. He may have been a friend of Shakespeare's
friend and "cousin" Thomas Greene, who was then completing
his law studies.
had it not been for his diary (which he kept only for 1602-3), Manningham
may well have rested in permanent obscurity.
grateful for small mercies, however, today I offer an entry verbatim from
October 1602. It tells of just how much simple fun a 17th century
prankster can have, provided of course that his conceited victim towers
well above him:
Ousley of the Middle Temple, a young gallant, but of a short cut,
overtaking a tall stately stalking cavalier in the streets, made no more
ado but slipt into an ironmonger’s shop, threw off his cloak and rapier,
fitted himself with bells, and presently came skipping, whistling, and
dancing the morris about that long swaggerer, who staringly demanding what
he meant; "I cry you merry.” said the gent, “I took you for a maypole.”