from The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (181920)
What I write is most true
I have a whole booke of cases lying by me which if I
should sette foorth, some grave auntients (within the hearing
of Bow bell) would be out of charity with me.
In the centre of the great city of London lies
a small neighborhood, consisting of a cluster of narrow streets
and courts, of very venerable and debilitated houses, which goes
by the name of LITTLE BRITAIN.
Christ Church School and St. Bartholomews Hospital bound
it on the west; Smithfield and Long Lane on the north; Aldersgate
Street, like an arm of the sea, divides it from the eastern part
of the city; whilst the yawning gulf of Bull-and-Mouth Street
separates it from Butcher Lane, and the regions of Newgate. Over
this little territory, thus bounded and designated, the great
dome of St. Pauls, swelling above the intervening houses
of Paternoster Row, Amen Corner, and Ave Maria Lane, looks down
with an air of motherly protection.
This quarter derives its appellation from having
been, in ancient times, the residence of the Dukes of Brittany.
As London increased, however, rank and fashion rolled off to the
west, and trade creeping on at their heels, took possession of
their deserted abodes. For some time Little Britain became the
great mart of learning, and was peopled by the busy and prolific
race of booksellers; these also gradually deserted it, and, emigrating
beyond the great strait of Newgate Street, settled down in Paternoster
Row and St. Pauls Church-Yard, where they continue to increase
and multiply even at the present day.
But though thus fallen into decline, Little Britain
still bears traces of its former splendor. There are several houses
ready to tumble down, the fronts of which are magnificently enriched
with old oaken carvings of hideous faces, unknown birds, beasts,
and fishes: and fruits and flowers which it would perplex a naturalist
to classify There are also, in Aldersgate Street, certain remains
of what were once spacious and lordly family mansions, but which
have in latter days been subdivided into several tenements. Here
may often be found the family of a petty tradesman, with its trumpery
furniture, burrowing among the relics of antiquated finery, in
great rambling time-stained apartments, with fretted ceilings,
gilded cornices, and enormous marble fireplaces. The lanes
also contain many smaller houses, not on so grand a scale, but,
like your small ancient gentry, sturdily maintaining their claims
to equal antiquity. These have their gable ends to the street;
great bow windows, with diamond panes set in lead, grotesque carvings,
and low-arched doorways.
In this most venerable and sheltered little nest
have I passed several quiet years of existence, comfortably lodged
in the second floor of one of the smallest but oldest edifices.
My sitting-room is an old wainscoted chamber, with small panels,
and set off with a miscellaneous array of furniture. I have a
particular respect for three or four high-backed claw-footed chairs,
covered with tarnished brocade, which bear the marks of having
seen better days, and have doubtless figured in some of the old
palaces of Little Britain. They seem to me to keep together, and
to look down with sovereign contempt upon their leathern-bottomed
neighbors; as I have seen decayed gentry carry a high head among
the plebeian society with which they were reduced to associate.
The whole front of my sitting-room is taken up with a bow window;
on the panes of which are recorded the names of previous occupants
for many generations, mingled with scraps of very indifferent
gentleman-like poetry, written in characters which I can scarcely
decipher, and which extol the charms of many a beauty of Little
Britain, who has long, long since bloomed, faded, and passed away.
As I am an idle personage, with no apparent occupation, and pay
my bill regularly every week, I am looked upon as the only independent
gentleman of the neighborhood; and, being curious to learn the
internal state of a community so apparently shut up within itself,
I have managed to work my way into all the concerns and secrets
of the place.
Little Britain may truly be called the hearts
core of the city; the stronghold of true John Bullism. It is a
fragment of London as it was in its better days, with its antiquated
folks and fashions. Here flourish in great preservation many of
the holiday games and customs of yore. The inhabitants most religiously
eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, hot-cross-buns on Good Friday,
and roast goose at Michaelmas; they send love-letters on Valentines
Day, burn the pope on the fifth of November, and kiss all the
girls under the mistletoe at Christmas. Roast beef and plum-pudding
are also held in superstitious veneration, and port and sherry
maintain their grounds as the only true English wines; all others
being considered vile outlandish beverages.
Little Britain has its long catalogue of city
wonders, which its inhabitants consider the wonders of the world;
such as the great bell of St. Pauls, which sours all the
beer when it tolls; the figures that strike the hours at St. Dunstans
clock; the Monument; the lions in the Tower: and the wooden giants
in Guildhall. They still believe in dreams and fortune-telling,
and an old woman that lives in Bull-and-Mouth Street makes a tolerable
subsistence by detecting stolen goods, and promising the girls
good husbands. They are apt to be rendered uncomfortable by comets
and eclipses; and if a dog howls dolefully at night, it is looked
upon as a sure sign of a death in the place. There are even many
ghost stories current, particularly concerning the old mansion-houses;
in several of which it is said strange sights are sometimes seen.
Lords and ladies, the former in full-bottomed wigs, hanging sleeves,
and swords, the latter in lappets, stays, hoops, and brocade,
have been seen walking up and down the great waste chambers, on
moonlight nights; and are supposed to be the shades of the ancient
proprietors in their court-dresses.
Little Britain has likewise its sages and great
men. One of the most important of the former is a tall, dry old
gentleman, of the name of Skryme, who keeps a small apothecarys
shop. He has a cadaverous countenance, full of cavities and projections;
with a brown circle round each eye, like a pair of horn spectacles.
He is much thought of by the old women, who consider him as a
kind of conjurer, because he has two or three stuffed alligators
hanging up in his shop, and several snakes in bottles. He is a
great reader of almanacs and newspapers, and is much given to
pore over alarming accounts of plots, conspiracies, fires, earthquakes,
and volcanic eruptions; which last phenomena he considers as signs
of the times. He has always some dismal tale of the kind to deal
out to his customers, with their doses; and thus at the same time
puts both soul and body into an uproar. He is a great believer
in omens and predictions; and has the prophecies of Robert Nixon
and Mother Shipton by heart. No man can make so much out of an
eclipse, or even an unusually dark day; and he shook the tail
of the last comet over the heads of his customers and disciples
until they were nearly frightened out of their wits. He has lately
got hold of a popular legend or prophecy, on which he has been
unusually eloquent. There has been a saying current among the
ancient sibyls, who treasure up these things, that when the grasshopper
on the top of the Exchange shook hands with the dragon on the
top of Bow Church steeple, fearful events would take place. This
strange conjunction, it seems, has as strangely come to pass.
The same architect has been engaged lately on the repairs of the
cupola of the Exchange, and the steeple of Bow Church; and, fearful
to relate, the dragon and the grasshopper actually lie, cheek
by jole, in the yard of his workshop.
Others, as Mr. Skryme is accustomed
to say, may go star-gazing, and look for conjunctions in
the heavens, but here is a conjunction on the earth, near at home,
and under our own eyes, which surpasses all the signs and calculations
of astrologers. Since these portentous weather-cocks have
thus laid their heads together, wonderful events had already occurred.
The good old king, notwithstanding that he had lived eighty-two
years, had all at once given up the ghost; another king had mounted
the throne; a royal duke had died suddenlyanother, in France,
had been murdered; there had been radical meetings in all parts
of the kingdom; the bloody scenes at Manchester; the great plot
in Cato Street;and, above all, the queen had returned to
England! All these sinister events are recounted by Mr. Skryme,
with a mysterious look, and a dismal shake of the head; and being
taken with his drugs, and associated in the minds of his auditors
with stuffed sea-monsters, bottled serpents, and his own visage,
which is a title-page of tribulation, they have spread great gloom
through the minds of the people of Little Britain. They shake
their heads whenever they go by Bow Church, and observe, that
they never expected any good to come of taking down that steeple,
which in old times told nothing but glad tidings, as the history
of Whittington and his Cat bears witness.
The rival oracle of Little Britain is a substantial
cheesemonger, who lives in a fragment of one of the old family
mansions, and is as magnificently lodged as a round-bellied mite
in the midst of one of his own Cheshires. Indeed he is a man of
no little standing and importance; and his renown extends through
Huggin Lane, and Lad Lane, and even unto Aldermanbury. His opinion
is very much taken in affairs of state, having read the Sunday
papers for the last half century, together with the Gentlemans
Magazine, Rapins History of England, and the Naval Chronicle.
His head is stored with invaluable maxims which have borne the
test of time and use for centuries. It is his firm opinion that
it is a moral impossible, so long as England is true
to herself, that any thing can shake her: and he has much to say
on the subject of the national debt; which, somehow or other,
he proves to be a great national bulwark and blessing. He passed
the greater part of his life in the purlieus of Little Britain,
until of late years, when, having become rich, and grown into
the dignity of a Sunday cane, he begins to take his pleasure and
see the world. He has therefore made several excursions to Hampstead,
Highgate, and other neighboring towns, where he has passed whole
afternoons in looking back upon the metropolis through a telescope,
and endeavoring to descry the steeple of St. Bartholomews.
Not a stage-coachman of Bull-and-Mouth Street but touches his
hat as he passes; and he is considered quite a patron at the coach-office
of the Goose and Gridiron, St. Pauls Churchyard. His family
have been very urgent for him to make an expedition to Margate,
but he has great doubts of those new gimcracks, the steamboats,
and indeed thinks himself too advanced in life to undertake sea-voyages.
Little Britain has occasionally its factions
and divisions, and party spirit ran very high at one time in consequence
of two rival Burial Societies being set up in the
place. One held its meeting at the Swan and Horse Shoe, and was
patronized by the cheesemonger; the other at the Cock and Crown,
under the auspices of the apothecary: it is needless to say that
the latter was the most flourishing. I have passed an evening
or two at each, and have acquired much valuable information, as
to the best mode of being buried, the comparative merits of church-yards,
together with divers hints on the subject of patent-iron coffins.
I have heard the question discussed in all its bearings as to
the legality of prohibiting the latter on account of their durability.
The feuds occasioned by these societies have happily died of late;
but they were for a long time prevailing themes of controversy,
the people of Little Britain being extremely solicitous of funereal
honors and of lying comfortably in their graves.
Besides these two funeral societies there is
a third of quite a different cast, which tends to throw the sunshine
of good-humor over the whole neighborhood. It meets once a week
at a little old-fashioned house, kept by a jolly publican of the
name of Wagstaff, and bearing for insignia a resplendent half-moon,
with a most seductive bunch of grapes. The old edifice is covered
with inscriptions to catch the eye of the thirsty wayfarer; such
as Truman, Hanbury, and Co.s Entire, Wine,
Rum, and Brandy Vaults, Old Tom, Rum and Compounds,
etc. This indeed has been a temple of Bacchus and Momus
from time immemorial. It has always been in the family of the
Wagstaffs, so that its history is tolerably preserved by the present
landlord. It was much frequented by the gallants and cavalieros
of the reign of Elizabeth, and was looked into now and then by
the wits of Charles the Seconds day. But what Wagstaff principally
prides himself upon is, that Henry the Eighth, in one of his nocturnal
rambles, broke the head of one of his ancestors with his famous
walking-staff. This however is considered as rather a dubious
and vainglorious boast of the landlord.
The club which now holds its weekly sessions
here goes by the name of The Roaring Lads of Little Britain.
They abound in old catches, glees, and choice stories, that are
traditional in the place, and not to be met with in any other
part of the metropolis. There is a mad-cap undertaker who is inimitable
at a merry song; but the life of the club, and indeed the prime
wit of Little Britain, is bully Wagstaff himself. His ancestors
were all wags before him, and he has inherited with the inn a
large stock of songs and jokes, which go with it from generation
to generation as heirlooms. He is a dapper little fellow, with
bandy legs and pot belly, a red face, with a moist merry eye,
and a little shock of gray hair behind. At the opening of every
club night he is called in to sing his Confession of Faith,
which is the famous old drinking trowl from Gammer Gurtons
Needle. He sings it, to be sure, with many variations, as he received
it from his fathers lips; for it has been a standing favorite
at the Half-Moon
and Bunch of Grapes ever since it was written: nay, he affirms
that his predecessors have often had the honor of singing it before
the nobility and gentry at Christmas mummeries, when Little Britain
was in all its glory.
It would do ones heart good to hear, on
a club night, the shouts of merriment, the snatches of song, and
now and then the choral bursts of half a dozen discordant voices,
which issue from this jovial mansion. At such times the street
is lined with listeners, who enjoy a delight equal to that of
gazing into a confectioners window, or snuffing up the steams
of a cook-shop.
There are two annual events which produce great
stir and sensation in Little Britain; these are St. Bartholomews
fair, and the Lord Mayors day. During the time of the fair,
which is held in the adjoining regions of Smithfield, there is
nothing going on but gossiping and gadding about. The late quiet
streets of Little Britain are overrun with an irruption of strange
figures and faces; every tavern is a scene of rout and revel.
The fiddle and the song are heard from the tap-room, morning,
noon, and night; and at each window may be seen some group of
boon companions, with half-shut eyes, hats on one side, pipe in
mouth, and tankard in hand, fondling, and prosing, and singing
maudlin songs over their liquor. Even the sober decorum of private
families, which I must say is rigidly kept up at other times among
my neighbors, is no proof against this Saturnalia. There is no
such thing as keeping maid-servants within doors. Their brains
are absolutely set madding with Punch and the Puppet Show; the
Flying Horses; Signior Polito; the Fire-Eater; the celebrated
Mr. Paap; and the Irish Giant. The children too lavish all their
holiday money in toys and gilt gingerbread, and fill the house
with the Lilliputian din of drums, trumpets, and penny whistles.
But the Lord Mayors day is the great anniversary.
The Lord Mayor is looked up to by the inhabitants of Little Britain
as the greatest potentate upon earth; his gilt coach with six
horses as the summit of human splendor; and his procession, with
all the Sheriffs and Aldermen in his train, as the grandest of
earthly pageants. How they exult in the idea, that the King himself
dare not enter the city, without first knocking at the gate of
Temple Bar, and asking permission of the Lord Mayor: for if he
did, heaven and earth! there is no knowing what might be the consequence.
The man in armor who rides before the Lord Mayor, and is the city
champion, has orders to cut down everybody that offends against
the dignity of the city; and then there is the little man with
a velvet porringer on his head, who sits at the window of the
state coach, and holds the city sword, as long as a pike-staffOdds
blood! If he once draws that sword, Majesty itself is not safe!
Under the protection of this mighty potentate,
therefore, the good people of Little Britain sleep in peace. Temple
Bar is an effectual barrier against all interior foes; and as
to foreign invasion, the Lord Mayor has but to throw himself into
the Tower, call in the train bands, and put the standing army
of Beef-eaters under arms, and he may bid defiance to the world!
Thus wrapped up in its own concerns, its own
habits, and its own opinions, Little Britain has long flourished
as a sound heart to this great fungus metropolis. I have pleased
myself with considering it as a chosen spot, where the principles
of sturdy John Bullism were garnered up, like seed corn, to renew
the national character, when it had run to waste and degeneracy.
I have rejoiced also in the general spirit of harmony that prevailed
throughout it; for though there might now and then be a few clashes
of opinion between the adherents of the cheesemonger and the apothecary,
and an occasional feud between the burial societies, yet these
were but transient clouds, and soon passed away. The neighbors
met with good-will, parted with a shake of the hand, and never
abused each other except behind their backs.
I could give rare descriptions of snug junketing
parties at which I have been present; where we played at All-Fours,
Pope-Joan, Tom-come-tickle-me, and other choice old games; and
where we sometimes had a good old English country dance to the
tune of Sir Roger de Coverley. Once a year also the neighbors
would gather together, and go on a gipsy party to Epping Forest.
It would have done any mans heart good to see the merriment
that took place here as we banqueted on the grass under the trees.
How we made the woods ring with bursts of laughter at the songs
of little Wagstaff and the merry undertaker! After dinner, too,
the young folks would play at blind-mans-buff and hide-and-seek;
and it was amusing to see them tangled among the briers, and to
hear a fine romping girl now and then squeak from among the bushes.
The elder folks would gather round the cheesemonger and the apothecary,
to hear them talk politics; for they generally brought out a newspaper
in their pockets, to pass away time in the country. They would
now and then, to be sure, get a little warm in argument; but their
disputes were always adjusted by reference to a worthy old umbrella
maker in a double chin, who, never exactly comprehending the subject,
managed somehow or other to decide in favor of both parties.
All empires, however, says some philosopher or
historian, are doomed to changes and revolutions. Luxury and innovation
creep in; factions arise; and families now and then spring up,
whose ambition and intrigues throw the whole system into confusion.
Thus in latter days has the tranquillity of Little Britain been
grievously disturbed, and its golden simplicity of manners threatened
with total subversion, by the aspiring family of a retired butcher.
The family of the Lambs had long been among the
most thriving and popular in the neighborhood: the Miss Lambs
were the belles of Little Britain, and everybody was pleased when
Old Lamb had made money enough to shut up shop, and put his name
on a brass plate on his door. In an evil hour, however, one of
the Miss Lambs had the honor of being a lady in attendance on
the Lady Mayoress, at her grand annual ball, on which occasion
she wore three towering ostrich feathers on her head. The family
never got over it; they were immediately smitten with a passion
for high life; set up a one-horse carriage, put a bit of gold
lace round the errand boys hat, and have been the talk and
detestation of the whole neighborhood ever since. They could no
longer be induced to play at Pope-Joan or blind-mans-buff;
they could endure no dances but quadrilles, which nobody had ever
heard of in Little Britain; and they took to reading novels, talking
bad French, and playing upon the piano. Their brother, too, who
had been articled to an attorney, set up for a dandy and a critic,
characters hitherto unknown in these parts; and he confounded
the worthy folks exceedingly by talking about Kean, the opera,
and the Edinburgh Review.
What was still worse, the Lambs gave a grand
ball, to which they neglected to invite any of their old neighbors;
but they had a great deal of genteel company from Theobalds
Road, Red-Lion Square, and other parts towards the west. There
were several beaux of their brothers acquaintance from Grays
Inn Lane and Hatton Garden; and not less than three Aldermens
ladies with their daughters. This was not to be forgotten or forgiven.
All Little Britain was in an uproar with the smacking of whips,
the lashing of miserable horses, and the rattling and the jingling
of hackney coaches. The gossips of the neighborhood might be seen
popping their night-caps out at every window, watching the crazy
vehicles rumble by; and there was a knot of virulent old cronies,
that kept a look-out from a house just opposite the retired butchers,
and scanned and criticised every one that knocked at the door.
This dance was a cause of almost open war, and
the whole neighborhood declared they would have nothing more to
say to the Lambs. It is true that Mrs. Lamb, when she had no engagements
with her quality acquaintance, would give little humdrum tea junketings
to some of her old cronies, quite, as she would say,
in a friendly way; and it is equally true that her
invitations were always accepted, in spite of all previous vows
to the contrary. Nay, the good ladies would sit and be delighted
with the music of the Miss Lambs, who would condescend to strum
an Irish melody for them on the piano; and they would listen with
wonderful interest to Mrs. Lambs anecdotes of Alderman Plunkets
family, of Portsokenward, and the Miss Timberlakes, the rich heiresses
of Crutched-Friars; but then they relieved their consciences,
and averted the reproaches of their confederates, by canvassing
at the next gossiping convocation every thing that had passed,
and pulling the Lambs and their rout all to pieces.
The only one of the family that could not be
made fashionable was the retired butcher himself. Honest Lamb,
in spite of the meekness of his name, was a rough, hearty old
fellow, with the voice of a lion, a head of black hair like a
shoe brush, and a broad face mottled like his own beef. It was
in vain that the daughters always spoke of him as the old
gentleman, addressed him as papa, in tones of
infinite softness, and endeavored to coax him into a dressing-gown
and slippers, and other gentlemanly habits. Do what they might,
there was no keeping down the butcher. His sturdy nature would
break through all their glozings. He had a hearty vulgar good-humor
that was irrepressible. His very jokes made his sensitive daughters
shudder; and he persisted in wearing his blue cotton coat of a
morning, dining at two oclock, and having a bit of
sausage with his tea.
He was doomed, however, to share the unpopularity
of his family. He found his old comrades gradually growing cold
and civil to him; no longer laughing at his jokes; and now and
then throwing out a fling at some people, and a hint
about quality binding. This both nettled and perplexed
the honest butcher; and his wife and daughters, with the consummate
policy of the shrewder sex, taking advantage of the circumstance,
at length prevailed upon him to give up his afternoon pipe and
tankard at Wagstaffs; to sit after dinner by himself, and
take his pint of porta liquor he detestedand to nod
in his chair in solitary and dismal gentility.
The Miss Lambs might now be seen flaunting along
the streets in French bonnets, with unknown beaux; and talking
and laughing so loud that it distressed the nerves of every good
lady within hearing. They even went so far as to attempt patronage,
and actually induced a French dancing-master to set up in the
neighborhood; but the worthy folks of Little Britain took fire
at it, and did so persecute the poor Gaul, that he was fain to
pack up fiddle and dancing-pumps, and decamp with such precipitation,
that he absolutely forgot to pay for his lodgings.
I had flattered myself, at first, with the idea
that all this fiery indignation on the part of the community was
merely the overflowing of their zeal for good old English manners,
and their horror of innovation; and I applauded the silent contempt
they were so vociferous in expressing, for upstart pride, French
fashions, and the Miss Lambs. But I grieve to say that I soon
perceived the infection had taken hold; and that my neighbors,
after condemning, were beginning to follow their example. I overheard
my landlady importuning her husband to let their daughters have
one quarter at French and music, and that they might take a few
lessons in quadrille. I even saw, in the course of a few Sundays,
no less than five French bonnets, precisely like those of the
Miss Lambs, parading about Little Britain.
I still had my hopes that all this folly would
gradually die away; that the Lambs might move out of the neighborhood;
might die, or might run away with attorneys apprentices;
and that quiet and simplicity might be again restored to the community.
But unluckily a rival power arose. An opulent oilman died, and
left a widow with a large jointure and a family of buxom daughters.
The young ladies had long been repining in secret at the parsimony
of a prudent father, which kept down all their elegant aspirings.
Their ambition, being now no longer restrained, broke out into
a blaze, and they openly took the field against the family of
the butcher. It is true that the Lambs, having had the first start,
had naturally an advantage of them in the fashionable career.
They could speak a little bad French, play the piano, dance quadrilles,
and had formed high acquaintances; but the Trotters were not to
be distanced. When the Lambs appeared with two feathers in their
hats, the Miss Trotters mounted four, and of twice as fine colors.
If the Lambs gave a dance, the Trotters were sure not to be behindhand:
and though they might not boast of as good company, yet they had
double the number, and were twice as merry.
The whole community has at length divided itself
into fashionable factions, under the banners of these two families.
The old games of Pope-Joan and Tom-come-tickle-me are entirely
discarded; there is no such thing as getting up an honest country
dance; and on my attempting to kiss a young lady under the mistletoe
last Christmas, I was indignantly repulsed; the Miss Lambs having
pronounced it shocking vulgar. Bitter rivalry has
also broken out as to the most fashionable part of Little Britain;
the Lambs standing up for the dignity of Cross-Keys Square, and
the Trotters for the vicinity of St. Bartholomews.
Thus is this little territory torn by factions
and internal dissensions, like the great empire whose name it
bears; and what will be the result would puzzle the apothecary
himself, with all his talent at prognostics, to determine; though
I apprehend that it will terminate in the total downfall of genuine
The immediate effects are extremely unpleasant
to me. Being a single man, and, as I observed before, rather an
idle good-for-nothing personage, I have been considered the only
gentleman by profession in the place. I stand therefore in high
favor with both parties, and have to hear all their cabinet councils
and mutual backbitings. As I am too civil not to agree with the
ladies on all occasions, I have committed myself most horribly
with both parties, by abusing their opponents. I might manage
to reconcile this to my conscience, which is a truly accommodating
one, but I cannot to my apprehensionif the Lambs and Trotters
ever come to a reconciliation, and compare notes, I am ruined!
I have determined, therefore, to beat a retreat
in time, and am actually looking out for some other nest in this
great city, where old English manners are still kept up; where
French is neither eaten, drunk, danced, nor spoken; and where
there are no fashionable families of retired tradesmen. This
found, I will, like a veteran rat, hasten away before I have an
old house about my ears; bid a long, though a sorrowful adieu
to my present abode, and leave the rival factions of the Lambs
and the Trotters to divide the distracted empire of LITTLE
and courts: It is evident that the author of this
interesting communication has included, in his general
title of Little Britain, many of those little lanes and
courts that belong immediately to Cloth Fair.
As mine host of the Half-Moons Confession of Faith
may not be familiar to the majority of readers, and as
it is a specimen of the current songs of Little Britain,
I subjoin it in its original orthography. I would observe,
that the whole club always join in the chorus with a fearful
thumping on the table and clattering of pewter pots.
I cannot eate but
My stomacke is not good,
But sure I thinke that I can drinke
With him that weares a hood.
Though I go bare, take ye no care,
I nothing am a colde,
I stuff my skyn so full within,
Of joly good ale and olde.
Chorus. Backe and
syde go bare, go bare,
Booth foote and hand go colde,
But belly, God send thee good ale ynoughe
Whether it be new or olde.
I have no rost, but
a nut brawne toste,
And a crab laid in the fyre;
A little breade shall do me steade,
Much breade I not desyre.
No frost nor snow, nor winde, I trowe,
Can hurte mee, if I wolde,
I am so wrapt and throwly lapt
Of joly good ale and olde.
Chorus. Backe and
syde go bare, go bare, etc.
And Tyb my wife,
that, as her lyfe,
Loveth well good ale to seeke,
Full oft drynkes shee, tyll ye may see,
The teares run downe her cheeke.
Then doth she trowle to me the bowle,
Even as a mault-worme sholde,
And sayth, sweete harte, I took my parte
Of this joly good ale and olde.
Chorus. Backe and
syde go bare, go bare, etc.
Now let them drynke,
tyll they nod and winke,
Even as goode fellowes sholde doe,
They shall not mysse to have the blisse,
Good ale doth bring men to;
And all poore soules that have scowred bowles,
Or have them lustily trolde,
God save the lyves of them and their wives,
Whether they be yonge or olde.
Chorus. Backe and
syde go bare, go bare, etc.