Cotgrave's excerpts


John Cotgrave's The English Treasury of Wit and Language (London, 1655) contains a number of dramatic excerpts that remain unidentified. Martin Wiggins (266-70) lists the 18 excerpts below as presently untraceable. He explains the significance of the collection as follows:

These passages all appear in John Cotgrave’s 1655 miscellany, The English Treasury of Wit and Language, a 311-page compilation of themed quotations published by Humphrey Moseley and drawn entirely, as the title page avers, ‘out of the most and best of our English dramatic poems’. ... Among the plays which furnished Cotgrave with his material were Thomas Middleton’s The Mayor of Queenborough (from which he drew twelve extracts) and Thomas May’s The Old Couple (which supplied one). This is significant because the plays were unpublished at the time Cotgrave was compiling the collection; but The Mayor of Queenborough at least had been in Humphrey Moseley’s possession since 1646, when he entered it in the Stationers’ Register. Had the plays not eventually been printed, The Old Couple in 1658 and The Mayor in 1661, there would be another thirteen unidentifiable passages in The English Treasury. So evidently Cotgrave worked using not only printed copies but also unpublished manuscript plays, at least some of which were available in his stationer’s shop. In short, those eighteen extracts may well be all we have left of the 47 lost plays which Moseley entered in 1646, 1653, and 1654, but did not proceed to publish. (270)

NB. Joshua McEvilla comments on the fragments in Cotgrave, some of which are mentioned by Wiggins, and interested readers should consult his An Online Reader of John Cotgrave's The English Treasury of Wit and Language for the most recent information.

Unidentified dramatic excerpts

Thou art a singing, railing, scoffing rogue,
One that ne’er knew any religion so far as
To read of it; one that will speak ill of any man
Behind his back, and forswear it to his face,
Where thou dost make thy praise the greater calumny.
Thou wilt abuse thy father, though he were one
Of the States, but lest thou shouldst be so unnatural,
Fate provided him a broom-man, and made
Thy patrimony an old pair of shoes.
Thou art a small vessel full of villainy, pure
And strong, and laid up for the Devil’s own drinking.
Thy end will be blaspheming, a tapster thy
Executioner, and a double jug thy instrument. (sigs. C1v-C2r)

Thou art the heart of every deadly sin,
There’s no adulterer but is covetous
Of other men’s wives, and he puts them to use;
No drunkard but is covetous of wine,
And covetous men are drunk adulterers,
They still commit idolatry to their chests. (sig. C2r)

To say
A waiting-woman is handsome, and yet chaste,
Is to affirm all pages gelt, or that
The knight keeps to his lady in the high bed
And never truckles. (sig. D5r)

She was a chambermaid, and they by their place
Scarce come clear off from service; such creatures
Wait on the lady, but belong to the lord. (sig. D5r)

[Recently identified by Joshua McEvilla as originating in Jasper Mayne, The Citye Match (London, 1639), Q2r]

‘City’ was in our primitive language craft,
And that implies it is a net to catch
The simple clown: he was born to be cozened,
And when you do want such, for exercise,
You may cheat one another. (sig. D8v)

What pleasure, joy, and infinite contentment
Rises each morning with these blessed people,
And shuts their eyes at night with peace again?
They know no pinching grief, nor weariness,
But of their travail, all their thoughts are free
And harmless as their state is. Love to them
Is open-eyed and innocent as truth.
They fear not nor they wish not one day sooner
The fruits of love because their faiths are certain,
And stranger ’tis among these honest people
To find a false friend than a murderer. (sig. E4v)

Many of these smooth-faced lives
Are led in policy, only to cloak
Some one sound villainy, growing seven years since,
And perhaps ripened now. (sig. G1v)

That slender vice
Reputed but good fellowship, drink, in us
I always have avoided since I knew
It took us from ourselves and made us do
Things that were its, not ours. (sigs. G2v-G3r)

He is wise enough
To keep his state, and give me such an ass.
Let others purchase wisdom by expense,
And prate and do brave things; a single saving
Will outreach all that they shall reach unto. (sig. I1v)

[Note: in the Northwestern University Deering Library Copy (808.8 C843) of Cotgrave's English Treasury, an unknown annotator has attributed the above extract to "Beaumont + Fletcher's Honest Man's Fortune." This extract, however, does not appear to be from that play.]

Great men, you know
Must be importuned to do any good,
For they have other business. (sig. I3v)

Kings should look upward still
And from those powers they know not, choose a will. (sig. L5v)

[Recently identified by Joshua McEvilla as originating in Fulke Greville, Mustapha in Certaine learned and elegant workes (London, 1633), 229]

Blame me not
To shake: this murderous work has weight in it,
Whole nature groans at it, a man must die,
The great creator’s image, from whose loins
Yet might come fifteen children, and all those
Praisers of heaven, some fruitful commonwealth’s men,
Some divine soul-savers, and from their seed
Ten times as many more. Shall we do’t yet? (sig. O4r)

The boldest villain yet that ever lived
Durst not commit his bloody deeds by day
To see what he did do he ever stayed
Till night, whose face (kin to his conscience)
Would hide it best for their alliance’ sake. (sig. O6r)

1: He looks on her picture and says she is fair;
She must needs be fair there, for I am sure
She is abominably painted.
2: She may be more herself. I have seen a lady
And her picture set together,
And (by this hand) you could not distinguish them.
1: He was an admirable workman that painted so like her.
2: Or she was a rare work-woman, that painted herself so like it. (sig. P1v)

Those men that have desires above their state
Are never honest, seldom fortunate. (sig. Q5v)

Let fools murmur,
The much they suffer in some doleful song,
While like a wise man I revenge my wrong. (sig. R6r)

Where the faults of wretched folks
Are catalogued as causes of their sufferings
The pity of the pious is denied,
The holy sighs of the religious beadsman that invokes
The angry power for the distressed wights
Are turned to rough disdains and hard contempts,
Th’unusual effects of his soft life and practice;
But where, for some concealed purpose to heaven,
The innocent and good one is oppressed
With all the violence of need and wrong,
There every holy tear will wash the filth
By the polluter that is thrown on us.
And whilst our virtue and our honour stand
Unblotted with the dash of destiny,
The ruins that can happen else are mean
And fate must leave its triumph unto us
That have, in spite of injury, been just. (sig. R6v)

She is as modest
As one can be, that left to blush at twelve,
Felt motions at eleven, hath been hardened
Before three congregations, and done penance. (sig. V2r)

Works Cited

Cotgrave, John. The English Treasury of Wit and Language. London, 1655.
Wiggins, Martin. "Where to Find Lost Plays." Lost Plays in Shakespeare's England. ed. David McInnis and Matthew Steggle. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 255-78.

Site created by David McInnis; updated by Laura Estill 28 July 2015; updated by David McInnis, 08 Sept 2015.