Whore New Vamped, The
Privy Council Register
An order registered 29 September, 1639 reads:
Whereas complaint was this day made to his Matie. sitting in Councell, that the Stage Players at the Red Bull haue lately for many days together acted a scandalous and Libellous play wherein they have audaciously reproached, and in a Libellous manner traduced and personated some persons of quality and scandalized, and defamed the whole profession of Proctors belonging to the Courte of Ciuill Lawe, and reflected vpon the present Governmt. It was Ordered that, Mr. Atturny Generall should bee hereby prayed, and required forthwt. to call before him not onely the Poet that made the said Play, and the Actors that played the same, but also the person who licensed it, and haueing diligently examined the trueth of the said complaint to proceed roundly against such of them as he shall find to haue bin faulty, and to vse such effectual expedi[ci]on to bring them to Sentence, as that their exemplary punishment. may preuent such insolences betimes. /
(MSC 1.4-5: 394-395)
Calendar of State Papers
29 September, 1639:
Exceptions taken to the play above referred to. In the play called “The Whore New Vamped,” where there was mention of the new duty on wines, one personating a justice of the peace says to Cain, “Sirrah, I’ll have you before the alderman;” whereto Cain replies, “The alderman, the alderman is a base, drunken, sottish knave, I care not for the alderman, I say the alderman is a base, drunken, sottish, knave.” Another says, “How now Sirrah, what alderman do you speak of?” Then Cain says, “I mean alderman [William Abell], the blacksmith in Holborn;” says the other, “Was he not a Vintner?” Cain answers, “I know no other.” In another part of the play, one speaking of projects and patents that he had got, mentions among others “a patent for 12d a piece upon every proctor and proctor’s man who was not a knave.” Said another, “Was there ever known any proctor but he was an arrant knave?”
(CSPD: Charles I, 1639 529-530)
The reference above to “Cain," that is, Andrew Cane, principal comedian of Prince Charles’s Men, indicates the play was acted by his company at the Red Bull.
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
Among those targeted in the local satire of “The Whore New Vamped” were William Abell (c.1584-1655), master of the Vintners’ company and an alderman of London, and Richard Kilvert, a liveryman and lawyer, who together caused a furor in 1639 when they obligated vintners to pay the crown a duty of 40s on every tun of wine retailed in the city. The imposition, instigated by Charles I and the Marquis of Hamilton, caused considerable damage to Abell’s reputation and he and Kilvert were widely condemned as projectors. The scheme was subsequently deemed illegal and the Long Parliament, seeking to make an example of court-backed monopolists, arrested and fined both men, compelling Abell to resign his office.
References to the Play
Puns on Abell’s name and the son of Adam were commonplace in pamphlets published in 1640 and 1641 condemning the wine duty. A notable example is Thomas Heywood’s Reader, Here You’l Plainly See Iudgment Perverted (1641) which, given Heywood's familiarity with the stage, might allude cryptically to Andrew Cane’s evasion of exemplary punishment for his part in “The Whore New Vamped”:
- Abel and Cain were shepheards (the Text saies)
- But which is strange, turnd Vintners in these days.
- The wicked Caine his brother Abel slew:
- Which in these brother Vintners proves not true.
- For unto this day, Caine keepes up his signe,
- But Abel lyes drownd in his Medium wine.
- Projecting Kilvert (some say) was the cause,
- Who making new Lords, had devisd new lawes.
- But those that would the ancient custome vary,
- Shall now (‘tis thought) be made exemplary. (6)
Fleay asserts that the phrase "new vampt" in the title refers to the revival of an earlier play, "The Whore in Grain," licensed for Palsgrave's Men on 26 January, 1624. (Chronicle History 358). Bentley considers this determination ill founded. (JCS 5: 1442)
For What It's Worth
There are intriguing connections between the professional theatre and the wine industry before 1642. Its topical value notwithstanding, the Abell-Kilvert controversy may have interested the players because taverns were sometimes physically joined to playhouses and therefore a dimension of the theatre business. In 1639 for instance, the year that issuance of tavern licenses came under Abell’s authority, Elizabeth Beeston, a manager of the Cockpit playhouse in Drury Lane, oversaw renovations which opened up a wall between her playhouse and an adjoining wine tavern. She therefore likely dealt directly with Abell or his representatives, authorities who stood to profit from her business.
Also intriguing is the fact that after Kilvert’s arrest for his part in the scandal, Sir Lewis Kirke was named among those entitled to post his bail. (JHC 1640-43 2:279) Kirke was himself a wine trader as well as a ship money captain, adventurer to Canada, and later a Royalist general. He was a personal friend of the Beeston family in the 1630s and, sometime before 1643, he married the widowed Elizabeth Beeston.
Site created and maintained by Christopher Matusiak, Ithaca College; updated 17 August 2011.