previous next


THERE is no common-wealth at this daie in Europe, wherin there is not great store of poore people, and those necessarilie to be relieued by the welthier sort, which otherwise would starue and come to vtter confusion. With vs the poore is commonlie diuided into
Three sorts ot poore. thrée sorts, so that some are poore by impotencie, as the fatherlesse child, the aged, blind and lame, and the diseased person that is iudged to be incurable: the second are poore by casuáltie, as the wounded souldier, the decaied householder, and the sicke person visited with grieuous and painefull diseases: the third csnsisteth of thriftlesse poore, as the riotour that hath consumed all, the vagabund that will abide no where, but runneth vp and downe from place to place (as it were seeking worke and finding none) and finallie the roge and strumpet which are not possible to be diuided in sunder, but runne too and fro ouer all the realme, chéefelie kéeping the champaine soiles in summer to auoid the scorching heat, and the woodland grounds in winter to eschew the blustering winds.

For the first two sorts, that is to sale, the poore by impotencie, and the poore by casualtie, which are the true poore in ded, and for whome the word dooth bind vs to make some dailie prouision: there is order taken through out euerie parish in the realme, that weekelie collection shall be made for their helpe and sustentation, to the end they shouId not scatter abroad, and by begging here and there annoie both towne and countrie. Authoritie also is giuen vnto the iustices in euerie countie, and great penalties appointed for such as make default, to sée that the intent of the statute in this behalfe be trulie executed, according to the purpose and meaning of the same, so that these two sorts are sufficientlie prouided for: and such as can liue within the limits of their allowance (as each one will doo that is godlie and well disposed) may well forbeare to rome and range about. But if they refuse to be supported by this benefit of the law, and will rather indeuour by going to and fro to mainteine their idle trades, then are they adiudged to be parcell of the third sort, and so in stéed of courteous refreshing at home, are often corrected with sharpe execution, and whip of iustice abroad. Manie there are, which notwithstanding the rigor of the lawes prouided in that behalfe, yéeld rather with this libertie (as they call it) to be dailie vnder the feare and terrour of the whip, than by abiding where they were borne or bred, to be prouided for by the deuotion of the parishes. I found not long since a note of these latter sort, the effect A thing ofte scene. whereof insueth. Idle beggers are such either through other mens occasion, or through their owne default. By other mens occasion (as one waie for example) when some couetous man, such I meane as haue the cast or right veine, dailie to make beggers inough wherby to pester the land, espieng a further commoditie in their commons, holds, and tenures, dooth find such meanes as thereby to wipe manie out of their occupiengs, and turne the samie vnto his At whose hands shall the bloud of these men be required? priuate gaines. Herevpon it followeth, that although the wise and better minded, doo either forsake the realme for altogether, and seeke to liue in other countries, as France, Germanie, Barbaric, India, Moscouia, and verie Calecute, complaining of no roome to be left for them at home, doo so behaue themselues that they are worthilie to be accompted among the second sort: yet the greater part commonlie hauing nothing to staie vpon are wilfull, and therevpon doo either prooue idle beggers, or else continue starke théeues till the gallowes doo eat them vp, which is a lamentable case. Certes in some mans iudgements these things are but trifles, and not worthie the regarding. Some also doo grudge at the great increase of people in these daies, thinking a necessarie brood of cattell farre better than a superfluous augmentation of mankind. But I can liken such men best of all vnto the pope and the diuell, who practise the hinderance of the furniture of the number of the elect to their vttermost, to the end the authoritie of the one vpon earth, the deferring of the locking vp of the other in euerlasting chaines, and the great gaines of the first may continue and indure the longer. But if it should come to passe that any forren inuasion should be made, which the Lord God forbid for his mercies sake! then should these men find that a wall of men is farre better than stackes of corne and bags of monie, and complaine of the want when it is too lats to séeke remedie. The like occasion, caused the Ronans to deuise their law Agraria: but the rich not liking of it, and the couetous vtterlie condermning it as rigorous and vnprofitable, neuer ceased to practise disturbance till it was quite abol shed. But to proceed with my purpose.

Such as are idle beggers throupah their owne default are of two sorts, and contince their estates either by casuall or meere voluntarie meanes: those that are such by casuall means, are in the beginning iu tlie to be referred either to the first or second sort of poore afore mentioned: but degenerating into the thriftlesse sort, they doo what they can to continue their miserie, and with such impediments as they haue to straie and wander about, as creatures abhorring all labour and eueie honest exercise. Certes I call these casuall meanes, nor in respect of the originall of ther pouertie, but of the continuance of the same, from whence they wilI not be deliuered, such is their owne vngratious lewdnesse, and troward disposition. The voluntarie meanes proceed from outward causes, as by making of corosiues, and applieng the same to the more fleshie parts of their bodies: and also laieng of ratsbane, sperewort, crowfoot, and such like vnto their whcle members, thereby to raise pitifull and odious sores, and mooue the harts of the goers by. such places where they lie, to yerne at their miserie, and therevpon bestow large almesse vpon them. How arrificiallie they beg, what forcible spéech, and how they select and choose out words of vehemende, wvhereby they doo in maner coniure or adiure the goer by to pitie their cases, I passe ouer to reemeber, as iudging the name of God and Christ to be more conuersant in the mouths of none: and yet the presence of the heuenlie maiestie further off from no men than from this vngrntious companie. Which maketh me to thinke that punishment is farre meetre for them than liberalitie or almesse, and sith Christ willeth vs cheeflie to haue a regard to himselfe and his poore members.

Vnto this nest is another sort to be referred, more sturdie than the rest, which hauing sound and perfect lims, doo yet notwithstanding sometime counterfeit the possession of all sorts of diseases. Diuerse times in their apparell also they will be like seruing men or laborers: oftentimees they can plaie the mariners, and séeke for ships which they neuer lost. But in fine, they are ail théeues and caterpillers in the common-wealth, and by the word of God not permitted to eat, sith they doo but licke the sweat from the true labourers browes, & beercue the godlie poore of that which is due vnto them, to mainteine their excesse, consuming the charitie of well disposed people bestowed vpon them, after a most wicked & detestable maner.

It is not yet full thréescore yeares since this trade began: but how it hath prospered since that time, it is easie to iudge, for they are now supposed of one sex and another, to amount vnto aboue 10000 persons; as I haue heard reported. Moreouer, in counterfeiting the Egyptian roges, they haue deuised a language among themselues, which they name Canting, but other pedliers French, a speach compact thirtie yeares since of English, and a great number of od words of their owne deuising, without all order or reason: and yet such is it as none but themselues are able to vnderstand. The first deuiser thereof was hanged by the necke, a iust reward no doubt for his deserts, and a common end to all of that profession. A gentleman also of late hath taken great paines to search out the secret practises of this vngratious Thomas Harman. gratious rable. And among other things he setteth downe and describeth thrée & twentie sorts of them, whose names it shall not be amisse to remember, wherby ech one may take occasion to read and know as also by his industrie what wicked people they are, aid what villanie remaineth in them.

The seuerall disorders and degrees amongst our idle vagabonds.
3Hookers or Anglers.10Freshwater mariners, or whipiacks.
5Wild roges.12Drunken tinkers.
6Priggers or pransers.13Swadders or pedlers.
7Palliards.14Iarkemen or patricoes.
Of women kińd
1Demanders for glimmar or fire.6Doxes.
2Baudie baskets.7Delles.
3Mortes.8Kinching mortes.
4Autem mortes.9Kinching cooes.
5Walking mortes. 

The punishment that is ordeined for this kind of people is verie sharpe, and yet it can nor restreine them from their gadding: wherefore the end must néeds be martiall law, to be exercised vpon them, as vpon théeues, robbers, despisers of all lawes, and enimies to the common-wealth & welfare of the land. What notable roberies, pilferies, murders, rapes, and stealings of yoong children, burning, breaking and disfiguring their lims to make them pitifull in the sight of the people, I need not to rehearse: but tor their idle roging about the countrie, the law ordeineth this maner of correction. The roge being apprehended, committed to prison, and tried in the next assises (whether they be of gaole deliuerie or sessions of the peace) if he happen to be conuicted for a vagabond either by inquest of office, or the testimonie of two honest and credible witnesses vpon their oths, he is then immediatlie adiudged to be gréeuouslie whipped and burned through the gristle of the right eare, with an hot iron of the compasse of an inch about, as a manifestation of his wicked life, and due punishment receiued for the same. And this iudgement is to be executed vpon him, except some honest person woorth flue pounds in the quéenes books in goods, or twentie shillings in lands, or some rich housholder to be allowed by the iustices, will be bound in recognisance to reteine him in his seruice for one whole yeare. If he be taken the second time, and proued to haue forsaken his said seruice, he shall then be whipped againe, bored likewise through the other eare and set to seruice: from whence if he depart before a yeare be expired, and happen afterward to be attached againe, he is condemned to suffer paines of death as a fellon (except before excepted) without benefit of clergie or sanctuarie, as by the statute dooth appeare. Among roges and idle persons finallie, we find to be comprised all proctors that go vp and downe with counterfeit licences, coosiners, and such as gad about the countrie, vsing vnlawfull games, practisers of physiognomie and palmestrie, tellers of fortunes, fensers, plaiers, minstrels, iugglers, pedlers, tinkers, pretensed schollers, shipmen, prisoners gathering for fees, and others so oft as they be taken without sufficient licence. From among which companie our bearewards are not excepted, and iust cause: for I haue read that they haue either voluntarilie, or for want of power to master their sauage beasts, béene occasion of the death and deuoration of manie children in sundrie countries by which they haue passed, whose parents neuer knew what was become of them. And for that cause there is & haue béene manie sharpe lawes made for bearwards in Germanie, wherof you may read in other. But to our roges. Each one also that harboreth or aideth them with meat or monie, is taxed and compelled to fine with the quéenes maiestie for euerie time that he dooth so succour them, as it shall please the iustices of peace to assigne, so that the taxation excéed not twentie shillings, as I haue béene informed. And thus much of the poore, & such prouision as is appointed for them within the realme of England.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: