Leveller Tract No. 7: Nick Froth the Tapster (May 1641)
Anon., The Lamentable Complaints of Nick Froth the Tapster (May 1641).
[Date added: Jan. 7, 2016]
This pamphlet will appear in the expanded second edition of the 7 volume collection of Leveller Tracts, 1638-1660. See the Combined Table of Contents of the collection to see what it will eventually contain.
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During the period of conflict between Parliament and the Crown in England during the 1640s the political authorities began to lose control of the system of censorship which had kept criticism of the regime to a minimum or even completely absent. Many people inside and outside of Parliament began to question the power of the government, including ordinary people whose opinions had never been consulted before. What is interesting is how many of these pamphlets dealt with liberty broadly understood, not just with religious liberty and relations between Parliament and the King, such as high taxes, economic regulation, monopoly privileges, and the economic impact of war and revolution.
Here we have an example of small pub and restaurant owners who object to the new Puritan laws which banned economic activity on Sundays. "Nick Froth" who ran the bar and "Rulerost" who roasted the meat to serve with lunch objected to the new laws which restricted or banned the selling of food and drink on Sundays. A crude woodcut illustrates this cheaply produced pamphlet which features a conversation between the two about the law's impact on their trade. They point out that most of the week's profits come from the busy trade on Sunday, especially during the hours of the church service when many people vote with their feet and seek a pint of beer and a roast joint rather than listen to the minister. Closing down their business will have a flow on effect to other people who supply them with food, such as the butcher. They wonder how they will be able to pay off their debts if they cannot work a full week. They also point out that they provide a much needed service to their customers and there is an amusing line or two about the considerable virtues of drinking. A final point they make is that they have always had to pay bribes to the government officials ("Apparitors") who regulate their business and the religious fanatics who are imposing the new rules are going to upset them as well as their Sunday bribe-taking begins to dry up.
T.7 [1641.05] (8.3) Anon., The Lamentable Complaints of Nick Froth the Tapster (May 1641).
Anon., The Lamentable Complaints of Nick Froth the Tapster, and Rulerost the Cooke. Concerning the restraint lately set forth against drinking, potting and piping on the Sabbath Day, and against selling meate.
Printed in the yeare, 1641.
Estimated date of publication
Thomason Tracts Catalog information
TT1, p. 14; Thomason E. 156. (4.)
Text of Pamphlet
Concerning the restraint lately set forth, against drinking, potting, and piping on the Sabbath-day, and against selling meate.
MY honest friend Cooke Ruffin well met, I pray thee what good newes is stirring.
Good news (said you?) I, where is’t? there is such newes in the world, will anger thee to heare of, it is as bad, as bad may be.
Is there so? I pray thee what is it, tell me whatsoever it be.
Have you not heard of the restraint lately come out against us, from the higher Powers; whereby we are commanded not to sell meat nor draw drink upon Sundays, as we wil answer the contrary at our perils.
I have heard that some such thing was intended to be done, but never before now, that it was under black and white: I hope there is no such matter: Art thou sure this thy news is true?
Am I sure, I ever roasted a fat Pig on a Sunday untill the eyes dropt out, thinke you. S’foot, shall I not credit my owne eyes.
I would thine had dropt out too, before ever thou hadst seen this, and if this be your news, you might have kept it, with a pox to you.
Nay, why so chollerick my friend, you told me you would heare me with patience, whatsoever it were.
I cry thee heartily mercy, honest Rulerost, I am sorry for what I said, it was my passion made me forget my self so much: but I hope this command as you speake, will not continue long, will it thinke you Master Cooke?
Too long to our greife I feare, the Church-Wardens, Side-men, and Constables, will so look to our red Lattices, that we shall not dare to put our heads out of doors on a Sunday hereafter. What think you neighbour, is it not like to prove so?
Truely it is much to be feared; but what do you think will become of us then, if these times hold?
Faith, Master Froth, we must shut up our doors and hang padlocks on them, and never so much as take leave of our Land-lords.
Master Rulerost, I jumpe with you in opinion for if I tarry in my house till quarter-day, my Land-lord, I feare, will provide me a house gratis. I am very unwilling to trust him, he was alwayes wonderfull kind, and ready to help any of his debtors to such a curtisie; to be plaine with you, I know not in which of the Compters I shall keep my Christmas, if I doe not wisely by running away prevent him.
Thou hast spoke my owne thoughts, but I stand not so much in danger of my griping Land-lord, as I doe of Master Kill-calfe my Butcher, I am run into almost halfe a yeares arrerages with him; I do owe him neare ninety pounds for meat, which I have had of him at divers and sundry times, as by his Tally, may more at large appeare.
I my selfe am almost as farre in debt to my Brewer, as you are to your Butcher; I had almost forgotten that, I see I am no man of this World; if I tarry in England: He hath often threatned to make dice of my bones already, but ile prevent him; ile shew him the bagg, I warrant him.
He had rather you would shew him the money and keep the bagge to your selfe.
I much wonder, Master Rulerost why my trade should be put downe, it being so necessary in a Common-wealth: why, the noble art of drinking, it is the soule of all good fellowship, the marrow of a Poets Minervs, it makes a man as valiant as Hercules, though he were as cowardly as a French man; besides, I could prove it necessary for any man sometimes to be drunk, for suppose you should kill a man when you are drunk, you shall never be hanged for it untill you are sober; therefore I thinke it good for a man to be alwayes drunk: and besides it is the kindest companion, and friendliest sin of all the seven; for most sins leave a man by some accident or other, before his death. But this will never forsake him till the breath be out of his body: and lastly, a full bowle of strong beere will drowne all sorrowes.
Master Nick, you are mistaken, your trade is not put downe as you seeme to say; what is done, is done to a good intent; to the end that poore men that worke hard all the weeke for a little money, should not spend it all on the Sunday while they should be at some Church, and so consequently there will not be so many Beggers.
Alack you know all my profit doth arise onely upon Sundays, let them but allow me that priviledge, and abridge me all the weeke besides: S’foot, I could have so scowred my young sparks up for a peny a demy Can, or a halfe pint, heapt with froth. I got more by uttering halfe a Barrell in time of Divine service, then I could by a whole Barrell at any other time, for my customers were glad to take any thing for money, and thinke themselves much ingaged to me; but now the case is altered.
Truely Master Froth, you are a man of a light constitution, and not so much to be blamed as I that am more solid: O what will become of me! I now thinke of the lusty Surloines of roast Beefe which I with much policy divided into an innumerable company of semy slices, by which, with my provident wife, I used to make eighteene pence of that which cost me but a groat (provided that I sold it in service time,) I could tell you too, how I used my halfe Cans and my Bloomesbury Pots, when occasion served; and my Smoak which I sold dearer then any Apothecary doth his Physick: but those happy dayes are now past, and therefore no more of that.
Well, I am rid of one charge which did continually vex me by this meanes.
I pry thee what was that?
Why Master Rulerost, I was wont to be in fee with the Apparitors, because they should not bring me into the Bawdy Court for selling drinke on Sundayes. Ile assure you they used to have a Noble a quarter of me, but now they shall excuse me, they are like to have no more quartridge of me, and indeed the truth is, their trade begins to be out of request as well as ours.
I, trust me neighbour, I pity them; I was as much troubled with those kind of Rascals as your self, onely I confesse I paid them no quartridge, but they tickled my beefe, a stone of beef was no more in one of their bellies, then a man in Pauls; but now I must take occasion to ease my self of that charge; and with confidence I will now bid them, Walke knave, walke.
Truely Master Rulerost, it doth something ease my mind when I thinke that we have companions in misery. Authority I perceive is quick sighted, it can quickly espie a hole in a knaves coate. But Master Cooke we forget our selves, it groweth neare supper time, and we must part, I would tell you what I intend to doe, but time prevents me, therefore ile refer it untill the next time we meet; And so farewell.
Leveller Tracts and Pamphlets
- An Anthology of Leveller Tracts: Agreements of the People, Petitions, Remonstrances, and Declarations (1646-1659)
- Conference Readings: The Levellers and the Origins of Anglo-American Constitutionalism
- Leveller Tract No. 104: John Lilburne, Jonahs Cry out of the Whales belly (26 July, 1647)
- Leveller Tract No. 282: Henry Parker, The Case of Shipmoney (Nov. 1640)
- Leveller Tract No. 78: Richard Overton, An Arrow against all Tyrants and Tyranny (12 October 1646)
- Leveller Tract No. 7: Nick Froth the Tapster (May 1641)