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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

XII. English Prose in the Fifteenth Century, I

§ 12. William Gregory’s Note-book

A specimen of something very different from these stilted pamphlets survives in the note-book of William Gregory, a skinner of London, who became mayor in 1461. In it he entered ballads and rules of medicine, notes on the chase, the weather, etc., besides a city chronicle. There are several of these, of which Fabyan’s is the best;all are extremely meagre, but Gregory’s account of his own days reflects the cheerfulness of a man who has weathered hard times successfully, and it has the freedom of a private diary. Not only are there hints of a humane pity, then rare, for the misfortunes of “meek innocents” or of a brave old soldier, but touches of humour quite as unusual. Though a fifteenth century writer, he jokes: the description of Cade’s “sympylle and rude mayny” is really comical, weening they had wit and wisdom to guide all England just because they had gotten London by “a mysse happe of cuttynge of ii sory cordys that nowe be alteryde.” They entrenched, like soldiers, but they kept not discipline, “for als goode was Jacke obyn as John at the Noke, for all were as hyghe as pyggsfete.” He may tag the proper moral over “thys wrecchyde and fals trobely worlde”; but hed tells how the earl of Wiltshire, held the handsomest knight in England, set the king’s banner against a house end and fought manly with the heels, for he was afeared of losing of beauty; how a preacher at Paul’s Cross once preached the truth before the king, but all the great reward he had was riding of eight-score mile in and out, and all his friends full sorry for him;how Sir Andrew Trollope cut a joke;how the mayor strove to collect supplies for queen margaret, but the mob, learning its destination, pillaged the convoy;it was Sir John Wenlock’s cook who attacked the victuals, “but as for the mony I wot not howe hit was departyd, I trowe the pursse stale the mony.” If he makes but the briefest mention of the famous tournament of lord Scales, he does “aftyr heryng”—“ax of em that felde the strokys, they can tell you best.”