Lot 232
£ 10,000 - 15,000
US$ 13,000 - 20,000

Lot Details
Evidences book containing early seventeenth century transcripts of 181 numbered deeds and similar records for property belonging to the Whitmore family, largely in Shropshire, including purchases from Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote Park, comprising evidences concerning the manor and rectory of Ludstone, the manor of Claverley, the manor of Stockton, and the Free Chapel of St Mary Magdalene in Bridgnorth; with transcripts of further deeds relating to Somerset and five to Gloucestershire; prefaced by "A table of all the evidences in this booke" and an index nominorum headed "An Alphabeticall Table to finde out in what Lease every particular writing is entered"; loosely inserted are an original will on a slip of vellum of Richard Underhill of Bridgnorth ("Ricardus Underhull de Bruggenorth") dated June 1456, another version of the index in a contemporary hand (written on two foul-paper style bifolia) and a larger folio bifolium of notes in a more cursive Secretary hand; the flyleaf inscribed by Thomas Devey [of Bridgnorth]: "This book is supposed to have been arranged by Sir William Whitmore Knight eldest Son of William Whitmore Esq who purchased the Apley Possessions from Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecot Co. Warwick Knight & his Son. He was the father of Sir Thomas Whitmore the first Bart./ Thos. Devey/ 1st Mar: 1815", upwards of 420 pages, a few outer leaves touched by damp, although barely affecting the text, but overall in sound and attractive condition, contemporary reversed calf stamped at centre with the letter 'W', upper cover also inscribed in ink "W", panelled spine, original leather-hinged brass clasps, beginning to split at hinges, folio (c.385 x 260 mm.), [compiled c.1617 or 1618]


  • "THOMAS LUCIE OF HYNEHAM IN THE COUNTY OF GLOUCESTER ESQUIER": THE DEMESNSES OF JUSTICE SHALLOW, AND THE BEN JONSON FOLIO – this is a particularly handsome Jacobean book of evidences recording the holdings of Sir William Whitmore and his family, principally in the County of Shropshire, some purchased from "Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlcott in the County of Warwick knight"; as well as lands in Gloucestershire. Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote is of course the local Warwickshire landowner who legend has it prosecuted the young Shakespeare for poaching and whom the poet is said to have pilloried, by way of revenge, in the person of Justice Shallow encountered by Falstaff on his way through Gloucestershire in Henry IV Part 2, with a reprise in The Merry Wives of Windsor, when Shallow comes from Gloucestershire to Windsor to lodge his complaint about poaching. With the present volume we are presented with a pertinent link between the Lucy family and Justice Shallow's stamping ground of Gloucestershire.

    The original blank ledger was almost certainly purchased from a London stationer and would have been far from cheap: the preparation of its contents has been meticulous both in regard to the neatness with which it has been kept, as well as the inclusion of a detailed contents list with an additional index to enable cross-reference; as one would expect of a successful and well-run legal practice. On close inspection it appears as if several legal clerks have been employed in preparing the volume, nevertheless the style of writing remains consistent throughout and makes a pleasing calligraphic whole. The script employed is a clear Secretary hand embellished with flourished initials, with the headings and italicised phrases written in a Roman hand; the latter employing slightly swelling right-curved ascenders typical of the period of around 1610-1630. The borders are ruled in red throughout.

    The stationer responsible for supplying the original ledger has used two sheets of printer's waste in the binding. On the inside of the upper cover he has used by way of endpaper an uncut folio leaf from the Bible (Maccabees XV and XVI), printed in two double columns and designed to be folded in half to make a quarto, although this particular sheet remains unfolded and thus was never bound up to make a book. On the inside lower cover the stationer has used a leaf from the 1616 Folio edition of the Workes of Beniamin Jonson (p.171, leaf P2, the end of Act V Scene viii and opening of Scene ix). Bibliographically speaking, the leaf is remarkable for being untrimmed; measuring some 380mm high by about 230mm, as far as can be discerned without disturbing the binding. Jonson's Folio – a work generally regarded as a milestone both in the history of printing and the acceptance of English drama as a serious art form – was published by the leading London stationer and bookseller William Stansby between 6 and 25 November 1616, with Every Man Out of his Humour being the first play to be set in type (M. Bland, 'William Stansby and the production of the Workes of Beniamin Jonson, 1615–16', The Library, 20, 1998, 10). (Coincidentally, Every Man Out of his Humour also contains a reference to Shallow's fellow Gloucestershire Justice, Silence, in Act V, ii 20-2).

    It seems reasonable to assume that our ledger was bound up and put on sale at roughly the same time as the printing of the Jonson Folio, when printer's waste from it would have been to hand. As regards the evidences entered into the ledger, the last transcript is also the most recent in date, being for the transfer of "divers and sondrie messuages mills lands" etc. in "Keinsham and Brisleton" (Keynsham and Brislington) on 16 July 1617. So it seems not improbable that the ledger was purchased by or for Sir William Whitmore at some time around 1616 or 1617, and put to use soon after; and quite possible that it was supplied by William Stansby himself.

    Sir William Whitmore (1572-1648) was a successful lawyer and member of both the Haberdashers' Company and of the Merchant Adventurers, sitting as MP for Bridgnorth in 1621, 1624, and 1625. His father, also called William (d.1593), was a London merchant, and his younger brother, Sir George (c.1572-1654), a merchant and local politician. Their sister, Elizabeth, was married to Sir William Craven, Lord Mayor of London in 1610 and 1618, and at the time of her death in 1624 was said to be the richest woman in England: for details of the family, see the notice of Sir George by Daniel Webster Hollis, III, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote (c.1532-1600) had inherited much of his Shropshire estates from his ancestor Thomas Lucy (d.1415), who had been married to the heiress Alice Hugford, with further estates coming to him from his own marriage to Joyce Acton. It was Sir Thomas who rebuilt the famous house at Charlecote and expanded the family's Warwickshire estates, while selling off more distant lands in Shropshire and Bedfordshire.

    It was thus in the course of consolidating his holdings that Sir Thomas and his son sold the Manor of Stockton in Shropshire to Whitmore. The deed of sale describes itself with a vivid sense of locale as drawn up on 26 April 1586 "at the now dwelling house of Thomas Holloway Sadler at the signe of the Eagle and Childe in Fleet streete in the parish of St Dunstons in the West in the suburbs of London". It states that the principal parties to the transaction are "Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlcott in the County of Warwick knight and Dame Joyce his Wife and Thomas Lucie of Hyneham in the County of Gloucester Esquier sonne and heire apparent of the said Sir Thomas on thone partie And William Whitmore Citizen and Haberdasher of London and Anne his Wife on thother partie" (f.83). The son and heir described in this deed ("Thomas Lucie of Hyneham in the County of Gloucester Esquier") was born in 1551 and died in 1605, being knighted in 1593. According to the family's most recent biographer, "His first wife, whom he married on 27 January 1574, was Dorothea, only daughter of Roland Arnold of Highnam in Gloucestershire. She died in 1580, a month after giving birth to a son who did not survive her long. His second wife was Constance, daughter of Sir Richard Kingsmill of Highclere in Hampshire; they had fourteen children" (Robert Bearman, ODNB). It now appears, from the evidence of our ledger, that the younger Lucy not only lived at his wife's Gloucestershire manor, but remained there at least half a dozen years after her death; a manor that was not just somewhere-or-other in the county, but two miles from Gloucester itself. According to the Victoria County History, he was to retain his position as Lord of the Manor; although he does not appear on Burghley's 1595 list of justices for the county illustrated on the British Library's online gallery. His son and heir, also named Thomas and also knighted, was to be a close friend of the polymath – and amateur playwright – Lord Herbert of Cherbury.

    In both of the plays in which Justice Shallow puts in an appearance, much is made of the fact that he comes from Gloucestershire; but it is only in the Merry Wives of Windsor that there is anything specific to link Shallow with the Lucy family. Here Shallow is the first person to appear on stage, and in the second speech of the play his kinsman Slender describes him as being an esquire "In the county of Gloucester, Justice of the Peace and Coram". Almost immediately after this Gloucester-centric reference, the punning about his coat-of-arms begins, the "dozen white luces" (the pike carried by the Lucy family in their arms) and the "dozen white louses". So what might be argued from the evidence of our volume is not that Shallow is a 'portrait' of Lucy, or anybody else for that matter, or that Shakespeare was spinning any sort of allegory, but rather that the reference to Gloucester – itself wholly explicable within the context of the play – coupled with that of Shallow's pretensions triggered off the Luce/ Louse and Lucy/ Lousy jokes; that it sparked off an associative process along the lines explored by Caroline Spurgeon in her Shakespeare's Imagery (1935) and by Edward E. Armstrong in his Shakespeare's Imagination: A Study of the Psychology of Association and Inspiration (1946); a reaction that was spontaneous rather than calculated.

    The tradition that Shakespeare and Sir Thomas Lucy had some sort of falling out over the youthful Shakespeare's poaching exploits can be traced back to four independent sources with their origins in the late seventeenth century. As no less an authority than E.K. Chambers puts it: "It has been held that the whole story is nothing but a myth which has grown up about the passage in the Merry Wives of Windsor itself. But I do not think that, so far as the essential feature is concerned, we are called upon to reject it. Deer-steeling was a common practice enough, and was regarded as a venial frolic, even for young men of higher standing than Shakespeare's. Details are another matter...Some hit at Sir Thomas is probably involved in the Merry Wives of Windsor passage. But it would not be a justifiable inference that the presentment of Justice Sallow as a whole, especially in Henry IV, is in any way meant to be a 'portrait' of the worthy justice. Such portraiture seems, to me at least, quite alien from the method of Shakespeare's art" (William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems, 1930, i. pp.18-21).

    One could of course speculate on Shakespeare's relations with the younger Thomas Lucy, who was just a dozen years his senior. Could it have been he who caught the boy Shakespeare poaching and dragged him before his father, the beak? Or might it have been that, by the later 1590s, the younger Lucy was travelling up from Gloucester to Stratford to look after the affairs of his now ageing father, and might have resented his younger neighbour's pretentions to gentility and his ambitions to buy New Place, the second largest house in the town; perhaps, more to the point, that he may have objected to the upstart Shakespeare's securing a grant of arms for his father? This last guess at least has the merit of fitting in with what is known of the chronology. For Shakespeare was granted his arms on 20 October 1596 while the Merry Wives of Windsor is widely thought to have been written for the Garter Feast held at Whitehall on St George's Day, 23 April, 1597; so the younger Lucy has time to have his grumble, and Shakespeare to get his own back. But, whatever the ins-and-outs of the spat, our ledger suggests that there is a real possibility that the mention of a self-important justice from Gloucestershire triggered in Shakespeare's mind an association that prompted him to crack a joke at the expense of the Lucy family arms; while the evidence for a grudge underlying the joke is supplied by a persistent tradition that cannot easily be dismissed out of hand.

    Quite apart from any relevance that it might, or might not, have for Shakespeare studies, the volume is a valuable resource both for local history and for the study of how the so-called 'new aristocracy' of the Tudor era consolidated their holdings and mercantile interests in the years prior to the revolutions of the seventeenth century and what might be described as the shaping of modern Britain. Nor does this volume by any means deal exclusively with lands bought from the Lucy family. There is for example the section detailing transactions around the Free Chapel of Bridgnorth, in Sir William's constituency, beginning with its sale by the courtier Sir Christopher Hatton to the City magnate Sir Rowland Hayward MP and his fellow Clothworker John Lacye in 1579. Or there are the series of deeds by which Sir William purchased from his brother, Sir George, the Manor of Winchelcombe (present day Winchcombe) in Gloucestershire.
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