Mark Twain — 1601

[Date, 1601.]

CONVERSATION, AS IT WAS BY THE SOCIAL FIRESIDE, IN THE TIME OF THE
TUDORS.

[Mem.--The following is supposed to be an extract from the diary of the
Pepys of that day, the same being Queen Elizabeth's cup-bearer.  He is
supposed to be of ancient and noble lineage; that he despises these
literary canaille; that his soul consumes with wrath, to see the queen
stooping to talk with such; and that the old man feels that his nobility
is defiled by contact with Shakespeare, etc., and yet he has got to stay
there till her Majesty chooses to dismiss him.]



YESTERNIGHT
toke her maiste ye queene a fantasie such as she sometimes hath, and had
to her closet certain that doe write playes, bokes, and such like, these
being my lord Bacon, his worship Sir Walter Ralegh, Mr. Ben Jonson, and
ye child Francis Beaumonte, which being but sixteen, hath yet turned his
hand to ye doing of ye Lattin masters into our Englishe tong, with grete
discretion and much applaus.  Also came with these ye famous Shaxpur.  A
righte straunge mixing truly of mighty blode with mean, ye more in
especial since ye queenes grace was present, as likewise these following,
to wit: Ye Duchess of Bilgewater, twenty-two yeres of age; ye Countesse
of Granby, twenty-six; her doter, ye Lady Helen, fifteen; as also these
two maides of honor, to-wit, ye Lady Margery Boothy, sixty-five, and ye
Lady Alice Dilberry, turned seventy, she being two yeres ye queenes
graces elder.

I being her maites cup-bearer, had no choice but to remaine and beholde
rank forgot, and ye high holde converse wh ye low as uppon equal termes,
a grete scandal did ye world heare thereof.

In ye heat of ye talk it befel yt one did breake wind, yielding an
exceding mightie and distresfull stink, whereat all did laugh full sore,
and then--

Ye Queene.--Verily in mine eight and sixty yeres have I not heard the
fellow to this fart.  Meseemeth, by ye grete sound and clamour of it, it
was male; yet ye belly it did lurk behinde shoulde now fall lean and flat
against ye spine of him yt hath bene delivered of so stately and so waste
a bulk, where as ye guts of them yt doe quiff-splitters bear, stand
comely still and rounde.  Prithee let ye author confess ye offspring.
Will my Lady Alice testify?

Lady Alice.--Good your grace, an' I had room for such a thundergust
within mine ancient bowels, 'tis not in reason I coulde discharge ye same
and live to thank God for yt He did choose handmaid so humble whereby to
shew his power.  Nay, 'tis not I yt have broughte forth this rich
o'ermastering fog, this fragrant gloom, so pray you seeke ye further.

Ye Queene.--Mayhap ye Lady Margery hath done ye companie this favor?

Lady Margery.--So please you madam, my limbs are feeble wh ye weighte and
drouth of five and sixty winters, and it behoveth yt I be tender unto
them.  In ye good providence of God, an' I had contained this wonder,
forsoothe wolde I have gi'en 'ye whole evening of my sinking life to ye
dribbling of it forth, with trembling and uneasy soul, not launched it
sudden in its matchless might, taking mine own life with violence,
rending my weak frame like rotten rags.  It was not I, your maisty.

Ye Queene.--O' God's name, who hath favored us?  Hath it come to pass yt
a fart shall fart itself?  Not such a one as this, I trow.  Young Master
Beaumont--but no; 'twould have wafted him to heaven like down of goose's
boddy.  'Twas not ye little Lady Helen--nay, ne'er blush, my child;
thoul't tickle thy tender maidenhedde with many a mousie-squeak before
thou learnest to blow a harricane like this.  Wasn't you, my learned and
ingenious Jonson?

Jonson.--So fell a blast hath ne'er mine ears saluted, nor yet a stench
so all-pervading and immortal.  'Twas not a novice did it, good your
maisty, but one of veteran experience--else hadde he failed of
confidence.  In sooth it was not I.

Ye Queene.--My lord Bacon?

Lord Bacon.-Not from my leane entrailes hath this prodigy burst forth, so
please your grace.  Naught doth so befit ye grete as grete performance;
and haply shall ye finde yt 'tis not from mediocrity this miracle hath
issued.

[Tho' ye subjoct be but a fart, yet will this tedious sink of learning
pondrously phillosophize.  Meantime did the foul and deadly stink pervade
all places to that degree, yt never smelt I ye like, yet dare I not to
leave ye presence, albeit I was like to suffocate.]

Ye Queene.--What saith ye worshipful Master Shaxpur?

Shaxpur.--In the great hand of God I stand and so proclaim mine
innocence.  Though ye sinless hosts of heaven had foretold ye coming of
this most desolating breath, proclaiming it a work of uninspired man, its
quaking thunders, its firmament-clogging rottenness his own achievement
in due course of nature, yet had not I believed it; but had said the pit
itself hath furnished forth the stink, and heaven's artillery hath shook
the globe in admiration of it.

[Then was there a silence, and each did turn him toward the worshipful
Sr Walter Ralegh, that browned, embattled, bloody swashbuckler, who
rising up did smile, and simpering say,]

Sr W.--Most gracious maisty, 'twas I that did it, but indeed it was so
poor and frail a note, compared with such as I am wont to furnish, yt in
sooth I was ashamed to call the weakling mine in so august a presence.
It was nothing--less than nothing, madam--I did it but to clear my nether
throat; but had I come prepared, then had I delivered something worthy.
Bear with me, please your grace, till I can make amends.

[Then delivered he himself of such a godless and rock-shivering blast
that all were fain to stop their ears, and following it did come so dense
and foul a stink that that which went before did seem a poor and trifling
thing beside it.  Then saith he, feigning that he blushed and was
confused, I perceive that I am weak to-day, and cannot justice do unto my
powers; and sat him down as who should say, There, it is not much yet he
that hath an arse to spare, let him fellow that, an' he think he can.  By
God, an' I were ye queene, I would e'en tip this swaggering braggart out
o' the court, and let him air his grandeurs and break his intolerable
wind before ye deaf and such as suffocation pleaseth.]

Then fell they to talk about ye manners and customs of many peoples, and
Master Shaxpur spake of ye boke of ye sieur Michael de Montaine, wherein
was mention of ye custom of widows of Perigord to wear uppon ye
headdress, in sign of widowhood, a jewel in ye similitude of a man's
member wilted and limber, whereat ye queene did laugh and say widows in
England doe wear prickes too, but betwixt the thighs, and not wilted
neither, till coition hath done that office for them.  Master Shaxpur did
likewise observe how yt ye sieur de Montaine hath also spoken of a
certain emperor of such mighty prowess that he did take ten maidenheddes
in ye compass of a single night, ye while his empress did entertain two
and twenty lusty knights between her sheetes, yet was not satisfied;
whereat ye merrie Countess Granby saith a ram is yet ye emperor's
superior, sith he wil tup above a hundred yewes 'twixt sun and sun; and
after, if he can have none more to shag, will masturbate until he hath
enrich'd whole acres with his seed.

Then spake ye damned windmill, Sr Walter, of a people in ye uttermost
parts of America, yt capulate not until they be five and thirty yeres of
age, ye women being eight and twenty, and do it then but once in seven
yeres.

Ye Queene.--How doth that like my little Lady Helen?  Shall we send thee
thither and preserve thy belly?

Lady Helen.--Please your highnesses grace, mine old nurse hath told me
there are more ways of serving God than by locking the thighs together;
yet am I willing to serve him yt way too, sith your highnesses grace hath
set ye ensample.

Ye Queene.--God' wowndes a good answer, childe.

Lady Alice.--Mayhap 'twill weaken when ye hair sprouts below ye navel.

Lady Helen.--Nay, it sprouted two yeres syne; I can scarce more than
cover it with my hand now.

Ye Queene.--Hear Ye that, my little Beaumonte?  Have ye not a little
birde about ye that stirs at hearing tell of so sweete a neste?

Beaumonte.--'Tis not insensible, illustrious madam; but mousing owls and
bats of low degree may not aspire to bliss so whelming and ecstatic as is
found in ye downy nests of birdes of Paradise.

Ye Queene.--By ye gullet of God, 'tis a neat-turned compliment.  With
such a tongue as thine, lad, thou'lt spread the ivory thighs of many a
willing maide in thy good time, an' thy cod-piece be as handy as thy
speeche.

Then spake ye queene of how she met old Rabelais when she was turned of
fifteen, and he did tell her of a man his father knew that had a double
pair of bollocks, whereon a controversy followed as concerning the most
just way to spell the word, ye contention running high betwixt ye learned
Bacon and ye ingenious Jonson, until at last ye old Lady Margery,
wearying of it all, saith, 'Gentles, what mattereth it how ye shall spell
the word?  I warrant Ye when ye use your bollocks ye shall not think of
it; and my Lady Granby, be ye content; let the spelling be, ye shall
enjoy the beating of them on your buttocks just the same, I trow.  Before
I had gained my fourteenth year I had learnt that them that would explore
a cunt stop'd not to consider the spelling o't.'

Sr W.--In sooth, when a shift's turned up, delay is meet for naught but
dalliance.  Boccaccio hath a story of a priest that did beguile a maid
into his cell, then knelt him in a corner to pray for grace to be rightly
thankful for this tender maidenhead ye Lord had sent him; but ye abbot,
spying through ye key-hole, did see a tuft of brownish hair with fair
white flesh about it, wherefore when ye priest's prayer was done, his
chance was gone, forasmuch as ye little maid had but ye one cunt, and
that was already occupied to her content.

Then conversed they of religion, and ye mightie work ye old dead Luther
did doe by ye grace of God.  Then next about poetry, and Master Shaxpur
did rede a part of his King Henry IV., ye which, it seemeth unto me,
is not of ye value of an arsefull of ashes, yet they praised it bravely,
one and all.

Ye same did rede a portion of his "Venus and Adonis," to their prodigious
admiration, whereas I, being sleepy and fatigued withal, did deme it but
paltry stuff, and was the more discomforted in that ye blody bucanier had
got his wind again, and did turn his mind to farting with such villain
zeal that presently I was like to choke once more.  God damn this windy
ruffian and all his breed.  I wolde that hell mighte get him.

They talked about ye wonderful defense which old Sr. Nicholas Throgmorton
did make for himself before ye judges in ye time of Mary; which was
unlucky matter to broach, sith it fetched out ye quene with a 'Pity yt
he, having so much wit, had yet not enough to save his doter's
maidenhedde sound for her marriage-bed.'  And ye quene did give ye damn'd
Sr. Walter a look yt made hym wince--for she hath not forgot he was her
own lover it yt olde day.  There was silent uncomfortableness now; 'twas
not a good turn for talk to take, sith if ye queene must find offense in
a little harmless debauching, when pricks were stiff and cunts not loathe
to take ye stiffness out of them, who of this company was sinless;
behold, was not ye wife of Master Shaxpur four months gone with child
when she stood uppe before ye altar?  Was not her Grace of Bilgewater
roger'd by four lords before she had a husband?  Was not ye little Lady
Helen born on her mother's wedding-day?  And, beholde, were not ye Lady
Alice and ye Lady Margery there, mouthing religion, whores from ye
cradle?

In time came they to discourse of Cervantes, and of the new painter,
Rubens, that is beginning to be heard of.  Fine words and dainty-wrought
phrases from the ladies now, one or two of them being, in other days,
pupils of that poor ass, Lille, himself; and I marked how that Jonson and
Shaxpur did fidget to discharge some venom of sarcasm, yet dared they not
in the presence, the queene's grace being ye very flower of ye Euphuists
herself.  But behold, these be they yt, having a specialty, and admiring
it in themselves, be jealous when a neighbor doth essaye it, nor can
abide it in them long.  Wherefore 'twas observable yt ye quene waxed
uncontent; and in time labor'd grandiose speeche out of ye mouth of Lady
Alice, who manifestly did mightily pride herself thereon, did quite
exhauste ye quene's endurance, who listened till ye gaudy speeche was
done, then lifted up her brows, and with vaste irony, mincing saith 'O
shit!' Whereat they alle did laffe, but not ye Lady Alice, yt olde
foolish bitche.

Now was Sr. Walter minded of a tale he once did hear ye ingenious
Margrette of Navarre relate, about a maid, which being like to suffer
rape by an olde archbishoppe, did smartly contrive a device to save her
maidenhedde, and said to him, First, my lord, I prithee, take out thy
holy tool and piss before me; which doing, lo his member felle, and would
not rise again.

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