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Sir Walter Scott notices the neck verse as a cant term formerly used by the marauders on the Border :
“Letter nor line know I never a one,
Lay of the Last Minstrel, c. i. 24.
A note says: "Hairibee, the place of executing the Border marauders at Carlisle. The neck verse is the beginning of the fifty-first Psalm, ‘Miserere mei,' &c., anciently read by criminals claiming the benefit of clergy."
BISHOP IN THE PAN.
In Tusser's Five Hundred Points of Husbandry, under the month of April, are the following lines :
“Blesse Cisley (good mistress), that bushop doth ban,
For burning the milke of hir cheese to the pan.” On which is the following note in Tusser Redivivus, 1744, p. 53 : “ When the bishop passed by (in former times) every one ran out to partake of his blessing, which he plentifully bestowed as he went along; and those who left their milk upon the fire might find it burnt to the pan when they came back, and perhaps ban or curse the bishop as the occasion of it, as much or more than he had blessed them; hence it is likely it grew into custom to curse the bishop when any such disaster happened, for which our author would have the mistress bless, Anglicè correct, her servant, both for her negligence and unmannerliness."
To an inquiry in the British Apollo, vol. i. fol. Lond. 1708, No. 1, Supernumerary for the month of April, “Why, when anything is burnt to, it is said the bishop's foot has been in it?" it is answered: “We presume'tis a proverb that took its original from those unhappy times when every thing that went wrong was thought to have been spoiled by the bishops."
Grose, in his Provincial Glossary, in verbo, says: - The bishop has set his foot in it, a saying in the North used for
milk that is burnt to in boiling. Formerly, in days of superstition, whenever a bishop passed through a town or village, all the inhabitants ran out in order to receive his blessing; this frequently caused the milk on the fire to be left till burnt to the vessel, and gave origin to the above allusion.”
It has been suggested, with greater propriety, to the editor, that “bishops were in Tusser's time much in the habit of burning heretics. The allusion is to the episcopal disposition to burn." This is corroborated by a singular passage in Tyndale’s Obedyence of a Chrysten Man, 4to., printed at Malborowe, in the lande of Hesse, by Hans Luft, 1528. In fol. 109, the author says: “When a thynge speadeth not well we borrow speach and saye the byshope hath blessed it, because that nothyng speadeth well that they medyll wythall. If the podech be burned to, or the meate ouer rosted, we saye the byshope hath put his fote in the potte, or the byshope hath playd the coke, because the bishopes burn who they lust, and whosoever displeaseth them.” This quotation, which has been frequently printed, was first given by Jamieson.
DINING WITH DUKE HUMPHREY.
The meaning of the common expression “to dine with Duke Humphrey," applied to persons who, being unable either to procure a dinner by their own money or from the favour of their friends, walk about and loiter during dinner time, has, after many unsuccessful attempts, been at last satisfactorily explained. It appears that in the ancient church of St. Paul, in London, to which, in the earlier part of the day, many persons used to resort for exercise, to hear news, &c., one of the aisles was called Duke Humphrey's Walk ; not that there ever was in reality a cenotaph there to the duke's memory, who, every one knows, was buried at St. Albans, in Hertfordshire, but because, says Stow, ignorant people mistook the fair monument of Sir John Beauchampe, son to Guy, and brother to Thomas, Earl of Warwick, who died in 1358, and wbich was in the south side of the body of St. Paul's church, for that of
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.' Abundance of passages in the works of our old writers tend to confirm this explanation.
Gayton, in his Art of Longevity, 4to. Lond. 1659, p. 1, says:
“Wherefore we do amand Duke Humphrey's guest,
For their provision truly is o'th' least :
Speaking of the monument in St. Paul's of Owen, the epigrammatist, he says:
“ He was set up with such a peaking face
Thus, in Dekker's Gul's Hornbooke, 1609, in the chapter “How a gallant should behave himself in Powles Walkes, we read : “ By this I imagine you have walkd your belly ful, and therefore being weary or (which is rather, I believe) being most gentlemanlike hungry, it is fit that as I brought you unto the duke, so (because he follows the fashion of great men in keeping no house, and that therefore
go dinner) suffer me to take you by the hand and leade you unto an ordinary.” Thus we find in Harvey's Letters and Sonnets, 1592 : “To seeke his dinner in Poules with Duke Humphrey, to licke dishes, to be a beggar.” Thus, too, in Nash's Return of the Knight of the Post, 1606, “In the end comming into
! So Sandford, Genealog. Hist. p. 317. On this mistake the following dialogue in Elyot's Fruits of the French, part ii. p. 165, and which seems to throw some light on the disputed origin of the saying in the title, was fonnded :
" What ancient monument is this?
It is, as some say, of Duke Humphrie of Gloucester,
Poules to behold the old duke and his guests." Thus, too,
'Tis Ruffio; trow'st thou were he din'd to-day ?
An open house, haunted with great resort,” &c.
In another of Dekker's Tracts, in small quarto, entitled the Dead Tearme, or Westminster's Speech to London, 1607, St. Paul's steeple is introduced as describing the company walking in the body of the church, and, among other things, says: “What layinge of heads is there together and sifting of the brains, still and anon, as it growes towardes eleven of the clocke (even amongst those that wear guilt rapiers by their sides), where for that noone they may shift from Duke Humfrey, and bee furnished with a dinner at some meaner man's table!" And afterwards observes : “ What byting of the thumbs to beget quarrels !” adding that, “at one time, in one and the same ranke, yea, foote by foote, and elbow by elbow, shall you see walking the knight, the gull, the gallant, the upstart, the gentleman, the clowne, the captaine, the appel-squire, the lawyer, the usurer, the citizen, the bankerout, the scholler, the beggar, the doctor, the ideot, the ruffian, the cheater, the puritan, the cut-throat, the hye men, the low men, the true man, and the thiefe ; of all trades and professions some, of all countryes some. Thus whilest Devotion kneeles at her prayers, doth Profanation walke under her nose in contempt of religion.”
In Vox Graculi, 1623, p. 54, is the following passage under the month of February : “To the ninth of this month, it will be as good dining well in a matted chamber, as dialoguing with Duke Humphrey in Paule's."
In the Burnynge of Paule's Church in London, 1561, 8vo. 1563, the then well-known profanations of St. Paul's church
1 [“ Now let me tell you, it's better dining with a farmer upon such like cheer, than it is to dine with Duke Humphrey.”—Poor Robin 1746.”]
are thus enumerated : “ The south alley for usury and poperye, the north for simony, and the horse faire in the middest for all kind of bargains, metinges, brawlinges, murthers, conspiracies, and the font for ordinary paimentes of money, are so well knowen to all menne as the beggar knowes his dishe.”
In the very curious Roman Catholic book, entitled the Life of the Reverend Father Bennet, of Canfilde, 8vo. 1623, p. 11, is the following passage: "Theyre (the Protestants') Sundayes and feastes, how are they neglected, when on these dayes there are more idle persons walking up and downe the streetes and in St. Paule's church (which is made a walking and talking place) then there is on others !”
In the old play styled the Vow-breaker, or the Fayre Maid of Clifton, by William Sampson, 1636, Miles, a miller, is introduced, saying: “Fellow Bateman, farwell, commend me to
old windmill at Rudington. Oh the mooter dish, the miller's thumbe, and the maide behinde the hopper!" In Chaucer, the miller is thus described :
“Well couth he steale corne and told it thrise,
A white coate and a blew hode weared he."-&c. Tyrwhitt observes on this passage :“ If the allusion be, as is most probable, to the old proverb, 'Every honest miller has a thumb of gold,' this passage may mean, that our miller, notwithanding his thefts, was an honest miller, i. e. as honest as his brethren." Among Ray's Proverbial Phrases relating to several Trades, occurs the following:“It is good to be sure. Toll it again, quoth the miller.” Edit. 8vo. 1768, p 71. Ibid. p. 136, “ An honest miller hath a golden thumb.” 167, "Put a miller, a weaver, and a tailor in a bag, and shake them, the first that comes out will be a thief.”
I suspect " the miller's thumb” to have been the name of the strickle used in measuring corn, the instrument with which corn is made level and struck off in measuring; in Latin called “radius," which Ainsworth renders “a stricklace or