To the right honorable and my singular good Lady Elizabeth Countes of Shrewsbury, Thomas Harman wisheth all ioye and perfect felicitie, here and in the world to come.
AS of Auncient and long tyme there •••• and is now at this prefent many good godly profita••••wes and actes, made and set forth in this moste noble and florishing Realme, for the reliefe, succour, com•orte and sustentacion of the pore, nedy, impotent and mi∣serable creatures, beeing and inhabiting in all partes of the same. So is there (right honorable and myne especiall good La∣dy) most holsome estatutes, ordinances and necessery lawes, made, set foorth and published, for the extreme punishment of all vagarants •• sturdy vagabonds as passeth through and by all partes of this fam•••∣yle, most idelly and wickedly: and I (by good experience) w••• standing and considering your most tender, pitifull, gentle and •••• nature, not only hauing a vigilant and mercifull eye to your poore in∣digēt & feeble parishioners: yea not only in the parish wher your ho∣nour most happely doth dwell, but also in others inuironing or nighe adioyning to the same As also aboundantly powring out dayly your ardent and bountifull charitie vppon all such as commeth for reliefe vnto your luckly gates.
I thought it good, necessary, and my bounden dutye to acquayn• your goodnes with the abhominable, wicked and detestable behauior of all these rowsey, ragged rabblement of rakehelles, that vnder the pretence of great misery, diseases and other innumerable calamities, which they fayne through great hipocrisie, doe win and gayne great almes in all places where they wyly wander, to the vtter deludinge of the good geuers: deceyiing and impouerishing of al such poore hous∣holders both sicke and fore, as neyther can or may walke abroade for reliefe and comfort (where in deede most mercy is to be shewed,) And for that, I (most honorable Lady) being placed as a poore gentleman, haue kept a house these twenty yeares, where vnto pouerty dyily hath and doth repayre, not without some reliefe as my poore callinge and habilitie may and doth extende: I haue of late yeares gathered a great suspicion that all should not be well: and as the prouerbe sayeth: Some thing lurcke and laye hyd that dyd not playnely appeare. For I ha∣uing more occasion (through sicknesse) to tary and remayne at home. then I haue bene accustomed, doe by my there abyding, talke and con∣ferre daily with many of these wyly wanderars, of both sortes, as well men and women, as boyes and gyrles: by whom I haue gathered and Page [unnumbered] derstand their depe dissimulation and detestable dealing, being mar∣uelous suttle and crafty in their kinde, for not one amongest twenty will discouer, eyther declare their scelerous secretes: yet with fayr flat∣tering wordes, money, and good chere, I haue attained to the typpe by such as the meanest of thē, hath wādered these xiii. yeres, & most xvi. & som xx. and vpward, and not without fatihful promisse made vnto them, neuer to discouer their names or any thinge they shewed mee: for they would all saye, if the vpright men should vnderstand thereof, they should not bee onely greeuously beaten, but put in daunger of their lyues, by the sayd vpright men. There was a fewe yeares since a small breefe set foorth of some zelous man to his countrey, of whom I knowe not, that made a little shewe of their names and vsage, and gaue a glymsing light not sufficient to perswade of their peuish pel∣ting and pyncking practyses, but well worthy of prayse. But (good ma••me) with no lesse trauell then good will, I haue repayred and rig∣ged the ship of knowledge, and haue hoyssed vp the sayles of good fortune, that shee may safely passe about and through all parts of this noble realme, and there make porte sale of hir wished wares, to the confusion of their drowsey demener, and vnlawfull lāguage, pylfring, pycking, wyly wandering and lyking lechery, of all these rablement of rascales that raunges about all the costes of the same, so that their vndesent dolefull dealing and execrable exercyses may appeare to all as it were in a glasse, that thereby the Iusticers and Shreeues maye in their circuites be more vigilant to punishe these malefactores, and the Constables, Baylifes and housholders, setting asyde all feare, slouth, & pitie, may bee more circumspect in executing the charge gyuen them by the aforesayd Iusticers. Then will no more this rascall rablement raunge about the countrey. Then greater reliefe may be shewed to the pouerty of eche parishe. Then shall wee keepe our horses in our pa∣stures vnstolen. Then our lynnen clothes shall and may lye safely on our hedges vntouched. Then shall wee not haue our clothes and lin∣nen hooked out at our windowes, as well by daye as by night Then shall wee not haue our houses broken vp in the nyght, as of late one of my neyghbours had and twoo great buckes of clothes stolen out, and most of the same fyne linnen. Then shall wee safely keepe our pigges and poultrey from pylfering Then shall wee surely passe by the high wayes leading to markets and faires vnharmed. Then shall our shops and bothes be vnpicked and spoiled. Then shall these vncomely com∣panies bee dispersed and set to labour for their lyuing, or hastely hang for their demerites. Then shall it encourage a great number of gentle¦men Page [unnumbered] and others, seeinge this securitie, to set vp houses and keepe hos∣pitalitie in the countrey, to the comfort of their neighbours, reliefe of the poore, and to the amendement of the common wealth. Then shal not sinne and wyckednes so much abounde among vs. Then will gods wrath be much the more pacified towards vs. Then shall wee not taste of so many and sundry plagues as now daylye raigneth ouer vs. And then shall this famous Empyre be in more welth and better floryshe, to the inestimable ioye and comforte of the Queenes most excellente maiestitie, whom God of his infinite goodnes, to his great glory, long and many yeares make most prosperously to raygne ouer vs, too the great felicitie of all the Peeres and nobles, and to the vnspeakable ioy, reliefe and quietnes of mynde of all hir faythfull commons and sub∣iectes. Now, me thinketh I see how these peuish, peruerse and pestilent people begin to freat, fume, sweare, and stare at this my booke, theyr lyfe beinge layde open and apparantly paynted out, that their confu∣sion and end draweth on apace: where as in deede if it be well wayed, it is set forth for theyr singular profyt and commoditie, for the sure sa∣uegard of their liues here in this world, that thei shorten not the same before their time, and that by their true laboure and good lyfe, in the world to come they may saue their soules, that Christe the second per∣son in Trinitie hath so derely bought with his most precious bloud∣so that hereby I shall do them more good then they could haue deui∣sed for themselues. For behold, their life being so manifest wicked, & so apparantly knowne: the honorable will abhorre them: the woor∣shipfull will reiecte them: the yeoman will sharplye tawnte them: the husband men vtterly defye them: the labouringe men bluntlye chyde them: the wemen wyth a loude exclamation wonder at them: And all children wyth clappynge handes crye out at them. I manye tymes musing with my selfe at these mischeuous myslyuers marueled when they toke their original and beginning, howe longe they haue exercised their execrable wandringe about: I thought it meete to con∣fer with a very olde man that I was well acquainted with, whose witte and memory is maruelous for his yeares, being about the age of foure score, what hee knewe when he was yonge of these lousey lewterars. And he shewed mee that when hee was yonge, he wayted vpon a man of much worship in Kent, who dyed immediatly after the last Duke of Buckingham was beheaded, at his buryall there• was suche a num∣ber of beggers, besides poore housholders dwelling there abouts, that vnneth they myght lye or stand aboute the house: then was thereto prepared for them a great and a large barne, and a great fatte oxe sod Page [unnumbered] out in Furmenty for them with bread and drinke aboundantly to fur∣nish out the premisses, and euery person had two pence for such was the dole VVhē night aproched the pore housholders repaired hom• to their houses, the other wayfaring bold beggers remained all night in the barn, and the same barne being serched with light in the night by this old man and then yonge and others, they tolde seuen score persons of men, euery of them hauing his woman, except it were two wemen that lay alone togyther for some especiall cause. Thus hauing their makes to make mery withall: the buriall was tourned to bou∣sing and belly cheere, mourning to myrth, fasting to feasting, prayer to pastyme, and pressing of paps and lamenting to lecherye. So that it may appeare this vncomly company hath had a long continuance but then nothinge geuen so much to pylferinge, pyckinge and spo∣ling, and as far as I can learne or vnderstande by the examination of a number of them, their language which they terme peddelers Frenche or Canting, began but within these xxx. yeres or litle aboue, and that the first inuenter thereof was hanged all saue the head, for that is the finall ende of them al, or elles to dye of some filthy and horrible disea∣ses: but much harme is done in the meane space by their continuance as some x. xii. and xvi. yeares before they be consumed; and the num∣ber of them doth dayly renew. I hope their sinne is nowe at the hy∣ghest, and that as short and as speedy redresse wilbe for these, as hath bene of late yeares for the wretched, wyly wandering vagabonds cal∣ling and naming them selues Egyptians, deeply dissembling and long hyding and couering their depe deceiteful practises, feeding the rude common people wholly addicted and geuen to nouelties, toyes, and new inuentions, delyting them with the straungenes of the attyre of their heades, and practising paulmistrye to such as would knowe their fortunes. And to be short, all theues and hoores (as I may well write) as some haue had true experience, a number can well witnesse, and a great sort hath well felte it. And nowe (thankes bee to God) through wholsome lawes and the due execution thereof, all bee dispersed, ba∣nished, and the memory of them cleane extinguished, that when they bee once named hereafter, our Chyldren will muche marueill what kind of people they were: and so I trust shall shortly happen of these. For what thing doth chiefely cause these rowsey rake helles thus to continew and dayly increase? surely a number of wicked persons that keepe typling houses in all shiers, where they haue succoure and re∣liefe, and what so euer they bryng, they are sure to receyue money for the same, for they sel good peny worthes. The byers haue the greatest Page [unnumbered] gayne, yea yf they haue neither money nor ware, they wylbe trusted, their credit is much I haue taken a note of a good many of them, and will send their names and dwelling places to such Iusticers as dwel∣leth nere or next vnto them, that they by their good wisedomes may displace the same, and authorise such as haue honesty. I will not blot my booke with their names, because they be resident. But as for this fleeting fellowship, I haue truly set forth the most part of them, that be doers at this present with their names that they be knowne by. Also I haue placed in the end therof their leud language, callinge the same pedlers French or Canting. And now shall I ende my prologue, making true declaration (right honorable Lady) as they shall fall in order of their vntemely tryfelinge tyme, leude lyfe, and pernitious practises, trusting that the same shall neyther trouble or abashe your most tender, tymerous and pytyfull Nature, to thinke the smal mode should growe vnto you for such almes so geuen. For God our mercy∣full and most louing father, well knoweth your harte and good en∣tent, the gyuer neuer wanteth his rewarde, accordinge to the sayinge of Sainct Augustin: as there is (neyther shalbe) any sinne vnpuni∣shed euen so shall there not be any good deede vnrewarded But how comfortably speaketh Christ our Sauiour vnto vs in his gospell (giue ye and it shalbe gyuen you agayne) behold further, good Madam that for a cup of colde water, Christ hath promised a good rewarde. Nowe sainct Austine properly declareth why Christ speaketh of cold water, because the poorest man that is, shall not excuse him selfe from that charitable work, least he would peraduenture saye that he hath ney∣ther wood, pot nor pan to warme any water with. See further what God speaketh in the mouth of his prophet Esaye. Break thy bread to him that is a hungred, he sayth not giue him a whole lofe: for perad∣uentute the poore man hath it not to gyue, then let him gyue a piece. This much is sayd because the poore that hath it should not be excu∣sed, now how much more then the riche. Thus you see good Ma∣dame, for your treasure here dispersed, where neede and lacke is, it shalbe heaped vp aboundantly for you in heauen, wher neither rust or moth shal corrupt or destroy the same. Vnto which triumphant place after many good happy, and fortunat yeres pros∣perously here dispended, you may for euer and euer, thero most ioyfully remayne.