The great eater, of Kent, or Part of the admirable teeth and stomacks exploits of Nicholas Wood, of Harrisom in the county of Kent His excessiue manner of eating without manners, in strange and true manner described, by Iohn Taylor.
Taylor, John, 1580-1653.
Page  1

THE GREAT EATER OF KENT.

REcords and Histories doe make memorable mention of the diuer∣sitie of qualities of sundry famous persons, men and women, in all the Countries and Regions of the world, how some are remembred for their Piety and Pitty; some for Iustice; some for Se∣uerity, for Learning, Wisedome, Tempe∣rance, Constancie, Patience, with all the vertues Diuine, and morall: Some againe haue purchased a memory for Greatnesse and Talnesse of body; some for Dwarfish smal∣nesse; some for beautifull outsides, faire fea∣ture and composition of Limbs and stature; many haue gotten an earthly perpetuity for cruelty and murther, as Nero, Commodus, and others: for Leachery, as Heliogabalus: for Drunkennesse, Tiberius, (alias Biberius:) for Effeminacy, as Sardanapalus: for Gluttony, Aulus Vitellius, who at one supper was serued with two thousand sorts of fishes, and seuen Page  2 thousand fowles, as Suetonius writes in his ninth Booke, and Iosephus in his fifth Booke of the Iewes warres. Caligula was famous for Am∣bition, for hee would bee ador'd as a God, though he liu'd like a Deuill, poysoning his Vnkle and deflowring all his Sisters: And in all ages and Countries, time hath still produc'd particular persons, men & women, either for their vertues or their vices, to be remembred, that by meditating on the good, we may bee imitating their goodnesse, and by viewing the bad, we might be eschewing their vices.

To descend lower to more familiar exam∣ples, I haue knowne a great man very expert on the Iewes-harpe; a rich heire excellent at Noddy, a Iustice of the Peace skilfull at Quoytes; a Marchants wife a quicke Game∣ster at Irish (especially when she came to bea∣ting of men) that she would seldome misse en∣tring. Monsieur La Ferr a French-man, was the first inuentor of the admirable Game of Double-hand, Hot-cockles, & Gregorie Dawson an English man, deuised the vnmatchable my∣stery of Blind-man-buffe. Some haue the agility to ride Poast, some the facility to runne Poast; some the dexterity to write Poast, and some the ability to speake poast: For I haue heard a fellow make a Hackney of his tongue, & in a moment he hath gallop'd a Lye from China to London, without Bridle or Page  3 Saddle. Others doe speake poast, in a thicke shuffling kind of Ambling-trot, and that in such speede, that one of them shall talke more in one quarter of an houre, then shall be vn∣derstood in seuen yeeres. And as euery one hath particular qualities to themselues, and dissonant from others, so are the manners of liues (or liuings) of all men and women va∣rious one from another; as some get their li∣uing by their tongues, as Interpreters, Law∣yers, Oratours, and Flatterers; some by tayles, as Maquerellaes, Concubines, Cur∣tezanes, or in plaine English, Whores; Some by their feete, as Dancers, Lackeyes, Foot-men, and Weauers, and Knights of the pu∣blicke or common order of the Forke; Some by their braines, as Politicians, Monopolists, Proiectmongers, Suit-ioggers, and Starga∣zers; Some (like the Salamander) liue by fire, as the whole Race of Tubalcaine, the Vulcanean Broode of Blacksmiths, fire-men, Colliers, Gunners, Gun-founders, and all sorts of met∣tle-men; Some like the Cameleon, by the Ayre, and such are Poets, Trumpetters, Cornets, Recorders, Pipers, Bag-pipers; and some by smoake, as Tobacconists, Knights of the Va∣pour, Gentlemen of the Whiffe, Esquires of the Pipe, Gallants in Fumo; Some liue by the Water as Herrings doe, such are Brewers, Vintners, Dyers, Mariners, Fisher-men, and Page  4 Scullers; And many like Moles liue by the Earth, as griping Vsurers, racking Land-lords, toyling Plowmen, moyling Labourers, painefull Gardners, and others.

Amongst all these before mentioned, and many more which I could recite, this subiect of my Pen is not (for his qualitie) inferiour to any: and as neere as I can, I will stretch my wit vpon the Tenters, to describe his name and Character, his worthy Actes shall be related after in due time duely.

And, Be it knowne vnto all men, to whom these presents shall come, that I Iohn Taylor, Waterman of Saint Sauiours in Southwarke, in the County of Surrey, the Writer here∣of, &c. will write plaine truth, bare and threed-bare, and almost starke-naked-truth, of the descriptions, and remarkable, memorable Actions of Nicholas Wood, of the Parish of Har∣risom in the County of Kent, Yeoman, for these considerations following.

First, I were to blame to write more then truth, because that which is knowne to be true, is enough.

Secondly, that which is onely true, is too much.

Thirdly, the truth will hardly be beleeued, being so much beyond mans reason to con∣ceiue.

Fourthly, I shall runne the hazzard to bee Page  5 accounted a great lyer, in writing the truth.

Lastly, I will not lye, on purpose to make all those lyers that esteeme me so.

Yet by your leaue, Master Critick, you must giue me licence to flourish my Phrases, to em∣bellish my lines, to adorne my Oratory, to em∣broder my speeches, to enterlace my words, to draw out my sayings, and to bumbaste the whole suite of the businesse for the time of your wearing. For though truth appeareth best bare in matters of Iustice, yet in this I hold it decent to attire her with such poore raggs as I haue, in stead of Robes.

First then; the place of his birth, and names of his parents are to me a meere Terra incognita, as farre from my knowledge, as content from a Vsurer, or honesty from a Bawde, but if hee be no Christian, the matter is not much, hee will serue well enough for a man of Kent; and if his education had beene as his Feeding, it is euident he had been of most mighty breeding; he hath gotten a foule name, but I know not if it came to him by Baptisme, for it is partly a Nick-name, which in the totall is Nicholas, I would abate him but a Saint, and call him Ni∣cholas Shambles, and were the goodnesse of his purse answerable to the greatnesse of his appe∣tite, out of all question, no man below the Moone would be a better customer to a sham∣bles then he, for though he be chaste of his bo∣dy, Page  6 yet his minde is onely vpon flesh, he is the onely Tugmutton, or Muttonmonger betwixt Douer and Dunbarr: for hee hath eaten a whole Sheepe of sixteene shillings price, raw at one meale (pardon me) I thinke hee left the skin, the wooll, the hornes, and the bones: but what talke I of a Sheepe, when it is apparant∣ly knowne, that he hath at one repast and with one dish, feasted his Carkas with all manner of meates? All men will confesse that a Hogge will eate any thing, either fish, flesh, fowle, root, herbe, or excrement, and this same no∣ble Nick Nicholas, or Nicholas Nick, hath made an end of a Hogge all at once, as if it had bin but a Rabbet sucker, and presently after, for fruit to recreate his palate, he hath swallowed three peckes of Damsons, thus (Philosophi∣cally) by way of a Chimicall Infusion, as a Hogge will eate all things that are to be eaten, so he in eating the Hogge, did in a manner of extraction distill all manner of meates thorow the Limbeck of his paunch.

But hold a little, I would be loath to cloy my Reader with too much meate and fruit at once, so that after your Sheepe, Hogge and Damsons, I thinke it best to suffer you to pawse and picke your teeth (if you haue any) whilst I spend a few words more in Paraphrasing vpon his surname. Wood is his Appellation, Denomination, or how you please to tearme it

Page  7Some of the ancient Philosophers haue compared man to a Tree with the bottome vp∣wards, whose roote is the Braine, the Armes Hands, Fingers, Legges, Feete and Toes, are the Limbs, and Branches, the comparison is very significant, many Trees doe bring forth good fruit, so doe some fewe men; Some stately Trees growe high and faire, yet stand for nothing but shades, and some men grow high and lofty, yet are nothing but shaddows; Some Trees are so malignant, that nothing can prosper vnder the compasse of their bran∣ches; and some men are so vnlucky, that very few can thriue in their seruice. And as of one part of a Tree a Chaire of State may be made, and of another part a carued Image, and of a third part a stoole of office; So men, being compounded and composed all of one mould and mettle, are different and disconsonant in estates, conditions, and qualities. Too many (like the barren Fig-tree) beare leaues of hy∣pocrisie, but no fruites of Integrity, who serue onely for a flourish in this life, and a flame in that hereafter.

So much for that: now to returne to my Theame of Wood, (indeed this last disgression may make my Reader thinke that I could not see wood for trees) what Wood he is, I know not, but by his face he should be Maple, or Crab-tree, and by his stomacke, sure he is Page  8 heart of Oake; some say he is a Meddler, but by his stature, he seemes like a low short Pine, and certaine I am, that hee is Popular, a well tym∣berd piece, or a store house for belly tymber.

Now Gentlemen, as I haue walked you amongst the Trees, and thorow the Wood, I pray set downe, and take a taste or two more of this Banquet.

What say you to the Leafe or Flecke of a Brawne new kild, to be of weight eight pound, and to be eaten hot out of the Bores belly raw? much good doe you Gallants, was it not a glorious dish? and presently after (in stead of suckets, twelue raw puddings. I speake not one word of drinke all this while, for indeed he is no drunkard, hee abhorres that swinish vice: Alehouses, nor Tapsters cannot nick this Nick with froth, curtoll Cannes, tragicall blacke-pots, and double-dealing bumbasted Iugges, could neuer cheate him, for one Pinte of Beere or Ale is enough to wash downe a Hog, or water a Sheepe with him.

Two Loynes of Mutton, and one Loyne of Veale were but as three Sprats to him: Once at Sir Warrham Saint Leigers house, and at Sir William Sydleyes he shewed himselfe so valiant of Teeth, and Stomacke, that hee ate as much as would well haue seru'd and suffic'd thirty men, so that his belly was like to turne bankerupt and breake, but that the Seruing-men turn'd Page  9 him to the fire, and anoynted his paunch with Greace and Butter, to make it stretch and hold; and afterwards being layd in bed, hee slept eight houres, and fasted all the while: which when the Knight vnderstood, he commanded him to be laid in the stocks, and there to en∣dure as long time as he had laine bed rid with eating.

Pompey the Great, Alexander the Great, Tam∣berlane the Great, Charlemagne or Charles the Great, Arthur the Great: all these gat the Title of Great, for conquering Kingdomes, and killing of men; and surely eating is not a greater sinne then rapine, theft, manslaugh∣ter and murther. Therefore this noble Eata∣lian doth well deserue the Tytle of Great: where∣fore I instile him Nicholas the Great (Eater:) And as these forenamed Greats haue ouer∣throwne and wasted Countreyes, and Hosts of men, with the helpe of their Soldiers and followers; so hath our Nick the Great, (in his owne person) without the helpe or ayde of any man, ouercome, conquered, and de∣uouted in one weeke, as much as would haue sufficed a reasonable and sufficient Army in a day, for hee hath at one meale made an assault vpon seuen dozen of good Rabbets at the Lord Wootons in Kent, which in the totall is foure-score, which number would well haue suffic'd a hundred, three-score and eight hun∣gry Page  10 Soldiers, allowing to each of them halfe a Rabbet.

Bell, the famous Idoll of the Babylonians, was a meere imposture, a Iuggling toye, and a cheating bable, in comparison of this Nicho∣laitan, Kentish Tenterbelly, the high and mighty Duke All-paunch, was but a fiction to him. Milo the Crotonian could hardly be his equall: and Woolner of Windsor was not worthy to bee his foot-man. A quarter of fat Lambe, and three-score Eggs haue beene but an easie colation, and three well larded Pudding-pyes he hath at one time put to foyle, eighteene yards of blacke Puddings (London measure) haue sud∣denly beene imprisoned in his sowse-tub. A Ducke raw with guts, feathers, and all (ex∣cept the bill & the long feathers of the wings) hath swomme in the whirlepole or pond of his mawe, and he told me, that three-score pound of Cherries was but a kind of washing meate, and that there was no tacke in them, for hee had tride it at one time. But one Iohn Dale was too hard for him at a place called Lennam, for the said Dale had laid a wager that he would fill Woods belly, with good wholesome victuals for 2. shillings, & a Gentleman that laid the con∣trary, did wager, that as soone as noble Nick had eaten out Dales 2. shillings, that he should presently enter combate with a worthy Knight, called Sir Loyne of Beefe, & ouerthrow him; in Page  11 conclusion, Dale bought 6. pots of potent, high, and mighty Ale, and twelue new penny white loaues, which hee sop'd in the said Ale, the powerfull fume whereof, conquer'd the con∣queror, rob'd him of his reason, bereft him of his wit, violently tooke away his stomacke, intoxicated his imater, & entred the Sconce of his Pericranion, blinde folded him with sleep; setting a nap of nine houres for manacles vpon his threed-bare eyelids, to the preseruation of the rost Beefe, and the vnexpected winning of the wager.

This inuincible Ale, victoriously van∣quish'd the vanquisher, and ouer our Great Triumpher, was Triumphant: But there are presidents enow of as potent men as our Nicholas, that haue subdued Kings and King∣domes, and yet they themselues haue beene captiu'd and conquer'd by drinke; wee need recite no more examples but the Great Ale∣xander, and Holophernes, their ambition was boundlesse, and so is the stomacke of my Pens subiect, for all the foure Elements cannot cloy him, fish from the deepest Ocean, or purest Riuer, fairest Pond, foulest Ditch, or dirtiest puddle. he hath a receite for Fowle of all sorts, from the Wren to the Eagle, from the Titmouse to the Estrich, or Cassawaraway, his paunch is either a Coope or a Roost for them: He hath (within himselfe) a stall for the Oxe, a roome Page  12 for the Cow, a stye for the Hogge, a Parke for the Deere, a warren for Coneies, a store-house for fruit, a dayery for Milke, Creame, Curds, Whay, Butter-milke, and Cheese: his mouth is a Mill of perpetuall motion, for let the wind or the water rise or fall, yet his teeth will euer bee grinding; his guts are the Rendez-vous or meeting place or Burse for the Beasts of the fields, the Fowles of the Ayre, and Fishes of the Sea; and though they be ne∣uer so wild or disagreeing in Nature, one to another, yet hee binds or grindes them to the peace, in such manner, that they neuer fall at odds againe. His eating of a Sheepe, a Hog, and a Duck raw, doth shew that he is free from the sinne of nicenesse or his curiosity in Dyet. (It had beene happy for the poore, if their stomacks had beene of that constitution, when seacoales were so deare here.) Besides, he ne∣uer troubles a Larder, or Cupboord to lay cold meate in, nor doth he keepe any Cats or Traps in his house to destroy vermin, he takes so good a course, that he layes or shuts vp all safe within himselfe; in briefe, giue him meate, and he ne'r stands vpon the cookery, he cares not for the Peacocke of Samos, the Wood∣cock of Phrygia, the Cranes of Malta, the Phea∣sants of England, the Caperkelly, the Heathcocke, and Termagant of Scotland, the Goate of Wales, the Salmon, and Vsquabah of Ireland, the Saw∣sedge Page  13 of Bolognia, the Skink of Westphalia, the Spanish Potato, he holds as a bable, and the Italian Figge he esteemes as poyson.

He is an English man, and English dyet will serue his turne. If the Norfolk Dumplin, and the Deuonshire White-pot, be at variance, he will atone them, the Bag-puadings of Gloucester shire, the Blacke-puddings of Worcester shire, the Pan puddings of Shropshire, the White puddings of Somersetshire, the Hasty-puddings of Hamshire, and the Pudding-pyes of any shire, all is one to him, nothing comes amisse, a contented mind is worth all, and let any thing come in the shape of fodder, or eating stuffe, it is welcome, whe∣ther it bee Sawsedge, or Custard, or Eg-pye, or Cheese-cake, or Plawne, or Foole, or Froyze, or Tanzy, or Pancake, or Fritter, or Flap-iacke, or Posset, Galley-mawfrey, Mackeroone, Kickshaw, or Tantablin, he is no puling Meacocke, nor in all his life time the queafinesse of his stomacke needed any sawcy spurre or switch of sowre Vertuice, or acute Vinegar, his appetite is no straggler, nor is it euer to seeke, for he keepes it close prisoner, and like a courteous kind Iay∣lour, he is very tender ouer it, not suffering it to want any thing if he can by any meanes pro∣cure it: indeede it was neuer knowne to be so farre out of reparations, that it needed the as∣sistance of Cawdle, Alebery, Iulep, Cullisse, Grewell, or stewd-broth, onely a messe of plaine frugall Page  14 Countrey Pottage was alwayes sufficient for him, though it were but a washing-bowle full, of the quantity of two pecks, which porrenger of his, I my selfe saw at the signe of the white Lyon at a Village called Harrisom in Kent, the Hostesse of which house did affirme, that hee did at once wash downe that Bowle full of pottage, with nine penny loaues of bread, and three Iugges of Beere.

Indeed, in my presence (after he had bro∣ken his fast) hauing (as he said) eaten one pot∣tle of milke, one pottle of pottage, with bread, butter, and cheese: I then sent for him, to the aforesaid Inne, and after some accomodated salutations, I asked him if hee could eate any thing? He gaue me thankes, and said, that if he had knowne, that any Gentleman would haue inuited him, that he would haue spared his breakefast at home, (and with that he told me as aforesaid, what he had eaten) yet neuer∣thelesse (to doe me a courtesie) he would shew me some small cast of his office, for he had one hole or corner in the profundity of his store-house, into which he would stow and bestow any thing that the house would afford, at his perill and my cost. Whereupon I summoned my Hostesse with three knocks vpon the Table, two stamps on the floore, with my fist and foot, at which shee made her personall appearance with a low Curtsie, and an inquisitiue What Page  15 lacke ye? I presently laid the authority of a bold Guest vpon her, commanding that all the victuals in the house should be laid on the Ta∣ble. She said, she was but slenderly prouided, by reason goodman Wood was there, but what she had, or could doe, wee should presently haue: so the cloth was displaid, the salt was aduanc'd, sixe penny wheaten loaues were mounted two stories high like a Rampier, three sixe-penny Veale pyes, wall'd stiffly about, and well victual'd within, were pre∣sented to the hazzard of the Scalado, one pound of sweet butter (being all fat and no bones) was in a cold sweat at this mighty preparation, one good dish of Thorneback, white as Ala∣baster or the Snow vpon the Scithian moun∣taines, and in the Reare came vp an inch thick shyuer of a Peck house-hold loafe; all which prouision were presently, in the space of an houre vtterly confounded, and brought to no∣thing, by the meere and onely valourous dex∣terity of our vnmatchable grand Gurmound. He couragiously past the Pikes, and I cleared the shot, but the house yeelded no more, so that my Guest arose vnsatisfied, and my selfe discontented in being thrifty and sauing my money against my will.

I did there offer him twenty shillings to bring him vp to me to my house on the Bank-side, and there I would haue giuen him as much Page  16 good meate, as he would eate in tenne dayes, one after another, & fiue shillings a day euery day, and at the tenne dayes end, twenty shil∣lings more, to bring him downe againe. I did also offer tenne shillings to one Ieremy Robinson a Glouer (a man very inward with him) to at∣tend and keepe him company, and two shil∣lings six pence the day, with good dyet and lodging: all which were once accepted, vn∣till Wood began to ruminate and examine what seruice he was to doe, for these large allow∣ances. Now my plot was to haue him to the Beare-garden, and there before a house full of people, he should haue eaten a wheele barrow full of Tripes, and the next day, as many pud∣dings as should reach ouer the Thames (at a place which I would measure betwixt London and Richmond) the third day, I would haue al∣lowed him a fat Calfe, or Sheepe of twenty shillings price, and the fourth day he should haue had thirty Sheepes Geathers, thus from day to day, he should haue had wages & dyet with variety; but he fearing that which his me∣rits would amount vnto, brake off the match, saving, that perhaps when his Grace, (I guesse who he meant) should heare of one that ate so much, and could worke so little, he doubted there would come a command to hang him: whereupon our hopefull Beare-garden busines was shiuerd, and shatterd in pieces.

Page  17Indeed hee made a doubt of his expected performance in his quality, by reason of his being growne in yeeres, so that if his stomack should faile him publikely, and lay his repu∣tation in the mire, it might haue beene a dis∣paragement to him for euer, and especially in Kent, where he hath long beene famous, hee would be loth to be defamed; But as weake as he was, he said, that he could make a shift to destroy a fat Weather of a pound in two houres, prouided that it were tenderly boild, for he hath lost all his teeth (except one) in eating a quarter of Mutton, (bones and all) at Ashford in the County aforesaid, yet is he ve∣ry quicke and nimble in his feeding, and will ridde more Eating worke away in two houres, then tenne of the hungriest Carters in the Pa∣rish where he dwells. He is surely noble (for his great Stomacke) and vertuous, chiefely for his patience in putting vp much; moreoeuer he is thrifty or frugall, for when he can get no better meate, he will eate Oxe Liuers, or a messe of warme Ale-graines from a Brew-house. He is prouident and studious where to get more prouision as soone as all is spent, and yet hee is bountifull or prodigall in spen∣ding all hee hath at once: hee is profitable in keeping bread and meate from mould and Maggots, and sauing the charge of salt, for Page  18 his appetite will not waite and attend the pou∣dring; his courtesie is manifest, for he had ra∣ther haue one Farewel then twenty Godbwyes: Of all things, hee holds fasting to be a most su∣perstitious branch of Popery, he is a maine enemy to Ember weekes, he hates Lent worse then a Butcher or a Puritan, and the name of Good-friday affrights him like a Bulbegger; a long Grace before meate, strikes him into a Quotidian Ague; in a word, hee could wish that Christmas would dwell with vs all the yeere, or that euery day were metamorphoz'd into Shrouetuesdayes; in briefe, he is a Ma∣gazine, a store-house, a Receptacle, a Burse, or Exchange, a Babel or confusion for all Creatures.

Hee is no Gamester, neither at Dice, or Cards, yet there is not any man within for∣ty miles of his head, that can play with him at Maw, and though his pasture be neuer so good, he is alwayes like one of Pharaohs leane Kine; he is swarty, blackish haire, Hawk∣nosed (like a Parrot, or a Roman) hee is wattle-Iawde, and his eyes are sunke in∣ward, as if hee looked into the inside of his intrayles, to note what custom'd or vn∣custom'd goods he tooke in, whilst his bel∣ly (like a Maine-sayle in a calme) hangs ruf∣fled and wrinkled (in folds and wreathes) flat to the mast of his empty carkasse, till the Page  19 storme of aboundance fills it, and violently driues it into the full sea of satisfaction,

LIke as a Riuer to the Ocean bounds,
Or as a Garden to all Britaines grounds,
Or like a Candle to a flaming Linck,
Or as a single Ace, vnto Sise Cinque:
So short am I of what Nick Wood hath done,
That hauing ended, I haue scarce begun:
For I haue written but a taste in this,
To shew my Readers where, and what he is.