THE VVITTY JESTS AND Mad Pranks OF JOHN FRITH Commonly called, The Merry-Conceited-MASON, Brother and Fellow-Traveller WITH Captain Iames Hinde The Famous High-way-Man.
LONDON, Printed for Tho. Passenger, at the Three Bibles upon the middle of London-Bridge. 1673.
And first of his Birth and Boyes Tricks.
LIeutenant John Frith, which is the subject of our following Discourse, was born at Deep Dalle in Derbyshire, of honest paren•age, his Father being a free Ma•on, and brought him up to his Latin, and to write all hands usual, in∣tending to send him to the Vniversity, he was an excellent Mason; having such good par•s he grew proud, and lighting into bad company, being kept short of money, and took wilde courses; he then studies how to compass money to spend, and chose vile company rather then the Vniversity or his trade; being for his Mirth, Birth and Trade, called The Mer∣ry conceited Mason.
How he feasted his Fellows at another time▪
HE and his Fellows being in an Inn, having been very merry, and their coyn growing very short, and being very hungry, they knew not how to get a dinner, but John that was quick-wit∣ted, Page 2 soon contrived how to get one. In that Inn was a Wedding kept, with variety of good cheer, so soon as dinner was set on the table, one of his Compli∣ces went out into the yard, se•• two Ma∣stiff dogs together by the •are, hollo••, calls his fellows to see the sport, which stirr'd not, then run all the people out both the family and stran•ers, in runs his friend, l•cks the door in merriment, keeps all out till they had din's; then o∣pened the door, permitting them to take the rest; and to make themselves more spor, in the dead of the night they took a ca•, shooes her with Walnut-shells •••'d with pitch, ties a Bell about her neck, and turns her into the Bridegrooms Chamber, which made such harmony that affrighted both the Bride and Bride∣groom.
How he furnished himself with moneys at a Tavern.
JOhn being at a Fair, and in a gallant Gard, espied some Graziers and other Countrey-men telling fifty pounds upon a table in a Tavern where they were drinking, the one party would not receive it except more were added to it, the other Page 3 would not take it back again, saying, it was his bargain; whilst they were thus contending, in steps Frith, str•kes the moneys suddenly, being most of it gold, in∣to his hat, runs out at the door, draws his sword, betakes him to his heels cries An Arrest, An Arrest, runs to his horse, mounts and out-r;ides them all, thus bought he fifty pounds at a Fair.
An Excellent Prank performed by Frith amongst four Bears.
There was a Bearward that kept four lusty Bears, with whom he travel∣led the Countrey, and coming where Frith at that time lay with his Compli∣ces to catch a Purchase. It being Fair∣time, the Bears were tied in a great barn on the out-side of the town, close to an house that sold Ale; they to make themselves sport ••ls two marrow-bones with honey, casts them between two and two, sets them all to sighting, and then whipt them, having first plac'd themselvs upon a beam; but in conclusion the bears brake loose, and made at their new game, the Whip••ers take their heels, and Page 4 escaped very narrowly with their lives, the Bears brake into the Alehouse, pul∣led down the drink, pull'd out the caps; eat up all the raw meat, brake down an Oven, pull'd out the bread: all this while the Bear wards were drunk, and knew nothing; but missing the bears in the Morning, found them as drunk as they themselves were over-night, and was forc'd to pay for the loss the house su∣stained.
How he served one Anthony Topley which led a Bear about the Countrey.
ONe Anthony Topley that lived once a Bisley, having a small parcel of Land lett him by his Father, sold the same, and bought with that moneys a great Year, and a Bear-dog, and hired a man to travel with him; one time, lodg∣ing by a Market-town in the night▪ his bear brake into the Ale-Cellar, and drank as long as he could find the way up into a Chamber or loft finds a bed, lies down upon it, and falls asleep; it hapned that a man and two women lay in that bed; they wak'd, feeling so heavy a weight upon their feet, and having such strong puffings, put forth their hands to feel what it was, Page 5 and by the 〈◊◊〉 and roughness, their actions being 〈◊◊〉 concluded it to be the devil, and so 〈◊〉 all 〈…〉 cross the house; and 〈◊〉 being 〈◊〉, cried out in a most horrible manner The devil, the devil, the devil, help Neighbors, good Neighbors help; John that was su•pected to let the bear loose▪ bring• in the Watch, where they found 〈◊◊〉 drunk, and the three in the 〈◊◊〉 rehearsed▪ all three was sent to Bridewel•o beat hemp.
How he found the aforesaid Topley with his Bear.
FRith, as is before rehearsed, being taxed for letting the bear loose, sought revenge on Topley, and so dissembled the m•••er, that he pro••r'd assistance to 〈◊〉, and travelling from Stableforth to Not∣tingham in hot weather, between Bram∣cote and Hemlock-hills, his bear being lazy, went into a Pond, and was hard to be gotten forth again: John with his three Gentlemen, riding 〈◊〉 after, 〈◊〉 the Bear laid down at the end of he fal∣low lands, where the husbandmen were Page 6 plowing, perswades him to have him drawn by horses, immediately appear a kennel of hounds hunting the Hare on Bramcote-hills with open cry: Anthony fearing his bear would be torn in pieces by the hounds, gave a shilling to the Plough-men, they clapt on their Plough-chains on the bears collar, lashes their horses, John and his men hollow, the bear roars and foams, the horse• hear∣ing so hideous a noise, smelling such a terrible stink, run a full mile towards Lenton, then stopt at a gate that goes in∣to Lenton fields, just opposite to Wool∣lerton-Hall, which is said to have as ma∣ny windows in it as there are days in the year; but coming up to the bear they found him as dead as all herring, his head pluckt clear from his shoulders, but John rid strait away to Nottingham; up∣on this the free-school-boys made these verses following,
A merry Jest how he hunted the squirril.
ON a time he with several Gentlemen went to hunt the squirril, a rare sport Page 7 in our Countrey, and having a simple fellow in their company, he promised the fel•ow the first Squirril they caught, but did not, notwithstanding the fellow claim∣ed promise; the next Squirril they took fell down at the feet of the dogs in a Cock gload seeming dead; John know∣ing their natures, took the Squirril by the nape of the neck, gives her into the hand of Martin, for so was the fellow na∣med; the Squirril finding ease and li∣berty swallows the lower part of his hane, that her teeth met; but Martin stri∣ving to th•ke her off she stuck the faster, till the smart forc'd him to cry out with vehemency, I'le none of her, I'le none of her, I'le none of her; after much mirth and laughter they look the Squirril off.
How he came to London, and cheated an Upholster of a great sum.
After this he came to London, and lodg∣ed in the house of an Upholster in the sub∣urbs, pretending great dealings in the Countrey for divers commodities, and so demeaned himself, as none mistrusted him Page 8 paying justly for every thing; not a boy sent of an errant, but he gave him a good reward; no linnen wash'd but he pa•d nobly, never was seen to be disguised in drink, his Landlady being a lusty lively young woman, beautiful and fair, to co∣lour his design the better, he made much of his Landlord; if he went to the Ale-house or the Tavern he paid his R•ck∣oning for him; he never went without his pockets well lined with Gold and silver; but time emptied his pockets▪ and now he must replenish, or of necessity perish: Where came a pack•t of Let∣ters to his hand from West-Chester▪ sig∣nifying that there was an hundred and fifty pounds lay ready, if he would come and receive the s•me, and withal to bring down fourty pounds worth of Goods more, and receive all his moneys tog•∣ther: then shewed he these Letters to his Landlord, to confirm his belief, bor∣rows fourty pounds of him to buy these Goods, perswades him to hire two hor∣ses to carry them both down, and travel∣ling to West-Chester, took up their Inn: John enquires if such a Gentleman was not yet come, naming a person of quality, Answer was return'd he had not been there yet, then he storm'd, saying, he pro∣mised Page 9 to meet me here about the time; then hespake be a large Supper, saying, that he expected some friends to sup with him, calls for wine in abundance for the Londoner; this done, he goes to the Stable, hires a Boy to conduct him to the forenamed Gentlemans house, takes both the horses with the Portmantues a mile out of the town, dismisses the boy, and returns no more to the Vpholster, leaving him to buy another horse, and look for his money.
How he left one horse and gained another.
IT fortun'd in a skirmish between four thieves, and six true men, one of Friths Complices had his horse shot under him; he sets his wits at work to get another, and heard that a Parson whom he hated was to ride eight miles to preach a Fune∣ral Sermon; caused his pretended ser∣vant to travel on foot to a convenient place by the way-side: the Parson rid upon a lusty grey Mare, and John upon a black horse as black as Iet, and him∣self all in black from head to foot, with a coal-black Periwig: his horse can full speed with all his vigour and strength to cover the Mare, and did so be-clout the Page 10 Parson with his iron 〈◊〉 was, that he al∣most killed him, and so falling from the beast, the Footman pretending pity, came and took the Mare away to k•ep her from danger; but the Parson loves not a stone-horse to this very day.
Set a Knave to catch a Knave.
IT hapned that in a Countrey-town where John lay in the time of the wars, being then a Lieutenant, that he noted the passages between a young couple, and it was thus, an ancient rich Gentle∣man had married a very fair and beau∣tiful young woman, which before had ma∣ny Suitors, one of the which, though he was a married man, did often frequent her company; and walking into the Or∣chard to solace themselves, free from all company, under a fair pear-tree, whose fruit was much coveted; it hapned that a School-boy went up in a Moon-wine night, to fill two Satchels with pears. After him came Frith, pretending for to steal pears, the boy fearing that he would beat him, supposing him to belong to the Orchard, begg'd pardon, it was granted, and Silence commanded: immediately came this young Gallant and his young Page 11 Gentlewoman just under the pear-tree, where the man threw by his weaver-hat, pulls out his purse of moneys, knife and keys, pulls off his coat, spreads it upon the ground to keep his Ladies clothes clean, lays her upon it, and to Venus sport they go with joy and great delight, 〈◊〉 made Johns〈◊〉 water; and having no longer power to forbear, with vio∣lence threw down a Satchel of pears up∣on them, then another, saying, then take the bags, the pears and all, then in all haste lept down out of the tree; but this couple supposing the divel to be there, ran with all speed away, leaving the hat, coat, knife▪ keys and moneys behinde, next Sabbath John went to the Parish Church in that hat and coat, but the loser durst never own it.
Of a merry Jest at a Wakes.
IT hapned that these four Gallants went to a Countrey-Wakes to be merry, where there was much dancing, and Mu∣sick; in the midst of this jollity he spied a young man sitting in a corner, with his hand upon or in a young womans plack∣et, one of his Complices call'd to him, de∣manding what sign to meet at next, Page 12 he replied with a loud voice, looking them full in their faces, saying, At the sign of the hand in Placket: At this the Youth removes his hand, Hold, hold, (•a•s John) Friend, if you remove the sign, we shall not know the house; this caused much laughter through the whole multitude of Guests.
How he made Captain Hinde merry when Melancholy.
IT fell out suddenly af•er that he came to live with Captain James Hinde his Master, who fell into a great Melan∣choly, whereupon certain of the Society carried both Master and Man into a Ta∣vern, where was variety of Musick, Wine and good Cheer in abundance, not could not all this avail to make Hinde once for to smile: but his man profess∣ed, as he was a true man, an honest man, and a Gentleman, if he could not make his Master laugh, and forsake his humor of Melancholy, his Master should se•k a new man, and he for his own part would seek a new Master within two days: the Musicians went to dinner, John pri∣vately carried all their Fiddle-cases into Page 13 a back-room, and unloo•'d a 〈◊〉 into every one of them: then he call'd for a lesson, that he nor none never heard, but they could not answer his expectation: then he •aused them to be dismiss'd, and putting up 〈◊〉 Instruments they de∣part: but ••fore they went to the Sta••∣••••, he call'd them again, •aying, Ihave it, I have it, Come, play it quickly, whilst it is in my minde, Play me, The Case is Altered, or, All-turd; then they brought forth their Instruments, which was so foully bewrayed, that it caused Captain Hinde to laugh so heartily, and all the whole Company, that they w•r• forc'd to hold him in his Chair: so John had five pounds given him for his pains, for the quick curing of his Master.
How he Cheated an Inn-keeper of fourty pounds.
THe Merry conceited Mason travelled in the habit, and went by the name of a rich Countrey-Grazier, well known in London, and at such time as he know he was not in London, came into an Inn. calls for Beer, drinks with the Inn∣keeper: in comes one of his Complices in the habits of a Drover, stands bare to Page 14 him, and is very observant; Why, How now, Ned, says he, what good News hast thon brought? how far are my cattel off? what time will they be here to night? Sir, said Ned, two of the biggest oxen, the brended and the black one are both fallen lame, and it is well if they get to London time enough for the next Market; than demanded he, if such a Friend of his were come to town, naming a rich Grazier. Ned said no, for some of his were fallen sick also, and he stayed to come along with the cattel; then he ••ampt, protesting he must pay one hundred pounds the next day be∣fore Sun-set upon bond, and as yet he had but fourscore; the Inn-keeper by their discourse thought be could not have less then four hundred pounds worth of cattel coming out of the countrey lent him four∣ty pounds; he promis'd payment next day, but never came.
How he caught a silver Bird of great value
JOHN being in London in a gallant garb passing along, espied a silver Flagon standing on a Court-Cupboard, a young Gentlewoman being at door, he pretend∣ed his bird flew in, she gave him admit∣ance, be thanked her, but the silver flagon was never heard of.Page 15
How he Cheated a Grazier's Wife of an Hundred pounds.
THe merry conceited Mason being quite out of moneys, in a gallant Garb, travell'd the Countrey to finde out adventures to gain a considerable sum of money in a short time, lodging in an Inn where the greatest booty was likely to be had, drinking his pot, heard the discourse betwixt a Grazier and a farmer, the Gra∣zier had bought cattel of the Farmer that came to 100 l. but had not money, but told the Farmer when he came from home be left word with his wife, that if he bought a bargain, he would send a Messenger for a hundred pounds by such a token, with such a receit with his own hand to it, that it is impossible any should deceive her; John seeing what hand he writ, and ha∣ving the tenor of the Receit, gets into a back-room, takes horse, having time by the forelock, comes to the woman, and tells her, that he came from her husband, her husband was well, and lodged in such an Inn, he had bought a great bargain of cat∣tel, and hoped to gain twenty pounds by it, tells her all the tokens: She demands Page 16 why her husband sent such a one as he was for the moneys 〈◊◊〉 himself by a great Gentlemans 〈◊◊〉 dwelt there, said, it was because 〈◊◊〉 more conscience 〈◊〉 him •uen 〈◊◊〉 other, and that he had deal with him 〈◊〉 hundreds of pounds; 〈…〉 you this, said he; 〈◊◊◊〉 said the good wife, and so 〈◊◊〉 him an hundred pounds, 〈…〉, and left 〈…〉, but never came to 〈◊◊〉 any more.
How he and his two Complices robb•d a Gentleman and his Man of three hundred pounds, and repaid it again at that time.
He and two of his Complices met a Gentleman and his man upon a Plain, that had three hundred pounds in two Port••••••, that they received for Kent, set upon them both, but the serving∣man stood at a distance, beholding his Master fight valiantly, crying, Ah, well fought, Master; Ah, bravely fought, Master;〈◊◊〉 came to help him; the Gentle∣〈…〉 him Page 17 for it: so I will, said one; riding up to∣wards him took away his Portmantue, then beats him with the flat side of his sword, the man cried, You Rogue, do you take away my money, and then beat me; What, you think to serve me as you did my Master, but I'le see you hang'd first; then draws his sword, fought 〈◊〉, the rest standing amazed the 〈◊◊〉 woun∣ded the Chief, so that he 〈◊〉, then thrust his sword into the Flanck of the horse: then said the Gentleman, being my Man will fight wee'll try our Fortunes for our moneys: Mason sets upon the Gentleman, the other upon his man, the skirmish was maintained with courage on both sides, that it was doubtful, but his man cuts one of the Thieves over the pate, he tumbles, and was uncapable to fight: turn both sets upon the Masers, 〈◊〉 compelled him to return the moneyes: the Mason requested friendship, and so they agreed not to discover them, carries the worst wounded man behind the Gentle∣mans Man to an Inn, where they set up their horses and their woman 〈◊◊〉 together, and in the 〈◊〉 brake fast together, swore secrecy in each other with promise not to discover them, and the Page 18 Gentleman never to be rob'd, ride what road he will, using only a by-word.
How they rob•d a man of two hundred pounds, and paid it again at six months.
Three of these Blades, meeting with a Londoner with two hundred pounds which he went to pay upon bond for stuffe he had received at London, they carried him to a By-house, where they refresh'd themselves; the Sun growing low, the Londoner call'd for a Reckoning, but the Mason told him he must pay all the mony he had, if it were five hundred pounds be seeing no remedy, said, I hope you are Gentlemen, you will save my life: Yea, said Frith, but see that you do not discover us, so they set him on his horse, conducted him to the road, and so dismiss'd him.
How at six months end they were discoverd
ABout six months after, the Trades∣man walking the streets espied three horses, at a Tavern-door: well-knowing them, to belong to the Robbers, he takes out a writ, employs two Marshals-men to arrest them: besides a Justices War∣rant with a Constable and Aid if need re∣quired: then he first attaques their horses, Page 19 a Watch over them, plants his Mar∣shals men in one Room, the Constable and Aid in another, orders them to call for what Wine they like best, and he would pay for all, then goes he in his own person unto these Gentlemen, presents them with a gallon of the best Sack, drinks a merry C•y to them all, gives them many thanks for their last kindnes, they stiffely deny that ever they saw him before, saying, Come let us be gone, and let us know what is to pay; Gentlemen said the Tradesman, I can tell you; how can you tell, said they; Ʋery well, saith he, for you must pay me two hundred pounds that I lent you in such a place, they utterly denied it; but he shewed them he had seized their horses: and there 〈◊〉 Marshals-men to Arrest you, or if you please, there 〈◊〉 the Constable with a warrant and a guard to carry you before the next Justice: As you was Civil to me so will I be to you, either pay the moneys, or chuse which of the other plea∣seth you best, but they finding no other remedie, paid him all his moneys and charges, and gave him a large Colat•or, gain'd promise not to discover them, and he never to be rob'd, and so part to very good friends.Page 20
How they rob'd a Rich man in the North, and came to London, and Acquitted themselves of the Fact.
THere was a Man who dwelt in the North of England, who never marri∣ed, nor could 〈◊〉 woman, no not his own Sister; he was exceeding rich, ha∣ving Chests full of moneys, and kept but a small 〈◊〉; To his house five of these resorts, and being troubled in their minds that so much treasure should be hid from the world, contrived how it might be disposed of for the good of ma∣ny, to do this, one gains Acquaintance with the Serving-man, and oft repairs to the house in his Masters absence: the Master some time after being abroad, he carried his man to the win•, and made him drunk, leads him home, lays him up∣on the bed, immediately comes the other Five, takes these Instruments, opens the lock•, fills all their Portmantues, locks up the outer door, having first bound the drunken man upon his hed, then came with all speed for London, where it was agre••, that one should put the rest in prison, 〈◊〉 but a little be∣fore the De•sions, the merry conceited Mason apprehends them, accuses them Page 21 of suspicion of Felony before the Justice, that they had robd him and a North-Countrey gentleman of several sums of money, but there was no Bill found, and they were quit by Proclamation.
A Merry Jest of a Trunk worth 600 l.
These merry conceited fellows lying in an 〈◊〉, understood by the Cham∣berlains worthe there was such a trunk of moneys and plate: they determined the same into their Portmantues, or convey it out, no notice was taken: but when these Blades were in their beds, the Inn-keeper having been deceived be∣fore, brought in another trunk just like the real trunk, and conveyed the real trunk into a safer place, giving notice to the Chamberlain not to mind if, they seeing an opportunity, conveyed away the trunk to an house that was privy to their Actions, supposing it by the weight so be the 〈◊〉, but opening the same, found it stufft with bags of straw, brick∣bats, and such stuff, and for garnish they found a large pair of Rame-horns, toge∣ther with a Rope and butter, at which they were all amazed, knowing it por∣tended their being hanged.Page 22
How they committed a notable Robbery, and the Merry conceited Mason was taken, imprisoned, and how he escap•d.
These Gallants having bad but bad suc∣cess in the last Enterprise, resolv'd upon a more sure Purchase; They all went to a Gentlemans house, alights, tells the Porter they had earnest business, and must speak with his Master imme∣diately, they had admitance, leaving one to look to their horses, having their Pi∣stols cockt and hand upon sword, promi∣sing to burt no creature, commanding the Gentleman up-stairs, half of them attending him, and took away 500 l.
How he was taken and Escap't.
A short time after, being committed to prison for a great crime, and so like to suffer, the assizes being near, where some of his Complices came to see him, invited him to drink, the Cellar being without the prison, his friends takes their leave, he 〈◊〉 two horses bridled and sadled, gets upon one of them, and so went over into Ireland.