Friday, July 13, 2007

Parish registers: the new novel?

I've been reading parish registers recently, which sounds dull, and largely is. But burial records sometimes thicken into compelling little vignettes -- sort of proto-obituaries. Here are some samples I've stumbled across (I particuarly like the second) ...

[1600] ‘George Soveraigne, an owld man, a bagpipe player of no certayne dwellinge, dyed at Ware End and was buried the viijth of Maye.’

[1617] ‘Henrye Shambrooke, an able yonge man of the Heath, by the prick of a thorne festering died and was buried january xxixth’

‘Mistress Izabell Goodman of Hodsdon, widdow, wife sometyme to Mr. John Goodman whose relict shee lived 24 yeares, beinge sodenlye taken with an apoplexye as shee was wrightinge a letter, February 23 1628, remayned speechlesse above 12 howers then died and was buried the 25th daye of the same moneth, beinge layed by her husband in the chancell at the upper end of the east windowe there to sleape still untill the great Resurrection.’

‘Edward Shadbolt of Amwell, a laboring man of above threescore and ten yeares of age, allwayes a good laborer, no spender, without children, selldome eate good meate or dranke good drinke or wore good cloathes, yet lived and dyed very poore and miserable, buried maye the xxiijth, 1635.’


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