I write this in an alehouse, into which I am driven by night which would not give me leave to find an honester harbour. I am without any company but ink and paper and them I use instead of talking to myself. My host hath already given me his knowledge but I am little bettered. I am now trying whether myself be better in his discretion.
The first to note here is how honestly every place speaks and how ill every man lives. Not a post, not a painted cloth in the house but cries out Fear God, and yet the parson of the town scarce keeps this instruction. It is a strange thing how men belie themselves—everyone speaks well and means naughtily. They cry out if man with man breaks his word, and yet nobody keeps his promise with virtue. But why should these inferiors be blamed since the noblest professions are become base? Their instructions rest in the examples of higher fortunes, and they are blind and lead men into sensuality. Methinks a drunken cobbler and a mere hawking gentleman rank equally, both end their pursuits with pleasing their senses—this the eye, the other the taste.
What differs scraping misery from a false cheater? the director of both is covetousness and the end game. Lastly, courting of a mistress and buying of a whore are somewhat like—the end is luxury. Perhaps the one speaks more finely but they both mean plainly. I have been thus seeking differences, and to distinguish of places I am fain to fly to the sign of an alehouse and to the stately coming in of greater houses. For men, titles and clothes, not their lives and actions, help me. So were they all naked and banished from the Heralds’ books. They are without any evidence of pre-eminence, and their souls cannot defend them from community.
Cornwallis, William. “Of alehouses.” 1600. Quotidiana. Ed. Patrick Madden. 26 Mar 2007. 06 Dec 2013 <http://essays.quotidiana.org/cornwallis/of_alehouses/>.
Patrick Madden's New Book
Quotidiana site founder Patrick Madden has just published a book of his own personal essays, including pieces formerly published in the Best American Spiritual Writing and Best Creative Nonfiction anthologies.
If you enjoy the classical essays on this site, you'll enjoy these contemporary ruminations as well. Soon there'll be a web page here with further information, but for now, you can find out more (and perhaps purchase a copy) at Amazon.com.
"Patrick Madden is an essayist of verve, passion, wit, and dependable moral compass. Quotidiana drew me in powerfully, from page to page and from pleasure to pleasure." —Ian Frazier
The spirit of place, which is to be seen in the shapes of the fields and the manner of the crops, to be felt in a prevalent wind, breathed in the breath of the earth, overheard in a far street-cry or in the tinkle of some black-smith, calls out and peals in the cathedral bells.
How fearfully the morals of woman are crushed, appears from the prevalent persuasion that there are virtues which are peculiarly masculine, and others which are peculiarly feminine.
Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.