physicians

Lawyers, Physicians and Travellers: Popular Perceptions and Professional Comment in Early Modern England

This was a conference paper given in 1991 by Sara Warneke.


Three of the most common caricatures of the popular press and stage in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods were the avaricious and corrupt lawyer, the equally avaricious but somewhat more ignorant physician, and that extremely foolish bearer of fantastic tales, the traveller. Popular parody of these three figures influenced later seventeenth-century characterizations in the popular character books, but did they in any way shape or affect seventeenth-century professional comment by either of these three groups or the advice or conduct literature written for all three? The idea for this research sprang from the knowledge that in one instance, educational travellers, there existed a close relationship between popular parody of the period 1580-1630 and subsequent seventeenth-century debate over, and conduct literature for, the practice of educational travel. I wondered if this relationship existed for other groups, and if not, why not. I decided to examine two other groups, lawyers and physicians, because not only were both popular subjects for parody in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, a time when the popular press and stage enjoyed significant growth, they both indulged in extensive comment about their respective practices and were both offered extensive advice about how to conduct their professional lives during the remainder of the seventeenth century.

First to the lawyer. Popular representations of the lawyer were generally unfavourable. The drama, satire, characterizations, ditties and jests of the Elizabethan, Jacobean and Caroline periods often portrayed the lawyer as a covetous, ambitious and corrupt man who clouded his profession with obscure language, accepted fees from antagonists, delayed law suits for his own gain and ignored the just cause of the poor man in favour of the unjust cause of the richer client. The names of lawyers in drama reflect many of these elements – Avarice, Ambidexter, Tangle, Bramble, Knavesby, Picklock and Trampler. One of the most popular perceptions of lawyers was that they thrived upon the contentions and misfortunes of others. In William Bullein’s sixteenth-century Dialogue against the feuer Pestilence (published throughout the 1560s and 70s), the two petty lawyers Ambodexter and Avarus shuddered at the thought of their lost revenue if they moved their practice to the new territory of the Americas where there existed no strife or debate. A clergyman in Robert Greene’s late sixteenth-century drama James the Fourth attacked a lawyer for embracing a profession that thrived only on the contentions and strife of others, while one early seventeenth-century pamphleteer remarked that, “Strife is the summe of [the lawyer’s] desires, it is the solace of his soule, he is never well at hearts ease, if he be not wrangling with one or other.”

Popular caricature also portrayed the lawyer as a man who made considerable money by favouring the rich man’s cause before the poor man’s. Although the poor man’s cause might be good and just, it seemed that the rich man gained best at law: “[Lawyers] make their plea according to the penny,” wrote Barnaby Rich, “not according to the truth, when (among their clients) he that hath most money, hath commonly, most right.” Bartolus, the covetous lawyer in The Spanish Curate, freely declared, “Hang the poor! Their causes, like their purses, have poor issues.” According to one characterization, the poor client among lawyers “is as a blind sheepe in a thicket of thornes, where he is sure to lose his fleece, if not some of his flesh.” In all processes of the law, the delays, the corruptions, the contentions, “Money [was] the white these conscienceless Lawyers [aimed] at. Their Sunne which is full of motes shines not upon the rich and poor alike.” Many of the numerous jests at the legal profession’s expense which appeared during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries concentrated on the corrupt lawyer’s ability to argue successfully only the case of the rich man. It appeared, concluded one jest, that one word of a fat bribe held more weight than twenty words of the clients’, while at least one drama concluded that it were better honest men settled their differences between them than approach lawyers who would fleece them of their money.

These are only a very few examples of the many negative representations of lawyers, nevertheless, despite this generally unfavourable public image of the lawyer, a few characterizations of honest practitioners did appear. The honest lawyers of Aristo, in Webster’s The Devil’s Law Case (1619), and Benjamin Gripe in The Honest Lawyer (1615), both foiled the schemes of corrupt legal practitioners in their respective dramas. There were also characterizations of honest legal practitioners by Nicholas Breton, John Stephens, Richard Brathwaite and Lord North. However, once one starts to read the popular jest books, books of merry tales and the cheap broadsheets, the lawyer was always evil, very often in league with the devil, inevitably scheming to wrest the lands from honest yeomen and the livelihoods from vulnerable common folk. He was never the hero in the literature most likely to be read or listened to by the common people.

Although we can find occasional characters of honest lawyers, is there any evidence that the generally unfavourable popular representations of lawyers in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods made any impression on the legal profession’s perception of itself? The legal profession would indeed have had to be every bit as brutish and callous as popular imagery had it for individual members not to have felt some sensitivity about their public image. In his Rise of the Barristers Wilfred Prest shows that two members of the legal profession, Sir John Davies and Sir Anthony Benn, did in fact acknowledge and respond to their profession’s poor public image. Davies was the only one to do publicly, including an extensive rebuttal of certain “vulgar imputations cast upon the [common] law and lawyers” in the preface to a volume of Irish law cases he published in 1615, Davies claimed that delays in litigation arose only out of the “malignant and unquiet disposition of many clients”, while, to the charge that lawyers were corrupt, argued that “no men of any other calling or profession whatsoever are more careful to preserve their good name and reputation.” while in a manuscript essay on the legal profession, Sir Anthony Benn also attempted to defend and justify his profession, suggesting that popular resentment, envy and misunderstanding of the legal profession underlay its poor public image. Yet Davies and Benn seem rather isolated examples, for lawyers tended not to resort to a public defence of their profession against popular parody, or even, for that matter, to acknowledge it. Individual sensitivities did not spill over into professional writings – and especially not in lawyers’ essays or monographs of advice to members (or prospective members) of their profession where, if comments or sensitivities about their public image were to occur, one might reasonably expect them. In fact, most seventeenth-century advice for young gentlemen, whether those seeking a career in the law, or those already practising it, was predominantly positive and practical, rarely referring to popular caricature. Far from displaying any undue sensitivity about the lawyer’s public image, one writer, for instance, counselled young gentlemen that the legal profession was one of the best means to gain riches, honour and advancement, equalled only by a career in trade. Some pieces of advice literature referred to the corrupt practices of lawyers, lengthy delays in suits of law, and the obscure language lawyers used in their pleadings, but their comments probably responded to real problems within the legal profession rather than being slavish imitations of popular stereotypes.

Popular parody of the lawyer did manage to affect professional comment in some small ways. Popular literature introduced such terms as pettyfogger for knavish, sharp, ‘rascally’ lawyers of decidedly inferior status, first used by Bullein in his popular Dialogue Against the feuer Pestilence. The term pettyfogger was subsequently adopted and extensively promoted by popular caricature and passed into general and professional usage during the seventeenth century. Some advice to lawyers also appeared to react to popular imagery. Several seventeenth-century characterizations of the honest lawyer are almost prescriptive rather than descriptive, and their content almost certainly responds to contemporary popular perceptions of lawyers. Richard Brathwaite, John Stephens and Dudley, Lord North, all wrote characters of the honest lawyer that read more like advice literature than simple descriptions, or commendations, of honest lawyers. Brathwaite, for example: “He take no fees, till he conceive the cause, Nor with an Oyly bribe annoints his jaws”, and, “His face is never shut to poor mens monies.” Lord North concluded his character of the honest lawyer with the advice, “Never to make a jest of his profession (as some of them do) affirming their practice a pretty trick to get money, a contention of wits and purses, a politic pastime to entertain busy brains, or a duel where the greatest strokes as given underhand; but will so defend right and justice, as he would wish to be defended by them.”

Nevertheless, among the mass of early modern public and professional comment about the legal profession, it is very difficult to demonstrate that popular parody of the lawyer had any significant influence on the content of professional comment or even lay criticism. Criticism and discussion about the legal profession had been present for centuries, long before Elizabethan and Jacobean popular authors popularized the character of the corrupt lawyer. There are too many factors present to clearly delineate a role for the popular press and stage. Apart from adding a certain potency (because of the very proliferation of images of the corrupt lawyer during the late sixteenth century and first half of the seventeenth century) popular literature and entertainments do not appear to have added any new elements (apart from the odd term and colourful phrase) into discussions about the legal profession. Rather than shape subsequent comment by and about the legal profession, popular parody of the lawyer appears simply to have reflected long-standing criticisms, concerns and images.

Like lawyers, medical practitioners, especially physicians, were a popular subject for parody in early modern England, although, generally unlike the lawyers’ public image, a creditable percentage of representations of the physician occurred in a positive light, particularly in drama and in popular jests and merry tales. Very often it was the physician who was the ‘hero’ of a popular tale or jest; an honest and worthy man (if a little aloof), who outwitted some country yokel thinking to expose him as a fraud to the local community. There are some links between the public images of lawyers and physicians. Many writers closely associated lawyers and physicians in their characterizations of both professions – after all, if a man’s soul was the territory of the clergy, the physician claimed his body and the lawyer his estate. All three, presumably, profited through misfortunes in their particular spheres of influence. Certainly, both lawyers and physicians popularly profited by others’ losses: as William Scott remarked in 1635, “the Lawyer by contentions between men, the Physitians by others sickneses.” Bullein’s Dialogue Against the feuer Pestilence also featured a physician who, like the two rascally lawyers, expressed dismay at the prospect of practising in the new commonwealth of the Americas: as there was no contention for the lawyers to thrive on, so there was no sickness for the physician to profit by; “God defend us from such a Commonwealth” the physician remarked to the lawyers. In 1642 Humphrey Browne compared physicians with lawyers in this verse:

The Lawyers and Physitians case have neer affinity;
For others ruines make them rich, no doubt most lawfully.
These sucke the sicke for potions, pounds.
For Law those lands purloine:
These promise health, and so get wealth;
Those quietnesse for coine.

Browne followed his verse with this tale: “When men prevaile in strength of body, they consult with the lying Oracle the Lawyer, who makes them wait so long attendance, and so often explicate their wearied joints that hee makes them sicke; then they consult with as bad an Oracle, the Oracle of Appollo … the Physitian, to recover their former health. Ones exit becomes the others entry.” As lawyers engendered processes and delays to get richer, so physicians engendered maladies.

The character of the avaricious physician appeared repeatedly in Elizabethan and Jacobean literature – he was a man who delayed the patient’s recovery in order to eke as much money out of him as was possible. Physicians rated directly behind lawyers in Edward Hake’s “greedy traine” of those who “grasping gape for gaine.” Like lawyers almost inevitably did in popular literature, physicians also often seemed to have scant sympathy for the poor man:

When one is Sick, if Money do appear
She can prevail to have the Doctor there ….
And so long time as he does Money find,
He dayly shall add comfort to your mind.
Until, of course, the money ran out:
He tells the sick Mans friends he can not Live,
He speaks the truth, when they’ve no more to give,
And if the Poor be sick, he’s then in haste,
Or very busie, hath no time to waste.
Nevertheless, the poor did have their uses. In his characterization of the greedy Physician Thomas Brewer remarked, “To learne to cure the rich, they’ll kill the poore.”

One of the most popular caricatures of the physician was that of the quacksalver, or quack – an ignorant man or woman who abused the skill and reputation of more learned and honourable physicians. In popular parody these quacks learned their skills from women and fools and drew their knowledge from old wives tales, inevitably making the healthy sick. Nicholas Breton characterized the unworthy Physician as an ignorant dishonest mountebank and a true quacksalver, a danger for the sick to deal with. In Philip Massinger’s play The Emperor of the East (1631) the character of the empirick, a personification of the ignorant (and therefore ultimately dangerous) quack was thoroughly exposed by the character of an honest doctor who commented, somewhat bitterly, “Such slaves as this, Render our art contemptible.”

Popular authors and playwrights assigned a variety of lesser evils to the character of the physician – a charge of atheism often appeared, as did charges of obscure language, aloofness and inability to deal successfully with disease, but, as The Emperor of the East demonstrates, not all characterizations of the medical practitioner were negative. In some dramas like The Emperor of the East the character of the quack enhanced the reputation of the worthy and learned medical practitioner. In another one of Massinger’s dramas, A Very Woman, the honest physician refused offers of fame and glory, while in a variety of other plays, jests and merry tales, respectable and learned physicians refused bribes (and even honest payment on occasion), recognised their limitations and refused to make false diagnoses for gain.

Similar to the trend already seen in the legal profession, physicians paid very little, if any, lip service to popular caricatures of their profession. Rather, much of their professional writing was concerned with attacking their fellow practitioners – Paracelsian chemists attacked the more orthodox Galenist physicians and vice versa, while just about every member of the profession who considered himself a reputable practitioner attacked the swarms of quacks, empiricks and mountebanks – that host of freelance and (generally) untrained practitioners who serviced the common people who couldn’t afford the fees of trained and licensed physicians. Although popular material provided the fashionable name for these untrained medical practitioners, quacksalvers or quacks, it contributed almost nothing else to comments by or about the medical profession. The debate within the medical profession about the activities of these so-called quacks had been going on virtually since the foundation of the Royal College of Physicians in 1518. In fact, the popular press and stage often had nothing to offer the frequently outrageous invectives of medical practitioners who argued against quakery. contribute to the professional writings of such men as the Elizabethan surgeon William Clowes who, arguing against quackery in 1585, derided the shameless, lewd and brutish practitioners who forsook their honest trades and rushed into medical practice for gain. Some of them, he wrote,

[are] cutlers, some cooks [and] some chandlers … Yea, nowadays, it is too apparant to see how tinkers, toothdrawers, pedlars, ostlers, carters, porters, horse-gelders, and horse-leeches, idiots, apple-squires, broom-men, bawds, witches, conjurers, soothsayers and sow-gelders, rogues, rat-catchers, runagates and proctors of Spittlehouses, with such other like rotten and stinking weeds do in town and country, without order, honesty and skill, daily abuse both Physic and Surgery, having no more … reason or knowledge in this art than has a goose.

Many authors, whether practitioners or laymen, often advised physicians not to charge exorbitant fees and not to refuse to treat the poor, but again, like the debate over quackery, this advice occurred long before the popular press and stage promoted the character of the avaricious physician. Some medical practitioners, however, demonstrated a singular lack of sympathy with the plight of poor English men and women by blaming the multitude of quacks on these people who were too miserly to spend a few extra pennies on a trained and licensed physician.

Like debate over the perceived corruptions and problems within the legal system, debate over corruptions and problems within the medical system of England shaped popular parody of medical practitioners rather than the other way around. Yet the picture is very different in the case of educational travellers. When it comes to the seventeenth-century debate over travel abroad for educational purposes, public comment and professional advice proved remarkably sensitive to to images popularized decades earlier in literature and drama.

Just as travel abroad for education started to become popular during the late sixteenth century, it began to attract a good deal of public comment, most of it extremely critical. Despite the well-publicized benefits and the obvious popularity of educational travel, a wide variety of printed material and popular entertainments presented particularly negative stereotypes or images of the educational traveller to the English public. Unlike their influence on discussions about the legal and medical professions, the Elizabethan and Jacobean popular press and stage proved particularly influential in shaping the direction of the later seventeenth-century debate over educational travel. Two popular stereotypes of the educational traveller, the foolish traveller and the traveller-liar (often combined within the one character), quickly became stock characters of the Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists, pamphleteers, novelists and balladeers, Although it was the late seventeenth century when Sir Carr Scroop remarked that, as physicians thrived by diseases, dramatists and actors thrived by portraying foolish travellers, many authors and actors had discovered this profitable source of income a century earlier. and both these caricatures markedly influenced seventeenth-century advice for and debate about educational travellers. Within a relatively short time, the attributes of foolishness and lying quickly became established faults of those (mostly blameless) Englishmen who set off to the continent to finish their education.

I’ll deal with the stereotype of the foolish traveller first. It was actually the popularity of the wicked Italianated traveller in Elizabethan drama and satire that ensured the success of the stereotype of the foolish traveller. Although the Italianated traveller was often a very threatening character, satirists, playwrights and pamphleteers quickly imbued him with foolish characteristics, and the foolish traveller quickly became an established figure in its own right. Foolish travellers adopted ridiculous fashions, affected equally ridiculous mannerisms, and couldn’t manage a single sentence of English without corrupting it with lisping and foreign words. George Gascoigne’s foolish traveller came home in 1572 with a toothpick hanging out of a mouth surmounted by a magnificent set of Turkish ‘moustachios’, a ‘nightgown cloak’ trailing underneath his toes and extravagant slippers, silken hose and rapier. A few years later Gabriel Harvey attacked the ridiculous and effeminate affectations of the Italianate who returned from abroad with his head permanently cricked to one side, eyes flashing and face smirking, his forefinger pressed to his pouted lips and his toes placed at impossible angles: “in courtly guises a passing singular odd man”, Harvey wrote. In 1592 Thomas Nashe described the foolish malcontent traveller in Pierce Penilesse as a man who returned from the continent wringing his face about as if he were stirring a mustard pot, and forcing Frenchified English out through clenched teeth whenever he spoke. while in his novel The Vnfortunate Traveller he personified the foolish traveller as a man who returned wearing extraordinarily ridiculous fashions.

a scull crownd hat of the fashion of an olde deepe porringer, a diminutiue Aldermans ruffe with short strings like the droppings of a mans nose, a close-bellied dublet comming downe with a peake behinde as farre as the crupper [and] a wide paire of gascoynes, which vngatherd wold make a couple of womens ryding kirtles.

Literary and dramatic characterizations of the foolish traveller continued to gain popularity into the seventeenth century with such popular characters as Sir Thomas Overbury’s affected traveller, Ben Jonson’s deformed Amorhpus in Cynthia’s Revels, and Barnaby Rich’s fantastic traveller in Faultes, Faults and Nothing Else but Faultes.

Here comes a spruce fellow now [wrote Rich] and if he be not allied to the Fantastic, yet I am sure the fool and he are so neare a kin, that they can not marry without a Licence from the Pope. Would ye know who it is? Marry sir, it is a traveller.

Although a few essayists included brief comments about foolish travellers during the first decade of the seventeenth century, until the 1620s there had been no significant criticism of travellers as fools outside of popular caricature.- although comments from some far-sighted individuals demonstrated a certain sensitivity about the issue. In 1578 Sir Philip Sidney predicted to his brother Robert that “ere it be long … wee travaylers shalbe made sporte of comodies,” while the author of a late-sixteenth letter of advice for travellers cautioned travellers to watch their behaviour on their return lest they become the butt of humourists for jests and table-talk. In 1614 Sir John Holles’ instructions to his son John indicate the influence the strong popular image of the foolish traveller could have on an individual:

Sum empty heads (as our merchants to the Indians carry bells, glasses, knyves, and suche lyke) bring only howme with them crooke shoulders, unstayed countenances, mopps and maws thrusting outte the crupper, and head forward, a shaling pace, affected gestures, curchies, salutations, and odd fashions of apparell speeche [and] diet.

Although a few essayists had included brief comments about foolish travellers during the first decade of the seventeenth century, until the 1620s there had been no significant discussion of travellers as fools outside of literary and dramatic ridicule. However, by the 1620s the popular image of the foolish traveller was so well established that many enthusiasts and apologists for educational travel, as well as travellers themselves, became particularly sensitive about the difficulty travellers had in maintaining their public credibility and reputation. Unlike lawyers and physicians who, publicly at least, appeared to be little concerned with popular parody, travellers became highly embarrassed about their public image. Criticisms from men like Samuel Purchas who made use of popular caricature to observe that some foolish travellers brought home nothing but a “few smattering termes, flattering garbes, Apish crings, foppish fancies, foolish … disguises [and] the vanities of Neighbour Nations” stimulated the apologists for travel to advise travellers not to provide further encouragement for critics and material for popular parody through irresponsible behaviour. One of the first authors of advice literature to incorporate the stereotype of the foolish traveller into his work was Owen Feltham who wrote about 1620. Feltham suggested that inherently foolish gentlemen should not travel at all, thus not only saving their own reputation but that of their families and country’s as well. Travel only mades the foolish gentleman worse, argued Feltham, for he gained nothing but the ‘gay sights, vices, exotic gestures and apery of a country. A travelling fool [was] the shame of all nations’. In his Instructions for Forreine Travell (published in 1642) James Howell used imagery strongly reminiscent of popular caricature to criticise Englishmen who, by ‘their gate and strouting, their bending in the hammes and shoulders and looking upon their legs, with frisking and singing so speake themselves Travellers.” Others by a fantastic kind of ribanding themselves, by their modes of habit and cloathing [their collection of complements and cringes and monstrous periwigs] do make themselves known to have breathed foreign air.’ ‘Such, I say, are a shame to their Countrey abroad, and their kindred at home, and to their parents.’ Other seventeenth-century authors of advice literature for travellers like Thomas Neale & Stephen Penton also incorporated advice for young men not to come home ’empty, unskilful gulls’. Other authors of conduct literature continued to echoe these concerns throughout the rest of the seventeenth century. Other authors of advice literature continued to echo these concerns and images during the remainder of the seventeenth century. Penton appealed to the traveller’s sense of dignity, reminding him that if he came home simpering and cringing

“as stiffly as the two Beaux do on the Sign of the Salutation, and you practise that here, you will be as much Laugh’d at in England, when you come back, as you were in France when first you went over to learn it.”

Although the influence of popular caricature of the foolish traveller is clearly evident on seventeenth-century comment on educational travel, the process is even more apparent with popular parody of the traveller-liar. The association of lying with pilgrims dates from medieval England; Chaucer, Langland and many of the Lollards, for instance, associated the vice of lying with pilgrims. The first Elizabethan to publicly resurrect the idea that travellers were bearers of fantastic tales with his character of Mendax was, believe it or not, William Bullein in his Dialogue against the feuer Pestilence. Since the practice of pilgrimage had died in Protestant England, Bullein connected the habit of lying with secular travellers. Other Elizabethan writers quickly adopted the image of the lying traveller, often connecting it with the name of the medieval Sir John Mandeville, the author of an extremely popular, if fantastic, book of tales. And the vice of lying rapidly became associated with the popular character of the educational traveller, especially the character of the foolish educational traveller. Sir John Melton’s traveller compounded his foolishness by lying in the effort to appear a wise and learned man; Ben Jonson’s foolish and deformed Amorphus lied “cheaper then any begger, and lowder then most clockes;” and Barnaby Rich’s farcical travellers emptied themselves of what little wit they had originally possessed, returning home sprouting lies along with their other foolish faults. George Chapman and James Shirley’s Freshwater, who epitomized the foolish traveller with his affected gait, speech and toothpick, also suffered the embarrassing personal problem of extreme bad breath that hindered his ability to tell lies convincingly. In prose, drama and verse authors portrayed travellers as habitual liars. In Breton’s An Olde Mans Lesson and a Young Mans Loue Chremes asked his son to relate truthfully his observations made during his travels, “for Trauailers are giuen (some say) to begull the worlde with gudgins.” In 1578 John Lyly somewhat ruefully commented in Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit, “alas, Euphues, what truth can there be found in a traveller.” As the character of Freshwater demonstrates, the traveller-liar provided as useful an image for playwrights as it did for pamphleteers and essayists. “Have you learned any wit abroad?” Rhetias caustically asked Menaphon in John Ford’s The Lover’s Melancholy (produced in 1628), “Can you tell news and swear lies with … grace, like a true traveller?” Shakespeare, who incorporated so many of the popular images of the educational traveller into his plays, included a brief satirical defense of traveller-liars in The Tempest (produced 1611)., and writers like John Ford and Shakespeare, among others, incorporated the image of the traveller-liar into their work. The lying traveller was also a staple of ballads and jests, but, due to length and in some cases indecency, it proves impossible for me to repeat them here.

After approximately forty years of popular caricature the image of the traveller-liar was strong enough and accepted enough to appear in advice literature for gentleman generally and for travellers specifically. In 1617 in his book Quo Vadis? Joseph Hall contemptuously dismissed the habit of some travellers to “tell wonders to a ring of admiring ignorants.” In the same year, Fynes Moryson advised travellers not to be too quickly drawn by the promise of a crust of bread to relate their journeys and observations, believing that the tales of a few imposters had tarnished genuine travellers’ reputations. James Howell also advised travellers not to exaggerate what they had seen on their return; some, it appeared, had a custom to relate strange tales and wonders in the manner of Sir John Mandeville. Other works of conduct literature mentioned traveller-liars, and a few warned educational travellers about exaggerating their stories on their return home. Sir Francis Bacon recommended that travellers be reticent in telling stories on their return home, Thomas Fuller also cautioned travellers not to report improbable truths, “especially to the vulgar, who instead of informing their judgements will suspect thy credit,” while Richard Brathwaite included in The English Gentleman a warning to all men employed in state business to beware of travellers and their lies. No men were more subject to relating strange tales, he cautioned, than travellers, who “arrogate to themselves a libertie of invention in this kinde.” Statesmen should always be wary of giving credence to the foreign news they heard, “for divers there be who presuming of the distance of place, will invent and vent their inventions to curry favour.” Brathwaite advised the virtuous statesman to interrupt these traveller-liars and shame them by telling even more outrageous tales. Not only did authors of advice literature (often travellers themselves) incorporate advice against lying into their works, travellers themselves occasionally were sensitive enough to deny the charge of lying in prefaces to their publications of their travels.

A few years later Brathwaite explained why travellers were liars in his Survey of History:

Such as lie on their travel, either do it for admiration, or having run upon the adverse shelves of a deplored fortune, and force to invent strange things for the relief of their dejected estate. Such as publish less than they have seen (omitting things of the greatest consequence, to satisfy our humours with trifles) do it to gain pregnancy, or singularity rather of conceit [inserting] frivolous occrences, borrowed, or … invented by their own fantastic brains.

The incorporation of the images of the foolish and lying travellers into seventeenth-century advice for and discussion about educational travellers had direct links with the promotion and popularization of these same images in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama decades earlier. It is extremely doubtful that either of these two images would have appeared in the debate over and advice for travellers had it not been for popular parody. So why the differences in the relationship between popular parody and professional comment or advice for lawyers and physicians on the one hand and educational travellers on the other? Why did the popular press and stage simply reflect public and professional opinion for lawyers and physicians and shape it for travellers? The most significant factor is that not only were the legal and medical practices established and well recognised by the late sixteenth century, but criticism, advice and even caricature of these practices had also been established for generations, if not centuries, by this time. To a large extent, public opinion was already well formed by the time the lawyer and physician became two of the most popular subjects for caricature in the rapidly expanding popular press of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods; satirists, playwrights, pamphleteers and jesters alike largely drew their inspiration from existing criticisms and opinions. They injected very few new elements into public discussions about the legal and medical practices; they certainly didn’t direct it. In the instances of the legal and medical practices of early modern England, popular parody reflected, it did not shape. The opposite is true in the instance of educational travel, and this was primarily because educational travel was a relatively new practice in Elizabethan England (although Englishmen had travelled abroad for educational purposes for many years, the practice only became popular during the late sixteenth century). There was very little established opinion, advice or criticism (or even general public awareness) about educational travellers before 1570 (apart from some generalized approval). This all changed very rapidly when the late Elizabethan popular press seized upon the traveller as a useful character for parody. The extraordinarily popular character of the Machiavellian Italianated traveller rapidly acquired overtones of foolishness and, probably thanks to William Bullein’s character of Mendax, habitual lying. For an entire generation, as knowledge of educational travel spread throughout English society, the overwhelming public personification of the traveller was negative; very often the only knowledge common people gained about educational travellers was from the public stage and popular press. Two of the most popular elements in public characters of travellers were foolishness and lying. These were traits that most travellers were not guilty of – in all my studies on travellers and their letters of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods there were only a few fools evident and even fewer liars. Discussion of foolish and lying travellers began in the Elizabethan popular press and on the popular stage; by the early seventeenth century it spread to the portraits of travellers in character books; from the 1620s it then spread into advice literature and general public discussion of educational travel.

My initial conclusion from studying the relationship between popular parody and professional comment and debate in the instances of lawyers, physicians and travellers would be that popular parody could only significantly affect the development of professional opinion and advice of any given profession, or practice, if such a practice (or even general public awareness of the practice) developed alongside public parody. This paper has been the result of preliminary research into the relationship between popular parody of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods and later seventeenth century professional comment; to arrive at a more complete conclusion it will be necessary to extend the survey to examine several other victims of popular parody in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, some of whom belonged to professions, groups or practices already established and recognized while others were merely in their initial stages of development and public recognition.

©1991 Sara Warneke / Sara Douglass Enterprises