Saturday, January 22, 2011

Raleigh's Muddy Cloak

'...From thence home, and after a little dinner my wife and I by coach into London, and bought some glasses, and then to Whitehall to see Mrs. Fox, but she not within, my wife to my mother Bowyer, and I met with Dr. Thomas Fuller, and took him to the Dog, where he tells me of his last and great book that is coming out: that is, his History of all the Families in England; and could tell me more of my own, than I knew myself. And also to what perfection he hath now brought the art of memory; that he did lately to four eminently great scholars dictate together in Latin, upon different subjects of their proposing, faster than they were able to write, till they were tired; and by the way in discourse tells me that the best way of beginning a sentence, if a man should be out and forget his last sentence (which he never was), that then his last refuge is to begin with an Utcunque...'

On January 22, 1661, Samuel Pepys records meeting with Thomas Fuller, the churchman known for his "The Worthies of England".  Fuller is credited also with a fictitious story that Sir Walter Scott employed in his "Kenilworth".  The story is the famous incident of Raleigh gallantly throwing his cloak atop a mud puddle so that Queen Elizabeth wouldn't get her feet dirty.  Scott repeats this incident in Kenilworth:

'Accordingly, she fixed her keen glance on the youth, as she approached the place where he stood, with a look in which surprise at his boldness seemed to be unmingled with resentment, while a trifling accident happened which attracted her attention towards him yet more strongly. The night had been rainy, and just where the young gentleman stood a small quantity of mud interrupted the Queen's passage. As she hesitated to pass on, the gallant, throwing his cloak from his shoulders, laid it on the miry spot, so as to ensure her stepping over it dry-shod. Elizabeth looked at the young man, who accompanied this act of devoted courtesy with a profound reverence, and a blush that overspread his whole countenance. The Queen was confused, and blushed in her turn, nodded her head, hastily passed on, and embarked in her barge without saying a word.

"Come along, Sir Coxcomb," said Blount; "your gay cloak will need the brush to-day, I wot. Nay, if you had meant to make a footcloth of your mantle, better have kept Tracy's old drab-debure, which despises all colours."


"This cloak," said the youth, taking it up and folding it, "shall never be brushed while in my possession."...'

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