Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Critical Introduction by Norman Moore
William Clowes (15401604)
[William Clowes was born in 1540, and after apprenticeship to George Keble, a London surgeon, became a member of the Barber-Surgeons Company. He was surgeon to St. Bartholomews Hospital from 1575 to 1585, and afterwards served with the army abroad, and was in the field when Sir Philip Sidney was wounded. Before settling in practice he had been some years in the navy, and in 1588 he again went to sea in the fleet which defeated the Armada. He became surgeon to Queen Elizabeth, and after a life of constant activity, died at Plaistow in 1604.]
SEVERAL of the London surgeons of Queen Elizabeths reign were copious writers, and often began their books by an apology for writing in the vernacular. Their style is often pedantic, and their works without literary merit. William Clowes is in every way superior to his surgical contemporaries. His writings are those of a man without academic training, who knew some Latin, a little French, and no Greek, but who was a master of everyday English expression. He tells many stories, and his works deserve to be read by historians for the light which they throw upon domestic life in London in the reign of Elizabeth. His best works are A Prooved Practise for all young Chirurgians concerning Burning with Gunpowder (1591), and A right frutefull and approved Treatise for the Artificiall Cure of the Struma or Evill (1602). Clowes is sometimes too long, but is rarely obscure, and generally racy. He is as full of proverbs as Sancho Panza, and has them for all occasions. He was an accurate observer, and the conclusions drawn from his observations are often supported by well reasoned arguments.