Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
By Sir Thomas Overbury (15811613)
From The Characters
HIS outside is an ancient yeoman of England, though his inside may give arms (with the best gentlemen) and neer see the herald. There is no truer servant in the house than himself. Though he be master, he says not to his servants, Go to field, but, Let us go; and with his own eye, doth both fatten his flock, and set forward all manner of husbandry. He is taught by nature to be contented with a little; his own fold yields him both food and raiment; he is pleasd with any nourishment God sends, whilst curious gluttony ransacks, as it were, Noahs Ark for food, only to feed the riot of one meal. He is neer known to go to law; understanding, to be law-bound among men, is like to be hidebound among his beasts; they thrive not under it: and that such men sleep as unquietly, as if their pillows were stuft with lawyers pen-knives. When he builds, no poor tenants cottage hinders his prospect: they are indeed his alms-houses, though there be painted on them no such superscription: he never sits up late, but when he hunts the badger, the vowd foe of the lambs: nor uses he any cruelty, but when he hunts the hare; nor subtlety, but when he setteth snares for the snite, or pit-falls for the black-bird; nor oppression, but when in the month of July, he goes to the next river, and shears his sheep. He allows of honest pastime, and thinks not the bones of the dead any thing bruised, or the worse for it, though the country lasses dance in the church-yard after evensong. Rock Monday, and the wake in summer, shrovings, the wakeful ketches1 on Christinas Eve, the hoky, or seed cake, these he yearly keeps, yet holds them no reliques of popery. He is not so inquisitive after news derived from the privy closet, when the finding an eyry of hawks in his own grounds, or the foaling of a colt come of a good strain, are tidings more pleasant, more profitable. He is lord paramount within himself, though he hold by never so mean a tenure; and dies the more contentedly (though he leave his heir young) in regard he leaves him not liable to a covetous guardian. Lastly, to end him; he cares not when his end comes, he needs not fear his audit, for his quietus is in heaven.