Reference > Cambridge History > Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton > London and the Development of Popular Literature > Wagering Journeys
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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

XVI. London and the Development of Popular Literature.

§ 29. Wagering Journeys.


So great was this interest in city personalities, that actors and public humourists would perform wagers in order to gain money by publishing accounts of them. Ferris’s colourless report of The Most dangerous and memorable Adventure (1590) in a wherry boat was followed by Kemp’s nine days wonder (1600), in which the actor vivaciously describes the episodes of his morris dance from London to Norwich. John Taylor, after an adventurous career in the navy and a few years’ struggle to earn a living in the decaying profession of waterman, devoted himself to literary hackwork and undertook wagering journeys, which were afterwards turned into rollicking pamphlets. It was, perhaps, this fashion which induced Richard Brathwaite, after trying his hand at essays and characters, to devote his learning and Goliardic humour to the narration of a voyage. Adopting the name of a proverbial drunkard, 141  he described a pilgrimage through the towns and villages of England in Barnabae Itinerarium or Barnabee’s Journal. Occasionally, he notes local peculiarities; but the story, mostly, is a record of the vagabond’s escapades, which sometimes meet a vagabond’s condign punishment. The booklet is a triumph of easy rhythmic verse.   67

Note 141Vide Ben Jonson, The Gipsies, and also the introduction of Barnaby as a bibacious coachman in The New Inn, or the light Heart. See, also, A Brown Dozen of Drunkards (ali-ass Drinkhards) whipt and shipt to the Isle of Gulls (1648), and memoir by J. Haslewood prefixed to ninth ed. of Barnabee’s Journal, 1820. [ back ]

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