Remembering Our Ancestors: Jane Playse

Let me take you back to the Elizabethan time.

Our 15th (and 16th) great-grandmother Jane Andrews (née Playse) was a contemporary of Shakespeare, and even lived in London, England, at the latest since 1595.

But she had not been a city dweller all her life, much like The Bard.  Jane Playse was born in 1528 in the East Midlands, more precisely in Northampton, in the shire that bears the same name, some 60 miles north-west of London, and about 45 miles east of Stratford-upon-Avon.  There she appears to have grown up, and by the time she was 21, in 1549, she married our 15th (and 16th) great-grandfather William Andrews in Charwelton, a village about halfway between Northampton and Stratford.  There, at least two sons were born to them, William Jr. and Robert, both in 1550.  Since the bubonic plague was ravaging the area off and on during those years (and for many more decades to come until the Great Plague of London of 1665-66 marked the last great epidemic almost 100 years later), we do not know how many more children they might have had and lost, but we do know that Robert lived long enough to become the father of our 14th (and 15th) great-grandfather John Andrews.  John’s own son William, in turn, immigrated to the colonies in 1624 and started the Andrews family of (what was to become) Hartford, CT, and John followed him when he was already 83 and most all his remaining relatives had either died in England or immigrated already.

But back to Jane and William.  How long they stayed in the area of Charwelton we are not sure, but the year 1596 finds them in London, where William died, his burial being recorded in the church books of St. Giles Cripplegate.  This church lies about a 15 minute walk from St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate where Shakespeare resided during the same year.  Presumably, Jane and Andrew lived somewhere in the vicinity as well.  St. Giles is also the church where, 15 years later, Jane’s burial is documented.  According to the records, she was buried 24 January 1611, that’s today 409 years ago.

I still remember just how exciting it was to realize that Jane and William lived in Shakespeare’s London, and at least Jane had the (theoretical) possibility to go and see a play in the original Globe Theater which was build in Southwark, on the other, as yet barely developed and quite disreputable side of the river, in 1599.  Maybe Jane would never have dreamed of going to the playhouse!  But maybe she did!  We cannot be sure either way.

Jane’s son Robert did not live in London either for the most part, but married and settled in Coventry in Warwickshire, just north-west of his hometown.  Chances are that Jane and William moved to London only after their son had left their home to raise his own family.  Interestingly enough, however, Robert, too, died in London, at the St. Bartholomew-the-Great hospital, and his burial is recorded in the books of St. Martin, Ludgate.  All these places, St. Giles, St. Bartholomew and St. Martin are less than a mile away from each other.

It does make you wonder if people came to London from the countryside to die and be buried there, or if spending a part of your life in the countryside and a part in the big city, like we know Shakespeare did, was quite common back in the day, at least for a certain social class.

In any case, history comes alive when direct ancestors were part of it and no mistake.  Rest in Peace, Great-Grandma Jane Andrews.  We envy you.  A little.

The_Swan performance
A 1596 sketch of a performance in progress at The Swan, a theater much like The Globe that was built in 1599.

SONNET 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

~ William Shakespeare

Featured: John Norden’s map of London in 1593, cropped

Poesie: E. Taylor’s Huswifery

Did you know that none of Edward Taylor’s poetry was published until 1939?

So many of our ancestors came to America in the 17th century, and some lived in Massachusetts just like Edward Taylor did, who was born in England and went to live in the New World in 1668. The itemized domestic allegory that we find in this poem was, they say, a staple feature of sermons and didactic verse at the time, so what we find here would be the same kind of sermon and poetry that our ancestors were accustomed to back in the day.

Incidentally: The spelling of the poem is modernized in the version below, giving “complete” for “compleate”, “Word” for Worde”, “soul” for “Soule” and the like.  If you prefer the old spelling, read the poem at the PoetryFoundation.

Huswifery

Make me, O Lord, Thy spinning wheel complete.
Thy Holy Word my distaff make for me.
Make mine affections Thy swift flyers neat
And make my soul thy holy Spool to be.
My conversation make to be Thy reel
And reel the yarn thereon spun of Thy wheel.

Make me Thy loom then, knit therein this twine:
And make Thy Holy Spirit, Lord, wind quills:
Then weave the web Thyself. The yarn is fine.
Thine ordinances make my fulling mills.
Then dye the same in heavenly colors choice,
All pinked with varnished flowers of paradise.

Then clothe therewith mine understanding, will,
Affections, judgment, conscience, memory
My words, and actions, that their shine may fill
My ways with glory and Thee glorify.
Then mine apparel shall display before Ye
That I am clothed in holy robes for glory.

~ Edward Taylor

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Poesie: Vaughan’s The World

Even after well-nigh 400 years, Vaughan retains this peculiar power to astonish.

The World

I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright;
And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years,
Driv’n by the spheres
Like a vast shadow mov’d; in which the world
And all her train were hurl’d.
The doting lover in his quaintest strain
Did there complain;
Near him, his lute, his fancy, and his flights,
Wit’s sour delights,
With gloves, and knots, the silly snares of pleasure,
Yet his dear treasure
All scatter’d lay, while he his eyes did pour
Upon a flow’r.

The darksome statesman hung with weights and woe,
Like a thick midnight-fog mov’d there so slow,
He did not stay, nor go;
Condemning thoughts (like sad eclipses) scowl
Upon his soul,
And clouds of crying witnesses without
Pursued him with one shout.
Yet digg’d the mole, and lest his ways be found,
Work’d under ground,
Where he did clutch his prey; but one did see
That policy;
Churches and altars fed him; perjuries
Were gnats and flies;
It rain’d about him blood and tears, but he
Drank them as free.

The fearful miser on a heap of rust
Sate pining all his life there, did scarce trust
His own hands with the dust,
Yet would not place one piece above, but lives
In fear of thieves;
Thousands there were as frantic as himself,
And hugg’d each one his pelf;
The downright epicure plac’d heav’n in sense,
And scorn’d pretence,
While others, slipp’d into a wide excess,
Said little less;
The weaker sort slight, trivial wares enslave,
Who think them brave;
And poor despised Truth sate counting by
Their victory.

Yet some, who all this while did weep and sing,
And sing, and weep, soar’d up into the ring;
But most would use no wing.
O fools (said I) thus to prefer dark night
Before true light,
To live in grots and caves, and hate the day
Because it shews the way,
The way, which from this dead and dark abode
Leads up to God,
A way where you might tread the sun, and be
More bright than he.
But as I did their madness so discuss
One whisper’d thus,
“This ring the Bridegroom did for none provide,
But for his bride.”

~ Henry Vaughan (1621 – 1695)

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Poesie: George Herbert’s The Pulley

Herbert’s Pulley is a charmingly original explanation of why we are so restless.

The Pulley

When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
“Let us,” said He, “pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie,
Contract into a span.”

So Strength first made a way;
Then Beauty flowed, then Wisdom, Honour, Pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all His treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.

“For if I should,” said He,
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore My gifts instead of Me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
So both should losers be.

“Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to My breast.”

~ George Herbert (1593 – 1633)

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