Jude is Seb's older brother

From Jude Foxley, Master Scrivener and Citizen of London - my latest letter

I give you greetings

This morn I had to box their ears: those two rascals, Tom and Jack. They were come to blows again and this time at the shop door where passers-by could see. They will get the Foxleys a bad name and there’s no point in waiting for that brother of mine to correct them as he ought. He’s far too soft. So I clouted the pair of them around their heads, set their ears ringing, just as Matthew Bowen, my old master – may God rot his bones – used to do to me.

I can but think Seb’s master, Richard Collop, must have been so lenient upon my brother that he treats Tom and Jack in a likewise over-kindly manner. But then our father – God rest his soul – had to pay Master Collop exceeding well, to take on Seb as his apprentice and perhaps he paid for more gentle treatment of my brother also. I do not know, friend, whether you were aware that in those days Seb was badly lame and with his shoulder all askew, such that they called him a three-legged toad – because he walked using a staff and his back looked somewhat hunched. That’s when I learned my proficiency at boxing ears, in defending my little brother from those who tormented him, throwing stones and dung at him as well as insults. Seb was pitiful in his youth but markedly improved these days, after that ‘miracle’ which came to pass in a warehouse fire. Of that, I have never quite learned the whole truth for he refuses to speak of it.

Anyhow. Apprentices. Oh, aye, as I was saying, Seb served his term of indenture with Richard Collop and the old man certainly had the best of the deal for, even without training, my brother had a prodigious talent for drawing and illumination, as well as being the most accurate of scribes. (Don’t tell him I said these things, else his bloody head will no longer fit his cap.) Seb never attended song-school, as I did, since they wouldn’t take a cripple for fear his disability was a sign that the Devil had his soul. That was their loss as Seb has the voice of an angel. (Don’t tell him I told you that either.) So father tutored him at home before he was apprenticed, and I think our parent must have been an excellent teacher for Seb’s Latin, knowledge of English and the world around are all better than mine.

Also, I suppose he put all his strength into learning; effort that I put into drinking, wenching, cock-fighting and football, as all other apprentices do. I remember, one winter, a crowd of us was playing rough-and-tumble in the snow over at Smithfield and what was Seb doing, you ask? He sat beneath a tree and divided his time betwixt drawing us at our antics, until his fingers became too cold to hold his silver point, then he sat reading his notes on Aristotle, like a bloody Cambridge scholar. All that beautiful snow, waiting to be enjoyed to the full and my brother preferred to study! But that’s my little brother’s way. I suppose it has paid off, all that effort, now the Duke of Gloucester is his patron.

Not that I be in the least envious, you understand. Seb still has his crosses to bear: that moody mare of a wife, for one. And those unruly lads are ultimately his bloody responsibility, not mine. I am content with my life, I tell you. I have friends aplenty – more than my brother – and we share good times. Which calls to mind my appointment with them at the Panyer Inn, so fare you well, friend.

Written at the Foxley workshop in Paternoster Row, London.

From Jude Foxley, Master Scrivener and Citizen of London - my second letter

I give you greetings.

This day being Shrove Tuesday, I am in fine spirits for, as is the custom, Londoners celebrate this last day before the Lenten fast begins with Cock-fighting.

At the Panyer Inn in Paternoster Row, the courtyard will be turned into a cockpit after dinner and the finest birds in the city will be competing for the prize – a yard of ale. That may not seem so much reward for months of feeding and training the cocks but, I tell you, the winner’s standing is so greatly enhanced, he will likely not have to buy his own ale until after Easter, so it is worthwhile. And then there are the profits from wagers laid, of course.

Our cock is called Red-Poll. I say ‘our’ cock but I mean ‘mine’. I bought him without my brother’s knowledge – he would have disapproved – but from our business funds. The bird cost five marks and was a bargain at the price. And I shall return the money as soon as Red-Poll has shown his merits today. My friend Alan keeps the bird at his place, so Seb sees it not, and acts as its ‘feeder’. So I pay Alan rent and the cost of Red-Polls special diet. It’s a fact that including a little dirt from holy ground in with a cock’s food makes him invincible and I gather a pot full every week but I shall not reveal my secret source. I train the bird myself of a Saturday afternoon – otherwise I should be helping Seb do the accounts, so you can see which occupation I find preferable.

Red-Poll’s main rival this Shrovetide is Chanticleer, a bird with the devil’s eye and a beak like a poniard dagger. But Red-Poll is his equal and I designed his wicked steel spurs myself. Chanticleer will be tested and found wanting, I know. Red-Poll is keen to fight as any cock I’ve seen and will swiftly reduce his adversary to a mess of bloodied feathers. You have my word on that, if you want to place a wager. Go on. Risk a few groats, have fun. I promise you’ll not regret it. Red-Poll is a fine bird and a doughty opponent.

The benches will be set around the yard, much ale will be drunk. Red-Poll will have a few sips also to prime him for battle. Then each man shows his bird to the spectators and the innkeeper makes the book, noting all wagers. Then we let the birds see each other for the first time, encouraging them with words and actions, holding them close so their sharpened beaks near touch. Then comes the moment of release. Such a crowing and flurry of feathers, flashing and slashing of spurs, jabbing and thrusting of beaks and claws. Until but one bird remains standing.

I will send you word after, that you may know the odds and collect your winnings. Wish Red-Poll good fortune – not that he’ll need it.

Written this Shrove Tuesday morn at the Panyer Inn in Paternoster Row, London.

From Jude Foxley, Master Scrivener, etc.

A post scriptum to my earlier letter.

I know not what that wretch Alan – who calls himself my friend – did to my bird but Red-Poll was not his usual cocksure self this morn. I fear Alan must have overfed him, or given him too much ale before the fight, such that he seemed half asleep and in no way fit to do battle.

In short, Red-Poll is in the cook pot for supper this eve, our last meat dish before the Lenten fast begins in the morn. I lost money, as did many of my friends, to the owner of that devil-bird Chanticleer. If you lost your wager too, I send you my condolences. Blame Alan; it was all his fault.

As of now, I go to drown my sorrows but at least we shall enjoy a fine supper. Alan is not invited.

God give you good eve.

From Jude Foxley, Master Scrivener and Citizen of London - my first letter

I give you greetings.

Well, friend, if ever you visit our fair city, first and foremost, you will be in need of a drink after your journey. I am the man to ask on that score, as my little brother Seb will tell you. [Of course, he is ‘little’ no longer but a man grown yet old habits die hard.]

Talking of habits – we were, weren’t we? – my usual drinking den is this one, the Panyer Inn, being most handy, close to our workshop. The ale is good and wine often available, if you prefer, though not always of the best. Food is edible except of a Friday when, without fail, they serve stockfish. Even I know that the stone-hard dried codfish has to be soaked overnight before you can get your bloody teeth into it but the cook here doesn’t bother, I’m sure. It’s as if Friday arrives all unexpected for him every week and he can but serve up what looks and tastes like grey pot shards in grubby water and calls it ‘fish stew’.

So Fridays I suggest you go elsewhere. If your purse weighs heavy enough, I advise the Green Man by St Mary le Bow – where wealthy goldsmiths merrily rub shoulders with middling folk – and the food is excellent. I can recommend the pig’s trotter with pease pudding but on fish days the eel and oysters in a coffin is to be favoured above all. If you have sufficient coin, my brother – who rarely frequents such places anyway – tells me that Widow Fletcher at the Hart’s Horn by Smithfield, which lies too close to Newgate Gaol for my liking, is a fine cook also and her ale sweet and golden, if somewhat expensive. No wonder Seb has only ever been there with his friend Sir Robert Percy. Wait while I order another jug of ale...

That’s better. Now where was I? Ah, yes. And so to less expensive places. The Cardinal’s Hat Inn in Cornhill isn’t bad, though the innkeeper is a crusty old bugger. I’ve seen him spit into the ale before serving a customer who’d crossed him. His dog is just as surly and like to take a lump out of your leg if he has a mind to, so beware that one. The Fleece Tavern in Poultry is honest enough, despite its name, but the ale is often poor stuff indeed. The same goes for the Red Dog Alehouse though it has the advantage of a buxom serving wench Alice Holdgood – and she lives up to her name. The Pewter Pot in Garlickhill is better though the customers can be a rough lot, seamen from Queenhithe and Hansa sailors – you know the sort. If you are the gambling kind, I advise you visit the Stag in Bucklersbury. Whether dice, cards or cock-fighting, it all goes on at the Stag. Watch your money though for the local cut-purses have a fine time there too. Another word of warning – avoid the Key in Soper Lane off Cheapside. There you may get more than you bargained for, from the pox to counterfeit coin, from a knife in the gizzard to being wrongfully arrested. It’s a real den of thieves.

Well. I think I’ve given you enough wise counsel, my friend, should you visit the city. Besides, I have my jug to finish before I face another afternoon in the workshop. Another tedious Latin primer to copy out for some young scholar to loathe as much in studying as I do in penning it.

Written this day, whenever it is, at the Panyer Inn in Paternoster Row, London.