July 12th – On this day in 1623, John Chamberlain wrote in a letter to Sir Dudley Carleton:
“The Spanish Ambassador is much delighted in beare baiting: he was the last weeke at Paris garden [in Southwark], where they shewed him all the pleasure they could with bull beare and horse, … and then turned a white beare into the Thames, where the dogges baited him swimming, which was the best sport of all”.
As noted in this posting from March 4th and this from March 11th, John Chamberlain, who lived from 1553/4-1628, and was baptised and buried in the church of St Olave Jewry in the City of London, is best known now as the author of a large number of letters written between 1597-1626, that “constitute the first considerable body … in English history and literature that the modern reader can easily follow”.
Most of the nearly 500 that still survive were written to Sir Dudley Carleton while he was serving as an ambassador in Venice and The Hague, and were evidently intended to keep the ambitious diplomat abroad informed of events – especially those befalling “the better sort of people” – at home (Carleton went on to become Secretary of State). The letters contain descriptions of such important events in Elizabethan and Jacobean history as the trial of the Earls of Essex and Southampton in 1601, the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, the trial of the Earl and Countess of Somerset in 1615, and the execution of Sir Walter Ralegh in 1618. They also contain much court, City and country tittle-tattle (“who’s in, who’s out”), picked up, no doubt, in St Paul’s Cathedral, which at the time had a reputation as the fount of all such – it appears that Chamberlain was an inveterate “Paul’s walker”!