“The custome and manners of a Commonwealth” (John Reresby, 1658)

Custom and manners of a Commonwealth

On this day in 1658, the politician Sir John Reresby (1634-89) wrote in his diary (*):

“The citizens and common people of London had then soe far imbibed the custome and manners of a Commonwealth that they could scarce endure the sight of a gentleman, soe that the common salutation to a man well dressed was “French dog,” or the like. Walkeing one day in the street with my valet de chambre, who did wear a feather in his hatt, some workemen that were mending the street abused him and threw sand upon his cloaths, at which he drew his sword, thinkeing to follow the custome of France in the like cases. This made the rabble fall upon him and me, that had drawn too in his defence, till we gott shelter in a hous, not without injury to our bravery and some blowes to ourselves”.

(*) The diary has been described by the historian Henry Wheatley as follows:

“ … the work of an accomplished man who united in himself the qualities of a courtier and those of a country squire. The book contains a pleasing record of the chief events, some of them of very great importance, which came under his notice [including not only the  Civil War and Commonwealth, but also the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, the Popish Plot in 1680, and the Glorious Revolution in 1688], as well as of other matters founded on the mere gossip of court circles. The author writes with distinction, and the reader cannot well follow his adventures without a feeling of esteem and sympathy, although it must be confessed that he was somewhat of a self-seeker … .  To those who read his pleasant narrative with interest, this must, however, appear a hard saying. He lived in a difficult period, and, although he was whole-heartedly loyal to Charles II, he does not appear to have approved of the next sovereign, and his protestant feelings prevented him from being troubled with much regret when the revolution was completed; so that he had not any difficulty in deciding to swear allegiance to William III”.

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