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Miscellaneous documents: Stratford-upon-Avon corporation
January 24,
1598

BRU15/1/135, recto

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BRU15/1/135, recto
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Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

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The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has graciously contributed images under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommerical ShareAlike 4.0 International license. Visitors may download, link to and cite the images for personal research only. Any further use, including, but not limited to, unauthorized downloading or distribution of the images, commercial or third party use, is strictly prohibited. Visitors must contact the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to request additional use, at: images.scla@shakespeare.org.uk

Document-specific information
Creator: Abraham Sturley
Title: Miscellaneous documents: Stratford-upon-Avon corporation
Date: January 24, 1598
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU15/1/135

Item Creator
Abraham Sturley
Item Title
Miscellaneous documents: Stratford-upon-Avon corporation
Item Date
January 24, 1598
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
BRU15/1/135

BRU15/1/135, verso

View Image Assets
BRU15/1/135, verso
Click image to enlarge

Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Terms of use
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has graciously contributed images under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommerical ShareAlike 4.0 International license. Visitors may download, link to and cite the images for personal research only. Any further use, including, but not limited to, unauthorized downloading or distribution of the images, commercial or third party use, is strictly prohibited. Visitors must contact the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to request additional use, at: images.scla@shakespeare.org.uk

Document-specific information
Creator: Abraham Sturley
Title: Miscellaneous documents: Stratford-upon-Avon corporation
Date: January 24, 1598
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU15/1/135

Item Creator
Abraham Sturley
Item Title
Miscellaneous documents: Stratford-upon-Avon corporation
Item Date
January 24, 1598
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
BRU15/1/135

Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Terms of use
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has graciously contributed images under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommerical ShareAlike 4.0 International license. Visitors may download, link to and cite the images for personal research only. Any further use, including, but not limited to, unauthorized downloading or distribution of the images, commercial or third party use, is strictly prohibited. Visitors must contact the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to request additional use, at: images.scla@shakespeare.org.uk

Document-specific information
Creator: Abraham Sturley
Title: Miscellaneous documents: Stratford-upon-Avon corporation
Date: January 24, 1598
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU15/1/135

In this letter, dated January 24, 1598, Abraham Sturley wrote to fellow Stratford townsman Richard Quiney about several town matters, including a rumor regarding Shakespeare’s intent to purchase land.

Sturley was a prominent member of the Stratford Corporation. He settled in the town in about 1580, and, following his election as a capital burgess in 1591, was rapidly promoted to alderman in the summer of 1594, and served as bailiff in 1596/97. Richard Quiney, also a prominent Corporation figure and Sturley’s close friend, was frequently chosen to travel to London to promote the Corporation’s interest. Quiney kept many of the letters he received from Sturley during these visits, including the one shown here. In these letters Sturley addresses Quiney as his brother, perhaps simply reflecting their status as brother aldermen. However, Sturley is also known to have referred to Quiney’s wife as his sister, implying a closer relationship yet to be explained. 

Quiney had been in London since late October 1597, seeking advice on renewing and extending the town’s charter. On January 24, 1598, Sturley wrote to him on a number of issues, one of which throws significant light on William Shakespeare’s affairs. Sturley informs his friend that he had picked up from Quiney’s father Adrian that “our countriman Mr Shakspere is willinge to disburse some monei vpon some od yarde land [ca. 30 acres] or other att Shottri or neare about vs.” However, Adrian had expressed the view that it would be better if Shakespeare could be persuaded instead to “deale in the matter of our Tithes,” that is, to become involved in the management of those tithes which then belonged to the Corporation. Sturley charged Richard Quiney, “bi the instruccions u can geve him theareof, and bi the frendes he can make” to persuade Shakespeare to invest in these tithes instead of the land purchase he was thought to have in mind. Clearly Sturley assumed that the two men would then meet in London, and the letter further reflects a belief that Shakespeare, by now the owner of New Place, was intending to invest further capital in the purchase of real estate in the neighborhood. In fact, it was not until 1602 that he took this step.

Sturley continues his letter with an account of unrest in the town as the result of the high corn prices, exacerbated by an associated surge in the rate of burials the previous year, at 170 or so (over twice the normal rate and only exceeded by the outbreak of plague in 1564. The dramatic rise in prices was the result of a succession of bad harvests which resulted in near famine conditions in many parts of Western Europe. Sturley writes: “v shall vnderstande brother that our neighbours are growen with the wantes thei feele throughe the dearneses of corne ... malecontent” and had petitioned to four local magistrates, Thomas Lucy, John Conway, Fulk Greville and Edward Greville to investigate the activities of local maltsters who were accused of hoarding. Thomas West was reported as hoping that he would “within a weeke to leade some of them in a halter” and Thomas Granams had allegedly gone further, hoping that the Earl of Essex would intervene “to se them hanged on gibbetts att their owne doors.” These pressures led to further government enquiries into the reason for the shortages.

The letter concludes with miscellaneous business news, the most significant elements of which, given later developments, concern Sturley’s personal finances. He laments that he is in the “greatest need of 30l that possibli maie be. In truth brother to v be it spoken & to nonne els for want thereof knowe skarce which wai to turne me.” He then goes on to refer to a loan of £80 which must be repaid in May, though he asks Quiney if he could negotiate a delay in the repayment of £40 for a further six months.

The original letter suffered severe water damage during World War II and is now barely legible but several copies exist, the earliest by James Saunders, c. 1825, at ER 1/97, ff. 148-150v.

Semi-diplomatic transcription

Most lovinge & belovedd in the Lord in plaine Englishe we remember v in the Lord & our selves vnto v. I would write nothinge vnto v nowe but come home. I pray God snd  v comfortabli home. This is one speciall remembrance ffrom vour ffathers motion. Itt semeth bi him that our countriman Mr Shakspere is willinge to disburse some monei vpon some od yarde land or other att Shottri or neare about vs he thinketh it a veri fitt patterne to move him to deale in the matter of our Tithes. Bi the instruccions v can geve him theareof and bi the frendes he can make therefore we thinke it a faire marke for him to shoote att & not vnpossible to hitt. It obtained would advance him indeede & would do vs much good. hoc movere & quantum in te est permovere ne negligas; hoc enim et sibi et nobis maxime erit momenti. Hic labor hoc opus esset eximiae et gloriae et laudis sibi’ [Do not neglect to move in this and, as much as in you lies, move deeply; for it will be both to himself and us of the greatest importance. This is the task, this work to bring to him exceeding honour and praise]

v shall vnderstande brother that our neighbours are growen with the wantes thei feele throughe the dearneses of corne (which heare is beiond all other countries that I can heare of deare & over deare) malecontent. thei have assembled togeather in a great nomber & travelld to Sir Thomas Luci on ffridai last to complaine of our maltsters. on Sondai to Sir ffoulke Greville & Sir Iohn Conwai. I should have said on Wensdai to Sir Edward Grevill first. theare is a meetinge heare expected to morrowe. the Lord knoweth to what end it will sorte. Thomas West returninge ffrom the ii knights of the Woodland came home so full that he said to Mr Baili that night he hoped within a weeke to leade some of them in a halter meaninge the maltsters and I hope saith Ihon Grannams if God send mi Lord of Essex downe shortli to se them hanged on gibbetts att their owne doores.

To this end I write this cheifli That as vour occasion shall suffer v to stai theare might bi Sir Edward Greville some meanes made to the Knights of the parliament for an ease and discharg of such taxes & subsedies wherewith our town is like to be charged and I assure v I am in great feare & doubte bi no meanes hable to paye. Sir Edward Greville is gonne to Bristowe & from thence to London as I heare who verie well knoweth our estates & wil be willinge to do vs ani good.

Our great bell is broken & William Wiatt is mendinge the pavemente of the Bridge. Mi Sister is chearefull & the Lord hath bin mercifull & comfortable vnto hir in hir labours & so that v be well imploied geveth v leave to followe vour occasions for a weeke or fortnight longer. I would v weare furnisht to pai William Pattrike for me xil & bringe his quittance for I thinke his specialitie is in Ihon Knight hand due on Candells daie. Yesterdai I spake to Mr Sheldon att Sir Thomas Lucies for the staie of Mr Burtons suite & that the cause might be referred to Mr Walkers of Ellmington. he answered me that Mr Burton was nowe att London & with all his harte & goodwill the suite should be staied & the matter so referred. I have here inclosed a briefe of the reckoninge betwene him and me as I would have it passe and as in aequitie it should pass if he wil be but as good as his faith & promise. 

Good brother speake to Mr Goodale that there be no more proceadinge in th’arches by Mr Clopton whom I am content & most willinge to compounde withall & have bin ever since the beginninge of the laste terme & thearefore much iniured bi some bodie that I have bin put to an unnecessarie charge of xxs & vpwards that terme. Wheareas I had satisfied Mr Clopton as I was credibli made beleve bi some of his servantes. I was also assured of the staie of suite bi Mr Barnes in the harvest & bi Mr Pendleburi in the latter end of the terme. Mi brother Woodwarde commeth vp at the latter end of this weeke who will speake with Mr Clopton himselfe to that purpose. V vnderstand bi my letter I sent bi our countriman Burnell That masse Brentt’ dispatched 50l for v, Ihon Sadler bounde alone as yeat.  Because Mr Barber might not have it for 12 moneths he would nonne at all wherebi I lost my expectation & leaste I assure v in the greatest need of 30l that possibli maie be. In truth brother to v be it spoken & to nonne els for want thereof knowe skarce which wai to turne me. det Deus misericordiae Dominus exitum secundum beneplacitum suum [May God, the lord of mercy, give an issue according to his good pleasure]

Vour ffather with his blessinge & commendation my Sister with hir lovinge remembrance commends her. in health both, with all vour chiidren & houshold. vour ffather extraordinari hartii chearefull & lustie hath sent v this remembrance inclosed.

It maie be v know him his executor & brother I mean of whom our brother Wheate borowed for me the 80l paihable att mai next. his name I have not att hand. he dwelleth in Watlinge Streate. If 40l thereof might be procured for 6 monethes more it would make me whole. I know it doth v good to be doinge good and that v will do all the good v can. 

I would Hamlett weare att home satisfied for his paines taken before his cominge & so freed from further travell.    

Nunc Deus omnipotens opt. Max. pater omnimodae consolationis benedicat tibi in viis tuis et secundet te in omnibus tuis per Ihesum Christum dominum nostrvm amen.
Dum vullus sum tuus sum.

Stretfordia Ianuarii 24
Abraham Sturley

Commend me to Mr Tom Burnell & pray him ffor me & mi brother Daniel Baker to looke that T. Tub maie be well hooped that he leake not out lawe to our hurte for his cause: quod partim avidia non nihill suspicor & timeo.

                                                                                                     l    s    d
Receved of Mr But in Beanes 23 quarters at 3s 4 the strike     30  13    4
    Barlei 8 quarters & 4 strikes at 4s the strike                         13  12    0
    Wheat 4 quarters 4 strikes at 6s 8d the strike                        12    0    0
                                                                                                  56l   5s   4d
I have paied & sowed theareof                                                 52l  11s  8d

Mi Lady Greville is run in arreages with mi Sister for malt (as it semeth) which hindreth  & trowbleth her not a littell

Written by Robert Bearman

Last updated February 17, 2016