Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wicked worldly thoughts

‘This morne my wife began, after her old manner, to braule and revile mee for wishing her only to wear such apparrell as was decent and comly, and accused mee for treading on her sore foote, with curses and othes; which to my knowledge I touched not.’ This is Adam Eyre - whose funeral took place 350 years ago today - a Yorkshire yeoman who is remembered chiefly for his diary and its vivid domestic details.

Born in 1614 in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Eyre married Susannah Mathewman in 1640. During the Civil War, he was a commissioned captain in the Parliament’s army, under Fernando, Lord Fairfax. In 1651, he styled himself a gentleman, and purchased crown lands at Blandesby Park, in Pickering, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, though he went into debt to do so. Although the date of his death is not recorded, it is known that he was buried on 6 April 1661, probably at Penistone in Yorkshire.

A short biography for Eyre can be found at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (although log in is required); and English folk: A Book of Characters, by Wallace Notestein, available at Googlebooks, has a chapter on Eyre. Also there’s an article about him in the spring 1994 edition of Journal of Social History, available at Find Articles. However, almost all the information about Eyre is sourced from his ‘dyurnall’, a diary, covering a period between 1647 and 1649. Apart from recording his mediation in local quarrels, it provides vivid descriptions of domestic disharmony.

Jeremy Boulton’s home page at the University of Newcastle website has a few select entries from Eyre’s diary. The full text, however, was included in Yorkshire Diaries and Autobiographies in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries published by the Surtees Society in 1877, and this is available online at Internet Archive. Here are a couple of extracts.

8 June 1647
‘This morne my wife began, after her old manner, to braule and revile mee for wishing her only to wear such apparrell as was decent and comly, and accused mee for treading on her sore foote, with curses and othes; which to my knowledge I touched not; nevertheless she continued in that extacy til noone; and at diner I told her I purposed never to com in bed with her til shee tooke more notice of what I formerly had sayd to her, which I pray God give mee grace to observe; that the folly of myne owne corrupt nature deceive mee not to myne own damnacion. After diner I went to Bulhouse where I had bidden an Ale for Antho. Crosland, and got him 29s. 6d. I spent myselfe 1s. 5d., and lent Raph Wordsworth of Waterhall Dalton’s ‘Justice of Peace’ [a law book]. I received a note from Jos. Eyre to be at Castleton on Thursday next at the cort. I signed a note for payment for 2 waynes by the towne.’

6 August 1647
‘This morning wee went to the wayre in the Wayre field, and Christofer Marsden came, and would have made a rescusse for working in our owne ground; and sayd ye stream was the king’s, and hee had as much right in it as I; and gave mee other ill language; wherupon, as soone as hee was gone, I went and cutt the boughes which grew on this syde his fence. Then came his wife and gave somewhat better words, yett tarte enough. Then at noone I went home, and received for 2 loads of meal out of the new arke 1l. 18s. 10d.; and Thomas Marsden having pinned a peice of wood in the wayre, came and made mee standing for my meare in the old stable. Then I went up to them again, and sent 1s worth of ale; and at night payd to Jo. Goddard for this week’s work 5s; his sonne 3s; and Tho. Marsden 6d.

This night my wife had a painful night of her foote, which troubled mee so that sleepe went from mee. Wherupon sundry wicked worldly thoughts came in my head, and, namely, a question whether I should live with my wife or noe, if shee continued so wicked as shee is; wherupon I ris and prayd to God to direct mee a right. And, after I read good counsell of Lawrence concerning the assistance of Angells, and the Devil, and our owne wills provoking to him. I prayed God again to direct mee, and so slept til morne quietly, praysed by God.’

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