It is 390 years since the death of John Manningham, a lawyer at Middle Temple. There was nothing much remarkable about his life, but he is remembered thanks to a diary he kept for a year or two at the dawn of the 17th century; and this diary happens to mention Shakespeare, and to give an historically important account of the death of Queen Elizabeth I.
John was born around 1575, the son of Robert Manningham of Cambridgeshire. When Robert died, John was formally adopted by his grandfather’s younger brother, Richard, a prosperous London mercer. He studied at Cambridge, graduating in 1596 before entering the Middle Temple.
Manningham married Anne Curle in 1605, and they had at least six children. He practised law throughout his life, and had a position at the court of wards and liveries. He inherited, from Richard Manningham, the manor house of Bradbourne in East Malling, Kent. He died on 22 November 1622. There is a little more biographical information available at Wikipedia or the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900.
Undoubtedly, Manningham is remembered today because of a diary he kept for a short while at the start of the 17th century while he was still a student at Middle Temple. Diary of John Manningham of the Middle Temple, and of Bradbourne, Kent, Barrister-at-law, 1602-1603, was first edited by John Bruce and published by the Camden Society in 1868. It is freely available at Internet Archive.
Bruce suggests Manningham’s text ‘is scarcely what is generally understood by a Diary. It is rather a note-book in which the writer has jotted down from time to time his impressions of whatever he chanced to hear, read, or see, or whatever he desired to preserve in his memory. The result is a curious patchwork. Anecdotes, witticisms, aphoristic expressions, gossip, rumours, extracts from books, large notes of sermons, occasional memoranda of journeys into Kent and Huntingdonshire, with some little personal matter of the true Diary kind, are all thrown together into a miscellany of odds and ends.’
The Dictionary of National Biography describes it thus: ‘The work is an entertaining medley of anecdotes of London life, political rumours, accounts of sermons, and memoranda of journeys. The gossip respecting Queen Elizabeth’s illness and death and the accession of James I is set down in attractive detail, and Manningham often supplies shrewd comments on the character of the chief lawyers and preachers of the day. He also gives an interesting account of the performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ [. . .] in the Middle Temple Hall. [. . .] The familiar anecdote of Shakespeare’s triumph over Richard Burbage in the pursuit of the favours of a lady of doubtful virtue rests on Manningham’s authority [see Shakespeare Online for example]. Sir Thomas Bodley, John Stow, and Sir Thomas Overbury are also occasionally mentioned by Manningham.’
Here are several extracts, including those that mention Shakespeare and the dying/death of Queen Elizabeth I.
18 January 1602
‘I rode with my cosen’s wife to Maidstone; dyned at Gellibrands.
As we were viewinge a scull in his studye, he shewed the seame in the middle over the heade, and said that was the place which the midwife useth shutt in women children before the wit can enter, and that is a reason that women be such fooles ever after.
My cosen shee said that the Gellibrands two wives lived like a couple of whelpes togither, meaninge sporting, but I sayd like a payre of turtles, or a couple of connies, sweetely and lovingly.
Mr. Alane, a minister, was very sicke. Gellibrand gave him a glyster, and lett him bloud the same day, for a feuer; his reason was, that not to have lett him bloud had bin verry dangerous; but to lett bloud is doubtfull, it may doe good as well as harme.
My cosen shee told me, that when shee was first married to hir husband Marche, as shee rode behinde him, shee slipt downe, and he left hir behinde, never lookt back to take hir up; soe shee went soe long a foote that shee tooke it soe unkindly that shee thought neuer to have come againe to him, but to haue sought a service in some vnknowne place; but he tooke hir at last.
Wee were at Mrs Cavils, when she practised some wit upon my cosen. Cosen she called double anemonies double enimies.’
2 February 1602
‘At our feast wee had a play called “Twelue Night, or What you Will,” much like the Commedy of Errores, or Menechmi in Plautus, but most like and neere to that in Italian called Inganni. A good practise in it to make the Steward beleeve his Lady widdowe was in love with him, by counterfeyting a letter as from his Lady in generall termes, telling him what shee liked best in him, and prescribing his gesture in smiling, his apparaile, &c., and then when he came to practise making him beleeue they tooke him to be mad.’
13 March 1602
‘Vpon a tyme when Burbidge played Richard III, there was a citizen grone soe farr in liking with him, that before shee went from the play shee appointed him to come that night vnto hir by the name of Richard the Third. Shakespeare ouerhearing their conclusion went before, was intertained and at his game ere Burbidge came. Then message being brought that Richard the Third was at the dore, Shakespeare caused returne to be made that William the Conqueror was before Richard the Third. Shakespeare’s name William.’
23 March 1603
‘I dyned with Dr Parry in the Priuy Chamber, and understood by him, the Bishop of Chichester, the Deane of Canterbury, the Deane of Windsore, &c. that hir Majestie hath bin by fitts troubled with melancholy some three or four monethes, but for this fortnight extreame oppressed with it, in soe much that shee refused to eate anie thing, to receive any phisike, or admit any rest in bedd, till within these two or three dayes. Shee hath bin in a manner speacheles for two dayes, verry pensive and silent; since Shrovetide sitting sometymes with hir eye fixed upon one obiect many howres togither, yet shee alwayes had hir perfect senses and memory, and yesterday signified by the lifting up of hir hand and eyes to heaven, a signe which Dr Parry entreated of hir, that shee beleeved that fayth which shee hath caused to be professed, and looked faythfully to be saved by Christes merits and mercy only, and noe other meanes. She tooke great delight in hearing prayers, would often at the name of Jesus lift up hir handes and eyes to Heaven. Shee would not heare the Arch[bishop] speake of hope of hir longer lyfe, but when he prayed or spake of Heaven, and those ioyes, shee would hug his hand, &c. It seemes shee might have lived yf she would have used meanes; but shee would not be persuaded, and princes must not be forced. Hir physicians said shee had a body of a firme and perfect constitucion, likely to have liued many yeares. A royall Maiesty is noe priviledge against death.’
24 March 1603
‘This morning about three at clocke hir Majestie departed this lyfe, mildly like a lambe, easily like a ripe apple from the tree, [. . .] Dr Parry told me that he was present, and sent his prayers before hir soule; and I doubt not but shee is amongst the royall saints in Heaven in eternall joyes.’