The defence of conny catching

Conny catching.
two injurious Pamphlets published by R. G. against
the practitioners of many Nimble-witted
and mysticall Sciences.
By Cuthbert Cunny-catcher, Licenciate in Whittington Colledge.

Qui bene latuit bene vixit, dominatur enim fraus in omnibus.
[Woodcut: A rabbit standing on its hind legs and holding a sword over its shoulder and a shield. A severed hand in a gauntlet lies on the ground in front of it.]

Printed at London by A. I. for Thomas Gubbins
and are to be sold by John Busbie, 1592.

PUBLISHED FOR Thomas Gubbins


1.1. A pleasant tale of an Usurer.


Ah vile and injurious caterpiller, God hath sent thee to seeke thine owne revenge, and now I and my children wil performe it. For sith thy wealth doth so countenance thee, that we cannot have thee punisht for thy coossenage, I my selfe wil bee Justice, Judge, and Executioner: for as the Pillory belongs to such a villaine, so have I nayled thy eares and they shal be cut off to the perpetuall example of such purloining reprobates, and the executers shal bee these little infants, whose right without conscience or mercie thou so wrongfully deteinest. Looke on this old Churle litle babes, this is he that with his coossenage wil drive you to beg and want in your age, and at this instant brings your Father to all this present miserie, have no pittie uppon him, but you two cut off his eares, and thou (quoth she to the eldest) cut off his nose, and so be revenged on the villaine whatsoever fortune me for my labour. At this the Usurer cryed out, and bad her stay her children, and hee would restore the house & land again to hir husband. I cannot beleeve thee base churle q. she, for thou that wouldst perjure thy selfe [Page] against so honest a Gentleman as my husband, wil not sticke to forsweare thy selfe were thou at liberty and therefore I wil mangle thee to the uttermost. As thus she was ready to have her children fal upon him, one of hir maydes came running in, and told her, her neighbors were came to supper: bid them come in, quoth she, and behold this spectacle. Although the Usurer was passing loath to have his neighbors see him thus tyranously used, yet in they came, and when they saw him thus mannerly in a new made pillory, and his eares fast nayled, some wondred, some laught, and all stood amazed, till the Gentlewoman discourst to them all the coosenage, and how she meant to be revenged: some of them perswaded her to let him go, others were silent, and some bad him confesse: he hearing them debate the matter, and not to offer to helpe him, cryed out: why, and stand you staring on me neighbors, and wil not you save my life? No quoth the Gentlewoman, he or she that stirs to helpe thee shal pay dearely for it, and therefore my boyes, off with his eares: then he cryed out, but stay, and he would confesse all, when from point to point he rehearst how he had coossened hir husband by a deed of gift only made to him in trust, and there was content to give him the two hundreth markes freely for amends, and to yeeld up before any men of worship the land againe into his possession, and upon that he bad them all beare witnes. Then the gentlewoman let loose his eares, and let slip his head, and away went he home with his bloody lugges, and tarryed not to take part of the meat he had sent, but the gentlewoman & her neighbors made merry therwith, and laught hartily at the usage of the usurer. The next day it was bruted abroad, and came to the eares of the worshipful of the country, who sate in commission uppon it, and found out the coossenage of the Usurer, so they praised the witte of the Gentlewoman, restored her husband to the land, and the old churle remained in discredit, and was a laughing stocke to all the country all his life after.

I pray you what say you to Mounser the Miller with the gilden thumbe, whether thinke you him a Conny catcher or no: that robs every poore man of his meale and corne, and takes towle at his owne pleasure, how many Conyes doth hee take up in a yeare? for when he brings them wheat to the Mill, he sels them meale of [Page] their owne corne in the market. I omit Miles the Millers coossenage for wenching affaires, as no doubt in these causes they bee mighty Cony-catchers, and meane to speake of their pollicie in filtching and stealing of meale. For you must note, that our jolly Miller doth not only verse upon the poore and rich for their towle, but hath false hoppers conveyed under the fal of his Mill, where al the best of the meale runs by, this is, if the partie be by that bringeth the corne: but because many men have many eyes, the Miller will drive them off for their griest for a day or two, and then he playes his pranks at his owne pleasure. I need not tel that stale jeast of the Gentlemans Miller that kept Court and Leet once every weeke, and used to set in every sacke a candle, and so summon the owners to appeare by their names, if they came not, as they were farre inough from that place, then he amerced them, and so tooke treple towle of every sacke. One night amongst the rest, the Gentleman his maister was under the Mill, and heard all his knavery, how every one was called, and paid his amerciament, at last he heard his owne name called, and then stepping up the Ladder, he had stay, for he was there to make his appearance. I do imagine that the Miller was blanke, and perhaps his Maister called him knave, but the For the more he is curst the better he fares, and the oftener the Miller is called theefe, the richer the waxeth: and therefore doe men rightly by a by word bid the Miller put out, and if he asketh what, they say a theeves head and a theeves paire of eares: for such graund Cony-catchers are these Millers, that he that cannot verse upon a poore mans sacke, is said to be borne with a golden thumbe. But that you may see more plainly theyr knavery, Ile tel you a pleasant tale, performed not many yeares since by a Miller in Enfield Mil, ten miles from London, and an Alewives boy of Edmondton, but because they are al at this present alive, I wil conceale their names, but thus it fel out.

1.2. A pleasant Tale of a Miller and an Alewives Boy of Edmondton.

AN Alewife of Edmondton, who had a great bent for spiced Cakes, sent her sonne often to Endfield Mill for to have her [Page] wheat ground, so that the Boy who was of a quicke spirit & rype wit, grew very familiar both with the Miller and his man, and his man, and could get his corne sooner put in the Mil then any Boy in the country beside. It fortuned on a time, that this good wife wanting meale, bad her Boy hie to the Mil, and be at home that night without faile, for she had not a pint of floure in the house. Jacke her sonne, for so we wil cal his name, layes his sacke on his mares backe, and away he rides singing towardes Endfield: as he rode, he mette at the washes with the Miller, and gave him the time of the day, Godfather quoth he, whither ride you? to London Jacke quoth the Miller: Oh good Godfather quoth the boy, tel mee what store of griest is at the Mil? marry great store quoth the Miller: but Jacke if thou wilt do me an arrant to my man, ile send thee by a token that thou shalt have thy corn cast on & ground assoone as thou commest, Ile say and doe what you wil to be dispatcht, for my mother hath neyther Cakes nor floure at home: then Jacke saith the Miller, bid my man grind thy corne next, by that token he looke to my Bitch and feed her wel. I wil Godfather saith the Boy, and rides his way, and marveiled with himself what Bitch it was that he bad his man feede, considering for two or three yeares he had usde to the Mil, and never saw a Dog nor Bitch, but a little prickeard Shault that kept the Mil doore. Riding thus musing with himselfe, at last he came to Endfield, and there he had his corne wound up: assoon as he came up the stairs, the Millers man being somewhat sleepy began to aske Jack drowsily what newes. Marry quoth the Boy, the newes is this, that I must have my corne laide on next: soft Jacke quoth the Millers man, your turne wil not come afore midnight, but ye are alwayes in hast, soft fire makes sweet mault, your betters shal be served afore you this time. Not so quoth the Boy, for I met my Godfather at the washes riding to London, and tolde him what hast I had, and so he bids my griest shal be layde on next, by that token you must looke to his Bitch and feed her wel. At that the Millers man smilde, and said he should be the next, and so rose up and turned a pinne behind the Hopper. Jacke markt al this, and beeing a wily and a witty Boy, mused where this Bitch should be, and seeing none began to suspect some knavery, and therefore being very [Page] familiar, was bold to looke about in every corner, while the man was busie about the Hopper, at last Jacke turning up a cloath that hung before the Trough, spied under the Hopper belowe, where a great Poake was tyed with a cord almost ful of fine floure, that ranne at a false hole underneath, and could not be spyed by any meanes, Jacke seeing this, beganne to suspect this was the Millers Bitch that hee commanded his man to feede, and so smiled and let it alone: at last when the corne was ground off that was in the Hopper, Jacke layde on his, and was very busie about it himselfe, so that the Millers man set him downe and tooke a nap, knowing the Boye could looke to the mill almost as wel as himselfe, Jacke all this while had an eye to the Bitch, and determined at last to slip her haulter, which he warily performed, for when his corne was ground and he had put up his meale, he whipst asunder the cord with his knife that held the Poake, & thrust it into the mouth of his sacke, now there was in the Poake a bushell and more of passing fine floure, that the Millers Bitch had eaten that day, assoone as Jacke had tyed up his sacke, there was stri [...]ing who should laye on corne next, so that the Millers man wakte, and Jacke desiring one to helpe him up with his corne, tooke his leave and went his way, ryding merely homeward, smiling to thinke how he had cousoned the Miller, as he roade, at that same place where hee mette the Miller outward, he met him homeward, How now Jacke quoth the Miller hast ground, I, I thanke you Godfather quoth the Boy, but didst remember my arrant to my man sayes he, didst bid him looke to my Bitch wel, Oh Godfather quoth the Boy, take no care for your Bitch she is wel, for I have her here in my sacke whelpes and all, away rydes Jacke at this laughing, and the Miller grieving, but when he found it true, I leave you to gesse how hee and his man dealt togither, but how the Alewife sported at the knavery of her sonne when he told her all the jeast, that imagine, but how soever for all that, Jack was ever welcome to the Mill and ground before any, and whose soever sacke fedde the Bitch, Jackes scapte ever towle-free, that hee might conceale the Millers subtiltie.

Was not this Miller a Conny-catcher maister R. G? What should I talke of the baser sort of men, whose occupation cannot bee upholden without craft, there is no mysterie nor science almost, wherin a man may thrive, without it be lincked to this famous Art of Conny-catching. The Alewife unles she make[?] her Po[?]ts and Conny-catch [Page] her guestes with stone Pottes and petty Cannes, can hardly paye her Brewer, nay and yet that wil not serve, the chalke must walke to set up now & then a shilling or two too much, or else the rent wil not bee answered at the quarter day, besides ostrey, faggots, and faire chambring, and pretty wenches that have no wages, but what they get by making of beddes. I know some Taphouses about the Subberbes, where they buy a shoulder of mutton for two groats, and sel it to their ghuest for two shillings, and yet have no female friends to sup withall, let such take heed, least my fathers white Horse loose saddle & bridle & they go on foote to the divel on pilgrimage. Tush maister R. G. God is my witnesse, I have seene Chaunlers about London, have two paire of waites, and when the searchers come, they shewe them those that are sealed, but when their poore neighbors buy ware, they use them that lack weight, I condemne not all, but let such amend as are toucht at the quick. And is not this flat Conny-catching, yes, if it please your maship & worser. Why the base sort of Ostlers have their shifts, & the crue of S Patrickes Costerdmongers, can sell a simple man a crab for a pipping. And but that I have loved wine wel, I wold touch both the Vintner and his bush, for they have such brewing and tunning, such chopping and changing, such mingling & mixing, what of wine with water in the quart pot, and tempering one wine with an other in the vessel, that it is hard to get a neate cup of wine and simple of it selfe, in most of our ordinary Taverns, & do not they make poore men connies, that for their currant mony give them counterfeit wine.

What say you to the Butcher with his prickes, that hath pollicies to puffe up his meate to please the eye, is not al his craft used to draw the poore Conny to ryd him of his ware. Hath not the Draper his darke shop to shadow the dye and wooll of his cloth, and all to make the country Gentleman or Farmer a conny. What trade can maintaine his traffique? what science uphold it self? what man live, unles he growe into the nature of a Cony-catcher? Doo not the Lawyers make long Pleaes, stand upon their demurres, and have their quirks and quiddities to make his poore Client a Cony? I speake not generally, for so they be the ministers of justice, and the Patrons of the poore mens right, but particularly of such as hold gaines their God, and esteeme more of coyne then of conscience. I remember by the way a merry jest performed by a Foole, yet wittily hit home at hazard, as blinde men shoote the Crow.

This is a selection from the original text


infant, injurious, lack, mill, poor, science, vile

Source text

Title: THE DEFENCE OF Conny catching. OR A CONFUTATION OF THOSE two injurious Pamphlets published by R. G. against the practitioners of many Nimble-witted and mysticall Sciences. By Cuthbert Cunnycatcher, Licenciate in Whit- tington Colledge.

Author: Robert Greene

Publisher: A. I.

Publication date: 1592

Edition: 2nd Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online: Bibliographic name / number: STC (2nd ed.) / 5656 Physical description: [36] p. Copy from: Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery (reel 526) and the British Library (reel 1443) Reel position: STC / 526:25

Digital edition

Original author(s): Robert Greene

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) tp, images 8-10


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: Britain > prose fiction

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