Seventeenth-century characters of clerks and scriveners
This is a selection of notable 'characters' and other treatments of clerks and scriveners of various kinds that I have come across, arranged chronologically according to publication or approximate transcription date (though the date of composition may be considerably earlier in some cases). The selection excludes a multiplicity of passing allusions to scribes which can be found in many other poems, plays, and prose works, as well as many related 'characters' (of lawyers, attorneys, moneylenders, brokers, 'extortioners', 'pettifoggers', and so on). In the case of some particularly lengthy works, relevant extracts only are reproduced.
. . . The causes decided here are many; the Clients that complained many; the Councellors (that plead till they be hoarse,) many; the Attorneys (that runne vp and downe,) infinite: the Clarkes of the Court, not to be numbred. All these haue their hands full; day and night are they so plagued with the bawling of Clients, that they neuer can rest.
The Inck where-with they write, is the bloud of Coniurers: they haue no Paper, but all things are ingrossed in Parchment, and that Parchment is made of Scriueners Skinnes flead off, after they haue beene punished for Forgerie: their Standishes1 are the Sculs of Usurers: their Pennes, the bones of vnconscionable Brokers, and hard-hearted Creditors, that haue made Dyce of other mens bones, or else of periured Executors and blind Ouer-seers, that haue eaten vp Widdowes and Orphanes to the bare bones: and those Pennes are made of purpose without Nebs, because they may cast Inck but slowly, in mockery of those, who in their life time were slowe in yeelding drops of pitty . . .
[Extract. By Thomas Dekker ( 1572?-1632). From chapter 2 of his Lanthorne and candle-light. or The bellmans second nights walke ( London, 1608), sig. Cv. Reprinted from the 2nd edn. ( 1609) in The nondramatic works of Thomas Dekker, ed. Alexander B. Grosart, 4 vols. (for private circulation, 1885), iii. 171-303 (pp. 205, 207-8). Forms chapter I in a slightly emended version in English villanies ( London, 1632).]