The Two Pilgrimages of the Laureate of Ashover, Leonard Wheatcroft

  • Cedric C. Brown
Part of the Early Modern Literature in History book series (EMLH)


The broad development through the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries of diaries and autobiographies, that is to say, forms of personal record of shorter and longer perspective, is well known. It is understood, for example, that the personal record developed slowly out of annals of memorable events, that the practice moved from clerics to lay persons, especially in towns, that spiritual self-recording became common during and after the religious struggles of the sixteenth century, and that there is a thin line between various kinds of accounting and self-accounting, since both can be about the use of the talents or ‘the infinite benefit of daily Examination: Comparing to a Merchant, keeping his books, to see whither he thrived …’1 Many kinds of record attempt to clarify what happened in the past in order better to gear up for the future. But, as the present volume witnesses, there are many kinds of personal record, many more than can be comfortably assimilated to one model, and in any period more dispersed or differently figured kinds of self-recording can be found. This essay is about a remarkable and little known set of seventeenth-century documents which may serve, at the least, to make us think about the relationship of ‘private’ self-representations and ‘public’ self-presentations, and about the effects of the wide distribution through print of collections of socially useful or self-improving kinds of writing, books of ‘wit’ in verse and exemplary letters.


Personal Record Religious Struggle Autobiographical Narrative Natural History Society Comic Story 
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  1. 1.
    Diary of John Evelyn, ed. E.S. De Beer, vol. 4 (Oxford, 1955), p. 222, quoted in the introduction to English Family Life: An Anthology from Diaries, ed. Ralph Houlbrooke (Oxford and New York, 1988).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Both are deposited in the Derbyshire Record Office at Matlock. The autobiography is DRO, D.1101; the courtship narrative in the miscellany book is PZ 5/1 in DRO, D.253. The autobiography has most recently been edited by Dorothy Riden in A Seventeenth-Century Scarsdale Miscellany (Derbyshire Record Society Vol. XX, 1993) pp. 71–117. From this edition quotations are given. The old edition by Charles Kerry in The Journal of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, 21 (1899) 26–60, was full of inaccuracies. The courtship narrative has been edited by George Parfitt and Ralph Houlbrooke in The Courtship Narrative of Leonard Wheatcroft: Derbyshire Yeoman (Reading, 1986), and from this edition quotations are given. Excerpts from Wheatcroft’s writings were given in Charles Kerry, ‘Leonard Wheatcroft, of Ashover’ in The Journal of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, 18 (1896) 29–80, and in Henry Kirke, ‘Some Notes on the Minor Poets of Derbyshire’, ibid., 44 (1922) 1–22. See also S.O. Addy, ‘Ashover and the Wheatcrofts,’ ibid., 34 (1917) 109–53, C. E. Lugard, The Saints and Sinners and the Inns and Outs of Ashover (Leicester, 1924, limited reprint, 1972), and W. Notestein, ‘Leonard Wheatcroft, 1627 to 1706’ in English Folk. A Book of Characters (London, 1938) pp. 205–14.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Both the popular naming of bards and the possibilities of public competition evidently occurred elsewhere: cf. the contest set up with a sale of tickets between John Taylor, ‘The Water Poet’, and William Fenner, ‘The King’s Rhyming Poet’, in London in 1615. See The Works of John Taylor, The Water Poet, ed. C. Hindley (London, 1872) viii–x.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    His son Titus’ memoranda are at PZ 5/2 in D.253. See also C. Kerry, ‘Ashover. Memoranda by Titus Wheatcroft, A.D. 1722,’ in The Journal of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, 19 (1897) 24–52.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Some of the discussion of the movement of texts from manuscript to print and print to manuscript can be found in Arthur F. Marotti, Manuscript, Print, and the English Renaissance Lyric (Ithaca and London, 1995).Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

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  • Cedric C. Brown

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