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"Men's evil manners live in brass;
THE Boar's Head Tavern in Eastcheap was one of the oldest and best inns in London for free and easy rollicking mood, where prince and peasant, king or clown, papist or puritan were welcome night and day, provided they intended no wrong and kept good nature aglow even in their cups. Magistrate and convent prior would sometimes raid the tavern until their physical and financial wants were satisfied.
Dame Quickly, with ruffled collar, was the master spirit of the house, and had been its light and glory for thirty years. Her round, full face, fat neck and robust form was a constant invitation for good cheer, and her matchless wit was a marvel to the guests that nightly congregated through her three-story gabled stone monastery.
A tavern is the best picture of human folly, nature wearing no garb of hypocrisy.
You must know that the Boar's Head had once been the home of the "Blackfriars," then a residence of a bishop, a convent, a brewery, and finally fell into the hands of the grandfather of
Dame Quickly, who bequeathed it to his posterity and the public as a depot for plum pudding, roast beef, lamb, birds, fish, ale, wine, brandy and universal pleasure. A boar's head, with a red light in its mouth was kept constantly burning from sunset to sunrise, where wandering humanity found welcome and rest.
Supper parties from the adjacent theatres filled the tavern in midnight hours, where actors, authors, politicians, statesmen and ladies of all hue, reveled in jolly, generous freedom, beneath the ever-present superintendence of buxom Dame Quickly.
"The gods are just, and oft our pleasant vices Make instruments to scourge us.
Boys, immature in knowledge,
The main bar, decorated with variegated lights and shining blue bottles and glasses, with pewter and silver mugs in theatrical rows, lent a kind of enchantment to the nightly scene. Round, square and octagonal oak tables were scattered through the various rooms, and rough leather lounges skirted the walls.
Promptly at eight o'clock William and myself passed the stony portals of the Boar's Head, and were ushered into the back ground floor dining room where we met our friend Field and playwright named Christopher Marlowe, standing before a great open chimney, with a blazing fire and a splendid supper.
Field seemed to take great pride in making us
acquainted with Marlowe, the greatest actor and dramatist of his day, whose plays were even then the talk and delight of London.
"Tamberlaine the Great" and "Dr. Faustus” had been successfully launched at the Blackfriars, and young Marlowe was in his glory, the wit and toast of the town. He was but twenty-five years of age, finely formed, a voluptuary, high jutting forehead, dark hazel eye, and a typical image of a bohemian poet. It was a toss up as to who was the handsomest man, William or Marlowe, yet a stranger, on close inspection could see glinting out of William's eye a divine light and flashing expression that ever commanded respect and admiration. He was unlike any other mortal.
I, alone at that period, knew the bursting ability of William; and that his granary of knowledge was full to the brim, needing only an opportunity to flood the world with immortal sonnets, Venus and Adonis, and the incubating passion plays that lay struggling in his burning brain for universal recognition.
During the evening young actors, politicians, college students and roystering lords, filled the house and by twelve o'clock Bacchanalian folly ruled the madcaps of the town, while battered Venus with bedraggled hair and skirts languished in sensuous display.
Field requested his friend Marlowe to recite a few lines from "Dr. Faustus" for our instruction and pleasure, and forthwith he gave the soliloquy of Faust, waiting at midnight for Lucifer to carry him to hell, the terrified Doctor exclaiming to the devil:
"Oh mercy! heaven, look not so fierce on me,
And then mellowing his sonorous voice, gives thus his classical apostrophe to Helen of Greece:
"Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
A loud round of applause greeted the rendition of the classical poem, not only at our own table, but through the entire hall and adjacent rooms.
At a table not far away sat a number of illustrious gentlemen, favorites of Queen Elizabeth and greatly admired by the people.
There sat Sir Walter Raleigh, lately returned from discoveries in America; Francis Bacon, Attorney-General to the Crown; Earl Essex, the court favorite; Lord Southampton, the gayest in the realm; with young Burleigh, Cecil and Leicester,
making night melodious with their songs, speeches and tinkling silver wine cups.
The young lords insisted that we give another recitation, pictorial of love and passion. Marlowe declined to say more, but knowing that William had hatched out his crude verses of Venus and Adonis, I insisted that he deliver a few stanzas for the enthusiastic audience, particularly describing the passionate pleadings of Venus to the stallion Adonis.
Without hesitation, trepidation or excuse, William arose in manly attitude and drew a picture of beautiful Venus:
"Sometimes she shakes her head and then his hand,
"Fondling,' she saith, 'since I have hemmed thee
Within the circuit of this ivory pale,
""Within this limit is relief enough,
Sweet bottom grass and high delightful plain,