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Fribbling report part 9

John Fribbling is a fictional character. Despite his non-existence, the characters and events that he describes are, to the best of our knowledge, true and accurate...

1592, London

To Sir Francis Walsingham

The Oxford Arms, Bishopsgate, London, circa 1900
The Oxford Arms, Bishopsgate
My surveillance of young William Shakespeare has become a most tedious thing of late. There is plague all about and the theatres stay closed. I myself seem to have caught something most itchy and uncomfortable from the privy seat in Old Mother Doxy's bawdyhouse.

In between bouts of intense scratching and taking myself off to immerse myself in horse urine as per doctor's instructions, I sit at the opposite corner of the inn and watch young Will scribbling away on his new work with just a candle and a flagon of sack for company. If he is planning any great act of sedition it is not visible in his face, wracked as it is by the agony of finding yet another clever rhyme.

On the positive side, all these people falling dead with plague has ensured I have been able to better my lodgings of late. I've taken a flea bite or two, but that's nothing in comparison with what the previous occupant went through so I'll count myself lucky. Always look on the bright side, as my old mother used to say before they burned her.

I suspect young Will was quite discomfited by the mauling he got from that other poet, Greene. My, these poets are vicious with their words! They should make them meet with pencils at dawn and fight it out like gentlemen rather than just pun each other to death.

I am told that Will is making a new friend in the Earl of Southampton, a most presentable young man with a weakness for warm words and a patron's eye for talent. This country boy is learning the ways of the city very quickly I think. After all it's not what you know, but whom you know.

Will continues to keep his head down and abide by the law. My replacement in Stratford, Edward Sparrow, informs me that his father doesn't act so wisely. This Easter he excused himself from attending communion at Protestant Church on the grounds of debt, when any that knows him or of him would know his Catholic conscience wouldn't let him attend.

I must take myself to bed now if it please you Your Honor. As it happens I feel somewhat unwell. I can't seem to keep warm one minute then I'm burning up the next, and I've swellings the size of plums round my... well, round bits where you don't want that sort of thing. It's probably just a cold. You know how these things get around.

Yours on her Majesty's secret business

John Fribbling

PS: No seditious activity observed. But I can see into Old Mother Doxy's from here.

Fribbling Reports

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10


portrait not availableJohn Fribbling

Sir Francis Walsingham portraitSir Francis Walsingham

Earl of Southampton portraitThe Earl of Southampton


exterior of St Helens, Bishopsgate, London, circa 1900Bishopsgate, London

The River Thames, LondonShakespeare's London

Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-AvonStratford upon Avon, Warwickshire

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