Thomas Tusser

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Thomas Tusser (1524 – 3 May 1580) was an English poet and farmer, best known for his instructional poem Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry, an expanded version of his original title, A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie, first published in 1557.


Five Hundred Points contains these rhyming couplets:

Swéete April showers,
Doo spring Maie flowers. [1]


A foole and his monie be soone at debate,
which after with sorrow repents him too late. [2]

The latter is an early version of the proverb A fool and his money are soon parted. [3]

A proverb is a simple, concrete, traditional saying that expresses a truth based on common sense or experience. Proverbs are often metaphorical and use formulaic language. Collectively, they form a genre of folklore.

Early life

Tusser was born in Rivenhall, Essex, in about 1524, the son of William and Isabella Tusser. At a very early age he became a chorister in the St Nicholas collegiate chapel at Wallingford Castle, Wallingford, Oxfordshire. He appears to have been pressed for service in the King's Chapel, the choristers of which were usually afterwards placed by the king in one of the royal foundations at Oxford or Cambridge. But Tusser entered the choir of St. Paul's Cathedral, and from there went to Eton College. He has left a quaint account of his privations at Wallingford, and of the severities of Nicholas Udall at Eton. [4]

Rivenhall village in United Kingdom

Rivenhall is a village and a civil parish near Witham in the Braintree District in the English county of Essex. It is near the small settlement of Rivenhall End.

Wallingford Castle castle

Wallingford Castle was a major medieval castle situated in Wallingford in the English county of Oxfordshire, adjacent to the River Thames. Established in the 11th century as a motte-and-bailey design within an Anglo-Saxon burgh, it grew to become what historian Nicholas Brooks has described as "one of the most powerful royal castles of the 12th and 13th centuries". Held for the Empress Matilda during the civil war years of the Anarchy, it survived multiple sieges and was never taken. Over the next two centuries it became a luxurious castle, used by royalty and their immediate family. After being abandoned as a royal residence by Henry VIII, the castle fell into decline. Refortified during the English Civil War, it was eventually slighted, i.e. deliberately destroyed, after being captured by Parliamentary forces after a long siege. The site was subsequently left relatively undeveloped, and the limited remains of the castle walls and the considerable earthworks are now open to the public.

Wallingford, Oxfordshire town and civil parish in South Oxfordshire, England

Wallingford is a historic market town and civil parish located to the south of Oxford on the River Thames in England.

He was elected to King's College, Cambridge in 1543, a date which sets the earliest limit of his birth-year, as he would have been ineligible at nineteen. From King's College he moved to Trinity Hall, Cambridge. [5] On leaving Cambridge, he went to court in the service of William Paget, 1st Baron Paget of Beaudesart, as a musician. After ten years of life at court, he married and settled as a farmer at Cattawade, Suffolk, near the River Stour. [4]

Kings College, Cambridge college of the University of Cambridge

King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England. Formally The King's College of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge, the college lies beside the River Cam and faces out onto King's Parade in the centre of the city.

Trinity Hall, Cambridge College of the University of Cambridge

Trinity Hall is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. It is the fifth-oldest college of the university, having been founded in 1350 by William Bateman, Bishop of Norwich.

William Paget, 1st Baron Paget English statesman

William Paget, 1st Baron Paget of Beaudesert, was an English statesman and accountant who held prominent positions in the service of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I.

Literary career

There he wrote A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie, a long poem in rhyming couplets recording the country year. This work was first printed in London in 1557 by publisher Richard Tottel, and was frequently reprinted. Tottel published an enlarged edition Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie in 1573. Tusser includes a homely mix of instructions and observations about farming and country customs which offer insight into life in Tudor England, and his work records many terms and proverbs in print for the first time. In this work, he also famously presents ten characteristics the perfect cheese must have:

Richard Tottel was an English publisher and influential member of the legal community. He ran his business from a shop located at Temple Bar on Fleet Street in London. The majority of his printing was centered on legal documents, but he is most known for a collection he edited and published in 1557 called Songes and Sonnettes.

Tudor period historical era in England coinciding with the rule of the Tudor dynasty

The Tudor period is the period between 1485 and 1603 in England and Wales and includes the Elizabethan period during the reign of Elizabeth I until 1603. The Tudor period coincides with the dynasty of the House of Tudor in England whose first monarch was Henry VII. In terms of the entire span, the historian John Guy (1988) argues that "England was economically healthier, more expansive, and more optimistic under the Tudors" than at any time in a thousand years.

Not like Gehazi, i.e., dead white, like a leper
Not like Lot's wife, all salt
Not like Argus, full of eyes
Not like Tom Piper, "hoven and puffed"
Not like Crispin, leathery
Not like Lazarus, poor
Not like Esau, hairy
Not like Mary Magdalene, full of whey or maudlin
Not like the Gentiles, full of maggots
Not like a Bishop, made of burnt milk [6]

Gehazi biblical character

Gehazi, Geichazi, or Giezi (Douay-Rheims) is a figure found in the Books of Kings in the Hebrew Bible. As a servant of Elisha he was in a position of power but he was corrupt, and misused his authority and cheated Naaman the Syrian, a leper. As a punishment, Elisha cursed him, transferring Naaman's leprosy to him and his descendants for ever. In Rabbinic literature, Gehazi is identified as one of four commoners who forfeited his share in the afterlife because of his wickedness. He is the subject of a poem by Rudyard Kipling.

Lots wife person mentioned in the biblical Book of Genesis

In the Bible, Lot's wife is a figure first mentioned in Genesis 19. The Book of Genesis describes how she became a pillar of salt after she looked back at Sodom. She is not named in the Bible but is called "Ado" or "Edith" in some Jewish traditions. She is also referred to in the deuterocanonical books at Wisdom 10:7 and the New Testament at Luke 17:32. Islamic accounts also talk about the wife of Prophet Lut (Lot) when mentioning 'People of Lut'.

Argus Panoptes giant in Greek mythology

Argus Panoptes (All-seeing) or Argos is a many-eyed giant in Greek mythology. The figure is known for having generated the saying "the eyes of Argus", as in to be "followed by", "trailed by", "watched by", et cetera, the eyes; the saying is used to describe being subject to strict scrutiny in one's actions to an invasive, distressing degree. The monstrous entity has been either directly included or indirectly alluded to in a wide variety of works influenced by Greco-Roman thought over the past several centuries.

He never remained long in one place. For his wife's health he removed to Ipswich. After her death he married again, and farmed for some time at West Dereham. He then became a singing man in Norwich Cathedral, where he found a good patron in the dean, John Salisbury. [4]

Later life

After another experiment in farming at Fairstead, Essex, he moved once again to London, whence he was driven by the plague of 1572–1573 to find refuge at Trinity Hall, being matriculated as a servant of the college in 1573. At the time of his death he was in possession of a small estate at Chesterton, Cambridgeshire, and his will proves that he was not, as has sometimes been stated, in poverty of any kind, but had in some measure the thrift he preached. Thomas Fuller says he "traded at large in oxen, sheep, dairies, grain of all kinds, to no profit"; that he "spread his bread with all sorts of butter, yet none would stick thereon."{citation needed}


Tusser died on 3 May 1580 at the age of about 55. An erroneous inscription at Manningtree, Essex, asserts that he was 65 years old.

According to John Stow's Survey of London , Cheape Ward, Thomas Tusser was buried in the now lost church of St Mildred in the Poultry. [7] The inscription on his tomb there was as follows:

"Here Thomas Tusser, clad in earth, doth lie,
That sometime made the pointes of Husbandrie;
By him then learne thou maiest; here learne we must,
When all is done, we sleepe, and turne to dust:
And yet, through Christ, to Heaven we hope to goe;
Who reades his bookes, shall find his faith was so."

Stow's editor [8] adds the following epigram on Tusser from a volume called The More the Merrier (1608), by 'H. P.':

Ad Tusserum
"Tusser, they tell me, when thou wert alive,
Thou, teaching thrift, thyselfe couldst never thrive.
So, like the whetstone, many men are wont
To sharpen others, when themselves are blunt."


  1. Tusser, Thomas (1573, 1577, 1580). Payne, W.; Herrtage, Sydney J., eds. Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie 8 (1878 ed.). London: Trǔbner & Co. p. 103.
  2. Tusser, Thomas (1573, 1577, 1580). Payne, W.; Herrtage, Sydney J., eds. Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie 8 (1878 ed.). London: Trǔbner & Co. p. 19.
  3. Terry, F. C. Birkbeck (15 August 1896). "Proverb (8th S. ix. 509)". Notes and Queries. 8th Series (X): 145–146. Retrieved 2011-07-03. See also the reply by G. L. Apperson to the same query.
  4. 1 2 3 Chisholm 1911.
  5. "Tusser, Thomas (TSR543T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  6. Thomas Tusser, Five Hundred Good Points of Husbandry (1573) as quoted in Ben Schott, Schott's Mischellany Calendar 2009 (New York: Workman Publishing, 2008), November 7.
  7. Thoms 1876, 98–99: the fact is also noted from Stow in William Hone's Every-Day Book (London 1830), p. 285 (20 February).
  8. Thoms 1876, p. 99, n.

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