Captain Cox’s Repertoire / Library — A List Of Online Stories / Songs / Poems

This is meant to be a summary of the past months’ work (and individual entries) to locate (mostly) free, (mostly) unrestricted online copies of stories, plays, ballads, almanacs and jest-books from a sixteenth-century list.     In 1575,    one Robert Laneham / Langham detailed the myriad of entertainments provided for the delectation of Queen Elizabeth I as she visited Kenilworth castle.      One member of a group of Guildsmen / players from Coventry was a mason and fencer named Captain Cox.

The thing which struck me as I began to read through the items on this list, is how many tales there were which contained images modern  laypeople tend to consider “medieval”:

–The knight in shining armor killing dragons and other monsters (“Bevis of Hampton” and “Sir Eglamore” among others)

–Robin Hood.      While some of the modern images are a mishmash of medieval Robin Hood legend with “Robin and Marian” May Game pastimes and post-Renaissance embellishment,   “A Mery Jeste of Robin Hood” shows him very much as we know him,  looking for poor / needy people to help or at least treat to a sumptuous dinner;    tweaking the nose of this or that lawman;   sneaking into archery contests and making off with first prize.

–An archery contest reminiscent of William Tell, involving family members and apples (“Adam Bel, Clym of the Clough and William a Cloudsley”)

–Standard fairy-tale devices like magic (“Huon of Bordeaux” and “Virgil’s Life”),  or the hero compelled to ever greater and more dangerous deeds by his true love’s hostile and noble / royal father  (“The Squire of Low Degree”).

–A device which shows up in a number of Traditional ballads, the man either concealing his appearance (after being away for several years), or else insisting that he and his love must tragically part, in order to “test” his lady’s love (“The Nut Brown Maid” contains the “parting” theme.).      How fair or kind this sort of manipulation might be to the ladies in question is an issue beyond the scope of this entry.

Please see earlier blog entries for more details about each of the works on the list.   They appear (along with a couple of “Interludes”) in the same order in which the works appear in Laneham’s list below.

As I have said before, and will continue to say, this list of links would not have been possible without the aforementioned Robert Laneham;   or 19th century scholar Frederick J. Furnivall, who felt compelled to track down extant copies of these works, in his treatise “Captain Cox: His Ballads and Books” (which also contains a copy of Laneham’s letter) ;

or Andrew Taylor, whose book “Songs and Travels of a Tudor Minstrel” first introduced me to Laneham and Captain Cox;   and finally to the mentor and friend who gave me a copy of Taylor’s book, without which I would not have heard of any of this.


(The quote from Laneham’s letter, with links to online copies of the works, or collections in which the works were printed)

“But aware, keep bak, make room noow, heer they cum.    And fyrst captain Cox, an od man I promiz you: by profession a mason, and that  right skilfull; very cunning in fens, and hardy az Gawyn, for his  tonsword hangs at his tablz eend;  great oversight hath he in matters of story: For az for

King Arthurz book,  (Morte d’Arthur)

Huon of Burdeaus, (as part of the collection “English Charlemagne Romances”,  “Englisht” by Sir John Bourchier, lord Berners)

The foour  suns of Aymon

Beavys of Hampton,

The squyre of lo degree,

the knight  of curteyzy, and the Lady Faguell,

Frederik of Gene,  (no online copy–print version in 1955 Arden Shakespeare–  )

Syr Eglamoour,

Syr Tryamoour,

Syr Lamwell,

Syr Isenbras,

Syr Gawyn,

Olyver of the Castl,

Lucres and Eurialus,

Virgyls life,

The Castle of Ladyezt,  (Christine de Pizan’s City of Ladies, no online copy currently found)

The wydo Edith,

the king and the tanner,

Fryar Rous,



Robin Hood,

Adambel,  Clym of the Clough and Wylliam a cloudsley,

the churl and the Burd,

The Seaven wyse Masters,

The wyfe lapt in a  Morrels skyn,

The sak ful of nuez,

The sargeaunt that becam a Fryar,


Collyn cloout,

the Fryar and the boy,

Elynor Rumming,

and the Nutbrooun maid,

with many mo then I rehearz heer:   I beleeve he have
them all at hiz fingers ends.

“Then, in Philosophy both morall and naturall, I think he be as natrually ouverseen: beside poetrie and Astronomie, and oother hid sciences, as I may guese by the omberty of hiz books:  whear-of part as I remember,

The Shepherz kalender,

The Ship of Fools,

Danielz dreamz,   (No unrestricted access.    Available on Early English Books Online {EEBO} as “The Dreams of Daniel” )

The booke of Fortune,   (No work by that name has been found.   Furnivall refers to a work / prologue by Sir Thomas More titled “The Fortune Verses” as a surviving companion piece to the lost work )

Stane puer ad mensam,

The hy way to the Spitl-house,

Iulian of Brainfords Testament,

The castle of Love,  (Full text not available on Internet Archive, Google Books or Project Gutenberg.   HRI Online contains a chapter outline with descriptions, and indicates the British Museum’s copy of the book is on EEBO).

the booget of Demaunds,     (Not known, by that name, in any surviving MS, book, or Stationers’ Register entry.     One possible candidate, “The Demaunds Joyous”, is on Internet Archive:   )

the hundred Mery tales,

the book of Riddels,    (No surviving copies of this work before the 1600’s)

The Seaven sororz ov wemon,   (No named or extant works by that name)

The prooud wiues Pater noster,

The Chapman of a peniwoorth of Wit.     (Under the title “How A Merchant Did His Wife Betray”)

“Beside his auncient plays,

Yooth & charitee,



Impacient pouerty.

And heerwith, Doctor Boords breviary of health.

“What shoold I rehearz heer, what a bunch of ballets & songs, all auncient:

Broom broom on hil,

So wo iz me begon, troly lo,

Ouer a whinny Meg, (lost)

Hey ding a ding,

Bony lass vpon a green, (lost)

My bony on gaue me a bek, (lost)

By a bank as I lay,

and a hundred more, he hath, fair wrapt vp in Parchment, and bound with a whipcord.

“And as for allmansks of antiquitee (a point for Ephemerides) I weene hee can sheaw from

Iasper Lact of Antwarp

vnto, Nostradam of Frauns,

and thens vnto oour John Securiz of Salsbury.

To stay ye no longer heerin (Ed.–TOO LATE!), I dare say hee hath as fair a library for theez sciencez, & as many goodly monuments both in proze & poetry, & at afternoonz can talk as much without book, as ony Inholder betwixt Brainford and Bagshot, what degree soeuer he be.”

(many of which are available online)

Captain Cox: His Ballads and Books (With a list of books and ballads from “The Compleynt of
Scotland”, and Robert Laneham’s letter describing entertainments provided for Queen Elizabeth on her visit to Kenilworth Castle) by Frederick J. Furnival, Ed., 1871

Shakespeare’s Jest Books by William Carew Hazlitt, Ed., 1864.

Remains of the Early Popular Poetry of England by WIlliam Carew Hazlitt, Ed., 1864, four volumes.

Songs and Ballads from the Reign of Henry the Second to the Revolution, Joseph Ritson, Ed.,
1829, two volumes.

Robin Hood: A Collection of Poems, Songs and Ballads Relative To That Celebrated English Outlaw,
Joseph Ritson, Ed.

The History Of The Seven Wise Masters of Rome, George Laurence Gomme, Ed., 1885

A Collection of Early Prose Romances, William J. Thoms, Ed., 1827, two volumes
The Thornton Romances, James Orchard Halliwell, Ed., 1844.

Jyl of Breyntford’s Testament, together with “The Will of the Devyll”, Frederick J. Furnivall, Ed., circa


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