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Michael A. Guy

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The Last Renaissance Man: excerpt: Chapter One
by Michael A. Guy   
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Last edited: Sunday, September 02, 2007
Posted: Sunday, September 02, 2007

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Chapter One: excerpt from the "rowdy" pub scene to end

Welcome to All the Pleasures


eturning to the pit, I threw the paper down on the virginal's strings; the beautifully decorated lid open to allow greater volume. ‘This is how the notice posted in the Daily Courant.’ I said to Britton, pounding out notes to a "new ground bass" with my left hand. The quills plucked the strings as usual, but the resonance changed to a distorted sound not unlike the noise of ice pellets pummeling a rooftop on a winter's night. ‘Now there's an effect for your masque—while devils dance and airy spirits descend on ropes,’ I said with disdain.

‘Right Henry, typically English—unconventional!

           ‘Meanwhile they’ll forget our singing, Mr. Britton. Why have any “mu-sick” at all. Let’s drink ourselves silly, then dance to the squeal of the rats.’

            Just then one scampered from under the stage and into the pit, working over each foot pedal of the keyboard, and over my boot top as well.

‘Dark mood Henry; I think one of yer devils from yer opera has gotten a hold of ye. That new song of yours could fetch a pretty pound.’

‘New song? You mean songs.’ I corrected him.

‘Well I refer to that sad melody she sings to her dead lover. A capital public draw!’

Supposedly dead lover—Who put that in the announcement? I never alluded in my lyric to her lover being dead. Far from new as well.’

            I picked up the news from the strings, rolled it into a tube and tossed it to Britton. Another rat dashed from beneath the front pew, heading to the back.

‘Bring that cat of yers from Chapel and set him loose,’ Britton said. ‘We’ve a problem in Drury.’

‘Due to everyone throwing their bloody garbage about.’ Was there no cure for people's stupidity? I sometimes resented the period I lived in.

‘The garbage-spilling, sickness-brewing masses are a dirty rout of hard to please pound-grubbing thieves and whores,’ I said to all.

‘There you go again Henry,’ said Britton. ‘Always looking to change things. Where else would the public dump their garbage? ‘Tis in the street or the Thames.’

            ‘Anyway’, I said. ‘I do not wish to grind out my music in bits and pieces like the hurdy-gurdy man and his monkey at the Piccadilly.’

‘You know the public cannot tolerate a whole opera. The masques are dances and plays for entertainment only.’

‘I suppose. You’re bankrolling it.’

Without such impromptu performances, I would have only wages from my position as Chapel Cantor, and the meager receipts from my too few published works. I had yet to reject a commission no matter how mundane. It paid the bills and put food on the table.

            ‘In this version, Poor William's words are barely present, or if so, bastardized!’

            ‘His son?’ Britton queried, laughing.

            I immediately saw the pun about Sir William Davenant, the court playwright, purported to be Shakespeare's bastard son and answered: ‘No, his father’s!’

‘Your mind requires a just entertainment, Henry. And so does a crowd. My point: a shilling, a pound, or a penny—it is all about money sir—who pays whom for what.’

            Britton scanned the orchestra pit and the keyboards. ‘All this is yours Henry,’ Thomas swept his arm over the breath of the pit, indicating the musical instruments.

‘Quite not Mr. Britton. All this is on loan, as you would lend a banknote to an investor. That portable clavichord in the corner is the only instrument that’s mine.’

‘You will need it this fall Sir. There’ll be few productions in town,’ said Britton shaking his wig of shoulder length locks. ‘The Duke’s company has folded; I’m managing on my own now. We can’t afford extravaganzas like ‘King Arthur’ anymore but merging mediums is still the way to go.’

‘Look! That blockhead you hired ad-lib'd too much; leading’s off, spaces in all the wrong places, words fused. And this?’ I said annoyed, pointing to “at the figne of the Trhee pidgins.”

Britton flushed a little. ‘Short on type; never enough "s's" you know. He misspelled 'Three' and pigeons are birds of course-–not very bright, I admit.’

‘Why do these people keep putting surplus "e's" at the end of words? And "y's" between words!’ I spoke with increasing impatience.

            ‘Time and tide wait for no man.’ I shot a glance at my watch. Grabbing my scores, we exited Drury reminding everyone except Miss Cross to stop at the pub that evening to finalize parts. We raced off cross-town in Britton’s coach.

‘I’m exhausted, the basses will be tired. More so, Dorinda expects me home tonight—For supper!’

‘Perhaps you can nap between rehearsals,’ said Britton.

‘All the men are here,’ I said. ‘We’ll not need the rest of the women; they wouldn’t agree to the choice of venue.’

Britton offered a handshake. ‘I’m giving up my evening as well Henry.’

‘They’ll only do it on Leverage’s conditions.’


‘You pay for all consumables,’

‘Consumables? You mean they’ll eat us out of our provisions?’

‘From the verb ‘to consume’, I said mimicking the action of raising a mug and downing the contents.

‘Aye. Beverages,’ said Britton. ‘Even more Beverage for Leverage! To the honour of olde England, aye Sir.’

‘Here’s to Britain, Mr. Britton.’

The gloom alleviated, we considered our lead bass’s ability to imbibe considerable quantities of ale, and the usual consequences. ‘Sedwick can take the coach home; if he can just convince Dorinda about this weekend.’

‘We need the extra money to get that opera of yours, uh, ‘The Indian Queen’ on stage,’ said Britton. ‘And that Shakespeare thing, what was it?’

The Tempest’ I told ye. ‘I’ve the first scene. A hackneyed but popular nautical theme,’ I snapped.

            ‘Toss it in tomorrow night!’

            ‘You cannot toss in scenes willy-nilly!’

            ‘We producers do as we please.’

            He pointed to my watch. ‘You’re overdue.’

            ‘Oh—that printer left out the time and the fee,’ I said, getting sarcastic.

            ‘You expect too much from this world, Henry. Perfection and immortality are only found in the next life. Raising his finger, he dramatically admonished me:

            Fear no hell, desire no heaven!”’

            I turned back, shutting the coach door, while Britton blocked it, keeping it open.

            ‘And do not worry about your wife,’ he reassured. ‘When Dorinda sees the extra sterling you’ll gross, she’ll be eager to soften her view of your supplementary endeavors.’

            The driver started and Britton leaned out.

            ‘Your Pub tonight dear Sir!’

            ‘So I must, Mr. Britton.’


Welcome to All the Pleasures {the Pub}



ych Street” –

            ‘Turn here Sedwick.’

            ‘To ‘The Head’ sir?’

            ‘Yea the Pub. I told the basses to be there at seven.’

            In usual style, Sedwick executed a full-ahead swing, missing an oil-lamp by a hair; the quarter block dash ending with his reining the horses back on the mark to the throbbing bass of rumbling, copper rimmed wheels. They screeched like an ill-tuned string section to a halt exactly in front of the hanging sign over the door. It was a rather unflattering facial portrait of ‘yours truly’ holding an overflowing mug of frothy ale, looking lecherous enough to scare all the girls in the district.

‘Unfathomable,’ I said.’ How do you drive with accuracy at such speed? Again, I do not like that sign. It’s never settled well with Dorinda.’

            ‘I should imagine Sir, but it is fitting for the neighborhood—of course business rents here are cheaper.’

            ‘Britton must agree, it will come down. Let him get the sot who butchered the flyer to do a new one—wait, I’ll regret that.’

            ‘Speaking of regrets. Your wife Sir, what shall I tell her?’

            ‘The truth. Take the carriage home; tell her it’s Britton’s doing—show her the flyer. I promise to be home by his coach as soon as possible.’

            ‘What time might I say?’

            ‘The earliest ten, too late for supper of course.’

            ‘That’ll go over well.’


            ‘Like a lead ball in the “you know what” sir.’



ecide the order of scenes Henry. What d’ye think our chances of getting the men to run it as scripted?’ Britton clapped his hat down on the large round table.

            ‘Hurry, or any drunker and it’ll be “catch as catch can,” if you get my pun,’ I said.

            ‘Aye, then we’ll throw in a few tomorrow—you’ll improvise as usual.’

            ‘Britton, I intend to write the order down. I’d like to know what I’m playing tomorrow night—and I think Miss Cross and the ladies would appreciate it.’

            The men finished their supper of Shepard’s Pie, boiled potatoes and the staple: ale; the low-murmuring lull of mouths busy wolfing down meat and potatoes, giving way to a basso tremolo of full-throated conversation, rising in dynamic while refilling clanging tankards and clinking bottles—at an alarming rate, and Britton’s expense of course.

            ‘Speaking of Brittany Cross, you should’ve invited her to the pub—she’d bring in a good crowd,’ said Britton.

            ‘She’d bring in a riot. I’m in no mood for a brawl—You saw the fetching outfit she was in at Drury.’

            ‘That was for your benefit, Henry.’

            ‘I’ll never lead her on, Thomas.’

            ‘She’s her eyes on you—a good actress, but her morals are of the street sort.’

            ‘She’s a natural,’ I said pausing for a sip of ale, ‘who happens to practice all the harder. And I appreciate helping a singer who’ll sing my songs properly, and in the arrangements I write; her career may have more of a future than mine.’

            The locals got rowdy. The drink flowed from kegs in a seeming constant stream; the food was good. The band struck up hornpipes and a few country-dances. Roger excitedly came over:

Tops! The consumables, as ya say, are movin’. Why ther’s a line stretched along the block—word’s spread ya’ll be playing! Shall I accommodate ‘em Sir?’

            ‘God no Roger. We’ve not the space. Besides, my wife is expecting me home.’

            ‘Now Henry,’ said Britton, ‘wait a moment. One good turn deserves another. Roger here is accommodating and I’m offering to pay…’

            ‘Be a sport Sir, I need the silver. The people have ta buy their beer.’

            ‘Right, Henry. We need to earn back our overhead. Roger post a bouncer and charge a cover! “That’s the ticket,” as you say Henry. Make a profit while the juice is flowing. Up to the keyboard and set the atmosphere—something they know—from King Arthur. Roger, a crown or two shillings for the men, and a sixpence for each girl,’ Britton turned to me with a sheepish grin and added, ‘We’ve got to have wenches or the men’ll leave.’

            ‘Mr. Henry?’ A young girl of no more than fourteen tapped me on the shoulder, while Britton lit his pipe and Roger ran off to get the cover charge installed.

            ‘Leave him alone girl, this is business,’ said Britton.

            ‘Sorry not now, I’m about to play…’

            ‘But Sir, you promised me last time…’

            ‘I said, I’m busy,’ I turned and saw who it was. ‘Oh—, Jennifer.’

            ‘Henry, don’t get distracted. Get those basses off their besotted butts. They’re drinking my profit!’

            This young girl, not much older than my elder daughter, was a sweet thing with unusual blonde hair, but too thin—a shame she had to make a living on the streets but she was tolerable clean and was a favorite at the pub since last spring. I’d done my best to keep her from the worst in her profession, but I could not afford to support her family. That was the reality of the district. Rummaging inside my music satchel, I fumbled for something.

            ‘Perhaps some afternoon, I can audition you—if Miss Cross isn’t taking rehearsal time. Here, I’ve been thinking of you. Trust me, it’ll help in your situation.’ I handed her a cloth purse, tied up in a little bundle. ‘You do want to survive to twenty?’

            ‘I’ll try it, but I want a lesson from you. Bye, Henry.’ She walked off towards the bar trying to get my attention, but I was distracted.

            ‘Henry eh. No title? Not good for your reputation,’ said Britton. ‘I’m glad Dorinda isn’t here.’

            ‘Not what you think Britton.’

            ‘Remember the big scene back in May after the last performance of “Dido”? Dorinda hasn’t shown her face around here since.’

            ‘She can’t cope with the vagaries of a musician’s life’, I said accenting ‘vagaries.’ ‘Especially now that I’ve had to resume touring. I promised to bring that girl a remedy from my herbalist if she’d take it. I hate to see a girl like that succumb at a tender age to the social disease.’

            ‘Well let’s hope that’s all it is. And the rumors are flying about you and Miss Cross—‘

            ‘Let ‘em fly. By her, I admit I could be tempted. Tempted, not seduced.’

I have had my chances in the work I do, but have remained faithful to my wife, who was only a young teen when we married. I intend to stay so, despite the cold receptions from Dorinda lately.

‘If we could get on with it, the sooner I can get home.’

            ‘Hear ye. We’ve our namesake and our Town’s finest composer here tonight. He and his singers will play selections, as a prelude of sorts to a play to be performed tomorrow eve at Dorset Garden.’

            ‘Cheers for Sir Henry,’ shouted the crowd.

‘Play catches Sir. King Arthur! Yeah, songs from King Arthur!!

            ‘Thanks. However, I must inform you we must rehearse tonight. And all should thank our sponsor, my agent, Mr. Britton. He’s picking up the tab…’

            “Hooray Mr. Britton!”

            ‘Henry! That’s only for your singers—ye’ve got ‘em ordering without pay…’

            ‘I can’t control the crowd Thomas.’

Before I could utter another word, the strings had lit into the Ritornello from Act V of King Arthur. The men jumped up, grabbing their spilling mugs as I downed half a mug myself (unusual for me) and leaped like my cat to the keyboard, while the violins became fiddle players. Bouncing through an instrumental introduction, mugs rose above heads and over girls’ increasingly loosened bosoms’ strings, all in bawdy fun; comments fitting the lyrics were heard, shouted by singers and crowd alike. The men, led by Leverage, were in good form, full of spirit (I mean that literally). They knew this one by heart:

*Your hay is mow’d and your corn is reap’d

            Your barns will be full and your hovels heap’d

            Come boys, come.

            And merrily roar out our harvest home.

[Leverage, lifted his tankard to the crowd and shouted: “ALL”. They knew the refrain]

(Harvest home, harvest home, And merrily roar out our harvest home.)


            We’ve cheated the parson, we’ll cheat him again.

(a commoner shouted,. ‘Arrrgh…the blockhead’)

            For why shou’d a blockhead have one in ten?

            One in ten, one in ten…

            For why shou’d a blockhead have one in ten?

(Guttural grunts and a tipsy refrain on ‘one in ten’)

            The Crowd:

            One in ten, etc.

            Second Singer:

            For prating so long, like a book-learned sot,

            ‘til pudding and dumpling are burnt to pot;

Burnt to pot, burnt to pot, ‘til pudding and dumpling are burnt to pot.


Burnt to pot, burnt to pot,

‘til pudding and dumpling are burnt to pot.

Third Singer:

We’ll toss off our ale ‘til we cannot stand

Here, everyone roared in unison drowning out the verse. I noticed not a few mugs emptied inadvertently, by that force, our Isaac Newton calls gravity, when toasted too emphatically, they ended with their liquid contents in someone else’s face.

            And heigh for the honour of olde England;

Old England, old England…

We were near a riot; a good-natured one. The entire pub was on their feet (sort of), toasting to shouts of:

            Old England, Old England,

            And heigh for the honour of old England!!

Of course, I must play one rousing repeat of the instrumental verse (in other words: a bit louder). Then the last toast:

            Harvest home, harvest home,

            And heigh to the honour of Olde England!*

            “Aye. Here’s to Olde England and Sir Henry! We’ll drink to that!”

*Lyrics: King Arthur, 1691, opera by Purcell, Act V, No.37, libretto by Dryden


It was late before we wrapped. Despite the revels, (now almost ended!), I managed to steer the band into a run-through of tomorrow nights repertoire, along with some unintentional catches that worked there way in. I knew that Dorinda would be disappointed to say the least, if not livid—another missed supper and the girls in bed by the time I got home. I hope Sedwick could “oil the waters” but I doubt it.

You see, ‘tis unlikely Dorinda ever got word from the messenger service—untrustworthy, if not a bloody ‘rip-off’—more so now that I heard it was raining out. As for poor Sedwick—just about when he was starting to enjoy himself, I had no choice but to send him on ‘a mission’.

            Sedwick, was a dutiful bluecoat for me, the one who paid his salary. Short of criminal activity, he’d do anything I asked of him, even when he didn’t agree about it. It was about nine when Sedwick left, and we began our more serious rehearsal.

Finally leaving, and it was quarter to eleven; Britton never showed signs of the exhaustion we felt. Why should he? Counting money isn’t as tiring as music rehearsal. I estimated a full half hour to Chelsea. That is, until we emerged from the pub and saw the rain coming down ‘cats and dogs’. Around here, it should be ‘cats and rats’! As we made our way through the alley from the back door to Wych St., the rats ruled the night—scampering on silent feet to beat the rain and find refuge among the refuse. I nearly spilled over one cutting in front of me at a frantic pace.

‘This weather will slow your driver for sure.’

            ‘Better safe than sorry I always say,’ said Britton.

            ‘You do not always say that. Want the Daily—I’ll share—better than no umbrella.’

            ‘I wear the cornered hat, and you never do. You’re paying for your vanity. Like having three gutters along yer head.’

            ‘Not water-proofed without oil. What’s yer driver got?’

            ‘An ‘oil-coat’ and brimmed hat; he’ll make time—‘tis their lot in life.’

            Britton was wrong, it was a slow go. His driver was either too safe or he didn’t like weather in his face Too late to appease Dorinda; I was in for at least a lecture tomorrow. I didn’t surmise it could be worse.


Riding through Westminster, and past Chapel (I was tempted to stop and see if Sedwick followed orders—but he had the key) and we turned onto the Fulham Road. The rain abated, a fine but thick drizzle. I wished I had a new glass thermometer like the Italians invented; I also wished I had a coat.

            ‘I should have guessed with such a warm day this late, the weather would turn,’ I said to Britton.

            ‘And you with all your books on science—what is it, ‘meteor-ol…’

            Meteorology. ‘Tis not a new word—the Greeks had it.’

            ‘I don’t see what meteors have to do with it. Then I’m not reading the new-fangled books you are.’

            ‘The Greeks where the first ones to observe the skies and,’ I said, ‘what moves in the heavens. They meant weather was an element that moved…’

            ‘For heavens sake Henry, ‘tis late for such talk. I know you love learning but you can’t do a damned thing about the weather. Except you should’ve brought a coat.’

            ‘Did you?’

            ‘But I have a portico. I step out through a side door and I’m in. I’m richer than you, Sir.’

            ‘Richer in silver—I admit. I’d trade a bit of my fame for more. Dorinda’s got a shopping appetite…’

            ‘You do not deal with keeping up with all it takes to run a household. Look at those bushes! After such a dead calm.’

            ‘I’ve noticed a wind-shift after temperature changes. This one’s to the north—I strained to see my watch. ‘My god your driver’s cautious!

            The porch faces north—I hope he put the cat well back.’

            ‘More trouble than ther’ worth. I told ye to put him in Drury. Pay more attention to yer wife.’

            ‘Due to you I’ve been out all evening.’

            ‘Now Henry, no hard feelings. Can ye get Sedwick?’

            ‘He’s down the road about a mile—and he sleeps like the dead after a few beers.’

            ‘Would you prefer to come home with me?’

            ‘That would just make Dorinda all the more suspicious. I’ve a key.’

            ‘Francis would not appreciate company at this hour either. Driver! Pull up close! My head’s wet already. There’s your cat—well the cage anyway.’

            ‘He’s a hider. I hope he’s under a bush, unless—’

            ‘Henry, do think the best for a change. Goodnight, dear Sir, shall we wait while you enter? My God the wind! Blowing a gale and wetting the cab—’

            ‘Go! Stay dry. Good night.’


Narrative: First PostScript


ow I arrived at such confused employment during the fall of 1694 is easy enough to trace; to have imagined the changes ahead could only be conceived by the greatest flight of fancy. I shall tell you, my intended audience, of them in these pages, yet you no doubt, will accuse me of fabricating lies. If I remotely thought you would believe such a fate of one whose meager life in retrospect, now seems incredible, I shall find the faith to complete my journal. I myself would not have believed it of another, and see little hope of my account being salvaged, let alone published. I fear it shall remain for an audience of one, yet hope springs eternal that this much of my story shall be recorded. If you are a person requiring a methodical approach and see life as unfolding only in temporal order; you shall do yourself no better service than to quit my story now. From where I am narrating this account, you again would doubtless not believe. To an extent, all our futures are illustrated, not told. Our stories unfold while its twists and turns disclose our path. Yet, our character determines our fate.

I must take a backward glance to the months before I took what may have been spurious employment as a theatre musician. You shall know intimately my true artistic aims, and briefly my mundane life and career achievements. I hope to tell these particulars in an entertaining fashion, but should they bore you, read ahead, and see if you can make sense of it. However, I warn you; time has a way of playing havoc with the mind. It brings both the angelic messengers of God’s will and His devils of destruction. Or, is a new and bolder city built, only by the destruction of the old? As modern London rose in splendor from the ashes of that Great Fire in 1666—a year, that then promised to this seven-year old only catastrophe—so too, the long road of a man’s life emerges from the demolition of all that is prior. Yet, when he peers back through the misty dell of time’s lost worlds, and stands on the threshold of his zenith, it is unfathomable that what he is relates to what he was.

Was fulfillment cloaked from him like a stage player in disguise, yet foreshadowed in small events and details of his life? Like Columbus voyaging without a chart (or the wrong one!), he detects his destination in subtle signs on the seas—a faint scent, a bit of floating vegetation, a bird displaced that could not possibly be so far at sea. Like him, we grope our way among the familiar stars, searching a route to a promised land with obsolete ideas. We are misguided by a notion of an inadequate map, in the company of a rebellious crew, that like our faithless thoughts, demand proof long before any should sensibly be entertained. However, can we map a land we have never seen? Had we applied sooner to the ‘Mapmaker of the Universe’ we should have found the right coordinates to steer by. We must hold fast to our dead reckoning despite the cries of betrayal and mutinous plans of our partners. Read on if you choose, or skip ahead, it is your journey now as well as mine; or complacent, hang your head in shame and quietly row back to shore.




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Reviewed by Ronald Hull
Quietly back to shore... for now. Will catch a fair wind later.

Intriguing tale.

Reviewed by ~ Holly Harbridge (Reader)
Dear Michael, the book intersts me a lot. I will be purchasing the book this month, Blessings, Holly
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