Thomas Tusser - Encyclopedia

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THOMAS TUSSER (c. 1524-1580), English poet, son of William and Isabella Tusser, was born at Rivenhall, Essex, about 1524. At a very early age he became a chorister in the collegiate chapel of the castle of Wallingford, Berkshire. 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 Udal at Eton. He was elected to King's College, Cambridge, in 1543, a date which has fixed the earliest limit of his birthyear, as he would have been ineligible at nineteen. From King's College he moved to Trinity Hall, and on leaving Cambridge went to court in the service of William, 1st Baron Paget of Beaudesart, as a musician. After ten years of life at court, he married and settled as a farmer at Cattiwade, Suffolk, near the river Stour, where he wrote his Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie (1557, 1561, 1562, &c.). 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. After another experiment in farming at Fairsted, Essex, he removed to London, whence he was driven by the plague of1572-1573to 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." He died on the 3rd of May 1580. An erroneous inscription at Manningtree, Essex, asserts that he was sixty-five years old.

The Hundreth Good Pointes was enlarged to A Hundreth good pointes of husbandry, lately maried unto a hundreth good poyntes of huswifery ... the first extant edition of which, "newly corrected and amplified," is dated 1570. In 1573 appeared Five hundreth pointes of good husbandry ... (reprinted 1 577, 1580, 1585, 1586, 1590, &c.). The numerous editions of this book, which contained a metrical autobiography, prove that the homely and practical wisdom of Tusser's verse was appreciated. He gives directions of what is to be done in the farm in every month of the year, and minute instructions for the regulation of domestic affairs in general. The later editions include A dialogue of wyvynge and thryvynge (1562). Modern editions are by William Ma y or (1812), by H. M. W. (1848), and by W. Payne and Sidney J. Herrtage for the English Dialect Society (1878).

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