Thomas Tusser (1524–1580) was an English poet and farmer, best known for his instructional poem "
Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry", published in 1557, and for the oft-repeated proverb, "A fool and his money are soon parted."
He was born in
Rivenhall, Essex, in around 1524, the son of William and Isabella Tusser. At a very early age he became a choristerin 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 Oxfordor 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 Udallat Eton.
He was elected to King's College,
Cambridge, in 1543, a date which has fixed 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, 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.
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 Londonin 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 a fascinating insight into life in Tudor England, and his work records many terms and proverbs in print for the first time.
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
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."
He died on
3 May 1580. An erroneous inscription at Manningtree, Essex, asserts that he was sixty-five years old.
John Stow's " Survey of London", Cheape Ward, Thomas Tusser was buried in the now lost church of St Mildred in the Poultry. [Thoms 1876, 98-99: the fact is also noted from Stow in William Hone's "Every-Day Book" (London 1830), p. 285 (February 20th).] The inscription on his tomb there was as follows:
"Here Thomas Tusser, clad in earth, doth lie,Stow's editor [Thoms 1876, p. 99, n.] adds the following epigram on Tusser from a volume called "The More the Merrier" (1608), by 'H. P.':
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."
"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."
* [http://en.thinkexist.com/quotation/a_fool_and_his_money_are_soon_parted/154153.html Reference to the famous proverb]
* [http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/tusser1.html Full text of "A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie"]
*W. J. Thoms (Ed.), "Survey of London written in the year 1598 by John Stow. A new edition" (Chatto and Windus, London 1876) (Based on 1798 edition).
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