Not one in a hundred is sober

Sir Thomas Isham, Bt after Sir Peter Lely, published by David Loggan mezzotint, late 17th century
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Born in the picturesque English village of Lamport in 1657, Sir Thomas Isham was a baronet who inherited a legacy of nobility. In 1671, as instructed by his father, he began to keep a diary in Latin which he would continue for two years, filling it with the daily happenings and noteworthy events that helped to shape the life of this young nobleman. Most entries stretch no further than a single, short sentence, mostly mundane, but the longer examples paint a fascinating picture of life for the 17th-century gentry. This one came on 30th April 1673—a day featuring drunken clergy, a litter of ferrets, and what sounds like a terrifying encounter.

The Diary Entry

30 Apr. Mr. Greene came and said that Dr Owtram, Archdeacon of Leicester, has castigated the clergy, saying that not one in a hundred is sober, but they all love the bottle, and that he has heard this from a most illustrious nobleman. We hear that Mistress Mary and Mistress Sibyl, the daughters of Sir Edward Nicholls, have met at Old and have been very ill. We had a litter of ferrets. Last night the servants of four farmers, with Mr Baxter’s man and Henry Lichfield, went to Draughton to bring home the first drawing of beer, which they bought from Palmer. On the way back sixteen or seventeen Draughton men met them with stakes and began to lay about them; but being few and unarmed against a greater number of armed men, they were easily beaten, and Mr Baxter’s man has had his skull laid bare in several places and almost fractured.

Further Reading

Sir Thomas Isham’s journal was first published in 1875, translated from Latin by Robert Isham and published by Miller and Leavins. That edition can be read online over at Google Books. In 1971 a new edition arrived, with a translation by Norman Marlow and annotations by Sir Gyles Isham.

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