Ben Jonson and the ground charlatans

Like today’s miserable vendors of pirated CDs, early modern Venetian ambulants are trading on someone else’s stolen content, but at least they’ve had to learn it by heart.

Distressingly little honour among the the early 17th century top manta here:

Enter Volpone disguised as a mountebank Doctor, and followed by a crowd of people.
Volp. Mount, zany. [to Nano.]
Mob. Follow, follow, follow, follow!
Sir P. See how the people follow him! he’s a man
May write ten thousand crowns in bank here.
Note, [Volpone mounts the Stage.
Mark but his gesture:—I do use to observe
The state he keeps in getting up.
Per. ‘Tis worth it, sir.
Volp. Most noble gentlemen, and my worthy patrons! It may seem strange, that I, your Scoto Mantuano, who was ever wont to fix my bank in face of the public Piazza, near the shelter of the Portico to the Procuratia, should now, after eight months absence from this illustrious city of Venice, humbly retire myself into an obscure nook of the Piazza.
Sir. P. Did not I now object the same?
Per. Peace, sir.
Volp. Let me tell you: I am not, as your Lombard proverb saith, cold on my feet; or content to part with my commodities at a cheaper rate, than I accustomed: look not for it. Nor that the calumnious reports of that impudent detractor, and shame to our profession, (Alessandro Buttone, I mean,) who gave out, in public, I was condemned a sforzato to the galleys, for poisoning the cardinal Bembo’s ___ cook, hath at all attached, much less dejected me. No, no, worthy gentlemen; to tell you true, I cannot endure to see the rabble of these ground ciarlitani that spread their cloaks on the pavement, as if they meant to do feats of activity, and then come in lamely, with their mouldy tales out of Boccacio, like stale Tabarine, the fabulist: some of them discoursing their travel, and of their tedious captivity in the Turks gallies, when, indeed, were the truth known, they were the Christians gallies, where very temperately they eat bread, and drunk water, as a wholesome penance, enjoined them by their confessors, for base pilferies.
Sir P. Note but his bearing, and contempt of these.
Volp. These turdy-facy-nasty-paty-lousy-fartical rogues, with one poor groats-worth of unprepared antimony, finely wrapt up in several scartoccios, are able, very well, to kill their twenty a week, and play; yet, these meagre, starved spirits, who have half stopt the organs of their minds with earthy oppilations, want not their favourers among your shrivell’d sallad-eating artizans, who are overjoyed that they may have their half-pe’rth of physic; though it purge them into another world, it makes no matter.
Sir P. Excellent! have you heard better language, sir.
Volp. Well, let them go. And, gentlemen, honourable gentlemen, know, thqtfor this time, our bank, being thus removed from the clamours of the canaglia, shall be the scene of pleasure and delight; for I have nothing to sell, little or nothing to sell.

I think you know what comes next.

I was kind of interested in lexical borrowings from Italian and whether and under what circumstances the /tʃ/ remains (cello > cello) or changes to /ʃ/ (ciarlatano via French > charlatan) or something else (capriccio via French > caprice).

Motive: I was kind of interested in why John Minsheu‘s authorship of the Dialogues is always denied by Spanish academics–Spanish writing that good could never proceed from an Englishman!–when afaik there is no evidence that he was English (a Mr Vesey is described as his cousin, but that may just indicate friendship and perhaps similarity in (sharp) business practice), and what appear to be cognates of his surname appear to be reasonably common in Italy, where Spanish was widely admired and learned in the 16th century. I’m hopelessly ignorant of 16th century pronunciation in general, but I kind of discreetly wonder whether Minsheu’s instructions to pronounce the sibilant in haçer as /ts/ isn’t more Milan than Madrid. Can’t think why.

It’ll pass, kind of.

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  1. Moreover: the OED lets you search for strings “*nsh*” in source language, and I bet you won’t find one single example of what you’re talking about. Minsheu’s a Cheshire lad!

  2. I may be wrong, but that doesn’t mean I’m not right, cos who’s going to buy that kind of boring crap?

    So let’s be constructive and focus on his mum being a hunchbacked Jewish lesbian from the banks of the Mincio.

  3. Just cos nasty Edward Phillips 50 years later says Minsheu = Minshaw doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s a very curious spelling – I can’t offhand think of any other word in English which terminates thusly – and doesn’t the Latin spelling, Minshaeus, suggest that the pronunciation Minshaw is a red herring?

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