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The tragedy of Doctor Lamb
Pepys, i, 134, B.L., two woodcuts, four columns.
According to the pamphlet quoted below (and it is rightly followed by the Dictionary of National Biography), Dr Lamb was mobbed on June 13, 1628, and died on June 14. In the ballad Martin Parker mistakenly gives the dates as June 14 and June 151. Lamb, a minion of the Duke of Buckingham, was execrated not only because of his own "lewd life" but, also, because of the popular belief that he used magical powers to enable his patron to seduce chaste women. Buckingham exerted himself to secure vengeance on Lamb's assailants. At his instigation, Charles I threatened to withdraw the charter of London and fined the city £6000. The Duke himself was assassinated a few weeks later (on August 23), and the fine was reduced to 1500 marks. The ballad is an historical document of real value, particularly interesting as showing the reaction towards Lamb of a man in the streets. Parker tried hard to be fair, but his feelings overcame him.
For other ballads referring to Dr Lamb see Fairholt's Songs and Poems Relating to George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, Percy Society, 1850, pp. xiv, 58-63, 65. Contemporary references to his murder abound. Bulstrode Whitelocke notes in his Memorials (1732, p. 10) that "Dr Lambe was set upon in the Streets by the Rabble, and called Witch, Devil and the Duke's Conjurer, and beaten that he died; the Council wrote to the Lord Mayor to find out, and punish the chief Actors therein, but none were found." Richard Smyth, in his Obituary (Camden Society, ed. H. Ellis, p. 3), remarks: "March ia[, 1628]. Dr Lamb killed in the Old Jurie by a rude multitud, for which the City was fined." John Rous jots down in his diary (ed. Camden Society, pp. 17, 31): "We received newes that doctor Lambe (called the duke's wisard) was knocked on the heade on the 12th of June or thereabout, at 6 at night: he and his minion came from a play, and being houted and wondered at by prentises and water-
1 Both pamphlet and ballad say that Dr Lamb was assaulted on Friday. According to Table C in H. Nicolas's Chronology of History (2nd ed., p. 51) June 13, 1628, fell on Friday. For further notes on Lamb see an article by Professor Kittredge in Studies in the History of Religions. Presented to C. H. Toy, 1912, pp. 50-51.