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REIGN OF QUEEN ANNE TO GEORGE II.                                633
OLD KING COLE.
The first question that may be asked here, is, " Who was old King Cole ?" I should say that he was " old Cole " the famous cloth manufacturer, of Reading, one of " the sixe worthie yeomen of the West;"—that his name became pro­verbial through an extremely popular story-book of the sixteenth century; and that he acquired his kingship much in the same manner as another celebrated worthy, " Old Sir Simon the King."
There was some joke or conventional meaning among Elizabethan dramatists, when they gave a man the name of Old Cole, which it is now difficult to discover. Gifford supposes it to be a nickname given to Ben Jonson by Dekker, because in the Satiromastix, where Horace says, " I'll lay my hands under your feet, Captain Tucca," Tucca answers, " Say'st thou to me so, old Cole ? come do it, then;" but Dekker uses it elsewhere when there can be no allusion to Ben Jonson. In the Second part of The Honest Whore, Matheo gives the name to Orlando, who had promised to assist him: " Say no more, old Cole; meet me anon at the sign of The Shipwreck." Marston, too, in The Malcontent, makes Malevole apply it to a woman,—
" Malevole to Maquarelle. Ha, Dipsas ! how dost thou, old Cole ?
Maquarelle. Old Cole!
Malevole. Ay, old Cole; methinks thou liest like a brand under billets of green wood."
This play was printed in 1604, and dedicated to Ben Jonson, with whom Marston was then on the most friendly terms. It is true that Ben Jonson, in Bartholomew Fair, gives the name of Old Cole to the sculler in the puppet-show of Hero and Leander; but this was first acted in 1614, and Dekker's Satiromastix printed in 1602.
Perhaps the name originated in the ridicule of some drama upon the story of The Six worthy Yeomen of the West. "Old Cole" is thus mentioned by Deloney:—
" It chanced on a time, as he [King Henry I.] with one of his sonnes, and divers of his nobility, rode from London towards Wales, to appease the fury of the Welsh­man, which then began to raise themselves in armes against his authority, that he mot with a number of waines loaden with cloth, comming to London; and seeing them still drive one after another so many together, demanded whose they were; the waine-men answered in this sort: Cole's of Reading (qnoth they). Then by and by tha King asked another, saying, Whose cloth is all this? Old Cole's, quoth hee : and again anon after he asked the same question to others, and still they answered, Old Cole's. And it is to be remembered, that the King met them in such a place, qo narrow and so streight, that hee, with the rest of his traine, were faine to stand as close to the hedge, whilest the carts passed by, the which at that time being in nv mber about two hundred, was neere hand an houre ere the King could get roome to be gone: so that by his long stay he began to be displeased, although the ad­miration of that sight did much qualify his furie; .... and so, soon after, the last wain passed by, which gave present passage unto him and his nobles: and thereupon" erjtring into communication of the commoditie of cloathing, the King gave order at his home returne. to have Old Cole brought before his Maiestie. to the intent hfi







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III