The counter scuffle. VVhereunto is added, The counter rat. Written by R. S.
London, Printed by Richard Bishop, 1637.
4to. 27 unnumbered ll. A-G⁴. [without G4 blank]. Roman letter, some Italic. Very charming, large woodcut illustration of a food fight on title, full-page woodcut on D4v, woodcut headpieces and floriated initials, bookplate of Robert S Pirie on pastedown. Title and verso of last a little dusty, small white spots in t-p, blank, tear in lower blank margin, minor marginal foxing in last few leaves, early pen-trials on last leaf. A very good copy, with good margins [deckle edges in most lower margins] in red morocco gilt, by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, title gilt in long on spine, turn-ins gilt ruled.
The fifth edition of Robert Speed’s genial, burlesque mock-heroic satire; all early editions of which are rare. The work contains two remarkable woodcut illustrations; the first on the title depicts a food fight that takes place in prison, the second shows officers of the watch, with pikes, escorting a tailor to prison. Robert Speed’s pamphlet explains how the keeper and several of his minions joined imprisoned “rakehells” and “bawds” in a revel that “turn’d Nighte into day by Drinking, Whoreing, Swearing, Roaring, and Cursing”
“‘The Counter-Scuffe”’was often reprinted throughout the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries— a new edition was listed as late as 1741—and there were references to it at least until the middle of the nineteenth century. The central plot is a battle between two tradesmen: a country-born man who was pressed into military service and went to war as a captain, and a gold-smith. Besides the normal retinue of prisoners, the fracas also involves a priest and a lawyer, whom the balladeer notes should never have been housed with such ruffians. They represent the church and the law, both helpless to lead common men as they should because through debt each has lowered himself to join them. Prison food for Lent is depicted as meatless but plentiful, with a groaning table of assorted shellfish and other seafood all swimming in that rich delicacy, butter, with the latter’s slipperiness being a key component of the burlesque … The melee first breaks out with pots and stools, but soon the goldsmith starts a food fight, with the priest taking advantage of the distractions to dine right in the middle of it. The goldsmith insults the captain and his ilk as mere amateur soldiers with rusty swords and no military skills. The captain threatens to whip him for saying this, so the goldsmith throws a jug at him; in response, the captain hurls a plate of buttered fish, with the resulting mess causing the goldsmith to slide, “and all be butter-fishified.” Carole Fungaroli Sargent.
“Early modern texts across the archive appropriate the language of cookery to examine the relationship between humans and other forms of life. Some texts, like Robert Speed’s ‘The Counter Scuffle (1637), go so far as to replace human characters with foodstuffs. This poem set in a London debtors prison, stages and epic food-fight in which various edibles are deployed as weapons in a scuffle between two socially-stratified characters, Ellis and the Captain. Speed uses metonymy, a trope that operates according to a logic of attachment and substitution, to align human bodies and the food they consume. The poem also attributes to foodstuffs various affective capacities. For example, we read, “the frightened Custard quak’d for feare”, a description linked rhetorically to Ellis’s human reaction upon being taunted by the Captain: “And all his blood ran to his heart,/ He shook, and quak’d in every part with anger.” At its climax the poem elaborates these linked affects by replacing the human characters with the edible weapons they wield. “Instead of weapons made of Steele,/ The Captaine took a salted Eele”…” J. Feerick, V. Nardizzi. “The Indistinct Human in Renaissance Literature”
A very good copy of this charming burlesque and satirical work.
STC 23054. ESTC S112943. not in Pforzheimer.