"… for when our houses were builded of willow, then had we oaken men; but now that our houses are come to be made of oak, our men are not only become willow but a great many, through Persian delicacy crept in among us, altogether of straw, which is a sore alteration." — Of Woods and Marshes, The Description of England
Originally written as part of an introduction to Holinshed's Chronicles, The Description of England
provides an unparalleled account of life in Shakespeare's England. A cleric and historian, William Harrison (1535-93) compiled detailed accounts of nearly every aspect of English life: food and diet, laws, clothing, punishments for criminals, castles and palaces, antiquities, metals and minerals, dogs, fish, cattle, languages, inns and thoroughfares, rivers, the appearance of the people, and much more.
Brimming with fascinating information, enlivened by the author's wide-ranging curiosity, keen-eyed observation of his country and country men, and unabashed nationalism, the book is a monumental reference that ranks today as a classic of social description. As the editor, Georges Edelen, points out in his Introduction, "No other work of the age gives so compendious and readable an account of life in Shakespeare's England, and no similar book has been so deeply quarried by later writers on the period."
Now students, historians, Anglophiles — all who are interested in Renaissance England — can immerse themselves in this richly detailed study and enjoy a colorful, realistic picture of English life four centuries ago.
Reprint of The Description of England, The Folger Shakespeare Library, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 1968.