The great deer massacre: Animals, honor, and communication in early modern England

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Abstract

I need not complain of the times; every traveler tells them; they are as clear to see as an Angel in the sun. (Henry Osborne, October 1642) In early October 1642, a tract of forest and deer chase in the Severn valley, northwest of Gloucester, known as Corse Lawn, became the site of a grisly spectacle. Richard Dowdeswell, a steward of the property, described the scene in a letter to Lionel Cranfield, earl of Middlesex, the absentee owner resident in Great St. Bartholomew in London. Dowdeswell delivered terrifying news of how a rising of neighbors about Corse Lawn destroyed more than 600 of Middlesex's deer in a rebellious, riotous, devilish way, a hideous consequence of what Dowdeswell termed this time of liberty. Dowdeswell rode to the scene from his estate at Pull Court, a few miles from the chase, and appeased the multitude, yet some scattering companies gave out in alehouses that they would not only destroy the remainder of deer but rifle your Lordship's house at Forthampton and pull it down to the ground and not let a tree or bush stand in all the chase. The deer massacre became an assault on the chase, the forest, and the manor house of Forthampton, an estate close to the chase but not included in the meets and bounds of the forest. Middlesex's tenant at Forthampton Court, his brother-in-law Henry Osborne, prudently moved his household to Gloucester until Dowdeswell acquired a formal statement of protection from the earl of Essex to defend the forest, the deer left in the chase, and the house in Forthampton.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-216
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of British Studies
Volume38
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History

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