THAT IT IS GOOD to be in Debt





























































































































































































































































WEE are fallen into that dotage of

the World, in which, the worſt

things doe ouertop the worthieſt,

ſence doth beſot the vnderſtan-

ding, drinke ouercommeth the

braine, and the eye beguyleth

and miſleadeth the ſight. And therefore in tender

commiſeration of mankinde, I will endeuour to rec-

tifie their iudgement in a Paradox, then which there

hath none more intricate, been diſcuſſed and can-

uaſſed among the Stoiks in Zenos porch, that is, That

it is better for a man to liue in debt, then otherwiſe.

      Ordiar ab ouo, I will begin from the egge, that your

concoxion may be the eaſier. In the whole courſe

and frame of Nature, we ſee that nothing is made

for it ſelfe, but each hath a bond of duty, of vſe or of

ſeruice, by which it is indebted to other. The ſunne

by his ſplendor to lighten all the world; by his

warmth and heate, to cheriſh and comfort each li-

uing and vegetable thing. Yea, man himſelfe is ſo

framed of God, that not onely his Countrey, his

Parents and his friends claime a ſhare in him, but

he is alſo indebted to his dogge, and to his Oxe, to                          ||

teach the one to hunt for his pleaſure, the other to

labour for his profit: ſo that quicquid habet genij, in-

genij, moris, amoris, the abilities of his ſpirit, the

affections of his mind, he hath them for others, aſ-

much as for himſelfe; nay the more for others, by

how much hee deſireth to be the greater Lord ouer

others. Let him but looke into himſelfe, and ſee

how his conſtitutiue parts are debters each to other,

the ſoule doth quicken and giue life to the body, the

body like an Automaton, doth moue and carry it ſelfe

and the ſoule. Suruey him in his parts, the eye ſee-

eth[1] for the foote, the foote ſtandeth for the hand,

the hand toucheth for the mouth, the mouth taſteth

for the ſtomacke, the ſtomacke eateth for the whole

body, the body repayeth backe againe that nutri-

ment which it hath receiued, to all the parts, diſchar-

ging the retriments by the Port-Eſquiline; and all

this in ſo comely an order, and by a Law ſo certaine,

and in ſo due a time, as if Nature had rather man

ſhould not haue been at all, then not to be a debter

in euery part of him; which hath made me reſolue,

that to whomſoeuer I meane to bee a friend, I will

ſtriue to be in his debt: and what can I do leſſe? for

to him that doth mee a good turne, I am bound to

returne him the greateſt pleaſure; which I can no

way do, but by being in his debt: for what content-

ment will it be vnto him, when I ſhall repay him his

owne againe? The Alchymiſts, who promiſe to

themſelues to turne Tin into ſiluer, and Copper in-

to gold, how will they bee tranſported out of them-

ſelues with ioy, if they ſhould but ſee a happy iſſue

of their attempt? How much more a Creditor,

when hee ſhall recouer a deſperate debt? It is like                            ||

the ioy of a Father that receiues his loſt Child.

     Againe, he that is in debt, hath this great priui-

ledge aboue other men, that his Creditors powre

out hearty prayers for him, they wiſh that hee may

liue, and thriue and proſper, and grow rich, and all

for their owne aduantage. They ſeeme to be care-

full for their debtors, that they may not loſe their

principall with the intereſt, for their money is their

life, witneſſe thoſe Vſurers of France, who, when

they heard that the price of Corne was fallen, went

and hanged themſelues for griefe.

     What a command doth the debtor gaine ouer his

Creditors? He becommeth in a manner their Land-

lord, to whom they cap, crouch, and kneele, as if

they did owe him all ſuits and ſeruices, and are as

ambitious of their fauours, as they who in Rome

did canuas the people for their voices to attaine the

greateſt offices: but here is their cunning: Laudant

vt Ledant, they praiſe them, that they may pray v-

pon. And therefore, you braue gallants and ſpend-

thrifts, who find by your wofull[2] experience, that no

whip giues a ſhrweder laſh then the labels[3] of a Bond

or Obligation, with a Nouerint vniuerſi Skinner and

Lacy. Whenſoeuer you fall into the Mercers books,

neuer take care, or make conſcience of paying your

debts, for by that meanes you ſhall keepe your Cre-

ditor in awe, and ſhall haue him wonderfull courte-

ous and officious, and obſequious towards you, and

a great mint-maſter of faire words.

     Without debt and loane the Fabricke of the world

will be diſioynted and fall aſunder into its firſt Chaos.

The beauty of the Starres, what would it be but vaſt-

neſſe and deformity, if the Sunne did not lend them                        ||

light? The earth would remaine vnfruitfull, if ſhee

did not borrow refreſhing dewes from the watery

Signes and Planets. The Summer is pleaſant, and

promiſeth great hopes of plenty, but it is, becauſe it

taketh vp much vpon truſt, from the friendly and ſea-

ſonable temperment of the Elements. And to ſay

the truth, there is nothing good or great in the

world, but that it borroweth ſomething from others

to make it great, or lendeth to another to make it

good. And therefore I maruaile why Antiquity,

who made Mildew, Feauer, and Scuruineſſe god-

deſſes, did not matriculate loane and debt among the


     The Elements who are linked together by a

league of aſſociation, and by their ſymbolizing qua-

lities, doe barter and truck, borrow and lend one to

another, as being the Burſſe and Royall-Exchange

of nature: they are by this traffique and intercourſe,

the very life and nouriſhmet of all ſublunary bodies,

and therefore are called Elimenta quaſi alimenta,

whoſe happy concord & coniunction hath brought

forth thoſe, whom the World for the good done to

mankind, hath eſteemed gods, as Bacchus the great

Vintner, Ceres the Meale-mother, Flora the Tutty-

maker, Vertumus[4] and Pomona Coſtard-mongers.

     Now, if euery man would render and repay in

full waight, that which by due debt he oweth and

hath borrowed from others, Saturnes golden age

would returne againe, in which there was no differ-

rence of metals, but gold and ſiluer were all one

Oare, and made the yelke of the earth, Natures

great Egge, neither did Meum and Tuum bound

out, and apportionate Lands and Lordſhips, by                                ||

meare-ſtones, and diuerſity of Tenures of ſockage

and ſocadge; ſince when, Qui habet terras, habet guer-

ras, and the King of heauens peace hath been diſ-

turbd amongſt men: but then all things were all

mens, as neceſſitie did allot and award, who was

then the onely iudge and arbitrator, competently al-

lowing to euery man, that which he ſtood in need


     With what deareneſſe haue both gods and good

men countenanced and graced debtors? To whom

Diana the great goddeſſe of Epheſus, granted her

Temple for a Sanctuarie, to keepe them out of

Bagwell: Pigeon-houſes. Or if they were caught, Solon by

a ſolemne Law inacted, would not haue their bodies

to be fettered or manacled amongſt malefactors, but

that they ſhould enioy their liberty throughout all

the Parkes and Purlues of the priſon, or to ſpeake

more mildly, of their reſtraint & indurance: For the

Priſon is built Purgatory-wiſe, after the Architec-

ture of Rome, with a Limbus and Tullianum. The

dungeon is the Deuils pinſold and the very ſuburbs

of Hell, where varlets, roarers, and ſtilettoſtabbers

are let downe, as the proper food that ſtuffes that

great greedy maw. The next roome is the Lollard

of trunck-hoſed famuliſts and ſeparatiſts, who after

they haue been rowelled in the neck, to cure them of

the Megrim of the head, they are by the gentle flame

of this Stoue, and the heate of their owne zeale,

made to ſweat out their contumary[5] and other pec-

cant humors. The vpper skirt and ſtage of this

building is the Garret of expencefull waſtets, game-

ſters and vnthrifty debtors, where though they liue

robbed of their liberty, as they rifled others of their                                     ||

money. Yet is it their great happineſſe, that being

glutted, as it were, with an Apolauſticke voluptary

life, they haue an eaſie ouverture made to the con-

templatiue and practick life of Vertue. Who euer

liued more like a Souc’d-gurn-head amongſt men,

then Diogenes the Cynick, barrelling himſelfe vp in

his tubbe like a Kegge of Sturgion? Yet was the

happineſſe of his contented life enuied of the grea-

teſt Monarchs, who hauing made their throats the

through-face and the cullenders of meats & drinkes,

found an ouergorged belly, to be Wits clog, Rea-

ſons ſepulcher, Luſts Arſenall, the Magazin of lewd

practices, and the Nurſerie of all vices: all which

prouocations are defalted by Debts wants and indi-


     And laſtly, the Lumbards, Vſurers, and Scriue-

ners, who are the Bedles of Beggars, and are ac-

counted the Tetters vpon the body politike of the

Common-weale, who turne the Calends and new

Moones, and the Feſtiuall dayes of quarter-gaudies,

into the Octanes[6] of diſaſter and Doomes-day rec-

konings, when any of theſe come to Heauen, there

is a wonderment amongſt the Angels, and they cry

out with Sr. Gurman of Alfarache,[7] fruta nueua, fruta

nueua, heere is a new kind of fruit ſtart vp, a Pumpa-

radiſe vpon a crab-ſtocke, Lumbards and Scriueners

are become the Popes canonized and beatified


    Farewell then, Vlpianus, Modestinus, and other

pettifoggers of the Law, Sollicitours, and mole-

ſters of cauſes, who account being in debt a kind of

bondage and ſeruitude. I pittie Senecaes weakeneſſe,

who bluſhed to borrow; miſerum verbum et dimiβo                         ||

vultu proferendum, Rogo: That Poet Laureat, for-faited

his wreath of Bayes and Iuie twine, who made his

praiers to his purſe to keep him out of debt, in this



To you my Purſe, and to none other Wight

Complaine I, for you be my Lady deere:

I am ſorry now that you be light,

For certes yee now make me heauie cheere,

Mee were as lefe layd upon a Beere.

For which vnto your mercie thus I cry,

Be heauy againe, or elſe mote I dye.


Now vouchſafe this day, or it might be night,

That I of you the blisfull ſound may heere,

Or ſee your colour, like the Sunne bright.

That of yellowneſſe had neuer Pere,

Ye be my life, ye be my hearts flere;

Queene of comfort and of good company,

Be heauy againe, or elſe mote I dye.


Now Purſe, that art to me my liues light

And ſauiour as downe in this World here,

Out of this Towne helpe me by your might,

Sith that you will not be my Treaſure,

For I am shaue as neere as any frere:

But I pray vnto your curteſie,

Be heauy againe, or elſe mote I die.


    Yet wellfare the Prodigall vnthrift, who is magis

promus quam condus, and ſerues at the Buttry-hatch,

whatſoeuer is in his Binn or his Barrell, and there-

fore could neuer indure the complaint of his Purſe,

who thus bemoan’d her ſelfe vnto him.

Materia infœlix, detracta cadauere; forma,

     tam varia, vt nec ego me mihi noβe queam.                                 ||

Haud melius fatum, nam pendeo more latronis,

     ingenium ſic me fueris habere putant.

Si dederis ſeruo; ſeruatum redo petenti

     non niſi at auriculis tracta referre volo.


A skinne flayed off, yeelds my materialls,

    my forme is various, where my ſelfe I looſe,

My doome’s a fellons death and funerals,

     for at a Belt I am hanged by a nooze.

I doe not filch for mine owne thrift and gaine,

     but what you giue, I cloſely keepe and beare,

And when you aske, I it reſtore againe,

     yet not, except you plucke me by the eare.


     For the Al-te-mael, and foote of the reckoning,

this is the ſumma ſummarum: Debemur morti nos

noſtraq. So that whilſt I liue, I muſt reſolue to liue

in debt, in debt to God, for my being; in debt to

Christ, for my well-being; in debt to Gods

ſanctifying Spirit, for my new-being: And I will e-

uer be ready to pawne my life for my Countries li-

berty, I will owe obedience to my Parents, Faith

and Loyaltie to my Prince: And when I ſhall pay

my great debt vnto Nature, I will render my ſpirit

into the hands of God; bequeath my body to

     be depoſed in the lap and boſome of the

         earth, and cry, Domine, dimitte de-

                             bita mea.






































































































I. AErugo.

2. Febris.

3. Pſora.

[Cornwallis’s own note]
























































































Th. Ocleve.

in. Chaucher.

[Cornwallis’s own note]

[1] Typo for “ſeeth”.

[2] Typo for “woeful”.

[3] From comparison with witness B77, as witness A is unreadable.

[4] Typo for “Vertumnus”.

[5] Typo for “contumacy”.

[6] Typo for “Octaues” (cfr. witness B).

[7] Guzmán de Alfarache (cfr. witness B).