for reverence of his Sabot day

I downloaded a reader app for my iPhone and, browsing around Project Gutenberg for something public domain to read, I came across A Chronicle of London from 1089 to 1483, as transcribed and published by a couple of C19th antiquarians. There’s an awful lot of bureaucratic stuff about the mayor and sheriffs of London, and who’s in the Tower at the moment, which doesn’t have much interest for the casual reader. But there are enough little anecdotes like this one to hold the interest:

And in this yere, that is to seye the yere of our lord a mlcclviij, there fel a Jewe into a pryve at Teukesbury upon a Satirday, the whiche wolde nought suffre hym selfe to be drawe out of the preve that day for reverence of his Sabot day: and Sr. Richard of Clare, thanne erle of Gloucestre, herynge therof, wolde nought sufrre hym to be drawe out on the morwe after, that is to say the Soneday, for reverence of his holy day; and so the Jewe deyde in the preve.

This is in 1258, shortly after the death of Hugh of Lincoln and 30 years before England became the first country in Europe to expel its Jewish population.

The iPhone isn’t ideal for reading, but if you choose a fairly low-contrast combination of colours for the page and the text, it’s entirely manageable. I haven’t read anything very long yet, but if I was going on holiday I think I could do worse than take a dozen assorted books on my phone: a few Victorian novels, some poetry, who knows. Hell, if you’re willing to actually pay for the books, you can get ones which are still in copyright. The Chronicle actually works quite well because I can just dip into it from time to time and read a few pages without worrying about losing the thread.

2 Comments

  1. 24 January 2009 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    That sounds like nonsense to me. Jews can’t work on the Sabbath, but there’s an exception to all Jewish laws for life-or-death situations (which leads to peculiar loopholes, such as women not being required to procreate, as giving birth is life threatening). Also, it only applies to Jews — hence the tradition of paying Gentiles to do necessary work on the Sabbath. So presumably the local Gentile constable could have hauled him up out of the poop to save his life with no offense done to Yahweh. Probably they just let him die, and wanted a funny story out of the deal.

  2. Harry
    24 January 2009 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m almost certain it’s nonsense. But interesting nonsense. Exactly what, if anything, actually happened, is unknowable after 750 years, of course; the fact that the story is being recorded in London but supposedly took place in Tewkesbury (in Gloucestershire) would immediately ring alarm bells even if the story wasn’t so implausible. An urban legend, perhaps.

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