Pierce Penilesse
by Thomas Nashe

[Madame Troynovant]

What drugs, what sorceries, what oils, what waters, what ointments do our curious dames use to enlarge their withered beauties? Their lips are as lavishly red as if they used to kiss an ochreman every morning, and their cheeks sugar-candied and cherry-blushed so sweetly, after the colour of a new Lord Mayor's posts,11 as if the pageant of their wedlock holiday were hard at the door; so that if a painter were to draw any of their counterfeits on table, he needs no more but wet his pencil and dab it on their cheeks and he shall have vermilion and white enough to furnish out his work, though he leave his tar-box12 at home behind him. . . .
      I warrant we have old hacksters in this great Grandmother of Corporations, Madame Troynovant, that have not backbited any of their neighbours with the tooth of envy this twenty year, in the wrinkles of whose face ye may hide false dice, and play at cherry-pit13 in the dint of their cheeks; yet these aged mothers of iniquity will have their deformities new plastered over, and wear nosegays of yellow hair on their foreheads, when age hath written 'No God be here' on their bald burnt parchment pates. Pish, pish, what talk you of old age or bald pates? Men and women that have gone under the South Pole14 must lay off their furred nightcaps in spight of their teeth and become yeomen of the vinegar bottle;12 a close periwig hides all the sins of an old whore-master, but Cucullus non facit monachum:16 'tis not their new bonnets will keep them from the old bone-ache. 'Ware when a man's sins are written on his eyebrows, and that there is not a hair-breadth betwixt them and the falling sickness.

11  Each year, posts at the Lord Mayor's house were painted (McKerrow).
12  A paint-box.
13  A children's game.
14  Fornicated; the phrase can also refer to the female genitals.
15  Vinegar was a supposed cure for venereal disease.
16  Proverbial: the hood does not make the monk.

Nashe, Thomas. "Pierce Penniless", excerpt, sig. C2v-C3.
London in the Age of Shakespeare. Lawrence Manley, Ed.
University Park: Pennsylvania State U. Press, 1986. 277-278.

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