Vile-Hearted Renaissance Peckerhead of the Month: January

No, this isn't really Ambrose Westrop--there's no picture of him available. I've always just really liked this painting. This is Emperor Rudolf II as Vertumnus by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, c.1590
No, this isn’t really Ambrose Westrop–there’s no picture of him available. I’ve always just really liked this painting. This is Emperor Rudolf II as Vertumnus by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, c.1590. Wikimedia Commons

If Ambrose Westrop were alive today, he would be considered a Nice Guy™.

Why would Westrop be my January candidate for Vile-Hearted Renaissance Peckerhead of the Month if he was such a nice guy?

No, he wasn’t a nice guy, he was a Nice Guy™ (Nice Guy definition from GeekFeminismWiki). This is a relatively new coinage to describe that dude who complains that girls ignore him “because he’s too nice,” the guy who’s sick and tired of providing a shoulder to cry on without getting something out of it–after all he’s done for her, shouldn’t a woman at least give him a chance, you know, physically?

And if she doesn’t put out?  Well, then she’s a bitch. Basically, the Nice Guy™ thinks women owe him physical intimacy for human decency. Something like this:

From "Toothpaste for Dinner"
From “Toothpaste for Dinner”

(By the way, the trademark symbol is a part of the definition–it’s used to mark out the “Nice Guy” from the “nice guy.”)

Okay, back to the Renaissance: Ambrose Westrop was one of many priests listed by John White in a pamphlet called First Century of Scandalous, Malignant Priests (you can find it here in Princeton’s digital archives:   He was a vicar in Much (now Great) Topham in the mid-17th century.  Reverend Westrop was a bachelor and not terribly happy about it.

A young woman took Westrop’s fancy, so he did something really “nice,” and really public, to get her attention: “And being a sutor to one Mistris Ellen Pratt a Widdow, he did write upon a peece of paper these words, Bonny Nell, I love thee well, and did pin it on his cloake, and ware it up and downe a Market-Towne.”

Huh. Well, that could be sweet, I guess, if in fact Bonny Nell returned the feelings.  If not, it could be—oh, I don’t know, passive aggressive “niceness”?  For what it’s worth, after Mistress Pratt married another, Westrop took to the pulpit, “for five or six weekes after, utter[ing] little or nothing else in the Pulpit, but invectives against Women.”

After the Bonny Nell debacle, Westrop set his sights on another woman and very kindly invited her to dinner.  What a nice guy, right? Thing is, she either didn’t want to come or had other plans, so “he immediately roade to her house, and desiring to speake with her, she coming to the doore, without speaking to her, he pulled off her head-geere and rode away with it.”

Umm, not only is that not very nice, it’s downright weird (even by early modern standards, I think).

We don’t know whether the Reverend Westrop found the right woman, but lord help her if he did because here are his thoughts on womankind:

“That a woman is worse than a Sow, in two respects. First, because a Sowes skinne is good to make a cart-saddle, and her bristles good for a sowter. Secondly because a Sow will runne away if a man cry but Hoy, but a woman will not turne head, though beaten down with a Leaver; and that the difference betweene a woman and a Sow, is in the nape of the neck, where a woman can bend upwards, but the Sow cannot, and that a woman is respected by a man, onely for his uncleane lust, and that she that is nursed with Sowes milk will learne to wallow; and divers modest women absenting from Church, because of such uncivill passages, he affirmed, That all that were then absent from church were whores.”

So, for behavior befitting a Nice Guy™, I nominate Ambrose Westrop, Vicar of Much Totham, for January’s Vile-Hearted Renaissance Peckerhead of the Month.

More: (a great blog post about the pamphlet sFirst Century of Scandalous, Malignant Priests) (short discussion of Westrop in David Cressy’s excellent Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England)