Jumping Jack Flash

Sir John Blencowe

Sir John Blencowe (1642-1726)
This is not the image we get of Sir John on reading the amusing extract obtained from Genea. I have mostly kept the original 17th Century word usage, spelling and grammar.

318 COLLECTANEA. [Part VI..... measured to have leaped, at six continued leaps, one and twenty yards, three quarters and some odd inches. It is Sir John Blencowe of St Laurence Marston in Northamptonshire, (now one of His Majestys judges in the Court of Common Pleas) who did then out-leap Mr Shugbrough. (the next-best leaper in that county) by seven inches in about the year 1676. The like for dancing, bowling & other actions of activity, wherein he is yet excellent, and wherein few gentlemen do exceed him. All which he learned at Oxford (while a student here) beside his other academical studies. So that, beside what is more properly university learning, there is no want of other genteel accomplishments to be attained here, by such as are desirous of it. But vaulting, leaping, and the like, are now (I think) much disused, as too violent for this softer age.

But great complaint there is, for want of riding the great horse (and wherein this projector is more particularly concerned) as not taught in the universities. And truly I think we may better spare it, than be troubled with it. Of which I think it not amiss, to give you the opinion of one who was then a great man, a great while since, (when the great horse was more in request than now it is).

'Tis that of Arch-bishop Laud, when he was Chancellor of the University of Oxford, in a letter to IX Bayly, his Vicechancellor; when one M. Crofts had brought some great horses to Oxford in order to teach such riding here. The letter is thus * Sir, For M* Crofts and his great horses, he may carry them back, * if he please as he brought them. For certainly it cannot be fit for the university; though the exercise in itself be exceeding commend-able. For the gentlemen there are for the most part too young, and not strong enough. Besides, you cannot put that charge upon their parents without their particular leave and directions.

But this especially is considerable, that, wherever this place of riding shal be, when one scholar learns, you shal have 20 or 40 to look-on and they lose their time, so that, upon the whole matter that place shal be fuller of scholars, than either schooles or library. Therefore, I pray, give M*. Crofts thanks fairly for his good intentions, but as that, advised, I cannot give way to his staying there to the purpose he intends. Nor is it altogether inconsiderable, that you shal suffer scholars to fall into the old humour of going up and down in boots and spurs, and then have their excuse ready, that they are going to the ridinghouse. And I doubt not but other inconveniences may be thought on. Therefore I pray no admittance of him.

'Lambeth, W. CANT.'

Roger Blinko
Canada & NSW

Those readers working in universities will think that nothing has changed over 385 years, just the causes for concern!