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Cathy Shrank 16 January 2007 printedbook

A Pleasant Dialogue between Listra and a Pilgrim

published pseudonymously
full name additional information

[Thomas Nicholls (1532?1601)]

urmised by ESTC, from initials 'TN' at the end of the work,

Publication Details

Composition date
before May 1579 (date entered in Stationers' Register)
Publication date
Publication site
A8-B8 C2 [2]A4 [2]B8-[2]C8(-[2]C8). The book is in two parts, the second part beginning with a separate title page at [2]A1r. Black letter; some roman (for variation on title-page, dedicatory epistles, verses, speech tags, some names in part II) and italic (e.g. variation on title-page, in headings to dedicatory epistles).
Bibliographic number
STC2, 18335.5
Stationers register
Entered 5 May 1579: 'vto Die Maii [1579] Jhon Charlwood/ Lycensed vnto him vnder th[e h]andes of the Bishop and London and the Wardens A Dialoge betwene a Ladie called Listria and a pilgrim concerninge the gouernement and commen weale of the great province of Crangalor... vi d' (Arber, II.352).
full name additional information

John Charlewood


Edward Dyer

Master Edward Dyer Esquire


Latin (quotation form Horace on A4r: 'non licet omnibus adicere [sic] Corinthum'; 'not everyone gets to go to Corinth')


Title page
A pleasant Dialogue. betweene a Lady called Listra, and a Pilgrim. Concerning the gouernement and common weale of the great prouince of Crangalor. 1579. Imprinted at London by John Charlewood, dwelling in Barbican at the signe of the halfe Egle and Keye. [within decorative border of printer's lace]
Preliminary material
1. Dedication (epistle): 'To the Worshipfull, Maister Edward Diar, Esquier: Listra wisheth prosperity.' (A2r) 'Listra' pre-empts Dyer's surprise that a 'strainger' 'presume to write this little dialogue to your Worship [...] in the Englishe tongue'. She declares that - even dwelling 'so far from [his] natiue soyle' - she has heard of his 'parentage & vertuous minde touchin the publike weale of your Country, and this is the cause wherefore I offer this Pilgrimes talke' (A2r). She states that she too comes from 'a noble house and linage', and explains that her 'louing parents' ensured that she learned foreign languages, 'among the which [she] chiefely desired to speake and write the English tongue' (A2v). She asks pardon for her 'base stile' in English in what she describes as 'this Pamphlet'. The dedication is signed 'Your louing friend Listra, of Corinth'.
'The Dialogue' (A3r), Part One
2. Prose section 1: The preamble (A3r-A5r). Coming from her 'sumptuous house in the Countrey' and travelling towards Corinth with her two young pages, Lady Listra overtakes a 'poore Pilgrime, clothed with a long vesture of Sackcloth, [...] with a large felt Hat on his head' (A3r); the pilgrim's age is indicated by his 'white head'; he also sports 'a longe beard'. They fall into conversation, and the pilgrim explains that he is passing through Corinth on the way to 'Asia Maior' (A3v). Although the journey is long, he views all life as a pilgrimage ('yea although they liue at home in their natiue Countrey and delectable houses, an ende they must haue of their pilgrimage'), and deliberately distances himself from religious pilgrimage, declaring he 'care[s] not for [...] relikes'. Listra does not want to know about the laws and customs of the 'Hethites', through whom the pilgrim has travelled, because she knows those to 'be horryble and abhominable' (A4r), but is keen to find out about the 'Christians in East India'. The pilgrim tells of 'the famous Cittie called Crangalor', which is not only beautiful - with 'sumptuous' buildings, 'pleasant Orchards, & sweete Gardeins' - but also 'cheefely decked with notable gouernment and celestiall Justice' (A4v). Ruled by a 'godly' Prince, supported by nobility 'decked with humble harts, and farre from all corruption' and clergy 'not trimmed in sylkes, but clothed in honest decent attire', Crangalor is presented as the perfect commonweal (A5r).

3. Prose section 2: Description of the clergy of Crangalor (A5r-A7r). The Reformist note struck in the rejection of religious piligrimage and relics is endorsed by the description of the clergy as 'Criers of God', with the onus on preaching (A5r). As 'Steward[s] of the poore', they spend the revenues of their bishoprics and benefices on relieving the poor (especially prisoners, many of whom are incarcerated for debt) and orphans, as well as providing dowries for girls who otherwise could not afford to marry. The religious 'Contemplatiues' (A6v) , who reside outside the city in the mountains, make a living for themselves by weaving silk (i.e. they are self-sufficient and not idle).

4. Prose section 3: Description of the legal system of Crangalor (A7r-B7r). Judges - 'chosen out of the Uniuersity by the Princes Counsell, for their excellency, grauitye and learning' (A7r) - receive no fees, but are 'maintained with reasonable stipend at the Princes cost' (A7v). There are no juries, since 'twelue simple men, without learning' are not felt capable 'to decide the doubtfull and hard cases in lawe'. The punishment for accepting bribes is severe (one judge has his leg sawn off, 'with a wooden sawe, in the open Market place'). Suits are only pursued if 'iust and lawfull' (A8r); the clerks get as many words as possible on a sheet of paper (to save the client money) and are happy with a modest fee. 'These lawyers abhorre couetousnesse'; the judges sit daily (except on festival days), so cases are resolved promptly. Lawyers' speeches are also kept to 'very fewe wordes' (B1r). Appeals for cases over £100 may be made to the Prince's Council. The poor are helped in obtaining justice since 'the most famous learned man within the precynct of the whole Cittie' is appointed 'Aduocate of the poore', who is rewarded by a 'great stipend of the Cittizens' and held in high esteem, inferior only to the Prince's Council and chief judges (B1v). When a poor man's case is announced in court, it takes precedence over all other business. The divines also help in ensuring that the legal system remains free of corruption, 'for they will not let to tell all estates their faultes' (B2v); judges are therefore kept mindful of the day of judgement: 'according to the oppinion of S. Ierom, they haue dayly the sounde of the Trumpete in their eares, that shall call to Iudgement. And this is the principall cause, that they do liue in the feare of God' (B2v-B3r). Few prisoners are condemned to death; those that are receive 'three dayes respite to repent [their] former life' (B3r), in which they are aided by 'good men that neuer leaueth perswading them earnestly to repent'. The pilgrim describes the three punishments he saw during his time in Crangalor: first, a woman for 'Sorcery and Witchcraft' (B3v), who was stripped to the waist, smeared with honey and featherdown, and paraded round the streets on an ass, with a mitre set on her head; secondly, a man punished for perjury by having his teeth extracted in the market place (after riding through the streets on an ass); thirdly, 'a wittoll' (a contented cuckold), paraded through the streets on an ass, with horns and bells on his head, whipped by his wife, who was in turn, whipped by the hangman (B4v). Prisoners are not kept in irons, or subjected to cripling fees for food and lodging. Notaries and scriveners in 'temporall or ecclesiasticall affaires' have their offices from the Prince, and receive a stipend (B5v). The Scriveners keep the originals of bonds, in case the copy is lost or stolen; fees for scriveners are kept modest. Every two or three years, the scriveners and notaries are commanded to expose any misdoings, wrongdoers who are then punished (by having their hands cut off, or being sent to the galleys as slaves).

5. Prose section 4: The governor of Crangalor and other officers (B7r-B8r). The governor 'delighteth not in Glottony, and Belly cheere, but rather is very vigilant and carefull for the benefyt of the Citty' (B7r). He visits the tradesmen when they are not expecting him (like Christ, 'comming [...] when he is not looked for, B7rv). He also 'wandereth round about the Cittie, personally in all blinde lanes, and solitary places, to see what watch is kept, to harken for bibbers and dronkerds, to search out Hoores, and Hooremongers, and to examine suspitious guestes' (B7v). When the governor's time of office expires, he and 'al his officers' are placed under house arrest for forty days, allowing people to come forward without fear of reprisal, if they have any charges (such as bribery, exortation). Every three years, 'secret enquyre' is made of the dealings and accounts of all officers (B8r).

6. Prose section 5: The behaviour of the women of Crangalor and the conclusion to part one (B8v-C2r). According to the pilgrim, the women of Crangalor are 'very honest and vertuous'; since their husbands and male slaves 'prepare all the necessaries', they not need to 'straye [...] abroad, except on the Sabboth day, or other Festiuall dayes, when they go to the Temple, or els when they go abroade in their Husbands company' (B8v). Listra asks if the pilgrim has ever been to London; he says only when taking a ship to Scithia. He notes that 'a vertuous Mayden Queene' (Elizabeth I) was then on the throne, who was remarkable for her 'beautye and rare vertues ', 'wisdom and synguler learning', especially in 'sundry languages' (C1r). Listra invites the pilgrim to spend the night with her; the following morning she gives him money for his journey, and he promises to return to tell her of 'all strainge things, that he should heare or see in his pretended Iorney' (C2r).
Postliminary material to Part One
7. 'Finis' (C2r).

8. Authorial verse: verse dialogue between the 'Booke' and 'Pilgrime'; incipit 'Pilgrime for thy telling troth'; 2 stanzas, abcb (C2r); ballad metre. The Book worries that the pilgrim will be 'shent' for 'telling troth'; the pilgrim cares little for 'recompence/ For profit or for gaine', secure in the knowledge that 'God [...]/ Will well rewarde [his] payne'.

9. Signature: 'Finis. T.N.' (C2r)
'The second part'
10. Title page to Part Two: 'The second part of the painefull Iorney of the poore Pylgrime into Asia, and the straynge woonders that he sawe. Both delectable and profytable, betweene the Lady Lystra, and the same Pilgrime. 1579. Imprinted by Iohn Charlewood, dwelling in Barbican, at the sygne of the halfe Eagle and Key.' Surrounded by decorative border of printer's lace ([2]A1r).
Preliminary material to Part Two
11. Dedication (epistle): 'To the right Worshipfull Master Edward Dyar. &c. The poore Pylgrime wisheth felycitie' ([2]A2r). The pilgrim explains to Dyer how Lady Listra entertained him on his return to Corinth and records his gratitude to her. Listra tells the pilgrim that she has sent a record of their previous conversation to 'a Gentleman in Englande' (i.e. Dyer) by means of 'a certaine Marchant a friend', i.e. Nicholls (A2r); Listra requests that the pilgrim do the same with his account of his latest voyage into Asia. Since the pilgrim cannot write or speak English, the original text was written in Arabic, and then translated by one of the many merchants in the city, although the pilgrim is unsure 'whether the translation doth agree with the originall' (A2v). If these writings 'be taken in good part', he promises to write to Dyer on 'greater matters'. Signs himself 'Your Worshippes most humble, the Poore Pylgrime'.

12. Authorial verse: verse dialogue between the 'Booke' and 'Pylgrime'; incipit 'Alas, who would a Pylgrime be'; 5 stanzas, abcb; ballad meter ([2]A3r). The Book wonders who would be a pilgrim when they might live comfortably at home, particularly as they are liable to abuse from others (called 'rog[u]e' and 'vacabond', A3r). The pilgrim remains undaunted, with 'Troth' to protect him, and aims only to honour God.

13. Prose section 6: 'The returne of the poore Pylgrime out of Asia, vnto Corinth' ([2]A4r). After five years, the pilgrim returns to Corinth from Asia, 'his garmentes torne in peeces, his face leane, withred, and parched with the Sunne, his feete blystered, and his body weake and faint' (A5r). When Listra is brought to him, the pilgrim weeps with joy. The pilgrim is taken into Listra's house, his feet bathed, his rags removed, and dainty foods and a soft bed provided. The following morning, Listra keeps him company while his dinner is being prepared, and before the tailor arrives to make his new clothes. Listra dismisses his thanks, reflecting that it is her 'duety' to be hospitable, since 'Gods lawes' teach 'that we are bounde to comforte the afflicted and harborles' (B1r).

14. Prose section 7: 'The begynning of the Pylgrimes iorney into Asia' ([2]B1v) and his account of Zanzibar ([2]B1v-3r). The pilgrim's journey takes him past 'the hyghe Moutaine in Armenia, where Noe his Arke fyrst touched' to Zanzibar, 'a fayre and great Cittie, of Mahomettes', which is also inhabited by Christians, 'euen as the Iewes which dwell in Rome, and other Citties' ([2]B1v). The pilgrim is initally treated with suspicion and derision by 'the Mahomettes, which neuer had seene any Christian of my cloathing or habite' ([2]B2r). He comforts himself that 'God suffered for [him] many opprobrious wordes, among the cruell Iewes'. He meets and is taken in by a Christian, Mighell. Going to their church the next day, he shares his knowledge of 'the blessed state of the common wele of Crangalor' ([2]B2v).

15. Prose section 8: The pilgrim's account of Pembay ([2]B3r-6r). After a week's stay in Zanzibar, the pilgrim continues on his journey towards 'the Cittie of Pembay', 'also a place of great trade of Marchauntes of diuers Nations', where he stays with 'one Raphaell, who kept an Inne' ([2]B3r). On Sunday after dinner, Raphael takes the pilgrim to Jesus College, where every week the students enact 'some vertuous Commedy' ([2]B3v). The pilgrim describes the 'Tragicall show', in which 24 children, playing music and dancing, are struck down one by one by 'lurking Death' ([2]B4r). The meaning of this dumb show is then explained by 'a proper young man, cloathed in blacke', who advises the audience to remember that Death is nigh, and that they should 'lyue in the feare of God' ([2]B5r). The pilgrim recounts some of the punishments in place in Pembay: adultery is punished with death; tongues are cut out for blasphemy; 'and he that bringeth into that Cittie, any newe deuised garment, is whypped for his labour, about the Cittie, and afterwarde banished for euer', ([2]B5v). 'Sumptuous feastes' are also abhorred, becuase 'they holde opinion howe, that at euery great Bancquet, the Diuell him self is a present guest'.

16. Prose section 9: The pilgrim's account of Cananor ([2]B6r-8v). After fifteen days in Pembay, he travels to Cananor, 'in the borders of the great Chan of Cathay', where - thanks to 'Letters of commendations' - he 'was [...] louinglie receyued', lodging in the house of 'an excellent learned Phisition' called Peter ([2]B6v). Walking through the city on a Saturday, he witnesses the weekly visitation of the prison by the judges, who check with every prisoner that the 'Notaries, or Secretaries, Aduocates, and Attorneyes do their duty' ([2]B7r). All the prisoners admitted that week are then examined and those imprisoned without due cause are released. The pilgrim recounts how he saw one man, imprisoned for debt, released and his creditor ordered to take him in and pay him wages for his service until his debt was discharged. Listra commends the charitabless of these people ([2]B8v).

17. Prose section 10: The pilgrim's account of Quiloa ([2]B8v-[2]C2v). After ten days in Cananor, he departs for Quiloa, 'a Cittie of great trafique of Spicerie, cloath of Golde and precious Stones', the walls of which 'seemeth of beaten gold [...] with the reueberation of the Sun' ([2]B8v). Christians and Gentiles live here 'in great quietnesse' ([2]C1r). The pilgrim remarks on the 'sumptuous' 'house of Mercie', to which each rich man gives money on his death. Every Easter, some of this money goes to relieving 'two hundred poore Maydens, of honest name and fame', whose reputation is established by careful enquiry beforehand. These maidens are also found suitable husbands among 'Artifycers [...] able by their labor to maintaine an honest woman' ([2]C1v). At the feast of Mary Magdalen, 'light women & common harlots' are gathered together to hear a sermon, which the pilgrim witnesses, seeing fifteen women converted, all of whom were 'by the house of Mercie, [...] prouided in marriage' ([2]C2v).

18. Prose section 11: The pilgrim's account of the island of Coben ([2]C3r-4r). After ten days in Quiloa, the pilgrim departs for Coben, where there 'standeth a fayre Citie, replenished with people: but the most of them are Papistes, after a certayne manner' (C3r). The pilgrim arrives on a festival day and witnesses a 'solempne Procession' of the trades and guilds, each carrying their patron saint upon their shoulders. Inter-trade rivalry breaks out, about who should follow immediately after the sacrament and 'on a sodaine, fiue hundred swords were drawne, and I am sure aboue fortie broken pates' (C3v). The pilgrim describes the brawl as a 'Tragedy'; Listra ironically calls it 'a merrie, and a trymme Procession' (C4r). Unimpressed, the pilgrim returns to the mainland.

19. Prose section 12: The pilgrim's account of Benalcasar (C4r-6v). The pilgrim is entertained 'in the house of one Ioseph, a good Christian'. Whilst in Benalcasar, the pilgrim accompanies Joseph to 'see the Court of Death represented' (C4r), a dumb show - described as a 'Tragedy' (C6v) - in which Death shows himself unmoved by bribes.

20. Prose section 13: conclusion (C6v-7v). The tailor enters, bringing a fur gown, which the pilgrim rejects as unnecessarily luxurious. Listra hopes he will stay with her on a stipend for life, but the pilgrim has made a vow to travel into Ethiopia and to leave his body in Aden or 'Coryzo' (C7r). The pilgrim stays with Listra to recuperate for three months, then leaves, with money and appropriate clothes. Both the pilgrim and Listra weep at the parting.
Postliminary material to Part Two
21. Signature: 'Finis. T. N.' ([2]C7v)
Dedicatory epistles to first and second parts; postliminary verse (to first part); preliminary verse (to second).
1. Utopian literature
2. commonweal writing
3. dialogue
4. prose
5. travel writing
6. verse
1. Asia
2. England and the English
3. India
4. Muslims and Islam
5. Queen Elizabeth
6. adultery
7. avarice and covetousness
8. blasphemy
9. charity and good works
10. cities and towns
11. clothing and dress
12. commerce and trade
13. commonweal
14. crime and punishment
15. death
16. devil and hell
17. drama and performance
18. gender relations
19. government and politics
20. imprisonment
21. justice
22. language English vernacular
23. language learning
24. law
25. magic and witchcraft
26. office and office-holding
27. papistry and papists
28. pilgrims and pilgrimages
29. poverty and the poor
30. prayer
31. preaching
32. priests and clergy
33. prostitutes and prostitution
34. religion doctrine and worship
35. travel
36. urban culture
37. women


More's Utopia (various editions from 1516) is an obvious influence.
'T. N.' may well be Thomas Nicholas or Nicholls (1532-1601), described in the ODNB as 'shipowner and translator' (there is also another contemporary translator called Thomas Nicholls, b. in or before 1523, d. 1612; however, for reasons indicated below, I believe the younger Thomas Nicholls, b. 1532, to be the author). By the late 1570s (when A Pleasant Dialogue was published), Nicholls had translated a number of travel writings: The Pleasant Historie of the Conquest of the West India, now called New Spayne (1578), and The Strange and Marvellous Newes Lately Come out from the Great Kingdome of Chyna (1578). He also had close connections with John Frampton, who dedicated numerous works on travel and navigation to Edward Dyer in between 1577-1581 (Christopher Burlinson, 'Frampton, John (fl. 1559?1581)', http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/10059, accessed 22 Jan 2007). (Nicholls wrote to Walsingham in 1574 on behalf of three Bristol merchants, including Frampton, who had been convicted of heresy in Spain; R. C. D. Baldwin, 'Nicholls, Thomas (1532-1601)', http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/20124, accessed 22 Jan 2007.) Nicholls' imprisonment for heresy during his time in Seville (1563/4) indicates his Reformist bent in religious matters which accords with the religious tenor of A Pleasant Dialogue (see below); Nicholls' incarceration might also account for the work's preoccupation with prisons and the treatment of prisoners. Nicholls' interest in the dialogue form is demonstrated by the publication in 1580 of A Delectable Dialogue [...] Concerning Physick and Phisitions, issued using the initials 'T. N.'. John Charlewood, the printer of A Pleasant Dialogue, also printed A Delectable Dialogue and - according to the ESTC - was one of the printers involved in printing Nicholl's Discouerie and Conquest of the Prouinces of Peru (1581) (http://estc.bl.uk, accessed 22 January 2007). The other, slightly older Thomas Nicholls only published one translation, of a French version of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, printed - probably by William Tylle - in 1550, almost three decades before The Pleasant Dialogue (R. C. D. Baldwin, 'Nicholls, Thomas (b. in or before 1523, d. 1612)', http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/20123, accessed 17 July 2009).

Dyer was a well-chosen dedicatee. His enthusiasm for works about travel and exploration was established (witness Frampton's dedications from 1577 onwards), and he was extremely interested in political analysis; in 1577, for example, 'Sir Amias Paulet, ambassador in Paris, wrote to Dyer [...] to apologize for the delay in sending him a copy of Jean Bodin's La republique' (Steven W. May, 'Dyer, Sir Edward (1543?1607)', http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/8346, accessed 22 Jan 2007). Dyer was also praised in Roger Baynes' dedication to The Praise of Solitarinesse (1577) for his command of foriegn languages: such linguistic ability is prized in A Pleasant Dialogue. The religious tenor of A Pleasant Dialogue would also appeal to one of Leicester's circle, such as Dyer; the bent of the work is unmistakably reformist, with its approval of 'godly conuersation' (B8v) and the emphasis placed on preaching by the clergy in the exemplary commonweal of Crangalor (A5r), in contrast to the derision of relics (A3v) and of the one 'papist' community ('Coben') the pilgrim encounters in his travels ([2]C3r-4r). Within A Pleasant Dialogue, Listra offers Dyer a model of patronage, rewarding the pilgrim for his conversation, which presumbly T. N. hopes Dyer will follow.

A Pleasant Dialogue is unusual amongst Tudor political dialogues in having a woman as one of its main interlocutors; normally, women only speak in dialogues (often comic) about the behaviour of women, or about their relationships with men (e.g. Th e proude wyues pater noster, 1560, or An interlocucyon [...] betwyxt a man and a woman, 1525?). Like More's Utopia, A Pleasant Dialogue plays with the boundaries of fact and fiction, in this case by extending the presence of the (fictional) interlocutors into the dedicatory epistles. The focus in A Pleasant Dialogue on legal matters can also be seen to take its cue from Utopia, with its concern to establish what constitutes a 'just' commonweal, but it also reflects specific concerns with the English legal system (e.g. the cost of legal suits) expressed in contemporaneous texts such as Newes from the North, another dialogue published in 1579.
Compilation editions
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Huntington Library Copy, available via EEBO. UMI reel 379 contains a copy of part 1; UMI reel 381 contains a copy of part 2; UMI reel 1732 contains a copy of both parts. Note the title page to part two is not included in the copy taken from UMI reel 1732, although it is the same copy that has been filmed in all three cases.

Modern editions
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