Monstrosity in the Elizabethan Age

The Description of a Monstrous Pig the Which was Farrowed at Hamsted (London: Alexander Lacy for Garat Devves, 1562):

These straunge and monstrous thinges, almighty GOD sendeth amongest vs, that we shuld not be forgetfull of his almighty power, nor vnthankeful for his great mercies so plentifully powred vpon vs, and especially for geuyng vnto vs his most holy word, whereby our lyues ought to be guyded: and also his wonderful tokens, wherby we ought to be warned. But if we will not be instructed by his worde, nor warned by his wonderfull workes: then let vs be assured that these straunge monstrous sightes do foreshew vnto vs, that his heauy indignation wyl shortly come vpon vs for our monstrous liuyng.

The True Reporte of the Forme and Shape of a Monstrous Childe, Borne at Muche Horkesleye (London: Thomas Marshe, 1562):

     This monstrous world that monsters bredes as rife
As men tofore it bred by natiue kinde
By birthes that shewe corrupted natures strife
Declares what sinnes beset the secrete minde.
     I meane not this as though deformed shape
Were alwayes linkd with fraughted minde with vice
But that in nature god such draughtes doth shape
Resemblyng sinnes that so bin had in price,
     So grossest faultes brast out in bodyes forme
And monster caused of want or to much store
Of matter, shewes the sea of sinne: whose storme
Oreflowes and whelmes vertues barren shore.
For nature iust enuyed
Her gyft to hym: and cropd wyth mayming knyfe
His limmes, to wreake her spyte on parentes sinne.

This deformed childe is the fyrst that the sayd Anthony and his wyfe had betwene them two, it is a man chylde. This chylde was begot out of matrimony.

A Discription of a Monstrous Chylde, Borne at Chychester in Sussex (London: Leonard Askel for Fraunces Godlyf, 1562):

     The scripture sayth, before the ende
Of all thinges shall appeare
God will wounders straunge thinges sends
As some is sene this yeare.
     The selye infantes, voyde of shape
The Calues and Pygges so straunge
With other mo of suche mishape
Declareth this worldes chaunge.
     But here, lo, see aboue the rest
A Monster to beholde
Procedinge from a Christian brest
To monstrous to be tolde….
     That I shoulde seke to lyue hencefoorth
In Godly lyfe alwaye
For these be tokens now sent foorth
To preache the later daye.
     Also it doeth demonstrate playne
The great abuse and vyce
That here in Englande now doeth raygne
That Monstrous is the guyse. 

The father hereof is one Vyncent, a boutcher, bothe he and hys wyfe being of honest & quiet conuersation.

The True Description of a Monsterous Chylde, Borne in the Ile of Wight (London: Wylliam Gryffith, 1564):

     Where natures art, doth not her part.
In workyng of her skylle:
To shape a right, eche lyucly wight,
Beholde it is Gods wyll.
     Loo here you see, before your eye,
A man childe to beholde:
A babe gylties, deformyd this.
Moste wonderous to be tolde.

This dothe demonstrate to vs, the lyfe whiche we lyue in,
A Monster oughly to beholde, conceyued was in syn.

The true discription of two monsterous chyldren borne at Herne in Kent (London: Thomas Colwell for Owen Rogers, 1565):

THe Monsterous and vnnaturall shapes of these Chyldren & dyuers lyke brought foorth in our dayes (good reader) ar not onelye for vs to gase and wonder at, as thyngs happenyng either by chaunce, or els by naturall reason, as both the old, and our Phy|losophers also holde now a dayes: and without anye farther heede to be had therto, or els as our common custome is, by & by to iudge god onely offended wyth the Parentes of the same, for some notoryous, vyce or offence reygning alone in them: But they ar lessons & scholynges for vs all (as the word monster shewith) who dayly offende as greuously as they do, wherby god almyghtye of hys greate mercy and longe suffe|raunce, admonysheth vs by them to amendmente of our lyues. no lesse wycked, yea many times, more then the parentes of suche mysformed bee.

The True Fourme and Shape of a Monsterous Chyld, Whiche was Borne in Stony Stratforde (London: Thomas Colwell, 1565):

YOu that do see this Clilde disfigured here,
Two Babes in one, disguised to beholde,
Thinke with yourselues, when such thinges do appere
All is not well, as wise heades may be bolde:
But god that can in secretes shew the signe
Can bringe much more to pas, by poure deuine. 

The True Description of Two Monsterous Chiildren Laufully Begotten Betwene George Steuens and Margerie his Wyfe (London: Alexander Lacy for William Lewes, 1566):

     ¶But some proude boastyng Pharisie,
the parents wyll detect:
And iudge with heapes of vglie vice
their liues to be infect.
     ¶No no, but lessons for vs all,
which dayly doe offend:
Yea more perhaps, then hath the fréends,
whom God this birth did lend.
     ¶For yf you wyll with single eye,
note well and view the text:
And marke our Sauiours aunswer eke,
that thereto is annext:
     Where his disciples asked him,
to know therein his mynd:
Yf greatter wer the parents sinnes,
or his that was borne blynd.
     ¶To whom Christ aunswered in a bréef,
that neither hée, nor they:
Deserued had that crooked fate,
although they sin each day.
     But to the end Gods glorie great,
and miracles diuine:
Might on the earth apparaunt be,
his workes for to define. 

The Forme and Shape of a Monstrous Child, Borne at Maydstone in Kent (London: John Awdeley, 1568):

AT Maydstone in Kent there was one Marget Mere, Daughter to Richard Mere of the sayd Towne of Maydstone, who being vnmaryed, played the naughty packe, and was gotten with childe….Which child being a man child.

     THis monstrous shape to thee England
Playn shewes thy monstrous vice.
If thou ech part wylt vnderstand,
And take thereby aduice.
     For waying first the gaspyng mouth,
It doth full well declare:
What rauine and oppression both
Is vsed wyth greedy care.
     For, for the backe, and gorging paunch,
To lyue in wealth and ease:
Such toyl men take that none may staunch
Their greedy minde, nor please.
     For in such sort, their mouthes they infect,
With lying othes, and slaightes:
Blaspheming God, and Prince reiect,
As they were brutish beastes.
     Their filthy talke, and poysoned speech,
Disfigures so the mouth:
That som wold think ther stood ye breech
Such filth it breatheth forth.
     The hands which haue no fingers right
But stumps fit for no vse:
Doth well set forth the idle plight,
Which we in these daies chuse.
     For rich and poore, for age and youth,
Eche one would labour flye:
Few seekes to do the deedes of truth,
To helpe others thereby.
     The leg so clyming to the head,
What meaneth it but this?
That some do seeke not to be lead,
But for to leade amis.
     And as this makes it most monstrous,
For Foote to clyme to head:
So those Subiects be most vicious,
That refuse to be lead.
     The hinder part doth shew vs playne,
Our close and hidden vice,
Which doth behind vs run amayne,
In vyle and shameful wyse.
     Wherefore to ech in England now,
Let this Monster them teach:
To mend the monstrous life they show,
Least endles death them reach. 

I. P., A Meruaylous Straunge Deformed Swyne (London: VVilliam Hovv, for Richard Iohnes, 1570):

Come néere good Christians all,
beholde a Monster rare:
Whose monstrous shape (no doubt) fortels
Gods wrath we should beware.
His wondrous works we ought not iudge,
as toyes and trifles vaine:
Whither it be Childe or brutish Beast,
for warnings they are playne.

Pierre Boaistuau, Certaine Secrete Wonders of Nature (1560), trans. Edward Fenton (London: Henry Bynneman, 1569):

My Lord, amongst all the thin|ges whiche maye be viewed vnder the scoape of heauen, there is nothyng to be séene, which more stirreth the spirite of man, whiche rauisheth more his senses, whiche doth more amaze hym, or ingendreth a greater terror or admiration in al creatures, than the mo~sters, wonders and abhominations, wherein we see the wor|kes of Nature, not only turned arsiuersie, misseshapen and deformed, but (which is more) they do for the most part discouer vnto vs the secret iudgement and scourge of the ire of God, by the things that they present, which maketh vs to féele his maruellous iustice so sharpe, that we be constrained to enter into oure selues, to knocke with the hammer of our conscience, to examin our offences, and haue in horrour our misdéedes, specially when we reade in Histories sacred and prophane, that oftentimes, the elementes haue bene harolds, trumpetters, ministers and executioners of the Iustice of God. (“The Authors Preface”)

John Brooke, “Vnto the Christian Reader,” in Of Two Woonderful Popish Monsters (London: Thomas East, 1579):

Among all the things that are to be seene vnder the heauens (good Christian Reader) there is nothing can stirre vp the minde of man, & which can engender more fere vn|to the creatures then the horrible Monsters, which are brought forth dayly contrary vnto the workes of Nature. The which the most times doe note and demon|strate vnto vs the Ire and wrath of God, against vs for our sinnes and wickednesse, that we haue and doe dayly commit agaynst him. But mans heart is so hardened that those his threatnings and foreshewings are reiected as though they were but fables.

Stephen Batman, The Doome Warning All Men to the Judgemente (London: Ralphe Nubery, 1581):

Whatsoeuer hath bene, is, or shal be to procede, either Celestial or Terrestriall, can not be without the fore-ordinance and prouidence of God, who sending these fore-warnings, as instruments to former ages, doth by the like wonderful shewe of manifest appearance foretell no lesse dangers to happen among the generations of this last posteritie. And finding sundrie labours of the learned by a due consideration of suche effect, not vnprofitably followed, whereby their countries so fore-warnedm haue thereby auoyded many dangers, I therefore (right Honourable) vpon sight and search of so manye prodigious birthes, Starres of vnaccustomed appearance, enuenomed aires, from the which proceede pestilence, plague, war, hunger, frensie, ielousie and heresie, haue no lesse occasion, than worthy Authors in former time, to make or set forth this Cronicle of the Doome, or warning to Gods Iudgement, therby to giue vnto my country the like occasion to beware of some more monstrous plague to follow, than the shapes of former view haue expressed, vnlesse some speedie amendment be found in time acceptable vnto God. (“The Epistle Dedicatorie”)

A Most Certaine Report of a Monster Borne at Oteringham in Holdernesse (London: P.S. for T. Millington, 1595)

What a number of straunge tokens, monsterus birthes, blazing stares, earthquakes, dreadful signes in the ayer, and fearefull stormes and tempests to moue vs to repentance and amendment of our wicked liues hath he shewen in our land, and yet few or none regardes it. Let no man thinke that such things do come by chance or fortune, buut that they are appointed to be messengers of ensuing plagues which are like to fall vpon vs, except with repenting harts we turne unto our God and forsake our wicked waies.

A Most Straunge, and True Discourse, of the Wonderfull Iudgement of God. Of a Monstrous, Deformed Infant, Begotten by Incestuous Copulation, Betweene the Brothers Sonne and the Sisters Daughter, Being Both Vnmarried Persons (London: E. Allde for Richard Iones, 1600):

God is so highly dishonoured, that by the grosse iniquitie of the people, he is prouoked to send such monsters, for part of punishment vpon vs, into the world, that may make vs ashamed of our selues, and the readyer to hate & detest sinne, and by all due meanes, to seeke seuere punishment for the same (without partiality) on such perso~s, as therin from time to time shal offend. (“To the Godly Reader”)

Thus haue you heard the wonderfull deformities of this monster, described vnto you in all parts, and accor|ding to the verie truth, as it was. It resteth now, that we make vse of it, and heare what is said in the last part of this booke: which containeth in it a christian discourse against al vncleannesse, and all vn|cleane persons that will not be reformed. (7)