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52 Lost Proverbs from 17th Century England

Updated on October 3, 2015

The following proverbs taken from a forgotten pamphlet published in 1659 lurking in a dark corner of the British Museum, provide a remarkable insight into attitudes, behaviours and morality in the male dominated society of the mid-seventeenth century.

Here for you delectation and instruction dear reader, are lessons in life for every week of the year.

  1. There is great force in a sweet command

  2. Good works quench more than a bucketful of water

  3. A secret is too little for one, enough for two and too much for three

  4. Even some old foxes are taken in the snare

  5. A man will not lose a hog for a halfpenny worth of tar

  6. A muzzled cat was never a good mouser

  7. A dwarf on a giant’s shoulders sees the further of the two

  8. A tongue hath no bone yet it breaks one’s back

  9. As welcome as water in a ship

  10. A proud mind and a beggar’s purse go together

11. An old man’s shadow is better than a young buzzard’s sword

12. A hat is not made for one shower

13. It is a sad house where the hen crows louder than the cock

14. A little wind kindles, much puts out a fire

15. Adversity makes men wise

16. An old cat sports not with her prey

17. Better a snotty child than his nose wiped off

18. Bare walls make giddy housewives

19. Beauty draws more than oxen

20. Better suffer ill than do ill

21. Benefits please like flowers, when they are fresh

22. Better to bow than break

23. Children and fools tell the truth

24. Deceive not thy physician, thy confessor or thy lawyer

25. Desires are nourished by delay

26. Dry bread at home is better than roast meat abroad

27. Deeds are males, words females

28. Every mile is two in Winter

29. Everyone can rule a shrew save he that hath her

30. Better an egg in peace than an ox

31. Everything helps, quoth the wren, when she pisseth in the sea

32. First creep then go

33. Far shooting never killed a bird

34. They that are booted are not always ready

35. The rich know not who is his friend

36. The greatest talkers are the least doers

37. Buy a horse ready man’d but a wife unman’d

38. He had need of a long spoon that eats with the Devil

39. Haste makes waste

40. He hath an oar in every man’s boat


41. He that marries late marries ill

42. Give a woman what she should have and would have and she will be quiet

43. God sends meat the Devil sends cooks

44. Fair words hurt not the mouth

45. Love thy neighbour but pull not down your hedge

46. Many things are lost for want of asking

47. Nothing is impossible to the willing mind

48. Save a thief from the gallows and he will surely cut your throat

49. The more women look in the glass the less they will look after the house

50. Puff not against the wind

51. He that burns his house warms himself but once

52. He who but once a good name gets, may piss a bed and say he sweats


If you've enjoyed this little detour into bygone days and would like to see more lost gems, I'd love to have you as a follower, that way you get an early heads-up for the next publication of ephemeral pearls of wisdom.

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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 21 months ago from Queensland Australia

      There are some very wise proverbs here Brian, that we should still take note of today. Thank you for sharing this interesting list.

    • Brian Langston profile image
      Author

      Brian Langston 21 months ago from Languedoc Roussillon

      Thanks Jodah- Some there I'm sure ended up in Oz!

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image

      Pollyanna Jones 21 months ago from United Kingdom

      This was such an interesting list of proverbs. 52 did make me chuckle.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 21 months ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Very interesting and one that I am bookmarking...can't really pick a favourite but I like number 43 ..."God sends meat the Devil sends cooks". ~

    • Brian Langston profile image
      Author

      Brian Langston 21 months ago from Languedoc Roussillon

      Thanks Polly and CrisSp.....I like those too and especially No 29!

      One that didn't make this list is "Long jestings are never good"..Does that apply to Hubs too I wonder?

    • Linnea Lewis profile image

      Linnea Lewis 20 months ago from South Carolina, USA

      What a great list, and many of the proverbs are really wise and very interesting. Thank you for sharing!

    • Brian Langston profile image
      Author

      Brian Langston 20 months ago from Languedoc Roussillon

      Thanks Linnea- Glad you enjoyed them!

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