About 1190 a monk in Winchester, Richard of Devizes, wrote in a story a warning about London.

  • Whatever of evil or perversity there is in any, whatever in all parts of the world, you will find in that city alone. Go not to the dances of panders, nor mix yourself up with the herds of the stews; avoid the talus and the dice, the theatre and the tavern. You will find more braggadocios there than in all France, while the number of flatterers is infinite. Stage-players, buffoons, those that have no hair on their bodies, Goramites, pick-thanks, catamites, effeminate sodomites, lewd musical girls, druggists, lustful persons, fortune-tellers, extortioners, nightly strollers, common beggars, tatterdemalions, the whole crew has filled every house. So it you do not wish to live with the shameful, you will not dwell in London.

(Quoted in David Rollinson’s A Commonwealth of the People: Popular Politics and England’s Long Social Revolution: 1066-1649, p. 60)

Gosh – what a town!

I had to look some of those up –  “pickthank” is a sycophant and “tatterdemalion” a person wearing tattered clothes, although I’m not quite sure about what was so wrong about being a “nightly stroller”.

There’s more to this list than the obvious however, Richard is putting these words into the mouth of a Jew in France who is training a Christian apprentice and encouraging him to try his luck in England. And in 1189, Londoners had killed local Jews, a few months before an even more atrocious slaughter in York.