TO ALL SUCH AS HAVE received either pleasure or profit by the two former published books of this Argument, and to all beside, that desire to know the wonderful sly devices of this hellish crew of cony-catchers.
IN the time of king Henry the fourth, as our English chroniclers have kept in remembrance, lived diverse sturdy and loose companions, in sundry places about the City of London, who gave themselves to no good course of life, but because the time was somewhat troublesome, watched diligently, when by the least occasion of mutiny offered, they might prey upon the goods of honest citizens, and so by their spoil enrich themselves. At that time likewise lived a worthy gentleman, whose many very famous deeds (whereof I am sorry I may here make no rehearsal, because neither time nor occasion will permit me) renown his name to all ensuing posterities: he, being called Sir Richard Whittington, the founder of Whittington College<42> in London, and one that bare the office of Lord Mayor of this City three several times. This worthy man well noting the dangerous disposition of that idle kind of people, took such good and discreet order (after he had sent divers of them to serve in the King's wars, and they loath to do so well returned to their former vomit) that in no place of or about London they might have lodging, or entertainment, except they applied themselves to such honest trades and exercises, as might witness their maintaining was by true and honest means. If any to the contrary were found, they were in justice so sharply proceeded against, as the most hurtful and dangerous enemies to the commonwealth.
In this quiet and most blissful time of peace, when all men (in course of life) should show themselves most thankful for so great a benefit, this famous city is pestered with the like, or rather worse kind of people, that bear outward show of civil, honest, and gentlemanlike disposition, but in very deed their behaviour is most infamous to be spoken of. And as now by their close villainies they cheat, cozen, prig, lift, nip, and such like tricks now used in their cony-catching trade, to the hurt and undoing of many an honest citizen, and other: So if God should in justice be angry with us, as our wickedness hath well deserved, and (as the Lord forfend) our peace should be molested as in former time, even as they did, so will these be the first in seeking domestical spoil and ruin: yea so they may have it, it skills not how they come by it. God raise such another as was worthy Whittington, that in time may bridle the headstrong course of this hellish crew, and force them live as becometh honest subjects, or else to abide the reward due to their looseness. By reading this little treatise ensuing, you shall see to what marvellous subtle policies these deceivers have attained, and how daily they practice strange drifts for their purpose. I say no more, but if all these forewarnings may be regarded, to the benefit of the well minded, and just control of these careless wretches, it is all I desire, and no more than I hope to see.
Yours in all he may