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First Reading

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Bread Street…Summary from the Book of Days.

Bread Street the birthplace of John Milton where his father was a scrivener and had a sign of an eagle with outstretched wings; and hence his house was known as the "Spread Eagle". The house was destroyed in the Great Fire.

Bread Street was occupied as a bread-market in the time of Edward I; and other streets turning out of Cheapside or situated near it, such as Milk Street, Wood Street, and Hosier Lane, were in like manner markets for particular kinds of commodities. William Stafford, Earl of Wiltshire, had a mansion in Bread Street, towards the close of the fifteenth century. Stow says:

'On the west side of Bread Street, amongst divers fair and large houses for merchants, and fair inns for passengers, had ye one prison-house pertaining to the sheriffs of London, called the Compter, in Bread Street; but in the year 1555, the prisoners were removed from thence to one other new Compter in Wood Street, provided by the city's purchase, and built for that purpose.'

The 'fair inns for travellers' were the 'Star,' the 'Three Cups,' and the ' George.' But more famous than these was the 'Mermaid,' thought by some writers to have been in Friday Street, but more generally considered to have been in Bread Street. It was a tavern where Shakspeare, Ben Jonson, Beaumont, Fletcher, Donne, and other choice spirits assembled, in the time of Queen Elizabeth.

'What things have we seen
Done at the Mermaid!'
said one of them; and there can be little doubt that wit flashed and sparkled there merrily; for witty courtiers, as well as witty authors, swelled the number. All are gone now—the bread-market, the Compter, the earl's mansion, the inns for travellers, the renowned 'Mermaid,' and the poet's birth-place; no wealthy merchants, even, 'live' in Bread Street, for their private residences are far away from city bustle.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.