Henry Chillester. Youthes Witte, or, The vvitte of grene youth choose gentlemen, and mez-dames which of them shall best lyke you compiled and gathered together, London, John Wolfe, 1581, STC 5137.5. Transcribed from facsimile edition in EEBO; original in British Library.


Youthes Witte is a poetic miscellany compiled by Henry Chillester. It is also known by its variant title Witte of Grene Youth; its subtitle is Chooʃe Gentlemen, and Mez-dames which of them ʃhall beʃt lyke you. Very little is known about Chillester due to Youthes Witte being his only known work. In fact, more is known about the publisher John Wolfe who was an English publisher that strongly disagreed with the English printing patents. According to the ESTC there is only one extant copy of this textlocated at the British Library.

This edition of Youthes Witte, published on the TAPAS (TEI Archiving, Publishing, and Access Service) site, was transcribed and encoded by the Framingham State University students in Kristen Abbott Bennett’s spring 2021 Introduction to Digital Humanities course, and edited by Kelsey Rhodes (FSU 2023), who also encoded the prefatory materials including two dedicatory epistles and nine sonnets.

Youthes Witte was initially entered into the Stationers’ Register by a Nicholas Atkinsonne. While this does not mean Chillester did not write and/or compile Youthes Witte, it does suggest that he might have not created it alone. Although prefatory poems are identified by initials, it is unknown who most of the people are. However, there is agreement among experts Christopher J Cobb and Thomas Hester, as well as Jason Scott-Warren that the “Th. W” is Thomas Watson. These authors also agree that Mistress Marie P. may be Nicholas Atkinsonne’s friend Margaret Phillipsone or her sister Marie Phillipsone.

There is general agreement that John Wolfe was a publisher who frequently infringed others’ rights by printing titles that had already been licensed. He was jailed on several occasions. These infringements were often just to make a living, however, his “opposition to the trade’s practices led him to criticize the Queen, whose interests were at stake” (Scott-Warren 248). Chillester’s dedication of Youthes Witte to one of the Queen’s pensioners George Goringe may have been a gesture toward making amends. Although neither Cobb and Hester, nor Scott-Warren mention it, the “N. Skr” may be Nicholas Skeres, a government informer and con man.

Finally, Youthes Witte is the first and only Elizabethan poetic miscellany to which a woman contributed amatory verse. Little is known about Henry Chillester, but much can be inferred by the contributors and the conditions of production, thereby making Youthes Witte an important document and a strong candidate for further study.

Introduction by Kelsey Rhodes.

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Henry Chillester, Youthes Witte (1581)
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