"Great," we are informed, "was the lamentation that the countryside made for the death of so beloved a gentleman as Maister Slanning was."
John Fitz, then aged twenty-four, escaped to the Continent and stayed in France, until the exertions of his wife and mother succeeded in December, 1599, in procuring a pardon for him; whereupon he returned home, unsubdued by the past, insolent, riotous, and haughty. At the coronation of James I, 1603, he was knighted, not for any services done to the Crown or State, but because he was of good family, well connected, and with property.
He returned to Fitzford, where, finding his wife and child something of a drag upon him in his wild and dissipated career, he turned them out of doors, and his wife had to go for shelter to her father. Left now to himself and his evil associates, "Men of dissolute and desperate fortunes," chief among whom was "Lusty Jacke, one whose deedes were indeed meane, whose qualities altogether none," he behaved in such sort that "the Towne of Tavistocke, though otherwise orderly governed with sobriety, and likewise of grave magistrates, was thereby infected with the beastly corruption of drunkenesse. Sir John, of his own inclination apte, and by his retained copesmates urged, persevered evermore to run headlong into such enormities as their sensuality and pleasures inclined unto, spending their time in riotous surfettinge and in all abominable drunkenness, plucking men by night out of their beddes, violently breaking windows, quarrelling with ale-conners [ale-tasters], righting in private brables amongst themselves. And when they had abused the townsmen and disturbed their neighbours, Sir John's own house was their sanctuary or receptacle to cloak their outrages; so as it seemed they lyved as, in time