The Tunning of Elinor Rumming

Skelton, Rumming and Boucher
Satirical Drawing of Skelton, Rumming
and Rev. Jonathan Boucher

The Tunning of Elinor Rumming (c.1508-1523) is a poem by John Skelton which depicts a real alewife during the Henrician period who resided at Leatherhead in Surrey. It provides useful insight into the representation of ageing women who run their own businesses during the early sixteenth century - in this way, relating to the character of The Laundress - as well as an example of "Skeltonic" verse.

Her loathly leer
Is nothing clear,
But ugly of cheer,
Droopy and drowsy,
Scurvy and lowsy,
Her face all bowsy;
Comely crinkled.
Wondrously wrinkled,
Like a roast pig's ear
Bristled with hair.
Her lewd lips twaine,
They slaver, men sayne,
Like a ropy rayne.
A gummy glare,
She is ugly fair,
Her nose somdeal hooked,
And camously crooked,
Never stopping,
But ever dropping;
Her skin loose and slack,
Grained like a sacke,
With a crooked backe;
Her eyen gowndy
Are full unsowndy,
For they are bleared,
And she is grey-haired,
Jawed like a jetty,
A man would have pity,
To see how she is gummed,
Fingered and thumbed,
Gently jointed,
Greased and annointed
Up to the knuckles,
The bones her buckles
Together made fast,
Her youth is far past.


[end of excerpt, lines 12-48]



modernised from a 1624 edition printed in The Harleian Miscellany (London, 1744) p. 404.