Thomas Wilson, who was born in about 1560, was the younger son of a country gentleman. He led a varied, though only moderately successful, life, trying his hand successively at writing, translating, publishing, the diplomatic service, and the law. His description of England, written in 1601, reveals a firm attachment to the stratification of Elizabethan society. Whilst clearly dissatisfied with his own lot as a younger son, he nevertheless scorned any gentleman who allied himself with a lower rank in the hierarchy by marrying a yeoman’s daughter. Much of his brief description of English society (which runs to a mere 43 pages of print) is devoted to short studies of the condition of each social class. In addition to those of the yeomanry, the tenant farmers, the citizens, the knights and the gentlemen reproduced below, there are also studies of the English and Irish aristocracy, and the common and civil lawyers.
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