This is the will of my 8x great grandfather, Richard Keats or Cates, (1648-1698), who lived at East Lulworth, about three miles from the famous Lulworth Cove, in Dorset. The spellings are idiosyncratic, not to say bizarre, and seem to be the direct transliteration of a strong Dorset accent.
July ye 18th 1697
In ye name of God amen I richard Caetes of East lullworth Being veary sheke & weacke of bodey but of good & parfecket Memory doth commit my bodey to ye earth & my sole into ye handes of God all Mitey & my bodey to be Bueried in ye Churchyard of East Lullworth
Imprimis I gave to my daftar anne ye wiufe of willam peney ye some of on shilling It I gave to my sone willam caetes all ye colle bages It I gave to my sone Richard Cates ye some of on shilling It I gave to my daftar Rachell ye some of one shilling It I gave to my sone tomas cates ye some of one shilling It I gave to my daftar sushana ye some of one shilling Itam I gave to my sone Edward cates ye some of one shilling
Imprimis I gave unto my sone James Ceates all my goodes & Cheles & Leses & stocke & goodes with thien & without that I dey prosest of home I make my sole Executar of this mey Laste will & testment & all bondes & billes & deptes
I desiear my good frinde home I make & desiear to be my trostee of this my Laste will & teste ... Dunning to stand frinde to my pooear Chidren home I shall Leave in ye handes of my Execter
The marcke of Richard (R) Ceates
sined & delivered in ye presentes of us
the Marcke of Marey Whamey
21o May 1698o
Juirat fuit Extor
(Dorset Record Office: MIC/R/188 DA 1698 23)
If you are not familiar with the Dorset accent, this recitation of Thomas Hardy's "At Lulworth Cove a Century Back" will give you a good idea of how it sounds. The poem is about John Keats, who last set foot on English soil at Lulworth Cove in September 1820. He was on board a ship bound for Italy which was becalmed in the Channel and Keats and his friend, Joseph Severn, took the opportunity to go ashore. Keats told Severn it was "a part [of England] he already knew". This has led to speculation that the origins of the poet's family, which he deliberately obscured, may have been in that area of Dorset, where the Keats surname is common. How fascinating to think that John Keats might be my distant cousin.
Update: 10 January 2012
Unfortunately, You Tube have removed the video of Thomas Hardy's poem because the person who posted it on You Tube did not have the right to do so. You may therefore want to listen to this recording, made by the British Drama League during the 1930s, to get an idea of how the Dorset accent sounded.