From the printer Caxton, who died in 1491
“I see that the children ben borne within the sayd cyte encrease and prouffyte not like their faders and olders; but for mooste parte, after they ben comeyn to theyr perfight yeres of discretion and rypnes of age, kno well that theyre faders have lefte to them grete quantite of goodes, yet scarcely among ten two thrive. O blessed Lord! when I remember this, I am al abashed; I cannot judge the cause; but fayrer ne wyser, ne bet bespeken children in theyre youth ben no wher than there ben in London; but at ther full ryping, there is no carnel, ne good word found en, but chaff for the most part.”
As you probably guessed that’s original spelling; I’ve got it all except the “ten two thrive” – is that maybe two-tenths?, and I can’t work out “carnel”.
This is from a delightful popular history book of 1904, London in the Time of the Tudors, Sir Walter Besant, Adan & Charles Black, London, p. 274
He also makes a nice collection of Elizabethan expletives: “The old Catholic oaths ‘By’r Lady’, ‘By the Mass’ and so forth, vanished with the Reformation. We now find a lot of meaningless ejaculations, such as ‘God’s Wounds’, ‘God’s Fools,’ ‘God’s Dines’, Cocke’s Bones,’ ‘Deuce take me’, ‘Bones a God’ and ‘Bones a me’. The now familiar ‘Damn’ makes its appearance in literature; but indeed it had flourished in the mouths of people for many generations.” (p. 285-6)
I wonder why “bones” were so popular in this context?