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Title: Shakspeare and His Times [Vol. 1 of 2]

Author: Nathan Drake

Release date: November 28, 2016 [eBook #53625]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Lisa Reigel, and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net. (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries.)

*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SHAKSPEARE AND HIS TIMES [VOL. 1 OF 2] ***

Transcriber's Notes: In footnotes and attributions, commas and periods seem to be used interchangeably. They remain as printed. Variations in spelling, hyphenation, and accents remain as in the original unless noted. A complete list of corrections as well as other notes follows the text.

Bust of Shakspeare by W. T. Fry.

SHAKSPEARE.

Engraved by W. T. Fry after a Cast made by Mr. George Bullock from
the Monumental Bust at Stratford-upon-Avon.


SHAKSPEARE
AND
HIS TIMES:
INCLUDING
THE BIOGRAPHY OF THE POET;
CRITICISMS ON HIS GENIUS AND WRITINGS; A NEW CHRONOLOGY OF HIS PLAYS;
A DISQUISITION ON THE OBJECT OF HIS SONNETS;
AND
A HISTORY OF
THE MANNERS, CUSTOMS, AND AMUSEMENTS, SUPERSTITIONS,
POETRY, AND ELEGANT LITERATURE OF HIS AGE.

By NATHAN DRAKE, M.D.
AUTHOR OF "LITERARY HOURS," AND OF "ESSAYS ON PERIODICAL LITERATURE."

Triumph my Britain! thou hast one to show,
To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe.—
————— Soul of the age,
The applause, delight, the wonder of our stage,
My Shakspeare, rise!
Ben Jonson.
The very age and body of the time, his form and pressure.
Shakspeare.

IN TWO VOLUMES.
VOL. I.

LONDON:
PRINTED FOR T. CADELL AND W. DAVIES, IN THE STRAND.
1817.


Printed by A. Strahan,
Printers-Street, London.


[iii]

PREFACE.

Though two centuries have now elapsed, since the death of Shakspeare, no attempt has hitherto been made to render him the medium for a comprehensive and connected view of the Times in which he lived.

Yet, if any man be allowed to fill a station thus conspicuous and important, Shakspeare has undoubtedly the best claim to the distinction; not only from his pre-eminence as a dramatic poet, but from the intimate relation which his works bear to the manners, customs, superstitions, and amusements of his age.

Struck with the interest which a work of this kind, if properly executed, might possess, the author was induced, several years ago, to commence the undertaking, with the express intention of blending with the detail of manners, &c. such a portion of criticism, biography, and literary history, as should render the whole still more attractive and complete.

In attempting this, it has been his aim to place Shakspeare in the fore-ground of the picture, and to throw around him, in groups more or [iv]less distinct and full, the various objects of his design; giving them prominency and light, according to their greater or smaller connection with the principal figure.

More especially has it been his wish, to infuse throughout the whole plan, whether considered in respect to its entire scope, or to the parts of which it is composed, that degree of unity and integrity, of relative proportion and just bearing, without which neither harmony, simplicity, nor effect, can be expected, or produced.

With a view, also, to distinctness and perspicuity of elucidation, the whole has been distributed into three parts or pictures, entitled,—"Shakspeare in Stratford;"—"Shakspeare in London;"—"Shakspeare in Retirement;"—which, though inseparably united, as forming but portions of the same story, and harmonized by the same means, have yet, both in subject and execution, a peculiar character to support.

The first represents our Poet in the days of his youth, on the banks of his native Avon, in the midst of rural imagery, occupations, and amusements; in the second, we behold him in the capital of his country, in the centre of rivalry and competition, in the active pursuit of reputation and glory; and in the third, we accompany the venerated bard to the shades of retirement, to the bosom of domestic peace, to the enjoyment of unsullied fame.

It has, therefore, been the business of the author, in accordancy with his plan, to connect these delineations[v] with their relative accompaniments; to incorporate, for instance, with the first, what he had to relate of the country, as it existed in the age of Shakspeare; its manners, customs, and characters; its festivals, diversions, and many of its superstitions; opening and closing the subject with the biography of the poet, and binding the intermediate parts, not only by a perpetual reference to his drama, but by their own constant and direct tendency towards the developement of the one object in view.

With the second, which commences with Shakspeare's introduction to the stage as an actor, is combined the poetic, dramatic, and general literature of the times, together with an account of metropolitan manners and diversions, and a full and continued criticism on the poems and plays of our bard.

After a survey, therefore, of the Literary world, under the heads of Bibliography, Philology, Criticism, History, Romantic, and Miscellaneous Literature, follows a View of the Poetry of the same period, succeeded by a critique on the juvenile productions of Shakspeare, and including a biographical sketch of Lord Southampton, and a new hypothesis on the origin and object of the Sonnets.

Of the immediately subsequent description of diversions, &c. the Economy of the Stage forms a leading feature, as preparatory to a History of Dramatic Poetry, previous to the year 1590; and this is again introductory to a discussion concerning the Period when Shakspeare[vi] commenced a writer for the theatre; to a new chronology of his plays, and to a criticism on each drama; a department which is interspersed with dissertations on the fairy mythology, the apparitions, the witchcraft, and the magic of Shakspeare; portions of popular credulity which had been, in reference to this distribution, omitted in detailing the superstitions of the country.

This second part is then terminated by a summary of Shakspeare's dramatic character, by a brief view of dramatic poetry during his connection with the stage, and by the biography of the poet to the close of his residence in London.

The third and last of these delineations is, unfortunately, but too short, being altogether occupied with the few circumstances which distinguish the last three years of the life of our bard, with a review of his disposition and moral character, and with some notice of the first tributes paid to his memory.

It will readily be admitted, that the materials for the greater part of this arduous task are abundant; but it must also be granted, that they are dispersed through a vast variety of distant and unconnected departments of literature; and that to draw forth, arrange, and give a luminous disposition to, these masses of scattered intelligence, is an achievement of no slight magnitude, especially when it is considered, that no step in the progress of such an undertaking can be made, independent of a constant recurrence to authorities.[vii]

How far the author is qualified for the due execution of his design, remains for the public to decide; but it may, without ostentation, be told, that his leisure, for the last thirty years, has been, in a great decree, devoted to a line of study immediately associated with the subject; and that his attachment to old English literature has led him to a familiarity with the only sources from which, on such a topic, authentic illustration is to be derived.

He will likewise venture to observe, that, in the style of criticism which he has pursued, it has been his object, an ambitious one it is true, to unfold, in a manner more distinct than has hitherto been effected, the peculiar character of the poet's drama; and, lastly, to produce a work, which, while it may satisfy the poetical antiquary, shall, from the variety, interest, and integrity of its component parts, be equally gratifying to the general reader.

Hadleigh, Suffolk,
April 7th, 1817.

[viii]


[ix]

CONTENTS
OF
THE FIRST VOLUME.

PART I.
SHAKSPEARE IN STRATFORD.
CHAP. I.
Birth of Shakspeare—Account of his Family—Orthography of his Name. Page 1
CHAP. II.
The House in which Shakspeare was born—Plague at Stratford, June 1564—Shakspeare educated at the Free-school of Stratford—State of Education, and of Juvenile Literature in the Country at this period—Extent of Shakspeare's acquirements as a Scholar. 21
CHAP. III.
Shakspeare, after leaving School, follows his Father's Trade—Statement of Aubrey—Probably present in his Twelfth Year at Kenelworth, when Elizabeth visited the Earl of Leicester—Tradition of Aubrey concerning him—Whether there is reason to suppose that, after leaving his Father, he was placed in an Attorney's Office, who was likewise Seneschal or Steward of some Manor—Anecdotes of Shakspeare—Allusions in his Works to Barton, Wilnecotte, and Barston, Villages in Warwickshire—Earthquake in 1580 alluded to—Whether, after leaving School, he acquired any Knowledge of the French and Italian languages. 34
[x]CHAP. IV.
Shakspeare married to Anne Hathaway—Account of the Hathaways—Cottage at Shottery—Birth of his eldest Child, Susanna—Hamnet and Judith baptized—Anecdote of Shakspeare—Shakspeare apparently settled in the Country. 59
CHAP. V.
A View of Country-Life during the Age of Shakspeare—Its Manners and Customs—Rural Characters; the Country-Gentleman—the Country-Coxcomb—the Country-Clergyman—the Country-Schoolmaster—the Farmer or Yeoman, his Mode of Living—the Huswife, her Domestic Economy—the Farmer's Heir—the Poor Copyholder—the Downright Clown, or Plain Country-Boor. 68
CHAP. VI.
A View of Country-Life during the Age of Shakspeare—Manners and Customs continued—Rural Holidays and Festivals; New-Year's Day—Twelfth Day—Rock-Day—Plough-Monday—Shrove-tide—Easter-tide—Hock-tide—May-Day—Whitsuntide—Ales; Leet-ale—Lamb-ale—Bride-ale—Clerk-ale—Church-ale—Whitsun-ale—Sheep-shearing Feast—Candlemas-Day—Harvest-Home—Seed-cake Feast—Martinmas—Christmas. 123
CHAP. VII.
A View of Country-Life during the Age of Shakspeare—Manners and Customs, continued—Wakes—Fairs—Weddings—Christenings—Burials. 209
CHAP. VIII.
View of Country-Life during the Age of Shakspeare, continued—Diversions—The Itinerant Stage—Cotswold Games—Hawking—Hunting—Fowling—Fishing—Horse-racing—The Quintaine—The Wild-goose Chase—Hurling—Shovel-board—Juvenile Sports—Barley-breake—Parish-Top. 246
[xi]CHAP. IX.
View of Country-Life during the Age of Shakspeare, continued—An Account of some of its Superstitions; Winter-Night's Conversation—Peculiar Periods devoted to Superstition—St. Paul's Day—St. Swithen's Day—St. Mark's Day—Childermas—St. Valentine's Day—Midsummer-Eve—Michaelmas—All Hallow-Eve—St. Withold—Omens—Charms—Sympathies—Superstitious Cures—Miscellaneous Superstitions. 314
CHAP. X.
Biography of Shakspeare resumed—His Irregularities—Deer-stealing in Sir Thomas Lucy's Park—Account of the Lucy family—Daisy-hill, the Keeper's Lodge, where Shakspeare was confined, on the Charge of stealing Deer—Shakspeare's Revenge—Ballad on Lucy—Severe Prosecution by Sir Thomas—never forgotten by Shakspeare—this Cause, and probably also Debt, as his Father was now in reduced Circumstances, induced him to leave the Country for London about 1586—Remarks on this Removal. 401
PART II.
SHAKSPEARE IN LONDON.
CHAP. I.
Shakspeare's Arrival in London about the Year 1586, when twenty-two Years of Age—Leaves his Family at Stratford, visiting them occasionally—His Introduction to the Stage—His Merits as an Actor. 413
CHAP. II.
Shakspeare commences a Writer of Poetry, probably about the year 1587, by the composition of his Venus and Adonis—Historical Outline of Polite Literature, during the Age of Shakspeare—General passion for Letters—Bibliography—Shakspeare's Attachment to Books—Philology—Criticism—Shakspeare's Progress in both—History, general, local, and personal, Shakspeare's Acquaintance with—Miscellaneous Literature. 426
[xii]CHAP. III.
View of Romantic Literature during the Age of Shakspeare—Shakspeare's Attachment to, and Use of, Romances, Tales, and Ballads. 518
CHAP. IV.
View of Miscellaneous Poetry during the same period. 594

[xiii]


[xiv]

Five genuine Shakspeare signatures

Five genuine Autographs of Shakspeare

No. 1 is from Shakspeare's Mortgage 1612-13.

2 is from Mr. Malone's plate II. No. X.

3 is from the first brief of Shakspeare's Will.

4 is from the second brief of the Will.

5 is from the third brief of the Will.


[1]

SHAKSPEARE AND HIS TIMES.


PART I.
SHAKSPEARE IN STRATFORD.


CHAPTER I.

BIRTH OF SHAKSPEARE—HIS FAMILY—THE ORTHOGRAPHY OF HIS NAME.

William Shakspeare, the object almost of our idolatry as a dramatic poet, was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, on the 23d of April, 1564, and he was baptized on the 26th of the same month.

Of his family, not much that is certain can be recorded; but it would appear, from an instrument in the College of Heralds, confirming the grant of a coat of arms to John Shakspeare in 1599, that his great grandfather had been rewarded by Henry the Seventh, "for his faithefull and approved service, with lands and tenements given to him in those parts of Warwickshire, where," proceeds this document, "they have continued by some descents in good reputation and credit." Notwithstanding this assertion, however, no such grant, after a minute examination, made by Mr. Malone in the chapel of the Rolls, has been discovered; whence we have reason to infer, that the heralds have been mistaken in their statement, and that the bounty of the monarch was directed through a different channel. From the language, indeed, of two rough draughts of a prior grant of[2] arms to John Shakspeare in 1596, it is probable that the service alluded to was of a military cast, for it is there expressly said, that he was rewarded "for his faithful and valiant service," a term, perhaps, implying the heroism of our poet's ancestor in the field of Bosworth.

That the property, thus bestowed upon the family of Shakspeare, descended to John, the father of the poet, and contributed to his influence and respectability, there is no reason to doubt. From the register, indeed, and public writings relating to Stratford, Mr. Rowe has justly inferred, that the Shakspeares were of good figure and fashion there, and were considered as gentlemen. We may presume, however, that the patrimony of Mr. John Shakspeare, the parent of our great dramatist, was not very considerable, as he found the profits of business necessary to his support. He was, in fact, a wool-stapler, and, there is reason to suppose, in a large way; for he was early chosen a member of the corporation of his town, a situation usually connected with respectable circumstances, and soon after, he filled the office of high bailiff or chief magistrate of that body. The record of these promotions has been thus given from the books of the corporation.

"Jan. 10, in the 6th year of the reign of our sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth, John Shakspeare passed his Chamberlain's accounts."

"At the Hall holden the eleventh day of September, in the eleventh year of the reign of our sovereign lady Elizabeth, 1569, were present Mr. John Shakspeare, High Bailiff."[2:A]

It was during the period of his filling this important office, that he first obtained a grant of arms; and, in a note annexed to the subsequent patent of 1596, now in the College of Arms[2:B], it is stated that he was likewise a justice of the peace, and possessed of lands and tenements to the amount of 500l. The final confirmation of this grant took place in 1599, in which his shield and coat are described to be, In a field of gould upon a bend sable, a speare of the first, the [3]poynt upward, hedded argent; and for his crest or cognisance, A falcon with his wyngs displayed, standing on a wrethe of his coullers, supporting a speare armed hedded, or steeled sylver.[3:A]

Mr. John Shakspeare married, though in what year is not accurately known, the daughter and heir of Robert Arden, of Wellingcote, in the county of Warwick, who is termed, in the Grant of Arms of 1596, "a gentleman of worship." The Arden, or Ardern family, appears to have been of considerable antiquity; for, in Fuller's Worthies, Rob. Arden de Bromwich, ar. is among the names of the gentry of this county returned by the commissioners in the twelfth year of King Henry the Sixth, 1433; and in the eleventh and sixteenth years of Elizabeth, A. D. 1562 and 1568, Sim. Ardern, ar. and Edw. Ardrn, ar. are enumerated, by the same author, among the sheriffs of Warwickshire.[3:B] It is well known that the woodland part of this county was formerly denominated Ardern, though, for the sake of euphony, frequently softened towards the close of the sixteenth century, into the smoother appellation of Arden; hence it is not improbable, that the supposition of Mr. Jacob, who reprinted, in 1770, the Tragedy of Arden of Feversham, a play which was originally published in 1592, may be correct; namely that Shakspeare, the poet, was descended by the female line from the unfortunate individual whose tragical death is the subject of this drama; for though the name of this gentleman was originally Ardern, he seems early to have experienced the fate of the county district, and to have had his surname harmonized by a similar omission. In consequence of this marriage, Mr. John Shakspeare and his posterity were allowed, by the College of Heralds, to impale their arms with the ancient arms of the Ardrns of Wellingcote.[3:C]

Of the issue of John Shakspeare by this connection, the accounts are contradictory and perplexed; nor is it absolutely ascertained, [4]whether he had only one wife, or whether he might not have had two, or even three. Mr. Rowe, whose narrative has been usually followed, has given him ten children, among whom he considers William the poet, as the eldest son.[4:A] The Register, however, of the parish of Stratford-upon-Avon, which commences in 1558, is incompatible with this statement; for, we there find eleven children ascribed to John Shakspeare, ten baptized, and one, the baptism of which had taken place before the commencement of the Register, buried.[4:B] The dates of these baptisms, and of two or three other events, recorded in this Register, it will be necessary, for the sake of elucidation, to transcribe:

[5]Now it is evident, that if the ten children which were baptized, according to this Register, between the years 1558 and 1591, are to be ascribed to the father of our poet, he must necessarily have had eleven, in consequence of the record of the decease of his daughter Margaret. He must also have had three wives, for we find his second wife, Margery, died in 1587, and the death of a third, Mary, a widow, is noticed in 1608.

It was suggested to Mr. Malone[5:A], that very probably, Mr. John Shakspeare had a son born to him, as well as a daughter, before the commencement of the Register, and that this his eldest son, was, as is customary, named after his father, John; a supposition which, (as no other child was baptized by the Christian name of the old gentleman,) carries some credibility with it, and was subsequently acquiesced in by Mr. Malone himself.

In this case, therefore, the marriage recorded in the Register, is that of John Shakspeare the younger with Margery Roberts, and the three children born between 1588 and 1591, Ursula, Humphrey, and Philip, the issue of this John, not by the first, but by a second marriage; for as Margery Shakspeare died in 1587, and Ursula was baptized in 1588-9, these children must have been by the Mary Shakspeare, whose death is mentioned as occurring in 1608, and as she is there denominated a widow; the younger John must consequently have died before that date.

The result of this arrangement will be, that the father of our poet had only nine children, and that William was not the eldest, but the second son.

On either plan, however, the account of Mr. Rowe is equally inaccurate; and as the introduction of an elder son involves a variety of suppositions, and at the same time nothing improbable is attached to the consideration of this part of the Register in the light in which it usually appears, that is, as allusive solely to the father, it will, we think, be the better and the safer mode, to rely upon it, according [6]to its more direct and literal import. This determination will be greatly strengthened by reflecting, that old Mr. Shakspeare was, on the authority of the last instrument granting him a coat of arms, living in 1599; that on the testimony of the Register, taken in the common acceptation, he was not buried until September 1601; and that in no part of the same document is the epithet younger annexed to the name of John Shakspeare, a mark of distinction which there is every reason to suppose would have been introduced, had the father and a son of the same Christian name been not only living at the same time in the same town, but the latter likewise a parent.

That the circumstances of Mr. John Shakspeare were, at the period of his marriage, and for several years afterwards, if not affluent, yet easy and respectable, there is every reason to suppose, from his having filled offices of the first trust and importance in his native town; but, from the same authority which has induced us to draw this inference, another of a very different kind, with regard to a subsequent portion of his life, may with equal confidence be taken. In the books of the corporation of Stratford it is stated, that—

"At the hall holden Nov. 19th, in the 21st year of the reign of our sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth, it is ordained, that every Alderman shall be taxed to pay weekly 4d., saving John Shakspeare and Robert Bruce, who shall not be taxed to pay any thing; and every burgess to pay 2d." Again,

"At the hall holden on the 6th day of September, in the 28th year of our sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth:

"At this hall William Smith and Richard Courte are chosen to be Aldermen in the places of John Wheler and John Shakspeare, for that Mr. Wheler doth desire to be put out of the company, and Mr. Shakspeare doth not come to the halls, when they be warned, nor hath not done of long time."[6:A]

The conclusion to be drawn from these memoranda must unavoidably be, that, in 1579, ten years after he had served the office [7]of High Bailiff, his situation, in a pecuniary light, was so much reduced, that, on this account, he was excused the weekly payment of 4d.; and that, in 1586, the same distress still subsisting, and perhaps in an aggravated degree, he was, on the plea of non-attendance, dismissed the corporation.

The causes of this unhappy change in his circumstances cannot now, with the exception of the burthen of a large and increasing family, be ascertained; but it is probable, that to this period is to be referred, if there be any truth in the tradition, the report of Aubrey, that "William Shakspeare's father was a butcher." This anecdote, he affirms, was received from the neighbours of the bard, and, on this account, merits some consideration.[7:A]

We are indebted to Mr. Howe for the first intimation concerning the trade of John Shakspeare; his declaration, derived also from tradition, that he was a "considerable dealer in wool," appears confirmed by subsequent research. From a window in a room of the premises which originally formed part of the house at Stratford, in which Shakspeare the poet was born, and a part of which premises has for many years been occupied as a public-house, with the sign of the Swan and Maidenhead, a pane of glass was taken, about five and forty years ago, by Mr. Peyton, the then master of the adjoining Inn called The White Lion. This pane, now in the possession of his son, is nearly six inches in diameter, and perfect, and on it are painted the arms of the merchants of the wool-staple—Nebule on a chief gules, a lion passant or. It appears, from the style in which it is finished, to have been executed about the time of Shakspeare, the father, and is undoubtedly a strong corroborative proof of the authenticity of Mr. Rowe's relation.[7:B]

[8]These traditionary anecdotes, though apparently contradictory, may easily admit of reconcilement, if we consider, that between the employment of a wool-dealer, and a butcher, there is no small affinity; "few occupations," observes Mr. Malone, "can be named which are more naturally connected with each other."[8:A] It is highly probable, therefore, that during the period of John Shakspeare's distress, which we know to have existed in 1579, when our poet was but fifteen years of age, he might have had recourse to this more humble trade, as in many circumstances connected with his customary business, and as a great additional means of supporting a very numerous family.

That the necessity for this union, however, did not exist towards the latter part of his life, there is much reason to imagine, both from the increasing reputation and affluence of his son William, and from the fact of his applying to the College of Heralds, in 1596 and 1599, for a grant of arms; events, of which the first, considering the character of the poet, must almost necessarily have led to, and the second directly pre-supposes, the possession of comparative competence and respectability.

The only remaining circumstance which time has spared us, relative to the personal conduct of John Shakspeare, is, that there appears some foundation to believe that, a short time previous to his death, he made a confession of his faith, or spiritual will; a document still in existence, the discovery and history of which, together with the declaration itself, will not improperly find a place at the close of this commencing chapter of our work.

About the year 1770, a master-bricklayer, of the name of Mosely, being employed by Mr. Thomas Hart, the fifth in descent, in a [9]direct line, from the poet's sister, Joan Hart, to new-tile the house in which he then lived, and which is supposed to be that under whose roof the bard was born, found hidden between the rafters and the tiling of the house, a manuscript, consisting of six leaves, stitched together, in the form of a small book. This manuscript Mosely, who bore the character of an honest and industrious man, gave (without asking or receiving any recompense) to Mr. Peyton, an alderman of Stratford; and this gentleman very kindly sent it to Mr. Malone, through the medium of the Rev. Mr. Davenport, vicar of Stratford. It had, however, previous to this transmission, unfortunately been deprived of the first leaf, a deficiency which was afterwards supplied by the discovery, that Mosely, who had now been dead about two years, had copied a great portion of it, and from his transcription the introductory parts were supplied.[9:A] The daughter of Mosely and Mr. Hart, who were both living in the year 1790, agreed in a perfect recollection of the circumstances attending the discovery of this curious document, which consists of the following fourteen articles.

1.

"In the name of God, the Father, Sonne and Holy Ghost, the most holy and blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, the holy host of archangels, angels, patriarchs, prophets, evangelists, apostles, saints, martyrs, and all the celestial court and company of heaven: I John Shakspear, an unworthy member of the holy Catholic religion, being at this my present writing in perfect health of body, and sound mind, memory, and understanding, but calling to mind the uncertainty of life and certainty of death, and that I may be possibly cut off in the blossome of my sins, and called to render an account of all my transgressions externally and internally, and that I may be unprepared for the dreadful trial either by sacrament, pennance, fasting, or prayer, or any other purgation whatever, do in the holy presence above specified, of my own free and voluntary accord, make [10]and ordaine this my last spiritual will, testament, confession, protestation, and confession of faith, hopinge hereby to receive pardon for all my sinnes and offences, and thereby to be made partaker of life everlasting, through the only merits of Jesus Christ my saviour and redeemer, who took upon himself the likeness of man, suffered death, and was crucified upon the crosse, for the redemption of sinners.

2.

"Item, I John Shakspear doe by this present protest, acknowledge, and confess, that in my past life I have been a most abominable and grievous sinner, and therefore unworthy to be forgiven without a true and sincere repentance for the same. But trusting in the manifold mercies of my blessed Saviour and Redeemer, I am encouraged by relying on his sacred word, to hope for salvation, and be made partaker of his heavenly kingdom, as a member of the celestial company of angels, saints, and martyrs, there to reside for ever and ever in the court of my God.

3.

"Item, I John Shakspear doe by this present protest and declare, that as I am certain I must passe out of this transitory life into another that will last to eternity, I do hereby most humbly implore and intreat my good and guardian angell to instruct me in this my solemn preparation, protestation, and confession of faith, at least spiritually, in will adoring and most humbly beseeching my Saviour, that he will be pleased to assist me in so dangerous a voyage, to defend me from the snares and deceites of my infernal enemies, and to conduct me to the secure haven of his eternal blisse.

4.

"Item, I John Shakspear doe protest that I will also passe out of this life, armed with the last sacrament of extreme unction: the which if through any let or hindrance I should not then be able to have, I doe now also for that time demand and crave the same;[11] beseeching his Divine Majesty that he will be pleased to anoynt my senses both internall and externall with the sacred oyle of his infinite mercy, and to pardon me all my sins committed by seeing, speaking, feeling, smelling, hearing, touching, or by any other way whatsoever.

5.

"Item, I John Shakspear doe by this present protest, that I will never through any temptation whatsoever despaire of the divine goodness, for the multitude and greatness of my sinnes; for which, although I confesse that I have deserved hell, yet will I steadfastly hope in God's infinite mercy, knowing that he hath heretofore pardoned many as great sinners as myself, whereof I have good warrant sealed with his sacred mouth, in holy writ, whereby he pronounceth that he is not come to call the just, but sinners.

6.

"Item, I John Shakspear do protest, that I do not know that I have ever done any good worke meritorious of life everlasting: and if I have done any, I do acknowledge that I have done it with a great deale of negligence and imperfection; neither should I have been able to have done the least without the assistance of his divine grace. Wherefore let the devill remain confounded: for I doe in no wise presume to merit heaven by such good workes alone, but through the merits and bloud of my Lord and Saviour Jesus, shed upon the cross for me most miserable sinner.

7.

"Item, I John Shakspear do protest by this present writing, that I will patiently endure and suffer all kind of infirmity, sickness, yea, and the paine of death itself: wherein if it should happen, which God forbid, that through violence of paine and agony, or by subtilty of the devill, I should fall into any impatience or temptation of blasphemy, or murmuration against God, or the Catholic faith, or give[12] any signe of bad example, I do henceforth, and for that present, repent me, and am most heartily sorry for the same: and I do renounce all the evill whatsoever, which I might have then done or said; beseeching his divine clemency that he will not forsake me in that grievous and paignefull agony.

8.

"Item, I John Shakspear, by virtue of this present testament, I do pardon all the injuries and offences that any one hath ever done unto me, either in my reputation, life, goods, or any other way whatsoever; beseeching sweet Jesus to pardon them for the same; and I do desire that they will doe the like by me whome I have offended or injured in any sort howsoever.

9.

"Item, I John Shakspear do here protest, that I do render infinite thanks to his Divine Majesty for all the benefits that I have received, as well secret as manifest, and in particular for the benefit of my creation, redemption, sanctification, conservation, and vocation to the holy knowledge of him and his true Catholic faith: but above all for his so great expectation of me to pennance, when he might most justly have taken me out of this life, when I least thought of it, yea, even then, when I was plunged in the durty puddle of my sinnes. Blessed be therefore and praised, for ever and ever, his infinite patience and charity.

10.

"Item, I John Shakspear do protest, that I am willing, yea, I do infinitely desire and humbly crave, that of this my last will and testament the glorious and ever Virgin Mary, mother of God, refuge and advocate of sinners, (whom I honour specially above all saints,) may be the chiefe executresse, togeather with these other saints, my patrons, (Saint Winefride,) all whome I invoke and beseech to be present at the hour of my death, that she and they comfort me with[13] their desired presence, and crave of sweet Jesus that he will receive my soul into peace.

11.

"Item, In virtue of this present writing, I John Shakspear do likewise most willingly and with all humility constitute and ordaine my good angell for defender and protector of my soul in the dreadfull day of judgment, when the finall sentence of eternall life or death shall be discussed and given: beseeching him that, as my soule was appointed to his custody and protection when I lived, even so he will vouchsafe to defend the same at that houre, and conduct it to eternall bliss.

12.

"Item, I John Shakspear do in like manner pray and beseech all my dear friends, parents, and kinsfolks, by the bowells of our Saviour Jesus Christ, that since it is uncertain what lot will befall me, for fear notwithstanding least by reason of my sinnes I be to pass and stay a long while in purgatory, they will vouchsafe to assist and succour me with their holy prayers and satisfactory workes, especially with the holy sacrifice of the masse, as being the most effectual means to deliver soules from their torments and paines; from the which, if I shall by God's gracious goodnesse, and by their vertuous workes, be delivered, I do promise that I will not be ungratefull unto them for so great a benefitt.

13.

"Item, I John Shakspear doe by this my last will and testament bequeath my soul, as soon as it shall be delivered and loosened from the prison of this my body, to be entombed in the sweet and amorous coffin of the side of Jesus Christ; and that in this life-giving sepulcher it may rest and live, perpetually enclosed in that eternall habitation of repose, there to blesse for ever and ever that direful iron of the launce, which, like a charge in a censore, formes so sweet[14] and pleasant a monument within the sacred breast of my Lord and Saviour.

14.

"Item, Lastly I John Shakspear doe protest, that I will willingly accept of death in what manner soever it may befall me, conforming my will unto the will of God; accepting of the same in satisfaction for my sinnes, and giving thanks unto his Divine Majesty for the life he hath bestowed upon me. And if it please him to prolong or shorten the same, blessed be he also a thousand thousand times; into whose most holy hands I commend my soul and body, my life and death: and I beseech him above all things, that he never permit any change to be made by me John Shakspear of this my aforesaid will and testament. Amen.

"I John Shakspeare have made this present writing of protestation, confession, and charter, in presence of the blessed Virgin Mary, my angell guardian, and all the celestial court, as witnesses hereunto: the which my meaning is, that it be of full value now presently and for ever, with the force and vertue of testament, codicill, and donation in course of death; confirming it anew, being in perfect health of soul and body, and signed with mine own hand; carrying also the same about me, and for the better declaration hereof, my will and intention is that it be finally buried with me after my death.

"Pater noster, Ave maria, Credo.
"Jesu, son of David, have mercy on me.—Amen."[14:A]

If the intention of the testator, as expressed in the close of this will, were carried into effect, then, of course, the manuscript which Mosely found, must necessarily have been a copy of that which was buried in the grave of John Shakspeare.

Mr. Malone, to whom, in his edition of Shakspeare, printed in 1790, we are indebted for this singular paper, and for the history [15]attached to it, observes, that he is unable to ascertain, whether it was drawn up by John Shakspeare the father, or by John his supposed eldest son; but he says, "I have taken some pains to ascertain the authenticity of this manuscript, and, after a very careful inquiry, am perfectly satisfied that it is genuine."[15:A] In the "Inquiry," however, which he published in 1796, relative to the Ireland papers, he has given us, though without assigning any reasons for his change of opinion, a very different result: "In my conjecture," he remarks, "concerning the writer of that paper, I certainly was mistaken; for I have since obtained documents that clearly prove it could not have been the composition of any one of our poet's family."[15:B]

In the "Apology" of Mr. George Chalmers "for the Believers in the Shakspeare-Papers," which appeared in the year subsequent to Mr. Malone's "Inquiry," a new light is thrown upon the origin of this confession. "From the sentiment, and the language, this confession appears to be," says this gentleman, "the effusion of a Roman Catholic mind, and was probably drawn up by some Roman Catholic priest.[15:C] If these premises be granted, it will follow, as a fair deduction, that the family of Shakspeare were Roman Catholics; a circumstance this, which is wholly consistent with what Mr. Malone is now studious to inculcate, viz. "that this confession could not have been the composition of any of our poet's family." The thoughts, the language, the orthography, all demonstrate the truth of my conjecture, though Mr. Malone did not perceive this truth, when he first published this paper in 1790. But, it was the performance of a clerke, the undoubted work of the family-priest. The conjecture, that Shakspeare's family were Roman Catholics, is strengthened by the fact, that his father declined to attend the [16]corporation meetings, and was at last removed from the corporate body."[16:A]

This conjecture of Mr. Chalmers appears to us in its leading points very plausible; for that the father of our poet might be a Roman Catholic is, if we consider the very unsettled state of his times with regard to religion, not only a possible but a probable supposition: in which case, it would undoubtedly have been the office of the spiritual director of the family to have drawn up such a paper as that which we have been perusing. It was the fashion also of the period, as Mr. Chalmers has subsequently observed, to draw up confessions of religious faith, a fashion honoured in the observance by the great names of Lord Bacon, Lord Burghley, and Archbishop Parker[16:B]. That he declined, however, attending the corporation-meetings of Stratford from religious motives, and that his removal from that body was the result of non-attendance from such a cause, cannot readily be admitted; for we have clearly seen that his defection was owing to pecuniary difficulties; nor is it, in the least degree, probable that, after having honourably filled the highest offices in the corporation without scruple, he should at length, and in a reign too popularly protestant, incur expulsion from an avowed motive of this kind; especially as we have reason to suppose, from the mode in which this profession was concealed, that the tenets of the person whose faith it declares, were cherished in secret.

From an accurate inspection of the hand-writing of this will, Mr. Malone infers that it cannot be attributed to an earlier period than the year 1600[16:C], whence it follows that, if dictated by, or drawn up at the desire of, John Shakspeare, his death soon sealed the confession of his faith; for, according to the register, he was buried on September 8th, 1601.

[17]Such are the very few circumstances which reiterated research has hitherto gleaned relative to the father of our poet; circumstances which, as being intimately connected with the history and character of his son, have acquired an interest of no common nature. Scanty as they must be pronounced, they lead to the conclusion that he was a moral and industrious man; that when fortune favoured him, he was not indolent, but performed the duties of a magistrate with respectability and effect, and that in the hour of adversity he exerted every nerve to support with decency a numerous family.

Before we close this chapter, it may be necessary to state, that the very orthography of the name of Shakspeare has occasioned much dispute. Of Shakspeare the father, no autograph exists; but the poet has left us several, and from these, and from the monumental inscriptions of his family, must the question be decided; the latter, as being of the least authority, we shall briefly mention, as exhibiting, in Dugdale, three varieties,—Shakespeare; Shakespere, and Shakspeare. The former present us with five specimens which, singular as it may appear, all vary, either in the mode of writing, or mode of spelling. The first is annexed to a mortgage executed by the poet in 1613, and appears thus, Wm Shakspea: the second is from a deed of bargain and sale, relative to the same transaction, and of the same period, and signed, William Shaksper̄: the third, fourth, and fifth are taken from the Will of Shakspeare executed in March 1616, consisting of three briefs or sheets, to each of which his name is subscribed. These signatures, it is remarkable, differ considerably, especially in the surnames; for in the first brief we find William Shackspere; in the second, Willm Shakspe re, and in the third, William Shakspeare. It has been supposed, however, that, according to the practice in Shakspeare's time, the name in the first sheet was written by the scrivener who drew the will.

In the year 1790, Mr. Malone, from an inspection of the mortgage, pronounced the genuine orthography to be Shakspeare[17:A]; in 1796, [18]from consulting the deed of sale, he altered his opinion, and declared that the poet's own mode of spelling his name was, beyond a possibility of doubt, that of Shakspere, though for reasons which he should assign in a subsequent publication, he should still continue to write the name Shakspeare.[18:A]

To this decision, relative to the genuine orthography, Mr. Chalmers cannot accede; and for this reason, that, "when the testator subscribed his name, for the last time, he plainly wrote Shakspeare."[18:B]

It is obvious, therefore, that the controversy turns upon, whether there be, or be not, an a introduced in the second syllable of the last signature of the poet. Mr. Malone, on the suggestion of an anonymous correspondent, thinks that there is not, this gentleman having clearly shown him, "that though there was a superfluous stroke when the poet came to write the letter r in his last signature, probably from the tremor of his hand, there was no a discoverable in that syllable; and that this name, like both the other, was written Shakspere."[18:C]

From the annexed plate of autographs, which is copied from Mr. Chalmers's Apology, and presents us with very perfect fac-similes of the signatures, it is at once evident, that the assertion of the anonymous correspondent, that the last signature, "like both the other, was written Shakspere," cannot be correct; for the surname in the first brief is written Shackspere, and, in the second, Shakspe re. Now the hiatus in this second signature is unaccounted for in the fac-simile given by Mr. Malone[18:D]; but in the plate of Mr. Chalmers it is found to have been occasioned by the intrusion of the word the of the preceding line, a circumstance which, very probably, might prevent the introduction of the controverted letter. It is likewise, we think, very evident that something more than a superfluous stroke exists between the e and r of the last signature, and that the variation [19]is, indeed, too material to have originated from any supposed tremor of the hand.

Upon the whole, it may, we imagine, be safely reposed on as a fact, that Shakspeare was not uniform in the orthography of his own name; that he sometimes spelt it Shakspere and sometimes Shakspeare; but that no other variation is extant which can claim a similar authority.[19:A] It is, therefore, nearly a matter of indifference which of these two modes [20]of spelling we adopt; yet, as his last signature appears to have included the letter a, it may, for the sake of consistency, be proper silently to acquiesce in its admission.


FOOTNOTES:

[2:A] Communicated to Mr. Malone by the Rev. Mr. Davenport, vicar of Stratford-upon-Avon.

[2:B] Vincent, vol. clvii. p. 24.

[3:A] See the instrument, at full length, Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 146, edit. of 1803.

[3:B] The History of the Worthies of England, part iii. fol. 131, 132.

[3:C] See Shakspeare's coat of arms, Reed's Shaksp. vol. i. p. 146.

[4:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 58, 59.

[4:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 133.

[4:C] "It was common in the age of Queen Elizabeth to give the same Christian name to two children successively. This was undoubtedly done in the present instance. The former Jone having probably died, (though I can find no entry of her burial in the Register, nor indeed of many of the other children of John Shakspeare) the name of Jone, a very favourite one in those days, was transferred to another new-born child."—Malone from Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 134.

[5:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 136.

[6:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 58.

[7:A] MS. Aubrey, Mus. Ashmol. Oxon. Lives, p. 1. fol. 78, a. (Inter Cod. Dugdal.) Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 213.

[7:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 214. and Ireland's Picturesque Views on the Upper or Warwickshire Avon, p. 190, 191. Since this passage was written, however, the proof which it was supposed to contain, has been completely annihilated. "If John Shakspeare's occupation in life," observes Mr. Wheeler, "want confirmation, this circumstance will unfortunately not answer such a purpose; for old Thomas Hart constantly declared that his great uncle, Shakspeare Hart, a glazier of this town, who had the new glazing of the chapel windows, where it is known, from Dugdale, that such a shield existed, brought it from thence, and introduced it into his own window."—Wheeler's Guide to Stratford, pp. 13, 14.

[8:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 214.

[9:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 197, 198.

[14:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 199. et seq.

[15:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 197.

[15:B] Malone's Inquiry, p. 198, 199.

[15:C] As a specimen, let us take the beginning of this declaration of faith, and see still stronger terms in the conclusion of this protestation, confession, and charter.

[16:A] "The place too, the roof of the house where this confession was found, proves, that it had been therein concealed, during times of persecution, for the holy Catholick religion." Apology, p. 198, 199.

[16:B] Chalmers's Apology, p. 200.

[16:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 198.

[17:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 149.

[18:A] Malone's Inquiry, p. 120

[18:B] Chalmers's Apology, p. 235.

[18:C] Malone's Inquiry, p. 117, 118.

[18:D] Inquiry, Plate II. No. 12.

[19:A] A want of uniformity in the spelling of names, was a species of negligence very common in the time of Shakspeare, and may be observed, remarks Mr. Chalmers, "with regard to the principal poets of that age; as we may see in England's Parnassus, a collection of poetry which was published in 1600: thus,

Sydney Sidney.
Spenser Spencer.
Jonson Johnson Jhonson.
Dekker Dekkar.
Markeham Markham.
Sylvister Sylvester Silvester.
Sackwill Sackuil.
Fitz Geffrey Fitzjeffry Fitz Jeffray.
France Fraunce.
Midleton Middleton.
Guilpin Gilpin.
Achelly Achely Achilly Achillye.
Drayton Draiton.
Daniel Daniell.
Davis Davies.
Marlow Marlowe.
Marston Murston.
Fairefax Fairfax.
Kid Kyd.

Yet, it is remarkable, that in this collection of diversities, our dramatist's name is uniformly spelt Shakespeare: in whatever manner this celebrated name may have been pronounced in Warwickshire, it certainly was spoken in London, with the e soft, thus, Shakespeare: in the registers of the Stationers' Company, it is written, Shakespere, and Shakespeare." Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, p. 129, 130.

A curious proof of the uncertain orthography of the poet's surname among his contemporaries and immediate successors, may be drawn from a pamphlet, entitled, "The great Assizes holden in Parnassus by Apollo and his Assessours: at which Sessions are arraigned, Mercurius Britannicus, &c. &c. London: Printed by Richard Cotes for Edward Husbands, and are to be sold at his shop in the Middle Temple. 1645. qto. 25 leaves."

In this rare tract, among the list of the jurors is found the name of our bard, written William Shakespeere; and in the body of the poem, it is given Shakespeare, and Shakespear. Vide British Bibliographer, vol. i. p. 513.


[21]

CHAPTER II.

THE HOUSE IN WHICH SHAKSPEARE WAS BORN—PLAGUE AT STRATFORD, JUNE 1564—SHAKSPEARE EDUCATED AT THE FREE-SCHOOL OF STRATFORD—STATE OF EDUCATION, AND OF JUVENILE LITERATURE IN THE COUNTRY AT THIS PERIOD—EXTENT OF SHAKSPEARE'S ACQUIREMENTS AS A SCHOLAR.

The experience of the last half century has fully proved, that every thing relative to the history of our immortal dramatist has been received, and received justly too, by the public with an avidity proportional to his increasing fame. What, if recorded of a less celebrated character, might be deemed very uninteresting, immediately acquires, when attached to the mighty name of Shakspeare, an importance nearly unparalleled. No apology, therefore, can be necessary for the introduction of any fact or circumstance, however minute, which is, in the slightest degree, connected with his biography; tradition, indeed, has been so sparing of her communications on this subject, that every addition to her little store has been hitherto welcomed with the most lively sensation of pleasure, nor will the attempt to collect and embody these scattered fragments be unattended with its reward.

The birth-place of our poet, the spot where he drew the first breath of life, where Fancy

—— "fed the little prattler, and with songs
Oft sooth'd his wond'ring ears,"

has been the object of laudable curiosity to thousands, and happily the very roof that sheltered his infant innocence can still be pointed out. It stands in Henley-street, and, though at present forming two separate tenements, was originally but one house.[21:A] The premises [22]are still in possession of the Hart family, now the seventh descendants, in a direct line, from Jone the sister of the poet. From the plate in Reed's Shakspeare, which is a correct representation of the existing state of this humble but interesting dwelling, it will appear, that one portion of it is occupied by the Swan and Maidenhead public-house, and the other by a butcher's shop, in which the son of old Mr. Thomas Hart, mentioned in the last chapter, still carries on his father's trade.[22:A] "The kitchen of this house," says Mr. Samuel Ireland, "has an appearance sufficiently interesting, abstracted from its claim to notice as relative to the Bard. It is a subject very similar to those that so frequently employed the rare talents of Ostade, and therefore cannot be deemed unworthy the pencil of an inferior artist. In the corner of the chimney stood an old oak-chair, which had for a number of years received nearly as many adorers as the celebrated shrine of the Lady of Loretto. This relic was purchased, in July 1790, by the Princess Czartoryska, who made a journey to this place, in order to [23]obtain intelligence relative to Shakspeare; and being told he had often sat in this chair, she placed herself in it, and expressed an ardent wish to become a purchaser; but being informed that it was not to be sold at any price, she left a handsome gratuity to old Mrs. Hart, and left the place with apparent regret. About four months after, the anxiety of the Princess could no longer be withheld, and her secretary was dispatched express, as the fit agent, to purchase this treasure at any rate: the sum of twenty guineas was the price fixed on, and the secretary and chair, with a proper certificate of its authenticity on stamped paper, set off in a chaise for London."[23:A] The elder Mr. Hart, who died about the year 1794, aged sixty-seven, informed Mr. Samuel Ireland, that he well remembered, when a boy, having dressed himself, with some of his playfellows, as Scaramouches (such was his phrase), in the wearing-apparel of Shakspeare; an anecdote of which, if we consider the lapse of time, it may be allowed us to doubt the credibility, and to conclude that the recollection of Mr. Hart had deceived him.

Little more than two months had passed over the head of the infant Shakspeare, when he became exposed to danger of such an imminent kind, that we have reason to rejoice he was not snatched from [24]us even while he lay in the cradle. He was born, as we have already recorded, on the 23d of April, 1564; and on the 30th of the June following, the plague broke out at Stratford, the ravages of which dreadful disease were so violent, that between this last date and the close of December, not less than two hundred and thirty-eight persons perished; "of which number," remarks Mr. Malone, "probably two hundred and sixteen died of that malignant distemper; and one only of the whole number resided, not in Stratford, but in the neighbouring town of Welcombe. From the two hundred and thirty-seven inhabitants of Stratford, whose names appear in the Register, twenty-one are to be subducted, who, it may be presumed, would have died in six months, in the ordinary course of nature; for in the five preceding years, reckoning, according to the style of that time, from March 25. 1559, to March 25. 1564, two hundred and twenty-one persons were buried at Stratford, of whom two hundred and ten were townsmen: that is, of these latter, forty-two died each year at an average. Supposing one in thirty-five to have died annually, the total number of the inhabitants of Stratford at that period was one thousand four hundred and seventy; and consequently the plague, in the last six months of the year 1564, carried off more than a seventh part of them. Fortunately for mankind it did not reach the house in which the infant Shakspeare lay; for not one of that name appears in the dead list. May we suppose, that, like Horace, he lay secure and fearless in the midst of contagion and death, protected by the Muses, to whom his future life was to be devoted, and covered over:—

—————— "sacrâ
Lauroque, collataque myrto,
Non sine Diis animosus infans."[24:A]

It is now impossible to ascertain with any degree of certainty the mode which was adopted in the education of this aspiring genius; all that time has left us on the subject is, that he was sent, though but [25]for a short period, to the free-school of Stratford, a seminary founded in the reign of Henry the Sixth, by the Rev. —— Jolepe, M. A., a native of the town; and which, after sharing, at the general dissolution of chantries, religious houses, &c. the usual fate, was restored and patronised by Edward the Sixth, a short time previous to his death. Here it was, that he acquired the small Latin and less Greek, which Jonson has attributed to him, a mode of phraseology from which it must be inferred, that he was at least acquainted with both languages; and, perhaps, we may add, that he who has obtained some knowledge of Greek, however slight, may, with little hesitation, be supposed to have proceeded considerably beyond the limits of mere elementary instruction in Latin.

At the period when Shakspeare was sent to school, the study of the classical languages had made, since the era of the revival of literature, a very rapid progress. Grammars and Dictionaries, by various authors, had been published[25:A]; but the grammatical institute then in general use, both in town and country, was the Grammar of Henry [26]the Eighth, which, by the order of Queen Elizabeth, in her Injunctions of 1559, was admitted, to the exclusion of all others: "Every schoolmaster," says the thirty-ninth Injunction, "shall teach the grammar set forth by King Henrie the Eighth, of noble memorie, and continued in the time of Edward the Sixth, and none other;" and in the Booke of certain Cannons, 1571, it is again directed, "that no other grammar shall be taught, but only that which the Queen's Majestie hath commanded to be read in all schooles, through the whole realm."

With the exception of Wolsey's Rudimenta Grammatices, printed in 1536, and taught in his school at Ipswich, and a similar work of Collet's, established in his seminary in St. Paul's churchyard, this was the grammar publicly and universally adopted, and without doubt the instructor of Shakspeare in the language of Rome.

Another initiatory work, which we may almost confidently affirm him to have studied under the tuition of the master of the free-school at Stratford, was the production of one Ockland, and entitled ΕΙΡΗΝΑΡΧΙΑ, sive Elizabetha. The object of this book, which is written in Latin verse, is to panegyrise the characters and government of Elizabeth and her ministers, and it was, therefore, enjoined by authority to be read as a classic in every grammar-school, and to be indelibly impressed upon the memory of every young scholar in the kingdom; "a matchless contrivance," remarks Bishop Hurd, "to imprint a sense of loyalty on the minds of the people."[26:A]

To these school-books, to which, being introduced by compulsory edicts, there is no doubt Shakspeare was indebted for some learning and much loyalty, may be added, as another resource to which he was directed by his master, the Dictionary of Syr Thomas Elliot, declaring Latin by English, as greatly improved and enriched by Thomas Cooper in 1552. This lexicon, the most copious and celebrated of its day, was received into almost every school, and underwent numerous editions, namely, in 1559, and in 1565, under the title of Thesaurus Linguæ Romanæ et Britannicæ, and again in 1573, 1578, and [27]1584. Elizabeth not only recommended the lexicon of Cooper, and professed the highest esteem for him, in consequence of the great utility of his work toward the promotion of classical literature, but she more substantially expressed her opinion of his worth by promoting him to the deanery of Gloucester in 1569, and to the bishoprics of Lincoln and Winchester in 1570 and 1584, at which latter see he died on the 29th of April, 1594.[27:A]

Thus far we may be allowed, on good grounds, to trace the very books which were placed in the hands of Shakspeare, during his short noviciate in classical learning; to proceed farther, would be to indulge in mere conjecture, but we may add, and with every just reason for the inference, that from these productions, and from the few minor classics which he had time to study at this seminary, all that the most precocious genius, at such a period of life, and under so transient a direction of the mind to classic lore, could acquire, was obtained.[27:B]

[28]The universality of classical education about the era of 1575, when, it is probable, Shakspeare had not long entered on the acquisitions of the Latin elements, was such that no person of rank or property could be deemed accomplished who had not been thoroughly imbued with the learning and mythology of Greece and Rome. The knowledge which had been previously confined to the clergy or professed scholars, became now diffused among the nobility and gentry, and even influenced, in a considerable degree, the minds and manners of the softer sex. Elizabeth herself led the way in this career of erudition, and she was soon followed by the ladies of her court, who were taught, as Warton observes, not only to distil strong waters, but to construe Greek.[28:A]

The fashion of the court speedily became, to a certain extent, the fashion of the country, and every individual possessed of a decent competency, was solicitous that his children should acquire the literature in vogue. Had the father of our poet continued in prosperous circumstances, there is every reason to conclude that his son would have had the opportunity of acquiring the customary erudition of the times; but we have already seen, that in 1579 he was so reduced in fortune, as to be excused a weekly payment of 4d., a state of depression which had no doubt existed some time before it attracted the notice of the corporation of Stratford.

One result therefore of these pecuniary difficulties was the removal of young Shakspeare from the free-school, an event which has occasioned, among his biographers and numerous commentators, much controversy and conjecture as to the extent of his classical attainments.

From the short period which tradition allows us to suppose that our poet continued under the instruction of a master, we have a right [29]to conclude that, notwithstanding his genius and industry, he must necessarily have made a very superficial acquaintance with the learned languages. That he was called home to assist his father, we are told by Mr. Rowe; and consequently, as the family was numerous and under the pressure of poverty, it is not likely that he found much time to prosecute what he had commenced at school. The accounts, therefore, which have descended to us, on the authority of Ben Jonson, Drayton, Suckling, &c. that he had not much learning, that he depended almost exclusively on his native genius, (that his Latin was small and his Greek less,) ought to have been, without scruple, admitted. Fuller, who was a diligent and accurate enquirer, has given us in his Worthies, printed in 1662, the most full and express opinion on the subject. "He was an eminent instance," he remarks, "of the truth of that rule, Poeta non fit, sed nascitur; one is not made but born a poet. Indeed his learning was very little, so that as Cornish diamonds are not polished by any lapidary, but are pointed and smoothed even as they are taken out of the earth, so nature itself was all the art which was used upon him."[29:A]

Notwithstanding this uniform assertion of the contemporaries and immediate successors of Shakspeare, relative to his very imperfect knowledge of the languages of Greece and Rome, many of his modern commentators have strenuously insisted upon his intimacy with both, among whom may be enumerated, as the most zealous and decided on this point, the names of Gildon, Sewell, Pope, Upton, Grey, and Whalley. The dispute, however, has been nearly, if not altogether terminated, by the Essay of Dr. Farmer on the Learning of Shakspeare, who has, by a mode of research equally ingenious and convincing, clearly proved that all the passages which had been triumphantly brought forward as instances of the classical literature of Shakspeare, were taken from translations, or from original, and once popular, productions in his native tongue. Yet the conclusion drawn from this essay, so far as it respects the portion of latinity which our poet had [30]acquired and preserved, as the result of his school-education, appears to us greatly too restricted. "He remembered," says the Doctor, "perhaps enough of his school-boy learning to put the Hig, hag, hog, into the mouth of Sir Hugh Evans:" and might pick up in the writers of the time, or the course of his conversation, a familiar phrase or two of French or Italian: but his studies were most demonstratively confined to nature and his own language.[30:A]

A very late writer, in combating this part of the conclusion of Dr. Farmer, has advanced an opinion in several respects so similar to our own, that it will be necessary, in justice to him and previous to any further expansion of the idea which we have embraced, to quote his words. "Notwithstanding," says he, "Dr. Farmer's essay on the deficiency of Shakspeare in learning, I must acknowledge myself to be one who does not conceive that his proofs of that fact sufficiently warrant his conclusions from them: 'that his studies were demonstrably confined to nature and his own language' is, as Dr. Farmer concludes, true enough; but when it is added, 'that he only picked up in conversation a familiar phrase or two of French, or remembered enough of his school-boy's learning to put hig, hag, hog, in the mouths of others:' he seems to me to go beyond any evidence produced by him of so little knowledge of languages in Shakspeare. He proves indeed sufficiently, that Shakspeare chiefly read English books, by his copying sometimes minutely the very errors made in them, many of which he might have corrected, if he had consulted the original Latin books made use of by those writers: but this does not prove that he was not able to read Latin well enough to examine those originals if he chose; it only proves his indolence and indifference about accuracy in minute articles of no importance to the chief object in view of supplying himself with subjects for dramatic compositions. Do we not every day meet with numberless instances of similar and much greater oversights by persons well skilled in Greek as well as Latin, and professed critics also of the writings and abilities [31]of others? If Shakspeare made an ignorant man pronounce the French word bras like the English brass, and evidently on purpose, as being a probable mistake by such an unlearned speaker; has not one learned modern in writing Latin made Paginibus of Paginis, and another mentioned a person as being born in the reign of Charles the First, and yet as dying in 1600, full twenty-five years before the accession of that king? Such mistakes arise not from ignorance, but a heedless inattention, while their thoughts are better occupied with more important subjects; as those of Shakspeare were with forming his plots and his characters, instead of examining critically a great Greek volume to see whether he ought to write on this side of Tiber or on that side of Tiber; which however very possibly he might not be able to read; but Latin was more universally learnt in that age, and even by women, many of whom could both write and speak it; therefore it is not likely that he should be so very deficient in that language, as some would persuade us, by evidence which does not amount to sufficient proofs of the fact. Nay, even although he had a sufficiency of Latin to understand any Latin book, if he chose to do it, yet how many in modern times, under the same circumstances, are led by mere indolence to prefer translations of them, in case they cannot read Latin with such perfect ease, as never to be at a loss for the meaning of a word, so as to be forced to read some sentences twice over before they can understand them rightly. That Shakspeare was not an eminent Latin scholar may be very true, but that he was so totally ignorant as to know nothing more than hic, hæc, hoc, must have better proofs before I can be convinced."[31:A]

The truth seems to be, that Shakspeare, like most boys who have spent but two or three years at a grammar-school, acquired just as much Latin as would enable him, with the assistance of a lexicon, and no little share of assiduity, to construe a minor classic; a degree of acquisition which we every day see, unless forwarded by much leisure and much private industry, immediately becomes stationary, and [32]soon retrograde. Our poet, when taken from the free-school of Stratford, had not only to direct his attention to business, in order to assist in warding off from his father's family the menacing approach of poverty; but it is likewise probable that his leisure, as we shall notice more at large in the next chapter, was engaged in other acquisitions; and when at a subsequent period, and after he had become a married man, his efforts were thrown into a channel perfectly congenial to his taste and talents, still to procure subsistence for the day was the immediate stimulus to exertion. Under these circumstances, and when we likewise recollect that popular favour and applause were essential to his success, and that nearly to the last period of his life he was a prolific caterer for the public in a species of poetry which called for no recondite or learned resources, it is not probable, nay, it is, indeed, scarcely possible, that he should have had time to cultivate and increase his classical attainments, originally and necessarily superficial. To translations, therefore, and to popular and legendary lore, he was alike directed by policy, by inclination, and by want of leisure; yet must we still agree, that, had a proficiency in the learned languages been necessary to his career, the means resided within himself, and that, on the basis merely of his school-education, although limited as we have seen it, he might, had he early and steadily directed his attention to the subject, have built the reputation of a scholar.

That the powers, however, of his vast and capacious mind, especially if we consider the shortness of his life, were not expended on such an attempt, we have reason to rejoice; for though his attainments, as a linguist, were truly trifling, yet his knowledge was great, and his learning, in the best sense of the term, that is, as distinct from the mere acquisition of language, multifarious, and extensive beyond that of most of his contemporaries.[32:A] [33]

It is, therefore, to his English studies that we must have recourse for a due estimate of his reading and research; a subject which will be treated of in a future portion of the work.


FOOTNOTES:

[21:A] It is with some apprehension of imposition that I quote the following passage from Mr. Samuel Ireland's Picturesque Views on the River Avon. This gentleman, the father of the youth who endeavoured so grossly to deceive the public by the fabrication of a large mass of MSS. which he attributed to Shakspeare, was undoubtedly, at the time he wrote this book, the complete dupe of his son; and though, as a man of veracity and integrity, to be depended upon with regard to what originated from himself, it is possible, that the settlement which he quotes may have been derived from the same ample store-house of forgery which produced the folio volume of miscellaneous papers, &c. This settlement, in the possession of Mr. Ireland, is brought forward as a proof that the premises in Henley-street were certainly in the occupation of John Shakspeare, the father of the poet; it is dated August 14th, thirty-third of Elizabeth, 1591, and Mr. Ireland professes to give the substance of it in the subsequent terms:—"'That George Badger, senior, of Stratford upon Avon, conveys to John and William Courte, yeomen, and their heirs, in trust, &c. a messuage or tenement, with the appurtenances, in Stratford upon Avon, in a certain streete called Henley-streete, between the house of Robert Johnson on the one part, and the house of John Shakspeare on the other; and also two selions (i. e. ridges, or ground between furrows) of land lying between the land of Thomas Combe, Gent. on the one hand, and Thomas Reynolde, Gent. on the other.' It is regularly executed, and livery of seisin on the 29th of the same month and year indorsed." P. 195, 196.

[22:A] "In a lower room of this public house," says Mr. Samuel Ireland, "which is part of the premises wherein Shakspeare was born, is a curious antient ornament over the chimney, relieved in plaister, which, from the date, 1606, that was originally marked on it, was probably put up at the time, and possibly by the poet himself: although a rude attempt at historic representation, I have yet thought it worth copying, as it has, I believe, passed unnoticed by the multitude of visitors that have been on this spot, or at least has never been made public: and to me it was enough that it held a conspicuous place in the dwelling-house of one who is himself the ornament and pride of the island he inhabited. In 1759, it was repaired and painted in a variety of colours by the old Mr. Thomas Harte before-mentioned, who assured me the motto then round it had been in the old black letter, and dated 1606. The motto runs thus:

Golith comes with sword and spear,
And David with a sling:
Although Golith rage and sweare,
Down David doth him bring."

Picturesque Views, p. 192, 193.

[23:A] Picturesque Views, p. 189, 190. It is probable that Mr. Ireland, though, it appears, unconnected with the forgeries of his son, might, during his tour, be too eager in crediting the tales which were told him. One Jordan, a native of Alverton near Stratford, was for many years the usual cicerone to enquirers after Shakspeare, and was esteemed not very accurate in weighing the authenticity of the anecdotes which he related.

[24:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 84, 85.

[25:A] It is possible also that the following grammars and dictionaries, independent of those mentioned in the text, may have contributed to the school-education of Shakspeare:—

1. Certain brief Rules of the Regiment or Construction of the Eight Partes of Speche, in English and Latin, 1537.

2. A short Introduction of Grammar, generallie to be used: compiled and set forth, for the bringyng up of all those that intend to attaine the knowledge of the Latin tongue, 1557.

3. The Scholemaster; or, Plaine and perfite Way of teaching Children to understand, write, and speak, the Latin Tong. By Roger Ascham. 1571.

4. Abecedarium Anglico-Latinum, pro tyrunculis, Ricardo Huloeto exscriptore, 1552.

5. The Short Dictionary, 1558.

6. A little Dictionary; compiled by J. Withals, 1559. Afterwards reprinted in 1568, 1572, 1579, and 1599; and entitled, A Shorte Dictionarie most profitable for young Beginners: and subsequently, A Shorte Dictionarie in Lat. and English.

7. The brefe Dyxcyonary, 1562.

8. Huloets Dictionary; newlye corrected, amended, and enlarged, by John Higgins, 1572.

9. Veron's Dictionary; Latin and English, 1575.

10. An Alvearie, or Quadruple Dictionarie; containing foure sundrie Tongues: namelie, English, Latine, Greeke, and Frenche. Newlie enriched with varietie of wordes, phrases, proverbs, and divers lightsome observations of grammar. By John Baret, 1580.

11. Rider's Dictionary, Latine, and English, 1589.

[26:A] Moral and Political Dialogues, vol. ii. p. 28. edit. 1788.

[27:A] That school-masters and lexicographers were not usually so well rewarded, notwithstanding the high value placed on classical literature at this period, may be drawn from the complaint of Ascham: "It is pitie," says he, "that commonlie more care is had, yea, and that amonge verie wise men, to find out rather a cunnynge man for their horse, than a cunnynge man for their children. They say nay in worde, but they do so in deede. For, to the one they will gladlie give a stipend of 200 crownes by yeare, and loth to offer to the other 200 shillings. God, that sitteth in heaven, laugheth their choice to skorne, and rewardeth their liberalitie as it should; for he suffereth them to have tame, and well ordered horse, but wilde and unfortunate children; and therefore, in the ende, they finde more pleasure in their horse than comforte in their children."—Ascham's Works, Bennet's edition, p. 212.

[27:B] It is more than possible that the Eclogues of Mantuanus the Carmelite may have been one of the school-books of Shakspeare. He is familiarly quoted and praised in the following passage from Love's Labour's Lost:—

"Hol. Fauste, precor gelidâ quando pecus omne sub umbrâ Ruminat,—and so forth. Ah, good old Mantua! I may speak of thee as the traveller doth of Venice:

——— Vinegia, Vinegia,
Chi non te rede, ci non te pregia.

Old Mantuan! old Mantuan! who understandeth thee not, loves thee not." Act iv. sc. 2. And his Eclogues, be it remembered, were translated and printed, together with the Latin on the opposite page, for the use of schools, before the commencement of our author's education; and from a passage quoted by Mr. Malone, from Nashe's Apologie of Pierce Penniless, 1593, appear to have continued in use long after its termination. "With the first and second leafe, he plaies very prettilie, and, in ordinarie terms of extenuating, verdits Pierce Pennilesse for a grammar-school wit; saies, his margine is as deeply learned as, Fauste, precor gelidâ." Mantuanus was translated by George Turberville in 1567, and reprinted in 1591.—Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 95.

[28:A] Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. iii. p. 491.

[29:A] Worthies, p. iii. p. 126.

[30:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 85.

[31:A] Censura Literaria, vol. ix. p. 285.

[32:A] "If it were asked from what sources," observes Mr. Capel Lofft, "Shakspeare drew these abundant streams of wisdom, carrying with their current the fairest and most unfading flowers of poetry, I should be tempted to say, he had what would be now considered a very reasonable portion of Latin; he was not wholly ignorant of Greek; he had a knowledge of the French, so as to read it with ease; and I believe not less of the Italian. He was habitually conversant in the chronicles of his country. He lived with wise and highly cultivated men; with Jonson, Essex, and Southampton, in familiar friendship. He had deeply imbibed the Scriptures. And his own most acute, profound, active, and original genius (for there never was a truly great poet, nor an aphoristic writer of excellence without these accompanying qualities) must take the lead in the solution." Aphorisms from Shakspeare: Introduction, pp. xii. and xiii.

Again, in speaking of his poems, he remarks—"Transcendent as his original and singular genius was, I think it is not easy, with due attention to these poems, to doubt of his having acquired, when a boy, no ordinary facility in the classic language of Rome; though his knowledge of it might be small, comparatively, to the knowledge of that great and indefatigable scholar, Ben Jonson. And when Jonson says he had 'less Greek,' had it been true that he had none, it would have been as easy for the verse as for the sentiment to have said 'no Greek.'"—Introduction, p. xxiv.


[34]

CHAPTER III.

SHAKSPEARE, AFTER LEAVING SCHOOL, FOLLOWS HIS FATHER'S TRADE—STATEMENT OF AUBREY—PROBABLY PRESENT IN HIS TWELFTH YEAR, AT KENELWORTH, WHEN ELIZABETH VISITED THE EARL OF LEICESTER—TRADITION OF AUBREY CONCERNING HIM—WHETHER THERE IS REASON TO SUPPOSE THAT, AFTER LEAVING HIS FATHER, HE WAS PLACED IN AN ATTORNEY'S OFFICE WHO WAS LIKEWISE SENESCHAL OR STEWARD OF SOME MANOR—ANECDOTES OF SHAKSPEARE—ALLUSIONS IN HIS WORKS TO BARTON, WILNECOTTE AND BARSTON, VILLAGES IN WARWICKSHIRE—EARTHQUAKE IN 1580 ALLUDED TO—WHETHER, AFTER LEAVING SCHOOL, HE ACQUIRED ANY KNOWLEDGE OF THE FRENCH AND ITALIAN LANGUAGES.

That Shakspeare, when taken from the free-school of Stratford, became an assistant to his father in the wool-trade, has been the general opinion of his biographers from the period of Mr. Rowe, who first published the tradition in 1709, to the present day. The anecdote was probably collected by Mr. Betterton the player, who visited Stratford in order to procure intelligence relative to his favourite poet, and from whom Mr. Rowe professes to have derived the greater part of his information.[34:A] A few incidental circumstances tend also to strengthen the account that both father and son were engaged in this employment, and, for a time, together: in the first place, we may mention the discovery already noticed of the arms of the merchants of the wool-staple on a window of the house in which the poet was born[34:B]; secondly, the almost certain conclusion that the poverty of John Shakspeare, which we know to have been considerable in 1579, [35]would naturally incline him to require the assistance of his son, in the only way in which, at that time, he could be serviceable to him; and thirdly, we may adduce the following passages from the works of our Dramatist, which seem to imply a more than theoretic intimacy with his father's business. In the Winter's Tale, the Clown exclaims,

"Let me see:—Every 'leven wether—tods; every tod yields—pound and odd shilling: fifteen hundred shorn,—What comes the wool to?"

Act IV. Scene 2.

Upon this passage Dr. Farmer remarks, "that to tod is used as a verb by dealers in wool; thus, they say, 'Twenty sheep ought to tod fifty pounds of wool,' &c. The meaning, therefore, of the Clown's words is, 'Every eleven wether tods; i. e. will produce a tod, or twenty-eight pounds of wool; every tod yields a pound and some odd shillings; what then will the wool of fifteen hundred yield?'"

"The occupation of his father," subjoins Mr. Malone, "furnished our poet with accurate knowledge on this subject; for two pounds and a half of wool is, I am told, a very good produce from a sheep at the time of shearing."

"Every 'leven wether—tods," adds Mr. Ritson, "has been rightly expounded to mean that the wool of eleven sheep would weigh a tod, or 28lb. Each fleece would, therefore, be 2lb. 8oz. 11-1/2dr., and the whole produce of fifteen hundred shorn 136 tod, 1 clove, 2lb. 6oz. 2dr. which at pound and odd shilling per tod, would yield 143l. 3s. 0d. Our author was too familiar with the subject to be suspected of inaccuracy.

"Indeed it appears from Stafford's Breefe Conceipte of English Pollicye, 1581, p. 16, that the price of a tod of wool was at that period twenty or two and twenty shillings: so that the medium price was exactly 'pound and odd shilling.'"[35:A]

In Hamlet, the prince justly observes,

There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.

Act V. Scene 2.

[36] Lines, of which the words in italics were considered by Dr. Farmer as merely technical. "A woolman, butcher, and dealer in skewers," says Mr. Stevens, "lately observed to him (Dr. F.), that his nephew, an idle lad, could only assist him in making them; '—he could rough-hew them, but I was obliged to shape their ends.' To shape the ends of wool-skewers, i. e. to point them, requires a degree of skill; any one can rough-hew them. Whoever recollects the profession of Shakspeare's father, will admit that his son might be no stranger to such terms. I have frequently seen packages of wool pinned up with skewers."[36:A]

We may, therefore, after duly considering all the evidence that can now be obtained, pretty confidently acquiesce in the traditional account that Shakspeare was, for a time, and that immediately on his being taken from the free-school, the assistant of his father in the wool-trade; but it will be necessary here to mention, that Aubrey, on whose authority it has been related that John Shakspeare was, at one period of his life, a butcher, adds, with regard to our poet, that "when he was a boy, he exercised his father's trade;" and that "when he killed a calfe, he would do it in a high style, and make a speech."[36:B] That John Shakspeare, when under the pressure of adversity, might combine the two employments, which are, in a certain degree, connected with each other, we have already recorded as probable; it is very possible, also, that the following similes may have been suggested to the son, by what he had occasionally observed at home:

And as the butcher takes away the calf,
And binds the wretch, and beats it when it strays,
Bearing it to the bloody slaughter-house;
Even so, remorseless, have they borne him hence.
And as the dam runs lowing up and down,
Looking the way her harmless young one went,
And can do nought but wail her darling's loss;
Even so, &c. &c.

Henry VI. Part II. Act III. Scene 1.

[37]but that the father of our poet, the former bailiff of Stratford, should employ his children, instead of servants, in the slaughter of his cattle, is a position so revolting, so unnecessarily degrading on the part of the father, and, at the same time, must have been so discordant with the well-known humane and gentle cast of the poet's disposition, that we cannot, for a moment, allow ourselves to conceive that any credibility can be attached to such a report.

At what age he began to assist his father in the wool-trade, cannot now be positively ascertained; but as he was early taken from school, for this purpose, we shall probably not err far, if we suppose this change to have taken place when he was twelve years old; a computation which includes a period of scholastic education sufficiently long to have imbued him with just such a portion of classical lore, as an impartial enquirer into his life and works would be willing to admit.

A short time previous to this, when our poet was in his twelfth year, and in the summer of 1575, an event occurred which must have made a great impression on his mind; the visit of Queen Elizabeth to the magnificent Earl of Leicester, at Kenelworth Castle. That young Shakspeare was a spectator of the festivities on this occasion, was first suggested by Bishop Percy[37:A], who, in his Essay on the Origin of the English Stage, speaking of the old Coventry play of Hock Tuesday, which was performed before Her Majesty during her residence at the castle, observes,—"Whatever this old play, or 'storial show,' was at the time it was exhibited to Queen Elizabeth, it had probably our young Shakspeare for a spectator, who was then in his twelfth year, and doubtless attended with all the inhabitants of the surrounding country at these 'Princely Pleasures of Kenelworth,'[37:B] whence Stratford is only a few miles distant. And as the Queen was [38]much diverted with the Coventry play, 'whereat Her Majestie laught well,' and rewarded the performers with two bucks, and five marks in money: who, 'what rejoicing upon their ample reward, and what triumphing upon the good acceptance, vaunted their play was never so dignified, nor ever any players before so beatified:' but especially if our young Bard afterwards gained admittance into the castle to see a play, which the same evening, after supper, was there 'presented of a very good theme, but so set forth by the actors' well-handling, that pleasure and mirth made it seem very short,' though it lasted two good hours and more, we may imagine what an impression was made on his infant mind. Indeed the dramatic cast of many parts of that superb entertainment, which continued nineteen days, and was the most splendid of the kind ever attempted in this kingdom, must have had a very great effect on a young imagination, whose dramatic powers were hereafter to astonish the world."[38:A]

Of the gorgeous splendour, and elaborate pageantry which were displayed during this princely fete at Kenelworth, some idea may be formed from the following summary. The Earl met the Queen on Saturday the 9th of July 1575, at Long Ichington, a town seven miles from Kenelworth, where His Lordship had erected a tent, for the purpose of banqueting Her Majesty, upon such a magnificent scale, "that justly for dignity," says Laneham, "may be comparable with a beautiful palace; and for greatness and quantity, with a proper town, or rather a citadel;" and to give his readers an adequate conception of its vast magnitude, he adds that "it had seven cart load of pins pertaining to it."[38:B] At the first entrance of the Queen into His Lordship's castle a floating island was discerned upon the pool, glittering with torches, on which sat the Lady of the Lake, attended by two nymphs, who addressed Her Majesty in verse, with an historical account of the antiquity and owners of the castle; and the speech [39]was closed with the sound of cornets, and other instruments of loud music. Within the base-court was erected a stately bridge, twenty feet wide, and seventy feet long, over which the Queen was to pass; and on each side stood columns, with presents upon them to Her Majesty from the gods. Silvanus offered a cage of wild-fowl, and Pomona various sorts of fruits; Ceres gave corn, and Bacchus wine; Neptune presented sea-fish; Mars the habiliments of war; and Phœbus all kinds of musical instruments. During the rest of her stay, varieties of sports and shows were daily exhibited. In the chase was a savage-man clad in ivy accompanied by satyrs; there were bear-baitings and fire-works, Italian tumblers, and a country brideale, running at the Quintain, and Morrice-dancing. And, that no sort of diversion might be omitted, hither came the Coventry-men and acted the old play already mentioned, called Hock Tuesday, a kind of tilting match, representing, in dumb show, the defeat of the Danes by the English, in the reign of King Ethelred. There were besides on the pool, a Triton riding on a Mermaid eighteen feet long, and Arion upon a Dolphin. To grace the entertainment, the Queen here knighted Sir Thomas Cecil, eldest son to the lord treasurer; Sir Henry Cobham, brother to the Lord Cobham; Sir Francis Stanhope, and Sir Thomas Tresham. An estimate may be formed of the expense from the quantity of ordinary beer, that was drank upon this occasion, which amounted to three hundred and twenty hogsheads.[39:A]

To the ardent and opening mind of our youthful Bard what exquisite delight must this grand festival have imparted, the splendour of which, as Bishop Hurd remarks, "claims a remembrance even in the annals of our country."[39:B] A considerable portion of the very mythology which he had just been studying at school, was here brought before his eyes, of which the costume and language were under the direction of the first poets of the age; and the dramatic cast of the [40]whole pageantry, whether classical or Gothic, was such, as probably to impress his glowing imagination with that bias for theatrical amusements, which afterwards proved the basis of his own glory, and of his country's poetic fame.

Here, could he revisit the glimpses of the day, how justly might he deplore, in his own inimitable language, the havoc of time, and the mutability of human grandeur; of this princely castle, once the seat of feudal hospitality, of revelry and song, and of which Laneham, in his quaint style and orthography, has observed,—"Who that considerz untoo the stately seat of Kenelworth Castl, the rare beauty of bilding that His Honor hath avaunced; all of the hard quarry-stone: every room so spacious, so well belighted, and so hy roofed within; so seemly too sight by du proportion without; a day tyme, on every side so glittering by glasse; a night, by continuall brightnesse of candel, fyre, and torch-light, transparent thro the lyghtsome wyndow, as it wear the Egiptian Pharos relucent untoo all the Alexandrian coast: or els (too talke merily with my mery freend) thus radiant, as thoogh Phœbus for hiz eaz woold rest him in the Castl, and not every night so to travel doown untoo the Antipodes; heertoo so fully furnisht of rich apparell and utensilez apted in all points to the best;"[40:A] of this vast pile the very ruins are now so reduced, that the grand gateway, and the banquetting hall, eighty-six feet in length, and forty-five in width, are the only important remains.[40:B]

[41]If Shakspeare were taken as early from school as we have supposed, and his slender attainments in latinity strongly warrant the supposition, it is more than probable, building on the traditional hint in Rowe, of[42] his aid being wanted at home[42:A], that he continued to assist his father in the wool-trade for some years; that is, in all likelihood, until his sixteenth or eighteenth year. Mr. Malone, however, not adverting [43]to this tradition, has, in a note to Rowe's Life, declared his belief, "that, on leaving school, Shakspeare was placed in the office of some country attorney, or the seneschal of some manor court[43:A]:" a position which we think improbable only in point of time; and, in justice to Mr. Malone, it must be added, that in other places he has given a much wider latitude to the period of this engagement.

The circumstances on which this conjecture has been founded, are these:—that, in the first place, throughout the dramas of Shakspeare, there is interspersed such a vast variety of legal phrases and allusions, expressed with such technical accuracy, as to force upon the mind a conviction, that the person who had used them must have been intimately acquainted with the profession of the law; and, secondly, that at the close of Aubrey's manuscript anecdotes of Shakspeare, which are said to have been collected, at an early period, from the information of the neighbours of the poet, it is positively asserted, that our bard "understood Latin pretty well, for he had been in his younger years a schoolmaster in the country."[43:B]

On the first of these data, it has been observed by Mr. Malone, in his "Attempt to ascertain the Order in which the Plays of Shakspeare were written," that the poet's "knowledge of legal terms is not merely such as might be acquired by the casual observation of even his all-comprehending mind; it has the appearance of technical skill; and he is so fond of displaying it on all occasions, that I suspect he was early initiated in at least the forms of law, and was employed, while he yet remained at Stratford, in the office of some country-attorney, who was at the same time a petty conveyancer, and perhaps also the seneschal of some manor-court."[43:C] In confirmation of this opinion, various instances are given of his legal phraseology, which we have copied in the note below[43:D]; and here we must remark that the expression, [44]while he yet remained at Stratford, leaves the period of his first application to the law, from the time at which he left school to the era[45] of his visiting London, unfixed; a portion of time which we may fairly estimate as including the lapse of ten years.

With regard to the affirmation of Aubrey, that Shakspeare had been in his younger years a schoolmaster in the country, the same ingenious critic very justly remarks, that "many traditional anecdotes, though not perfectly accurate, contain an adumbration of the truth;" and then adds, "I am strongly inclined to think that the assertion contains, though not the truth, yet something like it: I mean that Shakspeare had been employed for some time in his younger years as a teacher in the country; though Dr. Farmer has incontestably proved, that he could not have been a teacher of Latin. I have already suggested my opinion, that before his coming to London he had acquired some share of legal knowledge in the office of a petty country-conveyancer, or in that of the steward of some manorial court. If he began to apply to this study at the age of eighteen, two years afterwards[46] he might have been sufficiently conversant with conveyances to have taught others the form of such legal assurances as are usually prepared by country-attorneys; and perhaps spent two or three years in this employment before he removed from Stratford to London. Some uncertain rumour of this kind might have continued to the middle of the last century, and by the time it reached Mr. Aubrey, our poet's original occupation was changed from a scrivener to that of a schoolmaster."[46:A]

In this quotation it will be immediately perceived that the period of our author's application to the study of the law, is now supposed to have occurred at the age of eighteen, when he must have been long removed from school, and that he is also conceived to have been a teacher of what he had acquired in the profession.

These conjectures of Mr. Malone, which, in their latter and modified state, appear to me singularly happy, have met with a warm advocate in Mr. Whiter: "The anecdotes," he remarks, "which have been delivered down to us respecting our poet, appear to me neither improbable nor, when duly examined, inconsistent with each other: even those which seem least allied to probability, contain in my opinion the adumbrata, if not expressa signa veritatis. Mr. Malone has admirably sifted the accounts of Aubrey; and there is no truth, that is obtained by a train of reasoning not reducible to demonstration, of which I am more convinced than the conjecture of Mr. Malone, who supposes that Shakspeare, before he quitted Stratford, was employed in such matters of business as belonged to the office of a country-attorney, or the steward of a manor-court. I have stated his conjecture in general terms, that the fact, as it relates to our poet's legal allusions, might be separated from any accidental circumstances of historical truth. I am astonished, however, that Mr. Malone has confirmed his conjecture by so few examples. I can supply him with a very large accession."[46:B]

[47]Mr. Chalmers, however, refuses his aid in the structure of this conjectural fabric, and asserts that Shakspeare might have derived all his technical knowledge of the law from a very few books. "From Totell's Presidents, 1572; from Pulton's Statutes, 1578; and from the Lawier's Logike, 1588."[47:A]

That these books were read by Shakspeare, there can, we think, be little doubt; but this concession by no means militates against the idea of his having been employed for a short period in some profitable branch of the law. After weighing all the evidence which can now be adduced, either for or against the hypothesis, we shall probably make the nearest approximation to the truth in concluding, that the object of our research, having assisted his father for some years in the wool-trade, for which express purpose he had been early taken from school, might deem it necessary, on the prospect of approaching marriage, to acquire some additional means of supporting a domestic establishment, and, accordingly, annexed to his former occupation, or superseded it, by a knowledge of an useful branch of [48]the law, which, by being taught to others, might prove to himself a source of revenue. Thus combining the record of Rowe with the tradition of Aubrey, and with the evidence derived from our author's own works, an inference has been drawn which, though not amounting to certainty, approaches the confine of it with no small pretensions.

Of the events and circumstances which must have occurred to Shakspeare in the interval between his leaving the free-school of Stratford, and his marriage, scarcely any thing has transpired; the following anecdote, however, which is still preserved at Stratford and the neighbouring village of Bidford, may be ascribed with greater propriety to this than to any subsequent period of his life. We shall give it in the words of the author of the "Picturesque Views on the Avon," who professes to have received it on the spot, as one of the traditional treasures of the place. Speaking of Bidford, which is still equally notorious for the excellence of its ale, and the thirsty clay of its inhabitants, he adds, "there were antiently two societies of village-yeomanry in this place, who frequently met under the appellation of Bidford Topers. It was a custom with these heroes to challenge any of their neighbours, famed for the love of good ale, to a drunken combat: among others the people of Stratford were called out to a trial of strength, and in the number of their champions, as the traditional story runs, our Shakspeare, who forswore all thin potations, and addicted himself to ale as lustily as Falstaff to his sack, is said to have entered the lists. In confirmation of this tradition we find an epigram written by Sir Asten Cockayn, and published in his poems in 1658, p. 124: it runs thus—

TO MR. CLEMENT FISHER, OF WINCOT.

Shakspeare, your Wincot ale hath much renown'd,
That fox'd a beggar so (by chance was found
Sleeping) that there needed not many a word
To make him to believe he was a lord:[49]
But you affirm (and in it seems most eager)
'Twill make a lord as drunk as any beggar.
Bid Norton brew such ale as Shakspeare fancies
Did put Kit Sly into such lordly trances:
And let us meet there (for a fit of gladness)
And drink ourselves merry in sober sadness.

"When the Stratford lads went over to Bidford, they found the topers were gone to Evesham fair; but were told, if they wished to try their strength with the sippers, they were ready for the contest. This being acceded to, our bard and his companions were staggered at the first outset, when they thought it adviseable to sound a retreat, while the means of retreat were practicable; and then had scarce marched half a mile, before they were all forced to lay down more than their arms, and encamp in a very disorderly and unmilitary form, under no better covering than a large crab-tree; and there they rested till morning:

"This tree is yet standing by the side of the road. If, as it has been observed by the late Mr. T. Warton, the meanest hovel to which Shakspeare has an allusion interests curiosity, and acquires an importance, surely the tree that has spread its shade over him, and sheltered him from the dews of the night, has a claim to our attention.

"In the morning, when the company awakened our bard, the story says they intreated him to return to Bidford, and renew the charge; but this he declined, and looking round upon the adjoining villages, exclaimed, 'No! I have had enough; I have drank with

Piping Pebworth, Dancing Marston,
Haunted Hillbro', Hungry Grafton,
Dudging Exhall, Papist Wicksford,
Beggarly Broom, and Drunken Bidford.'

"Of the truth of this story I have very little doubt: it is certain that the crab-tree is known all round the country by the name of Shakspeare's crab; and that the villages to which the allusion is made, all bear the epithets here given them: the people of Pebworth are still famed for their skill on the pipe and tabor: Hillborough [50]is now called Haunted Hillborough; and Grafton is notorious for the poverty of its soil."[50:A]

To the immediate neighbourhood indeed of Stratford, and to the adjacent country, with which, at this early period of his life, our poet seems to have been familiarised by frequent excursions either of pleasure or business, are to be found some allusions in his dramatic works. In the Taming of the Shrew, Christopher Sly, being treated with great ceremony and state, on waking in the bed-chamber of the nobleman, exclaims—"What, would you make me mad? Am not I Christopher Sly, old Sly's son of Burton-Heath; by birth a pedlar, by education a card-maker, by transmutation a bear-herd, and now by present profession a tinker? Ask Marian Hacket, the fat ale-wife of Wincot, if she know me not: if she say I am not fourteen pence on the score for sheer ale, score me up for the lyingest knave in Christendom. What, I am not bestraught!"[50:B]

There are two villages in Warwickshire called Burton Dorset and Burton Hastings; but that which was the residence of old Sly, is, in all probability, Burton on the Heath, on the south side of the Avon, opposite to Bidford, and about eighteen miles from Stratford. The first scene of the play is described as Before an Alehouse on a Heath, and it is remarkable that on Burton-heath there still remains a tenement, which was formerly a public-house, under the name of Woncott or Onecott: yet there is much reason to conclude, from the mode in which Wincot is spoken of, both in this place, and in the following passage, that Burton-heath and Wincot were considerably distant: in the Second Part of King Henry IV. Davy says to Justice Shallow, "I beseech you, Sir, to countenance William Visor of Wincot against Clemont Perkes of the hill[50:C]," a phraseology which seems to imply, not an insulated house, but a village, an inference which is strongly supported by the fact that near Stratford there is actually a village with the closely resembling name of Wilnecotte, which, in the pronunciation and orthography of the common people, would almost [51]necessarily become Wincot. It should likewise be mentioned that Mr. Warton is of opinion that this is the place to which Shakspeare alludes, and he adds, "the house kept by our genial hostess still remains, but is at present a mill."[51:A]

We are indebted also to the Second Part of King Henry IV. for another local allusion of a similar kind: Silence, addressing Pistol, nicknames him "goodman Puff of Barson[51:B]," a village which, under this appellation, and that of Barston, is situated between Coventry and Solyhall. It may indeed excite some surprise that we have not more allusions of this nature to commemorate; that the scenery which occurred to him early in life, and especially at this period, when the imagery drawn from nature must have been impressed on his mind in a manner peculiarly vivid and defined, when he was free from care, unshackled by a family, and at liberty to roam where fancy led him, has not been delineated in some portion of his works, with such accuracy as immediately to designate its origin. For, if we consider the excursive powers of his imagination, and the desultory and unsettled habits which tradition has ascribed to him during his youthful residence at Stratford, we may assert, without fear of contradiction, and as an undoubted truth, that his rambles into the country, and for a poet's purpose, were both frequent and extensive, and that not a stream, a wood, or hamlet, within many miles of his native town, was unvisited by him at various times and under various circumstances.

Yet, if we can seldom point out in his works any distinct reference to the actual scenery of Stratford and its neighbourhood, we may observe, that few of the remarkable events of his own time appear to have escaped his notice; and among these may be found one which occurred at this juvenile period of his life, and to which we have an allusion in Romeo and Juliet; for though the personages of the [52]drama exist and act in a foreign clime, yet in this, and in many similar instances, he hesitates not to describe the events of his native country as occurring wherever he has chosen to lay the scene. Thus the nurse, describing to Lady Capulet the age at which Juliet was weaned, says

"'Tis since the earthquake now eleven years,"—

a line, which, as Mr. Tyrwhitt and Mr. Malone have observed[52:A], manifestly alludes to a phenomenon of this kind that had been felt throughout England in the year 1580, and of which Holinshed, the favourite historian of our bard, has given the following striking account:—"On the sixt of April (1580), being Wednesdaie in Easter weeke, about six of the clocke toward evening, a sudden earthquake happening in London, and almost generallie throughout all England, caused such an amazednesse among the people as was wonderfull for the time, and caused them to make their earnest praiers to Almighty God! The great clocke bell in the palace at Westminster strake of it selfe against the hammer with the shaking of the earth, as diverse other clocks and bels in the steeples of the cities of London and els-where did the like. The gentlemen of the Temple being then at supper, ran from the tables, and out of their hall with their knives in their hands. The people assembled at the plaie-houses in the fields, as at the Whoreater (the Theater I would saie) were so amazed, that doubting the ruine of the galleries, they made hast to be gone. A péece of the Temple church fell downe, some stones fell from Saint Paule's church in London: and at Christ's church neere to Newgate-market, in the sermon while, a stone fell from the top of the same church, which stone killed out of hand one Thomas Greie an apprentice, and another stone fell on his fellow-servant named Mabell Eueret, and so brused hir that she lived but four daies after. Diverse other at that time in that place were sore hurt, with running out of the church one over an other for feare. The tops of diverse chimnies in the citie fell [53]downe, the houses were so shaken: a part of the castell at Bishops Stratford in Essex fell downe. This earthquake indured in or about London not passing one minute of an houre, and was no more felt. But afterward in Kent, and on the sea coast it was felt three times; and at Sandwich at six of the clocke the land not onelie quaked, but the sea also fomed, so that the ships tottered. At Dover also the same houre was the like, so that a péece of the cliffe fell into the sea, with also a péece of the castell wall there: a piece of Saltwood castell in Kent fell downe: and in the church of Hide the bels were heard to sound. A peece of Sutton church in Kent fell downe, the earthquake being there not onlie felt, but also heard. And in all these places and others in east Kent, the same earthquake was felt three times to move, to wit, at six, at nine, and at eleven of the clocke."[53:A] In this passage, to which we shall again have occasion to revert, the violence and universality of the event described, are such as would almost necessarily form an era for reference in the poet's mind; and the date, indeed, of the prima stamina of the play in which the line above-mentioned is found, may be nearly ascertained by this allusion.

If, as some of his commentators have supposed, Shakspeare possessed any grammatical knowledge of the French and Italian languages, it is highly probable that the acquisition must have been obtained in the interval which took place between his quitting the grammar-school of Stratford and his marriage, a period, if our arrangement be admitted, of about six years; and consequently, any consideration of the subject will almost necessarily claim a place at the close of this chapter.

That the dramas of our great poet exhibit numerous instances in which both these languages are introduced, and especially the former, of which we have an entire scene in Henry V., will not be denied by any reader of his works; nor will any person, acquainted with the literature of his times, venture to affirm, that he might not have acquired by his own industry, and through the medium of the introductory [54]books then in circulation, a sufficient knowledge of French and Italian for all the purposes which he had in view. We cannot therefore agree with Dr. Farmer, when he asserts, that Shakspeare's acquaintance with these languages consisted only of a familiar phrase or two picked up in the writers of the time, or the course of his conversation.[54:A]

The corrupted state of the French and Italian passages, as found in the early editions of our poet's plays, can be no argument that he was totally ignorant of these languages; as it would apply with nearly equal force to prove that he was similarly situated with regard to his vernacular tongue, which in almost every scene of these very editions has undergone various and gross corruptions. Nor will greater conviction result, when it is affirmed that this foreign phraseology might be the interpolation of the players; for it remains to be ascertained, that they possessed a larger portion of exotic literature than Shakspeare himself.

The author of an essay on Shakspeare's learning in the Censura Literaria, from which we have already quoted a passage in favour of his having made some progress in latinity, is likewise of opinion that his knowledge of the French was greater than Dr. Farmer is willing to allow.

"I have been confirmed in this opinion," he observes, "by a casual discovery of Shakspeare having imitated a whole French line and description in a long French epic poem, written by Garnier, called the Henriade, like Voltaire's, and on the same subject, first published in 1594.

"In As You Like It, Shakspeare gives an affecting description of the different manners of men in the different ages of life, which closes with these lines:

[55]
"What ends this strange eventful history
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing."

"Now—why have recourse for an insipid preposition to a language of which he is said to have been totally ignorant? I always supposed therefore that there must have been some peculiar circumstance well known in those times, which must have induced him to give this motley garb to his language:—but what that circumstance was I could not discover until I accidentally in a foreign literary journal, met with a review of a republication of that poem of Garnier at Paris, in which were inserted, as a specimen of the poem, a description of the appearance of the ghost of Admiral Coligny on the night after his murder at the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and in the following lines:

"Sans pieds, sans mains, sans nez, sans oreilles, sans yeux,
Meurtri de toutes parts; la barbe et les cheveux
Poudreux, ensanglantez, chose presque incredible!
Tant cette vision etoit triste et horrible!"

"Here it immediately appeared to what author Shakspeare had gone for the archetype of his own description of the last stage of old age, which, by a parody on the above lines, he meant to represent like to that mutilated ghost; and this seems to indicate that he had read that poem in the original; for we even find the meurtri de toutes parts imitated by sans every thing. A friend of mine formerly mentioned this to Mr. Steevens, and he has briefly noticed this parody, if I recollect rightly, in his joint edition along with Johnson[55:A], but he did not copy the original lines of Garnier; nor so far as I know any editor since; which however are too remarkable to be altogether consigned to oblivion; and it is not very likely, that any Englishman will ever read through that long dull poem; neither should I myself have known of [56]those lines, if they had not been quoted as a specimen. Steevens's note is so very brief as to be quite obscure in regard to what consequence he thought deducible from the imitation: he seems to suggest as if there might have been some English translation of the poem published, though now unknown; this is the constant refuge for Shakspeare's knowledge of any thing written originally in another language. But even if the fact were true, yet no translator would have preserved the repetition of that word sans; for this he must have gone to the French poem itself, therefore must at least have been able to read that line in French, if not also the whole description of the ghost; and if that, why not able also to read other French books? It may indeed, be supposed, that some friend may have shown him the above description, and explained to him the meaning of the French lines, but this is only to make a second supposition in order to support a former one made without sufficient foundation: we may just as well make a single supposition at once, that he was himself able to read and understand it, since he has evidently derived from it his own description of the decrepitude of old age. Upon the whole, if his copy of a single word from Holinshed, viz. 'on this side Tiber,' is a proof of his having read that historian, why also is not his copy of the repetition of sans, and his parody of Coligny's ghost, an equally good proof of his having read the poem of Garnier in the original French language? To reason otherwise is to say, that when he gives us bad French, this proves him not to understand it; and that when he gives us good French, applied with propriety and even with ingenuity, yet this again equally proves that he neither understood what he wrote, nor was so much as able to read the French lines, which he has thus so wittily imitated."[56:A]

Dr. Farmer has himself granted that Shakspeare began to learn Latin: why then not allow, from premises still more copious and convincing, that he began likewise to learn French and Italian? [57]That he wanted not inclination for the attempt, the frequent use of these languages in his works will sufficiently evince; that he had some leisure at the period which we have appropriated to these acquisitions, namely, between the years 1576 and 1582, few will be disposed to deny; and that he had books which might enable him to make some progress in these studies, the following list will ascertain:—

1. A Treatyse English and French right necessarye and profitable for all young Children. 1560.

2. Principal Rules of the Italian Grammar, &c. Newly corrected and imprinted by Wykes: 1560, reprinted 1567.

3. The Italian Grammar and Dictionary: By W. Thomas. 1561.

4. Lentulo's Italian Grammar, put into English: By Henry Grenthem. 1578.

5. Ploiche, Peter, Introduction to the French Tongue. 1578.

6. An Alvearie, or Quadruple Dictionarie, containing foure sundrie tongues: namelie, English, Latine, Greeke, and French: By I. Baret. 1580.[57:A]

In short, with regard to the literature of Shakspeare, the nearest approximation to the truth will be found to arise from taking a medium course between the conclusions of Dr. Farmer, and of those who have gone into a contrary extreme. That he had made some and that the usual progress in the Latin language during the short period of his school-education, it is, we think, in vain to deny; but that he ever attained the power of reading a Roman classic with facility, cannot with any probability be affirmed: it will be likewise, we are disposed to believe, equally rational and correct, if we conclude, from the evidence which his genius and his works afford, that his acquaintance with the French and Italian languages was not merely confined to the picking up a familiar phrase or two from the conversation or writings of others, but that he had actually commenced, and at an early period too, the study of these languages, though, from his [58]situation, and the circumstances of his life, he had neither the means nor the opportunity of cultivating them to any considerable extent.[58:A]


FOOTNOTES:

[34:A] "Mr. Betterton," observes Mr. Malone, "was born in 1635, and had many opportunities of collecting information relative to Shakspeare, but unfortunately the age in which he lived was not an age of curiosity. Had either he or Dryden or Sir William d'Avenant taken the trouble to visit our poet's youngest daughter, who lived till 1662, or his grand-daughter, who did not die till 1670, many particulars might have been preserved which are now irrecoverably lost. Shakspeare's sister, Joan Hart, who was only five years younger than him, died at Stratford in Nov. 1646, at the age of seventy-six; and from her undoubtedly his two daughters, and his grand-daughter Lady Bernard, had learned several circumstances of his early history antecedent to the year 1600." Reed's Shakspeare, p. 119, 120.

[34:B] It has already been observed, in a note written some years after the composition of the text, that this supposed corroboration is no longer to be depended upon.

[35:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 322, 323.

[36:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 346, 347.

[36:B] Aubrey MS.—Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 213.

[37:A] Mr. Malone is also of opinion that Shakspeare was present at this magnificent reception of Elizabeth. Vide "Inquiry," p. 150. note 82.

[37:B] So denominated from a tract, written by George Gascoigne Esq., entitled "The Princely Pleasures of Kenelworth Castle." It is inserted in Nichols's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, vol. i.

[38:A] Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, vol. i. p. 143. 4th edition.

[38:B] Nichols's Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, vol. i. Laneham's Account of the Queen's Entertainment at Killingworth Castle, 1575, p. 50. or 78. of the original pamphlet.

[39:A] Life of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, 1727. 8vo. p. 92.

[39:B] Hurd's Moral and Political Dialogues, vol. i. p. 148. Edit. of 1788.

[40:A] Laneham's Account, p. 65. of the Original.

[40:B] The following extract from Laneham's Letter, which immediately follows the passage given in the text, and in which I have dropped the author's singular orthography, will afford the reader a curious and very entertaining description of the costly and magnificent gardens of Kenelworth Castle, gardens in which it is probable the youthful Shakpeare had more than once wandered with delight:—

"Unto this, His Honour's exquisite appointment of a beautiful garden, an acre or more of quantity, that lieth on the north there: wherein hard all along the castle-wall is reared a pleasant terrace of a ten foot high, and a twelve broad: even under foot, and fresh of fine grass; as is also the side thereof toward the garden, in which, by sundry equal distances, with obelisks, spheres, and white bears, all of stone, upon their curious bases, by goodly shew were set: to these two fine arbours redolent by sweet trees and flowers, at each end one, the garden plot under that, with fair allies green by grass, even voided from the borders a both sides, and some (for change) with sand, not light or too soft or soily by dust, but smooth and firm, pleasant to walk on, as a sea-shore when the water is availd: then, much gracified by due proportion of four even quarters: in the midst of each, upon a base a two foot square, and high, seemly bordered of itself, a square pilaster rising pyramidally of a fifteen foot high: simmetrically pierced through from a foot beneath, until a two foot of the top: whereupon for a capital, an orb of a ten inches thick: every of these (with his base) from the ground to the top, of one whole piece; hewn out of hard porphery, and with great art and heed (thinks me) thither conveyed and there erected. Where, further also, by great cast and cost, the sweetness of savour on all sides, made so repirant from the redolent plants and fragrant herbs and flowers, in form, colour, and quantity so deliriously variant; and fruit-trees bedecked with apples, pears, and ripe cherries.

"And unto these, in the midst against the terrace, a square cage, sumptuous and beautiful, joined hard to the north wall (that a that side gards the garden as the garden the castle), of a rare form and excellency, was raised: in height a twenty foot, thirty long, and a fourteen broad. From the ground strong and close, reared breast high, whereat a soil of a fair moulding was couched all about: from that upward, four great windows a front, and two at each end, every one a five foot wide, as many more even above them, divided on all parts by a transome and architrave, so likewise ranging about the cage. Each window arched in the top, and parted from other in even distance by flat fair bolted columns, all in form and beauty like, that supported a comely cornish couched all along upon the bole square; which with a wire net, finely knit, of mashes six square, an inch wide (as it were for a flat roof) and likewise the space of every window with great cunning and comeliness, even and tight was all over-strained. Under the cornish again, every part beautified with great diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires; pointed, tabled, rok and round; garnished with their gold, by skilful head and hand, and by toil and pencil so lively expressed, as it mought be great marvel and pleasure to consider how near excellency of art could approach unto perfection of nature.

"Holes were there also and caverns in orderly distance and fashion, voided into the wall, as well for heat, for coolness, for roost a nights and refuge in weather, as also for breeding when time is. More, fair even and fresh holly-trees for pearching and proining, set within, toward each end one.

"Hereto, their diversity of meats, their fine several vessels for their water and sundry grains; and a man skilful and diligent to look to them and tend them.

"But (shall I tell you) the silver sounded lute, without the sweet touch of hand; the glorious golden cup, without the fresh fragrant wine; or the rich ring with gem, without the fair featured finger; is nothing indeed in his proper grace and use: even so His Honour accounted of this mansion, till he had placed their tenants according. Had it therefore replenished with lively birds, English, French, Spanish, Canarian, and (I am deceived if I saw not some) African. Whereby, whether it became more delightsome in change of tunes, and harmony to the ear; or else in difference of colours, kinds, and properties to the eye, I'll tell you if I can, when I have better bethought me.

"In the centre (as it were) of this goodly garden, was there placed a very fair fountain, cast into an eight-square, reared a four foot high; from the midst whereof a column up set in shape of two Athlants joined together a back half; the one looking east, tother west, with their hands upholding a fair formed bowl of a three foot over; from whence sundry fine pipes did lively distill continual streams into the receipt of the fountain, maintained still two foot deep by the same fresh falling water: wherein pleasantly playing to and fro, and round about, carp, tench, bream, and for variety, perch, and eel, fish fair-liking all, and large: In the top, the ragged staff; which with the bowl, the pillar, and eight sides beneath, were all hewn out of rich and hard white marble. A one side Neptune with his tridental fuskin triumphing in his throne, trailed into the deep by his marine horses. On another, Thetis in her chariot drawn by her dolphins. Then Triton by his fishes. Here Proteus herding his sea-bulls. There Doris and her daughters solacing a sea and sands. The waves scourging with froth and foam, intermingled in place, with whales, whirlpools, sturgeons, tunnies, conchs, and wealks, all engraven by exquisite device and skill, so as I may think this not much inferior unto Phœbus gates, which (Ovid says) and peradventure a pattern to this, that Vulcan himself did cut: whereof such was the excellency of art, that the work in value surmounted the stuff, and yet were the gates all of clean massy silver.

"Here were things, ye see, mought inflame any mind to long after looking: but whoso was found so hot in desire, with the wreast of a cok was sure of a cooler: water spurting upward with such vehemency, as they should by and by be moistened from top to toe; the he's to some laughing, but the she's to more sport. This some time was occupied to very good pastime.

"A garden then so appointed, as wherein aloft upon sweet shawdowed walk of terrace, in heat of summer, to feel the pleasant whisking wind above, or delectable coolness of the fountain spring beneath: to taste of delicious strawberries, cherries and other fruits, even from their stalks: to smell such fragrancy of sweet odours, breathing from the plants, herbs, and flowers: to hear such natural melodious musick and tunes of birds: to have in eye, for mirth, some time these under springing streams; then, the woods, the waters (for both pool and chase were hard at hand in sight,) the deer, the people (that out of the east arbour in the base court also at hand in view,) the fruits trees, the plants, the herbs, the flowers, the change in colours, the birds flittering, the fountain streaming, the fish swimming, all in such delectable variety, order, dignity; whereby, at one moment, in one place, at hand, without travel, to have so full fruition of so many God's blessings, by entire delight unto all senses (if all can take) at once: for etymon of the word worthy to be called Paradise: and though not so goodly as Paradise for want of the fair rivers, yet better a great deal by the lack of so unhappy a tree." Pages 66-72.

[42:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 59.

[43:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 60. note 7.

[43:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 214.

[43:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 276.

[43:D]

"'——— For what in me was purchased,
Falls upon thee in a much fairer sort.'

K. Hen. IV. P. II.

"Purchase is here used in its strict legal sense, in contradistinction to an acquisition by descent.

'Unless the devil have him in fee-simple, with fine and recovery.'

Merry Wives of Windsor.

'He is 'rested on the case.'

Comedy of Errors.

'——— with bills on their necks, Be it known unto all men by these presents,' &c.

As you like it.

'——— who writes himself armigero, in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation.'

Merry Wives of Windsor.

'Go with me to a notary, seal me there
Your single bond.'

Merchant of Venice.

'Say, for non-payment that the debt should double.'

Venus and Adonis.

"On a conditional bond's becoming forfeited for non-payment of money borrowed, the whole penalty, which is usually the double of the principal sum lent by the obligee, was formerly recoverable at law. To this our poet here alludes.

'But the defendant doth that plea deny;
To 'cide his title, is impanell'd
A quest of thoughts.'

Sonnet 46.

"In Much Ado about Nothing, Dogberry charges the watch to keep their fellow's counsel and their own. This Shakspeare transferred from the oath of a grand juryman.

'And let my officers of such a nature
Make an extent upon his house and lands.'

As you like it.

'He was taken with the manner.'

Love's Labour's lost.

'Enfeof'd himself to popularity.'

K. Hen. IV. P. I.

'He will seal the fee-simple of his salvation, and cut the entail from all remainders, and a perpetual succession for it perpetually.'

All's Well that ends Well.

'Why, let her accept before excepted.'

Twelfth Night.

'——— which is four terms or two actions;—and he shall laugh without intervallums.'

K. Hen. IV. P. II.

'——— keeps leets and law-days.'

K. Richard II.

'Pray in aid for kindness.'

Anthony and Cleopatra.

"No writer but one who had been conversant with the technical language of leases and other conveyances, would have used determination as synonymous to end. Shakspeare frequently uses the word in that sense. See vol. xii. (Reed's Shakspeare,) p. 202. n. 2.; vol. xiii. p. 127. n. 4.; and (Mr. Malone's edit.) vol. x. p. 202. n. 8. 'From and after the determination of such a term,' is the regular language of conveyancers.

'Humbly complaining to Your Highness.'

K. Richard III.

'Humbly complaining to Your Lordship, your orator,' &c. are the first words of every bill in chancery.

'A kiss in fee farm! In witness whereof these parties interchangeably have set their hands and seals.'

Troilus and Cressida.

'Art thou a feodary for this act?'

Cymbeline.

"See the note on that passage, vol. xviii. p. 507, 508. n. 3. Reed's edit.

'Are those precepts served?' says Shallow to Davy, in K. Henry IV.

"Precept in this sense is a word only known in the office of a justice of peace.

'Tell me what state, what dignity, what honour,
Can'st thou demise to any child of mine?'

K. Richard III.

'——— hath demised, granted, and to farm let,' is the constant language of leases. What poet but Shakspeare has used the word demised in this sense?

"Perhaps it may be said, that our author in the same manner may be proved to have been equally conversant with the terms of divinity or physic. Whenever as large a number of instances of his ecclesiastical or medicinal knowledge shall be produced, what has now been stated will certainly not be entitled to any weight." Malone, Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 276. n. 9.

[46:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 222, 223.

[46:B] Whiter's Specimen of a Commentary, p. 95. note. As Mr. Whiter has not chosen to append these additional examples, I have thought it would be satisfactory to give the few which more immediately occur to my memory.

"Immediately provided in that case."

Midsummer Night's Dream.

"Royally attornied."

Winter's Tale.

"That doth utter all men's ware-a."

Winter's Tale.

"Thy title is affeer'd." (This is a law-term for confirmed.)
"Keep leets, and law-days, and in sessions sit."

Othello.

"Why should calamity be full of words?
Windy attorneys to their client woes."

Richard III.

"But when the heart's attorney once is mute,
The client breaks, as desperate in his suit."

Venus and Adonis.

"So now I have confessed that he is thine,
And I myself am mortgaged to thy Will."

Sonnet 134.

"He learn'd but, surety-like, to write for me,
Under that bond that him as fast doth bind.
The statute of thy beauty, &c."

Sonnet 134.

[47:A] Chalmers's Apology, p. 554. The "Lawiers Logike" was written by Abraham Fraunce.

[50:A] Ireland's Picturesque Views, p. 229-233.

[50:B] Act i. sc. 2.

[50:C] Act v. sc. 1.

[51:A] Mr. Edwards and Mr. Steevens have conjectured that Barton and Woodmancot, vulgarly pronounced Woncot, in Gloucestershire, might be the places meant by Shakspeare; and Mr. Tollet remarks, that Woncot, may be put for Wolphmancote, vulgarly Ovencote, in Warwickshire. Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 30., and vol. xii. p. 240.

[51:B] Act v. sc. 3.

[52:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xx. p. 38. n. 2.

[53:A] Holinshed's Chronicles, vol. iv. p. 126. edit. of 1808.

[54:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 85. Mr. Capel Lofft's opinion of the Italian literature of Shakspeare is somewhat more extended than my own. "My impression," says he, "is, that Shakspeare was not unacquainted with the most popular authors in Italian prose: and that his ear had listened to the enchanting tones of Petrarca and some others of their great poets." Preface to his Laura, p. cxcii.

[55:A] This notice does not appear in the Variorum edition of 1803.

[56:A] Censura Literaria, vol. ix. p. 287. et seq.

[57:A] Vide Chalmers's Apology, p. 549. and Bibliotheca Reediana, p. 9.

[58:A] Since these observations were written, a work has fallen into my hands under the title of "A Tour in Quest of Genealogy, through several parts of Wales, Somersetshire, and Wiltshire, in a Series of Letters to a Friend in Dublin; interspersed with a description of Stourhead and Stonehenge; together with various Anecdotes and curious Fragments from a Manuscript Collection ascribed to Shakespeare. By a Barrister." London, 1811.

These manuscripts ascribed to Shakspeare, which, from the language and sentiment of almost every line, are manifestly a mere fiction, are said to have been purchased at an auction at Carmarthen, consisting of verses and letters that passed between Shakspeare and his mistress Anne Hatheway, together with letters to and from him and others, a journal of Shakspeare, an account of many of his plays, memoirs of his life by himself, &c. I have mentioned the publication in this place, as it is worthy of remark, that the fabricator of these MSS., whoever he is, appears to have entertained an idea similar to my own, with regard to the period when our poet attempted the acquisition of the modern languages; for of the supposed memoirs said to be written by Shakspeare himself, the following, among others, is given as a specimen:—

"Having an ernest desier to lerne forraine tonges, it was mie good happ to have in mie fathere's howse an Italian, one Girolama Albergi, tho he went bye the name of Francesco Manzini, a dier of woole; but he was not what he wished to passe for; he had the breedinge of a gentilman, and was a righte sounde scholer. It was he taught me the littel Italian I know, and rubbed up my Latten; we redd Bandello's Novells together, from the which I gatherid some delliceous flowres to stick in mie dramattick poseys. He was nevew to Battisto Tibaldi, who made a translacion of the Greek poete, Homar, into Italian; he showed me a coppy of it given him by hys kinsman, Ercole Tibaldi." P. 202.

I must do the author of this literary forgery, however, the justice to say, that in taste and genius he is immeasurably beyond his youthful predecessor, and that some of the verses ascribed to Anna Hatheway, as he terms her, possess no inconsiderable beauties. It is most extraordinary, however, that any individual should venture to bring forward the following lines, which are exquisitely modern in their structure, as the production of a cottage girl of the sixteenth century.

TO THE BELOVYD OF THE MUSES AND MEE.

Sweete swanne of Avon, thou whoose art
Can mould at will the human hart,
Can drawe from all who reade or heare,
The unresisted smile and teare:
By thee a vyllege maiden found,
No care had I for measured sounde;
To dresse the fleese that Willie wrought
Was all I knewe, was all I sought.
At thie softe lure too quicke I flewe,
Enamored of thie songe I grew;
The distaffe soone was layd aside,
And all mie woork thie straynes supply'd.
Thou gavest at first th' inchanting quill,
And everie kiss convay'd thie skill;
Unfelt, ye maides, ye cannot tell
The wondrous force of suche a spell.
Nor marvell if thie breath transfuse
A charme repleate with everie muse;
They cluster rounde thie lippes, and thyne
Distill theire sweetes improv'd on myne.

Anna Hatheway.


[59]

CHAPTER IV.

SHAKSPEARE MARRIED TO ANNE HATHAWAY—ACCOUNT OF THE HATHAWAYS—COTTAGE AT SHOTTERY—BIRTH OF HIS ELDEST CHILD, SUSANNA—HAMNET AND JUDITH BAPTIZED—ANECDOTE OF SHAKSPEARE—APPARENTLY SETTLED IN THE COUNTRY.

Shakspeare married and became the father of a family at a very early period; at a period, indeed, when most young men, even in his own days, had only completed their school-education. He had probably been attached also to the object of his affections, who resided very near to him, for a year or two previous to the nuptial connection, which took place in 1582; and Mr. Malone is inclined to believe that the ceremony was performed either at Hampton-Lacy, or at Billesley, in the August of that year[59:A], when consequently the poet had not attained the age of eighteen and a half!

The maiden name of the lady who had induced her lover to enter thus early on the world, with little more than his passion to console, and his genius to support them, was Anne Hathaway, the daughter of [60]Richard Hathaway, a substantial yeoman, residing at Shottery, a village about a mile distant from Stratford. It appears also from the tomb-stone of his mistress[60:A] in the church of Stratford, that she must have been born in 1556, and was therefore eight years older than himself.

Of the family of the Hathaways little now, except the record of a few deaths and baptisms, can be ascertained with precision: in the register-books of the parish of Stratford, the following entry, in all probability, refers to the father of the poet's wife:—

"Johanna, daughter of Richard Hathaway, otherwise Gardiner, of Shottery, was baptized May 9, 1566."[60:B]

As the register does not commence before 1558, the baptism of Anne could not of course be included; but it appears that the family of this Richard was pretty numerous, for Thomas his son was baptized at Stratford, April 12. 1569; John, another son, Feb. 3. 1574; and William, another son, Nov. 30. 1578.[60:C] Thomas died at Stratford in 1654-5, at the advanced age of eighty-five.[60:D] That the Hathaways have continued resident at Shottery and the neighbourhood, down to the present age, will be evident from the note below, which records their deaths to the year 1785, as inscribed on the floor, in the nave and aisle of Stratford church.[60:E]

[61]The cottage at Shottery, in which Anne and her parents dwelt, is said to be yet standing, and is still pointed out to strangers as a subject of curiosity. It is now impossible to substantiate the truth of the tradition; but Mr. Ireland, who has given a sketch of this cottage in his Picturesque Views on the Avon, observes, "it is still occupied by the descendants of her family, who are poor and numerous. To this same humble cottage I was referred when pursuing the same inquiry, by the late Mr. Harte, of Stratford, before-mentioned. He told me there was an old oak chair, that had always in his remembrance been called Shakspeare's courting chair, with a purse that had been likewise his, and handed down from him to his grand-daughter Lady Bernard, and from her through the Hathaway family to those of the present day. From the best information I was able to collect at the time, I was induced to consider this account as authentic, and from a wish to obtain the smallest trifle appertaining to our Shakspeare, I became a purchaser of these relics. Of the chair I have here given a sketch: it is of a date sufficiently ancient to justify the credibility of its history; and as to farther proof, it must rest on the traditional opinion and the character of this poor family. The purse is about four inches square, and is curiously wrought with small black and white bugles and beads; the tassels are of the same materials. The bed and other furniture in the room where the chair stood, have the appearance of so high antiquity, as to leave no doubt but that they might all have been the furniture of this house long before the time of Shakspeare.

"The proprietor of this furniture, an old woman upwards of seventy, had slept in the bed from her childhood, and was always told it had been there since the house was built. Her absolute refusal to part with this bed at any price was one of the circumstances which led to a persuasion that I had not listened with too easy credulity to the tale she told me respecting the articles I had purchased. By the same person I was informed, that at the time of the Jubilee, the late George Garrick obtained from her a small inkstand, and a pair of fringed gloves, said to have been worn by Shakspeare."[61:A]

[62]Of the personal charms of the poet's mistress nothing has been transmitted to us by which we can form the smallest estimate, nor can we positively ascertain whether convenience, or the attraction of a beautiful form, was the chief promoter of this early connection. Mr. Rowe merely observes, that, "in order to settle in the world after a family-manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very[62:A] young;" language which seems to imply that prudence was the prime motive with the youthful bard. Theobald proceeds still further, and declares "it is probable, a view of interest might partly sway his conduct in this point: for he married the daughter of a substantial yeoman in his neighbourhood, and she had the start of him in age no less than eight years."[62:B] Capell, on the contrary, thinks that the marriage was contracted against the wishes of his father, whose displeasure was the consequence of their union.[62:C]

A moment's consideration of the character of Shakspeare will induce us to conclude that interest could not be his leading object in forming the matrimonial tie. In no stage of his subsequent life does a motive of this kind appear strongly to have influenced him; and it is well known, from facts which we shall have occasion shortly to record, that his juvenility at Stratford was marked, rather by carelessness and dissipation, than by the cool calculations of pecuniary wisdom. In short, to adopt, with slight variation, a line of his own, we may confidently assert that at this period,

"Love and Liberty crept in the mind and marrow of his youth."

Timon of Athens.

Neither can we agree with Mr. Capell in supposing that the father of our bard was averse to the connection; a supposition which he has built on the idea of old Mr. Shakspeare being "a man of no little substance," and that by this marriage of his son he was disappointed in a design which he had formed of sending him to an [62:D]University! Now it has been proved that John Shakspeare was, at this period, if not in distressed yet in embarrassed circumstances, and that neither [63]the school-education of his son, nor his subsequent employment at home, could be such as was calculated in any degree to prepare him for an academical life.

We conclude, therefore, and certainly, with every probability on our side, that the young poet's attachment to Anne Hathaway was, not only perfectly disinterested, but had met likewise with the approbation of his parents. This will appear with more verisimilitude if we consider, in the first place, that though his bride were eight years older than himself, still she could be but in her twenty-sixth year, an age compatible with youth, and with the most alluring beauty; secondly, it does not appear that the finances of young Shakspeare were in the least improved by the connection; and thirdly, we know that he remained some years at Stratford after his marriage, which it is not likely that he would have done, had he been at variance with his father.

It is to be regretted, and it is indeed somewhat extraordinary, that not a fragment of the bard's poetry, addressed to his Warwickshire beauty, has been rescued from oblivion; for that the muse of Shakspeare did not lie dormant on an occasion so propitious to her inspiration we must believe, both from the costume of the times, and from his own amatory disposition. He has himself told us that

"Never durst poet touch a pen to write,
Until his ink were temper'd with love's sighs."—

Love's Labour's Lost, act iv. sc. 3.

and we have seen that an opportunity for qualification was very early placed within his power. That he availed himself of it, there can be no doubt; and had his effusions, on this occasion, descended to posterity, we should, in all probability, have been made acquainted with several interesting particulars relative to his early life and character, and to the person and disposition of his mistress.[63:A]

[64]Our ignorance on this subject, however, would have been compensated, had any authentic documents been preserved relative to his establishment at Stratford, in consequence of his marriage; but of his domestic arrangements, of his business or professional employment, no information, or tradition to be depended upon, has reached us. We can only infer, from the evidence produced in the preceding chapter, and from the necessity, which must now have occurred, of providing for a family-establishment, that if, as we have reason to conclude, he had entered on the exercise of a branch of the manorial law, previous to his marriage, and with a view towards that event, he would, of course, be compelled, from prudential motives, to continue that occupation, after he had become a householder, and most probably to combine with it the business of a woolstapler, either on his own separate interest, or in concert with his father.

If any further incitement were wanting to his industry, it was soon imparted; for, to the claims upon him as a husband, were added, during the following year, those which attach to the name of a parent; his eldest child, Susanna, being born in May 1583, and baptized on the 26th of the same month. Thus, scarcely had our poet completed his nineteenth year, when the most serious duties of life were imperiously forced upon his attention, under circumstances perhaps of narrow fortune not altogether calculated to render their performance easy and pleasant; a situation which, on a superficial view, would not appear adapted to afford that leisure, that free and unincumbered state of intellect, so necessary to mental exertion; but with Shakspeare the pressure of these and of pecuniary difficulties served only to awaken that energy and elasticity of mind, which, ultimately directing his talents into their proper channel, called forth the brightest and most successful emanations of a genius nearly universal.

[65]The family of the youthful bard gathered round him with rapidity; for, in 1584-5, it was increased by the birth of twins, a son and daughter, named Hamnet and Judith, who were baptized on February the 2d, of the same year.

The boy was christened by the name of Hamnet in compliment to his god-father Mr. Hamnet Sadler, and the girl was called Judith, from a similar deference to his wife, Mrs. Judith Sadler, who acted as her sponsor. Mr. Hamnet or Hamlet Sadler, for they were considered as synonymous names, and therefore used indiscriminately[65:A], appears to have been some relation of the Shakspeare family; he is one of the witnesses to Shakspeare's will, and is remembered in it in the following manner:—"Item, I give and bequeath to Hamlet Sadler twenty-six shillings eight-pence, to buy him a ring." Mr. Sadler died at Stratford in October 1624, and is supposed to have been born about the year 1550. His wife was buried there March 23. 1613-14, and Mr. Malone conjectures that our poet was probably god-father to their son William, who was baptized at Stratford, February 5. 1597-8.[65:B] In the Stratford Register are to be found entries of the baptism of six of Mr. Sadler's children, four sons and two daughters, William being the last but one.

An anecdote of Shakspeare, unappropriated to any particular period of his life, and which may with as much, if not more, probability, be ascribed to this stage of his biography, as to any subsequent era, has been preserved as a tradition at Stratford. A drunken blacksmith, with a carbuncled face, reeling up to Shakspeare, as he was leaning over a mercer's door, exclaimed, with much vociferation,

"Now, Mr. Shakspeare, tell me, if you can,
The difference between a youth and a young man:"

[66]a question which immediately drew from our poet the following reply:

"Thou son of fire, with thy face like a maple,
The same difference as between a scalded and a coddled apple."

A part of the wit of this anecdote, which, says Mr. Malone, "was related near fifty years ago to a gentleman at Stratford, by a person then above eighty years of age, whose father might have been contemporary with Shakspeare," turns upon the comparison between the blacksmith's face and a species of maple, the bark of which, according to Evelyn, is uncommonly rough, and the grain undulated and crisped into a variety of curls.

It would appear, indeed, from a book published in 1611, under the title of Tarleton's Jeasts, that this fancied resemblance was a frequent source of sarcastic wit; for it is there recorded of this once celebrated comedian, that, "as he was performing some part 'at the Bull in Bishopsgate-street, where the Queen's players oftentimes played,' while he was 'kneeling down to aske his father's blessing,' a fellow in the gallery threw an apple at him, which hit him on the cheek. He immediately took up the apple, and, advancing to the audience, addressed them in these lines:

'Gentlemen, this fellow, with his face of mapple,
Instead of a pippin hath throwne me an apple;
But as for an apple he hath cast a crab,
So instead of an honest woman God hath sent him a drab.'

'The people,' says the relator, 'laughed heartily; for the fellow had a quean to his wife.'"[66:A]

Shakspeare was now, to all appearance, settled in the country; he was carrying on his own and his father's business; he was married and had a family around him; a situation in which the comforts of domestic privacy might be predicted within his reach, but which augured little of that splendid destiny, that universal fame and unparalleled celebrity, which awaited his future career.

[67]In adherence, therefore, to the plan, which we have announced, of connecting the circumstances of the times with our author's life, we have chosen this period of it, as admirably adapted for the introduction of a survey of country life and manners, its customs, diversions and superstitions, as they existed in the age of Shakspeare. These, therefore, will be the subject of the immediately following chapters, in which it shall be our particular aim, among the numerous authorities to which we shall be obliged to have recourse, to draw from the poet himself those passages which throw light upon the topics as they rise to view; an arrangement which, when it shall have been carried, in all its various branches, through the work, will clearly show, that from Shakspeare, more than from any other poet, is to be collected the history of the times in which he lived, so far as that history relates to popular usage and amusement.


FOOTNOTES:

[59:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 139. note 4.

[60:A] "Heere Lyeth Interrid The Bodye of Anne, Wife of Mr. William Shakespeare, Who Depted. This Life The 6th Day of Avgvst, 1623, Being of The Age of 67 Yeares."—Wheler's Stratford, p. 76.

[60:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 133.

[60:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 134. Note by Malone.

[60:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 128.

[60:E] "Richard Hathaway, of Shottery, died 15th April, 1692. Robert Hathaway died 4th March, 1728, aged 64. Edmund Hathaway died 14th June, 1729, aged 57. Jane his wife died 12th Dec. 1729, aged 64. John Hathaway died 11th Oct. 1731, aged 39. Abigail, wife of John Hathaway, jun. of Luddington, died 5th of May, 1735, aged 29. Mary her daughter died 13th July, 1735, aged 10 weeks. Robert Hathaway, son of Robert and Sarah Hathaway, died the 1st of March, 1723, aged 21. Ursula, wife of John Hathaway, died the 23d of Janry. 1731, aged 50. John Hathaway, sen. died the 5th of Sept. 1753, aged 73. John Hathaway, of Haddington, died the 23d of June, 1775, aged 67. S. H. 1756. S. H. 1785."—Wheler's History and Antiquities of Stratford-upon-Avon, p. 55.

[61:A] Ireland's Views, p. 206-209.

[62:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 60.

[62:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 193.

[62:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 355. note 1.

[62:D] Ibid.

[63:A] Building on the high credibility of Shakspeare having employed his poetical talents, at this period, on the subject nearest to his heart, two ingenious gentlemen have been so obliging as not only to furnish him with words on this occasion, but to offer these to the world as the genuine product of his genius. It is scarcely necessary to add, that I allude to the Shakspeare Papers of young Ireland; and to a Tour in Quest of Genealogy, by a Barrister.

[65:A] Thus in the will of Shakspeare we read, "I give and bequeath to Hamlet Sadler;" when at the close, Mr. Sadler as a witness writes his Christian name Hamnet. See Malone's note on this subject, Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 135.

[65:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 158, note 1.

[66:A] Malone's Historical Account of the English Stage, Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iii. p. 140. note 4.


[68]

CHAPTER V.

A VIEW OF COUNTRY LIFE DURING THE AGE OF SHAKSPEARE;—ITS MANNERS AND CUSTOMS.—RURAL CHARACTERS.

It may be necessary, in the commencement of this chapter, to remark, that rural life, in the strict acceptation of the term, will be at present the exclusive object of attention; a survey of the manners and customs of the metropolis, and of the superior orders of society, being deferred to a subsequent portion of the work.

No higher character will, therefore, be introduced in this sketch than the country squire, constituting according to Harrison, who wrote about the year 1580, one of the second order of gentlemen; for these, he remarks, "be divided into two sorts, as the baronie or estate of lords (which conteineth barons and all above that degree), and also those that be no lords, as knights, esquires, and simple gentlemen."[68:A] He has also furnished us, in another place, with a more precise definition of the character under consideration. "Esquire (which we call commonlie squire) is a French word, and so much in Latine as Scutiger vel Armiger, and such are all those which beare armes, or armoires, testimonies of their race from whence they be descended. They were at the first costerels or bearers of the armes of barons, or knights, and thereby being instructed in martiall knowledge, had that name for a dignitie given to distinguish them from common souldiers called Gregarii Milities when they were together in the field."[68:B]

It is curious to mark the minute distinctions of gentlemen as detailed at this period, in the various books of Armorie or Heraldrie. The science, indeed, was cultivated, in the days of Shakspeare, with an enthusiasm which has never since been equalled, and the treatises on the subject were consequently multitudinous.

[69]
"—— If no gentleman, why then no arms,"[69:A]

exclaims our poet; the aspirants, therefore, to this distinction were numerous, and in the Gentleman's Academie; or, The Booke of St. Albans, published by Gervase Markham in 1595, which he says in the dedication was then absolutely "necessarie and behovefull to the accomplishment of the gentlemen of this flourishing ile—in the heroicall and excellent study of Armory," we find "nine sortes" and "foure maner" of gentlemen expressly distinguished.

"Of nine sortes of gentlemen:

"First, there is a gentleman of ancestry and blood.

"A gentleman of blood.

"A gentleman of coat-armour, and those are three, one of the kings badge, another of lordship, and the third of killing a pagan.

"A gentleman untriall: a gentleman Ipocrafet: a gentleman spirituall and temporall: there is also a gentleman spirituall and temporall.—

"The divers manner of gentlemen:

"There are foure maner of gentlemen, to wit, one of auncestrie, which must needes bee of blood, and three of coate-armour, and not of blood: as one a gentleman of coate-armour of the kings badge, which is of armes given him by an herauld: another is, to whome the king giveth a lordeshippe, to a yeoman by his letters pattents, and to his heires for ever, whereby hee may beare the coate-armour of the same lordeshippe: the thirde is, if a yeoman kill a gentleman, Pagan or Sarazen, whereby he may of right weare his coate-armour: and some holde opinion, that if one Christian doe kill an other, and if it be lawfull battell, they may weare each others coate-armour, yet it is not so good as where the Christian killes the Pagan."

We have also the virtues and vices proper or contrary to the character of the gentleman, the former of which are divided into five amorous and four sovereign: "the five amorous are these,—lordly of [70]countenance, sweet in speech, wise in answere, perfitte in government and cherefull to faithfulnes: the foure soveraigne are these fewe,—oathes are no swearing, patient in affliction, knowledge of his owne birth, and to feare to offend his soveraigne."[70:A] The vices which are likewise enumerated as nine, are all modifications of cowardice, lechery, and drunkenness.

[71]That the character of the gentleman was still estimated, in the reign of Elizabeth, according to this definition of the Prioress of Sopewell, [72]we have consequently the authority of Markham to assert, who tells us, that the study of his modernised edition of the Booke of St. Albans was still "behovefull to the accomplishment of the gentleman" of 1595.

The mansion-houses of the country-gentlemen were, in the days of Shakspeare, rapidly improving both in their external appearance, and in their interior comforts. During the reign of Henry the Eighth, and even of Mary, they were, if we except their size, little better than cottages, being thatched buildings, covered on the outside with the coarsest clay, and lighted only by lattices; when Harrison wrote, in the age of Elizabeth, though the greater number of manor-houses still remained framed of timber, yet he observes, "such as be latelie builded, are cōmonlie either of bricke or hard stone, or both; their roomes large and comelie, and houses of office further distant from their lodgings."[72:A] The old timber mansions, too, were now covered with the finest plaster, which, says the historian, "beside the delectable [73]whitenesse of the stuffe itselfe, is laied on so even and smoothlie, as nothing in my judgment can be done with more exactnesse[73:A]:" and at the same time, the windows, interior decorations, and furniture were becoming greatly more useful and elegant. "Of old time our countrie houses," continues Harrison, "instead of glasse did use much lattise, and that made either of wicker or fine rifts of oke in chekerwise. I read also that some of the better sort, in and before the time of the Saxons, did make panels of horne insteed of glasse, and fix them in woodden calmes. But as horne in windows is now quite laid downe in everie place, so our lattises are also growne into lesse use, because glasse is come to be so plentifull, and within a verie little so good cheape if not better then the other.—The wals of our houses on the inner sides in like sort be either hanged with tapisterie, arras worke, or painted cloths, wherein either diverse histories, or hearbes, beasts, knots, and such like are stained, or else they are seeled with oke of our owne, or wainescot brought hither out of the east countries, whereby the roomes are not a little commanded, made warme, and much more close than otherwise they would be. As for stooves we have not hitherto used them greatlie, yet doo they now begin to be made in diverse houses of the gentrie.—Likewise in the houses of knights, gentlemen, &c. it is not geson to behold generallie their great provision of Turkie worke, pewter, brasse, fine linen, and thereto costlie cupbords of plate, worth five or six hundred or a thousand pounds, to be deemed by estimation."[73:B]

The house of every country-gentleman of property included a neat chapel and a spacious hall; and where the estate and establishment were considerable, the mansion was divided into two parts or sides, one for the state or banqueting-rooms, and the other for the household; but in general, the latter, except in baronial residences, was the only part to be met with, and when complete had the addition of parlours; thus Bacon, in his Essay on Building, describing the houshold side of a mansion, says, "I wish it divided at the first into a hall, and [74]a chappell, with a partition betweene; both of good state and bignesse: and those not to goe all the length, but to have, at the further end, a winter, and a summer parler, both faire: and under these roomes a faire and large cellar, sunke under ground: and likewise, some privie kitchins, with butteries and pantries, and the like."[74:A] It was the custom also to have windows opening from the parlours and passages into the chapel, hall, and kitchen, with the view of overlooking or controlling what might be going on; a trait of vigilant caution, which may still be discovered in some of our ancient colleges and manor-houses, and to which Shakspeare alludes in King Henry the Eighth, where he describes His Majesty and Butts the physician entering at a window above, which overlooks the council-chamber.[74:B] We may add, in illustration of this system of architectural espionage, that Andrew Borde, when giving instructions for building a house in his Dietarie of Health, directs "many of the chambers to have a view into the chapel:" and that Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, in a letter, dated 1573, says, "if it please Her Majestie, she may come in through my gallerie, and see the disposition of the hall in dynner-time, at a window opening thereunto."[74:C]

The hall of the country-squire was the usual scene of eating and hospitality, at the upper end of which was placed the orsille or high table, a little elevated above the floor, and here the master of the mansion presided, with an authority, if not a state, which almost equalled that of the potent baron. The table was divided into upper and lower messes, by a huge saltcellar, and the rank and consequence of the visitors were marked by the situation of their seats above, and below, the saltcellar; a custom which not only distinguished the relative dignity of the guests, but extended likewise to the nature of the provision, the wine frequently circulating only above the saltcellar, and the dishes below it, being of a coarser kind than those near the head of the table. So prevalent was this uncourteous distinction, that [75]Shakspeare, in his Winter's Tale, written about the year 1604, or 1610, designates the inferior orders of society by the term "lower messes."

————————— "Lower messes,
Perchance, are to this business purblind."[75:A]

Dekkar, likewise, in his play called The Honest Whore, 1604, mentions in strong terms the degradation of sitting beneath the salt: "Plague him, set him beneath the salt; and let him not touch a bit, till every one has had his full cut."[75:B] Hall too, in the sixth satire of his second book, published in 1597, when depicting the humiliated state of the squire's chaplain, says, that he must not

"ever presume to sit above the salt:"

and Jonson, in his Cynthia's Revells, speaking of a coxcomb, says, "his fashion is, not to take knowledge of him that is beneath him in clothes. He never drinkes below the salt." See act i. sc. 2.

This invidious regulation appears to have extended far into the seventeenth century; for Massinger in his City Madam, acted in 1632, thus notices it:

——————— "My proud lady
Admits him to her table, marry, ever
Beneath the salt, and there he sits the subject
Of her contempt and scorn:"[75:C]

and Cartright still later:

——— "Where you are best esteem'd,
You only pass under the favourable name
Of humble cousins that sit beneath the salt."

Love's Convert.

The luxury of eating and of good cooking were well understood in the days of Elizabeth, and the table of the country-squire frequently groaned beneath the burden of its dishes; at Christmas and [76]at Easter especially, the hall became the scene of great festivity; "in gentlemen's houses, at Christmas," says Aubrey, "the first dish that was brought to table was a boar's head, with a lemon in his mouth. At Queen's Coll. Oxon. they still retain this custom, the bearer of it bringing it into the hall, singing to an old tune an old Latin rhyme, Apri caput defero, &c. The first dish that was brought up to table on Easter-day was a red-herring riding away on horseback; i. e. a herring ordered by the cook something after the likeness of a man on horseback, set in a corn sallad. The custom of eating a gammon of bacon at Easter (which is still kept up in many parts of England) was founded on this, viz. to shew their abhorrence of Judaism at that solemn commemoration of our Lord's resurrection."[76:A]

Games and diversions of various kinds, such as mumming, masqueing, dancing, loaf-stealing, &c. &c. were allowed in the hall on these days; and the servants, or heralds, wore the coats of arms of their masters, and cried 'Largesse' thrice. The hall was usually hung round with the insignia of the squire's amusements, such as hunting, shooting, fishing, &c.; but in case he were a justice of the peace, it assumed a more terrific aspect. "The halls of the justice of peace," observes honest Aubrey, "were dreadful to behold. The skreen was garnished with corslets and helmets, gaping with open mouths, with coats of mail, launces, pikes, halberts, brown bills, bucklers."[76:B]

The following admirable description of an old English hall, which still remains as it existed in the days of Elizabeth, is taken from the notes to Mr. Scott's recent poem of Rokeby, and was communicated to the bard by a friend; the story which it introduces, I have also added, as it likewise occurred in the same reign, and affords a curious though not a pleasing trait of the manners of the times; as, while it gives a dreadful instance of ferocity, it shows with what ease justice, even in the case of the most enormous crimes, might be set aside.

[77]Littlecote-House stands in a low and lonely situation. On three sides it is surrounded by a park that spreads over the adjoining hill; on the fourth, by meadows which are watered by the river Kennet. Close on one side of the house is a thick grove of lofty trees, along the verge of which runs one of the principal avenues to it through the park. It is an irregular building of great antiquity, and was probably erected about the time of the termination of feudal warfare, when defence came no longer to be an object in a country-mansion. Many circumstances in the interior of the house, however, seem appropriate to feudal times. The hall is very spacious, floored with stones, and lighted by large transom windows, that are clothed with casements. Its walls are hung with old military accoutrements, that have long been left a prey to rust. At one end of the hall is a range of coats of mail and helmets, and there is on every side abundance of old-fashioned pistols and guns, many of them with matchlocks. Immediately below the cornice hangs a row of leathern jerkins, made in the form of a shirt, supposed to have been worn as armour by the vassals. A large oak-table, reaching nearly from one end of the room to the other, might have feasted the whole neighbourhood, and an appendage to one end of it made it answer at other times for the old game of shuffle-board. The rest of the furniture is in a suitable style, particularly an arm-chair of cumbrous workmanship, constructed of wood, curiously turned, with a high back and triangular seat, said to have been used by Judge Popham in the reign of Elizabeth. The entrance into the hall is at one end by a low door, communicating with a passage that leads from the outer door, in the front of the house, to a quadrangle within; at the other it opens upon a gloomy staircase, by which you ascend to the first floor, and, passing the doors of some bed-chambers, enter a narrow gallery, which extends along the back front of the house from one end to the other of it, and looks upon an old garden. This gallery is hung with portraits, chiefly in the Spanish dresses of the sixteenth century. In one of the bed-chambers, which you pass in going towards the gallery, is a bedstead with blue furniture, which time has now made dingy and threadbare, [78]and in the bottom of one of the bed-curtains you are shewn a place where a small piece has been cut out and sown in again; a circumstance which serves to identify the scene of the following story:

"It was a dark rainy night in the month of November, that an old midwife sate musing by her cottage fire-side, when on a sudden she was startled by a loud knocking at the door. On opening it she found a horseman, who told her that her assistance was required immediately by a person of rank, and that she should be handsomely rewarded, but that there were reasons for keeping the affair a strict secret, and, therefore, she must submit to be blind-folded, and to be conducted in that condition to the bed-chamber of the lady. After proceeding in silence for many miles through rough and dirty lanes, they stopped, and the midwife was led into a house, which, from the length of her walk through the apartment, as well as the sounds about her, she discovered to be the seat of wealth and power. When the bandage was removed from her eyes, she found herself in a bed-chamber, in which were the lady on whose account she had been sent for, and a man of a haughty and ferocious aspect. The lady was delivered of a fine boy. Immediately the man commanded the midwife to give him the child, and, catching it from her, he hurried across the room, and threw it on the back of the fire, that was blazing in the chimney. The child, however, was strong, and by its struggles rolled itself off upon the hearth, when the ruffian again seized it with fury, and, in spite of the intercession of the midwife, and the more piteous entreaties of the mother, thrust it under the grate, and raking the live coals upon it, soon put an end to its life. The midwife, after spending some time in affording all the relief in her power to the wretched mother, was told that she must be gone. Her former conductor appeared, who again bound her eyes, and conveyed her behind him to her own home; he then paid her handsomely, and departed. The midwife was strongly agitated by the horrors of the preceding night; and she immediately made a deposition of the fact before a magistrate. Two circumstances afforded hopes of detecting the house in which the crime had been committed; one was, that the midwife, as [79]she sate by the bed-side, had, with a view to discover the place, cut out a piece of the bed-curtain, and sown it in again; the other was, that as she had descended the staircase, she had counted the steps. Some suspicions fell upon one Darrell, at that time the proprietor of Littlecote-House and the domain around it. The house was examined, and identified by the midwife, and Darrell was tried at Salisbury for the murder. By corrupting his judge, he escaped the sentence of the law; but broke his neck by a fall from his horse in hunting, in a few months after. The place where this happened is still known by the name of Darrell's Hill: a spot to be dreaded by the peasant whom the shades of evening have overtaken on his way.

"Littlecote-House is two miles from Hungerford, in Berkshire, through which the Bath road passes. The fact occurred in the reign of Elizabeth. All the important circumstances I have given exactly as they are told in the country." Rokeby, 4to. edit. notes, p. 102-106.

The usual fare of country-gentlemen, relates Harrison, was "foure, five, or six dishes, when they have but small resort;" and accordingly, we find that Justice Shallow, when he invites Falstaffe to dinner, issues the following orders: "Some pigeons, Davy; a couple of short-legged hens; a joint of mutton; and any pretty little tiny kickshaws, tell William Cook."[79:A] But on feast-days, and particularly on the festivals above-mentioned, the profusion and cost of the table were astonishing. Harrison observes that the country-gentlemen and merchants contemned butchers meat on such occasions, and vied with the nobility in the production of rare and delicate viands, of which he gives a long list[79:B]; and Massinger says,

"Men may talk of country-christmasses
Their thirty-pound butter'd eggs, their pies of carps tongues,
[80]
Their pheasants drench'd with ambergris, the carcases
Of three fat wethers bruised for gravy, to
Make sauce for a single peacock; yet their feasts
Were fasts, compared with the city's."[80:A]

It was the custom in the houses of the country-gentlemen to retire after dinner, which generally took place about eleven in the morning, to the garden-bower or an arbour in the orchard, in order to partake of the banquet or dessert; thus Shallow, addressing Falstaffe after dinner, exclaims, "Nay, you shall see mine orchard: where, in an arbour, we will eat a last year's pippin of my own graffing, with a dish of carraways, and so forth."[80:B] From the banquet it was usual to retire to evening prayer, and thence to supper, between five and six o'clock; for in Shakspeare's time, there were seldom more than two meals, dinner and supper; "heretofore," remarks Harrison, "there hath beene much more time spent in eating and drinking than commonlie is in these daies, for whereas of old we had breakfasts in the forenoone, beverages, or nuntions after dinner, and thereto reare [81]suppers generallie when it was time to go to rest. Now these od repasts, thanked be God, are verie well left, and ech one in manner (except here and there some yoong hungrie stomach that cannot fast till dinner time) contenteth himselfe with dinner and supper onelie. The nobilitie, gentlemen, and merchantmen, especiallie at great meetings, doo sit commonlie till two or three of the clocke at afternoone, so that with manie is an hard matter to rise from the table to go to evening praier, and returne from thence to come time enough to supper."[81:A]

The supper which, on days of festivity, was often protracted to a late hour, and often too as substantial as the dinner, was succeeded, especially at Christmas, by gambols of various sorts, and sometimes the squire and his family would mingle in the amusements, or retiring to the tapestried parlour, would leave the hall to the more boisterous mirth of their household; then would the Blind Harper, who sold his FIT of mirth for a groat, be introduced, either to provoke the dance, or to rouse their wonder by his minstrelsy; his "matter being for the most part stories of old time, as the tale of Sir Topas, the reportes of Bevis of Southampton, Guy of Warwicke, Adam Bell, and Clymme of the Clough, and such other old romances or historical rimes, made purposely for recreation of the common people at Christmasse dinners and brideales."[81:B] Nor was the evening passed by the parlour fire-side dissimilar in its pleasures; the harp of history or romance was frequently made vocal by one of the party. "We ourselves," says Puttenham, who wrote in 1589, "have written for pleasure a little brief romance, or historical ditty, in the English tong of the Isle of Great Britaine, in short and long meetres, and by breaches or divisions, to be more commodiously sung to the harpe in places of assembly, where the company shal be desirous to heare of old adventures, and valiaunces of noble knights in times past, as are those of King Authur and his Knights of the Round Table, Sir Bevys of Southampton, Guy of Warwicke, and others like."[81:C]

[82]The posset at bed-time, closed the joyous day, a custom to which Shakspeare has occasionally alluded; thus Lady Macbeth says of the "surfeited grooms," "I have drugg'd their possets[82:A];" Mrs. Quickly tells Rugby, "Go; and we'll have a posset for't soon at night, in faith, at the latter end of a sea-coal fire[82:B];" and Page, cheering Falstaffe, exclaims, "Thou shall eat a posset to-night at my[82:C] house." Thomas Heywood also, a contemporary of Shakspeare, has particularly noticed this refection as occurring just before bed-time: "Thou shall be welcome to beef and bacon, and perhaps a bag-pudding; and my daughter Nell shall pop a posset upon thee when thou goest to bed."[82:D]

In short, hospitality, a love of festivity, and an ardent attachment to the sports of the field, were prominent traits in the character of the country-gentleman in Shakspeare's days. The floor of his hall was commonly occupied by his greyhounds, and on his hand was usually to be found his favorite hawk. His conversation was very generally on the subject of his diversions; for as Master Stephen says, "Why you know, an'a man have not skill in the hawking and hunting languages now-a-dayes, I'll not give a rush for him. They are more studied than the Greeke, or the Latine."[82:E] Classical acquirements were, nevertheless, becoming daily more fashionable and familiar with the character which we are describing; but still an intimacy with heraldry, romance, and the chroniclers, constituted the chief literary wealth of the country-gentleman. In his dress he was plain, though occasionally costly; yet Harrison complains in 1580, that the gaudy trappings of the French were creeping even into the rural and mercantile world: "Neither was it merrier," says he, "with England, than when an Englishman was knowne abroad by his owne cloth, and contented himselfe at home with his fine carsie hosen, and a meane slop: his coat, gowne, and cloak of browne, blue, or puke, with some [83]pretie furniture of velvet or furre, and a doublet of sad tawnie, or blacke velvet, or other comelie silke, without such cuts and gawrish colours as are worne in these daies, and never brought in but by the consent of the French, who thinke themselves the gaiest men, when they have most diversities of jagges and change of colours about them."[83:A]

Of the female part of the family of the country-gentleman, we must be indulged in giving one description from Drayton, which not only particularizes the employments and dress of the younger part of the sex, but is written with the most exquisite simplicity and beauty; he is delineating the well-educated daughter of a country-knight:

"He had, as antique stories tell,
A daughter cleaped Dawsabel,
A maiden fair and free:
And for she was her father's heir,
Full well she was ycond the leir
Of mickle courtesy.
The silk well couth she twist and twine,
And make the fine march-pine,
And with the needle work:
And she couth help the priest to say
His mattins on a holy day,
And sing a psalm in kirk.
She wore a frock of frolic green,
Might well become a maiden queen,
Which seemly was to see;
A hood to that so neat and fine,
In colour like the columbine,
Ywrought full featously.
Her features all as fresh above,
As is the grass that grows by Dove,
And lythe as lass of Kent.
Her skin as soft as Lemster wool,
As white as snow on Peakish Hull,
Or swan that swims in Trent.
[84]
This maiden in a moon betime,
Went forth when May was in the prime,
To get sweet setywall,
The honey-suckle, the harlock,
The lily, and the lady-smock,
To deck her summer-hall."[84:A]

Some heightening to the picture of the country-gentleman which we have just given, may be drawn from the character of the upstart squire or country-knight, as it has been pourtrayed by Bishop Earle, towards the commencement of the seventeenth century; for the absurd imitation of the one is but an overcharged or caricature exhibition of the costume of the other. The upstart country-gentleman, remarks the Bishop, "is a holiday clown, and differs only in the stuff of his clothes, not the stuff of himself, for he bare the kings sword before he had arms to wield it; yet being once laid o'er the shoulder with a knighthood, he finds the herald his friend. His father was a man of good stock, though but a tanner or usurer; he purchased the land, and his son the title. He has doffed off the name of a country-fellow, but the look not so easy, and his face still bears a relish of churne-milk. He is guarded with more gold lace than all the gentlemen of the country, yet his body makes his clothes still out of fashion. His house-keeping is seen much in the distinct families of dogs, and serving-men attendant on their kennels, and the deepness of their throats is the depth of his discourse. A hawk he esteems the true burden of nobility, and is exceeding ambitious to seem delighted in the sport, and have his fist gloved with his [84:B]jesses. A justice of peace he is to domineer in his parish, and do his neighbour wrong with more right. He will be drunk with his hunters for company, and stain his gentility with droppings of ale. He is fearful of being sheriff of the shire by instinct, and dreads the assize-week as much as the prisoner. In sum, he's but a clod of his own [85]earth, or his land is the dunghill and he the cock that crows over it: and commonly his race is quickly run, and his children's children, though they scape hanging, return to the place from whence they came."[85:A]

Notwithstanding the hospitality which generally prevailed among the country-gentlemen towards the close of the sixteenth century, the injurious custom of deserting their hereditary halls for the luxury and dissipation of the metropolis, began to appear; and, accordingly, Bishop Hall has described in a most finished and picturesque manner the deserted mansion of his days;

"Beat the broad gates, a goodly hollow sound
With double echoes doth againe rebound;
But not a dog doth bark to welcome thee,
Nor churlish porter canst thou chafing see:
All dumb and silent, like the dead of night,
Or dwelling of some sleepy Sybarite!
The marble pavement hid with desert weed,
With house-leek, thistle, dock, and hemlock-seed.—
Look to the towered chimnies, which should be
The wind-pipes of good hospitalitie:——
Lo, there th'unthankful swallow takes her rest,
And fills the tunnel with her circled nest."[85:B]

That it was no very uncommon thing for country-gentlemen to spend their Christmas in London at this period, is evident from a letter preserved by Mr. Lodge, in his Illustrations of British History; it is written by William Fleetwood, afterwards Queen's Serjeant, to the Earl of Derby; is dated New Yere's Daye, 1589, and contains the following passage:—"The gentlemen of Norff. and Suffolk were commanded to deprte from London before Xtemmas, and to repaire to their countries, and there to kepe hospitalitie amongest their [86]neighbours.[86:A]" The fashion, however, of annually visiting the capital did not become general, nor did the character of the country-squire, such as it was in the days of Shakspeare, alter materially during the following century.[86:B][87]

The country-clergyman, the next character we shall attempt to notice, was distinguished, in the time of Shakspeare, by the [88]appellation of Sir: a title which the poet has uniformly bestowed on the inferior orders of this profession, as Sir Hugh in the Merry Wives of [89]Windsor, Sir Topas in the Twelfth Night, Sir Oliver in As You like It, and Sir Nathaniel in Love's Labour's lost. This custom, which was not entirely discontinued until the close of the reign of Charles II., owes its origin to the language of our universities, which confers the designation of Dominus on those who have taken their first degree or bachelor of arts, and not, as has been supposed, to any claim which the clergy had upon the order of knighthood. The word Dominus was naturally translated Sir; and as almost every clergyman had taken his first degree, it became customary to apply the term to the lower class of the hierarchy. "Sir seems to have been a title," remarks Dr. Percy, "formerly appropriated to such of the inferior clergy as were only readers of the service, and not admitted to be preachers, and therefore were held in the lowest estimation, as appears from a remarkable passage in Machell's MS. Collections for the History of Westmoreland and Cumberland, in six volumes, folio, preserved in the Dean and Chapter's library at Carlisle. The Rev. Thomas Machell, author of the Collections, lived temp. Car. II. Speaking of the little chapel of Martindale in the mountains of Westmoreland and Cumberland, the writer says, 'There is little remarkable in or about it, but a neat chapel yard, which, by the peculiar care of the old reader, Sir Richard[89:A], is kept clean, and as neat as a bowling-green.'

"Within the limits of myne own memory all readers in chapels were called Sirs[89:B], and of old have been writ so; whence, I suppose, such of the laity as received the noble order of knighthood being [90]called Sirs too, for distinction sake had Knight writ after them; which had been superfluous, if the title Sir had been peculiar to them."[90:A]

Shakspeare has himself indeed sufficiently marked the distinction between priesthood and knighthood, when he makes Viola say, "I am one that had rather go with Sir Priest than Sir Knight."[90:B]

Were we to estimate the diameter of the country-clergy, during the age of Elizabeth, from the sketches which Shakspeare has given us of them, I am afraid we should be induced to appreciate their utility and moral virtue on too low a scale. It will be a fairer plan to exhibit the picture from the delineation of one of their own order, a competent judge, and who was likewise a contemporary. "The apparell of our clergiemen," records Harrison, "is comlie, and, in truth, more decent than ever it was in the popish church: before the universities bound their graduats unto a stable attire, afterward usurped also even by the blind Sir Johns. For if you peruse well my chronolojie, you shall find, that they went either in diverse colors, like plaiers, or in garments of light hew, as yellow, red, greene, &c.: with their shoes piked, their haire crisped, their girdles armed with silver; their shoes, spurres, bridles, &c. buckled with like metall: their apparell (for the most part) of silke, and richlie furred; their cappes laced and butned with gold: so that to meet a priest in those daies, was to behold a peacocke that spreadeth his taile when he danseth before the henne: which now (I saie) is well reformed. Touching hospitalitie, there was never any greater used in England, sith by reason that marriage is permitted to him that will choose that kind of life, their meat and drinke is more orderly and frugallie dressed; their furniture of houshold more convenient, and better looked unto; and the poore oftener fed generallie than heretofore they have beene." Then, alluding to those who reproach the country-clergy for not being so prodigal of good cheer as in former days, he adds, "To such as doo consider of the curtailing of their livings, or [91]excessive prices wherevnto things are growen, and how their course is limited by law, and estate looked into on every side, the cause of their so dooing is well inough perceived. This also offendeth manie, that they should after their deaths leave their substances to their wives and children: whereas they consider not, that in old time such as had no lemans nor bastards (verie few were there God wot of this sort) did leave their goods and possessions to their brethren and kinsfolk, whereby (as I can shew by good record) manie houses of gentilitie have growen and beene erected. If in anie age some one of them did found a college, almes-house, or schoole, if you looke unto these our times, you shall see no fewer deeds of charitie doone, nor better grounded upon the right stub of pietie than before. If you saie that their wives be fond, after the decease of their husbands, and bestow themselves not so advisedlie as their calling requireth, which God knoweth these curious surveiors make small accompt of in truth, further than thereby to gather matter of reprehension: I beseech you then to look into all states of the laitie, and tell me whether some duchesses, countesses, barons, or knights' wives, doo not fullie so often offend in the like as they: for Eve will be Eve, though Adam would saie naie. Not a few also find fault with our thread-bare gowns, as if not our patrons but our wives were causes of our wo: but if it were knowne to all, that I know to have beene performed of late in Essex, where a minister taking a benefice (of lesse than twentie pounds in the Quéen's bookes so farre as I remember) was inforced to paie to his patrone, twentie quarters of otes, ten quarters of wheat, and sixtéene yéerlie of barleie, which he called hawkes-meat; and another left the like in farme to his patrone forten pounds by the yéere, which is well worth fortie at the least, the cause of our thread-bare gowns would easilie appeere, for such patrones doo scrape the wooll from our clokes."[91:A]

This delineation is, upon the whole, a favourable one; but the author in the very next page admits that the country-clergy had [92]notwithstanding fallen into "general contempt" and "small consideration;" that the cause of this was not merely owing to the poverty of the ministry, but was for the most part attributable either to the iniquity of the patron or the immorality of the priest, will but too clearly appear from the relation of Harrison himself, and from other contemporary evidence. The historian declares that it was the custom of some patrons to "bestow advowsons of benefices upon their bakers, butlers, cookes, good archers, falconers, and horsekéepers, insted of other recompence for their long and faithfull service[92:A];" and the following letter from the Talbot papers presents us with a frightful view of the manners of the country-clergy at the commencement of the reign of James I.

"Ad. Slack to the Lady Bowes.

"Right worll.

"I understand that one Raphe Cleaton ys curate of the chappell at Buxton; his wages are, out of his neighbour's benevolence, about vli yearely: Sr Charles Cavendishe had the tythes there this last yeare, ether of his owne right or my Lords, as th' inhabitants saye. The minister aforenamed differeth litle from those of the worste sorte, and hath dipt his finger both in manslaughter and p'jurie, &c. The placinge or displacing of the curate there resteth in Mr. Walker, commissarie of Bakewell, of which churche Buxton is a chappell of ease.

"I humbly thanke yor Worpp for yore lre to the justices at the cessions; for Sr Peter Fretchvell, togither wth Mr. Bainbrigg, were verie earnest against the badd vicar of Hope; and lykewyse Sr Jermane Poole, and all the benche, savinge Justice Bentley, who use some vaine —— on his behalfe, and affirmed that my La. Bowes had been disprooved before My Lord of Shrowesburie in reports touching the vicar of Hope; but such answere was made therto as his mouthe was stopped: yet the latter daie, when all the justic's but himselffe and [93]one other were rysen, he wold have had the said vicar lycensed to sell ale in his vicaredge, althoe the whole benche had comanded the contrarye; whereof Sr Jermane Poole being adv'tised, retyrned to the benche (contradicting his speeche) whoe, wth Mr. Bainbrigge, made their warrant to bringe before them, him, or anie other person that shall, for him, or in his vicaridge, brue, or sell ale, &c. He ys not to bee punished by the Justices for the multytude of his women, untyll the basterds whereof he is the reputed father bee brought in. I am the more boulde to wryte so longe of this sorrie matter, in respect you maye take so much better knowledge of Sr Jo. Bentley, and his p'tialytie in so vile a cause; and esteeme and judge of him accordinge to yr wisdome and good discretion. Thus, humbly cravinge p'don, I com̄itt yr good Wors. to the everlasting Lorde, who ever keepe you. This 12th of Octob. 1609.

"Yor La' humble poore tenant, at comandmt.

"Ad. Slack.[93:A]

That men who could thus debase themselves should be held in little esteem, and their services ill requited, cannot excite our wonder; and we consequently read without surprise, that in the days of Elizabeth, the minstrel and the cook were often better paid than the priest;—thus on the books of the Stationers' Company for the year 1560, may be found the following entry:

  s. d.
"Item, payd to the preacher vi 2
Item, payd to the minstrell xij 0
Item, payd to the coke xv 0" [93:B]

Let us not conclude, however, that the age of Shakspeare was without instances of a far different kind, and that religion and virtue were [94]altogether excluded from what ought to have been their most favoured abode; it will be sufficient to mention the name of Bernard Gilpin, the most exemplary of parish-priests, whose humility, benevolence, and exalted piety were never exceeded, and whose ministerial labours were such as to form a noble contrast to the shameful neglect of the pastoral care which existed around him. Indeed we are inclined to infer, notwithstanding the numerous individual instances of profligacy and dissipation which may be brought forward, that the country clergy then, as now, if considered in the aggregate, possessed more real virtue and utility than any other equally numerous body of men; but that aberrations from the stricter decency of their order were, as is still very properly the case in the present day, marked with avidity, and censured with abhorrence. To the younger clergy in the country, also, was frequently committed the task of education, a labour of unspeakable importance, but in the period of which we are writing, attended too often with the most undeserved contumely and contempt. In the Scholemaster of Ascham may be found the most bitter complaints of the barbarous and disgraceful treatment of the able instructor of youth; and the following sketches of the clerical tutor from Peacham and Hall, will still further heighten and authenticate the picture. The former of these writers observes, "Such is the most base and ridiculous parsimony of many of our Gentlemen, (if I may so terme them) that if they can procure some poore Batchelor of Art from the Universitie to teach their children to say grace, and serve the cure of an impropriation, who wanting meanes and friends, will be content upon the promise of ten pounds a yeere at his first comming, to be pleased with five; the rest to be set off in hope of the next advouson, (which perhaps was sold before the young man was borne): Or if it chance to fall in his time, his lady or master tels him; 'Indeed Sir we are beholden unto you for your paines, such a living is lately falne, but I had before made a promise of it to my butler or bailiffe, for his true and extraordinary service.'

"Is it not commonly seene, that the most Gentlemen will give better wages, and deale more bountifully with a fellow who can but [95]a dogge, or reclaime a hawke, than upon an honest, learned, and well qualified man to bring up their children? It may be, hence it is, that dogges are able to make syllogismes in the fields, when their young masters can conclude nothing at home, if occasion of argument or discourse be offered at the table."[95:A]

The domestic chaplain of Bishop Hall is touched with a glowing pencil, and while it faithfully exhibits the servile and depressed state of the poor tutor, is, at the same time, wrought up with much point and humour.

"A gentle squire would gladly entertaine
Into his house some trencher-chapelaine;
Some willing man, that might instruct his sons.
And that would stand to good conditions.
First, that he lie upon the truckle-bed,
While his young maister lieth o'er his head:
Second, that he do, upon no default,
Never presume to sit above the salt:
Third, that he never change his trencher twise;
Fourth, that he use all common courtesies;
Sit bare at meales, and one half rise and wait:
Last, that he never his young maister beat;
But he must aske his mother to define
How manie jerks she would his breech should line.
All these observ'd, he could contented be,
To give five markes, and winter liverie."[95:B]

From the description of the character of the country clerical tutor, it is an easy transition to that of the rural pedagogue or schoolmaster, a personage of not less consequence in the days of Elizabeth, than in the present period. He frequently combined, indeed, in the sixteenth century, the reputation of a conjuror with that of a schoolmaster, and [96]accordingly in the Comedy of Errors, Pinch, in the dramatis personæ, is described as "a schoolmaster, and a conjuror," and the following not very amiable portrait of his person is given towards the conclusion of the play:—

"They brought one Pinch; a hungry lean-faced villain,
A meer anatomy, a mountebank,
A thread-bare juggler, and a fortune-teller;
A needy, hollow-eye'd, sharp-looking wretch,
A living dead man: this pernicious slave,
Forsooth, took him on as conjuror."[96:A]

Ben Jonson also alludes to this union of occupations when he says, "I would have ne'er a cunning schoolemaster in England, I mean a Cunningman as a schoolemaster; that is, a Conjurour."[96:B]

A less formidable figure of a schoolmaster has been given us by Shakspeare, under the character of Holofernes, in Love's Labour's Lost, where he has drawn a full-length caricature of the too frequent pedantry of this profession. Yet Holofernes, though he speak a leash of languages at once, is not deficient either in ability or discrimination; he ridicules with much good sense and humour the literary fops of his day, the "rackers of orthography;" and his conversation is described by his friend, Sir Nathaniel, the Curate, as possessing all the requisites to perfection. "Sir: your reasons at dinner have been sharp and sententious; pleasant without scurrility, witty without affection, audacious without impudency, learned without opinion, and strange without heresy."[96:C] "It is very difficult," remarks Dr. Johnson, "to add any thing to this character of the schoolmaster's table-talk, and perhaps all the precepts of Castiglione will scarcely be found to comprehend a rule for conversation so justly delineated, so widely dilated, and so nicely limited."[96:D]

The country-schoolmasters in the reigns of Elizabeth and James, were, however, if we trust to the accounts of Ascham and Peacham, in [97]general many degrees below the pedagogue of Shakspeare in ability; tyranny and ignorance appear to have been their chief characteristics; to such an extent, indeed, were they deficient in point of necessary knowledge, that Peacham, speaking of bad masters, declares, "it is a generall plague and complaint of the whole land; for, for one discreet and able teacher, you shall finde twenty ignorant and carelesse; who (among so many fertile and delicate wits as England affordeth) whereas they make one scholler, they marre ten."[97:A]

Ascham had endeavoured, by every argument and mode of persuasion in his power, to check the severe and indiscriminate discipline which prevailed among the teachers in his time; it would seem in vain; for Peacham, about the year 1620, found it necessary to recommend lenity in equally strenuous terms, and has given a minute and we have no doubt a faithful picture of the various cruelties to which scholars were then subjected; a summary of the result of this conduct may be drawn, indeed, from his own words, where he says, "Masters for the most part so behave themselves, that their very name is hatefull to the scholler, who trembleth at their comming in, rejoyceth at their absence, and looketh his master (returned) in the the face, as his deadly enemy."[97:B]

To the charges of undue severity and defective literature, we must add, I am afraid, the infinitely more weighty accusation of frequent immorality and buffoonery. Ludovicus Vives, who wrote just before the age of Shakspeare, asserts, that "some schoolmasters taught Ovid's books of love to their scholars, and some made expositions, and expounded the vices[97:C];" and Peacham, at the close of the era we are considering, censures in the strongest terms their too common levity and misconduct: "the diseases whereunto some of them are very subject, are humour and folly (that I may say nothing of the grosse ignorance and insufficiency of many) whereby they become ridiculous and contemptible both in the schoole and abroad. Hence [98]it comes to passe, that in many places, especially in Italy, of all professions that of pedanteria is held in basest repute: the schoole-master almost in every comedy being brought upon the stage, to paralell the Zani or Pantaloun. He made us good sport in that excellent comedy of Pedantius, acted in our Trinity Colledge in Cambridge, and if I be not deceived, in Priscianus Vapulans, and many of our English plays.

"I knew one, who in winter would ordinarily in a cold morning, whip his boyes over for no other purpose than to get himselfe a heat: another beat them for swearing, and all the while he sweares himself with horrible oathes, he would forgive any fault saving that.

"I had I remember myselfe (neere S. Albanes in Hertfordshire, where I was borne) a master, who by no entreaty would teach any scholler he had, farther than his father had learned before him; as, if he had onely learned but to reade English, the sonne, though he went with him seven yeeres, should goe no further: his reason was, they would then proove saucy rogues, and controule their fathers; yet these are they that oftentimes have our hopefull gentry under their charge and tuition, to bring them in science and civility."[98:A]

We must, I apprehend, from these representations, be induced to conclude, that ignorance, despotism, and self-sufficiency were leading features in the composition of the country-schoolmaster, during this period of our annals; it would not be just, however, to infer from these premises that the larger schools were equally unfortunate in their conductors; on the contrary, most of the public seminaries of the capital, and many in the large provincial towns, were under the regulation of masters highly respectable for their erudition, men, indeed, to whom neither Erasmus nor Joseph Scaliger would have refused the title of ripe and good scholars.

We shall now pass forward, in the series of our rural characters, to the delineation of one of great importance in a national point of view, that of the substantial Farmer or Yeoman, of whom Harrison has left us the following interesting definition:—"This sort of people have a [99]certaine preheminence, and more estimation than labourers and the common sort of artificers, and these commonlie live wealthilie, kéepe good houses, and travell to get riches. They are also for the most part farmers to gentlemen, or at the leastwise artificers, and with grazing, frequenting of markets, and kéeping of servants (not idle servants, as the gentlemen doo, but such as get both their owne and part of their masters living) do come to great welth, in somuch that manie of them are able and doo buie the lands of unthriftie gentlemen, and often setting their sonnes to the schooles, to the universities, and to the Ins of the court; or otherwise leaving them sufficient lands whereupon they may live without labour, doo make them by those meanes to become gentlemen: these were they that in times past made all France afraid. And albeit they be not called master, as gentlemen are, or sir as to knights apperteineth, but onelie John and Thomas, &c.: yet have they beene found to have doone verie good service: and the kings of England in foughten battels, were woont to remaine among them (who were their footmen) as the French kings did amongst their horssemen: the prince thereby shewing where his chiefe strength did consist."[99:A]

After this description of the rank which the farmer held in society, we shall proceed to state the mode in which he commonly lived in the age of Elizabeth; and in doing this we have chosen, as usual, to adopt at considerable length the language of our old writers; a practice to which we shall in future adhere, while detailing the manners, customs, &c. of our ancestors, a practice which has indeed peculiar advantages; for the authenticity of the source is at once apparent, the diction possesses a peculiar charm from its antique cast, and the expression has a raciness and force of colouring, which owes its origin to actual inspection, and which, consequently, it is in vain to expect, on such subjects, from modern composition.

The houses or cottages of the farmer were built, in places abounding in wood, in a very strong and substantial manner, with not more [100]than four, six, or nine inches between stud and stud; but in the open and champaine country, they were compelled to use more flimsy materials, with here and there a girding to which they fastened their splints, and then covered the whole with thick clay to keep out the wind. "Certes this rude kind of building," says Harrison, "made the Spaniards in quéene Maries daies to wonder, but chéeflie when they saw what large diet was used in manie of these so homelie cottages, in so much that one of no small reputation amongst them said after this manner: 'These English (quoth he) have their houses made of sticks and durt, but they fare commonlie so well as the king.' Whereby it appeareth that he liked better of our good fare in such coarse cabins, than of their owne thin diet in their prince-like habitations and palaces."[100:A] The cottages of the peasantry usually consisted of but two rooms on the ground-floor, the outer for the servants, the inner for the master and his family, and they were thatched with straw or sedge; while the dwelling of the substantial farmer was distributed into several rooms above and beneath, was coated with white lime or cement, and was very neatly roofed with reed; hence Tusser, speaking of the farm-house, gives the following directions for repairing and preserving its thatch in the month of May:

"Where houses be reeded (as houses have need)
Now pare of the mosse, and go beat in the reed:
The juster ye drive it, the smoother and plaine,
More handsome ye make it, to shut off the raine."[100:B]

A few years before the era of which we are treating, the venerable Hugh Latimer, describing in one of his impressive sermons the economy of a farmer in his time, tells us that his father, who was a [101]yeoman, had no land of his own, but only "a farm of three or four pounds by the year at the utmost; and hereupon he tilled so much as kept half a dozen men. He had a walk for an hundred sheep; and my mother milked thirty kine. He kept his son at school till he went to the university, and maintained him there; he married his daughters with five pounds or twenty nobles a piece; he kept hospitality with his neighbours, and some alms he gave to the poor; and all this he did out of the said farm."[101:A]

Land let, at this period, it should be remembered, at about a shilling per acre; but in the reign of Elizabeth its value rapidly increased, together with a proportional augmentation of the comfort of the farmer, who even began to exhibit the elegancies and luxuries of life. Of the change which took place in rural economy towards the close of the sixteenth century, the following faithful and interesting picture has been drawn by the pencil of Harrison, who, noticing the additional splendour of gentlemen's houses, remarks,—"In times past the costlie furniture staied there, whereas now it is descended yet lower, even unto manie farmers, who by vertue of their old and not of their new leases, have for the most part learned also to garnish their cupbords with plate, their ioined beds with tapistrie and silke hangings, and their tables with carpets and fine naperie, whereby the wealth of our countrie (God be praised therefore, and give us grace to imploie it well) dooth infinitlie appeare. Neither doo I speake this in reproch of anie man, God is my judge, but to shew that I do rejoise rather, to see how God hath blessed us with his good gifts; and whilest I behold how that in a time wherein all things are growen to most excessive prices, and what commoditie so ever is to be had, is daily plucked from the commonaltie by such as looke in to everie trade, we doo yet find the means to obtein and atchive such furniture as here to fore hath beene unpossible. There are old men yet dwelling in the village where I remaine, which have noted three things to be marvellouslie altered in England within their sound remembrance; and other three [102]things too too much encreased. One is, the multitude of chimnies latelie erected, wheras in their yoong daies there were not above two or three, if so manie in most uplandish townes of the realme, (the religious houses, and manor places of their lords alwaies excepted, and peradventure some great personages) but ech one made his fire against a rere dosse in the hall, where he dined and dressed his meat.

"The second is the great (although not generall) amendment of lodging, for (said they) our fathers (yea and wee ourselves also) have lien full oft upon straw pallets, on rough mats covered onlie with a shéet, under coverlets made of dagswain or hop harlots (I use their owne termes) and a good round log under their heads instead of a bolster or pillow. If it were so that our fathers or the good man of the house, had within seven yeares after his mariage purchased a matteres or flockebed, and thereto a sacke of chaffe to rest his head upon, he thought himselfe to be as well lodged as the lord of the towne, that peradventure laie seldome in a bed of downe or whole fethers; so well were they contented, and with such base kind of furniture: which also is not verie much amended as yet in some parts of Bedfordshire, and elsewhere further off from our southerne parts. Pillowes (said they) were thought méet onelie for women in child bed. As for servants, if they had anie shéet above them it was well, for seldome had they anie under their bodies, to kéepe them from the pricking straws that ran oft through the canvas of the pallet, and rased their hardened hides.

"The third thing they tell of, is the exchange of vessell, as of treene platters into pewter, and wodden spoones into silver or tin. For so common was all sorts of tréene stuff in old time, that a man should hardlie find four péeces of pewter (of which one was peradventure a salt) in a good farmer's house, and yet for all this frugalitie (if it may so be justly called) they were scarce able to live and paie their rents at their daies without selling of a cow, or an horsse, or more, although they paid but foure pounds at the uttermost by the yeare. Such also was their povertie, that if some one od farmer or husbandman had béene at the alehouse, a thing greatlie [103]used in those daies, amongst six or seven of his neighbours, and there in a braverie to shew what store he had, did cast downe his purse, and therein a noble or six shillings in silver unto them (for few such men then cared for gold because it was not so readie paiment, and they were oft inforced to give a penie for the exchange of an angell) it was verie likelie that all the rest could not laie downe so much against it: whereas in my time, although peradventure foure poundes of old rent be improved to fortie, fiftie, or an hundred pounds, yet will the farmer as another palme or date trée thinke his gaines verie small toward the end of his terme, if he have not six or seven yeares rent lieing by him, therewith to purchase a new lease, beside a faire garnish of pewter on his cupbord, with so much in od vessell going about the house, thrée or foure feather beds, so manie coverlids and carpets of tapistrie, a silver salt, a bowle for wine (if not an whole neast) and a dozzen of spoones to furnish up the sute."[103:A]

To this curious delineation of the furniture and household accommodation of the farmer, it will be necessary, in order to complete the sketch, to add a few things relative to his diet and hospitality. Contrary to what has taken place in modern times, the hours for meals were later with the artificer and the husbandman than with the higher order of society; the farmer and his servants usually sitting down to dinner at one o'clock, and to supper at seven, while the nobleman and gentleman took the first at eleven in the morning, and the second at five in the afternoon.

It would appear that, from the cottage to the palace, good eating was as much cultivated in the days of Elizabeth as it has been in any subsequent period; and the rites of hospitality, more especially in the country, were observed with a frequency and cordiality which a further progress in civilisation has rather tended to check, than to increase.

Of the larder of the cotter and the shepherd, and of the hospitality of the former, a pretty accurate idea may be acquired from the [104]simple yet beautiful strains of an old pastoral bard of Elizabeth's days, who, describing a nobleman fatigued by the chase, the heat of the weather, and long fasting, adds that he—

"Did house him in a peakish graunge,
Within a forrest great:
Wheare, knowne, and welcom'd, as the place
And persons might afforde,
Browne bread, whig, bacon, curds, and milke,
Were set him on the borde:
A cushion made of lists, a stoole
Half backed with a houpe,
Were brought him, and he sitteth down
Besides a sorry coupe.
The poor old couple wish't their bread
Were wheat, their whig were perry,
Their bacon beefe, their milke and curds
Weare creame, to make him mery."[104:A]

The picture of the shepherd youth is so exquisitely drawn that, though only a portion of it is illustrative of our subject, we cannot avoid giving so much of the text as will render the figure complete.

"Sweet growte, or whig, his bottle had
As much as it might hold:
A sheeve of bread as browne as nut,
And cheese as white as snowe,
And wildings, or the season's fruite,
He did in scrip bestow:
And whil'st his py-bald curre did sleepe,
And sheep-hooke lay him by,
On hollow quilles of oten strawe
He piped melody:—
[105]
— — — — — — — With the sun
He doth his flocke unfold,
And all the day on hill or plaine
He merrie chat can hold:
And with the sun doth folde againe;
Then jogging home betime,
He turnes a crab, or tunes a round,
Or sings some merrie ryme:
Nor lackes he gleeful tales to tell,
Whil'st round the bole doth trot;
And sitteth singing care away,
Till he to bed hath got.
Theare sleeps he soundly all the night,
Forgetting morrow cares,
Nor feares he blasting of his corne
Nor uttering of his wares,
Or stormes by seas, or stirres on land,
Or cracke of credite lost,
Not spending franklier than his flocke
Shall still defray the cost.
Wel wot I, sooth they say that say:
More quiet nightes and daies
The shepheard sleepes and wakes than he
Whose cattel he doth graize."[105:A]

The lines in Italics allude to the favourite beverage of the peasantry, and the mode in which they recreated themselves over the spicy bowl. To turne a crab is to roast a wilding or wild apple in the fire for the purpose of being thrown hissing hot into a bowl of nut-brown ale, into which had been previously put a toast with some spice and sugar. To this delicious compound Shakspeare has frequently referred; thus in Love's Labour's Lost one of his designations of winter is,

"When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl:"[105:B]

[106]and Puck, describing his own wanton tricks in Midsummer Night's Dream, says—

"And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl,
In very likeness of a roasted crab,
And when she drinks, against her lips I bob."[106:A]

The very expression to turn a crab will be found in the following passages from two old plays, in the first of which the good man says he will

"Sit down in his chaire by his wife faire Alison,
And turne a crabbe in the fire;"[106:B]

and in the second, Christmas is personified

—— "sitting in a corner turning crabs,
Or coughing o'er a warmed pot of ale."[106:C]

Nor can we omit, in closing this series of quotations, the following stanza of a fine old song in the curious comedy of Gammer Gurton's Needle, first printed in 1575:

"I love no rost, but a nut brown toste,
and a crab layde in the fyre;
A lytle bread shall do me stead,
much bread I not desyre.
No froste nor snow, no winde, I trow,
can hurte me if I wolde,
I am so wrapt, and throwly lapt
of joly good ale, and olde.
Back and syde go bare, go bare,
booth foote and hande go colde;
But belly, God sende thee good ale ynoughe,
whether it be newe or olde."[106:D]

[107]To tell gleeful tales, "whilst round the bole doth trot," was an amusement much more common among our ancestors, during the age of Elizabeth, and the subsequent century, than it has been in any later period. The Winter's Tale of Shakspeare owes its title to this custom, of which an example is placed before us in the first scene of the second act.

Her. Come Sir—
—— Pray you, sit by us,
And tell 's a tale.
Mam. Merry, or sad, shal't be?
Her. As merry as you will.[107:A]

And Burton, the first edition of whose Anatomy of Melancholy was published in 1617, enumerates, among the ordinary recreations of Winter, "merry tales of errant knights, queens, lovers, lords, ladies, giants, dwarfs, thieves, cheaters, witches, fayries, goblins, friars, &c.—which some delight to hear, some to tell; all are well pleased with;" and he remarks shortly afterwards, "when three or four good companions meet, they tell old stories by the fire-side, or in the sun, as old folks usually do, remembering afresh and with pleasure antient matters, and such like accidents, which happened in their younger years."[107:B] Milton also, in his L'Allegro, first printed in 1645, gives a conspicuous station

—— "to the spicy nut-brown ale,
With stories told of many a feat:"

and adds,

"Thus done the tales, to bed they creep,
By whispering winds soon lull'd to sleep."[107:C]

[108]The farmer's daily diet may be drawn with sufficient accuracy from the curious old Georgic of Tusser, a poem which, more than any other that we possess, throws light upon the agricultural manners and customs of the age. In Lent, says this entertaining bard, the farmer must in the first place consume his red herring, and afterwards his salt fish, which should be kept in store, indeed, and considered as good even when Lent is past, and with these leeks and peas should be procured for pottage, with the view of saving milk, oatmeal, and bread: at Easter veale and bacon are to be the chief articles; at Martilmas salted beef, "when country folk do dainties lack:" at Midsummer, when mackrel are out of season, grasse (that is sallads, &c.) fresh beef and pease: at Michaelmas fresh herring and fatted [108:A]crones: at All Saints pork and souse, sprats and spurlings: at Christmas he enjoins the farmer to "plaie and make good cheere," and he concludes by advising him, as was the custom in Elizabeth's time, to observe Fridays, Saturdays, and Wednesdays as fish-days; to "keep embrings well and fasting dayes," and of fish and fruit be scarce, to supply their want with butter and cheese.[108:B] To these recommendations he adds, in another place, that

"Good ploughmen look weekly of custom and right,
For rostmeat on sundaies, and thursday at night:"

and he subsequently gives directions for writing what he terms "husbandlie posies," that is, economical proverbs in rhyme, to be hung up in the Hall, the parlour, the Ghest's chamber, and the good man's own bed chamber.[108:C]

If the farmer have a visitor, our worthy bard is not illiberal in his allowance, but advises him to place three dishes on his table at [109]dinner, well dressed, which, says he, will be sufficient to pleese your friend, and will become your Hall.[109:A]

On days of feasting and rejoicing, however, it appears to have been a common custom for the guests to bring their victuals with them, forming as it were a pic-nic meal; thus, Harrison, describing the occasional mirth and hospitality of the farmer, says,—"In feasting the husbandmen doo exceed after their maner: especiallie at bridales, purifications of women, and such od meetings, where it is incredible to tell what meat is consumed and spent, ech one bringing such a dish, or so manie with him as his wife and he doo consult upon, but alwaies with this consideration, that the léefer fréend shall have the better provision. This also is commonlie séene at these bankets, that the good man of the house is not charged with any thing saving bread, drink, sauce, houseroome, and fire. (He then gives us the following naïve and pleasing picture of their festivity and content.) The husbandmen are sufficientlie liberall, and verie fréendlie at their tables, and when they méet, they are so merie without malice, and plaine without inward Italian or French craft and subtiltie, that it would doo a man good to be in companie among them. Herein only are the inferiour sort somewhat to be blamed, that being thus assembled, their talke is now and then such as savoureth of scurrilitie and ribaldrie, a thing naturallie incident to carters and clowns, who thinke themselves not to be merie and welcome, if their foolish veines in this behalfe be never so little restreined. This is moreover to be added in these meetings, that if they happen to stumble upon a péece of venison, and a cup of wine or verie strong beere or ale (which latter they commonlie provide against their appointed daies) they thinke their chéere so great, and themselves to have fared so well, as the lord Maior of London, with whome when their bellies be full they will not often sticke to make comparison, (saying, I have dined so well as my lord maior) because that of a subject there is no publike officer of anie citie in Europe, that may compare in port and countenance with him during the time of his office."[109:B]

[110]The dress of the farmer during the middle of the sixteenth century was plain and durable; consisting, for common purposes, of coarse gray cloth or fustian, in the form of trunk-hose, frock, or doublet.

To this account of the farmer's mode of living, it will be proper to add a brief description of his coadjutor in domestic economy, the English housewife, a personage of no small importance; for, as honest Tusser has justly observed,

"House keping and husbandry, if it be good,
must love one another, as cousinnes in blood.
The wife to, must husband as well as the man,
or farewel thy husbandry, doe what thou can."[110:A]

Of the qualifications necessary to constitute this useful character, Gervase Markham has given us a very curious detail, in his work entitled "The English Housewife;" which, though not published until the close of the Shakspearian era, appears, from the dedication to Frances, Countess Dowager of Exeter, to have been written long anterior to its transmission to the press; for it is there said, "That much of it was a manuscript which many years ago belonged to an honourable Countess, one of the greatest glories of our[110:B] kingdom." It is a delineation which, as supposed of easy practical application, does honour to the sex and to the age. After expatiating on the necessity of a religious example to her household, on the part of the good housewife, he thus proceeds:

"Next unto her sanctity and holiness of life, it is meet that our English Housewife be a woman of great modesty and temperance, as well inwardly as outwardly; inwardly, as in her behaviour and carriage towards her husband, wherein she shall shun all violence of rage, passion and humour, coveting less to direct than to be directed, appearing ever unto him pleasant, amiable and delightful; and, [111]tho' occasion of mishaps, or the mis-government of his will may induce her to contrary thoughts, yet vertuously to suppress them, and with a mild sufferance rather to call him home from his error, than with the strength of anger to abate the least spark of his evil, calling into her mind, that evil and uncomely language is deformed, though uttered even to servants; but most monstrous and ugly, when it appears before the presence of a husband: outwardly, as in her apparel, and dyet, both which she shall proportion according to the competency of her husband's estate and calling, making her circle rather strait than large: for it is a rule, if we extend to the uttermost, we take away increase; if we go a hairs bredth beyond, we enter into consumption: but if we preserve any part, we build strong forts against the adversaries of fortune, provided that such preservation be honest and conscionable: for as lavish prodigality is brutish, so miserable covetousness is hellish. Let therefore the Housewife's garments be comely and strong, made as well to preserve the health, as to adorn the person, altogether without toyish garnishes, or the gloss of light colours, and as far from the vanity of new and fantastick fashions, as near to the comely imitation of modest matrons. Let her dyet be wholesome and cleanly, prepared at due hours, and cook'd with care and diligence, let it be rather to satisfie nature, than her affections, and apter to kill hunger than revive new appetites; let it proceed more from the provision of her own yard, than the furniture of the markets; and let it be rather esteemed for the familiar acquaintance she hath without it, than for the strangeness and rarity it bringeth from other countries.

"To conclude, our English Housewife must be of chast thoughts, stout courage, patient, untired, watchful, diligent, witty, pleasant, constant in friendship, full of good neighbour-hood, wise in discourse, but not frequent therein, sharp and quick of speech, but not bitter or talkative, secret in her affairs, comfortable in her counsels, and generally skilful in the worthy knowledges which do belong to her vocation."[111:A]

[112]These knowledges, he then states, should consist in an intimacy with domestic physic, with cookery, with the distillation of waters, with the making and preserving of wines, with the making and dying of cloth, with the conduct of dairies, and with malting, brewing, and baking; for all which he gives very ample directions. Markham, indeed, seems to have taken the greater part of this picture from his predecessor Tusser, in whose poems on husbandry may be found, among many others, the following excellent precepts for the conduct of the good house-wife:—

"In Marche and in Aprill from morning to night:
in sowing and setting good huswives delight.
To have in their garden or some other plot:
to trim up their house and to furnish their pot.
Have millons at Mihelmas, parsneps in lent:
in June, buttred beanes, saveth fish to be spent.
With those and good pottage inough having than:
thou winnest the heart of thy laboring man.
From Aprill begin til saint Andrew be past:
so long with good huswives their dairies doe last.
Good milche bease and pasture, good husbandes provide:
good huswives know best all the rest how to guide.
But huswives, that learne not to make their owne cheese:
with trusting of others, have thes for their feese.
Their milke slapt in corners their creame al to sost:
their milk pannes so flotte, that their cheeses be lost.
Where some of a kowe maketh yerely a pounde:
these huswives crye creake for their voice will not sounde.
The servauntes suspecting their dame, lye in waighte:
with one thing or other they trudge away straight.
Then neighbour (for god's sake) if any such be:
if you know a good servant, waine her to me.
Such maister, suche man, and such mistres such mayde:
such husbandes and huswives, suche houses araide.
For flax and for hemp, for to have of her owne:
the wife must in May take good hede it be sowne.
And trimme it and kepe it to serve at a nede:
the femble to spin and the karle for her fede.
[113]
Good husbandes abrode seketh al wel to have:
good huswives at home seketh al wel to save.
Thus having and saving in place where they meete:
make profit with pleasure suche couples to greete.[113:A]"

But it is in "The points of Huswifry united to the comfort of Husbandry," of the good old poet, that we recognise the most perfect picture of the domestic economy of agricultural life in the days of Elizabeth. This material addition to the husbandry of our author appeared in 1570, and embraces a complete view of the province of the Huswife, with all her daily labours and duties, which are divided into—1st, Morning Works; 2dly, Breakfast Doings; 3dly, Dinner Matters; 4thly, Afternoon Works; 5thly, Evening Works; 6thly, Supper-Matters; and 7thly, After-Supper Matters.

From the details of this arrangement we learn, that the servants in summer rose at four, and in winter at five o'clock; that in the latter season they were called to breakfast on the appearance of the day-star, and that the huswife herself was the carver and distributer of the meat and pottage. We find, likewise, and it is the only objectionable article in the admonitions of the poet, that he recommends his dame not to scold, but to thrash heartily her maids when refractory; and he adds a circumstance rather extraordinary, but at the same time strongly recommendatory of the effects of music, that

"Such servants are oftenest painfull and good,
That sing in their labour, as birds in the wood."

Dinner, he enjoins, should be taken at noon; should be quickly dispatched; and should exhibit plenty, but no dainties.

The bare table, he observes, will do as well, as if covered with a cloth, which is liable to be cut; and that wooden and pewter dishes and tin vessels for liquor are the best, as most secure; and then, with his accustomed piety, he advises the regular use of grace—

[114]
"At dinner, at supper, at morning, at night,
Give thanks unto God."

As soon as dinner is over, the servants are again set to work, and he very humanely adds,

"To servant in seikness, see nothing ye grutch,
A thing of a trifle shall comfort him much."

Many precepts, strictly economical, then follow, in which the huswife is directed to save her parings, drippings, and skimmings for the sake of her poultry, and for "medicine for cattle, for cart, and for shoe;" to employ the afternoon, like a good sempstress, in making and mending; to keep her maids cleanly in their persons, to call them quarterly to account, to mark and number accurately her linen, to save her feathers, to use little spice, and to make her own candle.

The business of the evening commences with preparations for supper, as soon as the hens go to roost; the hogs are then to be served, the cows milked, and as night comes on, the servants return, but none empty-handed, some bringing in wood, some logs, &c. The cattle, both without and within doors, are next to be attended to, all clothes brought into the house, and no door left unbolted, and the duties of the evening close with this injunction:

"Thou woman, whom pity becometh the best,
Grant all that hath laboured time to take rest."

Supper now is spread, and the scene opens with an excellent persuasive to cheerfulness and hospitality:

"Provide for thy husband, to make him good cheer,
Make merry together, while time ye be here.
A-bed and at board, howsoever befall,
Whatever God sendeth, be merry withall.
No taunts before servants, for hindering of fame,
No jarring too loud, for avoiding of shame."

[115]The servants are then ordered to be courteous, and attentive to each other, especially at their meals, and directions are given for the next morning's work.

The last section, entitled "After-supper matters," is introduced and terminated in a very moral and impressive manner. The first couplet tells us to

"Remember those children, whose parents be poor,
Which hunger, yet dare not to crave at thy door;"

the bandog is then ordered to have the bones and the scraps; the huswife looks carefully to the fire, the candle, and the keys; the whole family retire to rest, at nine in winter, and at ten in summer, and the farmer's day closes with four lines which ought to be written in letters of gold, and which, if duly observed, would ensure a great portion of the happiness obtainable by man:

"Be lowly, not sullen, if aught go amiss,
What wresting may lose thee, that win with a kiss.
Both bear and forbear, now and then as ye may,
Then wench, God a mercy! thy husband will say."[115:A]

[116]

Frugality and domestic economy were not, however, the constant attributes of the farmer's wife in the age of which we are treating; [117]the luxury of dress, both in England and Scotland, had already corrupted the simplicity of country-habits. Stephen Perlet, who [118]visited Scotland in 1553, and Fines Moryson, who made a similar tour in 1598[118:A], agree in describing the dress of the common people of both countries as nearly if not altogether the same; the picture, therefore, which Dunbar has given us of the dress of a rich farmer's wife, in Scotland, during the middle of the sixteenth century, will apply, with little fear of exaggeration, to the still wealthier dames of England. He has drawn her in a robe of fine scarlet with a white hood; a gay purse and gingling keys pendant at her side from a silken belt of silver tissue; on each finger she wore two rings, and round her waste was bound a sash of grass-green silk, richly embroidered with silver.[118:B] To this rural extravagancy in dress, Warner will bear an equal testimony; for, describing two old gossips cowering over their cottage-fire, and chatting how the world was changed in their time,

"When we were maids (quoth one of them)
Was no such new found pride:
Then wore they shooes of ease, now of
An inch-broad, corked hye:
Black karsie stockings, worsted now,
Yea silke of youthful'st dye:
Garters of lystes, but now of silke,
Some edged deep with gold:
With costlier toyes, for courser turns,
Than us'd, perhaps of old.
Fring'd and ymbroidered petticoats
Now begge. But heard you nam'd,
Till now of late, busks, perrewigs,
Maskes, plumes of feathers fram'd,
Supporters, posters, fardingales
Above the loynes to waire,
That be she near so bombe-thin, yet
She crosse-like seems foure-squaire?
[119]
Some wives, grayheaded, shame not locks
Of youthfull borrowed haire:
Some, tyring arte, attyer their heads
With only tresses bare:
Some, (grosser pride than which, think I,
No passed age might shame)
By arte, abusing nature, heads
Of antick't hayre doe frame.
Once starching lack't the tearme, because
Was lacking once the toy,
And lack't we all these toyes and tearmes,
It were no griefe but joy.—
Now dwels ech drossell in her glas:
When I was yong, I wot,
On holly-dayes (for sildome els
Such ydell times we got)
A tubb or paile of water cleere
Stood us in steede of glas."[119:A]

Luxury and extravagance soon spread beyond the female circle, and the Farmer's Heir of forty pounds a year, is described by Hall, in 1598, as dissipating his property on the follies and fopperies of the day.

"Vilius, the wealthy farmer, left his heire
Twice twenty sterling pounds to spend by yeare:—
But whiles ten pound goes to his wife's new gowne,
Nor little lesse can serve to suit his owne;
Whiles one piece pays her idle waiting-man,
Or buys an hoode, or silver-handled fanne,
Or hires a Friezeland trotter, halfe yard deepe,
To drag his tumbrell through the staring Cheape;
Or whiles he rideth with two liveries,
And's treble rated at the subsidies;
One end a kennel keeps of thriftlesse hounds;
What think ye rests of all my younker's pounds
To diet him, or deal out at his doore,
To coffer up, or stocke his wasting store?"[119:B]

[120]In contrast to this character, who keeps a pack of hounds, and sports a couple of liveries, it will be interesting to bring forward the picture of the poor copyholder, as drawn by the same masterly pencil; the description of the wretched hovel is given in all the strength of minute reality, and the avidity of the avaricious landlord is wrought up with several strokes of humour.

"Of one bay's breadth, God wot, a silly cote,
Whose thatched spars are furr'd with sluttish soote
A whole inch thick, shining like black-moor's brows,
Through smoke that downe the headlesse barrel blows.
At his bed's feete feeden his stalled teame,
His swine beneath, his pullen o'er the beame.
A starved tenement, such as I guesse
Stands straggling on the wastes of Holdernesse:
Or such as shivers on a Peake hill side, &c.—
Yet must he haunt his greedy landlord's hall
With often presents at each festivall:
With crammed capons everie new-yeare's morne,
Or with greene cheese when his sheepe are shorne:
Or many maunds-full of his mellow fruite,
To make some way to win his weighty suite.—
The smiling landlord shews a sunshine face,
Feigning that he will grant him further grace;
And leers like Esop's foxe upon the crane,
Whose neck he craves for his chirurgian."[120:A]

We shall close these characters, illustrative of rural manners, as they existed in the reigns of Elizabeth and James 1st, with a delineation of the plain Country Fellow or down right Clown, from the accurate pen of Bishop Earle, who has touched this homely subject with singular point and spirits.

"A plain country fellow is one that manures his ground well, but lets himself lye fallow and untilled. He has reason enough to do his business, and not enough to be idle or melancholy. He seems to have the punishment of Nebuchadnezzar, for his conversation is among beasts, and his tallons none of the shortest, only he eats not [121]grass, because he loves not sallets. His hand guides the plough, and the plough his thoughts, and his ditch and land-mark is the very mound of his meditations. He expostulates with his oxen very understandingly, and speaks gee, and ree, better than English. His mind is not much distracted with objects, but if a good fat cow come in his way, he stands dumb and astonished, and though his haste be never so great, will fix here half an hour's contemplation. His habitation is some poor thatched roof, distinguished from his barn by the loop-holes that let out smoak, which the rain had long since washed through, but for the double ceiling of bacon on the inside, which has hung there from his grandsire's time, and is yet to make rashers for posterity. His dinner is his other work, for he sweats at it as much as at his labour; he is a terrible fastner on a piece of beef, and you may hope to stave the guard off sooner. His religion is a part of his copy-hold, which he takes from his land-lord, and refers it wholly to his discretion: yet if he give him leave he is a good Christian to his power, (that is,) comes to church in his best cloaths, and sits there with his neighbours, where he is capable only of two prayers, for rain, and fair weather. He apprehends God's blessings only in a good year, or a fat pasture, and never praises him but on good ground. Sunday, he esteems a day to make merry in, and thinks a bag-pipe as essential to it as evening prayer, where he walks very solemnly after service with his hands coupled behind him, and censures the dancing of his parish. His compliment with his neighbour is a good thump on the back, and his salutation commonly some blunt curse. He thinks nothing to be vices, but pride and ill husbandry, from which he will gravely dissuade the youth, and has some thrifty hob-nail proverbs to clout his discourse. He is a niggard all the week, except only market-day, where, if his corn sell well, he thinks he may be drunk with a good conscience. He is sensible of no calamity but the burning a stack of corn or the overflowing of a meadow, and thinks Noah's flood the greatest plague that ever was, not because it drowned the world, but spoiled the [122]grass. For death he is never troubled, and if he get in but his harvest before, let it come when it will, he cares not."[122:A]

The nine characters which have now passed in brief review before us, namely, the Rural Squire; the Rural Coxcomb; the Rural Clergyman; the Rural Pedagogue; the Farmer or substantial Yeoman; the Farmer's Wife; the Farmer's Heir; the Poor Copyholder, and the mere Ploughman or Country Boor, will, to a certain extent, point out the personal manners, condition, and mode of living of those who inhabited the country, during the period in which Shakspeare flourished. They have been given from the experience, and, generally, in the very words of contemporary writers, and may, therefore, be considered as faithful portraits. To complete the picture, a further elucidation of the customs of the country, as drawn from its principal occurrences and events, will be the subject of the ensuing chapter, in which the references to the works of our immortal bard will be more frequent than could take place while collecting mere out-line draughts of rural character.


FOOTNOTES:

[68:A] Holinshed's Chronicles, edit. of 1807, in six vols. 4to. vol. i. p. 276.

[68:B] Holinshed, vol. i. p. 273.

[69:A] Taming of the Shrew, act ii. sc. 1.

[70:A] Of the very rare tract from which these extracts are taken, the following is the entire title-page:—"The Gentleman's Academie; or, the Booke of St. Albans: containing three most exact and excellent Bookes: the first of Hawking, the second of all the proper Termes of Hunting, and the last of Armorie: all compiled by Juliana Barnes, in the Yere from the Incarnation of Christ 1486. And now reduced into a better method, by G. M. London. Printed for Humphrey Lownes, and are to be sold at his shop in Paules Church-yard, 1595." This curious edition of the Booke of St. Albans, accommodated to the days of Shakspeare, contains 95 leaves 4to. and I shall add the interesting dedication:

"To the Gentlemen of England:
and all good fellowship
of Huntsmen and
Falconers.

"Gentlemen, this booke, intreting of Hawking, Hunting, and Armorie; the originall copie of the which was doone at St. Albans, about what time the excellent arte of printing was first brought out of Germany, and practised here in England: which booke, because of the antiquitie of the same, and the things therein contained, being so necessarie and behovefull to the accomplishment of the gentlemen of this flourishing ile, and others which take delight in either of these noble sports, or in that heroicall and excellent study of Armory, I have revived and brought again to light the same which was almost altogether forgotten, and either few or none of the perfect copies thereof remaining, except in their hands, who wel knowing the excellency of the worke, and the rarenesse of the booke, smothered the same from the world, thereby to inrich themselves in private with the knowledge of these delights. Therfore I humbly crave pardon of the precise and judicial reader, if sometimes I use the words of the ancient authour, in such plaine and homely English, as that time affoorded, not being so regardful, nor tying myself so strictly to deliver any thing in the proper and peculiar wordes and termes of arte, which for the love I beare to antiquitie, and to the honest simplicitie of those former times, I observe as wel beseeming the subject, and no whit disgracefull to the worke, our tong being not of such puritie then, as at this day the poets of our age have raised it to: of whom, and in whose behalf I wil say thus much, that our nation may only thinke herself beholding for the glory and exact compendiousnes of our longuage. Thus submitting our academy to your kind censures and friendly acceptance of the same, and requesting you to reade with indifferency, and correct with judgement; I commit you to God.

G. M."

From this dedication we learn that the original edition of the Booke of St. Albans was as scarce towards the close of the sixteenth century as at the present day; that "few or none of the perfect copies" were to be obtained; for that those were in the hands of Bibliomaniacs who (like too many now existing) "smother'd them from the world." We have, therefore, every reason to conclude, from "the rarenesse (and consequent value) of the booke" of 1486, that the copy of Juliana's work in the library of Shakspeare, was the edition by Markham of 1595. I shall just add, that the copy now before me, was purchased at the Roxburgh sale, for 9l. 19s. 6d.! It is, notwithstanding, probable, from the peculiarities attending Markham's re-impression, that this sum, great as it may appear, will be exceeded at some future sale.

The attachment of Gervase Markham to the subjects which employed the pen of his favourite Prioress, is very happily introduced by Mr. Dibdin, while alluding to the similar propensities of the modern Markham, Mr. Haslewood. "Up starts Florizel, and blows his bugle, at the annunciation of any work, new or old, upon the diversions of Hawking, Hunting, or Fishing! Carry him through Camillo's cabinet of Dutch pictures, and you will see how instinctively, as it were, his eyes are fixed upon a sporting piece by Wouvermans. The hooded hawk, in his estimation, hath more charms than Guido's Madonna:—how he envies every rider upon his white horse!—how he burns to bestride the foremost steed, and to mingle in the fair throng, who turn their blue eyes to the scarcely bluer expanse of heaven! Here he recognises Gervase Markham, spurring his courser; and there he fancies himself lifting Dame Juliana from her horse! Happy deception! dear fiction! says Florizel—while he throws his eyes in an opposite direction, and views every printed book upon the subject, from Barnes to Thornton." Bibliomania, p. 729, 730.

The following very amusing description of "the difference twixt Churles and Gentlemen," will prove an adequate specimen of Markham's edition, will be appropriate to the subject in the text, and may be compared with the accurate reprint of the edition of W. De Worde by Mr. Haslewood.

"There was never gentleman, nor churle ordained, but hee had father and mother: Adam and Eve had neither father nor mother, and therefore in the sonnes of Adam and Eve, first issued out both gentleman and churle. By the sonnes of Adam and Eve, to wit, Seth, Abell, and Caine, was the royall blood divided from the rude and barbarous, a brother to murder his brother contrary to the law, what could be more ungentlemanly or vile? in that, therefore, became Caine and al his ofspring churles, both by the curse of God, and his owne father. Seth was made a gentleman through his father and mother's blessing, from whose loynes issued Noah, a gentleman by kind and linage. Noah had three sonnes truely begotten, two by the mother, named Cham and Sem, and the third by the father called Japhet, even in these three, after the world's inundation, was both gentlenes and vilenes discerned, in Cham was grose barbarisme founde towardes his owne father in discovering his privities, and deriding from whence hee proceeded. Japhet the yongest gentlemanlike reproved his brother, which was to him reputed a vertue, where Cham for his abortive vilenes became a churle both through the curse of God and his father Noah. When Noah awoke, hee said to Cham his sonne knowest not thou how it is become of Caine the sonne of Adam, and of his churlelike blood, that for them all the worlde is drowned save eight persons, and wilt thou nowe begin barbarisme againe, whereby the world in after ages shall be brought to consummation? well upon thee it shall bee and so I pray the Great one it maye fall out, for to thee I give my curse, and withall the north part of the world, to draw thine habitation unto, for there shall it be where sorrow, care, colde, and as a mischievous and unrespected churle thou shall live, which part of the earth shall be termed Europe, which is the country of churles. Japhet come hither my sonne, on thee will I raine my blessing, deare insteede of Seth: Adams sonne, I make thee a gentleman, and thy renowne shall stretch through the west part of the world, and to the end of the Occident, where wealth and grace shall flourish, there shall be thine habitation, and thy dominion shall bee called Asia, which is the cuntrie of gentlemen. And Sem my sonne, I make thee a gentleman also, to multiply the blood of Abell slaine so undeservedlie, to thee I give the orient, that part of the world which shal be called Africa, which is the country of temperateres: and thus divided Noah the world and his blessings. From the of-spring of gentlemanly Japhet came Abraham, Moyses, Aaron and the Prophets, and also the king of the right line of Mary, of whom that only absolute gentleman Jesus was borne, perfite God and perfite man, according to his manhood king of the lande of Juda and the Jewes, and gentleman by his mother Mary princesse of coat armor." Fol. 44.

[72:A] Holinshed, vol. i. p. 316.

[73:A] Holinshed, vol. i. p. 315.

[73:B] Holinshed, vol. i. p. 315. 317.

[74:A] Bacon's Essayes or Counsels, 4to. edit., 1632, p. 260.

[74:B] Act v. sc. 2.

[74:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xv. p. 184. note 5. by Steevens.

[75:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 236.

[75:B] Ancient British Drama, vol. i. p. 531.

[75:C] Massinger's Plays, apud Gifford, vol. iv. p. 7.

[76:A] From a MS. of Aubrey's in the Ashmole Museum, as quoted by Mr. Malcolm in his Anecdotes of the Manners and Customs of London, part i. p. 220. 4to.

[76:B] Aubrey's MS. Malcolm, p. 221, 222.

[79:A] Henry IV. part ii. act v. sc. 1.

[79:B] Holinshed, vol. i. p. 281. The particulars of the diet of our ancestors in the age of Shakspeare will be given in a subsequent part of the work.

[80:A] City Madam, act ii. sc. 1.

Gervase Markham in his English House-Wife, the first edition of which was published not long after Shakspeare's death, after mentioning in his second chapter, which treats of cookery, the manner of "ordering great feasts," closes his observations under this head, with directions for "a more humble feast, or an ordinary proportion which any good man may keep in his family, for the entertainment of his true and worthy friend;" this humble feast or ordinary proportion, he proceeds to say, should consist for the first course of "sixteen full dishes, that is, dishes of meat that are of substance, and not empty, or for shew—as thus, for example; first, a shield of brawn with mustard; secondly, a boyl'd capon; thirdly, a boyl'd piece of beef; fourthly, a chine of beef rosted; fifthly, a neat's tongue rosted; sixthly, a pig rosted; seventhly, chewets bak'd; eighthly, a goose rosted; ninthly, a swan rosted; tenthly, a turkey rosted; the eleventh, a haunch of venison rosted; the twelfth, a pasty of venison; the thirteenth, a kid with a pudding in the belly; the fourteenth, an olive-pye; the fifteenth, a couple of capons; the sixteenth, a custard or dowsets. Now to these full dishes may be added sallets, fricases, quelque choses, and devised paste, as many dishes more which make the full service no less than two and thirty dishes, which is as much as can conveniently stand on one table, and in one mess; and after this manner you may proportion both your second and third course, holding fulness on one half of the dishes, and shew in the other, which will be both frugal in the spendor, contentment to the guest, and much pleasure and delight to the beholders." P. 100, 101. ninth edition of 1683, small 4to.

[80:B] Henry IV. part ii. act v. sc. 3.

[81:A] Holinshed, vol. i. p. 287.

[81:B] Puttenham's Art of English Poesie, p. 69, reprint of 1811.

[81:C] Ibid. p. 33.

[82:A] Macbeth, act ii. sc. 2.

[82:B] Merry Wives of Windsor, act i. sc. 4.

[82:C] Merry Wives of Windsor, act v. sc. 5.

[82:D] Heywood's Edward II. p. 1.

[82:E] Jonson's Every Man in his Humour, act i. sc. 1. Acted in the year 1598.

[83:A] Holinshed, vol. i. p. 290.

[84:A] Chalmers' Poets, vol. iv. p. 435, 436. Drayton, Fourth Eclogue.

[84:B] "A term in hawking, signifying the short straps of leather which are fastened to the hawk's legs, by which he is held on the fist, or joined to the leash." Bliss.

[85:A] Earle's Microcosmography; or a Piece of the World discovered, in Essays and Characters. Edition of 1811, by Philip Bliss.

[85:B] Hall's Satires, book v. sat. 2. printed in 1598.

[86:A] Lodge's Illustrations of British History, Biography, and Manners, in the Reigns of Henry VIII., Edward VI., Mary, Elizabeth, and James I., vol. ii. p. 383.

That this evil kept gradually increasing during the reign of James I., may be proved from the testimony of Peacham and Brathwait; the former, in his Compleat Gentleman, observes,—"Much doe I detest that effeminacy of the most, that burne out day and night in their beds, and by the fire side; in trifles, gaming, or courting their yellow mistresses all the winter in a city; appearing but as cuckoes in the spring, one time in the yeare to the countrey and their tenants, leaving the care of keeping good houses at Christmas, to the honest yeomen of the countrey;" (p. 214.) and the latter, in his English Gentleman, addressing the rural fashionables of his day, exclaims,—"Let your countrey (I say) enjoy you, who bred you, shewing there your hospitality, where God hath placed you, and with sufficient meanes blessed you. I doe not approve of these, who fly from their countrey, as if they were ashamed of her, or had committed something unworthy of her. How blame-worthy then are these Court-comets, whose onely delight is to admire themselves? These, no sooner have their bed-rid fathers betaken themselves to their last home, and removed from their crazie couch, but they are ready to sell a mannor for a coach. They will not take it as their fathers tooke it: their countrey houses must bee barred up, lest the poore passenger should expect what is impossible to finde, releefe to his want, or a supply to his necessity. No, the cage is opened, and all the birds are fled, not one crum of comfort remaining to succour a distressed poore one. Hospitality, which was once a relique of gentry, and a knowne cognizance to all ancient houses, hath lost her title, meerely through discontinuance: and great houses, which were at first founded to releeve the poore, and such needfull passengers as travelled by them, are now of no use but onely as waymarkes to direct them. But whither are these Great ones gone? To the Court; there to spend in boundlesse and immoderate riot, what their provident ancestors had so long preserved, and at whose doores so many needy soules have beene comfortably releeved." Second edition, 1633. p. 332.

In the margin of the page from which this extract is taken, occurs the following note:—"This is excellently seconded by a Princely pen, in a pithy poem directed to all persons to ranke or quality to leave the Court, and returne into their owne countrey."

[86:B] In confirmation of this remark, I shall beg leave to give, for the entertainment of my readers, the two following sketches of country-squires, as they existed towards the middle of the seventeenth, and commencement of the eighteenth century. "Mr. Hastings," relates Gilpin from Hutchin's History of Dorsetshire, "was low of stature, but strong and active, of a ruddy complexion with flaxen hair. His cloaths were always of green cloth, his house was of the old fashion; in the midst of a large park, well stocked with deer, rabbits, and fish-ponds. He had a long narrow bowling green in it; and used to play with round sand bowls. Here too he had a banquetting room built, like a stand, in a large tree. He kept all sorts of hounds, that ran buck, fox, hare, otter, and badger: and had hawks of all kinds, both long and short winged. His great hall was commonly strewed with marrow bones; and full of hawk-perches, hounds, spaniels, and terriers. The upper end of it was hung with fox-skins, of this and the last year's killing. Here and there a pole-cat was intermixed; and hunter's poles in great abundance. The parlour was a large room, compleatly furnished in the same style. On a broad hearth, paved with brick, lay some of the choicest terriers, hounds and spaniels. One or two of the great chairs had litters of cats in them, which were not to be disturbed. Of these, three or four always attended him at dinner, and a little white wand lay by his trencher, to defend it, if they were too troublesome. In the windows which were very large, lay his arrows, cross-bows, and other accoutrements. The corners of the room were filled with his best hunting and hawking poles. His oyster table stood at the lower end of the room, which was in constant use twice a day, all the year round; for he never failed to eat oysters both at dinner and supper; with which the neighbouring town of Pool supplied him. At the upper end of the room stood a small table with a double desk; one side of which held a Church Bible; the other the Book of Martyrs. On different tables in the room lay hawk's-hoods, bells, old hats, with their crowns thrust in, full of pheasant eggs; tables, dice, cards, and store of tobacco pipes. At one end of this room was a door, which opened into a closet, where stood bottles of strong beer and wine; which never came out but in single glasses, which was the rule of the house; for he never exceeded himself nor permitted others to exceed. Answering to this closet, was a door into an old chapel; which had been long disused for devotion; but in the pulpit, as the safest place, was always to be found a cold chine of beef, a venison pasty, a gammon of bacon, or a great apple-pye, with thick crust well baked. His table cost him not much, though it was good to eat at. His sports supplied all, but beef and mutton; except on Fridays, when he had the best of fish. He never wanted a London pudding; and he always sang it in with "My part lies therein-a." He drank a glass or two of wine at meals; put syrup of gilly-flowers into his sack; and had always a tun glass of small beer standing by him, which he often stirred about with rosemary. He lived to be an hundred; and never lost his eye sight, nor used spectacles. He got on horseback without help; and rode to the death of the stag, till he was past four score." Gilpin's Forest Scenery; vol. ii. p. 23. 26.

Mr. Dibdin, in the second edition of his Bibliomania, the most pleasing and interesting book which Bibliography has ever produced, has quoted the above passage, and thus alludes, in his text, to the character which it describes:—"But what shall we say to Lord Shaftesbury's eccentric neighbour, Henry Hastings? who, in spite of his hawks, hounds, kittens, and oysters, could not forbear to indulge his book-propensities, though in a moderate degree! Let us fancy we see him, in his eightieth year, just alighted from the toils of the chase, and listening, after dinner, with his 'single glass' of ale by his side, to some old woman with 'spectacle on nose,' who reads to him a choice passage out of John Fox's Book of Martyrs! A rare old boy was this Hastings." Bibliomania, p. 379.

Mr. Grose, the antiquary, has given us, in his sketches of some worn-out characters of the last age, a most amusing portrait of the country squire of Queen Anne's days: "I mean," says he, "the little independant gentleman of three hundred pounds per annum, who commonly appeared in a plain drab or plush coat, large silver buttons, a jockey cap, and rarely without boots. His travels never exceeded the distance of the county town, and that only at assize and session time, or to attend an election. Once a week he commonly dined at the next market town, with the attornies and justices. This man went to church regularly, read the Weekly Journal, settled the parochial disputes between the parish officers at the vestry, and afterwards adjourned to the neighbouring ale-house, where he usually got drunk for the good of his country. He never played at cards but at Christmas, when a family pack was produced from the mantle-piece. He was commonly followed by a couple of grey-hounds and a pointer, and announced his arrival at a neighbours house by smacking his whip, or giving the view-halloo. His drink was generally ale, except on Christmas, the fifth of November, or some other gala days, when he would make a bowl of strong brandy punch garnished with a toast and nutmeg. A journey to London was, by one of these men, reckoned as great an undertaking, as is at present a voyage to the East Indies, and undertaken with scarce less precaution and preparation.

"The mansion of one of these 'Squires was of plaister striped with timber, not unaptly called callimanco work, or of red brick, large casemented bow windows, a porch with seats in it, and over it a study; the eaves of the house well inhabited by swallows, and the court set round with holly-hocks. Near the gate a horse-block for the conveniency of mounting.

"The hall was furnished with flitches of bacon, and the mantle-piece with guns and fishing rods of different dimensions, accompanied by the broad sword, partizan, and dagger, borne by his ancestor in the civil wars. The vacant spaces were occupied by stag's horns. Against the wall was posted King Charles's Golden Rules, Vincent Wing's Almanack, and a portrait of the Duke of Marlborough; in his window lay Baker's Chronicle, Fox's Book of Martyrs, Glanvil on Apparitions, Quincey's Dispensatory, the Complete Justice, and a Book of Farriery.

"In the corner, by the fire side, stood a large wooden two-armed chair with a cushion; and within the chimney corner were a couple of seats. Here, at Christmas, he entertained his tenants assembled round a glowing fire made of the roots of trees, and other great logs, and told and heard the traditionary tales of the village respecting ghosts and witches, till fear made them afraid to move. In the mean time the jorum of ale was in continual circulation.

"The best parlour, which was never opened but on particular occasions, was furnished with Turk-worked chain, and hung round with portraits of his ancestors; the men in the character of shepherds, with their crooks, dressed in full suits and huge full-bottomed perukes: others in complete armour or buff coats, playing on the base viol or lute. The females likewise as shepherdesses, with the lamb and crook, all habited in high heads and flowing robes.

"Alas! these men and these houses are no more!"

Grose's Olio, 2nd edit. 1796. p. 41-44.

[89:A] Richard Berket Reader, æt. 74. MS. note.

[89:B] In the margin is a MS. note seemingly in the hand-writing of Bishop Nicholson, who gave these volumes to the library:

"Since I can remember there was not a reader in any chapel but was called Sir."

[90:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 8. note.

[90:B] Twelfth Night, act iii. sc. 4.

[91:A] Holinshed, vol. i. p. 233, 234.

[92:A] Holinshed, vol. i. p. 231.

[93:A] Lodge's Illustrations, vol. iii. p. 391.

[93:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xx. p. 221. note 7.

[95:A] The Compleat Gentleman. Fashioning him absolut, in the most necessary and commendable Qualities concerning Minde or Body that may be required in a Noble Gentleman. By Henry Peacham Master of Arts: Sometime of Trinitie Colledge in Cambridge.

This book, which is written in an easy and elegant style, was published in 1622, and has been several times reprinted; it is a work of considerable interest and amusement, and throws much light on the education and literature of its times.

[95:B] Hall's Satires, Book ii. sat. 6.

[96:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xx. p. 451.

[96:B] The Staple of Newes, the third Intermeane after the third act.

[96:C] Act v. sc. 1.

[96:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 132. note 7.

[97:A] Compleat Gentleman, p. 22. edit. of 1634.

[97:B] Ibid. p. 25.

[97:C] Instruction of a Christian Woman, 4to. edit. of 1557.

[98:A] Compleat Gentleman, p. 26, 27.

[99:A] Holinshed, vol. i. p. 275.

[100:A] Holinshed, vol. i. p. 315.

[100:B] Three editions of Tusser's Poem on Husbandry are now before me; the first printed in 1557, entitled A Hundreth good Pointes of Husbandrie; the 4to. edition of 1586, termed Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie; and Tusser Redivivus, by Daniel Hilman, first published in 1710, and again in 1744; the quatrain just quoted is from the copy of 1744, p. 56.

[101:A] Gilpin's Life of Latimer, p. 2.

[103:A] Holinshed, vol. i. p. 317, 318.

[104:A] Warner's Albion's England, chap. 42. Chalmers's English Poets, vol. iv. p. 602.

[105:A] Warner in Chalmers's Poets, vol. iv. p. 552, 553.

[105:B] Act v. sc. 2. Song at the conclusion.

[106:A] Act ii. sc. 1.

[106:B] Damon and Pithias, 1582.

[106:C] Summer's Last Will and Testament, by Nash, 1600.

[106:D] Introductory Song to the second acte. Vide Ancient British Drama, vol. i.

[107:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 255.

[107:B] Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, p. 172, 173., eighth edition of 1676.

[107:C] Milton's Poems by Warton, second edition, p. 56. 61.

[108:A] Crones are ewes whose teeth are so worn down, that they can no longer live in their sheep-walk; but will sometimes, if put into good pasture, thrive exceedingly.

[108:B] Tusser, 4to. edit. 1586., chap. 12. fol. 25, 26.

[108:C] Tusser, 4to. edit. 1586., fol. 138. 144, 145.

[109:A] Tusser, 4to. of 1586. fol. 133.

[109:B] Holinshed, vol. i. p. 282.

[110:A] Tusser, first edit. of 1557. title-page.

[110:B] The English House-Wife, containing the inward and outward vertues which ought to be in a Compleat Woman. Ninth edition, 1683. Dedication.

[111:A] English House-Wife, p. 2, 3, 4.

[113:A] Tusser, first edit. p. 14, 15.

[115:A] Mayor's Tusser, p. 247. ad p. 270.

Even this, and every other description of the duties of the Huswife, may be traced to "The Book of Husbandry," written by Sir Anthony Fitzherbert, of Norbury, in Derbyshire.

This gentleman, who was a Judge of the Common Pleas, in the reign of Henry the Eighth, is justly entitled to the appellation of "the father of English Husbandry." His work, the first edition of which was printed by Richard Pynson, in 1528, 4to., underwent not less than eleven editions during the sixteenth century, and soon excited among his countrymen a most beneficial spirit of emulation. Notwithstanding these numerous impressions, there are probably not ten complete copies left in the kingdom.

One of these is, however, now before me included in a thick duodecimo, of which the first article is "Xenophon's treatise of householde," black letter, title wanting; the colophon, "Imprinted At London in fletestrete in the house of Thomas Berthelet. Cum privilegio ad imprimendum solum." No date. The second article is "The booke of Husbandrye verye profitable and necessary for all maner of persons, newlye corrected and amended by the auctor fitzherbard, with dyvers addicions put thereunto. Anno do. 1555," black letter. Colophon, "Imprinted at London in Flete strete at the signe of the Sunne over agaynst the Conduit by John Weylande." Sixty-one leaves, exclusive of the table. The third article is entitled "Surveyinge," An. 1546. Colophon, "Londini in ædibus Thome Berthelet typis impress. Cum privilegio ad imprimendum solum." Contains sixty leaves, black letter.

From "The booke of husbandrye," I shall extract the detail of huswifely duties, as a specimen of the work, and as a proof of the assertion at the commencement of this note.

"What workes a wyfe shoulde doe in generall.

"First in the mornyng when thou art wakēd and purpose to rise, lift up thy hand, and blis the and make a signe of the holy crosse. In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti. Amen. In the name of the father ye sonne, and the holy gost. And if thou saye a Paternoster, an Ave and a Crede, and remembre thy maker thou shalte spede much the better, and when thou art up and readye, then firste swepe thy house; dresse up the dysshe bord, and set al thynges in good order within thy house, milke ye kie, socle thy calves, sile by thy milke, take up thy children, and aray them, and provide for thy husbande's breakefaste, diner, souper, and for thy children and servauntes, and take thy parte wyth them. And to ordeyne corne and malt to the myll, to bake and brue withal when nede is. And mete it to the myl and fro the myl, and se that thou have thy mesure agayne besides the tole or elles the mylner dealeth not truly wyth the, or els thy corne is not drye as it should be, thou must make butter and chese when thou may, serve thy swine both mornynge and eveninge, and give thy polen meate in the mornynge, and when tyme of yeare cometh thou must take hede how thy henne, duckes and geese do ley, and to gather up their egges and when they waxe broudy to set them there as no beastes, swyne, nor other vermyne hurt them, and thou must know that al hole foted foule wil syt a moneth and all cloven foted foule wyll syt but three wekes except a peyhen and suche other great foules as craynes, bustardes, and suche other. And when they have brought forth theyr birdes to se that they be well kepte from the gleyd, crowes fully martes and other vermyn, and in the begynyng of March, or a lytle before is time for a wife to make her garden and to get as manye good sedes and herbes as she can, and specyally such as be good for the pot and for to eate and as ofte as nede shall require it must be weded, for els the wede wyll over grow the herbes, and also in Marche is time to sowe flaxe and hempe for I have heard olde huswyves say, that better is Marche hurdes than Apryll flaxe, the reason appereth, but howe it shoulde bee sowen, weded, pulled, repealed, watred, washen, dried, beten, braked, tawed, hecheled, spon, wounden, wrapped and oven, it nedeth not for me to shewe, for they be wyse ynough, and thereof may they make shetes, bordclothes, towels, shertes, smockes, and suche other necessaryes, and therefore lette thy dystaffe be alwaye redy for a pastyme, that thou be not ydell. And undoubted a woman can not get her livinge honestly with spinning on the dystaffe, but it stoppeth a gap and must nedes be had. The bolles of flaxe when they be rypled of, must be rediled from the wedes and made dry with the sunne to get out the sedes. Now be it one maner of linsede called loken sede wyll not open by the sunne, and therefore when they be drye they must be sore brusen and broken the wyves know how, and then wynowed and kept dry til peretime cum againe. Thy femell hempe must be pulled fro the chucle hempe for this beareth no sede and thou must doe by it as thou didest by the flaxe. The chucle hempe doth beare sede, and thou must be ware that birdes eate it not as it groweth, the hempe thereof is not so good as the femel hempe, but yet it wil do good service. It may fortune sometime that thou shalte have so many thinges to do that thou shalte not wel know where is best to begyn. Then take hede which thing should be the greatest losse if it were not done and in what space it woulde be done, and then thinke what is the greatest los and ther begin. But I put case that, that thing that is of the greatest losse wyll be longe in doing, that thou might do thre or iiij other thinges in the meane whyle then loke wel if all these thinges were set togyther whiche of them were greatest losse, and yf these thynges be of greater losse, and may be al done in as shorte space as the other, then do thy many thinges fyrst. It is convenient for a husbande to have shepe of his owne for many causes, and then may his wife have part of the wooll to make her husbande and her selfe sum clothes. And at the least waye she may have the lockes of the shepe therwith to make clothes or blankets, and coverlets, or both. And if she have no wol of her owne she maye take woll to spynne of cloth makers, and by that meanes she may have a convenient living, and many tymes to do other workes. It is a wives occupacion to winow al maner of cornes, to make malte wash and wring, to make hey, to shere corne, and in time of nede to helpe her husbande to fyll the mucke wayne or donge carte, dryve the plough, to lode hey corne and such other. Also to go or ride to the market to sell butter, chese, mylke, egges, chekens, kapons, hennes, pygges, gees, and al maner of corne. And also to bye al maner of necessary thinges belonging to a houshold, and to make a true rekening and accompt to her husband what she hath receyved and what she hathe payed. And yf the husband go to the market to bye or sell as they ofte do, he then to shew his wife in lyke maner. For if one of them should use to disceive the other, he disceyveth himselfe, and he is not lyke to thryve, and therfore they must be true ether to other. I could peraventure shew the husbande of divers pointes that the wives disceve their husbandes in, and in like maner how husbandes deceve their wives. But yf I should do so, I shuld shew mo subtil pointes of disceite then other of them knew of before. And therfore me semeth best to holde my peace, leste I shuld do as the knight of the tower did the which had many faire doghters, and of fatherlie love that he oughte to them he made a boke unto a good intent that they mighte eschewe and flee from vices and folowe vertues in the which boke he sheweth that yf they were woed, moved, or styrred by any man after such a maner as is there shewed that they shuld withstande it, in the which booke he shewed so manye wayes how a man shuld attaine to his purpose to bryng a woman to vice, the which waies were so naturall and the wayes to come to theyr purpose was so subtylly contrived and craftely shewed that hard it wolde be for any woman to resist or deny their desyre. And by the sayd boke hath made both the man and the woman to know mo vyces subtylty and crafte then ever they shoulde have knowen if the boke had not bene made, the which boke he named him selfe the knighte of the tower. And thus I leave the wyves to use theyr occupations at theyr owne discression." Fol. 45, 46, 47.

[118:A] See Antiquarian Repertory, vol. i. p. 236; and Moryson's Itinerary, part iii. fol. 1617.

[118:B] The Freirs of Berwick; Pinkerton's Ancient Scotish Poems, 12mo. 2 vols. 1786. v. 2. p. 70.

[119:A] Warner's Albion's England, book ix. chap. xlvii.

[119:B] Hall's Satires, book v. satire 4.

[120:A] Hall's Satires, book v. satire 4.

[122:A] Earle's Microcosmography, p. 64. et seq. edit. of 1811, by Philip Bliss.


[123]

CHAPTER VI.

A VIEW OF COUNTRY LIFE DURING THE AGE OF SHAKSPEARE; ITS MANNERS AND CUSTOMS.—RURAL HOLYDAYS, AND FESTIVALS.

The record of rural festivity and amusement, must, as far as it is unaccompanied by any detail of riot or intemperance, be a subject of pleasing contemplation to every good and cheerful mind. Labour, the destined portion of by far the greater part of human beings, requires frequent intervals of relaxation; and the encouragement of innocent diversion at stated periods, may be considered, therefore, both in a moral and political point of view, as essentially useful. The sports and amusements of our ancestors on their holydays and festivals, while they had little tendency to promote either luxury or dissipation, contributed very powerfully to preserve some of the best and most striking features of our national manners and character, and were frequently mingled with that cheerful piety which forms the most heart-felt species of devotion, where religion, mixing with the social rite, offers up the homage of a happy and contented heart.

It may be necessary here to mention, that in enumerating the various ceremonial and feast days of rural life, we have purposely omitted those which are peculiarly occupied by superstitious observances, as they will with more propriety be included under a subsequent chapter, appropriated to the consideration of popular superstitions.

The ushering in of the New Year, or New Years tide, with rejoicings, presents, and good wishes, was a custom observed, during the sixteenth century, with great regularity and parade, and was as cordially celebrated in the court of the prince as in the cottage of the peasant.

To end the old year merrily and begin the new one well, and in friendship with their neighbours, were the objects which the common [124]people had in view in the celebration of this tide or festival. New-Years Eve, therefore, was spent in festivity and frolic by the men; and the young women of the village carried about, from door to door, a bowl of spiced ale, which they offered to the inhabitants of every house where they stopped, singing at the same time some rude congratulatory verses, and expecting some small present in return. This practice, however, which originated in pure kindness and benevolence, soon degenerated into a mere pecuniary traffic, for Selden, in his Table Talk, thus alludes to the subject, while drawing the following curious comparison: "The pope in sending relicks to princes, does as wenches do by their wassails at New Years Tide.—They present you with a cup, and you must drink of a slabby stuff; but the meaning is, you must give them money ten times more than it is worth."[124:A]

It was customary also, on this eve, for the young men and women to exchange their clothes, which was termed Mumming or Disguising; and when thus dressed in each other's garments, they would go from one neighbour's cottage to another, singing, dancing, and partaking of their good cheer; a species of masquerading which, as may be imagined, was often productive of the most licentious freedoms.

On the succeeding morning, the first of the New Year, presents, called new-year's gifts, were given and received, with the mutual expression of good wishes, and particularly that of a happy New Year. The compliment was sometimes paid at each other's doors in the form of a song; but more generally, especially in the north of England and in Scotland, the house was entered very early in the morning, by some young men and maidens selected for the purpose, who presented the spiced bowl, and hailed you with the gratulations of the season.

The custom of interchanging gifts on this day, though now nearly obsolete, was, in the days of Shakspeare, observed most scrupulously; and not merely in the country, but, as hath been just before hinted, even in the palace of the monarch. In fact the wardrobe and jewelry [125]of Elizabeth appear to have been supported principally by these annual contributions.

As a brief summary of these presents, though given not in the country, but at court, will yet, as including almost every rank in life, from the peer to the dustman, place in a strong light the prevalence of this custom, and point out of what these gifts usually consisted in a town, and therefore, by inference, of what they must have included in the country, its introduction will not, we should hope, be considered as altogether digressive from the nature of our subject.

To Mr. Nichols, who, in his work entitled "Queen Elizabeth's Progresses," has printed, from the original rolls in vellum, some very copious lists of New Year's gifts annually presented to this popular monarch, are we indebted for the following curious enumeration.

"From all these rolls," says he, "and more of them perhaps are still existing, it appears that the greatest part, if not all the peers and peeresses of the realm, all the bishops, the chief officers of state, and several of the Queen's houshold servants, even down to her apothecaries, master cook, serjeant of the pastry, &c. gave New Year's gifts to Her Majesty; consisting, in general, either of a sum of money, or jewels, trinkets, wearing apparel, &c. The largest sum given by any of the temporal lords was 20l.; but the Archbishop of Canterbury gave 40l., the Archbishop of York 30l., and the other spiritual lords 20l. and 10l.; many of the temporal lords and great officers, and most of the peeresses, gave rich gowns, petticoats, smocks, kirtles, silk stockings, cypres garters, sweet-bags, doblets, mantles, some embroidered with pearles, garnets, &c. looking-glasses, fans, bracelets, caskets studded with precious stones, jewels ornamented with sparks of diamonds in various devices, and other costly trinkets. Sir Gilbert Dethick, Garter King of Arms, gave a book of the states in King William the Conqueror's time, and a book of the arms of the noblemen in Henry the Fifth's time; Absolon, the master of the Savoy, a Bible covered with cloth of gold, garnished with silver, and gilt, and two plates with the royal arms; Petruchio Ubaldino, a book covered with vellum of Italian; Lambarde, the antiquary, [126]his Pandecta of all the Rolls, &c. in the Tower of London. The Queen's physician presented her with a box of foreign sweetmeats; another physician with two pots, one of green ginger, the other of orange flowers; two other physicians gave each a pot of green ginger, and a pot of the rinds of lemons; her apothecaries a box of lozenges, a box of ginger candy, a box of grene ginger, a box of orange candit, a pot of conserves, a pot of wardyns condite, a box of wood with prunolyn, and two boxes of manus Christi; Mrs. Blanch a Parry, a little box of gold to put in cumphetts, and a little spoon of gold; Mrs. Morgan a box of cherryes, and one of aberycocks; her master cook a fayre marchepayne; her serjeant of the pastry a fayre pie of quinces oringed; a box of peaches of Jenneway (Genoa); a great pie of quynses and wardyns guilte; Putrino, an Italian, presented her with two pictures; Innocent Corry with a box of lutestrings; Ambrose Lupo with another box of lutestrings, and a glass of sweet water; Petro Lupo, Josepho Lupo, and Cæsar Caliardo, each with a pair of sweet gloves; a cutler with a meat knyfe with a fan haft of bone, a conceit in it; Jaromy with twenty-four drinking-glasses; Jeromy Bassano two drinking-glasses; Smyth, dustman, two boltes of cambrick."[126:A]

The Queen, though she made returns in plate and other articles, took sufficient care that the balance should be in her own favour; hence, as the custom was found to be lucrative, and had indeed been practised with success by her predecessors on the throne, it was encouraged and rendered fashionable to an extent hitherto unprecedented in this kingdom. In the country, however, with the exception of the extensive households of the nobility, this interchange was conducted on the pure basis of reciprocal kindness and good will, and without any view of securing patronage or support; it was, indeed, frequently the channel through which charity delighted to exert her holy influence, and though originating in the heathen world, became sanctified by the Christian virtues.

[127]To the rejoicings on New Year's tide succeeded, after a short interval, the observance of the Twelfth Day, so called from its being the twelfth after the Nativity of our Saviour, and the day on which the Eastern Magi, guided by the star, arrived at Bethlehem to worship the infant Jesus.

This festive day, the most celebrated of the twelve for the peculiar conviviality of its rites, has been observed in this kingdom ever since the reign of Alfred, in whose days, says Collier, "a Law was made with relation to Holidays, by virtue of which the twelve days after the Nativity of our Saviour were made Festivals."[127:A]

In consequence of an idea, which seems generally to have prevailed, that the Eastern Magi were kings, this day has been frequently termed the Feast of the Three Kings; and many of the rites with which it is attended, are founded on this conception; for it was customary to elect, from the company assembled on this occasion, a king or queen, who was usually elevated to this rank by the fortuitous division of a cake containing a bean or piece of coin, and he or she to whom this symbol of distinction fell, in dividing the cake, was immediately chosen king or queen, and then forming their ministers and court from the company around, maintained their state and character until midnight.

The Twelfth Cake was almost always accompanied by the Wassail Bowl, a composition of spiced wine or ale, or mead, or metheglin, into which was thrown roasted apples, sugar, &c. The term Wassail, which in our elder poets is connected with much interesting imagery, and many curious rites, appears to have been first used in this island during the well-known interview between Vortigern and Rowena. Geoffrey of Monmouth relates, on the authority of Walter Calenius, that this lady, the daughter of Hengist, knelt down, on the approach of the king, and presenting him with a cup of wine, exclaimed "Lord king wæs heil," that is, literally "Health be to you." Vortigern being ignorant of the Saxon language, was informed [128]by an interpreter, that the purport of these words was to wish him health, and that he should reply by the expression drinc-heil, or "Drink the health;" accordingly, on his so doing, Rowena drank, and the king receiving the cup from her hand, kissed and pledged her.[128:A] Since this period, observes the historian, the custom has prevailed in Britain of using these words whilst drinking; the person who drank to another saying was-heil, and he who received the cup answering drinc-heil.

It soon afterwards became a custom in villages, on Christmas-Eve, New Year's Eve, and Twelfth Night, for itinerant minstrels to carry to the houses of the gentry, and others, where they were generally very hospitably received, a bowl of spiced wine, which being presented with the Saxon words just mentioned, was therefore called a Wassail-bowl. A bowl or cup of this description was likewise to be found in almost every nobleman's and gentleman's house, (and frequently of massy silver,) until the middle of the seventeenth century, and which was in perpetual requisition during the revels of Christmas. In "The Antiquarian Repertory, vol. i. p. 217," relates Mr. Douce, "there is an account, accompanied with an engraving, of an oaken chimney-piece in a very old house at Berlen, near Snodland in Kent, on which is carved a wassel-bowl resting on the branches of an apple-tree, alluding, probably, to part of the materials of which the liquor was composed. On one side is the word wassheil, and on the other [129]drincheile."[129:A] "This is certainly," he adds, "a very great curiosity of its kind, and at least as old as the fourteenth century. Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, in his will gave to Sir John Briddlewood a silver cup called wassail: and it appears that John Duke of Bedford, the regent, by his first will bequeathed to John Barton, his maitre d'hotel, a silver cup and cover, on which was inscribed Washayl."[129:B]

In consequence of the Wassail-bowl being peculiar to scenes of revelry and festivity, the term wassail in time became synonymous with feasting and carousing, and has been used, therefore, by many of our poets either to imply drinking and merriment, or the place where such joviality was expected to occur. Thus Shakspeare makes Hamlet say of the king "draining his draughts of Rhenish down," that he

"Keeps wassel:"[129:C]

and in Macbeth, the heroine of that play declares that she will convince the two chamberlains of Duncan

"With wine and wassel."[129:D]

In Anthony and Cleopatra also, Cæsar, advising Anthony to live more temperately, tells him to leave his

"Lascivious wassals."[129:E]

[130]And lastly, in Love's Labour's Lost, Biron, describing the character of Boyet, says,

"He is wit's pedler: and retails his wares
At wakes, and wassels, meetings, markets, fairs."[130:A]

Ben Jonson has given us two curious personifications of the Wassal; the first in his Forest, No. 3. whilst giving an account of a rural feast in the hall of Sir Robert Wroth; he says,

"The rout of rural folk come thronging in,
Their rudenesse then is thought no sin—
The jolly Wassal walks the often round,
And in their cups their cares are drown'd:"[130:B]

and the second in "Christmas, His Masque, as it was presented at Court 1616," where Wassall, as one of the ten children of Christmas, is represented in the following quaint manner. Like a neat Sempster, and Songster; her Page bearing a browne bowle, drest with Ribbands, and Rosemarie before her.[130:C]

Fletcher, in his Faithful Shepherdess, has given a striking description of the festivity attendant on the Wassal bowl:

——— "The woods, or some near town
That is a neighbour to the bordering down,
Hath drawn them thither, 'bout some lusty sport,
Or spiced Wassel-Boul, to which resort
All the young men and maids of many a cote,
Whilst the trim minstrell strikes his merry note."[130:D]

The persons thus accompanying the Wassal bowl, especially those who danced and played, were called Wassailers, an appellation which it was afterwards customary to bestow on all who indulged, at any season, in intemperate mirth. Hence Milton introduces his Lady in Comus making use of the term in the following beautiful passage:

[131]
——————— "Methought it was the sound
Of riot and ill-manag'd merriment,
Such as the jocund flute, or gamesome pipe
Stirs up among the loose unletter'd hinds,
When for their teeming flocks, and granges full,
In wanton dance, they praise the bounteous Pan,
And thank the gods amiss. I should be loath
To meet the rudeness, and swill'd insolence,
Of such late wassailers."[131:A]

During the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. the celebration of Twelfth Night was, equally with Christmas-Day, a festival through the land, and was observed with great ostentation and ceremony in both the Universities, at Court, at the Temple, and at Lincoln's and [132]Gray's-Inn. Many of the Masques of Ben Jonson were written for the amusement of the royal family on this night, and Dugdale in his Origines Juridicales, has given us a long and particular account of the revelry at the Temple on each of the twelve days of Christmas, in the year 1562. It appears from this document that the hospitable rites of St. Stephen's Day, St. John's Day, and Twelfth Day, were ordered to be exactly alike, and as many of them are, in their nature, perfectly rural, and were, there is every reason to suppose, observed, to a certain extent, in the halls of the country-gentry and substantial yeomanry, a short record here, of those that fall under this description, cannot be deemed inapposite.

The breakfast on Twelfth Day is directed to be of brawn, mustard, and malmsey; the dinner of two courses, to be served in the hall, and after the first course "cometh in the Master of the Game, apparalled in green velvet: and the Ranger of the Forest also, in a green suit of satten; bearing in his hand a green bow and divers arrows, with either of them a hunting horn about their necks: blowing together three blasts of venery, they pace round about the fire three times. Then the Master of the Game maketh three curtesies," kneels down, and petitions to be admitted into the service of the Lord of the Feast.

"This ceremony performed, a huntsman cometh into the hall, with a fox and a purse-net; with a cat, both bound at the end of a staff; and with them nine or ten couple of hounds, with the blowing of hunting-horns. And the fox and cat are by the hounds set upon, and killed beneath the fire. This sport finished, the Marshal (an officer so called, who, with many others under different appellations, were created for the purpose of conducting the revels) placeth them in their several appointed places."

After the second course, the "antientest of the Masters of the Revels singeth a song, with the assistance of others there present;" and after some repose and revels, supper, consisting of two courses, is then served in the hall, and, being ended, "the Marshall presenteth [133]himself with drums afore him, mounted upon a scaffold, born by four men; and goeth three times round about the harthe, crying out, aloud, 'A Lord, a Lord,' &c., then he descendeth, and goeth to dance."

"This done, the Lord of Misrule (an officer whose functions will be afterwards noticed) addresseth himself to the Banquet; which ended with some minstralsye, mirth and dancing, every man departeth to rest."[133:A]

Herrick, who was the contemporary of Shakspeare for the first twenty-five years of his life, that is, from the year 1591 to 1616, has given us the following curious and pleasing account of the ceremonies of Twelfth Night, as we may suppose them to have been observed in almost every private family:

"TWELFTH-NIGHT,

Or King and Queen.

Now, now the mirth comes
With the cake full of plums,
Where Beane's the king of the sport here;
Beside, we must know,
The Pea also
Must revell, as Queene, in the court here.
Begin then to chuse,
This night as ye use,
Who shall for the present delight here,
Be a King by the lot,
And who shall not
Be Twelfe-day Queene for the night here.
Which knowne, let us make
Joy-sops with the cake;
And let not a man then be seen here,
Who unurg'd will not drinke
To the base from the brink
A health to the King and the Queene here.
[134]
Next crowne the bowle full
With gentle lambs-wooll;
Adde sugar, nutmeg and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must doe
To make the wassaile a swinger.
Give then to the King
And Queene wassailing;
And though with ale ye be whet here;
Yet part ye from hence,
As free from offence,
As when ye innocent met here."

Herrick's Hesperides, p. 376, 377.

The Twelfth Day was the usual termination of the festivities of Christmas with the higher ranks; but with the vulgar they were frequently prolonged until Candlemas, to which period it was thought a point of much importance to retain a portion of their Christmas cheer.

It should not be forgotten here, that Shakspeare has given the appellation of Twelfth Night to one of his best and most finished plays. No reason for this choice is discoverable in the drama itself, and from its adjunctive title of What You Will, it is probable, that the name was meant to be no otherwise appropriate than as designating an evening on which dramatic mirth and recreation were, by custom, peculiarly expected and always acceptable.[134:A]

[135]It appears from a passage from Warner's Albion's England, that between Twelfth Day and Plough-Monday, a period was customarily fixed upon for the celebration of games in honour of the Distaff, and which was termed Rock-Day.[135:A] The notice in question is to be found in the lamentations of the Northerne-man over the decline of festivity, where he exclaims,

"Rock, and plow-mondaies, gams sal gang,
With saint-feasts and kirk sights."[135:B]

That this festival was observed not only during the immediate days of Warner and Shakspeare, but for some time afterwards, we learn from a little poem by Robert Herrick, which was probably written between the years 1630 and 1640. Herrick was born in 1591, and published his collection of poems, entitled Hesperides, in 1648. He gives us in his title the additional information that Rock, or Saint Distaff's Day, was the morrow after Twelfth Day; and he advises that it should terminate the sports of Christmas.

"SAINT DISTAFF'S OR THE MORROW AFTER
TWELFTH-DAY.

Partly worke and partly play
Ye must on S. Distaff's day:
From the plough soone free your teame;
Then come home and fother them.
If the Maides a spinning goe,
Burne the flax, and fire the tow:
Scorch their plackets, but beware
That ye singe no maiden-haire.
[136]
Bring in pailes of water then,
Let the Maides bewash the men.
Give S. Distaffe all the right,
Then bid Christmas sport good night.
And next morrow, every one
To his owne vocation."[136:A]

The first Monday after Twelfth Day used to be celebrated by the ploughmen as a Holiday, being the season at which the labours of the plough commenced, and hence the day has been denominated Plough-Monday. Tusser, in his poem on husbandry, after observing that the "old guise must be kept," recommends the ploughmen on this day to the hospitality of the good huswife:

"Good huswives, whom God hath enriched ynough,
forget not the feasts, that belong to the plough:
The meaning is only to joy and be glad,
for comfort with labour, is fit to be had."

He then adds,

"Plough-Munday, next after that Twelftide is past,
bids out with the plough, the worst husband is last:
If plowman get hatchet, or whip to the skreene,
maids loveth their cocke, if no water be seene."

These lines allude to a custom prevalent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and which Mr. Hilman, in a note on the passage, has thus explained: "After Christmas, (which formerly, during the twelve days, was a time of very little work,) every gentleman feasted the farmers, and every farmer their servants and task-men. Plough-monday puts them in mind of their business. In the morning the men and maid-servants strive who shall shew their diligence in rising earliest; if the ploughman can get his whip, his plough-staff, hatchet, or any thing that he wants in the field, by the fire-side, before the maid hath got her kettle on, then the maid loseth her Shrovetide cock, and it wholly belongs to the men. Thus did our [137]forefathers strive to allure youth to their duty, and provided them innocent mirth, as well as labour. On this Plough-Monday they have a good supper and some strong drink, that they might not go immediately out of one extreme into another."[137:A]

In the northern and north-western parts of England, the entire day was usually consumed in parading the streets, and the night was devoted to festivity. The ploughmen, apparently habited only in their shirts, but in fact with flannel jackets underneath, to keep out the cold, and these shirts decorated with rose-knots of various coloured riband, went about collecting what they called "plough-money for drink." They were accompanied by a plough, which they dragged along, and by music, and not unfrequently two of the party were dressed to personate an old woman, whom they called Bessy, and a Fool, the latter of these characters being covered with skins, with a hairy cap on his head, and the tail of some animal pendent from his back. On one of these antics was devolved the office of collecting money from the spectators by rattling a box, into which their contributions were dropped, while the rest of the ploughmen were engaged in performing a sword-dance, a piece of pageantry derived from our northern ancestors, and of which Olaus Magnus has left us an accurate description in his history of the Gothic nations.[137:B] It consisted, for the most part, in forming various figures with the swords, sheathed and unsheathed, commencing in slow time, and terminating in very rapid movements, which required great agility and address to be conducted with safety and effect.[137:C]

It was the opinion of Dr. Johnson that Shakspeare alluded to the [138]sword-dance, where, in Anthony and Cleopatra, he makes his hero observe of Augustus, that

——————— "He, at Philippi, kept
His sword even like a dancer."[138:A]

But Mr. Malone has remarked, with more probability, that the allusion is to the English custom of dancing with a sword worn by the side; in confirmation of which idea, he quotes a passage from All's Well That Ends Well, where Bertram, lamenting that he is kept from the wars, says,

"I shall stay here the forehorse to a smock,
Creaking my shoes on the plain masonry,
Till honour be bought up, and no sword worn.
But one to dance with."[138:B]

It has been observed in a preceding page, that, among the common people, the festivities of Christmas were frequently protracted to Candlemas-Day. This was done under the idea of doing honour to the Virgin Mary, whose purification is commemorated by the church at this period. It was generally, remarks Bourne, "a day of festivity, and more than ordinary observation among women, and is therefore called the Wives Feast-Day."[138:C] The term Candlemas, however, seems to have arisen from a custom among the Roman Catholics, of consecrating tapers on this day, and bearing them about lighted in procession, to which they were enjoined by an edict of Pope Sergius, A. D. 684; but on what foundation is not accurately ascertained. At the Reformation, among the rites and ceremonies which were ordered to be retained in a convocation of Henry VIII., this is one, and expressedly because it was considered as symbolical of the spiritual illumination of the Gospel.[138:D]

[139]From Candlemas to Hallowmas, the tapers which had been lighted all the winter in Cathedral and Conventual Churches ceased to be used; and so prevalent, indeed, was the relinquishment of candles on this day in domestic life, that it has laid the foundation of one of the proverbs in the collection of Mr. Ray:

On Candlemas-day throw Candle and Candlestick away.

On this day likewise the Christmas greens were removed from churches and private houses. Herrick, who may be considered as the contemporary of Shakspeare, being five-and-twenty at the period of the poet's death, has given us a pleasing description of this observance; he abounds, indeed, in the history of local rites, and, though surviving beyond the middle of the seventeenth century, paints with great accuracy the manners and superstitions of the Shakspearean era. He has paid particular attention to the festival that we are describing, and enumerates the various greens and flowers appropriated to different seasons in a little poem entitled

"CEREMONIES FOR CANDLEMASSE EVE.

Down with the Rosemary and Bayes,
Down with the Misleto;
Instead of Holly, now up-raise
The greener Box (for show).
The Holly hitherto did sway;
Let Box now domineere;
Untill the dancing Easter-day,
On Easter's Eve appeare.
Then youthfull Box which now hath grace,
Your houses to renew;
Grown old, surrender must his place,
Unto the crisped Yew.
[140]
When Yew is out, then Birch comes in,
And many Flowers beside;
Both of a fresh and fragrant kinne,
To honour Whitsontide.
Green Bushes then, and sweetest Bents,
With cooler Oken boughs;
Come in for comely ornaments,
To re-adorn the house."[140:A]

The usage which we have alluded to, of preserving the Christmas cheer and hospitality to Candlemas, is immediately afterwards recorded and connected with a singular superstition, in the following poems under the titles of

"CEREMONIES FOR CANDLEMASSE DAY.

Kindle the Christmas Brand, and then
Till sunne-set, let it burne;
Which quencht, then lay it up agen,
Till Christmas next returne.
Part must be kept wherewith to teend[140:B]
The Christmas Log next yeare;
And where 'tis safely kept, the fiend
Can do no mischiefe there.——
—————
End now the white-loafe, and the pye,
And let all sports with Christmas dye."[140:C]

To the exorcising power of the Christmas Brand is added, in the subsequent effusion, a most alarming denunciation against those who heedlessly leave in the Hall on Candlemas Eve, any the smallest portion of the Christmas greens.

[141]"CEREMONY UPON CANDLEMAS EVE

Down with the Rosemary, and so
Down with the Baies, and Misletoe:
Down with the Holly, Ivie, all
Wherewith ye drest the Christmas Hall:
That so the superstitious find
No one least Branch there left behind:
For look, how many leaves there be,
Neglected there, maids, trust to me,
So many goblins you shall see."[141:A]

The next important period of feasting in the country occurred at Shrove-tide, which among the Roman Catholics was the time appointed for shriving or confession of sins, and was also observed as a carnival before the commencement of Lent. The former of these ceremonies was dispensed with at the Reformation; but the rites attending the latter were for a long time supported with a rival spirit of hilarity. The Monday and Tuesday succeeding Shrove Sunday, called Collop Monday and Pancake Tuesday, were peculiarly devoted to Shrovetide Amusement; the first having been, in papal times, the period at which they took leave of flesh, or slices of meat, termed collops in the north, which had been preserved through the winter by salting and drying, and the second was a relic of the feast preceding Lent; eggs and collops therefore on the Monday, and pancakes, as a delicacy, on the Tuesday, were duly if not religiously served up.

[142]Tusser, in his very curious and entertaining poem on agriculture, thus notices some of the old observances at Shrovetide:—

"At Shroftide to shroving, go thresh the fat hen,
If blindfold can kill her, then give it thy men:
Maids, fritters and pancakes, ynow see ye make,
Let slut have one pancake, for company sake."

For an explanation of the obsolete custom of "threshing the fat hen," we are indebted to Mr. Hilman. "The hen," says he, "is hung at a fellow's back, who has also some horse-bells about him; the rest of the fellows are blinded, and have boughs in their hands, with which they chase this fellow and his hen about some large court or small enclosure. The fellow with his hen and bells shifting as well as he can, they follow the sound, and sometimes hit him and his hen; at other times, if he can get behind one of them, they thresh one another well favour'dly; but the jest is, the maids are to blind the fellows, which they do with their aprons, and the cunning baggages will endear their sweet-hearts with a peeping hole, whilst the others look out as sharp to hinder it. After this the hen is boil'd with bacon, and store of pancakes and fritters are made. She that is noted for lying in bed long, or any other miscarriage, hath the first pancake presented to her, which most commonly falls to the dogs share at last, for no one will own it their due." Mr. Hilman concludes his comment on the text with a singular remark; "the loss of the above laudable custom, is one of the benefits we have got by smoaking tobacco."[142:A]

Shakspeare has twice noticed this season of feasting and amusement; first, in All's Well That Ends Well, where he makes the Clown tell the Countess (among a string of other similes), that his [143]answer is "as fit as a pancake for Shrove-tuesday[143:A];" and in the Second Part of King Henry IV. he has introduced Silence singing the following song:—

"Be merry, be merry, my wife's as all;[143:B]
For women are shrews, both short and tall:
'Tis merry in hall, when beards wag all,
And welcome merry shrove-tide.
Be merry, be merry, &c."

The third line of this song appears to have been proverbial, and of considerable antiquity; for Adam Davie, who flourished about 1312, has the same imagery with the same rhyme, in his Life of Alexander:

"Merry swithe it is in halle,
When the berdes waveth alle."[143:C]

And the subsequent passage, quoted by Mr. Reed from a writer contemporary with Shakspeare, proves, that it was a common burden or under song in the halls of our gentry at that period:—"which done, grace said, and the table taken up, the plate presently conveyed into the pantrie, the hall summons this consort of companions (upon [144]payne to dyne with Duke Humphfrie, or to kisse the hare's foot,) to appear at the first call: where a song is to be sung, the under song or holding whereof is, It is merrie in haul where beards wag all." The Serving-man's Comfort, 1598, sign. C.[144:A]

The evening of Shrove-Tuesday was usually appropriated, as well in the country as in town, to the exhibition of dramatic pieces. Not only at Court, where Jonson was occasionally employed to write Masques on this night[144:B], but at both the Universities, in the provincial schools, and in the halls of the gentry and nobility, were these the amusements of Shrovetide, during the days of Elizabeth and James. Warton, speaking of these ephemeral plays, adds, in a note, "I have seen an anonymous comedy, Apollo Shroving, composed by the Master of Hadleigh-school, in Suffolk[144:C], and acted by his scholars, on Shrove-tuesday, Feb. 7, 1626, printed 1627. 8vo. published, as it seems, by E. W. Shrove-tuesday, as the day immediately preceding Lent, was always a day of extraordinary sport and feasting."—"Some of these festivities," he proceeds to say, "still remain in our universities. In the Percy Houshold-Book, 1512, it appears, that the clergy and officers of Lord Percy's chapel performed a play before his lordship upon Shrowftewesday at night." Pag. 345.[144:D]

The cruel custom of Cock-throwing, which, until lately, was a diversion peculiar to this day, seems to have originated from the barbarous, [145]yet less savage, amusement of Cock-fighting. "Every yeare on Shrove-Tuesday," says Fitzstephen, who wrote in the reign of Henry II., "the schoole-boyes doe bring cockes of the game to their master, and all the forenoone they delight themselves in Cock-fighting."[145:A] At what period this degenerated into Cock-throwing cannot now be ascertained; Chaucer seems to allude to it in his Nonnes Priests' Tale, where the Cock revenges himself on the Priest's son, because he

—————— "gave hym a knocke
Upon his legges, when he was yonge and nice;"

and that it was common in the sixteenth century, we have the testimony of Sir Thomas More, who, describing the state of childhood, speaks of his skill in casting a cok-stele, that is, a stick or cudgel to throw at a cock.[145:B]

The first effective blow directed against this infamous sport, was given by the moral pencil of Hogarth, who in one of his prints called The Four Stages of Cruelty, has represented, among other puerile diversions, a groupe of boys throwing at a Cock, and, as Trusler remarks, "beating the harmless feathered animal to jelly."[145:C] The benevolent satire of this great artist gradually produced the necessary reform, and for some time past, the magistrates have so generally interdicted the practice, that the pastime may happily be considered as extinct.[145:D]

[146]Easter-tide, or the week succeeding Easter-Sunday, afforded another opportunity for rejoicing, and was formerly a season of great festivity. Not only, as bound by every tie of gratitude to do, did man rejoice on this occasion, but it was the belief of the vulgar that the sun himself partook of the exhilaration, and regularly danced on Easter-Day. To see this glorious spectacle, therefore, it was customary for the common people to rise before the sun on Easter-morning, and though, as we may conclude, they were constantly disappointed, yet might the habit occasionally lead to serious thought and useful contemplation; metaphorically considered, indeed, the idea may be termed both just and beautiful, "for as the earth and her valleys standing thick with corn, are said to laugh and sing; so, on account of the Resurrection, the heavens and the sun may be said to dance for joy; or, as the Psalmist words it, the heavens may rejoice and the earth may be glad."[146:A]

The great amusement of the Easter-holidays consisted in playing at hand-ball, a game at which, say the ritualists Belithus and Durandus, [147]bishops and archbishops used, upon the continent at this period, to recreate themselves with their inferior clergy[147:A]; nor was it uncommon for corporate bodies on this occasion in England to amuse themselves in a similar way with their burgesses and young people; antiently this was the custom, says Mr. Brand, at Newcastle, at the feasts of Easter and Whitsuntide, when the mayor, aldermen, and sheriff, accompanied by great numbers of the burgesses, used to go yearly at these seasons to the Forth, or little mall of the town, with the mace, sword, and cap of maintenance carried before them, and not only countenance, but frequently join in the diversions of hand-ball, dancing, &c.[147:B]

The constant prize at hand-ball, during Easter, was a tansy-cake, supposed to be allusive to the bitter herbs used by the Jews on this festival. Selden, the contemporary of Shakspeare, speaking of our chief holidays, remarks, that "our Meats and Sports have much of them relation to Church-Works. The coffin of our Christmas Pies, in shape long, is in imitation of the Cratch[147:C]: our chusing Kings and Queens on Twelfth Night, hath reference to the three kings. So likewise our eating of fritters, whipping of tops, roasting of herrings, Jack of Lents, &c. they are all in imitation of Church-Works, emblems of martyrdom. Our Tansies at Easter have reference to the bitter Herbs; though at the same time 'twas always the fashion for a man to have a Gammon of Bacon, to shew himself to be no Jew."[147:D] [148]Fuller has noticed this Easter game under his Cheshire, where, explaining the origin of the proverb "When the daughter is stolen shut Pepper Gate," he says, "The mayor of the city had his daughter, as she was playing at ball with other maidens in Pepper-street, stolen away by a young man through the same gate, whereupon he caused it to be shut up."[148:A]

Another custom which prevailed in this country, during the sixteenth century, at Easter, and is still kept up in some parts of the north, was that of presenting children with eggs stained with various colours in boiling, termed Paste or more properly Pasche Eggs, which the young people considered in the light of fairings. This observance appears to have arisen from a superstition, prevalent among the Roman Catholics, that eggs were an emblem of the resurrection, and, indeed, in the Ritual of Pope Paul the Fifth, which was composed for the use of England, Ireland, and Scotland, there is a prayer for the consecration of eggs, in which the faithful servants of the Lord are directed to eat this his creature of eggs on account of the resurrection. On this custom Mr. Brand has well observed, that "the antient Egyptians, if the resurrection of the body had been a tenet of their faith, would perhaps have thought an Egg no improper hieroglyphical representation of it. The exclusion of a living creature by incubation, after the vital principle has lain a long while dormant or extinct, is a process so truly marvellous, that if it could be disbelieved, would be thought by some a thing as incredible, as that the Author of Life should be able to re-animate the dead."[148:B] So prevalent indeed was this custom of egg-giving at Easter, that it forms the basis of an old English proverb, which, in the collection of Mr. Ray, runs thus:

"I'll warrant you for an egg at Easter."[148:C]

[149]A popular holiday, called Hoke-Day, or Hock-Day, which used to be celebrated with much festivity in Shakspeare's native county, was usually observed on the Tuesday following the second Sunday after Easter-day. Its origin is doubtful, some antiquaries supposing it was commemorative of the massacre of the Danes in the reign of Ethelred the Unready, which took place on the 13th of November 1002; and others that it was meant to perpetuate the deliverance of the English from the tyrannical government of the Danes, by the death of Hardicanute on Tuesday the 8th of June 1041. At Coventry in Warwickshire, however, it was celebrated in memory of the former event, though the commemoration was held on a day wide apart from that on which the catastrophe occurred, a circumstance which originated in an ordinance of Ethelred himself, who transferred the sports of this day to the Monday and Tuesday in the third week after Easter. John Rouse, or Ross, the Warwickshire historian, says, that this day was distinguished by various sports, in which the people, divided into parties, used to draw each other by ropes[149:A]; a species of diversion of which Spelman has given us a more intelligible account by telling us that it "consisted in the men and women binding each other, and especially the women the men," and that the day, in consequence of this pastime, was called Binding-Tuesday.[149:B]

The term hock, by which this day is designated, is thus accounted for by Henry of Huntingdon. "The secret letters of Ethelred, directed to all parts of his kingdom from this city (Winchester), ordered that all the Danes indiscriminately should be put to death; and this was executed, as we learn from the chronicle of Wallingford, with circumstances of the greatest cruelty, even upon women and [150]children, in many parts: but in other places, it seems that the English, instead of killing their guests, satisfied themselves with what was called hock-shining, or houghing them, by cutting their ham-strings, so as to render them incapable of serving in war. Hence the sports which were afterwards instituted in our city, and from thence propagated throughout the whole kingdom, obtained the name of Hocktide merriments."

It appears from the following passage in Laneham's Account of Queen Elizabeth's Entertainment at Kenelworth Castle, A. D. 1575, that the citizens of Coventry had lately been compelled to give up their annual amusements on Hock Tuesday, and took the opportunity of the queen's visit to the Earl of Leicester to petition her for a renewal of the same. "Hereto followed," says Laneham, "as good a sport (methought), presented in an historical cue, by certain good-hearted men of Coventry, my Lord's neighbours there; who understanding among them the thing that could not be hidden from any, how careful and studious his Honour was that by all pleasant recreations her Highness might best find herself welcome, and be made gladsome and merry (the groundwork indeed and foundation of his Lordship's mirth and gladness of us all), made petition that they mought renew now their old storial shew: Of argument how the Danes, whylome here in a troublous season were for quietness borne withal and suffered in peace; that anon, by outrage and importable insolency, abusing both Ethelred the King, then, and all Estates every where beside; at the grievous complaint and counsel of Huna the King's chieftain in wars on a Saint Brice's night, A. D. 1012 (as the book says, that falleth yearly on the thirteenth of November) were all dispatched, and the realm rid. And for because the matter mentioneth how valiantly our English women for love of their country behaved themselves, expressed in actions and rymes after their manner, they thought it mought move some mirth to her Majesty the rather. The thing, said they, is grounded on story, and for pastime wont to be played in our city yearly; without ill example of manners, papistry, or any superstition; and else did so occupy the heads of a number, that likely [151]enough would have had worse meditations; had an ancient beginning and a long continuance; till now of late laid down, they knew no cause why, unless it were by the zeal of certain their preachers, men very commendable for their behaviour and learning, and sweet in their sermons, but somewhat too sour in preaching away their pastime: Wished therefore, that as they should continue their good doctrine in pulpit, so, for matters of policy and governance of the city, they would permit them to the Mayor and Magistrates; and said, by my faith, Master Martyn, they would make their humble petition unto her Highness, that they might have their Plays up again."[151:A]

As it is subsequently stated that their play was very graciously received by the queen, who commanded it to be represented again on the following Tuesday, and gave the performers two bucks, and five marks in money, we must suppose, that their petition was not rejected, and that they were allowed to renew yearly at Coventry, their favourite diversions on Hock-Tuesday. The observance of this day, indeed, was still partially retained in the time of Spelman, who died A. D. 1641[151:B], and even Plott, who lived until 1696, mentions it then as not totally discontinued; but the eighteenth century, we believe, never witnessed its celebration.

We have now reached that period of the year which was formerly dedicated to one of the most splendid and pleasing of our festal rites. [152]The observance of May-Day was a custom which, until the close of the reign of James the First, alike attracted the attention of the royal and the noble, as of the vulgar class. Henry the Eighth, Elizabeth, and James, patronized and partook of its ceremonies; and, during this extended era, there was scarcely a village in the kingdom but what had a May-pole, with its appropriate games and dances.

The origin of these festivities has been attributed to three different sources, Classic, Celtic, and Gothic. The first appears to us to establish the best claim to the parentage of our May-day rites, as a relique of the Roman Floralia, which were celebrated on the last four days of April, and on the first of May, in honour of the goddess Flora, and were accompanied with dancing, music, the wearing of garlands, strewing of flowers, &c. The Beltein, or rural sacrifice of the Highlanders on this day, as described by Mr. Pennant and Dr. Jamieson[152:A], seems to have arisen from a different motive, and to have been instituted for the purpose of propitiating the various noxious animals which might injure or destroy their flocks and herds. The Gothic anniversary on May-day makes a nearer approach to the general purpose of the Floralia, and was intended as a thanksgiving to the sun, if not for the return of flowers, fruit, and grain, yet for the introduction of a better season for fishing and hunting.[152:B]

The modes of conducting the ceremonies and rejoicings on May-day, may be best drawn from the writers of the Elizabethan period, in which this festival appears to have maintained a very high degree of celebrity, though not accompanied with that splendour of exhibition which took place at an earlier period in the reign of Henry the Eighth. It may be traced, indeed, from the era of Chaucer, who, in the conclusion of his Court of Love, has described the Feast of May, when

[153]
"—— Forth goth all the court both most and lest,
To fetch the floures fresh, and braunch and blome—
And namely hauthorn brought both page and grome
And than rejoysen in their great delite:
Eke ech at other throw the floures bright,
The primerose, the violete, and the gold,
With fresh garlants party blew and white."[153:A]

And, it should be observed, that this, the simplest mode of celebrating May-day, was as much in vogue, in the days of Shakspeare, as the more complex one, accompanied by the morris-dance, and the games of Robin Hood. The following descriptions, by Bourne and Borlase, manifestly allude to the costume of this age, and to the simpler mode of commemorating the 1st of May: "On the Calends, or the 1st day of May," says the former, "commonly called May-day, the juvenile part of both sexes were wont to rise a little after midnight, and walk to some neighbouring wood, accompany'd with music, and the blowing of horns, where they break down branches from the trees, and adorn them with nosegays and crowns of flowers. When this is done, they return with their booty homewards, about the rising of the sun, and make their doors and windows to triumph in the flowery spoil. The after part of the day, is chiefly spent in dancing round a tall poll, which is called a May Poll; which being placed in a convenient part of the village, stands there, as it were consecrated to the Goddess of Flowers, without the least violence offered it, in the whole circle of the year."[153:B] "An antient custom," says the latter, "still retained by the Cornish, is that of decking their doors and porches on the first of May with green sycamore and hawthorn boughs, and of planting trees, or rather stumps of trees, before their houses: and on May-eve, they from towns make excursions into the country, and having cut down a tall elm, brought it into town, fitted a straight and taper pole to the end of it, and painted [154]the same, erect it in the most public places, and on holidays and festivals adorn it with flower garlands, or insigns and streamers."[154:A]

Now both these passages are little more than a less extended account of what Philip Stubbes was a witness of, and described, in the year 1595, in his puritanical work, entitled The Anatomie of Abuses. "Against Maie-day," relates this vehement declaimer, "every parish, towne, or village, assemble themselves, both men, women, and children; and either all together, or dividing themselves into companies, they goe some to the woods and groves, some to the hills and mountaines, some to one place, some to another, where they spend all the night in pleasant pastimes, and in the morning they return bringing with them, birche boughes and branches of trees to deck their assemblies withal. But their chiefest jewel they bring from thence is the maie-pole, which they bring home with great veneration, as thus—they have twentie or fortie yoake of oxen, every oxe having a sweete nosegaie of flowers tied to the tip of his hornes, and these oxen drawe home the maie-poale, their stinking idol rather, which they covered all over with flowers and hearbes, bound round with strings from the top to the bottome, and sometimes it was painted with variable colours, having two or three hundred men, women, and children following it with great devotion. And thus equipp'd it was reared with handkerchiefes and flagges streaming on the top, they strawe the ground round about it, they bind green boughs about it, they set up summer halles, bowers, and arbours, hard by it, and then fall they to banquetting and feasting, to leaping and dauncing about it, as the heathen people did at the dedication of their idolls.—I have heard it crediblie reported," he sarcastically adds, "by men of great gravity, credite, and reputation, that of fourtie, three score, or an hundred maides going to the wood, there have scarcely the third part of them returned home againe as they went."[154:B]

[155]Browne also has given a similar description of the May-day rites in his Britannia's Pastorals:—

"As I have seene the Lady of the May
Set in an arbour —— —— ——
Built by the May-pole, where the jocund swaines
Dance with the maidens to the bagpipe's straines,
When envious night commands them to be gone,
Call for the merry yongsters one by one,
And for their well performance some disposes,
To this a garland interwove with roses;
To that a carved hooke, or well-wrought scrip,
Gracing another with her cherry lip:
To one her garter, to another then
A handkerchiefe cast o're and o're agen;
And none returneth empty, that hath spent
His paynes to fill their rurall merriment."[155:A]

The custom of rising early on a May-morning to enjoy the season, and honour the day, is thus noticed by Stow:—"In the month of May," he says, "namely, on May-day in the morning, every man, except impediment, would walke into the sweete meddowes and green woods, there to rejoice their spirits, with the beauty and savour of sweet flowers, and with the harmony of birds, praysing God in their kind[155:B];" and Shakspeare has repeated references to the same observance; in Midsummer-Night's Dream, Lysander tells Hermia,

—— "I did meet thee once with Helena,
To do observance to a morn of May;"[155:C]

and again, in the same play, Theseus says,—

[156]
"No doubt they rose up early, to observe
The rite of May."[156:A]

So generally prevalent was this habit of early rising on May-day, that Shakspeare makes one of his inferior characters in King Henry the Eighth exclaim,—

"Pray, sir, be patient; 'tis as much impossible
(Unless we sweep them from the door with cannons)
To scatter them, as 'tis to make them sleep
On May-day morning; which will never be."[156:B]

Herrick, the minute describer of the customs and superstitions of his times, which were those of Shakspeare, and the immediately succeeding period, has a poem called Corinna's Going A Maying, which includes most of the circumstances hitherto mentioned; he thus addresses his mistress:—

"Get up —— and see
The dew bespangling herbe and tree:
Each flower has wept, and bow'd toward the east,
Above an houre since;—it is sin,
Nay profanation to keep in;
[157]
When as a thousand virgins on this day,
Spring sooner than the lark, to fetch in May!
Come, my Corinna, come; and comming marke
How each field turns a street, each street a parke
Made green, and trimm'd with trees; see how
Devotion gives each house a bough,
Or branch: each porch, each doore, ere this,
An arke, a tabernacle is
Made up of white-thorn neatly enterwove.—
There's not a budding boy, or girle, this day
But is got up, and gone to bring in May:
A deale of youth, ere this, is come
Back, and with white-thorn laden home.
Some have dispatcht their cakes and creame,
Before that we have left to dreame:
And some have wept, and woo'd, and plighted troth,
And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth:
Many a green gown has been given;
Many a kisse, both odde and even:
Many a glance too has been sent
From out the eye, Love's firmament:
Many a jest told of the keyes betraying
This night, and locks pickt, yet w'are not a Maying!"[157:A]

With this, the simplest mode of celebrating the rites of May-day, was frequently united, in the days of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, a groupe of Morris Dancers, consisting of several characters, which were often varied both in number, appellation, and dress. The Morris Dance appears to have been introduced into this kingdom about the reign of Edward the Fourth, and is, without doubt, derived from the Morisco, a dance peculiar to the Moors, and generally termed the Spanish Morisco, from its notoriety in Spain, during the dynasty of that people in the peninsula. The Morris Dance in this country, when performed on a May-day, and not connected with the Games of Robin Hood, usually consisted of the Lady of the May, the Fool, or domestic buffoon of the 15th and 16th centuries, a Piper, and two, four, or more, Morris Dancers. The dress of these [158]last personages, who designated the amusement, was of a very peculiar kind; they had their faces blackened to resemble the native Moors, and "in the reign of Henry the Eighth," says Mr. Douce, "they were dressed in gilt leather and silver paper, and sometimes in coats of white spangled fustian. They had purses at their girdles, and garters to which bells were attached[158:A];" but according to Stubbes, who wrote in 1595, the costume had been altered, for he tells us that they were clothed in "greene, yellow, or some other light wanton collour. And as though that were not gawdy ynough," he continues, "they bedeeke themselves with scarffes, ribbons, and laces hanged all over with golde ringes, precious stones, and other jewels: this done, they tie about either legge twentie or fourtie belles, with rich handkerchiefe in their handes, and sometimes laide a crosse over their shoulders and neckes borrowed for the most part of their pretie Mopsies and loving Bessies for bussing them in the darke."[158:B] Feathers, too, were usually worn in their hats, and they had occasionally bells fixed on their arms or wrists, as well as on their legs. That these jingling ornaments were characteristic of, and derived from, the genuine Moorish Dance, appears from a plate copied by Mr. Douce from the habits of various nations, published by Hans Weigel at Nuremberg, in 1577, and which represents the figure of an African lady of the kingdom of Fez in the act of dancing, with bells at her feet.[158:C]

It was the business of these motley figures to dance round the May-pole, which was painted of various colours; thus in Mr. Tollett's painted glass window, at Betley in Staffordshire, which represents an English May-game and morris-dance, the May-pole is stained yellow and black, in spiral lines[158:D]; and Shakspeare, in allusion to this custom, makes Hermia tell Helena, whilst ridiculing the tallness of her form, that she is a "painted May-pole[158:E];" so Stubbes, likewise, in a [159]passage previously quoted, says, that the Maie-pole was "painted with variable colours."

That the morris-dance was an almost constant attendant on the May-day festivities, may be drawn from our usual authority, the works of Shakspeare; for, in All's Well That Ends Well, the Clown affirms, that his answer will serve all questions

"As fit as a morris for May-day."[159:A]

But, about the commencement of the sixteenth century, or somewhat sooner, probably towards the middle of the fifteenth century, a very material addition was made to the celebration of the rites of May-day, by the introduction of the characters of Robin Hood and some of his associates. This was done with a view towards the encouragement of archery, and the custom was continued even beyond the close of the reign of James I. It is true, that the May-games in their rudest form, the mere dance of lads and lasses round a May-pole, or the simple morris with the Lady of the May, were occasionally seen during the days of Elizabeth; but the general exhibition was the more complicated ceremony which we are about to describe.

The personages who now became the chief performers in the morris-dance, were four of the most popular outlaws of Sherwood forest; that Robin Hood, of whom Drayton says,—

"In this our spacious isle, I think there is not one,
But he hath heard some talk of him and little John;—
Of Tuck the merry friar, which many a sermon made
In praise of Robin Hood, his outlaws and their trade;—
"Of Robin's" mistress dear, his loved Marian,
—— —— —— which wheresoe'er she came,
Was sovereign of the woods, chief lady of the game:
Her clothes tuck'd to the knee, and dainty braided hair,
With bow and quiver arm'd;"[159:B]

characters which Warner, the contemporary of Drayton and Shakspeare, has exclusively recorded as celebrating the rites of May; for, [160]speaking of the periods of some of our festivals, and remarking that "ere penticost begun our May," he adds,

"Tho' (then) Robin Hood, liell John, frier Tucke,
And Marian, deftly play,
And lord and ladie gang till kirke
With lads and lasses gay:
Fra masse and een sang sa gud cheere
And glee on ery greene."[160:A]

These four characters, therefore, Robin Hood, Little John, Friar Tuck, and Maid Marian, although no constituent parts of the original English morris, became at length so blended with it, especially on the festival of May-day, that until the practice of archery was nearly laid aside, they continued to be the most essential part of the pageantry.

In consequence of this arrangement, "the old Robin Hood of England," as Shakspeare calls him[160:B], was created the King or Lord of the May, and sometimes carried in his hand, during the May-game, a painted standard.[160:C] It was no uncommon circumstance, likewise, for metrical interludes, of a comic species, and founded on the achievements of this outlaw, to be performed after the morris, on the May-pole green. In Garrick's Collection of Old Plays, occurs one, entitled "A mery Geste of Robyn Hoode, and of hys Lyfe, wyth a newe Playe for to be played in Maye-Games, very pleasaunte and full of pastyme;" it is printed at London, in the black letter, for William Copland, and has figures in the title page of Robin Hood and Lytel John.[160:D] Shakspeare appears to allude to these interludes when he represents Fabian, in the Twelfth Night, exclaiming on the approach of Sir Andrew Ague-Cheek with his challenge, "More matter for May-morning."[160:E]

[161]Upon this introduction of Robin Hood and his companions into the celebration of May-day, his paramour Maid Marian, assumed the office of the former Queen of May. This far-famed lady has, according to Mr. Ritson, no part in the original and more authentic history of Robin Hood; but seems to have been first brought forward when the story of this hero became dramatised, which was at a very early period in this country; and Mr. Douce is of opinion that the name, which is a stranger to English history, has been taken from "a pretty French pastoral drama of the eleventh or twelfth century, entitled Le jeu du berger et de la bergere, in which the principal characters are Robin and Marian, a shepherd and shepherdess."[161:A] This appears the more probable, as the piece was not only very popular in France, but performed at the season when the May-games took place in England.

Maid Marian, in the days of Shakspeare, was usually represented by a delicate, smooth-faced youth, who was dressed in all the fashionable finery of the times; and this assumption of the female garb gave, not without some reason, great offence to the puritanical dissenters, one of whom, exclaiming against the amusements of May-day, notices this, amongst some other abuses, in the following very curious passage:—"The abuses which are committed in your May-games are infinite. The first whereof is this, that you doe use to attyre in woman's apparrell whom you doe most commonly call may-marrions, whereby you infringe that straight commandment whiche is given in Deut. xxii. 5., that men must not put on women's apparrell for feare of enormities. Nay I myself have seene in a may game a troupe, the greater part whereof hath been men, and yet have they been attyred so like into women, that their faces being hidde (as they were indeede) a man coulde not discerne them from women. The second abuse, which of all other is the greatest, is this, that it hath been toulde that your morice dauncers have dannced naked in nettes: what greater enticement unto naughtiness could have been devised? The third [162]abuse is, that you (because you will loose no tyme) doe use commonly to runne into woodes in the night time, amongst maidens, to fet bowes, in so muche as I have hearde of tenne maidens which went to fet May, and nine of them came home with childe."[162:A]

That, in consequence of this custom, effeminate and coxcomical men were sarcastically compared to Maid Marian, appears from a passage in a pamphlet by Barnaby Rich, who, satirising the male attire, as worn by the fops of the reigns of Elizabeth and James I., cries out,—"From whence commeth this wearing, and this embroidering of long locks, this curiosity that is used amongst men, in frizeling and curling of their haire, this gentlewoman-like starcht bands, so be-edged and be-laced, fitter for Maid Marian in a Moris dance, than for him that hath either that spirit or courage that shold be in a gentleman."[162:B]

It will not seem surprising that the converse of this was occasionally applicable to the female sex; and that those women who adopted masculine airs and habits should be branded with a similarity to the clown who, though personating the lady of the May, never failed, however nice or affected he might be, to disclose by the boldness and awkwardness of his gesture and manner, both his rank and sex. Thus Falstaff is represented as telling the hostess, when he means to upbraid her for her masculine appearance and conduct, that "for woman hood Maid Marian may be the Deputy's wife of the ward to thee."[162:C] A fancy coronet of gilt metal, or interwoven with flowers, and a watchet coloured tunic, a kirtle or petticoat of green, as the livery of Robin Hood, were customary articles of decoration in the dress of the May-Queen.

Friar Tuck, the next of the four characters which we have mentioned as introduced into the May-games, was the chaplain of Robin [163]Hood, and is noticed by Shakspeare, who makes one of the outlaws, in the Two Gentlemen of Verona, swear

"By the bare scalp of Robin Hood's fat friar."[163:A]

He is represented in the engraving of Mr. Tollet's window as a Franciscan friar in the full clerical tonsure; for, as Mr. T. observes in giving an account of his window, "when the parish priests were inhibited by the diocesan to assist in the May games, the Franciscans might give attendance, as being exempted from episcopal jurisdiction;" he adds that "most of Shakspeare's friars are Franciscans," and that in Sir David Dalrymple's extracts from the book of the Universal Kirk, in the year 1576, he is styled "chaplain to Robin Huid, king of May."[163:B]

The last of this groupe was the boon companion of Robin, the "brave Little John," as he is termed in one of the ballads on this popular outlaw, and who "is first mentioned," remarks Mr. Douce, "together with Robin Hood, by Fordun the Scotish historian, who wrote in the fourteenth century, and who speaks of the celebration of the story of these persons in the theatrical performances of his time, and of the minstrel's songs relating to them, which he says the common people preferred to all other romances."[163:C]

With these four personages therefore, who were deemed so inseparable, that a character in Peele's Edward I. says, "We will live and die together, like Robin Hood, Little John, Friar Tucke, and Maide Marian[163:D]," the performers in the simple English Morris, the fool, Tom the Piper, and the Morris Dancers, peculiarly so called from their [164]dress and function, were, for a time, generally connected. Tom the Piper is thus mentioned by Drayton:

"Myself above Tom Piper to advance,
Which so bestirs him in the Morrice-dance
For penny wage."[164:A]

And Shakspeare, alluding to the violent gesticulations and music of the Morris dancers says, speaking of Cade the rebel,

——————— "I have seen him
Caper upright like a wild morisco,
Shaking the bloody darts, as he his bells."[164:B]

The music accompanying the Morris and the May-games, was either the simple pipe, or the pipe and tabor, or the bag-pipe. In the following passage from a curious controversial pamphlet, published towards the close of the sixteenth century, the morris and the pipe and tabor are thus noticed: "If Menippus, or the man in the moone, be so quick sighted, that he beholds these bitter sweete jests, these railing outcries; this shouting at prelates to cast them downe, and heaving at Martin to hang him up for Martilmas biefe; what would he imagine otherwise, then as that stranger, which seeing a Quintessence (beside the foole and the Maid Marian) of all the picked youth, strained out of an whole Endship, footing the morris about a may pole, and he, not hearing the crie of the hounds, for the barking of dogs, (that is to say) the minstrelsie for the fidling, the tune for the sound, nor the pipe for the noise of the tabor, bluntly demanded if they were not all beside themselves, that they so lip'd and skip'd whithout an occasion."[164:C] To this quotation Mr. Haslewood has annexed the subsequent ludicrous story from a tract entitled, Hay any worke for Cooper. It is a striking proof of the singular attraction and popularity of the May-games at this [165]period:—"There is a neighbour of ours, an honest priest, who was sometimes (simple as he now stands) a vice in a play, for want of a better; his name is Gliberie of Hawstead in Essex, hee goes much to the pulpit. On a time, I thinke it was the last May, he went up with a full resolution to doe his businesse with great commendations. But, see the fortune of it. A boy in the church, hearing either the summer lord with his May-game, or Robin Hood with his morice daunce, going by the church, out goes the boye. Good Glibery, though he were in the pulpit, yet had a mind to his old companions abroad, (a company of merry grigs you must thinke them to be, as merry as a vice on a stage), seeing the boy going out, finished his matter presently with John of London's amen, saying, ha ye faith, boy! are they there? Then ha with thee, and so came downe and among them he goes."[165:A]

That the music of the bag-pipe was highly esteemed in the days of Shakspeare, and even preferred to the tabor and pipe, we have a strong instance in his Winter's Tale, where a servant enters announcing Autolicus in the following terms: "If you did but hear the pedlar at the door, you would never dance again after a tabor and pipe; no, the bag-pipe could not move you[165:B];" and that especially in the country, it was a frequent accompaniment to the morris bells, the numerous collections of madrigals, published in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, afford many proofs. Thus, from a collection printed in 1600:

"Harke, harke, I heare the dancing
And a nimble morris prancing;
The bagpipe and the morris bells,
That they are not farre hence us tells;
Come let us all goe thither,
And dance like friends together:"[165:C]

[166]and from another, allusive to the May-games, edited by Thomas Morley:

"Now is the month of Maying,
Fa la la,When merry lads are playing;
Each with his bonny lasse,
Fa la la.Upon the greeny grasse.
The spring clad all in gladness,
Doth laugh at winter's sadnesse;
And to the bagpipe's sound,
The nimphs tread out their ground.
——
About the May-pole new with glee and merriment,
While as the bagpipe tooted it,
Fa la la."[166:A]Thirsis and Cloe fine together footed it;

The Morris and the May-game of Robin Hood attained their most perfect form when united with the Hobby-Horse and the Dragon. Of these the former was the resemblance of the head and tail of a horse, manufactured in pasteboard, and attached to a person whose business it was, whilst he seemed to ride gracefully on its back, to imitate the prancings and curvettings of that noble animal, whose supposed feet were concealed by a foot-cloth reaching to the ground; and the latter, constructed of the same materials, was made to hiss and vibrate his wings, and was frequently attacked by the man on the hobby-horse, who then personated the character of St. George.[166:B]

[167]In the reigns therefore of Elizabeth and James I. these eight masqueraders, consisting of Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, Little John, the Fool, Tom the Piper, the Hobby-Horse, and the Dragon, with from two to ten morris-dancers, or, in lieu of them, the same number of Robin Hood's men, in coats, hoods, and hose of green, with a painted pole in the centre, represented the most complete establishment of the May-game.[167:A]

All these characters may be traced, indeed, so far back as the middle of the fifteenth century; and, accordingly, Mr. Strutt, in his interesting romance, entitled "Queen-hoo Hall," has introduced a very pleasing and accurate description of the May-games and Morris of Robin Hood, which, as written in a lively and dramatic style, and not in the least differing from what they continued to be in the youthful days of Shakspeare, and before they were broken in upon by the fanaticism of the puritans, we shall copy in this place for the entertainment of our readers.

"In the front of the pavilion, a large square was staked out, and fenced with ropes, to prevent the crowd from pressing upon the performers, and interrupting the diversion; there were also two bars at the bottom of the inclosure, through which the actors might pass and repass, as occasion required.

"Six young men first entered the square, clothed in jerkins of leather, with axes upon their shoulders like woodmen, and their heads bound with large garlands of ivy-leaves intertwined with sprigs of hawthorn. Then followed,

[168]"Six young maidens of the village, dressed in blue kirtles, with garlands of primroses on their heads, leading a fine sleek cow, decorated with ribbons of various colours, interspersed with flowers; and the horns of the animal were tipped with gold. These were succeeded by

"Six foresters, equipped in green tunics, with hoods and hosen of the same colour; each of them carried a bugle-horn attached to a baldrick of silk, which he sounded as he passed the barrier. After them came

"Peter Lanaret, the baron's chief falconer, who personified Robin Hood; he was attired in a bright grass-green tunic, fringed with gold; his hood and his hosen were parti-coloured, blue and white; he had a large garland of rose-buds on his head, a bow bent in his hand, a sheaf of arrows at his girdle, and a bugle-horn depending from a baldrick of light blue tarantine, embroidered with silver; he had also a sword and a dagger, the hilts of both being richly embossed with gold.

"Fabian a page, as Little John, walked at his right hand; and Cecil Cellerman the butler, as Will Stukely, at his left. These, with ten others of the jolly outlaw's attendants who followed, were habited in green garments, bearing their bows bent in their hands, and their arrows in their girdles. Then came

"Two maidens, in orange-coloured kirtles with white[168:A] courtpies; strewing flowers; followed immediately by

"The maid Marian, elegantly habited in a watchet-coloured[168:B] tunic reaching to the ground; over which she wore a white linen[168:C] rochet with loose sleeves, fringed with silver, and very neatly plaited; her girdle was of silver baudekin[168:D], fastened with a double bow on the left side; her long flaxen hair was divided into many ringlets, and flowed upon her shoulders; the top part of her head was covered [169]with a net-work cawl of gold, upon which was placed a garland of silver, ornamented with blue violets. She was supported by

"Two bride-maidens, in sky-coloured rochets girt with crimsom girdles, wearing garlands upon their heads of blue and white violets. After them, came

"Four other females in green courtpies, and garlands of violets and cowslips: Then

"Sampson the smith, as Friar Tuck, carrying a huge quarter-staff on his shoulder; and Morris the mole-taker, who represented Much the miller's son, having a long pole with an inflated bladder attached to one end[169:A]: And after them

"The May-pole, drawn by eight fine oxen, decorated with scarfs, ribbons, and flowers of divers colours; and the tips of their horns were embellished with gold. The rear was closed by

"The Hobby-horse and the Dragon.

"When the May-pole was drawn into the square, the foresters sounded their horns, and the populace expressed their pleasure by shouting incessantly untill it reached the place assigned for its elevation:—and during the time the ground was preparing for its reception, the barriers of the bottom of the inclosure were opened for the villagers to approach, and adorn it with ribbons, garlands, and flowers, as their inclination prompted them.

"The pole being sufficiently onerated with finery, the square was cleared from such as had no part to perform in the pageant; and then it was elevated amidst the reiterated acclamations of the spectators. The woodmen and the milk-maidens danced around it according to the rustic fashion; the measure was played by Peretto Cheveritte, the baron's chief minstrel, on the bagpipes accompanied with the pipe and labour, performed by one of his associates. When the dance was finished, Gregory the jester, who undertook to play the hobby-horse, came forward with his appropriate equipment, and, [170]frisking up and down the square without restriction, imitated the galloping, curvetting, ambling, trotting, and other paces of a horse, to the infinite satisfaction of the lower classes of the [170:A]spectators. He was followed by Peter Parker, the baron's ranger, who personated a dragon, hissing, yelling, and shaking his wings with wonderful ingenuity; and to complete the mirth, Morris, in the character of Much, having small bells attached to his knees and elbows, capered here and there between the two monsters in the form of a dance; and as often as he came near to the sides of the inclosure, he cast slily a handful of meal into the faces of the gaping rustics, or rapped them about their heads with the bladder tied at the end of his [170:B]pole. In the mean time, Sampson, representing Friar Tuck, walked with much gravity around the square, and occasionally let fall his heavy staff upon the toes of such of the crowd as he thought were approaching more forward than they ought to do; and if the sufferers cried out from the sense of pain, he addressed them in a solemn tone of voice, advising them to count their beads, say a paternoster or two, and to beware of purgatory. These vagaries were highly palatable to the populace, who announced their delight by repeated plaudits and loud bursts of laughter; for this reason they were continued for a considerable length of time: but Gregory, beginning at last to faulter in his paces, ordered the dragon to fall back: the well-nurtured beast, being out of breath, readily obeyed, and their two companions followed their example; which concluded this part of the pastime.

[171]"Then the archers set up a target at the lower part of the Green, and made trial of their skill in a regular succession. Robin Hood and Will Stukely excelled their comrades: and both of them lodged an arrow in the centre circle of gold, so near to each other that the difference could not readily be decided, which occasioned them to shoot again; when Robin struck the gold a second time, and Stukely's arrow was affixed upon the edge of it. Robin was therefore adjudged the conqueror; and the prize of honour, a garland of laurel embellished with variegated ribbons, was put upon his head; and to Stukely was given a garland of ivy, because he was the second best performer in that contest.

"The pageant was finished with the archery; and the procession began to move away, to make room for the villagers, who afterwards assembled in the square, and amused themselves by dancing round the May-pole in promiscuous companies, according to the ancient custom."[171:A]

In consequence of the opposition, however, of the puritans, during the close of Elizabeth's reign, who considered the rights of May-day as relics of paganism, much havoc was made among the Dramatis Personæ of this festivity. Sometimes instead of Robin and Marian, only a Lord or Lady of the day was adopted; frequently the friar was not suffered to appear, and still more frequently was the hobby-horse interdicted. This zealous interference of the sectarists was ridiculed by the poets of the day, and among the rest by Shakspeare, who quotes a line from a satirical ballad on this subject, and represents Hamlet as terming it an epitaph; "Else shall he suffer not thinking on," says he, "with the hobby-horse; whose epitaph is, For, O, for, O, the hobby horse is forgot."[171:B] He has the same allusion in Love's Labour's Lost[171:C]; and Ben Jonson has still more explicitly noticed the neglect into which this character in the May-games had fallen in his days.

[172]
"But see, the Hobby-horse is forgot.
Foole, it must be your lot,
To supply his want with faces,
And some other Buffon graces;"[172:A]

and again, still more pointedly,—

"Clo. They should be Morris dancers by their gingle, but they have no napkins.

Coc. No, nor a hobby-horse.

Clo. Oh, he's often forgotten, that's no rule; but there is no maid Marian nor Friar amongst them, which is the surer mark.

Coc. Nor a Foole that I see."[172:B]

In Beaumont and Fletcher's Tragi-comedy called Women Pleased, the aversion of the puritans to this festive beast is strikingly depicted; where the person who was destined to perform the hobby-horse, being converted by his wife, exclaims vehemently against the task imposed upon him.

"Hob.
I do defie thee and thy foot-cloth too,
And tell thee to thy face, this prophane riding
I feel it in my conscience, and I dare speak it,
This unedified ambling hath brought a scourge upon us.—
Far.
Will you dance no more, neighbour?
Hob.
Surely no,
Carry the beast to his crib: I have renounc'd him
And all his works.
Soto.
Shall the Hobby-horse be forgot then?
The hopeful Hobby-horse, shall he lye founder'd?
[173]
Hob.
I cry out on't,
'Twas the forerunning sin brought in those tilt-staves,
They brandish 'gainst the church, the Devil calls May poles."[173:A]

From one of these puritans, named Stephen Gosson, we learn, likewise, that Morrice-dancers and Hobby-horses had been introduced even upon the stage during the early part of the reign of Elizabeth; for this writer, in a tract published about 1579, and entitled Plays Confuted, says, that "the Devil beeside the beautie of the houses, and the stages, sendeth in gearish apparell, maskes, ranting, tumbling, dauncing of gigges, galiardes, morisces, hobbi-horses, &c."[173:B] By the continued railings and invectives, however, of these fanatics, the May-games were, at length, so broken in upon, that had it not been for the Book of Sports, or lawful Recreations upon Sunday after Evening-prayers, and upon Holy-days, issued by King James in 1618, they would have been totally extinct. This curious volume permitted May-games, Morris-dances, Whitsun-ales, the setting up of May-poles, &c.[173:C]; and [174]had it not allowed church-ales, and dancing on the Sabbath, would have been unexceptionable in its tendency; for as honest Burton observes, in allusion to this very Declaration of King James, "Dancing, Singing, Masking, Mumming, Stage-playes, howsoever they be heavily censured by some severe Catoes, yet if opportunely and soberly used, may justly be approved. Melius est fodere, quam saltare, saith Augustin: but what is that if they delight in it? Nemo saltat sobrius. But in what kind of dance? I know these sports have many oppugners, whole volumes writ against them; when as all they say (if duly considered) is but ignoratio Elenchi; and some again, because they are now cold and wayward, past themselves, cavil at all such youthful sports in others, as he did in the Comedy; they think them, illico nasci senes, &c. Some out of preposterous zeal object many times trivial arguments, and because of some abuse, will quite take away the good use, as if they should forbid wine, because it makes men drunk; but in my judgment they are too stern: there is a time for all things, a time to mourn, a time to dance. Eccles. 3. 4. a time to embrace, a time not to embrace, (ver. 5.) and nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, ver. 22. For my part, I will subscribe to the King's Declaration, and was ever of that mind, those May-games, Wakes, and Whitsun-ales, &c. if they be not at unseasonable hours, may justly be permitted. Let them freely feast, sing and dance, have their poppet-playes, hobby-horses, tabers, crouds, bag-pipes, &c., play at ball, and barley-brakes, and what sports and recreations they like best."[174:A] All these festivities, however, on May-day, were again set aside, by still greater enthusiasts, during the period of the Commonwealth, and were once more revived at the Restoration; at present, few vestiges remain either of those ancient rites, or of those attendant on other popular periodical festivals.[174:B]

[175]Several of the amusements, and some of the characters attendant on the celebration of May-day, were again introduced at Whitsuntide, especially the morris-dance, which was as customary on this period of festivity as on the one immediately preceding it. Thus Shakspeare, in King Henry V., makes the Dauphin say, alluding to the youthful follies of the English monarch,

————— "Let us do it with no show of fear;
No, with no more, than if we heard that England
Were busied with a Whitsun Morris-dance."[175:A]

The rural sports and feasting at Whitsuntide were usually designated by the term Whitsun-ales; ale being in the time of Shakspeare, and for a century or two, indeed, before him, synonymous with festival or merry-making. Chaucer and the author of Pierce Plowman use the word repeatedly in this sense, and the following passages from our great poet, from Jonson, and from Ascham, prove that it was familiar, in their time, in the sense of simple carousing, church-feasting, and Whitsuntide recreation. Launcelot, in the Two Gentlemen of Verona, exclaims to Speed, "Thou hast not so much charity in thee, as to go to the ale with a Christian[175:B];" and Ascham, speaking of the conduct of husbandmen, in his Toxophilus, observes that those which have their dinner and drink in the field, "have fatter barnes in the harvest, than they which will either sleape at noonetyme of the day, or els make merye with theyr neighbours at the ale."[175:C] In the chorus to the first act of Pericles, it is recorded of an old song, that

[176]
"It hath been sung at festivals,
On ember-eves, and holy-ales."[176:A]

And Jonson says,

—— "All the neighbourhood, from old records
Of antique proverbs drawn from Whitson lords,
And their authorities at wakes and ales,
With country precedents, and old wives tales,
We bring you now."[176:B]

It will be necessary, in this place, therefore, to notice briefly, as being periods of festivity, the various Ales which were observed by our ancestors in the sixteenth century. They may be enumerated under the heads of Leet-ale, Lamb-ale, Bride-ale, Clerk-ale, Church-ale and Whitsun-ale. We shall confine our attention at present, however, principally to the two latter; for of the Lamb-ale and Bride-ale, an occasion will occur to speak more at large in a subsequent part of this chapter, and a very few words will suffice with regard to the Leet-ale and the Clerk-ale; the former being merely the dinner provided for the jury and customary tenants at the court-leet of a manor, or View of frank pledge, formerly held once or twice a year, before the steward of the leet[176:C]; to this court Shakspeare alludes, in his Taming of the Shrew, where the servant tells Sly, that in his dream he would "rail upon the hostess of the house," and threaten to

—— —— "present her at the leet:"[176:D]

and the latter, which usually took place at Easter, is thus mentioned by Aubrey in his manuscript History of Wiltshire. "In the Easter holidays was the Clarkes-Ale, for his private benefit and the solace of the neighbourhood."[176:E]

[177]The Church-ale was a festival instituted sometimes in honour of the church-saint, but more frequently for the purpose of contributing towards the repair or decoration of the church. On this occasion it was the business of the churchwardens to brew a considerable quantity of strong ale, which was sold to the populace in the church-yard, and to the better sort in the church itself, a practice which, independent of the profit arising from the sale of the liquor, led to great pecuniary advantages; for the rich thought it a meritorious duty, beside paying for their ale, to offer largely to the holy fund. It was no uncommon thing indeed to have four, six, or eight of these ales yearly, and sometimes one or more parishes agreed to hold annually a certain number of these meetings, and to contribute individually a certain sum. Of this a very curious proof may be drawn from the following stipulation, preserved in Dodsworth's Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library:—"The parishioners of Elveston and Okebrook, in Derbyshire, agree jointly, to brew four Ales, and every Ale of one quarter of malt, betwixt this (the time of contract) and the feast of saint John Baptist next coming. And that every inhabitant of the said town of Okebrook shall be at the several Ales. And every husband and his wife shall pay two pence, and every cottager one penny, and all the inhabitants of Elveston shall have and receive all the profits and advantages coming of the said Ales, to the use and behoof of the said church of Elveston. And the inhabitants of Elveston shall brew eight Ales betwixt this and the feast of saint John Baptist, at the which Ales the inhabitants of Okebrook shall come and pay as before rehersed. And if he be away at one Ale, to pay at the toder Ale for both, &c."[177:A]

The date of this document is anterior to the Reformation, but that church-ales were equally popular and frequent in the days of Shakspeare will be evident from the subsequent passages in Carew and Philip Stubbes. The historian of Cornwall, whose work was first printed in 1602, says that "for the church-ale, two young men of the parish are yerely chosen by their last foregoers, to be wardens; who, dividing [178]the task, make collection among the parishioners, of what soever provision it pleaseth them voluntarily to bestow. This they imploy in brewing, baking, and other acates, against Whitsontide; upon which holy-dayes the neighbours meet at the church-house, and there merily feede on their owne victuals, contributing some petty portion to the stock; which, by many smalls, groweth to a meetley greatness: for there is entertayned a kinde of emulation betweene these wardens, who by his graciousness in gathering, and good husbandry in expending, can best advance the churches profit. Besides, the neighbour parishes at those times lovingly visit one another, and this way frankely spend their money together. The afternoones are consumed in such exercises as olde and yong folke (having leysure) doe accustomably weare out the time withall."[178:A] Stubbes in his violent philippic declares that, "in certaine townes, where drunken Bacchus bears swaie against Christmas and Easter, Whitsunday, or some other time, the churchwardens, for so they call them, of every parish, with the consent of the whole parish, provide half a score or twentie quarters of mault, whereof some they buy of the church stocke, and some is given to them of the parishioners themselves, every one conferring somewhat, according to his ability; which mault being made into very strong ale, or beer, is set to sale, either in the church or in some other place assigned to that purpose. Then, when this nippitatum, this huffe-cappe, as they call it, this nectar of life, is set abroach, well is he that can get the soonest to it, and spends the most at it, for he is counted the godliest man of all the rest, and most in God's favour, because it is spent upon his church forsooth."[178:B]

There is but too much reason to suppose that the satire of this bitter writer was not, in this instance, ill directed, and that meetings of this description, though avowedly for the express benefit of the church, were often productive of licentiousness, and consequently highly injurious both to morals and religion. A few lines from Ben Jonson will [179]probably place this beyond doubt. In his Masque of Queens, performed at Whitehall, 1609, he represents one of his witches as exclaiming

"I had a dagger: what did I with that?
Kill'd an infant, to have his fat:
A Piper it got, at a Church-ale."[179:A]

Returning to the consideration of the Whitsuntide amusements, it may be observed, that not only was the morris a constituent part in their celebration, but that the Maid Marian of the May-games was frequently introduced: thus Shirley represents one of his characters exclaiming against rural diversions in the following manner:

——— "Observe with what solemnity
They keep their wakes, and throw for pewter candlestickes,
How they become the morris, with whose bells
They ring all into Whitson ales, and sweate
Through twentie scarffes and napkins, till the Hobby-horse
Tire, and the maide Marrian dissolv'd to a gelly,
Be kept for spoone meate."[179:B]

The festivities, indeed, on this occasion, as at those on May-day, were often regulated by a Lord and Lady of the Whitsun-ales.[179:C] Very frequently, however, there was elected only a Lord of Misrule, and as the church or holy ales were not unfrequently combined with the merriments of this season, the church-yard, especially on the sabbath-day, was too generally the scene of rejoicing. The severity of Stubbes, when censuring this profanation of consecrated ground, will scarcely [180]be deemed too keen: "First," says he, "all the wilde heads of the parish, flocking together, chuse them a graund captaine (of mischiefe) whom they inrolle with the title of my Lord of misrule, and him they crowne with great solemnitie, and adopt for their king. This king annoynted, chooseth foorth twentie, fourtie, threescore, or a hundred lustie guttes like to himselfe to wait upon his lordly majesty, and to guarde his noble person.—(Here he describes the dress of the morris dancers, as quoted in a former page, and proceeds as follows.) Thus all things set in order, then have they their hobby-horses, their dragons and other antiques, together with their baudie pipers, and thundering drummers, to strike up the Devils Daunce withall: then martch this heathen company towards the church and church-yarde, their pypers pypyng, their drummers thundering, their stumpes dauncing, their belles jyngling, their handkercheefes fluttering about their heads like madde men, their hobbie horses, and other monsters skirmishing amongst the throng: and in this sorte they goe to the church like Devils incarnate, with such a confused noise, that no man can heare his owne voyce. Then the foolish people they looke, they stare, they laugh, they fleere, and mount upon formes and pewes, to see these goodly pageants solemnized in this sort. Then after this about the church they goe againe and againe, and so foorth into the church yard, where they have commonly their summer haules, their bowers, arbours, and banqetting houses set up, wherein they feast, banquet, and daunce all that day, and (peradventure) all that night too. And thus these terrestrial furies spend the Sabboth day. Another sort of fantastical fooles bring to these helhoundes (the Lord of misrule and his complices) some bread, some good ale, some new cheese, some old cheese, some custardes, some cracknels, some cakes, some flaunes, some tartes, some creame, some meat, some one thing, some another; but if they knewe that as often as they bringe anye to the maintenance of these execrable pastimes, they offer sacrifice to the Devill and Sathanas, they would repente and with drawe their handes, which God graunt they may."[180:A]

[181]Dramatic exhibitions, called Whitsun plays, were common, at this season, both in town and country, and in the latter they were chiefly of a pastoral character. Shakspeare has an allusion to them in his Winter's Tale, where Perdita, addressing Florizel, says,

——————— "Come, take your flowers:
Methinks, I play as I have seen them do
in Whitsun' pastorals."[181:A]

Soon after Whitsuntide began the season of sheep-shearing, which was generally terminated about midsummer, and either at its commencement or close, was distinguished by the Lamb-ale or Sheep-shearing Feast. At Kidlington in Oxfordshire, it seems to have been ushered in by ceremonies of a peculiar kind, for, according to Blount, "the Monday after the Whitsun week, a fat lamb was provided, and the maidens of the town, having their thumbs tied behind them, were permitted to run after it, and she who with her mouth took hold of the lamb was declared the Lady of the Lamb, which, being killed and cleaned, but with the skin hanging upon it, was carried on a long pole before the lady and her companions to the green, attended with music, and a morisco dance of men, and another of women. The rest of the day was spent in mirth and merry glee. Next day the lamb, partly baked, partly boiled, and partly roasted, was served up for the lady's feast, where she sat, majestically at the upper end of the table, and her companions with her, the music playing during the repast, which, being finished, the solemnity ended."[181:B]

The most usual mode, however, of celebrating this important period was by a dinner, music, with songs, and the election of a Shepherd King, an office always conferred upon the individual [182]whose flock had produced the earliest lamb. The dinner is thus enjoined by the rustic muse of Tusser:—

"Wife make us a dinner, spare flesh neither corne,
Make wafers and cakes, for our sheepe must be shorne,
At sheep-shearing, neighbours none other things crave,
But good cheare and welcome, like neighbours to have."[182:A]

But it is from Drayton that we derive the most minute account of the festival; who in the fourteenth song of his Poly-Olbion, and still more at large in his ninth Eclogue, has given a most pleasing picture of this rural holy-day:—

"When the new-wash'd flock from the river's side,
Coming as white as January's snow,
The ram with nosegays bears his horns in pride,
And no less brave the bell-wether doth go.
After their fair flocks in a lusty rout,
Come the gay swains with bag-pipes strongly blown,
And busied, though this solemn sport about,
Yet had each one an eye unto his own.
And by the ancient statutes of the field,
He that his flocks the earliest lamb should bring,
(As it fell out then, Rowland's charge to yield)
Always for that year was the shepherd's king.
And soon preparing for the shepherd's board,
Upon a green that curiously was squar'd,
With country cates being plentifully stor'd:
And 'gainst their coming handsomely prepar'd.
New whig, with water from the clearest stream,
Green plumbs, and wildings, cherries chief of feast,
Fresh cheese, and dowsets, curds, and clouted cream,
Spic'd syllibubs, and cyder of the best:
And to the same down solemnly they sit,
In the fresh shadow of their summer bowers,
With sundry sweets them every way to fit,
The neighb'ring vale despoiled of her flowers.—
[183]
When now, at last, as lik'd the shepherd's king,
(At whose command they all obedient were)
Was pointed, who the roundelay should sing,
And who again the under-song should bear."[183:A]

Shakspeare also, in his Winter's Tale, has presented us not only with a list of the good things necessary for a sheep-shearing feast, but he describes likewise the attentions which were due, on this occasion, from the hostess, or Shepherd's Queen.

"Let me see," says the Clown, "what I am to buy for our sheep-shearing feast? Three pound of sugar; five pound of currants; rice——What will this sister of mine do with rice? But my father hath made her mistress of the feast, and she lays it on. She hath made me four-and-twenty nosegays for the shearers: three-man song-men all[183:B], and very good ones; but they are most of them means[183:C] and bases: but one Puritan amongst them, and he sings psalms to horn-pipes. I must have saffron, to colour the warden pies; mace,—dates,—none; that's out of my note: nutmegs, seven; a race, or two, of ginger: but that I may beg;—four pound of prunes, and as many of raisins o' the sun."[183:D]

The culinary articles in this detail are somewhat more expensive than those enumerated by Drayton; and Mr. Steevens, in a note on this passage of the Winter's Tale, observes that "the expence attending these festivities, appears to have afforded matter of complaint. Thus, in Questions of profitable and pleasant Concernings, &c. 1594: 'If it be a sheep-shearing feast, maister Baily can entertaine you with his bill of reckonings to his maister of three sheapheard's wages, spent on fresh cates, besides spices and saffron pottage."[183:E]

The shepherd's reproof to his adopted daughter, Perdita, as Polixenes remarks,

——— "the prettiest low-born lass, that ever
Ran on the green-sward,"

[184]implies indirectly the duties which were expected by the peasants, on this day, from their rural queen, and which seems to have been sufficiently numerous and laborious:—

"Fye, daughter, when my old wife liv'd, upon
This day, she was both pantler, butler, cook;
Both dame and servant: welcom'd all; serv'd all:
Would sing her song, and dance her turn: now here,
At upper end o'the table, now, ithe middle;
On his shoulder, and his: her face o'fire
With labour; and the thing, she took to quench it,
She would to each one sip: You are retir'd,
As if you were a feasted one, and not
The hostess of the meeting: Pray you, bid
These unknown friends to us welcome: for it is
A way to make us better friends, more known.
Come, quench your blushes; and present yourself
That which you are, mistress o'the feast: Come on,
And bid us welcome to your sheep-shearing,
As your good flock shall prosper."[184:A]

It should be remarked that one material part of this welcome appears, from the context, to have consisted in the distribution of various flowers, suited to the ages of the respective visitors, a ceremony which was, probably, customary at this season of rejoicing.

"Perdita. Give me those flowers there, Dorcas.—Reverend sirs,
For you there's rosemary, and rue; these keep
Seeming, and savour, all the winter long:
Grace, and remembrance, be to you both,
And welcome to our shearing!———
——————————— Here's flowers for you;
Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram;
The marigold, that goes to bed with the sun,
And with him rises weeping; these are flowers
[185]
Of middle summer, and, I think, they are given
To men of middle age: You are very welcome.—
———— ———— ——— Now, my fairest friend,
I would, I had some flowers of the spring, that might
Become your time of day; and yours, and yours;
That wear upon your virgin branches yet
Your maidenheads growing:—O, these I lack,
To make you garlands of."[185:A]

A custom somewhat allied to this, that of scattering flowers on the streams at shearing time, has been long observed in the south-west of England, and is thus alluded to as an ancient rite by Dyer, in his beautifully descriptive poem entitled The Fleece:

——— "With light fantastic toe, the nymphs
Thither assembled, thither ev'ry swain;
And o'er the dimpled stream a thousand flowers,
Pale lilies, roses, violets and pinks,
Mixt with the greens of burnet, mint and thyme,
And trefoil, sprinkled with their sportive arms.
Such custom holds along the irriguous vales,
From Wreakin's brow to rocky Dolvoryn,
Sabrina's early haunt."[185:B]

That one of the principal seasons of rejoicing should take place on securely collecting the fruits of the field, it is natural to expect; and accordingly, in almost every country, a Harvest-Home, or Feast, has been observed on this occasion.

Much of the festivity and jocular freedom however, which subsisted formerly at this period, has been worn away by the increasing refinements and distinctions of society. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and, indeed, during a part of the eighteenth, the Harvest, or Mell, Supper, as it was sometimes called, from the French word Mesler, to mingle or mix together, was a scene not only remarkable for merriment and hospitality, but for a temporary suspension of all inequality between master and man. The whole family sate down at the same table, and conversed, danced, and sang [186]together during the entire night without difference or distinction of any kind; and, in many places indeed, this freedom of manner subsisted during the whole period of getting in the Harvest. Thus Tusser, recommending the social equality of the Harvest-tide, exclaims,

"In harvest time, harvest folke, servants and al,
should make altogither, good cheere in the hal:
And fil out the blacke bol, of bleith to their song,
and let them be merrie, al harvest time long."[186:A]

Of this ancient convivial licence, a modern rural poet has drawn a most pleasing picture, lamenting, at the same time, that the Harvest-Feast of the present day is but the phantom of what it was:—

"The aspect only with the substance gone.
————
Behold the sound oak table's massy frame
Bestride the kitchen floor! the careful dame
And gen'rous host invite their friends around,
While all that clear'd the crop, or till'd the ground,
Are guests by right of custom:——
Here once a year Distinction low'rs its crest,
The master, servant, and the merry guest,
Are equal all; and round the happy ring
The reaper's eyes exulting glances fling,
And, warm'd with gratitude, he quits his place,
With sun-burnt hands and ale-enliven'd face,
Refills the jug his honour'd host to tend,
To serve at once the master and the friend;
Proud thus to meet his smiles, to share his tale,
His nuts, his conversation, and his ale.
Such were the days,——of days long past I sing."[186:B]

[187]It will be necessary to enter a little more minutely into the rites and ceremonies which accompanied this annual feast in the days of Shakspeare, and fortunately we can appeal to a few curious documents on which dependence can be placed. Hentzner, a learned German who travelled through Germany, England, France, and Italy, towards the close of the sixteenth century, and whose Itinerary, as far as it relates to this country, has been translated by the late Lord Orford, says, "as we were returning to our inn (from Windsor), we happened to meet some country people celebrating their harvest-home; their last load of corn they crown with flowers, having besides an image richly dressed, by which, perhaps, they would signify Ceres; this they keep moving about, while men and women, men and maid servants, riding through the streets in the cart, shout as loud as they can till they arrive at the barn."[187:A] Dr. Moresin also, another foreigner, who published, in the reign of James I., an elaborate work on the "Origin and Increase of Depravity in Religion," relates that he saw "in England the country people bringing home, in a cart from the harvest field, a figure made of corn, round which men and women were promiscuously singing, preceded by a piper and a drum."[187:B]

To this custom of accompanying home the last waggon-load of corn, at the close of harvest, with music, Shakspeare is supposed to allude in the Merchant of Venice, where Lorenzo tells the musicians to pierce his mistress' ear with sweetest touches,

"And draw her home with musick."[187:C]

It was usual also, not only to feast the men and women, but to reward likewise the boys and girls who were in any degree instrumental [188]in getting in the harvest; accordingly Tusser humanely observes,

"Once ended thy harvest, let none be begilde,
please such as did please thee, man, woman and child:
Thus doing, with alwaie such helpe as they can,
thou winnest the praise, of the labouring man;"[188:A]

an injunction which Mr. Hilman has further explained by subjoining to this stanza the following remark:—"Every one," says he, "that did any thing towards the Inning, must now have some reward, as ribbons, laces, rows of pins to boys and girls, if never so small, for their encouragement, and to be sure plumb-pudding."

The most minute account, however, which we can now any where meet with, of the ceremonies and rejoicings at Harvest-Home, as they existed during the prior part of the seventeenth century, and which we may justly consider as not deviating from those that accompanied the same festival in the reign of Elizabeth, is to be found among the poems of Robert Herrick, and will be valued, not exclusively for its striking illustration of the subject, but for its merit, likewise, as a descriptive piece.

"THE HOCK-CART, OR HARVEST-HOME.[188:B]

Come, Sons of Summer, by whose toile
We are the Lords of wine and oile:
By whose tough labours, and rough hands,
We rip up first, then reap our lands.
Crown'd with the eares of corne, now come,
And, to the pipe, sing Harvest-home.
Come forth, my Lord, and see the cart
Drest up with all the country art.
See, here a Maukin, there a sheet,
As spotlesse pure, as it is sweet:
[189]
The horses, mares, and frisking fillies,
Clad, all, in linnen, white as lillies.
The Harvest swaines, and wenches bound
For joy, to see the Hock-cart crown'd.
About the cart, heare, how the rout
Of rurall younglings raise the shout;
Pressing before, some coming after,
These with a shout, and these with laughter.
Some blesse the cart; some kisse the sheaves;
Some prank them up with oaken leaves:
Some crosse the fill-horse; some with great
Devotion, stroak the home-borne wheat:
While other rusticks, lesse attent
To prayers, then to merryment,
Run after with their breeches rent.
Well, on, brave boyes, to your Lord's hearth,
Glitt'ring with fire; where, for your mirth,
Ye shall see first the large and cheefe
Foundation of your feast, fat beefe:
With upper stories, mutton, veale
And bacon, which makes full the meale;
With sev'ral dishes standing by,
As here a custard, there a pie,
And here all tempting frumentie.
And for to make the merry cheere,
If smirking wine be wanting here,
There's that, which drowns all care, stout beere;
Which freely drink to your Lord's health,
Then to the plough, the commonwealth;
Next to your flailes, your fanes, your fats;
Then to the maids with wheaten hats;
To the rough sickle, and crookt sythe,
Drink frollick boyes, till all be blythe.
Feed, and grow fat; and as ye eat,
Be mindfull, that the lab'ring neat,
As you, may have their fill of meat.
And know, besides, ye must revoke
The patient oxe unto the yoke,
And all goe back unto the plough
And harrow, though they're hang'd up now.
And, you must know, your Lord's word true,
Feed him ye must, whose food fils you.
And that this pleasure is like raine,
Not sent ye for to drowne your paine,
But for to make it spring againe."[189:A]

[190]We must not forget that, during the reign of Elizabeth, another feast-day fell to the lot of the husbandman, at the close of wheat-sowing, in October. This was termed, from one of the chief articles provided for the table, The Seed-Cake, and is no where recorded so distinctly as by the agricultural muse of Tusser:—

"Wife sometime this week, if the weather hold cleer,
an end of wheat-sowing, we make for this yeere:
Remember thou therefore, though I do it not,
the seed-cake, the pastries, and furmenty pot."[190:A]

Proceeding with the year, and postponing the consideration of All Hallowmas to the chapter on superstitions, we reach the eleventh of November, or the festival of St. Martin, usually called Martinmas, or Martlemas, a day formerly devoted to feasting and conviviality, and on which a stock of salted provisions was laid in for the winter. This custom of killing cattle, swine, &c. and curing them against the approaching season, was, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, common every where, though now only partially observed in a few country-villages; for smoke-dryed meat in those days was more generally relished than at present. We find Tusser, therefore, as might be expected, recommending this savoury diet; in one place saying to his farmer,—

"For Easter, at Martilmas, hang up a beefe—
With that and the like, yer grasse beef come in,
thy folke shall look cheerely, when others look thin;"[190:B]

and again,—

"Martilmas beefe doth bear good tacke,
When countrey folke do dainties lacke;"[190:C]

so, likewise, in The Pinner of Wakefield, printed in 1559,

"A piece of beef hung up since Martlemas."

[191]Moresin tells us, in the reign of James I., that there were great rejoicings and feasting on this day throughout Europe, an assertion which is verified by the ancient Calendar of the church of Rome, where under the eleventh of November occur the following observations:—"Martinalia, Geniale Festum. Vina delibantur et defecantur. Vinalia veterum festum huc translatum. Bacchus in Martini figura.—The Martinalia, a genial feast. Wines are tasted of and drawn from the lees. The Vinalia, a feast of the Antients, removed to this day. Bacchus in the figure of Martin."[191:A] J. Boëmus Aubanus likewise informs us, as Mr. Brand remarks, "that in Franconia, there was a great deal of eating and drinking at this season; no one was so poor or niggardly that on the Feast of St. Martin had not his dish of the entrails either of oxen, swine, or calves. They drank, too, he says, very liberally of wine on the occasion."[191:B]

In this country, merriment and good cheer were equally conspicuous on St. Martin's feast; the young danced and sang, and the old regaled themselves by the fire-side. A modern poet, who has beautifully copied the antique, under the somewhat stale pretence of discovering an ancient manuscript, presents us with a specimen of his manufacture of considerable merit, under the title of Martilmasse Daye; this, as being referred to the age of Elizabeth, and recording, with due attention to historical costume, the mirth and revelry which used formerly to distinguish this period, may be admitted here as a species of traditional evidence of no exceptionable kind. The poem, which is supposed to have been found at Norwich, at an ancient Hostelrie, whilst under repair, consists of six stanzas, two of which, however, though possessing poetical and descriptive point, we have omitted, as not referable to any peculiar observance of the day:—

"It is the day of Martilmasse,
Cuppes of ale should freelie passe;
[192]
What though Wynter has begunne
To push downe the summer sunne,
To our fire we can betake
And enjoie the cracklinge brake,
Never heedinge winter's face
On the day of Martilmasse.—
Some do the citie now frequent,
Where costlie shews and merriment
Do weare the vaporish ev'ninge out
With interlude and revellinge rout;
Such as did pleasure Englandes Queene,
When here her royal Grace was seene,[192:A]
Yet will they not this day let passe,
The merrie day of Martilmasse.
Nel hath left her wool at home,
The Flanderkin hath stayed his loom,[192:B]
No beame doth swinge nor wheel go round
Upon Gurguntums walled ground;[192:C]
[193]
Where now no anchorite doth dwell
To rise and pray at Lenard's bell:
Martyn hath kicked at Balaam's ass,
So merrie be old Martilmasse.
When the dailie sportes be done,
Round the market crosse they runne,
Prentis laddes, and gallant blades,
Dancinge with their gamesome maids,
Till the beadel, stoute and sowre,
Shakes his bell, and calls the houre;
Then farewell ladde and farewell lasse,
To' th' merry night of Martilmasse."[193:A]

Shakspeare has an allusion to this formerly convivial day in the Second Part of King Henry IV., where Poins, asking Bardolph after Falstaff, says: "How doth the martlemas, your master?" an epithet by which, as Johnson observes, he means the latter spring, or the old fellow with juvenile passions.[193:B]

We have now to record the closing and certainly the greatest festival of the year, the celebration of Christmas, a period which our ancestors were accustomed to devote to hospitality on a very large scale, to the indulgence indeed of hilarity and good cheer for, at least, twelve days, and sometimes, especially among the lower ranks, for six weeks.

Christmas was always ushered in by the due observance of its Eve, first in a religious and then in a festive point of view. "Our forefathers," remarks Bourne, "when the common devotions of the Eve were over, and night was come on, were wont to light up candles of an uncommon size, which were called Christmas-candles, and to lay a [194]log of wood upon the fire, which they termed a Yule-clog, or Christmas-block. These were to illuminate the house, and turn the night into day; which custom, in some measure, is still kept up in the northern parts."[194:A]

This mode of rejoicing, at the winter solstice, appears to have originated with the Danes and Pagan Saxons, and was intended to be emblematical of the return of the sun, and its increasing light and heat; gehol or Geol, Angl. Sax. Jel, Jul, Huil, or Yule, Dan. Sax. Swed., implying the idea of revolution or of wheel, and not only designating, among these northern nations, the month of December, called Jul-Month, but the great feast also of this period.[194:B] On the introduction of Christianity, the illuminations of the Eve of Yule were continued as representative of the true light which was then ushered into the world, in the person of our Saviour, the Day spring from on High.

The ceremonies and festivities which were observed on Christmas-Eve during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and which in some parts of the north have been partially continued, until within these last thirty years, consisted in bringing into the house, with much parade and with vocal and instrumental harmony, the Yule or Christmas-block, a massy piece of fire-wood, frequently the enormous root of a tree, and which was usually supplied by the carpenter attached to the family. This being placed in the centre of the great hall, each of the family, in turn, sate down upon it, sung a Yule-Song, and drank to a merry Christmas and a happy new year. It was then placed on the large open hearth in the hall chimney, and, being lighted with the last year's brand, carefully preserved for this express purpose, the music again struck up, when the addition of fuel already inflamed, expedited the process, and occasioned a brilliant conflagration. The family and their friends were then feasted with Yule-Dough or Yule-cakes, on which were impressed the figure of the child [195]Jesus; and with bowls of frumenty, made from wheat cakes or creed wheat, boiled in milk, with sugar, nutmeg, &c. To these succeeded tankards of spiced ale, while preparations were usually going on among the domestics for the hospitalities of the succeeding day.

In the curious collection of Herrick is preserved a poem descriptive of some of these observances, and which was probably written for the express purpose of being sung during the kindling of the Yule-clog.

"Come, bring with a noise,
My merrie, merrie boyes,
The Christmas Log to the firing;
While my good Dame, she
Bids ye all be free,
And drink to your hearts desiring.
With the last yeere's brand
Light the new block, and
For good success in his spending,
On your psalteries play,
That sweet luck may
Come while the Log is a teending.[195:A]
Drink now the strong beere,
Cut the white loafe here,[195:B]
The while the meat is a shredding
For the rare mince-pie,
And the plums stand by
To fill the paste that's a kneading."[195:C]

It was customary on this eve, likewise, to decorate the windows of every house, from the nobleman's seat to the cottage, with bay, laurel, ivy, and holly leaves, which were continued during the whole of the Christmas-holidays, and frequently until Candlemas. Stowe, in his Survey of London, particularly mentions this observance:[196]—"Against the feast of Christmas," says he, "every man's house, as also their parish churches, were decked with holm, ivie, bayes, and whatsoever the season of the yeere aforded to be greene: The conduits and standards in the streetes were likewise garnished. Amongst the which, I read, that in the yeere 1444, by tempest of thunder and lightning, on the first of February at night, Paul's steeple was fired, but with great labour quenched, and toward the morning of Candlemas day, at the Leaden Hall in Cornhill, a standard of tree, beeing set up in the midst of the pavement fast in the ground, nayled full of holme and ivy, for disport of Christmas to the people; was torne up, and cast downe by the malignant spirit (as was thought) and the stones of the pavement all about were cast in the streetes, and into divers houses, so that the people were sore agast at the great tempests."[196:A]

This custom, which still prevails in many parts of the kingdom, especially in our parish-churches, is probably founded on a very natural idea, that whatever is green, at this bleak season of the year, may be considered as emblematic of joy and victory, more particularly the laurel, which had been adopted by the Greeks and Romans, for this express purpose. That this was the opinion of our ancestors, and that they believed the malignant spirit was envious of, and interested in destroying these symbols of their triumph, appears from the passage just quoted from Stowe.

It has been, indeed, conjectured, that this mode of ornamenting churches and houses is either allusive to numerous figurative expressions in the prophetic Scriptures typical of Christ, as the Branch of Righteousness, or that it was commemorative of the style in which the first Christian churches in this country were built, the materials for the erection of which being usually wrythen wands or boughs[196:B]; it may have, however, an origin still more remote, and fancy may trace the misletoe, which is frequently used on these occasions, to the [197]times of the ancient Druids, an hypothesis which acquires some probability from a passage in Dr. Chandler's Travels in Greece, where he informs us, "It is related where Druidism prevailed, the houses were decked with evergreens in December, that the Sylvan spirits might repair to them, and remain unnipped with frost and cold winds, until a milder season had renewed the foliage of their darling abodes."[197:A]

The morning of the Nativity was ushered in with the chaunting of Christmas Carols, or Pious Chansons. The Christmas Carol was either scriptural or convivial, the first being sung morning and evening, until the twelfth day, and the second during the period of feasting or carousing.

"As soon as the morning of the Nativity appears," says Bourne, "it is customary among the common people to sing a Christmas Carol, which is a song upon the birth of our Saviour, and generally sung from the Nativity to the Twelfth-day; this custom," he adds, "seems to be an imitation of the Gloria in Excelsis, or Glory be to God on High, &c. which was sung by the angels, as they hovered o'er the fields of Bethlehem on the morning of the Nativity; for even that song, as the learned Bishop Taylor observes, was a Christmas Carol. As soon, says he, as these blessed Choristers had sung their Xmas Carol, and taught the Church a hymn, to put into her offices for ever, on the anniversary of this festivity; the angels," &c.[197:B] We can well remember that, during the early period of our life, which was spent in the north of England, it was in general use for the young people to sing a carol early on the morning of this great festival, and the burthen of which was,

"All the angels in heaven do sing
On a Chrismas day in the morning;"

customs such as this, laudable in themselves and highly impressive on [198]the youthful mind, are, we are sorry to say, nearly, if not totally, disappearing from the present generation.

To the carols, hymns, or pious chansons, which were sung about the streets at night, during Christmas-tide, Shakspeare has two allusions; one in Hamlet, where the Prince quotes two lines from a popular ballad entitled "The Songe of Jepthah's Daughter," and adds, "The first row of the pious chanson will show you more[198:A];" and the other in the Midsummer-Night's Dream, where Titania remarks that

"No night is now with hymn or carol blest."[198:B]

Upon the first of these passages Mr. Steevens has observed that the "pious chansons were a kind of Christmas carols, containing some scriptural history thrown into loose rhymes, and sung about the streets by the common people;" and upon the second, that "hymns and carols, in the time of Shakspeare, during the season of Christmas, were sung every night about the streets, as a pretext for collecting money from house to house."

Carols of this kind, indeed, were, during the sixteenth century, sung at Christmas, through every town and village in the kingdom; and Tusser, in his Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie, introduces one for this season, which he orders to be sung to the tune of King Salomon.[198:C]

The chief object of the common people in chaunting these nightly carols, from house to house, was to obtain money or Christmas-Boxes, a term derived from the usage of the Romish priests, who ordered masses at this time to be made to the Saints, in order to atone for the excesses of the people, during the festival of the Nativity, and as these masses were always purchased of the priest, the poor were allowed to gather money in this way with the view of liberating [199]themselves from the consequence of the debaucheries of which they were enabled to partake, through the hospitality of the rich.

The convivial or jolie carols were those which were sung either by the company, or by itinerant minstrels, during the revelry that daily took place, in the houses of the wealthy, from Christmas-Eve to Twelfth Day. They were also frequently called Wassel Songs, and may be traced back to the Anglo-Norman period. Mr. Douce, in his very interesting "Illustrations of Shakspeare and of Ancient Manners," has given us a Christmas-carol of the thirteenth or fourteenth century written in the Norman language, and which may be regarded, says he, "as the most ancient drinking song, composed in England, that is extant. This singular curiosity," he adds, "has been written on a spare leaf in the middle of a valuable miscellaneous manuscript of the fourteenth century, preserved in the British Museum, Bibl. Regal. 16, E. 8."[199:A] To the original he has annexed a translation, admirable for its fidelity and harmony, and we are tempted to insert three stanzas as illustrative of manners and diet which still continued fashionable in the days of Shakspeare. We shall prefix the first stanza of the original, as a specimen of the language, with the observation, that from the word Noel, which occurs in it, Blount has derived the term Ule or Yule; the French Nouël or Christmas, he observes, the Normans corrupted to Nuel, and from Nuel we had Nule, or Ule.[199:B]

"Seignors ore entendez a nus,
De loinz sumes renuz a wous,
Pur quere Noel;
Car lem nus dit que en cest hostel
Soleit tenir sa feste anuel
A hi cest jur."
[200]"Lordings, from a distant home,
To seek old Christmas we are come,
Who loves our minstrelsy:
And here, unless report mis-say,
The grey-beard dwells; and on this day
Keeps yearly wassel, ever gay,
With festive mirth and glee.
Lordings list, for we tell you true;
Christmas loves the jolly crew
That cloudy care defy:
His liberal board is deftly spread
With manchet loaves and wastel-bread;
His guests with fish and flesh are fed,
Nor lack the stately pye.
Lordings, it is our hosts' command,
And Christmas joins him hand in hand,
To drain the brimming bowl:
And I'll be foremost to obey:
Then pledge me sirs, and drink away,
For Christmas revels here to day
And sways without controul.
Now Wassel to you all! and merry may ye be!
But foul that wight befall, who Drinks not Health to me!"[200:A]

Manchet loaves, wastel-bread, and the stately pye, that is, a peacock or pheasant pye, were still common in the days of Shakspeare. During the prevalence of chivalry, it was usual for the knights to take their vows of enterprise, at a solemn feast, on the presentation to each knight, in turn, of a roasted peacock in a golden dish. For this was afterwards substituted, though only in a culinary light, and as the most magnificent dish which could be brought to table, a peacock in a pie, preserving as much as possible the form of the bird, with the head elevated above the crust, the beak richly gilt, and the beautiful tail spread out to its full extent. In allusion to these superb dishes a ludicrous oath was prevalent in Shakspeare's time, which he has, with much propriety, put into the mouth of Justice Shallow, who, soliciting the stay of the fat knight, exclaims,

[201]
"By cock and pye, sir, you shall not away to night."[201:A]

The use of the peacock, however, as one of the articles of a second course, continued to the close of the seventeenth century; for Gervase Markham, in the ninth edition of his English House-Wife, London 1683, enumerating the articles and ordering of a great feast, mentions this, among other birds, now seldom seen as objects of cookery; "then in the second course she shall first preferr the lesser wild-fowl, as &c. then the lesser land-fowl as &c. &c. then the great wild-fowl, as bittern, hearn, shoveler, crane, bustard, and such like. Then the greater land-fowl, as PEACOCKS, phesant, puets, gulls, &c."[201:B]

Numerous collections of Carols, or festal chansons, to be sung at the various feasts and ceremonies of the Christmas-holidays, were published during the sixteenth century. One of the earliest of these was printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1521, and entitled Christmasse carolles. It contains, among many very curious specimens of this species of popular poetry, one, which not only contributed to the hilarity of our ancestors in the reigns of Henry, Elizabeth, and James, but is still in use, though with many alterations, in Queen's College, Oxford; it is designated as a Carol bryngyng in the bores head, which was the first dish served up at the baron's high table in the great hall on Christmas-day, and was usually accompanied by a procession, with the sound of trumpets and other instruments.

"Caput Apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino.
The bores head in hande bringe I,
With garlandes gay and rosemary.
I pray you all synge merily,
Qui estis in convivio.
[202]
The bores head, I understande,
Is the chefe servyce in this lande:
Loke wherever it be fande
Servite cum cantico.
Be gladde lordes, both more and lasse,
For this hath ordayned our stewarde
To chere you all this christmasse,
The bores head with mustarde."[202:A]

For the hospitality, indeed, the merriment and good cheer, which prevailed during the season of Christmas, this country was peculiarly distinguished in the sixteenth century. Setting aside the splendid manner in which this festival was kept at court, and in the capital, we may appeal to the country, in confirmation of the assertion; the hall of the nobleman and country-gentleman, and even the humbler mansions of the yeoman and husbandman, vied with the city in the exhibition of plenty, revelry, and sport. Of the mode in which the farmer and his servants enjoyed themselves, on this occasion, a good idea may be formed from the poem of Tusser, the first edition of which thus admonishes the housewife:—

"Get ivye and hull, woman deck up thyne house:
and take this same brawne, for to seeth and to souse.
Provide us good chere, for thou know'st the old guise:
olde customes, that good be, let no man despise.
At Christmas be mery, and thanke god of all
and feast thy pore neighbours, the great with the small."[202:B]

And in subsequent impressions, the articles of the Christmas husbandlie fare are more particularly enumerated; for instance, good drinke, a blazing fire in the hall, brawne, pudding and souse, and mustard with all, beef, mutton, and pork, shred or minced pies of the best, pig, veal, goose, capon, and turkey, cheese, apples, and nuts, with jolie carols; a pretty ample provision for the rites of hospitality, and a powerful security against the inclemencies of the season!

[203]The Hall of the baron, knight, or squire, was the seat of the same festivities, the same gambols, wassailing, mummery, and mirth, which usually took place in the palaces and mansions of the metropolis, and of these Jonson has given us a very curious epitome in his Masque of Christmas, where he has personified the season and its attributes in the following manner:

"Enter Christmas with two or three of the Guard.

"He is attir'd in round hose, long stockings, a close doublet, a high crownd hat with a broach, a long thin beard, a truncheon, little ruffes, white shoes, his scarffes, and garters tyed crosse, and his drum beaten before him.—

"The names of his Children, with their attyres.

"Mis-rule. In a velvet cap with a sprig, a short cloake, great yellow ruffe like a reveller, his torch-bearer bearing a rope, a cheese and a basket.

"Caroll. A long tawny coat, with a red cap, and a flute at his girdle, his torch-bearer carrying a song booke open.

"Minc'd Pie. Like a fine cooke's wife, drest neat; her man carrying a pie, dish, and spoones.

"Gamboll. Like a tumbler, with a hoope and bells; his torch-bearer arm'd with a cole-staffe, and a blinding cloth.

"Post And Paire. With a paire-royall of aces in his hat; his garment all done over with payres, and purrs; his squier carrying a box, cards and counters.

"New-Yeares-Gift. In a blew coat, serving-man like, with an orange, and a sprig of rosemarie guilt on his head, his hat full of broaches, with a coller of gingerbread, his torch-bearer carrying a march-paine, with a bottle of wine on either arme.

"Mumming. In a masquing pied suite, with a visor, his torch-bearer carrying the boxe, and ringing it.

"Wassall. Like a neat sempster, and songster; her page bearing a browne bowle, drest with ribbands, and rosemarie before her.

"Offering. In a short gowne, with a porter's staffe in his hand; a wyth borne before him, and a bason by his torch-bearer.

"Babie-Coche. Drest like a boy, in a fine long coat, biggin, bib, muckender, and a little dagger; his usher bearing a great cake with a beane, and a pease."[203:A]

Of these personified attributes we have already noticed, at some length, the most material, such as Misrule, Caroll, New-Year's-Gift and Wassall; to the account, however, which has been given of the Summer Lord of Misrule, from Stubbes's Anatomie of Abuses, it [204]will be here necessary to add, that the sway of this mock prince, both in town and country, was still more absolute during the Christmas-holidays; "what time," says Holinshed, "of old ordinarie course there is alwaies one appointed to make sport in the court, called commonlie Lord of Misrule: whose office is not unknowne to such as have beene brought up in noblemen's houses, and among great house-keepers, which use liberal feasting in that season."[204:A] Stowe, likewise, has recorded, in his Survey, the universal domination of this holiday monarch. "In the feast of Christmas," he remarks, "there was in the king's house, wheresoever he was lodged, a Lord of Misrule, or Master of merry desports, and the like had yee in the house of every nobleman of honour, or good worship, were he spirituall or temporall. Amongst the which, the Maior of London, and either of the Sheriffes had their severall Lords of Misrule, ever contending without quarrell or offence, who should make the rarest pastimes to delight the beholders. These Lords beginning their rule on Alhallow Eve, continued the same til the morrow after the feast of the Purification, commonly called Candlemas-day: In all which space, there were fine and subtill disguisings, maskes and mummeries, with playing at cardes for counters, nayles and points in every house, more for pastime than for gaine."[204:B]

In short, the directions which are to be found for a grand Christmas in the capital, were copied with equal splendour and profusion in the houses of the opulent gentlemen in the country, who made it a point to be even lavish at this season of the year. We may, therefore, consider the following description as applying accurately to the Christmas hospitality of the Baron's hall.

"On Christmas-day, service in the church ended, the gentlemen presently repair into the hall to breakfast, with brawn, mustard, and malmsey.

"At dinner the butler, appointed for the Christmas, is to see the tables covered and furnished: and the ordinary butlers of the house [205]are decently to set bread, napkins, and trenchers, in good form, at every table; with spoones and knives. At the first course is served in a fair and large bore's head, upon a silver platter, with minstralsye.

"Two 'servants' are to attend at supper, and to bear two fair torches of wax, next before the musicians and trumpeters, and stand above the fire with the music, till the first course be served in through the hall. Which performed, they, with the musick, are to return into the buttery. The like course is to be observed in all things, during the time of Christmas.

"At night, before supper, are revels and dancing, and so also after supper, during the twelve daies of Christmas. The Master of the Revels is, after dinner and supper, to sing a caroll, or song; and command other gentlemen then there present to sing with him and the company; and so it is very decently performed."[205:A]

Beside the revelry and dancing here mentioned, we may add, that it was customary, at this season, after the Christmas sports and games had been indulged in, until the performers were weary, to gather round the ruddy fire, and tell tales of legendary lore, or popular superstition. Herrick, recording the diversions of this period, mentions one of them as consisting of "winter's tales about the hearth[205:B];" and Grose, speaking of the source whence he had derived many of the superstitions narrated in the concluding section of his "Provincial Glossary," says, that he gives them, as they had, from age to age, been "related to a closing circle of attentive hearers, assembled in a winter's evening, round the capacious chimney of an old hall or manor-house;" and he adds, that tales of this description formed, among our ancestors, "a principal part of rural conversation, in all large assemblies, and particularly those in Christmas holidays, during the burning of the Yule-block."[205:C]

Of the conviviality which universally reigned during these holidays, a good estimate may be taken by a few lines from the author of [206]Hesperides, who, addressing a friend at Christmas-tide, makes the following request:

———— "When your faces shine
With bucksome meat and cap'ring wine,
Remember us in cups full crown'd,—
Untill the fired chesnuts leape
For joy, to see the fruits ye reape
From the plumpe challice, and the cup,
That tempts till it be tossed up:—
—— —— —— —— carouse
Till Liber Pater[206:A] twirles the house
About your eares;——
"Then" to the bagpipe all addresse,
Till sleep takes place of wearinesse:
And thus throughout, with Christmas playes,
Frolick the full twelve holy-dayes."[206:B]

[207]We shall close this detail of the ceremonies and festivities of Christmas with a passage from the descriptive muse of Mr. Walter Scott, in which he has collected, with his usual accuracy, and with his almost unequalled power of costume-painting, nearly all the striking circumstances which distinguished the celebration of this high festival, from an early period, to the close of the sixteenth century. They form a picture which must delight, both from the nature of its subject, and from the truth and mellowness of its colouring.

—— "Well our Christian sires of old
Loved when the year its course had rolled,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night:
On Christmas eve the bells were rung;—
The damsel donned her kirtle sheen;
The hall was dressed with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry-men go,
To gather in the misletoe.
Then opened wide the baron's hall
To vassal, tenant, serf and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside,
And Ceremony doffed his pride.
The heir with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner chuse;
The lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of "post and pair."
All hailed, with uncontrolled delight,
And general voice, the happy night,
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.
The fire with well dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
The huge hall-table's oaken face,
Scrubbed till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
[208]
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old blue-coated serving-man;
Then the grim boar's-head frowned on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garbed ranger tell,
How, when, and where, the monster fell;
What dogs before his death he tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassol round, in good brown bowls,
Garnished with ribbons, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin recked: hard by
Plumb-porridge stood, and Christmas pye;
Nor failed old Scotland to produce,
At such high tide, her savoury goose.
Then came the merry masquers in,
And carols roared with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visors made;
But, O! what masquers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England, when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
'Twas Christmas broached the mightiest ale;
'Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man's heart through half the year."[208:A]

FOOTNOTES:

[124:A] Selden, under the article Pope. The Table Talk, though not printed until A. D. 1689, is a work illustrative of the era under our consideration.

[126:A] Nichols's Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, vol. i. preface, p. 25-28.

[127:A] Collier's Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. p. 163.

[128:A] Galfred. Monumeth. l. 3. c. 1. Robert of Gloucester gives us a similar account of the origin of this ceremony, and makes the same observation as to its general prevalency. The rude lines of the ancient poet have been thus beautifully paraphrased in the Antiquarian Repertory:—

'Health, my Lord King,' the sweet Rowena said—
'Health,' cried the Chieftain to the Saxon maid;
Then gaily rose, and, 'mid the concourse wide,
Kiss'd her hale lips, and plac'd her by his side.
At the soft scene such gentle thoughts abound,
That healths and kisses 'mongst the guests went round:
From this the social custom took its rise,
We still retain, and still must keep the prize.

[129:A] "The ingenious remarker on this representation observes, that it is the figure of the old Wassel-Bowl, so much the delight of our hardy ancestors, who on the vigil of the New-Year never failed to assemble round the glowing hearth, with their chearful neighbours, and then in the spicy Wassel-Bowl (which testified the goodness of their hearts) drowned every former animosity, an example worthy modern imitation. Wassel was the word, Wassel every guest returned as he took the circling goblet from his friend, whilst song and civil mirth brought in the infant year." Brand's Observations, by Ellis, vol. i. p. 3.

[129:B] Douce's Illustrations of Shakspeare and of Ancient Manners, vol. ii. p. 209, 210.

[129:C] Act i. sc. 4. Reed's edit. vol. xviii. p. 64.

[129:D] Act i. sc. 7. Reed, vol. x. p. 88.

[129:E] Act i. sc. 4. Reed, vol. xvii. p. 49.

[130:A] Act v. sc. 2. Reed, vol. vii. p. 165.

[130:B] Epigrammes i. booke folio 1640, p. 50.

[130:C] Jonson's Works, fol. vol. ii. 1640.

[130:D] Act v. sc. 1.

[131:A] Warton's Milton, 2d edit. p. 160. The Peg Tankard, a species of Wassail-Bowl introduced by the Saxons, was still in use in the days of Shakspeare. I am in possession of one, which was given to a member of my family about one hundred and fifty years ago; it is of chased silver, containing nearly two quarts, and is divided by four pegs.

This form of the wassail or wish-health bowl was introduced by Dunstan, with the view of checking the intemperance of his countrymen, which for a time it effected; but subsequently the remedy was converted into an additional stimulus to excess; "for, refining upon Dunstan's plan, each was obliged to drink precisely to a pin, whether he could sustain a quantity of liquor equal to others or not: and to that end it became a rule, that whether they exceeded, or fell short of the prescribed bumper, they were alike compelled to drink again, until they reached the next mark. In the year 1102, the priests, who had not been backward in joining and encouraging these drunken assemblies, were ordered to avoid such abominations, and wholly to discontinue the practice of "Drinking to Pegs." Some of these Peg or Pin Cups, or Bowls, and Pin or Peg Tankards, are yet to be found in the cabinets of antiquaries; and we are to trace from their use some common terms yet current among us. When a person is much elated, we say he is "In a Merry Pin," which no doubt originally meant, he had reached that mark which had deprived him of his usual sedateness and sobriety: we talk of taking a man "A Peg lower," when we imply we shall check him in any forwardness; a saying which originated from a regulation that deprived all those of their turn of drinking, or of their Peg, who had become troublesome in their liquor: from the like rule of society came also the expression of "He is a Peg too low," i. e. has been restrained too far, when we say that a person is not in equal spirits with his company; while we also remark of an individual, that he is getting on "Peg by Peg," or, in other words, he is taking greater freedoms than he ought to do, which formerly meant, he was either drinking out of his turn, or, contrary to express regulation, did not confine himself to his proper portion, or peg, but drank into the next, thereby taking a double quantity." Brady's Clavis Calendaria, vol. ii. p. 322, 323. 1st edit.

[133:A] Nichols's Progresses of Elizabeth, vol. i. Entertainments at the Temple, &c. p. 22. 24.

[134:A] The only rite that still lingers among us on the Twelfth Day, is the election of a King and Queen, a ceremony which is now usually performed by drawing tickets, and of which Mr. Brand, in his commentary on Bourne's Antiquities of the Common People, has extracted the subsequent detail from the Universal Magazine of 1774:—"I went to a Friend's house in the country to partake of some of those innocent pleasures that constitute a merry Christmas; I did not return till I had been present at drawing King and Queen, and eaten a Slice of the Twelfth Cake, made by the fair hands of my good friend's Consort. After Tea Yesterday, a noble Cake was produced, and two Bowls, containing the fortunate chances for the different sexes. Our Host filled up the tickets; the whole company, except the King and Queen, were to be Ministers of State, Maids of Honour, or Ladies of the Bed-chamber.

"Our kind Host and Hostess, whether by design, or accident became King and Queen. According to Twelfth-Day Law, each party is to support their character till Mid-night. After supper one called for a Kings Speech, &c." Observations on Popular Antiquities, edit. of 1810, p. 228.

[135:A] Dr. Johnson's definition of the word Rock in the sense of the text, is as follows:

"(rock, Danish; rocca, Italian; rucca, Spanish; spinrock, Dutch) A distaff held in the hand, from which the wool was spun by twirling a ball below." I shall add one of his illustrations:

"A learned and a manly soul
I purpos'd her; that should with even powers,
The rock, the spindle, and the sheers, controul
Of destiny, and spin her own free hours.

Ben Jonson."

[135:B] Chalmers's Poets, vol. iv. p. 564. Albion's England, chap. 24.

[136:A] Hesperides, p. 374.

[137:A] Tusser Redivivus, p. 79, 80.

[137:B] Olai Magni Gent. Septent. Breviar. p. 341.

[137:C] See Brand on Bourne's Antiquitates Vulgares, p. 194; and Strutt's Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, p. 307. edit. of 1810. Of this curious exhibition on Plough-Monday, I have often, during my boyhood, at York, been a delighted spectator, and, as far as I can now recollect, the above description appears to be an accurate detail of what took place.

[138:A] Act iii. sc. 9. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xvii. p. 171.

[138:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xvii. p. 172.

[138:C] Bourne's Antiquities apud Brand, p. 244.

[138:D] Fuller's Church History, p. 222.

[140:A] Hesperides, p. 337.

[140:B] Teend, to kindle.

[140:C] Hesperides, p. 337, 338.

[141:A] Hesperides, p. 361. Dramatic amusements were frequent on this day, as well in the halls of the nobility in the country, as at court. With regard to their exhibition in the latter, many documents exist; for instance, in a chronological series of Queen Elizabeth's payments for plays acted before her (from the Council Registers) is the following entry:

"18th March, 1573-4. To Richard Mouncaster, (Mulcaster, the Grammarian,) for two plays presented before her on Candlemas-day and Shrove-tuesday last, 20 marks."[141:B]

[141:B] Gentleman's Magazine, vide life of Richard Mulcaster, May, June, and July, 1800.

[142:A] Hilman's Tusser, p. 80. Mr. Hilman seems to have had as great an aversion to tobacco as King James; for, in another part of his notes, he observes, that "Suffolk and Essex were the counties wherein our author was a farmer, and no where are better dairies for butter, and neater housewives than there, if too many of them at present do not smoke tobacco." p. 19.

[143:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. viii. p. 272, 273. Act ii. sc. 2. Warner has also noticed this culinary article as appropriated to Shrove-Tuesday in his Albion's England, chapter xxiv., where, enumerating the feasts and holidays of his time, he says, they had

"At fasts-eve pan-puffes."—

Chalmers's Poets, vol. iv. p. 564.

Shrove or Pancake Tuesday, is still called, in the North, Fastens, or Fasterns E'en, as preceding Ash-Wednesday, the first day of Lent; and the turning of these cakes in the pan is yet observed as a feat of dexterity and skill.

Of the pancake-bell which used to be rung on Shrove-Tuesday, Taylor, the Water Poet, has given us the following most singular account:—"Shrove-Tuesday, at whose entrance in the morning all the whole kingdom is unquiet, but by that time the clocke strikes eleven, which (by the help of a knavish sexton) is commonly before nine, then there is a bell rung, cal'd pancake-bell, the sound whereof makes thousands of people distracted, and forgetful either of manners or humanitie." See his Works, folio, 1630. p. 115.

[143:B]my wife's as all;] i. e. as all women are. Farmer.

[143:C] Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. i. p. 225. note (p).

[144:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 235.

[144:B] See his Masque on the Shrove-tuesday at night 1608, and Chloridia, a Masque, at Shrove-tide, 1630.

[144:C] The author of Apollo Shroving was William Hawkins, who likewise published "Corolla varia contexta per Guil. Haukinum scholarcham Hadleianum in agro Suffolcienci. Cantabr. ap. Tho. Buck." 12mo. 1634.

It may be observed, that Shrove-Tuesday was considered by the apprentices as their peculiar holiday, and it appears that in the days of Shakspeare, they claimed a right of punishing, at this season, women of ill-fame. To these customs Dekker and Sir Thomas Overbury allude, when the former says: "They presently (like Prentises upon Shrove-Tuesday) take the lawe into their owne handes and do what they list." Seven Deadly Sinnes of London, 4to. p. 35. 1606. And when the latter, in his Characters, speaking of a bawd, remarks: "Nothing daunts her so much as the approach of Shrove-Tuesday;" and describing a "roaring boy," adds, "he is a supervisor of brothels, and in them is a more unlawful reformer of vice than prentices on Shrove-Tuesday."

[144:D] History of English Poetry, vol. ii. p. 387.

[145:A] Stow's Survey of London, edit. of 1618, p. 142.

[145:B] Vide Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, p. 250.

[145:C] Vide Hogarth Moralized, p. 134.

[145:D] "In some places," says Mr. Strutt, "it was a common practice to put the cock into an earthern vessel made for the purpose, and to place him in such a position that his head and tail might be exposed to view; the vessel, with the bird in it, was then suspended across the street, about twelve or fourteen feet from the ground, to be thrown at by such as chose to make trial of their skill; two-pence was paid for four throws, and he who broke the pot, and delivered the cock from his confinement, had him for a reward. At North-Walsham, in Norfolk, about forty years ago, some wags put an owl into one of these vessels; and having procured the head and tail of a dead cock, they placed them in the same position as if they had appertained to a living one; the deception was successful; and at last, a labouring man belonging to the town, after several fruitless attempts, broke the pot, but missed his prize; for the owl being set at liberty, instantly flew away, to his great astonishment, and left him nothing more than the head and tail of the dead bird, with the potsherds, for his money and his trouble; this ridiculous adventure exposed him to the continual laughter of the town's people, and obliged him to quit the place, to which I am told he returned no more." Sports and Pastimes, p. 251.

"For many years," observes Mr. Brady, "our public diaries, and monthly publications, took infinite pains to impress upon the minds of the populace a just abhorrence of such barbarities (cock-fighting and cock-throwing); and, by way of strengthening their arguments, they failed not to detail in the most pathetic terms the following fact, which for the interest it contains is here transcribed, from the Obituary of the Gentleman's Magazine for April, 1789. 'Died, April 4th, at Tottenham, John Ardesoif, esquire, a young man of large fortune, and in the splendour of his horses and carriages, rivalled by few country-gentlemen. His table was that of hospitality, where it may be said he sacrificed too much to conviviality. Mr. Ardesoif was very fond of cock-fighting, and had a favourite cock upon which he had won many profitable matches. The last bet he laid upon this cock he lost, which so enraged him, that he had the bird tied to a spit, and roasted alive before a large fire. The screams of the miserable animal were so affecting, that some gentlemen who were present attempted to interfere, which so enraged Mr. Ardesoif, that he seized a poker, and with the most furious vehemence declared, that he would kill the first man who interfered: but in the midst of his passionate asseverations, he fell down dead upon the spot.' Clavis Calendaria, 1st edit. vol. i. p. 200, 201."

[146:A] Bourne's Antiquities apud Brand, p. 268.

[147:A] Bourne's Antiquities apud Brand, p. 277. "Why they should play at Hand Ball at this time," observes Mr. Bourne, "rather than any other game, I have not been able to find out, but I suppose it will readily be granted, that this custom of so playing, was the original of our present recreations and diversions on Easter Holy Days," p. 277.

[147:B] Brand on Bourne, p. 280. note. The morris dance, of which such frequent mention is made in our old poets, was frequently performed at Easter; but, as we shall have occasion to notice this amusement, at some length, under the article "May-Day," we shall here barely notice that Warner has recorded it as an Easter diversion in the following line:

"At Paske begun our morrise: and ere Penticost our May."

Albion's England, Chap. xxiv.

[147:C] Rack or Manger.

[147:D] Selden's Table-Talk, art. Christmas.

[148:A] Fuller's Worthies, p. 188.

[148:B] Bourne apud Brand, p. 316.

[148:C] The following whimsical custom, relates Mr. Brand, "is still retained at the city of Durham on these holidays. On one day the men take off the women's shoes, which are only to be redeem'd by a present; on another day the women take off the men's in like manner." Bourne apud Brand, p. 282.

Stow also records, that in the week before Easter there were "great shewes made, for the fetching in of a twisted tree, or With, as they tearmed it, out of the Woods into the King's house, and the like into every man's house of Honor or Worship," p. 150.; but whether this was general throughout the kingdom, is not mentioned.

[149:A] Vide Ross, as published by Hearne, p. 105.

[149:B] Spelman's Glossary, under the title Hock-day.

[151:A] Nichols's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, vol. i. Laneham's Letter, p. 32-34.

[151:B] That Hock-tide was generally observed in the days of Shakspeare, is evident from the following passage in Withers's "Abuses Stript and Whipt." 8vo. London. 1618.

"Who think (forsooth) because that once a yeare
They can affoord the poore some slender cheere,
Observe their country feasts, or common doles,
And entertaine their Christmass Wassaile Boles,
Or els because that, for the Churche's good,
They in defence of Hocktide custome stood:
A Whitsun-ale, or some such goodly motion,
The better to procure young men's devotion:
What will they do, I say, that think to please
Their mighty God with such fond things as these?
Sure, very ill."

P. 232.

[152:A] Vide Pennant's Scotland, p. 91.; and Jamieson's Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language.

[152:B] Olaus Magnus de Gentibus Septentrionalibus, lib. xv. c. 8.

[153:A] Chalmers's English Poets, vol. i. p. 378.

[153:B] Bourne's Antiquitates Vulgares apud Brand, p. 283.

[154:A] Vide Borlase's Natural History of Cornwall, &c.

[154:B] Stubbes's Anatomie of Abuses, p. 109. edit. 1595, 4to.

[155:A] Book ii. Song 4. Chalmers's Poets, vol. vi. p. 296.—It was no uncommon thing also for the milk-maids to join the procession to the May-pole on this day, leading a cow decorated with ribands of various colours, intermingled with knots of flowers, and wreathes of oaken leaves, and with the horns of the animal gilt.

[155:B] Stow's Survey of London, p. 150. 1618.

[155:C] Act i. sc. 1. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 327.

[156:A] Act iv. sc. 1. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 452, 453.—"The rite of this month," observes Mr. Steevens, "was once so universally observed, that even authors thought their works would obtain a more favourable reception, if published on May-day. The following is a title-page to a metrical performance by a once celebrated poet, Thomas Churchyard:

'Come bring in Maye with me,
My Maye is fresh and greene;
A subjectes harte, an humble mind,
To serve a mayden Queene.

'A discourse of rebellion, drawne forth for to warne the wanton wittes how to kepe their heads on their shoulders.

'Imprinted at London, in Flete-streat by William Griffith, Anno Domini 1570. The first of Maye.'"

[156:B] Act v. sc. 3. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xi. p. 201.

[157:A] Herrick's Hesperides, p. 74, 75.

[158:A] Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 473.

[158:B] Anatomie of Abuses, p. 107.

[158:C] Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 474.

[158:D] Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xi. p. 440.

[158:E] Midsummer-Night's Dream, act iii. sc. 2. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 427.

[159:A] Act ii. sc. 2. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. viii. p. 278.

[159:B] Drayton's Poly-Olbion, Song 26. Chalmers's Poets, vol. iv. p. 373, 374.

[160:A] Warner's Albion's England, chapter 21. Chalmers's Poets, vol. iv. p. 564.

[160:B] As You Like It, act i. sc. 1. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. viii. p. 13.

[160:C] Lysons's Environs of London, vol. i. p. 227.

[160:D] Beloe's Anecdotes of Literature and scarce Books, vol. i. p. 401.

[160:E] Act iii. sc. 4. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 364.

[161:A] Douce's Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 451.

[162:A] Fetherston's Dialogue agaynst light, lewde, and lascivious dancing, 1582, 12mo. sign. D. 7. apud Douce.

[162:B] The honestie of this age, 1615, 4to. p. 35.

[162:C] First part of King Henry IV. act iii. sc. 3. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xi. p. 362.

[163:A] Act iv. sc. 1. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 266.

[163:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xi. p. 438.

[163:C] Douce's Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 450. Fordun's Scotichronicon, 1759, folio, tom. ii. p. 104. "In this time," says Stow, that is, about the year 1190, in the reign of Richard I. "were many robbers, and outlawes, among the which Robin Hood and Little John, renowned theeves, continued in woods, despoyling and robbing the goods of the rich." Annals, p. 159.

[163:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 267. note by Malone.

[164:A] Eclogue iii. Chalmers's Poets, vol. iv. p. 433.

[164:B] Second Part of King Henry the Sixth, act iii. sc. 1. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xiii. p. 276.

[164:C] Plaine Percevall the peace-maker of England, &c. &c. Vide Censura Literaria, vol. ix. p. 250.

[165:A] Censura Literaria, vol. ix. p. 251.

[165:B] Act iv. sc. 3. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 345.

[165:C] Canto Madrigals, of 5 and 6 parts, apt for the viols and voices. Made and newly published by Thomas Weelkes of the Coledge at Winchester, Organist. At London printed by Thomas Este, the assigne of Thomas Morley. 1600. 4to.

[166:A] Censura Literaria, vol. ix. p. 34.

[166:B] It is probable indeed from the subsequent Madrigal, that the Hobby-horse was frequently attached to, and provided for, by the town or village.

"Our country swains, in the morris daunce,
Thus woo'd and win their brides;
Will, for our towne, the hobby horse
A pleasure frolike rides."[166:C]

[166:C] Vide Cantus primo. Madrigals to 3, 4, 5, and 6 voyces. Made and newly published by Thomas Weelkes at London, printed by Thomas Este, 1597, 4to. Censura Literaria, vol. ix. p. 9-10.

[167:A] "The English were famed," observes Dr. Grey, "for these and such like diversions; and even the old, as well as young persons, formerly followed them: a remarkable instance of which is given by Sir William Temple, (Miscellanea, Part 3. Essay of Health and Long Life,) who makes mention of a Morrice Dance in Herefordshire, from a noble person, who told him he had a pamphlet in his library written by a very ingenious gentleman of that county, which gave an account how, in such a year of King James's reign, there went about the country a sett of Morrice Dancers, composed of ten men, who danced a Maid Marian, and a taber and pipe: and how these ten, one with another, made up twelve hundred years. 'Tis not so much, says he, that so many in one county should live to that age, as that they should be in vigour and humour to travel and dance." Grey's Notes on Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 382.

[168:A] Courtpie, in women's dress, a short vest. Strutt.

[168:B] Watchet-coloured, pale blue. Strutt.

[168:C] Rochet, a lawn garment resembling a surplice gathered at the wrists. Strutt.

[168:D] Baudekin, a cloth of gold tissue, with figures in silk, for female dress. Strutt.

[169:A] The mole-taker, in this place, personates the character of the fool or domestic buffoon.

[170:A] The management of the hobby-horse appears to have been the most difficult part of the May-day festivities, and from the following passage in an old play, to have required some preparatory discipline. A character personating this piece of pageantry, and angry with the mayor of the town as being his rival, calls out, "Let the mayor play the hobby-horse among his brethren, an he will, I hope our towne-lads cannot want a hobby-horse. Have I practic'd my reines, my careeres, my pranckers, my ambles, my false trotts, my smooth ambles and Canterbury paces, and shall master mayor put me besides the hobby-horse? Have I borrowed the fore horse bells, his plumes and braveries, nay had his mane new shorne and frizl'd, and shall the mayor put me besides the hobby-horse?" The Vow breaker, by Sampson.

[170:B] The morris-dance in this description of the May-game seems to have been performed chiefly by the fool, with the occasional assistance of the hobby-horse, which was always decorated with bells, and the dragon.

[171:A] Strutt's Queenhoo-Hall, a romance, vol. i. p. 13. et seq.

[171:B] Act iii. sc. 2. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 198.

[171:C] Act iii. sc. 1. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 53, 54.

[172:A] Entertainment of the Queen and Prince at Althorpe. 1603. fol. edit. vol. i. p. 99.

[172:B] The Metamorphosed Gipsies, fol. edit. vol. 2. p. 65.—This folio edition of Jonson's works, in two volumes, dated 1640, is not regularly paged to the close of each volume; for instance, in vol. i. the Dramas terminate at p. 668, and then the Epigrammes, Forest, Masques, &c. commence with p. 1.

[173:A] Act iv. sc. 1.—Jonson in his Bartholmew Fayre, acted in the year 1614, has a character of this kind, a Baker, who has undergone a similar conversion, and is thus introduced:—

"Win. W. What call you the Reverend Elder, you told me of? your Banbury-man.

Joh. Rabbi Busy, Sir, he is more than an Elder, he is a Prophet, Sir.

Quar. O, I know him! a Baker, is he not?

Joh. Hee was a Baker, Sir, but hee do's dreame now, and see visions, he has given over his Trade.

Quar. I remember that too: out of a scruple hee tooke, that (in spic'd conscience) those Cakes hee made, were serv'd to Bridales, May poles, Morrisses, and such prophane feasts and meetings; his Christen-name is Zeale-of-the-land Busye."

Jonson's Works, fol. edit. vol. ii. p. vi. act i. sc. 3.

[173:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 198, note, Steevens.

[173:C] Wilson, censuring these indulgences, places the era of the publication of the Book of Sports under 1617, and says of it, that "some of the Bishops, pretending Recreations, and liberty to servants and the common people (of which they carved to themselves too much already) procured the King to put out a Book to permit dancing about May-poles, Church-ales, and such debauched exercises upon the Sabbath-Day after Evening-Prayer (being a specious way to make the King, and them, acceptable to the Rout): which Book came out with a command, injoyning all Ministers to read it to their parishioners, and to approve of it; and those that did not, were brought into the high Commission, imprisoned and suspended." The History of Great Britain, being the Life and Reign of King James the First, relating to what passed from his first access to the Crown, till his death. Folio, London 1653. p. 105.

[174:A] Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, 8th edit. fol. p. 174.

[174:B] "The last May-pole in London was taken down in 1717, and conveyed to Wanstead in Essex, where it was fixed in the Park for the support of an immensely large telescope. Its original height was upwards of one hundred feet above the surface of the ground, and its station on the East side of Somerset-House, where the new church now stands.—Pope thus perpetuates its remembrance:

Amidst the area wide they took their stand,
Where the tall May-pole once o'erlook'd the Strand."

Clavis Calendaria, vol. i. p. 318.

[175:A] Act ii. sc. 4. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 354.

[175:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 231. act ii. sc. 6.

[175:C] Ascham's Works apud Bennet, p. 62, 63.

[176:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xxi. p. 155.

[176:B] Jonson's Works, fol. edit.

[176:C] "A leet," observes Bullokar, in his English Expositor, 1616, "is a court, or law-day, holden commonly every half year."

[176:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 33. act i. sc. 2.

[176:E] Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. iii. p. 129, note.

[177:A] MSS. Bibl. Bod., vol. cxlviii. fol. 97.

[178:A] Carew's Survey of Cornwall, edit. of 1769. p. 68.

[178:B] Anatomie of Abuses, A. D. 1595.

[179:A] Jonson's Works, fol. edit. vol. i. p. 166.

[179:B] The Lady of Pleasure, act i.

[179:C] The former of which is thus noticed by Sir Philip Sidney:—

"Strephon, with leavy twigs of laurell tree,
A garlant made on temples for to weare,
For he then chosen was the dignitie
Of village Lord that Whitsuntide to beare."

The Countesse of Pembroke's Arcadie, 7th edit. fol. 1629. p. 84.

[180:A] Anatomie of Abuses, 1595. p. 107.

[181:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 341. Act iv. sc. 3.—Whitsun playes or mysteries, which at first were exclusively drawn from the sacred page, may be traced to the fourteenth century; those which were performed at Chester have been attributed to Ranulph Higden, the chronicler, who died 1363.

[181:B] Blount's Ancient Tenures, p. 49, and Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, p. 316.

[182:A] Tusser apud Hilton, p. 80.

[183:A] Chalmers's Poets, vol. iv. p. 443.

[183:B] Singers of catches in three parts.

[183:C] By means are meant tenors.

[183:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 323, 324. Act iv. sc. 2.

[183:E] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 323. note 5.

[184:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 334. Act iv. sc. 3.—I believe the custom of choosing a king and queen at the sheep-shearing feast, is still continued in several of our counties; that it was commonly observed, at least, in the time of Thomson, is evident from the following lines, taken from his description of this festival:—

"One, chief, in gracious dignity enthron'd,
Shines o'er the rest, the Pas'tral Queen, and rays
Her smiles, sweet-beaming on her Shepherd King."

Summer.

[185:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 334, 335. 337, 338. 340.

[185:B] Dyer's Fleece, book i. sub finem.

[186:A] Tusser Redivivus, p. 104. In the first edition of Tusser, 1557, this stanza is as follows:—

"Then welcome thy harvest folke, serveauntes and all:
with mirth and good chere, let them furnish the hall.
The harvest lorde nightly, must give thee a song:
fill him then the blacke boll, or els he hath wrong."

Reprint by Sir Egerton Brydges, p. 19.

[186:B] Bloomfield's Farmer's Boy, Summer, l. 299.

[187:A] Paul Hentzner's Travels in England, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, translated by Horace, late Earl of Orford. Edit. of 1797. p. 55.

[187:B] "Anglos vidi spiceam ferre domum in Rheda Imaginem circum cantantibus promiscuê viris et fœminis, præcedente tibicine aut tympano." Deprav. Rel. Orig. in verbo Vacina.

[187:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 376. Act v. sc. 1.

[188:A] Tusser Redivivus, p. 104.

[188:B] Hock-cart,—by this word is meant the high or rejoicing-cart, and was applied to the last load of corn, as typical of the close of harvest. Thus Hock-tide is derived from the Saxon Hoah-Saxon word for tide, or high tide, and is expressive of the height of festivity.

[189:A] Hesperides, p. 113-115.

[190:A] Tusser Redivivus, p. 81.

[190:B] Ibid. p. 147.

[190:C] Ibid. p. 77.

[191:A] Brand on Bourne's Antiquities, p. 392. note edit. 1810.

[191:B] Ibid. p. 393, 394.

[192:A] The magnificent reception of Queen Elizabeth at Norwich in 1578, has been recorded with great minuteness, in two tracts, by Bernard Goldingham and Thomas Churchyard the poet, which are reprinted in Mr. Nichols's Progresses; these accounts are likewise incorporated by Abraham Fleming as a supplement to Holinshed, and will be found in the last edition of this chronicler, in vol. iv. p. 375. The pomp and pageantry which were exhibited during this regal visit were equally gorgeous, quaint, and operose; "order was taken there," says Churchyard, "that every day, for sixe dayes together, a shew of some strange device should be seene; and the maior and aldermen appointed among themselves and their breethren, that no person reteyning to the Queene, shoulde be unfeasted, or unbidden to dinner and supper, during the space of those sixe dayes: which order was well and wisely observed, and gained their citie more fame and credite, than they wot of: for that courtesie of theirs shall remayne in perpetuall memorie, whiles the walles of their citie standeth."—Nichols's Progresses of Q. Elizabeth, vol. ii. p. 56.

[192:B] The wise policy of Elizabeth in establishing the Flemings in this country gave birth to our vast superiority in the woollen trade; and the first pageant which met the eyes of Elizabeth on her entrance into Norwich was the artizan-strangers pageant, illustrative of the whole process of the manufactory, "a shewe which pleased her Majestie so greatly, as she particularly viewed the knitting and spinning of the children, perused the loombes, and noted the several workes and commodities which were made by these meanes."—Nichols's Progresses, vol. ii. p. 13.

[192:C] Gerguntum, a fabulous kind of Briton, who is supposed to have built Norwich Castle; in the procession which went out of Norwich to meet the Queen, on the 16th of August, 1578, was "one whiche represented King Gurgunt, some tyme king of Englande, whiche buylded the castle of Norwich, called Blanch Flowre, and layde the foundation of the citie. He was mounted uppon a brave courser, and was thus furnished: his body armed, his bases of greene and white silke; on his head a black velvet hat, with a plume of white feathers. There attended upon him three henchmen in white and greene: one of them did beare his helmet, the seconde his tergat, the thirde his staffe."—Nichols's Progresses, vol. ii. p. 5, 6.

[193:A] The Cabinet, vol. ii. p. 75, 76.

[193:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 66.

[194:A] Bourne's Antiquities, p. 172.

[194:B] A great display of literature on the etymon of the word Yule will be found in the Allegories Orientales of M. Count de Gebelin, Paris, 1773.

[195:A] Teending, a word derived from the Saxon, means kindling.

[195:B] White-loafe, sometimes called at this period wastel-bread or cake, from the French wastiaux, pastry; implied white bread well or twice baked, and was considered as a delicacy.

[195:C] Hesperides, p. 309, 310.

[196:A] Stowe's Survey of London, 4to. edit., 1618, p. 149, 150.

[196:B] Vide Gentleman's Magazine for 1765.

[197:A] Brand on Bourne's Antiquities, p. 193.

[197:B] Ibid. p. 200, 201.

[198:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 143. Act ii. sc. 2.

[198:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 361. Act ii. sc. 2.

[198:C] Chap. xxx. fol. 57. edit. 1586.

[199:A] Douce's Illustrations, vol. ii. p. 214.

[199:B] Vide Blount's Ancient Tenures of Land, and Jocular Customs of some Manors. Beckwith's edit. 8vo. 1784.

[200:A] Douce's Illustrations, vol. ii. p. 215-217. 219.

[201:A] Act v. sc. 1. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 213.

[201:B] English House-Wife, p. 99. The pies which he recommends immediately subsequent to this enumeration are somewhat curious, and rather of a more substantial nature than those of modern days; for instance, red-deer pye, gammon of bacon pye, wild-bore pye, and roe-pye.

[202:A] Vide Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. iii. p. 143.

[202:B] A hundreth good poyntes of husbandry, 1557. p. 10.

[203:A] Christmas, His Masque; as it was presented at Court 1616. Jonson's Works, folio edit. 1640. vol. ii.

[204:A] Holinshed's Chronicles, vol. iii. p. 1032. edit. 1808.

[204:B] Stowe's Survey of London, p. 149. edit. 1618.

[205:A] Nichols's Progresses and Processions of Queen Elizabeth, vol. i. p. 20, 21. Anno 1562.

[205:B] Hesperides, p. 145.

[205:C] Provincial Glossary, Preface, p. 8. 8vo. 1787.

[206:A] Liber Pater, Bacchus.

[206:B] Hesperides, p. 146. The following passages place in a strong and interesting point of view, the hospitality of our ancestors during this season of the year, and will add not a little to the impression derived from the text.

"Heretofore, noblemen and gentlemen of fair estates had their heralds who wore their coate of armes at Christmas, and at other solemne times, and cryed largesse thrice. They lived in the country like petty kings. They always eat in Gothic Halls where the Mummings and Loaf-stealing, and other Christmas sports, were performed. The hearth was commonly in the middle; whence the saying, round about our coal-fire." Antiquarian Repertory, No. xxvi. from the MS. Collections of Aubrey, dated 1678.

"An English Gentleman at the opening of the great day, i. e. on Christmas Day in the morning, had all his tenants and neighbours entered his Hall by day-break. The strong beer was broached, and the black jacks went plentifully about with toast, sugar, nutmegg, and good Cheshire cheese. The Hackin, (the great sausage) must be boiled by day-break, or else two young men must take the maiden (i. e. the cook,) by the arms and run her round the market place till she is ashamed of her laziness.

"In Christmass Holidays, the tables were all spread from the first to the last; the sirloins of beef, the minced pies, the plumb-porridge, the capons, turkeys, geese, and plumb-puddings, were all brought upon the board: every one eat heartily, and was welcome, which gave rise to the proverb, 'Merry in the hall when beards wag all.'" From a Tract entitled "Round about our Coal-Fire, or Christmas Entertainments;" of which the first edition was published, I believe, about the close of the seventeenth century.

"Our ancestors considered Christmas in the double light of a holy commemoration and a cheerful festival; and accordingly distinguished it by devotion, by vacation from business, by merriment and hospitality. They seemed eagerly bent to make themselves and every body about them happy.—The great hall resounded with the tumultuous joys of servants and tenants, and the gambols they played served as amusement to the lord of the mansion and his family, who, by encouraging every art conducive to mirth and entertainment, endeavoured to soften the rigour of the season, and mitigate the influence of winter."—The World, No. 104.

[208:A] Scott's Marmion. Introduction to Canto Sixth. 8vo. edit. p. 300-303.

"At present, Christmas meetings," remarks Mr. Brady, "are chiefly confined to family parties, happy, it must be confessed, though less jovial in their nature; perhaps, too, less beneficial to society, because they can be enjoyed on other days not, as originally was the case, set apart for more general conviviality and sociability; not such as our old ballads proclaim, and history confirms, in which the most frigid tempers gave way to relaxation, and all in eager joy were ready to exclaim, in honour of the festivity,—

"For, since such delights are thine,
Christmas, with thy bands I join."

Clavis Calendaria, vol. ii. p. 319.


[209]

CHAPTER VII.

MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF THE COUNTRY CONTINUED—WAKES—FAIRS—WEDDINGS—BURIALS.

Having described, in as brief a manner as was consistent with the nature of our work, the various circumstances accompanying the celebration of the most remarkable holidays and festivals, in the country, during the age of Shakspeare, from whose inimitable compositions we have drawn many pertinent illustrations on nearly all the subjects as they passed before us; we shall proceed, in the present chapter, to notice those remaining topics which are calculated to complete, on the scale adopted, a tolerably correct view of rural manners and customs, as they existed in the latter half of the sixteenth, and prior portion of the seventeenth, century.

A natural transition will carry us, from the description of the rural festival, to the gaieties of the Wake or Fair. Of these terms, indeed, the former originally implied the vigil which preceded the festival in honour of the Saint to whom the parish-church was dedicated; for "on the Eve of this day," remarks Mr. Borlase, in his Cornwall, "prayers were said, and hymns were sung all night in the church; and from these watchings the festivals were stiled Wakes; which name still continues in many parts of England, though the vigils have been long abolished."[209:A] The religious institution, however, of the Wake, whether held on the vigil or Saint's day, was soon forgotten; mirth and feasting early became the chief objects of this meeting[209:B], and it, at length, degenerated into something approaching [210]towards a secular Fair. These Wakes or Fairs, which were rendered more popular in proportion as they deviated from their devotional origin, were, until the reign of Henry the Sixth, always held on a Sunday and its eve, a custom that continued to be partially observed as late as the middle of the seventeenth century; hence ale-houses, and places of public resort, in the immediate neighbourhood of church-yards, the former scene of Wakes, were still common at the close of Shakspeare's life; thus Sir Thomas Overbury, describing a Sexton, in his Characters, published in 1616, says: "At every church-style commonly there's an ale-house; where let him (the Sexton) bee found never so idle-pated, hee is still a grave drunkard."

The increasing licentiousness and conviviality, however, which attended these church-yard assemblies, frequented as they were by pedlars and hawkers of every description, finally occasioned their suppression in all places, at least, where much traffic was expected. In their room regular Fairs were established, to which in central or peculiar stations, the resort, at fixed periods, was immense.

Yet the Wake, the meeting for mere festivity and frolic, still continued in every village and small town, and though not preceded by any vigil in the church, was popularly termed the Wake-Day. Tusser, in his catalogue of the "Old Guise," has not forgotten this season of merriment; on the contrary, he seems to welcome its return with much cordiality:—

"Fil oven ful of flawnes, Ginnie passe not for sleepe,
to morrow thy father his wake-daie wil keepe:
Then every wanton may danse at hir wil,
both Tomkin and Tomlin, and Jankin with Gil."[210:A]

[211]Mr. Hilman, in his edition of Tusser, has made the following observations on this passage.—"Waking in the church," says he, "was left off because of some abuses, and we see here it was converted to wakeing at the oven. The other continued down to our author's days, and in a great many places continues still to be observed with all sorts of rural merriments; such as dancing, wrestling, cudgel-playing, &c." Bourne observes, that the feasting and sporting, on this occasion, usually lasted for two or three days[211:A]; and Bishop Hall gives an impressive idea of the revelry and glee which distinguished these rural assemblages, when he exclaims, "What should I speak of our merry Wakes, and May games—in all which put together, you may well say, no Greek can be merrier than they."[211:B] Indeed from one end of the kingdom to the other, from north to south, it would appear, that, among the country-villages, during the reigns of Elizabeth and her two immediate successors, Wakes formed one of the principal amusements of the peasantry, and were anticipated with much eagerness and expectation. In confirmation of this we need only remark that Drayton, speaking of Lancashire, declares, that

—— "every village smokes at wakes with lusty cheer;"[211:C]

and that Herrick, in Devonshire, has written a very curious little poem, entitled The Wake, which, as strikingly descriptive of the various business of this festivity, claims here an introduction:—

"Come Anthea, let us two
Go to feast, as others do.
Tarts and custards, creams and cakes,
Are the junketts still at Wakes:
Unto which the tribes resort,
Where the businesse is the sport:
Morris-dancers thou shalt see,
Marian too in pagentrie:
[212]
And a Mimick to devise
Many grinning properties.
Players there will be, and those
Base in action as in clothes:
Yet with strutting they will please
The incurious villages.
Neer the dying of the day,
There will be a cudgell-play,
Where a coxcomb will be broke,
Ere a good word can be spoke:
But the anger ends all here,
Drencht in ale, or drown'd in beere.
Happy Rusticks, best content
With the cheapest merriment:
And possesse no other feare,
Than to want the Wake next yeare."[212:A]

Of the pedlars or hawkers who, in general, formed a constituent part of these village-wakes an accurate idea may be drawn from the character of the pedlar Autolycus, in the Winter's Tale of Shakspeare, who is delineated with the poet's customary strength of pencil, rich humour, and fidelity to nature. The wares in which he dealt are curiously enumerated in the following passages:—

"Serv. He hath songs, for men, or women, of all sizes; no milliner can so fit his customers with gloves[212:B]: he has the prettiest love-songs for maids; he hath ribands of all the colours i' the rainbow; points more than all the lawyers in Bohemia can learnedly handle, though they come to him by the gross; inkles, caddisses[212:C], cambricks, lawns: why, he sings them over, as they were gods or goddesses: you would think, a smock were a she-angel; he so chants to the sleeve-hand, and the work about the square on't."[212:D]

"Enter Autolycus, singing.

"Lawn, as white as driven snow;
Cyprus, black as e'er was crow;
[213]
Gloves as sweet as damask roses;
Masks for faces, and for noses;
Bugle bracelet, necklace-amber,
Perfume for a lady's chamber:
Golden quoifs, and stomachers,
For my lads to give their dears;
Pins and poking-sticks of steel,
What maids lack from head to heel:
Come, buy of me, come; come buy, come buy;
Buy, lads, or else your lasses cry;
Come buy, &c."[213:A]

At the close of the feast Autolycus is represented as re-entering, and declaring "Ha, ha! what a fool honesty is! and trust, his sworn brother, a very simple gentleman! I have sold all my trumpery; not a counterfeit stone, not a riband, glass, pomander[213:B], brooch, table-book, ballad, knife, tape, glove, shoe-tye, bracelet, horn-ring, to keep my pack from fasting: they throng who should buy first; as if my trinkets had been hallowed, and brought a benediction to the buyer."[213:C]

In the North, the Village-Wake is still kept up, under the title of The Hopping, a word derived from the Anglo-Saxon, and thus applied, because dancing was the favourite amusement of these meetings. The reign of Elizabeth, indeed, was marked by a peculiar propensity to this exercise, and neither wake nor feast could be properly celebrated without the country lads and lasses footing it on the green or yard, or in bad weather, in the Manor-hall.

In an old play, entitled "A Woman Killed With Kindness," the production of Thomas Heywood, and acted in 1604, is to be found a very humorous description of one of these Hoppings, and particularly curious, as it enumerates the names of the dances then in vogue [214]among these rustic performers. The poet, after remarking that now

————————— "the mad lads
And country lasses, every mother's child,
With nosegays and bride laces in their hats,
Dance all their country measures, rounds and jigs,"

thus introduces his couples:

"Jenkin. Come, Nick, take you Joan Miniver to trace withal; Jack Slime, traverse you with Sisly Milk-pail; I will take Jane Trubkin, and Roger Brickbat shall have Isabel Motley; and now strike up; we'll have a crash here in the yard.—

Jack Slime. Foot it quickly; if the music overcome not my melancholy, I shall quarrel; and if they do not suddenly strike up, I shall presently strike them down.

Jen. No quarrelling, for God's sake: truly, if you do, I shall set a knave between ye.

Jack Slime. I come to dance, not to quarrel; come, what shall it be? Rogero?

Jen. Rogero! no; we will dance 'The Beginning of the World.'

Sisly. I love no dance so well, as 'John, come kiss me now.'

Nicholas. I have ere now deserved a cushion; call for the Cushion-dance.

R. Brick. For my part, I like nothing so well as 'Tom Tyler.'

Jen. No; we'll have 'The hunting of the Fox.'

Jack Slime. 'The Hay! the Hay!' there's nothing like 'The Hay.'

Nich. I have said, do say, and will say again.

Jen. Every man agree to have it as Nick says.

All. Content.

Nich. It hath been, it now is, and it shall be.

Sisly. What? Mr. Nicholas? What?

Nich. 'Put on your smock a Monday.'

Jen. So, the dance will come cleanly off: come, for God's sake, agree of something; if you like not that, put it to the musicians; or let me speak for all, and we'll have 'Sellenger's Round.'

All. That, that, that!

Nich. No, I am resolved, thus it shall be. First take hands, then take ye to your heels.

Jen. Why, would you have us run away?

Nich. No; but I would have you shake your heels. Music, strike up.

They dance."[214:A]

The Fair or greater wake was usually held, as hath been observed, in a central situation, and its period and duration were, as at present, [215]proclaimed by law. It was a scene of extensive business as well as of pleasure; for before provincial cities had attained either wealth or consequence, all communication between them was difficult, and neither the necessaries nor the elegances of life could be procured but at stated times, and at fixed depôts. It was usual, therefore, to go fifty or a hundred miles to one of these fairs, in order both to purchase goods and accommodations for the ensuing year, and to dispose of the superfluous products of art or cultivation. In the reign of Henry VI. the monks of the priories of Maxtoke in Warwickshire, and of Bicester in Oxfordshire, laid in their annual stores of common necessaries at Sturbridge Fair in Cambridgeshire, at least one hundred miles distant, and notwithstanding the two cities of Oxford and Coventry were in their immediate neighbourhood.[215:A] In the reign of Henry VIII., it appears, from the Household-Book of Henry Percy, fifth Earl of Northumberland, that His Lordship's family were supplied with necessaries for the whole year from fairs. "He that stands charged with my Lordes House for the houll Yeir, if he maye possible, shall be at all Faires, where the greice Emptions shall be boughte for the House for the houll Yeir, as Wine, Wax, Beiffes, Muttons, Wheite and Malt[215:B];" and, in the reign of Elizabeth, Tusser recommends to his farmer the same plan, both for purchase and sale:

"At Bartilmewtide, or at Sturbridge faire,
buie that as is needful, thy house to repaire:
Then sel to thy profit, both butter and cheese,
who buieth it sooner, the more he shall leese."[215:C]

That this custom prevailed until the commencement of the eighteenth century, and to nearly the same extent, is evident from a note on the just quoted lines of Tusser by Mr. Hilman. "Sturbridge Fair," says he, "stocks the country (namely, Norfolk, Suffolk, and [216]Essex,) with clothes, and all other houshold necessaries; and they (the farmers) again, sell their butter and cheese, and whatever else remains on their hands; nay, there the shopkeepers supply themselves with divers sorts of commodities."

In the third year, indeed, of James I., Sturbridge Fair began to acquire such celebrity, that hackney coaches attended it from London; and it subsequently became so extensive that for several years not less than sixty coaches have been known to ply at this fair, then esteemed the largest in England.

Sturbridge Fair is still annually proclaimed, but now in such a state of decline, that its extinction, at least in a commercial light, cannot be far distant.

To these brief notices of wakes and fairs, it may be necessary to subjoin a slight detail of the state of Country-Inns and Ale-houses during the age of Shakspeare.

To "take mine ease in mine inn" is a proverbial phrase, which the poet has placed in the mouth of Falstaff[216:A], and which implies a degree of comfort which has always been the peculiar attribute of an English house of public entertainment. That it was not less felt and enjoyed in Shakspeare's time than in our own, is very apparent from the accounts which have been left us by Harrison and Fynes Moryson; the former writing towards the close of the sixteenth, and the latter at the commencement of the seventeenth century. These descriptions, which are curiously faithful and highly interesting, paint the provincial hostelries of England as in a most flourishing state, and, according to Harrison, indeed, greatly superior to those which existed in the metropolis.

"Those townes," says the historian, "that we call thorowfaires, have great and sumptuous innes builded in them, for the receiving of such travellers and strangers as passe to and fro. The manner of harbouring wherein, is not like to that of some other countries, in which the host or goodman of the house dooth chalenge a lordlie [217]authoritie over his ghests, but clean otherwise, sith every man may use his inne as his owne house in England, and have for his monie how great or little varietie of vittels, and what other service himselfe shall thinke expedient to call for. Our innes are also verie well furnished with naperie, bedding, and tapisserie, especiallie with naperie: for beside the linnen used at the tables, which is commonlie washed dailie, is such and so much as belongeth unto the estate and calling of the ghest. Ech commer is sure to lie in cleane sheets, wherein no man hath béene lodged since they came from the landresse, or out of the water wherein they were last washed. If the traveller have an horsse, his bed dooth cost him nothing, but if he go on foote he is sure to paie a penie for the same: but whether he be horsseman or footman if his chamber be once appointed he may carie the kaie with him, as of his owne house so long as he lodgeth there. It he loose oughts whilest he abideth in the inne, the host is bound by a generall custome to restore the damage, so that there is no greater securitie anie where for travellers than in the gretest ins of England." He then, after enumerating the depredations to which travellers are subject on the road, completes the picture by the following additional touches. "In all innes we have plentie of ale, biere, and sundrie kinds of wine, and such is the capacitie of some of them, that they are able to lodge two hundred or three hundred persons, and their horsses at ease, and thereto with a verie short warning make such provision for their diet, as to him that is unacquainted withall may seeme to be incredible. And it is a world to see how ech owner of them contendeth with other for goodnesse of interteinment of their ghests, as about finesse and change of linnen, furniture of bedding, beautie of rooms, service at the table, costlinesse of plate, strength of drinke, varietie of wines, or well using of horsses. Finallie there is not so much omitted among them as the gorgeousnes of their verie signes at their doores, wherein some doo consume thirtie or fortie pounds, a meere vanitie in mine opinion, but so vaine will they needs be, and that not onelie to give some outward token [218]of the inne keeper's welth, but also to procure good ghests to the frequenting of their houses, in hope there to be well used."[218:A]

"As soone as a passenger comes to an inne," remarks Moryson, "the servants run to him, and one takes his horse and walkes him till he be cold, then rubs him down, and gives him meat. Another servant gives the passenger his private chamber, and kindles his fire; the third pulls off his bootes and makes them cleane; then the host or hostess visits him; and if he will eate with the hoste, or at a common table with others, his meale will cost him sixpence, or in some places but four-pence; but if he will eate in his chamber he commands what meate he will according to his appetite; yea the kitchin is open to him to order the meate to be dressed as he likes beste. After having eaten what he pleases, he may, with credit, set by a part for the next day's breakfast. His bill will then be written for him, and, should he object to any charge, the host is ready to alter it."[218:B]

Taverns and ale-houses were frequently distinguished in Shakspeare's time by a bush or tuft of ivy at their doors; a custom which more particularly prevailed in Warwickshire, and is still practised, remarks Mr. Ritson, in this county "at statute-hirings, wakes, &c. by people who sell ale at no other time."[218:C] The poet alludes to this observance in his Epilogue to As You Like It:—"If it be true," he says, "that Good wine needs no bush, 'tis true, that a good play needs no epilogue: Yet to good wine they do use good bushes."[218:D] Several old plays mention the same custom, and Bishop Earle, in his Microcosmography, tells us that "A Tavern is a degree, or (if you will) a pair of stairs above an ale-house, where men are drunk with more credit and apology. If the vintner's rose be at door, it is a sign sufficient, but the absence of this is supplied by the ivy-bush."[218:E]

[219]That houses of this description, the whole furniture of which, according to Earle, consisted but of a stool, a table, and a [219:A]pot de chambre, were as numerous two hundred years ago as at present, and the scene of the same disgusting and intemperate orgies, is but too apparent from the invective of Robert Burton:—"See the mischief," he exclaims; "many men knowing that merry company is the only medicine against melancholy, will therefore neglect their business, and in another extream, spend all their dayes among good fellows, in a Tavern or an Ale-house, and know not otherwise how to bestow their time but in drinking; malt-worms, men fishes, or water-snakes, Qui bibunt solum ranarum more, nihil comedentes, like so many frogs in a puddle. 'Tis their sole exercise to eat, and drink; to sacrifice to Volupia, Rumina, Edulica, Potina, Mellona, is all their religion. They wish for Philoxenus' neck, Jupiter's trinoctium, and that the sun would stand still as in Joshua's time, to satisfie their lust, that they might dies noctesque pergræcari et bibere. Flourishing wits, and men of good parts, good fashion, and good worth, basely prostitute themselves to every rogues company, to take tobacco and drink, to roar and sing scurrile songs in base places.

"Invenies aliquem cum percussore jacentem,
Permistum nautis, aut furibus, aut fugitivis."

Juvenal.

"What Thomas Erastus objects to Paracelsus, that he would lye drinking all day long with carr-men and tapsters in a Brothel-house, is too frequent amongst us, with men of better note: like Timocreon of Rhodes, multa bibens, et multa vorans, &c. They drown their wits and seeth their brains in ale."[219:B]

Few ceremonies are better calculated to throw light on the manners and customs of a country, than those attendant on WEDDINGS and BURIALS, and with these, as they occurred in rural life, during the reigns of Elizabeth and James, we shall close this chapter.

[220]The style of courtship which prevailed in Shakspeare's time, may be drawn, with considerable accuracy, from the numerous love-dialogues interspersed throughout his plays. From these specimens not much disparity, either in language or manner, appears to have existed between the addresses of the courtier and the country-gentleman; the female character was indeed, at this period, greatly less important than at present; the blandishments of gallantry, and the elegancies of compliment were little known, and consequently the expression of the tender passion admitted of neither much variety nor much polish. The amatory dialogues of Hamlet, Hotspur, and Henry the Fifth, are not more refined than those which occur between Master Fenton and Anne Page, in the Merry Wives of Windsor; between Lorenzo and Jessica in the Merchant of Venice, and between Orlando and Rosalind, in As You Like It. These last, which may be considered as instances taken from the middle class of life, together with a few drawn from the lower rank of rural manners, such as the courtship of Touchstone and Audrey, and of Silvius and Phœbe, in As You Like It, will sufficiently apply to the illustration of our present subject; but it must be remarked that, in point of fancy, sentiment, and simplicity, the most pleasing love-scenes in Shakspeare are those that take place between Romeo and Juliet, and between Florizel and Perdita; the latter especially present a most lovely and engaging picture, on the female side, of pastoral naïveté and sweetness; and will, in part, serve to show, how far, in the opinion of Shakspeare, refinement was, at that time, compatible, as a just representation of nature, with cottage-life.

Betrothing or plighting of troth, as an affiance or promise of future marriage, was still, there is reason to suppose, often observed in Shakspeare's time, especially in the country, and as a private rite. The interchange of rings was the ceremony used on this occasion, to which the poet refers in his Two Gentlemen of Verona:

"Julia. Keep this remembrance for thy Julia's sake. (Giving a ring.)
Pro. Why then we'll make exchange; here take you this.
Jul. And seal the bargain with a holy kiss."[220:A]

[221]The public celebration of this contract, or what was termed espousals[221:A], was formerly in this country, as well as upon the continent, a constant preliminary to marriage. It usually took place in the church, and though nearly, if not altogether, disused, towards the close of the fifteenth century, is minutely described by Shakspeare in his Twelfth Night. Olivia, addressing Sebastian, says,—

"Now go with me, and with this holy man,
Into the chantry by: there before him
And underneath that consecrated roof
Plight me the full assurance of your faith;
That my most jealous and too doubtful soul
May live at peace. He shall conceal it
Whiles you are willing it shall come to note;
What time we will our celebration keep
According to my birth."[221:B]

A description of what passed at this ceremony of espousals or betrothing, is given by the priest himself in the first scene of the subsequent act, who calls it

"A contract of eternal bond of love
Confirm'd by mutual joinder of your hands,
Attested by the holy close of lips,
Strengthened by interchangement of your rings;
And all the ceremony of this compact
Seal'd in my function, by my testimony."[221:C]

These four observances, therefore; 1st, the joining of hands; 2dly, the mutually given kiss; 3dly, the interchangement of rings; and 4thly, the testimony of witnesses: appear to have been essential parts of the public ceremony of betrothing or espousals, which usually preceded [222]the marriage rite by the term of forty days. The oath indeed, administered on this occasion, was to the following effect:—"You swear by God and his holy saints herein and by all the saints of Paradise, that you will take this woman whose name is N. to wife within forty days, if holy church will permit." The priest then joining their hands, said—"And thus you affiance yourselves;" to which the parties answered,—"Yes, sir."[222:A] So frequently has Shakspeare referred to this custom of troth-plighting, that, either privately or publickly, we must conclude it to have been of common usage in his days: thus, in Measure for Measure, Mariana says to Angelo,

"This is the hand, which with a vow'd contract,
Was fast belock'd in thine:"[222:B]

and then addressing the duke, she exclaims,

"As there is sense in truth, and truth in virtue,
I am affianc'd this man's wife."[222:C]

So in King John, King Philip, and the Arch-duke of Austria, encouraging the connection of the Dauphin and Blanch:

"K. Phil. It likes us well;—Young princes, close your hands.
Aust. And your lips too; for, I am well assur'd,
That I did so, when I was first assur'd."[222:D]

One immoral consequence arising from this custom of public betrothing was, that the parties, depending upon the priest as a witness, frequently cohabited as man and wife. It would appear, indeed, from a passage in Shakspeare, that the ceremony of troth-plight, at [223]least among the lower orders, was considered as a sufficient warrant for intercourse of this kind; for he makes the jealous Leontes, in his Winter's Tale, exclaim,

"My wife's a hobby horse; deserves a name
As rank as any flax-wench, that puts to
Before her troth-plight."[223:A]

We must not forget, however, to remark, while on the subject of betrothing, that a singular proof of delicacy and attention to the fair sex, on this occasion, during the sixteenth century, has been quoted by Mr. Strutt, from a manuscript in the Harleian library, and which runs thus: "By the civil law, whatever is given ex sponsalitia largitate, betwixt them that are promised in marriage, hath a condition, for the most part silent, that it may be had again if marriage ensue not; but if the man should have had a kiss for his money, he should lose one half of what he gave. Yet with the woman it is otherwise; for kissing or not kissing, whatever she gave, she may have it again."[223:B]

Concerning the customs attendant on the celebration of the marriage rite, among the middle and inferior ranks, in the country, during the period which we are endeavouring to illustrate, much information, of the description we want, may be found in Shakspeare and his contemporaries.

The procession accompanying a rural bride, of some consequence, or of the middle rank, to church, has been thus given us:—"The bride being attired in a gown of sheep's russet, and a kirtle of fine worsted, her hair attired with a 'billement of gold, and her hair as yellow as gold hanging down behind her, which was curiously combed and plaited, she was led to church between two sweet boys, with bride laces and rosemary tied about their silken sleeves. There was a fair bride-cup of silver, gilt, carried before her, wherein was a goodly branch of rosemary, gilded very fair, hung about with silken ribbands [224]of all colours. Musicians came next, then a groupe of maidens, some bearing great bride-cakes, others garlands of wheat finely gilded; and thus they passed on to the church."[224:A]

Rosemary being supposed to strengthen the memory, was considered as an emblem of fidelity, and, at this period, was almost as constantly used at weddings as at funerals: "There's rosemary," says Ophelia, "that's for remembrance."[224:B] Many passages, illustrative of this usage at weddings, might be taken from our old plays, during the reign of James I., but two or three will suffice.

—— "will I be wed this morning,
Thou shalt not be there, nor once be graced with
A piece of rosemary."[224:C]
"Were the rosemary branches dipp'd, and all
The hippocras and cakes eat and drunk off;
Were these two arms encompass'd with the hands
Of bachelors to lead me to the church."[224:D]
"Phis. Your master is to be married to-day?
Trim. Else all this rosemary is lost."[224:E]

Of the peculiarities attending the marriage-ceremony within the church, a pretty good idea may be formed from the ludicrous wedding [225]of Catharine and Petruchio in the Taming of the Shrew. It appears from this description, that it was usual to drink wine at the altar immediately after the service was closed, a custom which was followed by the Bridegroom's saluting the bride.

"He calls for wine:—A health, quoth he; as if
He had been aboard, carousing to his mates
After a storm:—Quaff'd off the muscadel,
And threw the sops all in the sexton's face;—
This done, he took the bride about the neck;
And kiss'd her lips with such a clamorous smack,
That, at the parting, all the church did echo."[225:A]

In the account of the procession just quoted, we find that a bride-cup was carried before the bride; out of this all the persons present, together with the new-married couple, were expected to drink in the church. This custom was prevalent, in Shakspeare's time, among every description of people, from the regal head to the thorough-paced rustic; accordingly we are informed, on the testimony of an assisting witness, that the same ceremony took place at the marriage of the Elector Palatine to King James's daughter, on the 14th day of February, 1612-13: there was "in conclusion," he relates, "a joy pronounced by the king and queen, and seconded with congratulation of the lords there present, which crowned with draughts of Ippocras out of a great golden bowle, as an health to the prosperity of the marriage, (began by the prince Palatine and answered by the princess.) After which were served up by six or seven barons so many bowles filled with wafers, so much of that work was consummate."[225:B]

This bride-cup or bowl was, therefore, frequently termed the knitting [226]or contracting cup: thus in Ben Jonson's Magnetick Lady, Compass says to Practise, after enquiring for a licence,

———————— "Mind
The Parson's pint t'engage him—
A knitting-cup there must be;"[226:A]

and Middleton, in one of his Comedies, gives us the following line:—

"Even when my lip touch'd the contracting cup."[226:B]

The salutation of the Bride at the altar was a very ancient custom, and is referred to by several of the contemporaries of Shakspeare; Marston, for instance, represents one of his female characters saying,

"The kisse thou gav'st me in the church, here take."[226:C]

It was still customary at this period, to bless the bridal bed at night, in order to dissipate the supposed illusions of the Devil; a superstitious rite of which Mr. Douce has favoured us with the form, taken from the Manual for the use of Salisbury in the 13th[226:D] century. It is noticed by Chaucer also in his Marchantes Tale, and is mentioned as one of the marriage-ceremonies in the "Articles ordained by King Henry VII. for the regulation of his Household."[226:E] Shakspeare alludes to this ridiculous fashion in the person of Oberon, who tells his fairies,

"To the best bride-bed will we,
Which by us shall blessed be."[226:F]

[227]To this brief description of marriage-ceremonies, it will be necessary to subjoin some account of those which accompanied the mere rustic wedding, or Bride-ale; and fortunately we have a most curious picture of the kind preserved by Laneham, in his Letter on the Queens Entertainment at Kenelworth Castle, in 1575, one part of which was the representation of a country Bride-ale set in order in the Tylt-yard, and exhibited in the great court of the castle. This grotesque piece of pageantry, a faithful draught of rural costume, as it then existed, must have afforded Her Majesty no small degree of amusement.

"Thus were they marshalled. First, all the lustie lads and bold bachelors of the parish, suitably every wight with his blue buckram bridelace upon a branch of green broom (cause rosemary is scant there) tied on his left arm (for a that side lies the heart), and his alder poll for a spear in his right hand, in martial order ranged on afore, two and two in a rank: Some with a hat, some in a cap, some a coat, some a jerkin, some for lightness in his doublet and his hose, clean trust with a point afore: Some boots and no spurs, he spurs and no boots, and he neither one nor t'other: One a saddle, another a pail or a pannel fastened with a cord, for girts wear geazon: And these to the number of a sixteen wight riding men and well beseem: But the bridegroom foremost, in his father's tawny worsted jacket (for his friends were fain that he should be a bridegroom before the Queen), a fair straw hat with a capital crown, steeple-wise on his head: a pair of harvest gloves on his hands, as a sign of good husbandry: A pen and inkhorn at his back; for he would be known to be bookish: lame of a leg, that in his youth was broken at foot-ball: Well beloved yet of his mother, that lent him a new mufflar for a napkin that was tied to his girdle for losing. It was no small sport to mark this minion in his full appointment, that through good schoolation became as formal in his action, as had he been a bridegroom indeed; with this special grace by the way, that ever as he would have framed him the better countenance, with the worse face he looked.

[228]"Well, Sir, after these horsemen, a lively morrice-dance, according to the ancient manner; six dancers, maid-marian, and the fool. Then three pretty puzels, (maids or damsels from pucelle) as bright as a breast of bacon, of a thirty year old a piece, that carried three special spice-cakes of a bushel of wheat (they had it by measure out of my Lords backhouse), before the bride: Cicely with set countinance, and lips so demurely simpering, as it had been a mare cropping of a thistle. After these, a lovely lubber woorts[228:A], freckle-faced, red-headed, clean trussed in his doublet and his hose taken up now indeed by commission, for that he was so loth to come forward, for reverence belike of his new cut canvass doublet; and would by his good will have been but a gazer, but found to be a meet actor for his office: That was to bear the bride-cup, formed of a sweet sucket barrel, a faire-turned foot set to it, all seemly besilvered and parcel gilt, adorned with a beautiful branch of broom, gayly begilded for rosemary; from which, two broad bride laces of red and yellow buckeram begilded, and gallantly streaming by such wind as there was, for he carried it aloft: This gentle cup-bearer, yet had his freckled physiognomy somewhat unhappily infested as he went, by the busy flies, that flocked about the bride-cup for the sweetness of the sucket that it savoured on; but he, like a tall fellow, withstood their malice stoutly (see what manhood may do), beat them away, killed them by scores, stood to his charge, and marched on in good order.

"Then followed the worshipful bride, led (after the country manner) between two ancient parishioners, honest townsmen. But a stale stallion, and a well spred, (hot as the weather was) God wot, and ill smelling was she; a thirty-five year old, of colour brown-bay not very beautiful indeed, but ugly, foul ill favoured; yet marvellous vain of the office, because she heard say she should dance before the Queen, in which feat she thought she would foot it as finely as the [229]best: Well, after this bride, came there by two and two, a dozen damsels for bride-maids; that for favor, attyre, for fashion and cleanliness, were as meet for such a bride as a treen ladle for a porridge-pot; more (but for fear of carrying all clean) had been appointed, but these few were enow."[229:A]

From a passage in Ben Jonson's Tale of a Tub, we learn that the dress of the downright rustic, on his wedding day, was as follows:

"He had on a lether doublet, with long points,
And a paire of pin'd-up breech's, like pudding bags:
With yellow stockings, and his hat turn'd up
With a silver claspe, on his leere side."[229:B]

[230]Of the ceremonies attendant on Christenings, it will be necessary to mention two that prevailed at this period, and which have since fallen into disuse. Shakspeare, who generally transfers the customs of his own times to those periods of which he is treating, represents Henry VIII. saying to Cranmer, whom he had appointed Godfather to Elizabeth,

"Come, come, my lord, you'd spare your spoons;"[230:A]

and again in the dialogue between the porter and his man:

"Port. On my Christian conscience, this one christening will beget a thousand; here will be father, godfather, and all together.

"Man. The spoons will be the bigger, sir."[230:B]

In the days of Elizabeth and her predecessor, Mary, it was usual for the sponsors at christenings to present the child with silver spoons gilt, on the handles of which were engraved the figures of the apostles, whence they were commonly called apostle-spoons: thus Ben Jonson in Bartholomew Fair; "and all this for the hope of two apostle-spoons, to suffer."[230:C] The opulent frequently gave a complete set of spoons, namely, the twelve apostles; those less rich, selected the four evangelists, and the poorer class were content to offer a single spoon, or, at most, two, on which were carved their favourite saint or saints.

Among the higher ranks, in the reign of Henry VIII. the practice at christenings was to give cups or bowls of gold or silver. Accordingly Holinshed, describing the christening of Elizabeth, relates that "the archbishop of Canturburie gave to the princesse a standing cup of gold: the dutches of Norfolke gave to her a standing cup of gold, fretted with pearle: the marchionesse of Dorset gave three gilt bolles, pounced with a cover: and the marchionesse of Excester gave three standing bolles graven, all gilt with a cover."[230:D]

[231]In the Harleian MS. Vol. 6395, occurs a scarce pamphlet, entitled Merry Passages and Jeasts, from which Dr. Birch transcribed the following curious anecdote, as illustrative both of the custom of offering spoons, and of the intimacy which subsisted between Shakspeare and Jonson. "Shakspeare," says the author of this collection, who names Donne as his authority for the story, "was godfather to one of Ben Jonson's children, and after the christening, being in deepe study, Jonson came to cheer him up, and ask'd him why he was so melancholy: No 'faith Ben, says he, not I; but I have been considering a great while what should be the fittest gift for me to bestow upon my godchild, and I have resolved at last. I pr'ythee what? says he.—I'faith, Ben, I'll give him a douzen good latten (Latin) spoons, and thou shalt translate them."[231:A] It was not until the close of the seventeenth century, that this practice of spoon-giving at christenings ceased as a general custom.

Another baptismal ceremony, now laid aside, was the use of the chrisome, or white cloth, which was put on the child after the performance of the sacred rite. To this usage Dame Quickly alludes in describing the death of Falstaff, though, in accordance with her character, she corrupts the term: "'A made a finer end, and went away, an it had been any christom child."[231:B]

Previous to the Reformation, oil was used, as well as water, in baptism, or rather a kind of mixture of oil and balsam, which in the Greek was called Χρισμα; hence the white cloth worn on this occasion, as an emblem of purity, was denominated the chrismale or chrism-cloth. During the era of using this holy unction, with which the priest made the sign of the cross, on the breast, shoulders, and head of the child, the chrismale was worn only for seven days, as symbolical, it is said, of the seven ages of life; but after the Reformation, the oil being omitted, it was kept on the child until the purification [232]of the mother, when, after the ceremony of churching, it was returned to the minister, by whom it had been originally supplied. If the child died during the month of wearing the chrisome-cloth, it was buried in it, and children thus situated were called in the bills of mortality chrisoms. This practice, which was common in the days of Shakspeare, continued in use for nearly a century afterwards; for Blount in his Glossography, 1678, explains the word chrisoms as meaning such children as die within the month of birth, because during that time they use to wear the chrisom-cloth.[232:A]

We shall now proceed to consider some of the peculiarities accompanying the Funeral Rites of this period; and, in the first place, we shall notice the passing-bell. This was rung at an early era of the church, to solicit the prayers of all good christians for the welfare of the soul passing into another world: thus Durandus, who wrote towards the close of the twelfth century, says: "Verum aliquo moriente, campanæ debent pulsari, ut populus hoc audiens, oret pro illo:" "when any one is dying, the bells must be tolled, that the people may put up their prayers for him."[232:B] This custom of ringing a bell for a soul just departing, which is now relinquished, the bell only tolling after death, we have reason to believe was still observed in Shakspeare's time; for he makes Northumberland in King Henry IV. remark on the "bringer of unwelcome news," that

——————————— "his tongue
Sounds ever after as a sullen bell,
Remember'd knolling a departing friend."[232:C]

Another benefit formerly supposed to be derived from the sounding of the passing-bell, and which, from the scene of Cardinal Beaufort's death, was probably a part of Shakspeare's creed, consisted in the discomfiture of the evil spirits, who were supposed to surround the bed of the dying person; and who, terrified by the tolling of the [233]holy bell, were compelled to keep aloof; accordingly Durandus mentions it as one of the effects of bell-ringing, ut dæmones timentes[233:A] fugiant; and in the Golden Legende, printed by Wynkyn de Worde 1498, it is observed that "the evill spirytes that ben in the regyon of the ayre, doubte moche when they here the bells rongen: and this is the cause why the belles ben rongen—to the ende that the feindes and wycked spirytes shold be abashed and flee."[233:B]

That these opinions, indeed, relative to the passing-bell, continued to prevail, as things of general belief, during the greater part of the seventeenth century, is evident from the works of the pious Bishop Taylor, in which are to be found several forms of prayer for the souls of the departing, to be offered up during the tolling of the passing-bell. In these the violence of Hell is deprecated, and it is petitioned, that the spirits of darkness may be driven far from the couch of the dying sinner.[233:C]

So common, indeed, was this practice, that almost every individual had an exclamation or form of prayer ready to be recited on hearing the passing-bell, whence the following proverbial rhyme:

"When the Bell begins to toll
Cry, Lord have mercy on the soul."

In the Vittoria Corombona of Webster, this custom is alluded to in a manner singularly wild and striking. Cornelia says:

"Cor. I'll give you a saying which my grand-mother
Was wont, when she heard the bell, to sing o'er unto her lute.
Ham. Do an you will, do.
Cor. Call for the robin-red-breast, and the wren,
Since o'er shady groves they hover,
And with leaves and flowers do cover
The friendless bodies of unburied men.
[234]Call unto his funeral dole
The ant, the field-mouse, and the mole,
To raise him hillocks that shall keep him warm,
And (when gay tombs are robb'd) sustain no harm,
But keep the wolf far thence: that's foe to men,
For with his nails he'll dig them up again."

Ancient British Drama, vol. iii. p. 41.

Even so late as the commencement of the eighteenth century, it appears that this custom of praying during the passing-bell still lingered in some parts of the country; for Mr. Bourne, the first edition of whose book was published in 1725, after vindicating the practice, adds,—"I know several religious families in this place (Newcastle), and I hope it is so in other places too, who always observe it, whenever the melancholy season offers; and therefore it will at least sometimes happen, when we put up our prayers constantly at the tolling of the bell, that we shall pray for a soul departing. And though it be granted, that it will oftener happen otherwise, as the regular custom is so little followed; yet that can be no harmful praying for the dead."[234:A]

Immediately after death a ceremony commenced, the most offensive part of which has not been laid aside for more than half a century. This was called the Licke or Lake-wake, a term derived from the Anglo-Saxon Lic a corpse, and Wæcce a wake or watching. It originally consisted of a meeting of the friends and relations of the deceased, for the purpose of watching by the body from the moment it ceased to breathe, to its exportation to the grave; a duty which was at first performed with solemnity and piety, accompanied by the singing of psalms and the recitation of the virtues of the dead. It speedily, however, degenerated into a scene of levity, of feasting, and intoxication; to such a degree, indeed, that it was thought necessary at a provincial synod held in London during the reign of Edward III. to issue a canon for the restriction of the watchers to the near relations and most intimate friends of the deceased, and only to such of these as offered to repeat a fixed number of psalms [235]for the benefit of his soul.[235:A] To this regulation little attention, we apprehend, was paid; for the Lake-wake appears to have been observed as a meeting of revelry during the whole of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; and Mr. Bourne, so late as the year 1725, declares, that it was then "a scene of sport and drinking and lewdness."[235:B]

In Scotland during the period of which we are treating, and even down to the rebellion of 1745, the Lake-wake was observed with still greater form and effect than in England, though not often with a better moral result. Mr. Pennant describing it, when speaking of the Highland customs, under the mistaken etymology of Late-wake, says, that the evening after the death of any person, the relations or friends of the deceased met at the house, attended by a bag-pipe or fiddle; the nearest of kin, be it wife, son, or daughter, opened a melancholy ball, dancing and greeting, i. e. crying violently at the same time; and this continued till day-light, but with such gambols and frolics among the younger part of the company, that the loss which occasioned them was often more than supplied by the consequences of that night.[235:C] Mrs. Grant, however, in her lately published work on the Superstitions of the Highlanders, has given us a more favourable account of this ancient custom, which she has connected with a wild traditionary tale of much moral interest.

A peasant of Glen Banchar, a dreary and secluded recess in the central Highlands, "was fortunate in all respects but one. He had three very fine children, who all, in succession, died after having been weaned, though, before, they gave every promise of health and firmness. Both parents were much afflicted; but the father's grief was clamorous and unmanly. They resolved that the next should be suckled for two years, hoping, by this, to avoid the repetition of such a misfortune. They did so; and the child, by living longer, only took [236]a firmer hold of their affections, and furnished more materials for sorrowful recollection. At the close of the second year, he followed his brothers; and there were no bounds to the affliction of the parents.

"There are, however, in the economy of Highland life, certain duties and courtesies which are indispensable; and for the omission of which nothing can apologise. One of those is, to call in all their friends, and feast them at the time of the greatest family distress. The death of the child happened late in spring, when sheep were abroad in the more inhabited straths; but, from the blasts in that high and stormy region, were still confined to the cot. In a dismal snowy evening, the man, unable to stifle his anguish, went out, lamenting aloud, for a lamb to treat his friends with at the Late-wake. At the door of the cot, however, he found a stranger standing before the entrance. He was astonished, in such a night, to meet a person so far from any frequented place. The stranger was plainly attired; but had a countenance expressive of singular mildness and benevolence, and, addressing him in a sweet, impressive voice, asked him what he did there amidst the tempest. He was filled with awe, which he could not account for, and said, that he came for a lamb. 'What kind of lamb do you mean to take?' said the stranger. 'The very best I can find,' he replied, 'as it is to entertain my friends; and I hope you will share of it.'—'Do your sheep make any resistance when you take away the lamb, or any disturbance afterwards?'—'Never,' was the answer. 'How differently am I treated!' said the traveller. 'When I come to visit my sheepfold, I take, as I am well entitled to do, the best lamb to myself; and my ears are filled with the clamour of discontent by these ungrateful sheep, whom I have fed, watched, and protected.'

"He looked up in amaze; but the vision was fled. He went however for the lamb, and brought it home with alacrity. He did more: It was the custom of these times—a custom, indeed, which was not extinct till after 1745—for people to dance at Late-wakes. It was a mournful kind of movement, but still it was dancing. The nearest relation of the deceased often began the ceremony weeping; but did, [237]however, begin it, to give the example of fortitude and resignation. This man, on other occasions, had been quite unequal to the performance of this duty; but at this time he, immediately on coming in, ordered music to begin, and danced the solitary measure appropriate to such occasions. The reader must have very little sagacity or knowledge of the purport and consequences of visions, who requires to be told, that many sons were born, lived, and prospered afterwards in this reformed family."[237:A]

Some vestiges of the Lake-wake still remain at this day in remote parts of the north of England, especially at the period of laying out, or streeking the corpse, as it is termed; and here it may be remarked, that in the time of Shakspeare, the practice of winding the corse, or putting on the winding-sheet, was a ceremony of a very impressive kind, and accompanied by the solemn melody of dirges. Some lines strikingly illustrative of this pious duty, are to be found in the White Devil; or Vittoria Corombona of Webster, published in 1612. Francisco, Duke of Florence, tells Flaminio,

"I found them winding of Marcello's corse;
And there is such a solemn melody,
'Tween doleful songs, tears, and sad elegies;
Such as old grandames, watching by the dead,
Were wont to outwear the nights with; that, believe me,
I had no eyes to guide me forth the room,
They were so o'ercharged with water.——

Cornelia, the Moor, and three other ladies, discovered WINDING Marcello's corse. A Song.

Cor. This rosemary is wither'd, pray get fresh;
I would have these herbs grow up in his grave,
When I am dead and rotten. Reach the bays,
I'll tie a garland here about his head:
'Twill keep my boy from lightning. This sheet
I have kept this twenty years, and every day
Hallow'd it with my prayers; I did not think
He should have worn it."[237:B]

[238]Another exquisite passage of this fine old poet alludes to the same practice—a villain of ducal rank, expiring from the effect of poison, exclaims,

"O thou soft natural death! that art joint-twin
To sweetest slumber!—no rough-bearded comet
Stares on thy mild departure; the dull owl
Beats not against thy casement; the hoarse wolf
Scents not thy carion. Pity winds thy corse,
Whilst horror waits on princes."[238:A]

After the funeral was over, it was customary, among all ranks, to give a cold, and sometimes a very ostentatious, entertainment to the mourners. To this usage Shakspeare refers, in the character of Hamlet:

"Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral bak'd meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables,"

a passage which Mr. Collins has illustrated by the following quotation from a contemporary writer: "His corpes was with funerall pompe conveyed to the church, and there sollemnly enterred, nothing omitted which necessitie or custom could claime; a sermon, a banquet, and like observations."[238:B]

The funeral feast is not yet extinct; it may occasionally be met with in places remote from the metropolis, and more particularly in the northern counties among some of the wealthy yeomanry. Mr. Douce considers the practice as "certainly borrowed from the cœna feralis of the Romans," and adds, "in the North this feast is called an arval or arvil supper; and the loaves that are sometimes distributed among the poor, arval-bread. Not many years since one of these arvals was celebrated in a village in Yorkshire at a public-house, the sign of which was the family arms of a nobleman whose motto is Virtus post funera vivit. The undertaker, who, though a clerk, was no scholar, requested a gentleman present to explain to [239]him the meaning of these Latin words, which he readily and facetiously did in the following manner; Virtus, a parish clerk, vivit, lives well, post funera, at an arval. The latter word is apparently derived from some lost Teutonic term that indicated a funeral pile on which the body was burned in times of Paganism."[239:A]

A few observations must still be added on the pleasing, though now nearly obsolete, practice of carrying ever-greens and garlands at funerals, and of decorating the grave with flowers. There is something so strikingly emblematic, so delightfully soothing in these old rites, that though the prototype be probably heathen, their disuse is to be regretted. "The carrying of ivy, or laurel, or rosemary, or some of those ever-greens," says Bourne, "is an emblem of the soul's immortality. It is as much as to say, that though the body be dead, yet the soul is ever-green and always in life: it is not like the body, and those other greens which die and revive again at their proper seasons, no autumn nor winter can make a change in it, but it is unalterably the same, perpetually in life, and never dying.

"The Romans, and other heathens upon this occasion, made use of cypress, which being once cut, will never flourish nor grow any more, as an emblem of their dying for ever, and being no more in life. But instead of that, the antient Christians used the things before mentioned; they laid them under the corps in the grave, to signify, that they who die in Christ, do not cease to live. For though, as to the body they die to the world, yet as to their souls, they live to God.

"And as the carrying of these ever-greens is an emblem of the soul's immortality, so it is also of the resurrection of the body: for as these herbs are not entirely plucked up, but only cut down, and will, at the returning season, revive and spring up again; so the body, like them, is but cut down for a while, and will rise and shoot up again at the resurrection."[239:B]

The bay and rosemary were the plants usually chosen, the former [240]as being said to revive from the root, when apparently dead, and the latter from its supposed virtue in strengthening the memory:

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance."[240:A]

Shakspeare has frequently noticed these ever-greens, garlands, and flowers, as forming a part of the tributary rites of the departed, as elegant memorials of the dead: at the funeral of Juliet he adopts the rosemary:—

"Dry up your tears, and stick your rosemary
On this fair corse, and as the custom is,
In all her best array bear her to church."[240:B]

Garlands of flowers were formerly either hung up in country-churches, as a mark of honour and esteem, over the seats of those who had died virgins, or were remarkable for chastity and fidelity, or were placed in the form of crowns on the coffins of the deceased, and buried with them, for the same purpose. Of these crowns and garlands, which were in frequent use until the commencement of the last century, a very curious account has been given by a writer in the Gentleman's Magazine.

"In this nation (as well as others)," he observes, "by the abundant zeal of our ancestors, virginity was held in great estimation; insomuch that those which died in that state were rewarded, at their deaths, with a garland or crown on their heads, denoting their triumphant victory over the lusts of the flesh. Nay, this honour was extended even to a widow that had enjoyed but one husband (saith Weever in his Fun. Mon. p. 12.) And, in the year 1733, the present clerk of the parish church of Bromley in Kent, by his digging a grave in that church-yard, close to the east end of the chancel wall, dug up one of these crowns, or garlands, which is most artificially wrought in fillagree work with gold and silver wire, in [241]resemblance of myrtle (with which plant the funebrial garlands of the ancients were composed) whose leaves are fastened to hoops of large wire of iron, now something corroded with rust, but both the gold and silver remains to this time very little different from its original splendor. It was also lined with cloth of silver, a piece of which, together with part of this curious garland, I keep as a choice relic of antiquity.

"Besides these crowns, the ancients had also their depository garlands, the use of which were continued even till of late years, (and perhaps are still retained in many parts of this nation, for my own knowledge of these matters extends not above twenty or thirty miles round London,) which garlands at the funerals of the deceased, were carried solemnly before the corpse by two maids, and afterward hung up in some conspicuous place within the church, in memorial of the departed person, and were (at least all that I have seen) made after the following manner, viz. the lower rim or circlet, was a broad hoop of wood, whereunto was fixed, at the sides thereof, part of two other hoops crossing each other at the top, at right angles, which formed the upper part, being about one third longer than the width; these hoops were wholly covered with artificial flowers of paper, dyed horn, or silk, and more or less beauteous, according to the skill and ingenuity of the performer. In the vacancy of the inside, from the top, hung white paper, cut in form of gloves, whereon was wrote the deceased's name, age, &c. together with long slips of various coloured paper, or ribbons. These were many times intermixed with gilded or painted empty shells of blown eggs, as farther ornaments; or, it may be, as emblems of the bubbles or bitterness of this life; whilst other garlands had only a solitary hour-glass hanging therein, as a more significant symbol of mortality.

"About forty years ago, these garlands grew much out of repute, and were thought, by many, as very unbecoming decorations for so sacred a place as the church; and at the reparation, or new beautifying several churches, where I have been concerned, I was obliged, by order of the minister and churchwardens, to take the garlands down, [242]and the inhabitants were strictly forbidden to hang up any more for the future. Yet, notwithstanding, several people, unwilling to forsake their ancient and delightful custom, continued still the making of them, and they were carried at the funerals, as before, to the grave, and put therein, upon the coffin, over the face of the dead; this I have seen done in many places." Bromley in Kent. Gentleman's Magazine for June 1747.

Shakspeare has alluded to these maiden rites in Hamlet, where the priest, at the interment of Ophelia, says,

—— "Here she is allow'd her virgin crants,
Her maiden strewments, and the bringing home
Of bell and burial."[242:A]

The term crants, observes Johnson, on the authority of a correspondent, is the German word for garlands, and was probably retained by us from the Saxons.[242:B]

The strewments mentioned in this passage refer to a pleasing custom, which is still, we believe, preserved in Wales, of scattering flowers over the graves of the deceased.[242:C] It is manifestly copied from the funeral rites of the Greeks and Romans, and was early introduced into the Christian church; for St. Jerom, in an epistle to his friend Pammachius on the death of his wife, remarks, "whilst other husbands strawed violets and roses, and lilies, and purple flowers, upon the graves of their wives, and comforted themselves with such like offices, Pammachius bedewed her ashes and venerable bones with the balsam of alms[242:D];" and Mr. Strutt, in his Manners and Customs of England, tells us, "that of old it was usual to adorn the graves of the deceased with roses and other flowers (but more especially those of lovers, round whose tombs they have often planted rose trees): Some traces," he observes, "of this ancient custom are [243]yet remaining in the church-yard of Oakley, in Surry, which is full of rose trees planted round the graves."[243:A]

Many of the dramas of our immortal bard bear testimony to his partiality for this elegantly affectionate tribute; a practice which there is reason to suppose was in the country at least not uncommon in his days: thus Capulet, in Romeo and Juliet, observes,

"Our bridal flowers serve for a buried corse;"[243:B]

and the Queen in Hamlet is represented as performing the ceremony at the grave of Ophelia:

"Queen. Sweets to the sweet: Farewell!
(Scattering Flowers.)
I hop'd, thou should'st have been my Hamlet's wife;
I thought, thy bride-bed to have deck'd, sweet maid,
And not have strew'd thy grave."[243:C]

It was considered, likewise, as a duty incumbent on the survivors, annually to plant shrubs and flowers upon, and to tend and keep neat, the turf which covered the remains of their beloved friends; in accordance with this usage, Mariana is drawn in Pericles decorating the tomb of her nurse:

————— "I will rob Tellus of her weed,
To strew thy green with flowers: the yellows, blues,
The purple violets, and marigolds,
Shall, as a chaplet, hang upon thy grave,
While summer days do last;"[243:D]

and Arviragus, in Cymbeline, pathetically exclaims,

—————— "With fairest flowers,
Whilst summer lasts, and I live here, Fidele,
I'll sweeten thy sad grave: Thou shall not lack
The flower, that's like thy face, pale primrose; nor
[244]
The azur'd hare-bell, like thy veins; no, nor
The leaf of eglantine, whom not to slander,
Out-sweeten'd not thy breath."[244:A]

The only relic which yet exists in this country of a custom so interesting, is to be found in the practice of protecting the hallowed mound by twigs of osier, an attention to the mansions of the dead, which is still observable in most of the country-church-yards in the south of England.

[245]We have thus advanced in pursuit of our object, namely, A Survey of Country Life during the Age of Shakspeare, as far as a sketch of its manners and customs, resulting from a brief description of rural characters, holidays, and festivals, wakes, fairs, weddings, and burials, will carry us; and we shall now proceed with the picture, by adding some account of those diversions of our ancestors which could not with propriety find a place under any of the topics that have been hitherto noticed; endeavouring in our progress to render the great dramatic bard the chief illustrator of his own times.


FOOTNOTES:

[209:A] Brand on Bourne's Antiquities, p. 333.

[209:B] Mr. Strutt, in a quotation from an old MS. legend of St. John the Baptist, preserved in Dugdale's Warwickshire, tells us,—"In the beginning of holi churche, it was so that the pepul cam to the chirche with candellys brinnyng, and wold wake and comme with Light toward the chirche in their devocions, and after they fell to lecherie and songs, daunces, harping, piping, and also to glotony and sinne, &c."—Sports and Pastimes, p. 322.

"It appears," says Mr. Brand, "that in antient times the parishioners brought rushes at the Feast of Dedication, wherewith to strew the Church, and from that circumstance the Festivity itself has obtained the name of Rush-bearing, which occurs for a Country-Wake in a Glossary to the Lancashire dialect."—Brand ap. Ellis, vol. i. p. 436.

[210:A] Hilman's Tusser, p. 81.

[211:A] Bourne's Antiquit. Vulg. p. 330.

[211:B] Triumph of Pleasure, p. 23.

[211:C] Chalmers's Poets, vol. iv. p. 378. Poly-Olbion, Song xxvii.

[212:A] Hesperides, p. 300, 301.

[212:B] In Shakspeare's time the business of the milliner was transacted by men.

[212:C] Caddisses,—a kind of narrow worsted galloon.

[212:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 345. 347, 348.

[213:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 349.

[213:B] Pomander,—a little ball of perfumes worn either in the pocket or about the neck.

[213:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 375, 376.

[214:A] Ancient British Drama, vol. ii. p. 435, 436. The third edition of A Woman Killed With Kindness, was printed in 4to. 1617.

[215:A] Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. i. p. 279. note.

[215:B] Establishment and Expences of the Houshold of Henry Percy, the fifth Earl of Northumberland, A. D. 1512. p. 407.

[215:C] Hilman's Tusser, p. 110.

[216:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xi. p. 358.

[218:A] Holinshed's Chronicles, vol. i. p. 414, 415. Edit. of 1807.

[218:B] Moryson's Itinerary, part iii. p. 151. folio. London, 1617.

[218:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. viii. p. 189. note.

[218:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. viii. p. 189, 190.

[218:E] Bliss's edition, 1811. p. 37, 38.

[219:A] Earle's Microcosmography, p. 38.

[219:B] Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, 8th edit. p. 191.

[220:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 213. Act ii. sc. 2.

[221:A] "Vincent de Beauvais, a writer of the 13th century, in his Speculum historiale, lib. ix. c. 70., has defined espousals to be a contract of future marriage, made either by a simple promise, by earnest or security given, by a ring, or by an oath." Douce's Illustrations, vol. i. p. 109.

[221:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 395. Act iv. sc. 3.

[221:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 403. Act v. sc. 1.

[222:A] Douce's Illustrations, vol. i. p. 113.

[222:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vi. p. 395.

[222:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vi. p. 396.

[222:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. x. p. 405. Here assur'd is taken in the sense of affianced or contracted. If necessary, many more instances of betrothing, and troth-plighting, might be brought forward from our author's dramas.

[223:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 240.

[223:B] Strutt's Manners and Customs, vol. iii. p. 155.

[224:A] History of Jack of Newbury, 4to. chap. ii.

[224:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 291.

[224:C] Ram Alley, or Merry Tricks, by Barry, 1611. Vide Ancient British Drama, vol. ii.

[224:D] Beaumont and Fletcher's Scornful Lady, 1616.

[224:E] A Faire Quarrel, by Middleton and Rowley, 1617. Besides rosemary, flowers of various kinds were frequently strewn before the bride as she passed to church; a custom alluded to in a well-known line of Shakspeare,

"Our Bridal Flowers serve for a buried corse:"

and more explicitly depicted in the following passage from one of his contemporaries:—

"Adriana. Come straw apace, Lord shall I never live
To walke to Church on flowers? O 'tis fine,
To see a Bride trip it to Church so lightly,
As if her new Choppines would scorne to bruise
A silly flower!"

Barry's Ram Alley, or Merry Tricks, act v. sc. 1. 4to. 1611.

[225:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 114, 115, 116. Act iii. sc. 2.

[225:B] Finet's Philoxenis, 1656, p. 11. quoted by Mr. Reed in his Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 115. note.

[226:A] Folio edit. p. 44. Act iv. sc. 2.

[226:B] No Wit, no Help like a Womans, 8vo. 1657. Middleton was contemporary with Shakspeare, and commenced a dramatic writer in 1602.

[226:C] Insatiate Countess, 4to. 1603.

[226:D] Douce's Illustrations, vol. i. p. 199.

[226:E] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 459. note, by Steevens.

[226:F] Midsummer-Night's Dream, act v. sc. 2. Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 459.

[228:A] Woorts; of this word I know not the precise meaning; but suppose it is meant to imply plodded or stumbled on.

[229:A] Nichols's Queen Elizabeth's Progresses, vol. i.—Laneham's Letter, p. 18, 19, 20.

[229:B] Jonson's Works, fol. edit. of 1640, vol. ii. A Tale of a Tub, p. 72.—Much of the spirit and costume of the rural wedding of the sixteenth century continued to survive until within these eighty years. "I have received," says Mr. Brand, who wrote in 1776, "from those who have been present at them, the following account of the customs used at vulgar Northern Weddings, about half a century ago:—

"The young women in the neighbourhood, with bride-favours (knots of ribbands) at their breasts, and nosegays in their hands, attended the Bride on her wedding-day in the morning.—Fore-Riders announced with shouts the arrival of the Bridegroom; after a kind of breakfast, at which the bride-cakes were set on and the barrels broached, they walked out towards the church.—The Bride was led by two young men; the Bridegroom by two young women: Pipers preceded them, while the crowd tossed up their hats, shouted and clapped their hands. An indecent custom prevailed after the ceremony, and that too before the altar:—Young men strove who could first unloose, or rather pluck off the Bride's garters: Ribbands supplied their place on this occasion; whosoever was so fortunate as to tear them thus off from her leggs, bore them about the church in triumph.

"It is still usual for the young men present to salute the Bride immediately after the performing of the marriage service.

"Four, with their horses, were waiting without; they saluted the Bride at the church gate, and immediately mounting, contended who should first carry home the good news, and WIN what they call the KAIL;" i. e. a smoking prize of spice-broth, which stood ready prepared to reward the victor in this singular kind of race.

"Dinner succeeded; to that dancing and supper; after which a posset was made, of which the Bride and Bridegroom were always to taste first.—The men departed the room till the Bride was undressed by her maids, and put to bed; the Bridegroom in his turn was undressed by his men, and the ceremony concluded with the well-known rite of throwing the stocking."—Bourne's Antiquitates Vulg. apud Brand, p. 371, 372, 373. edit. 1810.

[230:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xv. p. 197.

[230:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xv. p. 203.

[230:C] Ben Jonson's Works, fol. edit. 1640. vol. ii. p. 6.

[230:D] Holinshed's Chronicles, vol. iii. p. 787. edit. 1808.

[231:A] Capell's Notes and Various Readings on Shakspeare, vol. i.; and Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xv. p. 198.—L'Estrange, a nephew to Sir Roger L'Estrange, appears to have been the compiler of these anecdotes. Of the truth of the story, however, as far as it relates to Shakspeare and Jonson, there is reason to entertain much doubt.

[231:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 343. Act ii. sc. 3.

[232:A] Vide Douce's Illustrations, vol. i. p. 488.; and Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 345.

[232:B] Vide Rationale Divinorum Officiorum: the first edition was printed in 1459.

[232:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 16.

[233:A] Durandi Rational. lib. i. c. 4.

[233:B] For an account of three editions of De Worde's Golden Legende, see Dibdin's Typographical Antiquit. vol. ii. p. 73.

[233:C] These forms of prayer are transcribed by Bourne in his Antiquitates Vulgares.—Vide Brand's edit. p. 10. Bishop Taylor died in 1667.

[234:A] Bourne apud Brand, p. 9.

[235:A] Collier's Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. p. 546.

[235:B] Antiquitates Vulgares apud Brand, p. 23.

[235:C] Tour in Scotland.

[237:A] Essays on the Superstitions of the Highlanders of Scotland, vol. i. p. 184-188.

[237:B] Ancient British Drama, vol. iii. p. 40.

[238:A] Ancient British Drama, vol. iii. p. 36.

[238:B] The Tragique Historie of the Faire Valeria of London, 1598. Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 43. note.

[239:A] Douce's Illustrations, vol. ii. p. 202, 203.

[239:B] Bourne's Antiquitates Vulg. p. 33, 34.

[240:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 294.

[240:B] Ibid. vol. xx. p. 217, 218.

[242:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 335, 336.

[242:B] Ibid. p. 336. note.

[242:C] See Pratt's Gleanings in Wales, and Mason's Elegy in a Church-yard in Wales.

[242:D] Bourne's Antiq. apud Brand, p. 45.

[243:A] Anglo Saxon Æra, vol. i. p. 69.

[243:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xx. p. 219.

[243:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 337.

[243:D] Ibid. vol. xxi. p. 297, 298.

[244:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 576.—In Mr. Malkin's notes on Mason's Elegy, we have the following elegant and pleasing description of this pathetic custom, as it still exists in Wales:—"It is a very antient and general practice in Glamorgan," he remarks, "to plant flowers on the graves; so that many Church-yards have something like the splendour of a rich and various parterre. Besides this it is usual to strew the graves with flowers and ever-greens, within the Church as well as out of it, thrice at least every year, on the same principle of delicate respect as the stones are whitened.

"No flowers or ever-greens are permitted to be planted on graves but such as are sweet-scented: the pink and polyanthus, sweet williams, gilliflowers, and carnations, mignionette, thyme, hyssop, camomile, rosemary, make up the pious decoration of this consecrated garden.——

"The white rose is always planted on a virgin's tomb. The red rose is appropriated to the grave of any person distinguished for goodness, and especially benevolence of character.

"In the Easter week most generally the graves are newly dressed, and manured with fresh earth, when such flowers or ever-greens as may be wanted or wished for are planted. In the Whitsuntide Holidays, or rather the preceding week, the graves are again looked after, weeded, and other wise dressed, or, if necessary, planted again.—This work the nearest relations of the deceased always do with their own hands, and never by servants or hired persons.—

"When a young couple are to be married, their ways to the Church are strewed with sweet-scented flowers and ever-greens. When a young unmarried person dies, his or her ways to the grave are also strewed with sweet flowers and ever-greens; and on such occasions it is the usual phrase, that those persons are going to their nuptial beds, not to their graves.—None ever molest the flowers that grow on graves; for it is deemed a kind of sacrilege to do so. A relation or friend will occasionally take a pink, if it can be spared, or a sprig of thyme, from the grave of a beloved or respected person, to wear it in remembrance; but they never take much, lest they should deface the growth on the grave.—

"These elegant and highly pathetic customs of South Wales make the best impression on the mind. What can be more affecting than to see all the youth of both sexes in a village, and in every village through which the corpse passes, dressed in their best apparel, and strewing with sweet-scented flowers the ways along which one of their beloved neighbours goes to his or her marriage-bed."

Malkin's Scenery, Antiquities, and Biography of
South Wales, 4to. 1804. p. 606.


[246]

CHAPTER VIII.

VIEW OF COUNTRY LIFE DURING THE AGE OF SHAKSPEARE CONTINUED—DIVERSIONS.

The attempt to describe all the numerous rural diversions which were prevalent during the age of Shakspeare, would be, in the highest degree, superfluous; for the greatest part of them, it is evident, must remain, with such slight or gradual modification as to require but little notice. It will be, therefore, our endeavour, in the course of this chapter, after giving a catalogue of the principal country-diversions of the era in question, to dwell only upon those which are now either entirely obsolete, or which have subsequently undergone such alterations as to render their former state an object of novelty and curiosity.

This catalogue may be taken, with tolerable accuracy, from Randal Holme of Chester, and from Robert Burton; the former enumerating the games and diversions of the sixteenth century, and the latter those of the prior part of the seventeenth. If to these, we add the notices to be drawn from Shakspeare, the sketch will, there is reason to suppose, prove sufficiently extensive.

In the list of Randal Holme will be found the names of some juvenile sports, which are now perhaps no longer explicable; this poetical antiquary, however, shall speak for himself.

"—— They dare challenge for to throw the sledge;
To jumpe or lepe over ditch or hedge;
To wrastle, play at stool-balle, or to runne;
To pitch the barre or to shote offe the gunne;
To play at loggets, nineholes, or ten pinnes;
To trye it out at fote balle by the shinnes;
At ticke tacke, seize noddy, maw, or ruffe;
Hot-cockles, leape froggè, or blindman's buffe;
To drinke the halfer pottes, or deale att the whole canne;
To playe at chesse, or pue, and inke-horènne;
[247]
To daunce the morris, playe at barley breake;
At alle exploytes a man can thynke or speake;
Att shove-grote, 'venter poynte, att crosse and pyle;
Att "Beshrewe him that's last att any style;"
Att lepynge over a Christmàs bon fyer,
Or att the "drawynge dame owte o' the myre;"
At "Shoote cock, Gregory," stoole-ball, and what not:
Pickè-poynt, top, and scourge to make him hot."[247:A]

Burton, after mentioning Hawking, Hunting, Fowling, and Fishing, says, "many other sports and recreations there be, much in use, as ringing, holding, shooting, (with the bow,) keelpins, tronks, coits, pitching bars, hurling, wrestling, leaping, running, fencing, mustring, swimming, wasters, foiles, foot-ball, balown, quintan, &c., and many such which are the common recreations of the Country folks."[247:B] He subsequently adds bull and bear baiting as common to both countrymen and[247:C] citizens, and then subjoins to the list of rural amusements, dancing, singing, masking, mumming, and stage-players.[247:D] For the ordinary recreations of Winter as well in the country as in town, he recommends "cards, tables and dice, shovelboord, chess-play, the philosopher's game, small trunks, shuttle-cock, balliards, musick, masks, singing, dancing, ule games, frolicks, jests, riddles, catches, purposes, questions and commands, and merry tales."[247:E]

From this statement it will immediately appear, that many of the rural diversions of this period are those likewise of the present day, and that no large portion of the catalogue can with propriety call for a more extended notice.

At the head of those which demand some brief elucidation, we shall place the Itinerant Stage, a country amusement, however, which, in the days of Elizabeth, was fast degenerating into contempt. The performance of secular plays by strolling companies of minstrels, had [248]been much encouraged for two or three centuries, not only by the vulgar, but by the nobility, into whose castles and halls they were gladly admitted, and handsomely rewarded. At the commencement of the sixteenth century, the custom was still common, and Mr. Steevens, as a proof of it, has furnished us with the following entry from the fifth Earl of Northumberland's Household Book, which was begun in the year 1512:—

"Rewards to Players.

"Item, to be payd to the said Richard Gowge and Thomas Percy for rewards to players for playes playd in Chrystinmas by stranegers in my house after xxd. every play by estimacion somme xxxiijs. iiijd. Which ys appoynted to be paid to the said Richard Gowge and Thomas Percy at the said Christynmas in full contentacion of the said reward ys xxxiijs. iiijd."[248:A]

That these itinerants were still occasionally admitted into the country-mansions of the great, during the reign of Elizabeth, we have satisfactory evidence; but it may be sufficient here to remark, that Elizabeth herself was entertained with an historical play at Kenelworth Castle, by performers who came for that purpose from Coventry; and that Shakspeare has favoured us with another instance, by the introduction of the following scene in his Taming of the Shrew, supposed to have been written in 1594:—

"Lord. Sirrah, go see what trumpet 'tis that sounds:—
Exit Servant.
Belike, some noble gentleman; that means,
Travelling some journey, to repose him here.—
Re-enter a Servant.
How now? who is it?
Serv. An it please your honour,
Players that offer service to your lordship.
Lord. Bid them come near:—

[249]Enter Players.

Now, fellows, you are welcome.
1 Play. We thank your honour.
Lord. Do you intend to stay with me to night?
2 Play. So please your lordship to accept our duty.
Lord. With all my heart.—
Go, sirrah, take them to the buttery,
And give them friendly welcome every one:
Let them want nothing that my house affords."[249:A]

From this passage it may be deduced, that the itinerant players of this period were held in no higher estimation than menial servants; an inference which is corroborated by referring to the anonymous play of A Taming of a Shrew, written about 1590, where the entry of the players is thus marked, "Enter two of the plaiers, with packs at their backs." The abject condition of these strollers, Mr. Pope has attributed, perhaps too hastily, to the stationary performers of this reign; "the top of the profession," he observes, "were then mere players, not gentlemen of the stage; they were led into the buttery by the steward, not placed at the lord's table, or the lady's[249:B] toilette;" a passage on which Mr. Malone has remarked, that Pope "seems not to have observed, that the players here introduced are strollers; and there is no reason to suppose that our author, Heminge, Burbage, Condell, &c. who were licensed by King James, were treated in this manner."[249:C]

On the other hand Mr. Steevens supports the opinion of Pope by asserting, that "at the period when this comedy (Taming of a Shrew) was written, and for many years after, the profession of a player was scarcely allowed to be reputable. The imagined dignity," he continues, "of those who did not belong to itinerant companies, is, therefore, unworthy consideration. I can as easily believe that the blundering editors of the first folio were suffered to lean their hands on Queen Elizabeth's chair of state, as that they were admitted to the [250]table of the Earl of Leicester, or the toilette of Lady Hunsden. Like Stephen, in Every Man in his Humour, the greatest indulgence our histrionic leaders could have expected, would have been a trencher and a napkin in the buttery."[250:A]

The inference, however, which Mr. Malone has drawn, appears to have the authority of Shakspeare himself; for when Hamlet is informed of the arrival of the players, he exclaims, "How chances it, they travel; their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways[250:B];" a question, the drift of which even Mr. Steevens explains in the following words. "How chances it they travel?—i. e. How happens it that they are become strollers?—Their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways—i. e. To have remained in a settled theatre was the more honourable as well as the more lucrative situation."[250:C] We have every reason, therefore, to suppose, that the difference between the stroller and the licensed performer was in Shakspeare's time considerable; and that the latter, although not the companion of lords and countesses, was held in a very respectable light, if his personal conduct were good, and became the occasional associate of the first literary characters of the age; while the former was frequently degraded beneath the rank of a servant, and, in the statute, indeed, 39 Eliz. ch. 4. he is classed with rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars.

This depreciation of the character of the itinerant player, towards the close of Elizabeth's reign, soon narrowed his field of action; the opulent became unwilling to admit into their houses persons thus legally branded; and the stroller was reduced to the necessity of exhibiting his talents at wakes and fairs, on temporary scaffolds and barrel heads; "if he pen for thee once," says Ben Jonson, addressing a strolling player, "thou shalt not need to travell, with thy pumps full of gravell, any more, after a blinde jade and a hamper, and stalk upon boards and barrel-heads to an old crackt trumpet."[250:D]

[251]Many country-towns, indeed, at this period, were privileged to hold fairs by exhibiting a certain number of stage-plays at their annual fairs. Of these, Manningtree in Essex was one of the most celebrated; Heywood mentions it as notorious for yearly plays at its fair[251:A]; and that its festivity on these occasions was equally known, is evident from Shakspeare's comparison of Falstaff to a "roasted Manningtree ox with a pudding in his belly."[251:B] The histrionic fame of Manningtree Mr. Malone proves by two quotations from Nashe and Decker; the former exclaiming in a poem, called The choosing of Valentines,

——— "Or see a play of strange moralitie,
Shewen by bachelrie of Manning-tree,
Whereto the countrie franklins flock-meale swarme;"

and the latter observing, in a tract entitled Seven deadly Sinnes of London, 1607, that "Cruelty has got another part to play; it is acted like the old morals at Manningtree."[251:C]

This custom of stage-playing at annual fairs continued to support a few itinerant companies; but in general, after the halls of the nobility and gentry were shut against them[251:D], they divided into small parties of three or four, and at length became mere jugglers, jesters, and puppet-show exhibitors. This last-mentioned amusement, indeed, and its professors, seem to have been known, in this country, under the name of motions, and motion-men, as early as the commencement [252]of the sixteenth century[252:A]; and the term, indeed, continued to be thus applied in the time of Jonson, who repeatedly uses it, in his Bartholomew Fair.[252:B] The degradation of the STROLLING companies, by the statutes of Elizabeth and James, rendered the exhibition of automaton figures, at this period, common throughout the kingdom. They are alluded to by Shakspeare under the appellation of drolleries; thus in the Tempest, Alonzo, alarmed at the strange shapes bringing in the banquet, exclaims

"Give us kind keepers, heavens! What were these?"

a question to which Sebastian replies,

"A LIVING drollery,"[252:C]

meaning by this epithet to distinguish them from the wooden puppets, the performers in the shows called drolleries.

A very popular annual diversion was celebrated, during the age of Shakspeare, and for more than twenty-five years after, on the Cotswold Hills in Gloucestershire. It has been said that the rural games which constituted this anniversary, were founded by one Robert Dover on the accession of James I.;[252:D] but it appears to be ascertained that Dover was only the reviver, with additional splendour, of sports which had been yearly exhibited, at an early period, on the same spot, and perhaps only discontinued for a short time before their revival in 1603. "We may learn from Rudder's History of Glocestershire," says Mr. Chalmers, "that, in more early times, there was at Cottswold a customary meeting, every year, at Whitsontide, called [253]an ale, or Whitson-ale, which was attended by all the lads, and the lasses, of the villegery, who, annually, chose a Lord and Lady of the Yule, who were the authorized rulers of the rustic revellers. There is in the Church of Cirencester, says Rudder, an ancient monument, in basso relievo, that evinces the antiquity of those games, which were known to Shakspeare, before the accession of King James. They were known, also, to Drayton early in that reign: for upon the map of Glocestershire, which precedes the fourteenth song, there is a representation of a Whitsun-ale, with a may pole, which last is inscribed 'Heigh for Cotswold.'

"Ascending, next, faire Cotswold's plaines,
She revels with the Shepherd's swaines."[253:A]

Mr. Strutt also is of opinion that the Cotswold games had a much higher origin than the time of Dover, and observes that they are evidently alluded to in the following lines by John Heywood the epigrammatist:

"He fometh like a bore, the beaste should seeme bolde,
For he is as fierce as a lyon of Cotswold."[253:B]

In confirmation of these statements it may be added, that Mr. Steevens and Mr. Chalmers have remarked, that in Randolph's poems, 1638, is to be found "An eclogue on the noble assemblies revived on Cotswold hills by Mr. Robert Dover;" and in D'Avenant's poems published the same year, a copy of verses "In celebration of the yearely preserver of the games at Cotswold."[253:C]

The Reviver of these far-famed games was an enterprising attorney, a native of Barton on the Heath in Warwickshire, and consequently a near neighbour to Shakspeare's country-residence. He obtained permission from King James to be the director of these annual sports, which he superintended in person for forty years. They were [254]resorted to by prodigious multitudes of people, and by all the nobility and gentry for sixty miles round, until "the rascally rebellion," to adopt the phraseology of Anthony Wood, "was begun by the Presbyterians, which gave a stop to their proceedings, and spoiled all that was generous and ingenious elsewhere."[254:A]

They consisted originally, and previous to the direction of Dover, merely of athletic exercises, such as wrestling, leaping, cudgel-playing, sword and buckler fighting, pitching the bar, throwing the sledge, tossing the pike, &c. &c. To these Dover added coursing for the gentlemen and dancing for the ladies; a temporary castle of boards being erected for the accommodation of the fair sex, and a silver collar adjudged as a prize for the fleetest greyhound.

To these two eras of the Cotswold Games Shakspeare alludes in the second part of King Henry IV., and in the Merry Wives of Windsor. Justice Shallow refers to the original state of this diversion, when in the first of these dramas he enumerates among the swinge-bucklers, "Will Squeele, a Cotsole man[254:B];" and to Dover's improvement of them, when, in the second, he represents Slender asking Page, "How does your fallow greyhound, Sir? I heard say, he was out-run on Cotsale."[254:C]

Dover, tradition says, was highly delighted with the superintendance of these Games, and assumed, during his direction of them, a great deal of state and consequence. "Captain Dover," relates Granger, a title which courtesy had probably bestowed on this public-spirited attorney, "had not only the permission of James I. to celebrate the Cotswold Games, but appeared in the very cloaths which that monarch had formerly worn[254:D], and with much more dignity in his air and aspect."[254:E]

In 1636, there was published at London a small quarto, entitled, "Annalia Dubrensia, upon the yearly Celebration of Mr. Robert [255]Dover's Olympic Games, upon Cotswold Hills," a book consisting entirely of recommendatory verses, written by Jonson, Drayton, Randolph, and many others, and with a print prefixed of Dover on horseback.

It is probable that, at this period, and for many subsequent years, there were several places in the kingdom which had Games somewhat similar to those of Cotswold, though not quite so celebrated; for Heath says, that a carnival of this kind was kept every year, about the middle of July, upon Halgaver-moor, near Bodwin in Cornwall; "resorted to by thousands of people. The sports and pastimes here held were so well liked," he relates, "by Charles the Second, when he touched here in his way to Sicily, that he became a brother of the jovial society. The custom," he adds, "of keeping this Carnival is said to be as old as the Saxons."[255:A]

Of the four great rural diversions, Hawking, Hunting, Fowling and Fishing, the first will require the greatest share of our attention, as it is now nearly, if not altogether extinct, and was, during the reigns of Elizabeth and James, the most prevalent and fashionable of all amusements.

To the very commencement, indeed, of the seventeenth century, we may point, as to the zenith of its popularity and reputation; for although it had been introduced into this country as early as the middle of the eighth century[255:B], it was, until the commencement of the sixteenth, nearly, if not entirely, confined to the highest rank of society. During the reigns of Elizabeth and James, however, it descended from the nobility to the gentry and wealthy yeomanry, and no man could then have the smallest pretension to the character [256]of a gentleman who kept not a cast of hawks. Of this a ludicrous instance is given us by Ben Jonson, in his Every Man in his Humour:

"Master Stephen. How does my coussin Edward, uncle?

Knowell. O, well cousse, goe in and see: I doubt he be scarce stirring yet.

Steph. Uncle, afore I goe in, can you tell me, an' he have ere a booke of the sciences of hawking, and hunting? I would faine borrow it.

Know. Why, I hope you will not a hawking now, will you?

Steph. No, cousse; but I'll practise against next yere uncle. I have bought me a hawke, and a hood, and bells, and all; I lacke nothing but a booke to keepe it by.

Know. O, most ridiculous.

Steph. Nay, looke you now, you are angrie, uncle: why you know, an' a man have not skill in the hawking, and hunting-languages now-a-days, I'll not give a rush for him. They are more studied than the Greeke, or the Latine. He is for no gallant's company without 'hem.—A fine jest ifaith! Slid a gentleman mun show himselfe like a gentleman!"[256:A]

That the character of Master Stephen is not, in this respect, overcharged, but represents faithfully the fashionable folly of the age, is evident from many contemporary writers, and especially from that sensible old author Richard Brathwait, who, speaking of dogs and hawks, says, "they are to be used only as pleasures and recreations, of which to speake sparingly were much better, than onely to discourse of them, as if our whole reading were in them. Neither doe I speake this without just cause; for I have noted this fault in many of our younger brood of Gentry, who either for want of education in learning, or their owne neglect of learning, have no sooner attained to the strength of making their fist a pearch for a hawke, but by the helpe of some bookes of faulconry, whereby they are instructed in the words of art, they will run division upon discourse of this pleasure: whereas, if at any time they be interrupted by occasion of some other conference, these High-flyers are presently to bee mewed up, for they are taken from their element."[256:B]

Many of the best books on the Art of Falconry were written, indeed, as might be expected, during this universal rage for the [257]amusement, and the hawking coxcombs of the day, adopting their language on all occasions, became necessarily obtrusive and pedantic in a disgusting degree. Of these manuals the most popular were written by George Turberville, Gervase Markham, and Edmund Best.[257:A]

But the most detrimental consequence arising from the universality of this elegant diversion, was the immense expense that attended it, and which frequently involved those who were not opulent in utter ruin: a result not to be wondered at, when we find, that at the commencement of the seventeenth century, a goss-hawk and a tassel-hawk were not to be purchased for less than a hundred marks; and that in the reign of James I., Sir Thomas Monson gave one thousand pounds for a cast of hawks. Brathwait, in his usual strain of propriety, advises those who are not possessed of good estates, to give up all idea of this diversion, and exposes its indiscriminate pursuit in the following pleasant manner:—

"This pleasure," observes he, "as it is a princely delight, so it moveth many to be so dearely enamoured of it, as they will undergoe any charge, rather than forgoe it: which makes mee recall to mind a merry tale which I have read, to this effect. Divers men having entered into discourse, touching the superfluous care (I will [258]not say folly) of such as kept dogs and hawkes for hawking; one Paulus a Florentine stood up and spake: Not without cause (quoth hee) did that foole of Millan laugh at these; and being entreated to tell the tale, hee thus proceeded; upon a time (quoth he) there was a citizen of Millan, a physitian for such as were distracted or lunaticke; who tooke upon him within a certaine time to cure such as were brought unto him. And hee cured them after this sort: Hee had a plat of ground neere his house, and in it a pit of corrupt and stinking water, wherein he bound naked such as were mad to a stake, some of them knee-deepe, others to the groin, and some others deeper according to the degree of their madnesse, where hee so long pined them with water and hunger, till they seemed sound. Now amongst others, there was one brought, whom he had put thigh-deepe in water; who after fifteene dayes began to recover, beseeching the physitian that hee might be taken out of the water. The physitian taking compassion of him, tooke him out, but with this condition, that he should not goe out of the roome. Having obeyed him certaine dayes, he gave him liberty to walke up and downe the house, but not to passe the out-gate; while the rest of his companions, which were many, remaining in the water, diligently observed their physitian's command. Now it chanced, as on a time he stood at the gate, (for out hee durst not goe, for feare he should returne to the pit) he beckoned to a yong gentleman to come unto him, who had a hawke and two spaniels, being moved with the novelty thereof; for to his remembrance before hee fell mad, he had never seene the like. The yong gentleman being come unto him; Sir, (quoth he) I pray you hear mee a word or two, and answer mee at your pleasure: What is this you ride on (quoth he) and how do you imploy him? This is a horse (replied he) and I keepe him for hawking. But what call you that, you carry on your fist, and how do you use it? This is a hawke (said he) and I use to flie with it at pluver and partridge. But what (quoth he) are these which follow you, what doe they, or wherein doe they profit you? These are dogges (said he) and necessary for hawking, to finde and retrieve my [259]game. And what were these birds worth, for which you provide so many things, if you should reckon all you take for a whole yeere? Who answering, hee knew not well, but they were worth a very little, not above sixe crownes. The man replied; what then may be the charge you are at with your horse, dogges and hawke? Some fiftie crowns, said he. Whereat, as one wondering at the folly of the yong gentleman: Away, away Sir, I pray you quickly, and fly hence before our physitian returne home: for if he finde you here, as one that is maddest man alive, he will throw you into his pit, there to be cured with others, that have lost their wits; and more than all others, for he will set you chin-deepe in the water. Inferring hence, that the use or exercise of hawking, is the greatest folly, unlesse sometimes used by such as are of good estate, and for recreation sake.

"Neither is this pleasure or recreation herein taxed, but the excessive and immoderate expence which many are at in maintaining this pleasure. Who as they should be wary in the expence of their coine, so much more circumspect in their expence of time. So as in a word, I could wish yong gentlemen never to bee so taken with this pleasure, as to lay aside the dispatch of more serious occasions, for a flight of feathers in the ayre."[259:A]

The same prudent advice occurs in an author who wrote immediately subsequent to Brathwait, and who, though a lover of the diversion, stigmatises the folly of its general adoption. "As for hawking," says he; "I commend it in some, condemne it in others; in men of qualitie whose estates will well support it, I commend it as a generous and noble qualitie; but in men of meane ranke and religious men[259:B], I condemne it with Blesensis, as an idle and foolish vanitie: for I have ever thought it a kinde of madnesse for such men, to bestow ten pounds in feathers, which at one blast might be [260]blowne away, and to buy a momentary monethly pleasure with the labours and expence of a whole yeare."[260:A]

It is to be regretted, however, that the use of the gun has superseded, among the opulent, the pursuit of this far more elegant and picturesque recreation. As intimately connected, for many centuries, with the romantic manners and costume of our ancient nobility and gentry, it now possesses peculiar charms for the poet and the antiquary, and we look back upon the detail of this pastime, and all its magnificent establishments, with a portion of that interest which time has conferred upon the splendid pageantries of chivalry. Of the estimation in which it was held, and of the pleasure which it produced, in Shakspeare's time, there are not wanting numerous proofs: he has himself frequently alluded to it, and the poets Turberville, Gascoign, and Sydney, have delighted to expatiate on its praises, and to adopt its technical phraseology. But the most interesting eulogia, the most striking pictures of this diversion, appear to us to be derived from a few strokes in Brathwait, Nash, and Massinger; writers who, publishing shortly after Shakspeare's death, and describing the amusement of their youthful days, of course delineate the features as they existed in Shakspeare's age, with as much, if not greater accuracy than the still earlier contemporaries of the bard.

"Hawking," remarks Brathwait, "is a pleasure for high and mounting spirits: such as will not stoope to inferiour lures, having their mindes so farre above, as they scorne to partake with them. It is rare to consider, how a wilde bird should bee so brought to hand, and so well managed as to make us such pleasure in the ayre: but most of all to forgoe her native liberty and feeding, and returne to her former servitude and diet. But in this, as in the rest, we are taught to admire the great goodnesse and bounty of God, who hath not only given us the birds of the aire, with their flesh to feede us, with their voice to cheere us, but with their flight to delight us."[260:B]

[261]"I have in my youthfull dayes," relates Nash, "beene as glad as ever I was to come from Schoole, to see a little martin in the dead time of the yeare, when the winter had put on her whitest coat, and the frosts had sealed up the brookes and rivers, to make her way through the midst of a multitude of fowle-mouth'd ravenous crows and kites, which pursued her with more hydeous cryes and clamours, than did Coll the dog, and Malkin the maide, the Fox in the Apologue.

"When the geese for feare flew over the trees,
And out of their hives came the swarme of bees:"

Chaucer in his Nunes Priests Tale.

and maugre all their oppositions pulled down her prey, bigger than herselfe, being mounted aloft, steeple-high downe to the ground. And to heare an accipitrary relate againe, how he went forth in a cleere, calme, and sun-shine evening, about an houre before the sunne did usually maske himselfe, unto the river, where finding of a mallard, he whistled off his faulcon, and how shee flew from him as if shee would never have turned head againe, yet presently upon a shoote came in, how then by degrees, by little and little, by flying about and about, she mounted so high, untill shee had lessened herselfe to the view of the beholder, to the shape of a pigeon or partridge, and had made the height of the moone the place of her flight, how presently upon the landing of the fowle, shee came downe like a stone and enewed it, and suddenly got up againe, and suddenly upon a second landing came downe againe, and missing of it, in the downe come recovered it, beyond expectation, to the admiration of the beholder, at a long; and to heare him tell a third time, how he went forth early in a winter's morning, to the woody fields and pastures to fly the cocke, where having by the little white feather in his tayle discovered him in a brake, he cast of a tasel gentle, and how he never ceased in his circular motion, untill he had recovered his place, how suddenly upon the flushing of the cocke he came downe, and missing of it in the downcome, what working there was on both [262]sides, how the cocke mounted, as if he would have pierced the skies; how the hawke flew a contrary way, untill he had made the winde his friend, how then by degrees he got up, yet never offered to come in, untill he had got the advantage of the higher ground, how then he made in, what speed the cocke made to save himselfe, and what hasty pursuit the hawke made, and how after two long miles flight killed it, yet in killing of it killed himselfe. These discourses I love to heare, and can well be content to be an eye-witnesse of the sport, when my occasions will permit."[262:A]

To this lively and minute detail, which brings the scene immediately before our eyes, we must be allowed to add the poetical picture of Massinger, which, as Mr. Gifford has justly observed, "is from the hand of a great master."

————————— "In the afternoon,
For we will have variety of delights,
We'll to the field again, no game shall rise
But we'll be ready for't——
————————— for the pye or jay, a sparrow hawk
Flies from the fist; the crow so near pursued,
Shall be compell'd to seek protection under
Our horses bellies; a hearn put from her siege,
And a pistol shot off in her breech, shall mount
So high, that, to your view, she'll seem to soar
Above the middle region of the air:
A cast of haggard falcons, by me mann'd,
Eying the prey at first, appear as if
They did turn tail; but with their labouring wings
Getting above her, with a thought their pinions
Clearing the purer element, make in,
And by turns bind with her[262:B]; the frighted fowl,
Lying at her defence upon her back,
With her dreadful beak, awhile defers her death,
But by degrees forced down, we part the fray,
And feast upon her.——
[263]
————————— Then, for an evening flight,
A tiercel gentle, which I call, my masters,
As he were sent a messenger to the moon,
In such a place flies, as he seems to say,
See me, or see me not! the partridge sprung,
He makes his stoop; but wanting breath, is forced
To cancelier[263:A]; then, with such speed as if
He carried lightning in his wings, he strikes
The trembling bird, who even in death appears
Proud to be made his quarry."[263:B]

After these praises and general description of hawking, it will be proper to mention the various kinds of hawks used for this diversion, the different modes of exercising it, and a few of the most interesting particulars relative to the training of the birds.

It will be found, on consulting the Treatise on Hawking, by Dame Juliana Barnes, printed by Winkin De Worde in 1496, the Gentleman's Academie, by Markham, 1595, and the Jewel for Gentrie, published in 1614, that during this space of time, the species of hawks employed, and the several ranks of society to which they were appropriated, had scarcely, if at all varied. The following catalogue is, therefore, taken from the ancient Treatyse:

"An eagle, a bawter (a vulture), a melown; these belong unto an Emperor.
A Gerfalcon: a Tercell of a Gerfalcon are due to a King.
There is a Falcon gentle, and a Tercel gentle; and these be for a Prince.
There is a Falcon of the rock; and that is for a Duke.
There is a Falcon peregrine; and that is for an earl.
Also there is a Bastard; and that hawk is for a baron.
There is a Sacre and a Sacret; and these ben for a knight.
There is a Lanare and a Lanrell; and these belong to a squire.
[264]There is a Merlyon; and that hawk is for a lady.
There is an Hoby; and that hawk is for a young man.
And these ben hawks of the tour and ben both illuryd to be called and reclaimed.
And yet there ben more kinds of hawks.
There is a Goshawk; and that hawk is for a yeoman.
There is a Tercel; and that is for a poor man.
There is a Sparehawk; she is an hawk for a priest.
There is a Muskyte; and he is for an holy-water clerk."[264:A]

To this list the Jewel for Gentre adds

A Kesterel, for a knave or servant.

Many of these birds were held in such high estimation by our crowned heads and nobility, that several severe edicts were issued for the preservation of their eggs. These were mitigated in the reign of Elizabeth; but still if any person was convicted of taking or destroying the eggs of the falcon, gos-hawk or laner, he was liable to suffer imprisonment for three months, and was obliged to find security for his good behaviour for seven years, or remain confined until he did.

Hawking was divided into two branches, land and water hawking, and the latter was usually considered as producing the most sport. The diversion of hawking was pursued either on horseback or on foot: on the former in the fields and open country; on the latter, in woods, coverts, and on the banks of rivers. When on foot, the sportsman had the assistance of a stout pole, for the purpose of leaping over ditches, rivulets, &c.; a circumstance which we learn from the chronicle of Hall, where the historian tells us that Henry the Eighth, pursuing his hawk on foot, in attempting to leap over a ditch of muddy water with his pole, it broke, and precipitated the monarch head-foremost into the mud, where, had it not been for the timely assistance of one of his footmen, named John Moody, he would soon have been suffocated; "and so," concludes the venerable chronicler, "God of hys goodnesse preserved him."[264:B]

[265]The game pursued in hawking included a vast variety of birds, many of which, once fashionable articles of the table, have now ceased to be objects of the culinary art. Of those which are now obsolete among epicures may be enumerated, herons, bitterns, swans, cranes, curlews, sheldrakes, cootes, peacocks; of those still in use, teel, mallard, geese, ducks, pheasants, quails, partridges, plovers, doves, turtles, snipes, woodcocks, rooks, larks, starlings, and sparrows.

Hawking, notwithstanding the occasional fatigue and hazard which it produced, was a favourite diversion among the ladies, who in the pursuit of it, according to a writer of the seventeenth century, did not hesitate to assume the male attire and posture. "The [265:A]Bury ladies," observes he, "that used hawking and hunting, were once in a great vaine of wearing breeches."[265:B] The same author has preserved a hawking anecdote of some humour, and which occurred, likewise, at the same place: "Sir Thomas Jermin," he relates, "going out with his servants, and brooke hawkes one evening, at Bury, they were no sooner abroad, but fowle were found, and he called out to one of his falconers, Off with your jerkin; the fellow being into the wind did not heare him; at which he stormed, and still cried out, Off with your jerkin, you knave, off with your jerkin; now it fell out that there was, at that instant, a plaine townsman of Bury, in a freeze jerkin, stood betwixt him and his falconer, who seeing Sir Thomas in such a rage, and thinking he had spoken to him, unbuttoned himself amaine, threw off his jerkin, and besought his worshippe not to be offended, for he would off with his doublet too, to give him content."[265:C]

That the training of hawks was a work of labour, difficulty, and skill, and that the person upon whom the task devolved, was highly prized, and supported at a great expense, may be readily imagined. The Falconer was, indeed, an officer of high importance in the household of the opulent, and his whole time was absorbed in the duties of [266]his station. That these were various and incessant may be deduced from the following curious character of a falconer, drawn by a satirist of 1615.[266:A]

"A falkoner is the egge of a tame pullett, hatcht up among hawkes and spaniels. Hee hath in his minority conversed with kestrils and yong hobbies: but growing up he begins to handle the lure, and look a fawlcon in the face. All his learning makes him but a new linguist; for to have studied and practised the termes of Hawke's Dictionary, is enough to excuse his wit, manners, and humanity. He hath too many trades to thrive; and yet if hee had fewer, hee would thrive lesse. Hee need not be envied therefore, for a monopolie, though he be barber-surgeon, physitian, and apothecary, before he commences hawk-leech; for though he exercise all these, and the art of bow-strings together, his patients be compelled to pay him no further, then they be able. Hawkes be his object, that is, his knowledge, admiration, labour, and all; they be indeed his idoll, or mistresse, be they male or female: to them he consecrates his amorous ditties, which be no sooner framed then hallowed; nor should he doubt to overcome the fairest, seeing he reclaimes such haggards, and courts every one with a peculiar dialect. That he is truly affected to his sweetheart in her fether-bed, appeares by the sequele, himselfe being sensible of the same misery, for they be both mewed up together: but he still chuses the worst pennance, by chusing rather an ale-house, or a cellar, for his moulting place than the hawke's mew."[266:B]

The training of Hawks consisted principally in the manning, luring, flying, and hooding them. Of these, the first and second imply a perfect familiarity with the man, and a perfect obedience to his voice and commands, especially that of returning to the fist at the [267]appointed signal.[267:A] The flying includes the appropriation of peculiar hawks to peculiar game; thus the Faulcon gentle, which, according to Gervase Markham, is the principal of hawks, and adapted either for the field or river, will fly at the partridge or the mallard; the Gerfaulcon will fly at the heron; the Saker at the crane or bittern; the Lanner at the partridge, pheasant, or chooffe; the Barbary Faulcon at the partridge only; the Merlin and the Hobby at the lark, or any small bird; the Goshawk or Tercel at the partridge, pheasant, or hare; the Sparrow-hawk at the partridge or blackbird, and the Musket at the bush only.[267:B]

The hooding of hawks, as it embraces many technical terms, which have been adopted by our poets, and among the rest, by Shakspeare, will require a more extended explanation, and this we shall give in the words of Mr. Strutt. "When the hawk," he observes, "was not flying at her game, she was usually hood-winked, with a cap or hood provided for that purpose, and fitted to her head; and this hood was worn abroad, as well as at home. All hawks taken upon 'the fist,' the term used for carrying them upon the hand, had straps of leather called jesses[267:C], put about their legs; the jesses were made sufficiently [268]long, for the knots to appear between the middle and the little fingers of the hand that held them, so that the lunes, or small thongs of leather, might be fastened to them with two tyrrits, or rings; and the lunes were loosely wound round the little finger; lastly, their legs were adorned with bells, fastened with rings of leather, each leg having one; and the leathers, to which the bells were attached, were denominated bewits; and to the bewits was added the creance, or long thread, by which the bird in tutoring, was drawn back, after she had been permitted to fly; and this was called the reclaiming of the hawk. The bewits, we are informed, were useful to keep the hawks from winding when she bated, that is, when she fluttered her wings to fly after her game. Respecting the bells, it is particularly recommended that they should not be too heavy, to impede the flight of the bird; and that they should be of equal weight, sonorous, shrill, and musical; not both of one sound, but the one a semitone below the other[268:A]; they ought not to be broken, especially in the sounding part, because, in that case, the sound emitted would be dull and unpleasing. There is, says the Book of St. Alban's, great choice of sparrow-hawk bells, and they are cheap enough; but for gos-hawk bells, those made at Milan are called the best; and, indeed, they are excellent; for they are commonly sounded with [268:B]silver, and charged for accordingly."[268:C]

[269]Thomas Heywood, in his play, entitled A Woman killed with Kindness, and acted before 1604, has a passage on falconry, four lines of which have been quoted by Mr. Strutt, as allusive to the toning of the Milan bells; but as the whole is highly descriptive of the diversion, and is of no great length, we shall venture to transcribe it, with the exception of a few lines, entire:

"Sir Charles. So; well cast off; aloft, aloft; well flown.
O, now she takes her at the sowse, and strikes her down
To th' earth, like a swift thunder clap.—
Now she hath seized the fowl, and 'gins to plume her,
Rebeck her not; rather stand still and check her.
So: seize her gets, her jesses, and her bells;
Away.
Sir Francis. My hawk kill'd too!
Sir Charles. Aye, but 'twas at the querre,
Not at the mount, like mine.
Sir Fran. Judgment, my masters.
Cranwell. Your's miss'd her at the ferre.[269:A]
Wendoll. Aye, but our Merlin first had plumed the fowl,
And twice renew'd her from the river too;
Her bells, Sir Francis, had not both one weight,
Nor was one semi-tune above the other:
Methinks these Milain bells do sound too full,
And spoil the mounting of your hawk.—
Sir Fran. —— Mine likewise seized a fowl
Within her talons; and you saw her paws
Full of the feathers: both her petty singles,
And her long singles griped her more than other;
The terrials of her legs were stained with blood:
[270]
Not of the fowl only, she did discomfit
Some of her feathers; but she brake away."[270:A]

To hawking and the language of falconry, Shakspeare, as we have previously observed, has frequently had recourse, and he has selected the terms with his wonted propriety and effect; of this five or six instances will be adequate proof. Othello, in allusion to Desdemona, exclaims:

————— "If I do prove her haggard,
Though that jesses were my dear heart-strings,
I'd whistle her off, and let her down the wind,
To prey at fortune."[270:B]

A haggard is a species of hawk wild and difficult to be reclaimed, and which, if not well trained, flies indiscriminately at every bird; a fault to which Shakspeare again refers in his Twelfth Night, where Viola tells the Clown that

"He must observe their mood on whom he jests—
And, like the haggard, check at every feather
That comes before his eye."[270:C]

The phrase to whistle off will be best explained by a simile in Burton, which opens his chapter on Air. "As a long-winged hawk when he is first whistled off the fist, mounts aloft, and for his pleasure fetcheth many a circuit in the air, still soaring higher and higher, till he be come to his full pitch, and in the end when the game is sprung, comes down amain, and stoops upon a sudden."[270:D] To let a hawk down the wind, was to dismiss it as worthless.

Petruchio, soliloquising on the means which he had adopted, in order to tame his termagant bride, says emphatically,

[271]
"My falcon now is sharp, and passing empty;
And, till she stoop, she must not be full-gorged,
For then she never looks upon her lure.
Another way I have to man my haggard,
To make her come, and know her keeper's call,
That is,—to watch her, as we watch these kites,
That bate, and beat, and will not be obedient."[271:A]

To bate in this passage means to flutter or beat the wings, as striving to fly away, and is metaphorically used in the following address of Juliet to the night:

———————— "Come, civil night,——
Hood my unmann'd blood bating in my cheeks,
With thy black mantle."[271:B]

The same tragedy furnishes us with another obligation to falconry, where the love-sick maiden recalls Romeo in these terms:

"Hist! Romeo, hist!——O, for a falconer's voice
To lure this tassel-gentle back again."[271:C]

Falstaff's page in the Merry Wives of Windsor is appositely compared to the eyas-musket, an unfledged hawk of the smallest species:

"Mrs. Ford. How now, my eyas-musket? What news with you?"[271:D]

Eyas-musket, remarks Mr. Steevens, is the same as infant Lilliputian, and he subjoins an illustrative passage from Spenser:

———— "youthful gay,
Like eyas-hawke, up mounts into the skies,
His newly budded pinions to essay."[271:E]

[272]If the commencement of the seventeenth century, saw Hawking the most splendid and prevalent amusement of the nobility and gentry, the close had to witness its decline and abolition; it gave way to a more sure and expeditious, though, perhaps, less interesting mode of killing game, and the adoption of the gun had, before the year 1700, almost entirely banished the art of the Falconer.

The costume of the next great amusement of the country, that of Hunting, differs at present in few essential points from what it was in the sixteenth century. The chief variations may be included in the disuse of killing game in inclosures, and in the adoption of more speed, and less fatigue and stratagem in the open chace; or in other words, it is the strength and speed of the fleet blood-horse, and not of the athletic and active huntsman, or old steady-paced hunter, that now decide the sport. "In the modern chace," observes Mr Haslewood, "the lithsomness of youth is no longer excited to pursue the animals. Attendant footmen are discontinued and forgotten; while the active and eager rustic with a hunting pole, wont to be foremost, has long forsaken the field, nor is there a trace of the character known, except in a country of deep clay, as parts of Sussex. Few years will pass ere the old steady paced English hunter and the gabbling beagle will be equally obsolete. All the sport now consists of speed. A hare is hurried to death by dwarf fox-hounds, and a leash murdered in a shorter period than a single one could generally struggle for existence. The hunter boasts a cross of blood, or, in plainer phrase, a racer, sufficiently professed to render a country sweepstakes doubtful. This variation is by no means an improvement, and can only advantage the plethoric citizen, who seeks to combat the somnolency arising from civic festivals by a short and sudden excess of exercise."[272:A]

The mode of hunting, indeed, in the reigns of Elizabeth and James, still continued an emblem of, and a fit preparation for, the fatigues of [273]war; nor was it unusual to consider the toils of the chace as initiatory to those of the camp. "The old Lord Gray, our English Achilles," says Peacham, "when hee was Deputie of Ireland, to inure his sonnes for the warre, would usually in the depth of winter, in frost, snow, raine, and what weather so ever fell, cause them at midnight to be raised out of their beds, and carried abroad on hunting till the next morning; then perhaps come wet and cold home, having for a breakefast, a browne loafe and a mouldie cheese, or (which is ten times worse) a dish of Irish butter[273:A];" and Dekkar, in his praise of hunting, remarks, that "it is a very true picture of warre, nay, it is a warre in itselfe, for engines are brought into the field, stratagems are contrived, ambushes are laide, onsets are given, alarams strucke up, brave encounters are made, fierce assailings are resisted by strength, by courage, or by policie: the enemie is pursued, and the pursuers never give over till they have him in execution, then is a retreate sounded, then are spoiles divided, then come they home wearied, but yet crowned with honour and victorie. And as in battailes, there bee several manners of fight; so in the pastime of hunting, there are several degrees of game. Some hunt the lyon, &c.—others pursue the long-lived hart, the couragious stag, or the nimble footed deere; these are the noblest hunters, and they exercise the noblest game: these by following the chace, get strength of bodie, a free, and undisquieted minde, magnanimitie of spirit, alacritie of heart, and unwearisomnesse to breake through the hardest labours: their pleasures are not insatiable, but are contented to be kept within limits, for these hunt within parkes inclosed, or within bounded forests. The hunting of the hare teaches feare to be bold, and puts simplicitie to her shifts, that she growes cunning and provident; &c."[273:B]

Hunting in inclosures, that is, in parks, chases, and forests, where the game was inclosed with a fence-work of netting stretched on posts driven into the ground, appears to have been the custom of this [274]country from the time of Edward the Second to the middle of the seventeenth century. The manuscript treatise of William Twici, grand huntsman to Edward the Second, entitled Le Art De Venerie, le quel maistre Guillame Twici venour le roy d'Angleterre fist en son temps per aprandre Autres[274:A]; the nearly contemporary manuscript translation of John Gyfford, with the title of A book of Venerie, dialogue[274:B] wise; the tract called The Maistre of the Game[274:C], in manuscript also, and written by the chief huntsman of Henry the Fourth, for the instruction of his son, afterwards Henry the Fifth; the Book of St. Albans, the first printed treatise on the subject, and written by the sister of Lord Berners, when prioress at the nunnery of Sopewell, about 1481; the tract on the Noble Art of Venerie, annexed to Turberville on Falconrie 1575, and supposed to have been written by George Gascoigne, and the re-impression of the same in 1611, all describe the ceremonies and preparations necessary for the pursuit of this, now obsolete, mode of hunting, which, from its luxury and effeminacy, forms a perfect contrast to the manly fatigues of the open chace.

This style of hunting, indeed, exhibited great splendour and pomp, and was certainly a very imposing spectacle; but the slaughter must have been easy and great, and the sport therefore proportionally less interesting. When the king, the great barons, or dignified clergy, selected this mode of the diversion, in which either bows or greyhounds were used, the masters of the game and the park-keepers prepared all things essential for the purpose; and, if it were a royal hunt, the sheriff of the county furnished stabling for the king's horses, and carts for the dead game. A number of temporary buildings, covered with green boughs, to shade the company from the heat of the sun or bad weather, were erected by the foresters in a proper situation, and on the morning of the day chosen for the sport, the master of the game and his officers saw the greyhounds duly placed, and a person [275]appointed to announce, by the different intonations of his horn the species of game turned out, so that the company might be prepared for its reception when it broke cover.

The enclosure being guarded by officers or retainers, placed at equal distances, to prevent the multitude prematurely rousing the game, the grand huntsman, as soon as the king, nobility, or gentry had taken their respective stations, sounded three long mootes or blasts with the horn, as a signal for the uncoupling of the hart-hounds, when the game, driven by the manœuvres of the huntsman, passed the lodges where the company were waiting, and were either shot from their bows, or individuals, starting from the groupe, pursued the deer with greyhounds.[275:A]

We find, from the poems of Gascoigne and Turberville, as they appear in their Book of Hunting of 1575, that every accommodation which beautiful scenery and epicurean fare could produce, was thought essential to this branch of the sport. Turberville, describing the scene chosen for the company to take their stations, says—

"The place should first be pight, on pleasant gladsome greene,
Yet under shade of stately trees, where little sunne is seene:
And neare some fountaine spring, whose chrystall running streames
May helpe to coole the parching heate, ycaught by Phœbus beames.
The place appoynted thus, it neyther shall be clad
With arras nor with tapystry, such paltrie were too bad:
Ne yet those hote perfumes, whereof proude courtes do smell,
May once presume in such a place, or paradise to dwell.
Away with fayned fresh, as broken boughes or leaves,
Away, away, with forced flowers, ygathered from their greaves:
This place must of itselfe, afforde such sweet delight,
And eke such shewe, as better may content the greedie sight;
Where sundry sortes of hewes, which growe upon the ground,
May seeme, indeede, such tapystry, as we by arte, have found.
Where fresh and fragrant flowers, may skorne the courtier's cost,
Which daubes himselfe with syvet, muske, and many an ointment lost,
[276]
Where sweetest singing byrdes, may make such melodye,
As Pan, nor yet Apollo's arte, can sounde such harmonye.
Where breath of westerne windes, may calmely yeld content,
Where casements neede not opened be, where air is never pent.
Where shade may serve for shryne, and yet the sunne at hande,
Where beautie need not quake for colde, ne yet with sunne be tande.
In fine and to conclude, where pleasure dwels at large,
Which princes seeke in pallaces, with payne and costly charge.
Then such a place once founde, the Butler first appeares,—
Then comes the captaine Cooke"—

These gentlemen of the household, it seems, came well provided; the farmer, with wines and ales "in bottles and in barrels," and the latter with colde loynes of veale, colde capon, beefe and goose, pigeon pyes, mutton colde, neates tongs poudred well, gambones of the hogge, saulsages and savery knackes.[276:A]

Of the stag-chace in the open country, and of the ceremonies and costume attending it, at the castellated mansions of the Baron and opulent Squire, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a tolerably accurate idea may be formed from the following statement, drawn up from the ancient writers on the subject, and from the works of the ingenious antiquary Strutt.

The inhabitants of the castle, and the hunters, were usually awakened very early in the morning by the lively sounding of the bugles, after which it was not unusual for two or more minstrels to sing an appropriate roundelay, beneath the windows of the master of the mansion, accompanied by the deep and mellow chorus of the attending rangers and falconers. Shakspeare alludes to a song of this kind in his Romeo and Juliet[276:B], which has been preserved entire by Thomas Ravenscroft[276:C], and commences thus:—

[277]"The hunt is up, the hunt is up,
Sing merrily wee, the hunt is up;
The birds they sing,
The deere they fling;
Hey nony nony-no; &c."

The Yeoman Keepers, with their attendants, called Ragged Robins, to the number of ten or twelve, next made their appearance, leading the slow-hounds or brachets, by which the deer were roused. These men were usually dressed in Kendal green, with bugles and short hangers by their sides, and quarter-staffs in their hands, and were followed by the foresters with a number of greyhounds led in leashes for the purpose of plucking down the game.

This assemblage in the Court of the castle was soon augmented by a number of Retainers, or Yeomen who received a small annual pension for attendance on these occasions; they wore a livery, with the cognisance of the house to which they belonged, borne, as a badge of adherence, on their arms, and each man had a buckler on his shoulder, and a burnished broad sword hanging from his belt. Shortly afterwards appeared the pages and squires in hunting garbs on horse-back and on foot, and armed with spears and long and cross bows; and lastly the Baron, his friends, and the ladies.

[278]The company thus completed, were conducted by the huntsmen to a thicket, in which, they knew, by previous observation, that a stag had been harboured all night. Into this cover the keeper entered, leading his ban-dog (a blood-hound tied in a leam or band), and as soon as the stag abandoned it, the greyhounds were slipped upon him; these, however, after running two or three miles, he usually threw out, by again entering cover, when the slow-hounds and prickers were sent in, to drive him from his strength. The poor animal now traverses the country for several miles, and after using every effort and manœuvre in vain, exhausted and breathless, his mouth embossed with foam, and the tears dropping from his eyes, he turns in despair upon his pursuers, and in this situation the boldest hunter of the train generally rides in, and, at some risque, dispatches him with a short hunting-sword. The treble-mort is then sounded, accompanied by the shouts of the men and the yelping of the dogs, and the huntsman ceremoniously presents his knife to the master of the chase, in order that he may take, as it is termed, the say of the deer.[278:A]

[279]The danger which the ancient hunter incurred, on dealing the death stroke to the stag when he turned to bay, is strikingly exemplified by an incident in the life of Wilson the historian, during the time he formed a part of the household of the Earl of Essex, in the reign of Elizabeth.

"Sir Peter Lee, of Lime, in Cheshire, invited my lord one summer, to hunt the stagg. And having a great stagg in chace, and many gentlemen in the pursuit, the stagg took soyle. And divers, whereof I was one, alighted, and stood with swords drawne, to have a cut at him, at his coming out of the water. The staggs there, being wonderfully fierce and dangerous, made us youths more eager to be at him. But he escaped us all. And it was my misfortune to be hindered of my coming nere him, the way being sliperie, by a fall; which gave occasion to some, who did not know mee, to speak as if I had falne for feare. Which being told me, I left the stagg, and followed the gentleman who first spake it. But I found him of that cold temper, that it seems his words made an escape from him; as by his denial and repentance it appeared. But this made mee [280]more violent in pursuit of the stagg, to recover my reputation. And I happened to be the only horseman in, when the dogs sett him up at bay; and approaching nere him on horsebacke, hee broke through the dogs, and run at mee, and tore my horse's side with his hornes, close by my thigh. Then I quitted my horse, and grew more cunning (for the dogs had sette him up againe), stealing behind him with my sword, and cut his hamstrings; and then got upon his back, and cut his throate."[280:A]

A still more difficult and gallant feat, however, of this kind, was performed by John Selwyn, the under-keeper of Queen Elizabeth, who, one day, animated by the presence of his royal mistress, at a chase, in her park of Oatlands, pursued the stag with such activity, that, overtaking it, he sprung from his horse on the animal; when, after most skilfully maintaining his seat for some time, he drew his hunting-sword, and, just as he reached the green, plunged it in the throat of the stag, which immediately dropped down dead at the feet of Elizabeth; an achievement which is sculptured on his monument in Walton church, Surrey, where he is represented in the very act of killing the infuriated beast.[280:B]

The taking the say of, and the breaking up, the deer, were formerly attended with many ceremonies and superstitions.[280:C] "Touching the death of a deare, or other wylde beast," says a writer of the sixteenth century, "yee knowe your selves what ceremonies they use about the same. Every poore man may cut out an oxe, or a sheepe, whereas such venison may not be dismembered but of a gentylman; who bareheadded, and set on knees, with a knife prepared properly to that use, (for every kynde of knife is not allowable) also with certain jestures, cuttes a sunder certaine partes of the wild beast, in a certain order very circumstantly. Which holy misterie, having seen the lyke yet more than a hundred tymes before. [281]Then (sir) whose happe it bee to eate parte of the fleshe, marye hee thinkes verily to bee made thereby halfe a gentilman."[281:A]

After the process of dismemberment, and the selection of choice pieces, the forester, the keeper, and the hounds had their allotted share, and superstition granted even a portion to the ominous raven. "There is a little gristle," relates Turberville, "which is upon the spoone of the brisket, which we call the raven's bone; and I have seen in some places a raven so wont and accustomed to it, that she would never fail to croak and cry for it all the time you were in breaking up of the deer, and would not depart till she had it."

Of this superstitious observance Jonson has given us a pleasing sketch, in the most poetical of his works, the Sad Shepherd:—

"Marian. —————— He that undoes him,
Doth cleave the brisket bone upon the spoon,
Of which a little gristle grows——you call it—
Robin Hood. The raven's bone.
Marian. —————— Now o'er head sat a raven
On a sere bough, a grown, great bird and hoarse,
Who, all the time the deer was breaking up,
So croaked and cried for it, as all the huntsmen,
Especially old Scathlocke, thought it ominous!"[281:B]

In an age, when to hawke and to hunt formed the Gentleman's Academy[281:C], the Falconer and the Huntsman were most important characters; of the former we have already given an outline from contemporary authority, and of the latter the following extract delineates a very curious picture, in which the manners, the dress, and the accoutrements are marked with singular strength and raciness of touch.

"A huntsman is the lieutenant of dogs, and foe to harvest: he is frolick in a faire morning fit for his pleasure; and alike rejoyceth [282]with the Virginians, to see the rising sun: he doth worship it as they, but worships his game more than they; and is in some things almost as barbarous. A sluggard he contemnes, and thinks the resting time might be shortened; which makes him rise with day, observe the same pace, and prove full as happy, if the day be happy. The names of foxe, hare, and bucke, be all attracting sillables; sufficient to furnish fifteene meales with long discourse in the adventures of each. Foxe, drawes in his exploits done against cubbes, bitch-foxes, otters and badgers: hare, brings out his encounters, platformes, engines, fortifications, and night worke done against leveret, cony, wilde-cat, rabbet, weasell, and pole-cat: then bucke, the captaine of all, provokes him (not without strong passion) to remember hart, hind, stagge, doe, pricket, fawne, and fallow deere. He uses a dogged forme of governement, which might bee (without shame) kept in humanity; and yet he is unwilling to be governed with the same reason: either by being satisfied with pleasure, or content with ill fortune. Hee hath the discipline to marshall dogs, and sutably; when a wise herald would rather mervaile, how he could distinguish their coates, birth, and gentry. Hee carries about him in his mouth the very soule of Ovid's bodies, metamorphosed into trees, rockes and waters; for, when he pleases, they shall eccho and distinctly answere; and when he pleases, be extremely silent. There is little danger in him towards the common wealth; for his worst intelligence comes from shepherds or woodmen; and that onely threatens the destruction of hares; a well knowne dry meate. The spring and he are still at variance; in mockage therefore, and revenge together of that season, he weares her livery in winter. Little consultations please him best; but the best directions he doth love and follow, they are his dogs. If hee cannot prevaile therefore, his lucke must be blamed, for he takes a speedy course. He cannot be less than a conquerour from the beginning, though he wants the booty; for he pursues the flight. His manhood is a crooked sword with a sawbacke; but the badge of his generous valour is a home to give notice. Battery and blowing up, he loves not; to undermine is his stratageme. [283]His physick teaches him not to drinke sweating; in amends whereof, he liquors himselfe to a heate, upon coole bloud, if he delights (at least) to emulate his dog in a hot nose. If a kennel of hounds passant take away his attention and company from church; do not blame his devotion; for in them consists the nature of it, and his knowledge. His frailties are, that he is apt to mistake any dog worth the stealing, and never take notice of the collar. He dreames of a hare sitting, a foxe earthed, or the bucke couchant: and if his fancy would be moderate, his actions might be full of pleasure."[283:A]

Making a natural transition from the huntsman to his hounds, we have to remark, that one great object, at this period, in the construction of the kennel, was the modulation and harmony of the vocal powers of the dog. This was carried to a nicety and perfection little practised in the present day. Gervase Markham seems to write con amore on this subject, and has penned directions which partake both of the picturesque, and of the melody on which he is descanting: thus, speaking of the production of loudness of cry, he says, "if you would have your kennel for loudness of mouth, you shall not then choose the hollow deep mouth, but the loud clanging mouth, which spendeth freely and sharply, and as it were redoubleth in utterance: and if you mix with them the mouth that roreth, and the mouth that whineth, the cry will be both the louder and the smarter;—and the more equally you compound these mouths, haveing as many rorers as spenders, and as many whiners, as of either of the other, the louder and pleasanter your cry will be, especially, if it be in sounding tall woods, or under the echo of rocks;" and treating of the composition of notes in the kennel, he adds, "you shall as nigh as you can, sort their mouths into three equal parts of musick, that is to say base, counter-tenor and mean; the base are those mouths which are most deep and solemn, and are spent out plain and freely, without redoubling: the counter-tenor are those which are most loud and ringing, whose sharp sounds pass so swift, that they seem to dole and [284]make division; and the mean are those which are soft sweet mouths, that though plain, and a little hollow, yet are spent smooth and freely; yet so distinctly, that a man may count the notes as they open. Of these three sorts of mouths, if your kennel be (as near as you can) equally compounded, you shall find it most perfect and delectable: for though they have not the thunder and loudness of the great dogs, which may be compared to the high wind-instruments, yet they will have the tunable sweetness of the best compounded consorts; and sure a man may find as much art and delight in a lute as in an organ."[284:A]

Shakspeare, who frequently avails himself of the language, imagery, and circumstances attendant on this diversion, has particularly noticed, in a passage of much animation and beauty, the care taken to arrange the notes of the kennel, and the pleasure derivable from the varied intonations of the hounds. Theseus addressing Hippolyta, exclaims—

"My love shall hear the musick of my hounds.—
Uncouple in the western valley; go:—
Despatch, I say, and find the forester.—
We will, fair queen, up to the mountain's top,
And mark the musical confusion
Of hounds and echo in conjunction.
Hip. —————— Never did I hear
Such gallant chiding; for, besides the groves,
The skies, the fountains, every region near
Seem'd all one mutual cry: I never heard
So musical a discord, such sweet thunder.
The. My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind,
So flew'd[284:B], so sanded[284:C]; and their heads are hung
With ears that sweep away the morning dew;
Crook-knee'd, and dew-lap'd like Thessalian bulls;
Slow in pursuit, but match'd in mouth like bells,
Each under each. A cry more tuneable
Was never holla'd to, nor cheer'd with horn."[284:D]

[285]It appears from a scene in Timon of Athens, and from a passage in Laneham's Account of the Queen's Entertainment at Killingworth Castle, 1575, that it was a common thing, at this period, to hunt after dinner, or in the evening. Timon, having been employed, during the morning, in hunting, says to Alcibiades—

"So soon as dinner's done, we'll forth again;"[285:A]

and Elizabeth, twice, during her residence with the Earl of Leicester, is described as pursuing this exercise in the cool of the evening. Honest Laneham's narrative of one of these royal chases will amuse the reader.

"Munday waz hot, and thearfore her Highness kept in till a five a clok in the eevening: what time it pleazz'd her to ride foorth into the chace too hunt the Hart of fors; which foound anon, and after sore chased, and chafed by the hot pursuit of the hooundes, waz fain of fine fors at last to take soil. Thear to beholl'd the swift fleeting of the deer afore, with the stately cariage of hiz head in his swimmyng, spred (for the quantitee) lyke the sail of a ship; the hoounds harroing after, az had they bin a number of skiphs too the spoyle of a karvell; the ton no lesse eager in purchaz of his pray, than waz the other earnest in savegard of hiz life; so az the earning of the hoounds in continuauns of their crie, the swiftness of the deer, the running of footmen, the galloping of horsez, the blasting of hornz, the halloing and hewing of the huntsmen, with the excellent echoz between whilez from the woods and waters in valliez resounding; moved pastime delectabl in so hy a degree, az, for ony parson to take pleazure by moost sensez at onez, in mine opinion, thear can be none ony wey comparable to this; and special in this place, that of nature iz foormed so feet for the purpoze; in feith, Master Martin, if ye coold with a wish, I woold ye had bin at it: Wel, the hart waz kild, a goodly deer."[285:B]

[286]So partial was Her Majesty to this diversion that even in her seventy-seventh year she still pursued it with avidity; for Rowland Whyte, one of her courtiers, writing to Sir Robert Sidney on September 12th, 1600, says, "Her majesty is well and excellently disposed to hunting, for every second day she is on horseback, and continues the sport long;" and when not disposed to incur the fatigue of joining in the chase, she was recreated with a sight of the pastime; thus at the seat of Lord Montecute, in 1591, she saw, after dinner, from a turret, "sixteen bucks all having fayre lawe, pulled downe with greyhounds in a laund or lawn."[286:A]

Nor was James the First less passionately addicted to the sport; his journey from Scotland to England, on his accession to the throne of the latter kingdom, was frequently protracted by his inability to resist the temptation of joining in the chase; on his road to Withrington, the seat of Sir Robert Cary, after a hard ride of thirty-seven miles in less than four hours, "and by the way for a note," says a contemporary writer, "the miles according to the northern phrase, are a wey bit longer, then they be here in the south,—His Majesty having a little while reposed himselfe after his great journey, found new occasion to travell further: for, as he was delighting himselfe with the pleasure of the parke, hee suddenly beheld a number of deere neare the place: the game being so faire before him hee could not forbeare, but according to his wonted manner, forth he went and slew two of them;" again, "After his Majesties short repast to Werslop his Majestie rides forward, but by the way in the parke he was somewhat stayed; for there appeared a number of huntes-men all in greene; the chiefe of which with a woodman's speech did welcome him, offering his Majestie to shew him some game, which he gladly condiscended to see; and with a traine set he hunted a good space, very much delighted."[286:B] This diversion from his direct route is [287]repeatedly noticed by the same author, and proves the strong attachment of the monarch to this amusement, which he preferred to either hawking or shooting; he divided his time, says Wellwood, "betwixt his standish, his bottle, and his hunting; the last had his fair weather, the two former his dull and cloudy[287:A];" an assertion which with regard to hunting is corroborated by Wilson, who, recording his visit to his native dominions in 1617, informs us, that on his return he exhibited the same keen relish for the sport which he had shown in 1603: "The King, in his return from Scotland," he remarks, "made his Progress through the hunting-countries, (his hounds and hunters meeting him,) Sherwood-Forest, Need-wood, and all the parks and forests in his way, were ransacked for his recreation; and every night begat a new day of delight."[287:B] In short, James was so engrossed by his passion for hunting, that he neglected the most important business to indulge it; and even affected the garb of a hunter when he ought to have been in that of a king. Osborne calls him a Sylvan Prince, and adds, "I shall leave him dressed to posterity in the colours I saw him in the next Progress after his Inauguration, which was as green as the grass he trod on, with a feather in his cap, and a horn instead of a sword by his side."[287:C]

To these brief notices of hawking and hunting, it may be necessary to add a very few remarks on the kindred amusements of fowling and fishing, as far as they deviate, either in manner or estimation, from the practice or opinions of the present day. In the pursuit of fowling, indeed, there is little or no discrepancy between the two periods, if we make an exception for two instances; and these now obsolete modes of exercising the art, were termed horse-stalking and bird-batting. The former consisted originally of a horse trained for the purpose, and so mantled over with trappings as to hide the fowler completely from the game; a contrivance much improved upon for facility of usage by substituting a stuffed canvas figure, painted to [288]resemble a horse grazing; this was so light that the sportsman might move it easily with one hand, and behind it he could securely take his aim; to this curious species of deception Shakspeare alludes in As You Like It, where the Duke, speaking of Touchstone, says, "He uses his folly like a stalking-horse, and under the presentation of that, he shoots his wit[288:A];" and again, in Much Ado about Nothing, Claudio exclaims, "Stalk on, stalk on; the fowl sits."[288:B] It appears from Drayton, that the fowler shot from underneath his horse, where he was concealed by the mantle-cloth depending to the ground: thus in the Polyolbion.

"One underneath his horse to get a shoot doth stalk;"[288:C]

and in the Muses' Elysium

"Then underneath my horse, I stalk my game to strike."[288:D]

Sometimes, instead of a stuffed canvas figure, the form of a horse painted on a cloth was carried before the sportsman: "Methinks," says a writer of this period quoted by Mr. Reed, "I behold the cunning fowler, such as I have knowne in the fenne countries and els-where, that doe shoot at woodcockes, snipes, and wilde fowle, by sneaking behind a painted cloth which they carry before them, having pictured in it the shape of a horse; which while the silly fowle gazeth on, it is knockt down with hale shot, and so put in the fowler's budget."[288:E]

We have reason to suppose that Henry the Eighth often amused himself in this manner; for in the inventories of his wardrobes, preserved in the Harleian MS., are to be found frequent allowances [289]of materials for making "stalking coats, and stalking hose for the use of his majesty."[289:A]

Of the peculiar mode of netting called bird-batting, the following account has been given by a once popular authority on these subjects:—"This sport we call in England most commonly bird-batting, and some call it low-belling; and the use of it is to go with a great light of cressets, or rags of linen dipped in tallow, which will make a good light; and you must have a pan or plate made like a lanthorn, to carry your light in, which must have a great socket to hold the light, and carry it before you, on your breast, with a bell in your other hand, and of a great bigness, made in the manner of a cow-bell, but still larger; and you must ring it always after one order. If you carry the bell, you must have two companions with nets, one on each side of you; and what with the bell, and what with the light, the birds will be so amazed, that when you come near them, they will turn up their white bellies: your companions shall then lay their nets quietly upon them, and take them. But you must continue to ring the bell; for, if the sound shall cease, the other birds, if there be any more near at hand, will rise up and fly away."[289:B] This method was used to ensnare wood-cocks, partridges, larks, &c. and it is probable that to a stratagem of this kind Shakspeare may allude, when he paints Buckingham exclaiming—

"The net has fall'n upon me; I shall perish
Under device and practice."[289:C]

Fishing, as an art, has deviated little, in this country, from the state to which it had attained three centuries ago; but it is a subject of interest and amusement, to mark the enthusiasm with which, during the period that we are considering, and anteriorly, this delightful recreation has been discussed, and the minutiæ to which its literary patrons have descended.

[290]Of books written on the Art of Angling previous to, and during the age of Shakspeare, five, independent of subsequent editions, may be enumerated; and from three of these, the most curious of their kind, we shall quote a few passages indicative of the warm attachment alluded to in the preceding paragraph. The earliest printed production on this subject is The Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle, included, for the first time, in, what may be termed, the second edition of the Book of St. Albans, namely, The Treatyses perteynynge to Hawkynge, Huntynge and Fisshynge with an angle, printed at Westminster, by Wynkyn De Worde, 1496. This little tract, which has been attributed, though perhaps not[290:A] correctly, to Dame Juliana Berners, commences with giving a decided preference to fishing when compared with hunting, hawking, and fowling, in the course of which the author observes, that the Angler, if his sport should fail him, "atte the leest, hath his holsom walke, and mery at his ease, a swete ayre of the swete savoure of the meede floures, that makyth him hungry; he hereth the melodyous armony of fowles; he seeth the yonge swannes, heerons, duckes, cotes, and many other fowles, wyth theyr brodes; wyche me semyth better than alle the noyse of houndys, the blastes of hornys, and the scrye of fowlis, that hunters, fawkeners, and foulers can make. And if the Angler take fysshe; surely, thenne, is there noo man merier than he is in his spryte[290:B];" and the book concludes in a singularly pleasing strain of piety and simplicity. "Ye shall not use this forsayd crafty dysporte," says this lover of fishing, "for no [291]covetysenes, to the encreasynge and sparynge of your money oonly; but pryncypally for your solace, and to cause the helthe of your body, and specyally of your soule: for whanne ye purpoos to goo on your dysportes in fysshynge, ye woll not desyre gretly many persons wyth you, whyche myghte lette you of your game. And thenne ye may serve God, devoutly, in sayenge affectuously youre custumable prayer; and, thus doynge, ye shall eschewe and voyde many vices."

Of this impression of the Book of St. Albans by De Worde, numerous editions were published during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and frequently with new titles, as the "Gentleman's Academie" 1595; the "Jewell for Gentrie" 1614, and the "Gentleman's Recreation" 1674. Two small tracts, however, on angling, possessing some originality, were published by Leonard Mascall, and John Taverner, the former in 1590, and the latter in[291:A]1600; but the most important work on the subject, after the Treatyse on Fysshynge, is a poem written by one John Dennys, or Davors, with the following title: The Secrets of Angling; teaching the choicest Tooles, Baytes, and Seasons for the taking of any Fish, in Pond or River: practised and familiarly opened in three Bookes. By J. D. Esquire. 8vo. Lond. 1613. This is a production of considerable poetic merit, as will be evident from the author's eulogium on his art: after reprobating the pastimes of gaming, wantonness, and drinking, he exclaims—

[292]
"O let me rather on the pleasant brinke
Of Tyne and Trent possesse some dwelling place,
Where I may see my quill and corke downe sinke
With eager bite of Barbell, Bleike, or Dace:
And on the world and his Creatour thinke,
While they proud Thais painted sheet embrace,
And with the fume of strong tobacco's smoke,
All quaffing round are ready for to choke.
Let them that list these pastimes then pursue,
And on their pleasing fancies feed their fill;
So I the fields and meadows green may view,
And by the rivers fresh may walke at will,
Among the dazies and the violets blew:
Red hyacinth, and yellow daffodill,
Purple narcissus like the morning rayes,
Pale ganderglas, and azor culverkayes.
I count it better pleasure to behold
The goodly compasse of the lofty skie,
And in the midst thereof like burning gold,
The flaming chariot of the world's great eye;
The watry clouds that in the ayre uprold,
With sundry kinds of painted colours flie;
And faire Aurora lifting up her head,
All blushing rise from old Tithonus bed.
The hils and mountains raised from the plains,
The plains extended levell with the ground,
The ground divided into sundry vains,
The vains enclos'd with running rivers round,
The rivers making way through nature's chains,
With headlong course into the sea profound:
The surging sea beneath the vallies low,
The vallies sweet, and lakes that lovely flow.
The lofty woods, the forests wide and long
Adorn'd with leaves and branches fresh and green,
In whose cool brows the birds with chanting song
Do welcome with their quire the Summer's Queen,
The meadows fair where Flora's guifts among,
Are intermixt the verdant grasse between,
The silver skaled fish that softly swim
Within the brooks and crystall watry brim.
[293]
All these and many more of his creation,
That made the heavens, the Angler oft doth see,
And takes therein no little delectation
To thinke how strange and wonderfull they bee,
Framing thereof an inward contemplation,
To set his thoughts on other fancies free:
And whiles he looks on these with joyfull eye,
His minde is wrapt above the starry skie."[293:A]

The poet has entered so minutely into his task, as to give directions for the colour of the angler's cloaths, which he wishes should be russet or gray[293:B]; and he opens his third book with a descriptive catalogue of the moral virtues and qualities of mind necessary to a lover of the pastime; these, he informs us, are twelve, namely, faith, hope, charity, patience, humility, courage, liberality, knowledge, placability, piety, temperance, and memory; an enumeration sufficiently extensive, it might be supposed, to damp the enthusiasm of the most eager disciple; yet has Gervase Markham, notwithstanding, wonderfully augmented the list. This indefatigable author, in an early edition of his Countrey Contentments[293:C], converted the poetry of Davors into prose, with the following title: "The whole Art of Angling; as it was written in a small Treatise in Rime, and now for the [294]better understanding of the Reader put into prose, and adorned and inlarged." The additions are numerous and entertaining, a specimen of which, under the marginal notation of Angler's vertues, will convey a distinct and curious idea of the estimation in which this art was held in the reign of James the First, and of the moral and mental qualifications deemed essential, at this period, towards its successful attainment.

"Now for the inward qualities of mind, albeit some writers reduce them to twelve heads, which, indeed, whosoever enjoyeth, cannot chuse but be very compleat in much perfection, yet I must draw them into many other branches. The first and most especial whereof is, that a skilful Angler ought to be a general scholler, and seen in all the liberal sciences, as a grammarian, to know how either to write or discourse of his art in true and fitting terms, either without affectation or rudeness. He should have sweetness of speech, to persuade and intice others to delight in an exercise so much laudable. He should have strength of arguments to defend and maintain his profession, against envy or slander. He should have knowledge in the sun, moon, and stars, that by their aspects he may guess the seasonableness or unseasonableness of the weather, the breeding of storms, and from what coasts the winds are ever delivered. He should be a good knower of countries, and well used to highwayes, that by taking the readiest paths to every lake, brook, or river, his journies may be more certain, and less wearisome. He should have knowledge in proportions of all sorts, whether circular, square, or diametrical, that when he shall be questioned of his diurnal progresses, he may give a geographical description of the angles and channels of rivers, how they fall from their heads, and what compasses they fetch in their several windings. He must also have the perfect art of numbring, that in the sounding of lakes or rivers, he may know how many foot or inches each severally containeth; and by adding, substracting, or multiplying the same, he may yield the reason of every river's swift or slow current. He should not be unskilful in musick, that whensoever either melancholy, heaviness of his thoughts, or the perturbations of [295]his own fancies, stirreth up sadness in him, he may remove the same with some godly hymn or anthem, of which David gives him ample examples.

"He must be of a well settled and constant belief, to enjoy the benefit of his expectation; for then to despair, it were better never to be put in practice: and he must ever think where the waters are pleasant, and any thing likely, that there the Creator of all good things hath stored up much of plenty, and though your satisfaction be not as ready as your wishes, yet you must hope still, that with perseverance you shall reap the fulness of your harvest with contentment: Then he must be full of love both to his pleasure and to his neighbour: to his pleasure, which otherwise will be irksome and tedious, and to his neighbour, that he neither give offence in any particular, nor be guilty of any general destruction: then he must be exceeding patient, and neither vex nor excruciate himself with losses or mischances, as in losing the prey when it is almost in the hand, or by breaking his tools by ignorance or negligence, but with pleased sufferance amend errors, and think mischances instructions to better carefulness.

"He must then be full of humble thoughts, not disdaining when occasion commands to kneel, lye down, or wet his feet or fingers, as oft as there is any advantage given thereby, unto the gaining the end of his labour. Then must he be strong and valiant, neither to be amazed with storms, nor affrighted with thunder, but hold them according to their natural causes, and the pleasure of the highest: neither must he, like the fox which preyeth upon lambs, employ all his labour against the smaller frey; but like the lyon that seizeth elephants, think the greatest fish which swimmeth, a reward little enough for the pains which he endureth. Then must he be liberal, and not working only for his own belly, as if it could never be satisfied; but he must with much cheerfulness bestow the fruits of his skill amongst his honest neighbours, who being partners of his gain, will doubly renown his triumph, and that is ever a pleasing reward to vertue.

[296]"Then must he be prudent, that apprehending the reasons why the fish will not bite, and all other casual impediments which hinder his sport, and knowing the remedies for the same, he may direct his labours to be without troublesomeness.

"Then he must have a moderate contention of the mind to be satisfied with indifferent things, and not out of any avaritious greediness think every thing too little, be it never so abundant.

"Then must he be of a thankful nature, praising the author of all goodness, and shewing a large gratefulness for the least satisfaction.

"Then must he be of a perfect memory, quick and prompt to call into his mind all the needfull things which are any way in this exercise to be imployed, lest by omission or by forgetfulness of any, he frustrate his hopes, and make his labour effectless. Lastly, he must be of a strong constitution of body, able to endure much fasting, and not of a gnawing stomach, observing hours, in which if it be unsatisfied, it troubleth both the mind and body, and loseth that delight which maketh the pastime only pleasing."[296:A]

It is impossible to read this elaborate catalogue of qualifications without a smile; for who would suppose that grammar, rhetoric and logic, astronomy, geography, arithmetic and music, were necessary to form an angler: yet we must allow, indeed, even in the present times, that hope, patience, and contentment are still articles of indispensable use to him who would catch fish; for though, as Shakspeare justly observes,

"The pleasant'st angling is to see the fish
Cut with her golden oars the silver stream,
And greedily devour the treacherous bait,"[296:B]

yet are we so frequently disappointed of this latter spectacle, that the art may be truly considered as a school for the temper, and as meriting the rational encomium of Sir Henry Wotton, a dear lover of the [297]angle in the days of Shakspeare, and who has declared that, after tedious study, angling was "a rest to his mind, a cheerer of his spirits, a diverter of sadness[297:A], a calmer of unquiet thoughts, a moderator of passions, a procurer of contentedness;" and "that it begat habits of peace and patience in those that professed and practised it." "Indeed, my friend," adds the amiable Walton, "you will find angling to be like the virtue of humility; which has a calmness of spirit, and a world of other blessings, attending upon it."[297:B]

A rural diversion of a kind very opposite to that of angling, namely, Horse-racing, may be considered, during the reigns of Elizabeth and James, if we compare it with the state to which the rage for gambling has since carried it, as still in its infancy. It was classed, indeed, with hawking and hunting, as a liberal pastime, and almost generally pursued for the mere purposes of exercise or pleasure; hence the moral satirists of the age, the Puritans of the sixteenth century, have recommended it as a substitute for cards and dice. That it was, however, even at this period, occasionally practised in the spirit of the modern turf, will be evident from the authority of Shakspeare, who says,

——————— "I have heard of riding wagers,
Where horses have been nimbler than the sands
That run i'the clock's behalf;"[297:C]

[298]and Burton, who wrote at the close of the Shakspearean era, mentions the ruinous consequences of this innovation: "Horse-races," he observes, "are desports of great men, and good in themselves, though many gentlemen by such means gallop quite out of their fortunes."[298:A]

To encourage, however, a spirit of emulation, prizes were established for the swiftest horses, and these were usually either silver bells or silver cups; from the prevalence of the former, the common term for horse-races in the time of James I. was bell-courses, an amusement which became very frequent in the reign of this prince, and, though the value of the prize did not amount to more than eight or ten pounds, and the riders were for the most part the owners of the horses, attracted a numerous concourse of spectators.

The estimation in which the breed of race-horses was held, even in the age of Elizabeth, may be drawn from a passage in one of the satires of Bishop Hall, first published in 1597:—

————————— "Dost thou prize
Thy brute beasts worth by their dam's qualities?
Say'st thou this colt shall prove a swift pac'd steed,
Onely because a Jennet did him breed?
Or say'st thou this same horse shall win the prize,
Because his dam was swiftest Trunchifice
Or Runceval his syre; himself a galloway?
While like a tireling jade, he lags half way."[298:B]

While on this subject, we may remark, that the Art of Riding was, during the era we are contemplating, carried to a state of great perfection;

"To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus,
And witch the world with noble horsemanship,"[298:C]

[299]was the pursuit of every eager and aspiring spirit, and various treatises were written to facilitate the attainment of an accomplishment at once so useful and so fashionable. Among these, the pieces of Gervase Markham may be deemed the best; indeed, his earliest work on the subject, which is dated 1593, claims to be the first ever written in this country on the art of training Running-horses[299:A]; and is supposed also to be the first production of Markham: it went through many impressions under various titles, and from one of these termed Cavelarice, printed in 1607, I shall select a minutely curious picture of the "horseman's apparel."

"First, when you begin to learne to ride, you must come to the stable, in such decent and fit apparel, as is meet for such an exercise, that is to say, a hat which must sit close and firme upon your heade, with an indifferent narrow verge or brim, so that in the saults or bounds of the horse, it may neither through widenesse or unweldinesse fall from your head, nor with the bredth of the brim fall into your eies, and impeach your sight, both which are verie grosse errors: About your neck you shall weare a falling band, and no ruffe, whose depth or thicknesse, may, either with the winde, or motions of your horse, ruffell about your face; or, according to the fashion of the Spaniards, daunce hobby-horse-like about your shoulders, which though in them is taken for a grace, yet in true judgment it is found an errour. Your doublet shal be made close and hansome to your bodie, large wasted, so that you may ever be sure to ride with your points trussed (for to ride otherwise is most vilde) and in all parts so easye, that it may not take from you the use of anie part of your [300]bodie. About your waste you must have ever your girdle and thereon a smal dagger or punniard, which must be so fast in the sheath that no motion of the horse may cast it forth, and yet so readie, that upon any occasion you may draw it. Your hose would be large, rounde, and full, so that they may fill your saddle, which should it otherwise be emptie and your bodie looke like a small substance in a great compasse, it were wondrous uncomely. Your bootes must be cleane, blacke, long, and close to your legge, comming almost up to your middle thigh, so that they may lie as a defence betwixt your knee and the tree of your saddle. Your boote-hose must come some two inches higher then your bootes, being hansomely tied up with pointes. Your spurres must be strong and flat inward, bending with a compasse under your ancle: the neck of your spurre must be long and straight, and rowels thereof longe and sharp, the prickes thereof not standing thicke together, nor being above five in number. Upon your handes you must weare a hansome paire of gloves, and in your right hande you must have a long rodde finely rush-growne, so that the small ende thereof be hardly so great as a round packe-threed, insomuch that when you move or shake it, the noyse thereof may be lowde and sharpe."[300:A]

Having thus noticed the great rural diversions of this period, as far as they deviate from modern practice, the remainder of the chapter will be occupied by such minor amusements of the country as may now justly be considered obsolete; for it must be recollected, that to enumerate only what is peculiar to the era under consideration, forms the object of our research. It should, likewise, here be added, that those amusements which are equally common to both country and town, will find their place under the latter head, such as cards, dice, the practice of archery, baiting, &c. &c.

Among the amusements generally prevalent in the country, Burton has included the Quintaine. This was originally a mere martial [301]sport; and, as Vegetius informs us, familiar to the Romans, from an individual of which nation, named Quintus, it is supposed to have derived its etymology. During the early feudal ages of modern Europe it continued to support its military character, was practised by the higher orders of society, and preceded, and probably gave origin to, tilting, justs, and tournaments. These, however, as more elegant and splendid in their costume, gradually superseded it during the prevalence of chivalry; it then became an exercise for the middle ranks, for burgesses and citizens, and at length towards the close of the sixteenth century, degenerated into a mere rustic sport.

It would appear, from comparing Stowe with Shakspeare, that about the year 1600, the Quintain was made use of under two forms; the most simple consisting of a post fixed perpendicularly in the ground, on the top of which was a cross-bar turning upon a pivot or spindle, with a broad board nailed at one end and a bag of sand suspended at the other; at the board they ran on horseback with spears or staves, and "hee," says Stowe, "that hit not the broad end of the quinten was of all men laughed to scorne; and hee that hit it full, if he rid not the faster, had a sound blow in his necke with a bagge full of sand hanged on the other end."[301:A] A more costly and elaborate machine, resembling the human form, is alluded to by Shakspeare in As You Like It, where Orlando says,

——————— "My better parts
Are all thrown down; and that which here stands up,
Is but a quintain, a mere lifeless block."[301:B]

In Italy, Germany, and Flanders, a quintain, carved in wood in imitation of the human form, was, during the sixteenth century, in common use.[301:C] The figure very generally represented a Saracen, armed with a shield in one hand, and a sword in the other, and, being [302]placed on a pivot, the skill of those who attacked it, depended on shivering the lance to pieces between the eyes of the figure; for if the weapon deviated to the right or left, and especially if it struck the shield, the quintain turned round with such velocity as to give the horseman a violent blow on the back with his sword, a circumstance which covered the performer with ridicule, and excited the mirth of the spectators. That such a machine, termed the shield quintain, was used in Ireland during the reign of Richard the Second, we have the authority of Froissart; it is therefore highly probable, that this species of the diversion was as common in England, and still lingered here in the reign of Elizabeth; and that to a quintain of this kind, representing an armed man, and erected for the purpose of a military exercise, Shakspeare alludes in the passage just quoted.

It must, however, be allowed, that at the commencement of the seventeenth century, and for several years anterior, the quintain had almost universally become the plaything of the peasantry, and was seldom met with but at rural weddings, wakes, or fairs; or under any other form than that which Stowe has described. No greater proof of this can be given than the fact, that when Elizabeth was entertained at Kenelworth Castle, in 1575, with an exact representation of a Country Bridale, a quintain of this construction formed a part of it. "Marvellous," says Laneham, "were the martial acts that were done there that day; the bride-groom for pre-eminence had the first course at the Quintaine, brake his spear treshardiment; but his mare in his manage did a little so titubate, that much ado had his manhood to sit in his saddle, and to scape the foil of a fall: With the help of his hand, yet he recovered himself, and lost not his stirrups (for he had none to his saddle); had no hurt as it hapt, but only that his girth burst, and lost his pen and inkhorn that he was ready to weep for; but his handkerchief, as good hap was, found he safe at his girdle; that cheered him somewhat, and had good regard it should not be filed. For though heat and coolness upon sundry occasions made him sometime to sweat, and sometime rheumatic; yet durst he be bolder to blow his nose and wipe his face with the flappet of his father's jacket, than with [303]his mother's muffler: 'tis a goodly matter, when youth is mannerly brought up, in fatherly love and motherly awe.

"Now, Sir, after the bride-groom had made his course, ran the rest of the band a while, in some order; but soon after, tag and rag, cut and long tail; where the specialty of the sport was to see how some for his slackness had a good bob with the bag; and some for his haste to topple down right, and come tumbling to the post: Some striving so much at the first setting out, that it seemed a question between the man and the beast, whether the course should be made a horseback or a foot: and put forth with the spurs, then would run his race by us among the thickest of the throng, that down came they together hand over head: Another, while he directed his course to the quintain, his jument would carry him to a mare among the people; so his horse as amorous as himself adventurous: An other, too, run and miss the quintain with his staff, and hit the board with his head!

"Many such gay games were there among these riders: who by and by after, upon a greater courage, left their quintaining, and ran one at another. There to see the stern countenances, the grim looks, the couragious attempts, the desperate adventures, the dangerous courses, the fierce encounters, whereby the buff at the man, and the counterbuff at the horse, that both sometime came toppling to the ground. By my troth, Master Martin, 'twas a lively pastime; I believe it would have moved some man to a right merry mood, though it had been told him his wife lay a dying."[303:A]

This passage presents us with a lively picture of what the rural quintain was in the days of Elizabeth, an exercise which continued to amuse our rustic forefathers for more than a century after the princely festival of Kenelworth. Minshieu, who published his Dictionary in 1617, the year subsequent to Shakspeare's death, informs us that "A quintaine or quintelle," was "a game in request at marriages, when Jac and Tom, Dic, Hob and Will, strive for the [304]gay garland." Randolph in 1642, alluding in one of his poems to the diversions of the Spaniards, says

"Foot-ball with us may be with them balloone;
As they at tilts, so we at quintaine runne;
And those old pastimes relish best with me,
That have least art, and most simplicitie;"

Plott in his History of Oxfordshire, first printed in 1677, mentions the Quintain as the common bridal diversion of the peasantry at Deddington in that county; "it is now," he remarks, "only in request at marriages, and set up in the way for young men to ride at as they carry home the bride, he that breaks the board being counted the best man[304:A];" and in a satire published about the year 1690, under the title of The Essex Champion; or the famous History of Sir Billy of Billerecay, and his Squire Ricardo, intended as a ridicule, after the manner of Cervantes, on the romances then in circulation, the hero, Sir Billy, is represented as running at a quintain, such as Stowe has drawn in his Survey, but with the most unfortunate issue, for "taking his launce in his hand, he rid with all his might at the Quinten, and hitting the board a full blow, brought the sand-bag about with such force, as made him measure his length on the ground."[304:B]

Most of the numerous athletic diversions of the country remaining what they were two centuries ago, cannot, in accordance with our plan, require any comment or detail; two, however, now, we believe, entirely obsolete, and which serve to mark the manners of the age, it will be necessary to introduce. Mercutio, in a contest of pleasantry and banter with Romeo, exclaims, "Nay, if thy wits run the wild-goose chace, I have done."[304:C]

This barbarous species of horse-race, which has been named from its resemblance to the flight of wild-geese, was a common diversion [305]among the country-gentlemen of this period; Burton, indeed, calls it one of "the disports of great men[305:A];" a confession which does no honour to the age, for this elegant amusement consisted in two horses starting together, and he who proved the hindmost rider was obliged to follow the foremost over whatever ground he chose to carry him, that horse which could distance the other winning the race.

Another sport still more extraordinary and rude, and much in vogue in the south-western counties, was, one of the numerous games with the ball, and termed Hurling. Of this there were two kinds, hurling to the Goales and hurling to the Country, and both have been described with great accuracy by Carew, in his Survey of Cornwall. The first is little more than a species of hand-ball, but the second, when represented as the amusement of gentlemen, furnishes a curious picture of the civilisation of the times.

"In hurling to the country," says Carew, "two or three, or more parishes agree to hurl against two or three other parishes. The matches are usually made by gentlemen, and their goales are either those gentlemen's houses, or some towns or villages three or four miles asunder, of which either side maketh choice after the nearnesse of their dwellings; when they meet, there is neyther comparing of numbers nor matching of men, but a silver ball is cast up, and that company which can catch and carry it by force or slight to the place assigned, gaineth the ball and the victory.—Such as see where the ball is played give notice, crying 'ware east,' 'ware west,' as the same is carried. The hurlers take their next way over hilles, dales, hedges, ditches; yea, and thorow bushes, briars, mires, plashes, and rivers whatsoever, so as you shall sometimes see twenty or thirty lie tugging together in the water scrambling and scratching for the ball."[305:B]

The domestic, amusements in the country being nearly, if not altogether, the same with those which prevailed in the city, we shall, with [306]one exception, refer the consideration of them to another part of this work. The pastime for which this distinction is claimed, was known by the name of Shovel-board, or Shuffle-board, and was so universally prevalent throughout the kingdom, during the era of which we are treating, that there could scarcely be found a nobleman's or gentleman's house in the country in which this piece of furniture was not a conspicuous object. The great hall was the place usually assigned for its station, though in some places, as, for instance, at Ludlow Castle, a room was appropriated to this purpose, called The Shovell-Board Room.[306:A]

The table necessary for this game, now superseded by the use of Billiards, was frequently upon a very large and expensive scale. "It is remarkable," observes Dr. Plott, "that in the hall at Chartley the shuffle-board table, though ten yards one foot and an inch long, is made up of about two hundred and sixty pieces, which are generally about eighteen inches long, some few only excepted, that are scarce a foot; which, being laid on longer boards for support underneath, are so accurately joined and glewed together, that no shuffle-board whatever is freer from rubbs or casting.—There is a joynt also in the shuffle-board at Madeley Manor exquisitely well done."[306:B]

The mode of playing at Shovel-board is thus described by Mr. Strutt:—"At one end of the shovel-board there is a line drawn across, parallel with the edge, and about three or four inches from it; at four feet distance from this line another is made, over which it is necessary for the weight to pass when it is thrown by the player, otherwise the go is not reckoned. The players stand at the end of the table, opposite to the two marks above mentioned, each of them having four flat weights of metal, which they shove from them, one at a time, alternately: and the judgment of the play is, to give sufficient impetus to the weight to carry it beyond the mark nearest to the edge of the board, which requires great nicety, for if it be too [307]strongly impelled, so as to fall from the table, and there is nothing to prevent it, into a trough placed underneath for its reception, the throw is not counted; if it hangs over the edge, without falling, three are reckoned towards the player's game; if it lie between the line and the edge, without hanging over, it tells for two; if on the line, and not up to it, but over the first line, it counts for one. The game, when two play, is generally eleven; but the number is extended when four, or more, are jointly concerned."[307:A]

It appears from a passage in the Merry Wives of Windsor, that, in Shakspeare's time, the broad shillings of Edward VI. were made use of at shovel-board instead of the more modern weights. Falstaff is enquiring of Pistol if he picked master Slender's purse, a query to which Slender thus replies: "Ay, by these gloves, did he, (or I would I might never come in mine own great chamber again else,) of seven groats in mill-sixpences, and two Edward shovel-boards, that cost me two shillings and two pence a-piece of Yead Miller, by these gloves."[307:B] "That Slender means the broad shilling of one of our kings," remarks Mr. Malone, "appears from comparing these words with the corresponding passage in the old quarto: 'Ay by this handkerchief did he;—two faire shovel-board shillings, besides seven groats in mill-sixpences.'"[307:C]

Mr. Douce is of opinion that the game of shovel-board is not much older than the reign of Edward VI., and that it is only a variation, on a larger scale, of what was term'd Shove-groat, a game invented in the reign of Henry VIII., and described in the statutes, of his 33d year, as a new game.[307:D] Shove-groat was also played, as the name implies, with the coin of the age, namely silver groats, then as large as our modern shillings, and to this pastime and to the instrument used in performing it, Shakspeare likewise, and Jonson, allude; the first in the Second Part of King Henry IV., where Falstaff, threatening [308]Pistol, exclaims, "Quoit him down, Bardolph, like a Shove-groat shilling:"[308:A] the second in Every Man in his Humour, where Knowell, speaking of Brain-worm, says that he has "translated begging out of the old hackney pace, to a fine easy amble, and made it run as smooth off the tongue as a shove-groat shilling."[308:B] That the game of Shovel-board is subsequent, in point of time, to the diversion of Shove-groat, is probable from the circumstance noticed by Mr. Douce, that no coin termed shovel-groat is any where to be found, and consequently the era of the broad shilling may be deemed that also of shovel-board. Mr. Strutt supposes the modern game of Justice Jervis to resemble, in all essential points, the ancient Shove-groat.[308:C]

Between the juvenile sports which were common in the reigns of Elizabeth and James, and those of the present day, little variation or discrepancy, worth noticing, can be perceived; they were, under slight occasional alterations of form and name, equally numerous, trifling, or mischievous, and Shakspeare has now and then referred to them, for the purposes of illustration or similitude; he has, in this manner, alluded to the well-known games of leap-frog[308:D]; handy-dandy[308:E]; wildmare, or balancing[308:F]; flap-dragons[308:G]; loggats, or kittle-pins[308:H]; country-base, or prisoner's bars[308:I]; fast and loose[308:J]; nine men's morris, or five-penny morris[308:K]; cat in a bottle[308:L]; figure of eight[308:M], &c. &c.; games which, together with those derived from balls, marbles, hoops, &c. require no description, and which, deviating little in their progress from age to age, can throw no material light on the costume of early life. Very few diversions, indeed, peculiar to our [309]youthful days have become totally obsolete; among these, however, may be mentioned one, which, from the obscurity resting on it, its peculiarity, and former popularity, is entitled to some distinction. We allude to the diversion of BARLEY-BREAKE, of the mode of playing which, Mr. Strutt confesses himself ignorant, and merely quotes the following lines from Sidney, as given by Johnson in his Dictionary:

"By neighbours prais'd, she went abroad thereby,
At barley-brake her sweet swift feet to try."[309:A]

Barley-breake was, however, among young people, one of the most popular amusements of the reigns of Elizabeth and James the First, and continued so until the austere zeal of the Puritans occasioned its suppression: thus Thomas Randall, in "An Eclogue" on the diversions of Cotswold Hills, complains that

"Some melancholy swaines, about have gone,
To teach all zeale, their owne complection—
These teach that dauncing is a Jezabell,
And Barley-breake, the ready way to hell."[309:B]

Before this puritanical revolution took place, barley-breake was a common theme with the amatory bards of the day, and allusions to it were frequent in their songs, madrigals, and ballets. With one of these, written about 1600, we shall present the reader, as a pleasing specimen of the light poetry of the age:—

"Now is the month of maying,
When merry lads are playing;
Each with his bonny lasse,
Upon the greeny grasse.
The spring clad all in gladnesse
Doth laugh at winter's sadnesse;
And to the bagpipe's sound,
The nymphs tread out their ground.
[310]
Fye then, why sit wee musing,
Youth's sweet delight refusing;
Say daintie Nimphs and speake,
Shall wee play barly-breake."[310:A]

There were two modes of playing at barley-breake, and of these one was rather more complex than the other. Mr. Gifford, in a note on the Virgin-Martyr of Massinger, where this game, in its more elaborate form, is referred to, remarks, that "with respect to the amusement of barley-break, allusions to it occur repeatedly in our old writers; and their commentators have piled one parallel passage upon another, without advancing a single step towards explaining what this celebrated pastime really was. It was played by six people (three of each sex), who were coupled by lot. A piece of ground was then chosen, and divided into three compartments, of which the middle one was called hell. It was the object of the couple condemned to this division, to catch the others, who advanced from the two extremities; in which case a change of situation took place, and hell was filled by the couple who were excluded by pre-occupation, from the other places. In this "catching," however, there was some difficulty, as, by the regulations of the game, the middle couple were not to separate before they had succeeded, while the others might break hands whenever they found themselves hard pressed. When all had been taken in turn, the last couple was said to be in hell, and the game ended."[310:B]

That this description, explanatory of the passage in Massinger,

"He is at barley-break, and the last couple
Are now in hell,"

is accurate and full, will derive corroboration from a scarce pamphlet entitled "Barley-breake, or a Warning for Wantons," published in 1607, and which contains a curious representation of this amusement.

[311]
——— "On a time the lads and lasses came,
Entreating Elpin that she[311:A] might goe play;
He said she should (Euphema was her name)
And then denyes: yet needs she must away.
To Barley-breake they roundly then 'gan fall,
Raimon, Euphema had unto his mate;
For by a lot he won her from them all;
Wherefore young Streton doth his fortune hate.
But yet ere long he ran and caught her out,
And on the back a gentle fall he gave her;
It is a fault which jealous eyes spie out,
A maide to kisse before her jealous father.
Old Elpin smiles, but yet he frets within,
Euphema saith, she was unjustly cast.
She strives, he holds, his hand goes out and in:
She cries, away! and yet she holds him fast.
Till sentence given by an other maid,
That she was caught according to the law;
The voice whereof this civill quarrell staid,
And to his mate each lusty lad 'gan draw.
Euphema now with Streton is in hell,
(For so the middle roome is alwaies cald)
He would for ever, if he might, there dwell;
He holds it blisse with her to be inthrald.
The other run, and in their running change;
Streton 'gan catch, and then let goe his hold;
Euphema like a doe, doth swiftly range,
Yet taketh none, although full well she could,
And winkes on Streton, he on her 'gan smile,
And fame would whisper something in her eare;
She knew his mind, and bid him use a wile,
As she ran by him, so that none did heare."[311:B]

[312]The simpler mode of conducting this pastime, as it was practised in Scotland, has been detailed by Dr. Jamieson, who tells us, that it was "a game generally played by young people in a corn-yard. One stack is fixed on as the dule, or goal; and one person is appointed to catch the rest of the company, who run out from the dule. He does not leave it till they are all out of his sight. Then he sets off to catch them. Any one who is taken cannot run out again with his former associates, being accounted a prisoner; but is obliged to assist his captor in pursuing the rest. When all are taken, the game is finished; and he who was first taken is bound to act as catcher in the next game."[312:A] It is evident, from our old poetry, that this style of playing at barley-breake was also common in England, and especially among the lower orders in the country.

It may be proper to add, at the close of this chapter, that a species of public diversion was, during the Elizabethan period, supported by each parish, for the purpose of innocently employing the peasantry upon a failure of work from weather or other causes. To this singular though laudable custom Shakspeare alludes in the Twelfth Night, where Sir Toby says, "He's a coward, and a coystril, that will not drink to my niece, 'till his brains turn o' the toe like a [312:B]parish-top." "This," says Mr. Steevens, "is one of the customs now laid aside;" and he adds, in explanation, that "a large top was kept in every village, to be whipped in frosty weather, that the peasants might be kept warm by exercise, and out of mischief, while they could not work;" a diversion to which Fletcher likewise refers in his Night-Walker, and which has given rise to the proverbial expression of sleeping like a town-top.

From this rapid sketch of the diversions of the country, as they existed in Shakspeare's time, it will be immediately perceived that not many have become obsolete, and of those which have undergone some change, the variations have not been such as materially to [313]obscure their origin or previous constitution. The object of this chapter being, therefore, only to mark what was peculiar in rural pastime to the age under consideration, and not to notice what had suffered little or no modification, its articles, especially if we consider the nature of the immediately preceding section, (and that nearly all amusements common to both town and country were referred to a future part,) could not be either very numerous, or require any very extended elucidation.

What might be necessary in the minute and isolated task of the commentator, would be tedious and superfluous in a design which professes, while it gives a distinct and broad outline of the complexion of the times, to preserve among its parts an unrelaxed attention to unity and compression.


FOOTNOTES:

[247:A] MS. Harl. Libr., No. 2057, apud Strutt's Customs, &c.

[247:B] Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, 8th edit. fol. 1676. p. 169, 170.

[247:C] Ibid. p. 172.

[247:D] Ibid. p. 174.

[247:E] Ibid. p. 172.

[248:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 22. note 6.

[249:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 21, 22. 25, 26.

[249:B] Pope's Preface to his edition of Shakspeare, vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 183.

[249:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 25, note 3.

[250:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 26, note.

[250:B] Ibid. vol. xviii. p. 130, 131.

[250:C] Ibid. vol. xviii. p. 131. note 7.

[250:D] Poetaster, 1601, vide Ben Jonson's Works, fol. edit. of 1640, vol. i. p. 267.

[251:A] Apology for Actors, 1612.

[251:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xi. p. 307.

[251:C] Vide Malone's note in Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xi. p. 307.

[251:D] By the statute of the 39 Eliz. any baron of the realm might license a company of players; but by the statute of first James I. "it is declared and enacted, that from thenceforth no authority given, or to be given or made, by any baron of this realm, or any other honourable personage of greater degree, unto any interlude players, minstrels, jugglers, bearward, or any other idle person or persons whatsoever, using any unlawful games or plays, to play or act, should be available to free or discharge the said persons, or any of them, from the pains and punishments of rogues, of vagabonds, and sturdy beggars, in the said statutes (those of Eliz.) mentioned."

[252:A] A character in Gammar Gurtons Needle, says Mr. Strutt, a comedy supposed to have been written A. D. 1517, declares he will go "and travel with young Goose, the motion-man, for a puppet-player."[252:E] This reference, however, is inaccurate, for after a diligent perusal of the comedy in question, no such passage is to be found.

[252:B] Ben Jonson's Works, fol. edit. 1640, vol. ii. p. 77. act v. sc. 4.

[252:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 112.

[252:D] Vide Malone on the Chronological Order of Shakspeare's Plays. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. 2. p. 304.

[252:E] Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, p. 150, note b.

[253:A] Chalmers's Supplemental Apology, p. 323, note s.

[253:B] Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, p. 20.

[253:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 304, and Chalmers's Apology, p. 324, note.

[254:A] Athenæ Oxon. vol. ii. p. 812.

[254:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 124.

[254:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 16.

[254:D] They were given him by Endymion Porter, the King's servant.

[254:E] Biographical History of England, vol. ii. p. 399, 8vo. edit. of 1775.

[255:A] Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, p. 20, and Heath's Description of Cornwall, 1750.

[255:B] "About the year 750, Winifrid, or Boniface, a native of England, and archbishop of Mons, acquaints Ethelbald, a king of Kent, that he has sent him, one hawk, two falcons and two shields. And Hedilbert, a king of the Mercians, requests the same archbishop Winifrid to send him two falcons which have been trained to kill cranes. See Epistol. Winifrid. (Bonifac.) Mogunt. 1605. 1629. And in Bibl. Patr. tom. vi., and tom. xiii. p. 70."—Warton's Hist. of English Poetry, vol. ii. p. 221.

[256:A] Jonson's Works, fol. vol. i. p. 6. act i. sc. 1.

[256:B] Brathwait's English Gentleman, 2d edit. 1633. p. 220.

[257:A] "The Booke of Faulconrie, or Hawking, for the onely delight and pleasure of all Noblemen and Gentlemen: collected out of the best aucthors, as wel Italians as Frenchmen, and some English practises withall concernyng Faulconrie, the contentes whereof are to be seene in the next page folowyng. By Geo. Turbervile, Gentleman. Nocet empta dolore voluptas. Imprinted at London for Chr. Barker, at the signe of the Grashoper in Paules Church-yarde, 1575." To this was added, the "Noble Arte of Venerie or Hunting;" and a re-impression of both, "newly revived, corrected, and augmented with many additions proper to these present times," was published by Thomas Purfoot, in 1611.

Gervase Markham published in 1595 the edition of Dame Julyana Barne's Treatise on Hawking and Hunting, which we have formerly noticed, and which was first printed by Caxton, and afterwards by Winkin De Worde; and in 1615, the first edition of his Country Contentments, which contains a treatise on Hawking; a work so popular, that it reached thirteen or fourteen editions.

Edmund Best, who trained and sold hawks, printed a treatise on Hawks and Hawking in 1619.

[259:A] Brathwait's English Gentleman, 2d edit. 1633. p. 201-203.

[259:B] Henry Peacham, who remarks of Hawking, that it is a recreation "very commendable and befitting a Noble or Gentleman to exercise," adds, that "by the Canon Law, Hawking was forbidden unto Clergie." The Compleat Gentleman, 2d. edit. p. 212, 213.

[260:A] Vide Quaternio, or a Fourefold Way to a Happie Life, set forth in a Dialogue betweene a Countryman and a Citizen, a Divine and a Lawyer. Per Tho. Nash, Philopolitean, 1633.

[260:B] English Gentleman, p. 200.

[262:A] Quaternio, 1633. It is, perhaps, scarcely necessary to add, that the writer of this work must not be confounded with Thos. Nash the author of Pierce Penniless, who died before 1606.

[262:B] To bind with is to tire or seize.—Gentleman's Recreation.

[263:A] To cancelier. "Canceller is when a high-flown hawk in her stooping, turneth two or three times upon the wing, to recover herself before she seizeth her prey."—Gentleman's Recreation.

[263:B] Gifford's Massinger, vol. iv. p. 136, 137.—The Guardian, from which this passage is taken, was licensed in October 1633.

[264:A] Dibdin's Typographical Antiquities, vol. ii. p. 57, 58.

[264:B] Hall's Life of Henry VIII. sub an. xvj.

[265:A] Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk.

[265:B] Anonymous MS., entitled "Merry Passages and Jeasts." Bibl. Harl. 6395. Art. cccliv.

[265:C] Merry Passages and Jeasts, art. ccxxiii.

[266:A] The Falconer was sometimes denominated the Ostringer or Sperviter: "they be called Ostringers," says Markham, "which are the keepers of Goshawkes or Tercelles, and those which keepe Sparrow-hawkes or Muskets are called Sperviters, and those which keepe any other kinde of hawke being long-winged are termed Falconers." Gentleman's Academie or Booke of S. Alban's, fol. 8.

[266:B] Satyrical Essayes, Characters, &c., by John Stephens, 1615, 16mo. 1st edit.

[267:A] "All hawks," says Markham, "generally are manned after one manner, that is to say, by watching and keeping them from sleep, by a continuall carrying them upon your fist, and by a most familiar stroaking and playing with them, with the wing of a dead fowl, or such like, and by often gazing and looking them in the face, with a loving and gentle countenance, and so making them acquainted with the man.

"After your hawks are manned, you shall bring them to the Lure[267:D] by easie degrees, as first, making them jump unto the fist, after fall upon the lure, then come to the voice, and lastly, to know the voice and lure so perfectly, that either upon the sound of the one, sight of the other, she will presently come in, and be most obedient; which may easily be performed, by giving her reward when she doth your pleasure, and making her fast when she disobeyeth: short wing'd hawks shall be called to the fist only, and not to the lure; neither shall you use unto them the loudnesse and variety of voice, which you do to the long winged hawks, but only bring them to the fist by chiriping your lips together, or else by the whistle." Countrey Contentments, 11th edit. p. 30.

[267:B] Country Contentments, p. 29.

[267:C] Though it sometimes appears that the jesses were made of silk.

[267:D] An object stuffed like that kind of bird which the hawk was designed to pursue. The use of the lure was to tempt him back after he had flown.—Steevens.

[268:A] "These observations are taken from 'The Boke of Saint Albans;' a subsequent edition says, 'at least a note under.'"[268:D]

[268:B] "I am told, that silver being mixed with the metal, when the bells are cast, adds much to the sweetness of the sound; and hence probably the allusion of Shakspeare, when he says,

'How silver sweet sound lovers tongues by night.'"

[268:C] Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, p. 28.

[268:D] This subsequent edition, to which Mr. Strutt alludes, is probably that by Gervase Markham, who tells us under the head of "Hawkes belles:" "The bells which your hawke shal weare, looke in any wise that they be not too heavy, whereby they overloade hir, neither that one be heavier than an other, but both of like weight: looke also, that they be well sounding and shrill, yet not both of one sound, but one at least a note under the other." He adds "of spar-hawkes belles there is choice enough, and the charge little, by reason that the store thereof is great. But for goshawks sometimes belles of Millaine were supposed to bee the best, and undoubtedly they be excellent, for that they are sounded with silver, and the price of them is thereafter, but there be now," he observes, "used belles out of the lowe Countries which are approoved to be passing good, for they are principally sorted, they are well sounded, and sweet of ringing, with a pleasant shrilnesse, and excellently well lasting." Gentleman's Academie, fol. 13.

[269:A] These technical terms may admit of some explanation, from the following passage in Markham's edition of the Booke of St. Alban's, 1595, where speaking of the fowl being found in a river or pit, he adds, "if shee (the hawk) nyme or take the further side of the river or pit from you, then she slaieth the foule at fere juttie: but if she kill it on that side that you are on yourselfe; as many times it chanceth, then you shall say shee killed the foule at the jutty ferry: if your hawke nime the foule aloft, you shal say she tooke it at the mount. If you see store of mallards separate from the river and feeding in the fielde, if your hawke flee covertly under hedges, or close by the ground, by which means she nymeth one of them before they can rise, you shall say, that foule was killed at the querre." Gentleman's Academie, fol. 12.

[270:A] Ancient British Drama, vol. ii. p. 436.

[270:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xix. p. 387. Act iii. sc. 3.

[270:C] Ibid., vol. v. p. 339. Act iii. sc. 1.

[270:D] Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, fol. 8th edit. p. 152.

[271:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 135. Act iv. sc. 1.

[271:B] Ibid. vol. xx. p. 147. Act iii. sc. 2.

[271:C] Ibid. p. 93. Act ii. sc. 2.

[271:D] Ibid. vol. v. p. 126. Act iii. sc. 3.

[271:E] Fairy Queen, book i. cant. 11. stan. 34. "Eyes, or nias," says Mr. Douce, "is a term borrowed from the French niais, which means any young bird in the nest, avis in nido. It is the first of five several names by which a falcon is called during its first year." Illustrations, vol. i. p. 74.

[272:A] Censura Literaria, vol. x. p. 231.

[273:A] Complete Gentleman, 2nd edit., p. 212, 213.

[273:B] Dekkar's Villanies discovered by lanthorne and candle-light, &c. 1616.

[274:A] Vide Warton's Hist. of English Poetry, vol. ii. p. 221. note.

[274:B] MS. Cotton Library, Vespasianus, B. 12.

[274:C] MS. Digb. 182. Bibl. Bodl. Warton, vol. ii. p. 221. note m.

[275:A] The substance of this account is taken from The Maistre of the Game, written for the use of Prince Henry.

[276:A] Vide Censura Literaria, vol. x. p. 237, 238.

[276:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xx. p. 173. Act iii. sc. 5.

[276:C] In a work entitled "A Briefe Discourse of the true (but neglected) use of Charact'ring the degrees by their perfection, imperfection, and diminution, in measurable musicke, against the common practice and custome of these times. Examples whereof are exprest in the harmony of 4 voyces, concerning the pleasure of 5 usuall Recreations. 1. Hunting. 2. Hawking. 3. Dauncing. 4. Drinking. 5. Enamouring. By Thomas Ravenscroft, Bachelar of Musicke. London, printed by Edw. Allde for Tho. Adams, 1614. Cum privilegio Regali, 4to."

Puttenham refers to one Gray as the author of this ballad, who was in good estimation, he says, with King Henry, "and afterwards with the Duke of Sommerset Protectour, for making certaine merry ballades, whereof one chiefly was, The hunte it (is) up, the hunte is up." P. 12.

Ritson refers to another ballad, as the prototype of Shakspeare's line, which, he says, is very old, and commences thus:—

"The hunt is up, the hunt is up,
And now it is almost day;
And he that's a bed with another man's wife,
It's time to get him away."

Remarks critical and illustrative, &c., 1783, p. 183.

[278:A] Of the language formerly used by the huntsman to his dogs, a very curious description is given by Markham, in his modernised edition of the Booke of St. Albans, 1595.

"When the Huntsman," says he, "commeth to the kennell in the morning to couple up his hounds, and shall jubet once or twice to awake the dogs: opening the kennell doore, the Huntsman useth some gentle rating, lest in their hasty comming forth they should hurt one another: to which the Frenchman useth this worde, Arere, Arere, and we, sost, ho ho ho ho, once or twice redoubling the same, coupling them as they come out of the kennell. And being come into the field, and having uncoupled, the Frenchman useth, hors de couple avant avant, onse or twise with soho three times together: wee use to jubet once or twice to the dogges, crying, a traile a traile, there dogges there, and the rather to make the dogs in trailing to hold close together striking uppon some Brake crie soho. And if the hounds have had rest, and being over lustie, doe beginne to fling away, the Frenchmen use to crie, swef ames swef, redoubling the same, with Arere ames ho: nowe we to the same purpose use to say, sost ho, heere againe ho, doubling the same, sometimes calling them backe againe with jubet or hallow: poynting with your hunting staffe upon the ground, saying soho.

"And if some one of the hounds light upon a pure scent, so that by the manner of his eager spending you perceive it is very good, yet shall the same hounds crying, there, now there: and to put the rest of the crie in to him, you shall crie, ho avant avant, list a Talbot, list list there. To which the French man useth, Oyes a Talbot le vailant oyes oyes, trove le coward, in the same manner with little difference. And if you find by your hounds where a Hare hath beene at relefe, if it be in the time of greene corne, and if your hounds spend uppon the troile merily, and make a goodly crie, then shall the Huntsman blow three motes with his horne, which hee may sundry times use with discretion, when he seeth the houndes have made away: A double, and make on towards the seate; now if it be within some field or pasture where the Hare hath beene at relefe, let the Huntsman cast a ring with his houndes to finde where she hath gone out, which if the houndes light uppon, he shall crie, There boyes there, that tat tat, hoe hicke, hicke, hicke avant, list to him list, and if they chance by their brain sicknesse to overshoote it, he shall call to his hounds, ho againe ho, doubling the same twice. And if undertaking it againe, and making it good, hee shall cheare his hounds: there, to him there, thats he, that tat tat, blowing a mote. And note, that this word soho is generally used at the view of any beast of Chase or Venerie: but indeede the word is properly saho, and not soho, but for the better pronuntiation and fulnes of the same we say soho not saho. Now the hounds running in full chase, the Frenchman useth to say, ho ho, or swef alieu douce alieu, and wee imitating them say, There boies, there avant there, to him there, which termes are in deede derived from their language."—Gentleman's Academie, fol. 32, 33. These appear to be the terms in use at the close of the sixteenth century; for he afterwards mentions that the "olde and antient Huntsmen had divers termes" which were not in his time "very needefull."

[280:A] Peck's Desiderata Curiosa, vol. ii. p. 164.

[280:B] Antiquarian Repertory, vol. i. p. 27.

[280:C] To take the assay or say, was to draw the knife along the belly of the deer, in order to ascertain how fat he was, and the operation was begun at the brisket.

[281:A] Chaloner's Prayze of Follie, 1577. The whole process of "undoing the Hart," may be seen in Markham's "Gentlemans Academie," fol. 35.

[281:B] Jonson apud Whalley, act i. sc. 6.

[281:C] Alluding to the Book of St. Albans, republished, under this title, in 1595, by Gervase Markham.

[283:A] Satyrical Essayes, &c. by John Stephens, 1615.

[284:A] Countrey Contentments, 1615.—11th edit. 1683, p. 7-9.

[284:B] Flews, the large chaps of a hound.

[284:C] Sanded, that is, of a sandy colour, the true denotement of a blood-hound.

[284:D] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. iv. p. 449-452, Midsummer-Night's Dream, act iv. sc. 1.

[285:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xix. p. 60. Act ii. sc. 2.

[285:B] Nichols's Progresses of Elizabeth, vol. i. Laneham's Letter, p. 12, original edition, p. 17, 18.

[286:A] Nichols's Progresses, vol. ii.

[286:B] "The true narration of the Entertainment of his Royall Majestie, from the time of his departure from Edenbrough, till his receiving at London; with all or the most special occurrences. Together with the names of those gentlemen whom his Majestie honoured with Knighthood." At London printed by Thomas Creede, for Thomas Millington, 1603. 4to.

[287:A] Memoirs, p. 35.

[287:B] Wilson's History of Great Britain, p. 106. fol. London, 1653.

[287:C] Osborn's Works, 8vo. ninth edit. 1689, p. 444.

[288:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. viii. p. 183. Act v. sc. 4.

[288:B] Ibid. vol. vi. p. 68.

[288:C] Chalmers's English Poets, vol. iv. p. 368. Poly-Olbion, song xxv.

[288:D] Chalmers's English Poets, vol. iv. p. 458. Nymphal vi.

[288:E] New Shreds of the Old Snare, by John Gee, 4to. p. 23. Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vi. p. 68. note 9.

[289:A] Harleian MS. 2281.

[289:B] Jewel for Gentrie, Lond. 1614.

[289:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xv. p. 24. Henry VIII. act i. sc. 1.

[290:A] Mr. Haslewood, after much research, attributes to the pen of this ingenious lady only the following portions of De Worde's edit. of 1496:

The public are much indebted to this elegant antiquary for an admirable fac-simile reprint of De Worde's rare and interesting volume.

[290:B] Burton has introduced, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, though without acknowledgment, the very words of this quotation.—Vide p. 169. 8th edit.

[291:A] The titles of these works are—"A Booke of Fishing with Hooke and Line, and of all other Instruments thereunto belonginge, made by L. M. 4to. Lond. 1590:" the 4th edit. of Mascall's Book, was reprinted in 1606—"Certain Experiments concerning Fish and Fruit, practised by John Taverner, Gentleman, and by him published for the benefit of others." 4to. London (printed for Wm. Ponsonby) 1600.—It would appear, from a note in Walton's Complete Angler, that there was an impression of Taverner's book of the same date with a different title, namely, "Approved experiments touching Fish and Fruit, to be regarded by the lovers of Angling."—Vide Bagster's edit. 1808. Life of Walton, p. 14. note.

A third was designated "The Pleasures of Princes, or Good Men's Recreations: containing a Discourse of the general Art of Fishing with the Angle, or otherwise: and of all the hidden Secrets belonging thereunto. 4to. Lond. 1614."

[293:A] This beautiful encomium has been quoted in Walton's Complete Angler, with many alterations, and some of them much for the worse; for instance, the very opening of the quotation is thus given:—

"Let me live harmlessly; and near the brink
Of Trent or Avon have a dwelling-place—

and the conclusion of the fourth stanza:—

"The raging sea, beneath the vallies low,
Where lakes, and rills, and rivulets do flow."

Bagster's edit. p. 123.

[293:B] Gervase Markham, in his Art of Angling, not only recommends the same colours, but adds a caution which marks the rural dress of the day: "Let your apparel," says he, "be close to your body, without any new fashioned flashes, or hanging sleeves, waving loose, like sails about you." P. 59.

[293:C] The first edition of the Countrey Contentments, 1615, does not possess the Art of Angling; it probably appeared in the second, a year or two after; for the work was so popular that it rapidly ran through several impressions: the fifth is dated 1633.

[296:A] Countrey Contentments, 11th edit. p. 59-62.

[296:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vi. p. 78. Much Ado about Nothing, act iii. sc 1.

[297:A] To this effect, likewise, Col. Venables gives a decided testimony; for in the preface to his "Experienc'd Angler," first published in 1662, he declares, "if example (which is the best proof) may sway any thing, I know no sort of men less subject to melancholy than anglers, many have cast off other recreations and embraced it, but I never knew any angler wholly cast off (though occasions might interrupt) their affections to their beloved recreation;" and he adds, "if this art may prove a noble brave rest to my mind, 'tis all the satisfaction I covet."

[297:B] Walton's Complete Angler apud Bagster, p. 122.—"Let me take this opportunity," says Mr. Bowles, "of recommending the amiable and venerable Isaac Walton's Complete Angler; a work the most singular of its kind, breathing the very spirit of contentment, of quiet, and unaffected philanthropy, and interspersed with some beautiful relics of poetry, old songs, and ballads." Bowles's Pope, vol. i. p. 135.

[297:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 512. Cymbeline, act iii. sc. 2.

[298:A] Anatomy of Melancholy, p. 170. part ii. sat. 2. Mem. iv.

[298:B] Chalmers's English Poets, vol. v. p. 275. book iv. satire 3.

[298:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xi. p. 381. Henry IV. part i. act iv. sc. 1.

[299:A] The title is as follows: "A Discource of Horsemanshippe: wherein the breeding and ryding of Horses for service, in a breefe manner is more methodically sette downe then hath been heretofore, &c. Also the manner to chuse, trayne, ryde and dyet, both Hunting-horses and Running-horses: with all the secretes thereto belonging discovered. An arte never hearetofore written by any author. Bramo assai, poco spero, nulla chiegio." At London. Printed by John Charlewood for Richard Smith, 1593, 4to. Dedicated "To the Right Worshipfull, and his singular good father, Ma. Rob. Markham, of Cotham, in the County of Nottingham, Esq. by Jervis Markham. Licensed 29 January, 1592-3." Vide Herbert, v. 2. 1102.

[300:A] Cavelarice, or the arte and knowledge belonging to the Horse-ryder, 1607. Book ii. chap. 24.

[301:A] Survey of London, 4to. 1618, p. 145.

[301:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. viii. p. 29.

[301:C] Vide Pluvinel sur l'exercise de monter a cheval, part iii. p. 177. et Traite des Tournois, Joustes, &c. par Claude Fran. Menestrier, p. 264.

[303:A] Nichols's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, vol. i. and of Laneham's Letter, p. 30-32.

[304:A] Natural Hist. of Oxfordshire, p. 200.

[304:B] Censura Literaria, vol. viii. p. 233, 234.

[304:C] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xx. p. 111. Act ii. sc. 4.

[305:A] Anatomy of Melancholy, 8th edit. p. 170.

[305:B] Carew's Survey of Cornwall, 1602, book i. p. 74.

[306:A] Vide Todd's Milton, 2d. edit. vol. vi. p. 192.

[306:B] Natural History of Staffordshire, p. 383.

[307:A] Sports and Pastimes, p. 264.

[307:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 22.

[307:C] Ibid. vol. v. p. 23. note 2.

[307:D] Douce's Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 454, 455.

[308:A] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xii. p. 96.

[308:B] Whalley's Works of Ben Jonson, vol. i.

[308:C] Vide Sports and Pastimes, p. 267. edit. of 1810.

[308:D] Henry V., act v. sc. 2.

[308:E] Lear, act iv. sc. 6.

[308:F] Second Part of Henry IV., act ii. sc. 4.

[308:G] Love's Labour Lost, act v. sc. 1. and Second Part of Henry IV., act ii. sc. 4.

[308:H] Hamlet, act v. sc. 1.

[308:I] Cymbeline, act v. sc, 3.

[308:J] Anthony and Cleopatra, act iv. sc. 10.

[308:K] Midsummer-Night's Dream, act ii. sc. 2.

[308:L] Much Ado about Nothing, act i. sc. 1.

[308:M] Midsummer-Night's Dream, act ii. sc. 2.

[309:A] Sports and Pastimes, p. 338.

[309:B] Annalia Dubrensia, 1636, c. iii.

[310:A] Cantus of Thomas Morley, the first booke of ballets to five voyces.

[310:B] Massinger's Works, by Gifford, vol. i. p. 104.

[311:A] His daughter.

[311:B] "Barley-breake, or a Warning for Wantons. Written by W. N., Gent. Printed at London by Simon Stafford, dwelling in the Cloth-fayre, neere the Red Lyon, 1607. 4to. 16 leaves." Vide British Bibliographer, vol. i. p. 65.—This poem has been attributed, notwithstanding the initials, to Nicholas Breton.

[312:A] Jamieson's Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, 1808.

[312:B] Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 248.


[314]

CHAPTER IX.

VIEW OF COUNTRY LIFE DURING THE AGE OF SHAKSPEARE, CONTINUED—AN ACCOUNT OF SOME OF ITS SUPERSTITIONS.

The popular creed, during the age of Shakspeare, was perhaps more extended and systematised than in any preceding or subsequent period of our history. For this effect we are indebted, in a great measure, to the credulity and superstition of James the First, the publication of whose Demonology rendered a profession in the belief of sorcery and witchcraft a matter of fashion and even of interest; for a ready way to the favour of this monarch was an implicit assumption of his opinions, theological and metaphysical, as well as political.

It must not be inferred, however, that at the commencement of the seventeenth century, the human mind was unwilling or unprepared to shake off the load which had oppressed it for ages. Among the enlightened classes of society, now rapidly extending throughout the kingdom, the reception of these doctrines was rather the effect of court example than of settled conviction; but as the vernacular bards, and especially the dramatic, who ever hold unbounded influence over the multitude, thought proper, and certainly, in a poetical light, with great effect, to adopt the dogmata and machinery of James, the reign of superstition was, for a time, not only upheld, but extended among the inferior orders of the people.

"Every goblin of ignorance," observes Warton, speaking of this period, "did not vanish at the first glimmerings of the morning of science. Reason suffered a few demons still to linger, which she chose to retain in her service under the guidance of poetry. Men believed, or were willing to believe, that spirits were yet hovering around, who brought with them airs from heaven, or blasts from hell, that the ghost was duely released from his prison of torment at the [315]sound of the curfew, and that fairies imprinted mysterious circles on the turf by moon-light. Much of this credulity was even consecrated by the name of science and profound speculation. Prospero had not yet broken and buried his staff, nor drowned his book deeper than did ever plummet sound. It was now that the alchymist, and the judicial astrologer, conducted his occult operations by the potent intercourse of some preternatural being, who came obsequious to his call, and was bound to accomplish his severest services, under certain conditions, and for a limited duration of time. It was actually one of the pretended feats of these fantastic philosophers, to evoke the queen of the Fairies in the solitude of a gloomy grove, who, preceded by a sudden rustling of the leaves, appeared in robes of transcendent lustre. The Shakspeare of a more instructed and polished age would not have given us a magician darkening the sun at noon, the sabbath of the witches, and the cauldron of incantation."[315:A]

The history of the popular mythology, therefore, of this era, at a time when it was cherished by the throne, and adopted, in its fullest extent, by the greatest poetical genius which ever existed, must necessarily occupy a large share of our attention. So extensive, indeed, is the subject, and so full of interest and curiosity, that to exhaust it in this division of the work, would be to encroach upon that symmetry of plan, that relative proportion which we wish to preserve. The four great subjects, therefore, of Fairies, Witchcraft, Magic, and Apparitions, will be deferred to the Second Part, and annexed as Dissertations to our remarks on the Midsummer-Night's Dream, Macbeth, the Tempest, and Hamlet.

As a consequent of this decision, the present chapter, after noticing, in a general way, the various credulities of the country, will dwell, at some length, on those periods of the year which have been peculiarly devoted to superstitious rites and observances, and include the residue of the subject under the heads of omens, charms, sympathies, cures, and miscellaneous superstitions.

[316]It is from the Winter-Night's Conversation of the lower orders of the people that we may derive, in any age, the most authentic catalogue of its superstitions. This fearful pleasure of children and uneducated persons, and the eager curiosity which attends it, have been faithfully painted by Shakspeare:—

"Hermione. Pray you sit by us,
And tell's a tale.
Mamillius. Merry, or sad, shall't be?
Her. As merry as you will.
Mam. A sad tale's best for winter:
I have one of sprites and goblins.
Her. Let's have that, sir.
Come on, sit down:—Come on, and do your best
To fright me with your sprites: you're powerful at it.
Mam. There was a man,——
Her. Nay, come, sit down; then on.
Mam. Dwelt by a church-yard;—I will tell it softly;
Yon crickets shall not hear it.
Her. Come on then,
And give't in mine ear."[316:A]

For the particulars forming the subject-matter of these tales, and for their effect on the hearers, we must have recourse to writers contemporary with the bard, whose object it was to censure or detail these legendary wonders. Thus Lavaterus, who wrote a book De Spectris, in 1570, which was translated into English in 1572, remarks that "if when men sit at the table, mention be made of spirits and elves, many times wemen and children are so afrayde that they dare scarce go out of dores alone, least they should meete wyth some evyl thing: and if they chaunce to heare any kinde of noise, by and by they thinke there are some spirits behynde them:" and again in a subsequent page, "simple foolish men—imagine that there be certayne elves or fairies of the earth, and tell many straunge and marvellous tales of them, which they have heard of their grandmothers and mothers, howe they have appeared unto those of the [317]house, have done service, have rocked the cradell, and (which is a signe of good luck) do continually tary in the house."[317:A] He has the good sense, however, to reprobate the then general custom, a practice which has more or less prevailed even to our own times, of frightening children by stories and assumed appearances of this kind. "It is a common custome," he observes, "in many places, that at a certaine of time the yeare, one with a nette or visarde on his face maketh Children afrayde, to the ende that ever after they should laboure and be obediente to their Parentes: afterward they tel them that those which they saw, were Bugs, Witches, and Hagges, which thing they verily believe, and are commonly miserablie afrayde. How be it, it is not expedient so to terrifie Children. For sometimes through great feare they fall into dangerous diseases, and in the nyght crye out, when they are fast asleep. Salomon teacheth us to chasten children with the rod, and so to make them stand in awe: he doth not say, we must beare them in hande they shall be devoured of Bugges, Hags of the night, and such lyke monsters."[317:B] But it is to Reginald Scot that we are indebted for the most curious and extensive enumeration of these fables which haunted our progenitors from the cradle to the grave. "In our childhood," says he, "our mother's maids have so terrified us with an ouglie divell having hornes on his head, fier in his mouth, and a taile in his breech, eies like a bason, fanges like a dog, clawes like a beare, a skin like a Niger, and a voice roaring like a lion, whereby we start and are afraid when we heare one crie Bough: and they have so fraid us with bull-beggers, spirits, witches, urchens, elves, hags, fairies, satyrs, pans, faunes, syrens, kit with the can'sticke, tritons, centaurs, dwarfes, giants, imps, calcars, conjurors, nymphes, changlings, Incubus, Robin good-fellowe, the spoorne, [318]the mare, the man in the oke, the hell-waine, the fierdrake, the puckle Tom thombe, hob gobblin, Tom tumbler, boneless, and such other bugs, that we are afraid of our own shadowes: in so much as some never feare the divell, but in a darke night; and then a polled sheepe is a perillous beast, and manie times is taken for our father's soule, speciallie in a churchyard, where a right hardie man heretofore scant durst passe by night, but his haire would stand upright."[318:A]

That this mode of passing away the time, "the long solitary winter nights," was as much in vogue in 1617 as in 1570 and 1580, is apparent from Burton, who reckons among the ordinary recreations of winter, tales of giants, dwarfs, witches, fayries, goblins, and friers.[318:B]

The predilection which existed, during this period of our annals for the marvellous, the terrible, and romantic, especially among the peasantry, has been noticed by several of our best writers. Addison, in reference to the genius of Shakspeare for the wild and wonderful in poetry, remarks, that "our forefathers loved to astonish themselves with the apprehensions of witchcraft, prodigies, charms, and inchantments. There was not a village in England that had not a ghost in it; the churchyards were all haunted; every large common had a circle of fairies belonging to it; and there was scarce a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit[318:C];" and Mr. Grose, after enumerating several popular superstitions, extends the subject in a very entertaining manner. "In former times," says he, "these notions were so prevalent, that it was deemed little less than atheism to doubt them; and in many instances the terrors caused by them embittered the lives of a great number of persons of all ages; by degrees almost shutting them out of their own houses, and deterring them from going from one village to another after sun-set. The room in which the head of a family had died, was for a long time untenanted; particularly if they died without a will, or were supposed to [319]have entertained any particular religious opinions. But if any disconsolate old maiden, or love-crossed bachelor, happened to dispatch themselves in their garters, the room where the deed was perpetrated was rendered for ever after uninhabitable, and not unfrequently was nailed up. If a drunken farmer, returning from market, fell from Old Dobbin and broke his neck,—or a carter, under the same predicament, tumbled from his cart or waggon, and was killed by it,—that spot was ever after haunted and impassable: in short, there was scarcely a bye-lane or cross-way but had its ghost, who appeared in the shape of a headless cow or horse; or clothed all in white, glared with its saucer eyes over a gate or stile. Ghosts of superior rank, when they appeared abroad, rode in coaches drawn by six headless horses, and driven by a headless coachman and postilions. Almost every ancient manor-house was haunted by some one at least of its former masters or mistresses, where, besides divers other noises, that of telling money was distinctly heard: and as for the churchyards, the number of ghosts that walked there, according to the village computation, almost equalled the living parishioners: to pass them at night, was an achievement not to be attempted by any one in the parish, the sextons excepted; who perhaps being particularly privileged, to make use of the common expression, never saw any thing worse than themselves."[319:A]

Of these superstitions, as forming the subject of a country conversation in a winter's evening, a very interesting detail has been given by Mr. Bourne; the picture was drawn about a hundred years ago; but, though even then partially applicable, may be considered as a faithful general representation of the two preceding centuries.

"Nothing is commoner in Country Places," says this historian of credulity, "than for a whole family in a Winter's Evening, to sit round the fire, and tell stories of apparitions and ghosts. Some of them have seen spirits in the shapes of cows, and dogs and horses; and some have seen even the devil himself, with a cloven foot.

[320]"Another part of this conversation generally turns upon Fairies. These, they tell you, have frequently been heard and seen; nay that there are some still living who were stolen away by them, and confined seven years. According to the description they give of them, who pretend to have seen them, they are in the shape of men, exceeding little: They are always clad in green, and frequent the woods and fields; when they make cakes (which is a work they have been often heard at) they are very noisy; and when they have done, they are full of mirth and pastime. But generally they dance in Moon-light when mortals are asleep, and not capable of seeing them, as may be observed on the following morn; their dancing places being very distinguishable. For as they dance hand in hand, and so make a circle in their dance, so next day there will be seen rings and circles on the grass.

"Another tradition they hold, and which is often talked of, is, that there are particular places allotted to spirits to walk in. Thence it was that formerly, such frequent reports were abroad of this and that particular place being haunted by a spirit, and that the common people say now and then, such a place is dangerous to be passed through at night, because a spirit walks there. Nay, they'll further tell you, that some spirits have lamented the hardness of their condition, in being obliged to walk in cold and uncomfortable places, and have therefore desired the person who was so hardy as to speak to them, to gift them with a warmer walk, by some well grown hedge, or in some shady vale, where they might be shelter'd from the rain and wind.

"The last topick of this conversation I shall take notice of, shall be the tales of haunted houses. And indeed it is not to be wondered at, that this is never omitted. For formerly almost every place had a house of this kind. If a house was seated on some melancholy place, or built in some old romantic manner; or if any particular accident had happened in it, such as murder, sudden death, or the like, to be sure that house had a mark set on it, and was afterwards esteemed the habitation of a ghost. In talking upon this point, [321]they generally show the occasion of the house's being haunted, the merry pranks of the spirit, and how it was laid. Stories of this kind are infinite, and there are few villages which have not either had such an house in it, or near it."[321:A]

The quotations which we have now given from writers contemporary with, and subsequent to, Shakspeare, will point out, in a general way, the prevalent superstitions of the country at this period, and the topics which were usually discussed round the fire-side of the cottage or manorial hall, when the blast blew keen on a December's night, and the faggot's blaze was seen, by fits, illumining the rafter'd roof.

The progress of science, of literature, and rational theology, has, in a very great degree, dissipated these illusions; but there still lingers, in hamlets remote from general intercourse, a somewhat similar spirit of credulity, where the legend of unearthly agency is yet listened to with eager curiosity and fond belief. These vestiges of superstitions which were once universally prevalent, have been seized upon with avidity by many modern poets, and form some of the most striking passages in their works. More particularly the ghostly and traditionary lore of the cotter's winter-night, has been a favourite subject with them. Thus Thomson tells us, that

————— "the village rouzes up the fire,
While well attested, and as well believed,
Heard solemn, goes the goblin-story round;
Till superstitious horror creeps o'er all:"[321:B]

and Akenside, still more poetically, that

—————————— "by night
The village-matron round the blazing hearth
Suspends the infant-audience with her tales,
[322]
Breathing astonishment! of witching rhymes,
And evil spirits; of the death-bed call
Of him who robb'd the widow, and devour'd
The orphan's portion; of unquiet souls
Risen from the grave to ease the heavy guilt
Of deeds in life conceal'd; of shapes that walk
At dead of night, and clank their chains, and wave
The torch of hell around the murderer's bed.
At every solemn pause the crowd recoil,
Gazing each other speechless, and congeal'd
With shivering sighs: till eager for th' event,
Around the beldame all erect they hang,
Each trembling heart with grateful terrors quell'd."[322:A]

The lamented Kirke White has also happily introduced a similar picture; having described the day-revels of a Whitsuntide wake, he adds,

——————————— "then at eve
Commence the harmless rites and auguries;
And many a tale of ancient days goes round.
They tell of wizard seer, whose potent spells
Could hold in dreadful thrall the labouring moon,
Or draw the fix'd stars from their eminence,
And still the midnight tempest.—Then anon,
Tell of uncharnel'd spectres, seen to glide
Along the lone wood's unfrequented path,
Startling the nighted traveller; while the sound
Of undistinguished murmurs, heard to come
From the dark centre of the deep'ning glen,
Struck on his frozen ear:"[322:B]

and lastly Mr. Scott, in his highly interesting poem entitled Rokeby, speaking of the tales of superstition, adds,

"When Christmas logs blaze high and wide,
Such wonders speed the festal tide,
While Curiosity and Fear,
Pleasure and pain, sit crouching near,
[323]
Till childhood's cheek no longer glows,
And village-maidens lose the rose.
The thrilling interest rises higher,
The circle closes nigh and nigher,
And shuddering glance is cast behind,
As louder moans the wintery wind."

Cant. ii. st. 10.

After this brief outline of the common superstitions of the country, as they existed in the days of Shakspeare, and as they still linger among us, we shall proceed, in conformity with our plan, to notice those Days which have been peculiarly devoted to superstitious rites and observances.

In entering upon this subject, however, it will be necessary to remark, that as several of these days are still kept by the vulgar in the same manner, and with the same spirit of credulity which subsisted in the reign of Elizabeth, it would be superfluous to enter at large into a detail of their ceremonies, and that to mark the coincidence of usage, occurring at these periods, will be nearly all that can be deemed requisite. Thus on St. Paul's Day, on Candlemas Day, and on St. Swithin's Day, the prognosticators of weather still find as much employment, and as much credit as ever.[323:A] St. Mark's Day is still beheld with dread, as fixing the destinies of life and death, and Childermas still keeps in countenance the doctrine of lucky and unlucky days.

[324]A similarity nearly equal may be observed with regard to the rites of lovers on St. Valentine's Day. The tradition, that birds choosing their mates on this day, occasioned the custom of drawing valentines, has been the opinion of our poets from Chaucer to the present hour. Shakspeare alludes to it in the following passage:

"Good-morrow friends. Saint Valentine is past;
Begin these wood-birds but to couple now?"[324:A]

The ceremony of this day, however, has been attributed to various sources beside the rural tradition just mentioned. The legend itself of St. Valentine, a presbyter of the church, who was beheaded under the Emperor Claudius, we are assured by Mr. Brand, contains nothing which could give rise to the custom; but it has been supposed by some to have originated from an observance peculiar to carnival time, which occurred about this very period. It was usual, on this occasion, for vast numbers of knights to visit the different courts of Europe, where they entertained the ladies with pageantry and tournaments. Each lady, at these magnificent feasts, selected a knight, who engaged to serve her for a whole year, and to perform whatever she chose to command. One of the never-failing consequences of this engagement, was an injunction to employ his muse in the celebration of his mistress.

Menage, in his Etymological Dictionary, has accounted for the term Valentine, by stating that Madame Royale, daughter of Henry the Fourth of France, having built a palace near Turin, which, in [325]honour of the Saint, then in high esteem, she called the Valentine, at the first entertainment which she gave in it, was pleased to order that the ladies should receive their lovers for the year by lots, reserving to herself the privilege of being independent of chance, and of choosing her own partner. At the various balls which this gallant princess gave, during the year, it was directed that each lady should receive a nosegay from her lover, and that, at every tournament, the knight's trappings for his horse should be furnished by his allotted mistress, with this proviso, that the prize obtained should be hers. This custom, says Menage, occasioned the parties to be called Valentines.

Mr. Brand, in his observations on Bourne's Antiquities, thinks, that the usages of this day are the remains of an antient superstition in the Church of Rome, of choosing patrons for the year ensuing, at this season; "and that, because ghosts were thought to walk on the night of this day, or about this time[325:A];" but Mr. Douce, with more probability, considers them as a relic of paganism. "It was the practice in ancient Rome," he observes, "during a great part of the month of February, to celebrate the Lupercalia, which were feasts in honour of Pan and Juno, whence the latter deity was named februata, februalis, and februlla. On this occasion, amidst a variety of ceremonies, the names of young women were put into a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. The pastors of the early Christian church, who by every possible means endeavoured to eradicate the vestiges of Pagan superstitions, and chiefly by some commutation of their forms, substituted, in the present instance, the names of particular saints instead of those of the women: and as the festival of the Lupercalia had commenced about the middle of February, they appear to have chosen Saint Valentine's day for celebrating the new feast, because it occurred nearly at the same time. This is, in part, the opinion of a learned and rational compiler of the lives of the saints, the Reverend Alban Butler. It should [326]seem, however, that it was utterly impossible to extirpate altogether any ceremony to which the common people had been much accustomed; a fact which it were easy to prove in tracing the origin of various other popular superstitions: and accordingly the outline of the ancient ceremonies was preserved, but modified by some adaptation to the Christian system. It is reasonable to suppose that the above practice of choosing mates would gradually become reciprocal in the sexes; and that all persons so chosen would be called Valentines, from the day on which the ceremony took place."[326:A]

The modes of ascertaining the Valentine for the ensuing year, were nearly the same in Shakspeare's age as at the present period; they consisted either in drawing lots on Valentine-eve, or in considering the first person whom you met early on the following morning, as the destined object. In the former case the names of a certain number of one sex, were, by an equal number of the other, put into a vase; and then every one drew a name; which for the time was termed their Valentine, and was considered as predictive of their future fortune in the nuptial state; in the second there was usually some little contrivance adopted, in order that the favoured object, when such existed, might be the first seen. To this custom Shakspeare refers, when he represents Ophelia, in her distraction, singing,

"Good morrow, 'tis Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine."[326:B]

The practice of addressing verses, and sending presents, to the person chosen, has been continued from the days of James I., in [327]which the gifts of Valentines have been noticed by Moresin[327:A], to modern times; and we may add a trait, not now observed, perhaps, on the authority of an old English ballad, in which the lasses are directed to pray cross-legged to Saint Valentine, for good luck.[327:B]

It was a usage of the sixteenth century, in its object laudable and useful, for the inhabitants of towns and villages, during the summer-season, to meet after sunset, in the streets, and for the wealthier sort to recreate themselves and their poorer friends with banquets and bonefires. Of this custom Stowe has left us a pleasing account:—"In the moneths of June, and July," he relates, "on the Vigiles of festivall dayes, and on the same festivall dayes in the evenings, after the sun-setting, there were usually made bonefires in the streets, every man bestowing wood or labour towards them. The wealthier sort also before their dores, neere to the said bonefires, would set out tables on the vigiles, furnished with sweet bread, and good drink, and on the festivall dayes with meates and drinks plentifully, whereunto they would invite their neighbours and passengers also to sit, and be merry with them in great familiarity, praysing God for his benefits bestowed on them. These were called bonefires, as well of amity amongst neighbours, that beeing before at controversie, were there by the labour of others reconciled, and made of bitter enemies, loving friends; as also for the virtue that a great fire hath, to purge [328]the infection of the ayre."[328:A] These rites were, however, more particularly practised on Midsummer-Eve, the Vigil of Saint John the Baptist, a period of the year to which our ancestors paid singular attention, and combined with it several superstitious observances. "On the Vigill of Saint John Baptist," continues Stowe, "every man's dore beeing shadowed with greene Birch, long Fennell, Saint John's Wort, Orpin, white Lillies, and such like, garnished upon with Garlands of beautifull flowers, had also Lamps of glasse, with Oyle burning in them all the night, some hung out branches of yron curiously wrought, containing hundreds of Lamps lighted at once, which made a goodly shew."[328:B]

Of some of the superstitions connected with this Eve, Barnabe Googe has left us an account in his translation of Neogeorgius, which was published, and dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, in 1570:—

"Then doth the joyfull feast of John the Baptist take his turne,
When bonfires great, with lofty flame, in every towne doe burne,
And young men round about with maydes doe daunce in every street,
With garlands wrought of mother-wort, or else of vervaine sweet,
And many other flowers faire, with violets in their hands;
Where as they all doe fondly thinke that whosoever stands,
And thorow the flowers behold the flame, his eyes shall feele no paine.
When thus till night they daunced have, they throgh the fire amaine
With striving mindes doe run, and all their herbs they cast therein;
And then, with words devout and prayers, they solemnly begin,
Desiring God that all their illes may there confounded be;
Whereby they thinke, through all that yeare, from agues to be free."[328:C]

This Midsummer-Eve Fire and the rites attending it, appear to be reliques of pagan worship, for Gebelin in his Allegories Orientales observes, that at the moment of the Summer Solstice the ancients, from the most remote antiquity, were accustomed to light fires, in honour of the New Year, which they believed to have originally commenced in fire. These fires or Feux de joie were accompanied with vows and sacrifices for plenty and prosperity, and with dances [329]and leaping over the flames, "each on his departure snatching a firebrand of greater or less magnitude, whilst the rest was scattered to the wind, in order that it might disperse every evil as it dispersed the ashes."[329:A]

Many other superstitions, however, than those mentioned by Googe, were practised on this mysterious eve. To one of the most important Shakspeare alludes in the First Part of King Henry the Fourth, where Gadshill says of himself and company, "We have the receipt of fern-seed, we walk invisible."[329:B] Jonson and Fletcher have also ascribed the same wonderful property to this plant, the first in his New Inn.

—————— "I had
No medicine, Sir, to go invisible,
No fern-seed in my pocket;"[329:C]

the second in the Fair Maid of the Inn,—

————— "had you Gyges' ring,
Or the herb that gives invisibility?"[329:D]

It was the belief of our credulous ancestors, that the fern-seed became visible only on St. John's Eve, and at the precise moment of the birth of the Saint; that it was under the peculiar protection of the Queen of Faery, and that on this awful night, the most [330]tremendous conflicts took place, for its possession, between sorcerers and spirits; for

"The wond'rous one-night seeding ferne,"

as Browne calls it[330:A], was conceived not only to confer invisibility at pleasure, on those who succeeded in procuring it, but it was also esteemed of sovereign potency in the fabrication of charms and incantations. Those, therefore, who were addicted to the arts of magic, and possessed sufficient courage for the enterprise, were believed to watch in solitude during this solemn period, in order that they might seize the seed on the instant of its appearance.

The achievement, however, was accompanied with great danger; for if the adventurer were not protected by spells of mighty power, he was exposed to the assaults of demons and spirits, who envied him the possession of the plant, and who generally took care that he should lose either his life or his labour in the attempt. "A person who went to gather it, reported that the spirits whisked by his ears, and sometimes struck his hat, and other parts of his body; and at length, when he thought he had got a good quantity of it, and secured it in papers and a box, when he came home, he found both empty."[330:B]

Another superstition, of a nature highly impressive and terrible, consists in the idea that any person fasting on Midsummer-Eve, and sitting in the church-porch, will at midnight see the spirits of those who are to die in the parish during that year, approach and knock at the church door, precisely in the order of time in which they are doomed to depart. It is related, by the author of Pandemonium, that one of the company of watchers, on this night, having fallen into a profound sleep, his ghost or spirit, whilst he lay in this state, was seen by the rest of his companions, knocking at the church-door.[330:C]

[331]Of these wild traditions of the "olden time" Collins has made a most striking use in his Ode to Fear:—

"Ne'er be I found, by thee o'eraw'd,
In that thrice-hallow'd eve, abroad,
When ghosts, as cottage-maids believe,
Their pebbled beds permitted leave;
And goblins haunt, from fire, or fen,
Or mine, or flood, the walks of men!"

The observance of Midsummer-Eve by rejoicings, spells, and charms, has continued until within these fifty years, especially in Cornwall, in the North of England, and in Scotland. Bourne, in 1725, tells us, that "on the Eve of St. John Baptist, commonly called Midsummer-Eve, it is usual in the most of country places, and also here and there in towns and cities, for both old and young to meet together, and be merry over a large fire, which is made in the open street. Over this they frequently leap and play at various games, such as running, wrestling, dancing, &c. But this is generally the exercise of the younger sort; for the old ones, for the most part, sit by as spectators, and enjoy themselves and their bottle. And thus they spend their time till mid-night, and sometimes till cock-crow[331:A];" and Borlase, in his History of Cornwall, about thirty years later, states, that "the Cornish make bonefires in every village on the Eve of St. John Baptist's and St. Peter's Days."[331:B]

It was a common superstition in the days of Shakspeare, and for two centuries preceding him, that the future husband or wife might be discovered on this Eve or on St. Agnes' night, by due fasting and [332]by certain ceremonies; thus, if a maiden, fasting on Midsummer-Eve, laid a clean cloth at midnight, with bread, cheese, and ale, and sate down, with the street door open, the person whom she is fated to marry will enter the room, fill the glass, drink to her, bow and retire.[332:A] A similar effect, as to the visionary appearance of the destined bridegroom, was supposed to follow the sowing of hempseed on this night, either in the field or church-yard. Mr. Strutt, depicting the manners of the fifteenth century, has given this latter superstition, from the mouth of an imaginary witch, in the following rhymes:—

"Around the church see that you go,
With kirtle white and girdle blue,
At midnight thrice, and hempseed sow;
Calling upon your lover true,
Thus shalt thou say;
These seeds I sow: swift let them grow,
Till he, who must my husband be,
Shall follow me and mow:"[332:B]

a charm which appears to have been in vogue even in the time of Gay, who, in his Shepherd's Week, makes Hobnelia say,—

"At eve last midsummer no sleep I sought,
But to the field a bag of hempseed brought;
I scatter'd round the seed on every side,
And three times in a trembling accent cried,
"This hempseed with my virgin hand I sow,
Who shall my true-love be, the crop shall mow."
I straight look'd back, and if my eyes speak truth,
With his keen scythe behind me came the youth."

The Spell, line 27.

Another mode, which prevailed in the 16th and 17th centuries, of procuring similar information on this festival, through the medium of dreams, consisted in digging for what was called the plantain [333]coal; the search was to commence exactly at noon, and the material, when found, to be placed on the pillow at night. Of a wild-goose expedition of this kind Aubrey reports himself to have been a spectator. "The last summer," says he, "on the day of St. John Baptist, 1694, I accidentally was walking in the pasture behind Montague-house: it was twelve o'clock. I saw there about two or three and twenty young women, most of them well habited, on their knees, very busy, as if they had been weeding. I could not presently learn what the matter was; at last, a young man told me that they were looking for a coal under the root of a plantain, to put under their heads that night, and they should dream who would be their husbands: it was to be found that day and hour." He adds, "the women have several magical secrets handed down to them by tradition for this purpose, as, on St. Agnes' night, 21st January, take a row of pins, and pull out every one one after another, saying a paternoster, or 'our father,' sticking a pin in your sleeve, and you will dream of him or her you shall marry[333:A];" spells to which Ben Jonson alludes, when he says,—

——— "On sweet St. Agnes' night
Please you with the promis'd sight;
Some of husbands, some of lovers,
Which an empty dream discovers."[333:B]

That it was the custom, in Elizabeth's and James's days, to tell tales or perform plays and masques on Christmas-Eve, on Twelfth Night, and on Midsummer-Eve, may be drawn from the dramas of Shakspeare, and the masques of Jonson. The Midsummer-Night's Dream of the former, appears to have been so called, because its exhibition was to take place on that night, for the time of action of the piece itself, is the vigil of May-Day, as is that of the Winter's Tale the period of sheep-shearing. It is probable also, as Mr. Steevens has observed, that Shakspeare might have been influenced in his choice of the fanciful machinery of this play, by the recollection of [334]the proverb attached to the season, and which he has himself introduced in the Twelfth-Night, where Olivia remarks of Malvolio's apparent distraction, that it "is a very Midsummer madness[334:A];" an adage founded on the common opinion, that the brain, being heated by the intensity of the sun's rays, was more susceptible of those flights of imagination which border on insanity, than at any other period of the year.

The next season distinguished by any very remarkable tincture of the popular creed, is Michaelmas, or the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. When ever this day comes, says Bourne, "it brings into the minds of the people, that old opinion of Tutelar Angels, that every man has his Guardian Angel; that is one particular angel who attends him from his coming in, till his going out of life, who guides him through the troubles of the world, and strives as much as he can, to bring him to heaven."[334:B]

That the doctrine of the ministry of angels, and their occasional interference with the affairs of man, is an old opinion, cannot be denied. It pervades the whole of the Old and New Testaments, and appears to have been an article of the patriarchal creed; for from the Book of Job, perhaps the oldest which exists, may be drawn not only the doctrine of the ministration of angels, but that of their division into certain distinct orders, such as angels, intercessors, destroyers, &c.[334:C] With this general information we ought to have been content: but superstition has been busy in promulgating hierarchies, the offspring of its own heated imagination; in minutely ascertaining the numbers and offices of angels in heaven and on earth; and in naming and appropriating certain of them as the guardians and protectors of kingdoms, cities, families, and individuals. The mythologies of Persia, Arabia, and Greece, abound with these arbitrary arrangements; Hesiod declares that the angels appointed to [335]watch over the earth, amount exactly to thirty-thousand[335:A]; and Plato divides the world of spirits good and bad into nine classes, in which he has been followed by some of the philosophising Christians. The angelic hierarchy of Dionysius, however, is the one usually adopted; he professes to interfere only with good spirits, and divides his angels, perhaps in imitation of Plato, into nine orders; the first he terms seraphim, the second cherubim, the third thrones, the fourth dominations, the fifth virtues, the sixth powers, the seventh principalities, the eighth archangels, and the ninth angels.[335:B] Not content with this he goes still farther, and has assigned to every country, and almost to every person of eminence, a peculiar angel, thus to Adam he gives Razael; to Abraham, Zakiel; to Isaiah, Raphael; to Jacob, Peliel; to Moses, Metraton, &c., speaking, as Calvin observes, not as if by report, but as though he had slipped down from heaven, and told of the things which he had seen there.[335:C]

Of this systematic hierarchy the greater portion formed, during the age of Shakspeare, and for nearly a century afterwards, an important part of the popular creed, as may be ascertained from an inspection of Scot on Witchcraft in 1584, Heywood's Hierarchie of the Blessed Angells, their Names, Orders, and Offices, in 1635, and from Burton's Anatomie of Melancholy, which, though first published in 1617, continued to re-appear in frequent editions until the close of the seventeenth century.

[336]The doctrine of Guardian Angels, as appropriated to individuals, more especially appears to have been entertained by Shakspeare and his contemporaries; an idea pleasing to the human mind, though, in the opinion of the most acute theologians, not warranted by Scripture; where only the general ministry of angels is recorded; and, accordingly, the collect of the day, in our admirable Liturgy, merely refers to, and prays for, such general interference in our behalf.

The assignment of a good angel, or of a good and bad angel to every individual, as soon as created, is supported by the English Lavaterus in 1572, and recorded as the general object of belief, by the rational Scot, in his interesting discourse on spirits.

"Saint Herome in his Commentaries," says Lavaterus, "and other fathers do conclude, that God doth assigne unto every soule assoone as he createth him his peculiar Angell, which taketh care of him. But whether that every one of the elect have hys proper angell, or many angells be appoynted unto him, it is not expresly sette foorth, yet this is most sure and certayne, that God hath given his angells in charge to have regard and care over us. Daniel witnesseth in his tenth chapter, that angells have also charge of kingdomes, by whom God keepeth and protecteth them, and hindreth the wicked counsels of the devill. It may be proved by many places of the Scripture, that all Christian men have not only one angell, but also many, whome God imployeth to their service. In the 34 psalm it is sayde, the angell of the Lorde pitcheth his tentes rounde about them whiche feare the Lorde, and helpeth them: which ought not to be doubted but that it is also at this daye, albeit we see them not. We reade that they appearing in sundrye shapes, have admonished menne, have comforted them, defended them, delivered them from daunger, and also punished the wicked. Touching this matter, there are plentiful examples, whiche are not needefull to be repeated in this place. Somtimes they have eyther appeared in sleep, or in manner of visions, and sometimes they have perfourmed their office, by some internall operations: as when a man's mynde foresheweth him, that a thing shall so happen, and [337]after it happeneth so in deede, which thyng I suppose is doone by God, through the minesterie of angells. Angells for the most part take upon them the shapes of men, wherein they appeare."[337:A]

"Monsieur Bodin, M. Mal. and manie other papists," observes Scot, who gives us his opinion on the nature of angels, "gather upon the seventh of Daniel, that there are just ten millians of angels in heaven. Manie saie that angels are not by nature, but by office. Finallie, it were infinite to shew the absurd and curious collections hereabout. I for my part thinke with Calvine, that angels are creatures of God; though Moses spake nothing of their creation, who onelie applied himselfe to the capacitie of the common people, reciting nothing but things seene. And I saie further with him, that they are heavenlie spirits, whose ministration and service God useth: and in that respect are called angels. I saie yet againe with him, that it is verie certaine, that they have no shape at all; for they are spirits, who never have anie: and finallie, I saie with him, that the Scriptures, for the capacitie of our wit, dooth not in vaine paint out angels unto us with wings; bicause we should conceive, that they are readie swiftlie to succour us. And certeinlie all the sounder divines doo conceive and give out, that both the names and also the number of angels are set downe in the Scripture by the Holie-ghost, in termes to make us understand the greatnesse and the manner of their messages; which (I saie) are either expounded by the number of angels, or signified by their names.

"Furthermore, the schoole doctors affirme, that foure of the superior orders of angels never take anie forme or shape of bodies, neither are sent of anie arrand at anie time. As for archangels, they are sent onlie about great and secret matters; and angels are common hacknies about everie trifle; and that these can take what shape or bodie they list: marie they never take the forme of women or children. Item, they saie that angels take most terrible shapes: for Gabriel appeared to Marie, when he saluted hir, facie rutilante, veste [338]coruscante, ingressu mirabili, aspectu terribili, &c.: that is, with a bright countenance, shining attire, wonderfull gesture, and a dredfull visage, &c. It hath beene long, and continueth yet a constant opinion, not onlie among the papists; but among others also, that everie man hath assigned him, at the time of his nativitie, a good angell and a bad. For the which there is no reason in nature, nor authoritie in Scripture. For not one angell, but all the angels are said to rejoise more of one convert, than of ninetie and nine just. Neither did one onlie angel conveie Lazarus into Abraham's bosome. And therefore I conclude with Calvine, that he which referreth to one angel, the care that God hath to everie one of us, dooth himselfe great wrong."[338:A]

That Shakspeare embraced the doctrine common in his age, which assigns to every individual, at his birth, a good and bad angel, an idea highly poetical in itself, and therefore acceptable to a fervid imagination, is evident from the following remarkable passages:

"There is a good angel about him—but the devil out-bids him too."[338:B]
"You follow the young prince up and down like his ill angel."[338:C]
"Thy daemon, that's thy spirit which keeps thee, is
Noble, courageous, high, unmatchable,
Where Cæsar's is not; but near him, thy angel
Becomes a Fear, as being o'erpowered——
———————— I say again, thy spirit
Is all afraid to govern thee near him;
But, he away, 'tis noble;"[338:D]

and in Macbeth the same imagery is repeated—

—————— "near him,
My genius is rebuk'd; as, it is said,
Mark Antony's was by Cæsar's."[338:E]

[339]These lines from Antony and Cleopatra and Macbeth, which are founded on a passage in North's Plutarch, where the soothsayer says to Antony, "thy Demon, (that is to say, the good angell and spirit that keepeth thee) is affraied of his," sufficiently prove that the Roman Catholic doctrine of a good and evil angel is immediately drawn from the belief of Pagan antiquity in the agency of good and evil genii, a dogma to which we know their greatest philosophers were addicted, as is apparent from the Demon of Socrates.

Of the general, and as it may be termed, the patriarchal, doctrine of the ministry of angels, no poet has made so admirable an use as Milton, who tells us, in his Paradise Lost, that

"Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep,
All these, with ceaseless praise, his works behold,
Both day and night. How often, from the steep
Of echoing hill or thicket, have we heard
Celestial voices, through the midnight air,
Sole or responsive to each other's note,
Singing their great Creator! oft, in bands,
While they keep watch; or, nightly walking round,
With heavenly touch of instrumental sounds,
In full harmonic number join'd; their songs
Divide the night, and lift our thoughts to heaven."[339:A]

We must be permitted to observe, in this place, that Dr. Horsley has, with great propriety, drawn a marked distinction between the full-formed hierarchy of fanciful theologians, and the Scripture-account of angelic agency; while he reprobates the one, he supports the other; "those," says he, "who broached this doctrine (of an hierarchy of angels governing this world) could tell us exactly how many orders there are, and how many angels in each order; that the different orders have their different departments in government assigned to them; some, constantly attending in the presence of God, form his cabinet council; others are his provincial governors; every kingdom [340]in the world having its appointed guardian angel, to whose management it is intrusted: others again are supposed to have the charge and custody of individuals. This system is, in truth, nothing better than Pagan polytheism." He then subsequently and most judiciously gives us the following summary of Biblical information on the subject: "that the holy angels," he remarks, "are often employed by God in his government of this sublunary world, is indeed clearly to be proved by holy writ: that they have powers over the matter of the universe analogous to the powers over it which men possess, greater in extent, but still limited, is a thing which might reasonably be supposed, if it were not declared: but it seems to be confirmed by many passages of holy writ, from which it seems also evident that they are occasionally, for certain specific purposes, commissioned to exercise those powers to a prescribed extent. That the evil angels possessed, before the fall, the like powers, which they are still occasionally permitted to exercise for the punishment of wicked nations, seems also evident. That they have a power over the human sensory (which is part of the material universe), which they are occasionally permitted to exercise, by means of which they may inflict diseases, suggest evil thoughts, and be the instruments of temptations, must also be admitted."[340:A]

We shall conclude these observations on St. Michael's Day by adding, that in both the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, it was the custom of landlords to invite their tenants on this day, and to dine them in their great halls on Geese; birds which were then only kept by the gentry, and therefore esteemed a great delicacy. We must consequently set aside the tradition which attributes the introduction of this bird on the festival of St. Michael to Queen Elizabeth; the tale avers, that, being on her road to Tilbury Fort, she dined on Michaelmas Day 1588, at Sir Neville Umfreville's seat, near that place, and that the knight, recollecting her partiality for high-seasoned food, had taken care to procure for her a savoury goose, [341]after eating heartily of which she called for a half-pint bumper of Burgundy, and had scarcely drank it off to the destruction of the Spanish Armada, when she received the news of that joyful event; delighted with the speedy accomplishment of her toast, she is said to have annually commemorated this day with a goose, and that, of course, the example was followed by the Court and through the kingdom at large. The custom, however, must be referred to a preceding age, in which it will be found that the nobility and gentry had usually this delicious bird at their tables, both on St. Michael's and St. Martin's Day.[341:A]

We now approach another remarkably superstitious period of the year, the observance of which took place on the 31st of October, being the Vigil of All Saints' Day, and has been therefore commonly termed All Hallow Eve. In the North of England, and in Scotland, this was formerly a night of rejoicing and of the most mysterious rites and ceremonies. As beyond the Tweed the harvest was seldom completely got in before the close of October, Halloween became a kind of Harvest-home-feast; thus, Mr. Shaw informs us, in his History of the Province of Moray, that "a solemnity was kept, on the Eve of the first of November, as a thanksgiving for the safe Ingathering of the produce of the fields. This I am told, but have not seen it, is observed in Buchan, and other countries, by having Hallow-Eve Fires kindled on some rising ground."[341:B] In England Hallow-eve has been generally called Nut-crack Night, from one of the numerous spells usually had recourse to at this season; and in Shakspeare it is alluded to under the customary appellation of Hallowmas, where Speed tells Valentine in the Two Gentlemen of Verona, that he knows him to be in love, because he has learnt "to speak puling, like a beggar at Hallowmas[341:C];" a simile which refers to a relique of the Roman Catholic Festival of All Souls Day on the 2d of November, when prayers were offered up for the repose of the [342]souls of the departed; it being the custom, in Shakspeare's time, and is still, we believe, observed in some parts of the North, for the poor on All-Saints-Day to go a souling, as they term it, and in a plaintive or puling voice to petition for soul-cakes. "In various parts of England," remarks Brady, "the remembrance of monastic customs is still preserved by giving oaten cakes to the poor neighbours, conformably to what was once the general usage, particularly in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Herefordshire, &c. when, by way of expressing gratitude, the receivers of this liberality offered the following homely benediction:

"God have your saul,
Bones and all;"

bearing more the appearance, in these enlightened days, of rustic scoff, than of thankfulness."[342:A]

What has rendered All-Hallow-Eve, however, a period of mysterious dread, is the tradition, that on this night the host of evil spirits, witches, wizards, &c. are executing their baneful errands, and that the fairy court holds a grand annual procession, during which, those who have been carried off by the fairies may be recovered, provided the attempt be made within a year and a day from the abstraction of the person stolen. That this achievement, which was attended with great peril, could only be performed on Hallow-Eve, and that this night was esteemed the anniversary of the elfin tribe, may be established on the evidence of our northern poets. Montgomery, in his Flyting against Polwart, published about 1584, thus mentions the procession:

"In the hinder end of harvest, on All-hallow een,
When our gude neighbours dois ride, if I read right,
Some buckled on a bunewand, and some on a been,
Ay trottand in troups from the twilight;
[343]
Some saidled a she-ape, all grathed into green,
Some hobland on a hemp stalk, hovard to the hight,
The king of Pharie and his court, with the elf queen,
With many elfish incubus was ridand that night;"[343:A]

and in the ballad called Young Tamlane, whose antiquity is ascertained from being noticed in the Complaynt of Scotland, the chief incident of the story is the recovery of Tamlane from the power of the fairies on this holy eve:—

"This night is Hallowe'en, Janet;
The morn is Hallowday;
And, gin ye dare your true love win,
Ye have nae time to stay.
The night it is good Hallowein,
When fairy folk will ride;
And they, that wad their true love win,
At Miles Cross they maun bide."[343:B]

It is still recorded by tradition, relates Mr. Scott, that "the wife of a farmer in Lothian having been carried off by the fairies, she, during the year of probation, repeatedly appeared on Sunday, in the midst of her children, combing their hair. On one of these occasions she was accosted by her husband; when she related to him the unfortunate event which had separated them, instructed him by what means he might win her, and exhorted him to exert all his courage, since her temporal and eternal happiness depended on the success of his attempt. The farmer, who ardently loved his wife, set out on Hallowe'en, and, in the midst of a plot of furze, waited impatiently for the procession of the fairies. At the ringing of the fairy bridles, and the wild unearthly sound which accompanied the cavalcade, his heart failed him, and he suffered the ghostly train to pass by without interruption. When the last had rode past, the whole troop vanished, with loud shouts of laughter and exultation; among which [344]he plainly discovered the voice of his wife, lamenting that he had lost her for ever."[344:A]

Numerous have been the ceremonies, spells, and charms, which formerly distinguished All-Hallow-Eve. In England, except in a few remote places in the North, they have ceased to be observed for the last half century; but in the West of Scotland they are still retained with a kind of religious veneration, as is sufficiently proved by the inimitable poem of Burns, entitled Halloween, which, in a vein of exquisite poetry and genuine humour, minutely details the various superstitions, which have been practised on this night from time immemorial. Of these, as including all which prevailed in England, and which were, in a great degree, common to both countries, in the time of Shakspeare, we shall give a few sketches, nearly in the words of Burns, as annexed in the notes to his poem, merely observing that one of the spells, that of sowing hemp-seed, is omitted, as having been already described among the rites of Midsummer-Eve.

The first ceremony of Hallow-Eve consisted in the lads and lasses pulling each a stock, or plant of kail. They were to go out, hand in hand, with eyes shut, and to pull the first they met with. Its being big or little, straight or crooked, was prophetic of the size and shape of the grand object of all their spells—the husband or wife. If any yird, or earth, stuck to the root, that was considered as the tocher, or fortune; and the taste of the custoc, that is, the heart of the stem, was deemed indicative of the natural temper and disposition. Lastly, the stems, or, to give them their ordinary appellation, the runts, were placed somewhere above the head of the door; and the Christian names of the people whom chance brought into the house, were, according to the priority of placing the runts, the names in question.

In the second, the lasses were to go to the barn-yard, and pull each, at three several times, a stalk of oats. If the third stalk wanted the top-pickle, that is, the grain at the top of the stalk, the party in question would come to the marriage-bed any thing but a maid.

[345]The third depended on the burning of nuts, and was a favourite charm both in England and Scotland. A lad and lass were named to each particular nut, as they laid them in the fire, and accordingly as they burnt quietly together, or started from beside each other, the course and issue of the courtship were to be determined.

In the fourth, success could only be obtained by strictly adhering to the following directions. Steal out, all alone, to the kiln, and, darkling, throw into the pot, a clue of blue yarn; wind it in a new clue off the old one: and, towards the latter end, something will hold the thread; demand, who holds it? and an answer will be returned from the kiln-pot, by naming the christian and sirname of your future spouse.

To perform the fifth, you were to take a candle, and go alone to a looking-glass; you were then to eat an apple before it, combing your hair all the time; when the face of your conjugal companion, to be, will be seen in the glass, as if peeping over your shoulder.

The sixth was likewise a solitary charm, in which it was necessary to go alone and unperceived to the barn, and open both doors, taking them off the hinges, if possible, least the being, about to appear, should shut the doors, and do you some mischief. Then you were to take the machine used in winnowing the corn, and go through all the attitudes of letting down the grain against the wind; and on the third repetition of this ceremony, an apparition would be seen passing through the barn, in at the windy door, and out at the other, having both the figure of your future companion for life, and also the appearance or retinue, marking the employment or station in life.

To secure an effective result from the seventh, you were ordered to take an opportunity of going, unnoticed, to a Bear-stack, and fathom it three times round; when during the last fathom of the last time, you would be sure to catch in your arms the appearance of your destined yoke-fellow.

In order to carry the eighth into execution, one or more were injoined to seek a south running spring or rivulet, where "three lairds lands meet," and to dip into it the left shirt-sleeve. You were then [346]to go to bed in sight of a fire, and to hang the wet sleeve before it to dry; it was necessary, however, to lie awake, when at midnight, an apparition, having the exact figure of the future husband or wife, would come, and turn the sleeve, as if to dry the other side of it.[346:A]

For the due performance of the ninth, you were directed to take three dishes; to put clean water in one, foul water in another, and to leave the third empty: you were then to blindfold a person, and lead him to the hearth where the dishes were ranged, ordering him to dip the left hand; when, if this happened to be in the clean water, it was a sign that the future conjugal mate would come to the bar of matrimony [347]a maid; if in the foul, a widow; if in the empty dish, it foretold, with equal certainty, no marriage at all. This ceremony was to be repeated three times, and every time the arrangement of the dishes was to be altered.[347:A]

Such are the various superstitions which were formerly observed at peculiar periods of the year, and which still maintain a certain portion of credit among the peasantry of Scotland and the North of England. To the catalogue of Saints thus loaded with the rites of popular credulity, may be added one whose celebrity seems to be entirely founded on the casual notice of Shakspeare. In his Tragedy of King Lear, Edgar introduces St. Withold as an opponent, and a protector against the assaults, of that formidable Incubus, the Night-mare:—

"Saint Withold footed thrice the wold;
He met the Night-mare, and her nine-fold;
Bid her alight,
And her troth plight,
And, aroint thee, witch, aroint thee!"[347:B]

Warburton informs us, that this agency of the Saint is taken from a story of him in his legend, and that he was thence invoked as the patron saint against the distemper, called the night-mare; but Mr. Tyrwhitt declares, that he could not find this adventure in the common legends of St. Vitalis, whom he supposes to be synonymous with St. Withold. It is probable that Shakspeare took the hint, for the ascription of this achievement to Withold, from Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft, where a similar power is attributed to St. George. That writer, after mentioning that there are magical cures for the night-mare, gives the following as an example:—

"St. George, S. George, our ladies knight,
He walkt by daie, so did he by night:
Untill such time as he hir found,
He hir beat and he hir bound.
[348]Untill hir troth she to him plight,
She would not come to hir (him) that night:"[348:A]

a form which is quoted nearly verbatim, and professedly as a night-spell, in the Monsieur Thomas of Fletcher.[348:B] It