Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

"He enquyrede,

says he, "muche of lernynge, and showede me his owne in suche sorte, as made me remember my examiner at Cambridge aforetyme. He soughte muche to knowe my advances in philosophie, and utterede profounde sentences of Aristotle, and suche lyke wryters, whiche I had never reade, and which some are bolde enoughe to saye, others do not understand: but this I must passe by. The prince did nowe presse my readinge to him parte of a canto in Ariosto; praysede my utterance, and said he had been informede of manie, as to my lernynge, in the tyme of the Queene. He asked me what I thoughte pure witte was made of; and whom it did best become? Whether a Kynge shoulde not be the best clerke in his own countrie; and, if this lande did not entertayne goode opinion of his lernynge and good wisdome?' His Majestie did much presse for my opinion touchinge the power of Satane in matter of witchcraft; and askede Theme, with muche gravitie,-If I did trulie understande, why the devil did worke more with anciente women than others?' I did not refraine from a scurvey jeste, and even saide (notwithstandinge to whom it was said) that—we were taught hereof in scripture, where it is tolde, that the devil walketh in dry places.-His Highnesse tolde me the Queene his mothers deathe was visible in Scotlande before it did really happen, being, as he saide, spoken of in secrete by those whose power of sight presentede to them a bloodie heade dancinge in the aire.' He then did remarke muche on this gifte, and saide he had soughte out of certaine bookes a sure waie to attaine knowledge of future chances. Hereat, he namede many bookes, which I did not knowe, nor by whom written; but advisede me not to consult some authors which woulde leade me to evill consultations—at lengthe he saide: Now, Sir, you have seene my wisdome in some sorte, and I have pried into yours. I praye you, do me justice in your reporte, and in good season, I will not fail to add to your understandinge, in suche pointes as I maye find you lacke amendment." This is an extract which lays open the heart of James, and speaks volumes on the subject.

The manners of the reigning monarch imperceptibly give a colouring to those of every class of society, stronger in proportion to its approximation to the source; ara remark which is fully exemplified in the females of the reign of Elizabeth, those especially who constituted, or were near, the court, copying, according to their ability, the virtues, accomplishments, and foibles of the Queen. They were learned, skilled in needle-work, and wrote a beautiful hand, in emulation of the Queen's, which, in the earlier period of her life, was peculiarly elegant; but they were, also, vain, capricious, and in their habits and language often masculine and coarse. It was customary for ladies of the first rank to give manual correction to their servants of both sexes; a practice of which Shakspeare has given us an instance in his Twelfth-Night, where Maria, alluding to Malvolio's whimsical appearance, says, "I know my lady will strike him." (Act iii. sc. 2.) Nor were often their daily occupations, or their language, when provoked, in the least degree more feminine; we are told that Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, "was a builder, buyer and seller of estates, a money lender, a farmer, and a merchant of lead, coals and timber;" and her daughter Mary, who married Gilbert, seventh Earl of Shrewsbury, sent the following message to Sir Thomas Stanhope, with whom she had quarrelled, by one George Williamson, which message was

[ocr errors]

“Delivered by the said Williamson, February 15, 1592, in the presence of certain persons whose names were subscribed My Lady hath commanded me to say thus much to you. That though you be more wretched, vile, and miserable, than any creature living; and for your wickedness, become more ugly in shape than the vilest toad in the world; and one to whom none of reputation would vouchsafe to send any message; yet she hath thought good to send thus much to you that she be contented you should live (and doth nowaies wish your death), but to this end: that all the plagues and miseries that may befall any man may light upon such a caitiff as you are; and that you should live to have all your friends forsake you; and, without your great repentance, which she looketh not for because your hath been so bad, you will be damned perpetually in hell fire.' With many other opprobrious and hatefull words, which could not be remembered, because the bearer would deliver it but once, as he said he was commanded; but said if he had failed in any thing, it was in speaking it more mildly, and not in terms of such disdain as he was commanded.” †

Nuge Antiquæ, vol. i. p. 367–370.

Lodge's Illustrations of British History, vol. i. Introduction, p. xviii. xix. from a MS. in the possession of the Rev. Sir Richard Kaye, Dean of Lincoln.

Of the male population of this period, the manners seem to have been compounded from the characters of the two sovereigns. Like Elizabeth, they were brave, magnanimous, and prudent; and sometimes, like James, credulous, curious, and dissipated. On the virtues, happily from their notoriety, there is little occasion to comment; foreigners, as well as natives, bearing testimony to their existence thus Hentzner tells us," The English are serious, like the Germans; -they are powerful in the field, successful against their enemies, impatient of any thing like slavery." * But of the foibles and vices, as more evanescent and mutable, it may be interesting to state a few particulars.

Of the credulity and superstition which abounded during this era, and which had been fostered by the weakness of James, a sufficient detail has already been given in a former part of this work; and we shall here merely add, that Álchemistry was one of the foolish pursuits of the day. Scot, who has devoted the fourteenth book of his treatise on the "Discoverie of Witchcraft," to this subject, tells us that the admirable description given by Chaucer of this folly, in his Chanones Yemannes prologue and tale, still strictly applied to its cultivators in 1584, who continued to

sarcasm:

"Icoke ill-favouredlie,

And were alwaies tired boggarlie,
So as by smelling and thredbare araie,

These folke are knowne and discerned alwaie." +

An insatiable curiosity for seeing strange sights, and hearing strange adventures, together with an eager desire for visiting foreign countries, prevailed in an extraordinary degree during the age of Shakspeare, who has, in several parts of his works, satirized these propensities with much humour. In the Tempest, for instance, he has held up to scorn the first of these foibles in an admirable strain of "A strange fish! Were I in England now (as once I was), and had but this fish painted, not a holiday fool there but would give a piece of silver; there would this monster make a man; any strange beast there makes a man: when they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian;" (act ii. sc. 2) a passage which Mr. Douce has very appositely illustrated by a quotation from Batman. "Of late years," says the Gothic Pliny, "there hath been brought into England, the cases or skinnes of such crocodiles to be seene, and much money given for the sight thereof; the policy of strangers laugh at our folly, either that we are too wealthy, or else that we know not how to bestow our money." +

Of the influence arising from the relation of strange adventures, we have a striking proof in the character of Othello, who won the affections of his mistress by the detail of his "hair-breadth scapes :"

"Wherein of antres vast, and desarts idle,

Rough quarries, rocks, and hills whose heads touch heaven
It was 'his' hint to speak."

Act i. sc. 3.

It appears, indeed, that the conversation of this period very frequently turned upon the wonderful discoveries of travellers, whose voyages to, and travels in the New World then occupied much of the public attention. Exaggeration, from a love of importance, too often accompanied these narratives, a license which our poet has happily ridiculed in the following lines:

[blocks in formation]

Hentzner's Travels, p. 63, 64.

Discoverie of Witchcraft, 4to. p. 355, 356.—Scot has taken great liberties with the text of Chaucer, both in modernising the language, and in tacking together widely separated lines and couplets. Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 14.-Batman upon Bartholome, fol. 359 b.,

Whose heads stood in their breasts? which now we find

Each putter-out on five for one, will bring us
Good warrant of."

Tempest. Act iii. sc. 3.

The close of this passage alludes to a practice then common among the nume-. rous travellers of those times, of putting out their money, especially when about to undertake a long and hazardous journey, for the purpose of receiving exorbitant interest on their return: a custom which, Moryson informs us, originated among the nobility, but before 1617 had become frequent even with men of base condition. Thus we find Ben Jonson, in 1599, representing Puntarvolo, in "Every Man out of his Humour," disclosing such a scheme:-"I do intend," says he, "this year of jubilee coming on, to travel: and, because I will not altogether go 20 upon expense, I am determined to put forth some five thousand pound, to be paid me five for one, upon the return of myself, my wife, and my dog from the Turk's court in Constantinople. If all or either of us miscarry in the journey, 'tis gone: if we be successful, why there will be five and twenty thousand pound to entertain time withal." Act ii. sc. 3.

To such a height had this passion for travelling attained, that those who were not able to accomplish a distant expedition, crossed over to France or Italy, and gave themselves as many airs on their return, as if they had been to the antipodes; a species of affectation which Shakspeare acutely satirizes in the following terms: -"Farewell, monsieur traveller; look, you lisp, and wear strange suits; disable all the benefits of your own country; be out of love with your nativity, and almost chide God for making you that countenance you are; or I will scarce think you have swam in a gondola."

An equally severe castigation has been bestowed on these superficial ramblers, in "Observations and Discourses," published by Edward Blount, in 1620, who informs us, that their discourse made them every where ridiculous. "The name of English gelding," he adds, "frights them; and thence they take occasion to fall into the commendation of a mule, or an ass. A pasty of venison makes them sweat, and then swear that the only delicacies be mushrooms, or caveare, or snails. A toast in beer or ale drives them into madness; and so to declaim against the absurd and ignorant customs of their own country, and thereupon digress into the commendation of drinking their wine refreshed with ice or snow."

The pernicious habit of gaming had become almost universal in the days of Elizabeth, and, if we may credit George Whetstone, had reached a prodigious degree of excess. Speaking of the licentiousness of the stage previous to the appearance of Shakspeare, he adds,

"But there are in the bowels of this famous citie, farre more daungerous plays, and little reprebended: that wicked playes of the dice, first invented by the devill (as Cornelius Agrippa wryteth), and frequented by unhappy men: the detestable roote, upon which a thousand villanies

grow.

"The nurses of thease (worse than heathenysh) hellish exercises are places called ordinary tables of which there are in London, more in nomber to honour the devyll, than churches to serve the living God.

"I constantly determine to crosse the streets, where these vile houses (ordinaries) are planted, to blesse me from the inticements of them, which in very deed are many, and the more dangerous in that they please with a vain hope of gain. Insomuch on a time, I heard a distemperate dicer solemnly sweare that he faithfully beleeved, that dice were first made of the bones of a witch, and cards of her skin, in which there hath ever sithence remained an inchantment y' whosoever once taketh delight in either, he shall never have power utterly to leave them, for, quoth he, I a hundred times vowed to leave both, yet have not the grace to forsake either." +

No opportunity for the practice of this ruinous habit seems to have been omitted, and we find the modern mode of gambling, by taking the odds, to have been fully

As You Like It, act iv. sc. 1.

The Enemie to Vathryftinesse: publishing by Lawes, documents and disciplines. &c. By Georga Whetstons, Gent. Printed at London by Richard Jones, 1586." 4to. p. 24, 32.-Vide British Bibliogra pher, vol. iii. p. 601-604.

established towards the latter end of the sixteenth century; for Gilbert Talbot, writing to his father, the Earl of Shrewsbury, on May the 15th, 1579, after informing His Lordship, that the matter of the Queen's marriage with Monsieur " is growne very colde," subjoins, " and yet I know a man may take a thousande pounds, in this towne, to be bounde to pay doble so muche when Mons. cumethe into Inglande, and treble so muche when he marryethe the Q. Ma., and if he nether doe the one nor the other, to gayne the thousande poundes cleare."

66

Duelling, at this period, from its frequency, had given rise to a complicated system of rules for its regulation, and to fixed schools for its practice and improvement. The Noble Science of Defence," as it was called, included three degrees, a Master's, a Provost's, and a Scholar's, and for each of these a regular prize was played. In order, also, to obviate disputes, "four Ancient Masters of Defence" were constituted, who resided" in the city of London," and to whom not only difficult points of honour were referred, but tribute was likewise paid by all inferior professors of the science.

Nor were books wanting to explain, and to adjust, the causes and the modes of quarrelling. Of these the two most celebrated were written by Saviolo and Caranza, authors who are repeatedly mentioned by Shakspeare, Jonson, and Fletcher. The absurd minuteness of Saviolo's treatise, entitled, "Of Honour and honourable Quarrels," 4to, 1595, has been ridiculed with exquisite humour in As You Like It, where Touchstone says

"O sir, we quarrel in print, by the book;-we met, and found the quarrel was upon the seventh

cause.

Jaq. How did you find the quarrel on the seventh cause?

Touch. Upon a lie seven times removed ;-as thus : I did dislike the cut of a certain courtier's beard; he sent me word, if I said his heard was not cut well, he was in the mind it was: This is called the Retort courteous. If I sent him word again, it was not well cut, he would send me word, he cut it to please himself: This is called the Quip modest. If again, it was not well cut, be disabled my judgment: This is call'd the Reply churlish. If again, it was not well cut, he would answer, I spake not true: This is call'd the Reproof valiant. If again, it was not well cut, be would say, I lie: This is call'd the Countercheck quarrelsome: and so to the Lie circumstantial, and the Lie direct-All these you may avoid, but the lie direct; and you may avoid that too, with an If. I knew when seven justices could not take up a quarrel; but when the parties were met themselves, one of them thought but of an If, as, If you said so, then I said so; and they shook hands, and swore brothers. Your If is the only peace-maker; much virtue in If."-Act v. sc. 4. Nor is this much exaggerated; for Saviolo has a chapter on the Diversity of Lies, and enumerates the "Lie certain," the "conditional Lie," the "Lie in general,” the "Lie in particular," the "foolish Lie," and the "returning back of the Lie."

A taste for gossiping, as well amongst the male as female sex, was more than usually prevalent at this epoch. An anonymous writer of 1620, speaking of male gossips, describes their trifling and vexatiously intrusive manners, in a way which leads us to conclude, that the evil was severely felt, and of great magnitude:

"It is a wonder," says he, "to see what multitudes there be of all sorts that make this their only business, and in a manner spend their whole time in compliment; as if they were born to no other end, bred to no other purpose, had nothing else to do, than to be a kind of living walking ghosts, to haunt and persecute others with unnecessary observation.—

"If these giddy goers be forced to give a reason for their wheeling up and down the streets, their answer is, they know not else how to pass their time. And how tedious it is, for a man that accounts his hours, to be subject to these vacancies, and apply himself to lose a day with such time-passers; who neither come for business, nor out of true friendship, but only to spend the day; as if one had nothing else to do, but to supply their idle time!

"After they have asked you how you do, and told some old or fabulous news, laughed twice or thrice in your face, and censured those they know you love not (when, peradventure, the next place they go to, is to them-where they will be as courteous to you): spoke a few words of fashions and alterations ;-made legs and postures of the last editlon; with three or four diminetive oaths and protestations of their service and observance; they then retire."

The diminutive oaths, mentioned at the close of this quotation, were, unfortu

nately, considered as ornaments of conversation, and adopted by both sexes, in order to give spirit and vivacity to their language; a shocking practice, which seems to have been rendered fashionable by the very reprehensible habit of the Queen, whose oaths were neither diminutive nor rare; for it is said, that she never spared an oath in public speech or private conversation when she thought it added energy to either. After this example in the highest classes, we need not be surprised when Stubbes tells us, speaking of the great body of the people, that, "if they speake but three or four words, yet they must be interlaced with a bloudie oath or two."

These abominable expletives appear to have formed no small share of the language of compliment, a species of simulation which was carried to an extraordinary height in the days of our poet: thus Marston, describing the finished gallant, says,

[blocks in formation]

Decker, apostrophising the courtiers of his day, and playing upon a term of Guido's musical scale, exclaims, "You courtiers, that do nothing but sing the gamut A-Re of complimental courtesy ;" † and Shakspeare, painting this

66 sweet, sweet poison for the age's tooth,

represents the Bastard in his King John, thus addressing a travelled fop:-
(6 My dear sir,

(Thus leaning on mine elbow, I begin),
I shall beseech you-That is question now;
And then comes answer like an A B C book ;-
O sir, says answer, at your best command;
At your employment; at your service, sir:
No, sir, says question, I, sweet sir, at yours:
And so, ere answer knows what question would,
(Saving in dialogue of compliment;

And talking of the Alps, and Appennines,
The Pyrenean, and the river Po),
It draws toward supper."

Act i, sc. 1.

"What a deal of synamon and ginger is sacrificed to dissimulation," observes Sir William Cornwallis in 1601. O, how blessed do I take mine eyes for presenting me with this sight! O Signior, the star that governs my life is contentment, give me leave to interre myself in your arms!-Not so, sir, it is too unworthy an inclosure to contain such preciousness," &c. This, and a cup of drink, makes the time as fit for a departure as can be.”‡

A peculiar species of compliment existed among the scientific and literary characters of our author's times, in permitting those who looked up to them with reverence and esteem, to address them by the endearing appellation of Father; adopting them, in fact, as their literary offspring, and designating them, in their works, by the title of sons. In conformity with this custom, Ben Jonson adopted not less than twelve or fourteen persons for his sons, among whom were, Cartright, Randolph, Brome, etc.; and the practice continued to be observed until the end of the seventeenth century; for in 1676, Charles Cotton dedicated his Complete Angler to his "most worthy father and friend, Mr. Izaak Walton, the elder;" and says in the body of his work, "he gives me leave to call him Father, and I hope is not yet ashamed of his Adopted Son."

This complimental paternity Shakspeare has introduced in his Troilus and Cressida, where Ajax, addressing Nestor, says, "Shall I call you father?" to which the venerable Grecian replies, "Ay, my good son."

To this sketch of manners, we shall add a brief account of some customs, which

Scourge of Villanie, 1599. book ii. sat. 7.

Essayes by Sir William Cornwallyes, Essay 28.

+ Gull's Horn-book, p. 15.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »