« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
production of rare and delicate viands, of which he gives a long list; and Massinger says,
"Men may talk of country-christmasses
Their thirty-pound butter'd eggs, their pies of carps' tongues,
Of three fat wethers bruised for gravy, to
Make sauce for a single peacock; yet their feasts
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 Falstaff 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." 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 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 cloke 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." S
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.' 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 histo
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.
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 baunch 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 1653, small 4to. 6 Holinshed, vol. i. p. 287.
Henry IV. part ii. act. v. sc. 3
Puttenham's Art of English Poesie, p. 69, reprint of 1911.
rical 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.'
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;" + 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;"‡ and Page, cheering Falstaff, exclaims, "Thou shalt eat a posset to-night at my S house." Thomas Heywood also, a contemporary of Shakspeare, has particularly noticed this refection as occurring just before bed-time: "Thou shalt 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."
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."++ 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 cloack of browne, blue, or puke, with some pretie furniture of velvet of 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." ‡‡
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,
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.
⚫ Puttenham's Art of English Poesie, p. 33, reprint of 1811.
+ Merry Wives of Windsor, act i. sc. 4.
Heywood's Edward II. p. 1.
Macbeth, act ii. se. 2
Merry Wives of Windsor, act v. sc. 5.
+ Jonson's Every Man in his Humour, act i. sc. 1. Acted in the year 1598.
#Holinshed, vol. i. p. 290.
She wore a frock of frolic green,
A hood to that so neat and fine,
Her features all as fresh above,
This maiden in a morn betime,
Went forth when May was in the prime,
To get sweet setywall,
The honey-suckle, the harlock,
To deck her summer-hall."*
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 weild 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 countryfellow, 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 jessest. 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 prisoners. In sum, he's but a clod of his own 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."‡ Notwithstanding the hospitality which generally prevailed among the countrygentlemen 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
The wind-pipes of good hospitalitie :
Lo, there th'unthankful swallow takes her rest,
Chalmers's Poets, vol. iv. p. 435, 436. Drayton, Fourth Eclogue.
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.
Earle's Microcosmography; or a Piece of the World discovered, in Essays and Characters. Edition of 111, by Philip Bliss Hall's Satires, bock v. sat. 2 printed in 1599.
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 dep'te from London before Xtemmas, and to repaire to their countries, and there to kepe hospitalitie amongest their neighbours."* 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. +
Lodge's Illustrations of British History, Biography, and Manners, in theReigns 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 some thing 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, merely through discontinuance: and great houses, which were at first founded to releeve the poore, and such needful 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 ancesters 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 of ranke or quality to leave the Court, and returne into their owne countrey."
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, crossbows, 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,
The country-clergyman, the next character we shall attempt to notice, was distinguished, in the time of Shakspeare, by the 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 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.
formerly appropriated to such of
"Sir seems to have been a title," remarks Dr. Percy, 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. 11. 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, * is kept clean, and as neat as a bowling-green.'
"Within the limit of myne own memory all readers in chapels were called Sir† and of old
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 independent 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 mantlepiece. He was commonly followed by a couple of grey-hounds and a pointer, and announced his arrival at a neighbour's 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 widows, 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!"
⚫ Richard Berket Reader, æt. 74, MS. note.
Grose's Olio, 2d edit. 1796. p. 41-14.
† 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"