Изображения страниц

the rapier; a little, almost impercep- | hedgerows, crowded with cattle, and tible fact, yet vast, for it is like the abounding in ships-a manufacturing change which, sixty years ago, made opulent land, with a people of beefus give up the sword at court, to leave eating toilers, who enrich it while they ns with our arms swinging about in enrich themselves. They improved our black coats. In fact it was the close agriculture to such an extent, that in of feudal life, and the beginning of half a century the produce of an acre court-life, just as to-day court-life is at was doubled.* They grew so rich, an end, and the democratic reign has that at the beginning of the reign of begun. With the two-handed swords, Charles I. the Commons represented heavy coats of mail, feudal keeps, three times the wealth of the Upper private warfare, permanent disorder, House. The ruin of Antwerp by the all the scourges of the middle age Duke of Parma † sent to England retired, and faded into the past. The "the third part of the merchants and English had done with the Wars of manufacturers, who made silk, damask, the Roses. They no longer ran the stockings, taffetas, and serges." The risk of being pillaged to-morrow for defeat of the Armada and the decadence being rich, and hung the next day for of Spain opened the seas to English being traitors; they have no further merchants. The toiling hive, who need to furbish up their armor, make would dare, attempt, explore, act in alliances with powerful nations, lay unison, and always with profit, was in stores for the winter, gather to- about to reap its advantages and set gether men-at-arms, scour the country out on its voyages, buzzing over the to plunder and hang others.† The universe. monarchy, in England as throughout Europe, establishes peace in the community, and with peace appear the useful arts. Domestic comfort follows civil security; and man, better furnished in his home, etter protected in his hamlet, takes pleasure in his life on earth, which he has changed, and means to change.

Toward the close of the fifteenth century & the impetus was given; commerce and the woo trade made a sudden advance, and such an enormous one, that cornfiels were changed into pasture-lands, "whereby the inhabitants of the said town (Manchester) have gotten and turned into riches and wealthy livings," || so that in 1553, 40,000 pieces of cloth were exported in English ships. It was already the England which we see to-day, a lan of green meadows, intersected by

The first carriage was in 1564. It caused

[ocr errors]

uch astonishment. Some said that it was 66 great sea-shell brought from China; others, that it was a temple in which cannibals worshipped the devil."

f For a picture of this state of things, see Fenn's Paston Letters.

Louis XI. in France, Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain, Henry VII. in England. In Italy the feudal regime ended earlier, by the establishment of republics and principalities. 51488, Act of Parliament on Enclosures.

A Compendious Examination, 1581, by William Strafford. Act of Parliament, 1541.

[ocr errors]

At the base and on the summit of society, in all ranks of life, in all grades of human condition, this new welfare became visible. In 1534, considering that the streets of London were ver noyous and foul, and in many places thereof very jeopardous to all people passing and repassing, as well on horseback as on foot," Henry VIII. began the paving of the city. New streets covered the open spaces where the young men used to run races and to wrestle. Every year the number of taverns, theatres, gambling rooms, beargardens, increased. Before the time of Elizabeth the country-houses of gentlemen were little more than strawthatched cottages, plastered with the coarsest clay, lighted only by trellises. "Howbeit," says Harrison (1580), "such as be latelie builded are com monlie either of bricke or hard store or both; their roomes large and come lie, and houses of office further distant from their lodgings." The old wooden

*Between 1377 and 1588 the increase was from two and a half to five millions.

† In 1585; Ludovic Guicciardini.

Henry VIII. at the beginning c. his reign had but one ship of war. Elizabeth sent out one hundred and fifty against the Armada. In 1553 was founded a company to trade with Russia. In 1578 Drake circumnavigated the globe. In 1600 the East India Company was founded.

royalty of each great feudal baron, the lords quitted their sombre castles, bat tlemented fortresses, surrounded by stagnant water, pierced with narrow windows, a sort of stone breastplates of no use but to preserve the life of their master. They flock into new palaces, with vaulted roofs and turrets,

houses were covered with plaster, "which, beside the delectable whitenesse of the stuffe itselfe, is laied on so even and smoothlie, as nothing in my judgment can be done with more exactnesse." * This open admiration shows from what hovels they had escaped. Glass was at last employed for windows, and the bare walls were cov-covered with fantastic and manifold ered with hangings, on which visitors might see, with delight and astonishment, plants, animals, figures. They began to use stoves, and experienced the unwonted pleasure of being warm. Harrison notes three important changes which had taken place in the farmhouses of his time:

ornaments, adorned with terraces and vast staircases, with gardens, fountains, statues, such as were the palaces of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, half Gothic and half Italian,* whose convenience, splendor, and symmetry announced already habits of society and the taste for pleasure. They came to court and abandoned their old manners; the four meals which scarcely sufficed their not above two or three, if so manie, in most up- former voracity were reduced to two; landishe townes of the realme.... The second gentlemen soon became refined, placis the great (although not generall), amendmenting their glory in the elegance and sin of lodging, for our fathers (yea and we ourselves

"One is, the multitude of chimnies lately erected, whereas in their yoong

daies there were

also) have lien full oft upon straw pallets, on rough mats covered onelie with a sheet, under coverlets made of dagswain, or hop-harlots, and a good round log under their heads, insteed of a borster or pillow. If it were so that the good man of the house, had within seven yeares after his n arriage 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. . . . Pillowes (said they) were thought meet onelie for women in childt ed. . . . The third thing 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 treene stuff in old time, that a man should hardlie find four peeces of pewter (of which one was peradventure a salt) in a good farmers house."


It is not possession, but acquisition, which gives men pleasure and sense of power; they observe sooner a small happiness, new to them, than a great appiness which is old. It is not when all is good, but when all is better, that they see the bright side of life, and are tempted to make a holiday of it. This is why at this period they did make a holiday of it, a splendid show, so like a picture that it fostered painting in Italy, so like a piece of acting, that it produced the drama in England. Now that the axe and sword of the civil wars had beaten down the independent nopility, and the abolition of the law of maintenace had destroyed the petty

* Nathan Drake, Shakspeare and his Times, 1817, i. v. 72 et passim. ↑ Ibid. i. v. 103.

gularity of their amusements, and their clothes. They dressed magnificently in splendid materials, with the luxury of men who rustle silk and make gold sparkle for the first time: doublets of scarlet satin; cloaks of sable, costing a thousand ducats; velvet shoes, em broidered with gold and silver, covered with rosettes and ribbons; boots with falling tops, from whence hung a cloud of lace, embroidered with figures o birds, animals, constellations, flowers in silver, gold, or precious stones; orna mented shirts costing ten pounds a piece. "It is a common thing to put a thousand goats and a hundred oxen on a coat, and to carry a whole manor on one's back." The costumes of the time were like shrines. When Eliza beth died, they found three thousand dresses in her wardrobe. Need we speak of the monstrous ruffs of the ladies, their puffed out dresses, their

stomachers stiff with diamonds? As a

singular sign of the times, the men were more changeable and more bedecked than they Harrison says:

"Such is our mutabilitie, that to dale there is none to the Spanish guise, to morrow the French toies are most fine and delectable yer

James I., in the hands of Inigo Jones, it bo *This was called the Tudor style. Under came entirely Italian, approaching the antique.

Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, 12th ed. 1821. Stubbes, Anatomie of Abuses, ed. Tura bull 1836.

leng no such apparell as that which is after the bigh Alman fashion, by and by the Turkish Ruaner is generallie best liked of, otherwise the Morisco gowns, the Barbarian sleeves and the short French breeches. And as these fashions are diverse, so likewise it is a world to see the costlinesse and the curiositie; the excesse and the vanitie; the pompe and the braverie; the change and the varietie; and Snallic, the ficklenesse and the follie that is in all degrees."

Folly, it may have been, but poetry likewise. There was something more than puppyism in this masquerade of splendid costu ne. The overflow of inner sentiment found this issue, as also in drama and poetry. It was an artistic spirit which induced it. There was an incredible outgrowth of living forms from their brains. They acted like their engravers, who give us in their frontispieces a prodigality of fruits, flowers, active figures, animals, gods, and pour out and confuse the whole treasure of nature in every corner of their paper. They must enjoy the beautiful; they would be happy through their eyes; they perceive in consequence naturally the relief and energy of forms. From the accession of Henry VIII. to the death of James I. we find nothing but tournaments, processions, public entries, masquerades. First come the royal banquets, coronation displays, large and noisy pleasures of Henry VIII. Wolsey entertains him

I so gorgeous a sort and costlie maner, that it was an heaven to behold. There wanted no dames or damosels meet or apt to danse with the maskers, or to garnish the place for the time: then was there all kind of musike and harmonie, with fine voices both of men and children. On a time the king came suddenlie thither in a maske with a dozen maskers all in garments like sheepheards, made of fine cloth of gold, and crimosin sattin paned,. having banket before the king wherein were served two hundred diverse dishes, of costlie devises and attilities. Thus passed they foorth the night with bakening, dansing, and other triumphs, to the great comfort of the king, and pleasant regard of the nobilitie there assembled."+

sixteene torch-bearers.


In came a new

[merged small][ocr errors]

lords. * At Kenilworth, the pageants lasted ten days. There was every thing; learned recreations, novelties, popular plays, sanguinary spectacles, coarse farces, juggling and feats of skill, allegories, mythologies, chivalric exhibitions, rustic and national commemoraticns. At the same time, in this universal outburst and sudden ex


panse, men become interested in them selves, find their life desirable, worthy of being represented and put on the stage complete; they play with it, deand downs, and make of it a work of light in looking upon it, love its ups then by giants of the time of Arthur, The queen is received by a sibyl, then by the Lady of the Lake, Syl vanus, Pomona, Ceres, and Bacchus, the first fruits of his empire. every divinity in turn presents her with Next day, a savage, dressed in moss and Vy, discourses before her with Echo in her praise. Thirteen bears are set acrobat performs wonderful feats be fighting against dogs. fore the whole assembly. A rustic marriage takes place before the queen, then a sort of comic fight amongst the peasants of Coventry, who represent the defeat of the Danes. is returning from the chase, Triton, rising from the lake, prays her, in the

An Italian

As she

name of Neptune, to deliver the enchanted lady, pursued by a cruel knight, Syr Bruse sauns Pitee. Pres ently the lady appears, surrounded by nymphs, followed close by Proteus, who is borne by an enormous dolphin. Concealed in the dolphin, a band of musicians with a chorus of ocean-deities, sing the praise of the powerful, beautiful, chaste queen of England. t You perceive that comedy is not con fined to the theatre; the great of the realm and the queen herself become actors. The cravings of the imagination are so keen, that the court becomes a stage. Under James I., every year, on Twelfth-day, the queen, the chief ladies and nobles, played a piece called a Masque, a sort of allegory combined with dances, heightened in effect by decorations and costumes of great

Holinshed, iii., Reign of Henry VIII Elizabeth and James Progresses, by Nichols + Laneham's Entertainment at Killingworth Castle, 1575. Nichol' Progresses, vol. London 1788,

"The attire of the lords was from the an

tique Greek statues. On their heads they wore Persic crowns, that were with scrolls of gold plate turned outward, and wreathed about with

a carnation and silver net-lawn. Their bodies were of carnation cloth of silver; to express

splendor, of which the mythological | craving which the inanners of the time paintings of Rubens can alone give an betrayed. It was "merry England," idea :as they called it then. It was not ye stern and constrained. It expanded widely, freely, and rejoiced to find itself so expanded. No longer at court only was the drama found, but in the village. Strolling companies betook the naked, in manner of the Greek thorax, girt themselves thither, and the country under the breasts with a broad belt of cloth of folk supplied any deficiencies, when gold, fastened with jewels; the mantles were necessary. of coloured silke; the first, sky-colour; the Shakspeare saw, before second, pearl-colour; the third, flame colour; he depicted them, stupid fellows, carthe fourth, tawny. The ladies attire was of penters, joiners, bellows-menders, play white cloth of silver, wrought with Juno's birds Pyramus and Thisbe, represent the and fruits; a loose under garment, full gath-lion roar.ng as gently as any sucking ered, of carnation, striped with silver, and parted with a golden zone; beneath that, another flowing garment, of watchet cloth of silver, laced with gold; their hair carelessly

bound under the circle of a rare and rich coro

net, adorned with all variety, and choice of
from the top of which flowed a trans-
parent veil, down to the ground. Their shoes
were azure and gold, set with rubies and dia-

nonds." *

dove, and the wall, by stretching out their hands. Every holiday was a pageant, in which townspeople, workmen, and children bore their parts. They were actors by nature. When the soul is full and fresh, it does not express its ideas by reasonings; it plays and figures them; it mimics them; that is the true and original lan

I abridge the description, which is like a fairy tale. Fancy that all these cos-guage, the children's tongue, the speech tumes, this glitter of materials, this sparkling of diamonds, this splendor of nudities, was displayed daily at the marriage of the great, to the bold sounds of a pagan epithalamium. Think of the feasts which the Earl of Carlisle introduced, where was served first of all a table loaded with sumptuous viands, as high as a man could reach, in order to remove it presently, and replace it by another similar table. This prodigality of magnificence, these costly follies, this unbridling of the imagination, this intoxication of eye and ear, this comedy played by the lords of the realm, showed, like the pictures of Rubens, Jordaens, and their Flemish contemporaries, so open an appeal to the senses, so complete a return to nature, that our chilled and gloomy age is scarcely able to imagine it t


To vent the feelings, to satisfy the heart and eyes, to set free boldly on all the roads of existence the pack of appetites and instincts, this was the

Ben Jonson's works, ed. Gifford, 1816, 9 vols. Masrue of Hymen, vol. vii. 76.

↑ Certain private letters also describe the court of Elizabeth as a place where there was attle piety or practice of religion, and where all anormities reigned in the highest degree.

of artists, of invention, and of joy. It is in this manner they please them selves with songs and feasting, on all the symbolic holidays with which tradition has filled the year.* On the Sunday after Twelfth-night the laborers parade the streets, with their shirts over their coats, decked with ribbons, dragging a plough to the sound of music, and dancing a sword. dance; on another day they draw in a cart a figure made of ears of corn, with songs, flutes, and drums; on another, Father Christmas and his company; or else they enact the history of Robin Hood, the bold archer, around the May-pole, or the legend of Sain! George and the Dragon. We migh occupy half a volume in describing all these holidays, such as Harvest Home, All Saints, Martinmas, Sheepshearing, above all Christmas, which lasted twelve days, and sometimes six weeks They eat and drink, junket, tumble about, kiss the girls, ring the bells, satiate themselves with noise: coarse drunken revels, in which man is an un bridled animal, and which are the incarnation of natural life. The Puri tans made no mistake about that Stubbes says:

*Nathan Drake, Shakspeare and his Times chap. v. and v..

"First, all the wilde heades of the parishe, conventying together, chuse them a ground capitaine of mischeef, whan they innoble with the title of my Lorde of Misserule, and hym they crown with great solemnitie, and adopt for their kyng. This kyng anoynted, chuseth for the twentie, fourtie, three score, or a hundred lustie guttes like to hymself to waite uppon his lordely maiestie. Then have they their hobbie horses, dragons, and other antiques, together with their baudie pipers and thunderyng drommers, to strike up the devilles daunce withall: then marche these heathen companie Lowardes the churche and churche-yarde, their pipers pipyng, their drommers thonderyng, their stumppes dauncyng, their belles rynglyng, heir handkerchefes swyngyng about their heades like madmen, their hobbie horses and other monsters skirmishyng amongest the throng; and in this sorte they goe to the churche (though the minister bee at praier or preachyng), dauncyng, and swingyng their handkercheefes over their heades, in the churche, like devilles incarnate, with such a confused noise, that no man can heare his owne voice. Then the foolishe people they looke, they stare, they laugh, they fleere, and mount upon formes and pewes, to see these goodly pageauntes, solemnized in this sort. Then after this, aboute the churche they goe againe and againe, and so forthe into the churche-yarde, where they have commonly their sommer haules, their bowers, arbours, and banquettyng houses set up, wherein they feaste, banquet, and daunce all that daie, and peradventure all that night too. And thus these terrestriall furies spend the Sabbaoth

daie! ...

An other sorte of fantasticall fooles

bringe to these helhoundes (the Lorde of Misrule and his complices) some bread, some good ale, some newe cheese, some olde cheese, some custardes, some cakes, some flaunes, some tartes, some creame, some meate, some one thing, some an other."

He continues thus :

"Against Maie, every parishe, towne and village assemble themselves together, bothe men, women, and children, olde and yong, even all indifferently; they goe to the woodes where they spende all the night in pleasant pastymes, and in the mornyng they returne, bringing with them birch, bowes, and branches of trees, to deck their assemblies withall. But their cheefest jewell they bringe from thence is their Maie pools, whiche they bring home with great veneration, as thus: They have twenty or fourtie yok: of oxen, every ox havyng a sweete nosegaie of flowers tyed on the tippe of his hornes, and these oxen, drawe home this Maie poole (this stinckyng idoll rather) yg reared up, they strawe the grounde aboute, pinde greene boughes about it, sett up sommer haules, bowers, and arbours hard by it; and then fall they to banquet and feast, to leape and daunce aboute it, as the heathen people did at the dedication of their idolles. Of a hundred maides goyng to the woode over night, there have scarcely the third parte returned Lome againe undefiled." *

[ocr errors]

and thus be

[ocr errors]


"On Shrove Tuesday," says another,*

at the sound of a bell, the folk become insane, thousands at a time, and forget all decency and common sense. It is to Satan and the devil that

they pay homage and do sacrifice to in these abominable pleasures." It is ir fact to nature, to the ancient Pan, tc Freya, to Hertha, her sisters, to the old Teutonic deities who survived the middle age. At this period, in the temporary decay of Christianity, and the sudden advance of corporal wellbeing, man adored himself, and there endured no life within him but that of paganism.


To sum up, observe the process of ideas at this time. A few sectarians, chiefly in the towns and of the people, clung gloomily to the Bible. But the Court and the men of the world sought their teachers and their heroes from pagan Greece and Rome. About 1490 † they began to read the classics; one after the other they translated them; it was soon the fashion to read them in the original. Queen Elizabeth, Jane Grey, the Duchess of Norfolk, the Countess of Arundel, and many other ladies, were conversant with Plato, Xenophon, and Cicero in the original, and appreciated them. Gradually, by an insensible change, men were raised to the level of the great and healthy minds who had freely handled ideas of all kinds fifteen centuries before. They comprehended not only their language, but their thought; they did not repeat lessons from, but held conversations with them; they were their equals, and found in them intellects as manly as their own. For they were not scholastic cavillers. miserable compilers, repulsive pedants, like the professors of jargon whom the middle age had set over them, like gloomy Duns Scotus, whose leaves Henry VIII.s' Visitors scattered to the winds.

They were gentlemen,

* Hentzner's Travels in England (Bentley's translation). He thought that the figure car ried about in the Harvest Home represented Ceres.

+ Warton, vol. ii. sect. 35. Before 1600 al the great poets were translated into English, and between 1550 and 1616 all the great histo *Stubbes Anatomie of Abuses, p. 168 et rians of Greece and Rom yly in 1500 firs passim. taught Greek in public.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »