H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

Social England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) online

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like Giordano Bruno. But Watson also knew Sidney, and
Sidney's sister, to whom his " Amyntas " was in a posthumous
edition dedicated, as the dedication asserts, by his own request

Sidney Of Watson as of Lyly, we know very little personally ;

Spenser. our knowledge of Sidney and Spenser is fortunately fuller ;
and from the letters exchanged between the latter and Gabriel
Harvey, from the curious dispute over Gosson's " School of
Abuse" (which, though not avowedly, produced Sidney's own
"Apology for Poetry as a counter-blast), and from a great
number of scattered references in different works of the
time, we can, without too dangerous an admixture of the
purely conjectural, perceive that the literary hive was really
swarming in those days, the last of the eighth decade of
the century. Over the latter half of that decade Sidney's
" Astrophel and Stella" poems, even if we hesitate to adopt
the very confident guesses which have been made about
them, must have been scattered in point of date of com-
position ; and it is thought that the "Arcadia" was written
about 1580, as the "Apology for Poetry" certainly was next
year. Watson's " Hecatompathia " was licensed in March, 1."),s2,
while Spenser, who was born in 1552, and whose earliest
known work appears in a publication which is a literary
puzzle, in 1560, produced the "Shepherd's Calendar'' ten
_years later, and by it at once leapt to the very head of
English poetry.

Vet Spenser's achievement in the "Calendar" was as


(From the painting at Penshurst, by permission of the Et. Hon. Lord de Vlsle and Dudley.)





nothing to what ho was soon to accomplish. The sonnets
of the " Hecatompathia," though manifesting much grace, a
real if not commanding passion, and a complete eschewing of
the clumsy and inartistic metres of older contemporaries, are
somewhat thin and pale ; and there are some who have ranked
Sidney even below Watson. This last, however, is heresy, and
bad heresy- In the best things of " Astrophel and Stella''
there is a combination of poetical feeling with poetical ex-
pression which we shall certainly not find in any earlier writer
of the reign, and which, in so far as the " Shepherd's Calendar "
goes, we shall not find in Spenser himself. And in all these


three writers we shall find a difference at once perceptible,
though not extremely easy to formulate in brief words from
all their predecessors. If they do not excel Sackville and I
do not know that they do, though one of them was to go far
beyond him before long in distinct and intense poetical
quality, they have outgrown the archaism of his instrument
and the narrowness, albeit novelty, of his tone. Between them
and all the persons yet mentioned, many of whom were still
writing and to write for years, there is a great gulf set. The
poets, of whom Gascoigne was the most versatile and the
deftest, speak a poetic language which is utterly immature ;
they babble and stammer, and at best "croon." Sidney and
Spenser, with Watson not far below them, sing.

Yet it is noteworthy, and is, perhaps, the most noteworthy




thing about this first phase of the great phenomenon, that Tlieir At -
they were all of them for the most part doing what they did classicism,
not only half unconsciously, but more than half against their
own intention and desire. The strange fancy for classical
metres which books about Spenser and Kingsley's " West-
ward Ho ! " have made known to many who, perhaps, never
opened the " Four Letters," or read a line at first hand of
Daniel's admirable " Defence " was very far indeed from being
the only craze of the kind which possessed the eager students
of the Areopagus and their admirers and echoes in both
universities, in the Inns of Court and elsewhere. It was the


dream of this English school, as it had been twenty years
earlier of the French Pleiade, to adjust vernacular litera-
ture in all things as nearly as possible to ancient, or if to
modern to Italian models. We think, for instance, and think
rightly, of Sidney himself as of a very front-fighter in the
ranks of the Elizabethans in the English romantic army. So
he is, in so far as his practice and unconscious influence went.
But read his " Defence of " or " Apology for Poetry " (it bears
both names), and anybody not previously acquainted with the
state of the case will wonder Avhether the book has been
"' changed at nurse." Sidney, it is true, defends the English
stage and English imaginative literature generally, against the
half-Platonic, half-Puritan onslaughts of Gosson and others,
But the kind of literature, dramatic and other, which he



vindicates and hopes for, is quite other than that which
actually followed. It is a literature of pseudo-classical regu-
larity, not unlike that which France actually achieved in
the next century and preserved till far into this.

This mistake, however, was so natural a consequence of the
studies and aims which have occupied us throughout this
section, that it can hardly be necessary to add anything in
explanation of it. Nor is there room remaining to take more
than a glance at some other peculiarities of this school of
1580 such as the still subsisting combination of the older
measures and the new in the " Shepherd's Calendar," as the
admixture of sharp political and personal satire with the
fantastic pastoralities of the style, as the somewhat undis-
ciplined and, indeed, never finally edited, medley of the
" Arcadia," and as the intensely literary and personal character
of the " Hecatornpathia." As far as we can tell, Sidney's
sonnets were the earliest and deciding force which animated,
not merely the two other poets named, but a, host of others
unnamed. It is one of the most singular things about this
very artificial and now very ancient form, that it from
time to time, and apparently with undiminished power,
renews its hold on the poetic fancy, not merely of individuals,
but of whole classes almost of whole nations. For twenty
years and more, though poetry was written in a vast number
of forms, the sonnet held sway as much in one way as the
drama did in another. It was the Elizabethan short poem ;
and that it was so was perhaps due, as far as it was due to one
man, to Philip Sidney.

R. E. AYE have seen how, with the close of the AVars of the Roses

PROTHERO. an( j tne ( { awn O f the Tudor period, an agricultural revolution

^llG TT3.HS-

formation began, which continued in progress till the middle of the
of the reign of Elizabeth, and after more than two centuries of


quiescence, recommenced in the eighteenth century. This
revolution was part of the general movement, which gradu-
ally transformed the country. It may be described as the
introduction of the commercial spirit into national life.
In agriculture, the commercial spirit took the direction
of enclosures the break-up, that is, of medieval agrarian
partnerships, the appropriation of commons by individual



owners, the substitution of individual enterprise for the A His -
united venture of village-farms. Both in the sixteenth pa^au
and the eighteenth centuries this was the direction
which the revolution assumed. But in details the earlier
and the later movements widely differed. Under the
Tudors the agricultural revolution was accompanied by the
substitution of pasture for tillage, of sheep for corn, of wool
for beef and mutton. Under the Hanoverian sovereigns, the
British farmer no longer took his seat on the woolsack, but
devoted himself instead to the production of bread and beef
for the teeming populations of manufacturing cities. The
different directions which in details the revolution assumed
at the two periods is mainly due to the improvements in
agricultural practices which the Hanoverian farmer com-
manded. The Tudor husbandman might devote himself
exclusively to one or other of the two known branches of
farming ; but his change from tillage to pasture involved no
improvement in his practices, no introduction of new crops, no
economy in the cost nor increase in the amount of production.

The period which began with the close of the Wars of the An Age
Roses and ended with the defeat of the Spanish Armada was
one of transition from the medieval to the modern form of
landownership. Feudalism was dead or dying, and trade was
usurping its throne. In the hands of lords of the manor, the
soil had been required to furnish, not money, but men-at-arms.
Medieval barons valued their estates chiefly for the number
of retainers which they sent to their banners. Tudor landlords
estimated their worth by the amount of rent which they paid
into their coffers. Medieval farmers extracted from the soil
only so much food as they required for the sustenance of
themselves and their families. Modern tenants were not
satisfied with this self-sufficing industry ; they desired to raise
from the land not only food, but profit. As trade increased,
and towns grew, and English wool made its way into Con-
tinental cities, or was woven into cloth by English weavers
(p. 501), new markets were created for agricultural produce.
Fresh incentives were supplied to individual enterprise, and
both landlords and tenants learned to regard their land from
the commercial point of view.

The results of this infusion into agriculture of the



commercial spirit were, as lias been already noticed, twofold :
first, the break-up of the old agrarian partnerships, in which
lords of the manor, parsons, yeomen, farmers, copyholders, and
labourers were associated for the supply of the wants of the
villages ; and, secondly, the substitution of pasture for tillage,
and of sheep for corn.

consoli- If money was to be made out of the land, it was plain

dation. tnat on ] v individual enterprise could make it. Under the old
system, it was open to the idleness of one man to cripple the
energy of fifty others. To exchange, divide, enclose, and so
consolidate the holdings, became the ob)ect of the rural
aristocracy. As Fuller says in his " Holy State " : " The poor
man who is monarch of but one enclosed acre will receive more
profit from it than from his share of many acres in common
with others." Sometimes the commons were equally divided ;
sometimes the landlords bought up the whole ; sometimes they
enclosed them by force, or by connivance Avith the principal
commoners. Voluntary agreements between commoners and


proprietors of land were not infrequent, and bargains were
often struck on equitable terms, based on a valuation and
commutation of commoners' rights. But it was a rough age,
in which might was right ; and Sir Thomas More presents us
with another side of the picture. He speaks of "husbandmen
thrust out of their own, or else by covin and fraud, or by
violent oppression, put beside it, or by wrongs and injuries so
wearied, that they be compelled to sell all."

A striking example of More's first statement may be quoted
from the lives of the Berkeleys. Maurice, the second earl,
had a wood called Whiteclive Wood, which " hee fancieth to
reduce into a park/' He treated with his tenants and the
freeholders for the sale or exchange of their land, and with
the commoners for their rights of common.

" After some labour spent, and not prevailinge to such effect as hee
aymed at, he remembered (as it seemeth) the Adage, ' multa non laud-
ftiitirf, nisi prius peracta,' 'many actions are iiot praiseworthy till they bn-
done.' He, therefore, on a sodain, resolutely encloseth soe much of each
man's land unto his sayd wood as he desired; maketh it a parke, placet!
keepers, and storeth it witli deere. And called it, as to this day it is.
Whitclyve Park.

' They, seeing what was done, and this lord off cringe compositions and
exchanges as before, most of them sooue agreed, when there \vas uoe



remedy. And liee sooiie after had tlieire grants and releases of laud and
common as hee at first desired. Ungentem pungit, pungenlem rusticus
viujit. It is not for a lord too long to make curtesy to the elowti'd shoe.
Those fewe that remayued obstinate, fell after upon his soune with suites
to their small comfort and less games."

If a small copyholder or yeomen were obstinate, the pro-
ceedings of Sir Giles Overreach, in the New Way to Pay Old
Debts, may illustrate the way in which the Naboth's vineyard,
even of a lord of the manor, might be appropriated by
a wealthy capitalist :

" I'll buy some cottage near his manor ;
Which done, I'll make my men break ope his ftnces,
Ride o'er his standing corn, or in the night
Set fire to his barns, or break his cattle's legs.
These trespasses will draw on suits, and suits expenses,
Which I can spare, but will soon beggar him.
When I have harried him thus two or three years,
Though he sue in forma pauper is, in spite
Of all his thrift and care he'll grow behindhand.
Then, with the favour of my man at law,
I will pretend some title ; want will force him
To put it to arbitrament. Then if he sells
For half the value, he shall have ready money,
And I possess the laud."

Considerations of mutual advantage, equitable bargains,
fair purchase, superior force, legal chicanery, were all at work
to accelerate the change from common to individual ownership,
and to the consolidation of separate holdings instead of open
farms. If the commoner appealed to the law courts, the
matter too often " ended as it was friended." " Handy-dandy "
was, in the Middle Ages, a proverbial expression for a covert
bribe ; and the perversion of justice is enshrined in the Latin
jingle: "Jus sine jure datur, Si nummus in aure loquatur."
Sometimes the enclosure was successfully resisted, It was
perhaps by the efforts of William Shakespeare, himself a com-
moner, that the attempt of the lord of the manor to enclose
the common fields at Welcombe, near Stratford-on-Avon, was
defeated. At Warwick Assizes, Chief Justice Coke made an
order that "noe inclosure shalbe made within the parish of
Stratforde, for that yt is agaynst the Lawes of the Realme."

The first result of the commercial spirit which was infused
into farming was the increase of enclosures, and the consequent





severance, whether directly or indirectly, of a considerable
portion of the rural population from the soil. If this change
had been accompanied by a large extension of arable farming,
the market for agricultural labour might have been so enlarged



(By i><:i- mission, fi-iim I>r. C. -V. Inghby's "Shakespeare mul the Wdcombe Enclosures."}

as to relieve agrarian distress. But the change which took
place in farming served only to increase the scarcity of em-
ployment. The second result of the commercial revolution
was to substitute the shepherd and his dog for the plough-
men and their teams, wool for corn, and pasture for tillage 1 ,
and thus to diminish the demand for labour at the very

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moment when the supply was increased. Woollen manufactures
grew so rapidly both at home and abroad that there was
a ready sale for English wool both in England and on the
Continent. The fineness of the English fleeces made them in-
dispensable to foreign weavers; wool was easily transported,
without risk of damage, and without liability to duty. The
profits of sheep-farming were sure, and the outgoings in the
cost of labour small. Arable farming, on the other hand,
was an uncertain speculation, and the necessary outlay was
large. No efforts were spared to extend sheep-walks. Small
tenants were evicted ; labourers' cottages were pulled down,
the lord's demesnes turned into pastures ; wastes and commons
were enclosed for the same purpose. This process, which
began at the end of the fifteenth century, continued till
the middle of the reign of Elizabeth.

The change of tillage into pasture was strenuously resisted
by the legislature (pp. 152, 347). To encourage arable farming
and to prevent the depopulation of country districts, corn-laws
prohibited the importation of wheat until the prices had reached
a certain height. Acts of Parliament were passed to limit
the size of the flocks which might be owned by a single
sheepm aster, to prevent the destruction of farm buildings,
and to check the conversion of tillage land to pasture (p. 347).
At law, arable land was given the precedence over other lands ;
beasts of the plough received privileges from which other
beasts were debarred ; bonds to restrain tillage were declared
to be void. But at first legislation was as powerless as
the Pope's bull against a comet, and the change went on
apace. It was not checked till the middle of the reign of
Elizabeth, when the increased value of corn and meat, and
the profits that were to be derived from arable farming,
once more redressed the balance.

The twofold effect of the commercial revolution told
Labourer, disastrously on the condition of the agricultural labourer. His
miseries were aggravated during the period under review by a
rapid rise in the value of all agricultural produce. Evrry
owner of land benefited by the rise, and tenant-farmers, il
they held their tenancies at reasonable rents, grew rich. But
the labourer alone suffered. As a new supply of precious
metals poured in from America, the purchasing power of





money fell (p. 492). The wages of labour were arbitrarily fixed
by statute at the rates of the previous century, though, relatively
to the prices of necessaries, they had dwindled by a half. At
the same time the dissolution of the monasteries had deprived
the poor of charitable aid ; and the principle of their com-
pulsory support was still imperfectly understood. The labour-
market was glutted, and the power of the trade-guilds ex-
cluded the peasant from employment in towns. Hundreds
of poor Toms were whipped from " tything to ty thing, and
stock'd, punished, and im-
prisoned " :

" From low farms,
Poor pelting villages, sheepcotes,

and mills,
Sometime with lunatic bairns,

sometime with prayer
Enforce their charity."

The remedy for these
conditions of rural distress
was the employment of
more labour in the profit-
able cultivation of the
soil. But here, too, misfortune seemed to pursue the
unhappy agricultural labourer. Direct and indirect evidence
is forthcoming to prove that agriculture was retrograding
rather than advancing, that the yield per acre was less
plentiful, and that the use of such fertilisers as the science
of the day commanded was declining. Fitzherbert, writing in
the early part of the sixteenth century, notices that the useful
practice of marling the land was in many places abandoned,
that the crops were smaller, and that the husbandry was more
slovenly. The decline was not unnatural. The transition
which has been described disturbed that security of property
without which enterprise dies. Moreover, the dissolution of the
monasteries inflicted a heavy blow upon agriculture as an art.
To English farming the monks were, in the sixteenth century,
what capitalist landlords were in the eighteenth. They were
the most scientific farmers of the day; they had access to
the practical learning of the ancients ; their intercourse with
their brethren abroad gave them opportunities of benefiting


(L. Mascall : " Booke of the Arte hou' ta Plant
Trees," 1572.)



by the experience of foreigners which were denied to most of
their contemporaries. When the great religious houses were
destroyed, agriculture, of which they were the pioneers,
suffered a heavy loss,
writers Already, however, there were signs that, as soon as the

on Agri- transition era was ended, their places would be occupied,
culture. . ^

Throughout Europe agricultural literature was commencing,

and writers were at work urging upon farmers the improved
methods which enclosures had opened out to them. In Spain
Herrera, in Italy Crescenzio and Tarello, in the Low Countries
Heresbach, in France Charles Estienne and Bernard Palissy,
wrote upon farming. The gentry began to pay attention to
agriculture. As Michel de 1'Hopital solaced his exile with a
farm at Etampes so Fitzherbert, in the reign of Henry VIII., or
Sir Richard Weston in that of Charles I., or Townshend in that
of George II., occupied their leisure in agriculture, and so
conferred greater benefits in their retirement upon the well-
being of England than they had ever done by their judicial,
or diplomatic, or political services. A list of the numerous
writers who studied the subject of farming in the Elizabethan
period would exceed our limits. It Avill be sufficient to
mention Thomas Tusser and Barnaby Googe.

Tusser. Thomas Tusser was an Essex man and a Suffolk farmer.

But his own life proved the difficulty of combining practice
with science. " He spread his bread," says Fuller, " with all
sorts of butter, yet none would ever stick thereon." He was
successively " a musician, schoolmaster, serving-man, husband-
man, grazier, poet more skilful in all than thriving in his
vocation." To the present generation he is little but a name ;
yet his doggerel poems, printed in 1573, are valuable as a
storehouse of information respecting the rural life, domestic
economy, and agricultural practices of our Elizabeth ancestors.
When, in 1723, Lord Moles worth proposed schools of agriculture
should be established, he also advised that Tusser's " Five
hundred points of good husbandry " should be " taught to
the boys to read, to copy, and get by heart." Like all the
scientific farmers of the day, he was an enthusiastic advocate
for enclosures, and he sings the praises of " several," as
opposed to "champion," or open farms. He was ignorant of
the use of clover, artificial grasses, and roots. Though he




mentions turnips, it is only as " a kitchen garden root to boil
or butter." He altogether ignores the necessity of drainage

Bookcs of

Collet? ed by M.Conr.ul

Counci Hour to tli? high and mihti

i>ice, the Duke ot Ckuc :

ljf whale Art And trad.- of Huf
b.iadry vVardcrang, Gr..rfi ig,md Planting,
. with the anti<pitk 5 andcom.

J ,andciiaeafcd


fa: of ihy fact Hull ilioueuxdiy bread,!!!! rhoubc
j^iK into iht groiinJvfcr out 'if i; wjfhiiu-j taken
" 'urn -.n, iix) to iiuit Jhslt ilsou rauine.

Printed bj Tho. li'ight . 1 6 o I


and dismisses the subject of manure, or " compass," with the
briefest possible mention.

Almost a contemporary of Tusser was Barnaby Googe, Googe.
whose " Four Books of Husbandrie " were published in 1577.



The value of his work, which is mainly a compilation fr>i:.
Flemish and English works, lies in his insistence on the
necessity of manure, and his mention of clover, which he
calls trifle de lJni'</<> i/nc. and supposes to be a Moorish grass
introduced by the Spaniards. Elixabcthan farmers were apt
to take from the same land as many corn crops in succession
as it would bear. "\Yhen thoroughly exhausted, it lay fallow.
No rotation of crops Avas practised, except the interposition ! ot
beans once in every three years: roots and artificial grasses,
which, when properly employed, clean, rest, and enrich the
land, were entirely unknown to the English husbandman in
the sixteenth century. Hence Googe was invaluable for the
stress that he laid on the one means of restoring the fertility
of the soil which was open to his contemporaries, and for his
mention of clover, in which lay the germs of future agricultural

Horti- Nor was it in literature only that the promise of better

times brightened the agricultural prospects. In the revival of
gardening, also, there lay hope for agriculturists. Since the

Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) → online text (page 42 of 68)