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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to be hail-fellow-well-met with his subjects. But the uncertain
temper which she also inherited, and her very strong ideas as
to her own dignity, prevented her from encouraging quite the
same easy communication which her successor and that successor's
grandson Charles II. freely allowed; and it cannot be said
that, on the whole, we hear very much of the Court in the-
literature of the day, except in what may be called full-dress,
relations. This was partly due to the fact that much of this
literature was decidedly what we now call " Bohemian," partly to
the inveterate passion of the time for masking and disguising
such relations in all manner of allegory and paraphrase. But
the masque, the tiltyard practice, the progress, and the pageant
of all kinds played a very great part in the life of the six-
teenth and early seventeenth centuries a part incomparably
greater than anything that now corresponds to it.

Relatively, however, the class of persons immediately below
the sovereign exercised a greater influence than even the
sovereign herself. The few remaining members of the ancient
nobility, the (so long as Elizabeth lived) still fewer additions
to their ranks, the great officers of State, and even the wealthier
country gentlemen of knightly rank, and the considerable
functionaries (t'roln bishops and judges downwards) maintained,
as is well known, a style of housekeeping to which at present
we have absolutely nothing that bears the least resemblance..

/ O




Even in the Queen's days, and not in the latest of them, the death
of Edward Earl of Derby was lamented as putting an end to
" old English hospitality " ; but from what Ave know of the
ways of those who survived him, there was not much to com-
plain of. The maintenance, indeed, of a regular medieval

- - ^ '" ""' 'J- *"'** ' ii * 4 '


- ' -'


force of armed and regimented retainers had been made difficult Their
hy the jealous edicts of Henry VII., and would have been Retul
dangerous under the capricious tyranny of his son ; but though
Elizabeth was nearly as jealous as the one, and, in a less
sanguinary fashion, almost as capricious as the other, the
thing if not the name practically survived throughout her
days; and we meet with traces of it after the Civil Wars.



Nothing is more alien from our habits, and hardly anything
is more difficult to conceive in our time, than the status of
the " gentleman " of a great household then. It has been
said, with hardly any exaggeration, that it provided an addi-
tional profession for men of gentle or respectable birth but not
much fortune in those days; and it may be said, without
any exaggeration at all, that it was a very usual interim
occupation between the university and a regular profession, or
a post in the civil and military service. We mid, for instance,
the poet Donne, long after he was married and had children,
and while he was hesitating between the Law and the Church,
holding this position in the household of a very undistinguished
person a mere Surrey knight. From such men upwards to
earls and archbishops, every man of fortune and family, or of
fortune and office, in of course increasing numbers, had these
" gentle " dependants. He did not, as a rule, give them much
more than houseroom in his almost always spacious house, and
board at his always plentifully, if somewhat rudely, supplied
table. What they gave him cannot be by any means so pre-
cisely defined. They appeared with him on public occasions ;
they did his miscellaneous business and errands : they gave him
consequence ; and occasionally, as in the cases of Wyatt
and Essex, they still fought for him. Relatively to the then
not very numerous population, their numbers must .have been
extremely large ; and as a great part of their rather nondescript
duty consisted in appearing in public at least as handsomely
dressed as they could afford, they must have counted for
much in the restless, if not exactly busy, society which we see
moving in the plays and other documents of the time.
The The class immediately below these men's employers (if

employers be not too misleading a word) and above the lower
professional and upper commercial classes, the smaller country
gentlemen, need not much separate notice. They were often
perhaps in most cases attached as pages or otherwise to the great
households in their youth, and thus actually formed part of
the class just dismissed. And when they had succeeded to
their estates they did not, unless Parliament or business of
some kind brought them, appear much in London, or fall very
readily into its ways when they did. Nor can it, as a rule,
have been well for them to be there ; for if something may


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be set down to a stock and useful dramatic motive in the
constant pictures of the squire ruined, or, at least, heavily
fleeced by usurers and attorneys, courtesans and tradesmen,
something will remain for solid truth. Jndeed, the rapid rise
of the professional and commercial classes, and the hardly vet
obsolete desire of every Englishman to found a family if he
can, must have supplied great facilities and no small tempta-
tions, even to country gentlemen, who were not mere pigeons
(or, as the phrase then went, " coneys "), to melt their acres into
gold. Such a household as has been referred to, even in its
most modest form, must have been enormously expensive;
Avhile the trader and the rising, but not risen, lawyer, doctor,
or divine were not encouraged by the laws and customs of the
time to spend very much money, and were, during the
earlier years of their career, always making more. There was
not, strictly speaking, any regular army or navy, and the
commissions in both, when war was going on, were chiefly, if not
Avholly, filled by the same floating body of gentlemen which
maintained and formed the households. But a good deal of
money Avas made, if some was also lost, in the half-privateer ing.
half-commercial expeditions of the time: much more by direct
and straightforward trade, internal and foreign ; much bv the

O /

laAv in its various grades from counsel to scrivener, and,
probably, a good deal by medicine (p. 200 ), Avhile the abundant
toleration of pluralities made the Church as a vocation occasion-
ally a very profitable one.

The univer- Jt J s no t to be forgotten that the Universities played a

sities and , . ,, , -,

society. perhaps more considerable part m relation to all tnese grades

than they have ever played since, at least, the end of the
seventeenth century. Although there was no general system
of education, almost any clever and promising boy in any class
was pretty sure to be sent by some patron to one of the
numerous free schools, whence it Avas his own fault if he did not
proceed to Oxford or Cambridge (or, as Avas then common, to
both). And though the greater number of those Avho did so
proceed doubtless went into the Church, a considerable surplus
drifted into the other professions and employments. The connec-
tion of both Oxford and Cambridge with the capital was also
pretty close ; and in the later years of their stay (Avhich, it
must be remembered, Avas then seldom less than seven years).




it is probable that most graduates haunted one part or an-
other of London society

The basement of the structure of the edifice of that Middle
society, and to a great extent of all society throughout Eng- Lower
land, was composed of elements not very different from those classes -
of the present day, with the exception of the important COH-


(firci** r>f Laici'cnee Hyile, Tisbury, Wilts. 1J90.)

tingent of " 'prentices " as an addition, and of an infinitely
smaller proportion of journeymen of all kinds as a subtraction,
with an almost total lack of the lowest class of unskilled
workmen, or partially skilled " factory hands." But these
materials, and to a very large extent the members of the
upper classes already described, were intermingled and shaken
together in a manner quite unknown to-day. At present,




society moves in sharply separated groups, while even the
individuals of these groups keep very much to themselves.
The same people meet each other at the same places and
times ; and they do not, as a rule, meet other people, especially
of different classes. Then life was led much more in common,
and much more in the open air. The merchant, instead of


being shut up in his office during business hours, passed these
hours on 'Change ; the lawyer, instead of writing his opinion,
or holding his consultation in his own chambers, met his
clients in " Paul's," in the Temple Gardens, in Westminster
Hall. The streets themselves, though they could hardly have
been fuller, would have been full, not of men hurrying merely
from one place to another, but of men occupied in them,
doing their business, taking their pleasure, living their lives
on the actual pavement. The perpetual rendezvous in



taverns, though, no doubt, each tavern had its more or less
regular customers, was much less of a coterie thing than
club frequentation. The theatres were open-air for the most
part ; the churches were constantly open, and places of regular
resort ; the great places of public haunt already named Paul's,
'Change, Westminster Hall, and others were not mere pro-
fessional places, still less wildernesses tenanted by passing
sightseers, but actual assembly-rooms. And the assemblies
that haunted them were of the most varied and picturesque
kind, with more than a little left of the caste dress of the
middle ages, and with an incessant movement and mixture of
new kinds. Soldiers just returned from Flanders and Ireland
(in the latter case probably a good deal the worse for wear),
adventurers fresh from Virginia or Guinea, grave citizens and
lawyers, divines and physicians, great men with their company
of gentlemen and serving-men, flat-cap 'prentices, city dames
and damsels, courtesans, bravoes, cooks, all distinguishable
more or less by their appearance, and each class having for
the most part much more opportunity for individual distinc-
tion than at present such must have been the dramatis
persona of the streets of London in the sixteenth century,
while the streets of London were the stage on which the
national life in more than a microcosm of it passed and was
seen as it has never been seen since.

SINCE the social life of a nation is affected by the personal M. BATESON.

. . Manners

idiosyncrasies of even a weak sovereign, it is not surprising to a nd costume.

find that the strongly marked personality of Elizabeth had
power to determine the tone of society.

The aofe which knew her is fitly called Elizabethan, for no The Queen

, -,. . i i -i T-i r and tne

other adjective so amply describes it. irom many points ot view Na tion.

her personality was typical of that of the nation, for the nation
and she were thoroughly at one. She liked to think of her-
self as " wedded to her people," and so close was their union
that she and her people grew like each other even in externals.
Thus it came about that Elizabeth's insatiable love of pleasure,
her unflagging good spirits, and zest in the enjoyment of life,
made gaiety and light-heartedness prevail ; for her Court was
gay, and her Court was everywhere, since she moved up and




down the country, to be known and seen of all men. Pro-
gresses and pageants were everyday matters, but the Quern's
healthful body was too vigorous to suffer, and neither she nor
her subjects ever showed that they found the pursuit of pleasure
may end in weariness. In politics and in religion she was before
all things practical: so, too, was her age. She admired worldly
wisdom, and if honest in nothing else she was honest in her
frank worldliness. She and her people made gain and pleasure
definite objects in life, and sought them in a spirit of truth.
There was no half-concealed attempt at combining instruction
with amusement ; the Elizabethan did not seek out what he
ought to enjoy and try to be interested or to laugh, but he
sought what did amuse him and did make him laugh. Yet
with the spirit of hearty, unrestrained enjoyment there some-
times goes a lack of discrimination and refinement, and it
cannot be denied that, just as the Queen's gay, pleasure-seeking
temperanielit was coarse, so also was Elizabethan society. The
Queen could control herself well enough upon occasion, yet
neither she nor her subjects thought fit to check the expres-
sion of their emotions, and the consequence was that their
manners were at times unbecoming. Elizabeth spat at a
courtier whose coat offended her taste, she boxed the ears of
another, she tickled the back of Leicester's neck when he
knelt to receive his earldom, she rapped out tremendous oaths,
and uttered every sharp, amusing word that rose to her lips.
Accordingly, the man who could not or would not swear was
accounted "a peasant, a clown, a patch, an effeminate person." 1
Swearing became a privilege of the upper classes ; the inven-
tion of new and original oaths by " St. Chicken " and the like
was the young nobleman's duty,- whilst his servants were fined
a penny for every oath. 3

To obtain the Queen's favour it was necessary to be
amusing, no matter at whose expense. Mary Queen of Scots
judged wisely when she warned her ambassador, Melville,
whose temperament was not naturally of the most serious,
that he must " cast in merry purposes " as far as he could in
his interviews with Elizabeth. Even the physical defects of

1 Stubbes, "Anatomy of the Abuses in England," ed. F. J. Furnivall, p. 132.
- Crowley. ''Select Works" [155o], ed J. M. Cowper. p. 19.
3 Harrington. Xugae Antiquae," ed. Park. I., 105.




her statesmen caused Elizabeth much delight, since they
enabled her to nickname them the more aptly. The poor
little pock-marked dwarf Alencon, her favoured suitor, who
fortunately was devoid of personal vanity, was called " petite
grenouille " to his face. Coarse manners were often the expres-


(From a miniature in the Victoria and Albert Museum.)

sion of coarser morals. Men of the purest and best
shrank from no allusion, however gross, and felt
to check their words in speech or writing ; it
prising, then, that men of weaker intelligence felt
to check their actions or their conduct. Ascham
his famous attack on the parents who sent their
to Italy for their education, that that " Court of

no impulse
is not sur-

no impulse
suggests, in
young sons
Circe " was




in part to blame for the degradation of English morals. He
writes: " I know divers that went out of England, men of inno-
cent lite, men of excellent learning, who returned out of Italy,
not only with worse manners, but also with less learning."
"Italy now is not that Italy that it was wont to be." Her
enchantments "mar men's manners in England, much by
example of ill-life, but more by precepts of fond books, of late
translated out of Italian into English, sold in every shop in
London, commended by honest titles the sooner to corrupt
honest manners, dedicated over-boldly to virtuous and honour-
able personages, the easier to beguile
simple and innocent wits." l

The same absence of restraint, of
taste and of dignity showed itself in
fashionable dress. The Queen's ex-
travagant artificiality knew no bounds,
and her example was so eagerly followed
by both men and women that the
English became a laughing - stock to
foreign nations. The women of the
Middle Ages had let loose their fancy
on their headgear ; but their dresses
till the days of Elizabeth were dignified
and simple. Even headgear in the reign
of Henry VII. and Henry VIII. was
simple, for the diamond hood replaced
the horned and peaked structures of
the past. Elizabeth's dress as a girl
was markedly plain, but when she came
to the throne she gave free scope to

her vanity. She was proud of her hair, which was of a reddish
gold colour, and she elaborated its dressing. Sir James Melville.
in his "Memoirs," noted that it " cm-lit apparently of nature/'
Later in life she wore a wig dyed a bright auburn to resemble
her own hair in its youth. Accordingly, the use of false
hair and curling-tongs became general among ladies of the
fashionable world. Philip Stubbes, the Elizabethan satirist,
describes women's hair as frizzled and crisped, laid out on
wreaths and borders from ear to ear, propped with forks and

1 Ascham's " Schoolmaster " [1570] (Arbcr). p. 71 urtj.


(ircs< TJiurrorl; A'-s-.r, LV.HI.)

I'hotu; II'. Siionni'i- it Co., Strand, H'.C.

(From the painting by Zucchero at Hampton Court Palace.)




wire," and says that " on this bolstered hair, which standeth
crested round about their frontiers, they apply gold wreaths,
bugles, and gewgaws." On the top of this structure only married
women were required to wear hats; 1 as a rule, a caul, or net-
work to show off the hair, or the " French hood " of former
days, now reduced to a tiny cap, sufficed for outdoor wear.



(Aslimolcnii Museum, Orfnril.)

Like most of the striking fashions of the period, the ruff
was of Spanish origin. It began as a large, loose cambric
collar, and became so enormously wide that the wearer was
greatly inconvenienced by its flip-flapping in a storm of wind
and rain. To overcome this, wires were inserted to hold it up
and out from the neck, and three or four minor ruffs were
added to till the space beneath this fan-like structure,
Avhich in women's dress reached to the top of the high-

1 Rye. " England as Seen by Foreigners.'' p. 73.




dressed hair. Starch, " the devil's liquor," as the Puritans
called it, was invented to meet the needs of the ruff, as also
goffering-tongs, or " poking sticks of steel." By their means
the collar was reduced to a stiff frill.








(>7. Katharine's Hospital, Loniloti.)

At the besfinnino- of the reio-n unmarried Avomen wore the

o o o

front of the neck bare, even out of doors. As Elizabeth's com-
plexion was pale and fair, women in general desired to be "of
a pale bleake colour " ; and to obtain that end swallowed gravel,
ashes, and tallow. She was long-waisted and narrow-chested,





so "to get a straight spagnolised (Spanish-shaped) body what
pinching, what girding, what cingling will they not endure." 1
The long-peaked stomacher helped to produce a long waisted
appearance, and in men's dress too the doublet was padded
and brought down to a peak in front.

To counterbalance the enormous winged ruff, both men's
and women's dress showed a tendency to expand below. A
modified form of the " farthingale," or hoop, was worn in
England as early as 1545. The word is derived from the

Spanish " verdugal," young shoots grow-
ing in a wood after cutting thence a
rod or hoop In Italy. France, and
Spain small hoops to expand the hips
were generally worn, and as with
greater expansion a larger surface lor
the display of jewels and embroidery
could be obtained, Elizabeth s farthingale
became enormous At the end of the
reign the "wheel" farthingale was in
vogue, in which the skirt was drawn
out at right angles to the body and
Avired so as to form a sort of table on
which the arms could! rest Elizabeth's
appearance 11 some ot her portraits
has been aptly compared i<> that ot an
Indian idol Her dresses were covered
with ornaments not a square inch of
the original fabric was left without
quiltings, slashings, or embroidery, the whole being further
covered with a bushel of big pearls, or other precious stones
These last the Queen was in the habit ot losing, and her
wardrobe accounts contain such notices as '' lost from Her
Majesty's back one tassel and one middle piece ot gold from
a knitted button"; "lost from the face of a gown in our
wearing, one pair of small aglets (spangles) enamelled blue
parcel of 183 pair.' : Well might the Elizabethan satirist groan
"wonien seem the smallest part of themselves." :; "a ship is
sooner rigged than a woman/'

1 liiOS. J. Florio. "Montaigne's Essays." cited hv Furmv.ill. in Stubbes'

>:s (>F \VILLIAM 1J11UWXE.

(llultiin. Titicte. L'.i.)

"Anatomy." p 7i

Pars minima est ipsa puella sui ! ''




In men's dress the chief change which marked the Eliza- Men's
be than period Avas the division of the long "hosen" of the
past into two parts, breeches and stockings. Breeches were
called trunk- hose or hose and stockings nether-stocks. As a
rule the trunk-hose or " galligascons," were stuffed or "bom-
basted " to such an extent that stooping was extremely diffi-
cult To get into these garments was not easy ; to make sure
that " the long seams of our hose be set up a plumb-line,
then we puff, then we blow, and finally sweat till we drop.'' l
Lozenge-shaped puffings and slashings decorated the padded
surface. Philip Stubbs, hearing that 100 had been paid for


a pair of breeches, cries " God be merciful unto us ' '' Harrison
jokingly tells of a "well-burnished" gentleman who cut down
three-score woods, and bore them in his galligascons, " but
caught such an heat with this sore load that he was fain to
go to Rome for physic."

Sleeves, doublet, and cloak were equally ornamented ; some-
times with much parti-colouring, and instead of the brown
and russet and tawny of yore, numbers of new-fangled hues
devised for the nonce. 2 Stockings were curiously knit, with
open seam down the leg, quirks and clocks about the ankle,

1 Harrison's 'Description of England," ed. F. J. Furnivall. ii. Kill.
- Harrison, ly cit.


Till-: .YA'ir ORDER.


and cost about 20s. a pair. Shoes, or :; boot-hosen," were
'clogged with silk of all colours, with birds, fowls, beasts and
antigues portrayed all over." 1 The Venetian "chopine," or
high-heeled shoe, came into fashion, and men, as well as
women, chose to " tread on corked stilts a prisoner's pace."
(iallants wore bracelets and earrings, and covered themselves
with perfume, especially civet and musk. But it was in hats
that the Elizabethan gentleman found most scope for the
display of his taste. It was said that ihe block of a man's

head altered faster than the
feltmaker could tit him, where-
fore the English were called in
scorn blockheads - Massive gold
hatbands were used as a deco-
ration ; others wore great bunel H s
of feathers of divers colours
"peaking on lop of their heads."
The English used so many in-
congruous fashions, borrowed
from Denmark, France, Italy,
Utrecht, Spain, and Poland, that
a suit was said to be like a
traitor's body, hanged, drawn,
and quartered, and distributed
in sections to different parts of
the country. A Dutchman ob-
served that " the English dress
in elegant, light, and costly

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 45 of 68)