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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or absence. The average work of the strictly Elizabethan
period is notoriously of the most unequal character. Many
plays, even by authors of high general repute, are extremely
difficult to read as wholes, and perhaps owe part of the steady
maintenance of their reputation to this very fact. Really un-



R. E.

The Agri-


flawed and equable work is excessively rare, even with the
VITV greatest names. Much of the non-dramatic verse is
mannered, affected, unreal; while much else is slovenly and
trivial. The prose is often pedantic, often conceited, often
dull. But the everlasting and overmastering justification of
the place assigned to the Elizabethans is not affected by these
admissions, and lies quite elsewhere. It lies not more in the
fact that in the greater writers beauties of the most dazzling
kind are common, and that the whole atmosphere is one of
passion, of pathos, of vague promise and potency, than in the
fact that things hardly less beautiful are quite likely to be
found in writers on the whole quite inferior. In reading a
fourth-rate Elizabethan play, a sonneteer who is evidently
writing in a school, an industrious teacher of the viol who
h-as got some words to his airs or some airs to his words, flashes
and spurts of exquisite literature are not likely, but are sure
sooner or later to make their appearance. There are more
books written, with a vast deal more knowledge, and even with
a certain advance in strict formal merit, in the last decade of
the nineteenth century than there were in the last decade of
the sixteenth. I think the average quality of the books of
this our time is as respectable an average quality as you shall
find at any period in literary history. But you will not rind
in them often if you will rind in any but those of the very
greatest authors the Hash, the shock, the startling and yet
delightful thrill which comes again and again on the readers,
not merely of Shakespeare and Spenser, not merely of Marlowe
and Donne, but of Dr. Thomas Campion and Captain Tobias

THE characteristic feature of the close of the reign of Elizabeth
was that the transition stage from tillage to sheep-farming came
to an end. The balance was once more restored between them.
Enclosures continued to be made throughout the sixteenth
century; but at the end of the period under review they
were not accompanied by the features which had so greatly
aggravated the miseries of agricultural labourers. The popular
saying had been verified, that " it was never merry with poor
craftsmen since gentlemen had become graziers." At the close
of Elizabeth's reign, however, the high prices of English wool



declined, and at the same time the value of corn and meat
rose rapidly. Hence, a stimulus was given to arable farming
which provided employment for the rural population.

The decline in the value of English wool affords a curious Fail
illustration of the extent to which enclosure had been carried. of

When English wool tirst came into the Flemish market, it was wool,
distinguished for its fineness, and sold at a higher rate than its
Spanish rival. It was indispensable for the weaver. The best
fleeces were those of the Ryeland or Herefordshire sheep, of
which Leominster was the market. In the da} r s of Skelton ;
Elynour Rummynge, ale-wife of Leatherhead, received from
her customers payment in kind :

"Some fill their pot full
Of good Leinster wool."

Drayton's Dawsabel had a "skin as soft as Lemster wool."
Rabelais makes Panurge cheapen the flock of Dingdong ; and
when the latter descants upon the fineness of their fleeces, the
translator (Motteux : 1717) compares them to the quality of
" Lemynster wool." The second price was fetched by Cotswold
wool. The sheep that are kept upon heaths and commons,
and walk for their food, produce the finest, though not the
most abundant, fleeces. It was the experience of Virgil

" Si tibi lauicium curae, . . . fuge pabula laeta."
[" Is wool thy care ? Rich pasture must be shunned."]

In the same sense writes Dyer :

" On spacious airy downs, and gentle hills,
Witli grass and thyme o'erspread, and clover wild
The fairest flocks rejoice ! "

As the commons of England began to be extensively enclosed,
the quality of the fleeces deteriorated. Heavier animals better
suited to fat pastures, and producing coarse but abundant AVOO!
-were introduced. English wool lost its pre-eminence ; and,
though still obtaining high prices, was no longer indispensable
to the weaver. This decrease in value was at least as influential
in checking the conversion of arable land to pasture as Acts
of Parliament. The last of those Acts (1597) ordered that all
arable land which had been made pasture since the accession
of Queen Elizabeth should be reconverted to tillage, and none
then under the plough should be laid down to grass.


of Pro-


[1564 1603

The fluctuation in the price of wool probably chocked the
break-up of the open-field system. When enclosures began
again, sheep once more supplied the impetus. So long as
roots and artificial grasses were unknown to English farmers,
sheep were eot'ted in the winter months. When winter keep
became known, a change was passing over sheep-farming.
The animal was originally prized more for its fleece than its
carcass. In the eighteenth century the value was reversed.
Meat grew more profitable than wool. Heavier animals were
cultivated, and turnips put the means of keeping them into
the farmer's hands. In this new source of wealth was found a
strong incentive to break up the heaths and commons which
belonged to the open-field system, and to substitute enclosed
compact tenancies, on which turnips could be grown and eaten
off by folded sheep.

Simultaneously with the decline of profits Irom sheep-
farming came an advance in the value of other agricultural
produce. The Legislature was prompt to encourage a change
which promised relief to the congested labour markets, and to
the poverty of rural districts. Restrictions on the exportation
were gradually lightened, while protective duties were imposed
on foreign grain. For owners of land (whether landlords or
yeomen), for copyholders and tenant-farmers, the times were
prosperous. Even agricultural labourers shared in the good
fortune; for, though their wages remained low and only fitfully
rose with the decline in the purchasing-power of mono}', they
were more secure of employment, and thus the worst of their
evils was over.

" The soil," says Harrison, " had growne to be more fruitful,
and the countryman more painful, more careful, and more
skilful for recompense of gain." Internal communication was
facilitated, and new roads opened up new markets. Increased
attention was paid to manuring. In Cornwall, farmers rode
many miles for sand, and brought it home on horseback ; sea-
weed was extensively used on the land in South Wales ; in
Sussex, lime was fetched from a distance and at considerable
expense. In Middlesex and Hertfordshire, the sweepings of
the London streets were bought up for the fields The yield
per acre was vising. On the well-tilled and dressed acre, we
are told that wheat averaged twenty bushels, barley thirty-two

Tying to Poles.

Cutting Roots.

Stacking Pules.

Ramming of Pules.

Taking from Poles.

(11. Smt, "Perfttf Plutforme oj a Hop f!'.ink,i" l-'iV-U




sure and

bushels, outs and beans forty bushels. The cultivation of 1m] is
was assuming importance, though the distich, of which another
version has already been quoted (Vol. 11., p. 736)-

" Hops, reformation, bays, and beer
Came into England all in one year"

puts the date of their introduction into England too late.
Their use was borrowed from the Low Countries by the farmers
of the Eastern Counties at the end of the fifteenth century.
By the reign of Edward VI., the cultivation of hops had
assumed such importance, that an Act of Parliament per-
mitting their growth under certain restrictions was passed in
1552. A quarter of a century later appeared the first treatise
on the industry. Reginald Scot's " Perfite Platforme of a
Hoppe Garden" was published in 157(5; and contains minute
instructions for the growing, picking, drying, and packing of
hops. Hasted, in his " History of Kent," notices that orchards
were turned into hop-gardens ; and in Suffolk, in the days of
Tusser, hops were extensively cultivated.

Part of the improvement was undoubtedly due to enclosures,
and to the new scope which the possession of a separate farm
gave to industrial energy. Essex and Suffolk are quoted both
by Fitzherbert and Tusser to prove the superior cultivation
of enclosed land. The proverbial expression " Suffolk stiles "
seems to point to the early extinction of open fields. Norclen,
in his " Essex Described " (1594), calls it the " Englishe Goshen,
the fattest of the Lande, comparable to Palestina, that floweth
with milke and hunnye." So " manie and sweete " were its
" commodities " that they compensated for the " inoste cruell
quarterne fever" which he caught among its low-lying lands.
To these witnesses may be added the evidence of '' W. S.,
Gentleman," whose "Compendious Examination of Extra-
ordinary Complaints of our Countrymen" was published in
15>sl. To the husbandmen who complained that arable land
is enclosed and turned into pasture, that rents are raised and
labour unemployed- it is shown that the most prosperous
counties are those which (like Essex, Suffolk, and Northampton-
shire) are most enclosed. 1

1 It must be remembered that the value of the sheep on arable land was
at this period totally unknown. Hence the two branches of farming 1 , which
now are combined with advantage to both the sheep farmer and the corn





(Roxliitrijlie IlaUad.)

Of the general prosperity of the land-owning and land- The
renting portion of the rural community there is sufficient
evidence. The ordinary fare of the country gentleman was Gentry

abundant, if not profuse. The
dinner which Justice Shallow
ordered for Falstaff might, be
quoted as an illustration. But
more direct testimony may be
produced. Harrison, writing at
the close of the reign of Eliza-
beth, says that the usual dinner
of a country gentleman was
" foil re, five, or six dishes, when
the}^ have but small resort."
Gervase Markham - - whose
" English Housewife," though
published somewhat later, was written about the same time
gives directions for a " great feast," and 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." The
" humble feast or ordinary
proportion " includes " six-
teen dishes of meat that
are of substance, and not
empty, or for show." To
these " sixteen full dishes,"
he adds " sallets, fricases,
quclque chose, and devised
paste, as many dishes more
which make the full service
no less than thirty-and-

grower, were entirely dissevered.

The arable farmer had only his

commons or his pasture to rely

upon for the summer and

winter keep of his flock. His

land was tilled for wheat, barley, oats, and beans. He knew no other crops.

Artificial grasses, turnips, swedes, mangolds, were not yet introduced, and,

until they took their place among the ordinary crops for which arable land

was cultivated, no farmer experienced the truth of the saying that the foot

of the sheep turns sand into gold.


(Barclay, " Skip of Fouls," 1509.)





two dishes." In dress, also, the country gentry were growing
more expensive and costly, imitating the " diversities of jagges
and change of colours " of the Frenchman. Already, too, as
IJishop Hall has described in his "Satires," they were in the
habit of deserting their country houses for the gaiety of towns,
and the " thankful swallow " built her " circled nest " in

'' The towered chimnies, which should 1)6
The windpipes of good hospitalitie."

Of the yeomen, or substantial farmers, Harrison says that

IRON rillMXKY PLATK (Ijis.i'icli Muse inn).
-nin a photograph, '/ ji- minimi of the

they " commonlie live wealthilie, keepe good houses, and travell
to get riches." Their houses were furnished with "costlie
furniture," and they had " learned also to garnish their cup-
boards with plate, their joined beds with tapistrie and silk
hangings, and their tables with carpets and line draperie." Old
men noted these changes in luxurious habits " the multitude
of chimnies latelie erected," " the great amendment of lodging,"
and " the exchange of vessell," as of treene platters into pewter,
" and wooden spoones into silver or tin." In the Isle of Wight
Sir John Oglander, comparing the state of the country at the
se of Elizabeth's reign and at the outbreak of the Civil War,


(British Museum.)

[To face p.:s4.



says : " Money was as plentiful in the yeomen's purses as now
in the best of the gentry, and all of the gentry full of money
and out of debt."

The copy holder's house is described by Bishop Hall as being

" Of one bay's breadth, God wot, a silly cote
Whose thatched spars are furred with sluttish soote
A whole inch thick, shining like blackmoor's brows,
Through smoke that dowue the headlesse bar el blows.
At his bed's feete feeden his stalled teame,
His swine beneath, his pulleu o'er the beame."

But the fare which he enjoyed was probably more rudely
plentiful than that which falls to the lot of the labourer of
to-day. In one of the Elizabethan pastoral poems, a noble
huntsman rinds shelter under a shepherd's roof. The food,
even if we allow something for Arcadian licence, was good. The
guest is welcomed with the best that the host can furnish :

' Browne bread, whig, bacon, curds, and milke,
Were set him on the borde."

At this time, it was probable that no great rise in rents had
been made. The benefit of the rise in prices of produce was
chiefly felt by the cultivators of land ; and their prosperity
arose, not from advanced science, nor increased economy, nor
improved methods of cultivation, but from the rapid rise in
the prices of corn and meat. It was due, in the first place, to
the unjust labour laws, which prevented wages from rising to
their natural level, and thus cheapened the labour bill of the
employer. It was due, in the second place, to the sudden
influx of the precious metals and the consequent rapid rise in
prices. But no permanent prosperity could in fact be expected
until substantial improvements were effected in agriculture,
which should at once increase the amount and cheapen the
cost of production. The only new crop which was introduced
into sixteenth century farming was the cultivation of hops.
During the first half of the seventeenth century, on the
contrary, a variety of improvements and fresh materials for
profitable farming were introduced into the coimtiy, though it
was not till a hundred and fifty years later that they were ex-
teVisively adopted in English agriculture.




THE second half of Elizabeth's reign saw a groat increase of
national wealth and of national commerce ; but it was not

J. E.

The Pro-
gress^ of marked bv any great change in industrial policy, nor by

any very ne\v industrial tendencies. The organisation of
industry and commerce by the Statute of Apprentices and


1, Oak shove] from sfrpam-work, near Altai-nun : 2. Tronshnd shovel, "'''' cent., found in stream
work at Luxul.vaii : 3, oak pickaxe found in peat-moss at Ro*eteaf:ue, St. Just : i and .1, oak shovel from
stream-work on the Ooss Moor and near Lanivet respectively , (i, spoon shovel hewn out of one piece ot
oak, from Carnon Stream.

(Tnirii Museum. I:// /,//.,..; f tin- /,'"/// Institution <\t Cornwall.

t'l'nnl II jlJlntlHTrfllill Illl <!. I'l'll ('HM-, /','.-'/. 1

the trading companies : the policy of protecting native in-
dustries, and of encouraging the importation of silver and
gold: the rise in prices, and the sloAver rise in (money) wages:
che building up of new manufactures, with the help ot
refugees from the Netherlands and from France all these
tendencies and forces continued at work during the second
half of Elizabeth's reign, and, in fact, it was then that their
results were most cleo/ly to be seen The peaceful and



economical policy of the great Queen aided the accumulation Maritime
of capital ; whilst the encouragement given to rovers and ture _
pirates stimulated the spirit of adventure and the arts of
seamanship, and indirectly promoted our foreign trade. That
English gentlemen of good birth and high character rushed
into the profession of piracy (p. 650) is one of the most charac-
teristic facts of the Elizabethan age. We must connect it partly
with the new spirit of enterprise which the Renascence had
ushered in, partly, perhaps, with the loosening of moral bonds
which accompanied the religious revolution. We cannot alto-
gether wonder that refugees from the persecutions under Edward
VI. and Mary had sometimes taken to piracy as a means of
earning a livelihood ; or that unscrupulous adventurers, like
Lord Seymour, had been attracted by the possibilities which
it offered. But in the reign of Elizabeth piracy acquired a new
moral and religious character, from its connection with that
hatred of Spain and of Koine which many good Protestants
regarded as a religious and patriotic sentiment. To rob
Spaniards w r as to avenge the martyrs of the Inquisition and
to spoil the enemies of the Lord. The Government encouraged
the movement for its own ends. It felt that the pirates might
form a useful naval reserve, and it was glad to see its enemies
annoyed and injured without the expense and risks of a formal
war. In the early part of the reign this weapon was chiefly
used against France ; but the sea-rovers soon found that the


Spanish vessels offered a richer spoil. The mutual jealousies
of France and Spain, and the desire of both for an English
alliance, drove them to submit to these depredations. Philip,
indeed, resorted to retaliation, but the event proved that this
was a game in which the English gained more than they lost.
Philip could not bring himself to declare Avar, though Spanish
treasures and Spanish subjects were being openly sold in
English ports, and rich ransoms were being obtained for the
liberation of some of those who were thus captured. In 1572,
when the Government only owned thirteen armed ships, it
reckoned its navy at 146, for there were 133 armed vessels,
which, although private property, and used for piracy or trade,
could, at any crisis, be pressed into the Queen's service.

With the same object of strengthening its naval forces, the
Government encouraged the fisheries. We have seen that for


[1584 1603

Fisheries, tli is purpose they enforced fasts, in the religious efficacy of
which they had little belief (p. 493). Iceland was the chief of
the more distant resorts of English fishermen. Hakluyt tells
us that in 1577 we had only fifteen vessels engaged in the
Newfoundland fisheries, against 150 French, 100 Spanish, and
fifty Portuguese ; but he adds that our ships were the best, and
gave the law to the rest, and protected them from pirates.

Whaling. The same writer records the beginning of the English whale

fisheries in 1593. The Russia Company soon afterwards made
this industry part of its regular work ; and though they seem


to have been ignorant of the value of whalebone and fins, they
made considerable profit out of the oil. Tins company, however,
rapidly decayed towards the close of Elizabeth's reign Sir
Walter Raleigh, in his " Observations Concerning the Trade and
Commerce of England" (1603), informed King James that,
whereas down to about 1590 a store of goodly English ships
went annually to Russia, only four had gone in 1600, and only
two or three in 1602. By that time the Netherlands had
secured their independence from Spain, and were recovering
with extraordinary rapidity from the persecutions and devasta-
tions of their late rulers. They had, in fact, already become







Aii Im
pulse to
our Com-




the foremost commercial nation of the world, and were ousting
(he Kuglish from many branches of foreign trade.

In the earlier years, however, of the period here dealt
with, their immigrants had continued to render inestimable
nervines to English industry. The sacking of Antwerp by
Alva in Ms.") completed the ruin of what had been, till the
previous sacking in l-">7(i, by far the greatest mercantile em-
porium in the world. Much of its business was now transferred
to London, which was, indeed, becoming the clearing-house
of the world, receiving large quantities of goods for re-expor-
tation, and settling many international financial transactions.
We have seen, however, that the Netherlands soon recovered
the foremost position in European commerce, Amsterdam
taking the place which Bruges and Antwerp had successively
enjoyed. In manufactures, on the contrary, England steadily
progressed. We no longer sent wool to be worked up in
Flanders, except for some of the finer processes, and especially
for dyeing.

Our African slave trade is said to have been started in
1562 by John Hawkins. He fitted out three ships, by sub-
scription, and sailed with them to the coast of Guinea. There
lie obtained slaves, whom he carried off to Hispaniola. Having
sold his living cargo he purchased hides, sugar, ginger, and
pearls. Then he returned home. The profits made by these
transactions encouraged him to make two other similar voyages,
and he was rewarded by permission to add to his coat-of-arms
a demi-Moor proper, bound with a cord ! Elizabethan English-
men viewed the slave trade with no moral abhorrence; in i'act,
it was at first such negroes as would otherwise have been put to
death as criminals or enemies who were sold to Europeans ; and
it might plausibly bo maintained that they were the chief
gainers by the transaction. Soon, no doubt, the gaudy articles
brought by the traders tempted native chiefs to sell innocent
members of their own tribes, or to engage in wars simply in
order to capture prisoners ; but such considerations did not
trouble our ancestors. Queen Elizabeth herself did not hesitate
to share in the risks and profits of Hawkins' second voyage ;
and if Burghley had " no liking for such proceedings," it was
apparently because he knew that the slaves were to be sold
in Spanish colonies against the laws of Spain, rather than



from -any pity for the poor Africans. At a later time a com- The

i ,.1 f-, A r i ' African

pany, known as the Guinea or African Company, was mcor- company.

porated to carry on the African trade. In addition to slaves
they dealt in various commodities, more especially importing
into England gold, which Avas coined into guineas.

In 1592 a new charter was given to the Levant, or Turkey The
Company. This company was originally incorporated in 1581 : company,
but its privileges were only granted to it for seven years. During
the four years between 1588 and 1592 the Levant trade appears
to have been free, and when the new charter was given provision
was made for giving outsiders a share in the trade. This com-
pany, however, like most of the others, had only a very moderate
degree of prosperity. The demoralising influence of the
monopoly, the energetic rivalry of the Dutch, and the fluc-
tuating policy of the Turkish Government*, probably account
for its want of success.

Xear the close of Elizabeth's reign (December 31 : 1600) he
"he East India Company, the one brilliantly successful trade India
sompany, was incorporated ; but it will be more convenient
to deal with its early career in the next chapter, to which also
we may defer the American trade, which was inconsiderable in

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 61 of 68)