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

. (page 34 of 68)
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 34 of 68)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

fluenza. . , . , .

once their troublesome nature and their somewhat smaller risk

to life. These epidemics are interesting, inasmuch as it is not
always easy to distinguish the epidemics that would now be
called influenza from the " hot agues " or " strange fevers." One
of the greatest periods of these in England (and elsewhere) befell
in the summers and autumns of 1557 and 1558, six or seven
years after the last sweat ; and they had then the sweating type
so pronounced that a physician who had an attack near
Southampton in 1558 actually calls the disease a sweat, and
compares it with the sweat of King Edward's reign, which
had cut off " the two noble princes of Suffolk, imps of honour
most towardly." At Rodwell, near Leeds, where the burials
seldom exceeded twenty in a year, they rose in 1557 to seventy-
six, and in 1558 to 124. Those two epidemics, in 1557 and 1558,
made a great impression all over the country; the annalists
record them as having cut off " many of the wealthiest men all
England through," as having been especially severe on the clergy,
" so that a great number of parishes were unserved and no
curates to be gotten," and as having been so severe on the
labourers " that much corn was lost in the fields " for lack of
hands to reap and carry it ; and as having been so general that
" a third part of the people of the land did taste the general sick-
ness." Queen Mary herself, who died in the winter of 1558,
appears to have been a victim of the lingering effects of the
epidemic fever. The same epidemics of " hot agues " recur
at intervals in the history in 1580, perhaps also in 1596 (giving
occasion to Shakespeare's mention of " the sweat," along with war,
poverty, and the gallows, as spoiling the custom of the bawd in
Measure for Measure}, on several occasions (even two or more
seasons in succession) throughout the seventeenth century, and
most recently for several seasons about the year 1780
most recently, that is to say, if we do not discover the same




mysterious form ot epidemic sickness among the influenzas
of 1889-94. They make, on the whole, a distinct species in the
general class of influenzas, which have had more often the type
of " universal colds " than of universal fevers, or universal agues.
On several occasions a season of distinct " universal cold " has
been interpolated between two seasons of equally distinct
epidemic ague.

The universal agues of the end of Queen Mary's reign suggest
one other remark on the
public health of England,

which holds good for the
whole period covered in
this survey. So much is
said of " agues " in old
writings whether books,
domestic letters, or State
papers the business of
the ague-curer was affected
by so many of the class
of empirics down even to
the time of George II.,
that it looks on the sur-
face as if England had
been a highly malarious
or marshy country, and
as if malaria had been
at one time a standing
danger to the public
health, as it is now in so
many countries of the
sub-tropical and tropical
zones. It will be found, however, that the malarious districts of Malaria.
England were as special and as well known as such in early times
as they were within recent memory. It is undoubtedly true
that the Fens and other marshy tracts have been drained ; but
the drainage of the Fens began soon after the Norman Conquest,
and from the time of James I. it had probably reduced malarial
fever among their residents almost to the point at which it stood
some fifty years ago. Again, Romney " Marsh " had " many


(BnUein, "ol-e of Use of Sick Men ami Medicines," H62. v

great farms

and holdings," which had been converted into


grazing land in the time of Henry VIII. The narrow limitation
of the truly malarious parts of England is shown in an absurd
admission or boast of a famous ague-curer of Charles II.'s time
the quack Talbor. To qualify for his speciality he had resided
for some time in a malarious parish on the Essex shore of the
Thames, and, having learned his business in actual contact with
the disease, had come to London to practise it upon all and
sundry who had " agues " of one kind or another, or thought that
they had ague. It is clear from the records that "ague" AVUS
often of the nature of " vapours," brought on by surfeits and
immoderate drinking of ale. But even when ague was a true
fever, with paroxysms and intermissions, or with relapses, it was
much more rarely the endemic fever of a malarious region than
the ague of one of those strange universal epidemics, which were
frequent enough, and sometimes so prolonged over a succession
of seasons, as to make the aguish type a common one in practice
from year to year more common, of course, in one year than
another, and sometimes absent for years together, as medical
chronologies clearly show.
The As to London in particular, and the country close to it, we

London f ma 3 7 ^ sure ^ at ma ^ ai 'i a na d little or no effect on the public
health. A celebrated modern writer on the fevers of Britain
does indeed say that " the country surrounding London Avas,
in Cromwell's time, as marshy as the Fens in Lincolnshire now
are." But he is merely raising a verbal construction upon a
misunderstood use of the term " a<me-' The ague that the Lord

o O

Protector contracted at Hampton Court, and died of at,
Whitehall, was the epidemic " strange fever " of the summer and
autumn of 1658, just as Queen Mary's ague was the same
mysterious epidemic disease a century before : marshy or
malarial conditions were not more directly a cause of these agues
than of our recent influenzas all over England. The country
round London was much the same then as it is now ; the one
great moor or fen near the Avails had been drained dry in
Henry VIII.'s time, and so made the Moorfield a people's park,
crossed by roads and paths. If there Avere any marked
difference in the amount of water about London in former times,
it Avas that the Thames used to floAv in a Avider channel, and
occasionally inundate the IOAV grounds of Lambeth and Pimlico.
But the country round London the northern heights from



Homerton to Hampstead, the southern range of wooded lawns
from Stockwell and Camberwell to Greenwich Park that con-
figuration of hill and vale, was such as it had ever been since the
last geological change, deserving all that FitzStephen, in the
time of Richard I., had said of its healthful air and pleasant
meadows, and not truly malarious, in the strict sense of the
term, at any later period of history.

THE story of Celtic Scotland is many times more shadowy and JAMES
confusing than that of the Saxon Heptarchy. Living interest The King-
in the national annals begins with the accession of David I. dom of
(1124). Youngest son of Malcolm Canmore and Queen Mar- 1124-1561.'
garet, and therefore half Saxon, half Celt, he overlaid the
native qualities of the two races with the dominating and
organising characteristics of the Normans, of whom he was
ever an apt pupil, and converted a loose confederacy of pastoral
tribes into a feudal state. Till the disastrous death of Alex-
ander III. ended the direct line of Canmore (1286), the country
enjoyed a vigorous period of consolidation and reconstruction
in church, burgh, and baronage. The War of Independence


{National Museum of Antiquities oj Scotland Edinburgh.)








which was the bane

(1 280-1328) was fatal to progress. The Treaty of Northampton
(1328), which secured the recognition of Scottish nationality,
was dearly bought. The long war had hastened that, dis-

of feudalism, inn-rased I he
pOAver of the barons, and
paved the way tor a period
(1:529-1424) of weak kin-
and lawless factions. Still
more fatal were the effort,-,
of the later Plantagenets,
openly and insidiously, to
wreck the work of Bruce.
The return of James 1. from
English captivity gave
promise of another David I.,
after the lapse of exactly
three centuries, but the
progress of this period (1424-
1513) was marred by all the
evils of a rampant feudalism,
fast working out its own

Scotia proper, the ancient
Alban, was the Celtic nucleus
of the State, and the Wessex
of the Scottish crown. The
Forth, its southern bound-
ary, was long known as the
Scottis Water. From this
as a centre King David
overran the Lothians, Tweed-
dale, and Strathclyde. and
there planted feudal civilisa-
tion, barons in strong castles, and abbots well endowed. Galloway,
with its "wild men," and David's duchy of Cumberland, long-
formed sources of weakness and danger on the skirts ot the
kingdom. The eastern seaboard, the Scottish " Dane-law '
(I., p. 212) was the backbone of progress in its industrial popula-
tion, either of Angles settled for ages on the frontier of Alban.
or recent arrivals from England and the Low Countries. To




the west the semi-independent Norsemen and the old Celtic
Mormaors had still to be dealt with. But the battles of Largs
(1263) and Harlaw (1411) removed all apprehensions of danger
on this score. The palatinate of Moravia, formed by Norman
colonies on the ruins of the
Celtic lordships of Moray,
Ross, and Caithness, secured
the kingdom on its northern

David I. was the Alfred
of his people. His guiding
principle was to make a
peaceful farming population
out of a warlike pastoral
one. For the Celtic ruling
classes such as the mormaor
or senior of a confederacy
he substituted the Norman
earl, with the powers of a
Warden of the Marches ; for
the toshach, or tribal chief,
the Saxon sheriff, vicecomes,
or local deputy of the king ;
for the brehon, or clan judge,
the deemster; and for the
class of freebooting duine-
uasal or gentry, freeholders
by military tenure, He in-
duced the baronial class, now
chartered possessors of their
lands, to convert their native-
men, neifs, or serfs, into a
crofting peasantry of rust id

fcrnui i-i'i, each tilling a portion of the common holding of the
vill or hamlet. This churl-born class, unfortunately, long re-
mained mere tenants-at-will. Lowest of all were the unen-
franchised serfs, the toilers on the abbey grange or barons'
demesne, and doubtless the residuum of the Celtic population,
but they disappeared by the middle of the fourteenth century.

" Commendation," based on the customs of the tribal


37 i


Law and

commune, served as a police system, livery man must have
a lord or corporate body to be bis bor/i or pledge in any
breach of the law. For the old ordeals was substituted the
visnet, or jury of leal and honest men of the neighbourhood.
On the local courts of burgh and barony were conferred the
right of punishment by imprisonment or even death To
contend with the great social evils of violence and theft there
were the bloodwite, or compensation for injuries, and the con-


clition of open sale of goods in free market with a warranter
as security that they were honestly come by. Finally, the
king, as fountain of justice, through his justiciars, held circuit
courts twice a year, in early summer and autumn, or " anys
Burgbs wi' the gyrs and anys wi' the corn." The burghs, which owed,
if not their creation, at least their constitution, to David I.
and William the Lion, greatly aided law and order. They
were entirely foreign to Celtic habits. Their ancient laws still
survive, and their an*e or federation existed a century before
any other of the kind. A burgess must have at least a rood



of land as his buroage, paying an annual rent of fivepence
to the king. Those rents, serving the purposes of modern
taxation, were at first collected by the ballivus regis, but



before the fourteenth century the burghs had secured charters
by payment of a fixed yearly reddendo, so that each bur-
gess became a freeholding crown vassal. Edinburgh's charter,
the oldest, is dated 1329. The burghs were represented
in the first Parliament of the Three Estates, at Cambusken-


neth, 1326. The earliest recorded burgh election is that of
Aberdeen (1398).

Burghai Perth was the only walled burgh. The houses were of wood,

Customs. an( | fi res were frequent ; but the citizens were merciful to the
man whose house began it, "for sorrow & heviness has he
ineuch foroutyn mar." At the Townhead, generally on a high
ground, stood the king's, bishop's, or baron's castle for defence,
and from it sloped the high street, with its tolbooth, mercat
cross, and cuk-stool (pillory), where offenders endured " the
lauch o' the toon." At the Townend was the spital for lepers.
Fortnightly the burgesses held their moot, and when the
Chamberlain was on his ayre [journey] they were summoned




to answer to their names. The burghs were close trading
corporations. Goods must be exposed in hulk at the mercat
cross and at the legal hours of sale. Retailers, such as bakers
and butchers, must show their wares at window openly.
There must be no forestalling or hoarding to force up prices.
" Brpustar- wives " must show the ale-wand in window or over
the door as proof that the appraisers had passed their brew.
These officials regulated strictly both the quality and price of
articles, and there Avere enactments against adulteration and
scamped Avorkmanship. Though anxious about equal and fail-
dealing all round, these communities Avere aristocratic. Trade
refused to rub shoulders Avith handicraft, and the merchant
guilds secured to themselves privileges. Jealousy of the landed



gentry was a marked feature. Any bondsman from the Uplands
might get his freedom by securing a buroage and occupying it for
a year and a day. The gentry, too, must sell their wool and
hides to a guild brother, and buy goods from a free burgess.
The burgesses knew nothing of burdensome feudal services,
such as the marriage fine, the death duty, and wardships.
The training they got in citizenship was admirable, ranging
from the duties of provosts and bailies, appraisers, collectors of
great and petty customs, to humble watchmen. Pageants pre-
served the feelings of brotherhood. The crafts marched to


the church on their saint's day with offerings of wax candles.
A great holiday was the riding of the inarches on St. Michael's
or on Senzie (Ascension) Day." More boisterous was the mirth
when burgess' sons personated the Abbot and Prior of Un-
reason at Pasch (Easter) and Beltane (May Day).

Foreign trade in Celtic times was concentrated on the Tay, Trade,
near the palace of Scone. With the extension of the kingdom
southwards Berwick sprang into importance, its revenues in
Alexander Ill's time equalling one-third of the whole customs
of England. Its prosperity excited the envy of Edward I.,
and the siege (1296), so vividly narrated by Barbour, is one






of the most horrible incidents of the war. The traders were
Flemings, who lived in a castellated factory, the Red Hall,
and a stout defence they made under John Crab, a daring-
sea-captain and merchant prince. When Berwick had to In-
given np as the one trophy of the war, Perth took its place.
Its most noted burgess, John Mercer, was one of the richest
traders of the time, and successively custumar (collector or
farmer of the customs), provost, royal chamberlain, and financial
agent for the king's ransom after Nevil's Cross. Edward 1.
did all he could to cripple Scottish traders, but by the truce of
Calais (1348) they regained their rights. Home trade was carried
on at the fairs, held on the saint's day for the town church.
This Avas the one season in the year when the exclusive
barriers in burgh were broken down. Then the dusty-feet, or
pedlars, were Avelcomed to erect their booths, local courts were
suspended, and privileges granted that made the occasion a
merry saturnalia.

The cartularies of the abbeys throw a flood of fresh con-
temporary light on the rural economy; and this is further
illustrated by the legislation of the early Jameses designed to
ameliorate the condition of the country, improve farming, pre-
serve woods and forests, destroy wolves and rapacious birds,
and protect the natural sources of food. Impressions, not al-
together favourable, of the appearance of the country and
the condition of the people are supplied by the foreign visitors,
Froissart (1360) and .-Eneas Sylvius (1448).

The dreary tale of the pitiless war and outrage which
the nation had to endure for independence may be read in
the pages of Barbour, Blind Harry, and the chroniclers. The
annals of such a sturdy fighting-time have much to tell or
peculiar modes of warfare, of the equipment of the different
ranks, of struggles with novel and unmanageable artillery, or
weapon-schawings, and " hostings."

The most complete picture of higher social life is to be
constructed from the Exchequer Rolls and the accounts of the
Lord High Treasurer. The Court moved constantly up and down
the country, consuming the kain rents of the royal demesnes.
Alexander III.'s long visits to Forfar Castle, and Bruce's closing
years at Cardross, supply minute details of the domestic surround-
ings of these kings, even to the English fool and the pet



lion that the hero kept. The accounts for Tarbert Castle,
which he built then, show the cost and construction of a royal
mansion in the Middle Ages. James IV.'s personal expenditure
tells in the quaintest language of the Court rejoicings at Yule


and Uphaliday (Twelfth Night); of fees to players, ballad-
singers, and fools; of largesses to beggars on his numerous
journeyings ; of humble offerings to him of fruit, game, and birds
to train hawks with ; of the strange sea creatures that were
esteemed as dainties ; of dresses for every-day wear, in all their


styles, colours, and costs. Important public works he undertook,
as the building of Dunbar Castle and Stirling Palace ; and they
afford a notion of the resources and standard of living of
the time. Most interesting of all is the minute account of the
building of a great barge at Dumbarton, the artificers, the
materials, and how they were procured, and the cost. It is
pleasant to know that in the days of Columbus there were
sturdy Scottish mariners like Barton and the Woods, and
stout barques like the Christopher, the Floiver, and the
Yfllow Caravel.

culture In a general retrospect of the four centuries preceding

Flodden, the nation as a whole shows to advantage. The
peasant, still dependent and feeble, Froissart found to be
very different from his abject brethren in France. The
Crown w r as, as a rule, honest, merciful, and law-abiding, and
the revenues were never arbitrarily increased. The kings
sympathised with the poor and oppressed. The burgesses,
despite the narrow economics of the time, were not lacking
in enterprise. To the Church were owing the schools we
find existing in some of the burghs as far back as the
twelfth century. In 1496 an Act was passed to compel
barons and knights to give a better education to their
eldest sons, but it had no practical consequences. Greater
success attended the efforts of those cultured churchmen,
Wardlaw, Kennedy, Turnbull, and Elphinstone, in founding
the universities of St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, the
great glories of the fifteenth centuiy. Contemporary with
the Chaucerian national literature we have vigorous native
artists like Barbour (1375), Blind Harry (14(10), and James I.
(1424); intelligent chroniclers like Fordun (1387), Wyntoun
(1420), Bower (1449), and Pitscottie (1480); and alongside
of this an undercurrent of popular minstrelsy to which
Barbour and Wyntoun allude. It is the barons that all
through give the poorest account of themselves. Chivalry
had few such knights as the heroes of Barbour's loving
pen (Vol. II., p. U93), the tender-hearted Bruce and the
good Earl Douglas, who. like Chaucer's Squire, carved
before his guardian, the Bishop of St. Andrews, at the
table. Bower revels in recording the accomplishments
of James I., a knight worthy to rank with his friend,


Shakespeare's Prince Hal. According to the Spanish Ambas-
sador, Ayala, James IV. was even more highly gifted. Such
kings, hud they lived out their days, might have sweetened
the harsh features of feudalism, but these were fated to
prevail. " Never," says Ross, " did a nobility prove itself
more unworthy of its privileges, or more unfit to guide
and civilise a people." The best that can be said of them


is the general reflection ot Fronde : " In the history of.
Scotland weakness is nowhere ; power, energy, and will are

THE reign of James IV. was one of the few oases of peace A Golden
and prosperity in the distracted history of Scottish nationality. ge-
Peace with the ancient enemy had been assured by the
king's marriage with Margaret Tudor, and there bade fair
to be an end of the " auld times o' ruggin' and ridin'." A
national literature was created (Vol. II., p. 700, seq.) ; and
Henryson, Gawin Douglas, Dunbar, and Lyndsay showed that
the genius of poetry, which slumbered in England from
Chaucer to Spenser, was first to reawaken in their northern



1'ttlncr, Edinburgh.)



clime. They appealed to the popular reader, so that they Language.
not only attracted immediate attention, made possible by the
introduction of printing in 1508, but now throw a flood of
lisfht on the social conditions on the eve of the Reformation.


Even the learned Gawin Douglas chooses for his translation
of Virgil the language he had learned in. boyhood, while
Lyndsay boldly directs his rhymes to colliers, carters, coots,
and home-spun peasants, no matter what cunning men may
think of them. There is no stronger witness to the depth
and persistency of the national feeling than this continuity
of the Northern tongue.
The oldest braid
Scottis, the vernacular of
the Burgh Laws, speaks
in the accents of Ramsay
and Burns, of Scott and
Carlyle in their homely
youth. Norman-French
was the Court
in the North,
though it was used in
diplomacy. The poet-

r J L .

klllg, JameS 1., thOUgh

inspired by Chaucer, wrote
for rustics, while the last of the independent sovereigns,
James VI., not only commanded Bellenden to translate the
Latin history of Boece for the vulgar, but clothed his own
pithy sayings in braid Scottis, and himself essayed a native
version of the singing Psalms.

The English invasion, which brought to a romantic close, on From
Hodden Edge (p. 98), an active reign of nearly a quarter of a ^Lang-
century, was significant of the unfortunate policy which marked side.
the whole shifting course of events terminating with the battle
of Langside (1568). For it brought into play the disturbing
elements of France and England, operating on a country en-
feebled by long minorities and internal feuds. The conduct
of Henry VIII. during the minority of James V., and of
Somerset during that of Mary, intensified the national anti-
pathy to Union, while the regency of the Queen-mother, the
English Margaret, was feeble and injudicious. The clergy,



(Lyndsay, "Dialog," 1506.)



headed by Mary of Guise and the Beatons, din-ing the second
minority, supported France and the old ('hurch, and all the old

antagonism that kept the
Border ever in a ferment.
The barons were either nation-
alists of a bygone type, paid
supporters of English policy,
or mere selfish opportunists.
The people could only suffer
in silence. The death of
lames IY. left the throne
nominally to the Queen and
her infant son, but really to
the Douglases as the sturdiest
of the barons. Their intoler-
able yoke the prince threw off
when, one summer night, he
rode away secretly from Falk-
land to Stirling, and proclaimed
himself, scarcely sixteen, a

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 34 of 68)