Henry Martyn Dexter.

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and coffee still were to be unlcnown for more than a generation.^
The poor ate rye or barley bread, those better off manchets of
white wheat tlour. Bacon, souse. l)rawn. powden'd ("salted ) l)eef
or mutton, and barrelled (pickled) herrings, or other tish. were
the mainstay of the table in winter. Brewis-* was eaten largely.
Meat pies, or pasties, especially of venison, and florcntiius '^
were much regarded. Such pasties also were filletl with her-
rings, pilchards, eels and tlie like. Concluding courses con-
sisted of cakes and sweetmeats. Common people ate with
wooden or latteen ' spoons from wooden trenchers. All fed

^ Kendal and Lincoln were famous for the manufacture of green cloths for
foresters.

^Harrison,!: lil'i. Morrson. iii : L'O.

* Te.-i is said to have been sold in Eiiu-lan<l on rare occasions ns early as I'V'-,.'.
at what now would be from si"') to f-"o a pound, and chiefly to princes or nobl.-
men. Coffee was brought into England first by Mr. N. Canopus. a Cretan, wh-i
m.adc it his common beverage at Balliol Cull,-^e. Oxf..rd. in liUl : and the first
coffee-house in England was kept by a Jew, named Jacobs, in Oiford, in lO.'d
Haydn, 7>iVf. of liatt*.

* Bread soaked in pot-liquor. * A meat pie having no bottom crust.

* Iron plated with tin.



THE COUNTRY AND THE PEOPLE 15

themselves, as their fathers had, with tlie knife, aitleil hv the
fingers — giving inueh use to the napkin — as it still was
years before forks ^ were introcUiceil from Italy. In the hall, at
the long iliiiiiig-tahle, the retainers and domesties sat with the
family, but below the sdt.- Beer, spieed ale or wino was tlie
cormnon drink, and a " morning-dranght."" with which radishes
frequently were taken, often served as breakfast.* Little wine
was made in P'ngland. but Harrison speaks <»f tlfty-si.\ kinds
of imported Freneh or German elarets or white wines, and ot
thirty Italian, Grork or Spanish stronger brands. Tobaeeo had
made its way into the kingdom, it is understood, in 1-580, with
some of Raleigh's Virginia colonists,* whom Drake carried home.
The fashion was to draw the smoke from the ]Mpe into the
mouth and eject it through the nostrils." This was called
" drinking tobacco." Snutf-taking also became popidar before
long.6

The date under consideration was before the advent of news-
papers and magazines.' and books were few aiul costly. C'on-
sequentlv people resorted to games and kindred nietlwids of
passing their Lisure hours. Within doors they indulged in rid-
dles, jests and merry tales, and often in cards, dice, draughts,
shuttle-cock and shove-gi-oat, or shovel-board, and, in the more
cultivated circles, in chess. Then there were dancing and. out
of doors, wrestling, quarter-staff, pitching the bar, tilting at the

1 Tlios. Corvnt. Cruililiti. 'M. Moryson, iii : 114. Den Jonson. Drvil m an Ass,
Act V. 8C. 3. C'jtirt and Country (ed. Roxburgh, IsG^), -'01. But see also Town Life
in 15th Cmt. v.: 74, n.

"^ A large sak-cellar was placed about in the middle of the long table, and the
8eat3 above were assigned to guests of distinction, and those below to depen-
dants.

« J. C. Jtaffreson (Bonk About the Table, i : 210) says : —

" The ' niorning-dniuglit " at the inn was, in f.ict. tho ordin.iry brcakf.ast of the
majority of Engli^nufn. . . . Unless tliey boar this f.ict in mind, rpi.l.rs .>f old
biographi'S are apt to attribute tavem-haunting propensities to sober and discreet
gentlemen."

♦ This agrees with King .James's sUtement (Counterbiast, Works. 21.>) bettor
than the more iisu.il .-icconnt.

* Ilentzner. Lin. (ITjOS) 4:',.

• Decker. Gull'.^ llwn-li "<k. Proem and chap. v.

T Pamphlets of news beg.an to appear soon after the coming in of the seven-
teenth century, nurton, Anat. of Mf'.ancholy, 1G14. The first proper ne\vsp;,p..r
in English appeared in 1022, the first literary pcriodic.il in MtO. Enc. Brit.



16 THE ENGLAND OF OUR FATHERS

ring, football, hurliiig-,i running at (luintaiiio,- harley-Iircak,''
and shooting at butts, with fishing, hawking aiul hunting. Wan-
dermg couipanies of minstrels and harpers were common, and
rude i>lays were acted before the pul)lie. Archery was recjuired
by royid order, with bow of yew, ash or ehn, three fingers thick
and seven feet long, and with arrows of ash, from two and a
half to four feet in length, and heavy or light for long or sluut
distances. In London there were lounging in Paul's Walk,' bull
and bear baiting, niascpies and the theatre.

There also were numerous special ceremonies and g;nnbols at
specific seasons and days — such as Christmas. New Year's, May
Day, Twelfth Day, Ph)ugh ]\Ionday,'^ Shrove Tide,*' Easter, Whit-
suntide, Canillcmas Day, Martinmas, All Hallow's Eve, and
Sheep-shearing, with Church-ale," Leet-ale, Land)-ale, Bride-
ale, Clerk-ale and others. .Vnnual fairs also were held, durin"
which ordinary business was susjjcndcd, sometimes by law. Not
unnaturally all of these appropriated valuable time, while many
helped to cause a grave corruption of manners. How the
Pui'itaus regarded some of these occasions is shown by their
utterances. Thus PhUip Stubbes m 1583 said of Christ-
mas : —

AVho is ignorant that more niischiefe is [at] tliat time committal
than in all the yeere besides ? what masking and nuinnning I whereby
robberie, whordome, murther and wliat not is connnitted I what dicing
& carding, what eating and drinkin^r. wliat ban([uetini,' and feastintj
is than [thenl vsed more than in all tlie ycerc besydes ! to the great
dishonor of God, and impouerisliing of the reahne.

^ A small bnll was to bo carried " by force or slight to tlie place assigned."'
Carew, Cornu-all. i: lfl7.

* A bar was balanced on a pivot with a broail board at one end and a ba^ of
sand at the other. The i)lay was to hit the board whun ridin;; by and escape the
bag as it was thrown around suddenly.

* Played by six persons coupled by lot, on a g-round with three conipartnionts.
the middle one being n.amed " hell.'' The middle couple, who coidd not bnak
hands, had to catch the otliurs, who were allowed to do so, the caught taking the
place of the catchers.

* The middle aisle of St. Paul's Cathedral, then the f.ashionable resort from
3 to P. M.

' The first Monday after Epiphany,

* The time between Ash Widnesday and the preceding Saturday evening.
^ An annual ale-drinking picnic for the benefit of the Church,



THE COUNTRY AND THE PEOPLE 17

And he lays equally hoa\7 charges ^ against the niaying customs
of that time in describing the bringing home of the May-pole.
Christopher Fetherstone also said, in 1582 : '• The abuses
whiche are comittod in your ma3 - ga}nnes are infinite," ' and
went considerably into details, and Henry Barrowe in 1590 con-
demned this whole range of excess with equal severity.^

Farming was the great industry of the English peo])le.
Michathnas Day, September *2l>, in a sense began the agricidtu-
ral new year, when rye was sown, land drained, hempseed beaten
out, wheat threshed, the year's crop of wool sold, strawberries,
barberries and gooseberries planted, rushes gtithered for thatch
or floor, and cider and perry made. In October winter wlioat
was sown and children Icept watch against hungry crows. No-
vember saw the fat pigs killed, barley threshed, souse pickled, beef
salted, peas and beans seeded down and the g-arden made ready
for planting-time. In December good farmers gathered wood
for their fires, cleaned and repaired farm-tools, and guarded ten-
der plants frona frosts, until the Christmas holidays set them all
to eating, cb-iuking and frolicking. In January and February
gardens were planted, oats sown, calves weaned or killed and
the hopvard weeded. March saw the ho])s set and the fields
rolled. In April the hoj>s were i^oled and the dairy was expected
to turn out a crop of cheese. ^lay was weeding-time and bees
were swarmed. In June were sheep-shearing and the beginning
of the hay-(Hiring. completed in Jul\-. In August came wheat
and barley harvest. At Bartholomew-tide (August 24) was held
Stourbridge Fair, when butter and cheese were marketed. Hop-
picking followed. And so the year went round.

The rent of land had risen from one shilling and fourjience,
or one and eightpence, in the early part of tiie sixteenth cen-
tury, to perhaps six shillings an acre. The wheat crop was tiie
best, but averaged not over fifteen to twenty l)ushels an acre.*
This was perhai)s five-eighths of a ton. while barley often yielded
a ton and oats a ton and a quarter. But the value of wheat had
gone up faster than the rent of the land, being now sometimes

1 Anat. 174, no.

* Dial, aguinxt li'/kt. lewde and lasrivious dancing, sig. D. 7.
. ' Brief Disruvifrie, 81.

* Thorubury, ii : 24o.



18 THE ENGLAND OF OUR FATHERS

forty shillings, instead of six. Little grain was exported. The
gi-eat staple for foreign trade was English wool, marketed at
Bristol, Exeter, Lincoln, London, Newcastle, "Winchester and
York, whence it was carried by the Merchants of the Staple to
Antwerp, Bruges or Calais, or sold more miseellaneuiisly by
the Merchant Adventurers. Besides the London liviiv coiniia-
nies there were three great trading corporations — that of Mew
Trades, that of Tripoli Merchants, and that of East Land Mer-
chants, just formed, which grew into the East India Company.

The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries luul witnessed the rise
of the guilds. These were associations of craftsmen, each aim-
ing to secure the protection and monopoly of its own trade in
its ovm town. This form of organization passed tlirou^h many
varieties of experience, but often it became identitied with the
corporation of the town, and exerted jjolitical power. Some of
these ancient giiihls still survive, and, although in the seven-
teenth century their powers had become modified, the guild con-
tinued to have much to do with the direction of trade of all sorts.

The fall of Calais, in 1558, with other causes, had led to new
attention to manufactures at home. Flemings were invited
into Yorkshire to work up the English wool. Coventry had
become famous for its " true blue " woollens, as had other towns
for their green clotlis. Manchester had just begun to attract
attention to its " coatings," or cottons. Norwich and Sandwich
had received a considerable immigration of makers of baize,
serges, bombazines and beaver hats. In London the Flemings
made felt hats, at Bow they dyed, at Wandsworth tin y wrought
in brass, at Fidham and Mortlake the}- fabricated ai-ras ami
tapestry. French and Belgian immigrants also had set up lace-
making at Cranfield in Bedfordshire, and at various towns in
Devon. As yet there were no factories, all such labor being in
the family, and no man being allowed by statute to have more
than two looms. Yai-mouth learned from Dutch incomers how
to cure herrings. Lead and tin were smelted in Cornwall, and
the roofs of English churches and some mansions, and of many
buildings in France, were covered with the products. Coal mining
was in its infancy, yet considerable coal was dug in Durham,
Northumberland, South Wales and elsewhere.



THE COUNTRY AND THE PEOPLE 19

There was continual intcrfcrcuce on the queen's part with
every promising imlustry. All trade was controlled by monop-
olies and royal grants. Many prices were fixed by statute, and
tliis paternal care descended even to the regulation of the export
of old shoes.^ Everything from which money coulil be squeezed
paid its price to the queen.

The various fisheries and marine industries had been affected
seriously by imposts practically excluding large imports and by
the Keformation itself, which, by nuich lessening the number
of fast days, had greatly reduced the demand for tish ; so that
the sunnner fleets, which had been sent northwest for cod, ling
and sturgeon, and had disposed of their catch in France as well
as at home, were fulling off.

Liverpool then had less than 1000 inhabitants and under 500
tons of shipping. But, if legitimate trade by ships were small,
a privateering much like piracy abounded. The very air was
astir with romantic rumors of fabulous wealth in the Indies, or
on some vagiiely kno^\■n shore of the New "World. This explams
the fact that the charters of colonies as sandy and sterile as
PljTQOuth and ^Massachusetts contained this clause : - —

Yeildixg and payeing therefore to the saide late Kincre. his heires,
and successors tlie fifte parte of tlie oare of ijould and silver wliich
should, from tyme to tyme, and all tymes tlien. liai)])en to be found,
gotten, had and obteyned in, att, or within any of the saide landes,
etc.

Cavendish. Frobishor, "William and John Hawkins and Sir
"Walter Raleigh were among these gallant, if often guilty, ma-
rine heroes. The abominations of the slave trade were develop-
ing rapidly, and tlie second Hawkins seems entitled to the blame
of its origination. In 15G2 he made a voyage to Sierra Leone,
whence, " ])artly by the sword," he carried a cai-go of negroes to
be sold at San Dnnu'ngo. Pliilip of Spain, to his credit, inter-
dicted the inhuman business. Rut Sir John's enormous profits
induced Lord PcTubroke and the queen herself to join him in fit-
ting out a second expedition, in which he stole some 400 natives

1 Goadby, 42.

2 Recs. of Gov. and Co. of ^fass. Bay, i : 4.



20 THE ENGLAND OF OUR FATHERS

on the African coast, and got rid of them for gokl in tlie Span-
ish colonies, netting the "owners" sixty per cent on tlieir
shares. In 1577 Drake made the first Englisli voyage around
the world, returning, late in 1580, laden with twenty tons of
silver and gold bullion, with emeralds, pearls and miscellane-
ous spoils of Spanish ships and general piracies. The queen
knighted hiiu and gave him £10.000.

At this time most ships were small. Sir Humphrey (ull)ert's
Squirrel was of only ten tons,^ and of Drake's five vessels the
largest was of only 100 tons, while their united toimage was
less than 300, and their crews all together mustered only IGO
men. A few vessels ranged from 400 to 900 tons, and one of
1500 tons had been built as early as 1512.- Harrison gives the
names of twenty-four warships and three galleys at the begin-
ning of the seventeenth century. He further estimates that 135
vessels, including goods-ships, exceeded 100 tons a])iece, and
that 656 were betw^een 40 and 100 tons. They were naA-igated
as well as was j^ossible to the rude science of the period. But
although the couipass is said to have been in use as cai-lv as
about 1424, nothing like the log^ was known, and the clumsy
astrolabe and cross-staff were relied on for guiding the vovatre
and determining the latitudes and longitudes.^ It is more re-
markable that nuu'iners found their way to port at all than tliat
they often, perhaps always, blundered in so doincj ; and the ii.ore
that no account then had been taken of the dip of tlie hoi-izon,
refraction or jjarallax, and that the tables of the zodiacal ephem-
eris were recalculated only about once in thirty years.

Such ships would strike a modern eye as wide for their lenntli,
blunt-l)owed and excessively clumsy. l)ecanse built up at sttin
and stern, often with several stories, or decks, and especially by
having an almost mountainous poop. These lofty cabins were
called castles. That at the poop, highest above the great cal)in,

> Goadby, 48.

» Enc. iirit. Charnock. ///..f. .Vcinne Arrh. (ed. 1>01) ii : 5.S, 170, ITS. Cru-
den's Gravfsend (l^'.l), cited liy Mrs. (ireen, Town Life, i: S4, n.

' Purcli.13 dutos the use of tlie log in 10U7. Jliic. Brit. Mrs. Green, Tuun
Life, i: 107.

* Rev. E. F. Slafter, I). I)., .V. E. Hist, .j- Cenfal. Regisl,T, xrxvi: Ho. John
Davis. Stanun's Secnts. VoyayiS andWcrrka (od. 18MJ), x: 278.



THE COUNTRY AND THE PEOPLE 21

was caUed tlie Kouiul 1 1., use. Usi.aUy there were a foremast a
maiuinast, and a small inizzeumast, at or near the tafVriil ami
carrying a spanker. There would he a topsail upon the main-
mast and possil.ly another upon the foremast, and one or more
jibs, or sprit-sails, between the latter and the l.owsjjrit. But
the chief depen<lenee was upon the fore and mainsails, which
were square and of good size.

At this time there was no standing army in England. 1 But
most men were liable to serve in the militia, and were drilled
systematically from one to six times a year. Armor had become
lighter than formerly. Infantry were mostly pikemen, billmen
or musketeers. But the practical value of their weapons was
much unpaired by rudeness of construction. Cavalry were
armored lancers, fighting with pike, sword and <lagge (pistol) ;
cuirassiers, wearing a cuirass over the leather jerkin ; or arque-
busiers, additionaUy equipped with the anpiebus. The lar-er
pieces of ordnance, the robinet, falconet, falcon, minion, sacTre,
demi-culverin, culverin, demi-canon, canon, E canon and basi-
lisk, varied in weight from about 200 pounds up to 9000. in
bore from an inch and a quarter to eight inches and three quar-
ters, and in charge from a pound or two of powder and the same
weight of baU up to sLxty pounds of powder and also of ball.

^ Enc. Brit, ii : 509.



CHAPTER II

EDUCATION AND LITERATURE

Up to the seventeenth century most of the common people had
been illiterate. A volume of the Lansdowne Manuscripts ^ con-
tains the original petition of the church-wardens and others of
St. Clement's in London, apparently (hitcd April 7, 1.J89, with
forty-eight signers, of whom seven made their marks ; and also
a memorial signed, on November 7, by thirty-six of the parish
of St. Michael's in St. Albans, touching Mr. Dyke, their rec-
tor, of whom twent}'-nine made their marks. Such illiteracy,
however, probably was more true of the Establishment than of
Dissenters ; for the Keformation had tended to bring about a
different state of affairs. Every parent thus spiritually moved
would desire to be able to study the Bible himself, and, accord-
ing to his ability,^ he would instruct his children. In some
places, also, rudimentary scliools were kept in the Parvise,'^ or
little room over the church porch. Sometimes a weaver or a
tailor * would have scholars around him while at work.

A peculiar fact may be recalled here — that of the privilege of

1 61 : ."0, 23.

' As late as 1G70, Governor Berkeley, of Virinni.T. in reply to the question, ^Vllat
course is taken about instructinsf tho people, said : " 'I'lio same course that is taken
in Enjjland out of towns: I'very man. aceordin;; to his ability, instructing his chil-
dren." — Amer. Jour, of Educa. March. lS."i'"r, ^'.(XX

* T. SUveley. Hist. Cliurrhe.< in Eng. l.'iO. Evelyn, Biary. i: 4.

* Coote's En'jUsh Schcoliinister (1.j9T). v. : "Such men and women of trade as
Ta\lers, Weavers. Shop-Ktepers. Seanisters. and such others," sometimes under,
took "the charfre of teailiinrr others;"' and were not expected to be much in ad-
vance of their ])upils. On the other hand. Mrs. J. 11. Green {Town Lt/e. ii : I'l)
claims that in the fifteenth century " apparently readinjj and writing were every-
where common anionfj the people," and quotes Ropers's Attic, and Prices (iv:
r>02) to the effect that '" in the roval accounts, the principal artizans in each craft
audit . . . the accounts . . . and sifrn everv pa<je." Probably the jTcneral decline of
prosperity after the fifteenth century was accompanied by a decline of attention
to popular education.



EDUCATION AND LITERATURE 23

the clergj'. Christian princes early granted two privileges to the
Church : the exemi)tiun of consecrateil places from the sweep of
criminal arrest, or the right of sanctuary ; and the freedom of the
persons of the priesthood from process before the secular courts,
or the benefit of clergy. Jiy the former, whatever robber, nuw-
derer, or worse, could outrun the oiHccrs of justice and grasp
the ring on the church door,i crying " Peto pacnx I hi et
Ecclcsiae" was temporarily beyond arrest, with possibilities of
permanent escape. By the latter, when any priest or other '' reli-
gious person " was smnmoned before a civil judge, his clerical
tonsure and habit secured his immediate delivery to his Ordi-
nary, or superior church official, to be dealt with by him ;
usually with surprising niildness.-

This had its origin in the rudest times, and grew into a Ic^al
process, and it became custom, and law, to accept the ability to
read as sufficient proof that the reader really belonged to the
clerical class ; and it became common for a rascal who coidd
read, and so coidd ilemonstrate his " clergy "' out of a book, to
lead a life of crime, and even of violence, and evade punislnnent.
So gi-ave did these abuses become that, in 1488-89, a law was
passed to insure that no layman shoidd have the benefit of his
elerg}' more than once, enforced by the expedient of branding
upon the brawn of his left thumb the letter ^l if he were a
murderer, and the letter T for any other felony. Surgery,
however, soon learned to neutralize this scar, and it became
needful sometimes for a jury to decide whether a given accused
party ali-eady had been cleared and branded.

In 1530-37 and 1540-41, Statutes of Henry VIII. slightly
modified this condition of affairs, but an act of 1547 granted
benefit of clergy, without branding, to every peer of the realm
guilty of any crime clergyable to commoners, or of house-
breaking, higliway-robbery. horse-stealing, or robbing churches,
even though unable to read I In 157G, it was enacted further
that, after clerg^y and branding, the party, instead of being

^ Hogeri de IlovenJen Annalium. pars p<istr. 542, Unrl. MS. 42'.i2, shows that
between 14TS and lo^JS from 40U to oi.iO scoundrels were shiehled thus by taking
■ sanctuary " in the sinirlo church of St. John at Beverley, Vorks. See Evelyn,
ii: 2C4, and ^ik.^ ii : i;.'.4.

- Pike, i: 104, 110, 2UT, oO'J, 449, 4S2. Blackstone, Comins. iv, ch. 28.



24 THE ENGLAND OF OUR FATHERS

turned over to Iiis Ordinary, " be enlartjed and delivered out
of prison," power being reserved to the justices to imprison for
not more than a year, when expedient. With nioditications in
1717, 1710 and 1779, this extraordinary provision continued
to be law until 1827. That this singular proof of general
illiteracy had full force as evidence iu ItJOl. is siiown bv a
Latin record, lately discovered in the Clerkenwcll Sessions
House in London. It is the original indictnu-nt,' in October,
1598, on which " rare '' Ben Jouson was tried for the nuirder,
in a duel, of Gabriel Spencer, at Shoreditch on September '22,
previous. Jouson did not deny the crime, but pleaded his
clergy.

It seems surprising, at first, iu view of this widespread igno-
rance,^ that there should have been so many endowed " free
grammar " schools. A history of such institutions, published in
1818 by a distinguished anticpiary,-^ mentions -475 such schools
then existing or known to have existed. For twenty no date
could be assigned, which argues an age beyond the tradition of
men then living. But, of 252 traceable to a jK-riod bi'fore IGOO,
112 had been founded before 1450; eighty-three between 1550
and 1575, and thirty-seven others before IGOO.

Had most of these schools corresponded, as .some did, to those
now known by the same name, so far as concerns free tuition, the
mass of the people hardly coidd have failed of great enlighten-
ment. But many such schools speedily fell into temporary de-
cay, if they did not die.^ Secondly, they were " free " ° only iu
the sense of being open without charge, or at small charge, to

' Mid. Co. Recs. i : ixxviii.

'^ Ibid, ii : 2S2-2S."). As late as l('iti2, the famous Samuel Ptpys. who h.id been at
Bchoul in Iluiuin^don and afterwards at St. Paul's School in London until he \v:i3
seventeen, and .sul)si'f|Uf'ntly was an ^L A. at Mat^^dalen, Cambridjje, and who had
been some years in tin; public service, says ( Dian/, ii : 4) : —

" By & bv Conies Mr. Cooper. . . . <if whom I intend to le.arn ni.atheniatiques.
, . . After an houre's bein^ with him at arithnietique (my first attempt beiiifr to
learn the niidtiplication-table) ; then we parted till tomorrow."

' Nichol.as Carlylo, O'ticist De.icrijilion of Endowed Grammar-iSchools in Eng.
and liVide^. ."^ce also ILarrison. So.

* D'jcs. Ii fluting to Univ. and Colleges of Cumb. iii : liiS.

' The Latin phr.xse employed, Lihern Schola, rarely, in classical, post-cla.<isical
or medi.'eval Latin, meant a school whose teachinj;' w;is pratiiitons. but almost
always one free in the sense of being exempt from certain jurisdictions, taxes, etc.



Online LibraryHenry Martyn DexterThe England and Holland of the Pilgrims → online text (page 3 of 65)