Henry Martyn Dexter.

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boys selected by the vicar or some one else of place or wealth,
who meant to send them to college, and to the children of certain
families or in certain localities designated by the founder.'
Thirdly, the groat majority of them were so fecl)ly mastered as
to be of small use, even to their select pupils. Koger Ascham
says : ^ —

I remember, when I was yong, in the North they went to the c^ranicr
Scheie litle cliildren : they came from thence great luhbei's, alwavos
learning, and litle profiting ; learning without booke everything, viuIli-
stundyng with in tlie booke htle or nothing. Their whole knowledge
by learning without tlie booke was tied onely to their tongue and
lips, and neuer ascedod vp to the braine and head, and thertore was
sone spitte out of the mouth agaiae.

John Brinslev, who, in IGOl and for many years after, was
master of the school at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, which dated back to
15G7, published several works from which the quality of instruc-
tion and the methods of management may be inferred.-^ He
s;iys that children entered these "free" schools at about seven
or eight years. School began at six A. M., the usher being there
to enforce order. The master came at seven. There was a quar-
ter-hour's intermission at nine, and the forenoon session ended
at eleven. Afternoon school began at one, and, with a short
recess at three, was closed at half-past five by the reading of " a
peece of a Chai)ter,"' the singing of " two staues of a Psalme,"
and prayer. Charles Iloole, who was master of a free school in
Kotherham and hiter taught in London, also published several
schoolbooks which had great repute.

But it is Edmund Coote who descriV)es that training wliich
is more than prohahle for most of those who came to New
England. It would be a cluster of ten or a dozen younglings
grouj)ed around some clerk or dame in the Parvise, or some
weaver at his loom or tailor in his little workshop. The horn-
book provides the alphabet. Then Coote's own '• English School-
master " takes them on. Its first pages are columned witii ah. i h,
ib, ha beb, bi hob, etc., ending in a lesson for reailing. which

» Staanton, 42:], 61. II. C. M. Lyte, Hist. Eton. Coll. 3, 19, 4S3. Carlyle, i :

••' Aoohani, Srfiol, mastn- (ed. 18<]4), 170.

» Ludus Lilerarius, or the Grammar School (ini2), 296-208, 259.


illustrates the solicitude for good morals and religion, even m
primary manuals : ^ —

Boy, go thy way to the top of the hill, and get me home the bay
nag, fdl him -nell, and see he be fat, and I will rid me of him, for lie
will be but dull as his dam ; if a man bid well for him. I will tell liim
of it [his dulness] ; if not, I do but rob him : and so God will vex
me, and may let me go to hell, if I get but a jaw-bone of him ill.

Eight such chapters, eacli increasingly difficult, complete the
first book. The second book has six chapters ; treatin"- of
words of one syllable, the number of syllables in a word, etc. ;
of observations neeilfid to perfect a scholar, and how scholars
shall a})pose (question) one another. There follow a short cate-
chism, with sundry observations and prayers. Scripture selec-
tions and a few Psalms in metre. There are added some words
on Arithmetic and a brief chronolog}% the whole concludin"-
with a vocabulary explaining words of tener met with than imder-
stood. These glances into the quality of primary education,
even in the glorious age of Elizabeth, indicate that Brinsley
spoke truth, and of many of the "'free,'" or grammar, schools,
as well as of the lesser ones, when, in 1G22, he thus voiced the
lamentations of many parents : - —

My Sonne hath bene vruler you six or seven yeares, and vet is not
able so much as to reade English well ; nuich lesse to construe or
vnderstand a peece of Latin, or to write true Latin, or to speake in
Latin in any toleraldo sort, . . . Another shall complaine : my sonne
comes on neuer a whit in his writing. Besides that his hand is such,
that it can hardly be read ; he also writes so false Englisli. that he is
neither lit for trade, nor any em])loyment Avherein to vse his pen.

A boy taking the course in a grammar school shoidd have
been fitted for Cani1)ridge or Oxford at fourteen or fifteen, the
earliest usual age of admission.'' As we shall examine later the
studies and methoils of university life, only a general glance at

^ The Enylish Srhnolmastir. 3. 11.

* A Consolation for our Grammar Scliooles, etc.. 43.

' Christ. Word.swoitli (Social Life at KnQ. Vnics. in ISih Cent. 94) reg'.ards the
occasional ciises of persons wlio entered at ten as those of preeoeious exceptions,
and looks nipon fifteen or sixteen as the usn;d ai^e : the latter {t'i'-)'.>) liavin^ si;;'ni(i-
cance bec.iuse such scholars then would be eligible for holy orders after their seven
yeara at the university.


them is given here. The system of study was largely, and even
vitally, different from what it afterward became. By the P^liza-
bethan statutes Mathematics — in place of the earlier grammar
— Logic and Rhetoric were the three studies of the four years
which preceded the ])achel()r's degree. These were the •• Trivium."
Then, with a continuance of the former, followed the " Quad-
rivium," ^ Philosophy, Astronomy, Perspective and Greek, tillin"-
the three years before proceeding master of arts.

Although these statutes remained in force, the strictness of
their application had declined. Arithmetic, and whatever })hv-
sical science was comprehended luuler Astronomy and Perspec-
tive, if not Greek — of which the same was true a little later —
were studied before, as well as after, bachelorhood,- but were
not compulsory. And, although the statute continued to recog-
nize only Aristotle and Cicero as text-books in logic, as earlv as
1584 an edition of the " Dialecticae Libri Duo "' of that Peter
Ramus, who in 15G3 had defended in the College of Xavarre
the then astounding proposition that all the precepts of Aris-
totle are founded ui»on fiction, had been 2)rinted in Candjridge,
and the Kamistie logic soon had large acce})tance there. Theo-
logy also received much attention. Furthermore, :ilthough
the offici:d theory of study required all instruction to l)e taken
either in the colleges, from their tutors, or in the halls of the
university, from its professors or lecturers, so that nine whole
terms of actual work in residence had to precede admission to
the master's degree, exceptional circumstances had modified
the rule, which, seven years later, virtually was rescinded.
Thus a considerable and undesirable change had been effected.
Such an education as this would train a young man to be fa-
miliar witli the classics and with theology and the art of reason-
mg, and tit him to speak and write Latin fairly well, but it liad
serious drawbacks. A few years of foreign travel, especially in
Italy, gave the finishing touch to the education of a young
nobleman, although Ascham, when asked his opinion by Sir
Richard Sackville, franklv doubted its value.^

1 Wordsworth. !>rhoL Acad. 82.

' Mulliiifrer, Vnici-rsaij of C:imbnJge, ii : 404. M.-wson. 3/i7<on, i : 226.

» Schol. 71.


It is difficult to crowd to-day's conceptions of English litera-
ture buck into the narrow horizon of IGOl. It long ago became
the fashion to speak of Elizabeth's reign, especi;illy in resjject to
authorship, as *' the golden age of merrie England," and more
than ninety-five per cent of that reign alreaily was gone by.
Yet, when one scans closely the books that there were fur the
people who could read, the showing is neither large nor brilliant.
As Ilallam says : ^ —

It is in consequence of the reputation for learning acquired by some
men distinguished in civil life, such as Smith. Sadler, Ralegh, and
even by ladles, among wlium the queen " herself, and tlie acconqilislied
daughters of Sir Antony Cooke,' Lady Cecil ■* and Lady Russell, are
particularly to he mentioned, tliat tlie generul charucter of her reign
has been, in this point of view, considerably overrated.

Roger Ascham's repeated and familiar glorification of that
remarkable girl. Lady Jane Grey,^ has suggested an exaggerated
conception of the feminine, and, indeed, of the usual, culture of
that time. When Elizabeth came to the throne, few clergymen
of her Establishment knew Greek, while the majority could not
even read into English the Latin of their public prayers ; '^ and
that this was true of the most learned men in the parishes com-
pels a very low estimate of the general culture. But when the
exiles who had fled from Bloody Mary to the Continent came
back luuler the new reign, they brought a lietter state of things.
And after L5S0 the as})ect of learning throughout tlie kingdom
brightened, initil the succeeding decade saw the beginning of
that mighty movement of mind which suddenly exalted the
nation to an illustrious standinir in jrood letters.

1 Lit. Illst. Eur. i: 520. * Aschani, Scho!. ISn. Work.'!, i : 101.

' lie li.ul five (Lmcrliters. estpempd the most le;inied women of the time, viz.;
MUdred, mother of the Earl of Salisbury ; Anne, mother of Lord Bacou ; Marg.aret
Rowlett, Eli/^beth Russell and Catharine Killigrew.

* Scho!. 2i'S.

* She was now fifteen. Ibid, i: 227.

* Ilallam iCon.-t. Hist. Eng. i : 1P>^, n.) cites a census of the clerpv of the .Arch-
deaconry of Middlesex in l.")*;:'.. Of 114 clerg-ymen. onlv three were prood Latin and
Greek scholars, twelve were fair scholars, nine knew Latin alone, tiiirty-one could
read Latin tolerably well, forty-two read it very l)adly. and seventeen coulil makft
nothing of it. lie adds: '"If thia were the case in London, what can liave been
true In more remote parts ! "


It would be very impressive as aii object-lesson for some one,
rich ill the literature of our tongue in all departments in each
century since it lui.s luul existence, to put aside temporarily such
volumes as hardly could have been in the avera^-e En^lLsh liUrarv,
in the spring of IGOl, and to note what woidd rrmain. Probably
we should be surprised by the number of those comiiionlv
accounted Elizabethan writers whom our time-limit wouhl ex-
clude. As in prose we should just miss B;icon, Sir Thomas
Browne, Burton, Thomas Fuller, Milton, most of Kalcigh,
Jeremy Taylor and Izaak A\'alt()n, so in poetry we should have
to lay aside the great galax\- of Milton, Herbert, Vaughan,
Henry More, Quarles, Druminond of Hawthornden, Suckling,
three Beaimionts, three Fletchers, John Davies of Hereford,
"Wither, Sliirley. most of Drayton. Donne, Carew. Lord Brooke,
William Browne, Dekker. Middlet()n,CaitwriL;ht. Bishop Corbet,
Randoljdi, ^Nlassinger, George Sandys, Ben flonson and most of
Shakesj)eare himself. Of the barely twenty-one or two poets
who fairly may claim places before the date of our survey,
fourteen fall not only within the last (piarter of the time, but
actually within its concluding nine years.

In history, travel, theology and religion, medicine, music,
education, navig-ation, husbandry, etc., there woulil be left from
four or five to fifteen or twenty volumes apiece, but the really con-
spicuous works in each could be numbered upon the fingers of
one hand. And in general prose literature there were only seven
or eight men whose writings have made their names fannliar
now. From two hundred to three hundred books might be named
whicli liad come into l)eing by IGOl. But pi-oliably no library
included all, and few libraries contained half of them. Indeed,
many existed (julv in manuscript and never became po])ular, if
at all, until j)rintcd in moilern days.

Another chiss of books, indeed, liad place in s(jine houses, but
not openly, the literature of the Separatists. Often written in
fragments and in prison, and .sent secretly, sheet by .sheet, to be
l)rintcd by some Dutchman, the resultant tracts being smuggled
b.ick into England, it was a matter of life and death merely to
shelter them. Even the Scriptures themselves in English then
were so costly, as well as so liable to involve the reader in peril.


that probably only a few faiiiilios liad thoin. Copies were kept
chained in the ehurches for public use.'

The condition of general intelligence iu IGOl is even more
difficult for us to make real to ourselves, for in almost every
particular the data of our daily life have received substantial
re\'ision since then.

It is enough to note that iu IGOl it was from a few years to
three centuries before logaritlnus, the velocity of light, the laws
of motion and gravitation, galvanism, the circulation of the
blood, vaccination, life-insurance, the thermometer, the steam-
engine, gas, ])hotography, cheap postage, the telegrai)h and tele-
phone, etc., were discovered or invented. It was hardly the
same world as ours.

^ See Antiquary, November, 1890, 200, for notices of chained booka at present



We arc not to suppose that, because of their ignorance of all
this as yet undiscovered science and art, the people of that dav
were conscious of a great lack waiting to be supplied. AVithin
a century there had been a noticeable decline in material jiros-
perity, acconi})anied by. and in some part the cause of, a decline
of popular intelligence. The gi-owing democratic tendency of
the fifteenth century had been suppressed, and power had been
concentrated in the Crown.^ With the resulting partial loss of
the sense of personal responsibility for the public welfare had
come some loss of stimulus to ])ersonal intellectual growth. In
some things the average Englishman of IGOl was not much
in advance of his ancestors of tlie fifteenth century. The popu-
lar mind was crowded with crude, false and pernicious notions.
It was at the mercy of honest drlusion and, too often, of impu-
dent empiricism. The condition of things may be indicated by
an examination of two subjects having vital relation to the
civilization of that time.

Several causes peculiarly exposed people to dangerous dis-
tempers. They had but the most geneial notions of hygiene.
Indeed, they had almost no understanding of the need of pure
air, pure water and personal cleanliness.'- Andrew P)Oorde,'' a

^ " Municipal iii(l>'pendence was struck down at the very roots, and the free
growth of larlitT davs arrestod bv an iron discii>lino invented at Westminster and
enforced by a seh'Cteil company of Townhall oilicial-;. whose authority w.as felt to
be ultimately supported bv the niajestv of the kinj; himself. . . . Lnder the new
conditions the indi\i<lnal life of the borou>;h ceased to have the same significance
as of old." — Mrs. (Jreen. Toirn Life, ii : 44o, 443.

* Errxsnms, Kpis. ccccxxxii, App. : —

" The floors [of honsesl are penerally strewed with clay, and that covered with
rushes which are now and then renewed, but not so .as to disturb the foumlation,
which sometimes remains for twenty years nursin-^ a collection of spittle, vomits,
excrements of do}::s and human beinj^s. spilt beer anil fishes bones, and other filth."'

* Authorities for these statements are Boorde's BrtuyaTy nj Iltailli (lo4");


famous physician of the sixteenth century, advised people to
wipe their faces daily \A-ith a scarlet cloth, and to wash them
but once a week. On^-x was imagined to strengthen the heart,
and ruby to protect from the plague and resist poison. Diamond
also preserved from poison, yet, if taken inwardly, would he
deadly. Tumors were to be reduced by being stroked with a
dead man's hand. Pills from the powdered skull of a hanged
man, water drunk from that of his victim, powdereil mummy,
scorpion oil, dried entrails and equally loathsome doses were
thought useful. Chips from a gallows kept otf the ague. The
words Abraxas and Ahracadahra were much worn as a talis-
man to cure the ague. Pepys records this charm as etHcacious
for a burn : —

There came three Anpells out of the East ;

The one brought fire, the other brought frost —

Out fire ; in frost.

In the name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost. AilEN

and jrives another for a hcmorrhaire.

The great remedy for a severe flow of blood was scarcely less
preposterous, viz. : " Cleave a hen in two, and lay her la^t upon
the wound, and it will staunch." ^ This was thought eipially
good for other troubles. AVhen the Prince of A\ ales was ill,
in 1012, the royal physicians attended, with the famous Dr.
William Ikitler of Candaidge. A cock was cloven and aj)|>lied
to the soles of the feet, but in vain. Afterwards Drs. Palmer
and Gifford were called in and discordium administfrud, but
the prince died.

On the other liand, Ijlood-letting was a constant resort for
health, and even that was mixed up with astrology.- It was
declared to be very dangerous to " lette bloud in anie member,
with any chiiurgical instrument eyther "" wluii the moon is in
Tauro, Gemini, Leo, Virgo, Capricorn, the last half of Libra
or first of Scorpio ; or when the sun, moon or lord of the horo-

FrancU Hacon's Ilistdrta Vilae ft Mortis (lf>23) ; Sharpe's Lontfun Mngnzine (IRt^'i),
Article, " Medicine' of our Forefathers; " J. M. liiclianl.s's Ch'onnlripi/ of Mfdictne
(18S0) ; Pepy.s's aud Kvelyn's Diiirits ; Go:i<lby's England of Sitakuf-eare, ax\6.
The Roll o/tht lloijid Ci>H.:ie uf Physicians of London [\>\^).

1 B.icon w.xs no wisiTthan thi.s. Hist. Vitax et Mjrtis (ed. Isih)!, vol. x : l.'l!^. l-'H-

* R. Harvey, Astral. Discourse, 70, 79.


scope is in the sign which riik's the nieuibor to he hlootlecl, etc.
There were unlucky clays in every month, which usually wore
noted in almanacs, and particularly set down in Latin verses in
ancient calendars.

Sometimes as many as forty remedies were coni[)ounded into
a single preseription, so that if one did not cure, another might.
Sir AValter Kaleigh in the Tower of Loudon invented a Great
Cordial which long was famous, a conglomeration of pearl, musk,
hartshorn, bezoar, mint, borage, gentian, mace, red rose, aloes,
sugar, sassafras, spirits of wine and a score or two more ingre-
dients.^ Charles IL would take nothing else. In 1075 Lord
Berkeley having a fit of ajjoplexy at Whitehall, several famous
doctors finally recovered him '• to some sense, b}' applying hot
fii'epans and spirit of amber to his head; . . . almost a miracu-
lous restoration." -

The essential unreasonableness of the public mind on this sub-
ject is revealed also by its attitude toward that condition of the
constitution now known as scrofida ; which usually may be miti-
gated slowly and sometimes overcome eventually, but which
cannot be instantly cured. Our fathers called it " king's evil,"
and fancied that it could be healed by the sovereign's touch.
Between IGGl and 1715 the English prayer-l)ooks contained
a form of service for use on such oceasions."^ It is said that
Charles II. averaged 4000 such '^' cures " a year, and that as late
as March 30, 1712, two hundred persons were " touched " by
Queen Anne.

Aside from ordinary diseases, three dire disorders ever and
anon invaded the panic-stricken and nearly heljdess homes of the
people, due, beyond doubt, to the general fdthines-;. In 1(317
Moryson said of England, " In great Cities it is forbidden to
kill Kytes or Ravens, because they deuourc the filth of tlie
streetes," These three terrors were the plague, or pest, the sweat-
ing sickness, and the smallpox. The plague was an eruptive,
contagious fever, accompanied by glandular swellings, which
sometimes carried otT its victims in a few hours, and which, in
the worst stricken localities, has been known to result fatally in

» W. H. Dixon, /^r .Vd/V^^y'j Tnwer. i : 181. ^ Evi-lyn, ii : 102.

» W. H. Frere, .Yen- U'sl. of Uouk of Com. Prayer (ed. 1901), 2.>3.


over ninety per cent of all cases. Down to its last appearance
in England, in 1GG5 when nearly 70,000 died in Loudon out
of a population of 460,000 — of whom two thirds were sup-
posed to have f^ed from the contagion — it is said to have
appeared on tlu^ average at least once in a generation, while in
a few congenial localities it perhaps lay donuant alwavs.

The sweating siikness was even more terriMc. It was kno^\Ti
first in f^ngland in 1485, and afterwards in 1507. 1517 antl 1528,
and its last appearance was in 1551. It often attacked the supe-
rior classes, as well as the poor. It is supposed to have been akin
to what now is known as miliary fever, and its distinguishing
feature was a chill followed by an exJiausting sweat. It seldom
lasted longer than a single day, and sometimes caused death in
two hours. In 1517 many distinguished people died of it. In
some cases half tlu- population of a town perished.

The small])ox has been so robbed of its terrors by vaccina-
tion as to make it hard to understand how serious it was in iov-
mer times. Its malignance used to be aggravated by the remedies.
Not until IGfJG was it understood that measles and scarlet fever
differ from it, and that free ventilation and a cooling regimen
furnish it the best treatment. Next to the other two diseases,
this used to be most destructive, being dreaded especially also
as spai-ing no exposed person.^ and as exceptionally loathsome
and disfiguring. The average condition of the public health may
be inferred from the fact that in Sheffield, which then con-
tained 2207 people, there had been between 151^0 and IGOl
an annual average, neglecting fractions, of 4G marriages, 13G
baptisms,^ and 132 deaths.^ This gives an average annual
death-rate of sixty in the thousand, as against twenty-two and
a half for the wliole of England from 1840 to 1874,^ which is
rather above tlian below the ordinary average now in hcaltliy

A slight hurt then was dangerous, and surgical operations
were very apt to prove fatal. Says Pepys, even two generations
later, on October 19, 1GG3 : —

1 Haydn, Diet, of Dates (ed. 18S3), G2S. Evelyn, i: 239, 341 ; u: 212, 333.
' That Ls, probably, 130 births.
' Hunter, Hallamshire, 21.
* Havdn, .o02.


The famous Ned Mullius, hy a slii^ht fall, broke his \e^ at the ancle,
which ffstureJ ; and he had his les,' cut oil' on Saturday, but so ill done,
not-vvithstanding all the yreat chyrurgeons about the towne at the doing
of it, that they fear he will not live with it ;

adding, on October 23 : — -*- ' J~<) i K»<3

Mr. Holliard, . . . tells me that MuUins is dead of his leg cut olY the
other day.

As to the supernatiiiMl, also, we have passed so far from the
attitude of our fathers that to appreciate it is ahuost imposslLle.'
In the childhood of the race the conception of a spiritual in-
dweller, whose withdrawal causes death, easily suggested the
theory that to some other, some ghost Hfe should be attributed
all abnormal developments, especially all whose symptoms in-
volved any appearance of conflict. Thus the contortions of
hysteria, epilepsy and insanity were ascribed to some hostile
spirit, and it naturally followed that the road to prevention and
cure lay in the direction of forcfending, or ending, such incar-
nations. Hence arose exorcists and medicine-men, with their

This kind of belief in departed spirits easily augmented itself
by kindred convictions regariling good, and, especially, evil
angels, until a whole science of demonology, sorcery and witch-
craft took shape. Christianity, of course, found it in full force,
and to some extent even among the Hebrews. The Old Testa-
ment forbade all magical arts. The chosen people were com-
manded to avoid enchanters, inquirers by familiar spirits, con-
suiters of the dead and diviners ; and, as necessary to defend
the Israelites from the abominations of the Canaauites, to put
wizards and enchantresses to death. "When Christ came. He
conformed to the common speech — because his use of exact
terms would have been incomprehensil)le — and confined him-
self to such practical treatment as was possible and benignant.
trusting to the increasing influence of truth to lift men to higher

* In this rhumf are usod articles in the Enc. Brit. ; C. W. Uph.im's Lecturer on
Witchrraft (18U), and Hist. WitchrrnJ't and Snlpm Villane (isOT) : tlie third vol.
of H. C. Lea's Hist, of hiquisitior, ; Scot's iJisrnveri) of Wifrlicraft (l')S4) ; J. Web.
Bter's Displaying of Supposed Witchcrafl (1677) ; and Kiiijj James's Daemonologit

Online LibraryHenry Martyn DexterThe England and Holland of the Pilgrims → online text (page 4 of 65)