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Beneath the salt, and there he sits the subject
Of her contempt and scorn:"*

and Cartright still later:

"Where you are best esteem'd,

You only pass under the favourable name

Of humble cousins that sit beneath the salt."

Love's Convert.

The luxury of eating and of good cooking were well understood in the days of Elizabeth, and the table of the country-squire frequently groaned beneath the burden of its dishes; at Christmas and at Easter especially, the hall became the scene of great festivity.

In gentlemen's houses, at Christmas," says Aubrey, "the first dish that was brought to table was a boar's head, with a lemon in his mouth. At Queen's Coll. Oxon. they still retain this custom, the bearer of it bringing it into the hall, singing to an old tune an old Latin rhyme, Apri caput defero," &c. The first dish that was brought up to table on Easter-day was a red-herring riding away on horseback; i. e. a herring ordered by the cook something after the likeness of a man on horseback, set in a corn sallad. The custom of eating a gammon of bacon at Easter (which is still kept up in many parts of England) was founded on this, viz. to shew their abhorrence of Judaism at that solemn commemoration of our Lord's resurrection." †

Games and diversions of various kinds, such as mumming, masking, dancing, etc. etc. were allowed in the hall on these days; and the servants, or heralds, wore the coats of arms of their masters, and cried "Largesse" thrice. The hall was usually hung round with the insignia of the squire's amusements, such as hunting, shooting, fishing, etc.; but in case he were a justice of the peace, it assumed a more terrific aspect. The halls of the justice of peace,' observes honest Aubrey, were dreadful to behold. The skreen was garnished with corslets and helmets, gaping with open mouths, with coats of mail, launces, pikes, halberts, brown bills, bucklers." +


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The following admirable description of an old English hall, which still remains as it existed in the days of Elizabeth, is taken from the notes to Mr. Scott's recent poem of Rokeby, and was communicated to the bard by a friend; the story which it introduces, I have also added, as it likewise occurred in the same reign, and affords a curious though not a pleasing trait of the manners of the times; as, while it gives a dreadful instance of ferocity, it shows with what ease justice, even in the case of the most enormous crimes, might be set aside.

Littlecote-House stands in a low and lonely situation. On three sides it is surrounded by a park that spreads over the adjoining hill; on the fourth, by meadows which are watered by the river Kennet. Close on one side of the house is a thick grove of lofty trees, along the verge of which runs one of the principal avenues to it through the park. It is an irregular building of great antiquity, and was probably erected about the time of the termination of feudal warfare, when defence came no longer to be an object in a country-mansion. Many circumstances in the interior of the house, however, seem appropriate to feudal times. The hall is very spacious, floored with stones, and lighted by large transom windows, that are clothed with casement. Its walls are hung with old military accoutrements, that have long been left a prey to rust. At one end of the hall is a range of coats of mail and helmets, and there is on every side abundance of old-fashioned pistols and guns, many of them with matchlocks. Immediately below the cornice hangs a row of leathern jerkins, made in the form of a shirt, supposed to have been worn as armour by the vassals. A large oak-table, reaching nearly from one end of the room to the other, might have feasted the whole neighbourhood, and an appendage to one end of it made it answer at other times for the old game of shuffle-board. The rest of the furniture is in a suitable style, parti

Massinger's Plays, apud Gifford, vol. iv. p. 7.

From a MS. of Aubrey's in the Ashmole Museum, as quoted by Mr Malcolm in his Anecdotes of the Manners and Customs of London, part i. p. 220. 4to. Aubrey's MS. Malcolm, p. 221, 222.

cularly an arm-chair of cumbrous workmanship, constructed of wood, curiously turned, with a high back and triangular seat, said to have been used by Judge Popham in the reign of Elizabeth. The entrance into the hall is at one end by a low door, communicating with a passage that leads from the outer door, in the front of the house to a quadrangle within; at the other it opens upon a gloomy staircase, by which you ascend to the first floor, and, passing the doors of some bed-chambers, enter a narrow gallery, which extends along the back front of the house from one end to the other of it, and looks upon an old garden. This gallery is hung with portraits, chiefly in the Spanish dresses of the sixteenth century. In one of the bed-chambers, which you pass in going towards the gallery, is a bedstead with blue furniture, which time has now made dingy and threadbare, and in the bottom of one of the bed-curtains you are shewn a place where a small piece has been cut out and sown in again; a circumstance which serves to identify the scene of the following story:

"It was a dark rainy night in the month of November, that an old midwife sate musing by her cottage fire-side, when on a sudden she was startled by a loud knocking at the door. On opening it she found a horseman, who told her that her assistance was required immediately by a person of rank, and that she should be handsomely rewarded, but that there were reasons for keeping the affair a strict secret, and, therefore, she must submit to be blindfolded, and to be conducted In that condition to the bed-chamber of the lady. After proceeding in silence for many miles through rough and dirty lanes, they stopped, and the midwife was led into a house, which, from the length of her walk through the apartment, as well as the sounds about her, she discovered to be the seat of wealth and power. When the bandage was removed from her eyes, she found herself in a bedchamber, in which was the lady on whose account she had been sent for, and a man of a haughty and ferocious aspect. The lady was delivered of a fine boy. Immediately the man commanded the midwife to give him the child, and, catching it from her, he hurried across the room, and threw it on the back of the fire, that was blazing in the chimney. The child, however, was strong, and by its struggles rolled itself off upon the hearth, when the ruffian again seized it with fury, and, in spite of the intercession of the midwife, and the more piteous entreaties of the mother, thrust it under the grate, and raking the live coals upon it, soon put an end to its life. The midwife, after spending some time in affording all the relief in her power to the wretched mother, was told that she must be gone. Her former conductor appeared, who again bound her eyes, and conveyed her behind him to her own home; he then paid her handsomely, and departed. The midwife was strongly agitated by the horrors of the preceding night; and she immediately made a deposition of the fact before a magistrate. Two circumstances afforded hopes of detecting the house in which the crime had been committed; one was, that the midwife, as she sate by the bed-side, had, with a view to discover the place, cut out a piece of the bed-curtain, and sown it in again; the other was, that as she had descended the staircase, she had counted the steps. Some suspicions fell upon one Darrell, at that time the proprietor of Littlecote-House and the domain around it. The house was examined, and identified by the midwife, and Darrell was tried at Salisbury for the murder. By corrupting his judge, he escaped the sentence of the law; but broke his neck by a fall from his horse in hunting, in a few months after. The place where this happened is still known by the name of Darrell's Hill : a spot to be dreaded by the peasant whom the shades of evening have overtaken on his way. "Littlecote-House is two miles from Hungerford, in Berkshire, through which the Bath road passes. The fact occurred in the reign of Elizabeth. All the important circumstances I have given exactly as they are told in the country." Rokeby, 4to. edit. notes, p. 102-106.

The usual fare of country-gentlemen, relates Harrison, was "foure, five, or six dishes, when they have but small resort;" and accordingly, we find that Justice Shallow, when he invites Falstaff to dinner, issues the following orders: "Some pigeons, Davy; a couple of shortlegged hens; a joint of mutton; and any pretty little tiny kickshaws, tell William Cook."* But on feast-days, and particularly on the festivals above-mentioned, the profusion and cost of the table were astonishing. Harrison observes that the country-gentlemen and merchants contemned butchers' meat on such occasions, and vied with the nobility in the

* Henry IV. part ii. act v. sc. 1.

production of rare and delicate viands, of which he gives a long list;* and Massinger says,

"Men may talk of country-christmasses

Their thirty-pound butter'd eggs, their pies of carps' tongues,
Their pheasants drench'd with ambergris, the carcases
Of three fat wethers bruised for gravy, to

Make sauce for a single peacock; yet their feasts
Were fasts, compared with the city's."+

It was the custom in the houses of the country-gentlemen to retire after dinner, which generally took place about eleven in the morning, to the garden-bower or an arbour in the orchard, in order to partake of the banquet or dessert; thus Shallow, addressing Falstaff after dinner, exclaims, "Nay, you shall see mine orchard: where, in an arbour, we will eat a last year's pippin of my own graffing, with a dish of carraways, and so forth." From the banquet it was usual to retire to evening prayer, and thence to supper, between five and six o'clock; for in Shakspeare's time, there were seldom more than two meals, dinner and supper:

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"Heretofore," remarks Harrison, "there hath beene much more time spent in eating and drinking than commonlie is in these daies, for whereas of old we had breakfasts in the forenoone, beverages, or nuntions after dinner, and thereto reare suppers generallie when it was time to go to rest. Now these od repasts, thanked be God, are verie well left, and ech one in manner (except here and there some yoong hungrie stomach that cannot fast till dinner time) contenteth himselfe with dinner and supper onelie. The nobilitie, gentlemen, and merchantmen, especiallie at great meetings, doo sit commonlie till two or three of the cloke at afternoone, so that with manie is an hard matter to rise from the table to go to evening praier, and returne from thence to come time enough to supper." S

The supper which, on days of festivity, was often protracted to a late hour, and often too as substantial as the dinner, was succeeded, especially at Christmas, by gambols of various sorts, and sometimes the squire and his family would mingle in the amusements, or retiring to the tapestried parlour, would leave the hall to the more boisterous mirth of their household; then would the Blind Harper, who sold his fit of mirth for a groat, be introduced, either to provoke the dance, or to rouse their wonder by his minstrelsy; his "matter being for the most part stories of old time, as the tale of Sir Topas, the reportes of Bevis of Southampton, Guy of Warwicke, Adam Bell, and Clymme of the Clough, and such other old romances or historical rimes, made purposely for recreation of the common people at Christmasse dinners and brideales.' Nor was the evening passed by the parlour fire-side dissimilar in its pleasures; the harp of history or romance was frequently made vocal by one of the party. "We ourselves," says Puttenham, who wrote in 1589, "have written for pleasure a little brief romance, or histo

Holinshed, vol. i. p. 281. The particulars of the diet of our ancestors in the age of Shakspeare will be given in a subsequent part of the work.

City Madam, act ii. sc. 1.

Gervase Markham in his English House-Wife, the first edition of which was published not long after Shakspeare's death, after mentioning in his second chapter, which treats of cookery, the manner of "ordering great feasts," closes his observations under this head, with directions 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" this humble feast or ordinary proportion, he proceeds to say, should consist for the first course of "sixteen full dishes, that is, dishes of meat that are of substance, and not empty, or for shew-as thus, for example; first, a shield of brawn with mustard; secondly, a boyl'd capon; thirdly, a boyl'd piece of beef; fourthly, a chine of beef rosted : fifthly, a neat's tongue rosted; sixthly, a pig rosted; seventhly, chewets bak'd; eighthly, a goose rosted; ninthly, a swan rosted; tenthly, a turkey rosted; the eleventh, a haunch of venison rosted; the twelfth, a pasty of venison; the thirteenth, a kid with a pudding in the belly: the fourteenth, an olive-pye; the fifteenth, a couple of capons; the sixteenth, a custard or dowsets. Now to these full dishes may be added sallets, fricases, quelque choses, and devised paste, jas many dishes more which make the full service no less than two and thirty dishes, which is as much as can conveniently stand on one table, and in one mess; and after this manner you may proportion both your second and third course, holding fulness on one half of the dishes, and shew in the other, which will be both frugal in the spendor, contentment to the guest, and much pleasure and delight to the beholders." P. 100, 101. ninth edition of 1683, small 4to.

Henry IV. part ii. act. v. sc. 3.

§ Holinshed, vol. i. p. 287.

** Puttenham's Art of English Poesie, p. 69, reprint of 1811.

rical ditty, in the English tong of the Isle of Great Britaine, in short and long meetres, and by breaches or divisions to be more commodiously sung to the harpe in places of assembly, where the company shal be desirous to heare of old adventures, and valiaunces, of noble knights in times past, as are those of King Authur and his Knights of the Round Table, Sir Bevys of Southampton, Guy of Warwicke, and others like."

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The posset at bed-time closed the joyous day, a custom to which Shakspeare has occasionally alluded; thus Lady Macbeth says of the "surfeited grooms," "I have drugg'd their possets;" + Mrs. Quickly tells Rugby, "Go; and we'll have a posset for❜t soon at night, in faith, at the latter end of a sea-coal fire;" and Page, cheering Falstaff, exclaims, "Thou shalt eat a posset to-night at my S house." Thomas Heywood also, a contemporary of Shakspeare, has particularly noticed this refection as occurring just before bed-time: "Thou shalt be welcome to beef and bacon, and perhaps a bag-pudding; and my daughter Nell shall pop a posset upon thee when thou goest to bed."

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In short, hospitality, a love of festivity, and an ardent attachment to the sports of the field, were prominent traits in the character of the country-gentleman in Shakspeare's days. The floor of his hall was commonly occupied by his greyhounds, and on his hand was usually to be found his favorite hawk. His conversation was very generally on the subject of his diversions; for as Master Stephen says, "Why you know, an' a man have not skill in the hawking and hunting languages now-a-dayes, I'll not give a rush for him. They are more studied than the Greeke, or the Latine."++ Classical acquirements were, nevertheless, becoming daily more fashionable and familiar with the character which we are describing; but still an intimacy with heraldry, romance, and the chroniclers constituted the chief literary wealth of the country-gentleman. In his dress he was plain, though occasionally costly; yet Harrison complains in 1580, that the gaudy trappings of the French were creeping even into the rural and mercantile world:



Neither was it merrier," says he, "with England, than when an Englishman was knowne abroad by his owne cloth, and contented himselfe at home with his fine carsie hosen, and a meane slop his coat, gowne, and cloack of browne, blue, or puke, with some pretie furniture of velvet of furre, and a doublet of sad tawnie, or blacke velvet, or other comelie silke, without such cuts and gawrish colours as are worne in these daies, and never brought in but by the consent of the French, who thinke themselves the gaiest men, when they have most diversities of jagges and change of colours about them." ‡‡

Of the female part of the family of the country-gentleman, we must be indulged in giving one description from Drayton, which not only particularizes the employments and dress of the younger part of the sex, but is written with the most exquisite simplicity and beauty; he is delineating the well-educated daughter of a country-knight:

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Puttenham's Art of English Poesie, p. 33, reprint of 1811.

Merry Wives of Windsor, act i. sc. 4.

Heywood's Edward II. p. 1.

Macbeth. act ii. sc. 2.

Merry Wives of Windsor, act v. sc. 5.

++Jonson's Every Man in his Humour, act i. sc. 1. Acted in the year 1598.

#Holinshed, vol. i. p. 290.

She wore a frock of frolic green,
Might well become a maiden queen,
Which seemly was to see;

A hood to that so neat and fine,
In colour like the columbine,
Ywrought full featously.

Her features all as fresh above,
As is the grass that grows by Dove,
And lythe as lass of Kent.
Her skin as soft as Leinster wool,
As white as snow on Peakish Hull,

Or swan that swims in Trent.

This maiden in a morn betime,

Went forth when May was in the prime,

To get sweet setywall,

The honey-suckle, the harlock,
The lily, and the lady-smock,

To deck her summer-hall."*

Some heightening to the picture of the country-gentleman which we have just given, may be drawn from the character of the upstart squire or country-knight, as it has been pourtrayed by Bishop Earle, towards the commencement of the seventeenth century; for the absurd imitation of the one is but an overcharged or caricature exhibition of the costume of the other.

"The upstart country-gentleman," remarks the Bishop, "is a holiday clown, and differs only in the stuff of his clothes, not the stuff of himself, for he bare the kings sword before he had arms to weild it; yet being once laid o'er the shoulder with a knighthood, he finds the herald his friend. His father was a man of good stock, though but a tanner or usurer; he purchased the land, and his son the title. He has doffed off the name of a countryfellow, but the look not so easy, and his face still bears a relish of churne-milk. He is guarded with more gold lace than all the gentlemen of the country, yet his body makes his clothes still out of fashion. His house-keeping is seen much in the distinct families of dogs, and serving-men attendant on their kennels, and the deepness of their throats is the depth of his discourse. A hawk he esteems the true burden of nobility, and is exceeding ambitious to seem delighted in the sport, and have his fist gloved with his jesses. A justice of peace he is to domineer in his parish, and do his neighbour wrong with more right. He will be drunk with his hunters for company, and stain his gentility with droppings of ale. He is fearful of being sheriff of the shire by instinct, and dreads the assize-week as much as the prisoners. In sum, he's but a clod of his own earth, or his land is the dunghill and he the cock that crows over it: and commonly his race is quickly run, and his children's children, though they scape hanging, return to the place from whence they came." Notwithstanding the hospitality which generally prevailed among the countrygentlemen towards the close of the sixteenth century, the injurious custom of deserting their hereditary halls for the luxury and dissipation of the metropolis, began to appear; and, accordingly, Bishop Hall has described in a most finished and picturesque manner the deserted mansion of his days;

"Beat the broad gates, a goodly hollow sound
With double echoes doth againe rebound;
But not a dog doth bark to welcome thee,
Nor churlish porter canst thou chafing see:
All dumb and silent, like the dead of night,
Or dwelling of some sleepy Sybarite!

The marble pavement hid with desert weed,
With house-leek, thistle, dock, and hemlock-seed,—-
Look to the towered chimnies, which should be

The wind-pipes of good hospitalitie :

Lo, there th'unthankful swallow takes her rest,
And fills the tunnel with her circled nest."S

* Chalmers's Poets, vol. iv. p. 435, 436. Drayton, Fourth Eclogue.

A term in hawking, signifying the short straps of leather which are fastened to the hawk's legs, by which he is held on the fist, or joined to the leash." Bliss.

Earle's Microcosmography; or a Piece of the World discovered, in Essays and Characters. Edition of 1811, by Philip Bliss. § Hall's Satires, book v. sat. 2. printed in 1598.

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