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of the damp arising from the brick-work, to suspend it on wooden frames, placed at such a distance from the sides of the room, as would easily admit of any person being introduced behind it, a facility which soon converted these vacancies into common hiding-places. Thus Shakspeare, during his scenic developments, has very frequent recourse to this expedient. "I will ensconce me behind the arras;" "I whipt me behind the arras," "Look thou stand within the arras:" + "Go hide thee behind the arras:"S "Behind the arras I'll convey myself," etc., etc.
We have seen that in the Country, mottoes were often placed in halls and servants' chambers, for the instruction of the domestics; a custom which was also adopted on tapestry for the improvement of their superiors, and to which Shakspeare refers in his Rape of Lucrece,
"Who fears a sentence, or an old man's saw,'
Shall by a painted cloth be kept in awe;"
and is further confirmed by Dr. Bulleyne, who in, in one of his productions, says, "This is a comelie parlour,-and faire clothes, with pleasaunte borders aboute the same, with many wise sayings painted upon them."
What these wise sayings were, we are taught by the following extract from a publication of 1601 :
"Read what is written on the painted cloth:
Go neat, not gay, and spend but as you spare;
And turn the colt to pasture with the mare; &c.” ††
proverbial wisdom, which Orlando, in As You Like It, designates by the phrase "right painted cloth." Act iii. sc. 2.
That the arras figures," though in general coarsely executed, had strongly impressed the mind of Shakspeare, and furnished him with no small portion of imagery and allusion, has been very satisfactorily established by Mr. Whiter, who remarks, that their "effects may be perpetually traced by the observing critic," even when the poet himself is totally unconscious of this predominating influence."
The manner of illuminating the halls and banquetting rooms of the Great at this period, was truly classical. We find that Homer describing the palace of Alcinous, says
and Lucretius, speaking of the Dome of the opulent, describes its walls with
of our ancestors, which generally represented a man in armour with his hands extended, in which were placed the sockets for the lights; and we may easily
conceive how splendid these might be rendered by the arts of the goldsmith and jeweller.
Where these antique candelabras were not adopted, living candleholders supplied their place, and were, indeed, always present, when a central or perambulatory light was required: "Give me a torch," says Romeo,
The gentlemen-pensioners of Queen Elizabeth usually held her torches; and Shakspeare represents Henry the Eighth going to Wolsey's palace, preceded by sixteen. torch-bearers. At great entertainments, beside candelabras fixed against the sides of the room, torch-bearers stood by the tables, supplying the light which we now receive from chandeliers.
Watch-lights, which were divided into equal portions by marks, each of which burnt a limited time, were common in the bed-chambers of the wealthy; they are alluded to in Tomkis's Albumazar, 1614, where Sulpitia says, "Why should I sit up all night like a watching-candle?
Every bed-chamber was furnished with two beds, a standing-bed and a trucklebed; in the former slept the master, and in the latter his page. The Host, in Merry Wives of Windsor, directing Simple where to find Sir John Falstaff, says, "There's his chamber, his house, his castle, his standing-bed, and truckle-bed;" and Decker and Middleton further illustrate the custom, when the first, alluding to a page, says, he is "so dear to his Lordship, as for the excellency of his fooling to be admitted both to ride in coach with him, and to lie at his very feet on a truckle-bed;" and the second, addressing a similar personage, exclaims," Well, go thy ways, for as sweet a breasted page as ever lay at his master's feet in a truckle-bed." It may be added that the standing-bed had frequently on it a counterpoint, or counterpane, so rich and costly as, according to Stowe, to be worth sometimes a thousand marks. This piece of luxury forms one of Gremio's articles, when enumerating the furniture of his city-house, a catalogue which throws much curious light upon our present subject:
Pewter, during the reign of Elizabeth, was considered as a very costly material, and, at the commencement of the sixteenth century, had been so rare, as to be hired by the year, even for the use of noblemen's houses.
The ivory coffers, and cypress chests, mentioned in Gremio's list, were esteemed, at this period, highly ornamental pieces of furniture for apartments designed for the reception of visitors. "I have seen," relates Mr. Steevens, "more than one of these, as old as the time of our poet. They were richly ornamented on the tops and sides with scroll-work, emblematical devices, etc. and were elevated on feet.' Shakspeare has an allusion to this custom in Twelfth Night, where he speaks of
"Empty trunks, o'er flourished by the Devil."
Act iii. sc. 4.
The tables in these apartments, and in the halls of the nobility, were so constructed as to turn up; being flat leaves, united by hinges, and resting on tressels, so as to fold into a small compass. Thus Capulet, wanting room for the dancers in his hall, calls out
"A hall! a hall! give room, and foot it, girls,
Act i. sc. 5. When dinner or supper was served up, these tables were covered with carpets; hence Gremio exclaims, "Where's the cook? Is supper ready? Be the carpets laid?"
Pictures constituted a frequent decoration in the rooms of the wealthy; and there are numerous instances to prove that those which were estimated as valuable, were protected by curtains. Olivia, addressing Viola in Twelfth Night, says, "We will draw the curtain, and shew you the picture;" the same imagery occurs in Troilus and Cressida, where Pandarus, unveiling Cressida, uses almost the same words: "Come draw this curtain, and let us see your picture." The passage, however, which Mr. Douce has quoted in illustration of this subject, as it decides the point, will supersede all further reference:-" In Deloney's Pleasant history of Jack of Newbery,' printed before 1597, it is recorded," he remarks, "that in a faire large parlour which was wainscotted round about, Jacke of Newbery had fifteene faire pictures hanging, which were covered with curtaines of greene silke, fringed with gold, which he would often shew to his friends."
The practice of strewing floors with rushes was general before the introduction of carpets for this purpose, and the first mansions in the kingdom could boast of nothing superior in this respect. Shakspeare has many lines in reference to the custom; Glendower, for instance, interpreting Lady Mortimer's address to her husband, says,
"She bids you
Upon the wanton rushes lay you down."
K. Henry IV. act iii. sc. 1. Again Iachimo, rising from the trunk in Imogen's chamber, exclaims:
"Our Tarquin thus Did softly press the rushes, ere he waken'd The chastity he wounded;"
Cymbeline, act ii. sc. 2.
and lastly, Romeo calls out
A torch for me : let wantons light of heart,
Act i. sc. 4.
Similar allusions abound in our old dramatic poets, one of which we shall give for the singularity of its comparison: "All the ladies and gallants," says Jonson, in his Cynthia's Revels' "lye languishing upon the rushes, like so many pounded cattle i' the midst of harvest." Act ii. sc. 5.
The utility of the rush, and the species used for this purpose, will be illustrated by the following passages: "Rushes that grow upon dry groundes," observes Dr. Bulleyne," be good to strew in halles, chambers, and galleries, to walke upon, defending apparell, as traynes of gownes and kertles from dust;" and Decker tells us of windowes spread with hearbs, the chimney drest up with greene boughs, and the floore strewed with bulrushes." +
Of the hospitality of the English, and of the style of eating and drinking in the upper ranks of society, Harrison has given us the following curious, though general, detail.
"In number of dishes and change of meat," he remarks, "the nobilitie of England (whose cookes are for the most part musicall headed Frenchmen and strangers) doo most exceed, sith there is no daie in maner that passeth over their heads, wherein they have not onelie béefe, mutton, veale, lambe, kid, porke, conie, capon, pig, or so manie of these as the season yeeldeth : but also
* Bulwarke of Defence, 1579, fol. 21.
Belman of London, 1612. sig. B. 4.-We may add, also, to this enumeration, the general use of large mirrors, or looking-glasses, for Hentzner tells us that he was shewn, "at the house of Leonard Smith, a taylor, a most perfect looking-glass, ornamented with gold, pearls, silver, and velvet, so richly as to be estimated at 500 écus du soleil.”—Travels, p. 32.
some portion of the red or fallow deere, beside great varietie of fish and wild foule, and thereto sundrie other delicates wherein the sweet hand of the seafaring Portingale is not wanting so that for a man to dine with one of them, and to tast of everie dish that standeth before him (which few use to doo, but ech one feedeth upon that meat him best liketh for the time, the beginning of everie dish notwithstanding being reserved unto the greatest personage that sitteth at the table, to whome it is drawen up still by the waiters as order requireth, and from whence it descendeth againe even to the lower end, whereby each one may tast thereof) is rather to yield unto a conspiracie with a greate deale of meat for the speedie suppression of naturall health, then the use of a necessarie meane to satisfie himselfe with a competent repast, to susteine his bodie witball."The chiefe part likewise of their dailie provision is brought in before them (commonlie in silver vessell, if they be of the degree of barons, bishops and upwards) and placed on their tables, whereof when they have taken what it pleaseth them, the rest is reserved, and afterward sent downe to their serving men and waiters, who feed thereon in like sort with convenient moderation, their reversion also being bestowed upon the poore, which lie readie at their gates in great numbers to receive the same. This is spoken of the principall tables whereat the nobleman, his ladie and guestes are accustomed to sit, beside which they have a certeine ordinarie allowance daillie appointed for their hals, where the chiefe officers and household servants (for all are not permitted by custome to waite upon their master) and with them such inferiour guestes doo feed as are not of calling to associat the noble man himselfe (so that besides those afore mentioned, which are called to the principall table, there are commonlie fortie or three-score persons fed in those hals), to the great reliefe of such poore sutors and strangers also as oft be partakers thereof and otherwise like to dine hardlie. As for drinke it is usuallie filled in pots, gobblets, jugs, bols of silver in noble mens houses, also in fine Venice glasses of all formes, and for want of these elsewhere in pots of earth of sundrie colours and moulds (whereof manie are garnished with silver) or at the leastwise in pewter, all which notwithstanding are seldome set on the table, but each one as necessitie urgeth, calleth for a cup of such drinke as him listeth to have: so that when he hath tasted of it he delivered the cup againe to some one of the standers by, who making it cleane by pouring out the drinke that remaineth, restoreth it to the cupbord from whence he fetched the same. By this devise,-much idle tippling is further more cut off, for if the full pots should continuallie stand at the elbow or neere the trencher, diverse would alwaies be dealing with them, whereas now they drinke seldome and onelie when necessitie urgeth, and so avoid the note of great drinking, or often troubling of the servitors with filling of their bols. Neverthelesse in the noble men's hals, this order is not used, neither in anie mans house commonlie under the degree of a knight or esquire of great revenues. It is a world to see in these our daies, wherein gold and silver most aboundeth, how that our gentilitie as lothing those mettals (bicause of the plentie) do now generallie choose rather the Venice glasses both for our wine and beere, than anie of those mettals or stone wherein before time we have béene accustomed to drinke, but such is the nature of man generallie that it most coveteth things difficult to be atteined; and such is the estimation of this stuffe, that manie become rich onelie with their new trade unto Murana (a towne neere to Venice situat on the Adriatike sea) from whence the verie best are dailie to be had, and such as for beautie doo well neare match the christall or the ancient Murrhina vasa, whereof now no man hath knowledge. And as this is scene in the gentilitie, so in the wealthie communaltie the like desire of glasse is not neglected." Vol. I. p. 280.
To this interesting sketch a few particulars shall be added in order to render the picture more complete; and, in the first place, we shall give an account, from an eye-witness, of the ceremonies accompanying the dinner-table of Elizabeth. "While the Queen was still at prayers," relates Hentzner, we saw her table set out with the following solemnity:
"A gentleman entered the room bearing a rod, and along with him another who had a tablecloth, which, after they had both kneeled three times with the utmost veneration, he spread upon the table, and after kneeling again, they both retired. Then came two others, one with the rod again, the other with a salt-seller, a plate and bread; when they had kneeled, as the others had done, and placed what was brought upon the table, they too retired with the same ceremonies performed by the first. At last came an unmarried lady (we were told she was a countess) and along with her a married one, bearing a tasting knife; the former was dressed in white silk, who, when she had prostrated herself three times in the most graceful manner, approached the table, and rubbed the plates with bread and salt, with as much awe, as if the queen had been present: when they had waited there a little while, the yeomen of the guards entered, bareheaded, clothed in scarlet, with a golden rose upon their backs, bringing in at each turn a course of twenty-four dishes, served in plate, most of it gilt; these dishes were received by a gentleman in the same
order they were brought, and placed upon the table, while the lady-taster gave to each of the guard a mouthful to eat, of the particular dish he had brought for fear of any poison. During the time that this guard, which consists of the tallest and stoutest men that can be found in all England, being carefully selected for this service, were bringing dinner, twelve trumpets and two kettle-drums made the hall ring for half an hour together. At the end of all this ceremonial a number of unmarried ladies appeared, who, with particular solemnity, lifted the meat off the table, and conveyed it into the queen's inner and more private chamber, where, after she bad chosen for herself, the rest goes to the ladies of the court. The queen dines and sups alone with very few attendants." P. 36, 37.
The strict regularity and temperance which prevailed in the court of Elizabeth, were by no means characteristic of that of her successor, who, in his convivial moments, too often grossly transgressed the bounds of sobriety. When Christian IV., King of Denmark, visited England in July, 1606, the carousals at the palace were carried to a most extravagant height, and their influence on the higher ranks was such, that "our good English nobles," remarks Harrington, "whom I never could get to taste good liquor, now follow the fashion, and wallow in beastly delights. The ladies abandon their sobriety, and are seen to roll about in intoxication;" accusations which he fully substantiates whilst relating the following most ludicrous scene:
"One day," says he, "a great feast was held, and, after dinner, the representation of Solomon his Temple, and the coming of the Queen of Sheba was made, or (as I may better say) was meant to have been made, before their Majesties, by device of the Earl of Salisbury and others. — But, alas! as all earthly thinges do fail to poor mortals in enjoyment, so did prove our presentment hereof. The Lady who did play the Queen's part, did carry most precious gifts to both their Majesties; but, forgetting the steppes arising to the canopy, overset her caskets into his Danish Majesties lap, and fell at his feet, tho I rather think it was in his face. Much was the hurry and confusion; cloths and napkins were at hand, to make all clean. His Majesty then got up and would dance with the Queen of Sheba; but he fell down and humbled himself before her, and was carried to an inner chamber and laid on a bed of state; which was not a little defiled with the presents of the Queen which had been bestowed on his garments; such as wine, cream, jelly, beverage, cakes, spices, and other good matters. The entertainment and show went forward, and most of the presenters went backward, or fell down; wine did so occupy their upper chambers. Now did appear, in rich dress, Hope, Faith, and Charity: Hope did assay to speak, but wine rendered her endeavours so feeble that she withdrew, and hoped the King would excuse her brevity Faith was then all alone, for I am certain she was not joyned with good works, and left the court in a staggering condition: Charity came to the King's feet, and seemed to cover the multitude of sins her sisters had committed; in some sorte she made obeysance and brought giftes, but said she would return home again, as there was no gift which heaven had not already given his Majesty. She then returned to Hope and Faith, who were both sick and spewing in the lower hall. Next came Victory, in bright armour, and presented a rich sword to the King, who did not accept it, but put it by with his hand; and by a strange medley of versification, did endeavour to make suit to the King. But Victory did not triumph long; for, after much lamentable utterance, she was led away like a silly captive, and laid to sleep in the outer steps of the anti-chamber. Now did Peace make entry, and strive to get foremoste to the King; but I grieve to tell how great wrath she did discover unto those of her attendants; and much contrary to her semblance, most rudely made war with her olive branch, and laid on the pates of those who did oppose her coming." The facetious Knight concludes his story by declaring that "in our Queen's days- neer did see such lack of good order, discretion, and sobriety, as I have now done."
We have already mentioned in Part the First, Chapter the Fifth of this work, that the usual hour of dinner, among the upper classes, was eleven o'clock in the forenoon; and though Harrison, in the passage which we last quoted from him, describes the provisions as often brought to the tables of the nobility served on silver, yet wooden trenchers for plates were still frequently to be found at the most sumptuous tables; thus Harrington in 1592, giving directions to his servants, orders, "that no man waite at the table without a trencher in his hand, except it be upon good cause, on pain of Id."†
Nuga Antiquæ, vol. i p. 319-352.
+ Ibid p. 106.