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To the silver, gilt plate, and cut glass of Harrison, may be added the use of china, an article of luxury to which the Clown in Measure for Measure thus alludes:-"Your honours have seen such dishes; they are not china dishes, but very good dishes." Act. ii. sc. 1. A considerable quantity of china or porcelain had been brought into this country, during the reign of Elizabeth, as part of the cargo of some captured Spanish carracks. It appears, also, that carpetcloth for tables was, towards the close of our period, dismissed for table linen, and that of a quality so fine, that Mrs. Otter, in Ben Jonson's "Silent Woman," which was first acted in 1609, laments having "stained a damask table-cloth, cost me eighteen pound." Act. iii. sc. 2.
With all these luxuries, the reader will be surprised to learn, that forks were not introduced into this country before 1611. Knives had been in general use since the year 1563, but for the former the fingers had been the sole substitute. The honour of this cleanly fashion, must be given to that singular traveller Thomas Coryat, who in his "Crudities" informs us, that he found forks common in Italy.
"Hereupon," says he, "I myself thought good to imitate the Italian fashion, by this forked cutting of meate, not only while I was in Italy, but also in Germany, and oftentimes in England since I came home; being once quipped for that frequent using of my forke, by a certaine learned gentleman, a familiar friend of mine, one M. Laurence Whitaker, who in his merry humour doubted not to call me at table Furcifer, only for using a forke at feeding, but for no other cause."
The utility of the practice was soon acknowledged, for we find Jonson, in 1614, speaking of their adoption in his "Devil Is An Ass," where Meercraft, having mentioned his "project of the forks," Sledge exclaims
"Forks? what be they?
Meer. The laudable use of forks,
Brought into custom here, as they are in Italy,
Act v. sc. 4.
To the articles of provision enumerated by Harrison, we may add, that the bread of this period was of many various kinds, and sometimes peculiarly fine, especially that made at York.
"Bred," says a physician who wrote in 1572, "of divers graines, of divers formes, in divers places be used:-some in forme of manchet, used of the gentility some of greate loves, as is usual among yeomanry, some betweene both, as with the franklings: some in forme of cakes, as at weddings: some rondes of hogs, as at upsittings: some simnels, cracknels, and bnns, as in the Lent some in brode cakes, as the oten cakes in Kendall on yrons: some on slate stones as in the hye peke some in frying pans as in Darbyshyre: some betwene yrons as wapons: some in round cakes as bysket for the ships. But these and all other the mayne bread of York excelleth, for that it is of the finest floure of the wheat well tempered, best baked, a patterne of all others the fineste."
Dinners had attained a degree of epicurism which rival those of the present day; three courses, of which the second consisted of game, and the third of pastry, creams, and confections, together with a dessert, including marchpane (a cake composed of filberts, almonds, pistacho-nuts, pine-kernels, sugar of roses, and flour), marmalades, pomegranates, oranges, citrons, apples, pears, raisins, dates, nuts, grapes, etc. etc., were common in the houses of the opulent, nor was any expense spared in procuring the most luxurious dainties. "Who will not admire," remarks an Essayist of this age, "our nice dames of London, who must have cherries at twenty shillings a pound, and pescods at five shillings a pecke, huske without pease? Yong rabbettes of a spanne, and chickens of an inch!" +
"The benefit of the auncient Bathes of Buckstones, which cureth most greevous sicknesses, never before published: compiled by John Jones, Phisition. At the King's Mede nigh Darby. Auno salutis 1572, &c." bl. 1.-Vide Censura Literaria, vol. x. p. 277.
The Passions of the Minde. By Th. W. (Thomas Wright.) London, printed by V. S. for W. B. 1601, small 8vo.
To such a height, indeed, had sensuality in eating arisen among the courtiers of James the First, that Osborne, in his """ Traditional Memorials" on the reign of that monarch, informs us,
"The Earl of Carlisle was one of the Quorum, that brought in the vanity of Ante-suppers not heard of in our forefathers time, and for ought I have read, or at least remember, unpractised by the most luxurious tyrants. The manner of which was, to have a board covered at the first entrance of the guests with dishes as high as a tall man could well reach, filled with the choicest and dearest viands sea and land could afford: and all this once seen and having feasted the eyes of the invited, was in a manner thrown away, and fresh set on the same height; having only this advantage of the other, that it was hot. I cannot forget one of the attendants of the K. that at a feast, made by this monster in excess, eat to his single share a whole pie reckoned to my Lord at ten pounds.'
The extravagance and excess of refection with regard to eatables, must, however, we are sorry to say, yield to those which accompanied the use, or rather the abuse, of vinous liquors. The propensity of the English of his times to drunkenness, has been frequently commented on by Shakspeare; Iago, in reference to a drinking-catch which he had just sung, says, "I learned it in England, where (indeed) they are most potent in potting; your Dane, your German, and your swag-bellied Hollander,-Drink, ho!-are nothing to your English.
Cass. Is your Englishman so expert in his drinking?
Iago. Why, he drinks you, with facility, your Dane dead drunk; he sweats not to overthrow your Almain; he gives your Hollander a vomit, ere the next pottle can be filled;" (act ii. sc. 3.) a charge which seems to be confirmed by the sober testimony of Gascoigne.-"The Almaynes," he observes, "with their smale Rhenish wine, are contented; but we must have March beere, double beere, dagger ale, bracket, etc. Yea, wine itself is not sufficient, but sugar, lemons, and spices must be drowned thereinne!" Yet, it is but fair to subjoin, as an acknowledged fact, that we derived this vinosity, as Heywood terms it, from the Danes; "they," says he, "have made a profession thereof from antiquity, and are the first upon record that brought their wassel-bowles and elbowe-deep healthes into this land."
Of the consumption of wine a striking estimate may be formed, from part of a letter addressed by the Earl of Shrewsbury to the Marquis of Winchester and Sir Walter Mildmay, dated January, 1569:
"It may please you to understaund," says His Lordship, "that whereas I have had a certen ordinary allowaunce of wine, amongs other noble men, for expenses in my howsehold, w'out imposte; The charg's daily that I do nowe susteyn, and have done all this yere past, well knowen by reason of the Quene of Scotts, are so grete therein as I am compelled to be now a suter unto yow that ye woll please to have a friendlie considerac'on unto the necessitie of my large expenses. Truly two tonnes in a monthe have not hitherto sufficed ordinarily.'
"This passage," observes Mr. Lodge, will serve to correct a vulgar error, relating to the consumption of wine in those days, which, instead of being less, appears to have been, at least in the houses of the great, even more considerable than that of the present time. The good people who tell us that Queen Elizabeth's Maids of Honour breakfasted on roast beef, generally add, that wine was then used in England as a medicine, for that it was sold only by the apothecaries. The latter assertion, though founded on a fact, seems to have led to a mistake in the former; for the word Apothecary, from the Greek Azobxn, repositorium, is applicable to any shopkeeper, or warehouseman, and was probably once used in that general sense."†
It appears, however, from Decker's Tracts, that apothecaries, in the modern acceptation of the word, sold both wine and tobacco, and their shops formed the fashionable lounge of the day:-"here you must observe to know in what state tobacco is in town, better than the merchants; and to discourse of the apothecaries where it is to be sold; and to be able to speak of their wines, as readily as
The Works of Francis Osborn, Esq. 8vo. 9th edit. p. 475.
Illustrations of British History, &c., vol. ii. p. 27.
"Some lie in
the apothecary himself reading the barbarous hand of a doctor."* ambush, to note what apothecary's shop he (the gallant) resorts to every morning." +
The variety of wines in the days of Shakspeare has not since been exceeded, or, perhaps, even equalled. Harrison mentions fifty-six French wines, and thirtysix Spanish, Italian, etc., to which must be added several home-made wines, such as Ypocras, Clarey, Braket, etc. etc., for which receipts may be found in Arnold's Chronicle.
Among the foreign wines used at this period, none have attracted so much notice, or so much controversy, as the celebrated beverage of Falstaff, Sack. Whether this was a dry or a sweet wine has been left undecided by the commentators, after much elaborate and contradictory disquisition. If we may repose, however, on the authority of Gervase Markham's "English Housewife," a book published very shortly after the death of Shakspeare, and probably written several years before that event, a book professing to contain "the opinions of the greatest Physicians," many years antecedent to the Dedication which includes this assertion, the question must be considered as finally settled. This author, in his fourth chapter, entitled, "The ordering, preserving, and helping of all sorts of Wines, and first of the choice of sweet Wines," opens the subject by declaring, that he had derived his knowledge on wines from a vintner "profest skilful in the trade," and he then immediately proceeds, addressing the housewife, "to speak first of the election of sweet wines; "she must," says he, "be carefull that the Malmseys be full wines, pleasant, well hewed and fine: that Bastard be fat, and strong, if it be tawney it skils not: for the tawny Bastards be always the sweetest. Muscadine must be great, pleasant and strong with a sweet scent, and with Amber colour. Sack if it be Seres (as it should be) you shall know it by the mark of a cork burned on one side of the bung, and they be ever full gage, and so are other Sacks, and the longer they lye, the better they be."
From this passage we learn three circumstances relative to Sack: 1stly, that Sack was a sweet wine; 2dly, that Seres, or Xeres, Sack, or what Shakspeare, in 1597, calls "a good sherris-sack," a wine manufactured at Xeres in Spain, was the most esteemed of its kind; and, 3dly, that other Sacks were in use in this country. Still further light is thrown upon this topic in a subsequent page, where we are told, when enumerating the sweet wines in contradistinction to those of a sharp taste, that Sacks are of three species-" Your best Sacks are of Seres in Spain, your smaller of Galicia and Portugall, your strong Sacks are of the Islands of the Canaries, and of Malligo." It is, therefore, to be inferred, that, though all these Sacks were sweet, the sweetest, as well as the strongest, were the Canary and Malaga; next to these in saccharine impregnation, and best in flavour, the Xeres; and lastly, the weakest and least sweet, were the Galicia and Portugal. The conclusion we consequently draw from these premises is, that the SherrisSack of Falstaff was Spanish Xeres, a wine not dry, like our modern Sherry, but sweet, and though not so strong or so sweet as the Sacks brought from Canary and Malaga, superior in flavour to both.
It may be objected to this deduction, that if Sherris-Sack were a sweet wine, it would not have been necessary to add sugar to it, an article which Sir John ever mingled with his favourite potation. This will not prove valid, however, when we recollect that, in the first place, Xeres was not the sweetest of the Sacks, and, in the second, that in Shakspeare's time it was the custom to mix sugar with every species of wine; "gentlemen garrawse," observes Fynes Moryson, "only in wine, with which they mix sugar, which I never observed in any other place or kingdom to be used for that purpose. And because the taste of the English is thus delighted with sweetness, the wines in taverns (for I speak not of mer
Gull's Horn-book, 1609, reprint, p. 119, 120.
English Villanies, &c. first printed in 1616.
chantes or gentlemen's cellars) are commonly mixed at the filling thereof, to make them pleasant." A similar partiality for sugar in wine is noticed by Paul Hentzner, as one of the peculiarities of the English; and from these passages Mr. Reed deduces the legitimate inference that the fondness of the English nation for sugar, at this epoch, was so great as to induce them to mix it even with sweet wines; "if," says he, "the English drank only rough wine with sugar, there appears nothing extraordinary, or worthy of particular notice.-The addition of sugar, even to sack, might, perhaps, to a taste habituated to sweets, operate only in a manner to improve the flavour of the wine."
We find also from Sir John's comments on his favourite liquor, that he added not only sugar, but a toast to it; that he had an insuperable aversion to its being mulled with eggs, vehemently exclaiming, "I'll no pullet-sperm in my brewage;' and that he abominated its sophistication with lime, declaring that "a coward is worse than a cup of sack with lime in it ;" an ingredient which the vintners used to increase its strength and durability.
To this deterioration, our witty Knight, as his convivial hours were usually spent in taverns, was, of course, peculiarly subject. Houses of this description were very numerous in our author's days, and, there is reason to think, fully as much frequented as are similar places in the present age. The Boar's Head Tavern in Eastcheap, and the Mermaid in Cornhill, immortalised in the writings of Shakspeare, Ben Jonson, and Fletcher, are enumerated in a long list of taverns given us in an old black-letter quarto, entitled "Newes from Bartholomew Fayre;"‡ and to these we must add, as of equal poetical celebrity, the Tabard Inn or Tavern, noticed by Stowe, in 1598, as the most ancient in Southwark, and endeared to us as the "Hosterie" of the never-to-be-forgotten pilgrims, in that delightful work, the "Canterbury Tales" of Chaucer.
A tavern, says a writer who lived in these times, and who published in 1628, "is the common consumption of the afternoon, and the murderer or maker-away of a rainy day. To give you the total reckoning of it; it is the busy man's recreation, the idle man's business, the melancholy man's sanctuary, the stranger's welcome, the inns-of-court man's entertainment, the scholar's kindness, and the citizen's curtesy. It is the study of sparkling wits, and a cup of canary their book." S
At these places were regular ordinaries, which Decker tells us were of three kinds; namely, "an ordinary of the largest reckoning, whither most of your courtly gallants do resort;" a twelve-penny ordinary frequented by "the justice of peace or young knight;" and a three-penny ordinary, to which your London usurer, your stale batchelor, and your thrifty attorney do resort.'
From the same author we also learn, that it was usual in taverns, especially in the city, to send presents of wine from one room to another, as a complimentary
Itinerary, 1617. Part III. p. 152.
It appears, that Sack, in Shakspeare's time, was sold at eight-pence halfpenny a quart--for in Falstaff's Tavern-bill occurs the following item, "Sack, two gallons, 5s. 8d."
The title-page of this curious poem is lost, but the passage alluded to, is as follows:—
"There hath beene great sale and utterance of wine,
Besides beere and ale, and ipocras fine,
In every country, region, and nation;
Chefely at Billingsgate, at the Salutation,
And Bores Head, neere London Stone,
The Swan at Dowgate, a taverne well knowne,
The Miter in Cheape, and then the Bull Head,
And many like places that make noses red;
The Bores Head in old Fish-street, three Cranes in the Vintree,
And now of late St. Martin's in the Sentree;
The Wind-mill in Lothburry, the Ship at the Exchange,
King's Head in New Fish-streete, where roysters do range;
The Mermaid in Corahill, Red Lion in the Strand,
Three Tuns Newgate Market, Old Fish-street at the Swan."
$ Earle's Microcosmography, reprint by Bliss, p. 39, 40,
** Gull's Horn-book, reprint by Nott, p 109, 127, 128.
mark of friendship:-"Enquire," directs he, "what gallants sup in the next room; and, if they be any of your acquaintance, do not you, after the city fashion, send them in a pottle of wine and your name.' This custom, too, is recorded by Shakspeare, as a mode of introduction to a stranger, where Bardolph, at the Garter Inn, Windsor, addressing Falstaff, says,-" Sir John, there's one master Brook below would fain speak with you, and be acquainted with you; and hath sent your worship a morning's draught of sack;" a passage which Mr. Malone has illustrated by the following nearly contemporary anecdote:-"Ben Jonson," he relates, was at a tavern, and in comes Bishop Corbet (but not so then), into the next room. Ben Jonson calls for a quart of raw wine, and gives it to the tapster. Sirrah,' says he, carry this to the gentleman in the next chamber, and tell him, I sacrifice my service to him.' The fellow did, and in those words. Friend,' says Dr. Corbet, I thank him for his love; but 'pr'ythee tell him from me that he is mistaken; for sacrifices are always burnt.'"
The most singular and offensive practice, however, at least to modern manners, which occurred at this period in taverns, a practice common, too, even among the higher ranks, is likewise related by Decker, when giving advice "How a Gallant should behave himself in an Ordinary" of the first class :
"You may rise in dinner time," he tells his "courtly gallant," "to ask for a closestool, protesting to all the gentlemen that it costs you an hundred pounds a year in physick, besides the annual pension which your wife allows her doctor; and, if you please, you may, as your great French lord doth, invite some special friend of yours from the table to hold discourse with you as you sit in that withdrawing chamber; from whence being returned again to the board, you shall sharpen the wits of all the eating gallants about you, and do them great pleasure to ask what pamphlets or poems a man might think fittest to wipe his tail with."*
Gross as this habit now appears to us, it was prevalent upon the Continent until nearly the close of the last century.
To the reign of Elizabeth is to be attributed the introduction of a luxury, which has since become almost universal, the custom of using, or, as it was then called, of taking tobacco. This herb, which was first brought into England by Sir Francis Drake, about the year 1586, met with an early and violent opposition, and gave birth to a multitude of invectives and satires, among which the most celebrated is King James's "Counterblast to Tobacco." This monarch entertained the most rooted antipathy to the use of tobacco in any form, and closes his treatise by asserting that it is "a custom loathsome to the eye, hatefull to the nose, harmfull to the braine, dangerous to the lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stigian smoake of the pit that is bottomless." He also tells us in another work, that were he to invite the devil to a dinner, he should have these three dishes-1, a pig; 2, a poole of ling and mustard; and 3, a pipe of tobacco for digesture."
Tobacco may be said, indeed, to have made many inroads in domestic cleanliness, and, on this account, to have deservedly incurred the dislike of that large portion of the female sex on whom the charge of household economy devolved.
"Surely," says James, "smoke becomes a kitchin farre better than a dining chamber," a remark which is as applicable now as it was then; but we cannot help smiling when he adds, with his usual credulity, "and yet it makes a kitchin also oftentimes in the inward parts of men, soyling and infecting them, with an unctuous and oily kind of soote, as hath bene found in some great tobacco takers, that after their death were opened.'
Such were, indeed, the tales in common circulation among the lower orders,
Gull's Horn-book, p. 121, 122.-"Let us here remark," adds Dr. Nott, in a note on this passage, "that J. Harington is to be considered as the inventor of that cleanly comfort the water-closet; which gave rise to his witty little tract above-mentioned (Metamorphosis of Ajax, a jakes, 1596), wherein he humorously recommends the same to Q. Elizabeth; and for which, by the way, he was banished her
The Workes of the most High and Mighty Prince, James, &c. &c. folio, 1616. p. 222