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of life, too, when the sister of Lord Essex, interceding for her brother's life, tells Her Majesty," Early did I hope this morning, to have had mine eyes blessed with your majesty's beauty.-That her brother's life, his love, his service to her beauties, did not deserve so hard a punishment. That he would be disabled from ever serving again his sacred goddess! whose excellent beauties and perfections ought to feel more compassion."
Her affectation of youth, in order to render language such as this somewhat appropriate, was carried to the most ridiculous excess; "there is almost none," remarks Harrington," that wayted in Queene Elizabeth's court, and observed any thing, but can tell that it pleased her much to seeme and to be thought, and to be told, that she looked younge ;" and he then relates, in illustration of his assertion, that when Bishop Rudd preached before the Queen, in Lent, 1596, after giving an arithmetical description, with a manifest allusion to Her Majesty, of the grand climacterical year, he put a prayer into the mouth of the Queen, in which she is represented as quoting, with reference to herself, the following passage from Ecclesiastes: When the grinders shall be few in number, and they wax darke that looke out of the windowes, etc., and the daughters of singing shall be abased; but, the sermon being concluded, "the Queene (as the manner was opened the window (of her closet), but she was so far from giving him thanks, or good countenance, that she said plainly, he should have kept his arithmetick for himselfe; but I see (said she) the greatest clerks are not the wisest men ;' and so went away for the time discontented." Three days afterwards, however, she declared before Harrington and her courtiers, that "the good bishop was deceived in supposing she was so decayed in her limbs and senses, as himselfe, perhaps, and other of that age are wont to be; she thankt God that neither her stomache nor strength, nor her voyce for singing, nor fingering for instruments, nor lastly, her sight was any whit decayed." *
Her strength and agility, she endeavoured to prove, were not diminished, by dancing, or attempting to dance, to nearly the end of her reign. Being present at Lord Herbert's marriage, in 1600, after supper, dancing commenced by ladies and gentlemen in masques; and Mrs. Fetton, one of the masquers, "went to the Queen, and woed her to dawnce. Her Majesty asked what she was? Affection, she said. Affection, said the Queen, is false. Yet her Majestie rose and dawnced?" She was now in her sixty-ninth year!
Nor was she less artful than vain ; cunning and finesse might be often necessary in her political capacity, but she carried the same wiliness and duplicity into all the relations of private life. Sir John Harrington has admirably drawn her disposition in these respects, and has painted her blandishments, her mutability of temper, and her deceptive conduct, with a masterly pencil.
"Hir mynde," he observes, was oftime like the gentle aire that comethe from the westerly pointe in a summer's morn; 'twas sweete and refreshinge to all arounde her;—again, she coulde pute forthe suche alteracions, -as lefte no doubtynges whose daughter she was.-By art and nature together so blended, it was difficulte to fynde bir right humour at any tyme;-for few knew how to aim their shaft against her cunning.—I have seen her smile," he adds, "soothe with great semblance of good likinge to all arounde, and cause everie one to open his moste inwarde thought to her; when, on a sudden, she would ponder in pryvate on what had passed, write down all their opinions, draw them out as occasion required, and sometyme disprove to their faces what had been delivered a month before. Hence she knew every one's parte, and by thus fishinge, as Hatton sayed, she caught many poor fish, who little knew what snare was laid for them."
Of her boundless inclination to circumvent and deceive, a most ludicrous instance is related by Sir Arthur Wheldon, who tells us, that when Sir Roger Aston was sent with letters from James to the Queen (which was often the case), "he did never come to deliver any — but he was placed in the Lobby; the hangings
Nugæ Antiquæ, vol. ii. p. 216-218.
Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, vol. ii.,
being turned him (lifted up), where he might see the Queene dancing to a little fiddle, which was to no other end, than he should tell his master by her youthfull disposition, how likely he was to come to the possession of the Crown he so much thirsted after.
Extreme jealousy was another leading feature in the manners of Elizabeth, which, far from being the result of her exalted rank, was, indeed, most apparent in her domestic life and relations. She could bear no female near her who, in beauty, accomplishments, or dress, was likely either to surpass or rival her; and the death of the unfortunate Mary may be attributed rather to an inextinguishable envy of her personal charms, than to any apprehensions of the establishment of her claim to the throne of England. How anxious she was to be thought more beautiful and accomplished than her sister Queen, is vividly delineated by Sir John Melvill, who, in his numerous interviews with Elizabeth, during his residence in London, describes her as changing her dress for him every day; as dancing before him, and playing on the virginals, merely for the purpose of ascertaining whether he thought she or Mary most excelled in dress, dancing, and music. She even went so far as to enquire, whether he considered her hair or his mistress's to be the fairest and most entitled to admiration, and, at length, asked him which was tallest, and, on his answering, that the Scottish Queen surpassed her in height,— "Then," saith she, "she is too high; for I myself am neither too high, nor too low."
Nothing is better known in our history than Elizabeth's personal chastisement of the unhappy Earl of Essex; and so little, indeed, was she accustomed, on any occasion, to the control of her passions, that her courtiers daily dreaded similar inflictions. "The Queene seemede troubled to daye," says Harrington; "Hatton came out from her presence with ill countenance, and pulled me aside by the girdle, and saide, in secret waie, If you have any suite to daie, I praye you put it aside, the sunne doth not shine.' Tis this accursede Spanishe businesse; so will not I adventure her Highnesse choller, leste she shoulde collar me also." +
Even in the expression of her dislike on such trivial matters as the cut of a coat, or the depth of a fringe, she spared neither the public exposure of her courtiers, nor the adoption of the most masculine and vindictive contempt. "The Queene loveth to see me," says Harrington, " in my laste frize jerkin, and saithe 'tis well enough cutt. I will have another made liken to it. I do remember she spit on Sir Mathew's fringed clothe, and said, the fooles wit was gone to ragges.-Heav'n spare me from suche jibinge."
If such petulant and rough treatment fell to the lot of her courtiers in public, we may rest assured, that in private, her domestics, and ladies of honour, experienced not a milder fate. Manual correction, indeed, we are told, was a frequent resource with Her Majesty, and even when chiding for "small neglects," Fenton tells us, in a letter to Sir John Harrington, dated May, 1597, that it was "in such wise, as to make these fair maids often cry and bewail in piteous sort."S In short, to adopt the language of Sir Robert Cecil, who had an intimate knowledge both of her public and private character, she was more than a man, and (in troth) sometyme less than a woman.'
Elizabeth, indeed, possessed many qualities of the most exalted rank, and her courage, magnanimity, prudence, and political wisdom were such as to redeem the foibles which we have enumerated. They were virtues, of which her successor was totally destitute; for the manners of James may be truly painted by the epithets, frivolity, pusillanimity, extravagance, pedantry, and credulity.
Some of the most striking traits in his character have been drawn with great strength and vivacity in Sir John Harrington's description of an interview with this monarch, in January, 1607:
The Court and Character of King James, 12mo. 1650. p. 5, 6.
§ Ibid. p. 235.
Ibid. vol. i. p. 167.
Ibid. p. 345.
"He enquyrede, says he, "muche of lernynge, and showede me his owne in suche sorte, as made me remember my examiner at Cambridge aforetyme. He soughte muche to knowe my advances in philosophie, and utterede profounde sentences of Aristotle, and suche lyke wryters, whiche I had never reade, and which some are bolde enoughe to saye, others do not understand: but this I must passe by. The prince did nowe presse my readinge to him parte of a canto in Ariosto; praysede my utterance, and said he had been informede of manie, as to my lernynge, in the tyme of the Queene. He asked me what I thoughte pure witte was made of; and whom it did best become? Whether a Kynge shoulde not be the best clerke in his own countrie; and, if this lande did not entertayne goode opinion of his lernynge and good wisdome?' His Majestie did much presse for my opinion touchinge the power of Satane in matter of witchcraft; and askede me, with muche gravitie,-If I did trulie understande, why the devil did worke more with anciente women than others ?' I did not refraine from a scurvey jeste, and even saide (notwithstandinge to whom it was said) that—we were taught hereof in scripture, where it is tolde, that the devil walketh in dry places.-His Highnesse tolde me the Queene his mothers deathe was visible in Scotlande before it did really happen, being, as he saide, spoken of in secrete by those whose power of sight presentede to them a bloodie heade dancinge in the aire.' He then did remarke muche on this gifte, and saide he had soughte out of certaine bookes a sure waie to attaine knowledge of future chances. Hereat, he namede many bookes, which I did not knowe, nor by whom written; but advisede me not to consult some authors which woulde leade me to evill consultations—at lengthe he saide: Now, Sir, you have seene my wisdome in some sorte, and I have pried into yours. I praye you, do me justice in your reporte, and in good season, I will not fail to add to your understandinge, in suche pointes as I maye find you lacke amendment."*
This is an extract which lays open the heart of James, and speaks volumes on the subject.
The manners of the reigning monarch imperceptibly give a colouring to those of every class of society, stronger in proportion to its approximation to the source; a remark which is fully exemplified in the females of the reign of Elizabeth, those especially who constituted, or were near, the court, copying, according to their ability, the virtues, accomplishments, and foibles of the Queen. They were learned, skilled in needle-work, and wrote a beautiful hand, in emulation of the Queen's, which, in the earlier period of her life, was peculiarly elegant; but they were, also, vain, capricious, and in their habits and language often masculine and coarse. It was customary for ladies of the first rank to give manual correction to their servants of both sexes; a practice of which Shakspeare has given us an instance in his Twelfth-Night, where Maria, alluding to Malvolio's whimsical appearance, says, "I know my lady will strike him." (Act iii. sc. 2.) Nor were often their daily occupations, or their language, when provoked, in the least degree more feminine; we are told that Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, was a builder, a buyer and seller of estates, a money lender, a farmer, and a merchant of lead, coals and timber;" and her daughter Mary, who married Gilbert, seventh Earl of Shrewsbury, sent the following message to Sir Thomas Stanhope, with whom she had quarrelled, by one George Williamson, which message was
"Delivered by the said Williamson, February 15, 1592, in the presence of certain persons whose names were subscribed—' My Lady hath commanded me to say thus much to you. That though you be more wretched, vile, and miserable, than any creature living; and for your wickedness, become more ugly in shape than the vilest toad in the world; and one to whom none of reputation would vouchsafe to send any message; yet she hath thought good to send thus much to you that she be contented you should live (and doth nowaies wish your death), but to this end that all the plagues and miseries that may befall any man may light upon such a caitiff as you are; and that you should live to have all your friends forsake you; and, without your great repentance, which she looketh not for because your hath been so bad, you will be damned perpetually in hell fire.' With many other opprobrious and hatefull words, which could not be remembered, because the bearer would deliver it but once, as he said he was commanded; but said if he had failed in any thing, it was in speaking it more mildly, and not in terms of such disdain as he was commanded." +
Nuga Antiquæ, vol. i.
Lodge's Illustrations of British History, vol. i. Introduction, p. xviii. xix. from a MS. in the possession of the Rev. Sir Richard Kaye, Dean of Lincoln.
Of the male population of this period, the manners seem to have been compounded from the characters of the two sovereigns. Like Elizabeth, they were brave, magnanimous, and prudent; and sometimes, like James, credulous, curious, and dissipated. On the virtues, happily from their notoriety, there is little occasion to comment; foreigners, as well as natives, bearing testimony to their existence thus Hentzner tells us," The English are serious, like the Germans ; -they are powerful in the field, successful against their enemies, impatient of any thing like slavery." But of the foibles and vices, as more evanescent and mutable, it may be interesting to state a few particulars.
Of the credulity and superstition which abounded during this era, and which had been fostered by the weakness of James, a sufficient detail has already been given in a former part of this work; and we shall here merely add, that Alchemistry was one of the foolish pursuits of the day. Scot, who has devoted the fourteenth book of his treatise on the "Discoverie of Witchcraft," to this subject, tells us that the admirable description given by Chaucer of this folly, in his Chanones Yemannes prologue and tale, still strictly applied to its cultivators in 1584, who continued to
And were alwaies tired beggarlie,
These folke are knowne and discerned alwaie." +
An insatiable curiosity for seeing strange sights, and hearing strange adventures, together with an eager desire for visiting foreign countries, prevailed in an extraordinary degree during the age of Shakspeare, who has, in several parts of his works, satirized these propensities with much humour. In the Tempest, for instance, he has held up to scorn the first of these foibles in an admirable strain of "A strange fish! Were I in England now (as once I was), and had but this fish painted, not a holiday fool there but would give a piece of silver; there would this monster make a man; any strange beast there makes a man: when they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian;" (act ii. sc. 2) a passage which Mr. Douce has very appositely illustrated by a quotation from Batman. "Of late years," says the Gothic Pliny, "there hath been brought into England, the cases or skinnes of such crocodiles to be seene, and much money given for the sight thereof; the policy of strangers laugh at our folly, either that we are too wealthy, or else that we know not how to bestow our money." +
Of the influence arising from the relation of strange adventures, we have a striking proof in the character of Othello, who won the affections of his mistress by the detail of his "hair-breadth scapes :"
"Wherein of antres vast, and desarts idle,
Rough quarries, rocks, and hills whose heads touch heaven
Act i. sc. 3.
It appears, indeed, that the conversation of this period very frequently turned upon the wonderful discoveries of travellers, whose voyages to, and travels in the New World then occupied much of the public attention. Exaggeration, from a love of importance, too often accompanied these narratives, a license which our poet has happily ridiculed in the following lines:
* Hentzner's Travels, p. 63, 64.
Discoverie of Witchcraft, 4to. p. 355, 356.-Scot has taken great liberties with the text of Chaucer, both in modernising the language, and in tacking together widely separated lines and couplets. Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 14.-Batman upon Bartholome, fol. 359 b.
Whose heads stood in their breasts? which now we find
Each putter-out on five for one, will bring us
Tempest. Act iii. sc. 3.
The close of this passage alludes to a practice then common among the numerous travellers of those times, of putting out their money, especially when about to undertake a long and hazardous journey, for the purpose of receiving exorbitant interest on their return: a custom which, Moryson informs us, originated among the nobility, but before 1617 had become frequent even with men of base condition. Thus we find Ben Jonson, in 1599, representing Puntarvolo, in "Every Man out of his Humour," disclosing such a scheme: "I do intend," says he, "this year of jubilee coming on, to travel: and, because I will not altogether go go upon expense, I am determined to put forth some five thousand pound, to be paid me five for one, upon the return of myself, my wife, and my dog from the Turk's court in Constantinople. If all or either of us miscarry in the journey, 'tis gone: if we be successful, why there will be five and twenty thousand pound to entertain time withal." Act ii. sc. 3.
To such a height had this passion for travelling attained, that those who were not able to accomplish a distant expedition, crossed over to France or Italy, and gave themselves as many airs on their return, as if they had been to the antipodes; a species of affectation which Shakspeare acutely satirizes in the following terms: Farewell, monsieur traveller; look, you lisp, and wear strange suits; disable all the benefits of your own country; be out of love with your nativity, and almost chide God for making you that countenance you are; or I will scarce think you have swam in a gondola."
An equally severe castigation has been bestowed on these superficial ramblers, in "Observations and Discourses," published by Edward Blount, in 1620, who informs us, that their discourse made them every where ridiculous. "The name of English gelding," he adds, "frights them; and thence they take occasion to fall into the commendation of a mule, or an ass. A pasty of venison makes them sweat, and then swear that the only delicacies be mushrooms, or caveare, or snails. A toast in beer or ale drives them into madness; and so to declaim against the absurd and ignorant customs of their own country, and thereupon digress into the commendation of drinking their wine refreshed with ice or snow.'
The pernicious habit of gaming had become almost universal in the days of Elizabeth, and, if we may credit George Whetstone, had reached a prodigious degree of excess. Speaking of the licentiousness of the stage previous to the appearance of Shakspeare, he adds,
"But there are in the bowels of this famous citie, farre more daungerous plays, and little reprehended that wicked playes of the dice, first invented by the devill (as Cornelius Agrippa wryteth), and frequented by unhappy men: the detestable roote, upon which a thousand villanies grow.
"The nurses of thease (worse than heathenysh) hellish exercises are places called ordinary tables of which there are in London, more in nomber to honour the devyll, than churches to serve the living God.
"I constantly determine to crosse the streets, where these vile houses (ordinaries) are planted, to blesse me from the inticements of them, which in very deed are many, and the more dangerous, in that they please with a vain hope of gain. Insomuch on a time, i heard a distemperate dicer solemnly sweare that he faithfully beleeved, that dice were first made of the bones of a witch, and cards of her skin, in which there hath ever sithence remained an inchantment y' whosoever once taketh delight in either, he shall never have power utterly to leave them, for, quoth he, I a hundred times vowed to leave both, yet have not the grace to forsake either." r.”†
No opportunity for the practice of this ruinous habit seems to have been omitted, and we find the modern mode of gambling, by taking the odds, to have been fully
As You Like It, act iv. sc. 1.
"The Enemie to Vnthryftinesse: publishing by Lawes, documents and disciplines, &c. By George Whetstons, Gent. Printed at London by Richard Jones, 1586." 4to. p. 24, 32-Vide British Bibliogra pher, vol. iii. p. 601-604.