« AnteriorContinuar »
not often taste of the latter ; but they certainly assisted in raising and grinding the wheat for the former. The order and regularity preserved on these occasions, were strictly in unison with the ideas of decorum of the times ; and yet it may be imagined, that they rather resembled a farmer's ordinary, in a town remote from London, than the dinners of a modern Earl, or Baron: for, without descending to farther particulars, we are aware forks were not then invented. The refinement, however, was known, of decorating the table with pastry, in various figures ; which were labelled with witty remarks suited to the occasion of the feast, and hence they were called Suttleties. And though these were not to be eaten, three courses are mentioned to have been served; and the time occupied in drinking was usually three hours, from ten o'clock till one.
“ It was now become the custom in great families to have four meals a day ; viz. breakfasts, dinners, suppers, and liveries.” They had their breakfast at seven, dinner at ten, supper at four, and the livery between eight and nine, in their chambers. The Household-book already quoted, mentions the latter to have consisted of bread, beer, and wine, spiced. The hours of the middle ranks of life were more rational; as they 'breakfasted at eight, dined at noon, and supped at six.
The humble dependant upon the smiles and favour of the great found an asylum in their houses, at this æra. Sir Hugh Linne, an antient soldier of great courage, is mentioned by Hayward, in his reign of Henry IV, as the obsequious but at the same time merry attendant of any nobleman who would give him admittance, which he repaid by whimsical observations, and jests upon men and things. The king, wavering between the danger of risking a contest with some of his nobles, and that of exciting farther presumption by remaining passive when they had recourse to arms, demanded of Sir Hugh, in a moment of pleasantry, " What he had best do?" Sir Hugh swore, “ Swownes and snails ! let us set upon them, and kill every man and mother's child : and so we shall make riddance of the best friends you have in the realm.”
Infidelity in the marriage state was known in the reign of Henry IV.; one instance of which, on the side of the gentleman, was, as is too often the case, in high life. “ Robert, duke of Ireland,” says Sir John Hayward, in his history of the above monarch,
“ forsook the company of his lawful wife, whose mother Lady Isabel was daughter to King Edward the Third ; and, instead of her, he took unto him a base Bohemian, a taverner's daughter.” Henry did not notice this misconduct of the Duke, perhaps
through the confusion then prevailing in the state, and as considering infidelity eclipsed by many greater vices in the party.
The Duke of Gloucester, the lady's uncle, thought otherwise ; and, acting upon a manly principle of justice, seized every opportunity to punish the offender, and excite remorse. The effect of this rupture is not within the limits of my work; I shall therefore only add, the conduct of the latter was as base and deceitful, as his antagonists was generous.
It is impossible to review these distant periods of our history without emotions of abhorrence at the incessant waste of life caused by foreign enterprise and domestic contentions. At one time we find thousands assembled to prosecute a senseless and fruitless crusade, at another to invade France or Scotland; and, finally, we see them arrayed to support persons in their pretensions to the crown, each of which was founded in present or past usurpation. On all these occasions the multitude were compelled to obey the call of their lords ; but it is past our comprehension to imagine what could have induced the higher classes to offer theinselves as victims to ambition, with such eager avidity; and particularly for monarchs of the characters of Henry VI. and Edward IV. the former weak and imbecile, and altogether unfit for a king, and the latter a cruel, debauched, tyrant.
This fact plainly demonstrates that a martial species of manners descended through every generation of Englishmen, down to the era when our domestic contests were confined to the systematic resistance of oppression.
Many of the nobles, of the highest rank and opulence, lived with great splendour; and their hospitality to knights and gentlemen, the younger brothers of large families, attached them to their patrons by the double ties of gratitude and interest. Thus powerful persons se- cured their services, and, by appointing them to household offices, exhibited a degree of splendour not to be attained through mére mercenaries. This circumstance will, therefore, account in a great degree for the numbers of people of condition found extended upon the field of battle when the nation divided on political affairs.
The ferocious animosity of the contending parties, when opposed to each other on these occasions, has no example in modern warfare. The 'mode of fighting greatly contributed to this end ; and, added to the constant succession of appeals to arms, made each individual little better than a murderer. Were we to read our antient historians solely with a view to collect instances of battles when no quarter was granted or received, and examples of brutal courage, the retrospect would afford an unpleasant conviction, that almost two-thirds of our male population
throughout several ages have perished by the sword.
Besides, this savage and sanguinary state of the country produced the hateful custom of killing prisoners, through revenge. The same motives actuated relatives, and assassinations consequently became too frequent. And even Kings, and the most eminent of the nobility, equally inflicted and suffered from the universal indulgence of that execrable passion; which may also be supposed to have influenced those ladies, after the loss of their husbands, sons, or parents, who took the field, and exerted all their strength and spirit against their enemies, between the years 1400 and 1500.
The enquiry when the English began to use expletives and imprecations in their intercourse with each other, would prove extremely disgusting; that they have distinguished us for many centuries, we have the concurring testimonies of several authors.
“ The English,” says Dr. Henry, “ were remarkable in this period (between 1399 and 1485) among the nations of Europe, for the absurd and impious practice of prophane swearing, in conversation. The Count of Luxemburg, accompanied by the earls of Warwick and Stafford, visited the Maid of Orleans in her prison at Rouen, where she was chained to the floor, and loaded with irons; the Count, who had sold her to the