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to furnish the Riders without any stay to carry them to or from any the places aforesaid, in Four days, as well to London as from thence, and to places nearer in less time, according as their occasions shall require, they ingaging at the first Stage where they take Horse, for the safe delivery of the same to the next immediate Stage, and not to ride that Horse without consent of the Post-Master by whom he rides, and so from Stage to Stage to the Journeys end. All thost who intend to ride this way are desired to give a little notice beforehand, if conveniently they can, to the several Tost-masters where they first take horse, whereby they may be furnished with so many Horses as the Riders shall require with expedition. This undertaking began the 28 of June 1658 at all the Places abovesaid, and so continues by the several PostMasters.
It is hard to understand how, even if he received notice beforehand, the first postmaster was enabled to guarantee the readiness of the remaining officials, unless indeed messengers were constantly passing backwards and forwards on each route. The intimation that the threepence per mile does not include a guide does something to clear up the mystery, and at the same time gives an idea as to the state of the roads at that time. One would imagine from the existence of such a being that the track was across a morass, or by the side of a precipice, and not along a highroad of "merrie England," in those good old times for which so many sigh now. Who, although the necessity for the highway is far less than it was two hundred years ago, can imagine a guide being. required nowadays for no other purpose than that of preventing the wayfarer from straying off the beaten track, and losing his horse, and probably himself, in some gigantic slough or quagmire! It is with difficulty one can now realise to himself the fact, that as late as the middle of the seventeenth century, the interior of the country was little better than a wilderness; but that it was so may be easily gathered by a reference to Pepys, who, in the diary of his journey to Bristol and back, makes frequent mention of guides, and finds them far from unnecessary or inexpensive.
The servants of the olden time do not improve upon acquaintance, as the following specimen advertisement from the Mercurius Politicus of July 1658 will show :—
T F any one can give notice of one Edward Perry, being about the age of eighteen or nineteen years, of low stature, black hair, full of pock-holes in his face; he weareth a new gray suit trimmed with green and other ribbons, a light Cinnamon-colored cloak, and black hat, who run away lately from his Master; they are desired to bring or send word to Tho. Firby, Stationer, at Gray's Inne gate, who will thankfully reward them.
This gay and dashing youth, whose pock-holes were possibly in those days regarded as but beauty-spots, with the additional recommendation of showing that their wearer had passed through the then dreaded and terrible ordeal, was doubtless an idle apprentice travelling in the direction since made famous by one who served his full indentures. Ugly as the young gentleman just described may seem to the hypercritical tastes of the nineteenth century, he, as we will presently show, is a perfect beauty compared with any individual specimen picked out at random from the long lists of criminals published in old newspapers. From these lists some conception may be formed of the ravages of the small-pox, and its effect upon the appearance of the great bulk of the population. Every man and woman seems to have been more or less marked—some slightly, some frightfully pitted or fretted, as the term then was; yet even now we have every day instances of violent and ignorant opposition to vaccination, an opposition which is loud-mouthed and possessed of considerable influence over the lower orders, who are led to believe that vaccination is the primary cause of all epidemic disease, including that which it most professes to prevent.
About this time highwaymen, who during the wars were almost unknown, began to exhibit a strong interest in the portable property of travellers; and as they took horses whenever they could find them, notices of lost, stolen, or strayed animals became frequent. It is much to be feared that the dashing knight of the road, who robbed the rich to give to the poor, is a complete myth, and that the thieves who infested the highway were neither brave nor handsome, and not above picking up, and keeping, the most trifling things that came in their way. The quality of these riders may be guessed by means of the following, from the Mercurius Politicus of February 1659, the subject of which, singularly different from the "prancing prads" of which enthusiasts have written, seems to have been borrowed by one of them:—
ASmall black NAG, some ten or eleven years old, no white at all, bob-Tailed, wel forehanded, somewhat thin behind, thick Heels, and goeth crickling and lamish behind at his first going out; the hair is beat off upon his far Hip as broad as a twelvepence; he hath a black leather Saddle trimmed with blew, and covered with a black Calves-skin, its a little torn upon the Pummel; two new Girths of white and green thread, and black Bridle, the Rein whereof is sowed on the off side, and a knot to draw it on the near side, Stoln out of a field at Chelmsford, 21 February instant, from Mr Henry Bullen. Whosoever can bring tidings to the said Mr Bullen, at Bromfield, or to Mr Newman at the Grocer's Arms in Cornhil, shall have 20s. for his pains.
It is supposed by some that the great amount of horsestealing which prevailed during the Commonwealth, and for the next fifty years, was caused by an inordinate scarcity of animals consequent upon casualties in the battle-field. This can hardly be correct, unless, indeed, the object of the foe was always to kill horses and capture men, a state of things hardly possible enough for the most determined theorist. One fact is noticeable, and seems to have been quite in the interest of the thieves—namely, that when at grass most horses were kept ready saddled. This practice may have arisen during the Civil Wars from frequent emergency, a ready-saddled horse being of even greater comparative value than the traditional bird in the hand; and we all know how hard it is to depart from custom which has been once established. That the good man was merciful to his beast in those days hardly appears probable, if we are to take the small black nag as evidence. His furniture, too, seems much more adapted for service than show, despite its variety of colours; and perhaps the animal may have been seized, as was not uncommon, by some messenger of State making the best of his way from one part of the kingdom to another. Before the year 1636 there was no such thing as a postal service for the use of the people. The Court had, it is true, an establishment for the forwarding of despatches, and in Cromwell's time much attention was paid to it; but it was, after all, often in not much better form than when Bryan Tuke wrote as follows during the sixteenth century: "The Kinges Grace hath no mor ordinary postes, ne of many days hathe had, but betweene London and Calais. . . . For, sir, ye knowe well that, except the hackney-horses betweene Gravesende and Dovour, there is no suche usual conveyance in post for men in this realme, as in the accustomed places of France and other partes; ne men can keepe horses in redynes withoute som way to bere the charges; but when placardes be sent for suche cause [to order the immediate forwarding of some State packet], the constables many tymes be fayne to take horses out of ploues and cartes, wherein can be no extreme diligence." In Elizabeth's reign a horse-post was established on each of the great roads for the transmission of the letters for the Court; but the Civil Wars considerably interfered with this, and though in the time of Cromwell public posts and conveyances were arranged, matters were in a generally loose state after his death, and during the reign of his sovereign majesty Charles II. Truly travelling was then a venturesome matter.
In 1659, also, we come upon an advertisement having reference to a work of the great blind bard John Milton. It appears in the Mercurius Politicus of September, and is as follows:—
CONSIDERATIONS touching the likeliest means to remove Hirelings out of the Church; wherein is also discours'd of Tithes, Church Fees, Church Revenues, and whether any maintenance of Ministers can be settled by Law. The author, J. M. Sold by Livewd Chapman, at the Crown in Pope's Head Alley.
Here we are, then, brought as it were face to face with one of the brightest names in the brightest list of England's poets. This work is almost swamped amid a host of quaintly and sometimes fiercely titled controversial works, with which the press at that time teemed. The poet seems to have known what was impending, and to have conscientiously put forth his protest. We can guess what weight it had with the hungering crowds anxiously awaiting the coming change, and ready to be or do anything so long as place was provided for them. In something like contrast with the foregoing is this we now select from a number of the same paper in December of the same year:—
/^eorge Weale, a Cornish youth, about 18 or 19 years of age, serving as an Apprentice at Kingston, with one Mr Weale, an Apothecary, and his Uncle, about the time of the rising of the Counties Kent and Surrey, went secretly from his said Uncle, and is conceived to have engaged in the same, and to be either dead or slain in some of those fights, having never since been heard of, either by his said Uncle or any of his Friends. If any person can give notice of the certainty of the death of the said George Weale, let him repair to the said Mr Graunl his House in Drum-alley in Drury Lane, London; he shall have twenty shillings for his pains.
This speaks volumes for the peculiarities of the times. Nowadays, in the event of war, anxious relatives are soon put out of their suspense by means of careful bulletins and regular returns of killed and wounded; but who can tell the amount of heart-sickness and hope deferred engendered by the "troubles" of the seventeenth century, or of anxious thought turned towards corpses mouldering far away, among whom was most likely George Weale, perhaps the only one of the obscure men slain in "some of those fights," whose name has been rescued from oblivion.
In 1660 we find Milton again in the hands of his publisher, just at the time when the Restoration was considered complete, alone amid the pack that were ready to fall down