Imagens das páginas

cant story is told in an old chronicle in connection with this system of advertising. An old woman, named Adelheid, was possessed of a strong desire to proclaim the Word of God, but not having lungs sufficiently powerful for the noisy propagation contemplated by her, she paid a winecrier to go about the town, and, instead of proclaiming the prices of the wine, to proclaim these sacred words: "God is righteous! God is merciful! God is good and excellent!" And as the man went about shouting these words she followed him, exclaiming, "He speaks well! he says truly!" The poor old body hardly succeeded according to her pious desire, for she was arrested and tried, and as it was thought she had done this out of vanity (causa laudis humancB), she was burned alive.* From this it would seem that there was as much protection for the monks in their profession as for the criers, who were very proud of their special prerogatives.

The public criers in France, at an early period, were formed into a corporation, and in 1258 obtained various statutes from Philip Augustus, some of which, relating to the criers of wine, are excessively curious. Thus it was ordained that—

"Whosoever is a crier in Paris may go to any tavern he likes and cry its wine, provided they sell wine from the wood, and that there is no other crier employed for that tavern; and the tavern-keeper cannot prohibit him.

"If a crier finds people drinking in a tavern, he may ask what they pay for the wine they drink; and he may go out and cry the wine at the prices they pay, whether the tavernkeeper wishes it or not, provided always that there be no other crier employed for that tavern,

"If a tavern-keeper sells wine in Paris and employs no crier, and closes his door against the criers, the crier may

* Chronicles of the Monk Alberic des Trois Fontaines, under the year 1235.

proclaim that tavern-keeper's wine at the same price as the king's wine (the current price), that is to say, if it be a good wine year, at seven denarii, and if it be a bad wine year, at twelve denarii.

"Each crier to receive daily from the tavern for which he cries at least four denarii, and he is bound on his oath not to claim more.

"The crier shall go about crying twice a day, except in Lent, on Sundays and Fridays, the eight days of Christmas, and the Vigils, when they shall only cry once. On the Friday of the Adoration of the Cross they shall cry not at all. Neither are they to cry on the day on which the king, the queen, or any of the children of the royal family happens to die."

This crying of wines is frequently alluded to in those French ballads of street-criers known as "Les crieries de Paris." One of them has—

Si crie Ton en plusors leus
Li bon vin fort a trente deux,
A seize, a douze, a six, a huict,*

And another—

D'autres cris on faict plusieurs,
Qui long seroient a reciter,
L'on crie vin nouveau et vieu,
Duquel on donne a tatter.t

Early in the Middle Ages the public crier was still called PrcBco, as among the Romans; and an edict of the town of Tournay, dated 1368, describes him as "the sergeant of the rod (sergent d verge), who makes publications (crie les bans), and cries whatever else there is to be made known to the town." The Assizes of Jerusalem, which contained

* All around here they cry wine at the rate
Of thirty-two, sixteen, twelve, six, and eight.

+ To name the other cries our time would waste—
They cry old wine and new, and bid you taste.

the code of civil laws of the whole of civilised Europe during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and which take us back to the most ancient forms of our own civil institutions, make mention in the following manner of the public crier: "Whosoever desires to sell anything by auction, must have it proclaimed by the crier, who is appointed by the lord viscount; and nobody else has a right to make any publication by crying. If anybody causes any such auction to be proclaimed by any other than the public crier, then the lord has a right by assize and custom to claim the property so cried as his own, and the crier shall be at the mercy of the lord. And whoever causes anything to be cried by the appointed public crier in any other way than it ought to be cried, and in any other way than is done by the lord or his representative, the lord may claim the property as his own, and the crier who thus cries it shall be amenable for falsehood, and is at the mercy of the lord, who may take from him all he possesses. But if he [the lord] does not do that, then he shall not suffer any other punishment; and if he be charged, he must be believed on his oath."

From these very stringent and protective regulations it appears, then, that at this early period the public criers, or praconcs, appointed by the lord, had the exclusive right of proclaiming all sales by auction, not only voluntary, but also judicial, of movables, as well as of fixtures; of "personal," as well as of " real" property.

In England criers appear to have been also a national institution at an early period. They were sworn to sell truly and well to the best of their power and ability. They proclaimed the cause of the condemnation of all criminals, and made proclamations of every kind, except as concerned matters ecclesiastical, which were exclusively the province of the archbishop. They also cried all kinds of goods. In London we find Edmund le Criour mentioned in the documents relating to the Guildhall as early as 1299. That criers used horns, as in France, appears from the will of a citizen of Bristol, dated 1388, who, disposing of some house property, desires " that the tenements so bequeathed shall be sold separately by the sound of the trumpet at the high cross of Bristol, without any fraud or collusion." In Ipswich it was still customary in the last century to proclaim the meetings of the town council, the previous night at twelve o'clock, by the sound of a large horn, which is still preserved in the town hall of that borough. These horns were provided by the mayors of the different towns.

The public crier, then, was the chief organ by which the mediaeval shopkeeper, in the absence of what we now know as "advertising mediums," obtained publicity: it was also customary for most traders to have touters at their doors, who did duty as living advertisements. In low neighbourhoods this system still obtains, especially in connection with cheap photographic establishments, whose "doorsmen" select as a rule the most improbable people for their attentions, but compensate for this by their pertinacity and glibness. Possibly the triumph is the greater when the customer has been persuaded quite out of his or her original intentions. Most trades, in early times, were almost exclusively confined to certain streets, and as all the shops were alike unpretending, and open to the gaze—in fact, were stalls or booths—it behoved the shopkeeper to do something in order to attract customers. This he effected sometimes by1 means of a glaring sign, sometimes by means of a man or youth standing at the door, and vociferating with the full power of his lungs, "What d'ye lack, sir? what d'ye lack?" Our country is rather deficient in that kind of mediaeval literature known in France as diets and fabliaux, which teem with allusions to this custom of touting, which is noticeable, though, in Lydgate's ballad of " London Lyckpenny" (Lack-penny), written in the first half of the fifteenth century. There we see the shopmen standing at the door, trying to outbawl each other to gain the custom of the passers-by. The spicer or grocer bids the Kentish countryman to come and buy some spice, pepper, or saffron. In Cheapside, the mercers bewilder him with their velvet, silk, and lawn, and lay violent hands on him, in order to show him their " Paris thread, the finest in the land." Throughout all Canwick (now Cannon Street), he is persecuted by drapers, who offer him cloth; and in other parts, particularly in East Cheap, the keepers of the eating-houses sorely tempt him with their cries of "Hot sheep's feet, fresh maqurel, pies, and ribs of beef." At last he falls a prey to the tempting invitation of a taverner, who makes up to him from his door with a cringing bow, and taking him by the sleeve, pronounces the words, "Sir, will you try our wine?" with such an insinuating and irresistible accent, that the Kentish man enters and spends his only penny in that tempting and hospitable house. Worthy old Stow supposes this interesting incident to have happened at the Pope's Head, in Cornhill, and bids us enjoy the knowledge of the fact, that for his one penny the countryman had a pint of wine, and "for bread nothing did he pay, for that was allowed free" in those good old days. Free luncheons, though rare now, were commonly bestowed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries on regular drinkers; and the practice of giving food to those who pay for drink is still current in many parts of the United States. The "Lyckpenny" story is one of the few instances in English litera ture of this early period, in which the custom of touting at shop doors is distinctly mentioned, but, as before remarked, the French fabliaux abound with such allusions. In the story of " Courtois d'Arras "—a travestie of the Prodigal Son in a thirteenth-century garb—Courtois finds the host standing at his door shouting, "Bon vin de Soissons, a six deniers le lot." And in a mediaeval mystery entitled "Li Jus de S. Nicolas," the innkeeper, standing on the threshold, roars out, that in his house excellent dinners are to be had, with warm bread and warm herrings, and barrelfuls of Auxerre wine: "C^ans il fait bon diner, ceans il y a pain chaud et


« AnteriorContinuar »