« PreviousContinue »
Pictures constituted a frequent decoration in the rooms of the wealthy; and there are numerous instances to prove that those which were estimated as valuable, were protected by curtains. Olivia, addressing Viola in Twelfth Night, says,—“We will draw the curtain, and shew
you the picture *;" the same imagery occurs in Troilus and Cressida, where Pandarus, unveiling Cressida, uses almost the same words: “ Come draw this curtain, and let us see your picture t." The passage, however, which Mr. Douce has quoted in illustration of this subject, as it decides the point, will supersede all further reference :—“ In Deloney's Pleasant history of Jack of Newbery, printed before 1597, it is recorded,” he remarks, “ that “in a faire large parlour which was wainscotted round about, Jacke of Newbery had fifteene faire pictures hanging, which were covered with curtaines of greene silke, fringed with gold, which he would often shew to his friends.”
] The practice of strewing floors with rushes was general before the introduction of carpets for this purpose, and the first mansions in the kingdom could boast of nothing superior in this respect. Shakspeare has many lines in reference to the custom ; Glendower, for instance, interpreting Lady Mortimer's address to her husband, says,
Again Iachimo, rising from the Trunk in Imogen's chamber, exclaims :
66 Our Tarquin thus Did softly press the rushes, ere he waken'd The chastity he wounded;" ||
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v. p. 272. Act i. sc. 5. + Ibid. vol. xv. p. 342. Act iii. sc. 2. # Illustrations of Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 85. ģ Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xi. p. 331. King Henry IV. Part I. act iii. sc. 1, !! Cymbeline, act ii. sc. 2. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 466.
and lastly, Romeo calls out
“ A torch for me: let wantons light of heart,
Tickle the senseless rushes with their heels.” *
Similar allusions abound in our old dramatic poets, one of which we shall give for the singularity of its comparison : “ All the ladies and gallants," says Jonson, in his. Cynthia's Revels,“ lye languishing upon the rushes, like so many pounded cattle i' the midst of harvest. †"
The utility of the rush, and the species used for this purpose, will be illustrated by the following passages :
“ Rushes that grow upon dry groundes,” observes Dr. Bulleyne, “ be good to strew in halles, chambers, and galleries, to walke upon, defending apparell, as traynes of
gownes and kertles from dust $;" and Decker tells us of “ windowes spread with hearbs, the chimney drest up
greene boughs, and the floore strewed with bulrushes.
Of the hospitality of the English, and of the style of eating and drinking in the upper ranks of society, Harrison has given us the following curious, though general, detail.
“ In number of dishes and change of meat,” he remarks, “ the nobilitie of England (whose cookes are for the most part musicall headed Frenchmen and strangers) doo most exceed, sith there is no daie in maner that passeth over their heads, wherein they have not onelie béefe, mutton, veale, lambe, kid, porke, conie, capon, pig, or so manie of these as the season yeeldeth: but also some portion of the red or fallow déere, beside great varietie of fish and wild foule, and thereto sundrie other delicates wherein the sweet hand of the seafaring Portingale is not wanting: so that for a man to dine with one of them, and to tast of everie dish that standeth before him (which few use to doo, but ech one feedeth upon that meat him best liketh for the time, the beginning of everie dish notwithstanding being reserved unto the greatest personage that sitteth at the table, to whome it is drawen up still by the waiters as order requireth, and from whence it descendeth againe even to the lower end, whereby each one may tast thereof) is rather to yield unto a conspiracie with a greate deale of meat for the spéedie suppression of naturall health, then the use of a necessarie meane to satisfie himselfe with a competent repast, to susteine his bodie withall.
* Act i. sc. 4. Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 48. + Act ii. sc. 5.
| Bulwarke of Defence, 1579, fol. 21. Belman of London, 1612. sig. B 4.- We may add, also, to this enumeration, the general use of large mirrors, or looking-glasses, for Hentzner tells us that he was shewn, “ at the house of Leonard Smith, a taylor, a most perfect looking-glass, ornamented with gold, pearls, silver, and velvet, so richly as to be estimated at 500 ecus du soleil.” Travels, p. 32.
66 The chiefe part likewise of their dailie provision is brought in before them (commonlie in silver vessell, if they be of the degree of barons, bishops and upwards) and placed on their tables, whereof when they have taken what it pleaseth them, the rest is reserved, and afterward sent downe to their serving men and waiters, who feed thereon in like sort with convenient moderation, their reversion also being bestowed upon the poore, which lie readie at their gates in great numbers to receive the same. This is spoken of the principall tables whereat the nobleman, his ladie and guestes are accustomed to sit, beside which they have a certeine ordinarie allowance daillie appointed for their hals, where the chiefe officers and household servants (for all are not permitted by custome to waite upon their master) and with them such inferiour guestes doo feed as are not of calling to associat the noble man himselfe (so that besides those afore mentioned, which are called to the principall table, there are commonlie fortie or three score persons fed in those hals,) to the great reliefe of such poore sutors and strangers also as oft be partakers thereof and otherwise like to dine hardlie. As for drinke it is usuallie filled in pots, gobblets, jugs, bols of silver in noble mens houses, also in fine Venice glasses of all formes, and for want of these elsewhere in pots of earth of sundrie colours and moulds (whereof manie are garnished with silver) or at the leastwise in pewter, all which notwithstanding are seldome set on the table, but each one as necessitie urgeth, calleth for a cup of such drinke as him listeth to
have: so that when he hath tasted of it he delivered the cup againe to some one of the standers by, who making it cleane by pouring out the drinke that remaineth, restoreth it to the cupbord from whence he fetched the same. By this devise, -much idle tippling is further more cut off, for if the full pots should continuallie stand at the elbow or neere the trencher, diverse would alwaies be dealing with them, whereas now they drinke seldome and onelie when necessitie urgeth, and so avoid the note of great drinking, or often troubling of the servitors with filling of their bols. Neverthelesse in the noble men's hals, this order is not used, neither in anie mans house commonlie under the degree of a knight or esquire of great revenues.
It is a world to sée in these our daies, wherein gold and silver most aboundeth, how that our gentilitie as lothing those mettals (bicause of the plentie) do now generallie choose rather the Venice glasses both for our wine and béere, than anie of those mettals or stone wherein before time we have beene accustomed to drinke, but such is the nature of man generallie that it most coveteth things difficult to be atteined; and such is the estimation of this stuffe, that manie become rich onelie with their new trade unto Murana (a towne neere to Venice situat on the Adriatike sea) from whence the verie best are dailie to be had, and such as for beautie doo well neare match the christall or the ancient Murrhina vasa, whereof now no man hath knowledge. And as this is seene in the gentilitie, so in the wealthie communaltie the like desire of glasse is not neglected.”*
To this interesting sketch a few particulars shall be added in order to render the picture more complete ; and, in the first place, we shall give an accoumt, from an eye-witness, of the ceremonies accompanying the dinner-table of Elizabeth.
“ While the Queen was still at prayers,” relates Hentzner, “ we saw her table set out with the following solemnity:
“ A gentleman entered the room bearing a rod, and along with
* Holinshed, vol. i. p. 280.
him another who had a table-cloth, which, after they had both kneeled three times with the utmost veneration, he spread upon the table, and after kneeling again, they both retired. Then came two others, one with the rod again, the other with a salt-seller, a plate and bread; when they had kneeled, as the others had done, and placed what was brought upon the table, they too retired with the same ceremonies performed by the first. At last came an unmarried lady (we were told she was a countess) and along with her a married one, bearing a tasting knife; the former was dressed in white silk, who, when she had prostrated herself three times in the most graceful manner, approached the table, and rubbed the plates with bread and salt, with as much awe, as if the queen had been present: when they had waited there a little while, the yeoman of the guards entered, bareheaded, clothed in scarlet, with a golden rose upon their backs, bringing in at each turn a course of twenty-four dishes, served in plate, most of it gilt; these dishes were received by a gentleman in the same order they were brought, and placed upon the table, while the lady-taster gave to each of the guard a mouthful to eat, of the particular dish he had brought for fear of any poison. During the time that this guard, which consists of the tallest and stoutest men that can be found in all England, being carefully selected for this service, were bringing dinner, twelve trumpets and two kettle-drums made the hall ring for half an hour together. At the end of all this ceremonial a number of unmarried ladies appeared, who, with particular solemnity, lifted the meat off the table, and conveyed it into the queen's inner and more private chamber, where, after she had chosen for herself, the rest goes to the ladies of the court. The
dines alone with
very few attendants.” * The strict regularity and temperance which prevailed in the court of Elizabeth, were by no means characteristic of that of her successor, who, in his convivial moments, too often grossly transgressed