Curiosities of Literature, Vol. II (of 3) - Edited, With Memoir And Notes, By His Son, The Earl Of Beaconsfield
by Isaac D'Israeli
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Of his romantic excursion into Spain for the Infanta, many curious particulars are scattered amongst foreign writers, which display the superstitious prejudices which prevailed on this occasion, and, perhaps, develope the mysterious politics of the courts of Spain and Rome.

Cardinal Gaetano, who had long been nuncio in Spain, observes, that the people, accustomed to revere the Inquisition as the oracle of divinity, abhorred the proposal of the marriage of the Infanta with an heretical prince; but that the king's council, and all wise politicians, were desirous of its accomplishment. Gregory XV. held a consultation of cardinals, where it was agreed that the just apprehension which the English catholics entertained of being more cruelly persecuted, if this marriage failed, was a sufficient reason to justify the pope. The dispensation was therefore immediately granted, and sent to the nuncio of Spain, with orders to inform the Prince of Wales, in case of rupture, that no impediment of the marriage proceeded from the court of Rome, who, on the contrary, had expedited the dispensation.

The prince's excursion to Madrid was, however, universally blamed, as being inimical to state interests. Nani, author of a history of Venice, which, according to his digressive manner, is the universal history of his times, has noticed this affair. "The people talked, and the English murmured more than any other nation, to see the only son of the king and heir of his realms venture on so long a voyage, and present himself rather as a hostage, than a husband to a foreign court, which so widely differed in government and religion, to obtain by force of prayer and supplications a woman whom Philip and his ministers made a point of honour and conscience to refuse."[1]

Houssaie observes, "The English council were against it, but king James obstinately resolved on it; being over-persuaded by Gondomar, the Spanish ambassador, whose facetious humour and lively repartees greatly delighted him. Gondomar persuaded him that the presence of the prince would not fail of accomplishing this union, and also the restitution of the electorate to his son-in-law the palatine. Add to this, the Earl of Bristol, the English ambassador-extraordinary at the court of Madrid, finding it his interest, wrote repeatedly to his majesty that the success was certain if the prince came there, for that the Infanta would be charmed with his personal appearance and polished manners. It was thus that James, seduced by these two ambassadors, and by his parental affection for both his children, permitted the Prince of Wales to travel into Spain." This account differs from Clarendon.

Wicquefort says, "that James in all this was the dupe of Gondomar, who well knew the impossibility of this marriage, which was alike inimical to the interests of politics and the Inquisition. For a long time he amused his majesty with hopes, and even got money for the household expenses of the future queen. He acted his part so well, that the King of Spain recompensed the knave, on his return, with a seat in the council of state." There is preserved in the British Museum a considerable series of letters which passed between James I. and the Duke of Buckingham and Charles, during their residence in Spain.

I shall glean some further particulars concerning this mysterious affair from two English contemporaries, Howel and Wilson, who wrote from their own observations. Howel had been employed in this projected match, and resided during its negotiation at Madrid.

Howel describes the first interview of Prince Charles and the Infanta. "The Infanta wore a blue riband about her arm, that the prince might distinguish her, and as soon as she saw the prince her colour rose very high."—Wilson informs us that "two days after this interview the prince was invited to run at the ring, where his fair mistress was a spectator, and to the glory of his fortune, and the great contentment both of himself and the lookers-on, he took the ring the very first course." Howel, writing from Madrid, says, "The people here do mightily magnify the gallantry of the journey, and cry out that he deserved to have the Infanta thrown into his arms the first night he came." The people appear, however, some time after, to doubt if the English had any religion at all. Again, "I have seen the prince have his eyes immovably fixed upon the Infanta half an hour together in a thoughtful speculative posture." Olivares, who was no friend to this match, coarsely observed that the prince watched her as a cat does a mouse. Charles indeed acted everything that a lover in one of the old romances could have done.[2] He once leapt over the walls of her garden, and only retired by the entreaties of the old marquis who then guarded her, and who, falling on his knees, solemnly protested that if the prince spoke to her his head would answer for it. He watched hours in the street to meet with her; and Wilson says he gave such liberal presents to the court, as well as Buckingham to the Spanish beauties, that the Lord Treasurer Middlesex complained repeatedly of their wasteful prodigality.[3]

Let us now observe by what mode this match was consented to by the courts of Spain and Rome. Wilson informs us that Charles agreed "That any one should freely propose to him the arguments in favour of the catholic religion, without giving any impediment; but that he would never, directly or indirectly, permit any one to speak to the Infanta against the same." They probably had tampered with Charles concerning his religion. A letter of Gregory XV. to him is preserved in Wilson's life, but its authenticity has been doubted. Olivares said to Buckingham, "You gave me some assurance and hope of the prince's turning catholic." The duke roundly answered that it was false. The Spanish minister, confounded at the bluntness of our English duke, broke from him in a violent rage, and lamented that state matters would not suffer him to do himself justice. This insult was never forgiven; and some time afterwards he attempted to revenge himself on Buckingham, by endeavouring to persuade James that he was at the head of a conspiracy against him.

We hasten to conclude these anecdotes, not to be found in the pages of Hume and Smollett.—Wilson says that both kingdoms rejoiced:—"Preparations were made in England to entertain the Infanta; a new church was built at St. James's, the foundation-stone of which was laid by the Spanish ambassador, for the public exercise of her religion: her portrait was multiplied in every corner of the town; such as hoped to flourish under her eye suddenly began to be powerful. In Spain (as Wilson quaintly expresses himself) the substance was as much courted as the shadow here. Indeed the Infanta, Howel tells us, was applying hard to the English language, and was already called the Princess of England. To conclude,—Charles complained of the repeated delays; and he and the Spanish court parted with a thousand civilities. The Infanta however observed, that had the Prince loved her, he would not have quitted her."

How shall we dispel those clouds of mystery with which politics have covered this strange transaction? It appears that James had in view the restoration of the palatinate to his daughter, whom he could not effectually assist; that the court of Rome had speculations of the most dangerous tendency to the protestant religion; that the marriage was broken off by that personal hatred which existed between Olivares and Buckingham; and that, if there was any sincerity existing between the parties concerned, it rested with the Prince and the Infanta, who were both youthful and romantic, and were but two beautiful ivory balls in the hands of great players.


The Duke of Buckingham, in his bold and familiar manner, appears to have been equally a favourite with James I. and Charles I. He behaved with singular indiscretion both at the courts of France and Spain.

Various anecdotes might be collected from the memoir writers of those countries, to convince us that our court was always little respected by its ill choice of this ambassador. His character is hit off by one master-stroke from the pencil of Hume: "He had," says this penetrating observer of men, "English familiarity and French levity;" so that he was in full possession of two of the most offensive qualities an ambassador can possess.

Sir Henry Wotton has written an interesting life of our duke. At school his character fully discovered itself, even at that early period of life. He would not apply to any serious studies, but excelled in those lighter qualifications adapted to please in the world. He was a graceful horseman, musician, and dancer. His mother withdrew him from school at the early age of thirteen, and he soon became a domestic favourite. Her fondness permitted him to indulge in every caprice, and to cultivate those agreeable talents which were natural to him. His person was beautiful, and his manners insinuating. In a word, he was adapted to become a courtier. The fortunate opportunity soon presented itself; for James saw him, and invited him to court, and showered on him, with a prodigal hand, the cornucopia of royal patronage.

Houssaie, in his political memoirs, has detailed an anecdote of this duke, only known to the English reader in the general observation of the historian. When he was sent to France, to conduct the Princess Henrietta to the arms of Charles I., he had the insolence to converse with the Queen of France, not as an ambassador, but as a lover! The Marchioness of Senecy, her lady of honour, enraged at seeing this conversation continue, seated herself in the arm-chair of the Queen, who that day was confined to her bed; she did this to hinder the insolent duke from approaching the Queen, and probably taking other liberties. As she observed that he still persisted in the lover, "Sir," she said, in a severe tone of voice, "you must learn to be silent; it is not thus we address the Queen of France."

This audacity of the duke is further confirmed by Nani, in his sixth book of the History of Venice; an historian who is not apt to take things lightly. For when Buckingham was desirous of once more being ambassador at that court, in 1626, it was signified by the French ambassador, that for reasons well known to himself, his person would not be agreeable to his most Christian majesty. In a romantic threat, the duke exclaimed, he would go and see the queen in spite of the French court; and to this petty affair is to be ascribed the war between the two nations!

The Marshal de Bassompiere, in the journal of his embassy, affords another instance of his "English familiarity." He says, "The King of England gave me a long audience, and a very disputatious one. He put himself in a passion, while I, without losing my respect, expressed myself freely. The Duke of Buckingham, when he observed the king and myself very warm, leapt suddenly betwixt his majesty and me, exclaiming, 'I am come to set all to rights betwixt you, which I think is high time.'"

Cardinal Richelieu hated Buckingham as sincerely as did the Spaniard Olivares. This enmity was apparently owing to the cardinal writing to the duke without leaving any space open after the title of Monsieur; the duke, to show his equality, returned his answer in the same "paper-sparing" manner. Richelieu was jealous of Buckingham, whose favour with the Queen of France was known.

This ridiculous circumstance between Richelieu and Buckingham reminds me of a similar one, which happened to two Spanish Lords:—One signed at the end of his letter EL Marques (THE Marquis), as if the title had been peculiar to himself for its excellence. His national vanity received a dreadful reproof from his correspondent, who, jealous of his equality, signed OTRO Marqies (ANOTHER Marquis).

An anecdote given by Sir Henry Wotton offers a characteristic trait of Charles and his favourite:—

"They were now entered into the deep time of Lent, and could get no flesh into their inns; whereupon fell out a pleasant passage (if I may insert it by the way among more serious):—There was near Bayon a herd of goats with their young ones; on which sight Sir Richard Graham (master of the horse to the marquis) tells the marquis he could snap one of the kids, and make some shift to carry him close to their lodgings; which the prince overhearing, 'Why, Richard,' says he, 'do you think you may practise here your old tricks again upon the borders?' Upon which word they first gave the goatherd good contentment, and then while the marquis and his servant, being both on foot, were chasing the kid about the flock, the prince from horseback killed him in the head with a Scottish pistol. Let this serve for a journal parenthesis, which yet may show how his highness, even in such light and sportful damage, had a noble sense of just dealing."


Dr. Cayet is an old French controversial writer, but is better known in French literature as an historian. His Chronologie Novenaire is full of anecdotes unknown to other writers. He collected them from his own observations, for he was under-preceptor to Henry IV. The dreadful massacre of St. Bartholomew took place in the reign of Charles IX.; on which occasion the English court went into mourning. The singular death of Charles has been regarded by the Huguenots as an interposition of divine justice: he died bathed in his blood, which burst from his veins. The horrors of this miserable prince on his dying bed are forcibly depicted by the anecdotes I am now collecting. I shall premise, however, that Charles was a mere instrument in the hands of his mother, the political and cruel Catherine of Medicis.

Dr. Cayet, with honest naivete, thus relates what he knew to have passed a few hours before his death.

"King Charles, feeling himself near his end, after having passed some time without pronouncing a word, said, as he turned himself on one side, and as if he seemed to awake, 'Call my brother!' The queen mother was present, who immediately sent for the Duke of Alencon. The king perceiving him, turned his back, and again said, 'Let my brother come!' The queen, his mother, replied, 'Sir, I do not know whom you mean; here is your brother.' The king was displeased, and said, 'Let them bring my brother the King of Navarre; it is he who is my brother.' The queen mother observing the dying monarch's resolute order, sent for him; but, for reasons known only to herself, she commanded the captain of the guards to conduct him under the vaults. They went to the King of Navarre, and desired him to come and speak to the king; at that moment, this prince has since repeatedly said, he felt a shuddering and apprehension of death so much that he would not go. But King Charles persisting on his coming, the queen mother assured him that he should receive no injury. In this promise, however, he put little trust. He went, accompanied by the Viscount d'Auchy, on whose word he chiefly relied. Having, however, observed under these vaults a great number of halberdiers and arquebusiers in ranks, he would have returned, when the viscount and the captain reassured him that no harm should happen to him. The soldiers bowed, and their behaviour was respectful. By a private staircase he entered the chamber of the king, who, immediately on perceiving him, turned towards him, and stretched out his arms. The King of Navarre was affected; he sighed and wept, and fell on his knees at the side of the bed. Charles embraced, and having kissed him, said, 'My brother, you lose a good master and a good friend. I know it is not you who occasions me so much trouble; had I believed what they said, you would not have been alive; but I have always loved you. It is to you alone I trust my wife and daughter; earnestly do I recommend them to your care. Do not trust the queen; but God protect you!'

"The queen mother here interrupted him, 'Ah, sir, do not say that!'—'Yes, madam, I must say it; it is the truth. Believe me, my brother; love me; assist my wife and daughter, and implore God for mercy on me. Adieu, my brother, adieu!' The King of Navarre remained till his majesty expired."

The following minute particulars are drawn from the journal of Pierre de L'Etoile. In the simplicity of his narration, so pleasing in the old writers, the nurse and the monarch,—the religious remorse of the one, and the artless consolations of the other,—become interesting objects.

"King Charles, two days before his death, having called for Mazzille, his chief physician, and complaining of the pains he suffered, asked him if it was not possible that he, and so many other celebrated physicians that were in his realms, could give some alleviation to his disorder; 'for I am,' said he, 'cruelly and horridly tormented.' To which Mazzille replied, that whatever had depended on them had been tried, but that in truth God only could be the sovereign physician in such complaints. 'I believe,' said the king, 'that what you say is true, and that you know nothing else. Draw from me my custode (or large cap), that I may try to rest.' Mazzille withdrew, and left orders that all should leave the king except three, viz., La Tour, St. Pris, and his nurse, whom his majesty greatly loved, although she was a Huguenot. As she had just seated herself on a coffer, and began to doze, she heard the king groan bitterly, weeping and sighing; she then approached the bed softly, and drawing away his custode, the king said to her, giving vent to a heavy sigh, and shedding tears plentifully, insomuch that they interrupted his discourse—'Ah! my dear nurse! my beloved woman, what blood! what murders! Ah! I have followed wicked advice! O my God! pardon me, and be merciful. I know not where I am, they have made me so perplexed and agitated. How will all this end!—What shall I do? I am lost for ever! I know it.'—Then the nurse thus addressed him:—'Sire, be the murders on those who forced you to order them; your majesty could not help it, and since you never consented, and now regret them, believe God will never impute them to you, and will cover them with the mantle of justice of his Son, to whom alone you should look for aid. Ah! for the honour of God, let your majesty cease from this weeping.' Having said this, she rose for a handkerchief, for his was drenched with tears: Charles having taken it from her, made a sign that she should retire and leave him to repose."

The dreadful narrative of the massacre of St. Bartholomew is detailed in the history of De Thou; and the same scene is painted in glowing, though in faithful colours, by Voltaire in the Henriade.—Charles, whose last miserable moments we come from contemplating, when he observed several fugitive Huguenots about his palace in the morning after the massacre of 30,000 of their friends, took a fowling-piece, and repeatedly fired at them.

Such was the effect of religion operating, perhaps not on a malignant, but on a feeble mind!


If the golden gate of preferment is not usually opened to men of real merit, persons of no worth have entered it in a most extraordinary manner.

Chevreau informs us that the Sultan Osman having observed a gardener planting a cabbage with some peculiar dexterity, the manner so attracted his imperial eye that he raised him to an office near his person, and shortly afterwards he rewarded the planter of cabbages by creating him beglerbeg or viceroy of the Isle of Cyprus.

Marc Antony gave the house of a Roman citizen to a cook, who had prepared for him a good supper! Many have been raised to extraordinary preferment by capricious monarchs for the sake of a jest. Lewis XI. promoted a poor priest whom he found sleeping in the porch of a church, that the proverb might be verified, that to lucky men good fortune will come even when they are asleep! Our Henry VII. made a viceroy of Ireland if not for the sake of, at least with a clench. When the king was told that all Ireland could not rule the Earl of Kildare, he said, then shall this earl rule all Ireland.

It is recorded of Henry VIII. that he raised a servant to a considerable dignity because he had taken care to have a roasted boar prepared for him, when his majesty happened to be in the humour of feasting on one! and the title of Sugar-loaf-court, in Leadenhall-street, was probably derived from another piece of munificence of this monarch: the widow of a Mr. Cornwallis was rewarded by the gift of a dissolved priory there situated, for some fine puddings with which she had presented his majesty!

When Cardinal de Monte was elected pope, before he left the conclave, he bestowed a cardinal's hat upon a servant, whose chief merit consisted in the daily attentions he paid to his holiness's monkey!

Louis Barbier owed all his good fortune to the familiar knowledge he had of Rabelais. He knew his Rabelais by heart. This served to introduce him to the Duke of Orleans, who took great pleasure in reading that author. It was for this he gave him an abbey, and he was gradually promoted till he became a cardinal.

George Villiers was suddenly raised from private station, and loaded with wealth and honours by James the First, merely for his personal beauty.[4] Almost all the favourites of James became so from their handsomeness.[5]

M. de Chamillart, minister of France, owed his promotion merely to his being the only man who could beat Louis XIV. at billiards. He retired with a pension, after ruining the finances of his country.

The Duke of Luynes was originally a country lad, who insinuated himself into the favour of Louis XIII. then young, by making bird-traps (pies-grieches) to catch sparrows. It was little expected (says Voltaire) that these puerile amusements were to be terminated by a most sanguinary revolution. De Luynes, after causing his patron, the Marshal D'Ancre, to be assassinated, and the queen-mother to be imprisoned, raised himself to a title and the most tyrannical power.

Sir Walter Raleigh owed his promotion to an act of gallantry to Queen Elizabeth, and Sir Christopher Hatton owed his preferment to his dancing: Queen Elizabeth, observes Granger, with all her sagacity, could not see the future lord chancellor in the fine dancer. The same writer says, "Nothing could form a more curious collection of memoirs than anecdotes of preferment." Could the secret history of great men be traced, it would appear that merit is rarely the first step to advancement. It would much oftener be found to be owing to superficial qualifications, and even vices.


Francis the First was accustomed to say, that when the nobles of his kingdom came to court, they were received by the world as so many little kings; that the day after they were only beheld as so many princes; but on the third day they were merely considered as so many gentlemen, and were confounded among the crowd of courtiers.—It was supposed that this was done with a political view of humbling the proud nobility; and for this reason Henry IV. frequently said aloud, in the presence of the princes of the blood, We are all gentlemen.

It is recorded of Philip the Third of Spain, that while he exacted the most punctilious respect from the grandees, he saluted the peasants. He would never be addressed but on the knees; for which he gave this artful excuse, that as he was of low stature, every one would have appeared too high for him. He showed himself rarely even to his grandees, that he might the better support his haughtiness and repress their pride. He also affected to speak to them by half words; and reprimanded them if they did not guess the rest. In a word, he omitted nothing that could mortify his nobility.


When men, writes the philosophical compiler of "L'Esprit des Usages et des Coutumes," salute each other in an amicable manner, it signifies little whether they move a particular part of the body, or practise a particular ceremony. In these actions there must exist different customs. Every nation imagines it employs the most reasonable ones; but all are equally simple, and none are to be treated as ridiculous.

This infinite number of ceremonies may be reduced to two kinds; to reverences or salutations, and to the touch of some part of the human body. To bend and prostrate oneself to express sentiments of respect, appears to be a natural motion; for terrified persons throw themselves on the earth when they adore invisible beings; and the affectionate touch of the person they salute is an expression of tenderness.

As nations decline from their ancient simplicity, much farce and grimace are introduced. Superstition, the manners of a people, and their situation, influence the modes of salutation; as may be observed from the instances we collect.

Modes of salutation have sometimes very different characters, and it is no uninteresting speculation to examine their shades. Many display a refinement of delicacy, while others are remarkable for their simplicity, or for their sensibility. In general, however, they are frequently the same in the infancy of nations, and in more polished societies. Respect, humility, fear, and esteem, are expressed much in a similar manner, for these are the natural consequence of the organisation of the body.

These demonstrations become in time only empty civilities, which signify nothing; we shall notice what they were originally, without reflecting on what they are.

Primitive nations have no peculiar modes of salutation; they know no reverences or other compliments, or they despise and disdain them. The Greenlanders laugh when they see an European uncover his head, and bend his body before him whom he calls his superior.

The Islanders, near the Philippines, take the hand or foot of him they salute, and with it they gently rub their face. The Laplanders apply their nose strongly against that of the person they salute. Dampier says, that at New Guinea they are satisfied to put on their heads the leaves of trees, which have ever passed for symbols of friendship and peace. This is at least a picturesque salute.

Other salutations are very incommodious and painful; it requires great practice to enable a man to be polite in an island situated in the straits of the Sound. Houtman tells us they saluted him in this grotesque manner: "They raised his left foot, which they passed gently over the right leg, and from thence over his face." The inhabitants of the Philippines use a most complex attitude; they bend their body very low, place their hands on their cheeks, and raise at the same time one foot in the air with their knee bent.

An Ethiopian takes the robe of another, and ties it about his own waist, so that he leaves his friend half naked. This custom of undressing on these occasions takes other forms; sometimes men place themselves naked before the person whom they salute; it is to show their humility, and that they are unworthy of appearing in his presence. This was practised before Sir Joseph Banks, when he received the visits of two female Otaheitans. Their innocent simplicity, no doubt, did not appear immodest in the eyes of the virtuoso.

Sometimes they only undress partially. The Japanese only take off a slipper; the people of Arracan their sandals in the street, and their stockings in the house.

In the progress of time it appears servile to uncover oneself. The grandees of Spain claim the right of appearing covered before the king, to show that they are not so much subjected to him as the rest of the nation: and (this writer truly observes) we may remark that the English do not uncover their heads so much as the other nations of Europe. Mr. Hobhouse observes that uncovering the head, with the Turks, is a mark of indecent familiarity; in their mosques the Franks must keep their hats on. The Jewish custom of wearing their hats in their synagogues is, doubtless, the same oriental custom.

In a word, there is not a nation, observes the humorous Montaigne, even to the people who when they salute turn their backs on their friends, but that can be justified in their customs.

The negroes are lovers of ludicrous actions, and hence all their ceremonies seem farcical. The greater part pull the fingers till they crack. Snelgrave gives an odd representation of the embassy which the king of Dahomy sent to him. The ceremonies of salutation consisted in the most ridiculous contortions. When two negro monarchs visit, they embrace in snapping three times the middle finger.

Barbarous nations frequently imprint on their salutations the dispositions of their character. When the inhabitants of Carmena (says Athenaeus) would show a peculiar mark of esteem, they breathed a vein, and presented for the beverage of their friend the flowing blood. The Franks tore the hair from their head, and presented it to the person they saluted. The slave cut his hair, and offered it to his master.

The Chinese are singularly affected in their personal civilities. They even calculate the number of their reverences. These are the most remarkable postures. The men move their hands in an affectionate manner, while they are joined together on the breast, and bow their head a little. If they respect a person, they raise their hands joined, and then lower them to the earth in bending the body. If two persons meet after a long separation, they both fall on their knees and bend the face to the earth, and this ceremony they repeat two or three times. Surely we may differ here with the sentiment of Montaigne, and confess this ceremony to be ridiculous. It arises from their national affectation. They substitute artificial ceremonies for natural actions.

Their expressions mean as little as their ceremonies. If a Chinese is asked how he finds himself in health, he answers, Very well; thanks to your abundant felicity. If they would tell a man that he looks well, they say, Prosperity is painted on your face: or, Your air announces your happiness.

If you render them any service, they say, My thanks shall be immortal. If you praise them, they answer, How shall I dare to persuade myself of what you say of me? If you dine with them, they tell you at parting, We have not treated you with sufficient distinction. The various titles they invent for each other it would be impossible to translate.

It is to be observed that all these answers are prescribed by the Chinese ritual, or Academy of Compliments. There, are determined the number of bows: the expressions to be employed; the genuflexions, and the inclinations which are to be made to the right or left hand; the salutations of the master before the chair where the stranger is to be seated, for he salutes it most profoundly, and wipes the dust away with the skirts of his robe; all these and other things are noticed, even to the silent gestures by which you are entreated to enter the house. The lower class of people are equally nice in these punctilios; and ambassadors pass forty days in practising them before they are enabled to appear at court. A tribunal of ceremonies has been erected; and every day very odd decrees are issued, to which the Chinese most religiously submit.

The marks of honour are frequently arbitrary; to be seated with us is a mark of repose and familiarity; to stand up, that of respect. There are countries, however, in which princes will only be addressed by persons who are seated, and it is considered as a favour to be permitted to stand in their presence. This custom prevails in despotic countries; a despot cannot suffer without disgust the elevated figure of his subjects; he is pleased to bend their bodies with their genius; his presence must lay those who behold him prostrate on the earth; he desires no eagerness, no attention; he would only inspire terror.


In the Memoirs of the French Academy, a little essay on this subject is sufficiently curious; the following contains the facts:—

FIREWORKS were not known to antiquity.—It is certainly a modern invention. If ever the ancients employed fires at their festivals, it was only for religious purposes.

Fire, in primaeval ages, was a symbol of respect, or an instrument of terror. In both these ways God manifested himself to man. In the holy writings he compares himself sometimes to an ardent fire, to display his holiness and his purity; sometimes he renders himself visible under the form of a burning bush, to express himself to be as formidable as a devouring fire: again, he rains sulphur; and often, before he speaks, he attracts the attention of the multitude by flashes of lightning.

Fire was worshipped as a divinity by several idolaters: the Platonists confounded it with the heavens, and considered it as the divine intelligence. Sometimes it is a symbol of majesty.—God walked (if we may so express ourselves) with his people, preceded by a pillar of fire; and the monarchs of Asia, according to Herodotus, commanded that such ensigns of their majesty should be carried before them. These fires, according to Quintus Curtius, were considered as holy and eternal, and were carried at the head of their armies on little altars of silver, in the midst of the magi who accompanied them and sang their hymns.

Fire was also a symbol of majesty amongst the Romans; and if it was used by them in their festivals, it was rather employed for the ceremonies of religion than for a peculiar mark of their rejoicings. Fare was always held to be most proper and holy for sacrifices; in this the Pagans imitated the Hebrews. The fire so carefully preserved by the Vestals was probably an imitation of that which fell from heaven on the victim offered by Aaron, and long afterwards religiously kept up by the priests. Servius, one of the seven kings of Rome, commanded a great fire of straw to be kindled in the public place of every town in Italy to consecrate for repose a certain day in seed-time, or sowing.

The Greeks lighted lamps at a certain feast held in honour of Minerva, who gave them oil; of Vulcan, who was the inventor of lamps; and of Prometheus, who had rendered them service by the fire which he had stolen from heaven. Another feast to Bacchus was celebrated by a grand nocturnal illumination, in which wine was poured forth profusely to all passengers. A feast in memory of Ceres, who sought so long in the darkness of hell for her daughter, was kept by burning a number of torches.

Great illuminations were made in various other meetings; particularly in the Secular Games, which lasted three whole nights; and so carefully were they kept up, that these nights had no darkness.

In all their rejoicings the ancients indeed used fires; but they were intended merely to burn their sacrifices, and, as the generality of them were performed at night, the illuminations served to give light to the ceremonies.

Artificial fires were indeed frequently used by them, but not in public rejoicings; like us, they employed them for military purposes; but we use them likewise successfully for our decorations and amusement.

From the latest times of paganism to the early ages of Christianity, we can but rarely quote instances of fire lighted up for other purposes, in a public form, than for the ceremonies of religion; illuminations were made at the baptism of princes, as a symbol of that life of light in which they were going to enter by faith; or at the tombs of martyrs, to light them during the watchings of the night. All these were abolished, from the various abuses they introduced.

We only trace the rise of feux-de-joie, or fireworks, given merely for amusing spectacles to delight the eye, to the epocha of the invention of powder and cannon, at the close of the thirteenth century. It was these two inventions, doubtless, whose effects furnished the ideas of all those machines and artifices which form the charms of these fires.

To the Florentines and the Siennese are we indebted not only for the preparation of powder with other ingredients to amuse the eyes, but also for the invention of elevated machines and decorations adapted to augment the pleasure of the spectacle. They began their attempts at the feasts of Saint John the Baptist and the Assumption, on wooden edifices, which they adorned with painted statues, from whose mouth and eyes issued a beautiful fire. Callot has engraven numerous specimens of the pageants, triumphs, and processions, under a great variety of grotesque forms:—dragons, swans, eagles, &c., which were built up large enough to carry many persons, while they vomited forth the most amusing firework.

This use passed from Florence to Rome, where, at the creation of the popes, they displayed illuminations of hand-grenadoes, thrown from the height of a castle. Pyrotechnics from that time have become an art, which, in the degree the inventors have displayed ability in combining the powers of architecture, sculpture, and painting, have produced a number of beautiful effects, which even give pleasure to those who read the descriptions without having beheld them.[6]

A pleasing account of decorated fireworks is given in the Secret Memoirs of France. In August, 1764, Torre, an Italian artist, obtained permission to exhibit a pyrotechnic operation.—The Parisians admired the variety of the colours, and the ingenious forms of his fire. But his first exhibition was disturbed by the populace, as well as by the apparent danger of the fire, although it was displayed on the Boulevards. In October it was repeated; and proper precautions having been taken, they admired the beauty of the fire, without fearing it. These artificial fires are described as having been rapidly and splendidly executed. The exhibition closed with a transparent triumphal arch, and a curtain illuminated by the same fire, admirably exhibiting the palace of Pluto. Around the columns, stanzas were inscribed, supported by Cupids, with other fanciful embellishments. Among these little pieces of poetry appeared the following one, which ingeniously announced a more perfect exhibition:

Les vents, les frimats, les orages, Eteindront ces FEUX, pour un tems; Mais, ainsi que les FLEURS, avec plus d'avautage, Ils renaitront dans le printems.


The icy gale, the falling snow, Extinction to these FIRES shall bring; But, like the FLOWERS, with brighter glow, They shall renew their charms in spring.

The exhibition was greatly improved, according to this promise of the artist. His subject was chosen with much felicity; it was a representation of the forges of Vulcan under Mount AEtna. The interior of the mount discovered Vulcan and his Cyclops. Venus was seen to descend, and demand of her consort armour for AEneas. Opposite to this was seen the palace of Vulcan, which presented a deep and brilliant perspective. The labours of the Cyclops produced numberless very happy combinations of artificial fires. The public with pleasing astonishment beheld the effects of the volcano, so admirably adapted to the nature of these fires. At another entertainment he gratified the public with a representation of Orpheus and Eurydice in hell; many striking circumstances occasioned a marvellous illusion. What subjects indeed could be more analogous to this kind of fire? Such scenical fireworks display more brilliant effects than our stars, wheels, and rockets.


The following are the express words contained in the regulation of the popes to prohibit the use of the Bible.

"As it is manifest, by experience, that if the use of the holy writers is permitted in the vulgar tongue more evil than profit will arise, because of the temerity of man; it is for this reason all Bibles are prohibited (prohibentur Biblia) with all their parts, whether they be printed or written, in whatever vulgar language soever; as also are prohibited all summaries or abridgments of Bibles, or any books of the holy writings, although they should only be historical, and that in whatever Vulgar tongue they may be written."

It is there also said, "That the reading the Bibles of catholic editors may be permitted to those by whose perusal or power the faith may be spread, and who will not criticise it. But this permission is not to be granted without an express order of the bishop, or the inquisitor, with the advice of the curate and confessor; and their permission must first be had in writing. And he who, without permission, presumes to read the holy writings, or to have them in his possession, shall not be absolved of his sins before he first shall have returned the Bible to his bishop."

A Spanish author says, that if a person should come to his bishop to ask for leave to read the Bible, with the best intention, the bishop should answer him from Matthew, ch. xx. ver. 20, "You know not what you ask." And indeed, he observes, the nature of this demand indicates an heretical disposition.

The reading of the Bible was prohibited by Henry VIII., except by those who occupied high offices in the state; a noble lady or gentlewoman might read it in "their garden or orchard," or other retired places; but men and women in the lower ranks were positively forbidden to read it, or to have it read to them, under the penalty of a month's imprisonment.

Dr. Franklin has preserved an anecdote of the prohibited Bible in the time of our Catholic Mary. His family had an English Bible; and to conceal it the more securely, they conceived the project of fastening it open with packthreads across the leaves, on the inside of the lid of a close-stool! "When my great-grandfather wished to read to his family, he reversed the lid of the close-stool upon his knees, and passed the leaves from one side to the other, which were held down on each by the packthread. One of the children was stationed at the door to give notice if he saw an officer of the Spiritual Court make his appearance; in that case the lid was restored to its place, with the Bible concealed under it as before."

The reader may meditate on what the popes did, and what they probably would have done, had not Luther happily been in a humour to abuse the pope, and begin a REFORMATION. It would be curious to sketch an account of the probable situation of Europe at the present moment, had the pontiffs preserved the omnipotent power of which they had gradually possessed themselves.

It appears, by an act dated in 1516, that the Bible was called Bibliotheca, that is per emphasim, the Library. The word library was limited in its signification then to the biblical writings; no other books, compared with the holy writings, appear to have been worthy to rank with them, or constitute what we call a library.

We have had several remarkable attempts to recompose the Bible; Dr. Geddes's version is aridly literal, and often ludicrous by its vulgarity; as when he translates the Passover as the Skipover, and introduces Constables among the ancient Israelites; but the following attempts are of a very different kind. Sebastian Castillon—who afterwards changed his name to Castalion, with his accustomed affectation referring to Castalia, the fountain of the Muses—took a very extraordinary liberty with the sacred writings. He fancied he could give the world a more classical version of the Bible, and for this purpose introduces phrases and entire sentences from profane writers into the text of holy writ. His whole style is finically quaint, overloaded with prettinesses, and all the ornaments of false taste. Of the noble simplicity of the Scripture he seems not to have had the remotest conception.

But an attempt by Pere Berruyer is more extraordinary; in his Histoire du Peuple de Dieu, he has recomposed the Bible as he would have written a fashionable novel. He conceives that the great legislator of the Hebrews is too barren in his descriptions, too concise in the events he records, nor is he careful to enrich his history by pleasing reflections and interesting conversation pieces, and hurries on the catastrophes, by which means he omits much entertaining matter: as for instance, in the loves of Joseph and the wife of Potiphar, Moses is very dry and concise, which, however, our Pere Berruyer is not. His histories of Joseph, and of King David, are relishing morsels, and were devoured eagerly in all the boudoirs of Paris. Take a specimen of the style. "Joseph combined, with a regularity of features and a brilliant complexion, an air of the noblest dignity; all which contributed to render him one of the most amiable men in Egypt." At length "she declares her passion, and pressed him to answer her. It never entered her mind that the advances of a woman of her rank could ever be rejected. Joseph at first only replied to all her wishes by his cold embarrassments. She would not yet give him up. In vain he flies from her; she was too passionate to waste even the moments of his astonishment." This good father, however, does ample justice to the gallantry of the Patriarch Jacob. He offers to serve Laban, seven years for Rachel. "Nothing is too much," cries the venerable novelist, "when one really loves;" and this admirable observation he confirms by the facility with which the obliging Rachel allows Leah for one night to her husband! In this manner the patriarchs are made to speak in the tone of the tenderest lovers; Judith is a Parisian coquette, Holofernes is rude as a German baron; and their dialogues are tedious with all the reciprocal politesse of metaphysical French lovers! Moses in the desert, it was observed, is precisely as pedantic as Pere Berruyer addressing his class at the university. One cannot but smile at the following expressions:—"By the easy manner in which God performed miracles, one might easily perceive they cost no effort." When he has narrated an "Adventure of the Patriarchs," he proceeds, "After such an extraordinary, or curious, or interesting adventure," &c. This good father had caught the language of the beau monde, but with such perfect simplicity that, in employing it on sacred history, he was not aware of the ludicrous style in which he was writing.

A Gothic bishop translated the Scriptures into the Goth language, but omitted the Books of Kings! lest the wars, of which so much is there recorded, should increase their inclination to fighting, already too prevalent. Jortin notices this castrated copy of the Bible in his Remarks on Ecclesiastical History.

As the Bible, in many parts, consists merely of historical transactions, and as too many exhibit a detail of offensive ones, it has often occurred to the fathers of families, as well as to the popes, to prohibit its general reading. Archbishop Tillotson formed a design of purifying the historical parts. Those who have given us a Family Shakspeare, in the same spirit may present us with a Family Bible.

In these attempts to recompose the Bible, the broad vulgar colloquial diction, which has been used by our theological writers, is less tolerable than the quaintness of Castalion and the floridity of Pere Berruyer.

The style now noticed long disgraced the writings of our divines; and we see it sometimes still employed by some of a certain stamp. Matthew Henry, whose commentaries are well known, writes in this manner on Judges ix.:—"We are here told by what acts Abimelech got into the saddle.—None would have dreamed of making such a fellow as he king.—See how he has wheedled them into the choice. He hired into his service the scum and scoundrels of the country. Jotham was really a fine gentleman.—The Sechemites that set Abimelech up, were the first to kick him off. The Sechemites said all the ill they could of him in their table-talk; they drank healths to his confusion.—Well, Gaal's interest in Sechem is soon at an end. Exit Gaal!"

Lancelot Addison, by the vulgar coarseness of his style, forms an admirable contrast with the amenity and grace of his son's Spectators. He tells us, in his voyage to Barbary, that "A rabbin once told him, among other heinous stuff, that he did not expect the felicity of the next world on the account of any merits but his own; whoever kept the law would arrive at the bliss, by coming upon his own legs."

It must be confessed that the rabbin, considering he could not conscientiously have the same creed as Addison, did not deliver any very "heinous stuff," in believing that other people's merits have nothing to do with our own; and that "we should stand on our own legs!" But this was not "proper words in proper places."


It is curious to observe the various substitutes for paper before its discovery.

Ere the invention of recording events by writing, trees were planted, rude altars were erected, or heaps of stone, to serve as memorials of past events. Hercules probably could not write when he fixed his famous pillars.

The most ancient mode of writing was on bricks, tiles, and oyster-shells, and on tables of stone; afterwards on plates of various materials, on ivory, on barks of trees, on leaves of trees.[7]

Engraving memorable events on hard substances was giving, as it were, speech to rocks and metals. In the book of Job mention is made of writing on stone, on rocks, and on sheets of lead. On tables of stone Moses received the law written by the finger of God. Hesiod's works were written on leaden tables: lead was used for writing, and rolled up like a cylinder, as Pliny states. Montfaucon notices a very ancient book of eight leaden leaves, which on the back had rings fastened by a small leaden rod to keep them together. They afterwards engraved on bronze: the laws of the Cretans were on bronze tables; the Romans etched their public records on brass. The speech of Claudius, engraved on plates of bronze, is yet preserved in the town-hall of Lyons, in France.[8] Several bronze tables, with Etruscan characters, have been dug up in Tuscany. The treaties among the Romans, Spartans, and the Jews, were written on brass; and estates, for better security, were made over on this enduring metal. In many cabinets may be found the discharge of soldiers, written on copper-plates. This custom has been discovered in India: a bill of feoffment on copper, has been dug up near Bengal, dated a century before the birth of Christ.

Among these early inventions many were singularly rude, and miserable substitutes for a better material. In the shepherd state they wrote their songs with thorns and awls on straps of leather, which they wound round their crooks. The Icelanders appear to have scratched their runes, a kind of hieroglyphics, on walls; and Olaf, according to one of the Sagas, built a large house, on the bulks and spars of which he had engraved the history of his own and more ancient times; while another northern hero appears to have had nothing better than his own chair and bed to perpetuate his own heroic acts on. At the town-hall, in Hanover, are kept twelve wooden boards, overlaid with bees'-wax, on which are written the names of owners of houses, but not the names of streets. These wooden manuscripts must have existed before 1423, when Hanover was first divided into streets. Such manuscripts may be found in public collections. These are an evidence of a rude state of society. The same event occurred among the ancient Arabs, who, according to the history of Mahomet, seemed to have carved on the shoulder-bones of sheep remarkable events with a knife, and tying them with a string, hung up these sheep-bone chronicles.

The laws of the twelve tables, which the Romans chiefly copied from the Grecian code, were, after they had been approved by the people, engraven on brass: they were melted by lightning, which struck the Capitol; a loss highly regretted by Augustus. This manner of writing we still retain, for inscriptions, epitaphs, and other memorials designed to reach posterity.

These early inventions led to the discovery of tables of wood; and as cedar has an antiseptic quality from its bitterness, they chose this wood for cases or chests to preserve their most important writings. This well-known expression of the ancients, when they meant to give the highest eulogium of an excellent work, et cedro digna locuti, that it was worthy to be written on cedar, alludes to the oil of cedar, with which valuable MSS. of parchment were anointed, to preserve them from corruption and moths. Persius illustrates this:—

Who would not leave posterity such rhymes As cedar oil might keep to latest times!

They stained materials for writing upon, with purple, and rubbed them with exudations from the cedar. The laws of the emperors were published on wooden tables, painted with ceruse; to which custom Horace alludes: Leges incidere ligno. Such tables, the term now softened into tablets, are still used, but in general are made of other materials than wood. The same reason for which they preferred the cedar to other wood induced to write on wax, as being incorruptible. Men generally used it to write their testaments on, the better to preserve them; thus Juvenal says, Ceras implere capaces. This thin paste of wax was also used on tablets of wood, that it might more easily admit of erasure, for daily use.

They wrote with an iron bodkin, as they did on the other substances we have noticed. The stylus was made sharp at one end to write with, and blunt and broad at the other, to efface and correct easily: hence the phrase vertere stylum, to turn the stylus, was used to express blotting out. But the Romans forbad the use of this sharp instrument, from the circumstance of many persons having used them as daggers. A schoolmaster was killed by the Pugillares or table-books, and the styles of his own scholars.[9] They substituted a stylus made of the bone of a bird, or other animal; so that their writings resembled engravings. When they wrote on softer materials, they employed reeds and canes split like our pens at the points, which the orientalists still use to lay their colour or ink neater on the paper.

Naude observes, that when he was in Italy, about 1642, he saw some of those waxen tablets, called Pugillares, so called because they were held in one hand; and others composed of the barks of trees, which the ancients employed in lieu of paper.

On these tablets, or table-books Mr. Astle observes, that the Greeks and Romans continued the use of waxed table-books long after the use of the papyrus, leaves and skins became common; because they were convenient for correcting extemporaneous compositions: from these table-books they transcribed their performances correctly into parchment books, if for their own private use; but if for sale, or for the library, the Librarii, or Scribes, performed the office. The writing on table-books is particularly recommended by Quintilian in the third chapter of the tenth book of his Institutions; because the wax is readily effaced for any corrections: he confesses weak eyes do not see so well on paper, and observes that the frequent necessity of dipping the pen in the inkstand retards the hand, and is but ill-suited to the celerity of the mind. Some of these table-books are conjectured to have been large, and perhaps heavy, for in Plautus, a school-boy is represented breaking his master's head with his table-book. The critics, according to Cicero, were accustomed in reading their wax manuscripts to notice obscure or vicious phrases by joining a piece of red wax, as we should underline such by red ink.

Table-hooks written upon with styles were not entirely laid aside in Chaucer's time, who describes them in his Sompner's tale:—

His fellow had a staffe tipp'd with horne, A paire of tables all of iverie; And a pointell polished fetouslie, And wrote alwaies the names, as he stood, Of all folke, that gave hem any good.[10]

By the word pen in the translation of the Bible we must understand an iron style. Table-books of ivory are still used for memoranda, written with black-lead pencils. The Romans used ivory to write the edicts of the senate on, with a black colour; and the expression of libri elephantini, which some authors imagine alludes to books that for their size were called elephantine, were most probably composed of ivory, the tusk of the elephant: among the Romans they were undoubtedly scarce.

The pumice stone was a writing-material of the ancients; they used it to smoothe the roughness of the parchment, or to sharpen their reeds.

In the progress of time the art of writing consisted in painting with different kinds of ink. This novel mode of writing occasioned them to invent other materials proper to receive their writing; the thin bark of certain trees and plants, or linen; and at length, when this was found apt to become mouldy, they prepared the skins of animals; on the dried skins of serpents were once written the Iliad and Odyssey. The first place where they began to dress these skins was Pergamus, in Asia; whence the Latin name is derived of Pergamenoe or parchment. These skins are, however, better known amongst the authors of the purest Latin under the name of membrana; so called from the membranes of various animals of which they were composed. The ancients had parchments of three different colours, white, yellow, and purple. At Rome white parchment was disliked, because it was more subject to be soiled than the others, and dazzled the eye. They generally wrote in letters of gold and silver on purple or violet parchment. This custom continued in the early ages of the church; and copies of the evangelists of this kind are preserved in the British Museum.

When the Egyptians employed for writing the bark of a plant or reed, called papyrus, or paper-rush, it superseded all former modes, for its convenience. Formerly it grew in great quantities on the sides of the Nile. This plant has given its name to our paper, although the latter is now composed of linen and rags, and formerly had been of cotton-wool, which was but brittle and yellow; and improved by using cotton rags, which they glazed. After the eighth century the papyrus was superseded by parchment. The Chinese make their paper with silk. The use of paper is of great antiquity. It is what the ancient Latinists call charta or chartae. Before the use of parchment and paper passed to the Romans, they used the thin peel found between the wood and the bark of trees. This skinny substance they called liber, from whence the Latin word liber, a book, and library and librarian in the European languages, and the French livre for book; but we of northern origin derive our book from the Danish bog, the beech-tree, because that being the most plentiful in Denmark was used to engrave on. Anciently, instead of folding this bark, this parchment, or paper, as we fold ours, they rolled it according as they wrote on it; and the Latin name which they gave these rolls has passed into our language as well as the others. We say a volume, or volumes, although our books are composed of leaves bound together. The books of the ancients on the shelves of their libraries were rolled up on a pin and placed erect, titled on the outside in red letters, or rubrics, and appeared like a number of small pillars on the shelves.[11]

The ancients were as curious as ourselves in having their books richly conditioned. Propertius describes tablets with gold borders, and Ovid notices their red titles; but in later times, besides the tint of purple with which they tinged their vellum, and the liquid gold which they employed for their ink, they inlaid their covers with precious stones: and I have seen, in the library at Triers or Treves, a manuscript, the donation of some princess to a monastery, studded with heads wrought in fine cameos.[12] In the early ages of the church they painted on the outside commonly a dying Christ. In the curious library of Mr. Douce is a Psalter, supposed once to have appertained to Charlemagne; the vellum is purple, and the letters gold. The Eastern nations likewise tinged their MSS. with different colours and decorations. Astle possessed Arabian MSS. of which some leaves were of a deep yellow, and others of a lilac colour. Sir William Jones describes an oriental MS. in which the name of Mohammed was fancifully adorned with a garland of tulips and carnations, painted in the brightest colours. The favourite works of the Persians are written on fine silky paper, the ground of which is often powdered with gold or silver dust; the leaves are frequently illuminated, and the whole book is sometimes perfumed with essence of roses, or sandal wood. The Romans had several sorts of paper, for which they had as many different names; one was the Charta Augusta, in compliment to the emperor; another Livinia, named after the empress. There was a Charta blanca, which obtained its title from its beautiful whiteness, and which we appear to have retained by applying it to a blank sheet of paper which is only signed, Charte Blanche. They had also a Charta nigra, painted black, and the letters were in white or other colours.

Our present paper surpasses all other materials for ease and convenience of writing. The first paper-mill in England was erected at Dartford, by a German, in 1588, who was knighted by Elizabeth; but it was not before 1713 that one Thomas Watkins, a stationer, brought the art of paper-making to any perfection, and to the industry of this individual we owe the origin of our numerous paper-mills. France had hitherto supplied England and Holland.

The manufacture of paper was not much encouraged at home, even so late as in 1662; and the following observations by Fuller are curious, respecting the paper of his times:—"Paper participates in some sort of the characters of the country which makes it; the Venetian, being neat, subtile, and court-like; the French, light, slight, and slender; the Dutch, thick, corpulent, and gross, sucking up the ink with the sponginess thereof." He complains that the paper-manufactories were not then sufficiently encouraged, "considering the vast sums of money expended in our land for paper, out of Italy, France, and Germany, which might be lessened, were it made in our nation. To such who object that we can never equal the perfection of Venice-paper, I return, neither can we match the purity of Venice-glasses; and yet many green ones are blown in Sussex, profitable to the makers, and convenient for the users. Our home-spun paper might be found beneficial." The present German printing-paper is made so disagreeable both to printers and readers from their paper-manufacturers making many more reams of paper from one cwt. of rags than formerly. Rags are scarce, and German writers, as well as their language, are voluminous.

Mr. Astle deeply complains of the inferiority of our inks to those of antiquity; an inferiority productive of the most serious consequences, and which appears to originate merely in negligence. From the important benefits arising to society from the use of ink, and the injuries individuals may suffer from the frauds of designing men, he wishes the legislature would frame some new regulations respecting it. The composition of ink is simple, but we possess none equal in beauty and colour to that used by the ancients; the Saxon MSS. written in England exceed in colour anything of the kind. The rolls and records from the fifteenth century to the end of the seventeenth, compared with those of the fifth to the twelfth centuries, show the excellence of the earlier ones, which are all in the finest preservation; while the others are so much defaced, that they are scarcely legible.

The ink of the ancients had nothing in common with ours, but the colour and gum. Gall-nuts, copperas, and gum make up the composition of our ink; whereas soot or ivory-black was the chief ingredient in that of the ancients.[13]

Ink has been made of various colours; we find gold and silver ink, and red, green, yellow, and blue inks; but the black is considered as the best adapted to its purpose.


The following circumstances probably gave rise to the tyranny of the feudal power, and are the facts on which the fictions of romance are raised. Castles were erected to repulse the vagrant attacks of the Normans; and in France, from the year 768 to 987, these places disturbed the public repose. The petty despots who raised these castles pillaged whoever passed, and carried off the females who pleased them. Rapine, of every kind were the privileges of the feudal lords! Mezeray observes, that it is from these circumstances romancers have invented their tales of knights errant, monsters, and giants.

De Saint Foix, in his "Historical Essays," informs us that "women and girls were not in greater security when they passed by abbeys. The monks sustained an assault rather than relinquish their prey: if they saw themselves losing ground, they brought to their walls the relics of some saint. Then it generally happened that the assailants, seized with awful veneration, retired, and dared not pursue their vengeance. This is the origin of the enchanters, of the enchantments, and of the enchanted castles described in romances."

To these may be added what the author of "Northern Antiquities," Vol. I. p. 243, writes, that as the walls of the castles ran winding round them, they often called them by a name which signified serpents or dragons; and in these were commonly secured the women and young maids of distinction, who were seldom safe at a time when so many bold warriors were rambling up and down in search of adventures. It was this custom which gave occasion to ancient romancers, who knew not how to describe anything simply, to invent so many fables concerning princesses of great beauty guarded by dragons.

A singular and barbarous custom prevailed during this period; it consisted in punishments by mutilations. It became so general that the abbots, instead of bestowing canonical penalties on their monks, obliged them to cut off an ear, an arm, or a leg!

Velly, in his History of France, has described two festivals, which give a just idea of the manners and devotion of a later period, 1230, which like the ancient mysteries consisted of a mixture of farce and piety: religion in fact was their amusement! The following one existed even to the Reformation:—

In the church of Paris, and in several other cathedrals of the kingdom, was held the Feast of Fools or madmen. "The priests and clerks assembled elected a pope, an archbishop, or a bishop, conducted them in great pomp to the church, which they entered dancing, masked, and dressed in the apparel of women, animals, and merry-andrews; sung infamous songs, and converted the altar into a beaufet, where they ate and drank during the celebration of the holy mysteries; played with dice; burned, instead of incense, the leather of their old sandals; ran about, and leaped from seat to seat, with all the indecent postures with which the merry-andrews know how to amuse the populace."

The other does not yield in extravagance. "This festival was called the Feast of Asses, and was celebrated at Beauvais. They chose a young woman, the handsomest in the town; they made her ride on an ass richly harnessed, and placed in her arms a pretty infant.[14] In this state, followed by the bishop and clergy, she marched in procession from the cathedral to the church of St. Stephen's; entered into the sanctuary; placed herself near the altar, and the mass began; whatever the choir sung was terminated by this charming burthen, Hihan, hihan! Their prose, half Latin and half French, explained the fine qualities of the animal. Every strophe finished by this delightful invitation:—

Hez, sire Ane, ca chantez, Belle bouche rechignez, Vous aures du foin assez, Et de l'avoine si plantez.

They at length exhorted him, in making a devout genuflexion, to forget his ancient food, for the purpose of repeating without ceasing, Amen, Amen. The priest, instead of Ite missa est, sung three times, Hihan, hihan, hihan! and the people three times answered, Hihan, hihan, hihan! to imitate the braying of that grave animal.[15]

What shall we think of this imbecile mixture of superstition and farce? This ass was perhaps typical of the ass which Jesus rode! The children of Israel worshipped a golden ass, and Balaam made another speak. How fortunate then was James Naylor, who desirous of entering Bristol on an ass, Hume informs us—it is indeed but a piece of cold pleasantry—that all Bristol could not afford him one!

At the time when all these follies were practised, they would not suffer men to play at chess! Velly says, "A statute of Eudes de Sully prohibits clergymen not only from playing at chess, but even from having a chess-board in their house." Who could believe, that while half the ceremonies of religion consisted in the grossest buffoonery, a prince preferred death rather than cure himself by a remedy which offended his chastity! Louis VIII. being dangerously ill, the physicians consulted, and agreed to place near the monarch while he slept a young and beautiful lady, who, when he awoke, should inform him of the motive which had conducted her to him. Louis answered, "No, my girl, I prefer dying rather than to save my life by a mortal sin!" And, in fact, the good king died! He would not be prescribed for out of the whole Pharmacopoeia of Love!

An account of our taste in female beauty is given, by Mr. Ellis, who observes, in his notes to Way's Fabliaux, "In the times of chivalry the minstrels dwelt with great complacency on the fair hair and delicate complexion of their damsels. This taste was continued for a long time, and to render the hair light was a great object of education. Even when wig first came into fashion they were all flaxen. Such was the colour of the Gauls and of their German conquerors. It required some centuries to reconcile their eyes to the swarthy beauties of their Spanish and their Italian neighbours."[16]

The following is an amusing anecdote of the difficulty in which an honest Vicar of Bray found himself in those contentious times.

When the court of Rome, under the pontificates of Gregory IX. and Innocent IV., set no bounds to their ambitious projects, they were opposed by the Emperor Frederick; who was of course anathematised. A curate of Paris, a humorous fellow, got up in his pulpit with the bull of Innocent in his hand. "You know, my brethren (said he), that I am ordered to proclaim an excommunication against Frederick. I am ignorant of the motive. All that I know is, that there exist, between this Prince and the Roman Pontiff great differences, and an irreconcileable hatred. God only knows which of the two is wrong. Therefore with all my power I excommunicate him who injures the other; and I absolve him who suffers, to the great scandal of all Christianity."

The following anecdotes relate to a period which is sufficiently remote to excite curiosity; yet not so distant as to weaken the interest we feel in those minutiae of the times.

The present one may serve as a curious specimen of the despotism and simplicity of an age not literary, in discovering the author of a libel. It took place in the reign of Henry VIII. A great jealousy subsisted between the Londoners and those foreigners who traded here. The foreigners probably (observes Mr. Lodge, in his Illustrations of English History) worked cheaper and were more industrious.

There was a libel affixed on St. Paul's door, which reflected on Henry VIII. and these foreigners, who were accused of buying up the wool with the king's money, to the undoing of Englishmen. This tended to inflame the minds of the people. The method adopted to discover the writer of the libel must excite a smile in the present day, while it shows the state in which knowledge must have been in this country. The plan adopted was this: In every ward one of the King's council, with an alderman of the same, was commanded to see every man write that could, and further took every man's book and sealed them, and brought them to Guildhall to confront them with the original. So that if of this number many wrote alike, the judges must have been much puzzled to fix on the criminal.

Our hours of refection are singularly changed in little more than two centuries. In the reign of Francis I. (observes the author of Recreations Historiques) they were accustomed to say,—

Lever a cinq, diner a neuf, Souper a cinq, coucher a neuf, Fait vivre d'ans nonante et neuf.

Historians observe of Louis XII. that one of the causes which contributed to hasten his death was the entire change of his regimen. The good king, by the persuasion of his wife, says the history of Bayard, changed his manner of living: when he was accustomed to dine at eight o'clock, he agreed to dine at twelve; and when he was used to retire at six o'clock in the evening, he frequently sat up as late as midnight.

Houssaie gives the following authentic notice drawn from the registers of the court, which presents a curious account of domestic life in the fifteenth century. Of the dauphin Louis, son of Charles VI., who died at the age of twenty, we are told, "that he knew the Latin and French languages; that he had many musicians in his chapel; passed the night in vigils; dined at three in the afternoon, supped at midnight, went to bed at the break of day, and thus was ascertene (that is threatened) with a short life." Froissart mentions waiting upon the Duke of Lancaster at five o'clock in the afternoon, when he had supped.

The custom of dining at nine in the morning relaxed greatly under Francis I., successor of Louis XII. However, persons of quality dined then the latest at ten; and supper was at five or six in the evening. We may observe this in the preface to the Heptameron of the Queen of Navarre, where this princess, describing the mode of life which the lords and ladies whom she assembles at the castle of Madame Oysille, should follow, to be agreeably occupied and to banish languor, thus expresses herself: "As soon as the morning rose, they went to the chamber of Madame Oysille, whom they found already at her prayers; and when they had heard during a good hour her lecture, and then the mass, they went to dine at ten o'clock; and afterwards each privately retired to his room, but did not fail at noon to meet in the meadow." Speaking of the end of the first day (which was in September) the same lady Oysille says, "Say where is the sun? and hear the bell of the abbey, which has for some time called us to vespers; in saying this they all rose and went to the religionists who had waited for them above an hour. Vespers heard, they went to supper, and after having played a thousand sports in the meadow they retired to bed." All this exactly corresponds with the lines above quoted. Charles V. of France, however, who lived near two centuries before Francis, dined at ten, supped at seven, and all the court was in bed by nine o'clock. They sounded the curfew, which bell warned them to cover their fire, at six in the winter, and between eight and nine in the summer. Under the reign of Henry IV. the hour of dinner at court was eleven, or at noon the latest; a custom which prevailed even in the early part of the reign of Louis XIV. In the provinces distant from Paris, it is very common to dine at nine; they make a second repast about two o'clock, sup at five; and their last meal is made just before they retire to bed. The labourers and peasants in France have preserved this custom, and make three meals; one at nine, another at three, and the last at the setting of the sun.

The Marquis of Mirabeau, in "L'Ami des Hommes," Vol. I. p. 261, gives a striking representation of the singular industry of the French citizens of that age. He had learnt from several ancient citizens of Paris, that if in their youth a workman did not work two hours by candle-light, either in the morning or evening, he even adds in the longest days, he would have been noticed as an idler, and would not have found persons to employ him. On the 12th of May, 1588, when Henry III. ordered his troops to occupy various posts at Paris, Davila writes that the inhabitants, warned by the noise of the drums, began to shut their doors and shops, which, according to the customs of that town to work before daybreak, were already opened. This must have been, taking it at the latest, about four in the morning. "In 1750," adds the ingenious writer, "I walked on that day through Paris at full six in the morning; I passed through the most busy and populous part of the city, and I only saw open some stalls of the vendors of brandy!"

To the article, "Anecdotes of Fashions," (see Vol. I., p. 216) we may add, that in England a taste for splendid dress existed in the reign of Henry VII.; as is observable by the following description of Nicholas Lord Vaux. "In the 17th of that reign, at the marriage of Prince Arthur, the brave young Vaux appeared in a gown of purple velvet, adorned with pieces of gold so thick, and massive, that, exclusive of the silk and furs, it was valued at a thousand pounds. About his neck he wore a collar of SS, weighing eight hundred pounds in nobles. In those days it not only required great bodily strength to support the weight of their cumbersome armour; their very luxury of apparel for the drawing-room would oppress a system of modern muscles."

In the following reign, according to the monarch's and Wolsey's magnificent taste, their dress was, perhaps, more generally sumptuous. We then find the following rich ornaments in vogue. Shirts and shifts were embroidered with gold, and bordered with lace. Strutt notices also perfumed gloves lined with white velvet, and splendidly worked with embroidery and gold buttons. Not only gloves, but various other parts of their habits, were perfumed; shoes were made of Spanish perfumed skins.

Carriages were not then used;[17] so that lords would carry princesses on a pillion behind them, and in wet weather the ladies covered their heads with hoods of oil-cloth: a custom that has been generally continued to the middle of the seventeenth century. Coaches were introduced into England by Fitzalan Earl of Arundel, in 1580, and at first were only drawn by a pair of horses. The favourite Buckingham, about 1619, began to have them drawn by six horses; and Wilson, in his life of James I., tells us this "was wondered at as a novelty, and imputed to him as a mastering pride." The same arbiter elegantiarum introduced sedan-chairs. In France, Catherine of Medicis was the first who used a coach, which had leathern doors and curtains, instead of glass windows. If the carriage of Henry IV. had had glass windows, this circumstance might have saved his life. Carriages were so rare in the reign of this monarch, that in a letter to his minister Sully, he notices that having taken medicine that day, though he intended to have called on him, he was prevented because the queen had gone out with the carriage. Even as late as in the reign of Louis XIV. the courtiers rode on horseback to their dinner parties, and wore their light boots and spurs. Count Hamilton describes his boots of white Spanish leather, with gold spurs.

Saint Foix observes, that in 1658 there were only 310 coaches in Paris, and in 1758 there were more than 14,000.

Strutt has judiciously observed, that though "luxury and grandeur were so much affected, and appearances of state and splendour carried to such lengths, we may conclude that their household furniture and domestic necessaries were also carefully attended to; on passing through their houses, we may expect to be surprised at the neatness, elegance, and superb appearance of each room, and the suitableness of every ornament; but herein we may be deceived. The taste of elegance amongst our ancestors was very different from the present, and however we may find them extravagant in their apparel, excessive in their banquets, and expensive in their trains of attendants; yet, follow them home, and within their houses you shall find their furniture is plain and homely; no great choice, but what was useful, rather than any for ornament or show."

Erasmus, as quoted by Jortin, confirms this account, and makes it worse; he gives a curious account of English dirtiness; he ascribes the plague, from which England was hardly ever free, and the sweating-sickness, partly to the incommodious form, and bad exposition of the houses, to the filthiness of the streets, and to the sluttishness within doors. "The floors," says he, "are commonly of clay, strewed with rushes; under which lies, unmolested, an ancient collection of beer, grease, fragments, bones, spittle, excrement of dogs and cats, and everything that is nasty."[18] And NOW, certainly we are the cleanest nation in Europe, and the word COMFORTABLE expresses so peculiar an idea, that it has been adopted by foreigners to describe a sensation experienced nowhere but in England.

I shall give a sketch of the domestic life of a nobleman in the reign of Charles the First, from the "Life of the Duke of Newcastle," written by his Duchess, whom I have already noticed. It might have been impertinent at the time of its publication; it will now please those who are curious about English manners.

"Of his Habit.

"He accoutres his person according to the fashion, if it be one that is not troublesome and uneasy for men of heroic exercises and actions. He is neat and cleanly; which makes him to be somewhat long in dressing, though not so long as many effeminate persons are. He shifts ordinarily once a day, and every time when he uses exercise, or his temper is more hot than ordinary.

"Of his Diet.

"In his diet he is so sparing and temperate, that he never eats nor drinks beyond his set proportion, so as to satisfy only his natural appetite; he makes but one meal a day, at which he drinks two good glasses of small beer, one about the beginning, the other at the end thereof, and a little glass of sack in the middle of his dinner; which glass of sack he also uses in the morning for his breakfast, with a morsel of bread. His supper consists of an egg and a draught of small beer. And by this temperance he finds himself very healthful, and may yet live many years, he being now of the age of seventy-three.

"His Recreation and Exercise.

"His prime pastime and recreation hath always been the exercise of mannage and weapons, which heroic arts he used to practise every day; but I observing that when he had overheated himself he would be apt to take cold, prevailed so far, that at last he left the frequent use of the mannage, using nevertheless still the exercise of weapons; and though he doth not ride himself so frequently as he hath done, yet he taketh delight in seeing his horses of mannage rid by his escuyers, whom he instructs in that art for his own pleasure. But in the art of weapons (in which he has a method beyond all that ever was famous in it, found out by his own ingenuity and practice) he never taught any body but the now Duke of Buckingham, whose guardian he hath been, and his own two sons. The rest of his time he spends in music, poetry, architecture, and the like."

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