Though many lotteries were ostensibly for charitable, educational, or other beneficial purposes, the proportion of profit applied to such purposes was small. The Newbury Bridge Lottery sold ten thousand dollars' worth of tickets to raise one thousand dollars. The lottery to assist in rebuilding Faneuil Hall was to secure one-tenth of the value of tickets. Harvard College hoped to have twelve and a half per cent. The glowing advertisements of "Rich Wheels," "Real & Truly Fortunate Offices," "Lucky Numbers," "Full Drawings," appealed to every class; the poorest could buy a quarter of a ticket as a speculation. New England clergymen seemed specially to delight in this gambling excitement.
The evil of the system could not fail to be discovered by intelligent citizens. Judge Sewall, ever thoughtful, wrote his protest to friends when he found advertisements of four lotteries in one issue of the Boston News Letter. Though I have seen lottery tickets signed by John Hancock, he publicly expressed his aversion to the system, and Joel Barker and others wrote in condemnation. By 1830 the whole community seemed to have wakened to a sense of their pernicious and unprofitable effect, and laws were passed prohibiting them.
The sports and diversions herein named, of the first century of the Puritan commonwealth, were, after all, joined in by but a scanty handful of junketers. We see in our picture of the olden times no revellers, but a "crowd of sad-visaged people moving duskily through a dull gray atmosphere," who found, as Carlyle said, that work was enjoyment enough. The Pilgrim Fathers had been saddened with war and pestilence, with superstition, with exile, still they had as a contrast the keen novelty of life in the picturesque new land. The sons had lost all the romance and were more narrow, more intolerant. But we must not think them unhappy because they thought it no time for New England to dance. There be those nowadays who care not for dancing, nor for the playing of games, yet are not unhappy. There be, also, I trow, those who fare not at fairs, and show not at shows, and would fain read sober books or study their Bible as did the Puritans, and yet are cheerful. And perhaps also there is a singular little band of those who love not the play—a few such I wot of Puritan blood yet are not sorrowful. Hawthorne said: "Happiness may walk soberly in dark attire as well as dance lightsomely in a gala-dress." And I cannot doubt that good Judge Sewall found as true and deep a pleasure—albeit a melancholy one—in slowly leading, sable-gloved and sable-cloaked, the funeral procession of one of the honored deputies through narrow Boston streets, as did roystering Morton in marshalling his drunken revellers at noisy Merrymount.
BOOKS AND BOOK-MAKERS
There was no calling, no profession more reputable, more profitable in early colonial days than the trade of book-selling. President Dunster, of Harvard College, in his pursuance of that business, gave it the highest and best endorsement; and it must be remembered that all the book-sellers were publishers as well, books being printed for them at their expense. John Dunton, in his "Life and Errors," has given us a very distinct picture of Boston book-sellers and their trade toward the end of the seventeenth century. He landed at that port in 1686 with a large and expensive venture of books "suited to the genius of New England," and he says he was about as welcome to the resident book-sellers as "Sowr ale in Summer." Nevertheless they received him cordially and hospitably, and he in turn was an equally generous rival; for he drew eulogistically the picture of the four book-dealers which that city then boasted. Mr. Phillips was "very just, very thriving, young, witty, and the most Beautiful man in the town of Boston." Mr. Brunning, or Browning, was a "complete book-seller, generous and trustworthy." Dunton says:
"There are some men will run down the most elaborate peices only because they had none of their Midwifery to bring them into public View and yet shall give the greatest encomiums to the most Nauseous trash when they had the hap to be concerned in it."
But Browning would promote a good book whoever printed it. Mr. Campbell, the third book-dealer, was "very industrious, dresses All-a-mode and I am told a young lady of Great Fortune is fallen in love with him." Of Mr. Usher, the remaining book-trader, Dunton asserts:
"He makes the best figure in Boston. He is very rich, adventures much to sea, but has got his Estate by Book selling."
Usher was a book-maker, undertaker, and adventurer, doubtfully attractive or desirable appellations nowadays; but what higher praise could have been given in colonial tongue? He would have angrily resented being dubbed a publisher; that name was assigned to and monopolized by the town-crier. Usher died worth L20,000, a tidy sum for those days.
Happy, indeed, were all the Boston book-sellers; blessed of the gods! rich, witty, modish, beloved, beautiful! The colony was sixty years old, opulent, prosperous, and fashionable; but a book-seller cut the best figure. Surely the book trade had in Boston a glorious ushering in, a golden promise which has not yet deserted it.
Book-printing, too, was a highly honored calling. The first machine for the craft and mystery of printing was set up at Cambridge in 1639, and for twenty-three years the president of Harvard College was responsible for its performances. Then official licensers were appointed to control its productions, and not till a decade of years before the Declaration of Independence were legal restraints removed from the colonial press.
The first printer in the colony, Steeven Daye, was about as bad a printer as ever lived, as his work in the Bay Psalm-Book proves; and he spent a term in Cambridge jail, and was altogether rather trying in his relations with the godly ministers who were associated with him in his printery. The second printer had to sleep in a cask after he landed, but he died with a fortune, a true forerunner of the self-made men of America. The third printer, Johnson, having a wife in England, was "brought up" and bound over before the court not to seduce the affections of the daughter of printer No. 2. The next Bostonians who tried their hands at the mechanical part of book-making—the printing and binding—were two of the most prominent citizens; Captain Green, a worthy man, the father of nineteen children by one wife and eleven by another, and rich, too, in spite of the thirty Green olive-branches; and Judge Sewall, also, as Cotton Mather said, "edified and beautified with many children"—fourteen in all. Truly, book-making did prosper a man mightily both at home and abroad in colonial days.
In a book-printer's wife, the mother of the nineteen children, did Dunton find his ideal New England wife; in a book-printer did he find his most agreeable companion.
"To name his trade will convince the world he was a man of good sense and understanding. He was so facetious and obliging and his conversation such that I took a great delight in his company."
So it may be seen that the book-sellers were rivalled by the book-printers—equally rich and witty though not so beautiful. To the credit of both callings, then and for a century to follow, redounds the fact that almost to a man they were deacons in the church. Mayhap their worldly and family prosperity was the reward of their piety. As nine-tenths of the authors were ministers, and the publishers all deacons, the church had at that time what might be called a monopoly of the book trade.
Dunton had a vast interest in the fair sex, owning plainly that he had a "heart of Wax, Soft, and Soon mellowing," though he was careful on every page to make everything seem perfectly straight and proper for the suspicious perusal of his English wife; but any nineteenth-century reader can read between the lines. His famous long-winded eulogies of the Boston virgin, the wife, the widow, "Madam Brick the flower of Boston," and the half widow "Parte per Pale, Madam Toy," whose husband was at sea; and his long rides with one or the other of them a-pillion-back behind him, and his tedious conversations with them on platonics, the blisses of matrimony, and the chief causes of love, show plainly that he had a "wandering eye." He had a deal to say also of his lady customers (who were much the same in olden times as nowadays)—one simple soul who turned over his books rather vacantly till he asked her "in Joque" whether she wanted "Tom Thumb" (a penny chapbook). To his surprise she answered, "Yes;" and he said, still guying, "in Folio and with marginal notes?" and the dull creature replied, "Oh the best." Another hectored him by constantly changing her mind:
"Reach me that book, yet—let it alone; but let me see it however, and yet its no great matter either."
Another sedate Boston dame wished "The School of Venus," to which he reprovingly answered that he had best give her instead "The School of Virtue." Another, to whom he gave a sad setting off (more than hinting at a painted face, though she were a Puritan), wanted plays and romances and "Books of Gallantry." He adds:
"But she was a good Customer to me. Whilst I took her money I humoured her pride, and paid her (I blush to say it) a mighty observance."
He speaks plainly too of the men book-buyers. One Mr. Gouge, who was also "a Secret Friend to the Fair Sex," bought to give away two hundred copies of a book written by Parson Gouge, his father. Another "young beau who boasts more Villany than he ever committed bought a many of books;" hence Dunton tolerated the "Young Spark's" demoralizing acquaintance. Mr. Thorncomb, another book-dealer from London, also bought of him, and, with the ever prevailing luck was "Acceptable to the Fair Sex, so extremely charming as makes 'em fond of being in his Company. However he is a virtuous person and deserved all the Respect they shewed him." Nor can I doubt, from the pervasive spirit of his books, that Dunton too found favor with the fair.
Though he spoke so warmly of individual purchasers and so positively of the wealth of his ilk in Boston, his own venture was not vastly prosperous. He took back to England but L400. He gave the Boston Yankees, too, rather a bad name in commercial transactions, saying:
"There is no trading for a stranger with them but with a Grecian Faith which is not to part with your own ware without ready Money; for they are generally very backward in their payments; great censors about other Mens manner but Extremely Careless about their own. When you are dealing with 'em you must look upon 'em as at cross purposes and read 'em like Hebrew backward; for they seldom speak & mean the same thing but like the Watermen Look one way & row another."
Josselyn gave them no better name, saying:
"Their leading men are damnable rich, inexplicably covetous and proud; like Ethiopians, white in the teeth only; full of ludification and injurious dealing."
Of Dunton's patrons the majority were ministers, and I hope all the reverend gentlemen were as prompt payers as they were liberal purchasers. Since Dunton called ministers "the greatest benefactors to Booksellers," I think they were not included in his black list. Surely Cotton Mather was not, for he gave away one thousand books in one year, and I know he paid for them too. One Boston schoolmaster, however, bought L200 worth of books, and when we consider the excessively small pay of members of that calling at that time, we feel that he showed a liberal interest in promoting in every manner the spread of learning, and only trust that he paid the bill promptly.
In 1719 there was but one book-shop in New York, but of cultured Boston Neal wrote at that date: "The Exchange is surrounded with booksellers' shops which have a good trade. There are five Printing Presses." Succeeding years did not change the luck of the craft in Boston, nor dim its honors, still wealth and love poured in on its members. The names of Henchman and Hancock show the opulence; while Knox, in war and love alike prospered, winning the wealthy "belle of Massachusetts" for his bride, and winning equal glory with his sword in the Revolution. In other New England towns did book-publishing succeed, though Boston's earlier start, its leading position, and its more carefully preserved history give it place as a type of the whole province.
And now, what was the fruit of all this fairly garnished and richly nourished tree? What did these prosperous New England book-merchants bring forth in the first century of book-printing in the province? What return did they make for all the romantic and material support given them? No love-poems or mild tales of gallantry, as you might expect from their alleged fascinating traits, but, instead, an almost unvaried production of dreary and dull funeral, execution, wedding, election, and baptismal sermons, and of psalm-books, with here and there a "two penny jeering gigge," or perhaps an anagram or acrostic or "pindarick," on some virtuous citizen or industrious dame, recently deceased. In business relations the deacon prevailed powerfully over the gallant. If, as Tyler says, the New England theocracy was a social structure resting on a book, that corner-stone was the Bay Psalm-Book and the walls above it were built of sermons. These sermons seem to us technical, sapless, and jejune, "as soporific as a bed of poppies," but they show the intelligence, energy, and assiduity of the writers just as plainly as they show the gloomy theology and sad earnestness of the time. And though no one now reads them, we profoundly respect them, for they have been conned by our honored forefathers with more studious and loving attention than falls to the lot of most modern books, no matter what their subject or who their author.
I have told at length the story of the publication of the Bay Psalm-Book and of other psalm-books printed and used in New England, in "The Sabbath in Puritan New England" and I need not dwell upon it here.
The first book or tract printed in Boston was in 1675—an execution sermon, by Increase Mather, "The Wicked Man's Portion." The first book printed in Connecticut was the "Saybrook Confession and Platform," in 1710. The first book of any considerable size printed in Rhode Island was "An Apology for the True Christian Divinity," issued in 1729.
There were a number of books for the Indians in the Indian tongue which no one but Hon. J. Hammond Trumbull could now read an he would; also a few histories of the Indian wars; and Thomas Prince published by subscription an exceedingly dull chronological History of New England. As he began his history with year 1, first month and sixth day—and Adam, he had tired out even pious Bostonians by the time he reached New England; and subscriptions and subscribers languished till the book died unmourned just when the year 1633 had been caught up with. The "Simple Cobler of Agawam" made a vast sensation with his scurrilous bombs. There were a few volumes of poems printed; one by "the Tenth Muse," Anne Bradstreet, of whose songs pious and cautious John Norton said (and evidently believed what he said too) that if Virgil could have read them he would have condemned his own work to the flames. Michael Wigglesworth's "Day of Doom," that epic of hell-fire and damnation which fairly chokes us with its sulphurous fumes, was widely read and deeply venerated; in fact it was a great popular success. Fifteen hundred copies were sold in the first year, one copy to each thirty-five inhabitants of New England—a proportion showing a commercial success unsurpassed in modern times. It was printed also on broadsides, in a cheap form, and hawked over the country by chapmen in order to further spread its lurid and baleful shadow. The dull but sympathetic "Meat out of the Eater" by the same author quickly went through five editions. "New England's Crisis," "A Posie from Old Mr. Dods Garden," "A Looking Glasse for New England," and "The Origin of the Whalebone Petticoat—a Satyr," end the monotonous list of poetry. Fully three-quarters of the entire number of publications proceeded from the prolific Mather stock, and of course bore the pompous, verbose, Mather traits of authorship. Cotton Mather had the felicity of having published as his share of "New England's First Fruits" a list to make a modern author green with envy—three hundred and eighty-two different works; three hundred of these may be seen in the library of the American Antiquarian Society: not all were brought out in America, however. His "Magnalia" was printed in England, and the exigences and vicissitudes of publication at that time are fully told in his diary; also the exalted and idealized view which he took of authorship. At the first definite plan which he formulated in his mind of his history of New England, he "cried mightily to God;" and he went through a series of fasts and vigils at intervals until the book was completed, when he held extended exercises of secret thanksgiving. Prostrate on his study floor, in the dust, he joyfully received full assurance in his heart from God that his work would be successful. But writing the book is not all the work, as any author knows; and he then had much distress and many troubled fasts over the best way of printing it, of transporting it to England; and when at last he placed his "elaborate composures" on shipboard, he prayed an entire day. No ascetic Papist ever observed fast days more vigorously than did Cotton Mather while his book was on its long sea-voyage and in England. He sent it in June in the year 1700, and did not hear from it till December. What a thrill of sympathy one feels for him! Then he learned that the printers were cold; the expense of publication would be L600, a goodly sum to venture; it was "clogged by the dispositions" of the man to whom it was sent; it was delayed and obstructed; he was left strangely in the dark about it; months passed without any news. Still his faith in God supported him. At last a sainted Christian came forward in London, a stranger, and offered to print the book at his own expense and give the author as many copies as he wished. That was in what Carlyle called "the Day of Dedications and Patrons, not of Bargains with Booksellers." In October, 1702, after two and a half long years of waiting, one copy of the wished-for volume arrived, and the author and his dearest friend, Mr. Bromfield, piously greeted it with a day of solemn fasting and praise.
Can the contrast of that day with the present, can the character of Cotton Mather be more plainly shown than by this story of the publication of the "Magnalia?" Many anxious days did he pass over other manuscripts. Some were lost in London for seven years. One book disappeared entirely from his ken, but was recovered by his heirs. His most important and largest work, the six folio volumes of his "Biblia Americana," pursued by "Strange Frowns of Heaven" could not find a publisher and still is unprinted. Cotton Mather survived his own era, his congenial atmosphere, and, whether he was conscious of it or not, was indeed, as Dexter called him, a literary dodo, an isolated relic of early fantastic methods of composition. His work was not, as Prince said, "agreeable to the Gust of his Age." Even the name of Mather, all-powerful in New England, could not place the "Biblia Americana" in the press.
There were no American novels in those early days. The first book deserving the appellation that was printed in New England was "intituled" "The Power of Sympathy, or the Triumph of Nature—A Novel founded on truth and dedicated to the Young Ladies of America." It appeared in 1789. Four years later came "The Helpless Orphan, or The Innocent Victim of Revenge," and then "The Coquette, or the History of Eliza Wharton."
The only book that was written by a woman and published in New England during the first century of New England printing, was a collection of the poems of Anne Bradstreet. A few—very few—pamphlets by women authors of that date are also known: "The Confession of Faith—A Summary of Divinity drawn up by a young Gentlewoman in the 25th year of her Age;" Mrs. Elizabeth Cotton's "Peculiar Treasure of the Almighty King Opened;" Elizabeth White's "Experience;" Mary Rowlandson's pathetic account of her captivity—these are all. Hannah Adams was the first New England woman to adopt literature as a profession.
Doubtless many Puritans shared Governor Winthrop's opinion of literary women, which that tolerant and gentle man expressed thus:
"The Governor of Hartford upon Connecticut came to Boston, and brought his wife with him (a godly young woman and of special parts) who was fallen into a sad infirmity, the loss of her understanding and reason which had been growing upon her divers years by occasion of her giving herself wholly to reading and writing, and had written many books. Her husband being very loving and tender of her, was loath to grieve her; but he saw his error when it was too late. For if she had attended her household affairs, and such things as belong to women, and not gone out of her way and calling to meddle in such things as are proper for men, whose minds are stronger, etc., she had kept her wits, and might have improved them usefully and honorably in the place God had set her."
I know of no illustrated books printed New England in the seventeenth century, nor any with frontispieces or portraits. In 1723 a portrait of Increase Mather appeared in his Life, which was written by monopolizing Cotton Mather. It was a poor thing, being engraved in London by John Sturt. When Peter Pelham came to Boston about 1725 and started as a portrait engraver, and married the Widow Copley with her thriving tobacco shop, he engraved and published many likenesses of authors and ministers, some of which were bound with their books, others sold singly by subscription. The mezzotint of Cotton Mather, made in 1727, sold for two shillings. Hubbard's Narrative had a map in 1677; and in 1713 the lives of Dr. Faustus, Friar Bacon, Conjurors Bungay and Vanderwart were printed conjointly in a volume "with cuts"—perhaps the earliest illustrated New England book, unless we except the New England Primer. "The Prodigal Daughter, or the Disobedient Lady Reclaimed" had "curious cuts;" so also did the "Parents Gift" in 1741, and "A Present for a Servant Maid." "Pilgrim's Progress" was printed in Boston in an illustrated edition in 1744. But for any handsomely illustrated books American readers sent, until Revolutionary times, to England.
There were, however, at a later date, some few books printed with special elegance, with broad margins. The "Discourse on the United Submission to Higher Powers" had some copies that were printed on pages ten inches by seven and a quarter inches in size, while the regular edition was only six by six and a half inches. A letter is in existence of Governor Trumbull's ordering that some copies of the funeral sermon preached at his wife's death be printed on heavy writing paper. Copies of the first edition of the "Magnalia" also were issued on large paper and owned in New England, but of course that work was done in London.
The printing of the earliest books was generally poor, showing the work of inexperienced and unaccustomed hands; but the paper was good, sometimes of fine quality, and always strong. The type was fairly good and clear until Revolutionary times, when paper, ink, and type, being made by new workmen out of the poorest materials, were bad beyond belief, producing, in fact, an almost unreadable page. Throughout the first half of the eighteenth century the books printed in New England compared favorably with the ones imported from England at that date, and in the special case of the "Poetical Oblation"—a fine quarto, offered by Harvard College to George III. on his accession to the throne, the typography is exquisite. For the early binding but one word can be said—that of praise. All these old books had Charles Lamb's desideratum of a volume, were "strong backed and neat bound." Well dressed was the morocco, the leather, the vellum, parchment, or basil, firmly was it glued in place, well-sewed were the leaves—loudly can we sing the goodness and true worth of colonial bookbinding.
In many New England libraries and collections may be seen specimens of colonial printing and binding; the library of the American Antiquarian Society is particularly rich in such ancient treasures. Some of the books from Cotton Mather's library may there be found, that library which Dunton called the glory of New England, and which he said was the largest privately owned collection of books that he had ever seen; but many of them were burned in the sacking of Boston by the British. It consisted of over seven thousand printed volumes and many manuscripts, and its estimated value was L8,000. The majority of these volumes was naturally upon divinity.
We can also form an idea of a New England library at a somewhat earlier date, for the list of books in Elder Brewster's library has been preserved. They numbered four hundred. Of these books, sixty-two were in Latin and three hundred in English. There were forty-eight folios and one hundred and twenty-one octavos. This was quite a bulky and heavy library for transportation to and through that new country. All were not imported at one time, as the succession of dates shows. Brewster purchased from time to time the best books brought out in England on subjects which interested him, until it was really a rich exegetical collection, and may possibly have been used as a circulating one. Nearly all the number were religious, theological, or historical books; fourteen were in rhyme. Among the poems were "A Turncoat of the Times," Spenser's "Prosopopeia," "The Scyrge of Drunkenness," a "Description of a Good Wife," the ballad of "The Maunding Soldier," and Wither's works. One might have been a tragedy, "Messalina," but there were no other dramatic works.
Other benefactors of booksellers had good libraries. Parson Hooker left behind him L300 worth of books in an estate of L1,336. Parson Wareham had L82 worth in an estate of L1,200. Rev. Ebenezer Pemberton left, in 1717, books which made one thousand lots in an auction, for which the first book catalogue ever compiled in New England was printed. Even by 1723 the library of Harvard College contained none of the works of Addison, Bolingbroke, Young, Swift, Prior, Steele, Dryden, or Pope. In 1734, the catalogue of T. Cox, a prominent Boston bookseller, did not contain the "Spectator" nor the works of Shakespeare or Milton. The literary revival of the time of Queen Anne was evidently but little felt in New England during its inception. The facile and constant quotation from the ancient classics show how constantly and thoroughly the latter were studied.
Among early New England publications we must not fail to speak of the omnipresent almanac. Ere there was a New England Psalm-Book there was a New England Almanac, and succeeding years brought new ones forth in flocks. Though Charles Lamb included almanacs in his catalogue of "books which are no books," and the founder of the Bodleian Library would not admit that they were books and excluded them from the shelves of his library, when New England philomaths and philodespots numbered such honored names as Mather, Dudley, Sewall, Chauncey, Brattle, Ames, and Holyoke, New England Puritans must have deemed almanacs to be books, and so do we. In many a colonial household where the Bible and psalm-book formed the sole standing library, the almanac was the only annual book-comer that crossed the threshold and lodged under the roof-tree. On a nail by the side of the great fireplace hung proudly and prominently the Family Almanac, the Ephemeris. This Family Almanac was a guide, counsellor, and friend; a magazine, cyclopaedia, and jest-book; was even a spelling-book. It was consulted by every member of the household on every subject, save possibly religion—for that they had the best of all books. The planters learned from it meteorological, astronomical, thaumaturgical, botanical, and agricultural facts—or rather what the editor stated as facts. Social customs and peculiarities and ethics were also touched upon in a manner suited to the requirements and capacity of the reader; medical and hygienic advice were given for man and beast, ending with the quaint warning to use before and after taking that unfashionable medicine, prayer. Wit, history, romance, poetry, all contributed to the almanac. The printer turned an extra penny by advertising various articles that he had for sale, from negro slaves to garden seeds. So, in addition to what the original readers learned, we now find an almanac a most suggestive record of the olden times.
As with many colonial books, the most attractive part of an almanac is not always the printed contents, but the interlined comments of the original owner. He kept frequently an account of his scanty and sparse purchases; from them we gain a knowledge of the price of commodities in his time. We learn also upon how little a New England planter could live, how little money he spent. He kept a record of the births, weights, and measures of his family; he entered the purchase and number of his lottery tickets (but I never found the proud and happy statement of a lottery prize). He wrote therein Greek verse, as did John Cotton. He entered wig-making and hair-dressing accounts, as did Thomas Prince. He kept the amount of beer and cider he made and drank, and the sad statement of deaths in the neighborhood; such grim entries are seen as these made by old Ezra Stiles: "This day Ethan Allen died and went to Hell." "This day died Joseph Bellamy and went to Heaven, where he can dictate and domineer no longer." President Stiles did not foresee that his great-grandson would be Joseph Bellamy's also, and would plan a social reform more vast in its changes than the really sensible scheme he thought out, of "uniting and cementing his offspring by transfusing to distant generations certain influential principles," and of benefiting the growing population of the New World by carefully planned and wide-spread marriages with virtuous and pious Stileses.
Of course the almanac-owner kept account of the weather—a brave record through January and February and March; then, lessening his zeal as spring-planting began, the hard-working summer months have clean pages; while a remorseful energy in November and December ofttimes made him renew in the smoke-dried almanac his crabbed entries. Hence from contemporary evidence does old New England life seem all winter, all bitter cold and fierce rains and harsh winds; yet there were surely some warm summer days and cheerful sunshine, so smoothly serene as to gain no record.
The relations between book-publishers and authors, between book-publishers and the public, were from earliest days most friendly. There was much polite exchange of compliments; the intelligence of the public was always mightily flattered and shown up in a very civil fashion in such manner as this:
"A New Edition of the really beautiful & sentimental Novel Armine and Elvira Is this day published price 9d sewed in blue paper. To the Ladies in particular and others the lovers of Sentiment and Poetick Numbers this Novel is recommended, to them it will afford a delightful Repast. To others it is not an object."
"For the pleasing entertainment of the Polite Part of Mankind I have printed the most beautiful Poems of Mr. Stephen Duck the famous Wiltshire Poet. It is a full Demonstration to me that the People of New England have a fine Taste for good Sense and polite Learning having already sold 1200 of these Poems."
Though Stephen Duck appealed to polite and literate New Englanders just as he became the rage in old England, his name is now almost forgotten.
It must have inclined the public most favorably to a book to be told that the volume is "intended only for the highly virtuous;" that "the glowing pen of the author brought this token into life solely from Admiration of a community fitted by amazing Intelligence to receive it:" that
"'Tis said with truth by a secret but ingenious New England minister that no town is so worthy the vendue of this pleasing book as these polite gentlemen and gentlewomen to whom it will be on Friday offered."
Authors, if not authoresses, were treated with much respect and encouragement. Indeed, they were urged to write. Books printed by subscription were the rule, and, as an inducement, the names of subscribers were printed in a list at the end of the book, and an extra copy was given for every six numbers subscribed for. The "undertakers" did not always trouble themselves to deliver the book when printed. A notice was posted, or printed in a newspaper, advising subscribers pretty sharply that their copies (which had apparently been paid for in advance) must be sent for within a certain time or the books would be "sold to others desiring." One American poet, the author of "War—An Heroic Poem," a work which has been lost to us, threatened to prosecute his patrons for not taking his book. Sometimes the printer of the book also seized the opportunity of the large circulation to drum up delinquent citizens who had not paid him at previous dates for news letters, sermons, funeral verses, etc. One of the first books printed in Hartford was paid for largely by a man who ran a woollen mill in the vicinity. He took the convenient occasion to thriftily forward his own trade by having printed and bound with the poems, and thus distributing to sheep-farmers and farm-wives in the surrounding towns, full instructions about preparing the wool to be sent to him.
Frequently the notices in the newspapers bore, in quaint wording, warm testimony to the popularity of a book. "The above book is advertised by the desire of numbers who have read and admired it." "If to raise the soul to heights of honourable pride is not unworthy so great a mind, praise of this book may be given, though needless, since many request it." "Many curious gentlemen formerly buying their books in London now wish to buy only in New England where so acute a manner of composure is found." "For the polite and inquisitive part of Mankind in New England these poetick fancies are highly conformed as many residents testify by their frequent perusal and approval."
Public encouragement to aspiring authors was not lacking; this advertisement in the New England Weekly Journal of March, 1728, is indeed delightful:
"There is now preparing for the Press, and may upon Suitable Encouragement be communicated to the Publick, a Miscellany of Poems of Severall Hands and upon severall occasions some of which have already been Published and received the Approbation of the best Judges with many more very late performances of equal if not superior Beauty which have never yet seen the Light; if therefore any Ingenious Gentlemen are disposed to contribute towards the erecting of a Poetickal Monument for the Honour of This Country Either by their Generous Subscriptions or Composures, they are desired to convey them to Mr. Daniel Henchman or the Publisher of this Paper by whom they will be received with Candour and Thankfulness."
Just fancy the effect of a similar advertisement in a prominent newspaper of to-day! How composures would flow in from the ingenious gentlemen who love to see themselves in print! What a poetical monument could be reared—to the very sky! I have never seen in any colonial newspaper any subsequent references to this proposed collection or miscellany of composures, and I know of no book that was published at that time which could answer the description, so I suspect the well-laid plan came to naught. The specimens of local and ephemeral poetry that were printed in the colonial press in succeeding years make it easy to comprehend the failure of the project: the villanously rhymed effusions fairly imposthumate all the ribald vulgarity of the times; coarseness and dulness of subject and thought being rivalled only by the super-coarseness of the verbiage. I do not say that the newspapers provoked these stupid rhymes, which are about as much poetry as is a game of crambo; but I do not find them until "newspaper-time," and fear the extra circulation through the weekly press may be held partly responsible.
A book called "A Collection of Poems by Several Hands" apparently was gathered by methods similar to the one shown by the advertisement just quoted. It was printed in 1744, and was a puerile and banal collection containing but few good verses, and was apparently made expressly to show off the literary accomplishments of Mather Byles, who was what Carlyle would call an intellectual dapperling.
Book-auctions, held first in England in 1676, formed one of the rare diversions in the provinces, and were apparently largely attended by "sentimentalists," as one book-dealer called book-buyers. The business of book-auctioneering was called, in the bombastic language of the times, "the sublimest Auxiliary which Science Commerce and Arts either has or perhaps ever will possess," while the bookseller was called "Provedore to the Sentimentalists and Professor of Book Auctioneering." These sales or vendues were frequently held at taverns.
At a very early day intelligent and progressive Bostonians established a public library. By the year 1673 bequests had been made to such an institution, and consignments deemed suitable for it had been sent to Boston by London booksellers. All these books were properly sober and pious. The Prince library, that first large American book collection, which was conceived and started by Thomas Prince in 1703, was nobly planned and nobly carried out, and deserved more gratitude and more care than it received at modern hands.
But many towns had no public library, hence much friendly exchange and lending of books took place between book-owners and neighbors, sometimes apparently without the owner's consent or knowledge. The newspapers, among their sparse advertisements, have many such as this simply naive one in the Boston News Letter of July 7, 1712:
"A certain Person having lent two Books viz; Rushworths Collections & Fullers Holy War & forgotten unto whom; These are desiring the Borrower to be so kind as to return said Books unto Owner."
Or this sarcastic request in the Connecticut Courant.
"The gentleman who took the second volume of Bacons Abridgment from Mr. David Balls bedroom on the 18th of November would do well to return it to the owner whose name he will find on the 15th Page. If he choose rather to keep it the owner wishes him to call and take the rest of the set."
Another Connecticut man is meekly asked to "return the 3rd Vol of Don Quixote & take the 4th instead if he chuse."
Connecticut folk seemed to be particularly given to this slipshod fashion of promiscuous and unlicensed book-borrowing, if we can trust the apparent proof given by Connecticut newspapers in their many advertisements of lost books. In some notices it is darkly hinted that "specifications of books long lent have been given" (to the sheriff perhaps); and again, a meek suggestion that the owner wishes to read a long missing volume and would be grateful for an opportunity to do so. One ungallant soul advertised for "the she-person that borrowed Mr. Thos. Browns Works from a gentleman she is well acquainted with."
There was not the redeeming excuse for non-return sometimes given by like "desuming deadheads" nowadays, that the owner's name had been forgotten, for the inscription "Perley Morse, His Book," or "Catey Bradford, Her Book," or whatever the name might be, was quickly and repeatedly written by each colonial owner as soon as the book was acquired.
Frequently also the dates and places of residence appear. Even the very dates of ownership and the quaint old names are interesting. Bathsheba Spalding, Noca Emmons, Elam Noyes, Titherming Layton, Engrossed Bump, Sally Box, Tilly Minching, Zerushaddi Key, Comfort Vine—these are a few of the odd signatures I have found in old books.
Readers also had a pleasant habit of leaving a sign-manual on the last page of a book, thus: "Timothy Pitkin perlegit A.D. 1765," "Cotton Smith perlegit 1740." A clear-speaking lesson are such records to this generation—a lesson of patience and diligence. How we venerate, with what awe we regard the name of Timothy Pitkin, and know that he lived to read through that vast folio—the first ever printed in America—the "Complete Body of Divinity," a folio of over nine hundred double-columned, compactly printed pages! And yet, why should not Timothy Pitkin live through reading it when Samuel Willard lived through writing it? Entries of dates in old Bibles frequently show that those sainted old Christians had read entirely through that holy book ten times in regular order.
The handwriting in all these ancient books is very different from our modern penmanship, invariably bearing an appearance not exactly of much labor, but of much care, as if the writer did not use a pen every day—did not become too familiar with that weighty implement, and hence had a vast respect for it when he did take it in hand. Every t is crossed, every i is dotted, every a and o perfectly rounded, every tail of every g and y and z is precisely twisted in colonial script. I think the very trouble and preparation incident to writing conduced to the finish and elegance of the penmanship. No stylographic pens were used in those days, but instead, a carefully prepared quill; and the ink was made of ink-cake or ink-powder dissolved in water; or, more troublesome still, home-made ink, tediously prepared with nutgalls, walnut or swamp maple bark, or iron filings steeped in vinegar and water, or copperas.
Special pains were taken in writing a name in a book. Penmanship was almost a fine art in colonial days, the one indispensable accomplishment of a school teacher; and he was often hired to exercise it in writing a name "perspicuously" in a book. Sometimes the owner's name is seen drawn with much care in a little wreath or circle of ornamentation. This may be what Judge Sewall refers to with so much pride when he speaks of "writing a name" in a gift-book, or it may be what was known as "conceits" or "fine knotting."
The colonists had a very reprehensible habit, which (save for the pains taken in writing) might be called book-scribbling. Rude rhymes and sentiments are often found with the past owner's name, and form a title-page lore which, ill-spelt and simple as the verses are, have an interest to the antiquary of which the writer never dreamed. They consist chiefly of adjurations to honesty, specially with regard to the special volume thus inscribed:
"Steal not this book my honest friend, For fear the gallows will be your End."
"If you dare to steal this Book The Devil will catch you on his Hook."
This was accompanied by the outline of a very spirited "personal devil" with a pitchfork and an enormous gridiron.
Still another appealed to terrors:
"This is Hanah Moxon Her book You may just within it Look You had better not do more For old black Satan's at the Door And will snatch at stealing hands Look behind you! There He Stands."
This had a tail-piece of an open door with a very black forked tail thrust out of it.
In a leather-bound Bible was seen this rhyme:
"Evert Jonson His book God Give him Grase thair in to look not only to looke but to understand that Larning is better than Hous or Land When Land is Gon & Gold is spent then larning is most Axelant When I am dead & Rotton If this you see Remember me Though others is forgotton."
Different portions of this script have been seen in many books.
Four rhymes seem to be specially the property of schoolboys, being found in Accidences, Spellers, "Logick" Primers, and other school-books, down even to the present day.
"This book is one thing, My fist's another, If you touch the one thing, You'll feel the other."
"Hic liber eat meus And that I will show Si aliquis capit I'll give him a blow."
"This book is mine By Law Divine And if it runs astray I'll call you kind My desk to find And put it safe away."
"Hic liber est meus Deny it who can Zenas Graves Junior An honest man."
There also appears a practical warning which may be read with attention and profit by the public now a days:
"If thou art borrowed by a friend Right welcome shall he be To read, to study, not to lend But to return to me.
"Not that imparted knowledge doth Diminish Learnings Store But books I find if often lent Return to me no more."
"Read Slowly—Pause Frequently—Think Seriously—Finger Lightly—Keep Cleanly—Return Duly—with the Corners of the Leaves NOT TURNED DOWN."
The fashion of using book-plates was by no means so general among New England Puritans as among rich Virginians and New Yorkers and Pennsylvanian Quakers. Mr. Lichtenstein, writing in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register in 1886, says he has seen no New England book-plates of earlier date than 1735. At later dates the Holyokes, Dudleys, Boylstons, and Phillips, all used book-plates. The plates most familiar to students in old libraries in New England are those of the Vaughans and of Isaiah Thomas.
Another, a living interest is found in these old, dusty, leather-bound volumes, which is not in the inscriptions and not, alas, in the printed words. They are the chosen home of a race of pigmy spiderlings who love musty theology with an affection found in no one else nowadays. In these dingy homes they live and rear their hideous little progeny: for in the cold light of a microscope these tiny brown book-dwellers are not beautiful; they are flat, crab-like, goggle-eyed, hairy; and they zigzag across the page on their ugly crooked legs in a sprawling, drunken fashion. They do not eat the books; they live apparently on air; yet if you crush them between the pages they leave a stain of vivid scarlet to reproach you in future readings for your needless cruelty. I cannot kill them; though flaming is their blood's rebuke, it is aristocratically as well as theologically blue. In their veins runs the ichor—arachnidian though it be—that came over in the Mayflower; yes, doubly honored, came over in the special stateroom of an Ainsworth's Psalm-Book or a Genevan Bible. No degrading alliances, no admixtures through foreign emigration, have crossed that pure inbred strain; my book-spiders are of real Pilgrim stock—they are true New England Brahmins.
Any one who turns over with attention the books of an old New England library must be struck with a sense of the affection with which these books have been treasured, the care with which they have been read, and, in case of accident, with which they have been repaired. One psalm-book, nibbled by mice, has had every page neatly mended by the insertion of thin sheets of paper to replace the lost bits; and some painstaking and pious New Englander, with a pen and skill worthy the illuminating monks of another faith, has minutely printed the missing letters on both sides of the inserted slip in a text no larger than the surrounding print. Another book, a Bible, burnt in round holes by a slow-burning coal from the pipe of a sleepy reader, has been mended in the same careful manner. I have seen Bibles that have been read and turned over till the margins of the pages at the lower corner and outer edge were worn off down to the print by loving daily use. In one such the margins had been neatly replaced by pasted slips of paper. In more than one book I have found a minutely written home-made index on the blank pages at the end of the volume, showing a personal interest and love for a book which can hardly be equalled. Careful notes and references and postils also show a patient and appreciative perusal.
Though books were so closely cherished, so seemly bekept in colonial days, they were subject to one indignity with which now they are unmenaced and undegraded—they were sometimes sentenced to be burned by the public hangman. In 1654 the writings of John Reeves and Ludowick Muggleton, who set up to be prophets, were burned by that abhorred public functionary in Boston market-place; and two years later Quaker books were similarly destroyed. William Pyncheon's book was burned, in 1650, in Boston Market. In 1707 a "libel on the Governor" was hanged by the hangman. In 1754 a pamphlet called "The Monster of Monsters," a sharp political criticism on the Massachusetts Court, was thus burned in King Street, Boston. From the Connecticut Gazette of November 29th, 1755, we learn that another offending publication was sentenced to be "publickly whipt according to Moses Law with 40 stripes save one, then Burnt." How a true book-lover winces at the thought of the public hangman placing his blood-stained hand on any book, no matter how much a "monster."
"ARTIFICES OF HANDSOMENESS"
From the earliest days the Puritan colonists fought stoutly, for the sake of St. Paul, against long hair. They proved themselves worthy the opprobrious name of Roundhead. Endicott's first act was to institute a solemn and insistent association against long hair. This wearing of long locks was one of the existing evils, a wile of the devil, which bade fair to creep into New England, and in its incipiency was proceeded against by the General Court, "that the men might not wear long hair like women's hair." The ministers preached bitterly and incessantly against the fashion; the Apostle Eliot, Parson Stoddard, Parson Rogers, President Chauncey, President Wigglesworth, all launched burning invective and skilful Biblical argument against the long-growing locks—"the disguisement of long Ruffianly hair" (or Russianly—whichever it may be). It was derisively suggested that long nails like Nebuchadnezzar's would next be in fashion. Men under sentence for offences were offered release from punishment if they would "cut off their long hair into a civil frame." Exact rules were given from the pulpit as to the properly Puritan length—that the hair should not lie over the neck, the band, or the doublet collar; in the winter it might be suffered to grow a little below the ear for warmth. Personal pride and dignity were appealed to, that no Christian gentleman would wish to look like "every Ruffian, every wild-Irish, every hangman, every varlet and vagabond." By Sewall's time, however, Puritan though he were, we see his white locks flowing long over his doublet collar, and forming a fitting frame to his serene, benignant countenance.
Puritan women also were not above reproach in regard to the fashion of extravagant hair-dressing; they also "showed the vile note of impudency." One parson thus severely addressed them from the pulpit: "The special sin of woman is pride and haughtiness, and that because they are generally more ignorant and worthless," and he added that this feminine pride vented itself in gesture, hair, behavior, and apparel. I fear all this was true, for the Court also complained of my ignorant and worthless sex for "cutting and curling and laying out of the hair, especially among the younger sort." Increase Mather gave them this thrust in his sermon on the comet, in 1683: "Will not the haughty daughters of Zion refrain their pride in apparell? Will they lay out their hair, and wear their false locks, their borders, and towers like comets about their heads?" And they were called "Apes of Fancy, friziling and curlying of their hayr."
I think the sober and decorous women settlers must have worn their hair cut straight across the forehead, like our modern "bangs;" for Higginson, writing of the Indians in 1692, says: "Their hair is generally black and cut before like our gentlewomen." The false locks denounced by Mather were doubtless "a pair of Perukes which are pretty" of Pepys's time, about 1656; or the "heart breakers" worn in 1670, which set out like butterfly-wings over the ears, and which were described thus: "False locks set on wyers to make them stand at a distance from the head."
From a letter written by Knollys to Cecil we learn that Mary Queen of Scots wore these perukes. He says:
"Mary Seaton among other pretty devices yesterday and this day, she did set such a curled hair upon the Queen that was said to be a Peruke, that showed very delicately, and every other day she hath a new device of head dressing without any cost, and yet setteth forth a woman gaylie well."
The "towers like comets" were doubtless commodes, which were in high fashion in Europe at the beginning of the eighteenth century until about the year 1711, though I have never found that the word commode was used in America. These commodes were enormously high frames of wire covered with thin silk, or plaitings of muslin or lace, or frills of ribbon—and sadly belied their name.
A simpler form of hair-dressing succeeded the commode; portraits painted during the following half-century, such as those of Copley, Smibert, and Blackburn, show an elegant and graceful form of coiffure, the hair brushed back and raised slightly from the forehead, and sometimes curled loosely behind the ears. At a later date the curls were almost universally surmounted by a lace cap. Pomatum began to be used by the middle of the century. In the Boston News Letter of 1768, we read of "Black White and Yellow Pomatum from six Coppers to Two Shillings per Roll." The hair was frequently powdered. Hair-dressers sold powdering puffs and powdering bags and powdering machines, and a dozen different varieties of hair-powder—brown, marechal, scented, plain, and blue. By Revolutionary times a new tower, or "talematongue," had arisen; the front hair was pulled up over a stuffed cushion or roll, and mixed with powder and grease; the back hair was strained up in loops or short curls, surrounded and surmounted with ribbons, pompons, aigrettes, jewels, gauze, and flowers and feathers, till the structure was half a yard in height. This fashion was much admired by some; a young lover of the day wrote thus sentimentally of a fair Hartford girl: "Her hair covered her cushion as a plate of the most beautiful enamel frosted with silver." A Revolutionary soldier wrote a poem, however, which regarded from a different point of view this elaborate headgear in such a time of national depression. His rhymes began thus:
"Ladies you had better leave off your high rolls Lest by extravagance you lose your poor souls Then haul out the wool, and likewise the tow 'Twill clothe our whole army we very well know."
The "Dress-a-la-Independance" was a style of hair-dressing with thirteen curls at the neck, thus to honor the thirteen new States.
In the year 1771 Anna Green Winslow wrote in her diary an account of one of these elaborate hair-dressings which she then saw. She ends her description thus:
"How long she was under his opperation I know not. I saw him twist & tug & pick & cut off whole locks of gray hair at a slice, the lady telling him he would have no hair to dress next time, for a space of an hour and a half, when I left them he seeming not to be near done."
She also gives a most sprightly account of the manufacture of a roll for her own hair:
"I had my HEDDUS roll on. Aunt Storer said it ought to be made less, Aunt Deming said it ought not to be made at all. It makes my head ach and burn and itch like anything Mama. This famous Roll is not made wholly of a Red-Cow Tail but is a mixture of that & horsehair very coarse & a little human hair of a yellow hue that I suppose was taken out of the back part of an old wig. But D. (the barber) made it, all carded together and twisted up. When it first came home, Aunt put it on, and my new cap upon it; she then took up her apron and measured me & from the roots of my hair on my forehead to the top of my notions I measured above an inch longer than I did downward from the roots of my hair to the end of my chin. Nothing renders a young person more amiable than Virtue and Modesty without the help of fals hair, Red-Cow tail or D. the barber."
The Boston Gazette had, in 1771, a ludicrous description of an accident to a young woman in the streets of that town. In an infaust moment she was thrown down by a runaway, and her tower received serious damage. It burst its thin outer wall of natural hair, and disgorged cotton and wool and tow stuffing, false hair, loops of ribbon and gauze. Ill-bred boys kicked off portions of the various excrescences, and the tower-wearer was jeered at until she was glad to escape with her own few natural locks.
A New England clergyman—Manasseh Cutler—wrote thus of the head-dress of Mrs. General Knox in 1787:
"Her hair in front is craped at least a foot high much in the form of a churn bottom upward and topped off with a wire skeleton in the same form covered with black gauze which hangs in streamers down her back. Her hair behind is in a large braid turned up and confined with a monstrous large crooked comb. She reminded me of the monstrous cap worn by the Marquis of La Fayettes valet, commonly called on this account the Marquises devil."
Hair so elaborately arranged could not be dressed daily. Once a week was frequently thought sufficient; and some very disgusting accounts are given of methods to dress the hair so it would "keep safely" for a month. The Abbe Robin wrote of New England women in 1781:
"The hair of the head is raised and supported upon cushions to an extravagant height somewhat resembling the manner in which the French ladies wore their hair some years ago. Instead of powdering they often wash the head, which answers the purpose well enough as their own hair is commonly of an agreeable light color, but the more fashionable among them begin to adopt the European fashion of setting off the head to the best advantage."
The fashion of the roll was of much importance, and various shaped rolls were advertised; we find one of "a modish new roll weighing but 8 ounces when others weigh fourteen ounces." We can well believe that such a heavy roll made poor Anna Winslow's head "ach and itch like anything." A Salem hair-dresser, who employed twelve barbers, advertised thus in 1773: "Ladies shall be attended to in the polite constructions of rolls such as may tend to raise their heads to any pitch they desire."
The grotesqueness of such adornment found frequent ridicule in prose and verse. One poet sang:
"Give Chloe a bushel of horsehair and wool, Of paste and pomatum a pound, Ten yards of gay ribbon to deck her sweet skull And gauze to encompass it round.
"Of all the gay colours the rainbow displays Be those ribbons which hang on her head, Be her flowers adapted to make the folks gaze, And about the whole work be they spread.
"Let her flaps fly behind for a yard at the least, Let her curls meet just under her chin, Let those curls be supported to keep up the list, With an hundred instead of one pin."
We can easily see that after such rough treatment the hair needed restoring waters; and indeed from earliest times hair-restorers and hair-dyes did these "vain ancients" use. "Women with juice of herbs gray locks disguised." In these days of manifold mysterious nostrums that gild the head of declining age and make glad the waste places on bald young masculine pates, let us read the simple receipts of the good old times:
"Take half a pound of Aqua Mellis in the Springtime of the Year, warm a little of it every morning when you rise in a Sawcer, and tie a little Spunge to a fine Box combe, and dip it in the water and therewith moisten the roots of the hair in Combing it, and it will grow long and thick and curled in a very short time."
"Take three spoonfuls of Honey and a good handful of Vine Twigs that twist like Wire, and beat them wel, and strain their Juyce into the Honey and anoynt the Bald Places therewith."
Here is what Captain Sam Ingersoll of Salem used, or at any rate had the formula of, in 1685:
"A Metson to make a mans heare groe when he is bald. Take sume fier flies & sum Redd wormes & black snayls and sum hume bees and dri them and pound them & mixt them in milk or water."
These washes were not so expensive as Hirsutus or Tricopherous, but quite as effective perhaps. There were hair-dyes, too, "to make hair grow black though any other color," and the leaf that holds this precious instruction is sadly worn and spotted with various tinted inks, as though the words had been often read and copied:
"Take a little Aqua Fortis, put therein a groat or sixpence, as to the quantity of the aforesaid water, then set both to dissolve before the fire, then dip a small Spunge in the said water, and wet your beard or hair therewith, but touch not the skin."
Hair-dressers also improved on nature. William Warden, a wig maker in King Street, Boston, respectfully informed the ladies of that town that he would "colour the hair on the head from a Red or any other Disagreable Colour to a Dark Brown or Black."
It did not matter long to our forefathers whether these hair-dyes dyed, or hair-restorers restored, for a fashion hated by some of the early Puritans as a choice device of Satan—the fashion of wig-wearing—was to revolutionize the matter of masculine hair. The question of wigs was a difficult one to settle, since the ministers themselves could not agree. John Wilson and Cotton Mather wore them, but Rev. Mr. Noyes launched denunciations at them from the pulpit and the Apostle Eliot delivered many a blast against "prolix locks with boiling zeal," and he stigmatized them as a "luxurious feminine protexity," but yielded sadly later in life to the fact that the "lust for wigs is become insuperable." The legislature of Massachusetts also denounced periwigs in 1675, but all in vain.
They were termed by one author "artificial deformed Maypowles fit to furnish her that in a Stage play should represent some Hagge of Hell," and other choice epithets were applied. To learn how these "Horrid Bushes of Vanity" could be hated, let us hear the pages of Judge Sewall's diary:
"1701. Having last night heard that Joshua Willard had cut off his hair (a very full head of hair) and put on a Wigg, I went to him this morning. Told his mother what I came about and she call'd him. I enquired of him what Extremity had forced him to put off his own Hair and put on a Wigg? He answered none at all. But said that his Hair was streight and that it parted behinde. Seem'd to argue that men might as well shave their hair off their head, as off their face. I answered men were men before they had any hair on their faces (half of man-kind never have any). God seems to have ordain'd our Hair as a Test, to see whether we can bring out to be content at his finding: or whether we would be our own Carvers, Lords, and come no more at Him. If we disliked our Skin or Nails; tis no Thanks to us for all that we cut them not off.... He seem'd to say would leave off his Wigg when his hair was grown. I spake to his Father of it a day or two after. He thank'd me that had discoursed his Son, and told me when his Hair was grown to cover his ears he promised to leave off his Wigg. If he had known it would have forbidden him."
At a later day, though it was "gravaminous," Sewall would not go to hear the bewigged Joshua preach, but attended another meeting. The Judge frequently states his annoyance at the universally wigged condition of New England.
I never read of these wig-wearing times without fresh amaze at the manner in which our sensible ancestors disfigured themselves. We read such advertisements of mountebank head-gear as this, from the Boston News Letter of August 14, 1729:
"Taken from the shop of Powers Mariott Barber, a light Flaxen Naturall Wigg Parted from the forehead to the Crown. The Narrow Ribband is of a Red Pinck Colour. The Caul is in Rows of Red Green & White."
Twenty shillings reward was offered for this gay wig, and "if it be offered for sale to any it is desired they wont stop it." Grafton Fevergrure, the peruke-maker at the sign of the Black Wigg, lost a "Light Flaxen Natural Wigg with a Peach-Blossom-coloured Ribband." In 1755 the house of barber Coes, of Marblehead, was broken into, and eight brown and three grizzle wigs were stolen; some of these had "feathered tops," some were bordered with red ribbon, some with purple. In 1754 James Mitchel had white wigs and "grizzels." He asked L20 O. T. for the best. "Light Grizzels are L15, dark Grizzels are L12 10s." Under date of 1731 we read of the loss of "a horsehair bobwig," and another with crown hair, each with gray ribbon, an Indian hair bobwig with a light ribbon, and a goat's hair natural wig with red and white ribbons.
The "London Magazine" gave in 1753 a list of curious names of wigs: "The pigeons wing, the comet, the cauliflower, the royal bird, the staircase, the ladder, the brush, the wild boars back, the temple, the rhinoceros, the crutch, the negligent, the chancellor, the out-bob, the long-bob, the half-natural, the chain-buckle, the corded buckle, the detached buckle, the Jasenist bob, the drop wigg, the snail back, the spinage-seed, the artichoke."
Hawthorne's list of New England wigs was shorter: "The tie, the brigadier, the spencer, the albemarle, the major, the ramillies, the grave full-bottom, and the giddy feather-top." To these let me add the campaign, the neck-lock, the bob, the lavant, the vallaney, the drop-wig, the buckle-wig, the bag-wig, the Grecian fly, the peruke, the beau-peruke, the long-tail, the bob-tail, the fox-tail, the cut-wig, the tuck-wig, the twist-wig, the scratch. Sydney says the name campaign was applied to a wig which was imported from France in 1702, and was made very full and curled eighteen inches to the front. This date cannot be correct, when we find John Winthrop writing in 1695 for "two wiggs one a campane, the other short." The Ramillies wig had a long plaited tail, with a big bow at the top of the braid and a small one at the bottom. It would be idle to attempt to describe all these wigs, how they swelled at the sides, and turned under in rolls, and rose in puffs, and then shrank to a small close wig that vanished at Revolutionary times in powdered natural hair and a queue of ribbon, a bag, or an eel-skin, and finally gave way to cropped hair "a-la-Brutus or a-la-Titus," as a Boston hair-dresser advertised in the year 1800.
Not only did gentlemen wear wigs, but children, servants, prisoners, sailors, and soldiers also; as early certainly as 1716 the fashion was universal. So great was the demand for this false head-gear, that wigs were made of goat-hair and horse-hair, as well as human hair. The cost of dressing and caring for wigs became a heavy item of expense to the wearer, and income to the barber; often eight or ten pounds a year were paid for the care of a single wig. Wigmakers' materials were expensive also—"wig ribans, cauls, curling pipes, sprigg wyers, and wigg steels;" and were advertised in vast numbers that show the universal prevalence of the fashion.
By the beginning of this century, women—having powdered and greased and pulled their hair almost off their heads—were glad to wear their remaining locks a-la-Flora or a-la-Virginia, or to wear wigs to simulate these styles. We find Eliza Southgate Bowne writing thus to her mother from Boston in the year 1800:
"... Now Mamma what do you think I am going to ask for? A WIG. Eleanor Coffin has got a new one just like my hair and only 5 dollars. I must either cut my hair or have one. I cannot dress it at all stylish. Mrs. Coffin bought Eleanor's and says that she will write to Mrs. Sumner to get me one just like it. How much time it will save—in one year! We could save it in pins and paper, besides the trouble. At the Assembly I was quite ashamed of my head, for nobody had long hair. If you will consent to my having one do send me over a 5 dollar bill by the post immediately after you receive this, for I am in hopes to have it for the next Assembly—do send me word immediately if you can let me have one."
This persuasive appeal was successful, for frequent references to the wig appear in later letters.
Though false teeth and the fashion of filling the teeth were known even by the ancient Egyptians, the science of dentistry is a modern one. But little care of the teeth was taken in early colonial days, and the advice given for their preservation was very simple:
"If you will keep your teeth from rot, plug, or aking, wash the mouth continually with Juyce of Lemons, and afterwards rub your teeth with a Sage Leaf and Wash your teeth after meat with faire water. To cure Tooth Ach. 1. Take Mastick and chew it in your mouth until it is as soft as Wax, then stop your teeth with it, if hollow, there remaining till it's consumed, and it wil certainly cure you. 2. The tooth of a dead man carried about a man presently suppresses the pains of the Teeth."
I suppose this latter ghoulish cure would not affect the teeth of a woman; if, however, a seventeenth or eighteenth century dame could cure the toothache simply with a plug of mastic, she was much to be envied by her degenerate nineteenth-century sister with her long dentist's bill.
If we can believe Josselyn, writing in 1684, New England women, then as now, lost their teeth at an early age. He speaks of them as "pitifully Tooth shaken." He recommended to relieve their misery a compound of brimstone, gunpowder, and butter, to be "rubbed on the mandible." This colonial remedy is still employed on New England farms. Burnaby, writing in 1759, said that New England dames had universally and even proverbially very indifferent teeth. The Abbe Robin says they were toothless at eighteen or twenty years of age, and attributes this premature disfigurement to tea-drinking and the eating of warm bread.
When we read the composition of the tooth-powders and dentifrices used in early colonial days, we wonder that they had any teeth left to scour. Here is Mr. Ferene's "rare Dentifrice:"
"First take eight ounces of Irios roots, also four ounces of Pomistone, and eight ounces of Cutel Bone, also eight ounces of Mother of Pearl, and eight ounces of Coral, and a pound of Brown Sugar Candy, and a pound of Brick if you desire to make them red; but he did oftener make them white, and then instead of the Brick did take a pound of fine Alabaster; all this being thoroughly beaten and sifted through a fine searse the powder is then ready prepar'd to make up in a past which must be done as follows:
To make the Said Powders into a past.
Take a little Gum Dragant and lay it in steep twelve hours, in Orange flower water or Damask Rose Water; and when it is dissolved take the sweet Gum and grind it on a Marble Stone with the aforesaid Powder, and mixing some crums of white bread it will come into a past, the which you may make Dentifrices, of what shape or fashion you please, but long rowles is the most commodious for your use."
Just fancy scouring your teeth with a commodious roll of cuttle-bone, brick-dust, and pumice-stone!
Another tooth-powder was composed of coral, Portugal snuff, Armenian bole, "ashes of good tobacco which has been burnt," and gum myrrh; and ground up "broken pans"—coarse earthenware might be substituted for the coral.
A very popular and much advertised tooth-wash was called "Dentium Conservator." It was made and sold in New England by the manufacturer and vendor of Bryson's Famous Bug Liquid—not an alluring companionship. This person also "removed Stumps and unsound Teeth with a dexterity peculiar to Himself at the Sign on the Leapord." There were also rival Essences of Pearl advertised, each equally eulogized and disparaged; "Infallible Sivit rendering the teeth white as alabaster tho' they be black as Coal;" and "Very Neat Hawksbill and Key Draught Teeth Pullers." These key-draught teeth-pullers were one of the cruellest instruments of torture of the day, often breaking the jaw-bone, and always causing unutterable anguish. Old Zabdiel Boylston advertised in the News Letter, in 1712, "Powder to refresh the Gums & whiten the Teeth." There were also sold "tooth-sopes, tooth-blanchs, tooth-rakes."
I cannot find any notice of the sale of "teeth brushes" till nearly Revolutionary times. Perhaps the colonists used, as in old England, little brushes made of "dentissick root" or mallow, chewed into a fibrous swab.
I have seen no advertisements that strike a greater chill than the scanty notices of early dentists and dentistry that appear at the latter part of the past century. The glory of having a Revolutionary patriot for a workman cannot soften the hard plainness of speech of this advertisement in the Boston Evening Post of September 26, 1768:
"Whereas many Persons are so unfortunate as to lose their Fore Teeth by Accident or Otherways to their great Detriment not only in looks but in speaking both in public and private. This is to inform all such that they may have them replaced with Artificial Ones that look as well as the Natural and answer the End of Speaking by Paul Revere Goldsmith near the head of Dr. Clarkes wharf. All Persons who have had false Teeth Fixed by Mr. Jos Baker Surgeon Dentist and They have got loose as they will in Time may have them fastened by above said Revere who learnt the method of fixing them from Mr. Baker."
It will be remarked that these teeth were only to display and talk with, and were but sorry helps in eating. This very appalling advertisement from the Massachusetts Centinel gives a clue to the way in which missing teeth were replaced: "Live Teeth. Those Persons inclined to dispose of Live Teeth may apply to Templeman." Or this from the Connecticut Courant of August 17, 1795: "A generous price paid for Human Front Teeth perfectly sound, by Dr. Skinner." These "live teeth" were inserted in other and vainer, if not more squeamish persons' mouths, by a process of "in-grafting" which was much in vogue. There were few New England dentists eo nomine until well into this century—but three in Boston in 1816. As silversmith and engraver Revere also set teeth, so Isaac Greenwood, who waited at their houses on all who required his dental services, also made umbrellas, sold cane for hoop petticoats, and made dice and chessmen. Wm. Greenwood pulled teeth and sold pianos; and Dr. Flagg, a surgeon dentist, advertised in 1797 that he would get hand-organs in Europe suitable for church use. John Templeman, the live-teeth purchaser, was a broker as well as a dentist; and Whitlock, the actor, did a thriving dental business, and doubtless carried his "neat hawksbill or key-draught tooth-wrench" to the play-house, and used it, to his own profit and his fellow-townsmen's misery, between the acts.
Though the Pilgrim women were doubtless as simple at their toilet as they were in their dress, the sudden growth of the colony in wealth brought to their daughters, besides variety and richness of dress, a love of cosmetics. Dunton tells positively of one painted face in Boston in 1686. He said, "to hide her age she paints, and to hide her painting dares hardly laugh." One New England minister thus reproved and warned the women of his congregation: "At the resurrection of the Just there will no such sight be met as the Angels carrying Painted Ladies in their arms."
In the inventory of one of the early Cambridge settlers, Robert Daniel, is found the item "two Ceruse Jugs." Ceruse was a preparation of white lead with which women then painted their faces, and I think these ceruse jugs were part of the paraphernalia of my Lady Daniel's toilet-table.
With the advent of newspapers came various advertisements that showed the vanity of our forbears, the "collusions of women, their oyntments and potticary drugs, and all their slibber sawces."
"An Excellent Wash for the Skin which entirely taketh out all Freckles Moath & Sunburn from the Face Neck & Hands, which with Frequent Use adds a most Agreeable Lustre to the Complexion, softens & beautifies the Skin to Admiration And is generally used and approved of by most of the Gentry in London of both Sexes."
"Best Face Powder which gives a fine Bloom to the Face which answers all the intents of White Paint without that Pernicious effect that attends Paint. Also a Composition to take off Superficious Hair."
The latter clause shows that our great-grandmothers were quite au fait with the nostrums of the present day, with "pargetting, painting, slicking, glazing, and renewing old rivelled faces."
Many pretty rules may be found in old books and diaries, that are of New England, rules "to make the face fair" and to "make sweet the mouth."
"Take the flowers of Rosemary and seeth them in VVhite VVine, with which wash your face, and if you drink thereof it wil make you have a sweet breath."
Maids were also told to gather the sweet May dew from the grass in the early morning to make a fair face, and like Sir Thomas Overbury's milkmaid, "put all face-physic out of countenance." And pretty it were to see Cicely, Peg, and Joan in petticoat and sack or smock, each with a "faire linnen cloath" a-dipping her rosy face in the fresh May dew. Could this have been but a sly trick to get the lasses from their beds betimes? We know the early hour at which Madam Pepys had to bathe her mighty handsome face in the beautifying spring dew.
Patches were worn as eagerly, apparently, by Boston as by London belles. Whitefield complained of the jewels, patches, and gay apparel donned in New England. In scores of old newspapers after 1760 appear notices of the sale of "Face Patches," "Patch for Ladies," "Gum Patches," etc., and the frequency of advertisement would indicate a popular and ready sale.
With regard to the bathing habits of our ancestors but little can be said, and but little had best be said. Charles Francis Adams writes, with witty plainness, "If among personal virtues cleanliness be indeed that which ranks next to godliness, then judged by the nineteenth century standards, it is well if those who lived in the eighteenth century had a sufficiency of the latter quality to make good what they lacked of the former." He says there was not a bath-room in the town of Quincy prior to the year 1820. And of what use would pitchers or tubs of water have been in bed-rooms in the winter time, when if exposed over night solid ice would be found therein in the morning? The washing of linen in New England homes was done monthly; it is to be hoped the personal baths were more frequent, even under the apparent difficulties of accomplishment. I must state, in truth, though with deep mortification, that I cannot find in inventories even of Revolutionary times the slightest sign of the presence of balneary appurtenances in bed-rooms; not even of ewers, lavers, and basins, nor of pails and tubs. As petty pieces of furniture, such as stools, besoms, framed pictures, and looking-glasses are enumerated, this conspicuous absence of what we deem an absolute necessity for decency speaks with a persistent and exceedingly disagreeable voice of the unwashed condition of our ancestors, a condition all the more mortifying when we consider their exceeding external elegance in dress. This total absence of toilet appliances does not of course render impossible a special lavatory or bath-room in the house, or the daily importation to the bed-rooms of hot-water cans, twiggen bottles, bath-tubs, and basins from other portions of the house; but even that equipment would show a lack of adequate bathing facilities. Nor do the tiny toilet jugs and basins of Staffordshire ware that date from the first part of this century point to any very elaborate ablutions.
But these be parlous words an we wish to honor the memory of our New England grandsires; and let us remember that these negative toilet traits were not peculiar to them, but dated from the fatherland. A century ago the English were said to be the only European people that had the unenviable distinction of going to the dinner-table without previously washing or "dressing" the hands.
One very unpleasant cosmetic, or rather detergent, was in constant use, however, throughout colonial times—wash-balls. They were imported as early as 1693 in company with scented and plain hair-powder. In 1771, "Gentlemen's Fine Washballs" were advertised in Boston, and "Scented Marbled Washballs." Other varieties of these substitutes for soap were Chemical, Greek, Venice, Marseilles, camphor, ambergris, and Bologna wash-balls. This is a rule given in olden times for the "Composition for Best Wash Balls:"
"Take forty pounds of Rice in fine powder, twenty eight pounds of fine flour, twenty eight pounds of starch powder, twelve pounds of White Lead, and four pounds of Orris Root in fine powder but no Whitening. Mix the whole well together and pass it through a fine sieve, then place it in a dry place and keep it for use. Great care must be taken that the Flour be not musty, in which case the Balls will in time crack and fall to pieces. To this composition may be added Dutch pink or brown fine damask powder according to the colour required when the Wash Balls are quite dry."
The effect of so large an amount of white lead must have been felt and shown most deleteriously upon the complexion of the user of this disagreeable compound.
"Ipswitch balls"—also the mode—were more pleasing:
"Take a pound of fine White Castill Sope; shave it thin in a pinte of Rose water, and let it stand two or three dayes, then pour all the water from it, and put to it a halfe a pinte of fresh water, and so let it stand one whole day, then pour out that, and put to it halfe a pinte more and let it stand a night more, then put to it halfe an ounce of powder called sweet Marjoram, a quarter of an ounce of Winter Savory, two or three drops of the Oil of Spike and the Oil of Cloves, three grains of musk, and as much Ambergreese, work all these together in a fair Mortar with the powder of an Almond Cake dryed and beaten as small as fine flowre, so rowl it round in your hands in Rose water."
The favorite soap, if one can judge from importations, was "Brown or Gray Bristol Sope," but this was not used by many in the community. The manufacture of home-made soap, of soft soap, was one of the universal, most important, and most trying of all the household industries. The refuse grease of the family cooking was stowed away in an unsavory mass till early spring, and the wood ashes from the fireplaces were also stored. When the soap-making took place, the ashes were placed in a leach tub out of doors. This tub was sometimes made from the section of the bark of a birch tree; it was set loosely in a circular groove in a base of wood, or preferably of stone. Water was poured on the ashes, and the lye trickled from an outlet cut in the groove. The boiling of the lye and grease was an ill-smelling process, which was also carried on out of doors, and required an enormous amount of labor and patience. It was judged that when the compound was strong enough to hold up an egg, the soap was done. This strong soft soap was kept in a wooden "soap box" in the kitchen, and used for toilet as well as household purposes.
Dearly did the English and the New English love perfumes. They made little rolls of sweet-scented powders and gums and oils, "as large as pease," that they placed between rose-leaves and burned on coals in skillets or in little perfume-holders to scent the room. They burned on their open hearths mint and rose-leaves with sugar. They took the "maste of sweet Apple trees gathered betwixt two Lady days," and with gums and perfumes made bracelets and pomanders, "to keep to one a sweet smell." They made cakes of damask rose-leaves and pulvilio, civit, and musk, of "linet and ambergreese," to perfume their linen chests, for lavender thrived not in New England. The duties of the still-room were the most luxury-bearing of all the old household industries. Its very name brings to us sweet scents of Araby, as it brought to our forbears the most charming and nice of all their domestic occupations. But these duties were not easy nor expeditious work, nor did all the work begin in the still-room. Faithfully did dames and maids gather in field and garden, from early spring to chilly autumn, precious stores for their stills and limbecks. In every garret, from every rafter, slowly swayed great susurrous bunches of withered herbs and simples awaiting expression and distillation, and dreaming perhaps of the summer breezes that had blown through them in the sunny days of their youth in their meadow homes. In many an old garret now bare of such stores "mints still perfume the air;" the very walls exhale "the homesick smell of dry forgotten herbs."
From these old stills, these retorts and mills, came not only perfumes and oils and beauty-waters, but half the medicines and diet-drinks, all the "kitchen-physicke" of the domestic and even the professional pharmacopaeia.
Perfumes were also imported; we frequently find advertised "Royal Honey Water, an Excellent Perfume, good against Deafness, and to make the hair grow as the directions Sets forth. 1s 6d per bottle and proportionate by Ounce." Old Zabdiel Boylston had it in 1712. Spirit of Benjamin was also for toilet uses. This was the base of the well-known scent known as Queen Elizabeth's Perfume. It was combined with sweet marjoram. Lavender water was apparently a great favorite for importation, and we find notices of lavender bottles with shagreen cases.
We find in newspaper days many advertisements of other toilet articles such as nail-knippers, pick-tooth cases, silk and worsted powder-puffs, deerskin powder bags, lip-salve, ivory scratch-backs, flesh brushes, curling and pinching tongs, all showing a strongly crescent vanity and love of luxury.
RAIMENT AND VESTURE
We know definitely the dress of the settlers of Massachusetts Bay, for the inventory of the "Apparell for 100 men" furnished by the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1628 is still in existence. From it we learn that enough clothing was provided to supply to each emigrant four "peare of shewes," four "peare of stockings," a "peare Norwich garters," four shirts, two "sutes dublet and hose of leather lynd with oil'd skyn leather, ye hose & dublett with hookes & eyes," a "sute of Norden dussens or hampshire kersies lynd, the hose with skins, dublets with lynen of gilford or gedlyman kerseys," four bands, two handkerchiefs, a "wastcoate of greene cotton bound about with red tape," a leather girdle, a Monmouth cap, a "black hatt lyned in the browes with lether," five "Red knit capps mill'd about 5d a piece," two pair of gloves, a mandillion "lyned with cotton," one pair of breeches and waistcoat, and a "lether sute of Dublett & breeches of oyled lether," and one pair of leather breeches and "drawers to serve to weare with both their other sutes."
This surely was a liberal outfit save perhaps in the matter of shirts and handkerchiefs, and doubtless intended to last many years. Though simple it was far from being a sombre one. Scarlet caps and green waistcoats bound with red made cheerful bits of color alongside the leather breeches and buff doublets on Salem shore.
The apparel of the Piscataquay planters, furnished in 1635, varied somewhat from that just enumerated. Their waistcoats were scarlet, and they had cassocks of cloth and canvas, instead of doublets. Though scarce more than a lustrum had passed since the settlement on the shores of the Bay, long hose like the Florentine hose had become entirely old-fashioned and breeches were the wear. Coats—"lynd coats, papous coats, and moose coats"—had also been invented, or at any rate dubbed with that name and assumed. Cassocks, doublets, and jerkins varied little in shape, and the names seem to have been interchangeable. Mandillions, said by some authorities to be cloaks, were in fact much like the doublets, and were worn apparently as an over-garment or great-coat. The name appears not in inventories after the earliest years.
Though simplicity of dress was one of the cornerstones of the Puritan Church, the individual members did not yield their personal vanity without many struggles. As soon as the colonies rallied from the first years of poverty and, above all, of comparative isolation, and a sequent tide of prosperity and wealth came rolling in, the settlers began to pick up in dress, to bedeck themselves, to send eagerly to the mother country for new petticoats and doublets that, when proudly donned, did not seem simple and grave enough for the critical eyes of the omnipotent New England magistrates and ministers. Hence restraining and simplifying sumptuary laws were passed. In 1634, in view of some new fashions which were deemed by these autocrats to be immodest and extravagant, this order was sent forth by the General Court:
"That no person either man or woman shall hereafter make or buy any apparel, either woolen or silk or linen with any lace on it, silver, gold, or thread, under the penalty of forfeiture of said clothes. Also that no person either man or woman shall make or buy any slashed clothes other than one slash in each sleeve and another in the back; also all cut-works, embroideries, or needlework cap, bands, and rails are forbidden hereafter to be made and worn under the aforesaid penalty; also all gold or silver girdles, hatbands, belts, ruffs, beaverhats are prohibited to be bought and worn hereafter."
Liberty was thriftily given the planters, however, to "wear out such apparel as they are now provided of except the immoderate great sleeves, slashed apparel, immoderate great rails and long wings," which latter were apparently beyond Puritanical endurance.
In 1639 "immoderate great breeches, knots of ryban, broad shoulder bands and rayles, silk ruses, double ruffles and capes" were added to the list of tabooed garments.