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The Progress of the Nation page 16


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During the long reign of Elizabeth foreign trade made gigantic strides. Among the very first acts of this queen was one to abolish the restriction of English merchants to English bottoms in the transport of goods. The Act states that this restriction had provoked the natural adoption of like restrictions by foreign princes, This was the first acknowledgment of the mischief of meddling with the freedom of trade; and our foreign trade had now acquired an importance which demanded respect. With the Netherlands alone our trade was extraordinary, its value amounting to nearly two millions and a half sterling annually; and we find at this time the first mention of insurance of goods on their voyage. In 1562 we hear also of that detestable commerce the slave trade, which was introduced by John Hawkins, so well known afterwards as the daring compeer of Drake and Frobisher, and one of the heroic conquerors of the Armada. Hawkins carried out English goods, called at the Guinea Coast, and took in slaves, sailed to Hispaniola, and brought thence sugar, ginger, hides, and pearls.

During the reign of Elizabeth the many voyages which. were made in order to discover a north-west passage to India, led to a more intimate knowledge of the North American coasts. In these Frobisher, Cavendish, and Davis distinguished themselves. From 1576 to the end of Elizabeth's reign, Raleigh and his step-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, made repeated attempts to colonise North America, and particularly Virginia - so called in honour of Elizabeth - but in vain. Equally strenuous and unsuccessful efforts were made to open a direct sea communication, with India by the English; and it was not till the close of Elizabeth's reign that the incorporation of an East India Company, destined to establish that trade, was effected. The charter was granted by Elizabeth in 1600. Elizabeth also chartered a company in 1579 for the exclusive right of trading to all the countries of the Baltic.

As regarded the domestic manufactures of this period, the woollen manufactures were the most important, and extended themselves greatly on account of the foreign demand. This manufacture had to contend with many old charters and restrictions which were introduced to monopolise the practice of it to certain towns and persons; but these were gradually broken through after much contest, and people in both town and country were allowed to make cloths and other woollen goods. Originally London, Norwich, Bristol, Gloucester, and Coventry were the privileged places. Essex became a clothing county; but by degrees the trade spread into those quarters where it still prevails. Berks, Oxford, Surrey, and Yorkshire made coarse kerseys for exportation; Wales manufactured fringes and coarse cloths; but Tiverton, Bridgewater, Chard, and other towns of Wilts, Gloucester, and Somerset were famous for their broad-cloths; those of Kidderminster, Bromwich, Coventry, Worcester, Eversham, Droitwich, as also of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex, were in esteem. Manchester and Halifax were already noted for rugs and fringes, Norfolk for coverlets, and Lincolnshire and Chester for what were called "cottons," but which were a species of woollen. There was much complaint at that day of the adulteration of these fabrics by intermixture of inferior yarns, and by not taking the proper means to prevent them running up on being exposed to wet. Norwich had manufactures of woollen different to ordinary cloth, in which it excelled all other places; and in Elizabeth's reign the Norwich manufacturers introduced new kinds under the name of Norwich satins and fustians. The art of dyeing received a new impulse and new colours from the discovery of Brazil and other distant countries. Soap-making was also introduced, soap having before 1524 been chiefly imported. Many new manufacturing processes, both in weaving, dyeing, and cleaning cloths, were brought over by the refugees from the Netherlands, driven hither by the Spanish persecutions. During Elizabeth's reign the smelting of iron, which had been chiefly carried on in Kent, Sussex, and Surrey, became restricted there on account of the consumption of wood. Copper mines and alum pits were discovered in the time of Elizabeth, in Cumberland and Yorkshire, which contributed to the extension of the manufacturing arts.

Sir Thomas Gresham, the great financial leader of the day, although a protege of the Duke of Northumberland's, -was received with great favour by Elizabeth on her accession. The great merchant then gave her advice - the following of which may well be called an epoch in the history of this country. He told her that all the debased coin should be converted into fine coin of a certain weight; that their monopoly should not be restored to the Steelyard merchants; that licences should be granted as seldom as possible; that she should incur no debt, or as little debt as possible, beyond the seas; and that she should keep her credit with her own merchants, as they would be her best and most powerful friends. These wise measures of reform were gradually carried out. Elizabeth probably perceived their value in a great measure, but she could not find it in her heart to act altogether with the necessary self-denial and liberality. Thus, she would not yield her power to reward and punish favourites by means of special grants and licences. The monopoly of sweet wines which Essex enjoyed is an instance of her influence in this respect.

Gresham himself superintended the restoration of the coinage, and his advice with regard to the Steelyard merchants was also carried into practice. It was to him that the merchants of that day owed their first place of meeting for the transaction of business; before that, being "constrained either to endure all extremities of weather, viz., heat and cold, snow and rain, or else to shelter themselves in shops." He built, therefore, a house for them, which the queen visited in 1570 and called the Royal Exchange. This building, like many others belonging to the City companies, was destroyed in the great fire. It was designed after the model of the Bourse of Antwerp, and was Flemish also in its architect, its workmen, and its materials.

During this century much progress was made in the improvement of London. Henry VIII. passed various Acts for the paving of the thoroughfares, which before were horrible sloughs, "very foul and full of pits."

The commerce of Scotland during this century was affected by precisely the same circumstances as that of England.

MANNERS AND CUSTOMS

The public amusements of the nation underwent as great a revolution during this century as its religion or its literature. The fall of the Church and the introduction of fire-arms were fatal to the spirit of chivalry, and the whole host of religious pageants and plays. Henry VIII. and Elizabeth exerted themselves to prolong the exercises of chivalry, but they had lost their real soul, and fell lifeless to the ground. In vain was the tournament of the Cloth of Gold, or the jousts at which Elizabeth presided at Greenwich. They were become mere mockeries of what once had been the all-engrossing contests of knightly honour. In vain did they endeavour to keep alive the long bow and the feats of archery. The musket and the sportsman's gun had made the bow and quiver mere playthings. The tournament gave way to the joust, in which the contest was conducted with headless lances, and fighting at the barriers with blunted axes; and that gave way to "riding at the ring," in which the gentlemen did not run their lances through theii antagonists, but through a ring suspended for the purpose. The last of the ancient exercises was the contest with the sword and buckler; but the sword was deprived of both edge and point; and as the combatants were not allowed to lunge, but only to strike, the practice was perfectly harmless. In the time of Henry VIII., however, the art of fencing was introduced; and in the time of Elizabeth the use of the rapier and the deadly thrust rendered the acquirement of the art of fence a matter of the first importance.

But though the chivalric exercises went out in this age, never was the love of pageant and display more alive. The revival of the Greek literature brought forward a crowd of gods and goddesses, who figured in public processions and galas; and the strangest allegoric absurdities were gazed upon by grave princes and their counsellors, as well as by the ladies, with all the enthusiasm of country lads and lasses gaping at a strolling theatre or a puppet-show.

"We have described the strange masquerading and allegoric pageants got up in London for Queen Mary and Elizabeth; and any one who will wade through worthy Laneham's description of the nineteen days in which Queen Bess was entertained at Kenilworth by Leicester, will find plenty of giants, distressed Ladies of the Lake, "salvage men," presents from Bacchus, Pomona, Ceres. &c., floating islands, and sham Arions riding on sham dolphins. More healthy but little less romantic were the holiday sports which had survived the Church, and were mingled in by both princes, nobles, and people. The old Mystery did not for some time disappear before the secular drama, and the Coventry Play was played before Elizabeth at Kenilworth. May-day had its grand maypole still; and Henry VIII. did not disdain, on May-day, 1515, to go a-maying to Shooter's Hill, with his queen and his sister, the Queen-Dowager of France. May-day was also the great day of the milkmaids, who danced from door to door with a pyramid of plates on their heads. Stubbs - who, Puritan as he was, seems to have enjoyed what lie describes so well - gives us the following description of the amusements of the merry gentlemen of the Temple in those days: -

"First, all the wild heads of the parish covening together, choose them a grand captain of mischief, whom they ennoble with the title of My Lord of Misrule, and him they crown with great solemnity and adopt for their king. This king anointed chooseth for him twenty, forty, threescore, or a hundred lusty guts like to himself to wait upon his lordly majesty and to guard his noble person. Then every one of these his men he investeth with his liveries of green, yellow, or some other wanton colour. And, as though they were not gaudy enough, they bedeck themselves with scarfs, ribbons, and laces, hanged all over with gold rings, precious stones, and other jewels; this done, they tie about either leg twenty or forty bells, with rich handkerchiefs in their hands, and sometimes laid across over their shoulders and necks, borrowed for the most part of their pretty Mopsies and loving Bessies..... Thus all things set in order, then have they their hobby-horses, dragons, and other antics, together with their pipers and thundering drummers to strike up the devil's dance withal; then march these heathen company towards the church and churchyard, their pipers piping, their drummers thundering, their stumps dancing, their bells jingling, their handkerchiefs swinging about their heads like madmen, their hobby-horses and other monsters skirmishing amongst the throng; and in this sort they go to the church (though the minister be at prayer or preaching), dancing and swinging their handkerchiefs over their heads in the church like devils incarnate, with such a confused noise that no man can hear his own voice. Then the foolish people they look, they stare, they laugh, they fleer, and mount upon forms and pews to see these goodly pageants solemnised in this sort. Then, after this, about the church they go again and again, and so forth into the churchyard, where they have commonly their summer halls, their bowers, arbours, and banqueting houses set up, wherein they. feast, banquet, and dance all that day, and peradventure all that night, too. And thus these terrestrial furies spend the Sabbath-day in the country."

To relate all the jollity with which Christmas was celebrated is beyond our space. The Christmas carols with which the waits awoke all the sleeping people for a fortnight before; the yule-log dragged into the hall and piled on the fire, the boar's-head feast, with plum-pudding and mince-pies, and all the dances and games, were as much in fashion as in the days of the ancient Church. Plough Monday, Valentine Day, Easter and "Whitsuntide, St. John's Eve, and all the charities of Maunday Thursday, were still maintained. Even Palm Sunday, when the figure of Christ went on its procession mounted on a wooden ass, resisted the Reformation till the year 154S, or nearly to the end of the reign of Edward VI.

The drama, which was now shaping itself into freedom and splendour under such men as Shakespeare and Marlowe, was yet conducted in a style very rude. The theatres were mostly of wood; the actors were rarely arrayed in proper costume; women's parts were represented by boys; any scenery which the play had, remained, like a picture on a country fair booth, through the whole piece. The aristocratic frequenters sate on the stage, for there were no boxes or dress-circle, and the commonalty sate on stools and enjoyed their pipes and beer during the performance. What was worse, the theatre had to contend with the bear-garden, bull-baiting, and cock-fighting in the affections of the public, even the highest portion of it.

As Sunday had been the great day of the Church plays or Mysteries, so Sunday was the chief day of the theatre, which brought it into disrepute with the serious portion of the community; and when there was bull-baiting, the theatre was closed that it might not interfere. Queen Elizabeth was especially fond of the bear-garden, and that sport was consequently included by Leicester in the recreations which he provided for her at Kenilworth. In truth, bear-gardens, cock-pits, bowling-greens, tennis-courts, dicing-houses, taverns, smoking ordinaries, and the like, abounded, giving us a fair idea of the grade of taste of that age. Hunting and hawking were still pastimes of the sentry, and horse-racing became a great rage. The first notice we have of this latter pastime is on the occasion before mentioned, when Henry went a-Maying in 1515; after which it is said that he and Ms brother-in-law, the Duke of Suffolk, diverted themselves by "racing on great coursers." In fact, the taste of this remarkable age was of a very low type - sensual, empty, and vulgar; of a stamp, indeed, which none but the lowest of our present population could for a moment endure: a fact showing in a marked degree the immense advance since then of refinement in mind and in morals. A people any purer and more humane could not, in truth, have existed amid the daily spectacles which surrounded them: the heads of traitors stuck on gate and bridge, the bloody execution of queens and nobles, the -crowds of wretches dangling from a thousand gibbets, the flaming stake, the bran ding-iron, the scourge, and the stocks, were the most familiar objects to a people who required a Shakespeare to interlard his finest tragedies with harlequins and fools.

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Pictures for The Progress of the Nation page 16

A Trial for High Treason
A Trial for High Treason >>>>
The Star Chamber
The Star Chamber >>>>
William Tyndale
William Tyndale >>>>
Branding Iron
Branding Iron >>>>
Permanent Pillory
Permanent Pillory >>>>
A Friar
A Friar >>>>
Sanctuary, Westminster
Sanctuary, Westminster >>>>
Pulpit Hour-glass
Pulpit Hour-glass >>>>
Bishop of the Reformed Church
Bishop of the Reformed Church >>>>
Luther Denouncing the Romish Ritual
Luther Denouncing the Romish Ritual >>>>
Destruction of the Cross in Cheapside
Destruction of the Cross in Cheapside >>>>
Punishment of the Pillory
Punishment of the Pillory >>>>
Punishment of the Stocks
Punishment of the Stocks >>>>
Doing Penance in a Church
Doing Penance in a Church >>>>
Cathedral of Geneva
Cathedral of Geneva >>>>
Arms of Geneva
Arms of Geneva >>>>
Christs Hospital
Christs Hospital >>>>
Shakespeares Birthplace
Shakespeares Birthplace >>>>
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare >>>>
Shakespeares Plays
Shakespeares Plays >>>>
Globe Theatre. Bankside
Globe Theatre. Bankside >>>>
Music Book and Musical Instrument belonging to Queen Elizabeth
Music Book and Musical Instrument belonging to Queen Elizabeth >>>>
Tudor period
Tudor period >>>>
Helmingham Hall
Helmingham Hall >>>>
Gate House
Gate House >>>>
Entrance from the Courtyard of Burghley House
Entrance from the Courtyard of Burghley House >>>>
Couch used by Mary Queen of Scots
Couch used by Mary Queen of Scots >>>>
Arras in Knowle House
Arras in Knowle House >>>>
Fire Dogs
Fire Dogs >>>>
Nursery Chair of James VI
Nursery Chair of James VI >>>>
Armour of the Reign of Henry VII. and Henry VIII.
Armour of the Reign of Henry VII. and Henry VIII. >>>>
Helmets and Headpieces
Helmets and Headpieces >>>>
Guards of the Reign of Henry VIII.
Guards of the Reign of Henry VIII. >>>>
Group of Weapons, &c., preserved in the Tower
Group of Weapons, &c., preserved in the Tower >>>>
Artillery of the Tudor period
Artillery of the Tudor period >>>>
Group of Arms of the Tudor period
Group of Arms of the Tudor period >>>>
Dandies of the time of Henry VII
Dandies of the time of Henry VII >>>>
Dress of the Commonalty in the time of Edward VI
Dress of the Commonalty in the time of Edward VI >>>>
Dress
Dress >>>>
Ladies Head-dress
Ladies Head-dress >>>>
Ordinary Costume of the days of Queen Mary
Ordinary Costume of the days of Queen Mary >>>>
Beards of the sixteenth Century
Beards of the sixteenth Century >>>>
Dress of a Lady, 1485
Dress of a Lady, 1485 >>>>
Head-dresses of the sixteenth Century
Head-dresses of the sixteenth Century >>>>
Female Costume, 1600
Female Costume, 1600 >>>>
Ordinary Costume, Time of Henry VIII.
Ordinary Costume, Time of Henry VIII. >>>>
A Courtier of Queen Besss Time.
A Courtier of Queen Besss Time. >>>>
Gentlemen of the Queens Chapel
Gentlemen of the Queens Chapel >>>>
Sovereign of Henry VII.
Sovereign of Henry VII. >>>>
Gold Real of Mary
Gold Real of Mary >>>>
Crown of Edward VI.
Crown of Edward VI. >>>>
Milled Sixpence of Elizabeth
Milled Sixpence of Elizabeth >>>>
George Noble of Henry VIII.
George Noble of Henry VIII. >>>>
The Ships of Columbus
The Ships of Columbus >>>>
A Ship of the Sixteenth Century
A Ship of the Sixteenth Century >>>>
Sir Thomas Gresham
Sir Thomas Gresham >>>>
State Coach of Queen Elizabeth
State Coach of Queen Elizabeth >>>>
Charing Cross and the Strand
Charing Cross and the Strand >>>>
Side-saddle of Queen Elizabeth
Side-saddle of Queen Elizabeth >>>>
Pack Horses of the Tudor period
Pack Horses of the Tudor period >>>>
A Statute Fair in the days of Henry VIII.
A Statute Fair in the days of Henry VIII. >>>>
Increase of London
Increase of London >>>>
Extent of London
Extent of London >>>>
Hunting the Hare
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