Progress of the Nation. page 10
We may imagine the feeling with which the sober and religious puritans beheld all this, and the proud contempt with which their strictures were received. When the civil war broke out, which was a war of religious reform as much as of political, the puritans displayed a grave manner, a sober-coloured dress, and chastened style of speech; and the cavaliers, in defiance and contempt, swore, drank, and indulged in debauchery all the more, to mark their superiority to the "sneaking roundhead dogs."
Charles endeavoured to restrain this loose arid indecent spirit, but it was too strong for him; and though the puritans put it effectually down during the commonwealth, it came back in a flood with the lewd arid ribald Charles II. Charles I. also introduced a more tasteful style of court pageants and festivities. Under James all the old fantastic masques and pageantries, in which heathen gods, goddesses, satyrs, giants, and the like prevailed. Charles gave to his pageantries a more classical character, and when the puritans came in they put them all down, along with Maypoles, and all the wakes, and church-ales, and the like, which James had encouraged by his u Book of Sports." The court festivals, so long as the monarchy remained, were marked by all the profusion, displays of jewellery, and of dresses of cloth of gold and embroidery, which prevailed in the Tudor times. The old-fashioned country life, in which the gentlemen hunted and hawked, and the ladies spent their leisure in giving bread to the poor and making condiments, preserves, and distilled waters, was rapidly deserted during the gay days of James and Charles, and the fortune-making of favourites.
Merchants and shopkeepers were-growing rich, though they still conducted their businesses in warehouses which would appear mean and miserable to our present city men., and in shops with open fronts, before which the master or one of his apprentices constantly paraded, crying, "What d'ye lack?" had their stately suburban houses, and vied with the nobles in their furniture and mode of living. The moral condition of the people of London at this period, according to all sorts of writers, was something inconceivably frightful. The apprentices, as we have seen, were a turbulent and excitable race, who had assumed a right to settle political matters, or to avenge any imagined attack on their privileges. At the cry of clubs, they seized their clubs and swords and rushed into the streets to ascertain what was amiss. They were easily led by their ringleaders against any body or any authority that was supposed to be invading popular rights. We have seen them surrounding the parliament house, demanding such measures as they pleased, and executing their notions of suitable chastisement of offenders by setting fire to Lauds house and breaking down the benches of the High Commission Court. They were equally ready to encounter and disperse the constabulary or the city guard, and to fight out their quarrels with the Templars, or others with whom they were at feud.
The riots of the apprentices, however, had generally something of a John-Bullish assertion of right and justice in them; but the streets and alleys of London were infested with an equally boisterous, and much more villainous crew of thieves and cut-purses. Pocket-picking was then, as now, taught as a science, and was carried to a wonderful perfection of dexterity. All kinds of rogueries were practised on country people, the memory of which remains yet in rural districts, and is still believed applicable to the metropolis. These vagabonds had their retreats about the Savoy and the brickkilns of Islington, but their great headquarters were in Whitefriars, called Alsatia, which possessed the right of sanctuary, and swarmed with debtors, thieves, bullies, and every species of miscreants, who were ready on an alarm, made by the sound of a horn, to turn out in mobs and defend their purlieus from constables and sheriffs' officers.
Walking the streets in the daytime was dangerous from the affrays often going on betwixt the apprentices and the students of the Temple, or between the butchers and weavers, or from the rude jostling and practical jokes of bullies and swash-bucklers; but at night there was no safety except under a strong guard. Then Alsatia, the Savoy, and the numerous other dens of vice and violence, poured forth their myrmidons, and after nine o'clock there was no safety for quiet passengers. If we add to this description the narrowness of the streets and alleys, the unpaved and filthy state of the streets, and undrained and ill-ventilated houses, London was anything at this period but an attractive place. The plague was a frequent visitant, and we are told that kites and ravens were much kept to devour the offal and filth of the streets, instead of scavengers. In the country things were not much better. The roads were terrible, and were infested by sturdy bands of robbers. In the neighbourhood of London, Finchley, Blackheath, Wimbledon, and Shooters Hill were places of well-known fame for daring highwaymen. It was high time for the puritans to come into power, and to put both town and country under a more wholesome discipline. Cromwell's soldiers, quartered in various parts of the metropolis, and his major-generals administering martial law in different parts of the country, soon altered the face of things. He shut up Spring Gardens, a place of nocturnal resort for assignations for traffickers in political corruption, and for various licentiousness; and instead of fellows prowling about the streets with sweetmeats in their pockets to kidnap children, and sell them to the plantations, he sent these scoundrels freely thither themselves. Amongst the gloomy features of this period is the relentless persecution of old women, under the belief that they were witches; a practice commenced by James, but continued by the puritans, who sent out Hopkins, the notorious witchfinder, who, in the years 1645 and 1646, traversed the country, condemning and putting to death hundreds of them, till he himself was accused of being a wizard, and was subjected to the same fate. From 1640 to the restoration, four thousand persons are said to have perished under charge of witchcraft. In Scotland this terrible practice was carried on with even aggravated cruelties, in order to extort confession.
Popular Sports and Pastimes
The sports of the aristocracy, gentry, and merchant citizens were much the same that they had been. Hunting was the favourite pastime of James, and therefore was not likely to be neglected by the country gentry. He was also fond of hawking, and kept alive that pastime, which was dying out, some time longer. Ball games had much superseded the jousts and tournaments of past times. Tennis retained its high favour, and billiards and pall-mall, or striking a ball through a ring suspended to a pole, were becoming fashionable. Bowling, cards, dice, dancing, masques, balls, and musical entertainments varied town life. The common people stuck to their foot-ball, quoits, pitching the bar, cricket, shovel-board,.bull and bear-baiting, and cock-fighting. The puritans put down May-games, Whit- sun-ales, morrice-dances, and all amusements that savoured of a catholic origin. They also humanely suppressed, as far as they could, the savage sports of bear and bull-baiting. Pride and Hewson killed all the bears at the bear-garden to put an end to that cruel pastime, and thence originated Butler's Hudibras. The bowling-greens of the English were famous, and horse-racing was much in vogue. In Scotland the reformation put to flight all sorts of games, dancing, and merrymakings, as sinful and unbecoming of Christians, and polemic discussions were the only excitements which varied the ascetic gloom.
Furniture and Domestic Embellishment
The interiors of houses were in this period greatly embellished, and the splendour of hangings of beds and windows had strikingly increased. Rich velvets and silks, embroidered with cloth of gold and cloth of silver, and coloured satins, of the most gorgeous hues, abounded, cushions of couches and chairs were equally costly, instead of the ancient tapestry, paper and leather hangings, richly stamped and gilt, covered the walls. The Flemish artists had been called in to paint the ceilings with historic or mythologic scenes, and on the walls hung the masterpieces of Flemish and Italian art. Carpets were beginning to supersede rushes on the floors, but were more commonly used as coverings for tables. In addition to the carved cabinets of oak, ebony, and ivory, and the richly covered cushioned and high backed chairs of the Tudor dynasty, Flemish and Dutch furniture of somewhat formal but still elegant design abounded. Superb ornaments of ivory and china had found their way from the East, and became heirlooms in great mansions. Altogether, the houses of the
The wealthy of these times presented a scene of stately elegance and luxury that has not since been surpassed.
The costume of the reign of James was but a continuation of that of Elizabeth. The men still wore the stiff plaited ruff, occasionally varied by a plain horizontal one with lace on its hedges. The long peasecod-bellied doublet continued, and the large stuffed Gallic or Venetian hose, slashed and quilted, had assumed more preposterous dimensions from James's timidity; he haying both these and the doublets quilted to resist the stabs of the stiletto. In such a suit we have James painted repeatedly. Towards the end of his reign a change was noticeable. Instead of the long-waisted doublet there were short jackets, with false hanging sleeves behind; the trunk hose were covered with embroidered straps, tucked short at the thigh, and the hose gartered below the knee, as we see in the figure of prince Henry at his martial exercises. We have noticed how they covered their cloaks and dresses with jewels on state occasions. They wore feathers at such times in their hats. Taylor, the water poet, says the gallants of Iiis time, -
Wore a farm in shoestrings edged with gold,
The old cloth stockings were obsolete, and stockings of silk thread, or worsted used.
The ladies of the court were still in the stiff Elizabethan farthingale, elevated collar, and hair dressed in the lofty style. Anne of Denmark was Elizabeth over again. But in more domestic life we find the ladies painted in a far more natural style, without the farthingale, with falling collars, plain or edged with lace, and the hair with ringlets falling on each side; and this simple and more elegant fashion became more and more general, and at length universal in Charles's reign.
The male costume of Charles's time was extremely elegant. At the commencement of the civil war no contrast could be greater than that of the appearance of the cavaliers and the roundheads. The cavalier dress consisted of a doublet of silk, satin, or velvet, with large loose sleeves slashed up the front, the collar covered by a falling band of the richest point lace, with Vandyck edging. The long breeches, fringed or pointed, met the tops of the wide boots, which were also commonly ruffled with lace or lawn. A broad Flemish beaver hat, with a rich hatband and plume of feathers, was set on one side of the head, and a Spanish rapier hung from a most magnificent baldrick or sword belt, worn sash-wise over the right shoulder, and on one shoulder was worn a short cloak with an air of carelessness. In war this short cloak was exchanged generally for the buff coat, which was also richly laced, and sometimes embroidered with gold and silver, and round the waist was worn a broad silk or satin scarf tied in a large bow behind or over the hip, or a buff jerkin without sleeves was worn over the doublet, and the lace or lawn on the boots dispensed with. The beard was worn very peaked, with small upturned moustaches, and the hair long and flowing on the shoulders. In contrast to this the parliamentarians wore their hair cut short - whence the name of roundhead - and studied a sober cut and colour of clothes. The first appearance of Cromwell in parliament, described by Sir Philip Warwick, has been taken as a sufficient specimen of his costume when protector. But Cromwell was then but a gentleman farmer, and appeared in careless rustic habit. "I came one morning into the house," says Warwick, "well clad, and perceived a gentleman speaking- whom I knew not, very ordinarily apparelled, for it was a plain cloth suit, which seemed to have been made by an ill country tailor. His hat was without a hatband." But no one knew better than Cromwell what was necessary to the decorum of station, and very different is the account of his appearance when going to be sworn protector. "His highness was in a plain but rich suit, black velvet, with cloak of the same; about his hat a broad band of gold."
The ladies' dresses of Charles's time rapidly changed from the stiff ruffs and farthingales to a more natural and elegant style. With Mrs. Turner, the introducer, went out in James's time the yellow starch ruffs and bands, for she appeared, when hanged for her concern in Sir Thomas Overbury's murder, in her own yellow ornaments at the gallows. But all ruffs grew obselete in Charles's reign, and a lady of that day would scarcely be distinguished from a lady of this. The hair was dressed much as in modern manner, the dress fell naturally without hoops, and the broad collar fell gracefully on the shoulders. The citizens' and puritans' wives, as well as country women, wore the broad high-crowned hat, and country women appeared still in plaited ruff, and a muffler over the mouth in cold weather, tied up to the back of the head. A lady had generally her feather fan in her hand as the modern one has her parasol.
Arms and Armour
Armour was fast disappearing; it was of little use against cannon and matchlocks. James thought armour a very good invention, for it hindered a man as much from hurting his enemy as it defended himself. But in his time little but a cuirass for the body and a helmet or bonnet was used. To the rest for the heavy matchlock in this reign was affixed a long rapier blade, called a "swine's feather," or u bristle," and used as the soldier now uses the bayonet. In the civil war most of the officers wore only a cuirass over a buff coat; and though some of the infantry were almost fully sheathed in armour, it was soon found to be too cumbersome for rapid movements, and with the exception of the cuirassiers, who were clad in armour except the legs, were seldom defended by more than a back and breastplate, and a head-piece. The cuirassiers, corrupted to kurasers, were the soldiers whose name has so puzzled Carlyle. During the parliament war the cavalry was divided into cuirassiers, lancers, harquebussiers, carbineers, and dragoons, according to the different weapon or armour which they carried, the cuirass, the lance, the musket, the heavy harquebuss, the carbine, or the dragon, a sort of blunderbuss. At this period the firelock was introduced by the poultry-stealers of Holland, and called after them the snaphalin, or hen-stealer. The superiority of the flint-lock over the match or cumbrous wheel-lock was soon seen and adopted.
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