Page images

illustrative of the age in which it was written. Here is part of what occurs in the section headed De Superbia (Of Pride), the first of the seven mortal sins. Tyrwhitt justly recommends that the whole "should be read carefully by any antiquary who may mean to write De re Vestiaria of the English nation in the fourteenth century."


Now ben there two manner of prides: that on of hema is within the heart of a man, and that other is without; of which soothly these foresaid things, and mob than I have said, appertainen to pride that is within the heart of man. And there be other spices that ben withouten; but, natheless, that on of these spices of pride is sign of that other, right as the gay levesell at the tavern is sign of the wine that is in the cellar. And this is in many things, as in speech and countenance, and outrageous array of clothing; for certes if there had ben no sin in clothing Christ wold not so soon have noted and spoken of the clothing of thilk rich man in the Gospel: and, as Saint Gregory saith, that precious clothing is culpable, for the dearth of it, and for his softness, and for his strangeness and disguising, and for the superfluity or for the inordinate scantiness of it. Alas! may not a man see in our days the sinful costlew array of clothing, and namely e in too much superfluity, or else in too disordinate scantness.

As to the first sin, in superfluity of clothing, which that maketh it so dear, to the harm of the people, not only the cost of the embroiding, f the disguising, the

a The one of them.

b More. • Species, kinds.

a The meaning of this word, which at a later date appears to have been pronounced and written lessel, is unknown. See Tyrwhitt's note to Cant. Tales, v. 4059, and Glossary, ad verbum; and note by the editor, Mr. Albert Way, on pp. 300, 301, of the Promptorium Parvulorum,' vol. i., printed for the Camden Society, 4to. Lon. 1843.



£ Embroidering.


indenting or barring, ownding, & paling, winding, or bending, and semblable waste of cloth in vanity; but there is also the costlew furring in his gowns, so moch pounsoning of chisel to maken holes, so moch dagging of shears, with the superfluity in length of the foresaid gowns, trailing in the dong and in the mire, on horse and eke on foot, as well of man as of woman, that all thilk trailing is verily (as in effect) wasted, consumed, threadbare, and rotten with dong, rather than it is yeven to the poor, to great damage of the foresaid poor folk, and that in sondry wise; this is to sayn, the more that cloth is wasted, the more must it cost to the poor people, for the scarceness; and, furthermore, if so be that they wolden yeve swich pounsoned and dagged clothing to the poor people, it is not convenient to wear for his estate, ne suffisant to botek hir necessity, to keep hem fro the distemperance of the firmament.

[ocr errors]

Also the sin of ornament or of apparel is in things that appertain to riding, as in too many delicate horse that ben holden for delight, that ben so fair, fat, and costlew; and also in many a vicious knave that is sustained because of hem; in curious harness, as in saddles, croppers, peitrels, and bridles, covered with precious cloth and rich, barred and plated of gold and of silver; for which God saith by Zachary the prophet, I wol confound the riders of swich horse. These folk taken little regard of the riding of God's son of heaven, and of his harness, whan he rode upon the ass, and had none other harness but the poor clothes of his disciples, ne we read not that ever he rode on ony other beast. I speak this for the sin of superfluity, and not for honesty whan reason it requireth. And, moreover, certes pride is greatly notified in holding of great meing, whan they ben of little profit, or of right no profit, and namely whan that meiny is felonious and damageous to the people by hardiness of

Imitating waves.

1 Punching.


h Imitating pales.

j Slitting.
1 Body of menials.

[ocr errors][merged small]

high lordship, or by way of office; for certes swich lords sell than hir lordship to the devil of hell, whan they sustain the wickedness of hir meiny; or else whan these folk of low degree, as they that holden hostelries, sustainen theft of hir hostellers, and that is in many manner of deceits; thilk manner of folk ben the flies that followen the honey, or else the hounds that followen the carrain; swich foresaid folk stranglen spiritually hir lordships; for which thus saith David the prophet, Wicked death mot come unto thilk lordships, and God yeve that they mot descend into hell all down, for in hir houses is iniquity and shrewedness, and not God of hea ven and certes, but if they done amendment, right as God yave his benison to Laban by the service of Jacob, yet so wol God yeve his malison to swich lordships as sustain the wickedness of hir servants, but they come to amendment. Pride of the table appeareth eke full oft; for certes rich men be cleped m to feasts, and poor folk be put away and rebuked; and also in excess of divers meats and drinks, and namely swich manner bake meats and dish meats brenning n of wild fire, and painted and castled with paper, and semblable waste, so that it is abusion to think; and eke in too great preciousness of vessel, and curiosity of minstrelsy, by which a man is stirred more to the delights of luxury.

m Called, invited.






A few facts which are important rather as forming epochs in the chronology of our subject, and for the results by which they were followed, than in themselves, constitute the main part of the history of learning and literature in England during the fifteenth century. The actual contributions of this age to our national literature are smaller in amount and value than those of any preceding space of time of the same length since the Norman Conquest. The ferment of studious enthusiasm which had been excited in men's minds in the beginning of the preceding century had, in a great measure, spent itself before the beginning of this. According to an oration delivered before the pope and cardinals by Richard Fitz-Ralph, Archbishop of Armagh, in 1357, the 30,000 students of the University of Oxford had even by that time decreased to about 6000. The popular veneration for learning had also, from various causes, undergone a corresponding decline; and, instead of the honours formerly paid by all classes to talent and scholarship, and the crowding of eager multitudes around every eminent doctor wherever he appeared, we perceive now the aspect of a general indifference, and encounter occasional instances of the votaries of science and letters begging their bread, and of their inappreciated acquirements

being turned into matter of ridicule and mockery by the insolence of rank and wealth. Anthony Wood, the quaint historian of the University of Oxford, relates a story of two itinerating students of this age, who, having one day presented themselves at a baronial castle, and sought an introduction by the exhibition of their academical credentials, in which they were each described as gifted, among other accomplishments, with a poetical vein, were ordered by the baron to be suspended in a pair of buckets over a draw-well, and dipped alternately into the water, until each should produce a couplet on his awkward situation; it was not till after a considerable number of duckings that the unfortunate captives finished the rhymes, while their involuntary ascents and descents during the process of concoction were heartily enjoyed by the baron and his company. It would be unfair, indeed, to judge of the general state of things from one or two anecdotes of this kind, although such consequences are only what might be expected when scholars took to perambulating the country as mendicants, with recommendations to the charity of the benevolent by the chancellors of their universities, as we are assured was now become customary; but the circumstances of our own country at least, in this age, must have proved in no small degree depressing to all liberal pursuits.

Although much of the popular effervescence had evaporated, however, the love of knowledge was still alive and active in many of the more select order of minds, prompting them to zealous exertions both in its acquisition and its diffusion. In the course of the fifteenth century, very nearly forty new universities were founded in the different countries of Europe. In our own several

« PreviousContinue »