Page images

know what Sir John Mitford is crying about?” the prisoner inquired of the jury. “He is thinking of the destitute condition of Sir John Scott's children, and the little patrimony they are likely to divide among them.” The jury and all present were not more tickled by the satire upon the Attorney General than by the indignant surprise which enlivened the face of Sir John Mitford, who was not at all prone to tears, and had certainly manifested no pity for John Scott's forlorn condition.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]


[ocr errors]

TOLLOWING the example set by the nobility in their

castles and civic palaces, the Inns of Court set apart certain days of the year for feasting and revelry, and amongst the diversions with which the lawyers recreated themselves at these periods of rejoicing, the rude PreShakespearian dramas took a prominent place. So far back as A.D. 1431, the Masters of the Lincoln's Inn Bench restricted the number of annual revels to four

one at the feast of All-Hallown, another at the feast of St. Erkenwald; the third at the feast of the Purification of our Lady; and the 4th at Midsummer.” The ceremonials of these holidays were various; but the brief and sometimes unintelligible notices of the chroniclers give us sufficiently vivid and minute pictures of the boisterous jollity that marked the proceedings. Miracle plays and moralities, dancing and music, fantastic processions and mad pranks, spurred on the hours that were not devoted to heavy meals and deep potations. In the merriments of the different Inns there was a


pleasant diversity—with regard to the duration and details of the entertainments: and occasionally the members of the four societies acted with so little concert that their festivals, falling at exactly the same time, were productive of rivalry and disappointments. Dugdale thinks that the Christmas revels were not regularly kept in Lincoln's Inn during the reign of Henry VIII.; and draws attention to an order made by the benchers of that house on 27 Nov., 22 H. VIII., the record of which runs thus “It is agreed that if the two Temples do

: kepe Chrystemas, then the Chrystemas to be kept here; and to know this, the Steward of the House ys commanded to get knowledge, and to advertise my masters by the next day at night.”

But notwithstanding changes and novelties, the main features of a revel in an Inn of Court were always much the same.

Some member of the society conspicuous for rank or wit of style, or for a combination of these qualities, was elected King of the Revel, and until the close of the long frolic he was despot and sole master of the position—so long as he did not disregard a few not vexations conditions by which the benchers limited his authority. He surrounded himself with a mock court, exacted homage from barristers and students, made proclamations to his loyal children, sat on a throne at daily banquets, and never appeared in public without a bodyguard, and a numerous company of musicians, to protect his person and delight his ear.

The wit and accomplishments of the younger lawyers were signally displayed in the dramatic interludes that usually enlivened these somewhat heavy and sluggish jollifications. Not only did they write the pieces, and put · them before the audience with cunning devices for the production of scenic effect, but they were their own actors. It was not long before their moralities' were

[ocr errors]

seasoned with political sentiments and allusions to public affairs. For instance, when Wolsey was in the fulness of his power, Sergeant Roo ventured to satirize the Cardinal in a masque with which Gray's Inn entertained Henry VIII. and his courtiers.

Hall records that, “ This plaie was so set furth with riche and costlie apparel, with strange diuises of maskes and morrishes, that it was highly praised of all menne saving the Cardinall, whiche imagined that the plaie had been deuised of him, and in greate furie sent for the said Maister Roo, and toke from hym his coife, and sent him to the Flete, and after he sent for the yoong gentlemen that plaied in the plaie, and them highly rebuked and threatened, and sent one of them, called Thomas Moyle, of Kent, to the Flete; but by means of friendes Master Roo and he wer deliuered at last." The author stoutly denied that he intended to satirize the Cardinal; and the chronicler, believing the sergeant's assertions, observes, " This plaie sore displeased the Cardinal, and yet it was never meant to him." That the presentation of plays was a usual feature of the festivals at Gray's Inn may be inferred from the passage where Dugdale, in his notes on that society, says;-"In 4 Edw. VI. (17 Nov.), it was also ordered that henceforth there should be no comedies called Interludes in this House out of Term time, but when the feast of the Nativity of our Lord is solemnly observed. And that when there shall be any such comedies, then all the society at that time in commons to bear the charge of the apparel."

Notwithstanding her anxiety for the maintenance of good discipline in the Inns of Court, Queen Elizabeth encouraged the Societies to celebrate their feasts with costliness and liberal hospitality, and her taste for dramatic entertainments increased the splendor and frequency of theatrical diversions amongst the lawyers.

Christopher Hatton's name is connected with the history of the English drama, by the acts which he contributed to The Tragedie of Tancred and Gismunda, compiled by the gentlemen of the Inner Temple, and by them presented before her majestie;' and he was one of the chief actors in that ponderous and extravagant mummery with which the Inner Temple kept Christmas in the fourth year of Elizabeth's reign.

The circumstances of that festival merit special notice.

In the third year of Elizabeth's reign the Middle Temple and the Inner Temple were at fierce war, the .former society having laid claim to Lyon's Inn, which had been long regarded as a dependency of the Inner Temple. The two Chief Justices, Sir Robert Catlyn and Sir James Dyer, were known to think well of the claimant's title, and the masters of the Inner Temple bench anticipated an adverse decision, when Lord Robert Dudley (afterwards Earl of Leicester) came to their relief with an order from Queen Elizabeth enjoining the Middle Templars no longer to vex their neighbors in the matter. Submission being the only course open to them, the lawyers of the Middle Temple desisted from their claim; and the Masters of the Inner Temple Bench expressed their great gratitude to Lord Robert Dudley, “by ordering and enacting that no person or persons of their society that then were, or thereafter should be, should be retained of councell against him the said Lord Robert, or his heirs; and that the arms of the said Lord Robert should be set up and placed in some convenient -place in their Hall as a continual monument of his lordship’s favor unto them.”

Further honors were paid to this nobleman at the ensuing Christmas, when the Inner Temple held a revel of unusual magnificence and made Lord Robert the ruler of the riot. Whilst the holidays lasted the young lord's title and style were “Pallaphilos, prince of Sophie, High Constable Marshal of the Knights Templars, and Patron of the Honorable Order of Pegasus." And he kept a stately court, having for his chief officers-Mr. Onslow (Lord Chancellor), Anthony Stapleton (Lord Treasurer), Robert Kelway (Lord Privy Seal), John Fuller (Chief Justice of the King's Bench), William Pole (Chief Justice of the Common Pleas), Roger Manwood (Chief Baron of the Exchequer), Mr. Bashe, (Steward of the Household), Mr. Copley (Marshal of the Household), Mr. Paten (Chief Butler), Christopher Hatton (Master of the Game), Messieurs Blaston, Yorke, Penston, Jervise (Masters of the Revels), Mr. Parker (Lieutenant of the Tower), Mr. Kendall (Carver), Mr. Martyn (Ranger of the Forests), and Mr. Stradling (Sewer). Besides these eighteen Placemen, Pallaphilos had many other mock officers, whose names are not recorded, and he was attended by a body-guard of fourscore members of the Inn.

From the pages of Gerard Leigh and Dugdale, the reader can obtain a sufficiently minute account of the pompous ceremonials and heavy buffooneries of the


may learn some of the special services and contributions which Prince Pallaphilos required of his chief courtiers, and take note how Mr. Paten, as Chief Butler, had to provide seven dozen silver and gilt spoons, twelve dozen silver and gilt salt-cellars, twenty silver and gilt candlesticks, twenty fine large table-cloths of damask and diaper, twenty dozen white napkins, three dozen fair large towels, twenty dozen white cups and green pots, to say nothing of carving-knives, carving table, tureens, bread, beer, ale, and wine. The reader also

. may learn from those chroniclers how the company were placed according to degrees at different tables; how the banquets were served to the sound of drums and fifes;


« PreviousContinue »