Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lu Emily Pearson, Elizabethans at Home

Lu Emily Pearson, Elizabethans at Home, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 1957.

Most ordinary houses were of two stories, except those in London, which were three and sometimes four stories high. … London … So close were some of the houses thus facing each other that neighbors might have clasped hands from the windows of their upper stories. But the gardens at the rear of the houses, large enough at least for growing herbs and a few flowers, did not encourage such friendly contacts. In cities these gardens were separated from each other by walls of brick or stone or baked mud… (7)

Miles Coverdale’s translation of Henry Bullinger’s The Christian State of Matrimony in 1546 was one of the early books giving Protestant parents advice about the management of their households. Such advice became almost as binding as biblical law. … Middle-class women, however, faithfully followed Bullinger’s advice, and when he frowned on baby talk, insisting plain and distinct words should be spoken to the child, they tried to observe this command also. Had not the good man declared that a child as it was
“first formed to speak” would so continue all its days? When he further objected to all “light and vain” stories told children, they meekly bowed their heads and replaced such amusement with what was “godly, grave, and fruitful.” /
As soon as the Elizabethan child was able to commit to memory wise sayings or “sentences,” he was burdened daily with some of Bullinger’s favorites: /
There is one invisible God, creating Himself and all creatures.
He is of the highest good; without Him nothing is good.
He needs nothing to aid Him in His work.
To lie is the most shameful vice of all.
Backbite nor curse no man.
All men are brethren. (77)

There was not nearly so much show of affection in the Tudor times as when James I reigned as king and set an example of fondling children that strictly disciplined homes not only frowned upon but feared. In the middle-class families especially, the old austerities of discipline were clung to as a necessary part of the ideal decorum. Those parents who manifested too much affection for the child’s own good were frequently criticized for laxity. When James I persisted in addressing his son Charles as Baby Charles even after he was grown and ready to marry, he set an example that those used to Elizabethan ideals abhorred. (88)

Perhaps some of the seventeenth-century reaction against the severity of Elizabethan parents was due to a feeling in the new generation of having been denied sufficient attention when children. But most of the overindulgence of children was in keeping with the general disorder of the age under the Stuarts. (89)

In middle-class homes the mother, of course, was expected to be fully responsible for the selection of playmates. First, she must assure herself that they had no speech difficulty; next, she must supervise the play lest it get too rough; and finally, she must see that the children were clean and honest in their conduct. Puritan mothers were especially warned against letting their children play with others that were likely to swear or babble. They must also try to find companies for their children that had a certain gravity and modesty even when merriest “so that gravity and sobriety and modesty might frow with them from the very cradle.” Thomas Becon, in his Worckes (1564), was one of those who insisted on a child’s “gravity,” and Becon was a “guiding light.” (90)

Before the Tudor age, advancement among the lower classes was possible only by entering the Church or by serving in the house of some sponsoring lord. Elizabethans permitted greater ease in moving up and down the social letter. But Elizabethans, like their forebears, continued to believe in the importance of degree, priority, and great place. (144)

Grammar school of Shrewsbury. This school was famous for its combination of town and Cambridge University government, perhaps set up to prevent the university’s choosing and dismissing the teachers at will. Among the school’s four hundred boys were sons of the nobility, the gentry, and the burgesses. Those of the gentry from near-by towns lived in the town, as did Philip Sidney. Classes were begun at 7:00 in the morning, were recessed at noon for an hour for dinner, and were dismissed at 5:30 in the afternoon. Though the boys engaged in none of the popular sports of today, they did take part in Latin and English plays that provided no little excitement and pleasure. Boys from prominent grammar schools frequently gave plays at court … still playing before the Queen by 1583. One reason these boys were so pleasing in their entertainments was that their school instruction included, besides Latin and Greek and Hebrew, daily lessons in music, singing, and the playing of musical instruments. (147)

Mulcaster’s suggestion of English in the grammar schools was never accepted. Latin was used even on the school ground, and Lyly’s Latin grammar was studied by one generation after another for over two hundred years. At schools like Eton, Harrow, Westminster, and Shrewsbury, Greek was also taught, but works by Renaissance scholars were studied in all the schools side by side with those of classical authors. Such works were the Colloquies of Erasmus, the Latin Language Exercises of Vives—general favorites everywhere—Battista Spagnuoli’s (Mantuan’s) Eclogues, and Palingenius’ very long Zodiac of Life. As a rule no modern language was taught, and no history as we know it today. (148)

Batty (The Christian mans Closet, 1581) named as the most dangerous kind of idleness a child’s indulgence in improper reading. Becon’s Catechisme (1581) expressed the same opinion. The fear of light reading was very strong in Puritan homes, where the value of Ovid, Plautus, Terence, etc., even when expurgated, was questioned. Up to 1570, the average man’s reading was chiefly romances, popular tales, jest books, riddles, ballads, treatises on health, almanacs, and conduct books. by 1590, the Puritans were making great changes in these reading habits, though their efforts were often defeated, too, by sanctimonious dedications and forewords which introduced works of a very ribald character. That strict measures were taken may have been due in part to the Puritan agreement with Becon’s opinion that nothing could be more learned than the writing of the New Testament and the parables of Solomon. (149)

Whether boys went away to grammar school or not, they found themselves in a group taught by a master or a master and usher, according to the size and needs of the school. If the master had a helper, he himself was on duty only from 7:00 to 10:00 in the morning and form 1:00 to 4:30 in the afternoon. His usher was in the schoolroom all day, however, from 6:00 to 11:00 and 1:00 to 5:00. In larger schools, there might be several teachers, variously assigned; hence the term of headmaster to distinguish him from assistants. Sometimes the master and usher achieved a certain privacy from their classes by arranging them so that a curtain could separate the forms, the usher teaching the lower forms and the master the upper ones. (155)

For all forms there was almost constant review, the Elizabethans believing that one must be sure of foundational knowledge before passing on to the new. Thus Friday and Saturday afternoons were usually set aside for recital of what the boys had learned in the other four days of the week through lectures, speeches by other boys, their own compositions and daily memorizing, and the explanations by teacher or boys from the upper forms. (155-6)

When the boys wrote their compositions, they imitated the rhetorical examples they were studying, and then proceeded to inventions of their own. A great deal of preparation was necessary before they could undertake this work. Their first extended composition was usually an epistle, copied, probably, from Erasmus’ Epistolae. Then would follow a type of composition consisting of wise sentences, etc., learned by heart or jotted down in their notebooks from reading assignments. These they would string together in the best order they were capable of, but the first quotation of their exercise was expected to give the beads on the string some sort of unity and coherence. As they improved in this type of writing, they were required to illustrate by examples the most significant quotations they used and always to end with a conclusion that, if they were clever enough, would give a climactic touch. (156)

The method as thus developed became a sort of art achieved by imitation and exercise. Grammar was always the first point of interest, rhetoric the second, and there must be enough logic to justify the whole. At first the boys wrote in prose, but later they turned prose themes into verse, and if they were able, they turned verse into oratorical composition, for oral expression was the crowning achievement. If the boys had made good progress, they might be rewarded by the opportunity of putting on a plat at Christmas or Easter Shrove Tuesday, for by acting they were expected to learn better how to speak with expression of voice and gesture, how to modulate their voices, and how to use their whole bodies with grace and eloquence. /
This method of teaching kept to prose in the boys’ compositions in the lower forms. It began with the usual colloquies and “vulgars,” or English translations, the boys memorizing the grammar and learning to speak and compose correctly. In their reading they were introduced to Cicero and Virgil especially, and sometimes Terence, Cato’s and Aesop’s moral precepts, and Erasmus’ Apothegms. From easy selections in Cicero’s letters, they advanced to Virgil’s Eclogues, then to Cicero’s Amicitia and De Senectute and Virgil’s Aeneid. Form the study of different types of verse, they proceeded to a carefully expurgated Catullus and selections from Tibullus and Horace. Meanwhile, they were drilled in various kinds of compositional exercises, dealing with subjects found in their reading and elaborated by their growing vocabulary and poetic figures and sententiae collected in their notebooks. Now, with most their grammatical study completed, they were ready for a study of prosody and perhaps a serious study of music. All this time they memorized precepts from the Sunday sermons, which they listened to as carefully as any of their assigned schoolwork, for they expected to be examined on the sermons, and to be catechized regularly. /
In the upper forms the boys usually began the study of versification and poetry… (156-7)

Most boys were supposed to be drilled in the Bible till it became common knowledge among them. However, though it was still the commonest and most discussed book of the late years in the Queen’s reign, it was not read ardently in the schools except, possibly, by Puritan children; (158)

Because children did not study any language besides Latin in the schools, parents complained that their children forgot their own tongue. Brinsley, therefore, would have the child learn to use his own language correctly by daily translating Lyly’s Latin rules into English. In addition to this he would have daily practice in translation familiar letters to friends, of reading fables in English, and of taking notes in English on sermons every child must attend. (159-60)

In small towns the schoolmaster’s lodgings were in the simple thatched school where he taught. The building was usually on land adjoining the chapel, and statutes concerning the school were read in church from time to time, especially in regard to holidays at Easter and Christmas. The teacher of such a school had to be thirty years of age as a rule, and unmarried and approved by the clergy. Besides his stipulated salary, he might receive small admission fees from the children and penny payments from them at Christmas. His annual vacation was seldom over a month in length, and he had to give notice in the church six months before leaving his post. He was also notified some time in advance if he was required to leave. When he was away on vacation, the children were not supposed to be idle; instead, they were expected to “exercise in their books” at home. /
Possibly the rather frequent half-holidays on Thursdays and Saturdays made such a strenuous program bearable. (161)

In the time of Henry VIII the son of the Earl of Essex studied French, writing, fencing, casting accounts, instrumental music, etc. He was also required to read English aloud for correct pronunciation and was taught the etymology of Latin and French words. After mass in the morning, he read from Erasmus’ De Civilitate Morum Puerilium that he might learn to practice its precepts of conduct. Then he wrote for an hour or two and read from Fabyan’s Chronicles, which gave “a lively history” of England form its beginning to 1485 and the battle of Bosworth Field. The rest of the day he devoted to the lute and the virginals and riding. But while riding he was required to listen to his masters tell stories of Greeks and Romans, which he had to repeat to them. When he did have time for recreation, he engaged in hunting, hawking, and shooting with the longbow. /
His descendant Robert in the Devereux line, who was to become Elizabeth’s favorite, was educated at Burghley’s house with other wards of the Crown. Among these wards was the youth, later the Earl of Oxford, who was to be the Queen’s favorite for a brief time. The program Oxford followed in his education under Burghley was representative of the care with which nobles destined for important duties were trained in the early part of Elizabeth’s reign. At 7:00 he was ready for breakfast, though it was popular for most Elizabethans not engaged in strenuous labor to omit this meal. Form 8:00 to 9:00 he studied Latin, and in the next hour he had dancing lessons and exercise in walking. At 10:00 he occupied himself with writing and drawing, reading the Gospel, especially Paul’s Epistles, and at 11:00 he had dinner. In the afternoon he studied cosmography from 1:00 to 2:00, French from 2:00 till 3:00, and then Latin for another hour or two. Between then and supper, which came at 6:00 , he spent the time in walking, writing, and prayers; after supper he was free for “honest” recreation. (163-4)

The most notable change in this program of education during the Queen’s reign was the greater formality practiced as time went on. Eventually, her wards went to church at 6:00 in the morning, studied Latin afterward till 11:00, dined from 11:00 to 12:00, had music from 12:00 till 2:00, French from 2:00 till 3:00, and Latin till 5:00. Then came prayers and supper, after which they might indulge in “honest” recreation till 8:00. Finally, there was an hour of music before they retired for the night. Latin was at the heart of the day’s study, and prayers and music had a set place in the day’s planned activities. Latin included disputation, (165)

The value of music in the school curriculum, both at home and in the public school, was urged by most writers. Their reasons were gravely heard because of the feeling that original sin had closed the ear to heavenly harmonies and education might possibly correct the deficiency. In 1585, William Byrd of the Chapel Royal published a treatise on why all people should learn to sing, though form the time of Henry VIII and even before, England had been noted for her sweet singers. A good pupil and a good scholar “enabled singing to be learned quickly and easily,” he said, and was a delightful exercise that aided in preserving health. It helped to open the “pipes” and to strengthened the breast; it was a good remedy for stuttering and stammering; and it was the best means of procuring a perfect pronunciation and of making a good orator. Though the gift of a good voice was so rare only one in a thousand had it, the only way of knowing whether nature had bestowed this gift was by singing. … That so many men were carefully trained in music when they were being prepared for state service, however, was probably due to belief that music was a powerful aid for developing their oratorical powers. (168)

Mulcaster agreed with the Greeks that dancing helped to preserve the health and morals; if used “in time, by order, and with measure,” as in formal Elizabethan dancing, it could have this good effect, but if it did not avoid the “lewdness and lightness” of the popular, lively dances, it could be very harmful. Wrestling, a more violent exercise, required a master “both cunning to judge of the thing: and himself present” to prevent harm. Weapons in exercise with an adversary met with his approval because they quickly betrayed the coward, especially in fencing. He was opposed to exercise that required the use of only one hand and arm, however, for he believed children and men should be ambidextrous, if possible. Walking was good because it opened the head and prepared for sleep. Running must be done with little clothing, and leaping should be done only naturally and cheerfully if it was to be beneficial. Because of the harm swimming caused to the head, he insisted this exercise be taken under the for the general enthusiasm for it, especially among physicians. If one must ride, then he s supervision of a master. He was a bit dubious about riding and found it difficult to account t his mastery over animals and birds. (170)hould choose the easiest gait, ambling. Of all sports Mulcaster favored hunting because it exercised the body, delighted the mind, and seemed to appeal to man’s natural instinct to asser

It is notable that Mulcaster approved of fencing, but the sport was so abused by duels that the Crown and moralist frowned heavily on it. Still, most nobles included fencing (a shortened form of defencing, both terms being used interchangeably) in their sons’ training. Because only men of dignity and importance were permitted to carry a sword, this weapon was as much a part of a gentleman’s attire as his ruff. (171)

A typical school day required the children to leave home early enough to begin the day’s work at 6:00 o’clock and to stay as late as 5:00 in the evening. In winter, therefore, they often made their way to and from school carrying lanterns to light their way. (176)

Elizabethan law insisted that children under twenty years of age were to be catechized and instructed every Sunday and hold day before and after evening prayers. In many public as well as home schools the instruction for catechism was offered. Parents, masters, and mistresses who did not send their children to the catechizing were reported to the Ordinary to be censured and punished. (177)

Boys of the common people, if they finished grammar school, had their future pretty clearly mapped out for them. When their parents could not afford to send them to the university, or when they were not brilliant enough to warrant a scholarship or a patron’s interest, they were bound over to a master to learn a trade just as were boys who did not finish grammar school. Not infrequently such apprentices succeeded to their master’s business, particularly if they could win a master’s daughter in marriage. Boys who did not attend grammar school at all but were made apprentices at an early age often were protected somewhat by their parents who had a clause inserted in the indenture or contract to ensure their sons being taught reading and writing and “a little figuring.” (196)

Essex, for instance, entered Cambridge in 1577 and three years later, at thirteen years of age, left with his Master’s degree, presumably per gratiam, of course. As a rule, the university course required seven years. After the first degree of sophisters came four years of study for the A.B. degree, then three more for the A.M. degree. Sons of nobles were sometimes granted degrees they could not possibly have earned in the short time they remained at the university. (200)

A youth’s education while abroad consisted of further practice in horsemanship, perfecting his skill with weapons, drawing, and elementary geometry “as a decent prelude to the science of fortification and the practice of siege warfare.” In order to improve his manners, he continued his lessons in dancing and lute playing, though most of his tutors, no doubt, laid greater stress on Latin, French, and history. According to J. W. Stoye, a youth’s day while studying abroad would consist of two hours, beginning at seven, on horseback, two hours in language—one in reading French, and one in “rendering to his tutor some part of a Latin author by word of mouth”—one hour learning to handle a weapon, two hours for dinner and discourse or some “honest recreation pertaining to arms,” one hour in dancing, and two hours, till five, in his chamber, reading some Latin author and translating it into French, his faults to be corrected by the teacher on the morrow. Then came supper, and after that, “a brief survey of all.” (203)

Serious youths on tours without political or social connections usually tried to live with scholars or eminent booksellers. Consequently these places were often overcrowded with guests. If an English Protestant youth took ill while living at a Catholic home in some foreign country, he would not be likely to get any care unless he turned Catholic, and the physician, apothecary, and kitchen servants would also be forbidden to serve him. If he died, his body was not buried in sacred ground, but in the highway like a dog’s. hence there was good cause for Protestant parents with a son unaccompanied by trusted servant or tutor to fear that their child might be converted to Catholicism while abroad. If this occurred, he would be regarded by his country as a traitor, and at any anti-Catholic disturbance after his return home, he might be cast into prison. (205)

The earliest French books on table manners came at about the close of the fourteenth century and the English not till one hundred and fifty years later. Italians, however, had such books by 1265, though many of them consisted of little more than tables of rules. The pointed details of Erasmus’ discussion soon made his little book on table etiquette the chief one in English homes. As the child was taught to be have like an adult, the basic principles of his training make an illuminating picture of the age. Briefly, they consisted of a person’s coming to the table well groomed and in a merry but not ribald mood. He must, therefore, put aside all grief or unpleasant thoughts. His hands must not rest on trencher or table or be folded over the stomach. He placed his napkin over his right shoulder and did not lean on his elbows unless he was weak or feeble. His cup was kept on the right, and when not using his knife, he cleaned it and put it at the left of his bread. (207)

Drinking was a matter of much formality. To begin a meal with drinking was very ill-mannered and harmful. A child should not drink more than two or three times during a meal, though he might drink afterward. He must never bolt his food or wash it down with copious drinks of wine or ale. Though water was best for a child, he might not be harmed by wine diluted with water. Before drinking, the child must wipe his lips with his napkin, especially if a common drinking cup was used, and he must never look aside while drinking or drain the cup to the dregs. (208)

The English habit of eating without pause (to which Erasmus objected) was deplored by foreigners, for they urged that good table talk was a matter of good health as well as good manners. (208)

Before she was twelve, Elizabeth Tudor had advanced far in history and geography, understood many of the principles of architecture, mathematics, and astronomy, and was fond of poetry and the study of politics. She spoke French, Italian, Spanish, and Flemish. Before she was sixteen, she had read all of Cicero, most of Livy, some of the Church Fathers, especially St. Cyprian on The Training of a Maiden, and she had made translations form Isocrates, Sophocles, and Demonsthenes. With her brother Edward, she had read from the Scriptures and had translated much from the Latin. In addition to these studies she had acquired considerable training in rhetoric, philosophy, and divinity. History was her favorite study. … As the Queen’s control grew less firm over the court decorum which she had kept so strict and formal, pleasures and indulgence crept into the lives of those who resented stern demands of mental and moral effort. Now the decline in education of the feminine mind spread rapidly through court society and penetrated the middle-class social groups that modeled their life closely upon that of the court. Even the Puritans who had eagerly sought the practical and spiritual advantages of education for their daughters developed two minds about their formal training: for one group there was still belief in the necessity of continuing in the cultivation of women’s minds, but for the other group there was fear that possibly too much learning might make women less amenable to the Pauline ideas about a wife’s obedience to her husband. There was still a third group, which tried to reconcile the other two points of view, and they found much support in conduct books stressing the need of serious moral training for women because of their mental inferiority to men. … With the combination of their own love of pleasure and the masculine objection to the cultivating of female minds, women found themselves in an environment not conducive to intellectual development. it did not take long for idle girls of the rich middle class to center their interests almost exclusively in social accomplishments, among which dancing and music were most important. (220-1)

It was not comely, said Vives, for maids to desire marriage, much less show a longing for it. That is why, explained, in the old honest days of Rome when a maid was brought to the groom’s house she was carried in at the door to show “she came hither not of her own good will, where she would lose her virginity.” When a maid’s parent discussed palsn for her marriage in her presence, she should do naught but weep and blush, just as in the picture which Virgril the poet showed of the King Latinus and his wife Amata talking before their daughter about her future husband. The maid could only weep and blush because it was not becoming for her to talk when her parents were debating such matters; she knew she must leave it all to them who loved her as well as she loved herself, and who, because of their greater experience of wisdom, would provide for her much better than she could plan for herself. (250)

Vives considered a daughter’s chance for a good marriage far better if she was seldom seen and if she was not too richly dressed. A maid in very rich apparel would frighten away men who might fear she would waste their wealth. A maid too talkative might be praised to her face, might be told she was a jolly dancer and was full of merry conceits and play and pleasance, and might even be called well-mannered and well brought up, but all these words would mean nothing at all. Men would never marry one with whom they might have easy talk, for they would not trust her. He said it was a pity maids could not hear young men discuss them, calling them babblers and chatterers: when they called them lusty tigers, they meant they were light-minded; and when they called them well-nurtured, they meant they were wanton. (250-1)

[Vives, Juah Luis (Joannes Ludovicus). The Instruction of a Christian Woman (1523). Translated by Richard Hyrde in 1540, republished in 1541. ; Vives, Juan Luis (Joannes Ludovicus). “The Office and Duetie of an Husband” (1550). Sir Edgerton Brydges (ed.). Translated by Thomas Paynell, 1553. Censura Literaria, IX, 25-31, 1809.]

Vives could not understand why parents had their daughters taught how to dance. He associated this pleasure with the “bawdy houses,” and said it made Christians worse than pagans in their conduct. He referred to the new dancing in particular, with its “shaking, unclean handling, kissing bragging, groping,” and “a very kind of lechery.” He recalls the time when kissing was not used except among kinsfolk, but now it was common in both England and France. To him it was “foul and rude,” and it seemed that women danced chiefly for the pleasure of kissing. They could not go to church, he said severely, unless carried on horseback no matter how near the church might be, but at a dance they could stand “shaking unto midnight and never weary.” In spite of the teachings of Vives, however, dancing became increasingly popular in Elizabeth’s reign, for she delighted in all the latest “romps,” and was merrily swung high off the floor in dances that required of her courtiers the skill of professionals. /
Part of the moralists’ objection to dancing was that it was likely to take maids out of the home for entertainment. Like Vives, they opposed the meeting of the sexes under the closet supervision… (252)

Jeremy Taylor, silver-tongued preacher of the famous sermon The Marriage Ring, though not born till 1613 was nevertheless Elizabethan to the core in all his thoughts about the marriage bond. To him the circlet of cheap or precious metal, plain or jeweled, when slipped on the finger of the bride altered forever the destinies of two or more people. This simple conventional ornament, without beginning or end, held within its narrow compass the complex history of all racial marriage rites. As such it was an emblem of life’s most binding duties, whereby the bride and groom were ushered into the intricate pattern of society; and each time a betrothed couple pledged themselves at the marriage altar, they enhanced the significance of this emblem. To all who reverenced family life as mankind’s most precious heritage, it was indeed, as the preacher said, the symbol of the founding of a home with idissoluble ties and affections. (279)

Until recently Richard Hooker was thought to have trusted the selection of his wife to his clever landlady, with whom he lived at the Shunamites’ House near St. Paul’s churchyard. In this way she was supposed to have disposed of her daughter on the unsuspecting man. C. J. Sisson’s research into the matter has produced interesting material not only on Hooker’s marriage but on the attitude toward the married clergy in Elizabeth’s time. Walton reported Hooker’s marriage as most unsuitable, saying the girl’s father was a London woolen draper fallen into poverty, which induced him and his wife to board and lodge preachers appointed to deliver sermons at St. Paul’s. The landlady persuaded Hooker, none of these lodgers, that a wife would cure him of his colds, and arranged thereby his marriage to her daughter Joan, who brought him “neither beauty nor portion,” but drew him away form a quiet life at Oxford. Walton’s story even tells how Hooker discussed with a pupil and friend “his double share in the miseries of this life.” /
Sisson’s account changes the Walton story considerably. Hooker was married to Joan Churchman on February 13, 1588. Her father was a member of the Merchant Taylors, and a descendent of a fourteenth-century Master and benefactor of the company. His own marriage had been to the daughter of the Master of the company in 1569. By 1581, Joan’s father was making his way to high office in the great guild, and was elected its Third Warden. About a year after Joan’s marriage to Hooker, her father was made First Warden, and in 1594, he became Master of the Merchant Taylor’s Company, which, of course, was “an honor open only to a man of assured means as well as of the highest reputation among his fellows.” His “probity and his standing” were further recognized when he was elected City Chamberlain, “an office of high financial responsibility and confidence.” That he dowered Joan at her marriage to Hooker with 700 lbs although Hooker at the time was only a poor scholar without any rich “livings” certainly proves beyond question the Hooker’s marriage was “judicious, and we may believe that it was happy.” /
Thus Hooker became “a member of the family circle of a great London citizen of wealth and civic rank,” and his wife’s dowry “provided financial security for himself and his children.” He referred to Joan as his “well-beloved wife,” and to her father as his “well-beloved father.” After Hooker’s death in 1600 his wife soon married again and brought her new husband 700 lbs in dowry. The Irish disturbances almost ruined her father and other merchants, however, because they supplied the English army with goods for which they were not paid. Yet in spite of the family’s losses, they saw to it that Hooker’s daughters by Joan were provided with legacies, “and they made a brother and former master” of Joan’s father’s company the trustee. /
Walton, sharing the common prejudice against marriage for the clergy, might well have chosen to believe his beloved Hooker had been inveigled into matrimony, and like a saint, had borne its hardship with no little grace. Sisson’s facts, however, suggest a most interesting situation, in which an Elizabethan father, concerned about the welfare of his daughter, made a wise alliance for her. Shrewd in business and in his judgment of men, Joan’s father chose from the clergy a man with attainments that made him acceptable in spite of his poverty. It is possible that he also was strongly in favor of marriage for the clergy, officially approved by the Queen in 1559. (290-1)

The chief pleasures of privileged country people were hunting and the table. Like their city cousins, however, they had their family pride. They learned the genealogies and coats of arms of all their neighbors; they served as magistrates and administered justice and helped to make the local laws. (364)

Some, of course, nerved themselves for the struggle by piety. Many sick people raised their fainting spirits by reading Becon’s The Sicke Mans Salve, published at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign. Of his three folios of advice and encouragement to the religious, this was the most popular, with its promises of rewards for righteous living, for by 1632 it had gone through seventeen editions. (455)

For example, when the Queen wished to express her sympathy for a bereft mother, she wrote, “We sympathize in your sorrow on the death of your son, and have a grateful memory of his services. Let Christian discretion stay immoderate grief.” Yet when she herself faced death she was so overwhelmed before it that her conduct has given rise to many conflicting stories of struggle. One tell show she refused to go to bed, and spent her last days lying on cushions on the floor. Was she following the superstitious practice of warding off death by lying on feathers? Or was she, who could never reconcile herself to giving in to any defeat, unwilling to acknowledge the greatest defeat of all? Was this why, with some consistency, she could refuse so long to name a successor to the throne even though the good of the country she had always professed as her greatest concern was endangered by her obstinacy? Or must she name no successor prematurely lest rivals prevent James’s peaceful succession? (455)

One of the most interesting accounts of her death occurs in a letter by John Chamberlain to Dudley Carleton. He had gained the information from his friend, William Gilbert, was “nothing but a settled and unremovable melancholy.” She couldn’t be made by anyone in attendance “to taste or touch physic,” though ten or twelve physicians wither assured her she would easily recover thereby. Her brain was not “distempered” except that “she held an obstinate silence for the most part, and because she had a persuasion that if she once lay down she should never rise, could not be gotten to bed in a whole week till three days before her death…” She languished for three weeks, and “died on the same day of the month in which she was born.” (455)

According to Professor Neale, her last “royal duty” was to nominate James as her successor, after which she “centered her mind on Heavenly things, rejoicing in the ministrations of her spiritual physician…Archbishop Whitgift. And then she turned her face to the wall, sank into a stupor, and…passed quietly away.” It is hard indeed to think of this Queen, bowed down with the unshakable melancholy that caused her death, centering her mind on heavenly things, even by an act of will. True, at this time it was commonly believed such an act of will could bring salvation. Had the Queen, in her extremity, turned to the last hope and by an act of will forced her mind to dwell on spiritual things? Had fear or reason dictated a forcing of the mind to an act by which she might be saved? Or did death merely brush her with his apathetic wing and let her drift off into the hereafter without thought or willing or terror? (456)

This wonder was not unlike that of the Puritan Philip Stubbes, who watched his wife, singing psalms at her death, finally hold up her arms to her vision of the Lord, and die with an ecstatic smile. (458)

When Lord Burghley’s beloved wife died, the great man was so overcome by his loss that his friends were gravely concerned about him. In vain they wrote him letters of sage advice and gentle sympathy, but one would like to think Sir Walter Raleigh’s words helped him to gain some control over his anguish. He tells the Secretary that he would rather be with him now than at any other time if only he might take some of the burden of the sorrow and lay the greatest part on his own heart. His friend has but to request his presence, and he will come. Meantime, he ass him not to overshadow his wisdom and passion… Burghley’s wife, Mildred Cooke, had died in 1589 after forty-two years of genuine companionship with her husband, and the Secretary’s personal world was so shattered that he did not see how he could make it into an intelligible pattern again. Raleigh admits, therefore, that Burghley has lost a good wife indeed, but he hastens to remind him that there was a time when he had not even know her, and now she is no more his than she was then; he should not grieve, therefore, since he knows she “hath passed the wearisome journey of this dark world and hat possession of her inheritance.” For her children’s sake he must take care of his own health lest he leave them without a guide, “or by sorrowing…dry up” his “own times that ought to establish them.” /
Sorrows are “dangerous companions,” continues Ralegh, “converting bad into evil and evil into worse and do no other service than multiply harms.” He even calls sorrows the “treasures of weak hearts and of the tains sorrows “is as the earth…dust whereon sorrows and adversities of the world…trample and defile.” …
When committed to the Tower and declared guilty of treason at one of the most unfair trials even conducted in his time, he suffered such agony of the soul that he tried to take his own life. First, however, he set himself the difficult task of writing his wife. He told her how to cut the heart he was to have the son of Lord Burghley, who had by this time succeeded to his father’s place, forsake him in his extremity. … He admits it is forbidden that one destroy himself, but he also admits the mercy of God is immeasurable, though “the cogitations of men comprehend it not.” … It is not Satan that has tempted him, but “Sorrow, whose sharp teeth devour his heart,” and he exclaims, “O God! Thou art mercy itself. Thou canst not be unmerciful to me!” (458-9)

But Raleigh’s attempt at suicide failed. Five months later he was told to expect execution, and this time, though helpless before the hand of fate, he could summon his stoic philosophy and compose a letter to his wife that reveals Elizabethan dignity and courage at its best under bitter circumstances. “You shall receive, my dear wife,” he writes, “my last words in these last lines. My love I send to you, theat you may keep it when I am dead; and my counsel, that you may remember it when I am no more.” In this “last Will” he does not wish to present his “dear Bess” with sorrows, but seeks to bury them with him in the dust. Since he believes it is God’s will for him never to see her again “in this life,” he asks her to bear his destruction gentle “and with a heart” like herself. He sends her all the thanks his heart can conceive or his pen express for her “many troubles and cares” taken of him, and for which he can never make payments in this world. By the love which she bore him he asks her not to hide herself many days in grief, for her mourning cannot avail him, “already dust.” Besides, she must think of her child. (460)

For she must know he is the “child of a true man, and who, in his own respect, desiseth Death, and all his misshapen and ugly forms.” / Up to this point, Raleigh has been remarkably well compsed, but now the horrors of the gave press down upon his soul, and the rest of his letter reveals his agony. He tries to tell his wife calmly how to dispose of his body, and then, as he attempts to say farewell, his courage falters, and he writes heartbrokenly: “The everlasting, infinite, powerful, and inscrutable God, that Almighty God that is goodness itself, the true life forgive my persecutors and false accusers; and send us to meet in His glorious kingdom. My true wife, farewell. Bless my boy; pray for me. My true God hold you in his arms.” He sign his letter as “Written with the dying had of sometime thy husband, but now alas! Overthrown,” and concludes with “Yours that was; but now not my own.” / Still death delayed, for the worst of sorrows had not yet fallen on this victim. For more than ten long anxious years he was to endure prison life till released to go on his ill-fated voyage to Guiana. … (461)

In a fight at a Spanish settlement, the son was killed and all the hopes of the English expedition ruined. … Now the worst grief having fallen, the long awaited execution came to him, and he acquitted himself with the dignity that has made him one of the heroes of his time. But this dignity was clad in despair; with nothing to live for, there was nothing to grieve for. [461] … History of the World…O eloquent, just, and mighty death! whom none could advise, thou hast persuaded; what none hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world hath flattered, thou has cast out of the world and despised. (Book V, Park I) (461-2)

Elizabethans, believing those about to die were capable of prophesying, kept anxious watch at the bedside when death was felt to be near: a sudden brightening of the spirits might precede some momentous utterance. (462)

…belief that good and evil spirits fought a terrific battle over the poor soul about to pass into eternity. Sometimes they believed they actually saw the soul taking part in the struggle between these forces. Such a conflict is described in detail by the Puritan Philip Stubbes. His girl-wife, ill with childbed fever, had been praying, he reports, looking sweet and lovely, “red as the rose, and most beautiful to behold,” when suddenly she frowned as if seeing an ugly thing. With an “angry, stern, and fierce countenance,” she cried out, “How now, Satan?...Art thou come to tempt the Lord’s servant? I tell thee, hell-hound, thou hast no part nor portion in me (464)

Not only was lying on feathers a means of delaying death, but removing a pillow from under the head of a dying person would hasten death. (467)

…attitude of the Church towards suicide, one who ran to meet death was held in such horror that in some localities suicides were buried at night, by torchlight, with a sharp stake driven though the heart. In most churchyards, suicides and unbaptized children were buried on the cold north side of the church. (468)

One had to pay a special fee to be honored with burial under the church floor. Of course there was much demand for this favored spot, and to counteract the stench form the shallow graves here, juniper and frankincense were burned, particularly on special occasions when some staid dignitary made his visit to the church. At other times additional layers of rushes were expected to make the place sweet for those who attended the services. But such graves, like those in the churchyard, were not left undisturbed if room was needed for another corpse and a high fee was forthcoming. Yet even the highest fee could not provide Christian burial for the proved suicide. (468)

In Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, when the duke needs the body of an executed prisoner, he will not take the life of a “creature unprepar’d, unmeet for death” no matter how much the criminal deserves death and no matter how much his body is needed to save a good man’s life. With grim humor, therefore, the prisoner stays his execution by refusing to prepare for death, for he knows that no one wishes to be guilty of the “damnable” act of “transporting” him in his sinful state (IV: iii: 70-73) (469)

Ghosts were believed to be easily frightened by baying dogs and vexed by malicious spirits and easily driven back to their prison house by the cock’s crow. So Hamlet’s father’s ghost “starts like a guilty thing” when it hears the cock crow. (470)

It was common belief that on Christmas Eve ghosts could not bother mortals. Marcellus refers to this superstition when he says on such a night the cock may crow all through the dark hours, and the air will be wholesome as no spirits can stir abroad. On this night, too, fairies and witches lost their evil powers, “so hallow’d and so gracious” was the time (I.i.158-64). (470)

No doubt many Elizabethans planned to reveal when dying some precious secret, partly to ensure the presence at the deathbed of those near and dear to them as well as to reward them, and partly to fulfill a promise to requite those who served them faithfully till death. Shakespeare illustrates the bestowal of such a legacy in All’s Well That Ends Well by having the heroine’s father on his “bed of death” put into the hand of his daughter Helena a prescription which he calls the “dearest issue” and “darling” of his long years of practice as a physician. (473)

Under normal conditions, those given burial were laid away according to their wealth. The affluent were interred in coffins, the poor in shrouds only. Some were borne to their graves dressed in their best robes and lying in open coffins, and other were wrapped in waxed winding sheets and carefully sealed in coffins of wood or metal. (473)

Ralph Verney’s mother left very careful instructions in her will for her son to follow at her shrouding. Their tone indicates the loving trust she had in this son who had never failed her. She wished to be buried at the family estate of Claydon and in a coffin of lead “next where” his father “purposes to lie himself.” The instructions continue: “And let no strange wind me, and do not let me be stripped, but put a clean smock over me… and let my face be hid and do you stay in the room and see me wound and laid in the first coffin, which must be of wood if I do not die of any infectious disease, else I am so far from desiring it that I forbid you to come near me.” Just as Ralph had faithfully assumed his father’s domestic responsibilities when state duties called the father from home most of the time, so the mother could rely on her son to person with same gentle willingness the last personal service needful to her. (474)

Sometimes, when the body was sealed in the coffin and not exhibited during the burial ceremonies, its effigy was dressed in fine clothes and covered with flowers and laid on top of the rich drapery over the coffin that was borne impressively to the grave. Often, however, a death mask took the place of this effigy. If the body laid out for spectators to view, it was clothed in its finest apparel or in a shroud made especially for the occasion. (474)

All this, of course, if the person had not died of an infectious disease, such as smallpox, typhoid fever, or the plague. So far as is known, the measures taken for burial in time of plague were similar to those in use when Defoe wrote his descriptions of them in The Journal of the Plague Year. (474)

Death by plague would deprive a rich and powerful family of an important means for proud display of their wealth. (475)

The fastidious person always carried with his a pomander that he might hold to his nose whenever he came in contact with a foul odor (supposed to cause disease) or a person with a contagious disease. In these pomanders were many herbs and spices. Some people relied on chewing rhubarb or tobacco or lovage, though tobacco was the favorite for those who could afford it, where they came in contact with disease, and some kept fresh onion slices in a sickroom to preserve the health of those attending the afflicted. (475)

When a home was visited by the plague, slices of onion were laid on plates throughout the house and not removed till ten days after the last case had died or recovered. Since onions, sliced, were supposed to absorb elements of infection, they were also used in poultices to draw out infection. (476)

For the most park bunches of rosemary or bay or some such evergreens were tied to the sides of the coffin as well as to the pall, although either the bier or the pall might be adorned instead by little crosses or copies of memorial verses fastened to it. Feste’s son in Twelfth Night, designed to increase the duke’s melancholy, refers to “my shroud of white, stuck all with yew,” and “not a flower sweet, on my black coffin let there be strewn” (II.iv.53,56). Verses pinned to a pall were supposedly written by friends, though actually they were chiefly composed by paid professional writers. The crosses, of course, were largely swept away by the reformers, or fell into decay through indifference to tradition. (478)

The mourners customarily carried branches of rosemary, bay, or other evergreens as emblematic of the immortality of the soul, and laid them on the coffin as it was lowered into the grave. Shakespeare romanticizes over this custom in the play of Cymbeline when flowers are strew on Fidele’s grave with the promise that other flower will be used to sweeten it as long as summer lasts (IV.ii.218-28). (478)

Puritans, Anglican, and Catholics were much concerned about the sermon to be preached for the soul of the deceased. All followed a general pattern which was adapted to the occasion. A typical sermon for a great man was preached by William Jones at the death of the third Earl of Southampton. Jones called himself the “meanest servant of the Lord,” but the early the “glory of his Country,” and his “Ladyship’s wonderful joy and honor.” (482)

After a funeral, refreshments were served at the house of the deceased for those who had been in the procession, and consisted of an elaborate feast of cold foods of all kinds—meats, biscuits, sweets, wine, and ale. Sometimes wills provided definite sums for these feasts, and even stipulated what was to be served. Oftentimes, at the home of a great or wealthy person, many days of feasting, drinking, and even dancing occurred. It is this type of entertainment that Hamlet refers to so bitterly when he complains of the baked meats (food) from his father’s funeral feast being used thriftily for the marriage tables of his mother and uncle. The poor had these funeral feasts also, the guests contributing offerings of food as at their weddings. (482-3)

Hired mourners found their trade well paid, for they often received two or more pounds for marching in the parade, besides being feasted at the funeral banquet. In 1579, Thomas Gresham’s funeral costs 800 lbs. Two hundred men and women mourners were fired for the occasion, and the cost of their garments as well as the fees of musicians and the sum paid for the banquet made the entire ceremony very expensive. At some elaborate funerals it was not unusual to serve two hundred or more mourners alone at the banquet. Then, of course, there were all the friends and relatives, who, in this time of close family relationships, made a large assembly in themselves. /
Important Englishmen dying abroad requested that their hearts be sent home for burial. Infectious diseases and the plague, together with the problem of decomposition of a body during its transit, which often required two or three months, and inadequate facilities for transporting such bodies made it very difficult to send a corpse any distance. A typical disposition of such mortal remains is found in the case of Edward, Lord Windsor of Bradenham, who died in Spa in 1574. He willed his body to be buried in the cathedral at Liege “with a convenient tomb to his memory,” but he willed his heart to be enclosed in lead and sent to England “there to be buried in the Chapel at Bradenham, under his father’s tomb in token of a true Englishman.” (484-5)

During the early part of the sixteenth century, Erasmus satirized will ordering elaborate funerals, and incidentally provided a model for many of the popular seventeenth-century discussions for holy dying. The satire in his Colloquies graphically describes a frightened man on his deathbed. His fear and trembling are due to the will he has made with the aid of corrupt monks who have promised to pray his evil soul into salvation. For their services the monks will make the wife and children martyrs to the cost of saving the man’s soul. The wife, thirty-eight, is sincere and virtuous. There are two sons, eighteen and fifteen, and two unmarried daughters. The dying man has acquired his wealth by accepting pay for 30,000 soldiers and hiring only 7,000. He has made his enemies pay him well to save their lives, which as an officer of the army he could achieve, and he has made his friends pay him well to save them from the enemy. All in all, he has “exercised very great skill in arithmetic.” /
The wife will not consent to enter a nunnery at her husband’s death, and he has willed that she must put on the habit of Begbin, an order halfway between the status of the lay rich and the religious. The elder son, refusing to become a monk must “ride post to Rome” after his father’s funeral, where the pope’s dispensation will make him a priest “before his time.” After this, for one year the boy must say mass every day in the Lateran Church for his father’s soul “and every Friday creep upon his knees up the holy steps there…” The younger son is dedicated to St. Francis, the elder daughter to Ste. Claire, and the younger to Catherina Senensis. /
Unless all the members of the family abide by the will they will be disinherited. Even if they abide by it, the bulk of their inheritance will go to the religious institutions they enter. Since they will have at least a living in the monastery or nunnery, it is assumed they will prefer that to beggary. … Now Erasmus describes the elaborate funeral provided for in the will… (487-8)

Opposed to this picture, Erasmus shows how a man should die. Here the husband calls his wife and children to his bedside for the last instructions and farewells. The wife is advised to marry again, but to “make such choice of a husband” and to so conduct herself “towards him in the condition of a wife” that either by his own goodness or for her own convenience he will be kind to their children. She is warned against tying herself to any vow, for she must keep herself free for God and children. She is asked to bring up their children in “such a frame and piety of virtue, and take such care of things” that they will not choose a career till “by age and the use of things” they know what is “fittest for them.” /
Then addressing his children, the dying man urges them to study virtue, to obey their mother, and to observe mutual friendship and affection among themselves. As death comes nearer and the wife bends over him solicitously, he kisses her, prays for the children, makes a sign of the cross, and recommends them to the mercy of Christ. Dismissing all but one child, he asks this one to read to him till time for the others to take turns watching over him. Now Erasmus describes his “holy” dying. When he had passed the night till four in the morning, the whole family assembled, and he had the Psalm read which the Savior recited upon the Cross. Afterward he called for a tape and a cross. Taking the taper he said, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” Kissing the cross, he said, “The Lord is the Defender of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” By and by, with his hands folded as if in prayer, and with his eyes “lighted up to heaven,” he said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Immediately he closed his eyes as if he were only about to sleep, and so, breathing gently, “he delivered up his spirit as if he had only slumbered.” Now, for a moment, Erasmus probably laid down his pen with a gentle sigh of peaceful satisfaction. (488-9)

In Elizabethan society, the husband’s will, however, was considered more important than the wife’s. immediately after a great man’s burial an inventory was taken of all his goods and chattels that it might be determined how much of the willed property could actually become the inheritance of the legatees. Furthermore, since a good husband must leave his wife and children well provided for, there was intense interest in his social group concerning how well he had met his serious obligation. Even ministers referred to this duty in their public sermons. When, for example, William Whately urged such protection in his sermon of A Bride-Bush, he was as conventional as he was earnest in his admonition. “Be therefore mindful,” he declaimed solemnly, “that thou art an husband as well as a father, and leavest a mother by thy children, as well as children by thy body; and let thy wife, even after thy death, enjoy such a part of thy substance, as that she need not stand beholding to her children (that in all reason should have them beholding to her) and that she may live as becometh the widow of an husband of such an estate.” Though this sermon came nearly twenty years after the shocking will of the second Earl of Pembroke was read at his death, the preacher seems to have had in mind a great injustice similar to that for which the earl was so severely criticized by friends of his wife and family. /
Everyone was so surprised when the earl left his wife Mary (sister of Sir Philip Sidney) poorly provided for that the gossips were kept busy chattering about his “bestowing all to the young lord, even his wife’s jewels, and leaving her as bare as he could.” Two motives might have prompted such a will: first, the husband may have believed his wife would remarry as soon as possible. Though he had no cause to suspect her of undue haste in such a marriage, many Elizabeth husbands labored under this fear. Second, he was deeply concerned about securing his estate for his heirs, through whom he hoped for a certain degree of immortality. He had made every effort to build up a fortune that would enhance the honor of his name, and he did not intend to have that fortune pass on to hi son with any diminution whatsoever. (491)

Elizabethan widows, as a rule, were given little time to mourn, especially if they were young. Mother and father, son and daughter, brother and sister, and even a husband might find solace in friends or relatives at the time of bereavement, but as soon as a widow laid the body of her husband in the tomb, she was expected to bury her independence and her grief. Indeed, most widows, as soon as death left them alone, “modestly” put themselves into the hands of their nearest kind, who might proceed with or without haste to launch them into matrimony again. There were exceptions to this convention, however, as when wives of men very popular among the people of their own age married again hastily; then people criticized the lack of respect shown for the dead. If there had been a great attachment between the husband and wife or if the husband was a darling of the people, the widow’s marriage would be criticized regardless of when it might occur or to whom she gave her hand. For example, though the widow of Essex waited two years before she married again, her act was frowned upon, and this in spite of the fact that she was left with three sons and two daughters to rear and educate. True, two of the sons died early, but she was still burdened with much responsibility, and needed a person to help her as only a husband could. When a widow’s relatives chose to make a good bargain for themselves as well as for her by means of a new marriage contract, the widow might have little to say in the matter, particularly if she voluntarily put herself into the hands of such relatives. (491-2)

As in Margaret’s case, the higher the rich widow’s social standing, the sooner, as a rule, her remarriage occurred. In any case, however, the rich widow must be quickly matched. (493)

For even the most unscrupulous guardians had to reckon with the fact that a woman’s consent to marriage was necessary to any matching, and the longer she was a widow, the less tractable she might become. (493)

It was to protect these widows form the human wolves that would rob them of their good name as well as their possessions that Elizabethan society condoned their early marriage. The only stipulation was that the widow must not receive any suitors till her husband’s body was buried. For those whose husbands had died abroad, this period of retirement form the social whirl might be longer than one would suppose: two or more months might pass before the body could be transported to its final resting place. (494)

Should the mother of the family die—and mortality form childbirth ran high in this age—the father was expected to find a new mother for his children as soon as possible. Such hasty marriages for men were common to all classes of society, though material possessions were important elements affecting new ties for men as well as for women. In fact, it was a common practice, even among Puritans who were likely to be sensitive to the charge of lustiness, for either man or woman to marry soon after losing a mate in death. the Dutch mother-in-law of Philip Stubbes, the Puritan, was a middle-class woman widowed on September 22, 1563, and she remarried on November 8 of that same year. When she was widowed again some twenty years later, she was licensed to marry within less than two months, yet the moral Stubbes always spoke of her as a woman of “singular good grace and modesty,” declaring she was both discreet and wise and chiefly adorned by being “both religious and zealous.” (495)


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