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Title: Medieval People
Author: Power, Eileen Edna, 1889-1940
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Medieval People


M.A., D.Lit.

_Late Reader in History in the University of
London and sometime Fellow and Lecturer of
Girton College, Cambridge_

'I counsel thee, shut not thy heart nor thy library'


_First published, 1924

Published in 1963

Eighth Printing, 1969_
my colleagues and students
at Girton College, Cambridge


For if heuene be on this erthe . and ese to any soule,
It is in cloistere or in scole . by many skilles I fynde;
For in cloistre cometh no man . to chide ne to fizte,
But alle is buxomnesse there and bokes . to rede and to lerne,
In scole there is scorne . but if a clerke wil lerne,
And grete loue and lykynge . for eche of hem loueth other.

--LANGLAND, _Piers Plowman_

_Author's Preface_

Social history sometimes suffers from the reproach that it is vague and
general, unable to compete with the attractions of political history
either for the student or for the general reader, because of its lack of
outstanding personalities. In point of fact there is often as much
material for reconstructing the life of some quite ordinary person as
there is for writing a history of Robert of Normandy or of Philippa of
Hainault; and the lives of ordinary people so reconstructed are, if less
spectacular, certainly not less interesting. I believe that social
history lends itself particularly to what may be called a personal
treatment, and that the past may be made to live again for the general
reader more effectively by personifying it than by presenting it in the
form of learned treatises on the development of the manor or on medieval
trade, essential as these are to the specialist. For history, after all,
is valuable only in so far as it lives, and Maeterlinck's cry, 'There
are no dead', should always be the historian's motto. It is the idea
that history is about dead people, or, worse still, about movements and
conditions which seem but vaguely related to the labours and passions of
flesh and blood, which has driven history from bookshelves where the
historical novel still finds a welcome place.

In the following series of sketches I have tried to illustrate at the
same time various aspects of social life in the Middle Ages and various
classes of historical material. Thus Bodo illustrates peasant life, and
an early phase of a typical medieval estate; Marco Polo, Venetian trade
with the East; Madame Eglentyne, monastic life; the Ménagier's wife,
domestic life in a middle-class home, and medieval ideas about women;
Thomas Betson, the wool trade, and the activities of the great English
trading company of Merchants of the Staple; and Thomas Paycocke, the
cloth industry in East Anglia. They are all quite ordinary people and
unknown to fame, with the exception of Marco Polo. The types of
historical evidence illustrated are the estate book of a manorial lord,
the chronicle and traveller's tale, the bishop's register, the didactic
treatise in household management, the collection of family letters, and
houses, brasses, and wills. At the end of the book I have added a
bibliography of the sources which form the raw material for my
reconstructions, and a few additional notes and references. I hope that
this modest attempt to bring to life again some of 'our fathers that
begat us', may perhaps interest for an hour or two the general reader,
or the teacher, who wishes to make more concrete by personification some
of the general facts of medieval social and economic history.

My thanks are due to my publishers, Messrs. Methuen and Co., for
allowing me to incorporate in Chapter VI the greater part of a chapter
in my book 'The Paycockes of Coggeshall', and to the Cambridge
University Press for similarly allowing me to repeat in Chapter III a
few sentences from my study of 'Medieval English Nunneries'. I have also
to thank my friends Miss M.G. Jones and Miss H.M.R. Murray of Girton
College, Cambridge, for various suggestions and criticisms, and my
sister Miss Rhoda Power for making the index.

  _May 1924_                           EILEEN POWER
        _London School of Economics and Political Science
                   University of London_

_Preface to the Tenth Edition_

For years after the first edition of _Medieval People_ had come out,
Eileen Power collected notes and made plans for several essays to be
included in an enlarged edition of the book. Of these essays only one,
"The Precursors", had been written out in full before she died; and it
has now been added to the present edition. In its published form it is
not in every respect identical with the author's original text.

The essay was taking shape as Munich came and went and as the war itself
was drawing near. No historian writing at that time about Rome menaced
by the barbarians--and least of all an historian as sensitive to the
extra-mural world as Eileen Power was--could have helped noting the
similarities between the Roman Empire in the fifth or sixth centuries
and Europe in the nineteen-thirties. In the end, having finished the
essay, she decided to withold it from publication for the time being and
to present it instead to a friendly audience as a tract for the times.
This she did at a meeting of the Cambridge History Club in the winter of
1938: and for that occasion she replaced the opening and concluding
pages of the original essay with passages, or rather notes for passages,
more suited to the purpose.

I am sure that she never intended these passages to be perpetuated in
her _Medieval People_ and I have therefore done what I could to replace
them with a reconstructed version of her first draft. The reconstruction
had to be done from somewhat disjointed notes and cannot therefore be
word-faithful. The readers must therefore bear in mind that the first
two and the last page of the essay are mere approximations to what
Eileen Power in fact wrote.

_April_, 1963 M.M. POSTAN _Peterhouse, Cambridge_.












_List of Illustrations_

       From _MS. Tit. B.V., Pt. I_. British Museum

       From _Bodleian MS. 264_. Oxford

       From the original in the British Museum

       From _MS. Add. 39843_. British Museum

       From _Harl. MS. 4425_. British Museum

       From _MS. Royal, 15 D. i_. British Museum

       From _Cott. MS. Aug. i, Vol. II_. British Museum

       From _The Paycockes of Coggeshall_ by Eileen Power
         (Methuen & Co. Ltd.)


Let us now praise famous men and our fathers that begat us....

There be of them that have left a name behind them, that their praises
might be reported.

And some there be which have no memorial; who are perished, as though
they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born;
and their children after them.

But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been

With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their
children are within the covenant.

Their seed standeth fast, and their children for their sakes.

Their seed shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted

Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore.



_The Precursors_


Every schoolboy knows that the Middle Ages arose on the ruins of the
Roman Empire. The decline of Rome preceded and in some ways prepared the
rise of the kingdoms and cultures which composed the medieval system.
Yet in spite of the self-evident truth of this historical preposition we
know little about life and thought in the watershed years when Europe
was ceasing to be Roman but was not yet medieval. We do not know how it
felt to watch the decline of Rome; we do not even know whether the men
who watched it knew what they saw, though we can be quite certain that
none of them foretold, indeed could have foreseen, the shape which the
world was to take in later centuries.

Yet the tragic story, its main themes and protagonists were for all to
see. No observer should have failed to notice that the Roman Empire of
the fourth and fifth centuries was no longer the Roman Empire of the
great Antonine and Augustan age; that it had lost its hold over its
territories and its economic cohesion and was menaced by the barbarians
who were in the end to overwhelm it. The territory of the Roman Empire
had at its height stretched from the lands bordering the North Sea to
the lands on the northern fringes of the Sahara, and from the Atlantic
coast of Europe to the central Asiatic Steppes; it comprised most of the
regions of the former Hellenic, Iranian, and Phoenician empires, and it
either ruled or kept in check great clusters of peoples and
principalities beyond its Gallic and north African frontiers. From these
farthest frontiers Rome of the fourth century had retreated and was
still retreating.

Within its frontiers great currents of inter-regional commerce had in
earlier centuries flowed along the routes which bound all the provinces
of the Empire to Rome and most of the provinces to each other. But from
the third century onwards the economic unity of the Empire was in
dissolution, and by the fifth century most of the great currents of
inter-regional trade had ceased to flow, and provinces and districts had
been thrown upon themselves and their own resources. And with the wealth
of the provinces reduced, their commerce restricted, the great
provincial cities also declined in population, wealth, political power.

Yet to its very last days the Empire endeavoured to defend its frontiers
against the converging barbarians. Not only did the Barbarian Conquests,
like all conquests, threaten destruction and ruin, but the way of life
the barbarians stood for was the very denial of what Roman civilization
had been, though alas, was gradually ceasing to be.

However, it was not in material things, that the contemporaries found,
or should have found the sharpest conflict between Rome and the
barbarian prospects before it. Above all Roman civilization was a
civilization of the mind. It had behind it a long tradition of thought
and of intellectual achievement, the legacy of Greece, to which it had
in turn made its own contribution. The Roman world was a world of
schools and universities, writers, and builders. The barbarian world was
a world in which mind was in its infancy and its infancy was long. The
battle sagas of the race, which have all but disappeared or have
survived only as legends worked up in a later age; the few rude laws
which were needed to regulate personal relationships, this was hardly
civilization in the Roman sense. King Chilperic, trying to make verses
in the style of Sedulius, though he could not distinguish between a long
foot and a short and they all hobbled; Charlemagne himself, going to bed
with his slate under his pillow in order to practice in the watches of
the night that art of writing which he never mastered; what have they in
common with Julius Caesar and Marcus Aurelius and that great Julian
called the Apostate? They sum up in their very persons the whole wide
gulf that yawned between Germany and Rome.

Rome and the barbarians were thus not only protagonists but two
different attitudes to life, civilization and barbarism. We cannot here
discuss in detail the question as to why, in the clash between the two,
it was civilization which perished and barbarism which prevailed. But it
is important to remember that while the Empire tried to defend its
frontiers against the barbarian hosts, it gradually opened them to
barbarian settlers.

This peaceful infiltration of barbarians which altered the whole
character of the society which it invaded would have been impossible, of
course, if that society had not been stricken by disease. The disease is
plain enough to see by the third century. It shows itself in those
internecine civil wars in which civilization rends itself, province
against province and army against army. It shows itself in the great
inflationary crisis from about 268 and in the taxation which gradually
crushed out the smaller bourgeoisie while the fortunes of the rich
escaped its net. It shows itself in the gradual sinking back of an
economy based upon free exchange into more and more primitive conditions
when every province seeks to be self-sufficient and barter takes the
place of trade. It shows itself in the decline of farming and in the
workless city population kept quiet by their dole of bread and their
circuses, whose life contrasted so dramatically, so terribly with that
of the haughty senatorial families and the great landowners in their
palatial villas and town houses. It shows itself in the rise of mystical
faiths on the ruins of philosophy, and of superstition (more especially
astrology) on the ruins of reason. One religion in particular grew
mighty, by clasping its sacred book and addressing itself with words of
hope to the victims of social injustice, but although it was able to
bring comfort to individuals it could do nothing, indeed it did not try,
to give new strength or inspiration to the embattled civilization. True
to its own ethos it was impartial as between Barbarian and Roman, or
between the Romans who prospered and ruled and those outside the pale.

The most obvious manifestation of Roman society in decline was the
dwindling numbers of Roman citizens. The Empire was being depopulated
long before the end of the period of peace and prosperity which
stretched from Augustus to Marcus Aurelius. Does not Augustus himself
summon the poor man of Fiesole who has a family of eight children,
thirty-six grandchildren and eighteen great grandchildren, and organize
in his honour a fête in the Capitol, accompanied by a great deal of
publicity? Does not Tacitus, half-anthropologist and half-Rousseau,
describing the noble savage with his eye on fellow citizens, remark that
among the Germans it is accounted a shameful thing to limit the number
of your children? The long duration of Augustus's legislation to raise
the birthrate is significant; successful it was not, but the fact that
it was maintained on the statute book and systematically revised and
developed for three centuries shows that it was at least accounted
necessary. It is true of course that the mortality rate was a far more
important factor in those days than it is in our own, and the mortality
from pestilence and civil war from Marcus Aurelius onwards was
exceptional. And it is plain that the proportion of celibates was high
in the Roman empire and that the fall in the fertility of marriages was
going on. It is the childless marriage, the small family system that
contemporary writers deplore. In Seeley's striking phrase: 'The human
harvest was bad,' It was bad in all classes, but the decline was most
marked in the upper ranks, the most educated, the most civilized, the
potential leaders of the race. In the terrible words of Swift, facing
his own madness, the Roman Empire might have cried: 'I shall die like a
tree--from the top downwards.'

Why (the insistent question forces itself) did this civilization lose
the power to reproduce itself? Was it, as Polybius said, because people
preferred amusements to children or wished to bring their children up in
comfort? Hardly, for it is more marked among the rich than the poor and
the rich can have the best of both worlds. Was it because people had
grown discouraged and disheartened, no longer believing in their own
civilization and loath to bring children into the darkness and disaster
of their war-shattered world? We do not know. But we can see the
connection of the falling population with the other evils of the
empire--the heavy cost of administration relatively heavier when the
density of the population is low; the empty fields, the dwindling
legions which did not suffice to guard the frontier.

To cure this sickness of population the Roman rulers knew no other way
than to dose it with barbarian vigour. Just a small injection to begin
with and then more and more till in the end the blood that flowed in its
veins was not Roman but barbarian. In came the Germans to settle the
frontier, to till the fields, to enlist first in the auxiliaries and
then in the legions, to fill the great offices of state. The army is
barbarized, and a modern writer, Mr Moss, has quoted most effectively
the complaint of the Egyptian mother clamouring to get back her son who
(as she says) has gone off with the barbarians--he means that he has
enlisted in the Roman legions. The legions are barbarized and they
barbarize the Emperor. For them he is no longer the majestic embodiment
of law, he is their leader, their Führer, and they raise him on their
shields. And side by side with the barbarization of the army goes the
barbarization of civil manners too. In 397 Honorius has to pass an edict
forbidding the wearing of German fashions within the precincts of Rome.
And in the end, half barbarian themselves, they have only barbarians to
defend them against barbarism.

Such was the general picture of the great ruin of civilization amidst
which the Romans of the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries lived. What
then did it feel like to live at a time when civilization was going down
before the forces of barbarism? Did people realize what was happening?
Did the gloom of the Dark Ages cast its shadow before? It so happens
that we can answer these questions very clearly if we fix our eyes on
one particular part of the Empire, the famous and highly civilized
province of Gaul. We can catch the decline at three points because in
three consecutive centuries, Gallo-Roman writers have left us a picture
of their life and times. In the fourth century we have Ausonius, in the
fifth Sidonius Apollinarius, in the sixth Gregory of Tours and
Fortunatus, a stranger from Italy, who made his home in Poitiers. They
show us Auvergne and the Bordelais in the evening light. The fourth, the
fifth, and the sixth centuries--going, going, gone!


Going! This is the world of Ausonius, south-western France in the latter
half of the fourth century, 'an Indian summer between ages of storm and
wreckage'. Ausonius himself is a scholar and a gentleman, the friend
alike of the pagan Symmachus and of St Paulinus of Nela. He is for
thirty years professor of rhetoric in the university of Bordeaux, for
some time tutor to a prince, praetorian prefect of Gaul, consul, and in
his last years just an old man contentedly living on his estates. His
most famous poem is a description of the Moselle, which for all its
literary affectations evokes most magically the smiling countryside
which was the background of his life. High above the river on either
bank stand the villas and country houses, with their courts and lawns
and pillared porticos, and the hot baths from which, if you will, you
can plunge into the stream. The sunny hillside is covered with vines,
and from slope to hill-top the husbandmen call to each other and the
wayfarer on the towpath or the bargemen floating by, shout their rude
jests to the loitering vinedressers. Far out in midstream the fisherman
trails his dripping net and on a rock by the shore the angler plies his
rod. And, as twilight falls, the deepening shadow of the green hillside
is reflected in the water and gazing downward the boatman can almost
count the trembling vines and almost see the swelling of the grapes.

Equally peaceful, equally pleasant is life on Ausonius' own estate in
the Bordelais, his little patrimony (he calls it) although he had a
thousand acres of vineyard and tillage and wood. Miss Waddell has
reminded us, on the authority of Saintsbury (whom else?) that 'to this
day it boasts itself as Château-Ausone, one of the two best of the St
Emilion clarets.' Here he tends his roses and sends his boy round to the
neighbours to bid them to luncheon, while he interviews the cook. Six,
including the host, is the right number--if more it is not a meal but a
melée. Then there are all his relatives to be commemorated in verse, his
grandfather and his grandmother and his sisters and his cousins and his
aunts (especially his aunts).

And when the family circle palls there is the senior common room to fall
back upon and the professors of Bordeaux to be celebrated in their turn.
Professors were important people in the empire of the fourth century;
Symmachus says that it is the mark of a flourishing state that good
salaries should be paid to professors; though what exactly we are to
deduce from that in the light of history I should hesitate to say. So
Ausonius writes a collection of poems about the professors of Bordeaux.
There are thirty-two of them and all are celebrated. There is Minervius
the orator, who had a prodigious memory and after a game of backgammon
was wont to conduct a post-mortem over every move. There is Anastasius
the grammarian, who was so foolish as to leave Bordeaux for a provincial
university and thenceforth languished in well-merited obscurity. There
is Attius Tiro Delphidius, who retired from a legal career into the
professorial chair, but could never be got to take any trouble with his
men, to the disappointment of their parents. There is Jocundus the
grammarian, who did not really deserve his title, but was such a kind
man that we will commemorate him among men of worth, although he was,
strictly speaking, unequal to the job. There is Exuperius, who was very
good-looking and whose eloquence sounded superb until you examined it
and found that it meant nothing. There is Dynamius, who slipped from the
paths of virtue with a married lady in Bordeaux and left the place
rather hastily, but fortunately fell on his feet in Spain. There is
Victorius the usher, who liked only the most abstruse historical
problems, such as what the pedigree of the sacrificial priest at Cureo
was long before Numa's day, or what Castor had to say on all the shadowy
kings, and who never got up as far as Tully or Virgil, though he might
have done so if he had gone on reading long enough, but death cut him
off too soon. They seem oddly familiar figures (except of course,
Dynamius) and their chronicler contrives to make them live.

Such is the world depicted for us by Ausonius. But while this pleasant
country house and senior common room life was going calmly on, what do
we find happening in the history books? Ausonius was a man of nearly
fifty when the Germans swarmed across the Rhine in 357, pillaging
forty-five flourishing cities, and pitching their camps on the banks of
the Moselle. He had seen the great Julian take up arms ('O Plato, Plato,
what a task for a philosopher') and in a series of brilliant campaigns
drive them out again. Ten years later when he was tutor to Gratian he
had himself accompanied the emperor Valentinian on another campaign
against the same foes. While he was preening himself on his consulship
ten years later still, he must have heard of the disastrous battle of
Adrianople in the east, when the Goths defeated a Roman army and slew an
emperor. He died in 395 and within twelve years of his death the host of
Germans had burst across the Rhine, 'all Gaul was a smoking funeral
pyre', and the Goths were at the gates of Rome. And what have Ausonius
and his correspondents to say about this? Not a word. Ausonius and
Symmachus and their set ignore the barbarians as completely as the
novels of Jane Austen ignore the Napoleonic wars.


Going, going.... Some thirty-five years after the death of Ausonius, in
the midst of the disastrous sixth century, was born Sidonius
Apollinaris, Gallo-Roman aristocrat, father-in-law of an emperor,
sometime prefect of Rome and in the end Bishop of Clermont. Sidonius
Apollinaris, 431 (or thereabouts) to 479 or perhaps a few years later.
Much had happened between the death of Ausonius and his birth. The
lights were going out all over Europe. Barbarian kingdoms had been
planted in Gaul and Spain, Rome herself had been sacked by the Goths;
and in his lifetime the collapse went on, ever more swiftly. He was a
young man of twenty when the ultimate horror broke upon the West, the
inroad of Attila and the Huns. That passed away, but when he was
twenty-four the Vandals sacked Rome. He saw the terrible German
king-maker Ricimer throne and unthrone a series of puppet emperors, he
saw the last remnant of Gallic independence thrown away and himself
become a barbarian subject, and he saw a few years before he died the
fall of the empire in the west.

They cannot, Sidonius and his friends, ignore as Ausonius and his
friends did, that something is happening to the empire. The men of the
fifth century are concerned at these disasters and they console
themselves, each according to his kind. There are some who think it
cannot last. After all, they say, the empire has been in a tight place
before and has always got out of it in the end and risen supreme over
its enemies. Thus Sidonius himself, the very year after they sacked the
city; Rome has endured as much before--there was Porsenna, there was
Brennus, there was Hannibal.... Only that time Rome did not get over it.
Others tried to use the disasters to castigate the sins of society. Thus
Salvian of Marseilles who would no doubt have been called the gloomy
dean if he had not been a bishop. For him all that the decadent Roman
civilization needs is to copy some of the virtues of these fresh young
barbarian people. There is the familiar figure of Orosius, defending the
barbarians with the argument that when the Roman empire was founded it
was founded in blood and conquest and can ill afford to throw stones at
the barbarians; and after all the barbarians are not so bad. 'If the
unhappy people they have despoiled will content themselves with the
little that is left them, their conquerors will cherish them as friends
and brothers.' Others, especially the more thoughtful churchmen are much
concerned to explain why an empire which had flourished under paganism
should be thus beset under Christianity. Others desert the Empire
altogether and (like St Augustine) put their hope in a city not made
with hands--though Ambrose, it is true, let fall the pregnant
observation that it was not the will of God that his people should be
saved by logic-chopping. 'It has not pleased God to save his people by

And how were they living? We have only to read the letters written by
Sidonius during the period between 460 and 470, when he was living on
his estate in Auvergne, to realize that on the surface all is going on
exactly as before. Gaul is shrunk, it is true, to a mere remnant between
three barbarian kingdoms, but save for that we might be back in the days
of Ausonius. There is the luxurious villa, with its hot baths and
swimming pool, its suites of rooms, its views over the lake; and there
is Sidonius inviting his friends to stay with him or sending
round his compositions to the professors and the bishops and the
country-gentlemen. Sport and games are very popular--Sidonius rides and
swims and hunts and plays tennis. In one letter he tells his
correspondent that he has been spending some days in the country with
his cousin and an old friend, whose estates adjoin each other. They had
sent out scouts to catch him and bring him back for a week and took it
in turns to entertain him. There are games of tennis on the lawn before
breakfast or backgammon for the older men. There is an hour or two in
the library before we sit down to an excellent luncheon followed by a
siesta. Then we go out riding and return for a hot bath and a plunge in
the river. I should like to describe our luscious dinner parties, he
concludes, but I have no more paper. However, come and stay with us and
you shall hear all about it. Clearly this is no Britain, where in the
sixth century half-barbarian people camped in the abandoned villas and
cooked their food on the floors of the principal rooms.

And yet ... it had gone a long way downhill since the days of Ausonius,
and Sidonius could not now ignore the very existence of the barbarians.
He has indeed left notable protraits of them, especially of the king of
the Visigoths and of the Burgundians who ruled Lyons, where he was born.
Whenever he went to stay there, he complains, they flocked about him in
embarrassing friendliness, breathing leeks and onions and dressing their
hair with rancid butter (they were not, it appears, constrained to
choose between spears and butter). How can he compose six foot metres,
he asks, with so many seven foot patrons around him, all singing and all
expecting him to admire their uncouth stream of non-Latin words? The
shrug of the shoulder, the genial contempt of one conscious of an
infinite superiority--how clear it is. One is reminded of a verse
of Verlaine

Je suis l'empire a la fin de la decadence
qui regarde passer les grands barbares blancs

But Sidonius's good nature was to be rudely shaken. All barbarians were
not friendly giants, and the Visigoths next door, under their new king
Euric, turned covetous eyes upon Auvergne. Sidonius had not been two
years bishop of Clermont before he had to organize the defence of the
city against their attack. The Avernians stood out gallantly; they would
fight and they would starve, but they would defend this last stronghold
of Rome in Gaul. But they were a small people; to resist successfully
they must have help from Rome itself. Lest anyone should suspect me of
twisting the story, I give it in the words of Sidonius's editor, writing
twenty years ago.

     Julius Nepos was alive to the danger that Euric might cross
     the Rhône; but weak as his resources were he could only hope
     to secure peace by negotiation. The quaestor Licinianus had
     been sent into Gaul to investigate the condition of affairs
     on the spot.... He had now returned and it was soon only too
     clear that hopes based on his intervention were not likely
     to be fulfilled. We find Sidonius writing for information....
     He began to fear that something was going on behind his back,
     and that the real danger to Auvergne came no longer from
     determined enemies but from pusillanimous friends. His
     suspicions were only too well founded. On receipt of the
     quaestor's report a Council was held to determine the policy
     of the Empire towards the Visigothic king.... The empire did
     not feel strong enough to support Auvergne and it was decided
     to cede the whole territory to Euric, apparently without

The despair of Sidonius knew no bounds and he writes a nobly indignant
letter to a bishop who had been concerned in the negotiations:

     The state of our unhappy region is miserable indeed. Everyone
     declares that things were better in wartime than they are now
     after peace has been concluded. Our enslavement was made the
     price of security for a third party; the enslavement, ah--the
     shame of it!, of those Avernians ... who in our own time
     stood forth alone to stay the advance of the common enemy....
     These are the men whose common soldiers were as good as
     captains, but who never reaped the benefit of their
     victories: that was handed over for your consolation, while
     all the crushing burden of defeat they had to bear
     themselves.... This is to be our reward for braving
     destitution, fire, sword and pestilence, for fleshing our
     swords in the enemy's blood and going ourselves starved into
     battle. This is the famous peace we dreamed of, when we tore
     the grass from the crannies in the walls to eat.... For all
     these proofs of our devotion, it would seem that we are to be
     made a sacrifice. If it be so, may you live to blush for a
     peace without either honour or advantage.

Auvergne had been sacrificed to save Rome. But Rome was not to enjoy her
peace with honour for long. These things took place in 475; and in 476
the last emperor was desposed by his barbarian bear-leader, and the
empire in the west came to an end. As for Sidonius, the Goths imprisoned
him for a time and before he could recover his estate he had to write a
panegyric for King Euric (he who had written panegyrics for three Roman
emperors). It is clear that the old country house life went on as
before, though the men who exchanged letters and epigrams were now under
barbarian rule. But in one letter shortly before his death there breaks
from Sidonius a single line in which he unpacks his heart. _O
neccessitas abjecta nascendi, vivendi misera dura moriendi._ 'O
humiliating necessity of birth, sad necessity of living, hard necessity
of dying.' Shortly after 479 he died and within twenty years Clovis had
embarked upon his career of conquest and Theodoric was ruler of Italy.


Going, going, gone.... There is only the time and only the heart to look
for a moment at the Frankish kingdom which once was Gaul, and to survey
the world of Fortunatus and Gregory of Tours, born both of them just
about a century later than Sidonius, in the 530s. For a moment when you
look at Fortunatus you think the world of the sixth century is the same
world as that in which Sidonius entertained his friends with epigrams
and tennis. Fortunatus, that versatile, gentle, genial, boot-licking
gourmet, who somehow managed to write two of the most magnificent hymns
of the Christian church, came from Italy on a visit to Gaul in 565 and
never left it again. He travelled all over the Frankish lands, in what
had been Germania as well as in what had been Gaul. From Trier to
Toulouse he made his way with ease by river and by road, and it might be
Ausonius again. Fortunatus too writes a poem on the Moselle; and there
is the same smiling countryside with terraced vineyards sloping down to
the quiet stream and the smoke of villas rising from the woods.
Fortunatus too made the round of the country houses, especially of the
sumptuous villas belonging to Leontius bishop of Bordeaux, a great
Gallo-Roman aristocrat, whose grandfather had been a friend of Sidonius.
The hot baths, the pillared porticos, the lawns sloping to the river,
are all there; the feasts are even more magnificent (they upset
Fortunatus's digestion badly) and the talk is still of literature. The
more intelligent of the barbarian lords have imitated this refined and
luxurious life as best they may. The Franks as well as the Gallo-Romans
welcome little eager Fortunatus; every count wants a set of Latin verses
dedicated to himself. It is plain that some of the old country house
life at least has survived. The Apollinaris set still enjoys its hot
baths and its tennis; as Dill puts it, the barbarian might rule the
land, but the laws of polite society would be administered as before.

But when you look again you realize that it is not the same. It is not
merely because we know that even these remnants of the social and
material civilization of Rome would soon themselves die away that the
tragedy of the sixth century looms so dark. It is because when we look
below the surface we see that the life has gone out of it all, the soul
that inflamed it is dead, nothing is now left but the empty shell. These
men welcome Fortunatus just because he comes from Italy, where the rot
has gone less far, where there still survives some reputation for
learning and for culture. They slake their nostalgia a little in the
presence of that _enfant perdue_ of a lost civilization.

For this is the world of Gregory of Tours, of which you may read in his
_History of the Franks_. The rule under which it lives is the rule of
the horrible Merovingian kings. Side by side with the villas barbarism
spreads and flourishes like a jungle growth. Learning is dying--hardly
the ghost of a university is left--and Gregory himself who came of a
great Gallo-Roman family and was a bishop bewails his ignorance of
grammar. The towns are shrinking, crouched behind their defences. The
synagogues are flaming, and the first step has been taken in that tragic
tale of proscription and tallage, tallage and expulsion which (it seems)
must never end. As to politics, the will of the leader and his retinue
is the rule of the Franks, and purge and bloodbath mark every stage in
the rivalry of the Merovingian princes. The worst of them are devils
like Chilperic and Fredegond, the best of them are still barbarians like
that King Guntram, who fills so many indulgent pages in Gregory of
Tours. He is a vaguely contemporary figure, a fat, voluble man, now
purring with jovial good nature, now bursting into explosions of wrath
and violence, a strange mixture of bonhomie and brutality. It is an
ironic commentary on what has happened to civilization that Gregory
should regard him with affection, that he should be known as 'Good King
Guntram' and that the church should actually have canonized him after
his death. Good King Guntram; Michelet has summed him up in a phrase 'Ce
bon roi à qui on ne reprochait que deux ou trois meurtres.'


These were the men who lived through the centuries of Roman fall and
Barbarian triumph, and who by virtue of their elevated position, their
learning, and talents, should have seen, if not foretold, the course of
events. And yet as one contemplates the world of Ausonius and Sidonius
(for by the time of Gregory of Tours it was already dead) one is, I
think, impelled to ask oneself the question why they were apparently so
blind to what was happening. The big country houses go on having their
luncheon and tennis parties, the little professors in the universities
go on giving their lectures and writing their books; games are
increasingly popular and the theatres are always full. Ausonius has seen
the Germans overrun Gaul once, but he never speaks of a danger that may
recur. Sidonius lives in a world already half barbarian, yet in the year
before the Western Empire falls he is still dreaming of the consulship
for his son. Why did they not realize the magnitude of the disaster that
was befalling them? This is indeed a question almost as absorbing as the
question why their civilization fell, for _au fond_ it is perhaps the
same question. Several answers may be suggested in explanation.

In the first place the process of disintegration was a slow one, for the
whole tempo of life was slow and what might take decades in our own time
took centuries then. It is only because we can look back from the
vantage point of a much later age that we can see the inexorable pattern
which events are forming, so that we long to cry to these dead people
down the corridor of the ages, warning them to make a stand before it is
too late, hearing no answering echo, 'Physician, heal thyself!' They
suffered from the fatal myopia of contemporaries. It was the affairs of
the moment that occupied them; for them it was the danger of the moment
that must be averted and they did not recognize that each compromise and
each defeat was a link in the chain dragging them over the abyss.

At what point did barbarism within become a wasting disease? Yet from
the first skinclad German taken into a legion to the great barbarian
patricians of Italy, making and unmaking emperors, the chain is
unbroken. At what point in the assault from without did the attack
become fatal? Was it the withdrawal from Dacia in 270--allow the
barbarians their sphere of influence in the east of Europe, fling them
the last-won recruit to Romania and they will be satiated and leave the
west alone? Was it the settlement of the Goths as _foederati_ within the
Empire in 382 and the beginning of that compromise between the Roman
empire and the Germans which, as Bury says, masked the transition from
the rule of one to the rule of the other, from federate states within
the Empire to independent states replacing it? Was this policy of
appeasement the fatal error? Was it the removal of the legions from
Britain, a distant people (as a Roman senator might have said) of whom
we know nothing? Or was it that fatal combination of Spain and Africa,
when the Vandals ensconced themselves in both provinces by 428 and the
Vandal fleet (with Majorca and the islands for its bases) cut off Rome
from her corn supplies and broke the backbone of ancient civilization,
which was the Mediterranean sea? Not once alone in the history of Europe
has the triumph of a hostile rule in Africa and Spain spelt disaster to
our civilization.

But if the gradualness of this process misled the Romans there were
other and equally potent reasons for their blindness. Most potent of all
was the fact that they mistook entirely the very nature of civilization
itself. All of them were making the same mistake. People who thought
that Rome could swallow barbarism and absorb it into her life without
diluting her own civilization; the people who ran about busily saying
that the barbarians were not such bad fellows after all, finding good
points in their regime with which to castigate the Romans and crying
that except ye become as little barbarians ye shall not attain
salvation; the people who did not observe in 476 that one half of the
Respublica Romanorum had ceased to exist and nourished themselves on the
fiction that the barbarian kings were exercising a power delegated from
the Emperor. All these people were deluded by the same error, the belief
that Rome (the civilization of their age) was not a mere historical fact
with a beginning and an end, but a condition of nature like the air they
breathed and the earth they tread _Ave Roma immortalis_, most
magnificent most disastrous of creeds!

The fact is that the Romans were blinded to what was happening to them
by the very perfection of the material culture which they had created.
All around them was solidity and comfort, a material existence which was
the very antithesis of barbarism. How could they foresee the day when
the Norman chronicler would marvel over the broken hypocausts of
Caerleon? How could they imagine that anything so solid might
conceivably disappear? Their roads grew better as their statesmanship
grew worse and central heating triumphed as civilization fell.

But still more responsible for their unawareness was the educational
system in which they were reared. Ausonius and Sidonius and their
friends were highly educated men and Gaul was famous for its schools and
universities. The education which these gave consisted in the study of
grammar and rhetoric, which was necessary alike for the civil service
and for polite society; and it would be difficult to imagine an
education more entirely out of touch with contemporary life, or less
suited to inculcate the qualities which might have enabled men to deal
with it. The fatal study of rhetoric, its links with reality long since
severed, concentrated the whole attention of men of intellect on form
rather than on matter. The things they learned in their schools had no
relation to the things that were going on in the world outside and bred
in them the fatal illusion that tomorrow would be as yesterday, that
everything was the same, whereas everything was different.

So we take our leave of them. Going ... going ... gone! Gone altogether?
Perhaps not. Hundreds of years of barbarism were to elapse before a new
society arose capable of matching or even excelling Rome in material
wealth, in arts, in sciences, and in gentler modes of existence--the
_douceur de la vie_. We cannot say what date marked the moment of final
recovery, or who were the men who were to represent advancing
civilization as fully as Ausonius or Gregory of Tours represented
civilization in retreat: Dante, Shakespeare, Capernicus, Newton? But for
many centuries, perhaps a whole millennium, before western Europe scaled
the heights on which these men now stood, it had been gradually raising
itself from the depths of post-Roman decline. The ascent was not only
slow but also discontinuous, yet it was sufficient to establish within a
few centuries of Gregory of Tours a social order different from Rome and
less glorious to behold across a thousand years of history, but
nevertheless sufficiently exalted to draw the interest, and even to
command the admiration of other still later ages. In that culture and in
that social order much of what Ausonius and Sidonius and even Fortunatus
represented was brought to life again, albeit in a form they would not
always have recognized as their own. To this extent, at least, they were
not only the epigones of Rome but the true precursors of the
Middle Ages.




Three slender things that best support the world: the slender stream of
milk from the cow's dug into the pail; the slender blade of green corn
upon the ground; the slender thread over the hand of a skilled woman.

Three sounds of increase: the lowing of a cow in milk; the din of a
smithy; the swish of a plough.

                      --From _The Triads of Ireland_ (9th century)

Economic history, as we know it, is the newest of all the branches of
history. Up to the middle of the last century the chief interest of the
historian and of the public alike lay in political and constitutional
history, in political events, wars, dynasties, and in political
institutions and their development. Substantially, therefore, history
concerned itself with the ruling classes. 'Let us now praise famous
men,' was the historian's motto. He forgot to add 'and our fathers that
begat us'. He did not care to probe the obscure lives and activities of
the great mass of humanity, upon whose slow toil was built up the
prosperity of the world and who were the hidden foundation of the
political and constitutional edifice reared by the famous men he
praised. To speak of ordinary people would have been beneath the dignity
of history. Carlyle struck a significant note of revolt: 'The thing I
want to see,' he said, 'is not Red-book lists and Court Calendars and
Parliamentary Registers, but the Life of Man in England: what men did,
thought, suffered, enjoyed.... Mournful, in truth, it is to behold what
the business called "History" in these so enlightened and illuminated
times still continues to be. Can you gather from it, read till your eyes
go out, any dimmest shadow of an answer to that great question: How men
lived and had their being; were it but economically, as, what wages they
got and what they bought with these? Unhappily you cannot.... History,
as it stands all bound up in gilt volumes, is but a shade more
instructive than the wooden volumes of a backgammon-board.'

Carlyle was a voice crying in the wilderness. Today the new history,
whose way he prepared, has come. The present age differs from the
centuries before it in its vivid realization of that much-neglected
person the man in the street; or (as it was more often in the earliest
ages) the man with the hoe. Today the historian is interested in the
social life of the past and not only in the wars and intrigues of
princes. To the modern writer, the fourteenth century, for instance, is
not merely the century of the Hundred Years' War and of the Black Prince
and Edward III; more significantly it is for him the era of the slow
decay of villeinage in England, a fact more epoch-making, in the long
run, than the struggle over our French provinces. We still praise famous
men, for he would be a poor historian who could spare one of the great
figures who have shed glory or romance upon the page of history; but we
praise them with due recognition of the fact that not only great
individuals, but people as a whole, unnamed and undistinguished masses
of people, now sleeping in unknown graves, have also been concerned in
the story. Our fathers that begat us have come to their own at last. As
Acton put it, 'The great historian now takes his meals in the kitchen.'

This book is chiefly concerned with the kitchens of History, and the
first which we shall visit is a country estate at the beginning of the
ninth century. It so happens that we know a surprising amount about such
an estate, partly because Charlemagne himself issued a set of orders
instructing the Royal stewards how to manage his own lands, telling them
everything it was necessary for them to know, down to the vegetables
which they were to plant in the garden. But our chief source of
knowledge is a wonderful estate book which Irminon, the Abbot of St
Germain des Prés near Paris, drew up so that the abbey might know
exactly what lands belonged to it and who lived on those lands, very
much as William I drew up an estate book of his whole kingdom and
called it _Domesday Book_. In this estate book is set down the name of
every little estate (or _fisc_ as it was called) belonging to the abbey,
with a description of the land which was worked under its steward to its
own profit, and the land which was held by tenants, and the names of
those tenants and of their wives and of their children, and the exact
services and rents, down to a plank and an egg, which they had to do for
their land. We know today the name of almost every man, woman, and child
who was living on those little _fiscs_ in the time of Charlemagne, and a
great deal about their daily lives.

Consider for a moment how the estate upon which they lived was
organized. The lands of the Abbey of St Germain were divided into a
number of estates, called _fiscs_, each of a convenient size to be
administered by a steward. On each of these _fiscs_ the land was divided
into seigniorial and tributary lands; the first administered by the
monks through a steward or some other officer, and the second possessed
by various tenants, who received and held them from the abbey. These
tributary lands were divided into numbers of little farms, called
manses, each occupied by one or more families. If you had paid a visit
to the chief or seigniorial manse, which the monks kept in their own
hands, you would have found a little house, with three or four rooms,
probably built of stone, facing an inner court, and on one side of it
you would have seen a special group of houses hedged round, where the
women serfs belonging to the house lived and did their work; all round
you would also have seen little wooden houses, where the household serfs
lived, workrooms, a kitchen, a bakehouse, barns, stables, and other farm
buildings, and round the whole a hedge carefully planted with trees, so
as to make a kind of enclosure or court. Attached to this central manse
was a considerable amount of land--ploughland, meadows, vineyards,
orchards, and almost all the woods or forests on the estate. Clearly a
great deal of labour would be needed to cultivate all these lands. Some
of that labour was provided by servile workers who were attached to the
chief manse and lived in the court. But these household serfs were not
nearly enough to do all the work upon the monks' land, and far the
greater part of it had to be done by services paid by the other
landowners on the estate.

[Illustration: _January--Ploughing_]

[Illustration: _March--Breaking Clods_]

[Illustration: _August--Reaping_]

[Illustration: _December--Threshing and Winnowing_]



Beside the seigniorial manse, there were a number of little dependent
manses. These belonged to men and women who were in various stages of
freedom, except for the fact that all had to do work on the land of the
chief manse. There is no need to trouble with the different classes, for
in practice there was very little difference between them, and in a
couple of centuries they were all merged into one common class of
medieval villeins. The most important people were those called _coloni_,
who were personally free (that is to say, counted as free men by the
law), but bound to the soil, so that they could never leave their farms
and were sold with the estate, if it were sold. Each of the dependent
manses was held either by one family or by two or three families which
clubbed together to do the work; it consisted of a house or houses, and
farm buildings, like those of the chief manse, only poorer and made of
wood, with ploughland and a meadow and perhaps a little piece of
vineyard attached to it. In return for these holdings the owner or joint
owners of every manse had to do work on the land of the chief manse for
about three days in the week. The steward's chief business was to see
that they did their work properly, and from every one he had the right
to demand two kinds of labour. The first was _field work_: every year
each man was bound to do a fixed amount of ploughing on the domain land
(as it was called later on), and also to give what was called a
_corvée_, that is to say, an unfixed amount of ploughing, which the
steward could demand every week when it was needed; the distinction
corresponds to the distinction between _week work_ and _boon work_ in
the later Middle Ages. The second kind of labour which every owner of a
farm had to do on the monks' land was called handwork, that is to say,
he had to help repair buildings, or cut down trees, or gather fruit, or
make ale, or carry loads--anything, in fact, which wanted doing and
which the steward told him to do. It was by these services that the
monks got their own seigniorial farm cultivated. On all the other days
of the week these hard-worked tenants were free to cultivate their own
little farms, and we may be sure that they put twice as much elbow
grease into the business.

But their obligation did not end here, for not only had they to pay
services, they also had to pay certain rents to the big house. There
were no State taxes in those days, but every man had to pay an army due,
which Charlemagne exacted from the abbey, and which the abbey exacted
from its tenants; this took the form of an ox and a certain number of
sheep, or the equivalent in money: 'He pays to the host two shillings of
silver' comes first on every freeman's list of obligations. The farmers
also had to pay in return for any special privileges granted to them by
the monks; they had to carry a load of wood to the big house, in return
for being allowed to gather firewood in the woods, which were jealously
preserved for the use of the abbey; they had to pay some hogsheads of
wine for the right to pasture their pigs in the same precious woods;
every third year they had to give up one of their sheep for the right to
graze upon the fields of the chief manse; they had to pay a sort of
poll-tax of 4_d_. a head. In addition to these special rents every
farmer had also to pay other rents in produce; every year he owed the
big house three chickens and fifteen eggs and a large number of planks,
to repair its buildings; often he had to give it a couple of pigs;
sometimes corn, wine, honey, wax, soap, or oil. If the farmer were also
an artisan and made things, he had to pay the produce of his craft; a
smith would have to make lances for the abbey's contingent to the army,
a carpenter had to make barrels and hoops and vine props, a wheelwright
had to make a cart. Even the wives of the farmers were kept busy, if
they happened to be serfs; for the servile women were obliged to spin
cloth or to make a garment for the big house every year.

All these things were exacted and collected by the steward, whom they
called _Villicus_, or _Major_ (Mayor). He was a very hard-worked man,
and when one reads the seventy separate and particular injunctions which
Charlemagne addressed to his stewards one cannot help feeling sorry for
him. He had to get all the right services out of the tenants, and tell
them what to do each week and see that they did it; he had to be careful
that they brought the right number of eggs and pigs up to the house, and
did not foist off warped or badly planed planks upon him. He had to look
after the household serfs too, and set them to work. He had to see about
storing, or selling, or sending off to the monastery the produce of the
estate and of the tenants' rents; and every year he had to present a
full and detailed account of his stewardship to the abbot. He had a
manse of his own, with services and rents due from it, and Charlemagne
exhorted his stewards to be prompt in their payments, so as to set a
good example. Probably his official duties left him very little time to
work on his own farm, and he would have to put in a man to work it for
him, as Charlemagne bade his stewards do. Often, however, he had
subordinate officials called _deans_ under him, and sometimes the work
of receiving and looking after the stores in the big house was done by a
special cellarer.

That, in a few words, is the way in which the monks of St Germain and
the other Frankish landowners of the time of Charlemagne managed their
estates. Let us try, now, to look at those estates from a more human
point of view and see what life was like to a farmer who lived upon
them. The abbey possessed a little estate called Villaris, near Paris,
in the place now occupied by the park of Saint Cloud. When we turn up
the pages in the estate book dealing with Villaris, we find that there
was a man called Bodo living there.[1] He had a wife called Ermentrude
and three children called Wido and Gerbert and Hildegard; and he owned a
little farm of arable and meadow land, with a few vines. And we know
very nearly as much about Bodo's work as we know about that of a
smallholder in France today. Let us try and imagine a day in his life.
On a fine spring morning towards the end of Charlemagne's reign Bodo
gets up early, because it is his day to go and work on the monks' farm,
and he does not dare to be late, for fear of the steward. To be sure, he
has probably given the steward a present of eggs and vegetables the week
before, to keep him in a good temper; but the monks will not allow their
stewards to take big bribes (as is sometimes done on other estates), and
Bodo knows that he will not be allowed to go late to work. It is his day
to plough, so he takes his big ox with him and little Wido to run by its
side with a goad, and he joins his friends from some of the farms near
by, who are going to work at the big house too. They all assemble, some
with horses and oxen, some with mattocks and hoes and spades and axes
and scythes, and go off in gangs to work upon the fields and meadows and
woods of the seigniorial manse, according as the steward orders them.
The manse next door to Bodo is held by a group of families: Frambert
and Ermoin and Ragenold, with their wives and children. Bodo bids them
good morning as he passes. Frambert is going to make a fence round the
wood, to prevent the rabbits from coming out and eating the young crops;
Ermoin has been told off to cart a great load of firewood up to the
house; and Ragenold is mending a hole in the roof of a barn. Bodo goes
whistling off in the cold with his oxen and his little boy; and it is no
use to follow him farther, because he ploughs all day and eats his meal
under a tree with the other ploughmen, and it is very monotonous.

Let us go back and see what Bodo's wife, Ermentrude, is doing. She is
busy too; it is the day on which the chicken-rent is due--a fat pullet
and five eggs in all. She leaves her second son, aged nine, to look
after the baby Hildegard and calls on one of her neighbours, who has to
go up to the big house too. The neighbour is a serf and she has to take
the steward a piece of woollen cloth, which will be sent away to St
Germain to make a habit for a monk. Her husband is working all day in
the lord's vineyards, for on this estate the serfs generally tend the
vines, while the freemen do most of the ploughing. Ermentrude and the
serf's wife go together up to the house. There all is busy. In the men's
workshop are several clever workmen--a shoemaker, a carpenter, a
blacksmith, and two silversmiths; there are not more, because the best
artisans on the estates of St Germain live by the walls of the abbey, so
that they can work for the monks on the spot and save the labour of
carriage. But there were always some craftsmen on every estate, either
attached as serfs to the big house, or living on manses of their own,
and good landowners tried to have as many clever craftsmen as possible.
Charlemagne ordered his stewards each to have in his district 'good
workmen, namely, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, silversmiths, shoemakers,
turners, carpenters, swordmakers, fishermen, foilers, soapmakers, men
who know how to make beer, cider, perry, and all other kinds of
beverages, bakers to make pasty for our table, netmakers who know how to
make nets for hunting, fishing, and fowling, and others too many to be
named'.[2] And some of these workmen are to be found working for the
monks in the estate of Villaris.

But Ermentrude does not stop at the men's workshop. She finds the
steward, bobs her curtsy to him, and gives up her fowl and eggs, and
then she hurries off to the women's part of the house, to gossip with
the serfs there. The Franks used at this time to keep the women of their
household in a separate quarter, where they did the work which was
considered suitable for women, very much as the Greeks of antiquity used
to do. If a Frankish noble had lived at the big house, his wife would
have looked after their work, but as no one lived in the stone house at
Villaris, the steward had to oversee the women. Their quarter consisted
of a little group of houses, with a workroom, the whole surrounded by a
thick hedge with a strong bolted gate, like a harem, so that no one
could come in without leave. Their workrooms were comfortable places,
warmed by stoves, and there Ermentrude (who, being a woman, was allowed
to go in) found about a dozen servile women spinning and dyeing cloth
and sewing garments. Every week the harassed steward brought them the
raw materials for their work and took away what they made. Charlemagne
gives his stewards several instructions about the women attached to his
manses, and we may be sure that the monks of St Germain did the same on
their model estates. 'For our women's work,' says Charlemagne, 'they are
to give at the proper time the materials, that is linen, wool, woad,
vermilion, madder, wool combs, teasels, soap, grease, vessels, and other
objects which are necessary. And let our women's quarters be well looked
after, furnished with houses and rooms with stoves and cellars, and let
them be surrounded by a good hedge, and let the doors be strong, so that
the women can do our work properly.'[3] Ermentrude, however, has to
hurry away after her gossip, and so must we. She goes back to her own
farm and sets to work in the little vineyard; then after an hour or two
goes back to get the children's meal and to spend the rest of the day in
weaving warm woollen clothes for them. All her friends are either
working in the fields on their husbands' farms or else looking after the
poultry, or the vegetables, or sewing at home; for the women have to
work just as hard as the men on a country farm. In Charlemagne's time
(for instance) they did nearly all the sheep shearing. Then at last Bodo
comes back for his supper, and as soon as the sun goes down they go to
bed; for their hand-made candle gives only a flicker of light, and they
both have to be up early in the morning. De Quincey once pointed out,
in his inimitable manner, how the ancients everywhere went to bed, 'like
good boys, from seven to nine o'clock'. 'Man went to bed early in those
ages simply because his worthy mother earth could not afford him
candles. She, good old lady ... would certainly have shuddered to hear
of any of her nations asking for candles. "Candles indeed!" she would
have said; "who ever heard of such a thing? and with so much excellent
daylight running to waste, as I have provided _gratis_! What will the
wretches want next?"'[4] Something of the same situation prevailed even
in Bodo's time.

This, then, is how Bodo and Ermentrude usually passed their working day.
But, it may be complained, this is all very well. We know about the
estates on which these peasants lived and about the rents which they had
to pay, and the services which they had to do. But how did they feel and
think and amuse themselves when they were not working? Rents and
services are only outside things; an estate book only describes routine.
It would be idle to try to picture the life of a university from a study
of its lecture list, and it is equally idle to try and describe the life
of Bodo from the estate book of his masters. It is no good taking your
meals in the kitchen if you never talk to the servants. This is true,
and to arrive at Bodo's thoughts and feelings and holiday amusements we
must bid goodbye to Abbot Irminon's estate book, and peer into some very
dark corners indeed; for though by the aid of Chaucer and Langland and a
few Court Rolls it is possible to know a great deal about the feelings
of a peasant six centuries later, material is scarce in the ninth
century, and it is all the more necessary to remember the secret of the
invisible ink.

Bodo certainly _had_ plenty of feelings, and very strong ones. When he
got up in the frost on a cold morning to drive the plough over the
abbot's acres, when his own were calling out for work, he often shivered
and shook the rime from his beard, and wished that the big house and all
its land were at the bottom of the sea (which, as a matter of fact, he
had never seen and could not imagine). Or else he wished he were the
abbot's huntsman, hunting in the forest; or a monk of St Germain,
singing sweetly in the abbey church; or a merchant, taking bales of
cloaks and girdles along the high road to Paris; anything, in fact, but
a poor ploughman ploughing other people's land. An Anglo-Saxon writer
has imagined a dialogue with him:

'Well, ploughman, how do you do your work?' 'Oh, sir, I work very hard.
I go out in the dawning, driving the oxen to the field and I yoke them
to the plough. Be the winter never so stark, I dare not stay at home for
fear of my lord; but every day I must plough a full acre or more, after
having yoked the oxen and fastened the share and coulter to the plough!'
'Have you any mate?' 'I have a boy, who drives the oxen with a goad, who
is now hoarse from cold and shouting,' (Poor little Wido!) 'Well, well,
it is very hard work?' 'Yes, indeed it is very hard work.'[5]

Nevertheless, hard as the work was, Bodo sang lustily to cheer himself
and Wido; for is it not related that once, when a clerk was singing the
'Allelulia' in the emperor's presence, Charles turned to one of the
bishops, saying, 'My clerk is singing very well,' whereat the rude
bishop replied, 'Any clown in our countryside drones as well as that to
his oxen at their ploughing'?[6] It is certain too that Bodo agreed with
the names which the great Charles gave to the months of the year in his
own Frankish tongue; for he called January 'Winter-month', February
'Mud-month', March 'Spring-month', April 'Easter-month', May
'Joy-month', June 'Plough-month', July 'Hay-month', August
'Harvest-month', September 'Wind-month', October 'Vintage-month',
November 'Autumn-month', and December 'Holy-month'.[7]

And Bodo was a superstitious creature. The Franks had been Christian now
for many years, but Christian though they were, the peasants clung to
old beliefs and superstitions. On the estates of the holy monks of St
Germain you would have found the country people saying charms which were
hoary with age, parts of the lay sung by the Frankish ploughman over his
bewitched land long before he marched southwards into the Roman Empire,
or parts of the spell which the bee-master performed when he swarmed his
bees on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Christianity has coloured these
charms, but it has not effaced their heathen origin; and because the
tilling of the soil is the oldest and most unchanging of human
occupations, old beliefs and superstitions cling to it and the old gods
stalk up and down the brown furrows, when they have long vanished from
houses and roads. So on Abbot Irminon's estates the peasant-farmers
muttered charms over their sick cattle (and over their sick children
too) and said incantations over the fields to make them fertile. If you
had followed behind Bodo when he broke his first furrow you would have
probably seen him take out of his jerkin a little cake, baked for him by
Ermentrude out of different kinds of meal, and you would have seen him
stoop and lay it under the furrow and sing:

Earth, Earth, Earth! O Earth, our mother!
May the All-Wielder, Ever-Lord grant thee
Acres a-waxing, upwards a-growing,
Pregnant with corn and plenteous in strength;
Hosts of grain shafts and of glittering plants!
Of broad barley the blossoms,
And of white wheat ears waxing,
Of the whole land the harvest....

Acre, full-fed, bring forth fodder for men!
Blossoming brightly, blessed become!
And the God who wrought with earth grant us gift of growing
That each of all the corns may come unto our need.[8]

Then he would drive his plough through the acre.

The Church wisely did not interfere with these old rites. It taught Bodo
to pray to the Ever-Lord instead of to Father Heaven, and to the Virgin
Mary instead of to Mother Earth, and with these changes let the old
spell he had learned from his ancestors serve him still. It taught him,
for instance, to call on Christ and Mary in his charm for bees. When
Ermentrude heard her bees swarming, she stood outside her cottage and
said this little charm over them:

Christ, there is a swarm of bees outside,
Fly hither, my little cattle,
In blest peace, in God's protection,
Come home safe and sound.
Sit down, sit down, bee,
St Mary commanded thee.

Thou shalt not have leave,
Thou shalt not fly to the wood.
Thou shalt not escape me,
Nor go away from me.
Sit very still,
Wait God's will![9]

And if Bodo on his way home saw one of his bees caught in a brier bush,
he immediately stood still and wished--as some people wish today when
they go under a ladder. It was the Church, too, which taught Bodo to add
'So be it, Lord', to the end of his charm against pain. Now, his
ancestors for generations behind him had believed that if you had a
stitch in your side, or a bad pain anywhere, it came from a worm in the
marrow of your bones, which was eating you up, and that the only way to
get rid of that worm was to put a knife, or an arrow-head, or some other
piece of metal to the sore place, and then wheedle the worm out on to
the blade by saying a charm. And this was the charm which Bodo's heathen
ancestors had always said and which Bodo went on saying when little Wido
had a pain: 'Come out, worm, with nine little worms, out from the marrow
into the bone, from the bone into the flesh, from the flesh into the
skin, from the skin into this arrow.' And then (in obedience to the
Church) he added 'So be it, Lord'.[10] But sometimes it was not possible
to read a Christian meaning into Bodo's doings. Sometimes he paid visits
to some man who was thought to have a wizard's powers, or
superstitiously reverenced some twisted tree, about which there hung old
stories never quite forgotten. Then the Church was stern. When he went
to confession the priest would ask him: 'Have you consulted magicians
and enchanters, have you made vows to trees and fountains, have you
drunk any magic philtre?'[11] And he would have to confess what he did
last time his cow was sick. But the Church was kind as well as stern.
'When serfs come to you,' we find one bishop telling his priests, 'you
must not give them as many fasts to perform as rich men. Put upon them
only half the penance.'[12] The Church knew well enough that Bodo could
not drive his plough all day upon an empty stomach. The hunting,
drinking, feasting Frankish nobles could afford to lose a meal.

It was from this stern and yet kind Church that Bodo got his holidays.
For the Church made the pious emperor decree that on Sundays and saints'
days no servile or other works should be done. Charlemagne's son
repeated his decree in 827. It runs thus:

     We ordain according to the law of God and to the command of
     our father of blessed memory in his edicts, that no servile
     works shall be done on Sundays, neither shall men perform
     their rustic labours, tending vines, ploughing fields,
     reaping corn and mowing hay, setting up hedges or fencing
     woods, cutting trees, or working in quarries or building
     houses; nor shall they work in the garden, nor come to the
     law courts, nor follow the chase. But three carrying-services
     it is lawful to do on Sunday, to wit carrying for the army,
     carrying food, or carrying (if need be) the body of a lord to
     its grave. Item, women shall not do their textile works, nor
     cut out clothes, nor stitch them together with the needle,
     nor card wool, nor beat hemp, nor wash clothes in public, nor
     shear sheep: so that there may be rest on the Lord's day. But
     let them come together from all sides to Mass in the Church
     and praise God for all the good things He did for us on that

Unfortunately, however, Bodo and Ermentrude and their friends were not
content to go quietly to church on saints' days and quietly home again.
They used to spend their holidays in dancing and singing and buffoonery,
as country folk have always done until our own gloomier, more
self-conscious age. They were very merry and not at all refined, and the
place they always chose for their dances was the churchyard; and
unluckily the songs they sang as they danced in a ring were old pagan
songs of their forefathers, left over from old Mayday festivities, which
they could not forget, or ribald love-songs which the Church disliked.
Over and over again we find the Church councils complaining that the
peasants (and sometimes the priests too) were singing 'wicked songs with
a chorus of dancing women,' or holding 'ballads and dancings and evil
and wanton songs and such-like lures of the devil';[14] over and over
again the bishops forbade these songs and dances; but in vain. In every
country in Europe, right through the Middle Ages to the time of the
Reformation, and after it, country folk continued to sing and dance in
the churchyard. Two hundred years after Charlemagne's death there grew
up the legend of the dancers of Kölbigk, who danced on Christmas Eve in
the churchyard, in spite of the warning of the priest, and all got
rooted to the spot for a year, till the Archbishop of Cologne released
them. Some men say that they were not rooted standing to the spot, but
that they had to go on dancing for the whole year; and that before they
were released they had danced themselves waist-deep into the ground.
People used to repeat the little Latin verse which they were singing:

  Equitabat Bovo per silvam frondosam
  Ducebat sibi Merswindem formosam.
  Quid stamus? Cur non imus?[15]

Through the leafy forest, Bovo went a-riding
And his pretty Merswind trotted on beside him--
Why are we standing still? Why can't we go away?

Another later story still is told about a priest in Worcestershire who
was kept awake all night by the people dancing in his churchyard and
singing a song with the refrain 'Sweetheart have pity', so that he could
not get it out of his head, and the next morning at Mass, instead of
saying 'Dominus vobiscum', he said 'Sweetheart have pity', and there was
a dreadful scandal which got into a chronicle.[16]

Sometimes our Bodo did not dance himself, but listened to the songs of
wandering minstrels. The priests did not at all approve of these
minstrels, who (they said) would certainly go to hell for singing
profane secular songs, all about the great deeds of heathen heroes of
the Frankish race, instead of Christian hymns. But Bodo loved them, and
so did Bodo's betters; the Church councils had sometimes even to rebuke
abbots and abbesses for listening to their songs. And the worst of it
was that the great emperor himself, the good Charlemagne, loved them
too. He would always listen to a minstrel, and his biographer, Einhard,
tells us that 'He wrote out the barbarous and ancient songs, in which
the acts of the kings and their wars were sung, and committed them to
memory';[17] and one at least of those old sagas, which he liked men to
write down, has been preserved on the cover of a Latin manuscript, where
a monk scribbled it in his spare time. His son, Louis the Pious, was
very different; he rejected the national poems, which he had learnt in
his youth, and would not have them read or recited or taught; he would
not allow minstrels to have justice in the law courts, and he forbade
idle dances and songs and tales in public places on Sundays; but then he
also dragged down his father's kingdom into disgrace and ruin. The
minstrels repaid Charlemagne for his kindness to them. They gave him
everlasting fame; for all through the Middle Ages the legend of
Charlemagne grew, and he shares with our King Arthur the honour of being
the hero of one of the greatest romance-cycles of the Middle Ages. Every
different century clad him anew in its own dress and sang new lays about
him. What the monkish chroniclers in their cells could never do for
Charlemagne, these despised and accursed minstrels did for him: they
gave him what is perhaps more desirable and more lasting than a place in
history-they gave him a place in legend. It is not every emperor who
rules in those realms of gold of which Keats spoke, as well as in the
kingdoms of the world; and in the realms of gold Charlemagne reigns with
King Arthur, and his peers joust with the Knights of the Round Table.
Bodo, at any rate, benefited by Charles's love of minstrels, and it is
probable that he heard in the lifetime of the emperor himself the first
beginnings of those legends which afterwards clung to the name of
Charlemagne. One can imagine him round-eyed in the churchyard, listening
to fabulous stories of Charles's Iron March to Pavia, such as a
gossiping old monk of St Gall afterwards wrote down in his

It is likely enough that such legends were the nearest Bodo ever came to
seeing the emperor, of whom even the poor serfs who never followed him
to court or camp were proud. But Charles was a great traveller: like all
the monarchs of the early Middle Ages he spent the time, when he was not
warring, in trekking round his kingdom, staying at one of his estates,
until he and his household had literally eaten their way through it, and
then passing on to another. And sometimes he varied the procedure by
paying a visit to the estates of his bishops or nobles, who entertained
him royally. It may be that one day he came on a visit to Bodo's masters
and stopped at the big house on his way to Paris, and then Bodo saw him
plain; for Charlemagne would come riding along the road in his jerkin of
otter skin, and his plain blue cloak (Einhard tells us that he hated
grand clothes and on ordinary days dressed like the common people);[19]
and after him would come his three sons and his bodyguard, and then his
five daughters. Einhard has also told us that:

     He had such care of the upbringing of his sons and daughters
     that he never dined without them when he was at home and
     never travelled without them. His sons rode along with him
     and his daughters followed in the rear. Some of his guards,
     chosen for this very purpose, watched the end of the line of
     march where his daughters travelled. They were very beautiful
     and much beloved by their father, and, therefore, it is
     strange that he would give them in marriage to no one, either
     among his own people or of a foreign state. But up to his
     death he kept them all at home saying he could not forgo
     their society.[20]

Then, with luck, Bodo, quaking at the knees, might even behold a portent
new to his experience, the emperor's elephant. Haroun El Raschid, the
great Sultan of the 'Arabian Nights' had sent it to Charles, and it
accompanied him on all his progresses. Its name was 'Abu-Lubabah', which
is an Arabic word and means 'the father of intelligence[A]', and it died
a hero's death on an expedition against the Danes in 810.[21] It is
certain that ever afterwards Ermentrude quelled little Gerbert, when he
was naughty, with the threat, 'Abu-Lubabah will come with his long nose
and carry you off.' But Wido, being aged eight and a bread-winner,
professed to have felt no fear on being confronted with the elephant;
but admitted when pressed, that he greatly preferred Haroun El Raschid's
other present to the emperor, the friendly dog, who answered to the name
of 'Becerillo'.

[Footnote A: _Abu-Lubabah_.--It is remarkable that the name should have
suffered no corruption in the chronicles.]

It would be a busy time for Bodo when all these great folk came, for
everything would have to be cleaned before their arrival, the pastry
cooks and sausage-makers summoned and a great feast prepared; and though
the household serfs did most of the work, it is probable that he had to
help. The gossipy old monk of St Gall has given us some amusing pictures
of the excitement when Charles suddenly paid a visit to his subjects:

     There was a certain bishopric which lay full in Charles's
     path when he journeyed, and which indeed he could hardly
     avoid: and the bishop of this place, always anxious to give
     satisfaction, put everything that he had at Charles's
     disposal. But once the Emperor came quite unexpectedly and
     the bishop in great anxiety had to fly hither and thither
     like a swallow, and had not only the palaces and houses but
     also the courts and squares swept and cleaned: and then,
     tired and irritated, came to meet him. The most pious Charles
     noticed this, and after examining all the various details, he
     said to the bishop: 'My kind host, you always have everything
     splendidly cleaned for my arrival.' Then the bishop, as if
     divinely inspired, bowed his head and grasped the king's
     never-conquered right hand, and hiding his irritation, kissed
     it and said: 'It is but right, my lord, that, wherever you
     come, all things should be thoroughly cleansed.' Then
     Charles, of all kings the wisest, understanding the state of
     affairs said to him: 'If I empty I can also fill.' And he
     added: 'You may have that estate which lies close to your
     bishopric, and all your successors may have it until the end
     of time.' In the same journey, too, he came to a bishop who
     lived in a place through which he must needs pass. Now on
     that day, being the sixth day of the week, he was not willing
     to eat the flesh of beast or bird; and the bishop, being by
     reason of the nature of the place unable to procure fish upon
     the sudden, ordered some excellent cheese, rich and creamy,
     to be placed before him. And the most self-restrained
     Charles, with the readiness which he showed everywhere and on
     all occasions, spared the blushes of the bishop and required
     no better fare; but taking up his knife cut off the skin,
     which he thought unsavoury and fell to on the white of the
     cheese. Thereupon the bishop, who was standing near like a
     servant, drew closer and said: 'Why do you do that, lord
     emperor? You are throwing away the very best part.' Then
     Charles, who deceived no one, and did not believe that anyone
     would deceive him, on the persuasion of the bishop put a
     piece of the skin in his mouth, and slowly ate it and
     swallowed it like butter. Then approving of the advice of the
     bishop, he said: 'Very true, my good host,' and he added: 'Be
     sure to send me every year to Aix two cartloads of just such
     cheeses.' And the bishop was alarmed at the impossibility of
     the task and, fearful of losing both his rank and his office,
     he rejoined: 'My lord, I can procure the cheeses, but I
     cannot tell which are of this quality and which of another.
     Much I fear lest I fall under your censure.' Then Charles,
     from whose penetration and skill nothing could escape,
     however new or strange it might be, spoke thus to the bishop,
     who from childhood had known such cheeses and yet could not
     test them: 'Cut them in two,' he said, 'then fasten together
     with a skewer those that you find to be of the right quality
     and keep them in your cellar for a time and then send them to
     me. The rest you may keep for yourself and your ¸clergy and
     your family.' This was done for two years, and the king
     ordered the present of cheeses to be taken in without remark:
     then in the third year the bishop brought in person his
     laboriously collected cheeses. But the most just Charles
     pitied his labour and anxiety and added to the bishopric an
     excellent estate whence he and his successors might provide
     themselves with corn and wine.[22]

We may feel sorry for the poor flustered bishop collecting his two
cartloads of cheeses; but it is possible that our real sympathy ought to
go to Bodo, who probably had to pay an extra rent in cheeses to satisfy
the emperor's taste, and got no excellent estate to recompense him.

A visit from the emperor, however, would be a rare event in his life, to
be talked about for years and told to his grandchildren. But there was
one other event, which happened annually, and which was certainly looked
for with excitement by Bodo and his friends. For once a year the king's
itinerant justices, the _Missi Dominici_, came round to hold their court
and to see if the local counts had been doing justice. Two of them would
come, a bishop and a count, and they would perhaps stay a night at the
big house as guests of the abbot, and the next day they would go on to
Paris, and there they would sit and do justice in the open square before
the church and from all the district round great men and small, nobles
and freemen and _coloni_, would bring their grievances and demand
redress. Bodo would go too, if anyone had injured or robbed him, and
would make his complaint to the judges. But if he were canny he would
not go to them empty-handed, trusting to justice alone. Charlemagne was
very strict, but unless the _missi_ were exceptionally honest and pious
they would not be averse to taking bribes. Theodulf, Bishop of Orleans,
who was one of the Emperor's _missi_, has left us a most entertaining
Latin poem, in which he describes the attempts of the clergy and laymen,
who flocked to his court, to buy justice.[23] Every one according to his
means brought a present; the rich offered money, precious stones, fine
materials, and Eastern carpets, arms, horses, antique vases of gold or
silver chiselled with representations of the labours of Hercules. The
poor brought skins of Cordova leather, tanned and untanned, excellent
pieces of cloth and linen (poor Ermentrude must have worked hard for
the month before the justices came!), boxes, and wax. 'With this
battering-ram,' cries the shocked Bishop Theodulf, 'they hope to break
down the wall of my soul. But they would not have thought that they
could shake _me_, if they had not so shaken other judges before,' And
indeed, if his picture be true, the royal justices must have been
followed about by a regular caravan of carts and horses to carry their
presents. Even Theodulf has to admit that, in order not to hurt people's
feelings, he was obliged to accept certain unconsidered trifles in the
shape of eggs and bread and wine and chickens and little birds, 'whose
bodies' (he says, smacking his lips) 'are small, but very good to eat.'
One seems to detect the anxious face of Bodo behind those eggs and
little birds.

Another treat Bodo had which happened once a year; for regularly on the
ninth of October there began the great fair of St Denys, which went on
for a whole month, outside the gates of Paris.[24] Then for a week
before the fair little booths and sheds sprang up, with open fronts in
which the merchants could display their wares, and the Abbey of St
Denys, which had the right to take a toll of all the merchants who came
there to sell, saw to it that the fair was well enclosed with fences,
and that all came in by the gates and paid their money, for wily
merchants were sometimes known to burrow under fences or climb over them
so as to avoid the toll. Then the streets of Paris were crowded with
merchants bringing their goods, packed in carts and upon horses and
oxen; and on the opening day all regular trade in Paris stopped for a
month, and every Parisian shopkeeper was in a booth somewhere in the
fair, exchanging the corn and wine and honey of the district for rarer
goods from foreign parts. Bodo's abbey probably had a stall in the fair
and sold some of those pieces of cloth woven by the serfs in the women's
quarter, or cheeses and salted meat prepared on the estates, or wine
paid in rent by Bodo and his fellow-farmers. Bodo would certainly take a
holiday and go to the fair. In fact, the steward would probably have
great difficulty in keeping his men at work during the month;
Charlemagne had to give a special order to his stewards that they should
'be careful that our men do properly the work which it is lawful to
exact from them, and that they do not waste their time in running about
to markets and fairs'. Bodo and Ermentrude and the three children, all
attired in their best, did not consider it waste of time to go to the
fair even twice or three times. They pretended that they wanted to buy
salt to salt down their winter meat, or some vermilion dye to colour a
frock for the baby. What they really wanted was to wander along the
little rows of booths and look at all the strange things assembled
there; for merchants came to St Denys to sell their rich goods from the
distant East to Bodo's betters, and wealthy Frankish nobles bargained
there for purple and silken robes with orange borders, stamped leather
jerkins, peacock's feathers, and the scarlet plumage of flamingos (which
they called 'phoenix skins'), scents and pearls and spices, almonds and
raisins, and monkeys for their wives to play with.[25] Sometimes these
merchants were Venetians, but more often they were Syrians or crafty
Jews, and Bodo and his fellows laughed loudly over the story of how a
Jewish merchant had tricked a certain bishop, who craved for all the
latest novelties, by stuffing a mouse with spices and offering it for
sale to him, saying that 'he had brought this most precious
never-before-seen animal from Judea,' and refusing to take less than a
whole measure of silver for it.[26] In exchange for their luxuries these
merchants took away with them Frisian cloth, which was greatly esteemed,
and corn and hunting dogs, and sometimes a piece of fine goldsmith's
work, made in a monastic workshop. And Bodo would hear a hundred
dialects and tongues, for men of Saxony and Frisia, Spain and Provence,
Rouen and Lombardy, and perhaps an Englishman or two, jostled each other
in the little streets; and from time to time there came also an Irish
scholar with a manuscript to sell, and the strange, sweet songs of
Ireland on his lips:

A hedge of trees surrounds me,
A blackbird's lay sings to me;
Above my lined booklet
The thrilling birds chant to me.

In a grey mantle from the top of bushes
The cuckoo sings:
Verily--may the Lord shield me!--
Well do I write under the greenwood.[27]

Then there were always jugglers and tumblers, and men with performing
bears, and minstrels to wheedle Bodo's few pence out of his pocket. And
it would be a very tired and happy family that trundled home in the cart
to bed. For it is not, after all, so dull in the kitchen, and when we
have quite finished with the emperor, 'Charlemagne and all his peerage',
it is really worth while to spend a few moments with Bodo in his little
manse. History is largely made up of Bodos.


_Marco Polo_


Et por ce, veul ie que un et autre sachent a tos iors mais les euvres
des Veneciens, et qui il furent, et dont il vindrent, et qui il sont, et
comment il firent la noble Cite que l'en apele Venise, qui est orendroit
la plus bele dou siecle.... La place de Monseignor Saint Marc est
orendroit la plus bele place qui soit en tot li monde; que de vers li
soleil levant est la plus bele yglise qui soit el monde, c'est l'Yglise
de Monseignor Saint Marc. Et de les cele Yglise est li paleis de
Monseignor li Dus, grant e biaus a mervoilles.


And Kinsai [Hangchow] is the greatest city in the whole world, so great
indeed that I should scarcely venture to tell of it, but that I have met
at Venice people in plenty who have been there.... And if anyone should
desire to tell of all the vastness and great marvels of this city, a
good quire of paper would not hold the matter, I trow. For 'tis the
greatest and noblest city, and the finest for merchandise, that the
whole world containeth.


Let us go back in mind--as would that we could go back in body--to the
year 1268. It is a year which makes no great stir in the history books,
but it will serve us well. In those days, as in our own, Venice lay upon
her lagoons, a city (as Cassiodurus long ago saw her[B]) like a
sea-bird's nest afloat on the shallow waves, a city like a ship, moored
to the land but only at home upon the seas, the proudest city in all the
Western world. For only consider her position. Lying at the head of the
Adriatic, half-way between East and West, on the one great sea
thoroughfare of medieval commerce, a Mediterranean seaport, yet set so
far north that she was almost in the heart of Europe, Venice gathered
into her harbour all the trade routes overland and overseas, on which
pack-horses could travel or ships sail. Merchants bringing silk and
spices, camphor and ivory, pearls and scents and carpets from the Levant
and from the hot lands beyond it, all came to port in Venice. For
whether they came by way of Egypt sailing between the low banks of the
Nile and jolting on camels to Alexandria, or whether they came through
the rich and pleasant land of Persia and the Syrian desert to Antioch
and Tyre, or whether they slowly pushed their way in a long, thin
caravan across the highlands of Central Asia, and south of the Caspian
Sea to Trebizond, and so sailed through the Black Sea and the
Dardanelles, Venice was their natural focus. Only Constantinople might
have rivalled her, and Constantinople she conquered. To Venice,
therefore, as if drawn by a magnet, came the spoils of the East, and
from Venice they went by horse across the Alps by the Brenner and St
Gothard passes to Germany and France, or in galleys by way of the
Straits of Gibraltar to England and Flanders;[1] and the galleys and
pack-horses came back again to Venice, laden with the metals of Germany,
the furs of Scandinavia, the fine wools of England, the cloth of
Flanders, and the wine of France.

[Footnote B: 'Hic vobis, aquatilium avium more, domus est.']

But if geography gave Venice an unrivalled site, the Venetians did the
rest. Through all the early years of their history they defied
Constantinople to the east of them, and Pope and Holy Roman Emperor to
the west; sometimes turning to one, sometimes to the other, but
stubbornly bent all the while upon independence, replying, when invited
to become subjects: 'God, Who is our help and protector has saved us to
dwell upon these waters. This Venice, which we have raised in the
lagoons, is our mighty habitation, no power of emperor or of prince can
touch us'; apt, if threatened, to retire to their islands and derisively
to fire cannon balls of bread into the mainland force, which sought to
starve them out.[2] Always they were conscious that their future lay
upon the waters, and in that East, whose colour had crept into their
civilization and warmed their blood. They were eastern and western both,
the Venetians, hot hearts for loving and conquering, icy heads for
scheming and ruling. Bit by bit they secured the ring of mainland behind
them, all the while keeping at bay the Saracen and Slav sea rovers,
whose ships were the terror of the Mediterranean. Then they descended
upon the pirates of Dalmatia, who thus harassed their trading vessels,
and took all the Dalmatian coast. The Doge of Venice became Duke of
Dalmatia. 'True it is,' says their chronicles, 'that the Adriatic Sea is
in the duchy of Venice,'[3] and they called it the 'Gulf of Venice'. Now
it was that there was first instituted the magnificent symbolical
ceremony of wedding the sea, with the proud words 'Desponsamus te mare
in signum veri perpetuique domini'![4]

She was a maiden city, bright and free,
No guile seduced, no force could violate,
And when she took unto herself a mate
She must espouse the everlasting sea.

And truly it seemed as though the very sea had sworn to honour and obey

Then came the Crusades, when Europe forgot its differences and threw
itself upon the paynim who held the holy places of its faith, when men
from all lands marched behind the banner of the Cross and the towers of
Jerusalem were more real than the Tower of Babel. Now, at last, Venice
saw her dream within her hand. It was Venice who provided galleys and
Venice who provided convoys and commissariat and soldiers, at a good
round sum; and when time came for the division of the spoil, Venice
demanded in every captured town of Palestine and Syria a church, a
counting-house and the right to trade without tolls. Her great chance
came in the Fourth Crusade, when her old blind Doge Enrico Dandolo
(whose blindness had the Nelson touch) upon the pretext that the
Crusaders could not pay the transport fees agreed upon, turned the whole
Crusade to the use of Venice, and conquered first Zara, which had dared
to revolt from her, and then her ancient--her only--rival, the immortal
Byzantium itself. It is true that the Pope excommunicated the Venetians
when they first turned the armies against Zara, but what matter? They
looted Constantinople and brought back the four great gilded horses to
St Mark's--St Mark's, which has been compared to a robbers' cave crowded
with the booty of the Levant, and which held the sacred body of the
saint, stolen from Alexandria by the Venetians, nearly four centuries
before, concealed in a tub of pickled pork, in order to elude the
Moslems. A Venetian patriarch now said Mass in St Sophia. Venice
received the proud title of 'Ruler of a half and a quarter of the Roman
Empire,' ('quartæ partis et dimidiæ totius imperii Romaniæ'--the words
have a ring of trumpets), and the Doge, buskined in scarlet like the
ancient Roman emperors, now ruled supreme over four seas--the Adriatic,
the Aegean, the Sea of Marmora, and the Black Sea. Venetian factories
studded all the Levantine coasts, in Tripoli and Tyre, Salonica,
Adrianople, and Constantinople, in Trebizond on the Black Sea, even at
Caffa in the far Crimea, whence ran the mysterious road into Russia.
Crete and Rhodes and Cyprus were hers; her galleys swept the pirates
from the seas and brooked no rivals; all trade with the East must pass
through Venice, and Venice only. The other trading cities of Italy
struggled against her, and Genoa came near to rivalling her, but in
1258, and again in 1284, she utterly defeated the Genoese fleet. Not for
the city of 'sea without fish, mountains without woods, men without
faith, and women without shame' was it to bit the horses on St
Mark's.[5] In 1268 Venice seemed supreme. Byzantium was her washpot and
over the Levant she had cast her shoe. Truly her chronicler might
write of her:

Dalmatia, Albania, Rumania, Greece, Trebizond, Syria, Armenia, Egypt,
Cyprus, Candia, Apulia, Sicily, and other countries, kingdoms and
islands were the fruitful gardens, the proud castles of our people,
where they found again pleasure, profit, and security.... The Venetians
went about the sea, here and there and across the sea, and in all places
wheresoever water runs, and bought merchandise and brought it to Venice
from every side. Then there came to Venice Germans and Bavarians, French
and Lombards, Tuscans and Hungarians, and every people that lives by
merchandise and they took it to their countries.

Small wonder that (as a later traveller observed) the Venetians were
proud of their great rule, and when a son was born to a Venetian were
wont to say among themselves, 'A Signor is born into the world.'

Is it not true to say that Venice was the proudest city on earth, _la
noble cite que l'en apele Venise, qui est orendroit la plus bele dou
siecle_?[6] Life was a fair and splendid thing for those merchant
princes, who held the gorgeous East in fee in the year of grace 1268. In
that year traders in great stone counting-houses, lapped by the waters
of the canals, were checking, book in hand, their sacks of cloves, mace
and nutmegs, cinnamon and ginger from the Indies, ebony chessmen from
Indo China, ambergris from Madagascar, and musk from Tibet. In that year
the dealers in jewels were setting prices upon diamonds from Golconda,
rubies and lapis lazuli from Badakhshan, and pearls from the fisheries
of Ceylon; and the silk merchants were stacking up bales of silk and
muslin and brocade from Bagdad and Yezd and Malabar and China. In that
year young gallants on the Rialto (scented gallants, but each, like
Shakespeare's Antonio, with a ship venturing into port somewhere in the
Levant) rubbed elbows with men of all nations, heard travellers' tales
of all lands, and at dawn slipped along the canals in gondolas (not
black in those days, but painted and hung with silk), saluting the
morning with songs; and the red-haired ladies of Venice whom centuries
later Titian loved to paint, went trailing up and down the marble steps
of their palaces, with all the brocades of Persia on their backs and all
the perfumes of Arabia to sweeten their little hands.

It was in that year, too, that one Martino da Canale, a clerk in the
customs house, began to busy himself (like Chaucer after him) less with
his accounts than with writing in the delectable French language ('por
ce que lengue franceise cort parmi le monde, et est la plus delitable a
lire et a oir que nule autre') a chronicle of Venice. It is of the
water, watery, Canale's chronicle, like Ariel's dirge; he has indeed,
'that intenseness of feeling which seems to resolve itself into the
elements which it contemplates.' Here is nothing indeed, of 'the surge
and thunder of the Odyssey', but the lovely words sparkle like the sun
on the waters of the Mediterranean, and like a refrain, singing itself
in and out of the narrative, the phrase recurs, 'Li tens estoit clers et
biaus ... et lors quant il furent en mer, li mariniers drecerent les
voiles au vent, et lesserent core a ploine voiles les mes parmi la mer a
la force dou vent';[7] for so much of the history of Venice was enacted
upon deck. It is a passing proud chronicle, too, for Canale was, and
well he knew it, a citizen of no mean city.

     'Now would I,' he says, 'that every one and all know for ever
     the works of the Venetians, who they were and whence they
     came and what they are, and how they made the noble city
     which is called Venice, which is this day the fairest in the
     world. And I would that all those who are now living and
     those who are to come know how the noble city is builded and
     how all good things abound in her, and how the sire of the
     Venetians, the noble Doge, is powerful, and what nobility is
     found therein and the prowess of the Venetian people, and how
     they are all perfect in the faith of Jesu Christ and obedient
     to holy Church, and how they never disobey the commandment of
     holy Church. Within this noble Venice there dares to dwell
     neither heretic, nor usurer, murderer, thief nor robber. And
     I will tell you the names of all the Doges that have been in
     Venice, one after the other, and what they did to the honour
     of holy Church and of their noble City. And I will tell you
     the names of the noble captains whom the noble Doges sent in
     their time to lay low their enemies, and concerning the
     victories that they won I will have you know, for it is
     fitting.... In the year of the incarnation of our Lord Jesu
     Christ MCCLXVII years, in the time of Milord Renier Zeno, the
     high Doge of Venice, I laboured and strove until I found the
     ancient history of the Venetians, whence they came first and
     how they builded the noble city called Venice, which is today
     the fairest and the pleasantest in the world, full of beauty
     and of all good things. Merchandise flows through this noble
     city even as water flows from the fountains, and the salt
     water runs through it and round it and in all places save in
     the houses and the streets; and when the citizens go abroad
     they can return to their houses by land or by water, as they
     will. From all parts there come merchandise and merchants,
     who buy merchandise as they will and take it back to their
     own countries. Within this town is found food in great
     plenty, bread and wine, land fowl and river fowl, fresh meat
     and salt, and sea fish and river fish.... You may find within
     this fair town many men of gentle birth, both old men and
     young _damoisaus_ in plenty, and merchants with them, who buy
     and sell, and money changers and citizens of all crafts, and
     therewith mariners of all sorts, and ships to carry them to
     all lands and galleys to lay low their enemies. And in this
     fair town is also great plenty of ladies and damsels and
     maidens, very richly apparelled.'[8]

     It happened that there was a new Doge that year, our year
     1268, Lorenzo Tiepolo by name, and a great procession of the
     gilds took place before the palace on the Piazza of St Mark
     to welcome his accession. Martino da Canale was watching it
     and wrote it all down in his chronicle. First came the navy
     sailing past in the harbour, fifty galleys and other ships,
     with their crews cheering and shouting on deck. Then came the
     gilds on foot: first the master smiths, with garlands on
     their heads and banners and trumpets; then the furriers
     apparelled in samite and scarlet silk, with mantles of ermine
     and vair; then the weavers richly bedight, and the ten master
     tailors in white with crimson stars. Then the master
     clothworkers passed, carrying boughs of olive and wearing
     crowns of olive on their heads; then the fustian makers in
     furred robes of their own weaving, and the quilt makers with
     garlands of gilt beads and white cloaks sewn with
     fleurs-de-lis, marching two by two, with little children
     singing _chansonettes_ and _cobles_ before them. Then came
     the makers of cloth of gold, all in cloth of gold, and their
     servants in cloth of gold or of purple, followed by the
     mercers in silk and the butchers in scarlet, the fish sellers
     robed and furred and garlanded, and the master barbers,
     having with them two riders attired as knights-errant, and
     four captive damsels, strangely garbed. Then came the
     glass-workers in scarlet furred with vair, and gold-fringed
     hoods, and rich garlands of pearls, carrying flasks and
     goblets of the famous Venetian glass before them, and the
     comb and lantern makers, with a lantern full of birds to let
     loose in the Doge's presence, and the goldsmiths wearing
     wreaths and necklaces of gold and silver beads and sapphires,
     emeralds, diamonds, topazes, jacinths, amethysts, rubies,
     jasper, and carbuncles. Master and servants alike were
     sumptuously clad, and almost all wore gold fringes on their
     hoods, and garlands of gilded beads. Each craft was
     accompanied by its band of divers instruments, and bore with
     it silver cups and flagons of wine, and all marched in fair
     order, singing ballads and songs of greeting, and saluted the
     Doge and Dogaressa in turn, crying 'Long live our lord, the
     noble Doge Lorenzo Tiepolo!' Gild after gild they marched in
     their splendour, lovely alike to ear and eye; and a week fled
     before the rejoicings were ended and all had passed in
     procession. Canale surpasses himself here, for he loved State
     ceremonies; he gives a paragraph to the advance of each gild,
     its salutation and withdrawal, and the cumulative effect of
     all the paragraphs is enchanting, like a prose ballade, with
     a repeated refrain at the end of every verse.[9]

What, they lived once thus in Venice, where the merchants were the
Where St Mark's is, where the Doges used to wed the sea with rings?

     Listening to the magnificent salutation of the Doge by the
     priests of St Mark's, 'Criste, vince, Criste regne, Criste
     inpere. Notre signor Laurens Teuples, Des gracie, inclit Dus
     de Venise, Dalmace atque Groace, et dominator de la quarte
     partie et demi de tot l'enmire de Romanie, sauvement, honor,
     vie, et victoire. Saint Marc, tu le aie,'[10] who, hearing,
     could have doubted that Venice, defier of Rome and conqueror
     of Constantinople, was the finest, richest, most beautiful,
     and most powerful city in the world?

     But was she? Listen and judge. Thousands of miles away from
     Venice, across the lands and seas of Asia, a little south of
     the Yangtze River and close to the sea stood the city of
     Kinsai or Hangchow, the capital of the Sung emperors, who
     ruled Southern China, not yet (in 1268) conquered by the
     Tartars.[11] Like Venice, Kinsai stood upon lagoons of water
     and was intersected by innumerable canals. It was a hundred
     miles in circuit, not counting the suburbs which stretched
     round it, and there was not a span of ground which was not
     well peopled. It had twelve great gates, and each of the
     twelve quarters which lay within the gates was greater than
     the whole of Venice. Its main street was two hundred feet
     wide, and ran from end to end of the city, broken every four
     miles by a great square, lined with houses, gardens, palaces,
     and the shops of the artisans, who were ruled by its twelve
     great craft gilds. Parallel with the main street was the
     chief canal, beside which stood the stone warehouses of the
     merchants who traded with India. Twelve thousand stone
     bridges spanned its waterways, and those over the principal
     canals were high enough to allow ships with their tapering
     masts to pass below, while the carts and horses passed
     overhead. In its market-places men chaffered for game and
     peaches, sea-fish, and wine made of rice and spices; and in
     the lower part of the surrounding houses were shops, where
     spices and drugs and silk, pearls and every sort of
     manufactured article were sold. Up and down the streets of
     Kinsai moved lords and merchants clad in silk, and the most
     beautiful ladies in the world swayed languidly past in
     embroidered litters, with jade pins in their black hair and
     jewelled earrings swinging against their smooth cheeks.[12]

     On one side of this city lay a beautiful lake (famous in
     Chinese history, and still one of the fairest prospects upon
     earth), studded with wooded islands, on which stood pavilions
     with charming names: 'Lake Prospect', 'Bamboo Chambers', 'The
     House of the Eight Genii', and 'Pure Delight'. Here, like the
     Venetians, the men of Kinsai came for pleasure parties in
     barges, nobly hung and furnished, the cabins painted with
     flowers and mountain landscapes, and looking out they saw on
     one side the whole expanse of the city, its palaces, temples,
     convents, and gardens, and on the other the stretch of clear
     water, crowded with coloured pleasure boats, over which came
     echoing the high, clear voices and the tinkling instruments
     of the revellers. There is no space in which to tell of the
     King's palace, with its gardens and orchards, its painted
     pavilions, and the groves where the palace ladies coursed the
     game with dogs, and, tired of the pastime, flung off their
     robes and ran to the lake, where they disported themselves
     like a shoal of silver fishes. But a word must be said of the
     junks, which came sailing into the harbour four and twenty
     miles away, and up the river to the city; and of the great
     concourse of ships which came to Zaiton (perhaps the modern
     Amoy), the port of the province. Here every year came a
     hundred times more pepper than came to the whole of
     Christendom through the Levantine ports. Here from Indo China
     and the Indies came spices and aloes and sandalwood, nutmegs,
     spikenard and ebony, and riches beyond mention. Big junks
     laded these things, together with musk from Tibet, and bales
     of silk from all the cities of Mansi[C], and sailed away in
     and out of the East India Archipelago, with its spice-laden
     breezes billowing their sails, to Ceylon. There merchants
     from Malabar and the great trading cities of southern India
     took aboard their cargoes and sold them in turn to Arab
     merchants, who in their turn sold them to the Venetians in
     one or other of the Levantine ports. Europeans who saw Zaiton
     and the other Chinese seaports in after years were wont to
     say that no one, not even a Venetian, could picture to
     himself the multitude of trading vessels which sailed upon
     those eastern seas and crowded into those Chinese harbours.
     They said also with one accord that Kinsai was without doubt
     the finest and richest and noblest city in the world. To the
     men of Kinsai, Venice would have been a little suburb and the
     Levant a backyard. The whole of the east was their trading
     field, and their wealth and civilization were already old
     when Venice was a handful of mud huts peopled by fishermen.

     [Footnote C: Mansi or Manji was southern China and Cathay was
     northern China, the boundary between them lying along the
     River Hoang-Ho on the east and the southern boundary of
     Shensi on the west.]

     Nor was Kinsai alone and unmatched in all its wonder and
     beauty, for a three days' journey from it stood Sugui, which
     today we call Suchow, lying also on the great canal, with its
     circumference of twenty miles, its prodigious multitudes
     swarming the streets, its physicians, philosophers, and
     magicians; Sugui, with the ginger which was so common that
     forty pounds of it might be bought for the price of a
     Venetian silver groat, the silk which was manufactured in
     such vast quantities that all the citizens were dressed in it
     and still ships laden with it sailed away; Sugui under whose
     jurisdiction were sixteen wealthy cities, where trade and the
     arts flourished. If you had not seen Hangchow, you would have
     said that there was no city in the world, not Venice nor
     Constantinople nor another worthy to be named in the same
     breath with Sugui. The Chinese indeed, seeing the riches and
     beauty of these two cities, doubted whether even the pleasant
     courts of heaven could show their equal and proudly quoted
     the proverb:

_Shang yeu t'ien t'ang,
Hia yeu Su Hang_.

(There's Paradise above, 'tis true,
But here below we've Hang and Su.)[13]

     Kinsai seems far enough away in all conscience from Venice in
     the year 1268, and Venice was all unwitting of its existence,
     far beyond the sunrise. Yet there was in the city of the
     lagoons that year, watching the same procession of the gilds
     which Canale watched, a boy who was destined to link them for
     ever in the minds of men--a lean lad of fourteen, Marco Polo
     by name, who was always kicking his heels on the quay and
     bothering foreign sailors for tales of distant lands. He
     heard all they had to tell him very willingly, storing it up
     in that active brain of his, for his curiosity was
     insatiable; but always the tales that he heard most willingly
     were about the Tartars.

     At this time the Tartars were at the height of their power in
     the West and the East. Tartars ruled at Peking all over
     northern China, Corea, Mongolia, Manchuria, and Tibet, and
     took tribute from Indo-China and Java. Tartars were spread
     over central Asia, holding sway in Turkestan and Afghanistan.
     The Golden Horde ruled the Caucasus, a large part of Russia,
     and a piece of Siberia. Tartars held sway in Persia, Georgia,
     Armenia, and a part of Asia Minor. When the great Mangu Khan
     died in 1259, one empire lay spread across Asia and Europe,
     from the Yellow River to the Danube. There had been nothing
     like it in the world before, and there was nothing like it
     again, until the Russian Empire of modern times. By 1268 it
     was beginning to split up into the four kingdoms of China,
     central Asia, Russia, and Persia, but still it was one
     people. Now, the attitude of the West to the Tartars at this
     time was very interesting. At first it feared them as a new
     scourge of God, like Attila and his Huns; they overran
     Poland, ravaged Hungary, and seemed about to break like a
     great flood upon the West, and overwhelm it utterly. Then the
     tide rolled back. Gradually the West lost its first
     stupefaction and terror and began to look hopefully towards
     the Tartars as a possible ally against its age-old foe, the
     Moslem. The Christians of the West knew that the Tartars had
     laid the Moslem power low through the length and breadth of
     Asia, and they knew too, that the Tartars had no very sharply
     defined faith and were curious of all beliefs that came their
     way. Gradually the West became convinced that the Tartars
     might be converted to Christianity, and fight side by side
     beneath the Cross against the hated Crescent. There grew up
     the strange legend of Prester John, a Christian priest-king,
     ruling somewhere in the heart of Asia; and indeed little
     groups of Nestorian Christians did still survive in eastern
     Asia at this time.[14] Embassies began to pass between Tartar
     khans and western monarchs, and there began also a great
     series of missions of Franciscan friars to Tartary, men who
     were ethnologists and geographers at heart as well as
     missionaries, and have left us priceless accounts of the
     lands which they visited. In the year of grace 1268, much
     was known about central Asia, for in 1245 the Pope had sent
     the Italian friar John of Plano Carpini thither, and in 1251
     another friar, William of Rubruck, a French Fleming, had been
     sent by the saintly Louis, King of France. Both got as far as
     Karakorum, the Tartar camp on the borders of northern China,
     though they did not enter China itself. They had brought back
     innumerable stories about the nomad conquerors, who carried
     their tents on carts, and drank fermented mares' milk, about
     the greatness of the khan and his welcome to the strangers
     from the West, and the interest with which he listened to
     their preaching.[15] These tales were common property now,
     and Marco Polo must have listened to them.

     Marco Polo was always talking of the Tartars, always asking
     about them. Indeed, he had reason to be interested in them.
     This (as we have said) was the year of grace 1268, and eight
     years before (some, indeed, say fifteen years) his father,
     Nicolo Polo, and his uncle Maffeo had vanished into Tartary.
     They were rich merchants, trading with their own ship to
     Constantinople, and there they had decided to go on a
     commercial venture into the lands of the Golden Horde, which
     lay to the north of the Black Sea. So they had sailed over to
     the Crimea, where they had a counting-house at Soldaia, and
     taking with them a store of costly jewels, for they were
     jewel merchants, they had set off on horseback to visit the
     Khan of the West Tartars. So much the Venetians knew, for
     word had come back from Soldaia of their venture; but they
     had never returned. And so Marco, kicking his heels upon the
     quay, caught sailor-men by the sleeve and asked them about
     those wild horsemen with their mares' milk and their
     magicians and their droves of cattle; and as he asked he
     wondered about his father and his uncle, and whether they
     were dead and lost for ever in the wilds of Tartary. But even
     while he asked and wondered and kicked his heels on the quay,
     while the Doge Tiepolo was watching the procession of the
     gilds and the clerk Canale was adding up customs dues or
     writing the ancient history of the Venetians, at that very
     moment the two Polos were slowly and wearily making their way
     across the heights of central Asia with a caravan of mules
     and camels, drawing near to golden Samarcand with its teeming
     bazaars, coming nearer and nearer to the West; and in the
     following year, 1269, they reached Acre, and took ship there
     for Venice, and so at last came home.

     They had a strange story to tell, stranger and better than
     anything the lean, inquisitive boy had heard upon the quays.
     They had soon disposed of their jewels and they had spent a
     year at the camp of the Khan of the Golden Horde of Kipchak
     on the mighty River Volga. Then war broke out between that
     ruler and the Khan who ruled the Persian Khanate, and it cut
     off their way back. But Marco's curiosity was inherited; and
     no Venetian was ever averse to seeing strange lands and
     seeking out new opportunities for trade; so the Polos decided
     to go on and visit the Khan of central Asia or Chagatai, and
     perhaps make their way back to Constantinople by some
     unfrequented route. They struggled over plains peopled only
     by tent-dwelling Tartars and their herds, until at last they
     reached the noble city of Bokhara. They must have followed
     the line of the Oxus River, and if we reverse the marvellous
     description which Matthew Arnold wrote of that river's course
     in _Sohrab and Rustum_, we shall have a picture of the
     Polos' journey:

But the majestic River floated on,
Out of the mist and hum of that low land,
Into the frosty starlight, and there moved,
Rejoicing, through the hush'd Chorasmian waste
Under the solitary moon; he flow'd
Right for the Polar Star, past Orgunjè,
Brimming and bright and large: then sands begin
To hem his watery march, and dam his streams,
And split his currents; that for many a league
The shorn and parcell'd Oxus strains along
Through beds of sand and matted rushy isles--
Oxus, forgetting the bright speed he had
In his high mountain cradle in Pamere,
A foil'd circuitous wanderer:--till at last
The long'd-for dash of waves is heard, and wide
His luminous home of waters opens, bright
And tranquil, from whose floor the new-bathed stars
Emerge and shine upon the Aral Sea.

     For three years the Polos remained at Bokhara, until one day
     it happened that an embassy came to the city, on its way back
     from the khan in Persia to the great Khan Kublai, who ruled
     in far-off China, and to whom all the Tartar rulers owed
     allegiance. The chief ambassador was struck with the talents
     and charm of the brothers, who had now become proficient in
     the Tartar language, and persuaded them to accompany him on
     his journey to the presence of the Great Khan, who had never
     yet set eyes on a man of the West, and would, he assured
     them, receive them honourably. They would not have been
     Venetians had they refused such an opportunity, and, taking
     their Venetian servants with them, they journeyed for a year
     with the Tartar embassy across the heart of Asia, and so
     reached the great Kublai Khan. Many years later Marco himself
     described their reception, as they had told it to him:

     Being introduced to the presence of the Grand Khan Kublai,
     the travellers were received by him with the condescension
     and affability that belonged to his character, and as they
     were the first Latins who had made their appearance in that
     country, they were entertained with feasts and honoured with
     other marks of distinction. Entering graciously into
     conversations with them, he made earnest inquiries on the
     subject of the western parts of the world, of the Emperor of
     the Romans, and of other Christian kings and princes ... and
     above all he questioned them particularly respecting the
     Pope, the affairs of the Church, and the religious worship
     and doctrine of the Christians. Being well instructed and
     discreet men, they gave appropriate answers upon all these
     points, and as they were perfectly acquainted with the Tartar
     language, they expressed themselves always in becoming terms;
     insomuch that the Grand Khan, holding them in high
     estimation, frequently commanded their attendance.[16]


The Great Khan finally decided to send these two intelligent strangers
back to their own land on a mission from himself to the Pope, asking for
a hundred men of learning to be sent to teach and preach to his Tartars,
and for some holy oil from the lamp which burned over Christ's sepulchre
in Jerusalem. He provided them with a golden tablet of honour, which
acted as a passport and secured that they should be entertained and
their journey facilitated from city to city in all his dominions, and so
they set forth once more upon their homeward journey, But they were
delayed by the dangers and difficulties of travel, 'the extreme cold,
the snow, the ice, and the flooding of the rivers', and it was three
years before they at last reached Acre in the April of 1269, and finding
that the Pope had died the year before, and that no election had yet
been made, so that they could not immediately accomplish their mission,
they decided to visit their home again, and so went back to Venice.
There Nicolo found that his wife, who had been with child at his
departure, was dead, leaving behind her a son Marco, our young
haunter of quays.


This was the marvellous tale which the same Marco drank in from the lips
of his new-found father and uncle. But more marvels were to come. For
two years the Venetians remained at home, awaiting the election of a
Pope in order to deliver the Great Khan's letters; but no election was
made, and at last, fearing that Kublai might suspect them of playing him
false, they decided to return to the East, and this time they took with
them Marco, now a well-grown lad of sixteen or seventeen years with a
bright eye that looked everywhere and took in everything, observant and
sober beyond his age. But when they got as far as Ayas on the Gulf of
Scanderoon, news was brought them of the election of Tebaldo di Piacenza
as Pope Gregory X, and as Tebaldo had already interested himself in
their mission, they returned with all speed to Acre, and obtained from
him letters to the Khan (they had already visited Jerusalem and provided
themselves with some of the holy oil), and two Dominican friars, 'men of
letters and science as well as profound theologians,' though not the
hundred men of learning for whom the Khan had asked; and so they set out
again from Acre in November 1271. The Dominicans may have been profound
theologians, but they were somewhat chicken-hearted adventurers, and
when rumours reached them of wars in the district of Armenia, through
which they had to pass, they hastily handed over their letters to the
Venetians, put themselves under the protection of the Knights Templars,
and scuttled back to the coast and safety as fast as they could go,
leaving the Polos, 'undismayed by perils and difficulties, to which they
had long been inured,' to proceed alone. Assuredly, St Francis crows
over St Dominic somewhere in the courts of Heaven; his friars never
feared for their skins, as they travelled blithely into the heat of
India and the cold of central Asia; and it is easy to imagine the
comments of fat William of Rubruck upon the flight of the profound

The account of this second journey of the Polos may be read in the
wonderful book which Marco afterwards wrote to describe the wonders of
the world. They went from Lajazzo through Turcomania, past Mount Ararat,
where Marco heard tell that Noah's ark rested, and where he first heard
also of the oil wells of Baku and the great inland sea of Caspian. Past
Mosul and Bagdad they went, through Persia, where brocades are woven and
merchants bring caravan after caravan of treasures, to Hormuz, on the
Persian Gulf, into which port put the ships from India, laden with
spices, drugs, scented woods, and jewels, gold tissues and elephants'
teeth. Here they meant to take ship, but they desisted, perhaps because
they feared to trust themselves to the flimsy nailless vessels in which
the Arabs braved the dangers of the Indian Ocean. So they turned north
again and prepared to make the journey by land. They traversed the salt
desert of Kerman, through Balk and Khorassan to Badakhshan, where there
are horses bred from Alexander the Great's steed Bucephalus, and ruby
mines and lapis lazuli. It is a land of beautiful mountains and wide
plains, of trout streams and good hunting, and here the brothers
sojourned for nearly a year, for young Marco had fallen ill in the hot
plains: a breath of mountain air blows through the page in which he
describes how amid the clean winds his health came back to him. When he
was well, they went on again, and ascended the upper Oxus to the
highlands of Pamir, 'the roof of the world' as it has been called in our
own time, a land of icy cold, where Marco saw and described the great
horned sheep which hunters and naturalists still call after him the
_Ovis Poli_,[17] a land which no traveller (save Benedict Goës, about
1604) described again, until Lieutenant John Wood of the Indian Navy
went there in 1838. Thence they descended upon Kashgar, Yarkand, and
Khotan, where jade is found, regions which no one visited again until
1860. From Khotan they pushed on to the vicinity of Lake Lob, never to
be reached again until a Russian explorer got there in 1871. They halted
there to load asses and camels with provisions, and then, with sinking
hearts, they began the terrible thirty days' journey across the Gobi
Desert. Marco gives a vivid description of its terrors, voices which
seem to call the traveller by name, the march of phantom cavalcades,
which lures them off the road at night, spirits which fill the air with
sounds of music, drums and gongs and the clash of arms--all those
illusions which human beings have heard and seen and feared in every
desert and in every age.

What might this be? A thousand fantasies
Begin to throng into my memory,
Of calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire,
And airy tongues that syllable men's names
On sands and shores and desert wildernesses.

At last they arrived safely at Tangut in the extreme north-west of
China, and, skirting the frontier across the great steppes of Mongolia,
they were greeted by the Khan's people, who had been sent forward to
meet them at the distance of forty days' journey, and so at last they
reached his presence in the May of 1275, having journeyed for three
years and a half.

The Great Khan received the Polos kindly, listened attentively to the
account which they gave of their mission, commended them for their zeal
and fidelity, and received the holy oil and the Pope's gifts with
reverence. He then observed the boy Marco, now a 'young gallant' and
personable enough, no doubt, and inquired who he was, and Nicolo made
answer, 'Sire, this is your servant, and my son,' to which the Khan
replied, 'He is welcome, and much it pleases me,' and enrolled Marco
among his own attendants. It was the beginning of a long and close
association, for Kublai Khan soon found that Marco Polo was both
discreet and intelligent, and began to employ him on various missions.
Moreover, Marco, for his part, found that the Great Khan was always
desirous of learning the manners and customs of the many tribes over
whom he ruled. Kublai had to the full that noble curiosity which is the
beginning of wisdom, and it irked him exceedingly that his envoys, good
conscientious men, followed their noses upon his business, looking
neither to right nor to left, and as like as not never even noticed that
among the aboriginal hill tribes of the interior called Miaotzu there
prevailed the peculiar and entertaining custom of the _couvade_, wherein

Chinese go to bed
And lie in, in their ladies' stead.[18]

'The Prince, in consequence,' says Marco, 'held them for no better than
fools and dolts and would say, "I had far liever hearken about the
strange things and the manners of the different countries you have seen
than merely be told of the business you went upon,"'

Very different was the habit of the Venetian, who as a lad, had lent ear
so readily to swarthy sailors on the Rialto. He quickly picked up
several of the languages current in the Great Khan's empire, and here is
his account of his proceedings when on a mission to foreign parts:

     Perceiving that the Great Khan took a pleasure in hearing
     accounts of whatever was new to him respecting the customs
     and manners of people, and the peculiar circumstances of
     distant countries, he endeavoured, wherever he went, to
     obtain correct information on these subjects and made notes
     of all he saw and heard, in order to gratify the curiosity of
     his master. In short, during seventeen years that he
     continued in his service, he rendered himself so useful, that
     he was employed on confidential missions to every part of the
     empire and its dependencies; and sometimes also he travelled
     on his own private account, but always with the consent and
     sanctioned by the authority of the Grand Khan. In such
     circumstances it was that Marco Polo had the opportunity of
     acquiring a knowledge, either by his own observation or by
     what he collected from others, of so many things until his
     time unknown, respecting the Eastern parts of the world, and
     these he diligently and regularly committed to writing....
     And by this means he obtained so much honour that he provoked
     the jealousy of other officers of the court.[19]

It is small wonder that when first the lad came back with his reports
the Great Khan and his courtiers marvelled and exclaimed, 'If this young
man live he will assuredly be a person of great worth and ability.'

It was while on these various public missions that Marco Polo journeyed
through the provinces of Shansi, Shensi, and Szechuen, and skirted the
edge of Tibet to Yunnan, and entered Northern Burma, lands unknown again
to the West until after 1860. For three years he was himself governor of
the great city of Yangchow, which had twenty-four towns under its
jurisdiction, and was full of traders and makers of arms and military
accoutrements.[20] He visited Karakorum in Mongolia, the old Tartar
capital, and with his Uncle Maffeo spent three years in Tangut. On
another occasion he went on a mission to Cochin China, and by sea to the
southern states of India, and he has left a vivid picture of the great
trading cities of Malabar. He might indeed have pondered with Ulysses,

     I am become a name
For always roaming with a hungry heart,
Much have I seen and known, cities of men,
And manners, climates, countries, governments,
Myself not least, but honoured of them all.

He describes the great capital Cambaluc (Peking) in the north, and the
beautiful Kinsai (Hangchow) in the south. He describes the Khan's summer
palace at Shandu, with its woods and gardens, its marble palace, its
bamboo pavilion swung like a tent from two hundred silken cords, its
stud of white mares, and its wonder-working magicians. Indeed his
description of the summer palace is better known to Englishmen than any
other part of his work, for Shandu is Xanadu, which Coleridge saw in a
dream after he had been reading Marco's book and wove into
wonderful verse:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
  A stately pleasure dome decree,
Where Alph the sacred river ran,
Past caverns measureless to man,
  Down to a sunless sea.

And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills
  Where blossomed many an incense bearing tree,
And here were forests, ancient as the hills
  Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

Nor is it only palaces which Marco Polo describes, for he tells of the
great canal and inland river trade of China, the exports and imports at
its harbours, the paper money, the system of posts and caravanserais,
which linked it together. He gives an unsurpassed picture of that huge,
rich, peaceful empire, full of wealth and commerce and learned men and
beautiful things, and of its ruler Kublai Khan, one of the noblest
monarchs who ever sat upon a throne, who, since 'China is a sea that
salts all the rivers that flow into it,'[21] was far more than a
barbarous Mongol khan, was in very truth a Chinese emperor, whose house,
called by the Chinese the 'Yuan Dynasty', takes its place among the
great dynasties of China.

Even more than Marco Polo tells us he must, indeed, have seen. The
impersonality of the greater part of the book is its one blemish, for we
would fain know more of how he lived in China. There is some evidence
that he consorted with the Mongol conquerors rather than with the
Chinese, and that Chinese was not one of the languages which he learned.
He makes no mention of several characteristic Chinese customs, such as
the compressed feet of the women, and fishing with cormorants (both of
which are described by Ordoric of Pordenone after him); he travelled
through the tea districts of Fo-kien, but he never mentions
tea-drinking, and he has no word to say even of the Great Wall.[22] And
how typical a European he is, in some ways, for all his keen interest in
new and strange things. 'They are,' he says of the peaceful merchants
and scholars of Suchow, 'a pusillanimous race and solely occupied with
their trade and manufactures. In these indeed they display considerable
ability, and if they were as enterprising, manly, and warlike as they
are ingenious, so prodigious is their number that they might not only
subdue the whole of the province, but carry their rule further
still.'[23] Nearly five hundred years later we find the same judgement
expressed in different words: 'Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle
of Cathay.' The answer is a question: Would you rather be the
pusillanimous Chinese, who painted the landscape roll of which a portion
is reproduced opposite page 52, or the enterprising, manly, and warlike
European of the same period, whose highest achievement in pictorial art
is the picture of Marco Polo's embarkation, reproduced opposite page 21?
What is civilization and what progress? Yet Marco Polo shows himself
throughout his book far from unable to appreciate other standards than
those of his own land and religion, for of Sakya-muni Buddha he says
that, 'had he been a Christian he would have been a great saint of our
Lord Jesus Christ,' and he could honour Kublai as that great
Khan deserved.

Nevertheless, although Marco Polo shows less knowledge of the Chinese
than one might expect from the extraordinary detail and fidelity of his
observation in other directions, he must have known many of these
charming and cultivated people, at Kinsai or Cambaluc, or at the city
which he governed. Among others, he must have known the great artist who
painted the roll mentioned above, Chao Mêng-fu, whom the Chinese called
'_Sung ksüeh Tao jen_' or the 'Apostle of Pine Trees and Snow'. He was a
lineal descendant of the founder of the Sung dynasty and a hereditary
official. When that dynasty at last fell before the Tartars, he and his
friend Ch'ien Hsüan, 'the Man of the Jade Pool and Roaring Torrent',
retired into private life. But in 1286 Chao Mêng-fu was summoned to
court by Kublai Khan, and, to the indignation of his friend, returned
and became secretary in the Board of War, occupying his time in this
post (what must Marco Polo have thought of him!) in painting his
marvellous pictures. He became a great favourite of the Khan and was
always about the court, and Marco Polo must have known him well and
perhaps have watched him at work painting those matchless landscapes,
and those pictures of horses and men for which he was famous. Marco
loved horses, as, indeed, he loved all kinds of sport (of which he had
plenty, for the Khan was a great hunter and hawker), and he has left a
word picture of the white brood mares at Shansi, which may be set beside
Chao Mêng-fu's brush picture of the 'Eight Horses in the Park of Kublai
Khan'.[24] He knew, too, perhaps Chao Mêng-fu's wife, the Lady Kuan, who
painted most exquisitely the graceful bamboo and the peony, so loved by
Chinese artists, and of whom it is related that 'she would watch the
moving shadows of the sprays thrown by the moon on the paper windows,
and transfer the fugitive outlines to paper with a few strokes of her
supple brush, so that every smallest scrap of her work was mounted in
albums as models for others to copy'.[25] Chao Mêng-fu and the Lady Kuan
had a son, Chao Yung, who is of special interest to us, for he painted a
picture of a Tangut hunter, and Marco Polo has also given a description
of the Tartar horsemen and of the province of Tangut, where he saw and
described the musk deer and the yak.

But we must return to the history of the Polos in China. From time to
time in Marco's book we hear also of his father and uncle, travelling
about the empire, growing rich by trade, and amassing a store of those
jewels, in the value of which they were so skilled, even helping the
Khan to reduce a rebel town, by constructing siege engines for him on
the European model, handy Venetians that they were, who could lay their
hands to anything.[27] Without doubt they were proud of their Marco, who
from an inquisitive lad had grown to so wise and observant a man, and
had risen to so high a position. So for seventeen years the three Polos
abode in the Khan's service in China. The long months slipped by; and at
last they began to feel upon them a longing to see Venice and the
lagoons again, and to hear Mass once more beneath the majestic roof of
St Mark's before they died. Moreover, Kublai Khan was growing old
himself, and the favour which he had always shown to them had excited
some jealousy among his own people, and they feared what might happen
when he died. But the old Khan was adamant to all their prayers; wealth
and honours were theirs for the asking, but he would not let them go.
They might, indeed, have died in China, and we of the West might never
have heard of Marco Polo or of Kublai Khan, but for a mere accident, a
stroke of fate, which gave them their chance. In 1286 Arghun, the Khan
of Persia, lost by death his favourite wife Bolgana, and, according to
her dying wish, he sent ambassadors to the Court of Peking to ask for
another bride from her own Mongol tribe. Their overland route home again
was endangered by a war, and they therefore proposed to return by sea.
Just at that moment, Marco Polo happened to return from a voyage on
which he had been sent, and spoke with such assurance of the ease with
which it had been accomplished, that the three ambassadors conceived a
strong desire to take with them all three of these ingenious Venetians,
who seemed to know so much about ships. Thus it was that the great Khan
was prevailed upon, very reluctantly, to let them go.

Early in 1292 they set sail from the busy port of Zaiton in fourteen
big Chinese junks (of which Marco, writing of the shipping of the
Indian and China seas, has left an excellent description),[28] with the
three envoys, the princess, a beautiful girl of seventeen, 'moult bèle
dame at avenant,' says Marco, who had an eye for pretty ladies, and a
large suite of attendants. One version of Marco's book says that they
took with them also the daughter of the king of Mansi, one of those Sung
princesses who in happier days had wandered beside the lake in Hangchow,
and who had no doubt been brought up at Cambaluc by the care of Kublai
Khan's favourite queen, the Lady Jamui. The voyage was a long and
difficult one; they suffered lengthy delays in Sumatra, Ceylon, and
Southern India, occupied by Marco in studying the sea charts of the
coast of India which the Arab pilots showed him, and adding to his
knowledge of these parts, which he had already visited. Thus it was over
two years before the junks reached Persia, and two of the three envoys
and a large number of their suite had died by the way. When at last they
landed, it was found that Arghun, the prospective bridegroom, had
meanwhile died too, leaving his throne in the charge of a regent for his
young son. But on the regent's advice a convenient solution of the
difficulty was found by handing the princess over to this prince, and
Marco and his uncles duly conducted her to him in the province of
Timochain, where Marco Polo noticed that the women were 'in my opinion
the most beautiful in the world', where stood the famed and solitary
_arbor secco_, and where men still told tales of great Alexander and
Darius. There they took leave of their princess, who had come on the
long voyage to love them like fathers, so Marco says, and wept sorely
when they parted. It was while they were still in Persia, where they
stayed for nine months after handing over the princess, that the Polos
received news of the death of the Great Khan whom they had served so
faithfully for so many years. He died at the ripe age of eighty, and
with his death a shadow fell over central Asia, darkening the shining
yellow roofs of Cambaluc,

       the barren plains
Of Sericana, where Chineses drive
With sails and wind their cany waggons light,

the minarets of Persia, and the tents of wild Kipchak Tartars, galloping
over the Russian steppes. So wide had been the sway of Kublai Khan. A
shadow fell also upon the heart of Marco Polo. It was as though a door
had clanged to behind him, never to open again. 'In the course of their
journey,' he says, 'our travellers received intelligence of the Great
Khan having departed this life, which entirely put an end to all
prospects of their revisiting those regions.' So he and his elders went
on by way of Tabriz, Trebizond, and Constantinople to Venice, and sailed
up to the city of the lagoons at long last at the end of 1295.

A strange fairy-tale legend has come down to us about the return of the
Polos. 'When they got thither,' says Ramusio, who edited Marco's book in
the fifteenth century, 'the same fate befell them as befell Ulysses, who
when he returned after his twenty years' wanderings to his native Ithaca
was recognized by nobody.' When, clad in their uncouth Tartar garb, the
three Polos knocked at the doors of the Ca' Polo, no one recognized
them, and they had the greatest difficulty in persuading their relatives
and fellow-Venetians that they were indeed those Polos who had been
believed dead for so many years. The story goes that they satisfactorily
established their identity by inviting all their kinsmen to a great
banquet, for each course of which they put on a garment more magnificent
than the last, and finally, bringing in their coarse Tartar coats, they
ripped open the seams and the lining thereof, 'upon which there poured
forth a great quantity of precious stones, rubies, sapphires,
carbuncles, diamonds, and emeralds, which had been sewn into each coat
with great care, so that nobody could have suspected that anything was
there.... The exhibition of such an extraordinary and infinite treasure
of jewels and precious stones, which covered the table, once more filled
all present with such astonishment that they were dumb and almost beside
themselves with surprise: and they at once recognized these honoured and
venerated gentlemen in the Ca' Polo, whom at first they had doubted and
received them with the greatest honour and reverence.[29] Human nature
has changed little since the thirteenth century. The precious stones are
a legend, but no doubt the Polos brought many with them, for they were
jewel merchants by trade; they had had ample opportunities for business
in China, and the Great Khan had loaded them with 'rubies and other
handsome jewels of great value' to boot. Jewels were the most
convenient form in which they could have brought home their wealth. But
the inquiring Marco brought other things also to tickle the curiosity of
the Venetians, as he lets fall from time to time in his book. He
brought, for example, specimens of the silky hair of the Tangut yak,
which his countrymen much admired, the dried head and feet of a musk
deer, and the seeds of a dye plant (probably indigo) from Sumatra, which
he sowed in Venice, but which never came up, because the climate was not
sufficiently warm.[30] He brought presents also for the Doge; for an
inventory made in 1351 of things found in the palace of Marino Faliero
includes among others a ring given by Kublai Khan, a Tartar collar, a
three-bladed sword, an Indian brocade, and a book 'written by the hand
of the aforesaid Marco,' called _De locis mirabilibus Tartarorum_.[31]

The rest of Marco Polo's life is quickly told. The legend goes that all
the youth of Venice used to resort to the Ca' Polo in order to hear his
stories, for not even among the foreign sailors on the quays, where once
the boy Marco had wandered and asked about the Tartars, were stories the
like of his to be heard. And because he was always talking of the
greatness of Kublai Khan's dominions, the millions of revenue, the
millions of junks, the millions of riders, the millions of towns and
cities, they gave him a nickname and jestingly called him Marco
_Milione_, or _Il Milione_, which is, being interpreted, 'Million
Marco'; and the name even crept into the public documents of the
Republic, while the courtyard of his house became known as the _Corte
Milione_. To return from legend to history, the ancient rivalry between
Venice and Genoa had been growing during Marco Polo's absence, nor had
Venice always prevailed. Often as her galleys sailed,

        dipping deep
For Famagusta and the hidden sun
That rings black Cyprus with a lake of fire, ...
Questing brown slaves or Syrian oranges,
The pirate Genoese
Hell raked them till they rolled
Blood, water, fruit, and corpses up the hold.

At last in 1298, three years after Marco's return, a Genoese fleet under
Lamba Doria sailed for the Adriatic, to bate the pride of Venice in her
own sea. The Venetians fitted out a great fleet to meet it, and Marco
Polo, the handy man who knew so much about navigation, albeit more
skilled with Chinese junks than with western ships, went with it as
gentleman commander of a galley. The result of the encounter was a
shattering victory for the Genoese off Curzola. Sixty-eight Venetian
galleys were burnt, and seven thousand prisoners were haled off to
Genoa, among them Marco Polo, who had now a taste of the results of that
enterprise, manliness, and warfare, whose absence he so deprecated in
the men of Suchow.

But soon there began to run through the streets and courtyards of Genoa
a rumour that in prison there lay a certain Venetian captain, with tales
so wonderful to beguile the passing hours that none could tire of
hearing them; and anon the gallants and sages and the bold ladies of
Genoa were flocking, just as the men of the Rialto had flocked before,
to hear his stories of Kublai Khan.

Lord of the fruits of Tartary
  Her rivers silver-pale,
Lord of the hills of Tartary,
  Glen, thicket, wood, and dale,
Her flashing stars, her scented breeze,
Her trembling lakes, like foamless seas,
Her bird-delighting citron-trees
  In every purple vale.

'Messer Marco,' so runs Ramusio's account of the tradition which
lingered in Venice in his day, 'finding himself in this position, and
witnessing the general eagerness to hear all about Cathay and the Great
Khan, which indeed compelled him daily to repeat his story till he was
weary, was advised to put the matter in writing, so he found means to
get a letter written to his father in Venice, in which he desired the
latter to send those notes and memoranda which he had brought home
with him.'

It happened that in prison with Marco Polo there lay a certain Pisan
writer of romances, Rusticiano by name,[32] who had probably been taken
prisoner before at the battle of Melaria (1284), when so many Pisan
captives had been carried to Genoa, that the saying arose 'He who would
see Pisa let him go to Genoa.' Rusticiano was skilled in the writing of
French, the language _par excellence_ of romances, in which he had
written versions of the Round Table Tales, and in him Marco Polo found a
ready scribe, who took down the stories as he told them, in the midst of
the crowd of Venetian prisoners and Genoese gentlemen, raptly drinking
in all the wonders of Kublai Khan. It was by a just instinct that, when
all was written, Rusticiano prefixed to the tale that same address to
the lords and gentlemen of the world, bidding them to take heed and
listen, which he had been wont to set at the beginning of his tales of
Tristan and Lancelot and King Arthur: 'Ye Lords, Emperors and Kings,
Dukes and Marquises, Counts, Knights and Burgesses and all ye men who
desire to know the divers races of men and the diversities of the
different regions of the world, take ye this book and cause it to be
read, and here shall ye find the greatest marvels.' But he adds, 'Marco
Polo, a wise and learned citizen of Venice, states distinctly what
things he saw and what things he heard from others, for this book will
be a truthful one.' Marco Polo's truthful marvels were more wonderful
even than the exploits of Arthur's knights, and were possibly better
suited to the respectable Rusticiano's pen, for his only other claim to
distinction in the eyes of posterity seems to be that in his abridgment
of the Romance of Lancelot he entirely omits the episode (if episode it
can be called) of the loves of Lancelot and Guinevere. 'Alas,' remarks
his French editor, 'that the copy of Lancelot which fell into the hands
of poor Francesca of Rimini was not one of those expurgated by
Rusticiano!' [33]

Marco Polo was released from prison (there must have been mourning in
the palaces of Genoa) and returned to Venice at the end of a year.
Sometimes hereafter his name occurs in the records of Venice, as he
moves about on his lawful occasions.[34] In 1305 we find 'Nobilis
Marchus Polo Milioni' standing surety for a wine smuggler; in 1311 he is
suing a dishonest agent who owes him money on the sale of musk (he,
Marco, had seen the musk deer in its lair); and in 1323 he is concerned
in a dispute about a party wall. We know too, from his will, that he had
a wife named Donata, and three daughters, Fantina, Bellela, and Moreta.
Had he loved before, under the alien skies where his youth was spent,
some languid, exquisite lady of China, or hardy Tartar maid? Had he
profited himself from the strange marriage customs of Tibet, of which he
remarks (with one of his very rare gleams of humour), 'En cele contree
aurent bien aler les jeume de seize anz en vingt quatre'? Had Fantina,
Bellela, and Moreta half-brothers, flying their gerfalcons at the quails
by the shores of the 'White Lake' where the Khan hunted, and telling
tales of the half legendary father, who sailed away for ever when they
were boys in the days of Kublai Khan? These things we cannot know, nor
can we ever guess whether he regretted that only daughters sprang from
his loins in the city of the lagoons, and no Venetian son to go
venturing again to the far-distant country where assuredly he had left a
good half of his heart. Perhaps he talked of it sometimes to Peter, his
Tartar servant, whom he freed at his death 'from all bondage as
completely as I pray God to release mine own soul from all sin and
guilt'. Some have thought that he brought Peter the Tartar with him from
the East, and the thought is a pleasant one; but it is more likely that
he bought him in Italy, for the Venetians were inveterate slave-owners,
and captive Tartars were held of all the slaves the strongest and best.
So his life passed; and in 1324 Marco Polo died, honoured much by his
fellow-citizens, after making a will which is still preserved in the
library of St Mark's.

A characteristic story of his death-bed is related by a Dominican friar,
one Jacopo of Acqui, who wrote some time later. 'What he told in the
book,' says Jacopo, 'was not as much as he had really seen, because of
the tongues of detractors, who being ready to impose their own lies on
others, are over hasty to set down as lies what they in their perversity
disbelieve or do not understand. And because there are many great and
strange things in that book, which are reckoned past all credence, he
was asked by his friends on his death-bed to correct the book, by
removing everything that went beyond the facts. To which his reply was
that he had not told _one half_ of what he had really seen.'[35] How
well one can see that last indignant flash of the dying observer, who in
the long years of his youth had taken notes of strange tribes and
customs for the wise and gracious Kublai Khan, and whom little men now
dared to doubt. Indeed, modern discovery has entirely confirmed the
exactitude of Marco Polo's observation. It is true that he sometimes
repeated some very tall stories which had been told to him, of dog-faced
men in the Andaman Islands and of the 'male and female islands' so
beloved of medieval geographers. These were sailors' yarns, and where
Marco Polo reports what he has seen with his own eyes, he reports with
complete accuracy, nor does he ever pretend to have seen a place which
he had not visited. The explorers of our own day, Aurel Stein, Ellsworth
Huntington, and Sven Hedin, travelling in central Asia, have
triumphantly vindicated him. 'It is,' says an eminent French historian,
'as though the originals of very old photographs had been suddenly
rediscovered: the old descriptions of things which were unchanged could
be perfectly superimposed upon present reality,'[36] and Huntington and
Aurel Stein took with them to the inaccessible districts of central Asia
as guide-books the book of the Chinese pilgrim Hiwen Thsang (seventh
century) and the book of Marco Polo, and over and over again found how
accurate were their descriptions.

It is indeed almost impossible to exaggerate the extent of Marco Polo's
accomplishment. It is best estimated in the often-quoted words of Sir
Henry Yule, whose edition of his book is one of the great works of
English scholarship:

     He was the first traveller to trace a route across the whole
     longitude of Asia, naming and describing kingdom after
     kingdom, which he had seen with his own eyes, the desert of
     Persia, the flowering plateaux and wild gorges of Badakhshan,
     the jade-bearing rivers of Khotan, the Mongol steppes, cradle
     of the power that had so lately threatened to swallow up
     Christendom, the new and brilliant court that had been
     established at Cambaluc: the first Travellers to reveal China
     in all its wealth and vastness, its mighty rivers, its huge
     cities, its rich manufactures, its swarming population, the
     inconceivably vast fleets that quickened its seas and inland
     waters; to tell us of the nations on its borders with all
     their eccentricities of manners and worship; of Tibet with
     its sordid devotees; of Burma with its golden pagodas and
     their tinkling crowns; of Laos, of Siam, of Cochin China, of
     Japan, the Eastern Thule, with its rosy pearls and
     golden-roofed palaces; the first to speak of that Museum of
     Beauty and Wonder, still so imperfectly ransacked, the Indian
     Archipelago, source of those aromatics then so highly prized
     and whose origin was so dark; of Java the Pearl of Islands;
     of Sumatra with its many kings, its strange costly products,
     and its cannibal races; of the naked savages of Nicobar
     and Andaman; of Ceylon, the Isle of Gems, with its Sacred
     Mountain and its Tomb of Adam; of India the Great, not as a
     dreamland of Alexandrian fables, but as a country seen and
     partially explored, with its virtuous Brahmans, its obscene
     ascetics, its diamonds and the strange tales of their
     acquisition, its sea-beds of pearl and its powerful sun; the
     first in modern times to give any distinct account of the
     secluded Christian Empire of Abyssinia, to speak, though
     indeed dimly, of Zanzibar with its negroes and its ivory and
     of the vast and distant Madagascar, bordering on the Dark
     Ocean of the South, with its Ruc and other monstrosities; and
     in a remotely opposite region, of Siberia and the Arctic
     Ocean, of dog-sledges, white bears and reindeer-riding

The knowledge which Marco Polo had thus brought to Europe, the
intercourse between East and West which his experience had shown to be
so desirable, continued to grow after him. Merchants and missionaries
alike travelled by land or sea eastward to Cathay.[38] Another of those
indomitable Franciscan friars, John of Monte Corvino, went out at the
age of fifty and became Archbishop of Peking. Churches and houses of
friars were founded in some of the Chinese cities. Odoric of Pordenone,
another friar, and a very good observer too, set forth in 1316 and
sailed round India and through the Spice Islands by the same sea route
by which the Polos had brought their Tartar princess back to Persia, and
so reached Canton, 'a city as big as three Venices ... and all Italy
hath not the amount of craft that this one city hath.' He left a
wonderful account of his travels in China, including descriptions of
Peking and Hangchow, and ends his stories with the words, 'As for me,
from day to day I prepare myself to return to those countries, in which
I am content to die, if it pleaseth Him from whom all good things do
come'--no doubt where he had left his heart, but he died at Udine in
Italy. Later there went out another friar, John Marignolli, who was
Papal Legate to Peking from 1342 to 1346.

Nor was it only missionaries who went to Cathay. Odoric, speaking of the
wonders of Hangchow, refers for confirmation to Venetian traders who
have visited it: ''Tis the greatest city in the whole world, so great
indeed that I should scarcely venture to tell of it, but that I have met
at Venice people in plenty who have been there'; John of Monte Corvino
was accompanied by Master Peter of Lucolongo, 'a great merchant,' and
John Marignolli mentions a _fondaco_ for the use of Christian merchants,
which was attached to one of the Franciscan convents at Zaiton. Above
all, there is Francis Balducci Pegolotti, that intrepid factor who
served the great commercial house of the Bardi of Florence, and who
wrote a priceless handbook for the use of merchants about 1340. In this
he gives detailed instructions for the guidance of a merchant, who
wishes to proceed from Tana on the Black Sea by the overland route
across Asia to Cathay and back again with £12,000 worth of silk in his
caravan, and remarks casually, in passing, 'The road you travel from
Tana to Cathay is perfectly safe, whether by day or night, according to
what merchants say who have used it'--'il chanmino dandare dana Tana al
Ghattajo _è sichurissimo_![39] Think only of what it all means. Marco
Polo travelling where no man set foot again till the twentieth century.
The bells of the Christian church ringing sweetly in the ears of the
Great Khan in Peking. The long road across central Asia perfectly safe
for merchants. The 'many persons at Venice' who have walked in the
streets of Hangchow. This is in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth
centuries, in the despised and hidebound Middle Ages. _È sichurissimo_!
It takes some of the gilt off Columbus and Vasco da Gama and the age
(forsooth) of 'discovery'.

But a change came over everything in the middle of the fourteenth
century. Darkness fell again and swallowed up Peking and Hangchow, the
great ports, the crowding junks, the noble civilization. No longer was
the great trade route _sichurissimo_, and no longer did Christian friars
chant their Masses in Zaiton. The Tartar dynasty fell and the new rulers
of China reverted to the old anti-foreign policy; moreover, Islam spread
its conquests all over central Asia and lay like a rampart between the
far east and west, a great wall of intolerance and hatred stronger by
far than the great wall of stone which the Chinese had once built to
keep out the Tartars. All Marco Polo's marvels became no more than a
legend, a traveller's tale.

But that great adventurer was not done for yet. Nearly a century and a
half after Marco's death a Genoese sea captain sat poring over one of
the new printed books, which men were beginning to buy and to hand
about among themselves. The book which he was reading was the Latin
version of Marco Polo's travels. He was reading it with intentness and
indeed with passion. As he read he made notes in the margin; on over
seventy pages he made his notes.[40] From time to time he frowned and
turned back and read again the tale of those great ports of Cathay and
the gold-roofed palaces of Cipangu; and always he wondered how those
lands might be reached, now that the wall of darkness covered central
Asia, and anarchy blocked the road to the Persian Gulf. One day (may we
not see him?) he lifted his head and smote his hand upon the table. 'I
will sail west', he said. 'Maybe I shall find the lost island of Antilha
in the western ocean, but maybe on its far rim I shall indeed come to
Cipangu, for the world is round, and somewhere in those great seas
beyond the coast of Europe must lie Marco Polo's rich Cathay. I will
beseech the kings of England and of Spain for a ship and a ship's
company, and the silk and the spices and the wealth shall be theirs. I
will sail west,' said the Genoese sea captain, and he smote his thigh.
'I will sail west, west, west!' And this was the last of Messer Marco's
marvels; he discovered China in the thirteenth century, when he was
alive, and in the fifteenth, when he was dead, he discovered America!


_Madame Eglentyne_


     Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioresse,
     That of her smyling was ful simple and coy;
     Hir grettest ooth was ne but by sëynt Loy;
     And she was cleped madame Eglentyne.
     Ful wel she song the service divyne,
     Entuned in hir nose ful semely;
     And Frensh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
     After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe,
     For Frensh of Paris was to hir unknowe.
     At mete wel y-taught was she with-alle;
     She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle,
     Ne wette hir fingres in hir sauce depe.
     Wel coude she carie a morsel and wel kepe,
     That no drope ne fille up-on hir brest.
     In curteisye was set ful muche hir lest.
     Hir over lippe wyped she so clene,
     That in hir coppe was no ferthing sene
     Of grece, whan she dronken haddie hir draughte
     Ful semely after hir mete she raughte,
     And sikerly she was of greet disport,
     And ful plesaunt and amiable of port,
     And peyned hir to countrefete chere
     Of court, and been estatlich of manere,
     And to be holden digne of reverence.
     But, for to speken of hir conscience,
     She was so charitable and so pitous,
     She wolde wepe, if that she sawe a mous
     Caught in a trap, if it were deed or bledde.
     Of smale houndes had she, that she fedde
     With rosted flesh, or milk and wastel-breed.
     But sore weep she if oon of hem were deed,
     Or if men smoot it with a yerde smerte:
     And al was conscience and tendre herte
     Ful semely hir wimpel pinched was:
     Hir nose tretys; her eyen greye as glas;
     Hir mouth ful smal, and ther-to softe and reed;
     But sikerly she hadde a fair foreheed;
     It was almost a spanne brood, I trowe;
     For, hardily, she was nat undergrowe.
     Ful fetis was hir cloke, as I was war.
     Of smal coral aboute hir arm she bar
     A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene;
     And ther-on heng a broche of gold ful shene,
     On which ther was first write a crowned A,
     And after, _Amor vincit omnia!_


               _Prologue_ to the _Canterbury Tales_

Every one knows Chaucer's description of the Prioress, Madame Eglentyne,
who rode with that very motley and talkative company on the way to
Canterbury. There is no portrait in his gallery which has given rise to
more diverse comment among critics. One interprets it as a cutting
attack on the worldliness of the Church; another thinks that Chaucer
meant to draw a charming and sympathetic picture of womanly gentleness;
one says that it is a caricature, another an ideal; and an American
professor even finds in it a psychological study of thwarted maternal
instinct, apparently because Madame Eglentyne was fond of little dogs
and told a story about a schoolboy. The mere historian may be excused
from following these vagaries. To him Chaucer's Prioress, like Chaucer's
monk and Chaucer's friar, will simply be one more instance of the almost
photographic accuracy of the poet's observation. The rippling
undercurrent of satire is always there; but it is Chaucer's own peculiar
satire--mellow, amused, uncondemning, the most subtle kind of satire,
which does not depend upon exaggeration. The literary critic has only
Chaucer's words and his own heart, or sometimes (low be it spoken) his
own desire to be original, by which to guide his judgement. But the
historian knows; he has all sorts of historical sources in which to
study nunneries, and there he meets Chaucer's Prioress at every turn.
Above all, he has the bishop's registers.

For a long time historians foolishly imagined that kings and wars and
parliaments and the jury system alone were history; they liked
chronicles and Acts of Parliament, and it did not strike them to go and
look in dusty episcopal archives for the big books in which medieval
bishops entered up the letters which they wrote and all the complicated
business of running their dioceses. But when historians did think of
looking there, they found a mine of priceless information about almost
every side of social and ecclesiastical life. They had to dig for it of
course, for almost all that is worth knowing has to be mined like
precious metals out of a rock; and for one nugget the miner often has to
grub for days underground in a mass of dullness; and when he has got it
he has to grub in his own heart, or else he will not understand it. The
historians found fine gold in the bishops' registers, when once they
persuaded themselves that it was not beneath their dignity to grub
there. They found descriptions of vicarages, with all their furniture
and gardens; they found marriage disputes; they found wills full of
entertaining legacies to people dead hundreds of years ago; they found
excommunications; they found indulgences to men for relieving the poor,
repairing roads, and building bridges, long before there was any poor
law, or any county council; they found trials for heresy and witchcraft;
they found accounts of miracles worked at the tombs of saints and even
of some quite unsaintly people, such as Thomas of Lancaster, and Edward
II, and Simon de Montfort; they found lists of travelling expenses when
the bishops rode round their dioceses; in one they even found a minute
account of the personal appearance of Queen Philippa, then a little girl
at her father's Court at Hainault, whom the Bishop of Exeter had been
sent to inspect, in order to see if she were pretty and good enough to
marry Edward III: she was nine years old, and the bishop said that her
second teeth were whiter than her first teeth and that her nose was
broad but not snub, which was reassuring for Edward.[1] Last, but not
least, the historians found a multitude of documents about monasteries,
and among these documents they found visitation records, and among
visitation records they found Chaucer's Prioress, smiling full simple
and coy, fair forehead, well-pinched wimple, necklace, little dogs, and
all, as though she had stepped into a stuffy register by mistake for the
_Canterbury Tales_ and was longing to get out again.

This was the reason that Madame Eglentyne got into the register. In the
Middle Ages all the nunneries of England, and a great many of the
monasteries, used to be visited at intervals by the bishop of their
diocese--or by somebody sent by him--in order to see whether they were
behaving properly. It was rather like the periodical visitation of a
school by one of Her Majesty's inspectors, only what happened was very
different. When Her Majesty's inspector comes he does not sit in state
in the hall, and call all the inmates in front of him one after another,
from the head mistress to the smallest child in the first form, and
invite them to say in what way they think the school is not being
properly run, and what complaints they have to make against their
mistresses and which girl habitually breaks the rules--all breathed
softly and privately into his ear, with no one to overhear them. But
when the bishop came to visit a nunnery, that is precisely what
happened. First of all, he sent a letter to say he was coming, and to
bid the nuns prepare for him. Then he came, with his clerks and a
learned official or two, and was met solemnly by the prioress and all
the nuns, and preached a sermon in their church, and was entertained,
perhaps, to dinner. And then he prepared to examine them, and one by one
they came before him, in order of rank, beginning with the prioress, and
what they had to do was to tell tales about each other. He wanted to
find out if the prioress were ruling well, and if the services were
properly performed, and if the finances were in good order, and if
discipline were maintained; and if any nun had a complaint, then was the
time to make it.

And the nuns were full of complaints. A modern schoolgirl would go pale
with horror over their capacity for tale-bearing. If one nun had boxed
her sister's ears, if another had cut church, if another were too much
given to entertaining friends, if another went out without a licence, if
another had run away with a wandering fluteplayer, the bishop was sure
to hear about it; that is, unless the whole convent were in a disorderly
state, and the nuns had made a compact to wink at each other's
peccadilloes; and not to betray them to the bishop, which occasionally
happened. And if the prioress were at all unpopular he was quite certain
to hear all about her. 'She fares splendidly in her own room and never
invites us,' says one nun; 'She has favourites,' says another, 'and
when she makes corrections she passes lightly over those whom she likes,
and speedily punishes those whom she dislikes'; 'She is a fearful
scold,' says a third; 'She dresses more like a secular person than a
nun, and wears rings and necklaces,' says a fourth; 'She goes
out riding to see her friends far too often,' says a fifth;
debt-and-the-church-is-falling about-our-ears-and-we-don't-get-enough-
woods-and farms-without-your-licence-and-she-has-pawned-our-best-set-of
spoons; and no wonder, when she never consults us in any business as she
ought to do.' They go on like that for pages, and the bishop must often
have wanted to put his fingers in his ears and shout to them to stop;
especially as the prioress had probably spent half an hour, for her
part, in telling him how disobedient and ill-tempered, and thoroughly
badly behaved the nuns were.

All these tales the bishop's clerk solemnly wrote down in a big book,
and when the examination was over the bishop summoned all the nuns
together again. And if they had answered 'All is well', as they
sometimes did, or only mentioned trivial faults, he commended them and
went his way; and if they had shown that things really were in a bad
way, he investigated particular charges and scolded the culprits and
ordered them to amend, and when he got back to his palace, or the manor
where he was staying, he wrote out a set of injunctions, based on the
complaints, and saying exactly how things were to be improved; and of
these injunctions one copy was entered in his register and another was
sent by hand to the nuns, who were supposed to read it aloud at
intervals and to obey everything in it. We have in many bishops'
registers these lists of injunctions, copied into them by the bishops'
clerks, and in some, notably in a splendid fifteenth-century Lincoln
register, belonging to the good bishop Alnwick, we have also the
evidence of the nuns, just as it was taken down from their chattering
mouths, and these are the most human and amusing of all medieval
records. It is easy to see what important historical documents
visitation reports are, especially in a diocese like Lincoln, which
possesses an almost unbroken series of registers, ranging over the three
centuries before the Dissolution, so that one can trace the whole
history of some of the nunneries by the successive visitations.

Let us see what light the registers will throw upon Madame Eglentyne,
before Chaucer observed her mounting her horse outside the Tabard Inn.
Doubtless she first came to the nunnery when she was quite a little
girl, because girls counted as grown up when they were fifteen in the
Middle Ages; they could be married out of hand at twelve, and they could
become nuns for ever at fourteen. Probably Eglentyne's father had three
other daughters to marry, each with a dowry, and a gay young spark of a
son, who spent a lot of money on fashionable suits.

Embroidered ... as it were a mede
All ful of fresshe flowers white and rede.

So he thought he had better settle the youngest at once; and he got
together a dowry (it was rarely possible to get into a nunnery without
one, though Church law really forbade anything except voluntary
offerings), and, taking Eglentyne by the hand one summer day, he popped
her into a nunnery a few miles off, which had been founded by his
ancestors. We may even know what it cost him; it was rather a select,
aristocratic house, and he had to pay an entrance fee of £200 in modern
money; and then he had to give Eglentyne her new habit and a bed, and
some other furniture; and he had to make a feast on the day she became a
nun, and invite all the nuns and all his own friends; and he had to tip
the friar, who preached the sermon; and, altogether, it was a great
affair.[2] But the feast would not come at once, because Eglentyne would
have to remain a novice for some years, until she was old enough to take
the vows. So she would stay in the convent and be taught how to sing and
to read, and to talk French of the school of Stratford-atte-Bowe with
the other novices. Perhaps she was the youngest, for girls often did not
enter the convent until they were old enough to decide for themselves
whether they wanted to be nuns; but there were certainly some other
quite tiny novices learning their lessons; and occasionally there would
be a little girl like the one whose sad fate is recorded in a dull
law-book, shut up in a nunnery by a wicked stepfather who wanted her
inheritance (a nun could not inherit land, because she was supposed to
be dead to the world), and told by the nuns that the devil would fly
away with her if she tried to set foot outside the door.[3] However,
Eglentyne had a sunny disposition and liked life in the nunnery, and had
a natural aptitude for the pretty table manners which she learnt there,
as well as for talking French, and though she was not at all prim and
liked the gay clothes and pet dogs which she used to see at home in her
mother's bower, still she had no hesitation at all about taking the veil
when she was fifteen, and indeed she rather liked the fuss that was made
of her, and being called _Madame_ or _Dame_, which was the courtesy
title always given to a nun.

The years passed and Eglentyne's life jogged along peacefully enough
behind the convent walls. The great purpose for which the nunneries
existed, and which most of them fulfilled not unworthily, was the praise
of God. Eglentyne spent a great deal of her time singing and praying in
the convent church, and, as we know,

Ful wel she song the service divyne,
Entuned in hir nose ful semely.

The nuns had seven monastic offices to say every day. About 2 a.m. the
night office was said; they all got out of bed when the bell rang, and
went down in the cold and the dark to the church choir and said Matins,
followed immediately by Lauds. Then they went back to bed, just as the
dawn was breaking in the sky, and slept again for three hours, and then
got up for good at six o'clock and said Prime. After that there followed
Tierce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline, spread at intervals through
the day. The last service, compline, was said at 7 p.m. in winter, and
at 8 p.m. in summer, after which the nuns were supposed to go straight
to bed in the dorter, in which connexion one Nun's Rule ordains that
'None shall push up against another wilfully, nor spit upon the stairs
going up and down, but if they tread it out forthwith'![4] They had in
all about eight hours' sleep, broken in the middle by the night service.
They had three meals, a light repast of bread and beer after prime in
the morning, a solid dinner to the accompaniment of reading aloud in the
middle of the day, and a short supper immediately after vespers at 5
or 6 p.m.

From 12 to 5 p.m. in winter and from 1 to 6 p.m. in summer Eglentyne
and her sisters were supposed to devote themselves to manual or brain
work, interspersed with a certain amount of sober and godly recreation.
She would spin, or embroider vestments with the crowned monogram M of
the Blessed Virgin in blue and gold thread, or make little silken purses
for her friends and finely sewn bands for them to bind round their arms
after a bleeding. She would read too, in her psalter or in such saints'
lives as the convent possessed, written in French or English; for her
Latin was weak, though she could construe _Amor vincit omnia_. Perhaps
her convent took in a few little schoolgirls to learn their letters and
good manners with the nuns, and when she grew older she helped to teach
them to read and sing; for though they were happy, they did not receive
a very extensive education from the good sisters. In the summer
Eglentyne was sometimes allowed to work in the convent garden, or even
to go out haymaking with the other nuns; and came back round-eyed to
confide in her confessor that she had seen the cellaress returning
therefrom seated behind the chaplain on his nag,[5] and had thought what
fun it must be to jog behind stout Dan John.

Except for certain periods of relaxation strict silence was supposed to
be observed in the convent for a large part of the day, and if Eglentyne
desired to communicate with her sisters, she was urged to do so by means
of signs. The persons who drew up the lists of signs which were in use
in medieval monastic houses, however, combined a preternatural ingenuity
with an extremely exiguous sense of humour, and the sort of dumb
pandemonium which went on at Eglentyne's dinner table must often have
been more mirth-provoking than speech. The sister who desired fish would
'wag her hands displayed sidelings in manner of a fish tail'; she who
wanted milk would 'draw her left little finger in manner of milking';
for mustard one would 'hold her nose in the upper part of her right fist
and rub it'; another for salt would 'fillip with her right thumb and
forefinger over the left thumb'; another desirous of wine would 'move
her forefinger up and down the end of her thumb afore her eye'; and the
guilty sacristan, struck by the thought that she had not provided
incense for the Mass, would 'put her two fingers into her nostrils'. In
one such table drawn up for nuns there are no less than 106 signs, and
on the whole it is not surprising that the rule of the same nuns enjoins
that 'it is never lawful to use them without some reason and profitable
need, for oft-times more hurt hath an evil word, and more offence it may
be to God'.[6]

The nuns, of course, would not have been human if they had not sometimes
grown a little weary of all these services and this silence; for the
religious life was not, nor was it intended to be, an easy one. It was
not a mere means of escape from work and responsibility. In the early
golden age of monasticism only men and women with a vocation, that is to
say a real genius for monastic life, entered convents. Moreover, when
there they worked very hard with hand and brain, as well as with soul,
and so they got variety of occupation, which is as good as a holiday.
The basis of wise St Benedict's Rule was a nicely adjusted combination
of variety with regularity; for he knew human nature. Thus monks and
nuns did not find the services monotonous, and indeed regarded them as
by far the best part of the day. But in the later Middle Ages, when
Chaucer lived, young people had begun to enter monastic houses rather as
a profession than as a vocation. Many truly spiritual men and women
still took the vows, but with them came others who were little suited to
monastic life, and who lowered its standard, because it was hard and
uncongenial to them. Eglentyne became a nun because her father did not
want the trouble and expense of finding her a husband, and because being
a nun was about the only career for a well-born lady who did not marry.
Moreover, by this time, monks and nuns had grown more lazy, and did
little work with their hands and still less with their heads,
particularly in nunneries, where the early tradition of learning had
died out and where many nuns could hardly understand the Latin in which
their services were written. The result was that monastic life began to
lose that essential variety which St Benedict had designed for it, and
as a result the regularity sometimes became irksome, and the series of
services degenerated into a mere routine of peculiar monotony, which
many of the singers could no longer keep alive with spiritual fervour.
Thus sometimes (it must not be imagined that this happened in all or
even in the majority of houses) the services became empty forms, to be
hurried through with scant devotion and occasionally with scandalous
irreverence. It was the almost inevitable reaction from too
much routine.

Carelessness in the performance of the monastic hours was an exceedingly
common fault during the later Middle Ages, though the monks were always
worse about it than the nuns. Sometimes they 'cut' the services.
Sometimes they behaved with the utmost levity, as at Exeter in 1330,
where the canons giggled and joked and quarrelled during the services
and dropped hot candle wax from the upper stalls on to the shaven heads
of the singers in the stalls below![7] Sometimes they came late to
matins, in the small hours after midnight. This fault was common in
nunneries, for the nuns always would insist on having private drinkings
and gossipings in the evening after compline, instead of going straight
to bed, as the rule demanded--a habit which did not conduce to
wakefulness at 1 a.m. Consequently they were somewhat sleepy at matins
and found an almost Johnsonian difficulty in getting up early. Wise St
Benedict foresaw the difficulty, when he wrote in his rule: 'When they
rise for the Divine Office, let them gently encourage one another,
because of the excuses made by those that are drowsy.'[8] At the nunnery
of Stainfield in 1519 the bishop discovered that half an hour sometimes
elapsed between the last stroke of the bell and the beginning of the
service, and that some of the nuns did not sing, but dozed, partly
because they had not enough candles, but chiefly because they went late
to bed;[9] and whoever is without sin among us, let him cast the first
stone! There was a tendency also among both monks and nuns to slip out
before the end of the service on any good or bad excuse: they had to see
after the dinner or the guest-house, their gardens needed weeding, or
they did not feel well. But the most common fault of all was to gabble
through the services as quickly as they could in order to get them over.
They left out the syllables at the beginning and end of words, they
omitted the dipsalma or pause between two verses, so that one side of
the choir was beginning the second half before the other side had
finished the first; they skipped sentences, they mumbled and slurred
what should have been 'entuned in their nose ful semely', and altogether
they made a terrible mess of the stately plainsong. So prevalent was
the fault of gabbling that the Father of Evil was obliged to charter a
special Devil called Tittivillus, whose sole business it was to collect
all these dropped syllables and carry them back to his master in a big
bag. In one way or another, we have a good deal of information about
him, for he was always letting himself be seen by holy men, who
generally had a sharp eye for devils. One Latin rhyme distinguishes
carefully between the contents of his sack: 'These are they who wickedly
corrupt the holy psalms: the dangler, the gasper, the leaper, the
galloper, the dragger, the mumbler, the fore-skipper, the fore-runner
and the over-leaper: Tittivillus collecteth the fragments of these men's
words.'[10] Indeed, a holy Cistercian abbot once interviewed the poor
little devil himself and heard about his alarming industry; this is the
story as it is told in _The Myroure of Oure Ladye_, written for the
delectation of the nuns of Syon in the fifteenth century: 'We read of a
holy Abbot of the order of Citeaux that while he stood in the choir at
matins he saw a fiend that had a long and great poke hanging about his
neck and went about the choir from one to another and waited busily
after all letters and syllables and words and failings that any made;
and them he gathered diligently and put them in his poke. And when he
came before the Abbot, waiting if aught had escaped him that he might
have gotten and put in his bag, the Abbot was astonied and afeard of the
foulness and misshape of him and said unto him: What art thou? And he
answered and said, I am a poor devil and my name is Tittivillus and I do
mine office that is committed unto me. And what is thine office? said
the Abbot. He answered: I must each day, he said, bring my master a
thousand pokes full of failings and of negligences and syllables and
words, that are done in your order in reading and singing and else I
must be sore beaten.'[11] But there is no reason to suppose that he
often got his beating, though one may be sure that Madame Eglentyne,
busily chanting through her nose, never gave him the slightest help. In
his spare moments, when he was not engaged in picking up those
unconsidered trifles which the monks let fall from the psalms,
Tittivillus used to fill up odd corners of his sack with the idle talk
of people who gossiped in church; and he also sat up aloft and collected
all the high notes of vain tenors, who sang to their own glory, instead
of to the glory of God, and pitched the chants three notes higher than
the cracked voices of their elders could rise.

But the monotony of convent life sometimes did more than make the nuns
unconscious contributors to Tittivillus's sack. It sometimes played
havoc with their tempers. The nuns were not chosen for convent life
because they were saints. They were no more immune from tantrums than
was the Wife of Bath, who was out of all charity when other village
wives went into church before her; and sometimes they got terribly on
each others' nerves. Readers of _Piers Plowman_ will remember that when
the seven deadly sins come in, Wrath tells how he was cook to the
prioress of a convent and, says he,

     Of wycked wordes I, Wrath ... here wordes imade,
     Til 'thow lixte' and 'thow lixte' ... lopen oute at ones,
     And eyther hitte other ... vnder the cheke;
     Hadde thei had knyves, by Cryst ... her eyther had killed other.

To be sure, it is not often that we hear of anything so bad as that
fifteenth-century prioress, who used to drag her nuns round the choir by
their veils in the middle of the service, screaming 'Liar!' and
'Harlot!' at them;[12] or that other sixteenth-century lady who used to
kick them and hit them on the head with her fists and put them in the
stocks.[13] All prioresses were not 'ful plesaunt and amiable of port',
or stately in their manner. The records of monastic visitations show
that bad temper and petty bickering sometimes broke the peace of
convent life.

But we must be back at Eglentyne. She went on living for ten or twelve
years as a simple nun, and she sang the services very nicely and had a
sweet temper and pretty manners and was very popular. Moreover, she was
of good birth; Chaucer tells us a great deal about her beautiful
behaviour at table and her courtesy, which shows that she was a lady
born and bred; indeed, his description of this might have been taken
straight out of one of the feudal books of deportment for girls; even
her personal beauty--straight nose, grey eyes, and little red
mouth--conforms to the courtly standard. The convents were apt to be
rather snobbish; ladies and rich burgesses' daughters got into them, but
poor and low-born girls never. So the nuns probably said to each other
that what with her pretty ways and her good temper and her aristocratic
connexions, wouldn't it be a good thing to choose her for prioress when
the old prioress died? And so they did, and she had been a prioress for
some years when Chaucer met her. At first it was very exciting, and
Eglentyne liked being called 'Mother' by nuns who were older than
herself, and having a private room to sit in and all the visitors to
entertain. But she soon found that it was not by any means all a bed of
roses; for there was a great deal of business to be done by the head of
a house--not only looking after the internal discipline of the convent,
but also superintending money matters and giving orders to the bailiffs
on her estates, and seeing that the farms were paying well, and the
tithes coming in to the churches which belonged to the nunnery, and that
the Italian merchants who came to buy the wool off her sheeps' backs
gave a good price for it. In all this business she was supposed to take
the advice of the nuns, meeting in the chapter-house, where all business
was transacted. I am afraid that sometimes Eglentyne used to think that
it was much better to do things by herself, and so she would seal
documents with the convent seal without telling them. One should always
distrust the head of an office or school or society who says, with a
self-satisfied air, that it is much more satisfactory to do the thing
herself than to depute it to the proper subordinates; it either means
that she is an autocrat, or else that she cannot organize. Madame
Eglentyne was rather an autocrat, in a good-natured sort of way, and
besides she hated bother. So she did not always consult the nuns; and I
fear too (after many researches into that past of hers which Chaucer
forgot to mention) that she often tried to evade rendering an account of
income and expenditure to them every year, as she was supposed to do.

The nuns, of course, objected to this; and the first time the bishop
came on his rounds they complained about it to him. They said, too, that
she was a bad business woman and got into debt; and that when she was
short of money she used to sell woods belonging to the convent, and
promise annual pensions to various people in return for lump sums down,
and lease out farms for a long time at low rates, and do various other
things by which the convent would lose in the long run. And besides,
she had let the roof of the church get into such ill repair that rain
came through the holes on to their heads when they were singing; and
would my lord bishop please to look at the holes in their clothes and
tell her to provide them with new ones? Other wicked prioresses used
sometimes even to pawn the plate and jewels of the convent, to get money
for their own private purposes. But Eglentyne was not at all wicked or
dishonest, though she was a bad manager; the fact was that she had no
head for figures. I am _sure_ that she had no head for figures; you have
only got to read Chaucer's description of her to know that she was not a
mathematician. Besides the nuns were exaggerating: their clothes were
not in holes, only just a little threadbare. Madame Eglentyne was far
too fastidious to allow ragged clothes about her; and as to the roof of
the church, she had meant to save enough money to have some tiles put on
to it, but it really _was_ very hard to make two ends meet in a medieval
nunnery, especially if (as I repeat) you had no head for figures.
Probably the bishop saw how the land lay, so he ordered her never to do
anything without consulting the convent, and he shut up the common seal
in a box with three different sorts of locks, to which Madame Eglentyne
and two of the senior nuns had the keys, so that she could not open it
alone and so could not seal any business agreement without their
consent. And he ordered her to keep accounts and present them every year
(there are bundles of her accounts still preserved in the Record
Office). Finally he deputed a neighbouring rector to act as custodian of
the business affairs of the house so that she should always have his
help. Things went better after that.

Eglentyne, it seems, was never really interested in business, and was
quite pleased to have her time taken up with looking after internal
affairs and entertaining visitors, with an occasional jaunt outside to
see how the estates were getting on. And she began to find that she
could lead a much freer and gayer life now that she was a prioress; for
the prioress of a convent had rooms of her own, instead of sharing the
common dormitory and refectory; sometimes she even had a sort of little
house with a private kitchen. The abbess of one great nunnery at
Winchester in the sixteenth century had her own staff to look after her,
a cook, and an under cook, and a housemaid and a gentlewoman to wait
upon her, like any great lady in the world, and never dined with the
nuns except on state occasions. But a superior generally had with her
one nun to act as her companion and assist her in the choir and be a
witness to her good behaviour; this nun was called her chaplain, and was
supposed to be changed every year, to prevent favouritism. It will be
remembered that when Madame Eglentyne went on her pilgrimage she took
her nun chaplain with her, as well as three priests; that was because no
nun was ever allowed to go out alone. One of Madame Eglentyne's duties
as prioress was to entertain visitors with her celebrated cheer of
court, and we may be sure that she had a great many. Her sisters, who
were now grand ladies with husbands and manors of their own, and her old
father, and all the great people of the county came to congratulate her;
and after that they used often to drop in for a dinner of chickens and
wine and wastel bread if they passed the house on a journey, and
sometimes they spent the night there. One or two ladies, whose husbands
were away at the wars or on a pilgrimage to Rome, even came as paying
guests to the convent and lived there for a whole year, for nothing
pleased the country gentlemen or wealthy burgesses better than to use
nunneries as boarding-houses for their women-kind.

All this was very disturbing to the peace and quiet of the nuns, and
especially disturbing were the boarders, for they wore gay clothes, and
had pet dogs and callers, and set a very frivolous example to the nuns.
At one nunnery we find a bishop ordering: 'Let Felmersham's wife, with
her whole household and other women, be utterly removed from your
monastery within one year, seeing that they are a cause of disturbance
to the nuns and an occasion to bad example, by reason of their attire
and of those who come to visit them.'[14] It can be easily imagined
_why_ the bishops objected so much to the reception of these worldly
married women as boarders. Just substitute for 'Felmersham's wife' 'the
Wife of Bath' and all is explained. That lady was not a person whom a
prioress would lightly refuse; the list of her pilgrimages alone would
give her the _entrée_ into any nunnery. Smiling her gap-toothed smile
and riding easily upon her ambler, she would enter the gates, and what a
month of excitement would pass before she rode away again. I am sure
that it was she who taught Madame Eglentyne the most fashionable way to
pinch a wimple; and she certainly introduced hats 'as broad as is a
buckler or a targe' and scarlet stockings into some nunneries. The
bishops disliked it all very much, but they never succeeded in turning
the boarders out for all their efforts, because the nuns always needed
the money which they paid for their board and lodging.

It is easy to understand that this constant intercourse with worldly
visitors would give rise to the spread of worldly habits in Madame
Eglentyne's nunnery. Nuns, after all, were but women, and they had the
amiable vanities of their sex. But Authority (with a large A) did not
consider their vanities amiable at all. It was the view of Authority
that the Devil had dispatched three lesser D's to be the damnation of
nuns, and those three D's were Dances, Dresses, and Dogs. Medieval
England was famous for dancing and mumming and minstrelsy; it was Merry
England because, however plague and pestilence and famine and the
cruelties of man to man might darken life, still it loved these things.
But there were no two views possible about what the Church thought of
dancing; it was accurately summed up by one moralist in the aphorism,
'The Devil is the inventor and governor and disposer of dances and
dancing.' Yet when we look into those accounts which Madame Eglentyne
rendered (or did not render) to her nuns at the end of every year, we
shall find payments for wassail at New Year and Twelfth Night, for May
games, for bread and ale on bonfire nights, for harpers and players at
Christmas, for a present to the Boy Bishop on his rounds, and perhaps
for an extra pittance when the youngest schoolgirl was allowed to dress
up and act as abbess of the convent for the whole of Innocents' Day. And
when we look in the bishops' registers we shall find Madame Eglentyne
forbidden 'all manner of minstrelsy, interludes, dancing or revelling
within your holy place'; and she would be fortunate indeed if her bishop
would make exception for Christmas, 'and other honest times of
recreation among yourselves used in absence of seculars in all wise'.
Somehow one feels an insistent conviction that her cheer of court
included dancing.[15]

Then, again, there were the fashionable dresses which the visitors
introduced into nunneries. It is quite certain that Madame Eglentyne
was not unmoved by them; and it is a sad fact that she began to think
the monastic habit very black and ugly, and the monastic life very
strict; and to decide that if some little amenities were imported into
it no one would be a penny the worse, and perhaps the bishop would not
notice. That is why, when Chaucer met her,

Ful fetis was hir cloke, as I was war,
Of smal coral aboute hir arm she bar
A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene,
And ther-on heng a broche of gold ful shene.

Unfortunately, however, the bishop did notice; the registers are indeed
full of those clothes of Madame Eglentyne's, and of the even more
frivolous ones which she wore in the privacy of the house. For more than
six weary centuries the bishops waged a holy war against fashion in the
cloister, and waged it in vain; for as long as nuns mingled freely with
secular women, it was impossible to prevent them from adopting secular
modes. Occasionally a wretched bishop would find himself floundering
unhandily, in masculine bewilderment, through something like a complete
catalogue of contemporary fashions, in order to specify what the nuns
were _not_ to wear. Synods sat solemnly, bishops and archbishops shook
their grey heads, over golden hairpins and silver belts, jewelled rings,
laced shoes, slashed tunics, low necks and long trains, gay colours,
costly cloth, and valuable furs. The nuns were supposed to wear their
veils pinned tightly down to their eyebrows, so that their foreheads
were completely hidden; but high foreheads happened to be fashionable
among worldly ladies, who even shaved theirs to make them higher, and
the result was that the nuns could not resist lifting up and spreading
out their veils, for how otherwise did Chaucer _know_ that Madame
Eglentyne had such a fair forehead ('almost a spanne broad, I trowe')?
If she had been wearing her veil properly, it would have been invisible,
and the father of English poetry may be observed discreetly but plainly
winking the other eye when he puts in that little touch; his
contemporaries would see the point very quickly. And that brooch and
that fetis cloak of hers.... Here is what some tale-bearing nuns told
the Bishop of Lincoln about their Prioress, fifty years after Chaucer
wrote the _Canterbury Tales_. 'The Prioress,' they said with their most
sanctimonious air, wears golden rings exceeding costly, with divers
precious stones and also girdles silvered and gilded over and silken
veils and she carries her veil too high above her forehead, so that her
forehead, being entirely uncovered, can be seen of all, and she wears
furs of vair. Also she wears shifts of cloth of Rennes, which costs
sixteen pence the ell. Also she wears kirtles laced with silk and tiring
pins of silver and silver gilt and has made all the nuns wear the like.
Also she wears above her veil a cap of estate, furred with budge. Item,
she has on her neck a long silken band, in English a lace, which hangs
down below her breast and there on a golden ring with one diamond.[16]
Is it not Madame Eglentyne to the life? Nothing escaped our good Dan
Chaucer's eye, for all that he rode always looking on the ground.

Moreover, it was not only in her dress that the Prioress and her sister
nuns aped the fashions of the world. Great ladies of the day loved to
amuse themselves with pet animals; and nuns were quick to follow their
example. So,

Of smale houndes had she, that she fedde
With rosted flesh, or milk and wastel-breed.
But sore weep she if oon of hem were deed,
Or if men smoot it with a yerde smerte.

The visitation reports are full of those little dogs and other animals;
and how many readers of the Prologue know that the smale houndes, like
the fair forehead and the brooch of gold full sheen, were strictly
against the rules? For the bishops regarded pets as bad for discipline,
and century after century they tried to turn the animals out of the
convents, without the slightest success. The nuns just waited till the
bishop had gone and then whistled their dogs back again. Dogs were
easily the favourite pets, though monkeys, squirrels, rabbits, birds and
(very rarely) cats were also kept. One archbishop had to forbid an
abbess whom he visited to keep _monkeys and a number of dogs_ in her own
chamber and charged her at the same time with stinting her nuns in food;
one can guess what became of the roasted flesh or milk and wastel-breed!
It was a common medieval practice to bring animals into church, where
ladies often attended service with dog in lap and men with hawk on
wrist; just as the highland farmer brings his collie with him today.
This happened in the nunneries too. Sometimes it was the lay-boarders in
the convents who brought their pets with them; there is a pathetic
complaint by the nuns of one house 'that Lady Audley, who boards there,
has a great abundance of dogs, insomuch that whenever she comes to
church there follow her twelve dogs, who make a great uproar in church,
hindering the nuns in their psalmody and the nuns thereby are
terrified!'[17] But often enough the nuns themselves transgressed.
Injunctions against bringing pet dogs into choir occur in several
visitation reports, the most amusing instance being contained in those
sent to Romsey Abbey by William of Wykeham in 1387, just about the same
year that Chaucer was writing the _Canterbury Tales_: 'Item,' runs the
injunction, 'whereas we have convinced ourselves by clear proofs that
some of the nuns of your house bring with them to church birds, rabbits,
hounds and such like frivolous things, whereunto they give more heed
than to the offices of the church, with frequent hindrance to their own
psalmody and to that of their fellow nuns and to the grievous peril of
their souls--therefore we strictly forbid you all and several, in virtue
of the obedience due to us that ye presume henceforward to bring to
church no birds, hounds, rabbits or other frivolous things that promote
indiscipline.... Item, whereas through hunting dogs and other hounds
abiding within your monastic precincts, the alms that should be given
to the poor are devoured and the church and cloister ... are foully
defiled ... and whereas, through their inordinate noise divine service
is frequently troubled--therefore we strictly command and enjoin you,
Lady Abbess, that you remove the dogs altogether and that you suffer
them never henceforth, nor any other such hounds, to abide within the
precincts of your nunnery.'[18] But it was useless for any bishop to
order Madame Eglentyne to give up her dogs, she could not even be parted
from them on a pilgrimage, though they must have been a great nuisance
in the inns, especially as she was so fussy about their food.

For Chaucer's prioress, we must admit, was rather a worldly lady, though
her pretty clothes and little dogs were harmless enough on modern
standards and one's sympathies are all against the bishops. She
probably became more worldly as time went on, because she had so many
opportunities for social intercourse. Not only had she to entertain
visitors in the convent, but often the business of the house took her
away upon journeys and these offered many opportunities for hobnobbing
with her neighbours. Sometimes she had to go to London to see after a
law-suit and that was a great excursion with another nun, or perhaps
two, and a priest and several yeomen to look after her. Sometimes she
had to go and see the bishop, to get permission to take in some little
schoolgirls. Sometimes she went to the funeral of a great man, whom her
father knew and who left her twenty shillings and a silver cup in his
will. Sometimes she went to the wedding of one of her sisters, or to be
godmother to their babies; though the bishops did not like these worldly
ties, or the dances and merry-makings which accompanied weddings and
christenings. Indeed her nuns occasionally complained about her journeys
and said that though she pretended it was all on the business of the
house, they had their doubts; and would the bishop please just look into
it. At one nunnery we find the nuns complaining that their house is £20
in debt 'and this principally owing to the costly expenses of the
prioress, because she frequently rides abroad and pretends that she does
so on the common business of the house although it is not so, with a
train of attendants much too large and tarries too long abroad and she
feasts sumptuously, both when abroad and at home and she is very choice
in her dress, so that the fur trimmings of her mantle are worth

As a matter of fact there was nothing of which the church disapproved
more than this habit, shared by monks and nuns, of wandering about
outside their cloisters; moralists considered that intercourse with the
world was at the root of all the evil which crept into the monastic
system. The orthodox saying was that a monk out of his cloister was like
a fish out of water; and it will be remembered that Chaucer's monk
thought the text not worth an oyster. Indeed most of the monks managed
to swim very well in the air, and the nuns too persisted in taking every
sort of excuse for wandering in the world. Right through the Middle Ages
council after council, bishop after bishop, reformer after reformer,
tried in vain to keep them shut up. The greatest attempt of all began
in 1300, when the pope published a Bull ordering that nuns should
never, save in very exceptional circumstances, leave their convents and
that no secular person should be allowed to go in and visit them,
without a special licence and a good reason. This will make the modern
reader pity the poor nuns, but there is no need, for nobody ever
succeeded in putting it into force for more than five minutes, though
the bishops spent over two centuries in trying to do so and were still
trying in vain when King Henry VIII dissolved the nunneries and turned
all the nuns out into the world for ever, whether they liked it or not.
At one nunnery in the Lincoln diocese, when the bishop came and
deposited a copy of the Bull in the house and ordered the nuns to obey
it, they ran after him to the gate when he was riding away and threw the
Bull at his head, screaming that they would never observe it.[20] The
more practical bishops indeed, soon stopped trying to enforce the Bull
as it stood and contented themselves with ordering that nuns were not to
go out or pay visits too often, or without a companion, or without
licence, or without a good reason. But even in this they were not very
successful, because the nuns were most prolific in excellent reasons why
they should go out. Sometimes they said that their parents were ill; and
then they would go away to smooth the pillow of the sick. Sometimes they
said that they had to go to market to buy herrings. Sometimes they said
that they had to go to confession at a monastery. Sometimes it is really
difficult to imagine _what_ they said. What are we to think, for
instance, of that giddy nun 'who on Monday night did pass the night with
the Austin friars at Northampton and did dance and play the lute with
them in the same place until midnight, and on the night following she
passed the night with the Friars' preachers at Northampton, luting and
dancing in like manner'?[21] Chaucer told us how the friar loved harping
and how his eyes twinkled like stars in his head when he sang, but
failed perhaps to observe that he had lured Madame Eglentyne into
a dance.

It is indeed difficult to see what 'legitimate' excuses the nuns can
have made for all their wandering about in the streets and the fields
and in and out of people's houses, and it is sorely to be feared that
either they were too much of a handful for Madame Eglentyne, or else she
winked at their doings. For somehow or other one suspects that she had
no great opinion of bishops. After all Chaucer would never have met her,
if she had not managed to circumvent her own, since if there was one
excuse for wandering of which the bishops thoroughly disapproved, it was
precisely the excuse of pilgrimages. Madame Eglentyne was not quite as
simple and coy as she looked. How many of the literary critics, who
chuckle over her, know that she never ought to have got into the
Prologue at all? The Church was quite clear in its mind that pilgrimages
for nuns were to be discouraged. As early as 791 a council had forbidden
the practice and in 1195 another at York decreed, 'In order that the
opportunity of wandering may be taken from nuns we forbid them to take
the path of pilgrimage.' In 1318 an archbishop of York strictly forbade
the nuns of one convent to leave their house 'by reason of any vow of
pilgrimage which they might have taken. If any had taken such vows she
was to say as many psalters as it would have taken days to perform the
pilgrimage so rashly vowed.'[22] One has a melancholy vision of poor
Madame Eglentyne saying psalters interminably through her tretys nose,
instead of jogging along so gaily with her motley companions and telling
so prettily her tale of little St Hugh. Such prohibitions might be
multiplied from medieval records; and indeed it is unnecessary to go
further than Chaucer to understand why it was that bishops offered such
strenuous opposition to pilgrimages for nuns; one has only to remember
some of the folk, in whose company the prioress travelled and some of
the tales they told. If one could only be certain, for instance, that
she rode all the time with her nun and her priests, or at least between
the Knight and the poor Parson of a town! But there were also the Miller
and the Summoner and (worst of all) that cheerful and engaging sinner,
the Wife of Bath. It is really quite disturbing to think what additional
details the Wife of Bath may have given the prioress about her
five husbands.

This then was Chaucer's prioress in real life, for the poet who drew her
was one of the most wonderful observers in the whole of English
literature. We may wade through hundreds of visitation reports and
injunctions and everywhere the grey eyes of his prioress will twinkle at
us out of their pages, and in the end we must always go to Chaucer for
her picture, to sum up everything that historical records have taught
us. As the bishop found her, so he saw her, aristocratic,
tender-hearted, worldly, taking pains to 'countrefete there of court';
liking pretty clothes and little dogs; a lady of importance, attended by
a nun and three priests; spoken to with respect by the none too
mealy-mouthed host--no 'by Corpus Dominus' or 'cokkes bones' or 'tel on
a devel wey' for her, but 'cometh neer, my lady prioress,' and

My lady Prioresse, by your leve
If that I wiste I sholde yow nat greve,
I wolde demen that ye tellen sholde
A tale next, if so were that ye wolde.
Now wol ye vouche-sauf, my lady dere?

He talks to no one else like that, save perhaps to the knight. Was she
religious? Perhaps; but save for her singing the divine service and for
her lovely address to the Virgin, at the beginning of her tale, Chaucer
can find but little to say on the point;

But for speken of hir conscience (he says)
She was so charitable and so pitous,

and then, as we are waiting to hear of her almsgiving to the poor--that
she would weep over a mouse in a trap, or a beaten puppy, says Chaucer.
A good ruler of her house? again, doubtless. But when Chaucer met her
the house was ruling itself somewhere at the 'shire's ende'. The world
was full of fish out of water in the fourteenth century, and, by sëynt
Loy, said Madame Eglentyne, swearing her greatest oath, like Chaucer's
monk, she held that famous text not worth an oyster. So we take our
leave of her, characteristically on the road to Canterbury.


_The Ménagier's Wife_


     The sphere of woman is the home.
         --_Homo Sapiens_

The men of the middle, as indeed of all ages, including our own, were
very fond of writing books of deportment telling women how they ought to
behave in all the circumstances of their existence, but more
particularly in their relations with their husbands. Many of these books
have survived, and among them one which is of particular interest,
because of the robust good sense of its writer and the intimate and
lively picture which it gives of a bourgeois home. Most books of
deportment were written, so to speak, in the air, for women in general,
but this was written by a particular husband for a particular wife, and
thus is drawn from life and full of detail, showing throughout an
individuality which its compeers too often lack. If a parallel be sought
to it, it is perhaps to be found not in any other medieval treatise but
in those passages of Xenophon's _Economist_, in which Isomachus
describes to Socrates the training of a perfect Greek wife.

The Ménagier de Paris (the Householder or Goodman of Paris, as we might
say) wrote this book for the instruction of his young wife between 1392
and 1394. He was a wealthy man, not without learning and of great
experience in affairs, obviously a member of that solid and enlightened
_haute bourgeoisie_, upon which the French monarchy was coming to lean
with ever-increasing confidence. When he wrote he must have been
approaching old age, and he was certainly over sixty, but he had
recently married a young wife of higher birth than himself, an orphan
from a different province. He speaks several times of her 'very great
youth', and kept a sort of duenna-housekeeper with her to help and
direct her in the management of his house; and indeed, like the wife of
Isomachus, she was only fifteen years old when he married her. Modern
opinion is shocked by a discrepancy in age between husband and wife,
with which the Middle Ages, a time of _ménages de convenance_, was more
familiar. 'Seldom,' the Ménagier says, 'will you see ever so old a man
who will not marry a young woman.' Yet his attitude towards his young
wife shows us that there may have been compensations, even in a marriage
between May and January. Time after time in his book there sounds the
note of a tenderness which is paternal rather than marital, a
sympathetic understanding of the feelings of a wedded child, which a
younger man might not have compassed. Over all the matter-of-fact
counsels there seems to hang something of the mellow sadness of an
autumn evening, when beauty and death go ever hand in hand. It was his
wife's function to make comfortable his declining years; but it was his
to make the task easy for her. He constantly repeats the assurance that
he does not ask of her an overweening respect, or a service too humble
or too hard, for such is not due to him; he desires only such care as
his neighbours and kinswomen take of their husbands, 'for to me
belongeth none save the common service, or less'.

In his Prologue, addressed to her, he gives a charming picture of the
scene which led him to write his book: 'You, being of the age of fifteen
years and in the week that you and I were wed, did pray me that I would
please to be indulgent to your youth and to your small and ignorant
service mewards, until that you should have seen and learned more, to
the hastening whereof you did promise me to set all care and
diligence, ... praying me humbly, in our bed as I remember, that for the
love of God I would not correct you harshly before strangers nor before
our own folk, 'but that I would correct you each night or from day to
day in our chamber and show you the unseemly or foolish things done in
the day or days past, and chastise you, if it pleased me, and then you
would not fail to amend yourself according to my teaching and correction,
and would do all in your power according to my will, as you said. And I
thought well of, and praise and thank you for, what you said to me and I
have often remembered it since. And know, dear sister[D], that all that
I know you have done since we were wed up to this day, and all that you
shall do hereafter with good intent has been and is good and well hath
pleased, pleases and shall please me. For your youth excuses you from
being very wise, and will still excuse you in everything that you do
with good intent to please me. And know that it doth not displease, but
rather pleases me that you should have roses to grow and violets to care
for and that you should make chaplets and dance and sing, and I would
well that you should so continue among our friends and those of our
estate, and it is but right and seemly thus to pass the time of your
feminine youth, provided that you desire and offer not to go to the
feasts and dances of too great lords, for that is not seemly for you,
nor suitable to your estate nor mine[1].'

[Footnote D: He addresses her throughout as 'sister', a term of
affectionate respect.]

Meanwhile he has not forgotten her request that he would teach and
correct her in private, and so he writes a little book (but it was a big
book before he had finished) to show her how to comport herself; for he
is sorry for this child, who has for long had neither father nor mother,
and who is far from kinswomen who might counsel her, having 'me only' he
says, 'for whom you have been taken from your kinsfolk and from the land
of your birth.' He has often deliberated the matter and now here is 'an
easy general introduction' to the whole art of being a wife, a
housewife, and a perfect lady. One characteristic reason, apart from his
desire to help her and to be comfortable himself (for he was set in his
ways), he gives for his trouble and recurs to from time to time, surely
the strangest ever given by a husband for instructing his wife. He is
old, he says, and must die before her, and it is positively essential
that she should do him credit with her second husband. What a reflection
upon him if she accompanied his successor to Mass with the collar of her
_cotte_ crumpled, or if she knew not how to keep fleas from the
blankets, or how to order a supper for twelve in Lent! It is
characteristic of the Ménagier's reasonableness and solid sense that he
regards his young wife's second marriage with equanimity. One of his
sections is headed, 'That you should be loving to your husband (whether
myself or another), by the example of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel.' How
different from those husbands (dog-in-the-manger, or anxious for the
future of their children under a possibly harsh stepfather) whose wills
so often reveal them trying to bind their wives to perpetual celibacy
after their deaths, such husbands as William, Earl of Pembroke, who died
in 1469, admonishing his lady: 'And wyfe, ye remember your promise to me
to take the ordere of wydowhood, as ye may be the better mastre of your
owne to performe my wylle.'

The plan of the book 'in three sections, containing nineteen principal
articles', is most exhaustive. The first section deals with religious
and moral duties. In the words of the Ménagier, 'the first section is
necessary to gain for you the love of God and the salvation of your
soul, and also to win for you the love of your husband and to give you
in this world that peace which ought to be had in marriage. And because
these two things, to wit the salvation of your soul and the comfort of
your husband, are the two things most chiefly necessary, therefore are
they here placed first.' Then follows a series of articles telling the
lady how to say her morning prayer when she rises, how to bear herself
at Mass, and in what form to make her confession to the priest, together
with a long and somewhat alarming discursus upon the seven deadly sins,
which it assuredly never entered into her sleek little head to commit,
and another, on the corresponding virtues.[2] But the greater part of
the section deals with the all-important subject of the wife's duty to
her husband. She is to be loving, humble, obedient, careful and
thoughtful for his person, silent regarding his secrets, and patient if
he be foolish and allow his heart to stray towards other women. The
whole section is illustrated by a series of stories (known as _exempla_
in the Middle Ages), culled from the Bible, from the common stock of
anecdotes possessed by jongleur and preacher alike, and (most
interesting of all) from the Ménagier's own experience. Among the
Ménagier's longer illustrations is the favourite but intolerably dull
moral tale of Melibeu and Prudence, by Albertano of Brescia, translated
into French by Renault de Louens, whose version the Ménagier copied, and
adapted by Jean de Meung in the _Roman de la Rose_, from which in turn
Chaucer took it to tell to the Canterbury Pilgrims. Here also are to be
found Petrarch's famous tale of patient Griselda, which Chaucer also
took and gave a wider fame, and a long poem written in 1342 by Jean
Bruyant, a notary of the Châtelet at Paris, and called 'The Way of
Poverty and Wealth', inculcating diligence and prudence.[3]

The second section of the book deals with household management and is
far the most interesting. The range of the Ménagier's knowledge leaves
the reader gasping. The man is a perfect Mrs Beeton! The section
comprises a detailed treatise on gardening and another on the principles
which should govern the engagement of servants and the method by which
they should be managed when hired; the modern problem of servants who
leave does not seem to have presented itself to him. There are
instructions how to mend, air, and clean dresses and furs, get out
grease spots, catch fleas and keep flies out of the bedroom, look after
wine, and superintend the management of a farm.

At one point he breaks off, addressing his wife thus: 'Here will I leave
you to rest or to play and will speak no more to you; and while you
disport yourself elsewhere I will speak to Master John, the Steward, who
looks after our possessions, so that if there is anything wrong with any
of our horses, whether for the plough or for riding, or if it is
necessary to buy or exchange a horse, he may know a little of that it
behoves him to know in this matter.' There follow several pages of wise
advice as to the good points of horses, how to examine them and to find
their ages and defects under the eye of the horse dealer, the practical
'tips' of a man who evidently knew and loved his horses, together with
advice upon the treatment of their various diseases. Among the various
recipes which the Ménagier gives to this intent are two charms; for
instance, 'when a horse has glanders, you must say to him these three
words, with three paternosters: _abgla_, _abgly_, _alphard_, _asy_,
_pater noster_, etc.'[4]

Last, but not least, there is a magnificent cookery book, arranged in
the form sacred to cookery books from that day to this, beginning with a
list of specimen menus for dinners and suppers, hot or cold, fast or
feast, summer or winter, giving hints on the choice of meat, poultry,
and spices, and ending with a long series of recipes for all manner of
soups, stews, sauces, and other viands, with an excursus on
invalid's cookery!

The third section of the book was intended by the Ménagier to contain
three parts: first of all, a number of parlour games for indoor
amusement; secondly, a treatise on hawking, the favourite outdoor
amusement of ladies; and thirdly, a list of amusing riddles and games of
an arithmetical kind ('concerning counting and numbering, subtle to find
out or guess'), presumably of the nature of our old friend, 'If a
herring and a half cost three ha'pence.' Unfortunately, the Ménagier
seems never to have finished the book, and of this section only the
treatise on hawking has survived. It is a great pity, for we have
several such treatises, and how interesting an account of indoor games
and riddles might have been we may guess from a passage in the
Ménagier's version of the story of Lucrece, when he describes the Roman
ladies 'some gossiping, others playing at _bric_, others at _qui féry_,
others at _pince merille_, others at cards or other games of pleasure
with their neighbours; others, who had supped together, were singing
songs and telling fables and stories and wagers; others were in the
street with their neighbours, playing at blind man's buff or at _bric_
and at several other games of the kind.'[5] In those days, before the
invention of printing had made books plentiful, medieval ladies were
largely dependent for amusement upon telling and listening to stories,
asking riddles, and playing games, which we have long ago banished to
the nursery; and a plentiful repertoire of such amusements was very
desirable in a hostess. The Ménagier was clearly anxious that his wife
should shine in the amenities as well as in the duties of social life.

Such was the monumental work which the Ménagier de Paris was able to
present to his awed but admiring wife; and though it has been sadly
neglected by historians it deserves to be well known, for it gives us a
picture of a medieval housewife which it would be hard indeed to
surpass. There is hardly a side of her daily life upon which it does not
touch, and we may now with advantage look more closely upon her, and see
in turn the perfect lady, whose deportment and manners do credit to her
breeding; the perfect wife, whose submission to her husband is only
equalled by her skill in ministering to his ease; the perfect mistress,
whose servants love her and run her house like clockwork; and the
perfect housewife, the Mrs Beeton of the fifteenth century.

The Ménagier's views on deportment are incongruously sandwiched into his
section on spiritual duties, under the general headings of getting up in
the morning and going to church. His ideas on the subject of clothes are
very clearly defined: a sweet disorder in the dress was in no way to
his taste:

     Know, dear sister, that if you wish to follow my advice you
     will have great care and regard for what you and I can afford
     to do, according to our estate. Have a care that you be
     honestly clad, without new devices and without too much or
     too little frippery. And before you leave your chamber and
     house, take care first that the collar of your shift, and of
     your _blanchet, cotte_ and _surcotte_, do not hang out one
     over the other, as happens with certain drunken, foolish or
     witless women, who have no care for their honour, nor for the
     honesty of their estate or of their husbands, and who walk
     with roving eyes and head horribly reared up like a lion (_la
     teste espoventablement levée comme un lyon!_), their hair
     straggling out of their wimples, and the collars of their
     shifts and _cottes_ crumpled the one upon the other, and who
     walk mannishly and bear themselves uncouthly before folk
     without shame. And if one speaks to them about it, they
     excuse themselves on the ground of their industry and
     humility, saying that they are so diligent, hardworking, and
     humble that they care not for themselves. But they lie; they
     care so much for themselves that if they were in an
     honourable company, never would they be willing that men
     should wait less upon them than upon the wiser ladies of like
     lineage with themselves, nor that they should have fewer
     salutations, bows, reverences and speech than the rest, but
     rather they desire more. And they are unworthy of it, for
     they know not how to maintain their own honourable fame, nay,
     nor the fame of their husbands and of their lineage, which
     they bring to shame. Therefore, fair sister, have a care that
     your hair, wimple, kerchief and hood and all the rest of your
     attire be well arranged and decently ordered, that none who
     see you can laugh or mock at you, but that all the others may
     find in you an example of fair and simple and decent
     array.... When you go to town or to church go suitably
     accompanied by honourable women according to your estate, and
     flee suspicious company, never allowing any ill famed woman
     to be seen in your presence. And as you go bear your head
     upright and your eyelids low and without fluttering, and look
     straight in front of you about four rods ahead, without
     looking round at any man or woman to the right or to the
     left, nor looking up, nor glancing from place to place, nor
     stopping to speak to anyone on the road.[6]

Such was the model of female deportment in the Middle Ages.

Let us pass from the lady to the wife. On the attitude of wife to
husband the Ménagier's ideas are much the same as those of the rest of
his age. They may be summed up as submission, obedience, and constant
attention. She must be buxom at bed and at board, even in circumstances
when buxomness hides a heavy heart. The good sense of the burgess does
not prevent him from likening the wife's love for her husband to the
fidelity of domestic animals towards their masters: 'Of the domestic
animals you see how a greyhound, or a mastiff, or a little dog, whether
on the road, or at table, or in bed, always keeps near to the person
from whom he takes his food, and leaves and is shy and fierce with all
others; and if the dog is afar off, he always has his heart and his eye
upon his master; even if his master whip him and throw stones at him,
the dog follows, wagging his tail and lying down before his master,
seeks to mollify him, and through rivers, through woods, through thieves
and through battles follows him.... Wherefore for a better and stronger
reason women, to whom God has given natural sense and who are
reasonable, ought to have a perfect and solemn love for their husbands;
and so I pray you to be very loving and privy with your husband who
shall be.'[7] Patience is an essential quality in wives, and, however
sorely tried they must never complain. The Ménagier tells three stories
to illustrate how a wife should bear herself in order to win back the
love of an unfaithful husband. One of these is the famous tale of
Griselda, but the two others are drawn (so he says) from his own
experience. In the first of these he tells of the wife of a famous
_avocat_ in the _parlement_ of Paris, who saw to the nurture and
marriage of her husband's illegitimate daughter; 'nor did he ever
perceive it by one reproach, or one angry or ugly word.' The second is
the charmingly told story of how John Quentin's wife won back her
husband's heart from the poor spinner of wool to whom it had strayed.[8]
All seem to show that the Ménagier's simile of the little dog was
selected with care, for the medieval wife, like the dog, was expected to
lick the hand that smote her. Nevertheless, while subscribing to all
the usual standards of his age, the Ménagier's robust sense, his hold
upon the realities of life, kept him from pushing them too far. The
comment of another realist, Chaucer, on the tale of Patient Griselda
will be remembered.

     Grisilde is deed and eek hire pacience,
     And bothe at ones buryed in Ytaille;
     For which I crie in open audience,
     No wedded man so hardy be t'assaille
     His wyves pacience in hope to fynde
     Grisildes, for in certein he shal faille!

     O noble wyves, ful of heigh prudence,
     Lat noon humylitee youre tonge naill,
     Ne lat no clerk have cause or diligence
     To write of yow a stone of swich mervaille
     As of Grisildis pacient and kynde,
     Lest Chichivache[E] yow swelwe in hire entraille!...

[Footnote E: Chichevache, the lean cow who fed on patient wives, while
her mate Bicorne grew fat on humble husbands (A.W. Pollard).]

His creation of the Wife of Bath was an even more pointed commentary.
Here is what the Ménagier has to say to his young wife on the
same subject:

And I, who have put [the tale of Griselda] here only to teach you, have
not put it here to apply it to you, for I am not worthy thereof, and I am
not a marquis and I have not taken you as a beggar, nor am I so foolish,
so conceited or so lacking in sense that I know not that 'tis not for me to
assault nor to assay you thus, nor in like manner. God keep me from trying
you thus under colour of false simulations.... And forgive me that
the story speaks (in my opinion) of too great cruelty and beyond reason.
And know that it never befel so, but thus the tale runs and I may nor
correct nor alter it, for a wiser than I hath made it. And it is my desire
that since others have read it you also may know and be able to talk about
everything even as other folk do.[9]

Moreover, in spite of the ideal of submission which he sets before his
wife, the Ménagier has some charming words to say about love--with a
sigh, perhaps, for his own advanced though not crabbed age, and a
glance at that younger husband of the future who shall one day enjoy his
little bride.

In God's name (he says) I believe that when two good and honourable
people are wed, all other loves are put far off, destroyed and
forgotten, save only the love of each for the other. And meseems that
when they are in each other's presence, they look upon each other more
than upon the others, they clasp and hold each other and they do not
willingly speak or make sign save to each other. And when they are
separated, they think of each other and say in their hearts, 'When I see
him I shall do thus and thus to him, or say this to him, I shall beseech
him concerning this or that.' And all their special pleasure, their
chief desire and their perfect joy is to do pleasure and obedience one
to the other, if they love one another.[10]

The greater part of the Ménagier's book is concerned, however, not with
the theoretical niceties of wifely submission, but with his creature
comforts. His instructions as to how to make a husband comfortable
positively palpitate with life; and at the same time there is something
indescribably homely and touching about them; they tell more about the
real life of a burgess's wife than a hundred tales of Patient Griselda
or of Jehanne la Quentine. Consider this picture (how typical a product
of the masculine imagination!) of the stout bread-winner, buffeted about
in all weathers and amid all discomforts, nobly pursuing the task of
earning his living, and fortified by the recollection of a domesticated
little wife, darning his stockings at home by the fire, and prepared to
lavish her attentions on the weary hero in the evening. The passage is
an excellent example of the Ménagier's vivid and simple style, and of
the use of incidents drawn from everyday life to illustrate his thesis,
which is one of the chief charms of the book.

     Fair sister, if you have another husband after me, know that
     you should think much of his comfort, for after a woman has
     lost her first husband she commonly finds it difficult to
     find another according to her estate, and she remains lonely
     and disconsolate for a long time[F]; and more so still, if
     she lose the second. Wherefore cherish the person of your
     husband carefully, and, I pray you, keep him in clean linen,
     for 'tis your business. And because the care of outside
     affairs lieth with men, so must a husband take heed, and go
     and come and journey hither and thither, in rain and wind,
     in snow and hail, now drenched, now dry, now sweating, now
     shivering, ill-fed, ill-lodged, ill-warmed and ill-bedded;
     and nothing harms him, because he is upheld by the hope that
     he has of his wife's care of him on his return, and of the
     ease, the joys and the pleasures which she will do to him, or
     cause to be done to him in her presence; to have his shoes
     removed before a good fire, his feet washed and to have fresh
     shoes and stockings, to be given good food and drink, to be
     well served and well looked after, well bedded in white
     sheets and night-caps, well covered with good furs, and
     assuaged with other joys and amusements, privities, loves,
     and secrets, concerning which I am silent; and on the next
     day fresh shirts and garments. Certes, fair sister, such
     service maketh a man love and desire to return to his home
     and to see his goodwife and to be distant with other women.

     [Footnote F: This seems to be contrary to experience.]

     And therefore I counsel you to make such cheer to your
     husband at all his comings and goings and to persevere
     therein; and also to be peaceable with him and remember the
     rustic proverb, which saith that there be three things which
     drive the goodman from home, to wit, a dripping roof, a
     smoking chimney and a scolding woman.[11] Wherefore, fair
     sister, I pray you that in order to keep yourself in love and
     good favour with your husband you be unto him gentle, amiable
     and debonair. Do unto him what the good simple women of our
     country say has been done unto their sons, when the lads have
     set their love elsewhere and their mothers cannot wean them
     from it. It is certain that when fathers and mothers be dead,
     and stepfathers and stepmothers argue with their stepsons,
     and scold them and repulse them, and take not thought for
     their sleeping, nor for their food and drink, their hose and
     their shirts and all their other needs and affairs, and the
     same children find elsewhere a good home and good counsel
     from some other woman, who receives them and takes thought to
     warm them with some poor gruel with her and to give them a
     bed and keep them tidy, mending their hosen, breeches,
     shirts, and other garments, then those lads cleave to her and
     desire to be with her, and to sleep warm between her breasts,
     and are altogether estranged from their mothers and fathers,
     who before took no heed of them, and now want to get them
     back and have them again. But it may not be, for these
     children hold more dear the company of strangers, who think
     and care for them, than that of their kinsfolk, who have no
     care of them. Then the parents lament and weep and say that
     these same women have bewitched their children and that they
     are spellbound and cannot leave, but are never easy save when
     they are with their enchantresses. But whatever may be said
     of it, it is no witchcraft, but it by reason of the love, the
     care, the intimacies, joys and pleasures, which these women
     do in all ways unto the lads, and on my soul there is no
     other enchantment.... Wherefore, dear sister, I pray you thus
     to bewitch and bewitch again your husband, and beware of
     dripping roof and smoking fire, and scold him not, but be
     unto him gentle and amiable and peaceable. Be careful that in
     winter he has good fire without smoke, and let him rest well
     and be well covered between your breasts and thus bewitch
     him.... And thus you shall preserve and guard him from all
     discomforts and give him all the ease that you can, and serve
     him and cause him to be well served in your house; and you
     shall look to him for outside things, for if he be a good man
     he will take even more care and trouble over them than you
     wish, and by doing as I have said, you will make him always
     miss you and have his heart with you and with your loving
     service, and he will shun all other houses, all other women,
     all other services and households; all will be naught to him
     save you alone, if you think of him as aforesaid.... And so
     on the road, husbands will think of their wives, and no
     trouble will be a burden to them for the hope and love they
     will have of their wives, whom they will long to see, even as
     poor hermits, penitents and fasting monks long to see the
     face of Christ Jesus; and husbands served thus will never
     desire to abide elsewhere or in other company but will
     withhold, withdraw and abstain themselves there-from; all the
     rest will seem to them but a bed of stones compared with
     their home.[12]

Enough has perhaps been quoted to show the Ménagier's idea of a perfect
wife; his idea of the perfect housewife is contained in a mass of
instructions which make excellently entertaining reading. So modern in
tone is his section on the management of servants, both in his account
of their ways and in his advice upon dealing with them, that one often
rubs one's eyes to be sure that what one is reading is really a book
written over five centuries ago by an old burgess of Paris. The Ménagier
evidently had a fairly large household, and he probably owned a country
as well as a town house, for he speaks several times of overseeing the
farm-hands 'when you are in the village'. To assist his wife in
superintending this large staff he has a _maître d'hôtel_, called Master
John the Steward (_le despensier_) and a duenna, half housekeeper and
half chaperon, for her young mistress, called Dame Agnes _la béguine_[G]
and a bailiff or foreman to look after the farm. The Ménagier divides
his servants and workmen into three classes--first, those engaged by the
day or by the season for special work, such as porters and carriers,
reapers, winnowers, coopers, and so on; secondly, those engaged on
piecework, such as tailors, furriers, bakers, and shoemakers, hired by
medieval households of some wealth to make what was needed from raw
material purchased at fairs or in the shops of the city; and thirdly,
the ordinary domestic servants, who were hired by the year and lived in
their master's house; 'and of all these,' he says, 'there is none who
does not gladly seek work and a master'.

[Footnote G: The Béguines were a sort of religious order, or, more
correctly, a lay sisterhood, standing half-way between the lay and the
monastic life, and somewhat analogous to the Franciscan Tertiaries, or
Third Order.]

He gives an amusing account, evidently based upon bitter experience, of
the wiles of the hired workman. He says that they are commonly lazy,
rough, quick at 'answering back', arrogant (except on payday) and ready
to break into insults if unsatisfied with their pay. He warns his wife
to bid Master John always to take the peaceable ones and always to
bargain with them beforehand as to the pay for which they will do
the work.

     For know that most often they do not want to bargain, but
     they want to get to work without any bargain having been made
     and they say gently, 'Milord, it is nothing--there is no
     need--you will pay me well and I shall be content with what
     you think fit.' And if Master John take them thus, when the
     work is finished they will say, 'Sir, there was more to do
     than I thought, there was this and that to do, and here and
     there,' and they will not take what is given them and will
     break out into shouting and angry words ... and will spread
     abroad evil report concerning you, which is worst of all.[13]

We know from the various ordinances fixing wages from the time of the
Black Death onwards, that labour troubles were acute in France as well
as in England at the end of the fourteenth century; and the Ménagier's
advice throws an interesting sidelight on the situation.

It is, however, in his observations upon the engagement and management
of maidservants that the wisdom of the serpent is most apparent.
Incidentally he gives an account of how servants were hired in
fourteenth-century Paris, which shows that the registry office
and the character are by no means modern phenomena. There were
_recommanderesses_--women holding what we should call registry
offices--in Paris at this time, and an ordinance of 1351 (fixing wages
after the Black Death) allows them to take _1s. 6d_. for placing a
chambermaid and _2s_. for a nurse. A servant maid's wage at this time
was 30s. a year and her shoes. The Ménagier counsels his wife thus on
the delicate subject of interviewing and engaging her domestic
chambermaids and serving men:

     Know, dear sister (he says), that in order that they may obey
     you better and fear the more to anger you, I leave you the
     rule and authority to have them chosen by Dame Agnes the
     béguine, or by whichever other of your women you please, to
     receive them into our service, to hire them at your pleasure,
     to pay and keep them in our service as you please, and to
     dismiss them when you will. Nathless you should privily speak
     to me about it and act according to my advice, because you
     are too young and might be deceived by your own people. And
     know that of those chambermaids who are out of a place, many
     there be who offer themselves and clamour and seek urgently
     for masters and mistresses; and of these take none until you
     first know where their last place was, and send some of your
     people to get their character, to wit whether they talked or
     drank too much, how long they were in the place, what work
     they have been accustomed to doing and can do, whether they
     have homes or friends in the town, from what sort of people
     and what part of the country they come, how long they were
     there and why they left; and by their work in the past you
     shall find out what hope or expectation you may have of their
     work in the future. And know that oft-times such women from
     distant parts of the country have been blamed for some fault
     in their own part of the world and that is what brings them
     into service at a distance....

     And if you find from the report of her master and mistress,
     neighbours and others that a girl is what you need, find out
     from her, and cause Master John to register in his account
     book, the day on which you engage her, her name and those of
     her father, mother and any of her kinsfolk, the place where
     they live and her birthplace and her references. For servants
     will be more afraid to do wrong if they know that you are
     recording all these things and that if they leave you without
     permission, or are guilty of any offence, you will write and
     complain to the justice of their country or to their friends.
     And not withstanding bear in mind the saying of the
     philosopher called Bertrand the Old, who says that if you
     engage a maid or man of high and proud answers, you shall
     know that when she leaves she will miscall you if she can;
     and if, on the contrary, she be flattering and ¸full of
     blandishments, trust her not, for she is in league with
     someone else to trick you; but if she blushes and is silent
     and shamefast when you correct her, love her as your

The Ménagier's instructions as to how to look after servants when they
have been engaged are equally practical. Good order is to be maintained,
quarrels and bad language[15] prevented, and morals guarded. Each is to
have his or her work assigned and to do it promptly. 'If you order them
to do something now and these your servants answer "There is plenty of
time, it shall be done," or "It shall be done tomorrow," hold it as
forgotten, it must all be begun again, it is as nought. And also when
you give a general order to every one, each will wait for the other to
do it, and it is the same.' Not only is the work of the servants to be
carefully superintended by the mistress and by Dame Agnes, 'who is with
you', the Ménagier tells his wife, 'in order to teach you wise and ripe
behaviour and to serve and instruct you and to whom in particular I give
the charge of this matter', but she is to show herself careful and
benevolent in looking after their health and happiness. At the proper
hour she is to cause them to sit down before a hearty meal of one sort
of meat, avoiding rich viands, and one kind of drink, which must be
nourishing but not intoxicating--'the cup that cheers but not
inebriates'; probably in this case the light ale which was the habitual
drink of the Middle Ages. She is to admonish them to eat and drink
their fill, but

     as soon as they begin to tell stories, or to argue, or to
     lean on their elbows, order the béguine to make them rise and
     take away their table, for the common folk have a saying
     'when a varlet holds forth at table and a horse grazes in the
     ditch, it is time to take them away, for they have had
     their fill.'

In the evening, after their afternoon's work, they are to have another
hearty meal, and then in winter time they may warm themselves at the
fire and take their ease. Then she is to lock up the house and pack them
all off to bed.

     And arrange first that each have beside his bed a candlestick
     in which to put his candle, and have them wisely taught to
     extinguish it with the mouth or hand before getting into bed
     and by no means with their shirts. And also have them
     admonished and taught each and all, that they must begin
     again the next day and that they must rise in the morning and
     each set to upon his own work.

The Ménagier further advises his wife that chambermaids of fifteen to
twenty years of age are foolish girls who do not know the world, and
that she should always cause them to sleep near her in an antechamber,
or a room without a skylight or a low window looking on to the street,
and should make them get up and go to bed at the same time as herself.
'And you yourself,' he adds, 'who, if God please, will be wise by this
time, must keep them near to you.' Moreover, if any of her servants fall
ill, 'do you yourself, laying aside all other cares, very lovingly and
charitably care for him or her, and visit him and study diligently how
to bring about his cure'.[16]

But it is perhaps in his capacity as Mrs Beeton that the Ménagier is
most amusing. His infinite variety of household knowledge is shown in
the incidental recipes which he gives when he is describing the measures
which a wife must take for her lord's comfort, and the work of the
servants. There are elaborate instructions concerning the costly
medieval garments, worn year after year for a lifetime and often
bequeathed in their owner's will, instructions for cleaning dresses and
furs and for preserving them from moths, and instructions for removing
stains and grease spots. The Ménagier gives seven recipes for taking out
grease spots, but he is rather sceptical about one or two of them, which
he has evidently copied from a book without trying them for himself. 'To
get rid of stains on a dress of silk, satin, camlet, damask cloth or
another,' runs one of these, 'dip and wash the stain in verjuice and the
stain will go; even if the dress be faded, it will regain its colour.
_This I do not believe'_. The chief impression left, however, is that
the medieval housewife was engaged in a constant warfare against fleas.
One of the Ménagier's infallible rules for keeping a husband happy at
home is to give him a good fire in the winter and keep his bed free from
fleas in the summer. He gives six recipes for getting rid of such small
livestock, which must indeed have been a very common trial to our

In summer take heed that there be no fleas in your chamber nor in your
bed, which you may do in six ways, as I have heard tell. For I have
heard from several persons that if the room be scattered with alder
leaves the fleas will get caught therein. Item, I have heard tell that
if you have at night one or two trenchers of bread covered with birdlime
or turpentine and put about the room with a lighted candle set in the
midst of each trencher, they will come and get stuck thereto. Another
way which I have found and which is true: take a rough cloth and spread
it about your room and over your bed and all the fleas who may hop on to
it will be caught, so that you can carry them out with the cloth
wheresoever you will. Item, sheepskins. Item, I have seen blankets
placed on the straw and on the bed and when the black fleas jumped upon
them they were the sooner found and killed upon the white. But the best
way is to guard oneself against those which are within the coverlets and
furs and the stuff of the dresses wherewith one is covered. For know
that I have tried this, and when the coverlets, furs or dresses in which
there be fleas are folded and shut tightly up, in a chest straitly bound
with straps or in a bag well tied up and pressed, or otherwise
compressed so that the said fleas are without light and air and kept
imprisoned, then they will perish and die at once.[17]

A similar war had also to be waged against flies and mosquitoes, which
rendered summer miserable. "I have sometimes," says the Ménagier, "seen
in several chambers that when one has gone to bed in them, they were
full of mosquitoes, which at the smoke of the breath came to sit on the
faces of those who slept and sting them so that they were fain to get up
and light a fire of hay to smoke them off." Against such pests he has
also six infallible recipes--to wit, a mosquito net over the bed; sprigs
of fern hung up for the flies to settle on; a bowl filled with a mixture
of milk and hare's gall, or with the juice of raw onions, which will
kill them; a bottle containing a rag dipped in honey, or else a string
dipped in honey to hang up; fly whisks to drive them away; and closing
up windows with oiled cloth or parchment.[18]

The section on cookery, which contains the Ménagier's injunctions for
"feeding the brute", is the longest in the book, and gives an
extraordinarily interesting picture of the domestic economy of our
ancestors.[19] The Ménagier must have been brother to Chaucer's
Franklin, 'Epicurus owene sone':

An housholdere, and that a greet, was he:
Seint Julian he was in his contree;
His breed, his ale, was alwey after oon;
A bettre envyned man was nowher noon.
Withoute bake mete was never his hous,
Of fissh and flessh, and that so plenteuous
It snewed in his hous of mete and drynke.
Of alle deyntees that men koude thynke.
After the sondry sesons of the yeer,
So chaunged he his mete and his soper.
Ful many a fat partrich had he in muwe
And many a breem and many a luce in stuwe.
Wo was his cook but if his sauce were
Poynaunt and sharpe and redy al his geere.
His table dormant in his hal alway
Stood redy covered al the longe day.

In this, as in all other medieval cookery books, what strikes the modern
reader is the length and elaboration of the huge feasts, with their many
courses and dishes, and the richness of the highly spiced viands. There
are black puddings and sausages, venison and beef, eels and herrings,
fresh water fish, round sea fish and flat sea fish, common pottages
unspiced, spiced pottages, meat pottages and meatless pottages, roasts
and pastries and entremets, divers sauces boiled and unboiled, pottages
and 'slops' for invalids. Some of them sound delicious, others would be
ruin to our degenerate digestions today. Pungent sauces of vinegar,
verjuice, and wine were very much favoured, and cloves, cinnamon,
galingale, pepper, and ginger appear unexpectedly in meat dishes.
Almonds were a favourite ingredient in all sorts of dishes, as they
still are in China and other parts of the East, and they might well be
used more lavishly than they are in modern European cookery. True to his
race, the Ménagier includes recipes for cooking frogs and snails.[20] To
the modern cook some of his directions may appear somewhat vague, as
when he bids his cook to boil something for as long as it takes to say a
paternoster or a _miserere_; yet for clockless kitchens in a pious age
what clearer indication could a man give? And, after all, it is no worse
than 'cook in a hot oven', which still finds a place in many modern
cookery books which should know better. Other instructions are detailed
enough. In one valuable passage he gives a list of all the meat markets
of Paris, together with the number of butchers to be found in each and
the number of sheep, oxen, pigs, and calves sold there every week,
adding also for interest the amount of meat and poultry consumed weekly
in the households of the King, the Queen and the royal children, the
Dukes of Orleans, Berry, Burgundy, and Bourbon. Elsewhere also he speaks
of other markets--the Pierre-au-Lait, or milk market; the Place de
Grève, where they sell coal and firewood; and the Porte-de-Paris which
is not only a meat market, but the best place in which to buy fish and
salt and green herbs and branches to adorn your rooms.

For his wife's further guidance the Ménagier sets out a careful
specification of the catering arrangements for several great feasts--to
wit, a dinner given by the Abbot of Lagny to the Bishop of Paris and the
members of the King's Council, the feast, comprising dinner and supper,
which one Master Elias (evidently a grave and reverend _maître d'hôtel,_
like Master John _le despensier_ himself) made for the wedding of Jean
du Chesne, upon a Tuesday in May, and the arrangements for another
wedding, "les nopces Hautecourt", in the month of September, as to which
the Ménagier observes "that because they were widower and widow they
were wed very early, in their black robes and then put on others"; he
was anxious that his widow should do the correct thing at that second
wedding of hers. The description of the wedding feast arranged by Master
Elias is particularly detailed and valuable.[21] The careful Ménagier,
perhaps because he foresaw some big entertainment which he must give to
the burgesses and gentlemen of Paris, perhaps because of his delightful
interest in all the details of material life, has set down at length not
only the menu of the dinner and supper, but a long account of the
ingredients needed, their quantities and prices, and the shops or
markets where they must be bought, so that the reader can see with his
eyes the _maître d'hôtel_ and the cooks going round from stall to stall,
visiting butcher and baker, poulterer, saucemaker, vintner, wafer maker,
who sold the wafers and pastries dear to medieval ladies, and spicer
whose shop was heavy with the scents of the East.

The Ménagier sets down also all the esquires and varlets and waiters
who will be needed to serve such a feast as this. There was the master
cook, comfortably stout and walking 'high and disposedly', as Queen
Elizabeth danced, brain pan stuffed full of delectable recipes, hand of
ravishing lightness with pastries, eye and nose skilled to say when a
capon was done to a turn, warranted without a rival

To boille the chiknes with the marybones,
And poudre-marchant tart and galyngale ...
He koude rooste and seethe and boille and frye,
Maken martreux and wel bake a pye ...
For blankmanger, that made he with the beste.

He brought his varlets with him, and in Paris he took two francs for his
hire 'and perquisites' (a pregnant addition). Then there were ushers,
'stout and strong', to keep the doors, and a clerk to add up the
account; bread-cutters and water-carriers, two squires to serve at the
dresser in the kitchen where the plates and dishes were handed out, two
others at the hall dresser to give out spoons and drinking cups and pour
wine for the guests, and two others in the pantry to give out the wine
which their varlet kept drawing for them. There were the two _maîtres
d'hôtel_ to set out the silver salt-cellars for the high table, the four
great gilded goblets, the four dozen hanaps, the four dozen silver
spoons, the ewers and alms mugs and sweetmeat dishes, and to usher the
guests to their places; a head waiter and two servitors for each table,
a flower girl to make chaplets of flowers for the guests, women to see
to the linen and deck the bridal bed,[22] and a washerwoman. The floors
were strewn with violets and green herbs and the rooms decked with
branches of May (all bought in the market in early morning), and there
was a good stock of torches and candles, small candles to stand on the
supper tables, and great torches to be set in sconces on the walls, or
to be carried in procession by the guests, for the supper ended with
'dancing, singing, wine and spices and lighted torches'. On this
occasion eight francs were given to the minstrels, over and above the
spoons and other presents made to them during the meal, and there were
also acrobats and mimes to amuse the guests. If they had to prepare a
great feast Master John and his little mistress could not go far wrong
after this, or fail to please the genial epicure who set it down for
them. The Ménagier copied many of his recipes from other cookery books,
but he must have got the details of this entertainment from Master Elias
himself, and one can see their grey heads wagging with enjoyment, as one
talked and the other wrote.

The cookery book ends with a section containing recipes for making what
the Ménagier calls 'small things which are not necessities'. There are
various sorts of jams, mostly made with honey; in the Middle Ages
vegetables were evidently much prepared in this way, for the Ménagier
speaks of turnip, carrot, and pumpkin jam. There is a delicious syrup of
mixed spices (at least the palate of faith must believe it to have been
delicious) and a powder of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and
sugar, to be sifted over food, as sugar is sifted today; there is a
recipe for hippocras, and for 'gauffres' or wafers, and for candied
oranges. There are various sage pieces of advice as to the seasons for
certain foods and the best ways of cooking and serving them. Most
amusing of all these are a number of recipes not of a culinary
nature--to wit, for making glue and marking ink, for bringing up small
birds in aviaries and cages, preparing sand for hour-glasses, making
rose-water, drying roses to lay among dresses (as we lay lavender
today), for curing tooth-ache, and for curing the bite of a mad dog. The
latter is a charm, of the same type as the Ménagier's horse charms:
'Take a crust of bread and write what follows: _Bestera bestie nay
brigonay dictera sagragan es domina siat siat siat_.' Let us remember,
however, that the nation which produced it, some four centuries later,
produced Pasteur.


Enough has been said about this entrancing book to show how vividly it
brings not only the Ménagier, but the Ménagier's young wife before our
eyes after these many years. In the morning she rises, much earlier than
ladies rise nowadays, though not so early as nuns, who must say matins,
for that, her husband tells her, is not a fitting hour for married women
to leave their beds. Then she washes, much less than ladies nowadays,
hands and face only perchance, and says her orisons, and dresses very
neatly, for she knows whose eye is upon her, and so goes with Dame Agnes
the béguine to Mass, with eyes on the ground and hands folded over
her painted primer. After Mass, and perhaps confession, back again to
see if the servants are doing their work, and have swept and dusted the
hall and the rooms, beaten the cushions and coverlets on the forms and
tidied everything, and afterwards to interview Master John the steward
and order dinner and supper. Then she sends Dame Agnes to see to the pet
dogs and birds, "for they cannot speak and so you must speak and think
for them if you have any". Then, if she be in her country house, she
must take thought for the farm animals and Dame Agnes must superintend
those who have charge of them, Robin the shepherd, Josson the oxherd,
Arnoul the cowherd, Jehanneton the milkmaid, and Eudeline the farmer's
wife who looks after the poultry yard. If she be in her town house she
and her maids take out her dresses and furs from their great chests and
spread them in the sun in the garden or courtyard to air, beating them
with little rods, shaking them in the breeze, taking out spots and
stains with one or other of the master's tried recipes, pouncing with
lynx eyes upon the moth or sprightly flea.


After this comes dinner, the serious meal of the day, eaten by our
ancestors about 10 a.m. What the Ménagier's wife gives to her lord and
master will depend upon the time of year and upon whether it be a meat
or a fast day; but we know that she has no lack of menus from which to
choose. After dinner she sees that the servants are set to dine, and
then the busy housewife may become the lady of leisure and amuse
herself. If in the country she may ride out hawking with a gay party of
neighbours; if in town, on a winter's day, she may romp and play with
other married ladies of her tender years, exchange riddles or tell
stories round the fire. But what she most loves is to wander in her
garden, weaving herself garlands of flowers, violets, gilly flowers,
roses, thyme, or rosemary, gathering fruit in season (she likes
raspberries and cherries), and passing on to the gardeners weighty
advice about the planting of pumpkins ("in April water them courteously
and transplant them"), to which the gardeners give as much attention as
gardeners always have given, give still, and ever shall give, world
without end, to the wishes of their employers. When she tires of this,
the busy one gathers together Dame Agnes and her maids, and they sit
under the carved beams of the hall mending his mastership's doublet,
embroidering a vestment for the priest at his family chantry, or a
tapestry hanging for the bedchamber. Or perhaps they simply spin (since,
in the words of the Wife of Bath, God has given women three
talents--deceit, weeping, and spinning!); and all the while she awes
them with that tale of Griselda, her voice rising and falling to the
steady hum of the wheels.

At last it is evening, and back comes the lord and master. What a bustle
and a pother this home-coming meant we know well, since we know what he
expected. Such a running and fetching of bowls of warm water to wash his
feet, and comfortable shoes to ease him; such a hanging on his words and
admiring of his labours. Then comes supper, with a bevy of guests, or
themselves all alone in the westering sunlight, while he smacks
connoisseur's lips over the roast crane and the blankmanger, and she
nibbles her sweet wafers. Afterwards an hour of twilight, when she tells
him how she has passed the day, and asks him what she shall do with the
silly young housemaid, whom she caught talking to the tailor's 'prentice
through that low window which looks upon the road. There is warm
affection in the look she turns up to him, her round little face
puckered with anxiety over the housemaid, dimpling into a smile when he
commends her; and there is warm affection and pride too in the look the
old man turns down upon her. So the night falls, and they go round the
house together, locking all the doors and seeing that the servants are
safe abed, for our ancestors were more sparing of candlelight than we.
And so to bed.

We may take our leave of the couple here. The Ménagier's wife evidently
had a full life.

Some respit to husbands the weather may send,
But huswiues affaires haue neuer an end.

There was no room in it for the idleness of those lovely ladies, with
their long fingers, whom Langland admonished to sew for the poor.
Moreover, exaggerated as some of her husband's ideas upon wifely
submission appear today, the book leaves a strong impression of good
sense and of respect as well as love for her. The Ménagier does not want
his wife to be on a pedestal, like the troubadour's lady, nor licking
his shoes like Griselda; he wants a helpmeet, for, as Chaucer said, 'If
that wommen were nat goode and hir conseils goode and profitable, oure
Lord God of hevene wolde never han wroght hem, ne called hem "help" of
man, but rather confusioun of man.'[23] Ecclesiastical Jeremiahs were
often wont to use the characteristically medieval argument that if God
had meant woman for a position of superiority He would have taken her
from Adam's head rather than his side; but the Ménagier would have
agreed with the more logical Peter Lombard, who observed that she was
not taken from Adam's head, because she was not intended to be his
ruler, nor from his feet either, because she was not intended to be his
slave, but from his side, precisely, because she was intended to be his
companion. There is something of this spirit in the Ménagier's attitude
towards his little wife, and it is this which makes his book so charming
and causes it to stand head and shoulders above most other medieval
books of behaviour for women. But, above all, its social and historical
value lies in the fact that it gives us, in hues undimmed by time, a
full length portrait of a medieval housewife, who has her place (and it
is a large one) in history, but concerning whom historians have almost
invariably been silent.


_Thomas Betson_


     Some men of noble stock were made, some glory in the murder blade:
     Some praise a Science or an Art, but I like honourable Trade!


               _The Golden Journey to Samarcand_

The visitor to the House of Lords, looking respectfully upon that august
assembly, cannot fail to be struck by a stout and ungainly object facing
the throne--an ungainly object upon which in full session of Parliament,
he will observe seated the Lord Chancellor of England. The object is a
woolsack, and it is stuffed as full of pure history as the office of
Lord Chancellor itself. For it reminds a cotton-spinning, iron-working
generation that the greatness of England was built up, not upon the
flimsy plant which comes to her to be manufactured from the Far East and
West of the world, nor upon the harsh metal delved from her bowels, but
upon the wool which generation after generation has grown on the backs
of her black-faced sheep. First in the form of a raw material sought
after eagerly by all the cloth-makers of Europe, then in the form of a
manufacture carried on in her own towns and villages, and sent out far
and wide in ships, wool was the foundation of England's greatness right
up to the time of the Industrial Revolution, when cotton and iron took
its place. So if you look at old pictures of the House of Lords, in
Henry VIII's reign, or in Elizabeth's, you will see the woolsack before
the throne,[1] as you will see it if you visit the House today. The Lord
Chancellor of England is seated upon a woolsack because it was upon a
woolsack that this fair land rose to prosperity.

The most remarkable body of traders in England during the Middle Ages
were the Merchants of the Staple, who traded in wool. The wool trade had
for long been the largest and most lucrative body of trade in the
country, and it was one in which the Kings of England were particularly
interested, for their customs revenue was drawn largely from wool and
wool fells; and, moreover, when they desired to borrow money in
anticipation of revenue it was to the wool merchants that they turned,
because the wool merchants were the wealthiest traders in the country.
For these and other reasons the Government adopted the custom of fixing
staple towns, which acted as centres of distribution through which the
export trade was forced to go. The location of the Staple was altered
from time to time; sometimes it was at Bruges, sometimes at Antwerp,
sometimes in England; but usually it was at Calais, where it was first
fixed in 1363 and finally established in 1423. Through the Staple all
wool and wool fells, hides, leather, and tin had to pass, and the
organization of the system was complete when the body of wool merchants,
in whose hands lay the bulk of the Staple trade, were finally
incorporated in 1354, under the governance of a mayor. The system was a
convenient one for Crown and merchants alike. The Crown could
concentrate its customs officers in one place and collect its customs
the more easily, particularly as a method was gradually developed by
which the custom and subsidy on wool was paid to the Royal officials by
the Fellowship of the Staple, who then collected it from the individual
members. The merchants, on the other hand, benefited by the
concentration in trade: they were able to travel in groups and to
organize convoys to protect the wool fleets from pirates who swarmed in
the narrow seas between England and France; as members of a powerful
corporation they could secure both privileges and protection in
Flanders. Moreover, the wool buyers also benefited by the arrangement,
which rendered possible a careful surveillance by the Crown and the
Company of the Staple of the quality of the wool offered for sale, and a
series of regulations against fraud. It must be remembered that in days
when trade stood in need of a protection which the Government was not
yet able to give it, there was nothing unpopular in the idea of giving
the monopoly of the staple trade to the members of a single company.
'Trade in companies is natural to Englishmen,' wrote Bacon; and for four
centuries it was the great trading companies which nurtured English
trade and made this country the commercial leader of the world.

The wool trade throve in England until the close of the Middle Ages, but
throughout the fifteenth century the staplers were beginning to feel the
competition of another company--that of the famous Merchant Adventurers,
who, taking advantage of the growth in the native cloth manufacture
during the previous century, had begun to do a great trade in the export
of cloth. This was obnoxious to the staplers, who desired the
continuance of the old system, by which they exported English wool to
the Continent, where at Ypres and Ghent, Bruges and Mechlin, and the
other famous cloth-working cities of the Netherlands, it was woven into
fine cloth. This cloth manufacture gave to the Netherlands a sort of
industrial pre-eminence in Europe throughout the Middle Ages, and it was
dependent entirely upon a good supply of English wool, for the next best
wool in Europe--that of Spain--was not satisfactory unless mixed with
wool of English growth. Hence the close political tie between England
and Flanders, the one needing a customer, the other an essential raw
material; for, as a fifteenth century poet said,

          the lytelle londe of Flaundres is
     But a staple to other londes, iwys,
     And alle that groweth in Flaundres, greyn and sede,
     May not a moneth fynde hem mete and brede.
     What hath thenne Flaundres, be Flemmyngis leffe or lothe
     But a lytelle madere and Flemmyshe cloothe?
     By drapynge of our wolle in substaunce
     Lyvene here comons, this is here governaunce;
     Wythought whyche they may not leve at ease,
     Thus moste hem sterve, or wyth us most have peasse.[2]

In those days the coat on the Englishman's back was made out of English
wool, indeed, but it had been manufactured in Flanders, and the staplers
saw no reason why it should ever be otherwise. As to the Flemings, the
political alliances which commercial necessities constantly entailed
between the two countries gave rise among them to a proverb that they
bought the fox-skin from the English for a groat and sold them back the
tail for a guelder;[3] but it was the sheepskin which they bought, and
they were not destined to go on buying it for ever. The great
cloth-making cities of the Netherlands were finally ruined by the growth
of the English cloth manufacture, which absorbed the English wool.
However, in spite of the growing prosperity of this trade, which had by
the beginning of the sixteenth century ousted that of wool as the chief
English export trade, the Company of the Merchants of the Staple was
still great and famous throughout the fifteenth century.

Many were the wealthy and respected staplers who were in those days to
be found directing the destinies of English towns, mayors of London and
provincial ports, contractors and moneylenders to an impecunious king,
so rich and so powerful that they became a constitutional menace,
almost, it has been said, a fourth estate of the realm, with which His
Majesty was wont to treat for grants apart from Parliament. Many are the
staplers' wills preserved in registries up and down England and bearing
witness to their prosperity and public spirit. Many are the magnificent
brasses which preserve their memory in the parish churches of the
Cotswolds and other wool-growing districts of England. At Chipping
Campden lies William Grevel with his wife, 'late citizen of London and
flower of the wool merchants of all England', who died in 1401, and his
beautiful house still stands in the village street. At Northleach lies
John Fortey, who rebuilt the nave before he died in 1458; his brass
shows him with one foot on a sheep and the other on a woolpack, and the
brasses of Thomas Fortey, 'woolman', and of another unknown merchant,
with a woolpack, lie near by. At Linwood, at Cirencester, at Chipping
Norton, at Lechlade, and at All Hallows, Barking, you may see others of
the great fraternity.[4] They rest in peace now, but when they lived
they were the shrewdest traders of their day. Of wool, cries the
poet Gower,

O leine, dame de noblesce
Tu est des marchantz la duesse,
Pour toy servir tout sont enclin--

'O wool, noble dame, thou art the goddess of merchants, to serve thee
they are all ready; by thy good fortune and thy wealth thou makest some
mount high, and others thou bringest to ruin. The staple where thou
dwellest is never free of fraud and trickery, wherewith man wounds his
conscience. O wool, Christians no less than pagans and Saracens seek to
have thee and confess thee. O wool, we should not be silent about thy
doings in strange lands; for the merchants of all countries, in time of
peace, in time of war, come to seek thee by reason of their great love,
for whoever else hath enemies thou art never without good friends, who
have given themselves to thy profitable service. Thou art cherished
throughout the world, and the land where thou art born may do great
things by reason of thee. Thou art carried throughout the world by land
and sea, but thou goest to the wealthiest men; in England art thou born,
but it is said that thou art but ill governed, for Trick, who hath much
money, is made regent of thy staple; at his will he taketh it to foreign
lands, where he purchaseth his own gain to our harm. O fair, O white, O
delightful one, the love of thee stings and binds, so that the hearts of
those who make merchandise of thee cannot escape. So they compass much
trickery and many schemes how they may gather thee, and then they make
thee pass the sea, queen and lady of their navy, and in order to have
thee envy and covetousness hie them to bargain for thee.'[5]

The daily life of a Merchant of the Staple is not a difficult one to
reconstruct, partly because the Golden Fleece has left so many marks
upon our national life, partly because the statute book is full of
regulations concerning the wool trade, but chiefly because there have
come down to us many private letters from persons engaged in shipping
wool from England to Calais. Of all the different sorts of raw material
out of which the history of ordinary people in the Middle Ages has to be
made, their letters are perhaps the most enthralling, because in their
letters people live and explain themselves in all their individuality.
In the fifteenth century most men and women of the upper and middle
classes could read and write, although their spelling was sometimes
marvellous to behold, and St Olave's Church is apt to become 'Sent
Tolowys scryssche' beneath their painfully labouring goose quills, and
punctuation is almost entirely to seek. But what matter? their meaning
is clear enough. Good fortune has preserved in various English archives
several great collections of family letters written in the fifteenth
century. Finest of all are the famous Paston Letters, written by and to
a family of Norfolk gentlefolk, and crammed with information about high
politics and daily life.[6] Less interesting, but valuable all the same,
are the letters of the Plumptons, who were lords in Yorkshire.[7] But
for our purposes the most interesting are two other collections, to wit,
the correspondence of the Stonors, whose estates lay chiefly in
Oxfordshire and the neighbouring counties; and the Cely papers, kept by
a family of Merchants of the Staple.

These two collections give us a vivid picture of wool staplers in their
public and private lives. The Cely papers cover the years 1475 to 1488,
and it so happens that during that period William Stonor (he became Sir
William in 1478) also became interested in the wool trade, for in 1475
he married Elizabeth Riche, the daughter and widow of wealthy city
merchants. The Stonors had great sheep runs on their estates in the
Chilterns and Cotswolds, and William readily perceived the advantage of
his alliance with Elizabeth's family, who were interested in the wool
trade. Consequently he entered into a partnership with a friend of his
wife's, a Merchant of the Staple in Calais, named Thomas Betson, who is
the subject of this study, and until Elizabeth's death in 1479, he took
an active part in the export trade. Thomas Betson died in 1486, and was
thus an exact contemporary of those other Merchants of the Staple,
George and Richard Cely, whom he must have known; indeed, William Cely,
their cousin and agent, writes from London to George in Calais in 1481,
advising him that he has dispatched 464 fells to him in the _Thomas_ of
Newhithe, 'and the sayd felles lyeth nexte be afte the maste lowest
under the felles of Thomas Bettson'.[8] By the aid of the 'Stonor
Letters and Papers', which contain many letters from and concerning him
during the years of his partnership with Sir William, and of the 'Cely
Papers', which are full of information about the life of a Merchant of
the Staple at Calais, Thomas Betson may be summoned before us by a
kindly magic until he almost lives again. So he deserves to do, for he
is one of the most delightful people revealed to us in any of the
fifteenth-century letters; for honest charm he has no rival save the
attractive Margery Brews, who married John Paston the younger, and
shows up so pleasantly beside the hard Paston women.

Perhaps the reason why our hearts warm immediately towards Thomas Betson
is that our first meeting with him plunges us immediately into a love
affair. His first letter to William Stonor is dated April 12, 1476, and
informs William that their wool has come in to Calais. 'Right
worshipfful Syr,' it begins, 'I recomaund me unto your good
maystershipe, and to my right worshipffulle maystresse your wiffe, and
yf it plese your maystershipe, to my maystresse Kateryn.'[9] Ten days
later he writes again from London, on the eve of sailing for Calais,
thanking Stonor for his 'gentle cheer and faithful love, the which alway
ye bear and owe unto me, and of my behalf nothing deserved[H],'
announcing that he has sent a present of powdered[I] lampreys from
himself and a pipe of red wine from his brother, and adding this
postscript: 'Sir, I beseech your mastership that this poor writing may
have me lowly recommended to my right worshipful mistress, your wife,
and in like wise to my gentle cousin and kind mistress Katherine Riche,
to whom I beseech your mastership ever to be favourable and loving.'[10]
Who was this Katherine Riche to whom he so carefully commends himself?
Katherine Riche was William Stonor's stepdaughter, one of his wife's
children by her first husband; she was Thomas Betson's affianced bride,
and at this time she was about thirteen years old.

[Footnote H: Henceforth I shall modernize spelling, for the reader's

[Footnote I: I.e. pickled.]

Modern opinion, which is happily in favour of falling in love, and of
adult marriages, is often shocked by the air of business which pervades
matchmaking in the days of chivalry, and by the many cases of grown men
married to little girls not yet out of their teens. In those days it was
held that a boy came of age at fourteen and a girl at twelve (a
discrepancy which the great canon lawyer, Lyndwood, the son of a
stapler,[11] attributed to the fact that ill weeds grow apace!). For
reasons of property, or to settle family feuds, or simply to assure
their own future, babies in cradles were sometimes betrothed and even
married; all that the Church required was that children should be free
when they came of age (at the ages of fourteen and twelve!) to repudiate
the contract if they so desired. Nothing seems to separate modern
England from the good old days so plainly as the case of little Grace de
Saleby, aged four, who for the sake of her broad acres was married to a
great noble, and on his death two years later to another, and yet again,
when she was eleven, to a third, who paid three hundred marks down for
her.[12] There is an odd mixture of humour and pathos in the story of
some of these marriages. John Rigmarden, aged three, was carried to
church in the arms of a priest, who coaxed him to repeat the words of
matrimony, but half-way through the service the child declared that he
would learn no more that day, and the priest answered, 'You must speak a
little more, and then go play you.' James Ballard, aged ten, was married
to Jane his wife 'at x of the clocke in the night without the consent of
any of his frendes, bie one Sir Roger Blakey, then curate of Colne, and
the morowe after, the same James declarid vnto his Vnckle that the said
Jane [beyinge a bigge damsell and mariageable at the same tyme] had
intised him with two Apples, to go with her to Colne and to marry her.'
Elizabeth Bridge _née_ Ramsbotham, says that after her marriage to John
Bridge, when he was eleven and she thirteen, he never used her
'lovinglie, insomoche that the first night they were maried, the said
John wold Eate no meate at supper, and whan hit was bed tyme, the said
John did wepe to go home with his father, he beynge at that tyme at her
brother's house.'[13]

Sometimes, however, medieval records throw a pleasanter light on these
child marriages. Such was the light thrown by the Ménagier de Paris's
book for his young wife, so kindly, so affectionate, so full of
indulgence for her youth; and such also is the light thrown by the
charming letter which Thomas Betson wrote to little Katherine Riche on
the first day of June in 1476. It is a veritable gem, and it is strange
that it has not attracted more notice, for certainly no anthology of
English letters should be without it. I set it down here at length, for
it brings to warm life again both Thomas Betson and Katherine Riche:

Mine own heartily beloved Cousin Katherine, I recommend me unto you with
all the inwardness of my heart. And now lately ye shall understand that
I received a token from you, the which was and is to me right heartily
welcome, and with glad will I received it; and over that I had a letter
from Holake, your gentle squire, by the which I understand right well
that ye be in good health of body, and merry at heart. And I pray God
heartily in his pleasure to continue the same: for it is to me very
great comfort that he so be, so help me Jesu. And if ye would be a good
eater of your meat alway, that ye might wax and grow fast to be a woman
ye should make me the gladdest man of the world, by my troth; for when I
remember your favour and your sad loving dealing to me wards, for sooth
ye make me even very glad and joyous in my heart; and on the tother side
again, when I remember your young youth, and see well that ye be none
eater of your meat, the which should help you greatly in waxing, for
sooth then ye make me very heavy again. And therefore I pray you, mine
own sweet Cousin, even as you love me, to be merry and eat your meat
like a woman. And if ye will so do for my love, look what ye will desire
of me, whatsoever it be, and by my troth, I promise you by the help of
our Lord to perform it to my power. I can no more say now, but on my
coming home I will tell you much more between you and me and God before.
And whereas ye, full womanly and like a lover, remember me with manifold
recommendation in divers manners, remitting the same to my discretion to
depart them there as I love best, for sooth, mine own sweet Cousin, ye
shall understand that with good heart and good will I receive and take
to myself the one half of them and them will I keep by me; and the
tother half with hearty love and favour I send them to you, mine own
sweet Cousin, again, for to keep by you; and over that I send you the
blessing that our Lady gave her dear son, and ever well to fare. I pray
you greet well my horse and pray him to give you four of his years to
help you withal; and I will at my coming home give him four of my years
and four horse loaves till amends. Tell him that I prayed him so. And
Cousin Katherine, I thank you for him, and my wife shall thank you for
him hereafter; for ye do great cost upon him, as is told me. Mine own
sweet Cousin, it was told me but late that ye were at Calais[J] to seek
me, but could not see me nor find me; forsooth ye might have comen to my
counter, and there ye should both find me and see me, and not have
faulted of me; but ye sought me in a wrong Calais, and that ye should
well know if ye were here and saw this Calais, as would God ye were and
some of them with you that were with you at your gentle Calais. I pray
you, gentle Cousin, commend me to the clock, and pray him to amend his
unthrifty manners; for he strikes ever in undue time, and he will be
ever afore, and that is a shrewd condition. Tell him without he amend
his condition that he will cause strangers to avoid and come no more
there. I trust to you that he shall amend against mine coming, the which
shall be shortly, with all hands and all feet, with God's grace. My very
faithful Cousin, I trust to you that though all I have not remembered my
right worshipful mistress your mother afore in this letter, that ye will
of your gentleness recommend me to her mistresship as many times as it
shall please you: and ye may say, if it please you, that in Whitsun week
next I intend to the mart ward. And I trust you will pray for me; for I
shall pray for you and, so it may be, none so well. And Almighty Jesu
make you a good woman and send you many good years and long to live in
health and virtue to his pleasure. At great Calais, on this side on the
sea, the first day of June, when every man was gone to his dinner, and
the clock smote nine, and all your household cried after me and bade me
'Come down, come down to dinner at once!'--and what answer I gave them,
ye know it of old.

[Footnote J: Possibly an inn with that name (?).]

By your faithful Cousin and lover Thomas Betson. I send you this ring
for a token.

So ending, Thomas Betson smiled, dropped a kiss on the seal and
inscribed his letter, 'To my faithful and heartily beloved cousin
Katherine Riche at Stonor, this letter be delivered in haste.'[14]

Henceforth there begins a charming triangular correspondence between
Betson and Stonor and Dame Elizabeth Stonor, in which family news and
business negotiations are pleasantly mingled. Dame Elizabeth and Betson
were on the best of terms, for they had been old friends before her
second marriage. A special chamber was kept for him at Stonor, and by an
affectionate anticipation she often refers to him as 'My son Stonor'.
Almost all her letters to her husband contain news of him--how he took
his barge at 8 a.m. in the morning and God speed him, how no writing has
come from him these eight days, how he has now written about the price
to be paid for forty sacks of Cotswold wool, how he recommends him to
Sir William and came home last Monday. Sometimes he is entrusted with
the delicate business of interviewing Dame Elizabeth's mother, a
difficult old lady with a tongue; 'God send her,' says Thomas, mopping
his brow, after one of these interviews, 'once a merry countenance or
shortly to the Minories[K]!' After another he writes to Dame Elizabeth:
'Sith I came home to London I met with my lady your mother and God wot
she made me right sullen cheer with her countenance whiles I was with
her; methought it long till I was departed. She break out to me of her
old "ffernyeres" and specially she brake to me of the tale I told her
between the vicar that was and her; she said the vicar never fared well
sith, he took it so much to heart. I told her a light answer again and
so I departed from her. I had no joy to tarry with her. She is a fine
merry woman, but ye shall not know it nor yet find it, nor none of yours
by that I see in her[15].' It was the faithful Betson, too, who was
chosen to look after his Katherine's little sister Anne when she was ill
in London, and he writes home asking for her clothes--'She hath need
unto them and that knoweth our Lord'--and complaining of the old
grandmother's behaviour: 'If my lady your mother meet my cousin Anne she
will say no more but "God's blessing have ye and mine', and so go her
way forth, as though she had no joy of her[16]." It was Betson, too, who
escorted Dame Elizabeth, when need was, from Windsor to London and wrote
to her husband: 'By the way we were right merry, thanked be God, and so
with his mercy we mean here to be merry for the season that my lady is
here, and when your mastership is ready to come hitherwards, we here
shall so welcome you that the season of your abiding shall not be
noisome, with God's grace[17].' Whereupon Sir William sends a present of
capons by the carrier to assist the merriment, and Betson reports, 'Sir,
I took two capons, but they were not the best, as ye counselled me by
your letter to take, and indeed to say the truth I could not be
suffered. My lady your wife is reasonably strong waxed, the Lord be
thanked, and she took her will in that matter like as she doth in all

[Footnote K: The convent of Minoresses, or Franciscan nuns, outside

There are, indeed, a hundred evidences of the warmth of Betson's
affection for the Stonors and of the simple piety of his character.
Sometimes he ventures to give them good advice. Dame Elizabeth was
somewhat uplifted by her elevation from the ranks of the mercantile
bourgeoisie to a place among the country gentry, and was apt to be
extravagant, nor was her husband entirely guiltless of running up bills.
We hear of the ale brewer and the bread baker calling daily upon his
agent for money, and on one occasion the Stonors owed over £12 to
Betson's own brother, a vintner, for various pipes of red and white
wine and a butt of Rumney[L][19]. So Thomas writes to Dame Elizabeth, on
his way to the mart: 'Our blessed lord Jesus Christ preserve you both in
honour and worship virtuously to continue in God's pleasure and also to
send you good and profitable counsel and grace to do hereafter. This is
and shall be my prayer forsooth every day; your honour and worship of
countenance hereafter sticketh as nigh mine heart as doth any friend,
man or other about you, by my troth, our blessed Lord so help me. I will
avise you, Madame, to remember large expenses and beware of them, and in
likewise my master your husband; it is well done ye remember him of
them, for divers considerations, as ye know both right well. And our
blessed Lord be your comforter and help in all your good work.
Amen.'[20] A month later he hears that William Stonor has been ill and
writes to sympathize with Dame Elizabeth: 'And if I could do anything
here that might be to his pleasure and yours, I would I knew it and it
should be done withouten fail. Truly your discomfort is not my comfort,
God knoweth it. Nevertheless your ladyship must cause him to be merry
and of glad cheer, and to put away all fantasies and unthrifty thoughts,
that comes no good of, but only hurtful. A man may hurt himself by
riotous means; it is good to beware.'[21]

[Footnote L: Greek wine.]

Meanwhile what of little Katherine Riche? She recurs over and over in
Thomas Betson's letters. Occasionally she is in disgrace, for she was
not handy with her pen. 'I am wroth with Katherine,' writes he to her
mother, 'because she sendeth me no writing. I have to her divers times
and for lack of answer I wax weary; she might get a secretary if she
would and if she will not, it shall put me to less labour to answer her
letters again.'[22] But the important thing is that she grows steadily
older, though not quickly enough to please our lover. On Trinity Sunday
in 1478 he writes to Dame Elizabeth: 'I remember her full oft, God
know[eth] it. I dreamed once she was thirty winters of age and when I
woke I wished she had been but twenty and so by likelihood I am sooner
like to have my wish than my dream, the which I beseech Almighty Jesu
heartily when it shall please Him'[23]; and to the lady's stepfather he
writes a month later: 'I beseech you to remember my cousin Katherine. I
would she did well, God knoweth it, and ye deme, as I trow, if I had
found her at home here my comfort should have been the more; but I thank
God of all. My pain is the more; I must needs suffer as I have done in
times past, and so will I do for God's sake and hers.'[24] However,
Katherine was now fifteen years of age and was sufficiently grown up to
wed, and the next letter, written a week later to Dame Elizabeth, shows
us Thomas Betson beginning to set his house in order and getting
exceedingly bothered about laying in her trousseau, a business with
which Dame Elizabeth had, it seems, entrusted the future bridegroom.

Madam, and it like you, I understand by your writing that it will be the
latter end of August or your ladyship can come here to London; and if it
should be so I would be sorry, for I have much to do and I can little
skill to do anything that longeth to the matter ye wot of [evidently the
preparations for Katherine] ... I must beseech your ladyship to send me
[your advice] how I shall be demeaned in such things as shall belong
unto my cousin Katherine, and how I shall provide for them. She must
have girdles, three at the least, and how they shall be made I know not,
and many other things she must have, ye know well what they be, in faith
I know not; by my troth, I would it were done, liever than more than it
shall cost.... And as for the sending hither of my Cousin Katherine,
your ladyship may do therein as it shall please you. I would she knew as
much as you know, forsooth, and then she should do some good and help me
in many things when she come.... Also, madam, as ye write me the
courteous dealing of my master with my Cousin Katherine, etc., truly I
am very glad thereof and I pray God heartily thank him therefore, for he
hath ever been lovingly disposed [unto] her, and so I beseech God ever
continue him and also my Cousin Katherine to deserve it unto him by her
goodly demeanour and womanly disposition, as she can do right well if
her list, and so saith every body that praiseth her.[25]

The note of pride in the last words is as engaging as the impatience of
the harassed male faced with the choosing of girdles. Even more charming
is the letter which he wrote the same day to Sir William Stonor. He is a
little incoherent with joy and gratitude, full of regrets that business
keeps him from Stonor and good wishes for the health of the family. 'I
fare like a sorry piper,' he says. 'When I begin I cannot leave, but
yet once again our blessed Lord be your speed and your help,' Of
Katherine he writes thus:

I understand by the worshipful report of your mastership the
[be]haviours of my cousin Katherine unto you, to my lady your wife and
to all other, etc.; and truly it is to me right joyful and comfortable
gladness to hear of her and I beseech our blessed Lord ever to preserve
her in all virtue and good living to his pleasure, and to reward your
mastership with heaven at your ending, for your good disposition to
herwards in good exhortations giving. And that I wot well of old, or
else truly she could not be of that disposition, virtuous and goodly,
her youth remembered and excused.... Sir, remember your mastership well
what ye have written of my Cousin Katherine; truly I shall when I speak
with her, tell her every word, and if I find the contrary. Our vicar
here, so God help me, shall cry out upon her[M] within this ten weeks
and less, and by that time I shall be ready in every point, by God's
grace, and so I would she were, forsooth ye may believe me of it.[26]

[Footnote M: I.e. call the banns.]

This letter was written on June 24, 1478, and Thomas probably married
his little Katherine in August or September, for when Dame Elizabeth
writes to her husband on October 5, she says, 'My son Betson and his
wife recommend them to you'[27] The poor child was to learn soon enough
some of the sorrows of a wife, for a year later Thomas Betson fell
dangerously ill, and she was nursing him and looking after his business
for all the world as though she were a grave matron and not a bride of
sixteen. Moreover, she must already have been expecting the birth of her
eldest son. William Stonor's attitude towards his partner's illness is
not without humour. He was torn between anxiety for the life of a friend
and an even greater anxiety that Betson should not die without setting
straight the business obligations between them. We hear of the illness
and of Katherine's labours in a letter from one of Stonor's agents to
his master:

Sir, according to the commandment of your mastership, we were at Stepney
by nine of the clock; at such time as we came thither we saw the
gentleman forthwith, and in good faith he made us good cheer as a sick
man might by countenance notwithstanding, for in good faith we saw by
his demeanour that he might not prosper in this world, for Mistress
Bevice and other gentlewomen and his uncle were of the same opinion. And
we desired and prayed him to be of good comfort and so comforted him as
heartily as we could in your name and in my lady's, and so we departed
from the chamber down into the hall, and he fell into a great slumbering
and was busily moved in his spirits. And at eleven of the clock I called
his uncle out of his bed into the gentleman's chamber, and I asked his
advice and my mistress his wife, of the stock and of the demeanour
thereof for the year and the half that is last past. And touching the
stock he confessed that it was £1,160, wherein at the sight of your
acquittance in discharging of him and all his doers that shall be behind
him, the said stock shall be ready. And as for the occupation of it, as
he will answer between God and devil, the book that he bought it by ye
shall be privy thereto; and the book that he sold by ye shall be also
privy to, which two books shall be his judges, which remain in the
keeping of my mistress his wife's hands under lock and key and other
bills and obligations according, concerning the surety for divers
payments to be made to divers merchants, as the said lord saith.... And
as for the plate my mistress Jane [probably Jane Riche, the younger
sister of Katherine] and I have caused it to be taken up and set in
surety, save that that must needs by occupied.

He sends to Sir William for information about two sums of £80 each owed
by Betson to his master and mistress, and adds:

I trust to Jesu he shall endure till the messenger come again; longer
the physicians have not determined. The executors be three persons, my
mistress his wife, Humphrey Starkey, Recorder of London, Robert Tate,
merchant of Calais; notwithstanding I moved him, between him and me and
mistress Jane, that he should break this testament and make my mistress
his wife sole executrix. What will be done therein as yet I cannot
speak, but I shall do as I can, with God's grace.[28]

There is something unexpected and a little vulture-like about this
gathering of creditors and seizing of plate about the death-bed of a man
who had always, after all, shown himself exceedingly affectionate
towards the Stonors and devoted to their interests, and who was now my
lady's son-in-law. The attempt to make the young wife of sixteen sole
executrix, so that she might be completely in her family's hands and
without the counsel of two experienced and disinterested merchants, has
a somewhat sinister air. The intrigues went on, and three days later
the agent writes again. It is pleasant to observe that bad-tempered old
Mistress Croke, Dame Elizabeth's mother, was not unmindful of Betson's
forbearance during those visits when she had railed upon him with her
sharp tongue:

As for the tidings that is here, I trust to God it shall be very good.
On Thursday my lady Croke came to Stepney and brought with her Master
Brinkley to see Betson, and in faith he was a very sick man; and ere he
departed he gave him plasters to his head, to his stomach and to his
belly, [so] that he all that night was in a quiet rest. And he came to
him again on Friday ... and he was well amended and so said all the
people that were about him. Notwithstanding he will not determine him
whether he shall live or die as yet, but he may keep him alive till
Tuesday noon, he will undertake him. The cause that I write to you now
rather was because I had no certainty. Sir, there hath been many special
labours and secret i-made, sithen mistress Jane and I were come, to the
contrary disposition that we come for. I cannot write the plain[nes]s of
them as yet, for my mistress Betson attendeth, all things and counsels
laid apart, to abide and trust in your good fatherhood and in my lady,
and furthermore if he depart the world, ye shall hear tidings of her in
as goodly haste as we may purvey for her. And whether he die or live, it
is necessary and behoveful that mistress Jane depart not from her into
[i.e. until] such time as the certainty be knowen, for in truth divers
folks, which ye shall know hereafter and my lady, both thus hath and
would exhort her to a contrarier disposition, had not we been here by
time. And mistress Jane is worthy of much thank.[29]

However, all the schemings were premature, for Betson happily recovered.
On October 10 the 'prentice' Henham writes: 'My master Betson is right
well amended, blessed be Jesus, and he is past all doubts of sickness
and he takes the sustenance right well, and as for physicians, there
come none unto him, for he hath no need of them.'[30] But another death
was at hand to break the close association between Thomas Betson and the
Stonors, for at the end of the year the kind, extravagant, affectionate
Dame Elizabeth died. It is a surprising fact that her death seems to
have brought to a close the business partnership between her husband and
her son-in-law. Henceforth the only references to Thomas Betson in the
Stonor papers are occasional notes of his debts to Stonor: doubtless he
had bought Sir William's share in their joint business. On March 10,
1480, he acknowledged obligations of £2,835 9s. 0d. to Stonor, and in
1482 he still owed £1,200.[31] It is impossible to guess why the
relationship, which was an affectionate personal friendship as well as a
business tie, should have come to such a sudden end. As the editor of
the _Stonor Letters_ remarks, 'The sincerity and honesty of Betson's
character as revealed in his letters, forbids one to suppose that he was
to blame.'

Such was the more private and domestic side of Thomas Betson's life; but
it tells us little (save in occasional references to the Fellowship of
the Staple or the price of Cotswold wool) about that great company with
which this chapter began; and since he stands here as a type as well as
an individual, we must needs turn now to his public and business life,
and try to find out from more indirect evidence how a Merchant of the
Staple went about his business. The stapler, who would make a good
livelihood, must do two things, and give his best attention to both of
them: first, he must buy his wool from the English grower, then he must
sell it to the foreign buyer. Some of the best wool in England came from
the Cotswolds, and when you are a Merchant of the Staple you enjoy
bargaining for it, whether you want the proceeds of the great summer
clip or of the fells after the autumn sheep-killing. So Thomas Betson
rides off to Gloucestershire in the soft spring weather, his good sorrel
between his knees, and the scent of the hawthorn blowing round him as he
goes. Other wool merchants ride farther afield--into the long dales of
Yorkshire to bargain with Cistercian abbots for the wool from their huge
flocks, but he and the Celys swear by Cotswold fells (he shipped 2,348
of them to London one July 'in the names of Sir William Stonor knight
and Thomas Betson, in the _Jesu_ of London, John Lolyngton master under
God'). May is the great month for purchases, and Northleach the great
meeting-place of staplers and wool dealers. It is no wonder that
Northleach Church is so full of woolmen's brasses, for often they knelt
there, and often the village hummed with the buyers and sellers,
exchanging orders and examining samples. The Celys bought chiefly from
two Northleach wool dealers, William Midwinter and John Busshe. The
relations between dealers and sellers were often enough close and
pleasant: Midwinter even occasionally tried to provide a customer with a
bride as well as with a cargo, and marriageable young ladies were not
unwilling to be examined over a gallon of wine and much good cheer at
the inn.[32] It is true that Midwinter was apt to be restive when his
bills remained for too long unpaid, but he may be forgiven for that.
Thomas Betson favoured the wool fells of Robert Turbot of Lamberton,[33]
and dealt also with one John Tate, with Whyte of Broadway (another
famous wool village),[34] and with John Elmes, a Henley merchant well
known to the Stonors. Midwinter, Busshe, and Elmes were all wool
dealers, or 'broggers'--middlemen, that is to say, between the farmers
who grew and the staplers who bought wool, but often the staplers dealt
directly with individual farmers, buying the small man's clip as well as
the great man's, and warm friendships sprang from the annual visits,
looked forward to in Yorkshire dale and Cotswold valley. It strikes a
pleasant note when Richard Russell, citizen and merchant of York, leaves
in his will, 'for distribution among the farmers of Yorkes Walde, from
whom I bought wool 20 l., and in the same way among the farmers of
Lyndeshay 10 l.' (1435).[35]

The 'Cely Letters' give a mass of information about the wool buying at
Northleach. In the May of the same year in which Betson's partnership
with Stonor would seem to have ended, old Richard Cely was up there
doing business and reporting it to his son, 'Jorge Cely at Caleys'.

     I greet you well and I have received a letter from you writ
     at Calais the 13th day of May (1480), the which letter I have
     well understood of your being at the marts and of the sale of
     my middle wool, desired by John Destermer and John Underbay.
     Wherefore by the grace of God I am abusied for to ship this
     foresaid 29 sarplers, the which I bought of William Midwinter
     of Northleach, 26 sarplers, the which is fair wool, as the
     wool packer Will Breten saith to me, and also the 3 sarplers
     of the rector's is fair wool, much finer wool nor was the
     year before, the which I shipped afore Easter last past. The
     shipping is begun at London, but I have none shipped as yet,
     but I will after these holy days, for the which I will ye
     order for the freight and other costs. This same day your
     brother Richard Cely is rid to Northleach for to see and cast
     a sort of fell for me and another sort of fell for you.[36]

On another occasion he writes: 'By your letter you avise me for to buy
wool in Cotswold, for which I shall have of John Cely his gathering 30
sack, and of Will Midwinter of Northleach 40 sack. And I am avised to
buy no more; wool in Cotswold is at great price, 13s. 4d. a tod, and
great riding for wool in Cotswold as was any year this seven year.'[37]
What a picture it calls up of merchants trotting along the roads and
looking as Chaucer often saw them look:

A Marchant was ther with a forked berd,
In motteleye and hye on horse he sat,
Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bever hat,
His boots clasped faire and fetisly;
His resons he spak ful solempnely,
Sounynge alway thencrees of his wynnyng.

Often at Northleach Betson must have encountered his brethren of the
Staple, the staid old merchant Richard Cely among the rest, and son
George who rides with 'Meg', his hawk, on his wrist, and has a horse
called 'Bayard' and another called 'Py'; and perhaps also John Barton of
Holme beside Newark, the proud stapler who set as a 'posy' in the
stained glass windows of his house this motto:

I thank God and ever shall
It is the sheepe hath payed for all;[38]

though indeed it is unlikely that he came as far south as the Cotswolds
for his wool. Sometimes also Betson meets upon the road his rivals,
stout, self-possessed Flemings and thin sleek Lombards with black eyes
and gesticulating hands, who have no business in the Cotswolds at all,
but ought to be buying wool in the mart at Calais. But they come, and
all good Englishmen are angry at their tricks and angrier still perhaps
at their successful trade. 'I have not as yet packed my wool in London,'
writes old Richard Cely on October 29, 1480; 'nor have I not bought this
year a lock of wool, for the wool of Cotswold is bought by Lombards,
wherefore I have the less haste for to pack my wool at London';[39] and
his son writes to him on November 16 from Calais: 'There is but little
Cotswold wool at Calais and I understand Lombards has bought it up in
England.'[40] It is true that the Celys, other English merchants too,
are not unwilling to conclude private bargains from time to time with
foreign buyers in England. Two years later their agent, William Cely,
writes to advise them that two Flemish merchants are now trying to buy
in England contrary to the ordinance, and that those in authority at
Calais have got wind of it, and therefore his masters must take care and
make Wyllykyn and Peter Bale pay at Calais, 'but as for your dealings
knoweth no man, without they search Peter Bale's books.'[41] The upright
Betson no doubt eschewed such tricks and resented particularly the
clever usurious Lombards, so full of financial dodges to trick the
English merchant, for did they not buy the wool in England on credit,
riding about as they list in the Cotswolds?

In Cotteswolde also they ryde aboute
And al Englonde, and bien wythouten doute,
What them liste, wythe fredome and fraunchise
More then we Englisshe may getyn in any wyse.

And then did they not carry the wool to Flanders and sell it for ready
money at a loss of five per cent, thereafter lending out this money at
heavy usury, mostly to the English merchants themselves, so that by the
time pay day came in England, they had realized a heavy profit?

And thus they wold, if we will beleve
Wypen our nose with our owne sleve,
Thow this proverbe be homly and undew,
Yet be liklynesse it is forsoth fulle trew.[42]

The next serious piece of business Thomas Betson must take in hand is
the packing and shipping of his wool to Calais. Here he found himself
enmeshed in the regulations of the company and the Crown, ever on the
look-out for fraud in the packing or description of the staple product.
The wool had to be packed in the county from which it came, and there
were strict regulations against mixing hair and earth or rubbish with
it. The collectors appointed by the company for the different
wool-growing districts, and sworn in before the Exchequer, rode round
and sealed each package, so that it could not be opened without breaking
the seal. Then the great bales were carried on the backs of pack-horses
'by the ancient trackways over the Wiltshire and Hampshire Downs, which
had been used before the Roman conquest, and thence through Surrey and
Kent to the Medway ports by the Pilgrims' Way.' At the different ports
the collectors of customs were ready to enter on their rolls the names
of the merchants shipping wool, together with the quantity and
description of wool shipped by each.[43] Some of the wool came to London
itself, where many of the staplers had offices in Mark Lane (which is a
corruption of Mart Lane) and was weighed for the assessment of the
customs and subsidy at the Leadenhall.[44] In this business Thomas
Betson was helped by Stonor's three assistants or 'prentices', as they
call themselves, Thomas Henham, Goddard Oxbridge, and Thomas Howlake,
for the last of whom he had a warm corner in his heart, because the
young man was gentle to little Katherine Riche. These men were sometimes
at the Stonors' London warehouse and sometimes at their house in Calais,
and they saved Betson a good deal of trouble, being experienced enough
to oversee both the packing of wool in London and its sale in Calais.

To Calais the wool thus packed, and weighed and marked and assessed by
the customs officer, was carried in the ships of Calais itself, or of
the little ports on the east or south-eastern coast of England, many of
which are mere villages today. For ships put out not only from Hull and
Colchester, but from Brightlingsea, Rotherhithe, Walberswick in Suffolk,
Rainham in Essex, Bradwell, Maidstone, Milton, Newhithe, and Milhall. In
August 1478, the Celys were paying the masters of twenty-one different
ships for the freight of their sarplers of wool after the summer
clip.[45] All through the summer the shipping went on, and right up to
Christmas; but during the winter months the merchants were mostly
sending over fells or sheepskins, after the great slaughter of sheep and
cattle which took place at Martinmas, when housewives salted down their
meat for the winter and farmers made delivery of the fells and hides,
for which the staplers had long ago bargained. Very often merchants'
letters and customs accounts give us the names of these doughty little
ships and their cargoes. In the October of 1481, for instance, the Celys
were shipping a consignment of fells:

Right worshipful sir, after due recommendation I lowly recommend unto
you, letting you understand that my master hath shipped his fells at the
port of London now at this shipping in October ..., which fells ye must
receive and pay the freight first by the grace of God, in the 'Mary' of
London, William Sordyvale master, 7 packs, sum 2800, lying be aft the
mast, one pack lieth up rest and some of that pack is summer fells
marked with an O, and then lieth 3 packs fells of William Daltons and
under them lieth the other 6 packs of my masters. Item in the
'Christopher' of Rainham, Harry Wylkyns master, 7 packs and a half
Cots[wold] fell, sum 3000 pelt, lying be aft the mast, and under them
lieth a 200 fells of Welther Fyldes, William Lyndys man of Northampton,
and the partition is made with small cords. Item, in the 'Thomas' of
Maidstone, Harry Lawson master, 6 pokes, sum 2400 pelt, whereof lieth 5
packs next before the mast under hatches, no man above them, and one
pack lieth in the stern sheet; of the six packs fells be some summer
fells marked with an O likewise. Item, in the 'Mary Grace' of London,
John Lokyngton master 6 packs, sum 2400 pelt, lying be aft under the
fells of Thomas Graunger, the partition between them is made with red;
sum of the fells my master hath shipped at this time 26 packs and a half
whereof be winter fells of the country 561 fells and they be marked with
an C, and of summer fells there should be 600 and more, but part of them
be left behind, for we have two packs we could have no appointment for
them, and all the summer fells be marked with an O. Item, sir, ye shall
receive of the 'Mary' of Rainham, John Danyell master, your _male_
[trunk] with your gear and a Essex cheese marked with my master's mark.

And so on, with details of the number of fells shipped in like manner by
the _Michael_ of Hull and the _Thomas_ of Newhithe, where they lay 'next
the mast aftward under the fells of Thomas Betson's', over 11,000 fells
in all.[46]

How invigorating is such a list of ships. Cargoes are the most romantic
of topics, whether they be apes and ivory and peacocks, or 'cheap tin
trays'; and since the day that Jason sailed to Colchis fleeces have ever
been among the most romantic of cargoes. How they smack of the salt too,
those old master mariners, Henry Wilkins, master of the _Christopher_ of
Rainham, John Lollington, master of the _Jesu_ of London, Robert Ewen,
master of the _Thomas_ of Newhithe, and all the rest of them, waving
their hands to their wives and sweethearts as they sail out of the
sparkling little bays, with the good woolsacks abaft or under
hatches--shipmen, all of them, after Chaucer's heart:

But of his craft, to rekene wel his tydes
His stremes and his daungers hym besides,
His herberwe and his moone, his lodemenage,
Ther was noon swich from Hulle to Cartage.
Hardy he was, and wys to undertake:
With many a tempest hadde his berd been shake;
He knew wel alle the havenes, as they were,
From Gootland to the Cape of Fynystere,
And every cryke in Britaigne and in Spayne.
His barge y-cleped was the Maudelayne.

Their ships were doubtless like the _Margaret Cely_, which the two Cely
brothers bought and called after their mother, for the not excessive sum
of £28, exclusive of rigging and fittings. She carried a master,
boatswain, cook, and sixteen jolly sailor-men, and she kept a good look
out for pirates and was armed with cannon and bows, bills, five dozen
darts, and twelve pounds of gunpowder! She was victualled with salt
fish, bread, wheat and beer, and she plied with the Celys' trade to
Zealand, Flanders, and Bordeaux.[47] She must have been about two
hundred tons, but some of the other little ships were much smaller, for,
as the learned editor of the _Cely Papers_ tells us, 'The ships of the
little Medway ports could scarcely have been of thirty tons to navigate
the river safely; the "Thomas" of Maidstone can have been only a barge,
if she had to pass Aylesford Bridge.'[48] But they navigated the channel
and dodged the pirates blithely enough, though often Thomas Betson at
Calais was nervous about the safe arrival of the wool fleet. Like
Chaucer's merchant,

He wolde the see were kept for any thing
Betwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle.

Side by side with George or Richard Cely he must often have strained his
eyes from the quay, with the salt wind blowing out the feather in his
cap, and breathed a thanksgiving to God when the ships hove in sight.
'And, Sir,' he writes once to Stonor from London, 'thanked be the good
Lord, I understand for certain that our wool shipped be comen in ... to
Calais. I would have kept the tidings till I had comen myself, because
it is good, but I durst not be so bold, for your mastership now against
this good time may be glad and joyful of these tidings, for in truth I
am glad and heartily thank God of it.'[49] The 'prentice' Thomas Henham
writes likewise three weeks later: 'I departed from Sandwich the 11th
day of April and so came unto Calais upon Sher Thursday[N] last with the
wool ships, and so blessed be Jesu I have received your wools in safety.
Furthermore, Sir, if it please your mastership for to understand this, I
have received your wools as fair and as whole as any man's in the fleet.
Moreover, Sir, if it please your mastership for to understand how your
wool was housed ever deal by Easter even. Furthermore, Sir, if it please
your mastership for to understand that the shipman be content and paid
of their freight.'[50] The Celys write in the same strain too: 'This day
the 16th of August the wool fleet came to Calais both of London and
Ipswich in safety, thanked be God, and this same day was part landed and
it riseth fair yet, thanked be God.'[51] Their letters tell us too what
danger it was that they feared. 'I pray Jesu send you safe hither and
soon,' writes Richard to his 'right well beloved brother George', on
June 6, 1482. 'Robert Eryke was chased with Scots between Calais and
Dover. They scaped narrow.'[52] There are many such chases recorded, and
we hear too of wool burnt under hatches or cast overboard in a

[Footnote N: I.e. Shrove Thursday.]

Thomas Betson and the Celys travelled very often across the Channel in
these ships, which carried passengers and letters, and they were almost
as much at home in Calais as in London. When in Calais English merchants
were not allowed to live anywhere they liked, all over the town. The
Company of the Staple had a list of regular licensed 'hosts', in whose
houses they might stay. Usually a number of merchants lived with each
host, the most potent, grave, and reverend seniors dining at a high
table, and smaller fry at side tables in the hall. Sometimes they
quarrelled over terms, as when William Cely writes home one day to
Richard and George in London:

Item. Sir, please it you to understand that here is a variance betwixt
our host Thomas Graunger and the fellowship, of our lodging, for Thomas
Graunger promised us at his coming in to our lodging that we should pay
no more for our board but 3s. 4d. a week at the high table, and 2s. 6d.
at the side table, and now he saith he will have no less than 4s. a week
at the high table and 40d. at the side table, wherefore the fellowship
here will depart into other lodgings, some to one place and some to
another, William Dalton will be at Robert Torneys and Ralph Temyngton
and master Brown's man of Stamford shall be at Thomas Clarke's and so
all the fellowship departs save I, wherefore I let your masterships have
knowledge, that ye may do as it shall like you best.[54]

But Thomas Betson never fell out with his hosts, whose only complaint of
him must have been that he sat long over his love letters and came down
late to dinner.

There was business enough for him to do at Calais. First of all, when
the wool was landed, it had to be inspected by the Royal officers, to
see that it had been properly labelled, and their skilled packers
examined, repacked, and resealed the bales. This was an anxious moment
for merchants who were conscious of inferior wool among their bulging
sarplers. The honest Betson, we may be certain, never cheated, but the
Celys knew more than a little about the tricks of the trade, and one
year, when the Lieutenant of Calais took out sarpler No. 24, which their
agent, William Cely, knew to be poor wool, in order to make a test, he
privily substitutes No. 8, which was 'fair wool' and changed the labels,
so that he was soon able to write home, 'Your wool is awarded by the
sarpler that I cast out last.'[55] No wonder Gower said that Trick was
regent of the Staple,

Siq'en le laines maintenir
Je voi plusours descontenir
Du loyalté la viele usance.[56]

Then there was the custom and subsidy to be paid to the Mayor and
Fellowship of the Staple, who collected it for the King. And then came
the main business of every merchant, the selling of the wool. Thomas
Betson preferred, of course, to sell it as quickly as possible, as the
ships came in, but sometimes the market was slow and wool remained for
some months on his hands. Such wool from the summer sheep shearing,
shipped in or before the month of February following, and remaining
unsold by April 6th, was classed as old wool, and the Fellowship of the
Staple ordained that foreign buyers must take one sarpler of old wool
with every three of new; and although the Flemings grumbled and wanted
to take one of old to five of new, they had to put up with the
regulation.[57] A great deal of Betson's business would be done at the
mart of Calais itself, where he met with the dignified Flemish
merchants, scions of old families with estates of their own, and the
more plebeian merchants of Delft and Leyden, and the wool dealers from
sunny Florence and Genoa and Venice. Among the best customers both of
the Stonors and the Celys (for they are mentioned in the letters of
both) were Peter and Daniel van de Rade of Bruges. Thomas Howlake on one
occasion reports a sale of four sarplers of fine Cotswold wool to them
at 19 marks the sack, with a rebate of 4-1/2 cloves on the sack of 52,
and adds: 'Sir, an it please you, as for the foresaid merchants that
have bought your wool, [they] be as good as any that came out of
Flanders and for that I have showed them the more favour and given them
the more respite of that.'[58]

The staplers, however, did not do business at Calais alone, but rode
also to the great fairs at Antwerp, Bruges, and the country round.
'Thomas Betson,' writes Henham to his master, 'came unto Calais the last
day of April and so he departed in good health unto Bruges mart the
first day of May.'[59]

But so bifel this marchant on a day
Shoop hym to make redy his array
Toward the toun of Brugges for to fare,
To byen there a porcioun of ware--[60]

only it was to 'sellen' a portion that Betson went. He himself writes
Sir William: 'Liketh it you to wit that on Trinity even I came to Calais
and, thanked be the good Lord, I had a full fair passage, and, Sir, with
God's might I intend on Friday next to depart to the mart-wards. I
beseech the good Lord be my speed and help me in all my works. And, Sir,
I trust to God's mercy, if the world be merry here, to do somewhat that
shall be both to your profit and mine. As yet there cometh but few
merchants here; hereafter with God's grace there will come more. I shall
lose no time when the season shall come, I promise you.... And, Sir,
when I come from the mart I shall send you word of all matters by the
mercy of our Lord.'[61] At the fairs Betson would meet with a great
crowd of merchants from all over Europe, though often enough political
disturbances made the roads dangerous and merchants ran some risk of
being robbed. The English traders were commonly reputed to be the best
sellers and customers at the fairs of Flanders and Brabant, though the
Flemings sometimes complained of them, and said that the staplers made
regulations forbidding their merchants to buy except on the last day,
when the Flemish sellers, anxious to pack and be off, let their goods go
at insufficient prices.[62] The author of the _Libelle of Englyshe
Polycye_ boasts proudly of the custom brought by the English to
these marts:

But they of Holonde at Calyse byene oure felles,
And oure wolles, that Englyshe men hem selles...
And wee to martis of Braban charged bene
Wyth Englysshe clothe, fulle gode and feyre to seyne,
Wee bene ageyne charged wyth mercerye
Haburdasshere ware and wyth grocerye,
To whyche martis, that Englisshe men call feyres
Iche nacion ofte makethe here repayeres,
Englysshe and Frensh, Lumbards, Januayes [Genoese],
Cathalones, theder take here wayes,
Scottes, Spaynardes, Iresshmen there abydes,
Wythe grete plente bringing of salt hydes,
And I here saye that we in Braban lye,
Flaunders and Seland, we bye more marchaundy
In common use, then done all other nacions;
This have I herde of marchaundes relacions,
And yff the Englysshe be not in the martis,
They bene febelle and as nought bene here partes;
For they bye more and fro purse put owte
More marchaundy than alle other rowte.[63]

Fairs were held at different times in different places, but there were
during the year four great fair seasons corresponding to the four
seasons in the year.[64] There was the Cold mart in the winter, to which
Thomas Betson rode muffled in fur, with his horse's hoofs ringing on the
frosty roads; there was the Pask (_Pasques,_ Easter) mart in the spring,
when he whistled blithely and stuck a violet in his cap; there was the
Synxon (St John) mart in the summer, round about St John the Baptist's
Day, when he was hot and mopped his brow, and bought a roll of tawny
satin or Lucca silk for Katherine from a Genoese in a booth at Antwerp;
and there was the Balms, or Bammys mart in the autumn, round about the
day of St Rémy, whom the Flemings call St Bamis (October 28), when he
would buy her a fur of budge or mink, or a mantle of fine black shanks
from the Hansards at their mart in Bruges. It was at these marts that
the Merchants of the Staple, jaunting about from place to place to meet
buyers for their wool, did a hundred little commissions for their
friends; for folk at home were apt to think that staplers existed to do
their errands for them abroad and to send them presents. One wanted a
pair of Louvain gloves, the other a sugar loaf, the other a pipe of
Gascon wine ('You can get it cheaper over there, my dear'), the other a
yard or two of Holland cloth; while ginger and saffron were always
welcome, and could be bought from the Venetians, whom the Celys spell
'Whenysyans'. Then, of course, there were purchases to be made in the
way of business, such as Calais packthread and canvas from Arras or
Brittany or Normandy to pack the bales of wool.[65] As to the Celys,
Thomas Betson was wont to say that their talk was of nothing but sport
and buying hawks, save on one gloomy occasion, when George Cely rode for
ten miles in silence and then confided to him that over in England his
grey bitch had whelped and had fourteen pups, and then died and the pups
with her.[66]

Between the counting-house in Calais and the fairs and marts of the
country Thomas Betson would dispose of his wool and fells. But his
labour did not end here, for he would now have to embark upon the
complicated business of collecting money from his customers, the Flemish
merchants, and with it paying his creditors in England, the Cotswold
wool dealers. It was customary for the staplers to pay for their wool
by bills due, as a rule, at six months, and Thomas Betson would be hard
put to meet them if the foreign buyers delayed to pay him. Moreover, his
difficulties were inconceivably complicated by the exchanges. We think
we know something about the difficulty of divers and fluctuating
exchanges today, but we can hardly imagine the elaborate calculations
and the constant disputes which racked the brain of a Merchant of the
Staple in the fifteenth century. Not only did the rates between England
and the Continent constantly vary, but, as the editor of the _Cely
Papers_ points out, 'the number of potentates of all kinds who claimed
the privilege of issuing their own coinage and the frequently suspicious
character of what they uttered as gold and silver, made the matter of
adjustment of values difficult for the Celys, who were evidently obliged
to take what they could get.'[67] Only imagine the difficulties of poor
Thomas Betson, when into his counting-house there wandered in turn the
Andrew guilder of Scotland, the Arnoldus gulden of Gueldres (very much
debased), the Carolus groat of Charles of Burgundy, new crowns and old
crowns of France, the David and the Falewe of the Bishopric of Utrecht,
the Hettinus groat of the Counts of Westphalia, the Lewe or French Louis
d'or, the Limburg groat, the Milan groat, the Nimueguen groat, the
Phelippus or Philippe d'or of Brabant, the Plaques of Utrecht, the
Postlates of various bishops, the English Ryall (worth ten shillings),
the Scots Rider or the Rider of Burgundy (so called because they bore
the figure of a man on horseback), the Florin Rhenau of the Bishopric of
Cologne and the Setillers.[68] He had to know the value in English money
of them all, as it was fixed for the time being by the Fellowship, and
most of them were debased past all reason. Indeed, English money enjoyed
an enviable good fame in this respect until Henry VIII began debasing
the coinage for his own nefarious ends. The letters of the Celys are
full of worried references to the exchange, and much we should pity
Thomas Betson. But doubtless he was like Chaucer's bearded merchant:
'Wel koude he in exchaunge sheeldes [French crowns] selle.'


To effect their payments between England and the Netherlands the
staplers used to make use of the excellent banking facilities and
instruments of credit (bills of exchange and so forth), which were
placed at their disposal by Italian and Spanish merchants and by the
English mercers, all of whom combined trading with financial operations.
Thus we find William Cely writing to his masters:


Please your masterships to understand that I have received of John
Delowppys upon payment of the bill, the which is sent me by Adlington
but £300 fleming, whereof I have paid to Gynott Strabant £84 _6s. 6d_.
fleming. Item, I have made you over by exchange with Benynge Decasonn,
Lombard, 180 nobles sterling, payable at usance. I delivered it at _11s.
2-1/2d_. fleming the noble, it amounteth £100 _17s. 6d_. fleming. Item,
I have made you over by exchange in like wise with Jacob van de Base 89
nobles and _6s_. sterling, payable at London at usuance in like wise; I
delivered it at _11s. 2d_. fleming for every noble sterling; it
amounteth fl.--£50 fleming and the rest of your £300 remains still by
me, for I can make you over no more at this season, for here is no more
that will take any money as yet. And money goeth now upon the bourse at
_11s. 3-1/2d_. the noble and none other money but Nimueguen groats,
crowns, Andrew guilders and Rhenish guilders, and the exchange goeth
ever the longer worse and worse. Item, sir, I send you enclosed in this
said letter, the two first letters of the payment of the exchange above
written. Benynge Decasonn's letter is directed to Gabriel Defuye and
Peter Sanly, Genoese, and Jacob van de Base's is directed to Anthony
Carsy and Marcy Strossy, Spaniards; in Lombard Street ye shall hear
of them.[69]

A week later he writes:

I understand your masterships hath taken up by exchange of John Raynold,
mercer, £60 sterling, payable the 25th day of the month and of Deago
Decastron [Diego da Castro, a Spaniard] other £60 sterling, payable the
26th day of the same month, the which shall be both content at the day;
and as for master Lewis More, Lombard, [he] is paid and I have the bill;
his attorney is a wrangling fellow--he would none other money but
Nimueguen groats.[70]

Many a letter such as this must Thomas Betson have written at his
lodgings, sitting so late over his work that he must needs write to his
friends when he ought to be sleeping and date his letters: 'At London,
on our Lady day in the night, when I deem ye were in your bed, for mine
eyne smarted, so God help me.'[71] And when he came to make up his
annual accounts he had the hardest work of all to do. Here is a portrait
of him at his labours:

The thridde day this marchant up ariseth,
And on his nedes sadly hym avyseth,
And up into his countour-hous gooth he,
To rekene with hymself, as wel may be,
Of thilke yeer, how that it with hymn stood,
And how that he despended hadde his good,
And if that he encressed were or noon.
His bookes and his bagges, many oon,
He leith biform hymn on his countyng-bord.
Ful riche was his tresor and his hord,
For which ful faste his countour dore he shette;
And eek he nolde that no man sholde hymn lette
Of his accountes, for the meene tyme;
And thus he sit til it was passed pry me.[72]

Thus was passed the life of a Merchant of the Staple: in riding to the
Cotswold farms for wool; in business at the counting-houses in Marks
Lane; in sailing from London to Calais and from Calais to London again;
in dealing with merchant strangers at the mart in Calais, or riding to
the marts of Flanders in fair time. The great company sheltered him,
arranged his lodging, kept a sharp eye on the quality of his wool, made
rules for his buying and selling, and saw that he had justice in its
court. It was in this setting of hard and withal of interesting work
that Thomas Betson's love story flowered into a happy marriage. He was
not destined to live long after his recovery from the serious illness of
1479; perhaps it left him permanently delicate, for he died some six
years later, in 1486. During her seven years of married life (beginning,
be it remembered, at the age of fifteen), the diligent Katherine had
borne him five children, two sons, Thomas and John, and three daughters,
Elizabeth, Agnes, and Alice. Fortunately Thomas died very comfortably
off, as his will (still preserved in Somerset House) informs us. He had
become a member of the Fishmongers' Company as well as a Merchant of the
Staple, for by his time the great city companies were no longer confined
to persons actually engaged in the trade which each represented. In his
will[73] Thomas Betson leaves money for the repair of the roof loft in
his parish church of All Hallows, Barking, where he was buried, and
'thirty pounds to the garnishing of the Staple Chapel in Our Lady Church
at Calais, to buy some jewel', and twenty pounds to the
'Stockfishmongers' to buy plate. He makes the latter company the
guardian of his children, leaves his house to his wife, and a legacy of
40_s_. to Thomas Henham, his colleague in Stonor's service, and
characteristically gives directions 'for the costs of my burying to be
done not outrageously, but soberly and discreetly and in a mean
[moderate, medium] manner, that it may be unto the worship and laud of
Almighty God.' Katherine, a widow with five children at the age of
twenty-two, married as her second husband William Welbech, haberdasher
(the Haberdashers were a wealthy company), by whom she had another son.
But her heart stayed with the husband who wrote her her first playful
love-letter when she was a child, and on her death in 1510 she directed
that she should be laid by the side of Thomas Betson at All Hallows,
Barking, where three staplers still lie beneath their brasses, although
no trace of him remains.[74] There let them lie, long forgotten, and yet
worthier of memory than many of the armoured knights who sleep under
carved sepulchres in our beautiful medieval churches.

     The garlands wither on your brow;
       Then boast no more your mighty deeds!
     Upon Death's purple altar now
       See where the victor-victim bleeds.
         Your heads must come
         To the cold tomb:
     Only the actions of the just
     Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.


_Thomas Paycocke of Coggeshall_


     This was a gallant cloathier sure
     Whose fame for ever shall endure.
                 --THOMAS DELONEY

The great and noble trade of cloth-making has left many traces upon the
life of England, architectural, literary, and social. It has filled our
countryside with magnificent Perpendicular churches and gracious
oak-beamed houses. It has filled our popular literature with old wives'
tales of the worthies of England, in which the clothiers Thomas of
Reading and Jack of Newbury rub elbows with Friar Bacon and Robin Hood.
It has filled our shires with gentlemen; for, as Defoe observed, in the
early eighteenth century 'many of the great families who now pass for
gentry in the western counties have been originally raised from and
built up by this truly noble manufacture'. It has filled our census
lists with surnames--Weaver, Webber, Webb, Sherman, Fuller, Walker,
Dyer--and given to every unmarried woman the designation of a spinster.
And from the time when the cloth trade ousted that of wool as the chief
export trade of England down to the time when it was in its turn ousted
by iron and cotton, it was the foundation of England's commercial
greatness. 'Among all Crafts,' says old Deloney, 'this was the only
chief, for that it was the greatest merchandize, by the which our
Country became famous thorowout all Nations.'[1]

Already by the end of the fourteenth century the English clothiers were
beginning to rival those of the Netherlands in the making of fine cloth,
as witness Chaucer's Wife of Bath:

Of clooth-making she hadde swiche an haunt
She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt,

and by the end of the sixteenth century all real rivalry was at an end,
for the English manufacture was so clearly victorious. With the
development of the manufacture a change too took place in its
organization. It had never been an easy industry to organize on a gild
basis, because the making of a piece of cloth entailed so many distinct
processes. The preliminary processes of spinning and carding were always
by-industries, performed by women and children in their cottages; but
the weavers, who bought the spun yarn, had their gild; and so had the
fullers, who fulled it; and the shearmen, who finished it; and the dyers
who dyed it. All could not sell the finished piece of cloth, and in the
group of inter-dependent crafts, each with its gild, we sometimes find
the weavers employing the fullers and sometimes the fullers the weavers.
Moreover, since weaving is a much quicker process than spinning, the
weaver often wasted much time and found it hard to collect enough yarn
to keep his loom busy; and, as the market for cloth grew wider and was
no longer confined to the town of the weaver, the need was felt for some
middleman to specialize in the selling of the finished cloth. So by
degrees there grew up a class of men who bought wool in large quantities
and sold it to the weavers, and then by a natural transition began, not
to sell the wool outright, but to deliver it to the weavers to weave, to
the fullers to full, and to the shearmen to finish at a wage, receiving
it back again when the work was done. These men grew rich; they amassed
capital; they could set many folk at work. Soon they began to set to
work all the different workers who combined to make a piece of cloth;
their servants carried wool to the cottages for the women to card and
spin; carried the spun yarn in turn to dyers, weavers, fullers,
shearers; and carried the finished piece of cloth back to the industrial
middleman--the clothier, as he was called--who in his turn disposed of
it to the mercantile middleman, who was called a draper. The clothiers
grew rapidly in wealth and importance, and in certain parts of the
country became the backbone of the middle class. They pursued their
activities in country villages, rather than in the old corporate towns,
for they wished to avoid the restrictions of the gilds, and gradually
the cloth industry migrated almost entirely to the country. In the west
of England and in East Anglia (though not in Yorkshire) it was carried
out by clothiers on this 'putting out' system, right up to the moment
when the Industrial Revolution swept it out of the cottages into the
factories and out of the south into the north. Then the thriving
villages emptied themselves, so that today we must needs re-create again
from scattered traces and old buildings, and still older names, the once
familiar figures of the East Anglian clothier and his swarm of
busy workmen.

Such a familiar figure was once old Thomas Paycocke, clothier, of
Coggeshall in Essex, who died full of years and honour in 1518. His
family originally came from Clare, in Suffolk, but about the middle of
the fifteenth century a branch settled at Coggeshall, a village not far
distant. His grandfather and father would seem to have been grazing
butchers, but he and his brother and their descendants after them
followed 'the truly noble manufacture' of cloth-making, and set an
indelible mark upon the village where they dwelt. Coggeshall lies in the
great cloth-making district of Essex, of which Fuller wrote: 'This
county is charactered like Bethsheba, "She layeth her hand to the
spindle and her hands hold the distaffe."... It will not be amiss to
pray that the plough may go along and the wheel around, that so (being
fed by the one and clothed by the other) there may be, by God's
blessing, no danger of starving in our nation[2] All over Essex there
lay villages famous for cloth-making, Coggeshall and Braintree, Bocking
and Halstead, Shalford and Dedham, and above all Colchester, the great
centre and mart of the trade. The villages throve on the industry and
there was hardly a cottage which did not hum with the spinning wheel,
and hardly a street where you might not have counted weavers' workshops,
kitchens where the rough loom stood by the wall to occupy the goodman's
working hours. Hardly a week but the clatter of the pack-horse would be
heard in the straggling streets, bringing in new stores of wool to be
worked and taking away the pieces of cloth to the clothiers of
Colchester and the surrounding villages. Throughout the fifteenth
century Coggeshall was an important centre, second only to the great
towns of Norwich, Colchester, and Sudbury, and to this day its two inns
are called the 'Woolpack' and the 'Fleece.' We must, as I said, build up
the portrait of Thomas Paycocke and his compeers from scattered traces;
but happily such traces are common enough in many and many an English
village, and in Coggeshall itself they lie ready to our hand. Out of
three things he can be brought to life again--to wit, his house in the
village street, his family brasses in the aisle of the village church,
and his will, which is preserved at Somerset House. A house, a brass, a
will--they seem little enough, but they hold all his history. It is the
greatest error to suppose that history must needs be something written
down; for it may just as well be something built up, and churches,
houses, bridges, or amphitheatres can tell their story as plainly as
print for those who have eyes to read. The Roman villa, excavated after
lying lost for centuries beneath the heel of the unwitting
ploughboy--that villa with its spacious ground-plan, its floors rich
with mosaic patterns, its elaborate heating apparatus, and its shattered
vases--brings home more clearly than any textbook the real meaning of
the Roman Empire, whose citizens lived like this in a foggy island at
the uttermost edge of its world. The Norman castle, with moat and
drawbridge, gatehouse and bailey and keep, arrow slits instead of
windows, is more eloquent than a hundred chronicles of the perils of
life in the twelfth century; not thus dwelt the private gentleman in the
days of Rome. The country manor-house of the fourteenth century, with
courtyard and chapel and hall and dovecote, speaks of an age of peace
once more, when life on a thousand little manors revolved round the
lord, and the great mass of Englishmen went unscathed by the Hundred
Years' War which seamed the fair face of France. Then begin the
merchants' elaborate Perpendicular houses in the towns and villages of
the fifteenth century, standing on the road, with gardens behind them,
and carved beams, great fire-places, and a general air of comfort; they
mark the advent of a new class in English history--the middle class,
thrust between lord and peasant and coming to its own. How the spacious
days of great Elizabeth are mirrored in the beautiful Elizabethan
houses, with their wide wings and large rooms, their chimneys, their
glass windows, looking outwards on to open parks and spreading trees,
instead of inwards on to the closed courtyard. Or go into a house built
or redecorated in the eighteenth century, where you will see Chippendale
chairs and lacquer tables and Chinese wall-papers covered with pagodas
and mandarins; and surely there will come to your mind the age of the
nabobs, the age which John Company had familiarized with the products of
the Far East, the age in which tea ousted coffee as the drink for a
gentleman of fashion, in which Horace Walpole collected porcelain,
Oliver Goldsmith idealized China in 'The Citizen of the World', and Dr
Johnson was called the Great Cham of Literature. Look here upon this
picture and on this: look at that row of jerry-built houses, a hundred
in a row and all exactly alike, of that new-art villa, all roof and
hardly any window, with false bottle glass in its panes; here is the
twentieth century for you. Indeed all the social and very much of the
political history of England may be reconstructed from her architecture
alone; and so I make no apology for calling Thomas Paycocke's house
first-rate historical evidence.

Of much the same type, though less interesting, is the evidence of
monumental brasses, which are to be found in most parts of England and
which abound in East Anglia, the Home Counties, and the Thames
Valley.[3] Their variety is magnificent; brasses of ecclesiastics in
vestments, of doctors of law and divinity and masters of arts in
academic dress and of a few abbots and abbesses; brasses of knights in
Armour; brasses of ladies, with their little dogs at their feet and
dresses which show the changes in fashion from century to century and
make clear all the mysteries of kirtles and cotte-hardies, wimples and
partlets and farthingales and the head-dresses appropriate to each
successive mode. The brasses also, like the houses, bear witness to the
prosperity of the middle class, for in the fourteenth century when
merchants began to build themselves fine houses they began also to bury
themselves under splendid brasses. Finest of all, perhaps, are the
brasses of the wool staplers, with feet resting on woolpack or sheep;
but there are many other merchants too. Mayors and aldermen abound; they
set their merchants' marks upon their tombs as proudly as gentlemen set
their coats of arms, and indeed they had as great cause for pride. You
may see them at their proudest in the famous brass at Lynn, where Robert
Braunch lies between his two wives, and at his feet is incised a scene
representing the feast at which he entertained Edward III royally and
feasted him on peacocks. There is a tailor with his shears, as glorious
as the Crusader's sword, at Northleach, and a wine merchant with his
feet upon a wine cask at Cirencester. There are smaller folk, too, less
dowered with wealth but proud enough of the implements of their craft;
two or three public notaries with penhorn and pencase complete, a
huntsman with his horn, and in Newland Church one of the free miners of
the Forest of Dean, cap and leather breeches tied below the knee, wooden
mine-hod over shoulder, a small mattock in his right hand, and a
candlestick between his teeth. This kind of historical evidence will
help us with Thomas Paycocke. His family brasses were set in the north
aisle of the parish church of St Peter Ad Vincula. Several of them have
disappeared in the course of the last century and a half, and unluckily
no brass of Thomas himself survives; but in the aisle there still lie
two--the brass of his brother John, who died in 1533, and John's wife,
and that of his nephew, another Thomas, who died in 1580; the merchant's
mark may still be seen thereon.

Lastly, there is the evidence of the Paycocke wills, of which three are
preserved at Somerset House--the will of John Paycocke _(d._ 1505),
Thomas's father and the builder of the house; the will of Thomas
Paycocke himself _(d._ 1518); and the will of his nephew Thomas, the
same whose brass lies in the aisle and who left a long and splendidly
detailed testament, full of information upon local history and the
organization of the cloth industry. For social historians have as yet
hardly, perhaps, made as much use as they might of the evidence of
wills. The enormous amount of miscellaneous information to be derived
therefrom about the life of our forefathers can hardly be believed, save
by those who have turned the pages of such a collection as the great
_Testamenta Eboracensia_.[4] In wills you may see how many daughters a
man could dower and how many he put into a nunnery, and what education
he provided for his sons. You may note which were the most popular
religious houses, and which men had books and what the books were, how
much of their money they thought fit to leave for charitable purposes,
and what they thought of the business capacity of their wives. You may
read long and dazzling lists of family plate, all the favourite cups and
dishes having pet names of their own, and of rings and brooches and
belts and rosaries. There are detailed descriptions of dresses and
furs, sometimes splendid, sometimes ordinary, for people handed on
their rich clothes as carefully as their jewels. There are even more
wonderful descriptions of beds, with all their bedclothes and hangings,
for a bed was a very valuable article of furniture and must often,
judging from the wills, have been a brilliant and beautiful object
indeed; Shakespeare has earned a great deal of unmerited obloquy for
leaving Ann Hathaway his second-best bed, though it is not to be denied
that he might have left her his first-best. Even more beautiful than
dressings and bed or chamber hangings are the brocaded and embroidered
vestments mentioned in wills, and the elaborate arrangements for funeral
ceremonies are extremely interesting. The wills are of all kinds; there
are even villeins' wills, though in theory the villein's possessions
were his lord's, and there are wills of kings and queens, lords and
ladies, bishops and parsons and lawyers and shopkeepers. Here also is
more evidence for the social prosperity of the middle class, details of
their trade, the contents of their shops, the inventories of their
houses, their estates (sometimes) in the country, their house rents
(almost always) in the town, their dressers garnished with plate and
their wives' ornaments, their apprentices and their gilds, their
philanthropy, their intermarriage with the gentry, their religious
opinions. Such a living picture do men's wills give us of their
daily lives.

These, then, are the three sources from which the life and times of
Thomas Paycocke may be drawn. All three--houses, brasses, and
wills--contain much evidence for the increasingly rapid growth during
the last two centuries of the Middle Ages of a large and prosperous
middle class, whose wealth was based not upon landed property but upon
industry and trade. It is a class of whom we have already met typical
examples in Thomas Betson and the anonymous Ménagier de Paris, and we
must now see what his house, his will, and his family brasses tell us
about the clothier Thomas Paycocke. First and foremost, they tell us a
great deal about the noble industry which supported him. Paycocke's
house is full of relics of the cloth industry. The merchant mark of the
Paycockes, an ermine tail, looking like a two-stemmed clover leaf, is to
be found on the carved beams of the chimney, on the breastsummers of the
fire-places, and set in the midst of the strip of carving along the
front of the house. Thomas marked his bales of cloth thus, and what
other armorial bearings did he need? The whole house is essentially
middle class-the house of a man who was _nouveau riche_ in an age when
to be _nouveau riche_ was not yet to be vulgar. His prosperity has
blossomed out into exquisitely ornate decoration. A band of carving runs
along the front of the house, and from the curved stem of it branch out
a hundred charming devices--leaves, tendrils, strange flowers, human
heads, Tudor roses, a crowned king and queen lying hand in hand, a baby
diving with a kick of fat legs into the bowl of an arum lily, and in the
midst the merchant's mark upon a shield and the initials of the master
of the house. In the hall is a beautiful ceiling of carved oakwork,
exceedingly elaborate and bearing at intervals the merchant's mark
again. Upstairs in the big bedchamber is a ceiling of beams worked in
bold roll mouldings; and there is an exquisite little parlour, lined
with linen fold panels, with a breastsummer carved with strange animals.
This elaboration is characteristic. It is all of a piece with Coggeshall
Church, and with all those other spacious East Anglian churches,
Lavenham, Long Melford, Thaxted, Saffron Walden, Lynn, Snettisham, lofty
and spacious, which the clothiers built out of their newly won wealth.
The very architecture is characteristic, _nouveau riche_ again, like
those who paid for it, the elaborate ornament and sumptuous detail of
the Perpendicular taking the place of the simple majesty of the Early
English style. It is just the sort of architecture that a merchant with
a fortune would pay for. The middle class liked some show for its money;
but again it was the ostentation without the vulgarity of wealth.
Looking upon his beautiful house, or worshipping beside his family
tombs, with the merchant's mark on the brasses, in St Katherine's aisle,
Thomas Paycocke must often have blessed the noble industry which
supported him.

The wills of the Paycockes tell the same story. To whom beside his
family does Thomas leave legacies but the good folk of the
neighbourhood, who worked for him. There is the Goodday family of
cheerful name, two of whom were shearmen, or cloth finishers, and had
substantial gifts. 'I bequeth to Thomas Goodday Sherman xx s. and ych of
his childryn iij s. iiij d. apece. Item, I bequeth to Edward Goodday
Sherman xvj s. viij d., and to his child iij s. iiij d. He also left
money to Robert Goodday of Sampford and to Robert's brother John and to
each of Robert's sisters, with something extra for Grace, who was his
goddaughter; and he did not forget Nicholas Goodday of Stisted and
Robert Goodday of Coggeshall and their families, nor their relative
John, who was a priest and had ten shillings for a trental. All these
Gooddays were doubtless bound to Thomas Paycocke by ties of work as well
as of friendship. They belonged to a well-known Coggeshall family, for
generations connected with the cloth industry. Thomas Paycocke's
namesake and grand-nephew, whose will is dated 1580, was still in close
relations with them, and left 'to Edwarde Goodaye my godson Fourtie
shillinges and to every brother and sister the saide Edwarde hath
livinge at the tyme of my decease tenne shillinges a pece,' and 'unto
William Gooday thelder tenne shillinges.' The hurrying, scattering
generation of today can hardly imagine the immovable stability of the
village of past centuries, when generation after generation grew from
cradle to grave in the same houses, on the same cobbled streets, and
folk of the same name were still friends, as their fathers and
grandfathers had been before them.

Other friends and employees of Thomas Paycocke also had their legacies.
He leaves _6s. 8d_. to Humphrey Stonor, 'somtyme my prentis'. We may see
Humphrey Stonor, with sleepy eyes, making his way downstairs on a frosty
morning, from those huge raftered attics, where perhaps the 'prentices
used to sleep. He was on terms of impudent friendship, no doubt, with
the weavers and fullers whom his master set to work; withal a young man
of good family, a relative perchance of those Stonors for whom Thomas
Betson worked, for, as Deloney wrote, 'the yonger sons of knights and
gentlemen, to whom their Fathers would leave no lands, were most
commonly preferred to learn this trade, to the end that thereby they
might live in good estate and drive forth their days in prosperity.' Two
of his friends got substantial legacies; apparently Thomas Paycocke had
lent them money and wished to wipe out the debt upon his death-bed, for,
says the will, 'I bequethe to John Beycham, my weyver, v li and [i.e.
if] there be so moch bitwene vs and ells to make it vp v li, and a gowne
and a doublett.... I bequeth and forgive Robert Taylor, fuller, all that
is betwixt vs, and more I give him iij s. iiij d.' Other legacies show
even more clearly that his operations were on a larger scale. 'I bequeth
to all my wevers, ffullers and shermen that be not afore Rehersed by
name xij d. apece, And will they that have wrought me verey moch wark
have iij s. iiij d. apece. Item, I bequethe to be distributed amonge my
Kembers, Carders and Spynners summa iiij li.'[5] Here are all the
branches of the cloth industry at a glance. It is Thomas Paycocke,
clothier, round whom the whole manufacture revolves. He gives the wool
to the women to comb it and card it and spin it; he receives it from
them again and gives it to the weaver to be woven into cloth; he gives
the cloth to the fuller to be fulled and the dyer to be dyed; and having
received it when finished, he has it made up into dozens and sends it
off to the wholesale dealer, the draper, who sells it; perhaps he has
been wont to send it to that very 'Thomas Perpoint, draper' whom he
calls 'my cosyn' and makes his executor. The whole of Thomas Paycocke's
daily business is implicit in his will. In the year of his death he was
still employing a large number of workers and was on friendly and
benevolent terms with them. The building of his house had not signalized
his retirement from business, as happened when another great clothier,
Thomas Dolman, gave up cloth-making and the weavers of Newbury went
about lamenting:

Lord have mercy upon us, miserable sinners.
Thomas Dolman has built a new house and turned away all his

The relations between Paycocke and his employees evinced in his will are
happy ones. Such was not always the case, for if the clothiers of this
age had some of the virtues of capitalists, they also had many of their
vices, and the age-old strife of capital and labour was already well
advanced in the fifteenth century. One detail Paycocke's will does not
give us, which we should be glad to know: did he employ only domestic
weavers, working in their own houses, or did he also keep a certain
number of looms working in his house? It was characteristic of the
period in which he lived that something like a miniature factory system
was establishing itself in the midst of the new outwork system. The
clothiers were beginning to set up looms in their own houses and to work
them by journeymen weavers; as a rule the independent weavers greatly
disliked the practice, for either they were forced from the position of
free masters into that of hired servants, obliged to go and work in the
clothier's loom shop, or else they found their payment forced down by
the competition of the journeymen. Moreover, the clothiers sometimes
owned and let out looms to their work-people, and then also part of the
industrial independence of the weaver was lost. All through the first
half of the sixteenth century the weavers in the cloth districts kept on
petitioning Parliament against this new evil of capitalism. It was as
though, long before it established itself in England they had a
prevision of the factory system and of the worker no longer owning
either his raw material, his tool, his workshop, or the produce of his
industry, but only his labour; the master-weaver dwindled to a hired
hand. Certainly the practice was growing in Essex, where, some twenty
years after Thomas Paycocke's death, the weavers petitioned against the
clothiers, who had their own looms and weavers and fullers in their own
houses, so that the petitioners were rendered destitute; 'for the rich
men, the clothiers, be concluded and agreed among themselves to hold and
pay one price for weaving the said cloths,' a price too small to support
their households, even if they worked day and night, holiday and
work-day, so that many of them lost their independence and were reduced
to become other men's servants.[7] Nevertheless, the outwork system
remained the more common, and without doubt the majority of Paycocke's
workers lived in their own cottages, though it is probable also that he
had some looms in his house, perhaps in the long, low room at the back,
which is traditionally supposed to have been used for weaving, perhaps
in a shed or 'spinning house'.

A highly idyllic picture of work in one of these miniature factories,
which we may amuse ourselves by applying to Thomas Paycocke's, is
contained in Deloney's _Pleasant History of Jack of Newbery._ Jack of
Newbury was an historical character, a very famous clothier named John
Winchcomb who died at Newbury only a year later than Paycocke himself,
and of whom Paycocke must certainly have heard, for his kersies were
famous on the Continent, and old Fuller, who celebrates him among his
_Worthies of England_ calls him 'the most considerable clothier (without
fancy or fiction) England ever beheld'.[8] The tales of how he had led
a hundred of his own 'prentices to Flodden Field, how he had feasted the
King and Queen in his house at Newbury, how he had built part of Newbury
Church, and how he had refused a knighthood, preferring 'to rest in his
russet coat a poor clothier to his dying day,' spread about England,
growing as they spread. In 1597 Thomas Deloney, the forefather of the
novel, enshrined them in a rambling tale, half prose and half verse,
which soon became extremely popular. It is from this tale that we may
take an imaginary picture of work in a clothier's house, being wary to
remember, however, that it is an exaggeration, a legend, and that the
great John Winchcomb certainly never had as many as two hundred looms in
his own house, while our Thomas Paycocke probably had not more than a
dozen. But the poet must have his licence, for, after all, the spirit of
the ballad is the thing, and it is always a pleasant diversion to drop
into rhyme:

Within one roome, being large and long
There stood two hundred Loomes full strong.
Two hundred men, the truth is so,
Wrought in these Loomes all in a row.
By every one a pretty boy
Sate making quilts with mickle joy,
And in another place hard by
A hundred women merily
Were carding hard with joy full cheere
Who singing sate with voyces cleere,
And in a chamber close beside
Two hundred maidens did abide,
In petticoats of Stammell red,
And milk white kerchers on their head.
Their smocke-sleeves like to winter snow
That on the Westerne mountaines flow,
And each sleeve with a silken band
Was featly tied at the hand.
These pretty maids did never lin
But in that place all day did spin,
And spinning so with voyces meet
Like nightingales they sang full sweet.
Then to another roome came they
Where children were in poore aray;
And every one sate picking wool
The finest from the course to cull:
The number was sevenscore and ten
The children of poore silly men:
And these their labours to requite
Had every one a penny at night,
Beside their meat and drinke all day,
Which was to them a wondrous stay.
Within another place likewise
Full fifty proper men he spies
And these were sheremen everyone,
Whose skill and cunning there was showne:
And hard by them there did remaine
Full four-score rowers taking paine.
A Dye-house likewise had he then,
Wherein he kept full forty men:
And likewise in his Fulling Mill
Full twenty persons kept he still.
Each weeke ten good fat oxen he
Spent in his house for certaintie,
Beside good butter, cheese and fish
And many another wholesome dish.
He kept a Butcher all the yeere,
A Brewer eke for Ale and Beere;
A Baker for to bake his Bread,
Which stood his hushold in good stead.
Five Cookes within his kitchin great
Were all the yeare to dress his meat.
Six Scullion boyes vnto their hands,
To make clean dishes, pots and pans,
Beside poore children that did stay
To turne the broaches every day.
The old man that did see this sight
Was much amaz'd, as well he might:
This was a gallant Cloathier sure,
Whose fame forever shall endure.[9]

The private life of Thomas Paycocke, no less than his business, can be
made to live again. Of his family the invaluable will tells us a
little. His first wife was that Margaret whose initials, together with
his own, decorate the woodwork of the house, and indeed it is probable
that old John Paycocke built the house for the young couple on their
wedding. Gay, indeed, must have been the sights which it witnessed on
that happy day, for our ancestors knew how to put their hearts into a
wedding, and Merry England was never merrier then when the bridegroom
led home the bride. We may borrow once again from Deloney's idyll, to
recreate the scene:

     The Bride being attyred in a gowne of sheepes russet and a
     kertle of fine woosted, her head attyred with a billiment of
     gold and her haire as yeallow as gold hanging downe behinde
     her, which was curiously combed and pleated, according to the
     manner in those dayes; shee was led to Church betweene two
     sweete boyes, with Bridelaces and Rosemary tied about their
     silken sleeves. Then was there a fair Bride-cup of silver and
     gilt carried before her, wherein was a goodly branch of
     Rosemary gilded very faire, hung about with silken Ribands of
     all colours; next was there a noyse of Musicians that played
     all the way before her; after her came all the chiefest
     maydens of the Country, some bearing great Bride Cakes and
     some Garlands of wheate finely gilded and so she past unto
     the Church. It is needlesse for mee to make any mention here
     of the Bridegroome, who being a man so well beloued, wanted
     no company and those of the best sort, beside diuers Marchant
     strangers of the Stillyard that came from London to the
     wedding. The marriage being solemnized, home they came in
     order as before and to dinner they went where was no want of
     good cheare, no lack of melody.... The wedding endured ten
     dayes, to the great reliefe of the poore that dwelt all

Much dancing the house doubtless saw under the beautiful carved roof of
the hall, with much song, games, kissing, and general abandon. Even when
the bride and groom retired to the bridal chamber with its roll-moulded
beams the merry-making was not done; they must hold a levee to their
nearest friends in the bedchamber itself, enthroned in the great
four-poster bed. There was no false delicacy about our ancestors.
Indeed, as Henry Bullinger says (he was a very different person from
jovial Deloney, but he was a contemporary of Paycocke's, and Coverdale
translated him, so let him speak): 'After supper must they begynne to
pype and daunce agayne of the new. And though the yonge parsones,
beynge weery of the bablyng noyse and inconuenience, come ones towarde
theyer rest, yet can they haue no quietnesse. For a man shall fynd
unmanerly and restlesse people, that will first go to theyr chambre
dore, and there syng vycious and naughtie balates that the deuell maye
haue his triumphe now to the vttermost.'[11] What would we not give for
one of those 'naughty ballads' today?

The bride Margaret, who was somewhat after this merry fashion brought
home to Coggeshall, came from Clare, the ancient home of the Coggeshall
Paycockes. She was the daughter of one Thomas Horrold, for whose memory
Paycocke retained a lively affection and respect, for in founding a
chantry in Coggeshall Church he desired specially that it should be for
the souls of himself and his wife, his mother and father, and his
father-in-law, Thomas Horrold of Clare. He also left five pounds, with
which his executors were 'to purvey an oder stone to be hade to Clare
chirch and layd on my ffader in lawe Thomas Horrold w't his pycture and
his wife and childryn thereon' (i.e. a memorial brass), and also five
cows or else three pounds in money to Clare Church 'to kepe and mayntene
my ffader in lawe Thomas Horrold his obitt'. He also left money to his
wife's brother and sisters. Margaret Paycocke died before her husband
and without children; and the only young folk of his name whom Thomas
ever saw at play in his lofty hall, or climbing upon his dresser to find
the head, as small as a walnut, hidden in the carving of the ceiling,
were his nephews and nieces, Robert and Margaret Uppcher, his sister's
children; John, the son of his brother John; and Thomas, Robert, and
Emma, the children of his brother Robert; perhaps also his little
godchild Grace Goodday. It was perhaps in the hope of a son to whom he
might leave his house and name that Thomas Paycocke married again a girl
called Ann Cotton. She was the wife of his old age, 'Anne my good wif',
and her presence must have made bright the beautiful house, silent and
lonely since Margaret died. Her father, George Cotton, is mentioned in
the will, and her brothers and sister, Richard, William, and Eleanor,
have substantial legacies. But Thomas and Ann enjoyed only a short term
of married life; she brought him his only child, but death overtook him
before it was born. In his will he provides carefully for Ann; she is
to have five hundred marks sterling, and as long as she lives the
beautiful house is to be hers; for to his elaborate arrangements for its
inheritance he adds, 'provided alwey that my wif Ann haue my house that
I dwell in while she lyvyth at hir pleyser and my dof house [dove-house]
with the garden y't stoundeth in.' A gap in the Paycocke records makes
it difficult to say whether Thomas Paycocke's child lived or died; but
it seems probable that it either died or was a girl, for Paycocke had
bequeathed the house, provided that he had no male heirs, to his nephew
John (son of his eldest brother John), and in 1575 we find it in the
hands of this John Paycocke, while the house next door was in the hands
of another Thomas Paycocke, his brother Robert's son. This Thomas died
about 1580, leaving only daughters, and after him, in 1584, died John
Paycocke, sadly commemorated in the parish register as 'the last of his
name in Coxall'. So the beautiful house passed out of the hands of the
great family of clothiers who had held it for nearly a hundred

Of Thomas Paycocke's personal character it is also possible to divine
something from his will. He was obviously a kind and benevolent
employer, as his thought for his work-people and their children shows.
He was often asked to stand godfather to the babies of Coggeshall, for
in his will he directs that at his burial and the ceremonies which were
repeated on the seventh day and 'month mind' after it there were to be
'xxiiij or xij smale childryn in Rochettes with tapers in theire hands
and as many as may be of them lett them be my god childryn and they to
have vj s. viij d. apece and euery oder child iiij d. apece ... and also
euery god chyld besyde vj s. viij d. apece.' All these children were
probably little bread-winners, employed at a very early age in sorting
Thomas Paycocke's wool. 'Poore people,' says Thomas Deloney, 'whom God
lightly blessed with most children, did by meanes of this occupation so
order them, that by the time they were come to be sixe or seven yeeres
of age, they were able to get their owne bread';[13] and when Defoe rode
from Blackstone Edge to Halifax, observing the cloth manufacture, which
occupied all the villages of the West Riding, it was one of his chief
grounds for admiration that 'all [were] employed from the youngest to
the oldest; scarce any thing above four years old, but its hands were
sufficient for its own support.'[14] The employment of children at what
we should regard as an excessively early age was by no means a new
phenomenon introduced with the Industrial Revolution.

That Thomas Paycocke had many friends, not only in Coggeshall but in the
villages round, the number of his legacies bears witness. His will also
shows that he was a man of deep religious feeling. He was a brother of
the Crutched Friars of Colchester and left them on his death five pounds
to pray 'for me and for them that I am bound to pray fore'. It was
customary in the Middle Ages for monastic houses to give the privilege
of the fraternity of the house to benefactors and persons of
distinction; the reception took place at a long and elaborate ceremony,
during which the _consrater_ received the kiss of peace from all the
brethren. It is a mark of the respect in which Thomas Paycocke was held
in the countryside that he should have been made a brother by the
Crutched Friars. He seems to have had a special kindness for the Order
of Friars; he left the Grey Friars of Colchester and the Friars of
Maldon, Chelmsford, and Sudbury each ten shillings for a trental and 3s.
4d. to repair their houses; and to the Friars of Clare he left twenty
shillings for two trentals, 'and at Lent after my deceste a kade of Red
heryng'. He had great interest in Coggeshall Abbey; it lay less than a
mile from his house, and he must often have dined in state with the
abbot at his guest table on feast days and attended Mass in the abbey
church. He remembered the abbey as he lay dying, and the sound of its
bells ringing for vespers came softly in at his window on the mellow
September air; and he left 'my Lord Abbot and Convent' one of his famous
broadcloths and four pounds in money 'for to have a dirige and Masse and
their belles Ryngyng at my buriall when it is doon at Chirche, lykewyse
the vijth day and mounth day, with iij tryntalls upon the same day yf
they can serve them, orells when they can at more leasur, Summa x li.'

His piety is shown also in his bequests to the churches of Bradwell,
Pattiswick, and Markshall, parishes adjacent to Coggeshall, and to Stoke
Nayland, Clare, Poslingford, Ovington, and Beauchamp St Pauls, over the
Essex order, in the district from which the Paycockes originally came.
But his greatest care was naturally for Coggeshall Church. One of the
Paycockes had probably built the north aisle, where the altar was
dedicated to St Katherine, and all the Paycocke tombs lay there. Thomas
Paycocke left instructions in his will that he should be buried before
St Katherine's altar, and made the following gifts to the church: 'Item,
I bequeth to the high aulter of Coxhall Chirche in recompence of tithes
and all oder thyngs forgoten, Summa iiij li. Item, I bequethe to the
Tabernacle of the Trenyte at the high awlter and an other of Seint
Margarete in seint Katryne Ile, there as the great Lady stands, for
carvyng and gildyng of them summa c. marcs sterlinge. Item, to the
reparacons of the Chirch and bells and for my lying in the Chirche summa
c. nobles.' He founded a chantry there also and left money to be given
weekly to six poor men to attend Mass in his chantry thrice a week.

Of piety and of family pride these legacies to religious houses and to
churches speak clearly. Another series of legacies, which takes a form
characteristic of medieval charity, bears witness perhaps to Thomas
Paycocke's habits. He must often have ridden abroad, to see the folk who
worked for him or to visit his friends in the villages round Coggeshall;
or farther afield to Clare, first to see the home of his ancestors, then
to court Margaret Horrold, his bride, and then, with Margaret beside
him, to visit his well-loved father-in-law. Certainly, whether he walked
to church in Coggeshall, or whether he rode along the country lanes, he
often sighed over the state of the road as he went; often he must have
struggled through torrents of mud in winter or stumbled among holes in
summer; for in the Middle Ages the care of the roads was a matter for
private or ecclesiastical charity, and all except the great highways
were likely to be but indifferently kept. Langland, in his _Piers
Plowman_, mentions the amending of 'wikked wayes' (by which he means not
bad habits but bad roads) as one of those works of charity which rich
merchants must do for the salvation of their souls. Thomas Paycocke's
choice of roads no doubt reflects many a wearisome journey, from which
he returned home splashed and testy, to the ministrations of 'John
Reyner my man' or 'Henry Briggs my servant', and of Margaret, looking
anxiously from her oriel window for his return. In his own town he
leaves no less than forty pounds, of which twenty pounds was to go to
amend a section of West Street (where his house stood), and the other
twenty was 'to be layde on the fowle wayes bitwene Coxhall and
Blackwater where as moost nede ys'; he had doubtless experienced the
evils of this road on his way to the abbey. Farther afield, he leaves
twenty pounds for the 'fowle way' between Clare and Ovington, and
another twenty for the road between Ovington and Beauchamp St Pauls.

As his life drew to its close he doubtless rode less often afield. The
days would pass peacefully for him; his business flourished and he was
everywhere loved and respected. He took pride in his lovely house,
adding bit by bit to its beauties. In the cool of the evening he must
often have stood outside the garden room and seen the monks from the big
abbey fishing in their stewpond across the field, or lifted his eyes to
where the last rays of sun slanted on to the lichened roof of the great
tithebarn, and on to the rows of tenants, carrying their sheaves of corn
along the road; and he reflected, perhaps, that John Mann and Thomas
Spooner, his own tenants, were good, steady friends, and that it was
well to leave them a gown or a pound when he died. Often also, in his
last year or two, he must have sat with his wife in his garden with the
dove-house and watched the white pigeons circling round the apple-trees,
and smiled upon her bed of flowers. And in winter evenings sometimes he
would take his furred cloak and stroll to the Dragon Inn, and Edward
Aylward, mine host, would welcome him with bows; and so he would sit and
drink a tankard of sack with his neighbours, very slow and dignified, as
befitted the greatest clothier of the town, and looking benevolently
upon the company. But at times he would frown, if he saw a truant monk
from the abbey stolen out for a drink in spite of all the prohibitions
of bishop and abbot, shaking his head, perhaps, and complaining that
religion was not what it had been in the good old days; but not meaning
much of it, as his will shows, and never dreaming that twenty years
after his death abbot and monks would be scattered and the King's
servants would be selling at auction the lead from off the roof of
Coggeshall Abbey; never dreaming that after four hundred years his house
would still stand, mellow and lovely, with its carved ceiling and its
proud merchant's mark, when the abbey church was only a shadow on the
surface of a field in hot weather and all the abbey buildings were
shrunk to one ruined ambulatory, ignobly sheltering blue Essex hay
wagons from the rain.

So Thomas Paycocke's days drew to a close amid the peace and beauty of
the most English of counties, 'fatt, frutefull and full of profitable
thinges,'[15] whose little rolling hills, wych elms, and huge clouded
skies Constable loved to paint. There came a day in September when gloom
hung over the streets of Coggeshall, when the spinning-wheels were
silent in the cottages, and spinners and weavers stood in anxious groups
outside the beautiful house in West Street; for upstairs in his bridal
chamber, under its noble ceiling, the great clothier lay dying, and his
wife wept by his bedside, knowing that he would never see his child. A
few days later the cottages were deserted again, and a concourse of
weeping people followed Thomas Paycocke to his last rest. The ceremony
of his burial befitted his dignity: it comprised services, not only on
burial day itself, but on the seventh day after it, and then again after
a month had passed. It is given best in the words of his will, for
Thomas Paycocke followed the custom of his time, in giving his executors
elaborate injunctions for his funeral rites: 'I will myne executors
bestowe vpon my buryng daye, vij day and mounthe daye after this manner:
At my buriall to have a tryntall of prests and to be at dirige, lawdis,
and comendacons as many of them as may be purveyed that day to serve the
tryntall, and yf eny lack to make it vpp the vij'th daye. And at the
Mounthe daye an oder tryntall to be purveyed hoole of myne executors and
to kepe dirige, lawdis and commendacons as is afore reherssed, with iij
high massis be note [by note, i.e. with music], oon of the holy gost, an
other of owre lady, and an other of Requiem, both buriall, seuenth day
and Mounthe daye. And prests beyng at this obseruance iiij d. at euery
tyme and childryn at euery tyme ij d., w't torches at the buriall xij,
and vj at the vij'th day and xij at the mounthe daye, with xxiij'th or
xij smale childryn in Rochettes with tapers in theire honds, and as many
as may be of them lett them be my god Childryn, and they to haue vj s.
viij d. apece; and euery oder child iiij d. apece; and euery man that
holdith torches at euery day he to have ij apece; and euery man, woman
and child that holdeth upp hound [hand] at eny of thes iij days to haue
j d. apece; And also euery god chyld besyde vj s. viij d. apece; and to
the Ryngars for all iij dayes x s.; and for mete, drynke, and for twoo
Semones of a doctor, and also to haue a dirige at home, or I be borne to
the Chirche summa j li.'

Here is something very different from the modest Thomas Betson's
injunction: 'The costes of my burying to be don not outrageously, but
sobrely and discretly and in a meane maner, that it may be unto the
worship and laude of Almyghty God.' The worthy old clothier was not
unmindful of the worship and laud of Thomas Paycocke also, and over £500
in modern money was expended upon his burial ceremonies, over and above
the cost of founding his new chantry. Well indeed it was that his eyes
were closed in death, ere the coming of the Reformation abolished all
the chantries of England, and with them the Paycocke chantry in St
Katherine's aisle, which had provided alms for six poor men weekly.
Thomas Paycocke belonged to the good old days; in a quarter of a century
after his death Essex was already changing. The monks were scattered
from the abbey, which stood roofless; the sonorous Latin tongue no
longer echoed in the church, nor priests prayed there for the souls of
Thomas and his wife and his parents and his father-in-law. Even the
cloth industry was changing, and the county was growing more prosperous
still with the advent of finer kinds of cloth, brought over there by
feat-fingered aliens, the 'new drapery', known as 'Bays and Says'. For
as the adage says:

     Hops, reformation, bays and beer
     Came into England all in a year,

and Coggeshall was destined to become more famous still for a new sort
of cloth called 'Coxall's Whites', which Thomas Paycocke's nephews made
when he was in his grave.[16] One thing, however, did not change; for
his beautiful house still stood in West Street, opposite the vicarage,
and was the delight of all who saw it. It stands there still, and
looking upon it today, and thinking of Thomas Paycocke who once dwelt in
it, do there not come to mind the famous words of Ecclesiasticus?

     Let us now praise famous men and our fathers that begat us.
     The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through His great
     power from the beginning...

     Rich men furnished with ability, living peaceably in their
     All these were honoured in their generations and were the
     glory of their times.

_Notes and Sources_

       *       *       *       *       *



_A. Raw Material_

1. The Roll of the Abbot Irminon, an estate book of the Abbey of St
Germain des Prés, near Paris, written between 811 and 826. See
_Polyptyque de l'Abbaye de Saint-Germain des Prés_, pub. Auguste
Longnon, t. I, _Introduction_; t. II, _Texte_ (Soc. de l'Hist. de
Paris, 1886-95).

2. Charlemagne's capitulary, _De Villis_, instructions to his stewards
on the management of his estates. See Guerard, _Explication du
Capitulaire 'de Villis'_ (Acad. des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres,
_Mémoires_, t. XXI, 1857), pp. 165-309, containing the text, with a
detailed commentary and a translation into French.

3. _Early Lives of Charlemagne_, ed. A.J. Grant (King's Classics, 1907).
Contains the lives by Einhard and the Monk of St Gall, on which see
Halphen, cited below.

4. Various pieces of information about social life may be gleaned from
the decrees of Church Councils, Old High German and Anglo-Saxon charms
and poems, and Aelfric's _Colloquium_, extracts from which are
translated in Bell's Eng. Hist. Source Books, _The Welding of the Race_,
449-1066, ed. J.E.W. Wallis (1913). For a general sketch of the period
see Lavisse _Hist. de France_, t. II, and for an elaborate critical
study of certain aspects of Charlemagne's reign (including the
_Polyptychum_) see Halphen, _Études critiques sur l'Histoire de
Charlemagne_ (1921); also A. Dopsch, _Wirtschaftsentwicklung der
Karolingerzeit, Vornehmlich in Deutschland_, 2 vols. (Weimar, 1912-13),
which Halphen criticizes.

_B. Notes to the Text_

1. 'Habet Bodo colonus et uxor ejus colona, nomine Ermentrudis, homines
sancti Germani, habent secum infantes III. Tenet mansum ingenuilem I,
habentem de terre arabili bunuaria VIII et antsingas II, de vinea
aripennos II, de prato aripennos VII. Solvit ad hostem de argento
solidos II, de vino in pascione modios II; ad tertium annum sundolas C;
de sepe perticas III. Arat ad hibernaticum perticas III, ad tramisem
perticas II. In unaquaque ebdomada corvadas II, manuoperam I. Pullos
III, ova XV; et caropera ibi injungitur. Et habet medietatem de
farinarium, inde solvit de argento solidos II.' Op. cit., II, p. 78.
'Bodo a _colonus_ and his wife Ermentrude a _colona_, tenants of
Saint-Germain, have with them three children. He holds one free manse,
containing eight _bunuaria_ and two _antsinga_ of arable land, two
_aripenni_ of vines and seven _aripenni_ of meadow. He pays two silver
shillings to the army and two hogsheads of wine for the right to pasture
his pigs in the woods. Every third year he pays a hundred planks and
three poles for fences. He ploughs at the winter sowing four perches and
at the spring sowing two perches. Every week he owes two labour services
_(corvées)_ and one handwork. He pays three fowls and fifteen eggs, and
carrying service when it is enjoined upon him. And he owns the half of a
windmill, for which he pays two silver shillings.'

2. _De Villis_, c. 45.

3. Ibid. cc. 43, 49.

4. From 'The Casuistry of Roman Meals,' in _The Collected Writings of
Thomas De Quincey_, ed. D. Masson (1897), VII, p. 13.

5. Aelfric's _Colloquium_ in op. cit. p. 95.

6. The Monk of St Gall's _Life_ in _Early Lives of Charlemagne_, pp.

7. Einhard's _Life_ in op. cit., p. 45.

8. Anglo-Saxon charms translated in Stopford Brook, _English Literature
from the Beginning to the Norman Conquest_ (1899), p. 43.

9. Old High German charm written in a tenth-century hand in a
ninth-century codex containing sermons of St Augustine, now in the
Vatican Library. Brawne, _Althochdeutsches Lesebuch_ (fifth edition,
Halle, 1902), p. 83.

10. Another Old High German charm preserved in a tenth-century codex now
at Vienna. Brawne, op. cit., p. 164.

11. From the ninth-century _Libellus de Ecclesiasticis Disciplinis_,
art. 100, quoted in Ozanam, _La Civilisation Chrétienne chez les Francs_
(1849), p. 312. The injunction however, really refers to the recently
conquered and still half-pagan Saxons.

12. _Penitential_ of Haligart, Bishop of Cambrai, quoted ibid. p. 314.

13. _Documents relatifs à l'Histoire de l'Industrie et du Commerce en
France_, ed. G. Faigniez, t. I, pp. 51-2.

14. See references in Chambers, _The Medieval Stage_ (1913), I, pp.

15. For the famous legend of the dancers of Kölbigk, see Gaston Paris,
_Les Danseurs Maudits, Légende Allemande du XIe Siècle_ (Paris 1900,
reprinted from the _Journal des Savants_, Dec., 1899), which is a _conte
rendu_ of Schröder's study in _Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte_
(1899). The poem occurs in a version of English origin, in which one of
the dancers, Thierry, is cured of a perpetual trembling in all his limbs
by a miracle of St Edith at the nunnery of Wilton in 1065. See loc.
cit., pp. 10, 14.

16. 'Swete Lamman dhin are,' in the original. The story is told by
Giraldus Cambrensis in _Gemma Ecclesiastica_, pt. I, c. XLII. See
_Selections from Giraldus Cambrensis_, ed. C.A.J. Skeel (S.P.C.K. _Texts
for Students_, No. XI), p. 48.

17. Einhard's _Life_ in op. cit. p. 45. See also ibid., p. 168 (note).

18. The Monk of St Gall's _Life_ in op. cit., pp. 144-7.

19. Einhard's _Life_ in op. cit., p. 39.

20. Ibid., p. 35.

21. Beazley, _Dawn of Modern Geography_ (1897), I, p. 325.

22. The Monk of St Gall's _Life_ in op. cit., pp. 78-9.

23. See the description in Lavisse, _Hist. de France II_, pt. I, p. 321;
also G. Monod, _Les moeurs judiciaires au VIIIe Siècle_, Revue
Historique, t. XXXV (1887).

24. See Faigniez, op. cit., pp. 43-4.

25. See the Monk of St Gall's account of the finery of the Frankish
nobles: 'It was a holiday and they had just come from Pavia, whither the
Venetians had carried all the wealth of the East from their territories
beyond the sea,--others, I say, strutted in robes made of pheasant-skins
and silk; or of the necks, backs and tails of peacocks in their first
plumage. Some were decorated with purple and lemon-coloured ribbons;
some were wrapped round with blankets and some in ermine robes.' Op.
cit., p. 149. The translation is a little loose: the 'phoenix robes' of
the original were more probably made out of the plumage, not of the
pheasant but of the scarlet flamingo, as Hodgson thinks _(Early Hist. of
Venice_, p. 155), or possibly silks woven or embroidered with figures of
birds, as Heyd thinks _(Hist. du Commerce du Levant_, I, p. 111).

26. The Monk of St. Gall's _Life_ in op. cit., pp. 81-2.

27. This little poem was scribbled by an Irish scribe in the margin of a
copy of Priscian in the monastery of St Gall, in Switzerland, the same
from which Charlemagne's highly imaginative biographer came. The
original will be found in Stokes and Strachan, _Thesaurus
Palæohibernicus_ (1903) II, p. 290. It has often been translated and I
quote the translation by Kuno Meyer, _Ancient Irish Poetry_ (2nd ed.,
1913), p. 99. The quotation from the _Triads of Ireland_ at the head of
this chapter is taken from Kuno Meyer also, ibid. pp. 102-3.



_A. Raw Material_

1. _The Book of Ser Marco Polo the Venetian concerning the Kingdoms and
Marvels of the East_, trans. and ed. with notes by Sir Henry Yule (3rd
edit., revised by Henri Cordier, 2 vols., Hakluyt Soc., 1903). See also
H. Cordier, _Ser Marco Polo: Notes and Addenda_ (1920). The best edition
of the original French text is _Le Livre de Marco Polo_, ed. G. Pauthier
(Paris, 1865), The most convenient and cheap edition of the book for
English readers is a reprint of Marsden's translation (of the Latin
text) and notes (first published, 1818), with an introduction by John
Masefield, _The Travels of Marco Polo the Venetian_ (Everyman's Library,
1908; reprinted, 1911); but some of the notes (identifying places, etc.)
are now out of date, and the great edition by Yule and Cordier should be
consulted where exact and detailed information is required. It is a mine
of information, geographical and historical, about the East. I quote
from the Everyman Edition as Marco Polo, op. cit., and from the Yule
edition as Yule, op. cit.

2. _La Cronique des Veneciens de Maistre Martin da Canal_. In _Archivo
Storico Italiano_, 1st ser., vol. VIII (Florence, 1845). Written in
French and accompanied by a translation into modern Italian. One of the
most charming of medieval chronicles.

_B. Modern Works_

1. For medieval Venice see--
     F.C. Hodgson: _The Early History of Venice from the Foundation
       to the Conquest of Constantinople_ (1901); and _Venice in the
       Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries, A Sketch of Venetian History,
       1204-1400_ (1910).
     P.G. Molmenti: _Venice, its Growth to the Fall of the Republic_, vols.
       I and II (_The Middle Ages_), trans. H.F. Brown (1906); and _La
       Vie Privée à Venise_, vol. I (1895).
     H.F. Brown: _Studies in the History of Venice_, vol. I (1907).
     Mrs Oliphant: _The Makers of Venice_ (1905) is pleasant reading and
       contains a chapter on Marco Polo.

2. For medieval China, the Tartars, and European intercourse with the
far East see--
     Sir Henry Yule's introduction to his great edition of Marco Polo (above).
     _Cathay and the Way Thither: Medieval Notices of China_, trans. and
       ed. by Sir Henry Yule, 4 vols. (Hakluyt Soc., 1915-16). Contains
       an invaluable introduction and all the best accounts of China left
       by medieval European travellers. Above all, Oderic of Pordenone
       (d. 1331) should be read as a pendant to Marco Polo.
     R. Beazley: _The Dawn of Modern Geography_, vols. II and III
     R. Grousset: _Histoire de l'Asie_, t. III (3rd edit., 1922), Chap. I.
       A short and charmingly written account of the Mongol Empires
       from Genghis Khan to Timour.
     H. Howarth: _History of the Mongols_ (1876).

3. For medieval trade with the East the best book is--
     W. Heyd: _Histoire du Commerce du Levant au Moyen-Âge_, trans.,
       F. Raynaud; 2 vols. (Leipzig and Paris, 1885-6, reprinted 1923).

_C. Notes to the Text_

1. To be exact, the Flanders galleys which sailed via Gibraltar to
Southampton and Bruges were first sent out forty years after 1268--in
1308. Throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries they sailed
every year, and Southampton owes its rise to prosperity to the fact that
it was their port of call.

2. The occasion of the speech quoted was when the imperial
representative Longinus was trying to get the help of the Venetians
against the Lombards in 568 and invited them to acknowledge themselves
subjects of the Emperor. The speech is quoted in _Encyclop. Brit._, Art.
_Venice_ (by H.F. Brown), p. 1002. The episode of the loaves of bread
belongs to the attempt of Pipin, son of Charlemagne, to starve out the
Rialto in the winter of 809-10. Compare the tale of Charlemagne casting
his sword into the sea, with the words, 'Truly, even as this brand which
I have cast into the sea shall belong neither to me nor to you nor to
any other man in all the world, even so shall no man in the world have
power to hurt the realm of Venice; and he who would harm it shall feel
the wrath and displeasure of God, even as it has fallen upon me and my
people.'--See Canale, _Cron._, c. VIII. These are, of course,
all legends.

3. 'Voirs est que la mer Arians est de le ducat de Venise.'--Canale, op.
cit., p. 600. Albertino Mussato calls Venice 'dominatrix Adriaci
maris.'--Molmenti, _Venice_, I, p. 120.

4. See some good contemporary accounts of the ceremony quoted in
Molmenti, _Venice_, I, pp. 212-15.

5. During the fatal war of Chioggia between the two republics of Venice
and Genoa, which ended in 1381, it was said that the Genoese admiral (or
some say Francesco Carrara), when asked by the Doge to receive peace
ambassadors, replied, 'Not before I have bitted the horses on St
Mark's.'--H.F. Brown, _Studies in the Hist. of Venice_, I, p. 130.

6. Canale, op. cit., p. 270.

7. 'The weather was clear and fine ... and when they were at sea, the
mariners let out the sails to the wind, and let the ships run with
spread sails before the wind over the sea'--See, for instance, Canale,
op. cit., pp. 320, 326, and elsewhere.

8. Canale, op. cit., cc. I and II, pp. 268-72. Venice is particularly
fortunate in the descriptions which contemporaries have left of her--not
only her own citizens (such as Canale, Sanudo and the Doge Mocenigo) but
also strangers. Petrarch's famous description of Venetian commerce, as
occasioned by the view which he saw from his window in the fourteenth
century, has often been quoted: 'See the innumerable vessels which set
forth from the Italian shore in the desolate winter, in the most
variable and stormy spring, one turning its prow to the east, the other
to the west; some carrying our wine to foam in British cups, our fruits
to flatter the palates of the Scythians and, still more hard of
credence, the wood of our forests to the Egean and the Achaian isles;
some to Syria, to Armenia, to the Arabs and Persians, carrying oil and
linen and saffron, and bringing back all their diverse goods to us....
Let me persuade you to pass another hour in my company. It was the depth
of night and the heavens were full of storm, and I, already weary and
half asleep, had come to an end of my writing, when suddenly a burst of
shouts from the sailors penetrated my ear. Aware of what these shouts
should mean from former experience, I rose hastily and went up to the
higher windows of this house, which look out upon the port. Oh, what a
spectacle, mingled with feelings of pity, of wonder, of fear and of
delight! Resting on their anchors close to the marble banks which serve
as a mole to the vast palace which this free and liberal city has
conceded to me for my dwelling, several vessels have passed the winter,
exceeding with the height of their masts and spars the two towers which
flank my house. The larger of the two was at this moment--though the
stars were all hidden by the clouds, the winds shaking the walls, and
the roar of the sea filling the air--leaving the quay and setting out
upon its voyage. Jason and Hercules would have been stupefied with
wonder, and Tiphys, seated at the helm, would have been ashamed of the
nothing which won him so much fame. If you had seen it, you would have
said it was no ship but a mountain, swimming upon the sea, although
under the weight of its immense wings a great part of it was hidden in
the waves. The end of the voyage was to be the Don, beyond which nothing
can navigate from our seas; but many of those who were on board, when
they had reached that point, meant to prosecute their journey, never
pausing till they had reached the Ganges or the Caucasus, India and the
Eastern Ocean. So far does love of gain stimulate the human
mind.'--Quoted from Petrarch's _Lettere Senili_ in Oliphant, _Makers of
Venice_ (1905), p. 349; the whole of this charming chapter, 'The Guest
of Venice', should be read. Another famous description of Venice occurs
in a letter written by Pietro Aretino, a guest of Venice during the
years 1527 to 1533, to Titian, quoted in E. Hutton, _Pietro Aretino, the
Scourge of Princes_ (1922), pp. 136-7; compare also his description of
the view from his window on another occasion, quoted ibid., pp. 131-3.
The earliest of all is the famous letter written by Cassiodorus to the
Venetians in the sixth century, which is partly translated in Molmenti,
op. cit., I, pp. 14-15.

9. The account of the march of the gilds occupies cc. CCLXIII-CCLXXXIII
of Canale's Chronicle, op. cit., pp. 602-26. It has often been quoted.

10. Canale, op. cit., c. CCLXI, p. 600.

11. This account of Hangchow is taken partly from Marco Polo, op. cit.,
bk. II, c. LXVIII: 'Of the noble and magnificent city of Kinsai'; and
partly from Odoric of Pordenone, _Cathay and the Way Thither_, ed. Yule,
pp. 113-20.

12. Oderic of Pordenone, who was a man before he was a friar, remarks:
'The Chinese are comely enough, but colourless, having beards of long
straggling hair like mousers, cats I mean. And as for the women, they
are the most beautiful in the world.' Marco Polo likewise never fails to
note when the women of a district are specially lovely, in the same way
that that other traveller Arthur Young always notes the looks of the
chambermaids at the French inns among the other details of the
countryside, and is so much affronted if waited on by a plain girl.
Marco Polo gives the palm for beauty to the women of the Province of
Timochain (or Damaghan) on the north-east border of Persia, of which, he
says, 'The people are in general a handsome race, especially the women,
who, in my opinion, are the most beautiful in the world.'--Marco Polo,
op. cit., p. 73. Of the women of Kinsai he reports thus: 'The courtesans
are accomplished and are perfect in the arts of blandishment and
dalliance, which they accompany with expressions adapted to every
description of person, insomuch that strangers who have once tasted of
their charms, remain in a state of fascination, and become so enchanted
by their meretricious arts, that they can never divest themselves of the
impression. Thus intoxicated with sensual pleasures, when they return to
their homes they report that they have been in Kinsai, or the celestial
city, and pant for the time when they may be enabled to revisit
paradise.' Of the respectable ladies, wives of the master craftsmen he
likewise says: 'They have much beauty and are brought up with languid
and delicate habits. The costliness of their dresses, in silks and
jewellery, can scarcely be imagined.'--op. cit., pp. 296, 297-8.

13. Yule, op. cit., II, p. 184.

14. For Prester John see Sir Henry Yule's article 'Prester John' in the
_Encyclopædia Britannica_, and Lynn Thorndike, _A History of Magic and
Experimental Science_ (1923), II, pp. 236-45. There is a pleasant
popular account in S. Baring Gould, _Popular Myths of the Middle
Ages_ (1866-8).

15. For their accounts see _The Journal of William of Rubruck to the
Eastern Parts, 1253-5, by himself, with two accounts of the Earlier
Journey of John of Pian da Carpine_, trans. and ed. with notes by W.W.
Rockhill (Hakluyt Soc., 1900). Rubruck especially is a most
delightful person.

16. This, together with the whole account of the first journey of the
elder Polos, the circumstances of the second journey, and of their
subsequent return occurs in the first chapter of Marco Polo's book,
which is a general introduction, after which he proceeds to describe in
order the lands through which he passed. This autobiographical section
is unfortunately all too short.

17. As a matter of fact, William of Rubruck had seen and described it
before him.

18. For Marco Polo's account of this custom in the province which he
calls 'Kardandan', see op. cit., p. 250. An illustration of it from an
album belonging to the close of the Ming dynasty is reproduced in S.W.
Bushell, _Chinese Art_ (1910), fig. 134.

19. Marco Polo, _op. cit_., pp. 21-2.

20. A certain _Poh-lo_ was, according to the Chinese annals of the
Mongol dynasty, appointed superintendent of salt mines at Yangchow
shortly after 1282. Professor Parker thinks that he may be identified
with our Polo, but M. Cordier disagrees. See E.H. Parker _Some New Facts
about Marco Polos Book_ in _Imperial and Asiatic Quarterly Review_
(1904), p. 128; and H. Cordier, _Ser Marco Polo_, p. 8. See also Yule,
_Marco Polo_, I, Introd., p. 21.

21. P. Parrenin in _Lett. Edis_., xxiv, 58, quoted in Yule, _op. cit_.,
I, Introd., p. II.

22. On Marco Polo's omissions see Yule, _op. cit_., I, Introd., p. 110.

23. Marco Polo, _op. cit_., p. 288.

24. On Chao Mêng-fu see S.W. Bushell, _Chinese Art_ (1910), II, pp.
133--59; H.A. Giles, _Introd. to the History of Chinese Pictorial Art_
(Shanghai, 2nd ed., 1918), pp. 159 ff.; the whole of c. VI of this book
on the art which flourished under the Mongol dynasty is interesting. See
also L. Binyon, _Painting in the Far East_ (1908), pp. 75-7, 146-7. One
of Chao Mêng-fu's horse pictures, or rather a copy of it by a Japanese
artist, is reproduced in Giles, _op. cit_., opposite p. 159. See also my
notes on illustrations for an account of the famous landscape roll
painted by him in the style of Wang Wei.

25. Bushell, _op. cit_., p. 135.

26. _Ibid_., pp. 135-6, where the picture is reproduced.

27. For the episode of the mangonels constructed by Nestorian mechanics
under the directions of Nicolo and Maffeo see Marco Polo, _op. cit_.,
pp. 281-2.

28. Marco Polo, _op. cit_., bk. III, c. I, pp. 321-3.

29. Ramusio's preface, containing this account, and also the story of
how Rusticiano came to write the book at Marco Polo's dictation at
Genoa, is translated in Yule, _op. cit_., I, Introd., pp. 4-8.

30. He mentions these in Marco Polo, _op. cit_., pp. 136, 138, 344.

31. Yule, _op. cit_., I, Introd., p. 79.

32. On Rusticiano (who is mistakenly called a Genoese by Ramusio), see
_ibid_., Introd., pp. 56 ff.

33. Paulin Paris, quoted _ibid_., Introd., p. 61.

34. _Ibid_., Introd., pp. 67-73.

35. Extract from Jacopo of Acqui's _Imago Mondi_, quoted _ibid_.,
Introd., p. 54.

36. M. Ch.-V. Langlois in _Hist. Litt. de la France_, XXXV (1921), p.
259. For tributes to Marco Polo's accuracy see Aurel Stein, _Ancient_
_Khotan_ (1907) and _Ruins of Desert Cathay_ (1912); Ellsworth
Huntington, _The Pulse of Asia_ (1910); and Sven Hedin, _Overland to
India_ (1910).

37. Yule, _op. cit_., I, Introd., pp. 106-7.

38. For these later missions and traders see Yule, _Cathay and the Way
Thither_, Introd., pp. cxxxii-iv, and text, _passim_.

39. _Ibid_., II, p. 292; and App., p. lxv.

40. Concerning the marginal notes by Columbus see Yule, _op. cit_., II,
App. H, p. 558. The book is preserved in the Colombina at Seville. I
must, however, frankly admit that modern research, iconoclastic as ever,
not content with white-washing Lucrezia Borgia and Catherine de Medicis,
and with reducing Catherine of Siena to something near insignificance,
is also making it appear more and more probable that Columbus originally
set sail in 1492 to look for the islands of the Antilles, and that,
although on his return after his great discovery in 1493 he maintained
that his design had always been to reach Cipangu, this was a _post hoc_
story, the idea of searching for Cipangu having probably come from his
partner, Martin Pinzon. It is a pity that we do not know _when_ he made
his notes in the edition (the probable date of publication of which was
1485) of Marco Polo's book, which might settle the matter. On the whole
question see Henry Vignaud, _Études critiques sur la vie de Colomb avant
ses découvertes_ (Paris, 1905) and _Histoire de la Grande Enterprise de
1492_, 2 vols. (Paris, 1910), and the summary and discussion of his
conclusions by Professor A.P. Newton in _History_, VII (1922), pp. 38-42
(_Historical Revisions_ XX.--'Christopher Columbus and his Great
Enterprise.') The idea that a new road to the East was being sought at
this time, primarily because the Turks were blocking the old trade
routes, has also been exploded. See A.H. Lybyer, _The Ottoman Turks and
the Routes of Oriental Trade_ in _Eng. Hist. Review_, XXX (1915),



_A. Raw Material_

1. Chaucer's description of the Prioress in the Prologue to the
_Canterbury Tales_.

2. Miscellaneous visitation reports in episcopal registers. On these
registers, and in particular the visitation documents therein, see R.C.
Fowler, _Episcopal Registers of England and Wales_ (S.P.C.K. Helps for
Students of History, No. 1), G.G. Coulton, _The Interpretation of
Visitation Documents_ (Eng. Hist. Review, 1914), and c. XII of my book,
cited below. A great many registers have been, or are being, published
by learned societies, notably by the Canterbury and York Society, which
exists for this purpose. The most important are the Lincoln visitations,
now in the course of publication, by Dr A. Hamilton Thompson,
_Visitations of Religious Houses in the Diocese of Lincoln_, ed. A.
Hamilton Thompson (Lincoln Rec. Soc. and Canterbury and York Soc., 1915
ff.); two volumes have appeared so far, of which see especially vol. II,
which contains part of Bishop Alnwick's visitations (1436-49); each
volume contains text, translation, and an admirable introduction. See
also the extracts from Winchester visitations trans. in H.G.D. Liveing,
_Records of Romsey Abbey_ (1912). Full extracts from visitation reports
and injunctions are given under the accounts of religious houses in the
different volumes of the Victoria County Histories (cited as V.C.H.).

3. The monastic rules. See _The Rule of St Benedict_, ed. F.A. Gasquet
(Kings Classics, 1909), and F.A. Gasquet, _English Monastic Life_ (4th
ed., 1910).

4. For a very full study of the whole subject of English convent life at
this period see Eileen Power, _Medieval English Nunneries c. 1275 to

_B. Notes to the Text_

1. _The Register of Walter de Stapeldon, Bishop of Exeter_ (1307-26),
ed. F. Hingeston Randolph (1892), p. 169. The passage about Philippa is
translated in G.G. Coulton, _Chaucer and His England_ (1908), p. 181.

2. See the account of expenses involved in making Elizabeth Sewardby a
nun of Nunmonkton (1468) in _Testamenta Eboracensia_, ed. James Raine
(Surtees Soc., 1886), III, p. 168; and Power, _op. cit_., p. 19.

3. _Year Book of King Richard II_, ed. C.F. Deiser (1904), pp. 71-7; and
Power, _op. cit_., pp. 36-8.

4. G.J. Aungier, _Hist. of Syon_ (1840), p. 385.

5. As at Gracedieu (1440-1), _Alnwick's Visit_, ed. A.H. Thompson, pp.

6. G.J. Aungier, _op. cit_., pp. 405-9.

7. Translated from John de Grandisson's Register in G.G. Coulton, _A
Medieval Garner_ (1910), pp. 312-14.

8. _Rule of St Benedict_, c. 22.

9. _V.C.H. Lincs_., II, p. 131.

10. Translated in G.G. Coulton, _A Medieval Garner_.

11. _Myroure of Oure Ladye_, ed. J.H. Blunt (E.E.T.S., 1873), p. 54. On
Tittivillus see my article in _The Cambridge Magazine_ (1917),

12. _Linc. Visit_., ed. A.H. Thompson, II, pp. 46-52; and Power, _op.
cit._ pp. 82-7.

13. _V.C.H. Oxon_, II. p. 77.

14. _Linc. Visit_., ed. A.H. Thompson, I, p. 67.

15. On these gaieties see Power, _op. cit_. pp. 309-14.

16. _Linc. Visit_., II, pp. 3-4; and see Power, _op. cit_., pp. 75-7,
303-5, on gay clothes in nunneries.

17. _Linc. Visit_., II. p. 175.

18. Power, _op. cit_., p. 307. On pet animals see _ibid_., pp. 305-9,
and Note E ('Convent Pets in Literature'), pp. 588-95.

19. Power, _op. cit_., p. 77.

20. _Ibid_., pp. 351-2; and see Chap. IX _passim_ on the Bull
_Periculoso_ and the wandering of nuns in the world.

21. _Linc. Visit_., II, p. 50.

22. _V.C.H. Yorks_., III, p. 172.



_A. Raw Material_

I. _Le Ménagier de Paris, Traité de Morale et d'Economie Domestique,
compose vers_ 1393 _par un Bourgeois Parisien ... publié pour la
première fois par la Société des Bibliophiles Francois_. (Paris, 1846).
2 vols., edited with an introduction by Jérôme Pichon. There is a notice
of it by Dr F.J. Furnivall, at the end of his edition of _A Booke of
Precedence_ (Early English Text Soc., 1869 and 1898), pp. 149-54. It was
a book after his own heart, and he observes that it well deserves
translation into English.

2. On the subject of medieval books of deportment for women see A.A.
Hentsch, _De la littérature didactique du moyen âge s'addressant
spécialement aux femmes_ (Cahors, 1903), an admirably complete
collection of analyses of all the chief works of this sort produced in
western Europe from the time of St Jerome to the eve of the
Renaissance. It is full of plums for adventurous Jack Horners.

3. With the Ménagier's cookery book there may profitably be compared
_Two Fifteenth Century Cookery Books_, ed. by Thomas Austin
(E.E.T.S., 1888).

_B. Notes to the Text_

1. Pp. 1-2.

2. These long moral treatises on the seven deadly sins and the even
deadlier virtues were very popular in the Middle Ages. The best known to
English readers occurs in the _Parson's Tale_ in Chaucer's _Canterbury
Tales,_ and is taken from the _Somme de Vices et de Vertus_ of Frère
Lorens, a thirteenth-century author. The sections on the deadly sins are
usually, however, well worth reading, because of the vivid illustrative
details which they often give about daily life. The Ménagier's sections
are full of vigour and colour, as one would expect. Here, for instance,
is his description of the female glutton: 'God commands fasting and the
glutton says: "I will eat". God commands us to get up early and go to
church and the glutton says: "I must sleep. I was drunk yesterday. The
church is not a hare; it will wait for me." When she has with some
difficulty risen, do you know what her hours are? Her matins are: "Ha!
what shall we have to drink? is there nothing left over from last
night?" Afterwards she says her lauds thus: "Ha! we drank good wine
yesterday." Afterwards she says thus her orisons: "My head aches, I
shan't be comfortable until I have had a drink." Certes, such gluttony
putteth a woman to shame, for from it she becomes a ribald, a
disreputable person and a thief. The tavern is the Devil's church, where
his disciples go to do him service and where he works his miracles. For
when folk go there they go upright and well spoken, wise and sensible
and well advised, and when they return they cannot hold themselves
upright nor speak; they are all foolish and all mad, and they return
swearing, beating and giving the lie to each other.'--_Op. cit_., I, pp.
47-8. The section on Avarice is particularly valuable for its picture of
the sins of executors of wills, rack-renting lords, extortionate
shopkeepers, false lawyers, usurers, and gamblers.--See _ibid_., I,
pp. 44-5.

3. _Prudence and Melibeus_ is worth reading once, either in Chaucer's or
in Renault de Louens' version, because of its great popularity in the
Middle Ages, and because of occasional vivid passages. Here, for
instance, is the episode in Chaucer's version, in which Melibeus, the
sages, and the young men discuss going to war, and the sages advise
against it: 'Up stirten thanne the yonge folk at ones, and the mooste
partie of that compaignye scorned the wise olde men, and bigonnen to
make noyse, and seyden that "Right so as, whil that iren is hoot, men
sholden smyte, right so men sholde wreken hir wronges while that they
been fresshe and newe"; and with loud voys they criden, "Werre! werre!"
Up roos tho oon of thise olde wise, and with his hand made contenaunce
that men sholde holden hem stille, and yeven hym audience. "Lordynges,"
quod he, "ther is ful many a man that crieth 'Werre! werre!' that woot
ful litel what werre amounteth. Werre at his bigynnyng hath so greet an
entryng and so large, that every wight may entre whan hym liketh and
lightly fynde werre; but certes, what ende that shal ther-of bifalle it
is nat light to knowe; for soothly, whan that werre is ones bigonne ther
is ful many a child unborn of his mooder that shal sterve yong by cause
of that ilke werre, or elles lyve in sarwe, and dye in wrecchednesse;
and therefore, er that any werre bigynne, men moste have greet conseil
and greet deliberacioun."--Chaucer, _Tale of Melibeus_,§ 12; and see the
French version, _op. cit_., I, p. 191.

4. II, p. 72-9.

5. I, pp. 71-2. These medieval games are very difficult to identify. The
learned editor remarks that _bric_, which is mentioned in the thirteenth
century by Rutebeuf was played, seated, with a little stick; _qui féry_
is probably the modern game called by the French _main chaude; pince
merille,_ which is mentioned among the games of Gargantua, was a game in
which you pinched one of the players' arms, crying 'Mérille' or
'Morille'. Though the details of these games are vague, there are many
analagous games played by children today, and it is easy to guess the
kind of thing which is meant.

6. I, pp. 13-15.

7. I, 92, 96.

8. The story of Jeanne la Quentine is reproduced in the _Heptameron_ of
Margaret of Navarre (the 38th tale, or the 8th of the 4th day), where it
is attributed to a _bourgeoise_ of Tours, but it is probable that the
Ménagier's is the original version, since he says that he had it from
his father; although, knowing the ways of the professional raconteur, I
should be the first to admit that this is not proof positive.

9. I, pp. 125-6.

10. I, p. 139.

11. This was a favourite saying. It occurs in the story of Melibeus,
'Trois choses sont qui gettent homme hors de sa maison, c'est assavoir
la fumée, la goutière et la femme mauvaise.'--_Ibid_., I, p. 195.
Compare Chaucer's use of it: 'Men seyn that thre thynges dryven a man
out of his hous,--that is to seyn, smoke, droppyng of reyn and wikked
wyves.'--_Tale of Melibeus_, §15; and

'Thou seyst that droppying houses, and eek smoke,
And chidyng wyves, maken men to flee
Out of hir owene hous.'

--_Wife of Bath's Prologue_, LL, 278-80.

12. I, pp. 168-71, 174-6.

13. II, p. 54. The Ménagier also warns against running up long bills on
credit. 'Tell your folk to deal with peaceable people and to bargain
always beforehand and to account and pay often, without running up long
bills on credit by tally or on paper, although tally or paper are better
than doing everything by memory, for the creditors always think it more
and the debtors less, and thus are born arguments, hatreds, and
reproaches; and cause your good creditors to be paid willingly and
frequently what is owed to them, and keep them in friendship so that
they depart not from you, for one cannot always get peaceable
folk again.'

14. II, pp. 56-9.

15. It is curious here to note the antiquity of the term 'bloody' as an
expletive. The Ménagier says: 'Forbid them ... to use ugly oaths, or
words which are bad or indecent, as do certain evil or ill bred persons
who swear at bad bloody fevers, the bad bloody week, the bad bloody day
('de males sanglantes fièvres,' 'de male sanglante sepmaine,' 'de male
sanglante journée'), and they know not, nor should they know, what a
bloody thing is, for honest women know it not, since it is abominable to
them to see the blood but of a lamb or a pigeon, when it is killed
before them.'--_Ibid._, II, p. 59.

16. The section on household management described above occupies sec.
II, art. 2, of the Ménagier's book (II, pp. 53-72).

17. I, pp. 171-2.

18. I, pp. 172-3.

19. The cookery book occupies sec. II, arts. 4 and 5 (II, pp. 80-272).

20. II, pp. 222-3. Translated by Dr Furnivall in _A Booke of Precedence_
(E.E.T.S.), pp. 152-3.

21. II, pp. 108-18, 123. The feast was still a thing of the future when
the Ménagier thus gathered all the details. He calls it 'L'ordenance de
nopces que fera maistre Helye en May, à un mardy ... l'ordonnance du
souper que fera ce jour.'

22. 'The office of the woman is to make provision of tapestries, to
order and spread them, and in especial to dight the room and the bed
which shall be blessed.... And note that if the bed be covered with
cloth, there is needed a fur coverlet of small vair, but if it be
covered with serge, or broidery, or pinwork of cendal, not.'--II, p.
118. The editor quotes the following ceremony for blessing the wedding
bed: '_Benedictio thalami ad nuptias et als_, Beredic, Domine, thalamum
hunc et omnes habitantes in eo, ut in tua voluntate permaneant,
requiescant et multiplicentur in longitudinem dierum. Per Christum, etc.
_Tunc thurificet thalamum in matrimonio, postea sponsum et sponsam
sedentes vel jacentes in lecto suo. Benedicentur dicendo_: Benedic,
Domine, adolescentulos istos; sicut benedixisti Thobiam et Sarram filiam
Raguelis, ita benedicere eos digneris, Domine, ut in nomine tuo vivant
et senescant, et multiplicentur in longitudinem dierum. Per Christum,
etc. Benedictio Dei omnipotentis, Patris et Filii et Spiritus sancti
descendat super vos et maneat super vobiscum. In nomine Patris,
etc.'--_Ibid._, I, _Introd._, p. lxxxvi.

23. Chaucer, _Tale of Melibeus_, § 15.



_A. Raw Material_

1. _The Stonor Letters and Papers_, 1290-1483, ed. C.L. Kingsford (Royal
Hist. Soc., Camden, 3rd Series), 2 vols., 1919. The Betson
correspondence is in vol. II.

2. _The Cely Papers, selected from the Correspondence and Memoranda of
the Cely Family, Merchants of the Staple_, 1475-88, ed. H.E. Malden
(Royal Hist. Soc., Camden 3rd series), 1900.

I am much beholden to the excellent introductions to these two books,
which are models of what editorial introductions should be.

3. The best introduction to the history of the Company of the Staple is
to be found in Mr Malden's aforesaid introduction to _The Cely Papers_,
which also contains a masterly account of the political relations of
England, France and Burgundy during the period. I have constantly relied
upon Mr Malden's account of the working of the Staple system. Other
useful short accounts of the wool trade and the Stapler's Company may be
found in the following works: Sir C.P. Lucas, _The Beginnings of English
Overseas Enterprise_ (1917), c. II; and A.L. Jenckes, _The Staple of
England_ (1908).

_B. Notes to the Text_

1. Four interesting contemporary illustrations of Parliament in 1523,
1585, some date during the seventeenth century, and 1742 respectively,
are reproduced in Professor A.F. Pollard's stimulating study of _The
Evolution of Parliament_ (1920).

2. _The Lybelle of Englyshe Polycye_, in _Political Poems and Songs_,
ed. Thos. Wright (Rolls Ser., 1861), II, p. 162. This remarkable poem
was written in 1436 or 1437, in order to exhort the English 'to kepe the
see enviroun and namelye the narowe see' between Dover and Calais, since
in the author's opinion the basis of England's greatness lay in her
trade, for the preservation of which she needed the dominion of the
seas. Its chief value lies in the very complete picture which it gives
of English import and export trade with the various European countries.
There is a convenient edition of it in _The Principal Navigations
Voyages Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation by Richard
Hakluyt_ (Everyman's Lib. Edition, 1907), I, pp. 174-202.

3. G.W. Morris and L.S. Wood, _The Golden Fleece_ (1922), p. 17.

4. For accounts of these brasses see H. Druitt, _A Manual of Costume as
Illustrated by Monumental Brasses_ (1906), pp. 9, 201, 205, 207, 253.
John Fortey's brass and William Greville's brass are conveniently
reproduced in G.W. Morris and L.S. Wood, _op. cit_., pp. 28, 32,
together with several other illustrations, pertinent to the wool trade.

5. Gower, _Mirour de l'Omme_ in _The Works of John Gower_. I. _The
French Works_, ed. G.C. Macaulay (1899), p. 280-1.

6. _The Paston Letters_, ed. J. Gairdner (London, 1872-5); Supplement
1901. See also H.S. Bennett, _The Pastons and their England_ (1922).

7. _Plumpton Correspondence_, ed. T. Stapleton (Camden Soc., 1839).

8. _Cely Papers_, p. 72; and compare below p. 134.

9. _Stonor Letters_, II, p. 2.

10. _Ibid_., II, pp. 2-3.

11. The brasses of his father 'John Lyndewode, woolman', and of his
brother, also 'John Lyndewode, woolman' (_d._ 1421), are still in
Linwood Church. They both have their feet on woolpacks, and on the son's
woolpack is his merchant's mark. See H. Druitt, _op. cit_., pp. 204-5.

12. See _Magna Vita S. Hugonis Episcopi Lincolniensis_, ed. J.F. Dimock
(Rolls Series, 1864), pp. 170-7.

13. For these extracts see a vastly entertaining book, _Child Marriages
and Divorces in the Diocese of Chester_, 1561-6, ed. F.J. Furnivall
(E.E.T.S., 1897), pp. xxii, 6, 45-7.

14. _Stonor Letters_, II, pp. 6-8.

15. _Ibid_., II, pp. 28, 64.

16. _Ibid_., II, p. 64.

17. _Ibid_., II, pp. 42-43.

18. _Ibid_., II, p. 44.

19. _Ibid_., II, pp. 61, 64-5.

20. _Ibid_., II, pp. 46-8.

21. _Ibid_., II, p. 53.

22. _Ibid_., II, p. 28.

23. _Ibid_., II, p. 47.

24. _Ibid_., II, p. 53.

25. _Ibid_., II, pp. 54-5.

26. _Ibid_., II, pp. 56-7.

27. _Ibid_., II, p. 69.

28. _Ibid_., II, pp. 87-8.

29. _Ibid_., II, pp. 88-9.

30. _Ibid_., II, p. 89.

31. _Ibid_., II, pp. 102-3, 117.

32. See Richard Cely's amusing account of the affair in a letter to his
brother George, written on May 13, 1482, _Cely Papers_, pp. 101-4. For
other references to the wool dealer William Midwinter see _ibid_., pp.
11, 21, 28, 30, 32, 64, 87, 89, 90, 105, 124, 128, 157, 158.

33. _Stonor Letters_, II, p. 3.

34. _Ibid_., II, p. 64.

35. _Testamenta Eboracensia_ (Surtees Soc.), II, p. 56. He was a
well-known wool merchant of York, at different times member of the town
council of twelve, sheriff and mayor, who died in 1435. He is constantly
mentioned in the city records; see _York Memorandum Book_, ed. Maud
Sellers (Surtees Soc., 1912 and 1915), vols. I and II, _passim_.

36. _Cely Papers_, pp. 30-1.

37. _Ibid_., p. 64.

38. See his will (1490) in _Test. Ebor._, IV, p. 61, where he is called
'Johannes Barton de Holme juxta Newarke, Stapulae villae Carlisiae
marcator,' and ordains 'Volo quod Thomas filius meus Johannem Tamworth
fieri faciat liberum hominem Stapulae Carlis,' _ibid_., p. 62.

39. _Ibid_., p. 45.

40. _Ibid_., p. 48.

41. _Ibid_., pp. 154-5.

42. _The Lybelle of Englysche Polycye_ in _loc. cit._, pp. 174-7,
_passim_. Compare Gower's account of the machinations of the Lombards,
_op. cit_., pp. 281-2.

43. See the clear account of all these operations in Mr Malden's
introduction to the _Cely Papers_, pp. xi-xiii, xxxviii.

44. _Ibid_., p. vii.

45. _Cely Papers_, pp. 194-6; and see _Introd_., pp. xxxvi-viii.

46. _Ibid_., pp. 71-2.

47. _Ibid_., pp. 174-88, a book entitled on the cover 'The Rekenyng of
the Margett Cely,' and beginning, 'The first viage of the Margaret of
London was to Seland in the yere of our Lord God m iiijciiijxxv. The
secunde to Caleis and the thrid to Burdews ut videt. Md to se the
pursers accomptes of the seide viages. G. Cely.'

48. _Ibid_., p. xxxviii.

49. _Stonor Letters_, II, p. 2.

50. _Ibid_., II, p. 4.

51. _Cely Papers_, pp. 112-13.

52. _Ibid_., p. 106; compare _ibid_., p. 135.

53. 'Sir, the wool ships be come to Calais all save three, whereof two
be in Sandwich haven and one is at Ostend, and he hath cast over all his
wool overboard.'--_Ibid_., p. 129. 'Item, sir, on Friday the 27 day of
February came passage from Dover and they say that on Thursday afore
came forth a passenger from Dover to Calais ward and she was chased with
Frenchmen and driven in to Dunkirk haven.'--_Ibid_., p. 142. (There are
many records of similar chases; see _Introd_., pp. xxxiv-v.)

54. _Ibid_., p. 135.

55. 'Sir, I cannot have your wool yet awarded, for I have do cast out a
sarpler, the which is [ap]pointed by the lieutenant to be casten out
toward the sort by, as the ordinance now is made that the lieutenant
shall [ap]point the [a]warding sarplers of every man's wool, the which
sarpler that I have casten out is No. 24, and therein is found by
William Smith, packer, a 60 middle fleeces and it is a very gruff wool;
and so I have caused William Smith privily to cast out another sarpler
No. 8, and packed up the wool of the first sarpler in the sarpler of No.
8, for this last sarpler is fair wool enough, and therefore I must
understand how many be of that sort and the number of the[m], for they
must be packed again' (12 Sept., 1487).--_Ibid_., p. 160. Item, sir,
your wool is awarded by the sarpler that I cast out last, etc. Item,
sir, this same day your mastership is elected and appointed here by the
Court one of the 28, the which shall assist the Master of the Staple now
at this parliament time.'-_Ibid_., p. 162.

56. Gower, _op. cit_., p. 281.

57. _Cely Papers_, pp. xii, xxiv-v.

58. _Stonor Letters_, II, pp. 62-3; see also _Cely Papers_, pp. 1, 10,

59. _Stonor Letters_, II, p. 4.

60. Chaucer, _Canterbury Tales (Shipman's Tale_) LL, 1243-6.

61. _Stonor Letters_, II, p. 48.

62. _Cely Papers_, p. xxiii.

63. _Lybelle of Englysshe Polycye_ in _loc. cit_., pp. 179-81.

64. With deference, I think that Mr Malden in his introduction to the
_Cely Papers_, App. II, pp. lii-iii, is mistaken in seeking to identify
Synchon Mart with a particular fair at Antwerp on St John's Day, Bammes
mart with the fair at St Rémy (a Flemish name for whom is Bamis) on
August 8, and Cold Mart with Cortemarck near Thourout. The names simply
refer to the seasons in which there were fairs in most of the important
centres, though doubtless in one place the winter and in another the
spring, summer, or autumn fair was the more important. That the names
refer to seasons and not to places appears quite clearly in various
letters and regulations relating to the Merchant Adventurers of York.
See _The York Mercers and Merchant Adventurers_, 1356-1917, ed. M.
Sellers (Surtees Soc., 1918), pp. 117, 121-5, 160, 170-1; see Miss
Sellers' note, _ibid_., p. 122, quoting W. Cunningham: 'The ancient
Celtic fairs ... were a widespread primitive institution and appear to
have been fixed for dates marked by the change of seasons.'--_Scottish
Hist. Review_, xiii, p. 168. For instance, a document of 1509 ('For now
att this cold marte last past, holdyn at Barow in Brabond,' _loc. cit_.
p. 121) disposes of the idea that the Cold mart was the mart at
Cortemarck, while another document refers to merchants intending to ship
'to the cold martes' and 'to the synxon martes' in the plural. _Ibid_.,
p. 123. The identification of Balms mart with the fair at St Rémy on
August 8 is, moreover, belied by the same document (1510-11), which
runs, 'Whereas this present marte ... we have lycensed and set you at
libertie to shipp your commodities to the balmes marte next coming.
Nevertheless ... we thinke it good ... that upon the recepte of these
our letters ye ... assemble and consult together, and if ye shall thinke
good amongest yourselffs ... discretly to withdraw and with holde your
hands from shippyng to the said balmes marte.... Wryten at Andwarp the
xvij day of August.' _Ibid_., p. 124. The Balms mart was obviously the
autumn fairtide, and Mr Malden is no doubt right in identifying Balms
(Bammys, Bammes) with Bamis, the local Flemish name of St Rémy; St
Rémy's Day was October 28, and the Balms mart was not the mart held on
August 8 at St Rémy, but the mart held on and round about St Rémy's
Day. Another document of 1552 gives interesting information about the
shippings for three of the marts: 'The last daye of shippinge unto the
fyrst shippinge beinge for the pasche marte is ordeyned to be the laste
of Marche nexte ensuyinge; and the seconde shippinge which is appointed
for the sinxon marte the laste day to the same, is appoynted the laste
of June then nexte followinge; and unto the colde marte the laste day of
shippinge is appoynted to be the laste of November then nexte
insuyinge.'--_Ibid_., p. 147. The Merchant Adventurers tried sometimes
to restrict merchants to the Cold and the Synxon marts, which were the
most important.

65. _Cely Papers_, p. xl, and _passim_.

66. _Ibid_., p. 74. Richard Cely the younger to George: 'I understand
that ye have a fair hawk. I am right glad of her, for I trust to God she
shall make you and me right great sport. If I were sure at what passage
ye would send her I would fetch her at Dover and keep her till ye come.
A great infortune is fallen on your bitch, for she had 14 fair whelps,
and after that she had whelped she would never eat meat, and so she is
dead and all her whelps; but I trust to purvey against your coming as
fair and as good to please that gentleman.'--_Ibid_., p. 74.

67. _Ibid_., p. xlix.

68. _Ibid_., App. I., pp. xlix-lii, a very interesting note on
contemporary coinage, identifying all the coins mentioned in
the letters.

69. _Ibid_., p. 159.

70. _Ibid_., p. 161.

71. _Stonor Letters_, II, p. 43. So Dame Elizabeth Stonor ends a letter
to her husband: 'Written at Stonor, when I would fain have slept, the
morrow after our Lady day in the morning,'--_Ibid_., p. 77.

72. Chaucer, _Canterbury Tales (Shipman's Tale_), LL, 1265-78, in
_Works_ (Globe Ed., 1903), p. 80.

73. The will is P.C.C. 24 Logge at Somerset House. For this analysis of
its contents and information about the life of Thomas Betson after his
breach with the Stonors see _Stonor Letters_, I, pp. xxviii-ix.

74. They are (1) John Bacon, citizen and woolman, and Joan, his wife
(_d_. 1437); (2) Thomas Gilbert, citizen and draper of London and
merchant of the Staple of Calais (_d_. 1483), and Agnes, his wife (_d_.
1489); (3) Christopher Rawson, mercer of London and merchant of the
Staple of Calais, Junior Warden of the Mercers' Company in 1516 (_d_.
1518), and his two wives. Thomas Betson was doubtless acquainted with
Gilbert and Rawson.



_A. Raw Material_

1. The raw material for this chapter consists of Paycocke's House,
presented to the Nation in 1924 by the Right Hon. Noel Buxton, M.P.,
which stands in West Street, Coggeshall, Essex (station, Kelvedon); the
Paycocke brasses, which lie in the North aisle of the parish church of
St Peter ad Vincula at Coggeshall; and the wills of John Paycocke (_d_.
1505), Thomas Paycocke (_d_. 1518), and Thomas Paycocke (_d_. 1580),
which are now preserved at Somerset House (P.C.C. Adeane 5, Ayloffe 14,
and Arundell 50, respectively), and of which that of the first Thomas
has been printed in Mr Beaumont's paper, cited below, while I have
analysed fully the other two in my book, _The Paycockes of Coggeshall_
(1920), which deals at length with the history of the Paycockes and
their house. See also G.F. Beaumont, _Paycocke's House, Coggeshall, with
some Notes on the Families of Paycocke and Buxton_ (reprinted from
Trans. Essex Archæol. Soc., IX, pt. V) and the same author's _History of
Coggeshall_ (1890). There is a beautifully illustrated article on the
house in _Country Life_ (June 30, 1923), vol. LIII, pp. 920-6.

2. For an apotheosis of the clothiers, see _The Pleasant History of John
Winchcomb, in his younger days called Jack of Newbery, the famous and
worthy Clothier of England_ and _Thomas of Reading, or the Six Worthy
Yeomen of the West_, in _The Works of Thomas Deloney_, ed. F.O. Mann
(1912), nos. II and V. The first of these was published in 1597 and the
other soon afterwards and both went through several editions by 1600.

3. On the cloth industry in general see G. Morris and L. Wood, _The
Golden Fleece_ (1922); E. Lipson, _The Woollen Industry_ (1921); and
W.J. Ashley, _Introd. to English Economic History_ (1909 edit.). For the
East Anglian woollen industry see especially the _Victoria County
Histories_ of Essex and Suffolk. For a charming account of another
famous family of clothiers see B. McClenaghan, _The Springs of Lavenham_
(Harrison, Ipswich, 1924).

_B. Notes to the Text_

1. _Deloney's Works_, ed. F.O. Mann, p. 213.

2. Thomas Fuller, _The Worthies of England_ (1622), p. 318.

3. A convenient introduction to the study of monumental brasses, with
illustrations and a list of all the surviving brasses in England,
arranged according to counties, is W. Macklin, _Monumental Brasses_
(1913). See also H. Druitt, _Costume on Brasses_ (1906). These books
also give details as to the famous early writers on the subject, such as
Weaver, Holman, and A.J. Dunkin.

4. _Testamenta Eboracensia, a selection of wills from the Registry at
York_, ed. James Raine, 6 vols. (Surtees Soc., 1836-1902). The Surtees
Society has also published several other collections of wills from
Durham and elsewhere, relating to the northern counties. A large number
of wills have been printed or abstracted. See, for instance, _Wills and
Inventories from the Registers of Bury St Edmunds_, ed. S. Tymms (Camden
Soc., 1850); _Calendar of Wills Proved and Enrolled in the Court of
Hastings_, _London_, ed. R.R. Sharpe, 2 vols. (1889); _The Fifty
Earliest English Wills in the Court of Probate, London_, ed. F.J.
Furnivall (E.E.T.S., 1882); _Lincoln Wills_, ed. C.W. Foster (Lincoln
Record Soc., 1914); and _Somerset Medieval Wills_, 1383-1558, ed. F.W.
Weaver, 3 vols. (Somerset Record Soc., 1901-5).

5. The will of the other Thomas Paycocke 'cloathemaker', who died in
1580, also refers to the family business. He leaves twenty shillings 'to
William Gyon my weaver'; also 'Item, I doe give seaven poundes tenne
shillinges of Lawful money of Englande to and amongest thirtie of the
poorest Journeymen of the Fullers occupacion in Coggeshall aforesaide,
that is to every one of them fyve shillinges.' William Gyon or Guyon was
related to a very rich clothier, Thomas Guyon, baptized in 1592 and
buried in 1664, who is said to have amassed £100,000 by the trade.
Thomas Paycocke's son-in-law Thomas Tyll also came of a family of
clothiers, for in a certificate under date 1577 of wool bought by
clothiers of Coggeshall during the past year there occur the names of
Thomas Tyll, William Gyon, John Gooddaye (to whose family the first
Thomas Paycocke left legacies), Robert Lytherland (who receives a
considerable legacy under the will of the second Thomas), and Robert
Jegon (who is mentioned incidentally in the will as having a house near
the church and was father of the Bishop of Norwich of that name). See
Power, _The Paycockes of Coggeshall_, pp. 33-4.

6. Quoted in Lipson, _Introd. to the Econ. Hist, of England_ (1905), I,
p. 421.

7. Quoted _ibid_., p. 417.

8. On John Winchcomb see Power, _op. cit_., pp. 17-18; and Lipson, _op.
cit_., p. 419.

9. Deloney's Works, ed. F.C. Mann, pp. 20-1.

10. _Ibid_., p. 22.

11. Quoted in C.L. Powell, _Eng. Domestic Relations_, 1487-1563 (1917),
p. 27.

12. The house subsequently passed, it is not quite clear at what date,
into the hands of another family of clothiers, the Buxtons, who had
intermarried with the Paycockes some time before 1537. William Buxton
(_d_. 1625) describes himself as 'clothyer of Coggeshall' and leaves
'all my Baey Lombs [Looms]' to his son Thomas. Thomas was seventeen when
his father died and lived until 1647, also carrying on business as a
clothier, and the house was certainly in his possession. He or his
father may have bought it from John Paycocke's executors. By him it was
handed down to his son Thomas, also a clothier (_d_. 1713), who passed
it on to his son Isaac, clothier (_d_. 1732). Isaac's two eldest sons
were clothiers likewise, but soon after their father's death they
retired from business. He apparently allowed his third son, John, to
occupy the house as his tenant, and John was still living there in 1740.
But Isaac had left the house by will in 1732 to his youngest son,
Samuel, and Samuel, dying in 1737, left it to his brother Charles, the
fourth son of Isaac. Charles never lived in it, because he spent most of
his life in the pursuit of his business as an oil merchant in London,
though he is buried among his ancestors in Coggeshall Church. In 1746 he
sold the house to Robert Ludgater and it passed completely out of the
Paycocke-Buxton connexion, and in the course of time fell upon evil days
and was turned into two cottages, the beautiful ceilings being plastered
over. It was on the verge of being destroyed some years ago when it was
bought and restored to its present fine condition by Mr Noel Buxton, a
direct lineal descendant of the Charles Buxton who sold it. See Power,
_op. cit_., pp. 38-40.

13. _Deloney's Works_, ed. F.O. Mann, p. 213.

14. Defoe, _Tour through Great Britain_, 1724 (1769 edit.), pp. 144-6.

15. 'This shire is the most fatt, frutefull and full of profitable
thinges, exceeding (as far as I can finde) anie other shire for the
general commodities and the plentie, thowgh Suffolk be more highlie
comended by some (wherewith I am not yet acquainted). But this shire
seemeth to me to deserve the title of the Englishe Goshen, the fattest
of the lande, comparable to Palestina, that flowed with milk and
hunnye.'--Norden, _Description of Essex_ (1594), (Camden Soc.), p. 7.

16. According to Leake, writing about 1577, 'About 1528 began the first
spinning on the distaffe and making of Coxall clothes.... These Coxall
clothes weare first taught by one Bonvise, an Italian.'--Quoted _V.C.H.
Essex_, II, p. 382.

_Notes on Illustrations_

PLATE I. _Bodo at his work_

From an eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon calendar in the British Museum (MS.
Tit., B.V., pt. I), showing the occupations of Bodo, or of his masters,
for each month of the year. The months illustrated are January
(ploughing with oxen), March (breaking clods in a storm), August
(reaping), and December (threshing and winnowing). The other pictures
represent February (pruning), April (Bodo's masters feasting), May
(keeping sheep), June (mowing), July (woodcutting), September (Bodo's
masters boar-hunting), October (Bodo's masters hawking), and November
(making a bonfire).

PLATE II. _Embarkation of the Polos at Venice_

From the magnificent MS. of Marco Polo's book, written early in the
fifteenth century and now preserved at the Bodleian Library, Oxford (MS.
no. 264, f. 218). The artist gives an admirable view of medieval Venice,
with the Piazetta to the left, and the Polos embarking on a rowing boat
to go on board their ship. In the foreground are depicted (after the
medieval fashion of showing several scenes of a story in the same
picture) some of the strange lands through which they passed. Note the
Venetian trading ships.

PLATE III. _Part of a landscape roll by Chao Mêng-fu_

This very beautiful scene is taken from a roll painted by Chao Mêng-fu
in 1309 in the style of Wang Wei, a poet and artist of the T'ang dynasty
(A.D. 699-759). A fine description of it is given by Mr Laurence Binyon:
'In the British Museum collection is a long roll, over seventeen feet
long, painted almost entirely in blues and greens on the usual warm
brown silk.... It is one continuous landscape, in which the scenes melt
into one another. Such rolls are not meant to be exhibited or looked at
all at once, but enjoyed in small portions at a time, as the painting is
slowly unrolled and the part already seen rolled up again. No small
mastery is requisite, as may be imagined, to contrive that wherever the
spectator pauses an harmonious composition is presented. One has the
sensation, as the roll unfolds, of passing through a delectable country.
In the foreground water winds, narrowing and expanding, among verdant
knolls and lawns, joined here and there by little wooden bridges; and
the water is fed by torrents that plunge down among pine-woods from
crags of fantastic form, glowing with hues of lapis-lazuli and jade;
under towering peaks are luxuriant valleys, groves with glimpses of
scattered deer, walled parks, clumps of delicate bamboo, and the distant
roofs of some nestling village. Here and there is a pavilion by the
water in which poet or sage sits contemplating the beauty round him.
These happy and romantic scenes yield at last to promontory and reed-bed
on the borders of a bay where a fisherman's boat is rocking on the
swell. It is possible that a philosophic idea is intended to be
suggested--the passage of the soul through the pleasant delights of
earth to the contemplation of the infinite.'--Laurence Binyon, _Painting
in the Far East_ (1908), pp. 75-6. The section of the roll which has
been chosen for reproduction here has already been reproduced in S.W.
Bushell, _Chinese Art_ (1910), II, Fig. 127, where it is thus described:
'A lake with a terraced pavilion on an island towards which a visitor is
being ferried in a boat, while fishermen are seen in another boat
pulling in their draw-net; the distant mountains, the pine-clad hills in
the foreground, the clump of willow opposite, and the line of reeds
swaying in the wind along the bank of the water are delightfully
rendered, and skilfully combined to make a characteristic
picture.'--_Ibid_., II, p. 134. Other sections of the same roll are
reproduced in H.A. Giles, _Introd. to the Hist, of Chinese Pictorial
Art_ (2nd ed., 1918) facing p. 56; and in L. Binyon, _op. cit_., plate
III (facing p. 66). It is exceedingly interesting to compare this
landscape roll with the MS of Marco Polo, illuminated about a century
later, from which the scene of the embarkation at Venice has been taken;
the one is so obviously the work of a highly developed and the other of
an almost naïve and childish civilization.

PLATE IV. _Madame Eglentyne at home_

This is a page from a fine manuscript of _La Sainte Abbaye_, now in the
British Museum (MS. Add. 39843, f. 6 vo). At the top of the picture a
priest with two acolytes prepares the sacrament; behind them stands the
abbess, holding her staff and a book, and accompanied by her chaplain
and the sacristan, who rings the bell; behind them is a group of four
nuns, including the cellaress with her keys, and nuns are seen at the
windows of the dorter above. At the bottom is a procession of priest,
acolytes and nuns in the choir; notice the big candles carried by the
young nuns (perhaps novices) in front, and the notation of the
music books.

PLATE V. _The Ménagier's wife has a garden party_

This beautiful scene is taken from a fifteenth-century manuscript of the
_Roman de la Rose_ (Harl. MS. 4425), which is one of the greatest
treasures of the British Museum.

PLATE VI. _The Ménagier's wife cooks his supper with the aid of his

From MS. Royal, 15 D. I, f. 18, in the British Museum which is part of a
_petite bible historiale_, or biblical history, by Guyart des Moulins,
expanded by the addition of certain books of the Bible, in French. It
was made at Bruges by the order of Edward IV, King of England by one J.
du Ries and finished in 1470, so that it is about eighty years later
than the Ménagier's book. The illustration represents a scene from the
story of Tobias; Tobit, sick and blind, is lying in bed, and his wife
Anna is cooking by the fire, with the help of a book and a serving maid.
The right-hand half of the picture, which is not reproduced here, shows
the outside of the house, with Tobias bringing in the angel Raphael. The
illuminated border of the page from which this scene is taken contains
the arms of Edward IV, with the garter and crown.

PLATE VII. _Calais about the time of Thomas Betson_

This plan of Calais in 1546 is reproduced from a 'Platt of the Lowe
Countrye att Calleys, drawne in October, the 37th Hen. VIII, by Thomas
Pettyt,' now in the British Museum. (Cott. MS. Aug. I, vol. II, no. 70).
There is only room to show the top corner of the plan, with the drawing
of Calais itself, but the whole plan is charming, with its little
villages and great ships riding in the channel.

PLATE VIII. _Thomas Paycocke's house at Coggeshall_

From a photograph of the front of the house, standing on the street.
Note the long carved breastsummer that supports the overhanging upper
story. On the left can be seen, much foreshortened, the archway and
double doors of linen fold panels. The windows are renovations on the
original design, flat sash windows having been put in in the
eighteenth century.


Acqui, Jacapo of, 66, 182
Acre, 51, 53
Adrianople, 7, 42
Adriatic, 39, 41, 42, 63, 179
Aegean, 42, 179
Aelfric, _Colloquium_, 174, 175
Agnes, Dame, _see_ Beguine
Aldgate, 121
Alexander, 54
Alexandria, 40, 42
Alnwick, William, Bishop of Lincoln, 77, 184
Ambrose, 9
Andaman Islands, 69, 70
Anglia, East, 153, 156
Antilha, Antilles, 72, 183
Antwerp, 121, 145, 147
Arab, Arabia, 43, 47, 61, 171
Ararat, Mount, 54
Aretino, Pietro, 180
Arghun, Khan of Persia, 60, 61
Armenia, 42, 49, 53, 179
Arnold, Matthew, 51
Arras, 147
Asia: Central, 40, 49, 50, 51, 54, 67, 71, 72;
  Minor, 49
Attila, 8, 49
Audley, Lady, 91
Augustine, St, 9, 175
Augustus, 3
Ausonius, 5 ff;
  his country estate, 6 ff;
  his friends, 6 ff;
  and University of Bordeaux, 5
Austin Friars, 93
Auvergne, 5 ff

Bacon, Francis, 122
Badakhshan, 43, 54, 67
Bagdad, 43, 54
Baku, 54
Bale: Peter, 131;
  Wyllikyn, 131
Balk, 54
Ballard: James, 127;
  Jane, 127
Balms (_Bammers, Bamis, Bammys_)
  Mart, 147, 193
Barbarians, 1-17
Babarian invasions, 7
Bardi, 71
Barton, John, of Holme, 138
Base, Jacob van de, 149
Bath, Wife of, 84, 104, 118, 152
Bayard, 138
_Bays and Says_, 172
Beauchamp St Pauls, 169, 170
Becerillo, 33
_Beguine_, Dame Agnes the, 107, 116, 117
Bellela, _see_ Polo
Benedict, St, 81, 82, 184
Betson: Agnes, Alice, Elizabeth,
  John, Thomas (the younger), 150;
  Katherine, _see_ Riche
Betson, Thomas; Chap VI _passim_, 158;
  children of, 150; death of, 150;
  illness of, 133-5;
  letters of, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 189;
  member of Fishmongers Company, 150;
  partnership with Sir W. Stonor, 125, 137;
  will of, 134, 150, 194
Bevice, Mistress, 134
Bishops' registers, 74, 75, 76, 78, 183
_Bicorne_, 104
Black Death, 108, 109
Black Prince, 19
Black Sea, 40, 42, 50, 71
Blakey, Sir Roger, 127
Booking, 154
Bodo, Chap _II passim_, 18-38, 174-5, 198
Bokhara, 51, 52
Bolgana, wife of Khan of Persia, 60
Bordeaux, Burdews, 142; University of, 6
Bordelais, the, 6, 7
Brabant, 146, 148
Brad well, 140
Brasses, 123, 136, 151, 155, 156, 157, 159, 190, 195
Braunch, Robert, 156
Brenner Pass, 40
Brescia, Albertano de, 99
Breten, Will, 137
Brews, Margery, 125-6
Bridge, John, 119
Briggs, Henry, 169
Brightlingsea, 140
Brinkley, 135
Brittany, 147
Broadway, Whyte of, 137
_Brogger_, 137
Bruges, 121, 122, 145, 147, 178
Bruyant, Jean, 100
Bucephalus, 54
Buddha, 59
Bullinger, Henry, 165
Burgundy, Dukes of, 114, 148
Burma, 57, 67
Bury, 15
Busshe, John, 137
Buxton: Charles, Isaac, Samuel, Thomas, William, 197;
  Mr Noel, 195
Byzantium, _see_ Constantinople

Caffa, 42
Calais, 121, 125, 137, 138, 139, 140,
  142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148,
  150, 200
Cambaluc (see Peking), 57, 59, 60,
  61, 67
Cambrensis, Giraldus, 176
Canale, Martino da, 43-5, 48, 50, 177,
  179, 180
Candia, 42
Canterbury, 74
_Canterbury Tales_, 74, 75, 91, 183, 186
Canton, 70
Ca' Polo, 62, 63
Carrara, Francesco, 179
Carsy, Anthony, 149
Caspian Sea, 40, 54
Cassiodorus, 39, 180
Castro, Diego da, 149
Cathay (_see also_ China), 47, 50, 58,
  70, 71, 72, 178
Caucasus, 49, 180
Cely: family of wood merchants,
  137-47 _passim_; George, 125, 137,
  138, 142, 147; Richard, 125, 137,
  138, 142; William, 125, 138, 142,
_Cely papers_, 125, 137, 142, 145, 147,
  148, 189
Ceylon, 43, 47, 61, 70
Chagatai, Khan of, 51
Chao Mêng-fu, 59, 182, 198
Chao Yung, 59
Charlemagne, 2, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27,
  30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 74, 176
Charms (_see also_ superstition), 27-9,
  100, 116, 175
Châtelet, 100
Chaucer, 26, 43, 74, 75, 81, 88, 89,
  90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 99, 104, 112,
  119, 138, 142, 148, 152, 183
Chelmsford, 168
Chesne, Jean du, 114
_Chichevache_, 104
Chi'en Hsüan, 59
Child-marriages, 126-7, 190
Chilperic, King, 2, 13
Chilterns, 125
China (_see also_ Cathay), 43, 46-50,
  52, 57-61, 66, 67-70, 178, 180, 181
Chioggia, War of, 179
Church, attitude to: child marriages,
  126, 190; convent pets, 91; dancing,
  30, 31, 88; decline of Roman
Empire, 9; monastic intercourse
  with the world, 92, 93; nuns'
  dowries, 78; superstition, 28, 29,
  30; attack on worldliness of, 74;
  bequests to (_see also_ Wills), 151,
  168; brasses in, _see_ brasses;
  councils of, 174
Churches of: Barking, All Hallows,
  123,151; Beauchamp St Pauls, 168;
  Bradwell, 168; Calais, Our Lady,
  151; Chipping Campden, 123;
  Chipping Norton, 123; Cirencester,
  123, 157; Clare, 164, 168;
  Coggeshall, St Peter ad Vincula,
  157, 159, 168, 172, 195; Constantinople,
  St Sophia, 41; East Anglia,
  159; Lechlade, 123; London, St
  Olave's, 124; Linwood, 123, 190;
  Markswell, 168; Newbury, 163;
  Newland, 157; Northleach, 136,
  157; Ovington, 168; Pattiswick,
  168; Peking, 71; Poslingford, 168;
  Stoke Nayland, 168; Venice, St
  Mark's, 41, 44, 46, 60, 66, 179
Cipangu (Japan), 72, 183
Cistercian, Citeaux, 83, 136
Clare, 154, 164, 168, 178
Clarke, Thomas, 144
Cloth, _see_ Chapter VII _passim_, 195;
  capitalism in industry, 164; Coxall's
  whites, 178, 197; growth of
  English manufacture of, 122-3;
  makers of, 120, 161; merchants of,
  _see_ Merchants, Paycocke, Staple;
  processes in manufacture, 153, 154,
  161, 164; where made, 122-3, 154,
Cochin China, 57, 67
Coggeshall, _see_ Chapter VII _passim_,
  154, 155, 159, 160, 164, 166, 167,
  168, 169, 170, 172
Coinage, debasement and rates of
  exchange of, 148
Coins: crown, new and old, of
  France, 148; David, of Utrecht,
  148; Falewe, of Utrecht, 148;
  florin, Rhenau, 148; groat,
  Carolus, Hettinus, Limburg, of
  Milan, of Nimueguen, 148, 149;
  Venetian, 48; guilder, Andrew
  (of Scotland), Arnoldus (of Gueldres)
  Rhenish, 148, 149; Lewe,
  Louis d'or, 148; noble, 148;
  Philippus (Philipe d'or) of Brabant,
  148; Plaques, of Utrecht,
  148; Postlate, 148; Rider, Scots, of
  Burgundy, 148; Ryall, English,
  148; Setiller, 148
Colchester, 140, 154, 168
Cold Mart, 147, 193
Coleridge, 57
Colne, curate of, 127
Cologne, 148
_Coloni_, 21-2
Columbina, The (Seville), 183
Columbus, 71, 183
Company: East India ('John Company'),
  156; Fishmongers, 150;
  Haberdashers, 151; Mercers, 149;
  Merchant Adventurers, 122; Staplers.
  Chapter VI _passim_
Compline, 79, 82
_Consrater_, 168
Constantinople (_see_ Byzantium), 41,
  42, 46, 50, 51, 62
Convent, _see_ Nunneries
Cookery, Medieval, 100, 112-17, 186
Corea, 49
_Corte Milioni_, 63
Cotswolds, 123, 125, 129, 136, 137,
  138, 145, 147, 150
Cotton, Ann, 166
Court Rolls, 26
Coverdale, 165
Coxall, _see_ Coggeshall
_Coxall's Whites_, 178, 197
Crimea, 42, 50
Croke, Mistress, 129
Crusader, Crusades, 41, 157

Dalmatia, 41, 42
Dalton, William, 141, 144
Damaghan, 180
Dancing: at clothier's wedding, 165;
  Church's attitude to, 30, 31, 88;
  in churchyard, 30, 31; of dancers
  of Kölbigk, 30, 176; of nun at
  Northampton, 93
Dandolo, Doge, Enrico, 41
Danube, River, 49
Danyell, John, 141
Dardanelles, 40
Dean, Forest of, 157
Decasoun, Benynge, 149
Dedham, 154
Defoe, 152, 167
Defuye, Gabriel, 149
Deloney, Thomas, 160, 163-4, 165,
  167, 195
Delowppys, John, 149
Denys, St, Abbey of, 36; fair of, 36,
Destermer, John, 137
Dogs, 33, 90, 91, 103, 117, 147, 156
Dogaressa, 45
Doges, 42, 44-6, 63, 179
Dolman, Thomas, 161
_Domesday Book_, 20
Dominic, Dominican, 53, 66
Don, River, 180
Donata, _see_ Polo
Doria, Lamba, 63

Edith, St, 176
Edward II, 75
Edward III, 19, 75
Eglentyne, Madame (_see_ Chapter IV
  _passim_), _see also_ Nunnery, Prioress
Egypt, 40, 42
Einhard, 31, 32, 33, 174, 175
Elias, Master, 114, 116
Elizabeth, Queen, 120
Elmes, John, of Henley, 137, 156
England, 40, 121, 122, 123, 147, 152,
  153, 155, 163
Ermentrude, wife of Bodo, 24-38,
Ermoin, 24
Eryke, Robert, 143
Essex, 140, 154, 168, 172, 197
Euric, King, 10
Ewen, Robert, 142
Exchange, rates of, 148-9
Exeter: Bishop of, 75, 184; Canons
  of, 82

Fairs, 36, 37, 147, 193. _See_ Marts
Fantina, _see_ Polo
Felmersham, wife of, 87
Fisc, 20
Flanders, 40, 121, 122, 123, 139, 142,
  145, 150, 178
Flemings, 138, 145, 146, 147
Flodden Field, 163
Florence, 71, 145
Fo-Kien, 58
_Fondaco_, 71
Fortey: John, 123; Thomas, 123
Fortunatus, 12 ff
Frambert, 24
France, French, 40, 42, 50, 78, 79,
  108; _see also_ Gaul
Franciscan: convents, 71; friars, 49,
  70, 71; nuns, 129; tertiaries, 107
Franks, 12 ff, 27
Fredegond, 13
Friars: Austin, 93; of Chelmsford,
  168; of Clare, 168; Crutched, of
  Colchester, 168; Franciscan, 49,
  50; of Maldon, 168; of Sudbury,
Frisia, 37
Fuller, Thomas, 154, 162
Fyldes, Welther, 141

Gallo-Roman civilization, 5 ff
Games, medieval, 168, 187
Gall, Monk of St, 32, 33, 174, 176
Gascon, 147
Gaul, 5 ff
Genoa, 42, 63, 64, 145, 149, 179, 182
Georgia, 49
Germain des Pres, Abbey of, 19-23,
  27-8, 174
Germans, Germany, 2, 4, 5, 7, 14, 40,
Gerbert, 23, 33
Ghent, 122
Gibraltar, 40
Gilds (_see also_ Companies); procession
  of, at Venice, 45, 48;
  restrictions of, 153
Gloucestershire, 136
Gobi, Desert of, 55
Goës, Benedict, 54
Golconda, 43
Golden Horde, 49, 50
Gooday (Coggeshall family), 159,
Goths, 7, 8
Gower, 123, 144, 190
Graunger, Thomas, 141, 144
Greece, 42
Gregory X, 53
Gregory of Tours, 12 ff
Grève, Place de, 114
Grevel (Greville) William, 123
Griselda, 100, 104, 105, 118, 119
Groat (_see_ Coins), 48, 123, 148, 149
Guelder, Guilder, Gulden (_see_ coins),
  123, 148, 149
Guntrum, King, 13

Hainault, Philippa of, 75
Halitgart, 175
Halstead, 154
Hangchow (_see also_ Kinsai), 45-8,
  57, 61, 70, 71, 180
Hansard, 147
Haroun el Raschid, 33
Hautecourt, wedding of, 114
Hedin, Sven, 67
Henham, Thomas, 135, 140, 143, 145,
Henley, _see_ Elmes, John
Henry VIII, 93, 120, 148
_Heptameron_, 187
Hildegard, 23, 24
Hiwen Thsang, 67
Hoangho, River, 47
Holake, _see_ Howlake
Holme, _see_ Barton, John
Holy Roman Emperor, 40, 42
Hormuz, 54
Horrold: Margaret, 166; Thomas, 166
House of Lords, 120
Howlake, Thomas, 140, 145
_Hugh, St, Tale of_, 94
Hull, 140, 141
Hun, 8, 49
Hungarian, 42, 49
Hundred Years War, 19, 155
Huntington, Ellsworth, 67

India, 47, 54, 57, 61, 70
Indian Ocean, 54
Indies, 43, 47
Indo-China, 43, 47, 49
Inns: the 'Dragon' (Coggeshall),
  170; the 'Fleece' (Coggeshall),
  154; the 'Tabard' (Southwark), 78;
  the 'Woolpack' (Coggeshall),
Ipswich, 143
Irminon, Abbot of St Germain des
  Pres, Estate book of, 19-25, 26, 28,
Islam, 71
Isomachus, 96, 97
Italy, Italian, 70; _see also_ Florence,
  Genoa, Venice, etc.

Jamui, Queen of Kublai Khan, 61
Japan, 67
Java, 49, 67
Jerusalem, 41, 53
Jews, 13, 37
Johnson, Doctor, 156
Judea, 37
Julian the Apostate, 2, 7
Justices, itinerant, 35, 36

Karakorum, 50, 57
Kashgar, 54
Kerman, 54
Khan: of Central Asia, 50; of Kipchak,
  51; of Persia, 51, 52, (_see also_
  Mangu, Kublai)
Khorassan, 54
Khotan, 54, 67
Kinsai (_see also_ Hangchow), 45-8,
  57, 59, 181
Kipchak, 51, 61
Kölbigk, dancers of, 30, 176
Kuan, 59
Kublai Khan, 52, 53, 56, 57, 59, 60,
  61, 63, 64, 65, 66, 71
Lagny, Abbot of, 114
Lajazzo, 54
Lamberton, _see_ Turbot, Robert
Lancaster, Thomas of, 75
Langland, 26, 118
Laos, 67
Lauds, 79
Leadenhall, 140
Letters, _see_ Cely, Paston, Plumpton,
Levant, 40, 42, 47, 48
_Libelle of Englyshe Policye_, 146, 189
Lincoln, 77, 89
Linwood, 123, 190
Lob, lake, 54
Lokyngton, John, 141
Lollington, John, 136, 141
Lombard, Peter, 119
Lombards, the, 42, 138, 139, 149
Lombard Street, 149
Lombardy, 37
London, 123, 129, 130, 137, 138, 140,
  141, 142, 143, 149
Louens, Renault de, 99
Louis, St, 36; the Pious, 30, 31
Louvain, 147
Lucca, 147
Lucolongo, Peter, of 71
Ludgater, Robert, 197
Lyndeshay, 137
Lyndwood (Lyndewode): John, 123,
  190; William, 126
Lyndys, William, 141
Lynn, 156, 159
Lyons, 10

Madagascar, 43, 70
Maidstone, 140, 141, 142
Major, _see_ Steward
Malabar, 43, 47, 57
Maldon, 168
Manchuria, 49
Manji, 43, 61
Mangu Khan, 49
Mann, John, 170
Manor, _see_ Bodo, 150
Manse, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25
Mansi. _See_ Manji
Marcus Aurelius, 2, 3, 4
Marignolli, John, 70
Marino Faliero, 63
Mark Lane, 140, 150
Markshall, 168
Marmora, Sea of, 42
Marts, 147, 150, 193. _See_ Fairs
Mass, 44, 71, 80, 99, 117
Matins, 79, 82
Mechlin, 122
Mediterranean, 15, 42, 43
Medway, 140, 142
'Meg', a hawk, 138
Melaria, 64
_Melibeus and Prudence_, 99, 186
Ménagier de Paris, Chap. V _passim_
  127, 185; on accounts, 188; on
  cookery, 100, 112, 113, 114, 115,
  116, 186; on deportment, 99, 102-3,
  116; on duty to husband, 99,
  101, 103-7, 118; on extermination
  of insects, in, 112; on games, 101,
  117, 187; on garments and household
  linen, 98, 99, 102, 111, 112,
  117, 188; on management of farm,
  100; on servants, 100, 102, 107-111,
  114, 115, 117, 118; on wife's
  second marriage, 98, 114
Mercers, 149
Merchant Adventurers, 122, 193
Merchant: Arab, 47; Chinese, 46, 47,
  58, 71; English, _see_ Betson, Company
  Merchant Adventurers, Paycocke,
  Staple; Indian, 47; Italian,
  149; Roman, 1 ff; Spanish, 149;
  Venetian, _see_ Venice, trade of,
  marks of, 153, 157, 158, 159; repair
  of roads by, 169
Merovingian, 13
Meung, Jean de, 99
Middleburgh, 142
Middle classes: growth of, 158;
  houses of, 158, 159; ménagier as
  type of, 158
Midwinter, William, 136, 137
Milhall, 140
Milton, 140
Minoresses, 129
Minstrels, 31, 32, 38
_Missi dominici, see_ Justices
Money, _see_ Coins
Mongol, 58, 60, 178, 182
Mongolia, 49, 55, 57, 67
Monte Corvino, John of, 70
Montfort, Simon de, 75
More, Lewis, 149
Moreta. _See_ Polo
Moslem, 42, 49
Mosul, 54
_Myroure of Our Ladye_, 83, 185
Navarre, Margaret of, 187
Navy: Genoese, 42, 63; Vandal, 15;
  Venetian, 45, 64
Nestorian, 49, 182
Netherlands, 122, 123, 152
Newark, 138
Newbury, 161; Jack of (John Winchcomb),
  152, 162, 163-4, 195
Newhithe, 141
Nicobar, 70
Nile, 40
None, 79
Norman, Normandy, 155
Northampton, 93, 141
Northleach, 123, 136, 137, 138
Norwich, 154

Nunneries, Chap. IV _passim_, and
  129, 184; of Minoresses, 129; at
  Stainfield, 82; of Syon, 83; of
  Wilton, 176; bishops' visits to, 76-8;
  Chaucer's sources for study of,
  74; dissolution of, 78, 93; fashions
  in, 88, 89; management of, 85-7;
  mentioned in wills, 157; paying
  guests in, 87, 91; pets in, 90, 91;
  schoolgirls in, 80, 92; silence hours
  in, 80; sources for study of, 184
Nuns (_see_ Eglentyne, Nunneries,
  Prioress, Chap. IV _passim_), 200;
  clothes of, 88, 89; complaints of,
  to bishop, 76-8, 85, 92; dowries of,
  78-9; intercourse of, with the
  world, 92-4; meals of, 79; offices
  of, 79; periods of silence of, 80;
  pets of, 90, 91; recreations of, 88;
  work of, 80

Orewelle (Orwell), 142
Orleans, Bishop of, 35
Orosius, 9
Ovington, 169, 170
Ovis Poli, 54
Oxbridge, Goddard, 140
Oxus, River, 51, 54

Paris, 23, 36, 73, 100, 107, 108, 114
Parliament, 190
_Pask_ (Pasche) Mart, 147, 193
Paston, John, 126; Letters, 125, 190
Pattiswick, 168
Paulinus, St, of Nela, 5
Paycocke: Emma, 166; John, 157,
  165; John, jun., 166; Margaret,
  165, 166; Robert, 166; Robert,
  jun., 166; Thomas, jun., 157;
  Thomas, Chap. VII _passim, see
  also_ Cloth; bequests of, 168,
  _see_ Will of; brasses of family of,
  157, 195; burial ceremonies of,
  171-2; character of, 167; child of,
  166, 171; _consrater_ of Crutched
  Friars, 168; death of, 166, 171;
  friends of, 168; house of, 156, 158,
  165, 170, 195, 200; merchant mark
  of, 158, 159; repairs roads, 169;
  second wife of, 166, 169, 171;
  wedding of, 165; will of, 157, 158,
  159, 166, 167, 168, 169, 195, 196
Pegolotti, Francis Balducci, 71
Peking (_see also_ Cambaluc, China,
  Polo), 49, 57, 60, 71; ambassadors
  sent to, 60; Archbishop of, 70;
  description of, by Oderic of Pordenone,
  70; papal legate, to, 70;
  Tartar rule in, 49
Pembroke, William, Earl of, 99
Perpendicular architecture, 152, 155,
Perpoint, Thomas, 161
Persia, 40, 42, 49, 51, 54, 61, 67
Peter the Tartar, 66
Petrarch, 100, 179, 180
Piacenza, Tebaldo di, 53
Pian da Carpine (_see_ Piano Carpini)
Pierre an Lait, 114
_Piers Plowman_, 84, 169
Pilgrims' Way, 140
Piano Carpini, John of, 50, 181
_Pleasant History of Jack of Newbury_,
  162, 195
Plumpton Letters, 190
  Bellela, Donata, Fantina, Moreta,
  Maffeo, 50-7
  Marco, _see_ Chap. Ill _passim_, 177,
    Kublai Khan; attendant on
    Khan, 55; book of, 54 ff, 63,
    67, 185, 198; death of, 66; departure
    from China of, 60;
    father of (_see_ Maffeo), 50-75;
    governor of Yangchow, 57,
    182; interest in Tartars, 48-50;
    journeys of, 54-62, 181; mention
    of, in Venetian records,
    65; nicknamed _Il Milione_, 63;
    prisoner of Genoese, 64-5;
    released by Genoese, 65; return
    to Venice of, 62; sent on
    mission by Khan, 57; stories
    of, about Khan, 64-6; uncle of,
    50-7, 181; wife and family,
  Nicolo, 50-71
_Polyptychum_, 174
Pope, 40, 41, 50, 52, 53, 70, 93
Pordenone, Ordoric of, 58, 70, 180
Porte-de-Paris, 114
Prester John, 49, 181
Prioress, _see_ Eglentyne, Nunneries,
  Nuns, Chap. IV _passim_, 183;
  in bishop's registers, 74-8; clothes
  of, 88, 89, 90; complaints by nuns
  of, 76-8, 85, 92; entertainment of
  visitors by, 86, 87; intercourse of,
  with world, 92, 93-4; pets of, 90,
  91; treatment of nuns by, 84; work
  of, 85, 86, 87, 92
Prime, 79
Prologue: of _Canterbury Tales_, 73-4,
  89, 94, 95, 113, 130, 142, 186; of
  Ménagier de Paris, 97

Quentin, la'Quentine, Jehanne, 105,
Quincey, de, 26, 175

Rade, Daniel and Peter van de, 145
Ragenold, 24
Rainham, 140, 141
Ramsbotham, Elizabeth, 127
Ramusio, 62, 182
Raynold, John, 149
Reading, Thomas of, 152, 195
Reformation, 30, 170
Remy, Saint, 147
Renault de Louens, 99
Revolution, Industrial, 120, 154, 120
Reyner, 169
Rialto, 43, 64
Ricimer, 8
Riche: Anne, 130; Elizabeth, 125,
  _see_ Stoner, Elizabeth, Jane, 131
  135; Katherine, 126-33, 140, 150,
Rigmarden, John, 127
Roman: civilization, 2; Emperor
1-17; villa, 3, 6, 155

_Roman de la Rose_, 99
Rome, Chap. I _passim_, 46, 87, 155
Roman Empire, 1-17, 27, 42, 155
  decline of, 1-17; reasons for disintegration
  of, 14-17; trade of, 1 ff?
Romsey Abbey, 91
Rotherhithe, 140
Rouen, 37
_Round Table_, 32, 65
Rubruck, William of, 50, 54, 181
Rumania, 42
Rumney wine, 131
Russell, Richard, 137
Russia, 42, 49
Rusticiano, 64, 65, 182

Salvian of Marseilles, 8
St Gothard Pass, 40
St Sophia, 42
Saleby, Grace de, 127
Samarcand, 50
Sanly, Peter, 149
Sandwich, 143
Sext, 79
Shalford, 154
Shandu, Xanadu, 57
Shansi, 56, 59
Shensi, 47, 56
Ships, 136, 140, 142, 143, 192;
  masters of, 141, 142; names of,
  136, 141-3
Siam, 67
Siberia, 49, 70
Sicily, 42
Sidonius Apollinaris, 5, 8 ff; and his
  villa, 9; and siege of Clermont,
  10 ff
Socrates, 96
_Sohrab and Rustum_, 51
Soldaia, 50
Somerset House, 150, 155
Sordyvale, William, 134
Spain, Spaniards, Spanish, 37, 122
spices, 47, 48
Spice Islands, 70
Spooner, Thomas, 170
Stainfield, 82
Stamford, 144
Staple, Chap. VI _passim, see_ Betson,
  merchant; banking facilities of,
  148; benefits of, 121, 122; brasses
  of merchants of, 123, 156; business
  of merchants of, 120-51;
  competition of, with Merchant
  Adventurers, 122; history of company
  of, 189; location of, 121;
  Merchants of the, Chap. VI
  _passim_; organization of, 121;
  regulations of, 121, 139, 140, 144,
  145; wills of merchants of, 123;
  _see also_ Betson, Wills
Starkey, Humphrey, 134
Stein, Sir Aurel, 67
Stepney, 135
Steward: Charlemagne's instructions
  to, 19, 22, 24, 36; Master John the,
  100, 108-9, 115-16; of Villaris, 20,
  21, 22-4
Stoke Nayland, 168
Stonor: Dame Elizabeth, 129, 130
  131, 132, 133, 135; Humphrey,
  160; Letters, 125, 136, 145, 189;
  Sir William, 125, 129-30, 134, 136, 145
Strabant, Gynott, 149
Stratford-Atte-Bowe, 73, 78
Strossy, Marcy, 149
Suchow, Sugui, 48, 51, 64
Sudbury, 154
Suffolk, 153
Sugui, _see_ Suchow
Sumatra, 61, 63, 67
Sung dynasty, 46, 59, 61
Superstition (_see_ Charms), 27-9, 175
Symmachus, 5, 6
_Synxon_ (Synchon) Mart, 147, 193
Syon Abbey, 83
Syria, 37, 40-2
Szechuen, 56

Tabriz, 62
Tacitus, 4
Tana, 71
Tangut, 55, 57, 59, 63
Tartar(s), 49-52, 57, 62, 66-71, 178,
  _see also_ Marco Polo; attitude of
  West to, 49; embassy of, 52; fall of
  dynasty of, 71; modern books on,
  178; Peter the, 66; power of, 49;
  princess, 61, 70; slaves, 66
Tartary, 49, 50, 63
Tate, John, 134, 137
Taylor, Robert, 160
Templars, 53
Temyngton, 144.
_Testamenta Eboracensia_, 157, 154,
  191, 196
Thames, 156
Theodulf, Bishop of Orleans, 35
Tibet, 43, 47, 49, 57, 66, 67
Tiepolo, Doge Lorenzo, 44, 45, 50
Tierce, 79
Timochain, 61, 180
Tittivillus, 83-4
Torneys, Robert, 144
Trade, _see_ Merchant
Trebizond, 40, 42, 62
Tripoli, 42
Turbot, Robert of Lamberton, 137
Turcomania, 54
Turkestan, 49
Tuscan, 42
Tyre, 40, 42

Udine, 70
Underbay, 137 _f_
Uppcher, Margaret and Robert, 166

Vandals, 15
Venice: Venetian, 39-44, 44-8, 51,
  53, 62-5, 70, 71, 145, 177-8; Cassiodorus
  on, 39; Chronicler of,
  _see_ Canale, Martino da; Doge of,
  4, 44-6, 63; excommunication of,
  41; history of, 39-46, 50, 178;
  merchants of, at Hangchow, 70,
  71; modern works on, 177; Polos'
  return to, 53, 63; procession of
  gilds in, 45, 48, 50; records of,
  65; rivalry of, with Genoa, 42,
  63-4; trade of, 37, 40, 41, 42-3,
  47, 70, 145, 178; wedding of, with
  sea, 40, 41; wool dealers of, 145
Vespers, 79
Villaris, 23, 24, 25
_Villicus, see_ Steward
Villein, Villeinage, 19, 21, 158
Visigoths, 10

Walberswick, 140
Walpole, 156
Wang Wei, 182
_Way of Poverty and Wealth_, 100
Wedding feasts, 115-16, 164-5
Welbech, William, 151
West: Riding, 167; Street, Coggeshall,
  170, 171, 172
Whyte of Broadway, 137
Wido (_see also_ Bodo), 23, 27, 29, 33
Wilkins (Wylkyns) Henry, 140
William I, 20
Wills: of John Barton of Holme,
  191; of Thomas Betson, 134, 151,
  194; of bishops, 158; of Paycockes,
  157, 166-9, 195, 196; of
  villeins, 158; general sources for,
  157, 191, 196
Wilton, 176
Winchester, St Mary's, Abbess of, 86
Winchcomb, John (_see_ Jack of Newbury)
Wood, Lieutenant John, 54
Wool (_see_ Betson, Cely, Merchan
  Staple); export of, 122, 123
  Gower on, 123, 144; inspection of,
  144; lives of merchants of, 151
  (_see_ Betson); packing and shipping
  of, 139-44; ports from
  whence sent, 140; private bargains
  in, 138; private letters or
  export of, 125; purchase of, 136-7,
  regulations concerning, 139-44;
  revenues from, 121; sale of, 138,
  145-9; tombs of merchants of,
  123; where grown, 123, 136
Woolsack, 120
Wykeham, William of, 92

Xanadu (_see_ Shandu), 57
Xenophon, 96

Yangchow, 57, 182
Yangtze river, 46
Yarkand, 54
Yellow River, 49
Yezd, 43
York, 94, 137
Yorkshire, 136, 137, 153
Ypres, 122
Yuan dynasty, 58
Yule, Sir Henry, 67, 177
Yunnen, 57

Zaiton, 54, 60, 71
Zanzibar, 70
Zara, 41
Zealand (Seland), 142, 146
Zeno, Renier, 44

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