By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Women of England
Author: James, Bartlett Burleigh, 1867-1953
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Women of England" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.


  Transcriber's Note: The Table of Contents
  was added by the Transcriber.









Copyrighted at Washington and entered at Stationers' Hall, London,


and Printed by arrangement with George Barrie's Sons.




     Chapter I. The Women of Prehistoric Britain

    Chapter II. The Women of Ancient Britain

   Chapter III. The Women of the Anglo-Saxons

    Chapter IV. The Women of the Anglo-Normans

     Chapter V. The Women of the Middle Ages

    Chapter VI. The Women of the Manors

   Chapter VII. The Women of the Monasteries

  Chapter VIII. The Women of the Industrial Classes

    Chapter IX. The Women of the Transition Period

     Chapter X. The Women of the Tudor Period

    Chapter XI. Women of the Commonwealth Period

   Chapter XII. The Women of the Restoration Period

  Chapter XIII. The Women of the Eighteenth Century

   Chapter XIV. The Women of the Nineteenth Century

    Chapter XV. The Women of Scotland and Ireland


It is no slight task to follow out the windings of a single thread
in the infinite weave of society and by loosing it from the general
mesh to show how dependent is the pattern of life and custom upon its
presence. Such a task was presented in the endeavor to trace along
from remotest times to the present day the influence of woman upon
the life and character, the efforts and ideals, of that race which
has come to be known as English, although this name may not properly
be used until time has spun into the vista of the past peoples as
vigorous, if not influential, as the one that stands, the inheritor
of their virility, at the apex of modern civilization, whose women,
clasping hands throughout the British Empire, form a splendid chain
of hope for womankind in all the world.

Whether or not continuity and sequence, relation and effect, have been
maintained in the retraversing of the footsteps of woman in all ages
of the history of those isles where femininity has flowered in the
most gracious blossoms, it remains for the reader to say. Certain
it is that unaffected pleasure has been afforded the writer in his
attempt to draw aside the curtain that the muse of history jealously
employs to shut from view the inner sanctuary in which she preserves
those vital relics, the destruction of which by some inconceivable
iconoclast would bring death to the world for lack of materials for
reflection and inspiration. In treating of the prehistoric periods,
although the brush necessarily has been laid broadly upon the canvas,
fancy has been kept in the leash of fact, and imagination given no
more play than its legitimate function. Still, the results of inquiry
into the status of woman at this far remote period furnish a fulcrum
upon which to rest the lever of investigation, in order to lift
into view the strata of undoubted history of the periods immediately

As fast as the widening of social interest afforded the materials for
use, the writer sought to employ them, until, like a mountain rivulet,
ever widening until it reaches the plain, he found himself embarrassed
by the wealth of fact that told the marvellous story of the most
notable emancipation in the history of mankind,--the complete
separation of English woman from the trammels, inherent and
environmental, imposed upon the sex. If the successive chapters
disclose the philosophical relations of woman in society, it will be
because the reader has not failed to grasp the fact that in any such
theme as the one treated mere continuity of subject matter would
constitute a chronicle and not a history; and that the writer, while
seeking not to make obtrusive the connective tissue, has nevertheless
given ample scope for the reflective mind to see that which has ever
been present to his own.

As to the actual materials employed in constructing the book, it is
sufficient to say that no important writer upon any period of the
history of the British Isles or their people has been overlooked, and
that the passing over of the political and constitutional phases in
order to select the purely social has been an endeavor much furthered
by the writers to whom reference is made in the body of the work, and
many others who could not be mentioned without burdening the text.
Each fibre of the thread of interest has been taken hold of at the
point of its appearance, and then not lost sight of until the end.
So that if one is interested in the subject of costume, he may find
a full and accurate description of dress from the time when tattooing
was deemed largely sufficient up to the period of the present, when
the variety of feminine attire baffles description. But more serious
subjects, such as woman's rights, from the recognition of primal
rights in her person to the setting forth of the modern programme
under that description, are consecutively treated through the

A debt of gratitude cannot be discharged, but some recognition may be
made of the author's sense of the service rendered him in the writing
of this work by Dr. John Martin Vincent, associate professor of
history in Johns Hopkins University, whose courses in the social
history of England furnished the first incentive to range in that
field and a guide through the labyrinth of manners and customs of
the English people. Thanks are due to Mr. J.A. Burgan, whose close
and careful reading of the proof is not the least factor in the
presentation of the book free, as the writer believes, of the errors
that only eternal vigilance may exclude.




It is to the unpremeditated contributions of savage and barbarous
conditions of existence that we must look for those primal elements of
social order which became fundamental in English life and character.
Insomuch as those contributions are intimately connected with woman's
life and work, they must be sought out and set in order if we are to
trace the development of the status of the women of Britain. In doing
this, the confines of history proper must be disregarded and the
inquiry commenced at the earliest period at which the student of
the geology of Britain has been able to discover evidences of human
occupancy of the country. If a consecutive account of the history
of woman in Britain were intended, we should be content to begin the
story with the woman of the Neolithic or Polished Stone Age, for to
such remote times may be traced the stream of life and institutions
in England; but, as we shall aim not solely at consecutiveness,
but at completeness as well in our record of woman's life in the
British Isles, it will be necessary to go back even further into the
geologic ages, when Britain was still a part of the mainland and
its inhabitants the same roving savage tribes that wandered over all
central Europe.

From those barren ages of the Pleistocene era, which were cut off
from the Neolithic by great stretches of time that cannot be certainly
calculated, and during which there was a lapse in the human occupancy
of the country, little of value can be derived. Their chief worth for
our purpose is the picture which they present of the initial stage of
human organization, the study they afford of woman in her relations
to a thoroughly savage stage of society, an era of hunting--that of
the Paleolithic or Rough Stone Age, when there was fixity neither of
residence nor of relations, and when man's contest with savage nature
about him was dependent in its issues upon the slight advantage
furnished him by the rude weapons that he fashioned from flint flakes.
During the Polished Stone era, when inhabitants are next met with in
Britain, the social organization presented is that of the pastoral
stage, which marks a great advance over the hunting.

In all the progressions of uncivilized life, woman is but a part of
the phenomena of her times, but in the history of English civilization
she appears as one of its most active forces. These, then, are the two
correlated views of woman in the history of English life that will
be constantly held in mind during our whole study,--woman as a social
fact, and woman as a social factor; showing her as a product, as
affected by the customs, laws, or manners of a given time, and again
as an influencing factor in the institutions or the manners of those
times. Had her life been as circumscribed as that of the women of
a cultured people, English civilization would not owe to woman the
recognition which is her due as a creative force in the arts, in
science, in literature, in religion, and in all the ever-widening
circle of human interests. An understanding and estimate of her
influence in these more conspicuous relations will depend upon a
proper appreciation of the English home as the principal source of
the English woman's dignity and power. Much that has entered into
the ideals of the English race can be fully accounted for only in the
light of home ideals. By such considerations, then, as have been thus
far set forth, we shall be guided in our endeavor to tell the story of
woman's life in the ages of Britain's history.

The people of the earliest part of the Pleistocene age had no real
home life, nor was there any social organization excepting that into
which men were forced by the necessity for mutual aid in the struggle
with the forces of savage nature. This element of self-protection was
the only factor that entered into the organized life of those earliest
inhabitants of Britain,--the people of the river-drift and the caves.
In this combat between savage man and savage beast were produced the
first instruments pointing to civilization,--weapons for defence and

The life of woman among the men of the river-drift was of the most
debased order. The only employment of the men was hunting the gigantic
savage beasts that ranged through the forests. While the males were in
pursuit of the rhinoceros, the lion, the hippopotamus, and the great
antlered deer that were a part of the fauna of the whole of that
section of the continent of Europe of which Britain in those remote
times formed a part, the females roamed through the densely wooded
forests whose only clearings were those made by the ravages of fire.
Clad in the skins of beasts but little lower in the scale of being
than themselves, and with their naked offspring about them, they
wandered about in search of berries or, with no better aids than
sharpened sticks, dug up the roots which they dried and stored for
the days when the results of the chase fell short of the needs of the
people. On the home-coming of the hunters to the place where, in their
nomadic wanderings, they had erected temporary shelters, the women
prepared the miserable meal. By skilfully rubbing together pieces
of hard wood, a fire was soon obtained; if fortune had attended the
chase, the hastily skinned animals were cut up with flint flakes,
and the meat was thrown upon the stones placed in the fire for that
purpose. There were no niceties of taste to be considered, so the
half-cooked and badly smoked flesh was snatched from the fire and
eaten with no more decorum than might be found in the meals of the
cave-hyena that, under the shadows of night, skulked through the
underbrush and noisily devoured the remnants of the hunters' feast.

On the day following the hunt, the women undertook the arduous work
of curing the skins of the slain animals. In the initial stage of the
process they used stone scrapers, sharp of edge and probably set in
bone handles. Hundreds of these implements have been found. The women
acquired great dexterity in this, one of their customary employments;
and while the men lounged about, resting from the fatigue of the
hunt, or occupied themselves with painting their bodies with ochre, or
tracing, with a splinter of stone, rude devices on pieces of polished
reindeer antler, the work of the women went industriously on.

Men of such undisciplined natures as those of the people of the
river-drift could not exist together harmoniously; very little,
indeed, was necessary to embroil them in bitter strife. Their women
were a frequent cause of bloody encounters, a circumstance which was
due to the fact that there was no permanence in the relations of the
sexes; such rights--seldom individual--to the women as were vested
in the men were always those acquired by brute force, and held good
only so long as the fancy or strength of the men permitted. In such
a promiscuous society there was nothing to suggest the home of
civilization. To men, women simply represented their chief possession
and were held by them in common, like other forms of property.

Such an age was almost as barren of material utilities as of moral
conceptions; so that one looks in vain for evidence of the knowledge
of such arts as are commonly associated with the life of women in
savage societies. Basket work, weaving, and spinning were occupations
of which, it is thought, the women of those times knew nothing.
Pottery was unknown; gourds served for drinking cups and for the
holding of liquids, and were used also for cooking. Among the
memorials of woman of these remote times appears no trace of the
charms and fetiches which usually accompany the performance of
domestic duties among primitive races. Nothing lower in the scale of
human existence could be imagined than the lives of these women of
the river-drift, to whom nature made no appeal save that of fear of
its furious moods, to whom sex meant not the possibilities of pure
wifehood and motherhood, but servitude to the demands of passion.
When children were not vigorous, or when for any reason their nurture
became irksome, they were ruthlessly slain, even by the mothers
themselves; and every woman knew that the lot of abandonment was
reserved for her when she could no longer fulfil the hard conditions
of her existence.

In some respects, the life of the women of the cave-dwellers of the
later Pleistocene period was of a higher order than that which we have
just described--not that there was any essential difference in the
social grade of the two peoples, but that the cave-dwellers had
learned to make better implements of the chase and to fashion more
effectively all their weapons and tools. The greater security to
life afforded by these improvements and the greater assurance of
subsistence led to more settled living, and thereby afforded an
opportunity to develop a social organization that should have for its
basis something of greater permanence than a temporary need. While it
would be hazardous, then, to assume too much in the way of improvement
in the life of the women of the cave-dwellers over that of the women
of the river-drift, yet it should be borne in mind that in states
of society such as those represented by these remote inhabitants of
Britain, even a slight advance in the scale of living marks an epoch
of progress.

The cave-dwellers succeeded the people of the river-drift as
inhabitants of Britain, and the combined occupancy of the country by
these peoples covered a vast stretch of time. It is very probable
that their periods overlapped, and that the later people were in part
contemporary with the former. Though the people of the river-drift
and the dwellers in caves may have avoided intermixture, as have the
Esquimaux and the American Indians, yet there is nothing absolutely
to preclude the idea that such race distinction was observed during
great periods of time. So that all we have to say of the women of the
cave-dwellers may be equally applied to the women of the later times
of the river-drift.

The cave-dwellers, like their predecessors, were hunters. For their
dwellings they chose the caves from which they had driven out the bear
and the lion. These rude homes the women hung about with the skins of
the horse or the wolf, and spread on the floor for couches the hides
of these or of other beasts that had fallen by the arrows of the
hunters or had been ensnared in their pitfalls. Here the tribe
remained until the scarcity of game or the assault of enemies impelled
it to migrate. Where there were no caves, huts were constructed. These
were framed with the branches and trunks of trees and covered with
skins and hides.

The woman of the cave-dwellers was a sturdy specimen of her sex, and
the long and arduous migrations in which the burden of the work fell
upon her shoulders were probably borne with little sense of hardship.
We can imagine a tribe, travelling afoot, for as yet neither the horse
nor any other animal had been domesticated: the men with their long
fish spears across their backs, their stone arrows hanging at their
sides, and their bows in hand, always alert for the wild beasts with
which they waged a relentless warfare; the women laden with all the
paraphernalia of their simple existence, many with a babe slung at the
back, and their naked, uncouth progeny following or gambolling about
them. The strange personal appearance of both men and women would
add to the oddity of the scene in modern eyes, for their bodies were
painted in grotesque patterns, and, if the rigors of the season made
any covering necessary, a simple skin, laced about them with reindeer
sinews, sufficed for clothing. On coming to a fresh hunting region,
near to some body of water or flowing stream, where the game would
naturally come to slake their thirst,--perhaps upon the grassy plains
that still extended over what is now the English Channel and formed a
part of the original land connection with the continent,--they paused
for another term of settled residence. Again the caves were resorted
to, or rudely thatched huts were erected. If the wild beasts pressed
the wanderers too hard, they sometimes had recourse to huts erected
upon rough stone heaps in the midst of an oozy swamp.

While the men gave themselves wholly to hunting, the women went about
their domestic pursuits. To them was assigned the making of such
scanty clothing as was imperatively required in the cold season; for
though the crude carvings of the time invariably represent the hunters
as naked, it cannot be concluded from such evidence that clothing was
not worn at all. The extremely serviceable reindeer sinews served the
women for thread, and a thin reindeer prong, pierced through at the
thick end, made a satisfactory needle. The skins were simply sewed
together at the edges, without shaping, but with apertures through
which to pass the head and arms. The women devised many ornaments;
these consisted of amulets and necklaces made of bone, ivory, and
shells, which, shaped and polished, they painstakingly punctured and
fastened together in long strings for the decoration of their necks
and arms. Apparently, it was not customary to wear foot covering of
any kind, as the feet of such skeletons of this period as have been
found are so symmetrical as to preclude the probability of constraint
during growth. The men may have worn some form of foot covering
when engaged in such exposed work as spearing the seal in the winter
season; but the women, who remained in shelter during the severities
of the winter, did not avail themselves of any such protection. The
fact that gloves were worn by men seems to be established by some of
the rude etchings of the period, for in them such articles appear to
be discernible.

The sanitary condition of the homes of these hunting tribes was of the
worst description; the offal and refuse were thrown at the very doors
of the cave, there to decay and poison the air. The caves themselves
were smoke-begrimed and foul, for house cleaning had not yet entered
into the economy of woman. While, by reason of their simple, open-air
life, they were a vigorous race, the ills to which the cave-dwellers
fell a prey, the injuries they suffered in warfare or from the attacks
of wild beasts, or the diseases contracted through unsanitary living,
must have been sources of great dread to them, as they were without
any medical knowledge of which we have trace. When the women,
particularly, became too sick to perform their allotted tasks, they
were carried out to die or to become the victims of savage beasts; but
this was only one of the inevitable phases of an existence that was
replete with tragedies.

From the evidence afforded by the great abundance of arrow heads and
spear points surviving from this period, there is no doubt that the
cave men were much given to warfare. Aside from the natural pugnacity
and ferocity of savage races, which lead them to fight upon very
little provocation, there was with the cave-dwellers another source
of constant hostility. As has been stated with reference to the
river-drift people, the women were not permanently attached to the
men. It is just as true that they were not permanently attached to
their tribes, for when, through disease or the ravages of wild beasts,
the women of any horde became greatly diminished in number, their
ranks were recruited by forays upon other tribes. These attacks for
the purpose of stealing the women of their enemies were especially
provocative of fierce conflicts, as the depletion of its stock of
women often seriously crippled a tribe and sometimes even threatened
its extinction. Such forcible transfers of ownership must have added
greatly to the hardness of the woman's lot, for by such means many
mothers were permanently separated from their offspring.

The weight of probability and of evidence seems to leave little room
for doubt that the early inhabitants of Britain were cannibals. While
there was no scarcity of game as a rule, it is quite likely that these
savage peoples, as those of the same grade of culture in all times,
when experiencing the delirium of a victory over their enemies, put
to death by cruel tortures the unhappy captives that fell into their
hands, and then, to complete their triumph, roasted and ate the flesh
of the slain. Aside from the deductive probability of the case,
human bones dating back to this period have been found along with the
remains of weapons and in association with the ashes of camp fires;
and in such cases the bones have invariably been broken, in order to
extract from them their marrow. The story of the battle, the tortures,
and the feast is eloquently suggested by the silent memorials that
have been preserved through the lapse of ages. As we picture the
far-off scene of human savagery, the figure of woman flits through the
lights and shadows of the horrid orgy: for she it was who prepared the
gruesome repast; it was in defence of her, perhaps, that the fierce
battle was fought; some of her own near of kin, it may be, she has
been forced to prepare for the unnatural appetites of her enemies.
Possibilities! but read in the light of the times, they become
probabilities, and probabilities furnish much of the data of history.

The tragedy of woman's life is again brought before us with startling
vividness when we look upon the skull of a woman of this remote race,
as it lies in a cave, with a little stone hatchet beside it, where
it was ruthlessly cast after the commission of a bloody crime; for in
that skull is a jagged hole into which fits the blade of the hatchet.
The scene, sketched from a remote past, might have been an occurrence
of yesterday, so close to us is it brought by the silent witnesses;
these and similar relics disclose the sad lot of woman in that savage

There are fuller evidences of the state of domestic resources among
the women of the cave-dwellers than with those of the river-drift. The
remains show, too, a greater variety and adaptation; for while there
is no clear proof of the existence of pottery, yet the cave people
appear not to have lacked substitutes for it. Vessels for boiling
meats were probably fashioned of small stones cemented together, and
they had, also, vessels of hollowed wood. The skulls of animals served
well for drinking purposes, besides which receptacles for holding
liquids were made from the skins of beasts. Water was heated by
placing hot stones in a vessel containing it, by which means the fluid
could be raised to any desired temperature. Long flint flakes set
in handles answered for knives; when rounded at the edge, the same
material made serviceable scrapers. Spoons were constructed from
pieces of reindeer antlers, hollowed at the thick end, or if they were
intended to be used to scoop out the marrow from bones, the tapered
end was hollowed. For their food, the cave-dwellers, though they
possessed no domesticated animals, had a wide choice of large and
small game, birds, fish, reptiles, and grubs; to these they added
edible roots and berries.

This almost indispensable domestic handicraft was not, however, the
limit of their achievement in designing. We have seen that woman's
thought and some of her activities were applied to the production of
merely decorative objects. She had already acquired an appreciative
taste for the auxiliary attractions of personal adornment. The art
of designing certainly found a place in the occupations of these
cave-dwellers, and the most familiar animated objects would be their
necessary choice. Hence, we may readily conceive that, in the moments
of respite from the chase, the rude artist of this age would make
of the cave passages a canvas for his work and thereon delineate
the animals whose importance to his existence rendered them the most
interesting objects. Nor, for this reason, would his subject fail of
appreciative criticism and of educational value.

It is impossible to state the nature or the extent of the social
organization among these people, but that there must have been
something of the sort there can be no doubt. It seems equally
plausible that there could have been no recognition of law in the
lives of these passionate savages, excepting as the will of some more
than ordinarily forceful warrior was for the time so recognized.
An association of this kind admitted of the sloughing of the groups
whenever a difference of inclination or of interest suggested such a
course. Promiscuity undoubtedly remained the characteristic form of
the relation of the sexes, the conditions of life admitting of no more
enduring relations.

The culture of the peoples of the river-drift and of the caves
signified little in British civilization, as these shadowy tribes
passed completely out of view. For a period of time that could be
expressed only in the term of vague geological computation, the
country remained devoid of inhabitants. Meantime, changes were wrought
in Britain's physical features. The land became insular, although the
subsidence that gave rise to the English Channel was not yet complete.
In an indirect way, the earliest peoples may be said to have passed
on the elements of their culture; for, while there was a lapse in the
continuity of social development, the Neolithic races that are next
met with in Britain became the inheritors of the culture of the ruder
hunter stages of society represented by the river-drift and cave

The social grade of the Neolithic races was a great advance over that
of the peoples last considered. Instead of bands of nomadic wanderers,
we find a pastoral people whose migrations were doubtless periodical
and made only in search of new pastures. Hunting did not form an
important part of their lives, for their food was supplied by the
flesh of domesticated animals and the cereals that they raised for
their own needs and, in the winter season, for those of their stock.

Although caves continued to be used to some extent for dwellings,
they were not characteristic of the civilization of the times. Man had
become a home builder. The evolution from the cave dwellings is seen
in the style of houses that were first constructed. They consisted of
pits dug to a depth of seven to ten feet, and about seven feet wide at
the base. These pits were roofed over with a sort of thatch, filled in
with imperfectly burnt clay. They were built singly and in groups, and
were sometimes connected by a system of underground passages. Access
was had to these dwellings by a slanting, shaftlike entrance. A pit
village was usually stockaded to protect it against the assaults of
foes. Outside it were the arable lands and the common pasture lands
for the sheep and goats; enclosing these, the forest stretched out in
all directions.

Looking down from one of the surrounding hilltops upon such a village,
it would have presented to the eye of the observer the appearance of
a number of round hillocks but little higher than the ground level.
Thin lines of smoke, slowly ascending, would mark the places where the
common meals were in course of preparation. As the traveller descended
the hillside, his approach would be challenged by gaunt, savage sheep
dogs, from whose attacks he would need to defend himself. As he passed
out into the clearing, he would be confronted by the men, some of them
tilling the soil, others acting as shepherds or swineherds. Perhaps a
field of golden wheat would lend its beauty to the scene, Approaching
the dwellings, the women would be seen at their several employments;
some busy cutting up the meat and swinging it over the fires to roast,
or boiling it in pots with herbs and roots to make a savory stew,
others mixing dough and spreading it upon flat stones over hot embers
to bake. Sitting about on the rocks or squatting upon skins spread
upon the ground, other women would be found busily making pottery,
modelling the clay with their hands, and scratching upon it lines,
circles, and pyramids in various combinations, or fashioning designs
by pressing reindeer sinews into the substance. Still others would be
discovered busily spinning and weaving flax and wool into fabrics for
the clothing that marked one of the advances of the Neolithic people.
In the distance would be heard the dull strokes of the stone axes with
which, in the depth of the wood, the men felled the tall timber.

For the industries presented in this picture of a Neolithic village,
there were suitable implements. For all domestic purposes, the art of
pottery making had solved the question of satisfactory vessels. These
were generally in two colors, either brown or black. The potter's
wheel had not yet been invented, so that the vessels lacked the grace
and uniformity of later work of the sort. Wheat was ground by means of
a mortar and pestle. Knives for various uses, saws, and scrapers were
all made of highly polished and very keen-edged flint flakes. The
great superiority of their stone implements over those of earlier
races has given a name to the people, but the culture of the Polished
Stone Age reveals, as its most salient fact, not this, but rather
the domestication of animals and the tilling of the soil. It is
significant to note that these most characteristic features of the
Polished Stone Age denote the advance of society in the arts of
peaceful living. War was prevalent enough, but human development
had discovered another line of advancement, and, by reason of
the increased incentives to peaceful living, war was not usually
undertaken simply for the pleasure of fighting. Protection of flocks
and herds, of cleared fields and settled homes, became the chief
occasion of the wars waged by the Neolithic people.

In such a society as we have described, there is a community of
interest that tends to give stability to the ties of relationship. The
fairly settled state of life was undoubtedly accompanied by a social
organization of some sort that could properly deal with the matters
of individual rights. The family had become evolved from the horde;
promiscuity had doubtless given place to polygamy, or, under the
exceptional conditions of a greater number of men than of women, to
polyandry. Neither of these forms of marriage carried with it the idea
of fixity and of family responsibility.

A feature of the Neolithic age was its commerce. By a system of
intertribal traffic, the simple commodities of the widely dispersed
peoples of Europe became distributed among the various tribes. By this
means, many articles not of domestic manufacture were added to the
comfort of the people of Britain. Thus, the women were enabled to
adorn themselves with jade beads that must have come from the region
of the Mediterranean Sea, and even with gold ornaments from as distant
points. These instances, however, were exceptional, and are to be
accounted for in the same manner that we account for the most unlikely
things in the possession of the tribes of Central Africa--by gradual
hand-to-hand passage.

There was probably an absence of religious ideas among the
predecessors of the Polished Stone races; but among the remains of the
latter are ample proofs of the prevalence among them of such notions.
Caves that once had served them as residences were later used for
places of burial, the bodies being piled up with earth until the
cavities were completely filled. Accompanying human remains have
been found urns, supposedly for burning incense, personal ornaments,
implements, and weapons, placed there for the use of the dead. If the
people possessed religious conceptions that led them to believe in an
after life, there is no room for doubt that religion had a place in
the economy of their living. The women of this time, then, could look
forward to something better than abandonment to starvation after they
became enfeebled by age or sickness, and they may not have lacked
religious associations in their everyday life to give to it deeper
meaning and interest.

From the foregoing sketch of her life, it is very clear that the
condition of Neolithic woman, the range of her ideas, and the elements
of her comfort, were much in advance of those of the woman of the
Paleolithic period. The contributions to her existence were indeed
elements of civilization, and formed the basis for all that the life
of the sex has come to be. In the realm of institutions, the home was
beginning to have a place and a meaning in the life of the people.
Religion, also, had come to widen the horizon of life. Very crude, but
real, elements of social progress were all these.

The succeeding age--the Bronze--has been credited with working as
great a revolution in life and giving it as great an impetus as did
the invention of gunpowder in the Middle Ages. It is certainly a fact
that the invention of this beautiful alloy was looked upon by the
ancients who lived close to its age as of incalculable importance
in its influence upon civilization--a judgment that is confirmed by
anyone who studies its abundant remains. Manufactures and commerce
were important interests of the times: smelting furnaces and
the smith's shop turned out beautiful specimens of wares of all
sort--shields, spears, arrow tips, cups of graceful pattern, vessels
for all purposes, ornaments, and the trimmings for the large boats
made necessary by a wide commerce, were all manufactured beyond the
needs of domestic consumption. The stimulated inventiveness of the
people added many new articles of comfort to their lives.

The development of bronze was not original with the people of Britain,
but was introduced through an invasion of bronze-using people. For
this reason, the change made in the life of the people was radical,
instead of being, as on the continent, a gradual process. The struggle
that ensued between the bronze users and the stone users was a contest
between an advanced civilization and one of a lower order; and its
issue was predetermined. The newcomers became the controlling element
in the country. The tendency of the new order of things was toward
individualism. Personal ownership brought with it social grades, so
that it is impossible to make statements with regard to the bronze
people that apply equally to all the race.

But we are concerned with the conditions of the times only as the
setting in which we are to study the life of woman. In the Bronze
Age, there was introduced into her life nothing to be compared to the
contributions made thereto in the preceding age. While her horizon
was greatly broadened, and while she benefited by the improvements
in living,--better facilities, comforts, and even luxuries,--yet the
advance was along established lines. We may surely believe that closer
intercourse with outside peoples brought a corresponding quickening
of thought and an appreciation of the merits of grades of life higher
than her own. There was no marked change in the style of dwellings
of the people of the Bronze Age from those of the Neolithic period;
but their furnishings were better, and, instead of the skins of wild
animals, those of domestic animals and, perhaps, woven and brightly
dyed fabrics now served for couches, and were hung about the walls as
a protection against dampness. The utensils of the home were varied
and ornamental, the conventional patterns having given place to other,
though still simple, designs. In the homes of the wealthy, knives and
spoons and the finer grades of vessels were of bronze.

The dress of the women had now become something more than mere
protection for the body. The skins of animals might still suffice
for the clothing of the poor, but the rich man's attire consisted of
well-bleached linens, and, doubtless, woollen fabrics as well. The
garments made of these materials were probably dyed in rich colors, as
the principles of dyeing were well understood. We can picture, then,
a woman of the higher grade, dressed in a tunic, with a mantle of
contrasting color, her hair done up in an elaborate coiffure and set
off by a cap of goat or sheep skin. Projecting from under this would
appear bronze hairpins, perhaps twenty inches in length, of ornamental
design; indeed, her coiffure was such an elaborate affair that it is
quite likely that she slept with it in a head rest, similar to those
which we know were used by the lake-dwellers of Switzerland and are
still used in Japan. Pendent from her neck hung strings of beads and
ornaments made of bone, polished stone, bronze, and even glass and
gold. Her arms were weighted with bracelets, and her legs were adorned
with anklets.

Spinning, weaving, the milking of the goats, the making of curd
and cheese, the modelling of pottery, the preparation of the meals,
assisting with the outdoor work, and the care of her children, made up
the round of woman's life in those days. But there was another element
that had come to be a serious one in her existence, and that was
religion. Although the form of the prevailing religious belief is
lost, yet we have evidence that it was elaborate enough to call for
special places for its observance. Indeed, none of the remains of the
Bronze Age are more instructive, or present food for more fruitful
speculation as to the manner of life or the scope of mentality during
that era, than the curious tumuli that show how closely associated
in the common consciousness were religion and death; for these mounds
were probably places both of worship and burial. These ideas still
remain in such close connection that the vicinity of a church, and
indeed the edifice itself, seems especially appropriate for the
interment of the dead or for the depositing of crematory urns. Such
religion as existed must have had its reflex influence upon woman's
life and have entered into its duties; it may be that, as with the
later Druids, she assisted in the public offices of worship.



For our survey of the women of the different and, to a considerable
degree, distinct peoples of Britain, prior to their being brought
under the influence of Roman culture, it will be convenient to take
our stand at the beginning of the period of real history, which for
Britain may be conveniently placed at the first century before Christ.
A survey of woman at that time would, in the nature of the case,
partake somewhat of the character of a composite picture. Still, it
would include all important particulars, even though these might
not, in all cases, be accurately assigned in point of time, or even
precisely as to race. So gradual were the changes that were wrought in
woman's existence during the revolution that followed the introduction
of iron into the arts of Britain's life, that it will not be difficult
to speak with approximate accuracy.

The data for our picture of the status and occupations of the women at
the time under consideration will need to be drawn from archæological
remains of different dates and of widely different races, as well as
from the confused and often conflicting or even incredible accounts of
early voyagers, to which may be added the vague allusions of legendary

In considering the details of the life of woman during the period
under consideration, the most salient fact is not the influx and
partial merging of different peoples resulting from the intercourse
that had been opened up between the Britons and the nations of the
continent; nor is it the impulse to civilization brought about by the
use of iron in the manufacture of a multitude of articles of general
convenience. Such influences and agencies were potent in society,
working the transformation that found its expression, among other
ways, in the lifting of woman to the plane of civilization that was
introduced by the Romans; but, undoubtedly, the greatest contributing
factor to the life of the age, and so the most important one in fixing
the status of woman, was the trade relations that were developed
with Britain by the peoples of the South and the remote East: the
Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Etruscans, the Greeks, and, later, the
Romans. To the Phoenicians, that nation of traders, must be given the
credit of the introduction into Britain of the higher products of many
of those peoples whose civilizations were of an advanced type. It
was the fleets of this enterprising people that brought into Britain
quantities of finely wrought implements of various sorts: useful
articles that greatly increased the comfort of life, as well as those
of ornament and of dress. Among such imports were the jade beads and
ornaments which the British women held in especial esteem; beads of
glass, delicately marked and colored; ornaments of gold, sometimes
inlaid with enamel in pleasing designs and colors; fine fabrics of
different sorts; rings, brooches, necklaces, armlets, leg bands, and
wares of many kinds. Such things not only added to the comfort and
the sense of luxury of the women, but, as object lessons of art and
elegance, they were in the highest degree educative. They stimulated
woman's imagination and piqued her interest in regard to the women of
those far distant lands, with whom such articles were in ordinary use.
We hear of travellers' tales, carried back by the early voyagers to
Britain, which, by their incredible coloring, awakened the wonder of
the Greeks; but probably as much amazement and interest were aroused
among the Britons by the marvellous tales, told by the Phoenicians and
other traders, concerning the nations among which were manufactured
the articles brought by them to barter for the metals, furs, woods,
and other products of Britain. In this way, a distorted knowledge
of the outside world and of the accomplishments of highly civilized
peoples came to be widely diffused among the more advanced of the rude
inhabitants of Britain. The arrival of a ship in port was an event of
absorbing interest; soon the women of the coast settlements would be
seen busily traversing the narrow, winding paths by which the houses
of a village were connected, to gossip with their neighbors about
the latest bit of wonderful narrative picked up from the oddly garbed
foreign sailors concerning the mighty nations of the remote parts of
the earth, or to display some purchase--a piece of cloth of fine web
or of bright colors, a chased fibula, a string of beads, or articles
of like nature. It would be difficult to exaggerate the effect upon
the mentality and the life interest of the simple-minded yet keenly
inquiring British women of the commerce which, at first occasional,
gradually became regular and expanding, and by which Britain was
brought out of its insular separateness into the broad current of the
world's progress.

The population of Britain was large--as the Romans found when they
came into the country. The people were collected into villages and
towns which were ruled by chieftains who were frequently at war with
one another. During such strife their women were hidden in caves or
pits covered with brush; this was a necessary protective measure for
the loss of its women was the severest blow a people could suffer.
This division of the tribes into little warring factions was the cause
of the country falling readily a prey to the Romans.

When we consider that the writers of the time had in view different
elements of the population, it is less difficult to harmonize their
conflicting statements. While there are contrary statements made as
to the agriculture of the Romans, it seems to be a satisfactory
reconciliation of these statements to regard the less progressive
northern tribes as purely pastoral and the inhabitants of the other
parts of the island as agriculturalists as well as herdsmen. After the
Romans became established, wheat came to be one of the chief articles
of export. The producers harvested this grain by cutting off the heads
and storing them in pits under the ground. These pits were protected
against frost. Each day the farmers took out the wheat longest stored,
and ground it into meal. The process of removing the grain from the
cob was, according to what we know of it, similar to the method still
in use down to the seventeenth century in some parts of Britain. This
consisted of twirling in the fire several heads of wheat, which the
woman performing the operation held in her left hand, while with a
stick held in her right hand she beat off the loosened grain at the
very instant that the chaff was consumed. The grain was then usually
ground in a hand mill, although there is reason to believe that water
mills also were used to some extent. The meal was then mixed, and
baked over the fire in little loaves, or flat cakes. The whole process
occupied but a couple of hours.

The houses of the people, to which the women were confined the greater
part of the winter, were mean little structures. They were circular in
shape, and were made of wattles or wood, and sometimes of stone. These
wigwam-like structures were roofed with straw, and had as their sole
external decoration the trophies of the chase and the battlefield. A
chief's house was triumphantly adorned with the skulls of his enemies,
nailed up against the eaves of the porch, among the horns and bones
of beasts. Sometimes the heads of foes slain in battle were embalmed,
and furnished gruesome ornamentation for the interior of the house.
But notwithstanding these testimonials of a savage nature, there were
evidences of comfort that had in them the indication of an approach to
civilization. The houses were connected by narrow, tortuous paths, and
were usually surrounded by a stockade as a protection against assault.

The dress of the women differed according to the wealth and the
civilization of the various sections of the population. The tribes
of the east and southeast, who were principally Celts, were the more
civilized, while the Caledonians of the north--the Picts, or painted
men, as they were commonly called--were far less advanced. The women
of the Celts were of great personal attractiveness. They possessed
a wealth of magnificent hair, were fair-complexioned and of splendid
physique. To these graces of person they added fierce tempers; we are
told that when the husband of one of them engaged in an altercation
with a stranger, his wife would join strenuously in the controversy,
and with her powerful "snow-white" arms, and her feet as well, deliver
blows "with the force of a catapult." These vigorous British women
were vain of their appearance and gay in their dress. Their costume
consisted of a sleeved blouse, which was ordinarily confined at the
waist; this garment partly covered trousers, worn long and clasped
at the ankles. A plaid of bright colors was fastened at the shoulders
with a brooch. They wore nothing on their heads, but displayed their
hair fastened in a graceful knot at the neck.

They wove thin stuffs for summer wear, and felted heavy druggets for
winter; the latter were said to be prepared with vinegar, and "were
so tough that they would turn the stroke of a sword." Some of their
clothes are described as "woven of gaudy colors and making a show."
They were versed in the art of using alternate colors in the warp and
woof so as to bring out the pattern of stripes and squares. Diodorus
says of some of their patterns that the cloth was covered with an
infinite number of little squares and lines, "as if it had been
sprinkled with flowers," or was striped with cross bars, giving a
checkered effect. The colors most in vogue were red and crimson; "such
honest colors," says the Roman writer, "as a person had no cause to
blame, nor the world a reason to cry out upon." Such were the fabrics
with which the more civilized of the British women arrayed themselves,
and the workmanship of which speaks volumes for their makers'
industry and skill. The women were inordinately fond of ornaments,
and had a plentiful supply from which to select. Their attire was
not complete unless it included necklaces, bracelets, strings of
bright beads,--made of glass or a substance resembling Egyptian
porcelain,--and that which was regarded as the crowning ornament of
every woman of wealth--a torque of gold, or else a collar of the same
metal. A ring was at first worn on the middle finger, but later it
alone was left bare, all the other fingers being loaded with rings.

Among the more primitive of the peoples of Britain, skins continued
to be worn, if, as among the Picts, clothing were not dispensed with
altogether. The women of these fierce tribes were too proud of the
intricate devices in brilliant colors with which their bodies were
tattooed to hide them in any way. These, so Professor Elton is
inclined to think, were the people who introduced bronze into Britain.
They made continual and fierce attacks on their Celtic neighbors and
carried off their women into captivity. And it was because of these
attacks that the Anglo-Saxons were invited into Britain to champion
the cause of the people, after the departure of the Romans had left
the Britons to their own resources.

A period of peculiar interest and uncertainty was that of the Roman
occupancy of the country, with its veneer of civilization and the
introduction of Christianity, all of which was apparently swept aside
by the conquering hordes of Teutons who came into Briton and laid the
foundations for the English nation. It was a time of great changes
in the standards of life and tastes, as well as of the morals of
the British women. With the Romans came their inevitable arts of
conciliation after conquest. Then followed the period of generous
grants of public works--the baths, the theatres, the arena; then the
Roman villa superseded the huts of the inhabitants. All was created
under the ægis of the great mistress of the nations, and included
strong fortifications. Civilization was advanced, but manliness was
degraded. Effeminacy reduced the sturdy morals of the Briton to the
plane of those of their conquerors. The abominable usage of the women
finds expression in the bitter cry that the poet ascribes to the noble
British queen, Boadicea: "Me they seized and they tortured, me they
lashed and humiliated, me the sport of ribald veterans, mine of
ruffian violators."

It is not a part of our work to even sketch the course of the Roman
invasion in its path of blood and fire across the face of Britain, or
the stubborn and sturdy opposition of the natives, the subjugation and
the revolt of tribes--notably the Icenii, who cost the Romans seventy
thousand slain and the destruction of three cities, but whose final
conquest broke the backbone of opposition to the Roman arms. All this
is political history, and cannot concern us excepting in the immense
effect it had upon the women of the land. It was they who bore the
brunt of suffering, degradation, and, too frequently, slavery and
deportation--customary incidents of the fierce spirit of the Roman
conquests. But in spite of the miseries their coming entailed upon
the people, the Roman rule had an admirable effect upon the country
in promoting peace, in establishing regard for law, and in stimulating
commerce. After they had become accustomed to the Roman method of
legal procedure in the settlement of differences, the Britons were no
longer ready to fly at one another's throat on the least provocation.
The breaking up of their tribal distinctions led to a greater
consolidation of the people and removed a cause of strife. But as the
descendants of the defenders of Britain's liberties grew up amid Roman
conditions of life that had permeated the whole population as far
as the northern highlands, where the people proved invincible to
the Roman arms, the habit of dependence upon the Roman legions
for protection enervated the people to such an extent that they
could interpose but faint resistance to the next invaders of the
country--the conquering Angles, Jutes, and Saxons.

It is amid conditions of Roman conquest and control that we are now
to consider more in detail the status of the British woman. Scattered
along the borders of the woods, between the pasture lands and the
hunting lands, could be found the homesteads of the Britons, before
the rise of the Roman city. Each of these edifices was large enough to
hold the entire family in its single room. They were built, generally,
of hewn logs, set in a row on end and covered with rushes or turf. The
family fire burned in the middle of the room, and, circling it, sat
the members of the household at their meals. The same raised seat of
rushes served them at night for a couch. Under the prevailing tribal
custom, three families, or rather three generations of the same
family, from grandfather to grandson, occupied each dwelling. After
the third generation the family was broken up, though all the members
of it retained the memory of their common descent. It is not clear
whether or not a strictly monogamous household was the type of family
life. Certainly it is probable that such was not the case among the
backward races of the interior. As to the advanced sections of the
population, against the statement of contemporary observers that it
was the practice of the British women to have a plurality of husbands,
there is only the argument of improbability to be urged. The custom
of several families living under the one roof and in the same room may
have led the Romans into an erroneous conclusion.

Little is known as to the laws of the Britons in regard to the
regulation of family. In the matter of divorce, if the couple had
several children, the husband took the eldest and the youngest, and
the wife the middle ones, although the merits of such a peculiar
division do not appear. It would seem as if in the case of the
youngest child, at least, the mother was the proper custodian, or at
any rate the natural one. The pigs went to the man, and the sheep
to the woman; the wife took the milk vessels, and the man the
mead-brewing machinery. This was at variance with the later custom
of England, for well on through the Middle Ages, both as a family
employment and a public industry, brewing was accounted woman's
occupation. To the husband went also the table and ware. He took
the larger sieve, she the smaller; he the upper, and she the lower
millstone of the corn mill. The under bedding was his, and the upper
hers. He received the unground corn, she the meal. The ducks, the
geese, and the cats were her portion, while to his share fell the hens
and one mouser.

The slight estimation in which women were held as compared with the
value put upon men is indicated by the fact that a woman was legally
rated at half the worth of her brother and one-third that of her
husband. If a woman engaged in a quarrel, she was fined a specific
sum for each finger with which she fought and for each hair she pulled
from her adversary's head.

Among the customs in which women were concerned, those relating
to marriage show that the assumption of family responsibility was
regarded as a permanent relation, and their nature does not agree with
Cæsar's description of the loose ties of matrimony among the Britons.
It is entirely unlikely that the wives of the men were held by them
in common. As has been already stated, such group marriages, if they
existed, were localized among the rudest of the races of the country,
whose general civilization had not elevated them to the point of
appreciation of pure family life. Such, perhaps, were the small dark
races descended from the Neolithic tribes and held in little esteem by
the Celts. Among the Celts it was customary for the father of a bride
to make a present of his own arms to his son-in-law. As will be seen
later by a description of one of their dinners, the Celts preferred
feasting to all other occupations, and their festivities were
accompanied by the utmost conviviality. A wedding was an occasion for
the most extravagant feasting, all the relatives of the contracting
parties, to the third degree of kindred, assembling to eat and drink
to the happiness of the newly wedded pair. The ceremony took place at
the house of the bridegroom, and the bride was conducted thither by
her friends. If the parties were rich, the pair made presents to their
friends at the marriage festival; but if they were poor, the reverse
was the case, and presents were made to them by the guests. At the
conclusion of the feast, the bride and bridegroom were conducted to
their chamber by the whole company, with great merriment and amid
music and dancing. The next morning, before rising, it was the rule
for the husband to make his wife a present of considerable value,
according to his circumstances. This was regarded as the wife's
peculiar property.

The wives of the ancient Britons had not only the usual domestic
duties to perform, but much of the outside work as well. Being of
robust constitution, leading lives of simplicity and naturalness,
maternity interfered but little with the round of their duties. The
period was not wholly without its anxieties, however, as is shown by
the custom among British women of wearing a girdle that was supposed
to be conducive to the birth of heroes. The assumption of these
girdles was a ceremony accompanied with mystical rites, and was a part
of the Druidical ritual. The newborn babe was plunged into some lake
or river in order to harden it, and as a test of its constitution;
this was done even in the winter season. The early British mother
always nursed her children herself, nor would she have thought of
delegating this duty to another. The first morsel of food put into
a male infant's mouth was on the tip of the father's sword, that
the child might grow up to be a great warrior. As is frequently the
case with primitive peoples, the Britons did not give names to their
children until the latter had performed some feat or displayed some
characteristic which might suggest for them a suitable name. It
follows from this that all the names of the ancient Britons that have
been preserved to us are significant. The youth were not delicately
nurtured, and after passing through the perils of childhood, when the
care of a mother was imperative, it is probable that the mother had
little to do with the training of her boy. Accustomed almost from
infancy to the use of arms, as he grew older the boy added to his
training athletic ordeals and feats of daring. Among the games to
which he was accustomed was jumping through swords so placed that it
was extremely difficult to leap quickly through them without being
impaled. Youth was democratic, and, without any distinction, the
children of the noble and the lowly, equally sordid and ill clad,
played about on the floor or in the open field.

The Britons were noted for the warmth of their family affection. The
mother was sure of the dutiful regard of her children and did not lack
affectionate consideration from her husband. The aged were treated
with a reverence in striking contrast to the heartlessness with which
in earlier times the old were deserted to die or were put to death--a
custom not unusual among primitive peoples. It is pleasant to think of
the British matron inculcating into the minds of her children respect
for age and the claims of relationship.

The law of hospitality was sacred to the ancient Briton. When a
stranger sought entertainment at the home of one of them, no questions
were asked as to his identity or his business, until after the meal.
Indeed, it was frequently the case that such arrivals were made the
excuse for a great feast, to which a number of friends were invited.
The women soon had the preparation under way, and in due time the
meat was roasting at the spit and the pot swinging on the crane over
a roaring fire. While the mothers were employed in these occupations
and in making bread, their daughters poured the fresh milk into
the pitchers and filled the metal beakers and earthen jugs with
home-brewed beer and mead. While the men exchanged stories of their
hunting exploits and deeds of valor in battle, the women carried on
a constant buzz of suppressed speculation and remark concerning the
guests. When the meal was ready, the women set it before the men upon
fresh grass or rushes. The bread was served in wicker baskets. The
guests and their hosts seated themselves upon a carpet of rushes, or
upon dog or wolf skins placed near the open fireplace. While the
men voraciously seized the steaming joints and carved from them long
slices of meat, which they ate "after the fashion of lions," the women
plied them with the beakers of foaming beverage, and the bards sang,
to the music of harps, the boastful exploits of some local chieftain.
It was a strange thing if the feast and conviviality did not end in
a fight over some question of precedence or disputed statement. When
such a combat did occur, it was usually a contest to the death. Nor
were the fierce-tempered women passive during such encounters, but, as
we have seen, were ready to aid the men of their family with frenzied
attack. Such a feast as we have described presented a weird and
picturesque sight under the flaming light of the torches made of
rushes soaked in tallow.

One of the favorite domestic employments of the British women, though
one which we may imagine fell largely to the lot of the younger women
and the girls, was the making of the wickerware for which the ancient
Britons were famous. Baskets, platters, the bodies of chariots, the
frames of boats, and even the framework of the houses, were made of
this light and serviceable material. Withes peeled and woven by the
supple fingers of the young British women into fancy baskets found
a ready market at Rome, and commanded high prices, being generally
esteemed as a rare work of ingenious art. During the hours required to
weave an article of this sort, the women would fall into a responsive
song, picked up perhaps from some passing minstrel.

Weaving, spinning, dyeing the fabrics thus made; the milking of the
cattle, the grinding of the meal; the making of the garments for the
family; the manufacture of pottery, to which may be added a share of
the outdoor work, were some of the matters which made the life of the
British woman far from an idle one. And yet, with it all, the young
women found leisure to tarry at the spring for the exchange of
laughing remarks, as they dropped something into its clear depth--as
an offering to the divinity who they fully believed resided therein
and who held in keeping their future and their fortunes--before they
drew from it the water for the bleaching of the linen that they had
already spread out in the sun.

The religion of the Britons, before the introduction of Christianity,
was an elaborate system of superstitions and of nature worship. It
was in the hands of a priestly order--the Druids. A mother was glad
to resign her boy to the training of this mystical brotherhood, if
he showed sufficient talent to warrant his reception therein. It is
not necessary to describe particularly the system. It was made up of
three orders, the Druids proper, the Bards, and the Ovates. Over the
whole order was an Archdruid, who was elected for life. An order of
Druidesses, also, is supposed to have existed. When Suetonius Paulinus
landed at Anglesey in pursuit of the Druids (A.D. 56), women with hair
streaming down their backs, dressed in black robes and with flaring
torches in their hands, rushed up and down the heights, invoking
curses on the invaders of their sacred precincts, greatly to the
terror of the superstitious Roman soldiery.

At some of their sacred rites the women appeared naked, with their
skin dyed a dark hue with vegetable stain. It was the custom of
the Druids, who had the oversight of public morals, to offer, as
sacrifices to the gods, thieves, murderers, and other criminals, whom
they condemned to be burned alive. Wickerwork receptacles, sometimes
made in the form of images, were filled with the miserable wretches,
and were then placed upon the pyre and consumed. The prophetic women,
standing by, made divinations from the sinews, the flowing blood, or
the quivering flesh of the victims. The defeat of the Druids and the
felling of their sacred groves by the Romans gave the death blow
to the system, which under the influence of Christianity completely

The diffusion of Roman civilization colored the beliefs of the British
women. The destruction of the native shrines whither they used to
resort to make a propitiatory offering or to draw divinations for
direction in some matter of personal or domestic concern, and the
establishment of the fanes of Rome, which abounded throughout the
country to the limits of the Roman conquest, converted the local
deities into Roman divinities. Under new names, the old gods of the
woods and streams continued to receive the homage of the Romanized
British matrons and maidens.

But with the introduction of Christianity and its extension even into
parts of the country where the sword of Rome had failed to penetrate,
there was a more radical change wrought in the life of women. They
have always instinctively recognized the fact that the Christian
religion is their champion, and in its consolation the women of the
Britons found much to alleviate their common distress and to elevate
their status. In the trying hours that came with the inroads of the
fierce and barbarous Teutons, when they were carried off by the savage
Picts to a base servitude, and when, after the reassertion of the
Christian religion among the English, the coming of the Danes next
brought a fresh abasement for their sex, the Christian faith was the
sustaining and the reconstructive force of the lives of the women of
the country. With the advance of Christianity passed the customs of
pagan burial. The dead were no longer cremated, nor were they buried
in the tumuli with the objects of their customary association interred
with them to be of service in the spirit world.

One of the most apparent results of the Roman conquest, in its
relation to the domestic life of the people, was the supersedence
of the rude British dwellings by the Roman villa. This open style
of house, suited to the sunny skies of Italy, had to undergo
modifications to adapt it to the more rigorous clime of Britain. About
an open court, which was either paved or planted in flower beds, the
rooms were arranged, all of them opening inwardly, and some of them
having an entrance to the outside as well. These connected rooms were
usually one story high, with perhaps an additional story in the rear.
The windows were iron-barred. The front of the villa was adorned with
stucco and gaudily painted. In the homes of the wealthy, the inner
court became an elaborately pillared banquet hall, with tessellated
work in fine marble and with the pavement figured in symbolical
devices. In it were placed the family shrines and statuary. Or else
it was fitted up with the baths which were such a feature of Roman
life. In later times, the walls blossomed out into decorations of
mythological subjects: the foam-born Aphrodite, Bacchus and his
panther steeds, Orpheus holding his dumb audience enthralled by his
melody, Narcissus at the fountain, or the loves of Cupid and Psyche.

The heating arrangements of these houses were ample and convenient,
and the edifices themselves were frequently added to by succeeding
generations. In the country districts, the houses were provided
with large storerooms, plentifully supplied with provisions, and
were garrisoned against the attack of enemies. The best of these
Roman-British houses were imposing structures of vast dimensions. The
women, when surrounded by the luxuries of Roman life, gave themselves
over to pleasure and frequented the theatres and the public baths,
and entertained in lavish style. They generally adopted the graceful
Roman dress, and thus cleared themselves of the charge of loudness,
extravagance, and meanness of attire that the earlier Roman writers
brought against them. After the introduction of Christianity, when
Roman civilization had become completely domesticated, it was no
unusual thing for a Roman to have a British wife, or for British
matrons to be found on the streets of Rome itself. The morals of the
people were not proof against the contamination of Roman standards.
The women, who were brought into closest touch with the Roman
populace, imbibed their views and followed their example. Yet among
the people who lived the simpler life of the country districts, and
to whom Christianity most forcibly appealed, the standards of their
race were largely maintained. The manner of life of the women of the
wild northern tribes was, as we have seen, unaffected by the Roman
occupancy of the country. Finding themselves unable to conquer these
fierce people, the Romans, for their own security, had stretched
across the country a great wall to facilitate defence; but they had
soon to protect their coasts from other warlike races, who, first
in piratical bands and then as migrating nations, brought terror and
annihilation to the native Britons.



To attempt a portrayal of the miseries entailed upon the women of the
Britons by the forays of the barbarians, which followed the withdrawal
of the Romans from the country, would be to rehearse the distresses
which were but usual to warfare at that period of the world's history.
We can pass over the savagery of human passions, inflamed by the
heat of strife, and come to the more congenial and, indeed, the
only important task of considering the life of woman, not under the
exceptional conditions of war, but in the normal state of existence.
Even during the Roman occupancy of the country, the British women had
experienced the terrors of the barbarians. In spite of the massive
wall, the lines of forts, and the system of trenches, by which
that military people had sought to arrest the inroads of the Picts
and Scots, those unconquered tribes of the north often swept with
resistless force far into the peaceful provinces, bringing desolation
into many homes and carrying off the women, to dispose of them in the
slave markets of the continent.

More terrible still had been the descent upon the British coasts
of the piratical Saxon rovers, whose frequent incursions had given
to those tracts that were open to their attacks the significant
appellation of the "Saxon shore." In spite of the measures of the
Romans against these marauding bands from over the seas, they were
a source of continual terror, especially to the women of the coast
settlements, to whom their name was a synonym of all those distresses
which forcible capture and enslavement imply.

When the Roman forces withdrew, a danger that had been occasional and
limited to localities now became a menace to the whole people. The
invasions of the Picts and Scots became so frequent, and their ravages
so dreadful, that the Britons, who for generations had been dependent
upon the arms of the Romans for protection, felt unable to cope alone
with the situation that faced them. In their extremity they hit upon
the expedient of pitting barbarian against barbarian, hoping thus
to gain peace from the northern terror, and at the same time to rid
themselves of the menace of the pirates. To this end the astute sea
rovers were engaged to discipline the northern hordes. But when these
"men without a country" had fulfilled their obligation, they preferred
to remain in the fertile and attractive island rather than return to
their own vast forest stretches and there seek to combat the pressure
that had set in motion the Germanic peoples.

In this way began, in the fifth century, the conquest of Britain by
the Angles, the Jutes, and the Saxons: a conquest as inevitable as
it was beneficial; a conquest so stern as practically to sweep from
existence a whole people, excepting the women, who were spared to
become the slaves of the conquerors, and such of the men as were
needed to fill servile positions. The conquest of a Christian nation
by a pagan one must have resulting justification of the highest
order, if it is not to be stamped as one of the greatest calamities
of history, and such justification is amply afforded by the splendid
history of the English people. In the light of the achievements for
humanity that are presented by the record of the Anglo-Saxon peoples,
we need not take up the lament of a Gildas over the woes of the

The impact of the virile peoples of northern Europe against the
serried ranks of soldiery that circled the lines of the great world
empire was the irresistible impulse of civilization to preserve and to
further the march of the race toward the goal that mankind in all its
wholesome periods has felt to be its unalterable destiny. The conquest
of Britain was a part of this great world movement. Its striking
difference as compared with the method and the results of the
barbarian conquests on the continent lay in the fact that the new
nationalities that there arose in the path of the invaders were Latin,
while the England of Anglo-Saxon creation was essentially Teutonic.
Hardly a vestige of the Roman occupancy of the country remains in
language, in literature, in law, in custom, or in race.

The independence of the English people of Roman influence, and British
as well, leads us to connect the customs, habits, and, in a word, the
status and the civilization of their women, not with the antecedent
line of British life, but with the tribes of the German forests.
Some influence was exerted by the British women upon the life of
the Anglo-Saxons, but it was not sufficient to become an influential
factor in the crystallization of the new nation. Some of the surviving
customs, manners, and superstitions of the English women are of
undoubted British origin, and remain as a part of the folklore of the
English race as we know it. There is no question that the life of the
common people was tinctured by superstitious beliefs and magic, which
even Christianity had failed completely to eradicate from the faith of
the British women. And this is true, too, with matters of custom and,
perhaps, of dress.

The status of the female sex among the Anglo-Saxons is well set forth
by Sharon Turner in his _History of the Anglo-Saxons_. He says: "It is
a well-known fact that the female sex were much more highly valued and
more respectfully treated by the barbarous Gothic nations than by the
more polished states of the East. Among the Anglo-Saxons they occupied
the same important and independent rank in society which they now

They were allowed to possess, to inherit, and to transmit landed
property; they shared in all social festivities; they were present at
the Witenagemot; they were permitted to sue and could be sued in the
courts of justice; and their persons, their safety, their liberty, and
their property were protected by express laws.

The dignity and the chastity of the women of the Germanic tribes made
a profound impression on the minds of the Roman writers who had an
opportunity for observing them, and evoked from them the warmest
tributes. They remarked that the Germans were the only barbarians
content with one wife. Here, then, we find that of which we have
not been assured in our prior study of the women of Britain--genuine
monogamous marriages.

Tacitus says: "A strict regard for the sanctity of the matrimonial
state characterizes the Germans and deserves our highest applause.
Among the females, virtue runs no hazard of being offended or
destroyed by the outward objects presented to the senses, or of being
corrupted by such social gayeties as might lead the mind astray.
Severe punishments were ordered in case of infringement of this great
bond of society. Vice is not made the subject of wit or mirth, nor can
the fashion of the age be pleaded in excuse for being corrupt or for
endeavoring to corrupt others. Good customs and manners avail more
among these barbarians than good laws among a more refined people."
Among the Teutons, whom Tacitus thus praises to the discredit of his
own people, there was no room for any question of the elemental
rights of woman, for among them woman was more than loved, she was

As Sharon Turner observes, women were admitted into the councils of
the men; and the high position accorded them is further shown by their
prominence in the more intellectual priestly class. The proportion of
women to men must have been ten to one. Their preponderance in this
influential order assured them of the preservation of the regard in
which their sex was held. Its best security, however, lay in that
instinctive feeling of the equality of the sexes which is fundamental
in the character of the Anglo-Saxon and the Germanic family as a

We must not suppose that because the women of the Anglo-Saxons had
certain rights and were accorded a certain superstitious reverence,
as specially gifted in divination, they were therefore the objects of
chivalrous devotion and were surrounded by æsthetic associations. The
age was a rude one, and the race was made up of uncouth barbarians.
The female grace of chastity was not the result of high ideals, or
of wise deductions from the sacredness of the family relation in its
bearing upon society; it did not even have its basis in conspicuous
moral motives; but it was a natural characteristic of a people who had
lived under severe conditions which necessitated a constant struggle
for supremacy and relegated all weaknesses of the flesh to a place
of secondary importance. Had this attribute sprung from any of those
considerations which at a later time gave rise to chivalry, there
would be found in the poetry of the time the evidences of a tender
regard for woman; her praise would have been sung in poems of love;
but there is a dearth of love songs in the verses of this period. Love
of a kind there was, but it was too matter-of-fact and practical in
its nature to effloresce into sentimentality.

As marriage is the basal principle of the true family, it will be
proper to begin a consideration of the domestic relations of the
women of the Anglo-Saxons by glancing at the circumstances, the
significance, and the ceremonies of their marriages. When the
Anglo-Saxons had settled in England, the primitive and barbarous
custom of forcibly carrying off a bride had probably been superseded
by the later form of obtaining a bride by purchase. While the woman
seems to have had no choice in the selection of a husband, it is
unreasonable to suppose that she did not hold and express opinions;
nor would it be venturesome to assert that, despite her legal
limitations, her voice in the matter of her marriage was often a
decisive one. When the question was beset with especial difficulties,
to what better umpire could a considerate parent refer the matter than
to the bride herself?

One of the laws regulating the disposition of marriageable maidens
was: "If one buys a maiden, let her be bought with the price, if it
is a fair bargain; but if there is deceit, let him take her home again
and get back the price he paid." This was a sort of marriage with
warranty. But the law of Cnut took a more liberal view of the rights
of the girl; it says: "Neither woman nor maid shall be forced to marry
one who is disliked by her, nor shall she be sold for money, unless
(the bridegroom) gives something of his own free will." By this law
the woman was given the decision of her destiny, and the purchase
price became a free gift. If a woman married below her rank, she was
confronted by the alternatives of losing her freedom or giving up
her husband. As the husband bought his wife, so he might sell her and
their children, though this was rarely done. We need not, however,
condemn too harshly this absolute right that was vested in the head of
a family in the disposition of its members, as it was but a relic of a
usage common to all patriarchal societies, and which passed away with
the clearer view of the sovereignty of self and the claims of society.

Before the marriage proper took place, there were held the ceremonies
of espousal. These consisted of fixing the terms of the union, and
entering upon agreements to be carried into effect after the ceremony.
In later times, the first essential was the free consent of the
persons to be espoused. This was a step toward the right of the female
in the selection of a husband. Early espousals were customarily, but
not invariably, dependent upon the consent of both parties. In some
instances, the parents espoused their children when but seven years of
age. On arriving at ten years of age, either of the parties could in
theory terminate the engagement at will; but if they did so between
the ages of ten and twelve, the parents of the one breaking the
contract were liable to damages. Beyond twelve years, the child as
well as its parents suffered the penalty.

After the parties to the espousal, in the presence of witnessing
members of their respective families, had declared their free consent
to the contract that was to bind them, the bridegroom promised to
treat his betrothed well, "according to God's law and the custom
of society." This declaration of a good purpose was ratified by his
giving a "wed," or security, that he would creditably fulfil his
intentions as expressed. The parents or guardians of the girl received
these assurances in her behalf. The foster-lien was the next important
matter. This was at first paid at the time of the espousal, until
some fathers with attractive daughters found it to be a profitable
investment to have them repeatedly espoused for the sake of the
foster-lien, but without any idea of consummating the espousal. This
practice made these precontracts decidedly unpopular and led to their
being modified by ecclesiastical law that provided for the payment of
the foster-lien after marriage, in case it had been properly secured
at the time of betrothal. When these preliminaries were arranged to
the satisfaction of all concerned, the ceremony itself took place.
This consisted of "handfasting" and the exchange of something, even
if only a kiss, to bind the bargain. Frequently this sentimental
interchange was accompanied on the part of the groom elect by the gift
of an ox, a saddled horse, or other object of value.

This formal engagement was really a part of the marriage and was
regarded as beginning the wedded life. The Church, however, favored
an interval between the espousal and the marriage. The ceremony of
betrothment usually took place in a church. If the man refused or
neglected to complete the espousal within two years, he forfeited the
amount of the foster-lien; if the woman were derelict in this respect,
she was required to repay the foster-lien fourfold--later changed
to twofold. It will be seen by this that "engagements" among the
Anglo-Saxons presumed serious intentions, and that, in a breach of
faith, the woman was held more rigidly to account than the man, whose
fickleness was visited only by forfeiture of the security he had
advanced. The woman was further required to return all the presents
that she had received from her "intended."

The marriage ceremony was much like that of the espousal. The man
and woman avowed publicly their acceptance of each other as wife and
husband. The bridegroom was required to confirm with his pledge
all that he had promised at the espousal, and his friends became
responsible for his due performance. Though by the customs of their
times the young people were deprived of experiencing the delights and
uncertainties of courtship, the girls were not to be denied the joys
of a wedding; and when the circumstances of the groom permitted, the
occasion was marked with gayety, music, feasting, and festivities of
all sorts. The morning after the wedding, the husband, before they
arose, presented to his wife the _morgen gift_. This was a valuable
consideration, and corresponded to the modern marriage settlement.
The terms of the settlement were arranged before the marriage, but
the gift was not actually presented until the marriage had been

The rude conduct which accompanies a wedding in rough communities
at the present day, as well as the more innocent but embarrassing
pranks to which any newly wedded couple may be subjected, find their
counterpart in the uncouth conduct and witticisms that were at one
time a part of the experiences of an Anglo-Saxon bride and groom. As
the bride, accompanied by her friends, was conducted to her future
home, where her husband, according to custom, awaited her, the
procession was sometimes saluted by facetious youths with volleys
of filth and refuse of any sort, the especial target of their
maliciousness being the frightened and insulted bride herself. If
the young rowdies could succeed in spoiling her costume, they were
especially satisfied with themselves. Aside from the indignity offered
her, the loss of her costume was always a serious matter to the bride,
as in that time of scanty wardrobes it represented a large part of her

The bridegroom, if such indignities were offered to his spouse,
invariably sallied forth with his friends to administer condign
punishment to the "jokers"; and as all freemen in those days carried
arms, bloodshed, bruises, and broken bones resulted. Later, the law
took cognizance of the outrage and suppressed it. But such unpleasant
experiences were not permitted to spoil the marriage festivities;
the bride received the felicitations of her friends and displayed
her gifts--the latter being in evidence at all weddings, because the
making of gifts on the part of relatives was not a thing of choice,
but of compulsion.

Among the convivial Anglo-Saxons the marriage would have been
considered a very tame affair without the accompanying excesses of
unrestrained feasting, drinking, and mirth. The clergyman who had
pronounced the benediction at the nuptials came to the feast with a
company of his clerical friends. The wedding feast lasted for at least
three days, and was a time of gluttony and rioting. On the first day,
the festivities were opened by the clergy rising and singing a psalm
or other religious song. The wandering gleemen, who were always
present at these feasts, then took up the singing; and as they
proceeded, to the clamorous approval of the drunken company, they
became less and less mindful of the proprieties of sentiment and of
action. The bride and groom were not obliged to remain to the end of
the revelry, but might avail themselves of an opportunity to slip out
from the hall. When the company was surfeited with festivities, the
more sober of them formed a procession, with the clergy in the lead,
and with musical attendance conducted the bride and groom to the
nuptial couch. The bed was formally blessed by the priest, the
marriage cup was drunk by the bride and the groom, and then the couple
were left by their friends, who returned to the hall and renewed their
feasting. Even Alfred the Great, good and wise as he was, could not
escape the customs of his times, and was compelled to indulge in such
excesses at his wedding that he never quite recovered from an attack
of illness he suffered in consequence.

Having noticed the rudeness to which the bride was subjected, it is
gratifying to mention a more pleasant bit of waggery that was much
in vogue, and that corresponds more nearly to the wedding pranks of
to-day. One of the symbolic features of the wedding was the touching
by the bridegroom of the forehead of the bride with one of his shoes.
This signified that her father's right in her had passed to her
husband. But when the couple were conducted to their nuptial couch by
the bridal company, it was quite likely, if the bride had a reputation
for shrewishness, that the shoe, which after the ceremony had been
placed on the husband's side of the bed, would be found on the bride's
side--a hint that the general conviction was that the headship of the
family would be found to be vested in the wife. We can see from this
that the custom of throwing an old shoe after a bride to give her
"good luck" really signifies the wish that she may dominate the new

The marriage of a girl was signalized by her being thereafter allowed
to bind her hair in folds about her head. Up to that time she wore
her hair loose. This custom, which in earlier days signified a wife's
subjection, came now to denote the high dignity to which she had been
raised; her hair thus arranged was a crown of honor, and every girl
looked eagerly forward to the time when she might wear a _volute_, as
this style of hairdressing was called.

The very practical Anglo-Saxon marriage bargains do not partake much
of the flavor of romance. We find other evidences of the mercenary
motives that pervaded the marriage customs of the time. The idea of
marriage as the purchase of a wife, who in that relation became
the property of her husband, is further indicated by the fact that
unfaithfulness might be condoned by a money payment, the _were_. An
old law says: "If a freeman cohabit with the wife of a freeman, he
must pay the _were_, and obtain another woman with his own money and
lead her to the other." Indeed, the chastity of women was regulated by
a set price, according to their station. If the woman in the case
were of the rank of an earl's wife, the culprit paid a fine of sixty
shillings, and paid to the husband five shillings; if the woman were
unfree or below age, he suffered imprisonment or mutilation. These
citations from the laws of the time are not made to show regulations
of morals, but to illustrate the fact that in the case of free women
offences could be satisfied by a money payment, just as the husband
in the first instance acquired his rights over his wife by such a

Having considered with some detail the general regard in which women
were held and the customs of marriage, it is now in place to say
something about the methods of dissolving the matrimonial tie. It must
be borne in mind that the period we are describing was one of rapid
development. After the introduction of Christianity the uncouth
barbarians rapidly became civilized, and new laws were constantly
being made to define the rights of individuals in all relations. Thus,
as marriage customs and incidents underwent modification, so did the
circumstances of divorce. At first the husband could, at will, return
his wife to her parents; his power of repudiation was practically
unlimited. But such a condition could not long be brooked, as the
practice was a serious affront to the lady's family. We read in the
romance of Brut that Gwendoline and her friends not only levied war
on King Locrine for repudiating her under the bewitchments of the
beautiful Estrild, but put both the king and his new bride to death.
When Coenwalch grievously insulted Penda, the king of the Mercians, by
putting aside his wife, Penda's sister, that monarch at once declared
war on the West Saxon king. Such grave disorders were incited by this
unjust right of the husband that, largely through the influence of the
clergy, limitations were put upon the practice. Naturally, the first
step was to require cause for the repudiation of a wife. The causes
advanced were usually frivolous or insufficient; but when the bishops
taught that "if a man repudiated his wife, he was not to marry another
in her lifetime, if he wished to be a very good Christian," the custom
became less prevalent, especially as the second wife was punished by
excommunication. The right of repudiation for cause was exercised by
wives as well as husbands. The case of Etheldrythe, the daughter of
Anna, the famous King of East Anglia, as cited by Thrupp, will serve
to illustrate the prevailing conditions of the wedded state. "This
young lady had the misfortune to be very weak and very rich. She
was consequently sought for as a wife, by princes who cared nothing
for her person, and as a nun, by churchmen who cared as little for
her soul. She endeavored to please all parties. She took a vow of
virginity with permission to marry, and married with permission to
observe her vow. Her first husband, Tondebert, Earl of Girvii, who
probably obtained possession of her land, did not trouble himself
about her or her personal property; and on his death, she retired
to Ely. She subsequently married Egfried, a son of the King of
Northumbria, a boy of about thirteen, whose friends desired her
estate. He, also, for some time willingly respected her vow, but
afterward attempted to compel her to do her duty as a wife. She
refused compliance with his wishes, and, having succeeded in escaping
from his kingdom, again took up her residence in a monastery. There,
in defiance of her marriage vow, she emulated the strictest chastity
of the cloister while in the bonds of marriage. The clergy applauded
her conduct, and, no doubt, obtained possession of her estates. The
king took a second wife; and all parties appear to have been satisfied
with what was, in truth, a very discreditable transaction."

After the decline of the right of repudiation, marriage could be
annulled by mutual consent, and the parties were probably permitted
to marry again. Legal divorces were granted for adultery, and what
the clergy called spiritual adultery, which consisted of marriage to
a godfather or a godmother or anyone who was of spiritual kindred, as
such imagined relatives were called. To these causes for divorce were
added idolatry, heresy, schism, heinous crimes, leprosy, and insanity.
If either husband or wife were carried off into slavery, or otherwise
became unfree, or were made a prisoner of war, the other had a right
to remarry after a certain time.

To insure a decent interval between marriages, the law stipulated that
if a widow entered again into wedlock within a year after the death of
her former husband, she should sacrifice the _morgen gift_ and all the
property she had derived from him.

At first, the childless wife had no interest in her husband's
property; at his death, the duty of caring for her reverted to her
own family. If she had children, she was entitled to one-half of his
estate, but this was in the nature of a provision for the children.
But as society improved, the rights of widows came to be recognized.
Women had from the earliest times been permitted to hold and bequeath
property in their own right; the failure to recognize the widow's
interest in her deceased husband's estate arose from her being
regarded as having left her own family circle and identified herself
with that of her husband for his life only; therefore, at his death
she renewed her connection with her own family, who assumed the care
of her. In the case of her children, they, being of his flesh and
blood, had a natural interest in their father's property, while the
wife's relations with her husband were simply contractual. A more just
view prevailed in the time of Cnut, as is shown by one of his laws,
which provided that the widow not only had a right to her settled
property, but, whether she had children or not, was entitled to
one-third of whatever had been acquired jointly by her and her husband
during their married life, "excepting his clothes and his bed." This
law did not abrogate the provision already stated, that the widow
forfeited everything in case she married within a year.

About the time of Cnut's laws giving wider rights to wives in the
matter of property, there was passed a law that recognized the wife's
right to exclusive control of her personal effects. Wardrobes had
become much more extensive, and the law took the view that a woman had
a right to a chest or closet of her own, wherein to keep her clothing,
her jewelry and ornaments, and all the little articles dear to
feminine fancy and personal to their possessor. To this private
receptacle her husband could not have access without her leave. This
curious law, making a real advance in woman's legal status, arose out
of the predatory tendencies of the age.

When a child was born in an Anglo-Saxon household in the earliest
days, the first thought was not, what shall it be named, but, shall it
be put to death? In those rude times, the custom of exposure applied
to the young and to the very old. Life was a continual hardship, and
food was often extremely difficult to procure. Care for the feeble
implies a solicitude for life that was foreign to the experiences
of the men of that day. The weak and the sickly were regarded as
superfluous members of society. If the infant were deformed, or not
wanted for any reason, it was either killed outright, exposed, or sold
into slavery. We like to believe that when the Anglo-Saxons settled
in Britain and found themselves under more comfortable conditions
of living than those to which they had been accustomed in the
inhospitable clime whence they came, with its constant threat of
famine, they discarded this dreadful practice; but customs die slowly,
and, as the parent had absolute rights in the person of his child,
sentiment against the practice required time to become general. The
rugged Teuton, teeming with an overflowing vitality, had not adopted
the modern method of birth restriction as a solution of the problem
of sustenance. There was no Malthus in the forests of Germany to
discourse on the economic effect of an overplus of population and to
awaken inquiry as to the best way to limit the human family within
the bounds of possible sustenance. It was a condition and not a theory
that faced the Teuton, and he met the situation in the only way known
to him. As the problem passed away, the practice went also, though
isolated cases of exposure of infants continued down to the tenth

In the form of exposing children of clouded birth, the practice of
infanticide grew with the lowering of morals; but in the case of
legitimate offspring the custom declined. The Church imposed heavy
penalties on those found guilty of the practice. Fortunately for the
infants so treated, there was a prevailing superstition that to adopt
one of these foundlings brought good luck. The great prevalence of the
crime at some periods is shown by the rewards offered by the different
monarchs to those who would adopt foundlings. All rights in the child
passed to the one who adopted it. The general willingness to adopt
such children led to many abuses. Mothers thus relieved themselves
of the duty of caring for their offspring, while those to whom the
children were committed often looked upon them as so many units of
labor, and made life very hard for them. Homicide was frequently one
of the effects of the baleful practice, and generally occurred under
conditions that made it difficult to fix the guilt.

It is interesting to note, as Gummere points out, that the barbaric
custom of exposing infants "lies at the foundation of the most
exquisite myths--Lohengrin the swan-knight, Arthur the forest
foundling, and that mystic child who in the prelude of our national
epic, _Beowulf_, drifts in his boat, a child of destiny, to the shores
of a kingless land."

Grimm quotes from a Danish ballad, where a mother puts her babe in
a chest, lays with it consecrated salt and candles, and goes to the

  "Thither she goes along the strand
  And pushes the chest so far from land,
  Casts the chest so far from shore:
  'To Christ the Mighty I give thee o'er;
  To the mighty Christ I surrender thee,
  For thou hast no longer a mother in me.'"

The custom of exposing illegitimate offspring shows a retrogression
from the standards of rugged chastity which were characteristic of
the earlier period of the Anglo-Saxon settlement in Britain. In those
times, as we have seen, the German women were models of virtue; the
slightest departure from morality was viewed with horror and visited
with severe punishment. If the one guilty of misconduct were married,
she was shorn of her hair, the greatest degradation to which she could
be subjected, and then driven naked from her husband's house, her
own relatives giving their countenance and aid to the husband in thus
banishing her. She was expelled from the village, and not allowed to
return. At a later date, such a woman, married or unmarried, was made
to strangle herself with her own hands; her refusal to do so availed
nothing, as the women of the neighborhood stripped off her garments
to the waist, and then with knives, whips, and stones hunted her from
village to village until death mercifully relieved her from further

In spite of such harsh penalties, the moral standard could not be
maintained at a high level. It is more than likely that its decline
was due in part to the women whom the Northmen brought with them.
When they touched the shores of Britain, it was often after piratical
voyages that had taken them to the coasts of France, Spain, Italy, and
even Africa. When this was the case, they were always accompanied by
large numbers of female slaves from these countries. Then, too, the
greater part of the British women were reduced to slavery by the
new masters of the country, and none of these were treated with the
consideration for their sex that was accorded the German women. The
repute of the women of the Anglo-Saxons remained unimpaired, excepting
as to particular classes and particular times; the women not of
Anglo-Saxon origin were, perforce, the chief offenders against

The era of the Danish invasion was a time of almost unbridled license.
Female character could not withstand the tide of immorality that came
in with the new wave of heathen invaders. The women whom the Vikings
brought with them were captives of the lowest grade, ravished from
their homes for the pleasure of their captors on their long sea
voyage. On their arrival they were made slaves of the camp, following
the army wearily in its marches from place to place. This miserable
degradation was forced upon many pure English women by the brutal
lords of the sea. When the invaders settled down to live at peace
with the English, and, by amalgamation, to be absorbed into the larger
race, it was centuries before the country recovered from the blight
of immorality that had fallen upon it; but, with its rare powers of
recuperation, Anglo-Saxon virtue reasserted its principles and caused
its conquerors to subscribe to them.

Before considering the dress, the amusements, and the employments
of the women, a description of the Anglo-Saxon house will serve to
illustrate much of the common life of the women. This was not evolved
from that of the Briton; it marks a departure in the architecture of
the country. Neither the rude houses of the poorer of the Britons nor
the villa of the Roman provincial appealed to the forest nomads, who
were accustomed to light, tentlike structures that could be readily
taken down and erected elsewhere as their changing habitat directed.

The Anglo-Saxon town of the earliest period was only a cluster of
wooden houses--a family centre constantly added to by the increase and
dividing of the household, until the settlement assumed something of
the proportions of a town. Stone was not in favor with the Teutons for
their dwellings. They saw in it the relic of the demigods of a remote
past; stone masonry seemed supernatural, and they called it "the
giants' ancient work." The house of the Teutons was probably a
development of the ancient burrow; as Heyn expresses the process
of its evolution: "Little by little rose the roof of turf, and the
cavern under the house served at last only for winter and the abode
of the women." The summer house of wattles, twigs and branches, bound
together by cords, and with a thatched roof, a rough door, and no
windows, seemed to serve these unsettled people, whose surroundings
abounded with the materials for substantial edifices.

The architecture of the Germans developed rapidly. Soon there was a
substantial hall, or main house, which was the place of gathering and
feasting and the sleeping place of the men. The women slept, and we
may say dwelt, in the bower. Necessary outbuildings were supplied in
abundance. The floor of the hall was of hard earth or of clay, perhaps
particolored, and forming patterns of rude mosaic. It was no uncommon
thing for the rough warrior to ride into the hall, and to stable there
his beloved steed, as will be seen from the following extract from an
English ballad of a later date, which is given us by Professor Child:

  "Kyng Estmere he stabled his steede
  Soe fayre att the hall-bord;
  The froth that came from his brydle bitte
  Light in Kyng Bremor's beard."

Rows of benches were commonly placed outside of the hall; the exterior
walls and the roof were painted in striking colors. Huge antlers
fringed the gables; the windows, lacking glass, were placed high up in
the wall, and a hole in the roof sufficed for the escape of smoke.

Such was the early English hall, as it appears to us in the ballads
and stories of the times. The magnificent lace and embroidered
hangings with which were draped the interior walls of the habitations
of the nobility served the double purpose of decoration and protection
from the cold draughts that came in through the numerous crevices.
Even the royal palace of Alfred was so draughty that the candles in
the rooms had to be protected by lanterns. Benches and seats with fine
coverings added comfort and elegance to the hall. In front of these
were placed stools, with richly embroidered coverings, for the feet
of the great ladies. The tables in these Anglo-Saxon homes were often
of great beauty and costliness. In the reign of King Edgar, Earl
Aethelwold possessed a table of silver that was worth three hundred
pounds sterling. Many sorts of candelabra, some of them of exquisite
pattern and workmanship, made of the precious metals and set with
jewels, were used to impart to these old halls the dim light that
in our fancy of the times becomes a feature of the romance of the
knightly homes of older England.

Warm baths were essential to the comfort of the Anglo-Saxon; to be
deprived of them and of a soft bed was one of the severe penances
imposed by the Church. The ladies' bower was perfumed with the scents
and spices of India and the East.

Though the houses still left much to be desired in the way of
architectural features as well as ordinary convenience, the
appointments and furnishings of a home of the later Anglo-Saxon period
showed a keen appreciation of creature comforts.

The law of hospitality opened all doors to the wayfaring freeman. When
he wound his horn in the forest as he approached the hall to protect
himself from being set upon as a marauder, he was welcomed to the warm
fire, the loaded table, and the guest bed, without question. In later
times, the traveller was permitted to remain to the third night. The
guest who came hungry, weary, and dusty to one of these hospitable
homes and received admittance might esteem himself fortunate, for the
women of the time were well versed in the art of wholesome cookery,
and had at hand a plentiful variety of foods. For their meats they
might select from the choice cuts of venison, beef, and lamb, besides
pork, chicken, goat, and hare. Birds and fish afforded greater
variety. Of the latter there were salmon, herring, sturgeons,
flounders, and eels; and of shellfish, crabs, lobsters, and oysters.
Horse flesh was in early use as a comestible, but later became
repugnant to taste, and was discountenanced by the Church in the
latter part of the eighth century.

To the meats was added a variety of warm breads, made of barley meal
and of flour. Eggs, butter, cheese, and curds, with many sorts of
vegetables, were to be found on the tables; while figs, nuts, almonds,
pears, and apples were probably served by the women to the company
as they sat in discourse about the fire, or, stretched at full length
upon the floor, became absorbed in games of chance. For the Germans
were such inveterate gamblers that money, goods, chattels, their
wives, and even their own liberty, were often risked by the casting of

The women were admitted to seats at the tables with the men, the girls
being engaged in serving the drinks, which were as freely used then
as now. Even after the company were surfeited with food and the tables
were removed, drinking was kept up until the evening.

The costumes of a people are of the greatest worth in revealing to the
student their grade of civilization and their ideals. There can be no
question but that taste in dress is one of the best gauges by which to
determine whether at a particular time the people were serious minded
or frivolous, moral or immoral, swayed by high aspirations or the prey
of indolence and sensuous gratifications. Just as truly can we arrive
at the characteristics of a race or a period by seeing the people
at their play. If we find them given to gladiatorial exhibitions, we
shall not err in concluding that they were a vigorous and war-like
people; if they are found at the bull fight, we may safely adjudge
them to be a brutalized and enervated race. The Anglo-Saxon can safely
be brought to this test. If the dress of the women is a criterion
of morals, then were these people of early England exemplary; if the
games in vogue denote the race characteristics, then were they rude,
but wholesome.

After the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity, there
were evidently some changes made in their garb, to indicate their
abjuration of heathenism; for in the Church council of 785 the
complaint was made that "you put on your garments in the manner of
the pagans, whom your fathers expelled from the world; an astonishing
thing, that you should imitate those whose life you always hated."
Change of style in dress was practically unknown among the ladies of
the Anglo-Saxon period of English history. The illuminations of the
old MSS., from which all that is definitely known on the subject is
derived, show that the dress of the women remained practically the
same during the entire period.

The costume of the women can be described with many details. There was
an undergarment, probably made of linen, extending to the feet; it had
sleeves that reached to the wrists and were there gathered tightly
in little plaits. There was an absence of needlework of any sort,
excepting a simple bit of embroidery upon the shoulder. The customary
color of the garment was white. Over this was worn the gown, which
was slightly longer than the undergarment, and reached quite to the
ground. It was bound about the waist by a girdle, by which it was
sometimes caught up and shortened. The sleeves are most frequently
pictured as extending to the wrist, and were worn full. Sometimes,
however, they reached to only the elbow, and in some cases were
wanting altogether. This garment was prettily ornamented with
embroidery, in simple bands of sprigs, diverging from a centre.
Another form of dress that is represented seems to have been an
out-of-doors or travelling costume. It differed from the other in
being of heavier material, possibly of fine woollen goods, and had
sleeves that extended to the knees. It is possible that this was a
winter dress, and the other a summer one.

A mantle was worn about the shoulders. This, likewise, was of a solid
color, usually contrasting with that of the gown. This garment appears
to have been round or oval in shape, with an aperture at one side,
so that when it was put on it hung much further down the back than
in front. The head was covered with a wimple, broad enough to reach
from the top of the forehead to the shoulders, where it was generally
wrapped about the neck in such a way that the ends fell on the bosom.
A less studied, but more tasteful, way to wear it was to have it hang
down on one side as far as the knee; the effect of the contrasting
colors of the wimple, the mantle, and the gown was gratifying to women
of taste. The shoes were black, and of simple style. They resembled
the house slippers worn by women to-day; but besides these low shoes,
which came only to the ankles, other shoes were worn, that reached
higher up the leg and appeared to have been laced much as shoes now
are. Stockings may or may not have been used.

It will be seen from this description of the costume of the
Anglo-Saxon woman that it was modest, complete, and in good taste.
She was, however, proud of her attire, and of the many ornaments that
were worn with it. The ornament in most general use was the fibula,
or brooch. This was of many styles: radiated, bird-shaped, cruciform,
square-shaped, annular, and circular. It was of gold, bronze, or iron,
and showed the greatest delicacy of workmanship. It was worn on the
breast, a little to one side, so as to fasten the mantle. When we
are reminded that the Anglo-Saxons were highly skilled in the art of
dyeing, and that they had perfected the art of gilding leather, we can
readily see that a lady of quality, when dressed in her blue, purple,
or crimson costume of state, her girdle clasped by a finely chased
brooch of gold, whose fellow gleamed in the folds of her mantle, might
have invited comparison, to advantage, with the most stylishly attired
woman of to-day. But when we add to her dress a mantle, not only of
rich colors, but embroidered in ornate design, with heavy threads
of pure gold; massive arm rings of the same precious metal, of
wonderfully beautiful pattern, and fastened about her round white
arm by delicate little chains; and numerous strings of gold, amber,
and glass beads, rich in pattern and cunningly chased, the picture
presented of the Anglo-Saxon woman is altogether pleasing. The
ornaments of the women were not considered as mere matters of
adornment. To the pagan woman, her beads served as a protection
against supernatural foes. When Christianity came in, the beads were
blessed by a pious man and continued to serve the same useful end.

The bronze combs found everywhere in the graves of the time show how
careful the women of the day were to keep in perfect order the long
locks of which they were so proud. From the graves have been recovered
chatelaines, of the fashion of those now in vogue, golden toothpicks,
ear spoons, and tweezers. These ornaments and toilet requisites were
in constant use in life; and in pagan times they were interred with
their owner, that they might still be hers in the other world.

The Anglo-Saxons understood the art of inlaying enamel, and their
colors were remarkably bright and enduring. But the most striking
evidence of proficiency in the jeweller's art was their _cloisonné_
ware. This art of the East was spread by the barbarian invasions
over the whole of Europe; De Baye, in his _Industrial Arts of the
Anglo-Saxons_, calls it "the first æsthetic expression of the Gothic
nations," and says that it was not borrowed, but was adapted from the
East. He describes it as follows: "This _cloisonné_ work, set with
precious stones in a kind of mosaic, and combined at times with
the most delicate filigree, is sufficiently characteristic to be
remarkable in every country where it has left traces." This beautiful
form of art penetrated Kent and the Isle of Wight, where for some
reason it became localized and assumed a particular character. Some of
the fibulæ that have been preserved to us, and are to be found in the
art collections of England, are remarkable specimens of this beautiful

The love of English women for outdoor sports can be traced to
Anglo-Saxon times, and much of the wholesome vigor of the race is
due to those early pastimes. However fond women may have been of fine
ornaments, then as now it was the privilege of the few to possess
them; but the national sports were enjoyed by all. Hunting, hawking,
boating, swimming, fishing, skating, were in great favor with the

In the winter there were many long hours to be whiled away indoors,
and although spinning and weaving the fabrics for the family wear,
as well as their embroidery and lace work, took up much of the time,
the women still had ample leisure to engage with the members of their
households and, perhaps, the passing guests in the many simple games
that delighted them. Chess was in marked favor, and was played in much
the same manner as now. The exchange of witticisms and the guessing of
conundrums added much to the innocent mirth of a household intent on
making the long evenings pass as pleasantly as possible.

There were itinerant purveyors of amusement who were to be found at
every feast and at many family firesides. These were the wandering
minstrels, or gleemen. Although they were welcomed for the
entertainment they furnished, yet as a social class they were
certainly in slight repute. Their forms of entertainment were not
limited to music. They presented a programme that included the
performances of trained animals, tricks of jugglery, feats of magic,
and other exhibitions of skill and daring. Along with the gleemen went
the glee maidens, who were the dancing and acrobatic girls of the day.
Dancing itself was a very rudimentary performance, but the enthusiasm
of the audience was aroused by the acts of tumbling and contortion
that were introduced into it. Convinced that dancing alone could not
account for the bewitchment of Herod by the daughter of his brother
Philip's wife, the translators into the vernacular of that Biblical
circumstance say of Herodias that she "tumbled" before Herod; and the
illuminations in a prayerbook of the time show Herodias in the act of
tumbling, with the assistance of a female attendant.

Slight protection, either from law or custom, was afforded women
of the lower classes from gross insults. Any female was likely to
be stopped on the road and partially or altogether denuded of her
clothing, and then sent on her way with taunts and jeers. But, despite
the coarseness of the Anglo-Saxon times, sentiment finally made Itself
felt for the correction of such manners. The women were responsible
for the diffusion of notions of greater refinement.

While there was little deserving the name of education, and even
reading and writing were the accomplishments of but a small part of
the people, the monastic orders conserved some notion of scholarship.
Unfavorable as were the times to productive thought, scholars of no
mean ability nevertheless flourished, and among men and women alike
there was a desire for learning. To his female scholars the monk
Anghelm dedicated his works: _De Laude Virginitatis_. Certain Saxon
ladies of leisure occupied themselves with the study of Latin, which
they came to read and write with some ease. The literary antecedents
of the brilliant women of the sixteenth century are to be found in
that little group of studious women of the Anglo-Saxons, of whom
the Abbess Eadburga and her pupil Leobgitha, with both of whom Saint
Boniface corresponded in Latin, were the most notable.

The nuns were a class apart. The separation of the monks and the nuns
in the monastic establishments was gradually brought about by Church
regulations and the rules of the orders. By the end of the seventh
century the separate monasteries had effected the separation of the
men and the women, and in the eighth century the erection of double
monasteries was forbidden. Long before this time, however, the
more earnest of the ladies in superintendence of the monasteries
had prohibited the admission of men to the female side of the
establishments, excepting such men as the sainted Cuthbert and the
venerable Bede. These regulations were very strict and almost put an
end to the scandalous allegations about the religious establishments.
The charge that the priests resorted to the monasteries for mistresses
probably had no better foundation than the fact that many of the
priests continued to marry, in spite of the rule of celibacy. Whatever
truth there is in the assertion that kings obtained their mistresses
from the ranks of the nuns must be laid to the civil interference
and claims of jurisdiction over religious institutions. But while the
headship of convents was frequently offered to women of high rank and
low morals, whom it was convenient thus to get rid of, and in this way
certain institutions became debauched, the monastic system itself did
not become corrupt, and there were monasteries of notable purity and
great worth.

The story of Eadburga, the widow of Beorthric, King of Kent,
illustrates the hardships inflicted upon the monasteries, through the
assumption of royal personages to appoint their heads. Eadburga was
a notable beauty, and was renowned as well for her talents and her
ambition. She ruled her husband with a jealous tyranny, removing from
court by false accusation or by poisoning all who stood in her path.
The Earl Worr, a young man of great personal charm, was one of those
who exerted an influence over her husband. On some occasion of public
hospitality she proffered him a cup of poisoned liquor; the king, who
was present, claimed his right of precedence, and, after drinking from
the cup, passed it to the earl, who drained it. Both of them died,
leaving the guilty queen exposed to the wrath of the royal family.
Eadburga fled to the court of Charlemagne, where she was graciously
received, and after a time the king suggested to her that she lay
aside her widow's weeds and become his wife. She showed so little tact
as to say that she would prefer his son. Charlemagne, piqued by her
answer, said that had she expressed a preference for him, it had been
his purpose to give her in marriage to his son; as it was, she should
marry neither of them. She remained at the court until the king,
scandalized by her wicked life, placed her at the head of an excellent
monastery. In this responsible position, Eadburga behaved herself as
badly as ever; and as the result of an amour with a countryman of
low birth, she was expelled from the convent. This widow of a monarch
ended her career as a common beggar in the streets of Pavia.

A very different class from the nuns, but, like them, a distinct class
in the social life of Anglo-Saxon times, were the slaves. The least
amiable trait of the women of the times was their treatment of
servants. Although there were striking instances of kindly and
considerate regard for this class on the part of their mistresses, yet
the slight legal protection afforded them, and the rough, impetuous
natures of the masters, made the existence of the servile class
miserable. It was not unusual for slaves to be scourged to death;
and for comparatively slight offences they were loaded with gyves and
fetters and subjected to all kinds of tortures. On one occasion, the
maidservant of a bellmaker of Winchester was, for a slight offence,
fettered and hung up by the hands and feet all night. The next
morning, after being frightfully beaten, she was again put in fetters.
The following night, she contrived to free herself, and fled for
sanctuary to the tomb of Saint Swithin. This was not an exceptional
instance; it illustrates the severity that was customarily meted out
to serfs.

The queens and other ladies of rank among the Anglo-Saxons included
some who were ornaments to the sex in industry and intelligence as
well as charity. Their influence on politics for good or for evil
was often the result of their position as members of rival houses.
Christianity was often furthered by the alliance of a Christian
princess to a pagan king; Bertha, the daughter of a famous Frankish
king, was in this way instrumental in the introduction of Christianity
into England. Herself a Christian, she married Ethelbert, King of
Kent, on condition that she should be permitted to worship as a
Christian under the guidance of a Frankish bishop named Lindhard. The
condition was observed, and Bertha had her Frankish chaplain with
her at court. She seems not to have made any attempt to convert her
husband; and he never disturbed her in her religion. The pope was
probably informed of the auspiciousness of the outlook for the
introduction of Christianity into the Kentish kingdom, and, being
still under the influence of the impression made upon him by the
flaxen-haired Angles he had seen in the slave markets of Rome before
his elevation to the pontificate, he determined to make good the vow
he had then registered to send missionaries to the land of the boy
slaves. Augustine was selected for the mission, and on arriving, with
his companions, in England, after a great deal of trepidation for
their personal safety, they presented themselves at the court of the
King of Kent Ethelbert received them in the open air, with a great
show of pomp, and gave them his promise to interpose no hindrance
to their missionary endeavors among his people. To Bertha must be
ascribed the credit for the complaisance of her husband and the
opening that was made to restore the Christian faith, which had
perished with the Britons.

Edith, the gentle queen of Edward the Confessor, was noted alike
for her skill with the needle and her conversance with literature.
Ingulf's _History_, though perhaps not authentic, gives us a
delightful picture of the simplicity of her Anglo-Saxon court. "I
often met her," says this writer,--meaning Edith,--"as I came from
school, and then she questioned me about my studies and my verses;
and willingly passing from grammar to logic, she would catch me in
the subtleties of argument. She always gave me two or three pieces of
money, which were counted to me by her hand-maiden, and then sent me
to the royal larder to refresh myself."

Ethelwyn, another royal lady, and a friend of Archbishop Dunstan,
was accustomed to decorate the ecclesiastical vestments, and the art
needlework of herself and her companions became celebrated. On
account of his well-known skill in drawing and designing, Dunstan was
frequently called into the ladies' bower to give his views in such
matters. While they worked, he sometimes regaled them with music from
his harp.

These pleasing views of the character and the employments of the
royal ladies in Anglo-Saxon times, seen in their simple pursuits, are
more agreeable than the stories of those who were engaged in court
intrigues, to relate which would necessitate a history of the
political movements of the day. We shall later have ample opportunity
to see woman as an influence in affairs of thrones and dynasties. For
the present, it will suffice to regard royal woman in the way in which
she is prominently presented to us in Anglo-Saxon annals--as the lady
of refined domesticity.



A picture of the social life of England during the Norman period is
a picture of manners and customs in a state of flux. But amid all the
instability of the times, when political institutions, laws, customs,
and language were inchoate, the tendencies were so marked that it is
quite possible to watch the emergence of a solidified people. The two
great social factors to be considered are the baronial castles and the
women of those castles. The castle was the characteristic feature of
the Anglo-Norman period; its conspicuousness increased as time went
on, until, in the reign of Stephen, there were no less than eleven
hundred of these units of divided sovereignty scattered over the

During the period of national unsettlement which followed upon the
Conquest, these frowning castles arose; they owed their existence
to the lack of adequate laws for the safeguarding of life and of
property, and to the absence of the machinery of government for the
enforcement of law. But, principally, they represented the mutual
jealousies of the Norman barons, to whom had been apportioned the
lands of the Saxons--jealousies which found a common attraction in an
aversion to the centralizing of power in the hands of any monarch who
had ambitions to be more than a superior overlord.

This social insecurity was intensified during the reign of William by
the danger of attack from the implacable Saxon bands of warriors who
had retired into the swamps and from those fastnesses conducted a
fierce guerrilla warfare upon the Normans. So full of danger was the
period, that the closing of the castle for the evening was always an
occasion for serious prayer and commitment of the inmates to Divine
protection, as there was no knowing but that before morning a
besieging force might appear before the gates and institute all the
horrors of attack and beleaguerment.

The elevation of woman to the plane of companionship with her husband
was largely due to the peculiar conditions of the feudal state of
society, of which the frowning castle that crowned the many hilltops
was the sinister characteristic. Exposed as she was to the same
dangers, and sharing the responsibilities of her husband, there was no
room for a distinction of status to be drawn between them. By reason
of environment, wifely equality with her husband was not a matter of
theoretical but simply of practical settlement. It was needful that
the wife should be a woman of courage and of resources. But while the
matter of sex did not constitute a badge of inferiority in the
home relations, the peculiar perils to which the women were exposed
constituted an appeal to manhood that evoked a chivalrous response;
and when life became less hard and there was better opportunity for
the expression of the tenderer sentiments, this especial regard for
woman rose to the height of an exalted devotion.

It would not be right to assume, however, that the greater prominence
and influence of woman outside of her home was a sudden emergence from
former conditions. In so unsettled an era it became, however, a more
general, more pronounced feature. We may find an earlier indication of
the interest of the great lady in the affairs of her lord and in the
welfare of his dependants, as well as of the advance of chivalrous
sentiments, in the story of Lady Godiva. It was in 1040 that Leofric,
Earl of Mercia, was besought by his wife, who was remarkable for her
beauty and piety, to relieve his tenantry of Coventry of a heavy toll.
Probably little inclined to grant her request, he imposed what he
may have thought impossible terms, when he consented to her plea
on condition that she would ride naked through the town. To his
amazement, doubtless, the Lady Godiva accepted the condition; and
Leofric faithfully carried out his agreement. The lady, veiled only
by her lovely hair, rode through the streets; and to the honor of the
good people of Coventry, it is said that they kept within doors and
would not look upon their benefactress to embarrass her. One person
only is said to have peeped from behind the curtain of his window,
and the story runs that he was struck blind, or, according to another
version, had his eyes put out by the wrathful people. This curious
person was the "Peeping Tom of Coventry," whose name has become

Society develops in strata, so that the elevation of the women of the
castles did not enable the women of the hovels to profit by conditions
out of the range of their lives. The lower classes, or villains, which
included the grades of society styled, in the Anglo-Saxon period, the
freemen and the serfs, were the social antitheses of the society of
the castles. The women of the lower class benefited not at all by the
new dignity that was acquired by the women of the castles during the
feudal régime; in fact, they suffered the imposition of new burdens
and the exactions of a feudal practice which took the form of tribute,
based on the persistent idea of the vassalage of their sex. The great
middle class, which was to play such an important part in the social
and industrial history of England, had not emerged as a separate
section of the people of the country. But what the lady of the Norman
castle obtained for her class through one phase of feudalism, the
woman of the guild aided in securing by another in the centuries which
marked the rule of the Angevin kings; and in both Norman and Angevin
times the influence of the Church was constantly on the side of the
womanhood of the country, and was probably a more potent force than
any other, for the exaltation of woman was the one policy which
proceeded on fixed principles.

The castles too often degenerated into centres of rapine and pillage;
perpetual feuds led to constant forays, and no traveller could be
assured that he would not be set upon by one of these robber barons
and his band of retainers--little better than remorseless banditti.
But there were castles of a better sort, nor were all knights recreant
to their vows. In assuming the obligations of his order, the newly
vested knight swore to defend the Church against attack by the
perfidious; venerate the priesthood; repel the injustices of the poor;
keep the country quiet; shed his blood, and if necessary lose his
life, for his brethren. Nothing was said in the oath about devotion
to women, nor was such a thing at first contemplated as a part of the
knight's office. His office was a military one, and sentiment did not
enter into it. The chivalrous feature grew out of the circumstances
of the times--the unprotected situation of woman, the fact that the
knight who enlisted in the service of a baron, and the baron as
well, often had to leave the women of their households dependent for
protection upon the opportune courtesy of other knights and lords.
When the country had become more orderly and manners had softened,
with the increased security given to life and property and the better
means of obtaining justice, this chivalrous feature continued and
became prominent in the knightly character and office.

In the early times, when the life of the knight was of the roughest,
there were adventurous young women, caught by the excitement it
offered, who donned the habiliments of the knight and plunged into the
dangers of his career. The story is told of the quarrel of two Norman
ladies, Eliosa and Isabella, both of them high-strung, loquacious, and
beautiful, and both dominating their husbands by the forcefulness of
their natures. But while Eliosa was crafty and effected her ends by
scheming, Isabella was generous, courageous, sunny-tempered, merry,
and convivial. Each gathered about her a band of knights and made war
upon her adversary. Isabella led her knights in person, and, armed as
they were and as adept in the use of her weapons, she advanced in open
attack upon her foe. Such incidents, though not usual, were yet in
accord with the spirit of the time.

Every lady was trained in the use of arms for the needs of her own
protection when the occasion should arise. Sometimes the practice of
sword drill was carried on in the privacy of the lady's apartment.
Thus, it is related of the Lady Beatrix--who, by reason of her
expertness and her intrepidity in the actual use of arms, gained for
herself the sobriquet _La belle Cavalier_--that the first knowledge
that her brother had of her martial proclivities was when, through a
crevice in the wall, he happened to observe her throw off her robe,
and, taking his sword out of its scabbard, toss it up into the air
and, catching it with dexterity, go through all the drill of a knight
with spirit and precision; wheeling from right to left, advancing,
retreating, feinting, and parrying, until she at last disarmed her
imaginary foe. We read of the Knight of Kenilworth that he made a
round table of one hundred knights and ladies, to which came, for
exercise in arms, persons from different parts of the land.

In such setting is found the life of the woman of the day. But below
whatever of chivalry was to be found in this turbulent age, which
extended from the coming of William the Conqueror to the end of
the reign of Stephen, it was preëminently a rude, boisterous, and
uncultured era. The lack of uniformity of language was as much
opposed to the development of literature as was the general unsettled
condition of the times. Education, slight as it was, had suffered a
relapse, and it was not until the twelfth century that anything like
real literature was developed.

As the castle was the characteristic feature of the time, and within
its walls will be found much of the matters of interest relating
to the women of the day, a description of one of these domestic
fortresses will make clearer the customs of the times in so far as
they relate to the women of the higher classes.

The site selected for the ancient castle was always a hilltop or knoll
that lent itself to ready defence. The foot of the hill was enclosed
by a palisade and a moat; these circumvallations frequently rendered
successful assault impossible, and the only recourse open to the
attacking force was a protracted siege. As the stranger on peaceful
mission bent approached one of these massive structures, rearing its
frowning walls in silhouette against the blue of the sky, he could not
fail to be impressed with the majesty and grandeur of its walls and
turrets. He would notice the round-headed windows, with their lattice
of iron and the numerous slitlike openings which supplemented the
windows for the access of light and, as loopholes, played an important
part in the defence of the fortress. On coming to the gateway, flanked
on either side by bastions, pierced to admit of the flight of arrows,
the warden would open to him, and he would be conducted into a
courtyard, whose sides were made by the walls of the hall, the chapel,
the stable, and the offices. Within the courtyard, he would observe a
garden of herbs and edible roots, and also a fine display of flowers;
perhaps, too, a small enclosure in the nature of a cage, containing a
number of animals--the trained animal collection of the jongleurs, who
commonly attached themselves to the following of barons.

On passing into the hall, he would be at once struck by its absolute
meagreness; a few stools, some seats in the alcoves of the wall, a
few forms, some cushions and a sideboard, making its complement of
furniture. The abundance and beauty of the plate on the sideboard
might partially redeem in his eyes the barrenness of the place. The
minstrel's gallery in the rear of the hall would be suggestive of the
convivial uses of that portion of the castle. No elaborate draperies
would be seen; some strips of dyed canvas upon the walls alone served
to make up for the lack of plaster, and to afford some protection from
damp and the spiders whose webs could be seen in the ceiling corners.
On passing out again into the courtyard, he would observe the tokens
of domestic pursuits in the kitchen utensils and the dairy vessels
upon benches, and cloths hung upon poles above. Passing by the
subsidiary buildings, and ascending to the ladies' bower by the
outside staircase, he would find a few more evidences of comfort than
greeted him in the hall below. Instead of common canvas, the walls
would be draped with some embroidered materials, cushions would be
more plentiful, the touches of femininity would be observed in various
little elements of comfort and adornment; but, with all this, he would
find it dreary enough. Should he return, however, to this boudoir when
the ladies were gathered for their afternoon's sewing, the scene would
make up in animation what it lacked in attractiveness of surroundings.
On going into the bedchamber, a glance would reveal its contents.
Seats in the wall, a stool, a curiously shaped bed, candelabra, and
two projecting poles, the one for falcons and the other for clothes,
would complete the sum of its furniture. The bed furnishings would
consist of a drapery, pendent from an odd roof, rather than a canopy,
over the bed. The bed would look to him comfortable enough, with its
quilted feathers and pillow attached, and, over these, sheets of
silk or of linen, and over all a coverlet of haircloth, or of woollen
fabric, lined with skins. One compartmented bed fixture, with its
curious divisions, was thought to afford sufficient privacy for
honored guests of different sexes, who were all cared for in the same
chamber; if the number of the guests and of the household was large,
several bed fixtures or bedsteads might be observed. The servants
slept indiscriminately in the hall below.

Such was the simplicity of the interior arrangements and furnishings
of the castle. But within these rooms, devoid of many of the ordinary
comforts of modern life and altogether lacking in its luxuries,
assembled women who prided themselves on their noble estate and
extraction; here, too, were held many assemblies of state; kings in
their progresses through their kingdom tarried for entertainment,
bringing with them magnificent retinues. Feasts and social functions
called forth all the highbred graces of the fair hostess and made the
castle a scene of merriment and of joyous conviviality. Here, too,
were held orgies of drunkenness and of depravity; intrigues smouldered
within these walls, to break out into an open flame of rebellion;
while dramas of noble self-abnegation and plightings of faithful love
were enacted there as well. Amid all these scenes moved the lady of
the castle.

A few of the typical views of castle life in which the women figured
conspicuously will serve to give a more particular setting to
the general idea of their status and employments. While men gave
themselves up to feats of arms, the women had the task of hospitably
entertaining the guests who frequented the castles; in the interim of
these festivities and the exacting care of a host of servants, they
applied themselves assiduously to needlework, and in no other way
does the woman of the times appear in so pleasant a light as when
thus engaged. Her facility in lace and embroidery work is not attested
alone by contemporary writers, but has come down to us in its finest
expression. The famous Bayeux tapestry, possibly the most ingenious
specimen of needlework that the world has known, calls up the most
interesting of the castle scenes as related to woman. It is the
expression of the artistic and historical sense of Matilda, the wife
of William I. In some such lady's bower as has been described, the
fair queen assembled the ladies of her court, and the Bayeux tapestry
was created amid the interchange of small talk, becoming more serious
as at times the figures of the pattern recalled some particular horror
of personal loss on the part of some of the ladies present, entailed
by the great battle whose glory was the central theme of their labors.
With womanly self-effacement, they had in mind only those whose deeds
were in this unique manner to be handed down to posterity, and had no
thought of the monument to womanly devotion that they were erecting
for the honor of the sex. Every scene involved the perpetuation
of the memories and the valor of those who were dear to them; and
as the record passed into the embroidered pattern, it was dwelt
upon with words of glowing pride. In some such way took shape the
picture-history of the event that found its consummation in the battle
of Senlac. By its wealth and accuracy of detail, this monument of
woman's skill became a historical document of the first order for
the period to which it relates. But to the student of the English
woman its chief value must lie in its revelation of the depth of
the pride and devotion to husbands, brothers, and lovers that it
reveals--devotion to the living and the dead alike, which is the
secret of its reverent accuracy, excluding as it does vainglorious
exaggeration. It thus becomes a memorial of deeds of valor and of
defeat, of triumph and of death; a monument to the Norman, but,
unwittingly, a monument to the defeated Saxon as well.

We are reminded by this historic tapestry of the pathetic story
of Edith of the Swan's Neck. King Harold had been slain on the
battlefield by a Norman arrow which had pierced his brain. His mother
and the Abbot of Waltham had successfully pleaded with Harold's
victorious rival for permission to bury the king within the abbey. Two
Saxon monks, Osgod and Ailrick, were deputed by the Abbot of Waltham
to search for and bring to the abbey the body of their benefactor.
Failing to identify on the field of Senlac (Hastings) the bodies
denuded of armor and clothing, they applied to a woman whom Harold,
before he was king, had had for a companion, and begged her to assist
them in their search. She was called Edith, and surnamed la belle
an you de cygne. Edith consented to aid the two monks, and readily
discovered the body of him who had been her lover.

The queen who conceived and furthered the execution of the Bayeux
tapestry was representative of the best type of Norman womanhood. Her
devotion to her husband was proverbial, and his faithfulness to her
has never been questioned. Intrigues among persons who could not brook
the moral atmosphere of a court such as Matilda maintained were common
enough, and the envious breath of scandal even sought to shake the
confidence of her royal husband in her; but all such attempts were
unavailing. Matilda became in every sense the consort of William, and
thus marked a forward step for the womanhood of the country. Without
such recognition of the wife of William I., England would never have
had the brilliant and versatile Elizabeth or the wise and womanly
Victoria to number among the great examples of high worth which
make the list of England's notable women one of the chief glories
of her history. As the manners of the court affect the standard of
the nation, that the tone of the times was not lower in an age of
turbulence, when moral standards were debased, must be to some extent
accredited to the example of the queen.

When Matilda died, the country was still rent by fierce hatreds and
passionate outbursts; the unplacated Saxon had been little influenced
by her. It was reserved for another Matilda, the wife of Henry I., to
aid in healing the breach, and, by uniting the discordant elements,
put the country in a position for the development of those arts of
civilization which only can flourish in an atmosphere of peace. When
Matilda, then a _religieuse_, was adjudged by the Church authorities
not to have taken the veil, or to have assumed the vows that would
have severed her from the world and committed her to a life of
virginity, she reluctantly heeded the clamor of the Saxon element of
the people, and yielded to the importunities of Henry to become his
wife and the country's queen. So was secured to the land a queen
in whose veins ran Saxon blood and who had received an Anglo-Saxon
education. Through her influence, many salutary laws were enacted to
relieve the disabilities of the people. The wives and daughters of
the Saxons were secured from insult; the poor and honest trader was
assured equity in his business transactions, and other matters of
equal import owed their enactment to the kindly disposed queen. In
this manner were allayed animosities which had continued to smoulder
under a sense of repeated injustices, and with the growth of mutual
confidence there came about an identity of aspiration and effort
on the part of the two elements of the population. Intermarriage
facilitated this happy tendency, and the perseverance of the
Anglo-Saxon tongue, modified indeed by Norman admixture, did much
for its furtherance. Thus, the two peoples gradually fused into one
nation. That Matilda did much to secure this desirable end entitles
her to be regarded as the mother of reconciliation.

The Norman ladies of rank came under the influence of the queen, and
it was not uncommon to find them, like the Anglo-Saxon ladies, engaged
in the profitable concerns of the poultry yard and the dairy, instead
of giving themselves up to court intrigues. The two Matildas represent
the best element of the noble womanhood of the day; neither of them
was faultless, and the first was charged with an act of vindictiveness
toward a Saxon who spurned her love that ill comports with the
accepted estimate of her amiability and worth; but while not
impeccable, yet both reflected in their lives the signal qualities
which, when illustrated in times adverse to them, ennoble the sex.

Returning to the employments of the ladies of the castles, the most
typical of these as illustrating the manners of the times, next to the
industry of the bower, was the hospitality of the hall. The hostess
took her place beside her lord, by virtue of her recognized equality
of position, and directed the movements of the servants, who were kept
busily employed passing around the dishes--the meat being served upon
the spits, from which the guests might carve what they pleased. No
forks were used at the table, fingers answering every purpose. On very
great occasions the _pièce de résistance_ was a boar's head, which was
brought into the hall with a fanfare of trumpets, the guests greeting
its appearance with noisy demonstrations. Another delicacy, which a
hostess was always pleased to serve to persons of consequence, was
peacock. The presence of this bird was the signal for the nobility
to pledge themselves afresh to deeds of knightly valor. Cranes formed
another of the unusual dishes generally found at these state banquets.
As the dinner proceeded, the thirst of the company was assuaged
by copious draughts of ale or mead and of spiced wines. That such
festivities invariably developed scenes of hilarity and disorder was
in the nature of the case, and it was not a strange thing to see
the valorous knights, under the mellowing influence of too frequent
potations, indulge in such disgraceful acts as throwing bones about
the room and at one another, until these bone battles passed into more
serious fracases. The woman of refinement had reason to dread these
carnivals of gluttony and debauch; and when they became too offensive,
she sought the seclusion of her private apartments.

All the while the minstrels played their instruments and sang their
songs, often improvising from incidents in the careers of those
present, or taking for a theme some vaunting sentiment to which a
cup-valorous knight gave expression. No bounds of propriety were
observed in the theme or in its treatment by these paid entertainers.

As the dishes were brought in, amid the rude songs and coarse jests
of these jongleurs, another company, even more reprobate than they,
gathered about the hall door and sought to snatch the dishes out of
the hands of the servants. These were the _ribalds_ or _letchers_--a
set of degraded hangers-on at the castle, lost to all self-respect and
ready for any base deed that might be required of them. To them was
allotted the refuse of the feast.

A vivid picture of a wedding banquet of the times is afforded in
a scene from the earlier career of Hereward, the last of patriotic
leaders of the Saxons. The daughter of a Cornish chief had been
affianced to one of her countrymen, who was notoriously wicked and
tyrannical; but she herself had pledged her affections to an Irish
prince. Hereward, who was a guest in the country of Cornwall, became
an object of hatred to the Cornish bully, who picked a quarrel
with him and in the encounter was slain. This awakened a spirit of
vengeance among his fellows, and it was only through the assistance
of the young princess that Hereward was enabled to escape from the
prison where he had been confined and to flee the country. He carried
with him a tender message from the lady to her Irish suitor. In the
latter's absence she was again betrothed by her father, and sent a
messenger to notify her lover of the near approach of the wedding. He
sent forty messengers to her father to demand his daughter's hand by
virtue of a promise one time made to him. These were put in prison.
Hereward doubted the success of the lover's embassage; and having dyed
his skin and colored his hair, he made his way, with three companions,
to the young lady's home, arriving there the day of the nuptial feast.
The next day, when she was to be conducted to her husband's dwelling,
Hereward and his companions entered the hall, and, as strangers, came
under especial observation. He saw the eyes of the princess fixed
upon him as though she penetrated his disguise; and as if moved by the
recollections his presence awakened, she burst into tears.

As was the custom of the times, the bride, in her wedding costume,
assisted by her maidens, served the cup to the guests before she left
her father's home; and the harper, following, played before each
guest as he was served. Hereward had registered an oath not to receive
anything at the hands of a lady until it was proffered by the princess
herself. So, when the cup was offered to him by a maiden, he refused
it with abruptness, and declined to listen to the harper. His rude
conduct raised a tumult of excitement and indignation, whereupon the
princess herself approached him and offered the cup, which he received
with courtesy. The princess, entirely confirmed in her suspicions
as to his identity, threw a ring into his bosom, and, turning to the
company, craved indulgence for the stranger, who was not acquainted
with their customs. The minstrel remained sullen, whereupon Hereward
seized his harp and played with such exquisite skill as to awaken the
astonishment of the company. As he played and sang, his companions,
"after the manner of the Saxons," joined in at intervals; whereupon
the princess, to help him in his assumed character, presented him the
rich cloak which was the reward of the minstrel. Suspicions as to his
real character were not, however, entirely allayed; and these were
increased by his request to the father of the bride for the release of
the Irish messengers.

Finding that he had endangered his safety and the success of his plans
by his indiscretion, Hereward slipped away unobserved, and, with his
companions, lay in ambush the next day along the road by which he knew
the bride would be conducted by her father to her new home. As the
bridal procession passed, and with it the Irish prisoners, Hereward
rushed out upon the unsuspecting company; and while his companions
released the prisoners, he seized the lady and bore her away in true
knightly fashion. It may well be believed that the bride was soon
united in wedlock to the husband of her choice.

One other circumstance in the history of this man, whose life was a
series of bold undertakings, serves to illustrate the superstitions
of the times. When King William had besieged the island of Ely, which
was the headquarters of Hereward and his large following of Saxon
warriors, and had failed to subdue them, he gave heed to the counsel
of one of his courtiers, to have recourse to a celebrated witch
for aid in the destruction of his foes. Hereward, to spy upon his
adversary and discover his plans, disguised himself as a potter,
and stopped at the house of the old woman whose magic was to be used
against him; that night he followed her and another crone out into
the fields, where they engaged in their curious rites. From their
conversation he learned of the scheme against him, which was to have a
platform erected in the marshes surrounding the island; the hag was to
repeat thrice her charm, when he and his followers would be destroyed.
Accordingly, when the platform was erected and the besiegers drew as
near as they could, expectantly awaiting Hereward's destruction, he
and his companions, under the cover of the brush, crept close to the
platform and, taking advantage of the favorable direction of the wind,
set fire to the reeds. The witch, who was about to repeat her charm
for the third time, leaped from the platform in terror, and was
killed, while in the panic many of the soldiers lost their lives
by fire or by water. The scene here depicted bears a remarkable
similarity to the weird rites of the ancient British Druidesses, and
doubtless represents a continuance of the mysteries of that order,
which came down in forms of magic and witchcraft through many

This glimpse of the witchcraft that was to become more prominent, or
at least with which we become more familiar at a later period, will
suffice to show that the plane of general intelligence was not yet
high. Education was limited to subjects that have no special interest
for us to-day. Such as it was, it was accessible to the lower classes
as well as to the upper. There were schools connected with the
churches and the monasteries. Apparently, there was no distinction
in the subjects pursued by the sexes, excepting in the case of the
nobility, whose sons were trained for the positions they were to
occupy. It would appear that some priests were so zealous for the
prosperity of their schools that they sought to entice scholars from
other schools to their own. A law to correct the practice provided
"that no priest receive another's scholar without leave of him whom he
had previously followed." Latin was in the list of the studies pursued
by the ladies, but few could read in the vernacular.

At that day there was the same tendency that is familiar to-day,--to
cast alleged feminine inconsistencies into the form of adages. One
of these proverbs is found in the instructions of a baron who was
counselling his son on his going out from the paternal roof: "If
you should know anything that you would wish to conceal," says this
generalizer from a personal experience, "tell it by no means to your
wife, if you have one; for if you let her know it, you will repent of
it the first time you displease her."

The amusements that were popular in the Anglo-Saxon days continued
during the Norman period, but hunting and hawking, by reason of the
stringent game laws, were sports practically limited to the upper
class. The lady kept her falcons and knew well how to set them on the
quarry, and with the men she could ride in the hunt to the baying of
the hounds. It is interesting to note that with women the usual method
of riding was on a side-saddle; seldom are they found seated otherwise
in the representations of riding scenes. Among all classes dancing
seems to have been in favor. The exercise was more graceful and
intricate than the dance of the Saxons. Among the young people of the
lower classes it was the chief amusement, and was attended by much
mirth and boisterousness. Games of chance were popular among both
sexes, and chess was a favorite pastime.

The art of the Anglo-Saxon gleemen and maidens under the Normans was
represented by two classes of public entertainers, the minstrels and
the jongleurs. The minstrels confined themselves for the most part to
music and poetry; while the jongleurs were the jugglers, tricksters,
and exhibitors of trained animals. But the distinction was not sharply
drawn, although in general the minstrels were considered to afford a
higher form of entertainment than did the jongleurs. Both sexes were
represented in these bands of itinerant amusement purveyors. Companies
of them were more or less permanently attached to the retinues of
the great barons, for the whiling away of the long evenings and the
entertainment of the guests. The sentiments of the songs and stories
of these people were full of suggestiveness and coarseness. The merry
and licentious lives of the disreputable traffickers in amusement
brought them under moral reprobation, even in that rude age. They drew
into their ranks many persons of depraved life, who, when the times
improved, contributed, by their abandon, to create sentiment against
all profligate strollers. Yet these minstrels represented the
beginnings of music and of vernacular literature after the conquest of

In the matter of dress there was a marked departure from the
Anglo-Saxon costume, which varied little. Just as long as England
was not in touch with continental ideas and customs, the women of
the country wore the costumes of their ancestors. That dress is
cosmopolitan never entered into their conceptions, any more than it
does into those of any of the Eastern nations who in modern times have
been brought suddenly into the stream of European customs and manners.
But with the coming of the Normans, national conservatism yielded to
comparison with the fashions of other peoples, and fashion assumed
the sceptre that it has continued to wield over the English woman. The
changes in dress were at first slight, but by the end of the twelfth
century they had become sufficiently marked to be the target of
witticism and the subject of satire. The foibles of the women were
little regarded by the writers of the time. The dress of the men was
not passed over in like silence, however; it drew from the censors of
the day the severest strictures on account of its flaunting meagreness
and its improprieties in the eyes of its monkish critics. The same
condemnation was visited upon the practice of the men of dyeing their
hair or otherwise coloring it, wearing flowing locks, and painting
their faces. Such fashions were styled reprehensible and effeminate.
It would have been instructive to subsequent generations if these
censorious critics had not been so gallant toward women, and had
given to us the spicy descriptions of feminine attire that, in their
indignation, they have afforded us of that of the men. Had they but
realized that it was the sex whose sins of dress they passed over
so lightly, with charity or indifference, that was to follow the
inconsequential wake of fashion into the wildest vagaries of costume
and adornment, they would have let the men have their brief day, and
massed their strictures against those who were to elevate fashion
to an art and make of its following a devotion. As it is, for our
knowledge of the dress of the weaker sex we are dependent upon the
illuminations, whose brilliant coloring and faithfulness of detail
left little for the text to elucidate. That the new styles were not
received with approbation by the clerical artists is clear enough
from the caricatures and exaggerations of them that appear in their
drawings. The inordinate length of the sleeves, reaching as they did,
in a long, mandolin-shaped pocket, to the knees of the wearer, made
them surely hideous enough to draw out the indignation of those who
had artistic sensibilities to be shocked.

That the notion of fashionable dress as Satanic is very old is shown
by one of the representations of his infernal majesty, where he
is portrayed dressed in the height of feminine fashion. One of the
sleeves of his gown is short and full, while the other, in caricature
of the style of the day, is so long that it has to be tied in a knot
to get it out of the way. The gown, also, being of impossible length
and fulness, is disposed of by the simple expedient of knotting.

In the dress of Satan, as an exponent of the iniquity of feminine
attire, there also appears unmistakable evidence of a tight bodice
of stays, the lacing of which, after drawing his majesty's waist into
approved dimensions, hangs carelessly down to view and terminates in
a tag. As stays were not commonly worn, and as a writer at a little
later time is found vehemently inveighing against them, it is fair to
conclude that their presence on Satan is to indicate, in the eyes of
the better element of the day, the indelicacy and impropriety of
their use. Ridiculous and unsightly as were the long sleeves and other
novelties of dress, the particular displeasure with which they were
regarded by the element whose views the ecclesiastics reflected must
be attributed somewhat to their foreign origin. Although they were
introduced into the country by the Normans, the long sleeves, at
least, appear to have originated in Italy. Down to the twelfth
century, there was sufficient conservatism remaining to deprecate the
introduction of foreign novelties, just as in Elizabeth's days the
economists strongly protested against bringing into the country
"foreign gewgaws."

The girdle remained a part of the dress of the women, although it was
not so much in evidence as in the Anglo-Saxon time. It was probably
worn under the gown, and in some cases may have been dispensed
with. That queens and princesses, however, wore very fine girdles,
ornamented with pearls and precious stones, is abundantly attested by
the contemporary writers.

The mantle was the most changeful article of dress at this period.
Sometimes it was worn in the old way, being put on by passing the head
through an aperture made for that purpose; but more often it was worn
opening down the front and fastened at the throat by an embroidered
collar clasped by a brooch. Again, it was fastened in a similar
way at the throat, but covered only one side of the form, falling
coquettishly over the shoulder and hanging down the side. A
particularly pleasing effect was obtained by having it fasten at the
throat by a collar, whose rich, gold-embroidered border continued
down the front to the waist. Sometimes the garment was sleeveless, and
again it was worn with short sleeves, or sleeves long and full. For
winter wear, it covered the form entirely and terminated in a hood.
These mantles were often of the finest imported textiles, embroidered
in elegant figures and with richly wrought borders, and were lined
throughout with costly furs.

The kerchief, like the mantle, quite lost its conventional style in
the period we are describing, and was often omitted altogether. It
was usually worn over the head, and hanging down to the right breast,
while the end on the left side was gathered about the neck and thrown
over the right shoulder. Sometimes it was gathered in fulness upon
the head and bound there by a diadem, though otherwise worn as just
described. Toward the end of the twelfth century it became much
smaller, and was tied under the chin, looking very much like an
infant's cap. The women's shoes were very much the same as those
worn by the Anglo-Saxons. It is quite likely that the stockings were
close-fitting and short, as was the style among the men.

There were different ways of wearing the hair, but the most usual was
to have it parted in front and flowing loosely down the back, with a
lock on either side falling over the shoulders and upon the breast;
this was the style for young girls especially. Another fashion was
to have it fall down the back in two masses, where it was wrapped by
ribbons and so bound into tails. Young girls never wore a headdress of
any sort. On reaching maturity, it was usual for the women to enclose
their hair in a net, with a kerchief cap drawn tightly over it.

The ornaments in use need no particular description, because of
their similarity to those worn during the Anglo-Saxon period. Crowns
were, of course, the chief adornments of queens on state occasions;
circlets of gold, elegantly patterned, formed the diadems of the noble
ladies; and half-circlets of gold, connected behind, constituted
the distinctive headdress of women of wealth. Rings, armlets, and
necklaces, as well as the generally serviceable brooch, were in use.

Turning from the fashions of the wealthy to the condition of the poor,
what a difference appears! The age was one of sharp contrasts;
for while gayety reigned in the high circles of court and castle,
wretchedness was more usual in the hovels with their mud walls and
thatched roofs, to which nature may have added the gracious garniture
of herbs, mosses, and lichens. But it would be too much to assume that
the persons of humble estate were not happy in their own way. Lacking
the luxuries of the table and the fine attire of the ladies of the
castles, life still had for them many elements of pure joy. But while
the women of the lower ranks would have contrasted well in the matter
of morals with the women of the nobility, yet no more then than now
was virtue the exclusive possession of any class.

The monasteries were not only centres of culture, but were also the
great distributing centres of charity, the nuns being looked upon as
the especial friends of the poor. We hear little of complaint against
the character of these houses at this time, and it is clear that the
rules for their direction had become efficacious for the establishing
of a discipline sufficiently rigid, on the whole, to ensure exemplary
character. Many penances and mortifications were imposed on the nuns,
besides others which were voluntarily assumed. In a book of rules
published at this time appears the following, which seems to indicate
that even sunshine savored too much of worldliness for the occupants
of the religious houses: "My dear sisters, love your windows as little
as you may, and let them be small, and the parlor's the narrowest; let
the cloth in them be twofold, black cloth, the cross white within and
without." It may be, however, that it was not too much sunlight that
was to be avoided, but men, who sought to converse with the nuns
at their windows. This indeed appears to be the true meaning of the
recommendation, as is indicated by another enjoinment: "If any man
become so mad and unreasonable that he put forth his hand toward the
window cloth, shut the window quickly and leave him."

Besides the nuns, whose office dedicated them to acts of charity, many
of the noble ladies found pleasure in alleviating the afflictions of
the poor. In their care of the distressed they were incited to acts
of humility by the very high value that the Church placed upon the
performance of such deeds. Matilda, the good wife of Henry I., had the
training of the monastery in developing her benevolent instincts, and
set an example to the ladies of her court by establishing the leper
hospital of Saint Giles; there she herself washed the feet of lepers,
esteeming such lowly service as done unto Christ. In a hard and cruel
age, the gentler sentiments common to womanly nature, especially when
under the influence of Christian feeling, poured themselves out in a
wealth of affection upon those who were stricken and left helpless by
the hardness of the times.



There was an almost total lack of central authority or of legal
restraint throughout the land during the long conflict between Stephen
and Matilda, wife of the Count of Anjou, whom the feudal party, in
violation of their vows to Henry I., refused to accept as queen; and
to the other terrors of war were added the depredations of a host
of mercenary soldiers brought over from the continent. To quote the
chronicler William of Newburgh: "In the olden days there was no king
in Israel, and everyone did that which was right in his own eyes;
but in England now it was worse; for there was a king, but impotent,
and every man did what was wrong in his own eyes." The Petersborough
continuation of the _English Chronicle_ gives as dark a picture of the
state of affairs: "They filled the land full of castles and filled the
castles full of devils. They took all those they deemed had any goods,
men and women, and tortured them with tortures unspeakable; many
thousands they slew with hunger--they robbed and burned all the
villages, so that thou mightest fare a day's journey nor ever find
a man dwelling in a village nor land tilled. Corn, flesh, and cheese
there was none in the land. The bishops were ever cursing them, but
they cared naught therefor, for they were all forcursed and forsworn
and forlorn.... Men said openly that Christ slept and His saints.
Such and more than we can say we suffered for our sins," Such grim
experiences of unlicensed feudalism did much for the social education
of the English people, and similar lawlessness was never repeated in
the history of the country. Out of the furnace through which England
passed, the English character emerged, purified of some of its
dross of Anglo-Saxon sluggishness and Norman arrogance, and finely
representative of the tempered elements of both peoples. A sense of
solidarity was awakened.

The feudal system found its expression in various forms of homage and
of fealty, upon which it was founded. It embraced, among many services
and liabilities, some that related to women. On the death of a tenant
leaving an heiress under fourteen years of age, the lord upon whose
lands the tenant had dwelt, and to whom he owed the military and other
services of his lower position, became the guardian in chivalry to
the maiden, and had charge of her person and her lands until she
was twenty-one--unless, on reaching the age of sixteen, she availed
herself of her right to "sue out her livery" by the payment of a
half-year's income of her estate. Moreover, he was entitled to dispose
of her in marriage to any person of rank equal to her own. In case the
young lady did not approve of the selection made for her, and rejected
her guardian's choice or married without his consent, she had to
forfeit to him a sum of money equal to what was called the value of
her marriage--a sum equal to what the lord might have expected to
receive if the marriage as planned by him had taken place. During her
wardship the lord had the right to her land, and might assign or sell
his guardianship over her. These rights which the lord held over
the person and possessions of his ward applied, in the later feudal
period, equally to male and female.

Such was the relationship of the ward to her lord, and the same system
of knight service which gave him these rights in orphaned minors gave
him, as well, the right to collect a fee upon the marriage of the
daughters of any of his tenants. Such a system, while it deprived the
young woman of absolute freedom in her selection of a husband, did
not of necessity work great hardship, as each fair young woman had her
knight dedicated to her by the solemn vows of chivalry, from whom her
troth, once given, was not apt to be easily wrested. Upon the merits
of the system itself we are not called upon to pass judgment; but
certainly chivalry, which was its finest product, was responsible
for the introduction into the English character of splendid ideals of
womanhood, which found expression in a deference amounting almost to

Yet the picture has a reverse side as well, and it is only by
considering both aspects of the age that its real meaning as regards
its effect upon the womanhood of the time becomes clear. This other
side of chivalry is well expressed by Freeman, than whom no one is
better qualified to speak. He says: "The chivalrous spirit is, above
all things, a class spirit. The good knight is bound to endless
fantastic courtesies towards men and still more towards women of a
certain rank; he may treat all below that rank with any degree of
scorn or cruelty.... Chivalry is short in its morals very much what
feudalism is in law: each substitutes purely personal obligations,
obligations devised in the interest of an exclusive class, for the
more homely duties of an honest man and a good citizen."

The extravagant reverence and regard paid to women of the higher
ranks of society did not have a firm basis in inherent moral principle
either in them or in their worshippers, so that it was an easy passage
from idealized woman to materialized woman. Life cannot long subsist
on the perfervid products of a social imagination. As a revulsion of
noble minds from coarseness and as a protest against tyranny and vice,
chivalry fulfilled a high mission; but, unfortunately, its exalted
admiration of woman fell to a physical appreciation of its subject.
Not her womanhood, but her graces of person came to evoke the
passionate devotion of the knight. An admiration fantastic and
romantic, expressing itself in all sorts of extravagance, a worship
of mere physical beauty--such was the nature of chivalry in its later
expression. Instead of an idol, woman became but a toy.

In no respect was this sentimentality better illustrated than in the
nature of the knightly devotion of the time. When not in the camp, the
life of the knight was an idle one, and was spent for the most part
in sentimental attendance upon ladies at court or castle. It was there
that his deeds of prowess won rewards rather more generously than
discreetly given by the lady to whom he had pledged his devotion;
so that, with all the circumstances of outward respect for women,
surpassing in ostentatious display that shown by any other age, it
is a painful fact that in no other age was there such license in the
association of the sexes. It is a striking comment upon the manners
of the times that "gallantry" should have come to signify both bravery
and illicit love. Chastity was not one of the ornaments of the age of

In curious contrast to the attitude of chivalry--a product of the
Church--toward women was that of the Church in its official character
and expression. The knight elevated woman to the plane of angels,
while the priest went to the other extreme. Saint Chrysostom's
definition of woman as "a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a
desirable calamity, a domestic peril, a deadly fascination, and a
painted ill," continued to be the orthodox view of the Church, Woman
was to be avoided as a temptation by all those who valued the security
of their souls; and yet it was the Church, more than any other social
force, which gave to woman the dignity and worth that she achieved.

The Church stood for order and even for progress; it summed up in
itself all the knowledge and the culture of the times. In the midst
of the turmoil and dangers of war and strife, it afforded to women the
one haven to which they might flee for security. But its protection
was bought at the price of authority over the lives and consciences
of its adherents. The lives of women were spent in a round of narrow
experience and of duty, and the feasts of the Church, with their
processions and ceremonials, furnished to them merely an agreeable
break in the monotony of their existence. This was especially true of
the lower classes. In an age when belief in supernatural appearances
and interferences formed part of the common credence of the masses,
the emotional sensibilities of the women were easily appealed to by
the priests. By taking advantage of this ignorance, the Church was
enabled to hold in absolute control the lives of the simple and
credulous women. Women did not hesitate to yield to the Church their
freedom of thought and of action, their minds and consciences alike
being at the disposal of their ecclesiastical directors; but when
the Church taught men to respect their wives, and raised its voice
and exerted its influence against the tyranny which placed women in
subjection to their male relatives, it was indeed befriending them in
a way that hastened the acquirement by them of the real equality which
they now enjoy with the other sex.

The relation of women and the Church was not without its anomalies.
This is shown curiously in the contrast between the Mariolatry of
the age and the attitude of the Church toward the sex of which Mary
was the exalted type The women were not esteemed fit to receive the
Eucharist with uncovered hands; they were forbidden to approach the
altar; their married state was yet, in theory at least considered a
condition of sin, for, even among the women of the laity, virginity
and celibacy were regarded as almost a state of especial sanctity.
But the Church was entirely consistent in its attitude toward women in
that it made no distinctions as to class or condition. Queen Philippa,
wife of Edward III., while on a visit to Durham Cathedral, after
having supped with the king, retired to rest in the priory. The
scandalized monks sought an interview with the king and made vigorous
protests, so that the queen was obliged to rise, and, clad only in her
night apparel, sought accommodations in the castle, beseeching Saint
Cuthbert's pardon for having polluted the holy confines with her

Ecclesiastical law operated disastrously against women in declaring
for a celibate priesthood. In Anglo-Saxon times the priests married;
but the Council of Winchester, in 1076, took a stand against the
marriage of the clergy, and forbade priests to take to themselves
wives, although it permitted the parish clergy who were already
married to continue in the marital state. In 1102, however, it was
declared that no married priest should celebrate mass, and in 1215
the Lateran Council definitely pronounced against marriage of priests.
Many of the clergy had by no means shown a docile spirit in relation
to this invasion of what they considered the domain of their personal
rights; when forced into submission, they evaded the ordinances by
taking concubines. Even in the fifteenth century, it was not uncommon
to find married priests. In the document entitled _Instructions for
Parish Priests_, those who were too weak to live uprightly in the
celibate state were counselled to take wives. Concubinage, as a
substitute for the interdicted marriage, continued to be practised
down to the sixteenth century, nor was this form of illicit living the
worst vice of the clergy. Debauchery spread throughout the country,
until in the sixteenth century it is said that as many as one hundred
thousand women fell under the seductions of the priests, for whose
particular pleasures houses of ill fame were kept. From the laity,
complaints became general that their wives and daughters were not safe
from the advances of the priests. In 1536 the clergy of the diocese of
Bangor sent to Cromwell the following remarkable plea against taking
away their women from them: "We ourselves shall be driven to seek our
living at all houses and taverns, for mansions upon the benefices and
vicarages we have none. And as for gentlemen and substantial honest
men, for fear of inconvenience, and knowing our frailty and accustomed
liberty, they will in no wise board us in their houses." All the
literature of the Middle Ages leads to but one conclusion--that the
clergy were the great corrupters of domestic virtue among the burgher
and agricultural classes. The morals of the lords and ladies of the
upper strata of the aristocratic class were of no higher grade; the
offenders, however, were seldom the priests, but the gallants of that
privileged circle. The lower rank of the aristocracy,--the knights and
lesser landholders,--which, with the decline of feudalism, came to be
more strongly defined as a separate class, appears to have preserved
the best moral tone of any of the classes of mediæval society.

A great deal of light is thrown upon the manners and thought of the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries by a body of literature which arose
during those centuries. The estimation in which the classes of society
were held is indicated by one of these _fabliaux_. A party of knights
passed through a pleasant and shady meadow, in the midst of exquisite
scenery; they were enchanted by the spot, and wished for meat and wine
that they might tarry there and dine on the grass. There followed them
a party of clerks, whose feelings were also aroused by the beauty
of the place; and, in accord with the frivolous character given them
throughout the _fabliaux_, they exclaimed: "Had we fair maidens here,
how pleasant a spot for play!" After they had passed on, there came a
party of villains, who, with their grosser ideas, thought not of the
beauty of the place at all, but proceeded to indulge themselves in
carnal pleasures and to use it for mean purposes.

These _fabliaux_ show us that Cupid disdained conventional restraint
then as now; for in them the marriage of persons in different classes
often furnishes a theme for the story--this, too, notwithstanding
the sharp caste distinctions which existed. Usually, the maiden is
possessed of more beauty than wealth and belongs to the poor-knight
class; she is wedded to a peasant or villain who has become wealthy.
The husband turns out to be a brute; the lady is crafty and cunning.
He beats and abuses her, according to the instincts of his boorish
nature; she, on the other hand, proves faithless as often as
opportunity presents. The writers never visit condemnation upon her,
for her husband is considered as undeserving of the possession of
such a prize. It is a curious commentary on the manner of the times
that upon the same manuscript, written by the same person, appear
_fabliaux_ of this sort and stories of holy women dying in defence of
their chastity. This contradiction runs throughout the literature of
the period--the praise of virtue and the narration of gross immorality
without an effort to condemn it. One of the most peculiar facts of the
age is the extreme to which was carried the adoration of the Virgin
and the strange things she is made to do and to countenance, in
the mythology of the Middle Ages--for so we must class most of the
mediæval stories of the saints and of the Virgin--to ardent and
imaginative temperaments the Virgin took the character of Venus,
and is frequently represented as the patroness of love. One of the
religious stories tells us that some young men, while playing ball in
front of a church, approached the porch of the edifice, upon which was
a beautiful statue of Our Lady. One of them laid down his ring, which
he had received from his lady-love. Then, to his amazement, he saw
the image, which was "fresh and new," fix its eyes upon the ring. He
became enamored of it, and, after due obeisance, he addressed Our Lady

            "I promise duly,
  That all my life I'll serve thee truly;
  For never saw I maiden fair
  Whose beauty could with thine compare,
  So courtly and so debonaire:
  And she who gave this ring to me,
  Though fair and sweet herself, than thee
  A hundred times less fair, I trow,
  Shall yield to thee her empire now.
  'Tis true I've loved her long and well,
  As many a fond caress can tell;
  But now, forgotten and neglected,
  Her meaner charms for thine rejected,
  I give her ring--a lasting token
  Of faith which never shall be broken,
  Nor shared with maid or wife shall be
  The love I proffer unto thee.'"

With this address, he placed the ring upon the finger of the image.
Our Lady appeared flattered by the conquest she had made, and bent the
finger on which the ring had been placed in order that it might not
be withdrawn. The lover was astounded by the miracle, and was advised
by his friends to retire from the world and to devote himself to the
adoration and service of the Blessed Virgin. Neglecting this advice,
he allowed love to resume its place and led to the altar the maiden
who had given him the ring. But Our Lady was not to be deprived of
her adorer, and when he laid himself upon the nuptial couch she
immediately threw him into a profound slumber, and when he awoke he
found her lying between him and his bride:

  "She showed him straight her finger, where
  Was still the ring he'd given her;
  And well became her hand that ring
  Upon her soft skin glittering.
  'Instead of love, thou'st shown,' said she,
  'But falseness and disloyalty.
  And ill hast kept thy faith to me.
  Behold the ring thou gavest, for token
  And pledge of love fore'er unbroken,
  And call'd me a hundred times more fair
  Than ever earthly maidens were.
  I have been ever true, but thou
  Hast taken a meaner leman now;
  Hast left for stinking nettle the rose,
  Sweet eglantine for flower more gross.'"

In the end, Our Lady forces him to leave his wife that he may dedicate
himself entirely to her service. In other _fabliaux_ and in the
chronicles, Mary is represented under the guise of the Lady Venus, who
often appears in these romances. In this adoration of the Virgin as a
maiden impelled by the same loves and hates as any mortal woman, it is
not difficult to see the spirit of chivalry in its sensual expression.
Surely, if every lady had her knight, the Blessed Virgin, also, must
have her devoted admirers; and by the height of her position and
greater worthiness as the Queen of Heaven, by so much should she rise
above any other woman in her right to command such adorers.

When we pass from the status of woman in the Middle Ages to her
occupations, the subject becomes narrowed, not only by the lesser
importance of the facts which merely illustrate rather than
demonstrate her position, but also because we shall exclude from our
general consideration the women of the manors, the nuns, and, in
their industrial capacities, the women of the guilds. These important
classes demand separate treatment.

After the middle of the twelfth century, it is easier to study the
domestic manners of the people. We can, for instance, obtain very
precise information as to the style of the dwellings in which they
lived. There was a general uniformity in the houses, however they
might vary in particulars. In the twelfth century, the hall continued
to be the main part of the dwelling. Adjoining it at one end was the
chamber, while at the other end might be found the stable. The whole
building stood in an enclosure consisting of a yard in front and a
garden in the rear, surrounded by a hedge and ditch. The house had
a door in the front, and within, one door led to the chamber, and
another to the stable. The chamber, also, frequently had a door
leading out to the garden. There were usually windows in the hall,
the stable and the chamber being lighted by openings in the partitions
between them and the hall, as well as by slits in the outer walls.
The windows themselves were commonly merely openings, which might be
closed by wooden shutters. There was usually one such window in the
chamber, besides those in the hall, so that it was better lighted than
the stable.

From the _fabliaux_ we can obtain very precise ideas of the
distribution of the rooms in the houses of the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries. Thus, in one of the _fabliaux_, an old woman of mean
condition of life is represented as visiting a burgher's wife, who,
from a feeling of vanity, takes her into the chamber to show her
the new bed, a very handsome affair. Afterward, when this lady takes
refuge with the old dame, the latter conducts her from the hall to
the chamber adjoining. The outer door of the chamber, by which egress
could be had from the house without going through the hall, often
figures in the stories as aiding the escape of the lovers of guilty
wives, on the unexpected entrance of the husbands into the hall. It
was in the chamber that fireplaces and chimneys were first introduced
into mediæval houses.

As the grouping of the rooms upon the ground floor made the house less
compact and more susceptible to successful attack, the custom arose of
having upper chambers. The upper room was called the solar, because it
received much light from the sun. At first it was but a small chamber,
approached from the outside. These outer stairs are often referred to
in the _fabliaux_, as in the _fabliau_ of D'Estourmi, where a burgher
and his wife deceive three monks of a neighboring abbey, who make love
to the lady; she conceals her husband in the upper chamber, to which
he goes by an outer staircase. The monks enter the hall, and the
husband sees from the upper room, through a lattice, all that happens.
In another _fabliau_, a lady uses the solar as a hiding place for her
husband, who has disguised himself as a gallant in order to test his
wife's faithfulness. She penetrates his disguise, and, after closing
the door of the solar upon him, sends a servant to give him a good
beating, as an importunate suitor whom she desires to cure of his
annoying passion. The husband, too mortified to reveal his identity
and disclose his doubts as to his wife, has no redress but to sustain
his assumed character and to escape down the outer stairs, pursued by
the servants. The chamber soon came to be the most important part of
the house, and frequently its name was given to the whole dwelling,
a house with a solar being called an upper-storied chamber. The more
considerable manors and castles differed from the ordinary houses only
in having a greater assemblage of rooms and more details than were
found in the smaller dwellings.

Toward the fourteenth century, the rooms of houses generally began
to be numerous, and the houses were often built around a court, the
additions being chiefly to the number of offices and chambers. Wood
continued to be the usual material for their construction. A new
apartment was added to the house--the parlor, so called because it was
the talking room. It was derived from the religious houses, in which
the parlor was the reception room. As furniture was scanty, the rooms
of the mediæval house were almost bare. Chairs were very few, and
seats in the masonry of the wall continued for centuries to be the
principal accommodation of the kind; benches for seats and places of
deposit of personal or household articles were usually made of a few
boards laid across trestles. In the thirteenth century, the beds in
the chamber came to be partitioned off by curtains, which showed an
advance in modesty, as it was customary to sleep wholly undressed.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the comforts of the houses were quite
primitive; even the houses themselves were generally without
architectural grace and frequently very unsubstantial. When watchmen
were appointed in the towns, they were provided with a "hook" with
which to pull down a house when on fire, if its proximity to others
threatened their destruction. As there was an absence of luxury in the
houses and their furnishings, much value was placed on plate, which
came to be a sign of wealth and social distinction. Dress, also,
aided in marking distinctions between the wealthy and those in less
fortunate circumstances, as did the luxuries found upon the tables of
the former.

This fact of the general character of the discomforts of living,
without regard to rank or condition, gave occasion for sumptuary
laws--"the toe of the peasant pressed closely on the heel of the lord,
and the gulf that parted them was the number of dishes upon their
table, the quality of the cloth they put on, and the kind of fur they
might wear to keep off the cold."

Glass began to be introduced into dwelling houses in the time of
Henry III., but was regarded as a great luxury. Pipes for carrying the
refuse water and slops from the houses to sewers or cesspools were one
of the great sanitary reforms of the reign of Edward I. The same able
monarch made the use of baths popular among his people. The floors of
the houses continued to be covered with an armful of hay, or a bundle
of birch boughs or of rushes, although during the fourteenth century
some of the wealthier farmers and persons of the trading classes and
the nobility had begun to use imported carpets and hangings. Table
linen and napkins were also coming into service. The use of forks was
confined to royalty.

When the fine ladies went abroad in their vehicles or were carried
in their chairs, they had to plow through streets deep with mire and
filth; so much so, that it was not unusual for coaches to stick fast
and depend upon the aid of some friendly teamster to extricate them.
The sanitation of the dwellings was little better than that of the
streets. The stench of the houses of the poor was so great that the
priests made it an excuse for failure to pay parochial visits to them.
The better class of houses were, of course, kept much cleaner.

The impression that food in the Middle Ages was coarse and not
elaborate is not borne out, as we have seen, by the facts; for, from
Anglo-Saxon times down, the people were very fond of the table, and in
the higher circles elaborate banquets stood as one of the most usual
resources of a hospitality which had to make up for its barrenness in
other ways by the bounties of elaborate feasts, so that we are quite
prepared for Alexander Neckam's list of kitchen requisites. This
ecclesiastic of the latter half of the twelfth century has left us a
list of the things to be found in a well-ordered kitchen. Besides
his list, we have the testimony of cookbooks of the time, which give
directions for making dishes that are both complicated and toothsome.
Indeed, the position of cook was one of importance, and upon him often
rested, in great houses, the honor of the establishment.

In this connection may be given some of the curious injunctions of the
Anglo-Saxon penitentials, which continued to be quoted throughout the
Middle Ages, becoming superstitious beliefs after they had lost their
ecclesiastical character and undergone the changes which, with the
lapse of time, develop folklore. One of the oddest prescribed that in
case a "mouse fall into liquor, let it be taken out, and sprinkle the
liquor with holy-water, and if it be alive, the liquor may be used,
but if it be dead, throw the liquor out and cleanse the vessel."
Another said: "He who uses anything a dog or mouse has eaten of, or a
weasel polluted, if he do it knowingly, let him sing a hundred psalms;
and if he knew it not, let him sing fifty psalms." These are but
samples of many superstitions with which the thought of the Middle
Ages was tinctured.

A considerable treatise might be written upon the superstitions of
the English women; it would contain astonishing disclosures as to
the effect of the unreal world of fairies, goblins, and the like
upon woman's development and status during the Middle Ages. She was
undoubtedly influenced in her daily life, in almost all her duties and
undertakings, by the terrors with which her superstitions filled her.
The legacy of a pagan system was slowly thrown off, and, with all
the credulity of the religion of the times, it is to the credit of
the Church that, by its proscriptions as well as by its healthier
teaching, superstition in many of its forms lessened its hold upon
the minds of the people. And yet it was needful, if historical fact
denotes a social necessity, that these superstitions should culminate
in a belief in witchcraft, and woman, because of her credulity, become
the scapegoat of the gnomes and witches which existed in her simple
faith. Even so cultured a person as Augustine, one of the most
prominent of the Church Fathers of his time, declared it to be
insolent to doubt the existence of fauns, satyrs, and suchlike
demoniac beings, which lie in wait for women and have intercourse with
them and children by them. It was this belief which extended into a
labyrinth of darkness and superstition throughout the Middle Ages.
The reasoning of the Church was perfectly simple: if the miracles of
the Apostles and of Christ were of divine agency, then the marvels
performed by magicians before the astonished eyes of the heathen were
to be accredited to Satan. The Church never doubted the existence of
malignant spirits, but bent its endeavors toward persuading the people
to give up converse with them. If a woman gave herself over to Satan
or any of his minions, the only resource was to put her to death.
Horrible as were the witch burnings of the Middle Ages, the Church
sincerely believed that it was exorcising the Devil from the lives
of the people; and by the terrible examples it made of those who were
accounted as having sold themselves to the Evil One, it believed
it was placing a deterrent upon others who might be minded to yield
themselves to diabolical possession. The Church was but sharing the
universal belief of the times, and, as the guardian of the spiritual
interests of mankind, it sought the purification of society by severe
measures which, it felt, were alone suited to the gravity of the
subject. From this belief in devil possession arose a veritable system
of Christian magic; charms, amulets, exorcisms, abounded; thus, white
magic was opposed to black magic.

But when the belief in witchcraft led to papal promulgations against
it and against all who dared entertain doubts upon the subject, and
when it led also to the appointment of tribunals for the trying of
"witches," there was placed in the hands of malice and ignorance
a power from which no woman, however exalted in rank or pure in
character, was secure, provided only she incurred the enmity of
someone bent upon effecting her ruin.

The genesis of the belief lies even back of the prevailing
superstitions of the times, and is to be found in the lower regard in
which the female sex was held. As we have said, chivalry did not cover
with its ægis all women, but only those of a certain class; in the
Middle Ages, the opinion held of women in general was not flattering
to the sex. The descriptions of witch trials and the processes for
the extortion of confessions; the indignities of many sorts to which
women were subjected; the horrors of a system which virtually made
one become an informer upon her neighbor, lest she be anticipated
by charges preferred against herself; the whole dreary round of the
subject and its literature: all these are too uninviting to permit
of detail. It is sufficient for our purpose to say that throughout
Europe--for the delusion was so widespread--certainly not less than
a million persons were burned, or otherwise put to death, as witches
during the Middle Ages. So great a holocaust had to be offered up by
women as a sin offering for their sex!

The state of education had much to do with the manners and opinions
of the Middle Ages. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries there
was a feeling of the necessity for extending and improving education.
There was spread abroad a degree of popular instruction. It was not
an uncommon thing for ladies to be able to read and write. Among the
amusements of their leisure hours, reading began to have a very
much larger place than formerly. Yet, popular literature--the tales,
ballads, and songs--was still communicated orally rather than in
writing, though books were more extensively circulated. Often persons
of wealth and culture had extensive libraries. Excepting in the case
of those who followed or desired to follow the career of scholars, the
women were less illiterate than the men.

In considering the dress of the women of England during the Middle
Ages, the sumptuary laws passed for its regulation are of interest in
themselves as affording a view of the dress of the several classes of
society, and they also serve to illustrate upon what simple lines the
distinctions of society were drawn.

In the thirty-seventh year of the reign of Edward III., a curious
complaint was submitted to Parliament by the Commons against general
extravagance in the use of apparel; whereupon an act was passed in
regulation of the matter. One of the provisions of this act, as it
related to women, prescribed that the wives and children of the grooms
and servants of the lords and of tradesmen and artificers should not
wear veils costing more than twelvepence each. The wives and children
of the tradesmen and artificers themselves should wear no veils
excepting those made with thread and manufactured in the kingdom; nor
any kind of furs excepting those of lambs, rabbits, cats, and foxes.
The cloth for their dresses was also to be of a prescribed kind.
The wives and children of esquires--gentlemen under the estate of
knighthood--might not wear cloth of gold, of silk, or of silver;
nor any ornaments of precious stones, nor furs of any kind; nor any
purfling or facings upon their garments; neither should they use
_esclaires_, _crinales_, or _trosles_--certain forms of hairpins, and
suchlike ornaments.

In the case of knights of a certain income, their wives and children
were prohibited from wearing miniver or ermine as linings for their
garments or trimming for their sleeves. The lower classes were
restricted to blankets and russets for their attire, and these were
not to cost more than twelvepence per yard, unless the income of
the man was above forty shillings. It is not probable that these
enactments were rigidly enforced, and when Henry IV. came to the
throne he found it necessary to revive the prohibiting statutes of
his predecessor. A number of such sumptuary laws were passed during
succeeding reigns, but it is not probable that they were ever really
effective. Nor were the satires and witticisms of the poets and other
writers of the day more effectual than legislation in correcting the
extravagances and vices of dress. Whether the poet or the moralist
pointed their shafts against them, the dames and the dandies of the
time continued to dress as pleased them.

Some of these criticisms so sum up the dress of the day, that to quote
them is to see the fine lady attired in all her bewildering array
of beautiful stuffs. William de Lorris, in his celebrated poem,
the _Romance of the Rose_, has drawn the character of Jealousy, and
represents him as reproaching his wife for her insatiable love of
finery, which, he tells her, is solely to make her attractive in
the eyes of her gallants. He then enumerates the parts of her dress,
consisting of mantles lined with sable, surcoats, neck linens,
wimples, petticoats, shifts, pelices, jewels, chaplets of fresh
flowers, buckles of gold, rings, robes, and rich furs. Then he adds:
"You carry the worth of one hundred pounds in gold and silver upon
your head--such garlands, such coiffures with gilt ribbons, such
mirrors framed in gold, so fair, so beautifully polished; such tissues
and girdles, with expensive fastenings of gold, set with precious
stones of smaller size; and your feet shod so primly, that the robe
must be often lifted up to show them." And in a subsequent part of
the poem the ladies are advised, satirically, if their ankles be not
handsome and their feet small and delicate, to hide them by wearing
long robes, trailing upon the pavement. Those, on the contrary, who
were more favored in this respect were advised to elevate their robes,
as if it were to give access to air, that the passer-by might see and
admire their trim feet and ankles.

Such were some of the adornments of the fine ladies of the thirteenth
century. It is instructive to turn to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and
study the costumes of some of the characters as they are interpreted
by Strutt. This will afford a view of the dress of typical persons in
the ordinary ranks of life. The Wife of Bath is drawn by Chaucer at
full length as a shameless woman, pert, loquacious, and bold, whose
favorite occupation is gossiping and rambling abroad in search of
fashionable diversions, in the absence of her husband. She had the art
of making fine cloth. Her dress materials were expensive, for she had
kerchiefs, or head linen, which she wore on Sunday, so fine that they
were equal in value to ten pounds; and her stockings were made of fine
red scarlet cloth, and "straightway gartered upon her legs"; her shoes
were also new, and to them she had a pair of spurs attached, because
she was to ride upon horseback; she wore a hat as broad as a buckler
or a target; and she herself informs us that upon holidays she was
accustomed to wear gay scarlet gowns.

The Carpenter's Wife, the heroine of the Miller's Tale, has her dress
partly described: the collar of her shift was embroidered both before
and behind with black silk; her girdle was barred or striped with
silk; her apron, bound about her hips, was clean and white, and full
of plaits. The tapes of her white headdress were embroidered in the
same manner as the collar of her shift; her fillet, or headband, was
broad and was made of silk, and "set full high"; probably meaning with
a bow or topknot on the upper part of her head. Attached to her girdle
was a purse of leather, tasselled or fringed with silk, and ornamented
with _latoun_--a kind of copper alloy of which ornaments were made--in
the shape of pearls. She wore a brooch or fibula upon "her low
collar," as broad, says the poet, as the boss of a buckler; her shoes
"were laced high upon her legs."

In addition to these characters of Chaucer, it may be added that the
country Ale-Wife is thus described by a contemporary writer: "She put
on her fairest smocke; her petticoat of a good broad red; her gowne of
grey, faced with buckram; her square-thrumed hat; and before her she
hung a clean white apron."

The subject of public entertainment in the Middle Ages brings to
light curious practices. In the towns, the burghers were not willing
to entertain strangers gratuitously, notwithstanding the Scriptural
injunction to do so, reinforced by the reminder that thereby some have
entertained angels unawares. The custom of offering entertainment to
travellers was, however, still practised in the country districts,
but the Anglo-Saxon notion of three days as a reasonable limit for
the tarrying of wayfarers seems still to have obtained. Aside from
the public inns, rich burghers opened their homes, with their superior
comforts, to royal personages and to rich barons, for an honorarium.
They frequently practised extortion upon their accidental guests, and
had arts to allure such to their homes. While having the appearance of
great exclusiveness, they nevertheless employed persons to be on the
watch for travellers. These would approach such strangers, engage them
in conversation, and, on pretence of being from the same part of the
country, offer guidance and advice to the stranger, who was usually
glad to be directed to an "exclusive" place for entertainment. In some
of these places, as well as in the public inns, the guest would be
beguiled into contracting gambling or other debts beyond his ability
to pay in money, whereupon his belongings were seized, although their
value might be greatly in excess of his obligation. The manners and
morals of the women in these private places of entertainment were not
always commendable.

The tavern was the place of resort for a large part of the middle
class and practically all the lower class of mediæval society.
Even the women spent much of their time gossiping and drinking in
such places, where they found great latitude for carrying out low
intrigues. The tavern was, in short, the great rendezvous for those
who sought amusement of any sort. It was the ordinary haunt of
gamblers. In one of the _fabliaux_, a young profligate is represented
as turning into a tavern before which the tavern boy is calling out
the price of the beverages on tap there. After inquiring the price
of the wines, and receiving the information from the host, the latter
goes on to enumerate the attractions of his house: "Within are all
sorts of comforts; painted chambers, and soft beds, raised high with
white straw, and made soft with feathers; here within is hostel for
love affairs, and when bedtime comes you will have pillows of violets
to hold your head more softly; and, finally, you will have electuaries
and rose-water, to wash your mouth and face." He orders a gallon
of wine, and immediately afterward a _belle demoiselle_ makes
her appearance, for such in those times were reckoned among the
attractions of the tavern. It is soon arranged that she shall share
his apartment with him, and then a general carousal ensues in which
he loses all his money and has to leave even his clothes in payment of
his bill. These alewives were looked upon as past masters in deceit,
and were heartily despised by those who did not fall into their
clutches. In a carved _miserere_ in Ludlow Church, representing
Doomsday, one of these characters is depicted as about to be cast
into the jaws of hell, carrying with her nothing but the finery of
her enticement and her short ale measure. The amusements of the times,
excepting those of a grosser order, or such as have already been
mentioned in the previous chapter, centred around the nobility and
persons of position; so that their consideration can be deferred
for the time being and be taken up in connection with the sports and
pastimes of the ladies of rank, as treated in the chapter following.



The limited means of travel and communication caused the lives of
the women of the early English manors to be secluded and, in a sense,
protected the wives and daughters of the titled nobility. The manor
house was a world to itself, a centre of law, of society, of industry,
and, ofttimes, of culture.

On account of the bad state of the roads and the lack of the modern
convenience of quick transmittal of information, the turmoils and
upheavals of the cities left the manors unaffected by more than
a ripple of their excitement. The manor had its own social and
administrative system, which provided for the performance of duties by
the various elements of the manorial establishment. In times of wide
social disorder, the manor, by reason of its isolation, was often
subject to attack; then the courage and fortitude of its female
occupants were called forth to the uttermost. Women whose names
might otherwise have passed into obscurity have been enrolled among
England's heroines by reason of just such circumstances; one such,
whose fame carries us back to the Wars of the Roses, was Lady Joan
Pelham, wife of Sir John Pelham, Constable of Pevensey Castle. While
Sir John was in Yorkshire with the Lancastrian Duke Henry, fighting
against Richard II., Pevensey Castle was fiercely attacked by
Yorkist forces. The continuance of the siege brought on a scarcity
of provisions; in this strait, Lady Joan addressed a letter to her
husband, which, besides displaying the courage of a noble English
lady, has the additional interest of being the earliest letter extant
written by an English woman of quality. It reads as follows:


"I recommande me to yowr his Lordeshippe wyth heart and body and all
my pore myght, and wyth all this I think zou, as my dere Lorde, derest
and best yloved of all earth lyche Lordes; I say for me and thanke
yhow me der Lorde, with all thys that I say before, off your
comfortable lettre, that ze send me from Pownefraite that com to me on
Mary Magdaleyn day; ffor by my trowth I was never so gladd as when I
herd by your lettre that ye was stronge ynogh wyth the grace off God
for to kepe you fro the malyce of your ennemys. And dere Lorde iff it
lyk to your hyee Lordeshippe that als ye myght, that smythe her off
your gracious spede whych God Allmyghty contynue and encresse. And my
dere Lorde, if is lyk zow for to know of my ffare, I am here by layd
in a manner off a sege, wyth the counte of Sussex, Sudray, and a green
parsyll off Kentte; so that I ne may nogth out, nor none vitayles
gette me, hot wyth my die hard. Wharfore my dere if it lyk zow, by the
awyse off zowr wyse counsel for to sett remadye off the salvation off
yhower castells wt. stand the malyce off ther sehures foresayde. And
also that ye be fullyehe enformede off there grett malyce wyker's in
these schyres whyche yt haffes so dispytfful wrogth to zow, and to
zowl contell, to zhowr men, and zuor tenaunts ffore this cuntree, have
yai wastede for grett whyle. Farewell my dere Lorde, the Holy Tryn zow
kepe fro zour ennemys and son send me gud tythyng off yhow. Ywryten at
Pevensey in the castell, on Saynt Jacobe day last past.

"By yhowr awnn pore,


"To my trew Lorde."

While her position gave her equal rank with her husband, it also laid
upon the lady of the manor the cares natural to her station. A great
lady had always her bodyguard of maidens, and the lord his following
of pages, these young people being thus provided for that they
might receive the training of gentility and courtesy which were the
essentials in the character of the noble persons of the times. These
maidens, who were intrusted to the care of the lady of the manor, had
to be trained in all domestic accomplishments as well as in polite
attainments. It is singular that this custom of sending children from
home was often interpreted by foreigners as an evidence of a lack of
parental affection; and, indeed, it did at times furnish a means of
easy riddance of daughters whose tempers were incompatible with those
of their parents, or whose self-will--or the selfish policy of the
household--made it desirable for the parents to sever the tie which
lacked the strength of affection. Thus, in 1469, Dame Margaret Paston
writes to her son, Sir John Paston, regarding his sister Margery: "I
wuld ye shuld purvey for yur suster to be with my Lady of Oxford, or
with my Lady of Bedford, or in sume other wurshepfull place, wher as
ye thynk best, and I wull help to her fyndyng, for we be eyther of us
werye of other."

It will be seen from this fashion of the times--more particularly of
the latter part of the Middle Ages--that a knight's lady performed
many of the functions of a mistress of a boarding school. Those
intrusted to her care, regardless of their rank or station, were
subjected to rigid discipline and were required to perform the arduous
duties of the household. These tasks embraced the varied forms
of plain and fancy needlework, for every lady was expected to be
proficient in such matters; all wearing apparel and fabrics of all
sorts required for household use, and the banners and altar cloths of
the churches as well, were made in the household. When the household
was a large one, the lady and her maidens were kept busily employed
in attending to its needs. It is, however, entirely probable that
the manufacture of the coarser materials and their making into
clothing were delegated to the servants, of whom every manor had
a large retinue. The designing and making of the costumes of the
wealthy--especially those that were to be worn on court and other high
occasions--were given over to professional tailors, who were called

The round of domestic duty made daily drafts upon the time of the
wives. In every family of the higher class, the lady of the household
had to see to the provisioning as well as to the clothing of its
members and servitors. This was not a simple matter, as the provisions
had to be supplied at the cost of great inconvenience, excepting in
the case of the products of the manor farms belonging to the estate.
The stewards' accounts are often a valuable source of information as
to the grade of living of the times.

In view of the industry of the women in the manufacture of textile
fabrics, the poet's eulogy is deserved:

  "Of gold tissues, and cloth of silk;
  Therefore say I, whate'er their ilk,
  To all who shall this story find
  They owe them all to womankind."

The limits of the manor formed the horizon of its women; the men
frequently had to make long journeys in the pursuit of their larger
concerns, and were often in foreign lands serving as soldiers or
crusaders. But the lack of variety in the lives of the women was more
than compensated for by the opportunities which were furnished them
by quiet and seclusion for the improvement of their minds and the
cultivation of those finer qualities of character which are the basis
of the refinement and good manners of the cultivated English women
of the present day. It is not too much to say of the Middle Ages that
without the peculiar circumstances of manorial living, the culture,
confidence, self-containment, and initiative of the English woman
would not have become as they are--her predominant characteristics.
So effectual, indeed, were the conditions of the times for seclusion,
and so greatly were its privileges appreciated, that it could be said
of many a fine lady, as was asserted of Lady Joan Berkeley, that she
never "humored herselfe with the vaine delightes of London and other
cities," and never travelled ten miles from her husband's houses in
Somerset and Gloucester.

The life of the manors was not, however, a round of tireless industry.
The ruddy-cheeked, simple-minded English women of the better class
were possessed of a redundant vitality and a fund of joyousness and
humor which sought and found expression in a variety of healthful
outdoor recreations, as well as indoor amusements. The pleasing art
of letter writing had come to hold a position of interest in polite
circles; for although the women may not have been skilled with the
quill, their letters were nevertheless natural, simple, and sincere,
and they were fairly proficient in the art of reading. Their religious
duties occupied a part of each day, as did their visitation of the
homes of the dependants on the estate; for it was the lady of the
manor who was looked to by the poor for herbal medicines and such
delicacies as were supplied to the sick. Great ladies sometimes
recognized their duties to the poor not only by giving individual
doles, but by founding almshouses. Nearly every lady of distinction
felt it incumbent upon her to do something for the relief of suffering
and distress. It is especially pleasing to know that it was the women
whose sensibilities were thus touched, and who were first influenced
by the idea of social responsibility for the less fortunate classes of
society. The records of the times abound with instances of benevolence
in institutional forms. When it was impracticable for her to be her
own almoner, the lady employed for the office a monk or a priest, and
so associated her charities with the Church, by the teachings of which
her impulses were trained. The saints' days were customarily observed
by especial and important contributions for the poor.

Were it not for the manors, the Middle Ages would lack almost
altogether poetry and literature other than that of the monkish
chroniclers. Literature and poetry in this period were chiefly centred
around the women of the nobility. It was probably due to the fondness
of Henry I. for letters that a literary taste was excited among his
queens. The earliest specimens existing of vernacular poetry are some
verses addressed to Henry's second spouse, Adeliza. Feminine taste
and royal patronage combined to free poetry from the pollution of
the minstrel and his circle of vulgar auditors, to cause it to be
cultivated by studious men and women, whose tastes had become refined
by the study of the Latin classics, and who were themselves emulous of
gaining a literary reputation by the cultivation of the art of serious

Vernacular poetry, having the sanction and esteem of the higher
circles of life, came to be generally appreciated; and the mind, which
is naturally responsive to matters of good taste, was willing to throw
aside the incubus of low stories, dependent for their interest upon
prurient situations, and to rise to the acceptance of literature whose
interest centred around persons and situations that made their appeal
by reason of worthiness or dignity. The patronage of letters by the
nobility led many, especially ecclesiastics, to develop their talents
in that direction. Wace, a canon of Bayeux and a prolific rhymester,
expressly states that his works were composed for the "rich gentry who
had rents and money." Even the stormy reign of Stephen seems to have
been no impediment to the cultivation of the literary taste which had
its beginning in the court of Henry I. and in the patronage of his
queens. The vernacular histories were either written or rendered into
the popular tongue, and in this way became the intellectual property
of the female world; they were not infrequently inspired by the wish
of some lady--a wish which became the law of the lay or clerical

The story of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the unhappy queen of Henry II.,
who in her later life frequently signed herself "queen by the wrath of
God," illustrates a phase of domestic infelicity which was not without
many parallels. It also serves to show that, with the perfervid
sentiment of chivalrous devotion to women, it was easy enough to
forget the higher demands of faithfulness in the real relations of
life. This queen herself was not blameless, and to an extent must
be regarded as suffering the penalties of her own indiscretions. The
story is almost too familiar to need reciting. She discovered that,
although ostensibly Henry's wife, the position was really filled by
one with whom the king had previously contracted marriage. The
family of Rosamond Clifford was as respectable as and scarcely less
illustrious than her own. During a sojourn at Woodstock, the jealous
eye of the queen had observed the king following a silk thread through
the labyrinth of trees, by which means she came to knew of her rival.
The meeting of the two women can better be imagined than described:
the queen poured out a torrent of reproaches and invectives, ending by
offering to Rosamond the cup of poison or a dagger, and did not leave
the place until the victim of her jealousy was no more.

But the tragic death of Rosamond did not serve to enlist for the queen
the affections of her consort, nor did it tend to promote her domestic
peace. Never was a family so torn by dissension and sin; her children
were arrayed against their father and one another, and all were
opposed to herself. Her husband added to her many troubles the further
shame of installing in her place the wife of his son. Seeking release
from a situation past all endurance, she eloped from a castle in
Aquitaine, intending to find an asylum in the dominions of King Louis
of France, her former husband. She was captured by Henry's myrmidons
and thrown into prison, there to remain sixteen years until liberated
by her renowned son, Richard Coeur de Lion. The sufferings of her life
tempered her spirit and brought her into reliance upon religion for
her comfort and strength.

Another example of the high courage and decision of purpose which the
life of Eleanor of Aquitaine furnished in its later history is found
at a subsequent period in another Eleanor, the daughter of Edward
II. This patient, suffering wife, roused to indignant resistance
of an unpardonable indignity, exhibited the spirit of an undaunted
character. She had been married, at the tender age of fifteen, to the
stern Reynald II., Earl of Gueldres and Zutphen. When the large dower
she brought her husband had been spent by him, he sought pretext for
a divorce from one with whom he could feel no sympathy; but for this
her blameless life furnished no excuse. Although the countess was
constantly surrounded by spies and her every act and word reported to
her lord, she moved with stately dignity in the atmosphere of intrigue
and deceit. In default of any other plea, her husband represented
to the pope that she was afflicted with leprosy. Arrayed solely in
a tunic, and enveloping herself in a capacious mantle, she made her
way with majestic mien into the council room of the palace, where the
perfidious lord was in consultation with his assembled nobles about
the details of the sinister purpose which he was seeking to effect.
With the words, "I am come, my beloved lord, to seek a diligent
examination respecting the corporeal taint imputed to me," she threw
aside the mantle, disclosing the healthy texture of her skin, while
a wave of emotion passed over her, and her eyes suffused with tears.
"These," she continued, "are my children and yours; do they too share
in the blemish of their mother? But it may come to pass that the
people of Gueldres may yet mourn our separation, when they behold
the failure of our line." Husband and nobles alike were profoundly
affected by so sublime an appeal, and the royal pair were reconciled;
but the male line of Reynald failed in his son, and the crown passed
to the female branch, as though the almost predictive words of the
noble English woman were destined to be fulfilled.

Yet another daughter of fair France became the queen of a Plantagenet.
Richard II., the last Plantagenet, from the date of his accession, was
involved in constant struggles, first with his Parliament, and then
with Henry of Lancaster. His first queen, Anne of Bohemia, died in
1394. Richard's thoughts were thereupon directed to the necessity of
choosing a second consort. He would consider only Isabelle of Valois,
daughter of Charles VI., who was less than nine years old. The
marriage was solemnized by proxy, and arrangements were made for the
king to repair to Calais and receive his child-bride at the hand of
Charles VI. The preliminaries having been completed, the ceremony is
thus recorded by Froissart:

"On the morrow, the King of England visited the King of France in his
tent, where the kings sat apart at one table. During the serving of
dinner, the Duke de Bourbon said many things to enliven the kings, and
addressed the King of England: 'Monseigneur, you ought to make good
cheer; you have all you desire and demand. You have, or will have,
your wife, she is about to be given to you.' The French king then
said: 'Bourbonnais, we could wish that our daughter were of the age of
our cousin of Saint-Pol, although it should have cost us dearly, for
our son of England would have taken her more willingly.'

"The King of England heard this and responded to the French king:
'Father-in-law, our wife's age pleases us well; we think less of that
than we do of the affection between us and our kingdoms, for with
mutual friendship and alliance, there is no king, Christian or other,
who could give umbrage to us.' The dinner was soon over, and then the
young Queen of England was brought into the king's tent, accompanied
by a great number of dames and demoiselles, and given to the King of
England, her hand being held by her father, the King of France."

This marriage brought nearly twenty years of peace between France
and England. The young queen was carefully nurtured and educated by
King Richard, whose attachment to her soon grew very deep. Turbulent
factions disturbed Richard's rule, and Isabelle had always before her
the menace of a prison rather than the prospect of a throne. Before
leaving to quell a rebellion in Ireland, Richard visited his "little
queen," for thus she was popularly styled, at Windsor Castle, to take
farewell. This interview, at which it is said the young queen first
realized how deeply she loved the king, was to be their last. Henry
of Lancaster, taking advantage of Richard's absence to gather a force
to wrest the sceptre from him, met Richard on his return, made him
captive, and finally secured his resignation of the crown in 1399.
Simultaneously, the young queen fell into Henry's power, and was moved
from castle to castle at the will of Henry. All this time she was kept
in ignorance of the fate of her husband, and tortured by suspense and
anxiety. Richard alive was too serious a danger to Henry's supremacy,
and, a plot to restore him to his throne having failed, he was killed
at Pontefract Castle soon after, in a heroic struggle against the
myrmidons of Henry.

Meantime, the "little queen" had joined in the movement against Henry,
in the hope that her husband would recover his crown and be restored
to her, but she was soon again a captive at Havering Bower. For some
time the child-widow--she was not yet thirteen--was kept in ignorance
of the death of Richard. Soon, however, she was importuned by Henry
IV. on behalf of Monmouth, his son, but, faithful to the memory of
Richard, she rejected with horror the proposed union. Finally, all
hope of the alliance being destroyed, Henry consented to Isabella's
return to her parents. She had endeared herself to the hearts of the
English by her graces, and especially by her steadfast devotion to

After Isabelle's return to France, Henry still persisted in suing for
her hand, but it was impossible to move her determination. In 1406,
it seemed that joy might yet brighten the life of this unfortunate
princess, for in that year she was betrothed to her cousin, the young
Charles of Orléans, whom she married in 1409. The affection of husband
and wife appeared to offer every prospect of happiness, but she was
permitted to enjoy her newly found state for only a brief period, as
she died during the following year, a few hours after the birth of an
infant daughter. The memory of this sweet but unfortunate princess is
enshrined in the poetic tributes of the Duke of Orléans, nor did the
English fail to sing in ballads her praise.

The origin of the Order of the Garter is traceable to the spirit of
chivalry; it was instituted by Coeur de Lion, and in 1344 was revived
by Edward III. Froissart appears to credit the story which connects
the revival of the order to Edward's passion for the Countess of
Salisbury, whose garter he is said to have picked up and presented to
her in the presence of the court, with this exclamation: _Honi soit
qui mal y pense!_ The chronicler gives us a full account of the
attachment of Edward for the countess, and places in excellent light
the integrity of her character. When she was besieged in her husband's
castle at Wark, Edward advanced to her relief, compelling the Scots
to retreat. At the interview which followed, the king looked upon
her with such an air of profound thoughtfulness that she was led to
inquire: "Dear sire, what are you musing on? Such meditation is not
proper for you, saving your grace." "Oh, dear lady!" replied the
monarch; "you must know that since I have been in this castle, some
thoughts have oppressed my mind that I was not before aware of." "Dear
sire, you ought to be of good cheer, and leave off such pondering; for
God has been very bountiful to you in your undertakings." Whereupon
the king replied with more directness: "There be other things, O sweet
lady, which touch my heart, and lie heavy there, beside what you talk
of. In good truth, your beauteous mien and the perfection of your face
and behavior have wholly overcome me; and my peace depends on your
accepting my love, which your refusal cannot abate." "My gracious
liege," the countess exclaimed, "God of his infinite goodness preserve
you, and drive from your noble heart all evil thoughts; for I am, and
ever shall be, ready to serve you; but only in what is consistent with
my honor and your own."

The first chapter of the Garter was graced by another queen who
adorns the history of England's women of rank--Queen Philippa. She was
attended by the principal ladies of the court, who, with herself, were
admitted dame-companions of the order, and the wives of the knights
continued to enjoy this dignity during several succeeding reigns.

In even the best homes of the Middle Ages we must not expect to find
the refinements which are regarded as the commonplaces of modern
life. The essence of refinement is the same in all ages, and, while it
involves manners, these change with the standards and conventions of
different times. Much that is amusing, absurd, or even disgusting, as
we regard manners to-day, was entirely in good form during the Middle
Ages. It will be of interest to notice some of the things which were
regarded as commendable in the deportment of the young ladies of the
aristocratic class of mediæval society, and what they were cautioned
to avoid. A _trouvère_ of the thirteenth century, named Robert de
Blois, compiled a code of etiquette which he put in French verse under
the title, _Chastisement des Dames_. The young ladies who would deport
themselves in an irreproachable manner must avoid talking too much,
and especially refrain from boasting of the attentions paid to them
by the other sex. They were recommended to be discreet, and, in
the freedom of games and amusements, to leave no room for adverse
criticism of their actions. In going to church, they were not to trot
or run, but to walk with due seriousness, with eyes straight before
them, and to salute _debonairely_ all persons they met. They were
enjoined not to let men kiss them on the mouth, as it might lead to
too great familiarity; they were not to look at a man too much unless
he were an acknowledged lover; and when a young woman had a lover,
she was not to talk too much of him. They were not to manifest too
much vanity in dress, and to be entirely delicate in the matter of
costume; nor were they to be too ready in accepting presents from the
other sex. The ladies are particularly warned against scolding and
disputing, against swearing, against eating and drinking too freely at
the table. They were exhorted not to get drunk, a practice from which,
they were advised, much mischief might arise. That the restrictions
were, on the whole, sensible is apparent from our statement of them,
and the good sense of the times receives special point from the rule
of society which recommended the ladies not to cover their faces when
in public, as a handsome face was made to be seen. An exception is
made in the case of ugly or deformed features, which might be covered.
Another rule was as follows: "A lady who is pale-faced or who has not
a good smell ought to breakfast early in the morning, for good wine
gives them a very good color; and she who eats and drinks well must
heighten her color." Anise seed, fennel, and cumin were recommended
to be taken at breakfast to correct an unsavory breath, and persons so
affected were told not to breathe in other persons' faces.

A special set of rules was given for the lady's behavior while in
church, and if she could sing she was to do so when asked and not
require too much pressing. Ladies were further recommended to keep
their hands clean, to cut their nails often, and not to suffer them to
grow beyond the finger or to harbor dirt. When passing the houses of
other people, ladies were not to look into them: "for a person often
does things privately in his house, which he would not wish to be
seen, if anyone should come before his door." For the same reason
a lady was not to go into another person's house, or into another's
room, without coughing or speaking to give notice to the inmates. The
directions for a lady's behavior at the table were also very precise.
"In eating, you must avoid much laughing or talking. If you eat with
another (i.e., in the same plate, or of the same mess), turn the
nicest bits to him and do not go picking out the finest and largest
for yourself, which is not courteous. Moreover, no one should eat
greedily a choice bit which is too large or too hot, for fear of
choking or burning herself.... Each time you drink, wipe your mouth
well, that no grease go into the wine, which is very unpleasant for
the person who drinks after you. But when you wipe your mouth for
drinking, do not wipe your eyes or nose with the tablecloth, and avoid
spilling from your mouth or greasing your hands too much." Added to
these directions for deportment, particular emphasis was laid on the
avoidance of falsehoods, which suggests the prevalence of the vice.

The modern "servant question" was not without its counterpart in the
Middle Ages. We find instances of advice tendered upon the subject to
the ladies of those times. An early writer on domestic economy divided
the servants who might be found in a manorial establishment into three
classes: those who were employed on a sudden and only for a certain
work, and for these a previous bargain should be made regarding their
payment; those who were employed for a certain time in a particular
description of work, as tailors, shoemakers, butchers, and others, who
always came to work in the house upon materials provided there, or the
harvest men for the gathering of the crops; and domestic servants who
were hired by the year, these latter being expected to pay an absolute
and passive obedience to the lord and lady of the household and any
others who were set in authority over them.

Naturally, it was the female servants who came under the supervision
of the lady of the house, and minute directions are given for their
ordering. She was to require her maids to repair early in the morning
to their work; the entrance to the hall and all other places by which
people enter, or places in the hall where they tarry to converse, were
to be swept and made clean, "and that the footstools and covers of the
benches and forms be dusted and shaken, and after this that the other
chambers be in like manner cleaned and arranged for the day." After
this, the pet animals were to be attended to and fed. At midday the
servants were to have their first meal, which was to be bountiful, but
"only of one meat and not of several, or of any delicacies; and give
them only one kind of drink, nourishing but not heady, whether wine
or other; and admonish them to eat heartily, and to drink well and
plentifully, for it is right that they should eat all at once, without
sitting too long, and at one breath, without reposing on their meal
or halting, or leaning with their elbows on the table; and as soon
as they begin to talk or to rest on their elbows, make them rise
and remove the table." After their "second labor" and on feast days
also--when seemingly the workday was not so long as usual--they were
to have another lighter repast, and in the late evening, after all
their duties were performed, another abundant meal was served. It
then devolved upon the lady of the house or her deputy to see that the
manor was closed, and to take charge of the keys, preventing anyone
from going in or out; and then, having had all the fires carefully
"covered," she sent the servants to bed and saw that their candles
were extinguished to prevent the risk of fire. The lady was always
careful as to whom she received into her house as servitors; female
servants who came to her as strangers were not well regarded, and were
not given trusts of importance, and their characters, so far as was
possible, were looked into, as well as the circumstances of their
leaving their former place of employment.

The term "spinster," which is now confined to unmarried women, was a
term of consideration applied to all women of the better class during
the Middle Ages. It was indicative of her superior rank, and was
especially adhered to by gentlewomen who married out of their station,
as a sign of their good birth and gentle breeding.

The term "gentle blood," as now understood, means only that some
persons have the fortunate circumstance of refined parentage or
ancestry; but in the Middle Ages, when the pride of gentle blood
was one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the prevailing
feudal society, it was seriously believed that through the
whole extent of the aristocratic classes there ran one blood,
distinguishable from the blood of all other persons. So strongly was
this view entertained, that it was commonly thought that if a child of
gentle blood should be stolen or abandoned in infancy, and then bred
up as a peasant or a burgher, without knowledge of its origin, it
would display, as it grew toward manhood, unmistakable proofs of its
gentle origin, in spite of education and example. Whatever the fallacy
of this belief, its effect upon the ladies of superior birth was to
make them prize their station highly; but it also created a spirit of
haughtiness toward those who were below their station, and a harshness
in their relation to their domestics which was not always conformable
to the graciousness and consideration which these very ladies often
displayed where there was no question involving their caste.

In considering the dress of the women of the Middle Ages, we remarked
upon the censure and sarcasm which were passed upon the vanities into
which women were led by their devotion to the changing fashions of
the day. Every class of society was pervaded by a love of dress, which
expressed itself in the greatest extravagances and absurdities. A
knight of the fourteenth century compiled for three young ladies, the
daughters of a knight of Normandy, a manuscript which contains advice
and directions for the regulation of their conduct through life.
It contains several very curious passages relative to dress: "Fair
daughters," says their mentor, "I pray you that ye be not the first to
take new shapes and guises of array of women of strange countries." He
then inveighs against the wearing of superfluous quantities of furs
as edging for their gowns, their hoods, and their sleeves. After
commenting upon the sinfulness of useless fashions and their effect
upon the lower classes, he proceeds to portray the absurdities into
which the latter were led by aping their betters, and suggests that
the furs which they wore in profusion had better at least be dispensed
with in summer, as they served only "for a hiding place for the
fleas." The knight whose daughters are thus counselled is unable
to deter them from falling into extravagances of attire, and has
recourse to the legend of a chevalier whose wife was dead and who made
application to a hermit to know if her soul had gone to Paradise or
to punishment. The holy man, after long praying, fell asleep, and saw
the soul of the fair lady weighed in the balance; with Saint Michael
standing on one side and the Devil on the other. The latter addressed
Saint Michael and claimed the woman as his own on the score that she
had ten diverse gowns, and a less number than that would have sufficed
to lose her soul; besides which, with what she had wasted she might
have clothed two or three persons who for the lack of her charity
died of want. So saying, the fiend gathered up all her gay attire,
ornaments, and jewels, and cast them in the balance with her evil
deeds, which determined the balance against her, and he bore her away
to the lake of fire. The same night, in order to deter his daughters
from painting their faces, the knight recounts a horrible legend of a
fine lady who was punished in hell because she had "popped and painted
her visage to please the sight of the world."

It is not by such incidentals as dress, but by the enduring qualities
of character, that the women of the higher circles of the English
Middle Ages were able to make an indelible impress upon the life and
character of the nation. And more especially may this be said of the
women whose lives were largely spent in the sheltered circle of a pure
domesticity,--the women of the manors.



In general, the routine of the nunnery was the same as that of a
monastery. There was the same rotation, hour by hour, of sacred
services, with monotonous regularity and repetition; the only variety
offered was that of labor of one sort or another, with brief intervals
for rest and refreshment. The industry of the nuns usually took
the form of working in wool, for it devolved upon them to make the
clothing of the monks, who were associated with the convents to
perform the outdoor labor and to serve as confessors for the female
inmates. Great care was necessary to prevent too close proximity of
the nunneries and monasteries and to limit the intercourse of the
inmates of the respective institutions to the bare necessities of
their mutual dependence.

The rules by which women were governed in the life of the convent did
not differ much from those for the men. Some of these regulations were
very rigorous: the inmates were to have nothing of their own, nor
were they allowed to go out of the convent, and they were permitted
the luxury of a bath only in time of sickness. Continual silence,
frequent confessions, a spare diet, and hard labor were to be endured
uncomplainingly, on penalty of excommunication.

In the fifth century, prohibitions were issued proscribing the
founding of any more monasteries for monks and nuns together and
ordering the partitioning of those which already existed. No man
excepting the officiating clergy, the bishop, and the steward of the
convent was allowed to enter within its walls; and, indeed, one of
the rules enjoined that the nuns were to make confession to the bishop
through the abbess. Under no pretext whatever were the nuns to lodge
under the roof of a monastery, nor was any person who was not a monk
or a cleric of high repute to be allowed within the precincts of the
convent on temporal business; but in spite of the many rules by which
they were hedged about, in the eighth century nuns are found admitted
into the monasteries on the ground of the necessity for their presence
in sickness and similar emergencies.

Besides the nuns, strictly so called, in the eighth and subsequent
centuries there were canonesses, who differed from the nuns in
retaining more of their secular character. Their vows were not
perpetual, and they confined their labors chiefly to the instruction
of the children of the nobles.

Having cited some of the rules for the government of those who
committed themselves to the life of the nun, it now remains to perform
the delicate task of showing the degree of success which attended
the attempt to isolate a class of unmarried women, that, by religious
offices and meditations, they might wholly dedicate their time and
their faculties to the cultivation of the Christian graces, and serve
as the benefactresses of the poor in giving alms at the convent
gate. The century that witnessed the outbreak of the Reformation is
commonly regarded as exceptional for laxity of religious principle and
perversion of the institutional ideals of the Church; but, from the
eighth century, the ecclesiastical morality was of such a low order as
seriously to affect the moral tone of the people and to invalidate the
efficacy of the Church as a teacher of religion. The celibacy which
was enjoined upon the clergy was largely responsible for this state
of affairs. It is unfortunately not true that the ages of faith, so
called, were ages of great moral purity. In spite of the interdict of
councils, priestly marriages were looked upon as common events. The
marriage of priests being under the ban of the Church, concubinage
was regarded as almost a legitimate relationship, and carried less
of stigma than the proscribed marriages. It is not singular that such
impairment of moral ideas was not confined to the priests, and that
the same low moral tone invaded the convents, many of whose inmates
became the partners of the priests in their derelictions.

"The known luxury and believed immoralities of the wealthy
monasteries" in England, says Sharon Turner, "made a great impression
on the public mind. Even some of the clergy became ashamed of it, and
contributed to expose it, both in England and elsewhere." Nor was the
tone of morals outside the cloister of higher grade than that of the
monks. In 1212 a council commanded the clergy not to have women
in their houses, nor to suffer in their cloisters assemblies for
debauchery, nor to entertain women there. Nuns were ordered to lie
single. In England, these and many other moral prohibitions were
repeated at various intervals, showing that, in spite of the
prevailing corruption, there was an appreciation of pure ideals; and
in its councils the Church took cognizance of and endeavored to stem
the rising tide of unchastity. Thus, inquiries were made in 1252 as to
whether the clergy frequented the nunneries without reasonable cause,
and a year or two afterward an inquisition was made all over England
into the character and actions of the various religious personages.
The conduct of the nuns is frequently alluded to in terms of the
severest censure, while the ecclesiastics were enjoined not to
frequent taverns or public spectacles, or to resort to the houses of
loose characters, or to visit the nuns; they were not to play at dice
or improper games, nor to leave their property to their children.
The vices of the clergy were the unavoidable consequence of the
independence of their hierarchy from civil control. The release of
the clergy from secular jurisdiction was productive of much personal
depravity. They had to fear their abbot only, and he was frequently
a mild censor of their morals. At a time when any profligate woman of
position might retire to a convent and, by elevation or appointment,
become abbess, it is not strange that the moral tone of the convent
was not determined by the rules of the order, but by the standards
which were actually established.

Yet, in spite of many instances of reprehensible conduct, the nuns as
a class did not break the vows that bound them to chastity, and within
the convent walls were found many examples of women of illustrious
character. In the Anglo-Saxon times, women of the most admirable
traits are found in charge of convents; the names of some of the
abbesses of the seventh century, and earlier, are notable as those
of women of high rank as well as of high character. Saint Werburga
of Ely, the daughter of Wulfere, King of Mercia, was made ruler over
all the female religious houses, and became the founder of several
convents of note. Her qualities and character were set forth in the
following lines:

  "In beaute amyable she was equall to Rachell,
  Comparable to Sara in fyrme fidelyte,
  In sadness and wysedom lyke to Abygaell:
  Replete as Deibora with grace of prophecy,
  Æqyvalent to Ruth she was in humylyte,
  In purchrytude Rebecca, lyke Hester in Colynesse,
  Lyke Judyth in vertue and proued holynesse."

But such examples of high worth among the abbesses, while not
exceptional in the early Middle Ages, are not frequently met with in
the closing centuries of the period.

The position of the abbess was not one of honor only, but of
privilege; the cloister rule was relaxed for her--she might go and
come as she pleased, and see anyone whom she wished to see. In the
early times, she is even found taking part in synods. Thus, in 649,
the abbesses were summoned to the council at Becanceld, in Kent, and
the names of five of them were subscribed to the constitutions which
were there made, while the name of not a single abbot appears on the
document. Coming down to much later times, abbesses were summoned
to attend or to send proxies to the king's council which was held
to grant "an aid on the knighting the Prince of Wales." Also, they
were required to furnish military service by proxy. While they were
more amenable to the clergy than were the monks, the abbesses were
nevertheless tenacious of their privileges. They were never ordained,
nor did they ever have the right to ordain others, although they
claimed the latter as one of their privileges.

They were subject to deposition if they abused their office. Not
infrequently the nuns would carry their complaints to the bishop,
and seek from him redress for their grievances. If the circumstances
warranted his so doing, the bishop would occasionally take the
direction of the nunnery into his own hands instead of appointing an
abbess, or else he might place it temporarily in the charge of one or
more of the nuns. All the affairs of the convent were directed by the
abbess--the tillage of the grounds and4the repairs to the buildings,
as well as the internal ordering of the establishment and the
discipline of its inmates. Also, she was directed to assist, by her
own labor as far as she was able, in clothing herself. When a nun
became refractory, she might be consigned to punishment outside of
the convent. Thus, by the decree of a council near Paris in the eighth
century, it was ordered that the bishop as well as the abbess might
send a nun to a penitentiary. The same council prescribed that an
abbess should not superintend more than one monastery or quit its
precincts more than once a year. One of the rules which was at one
time in force prohibited abbesses from walking alone, thus placing
them under the surveillance of the sisterhood. But their powers varied
according to the period and the order with which they were connected.

Through the necessities of their office, the abbesses were brought
into closer relationship with the outside world than were the other
nuns. Sometimes they were made respondents in a suit at law with
regard to the estates of the convent, or to retain the property
brought to them by some one of the sisters, who, renouncing her vows,
sought to recover her possessions. In 1292 the prioress of an abbey in
Somersetshire had to answer in a suit brought against her by a widow
and two men in regard to the right of common pasturage upon lands held
by the convent, and the case was decided against the religious house;
but both the prioress and the widow escaped paying their respective
costs in the case, on the plea of poverty.

Not only were the abbesses sued, but they themselves did not hesitate
to institute legal proceedings in defence of what they believed were
their rights. In the reign of Edward III., a prioress sued a sheriff
for the recovery of a pension granted during the reign of Henry III.,
which had been allowed to lapse. The case was carried to the king's
court and won for the convent. Legal difficulties frequently occurred
over grants made to convents without the observance of the set
formalities. An abbess had a great many secular duties, for all the
money that came into the establishment, or was paid out, had to be
accounted for by her. The entertainment which the convent dispensed
to those who, on one pretext or another, claimed it, furnished another
occasion for the intercourse of the abbess with the outer world.
Sometimes ladies who were temporarily in want of a home repaired to a
convent and were there received. The bishops frequently sent friends
to the priory for entertainment; though such persons were charges upon
the hospitality of the institution, they, as a rule, either paid for
their entertainment themselves or were provided for by their friends.
It was not unusual for visitors who came under the authority of the
bishop's order to bring with them a retinue of servants and to remain
a considerable time.

During the time of Henry VIII., rigid inquiries were made with
regard to the regulations and the character of the inmates of the
monasteries, especially the abbots and abbesses. The investigations
with regard to the character of the abbots and abbesses need not
concern us, as we have sufficiently noticed the looseness of conduct
which prevailed in many of the religious houses. Among the questions
asked were inquiries as to whether hospitality was maintained,
and especially toward the poor, whether Church anniversaries were
observed, whether proper records were kept, whether any of the
conventual property had been alienated, whether the head of the house
was given to sober and modest conversation both toward the inmates
and lay persons, whether any of the inmates had been punished, whether
there had been any overlooking of the faults of a brother or sister
through favoritism, whether any novices were received before reaching
sufficient age because of friendship and affection or the inducement
of money or any other ulterior reason. Besides these inquiries, which
were common to the abbots and abbesses, particular questions were
asked the latter, looking to the abandonment of all ornaments and
superfluities of dress and the keeping in good repair of all the
accessories of divine service. They were asked whether the sisters
attended divine worship at the proper seasons, whether they taught the
novices the rule, whether they maintained proper oversight of them,
and whether they saw that they were engaged at proper work. Also, the
abbess was to report on the character of the nuns as to whether she
suspected any of incontinence, whether any of them slept without the
convent walls or walked abroad, and, if so, in whose company. She was
asked whether the confessor or chaplain did his duty, and whether she
had found any "ancient, sad, and virtuous" woman as mistress of the

Among the Gilbertine nuns, whom we may mention as a typical order,
there were three prioresses, one of whom presided, the other two
acting as coadjutors. It was the duty of the presiding prioress to
enjoin penance, grant all the licenses or allowances, visit the sick,
or see that they were visited by one of her companions. The prioresses
cut, fitted, and superintended the manufacture of the vestments of
the sisters. It was the duty of the presiding prioress to visit
the sisters in the infirmary whenever they asked for her presence,
unless she were detained by urgent duties. Other rules regulated her
conduct on festival days, when she was especially to use diligence in
inquiring after the order and religion of the house.

The sub-prioress was under more rigid rules than those which governed
her superior; if, in the absence of the prioress, she spoke of
anything excepting labor, she confessed having done so, in the
chapter. If, in the absence of the prioress, some other of the sisters
failed to observe silence, it was not she but the sub-prioress who was
held responsible and took the blame. She could not go to the window of
the gate without a "sage companion."

When the cellaress assumed office, her duties were to see what was
owing to the different farmers and tax gatherers, to receive the sums
due from the collectors on the nunnery estates, and to take account of
all the sales of the products of the lands of the convent. Also, she
was to see to the provisioning of the house, to pay the wages, and to
attend to the mowing of the hay and to the repairs to the buildings.
She might have associated with her a lay sister, with whom she was at
liberty to talk concerning the business affairs of their office.

Of the other convent officials, the precentrix had charge of the
library; the sacrist rose at night to ring the bell, attended to the
adornment of the church in the vigil of Easter, lighted the lamp in
the interval at lessons, had the preparation of the coals for the
censer, and performed other duties of a like nature; and the duty
of the mistress of the novices was to see that those in her charge
behaved in an orderly manner. She was the disciplinarian of those who
had not taken the full vows of the order. If the infirmaress desired
anything, she had to indicate it by a sign; when the want was of
such a nature that it could not be so indicated, the cellaress
was summoned, for this was the only official in whose presence the
infirmaress could speak. She never served in the kitchen when there
were any serious cases of sickness to need her attention. There were
other officials who performed special or occasional duties, who
need not be mentioned. All the servants in a convent took an oath of
fidelity not to reveal the secrets of the house. They were brewers,
bakers, kitcheners, gardeners, shoemakers, and the like.

The confessor made periodical visits to the convent; and if the
prioress found it necessary that anyone should confess, the latter
was told to go to the place appointed, and two "discreet sisters" sat
apart from the window of the confessional, where they could hold the
nun under observation and see how she behaved. The confessor also was
under supervision as to his conduct, for he was to "shun talking vain
and unnecessary things; nor ask who she was, whence she came, and such

The ceremony with regard to the taking of vows by the nuns was
threefold. The first was called the consecration of the nun, and was
made on solemn days, preferably Epiphany or on the festivals of
the Virgin. After the Epistle was read, the virgin who was to be
consecrated came before the altar, dressed in white, carrying in her
right hand the religious habit and in her left an extinguished taper.
After the bishop had consecrated the habit, he gave it to her, saying:
"Take, girl, the robe which you shall wear in innocence." After
assuming this, the taper in her hand was lighted, and she intoned the
words: "I love Christ, into whose bed I have entered." Then, after
the Epistle, Gospel, and Creed, the bishop said: "Come, come, come,
daughter, I will teach you the fear of the Lord." The nun then
prostrated herself before the altar, and after the _Veni Creator_
began, she arose. The bishop then invested her with the veil and
pronounced a curse against all those who would disturb her holy
purpose. The second ceremony related to a nun who was to make
profession, but who had before been blessed, and the third ceremony
related to the consecration of a nun who was not a virgin. Such, in
brief, is a sketch of the convent routine and exercises. It will now
be in place to take a more general view of the nun's environment.

As the hospitality of the convent was often extended to strangers,
it will not be without interest to give a list of the contents of a
chamber which was allotted to a "Dame Agnes Browne" in the Priory of
Minster, in Sheppey: "Stuff given her by her friends:--A fetherbed, a
bolster, 2 pyllows, a payre of blankatts, 2 corse coverleds, 4 pare of
shets good and badde, an olde tester and selar of paynted clothes
and 2 peces of hangyng to the same; a square cofer carvyd, with 2 bed
clothes upon the cofer, and in the wyndow a lytill cobard of waynscott
carvyd and 2 lytill chestes; a small goblet with a cover of sylver
parcell gylt, a lytill maser with a brynne of sylver and gylt,
a lytill pese of sylver and a spore of sylver, 2 lytyll latyn
candellstyks, a fire panne and a pare of tonges, 2 small aundyrons, 4
pewter dysshes, a porrenger, a pewter bason, 2 skyllotts (a small pot
with a long handle), a lytill brasse pot, a cawdyron and a drynkyng
pot of pewter."

That, in the mind of the religious recluse, cleanliness was not
associated with godliness was due to the idea of penance. Washing was
regarded as a luxury not to be indulged in excepting at infrequent
intervals or by special permission. This idea of ablutions was
probably derived at first in reaction from the public baths which
were so much in vogue among the Romans, and which were associated in
the public mind with luxury, and were often the scenes of conduct
quite at variance with the principles for which the nuns stood. The
licentiousness which centred around these places brought them into
such ill repute that to the ascetic mind washing did not so much
signify cleanliness as sin. The virtue of dirt did not extend to the
abbesses, who were allowed to wash whenever it was necessary and as
frequently as they pleased. By a similar process of deduction, the
nuns remained untonsured. In the early times, a woman whose hair was
cut short was looked upon as a disreputable character, so that it
was repellent to conventional ideas of propriety to conform to the
practice of the monks in having the head shaved.

The nuns were not always of the most serious disposition and
deportment, as is shown by the peculiar enjoinment that they were not
to look fixedly on any man, or to romp or frolic with him; neither
were they to allow any man to see them unveiled, nor to embrace any
man, either an acquaintance or a stranger. The convivial nature of
some of the nuns is revealed by an order commanding them not to "use
the alehouse or the watercourses where strangers daily resort, or
bring in, receive, or take any layman, religious or secular, into
the chamber, or any secret place, day or night, or with them in such
private places to commune, eat, or drink, without license of your
prioress." The monastery which is described by Wriothesley as the most
virtuous religious house in England, Sion Monastery, was under an even
stricter rule. Conversation with secular persons was permitted only
by the license of the abbess from noon to vespers, and only then on
Sundays and the great feast days of the saints. Sion Monastery was
subjected to the further restriction that the nuns might not receive
their friends, but could converse with them by sitting at appointed
windows, in the presence of the abbess. If any sister desired to be
seen by "her parents or honest friends," she might, by the special
permission of the abbess, open the window occasionally during the
year; but if she had the self-denial to forego this privilege, a
greater reward was assured her in the hereafter.

Despite the criticism to which the monastic system of the Middle
Ages may justly be subjected, it would be great remissness to fail
in appreciation of the tremendous work of civilization which was
performed by its expositors. They were the centres of culture, as well
as of benevolence; in the convents, and also in the monasteries, there
could always be found a select library, which included works of the
classic authors, as well as books of religion. The nuns, as a class,
were well educated for their time. They could read Latin, and were
qualified to direct the education of the novices who came under their
training. Even in the ninth century, some of the continental convents
had such high repute as educational centres that children were sent
long distances to get the benefit of the opportunities they offered;
and in this respect England was no whit behind, for children were
sent from the continent to be educated in the schools established
by Theodorus and Hadrian. This fact is the more to the credit of the
English schools, as the tide had been setting strongly in the other

The addition of literary and pedagogic duties to the religious routine
and manual labor of the convents made the lives of the nuns extremely
busy, for, in addition to their reading theological and classical
literature, they had the duty of copying and embellishing manuscripts.
It was not unusual for a nun to become proficient in Latin
versification and to correspond in that language with others of a
similar literary taste and training. These women were thus often
highly qualified to teach the subjects which were then included in
polite education. For many centuries theirs were the only schools for
girls. The suppression of the convents was, educationally, a disaster
to England. They were not merely schools for book learning, but such
little knowledge as was current in regard to the treatment of various
disorders and the care of the sick was obtained in the convent
schools. The general custom of bleeding people for every form of
illness, as well as to prevent possible sickness, made necessary some
kind of bandage ready prepared to apply to the wound, and it was a
common practice for nuns to make such bandages and to present them as
gifts to friends. The convent pupils were also taught the finer sorts
of cooking, such as the preparation of special dishes and the making
of sweetmeats and pastry. Needlework, as the most characteristic
employment of women of refinement, music, both vocal and instrumental,
and writing and drawing, entered into the curricula of the convents.

The educational record of the various convents at the time of their
suppression shows that this act of Henry VIII., whatever other
justification it may have had, cannot be supported on the ground that
the convents were not performing a useful service to society in the
education of the youth of the country. Gasquet, in his _Suppression
of the Monasteries_, says: "In the convents, the female portion of the
population found their only teachers, the rich as well as the poor,
and the destruction of the religious houses by Henry was the absolute
extinction of any systematic education for women during a long
period." Thus, at Winchester Convent the list of ladies being educated
within the walls at the time of the suppression shows that these
Benedictine nuns were training the children of the first families in
the country. Carrow, in Norfolk, for centuries gave instruction to
the daughters of the neighboring gentry; and as early as A.D. 1273
a papal prohibition was obtained from Pope Gregory X., restraining
the nobility from crowding this monastery with more sisters than its
income would support. Again, we read of Mynchin Buckland that it was
a noted seminary for the daughters of the families in its vicinity.
Many families whose names were the highest in the list of the English
gentry of the day owed to the convent systems all the accomplishments
which enabled them to shine brilliantly in their after life.

"Reading, writing, some knowledge of arithmetic, the art of
embroidery, music and French, 'after the scole of Stratford atte
Bowe,' were the recognized course of study, while the preparation
of perfumes, balsams, simples, and confectionery was among the more
ordinary departments of the education afforded." There was as great
protest aroused among the laity against the suppression of the
convents as has been latterly witnessed in France against the rigid
enforcement of the law as to unregistered schools, resulting in
the closing of many schools which were established on a religious
foundation and taught by the nuns.

Many pathetic pleas were addressed to Thomas Cromwell in behalf of
the convents at the time of the Reformation. The abbess of the famous
convent of Godstow, in Oxfordshire, wrote to Cromwell as follows:
"Pleaseth hit your Honour with my moste humble dowyte, to be
advertised, that where it hath pleasyd your Lordship to be the verie
meanes to the King's Majestie for my preferment, most unworthie to
be Abbes of this the King's Monasterie of Godstowe.... I trust to God
that I have never offendyd God's laws, neither the King's, wherebie
this poore monasterie ought to be suppressed." She then continues
in an earnest strain to set forth that the recommendation for the
suppression of her convent arose from private malice on the part of
her enemies, and closes with a denial of the charges preferred, as
follows: "And notwithstanding that Dr. London, like an untrew man,
hath informed your Lordship that I am a spoiler and a waster, your
good Lordship shall know that the contrary is trew; for I have 'not
alienated one halporthe' of goods of this monastery, movable or
unmovable, but have rather incres'd the same, nor never made lease of
any farme or peece of grounde belonging to this House, or thet hath
been in times paste, alwaies set under Convent Seal for the wealthe of
the House."

The convents were charitable as well as educational centres, although
their benevolent methods would not meet the approval of modern ideas
as to wise almsgiving. At the set time for the disbursement of alms,
the mendicants thronged the institution, and, by the liberality of
the donors, were encouraged to continue in a life of shiftlessness
and beggary. The disbursement of alms was really regarded by the
recipients not so much as an act of charity as something which they
had a right to expect.

One of the best phases of conventual charity was its influence in
developing the benevolent tendencies of women of position and means.
The feudal system, as we have seen, was largely a system of dependent
relations, so that those who were in the lowest social scale felt
that they had a right to the gifts of those who were above them. By
the inevitable working of the system, the lives of the poor were
interwoven into the lives of their betters. It was a gracious work
of the Church to teach those who were in the fortunate places of
life their responsibility toward their less happily situated fellow
creatures, and the monastic almsgiving was a practical exemplification
of the spirit of the Gospel in so far as the customs and practices
of the times made possible a clear interpretation of its benevolent
teachings. Although charity was not organized, and was dealt directly
to the needy without investigation of their claims on any other ground
than actual and manifest want, and thus was in violation of modern
social tenets and methods, it yet furnishes one of the most engaging
chapters of mediæval life. Modern benevolences, however different
from those of earlier times, nevertheless derive their spirit and
inspiration from the gracious charities of the mediæval nuns.

Under the incentive of the example of the monasteries, the great
ladies recognized and frequently performed their full duty toward
their dependants. The Countess of Richmond maintained a number of poor
people within her own walls. In the sixteenth century, Lady Gresham
left, by her will, tenements in the city, the rents of which were to
be used for the poor. The Countess of Pembroke built an almshouse and
procured for it a patent of corporation. These are but a few of many
illustrious examples of large charities which serve to brighten the
pages of mediæval history.

In the Middle Ages, charity was a personal obligation. With the
elimination of personal service, charity came increasingly to be
dispensed by voluntary associations. Of such organizations may be
instanced the Sisters of Charity and, in recent years, the various
orders of deaconesses. For although charity has gone outside the
bounds of the Church, its ministrations are directly traceable to the
convents, and it yet finds its most appropriate relations and allies
to be religion and the Church.



The most remarkable fact of the twelfth century in England was the
growth of the towns. As has been already observed in a previous
chapter, the conquest of Britain by the Normans modified the
insularity of the people and brought them into closer communication
with the people of the continent. One of the most marked effects of
this change was the introduction into the country of skilled Norman
craftsmen. The stimulating effect of the influx of these specialized
workmen was in result not unlike the general awakening of trade and
commerce throughout Europe, at a later time, as the result of the

The expansion of England's industry was also favored by the vigorous
administrations of Henry I. and Henry II. Another contributive factor
was the decline in power of the barons. Henry I. pitted the town
against the castle in order to counterbalance the vast influence which
was exerted by each. Henry's policy of limiting the independence of
the barons was furthered by the introduction of scutage, by which
the king was enabled to call to his aid mercenary troops and did not
have to rely wholly upon the feudal forces. Then, too, the Assize of
Arms restored the national militia to its former importance. Such,
in brief, were the constitutional measures by which the towns were
advantaged and their position as related to the castles in a sense
reversed. The liberty of the latter became increasingly curtailed,
while that of the former was correspondingly augmented.

The town and the castle, however, were not antagonistic, the interests
of the former being furthered by the protection of the latter. The
monastery, also, aided the town by attracting trade. There was little
difference in conditions of life between the town and the country;
both engaged in agriculture as well as in trade, and both were
governed by a royal officer, or, it might be, by some lord's steward,
while, of course, the houses were somewhat more clustered in the town
than in the country, and the town possessed the merchant guild. It is
impossible to trace guilds to their origin, although Brentano seeks
to fix England as their birthplace. This is possible, however, only by
narrowing the definition of a guild to fit the English type.

The earliest unmistakable mention of the merchant guild is at the end
of the eleventh or the beginning of the twelfth century. Under Henry
I., grants of merchant guilds appear in royal town charters, and are
frequently met with during succeeding reigns. By such charters the
original voluntary associations became exclusive bodies, to which
trade was confined. The retail trade of the town was restricted to
members of the guild individually, while the trade coming to the town
was shared by them all collectively. The burgesses generally found it
to their interest to become members of the guild, and all townsmen
of importance were traders. Ecclesiastics and women might also be
members of the guild, but they were, of course, debarred from becoming

The exclusive tendencies which the merchant guild developed made
it really an oligarchy, and so there grew up in the towns an ever
increasing population that did not share the guild privileges. As the
town and its trade developed, the complexity of trade regulations made
it a convenience to have guilds with specialized functions, to which
the merchant guild might deputize its powers. It was quite natural,
too, that men working at the same trade, and having social and
neighborhood association, should desire to have a guild which would
represent their distinctive interests. Thus the craft guild arose, not
in antagonism to the merchant guild, but as a special agent of it.
So, in the reign of Henry I., there came about the associations of
the weavers, cordwainers, and fullers. By the end of the fourteenth
century craft guilds were numerous, and in some places the merchant
guild was superseded by them. In their composition the guilds were
made up of masters, journeymen, and apprentices, from whom were
elected the officers and assistances. Women were members of these
craft guilds, although they do not appear to have taken part in
the business administration. "The charter of the Drapers speaks of
both brethren and sistren, and the list of members, as given on
the occasions of 'cessments' shows women-members, both wives of
corn-brethren, independent tradeswomen, and widows of deceased

The relation of the women to some of the guilds seems to have been
largely a social one. Thus, we read in the rules of the Calendar
Guild, a religious fraternity, that the wives of guild members had
gone to such extremes in their entertainment of the guild as to cause
it to be stipulated that no woman should spend in excess of a certain
specified sum for hospitality toward the guilds; for these guilds were
formed for various purposes besides trade, and were in the nature of
friendly societies. In addition to their commercial side, they were
"associations for mutual help and social and religious intercourse
amongst the people." The proportion of women in the membership was
always large. In her introduction to _English Guilds_, Miss Toulmin
Smith says that "scarcely five out of five hundred were not formed
equally of men and women.... Even where the affairs were managed by a
company of priests, women were admitted as lay members, and they had
many of the same duties and claims upon the guilds as the men."

Women's association with the guild was not a merely nominal one, for
they shared in all of its privileges and contributed to all of its
funds, although the payments asked of them were sometimes smaller. The
female as well as the male members had a right to wear the livery of
the guild. Women were engaged in trade and even in manufacture, and
so had direct interest in the craft guilds, aside from that which they
would naturally feel through the relations thereto of their husbands
and brothers. In the work of his trade a member was always allowed to
employ his wife, his children, and his maid, for the whole household
of the guild brother belonged to the guild. In later times this led to
the degeneration of the guilds into mere family monopolies.

The fraternal feature of the craft guild reminds one of the same
features of the benevolent orders of the present time. If a member of
the guild, male or female, became impoverished through mishap, they
were cared for, and, if need arose, were buried; dowerless daughters
were provided with marriage portions, or, in case they wished to enter
the religious life, they were provided with the means to do so. Nor
must we overlook the large influence which the guilds exerted on the
side of morality, attaching, as they did, the greatest importance to
the moral character of their members.

The great Drapers Company embraced in its membership many women who
trained apprentices and carried on business, as did the male members.
The rules of the company provided that "every brother or sister of the
fellowship taking an apprentice shall present him to the wardens, and
shall pay 13/4." The craft guilds exerted an admirable influence in
the raising of woman to the same plane of respect as that held by men.
The equality which was accorded them in these associations amounted to
a recognition of their intellectual and business capabilities as being
of the same order as those of the men. The respect which was shown
them is illustrated by a provision of the same company to which we
have just referred. It was ordered that when a "sister" died she
should be interred with fullest honors; the best pall was to be thrown
over her coffin, and the fraternity were to follow her to the grave
"with every respectful ceremony equally as the men." On the death of a
male member of a guild, his widow was privileged to carry on his trade
as one of the guild; and if a woman married a man of the same trade
who did not have the freedom of the guild, he acquired it by virtue of
the marriage; but should a woman marry a man of another trade, she was
thereby excluded from her guild connection. Such were the relations
of woman to the guilds. But Brentano notes an exception to the rule
that a widow who married again a man of the same trade conferred the
freedom of the guild upon him: "The wife of a poulterer may carry on
the said mystery after the death of her husband, quite as freely as if
her sire were alive; and if she marries a man not of the mystery, and
wishes to carry it on, she must buy the (right of carrying on the)
mystery in the above described manner; as she would be obliged to buy
the mystery, if her husband was of the mystery and had not yet bought
it; for the husband is not in the dominion of the wife, but the wife
is in the dominion of the husband."

The democratic nature of the guilds tended to lessen class
distinctions and to bring about a true fellowship on the plane of
equality. The associations, as has been said, provided for their
members with loving care, and followed them with love to the grave:
"the ordinances as to this last act breathed the same spirit of
equality among her sons on which all her regulations were founded, and
which constituted her strength." In cases of insolvency at death, the
funerals of poor members were to be respected equally with those of
the rich. "The honor paid to the dead was also associated with the
duty of benevolence;" thus, for instance, in the statutes of the
fullers of Lincoln, it is said: "When any of the brethren and sistren
die, the rest shall give a halfpenny each to buy bread to be given
to the poor, for the soul's sake of the dead." The Grocers Company
admitted women after marriage to membership in their fraternity, and
they "enter and are looked upon as of the fraternity for ever, and are
assisted and made as one of us; and after the death of the husband,
the widow shall come to the dinner and pay 40d. if she is able."

In the fourteenth century it was by no means unusual for women, even
though they were married, to carry on successfully large commercial
enterprises in their own name and by their individual effort. In the
_Liber Albus of London_, which was compiled in the fourteenth century,
there occurs an ordinance relating to this subject: "and where a
woman _coverte de baron_ follows craft within the said city by herself
apart, with which the husband in no way intermeddles, such woman shall
be bound as a single woman as to all that concerns her said craft.
And if the husband and wife are impleaded in such case, the wife shall
plead as a single woman in the Court of Record, and shall have her law
and other advantages by way of plea just as a single woman. And if she
is condemned, she shall be committed to prison until she shall have
made satisfaction; and neither the husband nor his goods shall in such
case be charged or interfered with." It will be seen from this that
women were accorded wide liberty in the conduct of business and,
whether married or single, preserved their independence of action and
control of property. The right that woman enjoyed before the courts of
being sued and of suing was, however, a negative one.

The distresses to which women were subjected by the peculiar form of
liberty which they enjoyed is illustrated by the following quotation
from an enactment in the Statute of Laborers in the reign of Edward
III: "Every man and woman of our realm of England, of what condition
he be, free or bond, able of body and within the age of threescore
years, not living in merchandise, not exercising any craft nor having
of his own whereof he may live, nor proper land about whose tillage
he may himself occupy, and serving any other, if he be in convenient
service (his estate considered), be required to serve, he shall be
bounden to serve him which so shall him require.... And if any such
man or woman being so required to serve will not the same do,... he
shall be committed to the next gaol, there to remain under strait
keeping, till he find surety to serve in the form aforesaid."

All of the oppressive enactments regulating the wages of laborers
and fixing the maximum of the sum that they were at liberty to accept
affected women equally with men. An enactment of Richard II. provided
"that no artificer, labourer, servant, nor victualler, man or woman,
should travel out of the hundred, rape, or wapentake where he is
dwelling, without a letter-patent under the King's seal, stating why
he is wandering, and that the term for which he or she had been hired
has been completed." Otherwise the offender might be put in a pair of
stocks, which was to be provided in every town.

The guild system, despite its attitude toward women, was the beginning
of the narrowing of her industrial sphere. Prior to the importation
of skilled laborers in textile and other branches of industry, such
activities were identified with the homes of the people, not merely in
that the industry itself was conducted in them, but that the product
was limited to the needs of the household, the demands of charity, and
such surplus as was used in trade. The guild broadened the meaning of
industry to meet the demands of a rising commercial system whose trade
routes became clearly established and extended throughout Europe and
into the East. So that, while the industry of the women artificers
became limited in that many things which had largely occupied their
hands became the settled occupations of men, the products which still
depended mainly upon their industrial activity became much more widely
dispersed, and made them factors in the developing industries to
which England is so deeply indebted for her trade supremacy. With the
decline of guilds, there was a return on a very large scale to the
system of home industry, when every farmstead and rural cottage became
a manufacturing centre. The development of the factory system of the
eighteenth century, upon the introduction of improved machinery for
manufacture, completely removed industry from the home and created the
modern factory town.

It is not our purpose to do more than suggest the influence which the
guilds exerted in bringing woman into the larger stream of English
life by the definition of her legal status which her industrial
consequence and activities made necessary. It has been already
remarked that the statutes of the times made her personally
responsible before the law as an industrial factor. In this way, woman
became increasingly regarded as a social integer rather than as simply
a domestic incident. This was a distinct gain in the end, however
crude the conception at first. The complex questions of woman's social
status are still largely centred about the question of her industrial
place. The insistent claim of the sex that they shall be regarded as
worthy of a part in the world's work projects into the discussion
of the place that she shall occupy many other questions concerning
matters which are immediately involved. It is not too much to say that
all of the issues which arose during the modern period, and together
form the specifications of the platform of "woman's rights," find
their beginning in this first responsible relation of woman to the
industry of the nation. Society is established upon an economic basis,
and so the problem of the duties and responsibilities of woman in a
public way must be centred about industry. It will not do to criticise
the crudeness of the early legislation regarding woman when she first
stepped into the arena of associated industry, and to remain oblivious
to the fact that the question of her industrial status is no more
satisfactorily determined after the lapse of centuries. It is true
that the question during these centuries became greatly involved
at times, as, for instance, at the period of the great industrial
revolution; but, with all the aspects which the question assumes
to-day and the problems which are related to it, the crux of the
matter is the same as it was at the time of the rise of the guilds.

The guild ordinances took the view of woman as an industrial unit,
without regard to her personal relations. If she became a merchant
and associated herself with the guild, she was under the same laws
regarding financial responsibility as was any other member. The fact
that she was a woman, or that she was married and had children, did
not constitute a plea in her behalf for different treatment from that
accorded a guild brother. If a woman-merchant became a debtor, she had
to answer in court as any other merchant, and "an accyon of dette be
mayntend agenst her, to be conceyved aft' the custom of the seid lite,
w[^t] out nemyng her husband in the seid accyon."

The legislation of the period generally recognized the equality of the
sexes in the matter of labor. An ordinance of Edward IV., made in the
borough of Wells, provided that both male and female apprentices to
burgesses should themselves become burgesses at the expiration of
their term of service. Similar statutes relating to apprentices
in London likewise made no distinction between boys and girls. The
problems centring about woman's relation to industry not having
arisen, the fact of her employment presented no serious difficulties.
When the proclamation of 1271, relating to the woollen industry, was
issued, it permitted "all workers of woolen cloths, male and female,
as well of Flanders as of other lands, to come to England to follow
their craft." Indeed, the women were less fettered than the men in
their industrial avocations, for, while by the statute of 1363 the men
were limited to the pursuit of one craft, women were left free in the

In this connection, it is interesting to refer to the development of
the silk industry as a typical occupation of woman. It is impossible
to determine the time when "the arts of spinning, throwing, and
weaving of silk" were first brought into England. We do know, however,
that, when first established, they were pursued by a company of women
called "silk women." The fabrics of their skill were in the many forms
of laces, ribbons, girdles, and other narrow goods. Toward the middle
of the fifteenth century, these women were greatly distressed by the
Lombards and other Italians, who imported into the country the same
sort of goods, and in such quantities that their sale was hindered and
the workers placed in danger of starvation. This led to a reference
of their complaint to Parliament, with a statement of the grievances
for which they desired redress. This document bore the title:
_The petition of the silk women and throwesters of the craftes and
occupation of silk-work within the city of London, which be, and
have been, craftes of women within the same city of time that no
man remembereth the contrary_. The petition then goes on to set
forth "that by this business many reputable families have been well
supported; and young women kept from idleness by learning the same
business, and put into a way of living with credit, and many have
thereby grown to great worship; and never any thing of silk brought
into this land, concerning the same craftes and occupations in any
wise wrought but in the raw silk alone, unwrought, until now of late
that divers Lombards and others, aliens and strangers, with a view
of destroying the silk-working in this kingdom, and transferring the
manufactories to foreign countries, do daily bring into this land,"
etc. Then follows a statement of the inferior grades of fabrics thus
introduced, which the complaint said was "to the great detriment and
utter destruction of the said craftes; which is like to cause great
idleness among the young gentlewomen and other apprentices to the same
craftes." The petition that the importation of these goods should be
prohibited was granted, and we hear no more of these estimable ladies
and little of their infant industry. It was then thought no disgrace
for a lady of quality to conduct such household manufactories.

The town-dwelling woman looked down upon her rural sister, a fact that
is not at all surprising when the difference in the condition of the
two classes of women is considered. The town-dwelling woman had the
privileges of guild association and the liberties which it gave her,
while the woman in the agricultural districts was but a drudge.
The former were identified with manufactures and commerce, while
the latter were tied to the soil. Even after the rise of copyhold
tenure of land, the grievances of the agricultural population were
considerable, and of many sorts. While the villains flocked to London
to demand legal exemption from the old labor obligations which went
along with such servile condition, the cottars claimed freedom from
labor rents for their homes, and the copyholders of all kinds demanded
that they should not be compelled to grind at the lord's mill the
corn which they raised for their household needs. The rising tide of
industrial revolution represented a climax of centuries of grievance;
and when the revolt did come, it was as a demand for the manumission
of property held in villanage. There was at the time hardly any
personal servitude demanding such strenuous measures for betterment.
The popular agitation seemed to be enlisted against class impositions,
and so the following lines:

  "When Adam delved and Eve span,
  Who was then the gentleman?"

became the slogan of the insurgents.

It is not possible to ascertain how particular grievances in Kent and
Essex became identified with the general movements of the peasantry
south of the Thames and in many parts of the midland. The vast
movement, however, extended throughout the agricultural districts, and
included burgesses of towns, rural priests, yeomen and farm laborers.
It is unlikely that a personal grievance should have caused it, but it
was precipitated by such. The immediate occasion was the indignation
which was aroused at an outrage committed by one of the tax collectors
on the daughter of Wat the Tyler. As the indignation which centred
in the sentiment against this act served to cement the feeling of
injustice which was prevalent among the peasantry, so it is probable
that the act itself was not a solitary instance, but only one of many
indignities which were suffered by the peasantry at the hands of the
representatives of those above them. Although the insurrection soon
came to an end, and those who were responsible for it suffered the
severest penalties, nevertheless the various "statutes of laborers"
which from this date appear on the statute book show that the day had
gone by when the lords of manors could require the personal services
of tenants in return for the lands they held; so that the one thousand
five hundred persons who were executed for this social uprising died
as a protest against grievances of the poor tenantry, which were
corrected by legislation.

By the close of the fourteenth century the manorial courts had lost
much of their former vigor; and there were frequent instances of
villain tenants sending their daughters to service beyond the bounds
of the manors, in spite of the requirement of a license so to
do. Daughters were also married without reference to the lord, or
obtaining his permission, or paying the fee. As a result of their
extended liberties, women as well as men deserted the country in
large numbers and resorted to the towns. The population thus became
much more mobile, and among the people there was a wider degree of
intelligence because of this fact and of their more varied experience.
As women are the progenitors of the race, it is always important for
the intelligence of a people that the mothers shall not be stupid
and inane creatures such as were for the most part the women of the
agricultural classes in England during the greater part of the Middle
Ages. They were limited to the narrow confines of homes, humble
indeed, and yet homes which they could not feel were their own, and
they could not leave these habitations excepting under conditions
which were practically prohibitive. Their days were spent in an
unvarying monotony of domestic duties and farm labor, which afforded
no stimulus to the mind or food for the soul. It is not strange that
morals were as depraved as manners were uncouth. In the imagination,
superstition took the place that was unoccupied by intelligence; and
the world of the peasant woman, who went about her round of daily
hardship, was peopled by a throng of supernatural creatures, and her
life spent in fear of violation of some of those strange rules of
conduct which now form interesting matter for the student of folklore.

It is difficult to exaggerate the hardship of the agriculturist of
the Middle Ages; and as she was an active participant in such labors,
besides having upon her the burdens which commonly belong to the
mother of a household, the woman of the times had to bear duties much
beyond those of a woman in a similar grade of life in England to-day.
The great pestilences of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries
swept away so many lives that, for two centuries and a half before the
accession of Henry VII., the growth of population was so slight as
to be scarcely calculable. The unsanitary condition of the homes in
general was greatly injurious to health; but this was especially
so of the homes of the humble, the women of which had no ideas of
cleanliness, either in person or surroundings. The weekly shilling
or ninepence of the agricultural laborer must have been distressingly
inadequate for the needs of the household. These included wheat or
rye, which formed the staple of living, the rent of the cottage, the
usual manor dues, the national tax, something for clothing, medicine
for the children, and occasional items which would enter into a
complete enumeration. Even if the wife, as was frequently the case,
had to bear the burden of her own support by engaging in some form of
industrial activity in connection with her other duties, the wage of
the husband was barely enough to meet the needs of the remainder of
the family, and he had not a farthing left for "rainy days," which
were of frequent occurrence, or for those common and extraordinary
exactions which could not be evaded. So rigidly were the taxes levied,
even upon the poorest, that every form of possession came under
tribute; thus, the pet lamb of a poor man, which may have been the one
source of joy to his children and pleasure to his wife, appears in
an inventory of Colchester as amerced for sixpence. In the fifteenth
century, to which this entry refers, the master of a tenant was
forbidden by the Statutes of Laborers to assist him by relieving his
poverty; and even in case of illness of his wife or children, the
master could not legally furnish him aid. So onerous was the income
tax, levied to meet the expenses of foreign wars, that it was not
uncommon for bequests of money to be made for the relief of the poor
in paying it. The laborer had attached to his cottage a small piece
of ground, which his wife and himself tilled; he might also feed his
goose or his sheep upon the manor waste, but only on the sufferance of
his master.

By the end of the fifteenth century the lot of this class of England's
population became almost unendurable. The women, who bore more than
their share of the burden of work in an attempt to provide the bare
necessities of existence, were bowed under a weight of misery which
made that existence endurable only because they knew of none better,
or none which could possibly come within the range of their narrow
hopes. The wretched condition of life among those whose possessions
were so limited is well summed up in the following quotation from an
article by Dr. Augustus Jessup in the _Nineteenth Century_, February,
1884; he says: such people "were more wretched in their poverty,
incomparably less prosperous in their prosperity, worse clad, worse
fed, worse housed, worse taught, worse tended, worse governed," than
the peasants of the present day; "they were sufferers from loathsome
diseases their descendants know nothing of; the very beasts of the
field were dwarfed and stunted in their growth; the death rate among
children was tremendous; the disregard of human life was so callous
that we can hardly conceive it; there was everything to harden,
nothing to soften; everywhere oppression, greed, and fierceness."

Although wages were higher by the end of the century, reaching
fourpence a day, meat, cheese, and butter were much dearer than at its
beginning, so that it is doubtful if the last of the century found the
condition of the laborer at all improved in this respect. As labor was
suspended on the holidays of the Church and for a half-day on the eves
of those holidays, and as the laborer was forbidden to receive more
than a half-day's wage every Saturday, the men and women most anxious
to work, even if they could obtain constant employment, could not
average more than four and one-half profitable days per week. It is
not surprising that, for want of nutrition, there was throughout the
Middle Ages a wide prevalence of fever, the large death rate of women
and children from this cause affording evidence of their physical

The wage of women employed in agricultural labor in the first half
of the fourteenth century was at the rate of a penny a day, although
this was not uniform; and in some parts of the kingdom they received
considerably more. Their duties on the farm consisted, in part, in
"dibbling beans, in weeding corn, in making hay, in assisting the
sheep shearers and washing the sheep, in filling the muck carts with
manure and in spreading it upon the lands, in shearing corn, but
especially in reaping stubble after the ears of corn had been cut off
by the shearers, in binding and stacking sheaves, in thatching ricks
and houses, in watching in the fields to prevent cattle straying into
the corn, or, armed with a sling, in scaring birds from the seed or
ripening corn, and similar occupations. That they might not fail of
employment to fill up the measure of the hours, there was the winding
and spinning of wool to stop a gap." But these were not the sole
employments of the wives and daughters of the mediæval farmer, for
they took their part in all farmwork together with their husbands and
fathers. After the "black death" had made such terrible inroads upon
the rural population of England, a woman received a wage that seldom
went below twopence for a day's work; but this amount was diminished
by the effect of one of the Statutes of Laborers, which required
that every woman not having a craft--that is, not a town dweller, nor
possessed of property of her own--should work on a farm equally with a
man, and, like the man, she should not leave the manor or the district
in which she customarily lived, to seek work elsewhere. It was
difficult for a woman of the agricultural classes to pass out of the
dreary sphere in which she lived, for it was enjoined that if a girl
before the age of twelve years--significant of the time when she was
supposed to be a woman--put her hands to works of industry, she must
remain for the rest of her life an agricultural laborer, and was not
permitted to be apprenticed to learn a trade. These regulations were,
of course, very often honored in the breach, but nevertheless they
were frequently enforced.

The poverty of the peasantry made it necessary for them to make for
themselves almost everything that entered into the needs of their
life,--their houses, their clothing, their agricultural implements,
and most of their household articles. Flax was raised, and from it
the women manufactured the linen for the ladies of the hall; from hemp
they made the coarse sackcloth for their underclothing, and they spun
and wove the wool shorn from the backs of their few sheep for their
outer clothing. The women of this class frequently could not afford an
oven of their own, and so the flour which was made from the grain that
was required to be ground at the lord's mill was also baked in his
oven. The simple medicines were brewed by the housewife from the herbs
which grew by the copse side or on the commons or in the ditches. When
the manufacture of wool and flax was withdrawn to the towns, the labor
of the women was to that extent lightened, although their income was
correspondingly lessened.

The condition of the very poor was pitiful in the extreme; as there
had been no opportunity for the laying up of provision for old age,
the only recourse for the women and men alike, when indigency and age
overtook them, was to seek shelter in the almshouses which had been
founded for the decrepit and the destitute. Many yielded to their
"miserable cares and troubles," and died from starvation. By the
fifteenth century the monasteries had ceased to be important centres
for the dispensing of charity, so that relief from destitution could
not be looked for from that source. The conventual orders, in common
with the rest of the nation, had become burdened with debt through the
wars at home and abroad. The numerous regulations for the control of
beggars, and the licenses which were issued to regulate the practice,
show the great prevalence of real poverty and want during the whole of
the fifteenth century, although throughout the Middle Ages mendicancy
was familiar enough.

Such was the condition of the women of the industrial classes during
the Middle Ages. The period that witnessed the transition from the
Middle Ages into modern times, the breakup of feudalism, and the
construction of society upon a different basis, was, as transitional
periods are apt to be, one of peculiar stress. And as this period in
England was marked by severe wars, with all the blight and desolation
which they bring to a land, it was one of especial severity upon those
who had to bear the burden of such undertakings. Not only was the
standard of living brought low, and the comforts of life reduced to
the bare necessities, but manners were as disastrously affected as
was the economy of the realm. Crime and violence stalked through the
country, seemingly under no restraint; and from the prevalence of
deeds of violence, it is very clear that law was not only ineffectual,
but that public sentiment was not strong enough to create a better
state of affairs. The condition was not unlike that which prevailed
in Ireland at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Women were
the chief sufferers from the prevalent lawlessness. They were seized
at night, and, after being dishonored, were compelled to go to the
church, where the priest, under threats and despite the protests
of the victims, performed the ceremony which linked them to their
captors. It mattered little if the woman happened to be already
married, as such proceedings were supposed by many to constitute
a sufficient divorce. Rent riots were of everyday occurrence, and
murders were not unusual. It was not altogether the poor who were
involved in such deeds of violence, as there were among them agitators
from the upper classes, who not only urged them on, but themselves
took part in all such outrages. Often murders and other forms of
violence grew out of the practice of men of quality having about them
bands of retainers who were frequently the roughest of characters,
including men under indictment for capital offences. No class was
quite secure from the disorderly elements of the population, but the
women of the country districts were more frequently the sufferers than
were their sisters of the towns.

The great increase of sensuality, the low esteem in which women were
held, and the little regard they manifested for their own characters,
showed the decadence into which the spirit of chivalry had fallen.
Being a child of feudalism, with the decay of that system it went
into eclipse. Nevertheless, chivalry contributed to English life
real benefits, apart from the elevation of women, and these remained
permanent factors in the character of the nation.



The authorities upon whom we depend for information as to
the condition of the industrial classes--particularly the
agricultural--during the fifteenth century are in such hopeless
conflict that it is impossible to do more than follow the views
of some one of them, with such modifications and checks as may be
reasonably introduced from the others. The picture already drawn of
the utterly miserable condition of the peasantry during that century
is not ratified by all the writers, and yet the interpretation of
the data, conflicting as it is, must lead to the conclusion that the
condition of that class of English society was far from being roseate,
and that, in the main, it would be difficult to overdraw the misery
which existed; but this condition was ameliorated to some extent
by the introduction into rural districts of domestic manufactures,
after the decay of agriculture. The compensation that accrued to the
peasantry by a growth in the clothing trade counterbalanced, in a
measure, their other losses, while it also brought the rural districts
into industrial relation with the towns and aided in bridging the
chasm between the two. The industry was of a nature to enlist the
activities of the women of the households and to bring them into
contact with the commercial life of the nation, in a lesser degree
than their sisters of the craft guilds, it is true, but still in a
way that had an important bearing upon the industrial history of the

The Wars of the Roses, which had been so destructive to the nobility,
and the tendency of the crown to depend upon the gentry as a balance
to the power of the feudal barons, aided in making more certain and
rapid the advance of the middle class. The style of living is a sure
index of the degree of prosperity; there was a great increase in the
number as well as in the size of the houses which ranked in importance
between the castle of the baron and the cottage of the peasant. Also,
we meet with a change for the better in the equipment of such houses.
Instead of a few pieces of furniture, rude and primitive, it is not
unusual in the inventories of this time to find complete suits of
furniture for the various rooms of the house. All of the country
gentlemen and more prosperous burghers possessed quantities of plate.
The custom of having but one bedroom, or two at most, and obliging
guests and servants to sleep in the great hall or in rude shacks
temporarily erected for their accommodation, was no longer common in
this class of society. With the increase of the number of rooms in the
houses, the importance of the hall diminished. Town and country houses
alike were now generally built around an interior court, into which
the rooms looked, and the windows opening upon the street and country
were small and unimportant. This was not simply an architectural
change, but was due to the necessity of studying security on account
of the disturbed state of society. Men were beginning to appreciate
good houses, and the women had greater resources in the way of
household utensils and furnishings, particularly in those pertaining
to the kitchen. The glittering rows of pewter and plate were a source
of great satisfaction to housewives, and were largely depended upon to
establish their claim to social distinction. The art of making bricks,
which had been lost since the departure of the Romans from Britain,
was revived, and the establishment of brickkilns stimulated building.
By the end of the fifteenth century, the domestic house was entirely
differentiated from the castle. The materials for dwellings were of
the sort readiest to hand. In the eastern counties, where clay was
more abundant than stone, bricks were commonly used, while elsewhere
the houses were built of stone or wood.

The dwellings of the fifteenth century were commodious and convenient.
A typical country house may be described as follows: a door on the
ground floor led into the hall, while a staircase on the outside led
to the first floor proper. Inside the door at the head of the stairs
was to be found a shorter staircase, which led to the floor on which
were situated the chambers. Passing into the hall, the visitor would
find himself in the most spacious apartment of the house. It remained
as it had been throughout the Middle Ages, the public room, open to
all who were admitted within the precincts of the establishment. The
permanent furniture consisted chiefly of benches, and a seat with a
back to it, which was used by the superior members of the family. In
the hall there was usually at least one table which was a fixture, but
the other tables continued to be made up from planks and trestles when
needed. Cushions and ornamental cloths to place over the seats and
backs of benches were in general use, and on special occasions the
tapestries, some of which had been in the families for generations,
were brought out, though apparently they were not used on ordinary
occasions. The sideboard was one of the most familiar articles of
furniture, and upon it was arranged the plate, which was in charge of
the butler, and was intended as much for display as for use. In the
large mansions, as in the castles, the hall was not complete without
the minstrels' gallery and a dais; though inconveniently large, it
was well warmed and lighted, and the walls were often decorated with
stags' antlers on which to hang the men's hats and caps, hunting horns
and such accessories of the chase, beside which were suspended arms
and armor and fishing nets; while on the sideboard might be found
writing materials and a book or two. The fresh rushes with which the
floor was strewn gave forth, when first placed, a refreshing smell
when crushed by the foot.

The setting of the table was much the same as it had been. Knives
were not ordinarily placed upon it, because of the custom of the
times for each person to carry his own knife. Salt was regarded with
superstition, and it was thought desirable that it should be placed
upon the table before other comestibles. There was little attempt to
keep the tiled floor clean except by strewing it with rushes, and for
guests or members of the household to throw bones or other débris of
the table upon the floor was not looked upon as an offence against
manners; indeed, dogs were almost invariably present, and awaited,
as customary, their meals at the hands of the guests. However, the
directions for behavior at table instructed the person not to spit
upon the table, by which intimation it was delicately hinted that the
proper place upon which to expectorate was the floor. Again, the guest
is told that when he makes sops in the wine, he must either drink all
the wine in the glass or else throw it on the floor. The uncleanliness
of the seats is also suggested by the instruction given the learner
in etiquette that he should always first look at the seat before
occupying it, to be sure there was nothing dirty upon it. Table
manners had lost some of their ceremony, but had retained all of their
rudeness. Forks were not used to convey food to the mouth, fingers
answering every purpose, but it was considered bad manners to eat with
a knife. Other rules for the table are curious enough, but are also
important as illustrating the manners of the century. Some of them
are too disgusting to mention; others, not open to this objection,
may be instanced. The guest was directed not to dip his meat in the
saltcellar to salt it, but to take a little salt with his knife and
put it on his meat, not to drink with a dirty mouth, not to offer
another person the remains of his pottage, not to eat too much cheese,
and to take only two or three nuts when they were placed before him.
Still other rules are not without point, such as not to roll one's
napkin into a cord or tie it into knots, and not to get intoxicated
during dinner time!

Let us now take a glance at the table service of a noble dame of the
period, where the extreme of etiquette may be expected to prevail. The
hunting horn having announced that the meal awaits the guests, squires
or pages bear to them scented water for the customary ablutions. This
is served in delicately wrought ewers, placed in silver basins. A
further touch of delicacy to the repast is often provided by perfumed
herbs scattered over the rich damask tablecloth. The guests are not
inconvenienced by the crowding of decorative vessels on the board. The
numerous courses are well served, for a superior domestic is charged
with this duty, and he is assisted by two varlets. At the sideboard
is a squire or page whose sole duty is to serve the wines and drinking
vessels; he too is assisted by a varlet, who places them before the
several guests. None of these attendants are required to leave the
hall, to which the officers of the kitchen and the cellar bring the
dishes and the wines. During the meal the gallery is occupied by
the musicians, who, it is to be presumed, will serve to enliven the
formalities attendant on the scene. The parlor was a more pretentious
room than the hall, and was ornamented with more care. While it was a
usual feature of town houses of the period, it had been introduced so
comparatively late that its final position in the plan of the house
had not become fixed; sometimes it was upon the ground floor, and
sometimes upon the floor above, while the larger houses had several
such apartments. It had open recesses with fixed seats on each side
of the window, and the fireplace was smaller and more comforting than
those of the hall. When carpets came into use, the parlor was the
first room to be treated to the luxury, and it had the additional
distinction of being the only room that contained a cupboard. An
inventory of the furniture of the parlor of a fifteenth-century
house includes the following: a hanging of worsted, red and green; a
cupboard of ash boards; a table and a pair of trestles; a branch of
latten, with four lights; a pair of andirons; a pair of tongs; a form
to sit upon, and a chair. It will be seen from this list that the
furnishings for a parlor were not numerous, but they are suggestive
of a degree of comfort greatly in advance of that of prior centuries.
This paucity of household furniture did not arise so much from the
inability to procure it as from the insecurity of the times. Margaret
Paston, in a letter to her husband, written in the reign of Edward
IV., says: "Also, if ye be at home this Christmas, it were well done
ye should do purvey a garnish or twain or pewter vessel, two basins
and two ewers, and twelve candlesticks, for ye have too few of any of
these to serve this place; I am afraid to purvey much stuff in this
place, till we be sure thereof."

Wall paintings had come into use in the houses of the better sort,
and the hardwood finishings of the parlor and other important rooms
displayed elaborate carvings and a massiveness and dignity of scheme.
Among the newer styles of chairs was one of the folding sort, which
exactly resembled our camp stools. Griffins, centaurs, and the like
were patterns for candle and torch holders, which were often of
wrought iron of an elaborate design. The branch of latten with four
lights, mentioned in the inventory quoted, referred to a sort of
chandelier, holding four candles, which was suspended from the centre
of the ceiling and was raised and lowered by means of a cord and

As the people began to lose taste for the hall, on account of its
publicity, they gradually withdrew from it to the parlors for many of
the purposes to which the hall had been originally devoted. The recess
seat at the windows was the favorite place for the female members
of the household when employed in needlework and other sedentary
occupations, and the apartment was commonly used for the family meals.
In a little treatise dating at the close of the fifteenth century,
one of the speakers is made to say: "So down we came again into the
parlor, and there found divers gentlemen, all strangers to me; and
what should I say more, but to dinner we went." The table, we are
told, "was fair spread with diaper cloths, the cupboard garnished with
goodly plate." Also, the parlors relieved the bedchambers of many
of the uses to which they had been put, and secured to them greater
privacy. Largely because of the lack of any other place, ladies had
been accustomed to receive their friends in their bedchambers, but now
the parlor was used for a reception room, and there was spent much of
the time which the female part of the family had previously passed in
the bower or the chamber.

Young ladies of even the great families were brought up very strictly
by their mothers, who kept them constantly at work and exacted from
them an almost slavish respect. It appears from the correspondence of
the Paston family, to which reference has been made, that the wife of
Sir William Paston, the judge, was a very harsh mother. Jane Claire,
a kinswoman, sent to John Paston, the lady's eldest son, an account
of the severe treatment of his sister Elizabeth at Mrs. Paston's
hands. The young lady was of marriageable age, and a man by the name
of Scroope had been suggested as her husband. Jane Claire writes:
"Meseemeth he were good for my cousin, your sister, without that ye
might get her a better; and if ye can get a better, I would advise you
to labour it in as short time as ye may goodly, for she was never in
so great a sorrow as she is now-a-days, for she may not speak with no
man, whosoever come, nor even may see nor speak with my man, nor with
servants of her mother's, but that she beareth her on hand otherwise
than she meaneth; and she hath since Easter the most part been beaten
once in a week, or twice, and sometimes twice in a day, and her head
broken in two or three places. Wherefore, cousin, she hath sent to me
by friar Newton in great council, and prayeth me that I would send to
you a letter of her heaviness, and pray you to be her good brother, as
her trust is in you." Elizabeth Paston's matrimonial desires were not
realized at this time, as she was transferred from the household of
her parents to that of the Lady Pole; this was in accordance with the
custom which we have already noticed of sending away young ladies to
great houses, where they received their education and served to fill
up the measure of pride of the great lady to whose train they were
attached. The larger the number of such maidens a lady could boast of,
the greater was her importance; nor did she hesitate to accept payment
for the board of those of whom she thus took charge, and from whom
she derived further profit by employing them at lace making or other
suitable work.

Young ladies were taught to be very demure and formal in their
behavior in company, where they sat bolt upright, with their hands
crossed, or in other constrained attitudes. In a poem, written about
1430, entitled _How the Good Wife Taughte Hir Dougtir_, we have the
rules which were enforced upon girls for their conduct in society, and
particularly the advice which was tendered the girl with regard to her
marriage and her subsequent conduct. The love of God and attendance
upon church were enjoined, and in the performance of the latter duty
she was not to be deterred by bad weather. She was to give liberally
to alms, and while in attendance upon divine service was to pray and
not to chatter. Courtesy was recommended in all of the relations of
life; and when the time came that she was sought in marriage, she was
told not to look upon her suitor with scorn, whoever he might be, nor
to keep the matter a secret from her friends. She was not to sit close
to him, because "synne mygte be wrought," and a slander be thereby
raised, which, she is informed, is difficult to still. She was
counselled, when married, to love her husband and answer him
meekly; she was to be well mannered, not to be rude, nor to laugh
boisterously--or, to give it as it is expressed in the poem, "but
lauge thou softe and myslde." Her outdoor conduct also was regulated
for her. She was not to walk fast, nor to toss her head, nor to
wriggle her shoulders; she was not to use many words, nor to
swear, for all such manners come to evil. She was to drink only in
moderation, "For if thou be ofte drunke, it falle thee to schame." She
was to exercise due discretion in all of her relations with the other
sex, and to accept from them no presents. She was herself to work and
to see that those under her were kept employed; to have faults set
right at once, keep her own keys, and to be careful whom she trusted.
If her children gave her trouble and were not submissive, she must not
curse or scold them, but "take a smert rodde, and bete them on a rowe
til thei crie mercy." Besides all these enjoinments, she was impressed
with the duty of benevolence, and was to act as physician to all those
about her.

The position of woman at this time was clearly defined. Certainly the
woman of the middle classes had taken her proper place in society. She
did not disdain to look after the affairs of her establishment, nor
was this regarded as in any way derogatory to her dignity; and this
was also true of women in the highest rank. It is said that, as a
rule, the husband and wife were in full accord, and confided in one
another upon terms of equality. The wife was careful of her charge at
home, and heedful of her husband's purse; she generally made her own
as well as her children's clothing, if the material were to be had.
No wife of to-day could show greater solicitude for the comfort and
well-being of her husband than did Dame Paston, the wife of John
Paston, who in 1449 wrote to her husband a letter from which we may
extract the following: "And I pray you also, that ye be wel dyetyd of
mete and drynke, for that is the grettest helpe that ye may have now
to your helthe ward."

The wife was the companion of her husband when he was at home, and in
his absence entertained his guests with all the graces of hospitality.
The duties of the day did not leave her a great deal of time for
leisure, for, besides directing the conduct of the establishment and
looking after her maidens, teaching them the arts of housewifery,
spinning, weaving, carding wool and hackled flax, embroidery, and
garment making, there were the pet birds and squirrels in cages to be
looked after and fed. But life was not all labor, nor were the maidens
of the household surfeited with instruction. In their periods of
relaxation, they danced, played chess and draughts, and read the
latest thing in romances with as keen interest as the modern society
girl evinces in the most recent novel. To be informed in all such
matters was essential to the standards of culture of the day.

One of the pleasantest features of the country life of the period
was the garden. The English women of to-day are no fonder of outdoor
recreation and exercise than were their predecessors of the fifteenth
century. Alone, or in parties of their own sex, or with male company,
they wandered over the fields, gathering wild flowers and picnicking
in the woods, spreading upon the grass their lunch of bread, wine,
fish, and pigeon pies. They rode on horseback, and went hunting,
hawking, and rabbit chasing. Their presence at the tournament gave
it its greatest interest, and the successful contestants considered
the awards that were made them by their ladies doubly valuable, as
indicating at once their prowess upon the field and their conquests in
that no less interesting sphere of sentiment where Cupid bestows the

Perhaps at no other time in English history have ladies shown such
fondness for pets as in the fifteenth century. There are frequent
references to them in the literature of the day, and they appear in
many of the illustrations; parrots, magpies, jays, and various singing
birds are often mentioned among domestic pets. Various kinds of small
animals were also tamed and kept in the house, either loose or in
cages, squirrels being especially in favor because of their liveliness
and activity. Gambling was one of the most popular vices of the day.
It was not until after the middle of the fifteenth century that cards
came into very general use, but by the beginning of the following
century card playing had passed from the stage of fad and become a
passion. After the table was removed, one of the servants would bring
in a silver bowl full of dice and cards, and the company would be
invited to play. So general and widespread was the practice that early
in the reign of Henry VIII. an attempt was made to restrict the use
of cards to the Christmas holidays. Women were hardly less inveterate
devotees of this and other games of chance than the men, although
it is not to be concluded that they took such games as seriously or
risked as large sums as did the other sex. Dinner was served at noon,
and the games, along with dancing, usually occupied the time of the
leisure classes until supper, which seems to have been served at six
o'clock. There was, of course, no other form of amusement that was so
well adapted to polite circles, or that could be participated in with
as much pleasure by the ladies, as dancing. Many new dances had been
introduced and become fashionable, and these were much more lively
than those of the earlier period, some so spirited, indeed, as to
scandalize the moralists of the time. After supper the amusements were
resumed, and continued until a late hour, when a second, or, as it was
called, a "rere-supper," was served.

After the members of the household and the guests were surfeited
with amusements, or the lateness of the hour made sleep welcome, they
retired to rest in the upper chambers. These bedrooms were much more
private than they had formerly been. In the poem _Lady Bessy_, when
the Earl of Derby is represented as plotting with Lady Bessy in aid of
the Earl of Richmond, he tells her that he will repair secretly to her

  "'We must depart (separate), lady,' the earl said then;
  Wherefore, keep this matter secretly,
  And this same night, betwixt nine and ten,
  In your chamber I think to be.
  Look that you make all things ready,
  Your maids shall not our councell hear,
  For I will bring no man with me
  But Humphrey Brereton, my true esquire.'
  He took his leave of that lady fair,
  And to her chamber she went full light,
  And for all things she did prepare,
  Both pen and ink, and paper white."

The bedstead now came to be much more ornamental than in previous
times. The canopy which had formerly adorned the head of this article
of furniture was now usually enlarged so as to cover it entirely.
It was often decorated with the arms of the owner, with religious
emblems, flowers, or some other form of ornamentation. The bed itself
consisted of a hard mattress, and was often made only of straw,
although feather beds were used to some extent throughout the century.
Chaucer describes a couch of unusual luxury as follows:

  "Of downe of pure dovis white
  I wol yeve him a fethir bed,
  Rayid with gold, and right well cled
  In fine blacke sattin d'outremere,
  And many a pilowe, and every bere (pillow cover)
  Of clothe of Raines to slepe on softe;
  Him thare (need) not to turnen ofte."

This description of a bed in the latter part of the fourteenth century
holds good for the succeeding century, although the bed increased in
luxuriousness of hangings. Feather beds and bed covers are frequently
mentioned in the bequests of the times; by their description, they
show the increase in the comfort and richness of beds, and, by their
mention in wills, the value that was placed upon them. With the
increase of privacy which the bedchambers afforded at this time, the
practice of several people sleeping in the same room was less general.

The women of the manor house, who may be regarded as succeeding the
women of the castles, were notable for their intelligence, purity,
and good sense, as revealed to us by the letters and literature of the
times. Their features, as depicted in illustrations, give evidence
of refinement and culture as well as beauty; to these attractions was
added that of graceful carriage. Although their dresses fitted closely
to the figure, tight lacing had not yet become the custom. Paris was
then, as now, the glass of fashion for the women of Europe, and the
English woman considered her form to approach perfection the more
nearly as it conformed to the model established in France. At this
period, the ladies were given to similar extremes of dress and
adornment to those which have furnished an indictment against them
since fashion first held sway over the feminine mind. All classes of
society were influenced by the all-important matter of style, and the
women of each grade of the social scale found their chief contentment
in copying the manners and dress of those above them. Earlier we found
occasion to notice, in brief, the sumptuary legislation by which it
was sought to limit extravagances in fashion; but the laws have yet
to be framed which can serve permanently to control woman's desires.
So that we shall, perforce, have to continue our discussion of the
evolution--or as the moralists of the Middle Ages would have expressed
it, if they had possessed the facility of verbal coinage which is
common enough with us, the "devilution"--of woman's attire, just as
though law had never attempted its regulation.

The intricacies of the women's coiffure were many. The practice of
dyeing the hair or otherwise altering its color is of ancient date.
Among the Saxons and Normans it seems to have been confined to the
men, for during those periods the women kept their heads so completely
covered that there was no inducement for them to resort to such
practices; but at the time of which we are now treating the custom
had some vogue among the ladies, although it does not appear to have
become general until the reign of Elizabeth, when the ladies had
reduced the art to such a nicety that they were able to produce
various colors and, indeed, almost to change the substance of the hair

  "Lees she can make, that turn a hair that's old,
  Or colour'd, into a hue of gold."

A religious writer of the fifteenth century, declaiming against the
various adornments of the hair and the arts which were employed to
stimulate its growth as well as alter its color, and against the
practice of wearing false hair, says: "to all these absurdities, they
add that of supplying the defects of their own hair, by partially or
totally adopting the harvest of other heads." To point a moral, he
then gravely relates an anecdote to the effect that during the time
of a public procession at Paris, which had drawn a great multitude of
people together, an ape leaped upon the head of a certain fine lady,
and seizing her veil, tore it from her head; with it came her peruke
of false hair, so that it was discovered by the crowd that her
beautiful tresses were not her own; thus, by the very means to which
she had resorted to attract the admiration of the beholders, she
received their contempt and ridicule.

A preposterous form of headdress arose in the time of Henry IV. and
became more exaggerated throughout the fifteenth century; this was
styled the horned headdress. It began with a heart-shaped headdress,
which rose higher on either side until, in the reign of Henry V.,
the points of the heart had become veritable horns. This ungraceful
coiffure assumed all sorts of extravagant and absurd varieties. It
became a favorite mark for the shafts of the satirists and the jests
of the wits, to say nothing of themes for sermons; but the fair
ladies, invulnerable to all such criticisms, were not to be deterred
from indulging their pet follies. One of the first references to the
prevailing style was that made by John de Meun in his poem called
the _Codical_: "If I dare say it without making them [that is, the
ladies] angry, I should _dispraise_ their hosing, their vesture,
their girding, their head-dresses, their hoods thrown back with their
_horns_ elevated and brought forward, as if it were to wound us.
I know not whether they call them _gallowses_ or _brackets_, that
prop up the horns which they think are so handsome; but of this I am
certain, that Saint Elizabeth obtained not Paradise by the wearing of
such trumpery." But this style of hair dress was not made by the hair
after all, but by the wimple, which was raised on either side of the
head and supported by a frame or by pins. John de Meun flourished
at the beginning of the fourteenth century, and had he lived in the
fifteenth, when the horned headdress _par excellence_, made up of
prongs of hair protruding forward from the forehead, was in vogue,
he would have been still more aghast. These horns were carefully
constructed with the aid of rolls of linen. Sometimes they had two
long wings on either side, and received the name of "butterflies."
The high, pointed cap which was worn was covered with a piece of fine
lawn, which hung to the ground, and the greater part of which was
tucked under the wearer's arm. By a writer of the day we are told that
the ladies of the middle rank wore caps of cloth which consisted of
several breadths or bands twisted round the head, with two wings on
each side "like asses' ears." As one wanders through the mazes of
description of the hair dress of the period, he is prepared to agree
with the author to whom we have just referred, that "it is no easy
matter to give a proper description in writing of the different
fashions in the dresses of the ladies"; and so we shall submit the
case in terms of still another writer's description; Philip Stubbs
says: "Then followeth the trimming and tricking of their heads, in
laying out their hair to the show; which, of force, must be curled,
frizzled, and crisped, laid out in wreaths and borders, and from one
ear to another; and, lest it should fall down, it is underpropped with
forkes, wires, and I cannot tell what; then, on the edges of their
bolstered hair, for it standeth crested round about their frontiers,
and hanging over their faces, like pendices or vailes, with glass
windows on every side, there is laide great wreathes of gold and
silver, curiously wrought, and cunningly applied toe the temples of
their heads; and, for feare of lacking anything to set forth their
pride withal, at their hair thus wreathed and crested, are hanged
bugles, I dare not say bables, ouches, ringes of gold, silver,
glasses, and such other gew-gawes, which I, being unskillful in
woman's tearmes, cannot easily recompt." He then discusses the
"capital ornaments" upon the "toppes of these stately turrets," which
he informs us consisted of a French hood, hat, cap, kerchief, and such
like. He laments the fact that to such excesses did the fashions
go, and so widely were the women influenced by them, "that every
artificer's wife almost will not stike to goe in her hat of velvet
every day; every merchant's wife, and meane gentlewoman, in their
French hoods; and every poor cottager's daughter's daughter in her
taffeta hat, or else wool at least, well lined with silk, velvet, or
taffeta." He adds that they had other ornaments for the head, "made
net-wise," and which he says he believes were termed "cawles," the
object of this tinsel being to have the head with its ornaments
glisten and shine like a mass of gold. He then dismisses with a word
the "forked cappes" and "such like apish toyes of infinite variety."

Face painting, which came in direct derivation from the tattooing of
the ancient Britons, is a practice that at the time of which we are
writing was very prevalent in England. It came under as vigorous
arraignment by the writers of the fifteenth century as did the
ridiculous forms of hair dress. The cosmetics in use were of many
sorts, and were usually injurious to the skin of the user.

The dress of the women also fell under censure and satire, although
that of the men was even more strongly reprobated by contemporary
writers. It does not do to accept too readily the strictures passed
upon the dress of any age without considering the source of the
criticism. Throughout the Middle Ages, the clergy found dress a
convenient topic for their moralizing, and there is no doubt that the
strictures were often excessive, although the activity with which the
matter was discussed indicates the importance in which it then was
held and also makes it an important subject for our investigation as
a determining element in the study of the manners and customs of the
period as they relate to woman and reveal her to us.

The great variety of fabrics, many of them imported, which were in use
enabled women to make a wide choice in the selection of material for
their clothing, while it also afforded the women of the lower orders
an opportunity for almost as varied a display as was made by those
in higher ranks. In the reign of Henry IV., who revived the sumptuary
legislation of the kingdom with regard to dress, Thomas Occliff, the
poet, in rebuking the extravagances of the times, speaks of those
who walked about in gowns of scarlet twelve yards wide, with sleeves
reaching to the ground and lined with fur, of value beyond twenty
pounds, and who, if they had been required to pay for what they wore,
would not have been able to buy enough fur to line a hood; and he adds
that the tailors must soon shape their garments in the open field
for lack of room to cut them in their houses. He mourns chiefly the
extravagance of dress on the part of the wealthy, because "a nobleman
cannot adopt a new guise, or _fashion_, but that a knave will follow
his example."

After the middle of the fifteenth century, the ladies ceased to wear
the long trains which they had formerly affected, and substituted
excessively wide borders of fur or velvet. By the end of the century,
the dress of the two sexes was so nearly alike that it was difficult
to distinguish between them. The men wore skirts over their lower
clothing, their doublets were laced in front like a woman's stays, and
their gowns were open in the front to the girdle and again from the
girdle to the ground, where they trailed slightly. At first, the
ladies imitated the men, who wore greatly padded trunks, by extending
their garments from the hips with foxes' tails and "bum rolls," as
they were called; but as they could not hope to keep pace with
the vast protuberance of the men's trunks, they introduced the
farthingales, which enabled them to appear as large as they pleased.

Such were the manners and styles of the period with which the Middle
Ages closed and the modern era began. They were not markedly different
from those of the later Middle Ages generally, but that was because
fundamental changes in society do not find their first expression in
matters which are superficial. The great revolution which had been
going on in the basic forms of society, through peaceful processes as
well as social upheavals and the prowess of arms, had its reflux more
in the morals than in the manners of the age. Nevertheless, one cannot
pursue the theme of custom and manners throughout the mediæval period
without being conscious of a progress or development significant of
more than mere caprice. This, in fact, was the case. Any philosophic
treatment of English society during the Middle Ages would have to
take cognizance of manners and customs as indices of the growth of
political, constitutional, and religious principles; and in this
growth would appear the consistently developing status of woman.

While it is difficult to fix upon any one fact as comprehending the
condition of women in English society at the close of the Middle
Ages and the beginning of the new era, there is one which challenges
attention. In reaping the harvest of the narrow and bigoted times
through which she passed, woman found herself possessed of one sort of
fruitage, namely, public rights. The essential equality of the woman
and the man, which first appeared in the castle, had become a general
fact of English society. Feudalism and its vassalage of the female
sex had disappeared, and the women of the industrial classes, whatever
their economic condition, became sovereigns of themselves. The women
of the towns, largely through the instrumentality of the guilds, had
established precedents which marked the path of their progress as
"persons" before the law. Associated industry drew them out of their
homes, or at least out of the limited sphere of home life, and placed
in their hands the loom and the spindle of the world's industry. "The
candle" of the goodwife "that went not out by night" no longer burned
for the provident industry of household needs, but became a veritable
torch to illumine the paths of England's commerce and to add to that
glory of civilization which constitutes her commercial greatness.

Out of the whole body of womankind, the Church had chosen to select
a class of women who were dedicated to its service and who taught by
their acts the responsibility of the prosperous toward their needy
brethren; while this does not appear to have been a benefit to women
generally, but simply a training in charity for the classes who were
consecrated to that object, nevertheless the influence of these chosen
women upon their sex, in awakening their keener sensibilities toward
poverty and distress, aided in placing upon the brow of woman
the queenly crown of compassion which has made her so largely a
ministering force in modern society.

The elegance and refinement of the women of the manors, as well as the
stability and resourcefulness of the wives of the wealthy burghers,
already gave indication of the development of the splendid type of
modern English society known as the country gentry and the no less
admirable class of the English tradespeople. Indeed, the evolution
of the middle class as a conservative force is one of the greatest
factors to be considered in mediæval study. "Blue blood," once
regarded as a peculiar strain of vital fluid by which, through some
mysterious means, the upper stratum of society was marked off from the
lower, came to be detected in the veins of those whose only pedigree
was poverty and whose only claim upon the consideration and respect of
their fellows was real worth of character. An aristocracy which could
be repleted from the plebeian ranks of the middle classes of society,
upon whose members titles were bestowed, not because of their
readiness to respond to the needs of the privy purse of a monarch, but
because they had assumed leading and important positions in relation
to England's honor and power, was an aristocracy that did not become
archaic or degenerate. The equality of opportunity, which is the pride
and promise of modern society, had its beginnings in those early days
when the gate of emergence from lower class conditions was so seldom
opened far anyone to pass out to where the ascent of Parnassus might
quicken his ambition.

Long after feudalism had ceased, however, it was difficult to disabuse
the minds of people of the idea that the blood which flowed in
the veins of a gentleman was different from that of a peasant or a
burgher. It is curious to note one of the legendary explanations of
the division of blood as given by Alexander Barclay, a poet of the
reign of Henry VII. According to his story, while Adam was occupied
with his agricultural labors, Eve sat at home with her children about
her, when she suddenly became aware of the approach of the Creator,
and ashamed of the number of her children, she hurriedly concealed
those which were less favored in appearance. Some she placed under
hay, some under straw and chaff, some in the chimney, and some in a
tub of draff; but such as were fair and comely she kept with her.
The Lord told her that He had come to see her children, that He might
promote them in their different degrees. When she presented them,
according to age, one was ordained to be a king, another a duke, and
so on through the list of high dignities. The maternal solicitude of
Eve made her unwilling that the concealed children should miss all
the honors, and she brought them forth from their hiding places. Their
rough and unkempt appearance, which was due to the nature of their
places of concealment, added to their unprepossessing personalities,
disgusted the Lord with them. "None," He said, "can make a vessel
of silver out of an earthen pitcher, or goodly silk out of a goat's
fleece, or a bright sword out of a cow's tail; neither will I, though
I can, make a noble gentleman out of a vile villain. You shall all be
ploughmen and tillers of the ground, to keep oxen and hogs, to dig and
delve, and hedge and dike, and in this wise shall ye live in endless
servitude. Even the townsmen shall laugh you to scorn; yet some of
you shall be allowed to dwell in cities, and shall be admitted to
such occupations as those of makers of puddings, butchers, cobblers,
tinkers, costard-mongers, hostlers, or daubers." This, so the story
informs us, was the beginning of servile labor; and such a view of
caste was no more displeasing to the peasantry, who knew nothing
better, than it was to the baron, whose pride it pampered.

A poem of the latter part of the fifteenth century gives the wishes
appropriate to the men and women of the different ranks of French
society. Those of the women are most characteristic. Thus, the queen
wishes to love God and the king, and to live in peace; the duchess, to
have all the enjoyments and pleasures of wealth; the countess, to have
a husband who is loyal and brave; the knight's lady, to hunt the stag
in the green woods; the lady of gentle blood also loves hunting, and
wishes for a husband valiant in war; the chamber maiden takes pleasure
in walking in the fair fields by the riversides; while the burgher's
wife loves, above all things, a soft bed at night, with a good pillow
and clean white sheets. This statement of the characteristic desires
of the various classes of French women holds good as well for the
English women of that period.

The court of Burgundy, which, during the fifteenth century, was
notable for its pomp and magnificence and its ostentatious display
of wealth, was regarded as furnishing the models of high courtesy
and gentle breeding; and it was the centre of literature and
art. Circumstances had brought the court of England into intimate
connection with it, so that England was more affected by Burgundy
than by any other part of Europe. The social character in England
and France, which, to some extent, had followed parallel lines since
the Norman conquest, now began to diverge widely. The breakdown of
feudalism in England, where it had never been so fully developed as
in France, was not contemporaneous with French conditions in this
respect. Consequently, in the latter country, the chasm between the
lower and the upper strata of society grew ever wider, the lower
classes becoming more and more miserable, and the upper more immoral.
In England, as we have seen, serfdom disappeared, or existed in name
only, and the relation between the country gentry and the peasants
became increasingly intimate and kindly. The growth of commerce had
spread wealth among the middle classes and had added much to their
social comfort. Although social manners were still very coarse, the
influence of religious reformers, such as the Lollards, was being felt
in an improvement in the moral tone of the middle and lower classes
of society. Moreover, the discussion of great social questions had
become general among the people. Even in the middle of the fourteenth
century, the celebrated poem of _Piers Plowman_ took up such
discussions, and one of the tenets of the Lollards was the natural
equality of man. In England, conditions were ripe for the advent of a
new era, and in the fulness of time there came forth the spirit of new
learning, of new industry, of exploration, of investigation, and of
religious freedom, to lead the English people into the inheritance for
which they had been prepared by those centuries over a part of which
hung such a pall as to secure for them the title of the Dark Ages.



As the year has its seasons, marked by alternations of active growth
and recuperation for new development, so likewise has history. If the
Middle Ages were a time of comparative dearth as viewed in the light
of the modern era, certainly there was ample vitality hidden in the
quiet forms and the mechanical fixity of the period. The season of
vernal glory for England, which opened with the reign of Henry VIII.
and found its climax in that of Elizabeth, was glorious because the
beauty and brilliancy which characterized it were due to the splendid
utilities which were passed on to it from the Middle Ages. Art,
literature, and the pleasant pastimes of leisure--the affluence of
prosperity--are the efflorescence of a people's history, though the
absence of these graces and privileges of life may not mean a dearth
in any profound sense, for it may be that their absence but indicates
a lack of favoring conditions for the root stock to put forth foliage
and flower. The simple form of social life which obtained during the
Middle Ages, as contrasted with the brilliancy of intellect and the
breadth of view of the modern era, does not denote any important
difference in the character of the great mass of the English people,
any more than it can be said of the fallow land not under cultivation
that it has less productivity than the fields which by the waving
grain give evidence of their fertile worth.

The easy acceptance in modern times of the benefits of inventions
which greatly broaden the scope of living and add immeasurably to its
comfort shows how readily people adjust themselves to advances in the
conditions of life. So that which we look upon as an era was not so
considered by the people who witnessed the stimulus which we regard
as the beginning of all modern intellectual and social life. For
this reason, we need not expect to discover in the women of the early
modern period any radical difference from their sisters of preceding
generations; but we shall find that, with the change of environment
and the coming of a better state of life in general, womankind was
gradually and insensibly affected in ways of permanent improvement.
The opening up of new avenues of human interest and the enlargement of
old ones increased the sphere of woman's life and influence; yet had
it not been for the status she had achieved already, she would no more
have entered prominently into the blessings and privileges of the new
era than did the women of Greece generally benefit by the Golden Age
of Pericles.

It is interesting to note that at the beginning of the modern era
population was increasing so slowly as to be practically stationary,
and, indeed, for generations past there had been no appreciable
increase. Even after the favorable conditions of the reign of Henry
VIII. became general, population made comparatively slow progress.
Families were not so numerous, or the number of their members so
great, as compared with to-day. It was an exception for a laborer to
maintain his family in a cottage to themselves. Farm work was commonly
done under the superintendence of country esquires, and the laborers
lived in the paternal cottage and remained single, marrying only when
by their providence they had managed to save enough to enable them
to enter upon some other career. The competition of other countries,
notably France, with the industries of England proved disastrous to
many forms of England's industrial activities; and to the introduction
into the kingdom of a number of wares and merchandise of foreign
make was attributed the great number of idle people throughout the
realm. To counteract this condition, Henry issued statutes for the
encouragement of manufacturing. One of these aimed to stimulate the
linen industry. In order that the men and women living in idleness,
which was styled "that most abominable sin," might have profitable
employment, it was ordained and enacted that every person should sow
one-quarter of an acre in flax or hemp for every sixty acres he might
have under cultivation. The immediate purpose of the act was to keep
the wives and children of the poor at work in their own houses, but it
also indicated that the condition of manufactures in England was not
such as to encourage an enlarging population.

The condition of the laboring classes during the reign of Henry VIII.
was not such as to excite general dissatisfaction; indeed, there are
evidences of a general state of contentment among the people. The laws
for the encouragement of trade and the sumptuary legislation for the
regulation of wages and prices were economic measures which may not
stand the test of examination according to modern ideas, but which
nevertheless tended, on the whole, to benefit those in whose behalf
they were made. Industry was the spirit of the times, and idleness was
the most abhorrent of vices. Men, women, and children, alike, were to
be trained in some craft or other, to prevent their becoming public
charges. The children of parents who could afford the fees which were
exacted for apprenticeship were set to learn trades, and the rest were
bound out to agriculture; and if the parents failed to see to it that
their children were started out in a career of labor, the mayors or
magistrates had authority to apprentice such children, so that when
they grew up they might not be driven to dishonest courses by want or

Throughout the sixteenth century, all classes of society appear to
have had a reasonable degree of prosperity, according to their several
needs and stations. The country gentlemen lived upon their landed
estates, surrounded by those evidences of solid comfort which give
attractiveness to such life. The income of the squire was sufficient
to afford a moderate abundance for himself and his family, and between
him and the commons there was not a wide difference in this respect.
Among all classes of the people there was a spirit of liberality,
open and free; the practicality of the age was not inaccordant with
generous hospitality. To every man who asked it, there were free
fare and free lodging, and he might be sure of a bountiful board of
wholesome food. Bread, beef, and beer for dinner, and a mat of rushes
in an unoccupied corner of the hall, with a billet of wood for
a headrest, did not constitute luxurious entertainment, but were
regarded as elements of real comfort. Nor was the generous hospitality
proffered to strangers often abused; the statutes of the times kept
suspicious characters under such close notice, and were so repressive
of predatory and vicious instincts, that there was little occasion
for alarm such as is felt by the modern housewife in country districts
along much-travelled roads. The hour of rising, both summer and
winter, was four o'clock; breakfast was served at five, after which
the laborers went to their work and the gentlemen to their business.
Life lacked much of modern refinement, although it made up for this
lack in wholesomeness and heartiness. The large number of beggars in
the reign of Henry VIII. was due in part to the suppression of the
monasteries and the drying up of those springs of charity, and the
open-handed hospitality which had encouraged begging while relieving
distress. Upon the assumption that there was no excuse for an
able-bodied vagrant, the penalties imposed upon "sturdy beggars"
were severe. Such, in brief, was the state of English society at the
beginning of the modern era.

The influence of the Church was on the wane before the rupture with
the papacy was brought about by Henry VIII., and the laity were
beginning to assume the positions, liberties, and privileges which had
appertained to the clergy as the one scholarly and dominant class
of the kingdom. Under the new conditions of liberty in which we find
woman, there was no room for the continuance of even the forms of
chivalry. Idealized woman no longer existed; she had become practical.
Having sought a position of public activity, she had been recognized
as possessing the private rights of an individual of the same nature
and of similar status as man. It was no longer needful to go to the
convent to find the religious or intellectual types of womankind, for
religion, benevolence, and literature were no longer identified only
with the cloister. However disastrous was the suppression of the
monasteries to the little bands of women who wore the habit of the
_religieuse_, women in general did not feel the upheaval nearly so
much as they did the other social changes, which were not so radical,
but were very much more influential in their relation to the destiny
of the sex as a whole.

Although manners were very free, and nowhere more so than among
persons of the higher orders of society, such coarseness is not the
true criterion by which to gauge the women of the day. Even if they
did not hesitate to use profanity, were adepts at coquetry of an
undisguised type, and were guilty of conduct which merited more
than the term "indiscreet," it must be borne in mind that they were
creatures of their times. While English society was noted for its
rudeness and coarseness, it was saved from much of the effeminacy
which poisoned the life of its neighbors on the continent. The
sixteenth century took a more generous, complimentary, and true view
of womankind. In the Middle Ages, she suffered from the exaggerated
praise of the knight and the troubadour on the one hand, and on the
other from the contempt and contumely of the ecclesiastic. From this
equivocal position of being at the same time an angel and a devil she
was rescued by the sanity and sincerity of the sixteenth century, and
was placed in her true position as a woman, possessed of essentially
the same characteristics as men, worthy of like honor, and making
appeal for no special consideration excepting that which her sex
evoked instinctively from men. The modern idea had begun to prevail,
and woman was no longer either worshipped or shunned, but was welcomed
as a sharer of the common burdens and joys of life. To continental
observers it was marvellous that the English woman should have
the large amount of liberty that she enjoyed; and Europeans not
understanding the English point of view were apt to construe such
liberty as boldness. Thus, one writer from abroad is found commenting
upon the sixteenth-century English woman as follows: "The women have
much more liberty than perhaps in any other place; they also know well
how to make use of it; for they go dressed out in exceedingly fine
clothes, and give all their attention to their ruffs and stuffs to
such a degree indeed that, as I am informed, many a one does not
hesitate to wear velvet in the streets, which is common with them,
whilst at home perhaps they have not a piece of dry bread."

Elizabeth Lamond's _Discourse of the Commonweal_ recites that there
was more employment for the men and women of the towns and cities
when the wants of people were more modest. The population of London,
despite the attempts made by Queen Elizabeth to prevent the influx
of foreigners and persons from the rural districts, increased rapidly
during her reign. On coming into the city, the rustics soon wasted
their small savings in the rioting and revels which characterized the
rough life of the metropolis. Drinking, gambling, and all forms of
license enticed the husband from his home and destroyed the domestic
felicity which had been the characteristic of country living. Country
and town life were still widely separated by bad roads and poor means
of conveyance. The wives even of the gentry knew, as a rule, nothing
of city life, excepting from the accounts which their husbands might
bring back to them from occasional jaunts to the metropolis; to all
such accounts they listened with wide-eyed wonder.

The amusements of the women of the better sort, who did not find
their entertainment in the vices of the times, took chiefly the form
of spectacles, to which they readily flocked. It mattered little
whether it was a mask, a miracle play, a church procession or a
royal progress, a cock fight or a bear baiting. The brutality of
their sports no more affected their feelings than do the revolting
circumstances of a bull fight shock the sensibilities of the women of
Spain's cultured circles. When any morning they might see the heads
of some unfortunates stuck on pikes and gracing with their gruesome
presence the city gate, it is not surprising that the people were not
repelled by brutal exhibitions of a lesser sort. Nor did the forms
of punishment in use for malefactors of one kind or another tend to
soften the feelings of the women of the time. It was no unusual thing
for a woman convicted of being a common scold to be seen going about
the streets with her face behind an iron muzzle clamped over her
mouth, a subject for the jeers and ribald mirth of coarse-minded women
no better than herself. Such characters were also taken to the ducking
stool and thoroughly doused in the water. The punishment of thieves
by branding and by mutilation, and the punishment meted out to women
whose characters, even in that gross age, affronted public morals,
were of a public nature and matters of daily observation. Nor was any
woman quite sure that the gibbet, from which she could at almost any
time see the swaying form of some unfortunate, might not next serve
for the execution of her own husband; for the number of capital
offences was large, and the inquiries of justice by no means lenient
on the side of the accused.

The destruction of the monasteries brought about, in a large measure,
the dissolution of the educational system of the realm. The sons of
the poor husbandman, who had been taught at the convent schools, and
then passed on through the universities, and thence had gradually
worked their way into the professions of religion or the law, had
the door of opportunity to a higher station closed to them. The
deprivation was more severe in the case of girls, although it did not
signify so much for them in relation to their future--unless, indeed,
it did so by debarring from the profession of religion some who might
have entered it. The clergy tried to meet the educational demands
which were so suddenly thrown upon them, but it was impossible for
them to afford educational facilities for the youth of either sex at
schools without endowment or adequate support. Elizabeth, with the
wide view and the sagacity which she showed with regard to all aspects
of her kingdom, evinced her recognition of the importance of education
by establishing one hundred free grammar schools, whose number rapidly
increased during her reign. In the course of time, these schools fell
under the control of the middle class and afforded education for their
sons and daughters. But in England there were certainly very few, if
any, women of the middle class who entered largely into the benefits
of the new learning which came in with the Renaissance. The study
of Latin and Greek and the discussion of philosophy and science were
confined to the women of the leisure classes. The English universities
in the sixteenth century were closed to women; but such lack was
made up by private tutors, women of rank and position thus having the
benefit of the brightest minds of the age.

The great awakening of intellectual life in England, in common
with the continental countries, showed itself in activity in all
departments of thought: poetry flourished, theology caught the
infection of the new spirit of liberty, and the classics were studied
with avidity as the springs of the world's literature and learning.
The invention of the printing press let loose the floods of knowledge,
and the women of the higher classes were caught in the flow of
books and pamphlets, and their intellects were quickened and their
characters formed by these new sources of inspiration and wisdom.
Woman was no longer designated as the daughter of the Church, which
was formerly the highest encomium that the condescension of the Church
could afford her. She now stood on her own independence of character,
possessed of an intellect and accorded the freedom of its use.

The example of the Virgin Queen was held up to the youth of England
for their imitation. Elizabeth's education had been most zealously
cared for. To her remarkable aptitude for learning she added a
studious disposition. At an early age she was an accomplished
linguist; the sciences were familiar to her, she "understood
the principles of geography, architecture, the mathematics, and
astronomy." Her studies, save one, however, she regarded rather in the
light of pastime; to the exception--history--she "devoted three hours
a day, and read works in all languages that afforded information on
the subject." Thus was her mind stored with the philosophy of history;
men and events in their ever changing relations were an open book to
her. Hence, when the responsibilities of sovereignty devolved upon
her she was resourceful and prompt. Whether dealing with her ambitious
subjects, or receiving the wily ambassador of a foreign power, her
poise could not be disturbed.

With the example and influence of the Tudor princesses before them,
the women least needed the exhortation to intellectual attainments.
It was said by a foreign scholar who visited England in the middle of
the sixteenth century that "the rich cause their sons and daughters
to learn Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, for, since this storm of heresy
has invaded the land, they hold it useful to read the Scriptures in
the original tongue." With all the profession of knowledge which
was assumed by the people of this age, there went a great deal of
pedantry. It became very tiresome to listen to the conversations of
select bodies of the devotees of the new wisdom, who had touched
but the skirts of the garments of the Muses. The great number of
literary coxcombs and dilettanti who were scribbling Latin verse and
propounding philosophical theses, or pronouncing upon new theological
views, serves to impress one with the superficiality of the learning
of the day, so far as is concerned the great body of its professed
disciples, while in contrast to these we are led to respect more
profoundly the genuine attainments of the brilliant group of men and
women who made the reign of Elizabeth illustrious for its varied and
almost matchless learning. In spite of all the pretence to learning on
the part of the great mass of women who had neither the taste nor the
capacity to drink deep at the Pyrenean spring, it must be said that
in no other period of English history has there been shown such marked
and general eagerness for knowledge as in the sixteenth century, nor
has any other period exhibited such a galaxy of great women. The
wide diffusion of a love of literature is in striking contrast to the
literary dearth of the preceding centuries.

It was not, however, a period of brilliant authorship among women.
The new learning had first to be imbibed and become a part of the
national thought before it could express itself in literary products.
Translations of the classics and the works of the Church Fathers, with
literary correspondence and discussions in choice Latin prose, as well
as the composition of distiches in the same tongue, with occasional
instances of adventure into Greek and Hebrew composition, summed up
the literary labors of the women of the times. As such matters possess
little interest to posterity, not many of these literary essays and
letters have been preserved; but such as have come down to us mirror
the intellect of the women of the age so creditably as to invite
comparison with the results of modern education for the sex.

Lady Jane Grey may be cited as one of the women of the day who became
notable for learning and scholarship. Of her, Fox writes: "If her
fortune had been as good as her bringing up, joined with fineness
of wit, undoubtedly she might have seemed comparable not only to the
house of the Vespasians, Sempronians, and the mother of the Gracchi,
yea, to any other women besides that deserve of high praise for their
singular learning, but also to the University men, who have taken
many degrees of the Schools." The facility of this noble lady in Greek
composition was strongly commended by Roger Ascham. Her remarkable
knowledge of the cognate tongues of the East and of modern languages
made her almost deserving of the encomium which was passed upon Anna
Maria van Schurman, a Dutch contemporary, of whom it was said: "If all
the languages of the earth should cease to exist, she herself would
give them birth anew." The conversance of the literary ladies of the
sixteenth century with the languages of the East, as well as with
philosophy and theology, and the really marvellous attainments of some
of them in these subjects, indicate a sound education, even though an
unserviceable one.

Erasmus warmly commended the Princess Mary for her proficiency in
Latin, and in later years she translated Erasmus's _Paraphrase of the
Gospel of Saint John_. Udall, Master of Eton, who wrote the preface to
this work, complimented her for her "over-painful study and labour of
writing," by which she had "cast her weak body in a grievous and long
sickness." The literary attainments and linguistic versatility of
Elizabeth herself, which made her a criterion for her times, are well
enough known to need no especial notice here. She had the benefit of
instruction from Roger Ascham, with whom she read the classics, and
from Grindal, under whom she studied theology, which was a favorite
subject with her. In Italian, Castiglione was her master, and Lady
Champernon was her first tutor in modern languages. She became
familiar with the works of the Greek and Latin authors by hearing them
read to her by Sir Henry Savil and Sir John Fortescue. In this way she
became intimately acquainted with Plato, Aristotle, and Xenophon,
and herself translated one of the dialogues of the latter, besides
rendering two orations of Isocrates from Greek into Latin.

Among other studious and accomplished women of the times, Sir Thomas
More's daughters held a high place. All of them were clever and
applied themselves to abstruse subjects; but Margaret, wife of William
Roper, the daughter who clung passionately to her father's neck when
he was being led off to execution, was the most brilliant of this
family of accomplished women. Sir Anthony Coke, whose scholarship gave
him the position of preceptor to Edward VI., had the gratification of
seeing his daughters attract the attention of the most celebrated men
of the nation. One of them married Lord Burleigh, the treasurer of
the realm; another wedded Sir Nicholas Bacon, lord keeper of the Great
Seal, becoming in time the mother of the famous Francis Bacon, the
celebrated philosopher; and as her second husband, the third had Lord

Nothing delighted the brilliant women of the Elizabethan era so much
as to have themselves surrounded by great writers, statesmen, and
other celebrities. Stately magnificence was maintained at many of the
great houses, and the presence of noted artists and celebrated authors
gave to such homes an intellectual atmosphere. One of the centres of
intellectual thought and literary life of her time was the home of
Mary Sidney, after she had become the wife of Henry, Earl of Pembroke,
and mistress of his establishment at Wilton. Around her hospitable
board gathered poets, statesmen, and artists, drawn there not by the
rank of the hostess or to satisfy her pride by their presence and
fame, but because her cultivated intellect made her a fit companion
for the greatest intellectual personages of the day. To have had the
honor of entertaining, as guests, Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, besides
the lesser poets of the time, and to have been recognized by such
literati as worthy of their serious consideration because of her
undoubted gifts, not only reflected high compliment upon the lady,
but lasting credit upon her sex, and was one of the many significant
things of the Elizabethan era which indicated how wide open stood
the door of intellectual progress and equality of opportunity for the
women of modern times. Spenser celebrated the Countess of Pembroke as:

  "The gentlest shepherdess that liv'd that day,
  And most resembling in shape and spirit
  Her brother dear."

Udall, the Master of Eton, speaks enthusiastically of the great number
of women in the noble ranks of society, "not only given to the study
of human sciences and strange tongues, but also so thoroughly expert
in the Holy Scriptures that they were able to compare with the
best writers as well in enditeing and penning of Godly and fruitful
treatises to the instruction and edifying of realmes in the knowledge
of God, as also in translating good books out of Latin or Greek into
English for the use and commodity of such as are rude and ignorant of
the said tongues. It was now no news in England to see young damsels
in noble houses and in the courts of princes, instead of cards and
other instruments of idle trifling, to have continually in their hands
either Psalms, homilies, and other devout meditations, or else Paul's
Epistles, or some book of Holy Scripture matters, and as familiarly
both to read and reason thereof in Greek, Latin, French, or Italian as
in English. It was now a common thing to see young virgins so trained
in the study of good letters that they willingly set all other vain
pastimes at nought for learning's sake. It was now no news at all
to see Queens and ladies of most high estate and progeny, instead
of courtly dalliance, to embrace virtuous exercises of reading and
writing, and with most earnest study both early and late to apply
themselves to the acquiring of knowledge, as well in all other liberal
artes and disciplines, as also most especially of God and His holy

The doubts as to the utility of higher education for women in general
which trouble some minds at the present day were not altogether
unknown in the age of Elizabeth. Ecclesiastics especially, even
the more liberal, were most prone to entertain doubts as to the
advisability of permitting women to have a free range through the
avenues of knowledge. It is probable that the middle classes, to whom
the opportunities of education were not so general, felt the value of
schools too highly to speculate upon the utility of that which was not
readily within their grasp. Richard Mulcaster, who was the master of
a school founded by the Merchant Taylors Company in the parish of St.
Lawrence, Pultney, says: "We see young maidens be taught to read and
write, and can do both with praise; we have them sing and playe: and
both passing well, we know that they learne the best and finest of our
learned languages, to the admiration of all men. For the daiely spoken
tongues and of best reputation in our time who so shall deny that they
may not compare even with our kinde even in the best degree ... Nay,
do we not see in our country some of that sex so excellently well
trained and so rarely qualified either for the tongues themselves
or for the matter in the tongues: as they may be opposed by way of
comparison, if not preferred as beyond comparison, even to the best
Romaine or Greekish paragones, be they never so much praised to the
Germaine or French gentle-wymen by late writers so well liked: to
the Italian ladies who dare write themselves and deserve fame for
so doing?... I dare be bould, therefore, to admit young maidens to
learne, seeing my countrie gives me leave and her costume standes for
me.... Some Rimon will say, what should wymend with learning? Such a
churlish carper will never picke out the best, but be alway ready to
blame the worst. If all men used all pointes of learning well, we had
some reason to alledge against wymend, but seeing misuse is commonly
both the kinds, why blame we their infirmitie whence we free not
ourselves." He then contends that a young gentlewoman who can write
well and swiftly, sing clearly and sweetly, play well and finely, and
employ readily the learned languages with some "logicall helpe to chop
and some rhetoricke to brave," is well furnished, and that such a one
is not likely to bring up her children a whit the worse, even if she
becomes a Loelia, a Hortensia, or a Cornelia. In discussing whether or
not girls should be taught by their own sex, he inclines to the belief
that this practice were advisable, but that discreet men might teach
girls to advantage. To use his own words: "In teachers, their owne
sex were fittest in some respects, but ours frame them best, and,
with good regard to some circumstances, will bring them up excellently
well." In the higher circles, where cynicism frequently assumes the
forms of wisdom, it was not universally agreed that women should
have the widest opportunities of education. In one of his discourses,
Erasmus, possibly the most accomplished of the schoolmen of the time,
opens to our view the opinion of the Church as to female scholarship
when he represents an abbot as contending that if women were learned
they could not be kept under subjection, "therefore it is a wicked,
mischievous thing to revive the ancient custom of educating them." A
remark in one of Erasmus's letters lays him open to the suspicion of
sharing somewhat in this view, for, in his description of Sir Thomas
More, he speaks of him as wise with the wise, and jesting with
fools--"with women especially, and his own wife among them."

Besides the graver matters of study which claimed their attention, the
women of England were devoted to music, needlework, and dancing, which
were the favorite fashionable pastimes. Erasmus speaks of them as
the most accomplished in musical skill of any people. Early as the
reign of Henry VIII., to read music at sight was not an uncommon
accomplishment, while those who aspired to the technique of the
subject were students of counterpoint. Musical literature was scanty;
the principal instruments were the lute, the mandolin, the clavichord,
and the virginals.

Notwithstanding its literary flavor and its identity with the great
themes of modern knowledge, the age of Elizabeth can hardly be called
a serious one from the point of view of the spirit and manners of the
people. Amusement was sought for its own sake, without regard to
its character or quality. The spirit of enjoyment was hearty and
unrestrained, and lacked discrimination and refinement. The society
of the age, like its culture, was a reflex of the personality of the
powerful queen, who stamped her character and her tastes upon her
people. The queen, as well as her courtiers, could restrain herself
upon occasion; but neither she nor her subjects felt that there was
any moral or conventional need to place a check upon the expression
of their emotions, and in consequence their manners were often
unbecoming. It did not offend the sense of personal dignity of
Elizabeth to spit at a courtier, the cut or color of whose coat
displeased her, just as she might box his ears or rap out at him
a flood of profanity. When Leicester was kneeling to receive his
earldom, the dignity of the occasion was entirely destroyed by the
volatile queen bending over to tickle his neck. As it was a case of
like queen, like people, a man who could not or who would not swear
was accounted "a peasant, a clown, a patch, an effeminate person."
The _sine qua non_ for obtaining the queen's favor was to be amusing.
It mattered nothing at all at whose expense, or how personal
the witticism, or how sensitive the one who was made the butt of
amusement; if the queen enjoyed it, and the boisterous laughter of the
court sycophants was evoked, the sufferer had to appear gratified at
the honor of his selection for his sovereign's entertainment. Coarse
manners were but the expression of coarser morals; even men of the
cleanest characters and highest intelligence did not shrink from any
allusion, however gross, and felt no impulse to check their words
either in speech or in writing. Nor were women a whit more regardful
of the proprieties of expression. Ascham blamed the degradation of
English morals in part on the custom of sending abroad young men to
Italy to finish their education, and alleged that the corruption which
they underwent at the "court of Circe" was responsible for the spread
of vicious manners in English society. He writes: "I know divers that
went out of England, men of innocent life, men of excellent learning,
who returned out of Italy, not only with worse manners, but also with
less learning." He complains of the introduction of Italian books
translated into English, which were sold in every shop of London, by
which the morals of the youth were corrupted, and whose venom was
the more insidious because they appeared under honest titles and were
dedicated to virtuous and honorable personages. As there was no public
opinion to censure the reading of the women, or standards to control
their conversation, they did not feel the impropriety of acquainting
themselves with such works and of openly discussing them. Indeed, the
women of the nobility felt themselves freed from all the restraints
which the modest of the sex normally cherish for their protection.

An illustration of the freedom of the manners of the women is found
in the correspondence of Erasmus, who, on coming to England as a young
man, was impressed by the prevalence of the custom of kissing. In a
letter to a friend in Holland, he says, in effect, that the women kiss
you on meeting you, kiss you on taking their leave; when you enter
their homes, you are greeted with kisses, and are sped on your way by
the same osculatory exercises; and he adds, after you have once tasted
the freshness of the lips of the rosy English maidens, you will not
want to leave this delightful country. A further illustration of the
same thing is found in a manual of so-called English conversation,
published in 1589: a traveller on arriving at an inn is instructed
to discourse as follows with the chambermaid, and her conventional
replies are given: "My shee frinde, is my bed made--is it good?" "Yea,
sir, it is a good feder-bed; the scheetes be very cleane." "Pull off
my hosen and warme my bed; drawe the curtines, and pin them with a
pin. My shee frinde, kisse me once, and I shall sleape the better. I
thank you, fayre mayden." This suggestion of the manners obtaining in
the English inns is but an indication of a similar state of freedom
throughout the lower classes of society. For while the glory of the
Elizabethan age was found mostly at the top of society, its coarseness
pervaded all ranks.

The rough manners of the age extended to the countenancing of all
sorts of brawls. There was nothing that would collect a crowd sooner
than two boys whose pugnacity had led them from words to blows; the
passers-by considered such a scene fine sport, and gathered about the
young combatants to encourage them in their fighting. Even the mothers
themselves, far from punishing their children for such conduct,
encouraged it in them. Cock fighting, bear baiting, wrestling, and
sword play were favorite pastimes. The girls delighted to play in the
open air, with little regard to grace or decorum; a game called tennis
ball was popular. The milkwomen had their dances, into which they
entered with zest. Pets were in favor with the ladies almost as much
as in the former century, and exploration into new countries had
increased the variety of them. In the prints of the times, ladies are
often represented with monkeys in attendance on them.

With the great multiplicity of new fashions, in novelties in customs
and in costumes, in manners and even in morals, there came into vogue,
from the East, hot, or, as they were called, "sweating baths." They
became very common throughout England, and the places where they
were to be gotten were commonly called "hothouses," although their
Persian name of _hummums_ was also preserved. Ben Jonson represents
a character in the old play _The Puritan_ as saying in regard to a
laborious undertaking: "Marry, it will take me much sweat; I were
better to go to sixteen _hothouses_." They became the rendezvous of
women, who resorted to them for gossip and company. The rude manners
of the age were not conducive to the preservation of these places from
the illicit intrigues which made them notorious, and caused the name
"hothouse" to become a synonym for "brothel." It was their acquired
character that probably led eventually to their disuse. They were not
necessarily vicious, and they furnished a convenience for the sex, who
did not have the shops and clubs of to-day as places for meeting and
the interchange of small talk. It must be remembered that the taverns
supplied this need for the men, but, excepting in the case of the
lower orders of society, the women had no similar place for such
social intercourse as was secured to the men by their tavern clubs.
The hothouses were not simply bath houses of the modern Turkish type,
but were restaurants as well. While seated in the steaming bath,
refreshments and lunch were served on tables conveniently arranged for
the purpose, and, after ablutions, the women remained as long as they
cared to, in conversation. The picnics which had formerly taken place
at the tavern were transferred to the hot bath, each of the women
carrying to the feast contributions which were shared in common.
This practice, which began with the servant maids, passed to their
mistresses and on up the scale of society, and became fashionable
for the ladies of the higher circles. In the absence of the modern
newspaper, these places became the distributing centres for the
news of the day and the talk of the town. The tavern served the same
purpose for the men.

Dancing was indulged in by all classes of society, and the variety
and curious names of the new styles which were introduced during the
Elizabethan era are well set forth in the following quotation from a
festal scene in Haywood's _Woman Kilde with Kindnesse_:

    "J. SLIME.--I come to dance, not to quarrel. Come, what shall
    it be? _Rogero_?

    JEM.--_Rogero_! no! we will dance the _Beginning of the

    SISLY.--I love no dance so well as _John, Come Kiss Me Now_.

    NICH.--I that have ere now defer'd a cushion, call for the

    R. BRICK.--For my part, I like nothing so well as _Tom Tyler_.

    JEM.--No; we'll have the _Hunting of the Fox_.

    J. SLIME.--_The Hay_; _The Hay_! there's nothing like _The

    NICH.--I have said, do say, and will say again--

    JEM.--Every man agree to have it as Nick says.


    NICH.--It hath been, it is now, and it shall be--

    SISLY.--What, Master Nicholas? What?

    NICH.--_Put on your Smock o' Monday._

    JEM.--So the dance will come cleanly off. Come, for God's
    sake agree on something; if you like not that, put it to the
    musicians; or let me speak for all, and we'll have _Sellengers

The nuptial usages of the age included some curious customs. Thus,
we are told by Howe in his _Additions to Stowe's Chronicle_ that,
in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, "It was the custome for maydes and
gentlewomen to give their favourites, as tokens of their love, little
Handkerchiefs, of about three or four inches square, wrought round
about, and with a button or a tassel at each corner, and a little one
in the middle, with silke and thread; the best edged with a small gold
lace, or twist, which being foulded up in foure crosse foldes, so as
the middle might be seene, gentlemen and other did usually weare them
in their hattes, as favours of their loves and mistresses. Some cost
six pence a piece, some twelve pence, and the richest sixteen pence."
Handkerchiefs were the customary messengers of Cupid; the present of
a handkerchief with love devices worked in the corners was a delicate
expression of the tender sentiment. Thus, in Haywood's _Fayre Mayde
of the Exchange_, Phyllis brings a handkerchief to the Cripple of
Fanchurch to be embroidered, and says:

  "Only this hankercher; a young gentlewoman
  Wish'd me to acquaint you with her mind herein:
  In one corner of the same, place wanton Love,
  Drawing his bow, shooting an amorous dart--
  Opposit against him an arrow in an heart;
  In a third corner picture forth Disdain,
  A cruel fate unto a loving vein;
  In the fourth, draw a springing laurel-tree,
  Circled about with a ring of poesy."

Wedding contracts in the times of the Tudors were peculiar, not being
regarded as binding unless there had been an exchange of gold or the
drinking of wine. In the old play of _The Widow_, Ricardo artfully
entices the widow into a verbal contract, whereupon one of her suitors
draws hope for himself through the possibility of the engagement being
invalid because it lacked the observance of this custom. He says:
"Stay, stay--you broke no Gold between you?" To which she answers: "We
broke nothing, Sir;" and on his adding: "Nor drank to each other?" she
replies: "Not a drop, Sir." Whence he draws this conclusion: "That the
contract cannot stand good in Law." The custom of throwing rice after
a wedded couple is a continuance of the practice in the sixteenth
century of throwing wheat upon the head of the bride as she came from
the church. Marriage was not considered irrevocable, because, aside
from the regular forms of divorce, it was not unusual for a husband
to sell his wife for a satisfactory consideration. Even down to recent
times, the people in some of the rural districts of England could not
understand why a husband had not a right so to dispose of his wife,
provided he delivered her over with a halter around her neck. Henry
Machyn notes in his _Diary_, in 1553, the following: "Dyd ryd in a
cart Checken, parson of Sant Necolas Coldabbay, round abowt London,
_for he sold ys wyff_ to a bowcher." When the contracting parties
were too poor to pay for the ceremony and the wedding feast, and the
expenses of the occasion were met by the guests clubbing together, the
occasion was termed a "penny wedding."

One of the popular customs of the day was to observe Mayday in the
country districts by erecting a brightly decorated Maypole, about
which the young people danced the simple rustic dances. It is not
unusual to find people to-day sighing for a return of the good old
customs of yore, and a favorite lament is the lapse of the observance
of Mayday in the old English manner. There was, doubtless, some
innocent amusement associated with this popular holiday, and only the
most captious Puritan could object to it because of its derivation
from the old Roman festival of Flora; but, unfortunately, the manners
of the sixteenth century did not leave room for much of innocent
observance of sports and pastimes in the open air, so that, in fact,
the dances about the Maypole were too frequently gross and unseemly.
Charles Francis Adams, in his editing of Morton's _Narrative_, in
the Prince Society Publications, in commenting upon the Merrie Mount
incident in the early settlement of New England, calls attention
in a footnote to the judgment of a contemporary writer as to the
iniquities which were practised in connection with what in the
popular imagination of the day was a wholesome and happy pastime.
The statement in the passage quoted by him of the startling depravity
which signalized the day throughout rural England awakens the
pertinent question as to what was the moral state of the women of
the rural population of the country. The testimony of the manners and
customs of the day, and the effect upon England of the indescribable
profligacy of the peoples of France and Italy, force the unpleasant
conclusion, after making all extenuation for the standards which
then obtained, that the vice which in the higher circles was as "the
creeping thing that flieth" appeared in the lower circles of society
in all of its foulness.

Life in the country was very delightful; buildings of fanciful
architecture were erected, the majority of them still being of wood,
the better sort plastered inside and the walls hung with tapestry
or wainscoted with oak, against which stood out in bold relief the
glittering gold and silver plate, which not alone the nobles and
gentry, but the merchants and even the farmers and artisans, loved
to possess. But in spite of their love of plate, Venetian glassware,
because of its rarity, was preferred for drinking vessels. The
housewife of quality no longer had to strew rushes upon the floor,
for Turkish rugs were imported and used by the wealthy. Beds were hung
with the finest silk or tapestry, and the tables were covered with
linen. The homes of all classes showed the increase in the comfort
of living. Even the poorest women could boast of chimneys to their
houses, and were no longer suffocated by the smoke which for egress
depended upon a hole in the roof. In 1589 a wise law was passed that
no cottage should be built on a tract of less than four acres of land,
and that only one family was to live in each cottage. Feather pillows
and beds took the place of straw pallets with a log of wood for a
headrest. The poorer homes, which could not afford expensive rugs,
were still strewn with sweet herbs, which, however, were renewed and
kept fresh, and the bedchambers were made fragrant with flowers. The
economy of the kitchen was not the hard problem it had formerly been,
for in the time of Elizabeth, the period of which we are speaking,
the laboring classes could obtain meat in abundance. The "gentry ate
wheaten, and the poor barley bread; beer was mostly brewed at home;
wine was drunk in the richer houses. Trade brought many luxuries to
the English table; spices, sugar, currants, almonds, dates, etc.,
came from the East." Indeed, so many currants were imported into the
country that it is said that the people of the places from whence they
were shipped supposed that they were used for the extraction of dye
or else were fed to the hogs; but the real explanation was the great
fondness of the English people for currants and raisins in their
pastry. While they were not gluttonous, the English then, as now, were
fond of the table, and gave much attention to eating and drinking.

The old people of the age regretfully looked back over their lives
to former days, when, as they said, although the houses were but of
willow, Englishmen were oaken, but now the houses were oaken and the
Englishmen of straw. The appearance of chimneys was not greeted as
an improvement, for the poor had never fared so well as in the smoky
halls of other days; they could not bear the thought that their
windows, which were formerly of wickerwork, were now of glass, or that
now, instead of sweet rushes, foreign carpets were upon the floors
of many houses; or that so many houses were being built of brick and
stone, plastered inside. It was regarded as a sure indication of
a decline in virility that the sons of the sturdy yeomen of a past
generation should crave comfortable beds hung with tapestry, and use
pillows--luxuries which once were thought suited only for women in
childbed. In the midst of an influx of new comforts, there was a
barrenness of things considered to-day to be essential, and the
absence of which was made the more glaring by reason of the many
comforts and luxuries with which life was surrounded. "Good soap was
an almost impossible luxury, and the clothes had to be washed with
cow-dung, hemlock, nettles, and refuse soap, than which, in Harrison's
opinion, 'there is none more unkindly savor.'"

A Dutch traveller, who in 1560 visited England and recorded his
impressions of the English home, introduces us to a pleasant picture
of the home life of the times, in the following words: "The neat
cleanliness, the exquisite fineness, the pleasant and delightful
furniture in every point for household, wonderfully rejoiced me; their
chambers and parlors strawed over with sweet herbs, refreshed me;
their nosegays, finely intermingled with sundry sorts of fragrant
flowers in their bedchambers and privy rooms, with comfortable smell
cheered me up." The parlors were freshened with green boughs and fresh
herbs throughout the summer, and with evergreens during the winter.

During the reign of Elizabeth, the hours for meals were the same as in
the fifteenth century, although between the first meal and dinner it
was customary to have a small luncheon, mostly composed of beverages,
and called a _bever_. A character in one of Middleton's plays
says: "We drink, that's mouth-hour; at eleven, lay about us
for victuals--that's hand-hour; at twelve, go to dinner--that's
eating-hour." Dinner was the most substantial meal of the day, and its
hearty character was commented upon by foreign travellers in England.
It was preceded by the same ceremony of washing the hands as in
former times, and the ewers and basins used for the purpose were often
elaborate and showy. It must be remembered that at table persons of
all ranks used their fingers instead of forks, and the laving of the
hands during the meals was important for comfort and cleanliness.
After the introduction of forks, the washing of hands during the meal,
though no longer so necessary as before, was continued as a polite
form for a while, although the after-meal washing appears to have
been discontinued. The pageantry and splendor which attended feasting
reached their greatest height in the first half of the sixteenth
century. The tables were arranged around the side of the hall, some
for the guests, and others to hold the tankards, the ewers, and the
dishes of food; for it had not yet become the practice to put anything
on the table in setting it other than the plates, the drinking
vessels, the saltcellars, and the napkins. The dresser, or the
cupboard, was the greatest display article of furniture in the hall of
the houses of the higher orders of society, who invested large amounts
of money in vessels of the precious metals and of crystal, which
were sometimes set with precious stones and were always of the most
beautiful patterns and of odd and elaborate forms. To such lengths
went personal pride in the appearance of the dresser, that points of
etiquette were raised by careful housewives as to how many steps, or
gradations on which the rows of plate were placed above each other,
members of the different ranks of society might have on their
cupboards. Five for a princess of royal blood, four for noble ladies
of the highest rank, three for nobility under the rank of duke, two
for knights-bannerets, and one for persons who were merely of gentle
blood, was fixed as proper form. Dinner was still served in three
courses, without any great distinction in the character of the dishes
served at each course. One of the writers of the times says: "In
number of dishes and changes of meat the nobility of England do most
exceed." "No day passes but they have not only beef, mutton, veal,
lamb, kid, pork, coney, capon, pig, or so many of them as the season
yields, but also fish in variety, venison, wildfowl, and sweets." As
there were but two full meals in the day, and as the households of the
nobility, including the many servants and retainers, were large, and
as it was the practice for the chief servants to dine with the family
and the guests, it will be seen that a large and varied supply of food
was needed. The upper table having been served, the lower servants
were supplied, and what remained was bestowed upon the poor, who
gathered in great numbers at the gates of the nobility to receive
the leavings from their meals. It can be seen that the labors of the
women in supervising the affairs of the household were onerous. Among
gentlemen and merchants, four, five, or six dishes sufficed, and if
there were no guests, two or three. Fish was the article of greatest
consumption among the poor, and could be obtained at all seasons.
Fowls, pigeons, and all kinds of game were abundant and cheap. Butter,
milk, cheese, and curds were "reputed as food appurtenant to the
inferior sort." The very poor usually had enough ground in which to
raise cabbages, parsnips, carrots, pumpkins, and such like vegetables,
which constituted their principal food, and of which both the raising
and the preparation for the table were largely the work of the women.
Among the lower classes, the various feasts of the year and the bridal
occasions were celebrated with great festivity, and it was the custom
for each guest to contribute one or more dishes.

"Sham" is the keynote to an understanding of Elizabethan society; the
Virgin Queen herself, with all her undoubted worth and abilities, was
the embodiment of the vanity and pretence of her age. Young unmarried
women loved "to show coyness in gestures, mince in words and speeches,
gingerliness in tripping on toes like young goats, demure nicety and
babyishness," and when they went out, they had silk scarfs "cast about
their faces, fluttering in the wind, or riding in their velvet visors,
with two holes cut for the eyes." The visors here mentioned bring
to mind Hamlet's "God hath given you one face, and you make yourself
another; you jig, you amble, you lisp, you nickname God's creatures,
and make your wantonness your ignorance." The general use of masks in
public places toward the close of Elizabeth's reign did not improve
the moral status of the higher classes. The pretentiousness and the
superficiality of the times are laid bare by Harrington, the favorite
godson of the queen, whose arraignment is in unsparing terms: "We go
brave in apparel that we may be taken for better men than we be;
we use much bombastings and quiltings to seem better framed, better
shouldered, smaller waisted, and fuller thighed than we are; we barb
and shave oft to seem younger than we are; we use perfumes, both
inward and outward, to seem sweeter, wear corked shoes to seem taller,
use courteous salutations to seem kinder, lowly obeisance to seem
humbler, and grave and godly communication to seem wiser and devouter
than we be."

The dress of the women of the Elizabethan era shows the same
extravagance that is apparent in all the exaggerated social phases
of the time. Philip Stubbs, who wrote at the close of the sixteenth
century a book entitled _The Anatomy of Abuses_, appears to have
been a choleric and gloomy observer of current manners, but, with due
allowance for the spirit in which he writes, a very clear picture can
be gotten of the style and excesses of dress of the several classes of
society. He affirms that no people in the world were so hungry after
new-fangled styles as were those of his country. After having dilated
on the large amounts spent for dress, he digresses in order to
moralize, and adds that the fashionable attire of the day is unsuited
to the actual needs of the wearers' bodies and "maketh them weak,
tender, and infirm, not able to abide such blustering storms and sharp
showers as many other people abroad do daily bear." It is curious to
find him harking back to the old days of which he had heard his father
and other sages speak, when all the clothes for the household were
made by the busy housewife, and coats were of the same color as
the wool when it was on the sheep's back. In the abandonment of the
household woollen industry and the excessive use of imported fabrics,
he sees the reason for the many thousands in England who were reduced
to the necessity of begging bread. Starch, which is now such a homely
and universally helpful laundry assistant, and to the expert use of
which so much of the freshness and smartness of women's attire is due,
was then first introduced. "There is a certain liquid matter which
they call starch," says this censorious critic of current customs,
"wherein the devil hath learned them to wash and dive their ruffs;
which, being dry, will then stand stiff and inflexible about their
necks." The ladies of his day must have been more expert in the use
of starch than are their sisters to-day, as they introduced into it
coloring matter, so that it temporarily dyed the fabrics red, blue,
purple, and other colors, of which yellow seems to have been the most

The yellow starch which was so much in use originated in France, and
was introduced into England by a Mrs. Turner, a physician's widow,
a vain and infamous woman, who ended her career on the gallows in
expiation of the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury. Bulwer says that it is
hard "to derive the pedigree of the cobweb-lawn-yellow-starched ruffs,
which so disfigured our nation, and rendered them so ridiculous and
fantastical." It appears that when the introducer of the custom was
led to the gallows she was conspicuous in a yellow ruff worn about
her neck, and after her execution the wearing of such ruffs rapidly
declined. Having said this much about the ruffs which were a
characteristic feature of the dress of the day of both men and women,
it may be well to add that starch was not wholly depended upon for the
support of these preposterous neck dresses. Wire frames covered with
silver or silk thread were employed for the purpose. These ruffs are
often referred to in the literature of the period. Allusion is made to
them in the play of _Nice Valour_, by Beaumont and Fletcher, where the
madman says:

  "Or take a fellow pinn'd up like a mistress,
  About his neck a ruff like a pinch'd lanthorn,
  Which school-boys make in winter."

Stubbs also pays his respects to the gowns of the women, which he says
were no less "famous" than the rest of their attire. A quotation will
serve to give an idea of the materials which were in use for dress
goods and the embellishments of women's gowns; "Some are of silk, some
of velvet, some of grograin, some of taffeta, some of scarlet, and
some of fine cloth of ten, twenty, or forty shillings the yard; but,
if the whole garment be not of silk or velvet, then the same must be
laid with lace two or three fingers broad all over the gown, or else
the most part; or, if it be not so, as lace is not fine enough, now
and then it must be garded with gards of velvet, every gard four or
five fingers broad at the least, and edged with costly lace; and, as
these gownes be of divers colours, so are they of divers fashions,
changing with the moon; for, some be of the new fashion, some of
the old; some with sleeves, hanging down to their skirts, trailing
on the ground, and cast over their shoulders like cow-tails; some
have sleeves much shorter and cut up the arm, drawn out with sundry
colours, and pointed with silk ribbands, and very gallantly tied with
love-knots, for so they call them." To these striking costumes were
added capes which reached down to the middle of the back, and which,
our author informs us, were "plaited and crested with more knacks than
he could express."

It is impossible to do more than mention the absurdities in general
of women's attire and toilette during the eccentric Elizabethan era.
Ladies painted their faces and wore false hair, as they had done in
other ages, only with greater refinements of hideousness; they stuffed
their petticoats with tow, and drew in their waists to incredible
smallness as compared with the vast expansiveness of their form from
the waist down, which was secured by the use of farthingales. The way
they tilted up their feet with long cork soles made them amble much
after the fashion of the women of China with their bandaged feet. They
wore jewels and ornaments in great profusion, fine colored silk hose,
which had lately been introduced among the other foreign "gewgaws"
of the times, and exchanged with their friends as valued presents
embroidered and perfumed gloves. In the light of the varied styles
of the day, the criticism, "Like a crow, the Englishman borrows his
feathers from all nations," was a true one.

In the midst of the gayety and frivolity of the Elizabethan age, the
forces of reaction were hidden, but already active; and the mutterings
of discontent which were heard presaged the social outbreak which was
to lead a king to the block.



The great evil of Puritanism was the tendency to hypocrisy which it
produced among the people, by forcing upon them the simulation of a
virtue greater than they in reality possessed. An affectation of piety
which was carried to fanatical extremes, and which affected men and
women alike and made them fall into stereotyped expressions and cant
utterances having a savor of religiosity, while barren of the spirit
of true devotion, was, to say the least, unwholesome for the nation.
But the very fact that the pendulum had swung so far in the direction
of primitive austerity in life and in worship showed that behind
the hollow and insincere forms and words of Puritanism there was
a magnificent earnestness of purpose, such as had been foreign to
English life as a whole, although to be found among the followers of
Wyckliffe and the Lollards.

As the spirit of Puritanism spread, its opponents, who were styled the
Libertines, became more defiant in their attitude and less regardful
of the strictures which the narrow-minded bigots, as they styled the
Puritans, cast upon them. Thus, the women were divided by the extremes
of position occupied by the men. Drunkenness among women of rank
became very common. Intellectual fervor declined and learning became
superficial, while the pet vices, inanities, and vain pomp of the
reign of Elizabeth lost much of their glitter and became mere prosaic
and gross immorality. While the women of the court indulged in
revelry, to the scandal of their sisters of the middle classes, the
latter, by their piety as well as by their pious affectations, brought
upon themselves coarse witticisms, ribald mirth, and allegations of
misconduct under the guise of sanctity. So it happened that just when
the women of the middle classes were approaching in position their
sisters of the higher circles, by the ascent of the class to which
they belonged and by the recognition on the part of the superior ranks
of their worth as individuals and their importance as a sound element
of the nation, the tendency toward a uniform equality, however remote
its realization, was rudely checked by an issue which sundered the
respective classes to the nethermost poles. It then became but a
question of which section of the nation should administer its affairs
and direct its destiny. When the two opposing camps of aristocracy
and democracy met in conflict, King Charles was led to the gibbet, not
because the feeling of the people was so especially bitter against him
personally, as that he was the impersonation of an aristocracy which
had become so intrenched in power, that, regardless of its acts, it
claimed divine right to rule.

The female sex, as a whole, was not held in high esteem by the
Puritans, however dear to them may have been the women of their own
households. By the gayety and licentiousness of the brilliant era of
Elizabeth, women had forfeited the esteem of these stern censors of
public virtue, and were held up as snares in the way of the righteous
and as emissaries of Satan. It would be unjust to the sound judgment
of those earnest men of powerful thought and tested standards even
to suggest that they did not make a distinction between woman in
disgrace--as they regarded the women in representative life about
them--and woman in her normal and helpful relationship to society,
as illustrated in the Biblical types of exalted womanhood. It was but
natural that, at a time when the social sin was the canker of society,
woman should have been looked upon in the light of the temptress in
Eden. It is only with such qualification that the characterization
of a writer on the period of the Commonwealth, whose description is
generally accurate, can be accepted: "Under the Commonwealth, society
assumed a new and stern aspect. Women were in disgrace; it was
everywhere declared from the pulpit that woman caused man's expulsion
from Paradise, and ought to be shunned by Christians as one of the
greatest temptations of Satan. 'Man,' said they, 'is conceived in sin
and brought forth in iniquity; it was his complacency to woman that
caused his first debasement; let man not therefore glory in his shame;
let him not worship the fountain of his corruption.' Learning and
accomplishments were alike discouraged, and women confined to a
knowledge of cooking, family medicines, and the unintelligible
theological discussions of the day."

The high tension which had been maintained during the preceding reign
was followed during those of James I. and Charles I. by a mental
inertia; and the intellectual life of the people, which had resulted
from the revival of learning in the sixteenth century, languished and
almost died of inanition. Even among those men--the courtiers--who
amused themselves chiefly by the foibles of the other sex, there was
a morbid reaction against their associates in frivolity. It was no
longer customary to praise women for their wit and repartee and
to look upon them as brilliant, or to regard their coarse jests as
delicate humor; instead of this, these men affected toward them great
contempt, and scoffed at all other men who manifested respect for
the sex. Whether among the nobility or among the Puritans, woman was
wounded in the house of her friends.

Amid the premonitory rumblings of civil strife and the actual horrors
of war, when the nation was rent asunder, the matters of belief and of
conduct were the burning themes for thought and discussion; it was not
possible to maintain interest in intellectual concerns, even if there
had not been a reaction from the highly wrought state of mind of the
preceding era. That behind the Puritans' apparent hatred of beauty and
of the grace of intellect and of life there was no real abandonment of
the true principles which underlie all permanent beauty and grace is
sufficiently shown by the production of that poet who sounded deepest
the reaches of philosophy and scaled highest the ascents of poetic
thought--the great Milton. He it was who caught the deep significance
of the movements of the age, and brought them into harmony with the
parable of human history--a feat so mighty that it called forth the
highest flights of poetic fancy and sought the embodiment of the best
graces of language. It is not without interest to note the absence of
woman in the lofty theme of Milton, saving only as she appears in the
Puritanic conception of the temptress.

Another of the Puritans, who in his way was as great as Milton,
Bunyan, the Bedford tinker, caught and set forth in magnificent
allegory the meaning of the Puritan movement for the individual;
but there is an absence of woman in the story of the pilgrimage of
Christian to the Celestial City, excepting as she appears in the
character of the temptress, as at Vanity Fair. The Christian Graces,
who are represented as women, are not types of the sex of the day, but
are used to point the contrast the more sharply between woman in ideal
and woman as the product of the times of the Puritans. It remained,
however, for the Puritans to refine the sex by the fires of relentless
criticism and to produce the severer, but much nobler, Christian
woman, who became the normal type, not only for the middle classes,
but, to an extent, for the women of the higher circles as well.

The state of society was not favorable for intellectual expression
on the part of woman, although it can hardly be said that it retarded
intellectual progress. The character of the English woman was being
affected in a way to save it from becoming merely superficial and
volatile, like that of her French sister, and her intellect was being
sobered for literary production that should have worthier qualities
than mere brilliancy to recommend it. When the women of the middle
classes stepped out into the arena of authorship, the value of the
Puritan period as a corrective of the frivolity and false standards
for women which had previously obtained becomes manifest in their

The loss of opportunities of education for the women of the middle
classes, which was a result of the dissolution of the religious
houses, had never quite been made good, and even down to the second
half of the seventeenth century there was no adequate system of
popular education. In the case of the children of the nobility,
suitable education and training for their station in life could be
obtained only by sending them abroad to Italy, France, or Germany,
or by bringing foreign teachers into the country. Girls were never
sent abroad for their education; and in the case of the daughters of
middle-class society, all that was regarded as needful was training
in the practical affairs of housewifery--to which, in the case of the
Puritans, was added inculcation of the Scriptures and the reading
of other devout books. The current opinion is well expressed in the
following citation from _The Art of Thriving_: "Let them learne plaine
workes of all kind, so they take heed of too open seeming. Instead of
song and musick, let them learne cookery and laundry, and instead of
reading Sir Philip Sydney's _Arcadia_, let them read the grounds
of huswifery. I like not a female poetesse at any hand: let greater
personages glory their skill in musicke, the posture of their bodies,
the greatnesse and freedome of their spirits, and their arts in
arraigning of men's affections at their flattering faces: this is not
the way to breed a private gentleman's daughter."

Even if higher education for women were not recognized as important in
the seventeenth century--and the facilities were not at hand, even if
the sentiment had existed--it would be captious criticism to construe
this into a grievance against the sex. In all that pertained to
dignity and real worth, the women of the Commonwealth, with all the
narrowness of their training, were much in advance of womankind at
the beginning of the modern era, and their moral differentiation from
the women of the same class before the spread of Puritanism was most
marked. Puritanism was a distinct gain for woman, for through that
movement the process of raising women in the social scale received
great impetus. A comparison with the girls of France of about the
same period certainly shows that the low state of education among the
sex in England was not in any wise peculiar to English conditions.
Fénelon, in referring to the neglect of the education of the girls
of his country, says: "It is shameful, but ordinary, to see women who
have acuteness and politeness, not able to pronounce what they read;
either they hesitate or they intone in reading, when, instead, they
should pronounce with a simple and natural tone, but rounded and
uniform. They are still more deficient in orthography, whether in the
manner of composing their letters or in reading them when written."

The Civil War itself had a wide effect upon the state of education
among the people. Families in which education had been fostered,
with the turn of their fortunes found it impossible to continue it;
families whose fortunes had risen by political changes felt their
deficiency in this respect, and affected to despise accomplishments of
which they themselves were destitute. Certain of the more enlightened
Puritan women pretended to apply themselves to the study of Hebrew, on
the ground that they looked upon it as necessary to eternal salvation.
Such pedantry brought no credit to those who affected it, but only
served to heap odium upon the higher studies, which were now rejected
with contempt on all sides. How effectually interest in education was
suppressed by the civil disorders is shown by a remark of a traveller
who visited the country after the Revolution. He says: "Here in
England the women are kept from all learning, as the profane vulgar
were of old from the mysteries of the ancient religions." It is
amusing to note the theories which had arisen with regard to female
education and which were used to extenuate its lack. Some apologists
for feminine ignorance gravely asserted and led others to believe
that the women of England "were too delicate to bear the fatigues of
acquiring knowledge," besides being by nature incapable of doing so,
for, said they, "the moisture of their brain rendered it impossible
for them to possess a solid judgment, that faculty of the mind
depending upon a dry temperature." But the unanswerable argument of
all was that death and sin had fallen upon the race of Adam solely
in consequence of the thirst which Eve had manifested for knowledge.
In the face of such contentions, it was not difficult to lead people
generally to accept the further conclusion as to the disastrous
consequences which would certainly come upon society when woman became
puffed up with her mental acquirements; the favorable opinion which
she would then have of herself would not harmonize with that obedience
to men for which she was created. Worthy of note is the fact that
these views extended in some circles to the arresting of the progress
of religious instruction, especially that of a public nature. Evelyn,
in his _Diary_, says that while the saints inherited the earth under
the Protectorate, it was his invariable custom to devote his Sunday
afternoons to the catechising and instruction of his family; but, he
remarks, these wholesome exercises "universally ceased in the parish
churches, so as people had no principles, and grew very ignorant of
even the common points of Christianity, all devotions being now placed
in hearing sermons and discourses of speculative and national things."

There was a sterner side to the religious movement in England than its
relation to matters intellectual or even moral. The Reformation under
Henry VIII. had added the names of certain women to those of the noble
army of martyrs of all the ages. To be false to conscience was to be
false to the very principles of their being, and both Catholic and
Protestant women became intensely strong in their convictions and
intolerant of those of others. The Roman Church offered up its
holocaust to the passions and prejudices of the leaders of the
Protestant movement, just as the Roman Church in turn exacted the
tribute of their lives from many adherents of Protestantism. Woman was
looked upon as inferior to man and less capable of responsible action,
but in meting out persecutions there was no distinction as to sex, the
weaker suffering equally with the stronger. The history of religious
persecutions in England is one of its least engaging chapters, and
extends over a long period. Puritan, Prelatist, and Catholic alike
darkened the annals of the times by deeds of violence. To recite the
sufferings of women under the crossfires of persecution would be at
best an ungracious task; and as such experiences form but a part of
the history of the sex during the period which we have broadly styled
the period of the Commonwealth, an instance or two of the sufferings
of notable women, irrespective of their party affiliations, will
suffice for citation.

One of the most sorrowful of the judicial murders of which a woman was
the victim, which occurred during the whole of this extended period,
was that of Lady Lisle, who, because of her sympathies with Monmouth's
rebellion against the king, was brutally executed, the specific charge
being the harboring of fugitives. The king's project to hand over
the nation to papacy nowhere aroused such outbursts of indignation as
among the Covenanters of Scotland, who saw in it the destruction of
all their hard-wrought-out religious liberties, and the endangering of
their lives, besides the return of the nation to the chaos from which
it was emerging. The address of Lady Lisle before her execution is
an example of the sublimity to which woman's character may rise under
persecution, when the spirit is buoyed by faith: "Gentlemen, Friends,
and Neighbors, it may be expected that I should say something at my
death, and in order thereunto I shall acquaint you that my birth and
education were both near this place, and that my parents instructed me
in the fear of God, and I now die of the Reformed Protestant Religion;
believing that if ever popery should return into this nation, it would
be a very great and severe judgment.... The crime that was laid to my
charge was for entertaining a Non-conformist Minister and others in my
house; the said minister being sworn to have been in the late Duke of
Monmouth's army." Continuing, she said: "I have no excuse but surprise
and fear, which I believe my Jury must make use of to excuse their
verdict to the world. I have been also told that the Court did use to
be of counsel for the prisoner; but instead of advice, I had evidence
against me from thence; which, though it were only by hearing, might
possibly affect my Jury; my defence being such as might be expected
from a weak woman; but such as it was, I did not hear it repeated
to the Jury, which, as I have been informed, is usual in such cases.
However, I forgive all the world, and therein all those that have done
me wrong." Another victim of the same "Bloody Assize" of Jeffreys,
Mrs. Gaunt, of Wapping, pathetically says: "I did but relieve an
unworthy, poor, distressed family, and lo, I must die!"

The age was the legatee of a spirit of venom and bigotry which
expressed itself in deeds of violence more distressing than those
incident to the religious wars. Deeds of blood, when connected with
the defence of convictions, have about them something of the heroic,
but there is absolutely no ray of glory to fall upon and lighten the
dreary records of the war upon defenceless women charged with being
witches, which broke out with fresh virulence with the increase of
religious fervor under the Commonwealth. The charges were many and
specious, but a very common form centred about the compassionate
functions of women as the ameliorators of human distress.

The history of witchcraft is so intimately associated with that of
medicine, that to write an account of the one involves a recital of
the other. The utter lack of knowledge of the anatomy of the human
body and its functions, which continued down to quite recent times,
accounts for the mystery and magic which surrounded the whole subject
of medicine, not only earlier than and during the period of which
we are speaking, but long subsequent to it. The one who could
successfully treat disease was regarded as in league with the powers
of darkness. Until the practice of medicine came to be established
upon scientific principles, the care of the sick largely devolved upon
women. Had it been men instead of women who performed the crude but
often sincere service of nurse and physician, they would have come
under the same ban with the effects of which the practitioners of the
other sex were visited. It is not probable, however, that the public
odium would have gone to such lengths of violence in its expression.

Among savage peoples, as the primitive tribes of Africa and the
American aborigines, the man who can dispel disease by a fetich--the
great medicine-man of a tribe--has always been regarded with a feeling
of combined jealousy, suspicion, and fear; but, because of the occult
powers he is supposed to control, fear predominates and passes into a
form of reverence. Not so, however, in the case of woman, of whom
we write; she was looked upon as having forfeited, to an extent, her
claims upon humanity by her original alliance with Satan, and, being
outside of the pale of God's grace, or sustaining only a permissive
relationship to it, it was deemed a pious, a safe, and a creditable
thing to mete out to her the divine dispensation of wrath. Thus again,
amid numerous instances of woman's suffering as a penalty for her sex,
we have the occurrence of woman being persecuted unto death because of
her compassion. It was not regarded as despicable for the very person
who had been succored by her in the hour of sickness to turn informant
and declare that he or she had been healed by diabolical agency, and,
whether under the influence of an honest hallucination, or simply
actuated by a malicious propensity, to declare that evil spirits had
actually been conjured up in human form and been seen by the eyes of
the sufferer.

Women were not blameless in the matter of their reputation for
possessing occult knowledge and having diabolical relations; for there
were many women who, being morally not beyond reproach, separated
themselves from society as they grew older, and resorted to medicinal
knowledge and magic for a living and to maintain in the public eye
the position of unenviable notoriety of which they had become
morbidly fond. It gratified such natures to be reputed to possess
the power--which even philosophers ascribed to them--of, at certain
seasons, turning milk sour, making dogs rabid, and producing other
such freakish manifestations. They were considered to be able not only
to heal sickness, but to cause it; and the presence in one's clothing
of a pin whose irritant end was pointed in the wrong direction was
sufficient to make the person believe that he was under a spell of
witchcraft. If a cow or a horse fell lame, it was the village witch
who did it; if a child developed as an imbecile, or anyone became
bereft of reason, it was laid at the door of the witch; the failure
of crops, a drought,--anything that interfered with the comfort
or convenience of a person or a community,--was due to some such
representative of Satan.

As the number of happenings of this sort increased, or there occurred
an epidemic of disease, or a flood or famine of especial virulence,
the number of alleged witches correspondingly increased; and so the
persecution swelled in volume, each wave of malevolence receding only
to rise in larger aspect on the next occasion of its arousing. Not
until the reign of Henry VIII. were there any enactments against
witchcraft in England; prior to the passage of these acts, the
persecution of a sorceress followed only upon an accusation of
poisoning. During some parts of the Middle Ages the crime of poisoning
was extensive, and certain women were adepts in making the deadly
potions. To such abandoned characters resorted persons of state who
desired to make away with hated rivals, or the men and women of the
nobility who sought to hide or to further their intrigues by the death
of someone who stood in their way. As the women who practised the
arts of the poisoner were also devotees of sorcery, the crime and
the superstition came to be thought of together. One reason for the
detestation of witches was the subtlety they displayed in concocting
poisons which slowly sapped the vitality of a person, as if by a
wasting illness. In 1541, conjuring, sorcery, and witchcraft were
placed in the list of capital offences. Similar statutes were enacted
during the succeeding reigns of Elizabeth and James I.

The curious matter of demoniacal possession called forth a great
many books and pamphlets treating of its nature, history, methods of
repression, and the dispossession of those under witches' spells. John
Wier, a physician, wrote a treatise, in the last half of the sixteenth
century, in which he described witches as but exaggerated types of the
perversity which is found in women generally. In the easy subjection
of the sex to malign influences he saw a proof of its greater moral

The seventeenth century was as prolific of cases of persecution of
women for demon possession as any of those of the less enlightened
period of mediævalism. In 1568, in a sermon before Queen Elizabeth,
Bishop Jewell said: "It may please your Grace to understand that
witches and sorcerers within these few last years are marvellously
increased within your Grace's realm. Your Grace's subjects pine away
even unto the death, their colour fadeth, their flesh rotteth, their
speech is benumbed, their knees are bereft. I pray God they never
practise _further than upon the subjects_." The Bull of Innocent
VIII., in 1484, did not do more for the furtherance of persecution of
the unfortunates who came under suspicion of using magic than did the
declaration of Luther: "I should have no compassion on these witches;
I would burn all of them." As upon the continent, so in England
reformers took up the persecution of witches with keen zest, as a
contest with the powers of darkness working for the destruction of the
peace and health of humanity in an open and flagrant manner. The
same spirit of espionage which was one of the baleful effects of
the outbreaks of persecution during the Middle Ages attended the
persecution of witchcraft in England during the seventeenth century.
To save themselves from suspicion, persons informed against others,
and even members of a household would give evidence leading to the
trial of those of their own kin. When an unfortunate fell under
suspicion,--which too frequently meant the animosity of an
evil-disposed person,--the minister would denounce her by name from
the pulpit, prohibit his parishioners from harboring her or in any way
giving her succor, and exhort them to give evidence against her. The
Puritans had conned well the story of the Witch of Endor, and, with
their tendency to reproduce the Old Testament spirit, felt that the
existence of witches was an abomination in the sight of the Lord,
which would bring divine wrath upon the community that sheltered them
unless the sin were purged from it by their death. In this they were
but the inheritors of the faith of the Church from the early ages, and
are liable to no more serious censure for their persecution of witches
than that which they merit for the vindictive and splenetic spirit
and the satisfaction in barbarities and cruelty which too often they

The persecutions attendant upon witchcraft are chargeable to no one
division of the Church more than to another, for Protestant as well as
Catholic, Puritan as well as Prelatist, felt that in this work he was
fulfilling the will of God and safeguarding society. King James I., in
his _Demonology_, asks: "What can be the cause that there are twentie
women given to that craft where there is only one man?" He gives as
his reason for the disparity in numbers the greater frailty of women,
which he easily and satisfactorily proves by reference to the fall of
Eve, as marking the beginning of Satan's dominance of the sex.

In entering upon a crusade of persecution of witches, the Puritans
were in harmony with the enactments of the sovereigns before the
Commonwealth, and were in conformity with the temper of the times and
the universally prevailing belief of the country. The austerity they
assumed toward the sex in general made it easy for them to believe
that particular characters, given over to vagabondage, were by reason
of their moral turpitude especial subjects of Satan for the temptation
of men. With them, the persecution of witches was not solely a
matter of superstition, but of public morals as well. They were often
actuated by a sincere desire to raise the standard of morality, and to
preserve order and decency. That the women rather than the men should
have suffered for evil courses was due, of course, to the conception
that moral reprobation is to be visited upon the weaker sex.

In the second half of the seventeenth century the witchcraft
superstition became a veritable epidemic, and persecution broke out
in different sections of the country. Hardly had the stories of the
execution of witches in one place ceased to be a nine days' wonder,
when the tongues of the people were busy with stories of similar
occurrences somewhere else. An angry sailor threw a stone at a boy;
and the boy's mother roundly cursed the assailant of her offspring,
and added the hope that his fingers would rot off. When, two years
later, something of the sort actually did happen, her imprecation was
remembered against her, and there was also brought to light the fact
that a neighbor with whom she was at odds had been seized with
severe pains and felt her bed rocking up and down. The evidence was
conclusive, the woman must be a witch; such was the verdict, and death
was her sentence. Two women who lived alone, and, probably partly
because of their solitary existence, had developed irascible tempers
and demeanors which enlisted the hearty dislike of the inhabitants of
the fishing hamlet near by, were subjected to the petty persecutions
in which children instigated by their parents are such adepts; finding
existence too miserable to care very much for their reputations, they
endangered their security by their attitude toward their tormentors.
At last, nobody would even sell them fish, and their cursing and
prophecies of evil for their enemies became increasingly violent. In
the order of nature, some children were seized with fits, and, under
the inspiration of their elders, declared that they saw the two women
coming to torment them. After being eight years under accusation,
the women were brought to trial, and Sir Matthew Hale, the presiding
judge, after expressing his belief that the Scriptures proved the
reality of witchcraft, decided against the unhappy women and condemned
them to be hanged. This occurred in 1664, and constituted the
celebrated witch trial of Bury St. Edmunds.

These instances serve to illustrate the fate of a vast number of
hapless women during the seventeenth century; it is said that during
the sittings of the Long Parliament alone, as many as three thousand
persons were executed on charges of witchcraft. Besides these
unhappy wretches, a great many more suffered the terrible fate of
mob violence. The frenzied populace were often too impatient to await
legal procedure, and stoned the miserable women to death. In the minds
of the great majority of the people, such women were not human beings
at all, and so there was no cruelty in treating them with the greatest
violence possible. Indeed, such earnestness of purpose against the
adversaries of God could but redound, they thought, to their eternal
advantage. After all, was it not a devil, who for the time being
assumed human form, that they were treating with such violence?
to-morrow, the same demon might be found in a dog or in some other
animal, or perhaps afflicting with cholera the swine of some peasant,
to his severe loss. A description of a witch in the first half of the
seventeenth century says: "The devil's otter-hound, living both on
land and sea, and doing mischief in either; she kills more beasts than
a licensed butcher in Lent, yet is ne'er the fatter; she's but a dry
nurse in the flesh, yet gives such to the spirit. A witch rides many
times post on hellish business, yet if a ladder do but stop her, she
will be hanged ere she goes any further." The penal statutes against
witchcraft were not formally repealed until 1751, when there was
closed for England one of the saddest chapters in the history of human
mistakes. The last judicial executions for witchcraft in England were
in 1716.

In pleasing contrast to the unhappy creatures who were the victims
of fanatical persecutions during the Commonwealth period--the women
executed for witchcraft--stand the noble women who were developed by
the stern conditions of the Civil War--the heroines of internecine
strife. The domestic incidents of the Civil War form an interesting
commentary upon the character of the English woman, as they reveal
her in brave defence of castle or homestead, patient in hardship,
courageous in danger, and fertile in resources to avert misfortune.
Every important family was ranged on one side or the other, and the
line of division often passed through households. To all other issues
which aroused human passion, or touched the springs of human character
and brought forth the reserve heroism of human life, was added that
issue which stirs deepest the human heart,--the issue of religion. The
contest was not merely between king and people: it was a contest as
well between the people themselves as to the form of religion they
desired as the expression of their faith.

Under such conditions women could not be kept out of the turmoil and
the strife; perhaps one of the important ends which this distressful
period brought about was the crystallizing of the convictions of many
women, who otherwise would not have thought or felt deeply upon
that subject which is fundamental to the welfare of a nation and
the character of its people,--the subject of religion. Royalists
and Puritans, the women were arrayed on each side. They followed the
issues with an earnest alertness born of an intelligent understanding
of the causes involved and their own vital relation to the contest in
its results.

One of the Puritan women who literally entered into the fray was Mrs.
Hutchinson. Her father, Sir Allen Apsley, was governor of the Tower
during Sir Walter Raleigh's incarceration. It is probable that Mrs.
Hutchinson had some knowledge of medicine, because during the siege of
Nottingham she was actively engaged in dressing the soldiers' wounds
and furnishing them with drugs and lotions suitable to their cases,
and met with great success in her rôle of physician even in the cases
of those of some who were dangerously wounded. But it was not solely
in the character of nurse and physician that she was so active, for,
in conjunction with the other women of the town, after the departure
of the Royalist forces, she aided in districting the city for patrols
of fifty, the courageous women thus taking an active share in the
arduous duties of the town's defence. This intrepid woman later
appeared in the character of peacemaker. The elections of 1660 were
of a violent character, on account of the ill feeling between the
Royalists of the town and the soldiers of the Commonwealth. At the
critical moment, Mrs. Hutchinson arrived, and, being acquainted with
the captains, persuaded them to countenance no tumultuous methods,
whatever might be the provocation, but to make complaint in regular
form to the general and let him assume the work of preserving the
peace. This they consented to do; and the townsmen were equally
amenable to her wise counsel, and contracted to restrain their
children and servants from endangering the peace of the people.

Courage and initiative were not limited to the women on one side of
the contest, as is well illustrated by the conduct of the Countess of
Derby, who, in 1643, made a remarkable defence of Latham House; the
countess was of French birth and had in her veins the indomitable
spirit of the Dutch, for she was a descendant of Count William
of Nassau. She was called upon either to yield up her home or to
subscribe to the propositions of Parliament, and, upon her refusal to
do either, was besieged in her castle and kept in confinement within
its walls, with no larger range of liberty than the castle yard. Her
estate was sequestered, and she was daily affronted with mocking and
contemptuous language. When she was requested by Sir Thomas Fairfax to
yield up the castle, she replied with quiet dignity that she wondered
how he could exact such a thing of her, when she had done nothing
in the way of offence to Parliament, and she requested that, as the
matter affected both her religion and her life, besides her loyalty to
her sovereign and to her lord, she might have a week's consideration
of the demand. She declined the proposition of Sir Thomas Fairfax
to meet him at a certain house a quarter of a mile distant from the
castle for purposes of conference, saying that it was more knightly
that he should wait upon her than she upon him. After further
parleyings failed of conclusion, she finally sent a message that
brought on a renewal of the siege. She said that she refused all the
propositions of the Parliamentarians, and was happy that they had
refused hers, and that she would hazard her life before again making
any overtures: "That though a woman and a stranger, divorced from
her friends and robbed of her estate, she was ready to receive their
utmost violence, trusting in God for deliverance and protection."

The siege dragged on wearily for six or seven weeks, at the end of
which time Sir Thomas Fairfax resigned his post to Colonel Rigby. The
castle forces amounted to three hundred soldiers, while the besieging
force numbered between two and three thousand men. In the contest five
hundred of these were killed, while the countess lost but six of her
soldiers, who were killed through their own negligence. The colonel
manufactured a number of grenadoes, and then sent an ultimatum to the
countess, who tore up the paper and returned answer by the messenger
to "that insolent" [Rigby] that he should have neither her person,
goods, nor house; and as to his grenadoes, she would find a more
merciful fire, and, if the providence of God did not order otherwise,
that her house, her goods, her children, and her soldiers would
perish in flames of their own lighting, and so she and her family and
defenders would seal their religion and loyalty. The next morning the
countess caused a sally of her forces to be made, in which they got
possession of the ditch and rampart and a very destructive mortar
which had been used to bombard the besieged. Rigby wrote to his
superiors, begging assistance and saying that the length of the siege
and the hard duties it entailed had wearied all his soldiers, and
that he himself was completely worn out. In the meanwhile, the Earl
of Derby and Prince Rupert made their appearance, and Rigby made a
hurried retreat; in his endeavor to escape the Royalist forces, he
fell into an ambush and received a severe punishment before he reached
the town of Bolton. Such were the deeds of women of spirit upon each
side of the civil conflict; and because of their elements of character
and loyalty to conviction, the women of the better classes of England,
irrespective of their affiliations, mark a high point of progress in
the sex toward the goal of independence and individuality which the
civil strife aided them to secure.

The Society of Friends, or Quakers, was one of the religious
communities of the Commonwealth, whose members suffered grievously on
account of their religion. To the lot of their women fell an abundant
share of persecutions and martyrdoms; they were scourged, and ill
treated in every conceivable way. Their lives, inoffensive and pure,
were a constant rebuke to those of the loose livers about them.
Although Charles II. had promised, on coming to the throne, that
he would befriend them, their miseries were not greatly abated. The
persecution of Quaker women had continued from the middle of the
sixteenth century, when, in the west of England, Barbara Blangdon was
imprisoned for preaching, and other Quakeresses were placed in
the stocks by the Mayor of Evansham, and also treated with other
indignities. Throughout the seventeenth century, cruel persecutions of
women of the Quaker persuasion were often repeated.

With the Friends, the idea of the ministry of the Gospel was broadened
so as to include in its preachers and teachers those who possessed
the necessary gift, without regard to sex. Whatever may be individual
opinion as to woman's prerogative in this respect, there can be no
manner of doubt but that the advance in the status of woman which was
marked by the Society of Friends was a real contribution to the times
and a gift of permanent value to the English women in general. Those
women who claimed the right to preach were as ready to suffer on
behalf of their ministry. They were scourged, and ill treated in
every possible way; Bridewell Prison opened to receive many within its
gloomy interior; but they remained steadfast to the cardinal articles
of their belief, declaring: "As we dare not encourage any ministry but
that which we believe to spring from the influence of the Holy Spirit,
so neither dare we to attempt to restrain this ministry to persons
of any condition in life, or to the male sex alone; but as male and
female are one in Christ, we hold it proper that such of the female
sex as we believe to be imbued with a right qualification of the
ministry should exercise their gifts for the general edification of
the Church."

Having considered the conditions which existed during the period of
the Commonwealth in England, and particularly the rise of the Puritan
spirit and its dominance, as related to the women of the times, it
now remains to bring this period into connection with that of the
Restoration, which offers to it such a strong contrast. It is not
conceivable that, if the Puritan leaven had so thoroughly permeated
the mass of the English people as appeared to be the case upon the
surface of English society, there would have been so sudden and
radical a reaction upon the return of Charles II. from his long
sojourn abroad. That so many who cried "crucify him" should now be
found with "all hail" upon their lips, that women who had assumed
the Puritan twang and pious demeanor should throw off their assumed
character and stand out in their true light under the glare of a
court that was brilliant with revelry, is evidence of the futility of
attempting to force ideals and standards upon a people who have not
been gradually developed to the attainment of the qualities which they
are commanded to assume.

Even those women who could not abide the insufferable weight of
piety which spread over the period frequently found it politic not to
antagonize that which formed the very atmosphere they had to breathe;
but these women were not shameless profligates because they could not
enter into the intense introspection and the outward circumspection of
the Puritan dame. When the return of Charles II. brought to the front
a code of manners which revealed the real morals of the people, many
women who had walked "circumspectly," and were not under suspicion of
playing a part, did not any longer conceal their real proclivities,
but stood forth as women of pleasure. The Countess of Pembroke, Lady
Crawshaw, and Mrs. Hutchinson, all ornaments of their sex during the
Puritan régime, were yet alive at the Restoration, and beheld with
dismay the shameless performances of their countrywomen.

As marking an epoch, Puritanism is to be regarded as having destroyed
the last relics of medievalism. "Under the Stuarts," says Creighton,
"society became essentially modern, and many of the institutions upon
which the comfort of modern life depends had their origin."



"I stood in the Strand and beheld it and blessed God," wrote John
Evelyn in his _Diary_, referring to the magnificent pageantry with
which Charles II., on returning from his exile in France, was received
by the London populace. With this pious ejaculation, the courtly
Royalist welcomed the presence in England of that scion of the house
of Stuart whose reign of profligacy was to mark his period as one of
the most reprehensible in the history of the country. It is little
wonder that Charles was so affected by the great demonstration in his
honor that he marvelled that he should have remained away from the
country so long when the people were languishing for his return. The
manner with which London threw off its garb of Puritanical gray and
manners grave, and donned bright attire and assumed the airs of gayety
and frivolity, showed how insincere and superficial was the religious
seriousness which had been worn as suited to the temper and times of
the austere Protector.

The change was not so sudden but that it had begun to appear during
the weak rule of the second Cromwell--Richard. But the spontaneousness
with which the people welcomed Charles in all the towns through which
he passed on his way, and the abandonment and joyousness which spread
over the land, signalized one of the most important reactions which
have occurred in public sentiment and public morals of any age. Music,
dancing, revelry, and license suddenly wrenched the times from all
their wonted decorum, and in the flood tide of pleasure and frivolity
were borne away many who had long subsisted upon their reputations for
peculiar piety. Not only did the leopard who had changed his spots,
and the Ethiopian his skin, for political purposes when the Civil War
bore the Puritans into power, return to their real markings, but great
numbers of those who had sustained their Puritanical professions with
greater or lesser degrees of sincerity and earnestness caught the
maddening thrill of levity with which the very atmosphere seemed
surcharged, and rapidly passed down the gradations of character into
recklessness and vice.

The Royalists were well prepared for the change from piety to
profligacy, and hailed the advent of the light-hearted monarch as a
veritable release of souls in prison. During the Commonwealth, the
wretchedness of their condition had wrought the widespread depravity
which existed among them. The uncertainty of their fortunes and
the necessity of often meeting together made them _habitués_ of the
taverns, which were the centres for social intercourse; and it may
have been thus that the habit of excessive drinking, so prevalent
in this period, was contracted. Upon the principle that no one gives
serious heed to the doings of a drunkard, abandoned and dissolute
habits were looked upon by the Royalist plotters as a safeguard for
themselves and a security to their plans:

  "Come, fill my cup, until it swim
  With foam that overlooks the brim.
  Who drinks the deepest? Here's to him.
  Sobriety and study breeds
  Suspicion in our acts and deeds;
  The downright drunkard no man heeds."

The very vices, however, which the Royalists acknowledged having been
led to cultivate by their "pride, poverty, and passion" were imitated
by the baser element among the Puritans when the Cavaliers became
triumphant. Those who formerly had boasted that they "would as soon
cut a Cavalier's throat as swear an oath, and esteem it a less sin,"
now assumed the rôle of sinners as complacently as they had previously
played the part of saints.

A period of industrial depression subtracts, in the estimation of
the people, from the merits of a government, however noble may be its
policy; and for twenty years previous to the Restoration the condition
of the masses of the people had steadily been growing worse, so that
there was a widespread longing for more provisions and less piety.
Before the Civil War, the state of the people had reached high-water
mark; so vast had been the increase of England's commerce, owing to
the strife among the neighboring powers, that the revenue from customs
had almost doubled, and the blessings of prosperity were felt among
all classes. Sir Philip Warwick even asks us to believe that there
was scarcely any cobbler in London whose wife did not include a silver
beaker among the furnishings of her modest sideboard. During the
Commonwealth, pauperism increased to an alarming extent, so that at
the time of the coming of Charles ten thousand men and women were
languishing in the debtors' prisons, and thousands of others were
living in continual dread of the sheriff's executions.

The condition of English society at the coming of Charles II. explains
somewhat the tremendous outburst of popular enthusiasm with which that
event was greeted. The people on the village green received him with
morris dances to the music of pipe and tabor, and with other rustic
festivities which for so long a time had been banished as sinful
engagements. At some of the towns through which the triumphal
procession passed, young damsels to the number of hundreds lined
the way and strewed flowers in the path of the king. The women were
especially noticeable for their active participation in all the
popular demonstrations. It was as if they had felt so heavily the
repression of the rigorous theocracy of Cromwell that they were ready
to accept to the fullest the pledge of better times which the return
of Charles gave them, and to pass from fuller liberty into the
wildest license. The king himself, by his own example, lost no time in
establishing the new standards of conduct. Even the reckless spirit of
the Londoners was somewhat surprised when it was bruited abroad that
the king, who was received as a Divine dispensation to a waiting
people, had slunk out of the palace the first night after his return,
under cover of darkness, in the furtherance of one of the unsavory
intrigues which made his life and his court notorious in the annals
of English history. The sensibilities of the English people were not
seriously shocked, however,--we are speaking of the Royalist following
and not of the Puritans,--and in the rebound from the first amazement
at the revelation they received of the kingly character, they were
ready to follow his lead; and so English social life during the reign
of Charles was greatly corrupted. As the key to the times is to be
sought in the tone of the court, the unwelcome task must be fulfilled
in the interests of history, as it relates to woman, of setting forth
the actual conditions which were instituted and prevailed at the court
of Charles II.

The king came to England fresh from the court of Louis XIV., and
tainted by all the vices which made that court infamous. For the first
time, England became widely affected by the gross iniquities which had
for a long while been a familiar fact of the noble circles of French
society. So long as England imported from France only its dress
goods, jewelry, and novelties, the influence exerted upon it by its
continental neighbor touched society in only a superficial way; but
when England's "Merrie Monarch" brought over with him the low standard
of French morals, England paid tribute to France in a more serious way
and modelled its conduct after that of the more frivolous people. The
reign of Charles brings to view as the principal fact of the times the
personality of the monarch himself, not because he was a strong man,
but because he was so thoroughly weak in his character and abandoned
in his conduct. We have nothing to do with political or constitutional
measures, but, in passing judgment upon the state of society, we are
constrained to say that the reign of King Charles marked a distinct
retrogression, and, in its effect upon the status of woman, is notable
for the distinction it bestowed upon the courtesan class. The honoring
of such characters discounted greatly the gain for the higher ideals
of womanhood which had been secured by the Puritans.

The woman whom Charles had signalized by his favor immediately upon
his entrance into London was known simply as Barbara Palmer until,
by the ratio of her decline in morals, she was elevated in honors
and received the titles of Countess of Castlemaine and Duchess of
Cleveland. It needs not the saying that beauty and graces of manner
and of form were her chief recommendations to the royal notice. This
woman, who became notorious throughout England,--and who, upon the
retirement of Clarendon, whose dismissal she had secured, stood upon
the balcony of the palace in her night attire to rain down upon
his head curses and vile epithets,--was the woman who, through her
influence over Charles, occupied a commanding position in England.
Her amours before coming under the royal notice absolve the king from
responsibility for her moral ruin, but the offence of thrusting her
before the English people and the contamination exerted upon society
by her presence and conduct at court are what make up the indictment
of womanhood against him. Although many glimpses are afforded in
the gossipy news of the corrupt court of this courtesan's imperious
domination of Charles, nowhere is the story told more simply than
by Pepys in his _Diary_. He says: "Mr. Pierce, the surgeon, tells me
that, though the king and my Lady Castlemaine are friends again, she
is not at White Hall, but at Sir D. Harvey's, whither the king goes to
her; but she says she made him ask her forgiveness upon his knees,
and promise to offend her no more so, and that indeed she hath nearly
hectored him out of his wits."

Such incidents were not confined to the knowledge of the court
circles, but percolated all classes of society, and not only furnished
the newsmongers with racy scandal, but set in a whirl the light heads
of many foolish women who without such incitement from court example
might have remained models of virtue.

Another of the king's favorites--and indeed one who was, unlike the
disagreeable countess, a favorite as well with the English people, and
whose name has not yet lost its popularity--was Nell Gwynn. Pretty,
witty, and open-hearted, her face an index of the simplicity and
purity of character which the unfortunate circumstances of her birth
and bringing-up denied her, a veritable gem of womankind lost amid the
flotsam and jetsam of a coarse age, she is to be regarded less as
a sinner than as one sinned against, although she herself, perhaps,
seldom paused to reflect upon the moral value of her actions.

  "How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame
  Which, like the canker in a fragrant rose,
  Doth spot the beauty of thy budding name."

It will not do to judge too harshly the character of one whose whole
conduct showed how essentially guileless and gentle, as well as
generous, were her instincts by the rigorous standards which, however
severe, are none too exacting to be held up for women as representing
the only possible assurance of security for the status which they have
attained; but it is in no spirit of apology for her wrong courses that
all who undertake to discuss the life of Nell Gwynn are irresistibly
drawn to a recital of her virtues rather than to a reprobation of her

The poor orange girl, who, according to some authorities, first saw
the light of day in a miserable coalyard garret in Drury Lane, and
whose tutelage was the vulgarity of the London streets, and her
training a barroom where she entertained the patrons by the sweetness
of her voice, courtesan though she became in the court of Charles II.,
yet numbered among her descendants Lord James Beauclerk, Bishop of
Hereford, who died in 1782. Nor was she associated with religion
merely in this remote way, for she herself, as patroness of Chelsea
Hospital, and promoter of many charities and the dispenser of private
benefactions, may reasonably claim consideration. In her own behalf
as a woman instinct with all the virtues saving one only,--the one she
had never had an opportunity to possess. The effect of Nell Gwynn's
presence at court upon the minds of the populace was in some respects
more insidious than that of the professional courtesan Castlemaine,
for, by the pleasing philosophy of her winsome nature, the vices of
the court became transmuted into pure gold in the estimation of the
young women who were affected by her as their ideal.

When the irascible temper of the Duchess of Cleveland became too
intolerable to be borne, the king's excitable fancy was adroitly
directed by the Duke of Buckingham, English envoy to the court of
France, to Mademoiselle de Quéroualle, whom he planned to set up as
a rival to her in the king's affections, and thus to further his own
ambitious ends, which were antagonized by the duchess. Thus to place
in control of the king's volatile sentiments the seductive French
woman, who would represent the duke's interests, seemed a veritable
stroke of masterful politics of a character not unworthy of
Machiavel himself. It was not difficult to persuade Louis that such a
sentimental alliance would cement Charles to the French interests; and
as the project would save her from a French convent, mademoiselle was
not found intractable. A decorous invitation, so worded as to spare
the blush of the lady's modesty, was sent from the English court, and
she was forthwith despatched to the court of Charles to fulfil the
double rôles of courtesan and diplomat, which were so often combined
in the person of astute females. Her appearance at court was hailed by
Dryden, the court poet, in some complimentary stanzas of indifferent
worth. Evelyn recorded in his _Diary_ that he had seen "that famous
beauty, the new French Maid of Honor"; but adds: "In my opinion, she
is of a childish, simple, and baby face." After the birth of a son
to the king, who was created Duke of Richmond and Earl of Marsh in
England, Mademoiselle de Quéroualle was made Duchess of Portsmouth.
At the same time, she was drawing a considerable pension from Louis
in recognition of her services to France. The noble-minded English
gentleman Evelyn records the extravagant tastes of the duchess, whose
control over the king had become unbounded, in these words: "Following
his Majesty this morning through the gallery, I went with the few who
attended him into the Duchess of Portsmouth's dressing-room, within
her bed-chamber, where she was in her loose morning garment, her
maids combing her, newly out of her bed, his Majesty and the gallants
standing about her; but that which engaged my curiosity was the rich
and splendid furniture of this woman's apartment, now twice or thrice
pulled down and rebuilt to satisfy her prodigality and expensive
pleasures, while her Majesty's does not exceed some gentlemen's wives'
in furniture and accommodations. Here I saw the new fabric of French
tapestry, for design, tenderness of work, and incomparable imitation
of the best paintings, beyond anything I had ever beheld. Some pieces
had Versailles, St. Germaines, and other places of the French king,
with huntings, figures, and landscapes, exotic fowls, and all to the
life rarely done. Then the Japan cabinets, screens, pendule clocks,
great vases of wrought plate, tables, stands, chimney furniture,
sconces, branches, brasures, and all of massive silver, and out of
number; besides of his Majesty's best paintings. Surfeiting of this,
I dined at Sir Stephen Fox's, and went contented home to my poor but
quiet villa. What contentment can there be in the riches and splendour
of this world, purchased with vice and dishonour!"

"There was, in truth, little of contentment within those sumptuous
walls;" a weak queen helpless under the indignities imposed upon her,
a duchess burning with passionate resentment, and light-hearted Nell
Gwynn laughing with amusement; a group of courtiers and courtesans
with little sense of honor, tossed about by conflicting emotions of
fear and jealousy, perplexity and heartaches; involved in disgraceful
intrigues and malicious conspiracies; attended by all the demons which
wait upon the mind that has sold itself to sordidness and sin;
mocked at by a troupe of perfidious spirits of pride, avarice, and
ambition--such was the company within the palace walls that opened to
receive the woman who was to be, if possible, the most despicable of
them all, and certainly the most detested.

In pleasing contrast to the fashionable and often brilliant debauchees
of the court of Charles II. may be placed the Countess de Grammont, to
whom the description of the poet Fletcher applies:

  "A woman of that rare behaviour,
  So qualified, that admiration
  Dwells round about her; of that perfect spirit,
  That admirable carriage,
  That sweetness in discourse--young as the morning,
  Her blushes staining his."

She moved in the profligate sphere of the English court, and later
in that of France, without for a moment having the brilliancy of her
intellect, the acuteness of her wit, or the whiteness of her character
tarnished by vulgarity of action or of word. Importuned by lovers of
high degree for alliances that were not regarded as compromising in
that gay atmosphere, and, when it was found futile to seek to entice
her into an equivocal position, as ardently sought by the beaux for
the honorable relation of wife, she held them all at arm's length.
Strong and resolute, she, like a brilliant moth, circled about the
passionate flame of the English court without singeing her wings,
neither did she seek, by an adventitious flame of responsive passion,
to draw on to haplessness any of the courtiers who sought her with
ardent protestations of affection. Though light-hearted and vivacious,
she had none of the arts of a coquette; but when the persistence of
the Comte de Grammont convinced her, in spite of the scepticism which
her surroundings created, and of his known character of frivolity,
that in him she might find a faithful and devoted husband, she allowed
her heart to hold sway of her destiny and yielded herself in marriage
to him. It had been better for her, however, if she had remained a
maid of honor than to have become, by marriage to an unprincipled man,
a wife of dishonor. The exceptional worth of character, the brilliancy
of intellect, and the steadiness of purpose which La Belle Hamilton
exhibited, did not, in the eyes of the voluptuous count, constitute
a charm sufficient to wean him from his evil courses to a life of
consistency and of uprightness. Her husband lived to an advanced age,
yet she survived him a brief while. Her brother has left us a word
picture of her at about the time of her introduction to the court of
Charles II., which, in connection with her portrait by Sir Peter Lely,
leaves no doubt of her matchless charms. He says: "Her forehead was
open, white, and smooth; her hair was well set, and fell with ease
into that natural order which it is so difficult to imitate. Her
complexion was possessed of a certain freshness not to be equalled by
borrowed colours; her eyes were not large, but they were lovely, and
capable of expressing whatever she pleased; her mouth was full of
graces, and her contour uncommonly perfect; nor was her nose, which
was small, delicate, and turned-up, the least ornament of so lovely a
face. She had the finest shape, the loveliest neck, and most beautiful
arms in the world; she was majestic and graceful in all her movements;
and she was the original after which all the ladies copied in their
tastes and air of dress."

In reading the memoirs of the court of Charles II., one is apt to
overlook the fact that at the period there was a queen in England.
There was a time when the consort of the king was not so styled; her
position was a personal one, as related to her husband, but she did
not share the honors of the throne. How strangely reversed since the
later Anglo-Saxon period, as contrasted with the reign of Charles II.,
had become the relation of the wife of the monarch! for in these last
times the full recognition was tendered Catherine of Braganza to
which her position as consort of Charles gave her title--there was no
question as to there being a queen in England in the full meaning of
the term. But her personal relation to the king as her husband was
an equivocal one; perhaps once in a month he might honor her with
his presence at supper, and occasionally absent himself from the
enticements of his mistresses. It was so from the very first; for,
before Catherine had landed in England, the intrigue of Charles II.
with the notorious Castlemaine was a matter of common knowledge. The
graceless king had the effrontery to include Lady Castlemaine in the
list of appointees for the queen's following. The indignant bride
had not yet learned the futility of seeking to assert her rightful
position, and, haughtily declaring that she would return to her own
country rather than submit to such an indignity, drew her pen across
the name and swept Lady Castlemaine from proximity to her person. In
so doing she incurred the deeper enmity of the female fury who ruled
Charles with an iron will and was for long years to be the queen's
evil genius. The queen was not brilliant, but she was in every sense
a woman; and when on a particular occasion, similar to a present-day
drawing room, Lady Castlemaine was introduced by the king, the queen,
who did not know her and imperfectly caught the name, received her
with grace and benignity; but realizing in a moment who it was, she
became transformed, her urbanity disappeared, and, fully alive to the
insult which had been publicly offered her, she was swept with a wave
of passion: "She started from her chair, turned as pale as ashes,
then red with shame and anger, the blood gushed from her nose, and she
swooned in the arms of her women." Lord Clarendon, who was a witness
of the contest between the wife and mistress and sought to prevent the
king from becoming controlled by the latter, finally absented himself
from court; thereupon the king wrote him a letter in which, after
declaring his purpose of making Lady Castlemaine a lady of his
wife's bedchamber, he added: "And whosoever I find to be my Lady
Castlemaine's enemy, I do promise upon my word to be his enemy as
long as I live." The king's missive had its effect; and Lord Clarendon
undertook to persuade the queen to bear the indignity, although he
had replied to the king that it was "more than flesh and blood could
comply with," and reminded him of the difference between the French
and English courts: "That in the former, such connections were not
new and scandalous, whereas in England they were so unheard of, and
so odious, that the mistress of the king was infamous to all women of

The king himself succeeded better in reconciling the queen to the
shameful situation than did his minister, for, after several scenes
between them, he treated her with studied coldness and indifference,
and in her presence assumed an air of exceptional gayety toward all
other women. The unhappy queen finally acquiesced in a situation which
she could not improve, and suffered much greater indignities than
those which she had futilely resented. There is little more of
interest to add with regard to this woman, whose position placed
her first at court, but who really was regarded by the king and his
courtiers as the most insignificant of its personages. She never quite
gave up the hope that she might win at least a share of the affection
which her husband bestowed upon others, and to that end she eventually
laid aside her retiring ways, dressed décolleté, and gave magnificent
balls, to which she invited the fairest women of the nobility, thus
seeking, by humoring the fancy of her husband, to gain his love.

The maids of honor at the court of Charles, who were for the most part
mistresses of the king and of the courtiers, and the male sycophants,
whose only pursuit in life was intrigue, made a choice group of
profligate spirits, who, without any restraint, but with every
encouragement from their royal master, assiduously furthered the chief
interest of their existence.

There are not wanting those who utterly disparage the morals of
the Commonwealth, and affirm that both Cromwell and his followers
generally were guilty of as base conduct as King Charles and his
courtiers, and that the only difference was that which exists between
covert and open practices of an evil nature. The fact remains,
however, that even down to the present day the English people, and the
American as well, are inheritors of the spirit of the Puritans, to the
great good of society. It was the Puritans who taught reverence for
the Sabbath and made the Bible a common textbook of life; and although
they were strict and narrow in their views, earnestness always is
straitened in its bounds until it bursts them and floods society with
the power of the principles it advocates.

The apologists for King Charles, who hold to the ancient formula of
the faith of the Fathers and of the Puritans,--that woman from the
days of Eden unto the present time has stood for the downfall of
man,--seek to enlist sympathy for him by saying that in his various
peccadilloes the women seemed to be the aggressors. This plea, which
was advanced by his friendly contemporaries, who sought to whitewash
the outside of the sepulchre of the king's character while leaving
undisturbed the inward corruption, is still gravely repeated by
partisan historians to-day. Sir John Reresby said: "I have since heard
the King say they would sometimes offer themselves to his embrace." It
is unfortunate that the integrity of the chivalrous king should have
suffered such assaults; but as no other English monarch seems to have
been so desperately set upon to his destruction by the women of his
times, it may not be too great a piece of temerity to put in a plea
for the women of the reign of the glorious Charles II. by suggesting
the bare possibility that all the moral probity was not possessed
alone by him who reigned King of England!

We can much better accept the description of society given by
Clarendon. It is not, however, to be taken as an index to the innate
perversity of woman in wicked ways, but as indicating the natural
effect of the lowering of the esteem in which the sex was held by the
evil living of men in the higher circles of society. Yet not all the
indictments which are brought forward by Clarendon would be considered
to-day as of a serious nature. He comments: "The young women conversed
without any circumspection of modesty, and frequently met at taverns
and common eating-houses; they who were stricter and more severe in
their comportment became the wives of the seditious preachers or of
officers of the army. The daughters of noble and illustrious families
bestowed themselves upon the divines of the time, or other low
and unequal matches. Parents had no manner of authority over their
children, nor children any obedience or submission to their parents,
but every one did that which was good in his own eyes."

That the change in the feminine character was not simply due to the
unsettled state of society from the Civil War, which undoubtedly did
affect the standard of the times, but was attributable more largely
to the imported French manners with which Charles made the nation
familiar, is beyond doubt. Peter Heylin, who had travelled in France
and published an account of his observations, and who was led to pass
severe strictures upon the conduct of the French women, modified his
gratulatory expressions with regard to English women as follows: "Our
English women, at that time, were of a more retired behaviour than
they have been since, which made the confident carriage of the French
damsels seem more strange to me; whereas of late the garb of our women
is so altered, and they have in them so much of the mode of France,
as easily might take off those misapprehensions with which I was
possessed at my first coming thither."

It was not until after the death of the king, which occurred on
February 6, 1685, that the nation recovered from the spell of
debauchery through which it had passed, and assumed its wonted
sobriety. Seven days prior, Evelyn wrote in his _Diary_: "I saw this
evening such a scene of profuse gaming, and the king in the midst of
his three concubines, as I had never before seen, luxurious dallying
and profaneness." After the death of Charles and the proclamation
of James II., he reverted again to that scene and said: "I can never
forget the inexpressible luxury and profaneness, gaming and all
dissoluteness, and, as it were, total forgetfulness of God (it being
Sunday evening) which this day se'nnight I was witness to, the
king sitting and toying with his concubines--Portsmouth, Cleveland,
Mazarine, etc.--a French boy singing love songs in that glorious
gallery, whilst about twenty of the great courtiers and other
dissolute persons were at basset round a large table, a bank of at
least 2000 pounds in gold before them, upon which two gentlemen who
were with me made reflexions with astonishment. Six days after was all
in the dust!"

Although the monarch who made England merry with all sorts of
frivolities had passed away, the influences of his life did not
quickly cease. One of the social changes which came about in his reign
was destined to become very widely extended and to have an important
bearing upon the structure of English society. This was the
introduction of women upon the stage. In discussing the amusements of
the English people in the several periods, we have as yet said nothing
with regard to the theatre, because it did not relate to woman in
an especial manner. The old mediæval mystery and morality plays were
given under the auspices of the Church, and formed a part of the
religious instruction of a people who neither knew how nor had the
facilities to read. With the rise of the modern drama and of such
masterly interpreters of human passion as the dramatists of the
Elizabethan era, the stage was secularized and the range of subjects
and appeal was very much widened.

In 1660, for the first time, women were engaged to perform female
characters. Before that time, they had been prohibited from appearing
on the stage; largely because the female parts were usually--and
especially in the beginning of the popularity of the theatre--so
vulgar and obscene that it not only would have been highly disgraceful
for a woman to appear in such characters, but the vulgarity was too
great even for the countenance of females in the audience without
resorting to the expedient of wearing masks. This practice led to
shameful intrigues and discreditable escapades which added to
living the zest which was craved by the women of the court who, thus
disguised, were _habituées_ of the theatre. If it was thought that
by allowing women to take female parts in the plays the tone of such
characters might be improved, the ordinances which permitted the
practice certainly failed of effect. D'Israeli, taking the æsthetic
view of this innovation of the time of Charles II., says: "To us
there appears something so repulsive in the exhibition of boys or men
personating female characters, that one cannot conceive how they could
ever have been tolerated as a substitute for the spontaneous grace,
the melting voice, and the soothing looks of a female."

The absurdity which he suggests was aptly expressed by a poet of
the reign of Charles II., in a prologue which was written as an
introduction to the play in which appeared the first actress:

  "Our women are defective, and so sized,
  You'd think they were some of the guard disguised
  For to speak truth, men act, that are between
  Forty and fifty, wenches of fifteen;
  With brows so large and nerve so uncompliant,
  When you call Desdemona--enter giant."

Nell Gwynn is said first to have attracted the attention of King
Charles when she appeared in a humorous part at the theatre; she
was one of the earliest actresses to appear _in propria persona_. As
ungraceful as were the female parts when taken by men, the innovation
of women was not received kindly by many critics of the stage.
Thus Pepys, in his _Diary_, is found lamenting the new custom: "The
introduction of females on the stage was the beginning of a change
ever to be regretted. Pride of birth, but not insolence, is, to a
certain extent, highly commendable, and which had hitherto been the
chief characteristic of the old English aristocracy, who had kept
themselves till now almost universally free from stained alliances;
but from this time they became the patrons, and even the husbands, of
any lewd, babbling, painted, pawed-over thing that the purlieus of the
theatre could produce."

Evelyn comments upon the theatre to the same effect, and remarks that
he very seldom attended it, because of its godless liberty: "Foul and
indecent women now (and never till now) permitted to appear and act,
who, inflaming several young noblemen and gallants, become their
misses, and to some their wives." He then instances several of the
nobility whom he says fell into such snares, to the reproach of their
families and the ruin of themselves in both body and soul. He laments
the fact that the splendid products of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson were
crowded off the stage to make room for the pasteboard and tinsel of
John Dryden and Thomas Shadwell. At the time that Evelyn and Pepys
were recording their comments upon the tone of the stage, thousands
were living who well remembered the vehement denunciation of plays by
the sturdy old Puritan William Prynne, who was rewarded for his ardent
crusades against the iniquities of the theatre by the snipping off
of his ears. The condemnation of the theatre was not confined to any
party or church, for Bishop Burnet is found vigorously denouncing
theatres, under the new conditions inaugurated by Charles II., as
"nests of prostitution."

The depravity of the taste of the patrons of the theatres had its
influence upon the writers of the plays. Men whose personal lives
were unexceptionable did not scruple, when writing pieces intended for
representation upon the stage, to introduce as much indecency as they
possibly could, knowing full well that unless their works were highly
seasoned they would never get a hearing. The manners and tastes of the
court of Charles II. established the standard of the theatres
during his reign; the depravity of public sentiment and the general
corruption of the times were greatly increased by these mirrors of the
manners and life of the court. So utterly foul became the repute of
the stage, that, to quote from Sydney's _Social Life in England_,
"Every person who had the slightest regard for sobriety and morality
avoided a playhouse as he would have avoided a house on the door of
which the red cross bore witness to the awful fact that the inmates
had been smitten by the pestilence which walketh in darkness and by
the sickness that destroyeth in noon-day. The indecorous character of
the stage inflicted much less injury than it would have done had
it been covered with a thin veil of sentiment. Those dramatic
representations, at which women desirous of maintaining some
reputation for modesty deemed it incumbent upon them to wear masks,
were, as may be supposed, studiously avoided by those who really were
virtuous." The influence of the metropolis did not extend over the
kingdom as it does to-day, so that outside of the tainted circles
there were to be found social spheres where the old gentility of the
Elizabethan age was maintained, although subjected to such sneers
as were directed against them by Dryden, who looked upon them as
unfortunate enough to have been bred in an unpolished age, and still
more unlucky to live in a refined one. "They have lasted beyond their
own, and are cast behind ours."

Artificiality without any pretence to sincerity was the spirit of the
times of Charles II.; the maundering sentiments and flagitious bearing
of the actors upon the stage were not different from the conduct of
the buffoons who masqueraded in titles and elegant attire at the
court of the king of revels. Foppery in speech and in dress and the
interlarding of conversation with French phrases found favor among
the court followers. It was regarded "as ill breeding to speak good
English, as to write good English, good sense, or a good hand."

Women as artists appeared earlier than women as players. For several
centuries they had been accustomed, as a polite accomplishment, to
illuminate manuscripts, and indeed this for a long time was the
only form of art worthy of the name in England. There had developed,
however, considerable taste and skill in wood carving, as well as
further advancement of the ancient art of the goldsmith, which, as we
have seen, was developed enough in Anglo-Saxon times to constitute an
English school. But art in its more particular meaning was not found
domestic to England until the reign of Charles I. It was the influence
of the great school of Dutch artists that awakened in England art
instinct and created artistic talent. England's art history may be
dated from the time of Van Dyke's residence in the country, at least
in so far as it embraces women. When Van Dyke was at the English
court, Anne Carlisle shared with him the royal patronage. The king's
fine taste in art matters had unerringly led him to fix his favor upon
this woman, and her works show the undoubted genius she possessed.

The Puritan embroilment, which was destructive to all forms of
intellectual advancement as long as it kept the nation in an unsettled
state, had a repressive effect upon art; but from the time of the
Restoration the stream flowed on with increasing depth and volume, and
the list of England's woman painters not only became creditable to the
country, but afforded another criterion by which to prove the
lofty possibilities of the sex. Mary Beale, a painter in oil and in
water-colors, who received high commendation from the famous portrait
painter Sir Peter Lely, was a painstaking and industrious artist. Anne
Killigrew, who was maid of honor to the Duchess of York, in the brief
span of her life acquired a permanent reputation, not only by her
portraits, which included those of the Duke and Duchess of York,
but by her verses as well. These and other women of talent were the
precursors of the women who did so much for the art history of the
eighteenth century.

In considering the place of woman in literature during the period of
which we are writing, it is well to keep in mind the words of Lady
Mary Wortley Montague: "We are permitted no books but such as tend to
the weakening and effeminating of our minds. We are taught to place
all our art in adorning our persons, while our minds are entirely
neglected." This opinion of woman has not yet become obsolete, so that
it is too much to expect to find, in the seventeenth century, women of
the highest literary attainments, and certainly one need not look for
women among the creators of literary style and founders of English
literature. A literary woman is to some masculine minds a matter of
everlasting scorn. Such minds will not be offended in the perusal of
the literature of the seventeenth century by finding women wielding
the pen for the instruction or the edification of elect circles
of superior intellects or to please the vulgar taste of the common
people. Excepting as writers of occasional verse or of memoirs, the
names of few female authors appear in the literary annals of the

Amusement and not intellect was the contribution which women were
supposed to make to the times of Charles II., and, excepting in
matters reprehensible, there was often a degree of simplicity about
the amusements indulged in that makes one wonder if such ingenuous
entertainment does not bespeak less design and craftiness in the
natures of those women than is usual to associate with plotters and
intriguers. Lady Steuart, one of the most noted court beauties,
found her chief diversion in sitting upon the floor, with subservient
courtiers about her, building card houses. Lord Sunderland treated his
visitors to an exhibition of fire eating by the renowned Richardson,
who awakened the wonder of his beholders by his feats of devouring
brimstone on glowing coals, eating melted beer glasses, and roasting a
raw oyster upon a live coal held upon his tongue. Such mountebanks
and jugglers were the successors of similar characters who wandered
through the country from castle to castle during the Middle Ages, or
became attached to some great lord's following. Other forms of indoor
amusements, which would hardly comport with the gravity of the same
high circles of society in the nation in these latter times, may be
stated. Pepys speaks of one day going to the court, where he found the
Duke and Duchess of York, with all the great ladies, sitting upon a
carpet on the ground, playing: "I love my love with an A, because he
is so-and-so; and I hate him with an A, because of this and that;" and
he observed that some of the ladies were mighty witty, and all of
them very merry. Blindman's-buff was a favorite game among even older
people; and Burnett says that at one time the king, queen, and whole
court "went about masked, and came into houses unknown, and danced
there with a great deal of wild frolic. In all this they were so
disguised that, without being in the secret, none could distinguish
them. They were carried about in sedan chairs, and once the queen's
chairman, not knowing who she was, went from her; so she was alone and
much disturbed, and came to Whitehall in a hackney coach (some say it
was in a cart)."

Scarcely a week passed by but that Whitehall was brilliantly
illuminated for a ball, at which the king, queen, and courtiers danced
the "bransle," which was a sort of country dance, the "corant," swift
and lively as a jig, and in which only two persons took part, and
other French figures. Billiards and chess were played a great deal,
and gambling was a ruling passion of the day. All the great women at
court had their card tables, around which thronged the courtiers,
who won and lost enormous sums. The passions which were aroused by
gambling often led to violent quarrels, and frequently these were
settled by duels, although duelling had been prohibited by the king at
the time of the Restoration.

Many fantastic changes had taken place in women's attire during the
reign of Charles. During the Commonwealth, Puritan sentiment, and
proscription as well, had reduced the dress of all classes to a
remarkable uniformity. The costume most common to women consisted of a
gown with a lace stomacher and starched kerchief, a sad-colored cloak
with a French hood, and a high-crowned hat. The Geneva cloak was no
fit covering for the courtesan, and was instantly thrown aside that
the butterfly which had hidden in this demure chrysalis might emerge
fluttering in all its gay and brilliant colors. Loose and flowing
draperies of silk and satin took the place of woollen and cotton
gowns; the stiff ruff which in the reign of Elizabeth had been
facetiously styled "three steps to the gallows," because the
fashionables of her day would go to any length to possess it in the
most extravagant size and value, had, under the Commonwealth, become
much more circumspect as to its appearance and circumference, and was
esteemed entirely too respectable to comport well with the freedom of
the reign of Charles. Then, too, the artistic taste of the day, which
ran to portrait painting, had enhanced the estimate of ladies with
regard to the matter of their personal charms. So it was regarded not
only as artistic, but æsthetic, in a wider sense, to run to realism.
The word "run" is used advisedly, for there was a veritable scramble
to get rid of the formal and, it must be conceded, ridiculous ruff.
But when the latter disappeared from the neck and shoulders, there was
nothing adapted to fulfil its functions, so that, through a lamentable
omission on the part of the English women or their too hasty adoption
of French fashions, the shoulders and bosoms of the ladies were given
little consideration by the designers or the makers of their gowns.

But the head was not treated so indifferently as the shoulders, for,
when the plain top hat of the Puritan was abandoned, the milliner
already had something at hand to compensate the ladies for their loss.
Feathers of rare plumage and rich color were employed in the widest
profusion. The hoods, too, underwent the general metamorphosis, and
emerged from their penitential gray into "yellow bird's eye," and
other tints as indescribable. The new styles exposed their votaries to
wide criticism. Many pamphlets appeared whose straightforward titles
showed in what an undisguised manner the subject was to be found
treated within them. The general complaint was that immodest dress
was not confined to balls and chambers of entertainment, but that
women brazenly appeared in similar costume at church, braving all
criticism to satisfy their morbid desire for observation. The mode of
hair-dressing of the period ran largely to ringlets, which, as they
appear in the portraits of the great ladies of the day, seem at the
present time stiff and unartistic. The art of using cosmetics, which
had lapsed during the Puritan period, was actively revived, and it
was not only the stage beauties, but the court women as well, who used
paint in such profusion as almost to disguise their identity.

It can easily be seen that a woman of the period must have been a
gorgeous spectacle in full dress, with painted face adorned with
black patches cut in designs of hearts, Cupids, and occasionally even
coaches and four, and with her hair dressed in the prevailing mode,
which was to have "false locks set on wyres to make them stand at a
distance from the head, as fardingales made the clothes stand out in
Queen Elizabeth's reign." A woman thus attired, leaning upon the arm
of a gallant with head adorned by the periwig worn by the men of the
day, was ready for any fashionable function. As hospitality on a large
and generous scale was a circumstance of the times, it might be that
she would pass into the hall, with its massive, carved furniture,
magnificent tapestries, sumptuous furnishings, glittering crystal,
elegant plate, and beautiful wall paintings, to assume her position of
mistress of a household and do the honors at a table generous with
its viands and ample in all the varied range of English and French
cookery. In doing so, she would be governed by the etiquette in
whose precepts she had been schooled, and of which the following is a
sample: "_Instruction to British Ladies When at Table_--A gentlewoman,
being at table, abroad or at home, must observe to keep her body
straight, and lean not by any means on her elbows, nor by ravenous
gesture disclose a voracious appetite. Talke not when you have meate
in your mouthe, and do not smacke like a pig, nor eat spoone-meate so
hot that the tears stand in your eyes. It is very uncourtly to drink
so large a draughte that your breath is almost gone, and you are
forced to blow strongly to recover yourself; throwing down your
liquor as into a funnel, is an action fitter for a juggler than a
gentlewoman. In carving at your table, distribute the best pieces
first; it will appear very decent and comely to use a forke; so touch
no piece of meate without it."

The table furnished an opportunity for many pleasant passages of
repartee, which, however, were apt to be broader in their point and
more undisguised in their language than would be tolerated in any
society of to-day pretending to the least gentility. Here, too, was
engendered frequently the tender sentiment which gave rise to proper
attentions to ladies or to gallantry, according to the character
of the courtier and his lady-love. When gallantry palled upon
the satiated spirits of the courtiers, to preserve their unsavory
reputations they had nothing more difficult to do than to stuff their
pockets with billets-doux, which they paraded in view of their fellows
as evidence of their successful intrigues. When love took a more
creditable form, and the lover in formal and open fashion went to
pay his addresses to his lady-love, he sallied forth in the evening,
accompanied by a band of fiddlers, and serenaded her with some choice
verses. After the suitor was accepted and the marriage arranged for,
little of sentiment entered into it. There was no attempt to hide
the mercenary motives, which were frankly displayed. Indeed, women's
marriage portions were regarded by the seventeenth-century writers as
the cause of much wedded misery and sin. It was argued that if these
marriage portions were dispensed with, marriage would be more likely
to be contracted upon the enduring basis of compatibility and love;
but among the nobility, monetary considerations and questions of
rank were usually regarded as sufficient motives for marriage, unless
passion swept aside caution and led to a _mésalliance_. Gallants who
serenaded with dishonorable motives were generally treated roughly. A
life spent between a town residence and a country house, with frequent
attendance at court, comprised the ambitions of the young nobility.
Marriage was frequently regarded simply as an incident which did not
materially alter the attitude of either of the contracting parties to
the rest of the court personnel.

The manners of the times of Charles II. were not the manners of
England sober, but of England intoxicated with the new wine of French
frivolity; and with the passing away of the king who had led them to
worship false gods, the English people gradually returned to their
habitual steadiness. Yet, the dalliance with frivolity had effects to
be seen throughout the greater part of the eighteenth century, in the
superficiality of the era in regard to woman, and, finally, in a stiff
and artificial scheme of convention.



The artificiality of eighteenth-century society was a precursor of the
practicality of that of the nineteenth. The influences which had given
shape to the society of the time of the Stuarts had passed away, and
the new influences and forces were in operation. The result of the
contest between the Puritan and the sensualist had been a broadened
social apprehension; and into this new concept entered harmoniously
the catholicity of the worldly spirit and the conservatism of the
religious spirit. This was the society which was productive of
women of eminence in the arts and literature, as well as of women
untalented, but blessed with a broader scope of life, more varied
experience and controlled natures, than those who had gone before

Society as a whole indirectly profited by the English dalliance
with French manners. Corruption was but a circumstance of the closer
relationship, in social ways, of England with the continent. Political
animosities and ambitions had more largely than anything else brought
England and the rest of Europe into contact, nor was the contact by
clashing at an end. A nation generally is not greatly concerned in
the projects of princes, so that, while territorial aggrandizement or
curtailment or similar benefits or injuries resulted from the wars
of England, the salient fact as a social consideration is that the
English people were still further broadened from the provincialism
which the insularity of their country induced. At the beginning of
the eighteenth century, the women of England had escaped the local and
narrow spirit and separateness of customs which threatened them from
England's beginning, and from which they were saved by recurrent and
ever more frequent contact with continental nations.

English society, however, had not become so imbued with the
cosmopolitan spirit as to feel at ease in it as in a loose garment;
the people were straitened and formal. They were lacking the
versatility and adaptability which developed in the nineteenth
century, when, amongst women, convention became settled custom, and
custom the careful promulgator of social laws. There were present all
the evidences of the finer sensibilities which give clear notions in
matters intellectual, and society in the last half of the eighteenth
century became thoroughly aroused to a social consciousness with
regard to the middle and lower classes. The industrial revolution and
the rise of the school of classic economists brought forward great
discussions which had for their purpose the determination of the
fundamental basis of a nation's prosperity. Into this discussion women
entered as participants, but very much more largely as interested
subjects of the matters involved.

The growth of England's industries, more than any other single thing,
contributed to the well-being of the masses of English society, while
at the same time it tended to make sharper distinctions among them.
The increase of ease and comfort in living affected largely the
character of domestic life; and the wider scope of industry and
sterner demands for labor, which were the outcome of a desire to
participate largely in the benefits of the new industries, gave
opportunity to individual talent and application; while the unfrugal
and shiftless, or the unfortunate, experienced in proportionately
greater degree the severity of living. To mining, fishing, farming,
sheep rearing, fruit cultivation, weaving, seafaring,--the industries
of England other than manufactures,--were added during the seventeenth
century glass manufacture, cotton manufacture, and other industries
which were the foundation of England's material greatness. This
list was greatly augmented during the eighteenth century, and the
development of manufactures of all sorts created the factory towns,
which drew to them, as into a vortex, the populations of the rural
districts, and created many problems of modern society in which female
and child labor are involved.

Among the women in everyday life, social habits were easy and
existence had many elements of contentment. Gossip--which had become
differentiated from scandal, because of a wider variety of subjects to
chatter about than flagitious conduct, occupied a large proportion of
the time of the women. The public gardens and the promenades of the
cities, notably the capital, were as much resorted to as during the
reign of Charles, and there was as keen an interest in the display
of styles and the parade of wealth by the women who rode in their
carriages or were carried in their sedan chairs as formerly there had
been in the conduct of the gilded set of the Restoration.

Society as such had not as yet reached the coherence which it knows
to-day. It was much a matter of classes or sections. The "democracy of
aristocracy," which makes a cross-section of all the social grades and
includes the wealthy, the noble born, the intellectual and the gifted
of all ranks of society, was a later development. It is true that
women of gifts did not have to rely upon patrons for their reputation,
but had direct access to the public and were sustained by their own
worth; nevertheless, the pride of birth was still strong enough to
make those who possessed it hold themselves far above even the most
gifted and talented of the sex who were not born within the narrow
circle of noble society. Yet it was no longer simply the person
garnished with titles of nobility who attracted the popular eye and
was singled out in the crowd; for when women whose only claim to
notice was their saintliness of character and Christian service, or
their philanthropy, or their literary gifts, or their art attainments,
were seen in the places of general resort, they attracted as much
attention as did women of rank.

The prosperous and well-domiciled woman of the middle classes could
rest in the comfortable feeling that the demarcations of society no
longer absolutely precluded the possibility of her daughters' entering
the ranks of those famous for their signal worth of one sort or
another; but as yet the great movements of modern society had not come
into close touch with the lives of ordinary women. Newspapers were
published, but women seldom read them. Philanthropy was making
headway, but women had little part in its movement, nor had they fully
entered as yet into their birthright in the realm of literature.
In the rural districts, their life was so contracted that a weekly
newsletter, passed from hand to hand, was the chief medium of
information as to the outside world; but even this was not usually
read by the womenfolk, who were content to receive their news by
hearsay. Unlike the women of the aristocracy, the women of the middle
classes did not become beneficiaries to any large degree in the wider
connections of their husbands, because such connections were for the
most part of a business nature and not social. They were women
of mediocrity, and their rôle was domestic. It was still thought
unimportant to widen woman's horizon beyond the elements of an
education. To these, in the case of the more prosperous, were added
those accomplishments which are still looked upon by ignorant persons
with disdain, but which serve to bridge the chasms of society by
establishing tests of good breeding irrespective of social birth;
so that to reading, writing, geography, and history there were added
music, French, and Italian. Such a curriculum, faithfully followed,
prepared young women to move in polite circles.

The old cry of women's incapacity for intellectual attainments of
the same order as those of men is audible throughout the eighteenth
century. One writer, after speaking of the regard in which the sex
were held in England, discusses the matter of their education and
concludes that it is not easy to comprehend the possibility of raising
them to a higher plane than that to which they had been lifted,
because of their natural incapacity for other than the domestic and
social functions which they so gracefully fulfilled. To English people
generally, it was a matter of pride that their women received greater
respect and were held in greater affection than those of continental
countries. This was often remarked upon by foreign visitors, one of
whom observes that "among the common people the husbands seldom make
their wives work. As to the women of quality, they don't trouble
themselves about it." The position of the wife in middle-class society
has been set before us by Fielding in a satire that has in it much
of truth: "The Squire, to whom that poor woman had been a faithful
upper-servant all the time of their marriage, had returned that
behavior by making what the world calls a good husband. He very seldom
swore at her, perhaps not above once a week, and never beat her. She
had not the least occasion for jealousy, and was perfect mistress
of her time, for she was never interrupted by her husband, who was
engaged all the morning in his field exercises, and all the evening
with his bottle companions." Certainly home had come to have attached
to it a notion of greater sanctity than ever before, and women were
accorded their natural rights and position, with the respect and
deference in the tenderer relations of life, which signified much more
than the profuse chivalry of the Middle Ages or the mock courtesy of
the time of Charles II.

The English people were above all domestic; and the period, in its
emphasis upon this phase of social life,--the English home,--marks in
a way the beginning of that conception which is now regarded as being
at the very foundation of a secure society. While France was going on
in its iconoclastic way, destroying all things sacred in a mad desire
to seize for the Third Estate the rights which they realized belonged
to them, and the grasping of which was to cause French history to be
written in the blood and fire of the great Revolution, the English,
having passed out of the social depravity of the reign of Charles II.,
became eminently steady and conservative of those elements of social
progress which, in their case, unlike that of their French neighbors,
had already been secured for them by progressive and largely peaceful

It is interesting to note that the term "old maid" had now entered
into the popular vernacular, although "spinster," with its transferred
meaning, was the more respectful way of speaking of unmarried women.
"An old maid is now thought such a curse," says the author of the
_Ladies' Calling_, "as no Poetick Fury can exceed; looked on as the
most calamitous creature in nature. And I so far yield to the opinion
as to confess it to those who are kept in that state against their
wills; but sure the original of that misery is from the desire, not
the restraint, of marriage; let them but suppress that once, and the
other will never be their infelicity. But I must not be so unkind
to the sex as to think 'tis always such desire that gives them an
aversion to celibacy; I doubt not many are frightened only with the
vulgar contempt under which that state lyes: for which if there be no
cure, yet there is the same armous against this which is against all
other causeless reproaches, viz., to contemn it."

The esteem in which matrimony was held as the manifest destiny of the
fair sex is illustrated by all the social manners of the day. Women
had, however, the good taste to conduct themselves without reproach,
and not to invite attention even while they most appreciated it. In
a word, the young women of the eighteenth century were not coquettes,
and with them modesty was not a lost art. They were not masculine,
and indeed might have been regarded from the standards of to-day as
prudes. But the prudery of the British women excited the admiration of
foreigners, thoroughly satiated with the arts, the flaunting manners,
and the gilded charms of the young women of the European capitals.

One foreigner is found recording his astonishment at the diversity in
the manner of walking of the ladies, and sees in it an index of their
characters; for, says he, when they are desirous only of being seen,
they walk together, for the most part without speaking. He suggests
that the stiffness and formality of their demeanor when not thus on
dress parade are laid aside for greater naturalness. But he says that,
with all their care to be seen, they have no ridiculous affectations.
In former times, it was not customary for young women to go about
without the attendance of some older person, and a girl so doing was
brought under suspicion as to her character; but in the eighteenth
century, young girls went about freely with their fellows and without
any other company, and a writer of the period assures us that if a
young girl went out with a parent, unless such parent were as wild as
herself, she felt as though she was going abroad with a jailer. It was
not usual, however, for girls to go about unchaperoned.

It would be an unwarranted assumption to suppose that demureness was
any deeper than demeanor in the maidens of the eighteenth century,
for the feminine character--and not times and customs--determines
the effectiveness of the sex. Matters of custom and of dress signify
little, and yet the Solons who passed the act of 1770 to lessen the
potency of woman's charms appear to have been utterly oblivious of
the important consideration that these do not rest in outward
circumstance, but in inward grace. This curious act prescribed: "That
all women, of whatever age, rank, profession, or degree, whether
virgins, maids, or widows, that shall, from and after such Act, impose
upon, seduce, or betray into matrimony, any of his Majesty's male
subjects by the scents, paints, cosmetic washes, artificial teeth,
false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, hoops, high-heeled shoes, etc.,
shall incur the penalty of the law now enforced against witchcraft and
like misdemeanours, and that the marriage upon conviction shall stand
null and void." And this, too, just six years before the American
Declaration of Independence!

Allusion to this act proscribing aids to beauty leads to the
consideration of the matter of costume and adornment. This can be
summarized in the censure which was called forth from an Italian
visitor: "The ladies of England do not understand the art of
decorating their persons so well as those of Italy; they generally
increase the volume of the head by a cap that makes it much bigger
than nature, a fault which should be always avoided in adorning that
part." After this observation, the writer passes on to criticise
the length of the ladies' skirts, affirming that they wore their
petticoats too short behind, unlike the ladies of Italy and France,
for--and we are indebted to him for his explication of trains--these
ladies "pattern after the most graceful birds." By their failure to
emulate the peacock or the bird-of-paradise in the matter of their
splendid appendages, the English women are said to lose "the greatest
grace which dress can impart to a female." He continues, saying: "In
truth, not beauty, but novelty governs in London, not taste, but copy.
A celebrated woman of five foot six inches gives law to the dress of
those who are but four feet two.... This is not the case in Italy
and France; the ladies know that the grace which attends plumpness is
unbecoming the slender; and the tall lady never affects to look like a
fairy; nor the dwarf like the giantess, but each, studying the air and
mien which become her figure, appears in the most engaging dress that
can be made, to set off her person to the greatest advantage."

Passing from the generalities of female dress and coming to particular
descriptions thereof, here is an account of the costuming of the
ladies who assembled at court to congratulate his majesty George II.
and his queen, Caroline, on their nuptials: "The ladies were variously
dressed, though with all the richness and grandeur imaginable; many
of them had their heads dressed English, of fine Brussels lace of
exceeding rich patterns, made up on narrow wire and small round rolls,
and the hair pinned to large puff-caps, and but a few without powder;
some few had their hair curled down on the sides; pink and silver,
white and gold, were the general knots worn. There was a vast number
of Dutch heads, their hair curled down in short curls on the sides and
behind, all very much powdered, with ribbands frilled on their heads,
variously disposed; and some had diamonds set on ribbands on their
heads; laced tippets were pretty general, and some had ribbands
between the frills; treble-lace ruffles were universally worn, though
abundance had them not tacked up. Their gowns were either gold stuffs
or rich silks, with either gold or silver flowers, or pink or white
silks, with either gold or silver nets or trimmings; the sleeves to
the gowns were middling (not so short as formerly), and wide, and
their facings and robings broad; several had flounced sleeves and
petticoats and gold or silver fringe set on the flounces; some had
stomachers of the same sort as the gown, others had large bunches of
made flowers at their breasts; the gowns were variously pinned, but
in general flat, the hoops French, and the petticoats of a moderate
length, and a little slope behind. The ladies were exceedingly
brilliant likewise in jewels; some had them in their necklaces and
ear-rings, others with diamond solitaires to pearl necklaces of three
or four rows; some had necklaces of diamonds and pearls intermixed,
but made up very broad; several had their gown-sleeves buttoned with
diamonds, others had diamond sprigs in their hair, etc. The ladies'
shoes were exceeding rich, being either pink, white, or green silk,
with gold or silver lace braid all over, with low heels and low
hind-quarters and low flaps, and abundance had large diamond

The preposterous hooped petticoats which ladies wore out of doors
subjected them to the good-natured banter of the wits of the time. One
of these sallies, which appeared about 1720, runs as follows:

  "An elderly lady, whose bulky squat figure
  By hoop and white damask was rendered much bigger,
  Without hood and bare-neck'd to the Park did repair
  To show her new clothes and to take the fresh air;
  Her shape, her attire, raised a shout in loud laughter:
  Away waddles Madam, the mob hurries after.
  Quoth a wag, then observing the noisy crowd follow,
  'As she came with a hoop, she is gone with a hollow.'"

The hoopskirt was the characteristic feature of eighteenth-century
styles, and it grew to such enormous proportions as seriously to
inconvenience the wearer and to interfere with the cubic feet of space
which a pedestrian might reasonably claim as his right on a crowded
thoroughfare. But there were eighteenth-century styles which were more
reprehensible than the oft-caricatured hoop.

There was a class of votaries of fashion, in contrast to the mass of
society, whose only notion of dress was display, and toward the middle
of the eighteenth century these imported the most extravagant and
immodest of French styles. As they paraded the public gardens, to
which all classes resorted, the staid people were scandalized by their
appearance. T. Wright, in his _Caricature History of the Georges_,
says that "what was looked upon as the _beau-monde_ then lived much
more in public than now, and men and women of fashion displayed their
weaknesses to the world in public places of amusement and resort,
with little shame or delicacy. The women often rivalled the men
in libertinism, and even emulated them sometimes in their riotous
manners." Women of the town were greatly in evidence, and a
trustworthy traveller of the times affirms that they were bolder and
more numerous in London than in either Paris or Rome. Not only at
night, but in broad daylight, they traversed the footpaths,
selecting out of the passers-by the susceptible for their enticement,
particularly directing themselves to foreigners. Archenholz says: _On
compte cinquante mille prostitueés à Londres, dans les maîtresses
en titre. Leurs usages et leur conduite déterminent les différentes
classes où il faut les ranger. La plus vile de toutes habite dans
les lieux publics sous la direction d'une matrone qui les loge et
les habille. Ces habits mêe pour les filles communes, sont de soie,
suivant l'usage que le luxe a généralement introduit en Angleterre....
Dans_ _la seule paroisse de Marybonne, qui est la plus grande et la
plus peuplée de l'Angleterre, on en comptoit, il y a quelques années,
treize mille, dont dix-sept cents occupoient des maisons entières à
elles seules_.

Such a picture of social vice in the metropolis is a sad commentary
upon the tendency of the young women of the country districts to drift
to the city. The "lights o' London" had already begun to possess that
fascination for the weak in morals, the light-headed and frivolous,
which has made them a wrecker's beacon on a rockbound shore, luring to
destruction untold hosts of inexperienced country youth. Nor was the
drift Londonward due altogether to the fascination which the gay and
pleasure-pandering city possessed, for there were not wanting methods
of enticement such as are still employed, in spite of legal penalties.
The example of city dwellers of outward respectability did not tend to
elevate the moral tone of those who came fresh from the country,
with its purer home life; for while the sanctity of the home was an
appreciable fact of the seventeenth century, it was much less so in
the metropolis and in the cities generally than it was in the country.

A notorious fact that attracted the notice of continental visitors
to England was that lax morality prevailed in many English families.
Muralt, a Frenchman, even asserts that he found it customary for
husbands generally to maintain mistresses and also to bring them to
their homes and place them on a footing with their wives. This is
doubtless an exaggerated statement of the case; but when the king was
not faultless, the people were apt to pursue folly. Although no king
after Charles II., except George II., disgraced the nation by the
profligacy which he exhibited, yet Charles's successor, James II.,
kept a mistress, as did most of the kings following him.

Referring again to Fielding, we get what is probably a truer picture
of the times in this respect than could be penned from the hasty
observations of a traveller. A young fellow who has led astray his
landlady's daughter is addressed by his uncle in the following manner:
"Honour is a creature of the world's making, and the world has the
power of a creator over it, and may govern and direct it as they
please. Now, you well know how trivial these breaches of contract are
thought; even the grossest make but the wonder and conversation of the
day. Is there a man who afterwards will be more backward in giving you
his sister or daughter, or is there any sister or daughter who would
be more backward to receive you? Honour is not concerned in these
engagements." It need not be supposed that such sentiments were
general; but that they were all too prevalent is manifested by the
literature that mirrors the times.

Drinking and swearing, the coarse associations of the alehouse, the
obscene jokes and sallies which were indulged in freely in such places
and made up a great part of the conversation, were conducive to a very
low moral standard for men, and there was nothing in the times to lead
women to uphold higher ideals of conduct than those which were imposed
upon them by the male sex. Consequently, they were accustomed to a
lower standard than would be tolerated to-day; but as libertinism was
largely concerned with the outcast element of society, the women of
the homes were not called upon to sacrifice integrity of character for
its satisfaction. So that the lower moral standard was set up for men,
and a woman who would attempt at once to maintain her respectability
and follow such courses would very soon have found that difference in
standards for the sexes visited a stricter condemnation upon her than
upon the male delinquent.

The testimony of foreigners to the chastity of the English matron
quite coincides with that which comes from English sources. Le Blanc
remarks: "Most of those who among us pass for men of good fortune in
amours would with difficulty succeed in addressing an English fair.
She would not sooner be subdued by the insinuating softness of their
jargon than by the amber with which they are perfumed." Another
observer, of the same nationality, speaking of the unassailability of
the English woman, attributes it to the insurmountable rampart which
she had in the love for her family, the care of her household, and her
natural gravity, and says that he does not know any city in the world
where the honor of husbands is in less danger of deflection than in

The social hypocrisy of the eighteenth century, as it relates to
woman, was due to the failure as yet to place the sex in correct
adjustment with the times. Instead of considering her as having
serious qualities and value other than the realization of matrimony,
everything that entered into woman's life pointed in that one
direction. The art of pleasing was not cultivated as an opportunity
of the sex due to their special graces of spirit and of person, which
might legitimately be employed for their own sake to make the world
happier and brighter. There was not afforded to men the restfulness
and pleasure in the company of women which would serve as a delightful
foil to the practical and anxious cares of their daily lives; nor
were women taught to believe in themselves as capable persons in the
spheres of life in which feminine personality, taste, and touch
best affect and mould civilization. Except in a few notable cases,
literature and art, to say nothing of science, were outside of woman's
sphere, because she neither believed in herself nor was seriously
regarded by men as a factor in any of the wide relations of life other
than those which were involved in her sex. The arts of the toilette,
conversation, and deportment were all in which she was considered to
need to be adept. Where naturalness was suppressed, it is not strange
that the young women should have been influenced by false standards;
false modesty, false sensitiveness, false ignorance, were depended
upon to give them the artlessness and innocence of deportment which
should recommend them to the blasé men of the times.

The estimate in which the sex was held was not quietly accepted by all
women; although the new woman had not appeared upon the horizon,
there were not wanting women who realized that their position was
a humiliating one, and who sought to create a sentiment for its
betterment. Mary Astell was one such, and the case as presented by
her shows the superficiality of the conventional routine of a woman's
life. She says: "When a young lady is taught to value herself on
nothing but her cloaths, and to think she's very fine when well
accoutred; when she hears say, that 'tis wisdom enough for her to know
how to dress herself, that she may become amiable in his eyes to whom
it appertains to be knowing and learned; who can blame her if she lays
out her industry and money for such accomplishments, and sometimes
extends it farther than her misinformer desires she should?... If from
our infancy we are nurs'd upon ignorance and vanity; are taught to be
proud and petulant, delicate and fantastick, humourous and inconstant,
'tis not strange that the ill effects of this conduct appear in
all the future actions of our lives.... That, therefore, women are
unprofitable to most, and a plague and dishonor to some men, is not
much to be regretted on account of the men, because 'tis the product
of their folly in denying them the benefits of an ingenuous and
liberal education, the most effectual means to direct them into, and
secure their progress in, the ways of virtue."

A French writer criticised the Englishmen of the day for their failure
to avail themselves of the refining influence of women, in whose
graces, he affirmed, there could be found constant charm and a certain
sweetness peculiar to the sex. He said that the conversation of the
women would polish and soften the manners of the men and enable them
to contract a manner and tone which would be agreeable to both sexes;
and he ascribed the bluntness of the English character to this lack of
the refining influence of female society.

As women were left so largely to their own devices, falling the
comradeship of men, they gave themselves over to the needle as the
chief resource for idle hours. The _Female Spectator_ protested
against this excessive needlework on the part of women: "Nor can I by
any means approve of your compelling young ladies of fortune to make
so much use of the needle, as they did in former days, and some few
continue to do.... It always makes me smile when I hear the mother
of fine daughters say: 'I always keep my girls at their needle;' one,
perhaps, is working her a gown, another a quilt for a bed, and a third
engaged to make a whole dozen shirts for her father. And then, when
she had carried you into the nursery and shown you them all, add: 'It
is good to keep them out of idleness; when young people have nothing
to do, they naturally wish to do something they ought not,'" With such
a narrow circle of interest, it was not strange that women who had
leisure should have wasted it in frivolity.

Gambling among women of fashion was more a result of too much leisure
and too little intellectual stimulus than an indication of vicious
propensities. _The Female Spectator_, from which we have quoted, in an
article in 1745, relating an account of the visit of a country lady to
a London friend, furnishes an illustration of the extent and effects
of the vice. The article recites that after knocking a considerable
time at the door of her friend's house,--the hour was between eleven
and twelve o'clock in the day,--a footman, with his nightcap on and
a general appearance of having risen from the dead, responded to her
inquiry for her friend, in the interim of his yawns: "We had a racquet
here last night, and my lady cannot possibly be stirring these three
hours." The surprised visitor refrained from asking any questions
concerning this unintelligible answer, and, after leaving her name,
returned again at three o'clock. She had the good fortune to be
admitted, and found her friend at her chocolate. She had a dish of
this in one hand, and with the other she seemed to have been busy in
sorting a large pile of guineas, which she had divided in two heaps
on the table before her. Rising, she greeted her visitor with great
civility, and expressed regret at the latter's disappointment on first
calling, saying, with a smile, that when her friend had been a little
longer in town, she would lie longer in bed in the morning. She then
enlightened her as to the term "racquet," telling her that when the
number assembled for cards exceeded ten tables the game was so styled;
if fewer, it was called a "rout"; and if there were but two tables, it
was a "drum."

It must always appear a curious and an unfortunate circumstance that
at the time of the great industrial awakening in England in the last
half of the eighteenth century, when men, women, and children were
losing their individuality and becoming mere industrial units,
representing so many pounds of human energy to be added to a machine,
the women and children of the factories and of the hovels of the
factory towns cried piteously to the Church for bread and received but
a stone. And this was at a time when the social needs were so great
and the sympathies of all other classes seemed to be alienated by
diversity of interest from those who were called upon to toil for the
making of England's wealth. Professor Thorold Rogers, the painstaking
and acute investigator of England's industry, says with regard to
the lethargy which constituted a veritable Dark Age for the English
Church: "It is hard indeed to see what there is to relieve the
darkness of the picture which the Anglican Church presents from the
death of Queen Anne to the time of the Evangelical Revival. Over
against the Anglican Church, formal, jealous of laymen, fearful of
schism or irregularity, should be set the nonconformist churches."
Although there was a great deal of religious enthusiasm in the
religious communities of the Commonwealth, the principal branches of
the Protestant nonconformists soon became wedded to their own systems,
and, in a way, as narrow in their application of the principles of the
New Testament as the church from which they had separated. It was
not until the last quarter of the seventeenth century that a movement
began which opened the way to lines of development which have
been going on ever since. The vast number of present-day religious
societies, whether in direct connection with the Church or outside
of its pale, may be traced in some ways to the period just before and
during the reign of William III.

Then arose societies for the reformation of manners in all parts of
the kingdom. These societies represented the early stirring of the
spirit of reform which found its expression in so many forms of
activity in later times. They resembled somewhat the modern societies
for the correction of social evils, such as societies for the
prevention of vice, or societies for preventing the corrupting of
the youth. It was all done under the impulse of religion, but was
not initiated by the Church; it was a lay movement. The first
distinctively women's movements in religious matters were outside of
the Church. The great preacher Whitfield attracted the attention of
the Countess of Huntingdon, whose drawing rooms were thrown open for
his preaching and were filled by fashionable auditors. Other titled
women joined the countess, and among them was the famous Duchess of
Marlborough. The interest of noblewomen in a movement essentially
plebeian has its parallel in the nineteenth century, when the
Salvation Army enlisted the interest and support of women of rank and

The attitude of the countess in her loyal support of the new
evangelical movement brought her under the criticism that is always
encountered by a zeal which is not understood by people generally.
The Duchess of Buckingham wrote to her: "I thank your Ladyship for the
information concerning the Methodist preachers; their doctrines
are most repulsive, and strongly tinctured with impertinence and
disrespect towards their superiors, in perpetually endeavouring to
level all ranks and do away with all distinctions. It is monstrous to
be told that you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that
crawl on the earth. This is highly offensive and insulting, and I
cannot but wonder that your Ladyship should relish any sentiments so
at variance with high rank and good breeding." The Countess of Suffolk
on one occasion was so incensed at a sermon of Whitfield in the
Countess of Huntingdon's drawing room, that she rushed out of the
house in a passion, under the impression that the discourse was a
personal attack. The attitude of the clergy generally to the Methodist
movement within the Church was one of indifference.

The suffering among the wives of the inferior clergy, who were
impoverished and suffered under the defeat of the endeavor to make
their scanty resources meet the demands of household expenses, the
lack of opportunity for educating their children, and their own loss
of self-respect, must have made their lives more miserable in some
ways than those of the wives of the potters, whose sphere of existence
and needs were much more limited. One of the clergymen of this order
plaintively sets forth his pecuniary distress as follows: "Oh,
my Lord, how prettily and temperately may a wife and half a dozen
children be maintained with almost £30 per annum! What an handsome
shift will an ingenious and frugal divine make, to take by turns and
wear a cassock and a pair of breeches another! What a primitive sight
it will be to see a man of God with his shoes out at the toes, and
his stockings out at heels, wandering about in an old russet coat and
tatter'd gown for apprentices to point at and wags to break jest on!
And what a notable figure will he make in the pulpit on Sundays
who has sent his _Hooker_ and _Stillingfleet_, his _Pearson_ and
_Saunderson_, his _Barrow_ and _Tillotson_, with many more fathers of
the English Church, into limbo long since to keep his wife's pensive
petticoat company, and her much lamented wedding ring!" Such a picture
belongs rather to the latter part of the eighteenth century than to
its beginning, for in its earlier days the Church was prolific of
quiet scholars and antiquaries, in both parsonage and manse, living
peaceful, comfortable, and cultured existences.

The attitude of the Church of the eighteenth century toward women is
hardly one of record, as there was not enough animation or interest
displayed in social conditions--or, indeed, during a part of the
century, enough of intellectual comprehension--to serve the Church for
any discrimination as to women's status. When the change of attitude
of the Church in respect to its indifference toward that element of
its body which before the Reformation, and continuously since then,
has been so serviceably employed by the Roman Catholic Church did
occur, it was the High Church party which brought it about, and so
preserved for English Protestantism the work of women.

Although the Church was indifferent to the great mission that lay
before it in the eighteenth century,--a mission that had to be met by
the raising up from the laity of men and women who should stand for
the spiritual rights of the lower orders of society especially,--there
was a notable band of Christian philanthropic women who brightened the
close of the century.

By harnessing human compassion to social needs, the distressed classes
of society came to be lifted to that position of betterment which is
theirs to-day, largely through agencies that owe their beginnings to
the More sisters, Elizabeth Fry, and Harriet Martineau. It is always a
pleasing task to turn to such women as these, exemplifying as they do
the attainments of the sex in those peculiar and special ways which so
well represent the adaptations of women. The greatest woman who graced
the annals of helpfulness of the last half of the eighteenth century
in England was Hannah More. The beautiful devotion of her long and
honorable life to the cause of teaching, and the widespread interest
which, by her writings, she attracted to the subject both in Europe
and America, place her at the source of one of the mighty streams of
pervasive influence that have ever permeated human society. So great
was her appreciation of the character and the position of woman, that
she was able to forecast well-nigh everything that has been enunciated
in modern times with regard to the place of the sex in education and
in society.

Hannah More was born in 1745, in a little village near Bristol. Her
father, who was the village schoolmaster, gave his five daughters
educations adapted as near as might be to the peculiar talents of
each. Three of the girls opened a boarding school in Bristol, when
the oldest was only twenty years of age. This school soon became
fashionable and ultimately famous. It was to this institution that
the early labors of Hannah More were given, and it was here that she
attracted the attention of such men as Ferguson the astronomer, the
elder Sheridan, Garrick the tragedian, Goldsmith, Reynolds, Burke, and
indeed nearly all men of eminence in intellectual and state life. But
her associations were not solely with the fashionable world, by which
she was petted and flattered, for she turned her attention to labors
for the poor and the ignorant. She sought to do for the children who
lived amid the savage profligacy of the peasant class what Madame
de Maintenon sought to do for girls of the aristocratic class in her
country. Both alike aimed to offset the perversion of character which
threatened the girls of their respective schools, from different
sources, but to the same end,--their destruction. Madame de Maintenon
worked to counteract the insidious infidelity that permeated the upper
walks of life--Hannah More, to counteract the practical atheism of
the lowest plane of life. The fundamental principle of her educational
system was the necessity of Christian instruction. She recognized
the close relationship of education and religion, and gauged well the
significance of the historical fact of woman's debt to Christianity
for her elevation. The question which she asked was not that of social
utility, but that of personal character. She saw too much of the
utilitarian principle in its actual workings, the reducing of human
life to the plane of mechanism, to permit her to base her educational
efforts upon a utilitarian foundation. She sought to cultivate that
"sensibility which has its seat in the heart rather than in the
nerves." Anything which detracted from modesty or delicacy, or tended
to make a girl bold or forward, she severely rebuked. She taught the
wastefulness of expending time upon the cultivation of a talent which
one does not possess, and held that excessive cultivation of the
æsthetic range of subjects contributes to a decline in those more
stable factors upon which is based the security of states. Neither
indelicate exposure of the person in style of dress nor extravagance
in dancing found favor at her hands. Such were some of the views which
were entertained and promulgated by the woman who created an epoch
in the attitude of society toward her sex. She taught the dignity of
womanhood, from which the duties of domesticity cannot detract, the
performance of them as a function of womankind being of all things
honorable. The pure common sense of Hannah More did for the women of
her time the service which had failed of performance by the Church.

Passing from the theoretical to the practical part of Hannah
More's work, it is interesting to see her putting into effect her
philanthropic labors. The people among whom she labored were destitute
of almost everything that makes life comfortable. Among the Mendip
Hills, out from Bristol, lived a wild, barbarous, lawless population,
compared with which the millers and the colliers of the mines were
mild and tractable. Among these people Hannah More established her
schools. Some of the children had already had the schooling of the
prison, and all of them had been tutored in vice beyond comprehension
for persons so young. Hannah More's schemes were regarded by many
as visionary and impracticable, and received opposition from sources
where sympathy and helpfulness were to be expected. Gradually,
however, her school work was extended until it covered an area of
twenty-eight miles.

In the Sunday schools the children received religious instruction,
and in the day schools they were taught to spin flax and wool. No
missionary bishop travelled more constantly, no Methodist itinerant
cultivated his circuit district more assiduously, than did Hannah and
her sister Patty More their lay diocese. The many difficulties which
had to be overcome by them cannot be appreciated by workers among the
destitute to-day, with all the appliances and books and methods which
represent a century's experience in such lines. Nothing of the sort
was to hand for these sisters; but Hannah More was an author as well
as a philanthropist, and the tales for the interest and instruction of
the children she wrote herself.

While Hannah More lived and worked in the eighteenth century, her
life's service extended over into the nineteenth century also. She was
a contemporary of Miss Mitford, Mary Carpenter, Mrs. Summerville, and
Maria Edgeworth. The eighteenth century brought forth the women who
were to carry into the nineteenth century the elements of service for
society, which were to be like the seed sown in good ground and to
bring forth the maximum fold of fruitage.

The national system of education had not been developed in the
eighteenth century, making the acquirement of an education somewhat
dependent upon individual circumstances as affected by personal
ambitions. There was nothing in the way of general education for
women. But the dawn of better things intellectually was shown by
the development of a group of women of literary comprehension and
productivity, who formed a set apart and yet were in a real sense
prophets in a wilderness, proclaiming the democracy of letters. Lady
Mary Wortley Montagu writes very bitterly of the low esteem in which
was held the intellectuality of the sex, and in speaking of the study
of classics, says: "My sex is usually forbid studies of this nature,
and folly reckoned so much our proper sphere we are sooner pardoned
any excesses of that, than the least pretensions to reading or
good sense.... Our minds are entirely neglected, and, by disuse of
reflections, filled with nothing but the trifling objects our eyes
are daily entertained with. This custom so long established and
industriously upheld makes it even ridiculous to go out of the common
road, and forces one to find as many excuses as if it was a thing
altogether criminal not to play the fool in concert with other women
of quality, whose birth and leisure only serve to render them the most
useless and most worthless part of the creation. There is hardly a
creature in the world more despicable or more liable to universal
ridicule than a learned woman! These words imply, according to
the received sense, a tattling, impertinent, vain, and conceited
creature.... The Abbé Bellegarde gives a reason for women's talking
over much: they know nothing, and every outward object strikes their
imagination and produces a multitude of thoughts, which, if they knew
more, they would know not worth thinking of. I am not now arguing
for an equality of the two sexes. I do not doubt God and nature have
thrown us into an inferior rank; we are a lower part of the creation,
we owe obedience and submission to the superior sex, and any woman who
suffers her folly and vanity to deny this rebels against the laws of
the Creator, and indisputable order of nature; but there is a worse
effect than this, which follows the careless education given to women
of quality--it's being so easy for any man of sense, that finds it
either his interest or his pleasure to corrupt them. The common
method is to begin by attacking their religion: they bring a thousand
fallacious arguments their excessive ignorance hinders them from
refuting; and, I speak now from my own knowledge and conversation
among them, there are more atheists among the fine ladies than among
the lowest sort of rakes." This bitter plaint of a lady of quality,
with its humiliating acknowledgment of the inferiority of her sex
and the hopelessness of that inferiority, sounds very pathetic in
the light of the present-day estimate of woman and her acknowledged
equality with man in all matters, saving only in the exercise of the
public functions for which the advocates of the full programme of
woman's rights contend.

It is not surprising that women of intellectual gifts grew morbid
under a sense of social inferiority; it is not strange that they hid
their light under a bushel, and were afraid of acknowledging their
talents or their aspirations, when men regarded learning for their
daughters "as great a profanation as the clergy would do if the laity
should undertake to exercise the functions of the priesthood." In
matters intellectual, woman was negative. She must not embarrass her
superiors by displaying in their presence indications of talent or
evidences of learning; her theories and opinions were not worthy
of statement or consideration in the presence of the male sex. Her
gentility was one of breeding, but it did not involve the brain.
Of necessity the intellectual development of woman in such a mental
atmosphere was slow. Her elevation was dependent upon an awakening of
thought in all departments of life. There was lacking an incentive
to intellectual industry when the fruits of such toil might not be

Under such adverse conditions, the names of the women of exceptional
intellectual gifts in the eighteenth century constitute a roll of
honor worthy to be inscribed in every hall of learning devoted to the
education of women. This literary coterie included, besides Lady Mary
Wortley Montagu, Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Parker, Mrs. Vesey,
Hannah More, Mrs. Chapone, Elizabeth Carter, and Miss Talbot.

Lady Montagu was of an aggressive nature, and well fitted to conquer
difficulties rather than to despair in their presence. She was a good
classical scholar, a student under Bishop Burnet, and was abreast of
all the thought of her time. She is credited, among other things,
with the courage to introduce the system of inoculation for smallpox,
having had her son so treated.

Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu was an insatiable devotee of society, and
abounded with a fund of mirth for the enlivenment of the dullest
company. In her correspondence, amid a lively flow of chatter, she
introduces discussions of Dr. Middleton's _Life of Cicero_ and other
critical and historical allusions relating to the classic authors,
and evinces familiarity with such literature. Again, she is found
descanting in a critical vein on the qualities of Warburton's
_Notes on Shakespeare_. Her observations upon English history are
appreciative of its distinguishing features. In these remarks she
says: "In some reigns, the kingdom is in the most terrible confusion,
in others it appears mean and corrupt; in Charles II.'s time, what a
figure we make with French measures and French mistresses! But when
our times are written, England will recover its glory; such conquests
abroad, such prosperity at home, such prudence in council, such vigor
in execution, so many men clothed in scarlet, so many fine tents,
so many cannon that do not so much as roar, such easy taxes, such
flourishing trade! Can posterity believe it? I wish our history, from
its incredibility, may not get bound up with fairy tales and serve to
amuse children, and make nursery maids moralize." The same light touch
and whimsical insight displayed in this quotation are evidenced in all
her writings. It matters not the subject--balls or books, flirtations
or syllogisms, the same delicate vein of humor runs throughout them.

Miss Carter, the particular friend of Mrs. Montagu, frail in health
and devoted, a beauty, a wit, a brilliant conversationalist, was yet
of a much more retiring disposition than was her friend. She created
no Hillstreet and Portman Square assemblies, although she was by
no means a recluse; and even if she did not have so strong a social
following as Mrs. Montagu, her presence possessed charm for those who
assembled about her. She had a wide acquaintance with literature, and
patronized the libraries extensively; her linguistic accomplishments
included French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and, most rare
acquirement in those days, German. She was discriminating in her
literary tastes, and is found commenting upon German books of fiction.
She says that they are dangerous for young people, for the reason
that they possess the singular art of sanctifying the passions. Mere
sentimentality was repugnant to her feelings, and she dismissed from
her attention a German book, with the expression: "A detestable book,
but I know of no other in German that is exceptionable in the same
horrid way."

Mrs. Vesey was another literary character whose salon, made thoroughly
delightful, was frequented only by persons of the greatest culture.
Just how the name _bas-bleu_ came to be identified with the assembly
which Mrs. Vesey gathered about her is not known. One explanation
which was current at the time attributes the term to a foreign
gentleman who was invited to go to either Mrs. Montagu's or Mrs.
Vesey's, and was assured as to the informality of the occasion by an
acquaintance, who told him that full dress was quite optional, and,
in fact, he might go in blue stockings if he was so minded. Other
accounts do not agree with this; one lays the phrase at the door
of Mr. Benjamin Stillingfleet, the naturalist, who always wore
blue stockings; but it is asserted by Miss Carter's biographer that
Stillingfleet died before the name came into vogue. Hannah More, in
some whimsical lines, describes a _bas-bleu_ assembly:

  "Here sober Duchesses are seen,
  Chaste wits and critics void of spleen:
  Physicians fraught with real science,
  And Whigs and Tories in alliance;
  Poets fulfilling Christian duties,
  Just Lawyers, reasonable Beauties,
  Bishops who preach and Peers who pray,
  And Countesses who seldom play,
  Learn'd Antiquaries who from college
  Reject the rust and bring the knowledge;
  And hear it, _age_, believe it, _youth_,--
  Polemics really seeking truth;
  And Travellers of that rare tribe
  Who've seen the countries they describe."

The brilliant woman who gathered about her such a representative
gathering of celebrities as is suggested by these lines--an assemblage
in which Dr. Johnson could discourse in one corner on moral duties,
and Horace Walpole amuse another group with his lively wit, while the
younger portion discussed the opera or the fashions--was the daughter
of Sir Thomas Vesey, Archbishop of Tuam. By her second marriage--with
a relative, Mr. A. Vesey--she resumed her maiden name. Prominent
persons, other than those mentioned, who were attracted to her salon
were Burke, Pulteney, Garrick, Lord Lyttleton, Dr. Burney, and Lord

Women were not only given to shining in exclusive social circles, but
brilliant representatives of the sex were keenly interested in the
political trend of the times. The Duchess of Marlborough was one of
the most notable and politically active women of the age of Anne.
This was a time of ascendency in politics of the Dissenters, who are
described by Burton in his history of that age as a clog upon the free
movements of the complicated machinery of British social and political
life. Another of the famous women at court was the Countess of
Suffolk, who appears in Swift's correspondence as Mrs. Howard. These
women were thoroughly informed as to the political movements of their
time, as is revealed by their correspondence; and they, with others
as noteworthy, often shaped state policy. Among names which appear
prominently in the political movements of the century are those of
the Countess of Bristol, Mrs. Selwyn, who was one of the ladies of the
bedchamber to the queen of George II., Lady Hervey, and the Duchess
of Queensborough. The latter declared herself so wearied of elections
that, in all good conscience, they ought to occur only once in an age.
The Countess of Huntingdon, the supporter of Whitfield, the Duchess of
Devonshire, and other women of position, had vital interest in public

The interest which English ladies took in politics was a matter
of constant surprise to foreigners, but it was significant of the
awakening to a sense of privilege which led in the next century to the
various female declarations of rights, of which the most extreme was
the claim to suffrage.



At the opening of the nineteenth century, practically unfettered
opportunity extended in all directions before women; but it was
necessary for the century to spend its force before they had fully
availed themselves of the privileges which were objected to only by
those who still descanted on woman's sphere as a purely domestic one.
The "woman question" is very modern, because woman has so lately come
to be seriously regarded as a factor in the work of life. The changed
conditions of the nineteenth century resulted from those forces which
were operating for the larger liberty of the sex. Contributions to the
widening of the scope of their lives came from many sources. Religion
has been the evangel of woman; but even it cannot claim that the
modern woman, with her versatility of touch and her multiform
influence, is its product. Law reluctantly acknowledged the rights
of the sex where it was futile to deny them; but it has sinned too
grievously in the years that are past to receive recognition as a
promoter of the new Renaissance, although it cherishes the rights
which woman has achieved, and is to-day one of her most chivalrous
defenders. Convention is too unadaptive to do more than recognize
adjustments which have been otherwise brought about, but, as
representing the rules of society, it is promotive of the dignity and
the rights of the sex to the extent that these dignities and rights
have been otherwise afforded.

Acknowledgment for the position which woman attained during the last
century is due not to any one of these forces, but to all working
together, although Nature must be chiefly credited with having brought
it about. The great increase in population in England, and the excess
of the female portion, led women to ponder the question of other
spheres for their lives than solely the domestic. At the same time,
the complex nature of modern business offered, to some extent, a
practical solution of the problem. While the question of woman's
sphere was greatly agitated, and was academically and forensically
debated pro and con, women themselves were practically settling the
matter at issue by accepting positions in commercial life, with
little regard to the censure of critics or the praise of friends. The
independence shown by women, their self-assertiveness, indicated that
their failure previously to break into the outer world of affairs was
not due to the force of convention, but to the lack of opportunity.
Their excess in the population of the country afforded them strong
ground for the claim, which they practically made in accepting the
opportunities of business life,--that the sphere of domesticity was
not open to them all. It is not a question as to whether woman is
or is not in her sphere outside of the home or the limited circle of
æsthetic following; for the time of theorizing is already past, and
women have become so identified with industry as to preclude the
possibility of a return to the narrower life. _Vestigia nulla
refrorsum_ is the motto of woman to-day, and has been from the early
part of the nineteenth century. She is in the line of progress, and
following her manifest destiny. The fears of the faint-hearted and the
regrets of the conservative cannot alter the established fact that
the practical status which women achieved in the nineteenth century is
theirs, to be recognized and furthered.

The views prevailing in the nineteenth century with regard to
matrimony were not greatly different from those of the eighteenth: it
was considered just as discreditable to be an old maid, and marriage
was the goal of existence for young women; but there was a portion of
the sex who were willing to brave the aspersions cast upon them and
to remain single--when the opportunity to do otherwise was not
wanting--in order that they might follow careers which offered to them
greater interest or profit. It was inevitable that such choice should
lay them open to the charge of unsexing themselves and of being
recreant to that _esprit de corps_ of womankind which finds its common
interest in the achieving of matrimony. Women would never have
wrought out their independence of action if there had not been a great
widening of life's opportunities. The ease of locomotion, abundant
opportunities for education, and the lightening of domestic labor
by inventions, were the important factors which made it possible
for women to step out into the avenues of active business. The
middle-class women, who were thrust out into the arena of life, were
still the women who best preserved the pure idea of marriage. They
were not subjected to the temptations which assailed those in the
higher and the lower ranks of society, and, being less affected by
tradition, they wrought out for themselves independent ideals. The
marriage of convenience of the higher ranks and the marriage of
necessity of the lower were not the forms which were common to the
middle-class women. Unaffected by either of these influences, they
regarded well the character of the men to whom they were to plight
their troth, and were not disposed to pass over the weaknesses of
suitors. Marriages were no longer contracted at the early ages
of fifteen and sixteen years, which had been commonly the case
heretofore. A bride under twenty-one was thought very youthful.

The entrance of woman into the ranks of labor has not been
uncontested, for she has been charged with taking the bread out of
the mouths of husbands and fathers; and, by working for much less wage
than is given the men, she has been thought dangerously to affect the
standard of payment for men's work. Just what will be the effect of
the innovation of woman in industry cannot at present be stated, as
she has not as yet gotten into normal and recognized relationship to
men as a sharer of their work. One effect, however, of woman's contact
with the other sex in the brusque business world has been to reduce
her claim to special consideration in the way of the amenities which
were accorded her at a time when she was not nearly so sincerely
respected as she has become in recent years. A modern writer has
summed up the matter in the following words: "Not the least among
the changes is that effected by the fuller and freer life led by all
women. A greater companionship and friendship is permitted them with
the other sex; there is a larger sharing of interest, and women are
expected to have a higher standard of education and to conceal their
knowledge and culture with tasteful skill. Their interest in the
political life of the country, and their acknowledged usefulness in
their place in the working out of the political machine, the works,
philanthropical and social, which are admitted by all to be within
their sphere, have broadened and deepened the stream of life which is
common to both sexes, and brought the social life on to a different

This broadening influence brought greater recognition of woman's
activities in social and philanthropic measures and a corresponding
increase of responsibility on her part. There are many women of this
century whose noble deeds will never be forgotten, but one may be
singled out as a splendid example of self-sacrifice and devotion to
others, Mrs. Elizabeth Fry was a Quakeress of gentle birth, though
the mother of a large family, she made the condition of the social
outcasts her constant care. She was, in truth, a worthy successor to
John Howard. The moral and physical degradation and suffering of the
inmates of prisons particularly appealed to her compassionate nature,
and she set herself the task of alleviating their condition. Her
first visit to Newgate Prison was in 1813; alone and unprotected, she
entered the pandemonium where nearly two hundred women were confined,
among them some of the most degraded and desperate of their sex.
Mrs. Fry's sincere compassion, gentleness, and purity conquered
these women. Four years later she organized an association for the
reformation of female prisoners. Though her name is chiefly associated
with the reform of prisons and prisoners, her philanthropy embraced
the promotion of education of the needy, religious movements, the
cause of freedom, and private charity. The influence of this good
woman was widespread, and her labors were not confined to her own
country, but extended to the continent of Europe.

One of the most striking of the phenomena of modern life which came
about in the nineteenth century is the fusion of classes, making it
increasingly difficult to use class definitions. The passage from
one to another has become so easy as to make mobility the principal
characteristic of modern society. Travel, education, art appreciation,
and home decoration are not confined to any section or class. The
degree of luxury of living, and not the distinction between luxury and
lack, is the only way to set aside one circle of society from another.
A result of this wider diffusion of the comforts of life has been the
awakening of the altruistic spirit, which finds expression in many and
varied benevolences--so many, in fact, that the danger of the times
is over-organization. This tendency, if pursued, will react to
the disadvantage of women by depriving them of a sense of personal
responsibility and individual initiative.

The assumption by society, as a whole, of the responsibility of its
members of necessity gives an organized form to all efforts for
its improvement. The nature of problems of this sort requires wide
organization in order to bring into touch with the social need, for
its satisfying, as many persons as possible of means and talent. If
the philanthropist is rich, she employs her money as the expression
of her interest in and recognition of her duty toward society. If not
wealthy, but possessed of time and talent, the woman herself becomes
the instrument of social amelioration, and the money from the coffers
of others is placed in her hands for judicious expenditure. The great
interest in philanthropy which in modern times is evinced by all
classes of society tends to unite the women of to-day in a bond of
common sympathy and purpose. It is not solely because they have more
abundant leisure than men that the burden of philanthropy rests upon
their shoulders, for their wider sympathy and clearer insight lead
them to perceive more readily and to meet more effectively the needs
of mankind.

One of the prominent women of England who gave herself largely to
benevolent labors was the Baroness Burdett-Coutts. The generous and
wise use of her immense fortune has secured her an enduring name; she
built churches, she founded charities; and although London was the
chief field for her philanthropy, her native country of Ireland was
remembered in a way to shrine her name there in grateful memory. She
possessed the spirit of the great ladies of old England, who felt
a responsibility toward the dependent and necessitous classes about
them, and to this spirit she gave the wide expression her fortune and
her exceptional environment made possible. The great variety of her
benevolent sympathies and the personal part she took in the various
charities which enlisted them cause her life to mark an era in the
history of philanthropy. There was nothing beyond the catholicity of
her spirit.

The modern temperance movement, which enlisted largely the interest
of the women of England and America, and which led, in the latter
country, to the organization of the Women's Christian Temperance
Union, found its best representative in England in the person of Lady
Henry Somerset. Lady Somerset's efforts in behalf of temperance
and social reforms in England are too much matters of present-day
knowledge to need more than a notice of them in these pages; they have
enrolled her name in the list of great women of the century, where it
had already been long placed by the affections of a nation. Another
expression of the interest of women in society is found in the
Young Women's Christian Association, Girls' Friendly Society, the
Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants, and other
organizations which care for the interests of young women exposed to
imposition or temptation. It is impossible to enumerate even the more
important of the organizations which owe their institution to women
and are conducted by the sex for the benefit of society. Wide as has
been the field in the past, new phases of modern life are constantly
coming under the purview of women's societies, which, although to a
large extent voluntary, are none the less splendidly organized and
disciplined forces, occupying, for the most part, independent fields.

Woman as a nurse is not a new aspect of her nature, but not until the
last quarter of the century was nursing elevated to the dignity of
a profession. There were not wanting women who bore the title of
professional nurse, but these did not have the training to justify the
name. Before the Crimean War there were upward of two thousand five
hundred such nurses in England. Florence Nightingale, whose name will
ever be identified with the founding of schools for nurses, said:
"Sickness is everywhere. Death is everywhere. But hardly anywhere
is the training necessary to relieve sickness, to delay death. We
consider a long education and discipline necessary to train our
medical man; we consider hardly any training at all necessary for our
nurse, although how often does our medical man himself tell us, 'I can
do nothing for you unless your nurse will carry out what I say.'" The
revelation of suffering on the part of uncared-for soldiers which
Miss Nightingale brought back from the Crimea profoundly moved English
society; and a large sum of money was presented to her, with which she
founded the Nurses' Training Institution at St. Thomas's Hospital. At
about the same time, the Anglican sisterhood founded training schools
of a similar kind. From these sources arose the sentiment for trained
service for the sick which has led to the wide respect with which
modern society regards the nurse who has been thoroughly trained for
her profession. This feeling toward nurses is in striking contrast
to the one which prevailed before the days of special training:
that which was once considered a degrading occupation has come to be
thought of as an ennobling ministry. In 1870, the date of the founding
of the Metropolitan and National Nursing Association by the Duke of
Westminster, James Hinton, in a paper in the _Cornhill Magazine_ on
"Nursing as a Profession," called attention to this new activity as a
trained service for women: "It is considered, though an excellent and
most respectable vocation, not one for a lady to follow as a means
of livelihood, unless she is content to sink a little in the social
scale.... Can any one think it is, in its own nature, more menial than
surgery? Could any occupation whatever call more emphatically for the
qualities characteristically termed professional, or better known as
those of the gentleman and the lady?... Here is a profession, truly
a profession, equal to the highest in dignity, open to woman in which
she does not compete with man."

Nursing no longer has to be defended as a suitable occupation for the
sex, for in its ranks can be found women of all grades of society; it
is one of the levelling influences of modern times, as well as one of
the most elevating of callings. No other sphere of public activity
has opened up to woman in which she has not met the opposition of
men. Nursing is a striking instance of the modern trend toward
specialization, which is but another term for professionalism.
Consonant with the whole spirit of the times, the amateur nurse was
relegated to the background by the modern trained nurse.

Society, however, has not taken so kindly to women's departure in
another direction: women as physicians are still regarded as a
novelty and a doubtful expedient. Nursing created a profession, and so
conservative sentiment did not have to be met; but the old faculties
of law, medicine, and theology had been so long intrenched in their
privileged places in relation to society that any attempt to widen
their confines or to enlist their hospitality toward innovations is
met with the resistance which custom and precedent always present to
novelty. Although their progress into the medical profession has been
slow, yet the nineteenth century records the opening of this calling
to women. During the last quarter of the century women were admitted
to the ranks of accredited practitioners. Yet, the vocation is not a
novel one for the sex, for in the remote past they have been looked
upon as possessing knowledge and skill in the treatment of diseases;
but, as we have seen, the woman who followed the art of healing as a
profession was often regarded as in league with the powers of evil.
Down to the nineteenth century, women never held any recognized place
as practitioners, excepting in the capacity of midwives.

In the eighteenth century there were, outside of the recognized
profession, a number of women who practised medicine with considerable
success; but, although skilful, they would be regarded to-day as mere
quacks. Mrs. Joanna Stephens, who proclaimed that she had found
a remarkable cure for a painful disease, appears to have been so
successful in her treatment of cases as to enlist genuine respect for
her attainments. Parliament voted her a grant of five thousand pounds
sterling. Mrs. Mapp, commonly termed "Crazy Sally," who had repute as
a bonesetter, received from the town of Epsom the offer of an
annuity of one hundred pounds sterling if she would remain in that
neighborhood. She was such a popular character that the managers of
Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre sent her a special request to attend
a performance at which they desired to have a large audience. She
complied, and the attendance was satisfactory.

Early in the century there was a renewal of attempts which had
formerly been made to require women who practised obstetrics to come
under some form of registration; but when the matter came before
Parliament, in the form of an enactment prepared by the Society of
Apothecaries, a committee of the House of Commons reported that "It
would not allow any mention of female midwives." Although women were
not received into the regular profession as qualified practitioners
until after the middle of the century, they were under no legal
prohibition to practise medicine; but in 1858 the passage of the
Medical Act, which required a doctor to qualify by passing the
examination of one of the existing medical boards, set up a barrier
to women, as it placed them subject to the discretion of the boards,
which unanimously refused to admit them. The only exceptions to this
rule were made in favor of those persons who had received a medical
degree abroad and had been practising before the passage of the act.
It was in this way that Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell became registered.
Miss Elizabeth Garret, whose studies did not begin till two years
after the compulsory registration law, was also enrolled under
exceptional conditions.

At last matters came to an issue, and a notable struggle occurred
which marked an era in the medical profession of England in its
attitude toward female practitioners. The case of Miss Sophia
Jex-Blake brought on the contest. She applied to the London University
for admission, and was informed that the charter of that institution
had been purposely framed to exclude women who sought medical degrees.
Returning to Edinburgh, she exhausted every legal resource in a combat
with the authorities, and was signally worsted. The plucky fight she
made won the admiration of Sir James Simpson, the dean of the medical
faculty, and others, but Professor Laycock observed to her that he
"could not imagine any decent woman wishing to study medicine; as
for any lady, that was out of the question." Success finally crowned
persistent endeavor, and, the University Court having passed a
resolution that "Women shall be admitted to the study of medicine
in the university," Miss Jex-Blake and four other ladies passed the
preliminary examinations for entrance. Other women soon entered the
open door; but the contest was not yet ended, for, after these ladies
had pursued their studies for three years and paid the fees, they were
informed by the University Court that no arrangement could be effected
by which they could continue their studies with a view to a degree,
instead of which they were offered certificates of proficiency; the
latter, however, would not be recognized by the Medical Act. They then
took legal measures to secure redress, and followed the matter up by
a bill in Parliament, which was lost. In 1876 another bill was
introduced to enable all British examining bodies to extend their
examinations and qualifications to women, and this became a law. A
number of colleges availed themselves of the privilege and opened
their doors to women, until at the present time there are medical
schools for women in a number of the principal cities in England,
Scotland, and Ireland.

The advance of women in the professions was in line with the general
widening of the educational horizon of the sex. Partly as the result
of her broader education, and partly as a cause of it, there was a
juster appreciation of the relative position of the sexes, and into
this there entered as well the new economic measure of value. Society
was no longer regarded as a congeries of individuals, but as an
organism, and an organism whose function was chiefly the creation
of wealth. This broader economic estimate of society could but be
favorable to women, whose valuation as a part of the commonwealth was
largely regulated by their utility. The ideal of political economy is
that everyone shall be employed, and employed at that for which he is
best adapted, under the condition of freedom of self-development. The
prevalence of such truer theories of society aided in dispelling the
mists of error which had surrounded the popular notions as to women.
Buckle observes, in his _Influence of Women on the Progress of
Knowledge_, that women are quicker in thought than men, and he says:
"Nothing could prevent its being universally admitted except the fact
that the remarkable rapidity with which women think is obscured by
that miserable, that contemptible, that preposterous system called
their education, in which valuable things are carefully kept from
them, and trifling things carefully taught to them, until their fine
and nimble minds are too often irretrievably injured."

The close of the nineteenth century witnessed a complete revolution
in the constituents of girls' education. French, dancing,
flower painting, and music no longer comprised a young lady's
accomplishments. The fear of singularity, which was a social bugbear
to the young women of other generations, no longer served to prevent
them from studying classics and mathematics and science. To-day, they
are expected to add their quota to the contribution of the times,
in thought as well as in the graces of deportment. The latter can no
longer atone for the absence of the former. It is no more the case
among the middle classes that only the girl who intends fitting
herself to take the position of governess needs an education above the
rudiments and the embellishments. Not the least of the departures in
the educational scheme for women is the notable change of attitude
which has taken place with regard to the development of their bodies.
It is but recently that physical training has entered into the
curriculum of colleges, but it is even more recently that an opinion
has prevailed favorable to the physical culture of women.

Before the educational revolution occurred, women were making their
mark in intellectual spheres. In 1835 the names of two women, Mary
Somerville and Caroline Herschell, were enrolled as members of the
Astronomical Society. In its report containing the recommendation of
the election of these ladies, the council of the society observed:
"Your Council has no small pleasure in recommending that the names
of two ladies distinguished in astronomy be placed on the list of
honorary members. On the propriety of such a step from an astronomical
point of view, there can be but one voice: and your Council is of
opinion that the time is gone by when either feeling or prejudice,
by whichever name it may be proper to call it, should be allowed to
interfere with the payment of a well-earned tribute of respect. Your
Council has hitherto felt that, whatever might be its own sentiment on
the subject, or however able and willing it might be to defend such a
measure, it had no right to place the name of a lady in a position
the propriety of which might be contested, though upon what it might
consider narrow grounds and false principles. But your Council has no
fear that such a difference could now take place between any men whose
opinion would avail to guide that of society at large, and, abandoning
compliments on the one hand, and false delicacy on the other, submits
that while the tests of astronomical merit should in no case be
applied to the works of a woman less severely than to those of man,
the sex of the former should no longer be an obstacle to her receiving
any acknowledgment which might be held due the latter. And your
Council, therefore, recommends this meeting to add to the list
of honorary members the names of Miss Caroline Herschell and Mrs.
Somerville, of whose astronomical knowledge, and of the utility of the
ends to which it has been applied, it is not necessary to recount the

Mrs. Somerville suffered from the educational limitations of her day,
and when she desired to learn Latin, in order that she might study
the _Principia_, she referred to Professor Playfair with regard to the
propriety of her doing so, and was assured by him that there was no
impropriety involved for the purpose she had in mind. At that time
there were many women with the best of education, acquired outside
of university halls, but such were usually brought up by scholarly
parents possessed of well-stocked libraries. To-day, the position of
Ruskin is a commonplace of experience. In his lecture on the _Queen's
Gardens_, he advised that women have free access to books, and
asserted that they would find out for themselves the wholesome and
avoid the pernicious with an instinct as unerring as that which
directs the browsing of sheep in pasture lands. It has been
sufficiently demonstrated that wholesome-minded girls are ever less in
danger of contamination from literature than are their brothers.

The opening of Queen's College in 1848 marked the beginning of an
attempt to give a wider education to women. This college grew out of
the Governesses' Benevolent Institution. It was a training school for
teachers, a normal institute; but, besides this, it was open to all
who cared to enter. The name of that leader in modern educational
movements, Frederick Denison Maurice, was identified with this
departure. In the face of hostile comment, he defended the system
which was adopted by himself and his brother professors, all of whom
had come from King's College. The educational opportunities offered
by this college were exceptional; the fees were low, and many students
hastened to avail themselves of the new privilege.

It was twenty years later, however, before there was fought out the
issue through which women came to be admitted to the universities. In
1856, Miss Jessie Merriton White was applying vainly for admittance
to the matriculation examination of the University of London. In 1869,
Girton College, the building of which cost fourteen thousand seven
hundred pounds sterling, was established largely through the
efforts of women. It was intended to afford training for women along
university lines, and the plan of study was modelled on that of
Cambridge University; the idea in the adoption of this parallel course
was to establish beyond doubt women's fitness for pursuing the same
studies as men. Other colleges of the same nature were founded soon

In the last century, the old theory that women were not capable of
higher education on account of the "moisture of their brains" was not
one of the pleas upon which was based the opposition to the higher
education of women. The more plausible ground was taken that women
ought to avoid certain lines of study which are a part of a university
course. But it is coming to be realized that the proprieties
of knowledge do not reside in the subject or in the sex of the
student--that whatever is important for higher investigation is worthy
of the pursuit of women as well as men, and can be pursued by them
at the point of ripened discretion to which they have arrived when
capable of meeting the requirements for entrance into a university.

The high-school system that has developed in England during the last
quarter of a century has done much for the education of the middle
classes, affording sound instruction and mental discipline for all.
At the present day, poor girls, who, if they were dependent upon
their personal resources, would never acquire an education, have wider
facilities than were enjoyed by the women of the aristocracy a century

Of those who promoted the secondary education for girls, perhaps no
name among female educators in England stands higher than that
of Frances Mary Buss. Her splendid powers of organization and
administration raised to such a degree of efficiency the private
school which she had established in the north of London, that, when
the Brewers Company desired to invest a sum of money for the education
of girls, it entered into negotiations with Miss Buss and acquired her
establishment, retaining her as head mistress.

Voluminous as are the works of women in the realm of fiction, it is
nevertheless a field little exploited by them until recent years. In
the eighteenth century the sex had produced few historians, poets,
or essayists who could be compared with the group of romance writers
which included such names as Catherine Macauley, Eliza Haywood,
Elizabeth Carter, Fanny Burney, Mrs. Inchbald, and Mrs. Radcliffe; but
when we pass to the nineteenth century, while women as romanticists
are more prominent than women as authors in any other field, there is
no limit upon the versatility which they exhibit, and all branches
of literature have felt their moulding impress. To take the names of
women out of the list of authors of the nineteenth century would be to
diminish the glory of the literary skies by blotting out the lustre of
some of its brightest constellations.

Beginning with Jane Austin and continuing to Mrs. Humphry Ward, the
line of literary descent in the realm of fiction is a roll of honor
for womankind; but it is a far cry from these to that earliest of
women novelists, Mrs. Aphra Behn, who, at the direction of Charles
II., wrote her novel _Oronooko_, the purpose of which was not
dissimilar to the social end which Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe had
in mind in her _Uncle Tom's Cabin_. Thus, the sixteenth century is
brought into touch with the nineteenth, although the connecting links
were few and slight until the middle of the latter. The number of
women novelists indicates that women have found in fiction the line of
literary pursuit which is most agreeable to their tastes and adapted
to their natures. There seems to be absolutely no limit to the range
of subjects which women are capable of working up in romance; whether
in novels of incident or novels of character, treating historical or
social subjects, didactic or imaginative themes, with the plot in any
period of time, among any people or set of conditions, women writers
appear to be equally at home.

While the vast majority of literary women have been writers of
fiction, every branch of literature numbers in its promoters the names
of eminent females. In poetry and in dramatic literature women have
not achieved the fame of men. Lord Byron gave as the reason for
women's apparent lack of imaginative and creative power that they had
not seen and felt enough of life. As translators, editors, compilers,
as writers on social topics and current questions, as well as on
educational subjects, memoirs, travels, literary studies, they have
been prolific and excellent workers. Besides which, they have given to
journalistic and magazine work their special capabilities.

Women no longer fear to write under their own names, and do not resort
to pseudonyms as did Charlotte Brontë, and Mary Ann Evans--George
Eliot. It was at one time thought that the demands of research and
study outside of the range of ordinary feminine acquaintance precluded
the sex from doing many forms of intellectual work which were open to
men. Fiction did not present special difficulties; and as the line of
least resistance, as well as that of especial adaptation, women took
to this form of writing.

At the present day, however, there is no question as to woman's
faithfulness, accuracy, and ability to attend to detail; and so there
are no lines of research or of authorship in which women are not
engaged. This is in part due to the similar lines upon which women and
men are now educated. Their broad acquaintance with the whole range of
intellectual subjects eminently fits the sex for special work in any
department. To distinguish by their method of treatment the writings
of women is no longer possible. Their pens have the same grace
and vigor of style as those of men, while there is no fineness or
daintiness of touch in their writings which does not find counterpart
in those of men.

The fiction of the century reveals woman intrepidly discussing
political, economic, and labor questions with a large degree of
assurance, and others with a great deal of acuteness and insight.
Although there is intense competition in the realm of literature, yet
the complexity of modern society, the universality of education,
the opportunities of leisure for reading, the social demands for
acquaintance with standard and recent works, and the incitement to
reading given through the newspapers, magazines, book reviews, and
lectures of the times, furnish unlimited opportunities for gifted
women to exercise their talents in writing.

It was not until 1861 that women were admitted to all the privileges
and opportunities of art education which centred in the Royal Academy
schools. In that year these were opened to women students. It
is interesting to notice how in almost an accidental manner the
limitations placed upon women were removed. At the annual dinner of
the Academy in 1859, Lord Lyndhurst felicitated those present on the
benefits which were conferred upon all her majesty's subjects by
the Academy schools. Miss Laura Herford, an artist, wrote to Lord
Lyndhurst and pointed out the fact that half of her majesty's subjects
were excluded. This made the discussion of the propriety of admitting
women a kindly one, and a memorial was prepared and signed by
thirty-eight women artists, copies of which were sent to every member
of the Academy, praying the admission of women and pointing out the
benefit it would be to them to study, under qualified teachers, from
the antique and from life. It was regarded as impracticable that
women and men should study life subjects together, and the request was
refused. There was nothing in the constitution of the Academy either
for or against the admission of women. A drawing with the signature
"L. Herford" was then sent in by Miss Herford, and it was admitted
by a letter addressed to "L. Herford, Esq." The question then arose
whether a woman who had been accepted as a man should be allowed to
enter. Miss Herford had her way.

No women had been admitted into the Academy since the days of Angelica
Kaufmann and Mary Moser. The reason for their non-reception, as
assigned by Sanby in his _History of the Royal Academy of Arts_,
and quoted by Georgiana Hill in her _Women in English Life_, is as
follows: "One or two ladies, if elected members, could scarcely be
expected to take part in the government or in the work of the society;
and as the practice even of giving votes by proxy has long since been
abolished, the effect of their election as Royal Academicians would
be, virtually, to reduce the number of those who manage the affairs of
the institution and the schools in proportion as ladies were admitted
to that rank: and as long as the number of Associates is limited,
a difficulty would arise in the fact that the higher rank has to be
recruited from that body." Miss Hill regards this as a grievance,
because it virtually makes the matter of sex a disqualification, and
quotes with endorsement Miss Ellen Clayton, as follows: "The Academy
has studiously ignored the existence of women artists, leaving them to
work in the cold shade of utter neglect. Not even once has a helping
hand been extended, not once has the most trifling reward been
given for highest merit and industry. Accidents made two women
Academicians--the accident of circumstances and the accident of birth.
Accident opened the door to girl students--accident, aided by courage
and talent. In other countries, they have the prize fairly earned
quietly placed in their hands, and can receive it with dignity. In
free, unprejudiced, chivalric England, where the race is given to the
swift, the battle to the strong, without fear or favour, it is only by
slow, laborious degrees that women are winning the right to enter the
list at all, and are then received with half-contemptuous indulgence."

Whether or not women artists have a real grievance against the Royal
Academy, certain it is that the last half of the nineteenth century
has been notable for the progress of women in art. It was in the
galleries of the Society of Lady Artists, which came into existence
in 1859, that Lady Butler first exhibited and pictures by Rosa
Bonheur were displayed. With the multiplicity of art schools and
every facility for obtaining instructions under the most favorable
conditions, women have been brought into prominence as artists.
Landscape, portrait painting, oil, water-colors, pastel--the whole
range of subjects and styles of painting includes pictures of merit by

In many of the lesser branches of art, hundreds of women have found
congenial vocations. They have shown excellent taste and aptitude
in china painting and other forms of decorative work--in book
illustration, as designers of carpet and wall-paper patterns, as
preparers of advertisements, designers of calendars, and a host of
other minor art industries.

Women as musical composers had appeared in the last half of the
eighteenth century. Mrs. Beardman, who made her début as a singer
at the Gloucester festival in 1790, was equally gifted as composer,
singer, and pianist. Ann Mounsey displayed early talent, and her
precocity brought her into notice when she was but nine years of age.
In her maturity, her compositions gave her high rank among female
composers, and in 1855 her oratorio _The Nativity_ was produced in
London. She was a member of the Philharmonic Society and also of
the Royal Society of Musicians. Another gifted woman, whose talents
brought her early into notice and who was a member of the Royal
Academy of Music, was Kate Fanny Loder. She had been instructed in
piano-forte by Mrs. Lucy Anderson, teacher to Queen Victoria when she
was princess and afterward to the children of her majesty. Miss Loder
was a king's scholar at the Royal Academy, and when but eighteen years
of age was appointed professor of harmony at her _alma mater_. Eliza
Flower--whose sister, Mrs. Adams, wrote the words of the hymn _Nearer,
my God, to Thee_--was another of the gifted composers of the century,
and her name appears as the author of many hymn tunes.

To give the names of all the women composers of hymn tunes would be
to give a history of hymnology in modern times, for there is no sacred
song collection but embraces the compositions of many women gifted
in music. To give the names of those who have figured in opera would
involve a history which includes a great many more foreign artists
than English; but without seeking to do more than mention a few of
those whose names have figured in popular favor as operatic _prima
donnas_, and omitting particular mention of their individual
capabilities, there are some names which suggest themselves to
the patrons of the opera as worthy of first mention in the list of
England's great singers. Catherine Tofts, Anastasia Robinson, Lavinia
Fenton,--afterward Duchess of Bolton,--achieved celebrity in the opera
during the first thirty years of the century. Lavinia Fenton was the
heroine of _The Beggars' Opera_, which took London by storm. The names
of Catherine Hayes and Louisa Pyne are still treasured by those whose
recollections go back to the forties.

The general ill repute under which the stage rested in the seventeenth
century continued to hang about it throughout the eighteenth. There
was still a great deal of license allowed spectators, and it was not
unusual for them to pass on the stage and behind the scenes. The rude
and boisterous conduct of the patrons of the theatre made it extremely
unpleasant for persons of refinement to attend it. The city streets
had not yet become well protected, and the degree of security which is
now afforded to pedestrians was lacking in the eighteenth century.
It was out of the question for any gentlewoman to attend the theatre
unaccompanied by male escort. There were always loiterers about the
streets, and any man of rank whose character was bad enough to permit
him to do so felt at liberty to salute a woman with insults--which,
when they came from such a source, were then styled as gallantries;
and women who adopted the stage as a profession, being looked upon as
having forfeited their claims to gentility, were regarded as fair game
by the rakes of the day. Notwithstanding the attempts of Queen Anne to
reform the manners of theatre-goers by the passage of edicts looking
to that end, the evils which made it so unpleasant to a respectable
person to attend the theatre and which brought the playhouse under
odium continued to be flagrant.

In the nineteenth century came a great uplift of the status of the
stage and workers upon it, and, in contrast to the opinions
which prevailed in the eighteenth century, an actress suffered
no disparagement and had the same opportunity for cherishing her
reputation as any others of the sex. The stage no longer brought its
followers into disrepute, for it rested with the actress herself to
preserve or to tarnish her character. She was no longer, by virtue of
being an actress, regarded as a Bohemian, and it was not considered a
regrettable thing for a girl of character to enter upon a histrionic
career. It was her course and conduct after she had entered the
profession, and the nature of the plays in which she appeared and the
parts which she allowed herself to present, that determined the public
verdict with regard to her. As a result of the changed character of
the theatre,--although it was by no means cleared of all the odium
that had so long attached to it,--a larger number of men and women
attended dramatic performances than ever before.

The introduction of women into commercial life was followed by the
opening up of civil service appointments and a change of sentiment
with regard to women engaging in trade. In 1870, when the government
bought the interests of the telegraph company, the officials were
brought under the existing civil service rules. Some of them happened
to be women, and thus, inadvertently, women were admitted to
civil service appointments under the government. In 1871 the
postmaster-general bore striking testimony to the efficiency of the
women employed in his department. When commenting upon the transfer of
the telegraphs from private control to post office direction, he said:
"There had been no reason to regret the experiment. On the contrary,
it has afforded much ground for believing that, where large numbers
of persons are employed with full work and fair supervision, the
admixture of the sexes involves no risk, but is highly beneficial."
Then, remarking upon the better tone of the male staff by reason of
their association with women as fellow employés, he added: "Further,
it is a matter of experience that the male clerks are more willing to
help the female clerks with their work than to help one another; and
on many occasions pressure of business is met and difficulties are
overcome through this willingness and cordial coöperation."

The experience of employing women in the post office was duplicated
in other departments of the public service, until it has become a
recognized fact that women can be employed in connection with men
without any of the results which it was apprehended would follow
the departure. In the country districts, postmistresses and female
carriers are not a novelty. It was the post office which first
Opened up to women employment under the government, and its various
departments now utilize them extensively. Although other of the public
services have received women as clerks, their position is still in a
measure tentative, but it can hardly be said that the employment of
them by the government is any longer an experiment. In addition to
the large numbers of young women who have found employment in the
government service, there is no railroad company, insurance company,
or any other large semi-public or private business firm or company,
which has not found women to be of peculiar serviceability. The great
number of women who, during the latter part of the nineteenth century,
fitted themselves for business careers indicates not only a change of
ideal, with a realization of their self-sufficiency, but the increased
adaptability of women to the peculiar conditions of modern society.

It is no longer a curious phenomenon to see the name of a woman upon
a business letterhead, or on the sign over some large commercial
establishment, for frequently, when their husbands die, women
themselves now take in hand the business interests of the deceased
and conduct them with marked success, and with no question from their
business competitors as to the propriety of their so doing. Nor do
such women forfeit the esteem of society. Society as such is no longer
concerned chiefly with matters of pedigree, but more largely with the
question of prosperity. While it would be asserting too much to say
that the nineteenth century witnessed the iconoclastic shattering of
the old aristocratic ideals, nevertheless, while the woman of blood
maintains her rightful place in the select circles of society, the
door stands ajar for women who have no other claim for recognition
than that they have amassed fortunes, or inherited them, or are the
wives of wealthy men. However, they must not have clinging to them
the odor of their humble beginnings, if they rose from lowly walks of
life. The real test applied to them is not the test of breeding, which
relates to the past, but of gentility, which is the measure of the
present life.

Besides the women who managed large business interests in their own
names, the nineteenth century witnessed the advent of the business
woman in numerous lines of small trade. To name the various kinds of
business in which women are found making for themselves a sustenance
would be to give a list of the many lines of retail trade; but the
shopwoman of the earlier part of the nineteenth century is quite a
different person from the tradeswoman of the latter half. Instead of
a small, obscure shop, conducted in a hesitating, apologetic manner,
to-day women are as aggressive advertisers, make as fine displays
in their shops, and sustain the same business relations with the
wholesale dealers, as do the retail dealers of the other sex. Beyond
any peradventure, women have become a part of the business organism
of England, and are competing upon terms of equality with men for the
patronage of the public; and they have before them just as hopeful
prospects of amassing a competence for an easy and independent old

Great as is the army of women who enrolled themselves in the ranks of
commerce and clerkship during the nineteenth century, they are in a
minority as compared with the greater host of industry,--the women who
are found in the factories, working upon the raw materials of human
comforts and luxuries, toiling unremittingly and often under hard
conditions for a mere pittance as compared with the value of their
products. In 1895 there were one hundred thousand women in England
holding membership in the various trade unions, and, besides these, a
far larger number who were without such enrolment, such as fifty-two
thousand shirtmakers and seamstresses and four hundred thousand
dressmakers and milliners; and these were but a mere fraction of
the immense host of women who, outside of the home, found themselves
earning their own bread by their personal labor. With the growth of
manufactures, women were drawn from the rural districts. It became an
uncommon thing, where formerly it was the usual practice, for women to
perform the work of field laborers, or to depend chiefly for support
upon butter and cheese making, or service at the inns or in the shops
of the neighboring towns. It is now only the women of the lowest rank
who devote themselves for a livelihood to berry picking, hop picking,
garden weeding, and like menial outdoor services.

The competition of women with men in manufactures was greeted at first
with the sullen resentment and open opposition with which machinery
was viewed when first introduced; but as women have been drawn into
manufactures, men have absorbed many of the outdoor duties
which formerly fell to woman's lot in the country districts. The
"bakeresses," "brewsters," and the "regrateresses"--retailers of
bread--are now known simply in the history of industry; their names
have become archaic and their offices obsolete. As machinery took the
place of the individual intelligence of the handworker of other days,
leaving only a monotonous series of mechanical manipulations for the
men, aside from the superior skill called into play by the complexity
of the machinery, which demanded expert and intelligent direction,
women found relegated to them the simplest parts of factory work
and those which did not require any large degree of mentality. As a
result, the women of the factories have not developed coördinately in
intelligence with their sisters in other lines of active work. This
has unfortunately led them to be looked down upon as inferior to
girls who work in stores or in offices. As the factory laws came to
be framed with regard to greater investigation and regulation of the
conditions of women's work in factories, many of the abuses were to
a degree corrected. It is not now commonly the case that a
self-respecting operative is without redress if subjected to the
coarse insults of brutalized foremen, nor are women now permitted
to work as formerly under conditions so harmful to their peculiar
constitutions. Better sanitation, fewer hours of employment, and
greater regard for their comfort, have done much to brighten what
was in the early part of the nineteenth century the dreariest life to
which any woman could be chained.

Along with the improvements in the condition of women's labor have
gone improvements in the housing of factory people. The industrial
evils that brought out such chivalrous champions of the poor as
the younger Lord Shaftesbury and his associates no longer generally
prevail in factory life. There yet remains much to be done for the
congregated women and girls of the factories. It was inevitable that
by the bringing of them together in great numbers, many from homes
of abject poverty where they had none of the benefits of careful
training, and by the herding of them together in factories where the
nature of their work did not furnish employment for their minds, the
moral tone of the young women of daily toil should have been lower
than that of their sister workers in other lines. But the dictum of
Lord Shaftesbury has been sinking into the social consciousness,
and has borne splendid fruit in the improvement of the conditions of
factory work for women. "In the male," says he, "the moral effects of
the system are very bad; but in the female they are infinitely worse,
not alone upon themselves, but upon their families, upon society, and,
I may add, upon the country itself. It is bad enough if you corrupt
the man; but if you corrupt the woman, you poison the waters of life
at the very fountain." In the first half of the nineteenth century,
the actual number of women employed in factories appears to have been
larger than that of men.

The existence of the factory, drawing out from the homes so many
women and making their home life only a secondary consideration and
an additional burden, presents one of the gravest problems of
modern times--a problem that must be approached harmoniously by the
philanthropists and the legislators if it is to be satisfactorily
solved. Habit begets contentment, so that it is not the employés of
the factory who feel most keenly the unfortunate circumstances of
their existence. It is the social reformer, whose one aim is not
the uplifting of the individual as such, but the betterment of the
individual as the unit of the social fabric, who is most concerned
for the betterment of the town life of England. As to the women
themselves, when they are compensated by extra wage they have no
complaint to make about the long hours; indeed, they sometimes even
prefer the factory and the excitement of their surroundings to the
dreary and forbidding prospect of their desolate tenements. One
unnatural result of women's work in factories is the reversal of the
positions respectively of husband and wife in the home. It is not an
extraordinary occurrence for women to go out to the factories and
earn the bread of the family, while the men remain at home to mind the
babies and care for the house. This begetting of shiftlessness in men,
who are buoyed up to the point of self-supporting labor only by
the dependence of their families upon them, is an incidental but a
significant result of factory life upon women. It is seriously to be
doubted that, in the aggregate earnings of the family, there is any
real compensation for the binding of wives and children to the wheel
of toil. It has been observed by careful students of industrial
conditions that, for one reason or another, the maximum wage of a
family and the degree of comfort in their living are not, ordinarily,
greater than that of the family whose sole wage earner is the husband.

There is not a concurrence of views as to the wisdom of special
legislation with regard to the industrial place of women. Some see
in the various acts passed to regulate the circumstances of their
employment a distinct gain, while others view all such enactments as
a regrettable interference of the state in a matter where it is not
capable of taking cognizance of all the circumstances involved and of
displaying the broadest wisdom in dealing with the subject. Then, too,
it is objected on the part of some that sex legislation is unwise of
itself. The women themselves have not always looked with favor upon
the passage of acts for the regulation of their labor, and often
complain of such as an infringement of their personal privileges as
adults. They complain that the competition of labor is already severe,
and that by imposing upon them the limitations of certain acts the
difficulty of making a subsistence is increased. They complain against
the association of female with child labor, and assert that the
conditions are dissimilar and the abuses to be corrected cannot be
classed under the same legislative conditions. Industrial legislation
was first directed to the correction of offences against women
on account of their sex, but the later enactments, and those most
complained of, were resented because of their making the securing of a
livelihood more precarious. The _Times_ in 1895 pointed out that there
were eight hundred and eighty thousand women affected by the Factories
and Workshops Bill, introduced into Parliament in that year. The
lack of flexibility of the measure, failing to take account of the
different natures and conditions of the various employments affected,
made it obviously unjust to the women employed in certain trades. Some
industries have their seasons of activity and of dulness, while others
fluctuate without regard to periods; and to class all such under
legislation regulating the hours of labor at the same number for them
all could but work injury to the women employed in such trades and
disproportionate advantage to other women employed in industries
pursued evenly throughout the year.

The crux of such contentions lies in the paternal attitude of the
state to the female sex. The expediency of depriving women of the same
amount of liberty to regulate their own affairs as is accorded to men
is a matter of doubt. Women feel that they can decide better for
their own needs than can the legislators who have as their guide only
industrial statistics, the petitions of well-meaning social reformers,
and the views of those who claim expert knowledge from the outside.
Just what will be the outcome of the attempt to resolve woman into a
normal relationship to modern industry without violation of the rights
of self-direction and protection, which she claims as her prerogative,
and at the same time to preserve society from the social blight of the
reduction of considerable numbers of workingwomen to prostitution
and abandoned living, remains to be determined by the wisdom and
experience of the twentieth century.

One of the most curious of the industrial problems at the front in the
nineteenth century was the servant question. While the wheels of work
were set to moving with more or less smoothness in all other ways,
this important wheel in the domestic machinery has never run without
friction, jarring to the nerves of housewives. Such women find a
common bond of sympathy in the incompetence and dereliction of their
domestics; domestics find a common subject of interest in their
grievances against their mistresses. The whole matter is almost
ludicrous, because it is one simply of adjustment. After the sex
has asserted for itself a position in the realm of industry not
inconsistent with the self-respect which it has sought to maintain,
the women who work in the kitchens and the chambers of other women
sullenly resent the imputation of their menial status in so doing.
Just why the modern servants should be looked upon as inferior to
other women workers is a difficult question, for their close relation
to their mistresses would appear to give them an individuality which
the "hands" in a factory do not possess. The line of demarcation
between the domestic employers and employés is not always a clearly
pronounced one, for it not uncommonly occurs that those who themselves
employ a maid send out their own daughters to similar service. The low
regard in which servants are held, and the application to them of
this very term, which carries with it an implication of ignominy,
is responsible for the poor grade of efficiency, intelligence, and
character found among domestics as a class. There is no reason, in
the nature of the case, why a young girl with intelligence and fair
education should not self-respectingly take domestic service, and
rank above factory hands and many of her sister workers in inferior
clerical positions.

In earlier times domestic work fell largely to men. The kitchen work
which now is performed by scullery maids was done by boys and youths;
and before the office of housemaid had been established, that of
chamberlain signified the service of men for the work which maids are
now employed to do. The very titles of those who are connected with
the person of majesty signify the lowly household functions which were
ordinarily performed by those to whom now fall the honors, but none of
the duties, of those offices. In ecclesiastical households there were
no women employed at all in former times, excepting "brewsters." The
personal relationship which used to endear the tie between servant and
mistress no more exists than it does between other working people
and their employers. Instead of the idea of personal attachment,
the monetary consideration is the only one that enters into the
relationship. The maid is but a part of the machinery of the
household, and must deport herself in a deferential and often an
abject manner, assuming a mask of propriety which is thrown off as
soon as she is among her companions, when the pent-up animosity and
resentment find expression. How different the modern condition from
that which obtained in other times, when a lady considered no one
fitting to attend upon her excepting those who were of gentle blood
and between whom and herself were ties of endearment and a measure of
equality! Gentle maidens performed many household duties which to-day
are disdained by young ladies of lesser position. The real "servants"
did only the coarse and rough work of the household. They had no
particular place to sleep, and, even down to the time of Elizabeth, it
was not thought important to provide regular beds for "menials" in the
great houses--"As for servants, if they had any shete above them it
was well, for seldom had they any under their bodies to keep them from
the pricking strawes that ranne off thorow the canvas and raxed their
hardened hides." The servants who were thus treated were, of
course, the antecedents of the present-day servants. It is from the
traditional attitude toward them that much of the present-day spirit
of superiority toward domestics is derived. During the eighteenth
century the condition of domestics improved, and, during the last
quarter, the description of them, their tastes and their manners, is
such as would be quite applicable to-day. Already the scarcity of good
servants had come to be a matter of domestic concern. The lament of
the lady of to-day, that her maid dresses as well as she herself, is
not a new one, for it is met as far back as the seventeenth century,
and in the eighteenth century Defoe remarks upon the same fact. He
says, writing in 1724: "It would be a satire upon the ladies such as
perhaps they would not bear the reading of, should we go about to tell
how hard it is sometimes to know the chamber-maid from her mistress;
or my lady's chief woman from one of my lady's daughters." He adds
that: "From this gaiety of dress must necessarily follow encrease of
wages, for where there is such an expence in habit there must be a
proportion'd supply of money, or it will not do." The same subject
furnished concern for people generally, and a correspondent to the
_Times_ wrote, in 1794: "I think it is the duty of every good master
and mistress to stop as much as possible the present ridiculous and
extravagant mode of dress in their domestics.... Formerly a plaited
cap and a white handkerchief served a young woman three or four
Sundays. Now a mistress is required to give up, by agreement, the
latter end of the week for her maids to prepare their caps, tuckers,
gowns, etc., for Sunday, and I am told there are houses open on
purpose where those servants who do not choose their mistresses shall
see them, carry their dresses in a bundle and put them on, meet again
in the evening for the purpose of disrobing, and where I doubt not
many a poor, deluded creature had been disrobed of her virtue. They
certainly call aloud for some restraint, both as to their dress as
well as insolent manner."

The great majority of domestic servants come from the rural districts,
and upon entering into town life have no one to exercise any personal
concern in their welfare, and, where they do not fall into worse
courses, they acquire an extravagant and reckless habit of life that
uses up their earnings simply in the furthering of their vanity or
pleasure. The servant question, as that of women's position in the
factory system of the country, presents problems which have proved as
yet stubborn to all attempts at their solution.

One of the most curious facts of the last quarter of the nineteenth
century was the evolution of the "new woman." Women, representing all
manner of social pleas, running the gamut of the extremes, sought a
hearing upon the platform, in the pulpit, through the press, and in
literature. It looked as if the Anglo-Saxon race were on the verge
of a great revolution in which the men would, either passively or in
strenuous opposition, be ignominiously relegated to the rear in the
lines of new progress. The new movement grew out of a sense of social
inequality on the part of some women, and this grievance was exploited
in all ways and illustrated from all viewpoints. Some of these
strenuous advocates for the "rights" of the sex gave themselves over
to the question of dress reform, and their diverse views represented
the whole range of the question, from the sensible and sane
declaration for the abolishment of the tyranny of style to the
adoption of male attire. Others discussed the injustice to women from
the physiological viewpoint, and affirmed that motherhood was not an
honorable office, but a type of feudalism to men and a subservience
to their wills that was highly dishonoring to womankind. It looked as
though the household gods were to be tumbled out of the home without
much ado; but while some of the advocates of reform went to absurd
lengths and presented extreme views and sought by all the ingenuity
of sophistry to present the status of woman as a most deplorable one,
there were others, more moderate in their views and expressions, who
felt that there might be a clear gain for women in the affirming
of her rights in the matter of conventions which held over from the
eighteenth century. Whether in deportment or in dress, in intellectual
pursuits or in the province of amusement, women were to exercise their
judgment and common sense and live in the light of their own reason
and not with reference to the mandates of men.

When the "new woman" craze passed away, it left, as its effect, young
women more self-reliant, more independent, a little more pert and
self-assured, with less reverence and greater capability, than before.
On the whole, the English girl of to-day has wrought out of the
complex conditions of modern society the naturalness which was
asserting itself throughout the eighteenth century, but was hampered
by new conventions, rigid customs, and stately formalisms. It is
true that the English girl of to-day would be to her grandmother a
revelation, and perhaps not an agreeable one; but the standards
by which estimates are made are safest and most satisfactory when
contemporary. It would be venturesome to forecast the view of the _fin
de siècle_ girl which may be taken at the close of the new century by
those who shall cast back over the years a historical glance. Certain
it is that, on the whole, she comes approximately up to the best
standards of to-day, although a certain air of flippancy and the
flavor of the independence of judgment, not always balanced by reason,
suggest the possibility of an intellectual and spiritual trend not
consistent with her most fortunate lines of development.

It will be seen that the twentieth century takes woman as a practical
matter of fact, and proposes to bestow upon her no fulsome eulogies,
chivalrous dalliance, to place her in no position of inferiority, or
to exalt her to the transcendent estate of the celestial beings. She
has demanded recognition in the practical affairs of life; she has
claimed the right to determine her own destiny; she has achieved
the freedom of the outer world. Lofty as are the summits of human
ambition, she has climbed up to the very highest peaks and written her
name in letters of immortality on the scroll of the great ones of
the earth, in the arts, in literature, in philanthropy. Does she ever
pause to take a backward look over the steps by which she has come to
her present eminence? Does she ever consider the "pit from which she
was digged"? It is a far cry from the twentieth century to the early
dawn of history, and none but the Eye which runs to and fro throughout
the whole earth can trace the entire course of woman's ascendency from
degradation to exaltation. But it is always well to pause and to
ask of the past years what report they have borne to Heaven; and the
history of woman, studied in the light of fact and with such proper
reflections as historical circumstance suggests, must not only be a
profitable one for the correction of any ill-balanced tendencies which
may appear to close observation of woman in her present position and
spirit, but it must as well be an important section of, and, in a
sense, interpretation of, the social development of England.



The women of Scotland are remarkable for the strength of their
domestic sentiments and for their loyalty to the land of the heather.
The stream of national life, by its merging and mingling with that of
England, has never lost the individuality which has been the pride
of the Scotch people in all their periods. Like two rivers meeting
in confluence,--the one slow and clear, but steady and strong in its
flow, the other, dashing and foaming its turbulent flood over the
breakers in its rough channel,--refusing for a long time to do other
than divide their common course until after long periods of associated
flow they finally merge, still showing in their different shadings the
mark of their diverse origin, so was it with England and Scotland. The
union is complete, but national characteristics remain.

Not so, however, with unhappy Ireland. Fundamental differences
in life, in temperament, in religion, in ideals, have served to
perpetuate the alienation of a people whose connection with England
might seem to depend on the power of but one principle--that of force.
Not strange is it that among a people which considers itself deprived
of a future the influence of the past should be predominant, and that
in the recital of the mighty deeds of the Irish chieftains of yore
should be found the chief delight of those who mingle their tears at
the shrine of such a representative of their national defeat as the
patriot O'Connell.

With the curious contradiction of nature which infusion of Celtic
blood effects, no livelier or more light-hearted race of women exists
upon the earth than that of Erin, yet, at the same time, none which
can be plunged so deeply into melancholy and feel so profoundly
the pangs of sorrow. Not to original contributions of race
characteristics, however, is this contradictory temperament solely to
be attributed, but to the long years of denationalization which have
made Ireland the wailing place of women whose traditions are glorious
with the deeds of mighty queens and amazons like Macha, Méave,
Dearbhguill and Eva; the dawn of whose cycles of religious glory is
marked by the life and deeds of a Bridget.

To write a history of the women of Great Britain and not speak of the
differences which the names Scot and Irish connote would be as grave
an error as to describe the flora of the islands and omit mention of
the shamrock and the thistle. Not that the flora of the island group
is essentially distinctive any more than that the differences in
society, in manners and customs of the separate peoples, are radical.
It is not that there is much of diverse interest in the broad aspects
of the life of the women that the recital of the history of the women
of Scotland and Ireland is to have separate treatment, but to throw
in strong light upon the pages of history the figures of women who
belonged not to Great Britain, as such, but to Scotland or to Ireland,
and who, if they date after the cementing of the union of the peoples,
still perpetuate that which is distinctive in quality of life and of

To figure forth the famous women of these peoples will serve as
sufficient commentary upon the effect of difference of life and of
customs. All else has entered into the story of the women of Great
Britain as it has been told, for, after all, there is a real oneness
between them.

The tribal influence in both Ireland and Scotland continued to be the
predominant force of patriotic purpose long after the welding of its
various elements had eliminated this influence in English life. In the
earlier history of both the Scotch and Irish peoples, we have to
do with the force in society of this family idea, centred in
great chieftains and kings, but none the less a fact of prevailing
influence, an idea incarnate that served to quell the strife of
warring factions in the face of a common enemy. The patriotism of both
peoples has been the patriotism of the family and the fireside. The
love of the tartan among the Scotch and the perpetuation of the Irish
clans attest this fact to-day.

Many are the pages of British history rendered glorious by the deeds
of the women of Scotland. In those early days, when the light of
history is too faint to show clearly their characters or their deeds,
the women of Caledonia went forth to battle with men at the sound
of the pibroch. Some of the noblest of them reigned as queens, were
hailed as deliverers, or gave their blood in martyrdom to warm the
soil of their country. The Scotch-Irish tribes accorded their women
place in the deliberative bodies, and listened to their counsel. The
magnificent virility which they displayed was not different from that
of British women generally. The noble Boadicea was no more valorous
than the Irish Méave. From the dim shadow land of the past must some
of the characters of this recital be called up, but the Middle Ages
and modern periods will be most largely drawn upon to tell the story
of the Celtic woman, as a part of the chronicle of a country where, as
we have fully seen, women have always counted as factors. Macha of the
Red Tresses is the first of the Irish queens whose figure stands out
with sufficient boldness to fix it upon the pages of history. Would
one marvel at her beauty or her prowess, let him have recourse to the
praises of the early bards and the laudations of the chroniclers.
We can well believe that, to her countrymen, she appeared as the
incarnation of some divinity as she rode at the head of her body of
stalwart warriors; her auburn tresses floating loose in the wind,
her mantle flung carelessly over her shoulder, her neck and arms
and ankles girdled with massive gold ornaments, her eyes flashing
determination as she pointed the advance to the foray with her lance
directed toward the foe drawn up in battle line to receive the charge.

A quarrel as to the succession to the throne or to the headship of
the tribe, which was precipitated by the death of her father without
posterity excepting this intrepid daughter, was the occasion of her
appearance upon the page of national affairs, or rather of tribal
history. She gained the victory over her adversaries, and ruled her
people for seven years. The romantic annals of this valorous lady
relate how she pursued the sons of her adversary to effect their
destruction; and the more certainly to accomplish her purpose, she
disguised herself as a leper, by rubbing her face with rye dough. Away
in the depths of a dense forest she finds them cooking the wild boar
they had just slain. Having successfully used her disguise to achieve
her end, she rid herself of the leprous-looking splotches. With
honeyed words and the judicious flashing of love-light from a pair
of wondrous eyes, the supposed leper charms her enemies. One brother
follows her into a remote part of the forest, where by guile she
effects the binding of him hand and foot. Returning to the camp, she
successively lures the remaining brothers into the woods in the same
manner and with the same result. She brought them "tied together" to
Emhain. There, in a council of the tribe, womanly sentiment prevailed
over sanguinary counsels, and, instead of being condemned to death,
the prisoners were given over to slavery in the queen's following; and
with the romantic ideas common to her sex, she had them build her a
fortress "which shall be forever henceforth the capital city of this
province." With her golden brooch she measured the bounds of the
future castle, and it received the name "the Palace of Macha's
Brooch." So runs the legend, and so is fixed by the brooch of Macha
the first date in Irish history, at a period, however, when dates have
little significance, for time meant but duration, and not economy or
expenditure of force.

The romance of another of Ireland's early queens centres about the
possession of a bull whose marvellously good points had awakened the
queen's envy; the pastoral relates the contest which arose therefrom.
This queen was the daughter of the King of Connaught, Ecohaidh by
name, and her mother was the handmaid of his wife, the Lady Edain, who
herself was a leader of great beauty and courage. The contest for the
throne resulted in the elevation of Méave to the royal dignity. Before
this, she had contracted marriage with a prince, with whom she
lived unhappily. She returned to her father's court, and, after
her coronation, married the powerful chief Ailill. The death of her
husband and that of her father, which occurred at about the same time,
left her solitary. The queen's misfortune in marriage did not deter
her from seeking a further union. One day, the court of Ross-Ruadh,
King of Leinster, was thrown into a great stir by the arrival of
the heralds of Méave dressed in "yellow silk shirts and grass-green
mantles," who announced that the famous queen was on a royal progress
throughout the land in quest of a husband suited to one of her state
and character. She was fêted and catered to in every way, and finally
fixed her choice upon the seventeen-year-old son of Ross-Ruadh, whose
character promised enough meekness to insure the dominance over him of
his much older spouse.

The event which the chroniclers make the prominent one of her reign
had its origin in a heated dispute between the queen and her spouse as
to their respective possessions. The result of the controversy was an
actual inventory of their belongings. "There were compared before them
all their wooden and their metal vessels of value; and they were found
to be equal. There were brought to them their finger-rings, their
clasps, their bracelets, their thumb-rings, their diadems, and their
gorgets of gold; and they were found to be equal. There were brought
to them their garments of crimson and blue, and black and green, and
yellow and mottled, and white and streaked; and they were found to
be equal. There were brought before them their great flocks of sheep,
from greens and lawns and plains; and they were found to be equal.
There were brought before them their steeds and their studs, from
pastures and from fields; and they were found to be equal. There were
brought before them their great herds of swine, from forest and from
deep glens and from solitudes; their herds and their droves of cows
were brought before them, from the forests and most remote solitudes
of the province; and, on counting and comparing them, they were
found to be equal in number and excellence. But there was found among
Ailill's herds a young bull, which had been calved by one of Méave's
cows, and which, not deeming it honourable to be under a woman's
control, went over and attached himself to Ailill's herds."

Deeply chagrined that she had not in all her herds a bull to match
this one, which seems to have been a remarkable animal, she asked her
chief courier where in all the five provinces of Erin its counterpart
might be found. He replied that not only could he direct her to its
equal, but to its superior. The possessor of this animal was Daré, son
of Fachtna of the Cantred of Cualigné, in the province of Ulster.
Its name was the Brown Bull of Cualigné. Straightway was the courier,
MacRoth, sent to Daré with an offer of fifty heifers for the animal,
and the further assurance that, if he so desired, he and his people
might have the best lands of what are now the plains of Roscommon,
besides other valuable considerations, which included the permanent
friendship of the queen herself.

Swiftly upon his errand sped the courier, accompanied by an impressive
train of attendants. A friendly and hospitable reception and
entertainment awaited them, and Daré accepted the terms they offered.
One of the courtiers expressed admiration for the amiability of the
king who thus consented to part from that which, on account of his
power, the four other provinces of Erin could not have wrested
from him. From this praise a cup-valorous associate dissented, and
maintained that it was no credit to him, since, had he refused, Méave
of herself could have compelled him to surrender it. The steward of
Daré, coming in at this inopportune moment, heard the insulting vaunt,
and went out in a rage and bore to his master the remark he had heard.
Daré, in a passion of resentment, withdrew his offer, swearing by all
the gods that Méave should not have the Brown Bull by either consent
or force. Méave, on hearing of his determination, was correspondingly
incensed, and without delay gathered together her forces and declared
war upon Daré.

In a hotly contested battle, the army of Méave defeated that of her
adversary, and the Brown Bull was carried back to her own country.
According to the grave narrative of the chronicler, the issue of
the bulls had yet to be fought out by the animals themselves, for no
sooner did the captive bull come into the province of Connaught than
there was precipitated a tremendous conflict with his rival, the
bull of Ailill. The tale describes vividly and with much of fabulous
admixture the contest, which resulted in the rout of the White-horned.
Thus was the honor of Méave doubly sustained by the wage of battle.

This and many other strange narratives with regard to the undoubtedly
historical Méave have vested her with a halo of romance, and so
veiled her real personality that it is rather in her mythical than her
historical character that she has come down to us; for there is little
doubt of her being the original of Queen Mab of fairy fame. Spenser
gathered much of his fairy lore in Ireland, and in the section where
this famous queen lived and where grew up the mass of tradition and
fable which must have appealed strongly to the imagination of the
author of the _Faërie Queen_.

The intense religious character of the Irish people is not to be
accredited to the persistence of superstitious influences and beliefs
in the new garb of Christian enlightenment; for although their
exuberant fancy has always peopled their land with races of malign as
well as of amiable spirits, the real impress of religion is that which
they received from early Christian sources. Bridget, the saint who
heads the calendar of Irish women of sanctity, was born in the first
half of the fifth century A.D., and survived until the end of the
first quarter of the sixth. She it was who, despite the disadvantages
of her sex, performed a work paralleled by but few persons in the
religious history of the country. It was inevitable that there should
have grown up about her a fund of story and fable from which it is
now difficult to distinguish in order to give her real work its full
appreciation without sanctioning stories that have their roots in the
soil of the fond fancy of a grateful people.

As one divests a rare parchment of its later writing in order that the
original manuscript may be studied, so, when the after-traditions and
the excrescences of the supernatural are removed from the character
of Bridget, her real worth is seen and the value of the record of
her life, which is thereby disclosed, is greatly enhanced. As to her
learning, her blameless character, her wisdom, her charity, and her
honesty, there is no manner of doubt. To swear by her name was to give
to the asseveration the sanctity of inviolable truth.

It must be remembered that in the middle of the fourth century female
monasteries upon the continent had aroused among women a great deal of
religious enthusiasm. Already had the seeds of religion been sown
in Ireland by Patrick, when Bridget came, imbued with the ardor of
religious training and stimulation received upon the continent.
The religious order for women which she instituted spread in its
ramifications to all parts of the country. Many were the widows and
young maidens who thronged to her religious houses; indeed, so great
was the throng, that it became necessary to form one great central
establishment, superior to and controlling the activities of numerous
other establishments which were scattered throughout the land. She
herself made her abode among the people of Leinster, who became
endeared to her as her own people. The monastery she reared amid the
green stretches of pasture received the name of Cill Dara, or the Cell
of the Oak, from a giant oak which grew near by, and which continued
down to the twelfth century, "no one daring to touch it with a knife."
On account of the monastery and its sacred surroundings, the section
became the place of residence of an increasing number of families, and
from the settlement thus begun arose the modern town of Kildare.

Such sanctity and devotion to good works as that of Bridget attracted
to her monastery many visitors of note. Among those who esteemed it
an honor to have her friendship was the chronicler Gildas. The
Ey-Bridges, i.e., the Isles of Bridget, or the Hebrides, according to
the modern form of their name, claim the honor of holding in loving
embrace her mortal remains. In this claim, however, they have a
vigorous disputant in the town of Kildare, which claims the renown of
her burial.

Passing from the vague borderland between legend and history, we come
down to the twelfth century, when mediæval conditions were in full
force and the manners and customs already described in connection
with the women of the times had full hold upon their lives. As
representative of the spirit of the period, the life of the renowned
Eva, Princess of Leinster and Countess of Pembroke, may be briefly

The history of the sad princess centres about the struggles of Dermot
to regain the throne of Leinster, from which he had been deposed by
the federated kings. First he equipped a body of mercenaries from
Wales, only to be met with defeat in his endeavor to take Dublin from
the enemy. He appealed for aid to the English king, Henry II., who was
then engaged in a campaign in France. He did not receive direct help
from that monarch, who himself was looking with covetous eyes upon
Ireland, but he did receive permission to make recruits from among his
Anglo-Norman subjects. His real aid came from the Earl of Pembroke,
called Richard Strongbow. With a large fleet, Dermot now set sail
for Ireland, bent not only upon the recovery of his possession of
Leinster, but the conquest of the whole island.

The consideration offered by Dermot to Pembroke for his services
was the hand of his daughter Eva, with the kingdom of Leinster for
a dowry. Waterford, a town then of equal importance with Dublin, was
successively besieged and sacked; the Danes, who held it, were driven
out with great slaughter. Amid all the horror of the sacked city
was consummated the union of Eva and Richard, Earl Strongbow. Dublin
became the place of their residence. A few years thereafter, the
husband's checkered career was closed by a wound in the foot. In
Christ Church, Dublin, lies the body of the warrior, and the monument
displays the figure of a recumbent knight in armor, with that of his
bride at his side.

The national struggles of Scotland are as replete with examples of
illustrious women as those of Ireland; the tragedy of the lives of
some of Scotia's daughters not only serves to mark the brutal spirit
of times which, with all their superficial glorifying of the sex, yet
could with good conscience make war upon women, but also serves to
illustrate the height of feminine devotion when called forth by some
great occasion with its demand for self-abnegation. Among such heroic
characters must ever be honorably numbered the fair Isobel, Countess
of Buchan, of whom the poet Pratt says:

  "Mothers henceforth shall proudly tell
  How cag'd and prison'd Isobel
    Did serve her country's weal."

The nine years which saw the struggles of a Wallace and a Bruce, from
the appearance of the former as the champion of Scottish rights to
the crowning of the latter at Scone, were years big with the fate of
a people full of heroic purpose and undaunted fortitude. The story
of the national conquest must be sought elsewhere. In 1305, upon the
death of Wallace, the younger Bruce was impelled to abandon the
cause of the King of England, who had been pleased to name him in a
commission for the direction of the affairs of Scotland. He made his
peace with Red Comyn, the leader of the rival Scottish faction, and
closed with him a pact on the terms proposed by Bruce: "Support my
title to the crown, and I will give you my lands." The story of the
perfidy of the treacherous Comyn and of the revolt of Bruce against
Edward of England is well-known history. The actual crowning of the
Scottish chieftain occurred on March 27, 1306. At that time appeared
Isobel, wife of John, Earl of Buchan, who asserted the claim to
install the king, which had come down of ancient right in her family.

With great pomp, this illustrious scion of the house of the Earls of
Macduff led Bruce to the regal chair. The English chronicler crustily
remarks: "She was mad for the beauty of the fool who was crowned." The
English king was enraged at the presumption of his vassal, and sent
out his soldiers against the Scottish sovereign. In the notable battle
which followed, the forces of Bruce were routed and he himself made
a fugitive. Other reverses befell the arms of the Scotch, and among
those who were carried away captive to gratify the lust for vengeance
of the English was the noble lady who had proudly inducted Bruce
into the royal power. Isobel of Buchan was carried to Berwick, and
condemned to a fate which can best be described in the words of an
early chronicler: "Because she has not struck with the sword, she
shall not die by the sword, but on account of the unlawful coronation
which she performed, let her be closely confined in an abode of stone
and iron, made in the shape of a cross, and let her be hung up out of
doors in the open air of Berwick, that both in her life and after her
death she may be a spectacle and an eternal reproach to travellers."
For four years she suffered the imposition of this heinous punishment,
which was then mitigated to imprisonment in the monastery of Mount
Carmel at Berwick. After three years she was removed to the custody
of Henry de Beaumont. Her final fate is unknown, but it is presumable
that, if she lived, her release from durance was secured by the
victory of Bannockburn.

Amid the misfortunes which pressed thickly upon the house of those
whose name, more than that of any other, is linked with Scotland's
history--the mighty Douglases--must ever appear the sad-visaged Janet,
Lady Glamis. When under the royal ban, remorseless as the will of
fate, the house of Douglas was expelled from its native heath, a woman
of unusual nobility suffered death in the general disaster to her kin.
Gratitude is not a virtue of kings, or else there would have been
some remembrance of that earlier lady of the Douglas line, Catherine
Douglas, who, when the assassins upon midnight murder bent appeared
at the chamber of the queen of James I., opposed to their
entrance--fruitlessly, indeed, but none the less nobly--her slender
arm, which she thrust into the staple to replace the bar that had been
treacherously removed. The ambition of the Douglases, however, knew
no bounds, and in actual fact their power often not only rivalled
but overtopped that of the crown. The feud, with varying degrees of
irritation and occasions of outbreak, had gone on until the time of
James V., when the reverses suffered by the Douglases effectually
destroyed their power and made them fugitives during the reign of that
monarch. That king had an undying resentment to the Earl of Angus, who
had obtained possession of his person as a child and had continued
to be his keeper until he finally slipped the leash to take up the
sovereignty unhampered. One of the sisters of the mighty earl, in the
flower of her youth, became the wife of Lord Glamis. While her kinsmen
were in exile, she secretly did what she could to further their
designs against the Scottish throne. Charges were formulated against
her, but do not appear to have been pressed. Other actions against
her for treason were instituted by her enemies, and she lived under
continual harassment and apprehension of danger. All her property was
confiscated as that of a fugitive from the law and one tainted with
treason. Her enemies were not satisfied with the measure of revenge
they had wrought upon her, and were content with nothing short of her

The venom of the persecution is shown by the nature of the charge
which was trumped up against her to ensure her death. Four years after
the death of her husband, she was indicted on the charge of killing
him by poison. Three times the majority of those summoned to serve
on the jury to hear the charges against her refused to attend, thus
showing how little faith the popular mind had in the sincerity of the
indictment against her. As it seemed impossible to secure a jury to
hear the odious charge against an innocent and high-minded lady, the
case was allowed to lapse. Soon after this she again married.

A description of her which was penned by a writer in the early part of
the seventeenth century represents her as having been reputed in
her prime the greatest beauty in Britain. "She was," he says, "of an
ordinary stature, not too fat, her mien was majestic, her eyes full,
her face was oval, and her complection was delicate and extremely
fair. Besides all these perfections, she was a lady of singular
chastity; as her body was a finished piece, without the least blemish,
so Heaven designed that her mind should want none of those perfections
a mortal creature can be capable of; her modesty was admirable, her
courage was above what could be expected from her sex, her judgment
solid, her carriage was gaining and affable to her inferiors, as she
knew well how to behave herself to her equals; she was descended from
one of the most honorable and wealthy families of Scotland, and of
great interest in the kingdom, but at that time eclipsed." This is
the testimony of hearsay, but, allowing for exaggeration, the great
impression which she made upon her contemporaries is amply shown.

The very nemesis of misfortune seemed to pursue this innocent
lady. The next turn of envious fate brought to light a plot for her
destruction which was hatched in the dark recesses of a heart burning
with passionate resentment over its inability to invade her wifely
integrity. William Lyon had been one of the suitors who were
disappointed at her acceptance of the son of the Earl of Argyll.
After several years had elapsed, this man sought to pass the limits
of friendship, and had the baseness to seek to draw her away from the
path of honor. Her contemptuous and indignant rebuff rankled in his
mind, and led him to lay a deep plot tending to bring Lady Glamis
under suspicion of attempting to poison the king. Her former
indictment as a poisoner was counted upon to give probability to the
charge. She, with all other persons under suspicion as parties to the
plot, was arrested and immured in Edinburgh Castle.

So much of political matter entered into the testimony, and so
skilfully was it wrought, that the jury found her guilty of the crimes
charged, namely, treasonable communication with her relatives, the
enemies of the king, and of conspiring to poison her monarch. The
sentence was that she should be burned at the stake, and the same
day of its delivery it was executed. "She seemed to be the only
unconcerned person there, and her beauty and charms never appeared
with greater advantage than when she was led to the flames; and her
soul being fortified with support from Heaven, and the sense of her
own innocence, she outbraved death, and her courage was equal in the
fire to what it was before her judges. She suffered those torments
without the least noise: only she prayed devoutly for Divine
assistance to support her under her sufferings." She died as a burnt
offering to the hate which was engendered against her line, but which
could be visited only upon her, as all others of her house were out of
reach of the royal anger.

Returning to Ireland and leaving behind the atmosphere of political
machinations and persecutions, it is pleasant to take up the
characters of some women of the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries
who for different reasons have written their names lastingly in the
memories of their race. To be hailed as the best woman of her times
was the happy privilege of Margaret O'Carroll, who died in 1461.
McFirbis, the antiquary of Lecan, her contemporary, says of her: "She
was the one woman that made most of preparing highways, and erecting
bridges, churches and mass-books, and of all manner of things
profitable to serve God and her soul." Her life was most celebrated
for her pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James of Compostella in
Spain, and her unbounded charity. The pilgrimage followed upon a great
revival of religion which seems to have swept over Ireland in 1445.
The occasion of the awakening is not known, other than that following
upon the signs of religious discontent upon the continent the monks of
Ireland roused themselves to earnest and arduous religious labors. The
chronicler gives illustration of her practical charity in the account
of her two "invitations": twice in the one year did she call upon
all persons "Irish and Scottish" to bestow largely of their money
and goods as a feast for the poor. Thousands resorted to the place of
distribution, and, as each was aided in an orderly manner, they had
their names and the amount and nature of their relief entered in
a book kept for the purpose. In summing up her life's work, the
chronicler says: "While the world lasts, her very many gifts to the
Irish and Scottish nations cannot be numbered. God's blessing, the
blessing of all saints, and every our blessing from Jerusalem to Innis
Glauir be on her going to Heaven, and blessed be he that will reade
and will heare this, for the blessing of her soule. Cursed be the sore
in her breast that killed Margrett." Such a picture as this serves to
offset the more usual idea of the women of Ireland during the Middle
Ages as coarse, half-civilized beings. Such a character would lend
dignity and worth to any people during any age.

The many benefactions and the public spirit of this great lady
make her deserving of mention in any account of the development of
charities. The poet D'Arcy McGee has immortalized her in a poem in
which, referring to the occasion of her "great Invitation," he says:

  In cloth of gold, like a queen new-come out of the royal wood
  On the round, proud, white-walled rath Margeret O'Carroll stood;
  That day came guests to Rath Imayn from afar from beyond the sea
  Bards and Bretons of Albyn and Erin--to feast in Offaly!"

To be celebrated for beauty alone is the prerogative of a few of
the women of the ages. What nation is there that does not hold in as
cherished regard the women who have represented its noblest physical
possibilities as their women of unusual sanctity or those who have
glorified their literature or ennobled their arts? A beautiful
woman--a woman whose beauty is not alone flawless in feature and
full of the instinctive intellectuality of a soul mirrored in
a countenance, but also typical of the expression of racial
characteristics, is as much a product of ages, as much a climax of
evolution at the point of perfection, as the saint, the artist, the
dramatist who marks a period and exalts a people. To pass down in
history as an exceptional beauty is to inspire art ideals and to
furnish a theme for the lyricist. Frailty is often found united with
such exceptional beauty, so is it with exceptional genius; alas! that
predominating gifts should be so often inimical to balance. To find
such beauty in the way of virtue is as grateful as to find an orchid
exhaling perfume.

In the tales of fair women, the Fair Geraldine, who was born in the
first half of the sixteenth century, must always be celebrated, not
only as a typical Irish beauty, but as a woman whose virtues were of
a similar order to her physical charms. She was the second daughter
of the Earl of Kildare by his second wife, Lady Elizabeth Grey, and
inherited from both sides of this union, which was most auspicious,
the high breeding and gentle graces which fitted well her gracious
carriage and great beauty and served, by enhancing her physical
charms, to attract to her a wide circle of friends and to secure for
her the knightly attendance of a band of distinguished suitors. She
was taken to England to be educated, and at court received the polish
which perfected the jewel of her beauty. She made her home with a
second cousin of her mother, Lady Mary, who was afterward England's
queen. While quite young she was appointed maid of honor to her
kinswoman. Already her charms had ripened to the point of eliciting
from the poet, soldier, and politician, Henry, Earl of Surrey, the
high praise of the following sonnet:

  "From Tuscane came my lady's worthy race,
    Fair Florence was sometime her ancient seat.
  The western isle, whose pleasant shore doth face
    Wild Cambor's cliffs, did give her lively heat.
  Fostered she was with milk of Irish breast;
    Her sire an Earl, her dame of Princes' blood,
  From tender years in Britain doth she rest,
    With King's child; where she tasteth costly food.
  Hunsdon did first present her to mine eyes;
    Bright is her hue, and Geraldine she hight.
  Hampton me taught to wish her first as mine,
    And Windsor, alas! doth chase her from my sight.
  Her beauty of kind; her virtues from above,
  Happy is he that can attain her love."

The noble earl who lamented that Windsor chased her from his sight
was suffering incarceration in Windsor Castle for eating meat in Lent.
That the Fair Geraldine had made full conquest of his heart is shown
by his conduct at a tournament at Florence, where he defied the world
to produce her equal. He was victorious, and the palm was awarded the
Irish beauty. Again, he is found resorting to a famous alchemist of
the day to enable him to peer into the future, that he might know what
disposition of her heart would be made by the lady of his affections.
The only satisfaction he obtained was the seeing of Geraldine
recumbent upon a couch reading one of his sonnets. This must have
stirred his blood and have strengthened his faith in the ultimate
success of his wooing. Had he obtained the revelation he sought, he
would have seen the adored beauty, with that curious inconsistency of
her sex, bestowing herself upon Sir Anthony Brown, a man sixty years
of age, and who was forty-four years her senior. After his death
she married the Earl of Lincoln, whom she also survived. There is
no further record of the beauty whose fame extended over England and
Ireland. The circumstance of Surrey's visit to the alchemist has been
preserved in Scott's _Lay of the Last Minstrel_:

  "Fair all the pageant--but how passing fair
    The slender form that lay on couch of Ind!
  O'er her white bosom strayed her hazel hair,
    Pale her dear cheek, as if for love she pined;
    All in her night-robe loose she lay reclined
  And, pensive, read from tablet eburine
    Some strain that seemed her inmost soul to find;
  That favored strain was Surrey's raptured line,
  That fair and lovely form, the Ladye Geraldine."

In the picturesque annals of the piracy of the sixteenth century,
when England was getting that sea training which was to make her the
undisputed naval power of the world, when the Turkish corsair spread
the terror of his savage brutality through the hearts of the brave
seamen who manned the craft of legitimate commerce, at a time when the
trade routes of the sea were the paths of piracy, and the sabre,
the cutlass, and the newly invented gunpowder were depended upon to
establish the right of way for the ships of the nations, there appears
no more daring character than Grainne O'Malley. Many stories of her
prowess are still current in the west of Ireland, and the political
ballads of her time make frequent allusion to the sea queen. For the
greater part of the sixteenth century she lived, an example of that
splendid virility which is yet characteristic of the hardy Irish
peasantry, when not under the shadow of famine.

She came of right by her seafaring proclivities, for from the earliest
period the O'Malleys have been celebrated as rivalling the Vikings
in their love of the sea. In the fourteenth century a bard is found

  "A good man never was there
  Of the O'Mailly's but a mariner;
  The prophets of the weather are ye,
  A tribe of affection and brotherly love."

Grainne O'Malley, with all her depredations upon the sea, was no
common pirate; through her veins ran the royal blood of the line
of Connaught, and, despite her serviceability to the English as
a freebooting ally upon the western coasts of the island, she
acknowledged no higher power than her own. Her title of dignity was
regarded as inviolable. Quite worthy of the brush of an artist was
the scene presented by the reception at court of the wild Irish
chieftainess. Disdaining land travel, she performed the whole trip to
London by water, sailing up the Thames to the Tower Gate. The little
son who was born upon this voyage was fittingly called Theobald of the
Ship. There has come down to us no account of the meeting of the two
queens, but one may readily imagine the scene--the blonde Elizabeth,
thin, unbeautiful, her scant features lined by petulance, but with
indomitable will shown in the turn of her mouth and the strength of
her chin, and the large-limbed, full-bodied Irish woman, dressed in
the semi-wild attire of her race and of her calling, her arms, her
wrists, her ankles, gleaming with circlets of gold, a fillet of
massive metal binding her hair, her mantle caught up at the shoulder
by an immense, ornately wrought brooch. Courteously, but with no sign
of inferiority in her demeanor, her swarthy skin showing the dash of
Spanish blood in her veins, and her eyes flashing with the light of
an unconquered spirit, stood the female buccaneer before the woman
who had rule of England. The best tradition of the results of the
interview tell us that a treaty was effected between the two, but that
the Irish chieftainess did not yield an iota of her royal claims.

Thus was cemented a union between the English throne and the piratical
leader. It must be borne in mind, however, that piracy was not
then the despicable vice that it afterward came to be regarded. The
commerce of the enemy was always lawful spoil, and, even when there
was not actually a state of hostilities existing between countries,
preying upon one another's commerce was often regarded as a
semi-legitimate industry; and if the freebooter kept out of reach of
the enemy, he was not likely to be seriously sought out for punishment
by the authorities of his own country. The exploiters of the New
World, under the title of merchant-adventurers, were for the most part
pirates; the Spanish galleons were always lawful spoil for the English
merchantman, who knew the trick of painting out the name of his craft,
giving it a garb of piratical black, using a false flag, spoiling the
enemy after some swift, hard fighting, and then resuming again his
real or assumed pacific character. In the light of her times must
Grainne O'Malley be regarded.

As a sea queen she is without parallel in any time; and if the stain
of their piracy does not attach to her English contemporaries, Drake,
Raleigh, and Gilbert, no more should it to her. By force of a powerful
individuality, she ruled a race of men who were noted as the most
lawless of all Ireland, men among whom women as a class were so
little esteemed that they were not allowed to hold property. An early
traditional account of this woman of the waves, which is preserved
in manuscript at the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, describes her as

"She was a great pirate and plunderer from her youth. It is
Transcended to us by Tradition that the very Day she was brought to
bed of her first Child that a Turkish Corsair attacked her ships,
and that they were Getting the Better of her Men, she got up, put her
Quilt about her and a string about her neck, took two Blunder Bushes
in her hands, came on deck, began damming and Capering about, her
monstrous size and odd figure surprised the Turks, their officers
gathered themselves talking of her; this was what she wanted,
stretched both her hands, fired the two Blunder Bushes at them and
Destroyed the officers." Many are the deeds of prowess ascribed to
her, and so widespread was her fame that desperate characters
came from all parts to enroll themselves under her standard. Her
serviceability to the English, to whose extending power she had the
good sense not to put herself in opposition, secured to her the right
to continue her depredations.

With all her daring and the romance with which tradition has
surrounded her, she was not, nor does the report of her times
represent her as having been, handsome. In fact, notwithstanding that
the Anglicized form of her given name is Grace, its real meaning is
"the ugly." Her first husband was an O'Flaherty, the terror of which
name is preserved in the litany of the Anglo-Norman, recalling the
capture of the city of Galway and the surrounding country: "From the
ferocious O'Flaherties,--Good Lord, deliver us." The same words, as a
talisman, were inscribed over the gate of the city. We know little of
the representative of this family who became the husband of Grainne
O'Malley. Her second husband was Sir Richard Bourke, of the Mayo
division of a great Norman-Irish clan. It was after contracting this
alliance that Grainne O'Malley put herself under the protection of the
English rule in Connaught. Sidney, the lord-deputy, referring to his
visit to Galway in 1576, says: "There came to me a most famous female
sea-captain, called Granny-I-Mallye, and offered her services to me,
wheresoever I would command her, with three galleys and two hundred
fighting men, either in Ireland or Scotland. She brought with her her
husband, for she was, as well by sea as by land, more than master's
mate with him. He was of the nether Bourkes, and now, as I hear,
MacWilliam Euter, and called by the nickname 'Richard in Iron.' This
was a notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland. This woman did Sir
Philip see and speak with: he can more at large inform you of her."

The personal character of this female buccaneer was never called into
question; saving only her piratical proclivities, she seems to have
been exemplary. The circumstances of her life at the death of her
first husband forced her, a daughter of a pirate, to the seas as
a "thrade of maintenance," as she apologetically put it to Queen
Elizabeth. She founded and endowed religious houses, and the
attitude she maintained toward the powers higher than she was in the
furtherance of the peace of her country. Yet her good deeds have not
been borne in the same remembrance as her piratical performances. With
this account of the adventurous Irish woman, we may turn to a very
different picture, taken from Scotland.

The annals of the Scottish border are replete with stories of cruel
warfare and of savage vengeance. The wars of England with the valorous
Scots present hardly more instances of heroism and of brutality than
do the accounts of the feuds which arose between the clans themselves.
Of the first sort was the expedition which Bluff King Hal sent out to
punish the Scots for becoming incensed at the insolent tone and the
humiliating conditions he imposed on the negotiations looking to the
marriage of his young son, afterward Edward VI., and the infant Mary,
Queen of Scots.

The English conducted a series of savage forays across the Scottish
border. Their success led the leaders of the invading army to
represent to Henry that, owing to the distracted condition of
Scotland on account of the internal disorders, the time was peculiarly
auspicious for a permanent conquest of a large part of the border.
Under commission of the English king to effect such a conquest, they
returned and renewed their attack. The tower of Broomhouse, held by
an aged woman and her family, was consigned to the flames, and she and
her children perished in the conflagration. Melrose Abbey was wantonly
plundered and ruined, and the bones of the Douglases were taken from
their tombs and scattered about. Next, the little village of Maxton
was burned. All its inhabitants had made good their escape excepting
a maiden of high courage and deep devotion, who remained with her
bed-ridden parents. The approach of the enemy meant their destruction.
The village maid had a lover, who, on finding that she was not with
the refugees, returned to the town and forcibly carried her off,
although he was grievously wounded in the act of doing so. After he
had effected her rescue, the brave savior, breathing with his expiring
breath a prayer of thankfulness that he had been permitted to yield up
his life for her who was more than life to him, died of exhaustion
and of his wounds. The measure of iniquity was complete, and,
although many other bloody deeds were perpetrated in this warfare, the
instrument of vengeance was at hand; when the hour came that marked a
turn in the tide:

          "Ancrum Moor
      Ran red with English blood;
  Where the Douglas true and the bold Buccleuch
      'Gainst keen Lord Evers stood."

When the battle was over and the English had been driven with great
slaughter from the field, the body of the English general was found
near that of a young Scottish soldier with flowing yellow tresses, who
was mangled by many wounds. The delicacy of feature soon led to the
discovery that the slayer of the English leader was a woman, and her
identification as the maiden Liliard of the hamlet of Maxton followed.
So had she avenged the cruel slaughter of her aged and helpless
parents and that of the devoted lover who had laid down his life in
her behalf. In a borrowed suit of armor and weapons she had arrayed
herself under the Red Douglas, that she might seek out him who was
the author of her calamities, to visit upon him the vengeance of her
desolation, and yield up the life she no longer valued.

Upon the bloody field her compatriots interred her who was thereafter
to be held in dear regard as one of Scotland's noblest daughters.
Above the head of "Liliard of Ancrum" was erected a gravestone with
the following inscription to commemorate her valor:

  "Fair maiden Liliard lies under this stane,
  Little was her stature, but great was her fame;
  Upon the English loons she laid mony thumps,
  And when her legs were cutted off, she fought upon her stumps."

Ancrum Moor was fought in 1544. James V. had died two years earlier,
and the crown of Scotland had devolved upon his infant daughter, Mary.
Henry VIII. was bent on securing the Scotch kingdom, and to that end
persisted in urging the betrothal of Prince Edward to the infant Mary,
Queen of Scots; but the Scots were equally averse to the alliance,
hence Henry continued to harass the kingdom by armed forces. After
Edward VI. succeeded his father, he continued to sue for Mary's
hand, and made use of military force in the hope of accomplishing his
object. The child-queen's safety being in constant jeopardy, she was
betrothed to the Dauphin of France, and in 1548 left for the court of
France. In her sixteenth year she married Francis, making at the same
time a secret treaty bestowing the kingdom of Scotland on France, in
case she died without an heir. Francis II., however, died in 1560, and
Mary returned to Scotland the following year. Here, her Roman Catholic
practices soon brought her into conflict with Knox, but for a time she
managed to rule without serious troubles. Romantic adventure, however,
best describes the life of this lovely queen. She was beset with
suitors and pestered with intrigue for her favor. The most popularly
known story in connection with her life is that of her relation to
Rizzio, her Italian confidant. He it was who arranged Mary's marriage
to Darnley, and it was his influence over her that finally led to his
own assassination by Darnley and his companions in Holyrood Palace
in 1566. Shortly thereafter the queen gave birth to Prince James;
and from this time troubles and conspiracies constantly involved the
unhappy queen, until her execution in 1586 for her association in the
Babington conspiracy against the life of Queen Elizabeth.

It was while the partisans of Queen Mary and those of her young son
James were imbruing the soil of Scotland with one another's blood, and
when all the horrors of internecine warfare were being perpetrated,
there was lighted a flame that added a heroine to the country's list
of women who have honorably earned that title. There appeared one day
before Corgaff Castle, in Strathdon, Captain Kerr and a party of
men, sent by the deputy lieutenant of the queen, Sir Adam Gordon of
Auchindown, to capture and to hold it. Between the houses of Gordon
and Forbes existed a deadly feud, although they were united by
marriage. The Forbeses had espoused the cause of the king, while
the Gordons were arrayed on the side of the queen. This added to the
bitterness of their feeling, and accounts for the stubbornness which
Lady Towie displayed when called upon to surrender. Her husband, John
Forbes, the Laird of Towie, was in the field with his three sons;
the defence of the castle accordingly fell upon her. When the Gordons
appeared before the castle and demanded its subjection, its noble
defender replied in such scornful terms to Captain Kerr, the leader of
the besieging force, that he swore that he would wipe out the stigma
of her insult with her blood. As it was impossible to carry the castle
by assault without the aid of artillery, he resorted to fire--not,
however, before the brave lady had shot her pistol at him pointblank,
missing her aim, but yet grazing the captain's knee with the bullet.

In spite of the plea of her sick stepson, she resolutely determined to
perish in the flames which were spreading through the castle from the
fire started by the enemy in a breach of the castle wall.

This incident of the siege is described in an old ballad:

  "Oh, then out spake her youngest son,
    Sat on the nurse's knee:
  Says--'Mither, dear, gie o'er this house,
    For the reek it smithers me.'

  "'I would gie all my gold, my bairn,
    Sae would I all my fee,
  For ae blast o' the Westlin' wind
    To blaw the reek frae thee.'"

Next, her daughter appealed to her that she might be sewed up in a
sheet and let down the tower wall. To this the mother assented. The
maiden was thus lowered to the ground, only to be received upon the
spear of the brutal captain:

  "O then out spake her daughter dear.
    She was baith jimp and small:
  'Oh, row me in a pair of sheets,
    And tow me o'er the wall.'

         *       *       *       *       *

  "Oh, bonnie, bonnie was her mouth,
    And cherry was her cheeks;
  And clear, clear was her yellow hair,
    Whereon the red bluid dreeps.

         *       *       *       *       *

  "Then with his spear he turned her o'er;
    Oh, gin her face was wan!
  He said--'You are the first that e'er
    I wish'd alive again.'"

Of the thirty-seven persons in the castle, Lady Towie, her stepson,
her three young children, and her retainers, none escaped the
holocaust; the roof of the keep fell in and carried them down into the
flames. So perished one of the bravest and most spirited women of her
times. The retribution which, in the later circumstances of the feud,
was wrought upon those responsible for this massacre does not concern
us here. The heroism of Lady Towie's defence of Corgaff Castle has
furnished a theme for other poets than the obscure bard whom we have
quoted; the bravery to the point of rashness which she displayed
endears her to the heart of the Scotchman who glories in the deeds of
courage of his race.

One of the sweetest stories of devotion to be found in the history
of Scotland's women is that which centres about the knightly house of
Cromlix and Ardoch. Sir James Chisholm was born in the early part of
the sixteenth century, and, as a youth, was sent to France for the
completion of his education. Before his departure he had exchanged
with fair Helen Stirling, of the house of Ardoch, vows of undying
affection. This young lady, because of her beauty, had achieved wide
local celebrity, and throughout the countryside she was called "Fair
Helen of Ardoch." The two young people had been brought up in each
other's society, and, as they grew in years, began to feel for each
other that tenderness of sentiment which, while they were yet in their
teens, led to mutual avowals of love. Their parents were not averse
to the match, after the young people should have arrived at a more
suitable age for marriage. The course of their love ran smoothly,
until the separation came by Sir James going abroad. As their
relatives were not favorable to a correspondence between the young
people, the good offices of a friend were invoked. He received
the letters of both parties, and saw that they were sent to their
respective destinations. The correspondence went happily on; his
letters were full of pleasing gossip about the belles and beauties of
France, of society and manners, everything, indeed, that a young lover
of reflective and poetic temperament would be likely to pen to the
lady of his heart from whom he was separated by a distance which could
be made communicable only by correspondence.

Almost a year had sped away when the letters received by Helen became
less frequent and then stopped. She wrote again and again, but in
vain; she received no replies. The agent of the young people then
professed to write himself to her recreant lover, and informed her
that he had discovered that the attachment of the young man for her
had waned and that he was to marry a French beauty. His condolence was
apparently so sincere and delicately phrased that when he proffered
her his love there was in her breast some degree of kindly sentiment
toward him, which, while of a very different nature from her feeling
for the one who had discarded her, was yet such as to lead her to
assent finally to his suit; not, however, before many considerations
had been skilfully brought to bear upon her, not the least of which
were the desires of her kindred.

The wedding day was set, and before the assembled guests, forming a
brilliant gathering, the bride appeared in rich adornings, but
pale, her bosom, heaving with sobs. The ceremony was performed. Then
occurred a dramatic scene; some whisper seemed to reach the bride's
ear; to the amazement of the guests, she turned upon her husband and
denounced him as the blackest of traitors. She declared that her own
letters and those of her lover had been kept back, and that she knew
that her lover had landed in Scotland and would vindicate his honor.
She vowed in the presence of Heaven that she would never acknowledge
as her husband the man she had just wedded, nor would she ever
leave for him her father's roof. Amid shouts of derision, the false
bridegroom hastily left the house. The young lover had indeed landed
in the country, and was hastening to his beloved that he might prove
to her that he had been grossly slandered and she grievously deceived.
The knowledge of the situation did not reach him in time to forestall
the plans of his rival, and not until his arrival home did he find out
the full facts of the case and have his mind entirely relieved of the
thought of his love's perfidy. Legal measures were speedily taken for
the dissolution of the hateful bonds, and the young lady was united
to the one to whom, notwithstanding her acquiescence in the wishes of
others, her heart had been true.

The maid of Ardoch's story has been variously told. The most familiar
form of it is that found in Robert Burns's _Observations on Scottish
Songs_. The romance has taken strong hold upon the hearts of the
Scotch race, through a simple melody which has held the interest of
the people for nearly three centuries. This ballad was written by the
young lover himself on board the ship that was bearing him back to
Scotland. The first verse is as follows:

  "Since all thy vows, false maid,
    Are blown to air,
  And my poor heart betrayed
    To sad despair,
  Into some wilderness,
  My grief I will express,
  And thy hard-heartedness,
    O cruel fair!"

As fearless as the Scotch heroine Lady Towie in the defence of her
castle was the Irish heroine Lettice, Baroness of Ophaly, in the
famous defence of the castle of Geashill in Queen's County. The one
lived in the sixteenth, the other belonged to the seventeenth century.
The Baroness Ophaly was of the famous house of Geraldine, heir in
general to the house of Kildare, and inherited the barony of Geashill.
She married Sir Robert Digby, and after his death returned to Ireland.
She was a model mistress to her household and her tenantry. Although a
woman of brilliant attainments, she was yet content to live in a quiet
way, performing the congenial duties of administrator of the affairs
of her household, and being held in affectionate regard by all those
dependent upon her. In 1641, however, the quiet current of her daily
life was broken in its flow; civil war devastated the land. The rebels
thought to find in the defenceless situation of the widowed lady, with
her brood of young children, an opportunity for plunder and ravage
with little prospect of serious resistance. A motley throng appeared
before the castle and demanded possession. They then presented to her
a written order as follows: "We, his Majesty's loyal subjects, at the
present employed in his Highnesses service, for the sacking of your
castle; you are therefore to deliver unto us the free possession of
your said castle, promising faithfully that your ladyship, together
with the rest within your said castle _resiant_, shall have reasonable
composition; otherwise, upon the non-yielding of the castle, we
do assure you that we shall burn the whole town, kill all the
Protestants, and spare neither woman nor child, upon taking the castle
by compulsion. Consider, madam, of this our offer; impute not the
blame of your folly unto us. Think not that here we brag. Your
ladyship, upon submission, shall have safe convoy to secure you from
the hands of your enemies, and to lead you whither you please. A
speedy reply is desired with all expedition, and then we surcease."

To this demand she sent a reply temperate and dignified, but
unyielding. It was as follows:

"I received your letter wherein you threaten to sack this my castle by
his Majesty's authority. I have ever been a loyal subject and a
good neighbor among you, and therefore cannot but wonder at such an
assault. I thank you for your offer of a convoy, wherein I hold little
safety; and therefore my resolution is that, being free from offending
his Majesty, or doing wrong to any of you, I will live and die
innocently. I will do the best to defend my own, leaving the issue
to God; and though I have been, I am still desirous to avoid shedding
blood, yet, being provoked, your threats shall no way dismay me."

The rebels took no notice of her answer, but kept up the siege. After
two months, Lord Viscount Clanmalier brought to bear against the
castle a piece of ordnance. Before using this formidable instrument,
which was cast by a local ironworker out of pots and pans contributed
for the purpose, Clanmalier, who was her kinsman, sent her a letter
repeating the demand for the surrender of the castle. She replied to
this missive, which was signed "your loving cousin," by saying
that she had not expected such treatment at the hands of a kinsman,
repeating her innocence of wrong-doing, and expressing her adherence
to her position as stated in her former reply to similar demands.

After this answer had been delivered to his lordship he discharged the
home-made cannon at the castle, and it promptly exploded at the first
shot; to which fact was due the ability of Baroness Ophaly to hold the
castle against all attack through the long months until the rebellion
had waned and the besiegers withdrew. What she must have suffered
during all the dangers of the siege, in which ingenuity was taxed to
the utmost to effect an entrance within the strong walls, can never be
stated; on the one hand was the terror of famine, on the other,
death. When she was rescued from her perilous situation by Sir Richard
Greville, she went to her husband's late property of Colehill and
there spent the remainder of her life, dying in 1648.

Among the Scotch Covenanters, the names of Isobel Alison of Perth and
Marion Harvie of Bo'ness take high rank because of their undaunted
courage and the strength of conviction displayed by them. It was in
1679 that a band of horsemen slew Archbishop Sharp upon Magnus Moor
and then dispersed. Four of them, among whom was John Balfour of
Kinloch,--the redoubtable Burley of _Old Mortality_,--took refuge
in the house of a widow of the vicinity of Perth. Here they remained
hidden, to watch as to what steps would be taken in regard to their
apprehension. Afterward they retired to Dupplin, thereby escaping
seizure. On June 22d the battle of Bothwell Brig was fought and lost
to the Covenanters. At about this time the first subject of this
sketch, Isobel Alison, an obscure maiden, comes into the stream of
historical occurrence. She was about twenty-five years of age, resided
at Perth, and was of excellent repute. She had been trained in the
strictest Presbyterian faith, and was well versed in the Scriptures.
She had occasionally had the privilege of hearing field preaching,
although field conventicles were not common in the country. Her
sympathies with the persecuted ministers of her faith and her personal
acquaintance with several of them enlisted her aid for the fugitives
in hiding them from the authorities, whose search for them was
relentlessly pursued. The work of bloody persecution continued for
eighteen months, during which many of the Covenanters died in the
maintenance of their convictions. But it was not until the end of 1680
that Isobel attracted attention by reason of her outspoken utterances
against the tyranny under which the country suffered. It was not
long, then, before she was arraigned for her sentiments, and, in the
simplicity of her nature, volunteered the confession that she was in
communication with some of those who had been declared rebels. The
magistrates, however, charitably sought to shield her from the effects
of actions the serious purport of which they did not believe that
she fully realized, and so dismissed her with a caution to be more
circumspect in her speech. But she was not to escape thus easily; some
busybodies speedily reported what she had said to the Privy Council,
which issued a warrant for her arrest. Under a charge of treason,
she was carried from the peaceful seclusion of her humble home, and
immured in the prison at Edinburgh. At her hearing before the Privy
Council, she acknowledged to acquaintance with all those for whom the
authorities were seeking as assassins of Archbishop Sharp. When asked
if she did not know that she was aiding those whose hands were dyed
with the blood of murder, she replied that she had never regarded the
death of the "Mr. James Sharp" as being murder. Her testimony was
so self-condemnatory that, according to the law of the day, there
appeared to be no recourse but to sentence her to hanging. She says:
"The Lords pitied me, for [said they] we find reason and a quick wit
in you; and they desired me to take it to advisement. I told them I
had been advising on it these seven years, and I hoped not to change
now. They asked if I was distempered? I told them that I was always
solid in the wit that God had given me." She was then remanded for
trial before the Judiciary Court. Leaving the thread of her story for
a while, we will take up that of another young woman, who at
about this time had come under a like accusation and was suffering
imprisonment. She was but a poor serving woman, who had been a
domestic at the house of a woman who had sheltered one of the same
fugitives whose cause had gotten Isobel Alison into her straits. The
story of her relations with the Covenanters, as told by her to the
authorities, was a simple one. From the age of fourteen she had heard
the field preaching of the Covenanters, and finally she had been
informed against and arrested. Her demeanor during the ordeal of
examination was firm and composed. The questions put to her she
answered without hesitancy or reservation. The result of the
examination showed her full sympathies with those who were under the
taint of rebellion and treason. She justified their acts by affirming
that the king had broken his covenant oath, and it was lawful to
disown him.

She and her older sister in misfortune were brought together
before the Judiciary Court, and both of the young women declined to
acknowledge the authority of the king and lords. There was nothing
remaining to do but to put them on trial, which was accordingly
done. They both stood indicted for treason. The only evidence adduced
against them was their own confessions, and because of the nature of
these a verdict of guilty was rendered. The court postponed sentence
until the following Friday, when they were condemned to be hanged.
Not a particle of proof had been produced of their having joined in
concocting any schemes against either Church or State; they had simply
let their tongues wag too freely upon the impersonal question, so
far as it concerned them, as to whether a certain assassination was
justified. The prosecution had been conducted by the king's advocate,
Sir George Mackenzie, that "noble wit of Scotland," as he was styled
by Dryden, but whom the Scotch people have branded as the "bluidy
Mackenzie" of the popular rhyme. This same advocate who secured the
sentencing of the two young girls for expressions of opinion upon
a question which was purely one of casuistry wrote in one of his
_Essays_: "Human nature inclines us wisely to that pity which we may
one day need; and few pardon the severity of a magistrate, because
they know not where it may stop."

During the period intervening between their condemnation and their
execution, they were visited by kindly disposed ministers of the
Established Church and others, who sought to persuade them out of
their beliefs. But to no purpose; even the promise of a full pardon
failed to move either of them from the steadfastness of their
expressed convictions. In order to surround their execution with
as much of ignominy as possible, it was ordered that five women,
convicted of the murder of their illegitimate children, should be
hanged along with them. In their last hour upon earth, the young women
were sustained by the fortitude of their faith. The attempt to make
them hear the ministrations of a curate was frustrated by the two
young women singing together the Twenty-third Psalm. Upon the scaffold
they continued their religious devotions; and in the midst of their
calm, confident declarations of faith in Christ and of their innocence
of any real wrong, they perished.

The transit from religion to pleasure is, after all, but a short
passage from one department of life to another, and the story of the
women of Scotland and of Ireland would not be complete without notice
of some of that group of famous Irish women who were conspicuous upon
the stage of Great Britain in the eighteenth century--women whose
excellence served to raise the dramatic art to the point of prominence
and dignity which it attained during that period. One of the earliest
of that group who gave lustre to the stage was Margaret Woffington.
The story of her life is a record of high achievement in the
histrionic profession, although it is as well a record of frailty--a
fact unfortunately too often true of actresses in the eighteenth
century, when the standards of their art were supposed to absolve them
to an extent from the ordinary demands of circumspection in conduct.
She had all the susceptibility of the Celtic temperament, and her warm
Irish blood was easily made to surge through her veins in waves of
passion, although, when not indulging in a fit of temper, she was
bright, vivacious, witty, and entertaining to a degree. Arthur Murphy,
in his _Life of Garrick_, says: "Forgive her one female error, and it
might fairly be said of her that she was adorned with every virtue;
honour, truth, benevolence, and charity were her distinguishing
qualities." This much said for the weakness of her character, we can
concern ourselves altogether with the strength of her genius. The
circumstances of her birth were not fortunate, nor was there anything
in them to predicate the distinguished place she was to fill in the
public eye. The year of her birth is variously given. It was probably
in 1714 that she first saw the light, in a miserable slum of the city
of Dublin. Her father was a bricklayer, and died when she was but
five years old. At that early age she had to take her part of the home
responsibilities and earn money to aid in the support of her family;
this she did by serving as a water carrier. The advent of a French
dancer into Dublin at about this time marked an epoch in the life of
Peggy. She brought with her a troupe of acrobats and rope dancers,
and the exhibition she offered attracted large audiences. In order
to afford a novel feature, which should at the same time affect local
interest, Madame Violante, the head of the amusement company, arranged
for an operatic presentation which should be participated in by some
of the bright Irish children to whom she had been drawn. The _Beggars'
Opera_ was then in the height of its popularity, and this was the play
she fixed upon. Little Peggy Woffington, not quite ten years old,
had the chief female part. From this simple introduction to the
amusement-loving public started the train of development in the
life of this young Irish girl, which was to make her the captivating
actress, the beautiful and witty woman, who bewitched Garrick and

The novelty of the conception attracted much notice, and the opera was
given before large houses. Other plays and farces were staged in the
same way. While Peggy played principal parts on the stage, her mother
sold oranges to the patrons at the entrance to the theatre. Matters
continued this way until Peggy Woffington was sixteen years of age,
by which time she had become noted for ease and grace as a dancer,
although her coarseness of voice and pronounced brogue debarred her
from any important playing part. Her opportunity came, however, when
a favorite actress who was to take the part of Ophelia was, at the
eleventh hour, incapacitated from so doing. There was no recourse
but to permit Peggy Woffington to take it. Notwithstanding the
difficulties under which she labored, her interpretation of the
character was quite favorably received. She had been developing in
grace of figure and of feature, and had ripened into a young woman of
dazzling fairness, perfect form, with eyes luminous and black, shaded
by long lashes and arched by exquisitely pencilled eyebrows.

She was just twenty years of age when she completely turned the heads
of the Dublin theatre-goers by the magnificence of her impersonation
of Sir Harry Wildare in _The Constant Couple_. Her first appearance
in London was not at the behest of her art, but, unfortunately, as a
result of the arts of an admirer to whose addresses she had given some
favor, and who led her to go to the English metropolis with him under
promise of marriage. This regrettable circumstance was soon followed
by her repudiation of the man on finding out his real character. She
was not long off the stage, and in 1740 the playbills announced the
first appearance of Miss Woffington in England. She drew large houses,
and greatly widened her reputation as a leading actress of her time.
To give the plays in which she took principal parts during her first
London season would be to enumerate the best productions of the
English stage at that time. It is said of her that before the season
was half over, Miss Woffington had become the fashion. Among the many
swains who followed in her wake and indited to her amorous
missives and verses was Garrick. He pursued his lovemaking with all
seriousness, and made his assault not solely upon the heart of the
butterfly beauty, but upon her mind as well. He saw that beneath all
the audacities of her mind and irregularities of life there was a
noble nature, which the circumstances of her birth and training
had never permitted true expression. His intentions were entirely
honorable, but whenever the subject of marriage was broached by him
she managed to switch off the conversation to a lighter subject. Her
coquettishness would not permit her to take seriously the addresses
of the man whom she doubtless greatly admired and loved. When she
was regarded by everyone else as without a moral equivalent for her
artistic temperament, Garrick steadfastly refused to regard her simply
as a vain, flighty, and vacillating person. He was rewarded by being
the only man whom she ever seriously thought of marrying.

Her mode of life was not conducive to the furtherance of her health,
and at the comparatively early age of thirty-seven years her friends
saw a change both in the demeanor and the appearance of the witty
woman. The seeds of an internal disorder had been sown, but, with
her usual recklessness, she failed to heed the premonitions of nature
until the malady was too far advanced for cure. At about this time
the famous John Wesley was stirring London with his preaching. She
attended his chapel through curiosity, and afterward from conviction.
She was clearheaded and honest enough to see the force of the
religious truth which he presented, and was brought quite under the
influence of the great preacher. As a result of the awakening of her
religious nature, she determined on the reformation of her private
life, although she does not appear to have linked with that the
purpose of quitting her profession. She resolved, however, not to
remain before the public until they tired of her. As she herself
expressed it: "I will never destroy my reputation by clinging to the
shadow after the substance is gone. When I can no longer bound on the
boards with elastic step, and when the enthusiasm of the public begins
to show symptoms of decay, that night will be the last appearance of
Margaret Woffington."

She was not destined to remain before the public until they wearied of
her; on May 3, 1757, she appeared as Rosalind in _As You Like It_. The
circumstances of the tragic close of her dramatic career, as quoted
from a contemporary writer in Blackburn's _Illustrious Irish Women_,
were as follows: "She went through Rosalind for four acts without
my perceiving she was in the least disordered; but in the fifth she
complained of great indisposition. I offered her my arm, the which she
graciously accepted; I thought she looked softened in her behaviour,
and had less of the hauteur. When she came off at the quick change
of dress, she again complained of being ill, but got accoutred,
and returned to finish the part, and pronounced in the epilogue
speech,--'If it be true that good wine needs no bush, it is as true
that a good play needs no epilogue,' &c., &c. But when she arrived at
'If I were among you, I would kiss as many of you as had beards that
pleased me,' her voice broke, she faltered, endeavoured to go on, but
could not proceed; then, in a voice of tremor, screamed, 'O God! O
God!' and tottered to the stage door speechless, where she was caught.
The audience, of course, applauded until she was out of sight, and
then sunk into awful looks of astonishment--both young and old, before
and behind the curtain--to see one of the most handsome women of the
age, a favourite principal actress, and who had for several seasons
given high entertainment, struck so suddenly by the hand of death in
such a situation of time and place, and in her prime of life, being
about forty-four."

Such were the circumstances attending the last appearance of Margaret
Woffington, who, notwithstanding she died in the prime of life at the
age of forty-seven, had been for twenty-seven years the delight of the
play-going public. The three years she lingered as a mere skeleton of
her former self were spent in trying to awaken the consciences of her
late theatrical associates. Some of these scouted her new spirit as
hypocrisy, and insinuated that religion was her recourse only when
beauty and spirits had been lost. But the One who judgeth the
secrets of men's hearts is not so uncharitable in His judgment of His
creatures. It may be believed that the influence which she received
from the chapel meetings of John Wesley was the beginning of a genuine
religious life and character, and that it brought from her Maker that
commendation which was ungenerously denied her by her associates.

These brief sketches of the lives of some of the daughters of Scotland
and of Ireland illustrate the principal characteristics of the women
of the Scotch-Irish race. Among all the nations of the world no
women hold as high a place for pure morals and high courage. The
spiritualizing effect of the profound religious feeling of these
people--although in the form of their religious faith the Scotch and
the Irish are for the most part so diametrically different--accounts
in a large measure for their conservation of the facts and forces of
the religious life. The soil of both Ireland and Scotland was bedewed
for centuries with the tears of affliction and of persecution; the
blood of martyrs who cheerfully laid down their lives at the dictates
of religion and that highest social expression of the religious
instinct, the noblest piety of the human race--patriotism. Out of
all the oppression, rapacity, confiscation, which the two peoples
experienced in different forms and different degrees, arose an
unworldly ideal, a sense of the invisible realm. The sturdy Calvinist
matron of the Scottish Highlands is no more religious, no more the
product of the travails of her country, no more under the inspiration
and exaltation of high principle, than her less fortunately placed
sister of the Green Isle, whose religion is at the opposite extreme of
the forms of Christian faith. The women of both peoples can point
with tearful joy to the history of their sex as a scroll of fame and a
record of noble achievement.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Women of England" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.