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Title: Women in English Life from Mediæval to Modern Times, Vol. I
Author: Hill, Georgiana
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 in English Life from Mediæval to Modern Times, Vol. I" ***

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Transcriber’s note: Superscripts are preceded by the caret character ^,
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[Illustration: _C. Cook, sculp._


_Lady Fanshawe_.

London Richard Bentley & Son 1896]


  from Mediæval to Modern Times.



  VOL. I.


  Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty.


The object aimed at in the following pages is to show the place that
women have held in our national life, from the days when what we call
the Saxon race was dominant in England, down to the present time. For
this purpose those phases of our social history have been dwelt upon
which display most clearly the changes that have taken place in the
position of women, and the influence of great forces like the Church
and Feudalism. Names have been used as illustrations, and not with any
intention of adding to biographical literature. Instances that are
the most striking individually do not always serve best as examples.
For this reason many familiar historical scenes and figures have
been omitted. The continuity of a general record would be broken by
divergence into episodes interesting on account of their exceptional
character. Prominence has been given to domestic life, as that
concerns the larger number, and to those aspects of the case which have
not been summed up in the numerous accounts of noteworthy women.

In literature and art, which have their own special histories, where
the part that women have played is recounted at length, only a few
general points have been noted in order to show how women have stood
in relation to letters and art in successive periods. The subjects
themselves are treated as stages marking social advance, not discussed
in the light of their intrinsic interest and attractiveness.

A consideration of the position of women in England leads, naturally,
to the subject of their position in Europe generally, for the main
influences which have affected women in this country are the same
as those that have operated on the Continent, although the result
has taken different forms in accordance with the idiosyncracies of
each nation. It is unnecessary to discuss the condition of women
in the Eastern parts, for while Western Europe has been changing
and progressing with ever-increasing rapidity during the last ten
centuries, Eastern Europe--as far as social life is concerned--remained
for a long period in an almost stationary state. In character it was
Asiatic, though during the last three hundred years it has succumbed
more to the influences of its geographical position.

In the Middle Ages the conditions of life in Western Europe were pretty
uniform. There was hardly any education in the sense of book-learning,
except among religious communities. Locomotion was difficult and
dangerous, so that there was but scanty intercourse between the
inhabitants of different parts of the same country. Fighting was the
chief business of men, and manual work, skilled and unskilled, occupied
women of all ranks.

In an age when war was so frequent, the civil duties of life were left
to women, who fulfilled obligations that in more peaceful times fell
to the lot of men. They not only had entire charge of the household,
but shared largely in the operations of the field and the farm; they
were the spinners, the weavers, the brewsters, and the bakers. They
frequently controlled the management of estates, and occasionally
held public offices of trust and importance. There were no laws to
prevent women from filling such positions, and the fittest came to the
front unhampered by conventionality or arbitrary restrictions. But
although women appear to have had a wider field of activity than they
afterwards enjoyed, when social life became more complex, there was a
counteracting influence which told against the development and free
exercise of their energies. This was the influence of the Church.

It was the policy of the Church to keep women in a subordinate
position. As long as they remained thoroughly convinced of their
natural inferiority, and of the duty of subservience, they could be
reckoned upon as valuable aids to the building up of the ecclesiastical
power. The immense force of the religious and devotional spirit in
woman was at the absolute disposal of her spiritual directors. At a
time when there was no science, no art, and, for the majority, no
literature, the power of the Church was incomparably greater than
anything we can conceive of now.

The Church did not find it difficult to persuade women to accept the
limits marked out for them. There was no public sentiment to set off
against the power of the priest. Society was ruled by physical force;
the law was weak, and the Church was women’s shelter from the rudeness
of an age when those who should have protected the defenceless were
themselves the greatest offenders.

In order to enforce the doctrine of inferiority, the Church went
further, and proclaimed that there was in woman a wickedness additional
to the sin common to humanity. The “eternal feminine” was held before
men’s eyes as a temptation to be warred against. To fly from the
presence of woman was to resist evil. Celibacy was a saintly virtue,
and family life a thing to be tolerated rather than approved.
In the words of St. Chrysostom, woman was “a necessary evil, a
natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic peril, a deadly
fascination, and a painted ill.” The influence of the Fathers was not
confined to their own age; their writings continued to affect the whole
teaching of the Church, Anglican as well as Roman, which has always
been in favour of the subordination of woman. She has been assigned
a lower place in religious exercises, and has been excluded from the
priestly office.

In successive periods of history the Church was largely responsible
for the terrible persecutions inflicted upon women--and chiefly upon
the poorest and most helpless--on the ground of witchcraft. Once
having disseminated the theory of woman’s inherent vice, it was only
a natural corollary to impute to her both the desire and the power of
working extraordinary mischief. The doctrine suited ages which believed
not only in an embodied and omnipresent Power of Evil, but also in
countless and multiform expressions of that power through natural
objects and phenomena.

The Feudal System, which prevailed in England up to the middle of
the fifteenth century, and in France up to a much later period, had
a repressive effect on women of the lower classes, though for women
in the upper ranks it presented certain advantages. The women of the
families of tenants on a feudal estate were regarded as chattels which
went with the land. They were bound to the soil, and were fined if they
either accepted work or married outside the lord’s domain.

The age of chivalry had a twofold effect on the position of women. It
created an ideal of womanhood which stirred the imagination and the
poetic fancy. Chivalry had its sublime side. It was a protest against
tyranny and vice; it inspired men to heroic deeds; it gave them a
loftier conception of duty. It was the revulsion of noble minds from
the coarseness, the unpitying indifference to wrong, and contempt for
weakness, which characterized the Middle Ages. Like a new gospel,
chivalry dawned upon a world in which the virtues of Paganism had
declined, while its vices still triumphed.

But chivalry had another side. The pure reverence for woman passed
into romantic admiration, into a worship of physical beauty, into mere
passion. Woman, from being little less than a saint, became a toy. The
teaching of the Church and the spirit of chivalry both acted adversely
on the position of woman. By the one she was lowered below the level of
humanity, by the other she was raised to an ideal pinnacle, where it
was impossible she could remain. The fault was the same in both cases.
The priest and the knight removed woman from her natural place into a
false position, endowing her with sub-human wickedness and superhuman

With the Renaissance and the spread of education, social life underwent
great changes. The Church was no longer the dominant influence. Great
secular forces came into play; the tide of learning swept over Europe;
commerce, travel, discoveries, inventions, caused old habits to be
unlearnt. Thought, which had been stagnant, was freshened into a moving
stream. In the intellectual re-birth, in the conflict of faiths, in the
deadly political struggles which occupied the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries in England, we see how women were passing from the narrow
life of the home into the wide life of the nation.

The great industrial revolution, which began in the last century, and
has progressed with such rapid strides, has had its special bearing
on the position of women. The material improvements brought about by
machinery and developing trade, have lifted the middle-class woman
out of the purely domestic sphere by lessening her household duties,
and so leaving her free for other occupations. She has ceased to be
a producer. But the working woman has been simply drawn more and more
from family life, to be absorbed into the ranks of outside workers. She
is, in many cases, as much detached from the home as the man, by the
necessity of wage-earning.

The educational revolution of modern times has also worked great
changes in the position of women in England. It has specially affected
the middle classes, who have been thereby enabled to enter with perfect
freedom into the world of letters, to follow professional and business
careers--in a word, to carve out for themselves an independent course.
A new conception has arisen of what is woman’s place in society.
She now bears an active part in all the great movements--political,
religious, philanthropic; her co-operation is sought in public work,
and her presence welcomed, rather than resented, in all new social

In the lighter side of life--in its recreations, which are now more
in the nature of work than play--women have a much wider field than
formerly, and take their pleasure as best suits them, without let or
hindrance. They are free to act according to their necessities and
tastes, wherever common sense and fitness lead them, without finding
the barrier of sex laid across the path. Those who are afraid lest
the world should suffer by women adopting modes of life unsanctioned
by tradition, may console themselves by remembering that Nature is
stronger than fashion or opinion, and will at once make her voice heard
whenever the lightest of her laws is transgressed.

The position of women in England cannot be regarded as an orderly
evolution. It does not show unvarying progress from age to age. In one
direction there has been improvement, in another deterioration. There
have been breaks and gaps in the general advance, so that certain
periods appear at a disadvantage in comparison with their predecessors.
The last half-century shows very rapid and momentous changes. Never
were such advantages placed within the reach of women; never were so
many opportunities--social, literary, educational, commercial--open to
them. But these advantages and opportunities would have been useless if
women had not been ready, and shown their fitness for the new trusts.
They have themselves largely created the public sentiment which now so
strongly impels them towards wider action, and imposes on them greater





  Domestic life in the Middle Ages--Interior of a manor-house--
      Position and duties of the mistress--Household arrangements--
      Dame Paston and her daughters--Lady Joan Berkeley--The lady
      of the castle in time of war--Lady Pelham’s defence of
      Pevensey Castle--Her letter to her husband                       3



  Learned ladies in Saxon times--Education of women in the Middle
      Ages--The rise of Grammar Schools--Want of provision for
      girls--Convent schools--Improvement of education in the
      fifteenth century--Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond,
      and her patronage of learning                                   17



  The Feudal System unfavourable to the development of the middle
      classes--Subjection of women under Feudalism--Tyranny of
      feudal lords--Power of the Church--Rise of Commerce--
      Material progress--End of the Feudal System                     26



  The industrial equality of former days--Women as members
      of Gilds--Restrictions on trade--Fitness of girls for
      industrial occupations--Women as watchmakers: Sir John
      Bennett’s opinion--The brewsters and ale-wives--Trade
      unions compared with the ancient Gilds--Influence of the
      Gilds--Equality of the sisteren and bretheren--Married
      women trading alone--Labour regulations applicable to men
      and women alike                                                 39



  Dominance of the Church in the Middle Ages--The Conventual
      System--Occupations of the Nuns--Power of the Abbesses--
      Disputes between Religious Houses and the Laity--Latitude
      allowed to Nuns--Convents Educational Centres--Effects of
      the Suppression of Convents--Complaints of the Laity            56



  Influence of the Church on women in social life--The twofold
      conception of womanhood--Canon and Civil Law--Effect of
      ecclesiastical celibacy                                         85



  Almsgiving at the monasteries--Charity dispensed by private
      families--Bequests of ladies for the relief of the poor--
      Action of the Church--Change in the conception of the duty
      of almsgiving--Needlework for the poor--Modern gilds--
      Charity at the present day                                     100





  Effect on women of the fall of Feudalism--Characteristics of
      Tudor England--Observations of foreigners on English-women--
      Greater liberty allowed to women in England than on
      the Continent--Social habits and amusements--Women’s
      education--English family life--Parents and children           113



  Revival of learning in the sixteenth century--Attitude of the
      nobility towards Letters and Arts--No age so productive of
      learned ladies--The Tudor princesses and Lady Jane Grey--
      Sir Anthony Coke’s daughters--Mary Sidney--Learned women
      held in esteem--Learning confined to the upper classes--A
      sixteenth-century schoolmaster on women’s education            126



  Retrogression in the seventeenth century--Tone of women’s
      education--Mrs. Hutchinson--Lady Ann Halkett--Mrs. Alice
      Thornton--Mrs. Makins--The Duchess of Newcastle--General
      estimation of learning--Changes in social life--Some
      patronesses of learning                                        145



  Changes in domestic life--Lady Elizabeth Howard’s household at
      Naworth Castle--The Countess of Sunderland--The Belvoir
      Castle family--The Countess of Salisbury’s suit--The
      Countess of Pembroke and the “boon hen”--Bess of Hardwicke--
      Court ladies--Lady Brilliana Harley--Lady Lucas--
      Match-making--Seizure of an heiress                            155



  Puritan influence--Neglect of women’s education--The
      boarding-out system for girls--Sir Matthew Hale on the
      education of girls--Manners and customs--Diversions of
      great ladies--Rules for behaviour--John Evelyn on manners--
      Effects of the Civil War--Simplicity of home life--Lady
      Anne Halkett--Position of wives--A contemporary writer on
      husbands                                                       173



  The city dames during the Civil War--They petition Parliament
      for peace--Reception of the petition--The military
      called out--Petition from tradesmen’s wives for redress
      of grievances--Pym’s reply--Women’s memorial to Cromwell
      against imprisonment for debt--Sufferers during the Monmouth
      Rebellion--Petition against Judge Jeffreys--Hannah Hewling
      petitions the king                                             193



  Nature of the struggle--Position of Queen Henrietta Maria--
      Activity of women on both sides--Mrs. Hutchinson at
      Nottingham--Defence of Lathom House by the Countess of
      Derby--Lady Arundel at Wardour Castle--Lady Bankes besieged
      in Corfe Castle--Lady Lettice Digby defends Greashill
      Castle--Lady Fanshawe’s visits to her husband in prison--
      Experiences of a gentlewoman in the West of England--Lady
      Musgrave and the Parliament--Lady Halkett assists the Duke
      of York to escape--Lady Rochester and the elections--The
      Jacobite rising--Flora McDonald                                205



  Religious life in the sixteenth century--Religion the great
      motive-power--The Lollard persecutions--Protestant martyrs
      of the sixteenth century--Anne Askew--Women martyrs in the
      seventeenth century--Persecution of the Quakeresses--Quaker
      doctrines--Seventeenth-century Anglicanism--Indifference of
      the Church to social work--Condition of the clergy--Mary
      Astell and her Protestant nunnery--The Countess of Warwick     235



  Universality of the belief in witchcraft--Persecution of witches
      in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries--Attitude of the
      Puritans--Origin of the witch--First use of the term--
      Enactments against witchcraft--The Essex persecutions--The
      last judicial execution                                        261



  Development of the arts in the seventeenth century--Introduction
      of women on the stage--Corruption of the period--
      Character of the drama--Wearing masks by spectators--
      The French company at Blackfriars Theatre--The first
      English company with women players--Famous actresses--
      English female artists in the Stuart period--Foundation
      of the Royal Academy of Arts--Angelica Kaufmann and Mary
      Moser elected members--Their career--Fanny Reynolds--
      Sir Joshua’s opinion of his sister’s work--Mrs. Cosway--
      Mrs. Carpenter--Character of eighteenth-century work--
      Women’s place in musical art--Musical education in early
      times--Love of music in the sixteenth century--Instruments
      played by women--Music abolished by the Puritans--Musical
      maidservants in the seventeenth century--The first English
      opera--Purcell’s early work--Performance at a ladies’ school   275





  Artificiality of eighteenth-century life--The _rôle_ of the
      middle-class woman--Scotch domestic life--The old maid--
      Admiration of foreigners for English women--English dress--
      Public morals--Contrast between town and country life--
      A country lady in London--Racquets, routs, and drums--
      Education of girls--The boarding-school--Habits and manners
      of the middle class--Le Blanc’s opinion of the English         307



  London society in the last century--Lord Chesterfield on taste--
      Coarse language of great ladies--The speculation mania
      among ladies--Narrowness of fashionable life--Manners
      and amusements--Difficulties of social intercourse--The
      founders of Almack’s Club--The passion for politics--Lady
      Mary Wortley Montagu on women’s training--Some traits of
      eighteenth-century life                                        333






  Domestic life in the Middle Ages--Interior of a manor-house--Position
      and duties of the mistress--Household arrangements--Dame Paston
      and her daughters--Lady Joan Berkeley--The lady of the castle in
      time of war--Lady Pelham’s defence of Pevensey Castle--Her letter
      to her husband.

To those living in the hurry and bustle of modern existence, there
are few pictures so attractive as that of a stately manor-house in
olden times. Its seclusion and calm, the solidity, regularity, and
simplicity of its daily life, are a soothing contrast to the noise and
complexity of the common round in the present day. We are accustomed
to think of the Middle Ages as a period of strife, of rude commotions,
with a generally unsettled state of society. It was so, but with
it all there was a great peace which this generation knoweth not.
Fighting and brawling there was in plenty. Life was cheap, property
insecure; every man was his own policeman; quarrels meant blows, and
might was right. But the very causes which produced this state of
society created also an opposite condition of things. Bad roads, lack
of communication, which made it possible for deeds of violence to pass
unpunished, kept the knowledge of those deeds hidden from the community
at large. Life went on in quiet corners undisturbed by the thought of
evil and misfortune close at hand. There was no responsive throb of
feeling between one town and another, no electric thrill passing from
country-side to country-side. Each place lived its life comparatively
apart. To-day a touch on any of our great centres of life is felt
throughout the kingdom. In mediæval times England was not a whole, but
a conglomeration of communities, each with an independent existence.

The manor-house was essentially a self-contained domain. Even the best
of country roads were so indifferent that a town a few miles off was
not much more than a name to most of the occupants of the manor-house.
What were called high-roads were merely tracks along which waggons
were dragged with the utmost difficulty. The house itself, embowered
in trees on low-lying ground or sheltering against the breast of a
hill, was in its isolation both defenceless and secure. Generally, it
had a palisade or outer fence to form a protection against assault.
That a house of any pretensions should be something in the nature of a
stronghold was necessary in those days.

The upper story was reserved for the lady and her maidens. It was the
part most protected, and was sometimes strengthened further by the
placing of heavy doors at short intervals on the staircase which led to
this portion of the house. Originally consisting of only one apartment
called the solar, this upper floor was gradually enlarged until it
comprised several sleeping-rooms, the hall becoming more and more a
place for dining and receiving guests and transacting business, while
the real family life was lived upstairs. Mediæval manners necessitated
some retreat where the women-folk would not be exposed to contact with
any passing stranger who might claim hospitality. It seems, however,
to have been customary for the lady of the house to sit with her lord,
or, in his absence, to preside at the dinner or supper taken in the
hall. Her place was at the upper end, away from the entrance, and only
privileged guests would be permitted to sit close to her. There was a
full acknowledgment of the wife’s social position. To women of rank
and station the feudal system brought certain advantages. Every feudal
lord was a kind of princeling, and his wife shared his dignities. The
state kept up in the feudal castle and in the mediæval manor-house
gave the wife considerable importance. As far as social duties went,
husband and wife acted as partners, receiving and entertaining the
guests together. The unsettled times, which so often kept the lord
from his own roof, brought the lady into prominence as sole guardian
of the family possessions and interests. She was hedged round with a
little circle of ceremony. A great lady always had a body-guard of
maidens who lived under the eye of their mistress, while the lord had
a similar contingent of pages or squires. It was a general custom in
feudal times, and even somewhat later, for the daughters and sons of
good families to be sent to live in the household of some knight or
gentleman to be instructed in all the arts pertaining to their station.
Feudal etiquette required that a great lady should be personally served
by ladies of rank. With this personal service was combined training in
all domestic accomplishments which it was necessary for a well-bred
maiden to acquire. The English fashion of sending children from home
was commented on by foreigners as a proof of the lack of parental
affection. It was a fashion that was in full vogue in the middle of the
fifteenth century. In 1469, Dame Margaret Paston writes to her son, Sir
John Paston, about 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
    wurchepfull place, wher as ye thynk best, and I wull help to
    her fyndyng, for we be eyther of us werye of other.”

Dame Paston’s blunt letter seems to bear out the charge brought against
English parents.

A knight’s lady was like the mistress of a boarding-school, and a
very stern mistress she often proved to be. Rank and birth did not
exempt her pupils from strict discipline and hard work. While their
brothers were learning to ride and to wrestle, to shoot, and to handle
the battle-axe, to sing and to learn to bear themselves gallantly
like gentlemen, the maidens were being initiated into the mysteries
of weaving, spinning, brewing, distilling, salting, and many other
processes which were then performed by each family for itself. To
these occupations was added needlework of all kinds, from the making
of plain serviceable smocks and cloaks to embroidering banners and
altar-cloths; for all wearing apparel, as well as everything required
for household use, was manufactured and made up at home. If the male
members of the establishment were numerous, a busy time the lady and
her maidens must have had. Well might the poet write--

  “Mult doit fame estre chier tenue
   Par li est tout gent vestue.
   Bien sai que fame file et œuvre
   Les dras dont l’en se vest et cuevre

  “Et toissus d’or et drap de soie
   Et por ce dis-je où que je soie,
   A toz cels qui orront cest conte,
   Que de fame ne dient honte.”[1]

No doubt the coarser kinds of work, such as the clothes for dependants,
were given out to the servants; but every young gentlewoman had to
learn the process, so as to be able in her turn to superintend a
household. Tailors were also employed for the making of both women’s
and men’s garments. In royal households there were regular tailors
who made feminine as well as masculine garments. A tailor was called a
cissor. In the time of Edward I., the King, the Queen, and the Prince
of Wales each had their separate tailors.

There were large establishments of celibate priests, like that of
Bishop Swinfield who lived in the thirteenth century, where no female
servants were permitted to enter, and men performed all the domestic
work. Unless the nuns of some neighbouring convent were employed in
working for these semi-monastic households, there must have been a
supply of masculine weavers and spinners. Curiously enough, the only
in-door employment in these priests’ houses for which female labour was
engaged was that of brewing. The brewing was always exclusively in the
hands of women, and it is thought possible that even in ecclesiastical
establishments the old custom was followed.

In the Middle Ages it was not usual for women to be employed about the
royal palaces except to attend on the queen and princesses. In France,
says Meiners, in his “History of the Female Sex”--

    “When the kings lived apart from their consorts, they had in
    their palaces no persons of the female sex, except a few of
    those menials whose services are indispensably necessary in
    every family, such as washerwomen, needle-women, etc., and
    even these were removed by Philip the Fair from his court.
    In like manner the palaces and apartments of the queens and
    princesses were inaccessible to all persons of the other sex,
    except the _maître de l’hotel_ and the knights or esquires who
    mounted guard before the doors and chambers of the princesses.
    At table, in rising and going to bed, in undressing and
    dressing, queens and princesses were attended only by their
    women and maids; and this ancient practice was retained by the
    queens of France so late as the sixteenth century.”

But to return to the manor-house. A great lady, who had to superintend
and take an active share in the _making_ only of the clothes for the
household, would in these days feel herself very hardly pressed,
especially if she were also expected to be her own housekeeper and see
to the good ordering of the kitchen. But if she had also to manufacture
material and to preside over all those initial processes of which
she now sees nothing but the results, life would seem an intolerable
burden. It was not so thought in mediæval times. It is true that in
noblemen’s houses there was a steward, whose business it was to provide
the household with necessaries. In the Berkeley family, which may be
taken as a typical case, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries,
the steward was accustomed to order, either monthly or quarterly,
certain quantities of provisions to be supplied from the manors and
farms belonging to the estate. But the lady of the house exercised a
general superintendence. Joan, the wife of Thomas, third Lord Berkeley,
who lived in the reign of Edward III., is described as--

    “a vertuous lady and great huswife and a wise overseer of such
    household affayres as were proper to her sex and government....
    When shee came to theis farm-houses (as often shee did) to
    oversee or take accompt of her dairy affaires, shee oftentimes
    spent in provisions at a meale there the valewe of 4_d._ and
    4_d._ ob. [4¼_d._ about] whereof allowance was afterwards given
    to the Accomptant before her husband’s Auditor at the end of
    the year. And some tymes also a cheese of two pound weight was
    at such a tyme spent by her attendants. And in such huswifely
    courses this virtuous Lady spent a part of her aged and weake
    yeares untill her death.”

There was a dignity attached to manual labour which is exemplified
in the use of the word “spinster.” It was a term of which women were
proud. We now confine it to unmarried women, but as late as the
sixteenth century it was used by married women of the better class. A
gentlewoman who married a man of inferior rank claimed the title of
spinster as a sign of her good birth and gentle breeding.

Life was, however, by no means all work for the ladies of the
manor-house. There was time and to spare for lighter employments and
diversions. We hear a great deal of games, especially of chess, in
the households of people of rank, and the number of so-called chamber
games shows that the ladies had many hours for recreation. There was
dancing too, and lute-playing, and a little conning over ballads and
romances. For although the _damoiseaux_ frequently could not sign their
names, and found it hard work to spell out the words of the breviary,
the _demoiselles_, if they were not very skilful with the quill, were
fairly proficient in the art of reading, which was more cultivated by
women than by men.

In the intervals between needlework and housewifery, there would be
strolling in the garden on fine days, weaving garlands of flowers--a
favourite mediæval pastime; and in summer weather, when the lanes were
passable, rambles outside the domain and occasional rides. It is easy
to understand how much more essential was the garden to the enjoyment
of the women-folk in days when out-door exercise was comparatively
difficult. There would be a little visiting among the dependents in
the hamlet, and for the lady herself, in cold wet seasons, a great
dispensing of herbal medicines for rheums and ague. At all times there
were the doles to the poor, gifts which were thought due from the
great house. Religious observances occupied a portion of each day,
though the length and number of these depended on the character of
the inmates. Still, there would be certain outward forms of devotion
to be gone through in almost all large households. Few great ladies
were so punctilious in their devotions as the Princess Cecil, mother
of Edward IV., who used to rise at seven o’clock and say matins with
her chaplain. After that she heard a low mass in her chamber. A little
later in the morning, when the slight breakfast had been partaken of,
she would go to the chapel to hear divine service and two low masses.
She said evensong with her chaplain, and then went again to chapel.

In ordinary households the saints’ days would be observed, the great
fasts kept, and mass heard at regular intervals. Sometimes the abbot of
the neighbouring monastery would pay what might be called a pastoral
visit to the lord and lady of the manor, accompanied by some of his
monks, mounted on mules, accustomed to pace the rough or miry roads.
Besides these clerical visitors, there would be strangers to be
entertained every now and then, and if they were of high degree, the
lady herself would see that their wants were supplied, and would sup
and converse with them.

Life in the mediæval manor-house, though it was a life much secluded
from the noise and bustle of the world, was one full of activity and
varied occupation. There were so many necessary duties that must be
performed, that the absence of entertainment and of the pleasures of
art and literature was not felt. The horizon was limited. Interests
were concentrated within a narrow compass, but what is unknown is not
missed. For the women the manor-house was the world. It is recorded
as a merit on the part of Lady Joan Berkeley (mentioned above), that
in the forty-two years of her married life she never travelled ten
miles from her husband’s houses in Somerset and Gloucester, “much
less humered herselfe with the vaine delightes of London and other
cities.” If a great lady like the wife of Thomas Lord Berkeley lived
so circumscribed an existence, it is easy to imagine how small was
the circle of women of less degree. But this limited area of thought
and activity does not seem to have been a bad nursery. Writing of the
fifteenth century, Sir James Ramsay says--

    “If we are led to form an unfavourable opinion of the male
    aristocracy of the period, far otherwise is it with regard to
    the ladies. Whether as wives, sisters, or daughters, their
    letters create most favourable impressions.”

In feudal times it was not all noble ladies who could live in peace
and seclusion in their homes, protected from strife and rude alarms.
The châtelaine was often called upon to take supreme command in her
lord’s absence, and if trouble arose and the castle were attacked, the
mistress was not only the nominal but the actual head of affairs. We do
not find in those days that women shut themselves up and declined to
interfere because they did not understand politics. On the contrary,
they responded to the need with alacrity. The great lady put down her
embroidery-needle and took up the sword when danger threatened. She did
not fasten herself up in the solarium with her maidens, but took the
command of the household.

A notable heroine in the Wars of the Roses was Lady Joan Pelham, wife
of Sir John Pelham, Constable of Pevensey Castle. In 1399 Sir John was
in Yorkshire with Henry Duke of Lancaster, fighting against Richard
II. Lady Joan, left in Pevensey Castle, was fiercely attacked by the
Yorkist forces from Sussex, Kent, and Surrey. The castle was in great
danger, and there was much difficulty also in obtaining provisions. The
long letter which she wrote to her husband during the siege has the
additional interest of being the earliest letter extant written by an
English lady.


    “I recommande me to yowr hie Lordesehippe wyth hert and body
    and all my pore myght, and wyth all this I think zou, as my
    dere Lorde, derest and best yloved off all earthlyche Lordes; I
    say for me and thanke yhow my dere Lorde, with all thys that I
    say before, off your comfortable lettre, that ze send me fron
    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 warr stronge ynogh wyth the grace off God for to kepe yow
    fro the malyce of your ennemys. And dere Lorde iff it lyk to
    your hyee Lordeshippe that als ye myght, that smyght her off
    your gracious spede whych God Allmyghty contynue and encresse.
    And my dere Lorde, if is lyk zow for to know off my ffare, I am
    here by layd in a manner off a sege, wyth the counte of Sussex,
    Sudray, and a greet parsyll off Kentte; so that I ne may nogth
    out, nor none vitayles gette me, bot with myche hard. Wharfore
    my dere if it lyk zow, by the awyse off zowr wyse counsell,
    for to sett remadye off the salvation off yhower castell & 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 dispytffuly wrogth to zow, and to
    zowl castell, to zhowr men, and to zuor tenaunts ffore this
    cuntree, have yai wastede for a grett whyle. Farewell my dere
    Lorde, the Holy Trinyte zow kepe fro zour ennemys and son send
    me gud tythyngs off yhow. Ywryten at Pevensay in the castell,
    on Saynt Jacobe day last past.

    “By yhowr awnn pore, J. Pelham.

    “To my trew Lorde.”



  Learned ladies in Saxon times--Education of women in the Middle
      Ages--The rise of Grammar Schools--Want of provision for
      girls--Convent schools--Improvement of education in the fifteenth
      century--Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, and her
      patronage of learning.

It might seem superfluous to discuss the subject of education in
periods when reading and writing were the accomplishments of but
a fraction of the population, while to speak of learning seems
altogether an anomaly. As has already been noted, writing was a rare
accomplishment up to the tenth century. At the time of the Norman
invasion, there were probably few laymen who could spell out a
breviary. Yet even under the Saxon kings, when there was such a dearth
of knowledge among the people and a scarcity of all literature, there
was a thread of scholarship running through the nation among the
Monastic Orders. Although the foundations of learning had been laid,
the building went on slowly. Strange as it appears, there was not only
among men, but among women, a zest for study in the far-off days of the
Saxon monk Aldhelm, who wrote for his female pupils his work, “De Laude

Times that were in most respects very unfavourable for the pursuit
of letters produced students and scholars of no mean capacity. The
seclusion in which monks dwelt by choice and women by necessity, gave
opportunity for studies that would have been neglected under less
rude conditions. Saxon ladies varied the monotony of their domestic
occupations by the study of Latin, which they not only read, but wrote
with tolerable fluency.

Latin was then the great vehicle of knowledge. It was the language
of law, the medium of correspondence between scholars. Most of the
accessible literature was in Latin. It was, therefore, to the study
of that language above all else that students betook themselves. The
learned ladies of the sixteenth century had their forerunners in the
women of the seventh and eighth, in the studious Abbess Eadburga and
her pupil Leobgitha, with both of whom the celebrated St. Boniface,
called the Apostle of Germany, corresponded in Latin.

At that period learning was so closely associated with religion, that
the Church was the nursery of scholars. The acquirements of the Saxon
ladies were due to their connection with the religious orders. It was
in the priories and convents that the arts of reading and copying
manuscripts, of writing and composition were cultivated. So exclusively
was learning the monopoly of the Church, that in the Middle Ages
the study of books was but an inconsiderable part of a gentleman’s

With women the case was somewhat different. Their enforced seclusion
in days of rude manners led them to sedentary occupations. They were
frequently the only members of the family who could read with any ease.
As long as war was the chief business and out-door sports the chief
pastime of men, the quieter lives of the women gave them the advantage
in point of learning.

But with the Renaissance a change crept in. The education of men began
to improve, while that of the women was left as before. When William
of Wykeham founded his school at Winchester in 1373, he thought only
of boys. Henry VI. did not propose to admit girls to his foundation at
Eton. All the great schools which rose up in the sixteenth century,
Rugby, Harrow, Westminster, St. Paul’s, and the rest, were confined to
the male sex. The universities, though owing much to the beneficence
of women in early times, have, until recently, not only done nothing
for the advancement of women’s education, but thrown stumbling-blocks
in its way.

In education, as in everything else, the rich, of course, had the
advantage. Sir Nicholas Bacon, in the reign of Elizabeth, introduced
some reforms into the education of wards. There were--

    “articles devised for the bringing up in vertue and learning
    of the Queenes Majesties Wardes, being heires males and whose
    landes descending in possession and coming to the Queenes
    Majestie shall amount to the cleere yearly value of c. markes
    or above.”

Girls were put into wardship, too, but the Lord Keeper does not seem to
have thought any reforms were needed in their education.

It is not surprising to find that the girls of the poorer classes were
often much neglected. A contemporary writer, speaking of the women of
England, says--

    “This nevertheless I utterlie mislike in the poorer sort of
    them, for the wealthier doo sildome offend herein: that being
    of themselves without competent wit they are so carelesse in
    the education of their children (wherein their husbands also
    are to be blamed) by means whereof verie manie of them neither
    fearing God, neither regarding either manners or obedience,
    do oftentimes come to confusion which (if anie correction or
    discipline had beene used toward them in youth) might have
    proved good members of their common-wealth and countrie by
    their good service and industrie.”

The children of the poor could not have profited much by the free
education of the convent schools, for they began to earn their living
as soon as they were able to use their hands. There was plenty of
“discipline” in their bringing up, but not much regard paid to
“manners” or learning.

The custom among the well-to-do classes of sending their children
to live in the houses of the nobility prevailed all through the
Middle Ages and up to the sixteenth century. Among the laity it was a
recognized mode of education. The kind of training which the girls,
under this system, received depended on the character and acquirements
of the lady of the house. The primary things to be learnt were good
manners and domestic arts. Books were very scarce, and, except in
religious houses, there would be few persons who could make use of
them. Even at the end of the fifteenth century it was unusual for a
gentleman to be able to read and write.[2] There were, of course, the
schools attached to monasteries and convents where all classes were
taught, and in good families tutors were employed for both girls
and boys, such men as Elmer, Bishop of London, Roger Ascham, Walter
de Biblesworth, and others notable for learning, acting in that
capacity in the households of the nobility. The curriculum at the
convents included English, Latin, music, and grammar. The majority of
noblemen’s and gentlemen’s daughters are said to have attended the
convent schools. A custom prevailed for these young gentlewomen to
wear white veils, to distinguish them from professed nuns, who wore
black, which implies that all the pupils were resident in the convents.
It was not uncommon for the religious houses to be used as boarding
establishments. At some places ladies were received as inmates of a
conventual household, bringing their own servants to attend upon them,
and to a great extent living apart from the nuns.

With regard to women’s education, there seem to have been periods of
enlightenment alternating with periods of darkness. In Saxon days,
in the seventh and eighth centuries especially, the study of letters
occupied a good deal of the attention of women. But while the Norman
and Saxon were struggling into unity, education everywhere seems to
have been at a low ebb.

Women did not profit much by the literary renaissance of the age of
Chaucer. It is said that the daughters of John of Gaunt, who was
father to Henry IV., were the first English ladies who could write
(the Saxon abbesses and their pupils are ignored in this statement),
while the earliest letter extant written by a woman in English is said
to have been the notable epistle, already quoted, sent by Lady Joan
Pelham in 1399 to her husband, relating her troubles during her gallant
defence of Pevensey Castle.[3]

By the middle of the fifteenth century, however, some improvement
is noticeable. If writing were such a rare accomplishment as to add
lustre to the family of John of Gaunt, the grand-daughter of that
illustrious begetter of kings was celebrated for the keen interest she
took in books, and was herself an author. Margaret Beaufort, mother
of Henry VII., was a noted woman of learning, though her interest for
later generations lies more in the part she played in history. She was
a woman of great intellectual ability, and had been most carefully
trained. Printing was then a new art, and the Countess of Richmond, to
give her the title by which she is best known, was a warm patroness of
Caxton’s partner, Wynkyn de Worde, whom she appointed as her special
printer. The countess was a very great lady, and had her printer, her
poet, her band of minstrels, just as she had her resident confessor and
her domestic retinue. She ordered several works to be printed, and did
much to foster a taste for literature among the ladies of the court.

Her bent of mind was distinctly religious, and in her later years
she regulated her establishment on monastic lines, and lived a life
of conventual strictness. In her secluded manor-house, situated in
the Hundred of Woking, her principal visitor was the abbot of the
neighbouring monastery of Newark, who from time to time ambled along
the ill-kept road with a train of monks all mounted on mules to
confer with this powerful but dutiful daughter of the Church. In the
picturesquely shaded house, which is still well preserved and retains
much of its old-world air, the countess could pursue her reading and
meditations undisturbed, and it was probably here that she composed her
religious books. Her early studies enabled her to enjoy such literature
as was accessible. She was well acquainted with Latin and French, but
there is no mention of Greek or Hebrew.

We must skip the two next generations, and go on to the great
grand-daughters of the Countess of Richmond before we find the dead
languages assuming an important place in the curriculum of a woman’s
education. There were very few books accessible to the laity in the
days of Margaret of Richmond, but she lived long enough to see the
means of knowledge multiplying fast, and to assist in the process.

The intellectual gifts and literary attainments of her grandson, Henry
VIII., augured well for the progress of learning in England, and the
countess, who died the year that Henry was crowned, was thus spared
the pain of witnessing the crimes which stained his after career. The
mental energy which characterised all the Tudors seems to have had its
fountain-head in their distinguished ancestress, whose position exposed
her to many trials and dangers, through which her strength of mind,
steadiness of purpose, and nobility of character carried her unscathed.
Some ills might have been averted from England had Margaret Beaufort
been alive during the reign of her grandson. And what a brilliant
leader she would have made of that group of learned ladies who adorned
the second half of the sixteenth century!



  The Feudal System unfavourable to the development of the middle
      classes--Subjection of women under Feudalism--Tyranny of
      feudal lords--Power of the Church--Rise of commerce--Material
      progress--End of the Feudal System.

Until the development of England as a manufacturing country, the
strength and importance of the middle classes were not felt. They
came into power contemporaneously with the growth of trade and
commerce. It was the thriving burgesses who made England feared by
other nations, for it was they who equipped her fleets and replenished
empty exchequers. It has often been remarked that in no other country
in Europe is there a middle class corresponding to the middle class
in England. In no other country is the middle class such a powerful
factor in national life. Whether it will retain its power is doubtful.
The blows aimed by socialism at the upper classes are felt by those
below. For every large landowner who is attacked on the score of undue
wealth, there are a hundred small property-holders who will bend under
the strain put upon their resources. Ground rents are not all in the
hands of the nobility, and employers of labour are not all battening on
enormous profits. It is the middle classes whom the socialistic portion
of the democracy wish to reduce to a condition of insecurity, and whose
energies they are trying to paralyze.

The feudal system was unfavourable to the growth of the middle classes.
It savoured too much of absolutism. Energy was cramped. Individual
effort was possible only within certain limits. In the feudal ages
people cared more for protection than for freedom. They bowed to the
sovereignty of the feudal lord, and were dependent on his bounty.
The services which they were obliged to render prevented them from
straying into new paths, and the conditions under which they lived
made independent action impossible. It was not until the feudal system
was broken down that there was a free course for the development of
the middle classes. In the first four centuries after the coming of
the Normans, it is the aristocracy who are the history-makers. Roughly
speaking, there are only two classes to be considered: the nobles and
the serfs--for such the lower classes remained in all the important
relations of life--and until the arts of civilization have made some
progress, until the resources of the country have been brought into
play and foreign commerce has grown into importance, the life of the
populace is a somewhat monotonous tale.

It has been stated that feudalism raised woman to a higher place in
domestic life; that, whereas before she was in a state of subjection,
under the feudal system she exercised independent power. Undoubtedly,
as a wife woman was a gainer. The mantle of authority with which her
husband was invested, fell upon her whenever he was temporarily absent.
The _ménage_ of a feudal household certainly gave the lady of the house
a dignity, and imposed upon her responsibilities which secured her
respect and gave her freedom of action. She was called upon to direct a
little army of subordinates, and was her husband’s partner and equal.
But this improvement in the status of women is not discernible, except
in the governing classes. The women without title, rank, position,
wealth, the women of every-day life, profited little. They shared in
the subjection of their fathers, brothers, and husbands, and they
enjoyed none of the privileges which the feudal system conferred on
their more highly placed sisters. In a state of society where the mass
of the people were in a dependent position, it was not likely that any
special freedom would be granted to or even claimed by women. And in an
age when the worship of force was dominant, their physical inferiority
told heavily against them. Under feudalism there was no sort of
independence possible to women who were born to wealth or rank.

Women were under a twofold sovereignty--that of the feudal lord and of
their male relatives. No woman in any position of life could be said
to be a free agent. If she were a great heiress, she was disposed of
in marriage as best suited the king and his council without regard to
her wishes. In the case of a vassal’s daughter, the consent of the
feudal lord must be obtained to her marriage. Every tenant paid a sum
of money to the lord on the marriage of his daughter, and this tax was
even levied in the case of grand-daughters. The price was fixed by the
manorial courts. A couple could not be betrothed without the permission
of their feudal lord, and if they failed to obtain his consent they
were subject to a fine.

In France, when feudalism was at its height, the birth of a daughter
was regarded as a calamity, from the sovereign downwards. Louis XI.,
who refused even to admit into his presence his daughter, Jeanne de
Valois, during the first four years of her life, and ferociously struck
at her with his sword when she chanced one day to come into view,
represents in an exaggerated form the sentiment of the peasant, who,
if he had no sons, would say, “Je n’ai pas d’enfants, je n’ai que des

Feudal England did not express herself so strongly, but a dowerless
daughter was felt to be a heavy burden, and a daughter with a portion
was treated simply as a marketable commodity.

On the labouring classes the tyranny of the feudal system pressed
grievously. A licence had to be bought to go outside the bounds of the
lord of the manor to obtain work. For instance, an orphan girl, in the
reign of Edward III., paid sixpence for the privilege of serving and
marrying “wheresoever and whensoever she pleases.”[4] A woman living on
the estate of a feudal lord was regarded as, in a manner, his property.
If she married a stranger and left the manor, the lord was entitled to
compensation, as being deprived of part of his “live stock.”

All through the Middle Ages it was the aim of the government to keep
the people on the land, to prevent the agricultural population from
quitting the rural districts. No father who could not show an income
of £20 a year in land or rent might apprentice his son or daughter to
any trade. This effectually cut off the chances of the majority of the
working class from migrating to the towns. The system, unworkable as it
appears, did not die out until the sixteenth century.

Powerful as was the Church in the Middle Ages, it was not able to
protect women outside the shade of the cloister. And it will be readily
understood how great was the influence of the priest in an age when
the mass of the people were so little able to think and judge for
themselves; in an age when belief in the supernatural encompassed daily
life with terrors, when the common laws of nature were dim mysteries,
when disease and misfortune were ascribed to the malevolence of witches
and evil spirits. The Church was the supreme arbiter, and to question
her decrees was to incur the risk of eternal misery. The powers of evil
could only be exorcised by holy water and priestly aid, and lapses
into sin were atoned for by substantial offerings. It was easy to
persuade women, always more susceptible than men to the emotional and
imaginative side of religion, that their dreams and fancies were divine
warnings. In that quaint collection of fourteenth-century maxims known
as the “Book of the Knight of Latour Landry,” the story is related of
a young wife who was induced to desert her husband for a lover, and
fell sick. She had a vision of a fiery pit, which a priest interpreted
to signify the abode of lost spirits, into which she would have been
plunged but for her piety in supporting one hundred priests to say
masses for the souls of her parents, and in dispensing charity among
the poor.

But if the Church tyrannized over the people and took advantage of
their ignorance, it was a great uplifting and civilizing power in their
lives. But for the Church the Middle Ages would been one dark night
of un-illumined barbarism. The Church summed up in herself all that
existed of knowledge and culture. It was the symbol of order, progress,
and learning. In time of war it was a haven of peace. It was the Church
that enabled women to live secure, sheltered lives in the midst of
turmoils and danger. It was the guardian of the people’s consciences,
and possessed over them a power of life and death.

Looked at from a lighter side, the Church was a potent factor in
every-day life. Her festivals were one of the chief recreations of the
people. To women especially, whose diversions were fewer than those
of men, the feast-days, with their processions and ceremonials, were
welcome excitements. In the services of the Church women found an
outlet for the gratification of the æsthetic sense which nothing else
afforded. If the main features of social life in the Middle Ages be
remembered--the sordidness of the dwellings, the absence of everything
beyond the barest necessaries in the majority of homes, the lack of
indoor recreations, and of all the resources of modern times afforded
by the means of locomotion--it will not appear strange that the Church
as a social force should have wielded such power.

The rise of the middle classes was the rise of a power antagonistic
to the Church. It was the beginning of the revolt against constituted
authority. It foreshadowed the strife between reason and dogma. All
the movements that have arisen against the power of the Church have
come from the middle classes. The spirit of inquiry which led men to
question the claims of an infallible priesthood, and culminated in the
breakdown of the power of the Roman Catholic Church in England, had
its birth among the middle classes. The modern scientific movement, to
which the Anglican Church has been so bitterly opposed, started from
the same source. The battle for freedom of worship, whether fought by
Anglicans against Romanists, or by Dissenters against Anglicans, has
been mainly carried on by members of the middle classes.

After the fall of feudalism, in the period immediately preceding
the Reformation, the extension of commerce was raising the middle
classes into power. New paths were opening out, and as riches were
more diffused and intercourse between different parts of the country
and with other nations became easier, the influence of the Church was
weakened. It became less dominant as new interests arose.

It was in this period that a remarkable step was taken among women of
the middle class--a step which shows that their interest in public
affairs was very keen. A number of city dames drew up a petition to
Parliament and presented it in person. It was not the stimulus of
private interest or the sharp spur of national calamity that sent them
to the doors of the legislature. It is a significant fact that it was
an affront offered to a woman which stirred the citizens’ wives to
action in the year 1429, when that unfortunate kinglet, the puppet of
his party, Henry VI., was nominally reigning. The Duke of Gloucester’s
matrimonial concerns were creating a good deal of agitation. He had put
away his wife, the Countess Jacqueline of Hainault, daughter of William
IV., Count of Holland, and widow of the Dauphin John, and set in her
place Eleanor Cobham. The good citizenesses were full of righteous
wrath. They resolved to present a remonstrance to the House of Lords.

    “One Mistress Stokes, with divers other stout women of London,
    of good account and well apparelled, came openly to the Upper
    House of Parliament and delivered letters to the Duke of
    Gloucester, to the Archbishop, and other lords there present,
    containing matters of rebuke and sharp reprehension to the
    said Duke of Gloucester because he would not deliver his
    wife Jacqueline out of her grievous imprisonment, being then
    detained prisoner by the Duke of Burgundy, and suffering her to
    remain unkindly whilst he kept another adulteress contrary to
    the law of God and the honourable estate of matrimony.”

These city dames, who probably were not very facile with their pen, who
had no newspapers to read, no clubs or societies at which to discuss
public matters, who were, doubtless, much occupied with the affairs
of their household, were so moved by the iniquity being perpetrated
upon one of their own sex, that they could not forbear taking action.
There must have been much indignant gossip between good Mistress Stokes
and her neighbours. The outrage on the wifely dignity of Countess
Jacqueline appealed to their inmost feelings. They were all women of
the thriving, comfortable middle class, as the description implies,
“stout women,” and “well apparelled,” whose husbands would be citizens
of good standing. Or perhaps some of them were women trading on their
own account, wool-staplers and merchants, as was not uncommon in those
times. They felt, as all good citizenesses should, that they had part
and lot in the affairs of the kingdom, and did not think it “going out
of their sphere” to express their opinion on a matter of the gravest
import. But it was a bold thing to interfere in the affairs of a peer
of the realm, one of royal blood, and to go up in person to the House
of Lords, especially for petitioners who by their rank and connections
could not command special attention, who had neither husbands,
brothers, nor friends in the august assembly to which they appealed.
The personal element, which was so manifest in the political women of
the eighteenth century, was absent.

With the growth of the commercial movement and the increase of material
prosperity, society was gradually reconstituted. As feudalism declined,
so did chivalry. The artificial view of life which it engendered faded
away. The commercial instinct, so strong in the English people, began
to override other impulses.

As England emerged from its commercial insignificance, an improvement
naturally took place in the material conditions of domestic life.
Luxuries that had hitherto belonged exclusively to the aristocracy,
were introduced into the homes of the middle classes. Houses were
better furnished, dress became more sumptuous, the table was better
provided. Indeed, the quality of the food was in advance of the other
conditions of life. With the growth of towns was created a more marked
difference between the rural and urban population. The burgher’s wife
who had glass windows to her house and went to church in a silken hood,
felt herself on a different plane from the farmer’s wife with her
shuttered lattices and linen coif. The trading class naturally lived
an in-door life, and became sensitive to hardships endured without
question by the agricultural class. Women who dwelt in cities fell
into a different groove of occupations and amusements from their rural
sisters, whom they began to regard with some disdain. Field and farm
work were looked upon with a little scorn by women who had been brought
up in the more sheltered atmosphere of town life. The dance on the
village green and the harvest revels were superseded for town dwellers
by feasts and shows.

There were hardly any books in the houses even of prosperous traders,
whose literature was confined to their account-books. As for the women,
they were busy enough with their household affairs, and sought their
recreation in a gossip with their neighbours. Few of them ever wrote
a letter or found any use for a pen. Even to this day there are good
housewives in country districts who would be puzzled to make out a
receipt or cast up a column of figures.

In the fourteenth century there were few persons outside the ranks of
the clergy who could write. There was a considerable improvement in the
following century, which affords a convenient starting-point from which
to commence the study of town life.[5] Letter-writing was becoming
usual among the well-to-do of the middle classes, those who would now
be called the gentry. Education was spreading. The gulf between the
aristocracy and the democracy was being bridged over by a thriving,
intelligent middle class. As we approach the sixteenth century, the old
manner of life is fast seen to be disappearing. The castle is no longer
the power that it was once. The sovereignty of the nobles is weakened,
in many cases completely shattered, and the system of tyrannical
protection on the one side and slavish dependence on the other passes



  The industrial equality of former days--Women as members of
      Gilds--Restrictions on trade--Fitness of girls for industrial
      occupations--Women as watchmakers: Sir John Bennett’s
      opinion--The brewsters and ale-wives--Trade unions compared
      with the ancient Gilds--Influence of the Gilds--Equality of the
      sisteren and bretheren--Married women trading alone--Labour
      regulations applicable to men and women alike.

The records of the industrial history of England reveal one anomaly
which is by no means cheering to those who are striving to improve
the economic position of women. It cannot be gainsaid that in periods
before the labour question began to be scientifically discussed, there
was a juster conception of the relations which should subsist between
the sexes in the common affairs of daily life. Men and women were
treated on a par. When labour laws were enacted they were enacted for
both alike; it was assumed that the sexes stood on an equality. With
one or two exceptions, there was no especial legislation for women.
Nor was there any hindrance, either in theory or in actuality, to
women trading and engaging in industrial occupations. A woman was not
debarred from any commercial pursuit simply by reason of sex. Whatever
work she was able to undertake she carried through without having to
surmount artificial barriers set up by prejudice and by the action of
those interested in the restriction of women’s industrial liberty.

At the present day women have to fight their way into the commercial
world, and every fresh step which they make towards independence
is hailed as a triumph, and a hopeful sign for the future; or as a
retrograde step, a deplorable and dangerous departure, according to the
views of the onlookers; but in all cases as something abnormal, to be
commented upon and criticized. The general opinion in the first half of
this century was that women and business were things apart, and better
kept separate. Either it was assumed that women knew nothing about
business and could never learn, or that if they did edge their way in
they would be thrusting men out.

It does not appear that in the past such views were entertained, that
women were considered to be going out of their “sphere” when they
entered the world of trade, or that it was attempted to deny them any
of the privileges which might attach to commercial pursuits. The women
took their places quite naturally side by side with the men, and no one
saw anything strange in the position. They could receive apprentices;
they became members of trade gilds, worked at various industries; in
short, played their part as full members of the industrial community.
It has been remarked that “great changes in the _status_ of woman
and in the _status_ of labour have been correlative and often
contemporaneous.” This is exemplified in the revolution brought about
by the factory system, which altered the whole conditions of domestic
life for large numbers of women in the lower ranks. The greater freedom
which women enjoyed in olden times in regard to trading is remarkable
on account of the severe restrictions applied to all forms of industry.
It was not as if the worker were left to tread his own path. The
relations between employer and employed were strictly defined. Hours,
wages, clothing, form of engagement, manner of work, all came under
legal supervision. And yet this interfering legislation did not create
those differences between male and female adult workers, which have
been a deplorable feature of modern times, and which faddists of a
certain school are doing their best to accentuate.

It may be argued that women have perfect liberty in the present day
to enter upon any commercial pursuit; that the law does not hinder
them from becoming merchants, shipowners, and traders of all kinds.
What the law, however, does not forbid, custom prevents. Among the
middle classes it is tacitly agreed that the boys of the family must
be started on a commercial career, and systematic efforts are being
made towards achieving that end. A boy is apprenticed to some trade,
and shown how to work his way up step by step from the bottom rung to
the top of the ladder. He can enter a manufactory, a workshop, a retail
business. But want of training and want of capital have militated
against the industrial progress of women. There are only a few trades
open to a girl, not for lack of physical strength, but because custom
has decreed that certain occupations shall belong to men. Putting aside
such pursuits as are obviously unsuited to girls--for in dealing with
female labour it is the fitness of _girls_ that has to be considered,
since all occupations must be entered upon before adult life--there are
many employments in which they are as well, if not better, fitted to
engage than men and boys.

Sir John Bennett, writing in 1857, called attention to the fact that
women were excellent watchmakers, and might be profitably employed in
England as they were on the Continent.

    “Thousands of women are at this moment finding profitable
    employment at the most delicate portion of watch-work
    throughout the district around Neuchatel. The subdivision of
    labour is there wisely made so minute as to adjust itself
    precisely to the special capabilities of every woman’s
    individual dexterity. The watch is composed of many distinct
    parts; some require force and decision in the hands of the
    workman, while many are so exquisitely delicate that for them
    the fine touch of the female finger is found to be far superior
    to the more clumsy handling of the man.... Now, why should
    not our English women be employed upon a labour for which
    their sisters in Switzerland prove themselves so eminently
    adapted, and thus provide, to a large extent, a remedy for the
    distresses of our labouring population, and open out a new
    channel whereby they may elevate their condition and benefit
    mankind? In London 50,000 females are working under sixpence
    per day, and above 100,000 under one shilling per day. So long
    as nearly every remunerative employment is engrossed by men
    only, so long must the wretchedness and slavery of women remain
    what it is. For any man to declare, whatever his motive, that
    the women of London are sure to do badly what the Swiss women
    are now doing well, is an insult and a fallacy in which I
    refuse to join.

    “No factory system is necessary for the successful manufacture
    of this very beautiful little machine. The father has but to
    teach his own daughters, wife, and female relatives at his own
    home, and then, just as their leisure suits, they can perform
    each her part without necessarily interfering with the most
    indispensable of her domestic duties. Thus the whole family
    is well provided for, and by the reduction of the cost of the
    watch, the sale would be increased indefinitely, and this
    increase would give additional employment to men and women in
    about equal proportion. Working watchmakers have no need to
    fear the introduction of female labour; the large demand that
    necessarily would ensue, when watches were materially cheapened
    in price, would doubtless more than compensate any loss they
    might temporarily sustain; the change it would effect would be
    found not only a moral good and an immense social blessing,
    but would satisfy the indispensable requirements of a strong
    commercial necessity.”

When people complain of women pushing into men’s occupations, it ought
to be remembered how many things men have absorbed which formerly
belonged as much, if not more, to women. For instance, it was the
women who did the brewing, even in households where men were employed
for other domestic duties. The feminine suffix in the word “brewster”
is another sign that brewing was a woman’s occupation. Most of the
beer-houses in London were owned by women who brewed their own beer up
to the end of the fifteenth century, by which time brewing was passing
into the hands of men. Women were also the principal ale-keepers, and
the ale-wife was a noted character in rural England. The number of inns
kept at the present day by women, in the country districts especially,
shows how this old custom has held its ground.

An ordinance of Edward III. indicates the kind of trades in which
formerly women were predominant. It runs--

    “But the intent of the King and his Council is that women, that
    is to say, brewers, bakers, carders and spinners, and workers
    as well of wool as of linen cloth and of silk; brawdesters,
    and breakers of wool, and all other that do use and work all
    handy works, may freely use and work as they have done before
    this time without any impeachment or being restrained by this

In former times it was not felt to be unseemly for men and women to
work side by side, nor are there any evidences that such a proceeding
led to immoral conduct. Then it was habitual for the sexes to be
associated in labour. The situation presented nothing strange,
and nothing tempting; custom proved a safeguard. In spite of the
improvement in manners and public conduct, the difficulty of men and
women consorting for a common purpose has always been put forth in
modern times as a reason why certain occupations should be restricted
to men, except among the lower class of operatives who are continually
under the eye of overseers, and in shops where the public act as

There are certain departments of industry which bring out very clearly
the advantages which women formerly possessed and the privileges they
enjoyed. It is claimed, though on insufficient grounds, that the
present trade unions are the legitimate descendants of the ancient
gilds. In one respect, certainly, they are extremely unlike. The trade
unions have, until quite recently, been purely men’s associations, and
their formation has been a hindrance to the women working in the same
trade. The gilds knew no distinctions of sex. They were formed in the
interest of the trading community for purposes of mutual help, and
were as much for the benefit of the “sisteren” as the “bretheren.” The
attitude of the ancient gilds towards women was essentially different
from that of the modern trade unions.

In the Middle Ages the influence of the gilds was considerable. Their
authority was widespread, and they practically controlled the trade.
It is, therefore, of importance to note their action and the rules by
which they were constituted when considering the position of women in
regard to industry and commerce. In nearly all the gilds there were
women members, and in many cases the names of women appear as founders.
Gilds were formed for various purposes. They 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,” and these associations “were almost always formed
equally of men and women.”[6]

Miss Toulmin Smith says, in her Introduction to “English Gilds,” that--

    “scarcely five out of the 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 gilds as
    the men.”

The brothers and sisters all met together to transact the business
of the gild. It was no mere matter of form to admit women. They were
active working members, sharing in all the privileges and contributing
to the funds, though smaller payments were sometimes exacted of the
women. The female members, like the male, wore the livery.

    “Also it is ordeyned that every suster of the fraternite and
    Gilde schul ben cladde in a swte of hodes, that is for to seye
    reed, pena 20^d.”[7]

Not only did the gild lend money to the younger members to start them
in business, and succour those in distress who “fell into poverty
through mishap, and not by fault of their own,” but it provided
the dowerless with marriage portions, or the penniless with means
to embrace a religious life. In the ordinances of the Ludlow Gild,
established in 1824, was a clause that--

    “if any good girl of the gild of marriageable age cannot have
    the means found by her father either to go into a religious
    house or to marry, whichever she wishes to do; friendly and
    right help shall be given her, out of our means and our common
    chest, enabling her to do whichever of the two she wishes.”

In the religious gilds, of which there were two classes, one for the
clergy and one for the laity, the women were put on a par with the lay
members. Any gross offence, such as drinking and rioting, committed
by a priest, was punished with degradation; but if the offender were
a layman or a woman, by exclusion until satisfaction was given. The
clergy gilds did not admit women as members, but in one of the foreign
gilds the wives of lay brothers were admitted on certain conditions at
the oft-repeated request of the members.

The great companies also admitted women. The female members of the
Drapers’ Company carried on business and received apprentices like
the male members. “Every brother or sister of the fellowship taking
an apprentice shall present him to the wardens, and shall pay 1¾,”
runs the ordinance of 1503. This company was very careful to enjoin
respect for its female members. It was expressly ordered that when a
“sister” died she should be interred with full honours, have the best
pall thrown over her coffin, and be “followed by the Fraternity to the
grave with every respectful ceremony equally as the men.” After the
death of a gild brother, his widow could carry on his trade as one of
the gild. If a female member married a man of the same trade who was
not free of the gild, he acquired freedom by the marriage. A woman who
married a man of another trade was excluded from the gild. There were
certain gilds of which women became free in their own right, and others
where the wives and daughters of the gild brothers acquired a right
to membership from their connection. In the craft gilds a member was
allowed to have his wife and children and maid-servant to assist him
in his work. The Clothworkers, the Fishmongers, the Grocers, all speak
in their articles of brothers and sisters. Wives of members of the
Grocers’ Company were admitted on their marriage.

    “All women not of the Fraternity and after married to any of
    the Fraternity shall be entered and looked upon as of the
    Fraternity for ever, and shall be assisted and made as one of
    us; and after the death of the husband, the widow shall come to
    the dinner and pay 40^d. if she is able.”

If she married out of the fraternity, she was not to be admitted to the
feast, or to receive any assistance from the company. Within recent
times women have obtained the freedom of both the Fishmongers’ and the
Drapers’ Companies, but for the purpose of sharing in the charities,
not with a view to trading. Since the beginning of the present century
forty-two women have been admitted to the Drapers’ Company, and there
are now upwards of a hundred belonging to the Fishmongers’ Company.[8]

Formerly married women were merchants and traders on their own account.
Clearly, it was by no means unusual, for in the _Liber Albus of
London_, compiled in the fourteenth century, is an ordinance relating
to married women carrying on business alone--

    “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 was recognized that wives were independent beings responsible for
their own acts. This is clearly shown by the following ordinance in the
_Liber Albus:_--

    “Item, if a wife, though a single woman, rents any house or
    shop within the said city, she shall be bound to pay the rent
    of the said house or shop, and shall be impleaded and sued as
    a single woman, by way of debt if necessary, notwithstanding
    that she was _coverte de baron_ at the time of such letting,
    supposing that the lessor did not know thereof.”

There was no exemption for women on the ground of sex. An enactment
in the Statute of Labourers passed in the reign of Edward III. for
preventing idleness expressly includes women. It provides that--

    “every man and woman of our realm of England of what condition
    he be, free or bond, able in body and within the age of
    threescore years, not living in merchandize, not exercising
    any craft, nor having of his own whereof he may live, nor
    proper land about whose tillage he may himself occupy, and not
    serving any other, if he 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.”

When an oppressive enactment was made regulating the wages of labourers
and prohibiting them from receiving anything beyond a certain sum,
women were included. Their movements also were controlled. In the reign
of Richard II. it was provided--

    “that no artificer, labourer, servant nor victualler, man nor
    woman, should travel out of the hundred, rape, or wapen-take
    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.”

Another curiously arbitrary regulation ordained that if a girl or boy
served up to the age of twelve at husbandry, they were to continue
that employment all their lives, and not to turn to any craft. “Up to
the age of twelve” is a significant sign of the conditions of juvenile
life. Children were held as full members of the working population.

It is evident that in the eye of the law women ranked on an equality
with men. Narrow as was the view taken by legislators of industrial
life, and absurd as many of the enactments seem now, it was reserved
for modern times to set up an artificial barrier between the sexes,
to push the working woman down a step, and rank her with children and
“young persons.”

The sense of the community was in advance of the legal conception
which merged the personality of the wife in that of the husband. The
gilds took care, by special ordinances, to remedy the defects of the
law. Having admitted women to the full privileges of their order,
and regarding them as workers with individual rights and duties,
they naturally reasoned that women should not be exempted from the
responsibilities of their own acts because they were married. In the
ordinances of the Worcester Gild, founded 1467, is the following:--

    “Also yf eny man’s wyf becom detto^r or plegge, or by or sylle
    eny chaffare or vitelle, or hyn eny house by har lyf, she to
    answere to hym or hur that hath cause to sue, as a woman soole
    marchaunt; and that an acion of dette be mayntend agenst hur,
    to be conceyved aft^r the custom of the seid lite, w^{t}out
    nemyng her husband in the seid accyon.”[9]

It has been pointed out that under the gild system women were employed
to a much smaller extent in manufactures than under the domestic
system which followed.[10] An ordinance of the fullers of Lincoln
places a restriction on the indiscriminate employment of women, and
limits it to the wives and servants of the masters. Whatever their
position in the lower branches of trade, they had full access to the
higher departments. They had governing power and the privileges which
belong to members of corporate bodies. The changes that followed on the
break-up of the gilds tended to throw women into the rank and file of
workers and to exclude them from the more responsible posts.

The principle of equality is everywhere apparent in the ordinances
relating to labour. In the reign of Edward IV. an ordinance was made
in the borough of Wells, that apprentices of both sexes to burgesses
would become burgesses themselves when their term of service was
accomplished. No distinction was made between male and female. Statutes
relating to apprentices in London and elsewhere apply equally to both
girls and boys. It was taken as a matter of course that a parent
might wish to apprentice his daughter just as much as his son. The
proclamation in 1271, relating to the woollen industry, expressly
permitted “all workers of woollen cloths, male and female, as well of
Flanders as of other lands,” to come to England to follow their craft.
Sometimes, indeed, the women appear to have enjoyed an advantage, as
in the statute of 1363 which ordered that “handicraftsmen should use
but one mystery,” while workwomen were free to work in their accustomed
way. In later times a theory grew up that women were competitors, not
co-workers, with men. There are numbers of people who on this ground
would hinder women from engaging in commercial pursuits and earning
their own livelihood. They argue that it is better for women to be
dependent upon their male relatives than to make their own way in the
world. That women should seek to achieve economic independence was,
until recently, quite against the general sentiment. But the force
of circumstances has proved stronger than theories: a surplus female
population and changes in social life have upset the notion that women
were created solely for family life, and that they were to be the
spenders, not the providers.



  Dominance of the Church in the Middle Ages--The Conventual
      System--Occupations of the Nuns--Power of the Abbesses--Disputes
      between Religious Houses and the Laity--Latitude allowed to
      Nuns--Convents Educational Centres--Effects of the Suppression of
      Convents--Complaints of the Laity.

Throughout the Middle Ages the Church was the dominant power in
England. It may seem absurd to characterize a period extending over
several centuries by any one feature, but the supremacy of the Church
is so marked as to stamp the whole of that changeful time. The
relationship of the Church to the laity was that of guardian and ruler,
in temporal as well as spiritual matters. Where the Church did not
inspire reverence it inspired fear, and where there was not willing
obedience there was dependence.

The position of women with regard to the Church was affected by this
attitude of the Church to the world. As servants of this mighty
organization, women who embraced a religious life were lifted by
the Church’s power and influence above the heads of the rest of
the community, of whom they were frequently the teachers, helpers,
advisers, and general benefactors in time of need. It was in the
nunneries that the education of girls of all classes was carried on.
Convent schools were the only schools either for rich or poor, and
the “sisters” the only women able to qualify themselves to become

The nuns, again, were the chief dispensers of charity. The lady of the
manor might be a bountiful almsgiver, but she could not be so well
acquainted with the needs of the poor as the convent sisters who tended
them in sickness and knew all the troubles of their daily life. The
convent was a centre of help and enlightenment. Even where the nuns
never left their walls, they were constantly employed on benevolent
works. Philanthropy, in the Middle Ages, was a religious duty, but
it was only in connection with the Church that it was practised
in an organized way. The dole-giving at great houses was scarcely
philanthropy; it was part of the household system, and the recipients
of the bounty regarded it almost as a right.

Women’s position in relation to the Church assumes a different aspect
when the limitations of ordinary life are considered. There was no
social work in which women could engage carried on independently of the
Church. The “religious” had the field to themselves. The lay worker
was of no importance whatever unless she had wealth which enabled her
to confer benefits, or dignities which gave her prominence. Through
the convent the Church’s influence was diffused among the people, its
doctrines leavened the minds of the masses, its authority and power
were felt everywhere among high and low.

Their relation to the Church elevated women to a plane above the common
level. For although they were in subjection to their spiritual rulers,
those rulers had authority far greater in civil matters than their
successors can boast of in the present day. The humble nun who went
about with downcast eyes, who was taught to obey without questioning,
was the instrument of a power greater than that of kings. In the
progress of civilization, it was women who, through the Church, gained
the firstfruits of culture.

In the Middle Ages, and, indeed, as long as the conventual system
lasted as part of the English Church, the nun was teacher,
philanthropist, doctor, and nurse. Her duties were by no means
confined to the cloister. At Gloucester, where there was a Benedictine
convent, the nuns went about among the people, teaching, advising,
consoling, and discoursing on subjects with which convent sisters are
supposed to have little acquaintance. Nuns were sometimes accused of
giving too much attention to housewifery. Among other things, they are
said to have composed moral tales like those of Hannah More and her
sisters, and to have read them to the village maidens.

    “The English nuns,” writes Paul Casenigo, a Venetian traveller
    of the sixteenth century, “gave instruction to the poorer
    virgins (peasants) as to their duties when they became wives;
    to be obedient to their husbands, and to give good example.”

The poorer folk felt it a great loss when the kindly sisters--many
of them gentlewomen of good birth--to whom they were accustomed to
carry all their troubles, were ruthlessly dispersed at the time of
the dissolution of the religious houses. The nunnery of Godstow,
near Oxford, famous for its unblemished reputation, was quite a
centre of benevolence. There were no clothing clubs in that or any
other neighbourhood, no “mothers’ meetings,” no sewing-parties for
making garments for the poor, no penny dinners, no dispensaries, no
hospitals. If it had not been for the good nuns of Godstow, the poor
must have suffered greatly. Henri Ambère, a French architect, says
of Godstow, that he saw no such excellent nuns in his own country
as were to be seen in that convent. Warm clothing was made for the
poor, who, in winter, had to bar out the light to keep out the cold
by means of shutters, and whose chimney consisted of a simple hole in
the roof through which the rain and wind poured down, while the smoke
struggled up ineffectually. Were there any sick? it was the nuns to
whom application was made for remedies, which were compounded within
the convent walls. Were there any infirm and starving? there was food
for them at the convent. Was there a wedding in the village? it was
the nuns who provided the bride with her simple trousseau. Every year
provision was made to give a couple of suits of clothing and the sum of
ten shillings to six peasant girls on their marriage.[11]

Thus we find the nuns carrying on, as part of their service to the
Church, all kinds of secular work, now largely performed by lay members
of the community.

With the fall of the monastic houses much of this work was dropped.
The Anglican Church, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, had
no such hold on the people at large as the Romish Church had acquired.
As an organization for dealing with the masses, it was particularly
ineffective. In this century the Church has regained something of what
it lost, or rather it has covered ground which it had never before
really occupied. One of the most striking features of its remarkable
activity at the present day is the large part taken by women. Without
the service of women, the Church would be unable to carry on the
greater portion of its secular work. But there is a noticeable
difference between the way in which the work is undertaken in the
present age and in what are called the Ages of Faith. That which is
now accomplished by co-operation among individuals, without reference
to any authority, was formerly only practicable under the ægis of the
Church. Women could never have performed that kind of ministry to the
community without the help of the Church. It was in the convent they
obtained the qualification and the means, and it was the convent garb
that protected them in the discharge of their outside duties.

There is another aspect in which women’s relation to the Church may
be studied. The heads of the great religious houses were necessarily
persons of importance, with privileges and great responsibilities.
They had considerable wealth at their disposal, and in authority and
influence they ranked among the nobles of the land, to whom they were
often allied by birth. An abbess was a person to be reckoned with and
consulted as much as an abbot. In the age of double monasteries she
was superior in power. The origin of these institutions is a little
obscure. It has been thought that the idea was derived from Gaul,
whither the Saxon princesses were sent to be educated. Dr. Lingard has
another theory. He considers the double monasteries were formed to
prevent the nuns from having any excuse for intercourse with laymen. A
convent could not be worked entirely by women; prejudice and tradition,
as well as the limitations of sex, stood in the way.

    “The functions of the sacred ministry had always been the
    exclusive privilege of the men, and they alone were able to
    support the fatigues of husbandry and conduct the extensive
    estates which many convents had received from the piety of
    their benefactors.”

Men were necessary evils; the question was how to make their presence

    “It was conceived that the difficulty might be diminished if
    it could not be removed, and with this view some monastic
    legislators devised the plan of establishing double
    monasteries. In the vicinity of the edifice destined to
    receive the virgins who had dedicated their chastity to God,
    was erected a building for the residence of a society of
    monks or canons, whose duty it was to officiate at the altar
    and superintend the external ceremony of the community. The
    mortified and religious life to which they had bound themselves
    by the most solemn engagements was supposed to render them
    superior to temptation; and, to remove even the suspicion of
    evil, they were strictly forbidden to enter the inclosure of
    the women, except on particular occasions, with the permission
    of the superior, and in the presence of witnesses. But the
    abbess retained the supreme controul over the monks as well as
    the nuns; their prior depended on her choice, and was bound to
    regulate his conduct by her instructions.”

Double monasteries were very common in Ireland, and were in vogue in
England during the first eight or nine centuries of the Christian era.
Over these institutions it was always a woman who had supreme rule. No
abbot could be persuaded to take charge of a community of nuns, so the
abbess ruled over both monks and nuns.

    “The whole together formed a sort of vast family, maternity
    being the natural form of authority--all the more so as the
    neophytes were often admitted with all their dependents, as was
    Cædmon, who entered Whitby with all belonging to him, including
    a child of three years old.”[12]

Abbesses were great people in Saxon times--princesses of royal blood,
like St. Hilda, who was grand-niece to Edwin, the first Christian king
of Northumbria. St. Ethelburga, who also lived in the seventh century,
and became abbess of Brie, in the diocese of Meaux, was the daughter
of a king of East Anglia; St. Ethelreda, who built Ely monastery,
was a queen, and the daughter of a king; St. Werburga of Ely was the
daughter of Wulfere, king of Mercia, and niece of Ethelred, who put her
to rule over all the female religious houses. With her royal uncle’s
aid, she founded Trentham and Hanbury in Staffordshire, and Wedon in
Northamptonshire. There were great solemnities when she became a nun
and entered the Abbey of Ely, of which St. Audry was then the head. Her
qualities and character were celebrated in the following lines:--

  “In beaute amyable she was equall to Rachell,
   Comparable to Sara in fyrme fidelyte,
   In sadnes and wysedom lyke to Abygaell:
   Replete as Delbora with grace of prophecy,
   Equyvalent to Ruth she was in humylyte,
   In pulchrytude Rebecca lyke Hester in Colynesse,
   Lyke Judyth in vertue and proued holynesse.”[13]

For an abbess the cloister rule was relaxed. She might come and go, and
see whom she pleased. Her signature is to be found to the charters of
the realm, and she had the right to assist in the deliberations of the
national assemblies.

    “In 694 abbesses were in so great esteem for their sanctity and
    prudence, that they were summoned to the Council at Becanceld
    (in Kent), and the names of five (not one abbot) subscribed to
    the constitutions there made.”

This is the first time they are mentioned as taking part in a synod.
The Abbess Elfleda was present at a council held respecting the affairs
of Wilfrid, Bishop of Leicester, early in the eighth century. She
attended to represent her late brother, King Alcfrid, who died in 705,
and who, in the matter of Bishop Wilfrid, had, she asserted, promised,
on his death-bed, to stand by the decree of the Apostolic See.

Abbesses were also summoned to attend or to send proxies to the King’s
Council in later times, as in 1306, when four abbesses

    “were cited to the Great Council held to grant an aid on the
    knighting of the Prince of Wales--an assembly which, although
    not properly constituted, exercised some of the functions of a

The Parliamentary writ bears the names of the abbesses of Wilton,
Wynton or Winchester, Shaftesbury, and Barking, then spelt Berkeyngg.
Abbesses were required to furnish military service by proxy.

The Saxon abbesses were invested with immense powers, and owed
obedience to none save the Pope. Much of the deference paid them was
doubtless on account of their high rank, abbesses being always of good
birth, and frequently of royal blood. In later times, as well as in the
Saxon era, this was the case. Anne, Duchess of York, mother of Edward
IV., was prioress of Sion monastery.

Abbesses seem to have been tenacious of their privileges, and to
have known how to resist the encroachments of the clergy when any
interference was attempted. It has been said that they claimed the
right to ordain. At the same time, they were subject to deposition if
they abused their power or were inattentive to their duties. The nuns
would carry their complaints to the bishop, who would occasionally
take the superintendence of a nunnery into his own hands instead of
appointing any abbess--perhaps dividing the immediate governance
between two of the nuns. It was the duty of an abbess not only to
look after the internal affairs of the convent, but to see that the
necessary repairs to the building were carried out.

The powers of an abbess varied according to period and place, for while
in some cases they were free to act pretty much as they pleased, in
others they were subject to strict rules, and had their liberty much

    “By a council near Paris, in the eighth century, it is
    ordered that the bishop, as well as the abbess, may send a
    nun misbehaving herself to a penitentiary; that no abbess
    is to superintend more than one monastery, or to quit the
    precincts except once a year, when summoned by her sovereign;
    and that the abbess must do penance in the monastery for her
    faults by the bishop’s direction. Charlemagne enacted that
    the bishop must report to the Crown any abbess guilty of
    misconduct, in order that she might be deposed. Abbesses were
    forbidden, in the reign of his successor, to walk alone, and
    thus were placed, in some degree, under the surveillance of the
    sisterhood. Charlemagne prohibited abbesses from laying hands
    on any one, or pronouncing the blessing.”[15]

On account of the property and lands belonging to convents, abbesses
and prioresses were constantly brought into relationship with the
outer world, and not always in a very pleasant way. The command which
they had over the fiefs of the convent was a frequent source of
friction with the laity. In 1292 the Prioress of Mynchin Buckland, in
Somersetshire, was a party in a suit, together with a widow and two
men, touching the right of common pasture in an appurtenance of the
convent. The case went against the religious house, but the prioress
and the widow both escaped paying their share of the costs on the plea
of poverty.[16]

Sometimes troubles arose from the interference of the clergy. In the
fourteenth century a diocesan official made himself very disagreeable
to the sisters of Mynchin Buckland priory, demanding to see their title
to certain churches which they had held from time immemorial. The
sisters replied by demanding, in their turn, to see his commission,
whereupon he grew indignant, and imposed upon them a heavy fine for
contumacy. The case was carried to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who
at once stopped the proceedings of the diocesan official, and restored
quietude to the convent.

In the reign of Edward III. we find a prioress suing a sheriff for
recovery of a pension granted to her convent in the reign of Henry III.
As the sheriff positively refused to pay, the prioress carried the case
to the King’s Court, where the recalcitrant sheriff was thoroughly
beaten. Lands granted to a convent without due formalities sometimes
created difficulties, as in the reign of Henry IV., when the Prioress
of Mynchin Barrow found her claim to a meadow which had been granted
without the royal licence was bringing her into conflict with the
laity. However, her rights were maintained after full examination.

The head of a religious house, whether abbot or abbess, had a great
many secular duties. At Sion Monastery, which was a double house
founded by Henry V. in 1415, the abbess who was at the head had the
charge of all the money derived from the proceeds of the nuns’ work,
and also from the endowments of the foundation. In the charter it is
set forth--

    “that the abbess of the aforesaid place and her successors
    shall be persons able to prosecute all manner of causes and
    actions real and personal and mixed, of whatsoever nature or
    kind they may be, and to answer and defend the same as well in
    courts spiritual as temporal, before all judges, ecclesiastical
    and secular whatsoever.”[17]

There was very often a certain amount of Church patronage connected
with a religious house. The Prioress of Cannyngton Priory had the
living of a church in the diocese of Exeter in her hands, and
frequently ecclesiastics were admitted to Holy Orders on titles granted
by a prioress and her convent.

Mynchin Buckland, which was a preceptory as well as a priory, was
disturbed in 1270 by the conduct of the preceptor, who did not like to
see any money paid for the maintenance of the sisterhood. This was
the only community of women established by the Order of St. John of

Nunneries were generally under the superintendence of the local clergy,
who were responsible to the bishop, and if there were any disorders,
an official was sent down to inquire into the matter. The diocesan
officials had large powers, and used them liberally.

Another thing which brought the convent into relationship with
the outer world, was the fact of their being used as houses of
entertainment, and as places of residence for ladies temporarily in
want of a home.[18] Visitors were constantly sent by the bishop to
lodge and board at a priory. These ladies always lived at their own
cost, and it was specially enjoined that they were not to interfere
with the routine of the establishment. They brought their own servants,
and sometimes remained a considerable time. These visitors never came
without an express order from the bishop.

The kind of accommodation to be found in a priory may be gathered from
the following inventory of the contents of a chamber allotted to one
“Dame Agnes Browne” in the priory of Minster, in Sheppey.

    “Stuff given her by her frends:--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 lytell 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

There were occasions when the lady abbess dispensed hospitality on a
liberal scale. At the convent of Sion, in London, it was the custom
at Pardon-time, which was in the month of August, for the Court of
Aldermen to pay a visit to the convent.[19] It will easily be imagined
that a good deal of preparation had to be made for these visitors.
They recognized the demands made upon their hostess by sending the
appropriate acknowledgment of a present of wine.

In the Middle Ages nuns were allowed, under regulations, to go out
and see their friends. The rule was stricter in earlier periods,
and strictest of all among the double monasteries. In the first six
centuries of the Christian Church, the general rule seems to have been

    “a virgin was not permitted to leave the house or monastery
    except for special reason, and no one had access to her but
    bishop or priest.”

But this was subject to variation, for in the Roman Church, about the
fourth century, we read of “holy virgins” frequenting the public baths,
for which they were blamed by Cyprian. A male or female devotee could,
at any time, return to the world and marry.[20]

The injunctions made in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries
show that a great deal of latitude was permitted to nuns. It was
not until the sixteenth century that they were rigidly confined to
the cloister.[21] In the Middle Ages they were not much more under
restraint, in the matter of visiting, than girls in boarding-schools
and colleges at the present day. They were not to go out without
express permission, or to wander from house to house when they went
into the neighbouring city. Sometimes it was enjoined that they should
only go to places from which they could return the same day, and at
other convents they were permitted to remain out one night. In one
case they were not to go “beyond the vill except from great and lawful
cause; in pairs and in nun’s habit.”

The Superior of the convent of St. Helen’s, London, was admonished to
be circumspect, and not to let women have the keys of the postern door,
“for there is moche comyng in and oute at unlefull tymys.” That there
should be any coming and going of this promiscuous kind shows how much
latitude was allowed in religious houses.

Anchoresses were under stricter rules, and had less to do with the
outer world.

    “An anchoress must not become a schoolmistress, nor turn her
    anchoress-house into a school for children. Her maiden may,
    however, teach any little girl concerning whom it might be
    doubted whether she should learn among boys, but an anchoress
    ought to give her thoughts to God only.”[22]

The directions to the women attending on the anchoresses show how
in the thirteenth century, when these rules were framed, personal
cleanliness was still regarded as among the errors to be avoided, or at
least a luxury to be renounced.

    “Let no man see them unveiled, nor without hood. Let them look
    low. They ought not to kiss, nor lovingly embrace any man,
    neither of their acquaintance nor a stranger, _nor to wash
    their head_, nor to look fixedly on any man, nor to romp nor
    frolic with him.”

But the anchoresses themselves have permission to wash “whensoever it
is necessary, as often as ye please.” They were enjoined to occupy
themselves with useful and charitable work. “Assist with your own
labour, as far as ye are able, to clothe yourselves and your domestics
as St. Jerome teacheth.”

In 1534 the Archbishop of York wrote, among other things, the following
injunction to the convent of Synningthwaite:--

    “We enjoin and command by these presents that from henceforth
    the prioress shall diligently provide that no secular nor
    religious persons have resort or recourse at any time to her
    or any of the said sisters on any occasion, unless it be their
    fathers and mothers or other near kinsfolk.”


    “We command and exhort the said prioress in virtue of obedience
    that she from henceforth license none of her sisters to go
    forth of the house unless it be for the profit of the house,
    or to visit their fathers and mothers or other their near
    kinsfolk, if the prioress shall think it convenient, and then
    the prioress shall assign some sad and discreet religious
    sister to go with her, and that she limit them a time to
    return, and that they be not over long out of the monastery.”

The nuns were accustomed to indulge in amusements, for there are
injunctions which show that games and revels were common.

    “Also we enjoyne you that alle daunsyng and revelyng be utterly
    forborne among you except Christmasse and other honest tymys of
    recreacyone, among yourse selfe in absence of seculars in all

The nuns of Appleton, Yorkshire, were apparently rather jovial, and the
prioress is commanded in 1489 to see “that none of your sisters use the
alehouse nor the watersyde where course of strangers dayly resorte.” It
was likewise ordered that the sisters should not--

    “bring in, receave, or take any layman religious or secular
    into the chambre or any secrete place day or night, nor with
    thaim in such private places to commine, ete or drinke, without
    lycence of your priorisse.”

At Sion Monastery the rule was stricter.

    “Conversation with seculars was permitted only in company
    and with the license of the abbess from noon to vespers, and
    this only on Sundays, and the great feasts of the Saints,
    not however by going out of the house, but by sitting at the
    appointed windows; for to none was it permitted after their
    entrance to leave the cloisters of the monastery. If any sister
    desired to be seen by her parents or honest and dear friends,
    she might, with the permission of the abbess, open the window
    occasionally during the year; but if she did not open it, a
    more abundant reward was assured to her hereafter.”[23]

This monastery is described by Wriothesley as “the vertues [most
virtuous] house of religion that was in England.” Taine speaks of it in
very different terms: “Au monastère de Sion les moines confesseurs des
nonnes les debauchent et les absolvent tout ensemble.” Sion Monastery
was of the Order of St. Bridget which was reputed to be one of the
best. It was suppressed in 1539.

That there was laxity in the government of some of the convents which
resulted in idleness and waste of money is evident. The Bishop of
Lincoln, Longland, sent very peremptory orders to the Superior of the
nuns of Cottam or Cottram, in Lincolnshire, respecting her duties:

    “Ouer this I charge you lady prioresse undre the said payne
    that ye yereby make your accompte openly and truely in your
    chaptour house afore the mooste part, and the senours of your
    susters that they may knowe frome yere to yere the state of
    said house, and that ye streight upon sight hereof dymynishe
    the nombre of your seruants as well men as women, whiche
    excessyve nombre that ye kepe of them bothe is oon of the
    grette causes of your miserable povertye.”

This was in the second quarter of the sixteenth century.

As places of education the convents exercised the most important
influence on the outside world. Even in the ninth century children
were sent to England from the continent to be educated in the schools
established by Theodorus and Hadrian.[24] This is the more remarkable,
as in the seventh century there were so few convents in England that
many of the nobility sent their daughters to be educated in France. The
religious house of Brie, of which mention has already been made, as
having a Saxon abbess, received the daughter of Earconberth, King of
Kent, during the rule of the Abbess Fara in 640. Eight hundred years
later Sir Thomas Boleyn sent his ill-fated daughter Anne, during her
sojourn in France, to a convent at Brie to complete her education. It
seems probable that it was the same religious house.

In the seventh and eighth centuries, the nuns were as much occupied
with literary studies as the monks, reading theology and even classics,
copying manuscripts, which they adorned with wonderful embellishments.
They were able to correspond in Latin; some were acquainted with Greek,
and they appear to have been very assiduous in the pursuit of such
literature as was available.

The Abbess Eadburga and her pupil Leobgitha were both correspondents
of the famous Archbishop Boniface, who lived in the eighth century. On
one occasion Leobgitha sends Boniface some Latin hexameters of her own
composition. In her letter she says--

    “These underwritten verses I have endeavoured to compose
    according to the rules derived from the poets, not in a spirit
    of presumption, but with the desire of exciting the powers
    of my slender talents, and in the hope of thine assistance
    therein. This art I have learnt from Eadburga, who is ever
    occupied in studying the divine law.”

The lines run thus--

  “Arbiter omnipotens solusqui cuncta creavit,
   In regno patris semperqui lumine fulget;
   Qua jugiter flagrans sit regnet gloria Christi,
   Illæsum servet semper te jure perenni.”[25]

Another nun, St. Erkenwald, had as a teacher Hildelitha--

    “a woman as well excellentlie learned in the liberall sciences
    as verie expert in skill of religious discipline and life.”

For many centuries, indeed as long as the conventual system lasted,
the only schools for girls were the convent schools, where, says
Robert Aske, “the daughters of gentlemen were brought up with virtue.”
From the educational point of view, the suppression of the convents
was decidedly a blunder; and they were not merely schools for
book-learning. Among other things were taught the treatment of various
disorders, the compounding of simples, the binding up of wounds. The
custom of bleeding people for every form of illness, and to ward off
possible sickness, created the necessity for some kind of bandage ready
prepared to apply to the place where the incision was made. It was
common to make these bandages of silk, and offer them as presents.[26]

The pupils were also taught what might be called fancy cookery, such as
the making of sweetmeats. Writing, drawing, needlework of all kinds,
and music, both vocal and instrumental, entered into the curriculum.

    “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 the 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 neighbouring
    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

Of Mynchin Buckland we read--

    “It was, doubtless, also a noted seminary for the daughters
    of the great neighbouring families. The Berkeleys, Erleghs,
    Montacutes, Wrothams, Bouchers, and others, were ever at home
    at Buckland, and learned from the good sisters all the mental
    accomplishments which they in after-life possessed. 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.”

When the suppression took place, the laity, who enjoyed great
benefits from the presence of the religious houses, made ineffectual
protests against their dissolution. The famous convent of Godstow, in
Oxfordshire, was particularly regretted, as it was one--

    “where there was great strictness of life, and to which were
    most of the young gentlewomen of the county sent to be bred, so
    that the gentry of the county desired the king would spare the

The abbess herself wrote a long letter to Thomas Cromwell, complaining
of the treatment to which she was subjected. Some portions of it may
be read with interest:--

    “Pleaseth hit your Honour with my moste humble dowtye, to be
    advertised, that where it hath pleasyd your Lordship to be
    the verie meane to the King’s Majestie for my preferment,
    most unworthie to be Abbes of this the King’s Monasterie of
    Godystowe.... I trust to God that I have never offendyd God’s
    laws, neither the King’s, wherebie this poore monasterie ought
    to be suppressed. And this notwithstanding, my good Lorde, so
    it is, that Dr. London, whiche (as your Lordship doth well
    know) was agaynst my promotion, and hath ever sence borne me
    great malys and grudge, like my mortal enemye, is sodenlie
    cummynd unto me, with a great rowte with him, and here doth
    threaten me and my Sisters, saying that he hath the King’s
    commission to suppress this House spyte of my teeth. And
    when he saw that I was contente that he sholde do all things
    according to his Commission, and shewyd him playne that I wolde
    never surrender to his hande, being my awncyent enemye; now he
    begins to entreat me, and to invegle my Sisters, one by one,
    otherwise than ever I herde tell that the King’s subjects bathe
    been handelyd, and here tarieth and contynueth to my great
    coste and charges, and will not take my answere that I will not
    surrender till I know the King’s gracious commandment, or your
    good Lordship’s....

    “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 trewe; for I have
    _not alienatyd one halporthe_ of goods of this monasterie,
    movable or unmovable, but have rather increas’d the same, nor
    never made lease of any farme or peece of grounde belongyng to
    this House, or then hath been in times paste, alwaies set under
    Convent Seal for the wealthe of the House. And therefore my
    very truste is, that I shall find the Kynge as gracious Lord
    unto me, as he is to _all other_ his subjects, seyng I have not

The letter is dated from Godstow, or, as it was spelt then, Godistow,
and signed--

    “Your most bounden Beds Woman,
            “Katherine Bulkeley, _Abbes there_.”

From other convents came pathetic appeals from the helpless inmates,
who were threatened with loss of home and livelihood. One abbess wrote
to Cromwell--

    “But now as touchynge my nowne parte, I most humbly beseche yow
    to be so specyall good mayster unto me yowre poore bedewoman
    as to give me yowre best advertysment and counseyle what
    waye shal be best for me to take, seynge there shal be none
    left here but myselfe and thys poore madyn.... Trustynge and
    nothynge dowtynge in youre goodnes, that ye wyll so provyd for
    us, that we shall have syche onest lyvynge that we shall not
    be drevyn be necessyte nether to begge nor to fall to other

The Prioress and nuns of Legborne wrote, saying--

    “And whereas we doo here that a grete nombre of abbyes shal
    be punnyshid, subprest, and put downe, bicause of theire
    myslyvyng, and that all abbyes and pryoryes under the value of
    £200 be at oure moste noble prynces pleasure to sub-presse and
    put downe, yet if it may pleas youre goodnes we trust in God ye
    shall here no compleyntes agaynst us nother in oure lyvyng nor
    hospitalitie keepyng. In consideracion whereof if it may please
    youre goodnes in oure great necessitie to be a meane and sewter
    for youre owne powre pryory, that it may be preserved and
    stand, you shal be a more higher ffounder to us then he that
    first foundid oure howse.”

When the conventual system came to an end, the relation of women to
the Church was materially changed. They were no longer the Church’s
administrators and her authorized servants. And while they could not,
as before, dispense its alms and hospitality, or impart the knowledge
they had acquired in the cloister, they themselves were deprived of
its protecting care. At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries
the “religious” women did not exceed 1560,[28] but to a large number
of others the cloister was a temporary retreat, a possible home, a
refuge in time of distress. The effect upon women of the sweeping
away of monastic institutions may be considered from various points
of view--from the educational, social, as well as the religious side.
It may be regarded as the work of a reformer or of a destroyer. Mr.
Lecky describes it as “far from a benefit to women or the world.”[29]
But that it greatly affected the position of women there can be no
question. It loosened, although it did not sever, the close tie which
had bound women to the spiritual authority as to a foster-mother. The
Anglican Church stood in a different relation, socially speaking, to
the people. It was a less personal relation. And the Protestant clergy
did not make use of women in any special way as the instruments of the
Church. As will be seen later on, the tendency during the first two
centuries of the religious revolution, as it may be termed, was to
ignore women as workers. The Roman Church, while it plainly proclaimed
women to be inferior morally, and by inference intellectually, to men,
availed itself to the full of their capacities. Until modern times, the
Protestant Church went on its way regardless of the fact that a great
unused power was lying close at hand. It was in movements outside the
Church that the religious emotion in women first found vent in the
Protestant era.



  Influence of the Church on women in social life--The twofold
      conception of womanhood--Canon and Civil Law--Effect of
      ecclesiastical celibacy.

It has come to be regarded almost as truism that women are more
religious than men, that they are, by nature, more devout, more
susceptible to spiritual influences. If Matthew Arnold’s definition of
religion as “morality touched by emotion” be accepted, it is easy to
point to the larger development of the emotional nature in women as a
cause for their greater leaning towards religion. But for the present
purpose it is only necessary to deal with the manifestations of this
impulse; the causes belong to the domain of psychology.

Before considering women’s part in the religious life of the country,
it has to be remembered that their part in social life has been largely
determined by the Church. For centuries the Church was, practically,
the only civilizing influence, the only restraint upon passion and
lawlessness, the only protection of the weak against the strong. It was
the Church that taught respect for womanhood, that raised the wife from
a state of subjection amounting to slavery to a position of dignity
in the household. It was in the Church that women sought safety,
shelter, protection, livelihood, occupation, when the home was gone,
when kindred failed, when life and honour were at stake. The supremacy
which the Church exercised over the laity in general was emphasized
in the case of women, more prone to render unquestioning obedience to
constituted authority.

From the beginning the Church was quick to recognize the value of
women’s adherence, and the importance of the services which they
could render. By raising women, the Church created a power for its
own uses. And women were as quick to respond. They gave themselves
freely. Whatever the Church has done for women has been repaid by them
tenfold. Their labour, their property, their lives were placed at the
disposal of the Church. They gave something more--their freedom of
thought, their independence of action. Their minds, as well as their
consciences, were in the keeping of the priest.

The Church, while with one hand it raised woman from the abasement
into which she had been cast by Paganism, lowered her with the other.
When it taught men to pay respect to their wives, when it interfered
with the tyranny which placed women in complete subjection to their
male relatives, it was that women might come directly under the
priestly power. The Church had no intention of setting women free to
act independently. It was only a change of masters. This was seen
especially about the fourth century, when the clergy had begun to
degenerate from their former simplicity.

    “Then the men, exiling the women by degrees, took the sole
    government of the church into their own hands, and assembling
    together, made what canons they pleased for their own secular
    advantage. Then were some published against the ordination of
    priestesses, deaconesses, etc.”[30]

The same thing is observable in the next century.

    “Women in most places were denied all ecclesiastical offices,
    and commanded to be silent in the churches, and so it continued
    for several centuries even till the ancient faith began to bud
    forth again (after that great night of apostacy) among the
    Waldenses, who justified women’s preaching.”

The Church was careful to impress women with a sense of their
inferiority. It has even been denied that Christianity--or rather its
exponents--did anything to elevate women to a higher social status.

    “Das Christenthum brachte der Frau keine Erlösung aus ihrer
    Erniedrigung. Im Gegentheil! War sie in der heidnischen Welt
    nur die Sklavin, die Waare, das Hausthier gewesen, so wurde sie
    jetzt noch ausserdem zum ‘Gefäss der Hölle’ erklärt.”[31]

This remark is borne out by Tertullian’s apostrophe--

    “Woman! thou oughtest always to walk in mourning and rags,
    thine eyes filled with tears of repentance, to make men forget
    that thou hast been the destruction of the race. Woman, thou
    art the gate of hell.”

A curious contradiction appears in theological teaching. It is
difficult to reconcile the conception of womanhood which found its
expression in Mariolatry with that which was given voice to by the
Fathers, which proclaimed woman unfit to receive the Eucharist in her
naked hands, which forbade her to approach the altar,[32] which taught
that she was a temptation in man’s way to try him, which regarded the
married state as a condition of sin, and even among the laity exalted
virginity and celibacy as a species of sainthood. In a treatise on
chastity attributed to Sixtus III., married people are said to risk,
though not entirely to forfeit, eternal happiness. St. Martin of Tours
considered marriage pardonable, but virginity glorious. St. Jerome
spoke of marriage as at best a vice: “All that we can do is to excuse
and purify it.” Tertullian was much stronger: “Celibacy,” he wrote,
“must be chosen, though the human race perish in consequence.”

The higher conception of womanhood was an ideal only, a theme for
poets, a dream of saints; the lower conception was the guide for common
life, the basis of everyday teaching. It was this lower conception
which, in different ways, determined women’s position in society.
Gradually the precepts of the canon law found their way into common
law, and the subordination enforced upon women in matters spiritual was
extended to matters temporal. The supremacy which canon law obtained
is easily accounted for when we compare the disciplined character of
all ecclesiastical as compared with lay government, the training of the
priest with that of the noble, the ignorance pervading all classes, and
the rude character of the legislation administered in feudal society.

The Roman conquest brought the legislative code of the empire into
Britain, but with the advent of Christianity Roman law was gradually
coloured by ecclesiastical law, and assumed a different complexion.
Some writers go so far as to say that Roman law was entirely
superseded. Through the law the Church kept an invisible hold upon the
people, and compelled subjugation to its decrees. The Church, however,
did not need shelter or excuse for any of its acts. It was powerful
enough to command obedience to whatever it chose to decree. There was
no influence greater, no authority more dreaded. Its rival, education,
was but a puny stripling, without armour or weapons.

In the tenth century we find a repetition of the ecclesiastical law
excluding women from certain parts of the church. There is a Saxon
constitution which runs--

    “We charge that at the time when the priest sings mass no woman
    be nigh the altar, but that they stand in their own place,
    and that the mass priest there receive of them what they are
    willing to offer.”

Women were not suffered to penetrate within the altar precincts in the
sixteenth century. It is related that Sir Thomas More’s wife did not
sit with her husband in the chancel, but in some other part of the
church, in what are described as the common parish seats.

The entrance of women within the Church of Durham was limited to
a certain point in the nave marked by a blue cross on the marble
pavement, in accordance with the rule of St. Cuthbert. One day in the
year 1333, Queen Philippa, wife of Edward III., paid a visit to Durham
Cathedral, supped with the king in the Prior’s chamber, and retired
to rest in the apartment arranged for her husband in the priory. The
monks were scandalized, and sought an interview with the king, who bade
the queen rise, which she did immediately, and, clad only in her night
array, went over from the priory buildings to the castle for the night,
beseeching St. Cuthbert’s pardon for having polluted sacred ground with
her presence.

Ecclesiastical law affected women very disastrously by the enforcement
of priestly celibacy. Although against the rules of the Church,
marriage was common among the clergy in pre-Norman times, especially
in the north of England. Substantial reasons existed against allowing
priests to marry. There were complaints that the married clergy took
the Church property to provide marriage portions for their sons and
daughters and legacies for their wives, and were generally in the habit
of applying ecclesiastical funds to their private uses.

    “It is all the worse when they have it all, for they do not
    dispose of it as they ought, but decorate their wives with
    what they should the altars, and turn everything to their own
    worldly pomp.... Let those who before this had the evil custom
    of decorating their women as they should the altars refrain
    from this evil custom, and decorate their churches as they best
    can; then would they command for themselves both divine counsel
    and worldly worship. A priest’s wife is nothing but a snare of
    the devil, and he who is ensnared thereby on to his end will be
    seized fast by the devil.”

In the tenth century, priests were found deserting their wives for
other women. No doubt scandals of this kind, and other grave abuses,
induced the Winchester Council in 1076 to make a declaration against
the marriage of priests. All future marriages were forbidden, but
parish priests who were already married were allowed to keep their
wives. In the next century severe measures were taken. A Council
was convened at London in 1102, when it was decreed that no married
priest could celebrate. The controversy on clerical celibacy went
on by fits and starts, until the Lateran Council in 1215 definitely
pronounced against marriage. Meanwhile the clergy had followed their
own instincts, and evaded the ordinances against marriage by taking
concubines, like Bishop Nigel of Ely, in the twelfth century. That
prelate’s partner was the valiant Maud of Ramsbury, who bravely
defended the castle of Devizes against King Stephen, and only
capitulated when the enemy, having stolen her son, threatened to hang
him before her eyes.

The document entitled, “Instructions for Parish Priests,” composed not
later than the middle of the fifteenth century, shows that it was quite
common for priests to be married, though the practice was reprobated,
and “chastity,” meaning abstinence from wedlock, was enjoined. But
those who were too weak to live honestly and uprightly as celibates are
told to take a wife. Dr. Jessop states that by the eleventh century
country parsons had almost ceased to be married men, though Benedicts
were found among them here and there as late as the thirteenth century,
when a veto was put upon priests’ marriages.[33] The decrees of
provincial councils prove the existence of priestly concubinage down to
the sixteenth century.

The worst effects of the celibate system were seen in the sixteenth
century. Debauchery was spread throughout the country. As many as one
hundred thousand women were ruined by the priests, for whom houses
of ill fame were kept.[34] From Carnarvonshire came complaints of
the well-to-do laity, that their wives and daughters were not safe
from outrage by the priests. Out of their own mouths the clergy are
condemned. In 1536 the secular clergy in the diocese of Bangor wrote to
Cromwell, that if their women were taken away they would be homeless

    “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.”

In this year the Lower House of Convocation presented a memorial
inveighing against priestly marriages. But in the reign of Edward VI.,
what might be called a Permissive Bill was passed for the sufficient
reason that “great filthiness of living had followed on the laws that
compelled chastity and prohibited marriage.” Under Queen Mary celibacy
was again enforced, married priests were ejected from their livings,
and even those who renounced their wives were not always secure of
their places. Elizabeth had a great aversion to married priests, and
openly expressed her contempt for their wives, whom she could not bring
herself to receive at Court. But though she demurred a good deal to
giving a formal assent to ecclesiastical marriages, the Act of Edward
VI. was eventually reinforced, a reaction having set in with the
rise of the Protestant party. The Act was hedged round with various

    “No manner of priest or deacon shall hereafter take to his wife
    any manner of woman without the advice and allowance first had
    upon good examination by the bishop of the same diocese and
    two justices of the peace of the same shire dwelling next to
    the place where the same woman hath made her most abode before
    her marriage; not without the good-will of the parents of the
    said woman, if she have any living, or two of the next of her
    kinsfolks, or for lack of the knowledge of such, of her master
    or mistress where she serveth.”

The advantages and disadvantages of celibacy, and the manner of life
proper for the married and the unmarried priest, are set forth by
George Herbert in his dissertation on the “Country Parson.”

    “The country parson, considering that virginity is a higher
    state than matrimony, and that the ministry requires the
    best and highest things, is rather unmarried than married.
    But yet, as the temper of his body may be, or as the temper
    of his parish may be, where he may have occasion to converse
    with women, and that among suspicious men, and other
    like circumstances considered, he is rather married than
    unmarried.... If he be unmarried, he hath not a woman in his
    house, but finds opportunities of having his meat dressed and
    other services done by men-servants at home, and his linen
    washed abroad. If he be unmarried and sojourn, he never talks
    with any women alone, but in the audience of others; and that
    seldom, and then also in a serious manner, never jestingly or

    “If he be married, the choice of his wife was made rather by
    his ear than by his eye; his judgment, not his affection, found
    out a fit wife for him....

    “As he is just in all things, so is he to his wife also....
    Therefore he gives her respect both afore her servants and
    others, and half at least of the government of the house,
    reserving so much of the affairs as serve for a diversion for
    him; yet never giving over the reins, but that he sometimes
    looks how things go.”

The ideal wife is thus described:

    “Instead of the qualities of the world, he requires only three
    of her. First, training up of her children and maids in the
    fear of God; with prayers and catechising and all religious
    duties. Secondly, a curing and healing of all wounds and sores
    with her own hands; which skill either she brought with her, or
    he takes care she shall learn it of some religious neighbour.
    Thirdly, a providing for her family in some such sort, as that
    neither they want a competent sustentation, nor her husband be
    brought into debt.”

In modern times a section of the clergy in the English Church have
shown a disposition to revert to the practice of earlier ages, and
follow a celibate life. It is part of the ascetic movement which some
years ago was rather a marked feature in the Church. But even among
those Anglicans who recoil from the term “Protestant,” and endeavour
to preserve as much as possible of the forms of Church government which
prevailed in pre-Reformation times, there are few comparatively who
adopt this species of monasticism.

No doubt marriage has greatly helped to break down the authority of
the priest. A man with a wife and family living the domestic life
of an ordinary citizen is brought at once to the level of common
humanity, priest though he be. He loses that glamour which attached
to him when he was cut off from his fellows and set apart on another
plane by virtue of his office. Women, more than men, have been in all
ages prone to superstitious reverence for ecclesiastical authority.
They are still apt to look to the clergyman to guide them in the daily
affairs of secular life, not because they consider him better qualified
intellectually than other men, but because they have a lurking remnant
of belief in priestly infallibility. There are many who make the
clergyman a referee on all subjects, of whatever nature, and look upon
him as the proper head of every movement, educational, philanthropic,
or otherwise, irrespective of his qualifications for such a position.
The deference paid to clerical opinion and the leaning on clerical
authority are survivals of old habits of thought, weakened in the
process of transmission, but having a strong principle of vitality.

The counterbalancing force to the influence of the Church on women
is to be found not merely in its acknowledged rivals, intellectual
development and the progress of secular knowledge, but in the
motive-power of the religious sentiment. It has been justly observed

    “the clergy of all ages, in concentrating the strength of woman
    on her religious nature, have summoned up a power that they
    could not control. When they had once lost the confidence of
    those ruled by this mighty religious sentiment, it was turned
    against them. In the Greek and Roman worship women were the
    most faithful to the altars of the gods; yet when Christianity
    arose, the foremost martyrs were women. In the Middle Ages
    women were the best Catholics, but they were afterwards the
    best Huguenots. It was a woman, not a man, that threw the stool
    at the offending minister’s head in a Scotch kirk; it was a
    woman who made the best Quaker martyr on Boston common. And
    from vixennish Jenny Geddes to high-minded Mary Dyer, the whole
    range of womanly temperament responds as well to the appeal of
    religious freedom as of religious slavery.”[35]

A French writer in the middle of the present century, describing
England during the Ages of Faith, with its surname of the “Isle of
Saints,” as “un spectacle digne des anges,” laments its coldness
and lack of virtue under Protestantism. In what he styles this
materialistic age--

    “la femme est loin, bien loin d’être ce qu’elle fut pour
    l’opinion publique aux époques de foi vive et ardente.”

The expression of the religious sentiment has taken a different form.
It may be less obvious and definite, but in the opinion of one of our
modern thinkers it is the mainspring of all progress--

    “Nothing can be more obvious,” writes Mr. Kidd,[36] “as soon as
    we begin to understand the nature of the process of evolution
    in progress around us, than that the moving force behind it is
    not the intellect, and that the development as a whole is not
    in any true sense an intellectual development.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “The intellect is employed in developing ground which has been
    won for it by other forces. But it would appear that it has
    by itself no power to occupy this ground; it has not even any
    power to continue to hold it after it has been won, when these
    forces have spent and exhausted themselves. The evolution
    which is slowly proceeding in human society is not primarily
    intellectual, but religious in character.”



  Almsgiving at the monasteries--Charity dispensed by private
      families--Bequests of ladies for the relief of the poor--Action
      of the Church--Change in the conception of the duty of
      almsgiving--Needlework for the poor--Modern gilds--Charity at the
      present day.

In the days preceding the poor law--that is, before the dissolution
of the monasteries--charity to the poor was regarded in much the same
light as hospitality among equals. Just as it was an unwritten law that
strangers on all occasions must be entertained, so it was an accepted
rule of life for the wealthy to support their poor neighbours with
doles in money and in kind. The monasteries were the great dispensers
of alms; but every nobleman’s or gentleman’s house had also a number
of poor who looked to it for support. The feudal system was in a great
measure responsible for this feeling of dependence. Nobody under that
system stood alone. The poor were bound to the soil, and their lives
were inextricably woven--not always for their good--into the lives of
those above them. With the dispensation of doles and the care of the
poor the ladies in the households of the nobility were much concerned.
It was the business of the mistress to see that the sick were cared
for, the needy visited, and that the aged had their wants supplied.
Charity was less far-reaching, and had no pretence at organization; it
was a part of domestic life, not an outside business to be taken up and
laid down at will. What is now done by means of paid officials was then
all accomplished by the donors themselves. The charity which now passes
through numerous channels before it reaches the recipient went then by
a comparatively direct route.

Great families sometimes marked the Church festivals by special
almsgiving, and would celebrate marriage anniversaries in the same way.
This was the custom in the family of Lord William Howard at Naworth
Castle. The giving away of money at other times seems to have been
rather spasmodic. The steward of the Howard family frequently records:
“To my Lady to give away 20/-.” Besides what was dispensed in that
way, there were lists of doles to the poor, such as sixpence to a poor
woman; sixpence to a poor leper boy; “To the poor at Armathwate 6_d._”
(which shows how much more sixpence was worth then); “To the pore at
Carlyle 1/6.” There was giving at funerals too; the steward records,
“Bestowed in bread and beer at the buriall of the plumber 5/-,” among
the extraordinary payments; where we also find items for shoemending
recorded, such as, “Mending a pair of shoes 4_d._” It was customary
for a person who had any property at all to leave a sum of money to be
given to the poor on the day of his or her burial. Thus Mrs. Susannah
Eyre, a widow of substantial means who lived in the seventeenth
century, left twopence a piece for the poor who should attend her
funeral, besides a bequest of goods and chattels to be distributed
among the poor of specified districts.

Great ladies usually recognized their duties among the poor, not only
by giving doles, but by founding almshouses. There were, probably, not
many who actually maintained a number of poor within their own walls
like Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond. This celebrated lady
used to maintain twelve poor people under her roof when she retired to
her manor of Woking, where Dr. John Fisher acted as her confessor and

Nearly every lady of distinction did something of a permanent nature
for the relief of the poor. The famous Bess of Hardwick, in the midst
of her building of palaces, did not forget to erect and liberally
endow an almshouse for the poor at Derby. The Countess of Pembroke not
only built an almshouse, but procured a patent by which it was turned
into a corporation. Various are the charities bequeathed by noble
ladies in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries for the
relief of the poor. Lady Gresham in 1560 left tenements in the city,
the rents of which were to be used for the poor, partly in money and
partly in coals. Mrs. Frances Clark left £200 to the Skinners’ Company
to pay £10 a year for the poor of St. Thomas’s, Southwark. Dame Isabell
Gray, of Ogle Castle, Northumberland, left a sum of money for the poor,
to be given at the day of her burial. Instances might be multiplied,
such as the bequest of Lady Middleton in 1645, of Viscountess Conway in
1637, of Lady Mico in 1670, of Mrs. Ridley in 1716. Money that is now
given to societies was then left to individuals.

The care of the poor from the days of Dorcas downwards has always been
deemed women’s special work, but it has been largely controlled by the
church. In olden times a great lady would choose for her almoner a
monk, or at least a priest. The Church has endeavoured to maintain its
authority in this respect down to the present day. A large portion of
the ancient endowments and funds for the relief of the poor is in its
hands. Great ladies and women in all ranks still frequently allow their
charities to be filtered through the medium of the Church. The visiting
of the poor is carried on under ecclesiastical guidance. The Church
in modern times has striven to become the fountain and head of all
benevolence, and, as a great organized institution, discourages outside
efforts. Women in country districts dispense most of their charity
under the direction of the priest, except where there happens to be
a great lady who chooses to assert her independence, and is powerful
enough to act alone.

In large towns, the whole social life being so complex, there is
more scope for individuality in work. The Church is less dominant,
being brought into rivalry with lay organizations. But in secular
work there is a tendency for women to run in a groove. The immense
gain that accrues from combination in work, the pernicious effects
of indiscriminate charity, and the impossibility of dealing with a
huge floating population of indigent persons except by well-organized
methods, have a tendency to convert hundreds of women workers into mere
automata, obeying the behests of some central authority.

The whole conception of almsgiving has changed. In the Middle Ages,
and for a considerable period after, it was regarded as a soul-saving
process, of much the same value as saying masses or practising
mortifications. Sovereigns were frequently expected to honour the
festivals of the saints by entertaining immense numbers of indigent
persons, and the royal munificence was often severely taxed. That a
woman should be bountiful to the poor, according to her means, was a
cardinal virtue which ranked with truth and chastity.

The support of the poor has now become a social rather than a personal
obligation. It has been converted from a pious duty into a State
practice. The religious element, in spite of the influence of the
Church, has much diminished. Charity still covers some of our sins, but
not the multitude it was wont to envelop. Souls are no longer saved by
a distribution of loaves and blankets, or weekly doles to the poor. The
element of personal service, which was once thought essential, has also
faded into comparative insignificance. Charity may be done by deputy,
by a stroke of the pen. It cannot, of course, be supposed that great
ladies in former times did not exercise a good deal of benevolence by
indirect means; but it may be affirmed that a mediæval gentlewoman
who did not perform some personal office for the relief of the poor,
would have been severely censured for her neglect and impiety unless
she silenced the priests by exceptionally large gifts. Now a lady may
walk through life unrebuked, though she has never with her own hands
performed a single act of charity.

In former days noble ladies--that is, those of a pious
disposition--occupied themselves largely in making garments for the
poor. Queens, princesses, and ladies of rank would toil for hours at a
time, and give up a portion of each day, to the conversion of coarse
cloth into suitable apparel for their humble neighbours, who counted
upon this charity. Each lady, assisted possibly by her maids, provided
for the wants of those who were nearest at hand. Needlework, which
since the introduction of machinery has fallen to a lower level of
repute, was formerly the occupation most highly esteemed among women.
It was not only a duty, but a pious exercise. While some salved their
consciences with elaborate embroidery for church purposes, others were
contented to plod along the homely seam, to fashion smocks and cloaks
for the toilers, and bed-linen and blankets for the sick.

In the present century needlework has received an impetus from the
formation of gilds and societies. Nearly all the work for the poor is
done in this associated manner. The workers, instead of distributing
their productions personally, send them more often to some centre to
be dispensed in an organized fashion. It is curious to note how, in
spite of the invention of the sewing-machine, the women of the middle
classes cling to the old methods. A dozen to twenty ladies will meet
together at regular intervals for four or five hours to accomplish what
a quarter of their number could do with machines in a tithe of the
time. If working parties had no other object than the ostensible one
of providing raiment for the poor, or clothing savages, they would not
continue to flourish.

In olden times great ladies sat in their tapestried chambers, toiling
painfully to convert the coarse cloth spun in their own households into
smocks and gowns for dwellers in the windowless, smoke-begrimed hovels
of the neighbouring hamlets. The great ladies of the present day, from
their cosy boudoirs, issue schemes for the enrolment of women all over
the country into gilds and societies for providing clothing for the
poor. Instead of working singly, they co-operate. The names of H.R.H.
Princess Henry of Battenberg, H.R.H. the Duchess of Teck, and Lady
Wolverton will occur readily as leaders of needlework gilds.

The articles made by these gilds are sent to the clergy for
distribution among their poor parishioners, to homes and hospitals,
even to prisons. There are many schools for girls of the educated
classes where a portion of time is set apart for needlework for the
poor, the aim being twofold: to teach the girls how to work, and to
cultivate the spirit of service. The old customs are being revived in a
different dress. People who are afraid that the ways of our ancestors
are quite forgotten and despised in the whirl of new notions, may take
comfort from the thought of how much attention is given to the serious
study of homely duties. Science has been introduced into the domestic
arts. The same things are being done, but in better ways. This is
specially true with regard to philanthropy. Almsgiving, which was once
regarded as a religious duty, has now become a positive evil. Society
as now constituted, far from benefiting, suffers much from any attempt
to return to the old forms of benevolence. Weekly doles of bread, and
the flinging of coppers to beggars in the street, help to dislocate
the social machinery. In the innumerable channels which modern charity
has found for itself, the aim is to secure the independence of the
recipients. Formerly, almsgiving had a double object--to benefit the
soul of the donor as well as contribute to the welfare of the poor. At
the present day, almsgiving, or the more cautious benevolence which has
taken its place, is single in purpose, and has for its sole end the
well-being of the beneficiary.





  Effect on Women of the fall of Feudalism--Characteristics of Tudor
      England--Observations of foreigners on Englishwomen--Greater
      liberty allowed to women in England than on the Continent--Social
      habits and amusements--Women’s education--English family
      life--Parents and children.

The fall of feudalism, which meant the break-up of the power of the
nobles, had as great an influence on the position of women in England
as the overthrow of the supremacy of the Roman Church. Women in
everyday life are more affected by a social than a religious change.
The king might refuse to acknowledge the authority of the Pope,
monasteries might be stripped of their wealth and the Church of its
endowments, but women who were not nuns, or destined for a religious
life, did not feel the upheaval which was undermining the power of the
priest as they felt the storm which shattered the power of the noble.
Whatever the form of Church government might be, women did not cease
to recognize the duty of obedience to spiritual directors. But when the
family no longer owed obedience to a feudal lord, when personal service
was at an end, when the labourer was free to work for his own profit,
the change that was passing over social life was very distinctly felt
by families in the humbler ranks. Of the third great force, the mental
freedom given by the Renaissance, there are naturally fewer signs, for
its influence was confined chiefly to the upper classes.

The dawn of the sixteenth century was the dawn of a new era, social,
religious, and commercial. It was the beginning of a gradual
transformation which with every century, with every generation, takes
some new form, and is sometimes called progress, sometimes revolution,
but which moves on with the same relentless persistence as the laws
that govern the earth.

It was a rough world in which women found themselves at liberty to
come and go, to taste new pleasures, enjoy fresh luxuries, hear new
opinions, and think new thoughts. But, at least, it was a world of
action, of striving, of pushing forward. Despotic as was the throne,
oppressive as were the new landowning class, a freer spirit prevailed.
Social changes work gradually, and their influence is not at once
perceived; but the germ of modern England was working in those days of
religious stress, intellectual activity, and commercial enterprise.

The visits of foreigners to England in the sixteenth century enable
us to see ourselves as others saw us. The position of women and the
relations of the sexes always excited comment from strangers.

    “Wives,” writes a Dutchman, “are not kept so strictly as they
    are in Spain or elsewhere. Nor are they shut up, but they
    have the free management of the house or housekeeping, after
    the fashion of those of the Netherlands and others their
    neighbours. They go to market to buy what they like best
    to eat. They are well dressed, fond of taking it easy, and
    commonly leave the care of household matters and drudgery to
    their servants. They sit before their doors, decked out in
    fine clothes, in order to see and be seen by the passers-by.
    In all banquets and feasts they are shown the greatest honour.
    They are placed at the upper end of the table, where they
    are first served; at the lower end they help the men. All
    the rest of their time they employ in walking and riding, in
    playing at cards or otherwise, in visiting their friends and
    keeping company, conversing with their equals (whom they term
    gossips) and their neighbours, and making merry with them at
    child-births, christenings, churchings, and funerals; and all
    this with the permission and knowledge of their husbands, as
    such is the custom. Although the husbands often recommend to
    them the pains, industry, and care of the German or Dutch
    women, who do what the men ought to do both in the house and
    the shops, for which services in England men are employed,
    nevertheless the women usually persist in retaining their
    customs. This is why England is called the paradise of married
    women. The girls who are not yet married are kept much more
    rigorously and strictly than in the Low Countries.”

Another observer says--

    “The women have much more liberty than perhaps in any other
    place.... The females have great liberty, and are almost like

Manners were very free, nowhere more so than among persons of quality,
and language was very coarse to modern ears. But if women did not
hesitate to use an oath, if their behaviour to men seems bold and their
coquetry of a type too pronounced, it must be remembered that they only
adopted the tone of the society in which they lived.

    “In all the world,” says a sixteenth-century writer, “there is
    no regyon nor countrie that doth use more swearynge than is
    used in Englande, for a chylde that scarse can speake, a boy,
    a gyrle, a wenche, now-a-dayes wyl swere as great othes as an
    old knave and an olde drabbe.... As for swearers a man nede not
    to seke for theym, for in the Kynges courte and lordes courtes
    in cities, borowes and in townes, and in every house, in maner
    there is abbominable swerynge, and no man dothe go about to
    redresse it, but doth take swearyng as for no synne, whiche is
    a damnable synne; and they the which doth use it, be possessed
    of the Devill, and no man can helpe them but God and the kyng.”

The attitude of men towards women had undoubtedly changed. The old
chivalric notions had died away, and with them a good deal of false
sentiment. Tudor England did not set woman up on a pinnacle as a being
endowed with supernatural virtues and charms. It did not make quests on
her behalf, or court danger for the sake of a smile. Tudor England had
something else to think about. It was busy with foreign enterprises,
discovering new lands; with commerce and trade, building up a solid
foundation of wealth; with new branches of knowledge, with fresh
studies of old things, with reconstituting its religious beliefs, and
with keeping up its head among the nations. Poets in the Middle Ages
had sung of woman as an angel, ecclesiastical asceticism had treated
her as little better than a demon, but the men of the sixteenth century
were of a different mould. They had something of the modern spirit,
and looked upon woman as a being to share in the common burdens and
pleasures of life, not to be worshipped or shunned.

It is clear that in England women had attained to a greater degree
of freedom in daily life than on the Continent. Frederick Duke of
Wirtemberg, who was in England about the year 1592, writes--

    “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 by 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.”

Increase of luxury had an injurious effect on certain industries.
People were no longer satisfied with home-made products, but coveted
the resources of the capital. Laments are uttered that the trade in
certain towns is decaying--

    “While men weare contented with suche thinges as weare made
    within the market townes next unto theim, then weare they of
    oure townes and cities well set aworke, as I knewe the time
    when men weare contented with cappes, hattes, girdelles and
    poyntes and all maner of (garmentes) made in the townes next
    adjoyninge; whereby the townes then weare well occupied and set
    aworke and yet the money paid for the same stuffe remayned in
    the countrie. Nowe the porest yonge man in a country can not
    be contented either with a lether girdle, or lether pointes,
    gloves, kynues or daggers made nighe home. And specially no
    gentleman can be content to have eyther cappe, coate, dublet,
    hose or shirt made in his countrey, but they must haue theire
    geare from London; and yet manye thinges thearof are not
    theare made, but beyonde the sea; whereby the artificers of
    oure townes are idle.”[37]

Queen Elizabeth made ineffectual attempts to circumscribe London, whose
boundaries were rapidly enlarging under the pressure of the growing
population and the constant influx of provincials and foreigners. About
this time stone building began to be common, the old timber houses
being replaced by more solid if less picturesque edifices.

Complaints were made of people flocking to London from the country, and
wasting their substance in revels--

  “When husband hath at play set up his rest,
   Then wife and babes at home a hungry goeth.”

  “The maister may keepe revell all the yeere,
   And leave the wife at home like silly foule.”

Country dames did not often share in the jaunts to the capital made
by their husbands. Until the seventeenth century it did not become
customary for families to go to London for annual visits. Bad roads
and the lack of public conveyances kept town and country apart. The
squire’s lady knew nothing of the bustling life led in the sombre,
substantial houses of the London burgesses, for whose wives there was
plenty of occupation in looking after the servants and the apprentices
who formed part of the household, in superintending the cooking of the
bountiful meals, buying the household necessaries, and replenishing the
family wardrobe. There were no newspapers, but there was abundance of
gossip, a much more impressive medium of communicating news. Amusement
took the form of spectacles chiefly, and the citizens and citizenesses
flocked readily to a mask, a play, a procession, a cock-fight, or a
bear-baiting. Women were not squeamish about unpleasant sights. They
had not learnt to feel that the brutal sports so common then were
degrading. It was hardly likely that they should. There were too many
hangings and quarterings and burnings of human beings in London to make
people sensitive about the pain of animals. The gallows were constantly
working, and women had to accustom themselves to many revolting sights.
Worse times were coming, but as yet the shadow of the great civil war
had not darkened England.

With regard to the education of women in every-day life, there is no
evidence to show that they shared in the higher learning cultivated so
assiduously by the daughters of the aristocracy. What M. Paul Rousselot
says in his “History of the Education of Women in France,” applies
equally well to England. The majority of women in the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries profited little, he considers, by the great
movement known as the Renaissance. To a large extent they were outside

    “On ne les a pas en général volontairement introduites dans ce
    progrès, elles y sont entrées, un peu d’elles mêmes, beaucoup
    par la force des choses.”

When we read of women discoursing in Latin, writing in Greek,
discussing philosophy and science, we must be on our guard, says M.
Rousselot, from believing that the initiators of the modern spirit had
any idea that the moment was come to institute for women a rational
system of instruction and education.

Certainly in England there were no women of the burgess class who could
discourse in Latin, and the wives and daughters of country squires
were equally guiltless of any such accomplishments. No systematic
attempt was made to raise the standard of women’s education in the
middle ranks. The founders of the endowed grammar schools in the
sixteenth century never thought of girls; they only provided for boys.
Queen Elizabeth, excellent scholar as she was, and keen as was her
appreciation of learning, did nothing for the intellectual advancement
of her female subjects. The Virgin Queen only acted like her compeers.

    “Scarcely has there ever appeared, in any period or in any
    nation, a legislator who has made it the subject of his serious
    attention, and the men who are greatly interested that women
    should be sensible and virtuous, seem, by their conduct towards
    that sex, to have entered into a general conspiracy to order it

Sir Thomas Overbury’s poem, “A Wife,” expresses the sentiment of the

  “Give me next Good, an understanding Wife,
   By nature wise, not learned by much Art.
   Some knowledge on her side will all my Life
   More scope of Conversation impart.

          *       *       *       *       *

  “A passive understanding to conceive,
   And judgment to discern, I wish to finde.
   Beyond that, all as hazardous I leave;
   Learning and pregnant wit in Woman-kinde,
   What it findes malleable maketh frail,
   And doth not adde more ballast, but more sail.

  “Domesticke charge doth best that Sexe befit,
   Contiguous businesse so to fix the minde,
   That leasure space for fancies not admit,
   Their leasure ’tis corrupteth Womankinde.
     Else, being plac’d from many vices free,
     They had to Heav’n a shorter cut then we.
   Books are a part of Man’s Prerogative,
   In formall Ink they Thoughts and Voices hold,
   That we to them our Solitude may give,
   And make Time present travel that of old.”

Hitherto there had been two careers open to women--marriage and the
conventual life. With the sweeping away of the religious houses there
remained only the first. English family life has been lauded as the
_beau idéal_ of domesticity, but, as far as women were concerned, it
was a very narrow ideal. There seemed no place for the daughters who
failed to find husbands. One wonders what became of the unmarried
women. They were probably condemned to drudge for their relatives, like
Samuel Pepys’ sister, who came into his household as a servant.

There was much severity exercised towards children among all classes.
Poor Lady Jane Grey pathetically relates how glad she was to go to her
tutor to escape the blows, pinches, and constant reprimands which she
received when in the presence of her parents, and Lady Jane was by no
means of a refractory disposition. After this it is less surprising to
find, at an earlier period, one of the Paston family, whose well-known
letters throw so much light on domestic life in the fifteenth century,
ill treated and beaten as if she were an unruly slave.

    “She [Elizabeth Paston, daughter of Agnes Paston] was never in
    so great sorrow as she is nowadays,” wrote one of the relatives
    in June, 1454; “for she may not speak with no man, whosoever
    come, ne not may see nor speak with any man, nor with servants
    of her mother’s, but that she beareth on her hand otherwise
    than she meaneth; and she hath since Easter the most part been
    beaten once in the week or twice, and sometimes twice on a
    day, and her head broken in two or three places.”

Dame Paston did not approve of having marriageable daughters about her
at home. One she had sent to a certain Cousin Calthorp, who, when he
was making changes in his household, wished to be rid of his charge.
She writes in some perturbation to her son--

    “He seth she waxeth hygh, and it wer tyme to purvey her a
    mariage. I marvell what causeth hym to write so now; outher she
    hath displeased hym or elles he hath takyn her with diffraught.
    Therfor I pray you comune with my Cosyn Clere at London, and
    wete how he is dysposyd to her ward, and send me word, for I
    shall be fayn to send for her, and with me she shall but lese
    her tyme, and with ought she will be better occupied she shall
    often tymes meve me and put me in gret inquietenesse. Remembr
    what labour I had with your suster, therfor do your parte to
    help her forth, that may be your wurchiep and myn.”

Girls married very young, and the poet who makes a daughter lament that
at fifteen she had not found a husband, was probably not exaggerating.

  “Good faith, before I came to this ripe groath,
   I did accuse the labouring time of sloath;
   Methought the yere did runne but slowe about,
   For I thought each yeere ten I was without.
   Being foreteene and toward the tother yeere,
   Good Lord, thought I, fifteene will nere be heere!
   For I have heard my mother say that then
   Prittie maidens were fit for handsome men.”

A Venetian noble who accompanied an ambassador from Venice to the
English court in the sixteenth century writes--

    “The want of affection in the English is strongly manifested
    towards their children; for after having kept them at home till
    they arrive at the age of seven or nine years at the utmost,
    they put them out, both males and females, to hard service in
    the houses of other people, binding them generally for another
    seven or nine years.”

On the other hand, we find children described as--

    “most ongracious grafftes, ripe and redy in all lewd libertie,”
    through the fault of the parents and schoolmasters, “which do
    nother teach ther children good, nother yet chastice them when
    thei do evill.”

In the following century people looked back with regret to the time
when daughters were--

    “obsequious and helpful to their parents,” when “there was no
    supposed humiliation in offices which are now accounted menial,
    but which the peer received as a matter of course from ‘the
    gentlemen of his household,’ and which were paid to the knights
    or gentlemen by domestics chosen in the families of their own
    most respectable tenants; whilst in the humbler ranks of middle
    life it was the uniform and recognized duty of the wife to wait
    on her husband, the child on his parents, the youngest of the
    family on his elder brothers and sisters.”



  Revival of learning in the sixteenth century--Attitude of the
      nobility towards Letters and Arts--No age so productive of
      learned ladies--The Tudor princesses and Lady Jane Grey--Sir
      Anthony Coke’s daughters--Mary Sidney--Learned women held
      in esteem--Learning confined to the upper classes--A
      sixteenth-century schoolmaster on women’s education.

The sixteenth century was England’s great literary renaissance. Fresh
streams of intellectual life were poured into the nation. There was
activity in all departments of thought. The study of poetry, of
theology, of the classics, went on apace. The printing press was
letting loose floods of knowledge. The tide swept the women of the
nobility along in its course. They stand out prominently among the
ranks of scholars. In place of the domestic arts, they are found
immersed in classics, divinity, and philosophy. Education was not
conducted on the easy, pleasant lines of our own day. Knowledge was
hard to obtain. It was locked up out of reach of the indolent in
languages to which there were none of the modern keys. Literature was
the great study, and familiarity with Greek and Latin essential. The
tree of science had only just begun to grow, and was sorely beset by
the brambles of superstition and mysticism. The arts in England could
scarcely be said to exist. Foreign painters came from time to time, and
rich noblemen went abroad and brought back treasures from Italy. All
decorative work other than tapestries, which were sometimes of English
make, was imported. Music, like dancing, was cultivated as a polite
accomplishment, for private uses; but there was not the stimulus of
excellent public performances by first-rate artists.

History was in the form of chronicles and romances. Stow was the great
contemporary writer engaged in recording for future generations the
events passing around him. Books in living languages were scarce,
though not so few as when the Dowager-Duchess of Buckingham left what
was deemed a notable legacy of four volumes to her daughter-in-law,
Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond. French and Italian, especially
the latter, were studied by the nobility with continental masters, or
acquired by means of travel. Great courtesy was shown to visitors from
the continent by the English aristocracy, who delighted in having
intercourse with men of other nationalities, and often surrounded
themselves with foreign servants. In this way a taste was fostered for
the Spanish, French, and Italian languages. Nobles who did not want
to study themselves, liked to be surrounded by men of learning, and
willingly gave poor authors a seat at their table. It became customary
to dedicate every new book to some rich patron, and though it was a
practice that opened the door to abuses, it secured, on the other hand,
a subsistence to deserving authors who would otherwise have been unable
to pursue their studies.

Although the nobility extended their patronage to learned men, they
were not greatly given to study themselves. In the time of Henry VIII.
there was such a lack of learning among laymen, that ecclesiastics had
the governance of the country largely in their hands. The generality
of men among the upper classes deemed the labour involved in acquiring
knowledge unfit for gentlemen, who were better employed learning
to hunt, shoot, sing, and dance. Roger Ascham reproaches the young
gentlemen of England for their sloth in learning, and holds up for
imitation the Virgin Queen--

    “whose example if the rest of our nobilitie would follow, then
    might England bee for learning and wisdome in nobilitie a
    spectacle to all the world beside.”

It was otherwise with women. They toiled over Latin and Greek,
frequently in manuscript, for there were not many printed books in
those languages; no classics had issued from Caxton’s press. Hebrew
was also studied, for divinity and theology occupied a good deal of
attention. A Florentine, Petruccio Ubaldini, who visited England in
1551, writes in his comments on social life--

    “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.”

Dr. Wotton, in his “Reflections on Antient and Modern Learning,” says--

    “that no age was so productive of learned women as the
    sixteenth century.” “Learning,” he says, “was so very modish
    that the fair sex seemed to believe that Greek and Latin added
    to their charms, and that Plato and Aristotle untranslated were
    frequent ornaments of their closets. One would think by the
    effects that it was a proper way of educating them, since there
    are no accounts in history of so many great women in any one
    age as are to be found between the years fifteen and sixteen

Certainly England can show a roll during that period which is in
striking contrast to the records of the preceding and succeeding
centuries. For sound scholarship and solid acquirements, the women
of the sixteenth century may challenge comparison with those of any
subsequent period. It was not a time for brilliant authorship among
women. The productions of the most renowned are not such as would be
read in the present day. Latin distichs, translations of the classics
and of theological works, orations in Greek and Latin, are not the
writings which commend themselves to posterity, but they display a
degree of erudition which was not only remarkable for that period, but
would be highly commended in this age of university teaching and the
advancement of women along the paths of the higher education.

The following verses by a sixteenth-century writer well express the
feeling of the times:--

  “You men yt read the memoryes
     Of wonders done and paste,
   Remember well the historys
     Of women first and laste;
   And tell me if I saye not true,
     That women can do more than you,

  “And more than any man can doo
     So quicklie and so trym (fast?).
   What counterpointes of pollycie,
     Of arte and of artyfyce,
   But women w^{th} facylitie
     Can compas and forecaste.”

Perhaps queens should not be taken as examples, inasmuch as they
possess advantages peculiar to their position, and their acquirements
are apt to be overstated. Henry VIII., the Sovereign Bluebeard, showed
himself admirable as a father in at least one respect, and the care
with which his daughters were educated goes some way towards palliating
his crimes towards their mothers. If he had not obscured his own talent
by his passions and vices, we should be better able to appreciate the
encouragement he gave to literature and art, and his accomplishments
as one of the best-educated gentlemen of the day. The tastes of the
sovereign and the _personnel_ of the court had a more direct influence
on society than at the present time. Individual members of the nobility
who cultivated learning, did a good deal in raising the tone of their
immediate circle.

It may be that the excellence of the tuition given to the Princess Mary
was rather due to Queen Catherine of Aragon, who procured, among other
tutors for her daughter, a learned countryman of her own, Ludovicus
Vives of Valencia. This preceptor succeeded to the post held by the
first tutor of the princess, Dr. Lynacre, who died in 1524, when his
pupil was six years old. During the short time she was under his care,
he drew up a work for her on “The Rudiments of Grammar.” There are
probably few princesses now who are handed over to men of scholarship
and learning out of their nurses’ arms, as was the eldest daughter of
Henry VIII. After the learned Spaniard had instructed the princess a
short time, he returned to his own country, and the king then selected
Dr. John Harman.

The Princess Mary was specially proficient in Latin, for which she is
commended by Erasmus, who, always ready to fall a victim to female
charms, regarded learning as an extra embellishment. Speaking of this
period, he says, “It is pretty enough that this sex should now at last
betake itself to the ancient languages.” Mary wrote excellent Latin
epistles, and in later years translated Erasmus’ Paraphrase on the
Gospel of St. John. The preface to this work was written by the Master
of Eton, Udall, who, after a courtly eulogy of the royal translator,
speaks of her “over-painful study and labour of writing,” whereby she
had “cast her weak body in a grievous and long sickness.” The work had
apparently to be completed by other hands, as Queen Mary’s health was
in so declining a condition. She also wrote prayers and meditations.

Elizabeth shone more as a linguist. She is said to have been very
conversant with Latin, French, and Italian; to have had some knowledge
of Greek when quite a young girl; and at twelve years of age, to
have translated a series of Prayers and Meditations from English into
Latin, French, and Italian. Her first instructor was Lady Champernon,
a lady noted for her accomplishments. With Roger Ascham, she read
the classics; with Dr. Grindal, Professor of Divinity, she studied
theology; and, after she came to the throne, pursued her studies
with great diligence. Latin she both spoke and wrote with ease and
grace. In Italian she was instructed by Signore Castiglioni. Greek and
Latin she was accustomed to have read to her by Sir Henry Savil and
Sir John Fortescue. She was a great student of Plato, Aristotle, and
Xenophon; one of Xenophon’s Dialogues she translated and published, and
translated two Orations of Isocrates from Greek into Latin.

Lady Jane Grey is another notable example of learning and scholarship.
Fox writes of her--

    “If her fortune had been as good as her bringing up, joyned
    with fineness of wit, undoubtedly she might have seemed
    comparable, not only to the house of the Vespasians,
    Sempronians, and mother of the Grachies; yea, to any other
    women besides that deserveth high praise for their singular
    learning; but also to the University men, who have taken many
    degrees of the Schools.”

Lady Jane Grey’s short and troublous life was lightened and cheered by
study. Roger Ascham commended her facility in Greek composition. Her
studies were very extensive, for Sir Thomas Chaloner said of her that
she was well versed in Hebrew, Chaldee, Arabic, French, and Italian.

None of these royal ladies were destitute of lighter accomplishments.
Elizabeth, as is well known, was a very graceful dancer, and could sing
and play exceedingly well; Lady Jane Grey was a musician, and clever at

But it was not royal ladies alone who were celebrated for their
learning in the sixteenth century. The three daughters of Sir Anthony
Coke, preceptor to Edward VI., were as accomplished as Queen Elizabeth
and Lady Jane Grey, and attracted the attention of the great men of the
age. The eldest married Lord Burleigh, the Treasurer; the second, Sir
Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, and became the mother
of the celebrated Francis Bacon; the third became wife to Lord John
Russell, after the death of her first husband, Sir Philip Hoby. Sir
Anthony was a father much in advance of his time. He considered that
women should be educated on the same lines as men, and that they were
quite as capable of acquiring knowledge. So he imparted to his clever
daughters the lessons he gave to the precocious boy-king, Edward VI.

    “It is,” says Lloyd,[39] “the happiness of foreigners that
    their vocations are suited to their natures, and that their
    education seconds their inclination, and both byass and ground
    do wonders. It is to the unhappiness of Englishmen that they
    are bred rather according to their estates than their temper;
    and great parts have been lost, while their calling drew one
    away and their genius another.”

Sir Anthony seems to have known how to suit his children’s education
to their “temper,” which was keenly studious. He was excessively
careful to set them a good example. “My example is your inheritance,
and my life is your portion,” he wrote to his eldest daughter. All his
daughters were good classical scholars, could correspond in Greek, and
were excellent translators.

Sir Thomas More’s daughters were educated in a similar way. Margaret,
wife of William Roper and her father’s favourite, is the most
celebrated; but all were clever, studious women, not content with light
and easy studies, but attaining great proficiency in abstruse subjects.

Jane Countess of Westmoreland, whose father was the famous Fox the
martyrologist, was said to be able to bear comparison with the greatest
scholars of the age. The three daughters of Edward Seymour, Duke of
Somerset, were much distinguished for their Latin distichs, and it was
said of them that if Orpheus could have heard them he would have become
their scholar.

Mary Sidney, afterwards Countess of Pembroke, sister of the famous Sir
Philip Sidney, was one of the most intellectual women of her age. In
the retirement of the fine old family mansion at Penshurst Place, Kent,
she passed a studious, happy girlhood. The companionship of her gifted
brother, and association with such men as the poet Spenser, no doubt
fostered her innate love of learning. By the great poet she has been
celebrated as--

  “The gentlest shepherdess that liv’d that day,
   And most resembling in shape and spirit
   Her brother dear.”

Together with her brother she wrote a version of the Psalms, and on
her own account a poem in celebration of Queen Elizabeth. As a centre
of intellectual thought and literary life, Mary Sidney, when, in 1576,
she became the wife of Henry Earl of Pembroke, and mistress of his
establishment at Wilton, may be compared with Lady Holland or Lady
Blessington. Poets and statesmen gathered at her hospitable board,
for at Wilton Place a stately magnificence was maintained. Had the
Countess of Pembroke been merely a lady of rank, she would not have
left her mark on an age when there were so many illustrious names.
But her cultivation of mind made her the fit companion of the greatest
intellects of the day. It is no small thing to have entertained
Shakespeare, to have had Ben Jonson as a familiar guest, besides lesser
poets such as Massinger and Daniel, a poet laureate of Elizabethan
days, who was a great admirer of her talents. Sir Philip Sidney was
much attached to his distinguished sister, to whom he dedicated his
“Arcadia.” It was a grief to both that in after-life they were so much
separated. Dr. Donne, another poet, but more eminent as a divine, was
a friend whom Mary Sidney much esteemed. It was less for what she
did than for what she was that Mary Sidney is celebrated. Her great
nobility of character made her pre-eminent, and her influence on her
contemporaries was very marked.

There was no affectation of ignorance among the learned women of the
sixteenth century. Learning among women was held in esteem. It was
not thought unfeminine to speak good Latin, write correct Greek, or
translate from Hebrew. Unusual and extraordinary it was undoubtedly
deemed for women to show fine scholarship, but it was an unusual
and extraordinary merit. The absurd notion that the acquisition of
knowledge, or intellectual ability, are things to be ashamed of, was
one of the base products of eighteenth-century sentimentalism.

When we think of the great difficulties in the way of learning in the
sixteenth century, we cannot but wonder at the assiduity and patience
of the scholars of that period, both men and women. There were no
primers, exercise-books, or well-printed dictionaries of the classical
languages into English. Grammars were scarce, and were sometimes
composed by the tutors for their pupils. There were no carefully
prepared passages for translation with notes and explanations. The
scholar had to go straight to the original, and ferret out the meaning
unaided. Latin was the common medium of communication between scholars
and the polite world generally. At a time when every one with any
pretensions to education understood Latin, the standard of good
scholarship must have been fairly high, and when we find the daughters
of Sir Anthony Coke and Sir Thomas More, and other ladies, commended
for their pure Latin, we feel that the encomium was well deserved, as a
moderate degree of proficiency would not have attracted notice.

The learned ladies of the sixteenth century possessed the advantage
of having their attention concentrated on a few subjects. French and
Italian were commonly learned by the daughters of the nobility, and
these comparatively easy studies were facilitated by the constant
application to the classics. Music ranked with dancing and ornamental
needlework as an accomplishment. It was a fashionable study for both
sexes among the highest classes. Italy then was to England, in musical
matters, what Germany has since become; but there were also English
composers, among whom Henry VIII. himself was included. Vocal music
was extremely popular, instrumental music being in a comparatively
elementary stage. The English in the sixteenth century seem to have
been a very music-loving people; Erasmus says, “The most accomplished
in the skill of music of any people;” and the degree to which it
was practised at court in the time of Henry VIII. may be guessed
from the fact that singing at sight was then a common accomplishment
among the courtiers. Counterpoint was studied by those who aspired
to be connoisseurs; but musical literature was very scanty, and the
repertorium available for the lute and the mandoline, the clavichord,
or the virginals, must soon have been exhausted.

There was less arithmetic, history, and geography taught than is now
imparted in board schools to the poorest. The curriculum for a lady
of rank did not include many things which have now become matters of
common knowledge among the children of the working classes. On the
other hand, the education, if narrow according to modern ideas, was
thorough, and without the stimulus of college life, of competitive
examinations, without the prospect of rewards and honours in the
shape of degrees, the attainments of women in the sixteenth century
in the subjects to which they had access, were of a high order, and
their knowledge of the classics was more intimate and exact than that
produced by the higher education of the nineteenth century.

Learning was necessarily confined to women of position and wealth, who
could afford the luxury of private tutors and the equally great luxury
of books. There were, doubtless, here and there families of lower rank
whose daughters would have borne favourable comparison with the titled
ladies who are so conspicuous. But wide diffusion of knowledge and a
high standard of education among women generally, if it existed, did
not excite notice among contemporary writers as did the studious habits
of the upper classes. Udall, the master of Eton in Queen Mary’s reign,
speaks with admiration of--

    “the great number of noble women at that time in England, not
    only given to the study of human sciences and strange tongues,
    but also so thoroughly expert in 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 naught for learning 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 word.”

Erasmus, in one of his discourses, gives us a glimpse of the view taken
by the Church of female scholarship. He introduces a conversation
between an abbot and a learned woman. The abbot contends that women
would never be kept in subjection if they were learned. They would
become wiser than men. “Therefore it is a wicked mischievous thing to
revive the ancient custom of educating them.”[40]

Taken in conjunction with a remark of Erasmus in one of his letters, it
is doubtful whether after all he did not deem learning wasted on women.
Describing Sir Thomas More, he says, “He is wise with the wise, and
jests with fools--with women especially, and his wife among them.”

A more liberal view was taken by Richard Mulcaster, the master of the
school founded by the Merchant Taylors’ Company in 1561, in the parish
of St. Lawrence Poultney. He says--

    “I set not young maidens to public Grammar Scholes, a thing
    not used in my countrie, I send them not to the universities,
    having no president thereof in my countrie, I allow them
    learning with distinction in degrees, with difference of their
    calling, with respect to their endes wherefore they learne,
    wherin my countrie confirmeth my opinion. 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 denie that they may
    not compare even with our kinde 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
    gentlewymen by late writers so wel liked: to the Italian ladies
    who dare write themselves and deserve fame for so doing? whose
    excellencie is so geason as they be rather wonders to gaze
    at then presidentes to follow. And is that to be called in
    question which we both dayly see in many and wonder at in some?
    I dare be bould, therefore, to admit yong maidens to learne,
    seeing my countrie gives me leave and her custome standes for
    me. Their natural towardnesse should make us see them well
    brought up.... Some Timon 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
    wymen, but seeing misuse is commonly both the kinds, why blame
    we their infirmitie whence we free not ourselves.... And is
    not, think you, a young gentlewoman thoroughly furnished which
    can reade plainly and distinctly, write faire and swiftly, sing
    cleare and sweetly, play wel and finely, understand and speake
    the learned languages, and the tongues also which the time most
    embraseth with some logicall helpe to chop and some rhetoricke
    to brave.... Or is it likely that her children shalbe eare a
    whit the worse brought up if she be a Lœlia, an Hortensia or a
    Cornelia, which were so endued and noted for so doing.... The
    places wherein they learne be either publike if they go forth
    to the elementaire schole or private if they be taught at home.
    The teacher either of their owne sex or of ours.... In teachers
    their owne sex were fittest in some respectes, but ours frame
    them best and with good regard to some circumstances will bring
    them up excellently well.”



  Retrogression in the seventeenth century--Tone of women’s
      education--Mrs. Hutchinson--Lady Ann Halkett--Mrs. Alice
      Thornton--Mrs. Makins--The Duchess of Newcastle--General
      estimation of learning--Changes in social life--Some patronesses
      of learning.

After the sixteenth century the lamp of learning flickered a good
deal. The air was very unsteady; winds came blowing from all quarters.
There was the adverse gale of the Civil War, which was a great peril
to progress. And what followed was almost equally disastrous. Neither
the austerity of the Puritans nor the licence of the Royalists was
favourable to the arts of peace, and when political passions were
dividing the country, it was no time for poring over books, and holding
commune with philosophers and poets. Religious enthusiasm thrives by
opposition, and the purity of principle has often been maintained by
persecution. It is otherwise with learning and culture. They need
encouragement and tending in order to blossom and bear fruit. From
a variety of causes, a period of reaction set in after the vigorous
and healthy awakening in the time of the Tudors. The fault of the
seventeenth century was its lack of earnestness about intellectual
matters. It combined all the faults of all the ages--laxity of morals,
indifference to high aims, combined with religious fanaticism and a
lack of appreciation of knowledge and learning. The Puritan party were
so much engrossed with religious dogmas, that they had little time to
spend on purely secular thought, which they considered a frivolous if
not a sinful exercise. The Royalists loved pleasure too well to give
more than passing attention to serious studies. The period of the
Restoration is thus described by a writer in the next century--

    “Religion which had been in vogue in the late times was
    now universally discountenanced; the name of it was hardly
    mentioned but with contempt, in a health or a play. Those who
    observed the sabbath and scrupled profane swearing and drinking
    healths were exposed under the opprobrious names of puritans,
    fanaticks, presbyterians, republicans, seditious persons.”

The advantages to be derived from intellectual liberty were not
appreciated. Charles II., joking with the Royal Society, to whom he
loved to propound insoluble problems, reflects the attitude of the
aristocracy towards science and literature. By that time Shakespeare
was considered a little out of date and vulgar by an age of fops and
_élégantes_ who could read Wycherley without blushing. There was a
quiet cultured set, such as Evelyn and his friends. Evelyn’s daughter
Mary, who died at the age of about nineteen, was a most accomplished
and studious girl, and shared her father’s literary labours and
enjoyments. But the seventeenth century was not favourable to the
production of scholars. As the intellectual horizon widened learning
became less profound. Women’s education was pursued on somewhat
different lines. There was less scholarship among the best-educated
women. We do not hear of ladies corresponding in Greek or translating
from the Hebrew. The classics no longer held the chief place in the
curriculum. Literature was multiplying in English and other living
languages, and music and painting were more cultivated.

But there was little attempt, in the seventeenth century, to provide
substitutes for what women had lost by the dissolution of the convent
schools. For accomplishments, such as singing and dancing, wealthy
families engaged special masters--generally French--and the domestic
chaplain sometimes acted as tutor for the more solid parts of
education. Among middle-class families, however, whose means did not
allow of private tuition, the girls came off badly, there being very
few schools of any sort, and very scanty supplies of literature in the

The seventeenth century was a great period for famous painters, and the
presence of numerous excellent foreign artists in England influenced
the attitude of society among the higher classes towards art. It might
have been thought that, with a professed pedant like James I. following
the learned Queen Elizabeth, there would have been a renewed impetus
towards the profounder studies. But James I. was deficient in real
strength of character, and was not an intellectual force. He might
have played a very fair part among a knot of schoolmen disputing over
theological points, but as a sovereign his talents did not show to
good advantage. Moreover, he was in every way adverse to the progress
of women. He treated them as inferiors, with a ponderous levity, and
nothing was further from his mind than giving any encouragement to the
cultivation of learning among the ladies of the court. Under Charles
I. culture would have had a fair chance in England had not political
trouble intervened, and during the remainder of the century society
underwent a series of changes inimical to learning.

Women’s education in the seventeenth century, among those sections
of society where learning was cultivated, seems to have taken a more
feminine tone. Accomplishments were sought after rather than solid
acquirements. There was a leaning to lighter pursuits, to what were
quaintly called “virtues,” such as instrumental and vocal music,
dancing, and needlework. There was a dash of fine ladyism in it all.
At the same time there was a parade of education. It was customary,
among the families of the nobility, for the daughters to have tutors
for reading and writing (which are specified as distinct subjects, not
included, as now, under a general term), French, Latin, and perhaps
Italian. Mrs. Hutchinson tells us that she had as many as eight tutors
when she was seven years old, but she was exceptionally well instructed.

Lucy Aspley, as she was then, was a child of extraordinary abilities,
of which her father was very proud. At four years old she could read
English perfectly. Her brothers at school, finding she was outstripping
them in Latin with her tutor at home, tried to emulate her zeal. She
cared for none of the feminine accomplishments, such as needlework and
dancing, and always preferred the company and conversation of older
people, even as a child. With all her precocity, and in spite of the
fact that she was treated as the literary light of the family, she
grew up unspoiled by flattery, and developed into one of the noblest
women of her age.

Lady Anne Halkett, the daughter of Thomas Murray, preceptor to Charles
I., was probably better taught than most young women of the time. She
herself lays stress on the pains bestowed upon her education by her
parents, but there is no mention of any profound study. She had masters
for French, for writing, for dancing, and for the practice of the
lute and the virginals, and a gentlewoman was employed to teach her

Mrs. Alice Thornton, who lived between 1626 and 1707, and whose family
on the father’s side was related to the Earl of Strafford, says that in
1632, while living in Ireland, she had--

    “the best education that Kingdome could afford, having the
    advantage of societie in the sweet and chaste company of the
    Earle of Strafford’s daughter, the most virtuous Lady Anne, and
    the Lady Arbella Wentworth, learning those qualities with them
    which my father ordered, namelie--the French language, to write
    and speak the same; singing, danceing, plaeing on the lute
    and theorboe; learning such other accomplishments of working
    silkes, gummework, sweetmeats, and other sutable huswifery, as
    by my mother’s vertuous provision and caire, she brought me up
    in what was fitt for her qualitie and my father’s childe.”

Presumably, spelling formed one of the subjects of education; but the
extremely faulty orthography of female letter-writers, even among the
cultured classes, in the seventeenth century, points to a haphazard
method of teaching this branch of knowledge. After making due allowance
for the unsettled state of the language, and the want of uniformity in
good authors, the letters of women of high rank show an extraordinary
licence in orthography, which appeared to be a matter regulated by
individual fancy.

Mrs. Makins, writing in 1673, says--

    “I verily think women were formerly educated in the knowledge
    of arts and tongues, and by their education many did rise to a
    great height in learning. Were women thus educated now, I am
    confident the advantage would be very great.” She adds, “I am
    very sensible it is an ill time to set on foot this design,
    wherein not only learning but vertue itself is scorn’d and
    neglected as pedantic things, fit only for the vulgar....
    Were a competent number of schools erected to educate ladyes
    ingeniously, methinks I see how asham’d men would be of their
    ignorance, and how industrious the next generation would be to
    wipe off their reproach.”

One of the most celebrated women of learning in the early part of the
century was Margaret Lucas, afterwards Duchess of Newcastle, and she
seems to have acquired her knowledge chiefly by her own efforts.
Sir Charles Lucas had tutors for his daughters, but half the year
the family spent in London, enjoying all the diversions the capital
could afford, and study was not at all strictly enforced on the girls.
The Duchess wrote numerous poems and prose works of a philosophical
character, and was, she tells us herself, a very rapid composer, her
ideas outrunning her hand. Judged by the standard of to-day, her works
seem like the voluble outpourings of a curious fancy. Her ideas are
interesting rather as giving us a glimpse of the thought of her day,
than valuable for intrinsic merit or freshness; but in her lifetime
she was applauded by scholars with lavish adulation, partly, no doubt,
on account of her rank. The heads of the University of Cambridge were
full of wonder that a woman should be able to compose such works, and
many scholars from other parts wrote in terms of respectful admiration
and astonishment. The fulsome flatteries poured into the ears of the
duchess were unworthy of their authors, but there is no doubt that her
productions appeared sufficiently remarkable to her contemporaries.
More than one scholar to whom the duchess sent her books, remarks on
the proof her Grace has given that women are as capable of intellectual
acquirements as men. One writes that she has confirmed the statement
of an old author, that women excel men; and another, that she has
clearly decided the question of mental equality between the sexes.

In watching the evolution of women in regard to learning, the general
estimation in which learning was held in those days has also to be
noted. Gentlemen might certainly be scholars, but scholars were not
considered gentlemen. The study of books, more especially the writing
of them, was thought a laborious occupation unfit for those who could
sit at ease and enjoy the world.

    “Neither do our Nobilitie and Gentry so much affect the study
    of good Letters as in former times,” wrote Henry Peachman in
    1638, “loving better the _Active_ than the _Contemplative_ part
    of _Knowledge_, which in times of the Monasteries was more
    esteemed and doated on than now.”

One scholar, writing to the Duchess of Newcastle, speaks of authorship
as an “inferior employment” unmeet for the rank and qualities of a lady
like her Grace.

Another element that has to be taken into account was the change which
came over social life in the upper ranks of society. There was more
going to and fro between London and the country. Formerly, people
stayed quietly in their own homes from one year to another. But as
travelling became more general, the custom grew up for families of
rank and wealth to spend half the year in London--the winter half--and
the other half in the country. This greatly altered the conditions
of family life. The season in London was a period for amusement,
for seeing sights, receiving company, and going to balls and masks.
There was not much time for serious studies, and the more frequent
intercourse with society encouraged young daughters in a family to
cultivate such accomplishments as music and dancing, to study French
and Italian rather than Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and to generally
avoid subjects that demanded much patience and assiduity. There were
women clever and brilliant, and noted for their versatile talents. Lucy
Harrington, Countess of Bedford, was one of these. She was certainly
a good Latin scholar, had many accomplishments, and was a friend and
favourite of the learned men of the day. Lady Wroth, niece of the
celebrated Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke, was another patroness of
the learned, and seems to have inherited some of her aunt’s ability.
But we have to wait until the middle of the next century before we find
any coterie of learned women, comparable with the scholars and students
of the Tudor Period.



  Changes in domestic life--Lady Elizabeth Howard’s household at
      Naworth Castle--The Countess of Sunderland--The Belvoir
      Castle family--The Countess of Salisbury’s suit--The Countess
      of Pembroke and the “boon hen”--Bess of Hardwicke--Court
      ladies--Lady Brilliana Harley--Lady Lucas--Match-making--Seizure
      of an heiress.

When with the Renaissance old habits of thought changed, the horizon
of domestic life was enlarged. The great lady appears in a different
light. She is no longer merely the loaf-giver and spinster, sitting
in the shadow of her lord. With increased means of comfort, with the
spread of knowledge, life became much more complex. The conditions of
life did not permit that the great lady should herself take such an
active part in all the domestic industries and arts which were carried
on in a large household. She had other occupations. It was the steward
who saw to the providing of the household stuff, to the payment of
servants’ wages, to the almsgiving, and even to the furnishing of the

Although needlework still filled a large and honoured place in the
lives of women of high station, it was rather an exercise than a
necessity. Girls were taught to spin, to sew, and to embroider; a great
lady might assist in the devising and making of her own apparel, but
more commonly she left it in the hands of the tailors and sempstresses,
and when she busied herself with plain needlework it was for the poor.
Great families in the country would, for ordinary purposes, employ
a local tailor, who would come and do his work at the house. Lady
Elizabeth Howard, of Naworth Castle, who lived in the seventeenth
century, and was one of the greatest ladies of her time, with a
rent-roll of £1040 a year of the money of that period, was satisfied to
have the plain serge gowns which she wore for common use made by the
country tailor. The flax for the household linen was spun at home and
sent to a country weaver. Lady Elizabeth was a woman of simple tastes,
too much engrossed with practical affairs to care for display.

The curious commissions which great ladies in the seventeenth century
gave to their male friends abroad, and the presents exchanged among
members of noble families, show that many ordinary articles now in
domestic use were then luxuries. In 1679, or thereabouts, the Countess
of Sunderland writes to her brother, Mr. Sidney, envoy to Holland, in
the following terms:--

    “I desire you to lay out £20 for me in Dutch wax candles,
    which my Lady Temple says are very good. I would have them
    four to the pound, three parts, and the fourth part six to the
    pound; and some tea if you love me, for the last you gave was

One would like to know what quantity of candles Mr. Sidney was able to
buy for £20, which represented a much larger sum then, and whether the
countess kept a private cupboard in which to lock up these precious

Lady Chaworth, in 1676, writes to her brother, Lord Roos, at Belvoir
Castle, to thank him, among other things, for a present of some
oat-cakes and a pie. She sends him in return a peck of chestnuts and
five pounds of vermicelli, some portion of which, she says, is of the
same quality as that supplied to the king, who had a consignment of
three hundred pounds’ weight. This seems a prodigious quantity, when it
is remembered that farinaceous foods were not a staple article of diet.
She also sends Lord Roos comfits, which she is pleased to hear that he
likes, for she tells him--

    “There is four pound of them, and made fresh for you of the
    purest sugar, though I gave a little more for them.”

Lord Roos had a sweet tooth, evidently, and it is to be hoped as sound
as sweet, for our ancestors took very little care of their teeth. In
1650 we find Sir Ralph Verney sending to a friend at Florence a present
of “teeth-brushes and boxes,” which were new-fangled Parisian articles,
described by Sir Ralph as “inconsiderable toyes.”

As manners improved there was less separation of the sexes and more
family life. In the absence of the husband, the lady of the manor, as
she may still be called, for she often enriched her lord with the broad
acres of her own inheritance, was much occupied with the management of
the estate. The Lady Elizabeth Howard, already mentioned, who brought
as her dowry the extensive Dacres property about which there was so
much litigation, always attended to the business relating to the manors
during her husband’s absences in London, whither she herself rarely
travelled. Anne, daughter of the second Duke of Norfolk, being burdened
with a husband very deficient in mental and physical parts--“Little
John of Campes,” fourteenth Earl of Oxford--took the control into
her own hands of all the affairs of the household and the estate.
She corresponded about her difficulties with Wolsey, who advised her
to return with her husband to her father’s roof, paying the duke a
reasonable sum for the accommodation. The countess, who had no children
to aid her, was sorely beset, after her husband’s death, by rapacious
relatives, whom during his lifetime she had contrived to keep at bay.
She complains that her park, and even her house, were broken into and
her servants maltreated, and that, although the justices issued a writ
against the offenders, it was not put into execution, and “doth nothing

Anne Countess of Warwick, wife of the king-maker, was shamefully robbed
of her possessions by her sons-in-law, the Dukes of Clarence and
Gloucester, and was obliged, she tells us, to write many letters with
her own hand, in the absence of clerks. She finally got back all her
property by Act of Parliament, but she did not keep it. She was either
cajoled out of her estates, or her attachment to the king, whom her
husband had assisted to the throne, was all-powerful; but, whatever
the cause, she passed over one hundred and eighteen manors by private
compact to Henry VII.

Another great lady, Margaret Countess of Salisbury, grand-daughter of
Richard Earl of Salisbury, had a great deal of trouble in keeping a
hold of her possessions. She was engaged in a suit against Henry
VIII. to recover a yearly income of 5000 marks from certain of her
manors. The rapacious king appears to have yielded, and she afterwards
generously presented him with a year’s revenue as an aid in the
prosecution of his wars. A revengeful lover whom she had rejected did
his utmost to deprive her of her estates by filling the king’s mind
with suspicions as to the legality of her claim. She also suffered much
annoyance from marauders, who broke into her domain and cut down her

Women of property were very liable to be preyed upon by grasping
sovereigns and unscrupulous ministers like Wolsey, who actually led
Elizabeth Dowager Countess of Oxford to endanger the cliff at Harwich,
which formed part of her estate, in order to supply him with stone for
his new college at Ipswich.

The famous Anne Clifford, Countess of Pembroke and Dorset, after
struggling with James I. over her inheritance, found plenty of
occupation in going to law with her numerous tenants, in building, in
causing “bounds to be ridden,” and courts to be kept in her several
manors. She seems to have divided her time pretty equally among her
northern castles, travelling in state in a coach and six from Pendragon
Castle to Appleby, and thence to Skypton and Brougham. She describes
her tenants as frequently obstinate and refractory, and evictions
were sometimes necessary. However, in the midst of these unpleasant
processes, she was building brew-houses, bake-houses, and stables,
repairing decayed mansions which had not been inhabited for years, and
establishing fresh almshouses for the poor.

The Countess was very tenacious of her rights, and refused to yield at
any cost when it was a question of principle. On one occasion a rich
clothier of Halifax, one of her tenants, would not pay the one “boon
hen” which traditional custom demanded from the holder of a certain
tenement. The Countess took the case to the law courts and recovered
the hen, but at a cost of £200 to herself and the same amount to her
adversary. She much resented interference, and when Cromwell sent
down a commission to compose some differences between herself and
her people, she politely but firmly refused to let the commissioners
deal with the matter at all, saying she preferred to leave it to the
decision of the law. As a landlord she did all she could for her county
by buying everything from her neighbours and tenants, very rarely
sending to London or elsewhere as other great folk in the country were
in the habit of doing, and as a mistress she was very kind to her

Anne Clifford was not singular in her taste for litigation. Walter Cary
writes, in 1626--

    “These three which have turned things upside down and strangely
    altered our estate are suits of law, suits of apparel, and

With regard to the last two particulars, Anne Clifford was certainly
blameless, and though she moved about in her own part of the country,
she did not waste her substance on journeys to London, as Cary
complained the country gentlemen were in the habit of doing. In former
times, he says men

    “did not long for their neighbours’ land, neither sold of their
    own, but keeping good hospitality and plainly ever attired were
    very rich.”

The celebrated Bess of Hardwicke, who made her first marriage in 1532,
and was a widow for the fourth time in 1609, after the death of George
Earl of Shrewsbury, spent much of her time and money in building. It
was a passion with her to repair and to erect magnificent piles. She
persuaded her second husband, Sir William Cavendish, to begin the
building of Chatsworth, which she completed after his death. Near the
old home of her childhood she erected a second Hardwicke Hall, and
also built a mansion at Oldcote. She has been described by her greatest
detractor, Lodge, as “a builder, a buyer, a seller of estates, a
money-lender, a farmer, and a merchant of lead, coals, and timber.” She
also built herself a magnificent mural monument in All Saints’ Church,
Derby. It was her fourth husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, who had for
a long time the custody of Mary Queen of Scots, of whose supposed
influence “Bess” was so jealous. A significant remark which she made to
Queen Elizabeth caused the Earl to be deprived of his fair charge.

The great lady in her own home appears to far better advantage than her
compeers at court, who are thus caustically described by a writer of
the second half of the sixteenth century--

    “The women of the Courte have also their vices. For alwaie
    we see manie endowed with goodly giftes of the body, fayre,
    preatie, handsome and comely. Moreover, richly attired in
    purple, golde, jewels, and ryches: but all men cannot see what
    filthy monsters do often lurke under those faire skinnes....

    “They have mouthes armed for all kindes of clattering trifles
    with which they utter idle and foolish communication, and
    oftentimes displeasant to those that be compelled to heare
    them. For what shoulde we thinke them to speake emong
    themselves so many howers, but foolish and idle thinges: as
    how the heare should be dressed, how it should be kembed, how
    the heare should be coloured, how the face should be rubbed,
    after what facion the garment should be playted, and with what
    pompe they should go, rise and sit, and what attire they should
    weare, to what persons they should geve place, with how many
    bowinges salute, what women, and whome they should kisse or
    not kisse, what women ought to ride upon an asse, horse, seate
    and be carried in a chariote or couche: what women maie weare
    golde, pearle, corall, chaines, ringes hanginge at their eares,
    bracelets, ringes and tablets and other trifles of Semiramis

    “There be also ancient matrons whiche tell how many wowers they
    have had, how many giftes thei have receaved, with how many
    flatteringe wordes they have benne wowed: this woman talketh
    of him whome she loveth, that woman cannot skantly forbeare to
    speake of him whom she hateth, and every one thinketh that she
    speaketh with the admiration of other women, sometimes they
    maintaine talke with fonde quippes or very impudent lies. There
    wante not emonge them cruell hatredes and eger brawlinges,
    malicious detractions, backebitinges, false accusations and
    whatsoever be the vices of a naughtie tongue.”

All the blame is laid upon the wives by this moralist, and the husbands
he depicts as long-suffering martyrs--

    “O how sorrowful do thei make their good husbandes when
    continually they objecte to them their lineage, dowrie,
    beautie, and other mens mariages, and with scoldinge and
    tauntinge do weary their husbandes, they alwaies lamente,
    whilst they dispise housholde and temperate fare, and twite
    their husbandes with the courtly excesse and being enured in
    pleasant fantasies and gloriouse ostentation do consume theire
    riches upon superfluous ornamentes, they bring houses by ruine,
    sometimes they enforce their miserable husbandes to dishonest
    and naughtie gaines.”

Lady Brilliana Harley, who lived through the Civil War, stands out in
pleasing contrast as a quiet domestic character, a model housewife.
While her husband, who was actively engaged on the Parliamentarian
side, was away from home, she watched over the family interests with
the greatest solicitude, and seems to have been her own housekeeper
and man of business. At one time she was busy with repairs and
alterations to the house, and mentions having to pay five shillings a
day to plumbers and five shillings a hundred to them in addition for
“casting lead.” She was constantly sending provisions to her son at
Oxford University, and sometimes to her husband, and describes with
such minuteness the contents of the pies that one feels she must have
assisted in the making. Very big pies they were; a couple of chickens
would be added as a kind of make-weight, and one of these pasties
contained two whole turkeys. As this was a present to her son at
Oxford, it may be supposed that Lady Brilliana had hospitable thoughts
for the other undergraduates.

Lady Lucas, mother of the learned Duchess of Newcastle, was “very
skilful in leases, setting of lands, court keeping, ordering of
stewards”--useful talents, seeing that she married a rich husband.
After the Civil War, her daughter, who presumably inherited some
portion of the property which her mother had so carefully guarded, was
reduced to great straits. The Duke of Newcastle’s estates were sold by
the Commonwealth, and, the Duke being made a delinquent, his wife was
deprived of the usual allowances. She retired to Antwerp, but returned
to England and spent a year and a half unsuccessfully trying to obtain
some compensation. However, as her chief interest lay in literature,
the absence of outward show in her surroundings did not greatly affect
her, and she bore her losses very philosophically.

Dependent as has been woman’s position up to the present century, in
all the important relations of life, she has always been called upon
as a great lady to bear responsibilities and fulfil duties of no light
character. In mediæval times they were chiefly domestic, but none the
less weighty, for the health and comfort of the household depended
upon the “bread-giver.” As social conditions altered, we see the great
lady extending her duties outside her own walls, and engaged in what
is almost public work. She is frequently drawn into the current of
political life, and her position is considerably affected by the
religious changes in the country. She comes into prominence as an
independent actor in the drama of history, forced oftentimes to stand
alone, and beset by trials and cares which only belong to those who
have much to lose. In times when the power of the sovereign was more
absolute, the position of persons of property and influence, whether
men or women, was less secure, and they were liable to a rise or fall
of fortune according to the caprice of the monarch. A great lady in
the present day could not be brought into collision with the sovereign
over the rights of property, as were Margaret Countess of Salisbury and
Anne Countess of Pembroke. There is no longer that intimate personal
relation between the sovereign and the subject.

The hereditary right of succession to titles of nobility granted by
the Norman kings, without distinction of sex, greatly affected the
position of women among the higher classes. They acquired a dignity and
importance in the eyes of rulers which otherwise they would not have
possessed. An heiress who could convey a title and lands to her husband
was a personage to be reckoned with and considered. There are numerous
instances of men claiming titles and privileges by virtue of their
wives’ position. Richard Neville gained the earldom of Salisbury, and
his son that of Warwick, by marriage with heiresses. But while a woman
could thus confer advantages of a substantial kind upon her husband,
she still lacked that control over her own property which characterized
the position of a wife until recent times. Women’s marriage portions
were denounced by writers in the seventeenth century as the cause of
wedded misery and sin--

    “men and women, being byassed by interest in marriage and not
    having that firm friendship and love for each other, do seek
    for a greater happiness abroad.”

Marriages were arranged among people of good estate and condition
with a very frank display of mercenary motives. For instance, we find
various relatives of the excellent Sir Ralph Verney anxiously engaged
in helping him, after his wife’s death in 1656, to find an heiress for
his son. One, Mrs. Sherrard, writes that she has discovered a lady whom
she thinks would be a suitable mate for young Edmund Verney--

    “Her father will give her five thousand pounds, and hath but
    on dafter more, and she is sickly and never licke to mary, and
    if not shee will have more than enouf, for it is beleved that
    her father is worth above thirty thousand pounds, and dooth
    daily incres in welth. I hear shee is not but of a very good

Another relative writes--

    “Here is a match for your sown, Mr. Wilson’s daughter of Surrey
    (formerly a cittizen) that I think worthy yur consideration;
    they offer £5,500.”

People used plain language in the seventeenth century, and when a
match was proposed it was in out-spoken terms. The young people were
treated as pawns by their respective guardians, and instead of lawyers
settling matters, it was the parents who wrangled over property and
drove bargains. There is little difference in this respect between
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the following letter of
Lady Katherine Berkeley, though it belongs to the Tudor period, might
well have been written a hundred years later. Lady Berkeley was wife
of Henry, first Lord Berkeley, to whom she was married in the reign of
Queen Mary. She is writing to her confidential man of business, John
Smyth, about her son’s marriage.

    “I have received your letter, but doe not think good to show
    it to my lord least hee should leave his suits in law whereof
    I have soe good hope to a dangerous event, with an imagination
    that out of his own judgment hee could conclude a profitable
    end upon the overture now made. These imaginations you know
    have not produced the best effects. If the motion for my
    son’s marriage proceed I doe then believe the politicke lady
    will bee glad to come to an end; yet doe I fear her proffer
    rather proceeds of policy then from sincere meaning. I have
    observed that when she sees anything bending to our good, then
    shee proffers an agreement, and yet proceeds in lawe with all
    extremity.” She concludes by requesting that “whosoever intends
    to match with my son shall only deale with my lord and mee.”

This really meant with Lady Katherine herself. She had but a poor
opinion of her husband’s ability, and was exceedingly anxious to keep
him by her side. She does not at all approve of his going to London by
himself to negotiate marriages or any other business, being confident
that he will only lose his money.

    “At London younge crafty courtiers will lay baits which will
    bee swallowed with danger; the safest way is to keep him from

Many romances have been written on the carrying off of heiresses by
bold suitors. During the Commonwealth some effort was made to prevent
scandals of this kind and save women from being married against their
will. There was one case that excited a good deal of attention in
October, 1649. Mistress Jane Puckeringe was abducted from Greenwich
Park while walking with her maids, close to her own house. She was
the daughter of Sir Thomas Puckeringe, and an heiress. The abductors
were some people named Walsh, a Worcestershire family. Joseph Walsh
and his friends seized Mistress Puckeringe, mounted her on a horse,
and, having a hoy in readiness, went across to Dunkirk. Thence they
went to Nieuport, in Flanders, and shut her up in a religious house.
As soon as the affair was made known, there was a great stir in the
official world, and warrants were issued for her recovery and for the
punishment of Walsh and his companions. Walsh maintained that there
had been a marriage ceremony performed. The Spanish ambassador was
appealed to, and steps taken that every one concerned in the affair
might be arrested. The Council of State in England sent over a Mrs.
Magdalen Smith, armed with letters of authority, to seek for the lost
heiress and bring her back; and a ship was ordered to go to Nieuport
to be in readiness to receive her. The English agent at Brussels,
Peter Thelwell, was told to turn his attention to the matter. Still,
the winter sped away and Mistress Puckeringe was not restored to
her friends, so in March the Council of State again took action and
wrote to the archduke. Mr. Peter Thelwell, on his own responsibility,
appealed to Prince Charles, which was distasteful to the officers of
the Commonwealth, who were not disposed to have any dealings with the
Cavalier party, and at last in June, some eight months after the
abduction, the lady was sent back to England in a man-of-war, and her
captors were surrendered to the English authorities and indicted for
felony, the supposed marriage being set aside.



  Puritan influence--Neglect of women’s education--The boarding-out
      system for girls--Sir Matthew Hale on the education of
      girls--Manners and customs--Diversions of great ladies--Rules
      for behaviour--John Evelyn on manners--Effects of the Civil
      War--Simplicity of home life--Lady Anne Halkett--Position of
      wives--A contemporary writer on husbands.

The Civil War had raised up two parties in England, divided as much
upon ethics as upon politics. With the extremists on either side, women
fared badly. They were between two camps, both equally noxious in their
way--the libertines and the ascetics.

    “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 women 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.”

If Cromwell’s “Saints,” with their deadly hatred of Roman Catholicism,
had been told that their views coincided with certain portions of the
early teaching of the abhorred Church, they would have vehemently
repelled the accusation. But the Puritans, in their revolt against
beauty and pleasure, in their cramped conception and distorted views of
the position of women, were only following the lead of the Fathers and
the monks of the fourth century, who made of Christianity a revolting
and immoral form of asceticism.

A kind of moral dislocation was going on, forming a canker in
social life. With the excesses of the court on the one hand and
the austerities of the Puritans on the other, there was a constant
interaction going on, each party goading the other into greater
extremes. The deterioration of moral tone on the one side, and the
perversion of thought on the other, affected the national life
injuriously, and retarded the intellectual progress of women.

There was, to begin with, an unstable throne. The Stuarts were weak
rulers, and the people felt the relaxing of the strong hand of the
Tudors. James I., untrained for his position, was a very undesirable
sovereign, and earned for himself ridicule and dislike. One of his
peculiarities was to affect a great contempt for women, and to scoff
at men who treated them with respect. No wonder that he was held in
abhorrence by the court ladies, and that there were loud complaints of
his Majesty’s want of gallantry.

Then there was a tendency to listlessness, and especially to mental
inertia, after the revival of learning in the sixteenth century. The
tension could not be sustained. And there were special difficulties
arising from the circumstances of the time. The destruction of so
many seats of learning by the dissolution of the Religious Houses
was a blow to education. Nothing had arisen to take the place of the
monastic schools. How little provision there was may be judged by the
following remarks, made on the establishment of a school for the sons
of gentlemen in the second half of the seventeenth century:--

    “It is sufficiently known that the subjects of his Majestie’s
    dominions have, naturally, as noble minds and as able
    bodies as any nation of the earth, and therefore deserve
    all accommodations for the advancing of them either in
    speculation or action. Neverthelesse such hath been the neglect
    or undervalueing of ourselves and our own abilities, and
    over-valueing of forreigne teachers, that hitherto no such
    places for the education and trayning up of our own young
    nobilitie and gentrie in the practise of arms and arts have
    been instituted here in England as are in Italy, France, and
    Germany, but that by a chargeable and sometimes an unfortunate
    experience we, to our own losse and disgrace, doe finde the
    noble and generous youth of this kingdome is sent beyond the
    seas, to learn such things at excessive rates, from strangers
    abroad, wherein they might be as well, and with lesse expense
    and danger, instructed here at home.”

If little attention were given to providing for the training of youths,
still less was paid to that of girls, for whom there was not the
compensation of being “sent beyond the seas.” Even for a gentleman’s
daughters it was not thought necessary that they should learn anything
thoroughly except housewifery.

    “Let them learne plaine workes of all kind so they take heed
    of too open seeming. Instead of song and musick let them learn
    cookery and laundry, and instead of reading Sir Philip Sidney’s
    ‘Arcadia,’ let them read the grounds of good huswifery. I like
    not a female poetesse at any hand: let greater personages glory
    their skill in musicke, the posture of their bodies, their
    knowledge in languages, 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 breede a private
    gentleman’s daughter.”[41]

The author of the above remarks suggests that where there were several
daughters, one should be left with the mother, and the others drafted
off into some other household, such as that of a merchant, or lawyer,
or country gentleman, to gain experience and multiply their matrimonial

It is obvious that the custom of sending children away to board
in families was still common in the seventeenth century, and that
the domestic ideal had not much enlarged. Women are still to study
housewifery before all else, and to shun learning as an unprofitable
thing. The profession of marriage is the only one proper to women.
“Loke to thi doughten,” advises an early English poet--

  “And geve hem to spowsynge as soone as thei ben ablee.”

In France the education of girls was much neglected.

    “Il est honteux, mais ordinaire de voir des femmes qui ont
    de l’esprit et de la politesse, ne savoir bien prononcer
    ce qu’elles lisent; ou elles hesitent, ou elles chantent
    en lisant: au lieu qu’il faut prononcer d’un ton simple
    et naturel, mais forme et uni. Elles manquent encore plus
    grossièrement pour l’ortogrape, ou pour la manière de former ou
    de lier les lettres en écrivant.”

Fénélon goes on to suggest that girls should learn something of the
laws and regulations of their country--

    “ce que c’est qu’un contrat, une substitution, un partage des
    cohéritiers ... ce que c’est biens meubles et immeubles. Si
    elles se marient toutes leurs principales affaires rouleront

In every age there is always some one to act the part of _laudator
temporis acti_. Sir Matthew Hale, the celebrated Lord Chief Justice,
bemoans the degeneracy of his own period. He says--

    “In former times the education and employment of young
    gentlewomen was religious, sober, and serious, their carriage
    modest, and creditable was their habit and dress. When they
    were young they learned to read and to sew; as they grew up
    they learned to spin, to knit, to make up their own garments;
    they learned what belonged to housewifery.... And now the world
    is altered; young gentlewomen learn to be bold, talk loud and
    more than comes to their share, think it disparagement for
    them to know what belongs to good housewifery or to practise
    it.... They know the ready way to consume an estate and to ruin
    a family quickly, but neither know nor can endure to learn or
    practise the ways and methods to save it or increase it; and it
    is no wonder that great portions are expected with them, for
    their portions are commonly all their value.... If a fit of
    reading come upon them, it is some romance, or play book, or
    love story; and if they have at any time a fit of using their
    needle, it is some such unprofitable or costly work that spends
    their friends or husbands more than it is worth when it is

Domestic life was changing, and the habits and customs of former times
were being modified. The simple ways of old did not suffice. There
were too many distractions, at least in London, for women to sit
down contentedly with the resources of their grandmothers. Among the
well-to-do country gentlemen it was becoming customary to bring their
families to London for the season, which was then the winter, and
this greatly altered the tone of domestic life. To women confined to
a country village with little change of scene or occupation, it meant
as much as the “grand tour” in the next century. A rebound naturally
followed the gloomy days of the Commonwealth, when--

    “there were no comedies or other diversions (which were
    forbidden not only as ungodly but for fear of drawing company
    or number together), and there was no business for any man that
    loved monarchy or the family of Stuart; so that the nobility
    and gentry lived most in the country.”

The Puritan movement retarded the intellectual advance of women. The
clearer thought which the Renaissance brought was obscured, the ideals
that were beginning to enlarge the purpose of life were narrowed, and
a check was put upon mental growth. As by the Roman Catholic Church
women were taught to submit their minds and consciences to the priest,
so under the sway of Puritanism they were taught that all nature’s
gifts to mind or body were so many snares, that true life consisted in
a crushing out of all aims and desires not connected with the saving
of the soul, a process that was apparently facilitated by a constant
contemplation of never-ending tortures supposed to be in reserve for
the greater portion of mankind.

With all its tyranny and its perverted teaching on the subject of
women’s position, the Roman Church was a great civilizing, educating
power, the only one for centuries. Puritanism was the reverse. It
aimed at undoing what had been accomplished, at checking progress. At
a time when the nation needed every stimulus that could be applied to
mental exertion, when political strife was choking the path of culture,
Puritanism stepped in with a denunciation of learning and art as perils
to humanity.

On the other hand, it must be remembered that Puritanism, with its
uncompromising treatment of vice, helped to raise the standard of
social purity and the ideal of womanhood. Like the fire which followed
the plague, Puritanism came as a great cleansing force. But, like the
fire, it destroyed while it purified. Under its teaching many attained
to a high ideal of life. Every religion has its saints, and the stress
and suffering of the age were calculated to bring out the qualities
that go to the making of heroes and martyrs. The Puritan maiden and
the Puritan wife stand for some of the noblest types of womanhood.

After the Restoration, the standard of living went up, and luxury
increased as the nation righted itself after the turmoil and loss
occasioned by war.

    “In 1688 there were on the ‘Change more men worth £10,000 than
    there were in 1650 worth £1000; that £500 with a daughter was,
    in the latter period, deemed a larger portion than £2000 in
    the former; that gentlewomen in those earlier times thought
    themselves well clothed in a serge gown which a chambermaid
    would, in 1688, be ashamed to be seen in; and that besides the
    great increase of rich clothes, plate, jewels, and household
    furniture, coaches were in that time augmented a hundredfold.”

In dealing with the position of women during this period, it has to be
taken into account that what would be called society was stamped with
the manners of the court of Charles II. The court party forgot its
former troubles and revelled in gaieties. The example was infectious,
and the general laxity and extravagance were so marked that even
the king himself referred to it in his speech at the close of the
Parliamentary Session of 1661-2.

    “I cannot but observe,” he said, “that the whole nation seems
    to be a little corrupted in their excess of living; sure all
    men spend much more in their clothes, in their diet, and all
    other expences than they have been used to do; I hope it
    has been only the excess of joy after so long suffering that
    has transported us to these other excesses, but let us take
    heed that the continuance of them does not indeed corrupt our
    natures. I do believe I have been faulty myself; I promise you
    I will reform, and if you will join with me in your several
    capacities, we shall by our example do more good both in city
    and country than any new laws would do.”

It was the reign of the senses. Beauty was the road to greatness
for women, and to beauty and wit all other qualities yielded. The
great ladies who stand out most prominently on the canvas are the
royal favourites, the exquisite frail beauties who dazzle the vision
and eclipse the women of sterner mould. Women forgot that they had
any other _rôle_ to play but one--that of syren. Those who had no
power to captivate dropped into the background, were pushed aside,
and forgotten. The greatest lady was she who could sell herself at
the highest price, whose charms drew the largest number of bidders.
What she gloried in was the rank and number of her lovers, and her
ambition was to flaunt her conquests in the eyes of other women. Lady
Castlemaine, Francis Stuart, Louise de Querouaille, and Nell Gwynn
of immortal memory, together with many others whose task was the
subjugation of man, represent the society of the Restoration period.

The disintegration of the times no doubt militated against high
ideals, although the Civil War itself gave rise to the display of
heroic virtues on the part of both men and women. The stern and awful
discipline of the sword, far from degrading, produced a nobler type of
womanhood. Through the trials entailed by ruined fortunes and blasted
careers, through the agonies of bereavement, women passed triumphant,
but they were not proof against the war of social forces. The conflict
of feeling between the opposing parties on other than State questions
sent both to extremes. The Royalists, in their hearty hatred of
austerity, rushed into a wild worship of the senses. The Puritans,
to express their horror of the worldliness of their foes, assumed
virtues they did not possess. It has been averred that if we study
the characters and lives of the great ladies of the Puritan party, we
shall find much laxity under the guise of strictness. It would not be
matter of surprise if, in some cases, this were so, though the bulk of
the party seem free from such a reproach. The general tone of society
was lowered from various causes. It is seen in everything, in the
literature, on the stage, in the habits of the day. The coarse tastes
of the upper classes show that the standard of public propriety was not
at all commensurate with the degree of enlightenment which that age
enjoyed. Wanting higher intellectual interests, women in fashionable
life filled up their time with cards and dice, and if they read
anything they read romances of very poor quality. This condition of
things continued through the century.

    “Were the men,” wrote Mary Astell in 1694, “as much neglected
    and as little care taken to cultivate and improve them, perhaps
    they would be so far from surpassing those whom they now
    despise, that they themselves would sink into the greatest
    stupidity and brutality. The preposterous returns that the most
    of them make to all the care that is bestow’d on them renders
    this no uncharitable nor improbable conjecture.”

John Evelyn speaks of great ladies suffering themselves to be treated
in taverns--

    “where a courtesan in other cities would scarcely vouchsafe to
    be entertain’d; but you will be more astonish’d when I shall
    assure you that they drink their crowned cups roundly, strain
    healths through their smocks, daunce after the fiddle, kiss
    freely and team it an honourable treat.”

And this, he goes on to say, was not confined to the lower or the more
“meretricious” circles, but was a common spectacle in good houses where
such sports were the afternoon diversion.

The following letter from that lively young lady of fashion, Bridget
Noel, to her sister, the Countess of Rutland, in April, 1687, shows
what sort of diversions occupied the aristocracy.

    “I am extreme sory it is not poseble for us to wat of my deare
    sister suner than the 28 of May, for hear is a coking and hors
    matches which we have promesed to be at. My Lord Toumand will
    be at the great coking, and Barney and Lord Grandson and a
    great many more lords that I doe not know ther name, it is sade
    hear that it will be as great a match as ever has been. Barney
    intends to back our coks with thousands, for he is of our
    side.... The great coking dos not begin tell the 29 and twenty
    of June, but we have a letel wan begins of Whesen Monday.”

In 1663, among the rules laid down for the behaviour of men who wish to
be considered well-bred, occurs the following recommendation--

    “It is not becoming a person of quality when in the company of
    ladies to handle them roughly ... to kiss them by surprize; to
    pull off their hoods; to snatch away their handkerchiefs; to
    rob them of their ribbands and put them in his hat; to force
    their letters or books from them; to look into their papers,
    etc. You must be very familiar to use them at that rate; and
    unless you be so nothing can be more indecent or render you
    more odious.”

Such admonitions now would be considered an impertinence if addressed
to a club of factory hands.

We must give the seventeenth century credit for introducing some
refinements which undoubtedly had an influence on the position of
women. Social customs are useful indices to national character, and
daily habits often give the key to the moral standard. As long as
coarse feeding and heavy drinking prevailed, there was a barrier to
social intercourse between the sexes. When the ale and wine, which had
been habitually drunk at every meal, were replaced by coffee and tea,
it was an undoubted gain to both health and manners. The taste became
more refined, repasts ceased to be orgies unfit for the presence of
women. John Evelyn considered the custom of gentlemen leaving ladies
to themselves after dinner, or rather of the ladies quitting the
gentlemen, as barbarous, and it certainly had its origin in barbarous
manners. He would doubtless have been astonished if he could have
foreseen that the custom continued in force for more than two hundred
years after his time, when regular drinking-bouts had ceased.

Evelyn’s complaint of the indelicacy of ladies speaking of gentlemen
by their Christian names is a little hypercritical. It was the manners
that needed alteration more than the speech. He is shocked to hear such
talk as--

    “Tom P. was here to-day. I went yesterday to the Cours with
    Will R., and Harry M. treated me at such a tavern.”

Surely what Evelyn calls, with a fine scorn, this “particular idiom”
and these “gracefull confidences” were not inconsistent with the
character of ladies who consented to be treated at taverns. De
Cominges, ambassador from France in the reign of Charles II., observes

    “excesses in taverns and brothels pass among people of note
    merely for gallantries, and even women of good condition do not
    refuse a gallant to accompany him to drink Spanish wine.”

It hardly becomes a Frenchman to comment on the coarseness of the
English, considering the licentiousness among his own people. In
France marriage was a constant subject of satire,[42] and much of the
profligacy of our court and society was due to French influence. The
French nobility hated the bourgeoisie, and could not forgive them for
their higher moral tone.[43]

The Puritans, in their war against vice, endeavoured to lay waste
the fields of culture and learning. Everything which ministered to
the pleasure of the senses they treated as a snare to be avoided.
The remedy which they applied to the ills of society was in itself a
disease. George Fox, declaiming against the schoolmistresses who teach
young women “to play of instruments and music of all kinds,” shows the
attitude of the Puritan party in the matter of ordinary education. A
catch, a song, or a dance, Fox looked upon as destructive of modesty,
things leading to wantonness, and only fitted “for them that live in
the lusts of the world.” It was little wonder that, with learning
at a discount and accomplishments denounced as sinful, women became
frivolous and narrow. The light-hearted, in rebellion against the
austerities of their Puritan neighbours, plunged into excesses, and the
more serious subsided into a round of domestic drudgery.

To men of the old order the times seemed sadly out of joint.

    “All relations were confounded by the _several sects in
    religion_ which discountenanced all forms of reverence and
    respect as reliques and marks of superstition. Children asked
    not blessing of their parents; nor did they concern themselves
    in the education of their children, but were well content that
    they should take any course to maintain themselves that they
    might be free from that expense. The young women conversed
    without any circumspection or modesty, and frequently met at
    taverns and common eating houses; and 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.”[44]

The loss of property occasioned by the Civil War caused great domestic
upheavals. Many a family was brought to the brink of ruin. It was
then that the women bestirred themselves. The daughters of men whose
estates had been confiscated, the wives who had brought their husbands
dowers, finding themselves denuded, made strenuous efforts to recover
their possessions, in the absence through death or enforced exile of
their male protectors. The Duchess of Newcastle, who was herself a
sufferer,[45] looked with grave disapprobation upon the more energetic
of her sex at this juncture. She complains that--

    “women become pleaders, attornies, petitioners and the like,
    running about with their several causes, complaining of their
    several grievances, exclaiming against their several enemies,
    bragging of their several favours they receive from the
    powerful; thus trafficing with idle words, bringing in false
    reports and vain discourse.”

There were, of course, pretenders among the numerous claimants, people
who, as the duchess avers, “made it their trade to solicit.”

As a rule, however, women in everyday life were secluded from the
bustle of public affairs. According to Walpole, after the Restoration,
the really respectable, well-conducted members of the female sex
were neither seen nor heard outside their own home circle. That they
led very dull lives seems pretty obvious, for they had neither the
resources of learning and culture nor the distractions of society. But
they enjoyed more personal freedom than women on the Continent. The
Prince of Tuscany, who visited England, observes of the women--

    “They live with all the liberty that the custom of the country
    authorizes. This custom dispenses with that rigorous constraint
    and reservedness which are practised by the women of other
    countries, and they go whithersoever they please, either alone
    or in company.”

Gentlewomen of good position were accustomed, in the seventeenth
century, to live in a simple way, within the four walls of their home,
occupied with domestic affairs. The wife of Sir John Coke, who was
Secretary of State in the reign of Charles I., when she writes to her
husband from the country, discourses to him of the children and of the
needlework she is doing for the baby in homely fashion, and thanks
him for sending her a new gown and hat, as if she were unused to fine
clothes. Lady Anne Halkett, who played a notable part in the political
troubles of her day, lived a quiet life enough when public affairs did
not demand her attention, and spent her time like any good housewife.
She was fond of gathering herbs and compounding powders and conserves
for the sick poor.

    “She was ever imployed either in doing or reaping good: in the
    summer season she vyed with the bee or ant, in gathering herbs,
    flowers, worms, snails, etc., for the still or limbeck, for the
    mortar or boyling pan, etc., and was ordinarily then in a dress
    fitted for her still-house; making preparations of extracted
    waters, spirits, ointments, conserves, salves, powders, etc.,
    which she ministred every Wednesday to a multitude of poor
    infirm persons, besides what she dayly sent abroad to persons
    of all ranks who consulted her in their maladies.”

Mary Astell, however, who was so anxious about the intellectual
advancement of her sex, blames Englishwomen for not excelling in the
domestic talents, and upholds the example of the Dutch women, who, she
says, not only manage all the household affairs, but--

    “keep the books, balance the accounts, and do all the business
    with as much dexterity and exactness as their own or our men
    can do.”

Englishwomen could certainly not have coped with accounts if their
arithmetic were on a par with their spelling. But they appear to have
had complete control over domestic matters, or at least to have
impressed foreigners with that belief.

    “So great,” wrote one visitor, “is the respect which the
    English entertain for their women, that in their houses the
    latter govern everything despotically, making themselves feared
    by the men, courageous as they are on other occasions.”

In the opinion of a contemporary English writer,[46] husbands were by
no means free agents--

    “There is also the want of halfe a man’s liberty in marriage;
    for he is not absolutely himselfe, though many believe when
    they are going to Church upon their wedding day they are going
    into the land of liberty.... For my part I am not married; if I
    were I should finde my wings clipt and the collar too streight
    for my neck.”



  The city dames during the Civil War--They petition Parliament
      for peace--Reception of the petition--The military called
      out--Petition from tradesmen’s wives for redress of
      grievances--Pym’s reply--Women’s memorial to Cromwell
      against imprisonment for debt--Sufferers during the Monmouth
      Rebellion--Petition against Judge Jeffreys--Hannah Hewling
      petitions the king.

While the war was proceeding between Charles I. and the Parliament,
there was a good deal of agitation among the City dames, who, though
not obliged to stand siege and battery, were deeply interested in the
issues of the struggle. As members of the commercial classes, the
disastrous effects of a civil war appealed to them with peculiar force.
They lamented the destruction of property as well as the loss of life,
the stoppage of trade, and the general dislocation of society. And as
women of great earnestness in religion, they conceived a horror of this
slaughter among men of the same nation--indeed, of the same kindred. At
length they could bear it no longer. They resolved to put forth some
protest. In the year 1643 came their opportunity.

The City of London had just been petitioning the Commons against the
propositions for peace which had been under consideration in the House
of Lords. Their lordships were very anxious to stop the desolation
caused by the war, and framed some propositions to the king, which they
ordered that the Speaker should introduce to the Commons. There was
a very hot debate on these propositions, and the aldermen and common
council, greatly incensed at the idea of any accommodation which they
feared would be destructive, as they expressed it, of their “religion,
laws, and liberties,” promised help for the continuance of hostilities
if the Parliament would stand firm and reject all overtures. The House
of Commons were so worked upon by this petition, that they returned
their hearty thanks to the City and stopped all further negotiations.
Thereupon the London citizenesses bestirred themselves, and, with white
silk ribbons in their hats, repaired in great numbers to the House of
Commons with a counter petition in favour of peace. The petition is
described as that of “many civilly disposed women inhabiting the cities
of London, Westminster, and the parts adjacent.” It ran thus--

    “That your petitioners, though of the weaker sex, do too
    sensibly perceive the ensuing desolation of this kingdom unless
    by some timely means your honours provide for the speedy
    recovery thereof. Your honours are the physicians that can by
    God’s special and miraculous blessing (which we humbly implore)
    restore this languishing nation, and our bleeding sister the
    kingdom of Ireland, which hath now almost breathed her last
    gasp. We need not dictate to your eagle eyed judgments the
    way; our only desire is that God’s glory in the true Reformed
    Protestant Religion may be preserved; the just prerogatives
    and privileges of king and parliament maintained; the true
    liberties and properties of the subject, according to the
    known laws of the land, restored; and all honourable ways and
    means for a speedy peace endeavoured. May it therefore please
    your honours that some speedy course may be taken for the
    settlement of the true Reformed Protestant Religion for the
    glory of God and the renovation of trade for the benefit of the
    subject, they being the soul and body of the kingdom. And your
    petitioners with many millions of afflicted souls, groaning
    under the burden of these times of distresses, shall (as bound)
    pray, etc.”

Rushworth, in his “Historical Collections,” gives a graphic account of
the presentation of this petition. He says it was brought up by “two
or three thousand women, but generally of the meanest sort;” that the
House sent out a deputation of three or four members with the answer
that they were--

    “no ways enemies to peace, and that they did not doubt in a
    short time to answer the ends of their petition, and desired
    them to return to their habitations. But the women, not
    satisfied, remain’d thereabouts; and by noon were encreased
    to 5000 at the least; and some men of the rabble in womens
    cloaths mixt themselves amongst them, and instigated them to go
    on to the Commons door and cry ‘Peace, Peace,’ which they did
    accordingly, thrusting to the door of the House at the upper
    stairs head; and as soon as they were pass’d, a part of the
    Trained Band (that usually stood sentinel there) thrust the
    soldiers down and would suffer none to come in or go out of
    the House for near two hours. The Trained Band advised them to
    come down, and first pulled them; and afterwards to fright them
    shot powder. But they cry’d out, nothing but powder; and having
    brickbats in the yard, threw them apace at the Trained Band,
    who then shot bullets, and killed a ballad singer with one arm,
    that was heartning on the women, and another poor man that came
    accidentally. Yet the women not daunted, cry’d out the louder
    at the door of the House of Commons, ‘Give us these traitors
    that are against peace that we may tear them to pieces, give
    us that dog Pym.’ At last ten of Waller’s troopers (some of
    them cornets) having his colours in their hats, came to pass
    by the women, who would needs have the soldiers colours out of
    their hats, and took away the ribbons from two of them, and
    call’d them Waller’s dogs. Whereupon they drew their swords,
    and laid on some of them flatways, but seeing that would not
    keep them off at last cut them over the hands and faces, and
    one woman lost her nose; whereof ’twas reported, she afterwards
    died. As soon as the rest of the women saw blood drawn they
    ran away from the Parliament House, and scatter’d themselves
    in the Church-yard, the palace yard, and places adjacent. And
    about an hour after the House was up, a troop of horse came
    and cudgell’d such as staid with their canes and dispersed
    them. But unhappily, a maid-servant that had nothing to do in
    the tumult, was shot as she pass’d over the church-yard. The
    trooper that did it was sent to the Gate House, in order to his
    trial for her death; but he alledged his pistol went off by
    mischance. Serjeant Francis and one Mr. Pulsford were committed
    for encouraging this Female Riot.”

When the “Saints” plundered the Royalists of their possessions, the
women of the despoiled families went in person to the Committee of
Sequestration sitting in Goldsmiths’ Hall, to try and recover some of
their property. Mothers leading their children, some of them widows,
thronged the hall daily.

  “The gentry are sequestered all;
   Our wives you find at Goldsmiths’ Hall,
   For there they met with the devil and all.”[47]

In the first year of the Protectorate there was a petition presented to
the Commons by tradesmen’s wives, praying for a redress of grievances.
They assembled in great crowds before the doors of the House, and
the commander of the guard, Serjeant-Major Skippon, aghast at the
increasing numbers, asked the House what he was to do, for the women
had told him--

    “that where there was one now there would be five hundred the
    next day, and that it was as good for them to die here as at

The major was told to use fair words and persuade them to go away, but
down they came, as they had threatened, the next day, with a petition
described as that of the--

    “Gentlewomen, Tradesmen’s wives, and many others of the female
    sex, all inhabitants of the City of London and the Suburbs

The phraseology of the petition, as well as the substance, shows the
Puritan character of the petitioners.

The grievances which these tradesmen’s wives were so earnest to get
removed had nothing to do with duties levied on merchandize, or any
other of the hardships of which traders were wont to complain, such as
the importation of foreign goods and the presence of foreign artisans
and merchants. This petition was inspired by dread of the Papists,
lest they should commit in England the “insolencies, savage usage, and
unheard of rapes” which they had been committing upon women in Ireland.

    “And have we not just cause to fear,” urged the petitioners,
    “that they will prove the forerunners of our ruin, except
    Almighty God, by the wisdom and care of this Parliament, be
    pleased to succour us, our husbands and children, which are as
    dear and tender to us as the lives and blood of our hearts;
    to see them murdered and mangled and cut in pieces before our
    eyes; to see our children dashed against the stones, and the
    mothers’ milk mingled with the infants’ blood, running down the
    streets; to see our houses on flaming fire over our heads....
    Thousands of our friends have been compelled to fly from
    episcopal persecutions into desert places among wild beasts.”

After further denunciations of the Papists, the petitioners proceed--

    “The remembrance of all these fearful accidents do strongly
    move us, from the example of the Women of Tekoah, to fall
    submissively at the feet of his Majesty our dread Sovereign,
    and cry, ‘Help, O King! Help ye the noble worthies now sitting
    in Parliament.’”

It seems unnecessary to apologize for presenting such a memorial, but
the petitioners thought otherwise, and gave as one of their reasons
that “women are sharers in the calamities that accompany both Church
and Commonwealth.”

The petition was presented by Mrs. Anne Stagg, a brewer’s wife, in
company with others of similar rank.

Pym was chosen as spokesman by the Commons, and, going to the door of
the House, addressed the petitioners--

    “Good women, your Petition with the reasons hath been read in
    the House and is thankfully accepted of, and is come in a
    seasonable time. You will, God willing, receive from us all the
    satisfaction which we can possibly give to your just and lawful
    desires. We intreat you, therefore, to repair to your houses
    and turn your petition which you have delivered here into
    prayers at home for us, for we have been and are and shall be,
    to our utmost power, ready to relieve you, your husbands and
    children, and to perform the trust committed unto us, towards
    God, our king and country, as becometh faithful Christian and
    loyal subjects.”

Although there was no longer a king upon the throne, Pym speaks as if
he still had a sovereign to whom he owed obedience.

A few years later, in October, 1651, the women are petitioning the
government again, but with a very different object. It is a memorial to
Cromwell against imprisonment for debt, a grievance not to be remedied
for many a year. The petition sets forth--

    “That the Norman yoke of bondage and oppression is still
    continued upon this nation by the impious, oppressive,
    delatory, and most chargeable practice of the law, and
    destructive imprisonment of men and women for debt in the
    several prisons, goals, counters, holes, and dungeons of
    cruelty in this land.”

The petitioners complain that the Act for the relief of poor debtors is
no benefit, and--

    “that the present intricate, delatory, chargeable, oppressive,
    endless practise of the Law, is become an abettor,
    encouragement and prop to all oppressors and defrauders,
    and an Egyptian reed and discouragement to most men, but in
    especial to all the poor who thereby are utterly disabled
    and disheartened from suing for their debts, rights, and
    inheritances, violently held from them by the rich and mighty.
    And if at any time (by the law) their debts and rights are
    seemingly recovered, yet then their able debtors have freedom
    (by the law and strength of their purses) to vacate judgements
    to arrest and imprison poor creditors upon false and strained
    actions (for many years) thereby enforcing some of them to
    compound with them at their own rates; others of them to perish
    miserably in goals, and so to lose both their debts and lives;
    whereby their wives and children are exposed to unexpressible
    misery; besides the many other unexpressible oppressions daylie
    practised by the rich and mighty on poor and simple hearted men
    and women in this land by sons of Belial.”

Cromwell is exhorted to act as “a faithful Joshua with the zeal of
Nehemiah,” and the petition proceeds--

    “The premisses piously considered, and for that the other
    weighty affairs of this land will not permit the speedy
    accomplishment of these particulars (by your Excellency)
    as your petitioners humbly conceive, in gaining a new
    representative; from which lawyers, and all ill-affected
    persons to be excluded. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray
    that in the meantime there may be such a course established as
    that the poor may by some easie and speedy way reap the fruit
    of justice.”

It has been said that “women have not suffycent understanding for
to lerne the lawes;” but, as the old writer who commented on this
statement observed, “the contrary is made open by experyence.”
Certainly the Puritan dames of the seventeenth century had “suffycent
understanding” to realize the defects and hardships of the laws.

The fearful suffering caused to the inhabitants of the western counties
after Monmouth’s rebellion by that incarnation of cruelty, Judge
Jeffreys, brought forth a women’s petition of another kind. It is
styled “The Humble Petition of the Widows and Fatherless Children in
the West of England,” and begins--

    “We to the number of a thousand and more, widows and fatherless
    children, of the counties of Dorset, Somerset and Devon, our
    dear husbands and tender fathers having been so tyrannously
    butcher’d and some transported, our estates sold from us, and
    our inheritance cut off by the severe and harsh sentence of
    George Lord Jeffreys, now we understand in the Tower of London
    a prisoner, who has lately, we hear, endeavoured to excuse
    himself from those tyrannical and illegal sentences by laying
    it on information by some gentlemen who are known to us to be
    good Christians, true Protestants and Englishmen. We your poor
    petitioners, many hundreds of us, on our knees have begg’d
    mercy for our dear husbands and tender parents, from his cruel
    hands, but his thirst for blood was so great and his barbarism
    so cruel that instead of granting mercy to some which were
    made to appear innocent and petitioned for by the flower of
    the gentry of the said counties, he immediately caus’d them to
    be executed.... These with many hundred more tyrannical acts
    are ready to be made appear in the said counties by honest
    and credible persons; and therefore your Petitioners desire
    that the said Lord Jeffreys, late Lord Chancellor, the vilest
    of men, may be brought down to the Counties aforesaid, where
    we the good women in the West, shall be glad to see him; and
    give him another manner of welcome than he had there years

Hannah Hewling, who married Major Henry Cromwell, grandson of Oliver
Cromwell, played a notable part during the terrible period following
the Monmouth Rebellion. Both her brothers, Benjamin and William, were
implicated and condemned to death. Hannah, who was at that time a
young, unmarried girl, waylaid Judge Jeffreys in his coach, beseeching
him to stay the sentence.

    “The merciless judge, to make her let go, caus’d the coachman
    to cut her hands and fingers with the lash of his whip. Nor
    would he allow the respite of the execution but for two days,
    tho’ the sister, with tears in her eyes, offered a hundred
    pounds for so small a favour.”

Hannah also vainly interceded with the king, James II. Lord Churchill,
by whom she was introduced, warned her of the king’s obstinacy.

    “Madam,” said he, “hearty as my wishes are that you may obtain
    what you want, I dare not flatter you with any such hope, for
    that marble (laying his hand on the chimneypiece at which he
    was standing) is as capable of feeling compassion as the King’s

After her marriage Hannah exercised a great deal of influence in the
Cromwell family. She was of a strong Evangelical cast of mind and
a Dissenter. Through her the Dowager Lady Cromwell was induced to
substitute a Baptist minister for the Anglican clergyman she had been
accustomed to have about her as chaplain.

Divers have been the parts which women of the middle classes have
played in politics in days gone by. Even when it was a part involving
a good deal of publicity they did not shrink, and their practical
common sense was unclouded by any sentimental haze of doubt as to
their “proper sphere.” Everything that concerned their families or
the commonweal they felt to be within their sphere, and they did not
conceive the idea that politics were the concern of one sex alone. That
complex creation of to-day, the “New Woman,” to whom is ascribed, among
other things, an unfeminine taste for politics, is not so modern after
all. History is repeating itself, and the progenitors of the political
woman are to be found far back in the days of the Lancastrians.



  Nature of the struggle--Position of Queen Henrietta Maria--Activity
      of women on both sides--Mrs. Hutchinson at Nottingham--Defence of
      Lathom House by the Countess of Derby--Lady Arundel at Wardour
      Castle--Lady Bankes besieged in Corfe Castle--Lady Lettice
      Digby defends Greashill Castle--Lady Fanshawe’s visits to her
      husband in prison--Experiences of a gentlewoman in the West of
      England--Lady Musgrave and the Parliament--Lady Halkett assists
      the Duke of York to escape--Lady Rochester and the elections--The
      Jacobite rising--Flora McDonald.

The great constitutional struggle of the seventeenth century was a
struggle in which the whole nation was engaged. Every move on either
side sent a thrill of hope or fear, of joy or indignation, throughout
the kingdom. The brave defence of castle and home by the women, the
patient endurance of hardship, the courage in presence of danger,
the quick wit which could avert misfortune, make the Civil War of
the seventeenth century peculiarly rich in striking incident. Every
family of importance was ranged on one side or the other, and many
a one that could lay claim to no special distinction acquired fame
during the struggle, while a fierce additional interest was lent by
the religious element. All classes, in fact, were affected. None could
stand aloof. The civil war became not only a national but also a
domestic question, a matter of the deepest personal concern to hundreds
who had no interest in statecraft. It was remarkable for the absence of
any foreign element. The contest lay between King and people, or rather
between royal prerogative and the liberty of the subject. The Queen
herself, Henrietta of Nance, though as a Roman Catholic she was the
source of contention, played but an insignificant part in the war. She
had not the spirit of Margaret of Anjou, and, on account of her alien
creed, commanded the sympathies of neither side. The Queen never formed
a party strong enough to change the current of events. She was one of
the _dramatis personæ_ in the great tragedy, but not a leading actor.
It was a people’s war. The influence of foreign allies, the factions
of court favourites, were as nothing. In former periods when civil war
had raged, the flame had been kindled and fed by disputes for power
among sovereigns and princes; the struggle had always assumed something
of an imperial character. In the seventeenth century it was a purely
internal dissension. Hence the overwhelming interest felt in the
struggle by both women as well as men, of all classes.

Women both on the Royalist and the Puritan side were in the thick of
the fray, sometimes actually taking part in the fight, as in the case
of the Countess of Derby, whose defence of Lathom House against the
Parliamentarians is among the most noted incidents of the war; or like
Lucy Hutchinson, playing an equally important _rôle_ in attending to
the wounded. Mrs. Hutchinson, strong Puritan as she was, regarded
Cromwell as a usurper and a despot, though she admitted his greatness,
and his family excited her scorn and derision.

    “His wife and children were setting up for principality which
    suited no better with any of them than scarlet on the ape; only
    to speak the truth of himself, he had much natural greatness
    and well became the place he had usurped.”

Lucy Hutchinson’s father, Sir Allen Aspley, was governor of the Tower
during the time of Sir Walter Raleigh’s imprisonment. Her mother was
in the habit of visiting Sir Walter, and helping him with the chemical
experiments with which he wiled away the hours when not engaged in
writing his “History of the World.” It has been suggested that Mrs.
Hutchinson obtained from her mother some knowledge of the properties of
medicine, for during the siege of Nottingham she proved most helpful
in dressing the soldiers’ wounds, and her plasters and balsams were
found most efficacious even in dangerous cases. Mrs. Hutchinson was not
the only member of her sex who proved herself able and ready for action
in the city of Nottingham. After the siege was practically over, and
the royalist forces had departed, the town was constantly being fired.
Thereupon the women banded themselves together, and in parties of fifty
patrolled the streets every night.

Mrs. Hutchinson was of great service, at the beginning of 1660, in
assisting to quell the disturbances which arose over the elections.
There was a strong party in the city for the King, and much ill feeling
aroused between the townsmen and the soldiers of the Commonwealth. Just
as matters were coming to a crisis and the soldiers were preparing to
take vengeance on the citizens, Mrs. Hutchinson opportunely arrived--

    “and being acquainted with the captaines perswaded them to doe
    nothing in a tumultuary way, however provok’d, but to complain
    to the generall, and lett him decide the businesse. The men,
    att her entreaty, were content so to doe, the townsmen alsoe
    consenting to restreine their children and servants and keepe
    the publick peace.”

It was in the year 1643 that the Countess of Derby began her memorable
defence of Lathom House. The Countess was a Frenchwoman, a daughter of
the Duc de Tremouille, and a descendant of Count William of Nassau.
Negotiations began in May with a summons from Mr. Holland, Governor
of Manchester, to Lady Derby to subscribe to the propositions of the
Parliament or yield up Lathom House. The Earl was then away, fighting
for the King. Her ladyship refused either to subscribe or to give up
her house.

    “From this time she endured a continual siege, being, with the
    exception of the gardens and walks, confined as a prisoner
    within her own walls, with the liberty of the castle-yard,
    suffering the sequestration of the whole estate, besides daily
    affronts and indignities from unworthy persons.”

The Countess was very circumspect, putting a restraint upon her
soldiers, and giving no provocation to her foes, “and so by her wisdom
kept them at a more favourable distance for the space of almost a whole

In the following February Sir Thomas Fairfax wrote demanding surrender,
to which the Countess replied that--

    “she much wondered that Sir Thomas Fairfax should require her
    to give up her lord’s house without any offence on her part
    done to the Parliament, desiring that in a business of such
    weight which struck both at her religion and at her life, and
    that so nearly concerned her sovereign, her lord, and her whole
    posterity, she might have a week’s consideration.”

The Parliamentarian general then proposed a conference at a house
about a quarter of a mile distant from Lathom House, but the Countess
refused with dignity, saying she conceived it “more knightly that Sir
Thomas Fairfax should wait upon her than she upon him.” After further
parleyings with Parliamentarians, she finally sent the following
spirited message:--

    “That she refused all their articles, and was truly happy
    that they had refused hers, protesting she had rather hazard
    her life than offer the like again. 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
    both for protection and deliverance.”

The siege thereupon commenced, and was carried on in a desultory
fashion by Sir Thomas Fairfax, who, after six or seven weeks, resigned
his post to Colonel Rigby of Preston. The Countess commanded her
troops, numbering three hundred soldiers, in person. The besiegers
amounted to between two and three thousand men, of whom they lost five
hundred, while the Countess lost only six during the whole period, two
of those being killed by their own negligence.

After manufacturing a number of grenadoes, the Colonel sent a very
peremptory message to the Countess demanding that Lathom House should
be surrendered. Lady Derby received the message surrounded by her
troops. She tore up the paper, and, turning to the messenger, said--

    “Tell that insolent rebel [Rigby] he shall neither have person,
    goods, nor house; when our strength of provisions are spent, we
    shall find a fire more merciful than Rigby’s, and then, if the
    providence of God prevent it not, my goods and house shall burn
    in his sight; and myself, children, and soldiers, rather than
    fall into his hands, will seal our religion and loyalty in the
    same flame.”

The Countess followed up her words with deeds, and at four o’clock
the next morning caused a sally to be made, whereby her soldiers got
possession of the ditch and rampart, and of a very destructive mortar
piece which had been pouring forth grenadoes from its mouth on to the
besieged. Rigby wrote to the deputy-lieutenants of Lancashire begging
for assistance. “The length of the siege,” he complained, “and the hard
duties have wearied all soldiers.” As for himself, he says, “I almost
languish under the burden, having toiled above my strength.” However,
nobody had time to attend to Rigby’s complaints, and after a few more
weeks he raised the siege. Help was now coming to the beleaguered
garrison. The Earl of Derby and Prince Rupert were on their way, and
Rigby, in his endeavours to escape the Royalist forces, was surprised
and badly beaten just as he had reached the town of Bolton.

    “In this memorable action the Countess was amply revenged.
    The Earl of Derby took the first colour that fell before the
    Royalists, and with his own hand cut down a man who had once
    been his servant, but who had deserted with the intention of
    betraying his mistress in the time of her greatest peril.”

Another memorable siege in 1643 was that of Wardour Castle in
Wiltshire, the family seat of Lord Arundel. The Parliamentarians seized
the opportunity when Lord Arundel was engaged in the king’s service
at Oxford to besiege the castle. They came with a supposed warrant to
seize certain plate, money, and arms. Lady Blanche Arundel, though
she had only a handful of men--twenty-five, it is said--to oppose the
thirteen hundred soldiers mustered under Sir Edward Hungerford and
Colonel Strode, bravely refused to yield to the demand that she should
surrender the castle, saying “she had a command from her lord to keep
it, and she would obey his command.” Cannon were brought up within
musket-shot, and the battery continued from Wednesday to the following
Monday. Two mines were sprung in a vault through which food was
conveyed. One of these mines, being connected by passages with several
parts of the castle, did much damage.

Sir Edward Hungerford again and again offered to grant quarter to the
women and children if the castle were surrendered, but the offer was
contemptuously refused, the women bravely resolving to die beside the
men rather than live on dishonourable terms. The female servants were
very useful in reloading muskets and bringing food to the soldiers.

But at length the besieged became worn out with the strain. Food was
short, and they got no rest night or day. The soldiers were so faint
and weary they could scarcely wield their arms.

    “It might have been a doubt which they would have first loaded
    their muskets withal, either powder before bullet or bullet
    before powder, had not the maid servants (valiant beyond their
    sex) assisted them and done that service for them. Lastly, now
    when the rebels had brought petarrs and applied them to the
    garden door (which if forced opened a free passage into the
    castle), and balls of wild fire to show in at their windows,
    and all hope of keeping the castle was taken away; now, and not
    till now, did the besieged sound a parley.”

This was after the siege had lasted nine days. Five van-loads of costly
furniture were carried off by the Parliamentarians, who plundered and
destroyed as much as £100,000 worth of property. The women and children
were carried off prisoners to Shaftesbury.

Corfe Castle, Dorsetshire, was bravely held for the Royalists in 1643
by Lady Mary Bankes, wife of the Lord Chief Justice of the Common
Pleas, “to her eternall honour be it spoken, with her daughters, women
and five soldiers.” Being so short of men and arms, the besieged had
recourse to stones and hot embers. These missiles they cast over the
walls, which the foe were attempting to scale, and greatly diminished
the strength of the attack. The siege lasted six weeks, and the
leader of the Parliamentarian army was so dispirited that when the
news arrived that a party of Royalists were advancing to relieve the
castle, he took flight. The next in command, not being disposed to
try conclusions with a fresh force, did not even wait to collect his
artillery and ammunition, but slipped away at night in a boat. Among
other booty he left behind about a hundred horses.

A distinguished Irish lady, Lettice Digby, Baroness of Offaley,
displayed marvellous courage during the troubles of 1641, when the
Irish rebels stormed her castle of Greashill, in King’s County.
Although she was upwards of sixty years of age, she undertook the
defence of her home with great vigour. The castle stood in the midst
of bogs and woods, and Lady Lettice, relying on the security of her
position, closed the gates and refused to listen to any terms for
surrender. She was at length relieved by Viscount Lisle and Sir Charles
Cook, and, having been supplied with food and firearms, she resolved
not to leave the castle, but to take the risk of another assault. This
occurred soon after, and on this second occasion Sir Richard Grenville
came to her aid. Apparently this valorous lady was then induced to
change her quarters. She died in 1658, at Cobs Hill, Warwickshire, one
of her estates.

Lady Fanshawe, whose father was an ardent Royalist, endured a good
deal both before and after her marriage, which took place in 1644. Sir
Richard Fanshawe, who was a connection on her mother’s side, held the
post of Secretary of War to the Prince of Wales, and was taken prisoner
at the battle of Worcester.

    “During the time of his imprisonment,” writes Lady Fanshawe
    in the “Memoirs” she compiled for her children, “I failed not
    constantly to go when the clock struck four in the morning,
    with a dark lantern in my hand, all alone and on foot, from my
    lodgings in Chancery-lane, at my cousin Youngs, to Whitehall,
    in at the entry that went out of King-street into the
    Bowling-green. There I would go under his window and softly
    call him; he, after the first time excepted, never failed to
    put out his head at the first call: thus we talked together,
    and sometimes I was so wet with the rain that it went in at my
    neck and out at my heels. He directed me how I should make my
    addresses, which I did ever to their General Cromwell, who had
    a great respect for your father, and would have bought him off
    to his service upon any terms.”

After great exertions, she succeeded in getting her husband released on

While in Ireland Lady Fanshawe displayed great courage. She was in
Cork with her children, her husband being engaged elsewhere, during
the revolt of 1649. The city was in the hands of Cromwell’s army, but
“through thousands of naked swords” she conveyed her children and her
maids to a place of safety.

During the war women as well as men were called upon to contribute
money and arms to the Commonwealth. A letter from Cromwell himself was
addressed from Huntingdon, August 2, 1643, “to the Bachelors and Maids.”

    “I understand,” he wrote, “by these gentlemen, the good
    affection of your young men and maids, for which God is to be
    praised. I approve of the business, only I desire to advise you
    that your foot company may be turned into a troop of horse,
    which indeed will (by God’s blessing) far more advantage the
    cause than two or three companies of foot, especially if your
    men be honest, godly men, which by all means I desire. I thank
    God for stirring up the youth to cast in their mite, which I
    desire may be employed to the best advantage; therefore my
    advice is, that you would employ your twelve-score pounds to
    buy my pistols and saddles, and I will provide four-score
    horses; for £400 more will not raise a troop of horse.”

A typical instance of the straits to which gentlewomen were reduced,
and the hardships and injuries which they suffered, may be found in the
case of Mistress Joyce Jefferies, a maiden lady of good birth and some
fortune, living on her own property in the thoroughly Royalist city of
Hereford, which went through many vicissitudes during the Civil War. In
1638 Mistress Jefferies was called upon for ship money. This she paid,
and also provided one soldier in respect of her farm and one for her
other property in Hereford when the Trained Bands were called out. The
ancestral armour which hung rusting on her walls she had taken down and
cleaned ready for use. Up to the year 1642 Mistress Jefferies was able
to remain unmolested in her own house, but in September of that year
the Earl of Essex was advancing rapidly westward and took possession
of the city of Worcester. It was felt that Hereford was no longer a
safe place for Royalists, so, packing up some furniture and clothes,
Mistress Jefferies got into her carriage and drove away.

    “I came,” she writes in her diary or account-book, “to
    Kilkinton, to my cosin penreeses house from heriford for feare
    of ye parliaments army, September 23^d, 1642. The 27 I came
    from thence to Mr. Geeres at Garnons.”

She contrived to have some of her possessions sent after her, for there
are records of payment to different carriers--

    “Paid Edward Parsons of heryford for helpping to carry my goods
    out of my howse in heriford to the cart that brought hit to
    Kilkinton, for feare of ye coming of ye parliaments army from
    Worcester to heriford 1^s. Gave another man for helpping in
    the same work 3^d. Paid Edward Stefens, Carier, for cariing a
    way my trunks and boxes and bedding from heriford to Kilkinton

She saved some things by hiding them in the coal cellar, for she notes
down that she paid fourpence to a “carpinder to pass my standard powles
in ye cole house when the souldiers would had them barricade Widmarsh
Gate.” She did not get away much too soon, for she writes--

    “Friday the 30. The Parliaments Army cam to herifford frõ
    Worster, Henry Gray, Earle of Stamford, ye Generall. On
    Tewsday morning October 4 captain Hamon and his barons company
    plundered Mr. Geereses house at Garnons, both them and me of
    much Goods, toke a way my 2 bay coache mares and som money,
    and much Linen: and Elyza Acton’s clothes. I cam frõ Garnons
    ye same Tewsday to Mr. John Garpinder’s to Hinton, a mile off,
    and staied there till the 14 of December following.”

From place to place this good lady went seeking safety. She was reduced
to having her clothes hidden in different places.

    “January 7 feare of ye plunderers gave goody Lawrence for
    keeping clothes of myne and Eliza Actons (a young lady who
    lived with her) in ye hill for feare 1^s.”

When she could not save her apparel from falling into the enemy’s
hands, she managed sometimes to redeem it, as in the following case:--

    “Paid Mathias Rafford w^{ch} he laid out to redeeme my 2 black
    bever Hatts, and 2 gould bands out of ye theefes or plunderers
    hand, they took at Garnons 21/6.”

Soldiers had meantime been quartered in her house in Hereford, where
she had left her maidservants, and whither Miss Eliza Acton seems
to have gone from time to time to keep things in order. When the
Royalists triumphed and established a garrison in the city, Mistress
Jefferies paid her quota for the support of the soldiers. She was one
of the richest householders in the city. The victory of the Royalists
was short-lived, for in 1643 Hereford was again besieged by the
Parliamentary forces. So things went on for a couple of years, and
Mistress Jefferies had to consent to see her comfortable house in the
outskirts of the city razed to the ground to make room for military
operations when another siege was expected. Far from grumbling at her
own misfortunes, she was always ready to lend a helping hand to her
neighbours. The income derived from her estates was seized by those
other “plunderers,” the Parliamentary Committee, who doled out to her
some portion of her own property, imposing fines simply because she was
a Royalist.

A distant relative of Mistress Jefferies was reduced to the most abject
poverty during this period. This was a Mrs. Conyngesby, whose husband
was sheriff of the county of Hereford, and also the owner of Hampton
Court. Before the war broke out he had been burdened with debts, and
during the early years of the Commonwealth, while he was absent from
England, his family were reduced almost to beggary. Mrs. Conyngesby
was constantly besieging the authorities who received petitions in
Goldsmiths’ Hall, begging for one-fifth part of her husband’s estates,
for her children were wanting food. These kinds of petitions were
continually pouring in at Goldsmiths’ Hall, and though orders were
given for money to be paid, much laxity was shown in the execution,
and the wretched petitioners were kept for weary months in suspense and
privation, and deemed themselves fortunate if they secured anything
from the general wreck.

A foremost figure in the troubles going on in Ireland while war was
raging in England was Lady Ranelagh, daughter of the first Earl of
Cork. Through her persuasions her husband was induced to change sides
and come over from the King to the Parliament. He became a genuine
supporter of Cromwell, giving up to the common cause five castles, and
also aiding the Parliamentary forces with men and arms. His family
were, in consequence, reduced to great straits, and in 1646 Lady
Ranelagh petitioned Parliament for some support. The sum of £6 a-week
was allowed her for four years, and after this she had £4 a-week up to
1653. In spite of her anti-Stuart feelings, she was a good friend to
those of the other side who were in distress. The eldest son of Lord
Clarendon, who, after the Revolution, was involved in a plot for the
restoration of James II., owed much to her good offices, as did also
the second son who proclaimed himself in favour of the hereditary line
of sovereigns, and was in danger of losing his government pension.
Through Lady Ranelagh’s friendship with Bishop Burnet, who used his
good offices with the Queen, the offence was passed over. Lady
Ranelagh, on the other hand, made efforts to save the life of Lord
William Russell, and tried to help those persecuted for religion like
William Riffin, who was arrested by order of the Duke of Buckingham for
preaching in a Baptist chapel.

It will be seen how frequently women were called upon to take a
personal and decisive part in the great struggle of the seventeenth

    “There was no security against the lawlessness of the soldiery,
    who availed themselves (on both sides) of the slightest pretext
    for entering private houses, and plundering and menacing the
    inhabitants. A suspicion of disaffection either way, or the
    possession of arms or gunpowder, was excuse enough for violence
    and rapine. Unprotected widows, or ladies left in charge of
    mansions and domains while their husbands were out levying
    troops, offered irresistible temptation to the scattered
    parties of half-fed troops that went marauding hungrily over
    the country.”[49]

Two sisters wrote the following appeal to General Fairfax:--

    “May it please your Excellency to vouchsafe me and my sister
    Ann your honourable favour and protection for our goods, and
    that we may not suffer though my brother hath broke his promise
    with your lordship; which I vow my Lord, I was altogether
    ignorant of, and it grieves me infinitely; for that we have
    ever found your lordship so noble a friend to our house.
    Therefore I beseech your lordship to commiserate our cases who
    are left orphans, and for my dear deceased father’s sake, who
    loved and honoured your lordship truly, let us not, who are
    innocent, suffer; but that your wonted goodness and favour may
    still reflect and shine upon us, by which you shall oblige us
    ever to remain my Lord,

 “Your lordship’s most humble servants,
            “MARY MIDDLETON,
            “ANN MIDDLETON.”

The Parliament were very much afraid of the leading women in the
Royalist party, and to undermine their influence and prevent
communication, orders were given that certain ladies should be removed
from their homes. Colonel Chomeley was directed particularly to get
Lady Musgrave out of the way. A letter was sent from William Roe,
Secretary to the Commissioners, dated from Newcastle, April 12, 1645--

    “Whereas we are informed that the wives of sundry of our
    enemies in Carlisle are remaining at their own houses in
    Cumberland and Westmoreland, from whence they may give
    intelligence of all that passeth amongst yourselves, and are
    ready to stir the vil humours and to improve all discontents,
    to the raising up of tumults, and bringing in confusion with
    the people and inhabitants their neighbours, round about them:
    we think fit and hereby order that Colonel Chomeley shall take
    care to apprehend all such persons as he may have just cause to
    suspect to be stirrers up of sedition and insurrection; that
    in particular he would repair to the Lady Musgrave at Eden
    Hall, and conduct her to Carlisle, where she may remain with
    her husband, Sir Philip Musgrave, in more security than in her
    house at Eden Hall, in these tumultuous and troublesome times;
    and of this service we expect an account as speedily as may be.”

Lady Musgrave, whose husband, Sir Philip Musgrave, was a staunch
Royalist, addressed the following remonstrance to Lord Fairfax:--

    “I have formerly received your lordship’s protection for my
    remaining at Eden Hall, if I be obedient to ordinance of
    Parliament, which they cannot tax me, for my accusation is
    suspicion of intelligence, without desert or proof. Colonel
    Chomeley hath orders for my removing. I did desire the stay
    of us till I knew your honour’s pleasure. Eden Hall is my
    jointure, where my humble suit is to remain, being very unfit
    for travel. But I wholly refer myself to your lordship’s
    pleasure, both for means, and what place I and my children may
    remain together at, presuming that your honourable favour and
    worth will consider my poor condition, which shall ever oblige
    me to be,

 “Your most obedient servant,
            “JULIAN MUSGRAVE.”

Another instance of the prominent part which women were compelled to
take in the stormy politics of the seventeenth century, may be found
in the life of Lady Anne Halkett, the daughter of Thomas Murray, who
was Secretary to Charles I. when Prince of Wales. It was Mistress Anne
who, at the request of Colonel Bamfield, assisted the Duke of York to
escape from St. James’s Palace. She caused a female costume to be made
for the duke by her own tailor, having first procured the necessary
measurements from Colonel Bamfield. There was a little awkwardness
about this initial proceeding, for the tailor much wondered at the
directions given him.

    “When I gave the measure to my tailor to inquire how much
    mohaire would serve to make a petticoate and wastcoate to a
    young gentlewoman of that bignesse and stature, hee considered
    itt a long time, and said hee had many gownes and suites, butt
    hee had never made any to such a person in his life. I thought
    hee was in the right, butt his meaning was, hee had never seene
    any woman of so lowe a stature have so big a waste; however
    hee made itt as exactly fitt as if hee had taken the measure
    himselfe. It was a mixed mohaire of a light haire colour and
    blacke, and ye under petticoate was scarlett.”

It was arranged that the duke should make his escape on the evening
of April 20, 1648. The duke was accustomed to play at hide and seek
with his attendants after supper, and this game was employed to cover
his flight. Colonel Bamfield waited at the garden gate of the palace,
and conveyed the duke to a house that he had hired, where the costume
was in readiness, and Mistress Anne and another were waiting in great

    “I had many feares,” she writes, “for Colonel Bamfield had
    desired me, if they came nott there precisely by ten a’clocke,
    to shift for myselfe, for then I might conclude they were
    discovered, and soe my stay there could doe no good, but
    prejudice my selfe. Yett this did nott make me leave the howse,
    though ten a’clocke did strike, and hee that was intrusted
    offten wentt to the landing place, and saw no boate comming was
    much discouraged, and asked mee what I would doe. I told him
    I came there with a resolution to save his Highnesse, and I
    was fully determined nott to leave that place till I was outt
    of hopes of doing what I came there for, and would take my
    hazard. Hee left me to go againe to ye watter-side, and heard
    a great noise of many as I thought comming up staires, which
    I expected to be soldiers to take mee, but it was a pleasing
    disapointmentt, for ye first that came in was ye Duke, who with
    much joy I took in my armes and gave God thankes for his safe
    arrivall. His Highnese called ‘Quickely, quickely, dress me,’
    and putting off his cloaths I dressed him in the women’s habitt
    that was prepared, which fitted his Highnese very well, and was
    pretty in itt. After hee had eaten something I made ready while
    I was idle lest his Highnese should be hungry, and having sent
    for a Woodstreet cake (which I knew he loved) to take in the
    barge, with as much hast as could bee his Highnese wentt crose
    the bridge to ye stairs where the large barge lay, Colonel
    Bamfield leading him; and immediately the boatmen plied the
    oare so well that they weare soone out of sight, having both
    wind and tyde with ym.”

The duke was not missed at first, his attendants supposing he had found
some secure hiding-place. But as time sped on a thorough search was
made, and the Earl of Northumberland, who had charge of the duke, sent
to acquaint the Speaker of the House of Commons. Orders were given to
stop and search all ships leaving the Cinque Ports, but the clerks
employed to write the instructions were slow in making out the papers.

    “None of them were able to writt one right, butt ten or twelve
    of y^m were cast by before one was according to their mind.”

So the orders arrived too late.

In 1653 Mistress Anne Murray, while staying in Edinburgh, rendered
an important service to the Earl of Balcarres, who was in danger of
arrest. She undertook to warn him, and started early in the morning
attended by a man-servant, reaching the Earl’s residence before ten
o’clock. Lord and Lady Balcarres immediately left the house, and at
their request Mistress Murray stayed with the children and packed up
the books in trunks, for the Earl had a very fine library.

    “I was very desirous,” she writes, “to serve them faithfully
    in what I was intrusted, and as soone as my Lord and Lady were
    gone, I made locke up the gates, and with ye helpe of Logan who
    served my Lord, and one of ye women, both beeing very trusty,
    I tooke downe all ye bookes, and putting them in trunkes and
    chests, sentt them all outt of the house in the night to the
    places appointed by my Lord, taking a short way of inventory
    to know what sort of bookes were sentt to every person.... The
    things had nott been two houres outt of the house when the
    troope of horse came and asked for my Lord.... They searched
    all the house, and seeing nothing in itt butt bare walls and
    weemen and children, they wentt away.”

Just before the Restoration, in February, 1660, when Monk caused
the secluded members to be re-admitted to what was called a Free
Parliament, there was great excitement among the country gentlemen.
One of the most notable politicians was Lady Rochester, whose son, Sir
Henry Lee, was a candidate. She writes to her friend Mr. Thomas Yates,
on February 23--

    “This day I received a letter from you with all the good newes
    in it, for which I give you thanks, and also for the care
    you tell me you have taken for my sonne Lee’s being chosen a
    Parliament man in the next election. I was formerly spoken to
    for Mr. Appletree, whome I must now lay absolutely aside by
    reason that Sir Ralphe Verney desires to bee one, who is a
    person whose owne merits is such, as it will bee a happinesse
    to the place, and they will have cause to give us thanks for
    him; besides, you know his relation to the childrens businesse
    obleiges me to doe him any service hee shall comand; if there
    should be noe oath imposed nor engagement, Sir Ralphe will
    accept of it himselfe, and if there should be any reason to
    divest him I shall desire it for his sonne. Good Mr. Yates,
    next to my sonne Lee, let not Sir Ralphe Verney faile of being
    chosen. What you shall say to the people of the place to
    encourage them to it, I shall leave to your prudence, depending
    uppon your descreation in presenting his merrits, and truly it
    will bee much to my satisfaction to serve him in this, and it
    will bee very kindly taken from you by her that is ye

 “Your friend and servant,
            “ANNE ROCHESTER.”

Lady Rochester was a person of influence, and was besieged by
applications for help. A little later she writes again--

    “Here is such a doe about providing for burgeses place the nex
    perlement, I have ben soe trobeled with Solicitors for those
    places in the children’s estate that it has bin very trobelsome
    too mee, but I put them all off with telling them that I am
    already promised as far as my interest goes; I hope that Yates
    wil be carefull in securing a place for you and my sonne
    Lee, and those will bee as many as wee can compas. The town
    of Mamsbery sent too my sonne Lee that if hee would come in
    person they did hope too chuse him, though there were at least
    thirteine that did sue to bee choose in that towne, soe my
    sonne meanes too goe thether at the election for feare of the
    worst. Sir, if therebe anything wherein I may serve you more
    then I doe yet understand, bee pleased to command her that is
    your friend and servant

            “ANNE ROCHESTER.”

Turning from England to Scotland, we find women playing a notable part
at a later period, when the House of Stuart again involved the country
in civil war. The Jacobites kept up a political ferment from the time
when James II. was impelled to lay down his crown and fly, to the death
of his grandson Prince Charlie. The Young Pretender, who has been
variously described as the pink of chivalry and a worthless debauchee,
was the object of a very real and practical enthusiasm. In Scotland,
ladies of rank and wealth enlisted eagerly in his cause. There is very
little that is admirable in such partisans of Prince Charlie as Lady
Ogilvie and the Duchess of Perth beyond their dauntless courage. But
if half the men who flocked to the Young Pretender’s standard had been
filled with the fiery spirit of those two notorious Scotchwomen, the
course of political events would have been altered. As it was, they
materially influenced the action of the leaders of the rebel party.
Had it not been for the Duchess, the Duke of Perth would have been
but a lukewarm adherent, and certainly would never have bestirred
himself to raise a troop for the Prince on his own estate. But the
Duchess shamed him into action. She herself went about for three days
and nights collecting recruits, and when she had mustered seven
hundred and fifty, she caused the Chevalier, as he was called, to be
proclaimed by sound of bagpipes and hunting-horns from the walls of
Castle Drummond. She accompanied the Scotch army to England, and when
the expected reinforcements failed to appear at Carlisle, she told the
hesitating Duke that if he turned back she would lead the men herself.
She had not only to overcome her husband’s timidity, but to contend
with the weakness of the Prince. When he talked of a retreat at Derby,
she expressed her disgust in no measured terms, and gave him clearly to
understand that she thought him a coward.

    “If,” said the indignant lady, “I had as many women in my train
    as the Prince has men in his, I would not turn my back upon all
    the power the enemy could bring up.”

Much against her will, she was forced into the rear at the battle of
Culloden, and was ultimately taken prisoner.

Her friend, Lady Ogilvie, was likewise always to be found wherever
fighting was going on. She was present at the battle of Falkirk and
at the siege of Stirling; but, unfortunately, her ferocity of temper
marred the excellence of her courage. Her political foes were enemies
for whom no measure of retaliation was too harsh. Lady Ogilvie, like
the Duchess of Perth, was taken prisoner after Culloden, though she was
not present at the battle.

But the heroine of the Jacobite rising was the famous Flora McDonald.
The gentle but high-spirited girl, whose name has become a household
word, was far from being a politician. When the Prince of Wales visited
her in London after her release from the Tower, she said very frankly
that she only acted towards Prince Charlie as she would have acted
towards his Royal Highness himself had their positions been reversed.
Womanly compassion moved her to imperil her life and the prospects of
her family to relieve the distresses of a fugitive prince. At the same
time she shared the enthusiasm of her country for the house of Stuart.
The romantic story of her journey with Prince Charlie attired as her
Irish maid-servant has been fully told in other pages.[50] Her want of
precaution in not stopping the mouths of the boatmen led to her arrest.
Two weary months she spent in prison in Scotland, and was then conveyed
to London and confined in the Tower. From this ominous fortress she was
removed and placed in charge of a private family, where the Prince of
Wales made his totally unexpected visit. Her candour so impressed him
that he advised she should be restored to her friends. A free pardon
was sent her, and Flora McDonald became the lioness of the London
season. To the young Scotch gentlewoman, unaccustomed to the turmoil
of fashionable life, and loving the freedom and solitude of the moors,
London society soon became oppressive. She writes--

    “To be in the fashion in London, the people appeared to me to
    live more out of their houses than in them; in the afternoon
    visiting, driving in their family coaches, attending sale-rooms
    where trumpery articles were sold by auction to the highest
    bidder, sometimes really scarcely worth taking home; for
    the principal part of the amusement consisted in the ladies
    outbidding each other, and generally amongst friends, so that
    large sums of money used to change hands in this frivolous way,
    which, no doubt, made their husbands very cross. However, the
    town ladies would, and I suppose ever will, contrive to have
    their own way. Then came the formal dinner-parties--oh, how I
    used to yawn behind my fan!--and often we went to see the play
    in Drury Lane, and, if it chanced to be a mournful tragedy,
    I could not help being so silly as to cry, it all seemed so
    natural and life-like. The best actor was Mr. Garrick, and he
    certainly was a great man in his profession. Mr. Cibber also
    was wonderfully clever: these were the first stage performers
    at that time....”

She goes on to describe how soon she tired of the constant whirl of
London fashionable life, out all day driving from house to house, and
every night at some place.

    “I was sick,” she declares, “of the compliments paid me;
    indeed, in many cases the attentions of the gentlemen went
    beyond compliments.”

Presently this brilliant figure disappears from English society, and
the heroine returns to her native land to marry her kinsman, Allan
McDonald, and to become the mother of the celebrated Sir John McDonald.



  Religious life in the sixteenth century--Religion the great
      motive-power--The Lollard persecutions--Protestant martyrs
      of the sixteenth century--Anne Askew--Women martyrs in the
      seventeenth century--Persecution of the Quakeresses--Quaker
      doctrines--Seventeenth-century Anglicanism--Indifference of the
      Church to social work--Condition of the clergy--Mary Astell and
      her Protestant nunnery--The Countess of Warwick.

The religious history of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is
notorious for comprising two great periods of martyrdom--periods which
are significant as showing the strong latent force in women, waiting
for opportunity to call it forth. Whatever position may be assigned to
women either by the Church or the State, whatever may have been the
current notions about the place they should occupy, however much they
may have been repressed or neglected, they have always been ready,
when occasion arose, to respond to the call for action. In times of
political struggle, of fierce fighting, they have been eager to spend
and be spent, enthusiastic, persistent, unflinching. In the cause of
religion, which, above all others, appeals to women, their zeal has
been most conspicuous.

It has been elsewhere noted that throughout the Middle Ages the Church
was the dominant force.[51] All over Europe the unity of Christendom
was the central idea, binding men together in spite of the rents caused
by war. In the sixteenth century this idea was overthrown. Christendom
was divided, never again to be welded into one. Yet the unloosening
of the bonds which had held the laity in subjection to ecclesiastical
authority, did not subvert the influence of religion itself among the
people. As an interest religion occupied a large place in the lives of
all classes. Those who had leisure used it for the study of theology
and religious literature; among women the literary efforts of that
period were chiefly concerned with devotional matters. Liberty awakened
an ardour more intense. A new power was given to the people--the right
of private judgment. It brought with it an overwhelming sense of
responsibility. Questions that had before been decided by an infallible
authority were left to be solved by each one for himself. Religion
became for the first time a matter dependent on personal conviction and
understanding. The priest no longer stood as interpreter between the
individual and his faith.

All the influences of the period, the literary movement, the awakening
forces of the Renaissance, the stress and stir in the whole national
life, added to rather than diminished the strength of the religious
emotion. It might have been supposed that people would have been lax
and indifferent in a period of so much general activity, when new
vistas were opening out in the social horizon. But the sixteenth
century was not a time of apathy in any department of life, and the
religious question which was agitating the whole Continent burned
fiercer than ever in England on account of the increased mental

With women who embraced the reformed faith, religion was the
dominating force. All their enthusiasm awoke. To those with a strong
spiritual bias the question of belief became the most supreme matter
of concern. To be false to conscience was to poison the very root of
their being. The Roman Catholic martyrs died loyally in the service
of the Church--that Church which was tottering from blows without
and corruption within--they died as servants of a spiritual power
that had ruled Europe. The glamour attaching to the traditions of a
Church which had had no rival in Christendom hung round their faith.
The Protestant martyrs died like soldiers in a cause which they had
espoused from intense conviction of its rightness. They died exultingly
for a belief which had become the mainspring of their lives, which was
a personal possession, a deep spiritual experience. In these martyr
periods we see the apotheosis of the religious sentiment in women.

The abnormal character of the martyr periods makes them stand out from
the general course of history. They are not evolutionary, except in
the sense in which all events spring from causes, and all phenomena,
whether material or spiritual, are part of a chain of circumstances. In
the attitude of the Church towards women during religious persecutions,
there are no features which are not characteristic of the attitude
of the Church to the general body of the laity. During these periods
differences of sex are obliterated. The perfervid zeal and fanaticism
which inspired to persecution suspended all ordinary relations.

It has also to be remembered that the martyr spirit was not the spirit
of the general body of the people. The population was not divided into
two parts, of which the larger were the persecuted and the smaller the
persecutors. The mass held a neutral position, and displayed neither
heroism nor bloodthirstiness. The martyrs and zealots were few compared
with those who escaped notice altogether.

The martyr periods certainly show what a much greater motive-power
religion was than in more peaceful times, when other forces competed
for mastery over the human mind; and they afford endless speculation to
the student of mental and moral phenomena. As regards women, it is only
in these times of religious upheaval that the Church recognized their
perfect equality with men.

There is nothing in the history of the persecutions that applies
more particularly to women than to men. Both suffered alike, and
displayed what seems to those who live in an age when all religions
are tolerated, a fanatical devotion to forms of faith as well as the
loftiest courage and fortitude. The persecutors made no distinction
of sex. A woman, by reason of being a heretic or a Papist, as the
case might be, was at once elevated to a position of unenviable
distinction. In ordinary times neither the Roman nor the Protestant
Church recognized an equality of rights between men and women. The
Romanists kept women in subjection, and curtailed their liberty of
action and thought; the Protestants checked their means of usefulness
by neglect. But neither had power to damp religious zeal, and when the
hour of peril came, women showed an unwavering spirit and a fearless

It may also be noted, in passing, that while the Roman Church
proclaimed the inferiority of women, and put a low value on their
intellectual powers, it treated their deviations from its doctrine
with the same rigour as if they had been endowed with the superior
attributes of the other sex. Women’s weakness, mental and moral,
availed them nothing. They were subjected to interrogatories as
searching and tortures as severe as men. No excuse was made for their
want of reason and understanding, and the greatest pains were taken to
convince them of error. During the Lollard persecutions in 1389, an
anchoress known to be tainted with the new opinions was carried from
Leicester to Wolverhampton, was closely immured and examined by no
less a magnate than Courtney, Archbishop of Canterbury, who, either by
threat or persuasion, prevailed upon this erring sister to recant her

In 1459 the monks of Bath were greatly excited by hearing that a woman,
an inhabitant of the city, had spoken slightingly of the--

    “holy mummeries that were carried on in the Church of Bath, and
    the pilgrimages made by the devotees to the different sacred
    edifices in the neighbourhood. This was wounding the monks
    in the tenderest part; and as the offence militated directly
    against their influence and interest, it demanded a severe and
    exemplary punishment. A proper representation of this heinous
    crime being made to the ecclesiastical court at Wells, it was
    decreed that she should recant in the great church at Bath,
    before all the congregation, the heretical and disrespectful
    words she had spoken against the superstitions of the latter
    city and some neighbouring places, which had been to this
    effect: that it was but waste to give to the Holy Trinity at
    Bath, and equally absurd to go on pilgrimages to St. Osmund at
    Salisbury; and that she wished the road thither was choaked up
    with (bremmel) brambles and thorns to (lette) prevent people
    from going thither.”[52]

The questioning to which the Protestant martyrs of the sixteenth
century were subjected was very minute. With a notable heretic like
Anne Askew, who was burnt at Smithfield, July 16, 1546, the dignitaries
of the Church spent hours of discussion day after day, and women who
were of no renown whatever were cross-examined in much detail.

Among the Roman Catholics women of the trading class suffered
persecution because they could not bring themselves to acquiesce in
the new form of worship. The wife of a miller in All Hallows parish
refused to go to church because, she said, there was “neither priest,
altar, nor sacrifice;” and many women who showed a similar spirit may
be found among the wives of tailors, locksmiths, tanners, and others
of similar standing. Pressure was put upon tradesmen, yeomen, and
husbandmen to ensure the conformity of their wives.

    “The common people of England,” it was said in derision,
    “were wiser than the wisest of the nation; for here the very
    women and shopkeepers were able to judge of predestination,
    and determine what laws were to be made concerning Church

Anne Askew was arrested in March, 1545, and brought before Christopher
Dare at Sadlers’ Hall, Cheapside, on the charge of denying
transubstantiation, the eighteenth article of the statute. She was
afterwards examined by the Lord Mayor, by the Bishop of London’s
chaplain, by Bishop Bonner, by Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and
Lord Chancellor Wriothesley, none of whom could shake her convictions
or induce her to retract, and she was accordingly burnt at the stake.
Anne Askew was of good social position, the daughter of a knight, Sir
William Askew, and a maid of honour to Queen Catherine Parr.

It was not only a rapt enthusiasm and ecstatic fervour which sustained
women in the hour of martyrdom. There is plenty of evidence of that
comprehending courage which could anticipate and prepare for death with
the same calmness as for any ordinary event of life. The dying speeches
of the women who suffered from the merciless brutality of Judge
Jeffreys are very remarkable. That of the aged Lady Alicia de Lisle,
who was barbarously executed in 1685, after the battle of Sedgmoor, for
sheltering fugitives, is one of the most notable--

    “Gentlemen, Friends, and Neighbours, 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 Nonconformist
    Minister and others in my house; the said minister being sworn
    to have been in the late Duke of Monmouth’s Army.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “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 again 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, Mrs. Gaunt of Wapping, who was burnt in the same year
for a somewhat similar offence, wrote the day before her martyrdom--

    “Not knowing whether I should be suffered or able because
    of weaknesses that are upon me through my hard and close
    imprisonment, to speak at the place of execution; I writ these
    few lines to signifie that I am well reconciled to the way of
    my God towards me, though it be in ways I looked not for, and
    by terrible things, yet in righteousness.”

She goes on to write a long speech expressive of her religious faith
and her entire lack of regret for anything that she had done in
succouring the poor, “... I did but relieve an unworthy poor distressed
family, and lo, I must die for it.”

She puts a postscript: “Such as it is you have it from her who hath
done as she could, and is sorry she can do no better.”

The Quakers went through their period of martyrdom in the seventeenth
century. In the midst of a heterogeneous state of religious parties,
the Quaker movement stands out with great distinctness as the only
religious movement in which women were recognized as leaders and
teachers. The Quakers began to preach in London about the year 1654,
five years after George Fox’s imprisonment. Both in England and in
America, whither numbers emigrated, they endured violent persecution.
The first Quakers who went to Boston were two women who sailed in
1656. They were imprisoned and maltreated, were deprived of food and
light, had their books seized and burnt, and all sorts of indignities
practised upon them. The reign of Charles II. was an exceedingly
troublous time for Quakers in England, though they had been promised
immunity from molestation in their meetings, both by General Monk
and by Charles when he came to the throne. In the first year of the
preaching in London two women, who undertook to distribute a pamphlet
written by George Fox and called “The Kingdom of Heaven,” were arrested
and sent to Bridewell prison.

As their numbers increased, so did their troubles. Quakers have never
been noted for active proselytizing, but their well-ordered lives made
a greater impression than exhortation and argument.

    “Thus continuing to live in fear and a reverential awe, they
    improved in true godliness; insomuch that by their pious lives
    they preached as well as others with words. After this manner
    the number of their society increased: but then grievous
    sufferings ensued; for the priests could not endure to see that
    their hearers left them; the furious mob was spurred on, and
    among the magistrates there were many who, being of a fierce
    temper, used all their strength to root out the professors
    of the light (as they were called at first), and to suppress
    and stifle their doctrine; but all proved in vain, as appears
    abundantly from their history; although there were hardly any
    prisons in England where some of these people were not shut
    up; besides the spoil of goods and cruel whippings that befell
    some of them. Yet all this they bore with a more than ordinary
    courage without making resistance, how great soever their
    number was; and notwithstanding many of them had been valiant
    soldiers, who often had slain their enemies in the field
    without regarding danger.”

That the women endured an abundant share of the persecutions and
martyrdoms which befell the Society is proved by the records. They
were scourged and ill treated in every possible way. Not only did they
endure great suffering, but took active steps in trying to rescue their
fellow-members from evil plight. When George Fox was apprehended,
in 1660, at the house of one Margaret Fell, a widow of Judge Fell,
at Swarthmore (Lancashire), his entertainer, accompanied by another
Friend, Anne Curtis, procured an interview with the king. Anne Curtis
gained the royal ear through being the daughter of a Bristol sheriff
who had been hanged for his devotion to the Stuarts.[53] Not much came
of the interview, however, for, although the king was ready enough to
listen, and gave an order for Fox to be brought up, it was evaded, and
a delay of two months ensued.

Barbara Blangdon, who suffered persecution and imprisonment for her
preaching in the west of England in 1654, made an effort, as soon as
her own release was effected, to procure that of two other members at
Basingstoke, and was successful, through her intercession with the

In 1656 two Quakeresses were placed in the stocks at Evesham by
the mayor, with every circumstance of indignity, for visiting some
prisoners. Two years before, the Oxford scholars so violently
maltreated two Quakeresses who preached in the streets that one of
them succumbed shortly after. With the end of the seventeenth century
persecutions for the most part ceased, and a period of quiescence set
in. There was a good deal of discussion going on in the eighteenth
century anent Quakerism, and many satires and skits were issued against
the sect, but it was a war of words only.

The Quakers always maintained the equality of women with men in
religious matters. It was one of the cardinal articles of their belief.

    “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 endued with a right
    qualification for the ministry should exercise their gifts for
    the general edification of the Church.”

The first woman among the Quakers to preach in London was Ann Downer,
afterwards married to George Whitehead. Private residences were
frequently used as places of worship, and women are often mentioned as
lending their houses for this purpose.

Women, being able to exercise the function of preaching, were naturally
prominent in other departments of work.

    “As we believe women may be rightly called to the work of the
    ministry,” say the Friends, “we also think that to them belongs
    a share in the support of our Christian discipline: and that
    some parts of it, wherein their own sex is concerned, devolve
    on them with peculiar propriety. Accordingly they have monthly,
    quarterly, and yearly meetings of their own sex, held at the
    same time with those of the men; but separately, and without
    the power of making rules; and it may be remarked that during
    the persecutions which formerly occasioned the imprisonment of
    so many of the men, the care of the poor fell on to the women,
    and was by them satisfactorily administered.”

They have always continued to maintain the right of women to become
preachers, a right which seemed an exceedingly strange one, in the last
century, to members of other religious bodies. The Quakers were quite
aware of the weak points in their adversaries’ armour, and quick to
perceive the ground of the objection against their own broader view of
the position of women.

    “There is yet another strong prejudice against women’s
    preaching,” says one of the Quaker _Dissertations_, “and this
    no less than the united interest of the whole body of men
    called clergymen. For if, say they, the pastoral function may
    be exercised by laymen and even women, then we shall be deemed
    no longer necessary, nay, perhaps, down goes our trade, our
    pomp, and revenues. And, indeed, it is hardly credible to me
    that these men would have ever made the opposition that some
    of them have done to a woman’s preaching Jesus in a sensible
    manner, if preaching were a profession which there was nothing
    to be got by.”

The Anglican clergy of the seventeenth century bore a high character
for learning. “The ordinary sort of our English clergy,” wrote Eachard,
“do far excel in learning the common priests of the Church of Rome.”
Atterbury is still more emphatic. He declares that “for depth of
learning, as well as other things, the English clergy is not to be
paralleled in the whole Christian world.” Yet Edward Chamberlayne[54]
affirms that “they are less respected generally than any in Europe;”
and both Bishop Burnet and Bishop Stillingfleet bewail the contempt
with which the clergy were regarded as “too notorious not to be

The Anglican Church did not leaven the nation as the Roman Church had
done by works of charity and benevolence. It was remarkably indifferent
to social work and religious propagandism, outside the doors of the
church. The traditions of the Roman Church were not carried on by the
Protestants, who probably felt a repugnance to any methods adopted by
their enemies, the Papists.

    “Not only were Anglicans destitute of any associations of
    lay helpers in Christian work at home, and of any means for
    carrying on missions abroad, but Puritans were in the same

That there were many abuses connected with the old system of almsgiving
at the convent gate cannot be doubted, and it was impossible, in a
fast-growing nation, that such a state of things should continue;
but the Anglican Church lost one of its great holds on the people by
indifference to the offices of charity. The State had begun, in a
partial and imperfect way, in the sixteenth century, to assume the care
of the poor. The beginnings of the old poor-law system may be traced
to the reign of Elizabeth. But the State was a poor foster-mother. The
Protestant Church made no organized effort to become to the masses what
the Roman Church had been. It assumed none of that absolute authority
combined with paternal care. It is true that the ideal set up by George
Herbert of the country parson is that of a true father of his flock.

    “He first considers his own parish; and takes care that there
    be not a beggar or idle person in his parish, but that all be
    in a competent way of getting their living. This he effects
    either by bounty or persuasion, or by authority; making use of
    that excellent Statute which binds all parishes to maintain
    their own. If his parish be rich, he exacts this of them; if
    poor, and he be able, he easeth them therein. But he gives no
    set pension to any.”

There was little of what is now called Church work. And the clergy
do not seem to have thought of enlisting the aid of women in the few
tentative efforts put forth during the seventeenth century. It may be
urged that the fault lay with the women, who did not come forward or
show their willingness to co-operate. There was no encouragement for
them to do so.

    “The tendencies of the period were not favourable to the
    development of women’s work in the Church. Nor was it the
    fashion for women to occupy a prominent position. Women played
    small part in the life of the nation at large. In none of the
    societies formed for missionary, devotional, or philanthropic
    objects did women take a leading part. The only attempt to form
    an organization of women was nipped in the bud.”

This attempt refers, probably, to the effort made by Mrs. Mary Astell
to set up a “Protestant Nunnery,” of which further mention will be made.

There was, indeed, an establishment founded by a certain Nicholas
Ferrar, some time in the first half of the century, at Little Gidding,
in Huntingdonshire, which was called a Protestant nunnery. But it was
little more than the setting up of the conventual rule in an ordinary

In 1642 Parliament seemed to think it necessary that something should
be done to improve the religious life of the country, and accordingly,
on April 7--

    “the Lords and Commons doe declare that they intend a due
    and necessary reformation of the government and liturgie of
    the Church, and to take nothing away in the one or in the
    other, but what shall be evill or justly offensive, or at
    least unnecessary and burdensome. And for the better effecting
    thereof, speedily to have consultation with godly and learned
    divines; and because this will never of itselfe attein the
    end sought therein, they will therefore use their utmost
    endevors to establish learned and preaching ministers with a
    good and sufficient maintenance throughout the whole kingdome,
    wherein many darke corners are miserablie destitute of the
    meanes of salvation, and many poore ministers want necessary

The saintly George Herbert, who lived through the first quarter of
the seventeenth century, makes a mild protest against the cringing
attitude adopted by that section of the clergy who took upon themselves
the duties of domestic chaplain to wealthy families. In many, if not
most, houses the chaplain was put on a par with the upper servants, and
expected to show the same deference towards the employers.

    “Those that live in noble houses,” writes Herbert, “are called
    chaplains; whose duty and obligation being the same to the
    houses they live in as a parson’s to his parish, in describing
    the one (which is indeed the bent of my discourse) the other
    will be manifest. Let not chaplains think themselves so free as
    many of them do; and because they have different names think
    their office different. Doubtless they are parsons of the
    families they live in, and are entertained to that end, either
    by an open or implicit covenant. Before they are in Orders they
    may be received for companions or discoursers; but after a man
    is once minister he cannot agree to come into any house where
    he shall not exercise what he is, unless he forsake his plough
    and look back. Therefore they are not to be over-submissive
    and base, but to keep up with the lord and lady of the house,
    and to preserve a boldness with them and all, even so far as
    reproof to their very face when occasion calls, but seasonably
    and discreetly.”

The subservience of the clergy as a class, and the slights put upon
them, arose partly from their poverty, which was treated like a fault.
In 1670, writes Eachard, £20 or £30 a-year was as much as hundreds of
the clergy could obtain. In the beginning of the eighteenth century
there were some benefices, says Henry Wharton, not above £5 a-year in
value, some hundreds not over £20, and some thousands not more than
£30. Dean Swift puts the average income of a vicar at £40.

Whether rightly or wrongly, the bulk of the clergy in the seventeenth
century seem to have enjoyed little of the prestige attaching to
the priestly office, and their social position showed some curious
anomalies. It was not because they were out of harmony with the
national life. The higher clergy who were in possession of fat livings
were, naturally, on good terms with the world, and were quite in
sympathy with the tastes and habits of their neighbours, not merely
countenancing but sharing in the amusements of the laity. But they
did nothing to win esteem for and raise the status of the lower,
ill-paid clergy, who appear on the whole to have been hard-working
and well-intentioned, with a fellow-feeling for the cares and burdens
of their parishioners. Between the fox-hunting bishops and canons and
the out-at-elbows country parsons there was a large body of learned,
scholarly divines, who reflected lustre on their class. But as a power
in social life, the Anglican Church could not bear comparison with the
Roman Church. In the first place, an authority which laid no claim
to infallibility could not exercise the same influence as one that
asserted its supremacy over all matters temporal and spiritual. And,
in addition, Protestantism favoured independence of thought. This was
more observable in the sects outside the Anglican Church. Narrow as
was the creed of the Presbyterians and that of the other dissenting
bodies which sprang up later, it was a creed held by conviction; it was
acquired, not merely accepted.

As far as women were concerned, the result of the theological change
was that, while there were numerous examples of individual piety, there
was no attempt at organized religious work. Both inside the Anglican
Church and in the ranks of the Puritans there were women noted for
their zeal and active benevolence. But neither Anglicans nor Puritans
sought, like the Romanists, to turn the great engine of woman’s power
to systematic use. To the Puritans religion was a personal affair, in
which faith counted for more than works. As for the Anglican Church,
it was, in the seventeenth century, hampered by too many difficulties
(among which may be counted the formalism of many of its own ministers)
to attempt any social work. Indeed, the teaching of Church doctrine was
neglected in many places, and, according to John Evelyn--

    “people had no principles, and grew very ignorant of even the
    common points of Christianity, all devotion now being placed
    in hearing sermons and discourses of speculative and notional

The curious attempt, already referred to, made by Mary Astell to
establish a Protestant nunnery frightened the orthodox Church party.
It savoured to them of Popery. What she aimed at was to lead women
to embrace a higher and more purposeful life. Her so-called nunnery
was a kind of retreat for ladies where they could carry on religious
exercises and intellectual studies. It was intended as a haven for
those who disliked the frivolities of society, and desired to pursue
serious aims. But the proposal was not only laughed down, but abused as
a scheme to propagate Roman Catholicism. A lady, supposed to be Lady
Elizabeth Hastings, offered to give £10,000 for the building, but was
deterred by the false reports spread by terrified Protestants.

Mary Astell’s book, “A Serious Proposal to Ladies,” deserves to be
remembered as a unique work in that period. She was a reformer who,
in the present day, would have been in the front rank of the workers
for the advancement of women. She pleaded as much for mental as moral
improvement, and perceived very clearly the disadvantages under which
the women of the day laboured with their flimsy education and the
discouragement of all attempts to follow a more rational system.

Bishop Atterbury’s remarks on Mary Astell may be quoted as illustrating
the surprise felt by cultivated ecclesiastics at the display of
literary ability in women. Writing to Smalridge in 1706, he says--

    “I happened, about a fortnight ago, to dine with Mrs. Astell.
    She spoke to me of my sermon, and desired me to print it (the
    sermon was delivered on the election of the Lord Mayor); and
    after I had given her the proper answers, hinted to me that she
    would be glad of perusing it. I complied with her request, and
    sent her the sermon next day. Yesternight she returned it, with
    this sheet of remarks, which I cannot forbear communicating
    to you, because I take them to be of an extraordinary nature,
    considering they come from the pen of a woman. Indeed, one
    would not imagine a woman had written them. There is not an
    expression that carries the least air of her sex from the
    beginning to the end of it.”

The bishop does not divulge the exact nature of Mary Astell’s remarks,
but, as he takes them in such good part, they were probably not
unfavourable to himself. The fact that a woman was capable of literary
criticism which was not of a feminine tone filled him with astonishment.

Among the women most noted for piety and good works in the seventeenth
century was Mary, daughter of the Earl of Cork, and wife of the Earl
of Warwick, a warm friend of the Puritans. The Countess, although
a Churchwoman, seems to have found no difficulty in breathing the
theological atmosphere of her husband’s household, where Puritan
discourses were frequently heard. She was born in the year of the
accession of Charles I., 1625, and lived to see some eighteen years of
the Restoration. Her biographer, Dr. Walker, speaks of her as “great
by her tongue, for never woman used one better.” She is also said to
have been “great by her pen,” and “great in her nobleness of living and
in her free and splendid hospitality;” likewise “great in her conquest
of herself and the mastery of her passions.” She was very strict in
the observance of her religious exercises, and in her influence on
the company about her is enigmatically described as “like a spiritual

The Countess of Warwick was no less esteemed as a mistress than as a
landlord, and

    “as a neighbour she was so kind and courteous, it advanced the
    rent of adjacent houses to be situated near her. Not only her
    house and table, but her countenance and very heart were open
    to all persons of quality in a considerable circuit; and for
    the inferior sort, if they were sick or tempted, or in any
    distress of body or mind, whither should they go but to the
    good Countess, whose closet or still-house was their shop for
    chirurgery, and herself (for she would visit the meanest of
    them personally) and ministers whom she would send to them,
    their spiritual physicians?”

Lady Warwick not only acted the Lady Bountiful among the poor,
distributing beef and bread regularly to the needy of four parishes,
but she extended her charity to the cause of education. The poor
children she placed in schools; scholars she provided with means to go
to the university, and the meagre salaries of ministers of religion she
supplemented out of her abundant wealth.

Then there was Lady Elizabeth Hastings, daughter of the Earl of
Huntingdon, who aided missionary work abroad, and spent freely in her
own neighbourhood on charitable works; the celebrated Lady Russell,
wife of Lord William Russell; Bishop Burnet’s wife, together with
others of less fame, who were known for their piety and active
benevolence. A careful examination of this period will reveal much
individual effort put forth by women under that strongest of all
motive-forces--the religious impulse, but little organized work, either
secular or otherwise, for the bettering of humanity.



  Universality of the belief in witchcraft--Persecution of witches
      in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries--Attitude of the
      Puritans--Origin of the witch--First use of the term--Enactments
      against witchcraft--The Essex persecutions--The last judicial

There is one aspect of women’s relation to the Church in the period
under review which cannot be passed over without some brief notice,
although any detailed examination of the subject would be impossible
in a book of this scope and purpose. The subject of witchcraft, which
has filled so many hundreds of volumes, is, after all, only a branch
of a still larger subject--superstition. The beliefs of one age are
the superstitions of the next, but it is sometimes difficult to say
where the dividing-line should be drawn, for while a belief is not
necessarily a superstition, a superstition has frequently the force and
reality of a belief. The belief in witchcraft was very slow in passing
into the phase of a superstition. Both the Catholic and the Protestant
Church for many centuries denounced witchcraft as one of the greatest
forms of evil, to be withstood by every possible means. To doubt its
reality was to doubt one of the articles of faith. At certain periods
in history, the persecution of witches broke forth like one of the
great physical plagues that from time to time scourged Europe. The
belief in witchcraft was a moral pestilence, insidious, far-reaching,
and deadly in its effects.

Magic and sorcery have been believed in from the earliest times of
recorded history. But although, in the first centuries of the Christian
Church and throughout the Middle Ages, there was a dread of the black
art, and those who practised it were liable to numerous punishments,
and to death itself, there was, curiously enough, far less persecution
than prevailed in later and more enlightened periods. The twelfth and
thirteenth centuries were worse than the sixth, and the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries were far more persecuting periods than the
twelfth and thirteenth. Michelet, writing generally of the fourteenth
century, says the witch saw before her--

    “a horrible career of torments lighted up for three or four
    hundred years by the stake. After 1300, her medical knowledge
    is condemned as baleful, her remedies are proscribed as if they
    were poisons.”

With the uprising of the Protestant Church in the sixteenth century
came a great wave of superstition. In the reign of Elizabeth, Bishop
Jewell, preaching before the queen (1568), 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_.”

There was no doubt about the sincerity of the bishop’s belief. “These
eyes,” he said, “have seen most evident and manifest marks of their
wickedness.” The reformers were the strongest believers in and the
bitterest persecutors of witchcraft. Not even Innocent VIII., who, in
1484, promulgated a Bull against witchcraft and heresy, and thereby
gave a great impetus to the persecution on the Continent, was more
virulent against witches than Luther. “I should have no compassion on
these witches,” said Luther, in a discussion on witchcraft. “I would
burn all of them.” And he adds, “Witchcraft is the devil’s own proper

In Scotland, where the Reformed Church exercised great sway, the
persecution was much keener than in England.

    “When a woman had fallen under suspicion, the minister from the
    pulpit denounced her by name, exhorted his parishioners to give
    evidence against her, and prohibited any one from sheltering

In the seventeenth century the belief in witchcraft was much fostered
by the Puritan party, who were the bitterest of persecutors. The
Puritans were diligent students of the Old Testament, and doubtless
considered that they had full warrant for their action from certain
much-quoted passages in Scripture. The Puritans, like the Fathers in
the Early Christian Church, had a very real belief in and horror of the
power of supernatural evil; and, like the Fathers, they too believed
that women were more inherently wicked than men--that they were more
liable to assaults of Satan, and more easily drawn into communion with
evil spirits.

Numerous as were the punishments inflicted upon sorcerers and
magicians, the persecution of witches was far greater. 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?” And
he gives as his reason that women are frailer than men, quoting the
fall of Eve as the beginning of Satan’s sovereignty over womankind.
There was, however, a more obvious reason for the fact that women
were so much more frequently denounced than men for practising the
black art. The chief doctors and surgeons in former times were women.
There was no formulated science of medicine down to the seventeenth
century, but certain persons, generally women, acquired a large
amount of knowledge of the properties of plants useful for healing,
and methods of distilling and mixing vegetable juices. The healing
art, like nursing, fell into the hands of women, and herbal lore was
transmitted from mother to daughter, just as skill in cookery and in
special kinds of needlework was handed down. Deftness, appreciation of
detail, quick observation, and patience supplied the place of written
knowledge. The conditions of life during the Middle Ages, and even down
to the last century, were such as to afford plenty of scope for the
exercise of practical ability. The women who had the greatest knowledge
of the properties of plants were, naturally, those most dependent on
nature--women of the poorer class, but women endowed with a greater
share of insight, and larger brain power than their companions. The
“wise women,” who usually dwelt alone in some humble dwelling remote
from their neighbours, and “lived on their wits,” were naturally
regarded with a tinge of awe by the ignorant, and were credited with
some supernatural power. Their appearance and their habits--the
result of poverty and loneliness--caused them to be looked upon with
suspicion. To a wrinkled, repulsive visage was frequently united a
temper equally obnoxious, and which was embittered by the gibes and
sneers which were freely cast at the “old hag,” whose weapon of defence
was her tongue. The curses which she poured forth on her tormentors
inspired dread, and if by chance some bodily affliction attacked the
cursed ones, it was invariably attributed to malevolence. All sorts
of ills were ascribed to the spite of these outcasts of society: the
maiming of cattle, the withering of pasture, diseases bodily and
mental, misfortunes of every kind. The witch was never a bringer of
good; she was always thought to be working evil, with or without
motive. Women have been credited, not only by the ignorant multitude,
but by philosophers, with the power, at certain seasons, of turning
milk sour, making dogs savage, and effecting other things, by their
mere presence.

It is not until the twelfth century that there is any definite mention
of witchcraft in England. This seems strange when it is remembered that
in the time of the early Britons what was known as magic or sorcery
was practised by the wives of the Druid doctors. These women were
noted for their skill in herbal medicine, and even credited with the
power of causing evil as well as healing wounds. But the term “witch”
does not seem to have come into use until the period mentioned. The
twelfth century has been described by Mr. Lecky as the turning-point of
European intellect. The first glimmerings of incredulity were showing
forth. The Church became aware of some opposing force, and assumed
the offensive. Circumstances that had hitherto passed unnoticed were
regarded as danger-signals. Any evidences of unusual capacity for
controlling physical forces, such as the “medicine women” showed, were
regarded with hostility. Their power implied converse with Satan,
for by no other means was it supposed that such knowledge and skill
could be obtained. There was at that time a widespread belief in
the supernatural, in the presence of evil spirits who infested the
earth in all sorts of shapes to torment and deceive men. The theory
that the wise woman was an emissary from the Prince of Darkness
accorded with the popular delusions. The witch gradually became a
distinct personality, a figure which troubled every society. Diseased
imagination united to ignorance of physical science caused the belief
in witchcraft to become a terror for centuries.

Witchcraft offered a solution of the problem of evil. How otherwise
to account for the ills which beset humanity? It is difficult for us
to realize the panic which took possession of people’s minds at the
appearance of misfortunes such as plague, famine, drought, floods, and
the like. The terrible pestilence, for which we can now to some extent
account, appeared like a visitation of Providence or the direct work
of Satan to an age which knew nothing of the laws of health, of the
courses of disease, and very little of the structure and functions
of the bodily organs. As time advanced, the belief in the power
and malevolence of the women called witches increased. The Church,
following in the steps of those Fathers who had credited women with
being endowed with special capacity for evil, commenced a virulent
persecution of witches. In the reign of John a woman was tried for
witchcraft, but there was little detailed mention of such trials
until the fourteenth century. In the year 1324 there was a celebrated
case in Ireland, and this, the first trial of which we have any full
account, was not that of some mis-shapen, miserable old woman living
in a hovel, but a woman of good social rank and possessed of wealth,
Lady Alice Kyteler, of Kilkenny. The lady’s troubles arose partly out
of her excessive liking for matrimony. She had four husbands, and the
principal count against her was that she had made away with these
husbands by magic. There was at this period in the Papal chair a pope
who held strong views on the subject of sorcery, Pope John XVII.,
and who issued the first Bull promulgated against it. Through the
instrumentality of one of his Irish bishops, Lady Alice Kyteler and
others were denounced as sorcerers, the Lady Alice being accused of
causing the death of her various husbands, and having converse with
evil spirits. The arbitrary action of the ecclesiastical authorities
excited so much dissatisfaction that even the Lord Chancellor
expostulated with the bishop, but received as reply that the Church
was above all law. The Lady Alice, after being excommunicated, finally
escaped from the priestly meshes, and retired to England, where
she died. During the trial a woman, who declared she had received
instruction in magic arts from Lady Alice, was flogged six times by
order of the bishops.

There were, however, no regular enactments against witchcraft until the
reign of Henry VIII. Up to that time, unless the supposed sorceress was
also accused of the crime of poisoning, she was not condemned to death.
But in 1541, conjuring, sorcery, and witchcraft were all put together
as crimes for which capital punishment could be inflicted. Statutes
against witchcraft were also enacted in the reigns of Elizabeth and
James I.

John Wier, a physician of Cleves, wrote a treatise in 1563, in which
he described witches as lunatics labouring under Satanic influence.
All women he considered to be peculiarly subject to delusions created
by malignant agency, and witches he regarded, in fact, as exaggerated
examples of the inherent moral weakness of the female sex.

With the rise of Puritanism in the seventeenth century came a second
great wave of superstition. The stern theology of the men of the
Commonwealth was embittered by the darkest of beliefs. They were
always looking for direct manifestations of the power of evil. It
was their conviction that Satan was embodied in the persons of the
unhappy women who were called witches, and that to hound them to death
was a religious duty. The Puritans held with great firmness that a
curse rested on womanhood. They found it quite easy to believe that
certain women were specially chosen instruments of evil, for the whole
sex they regarded as created for the trial and temptation of men.
Undoubtedly the Puritans did much to enforce respect for women at a
period when licentiousness was rife. They had an honest desire to raise
the standard of public morals, and preserve order and decency. But
they were actuated more by a desire to guard men from evil than by a
reverence for womanhood. Though individually they made good husbands
and fathers, their theology was a relentless creed, which permeated
their lives with hard, unsympathetic views, and condemned sinners
without mercy. The intense vitality of their belief in the omnipresence
of evil clouded their perceptions and blurred their judgment. Hence
their readiness to believe in witchcraft, and the savagery of their

Scripture, they said, was on their side. They pointed to the Witch of
Endor, and to the declaration, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”
All sorts of gruesome ideas had grown up and been handed down as to the
power of witches, and became more widespread and intensified by the
fanatical zeal of the Puritans. It was not until the second half of the
seventeenth century that the full fury of the persecution blazed forth,
though previously there had been frequent trials and executions. Thus
in the early part of the reign of James I., who was responsible for
much of the persecution, a woman was tried and hanged at King’s Lynn. A
sailor had thrown a stone at her boy, whereupon she cursed the sailor
roundly, and hoped his fingers would rot off, which happened two years
later. Then she got into a quarrel with a neighbour, who was seized
with violent pains, and felt the bed rocking up and down. The woman
was denounced as a witch and condemned to death. Like other innocent
persons accused of crime, she at last got to believe what her enemies
said of her, and actually brought herself to confess that she had
practised unholy arts.

In 1645 there was a great outbreak of persecution in Essex. In 1664
occurred the celebrated trial of witches at Bury St. Edmunds. There
were living at Lowestoft two lone women whose temper and demeanour
caused them to be disliked by the inhabitants of that little fishing
hamlet. From the children they endured much petty persecution, and
were treated as outcasts by the adult population. Nobody would even
sell them fish. The two victims, who were inappropriately named Amy
and Rose, cursed and prophesied evil things. Some children were seized
with fits, during which they declared they saw the two women coming to
torment them. After eight years of accusations, the women were brought
to trial. Sir Matthew Hale presided, expressing his belief that the
Scriptures proved the reality of witchcraft. The women were hung, which
was the common mode of dealing with them. In Scotland they were usually

There is no need to multiply instances. During the sittings of the
Long Parliament, as many as three thousand persons are said to have
been executed, exclusive of those who were “done to death” by enraged
mobs. In 1640 a witch is described in a contemporary publication as--

    “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 nere the fatter; she’s but a dry nurse
    in the flesh, yet gives such to the spirit. A witch rides many
    times poast on hellish business, yet if a ladder do but stop
    her, she will be hanged ere she goes any further.”

The last judicial execution took place in England in 1716, when a
woman and her daughter, aged nine, were put to death at Huntingdon,
accused of selling their souls to the devil. But years after this date
the persecution continued, and women were assailed by the rabble as
witches, frequently dying of the injuries they received. The penal
statutes against witchcraft were repealed in 1751. This, however, did
not do away with the belief which was held by people in various classes
of life. John Wesley was perhaps the last noted person who clung to
what eventually became a mere superstition, which only survived in
obscure places.

After the Restoration came in a different temper and view of life.
On the one side were the gay and frivolous, who mocked at the grim
Puritan with his terrific beliefs; on the other were the philosophers
and the intellectual world, who explained by natural causes the
so-called supernatural appearances. The Anglican Church held a middle
course between the sceptics and the fanatics. There were some, like
Joseph Glanvil, who, in 1681, took up the defence of witchcraft; and
there were bishops who promulgated persecution. The clergy had a strong
leaning to superstition, and inclined to the side of the fanatics; but
they were restrained from the greatest excesses of the Puritans by the
influence of the educational portion, whose learning and enlightenment
reflected credit on the Church at a period when it greatly needed



  Development of the arts in the seventeenth century--Introduction
      of women on the stage--Corruption of the period--Character of
      the drama--Wearing masks by spectators--The French company
      at Blackfriars Theatre--The first English company with women
      players--Famous actresses--English female artists in the Stuart
      period--Foundation of the Royal Academy of Arts--Angelica
      Kaufmann and Mary Moser elected members--Their career--Fanny
      Reynolds--Sir Joshua’s opinion of his sister’s work--Mrs.
      Cosway--Mrs. Carpenter--Character of eighteenth-century
      work--Women’s place in musical art--Musical education in early
      times--Love of music in the sixteenth century--Instruments played
      by women--Music abolished by the Puritans--Musical maidservants
      in the seventeenth century--The first English opera--Purcell’s
      early work--Performance at a ladies’ school.

It is in the seventeenth century, remarkable for political and
religious strife, and a general unsettling of society, that the history
of the fine arts, as far as women are concerned, really begins.
There is, in fact, very little to record of the progress of the arts
in England before this period. Unfavourable as the age seemed for
artistic progress when the public mind was so largely occupied with
momentous questions affecting the national life, it was signalized by
three notable events, viz. the introduction of women to the stage, the
commencement of English opera, and the uprising of female painters. The
dramatic revolution, as it may be called, being the most striking of
these events, will be touched upon first.

The middle of the seventeenth century, when women first began to appear
on the stage in England, was a period of unexampled laxity. It was not
simply that morality was at a low ebb, and that the passions reigned
uppermost. That was the case in feudal times when the intellectual side
of humanity was only half awakened, and the range of interests and
ideas, of taste and knowledge, was limited by physical obstacles. The
world was a sealed book to mediæval men and women. But the seventeenth
century had no such excuse. It had opened the clasps; it had the power
of choice, but it hugged the sins of past ages to its breast. Seeing
the good, it chose the evil.

It was an unfortunate moment for the introduction of actresses, and
their presence gave rise to many scandals, but abuses had long been
rife on the stage, and dramatic performances had been occasionally
suspended even in the reign of Elizabeth. The blame cannot be
attributed to the pernicious example of France as far as the plays
themselves are concerned, for it is agreed that French comedy in the
reign of Charles II. was not in the least coarse. This was the period
of Molière’s fame. Two or three years after the accession of Anne, who
did not countenance playhouses by her presence, the Puritan party of
that day earnestly hoped that the Queen might be induced to interdict
stage performances, or at least to prohibit certain pieces. There is
not the slightest doubt that the complaints made of obscene language
and manners were well founded. The plays remain as witnesses, and
the record of the scenes enacted in the green-room and the general
licence indulged in by the players furnish condemnatory evidence.
But the purists were not content with trying to uphold morality and
public decency. At that time natural phenomena were still regarded by
many people with superstitious terror. Sickness, storms, and other
calamities were looked upon as the visitations of wrathful Providence.

Now it happened that a disastrous tempest had been raging, a tempest
fiercer than any known for many years. A day of fasting and humiliation
had been appointed, and in the face of that public acknowledgment of
national sin the irreverent players chose to produce _Macbeth_ and _The
Tempest_, with as faithful a representation of real storms as they
could contrive.

    “Surely,” writes one shocked contemporary, “the Players have
    little reason to expect that they shall still go on in their
    abominable Outrages; who, ’tis to be observed with Indignation,
    did, as we are assured, within a few days after we felt
    the late dreadful storm, entertain their audience with the
    ridiculous Representation of what had filled us with so great
    Horror in their Plays called _Macbeth_ and _The Tempest_, as
    if they designed to Mock the Almighty Power of God, _who alone
    commands the Winds and the Seas, and they obey him_.”[57]

Queen Anne did not suspend the plays, but she issued an edict for the
better regulation of the theatres. With a view to abolishing abuses and
indecencies, it was commanded--

    “that no person of what quality soever presume to go behind
    the scenes or come upon the stage either before or during the
    acting of any play; that no woman be allowed or presume to wear
    a vizard mask in either of the theatres,”[58]

together with several other regulations.

It was customary in the days of Charles II. for ladies to go to the
theatre masked, the presumption being that the language of the plays
was so coarse that no woman could sit and hear them in mixed company
with her face uncovered. But it was a practice that was liable to lead
to all sorts of disorders. Under the disguise of the mask women of all
degrees accosted strangers, and there were always men ready enough to
avail themselves of the general licence as to behaviour. Ladies then
sat in the pit, which, after the boxes, was the most aristocratic
portion of the house, for which the prices ranged from 2_s._ 6_d._ to
4_s._ in the money of that period.

The custom of having women to act was introduced from the Continent,
where it had long prevailed. At the time when Corneille’s plays were
constantly being acted, about 1633, there were a good many actresses
on the French stage. There was much dramatic activity in Paris at
that time. The French were very eager playgoers, and when a tragedy
having, for its subject the story of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn was
produced, there was such a rush to see the piece that four doorkeepers
were crushed to death on the first night, greatly to the pride and
delight of the author, Jean Puget de la Serre, who exclaimed with
triumph: “Voilà ce qu’on appelle de bonnes pièces.” In his exultation
he declared he would not yield the palm to Corneille, until his great
contemporary had caused _five_ doorkeepers to be killed in one day.

In the prevailing state of easy morals in the England of the
Restoration the appearance of actresses was an incentive to licence,
and every advantage was taken of the innovation by the court gallants.
The actresses were probably no worse than many of the ladies in the
audience, but their mere existence gave occasion for evil. Evelyn,
whose code of morals and taste were too high for that period, says, in
1666, that he hardly ever goes to the theatres--

    “for many reasons now, as they were abused to an atheistical
    liberty. Fowle and indecent women now, and never till now, were
    permitted to appear and act.”

Thomas Brand, a Puritan, expressed great delight when he heard that
certain actresses had been hissed and pelted. The first result of
bringing women on to the stage was to give the rein to more unbridled
licence than before in the manners of the court and of society.

It was the presence of Queen Henrietta which brought over a French
company of players with women among them to England in 1659. They
established themselves at the celebrated theatre in Blackfriars. But
whether their distinguished countrywoman was unable or unwilling to
do anything on their behalf, they were very roughly received, less
because of the women in the company than because they were foreigners.
Their advent gave Prynne an opportunity for venting his indignation.
To the stern Puritan the sight of women on the boards was a great
additional aggravation. No English company seems to have introduced
women till 1660. Pepys, who, as every one knows, was an indefatigable
playgoer, records that the first time he saw women act was on January
3, 1660. This was at the Theatre Royal, Clare Market, the play being
_The Beggar’s Bush_. Three days later he saw actresses in Ben Jonson’s
play, _The Silent Woman_. It has been said that _Othello_ was the
play in which women first appeared in England, at a performance given
on December 8, 1660. Mrs. Anne Marshall, Mrs. Sanders (afterwards to
become famous as Mrs. Betterton, a most successful impersonator of
Shakespeare’s female parts), Mrs. Margaret Hughes, and Mrs. Coleman
were among the first actresses who appeared in public. Mrs. Betterton,
whose character was unexceptionable, was selected to give lessons in
elocution to the two princesses, Mary and Anne, daughters of James II.

A sort of precedent for women acting in stage plays was to be found
in the court performances. It was not till the reign of Charles II.
that professional actresses appeared in public, but Queen Anne, wife
of James I., was accustomed to take an active part in the masques
performed at court, where she was both actress and manager.[59] That
these were not mere impromptus may be gathered from the fact that the
cost of a performance often exceeded £1000. In the reign of Charles I.
the ladies of the court, headed by the Queen, Henrietta Maria, played
a French pastoral at Hampton Court to enliven the Christmas season.
The French Queen was very favourably disposed towards the stage, and
when the churchwardens and constables in 1631 petitioned Archbishop
Laud to get Blackfriars Theatre removed, on the ground that it was a
nuisance to trade and the public generally, and begged that the council
would see to the matter, the answer was returned that the queen was
“well affected towards plays, and that therefore good regulation is
more to be provided than suppression decreed.” Various members of the
aristocracy also took to the stage, or rather the actors under their
protection. One of the most constant supporters of the dramatic art was
the Countess of Holland, daughter of Sir Walter Cope, whose husband had
been executed in 1649. Holland House, Kensington, was frequently the
scene of dramatic entertainments.

Women are now so necessary to stage performances that it is odd to
find arguments gravely set forth in favour of their presence. The
reasons assigned for introducing women were that men failed to act
women’s parts satisfactorily; that boys were no more suitable than
girls, and some of the “boys” were middle-aged men, who could not
properly impersonate young maidens. When in the reign of Charles II.
patents were granted to Killigrew and Davenant for their theatres, the
following regulations appeared--

    “And forasmuch as many plays formerly acted do contain several
    profane, obscene, and scurrilous passages, and the women’s
    parts therein have been acted by men in the habits of women
    at which some have taken offence; for the preventing of these
    abuses for the future we do strictly charge, command and enjoin
    that from henceforth no new plays shall be acted by either of
    the said companies containing any passages offensive to piety
    and good manners, nor any old or revived play containing any
    such offensive passages as aforesaid, until the same shall
    be corrected and purged by the said masters or governors of
    the said respective companies from all such offensive and
    scandalous passages as aforesaid. And we do likewise permit and
    give leave that all the women’s parts to be acted in either of
    the said two companies from this time to come may be performed
    by women, so long as these recreations which by reason of the
    abuses aforesaid were scandalous and offensive may by such
    reformation be esteemed not only harmless delights, but useful
    and instructive representations of human life, by such of our
    good subjects as shall resort to see the same.”

The character of the plays acted in the seventeenth century fitted the
temper of the times. Wycherley, Congreve, Mrs. Aphra Behn, and their
brothers and sisters in the craft were not too outspoken for the taste
of that day. Evelyn, it is true, was a severe censor, but he was a man
of the world who had travelled and seen many things. “In London,” he
says, “there were more wicked and obscene plays permitted than in all
the world besides.” And this, too, in Lent, which added much to the

It is said that the audiences give the tone to the stage, and that a
moral and cultured public would purify the drama. The audiences of
the Restoration period did not certainly perform their part towards
effecting such a consummation. Their behaviour in the playhouse has
often been noted. They showed plainly that low jests and coarse
allusions were to their taste and what they expected, and they would
have scoffed at or yawned over more decorous language. If the piece
were not to their liking they treated the performers with scant
ceremony, and hissed and pelted them. Such demonstrations were the
more frequent owing to the custom of caricaturing living persons. The
actresses, when not playing, moved about in the front rows of the
auditorium among their admirers. Then, again, the occupants of the
pit would make audible comments on the ladies sitting in the boxes,
who did not disdain to retort, greatly to the amusement of the rest
of the house. The theatre was the rallying point for adventurers
and libertines of both sexes, and served many purposes besides its
legitimate one of entertainment.

In the eighteenth century, when the custom of toasting ladies
prevailed, plays were given “for the entertainment of the new Toasts
and several Ladies of Quality.” This always brought a crowded audience.
The auditorium was frequently the scene of quarrels, and the custom of
allowing spectators to stand about on the stage was the cause of much
disorder. On one occasion, in 1721, a regular fray occurred, owing to
the presence of some tipsy noblemen; and the king, George I., gave
orders that thenceforth a guard of soldiers should protect the actors
during the performance. One could not expect in that age to find any
regard paid to the sentiments of women, and omissions made from the
plays lest their susceptibilities should be wounded. Yet this was
done in one instance certainly,[60] and the passage left out was not
one of peculiar coarseness, but one which vaunted man’s superiority
over woman. Those were not the days of equal rights between men and
women, and there could hardly have been many women who would have been
offended at the claims of the male sex to supremacy. Dr. Trusler,
writing of the eighteenth century, says--

    “Many of our comedies are improper for a young lady to be seen
    at; as, indeed, there are few English comedies that a modest
    girl can see without hurting her delicacy.”

The attentions of the audience to a popular actress were a little
overwhelming at times. A knot of admirers would gather round the door
of a lady’s dressing-room, and insist upon escorting her home. As late
as the middle of the century the manners of the gallery were so rough
that it was no uncommon thing for an orange to be flung at a lady in
court dress.

Whatever condemnation the stage incurred in the seventeenth century,
it was, whether deservedly or not, quite as much held up to opprobrium
in the eighteenth. A tract, published in 1726 by William Law, after
describing the playhouse as a “sink of corruption and debauchery,” goes
on to say--

    “This is not the state of the Play House through any accidental
    abuse, as any innocent or good thing may be abused; but that
    corruption and debauchery are the truly natural and genuine
    effects of the stage entertainment.”

But in spite of the abuses that existed in connection with the stage,
the fact remains that all through the eighteenth century there was a
succession of actresses whose celebrity was not confined to their own
age. The mere mention of the names of Mrs. Oldfield, Mrs. Porter, Peg
Woffington, Mrs. Cibber, Kitty Clive, and, later, the incomparable
Sarah Siddons, Miss Farren, and Mrs. Jordan, recalls the glories of the
playhouse and the privileges enjoyed by audiences of those days.

In the last century it would have seemed scarcely less absurd to
question the propriety of having women to act than it would now. The
difference in the course of little over fifty years was marvellous.
There is no department of the fine arts in which women have progressed
with so much rapidity as in acting. It is hardly necessary to record
the triumphs won by popular actresses, or to chronicle the successes
which have marked the career of numbers who are not in the first rank.
Women have entered upon the stage as upon their natural inheritance.
Their presence has stimulated the talents of their male compeers. The
attempt to represent human nature with only one half of humanity
seems absurdly futile to later generations, who find it impossible to
conceive of stage performances in which the players were all men.

It has been seen how the first advent of women on the stage was
productive of increased licence and freedom of manners--an almost
inevitable result considering what the age was, and the novelty
of the experiment. The influence of the drama in England, and the
important part which it has played in the development of our social
life, have been very widely discussed. Those who view the stage as
a great educator, and those--a dwindling number--who regard it as a
debaser of public morals, can both find apt illustrations to prove
their contentions. But whichever standpoint be taken, the stage, in
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was far more than at the
present day the national recreation. There were fewer counterbalancing

The Puritan party as a whole, of course, held the stage in horror, but
more than one actress whose name has come down to us was descended from
a stern Republican--like Anne and Rebecca Marshall, who were said to
be daughters of a divine of the Long Parliament. The dissoluteness of
the stage was in part attributable to the Puritan spirit which kept
the soberer members of the community from countenancing the theatre
by their presence, and deterred some from entering the dramatic
profession. Stage-acting was decried as a calling to which only the
debased would resort, and there were plentiful exhortations to those
who valued their soul’s welfare to abstain from looking upon corrupting
sights. It was difficult, especially in the seventeenth century, for
women of unblemished reputation to go on the stage without being
besmirched with the vices of the worst of their companions. Many of the
mistresses of Charles II. and his courtiers belonged to the theatrical
profession. But the century which delighted in the fascinations of Nell
Gwynn, in the beauty of Moll Davies, which watched the performances
of Prince Rupert’s mistress, Mrs. Hughes, saw also the famous Mrs.
Betterton, of unquestioned virtue, and such actresses as Mrs.
Bracegirdle and Elizabeth Barry. There never has been a time when the
stage has been without women of high repute as well as brilliant talent
to uphold its honour.

It is not until the reign of Charles I. that there is any record of
women artists. The first efforts of English artists were directed to
the illumination of manuscripts. It was for several centuries the
only kind of art worth mentioning in England. There were, it is true,
clever goldsmiths and workers in precious stones. It was the custom to
have books, especially religious books, richly bound and ornamented.
Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, gave a missal with gold clasps, which
had belonged to the Duchess of Portland, to her nephew, Henry VI. But
there was little painting of pictures, except of the rudest kind, up to
the seventeenth century. And, as far as women are concerned, the record
is absolutely bare. They do not even appear among the illuminators.
But with the days of Vandyck’s residence in England begins our roll
of female artists. Anne Carlisle shared the royal patronage with the
great Flemish painter, whom she outlived. She was a great favourite at
court, and the king’s fine taste would not have tolerated an inferior
artist. Then followed a period when the fine arts were forgotten in the
turmoil of war, and crushed by the gloomy, repressive Puritan spirit.
But after the Restoration, matters changed, and from that time onwards
there is a steadily increasing stream of artists, though the women are
few in number, up to the present century. The only female painters
of any note in the seventeenth century were those who obtained royal
patronage, like Mary Beale, a painter in both oil and water-colours,
and a most industrious artist, highly commended by the famous portrait
painter, Sir Peter Lely. Anne Killigrew, maid of honour to Mary of
Modena, Duchess of York, had only twenty-five years in which to make a
name, but she has secured a niche not only through her pictures, which
included portraits of the Duke and Duchess of York, but also by her

It is anticipating events to proceed to the days of Angelica Kaufmann
and Mary Moser, but, for the sake of preserving the continuity of the
subject, a rapid review may be taken of the work done by women in the
last century.

In 1768 the Royal Academy was founded, the first keeper being George
Moser, for many years manager of a private academy for artists in St.
Martin’s Lane, London. He was the father of Mary Moser, who, like
Angelica Kaufmann, was elected a member of the Royal Academy, these two
being the only women on whom that honour was conferred. Both had signed
a memorial to George III. in favour of the foundation of an Academy
of Arts. When it was opened in 1769, Angelica Kaufmann sent two large
paintings, and she continued for years to be an exhibitor. Mary Moser
sent a flower piece in oils, and two years later a figure subject.
After her marriage with Captain Lloyd she ceased to appear among the
ranks of professional painters, though she continued to exhibit at the
Academy uninterruptedly until 1779, and at intervals to a later period,
her last contribution being in the year 1800.

Angelica Kaufmann and Mary Moser were both of Swiss parentage.
Angelica’s father was a native of Schwartzenberg, near Lake Constance,
and George Moser was born at Schaffhausen. Angelica Kaufmann was born
about 1741--the exact date is uncertain--and Mary Moser in 1744. But
while the more celebrated artist spent the years of her childhood among
the beautiful surroundings of Morbegno, in Lombardy, and on the shores
of Lake Como, and acquired her early training in the galleries of
Milan, Mary Moser was born and educated in England. Angelica Kaufmann
did not come to this country until 1765, after she had made a name for
herself in Italy, and had helped her father to decorate the Church of
Schwartzenberg with frescoes, had painted the portraits of several
noble personages, had been warmly praised and munificently treated by
the Bishop of Constance, and had become the pet of the ladies about the
court of the Governor of Milan, Francis III., Duke of Modena. It was
through Lady Wentworth, the wife of the English Minister at Venice,
Mr. Murray, that Angelica Kaufmann came to England, where she was
welcomed by artists both English and foreign, and made much of in the
fashionable world. The painter Fuseli, whom she had already met in
Rome, was desperately in love with her, but she, unfortunately, fell
into the meshes of that arch adventurer who passed himself off as Count
de Horn, while her fellow-artist, Mary Moser, was languishing for love
of Fuseli, who was indifferent or blind to her attachment. In 1781
Angelica Kaufmann married Antonio Zucchi, a Venetian artist, and left
England for Italy never to return. Fuseli consoled himself with a Miss
Sophia Rawlins in 1788, the year in which he was elected Associate of
the Royal Academy, and Miss Moser married Captain Hugh Lloyd.

Mary Moser, at the time when she and Angelica Kaufmann joined the
ranks of the “Forty,” was the only flower painter in the Academy,
with the exception of John Baker. If Angelica Kaufmann, with her
brilliant beauty and talents, has eclipsed her humbler friend, yet
Miss Moser contrived to secure a very fair share of artistic success.
She gained very practical recognition from the royal family, the Queen
commissioning her to paint a room at Frogmore, for which she was paid
£900. The whole decoration of this room was in flowers, flower-painting
being Miss Moser’s speciality. The last time she exhibited at the
Academy she sent a figure subject.

Fanny Reynolds, the retiring and unappreciated sister of Sir Joshua
Reynolds, was one of Angelica Kaufmann’s many friends. Perhaps she did
not object to the romantic devotion paid by her famous brother to the
fascinating young Italian artist who captivated all hearts. Frances
Reynolds had many difficulties in the way of her artistic studies.
She got no help or even encouragement from her brother, who, far from
tendering her any advice, disliked to see her paint, and ridiculed
her miniatures, which, he said, “make other people laugh and me cry.”
Perhaps James Northcote, Sir Joshua’s pupil, was right when he said
that Miss Reynolds’s portraits were an exact imitation of Sir Joshua’s
defects. This would account for the unfavourable judgment and harsh
treatment poor Fanny always received from her brother.

Mrs. Cosway, another of Angelica Kaufmann’s friends, and one of a
very smart circle, first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1780. She
was the daughter of an Englishman, or Irishman, named Hadfield, who
kept an hotel at Florence, and sent his little girl to a convent to
be educated. She wished to become a nun, but was dissuaded from that
course by her mother desiring her company when her father died, and
the family moved to England. It was Angelica Kaufmann who eventually
completed the work of converting Maria Hadfield from a religious to a
secular life. Her husband was an R.A., wealthy, and much admired as an
artist. Mrs. Cosway, like her husband, painted miniatures, and was very
successful. She also possessed a good deal of musical talent, and was
personally attractive, so that between them Mr. and Mrs. Cosway made
numerous friends and quantities of money, for Cosway had a keen eye to
business, and could turn everything to account. Their receptions were
noted, and were attended by artists, men of letters, the most exclusive
of the fashionable world, and also by royalty. But all this splendour
faded away when Cosway took up the cause of the Revolutionists in
France. His friends turned their backs on him, his wife’s health
failed, their only child died, and the last years of their married life
were spent in a dull house in the Edgeware Road, London. After her
husband’s death, Mrs. Cosway went back to her native country.

In the closing years of the eighteenth century there were many
landscape painters among women, but in the early part of the nineteenth
century they declined, very few exhibiting at the Royal Academy. It
was, however, a flourishing period for portrait painters. “Never
before or since have so many lady artists obtained such honours in a
most difficult branch.”[61] Mrs. Carpenter, who lived between 1793 and
1877, was pre-eminent among these, and was a regular exhibitor at the
Academy from 1814 to 1866. Mrs. James Robertson was a clever miniature
painter, and was elected a member of the Imperial Academy of St.
Petersburg. She was also an exhibitor at the Royal Academy during the
same period as Mrs. Carpenter.

It was not an easy matter at the close of the last century and the
beginning of the present to obtain instruction in miniature painting,
and the women who excelled did so entirely by their own laborious
efforts. Later on this branch of the art fell into desuetude. Flower
and fruit painting came much into vogue early in the century. It is a
curious thing that the amateurs of art should have fallen so much into
the background in the first half of this century. In the last decade of
the eighteenth century the amateurs were rather distinguished. There
were numbers of “honorary exhibitors” between 1793 and 1800 at the
Royal Academy, who seem to have been so described because they were
amateurs like Miss Spilsbury, Miss Serres, and other ladies.

It seems strange that in music women have shown so little creative
power. They have proved first-class executants, but as composers they
have not attempted any great flights. With a few exceptions their
productions have been confined to the lighter kinds of music, to songs
and the simpler class of pianoforte works. They have rarely attempted
orchestral pieces or the more elaborate forms of vocal composition.
Symphonies, oratorios, operas, or even cantatas have very seldom
issued from the pen of a woman. It is not, however, impossible that
creative capacity may have existed in many women without finding direct
expression or acknowledgment. Mendelssohn narrates how he was summoned
to play before the Queen, who wished that he should accompany her in
one of his compositions. He asked Her Majesty to select her favourite
song, and when the Queen had chosen what she called quite the best,
Mendelssohn was obliged to confess that the song was his sister’s
work, not his own. The elder Mendelssohn would probably have seen
more impropriety in his daughter’s name appearing in print than in
his son taking credit for what he had not composed. Just as Caroline
Herschell’s large share in her brother’s astronomic labours and Fanny
Mendelssohn’s authorship were not acknowledged, so is it impossible to
say that musical genius may not have been the heritage of some among
the women of famous composers’ families.

But women have always delighted in playing and singing, even in those
early periods of our history when music in this country was chiefly a
thing of ear and memory, there being hardly any musical literature and
very few professional instructors. In the middle ages, throughout the
Renaissance period, and down to the last century, music was part of
polite education for both sexes. At the present day a gentleman may go
comfortably through life with no more, if as much, knowledge of music
as a Board School child, and not be accused of lack of breeding. For a
woman in the middle and upper ranks, music has remained an essential
feature of education. Indeed, it has been made far too much of, and
many years are often wasted in attaining a very moderate degree of
executive skill, with little pleasure or profit, by those who have not
sufficient natural ability to make prolonged study useful.

In the present century the musical education of women has made great
strides. Every opportunity has been taken for latent talent to develop
by means of the best instruction. The academies and schools of music
have raised the standard of private teaching, besides directly
educating vast numbers of students. The result is an ever-increasing
number of really able performers and teachers, but very few composers.
To the executive power of women there is no limit beyond that of the
instrument. With regard to vocalism, there is the barrier of climate.
We are not a nation of vocalists, and though there is a very large
amount of respectable talent it is seldom that England produces a great

One proof of the advanced musical education of women is to be found in
their frequent presence as performers in high-class orchestras. It used
to be a rare thing to see a woman appear on a concert platform in any
capacity but that of vocalist or pianoforte player. Now she takes her
place quite naturally among the “strings.” To play in concerted music
means a wider training, and one that has only become possible to women
in recent times.

The English have always been a music-loving nation. The records of
early times show in what esteem music was held. The harp was the
favourite instrument of our forefathers. The possession of a harp was
one of the three things necessary to a gentleman or a freeman in Wales,
and slaves were not permitted to play on it. A gentleman’s harp was
never seized for debt, because he would then have been degraded to
the rank of a slave. The minstrel was as essential to English social
life in the middle ages as the cook or the henchman. A writer in the
thirteenth century speaks of the good singers in England at the court
of Henry II. Erasmus in the sixteenth century remarks of the English:--

    “They challenge the prerogative of having the most handsome
    women, of keeping the best table, and being most accomplished
    in the skill of music of any people.”

At that time everybody, high or low, delighted in music. It was as
much a part of education as reading and writing, and there was never a
festival or entertainment of any kind without music. Curiously enough,
ladies then played the bass viol, thought by some to be an “unmannerly
instrument for a woman.” The virginal, or as it is generally called the
virginals, a sort of pianoforte; the cittern and the gittern, which
were varieties of the lute and the guitar, were the instruments most in
use by gentlewomen.[62] The virginal is said to have received its name
from being played by young girls, or, according to some authorities,
because it was an instrument used by the nuns in their hymns to the
Virgin. It was expected of every lady that she must be able--

    “to play upon the virginals, lute, and cittern; and to read
    prick song (_i.e._ music written or pricked down) _at first

So common was the lute that lute-strings were much in vogue as new
year’s gifts to ladies. Queen Elizabeth, as is well known, was a
skilful performer on the lute and virginals, and her “Virginal Book” is
frequently referred to in musical works. “Lady Nevill’s Virginal Book”
is another famous collection of sixteenth-century airs.

Queen Elizabeth gave great encouragement to sacred music, and issued
express orders for the retention of the musical portion of the Church
Service, and in her own chapel various instruments were used. She gave
much offence to the stricter Protestants by her patronage of music.

All through the Tudor period England was merry with music, but with
the triumph of the Puritans, in the seventeenth century, all this was
changed. Music was denounced as corrupting and mischievous, like the
other arts, and every effort made to prevent the people’s enjoyment
of it, either in their own homes or in the religious services. Under
James I. there had been little encouragement given to music, and when
the Civil War came, and the Commonwealth, with its austere doctrines,
was established, there was no chance for musicians. The fury of the
Puritans against church music was shown in acts of violence. The organ
of Westminster Abbey was broken down, and the pipes pawned for ale by
roistering republicans. Ordinances were passed in 1644 for--

    “the speedy demolishing of all organs and all matters of
    superstitions, monuments in all Cathedral or Collegiate or
    Parish Churches and Chapels throughout the Kingdom.”

And even before then havoc had been made of the church organs. Of the
court players no one knows--they disappeared. But after the Restoration
the Royal Chapel Choir was re-formed with some difficulty, for both
teachers and performers had been scattered to the four winds. Then
followed the age of Purcell, Humphrey, Wise, and Blow.

Throughout the seventeenth century, and down to the time of the second
George, ladies continued to play on the virginals and lute, and to
practise reading music at sight.

    “Part of a gentlewoman’s bringing up is to sing, dance, play
    on the lute, or some such instrument, before she can say her
    _Pater Noster_ or ten commandments: ’tis the next way their
    parents think to get them husbands, they are compelled to learn.”

And just as Englishwomen of the present day are apt to lay aside their
accomplishments after marriage, so, in the seventeenth century,

    “they that being maids took so much pains to sing, play, and
    dance, with such cost and charge to their parents to get these
    graceful qualities, now being married, will scarce touch an
    instrument, they care not for it.”

The very maidservants at that period understood music. Pepys speaks
of a servant whom he and his wife took into their household, a poor,
wretched girl, without proper clothing, but with a decided talent for
singing, apparent even through a voice described by the diarist as
furred for want of use. This was the fourth maid in the course of less
than ten years whom Pepys praises for musical ability; and there was
also the boy who was in the habit of playing his lute in bed at four in
the morning, a habit that most employers would object to, but Pepys saw
in it only occasion for praise.

The seventeenth century marks an era in our musical history, because
it witnessed the first attempts at opera by English composers. Matthew
Lock’s opera, _Psyche_, produced in 1673, was the first English
composition of this class. Henry Purcell, when he was only about
seventeen, wrote _Dido and Æneas_. It was performed in 1677. Now, as
Madame Raymond Ritter has said--

    “Woman’s practical career as a musician only began with the
    invention of the opera about 1600. It was not until her
    superiority as an actress and a singer had been undeniably and
    triumphantly established on the stage that she was allowed to
    resume her musical participation in Church services.”[63]

Purcell’s opera had a very modest introduction to the world. It was
performed at a girl’s boarding-school, kept in Leicester Fields by Mr.
James Priest, a famous dancing-master, who persuaded young Purcell to
write the music to the libretto of the drama which had been composed by
one Tate at his suggestion. Mr. Priest desired to have something for
his pupils to perform, and the exhibition came off with great _éclat_
in the presence of the pupils’ parents and friends.

It is a little surprising that any one should have been found daring
enough to carry out so startling an idea at a girls’ school, and it
seems odd that Mr. Priest should have been the proprietor of such an

The musical history of England affords little that is encouraging to
dwell upon from the middle of the seventeenth century. A great many
foreign artists visited this country, but native talent was at a very
low ebb. There were no English composers of any note after Purcell,
who died at thirty-seven years of age, just when Italian opera was
beginning to take root in England.





  Artificiality of eighteenth-century life--The _rôle_ of
      the middle-class woman--Scotch domestic life--The old
      maid--Admiration of foreigners for English women--English
      dress--Public morals--Contrast between town and country life--A
      country lady in London--Racquets, routs, and drums--Education
      of girls--The boarding-school--Habits and manners of the middle
      class--Le Blanc’s opinion of the English.

“La dix-huitième siècle aime la nature.” The love of the eighteenth
century for nature was, however, a capricious attachment, a spurious
sentiment. No century so delighted in artificiality. Its dress, its
habits, its amusements, its very speech,--all bear witness to its
dislike of nature unadorned. It loved the town and the works of
man. The eighteenth century stands out with a curiously distinct
individuality. The influences that moulded society in the time of the
Stuarts had passed away. The contest between the moralist and the
sensualist had spent itself. Although the Puritan spirit lived on,
it slumbered awhile, and the open profligacy against which it had
striven, though not extinguished, was manifested in less pronounced
shapes. The Church was both lethargic and corrupt. For the first time
in English history we come upon a period when there was no dominant
spiritual influence. Religion, like everything else, was a matter of

Slowly the great characteristics of social life in England had changed.
Romanism and feudalism had governed it in earlier times. Then came
the Renaissance, with its vivifying power, followed by the reign of
sensuality and the opposing force of Puritanism. It seemed as if the
nation were exhausted; passion had spent itself, moral feeling was
deadened, enthusiasm was quenched. The new force was conventionality.

Women in every-day life felt the spell of this goddess less than did
the great ladies. Over the fashionable world she reigned supreme; but
the _bourgeoisie_, while they admired, and as far as possible imitated,
the ways of their social superiors, showed themselves more children of

Increase of material ease and comfort was re-shaping the course of
domestic life. As household arrangements were improved, new appliances
invented, and the general conditions made smoother, woman’s position
changed. She was less completely occupied with the means of living,
and more open to outside influences. That she invariably made a good
use of her liberty is not so clear. The prosperous, well-housed
citizenesses of the eighteenth century probably spent much of their
spare time in idle chatter--it was a great period for gossip--and in
tricking themselves out to imitate the fine ladies of whom they got
glimpses at church and in the public gardens. They rose late because
it was fashionable, leaving their servants to do the work that their
grandmothers would have shared. There is as much lost as gained in
the uprooting of social habits while the people are still unripe for
changes. And the women of the eighteenth century _were_ unripe. There
was more material than intellectual improvement. The literary movement
hardly touched women in every-day life; the philanthropic movement
had not made any headway, and as for politics, it was only the great
ladies, with relatives and friends among statesmen, who concerned
themselves with public affairs. Middle-class women seldom read the
newspapers. It was in the coffee-houses that men learned and discussed
the news of the day; they did not buy the papers and bring them home in
London. In the country a weekly news-letter was handed from neighbour
to neighbour, or discussed at village inns, but the women-folk usually
gathered their news by hearsay, not finding much to interest them
in the curiously composed, ill-printed medley that called itself a

The women of the middle classes did not keep pace with the men in
enlarging their sphere of interests. Among the aristocracy women were
naturally drawn more into the current of life by their connection
with leading men of the time, by their intercourse with distinguished
foreign visitors, by their opportunities of travel and of contact with
the best thought of the day. But the women of the trading classes were
removed from all these influences. Their _rôle_ was a domestic one. The
education which they received was not calculated to inspire them with
any idea that their minds needed enlarging. It was seldom thought that
women required anything beyond a few accomplishments.

In Scotland--

    “domestick affairs and amuseing her husband was the bussiness
    of a good wife. Those that could afoard governesses for their
    children had them, but all they could learn them was to read
    English ill and plain work. The chief thing required was to
    hear them repeat Psalms and long catechisms, in which they
    were employed an hour or more every day, and almost the whole
    day on Sunday. If there was no governess to perform this work
    it was done by the chaplan, of which there was one in every
    family. No attention was given to what we call accomplishments.
    Reading and writing well, or even spelling, was never thought
    of. Musicke, drawing, or French were seldom taught the girls.
    They were allowed to rune about and amuse themselves in the way
    they choiced, even to the age of women, at which time they were
    generally sent to Edinburgh for a winter or two to lairn to
    dress themselves, and to dance and see a little of the world.
    The world was only to be seen at Church, at marriages, burials,
    and baptisms. These were the only public places where the
    ladys went in full dress, and as they walked the street they
    were seen by everybody; but it was the fashion when in undress
    all-wise to be masked. When in the country their employment was
    in color’d work, beds, tapestry and other pieces of furniture;
    imitations of fruits and flowers with very little taste. If
    they read any it was either books of devotion or long romances,
    and sometimes both.”

These are the words of an Ayrshire lady, whose reminiscences date back
to the early years of the eighteenth century. She lived up till 1795,
during which time she witnessed a great change in girls’ education.
Reading, writing, music, drawing, geography, history, even French and
Italian were added gradually to the curriculum.

In former periods women were producers as well as distributors, each
household being like a little township, dependent on itself. But in
the eighteenth century, although domestic industries had not been
revolutionized as they have since been, there were factories and shops,
and all sorts of hawkers, who vended goods of various kinds in the
streets. In London and in the large towns there was no need for each
family to produce its own necessaries, though in country districts
the domestic arrangements were more stationary. Baking, brewing,
and salting were still carried on in the larger houses occupied by
the gentry, but in small households most of the things required for
daily use were bought. The domestic _rôle_ of the eighteenth-century
woman among the middle classes was not so absorbing as to leave her
no time for mental recreation. But books, like politics, were, for
the most part, left to the men. There was so little circulation of
literature that in London much of the reading was done standing at a
bookseller’s stall, a method obviously impossible to women. With such
scanty education as was considered appropriate to the weaker sex, with
no books but of the most dreary kind, written for young people, it was
little wonder that the generality of girls grew up without any habit of
reading, or of regarding literature as an essential element of their
daily lives. We cannot think of the average woman in the last century
as finding much of her pleasure in any intellectual occupation. She had
been neglected, her mind allowed to rust. The awakening that had taken
place two hundred years before had been succeeded by a reaction, and
there was a general apathy with regard to women’s education.

A writer in the second quarter of the century, who is vaunting the
superiority of men over women, says England is

    “the place in the world where the fair sex is the most
    regarded, and, perhaps, deserves most to be so.... Nor is it
    easy to comprehend how it is possible to raise them higher with
    any show of reason, considering their natural incapacity for
    everything above the sphere they actually move in.”

Foreigners were always struck by the freedom enjoyed by married women.
One 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 middle-class wife has been pictured for us by Fielding in the
description of Squire Western’s wife:--

    “The Squire, to whom that poor woman had been a faithful
    upper-servant all the time of their marriage, had returned that
    behaviour 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 bottle companions.”

Whatever the position of the wife, it was preferred to that of the
single woman.

    “An old maid is now thought such a curse as no Poetick Fury can
    exceed,” writes the author of “The Ladies’ Calling,” “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 frighted only with the vulgar
    contempt under which that state lyes: for which if there be
    no cure, yet there is the same armour against this which is
    against all other causeless reproaches, viz. to contemn it.”

This supports the remark that women were more easily won than formerly.
An elderly beau writes--

    “The men of these days are strangely happy. In my time a fine
    woman was not to be gain’d without a long application and a
    thousand testimonies of an unfeign’d and constant regard;
    but now a game of romps or a lucky run at cards reduces the
    vanquished fair to accept of what condition the conqueror is
    pleased to give.”

The modest demeanour of English women when seen abroad excited the
admiration of foreigners, who were a little astonished at the general
taste for walking, which is

    “a great diversion among the ladies and their manner of doing
    it is one way of knowing their character; desiring only to
    be seen, they would walk together for the most part without
    speaking, they are always dressed and always stiff; they go
    forward constantly, and nothing can amuse them or put them out
    of their way.... Yet, notwithstanding all their care to be
    seen, they are seldom coquets, nor have they any ridiculous
    affectations or bold ways.”

It was not usual for girls to walk about alone, and was considered
indecorous by the older generation.

    “I know this age has so great a contempt of the former that
    ’tis but matter of scorn to alledge any of their customs; else
    I should say that the liberties that are taken now would then
    have been startled at. They that should then have seen a young
    maid rambling abroad without her mother or some other prudent
    person, would have looked on her as a stray, and thought it but
    a neighbourly office to have brought her home: whereas now ’tis
    a rarity to see them in any company graver than themselves,
    and she that goes with her parent (unless it be such a parent
    as is as wild as herself) thinks she does but walk abroad with

Our national fault--want of taste in dress, and fondness for new
fashions, however unsuitable--called forth the censure of an Italian

    “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 which makes it much
    bigger than nature, a fault which should be always avoided in
    adorning that part.... They wear their petticoats too short
    behind, and not imitating the most graceful birds, as the
    ladies of Italy and France, in a trail of their robes upon the
    ground, lose the greatest grace which dress can impart to a

    “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....
    There is nothing so common as to hear the ladies of this nation
    assure you that such a shape is quite out of fashion, and the
    present reigning mode is the slender or the large; as if the
    creative power, like the hands of mantua makers, had cut the
    human person by a new pattern and thrown away the old.... 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 mein which
    become her figure, appears in the most engaging dress that can
    be made, to set off her person to the greatest advantage.”

About the middle of the century quite an outcry arose about the
introduction of so many French fashions, and the prints of the day
are full of caricatures of French ways and costumes. It was the upper
classes who were first seized with this mania for imitation, and the
example being infectious, spread rapidly through all ranks of society.
The fashionable world followed France, and the middle classes followed
the fashionable world. The mode of life, the popularity of public
gardens, to which high and low resorted, brought the ways of the gay
world under the eyes of the staid folk who dwelt in the city.

    “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.”[64]

In 1770 an Act was passed declaring--

    “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 in force against witchcraft and like misdemeanours, and
    that the marriage upon conviction shall stand null and void.”

Public morals were at a low ebb if we may trust the observation of
that experienced traveller, M. Grosley, who says that the women of the
town were bolder and more numerous in London than in Paris or Rome.
They thronged the footpaths at night, and even in broad daylight
accosted passers by, more particularly those whom they perceived to be

Archenholz, who visited London some years after Grosley, says:--

    “On compte cinquante mille prostituées à Londres, sans 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 même pour les
    filles communs, 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.”

One of the causes of the number of these _filles de joie_ was,
probably, the constant immigration from the provinces of young
friendless girls eager to taste the delights of London. When their
means were exhausted it was impossible for them to return or obtain
employment without credentials, and they entered upon the only career
that seemed open to them.

Another Frenchman comments on the openly lax morality which disgraced
English family life--

    “There’s yet a much greater fault which the English women
    have reason to complain of, and that is that most of the
    husbands keep mistresses. Some have carried them home and
    made them eat at the same table with their wives, and yet no
    mischief happened.... They have been seen even in company
    with the wives, and if there is any distinction, ’tis that
    they are handsomer for the most part, better dressed and less

“If this be thought an exaggerated portrait, drawn with the inaccuracy
of hasty observation and coloured by prejudice, the same cannot be
said with regard to the pen of Fielding, who, in “Tom Jones,” reflects
popular opinion and represents the standard of the day. A young fellow,
named Nightingale, who has betrayed his landlady’s daughter, is thus
addressed by his uncle:--

    “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 will be remembered how “Squire Western,” when he heard that “Tom
Jones” had betrayed a village girl, laughed at the episode as a good
joke, and called upon his daughter to bear him out that women would
think no worse of a young fellow for that. As for “Sophia” herself, it
proved no serious check on her passion.

And yet England was said to be the country where offences against women
were punished with the greatest severity, and where, if a man wished to
find an unlawful partner, he must search among those whose poverty made
them ready victims to temptation.

It cannot be doubted that women of the middle classes were accustomed
to expect a lower standard of morality among men than at the present
day. The novels of the last century show that what are now deemed as
grave offences were then considered mere peccadilloes. Drinking and
swearing were foibles too common to excite notice, and breaches of the
moral code were easily condoned. The women were not so prone themselves
as might have been thought to the sins which they tolerated, but they
were brought up in the belief that a larger licence should be allowed
to men. The same tendency is apparent now in circles where the women
take little or no share in the occupations of their husbands and
brothers, and where the interests are totally different. The women,
who are the most ready to be lenient where they should be severe,
set up different standards of morality for the sexes, and draw a
dividing-line between masculine and feminine virtues and vices.

What greatly impressed Frenchmen was the seriousness of English wives,
and their sober, chaste lives.

    “Au milieu des débordemens, souvent poussés à l’excès, dans
    cette grande ville, il est bien rare de voir la corruption
    attaquer une femme mariée, et chercher à lui faire partager ses
    infames plaisirs. Elle trouve un rempart insurmontable dans son
    amour pour sa famille, les soins de son ménage, et sa gravité
    naturelle. Je soutiens même qu’il n’y a pas de ville dans le
    monde où l’honneur des maris soit moins en danger qu’à Londres.”

Another writes:--

    “Le part qu’ont les femmes au sérieux et à la mélancolie
    nationale en les rendant sédentaire, les attache à leurs maris,
    à leurs enfans, et à leur ménage.”

Le Blanc remarks, with a touch of wounded vanity--

    “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

Naturally a Frenchman thought his own countrywomen more attractive--

    “The women in France are not so reserved as in England; but we
    find charms in their company which those of this country have
    not. The one, by their awkwardness, have the defect of making
    virtue itself disagreeable; the others, more engaging, have
    often the pernicious art of making vice seem amiable.”

There were those who complained that in France--

    “women have too much boldness, and are scarcely women. The
    continual commerce between the sexes causes, as it were, an
    exchange of characters which makes each sex derogate something
    from its proper character. They (the women) drink hard at
    table, and do it agreeably. They understand gaming as well as
    men. They go a-hunting with men, and come so near to men in
    everything that they are scarcely women.”

What would have been thought of the modern Englishwoman who rides to
hounds, wears masculine, tailor-made clothes, and shares the serious
occupations as well as the amusements of the male sex, it is needless
to discuss. In the last century pursuits that are now quite common,
and pass without notice, were thought extravagantly fast, while our
ancestors tolerated a licence of manners and speech that we, in our
turn, should repudiate.

There was considerable difference between the manners and habits of
town dwellers and those living in the country. An article in _The
Female Spectator_, in 1745, recounts a country lady’s experiences on
her first visit to London, and her amazement at the habits of London
folk. She went to call on an old acquaintance with whom she had at one
time been extremely intimate:--

    “It was between eleven and twelve when I came to her door,
    where, after knocking a considerable time, a footman with his
    nightcap on, and pale as just risen from the dead, came yawning
    forth, and on my asking for his lady, ‘O Gad, madam,’ drawled
    he out, ‘we had a racquet here last night, and my lady cannot
    possibly be stirring these three hours.’ I wondered what had
    happened, but would not ask any questions of the fellow, and
    only left my name and said I would wait on her at a more proper

The lady returns about three o’clock, after shopping and dining, and
thus describes her visit:--

    “I had now the good fortune to be admitted, and found her at
    her chocolate; she had a dish of it in one hand, and with
    the other she seemed very busy in sorting a large parcel
    of guineas, which she divided in two heaps on a table that
    stood before her. She rose and received me with a great
    deal of civility and kindness, told me she was sorry for my
    disappointment on my first calling, but added with a smile that
    when I had been a little while in town I should learn to lie
    longer in bed in a morning.”

After this the London lady explains to her country visitor the meaning
of the term racquet, viz. when the number of company assembled for
cards exceeded ten tables; if it were fewer, the entertainment was
called a “rout,” and if there were only two tables it was a “drum.”

To the bewildered visitor the amusements of London folk seemed
very odd, and she adds that she found cheating at cards almost as
fashionable as cards themselves.

As the stage-coach system developed country people came more to London,
and Londoners began to pay periodical visits to watering-places,
whither they carried the dissipations of town life. The love of scenery
is a taste that has been largely developed within the present century.
When people travelled formerly, if it were not for business, it was
to comply with fashion and for the excitement of a change, but not to
revel in the beauties of Nature. The eighteenth century was full of
artificial sentiment. It disliked in women the evidences of health and
of a robust constitution of mind. The effect on ordinary women was to
make them shallow and affected. They were not taught to think; they
were encouraged to believe that appearances counted for everything,
reality for nothing. As long as the exterior was pleasing, it mattered
not what was beneath.

    “When a poor 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 lay out her industry and money on 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 petulent, delicate and fantastick,
    humorous and inconstant, ’tis not strange that the ill-effects
    of this conduct appears in all the future actions of our
    lives.... That, therefore, women are unprofitable to most, and
    a plague and dishonour to some men is not much to be regretted
    on account of the men, because ’tis the product of their own
    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 vertue.”[66]

The flirtation with literature, the coquetting with accomplishments
which passed for female education, were shams, like the powdered
_pouffs_ of hair and the face-washes. It was an age of shams,
and women were told, in effect if not in words, that successful
shamming was their _rôle_ in life. They were to sham sensitiveness,
modesty, ignorance (which could not have been difficult), anything
and everything which it was deemed likely would commend them to the
perverted taste of the day. The vapourish, hysterical, fainting
heroines of romance are only slightly coloured pictures of reality.

The physical effects of the system of education were as harmful as the
results on the mind.

    “Miss is set down to her frame before she can put on her
    clothes; and is taught to believe that to excel at the needle
    is the only thing that can entitle her to general esteem....
    One hardly meets with a girl who can at the same time boast of
    early performances by the needle and a good constitution.”[67]

_The Female Spectator_ issued a protest against that devotion to the
needle, which was regarded as one of the cardinal virtues in women:--

    “Nor can I by any means approve of 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. In my opinion a
    lady of condition should learn just as much of cookery and of
    work as to know when she is imposed upon by those she employs
    in both those necessary occasions, but no more. To pass too
    much of her time in them may acquire her the reputation of a
    notable housewife, but not of a woman of fine taste, or any way
    qualify her for polite conversation, or of entertaining herself
    agreeably when alone. 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 of shirts
    for her father. And then when she has carried you into the
    nursery and shewn 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.’”

In the second half of the century, when the influence of the
fashionable world was more strongly felt among the _bourgeoisie_,
the boarding-school, with its flimsy accomplishments and its lack of
solid education, began to attract the daughters of a different class.
Hitherto it had been the monopoly of the so-called gentlefolk, but now
mingling with these were the daughters of tradesmen and farmers, who
had money to spend and a fancy for making “ladies” of their girls. It
may have been a step up in the social ladder for these newcomers, but
from an educational point of view it was no gain. The training of the
fashionable boarding-school was only a veneer.

To the French it seemed odd and unnatural to see English parents
sending their children off to boarding-schools, or to be educated
abroad at the convent schools of Paris. In France young girls were kept
at home with their mothers much more than in England.

    “Les parens se débarassent de leurs enfans,” writes La Combe in
    his “Tableau de Londres,” “en les jettant au hazard dans des
    pensions ou des académies. Ils semblent rougir de voir leurs
    enfans se former sous leurs yeux; ils prefèrent des étrangers,
    qui n’ont ni attachement ni la connaissance des passions des
    enfans qu’on leur confie, et les elévent tous avec indifférence
    sur le même plan. Il serait plus raisonnable d’avoir les enfans
    chez soi, d’étudier leur goût, leur penchant, de les façonner
    peu à peu par la douceur et les caresses, à la docilité au
    travail, à l’honnêteté et de les familiariser insensiblement
    avec tout ce qu’ils doivent savoir un jour et pratiquer dans la
    société. On est étonné, à Paris surtout, lorsqu’on voit arriver
    de jeunes Anglaises dans les couvents. Quoi? dit on, les mœurs
    sont donc bien corrompues à Londres pour nous charger d’élever
    les demoiselles.”

As the century grew older the habits and amusements of the leisured
classes spread to the trading community.

    “I will not presume to say that all the misfortunes the city of
    London at present labours under are owing to their preposterous
    fondness of following the fashions of the court; but that they
    are in a great measure so I believe most people will readily
    enough agree to.”[68]

Speaking of a City dame who had taken up with the fashions of the
West-end, the same writer observed--

    “A great courtier now become, she looks with contempt on her
    former fellow-citizens, joins in the laugh coquets and beaus
    set up whenever any of them appear, and sees not that herself
    is equally an object of ridicule to those she is so vain of
    imitating. Thus despising and despised without one real friend,
    she lives a gawdy, glittering, worthless member of society,
    and endured by those whose example has rendered her such, on no
    other account than that immense wealth which they find means
    to share with her, while she imagines they are doing her an

The busy merchants and traders whose wives were so eager to be in the
fashion were themselves no less anxious to be up to the times.

    “I do not but see that the men are as eager to quit their
    compting houses and strut in the drawing-room disguised in a
    long sword and taper wig as the women can be in a new brocade,
    exactly the same pattern with that of one of the Princesses.
    The infection has spread itself pretty equally through both
    sexes. And the husband has little to reproach the wife with, or
    the wife the husband, but what each are guilty of in the same

Merchants and bankers, in spite of the cares of business, took
life very easily, spending the first part of the morning in the
coffee-houses, and, after a couple of hours at the Exchange, going home
to dinner at four o’clock.

The manners and customs of the eighteenth century accentuated the
differences of sex, and set up artificial barriers between men and
women. Foreigners, because they heard politics constantly discussed,
and forming the chief interest of the citizen’s life, and because they
saw the wife acquiesce in her husband’s views, concluded that politics
proved a strong bond of union in family life.

    “Cet intérêt repand dans le domestique un nouvel agrément: le
    mari y trouvant toujours quelqu’un avec qui il peut traiter à
    cœur ouvert, aussi longuement et aussi profondement que bon lui
    semble, les objets qui l’interessent le plus.”

As has been noted elsewhere, interest in politics--especially politics
which dealt in personalities--was keen enough among the women of
the aristocracy, for the game was being largely played by their own
friends, but the women of the middle classes were generally indifferent
to public affairs. Except on occasions of great public excitement,
the City madam, the country squire’s lady, and the farmer’s wife knew
little of what was stirring in the world of statecraft. They lumped
together politics and pipes as part of the men’s amusements with which
they had no direct concern. They shared their husbands’ views because
they had none of their own, and it was not worth while troubling their
heads about such matters as changes of Ministry, Bills in Parliament,
and so forth.

Occupations and habits caused men and women to lead separate lives.
Hard riding and hard drinking were the recreations of the country
squire; the farmer had his out-door duties; the tradesman had his
apprentices to superintend; the shopkeeper had no suburban residence,
and was a shopkeeper all day long while the shutters were open. The
wife occupied herself with her store-cupboard, her linen-press, and her
kitchen, and gossiped in her parlour with neighbours over a dish of tea.

    “The English,” wrote Le Blanc, “lose a great deal in conversing
    so little with the sex whom Nature has endowed with the graces,
    and whose company has constant charms and a certain sweetness
    not to be found in that of men. The conversation of women
    polishes and softens our behaviour; by the habit we acquire
    of endeavouring to please them, we contract a tone of voice
    equally agreeable to both sexes....

    “The custom of living with what is most valuable in both sexes,
    makes the pleasure and happiness of life.... And ’tis by too
    much neglecting this custom that the English have a certain
    disagreeable bluntness in their character.”

In this century many things have occurred to modify the differences
in the habits of the sexes, to bring men and women more into the same
current of ideas, occupations, amusements. To a much greater extent
than formerly the evolution of women is proceeding along the same lines
as the evolution of men. In the last century men regarded women as--

    “made only to take possession of their hearts, and seldom or
    never to afford any amusement to their minds. They prefer the
    pleasure of toasting their healths in a tavern to that of
    chatting with them in a circle. They treat them as if they had
    been as much of another species as of another sex. For the most
    part they look on them as good for nothing but to dissipate
    their vapours or ease the fatigue of business.”

They now regard them as comrades instead of playthings.



  London society in the last century--Lord Chesterfield on
      taste--Coarse language of great ladies--The speculation mania
      among ladies--Narrowness of fashionable life--Manners and
      amusements--Difficulties of social intercourse--The founders
      of Almack’s Club--The passion for politics--Lady Mary Wortley
      Montagu on women’s training--Some traits of eighteenth-century

After the turmoil of the Stuart period was over, and the country had
settled down under the rule of the dull Hanoverians, social life in
England assumed a new form. The circles of the great ladies who now
come into prominence, partly through their wealth and dignities,
but more on account of their qualifications as leaders of society,
eclipse the circles gathered in royal palaces. Until the eighteenth
century society consisted of factions. There was a court party and a
party strongly opposed to the court; there were court beauties and
favourites, duly hated by the opposite set. In London there were
mansions where revels were held by great families, but there was no
cohesion among the scattered elements of London life. It was only in
the seventeenth century that it became fashionable to keep a town as
well as a country house, or rather to spend the winter in London in a
house hired for the season, which then included the darkest and coldest
months in the year. London was only just beginning to be made the
centre of all that was most brilliant in social life, and society’s
leaders were still, for the most part, performing their functions at
their country estates.

But in the eighteenth century London has its well-established social
circles, which take the lead in all matters of fashion and taste,
having first acquired the tone from Paris. It was in the second quarter
of the century that the question of taste was always uppermost in
polite circles, according to Lord Chesterfield.

    “Taste,” he writes, “is now the fashionable word of the
    fashionable world. Everything must be done with taste; that is
    settled, but where that taste is is not quite so certain, for
    after all the pains I have taken to find out what was meant
    by the word, and whether those who use it oftenest had any
    clear idea annexed to it, I have only been able negatively to
    discover that they do not mean their own natural taste, but
    on the contrary, that they have sacrificed it to an imaginary
    one, of which they can give no account. They build houses in
    taste, which they cannot live in with conveniency; they suffer
    with impatience the music they pretend to hear with rapture,
    and they even eat nothing they like, for the sake of eating in
    taste. Eating, itself, seems to me to be rather a subject of
    humiliation than pride, since the imperfection of our nature
    appears in the daily necessity we lie under of recruiting it
    in that manner, so that one would think the only care of a
    rational being should be to repair his decaying fabric as cheap
    as possible. But the present fashion is directly contrary; and
    eating now is the greatest pride, business, and expense of
    life, and that, too, not to support, but to destroy nature.”

There was certainly a want of taste in the language used by great
ladies, whose speech was often so coarse as not to bear repetition. One
day the Duchess of Marlborough called upon Lord Mansfield, the Lord
Chancellor, _incognita_. When the clerk went in to the Chancellor to
announce the visitor, he said: “I could not make out, Sir, who she was,
but she swore so dreadfully that she must be a lady of quality.” The
substance of ladies’ talk was also open to censure. Writes Swift:

  “Or how should I, alas, relate
   The sum of all their senseless prate,
   Their Inuendo’s, Hints, and Slanders,
   Their meanings, lewds, and double entanders!
   Now comes the general scandal charge.
   What some invent the rest enlarge.”

Expressions then in common use among ladies would not be tolerated
now in decent society. In their intercourse with men they were
more restrained, at least in writing, but the attitude of the sexes
towards each other was one peculiar to the age. There was so much
affectation of gallantry on the part of the men, and such a want of
straightforwardness on the part of the women, that the whole tone
of society was thoroughly artificial. Between the wits, statesmen,
men of letters, and the great ladies of their acquaintance there
was a romantic kind of relation worthy of the days of chivalry. The
elaborately framed protestations of devotion to which women were
generally quite ready to listen belonged rather to feudal romance than
to real life. But the romance of the eighteenth century was tinctured
with the spirit of banter, and both sides were well aware that the
whole thing was merely put on, like the powder and the patches. So
general was this playing at sentiment that when real feeling for once
in a way tried to get the ascendant it was unable to obtain credence.

The fashionable dames of the eighteenth century loved to dabble in
politics, which afforded a fresh excitement when the social round
began to grow a little flavourless. The eighteenth century was a great
period for letter-writing, and political news was a constant topic of
correspondence. The interest centred on men rather than on principles.
These great ladies, when they wrote to each other or to their friends
of the male sex, did not discuss causes. They were concerned with
individuals, with the career of the gentlemen of their acquaintance.
Looked at in this way, politics were, in the phraseology of the age,
“vastly” entertaining.

When the rage for speculation came in, the ladies became ardent
speculators. They exchanged confidences and congratulations over
the great South Sea Bubble, before it burst, and hoped that “stocks
were going on prosperously.” Mrs. Molesworth, writing to Mrs. Howard
(Countess of Suffolk), in June, 1720, says--

    “To tell you the truth, I am South Sea mad, and I find that
    philosophic temper of mind which made me content under my
    circumstances, when there was no seeming probability of
    bettering them, forsakes me on this occasion; and I cannot,
    without great regret, reflect that for want of a little money,
    I am forced to let slip an opportunity which is never like to
    happen again. Perhaps you will think me unreasonable when I
    tell you that good Lady Sunderland was so mindful of her absent
    friends as to secure us a £500 subscription, which money my
    father had laid down for us, and it is now doubled; but this
    has but given me a taste of fortune, which makes me more eager
    to pursue it. As greedy as I seem, I should have been satisfied
    if I could by any means have raised the sum of £500 or £1000
    more, but the vast price that money bears, and our being not
    able to make any security according to law, has made me reject
    a scheme I had laid of borrowing such a sum of some monied

The ladies got their men friends, with whom they corresponded
copiously, to gamble for them. Thus the Duke of Argyll, in 1719-20,
acted for the Countess of Suffolk, and invested for her a large sum
of money in the Missouri scheme, informing her from time to time how
things were going.

The taste for speculation was worse than the taste for French fashions,
which was decried by Lord Chesterfield.

    “I do not mean to undervalue the French,” he writes. “I know
    their merit. They are a cheerful, industrious, ingenious,
    polite people, and have many things in which I wish we did
    imitate them. But, like true mimics, we only ape their
    imperfections, and awkwardly copy those parts which all
    reasonable Frenchmen themselves contemn in the originals. If
    this folly went no farther than disguising both our meats and
    ourselves in the French modes, I should bear it with more
    patience, and content myself with representing only to my
    country folks that the one would make them sick and the other
    ridiculous; but when even the materials for the folly are to be
    brought over from France too, it becomes a much more serious
    consideration. Our trade and manufactures are at stake, and
    what seems at first only very silly is, in truth, a great
    national evil and a piece of civil immorality.”

The great lady of the eighteenth century is always, so to speak, in
full dress. She seems to live in and for society, to be the leading
figure in a great show. It is difficult to think of her except with a
train and an elaborate _coiffure_, with her fan and smelling-bottle
and her grand manner _en princesse_. The elaboration of life in the
fashionable world, the affectations of speech and manner, and the
imposing costumes surround her with an air of artificiality. Though
she might be an ardent politician or a brilliant wit, though she might
achieve fame in the world of letters, she lived in a narrow circle.
The great social movements of the country were as nothing to her. The
history of the classes below her own had no meaning for her mind. Court
intrigues, political changes, were events of moment; they were part
of her world; she knew no other. Her outlook was limited to personal
interests and ambitions. The accident of birth gave her a part to play
in the affairs of the world. And she played it like a great lady, whose
proper business is pleasure. She flirted, intrigued, and cajoled;
suffered herself to be alternately flattered and neglected when she
wanted a place at court or to worm out some political secret for a
friend. But of the healthy, broad interest which regards the politics
of to-day, both home and foreign, as the history of the morrow, she
was generally devoid.

The great lady of the eighteenth century, unless she happened to
be gifted with exceptional breadth of view, was indifferent--often
contemptuously indifferent--to matters outside her own fashionable
circle. Her education and the temperament of the age fostered this
feeling. She had not the domestic responsibilities of women of a lower
grade, or of great ladies of former times. In their place she was
offered the distractions of society. One by one her duties had fallen
away from her. Domestic occupations did not form part of the _rôle_
of a great lady then any more than at the present time. The altered
conditions of life gave her leisure; the increase of luxury begat a
distaste for exertion. There was a great deal of licence of manners
allowed to women, but little real freedom. They could not venture out
of the beaten track without incurring ridicule, and possibly insult. In
all the relations of life they were made to feel they were dependent
beings. As daughters they had the inferior portion, and no profession
but marriage. As wives they had nothing at all of their own, not even
their children--a condition only remedied late in the present century.
But the lack of all interest in their children, which was said to be a
characteristic of the French nobility, was not so marked in England. In
France it was considered very _bourgeois_ to be surrounded by a family.
Husbands and wives commonly lived independent lives. “Une mariage uni
devient une anomalie dans le grand monde, un manque de goût.”[69]

It was the attitude in which women were regarded that affected their
position more than the actual existence of repressive or deteriorating
customs. And to public opinion the great lady was both more susceptible
and more subject than other women, for she lived with all eyes upon
her. Without a great deal of moral courage she could not step out of
her bounds or revolt against the conditions of her life. A narrow
mental horizon, a cramping education, united with wealth and high
place, were not favourable to the evolution of women, morally or
intellectually. In the eighteenth century women moved in a circle, from
the meshes of which they were not freed until the present century had
run half its course.

With all the elaborate airs and dress which prevailed in the eighteenth
century there was a coarseness of taste and behaviour which is in
odd contrast to the exaggerated politeness affected by _beaux_ and
_élégantes_. There seems a good foundation for Walpole’s description
of the gaiety of the women as “an awkward jollity.” The diversions
of the great ladies read strangely to our modern ears. What would
be thought now of dukes and duchesses going about London with their
friends in hired vehicles to see the sights? But in the spring of 1740,
the Duke and Duchess of Portland organized a jaunt (as one of the party
described it) to the City to see the City show-places. There were four
ladies and four gentlemen, and they set out at ten o’clock in the
morning in a couple of hackney coaches, made a comprehensive tour, and
wound up by dining at a City tavern. “I never spent a more agreeable
day,” writes one of the ladies of the party.

The fashionable diversions, balls and routs, were repeated over and
over again at every watering-place.

    “Pleasure with an English lady is a capital and rational
    affair. A party at Bath is perhaps the fruit of six months’
    meditation and intrigue: she must feign sickness, gain over the
    servants, corrupt the physician, importune an aunt, deceive a
    husband, and in short have recourse to every artifice in order
    to succeed, and the business at last is to get fully paid for
    all the pains that have been taken. Pleasure is so much the
    more attractive to the English women as it is less familiar and
    costs them more to obtain. Melancholy persons feel joy more
    sensibly than those who are habituated to it.”[70]

Amusements had no background of broad general interests. It was
inevitable that their effect should be enervating. Some fresh zest
was wanting, and it was found in a licentiousness of manner, just as
flavour was added to conversation by doubtful anecdotes. A phrase in
general use was “demi-reps.” It was the fashion to abbreviate words,
and “rep” was commonly used for “reputation,” a thing in constant
danger of being lost or destroyed at tea-tables. Walpole, writing in
the last quarter of the century, notes with pleasure and surprise the
unusual occupations of some of his fair friends, who busied themselves
with carving and decorative work to adorn the interior of their houses.

    “How much more amiable,” he says, “the old women of the next
    age will be than most of those we remember who used to tumble
    at once from gallantry to devout scandal and cards, and revenge
    on the young of their own sex the desertion of ours. Now they
    are ingenious. They will not want amusement.”

The great ladies of the eighteenth century sadly wanted amusement, for
they had nothing else to fill up their time. It was not fashionable
to be philanthropic, to start societies for the propagation of
new social creeds. And there were not nearly so many diversions.
There was no fishing in the Norwegian fjords in the summer, no
autumn shooting-parties among the Scotch moors, no winter trips to
the Riviera. At Bath, Tunbridge Wells, and other spas whither the
fashionable world resorted, the social round was only varied by the
bathing and drinking. The bad state of the roads often afforded
diversion to the young, and many a merry mishap befell parties
returning from festivities in the country. It certainly added to the
excitement of a ball to know that there was every probability of being
overturned on the road, or having to ford a stream swollen by the rain.
The vivacious Elizabeth Robinson (afterwards Mrs. Montagu) describes
how greatly she relished a break-down of the carriage on the return
journey after a ball in the country.

The highwaymen who haunted the outskirts of London lent a melodramatic
colour to all assemblies after dark. Even in broad daylight people
who had anything to lose traversed unfrequented roads with fear and
trembling. Certainly these conditions of social life averted the danger
of monotony.

Looked at from another side, the great lady of the eighteenth century
bears favourable comparison with the great lady of modern times.
She was a more distinct individual influence in society than her
successors. And yet neither then nor later had we _salons_ comparable
to those in Paris.

    “Il n’y a pas à Londres comme à Paris des bureaux de femmes de
    bel esprit. Les auteurs anglais ne consultent pas les femmes;
    ils ne mendient pas leurs suffrages. Les affaires publiques
    intéressent le beau sexe anglais, mais il ne s’ingère pas de
    décider entre les intérêts de l’opposition et de la cour. Les
    femmes dans le monde, ne parlent ni de guerre, ni de politique,
    pratiquent leur religion et ne discutent point des dogmes.
    En général les femmes anglaises sont douces, modestes, et

But there were notable society leaders, such as the ladies who founded
Almack’s Club, some of whom, like Lady Molyneux, were beauties who set
the fashions. Almack’s, which was opened in 1765, was a club for both
sexes, on the model of the men’s club at White’s. Ladies nominated and
elected the men, and the men chose the ladies. The founders were Mrs.
Fitzroy, Lady Pembroke, Mrs. Meynel, Miss Pelham, Miss Lloyd, and Lady

Better known to after generations are the names of the beautiful
Duchess of Devonshire, the Duchess of Rutland, Lady Mary Chudleigh, the
sisters Gunning. Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu, whose most intimate friend was
the Duchess of Portland, collected the wits and brilliant talkers, and
made Montagu House a rallying-point for all that was most attractive
in society. The Countess of Suffolk was at one time the centre round
which court gossip revolved. Lady Caroline Petersham kept up the pace
with her frolics and jaunts. There was the more strictly political
set, who were perpetually discussing the action of Ministers, and the
probable effects on themselves and their friends. The ladies in this
set, impelled largely by personal motives, were as keen about political
moves as any party wire-puller.

“Our ladies are grown such vehement politicians that no other topic
is admissible,” writes Walpole in 1783, the year of the memorable
Westminster election. He complains that

    “politics have engrossed all conversation and stifled other
    events, if any have happened. Indeed, our ladies who used to
    contribute to enliven correspondence are become politicians,
    and, as Lady Townley says, ‘squeeze a little too much lemon
    into conversation.’”

There was a good deal of acrimony imported into the atmosphere of
political circles, partly because of the strong personal element
pervading all politics. The weakness of eighteenth-century society was
its narrowness. It cared nothing, comparatively speaking, for large
general questions. The literary set discussed books and authors, but
society in general did not care very much about literature. A new
poem or a new romance were matters of interest because new; it was the
correct thing to show acquaintance with the latest productions in verse
or prose. Politics absorbed a great many in the fashionable world, but
chiefly on the ground of personal interest. Society lived in a kind of
mental stays.

The great ladies of the eighteenth century do not seem to have thought
of work as a distraction when pleasures began to pall. They would
have been bored to extinction at the idea. The worship of work is a
characteristic of the nineteenth century. Those who do not work for
profit work for the sake of the occupation, at some self-imposed task.
The great philanthropic current, using the adjective to describe all
forms of social amelioration, has drawn into its stream numbers of
recruits from the so-called leisured classes. Indeed it is the members
of this class who largely carry on works of general usefulness. England
has become the country of volunteers in the public service.

The eighteenth century worshipped idleness. It looked upon labour
as ignoble. This view of life had its effect on the bringing-up of
girls in the higher ranks. They were bred to idleness as their proper
vocation. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, writing to her daughter, Lady
Bute, in 1753, about the education of the Countess’s daughter, says--

    “I could give many examples of ladies whose ill-conduct has
    been very notorious, which has been owing to that ignorance
    which has exposed them to idleness, which is justly called the
    mother of mischief. There is nothing so like the education of a
    woman of quality as that of a prince: they are taught to dance,
    and the exterior part of what is called good breeding, which if
    they attain, they are extraordinary creatures in their kind,
    and have all the accomplishments required by their directors.
    The same characters are formed by the same lessons, which
    inclines me to think (if I dare say it), that nature has not
    placed us in an inferior rank to men, no more than the females
    of other animals, where we see no distinction of capacity;
    though I am persuaded that if there was a commonwealth of
    rational horses (as Dr. Swift has supposed), it would be an
    established maxim among them that a mare could not be taught to

The life of a great lady in the eighteenth century is well reflected
in the contemporary literature. The satires of poets, the strictures
of moralists, the raillery of wits, bring before us the social side
of the period in numberless ways. A lady who was not a politician or
a blue-stocking killed time by rising late, spending several hours
over an elaborate toilette, and preparing herself for the gaieties of
the evening. The eighteenth century was in some respects a period of
inanition. The formalism which pervaded its literature was seen in
another aspect in the social life of the age. There was a general want
of the sympathetic spirit. Each circle in society lived shut up within
itself, not knowing, nor caring to know, how the rest of the world
went on. The narrowness of this attitude told more strongly on the
wealthy classes, who had not the stimulus of being obliged to make an
effort for the satisfaction of any desire. Social progress, as a recent
writer has observed, is not the product of the intellect, but is due
to the altruistic spirit.[72] This spirit was asleep in the eighteenth
century. In previous centuries there had been more progress with fewer
opportunities. During periods of unrest women’s energies were called
forth to cope with difficulties which a later civilization smoothed
away. Family life, even for great ladies, offered scope, in times past,
for the constant exercise of activity in the discharge of functions
which lapsed in more refined ages. The leisure which had been painfully
won in the progress of civilization the women of the eighteenth
century knew not how to use. They dallied with trifles, yawned out of
sheer vacuity, invented wants to pass the time, were by turns elated
and vapourish, and affected sentiment for the sake of excitement.
There were servile imitations of French manners as well as fashions,
and neither were successful. Instead of progressing to a wider life,
society turned off into a sidewalk of artificiality and moral inertia.



            _J. D. & Co._


[1] The translation runs thus:--

  “Much ought woman to be held dear;
   By her is everybody clothed.
   Well know I that woman spins and manufactures
   The cloths with which we dress and cover ourselves,

  “And gold tissues, and cloth of silk;
   And therefore say I, wherever I may be,
   To all those who shall hear this story
   That they say no ill of womankind.”

[2] Warton, “History of English Poetry.”

[3] See p. 15.

[4] Denton, “England in the Fifteenth Century.”

[5] Mrs. A. S. Green, “Town Life in the Fifteenth Century.”

[6] Helen Blackburn, “The Legal Status of Women” (_Englishwoman’s
Review_, 1883).

[7] Gild of St. George, Norwich, founded 1385.

[8] Herbert’s “Livery Companies.”

[9] “English Gilds”: Worcester Ordinances, 1467.

[10] Ashley, “Essay on Woollen Industry.”

[11] S. H. Burke, “Monastic Houses of England.”

[12] Montalembert.

[13] Henry Bradshaw, “Life of St. Werburga of Chester.” E. E. Text

[14] Stubbs, “Constitutional History.”

[15] Gregory Smith, “Christian Monachism.”

[16] Hugo, “Mediæval Nunneries.”

[17] Aungier, “History of Syon Monastery.”

[18] Cf. Chapter II., p. 22, “Learning before the Days of the Printing
Press.” Period I.

[19] “London and the Kingdom.”

[20] Lea, “Sacerdotal Celibacy.”

[21] Hugo, “Mediæval Nunneries.”

[22] “Ancren Riwle.”

[23] Aungier, “History of Syon Monastery.”

[24] S. H. Burke, “Men and Women of the Reformation.”

[25] Wright, “Essay on Literature and Learning.”

[26] Cf. G. Hill, “History of English Dress,” vol. i.

[27] Gasquet, “Suppression of the Monasteries.”

[28] Gasquet.

[29] “European Morals,” vol. ii.

[30] Dr. Philip, “Vindiciæ Veritatis.”

[31] Arnold von der Passer, “Eva.”

[32] “De Ritu Mulierum in Ecclesia.”

[33] _Nineteenth Century_, September, 1894.

[34] Draper, “Intellectual Development of Europe.”

[35] Higginson, “Common Sense about Women.”

[36] “Social Evolution.”

[37] Elizabeth Lamond, “Discourse of the Commonweal.”

[38] Alexander, “History of Women.”

[39] “State Worthies.”

[40] Mrs. Makins, “Essay to revive Antient Education of Gentlewomen.”

[41] “The Art of Thriving.”

[42] Bouchot, “La Famille d’Autrefois.”

[43] Michelet.

[44] “Life of Clarendon.”

[45] See p. 166.

[46] Henry Peacham.

[47] W. H. Wilkins, “Political Ballads.”

[48] “Western Martyrology.”

[49] Robert Bell, “Memorials of the Civil War.”

[50] “Autobiography of Flora McDonald.”

[51] Chapter VI.

[52] Rev. R. Warner, “Ecclesiastical History of Bath.”

[53] Wm. Sewel, “History of the Society of Friends.”

[54] “Angliæ Notitiæ.”

[55] Stoughton, “Religion in England: The Church of the Revolution.”

[56] “Diary of John Rous.”

[57] “Tracts on the Stage.”

[58] Fitzgerald.

[59] Doran’s “Annals of the Stage.”

[60] Doran.

[61] Ellen Clayton.

[62] Chappell, “Popular Music of the Olden Time.”

[63] _Victoria Magazine_, 1876.

[64] T. Wright, “Caricature History of the Georges.”

[65] Muralt.

[66] Mary Astell.

[67] Buchan, “Domestic Medicine.”

[68] _The Female Spectator._

[69] S. Bouchot, “La Famille d’Autrefois.”

[70] Le Blanc.

[71] Londres, la Cour et les Provinces.

[72] B. Kidd, “Social Evolution.”

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Spelling inconsistencies in archaic quotations have not been changed.

“English women,” “Englishwomen,” and “English-women” all appear in this
text and have not been changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Page vi: “idiosyncracies” was printed that way.

Page 123: “ne not may” was printed that way (“ne”).

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