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eccentricity and singularity, and to those who desire to look about for coming changes in no spirit of arrogance and with a due measure of self-distrust :
What custom wills, in all things should we do't,
For truth to overpeer.' There are two or three more practices and ways of thinking of less importance, descended from generation to generation, of which the entail may possibly be cut off in less time. Playing at cards or other games for money our descendants may say could have no other root than the desire of one man to put into his own pocket what he can pick out of another's. They may admit that thousands of those who cared for winning the game, cared nothing at all for the money; but, why then, may they ask, mix up the one with the other? The practice is of course wholly innocuous in these cases; but once rooted, it branches off into other growths, and our worthy great-grandchildren may be puzzled to make out how we came to take a distinction between the practice of the ragged boys who play at pitch-and-toss in a slum, and that of the noblemen and gentlemen who make up their betting-books at Tattersall's.
Enough now of forecasts, be they diffident or be they audacious. Let us turn back and listen again to the voice of the Past heard in its letters.
There is a letter dated the 10th of January, 1881, from the Dean of St. Paul's, and a distinguished following of deans, canons, and other clergy, to our Archbishop of Canterbury, in which, with admirable judgment and in an excellent spirit, an appeal is made, amongst other things, for such an administration of ecclesiastical law by ecclesiastical courts as may afford the best chance of deliverance for the Church out of her present troubles. And here is another, from Gilbert Foliot, Bishop of London, dated A.D. 1166, to another Archbishop of Canterbury (Thomas à Becket), which sets forth some doctrines concerning the respective limits of secular and ecclesiastical jurisdiction more or less pertinent to the questions now at issue. He states that some things belong to the Church by divine right and some by human; and placing in the first class all the spiritual functions of the priesthood, he proceeds : 6—
Every priest is in these superior to a king, as a father and pastor over a son and a disciple. If therefore a king has offended against God, he ought to seek (after the example of Theodosius the Great) to be reconciled to Him by the intervention of the priesthood. If priests accuse each other, the judgment of this cause does not belong to the king, but he ought to withdraw and go backwards-lest he should behold the nakedness of his father.
B Troilus and Cressida.
• The original is in Latin. The translation is by Lord Lyttelton, in his History of the Reign of Henry II.
He observes, however, that the Church possesses many things by human right alone—mainly such as have been granted to it, not by any precept or law of God, but by the voluntary gifts of men, which the zeal of Christians had extended far beyond the limits of the Levitical portion. He therefore reproves the Archbishop for his arrogance in renouncing the authority of the king's courts in a merely pecuniary cause, and admonishes him to call to mind “that our Lord did not turn to Zaccheus till he came down from the sycamore. But there are things material, and not spiritual, which, nevertheless, the Church holds by divine right; and amongst these are, tithes, oblations, and first-fruits, which the Lord has dedicated by an eternal law to the use of His ministers, and over which he denies that the royal power has any cognisance.' The king, however, in his own person, would seem to have some sort of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, in as much as, ' by virtue of the unction received at his coronation, the king was so sanctified as to be reputed, not only a secular, but an ecclesiastical magistrate.' So it is that the same contentions are handed down from
to age, and that the interpenetration of the secular and ecclesiastical, of the earthly and the spiritual, in the Church, are constantly found as difficult to solve and to separate as the more or less analogous interpenetration of the body and mind in man.
But changes of ways from one century to another are marked in the house and home than in the Church ; and it is to letters that we must resort for the only real insight to be obtained of domestic life in the far past. Under this head the Paston Letters are of all that remain to us the most instructive.
How were young ladies dealt with, and how were marriages managed in the fifteenth century? If this generation of young ladies have
any notion of it, they will rejoice that they were not born to be married four hundred years ago. They know very well that if they have attended to their duty and trained up their parents in the ray that they should go, they may choose for themselves, with or without discrimination as the case may be. Neither they nor their parents may have taken the view which I recollect to have heard from Mr. Rogers, that it does not much signify whom one marries, as one is sure to find next morning that it was somebody else; but though they may not be prepared to go quite this length, yet, from one cause or another, the young in their wilfulness and strength will not seldom act, and the old in their impotence concede, in such sort that they might seem not to stop far short of it. It was otherwise in the last century. Parental rigour in those days could hold its own as firmly as the parish stocks; and there was but one escape--the flight to Gretna Green, a sanctuary known now only to history. The coolness with which it was sometimes resorted to may be exemplified by a quotation (given to me by a grandson of the parties) from a letter written, not, however, to the parents of the lady (for she was an orphan), but to her guardians, beginning thus :
Gentlemen,-Your unnatural behaviour to your ward, Miss induced her, however reluctantly, to take a journey to Scotland, in which she allowed me the honour of accompanying her.
The slackening of restraint in this century may have better results on the whole than the unnatural behaviour of the last, but it sometimes leads to impromptu arrangements by young people which may seem not to have been made with a sufficient sense of their seriousness. I have known of a proposal in this century by a young gentleman to a still younger lady who gave this ready reply: Oh, yes, let us be married. It will be such awful fun!' I trust that her somewhat sudden and sanguine expectations were fulfilled. I have no reason to think that they were not. But there is something to be said for taking time on such occasions, and looking before and after.
It was with a different object that Elizabeth Paston sought to be married in the year 1454; and it was under circumstances which justified her in desiring that it should be with the least possible delay. The Pastons were a family of high position in Norfolk. Elizabeth was the daughter of Sir William Paston, and a Mr. Scroope, also high born, was a suitor for her hand. But he had not seen her, and seems to have wished to know what she looked like before he finally committed himself. On the other hand, Elizabeth's mother desired to be assured, by an actual inspection of deeds and documents, of the means possessed by Scroope, and how far they were disposable for a jointure; and in the meantime she obstinately refused bim a sight of her. Hereupon a cousin, Elizabeth Clere, writes to Elizabeth Paston's brother John, and requesting that he will examine certain instruments to be produced by Scroope, who saith to me he is the last in the tayle,' she specifies what the sums are which he alleges himself to be able to settle, and thus proceeds:
Therefore, cousin, meseemeth he were good for my cousin your sister, without that ye might get her a better; and if ye can get a better, I would advise you to labour it in as short time as ye may goodly; for she was never in so great sorrow as she is now-a-days; for she may not speak with no man whosoever come, ne not may see nor speak with my man, nor with the servants of her mother's, but that she beareth her an 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. Wherefore, cousin, she hath sent to me by Fryar Newton in great counsel, and prayeth me that I would send to you a letter of her heaviness, and pray you to be her good brother, as her trust is in you; and she sait'ı if ye may see by his evidence that his children and hers may inherit, and she to have reasonable jointure, she hath heard so much of his birth and his conditions that, an ye will, she will have him, whether her motber will or will not, notwithstanding it is told her his person is simple. . . . Cousin,
I pray you burn this letter, that your men nor none other men may see it; for an
your mother knew that I had sent you this letter she would never love me. No more I write unto you at this time, but Holy Ghost have you in keeping. Written in haste on St. Peter's Day, by candlelight, 29th June, 1454, by your cousin,
The negotiation with Scroope was abortive, and Elizabeth Paston was married to Robert Poyning, whose londe stood cleare.'
These are examples of what marriages can be in different ages; and though of course they are extreme and exceptional cases, they tell us something not wanting in significance when they let us know what can possibly happen in one age and cannot possibly happen in another.
And if there is something peculiar to medieval manners and customs in the way in which people may desire to be married, there is something almost equally so in the way in which they may desire to be buried :
I Louys Clyfforth, fals and traytor to my Lord God and to all the blessed company of heaven, and unworthie to be cleped a Christen man, make and ordeine my testament and my last will in this manere. At the begynning, I most unworthie and Godde's traytor, recommaunde my wreched and syneful soule hoolly to the grete mercy of the blessed Trinitie, and my wreched careyne to be buried in the ferthest corner of the churchyard in which pariche my wreched soule departeth fro my body. And I prey and charge my survivors and myne executors, as they wollen answere before God, and as all my whole trust in this matere is in hem, that on my stynking careyne be neyther leyd clothe of gold, ne of silke, but a black clothe, and a taper at myne hed and another at my fete, ne stone ne other thing whereby eny man may witt where my stynking careyne liggeth.
17 September, 1404.
• So falls,' he might say, —
So falls the standard
Had Sir Lewis de Clifford been born in the nineteenth century, he would hardly have made such a tragic affair of his funeral, any more than the young couple mentioned above, had they been born in the fifteenth, would have made a joke of their marriage. And if marriage in this century is not for the most of us the rising of the curtain upon a farce, neither need death be ushered in with thunder and lightning. Let us rather take it after the manner of Crashaw, in the seventeenth century :
And when life's sweet fable ends,
Or if that may seem to make the transition too light and easy, let us see how it was taken by John Sterling ;
August 10, 1844. Niy dear Carlyle,For the first time for many months it seems possible to send you a few words ; merely, however, for remembrance and farewell. On higher matters there is nothing to say. I tread the common road into the great darkness, without any thought of fear and with very much of hope. Certainty, indeed, I have none.
With regard to You and Me I cannot begin to write, having nothing for it but to keep shut the lids of those secrets with all the iron weights that are in my power. Towards me it is still more true than towards England, that no man has been and done like you. IIeaven bless you! If I can lend a band when THERE, that will not be wanting. It is all very strange, but not one-hundredth part so sad as it seems to the standers-by. Your wife knows my mind towards her, and will believe it without asseverations.
Yours to the last,
JOHN STERLING. Passing from the comparison of one century with another, I proceed to the letters which exemplify, without reference to times, the different moods of different minds, or different moods changing about in the same mind.
It is an old and familiar observation that humour, and especially humour of the more pregnant kind, is more frequently met with in the melancholy man than in the merry. I see no reason why I should not express it in my own words as well as in another's :
The richest mirth, the richest sadness too,
It is in Cowper, and in Cowper's letters, that the most memorable example is to be met with. The best letters in the merry mood are too long and perhaps too well known to be eligible for quotation ; the hest of all that in which are the verses on the action at law between Nose and Eyes, to determine, according to the decree of the Ear, to which of the two the spectacles belong. But here is a specimen in a small compass :
To Lady Hesketh.
I thank you for the smip of cloth, commqmly called a pattern. At presentI have two coats and but one back. If at any time hereafter I should find myself possessed of fewer coats and more backs, it will be of use to me.
There was the one mood. And here is the other in a letter to Hayley (July 29, 1792), apologising for his inconsistency in having accepted an invitation to pay him a visit, and having again and again disappointed him :
The terrors that I have spoken of would appear ridiculous to most, but to you they will notifor you are a reasonable creature, and know well that, to whatever cause it may be owing (whether to constitution orto Goda express appointment), I am hänted by spiritualhounds in the night season,
s Eirin the Fair, act iii. sc. 5.