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as by their nicenesse in apparell, for which I saie most nations doo not unjustlie deride us, as also for that we doo séeme to imitate all nations round about us, wherein we be like to the Polypus or Chameleon ; and thereunto bestow most cost upon our arses, and much more than upon all the rest of our bodies, as women doo likewise upon their heads and shoulders. In women also it is most to be lamented that they doo now farre exceed the lightnesse of our men (who neverthelesse are transformed from the cap even to the verie shoo) and such staring attire as in time past was supposed meet for none but light housewives onelie, is now become an habit for chast and sober matrones. What should I saie of their doublets with
pendant cod peeses on the brest full of jags and cuts, and sleeves of sundrie colours ? their galligascons to beare out their bums and make their attire to sit plum round (as they terme it) about them ? their fardingals, and diverslie coloured nether stocks of silke, ierdseie, and such like, whereby their bodies are rather deformed than commended? I have met with some of these trulles in London so disguised, that it hath passed my skill to discerne whether they were men or women. ”*
After this philippic, we shall proceed to notice the Dress of the Ladies, commencing with that of the Queen, who is thus described by Paul Hentzner, as he saw her passing on her way to chapel, at the royal palace of Greenwich. Having mentioned the procession of barons, earls, knights, &c., he adds,—“ Next came the queen, in the sixty-fifth year of her age, as we were told, very majestic; her face oblong, fair, but wrinkled; her eyes small, yet black and pleasant; her nose a little hooked; her lips narrow, and her teeth black ; (a defect the English seem subject to, from their too great use of sugar) she had in her ears two pearls, with very rich drops; she wore false hair, and that red; upon her head she had a small crown ; - her bosom was uncovered, as all the English ladies have it, till they marry; and she had on a necklace of exceeding fine jewels ; her
* Holinshed, vol. i. p. 289, 290.- Harrison's Description of England. VOL. II.
hands were small, her fingers long, and her stature neither tall nor low ; her air was stately, her manner of speaking mild and obliging. That day she was dressed in white silk, bordered with pearls of the size of beans, and over it a mantle of black silk, shot with silver threads; her train was very long, the end of it borne by a marchioness; instead of a chain, she had an oblong collar of gold and jewels. While we were there, W. Slawata, a Bohemian baron, had letters to present to her; and she, after pulling off her glove, gave him her right hand to kiss, sparkling with rings and jewels. The ladies of the court followed next to her, very handsome and well shaped, and for the most part dressed in white.” *
A few articles of the customary dress of Elizabeth, not adverted to by Hentzner, and particularly the characteristic ruff and stomacher, it may be requisite to subjoin. The former of these was profusely laced, plaited, and apparently divergent from a centre on the back of her neck; it was very broad, extending on each side of her face, with the extremities reposing on her bosom, from which rose two wings of lawn, edged with jewels, stiffened with wire, and reaching to the top of her hair, which was moulded into the shape of a cushion, and richly covered with gems. The stomacher was strait and broad, and though leaving the bosom bare, still formed a long waist by extending downwards ; it was loaded with jewels and embossed gold, and preposterously stiff and formal.
The attachment of the Queen to dress was such, that she could not bear the idea of being rivalled, much less surpassed, in
exhibition of this kind. “ It happenede,” relates Sir John Harrington, “ that Ladie M. Howarde was possessede of a rich border, powderd wyth golde and pearle, and a velvet suite belonginge thereto, which moved manie to envye; nor did it please the Queene, who thoughte it exceeded her owne. One daye the Queene did sende privately, and got the ladies rich vesture, which she put on herself, and came forthe the
* Paul Hentzner's Travels in England: translated by Lord Orford. Edward Jeffery's edit. 8vo. 1797. p. 34, 35.
chamber amonge the ladies ; the kirtle and border was far too shorte for her Majestie's heigth; and she askede every one · How they likede her new-fancied suit?' At lengthe, she askede the owner herself, · If it was not made too short and ill-becoming ?' — which the poor ladie did presentlie consente to. Why then, if it become not me, as being too shorte, I am minded it shall never become thee, as being too fine; so it fitteth neither well.' This sharp rebuke abashed the ladie, and she never adorned her herewith any more.” *
Neither could she endure, from whatever quarter it came, any censure, direct or indirect, on her love of personal decoration. Sunday (April last),” says the same facetious knight, “ my lorde of London preachede to the Queenes Majestie, and seemede to touche on the vanitie of deckinge the bodie too finely. – Her Majestie tolde the ladies, that “ If the bishope helde more discourse on suche matters, shee wolde fitte him for heaven, but he shoulde walke thither withoute a staffe, and leave his mantle behind him:' perchance the bishope hathe never soughte her Highnesse wardrobe, or he woulde have chosen another texte." +
Of this costly wardrobe it is recorded in Chamberlaine's epistolary notices, that it consisted of more than two thousand gowns, with all things answerable †; and Mr. Steevens, commenting on a passage
in Cymbeline, where Imogen exclaims
“ Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion;
And, for I am richer than to hang by the walls,
I must be ripp’d," — gives us the following interesting illustration.
“ Clothes were not formerly, as at present, made of slight materials, were not kept in drawers, or given away as soon as lapse of time or change of fashion had impaired their value. On the contrary, they were hung up on wooden pegs in a room appropriated to the sole
+ Ibid. p. 170.
• Nugæ Antiquæ apud Park, vol. i. p. 361.
purpose of receiving them; and though such cast-off things as were composed of rich substances, were occasionally ripped for domestick uses, (viz. mantles for infants, vests for children, and counterpanes for beds) articles of inferior quality were suffered to hang by the walls, till
age and moths had destroyed what pride would not permit to be worn by servants or poor relations. .
“ When a boy, at an ancient mansion-house in Suffolk, I saw one of these repositories, which (thanks to a succession of old maids !) had been preserved, with superstitious reverence, for almost a century and a half.
6 When Queen Elizabeth died, she was found to have left above three thousand dresses behind her." *
With such a model before them, it may easily be credited, that our fair country-women vied with each other in the luxury, variety, and splendour of their dress. Shakspeare has noticed most of their eccentricities in this way, and a few remarks on his allusions, with some invectives from less good-tempered observers, will sufficiently illustrate the subject.
Benedict, describing the woman of his choice, says, “ her hair shall be of what colour it please God +;" an oblique stroke at a very prevalent fashion in Shakspeare's time of colouring or dying the hair, and which, from its general adoption, not only excited the shaft of the satirist, but the reprobation of the pulpit. Nor were the ladies content with disfiguring their own hair, but so universally dismissed it for that of others, that it was a common practice with them, as Stubbes asserts in his Anatomie of Abuses, to allure children who had beautiful hair to private places, in order to deprive them of their envied locks.
That the dead were frequently rifled for this purpose, our poet has told us in more places than one; thus, in his sixty-eighth sonnet, he
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 526, 527. note 2.
“ the golden tresses of the dead,
and he repeats the charge in his Merchant of Venice,
“ So are those crisped snaky golden locks,
Which make such wanton gambols with the wind,
The hair, when thus obtained, was often dyed of a sandy colour, in compliment to the Queen, whose locks were of that tint; and these false ornaments or “ thatches," as Timon terms them, were called periwigs ; thus Julia, in the Two Gentlemen of Verona, contemplating the picture of her rival, observes,
“ Her hair is auburn, mine is perfect yellow:
If that be all the difference in his love,
Periwigs, which were first introduced into England about 1572, were to be had of all colours ; for an old satirist, speaking of his countrywomen, says, “ It is a woonder more than ordinary to beholde theyr perewigs of sundry collours." I A distinction, however, in wearing the hair, as well as in other articles of dress, existed between the matrons and unmarried women. “ Gentlewomen virgins," observes Fines Moryson, “ weare gownes close to the body, and aprons of fine linen, and go bareheaded, with their hair curiously knotted, and raised at the forehead, but many (against the cold, as they say,) weare caps of hair that is not their own." S
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vii. p. 314. Act iii. sc. 2. + Ibid. vol. iv. p. 289. Act iv. sc. 4.
† “ The English Ape, The Italian Imitation, The Foote-Steppes of Fraunce,” a black-letter tract, dated 1588; for an account of which see Beloe's Anecdotes, vol. ii. p. 260..
Vide Reed's Shakspeare, vol. vi. p. 64. note by Malone.