صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

that Jack Ketch has a Post-obit interest in the Convict, being entitled to his Cloaths, or to a composition for them; though, on the other hand, they must very frequently be such Garments that, as Shakspeare says, "a Hangman would bury with those who wore them *."

This emolument is of no modern date; and has an affinity to other Droits on very dissimilar occasions, which will be mentioned presently. The Executioner's perquisite is at least as old as Henry VIII.; for Sir Thomas More, on the morning of his Execution, put on his best Gown, which was of Silk Camlet, sent him as a present, while he was in the Tower, by a Citizen of Lucca with whom he had been in correspondence; but the Lieutenant of the Tower was of opinion that a worse Gown would be good enough for the person who was to have it, meaning the Executioner, and prevailed upon Sir Thomas to change it, which he did for one made of frize -f\ Thus the antiquity of this obitual emolument, so well known in Shakspeare's time, seems well established; and, as to its nature, has a strong resemblance to a fee of a much longer standing, and formerly received by Officers of very great respectability: for anciently Garter King of Arms had specifically the Gown of the Party on the creation of a Peer; and again, when Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, and Priors, did homage to the King, their upper garment was the perquisite even of the Lord Chamberlain of the Household. The fee in the latter case was always compounded for, though Garter's was often formerly received in kind, inasmuch as the Statute which gives this fee to the Lord Chamberlain, directs the composition, because, as the words are, "it is more convenient that religious men should fine for their upper garment, than to be stripped *," The same delicate necessity does not operate in the Hangman's case; and his fee extends much farther than either of them, he being entitled to all the sufferer's garments, having first rendered them useless to the party. Besides this perquisite, there has always been a pecuniary compliment, where it could possibly be afforded, given by the Sufferer to the Executioner, to induce him to be speedy and dexterous in the operation, which seems to be of still greater antiquity; for Sir Thomas More tells us that St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, gave his Executioner thirty pieces of gold; and Sir Thomas himself gave (according to his Historian, his Great Grandson), on the like occasion, an angel of gold, being almost the last penny he had left. These outward gifts may likewise be understood as tokens of inward forgiveness.

* Coriolanus, Act i. Sc. 8.

t More's Life of Sir Thomas More, p. 271,

* Stat. 13 Edward I.

Upon the whole, Sir, I conceive that what I have offered above, though with much enlargement, is the meaning of the ignominious term affixed to the sum of Thirteen Pence Halfpenny; and cannot but commiserate those for whom it is to be paid.

I am, Sir,

Your faithful humble Servant,
SAMUEL PEGGE.

CUSTOM

OBSERVED BY THE

LORD LIEUTENANTS OF IRELAND.

On the great road from London to West Chester, we find, at the principal Inns, the Coats of Arms of several Lord Lieutenants of Ireland, framed, and hung up in the best rooms. At the bottom of these Armorial Pictures (as I may call them) is a full display of all the Titles of the Party, together with the date of the year when each Viceroyship commenced. I have often inquired the reason of this custom, but never could procure a satisfactory answer. I do not reprobate the idea of this relique of ancient dignity, as these Heraldic Monuments were doubtless intended to operate as public evidences of the passage of each Lord-Deputy to his delegated Government. They now seem only to be preserved for the gratification of the vanity of the capital Inn-keepers, by shewing to Humble Travellers that such and such Lord-Lieutenants did them the honour to stop at their houses; and yet I will not say, but that for half-a-crown handsomely offered to his Excellency's Gentleman, they might likewise become part of the furniture of every alehouse in Dunstable.

After fruitless inquiry, accident furnished me with the ground of this custom, which now only serves to excite a little transitory curiosity. Having occasion to look into Sir Dudley Digge's "Complete Ambassador," published in 1654, I was obliged to the Editor for a solution, who, in the Pre* face (signed A. H.), speaking of the reserve of the English Ambassadors, in not making public their Negotiations, has this observation :—" We have hardly any notion of them but by their Arms, which are hung up in Inns where they passed."

This paragraph at once accounts for the point before us, and is sufficient, at the same time, to shew that the custom was anciently,

« السابقةمتابعة »