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other fruits and vegetables till harvest-time. Then“ new corn came to cheaping” (became cheap): folk were glad, and fed hunger with the best. They gave him good ale, which made him sleepy. Even beggars, then, would not eat bread that had beans in it: it must either be of pure wheat, or such delicate kinds as “coket and clermatyne,” which were used for breakfast. As for halfpenny ale, a beggar would in no wise drink that: he would have none but the best and brownest that was sold in booth or borough. Labourers would have no old worts or cabbages for dinner and supper, as they had at other times; they would have no penny ale or bacon; but they insisted upon fresh meat, and fish either fried or baked, and hot and just cooked too.” Robert Langland elsewhere inveighs with great vehemence against these excessive demands of the peasantry, their great indolence after the harvest was gathered in, and the heedless profusion with which they consumed their provisions while they were plentiful. But to a people just emerged from a state of dependence and degradation, as the Feudal system was for the villeins, we can hardly attribute blame for the lack of those virtues, prudence, foresight, thrift, which only a state of freedom and independence of action can develop. Agriculture, moreover, was then in a very imperfect condition; the judicious rotation of crops, and the use of hay and artificial grasses for winter provender, were unknown; so that there were no means of keeping cattle through the winter, except such as the natural pastures afforded. When Martinmas came, therefore, great numbers of beeves, sheep, swine, and even deer were killed and salted for the winter on every manor, which, together with salted and cured fish, milk, cheese, and bread, were given out to each tenant by the lord, in proportions varying according to the value of his tenement. Implements of agriculture were few and inexpensive, the user generally making them himself. An iron ploughshare, an axe, and a spade were the only articles the peasant purchased, and ploughing was such a slow process that not more than half an acre could be turned up in a day, with six oxen at the front.
The dwellings of the peasantry were as wretched in character as their agriculture. They were slightly set up, with a few posts and many radels or hurdles, cast all over with thick clay to keep out the wind. The stable and all offices were under the same roof as the family sitting and sleeping
There was little or no furniture; the settle by day was the bed by night, and the pot and the trivet were the only cooking utensils. There was no chimney; and this, according to Harrison,* an Elizabethan writer, was a positive advantage, because the smoke not only hardened the timbers but kept out the cold, and was reputed a capital medicine to keep the good man and his family from the ague, rheums, catarrhs, and colds in the head. The bed consisted of straw, which was seldom renewed, and was therefore, as Erasmus says, an ancient accumulation of filth and refuse. fathers," again remarks Harrison, "yea and we ourselves also, have lien full oft upon straw pallets, on rough mats covered over with a sheet, under coverlets made of dagswain or hopharlots (patchwork), and a good round log under their heads instead of a bolster or a pillow. If it was so that our fathers, or the goodman of the house, had within seven years after his marriage purchased a mattress or flock-bed, and thereto a sack of chaff to rest his head upon, he thought himself to be as well lodged as the lord, that peradventure lay seldom on a bed of down or whole feathers." "As for servants (and labourers), if they had any sheet above them it was well: for seldom had they any under their bodies, to keep them from the pricking straws that ran oft through the canvas of the pallet, and rased (scratched) their hardened hides." For it must be understood that, bare as they were of bedclothes, our forefathers of every class slept quite naked. Chaucer, Gower, Lydgate, aud all our ancient writers allude to this custom.
* Description of England, prefixed to Hollinshed,
In the “ Squire of Low Degree” there is a curious instance
6. She rose, that lady dear, To take her leave of that squyére, All so naked as she was born
She stood her chamber door before." The misery and poverty which the feudal peasantry thus endured were, however, the natural accompaniments of their transition from bondage to freedom. So long as the villein was the property of his feudal lord, it was the interest of the latter to take care that his property was not injured or incapacitated for work. The power which the lord wielded, in fact, was that of a mild despotism ; no one upon his estate, who was in health, wanted employment or sustenance, nor was any one overworked; none who were ill failed to receive attention and medicine, and generous and suitable food from the lady--the breadgiver of the manor. The villein's condition, therefore, though slavish and degrading in the estimation of a free country like ours, was, so far as physical comforts went, far superior to that which was his lot when he became a free labourer. And even as a free labourer he had many advantages which the modern peasant does not enjoy. In the first place, his wages went farther, notwithstanding the constant debasements of the coin. Butcher's meat was less than a halfpenny a pound in the time of King Henry VI.; other necessaries were equally as cheap; so that we find when the labourer's wages were paid in money and board, the latter was reckoned as not worth more than half his gross pay, while the artisan's was set down at one-third. The labourer, again, was in little danger
of being thrown out of employment, because he was engaged by contract for not less than a year, and he could not be dismissed before the expiration of his term, unless very serious misconduct was proved against him before two magistrates. He had, besides, a weekly holiday, on account of some saint's day or other festival; and the extensive ranges of common and unenclosed forest lands furnished his fuel gratis, and fed his pigs, cattle, and poultry.
Whether, however, they possessed material comforts in their feudal servitude, or were pinched with occasional famines in the early times of their independence, the old English peasantry were a bold and fearless race, justly deserving the poet's epithet, “their country's pride.” The village green was the frequent arena of athletic sports ; fairs which lasted for weeks together were held near all the chief towns; and here, besides traders, there assembled mummers and jesters, with their tricks and dances; jugglers and minstrels, with their morality plays; and all the other members of that motley tribe whose jokes and antics are the especial delight of a rustic population. In castle and hall, in the street and on the common, pleasures and entertainments were then free to all ; and the lightheartedness and love of fun, which both Scott and Bulwer describe as marking the conduct of the people at every pageant and feat of arms, could not have sprung from hearts which were bowed down with oppression, or cankered with bitter struggles against penury and want. But we have higher authority than these for this pleasing character of society in the Feudal agenone less than that of Chaucer himself. Among the twentynine pilgrims whom he assembles for one common object at the Tabard Inn in Southwark, we find the greatest freedom of social intercourse. The knight feels no humiliation in telling a tale in turn with the miller, nor the franklin with the ploughman ; the sergeant-at-law, who sat as judge at the assize, is the wayside companion of the cook, the carpenter, and the weaver, and eats at the same board ; and the merchant does not fear to compromise his position by familiarity with the rough shipman. The poor pilgrims show no slavish submission to those among them of high blood or great wealth ; nor do the latter assert their dignity by any assumption of haughtiness or reserve. And yet their distinctions of class are clearly marked. This free intercourse could only result from mutual respect—a feeling which the principles of our feudal constitution fostered, which has been inherited from our Saxon forefathers, and which, so long as it continues amongst us, will make England great.
SIXTH ORDINARY MEETING.
ROYAL INSTITUTION, January 9th, 1865.
J. A. PICTON, Esq., PRESIDENT, in the Chair.
Ladies had been invited by the Council to this meeting.
The SECRETARY drew attention to the death of Dr. D. P. Thomson, for several years Secretary to the Society, which took place at Wakenaam, Essequibo, early in December last. He read from the Courier a short obituary notice of the deceased.
Dr. IMLACH referred also to the same object, and moved that a vote of condolence be sent from the Society to the deceased gentleman's widow, which was carried unanimously.
The following gentlemen were balloted for, and duly elected ordinary members :-Mr. William Walthew, Mr. Astrup Cariss, Mr. Robert E. Stewart, L.D.S., and Rev. E. S. Howse, B.A.
The following Paper was then read :