Immagini della pagina

field, or the greater part of it, was called “the Elms,” because it was covered with elm trees; “since the which time,” saith Stow, “building there hath so increased that now remaineth not one tree growing.” Smithfield derives its name from its being “a plain or smooth field.”* Regarding Rahere's occupation as a minstrel, it may be observed, that minstrels were reciters of poems, story tellers, o: upon musical instruments, and sometimes jugglers and buffoons. Rahere “ofte hawnted the kyng's palice, and amo'ge the noysefull presse of that tumultuous courte, enforsed hymselfe with jolite and carnal suavite : ther yn spectaclis, yn metys, yn playes, and other courtely mokkys, and trifyllis intrudyng, he lede forth the besynesse of alle the day.” + It is related of a person in this capacity, that he was employed by a king as a story teller, on purpose to lull him to sleep every night; and that the king's requiring him to tell longer stories, the romancer began one of so great length, that he himself fell asleep in the midst of it. Racine, the French É. was scarcely higher employed when e was engaged in reading Louis XIV. to sleep with “Plutarch's Lives:” to such a king the narratives of the philosophical biographer were fables. Rahere was the first prior of his monastery. There was a remarkable visitation of it by Boniface, archbishop of Canterbury, who being received with a procession in a solemn manner, said he did not require that honour, but came to visit them; whereto the canons answered, that to submit to the visitation of any other than their own prelate, the bishop of London, would be in contempt of his authority; whereupon the archbishop conceiving great offence, struck the sub-prior in the face, and “raging, with oathes not to bee recited, hee rent in peeces the rich cope of the sub-prior, and trode it under his feete, and thrust him against a pillar of the chancell, with such violence that hee had almost killed him.” Then the canons dragged off the archbishop with so great force that they threw him backwards, and thus perceived that he was armed, and prepared to fight; and the archbishop's followers falling upon the canons, beat and tore them, and trod them under foot; who thereupon ran bleeding with

[ocr errors]

complaints of the violence to the bishop of London, who sent four of them to the king at Westminster, but he would neither hear nor see them. In the mean time, the city was in an uproar, and the people would “have hewed the archbishop into small peeces,” if he had not secretly withdrawn to Lambeth, from whence he went over to the king, “with a great complaint against the canons, whereas himself was guilty.”” How the affair ended does not appear. Stow says, that “to this priory king Henry the second granted the priviledge of a Faire to bee kept yeerly at Bartholomew-tide, for three daies, to wit, the eve, the day, and the next morrow, to the which the clothiers of England, and drapers of London repaired, and had their boothes and standings within the churchyard of this priory, closed in with wals and gates locked every night, and watched for safety of mens goods, and wares; a court of piepowders was daily during the Faire holden, for debts and coutracts. But,” continues Stow, “notwithstanding all proclamations of the prince, and also the act of parliament, in place of booths within this church-yard (only letten out in the Faire time, and closed up all the yeere after) bee many large houses builded, and the north wall towards Long-lane taken downe, a number of tenements are there erected, for such as will give great rents.” “The forrainers,” he adds, “ were licensed for three days, the freemen so long as they would, which was sixe or seven daies.” This was the origin of Bartholomew Fair, over which the charter of Henry II. gave the mayor and aldermen criminal jurisdiction during its continuance. Bolton was the last prior of this house, to which he added many buildings, and built “the manor of Canonbury, at Islington, which belonged to the canons.” In 1554, on the dissolution of the religious houses, Henry VIII., in consideration of 1064l. 11s. 3d granted to Richard Rich, knt. attorney-general, and chancellor of the court of augmentations of the revenues of the crown, the dissolved monastery or priory of St. Bartholomew, and the Close with the messuages and buildings therein appertaining to the monastery. He also granted to the said Richard Rich, knt. and to the inhabitants of the parish of St.

[ocr errors]

Bartholomew, and the church of St. Bartholomew, all the void ground eighty seven feet in length, and sixty in breadth, adjoining the church westward, for a church-yard. In the first year of Edward VI. that king confirmed the grant to sir Richard Rich, who was created lord Rich, and appointed lord chancellor of England; but under Mary the ejected monks were restored to the priory, where they remained till the accession of queen Elizabeth, who renewed the grant to lord Rich and his heirs; and lord Rich took up his residence in Cloth-fair. The lord Rich ultimately became earl of Warwick and Holland, and the property reularly descended to the present lord Kensington, through William Edwards, who was son of the lady Elizabeth Rich, and created, in 1776, baron of Kensington of the kingdom of Ireland. Henry VIII. having in this way disposed of the priory and church of St. Bartholomew, he gave the hospital, with certain messuages and appurtenances, to the city of London. When connected with the riory, it had been governed by a master, rethren, and eight sisters. On the 13th of January, 1546, the bishop of Rochester (Holbetch,) preaching at Paul's-cross, declared the gift of St. Bartholomew's hospital to the citizens “for relieving of the poore;” and thereupon the inhabitants of the city were called together in their parish churches, where sir Richard Dobbs the lord mayor, the several aldermen, and other principal citizens, showing the great good of taking the poor from their miserable habitations, and providing for them in hospitals abroad, men were moved liberally to contribute what they would towards such hospitals, and so weekly, towards their maintenance for a time, until they were fully endowed; and in July 1552 the reparation of the St. Bartholomew's hospital commenced, and it was endowed and furnished at the charges of the citizens. * The number of the poor and sick to be maintained therein, was limited under the foundation of Henry VIII. to one hundred; but, at this time, several thousands of persons who need surgical aid are annually received and relieved, under the management of the most eminent surgeons of our age.

Smithfield, whereon the Fair was held,

was likewise a market-place for cattle, hay, straw, and other necessary provisions; and also, saith Stow, “it hath been a place for honourable justs and o by reason it was unpaid.” After it had ceased to be a place of recreative exercise with the gentry, loose serving men and quarrelsome persons resorted thither, and made uproars; and thus becoming the rendezvous of bullies and bravoes, it obtained the name of “ Ruffians'-hall.” The “sword and buckler” were at that time in use, and a serving-man carried a buckler, or shield, at his back, which hung by the hilt or pommel of his sword hanging before him." Fellows of this sort who hectored and blustered were called “Swash-bucklers,” from the noise they made with the “sword and buckler” to frighten an antagonist: “a bully,” or fellow all noise and no courage, was called a “swasher.”f With the disuse of pageants, the necessity for Smithfield remaining a “ soft ground” ceased; and, accordingly, as “it was continually subject to the iniquity of weather, and being a place of such goodly extendure, deserved to be much better respected, it pleased the king's majesty, (James I.) with the advice of his honourable lords of the counsell, to write graciously to the lord maior and the aldermen his brethren, that Smithfield might be sufficiently paved, which would bee the onely meanes, whereby to have it kept in far cleaner condition: And” says Stow, “as no motion (to any good end and intent) can be made to the city, but they as gladly embrace and willingly pursue it; even so this honourable motion found as acceptable entertainment, and it was very speedily proceeded withall. Some voluntary contribution in the severall parishes (what each man willingly would give) was bestowed on the worke; but, (indeed,) hardly deserving any report. Notwithstanding, on the fourth day of February, in An. 1614, the city began the intended labour, and before Bartholomew-tide then next ensuing, to the credit aud honour of the city for ever, it was fully finished, and Bartholomew Faire there kept, without breaking any of the paved ground, but the boothes discreetly ordered, to stand fast upon the pavement. The citizens charge thereof (as I have been credibly told by Master Arthur Strangwaies,)

* Stow.

* Maitland. t Nares.

[merged small][ocr errors]

In “The Order observed by the lord maior, the aldermen, and sheriffes for their meetings, and wearing of their apparell throughout the whole yeere,” it is ordained, That “On Bartholomew Eve for the Fayre in Åmithfield :“The aldermen meete the lord maior and the sheriffes at the Guildhall chap}. at two of the clocke' after dinner, aving on their violet gownes lined, and their horses, but without their cloakes, and there they heare evening prayer. Which being done, they mount on their horses, and riding to Newgate, passe forth of the gate. Then entring into the Cloth-fayre, there they make a proclamation, which proclamation being ended, they ride thorow the Cloth-fayre, and so returne backe againe thorow the churchyard of great Saint Bartholomewes to Aldersgate: and then ride home againe to the lord maior's house.” In the same collection of ordinances:— “ On Bartholomew Day for , the JPrastling. “So many aldermen as doe dine with the lord maior, and the sheriffes, are apparelled in their scarlet gownes lined; and after dinner, their horses are brought to them where they dined. And those aldermen which dine with the sheriffes, ride with them to the lord maior's house for accompanying him to the wrastlings. When as the wrastling is done, they mount their horses, and ride backe againe thorow the Fayre, and so in at Aldersgate, and then home againe to the lord maior's house.”

“The Shooting Day.

“The next day, (if it be not Sunday,) is appointed for the shooting, and the service performed as upon Bartholomewday; but if it bee Sunday, the Sabbathday, it is referred to the Munday then following.”

Ben Jonson's mention, in his “Bartholomew Fair,” of “the western man who is come to wrestle before the lord mayor anon,” is clearly of one who came up to the annual wrestling on Bartholomew's

day. Concerning this “annual wrastling,” it is further noticed by Stow in another place, that about the feast of St. Bartholomew, wrestling was exhibited before the lord mayor and aldermen, at Skinnerswell near Clerkenwell, where they had a large tent for their accommodation. He

speaks of it as having been a practice “of old time;” and affirms that “ divers days were spent in the pastime, and that the officers of the citie, namely the sheriffes, serjeants, and yeomen, the porters of the king's beame, or weigh-house, (now no such men,” says Stow,) ..." and other of the citie were challengers of all men in the suburbs, to wrestle for games appointed; and on other days, before the said

mayor, aldermen, and sheriffes, in Fensbury-field, to shoot the standard, broad

arrow, and flight, for games. But now of late yeeres,” Stow adds, “the wrestling is only practiced on Bartholomew-day in the afternoone, and the shooting some three or foure days after, in one afternoone and no more.” Finally, the old chronicler laments, that “by the means of closing in of common grounds, our archers, for want of roome to shoot abroad, creepe into bowling-alleys, and ordinarie

dicing houses, neerer home, where they have roome enough to hazzard their money at unlawful games, and there I leave

them to take their pleasures.” Another

narrator tells of the wrestlers before the

lord mayor, aldermen, &c. on Bartholo

mew's-day that they wrestled “two at

a time;” he says “the conquerors are re

warded by them by money thrown from

the tent; after this a parcel of wild rab

bits are turned loose in the crowd, and

hunted by boys with great noise, at

which the mayor and aldermen do much

besport themselves.”

It was on St. Bartholomew's-eve that the London scholars held logical disputations about the principles of grammar. “I myself,” says Stow, “have yeerely seen the scholars of divers grammarschools, repaire unto the churchyard of St. Bartholomew, the priory in Smithfield, where, upon a banke boorded about under a tree, some one scholler hath stepped up, and there hath opposed and answered, till he were by some better scholler overcome and put downe; and then the overcommer taking the place, did like as the first ; and in the end, the best opposers and answerers had re

* Hentzner,

[blocks in formation]

At Pye-corner end, mark well, my good friend,
'Tis a very fine dirty place;

Where there's more arrows and bows, the Lord above knows,
Than was handl'd at Chivy Chase.

Then at Smithfield Bars, betwixt the ground and the stars,
There's a place they call Shoemaker Row,

Where that you may buy shoes every day,
Or go barefoot all the year I tro’."

In 1699, Ned Ward relates his visit to the Fair:

“We ordered the coachman to set us down at the Hospital-gate, near which we went into a convenient house to smoke a pipe, and overlook the follies of the innumerable throng, whose impatient desires of seeing Merry Andrew's grimaces, had led them ancle deep into filth and nastiness.-The first objects, when we were seated at the window that lay within our observation, were the quality of the Fair, strutting round their balconies in their tinsey robes, and golden leather buckskins, expressing such pride in their buffoonery stateliness, that I could but reasonably believe they were as much elevated with the thought of their fortnight's pageantry, as ever Alexander was with the thought of a new conquest;

looking with great contempt from their slit deal thrones, upon the admiring mobility gazing in the dirt at our ostentatious heroes, and their most supercilious doxies, who looked as aukward and ungainly in their gorgeous accoutrements, as an alderman's lady in her stiffen-bodied gown upon a lord mayor's festival.”f

At the Fair of 1701, there was exhibited a tiger which had been taught to pluck a fowl's feathers from its body.

In the reign of queen Anne the following curious bill relates part of the entertainment at one of the shows:–

“By her majesty's permission, at Heatly's booth, over against the Cross Daggers, next to Mr. Miller's booth, during the time of Bartholomew Fair, will be presented a little opera, called The Old Creation of the World new Revived, with the addition of the glorious battle obtained over the French and Spaniards by his grace the duke of Marlborough. The contents are these, 1. The creation of Adam and Eve. 2. The intrigues of Lucifer in the garden of Eden. 3. Adam and Eve driven out of Paradise. 4. Cain going to plow; Abel driving sheep., 5. Cain killeth his brother Abel. 6. Abraham offereth up his son Isaac. 7. Three wise men of the east, guided by a star, come and worship Christ. 8. Joseph and Mary flee away by night upon an ass. 9. King Herod's cruelty; his men's |. laden with children. 10. Rich Dives invites his friends, and orders his porter to keep the beggars from his gate. 11. Poor Lazarus comes a begging at rich Dives' gate, the dogs lick his sores. , 12. The good angel and Death contend for Lazarus's life. 13. Rich Dives is taken sick, and dieth; he is buried in great solemnity. 14. Rich Dives in hell, and Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, seen in a most glorious object, all in machines descending in a throne, guarded with multitudes of angels; with the breaking of the clouds, discovering the palace of the sun, in double and treble prospects, to the admiration of all the spectators. Likewise several rich and large figures, which dance jiggs, sarabands,anticks,and country dances, between every act; compleated with the merry humours of Sir Jno. Spendall and Punchinello, with several other things never exposed. Performed by Matt. Heatly. Pivat Regina.” A writer in the “Secret Mercury,” of September 9, 1702, says, “Wednesday, September 3, having padlocked my pockets, and trimmed myself with Hudibras from head to foot, I set out about six for Bartholomew Fair; and having thrown away substantial silver for visionary theatrical entertainment, I made myself ready for the farce; but I had scarce composed myself, when bolts me into the pit a bully beau, &c. The curtain drew, and discovered a nation of beauish machines; their motions were so starched, that I began to question whether I had mistaken myself, and Dogget's booth for a puppetshow. As I was debating the matter, they advanced towards the front of the stage, and making a halt, began a singing so miserably, that I was forced to tune my own whistle in romance ere my brains

* Old Ballads. f Ward's London Spy,

were set straight again. All the secret I could for iny life discover in the whole grotesque, was the consistency or drift of the piece, which I could never demonstrate to this hour. At last, all the childish parade shrunk off the stage by matter and motion, and enter a hobletehoy of a dance, and Dogget, in old wo— man's petticoats and red waistcoat, as like Progue Cock as ever man saw; it would have made a stoic split his lungs, if he had seen the temporary harlot sing and weep both at once ; a true emblem of a woman's tears. When these Christmas carols were over, enter a wooden horse; now I concluded we should have the ballad of Troy-town, but I was disappointed in the scene, for a dancing-master comes in, begins complimenting the horse, and fetching me three or four run-bars with his arm, (as if he would have mortified the ox at one blow,) takes a frolic upon the back of it, and translates himself into cavalry at one bound; all I could clap was the patience of the beast. However, having played upon him about half a quarter, the conqueror was pursued with such a clangor from the crusted clutches of the mob in the sixpenny place, that for five minutes together I was tossed on this dilemma, that either a man had not five senses, or I was no man. The stage was now overrun with nothing but merryandrews and pickle-herrings. This mountebank scene was removed at last, and I was full of expectations that the successor would be pills, pots of balsam, and orvietan; but, alas, they were half empirics, and therefore exeunt omnes.” We learn something of the excesses at the Fair from “The Observator,” of August 21, 1703:—“Does this market of lewdness tend to any thing else but the ruin of the bodies, souls, and estates of the young men and women of the city of London, who here meet with all the temptations to destruction ? The lotteries, to ruin their estates; the drolls, comedies, interludes, and farces, to poison their minds, &c. and in the cloisters what strange medley of lewdness has that place not long since afforded ! Lords and ladies, aldermen and their wives, 'squires and fiddlers, citizens and rope-dancers, jackpuddings and lawyers, mistresses and maids, masters and 'prentices ! This is not an ark, like No. which received the clean and unclean; only the unclean beasts enter this ark, and such as have the devil's livery on their backs.”

« IndietroContinua »