« PreviousContinue »
who was forced to recant, and to carry his , Eton schoolboy, the anxious maiden, the faggot with the best grace he could. match-making mother, the resolute woSince that time, without going into the man of business, the poor cousin, the farther particulars recorded by Mr. family counsellor, the chief of the house Gairdner, it may suffice to say, that full himself, full of party politics, but fuller examination by the most competent still of plans of pecuniary gain and perjudges in England has removed all sonal aggrandisement - are there, all reasonable doubt of authenticity. And busy as they on earth were busy, and as, if the fifth volume be unquestionably with superficial differences only, their genuine, there can be no cause left for descendants of the twelfth generation are entertaining any suspicion respecting the busy to this day. The lesson is a very other four, although their originals have obvious one, but it is not therefore the so strangely vanished. The contents of less strange to some of our preconceived the unbound volumes have apparently notions, nor the less amusing. The other made their way into many hands. What feature which we would notice is one in Mr. Philip Frere could discover, he made which the Paston times — the fourteenth over to the British Museum, where they and fifteenth centuries generally - did rest at last. Much has probably perished. nevertheless exhibit characteristics someBut the genuineness of the whole work what peculiarly their own.
It was an age is, as it were, indisputably established by in which the two great methods of ensecondary evidence; and Mr. Gairdner forcing claims and rights — private war was quite right in not delaying his pub- and litigation – were mingled together, lication for the possibility of their re- or alternated with each other, after a appearance. “There is no apparent fashion scarcely comprehensible either in reason,” he says, in self-justification, more civilized or in less civilized days. “ why MSS. which have remained undis. All the Paston family are deeply engaged covered for more than eighty years should in endless lawsuits. The progress of not remain so eighty years longer, if the these suits, the hopes and discourageindifference or the accident, whatever it ments of the parties, present a constant may be, which has caused them to be and somewhat wearisome store of family overlooked, be made an argument against communication. But yet, at the same turning to the best account those which time, people were very far indeed from we virtually possess."
having renounced the earlier and more On the infinite historical value of these summary method of self-defence and relics of old English life it is quite un- retaliation. “Why don't you take good necessary to dilate. They have furnished cudgels, and settle it ? ” says Counsellor a mine of raw material, for these eighty Pleydell to Dandie Dinmont, touching years past, to our most industrious ex- his march-suit with Jock of Dawstonplorers. Probably, to those who have Cleugh. “Odd, sir! we tried that three studied the correspondence in a general times already; but I dinna ken ; we're way, there are two features which have both gey good at single stick, and it, come most prominently into notice. The could na weel be judged.” “ Then take first is the fundamental likeness which broadswords, and be damned to you, as they establish between the aspect of your fathers did before you.” “Aweel, society in their age, and in our or any sir, if ye think it wadna be again the age. After all, the tastes, interests, fam- law, it's all one to Dandie.”
“ Social deily attachments, personal hopes and fears velopment,” in the Paston neighborhood, of men, "quicquid agunt homines,” do had just reached the same point of not vary so much in the course of centu- ambiguity as among Scott's imaginary ries as our first fancies would lead us to Liddesdale borderers. An instance or imagine. The metal is the same, the two, out of a great number, will illustrate setting only different. In the “ Paston our meaning. John Paston (1448) is disLetters " we meet with personages of the turbed in his claim to the manor of Gres. better class in all periods of life. The ham by Lord Molynes. His lordship
“listened to the counsels of John Hey-, description. Altogether the perusal is apt to don of Baconsthorpe, a lawyer, who had give us an impression that Sir John would been sheriff and also recorder of Nor- have made an acute and able, though perhaps
The wich, and whom the gentry of Norfolk not very high-minded solicitor. looked upon with anything but good forms and processes of the law is probably
familiarity shown even by Fastolf with all the will.” Heydon persuaded Lord Molynes due not so much to the peculiarities of his perthat his claim was good ; and Lord Mo- sonal character as to the fact that a knowledge lynes, “ without more ado, went in and of legal technicalities was much more widely took possession.” To go to law with Lord diffused in that day than in ours. ... The Molynes, “a powerful young nobleman “ Paston Letters " afford ample evidence that connected with various wealthy and in- every man who had property to protect, if not fluential families," was no light under- every well-educated woman also, was perfectly taking for an esquire. Paston first tried well versed in the ordinary forms of legal prothe intercession of the Church through the medium of Bishop Waynflete ; but this also failed him. Then he resorted to Altogether, these disclosures to a cerreprisals. He
tain extent remind us of the state of
things of which some of us have made took and held possession of the mansion; and personal experience, and others have for some time without opposition. But at last, heard and read at secondhand, as prevawhile John Paston was away in the country on lent in some of the Western States of business, there came before the mansion at Gresham a company of a thousand persons, America in recent or present days. The armed with cuirasses and brigandines, with spirit of technical law, and the spirit of guns, bows and arrows, and with every kind of Lynch law, divide the sway between them. offensive and defensive armour. They had The lawyers have on the whole the best also mining instruments, long poles with hooks, of it; they are the real masterş ot the called cromes, used for pulling down houses, situation ; but their influence is largely ladders, pickaxes, and pans with fire burning assisted by that of the bowie-knife and in them. With these formidable instruments the revolver. And one after-growth of they beset the house, at that time occupied this condition of society — a condition only by Margaret Paston and twelve other per: through which probably all communities sons; and having broken open the outer gates, they set to work undermining the very chamber must more or less pass — is the luxuriin which Margaret was.
Resistance under the ance of the great legal profession. Our circumstances was impossible. Margaret was English peerage offers abundant evidence forcibly carried out. The house was then of its aspiring tendencies, and at no rifled of all that it contained -- property esti- period of our history, probably, have the mated by John Paston at 2001.— the doorposts foundations of great legal families been were cut asunder, and the place was left little more extensively laid than in the fifteenth better than a ruin.
century. The war of the Roses would seem to Thus much by way of preface to the have cut short the promising quarrel, records of that distinguished Cornish tam Marte quam Mercurio, which the family of which the memoirs have now learned counsellor Heydon had started. been recovered and arranged, with most The character of Sir John Fastolf, of painful and religious care, by its two Caistor Castle, the hero of so large a por- modern representatives Sir Walter Tretion of the correspondence, evidences velyan, of antiquarian celebrity, and Sir quite as forcibly this double characteris- Charles, with whose name and reputatic of the times. He was constantly in tion our readers will have long become arms for the Crown abroad, and occasion- familiar ; a reputation acquired in many ally in affairs of his own at home. Never- fields very different from that of homely theless, as Mr. Gairdner says, “ from the English genealogy. We have before us general tenor of his letters we should three voiumes of " Trevelyan Papers," certainly no more suspect him of being printed for the Camden Society; two unthe old soldier that he actually was, than der the supervision of Mr. Payne Collier of being Shakspeare's fat, disorderly (1855 and 1862), the third and last, by far knight.” Almost every sentence in them the most valuable, by the two kinsmenrefers to
editors whose names we have just cited. lawsuits and title deeds, extortions and in- The two first are chiefly filled with deeds, juries received from others, forged processes
household accounts, and similar instrualtering property, writs of one kind or another ments, and curious to antiquarians alone; to be issued against his adversaries, libels not the least so, perhaps, from the exuttered against himself, and matters of the like I traordinary variety of arbitrary spelling
which they exhibit, such as would drive so many generations, neither does any the Educational Institute of Scotland to disgrace. What their first recorded despair of reconstructing our orthogra- chronicle shows them, that they remained phy. We notice one minute of “ordinary to the beginning of this present generapayments in August, 3 Edw. VI.,” in tion — specimens of that exclusively Engwhich the word 56 Captain” is spelt in lish character, the English country four different ways in a single page : squire; and a more honourable one the Capitaiene, Capitinge, Capitaigne, Cap- world has not to show. taigne. But the second volume is rich What were they really like, these in family correspondence, and its con- " squires” of old England, who constitents, though less copious, fall scarcely tuted until within the last century so large short of those of the “ Paston Letters” a proportion of its upper class ? No one themselves in the light which they throw can be in the least familiar with the outon the domestic life and habits of an ward aspect, even, of the rural districts ordinary English gentle family from the of great part of South Britain, without wars of the Roses to the Restoration. being satisfied that they were far more “ It seems clear,” says a writer on the numerous under the Tudors and Stuarts Antiquities of Cornwall," from Domes-than they are now. Every outlying parday Book, and the recensions of tenants ish — and we now speak particularly of in capite, that before the Conquest Saxons, the distant western and south-western and after the Conquest Normans, were counties, with which the family of Trevelthe owners of the soil, with very slight yan is connected * — can show its half exceptions, from the Tamar to the Land's dozen of farmhouses which were once maEnd. It may be feared that scarcely any nor houses; and many a church contains properly Cornish lineage can establish, the memorials of some half dozen gentle on fair grounds, a connection with those lineages which their places know no named in Domesday, except Trelawney longer. Their modest estates have either and Trevelyan - the latter no longer in been annexed to the possessions of the habiting the county.” However this may neighbouring lord, or purchased from the be, the name of Trevelyan, at all events, last embarrassed owner by the intruding is absolutely “autochtonic.” English millionnaire. Their neighbourhood has history knows nothing of a period when lost the old kindly feeling which used to there was no Trevelyan.
bind together the several degrees of soThe family however, as we shall see, ciety, when each was not so far removed soon abandoned the narrow limits of the in station from the other. It now knows peninsula in which they had their origin, no middle rank between the owner of the and spread widely, through marriages one great house, of whom the beatific and purchases, over the adjacent western vision is conceded to his tenantry for counties. And what makes their quiet three or four weeks in the year, and the annals really remarkable, and in a certain farmer who rents of him as large a tract sense characteristic, is, that such as they of land as once constituted the paternal were at their origin - as far as their property of a country gentleman. But it growth can be traced — such they have has gained in high farming, quick returns, always remained : English gentry, neither and mercantile value acre by acre. We more nor less. They never acquired are not, therefore, anxious to lament over greatness, nor had greatness thrust upon the degeneracy of the times, or to quarrel them. They were always well to do - with those who may sensibly prefer the that is, the leading branches of the house present to the past. We only wish to reat all events never wealthy. They store in imagination that which has benever attained a peerage, or any honour come obsolete ; and this is not so easy beyond a simple baronetcy; but what as it might seem. For it is singular, after they had, they preserved. They never all, how little of life-like delineation, undeviated into literature, or art, or com- exaggerated by romance or satire, has merce ; scarcely into military adventure. been left in our literature of that special They never rose into eminence in the feature of old English Society to which two gentlemanlike professions to which we refer. they furnished recruits — the Church and Mr. Trollope, in his recent publication the Law. They never derogated. They never married into families of high de- men's families in the country, telling us that the old
* “Discoursed accidentally about the decay of gentlescent, but scrupulously within their own rule was, that a family might remain fifty miles from degree. If no historical fame attaches London one hundred years; one hundred miles from itself to their ancient coat of arms during London more or less years.'
London two hundred years, and so farther or nearer
on Australia, tells us that we may find the / was the little independent gentleman of 300! extinct type of the squire yet surviving in per annum, who commonly appeared in a plain the southern hemisphere :
drab or plush coat, large silver buttons, a
jockey cap, and rarely without boots. His We know them (the English country gentle travels never exceeded the distance of the men) very well from plays and novels, and country town, and that only at assize and sesknow something of them too from history, as sion time, or to attend an election. Once a history has of late been written. The ladies' week he commonly dined at the next market dresses, the books, the equipages, the wines, town with the attorneys and justices. This the kitchens, which are now found in English man went to church regularly, read the weekly country houses, were in those days known only journal, settled the parochial disputes between in the metropolis, or at the castle of some the parish officers at the vestry, and afterwards almost royal nobleman. As were country adjourned to the neighboring alehouse, where houses and country, life then in England – he usually got drunk for the good of his plentiful, proud, prejudiced, given to hospital. country. : : : His drink was generally ale, ity, impatient of contradiction, not highly let. except at Christmas, the 5th of November, or tered, healthy, industrious, careful of the main some other gala day, when he would make a chance, thoughtful of the future, and, above bowl of strong brandy punch, garnished with a all, conscious — perhaps a little too conscious toast and nutmeg.
The mansion of - of their own importance, so now is the one of these squires was of plaster striped with house, and so now is the life, of the country timber, not unaptly called calamanco work, or gentleman in Australia.
of red brick, large casemated bow windows, a But one circumstance is omitted in this porch with seats in it, and over it a study; the
eaves of the house well inhabited by swallows, lively parallel which makes so wide a dif- and the court set round with hollyhocks. Near ference as to render the whole indistinct the gate a horseblock for the convenience of and incomplete. The Australian squire mounting. His hall was furnished with flitches has, as a rule, no ancestry. He is novus of bacon, and the mantelpiece with guns and homo altogether. On the contrary, almost fishing rods of various dimensions, accomall the pride and sentimental interest of panied by the broadsword, partisan, and dag. the English Armiger's existence rallied ger borne by his ancestors in the civil wars round his pedigree. “He was,” says Ma- (These mediæval weapons, pace Captain Grose,
are tokens of the life of an earlier day.) In caulay, “ a member of a proud and power- the vacant spaces were posted King Charles's ful aristocracy, and was distinguished by Golden Rules, Vincent Wing's Almanac, and many both of the good and bad qualities a portrait of the Duke of Marlborough ; in his which belong to aristocrats. His family window lay Baker's “Chronicle, Foxe's pride was beyond that of a Talbot or á “Book of Martyrs,” “Glanvil on AppariHoward. He knew the genealogies and tions,” Quincey's “Dispensatory," "The coats of arms of all his neighbours, and Complete Justice," and a Book of Farriery. could tell which of them had assumed
.: Alas! these men and these houses supporters without any right, and which are no more; the luxury of the times has of them were so unfortunate as to be obliged them to quit the country, and become
the humble dependents of great men, to solicit grandsons of aldermen.”. To parallel
a place or commission to live in London, to him, the child of a world which in this re- rack their tenants, and draw their rents before spect at least has passed away, with the due. The venerable mansion in the meantime child of an upstart world in the southern is suffered to tumble down, or is partly upheld hemisphere, is to misemploy comparison. as a farmhouse, till, after a few years, the esThe English squire, such as we conceive tate is conveyed to the steward of the neighhim, has no modern type left in the world; boring lord, or else to some nabob, contractor, unless some such still linger among the or limb of the law. Junkerthum of Pomerania, or in the remote parts of the Spanish Peninsula. loss by looking at the reverse side of the
To comfort ourselves a little for our That phase of society, in short, to which tapestry, let us read Horace Walpole's the old-fashioned squirearchy here de
caricature of these rustic gentry as they picted belonged, has perished irreparably, appeared to him, a “ beau," when occawith its shortcomings so allied to excel sionally obliged by hard fate to visit his lences, its vanity so associated with dig- father's acres in Norfolk : nity, its weaknesses so near akin to wisdom.
Only imagine that I here every day see men, Let us take another sketch from that who are mountains of roast beef, and only very encyclopedic collection of matters seem just roughly hewn out into the outlines of interest and amusement, “ Chambers's of human form, like the giant work of PratoBook of days”:
lino! I shudder when I see them handle their
knives in act to carve, and look upon them as Another character, now worn out and gone, savages that devour one another! I should
not stare at all more than I do, if yonder alder- the profits of their living; are reverenced and man at the end of the table was to strike a beloved of their neighbours; live void of facknife into his neighbour's jolly cheek, and cut tions among themselves, at least such as break a brave slice of brown and fat. ... I out into any dangerous excess; and delight not have an aunt here, a family piece of goods, an in bravery of apparel : yet the woman would old remnant of inquisitive hospitality and be very loth to come behind the fashion, in economy, who, to all intents and purposes, is new fangle dress of the manner, if not in costas beefy as her neighbours. She wore me so liness of the matter, which perhaps might over. down with interrogatories that I dreamt all | empty their husbands' purses. They converse night she was at my ear, with whos and whys, familiarly together, and often visit one another. and whens and wheres, till at last in my sleep I | A gentleman and his wife will ride to make cried out, “For God in Heaven's sake, madam, merry with his next neighbour ; and after a day ask me no more questions !”... I am so or twain, these two couples go to a third, in far from getting used to mankind by living which progress they increase like snowballs, amongst them, that my natural ferocity and till through their burdensome weight they wildness does but every day grow worse. They break again. tire me; they fatigue me; I don't know what to do with them; I don't know what to say to “ It seems, according to an ancient them; I fling open the window and fancy I tradition,” say the editors, "alluded to want air; and when I get by myself, I undress by Bishop Gibson in his edition of Cammyself, and seem to have had people in my den’s ‘ Britannia,' the family of Trevelpockets, in my plaits, and on my shoulders! yan sprang, like Sir Tristrem, from I indeed find this fatigue worse in the country, Spenser's submerged land of Lionesse. than in town, because we can avoid it there, A small creek near St. Michael's Mount and have more resources; but it is there too. is pointed out as the place where their (Walpole to Chute, 1743.)
ancestor landed, and the horse which To come a little nearer to our local saved him may be seen swimming on the mark, let us cite John Prince's highflown family shield, with dolphins for its supaccount in his “Worthies of Devon ” porters.” Strong indeed was the hold (about 1700) of the squirearchy of his which this legend of the land of Lionesse fathers' days, such as tradition described - revived in recent days by our poet it, in his native county :
laureate - at the bottom of the sea beIf we draw nearer home unto our grandsires) had on the Cornish imagination. Even
tween the Land's End and the Scillys, and great-grandsires' days, we shall find our ancestors were bold, hardy, and brave to the the latest county historian, the accomlast degree. Our gentry were generous and plished Mr. Davies Gilbert, could scarcenoble, as well in their hospitality at home as ly allude to it without a certain amount in their equipage when they went abroad. of hereditary respect. “The editor," he Persons of quality usually keeping their stables says, “remembers a female relation of of brave horses, and would always have one or the former vicar of St. Erth, who intwo horses of state led by grooms, when they structed by a dream, prepared decoctions travelled from home. Their houses were open of various kinds, and, repairing to the to all comers, where they might meet civil re: Land's End, poured them into the sea families were academies of virtue and schools with certain incantations, expecting to of education. And the inferior gentry were see the Lionesse country rise immediatewont, instead of sending their children to Lonly out of the water, having all its inhabidon,' Hackney, Salisbury, &c., to send them tants alive, notwithstanding their long thither to learn breeding and accomplishments. submersion.” But this mode and way of living, since coach- But to leave mythical for real history, ing and London came so much in vogue, must we find the Trevelyans settled in Henry be acknowledged to be greatly altered from 111.'s reign at the place from which they former days.
derive their name : And add Carew's account - a century earlier — of their neighbours over the
Trevelyan (add the editors in a note) is be. Tamar (Survey of Cornwall): –
lieved to be the Celtic equivalent for the
Saxon “ Milton," and to be compounded of Tre The angle, which so shutteth them in, (terra), the Celtic unit of territorial division, hath wrought many interchangeable matches and of the inflected form (velin) of the Celtic with each other's stock, and given beginning adaptation of the word mill, as still used in to the proverb, that all Cornish gentlemen are Welsh and Irish. The ancient mill is still cousins; which ended in an injurious conse- there on a creek of Fowey River, below Trequence, that the King hath there no cousins. velyan. The name is reversed 'in Velindre They keep liberal but not costly builded or (mill-town), which still belongs to them, in the furnished houses ; give kind entertainment to parish of St. Veep, near Lostwithiel ; and their strangers; make even at the year's end with first recorded alliance was with Margaret Car