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breeches or stockings. 3 eke, also. 4 accomplishment, attainment, acquirement. 6 mickle, great. 6 lute, a stringed musical instrument resembling a guitar. 7 eternate, eternal, everlasting. Seloquence, the power of speaking (or writing) well. 9 illumine, to light up.
THE PASTON LETTERS.
Part I. The family of Paston occupied a good position in the county of Norfolk in the days of the Lancastrian and Yorkist kings. Sir William Paston was a judge, his son was a man of great influence, and his grandson was high in the favour of Edward IV. Many of the letters written to different members of the family having been preserved were published about a hundred years ago . Reference is made in them to various historical events, such as the Wars of the Roses, the murder of the Duke of Suffolk, and 2 Jack Cade's rebellion, but they are chiefly interesting to us from the light which they throw upon the manners of the times.
The plan of conveying letters by post had not then been introduced. They were forwarded sometimes by a special messenger, and sometimes by the spackhorse driver, but they were commonly sent by chance travellers. They were often very slow in reaching the persons to whom they were addressed. One of the Paston 4 correspondents, for instance, after his father's death wrote to him several times before he heard that he was dead.
There were no carriages, but that mattered little, for there were no roads worthy of the name. Journeys were therefore mostly made on horseback. In one of the letters Sir William Paston, the judge, is told that the Lord Chief Justice was too ill to ride, and could
only hold assizes in those places to which he could get by water. Men whose business required them to stay away from home could not take their families with them; two lawyers are said to have got themselves appointed to offices in London that they might have an excuse for living apart from their wives. Mrs. Margaret Paston, writing to her husband, who was lying ill in the capital, says: “If I might have had my will, I should have seen you ere this time. I would ye were at home. i . rather than a new gown, though it were of scarlet.”
We find in the letters abundant proof of the disorder and lawlessness of the times. One night, for example, 5 Sir Humphrey Stafford was returning to his lodging in Coventry, accompanied by his servants, and followed at a little distance by his son Richard. Sir Robert Harcourt was going in the opposite direction, and when he met young Stafford, “ they fell in hands together, and Sir Robert smote him a great stroke on the head with his sword, and Richard with his dagger hastily went toward him, and as he stumbled one of Harcourt's men smote him in the back with a knife." Sir Humphrey hearing the noise turned back. As he was getting off his horse he was struck on the head with “an edged tool.” His followers, who had now come up, then killed two of Sir Robert's servants.
At ? Paston four men entered the dwelling of William Sheriff, “and there, as he sat at work, struck him upon the head and in the body with a dagger and wounded him sore, and pulled him out of his house and set him in prison without any cause reasonable, or without writ.” The only excuse the men had for their violence was that their master was on bad terms with Sheriff's master.
One day about a thousand men attacked John Paston's house while he was from home. They forced their way in, dragged out Mrs. Paston, and carried away everything they could lay hands on. Another time the Duke of Norfolk's followers besieged in regular fashion a house at 8 Caistor, to which their
YARMOUTH. master laid claim. The defenders resisted stoutly, but they were at last overcome and the building destroyed.
Foreign pirates prowled off the coast and 'occasionally made a descent upon the land. Margaret Paston writes: “There have been many enemies against Yarmouth and Cromer, and have done much harm, and taken many Englishmen and put them in great distress and 10 greatly ransomed them; and the said enemies have been so bold that they come up to the land and play them on Caistor Sands, and in other places, 11 as homely as if they were Englishmen.” Another letter tells of pirates taking two pilgrims, “a man and a woman, and they robbed the woman and let her go, . and led the man to sea ; and when they knew he was a pilgrim they gave him money and set him again on the land.”
1 The Duke of Suffolk, one of the ministers of Henry VI. He was banished the country, but as he was crossing the sea he was beheaded. ? Jack Cade’s rebellion was a rising which took place in Kent and Sussex within a month of the murder of the Duke of Suffolk. The leader was Jack Cade. 3 pack-horse, a horse used for carrying packs or burdens. When the roads became better, pack-horses gave way to carriers with carts. 4 correspondent, one who writes a letter or to whom a letter is written. 5 Sir Humphrey Stafford was afterwards killed in a fight with Cade's rebels. 6 Coventry, in Warwickshire. ? Paston, near the coast in Norfolk, about midway between Yarmouth and Cromer. 8 Caistor, a little north of Yarmouth. 9 occasionally, now and then. 10 greatly ransomed them, required large sums for letting them go. 11 as homely, as much at home.
THE PASTON LETTERS,
PART II. The Paston l correspondence shows that the religious life of England in the fifteenth century was very different from what it is now. Margaret Paston, writing to her sick husband, says: “My mother vowed another image of wax of the weight of you to 2 Our Lady of Walsingham, and she sent four 3 nobles to 4 the four orders of friars at Norwich to pray for you, and I have vowed a pilgrimage to Walsingham and to 5 St. Leonard's for you.” Belief in the miraculous aid given by Our Lady of Walsingham was very common, and journeys to her shrine were therefore frequent. Pilgrimages were undertaken also to many other places. While Mrs. Paston was in London, she received a letter from one of her sons asking her to “visit the 6 Rood of Northdoor and St. Saviour, at 7 Bermondsey . . . and let my sister Margery go with you, to pray to them that she may have a good husband ere she come home again.”
Everybody believed in those days, as Roman Catholics believe now, in the virtue of prayers for the dead. A man anxious to get the books of a priest lately 8 deceased, writes : “If it like you that I may have them, I am not able to buy them ; but somewhat I would give, and the remnant with a good 10 devout heart, by my 11 troth, I will pray for his soul.”
The books were of course written, for printing had not yet been brought into England. One of the most interesting letters in the collection finishes with a bill for 12 transcribing. One of the items is, “For a 13 Treatise on War, in four books, which containeth 60 leaves, after two pence a leaf”; another is for a work “which containeth 45 leaves, one penny a leaf, which it is right well worth.”
The correspondence contains many references to the rearing of the sons and daughters of gentlemen in the houses of the great. It also shows that the treatment of young people was much more severe in those days than it is now. There was no thought of bringing up even a prince without the rod. The 14 Earl of Warwick, when he had charge of Henry VI., appealed to the lords of the council “firmly and truly to assist him in the exercise of the charge and occupation that he has about