CIVIC AND SOCIAL
84. Old London Bridge was built upon Woolpacks, as was said, for the following reason. The bridge was commenced by one Peter, a priest of St. Mary Cole-church, which, previous to the Great Fire, stood on the north side of the Poultry. When the works were stopped for want of funds, Henry II. generously came to the rescue by imposing a tax upon his subjects' wool. This gave rise to the vulgar saying that Peter of the Poultry had reared the arches of his bridge upon woolpacks.
85. The so-called Griffin on the Temple Bar Memorial is not a griffin at all, but a dragon, which forms one of the supporters of the arms of the City of London, viz., the Cross of St. George, containing in the first quarter the sword of St. Paul (see 290). It will be noticed that the monster supports the City arms with one of its fore-paws. Possibly, had more space been available, both supporters would have been requisitioned. Let it be mentioned incidentally that the City's crest is a dragon's wing expanded to the sinister, and ensigned with St. George's Cross.
86. The Dragon on the Spire of Bow Church, Cheapside, has not hitherto been accounted for. Nevertheless, since we know that the church was dedicated to the Virgin, it is, or should be, by no means difficult to comprehend its signification. In all examples of Christian Art, the Serpent which, as God foretold to the Mother of Mankind, would one day be crushed by a woman, appears in the form of a dragon (see 384).
87. A Grasshopper was formerly the usual grocer's shop-sign, in imitation of the family crest of Sir Thomas Gresharn, which adorned his shop-front at the time when he resided in Lombard Street. The grasshopper on the Royal Exchange is believed to be one that was saved from the Great Fire of London, and also that of 1838, in which the second Exchange was consumed.
88. The subject of Tavern Signs has been so fully discussed in our "Names and their Meaning," that there is no need to revert to it here. Let it suffice to state that both shop and tavern signs were a necessity in the days when very few people could read, and when, consequently, it would have been useless for a tradesman to paint his name over his shop-front. Yet, while tavern signs had a purely heraldic significance, shop signs always had an intimate relation to the trades they advertised.
89. The Pawnbroker's Three Brass Balls were the arms of the Medicis of Florence, whose agent was the first to lend money on pledges in this country. As a distinguishing shop-sign, he employed the family arms, but subsequently, when the Jews of Lombardy flocked over to England and set up in the same kind of business, the sign was extensively copied. Roscoe, in his "Life of Lorenzo de Medici," published in 1796, attributes the origin of the family arms to an exploit of Averardo de Medici, one of the commanders of Charlemagne, who slew a famous giant named Mugello, and bore off his club, that had three iron balls sunk into it, as a trophy. Others, again, contend that the three brass balls were simply gilded pills of large size. That the Medicis were Florentine physicians is well known; indeed, it is sufficiently established by their family name. It should be added, however, that the balls were originally blue; the brass balls did not make their appearance until some seventy years ago. Of course, there is such a thing as a blue pill, and the practice of our Continental neighbours nowadays is to gild their pills. The public money-lending establishments of France and Italy are styled Monts de Piete, from their sign, which consists of three mounds of earth, suggested by the three balls, surmounted by a pieta, a figure of Christ (see 282).
90. The Barber's Pole is a relic of the time when, under the style of barber-surgeons, the barbers of this country were also surgeons. It was customary then for the pole to be tightly grasped by a patient during the process of blood-letting, in order to make his veins swell, and the blood to flow freely. As the pole very soon became bloodstained it was painted a bright red, and, when not in use, hung outside the shop-door as a sign, swathed spirally with a narrow white linen band, in allusion to the bandage used for tying up the bleeding arm. In course of time it occurred to some sharp-witted member of the fraternity to have a dummy pole, painted with red and white stripes, permanently on view outside, and to keep the real one inside. From this time forward the barber's pole became a fixture. The gilt knob at the end of the pole is supposed to represent the brass dish or basin, with a notch-like cavity on one side of it to fit the throat, and which was employed to catch the lather when a customer was being shaved. The basin itself was generally suspended from the knob at the pole-end. To bring this basin to the ground by pelting at it from a distance was considered fine sport by the holiday-making school-boys on Shrove Tuesday a generation or two back (see 426).
91. The origin of the Black Doll, which not so very long ago was the recognized sign of a marine-store dealer, is not without interest. In the days when Indian and Chinese curiosity shops were common in all parts of London, such establishments always called attention to the character of their wares by means of a black doll or joss--a species of Chinese idol--exhibited outside. But there came a time when these shops dwindled down to an insignificant few; whereupon the dealers in cast-off clothing, who shipped large quantities of goods to Africa and other uncivilized lands, acquired the black dolls as an advertisement for their places of business, taking care to dress them up as gaily as they could in order to attract notice from a distance. By-and-by, these exporters of clothing degenerated into mere rag-and-bottle merchants, though the black doll, bereft of its finery, continued to be suspended over the door. It would, we fear, require an expenditure of much time and shoe-leather to discover such a sign in the byways of London in the present year of grace.
92. The Chemist's Coloured Globes are modern substitutes for the retorts and jars containing their various drugs and mixtures, of the apothecaries and alchemists of a bygone day. The Doctor's Red Lamp had a similar origin. After the Barber-Surgeons' Company (see 90) was dissolved, in the year 1745, the practice of surgery was placed in the hands of properly qualified surgeons, who set up a red globe--painfully suggestive of bleeding--outside their houses as a sign. As for the apothecaries, their invariable shop-sign was a Wooden Phoenix, owing to the association of the famous bird with alchemy. After the great Swiss alchemist Paracelsus wrote about it in the sixteenth century, the alchemists one and all employed it as the symbol of their vocation. The Pestle and Mortar is still occasionally met with as a chemist's shop-sign. The pestle was originally the shankbone of a sheep.
93. The Highlander at the Tobacconist's Shop Door is still to be met with in the course of a day's walk, but the snuff-box from which he is supposed to be helping himself; does not always meet one's gaze. Why a Highlander should have been selected for this monotonous sentry duty can only be explained by the circumstance that our Scottish neighbours are notoriously fond of a pinch of snuff, and that a great deal of this article is nowadays made across the Border. Another tobacconists' sign, now fast disappearing, is the Little Caribb, with coloured feathers around his head and loins. This originally did duty for both tobacco and snuff, which are a West Indian production.
94. The Draper's Farthing Change was originated by a small linendraper in the Borough, who divined that an article ticketed "one and elevenpence three farthings" would be a more tempting bait for custom than another at two shillings, obviously because the farthing was knocked off. But his customers were not aware that he was by no means a loser by the transaction. At first he remitted the farthing per article or per yard only upon such goods as represented a large margin of profit, and the increased business was a clear gain to him. By-and-by, when the system became firmly established, he not only succeeded in having this supposed rebatement more than allowed for by the wholesale houses, but he had no compunction about actually marking up many a cheaper article to the popular "eleven three." Possibly the same thing is done now. The substitution of a packet of pins for the farthing change is the latter-day development of an exceedingly smart stroke of business.
95. The Lion's Head on Public Drinking Fountains has come down to us through the Greeks and Romans from the ancient Egyptians, who adopted it to symbolize the rising of the Nile, which takes place annually when the sun is in Leo.
96. The two words "Ancient Lights" signify that the owner of a building has had access to the light of day from a particular window for twenty years or more; therefore his claim to such light is made absolute by Act of Parliament (2 and 3 Will. IV., c. 71, S. 3), and no other building must be put up within a certain distance from the said window to which public attention is directed.
97. Clubs--in the modern sense of the term--came into existence in London soon after the Battle of Waterloo. The long-protracted war over, large numbers of naval and military officers were glad to retire on half-pay, but as they found the cost of living in London too great for their slender purses, they hit upon the plan of dining together at a central resort, each contributing his share of the expense. By this means a great saving was effected, and so satisfactory were the arrangements, that in a very short time they mustered sufficient members to establish what was styled "The United Service Club" in premises of their own. The United Service is, consequently, the parent of all the other London clubs.
98. The reason why a Gentleman Escorting a Lady should take the outside edge of the pavement is not so clear nowadays as it was in bygone times, when street brawls were matters of almost hourly occurrence, and the vigilance of the so-called preservers of law and order left much to be desired. By taking the side nearest the passers-by, a man could, in those days, more easily protect his female companion from rough usage.
99. The expressions " Near Side" and "Off Side," so commonly made use of by omnibus drivers and others, have no reference to the street pavements, as is generally supposed. The country waggoner, who walks by the side of his horse instead of riding on the shafts, invariably takes the left-hand side of the animal, so as to have the whip hand always ready. The "near side" of the horse is consequently close to his right hand, and the "off side" the farthest away from him. Opportunity may be taken here to state that the exclamation "Wo!" so well understood by horses, is a corruption of "Ho!" which was the signal for the cessation of the conflict at the tournaments of the Middle Ages.
100. Twenty years ago, or thereabouts, all the ladies of England who wished to be in the fashion affected what was styled "The Alexandra Limp." This was because the Princess of Wales had sustained some injury to her knee and was walking lame. In this we see how history repeats itself. Alexander the Great had a wry neck, wherefore all his courtiers and generals considered it the correct thing to go about with their heads on one side. Another fashionable folly of a bygone day, "The Grecian Bend," was originally intended as a mockery of the affected walk of the "Grecians" at our public schools, to show their manifest superiority over their neighbours; but the fashion once set, it was everywhere followed in all seriousness.
101. A Lady's Curtsey is a relic of those barbarous days when woman was expected to bend the knee on being ushered into the presence of men of rank and power, as an acknowledgment of her inferiority. Says John Aubrey, writing in 1678 "Till this time, the Court itself was unmannered and unpolished. King James's Court was so far from being civil to woman, that the ladies, nay, the Queen herself, could hardly pass by the King's apartment without receiving some affront."
102. The custom of Shaking Hands originated in the ancient and universal practice of adversaries grasping the weapon hand during a truce as a precaution against treachery. But it will be asked, How came it that the chance meeting of friends was signalized by a shaking of hands? To this it may be answered that, just as the warrior clutched the weapon hand of his enemy to prevent mischief; so he freely extended his own weapon hand to a friend as a sign that he had no thought of standing on the defensive. It needs no great stretch of imagination to understand that the hand shake was but the natural outcome of a hearty and vigorous grasp. At one time strict etiquette demanded that a person should Unglove the Hand before offering it to another in friendly greeting. This was a relic of the days of chivalry, when a knight removed his gauntlet in token of perfect confidence in the peaceful intentions of his neighbour. Gloves are never worn in the presence of royalty.
103. Uncovering the Head, as a mark of respect on entering another's house or a place of worship, is a custom handed down to us from the days of chivalry, when a knight doffed his helmet to show that he relied upon the protection of his host as long as he remained under his roof; on the one hand, and that he was not afraid of being attacked in the House of God on the other. Owing to the peaceable nature of their vocation in life, women have always been exempted from uncovering their heads in the like circumstances. Raising the Hat in the Street had a similar origin. A mediaeval knight always stood bareheaded in the presence of a lady. The Oriental custom of showing respect by Removing the Slippers originated among the Jews, in obedience to God's command to Moses from the burning bush, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." Our Jewish neighbours do not remove their hats in the synagogues; neither do they remove their shoes, because since the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem, the Supreme Being is not supposed to abide in their ordinary places of worship. The primitive idea of uncovering the head in Christian churches was the Catholic belief in the Real Presence on the altar. No reasonable excuse can be assigned for the Quaker custom of keeping their heads covered in meeting-houses, further than that it is a relic of the war which George Fox, the founder of the sect, waged against ceremonies and conventionality. As David Hume tells us, speaking of Fox and his disciples, "Even the ordinary rites of civility were shunned as the nourishment of carnal vanity and self-conceit."
104. The Quaint Dress of the Christ's Hospital Boys is thought by some persons to be a modification of the ordinary habit of the Franciscan, or Grey Friars (see 31), whose monastery Edward VI. converted into the present educational establishment; and by others as simply that of the London apprentices of the Tudor period. It is, however, possible to arrive at the real truth of the matter. With regard to the blue colour of the gown, that certainly was common to all serving-men and apprentices from early times down to the sixteenth century. Pliny, the historian, tells us that the people of ancient Gaul clothed their slaves in blue as a mark of servitude. In the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth the London apprentices were ordered always to wear blue cloaks in summer and blue gowns in winter. The privileged Scottish mendicants, known as "the King's bedesmen," still receive a new blue gown once a year, though no additions to their number have been made since 1833. When first admitted, the Christ's Hospital scholars were provided with a garb of russet cotton, very similar to the ancient Franciscan habit; but ere long this was exchanged for the blue gown and yellow stockings by which they have ever since been distinguished. The first time they appeared abroad in their blue gowns was when they accompanied the governor to hear the annual Easter sermons in the churchyard of St. Mary Spittle, where, subsequently, i.e., in 1594, a gallery near the pulpit was specially constructed for their accommodation. Between the old monastic habit and the ordinary dress of the London apprentices, the new Christ's Hospital costume was a judicious compromise. The blue colour of the gown bespoke the charitable foundation, while its form retained something of the monkish character. The leathern girdle corresponded to the hempen cord, and the combined vest and petticoat, technically called the "yellow," to the sleeveless tunic or undergarment of the monastery. The stockings were yellow, in keeping with the petticoat; those of the town boys were white. As for the head-covering, a small cap of black worsted was supplied to them, but it was more usually carried in the hand than worn on the head. This singular custom must have been derived from the London apprentices, who, while stationed all day long outside their masters' shops crying, "What d'ye lack?" had no more thought of covering their heads than has the butcher's man or the draper's assistant at the present day. It should be recollected however, that although these juvenile traders might be exposed to the cold, the overhanging stories of the houses of the age in which they lived effectually sheltered them from the wind and rain. To return to the Blue-coat boys. "In my time," writes our friend Mr. M. S. S. Dipnall, an old "Blue," and late Chief Clerk, i.e., Secretary, to the Christ's Hospital Foundation, "the cap supplied to us was a black 'muffin' cap, which hardly covered the crown of the head, and was rarely worn in the streets; the custom or requisition having been to don it when about to pass the gate on a leave-day, or with an afternoon 'ticket,' and a minute after to doff it, and to consign it to the coat-pocket, or carry it in the hand. The cap was also donned on Sundays when going to church; and I have some impression that it was worn too when on Sundays we walked up and down the grounds by way of exercise before and after church." Here follows the most interesting part of Mr. Dipnall's communication. "For some time previous to 1829 there had been a considerable prevalence of ringworm in the school, and several years later the same complaint was troublesome. The boys' hair was cut about once a fortnight so as to render their heads of easier inspection; and this continued to be the case for many years. Much attention was paid also to cleanliness, especially of the head. A gradual disuse of the woollen cap ensued, and some thirty or forty years ago the issue of these caps was dropped. And, not much later, the 'yellow' was also disused, a vest and breeches being substituted for it." It only remains to be added that the pair of white bands are very similar to those still worn by barristers, and which were derived from the priests' bands at the time when the practice of the law was entirely in the hands of the clergy (see 58).
105. The fearfully and wonderfully made Fardingale, or hoop skirt of the Elizabethan period, was a device on the part of the ladies of the Court to ridicule the large trunk hose worn by the courtiers. Had the fair dames been satisfied when the men confessed themselves completely outwitted in absurdity, no harm would have been done. But the wide Hoop Skirts thus worn for a brief space as an experiment became the rage. Before the close of the reign they had attained such alarming proportions that doors had to be widened, pews made double their former size, and carriages built on an extra large scale purposely to accommodate their wearers. These fashionable monstrosities never wholly disappeared until our own day; their size, indeed, was subject to fluctuations, but between the Elizabethan fardingale and the Victorian Crinoline there was no perceptible difference. For the love of our wives and sisters may we never see the like again!
106. Fans originated among the Chinese. Centuries ago, while a royal princess was taking part in the Feast of Lanterns, her face covered with a mask, as was usual in the case of distinguished personages, she found the heat so overpowering that, in order to cool her brow and conceal her features at the same time, she passed the mask quickly to and fro in front of her face. This action being observed suggested the fan.
107. Patches were at first employed by ladies of fashion simply to set off a dimple or other special beauty of the face; but it was not long before they grew into such excess that representations of a coach and four, a sun, moon, and stars without number appeared on a lady's face all at once.
108. Powdering the Hair was first adopted by the ladies of the English Court after the fops and gallants had taken up the fashion of wearing wigs or perukes during the Restoration period.
109. Dressing the Hair with Ribbons had its origin in the example of the Duchesse de Fontagne, the mistress of Louis XIV. This lady, while hunting one day in the year 1680, had her hat blown off, so in order to keep her hair out of her face, she tied it back with one of her ribbon garters. Shortly afterwards hairdressing with ribbons became fashionable, and has remained so, to a greater or a lesser extent, up to the present time.
110. False Hair was first regularly worn in England by Queen Elizabeth, who had upwards of fifty wigs of different kinds for her private use. After her death a few ladies adopted the French fashion of wearing wigs, but it was not until the Restoration that wigs, or more correctly speaking, Periwigs, came to be extensively worn by the sterner sex. These were introduced from the court of Louis XIV., where a natural head of hair was not considered sufficiently luxuriant for the artificial tastes of the times. The term "wig" is short for "periwig," which is a corruption of the French perruque. Wigs were originally adopted not as a remedy for baldness, but in the interests of personal cleanliness. The laws of ancient Egypt compelled all males to shave the head and beard. This explains why turbans were not worn by the Egyptians, the bushy artificial hair being regarded as a sufficient protection against the heat of the sun. The Romans, on the contrary, wore wigs because they were naturally bald.
111. The popular Antipathy to Red Hair arose from the tradition that Judas, the betrayer of Christ, had red hair. Hence the expression current in many languages, "Judas coloured hair." Cain, the first murderer, is also believed to have been a red-haired man. In England and the north of France the popular aversion was strengthened in no small degree by the repeated incursions of the Danes, who were all red-haired, and heartily detested. By the Danes themselves red hair was and is still looked upon as a sign of strength.
112. As soon as the terrors of the French Revolution had subsided, fops and gallants took to wearing their hair cut very short, and called it A la Guillotine in memory of their relatives who had suffered death by that instrument.
113. The vulgar notion that the Chinaman's Pigtail is cultivated solely for the purpose of being pulled up into Heaven by it is altogether absurd. This queue, or pigtail from the hair of the crown, while the rest of the head is close shaven, was forced upon the Chinese by the Manchu, or Tartar conquerors of the Empire, in the year 1627, as an act of degradation. Inscriptions on old tablets in Japanese temples frequently refer to this humiliating requirement as one of the reasons why the people of Japan originally fled from China. However, John Chinaman has long since become reconciled to his pigtail; indeed, he would be loth to part with it on any consideration.
114. Like the Small Feet of Chinese Ladies, the cultivation of inordinately Long Finger-Nails by both sexes in the country of the Celestials is a recognized mark of distinction between the upper and middle classes, and those who are compelled to perform manual labour. The higher the social rank of the individual, the longer are the finger-nails. To preserve them from injury ladies enclose them in elaborate casings of gold and silver set off with precious stones; whereas the middle classes have recourse to pieces of bamboo cane extending beyond the tips of the fingers. Bandaging the feet of female infants has been the fashion ever since the sixth century, but it obtains only in families that are more or less well-to-do.
115. It is a mistake to imagine that the Turks compel their Wives to conceal their Faces from the public gaze from motives of jealousy. Travellers in the East have assured us that it is rather owing to the homage which the Turks pay to female beauty, and to natural reverence for the modesty of women, that they impose such conditions; firmly believing that no man can look upon a beautiful face with a perfectly pure mind, and with perfect physical indifference. For a woman to have her face uncovered out of doors in the East is regarded as a sure indication of profligacy. Nor are the women so closely veiled but that they can see everything that passes around them. "If" as Lady Hamilton observes, "jealousy dictated such a disguise, it could not more effectually have defeated its own purpose; for the spirit of intrigue could surely suggest a more happy expedient to elude vigilance and to deceive without alarming suspicion." No man allows his wife greater freedom, or more disposes of his wealth so as to make her life enjoyable, than the Turk.
116. Tattooing may not inaptly be described as a primitive kind of heraldry. Just as the knights of chivalry needed some distinguishing mark by which they could be recognized when completely encased in armour, so the savages, who wear no clothing at all, must needs have recourse to some common device on their bodies when they make war upon a neighbouring tribe. By the particular style of ornamentation on their bodies only can friends be distinguished from foes. Among savages, therefore, tattooing serves the same purpose as the wearing of regimental uniforms among civilized nations. In the exact proportion that clothing comes into use, so tattooing of necessity goes out.
117. The Cocked Hat became fashionable in the time of Louis XV. of France, but instead of being worn on the head, it was merely carried or cocked under the arm. From this circumstance the party badge or symbol which very soon found a place upon it received the name of a Cockade. Of course a hat of such dubious utility was practicable only in an age when the head was sufficiently protected against the elements by the peruke or court wig. It was during this period that the expression "knocked into a cocked hat," signifying to be completely doubled up, or flattened, first obtained currency. When George III. took to wearing the cocked hat on his military campaigns, it was abandoned by our fops and gallants in favour of the three-cornered hat. In a slightly altered form the cocked hat is still worn by our naval and military commanders.
118. A White Hat was formerly regarded as an infallible indication that its wearer was an uncompromising Radical, because Henry Hunt, the famous demagogue, was singularly partial to a white hat.
119. A Red Cap is the symbol of liberty, because when a slave was manumitted among the Romans, a small cap of red cloth was placed on his head, and his name was entered on the rolls of the City as a freedman (see 24).
120. The Kilt of the Scottish Highlanders is a relic of the dress of the ancient Gauls (the Galli non braccati alluded to by the Romans), to whom the wearing of breeches was unknown. The word itself is the Gaelic and Irish cealt.
121. Boots were not worn by our countrymen until the popularity of the Hessian troops in English pay, in the time of the Georges, caused their foot-gear to be introduced among civilians on an extensive scale. Everyone betrayed a fancy for Hessian boots, to the great concern of the shoe and buckle makers. When the passion for Hessians had somewhat subsided, the short boot came into fashion, and remained until events on the field of Waterloo once more sent the people mad after military boots in honour of Wellington and Blucher. It is said that the town of Walsall, which at one time supplied the whole kingdom with shoe-buckles, was completely ruined by the introduction of boots.
122. Stockings, properly so called, came into existence when the wide Dutch trunk or petticoat breeches introduced during the Stuart period enabled the full hose or tights previously worn by both sexes to be dispensed with. In the time of Henry VIII., it is true, the tights were first divided just below the knee, the joining being concealed by a wide garter. This garter is seen in pictures of Queen Elizabeth's "Progresses." The hose then bore the names of upper hose and nether hose. After the Dutch trunks came in the upper hose was no longer worn. Ladies soon followed the example set by Elizabeth of wearing worsted stockings. Silk stockings were a rarity until the Restoration.
123. Scarlet Neckcloths are worn by all the porters and brakemen employed on the Great Northern Railway. This is because some years ago a collision was happily averted by a G. N. R. porter, who, with commendable presence of mind, improvised a danger signal by covering a white light with the scarlet neckcloth which he happened to be wearing at the time. Ever since that event the directors of the Great Northern Railway have recognized the expediency of providing all their servants with scarlet neckcloths.
124. The Agricultural Labourer's Smock is not peculiar to this country. In all countries where peasants exist--and where do they not exist?--it will be found. Originally introduced into Europe by the Moors, it is nothing more than the evolution of man's primitive attire, viz., a sack, having in it a hole for the head and two holes for the arms. The Arabs of the present day wear a garment very similar to that of the agricultural labourers of the Western nations. In all probability the Roman toga owed its origin to the primitive garb of the East. Proceeding to the West we find but small difference between the Mexican serape, and the South American poncho, both, like the English smock, derived from Spain, and of Moorish origin.
125. The spirit of chivalry still lingers in the breasts of Englishmen. We, of all the nations of the world, give priority to the fair sex when we are addressing a public assembly. The stereotyped formula, "Ladies and Gentlemen," however, has not yet attained its centenary. Previous to the year i8o8 it was "Gentlemen and Ladies," answering to the French "Messieurs et Mesdames," and the German "Meine Herren und Damen."
126. The Scottish custom of Licking Thumbs on the completion of a bargain--of which the schoolboy ritual of attesting the truth is but a puerile imitation--conveys the same meaning as the time-honoured practice of pressing the thumb upon the seal beside one's Signature to a Document as a mark of good faith. During the Middle Ages, when few witnesses could write their own names, it was incumbent upon all the contracting parties to impress their thumbs upon the wax while it was still warm, to remind them of the pains of hell-fire if they swore falsely, and then to make the sign of the cross beside it, as evidence that, being Christians, they pledged themselves by the symbol of their Faith. Even those who could subscribe their names (the rest had it filled in for them by the scholar or clerk) drew a rude cross on the document; but to save their thumbs from injury they wetted them with saliva before touching the molten wax. Hence the expression to "sign one's name." Hence also the original meaning of the illiterate witness's " x his mark."
127. Those who prefer Tobacco Chewing to smoking it in the ordinary way may have the consolation of knowing that their not very elegant habit is warranted by history. Plutarch says, "Chewing of mallows is very wholesome, and the stalk of asphodel very luscious." Whether this ancient biographer ever foresaw the possibility of ladies Chewing Gum, as they do in the United States, is more than we can say.
128. When the North American Indians Bury the Hatchet, while the calumet, or pipe of peace, is being passed round, the act poetically suggests that the implements of warfare must not even be visible during a peaceful conference. The acceptance of the calumet by a stranger on such an occasion is also intended to show that he harbours no suspicion of treachery. At a deliberation of war, the hatchet, painted a bright red, is always in evidence.
129. The origin of the Baker's Dozen must be sought in olden times, when, fearful of incurring the heavy penalties enforced for selling short weight, the London bakers threw in an extra loaf, which they called the "in bread," with each dozen loaves sold.
130. That we are reverting to some of the customs of our Anglo-Saxon forefathers is evidenced by our observance of the Saturday Half-Holiday. King Edgar ordered that there should be a general cessation of labour from Saturday midday until sunrise on Monday. A similar order was issued by William of Scotland in the year 1203; while that of Canute: "Let every Sunday be kept from Saturday's noon to Monday's dawn," has never been repealed. The like custom prevailed in the East as a means of gratifying Judaizing Christians. Josephus tells us that in his time there was scarcely a city in Greece that did not keep a portion of the seventh day holy. Not until after vespers on Saturday night did the Anglo-Saxons think of laying in their weekly store of provisions. This explains why the marketplace of an English town invariably sprang up around the parish church.
131. To Make the Grand Tour was formerly incumbent upon the sons of every well-to-do English family on attaining their majority. This was but an ancient practice revived. The laws of Athens did not allow minors to enjoy the management of their estates until after they had spent a couple of years in travelling over the neighbouring countries.
132. The reason why there are so many American Heiresses in the European marriage market is because wealthy parents in the United States invariably leave the bulk of their money to their daughters, and very little, comparatively, to their sons, who are expected to make their own way in the world by their natural gifts.
133. There is this much in common between the Jews and Mohammedans: while they do not hesitate to cheat and impose upon Christians, as the avowed enemies of their race, they are scrupulously straightforward in all their dealings amongst themselves. This singular trait in their commercial character is explained by a somewhat too literal interpretation of the religious law which regulates all their ordinary actions of life, and by which they are strictly forbidden to exercise usury, cheating, extortion, or over-reaching "among one another." Obviously their practice goes far to prove that those of a different race from themselves may be fleeced at pleasure.
134. The Germans and the Russians have a Name Day as well as a birthday. This is the feast of the saint whose name was chosen for them at their baptism, and who, throughout life, is looked upon as their patron.
135. The Language of Flowers was introduced into Europe by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu from Turkey, where it forms the amusement of the secluded fair ones in the harems.
136. The explanation why Chinese and Japanese Pictures appear to us so quaint, is because the people of the Far East have no idea of perspective; objects at a distance are depicted by them just as large as those in the foreground. A familiar example of this is the willow-pattern plate (see 144).
137. There is some analogy between a Family Portrait Gallery and the waxen busts of the deceased members of a Roman household (see 242). Even that unique arrangement was derived from the Egyptians, who had the painted coffins of their ancestors ranged in an erect position around the walls of the family vault, the features of the deceased being in every case very clearly shown, as may be seen from existing examples in the British Museum. In times of great distress an Egyptian was often compelled to borrow money on the security of the mummy of one of his ancestors--indeed no other kind of security was permitted by law--and if he could not redeem it he was publicly disgraced. Here, then, we discover an historical precedent for the occasional disposal of the family portraits by some impecunious nobleman at the present day.
138. Grace at Meals is not a modern observance; it existed amongst the Jews and the classical ancients. The latter also made an offering of the first fruits of the viands to the gods. This was commuted by the Anglo-Saxons into setting aside a portion of the meal for their guardian angel. Hence the saying, "Leave some for manners."
139. Dressing for Dinner is a custom handed down to us by the Romans, who put on a loose robe of light texture, and generally white, before sitting down to the most important meal of the day. Instances occur where it was kept in readiness for guests who came from a distance, and had had no opportunity of dressing before arrival.
140. In many parts of England what is called Pudding Time takes the place of "dinner time." This is because the pudding is always served before the meat, as was the custom formerly all over the country.
141. It will doubtless be news to many to learn that Roast Lamb and Mint Sauce was originally eaten by our forefathers in imitation of their Jewish neighbours, who ate bitter herbs with the Paschal lamb to remind them of the bitter oppression endured by the Israelites in the land of bondage, where, as we read, "the Egyptians made their lives bitter with hard bondage in mortar and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field" (see 397).
142. Table Napkins were articles of the utmost necessity in this country prior to the introduction of forks, which did not make their appearance even in polite society until the commencement of the seventeenth century. It was Thomas Coryate, that eccentric writer and wanderer, who traversed the greater part of the European Continent on foot, and afterwards hung up his old shoes in the parish church at Odcombe, Somersetshire, his native place, as relics of his extraordinary performance, who first brought the table-fork under the notice of Englishmen. "The Italians," he tells us in his "Crudities," "cannot by any means endure to have their flesh touched with fingers, seeing all men's fingers are not alike clean." We should think not indeed! And yet this social benefactor was abused on all sides because he "used a fork at feeding." In Hogarth's picture of the Guildhall Banquet, of "The Industrious Apprentice" Series, the absence of forks is plainly seen; all the guests eat with their fingers. Little wonder napkins were indispensable adjuncts to the dinner-table. The meal over, they also served the purpose of a towel when a general washing of hands took place.
143. The chief function of Dish-covers is obviously to keep the food hot during its passage from the kitchen to the dinner-table. But this was not at all the original idea of a dish-cover. In the bad old times, when monarchs and nobles lived in daily fear of being poisoned by some unsuspected menial, dish-covers early suggested themselves as a necessary precaution; and these were always padlocked in the kitchen, after the cook had been made to taste the food in the presence of a high official; thence the dish was carried up to the great man's table, where the steward of the household himself unlocked the cover and tasted the food before any of it was served. In this instance, verily, necessity was the mother of invention.
144. Thousands of English people to whom the Willow Pattern Plate has been a familiar object all their lives are unacquainted with the meaning of the design. After all, it is the old, old story. In the mansion represented on the right dwelt a wealthy mandarin, with his only daughter, named Li-chi. This young lady fell in love with Chang, her father's secretary, whose residence, shown on the top left-hand corner, was on an island, seemingly at no great distance from the mainland. Now it chanced that one day the mandarin overheard the lovers interchanging vows of affection under the orange tree beside his house, and, pouncing down upon them, he then and there forbade their future meetings; whereupon they eloped, and for a time secreted themselves in the gardener's cottage beyond the bridge and the willow tree. The three figures on the bridge represent the mandarin and two of his servants on their way to the suspected refuge; but when they arrived there, the lovers had already escaped in a boat across the water to Chang's island home, whither, too, the mandarin followed, and would have carried out his determination to kill them, had not the gods promptly changed them into a pair of turtle-doves, as shown on the top of the picture. The name of the willow-pattern plate is given to the design because the flight of the lovers took place during the season when the willow begins to shed its leaves.
145. Toothpicks are far from common in Italy. In pensions there may occasionally be met with small wooden picks, but quills never. The explanation is that one of the popes was poisoned by means of a medicated toothpick, purposely handed to him after dinner.
146. To Toast a Person is to drink his health. In the days of our grandfathers it was the time-honoured custom to put a piece of toast in the wine-cup before drinking, from a fanciful notion that it gave the liquor a better flavour. To pledge a person's health must, therefore, have been synonymous with "toasting" it from an early period. For the application of the term to the person himself we must turn to a presumably correct account of its origin in No. 24 of the "Tatler," as follows:--" It happened that on a public day a celebrated beauty of those times [Charles I.] was in the Cross Bath [at Bath], and one of the crowd of her admirers took a glass of the water in which the fair one stood, and drank her health to the company. There was in the place a gay young fellow, half fuddled, who offered to jump in, and swore, though he liked not the liquor, he would have the toast. He was opposed in his resolution, yet this whim gave foundation to the present honour which is done to the lady we mention in our liquor, who has ever since been called a toast."
147. The origin of the Loving Cup, or as it is called at the Universities, the Grace Cup, is attributed by Miss Strickland, in her "Lives of the Queens of Scotland," to Margaret Atheling, wife of Malcolm Kenmore, who, in order to induce the Scots to remain at table for grace, caused a cup filled with the choicest wine to be passed round to the dinner-guests as soon as grace had been said. Without the Loving Cup no City banquet, or feast at the Inns of Court, would be complete. Grace being said, the Master and Wardens drink to the visitors, after which the cup is passed round the table. In his proper turn each guest rises and bows to his immediate neighbour, who, also rising, removes and holds the cover with his right hand while the other drinks. The meaning of this little ceremonial must be sought far back in Anglo-Saxon days, when Edward the Martyr was treacherously stabbed in the back by one of the servants of Elfrida, his mother-in-law, while drinking in the saddle, at the door of his house near Corfe Castle. To prevent the possibility of such lurking treachery for the future, a cover was provided for all manner of drinking-cups, the use whereof was this: By removing and holding the cover, the person offering the cup had his right, or dagger hand, sufficiently employed to assure the drinker, thus temporarily taken off his guard, of the honesty of his purpose. This was a wise precaution when no one else was standing by. At the banqueting-table, likewise, the assistance lent to the drinker by his immediate neighbour was regarded as a pledge of security while the former was unable to defend himself from attack by possible enemies around.
148. The Stirrup Cup may be traced to the poculum boni genii of the Romans, or the last cup quaffed at the festive board to a general "Good Night." The cold refinement of modern manners has almost banished this good old custom from the land, though our Scottish and Irish neighbours still offer the cordial stirrup cup to their departing guests.
149. Stinginess forms no part of the Spanish character. Without what is called The Footbath no Spaniard would think of serving or of accepting a drink. When a person calls for a glass of wine or liqueur, it is customary for the waiter to fill it up until it overflows into the saucer. This is done to show an excess of liberality.
150. It was the custom not so very long ago to attribute every incredible story to Miles's Boy. People were also sent on fictitious errands, and, when they discovered how they had been hoaxed, the trick was laid at the door of " Miles's Boy." There is an old farce of this title, in which, though the youth does not appear in it himself, all the characters are put to no end of inconvenience by his pranks. We are indebted to Mr. Robins' "History of Paddington" for some definite information concerning the real existence of this notable young scapegrace. "At the beginning of this century," says Mr. Robins, "Mr. Miles, his pair-horse coach, and his redoubtable boy, were the only appointed agents of communication between Paddington and the City. The fare was two shillings and three shillings, the journey occupying more than three hours, and to beguile the time at resting-places, 'Miles's boy' (who presumably acted as a sort of guard to the coach) told tales and played on the fiddle."
151. The custom of saying God Bless You! on hearing a person sneeze is very old. The Greeks and Romans exclaimed "Long life to you!" on a similar occasion. The origin of this pious ejaculation is generally ascribed to a plague raging in Athens, in the course of which sneezing was regarded as a sign of convalescence. But to come to the Christian observance. When, five hundred and fifty-eight years after Christ, a universal epidemic broke out in Southern Europe, the reigning Pope recommended the faithful to exclaim, "God bless you!" whenever they heard a neighbour sneeze, as a kind of prayer that further evils might be averted. In this particular case a sneezing fit was fraught with mischief, being the earliest symptom of the disease that threatened to lay a person low.
152. When mothers humour their children by offering to Kiss the Place and Make it Better, they little think they are only following up the practice of the sorcerers of old, who pretended to cure diseases by sucking the affected part.
153. The expressions Sitting Round the Fire, and The Family Circle, had a literal significance in the days of our forefathers, when the fireplace was built out in the centre of the room, much in the same manner as we still find it in Russia and Germany. Nowadays the family assembled on the domestic hearth is at best only a semicircle.
154. That well-known expression The Three R's, was ushered into existence by Sir William Curtis, an illiterate alderman of the City of London, who, when called upon to propose a toast at a public dinner, electrified the entire company by giving, The Three R's: Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic
155. An Englishman's House is his Castle because neither warrant-officer nor bailiff is empowered to force the door open if the master of the house refuses to admit him. In Scotland it is otherwise.
156. By the expression The Fourth Estate is meant journalists. It was first made use of by Edmund Burke, who said that in the Reporters' Gallery there was a fourth estate more powerful than any of the other three, viz., the Lords Temporal, the Lords Spiritual, and the Commons.
157. The expression, A Nine Days' Wonder, originated in the circumstance that kittens are born blind, and remain so for nine days.
158. A Horseshoe is considered a lucky find because it has seven nails in it. From the earliest ages, owing to the frequency with which it occurs in the Bible, seven has, all the world over, been regarded as a mystical number. An old horseshoe was formerly fastened upon the stable door to keep off witches, who were afraid of horses, and who had a reputation for riding through the air astride a broomstick.
159. The Number Thirteen is supposed to be unlucky because our Lord and His twelve apostles sat down together at the Last Supper. In some parts of the country the person who leaves the table first after thirteen have sat down to it, is believed to be the one to die first. This is because Judas, who was the first to quit the Supper Table, hanged himself shortly afterwards.
160. The Friday Superstition may be dismissed in a few words. In former times public executions always took place on a Friday, because this was the day of our Saviour's crucifixion between two thieves.
161. The widespread idea that Spilling the Salt is a bad omen, is of much older date than the time of Leonardo da Vinci, who, in his great picture of the Last Supper, has represented Judas overturning the salt-cellar while reaching ever the table to dip his hand into the dish with our Lord. From the earliest times salt has entered into the sacred rites of the Jews, and, since the time of Jesus Christ, of the Roman Catholic church, owing to the universal belief in its incorruptibility. At the present day the Arabs eat bread and salt together as a high mark of friendship, while to spill a man's salt wilfully, or to present him with bread without salt, is regarded as the surest evidence of hostility. Spilling the salt was regarded by the Greeks and Romans as a profanation of the table. Bread and salt, being necessaries of life, were formerly sworn by. Among the Russians, the bride and bridegroom sit down to bread and salt as a peace-offering (see 188).
162. The Breaking of a Looking-glass is everywhere regarded as an ill omen. It is a very old superstition, and doubtless found its origin in a mere association of ideas. The glass being broken, the reflected human image is destroyed; therefore sorrow in some form must be the portion of the wrongdoer.
163. Walking under a Ladder is supposed to be unlucky because the dead Saviour was taken down from the Cross by means of a ladder. This is sheer nonsense. Far more reasonable is the suggestion that the none too careful British workman may allow the tool he is using to slip from his grasp; the result being that although the passer-by may have the good fortune to escape actual personal injury by the mishap, his new silk hat will in all probability be ruined. It is not always a question of ill-luck that deters the average well-dressed citizen from passing under a ladder on which a bill-poster is at work.
164. Looking Backward is regarded as unlucky because Lot's wife paid the penalty of looking back upon the doomed city of Sodom by being changed into a pillar of salt.
165. Making a Curtsey to the New Moon on her first appearance is a relic of moon worship, the religion of primitive man, and one of the oldest forms of idolatry on the face of the globe.
166. Tarring and Feathering is not a new thing by any means. Roger de Hoveden, a chronicler of the time of Richard I., informs us that when that monarch set sail for the Holy Land he, among other laws designed for the regulation of his fleet, ordered, that "A robber who shall be convicted of theft, shall have his head cropped, after the manner of a champion, and boiling pitch shall be poured thereon, and then the feathers of a cushion shall be shaken out upon him, so that he may be known, and at the first land at which the ship shall touch he shall be set on shore." Whether the modern mode of tarring and feathering the entire body is an improvement upon the original is a question which can best be answered by the victim himself.
167. The Ducking-stool, or as it was often called, the Cucking-stool, was one of the oldest of popular punishments, being mentioned in Domesday Book. Its object was to cool the immoderate heat of shrews and scolds, who were fastened into it and then plunged into a pool of water. The number of dips was generally regulated by the degree of shrewishness in the victim. The term "Cucking-stool" was a corruption of chucking or choking-stool.
168. The Brank, or Gossip's Bridle, was an instrument of punishment formerly reserved for women whose tongues had engendered mischief. It was considered far more effectual than the cucking-stool (see 167), which allowed its occupant to wag her tongue between each dip. An interesting example of the Gossip's Bridle may still be seen in the vestry of the parish church at Walton-on-Thames. It bears this inscription: "Chester presents Walton with a bridle to curb women's tongues that talk too idle--1613." The presentation is believed to have been due to the fact that the person whose name is mentioned lost a valuable estate through the instrumentality of a gossiping woman.
169. The Pillory was originally devised for the punishment of mountebanks and quacks, who, because they harangued the people from banks and forms, were, as Rushworth says, "exalted in the same kind," but held close prisoners the while. It was subsequently used for cheats of all sorts, and, nearer our own time, for political offenders.