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Anecdotes Of European Manners
by [?]

To the article, “Anecdotes of Fashions,” (see Vol. I., p. 216) we may add, that in England a taste for splendid dress existed in the reign of Henry VII.; as is observable by the following description of Nicholas Lord Vaux. “In the 17th of that reign, at the marriage of Prince Arthur, the brave young Vaux appeared in a gown of purple velvet, adorned with pieces of gold so thick, and massive, that, exclusive of the silk and furs, it was valued at a thousand pounds. About his neck he wore a collar of SS, weighing eight hundred pounds in nobles. In those days it not only required great bodily strength to support the weight of their cumbersome armour; their very luxury of apparel for the drawing-room would oppress a system of modern muscles.”

In the following reign, according to the monarch’s and Wolsey’s magnificent taste, their dress was, perhaps, more generally sumptuous. We then find the following rich ornaments in vogue. Shirts and shifts were embroidered with gold, and bordered with lace. Strutt notices also perfumed gloves lined with white velvet, and splendidly worked with embroidery and gold buttons. Not only gloves, but various other parts of their habits, were perfumed; shoes were made of Spanish perfumed skins.

Carriages were not then used;[4] so that lords would carry princesses on a pillion behind them, and in wet weather the ladies covered their heads with hoods of oil-cloth: a custom that has been generally continued to the middle of the seventeenth century. Coaches were introduced into England by Fitzalan Earl of Arundel, in 1580, and at first were only drawn by a pair of horses. The favourite Buckingham, about 1619, began to have them drawn by six horses; and Wilson, in his life of James I., tells us this “was wondered at as a novelty, and imputed to him as a mastering pride.” The same arbiter elegantiarum introduced sedan-chairs. In France, Catherine of Medicis was the first who used a coach, which had leathern doors and curtains, instead of glass windows. If the carriage of Henry IV. had had glass windows, this circumstance might have saved his life. Carriages were so rare in the reign of this monarch, that in a letter to his minister Sully, he notices that having taken medicine that day, though he intended to have called on him, he was prevented because the queen had gone out with the carriage. Even as late as in the reign of Louis XIV. the courtiers rode on horseback to their dinner parties, and wore their light boots and spurs. Count Hamilton describes his boots of white Spanish leather, with gold spurs.

Saint Foix observes, that in 1658 there were only 310 coaches in Paris, and in 1758 there were more than 14,000.

Strutt has judiciously observed, that though “luxury and grandeur were so much affected, and appearances of state and splendour carried to such lengths, we may conclude that their household furniture and domestic necessaries were also carefully attended to; on passing through their houses, we may expect to be surprised at the neatness, elegance, and superb appearance of each room, and the suitableness of every ornament; but herein we may be deceived. The taste of elegance amongst our ancestors was very different from the present, and however we may find them extravagant in their apparel, excessive in their banquets, and expensive in their trains of attendants; yet, follow them home, and within their houses you shall find their furniture is plain and homely; no great choice, but what was useful, rather than any for ornament or show.”

Erasmus, as quoted by Jortin, confirms this account, and makes it worse; he gives a curious account of English dirtiness; he ascribes the plague, from which England was hardly ever free, and the sweating-sickness, partly to the incommodious form, and bad exposition of the houses, to the filthiness of the streets, and to the sluttishness within doors. “The floors,” says he, “are commonly of clay, strewed with rushes; under which lies, unmolested, an ancient collection of beer, grease, fragments, bones, spittle, excrement of dogs and cats, and everything that is nasty.”[5] And NOW, certainly we are the cleanest nation in Europe, and the word COMFORTABLE expresses so peculiar an idea, that it has been adopted by foreigners to describe a sensation experienced nowhere but in England.