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Anecdotes Of European Manners
by [?]

Our hours of refection are singularly changed in little more than two centuries. In the reign of Francis I. (observes the author of Recreations Historiques) they were accustomed to say,–

Lever a cinq, diner a neuf,
Souper a cinq, coucher a neuf,
Fait vivre d’ans nonante et neuf.

Historians observe of Louis XII. that one of the causes which contributed to hasten his death was the entire change of his regimen. The good king, by the persuasion of his wife, says the history of Bayard, changed his manner of living: when he was accustomed to dine at eight o’clock, he agreed to dine at twelve; and when he was used to retire at six o’clock in the evening, he frequently sat up as late as midnight.

Houssaie gives the following authentic notice drawn from the registers of the court, which presents a curious account of domestic life in the fifteenth century. Of the dauphin Louis, son of Charles VI., who died at the age of twenty, we are told, “that he knew the Latin and French languages; that he had many musicians in his chapel; passed the night in vigils; dined at three in the afternoon, supped at midnight, went to bed at the break of day, and thus was ascertene (that is threatened) with a short life.” Froissart mentions waiting upon the Duke of Lancaster at five o’clock in the afternoon, when he had supped.

The custom of dining at nine in the morning relaxed greatly under Francis I., successor of Louis XII. However, persons of quality dined then the latest at ten; and supper was at five or six in the evening. We may observe this in the preface to the Heptameron of the Queen of Navarre, where this princess, describing the mode of life which the lords and ladies whom she assembles at the castle of Madame Oysille, should follow, to be agreeably occupied and to banish languor, thus expresses herself: “As soon as the morning rose, they went to the chamber of Madame Oysille, whom they found already at her prayers; and when they had heard during a good hour her lecture, and then the mass, they went to dine at ten o’clock; and afterwards each privately retired to his room, but did not fail at noon to meet in the meadow.” Speaking of the end of the first day (which was in September) the same lady Oysille says, “Say where is the sun? and hear the bell of the abbey, which has for some time called us to vespers; in saying this they all rose and went to the religionists who had waited for them above an hour. Vespers heard, they went to supper, and after having played a thousand sports in the meadow they retired to bed.” All this exactly corresponds with the lines above quoted. Charles V. of France, however, who lived near two centuries before Francis, dined at ten, supped at seven, and all the court was in bed by nine o’clock. They sounded the curfew, which bell warned them to cover their fire, at six in the winter, and between eight and nine in the summer. Under the reign of Henry IV. the hour of dinner at court was eleven, or at noon the latest; a custom which prevailed even in the early part of the reign of Louis XIV. In the provinces distant from Paris, it is very common to dine at nine; they make a second repast about two o’clock, sup at five; and their last meal is made just before they retire to bed. The labourers and peasants in France have preserved this custom, and make three meals; one at nine, another at three, and the last at the setting of the sun.

The Marquis of Mirabeau, in “L’Ami des Hommes,” Vol. I. p. 261, gives a striking representation of the singular industry of the French citizens of that age. He had learnt from several ancient citizens of Paris, that if in their youth a workman did not work two hours by candle-light, either in the morning or evening, he even adds in the longest days, he would have been noticed as an idler, and would not have found persons to employ him. On the 12th of May, 1588, when Henry III. ordered his troops to occupy various posts at Paris, Davila writes that the inhabitants, warned by the noise of the drums, began to shut their doors and shops, which, according to the customs of that town to work before daybreak, were already opened. This must have been, taking it at the latest, about four in the morning. “In 1750,” adds the ingenious writer, “I walked on that day through Paris at full six in the morning; I passed through the most busy and populous part of the city, and I only saw open some stalls of the vendors of brandy!”