Imágenes de páginas

pays a tribute to Scottish hospitality; "the better sort of citizens,” he says, “ brew ale, their usual drink, which will distemper a stranger's body, and the same citizens will entertain passengers upon acquaintance or entreaty."55 Thomas Kirke is as caustic on Scotch inns as on everything else to be found in the country. “They have not inns,” he says, “but change houses, as they call them, poor small cottages, where you must be content to take what you find, perhaps eggs with chicks in them, and some lang cale (greens); at the better sort of them a dish of chopped chickens, which they esteem a dainty dish, and will take it unkindly if you do not eat very heartily of it. ... Your horses must be sent to a stabler's (for the change-houses have no lodging for them) where they may feed voluptuously on straw only, for grass is not to be had, and hay

, is so much a stranger to them that they are scarce familiar with the name of it." 56

The same traveller states another fact which the Scottish statutes allege as a reason for the poor accommodation to be found in inns. " The Scottish gentry,” he says, “commonly travel from one friend's house to another, so seldom make use of a change-house; their way is to hire a horse and a man for twopence a mile; they ride on the horse thirty or forty miles a day, and the man, who is his guide, foots it beside him and carries his luggage to boot." 57 But there was another sufficient reason for the inadequate provision for travellers.



[ocr errors]

Travellers were so few that there was no custom to meet the expenses of maintaining commodious quarters. A stranger in a Scottish town or village excited as much wonderment as would a painted Indian at the present day; and, indeed, was regarded as an objectionable intruder who could have no good intentions. Long after the period before us, and not only in Scotland but in England, inquisitive visitors ran the risk of being ducked in the village pond or being saluted with the readiest missiles that came to hand.

The statutes relating to taverns, as distinguished from hostelries, have quite a modern character, and remind us that the troubles of modern legislators are of ancient standing. As specimens of these statutes, the following may be taken. In 1436, it was enacted that persons found drinking in taverns after nine o'clock should suffer the penalty of the law; and in 1551, that tavern keepers should not mix new and old wine, mix wine and water, nor keep wine in their private houses, but in their vaults for sale to the lieges. The misdemeanours here denounced did not cease at the Reformation. In 1579, there was passed an Act, entitled “Discharging of markets and labouring on Sundays or playing (gambling) and drinking in time of sermon," which reminds us that in the spite of the First Book of Discipline the nation had not been transformed into a community of saints. In one of the clauses of this Act it is ordained that there


should be a fine of twenty shillings for " gaming, playing, passing to taverns and alehouses, selling of meat and drink and wilful remaining from the parish kirk in time of sermon or prayers on the Sunday"—the fines to be devoted to the relief of the poor of the parish. Yet in spite of these denunciations the keeping of taverns could not have been regarded as a disreputable profession. At least, in 1576, the General Assembly granted permission to ministers and readers to “tap aile, beer, or wine, and to keep an open tavern.”58

It has been said that travellers were few and far between in the time of Mary, but the statement needs a notable qualification. There was a race of wanderers, who so far from being few in number must have made up little less than a fourth or fifth of the entire population. Under the various appellations of sorners, vagabonds, masterless men, beggars, runners-about, these persons were the perennial plague of the lieges and of the legislature. Not a reign passed without ineffectual efforts to diminish or extinguish the brood. The terms of the numerous statutes directed against the hopeless tribe might lead us to believe that they were an invading host living at free quarters in an enemy's country. These strong and idle vagabonds, we learn, swarmed throughout the country-bridals and funerals being their special delight; they infested the capital itself, passing the nights “in drinking and other beastlie filthiness,” and in the day time plaguing the Privy Councillors themselves with their importunity; and finally, they lived “in all kynde of impietie—without mariage or baptisme of their barnes, to the great offence of God and reproache and scandall of the countrie.” 59 An elaborate statute of the reign of James VI. (1574) recapitulates the various enactments against the unblessed crew. No persons between the ages of 14 and 70 had been allowed to pursue the trade of begging, only "cruikit folk, seik folk, impotent folk and weik folk” had received a begging licence, with the provision that they should confine their operations to the parish where they were born. The penalties for the breach of these statutes reveal at once the spirit of the time and the impotence of the executive. For the first offence the offender was kept in irons till he had exhausted his own store of goods; for the second, his ears were nailed to a tree and afterwards removedbanishment following; and for the third he was hanged. It might seem that these terrors should have daunted the sturdiest beggars, but, in point of fact, the law practically remained a dead letter through the negligence of officials and through what one is glad to hear, "the preposterous pitie of the country people.” The statute of James VI. went even beyond all previous ones in the severity of its exactments, but its special interest in the present connection is its list of persons who came under the common head of vagrants.


[ocr errors]

following is this curious catalogue of persons who, like Chaucer's begging friars, swarmed through the country

“As thick as motës in the sonnëbeam”. jugglers; Egyptians ; fortune-tellers by “physiognomy, palmistry, or other abused sciences”; able-bodied men, pretending to be out of work; minstrels ; singers; tellers of tales; vagabond scholars from the universities without a begging licence from their rectors : and, finally, shipmen and mariners alleging without certificates that the ships in which they had sailed had been wrecked. 6o Such was the miscellaneous crew of “wastrels," who made night and day hideous in the burghs and were the terror of peaceable travellers on the highways.

In connection with the social evils that have just been enumerated, it must be borne in mind that they were very far from being confined to Scotland alone. In England as well as in Scotland, there were knavish ferrymen, knavish taverners, and as great a “plague of beggars.” a

The “valiant" beggar figures as largely in English legislation as his brother, the “sturdy beggar” in that of Scotland. The English nursery rhyme

“Hark, hark! the dogs do bark,

The beggars are coming to town,
Some in rags, and some on nags,

And one in a velvet gown is a reminiscence of the times when in England, as

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »