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words of Von Wedel, and long before his day the type had been in existence in Scotland as elsewhere. The passage of Froissart is well known in which he tells us that the Scotch country-folk made light of their houses being burnt by the English, as with six or eight poles and boughs to cover them they could build them anew. Throughout the subsequent centuries our visitors bear similar testimony. In the fifteenth, for example, Æneas Sylvius says that “the roofs of the houses in the country are made of turf and the doors of the humbler dwellings are made of the hides of oxen.” 3 In the beginning of the seventeenth an English traveller, who passed a night at Langholm, gives this account of his lodging: “We laid in a poor thatched house, the walls of it being one course of stones, another of sods of earth; it had a door of wicker rods, and the spider webs hung over our heads as thick as might be in our bed.”+ But the most exact description
4 we possess of the abodes that composed a Scottish village is one also written by an Englishman; and, though the description was written at the close of the seventeenth century, it equally applies the sixteenth. "The vulgar houses,” this observer writes, “and what are seen in the villages, are low and feeble. Their walls are made of a few stones jumbled together with mortar to cement them, on which they set up pieces of wood meeting at the top, ridge fashion, but so ordered that there is neither sightliness nor strength; and it does not
cost much more time to erect such a cottage than to pull it down. They cover these houses with turf an inch thick, and in the shape of larger tiles which they fashion with wooden pins, and renew as often as there is occasion; and that is very frequently done. It is rare to find chimneys in these places, a small rent in the roof sufficing to convey the smoke away.”
To these details it has to be added that, as in some parts of the British Isles at the present day, man and beast were frequently fellow-occupants of the same domicile, and that, if we may credit one recorder, sheep might sometimes be seen browsing on the roofs of them when these were flat and contiguous. If we picture, then, an assemblage of such cabins, huddled together as the nature of the ground permitted, each with its heap of refuse at its door, and the adjoining ways as often as not knee-deep in mud, we may have a notion of a Scottish village in the sixteenth century, and even in the more civilised parts of the country.
This picture of the ordinary habitations of the Scottish peasant does not impress us with a very high idea of his general comfort and well-being, but the truth is that they were neither better nor worse than the abodes of the same class in other countries. If Englishmen spoke contemptuously of the houses of Scottish villages, the lordly Spaniard expressed himself with equal disdain regarding those which he saw in England. It is
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an Englishman, Harrison, the author of the Description of England, who reports the remark of a noble Spaniard who came in the train of Philip II. to the Court of Mary Tudor. “Certes,” Harrison writes, " this rude kind of building made the Spaniards in Queen Mary's days wonder when they saw what large diet was used in many of these so homely cottages, insomuch that one of no small reputation amongst them said after this manner* These English' (quoth he) have their houses made of sticks and dirt, but they fare commonly so well as the king.' Curiously enough in the case of the Scotch agricultural classes we have testimony to a similar conjunction of wretched homes and “large diet.” A French physician who was in Scotland about 1551 has this passage in his narrative of what he saw : “The country is but poor in gold and silver, but plentiful in provisions, which are as cheap as in any part of the world. They (the Scots) have plenty of corn and calves, on which account their flesh is cheap; and in my time bread was tolerably cheap;" and he adds, “that nothing is scarce here but money.
If, as these testimonies seem to indicate, the Scotch peasant was not much worse off than his English fellow, assuredly his lot compared favourably with that of his class in Germany and France. In the case of Germany the conditions out of which sprang the terrible and abortive Peasants' War in 1525 places this fact beyond question, and
the history of the French rural population from the rising of the Jacquerie in the fourteenth century to the Revolution of 1789, equally proves that they were oppressed and exploited to a degree far beyond what was ever the case in Scotland. We have just had a picture of the conditions under which the Scottish agricultural labourer lived in the reign of Mary. Let us place beside it a companion picture of his French fellow at a much later date—in the reign of the magnificent Louis XIV. - which covered the latter half of the seventeenth century.
The passage in which the description occurs is a classical one in French literature, as recording with grim fidelity one aspect of the France of the Grand Monarque. Its author, La Bruyère, had made a journey into the provinces, and this is how he describes one of the sights which he saw : “One sees certain ferocious creatures, male and female, spread over the country, black, livid, and all scorched with the sun, attached to the earth which they dig and turn up with dogged pertinacity; they have an articulate voice, and when they rise to their feet they display a human countenance, and they are indeed human beings. They return at night to their caverns (tanières), where they live on black bread, water, and roots. They spare other men the labour of sowing, ploughing, and gathering in, in order to live, and they deserve not to lack bread which they themselves have sowed.”. Horrible as is the picture here presented, it is yet accepted by French historians as literally true of the actual condition of a considerable section of the French peasantry in the reign of Louis XIV. Even the caustic Weldon, who does not spare his colours, could not find the materials for such a picture in his survey of Scotland.
On the whole, the towns of Scotland made a more favourable impression on strangers than the villages. In the case of the towns there was one peculiarity which was noted alike by visitors from England and the Continent: they were not surrounded by walls of defence. The reason given for this peculiarity by the Scots themselves was at least flattering to the national pride. In Buchanan's poem celebrating the marriage of Mary and the Dauphin of France, he notes it as one of the glories of his countrymen that their
“Good right hands their land can keep,
Nor need high walls nor fosses deep ;"
and John Major gives the same explanation in his matter-of-fact way. “The Scots do not hold themselves to need walled cities," he says, “and the reason of this may be that they thus get them face to face with the enemy with no delay, and build their castles, as it were, of men." 10
It is to be feared, however, that there was a less noble reason for the absence of defensive walls than that specified by Major and Buchanan. As