Page images
PDF
EPUB

to inquire into, or to detail, the Earl of Warwick and Salisbury became inveterately hostile to the interests of his Sovereign ; he took up arms against him, and his King, in the urgency of the passing events, was obliged, in Oct., 1470, to fly his country, and to take refuge in Holland. His Queen, Elizabeth, sought for safety in the Sanctuary at Westminster, where, on the fourth of the following month of November, she was, under these distressing circumstances, delivered of her eldest son, afterwards Edward, the Fifth, alike unfortunate in his birth, and in his death. In the following year, 1471, his father, on the fourteenth of March, re-landed at Ravenspur, in the county of York, quickly raised an army, and, on the 12th of April following, he encountered his foe, the Earl of Warwick and Salisbury, on the field of battle at Barnet, where he, the Earl, was defeated, and slain. It is thus most certain, that Edward, the Fourth, was, from the birth of the Prince, in continued hostility to that powerful Earl, until his death in the above contest, a period of only about five months. Here, then, we have a person, supporting the banner of Edward, the Fifth, and swearing fealty to the royal race of the House of York, and how is it possible, that this portrait can be meant to represent the Earl of Warwick and Salisbury, he being then the deadly enemy of that House? The question answers itself: It cannot be.

This act of swearing fealty is strictly in accordance with the ornamented windows, where (as well as the arms, and cognizance, of the Earl of Warwick and Salisbury) the arms and

cognizances of Edward, the Fourth, do also form a more conspicuous feature. Although the family of Halle was, as I have before intimated, (in my opinion,) generally attached to the interests of the House of Lancaster, yet I cannot but think, that a generous, and probably personal forgiveness on the part of the Monarch to his contumacious subject, when he released him from the durance vile, to which he had committed him, did raise in the mind of John Halle the feelings of deep gratitude-did turn his interests from the House of Lancaster to the House of York-did induce him to become the personal partizan of Edward, the Fourth, and-did, in genuine sincerity, cause him not only personally to pledge his fidelity--to take an oath of fealty -but also to record that act in this vivid portrait, and thus to re-assure his Monarch, his friends, and the country, that he had so done. I beg also to mention, that the situation of the portrait, prior to the recent renovation of the room, affords another strong argument in favour of the truth of my hypothesis. It was placed in the last compartment of the last window! It was placed at the close-of all.

The series of illustrative paintings having, under his direction, been completed by his ingenious artist, what could with greater propriety have been devised, than that he should himself close the whole by appearing in the support of the royal banner of the son, and in the act of swearing fealty to his King, whose arms also adorn his halle? Having thus completed his splendid banqueting-room, he seems intendedly

to be depicted, I repeat, at the close of his historic windows, as having surveyed his finished labours with inward delight, and exclaiming Feci,” as thus crowning the whole with this act of loyalty.

This portrait having thus been, as I hope, gentle reader, to your satisfaction, as well as my own, identified as that of the Lord of the Mansion, the veritable John Halle, it will be the principal object of this Essay to describe, and to descant on, the several parts of his dress, as it is, indeed, a most interesting specimen of the costume of the affluent merchant of the fifteenth century.

I cannot, however, refrain from making a few previous general remarks on the ever-varying fashions of the varying age, and on that national love of the equalization of rank, as to induce the several classes of society unwisely, and vainly, to endeavour to break in on, and to set aside, as it were, the demarcations of those appropriate distinctions of society, which Nature herself seems to have pointed out.

There is no nation, nor tribe of men, amongst whom civilisation has made any progress, which has not early sought the covering of.the person, as a tribute due to decency; even here, however, the untutored savage has betrayed that vanity, which seems inherent in the human breast, and which influences the mind, until it be counteracted by the force of reason, and sobered judgment. From the accounts of the several navigators, who have roamed o'er the boundless ocean, they have ever found the inhabitants of the remote continental coasts, and of the newlydiscovered islands, eager to receive cloth, beads, and trinkets, brilliant, and attractive in colour, even as the child is lured by the coral red. Here is the basis of that love of finery amongst the lower, and more uneducated, classes of society even at the present day. The lowest grade, that of the humble rustic, it must however be confessed, has been more content with a less deviating fashion of apparel, and this, it is evident, arises from their comparatively more insulated situation ; there is no class behind them to impel them forward, and their poverty precludes the attempt to reach those before them; yet even here, time and circumstance do imperceptibly work change. The more homely habiliments worn generally, even within the memory of man, now rarely meet the eye, and are replaced by articles of other fabric, of little cost, and, perhaps, of less wear. The change, I ween, gentle reader, is not for the better.

The make, or fashion, of the clothes of the lower ranks has thus not been influenced so. much by the besetting sin of fashion, as that of the several classes above them. The changes are with them slow, and unperceived ; they are the workings of external, and uncontrollable circumstances, rather than of their own free-will. Nature has herself issued her Fiat, that men shall not be equal ; she has considered it necessary to the very existence of society, that man shall be dependent on man, that one shall command, and another serve; and that, whilst one holds the helm of the State, another shall

steer the ship o'er the trackless deep, and the third shall guide the plough. The mutual ne. cessities of man, and also his desires (which are creative of supposed necessities) have raised up numerous classes, who have made it their support, and the business of life, to satisfy those wants, and to supply those desires.

At first, commodities were simply exchanged for each other, but, eventually, a general medium of barter was found to be necessary; and, whilst the (1) cowrie shell (Cypræa moneta) was thus adopted by the untutored negro, whose wants were few, the more civilised nations found a far better standard of commerce in the precious metals, and they have been generally agreed on by tacit consent to serve this purpose. They were comparatively to be obtained with difficulty in the first instance, and not like the cowrie shell, to be picked up on the sea-shore. The sources, from whence they were procured, were usually seized by the governing powers, and the metals themselves were admirably adapted for this beneficial service to man; being fusible in their nature, they were easy to be formed into small pieces, differing in weight, and value, and impressed with the mark of the State. Hence the origin of coins.

For many ages the discovery, and the importation, of the precious metals, did not keep pace

with the increase of commerce, and we may therefore reasonably believe, that it was long, before commodities themselves ceased to be the objects of mutual barter, or exchange. The precious metals being thus scarce, money

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »