« ZurückWeiter »
originated from Rome; if so, the people of this country were not altogether indebted to the Normans for their knowledge on the subject, though it cannot be disputed they introduced the pomp, order, and regulations, which prevailed at the celebration after their arrival. Policy prevented the encouragement of tournaments, soon after the invasion; and they were far from frequent before the reign of Richard I., who granted licences for them, and exacted a duty from each of the combatants. The time selected by monarchs for tournaments were usually upon their obtaining a victory, their marriage, or coronation ; and on those occasions heralds were sent to the surrounding courts with general invitations to all true knights. A spacious plain was selected and inclosed by towers and curtains, ornamented with such architectural designs as were the style of the period; within those, and facing the arena, were seats of various elevations and decorations suited to the personages intended to occupy them, composed of sovereigns, princes, their consorts, lords, ladies, knights, judges of the combats, heralds, and musicians. Those knights who proposed to enter the lists, suspended their shields for some days previous to the tournament in the cloister of a monastery situated near the scene of action, where it was customary for knights and ladies to examine them: if one of the latter touched a
shield, it was considered as an accusation of the proprietor, who was immediately brought to trial, and if found guilty of any offence against the laws of chivalry, expulsion and infamy to the party was the immediate consequence.
On the appointed day, the whole assembly took their seats to the sound of musick, and in due time the various combatants entered the lists, conducted each by the lady in whose honour he intended to fight. The contest then commenced, and was conducted precisely according to the mode of warfare in use at the time, on horseback, on foot, knight to knight, or in parties, with daggers, swords, lances, battle-axes, &c. &c. As the tournament generally continued for some days, the judges, formed of the most experienced knights, awarded the prizes at the close of each day's exhibition, which were delivered to the victors by the most fascinating ladies, of the highest rank; other ladies, of the presiding sovereign's court, met them on their triumphant procession to the palace, disencumbered their limbs of their armour, and finally, dressed in rich robes, they were seated at table, the objects of universal applause and admiration, while poets and minstrels composed and sung in their praise, and their deeds were registered. One of the methods contrived to amuse the
monarch and his court seems to have been the device of some sage politician, who, originally deceiving his king by presenting him with a supposed fool to bear every indignity of language, procured in reality a shrewd fellow, whose inclination and abilities rendered him competent to
and ridicule all the vices and follies around him with impunity. Since the custom of retaining a person bearing the outward appearance of idiotism has been discontinued in the court of England, we are at a loss to conjecture how it could have prevailed from the time of William of Normandy till that of Charles I. The manners of the higher ranks were certainly very different from their present polished state, as we with difficulty bear the absurdities of the clown in a pantomime. A modern author has enumerated no less than nine species of fools, which he terms the general domestic fool, the clown, the female fool, the city or corporation fool, tavern fools, the fool of the antient theatrical mysteries, the fool in dumb shows at fairs and inns, the fool in the Whitsun ales, and the mountebank's fool or Merry Andrew. It requires but little discernment to conjecture the nature of the employment of the above contemptible personages ; if they were capable of saying good things in a state of domestication, their characters were doubly detestable in thus
perverting their natural endowments; if any were really idiots, the contempt must be transferred to their retainers.
He that would see and hear an epitome of all descriptions of fools, the representatives of a long race, should visit Bartholomew fair. An examination of the qualities of such beings, disguised with dirty paint and fantastical clothing, makes one ashamed of belonging to the same species ; and even if we take Shakspeare's fools into consideration, and admit some preceding real ones equalled those he has pourtrayed in wit and impudence, we cannot but admire the patience of our ancestors, in enduring their impertinence without breaking their bones, or discharging them after the first essay. It may have the appearance of spleen and ill-nature, but I cannot resist remarking, that all our modern pantomimes represent their fools as thieves and cheats in the most captivating manner; by which means the lower classes receive hints, and are taught to think theft entertaining and whimsical, rather than wicked and deserving of punishment; besides, at least one half of their employment on the stage consists in tormenting and injuring age and decrepitude.
We owe the invention of Cards to the French, which are said to have been contrived for the amusement of Charles VI. by a painter named
Jaquemin Jaquemin Gringonneur, who resided in Paris. It appears from St. Foix, that these cards were not only painted with the necessary devices and ornaments, but gilt, and probably strongly resembled the illuminations on vellum done about the same period, the close of the 14th and beginning of the 15th century. Their introduction here was a natural consequence of our imitation of all Gallic customs and fashions, though some time must have elapsed before their use became general. Dr. Henry quotes the statutes 3 Ed. IV. €. 4. to prove that the card-makers of England had obtained an act of Parliament in 1463 to prohibit the importation of playing cards. The present absurd figures stamped on cards seem to be most faithful and accurate representations of the elegant original ornaments of the reign of Henry VIII. It is singular that, amidst our improvements, cards should have been so completely neglected ; surely the same kind of human figures might be made more like Nature, without deviating from the costume.
We will now examine into the nature of the amusements invented for the relaxation of youth during the intervals allowed in their studies, as they were practised in the reign of Henry VIII., and without doubt long before. Some of these are slightly named by Sir Thomas Elyot in his “ Governour" in the following words " Touch