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Comforts in the Monasteries.
hospitality in the guest-chambers, and the "hosteler” had to see that nothing lacked. At the Abbey of Evesham, when guests were expected, that functionary was busy in those chambers, seeing that they were provided with beds, seats, tables, napkins, towels, saucers, dishes, spoons, good fires—if it was winterfuel to feed, and fire-irons to arrange them.
When a bishop, abbot, or conventual prior—being guests, retired for the night, a groom of the chambers attended him in the person of the sacrist, who escorted the dignified guest to his bed-room with a wax light in either hand, like an English stage-manager doing the honours to royalty. For lesser men there were smaller formalities : the cellarer made up their fires ere he bade them Good night ; and the hosteler did not see a travelling monk tucked up till he was satisfied the guest had all he needed, and then, courteous fellow—for civility was the rule of the house—he made the sleepy visitor happy by assurances that his horse had been made as satisfied and as comfortable as the monk was himself.
For good living in two senses) there were some prelates who had as much capacity and liking as the most sincere and gentlemanlike abbots.
I need only cite Wulstan, Bishop of Winchester (1062), who manifested a rare amount of good sense in the style he maintained.
He lived in hard-drinking times, and he did not stint his guests in good liquor. While they sat over a succession of cups for long hours after
dinner, he sat there too. He had a little goblet, holding a mere thimbleful, and this he pretended to quaff when his turn came. That over, he would sit ruminating on sacred subjects, now and then rousing himself to invite the guests to keep the liquor going. This they tippled out of foaming cups, he smiling the while—not that he loved the matter, but that he would not set his face against Norman fashion. His presence, moreover, kept down excess. Who could go to that extent in presence of a man so hospitable, but so reverentially dignified ? Wulstan, as it were, sanctified the liquor by saying grace over it. He never omitted to ask this blessing for the bowl-not that he thirsted for the contents, but that he thought it pleasant to follow the good old Saxon custom. And what fellow would dare to drink too deeply out of a bowl over which a bishop, whose merits made him a saint, had pronounced a benediction and reverently returned thanks ?
It was not all feasting or praying with the early bishops. Some of them acted as private tụtors to young princes and nobles, and abbots kept schools in their monasteries. Young gentlemen often found them energetic head-masters, and boys got much chaffing, for wrong quantities, from the chaplains who acted as ushers. The parlour-boarders— the gentiles pueri of the district-dined at the abbot's table. At Glastonbury the scholars sometimes numbered three hundred, and the teaching included instruction in rhetoric, versifyDignified Pedagogues.
ing, and music. Langton, of Winchester, had a school in his private house, and he was accustomed at night to see how the pupils had prepared the lessons prescribed by the teachers. He showered refined commendation on the deserving. His maxim was that merit grows with praise. This was better than in the after time, at Eton, when the whole school “ broke” and ran away through terror of the horrible floggings that went on there, even as late as the reign of Elizabeth.* Langton's maxim was better than the practice of Anne Seward's father, the doctor, who used to say of his pupils and himself—“I don't teach them. I flog, and they learn; and how it's done, I can't say!”
There was much harsh treatment too in some of the schools of the earliest times. Langton's private pupils formed the exception. Perhaps those of Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, formed another. He had about him, in the double character of pages and pupils, “ domisellos," the sons of various nobles, some of which latter were peers of the realm. They left the prelate's house such accomplished gentlemen, that King Henry, who knew of the bishop's humble lineage, could not well understand how he could improve the minds and bearing of young fellows of such noble blood. Henry once frankly asked him
* See “Education in Early England." Furnivall. Early English Text Society.
where he had learnt the nurture in which he had instructed those student-pages. The prelate answered “I learned it in the house and guest-chambers of greater kings than the King of England ;” because he had learnt from understanding the Scriptures the manner of life of David, Solomon, and other kings.*
These student-pages, with all their pride of race, were not always treated like gentlemen in bishops' houses. They were often mere servants. Thus Longchamps, Bishop of Ely under Richard Cour de Lion, had for his servants, sons of nobles. These lads never dared to raise their eyes from the ground except when they addressed him.
If they ventured to look at aught else, or to miss their service for a moment in thoughtlessness, or perhaps in fulness of sad thoughts of home, hawks, and the meadows, their master, the grandson of an old Picard ploughman and ox-driver, used to prick the noble and absent-minded young pages with a goad! He prodded at the young fellows with cruel delight, as if he would keep up the memory of a grandsire who was a bond-slave till he fled into the Norman territory.
The bill of fare for the old episcopal houses now excites our wonder, perhaps our scorn. Gargantua would have honoured prelacy for the sake of the hecatombs of meat, the heaps of fowls of the air, the tribute of fish from the river or the sea, the oceans of A Bishop's Table.
* See “Early English Education.” Furnivall.
liquor, and the ever-ready welcome. The mind is fatigued with contemplating the catalogue of rich mercies over which the chaplains sang grace. But there was really nothing in excess, and what little there was to spare went to the poor. The bishops of those apparently profuse days had legions of retainers, clients, and other persons to maintain daily. The ordinary table in all episcopal houses was pretty uniform. A sample of one will serve to describe all. Let us, for instance, look in at the house of De Swinfield, who was Bishop of Hereford from 1282 to 1317.
De Swinfield's house was on the ordinary scale. He lived as other bishops lived, and that was not ill, even on a fast day. For instance, at the manor of Sugwas, on a Friday in Lent, we find on his tables hundreds of herrings, a couple of strikes of eels, multitudes of lampreys, and a fresh salmon which some kind soul had sent as a gift to enrich the Lenten fare. Hake and salted conger were sometimes added to the menu. The added-pudding which solemnized the Lord's Day in Sir Balaam's house was a poor thing compared with the Sunday's dinner at the Bishop of Hereford's. On his Sabbath board smoked pork, mutton, beef, fowl, pigeons, and larks. Eggs, to the amount of eight hundred, and submitted to half as many ways of cooking them, spices, each by the pound, partridges (a bonne bouche for my lord's table), with four pennyworth of mustard (about what four shillings' worth would be now), appear on ordinary