Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

appear; but might, perhaps, have been some witty speech or comic action that had pleased the donors. Some of these payments are annual gifts at Christmas. Dr. Fuller, speaking of the court jester, whom, he says, some count a necessary evil, remarks in his usual quaint manner, that it is an office which none but he that hath wit can perform, and none but he that wants it will perform. A great many names of these buffoons have been preserved; and sufficient materials remain to furnish a separate biography of them, which might afford even more amusement than can be found in the lives of many of their betters. They continued to be an appurtenance to the English court to a late period. Muckle John, the fool of Charles the First, and the successor of Archee Armstrong, is perhaps the last regular personage of the kind.

Of Archee Armstrong the following anecdote is related:—Prince Charles, afterwards the first king of that name in this country, was sent to Spain, as was alleged, to improve himself at that court, though his design on the Infanta was the actual motive. The Protestants fearing that his mind might become tainted by the Catholic religion, which they so much dreaded, highly disapproved of the prince's travels ; no person, however, except the fool, would venture to make such feelings known to King James; while Archee, who held that situation, hesitated not at doing so. Taking, therefore, a favourable opportunity, he solemnly proposed to the monarch to change caps, as a measure of absolute propriety: “But, why?" asked the king.

Marry,” said Archee, “because thou hast sent the prince into Spain, from whence he is never likely to return!'' “Say you so?" replied the king : "and what wilt thou do when thou seest him come back again?” “Oh marry,” said Archee, “ that would be surprising: and I should have to take off the fool's cap, which I put upon thy head for sending him thither, and to place it on the King of Spain's for letting him return; so that, either way, I shall part with it where it will fit."

Shakspeare has given us an admirable description of a Fool, in his charming play of “As You Like It.”

Jaq. A fool, a fool!-I met a fool i' the forest,
A motley fool-a miserable world !-
As I do live by food, I met a fool ;
Who laid him down, and bask'd him in the sun,
And rail'd on lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set terms-and yet a motley fool.
Good morrow, fool, quoth I: No, sir, quoth he,
Call me not fool till Heaven hath sent me fortune ;
And then he drew a dial from his poke;
And looking on it with lack-lustre eye,
Says, very wisely, It is ten o'clock :
Thus may we see, quoth he, how the world wags :
Tis but an hour since it was nine ;
And after one hour more, 'twill be eleven;
And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour we rot and rot,
And thereby hangs a tale. When I did hear

The motley fool thus moral on the time,
My lungs began to crow like chanticleer,
That fools should be so deep contemplative;
And I did laugh, sans intermission,
An hour by his dial. O noble fool!
A worthy fool! Motley's the only wear.

Duke Sen. What fool is this?

Jaq. O worthy fool!-One that hath been a courtier;
And says, if ladies be but young and fair,
They have the gift to know it: and in his brain-
Which is as dry as the remainder biscuit
After a voyage -he bath strange places cramm’d
With observation, the which he vents
In mangled forms:40, that I were a fool!

I am ambitious for a motley coat. It may be collected, both from the plays themselves, and from various other authorities, that the costume of the domestic Fool in Shakspeare's time was of two sorts. In the first of these, the coat was motley or parti-. coloured, and attached to the body by a girdle, with bells at the skirts and elbows, though not always. The breeches and hose close, and sometimes each leg of a different colour. A hood, resembling a monk's cowl, which, at a very early period, it was certainly designed to imitate, covered the head entirely, and fell down over part of the breast and shoulders. It was.

sometimes decorated with asses' ears, or else ter. minated in the neck and head of a cock, a fashion as old as the fourteenth century. It often had the comb or crest only of the animal; whence the term cockscomb or coxcomb was afterwards used to denote any silly upstart. This fool usually carried in his hand an official sceptre or bauble, which was a short stick, ornamented at the end with the figure of a fool's head, or sometimes with that of a doll or puppet. To this instrument there was frequently annexed an inflated skin or bladder, with which the fool belaboured those who offended, or with whom he was inclined to make sport; this was often used by itself, in lieu, as it should seem, of a bauble. It was not always filled with air, but occasionally with sand or peas. Sometimes a strong bat or club was substituted for the bauble. Coriat, in his Crudities, speaks of

“A Whitsuntide Foole, disguised like a Foole, wearing a long coate, wherein there were many several pieces of cloth of divers colours, at the corners whereof there hanged the tails of squirrels.”

The discontinuance of the court Fool had a considerable influence on the manners of private life; and we learn from one of Shadwell's plays, that it was then “out of fashion for great men to keep Fools.” But the practice was by no means abolished; it maintained its ground, in this country, so late as the beginning of the last century; and we have an epitaph, written by Dean Swift, on Dicky Pearce, the Earl of Suffolk's Fool, who was buried in Berkley church-yard, June 18, 1728. This person was an idiot. Lord Chancellor Talbot kept a Welch jester named Rees Pengelding. He was a very shrewd fellow, and rented a farm of his master. Being distrained on for his rent by an oppressive steward, who had been a tailor, and bore him a grudge, the surly fellow said to him, on this occasion, "I'll fit you, sirrah." “Then,” replied Rees, “ It will be the first time in your life that you ever fitted any one.” Another Welchman, called Will the Taborer, was trained in a similar capacity, about the beginning of the last century, by Sir Edward Stradling, of St. Donat's Castle, in Glamorgan

shire. He is said to have been a very witty fellow, and a man of strong intellects. Lord Bussy Mansel, of Margam, had likewise in his service one Robin Rush, an idiot by nature, who often said very witty things. There are people now alive in Wales, or lately were, who well remembered him.

The sort of entertainment that fools were expected to afford

may be collected, in great variety, from our old plays, particularly from those of Shakspeare; but perhaps no better idea can be formed of their general mode of conduct than from the following passage in a singular tract by Lodge, entitled Wit's Miserie, 1599, 4to.

“ Immoderate and disordinate joy become incorporate in the body of a jester: this fellow in person is comely, in apparell courtly, but in behaviour a very ape, and no man; his studie is to coine bitter jeastes, or to shew antique motions, or to sing sonnets and balleds: give him a little wine in his head, he is continually flearing and making of mouthes: he laughs intemperately at every little occasion, and dances about the house, leapes over tables, over-skips men's heads, trips up his companion's heels, burns sack with a candle, and hath all the feats of a lord of misrule in the countrie: feed him in his humour, you shall have his heart; in mere kindness he will hug you in his armes, kisse you on the cheeke, and rapping out an horrible oth, crie-God's soule, Tum, I love you, you know my poore heart, come to my chamber for a pipe of tabacco; there lives not a man in this world that I more honour.' In these ceremonies you shall know his courting, and it is a speciall mark of him; at the table, he sits and makes faces; keep not this fellow company, for, in jugling with him your wardrobes shall be wasted, your credits crakt, your crownes consumed, and time (the most precious riches of the world) utterly lost.”—This is the picture of a real hireling or artificial Fool.

VENICE.

This is the country of Titian, of Palladio, of Marcello, who from a nobleman became one of the finest musicians in Italy; of Bembo, one of the most liberal and accomplished of cardinals; of Paul Sarpi, who kept his countrymen independent of the church of Rome.

The Venetians are like a lively family cut off from the rest of Europe. Let the reader imagine himself pushing

off from a sea-coast, and coming at a distance of a league and a half upon a city standing in the sea. This is Venice. It is built upon seventy-two little islands, the houses abutting directly upon the water, the finest of them without even a landing-place but the stairs; so that instead of streets there are only canals of seawater; and instead of coaches and carts, gondolas and other boats. Perhaps the best idea the reader can have of a Venetian street is to imagine a street like Portland Place, or rather a more winding one like the High Street at Oxford, mixed with nobler as well as smaller houses, and the full sea running through it, with abundance of boats of traffic and swift darting gondolas. The gondola is a sort of wherry, about five feet broad, and twenty-five long, covered with black cloth, and having a cabin standing up in the middle of it like the body of a caravan. The cabin is covered with black also, and has moveable windows with curtains. A Venetian gentleman keeps his gondola as an Englisbman does his coach; only with much greater cheapness. The full compliment of a gondola is two rowers,

who stand to their oars, one at each end, and with their faces the reverse way of our boatmen. They are very expert, and dart their gondolas in and out among the intricacies of this watery bustle, like fish. They are proverbial for their cheerfulness and honesty. They used to be famous for singing passages out of Tasso and other Italian poets; but political trouble has dashed the spirits even of the Venetian gondolier, and he is now comparatively mute*.

* It is curious and natural enough, that one of their most favourite passages was the beginning of the seventh book of the Jerusalem Delivered, where Erminia gets among the country-people. They sang to a kind of a chant, sometimes responding to each other; and the effect at night-time, when the sound came softened by distance over the water, was often delightful. Rousseau, who was once at Venice, published the chant in notes. We do not remember whether it is from him that Mr. Shield has copied it in the appendix to his Introduction to Harmony; but it is there to be found. Ariosto used to be the great favourite with the Venetians; but Tasso's poem seems to have super. seded even the Orlando in popularity. An Italian gentleman, when asked his opinion of this mystery, thought it explained by the great

VOL. I.

K

« НазадПродовжити »