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Domestic Life in Scotland, 1488 - 1688
Lecture IV - The Decay of Feudalism and The Development of Family Life


ALL through the sixteenth century, house furnishing in Scotland proceeded on the basis of a mediaeval conception of social life. As, with more settled conditions, the country advanced in prosperity, and as the middle classes gradually gained in influence and importance, the diffusion of wealth began to be reflected in the increase of luxury in the homes of gentle and simple. Carved and gilded wood, rich fabrics and jewellery and ornaments of every kind gave the interiors of many Scottish homes an interest which they had not had in ruder and less sophisticated days. Yet, if there was more conscious art, the furniture was of the same types and served the same social usages as in the fifteenth century. Such advance as there was amounted rather to a general enrichment of the details of domestic furnishing than to any radical change in its principles.

But almost with the stroke of the new century there came a change. As we read the inventories of household plenishings of the closing years of the sixteenth century and the opening years of the seventeenth, we cannot but recognise that a great upheaval in the arrangements of household life was taking place and that innovations were being introduced that really implied a new conception of social order. In these inventories we constantly find new articles of furniture, meeting wants which were unknown to the previous generation. The interiors assume a more comfortable, and, to our modern eyes, a more familiar air than that of the somewhat severe and ceremonial apartments of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Feudalism has run its course, and we are watching the beginnings of the modern world with its distinctive conception of comfort and privacy in family life.

So sudden and so striking is the change that the least reflective must turn to history for an explanation; and, indeed, it is easy to recognise some of the influences which combined to precipitate a crisis which was already overdue.

There was in the first place the modern spirit, born of the Renaissance—a spirit which could not coexist with the feudalism of the Middle Ages, and which was bound to overturn, sooner or later, any system based on such a conception. The new independence of thought which characterised the time must in itself have led to a reconsideration of the social relations on which mediaeval household life depended. It was stimulated by the freer intellectual contact with the countries of Europe both through foreign travel and as a result of the interchange of printed literature. But apart from such general causes, the Reformation, which was the crisis through which Scotland chiefly felt and responded to the Renaissance movement, had specific results which exercised a very marked and definite influence on social conditions in Scotland. The long drain of Scottish money towards Rome was now at an end, and the accumulation of capital in the country was at last possible. At the same moment traders all over the country were relieved from the competition of the Church, whose immense resources in wealth and organisation had enabled her to overshadow the business enterprises of her humbler rivals. Trade and industry, thus relieved from the burdens that had so long over-weighted them, began to expand and find their natural development. Tradesmen and craftsmen who had hitherto found shelter under the wing of the Castle or of the Abbey, and had lived at the beck and call of their feudal superiors, migrated into the towns and carried on their work under the protection of the town gilds. Thus, while the Castles lost their importance, the towns were every day gaining in population and in activity. It only wanted the circulation of considerable sums of money to ensure that the advance in prosperity should be confirmed and developed ; and this too came about as an indirect consequence of the Reformation. In 1587 an Act of Parliament was passed which, subject to provision for the clergy, transferred all ecclesiastical property to the King--the measure being justified by the allegation that the Crown had, before the Reformation, been driven to overtax the people in order to make good its own gifts to the Church. However this may be, it is estimated that from a third to a half of the total wealth of the country had passed into the possession of the Church. From the property which was now transferred to the Crown, James made lavish gifts to the nobles, many of whom, finding themselves suddenly possessed of lands and a sufficient income, seized the opportunity of remodelling their castles or of building new homes of a less antiquated character. As artillery, by this time, could make short work of the strongest masonry, there was no use in erecting strongly fortified keeps as in the days that were past. Nor was it any longer necessary to subordinate the actual plan and internal arrangements of the house to considerations of defence from attack, unless in remoter parts of the country where raids might still have to be provided against. Those who built new houses were therefore free for the first time to make comfort and privacy their primary consideration. Such medieval and military features as appear in the mansions built at that time are survivals of a tradition which, though no longer suited to the needs of the age, was familiar and not easily thrown aside. What is really new and typical in the architecture of the time is its strongly domestic character.

Another effect of the erection of the lands of the ancient Church into temporal lordships is worth noting. James succeeded, by means of such gifts, in attaching the nobles to his Court and committing them to his policy. They thus insensibly passed from the position of more or less independent feudal lords to that of more or less subservient courtiers. This change gives a transitional note to the social atmosphere of the time. Sir Walter Scott points out, in his introduction to the Fortunes of Nigel, that "in all the comedies of the age the principal character for gaiety and wit is the young heir, who has totally altered the establishment of the father to whom he has succeeded." The comedies to which he alludes—those of Shad-well and others—are such as give a picture of English life. But the change was sharper still in Scotland; for in addition to the influences that operated in England there was the sudden introduction of new standards of life resulting from the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and the contact it brought with a much wealthier civilisation. William Lithgow, writing in 1628, gives a rather highly coloured picture of the age: "All the gold of the kingdom is daily transported away with superfluous posting for court, whence they never return anything save spend-all, end-all; then farewell fortune!" And he talks of "our ignoble gallants, though nobly born, swallowing up the honour of their predecessors with posting foolery, boy-winding horns, gormandising gluttony, lust and vain apparel."

On every side we have evidence of the social changes that followed from the Scottish King's accession to the English throne. The migration of all sorts of workers from the country to the towns, which had been going steadily on for a long time past, brought embarrassments of a grave kind to the country nobles, accustomed as these had been to command the services of skilled country craftsmen by a local bartering of their produce. With an advancing standard of comfort in domestic life, and an increasing dependence on the towns to supply his wants, the country noble was faced with the difficulty of converting his produce into cash, and when he paid a visit to the town he was chagrined to find himself a person of much less influence and importance than the prosperous tradesman who had a ready command of money. His hungry retinue, which he felt necessary to support his dignity, was apt not only to add to his difficulties but also to expose him to ridicule. He returned to his castle wounded and embittered, too firmly rooted in the past to be capable of adapting himself to the social changes which everywhere confronted him. Very different from the position of such a penniless feudal lord was that of those courtiers who had been enriched by sharing in the division of monastic property. These brought back from Court all kinds of new and luxurious ideas, and the castles in which they had been born and bred were condemned as unsuitable to the kind of life to which they had now become accustomed. The mediaeval hall was out of date and must needs be replaced by a family dining-room. Their nostrils having become too sensitive to tolerate the smell of cooking, the kitchen had to be banished to a remoter part of the house. Drawing-rooms, parlours and studies began to be introduced, and the privacy of the upper bedrooms was secured by providing separate access to each by turret stairs, instead of letting one room lead into another as in earlier times. Now that thick walls were no longer necessary, rooms were more brightly lighted and pleasanter to live in, and though the English development of great mullioned and transomed windows never took root in Scotland, the fashion of bow windows was sometimes adopted so as to command a wider outlook from within. The interiors too were more elaborately decorated; the walls were often treated with wooden panelling, and the ceilings enriched with elaborate plaster ornament or, as in the long gallery at Pinkie, painted with classical or other subjects.

The changed conception of household life which is expressed in these architectural i1nnovations is equally clearly reflected in the domestic arrangements and furnishing. In some houses the hall became the family dining-room, though the old trestle tables with their forms might be replaced by furniture of a newer type. In others the hall was abandoned as a "living room" and the meals and the family life in general were transferred from it to the more secluded apartments beyond. Thus the hall, which had hitherto been the main arena of the social life of the house, gradually ceased to rank as a room at all, and degenerated into what it has become in our modern houses, a mere antechamber or entrance lobby in which strangers could be allowed to wait without interfering with the privacy of the family. This process of degeneration was further accelerated when the hall was transferred from the first to the ground floor, which had hitherto been given up to vaulted cellars. Sometimes the new dining-room was in practice very little different from the old hall; the antiquated furniture was made use of, the board being placed along the wall, with a piece of tapestry, or a painted "brod," or picture, hung on the wall behind the master's seat, to represent the old parelling. But where a family was inclined, and had the means, to adopt the new fashions without the necessity of compromise, we may conceive them dining in a panelled room, well lighted and with a pleasant outlook ; the table would be placed not by the wall but in the middle of the room, and it would be no longer a long board on trestles, but a solid wainscot or walnut table built upon turned or carved "branders" or legs, and made with two or three leaves for extension when necessary. This was what was called "ane drawand buird," and though generally rectangular it was sometimes circular in form, for we find occasional references to "ane roundel burde with thrie leavis." Such a table is very significant of the new social customs which were everywhere asserting themselves. Little general conversation can have been possible when those who dined together sat in a row on one side of a board which might be fifteen or twenty feet long. The new fashion allowed the guests to sit more or less in a circle round a roomier table whose length could be adjusted so as to be no greater than the number of guests required—a much more sociable arrangement. Another change was equally significant. At mediaeval meals there had been only one chair, as we have seen, and this was the rightful seat of the master of the house—a tradition which we still recognise when we hold a meeting under the guidance of someone who occupies "the Chair." Guests of distinction might be provided with stools but most of the company sat on forms. When James IV, for instance, met his affianced bride, Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII, at Newbattle, a contemporary writer tells us "The tables were then drest and served. The Kynge satt in the Chayre and the Quene abouffe hym on hys ryght haund. For because the Stole of the Quene was not for hyr ease, he gaffe hyr the sayde Chayre," and this is mentioned, of course, as one of the graceful and exceptional courtesies which the King showed to the English Princess. But with the passing away of feudalism the chair lost its throne-like attributes, and from the beginning of the seventeenth century we find chairs appearing in sets for family use, very often in sets of four. Thus an inventory of 1607 has "Foure chyres of walnut trio, price of the piece viij lib. Item, foure chyres of aik, price of ilk chyre iiij lib." And with these appear "aucht fyne buffeit stuillis, price of ilk stuill xl s." The use of forms for sitting on at meals was not, of course, at once abandoned when chairs had been introduced, for old habits are not so easily thrown off. But where a round table was used, forms were obviously impossible, and little by little the custom of using chairs round a table set in the middle of the room displaced the earlier usage.

We have some interesting particulars of a banquet given by James VI to the Constable of Castile at Whitehall Palace in the year 1604. After grace had been said, the King and Queen washed their hands in the same basin, while another basin served for the Prince and the chief guest. The King and Queen sat at the head of the table at some distance from each other, under the canopy of state, and on chairs of brocade with cushions. The Prince and the Constable sat on tabourets, or stools, also of brocade with cushions. At the side of the room stood a buffet laden with vessels of gold, and of agate and other precious stones. The banquet was accompanied with instrumental music. The guests had their heads covered, but when the King rose to drink to the health of the King and Queen of Spain, he uncovered his head. The banquet lasted for three hours, and then, the cloth having been removed, everyone rose up. The table, we are told, was placed upon the ground, which seems to mean that it was lifted down from the dais, "and their Majesties, standing upon it, proceeded to wash their hands, which is stated to be an ancient ceremony." Dancing followed. The candid chronicler relates that the morning after the banquet the Constable of Castile awoke with a slight attack of lumbago!

This of course was a ceremonial Court dinner given in England, and no doubt under the influence of English standards and traditions. Very considerable allowances would naturally have to be made if we were to attempt to deduce from it any general impression of the table manners of the time. Fynes Moryson, a graduate of Cambridge, who was in Scotland five years before James succeeded to the English Crown, gives us the following picture of the conditions of domestic life of the time, though it must be remembered that his impressions are derived simply from the houses of such townsmen or countrymen as were willing to entertain him "upon acquaintance or entreaty." "Touching their diet," he says, "they eate much red Colewort and Cabbage, but little fresh meate, using to salt their Mutton and Geese, which made me more wonder, that they use to eate Beef without salting. The Gentlemen reckon their revenewes, not by rents of monie, but by chauldrons of victuals, and keep many people in the Families, yet living most on Coyne and Rootes, not spending any great quantity on flesh. Myself was at a Knight's House, who had many servants to attend him, that brought in his meate with their heads covered with blew caps, the Table being more than halfe furnished with great platters of porredge (or broth), each having a little piece of sodden meate: And when the Table was served, the servants did sit downe with us, but the upper messe in steede of porredge, had a Pullet with some prunes in the broth. And I observed no art of Cookery, or furniture of Household stuffe, but rather rude neglect of both, though myself and my companion, sent from the Governour of Barwiche about bordering affairs, were entertained after their best manner. The Scots living then in factions, used to keepe many followers, and so consumed their revenew of victuals, living in some want of money. They vulgarly ate harth Cakes of Oates, but in Cities have also wheaten bread, which for the most part was bought by Courtiers, Gentlemen, and the best sort of Citizens. . . . They drinke pure Wines not with sugar as the English, yet at feasts they put Comfits in the Wine after the French manner, but they had not our Vinteners fraud to mixe their Wines. The better sort of citizens brew ale, their usuall drinke, which will distemper a strangers bodie." Taylor, the water poet, who travelled in Scotland some twenty years later, and who, though he was practically dependent on charity for his entertainment, was received at many more important houses than his predecessor, naturally gives a more flattering account of his experiences: "In Scotland, beyond Edenborough, I have been at houses like castles for building: the master of the house his beaver being his blue bonnet, one that will weare no other shirts but of the flaxe that growes on his owne ground, and of his wives, daughters or servants spinning; that hath his stockings, hose and jerkin of the wool of his owne sheepes backes; that never (by his pride of apparell) caused mercer, draper, silkeman, embroyderer, or haberdasher to breake and turn bankerupt; and yet this plaine homespunne fellow keepes and maintaines thirty, forty, fifty servants, or perhaps more, every day releeving three or four score poore peeple at his gate; and besides all this can give noble entertainement for foure or five dayes together, to five or six Earles and Lordes, besides Knights, Gentlemen and their followers, if they be three or foure hundred men and horse of them ; where they shall not only feede but feast, and not feast but banket. . . . Many of these worthy housekeepers there are in Scotland, amongst some of whom I was entertained; from whence I did treuly gather these aforesaid observations."

In Scottish houses the dishes used at table were almost invariably of pewter. Well equipped houses on a large scale had sometimes as many as forty dozen pewter plates of various sizes, while in a small tradesman's house it is usual to find three or four dozen plates, saucers and trenchers. Besides these dishes there would be stoups of various sizes, generally holding a quart, a pint, a chopin and a mutchkin respectively; while drinking cups of "tree," often with bases or pedestals of pewter or silver, were not uncommon. One or two lavers were also part of the ordinary table outfit. Lavers are generally defined as basins used for washing, but this is quite a mistake. In old documents the laver is nearly always coupled with a basin, and the laver was the jug or ewer from which water was poured over the hands into the basin. These lavers and basins were of silver or of pewter according to the means of the owner. Table glass was still something of a rarity though a new fashion was the use of what was called a wine-cellar, fitted with "the haill flaccatis, glass and furneissing thairof." In one house of the period there were three dozen "fyne lame (loam, or earthenware) potis for desertis," but the employment of china or earthenware for table dishes was not yet introduced. The salt-fatt was generally of silver, and it stood in the middle of the table, and the division of the table into "above" and "below the salt" dates from this period and not from mediaeval times, when the dais table was reserved for those of superior rank, and the others sat at side tables.

The persistence of ancient customs is well illustrated by the following description of a dinner in a farmhouse towards the end of the eighteenth century, and it will be noticed how closely many of the details correspond with the procedure at meals in the time of James VI. "At noon," we are told, "the gudewife with her maidens proceeded in the centre of the well-swept earthen floor to erect the timber or iron trestles and thereon to extend the tafil or dinner-boards. In the better-class farmhouses the upper part of the dinner boards was covered with a linen cloth. More frequently the upper part of the table, at which sat the farmer and family, was separated from the lower part by a chalk line. Occasionally the distinction was indicated by the position of the salt-dish ; those who sat above it were of the farmer's kin, those beneath it were his hirelings. When all were seated, they uncovered and bowed their heads for 'grace' or blessing. . . . Grace said, all the males resumed their bonnets, which, summer and winter, they retained in eating. Before taking his seat the farmer washed his hands, but the hinds were expected to eat without attempting an ablution." No doubt in out-of-the-way parts of the country survivals of such table traditions might still be found.

In the description that has been quoted of a Court banquet at Whitehall, the display of gold plate on a buffet was mentioned, and in private houses in Scotland the custom of laying out the "weschel" on a suitable piece of furniture was still kept up. For this purpose the compter, or table, had, as we have seen, been superseded by, or had developed into, the cupboard. Sometimes the top of the cupboard was fitted with several steps, or stages, the number of which, according to the French usage, was limited in proportion to a man's rank. Cupboards with three "grics" or stages, such as were inventoried at St. Andrew's Priory in 1565, must have allowed of a considerable display of plate. In France the presence of these "degres" seems to have distinguished the "dressoir" from the simpler credence, and the dressoir was thus a more elaborate and pretentious piece of furniture, suited to the houses of wealthy noblemen. In Scotland the dresser certainly existed as early as 1502, for an English writer describing the arrangements at Holy-rood says, "There was also in the sam Chammer... a ryche Dressor, after the Guyse of the Countre." But whatever may have been done at Court, the dresser was certainly not in common use under that name in private houses, and except for "ane dressour for setting of stoupis" which is mentioned as in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle in 1566, the word is comparatively unknown until the reign of James VI, when it occurs in many inventories; the dressers of this period were frequently "indented," i.e. inlaid, or otherwise ornamented, so that they were evidently important pieces of furniture, and not of the rude type which we now associate with the kitchen and the farmhouse. The display of silver vessels on the dresser had hardly the same significance that it had in medieval times, for it was no longer a criterion of a man's wealth. Money was more plentiful than it had been, but on the other hand there were many more openings for its employment, so that there was neither the same practical necessity nor the same inducement to convert accumulated wealth into silver plate. Still the houses of the period had very commonly some ten or twenty handsome silver vessels, often gilded and engraved, including one or two masers, several salt-fatts, with cups, goblets, a number of "pieces" or bowls, a trencher, a laver and basin, and one or two dozen spoons.

I have mentioned a house which had "fyne lame potis for desertis" and the same house had, as early as 1594, "lyttil new plaitis for desert." In England the word "dessert" does not seem to have come into use till the middle of the following century, and Scotland acquired it from France direct. In its origin the word refers to the practice of removing the cloth at the end of a meal, when the table was "disserved" or cleared, and the fruits and sweets which followed were partaken of in a separate room. Like many another obsolete custom this usage is preserved in our present day speech; for when we distinguish between two sizes of spoons by calling one a "table spoon" and the other a "dessert spoon" we imply that the dessert was not taken at the table where the meal was served. Sometimes the dessert was called "the banquet," a name applied to any light refreshment served between regular meals. When James VI visited New College, St. Andrews, and heard a disputation between the "Bischope" and Andrew Melville, we read that "the King, in his mother toung, maid sum distingoes, and discoursit a whyll thairon," and thereafter passed to the College Hall, where there had been prepared "a banquet of wat and dry confectiones, with all sortes of wyne, wharat his Majestie camped verie merrilie a guid whyll." You may still see the word banquet used in this sense in the newspaper reports of some municipal or other social gathering in Scotland, at which the guests are entertained to "a banquet of cake and wine."

The changes characteristic of the period were not, of course, confined to the dining-room, and indeed the parlours or withdrawing rooms that were coming into use, and which displaced the chamber of dais or principal bedroom to which a few favoured guests had formerly retired after meals, were in themselves very significant of the new ideas of domestic life. In such rooms the family could enjoy itself in peace, either with or without the company of chosen guests, and unembarrassed by the presence of all sorts of dependents and retainers. The introduction of chairs for family use allowed of more variety and informality of grouping for conversation or like purposes than had been possible when forms, settles and chests had been the only seats. It also led to development in the chairs themselves. There are frequent references about the middle of the sixteenth century to the covering of chairs with velvet, satin, and other materials—particularly in connection with the royal household. Such covering was however merely for purposes of decoration, and comfort was provided in those days by the use of separate cushions. But in James VI's time we have, among other novelties, the introduction of upholstered chairs—chairs so stuffed or padded as not to require the additional use of cushions. The earliest examples seem naturally to have been imported from abroad. In 1612 we read of "ane mekill Frenche bakit and buffit chyre," and a few years later of "twa grit bakit Inglis chyres, bust and steikit in the sait with ane cover of ledder thairin and coverit lykwise with ledder on the bak and stampit." Thus perhaps began the distinction between what we may call the dining-room and the drawing-room types of chair—the former designed for use at meals only, the latter adapted to less stereotyped attitudes and uses and affording comfort in hours of social relaxation.

Another piece of furniture that seems to have come rather suddenly into favour at this time was the Taffel. The Dutch or German origin of the word is obvious, and the word was probably picked up and imported as a direct result of trading with these countries. It does not seem to have been generally adopted in England, and its occasional use there seems to be due to the influence of Scottish usages at court. The Taffel, or Taiffel, was, as its name implies, a table, but an examination of early references shows that it was its small size, or its lightness, that distinguished it from other tables. In valuations of furniture its value is always comparatively low; sometimes we read of "buird claithis for the hallbuird, and ane littil ane for ane taiffelbuird." George Tait, a burgess of Edinburgh, had among his furniture (1622) "ane chyre with ane bak for ane taflie"; that is, a chair convertible into a small table by bringing forward on its swivels the table-top which formed the back of the chair. From a number of such allusions we may infer that the taffel was in effect what is called an occasional table, such as could be used for chess or cards, and could be easily lifted from one part of the room to another. The use of such light tables, with the adoption of chairs instead of forms, indicates the increased mobility and variety of the new domestic life. Games could be played by the fireside on a winter evening ; at other times the table might be taken to the window so that ladies might occupy themselves with needlework and conversation at the same time and watch whatever there might be to interest them in the world without. Houses were now often built on sites chosen for their pleasant outlook ; more and more attention was being paid to gardens. Since the days when James IV had had the walls of Stirling and Holyrood plastered to suit the ideas of comfort of his English Queen, the plastering of the rooms in private houses had become usual, and the interiors were no longer so cold and draughty as they must have been when tapestry flapped upon stone walls; and it was pleasant to sit in comfort within, enjoying a freedom and seclusion which had been unattainable in the medieval hall with its dais and all the formality and the scheme of social precedence that the dais implied.

In such rooms large cabinets or aumriesl from Holland now began to appear, and they were valued not merely for the useful accommodation they supplied, but also as pieces of furniture which gave the rooms a certain beauty and dignity. Carpets and rugs were beginning to displace the use of bent grass to cover the floors, though at first they were used rather as table-covers. "Steikit green mats" are fairly often met with, and James Melvill, who died in 1613, had one of these, besides "Scots nedle-worke carpetts" in his hall and chamber. Books were beginning to play an important part in household life, and one significant feature in the inventories of the time is the appearance of the family Bible. The printing of Bassendyne's Bible had been completed by Arbuthnott in 1579, and a year later the Town Council of Edinburgh had ordered " all nychtbouris of this burgh, substantious house halderis, to haif ane bybill in thair houssis under the paynes contenit in the actes of Parliament maid thairanent." Accordingly it is common to find houses provided with "ane grit houss Bibill," sometimes accompanied by "ane little bybill." One Edinburgh citizen left among his possessions "ane grit bibill of Lumbard volum of the best sort and fynnest print, ouergilt, pryce thairof xl lib. Item ane uther bibill of Arbuthnots print, pryce thairof x lib. Item mair ane psalme buik, pryce x s."

Secular works included classical authors, books of chronicles, as well as of law, arithmetic, philosophy and other departments of learning. Patrick Quhytlaw of New Grange, dying in 1607, left "tw a gret kistis full of buikis of theologie, of the laws, physick, and utheris, to the number of v c. buikis"—a very considerable library for the time. David Wedderburn, the Dundee merchant, had a considerable collection, from which he used to lend freely to his friends and customers. To a neighbouring laird's son he lends "Metamorphosis Ovidii in Laten with the pictouris, bund in ane swynis skin of werry braw binding . . . for the space of ane moneth." His Blundevill Drackis Voyages was in great request, and another volume described as "my buik of walking sprittis" seems to have attracted curious enquirers.

The taste for voyages and "Buikis of the Sie" was characteristic of the time, for the advances in astronomy and navigation which followed from the Renaissance, and from such events as Columbus' discovery of the "new fund Yle," as a contemporary Scottish poet calls America, had led to a romantic interest in geographical knowledge. For the same reason it is not unusual to find a "Mappamounde," or map of the world, used as a piece of decoration in the rooms of the period. In the "Chalmer of the Foir Werk" at Cauldar there was one of these described as "ane brodit cart contenynge all cuntras," and such maps, whether printed or worked with the needle, were sometimes even hung in the place of honour "abune the burde." Paintings cannot be said to have come into general vogue in Scottish houses, but here and there enthusiasts were buying pictures abroad and helping to spread the taste for pictorial art in Scotland. One of these pioneers was Wedderburn of Dundee, already mentioned, who used to arrange with friends going abroad to bring him back pictures from France or Flanders. John Barclay of Edinburgh, left "thrie paintit brodis with stories," and a year or two later one Erasmus Durie left as many as "seavin pictouris." The time was drawing near when the taste for pictures was to be much more widely diffused, and when George Jamesone was to set a high standard for Scottish portrait painters.

The sister art of music had also its devotees in Scotland. Even by the beginning of the sixteenth century we have records of the use of the harp, the fiddle, the lute, the organis, the monocord, the taubron, the clarescha, the drone and the schalmis—an instrument of the clarinet type. Some verses written on the arrival of Anne of Denmark, nearly a century later, speak also of the regals, hautboy, virginals, gitterns, trumpets, timbrels, seistar sumphion, pipe and clarion. No doubt the pre-Reformation Church had done a good deal in spreading a taste for music and in providing a class of trained musicians. Writing of his student days in St. Andrews, which ended in 1574, James Melvill says, "I lerned my musicke of ane Alexander Smithe, servant to the Primarius of our Collage, wha had been treaned upe amangis the mounkis in the Abbay. I lerned of him the gam (gamut or scale), pleane-song and mony of the treables of the Psalmes. . . . I lovit singing and playing on instrumentis passing weill and wad gladlie spend tyme whar the exerceise thairof was within the Collage ; for twa or thrie of our condisciples played fellon weil on the virginals, and an uther on the lute and githorn. Our Regent also had the pinalds in his chalmer, and lernit something, and I eftir him." It is hard to say what the "pinalds" were, unless the word is a form of "spinet." In Italy the spinet dates from 1503, but the name "virgin-ails" was used in England for all such keyboard instruments for long after this, and the earliest reference to a spinet quoted in the New English Dictionary is from Pepys' Diary in 1664. Melville's reference goes back to a date ninety years earlier than this, though it was not written till about r 600. Still, it is difficult to see what distinction was intended between "virginalls" and "spinet." John Florio, in his New Worlde of Wordes gives a "paire of virginalles" as equivalent to the Italian "spinetta." Another instrument of the same kind was the clavichord, whose tone, however, was produced by a tangent instead of by the plucking of a quill. These keyboard instruments are seldom found in the inventories of Scottish houses of this period, yet we know that there was a good deal of domestic music. In Glasgow, for instance, before the Union of the Crowns, there was a musical coterie, for a contemporary diarist tells us of "a gentillman's

house in the town wha enterteined maist expert singars and playars, and brought upe all his berns thairin." And no doubt there were similar groups of musical people elsewhere, and especially perhaps in the cathedral towns, where the musical tradition still lingered.

Returning from this musical digression to the furnishing of the sitting-rooms of the period, we may note that clocks were not yet in common use, and the hour-glass still stood on many a chimneypiece. There too might sometimes be found "ane boyst of tubacco," for, in spite of King James's prejudices, the practice of smoking was steadily gaining ground; and the tinder match-box no doubt lay conveniently to hand. In the window there might be a wire cage containing a laverock, and among the odds and ends that lay about the room were such things as inkhorns and penners, a board and men for chess and backgammon, and materials for ladies' work. In the bedrooms we should find brushes and combs, sponges and shoe-horns, while warming-pans were in use for warming the beds.

How did life pass in these days? The gentlemen of leisure had such sports as golf, catchpole, archery, hawking and coursing to amuse them, and golf balls, as well as many other requisites used in games of the period, were imported from Flanders. The following contemporary advice given to "Gentillmen" gives an idea of their preoccupations and responsibilities:

First, in the mornyng, get vp with gud intent;
To do your God seruice be ye diligent;
To go to preiching ye do your bissy ceure,
Sync to your sport ye pass with avanteur;
Exclude surfatt and spend with discretioun,
And luve your servand of gud condition;
Lak not your kin, suppois thair wit be rude,
But help your freind in to his quarrell guid. . . .

His wife is to be "cherreissit weill," and, subject to her satisfactory behaviour, loved as his own life. A sharp distinction is called for in the treatment of sons and of daughters:

Teiche weill your sons, and gif him your counsale;
Bot hall your dochter ay in stret bensale (control).

Finally, the gentleman is to "pay the seruand his fie for his labour," and to "mak an leill man his executeur," to keep patience under trials till God send remeid, and to make "Schir Ewstace," the uncomplaining huntsman saint, his pattern and example.

As to the life of women, when a lady of fashion awoke in the morning she found her fire already burning brightly, and as soon as she was ready to rise her maidens brought her her slippers and her wyliecoat, comfortably warmed for her use. Placing a velvet stool for her near the fire, two of the maidens combed her hair while she held her steel glass in her hand and superintended their labours. When she was fully dressed she drank a cup of Malvoisie, sweetened with sugar, and then passed out into the garden for a breath of fresh air, and ordered her page to prepare her "disjune," or dejeuner, consisting perhaps of a freshly roasted pair of plovers, a partridge and a quail, with a cup of sack. The next duty is to order the day's dinner; and this done she goes to inspect her maidservants at their work, some of them employed in making quoifs, ruffs and other fine linen for her own use; and of all such work she is a severe and exacting critic, scolding the maidens unmercifully if their work falls short of her standard. Pleasantly fatigued with her exertions, she withdraws to her chamber, for it is now past noon, and refreshes herself with whatever meat she has ordered and drinks a cup or two of Muscadel, finishing off the repast with some raisins or capers. The afternoon has now to be passed till supper-time, and she may either sit in the garden, or, if the day is cold, fall asleep over a book at the fire. Supper is the meal of the day, and as the meal proceeds musicians enter and stimulate digestion by playing on the organs, the lute and viol and shalm and timbrel. Then comes an evening stroll in the garden, after which her ladyship retires to her chamber and sits gossiping so long with her maidens that a final light collation is required, with a draught of Rhenish wine, to fortify her for the hours of sleep.

Sometimes, of course, she leaves her house and garden and visits the tailor or the jeweller. Dressed in a rich and splendid robe, with double garnishings of gold, and her hair surmounted with crape, she is decked by her maidens with a velvet hat and her hood of state, and a mask is added to shield her complexion. A great gold chain is hung round her neck, with a necklace and half-chains of Paris work of exceptional fineness; and her shoes are of velvet, over silk stockings. At the tailor's she discusses the last new "guise" or fashion—whether her new gown is to be made full, with many plaits and folds, or whether it is to fit more closely to the figure; and there is the question of colour and materials, and she spends delightful hours comparing and examining plain and figured velvets, silks, satins, damask and grograin. There is plenty of room for fancy and fine taste; for effects are got by cutting out a cloth over a material of different colour, and success in this pasmenting, or applique work, calls for both natural instinct and artistic imagination; and as Madam handles the rich stuffs, savouring the texture between her heavily jewelled fingers, and from time to time drawing back the gold bracelets which keep slipping over her wrists, her brain is ever at work conceiving combinations of colour and material, rejecting effects unsuitable to her own style and figure, and arriving at ideas which the tailor will have to express in beautiful and becoming costume.

Such a picture as I have given of the life of the idle rich at the close of the sixteenth century —a picture which is borrowed in every detail from contemporary notes--must seem one of gross self-indulgence. The eating and drinking appears indecent to those who have tightened their belts under the chastening compulsion of the Food Controller. And, indeed, contemporary writers tell us that in those days surfeit killed more than sword and knife, and the medical counsels of the time were largely directed against the perils of over-eating. Sometimes these counsels merely give blunt expression to familiar, if inglorious, experience:

Quha wald tak rest upoun the nicht,
The supper sowld be schort and licht;
The stommok hes ane full grit pane
Quhen at the supper mekle is tane.

Drinks that have gone flat are to be avoided, as also are mixed meats. The various ways of cooking meat are discussed; "bulyeit" or boiled meat, we are told, "fosteris weill"; "rostit" meat is said to dry the blood; of salt meat there is never a good word to say; it is pronounced "warst of ony fude," and we are warned that it

dois grit oppressioun
To feble stomokis that nan nocht refrane
For thingis contrair to thyne complexioun
Off gredy throttis the stomokis has grit pane.

Much of the advice is sound. One is not to eat till the previous meal has been "weill degest"; that nourishes best which savours best; "cleir air and walking makis gud degestioun," and we are to beware of excess and of "nodding heidis and of candill licht," or, in other words, late hours. Other counsels are more arbitrary. We are to comb our hair in the morning, but "at evin I the forbid," no reason being given. Sleeping at noon is forbidden, for of that "cumis grit sweirnes" or disinclination for work; and we are not at any time to sleep on our back, which will hasten us to a sudden death. To "couer weill thy heid" is advised for health of body; and to protect us from "mistis blak, and air of pestilence" we are to have a fire in the morning and a covered bed, meaning, perhaps, a closely curtained bed, at eve. On the whole the advice given is founded on a sense of the importance of self-control and moderation:

Quhair thyn awin gouernance may hald thyn hele (health).
Preiss neuir with medicinaris for to dole.

As to children's life in those early days, they were never at a loss for toys, for the best were those they devised for their own use. In mediaeval illustrations we see children sailing little boats, running with paper windmills at the end of a stick, and amusing themselves in all kinds of simple ways. In James VI's time the development of a more intimate family life brought with it a new attention by grown-up people to the natural tastes of the young, and parents had new opportunities of knowing their children and taking pleasure in their company. Among the imports of the time we find children's dolls, under the name of "babeis," besides rattles and whistles, by which the overflowing energy of youth could be agreeably expressed in ear-splitting noise. If history is sometimes dull, surely it is because we hear so little of children in it, and the toys and lesson books and baby coats and shoes of a bygone age have a magical gift in humanising history and putting us in kindlier touch with the past. How vividly we feel the reality of Queen Mary's time when we read of a little boy who, as he sat by the sea by Montrose links, had two reasons for being specially happy. One was that his penknife had just been polished and sharpened by a cutler who had new come to the town; and the other was that he had that morning bought a "pennie-worthe of aples." What could be more thrilling than to cut thin shavings from an apple with the newly sharpened knife? As he was putting one of these shavings in his mouth, some sound attracted his attention and he began to "lope upe upon a little sandie bray"; and, the loose sand slipping beneath his feet, he fell, and the knife, just missing his stomach, pierced his left knee to the bone; "wherby," says this son of the Reformation, who had shortly before injured a schoolfellow "in the schin of the lag" with the same knife, "wherby the aequitie of God's judgment and my conscience struck me sa, that I was the mair war of knyffes all my dayes!"

Letters written in the early years of the seventeenth century throw occasional flashes of light on the relations between parents and children, and as we read we realise that, if there was more ceremony between the young and their elders than is the fashion of our day, there were the same natural affections, and also the same recurring problems as those which mark family life in our own time. Children, it appears, had even then an exasperating habit of outgrowing their clothes. And though the mothers often took an indulgent view of this symptom of healthy growth and would not have been unwilling to see their darlings in new and becoming apparel, the fathers were of sterner stuff, refused to admit that their children were going about like frights, thought that the old clothes might very well do for a bit yet, and, in fact, used every art to evade an uncongenial subject. We can sympathise with the Laird of Glenfalloch who, being off on his travels with his lady in 1619, and having left his two sons at Haddington in charge of a tutor, received a letter in which flattering reports on the boys' educational progress were ingeniously combined with the most unsparing condemnation of their wardrobe. "Send alsmekle cloth as will be ane gown to Jhone, and his ald gown wald serue for ane gown to Duncane. Jhone will be ane schollar, God willing, if he be nocht interrupted. Duncane begins weill, God saiff him. Assure the lady your wiffe that I sail haiff ane special cair under God of her sonnes that ar heir, and requeist her nocht to think long eftir thame. The dowblet ye caust mak to Duncane is now up at the slot of his breist. Ye wald say that he wearis his belt as men sayis Mr. George Buchanan did weare his, the dowblet is growen so schort." After some reflections on ecclesiastical affairs the tutor concludes his letter, "God His mercy be with you, and restis your awin, efter the ald maner, Mr. William Bowie." And then, knowing his laird, and foreseeing that his remarks on church politics and his pious aspirations may be made use of to banish the memory of more pressing and practical questions, he returns to the charge in one peremptory postscript—"Duncane mon hazff an vi her dowblett."


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