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A History of the Parish of Neilston
Chapter XIV. — Change of Manners in Scotland


By the kindness of Colonel Mure, the present laird of Caldwell, the writer is privileged to grace his pages with an Essay—reproduced from the Caldwell Papers, written by Miss Elizabeth Mure, sister of Baron Mure, a lady of decided literary taste and accomplishment, who for many years took a deep interest in the people generally on the western border of Neilston parish, where she resided, and the tenantry there and in the adjoining parishes of Dunlop and Beith, when the management of the estate of Caldwell was' mostly in her hands during the minority of the then heir. This lady died at Caldwell in 1795, at the age of eighty-one, and the essay, which covers a number of years following the accession of William III. to the throne of England, may apply more particularly to the earlier years of her life.

Spelling and grammatical construction have undergone some change since the paper was written, but there can be no difficulty in this respect in understanding and enjoying the beauty of the composition.

SOME REMARKS ON THE CHANGE OF MANNERS IN MY OWN TIME,
1700-1790.

Being Article xciv., Part First, of “ Caldwell Papers."

Had we a particular account of the manners of our country, and of the changes that has taken place from time to time since the reign of William IIIrd, no history could be more entertaining; but those changes has been so little marked, that what knowledge we have of them we owe it more to the essay writers in Queen Anne’s time than to any of our historians. Addison, Pope, Swift, lairns us the manners of the times they wrote in. Since that period the information we have had from our parents, and our own observation, may instruct us. It were to be wished that some good author would make his observations on this subject during his own life, which, if carried down would contain both useful and entertaining knowledge.

Nobody that has lived any time in the world but must have made remarks of this kind, tho’ it’s only the men of genius that can make the proper use of them, by representing the good or ill consequences the changes may have on society. Those I have lived myself to see I wish to remember and mark for my own use. I’m sensible that in order to make those remarks properly, its necessary one should have been more in the world than I was during the times I write off', as the manners in the chief towns would be something different from those in the country ; but as our fashons are brought from the Metropolis, the people of faslion in the country cannot be far behind.

Mv observation cannot go much farther back than the 30, which period I reckon verged on the age of mv Grandfather, who was one of those born betwixt the 60 and 70 in last centorv, many of whom remained beyond the time above mentioned. Their manners was peculiar to themselves, as some part of the old feudal system still remained. Every master was revered by his family, honour’d by his tenants, and aweful to his domestics. His hours of eating, sleeping and amusement, were carefully attended to by all his family, and by all his guests. Even his hours of devotion was mark’d, that nothing might interupt him. He kept Ins own sete by the fire or at table, with his hat on his head; and often particular dishes served up for himself, that nobody else shared off. Their children approach’d them with awe, and never spock with any degree of freedom before them. The cousequeuce of this was that except at meals they were never together; tho’ the reverance they had for their parents taught them obedience, modisty, temperance. Nobody helped themselves at table, nor was it the fashion to cat up what was put on the plate. So that the mistress of the family might give you a ful or not as she pleased; from whence came in the fashion of pressing the guests to eat so far as to be disagreeable.

The 1727 is as far back as I can remember. At that time there was little bread in Scotland; Manufnctorys brought to no perfection either in linnen or woolen. Every wonkin made her web of wove linnen, and bleched it herself; it never rose higher than shillings the yard, and with this cloth was every body cloathed. The young gentlemen, who at this time were growing more delicat, got their cloth from Holland for shirts; but the old was satisfied with necks and sleeves of the fine, which were put on loose above the country cloth. I remember in the 30 and 31 of a ball where it was agreed that the company should be dress’d in nothing but what was manufactur’d in the country. My sisters were as well dress’d as any, and their gowns were striped linen at 2s. and 6d. per yard. Their heads and ruffles were of Paisley muslings, at 4 and sixpence with four peny edging from Hamilton ; all of them the finest that could be had. A few years after this wevers were brought over from Holland, and manufactorys for linen established in the West. The dress of the ladys were nearly as expensive as at present, tho not so often renewed. At the time I mention houps were worn constantly 4 yards and a half wide, which required much silk to cover them; and gould and silver was much used for triming, never less than three rows round the peticot; so that tho the silk was slight the price was increased by the triming. Then the heads were all dress’d in laces from Flanders; no blonds nor courss-edging used ; the price of those was high, but two sute would serve for life ; they were not renewed but at marriage or some great event. Who could not afoard those wore fringes of thread.

Their table were as full as at present, tho very ill dress’d and as ill served up. They eat out of Pewder, often ill cleaned; but were nicer in their linen than now, which was renewed every day in most Gentlemens famileys, and allwise napkins besides the cloth. The servants eat ill; having a sett form for the week, three days broth and salt meat, the rest meagre, with plenty of bread and small bear. Their wages were small till the Vails— fees from the master of his guests at particular seasons—were abolished; the men from 3 to 4 pounds in the year, the maids from 30 shillings to 40. At those times I mention few of the maids could either sew or dress linen; it was all smouthed in the mangle but the Ladys headdresses, which were done by their own maids, and the gentlemen’s shirts by the housekeeper. They in general employd as many servants as they do at present in the country, but not in the towns; for one man servant was thought sufitient for most familys, or two at most, unless they keept a Carrage, which was a thing very uncommon in those days, and only used by the Nobles of great fortune. The prices of provisions were about a third of what they are now; beaf from l| to 2 pen. per pound; Butter 2 pc peny; Cheese 3 fardings or 1 peny ; eggs 1 p. the Dozen; Veal 5 shillings the whole; a hen 4 pence; Geese aud Turkies 1 shilling. Nether was the provisions much raised till after the Rebellion in the forty five, when riches increased considerably. Before the union, and for many years after it, money was very scarce in Scotland. A country without Trade, without Cultivation, or money to carrie on either of them, must improve by very slow degrees. A great part of the gentlemens rents were pavd in kind. This made them live comfortably at home, tho they could not anywhere else. This introduced that old hospitality so much boasted of in Britan. No doubt we had our share in it according to our abilitys ; but this way of life led to manners very different from the present. Nothing could affect them more than the restrent young people were under in presence of their parents. There was little intercourse betwixt the old and young; the parents had their own guests, which consisted for the most part of their own relations and nighbours. As few people could affoard to go to town in the winter, their acqauaintance was much confin’d. The Children of this small Society were under a necessity of being companions to one another. This produced many strong friendships, and strong attachments, and often very improper marriages. By their society being confined, their affections were less difused, and center’d all in their own small circle. There was no enlargement of mind here; their manners were the same and their sentiments were the same ; they were indulgent to the faults of one another, but most severe on those they were not accustomed to; so that censure and detraction seemed to be the vice of the age. From this education proceeded pride of understanding, Bigotry of religion, and want of refinement in every useful art. While the Parents were both alive the mother could give little attention to her girls. Domestick affairs and amuseing her husband was the business of a good wife. Those that could afoard governesses for their children had them ; but all they could learn them was to read English ill, and plain work. The chief thing required was to hear them repeat Psalms and long catechisms, in which they were employed an hour or more every day, and almost the whole day on Sunday. If there was no governess to perform this work, it was done by the chaplan of which there was one in every family. No attention was given to what we call accomplishments. Reading and writing well or even spelling was never thought off. Musick, drawing or French, were seldom taught the girls. They were allowed to run about and amuse themselves in the way they choiced even to the age of women, at which time they were generally sent to Edinr for a winter or two to lairn to dress themselves and to dance and to see a little of the world. The world was only to be seen at Church, at marriages, Burials, and Baptisms. These were the only public places where the Ladys went in full dress, and as they walked the street they were seen by every body; but it was the fashion when in undress allwise to be masked. When in the country their employment was in color’d work, beds, Tapestry, and other pieces of furniture; immitations of fruits and flowers, with very little taste. If they read any it was either books of devotion or long Romances, and sometimes both. They never eat a full meal at Table; this was thought very undelicat, but they took care to have something before diner, that they might behave with propriety in company. From the account given by old people that lived in this time we have reason to belive that there was little care taken of the young men as of the women ; excepting those that were intended for lairned professions, who got a regular education throw schools and Coledges. But the generallity of our Country gentlemen, and even our Noblemen, were contented with the instructions given by the chaplin to their young men. But that the manners of the times I write of may be sliowen in a fuller light I shall give Mr. Barclay’s relation of the most memorable things that past in his father’s house from the begining of the centry till the 13, in which year he died.

“My brother was married (says he) in the four, at the age of twenty-one; few men were unmarried after this time of life. I myself was married by my friends at 18, which was thought a proper age. (This Mr. Barclay was the essayist’s unelc, a younger son of Sir James Stewart, Lord Advocate, who took the name of Barclay.) Sir James Stewart’s marriage (the brother referred to above) with President Dalrymple’s second Daughtir brought together a number of people related to both familys. At the signing of the eldest M iss Dalrymple’s Contract the year before there was an entire hogshead of wine drunk that night, and the number of people at Sir James Stewart’s wras little less. The marriage was in the President’s house, with as many of the relations as it would hold. The Bride’s favours were all sowed on her gown from top to bottom and round the neck and sleeves. The moment the ceremony was performed, the whole company run to her and pulled off the favours: in an instant she was stripd of all of them. The next ceremony was the garter, which the Bridegroom’s man attempted to pull from her leg; but she dropt it throw her peticot on the floor. This was a white and silver ribbon which was cut in small inorsals to every one in the company. The Bride’s mother came in then with a basket of favours belonging to the Bridegroom; those and the Bride’s were the same with the Liverys of their familys; hers pink and white, his blue and gold colour. All the company dined and suped togither, and had a ball in the evening. The same next day in the Advocate’s. On Sunday there went from the President’s house to church three and twenty eupple, all in high dress; Mr. Barclay then a boy led the youngest Miss Dalrymple who was the last of them. They filled the lofts of the kirk from the King’s sate to the wing loft. The feasting continued every day till they had gone throw all the friends of both familys, with a ball every night.”

As the Baptisam was another public place, he goes on to describe it thus.

“On the forth week after the Lady’s delivery she is sett on her bed on a low footstool ; the bed covered with some neat piece of sewed work or white sattin, with three pillows at her back covered with the same; she in full dress with a lapped head dress and a fan in her hand. Having informed her acquaintance what day she is to see company, they all come and pay their respects to her, standing or walking a little throw the room (for there’s no chair). They drink a glass of wine, and eat a bit of cake and then give place to others. Towards the end of the week all the friends were ask’d to what was called the Cummer’s feast (a corruption of the French Commere = gossip, therefore the gossip’s feast). This was a supper, where every gentleman brought a pint of wine to be drunk by him and his wife. The supper was a ham at the head and a pirimid of fowl at the bottom. This dish consisted of four or five ducks at bottom, hens above, partrages at tope. There was an eating posset in the middle of the table, with dryed fruits and sweetmeats at the sides. When they had finished their supper, the meat was removed, and in a moment everybody flies to the sweetmeats to pocket them. Upon which a scramble insued, chairs overturned and everything on the table ; wrassalling and pulling at one another with the utmost noise. When all was quiet’d they went to the stoups (for there was no bottles) of which the women had a good share. For tho it was a disgrace to be seen drunk, yet it was none to be a little intoxicate in good Company. A few days after this the same company was asked to the Christening, which was allwise in the Church; all in high dress; a number of them young ladys who were call’d maiden Cummers. One of them presented the child to the Father. After the Cerriniony they dined and supped together, and the night often concluded with a ball.”

The burialls is the only thing now to be taken notice off. It was allwise on foot. The magistrits and town Council were invited to every person’s of any consideration: 1000 buriall letters were wrot (says Mr. Barclay) at my Fathers death. The Assembly was sitting at the time, and all the Clargie were asked; and so great was the crowd, that the magistrets were at the grave in Grayfriers Church-yard before the corps was taken out of the house in the foot of the Advocate’s Closs. A few years before this it had ceased to be the fashion for the Ladys to walk behind the Corps, in high Dress and coloured Cloaths; but formerly the Chesting—Coffining—was at the same time ; and all the female relations ask’d, who made part of the procession.

At this time acts of devotion employed much of their time; see the same Gentlemans account of a Sunday past in his fathers house. “Prayers by the Chaplin at nine o’clock; all went regularly to church at ten, the women in high dress.” He himself was employed by his Father to give the Collection for the family which was a Crown. “Half after twelve they came home; at one had prayers again by the Chaplin; after which they had a bit of cold meat or an ege, and returned to Church at two; was out again by four, when every body retired to their private devotions, except the Children and servants, who were conveened by the Chaplin and examined. This continued till five, when supper was served up, or rather dinner. A few men friends generally partaked of this meal and sat till eight; after which singing, reading, and prayers was performed by the old gentleman himself; after which they all retired.”

Whether the genius of a people forms their religious sentiments, or if religion forms in some measure the manners of a people, I shall leve the wise to deside. I shall only observe, that while that reverance and Awe remained on the minds of man for masters, Fathers, and heads of Clans, it was then the Awe and dread of Deity was most powerful. This will appear from the superstitious writings of the times. The fear of Hell and deceitful power of the Devil was at the bottom of all their religious sentiments. The established belief in Witchcraft (for which many suffer’d) prevailed much at this time; Ghosts too and appearitions of various kinds were credit’d; few old houses was without a Ghost-chamber that few people had Courage to sleep in. Omens and Dreams were much regarded even by people of the best Education. These were the manners of the last Century, and remained in part for 30 years in this.

The change of manners in the new generation was very remarkable. The Union with England carried many of our nobility and gentry to London. Sixty of the most considerable people being obliged to pass half of the year there would no doubt change their ideas. Besides many English came to reside at Edinr- The Court of Exchequer and the Bourds of Customs and Excise were mostly all of that nation ; at least all the under officers were. These were people of fashion, and were well recieved by the first people here. As this intercourse with the English opened our eyes a little, so it gave us a liberty of Trade we had not before. From the Union many of our younger sons became marchants and went abroad. It likewise became the fashion for our young men of fortune to Study for some years in Holland, after which to make a tour throw France. On their return home they brought to Scotland Franch politeness grafted on the self importance and dignity of their Fathers. May we not suppose it was at this time our nation acquired the Character of poverty and pride.

About the weekly assembly for dancing was set up at Edinburgh. This with privit balls carried on by subscription took the place of marrages, baptisams, and burial Is. Their socictv now came to be more enlarged, but it required time to have a proper effect. The men’s manners tho stiff and evidently put on, yet were better than the women’s, who were undelicat in their conversation and vulgar in their manners. As the awe and reverance for parents and elder friends wore off, they brought into company the freedom and romping tliev had acquired amongst their brothers and neer relations. Many of them threw off all rcstrent. Were I to name the time when the Scotch Ladys went farthest wrong, it would be betwixt the 30 and 40. I’m at a loss to account for this, if it was not owing to our young noblemen bringing home French manners; and least they should be led into marriges, made their addresses to those only that were in that state. No doubt the contrast betwixt the young men educated abroad and ours who were eloss at home would be very great. Besides, the manners of the Ladys might lead the men to more freedom if they were so disposed, as they had not yet lairnd that restrent so necessary where society is enlarged. Yet this was far from being general.

There was still in the country a teast for good morals, which was improved by a sett of teachers estableshed among us, most of whom had their education abroad or had traveled with young Gentlemen. As every body at this period went regularly to Church, I may justly mention ministers as teachers : Professor Hamilton and the two Mr. Wisherts at Edinr, Professor Hutchison; Craig, Clark, and Principal Leishman in the west; these taught that whoever would please God must resemble him in goodness and benevolance, and those that had it not must affect it by politeness and good manners. Those lectures and sermons were attended by all the young and gay. They were new and entertaining, and matter for conversation and eritisizam. In well regulate familys there was still keept up a reverance for parents and for elderly friends; and when the young was admitted to their society, there was a degree of attention pay’d the old, yea even servility, that this age knows nothing off, and whoever was wanting in it was unfit for company. Nobody in those times thought of pleasing themselves. The established rule was to please ) our company; endeavour to make them think well of themselves and they well of you for doing it. Society was not yet so much enlarged as to weaken the affections of near relations. This may he easyly ascertained by every one now alive that is turned of fifty. Not only brothers and Sisters, but Brothers and Sisters-in-Law, mothers in Law, and even more distant connections, would leave their own familys for ten or twelve days, and attend with the utmost care a friend in a fever ot dangerous disorder. These were the Nursskeepers for the first 30 years of this centry, who by every method endeavour’d to lessen their distress, nor left them night or day till recover’d or buried. The intercourse betwixt relations and friends was keept up in another way, which was by small presents, mostly consisting of meats or drink. Anything rare or good of its kind was in part sent to a friend whatever rank of life they were in. These presents were received with thanks and return’d in kind on proper occasions. Nather was strangers or people of high rank sought after in their entertainments. It was their Relations, the Friends they loved, that shared their delicacys. Those manners still remain in many places in Scotland. At Glasgow two brothers will vie with one another who will give the most ellegant meal.

Tho this may proceed more from vanity than affection yet I believe it to be introdused by the last.

When this restrent was thrown off every character appeared in a liaturall light, of which there was great variety. Prudes and Cocates, romps and affected fine Ladys, they were at no pains to disguise, as every one had their own admirers. The regular teatables which comenced about the 20 was the meeting of all the young and gay every evening. There they pulled to pieces the manners of those that differed from them; every thing was matter of conversation; Religion, morals, Love, Friendship, Good manners, dress. This tended more to our refinement than any thing ellse. The subjects were all new and all entertaining. The bookseller’s shopes were not stuffed as they are now with Novels and Magazines. The wenian’s knowledge was gain’d only by conversing with the men not by reading themselves, as they had few books to read that they could understand. Whoever had read Pope, Addison and Swift, with some ill wrote history, was then thought a lairnd Lady, which character was by no means agreeable. The men thought justly on this point, that what knowledge the woman had out of their own sphere should be given by themselves, and not picked up at their own hand in ill choisen hooks of amusement, tho many of them not without a morral, yet more fitted to reclame the desolate than to improve a young untented mind, that might have passed through life with more happiness and purity than they could with the knowledge those books contain’d. Nather was there any Sceptics in these times. Religion was just recovered from the power of the Devil and the fear of Hell, taught by our Mothers and Grandmothers. At this period those terrors began to wear off and religion appear’d in a more ammiable Light. We were bid draw our knowledge of God from his works, the chief of which is the soul of a good man; then judge if we have cause to fear. The Christian religion was taught as the purest rule of morrals; the beliefe of a particular providance and of a future state as a support in every situation. The distresses of individuals were necessary for exercising the good affections of others, and the state of suffering the post of honour. The intercourss of the men with the weman, tho less reserved than at present, was full as pure. They would walk together for hours, or travele on hors’s back or in a Chaise, without any imputation of imprudence. The Parents had no concern when an admirer was their guide; nather had they cause. The men show’d their attachment by corecting their faults, informing them what the world thought of them, and what was most agreeable to men if they choiced to please them.

About the 40 riches began to incress considerably. Many returned from the East and West Indias with good fortunes who had gone abroad after the Union. These picked estates thro’ the Country, and lived in a higher Style than the old Gentry. The rebellion in the 45 still more incressd our riches. From this time the Country took a new form. Whether the dread of Arbitrary power disposed us for more liberty, or if another cause, I shall leave the more knowing to determine, but surely it had powerful effects on the manners. It was then that the slavery of the mind began to be spocken of; freedom was in every bodys mouth. The Fathers would use the Sons with such freedom that they should be their first friend, and the mothers would allow of no intimasies but with themselves. For their Girls the utmost care was taken that fear of no kind should inslave the mind ; nurses were turned off who would tell the young of Witches and Ghosts. The old Ministers were ridiculed who preched up hell and damnation ; the minds was to be influanced bv gentle and generous motives alone. These methods of instruction has been on the incress since the time mentioned above. What may be the effects none knows. Mnv not even the love of Liberty become the disease of a State; and Men he enslaved in the worst wav by their own passions? The word menial! becomes of leat years to be much used; every degree of denaying on’s self to please others is meniall; and for fear of the imputation of this we are in hazard of tricking ourselves out of the finest feelings of humanitv; Devotion, Love, and Friendship ; as in each of them theres a degree of self denavall. Nobody will at present share a family diner with the friend they love for fear of beinsi meniall. Xather will they attend them when in distress for the same cause; but satisfie themselves with dayly enquiring after them.

About the same time that teatables were established, it was the fashion for the men to meet regularly in Change-house, as it was called, for their different Clubs. There they spent the evening in conversation, without much expence ; a shillings reckening was very high; and for people of the first fashion it wras more general from four pence to eight pence the piece, paying besides for their tobacco and pipes which was much in use. In some of those Clubs they played at Backgamon or Catch honours for a penny the game. All business was transacted in the forenoon and in the Change-houses. The Lawiers were' there consulted and the bill payd by the employer. The Liquor was Cherry in Muchken stoups. Every new Muchkin was chalked on the head of the Stoup. It was increadable the quantity that was drunk sometimes on those occaisons. Every body dined at home in privit, unless called to some of the entertainments mentioned above; but the Teatables very soon intredused supping in private houses. When young people found themselves happy with one anorher they were loath to part, so that supping came to be the universal fashion in Edinr; and least the family they visited might be unprepared, they sent in the morning to know if they were to drink tea at home, as they wished to wait on them. Amongst friends this was alwise considered as a supper, and any of their men acquaintances ask’d that they could command to make up the party. The acquaintance made at public places did not visit in this way; they hir’d a Chair for the afternoon, and run throw a number of houses as is the fashion still. Those merry suppers made the young people find a want when they went to the country, and to supply the place of them was introduced Colations after supper; when the young people met in some one of their bed chambers, and had either tea or a posset, where they satt and made merry till far in the morning, liut this meeting was carefully consealed from the Parents, who were all ennimys to those Collations. Those manners continued till the sixty, or near it, when more of the English fashions took place, one of which was to dine at three, and what Company you had should be at dinner. These dinners lasted long, the weman satt for half an hour after them and retired to tea; but the men took their bottle and often remained till eight at night. The weman wrere all the evening by themselves, which pute a stope to that general intercourse so necessary for the improvement of both sexes. This naturally makes a run on the Public places; as the woman has little ammusement at home. Cut off from the company of the men, and no familie friends to occupie this void, they must tire of their mothers and elderly sosiety, and flee to the public for reliefe. They find the men there, tho leat in the evening, when they have left their bottle, and too often unfitted for every thing but their bed. In this kind of intercourse there is little chance for forming attachments. The women see the men in the worst light, and what impression they make on the men is forgot by them in the morning. These leat dinners has entirely cut off the merry suppers very much regreated by the women, while the men passe the nights in the Taverns in gaming or other amusment as their temper leads them. Cut off in a great measure from the Society of the men, its necessary the women should have some constant amusement; and as they are likewise denied friendships with one another, the Parents provides for this void as much as possible in giving them compleat Education; and what formerly begun at ten years of age, or often leater, now begines at four or five. How long its to continue the next age most determine; for its not yet fixed in this. Reading, writing, musick, drawing, French, Italian, Geografie, History, with all kinds of nedle work are now carefully taught the girles, that time may not lye heavie on their hand without proper society. Besides this, shopes loaded with novels and books of amusement, to kill the time.


Selections from the Family Papers Preserved at Caldwell
Volume 1  |  Volume 2


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