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from ocean winds than the tasks of laborious lace-makers; and this thought cannot but mingle with our admiration for the skill displayed in this branch of woman's endless toil and endeavor to supply her own wants and aid those who are dear to her, in the present as well as in the past centuries.
In the British Museum there is a curious manuscript of the fourteenth century, afterwards translated "into our maternall englisshe by me William Caxton, and emprynted at Westminstre the last day of Januer, the first yere of the regne of King Richard the thyrd," called "the booke which the Knight of the Towere made for the enseygnement and teching of his doughtres."
The Knight of the Tower was Geoffory Landry, surnamed De la Tour, of a noble family of Anjou. In the month of April, 1371, he was one day reflecting beneath the shade of some trees on various passages in his life, and upon the memory of his wife, whose early death had caused him sorrow, when his three daughters walked into the garden. The sight of these motherless girls naturally turned his thoughts to the condition of woman in society, and he resolved to write a treatise, enforced by examples of both good and evil, for their instruction. The state of society which the "evil" examples portray might well cause a father's heart to tremble.
The education of young ladies, as we have before stated, was in that age usually assigned to convents or to families of higher rank. It consisted of instruction in needle-work, confectionery, surgery, and the rudiments of church music. Men were strongly opposed to any high degree of mental culture for women; and although the Knight of the Tower thinks it good for women to be taught to read their Bibles, yet the pen is too dangerous an instrument to trust to their hands. art of writing he disapproves,-"Better women can naught of it." Religious observances he strictly recommends; but we shudder at some of the stories which even this well-meaning father
relates as illustrations of the efficacy of religious austerities. Extravagance in dress prevailed at that time among men and women to such a degree that Parliament was appealed to on the subject in 1363. From the Knight's exhortations on the subject, this mania seems to have affected the women alarmingly, and the examples given of the passion for dress appear to surpass what is acknowledged in our day. Yet the vast increase of materials, as well as the extended interests and objects opened to woman now, renders the extravagance of dress in the Middle Ages far less reprehensible.
The record of woman's work in the Middle Ages includes far more than the account of what her needle accomplished. The position of the mistress of a family in those centuries was no sinecure. When we look up at castles perched on rocks, or walk through the echoing apartments of baronial halls, we know that woman must have worked there with brain and fingers. The household and its dependencies, in such mansions, consisted of more than a score of persons, and provisions must be laid in during the autumn for many months. As we glance at the enormous fireplaces and ovens in the kitchens of those castles and halls, and remember the weight of the armor men wore, we can readily imagine that no trifling supply of brawn and beef was needed for their meals; and the sight of a husband frowning out of one of those old helmets because the dinner was scanty, must have been a fearful trial to feminine nerves. The title of "Lady" means the "Giver of bread" in Saxon, and the lady of the castle dispensed food to many beyond her own household.
The task of preparing the raiment of the family devolved upon the women; for there were no travelling dealers except for the richest and most expensive articles. Wool, the produce of the flock, was carded and spun; flax was grown, and woven into coarse linen ; and both materials were prepared and fashioned into garments at home. Glimpses
of domestic life come down to us through early legends and records, some of which modern genius has melodized. Authentic history and romantic story often show us that women of all ranks were little better, in fact, than household drudges to these splendid knights and courtly old barons. The fair Enid sang a charming song as she turned her wheel; but when Geraint arrived, she not only assisted her mother to receive him, but, by her father's order, led the knight's charger to the stall, and gave him corn. If she also relieved the noble animal of his heavy saddle and horse-furniture, gave him water as well as corn, and shook down the dry furze for his bed, she must have had the courage and skill of a feminine Rarey; and we fear her dress of faded silk came out of the stable in a very dilapidated condition. After the horse was cared for, Enid put her wits and hands to work to prepare the evening meal, and spread it before her father and his guest. The knight, indeed, condescended to think her "sweet and serviceable"!
The women of those days are often described only as they appeared at festivals and tournaments, Ladies of Beauty, to whom knights lowered their lances, and of whom troubadours sang. They had their amusements and their triumphs, doubtless; but they also had their work, domestic, industrial, and sanitary. They knew how to bind up wounds and care for the sick, and we read many records of their knowledge in this department. Elaine, when she found Sir Launcelot terribly wounded in the cave, so skilfully aided him that, when the old hermit came who was learned in all the simples and science of the times, he told the knight that "her fine care had saved his life,". pleasing assurance that there were medical men in those days, as well as in our own, who expressed no unwillingness to allow a woman credit for success in their own profession.
Illuminated books sometimes show us pictures of women of the humbler ranks of life at their work. On the
border of a fine manuscript of the time of Edward IV. there is the figure of a woman employed with her distaff, her head and neck enveloped in a coverchief. The figure rises out of a flower. In a manuscript of 1316, a countrywoman is engaged in churning, dressed in a comfortable gown and apron, the gown tidily pinned up, and her head and neck in a coverchief. The churn is of considerable height, and of very clumsy construction. A blind beggar approaches her, led by his dog, who holds apparently a cup in his mouth to receive donations. In another part of the same volume is a beautiful damsel with her hair spread over her shoulders, while her maid arranges her tresses with a comb of ivory set in gold. The young lady holds a small mirror, probably of polished steel, in her hand. Specimens of these curious combs and mirrors yet exist in collections. A century later we see a pretty laundress, holding in her hands a number of delicately woven napkins, which look as if they might have come out of the elaborately carved napkin press of the same period in the collection of Sir Samuel Myrick at Goodrich Court.
Although the Knight of the Tower disapproved of young ladies being taught to write, there were women whose employment writing seems to have been; but these were nuns safely shut up from the risk of billets-doux. In Dr. Maitland's Essays on the Dark Ages, he quotes from the biography of Diemudis, a devout nun of the eleventh century, a list of the volumes which she prepared with her own hand, written in beautiful and legible characters, to the praise of God, and of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, the patrons of the monastery, which was that of Wessobrunn in Bavaria. The list comprises thirty-one works, many of them in three or four volumes; and although Diemudis is not supposed to have been an authoress, she is certainly worthy of having her name handed down through eight centuries in witness of woman's indefatigable work in the scriptorium. One missal prepared by Diemudis was giv
en to the Bishop of Treves, another to the Bishop of Augsburg, and one Bible in two volumes is mentioned, which was exchanged by the monastery for
We can picture to ourselves Diemudis in her conventual dress, seated in the scriptorium, with her materials for chirography. The sun, as it streams through the window, throws a golden light over the vellum page, suggesting the rich hue of the gilded nimbus, while in the convent garden she sees the white lily or the modest violet, which, typical of the Madonna, she transfers to her illuminated borders. Thus has God ever interwoven truth and love with their correspondences of beauty and development in the natural world, which were open to the eyes of Diemudis eight hundred years ago, perhaps as clearly as to our own in these latter days. That women of even an earlier century than that of Diemudis were permitted to read, if not to write, is proved by the description of a private library, given in the letters of C. S. Sidonius Apollinaris, and quoted in Edwards's 66 History of Libraries." This book-collection was the property of a gentleman of the fifth century, residing at his castle of Prusiana. It was divided into three departments, the first of which was expressly intended for the ladies of the family, and contained books of piety and devotion. The second department was for men, and is rather ungallantly stated to have been of a higher order; yet, as the third department was intended for the whole family, and contained such works as Augustine, Origen, Varro, Prudentius, and Horace, the literary tastes of the ladies should have been satisfied. We are also told that it was the custom at the castle of Prusiana to discuss at dinner the books read in the morning, which would tend to a belief that conversation at the dinnertables of the fifth century might be quite as edifying as at those of the nineteenth.
A few feminine names connected with the literature of the Middle Ages
have come down to us. The lays of Marie de France are among the manuscripts in the British Museum. Marie's personal history, as well as the period when she flourished, is uncertain. Her style is extremely obscure; but in her Preface she seems aware of this defect, yet defends it by the example of the ancients. She considers it the duty of all persons to employ their talents; and as her gifts were intellectual, she cast her thoughts in various directions ere she determined upon her peculiar mission. She had intended translating from the Latin a good history, but some one else unluckily anticipated her; and she finally settled herself down to poetry, and to the translation of numerous lays she had treasured in her memory, as these would be new to many of her readers. Like other literary ladies, she complains of envy and persecution, but she perseveres through all difficulties, and dedicates her book "to the King."
Marie was born in France. Some authorities suppose she wrote in England during the reign of Henry III., and that the patron she names was William Langue-espée, who died in 1226; others, that this plus vaillant patron was William, Count of Flanders, who accompanied St. Louis on his first crusade in 1248, and was killed at a tournament in 1251. A later surmise is that the book was dedicated to Stephen, French being his native language. Among the manuscripts of the Bibliothèque Royale at Paris, is Marie's translation of the fables which Henry Beauclerc translated from Latin into English, and which Marie renders into French. A proof that Marie's poems are extremely ancient is deduced from the names in one of these fables applied to the wolf and the fox. She uses other names than those of Ysengrin and Renard, which were introduced as early as the reign of Cœur de Lion, and it would seem that she could not have failed to notice these remarkable names, had they existed in her time. A complete collection of the works of Marie de France was published in
Paris in 1820, by M. de Roquefort, who speaks of her in the following terms: "She possessed that penetration which distinguishes at first sight the different passions of mankind, which seizes upon the different forms they assume, and, remarking the obiects of their notice, discovers at the same time the means by which they are attained." If this be a true statement, the acuteness of feminine observation has gained but little in the progress of the centuries, and her literary sisters of the present era can hardly hope to eclipse the penetration of Ma
rie de France.
The Countesses de Die, supposed to be mother and daughter, were both poetesses. The elder lady was beloved by Rabaud d'Orange, who died in 1173, and the younger is celebrated by William Adhémar, a distinguished troubadour. He was visited on his death-bed by both these ladies, who afterwards erected a monument to his memory. The younger countess retired to a convent, and died soon after Adhémar.
In the Harleian Collection is a fine manuscript containing the writings of Christine de Pisan, a distinguished woman of the fourteenth century. Her father, Thomas de Pisan, a celebrated savant of Bologna, had married a daughter of a member of the Grand Council of Venice. So renowned was Thomas de Pisan that the kings of Hungary and France determined to win him away from Bologna. Charles V. of France, surnamed the Wise, was successful, and Thomas de Pisan went to Paris in 1368; his transfer to the French court making a great sensation among learned and scientific circles of that day. Charles loaded him with wealth and honors, and chose him Astrologer Royal. According to the history, as told by Louisa Stuart Costello, in her "Specimens of the Early Poetry of France," Christine was but five years old when she accompanied her parents to Paris, where she received every advantage of education, and, inheriting her father's literary tastes, early became learned in languages and sci
ence. Her personal charms, together with her father's high favor at court, attracted many admirers. She married Stephen Castel, a young gentleman of Picardy, to whom she was tenderly attached, and whose character she has drawn in most favorable colors. A few years passed happily, but, alas! changes came. The king died, the pension and offices bestowed upon Thomas de Pisan were suspended, and the Astrologer Royal soon followed his patron beyond the stars. Castel was also deprived of his preferments; and though he maintained his wife and family for a time, he was cut off by death at thirty-four years of age.
Christine had need of all her energies to meet such a succession of calamities, following close on so brilliant a career. Devoting herself anew to study, she determined to improve her talents for composition, and to make her literary attainments a means of support for her children. The illustrations in the manuscript volume of her works picture to us several scenes in Christine's life. In one, the artist has sliced off the side of a house to allow us to see Christine in her study, giving us also the exterior, roof, and dormer-windows, with points finished by gilt balls. The room is very small, with a crimson and white tapestry hanging. Christine wears what may be called the regulation color for literary ladies, — blue, with the extraordinary two-peaked head-dress of the period, put on in a decidedly strongminded manner. At her feet sits a white dog, small, but wise-looking, with a collar of gold bells round his neck. Before Christine stands a plain table, covered with green cloth; her book, bound in crimson and gold, in which she is writing, lies before her.
so learned a man as Thomas de Pisan must have been acquainted with it, and would have caused his talented daughter to be instructed in so rare an accomplishment. It is not therefore unreasonable to believe that, in the beautiful volume now in the British Museum, the work of Christine's hand, as well as the result of her genius, is preserved. The next picture shows us Christine presenting her book to Charles VII. of France, who is dressed in a black robe edged with ermine; he wears a golden belt, order, and crown. The king is seated beneath a canopy, blue, powdered' with fleurs de lis. Four courtiers stand beside him, dressed in robes of different colors, one in pink, and wearing a large white hat of Quaker-like fashion. Christine has put on a white robe over her blue dress, perhaps as a sign of mourning, she being then a widow. A white veil depends from the peaks of her head-dress. She kneels before the king, and presents her book.
Another and more elaborate picture represents the repetition of the same ceremony before Isabelle of Bavaria, queen of Charles VI. We are here admitted into the private royal apartments of the fourteenth century. The hangings of the apartment consist of strips, upon which are alternately emblazoned the armorial devices of France and Bavaria. A couch or bed, with a square canopy covered with red and blue, having the royal arms embroidered in the centre, stands on one side of the room. The queen is seated upon a lounge of modern shape, covered to correspond with the couch. She is dressed in a splendid robe of purple and gold, with long sleeves sweeping the ground, lined with ermine; upon her head arises a structure of stuffed rolls, heavy in material and covered with jewels, which shoots up into two high peaks above her forehead.
ladies are in waiting, two in black and gold, with the same enormous headgears. They sit on the edge of her Majesty's sofa, while four ladies of inferior rank and plainer garments are
contented with low benches. Christine reappears in her blue dress, and whiteveiled, peaked cap. She kneels before the queen, on a square carpet with a geometrical-patterned border, and presents her book. A white Italian hound lies at the foot of the couch, while beside Isabelle sits a small white dog, resembling the one we saw in Christine's study. As we can hardly suppose Christine would bring her pet on so solemn an occasion, — far less allow him to jump up beside the queen, and as this little animal wears no gold bells, we are led to suppose that little white dogs were in fashion in the fourteenth century.
We cannot say that the portrait of Isabelle gives us any idea of her splendid beauty; but "handsome is that handsome does," and as Isabelle's work was a very bad one in the Middle Ages, we will say no more about her.
Christine was but twenty-five years of age when she became a widow, and her personal charms captivated the heart of no less a personage than the Earl of Salisbury, who came ambassador from England to demand the hand of the very youthful princess, Isabelle, for his master.
They exchanged verses; and although Salisbury spoke by no means mysteriously, the sage Christine affected to view his declarations only in the light of complimentary speeches from a gallant knight. The Earl considered himself as rejected, bade adieu to love, and renounced marriage. To Christine he made a very singular proposal for a rejected lover, — that of taking with him to England her eldest son, promising to devote himself to his education and preferment. The offer was too valuable to be declined by a poor widow, whose pen was her only means of supporting her family. That such a proof of devotion argued a tenderer feeling than that of knightly gallantry must have been apparent to Christine ; but for reasons best understood by herself, and shall we not believe with a heart yet true to her husband's memory? she merely acknowledged the