CUSTOMS AND FASHIONS IN OLD NEW ENGLAND
ALICE MORSE EARLE
"Let us thank God for having given us such ancestors; and let each successive generation thank him not less fervently, for being one step further from them in the march of ages."
NEW YORK CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 1894
COPYRIGHT, 1893 BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
TROW DIRECTORY PRINTING AND BOOKBINDING COMPANY NEW YORK
BY THE SAME AUTHOR.
CHINA COLLECTING IN AMERICA. With 75 Illustrations. Square 8vo, $3.00.
THE SABBATH IN PURITAN NEW ENGLAND. 12mo, $1.25.
To the Memory of my Father
I. CHILD LIFE, 1
II. COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE CUSTOMS, 36
III. DOMESTIC SERVICE, 82
IV. HOME INTERIORS, 107
V. TABLE PLENISHINGS, 132
VI. SUPPLIES OF THE LARDER, 146
VII. OLD COLONIAL DRINKS AND DRINKERS, 163
VIII. TRAVEL, TAVERN, AND TURNPIKE, 184
IX. HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS, 214
X. SPORTS AND DIVERSIONS, 234
XI. BOOKS AND BOOK-MAKERS, 257
XII. ARTIFICES OF HANDSOMENESS, 289
XIII. RAIMENT AND VESTURE, 314
XIV. DOCTORS AND PATIENTS, 331
XV. FUNERAL AND BURIAL CUSTOMS, 364
From the hour when the Puritan baby opened his eyes in bleak New England he had a Spartan struggle for life. In summer-time he fared comparatively well, but in winter the ill-heated houses of the colonists gave to him a most chilling and benumbing welcome. Within the great open fireplace, when fairly scorched in the face by the glowing flames of the roaring wood fire, he might be bathed and dressed, and he might be cuddled and nursed in warmth and comfort; but all his baby hours could not be spent in the ingleside, and were he carried four feet away from the chimney on a raw winter's day he found in his new home a temperature that would make a modern infant scream with indignant discomfort, or lie stupefied with cold.
Nor was he permitted even in the first dismal days of his life to stay peacefully within-doors. On the Sunday following his birth he was carried to the meeting-house to be baptized. When we consider the chill and gloom of those unheated, freezing churches, growing colder and damper and deadlier with every wintry blast—we wonder that grown persons even could bear the exposure. Still more do we marvel that tender babes ever lived through their cruel winter christenings when it is recorded that the ice had to be broken in the christening bowl. In villages and towns where the houses were all clustered around the meeting-house the baby Puritans did not have to be carried far to be baptized; but in country parishes, where the dwelling-houses were widely scattered, it might be truthfully recorded of many a chrisom-child: "Died of being baptized." One cruel parson believed in and practised infant immersion, fairly a Puritan torture, until his own child nearly lost its life thereby.
Dressed in fine linen and wrapped in a hand-woven christening blanket—a "bearing-cloth"—the unfortunate young Puritan was carried to church in the arms of the midwife, who was a person of vast importance and dignity as well as of service in early colonial days, when families of from fifteen to twenty children were quite the common quota. At the altar the baby was placed in his proud father's arms, and received his first cold and disheartening reception into the Puritan Church. In the pages of Judge Samuel Sewall's diary, to which alone we can turn for any definite or extended contemporary picture of colonial life in Puritan New England, as for knowledge of England of that date we turn to the diaries of Evelyn and Pepys, we find abundant proof that inclemency of weather was little heeded when religious customs and duties were in question. On January 22d, 1694, Judge Sewall thus records:
"A very extraordinary Storm by reason of the falling and driving of the Snow. Few women could get to Meeting. A child named Alexander was baptized in the afternoon."
He does not record Alexander's death in sequence. He writes thus of the baptism of a four days' old child of his own on February 6th, 1656:
"Between 3 & 4 P.M. Mr. Willard baptizeth my Son whom I named Stephen. Day was louring after the storm but not freezing. Child shrank at the water but Cry'd not. His brother Sam shew'd the Midwife who carried him the way to the Pew. I held him up."
And still again on April 8th, 1677, of another of his children when but six days old:
"Sabbath day, rainy and stormy in the morning but in the afternoon fair and sunshine though with a Blustering Wind. So Eliz. Weeden the Midwife brought the Infant to the Third Church when Sermon was about half done in the Afternoon."
Poor little Stephen and Hull and Joseph, shrinking away from the icy water, but too benumbed to cry! Small wonder that they quickly yielded up their souls after the short struggle for life so gloomily and so coldly begun. Of Judge Sewall's fourteen children but three survived him, a majority dying in infancy; and of fifteen children of his friend Cotton Mather but two survived their father.
This religious ordeal was but the initial step in the rigid system of selection enforced by every detail of the manner of life in early New England. The mortality among infants was appallingly large; and the natural result—the survival of the fittest—may account for the present tough endurance of the New England people.
Nor was the christening day the only Lord's Day when the baby graced the meeting-house. Puritan mothers were all church lovers and strict church-goers, and all the members of the household were equally church-attending; and if the mother went to meeting the baby had to go also. I have heard of a little wooden cage or frame in the meeting-house to hold Puritan babies who were too young, or feeble, or sleepy to sit upright.
Of the dress of these Puritan infants we know but little. Linen formed the chilling substructure of their attire—little, thin, linen, short-sleeved, low-necked shirts. Some of them have been preserved, and with their tiny rows of hemstitching and drawn work and the narrow edges of thread-lace are pretty and dainty even at the present day. At the rooms of the Essex Institute in Salem may be seen the shirt and mittens of Governor Bradford's infancy. The ends of the stiff, little, linen mittens have evidently been worn off by the active friction of baby fingers and then been replaced by patches of red and white cheney or calico. The gowns are generally rather shapeless, large-necked sacks of linen or dimity, made and embroidered, of course, entirely by hand, and drawn into shape by narrow, cotton ferret or linen bobbin. In summer and winter the baby's head was always closely covered with a cap, or "biggin" often warmly wadded, which was more comforting in winter than comfortable in summer.
The seventeenth century baby slept, as does his nineteenth century descendant, in a cradle, frequently made of heavy panelled or carved wood, and always deeply hooded to protect him from the constant drafts. Twins had cradles with hoods at both ends. Judge Sewall paid sixteen shillings for a wicker cradle for one of his many children. The baby was carried upstairs, when first moved, with silver and gold in his hand to bring him wealth and cause him always to rise in the world, just as babies are carried upstairs by superstitious nurses nowadays, and he had "scarlet laid on his head to keep him from harm." He was dosed with various nostrums that held full sway in the nursery even until Federal days, "Daffy's Elixir" being perhaps the most widely known, and hence the most widely harmful. It was valuable enough (in one sense of the word) to be sharply fought over in old England in Queen Anne's time, and to have its disputed ownership the cause of many lawsuits. Advertisements of it frequently appear in the Boston News Letter and other New England newspapers of early date.
The most common and largely dosed diseases of early infancy were, I judge from contemporary records, to use the plain terms of the times, worms, rickets, and fits. Curiously enough, Sir Thomas Browne, in the latter part of the seventeenth century, wrote of the rickets as a new disease, scarce so old as to afford good observation, and wondered whether it existed in the American plantations. In old medical books which were used by the New England colonists I find manifold receipts for the cure of these infantile diseases. Snails form the basis, or rather the chief ingredient, of many of these medicines. Indeed, I should fancy that snails must have been almost exterminated in the near vicinity of towns, so largely were they sought for and employed medicinally. There are several receipts for making snail-water, or snail-pottage; here is one of the most pleasing ones:
"The admirable and most famous Snail water.—Take a peck of garden Shel Snails, wash them well in Small Beer, and put them in an oven till they have done making a Noise, then take them out and wipe them well from the green froth that is upon them, and bruise them shels and all in a Stone Mortar, then take a Quart of Earthworms, scowre them with salt, slit them, and wash well with water from their filth, and in a stone Mortar beat them in pieces, then lay in the bottom of your distilled pot Angelica two handfuls, and two handfuls of Celandine upon them, to which put two quarts of Rosemary flowers, Bearsfoot, Agrimony, red Dock roots, Bark of Barberries, Betony wood Sorrel of each two handfuls, Rue one handful; then lay the Snails and Worms on top of the hearbs and flowers, then pour on three Gallons of the Strongest Ale, and let it stand all night, in the morning put in three ounces of Cloves beaten, sixpennyworth of beaten Saffron, and on the top of them six ounces of shaved Hartshorne, then set on the Limbeck, and close it with paste and so receive the water by pintes, which will be nine in all, the first is the strongest, whereof take in the morning two spoonfuls in four spoonfuls of small Beer, the like in the Afternoon."
Truly, the poor rickety child deserved to be cured. Snails also were used externally:
"To anoint the Ricketed Childs Limbs and to recover it in a short time, though the child be so lame as to go upon crutches:
"Take a peck of Garden Snailes and bruse them, put them into a course Canvass bagg, and hang it up, and set a dish under to receive the liquor that droppeth from them, wherewith anoint the Childe in every Joynt which you perceive to be weak before the fire every morning and evening. This I have known make a Patient Childe that was extream weak to go alone using it only a week time."
There were also "unguents to anoynt the Ricketted Childs breast," and various drinks to be given "to the patient childe fasting," as they termed him in what appears to us a half-comic, though wholly truthful appellation.
For worms and fits there were some frightful doses of senna and rhubarb and snails, with a slight redeeming admixture of prunes; and as for "Collick" and "Stomack-Ach," I feel sure every respectable Puritan patient child died rather than swallow the disgusting and nauseous compounds that were offered to him for his relief.
Puritan babies also wore medical ornaments, "anodyne necklaces." I find them advertised in the Boston Evening Post as late as 1771—"Anodine Necklaces for the Easy breeding of Childrens Teeth," worn as nowadays children wear strings of amber beads to avert croup.
Another medicine "to make children's teeth come without paine" was this: "Take the head of a Hare boyled a walm or two or roahed; and with the braine thereof mingle Honey and butter and therewith anoynt the Childes gums as often as you please." Still further advice was to scratch the child's gums with an osprey bone, or to hang fawn's teeth or wolf's fangs around his neck—an ugly necklace.
The first scene of gayety upon which the chilled baby opened his sad eyes was when his mother was taken from her great bed and "laid on a pallat," and the heavy curtains and valances of harrateen or serge were hung within and freshened with "curteyns and vallants of cheney or calico." Then, or a day or two later, the midwife, the nurses, and all the neighboring women who had helped with advice or work in the household during the first week or two of the child's life, were bidden to a dinner. This was also a French fashion, as "Les Caquets de l'Accouchee," the popular book of the time of Louis XIII., proves.
Doubtless at this New England amphidromia the "groaning beer" was drunk, though Sewall "brewed my Wives Groaning Beer" two months before the child was born. By tradition, "groaning cake," to be used at the time of the birth of the child, and given to visitors for a week or two later, also was made; but I find no allusion to it under that name in any of the diaries of the times. At this women's dinner good substantial viands were served. "Women din'd with rost Beef and minc'd Pyes, good Cheese and Tarts." When another Sewall baby was scarcely two weeks old, seventeen women were dined at Judge Sewall's on equally solid meats, "Boil'd Pork, Beef, Fowls, very good Rost Beef, Turkey, Pye and Tarts." Madam Downing gave her women "plenty of sack and claret." A survival of this custom existed for many years in the fashion of drinking caudle at the bedside of the mother.
As might be expected of a man who diverted himself in attending the dissection of an Indian, which gruesome gayety exhilarated him into spending a tidy sum—for him—on drinks and feeing "the maid;" and in visiting his family tomb; and who, when he took his wife on a pleasure trip to Dorchester "to eat cherries and rasberries," spent his entire day within-doors reading that cheerful book, Calvin on Psalms;—in the house of such a pleasure-seeker but small provision was made for the entertainment or amusement of his children. They were sometimes led solemnly to the house of some old, influential, or pious person, who formally gave them his blessing. He took them also to some of the funerals of the endless procession of dead Bostonians that files sombrely through the pages of his diary, to the funeral of their baby brother, little Stephen Sewall, when "Sam and his sisters (who were about five and six years old) cryed much coming home and at home, so that I could hardly quiet them. It seems they looked into Tomb, and Sam said he saw a great Coffin there, his Grandfathers." These were not the only tears that Sam and Betty and Hannah shed through fear of death. When Betty was a year older her father wrote:
"It falls to my daughter Elizabeths Share to read the 24 of Isaiah which she doth with many Tears not being very well, and the Contents of the Chapter and Sympathy with her draw Tears from me also."
Two days later, Sam, who was then about ten years old, also showed evidence of the dejection of soul around him.
"Richard Dumer, a flourishing youth of 9 years old dies of the Small Pocks. I tell Sam of it and what need he had to prepare for Death, and therefore to endeavor really to pray, when he said over the Lord's Prayer: He seemed not much to mind, eating an Aple; but when he came to say Our Father he burst out into a bitter Cry and said he was afraid he should die. I pray'd with him and read Scriptures comforting against Death, as O death where is thy sting, &c. All things yours. Life and Immortality brought to light by Christ."
In January, 1695, Judge Sewall writes:
"When I came in, past 7 at night, my wife met me in the Entry and told me Betty had surprised them. I was surprised with the Abruptness of the Relation. It seems Betty Sewall had given some signs of dejection and sorrow; but a little while after dinner she burst out into an amazing cry, which caus'd all the family to cry too; Her Mother ask'd the reason, she gave none; at last said she was afraid she should goe to Hell, her Sins were not pardon'd. She was first wounded by my reading a sermon of Mr. Norton's Text, Ye shall seek me and shall not find me. And those words in the sermon, Ye shall seek me and die in your Sins ran in her mind and terrified her greatly. And staying at home she read out of Mr. Cotton Mather—Why hath Satan filled thy Heart, which increased her Fear. Her Mother asked her whether she pray'd. She answered yes but fear'd her prayers were not heard because her sins were not pardon'd."
A fortnight later he writes:
"Betty comes into me as soon as I was up and tells me the disquiet she had when wak'd; told me she was afraid she should go to Hell, was like Spira, not Elected. Ask'd her what I should pray for, she said that God would pardon her Sin and give her a new heart. I answer'd her Fears as well as I could and pray'd with many Tears on either part. Hope God heard us."
Three months later still he makes this entry:
"Betty can hardly read her chapter for weeping, tells me she is afraid she is gon back, does not taste that sweetness in reading the Word which once she did; fears that what was once upon her is worn off. I said what I could to her and in the evening pray'd with her alone."
Poor little "wounded" Betty! She did not die in childhood as she feared, but lived to pass through many gloomy hours of morbid introspection and of overwhelming fear of death, to marry and become the mother of eight children; but was always buffeted with fears and tormented with doubts, which she despairingly communicated to her solemn and far from comforting father; and at last she faced the dread foe Death at the age of thirty-five. Judge Sewall wrote sadly the day of her funeral: "I hope God has delivered her now from all her fears;" every one reading of her bewildered and depressed spiritual life must sincerely hope so with him. In truth, the Puritan children were, as Judge Sewall said, "stirred up dreadfully to seek God."
Here is the way that one of Sewall's neighbors taught his little daughter when she was four years old:
"I took my little daughter Katy into my Study and there I told my child That I am to Dy Shortly and Shee must, when I am Dead, Remember every Thing, that I now said unto her. I sett before her the sinful condition of her Nature and I charged her to pray in secret places every day. That God for the sake of Jesus Christ would give her a New Heart. I gave her to understand that when I am taken from her she must look to meet with more Humbling Afflictions than she does now she has a Tender Father to provide for her."
I hardly understand why Cotton Mather, who was really very gentle to his children, should have taken upon himself to trouble this tender little blossom with dread of his death. He lived thirty years longer, and, indeed, survived sinful little Katy. Another child of his died when two years and seven months old, and made a most edifying end in prayer and praise. His pious and incessant teachings did not, however, prove wholly satisfactory in their results, especially as shown in the career of his son Increase, or "Cressy."
No age appeared to be too young for these remarkable exhibitions of religious feeling. Phebe Bartlett was barely four years old when she passed through her amazing ordeal of conversion, a painful example of religious precocity. The "pious and ingenious Jane Turell" could relate many stories out of the Scriptures before she was two years old, and was set upon a table "to show off," in quite the modern fashion. "Before she was four years old she could say the greater part of the Assembly's Catechism, many of the Psalms, read distinctly, and make pertinent remarks on many things she read. She asked many astonishing questions about divine mysteries." It is a truly comic anticlimax in her father's stilted letters to her to have him end his pious instructions with this advice: "And as you love me do not eat green apples."
Of the demeanor of children to their parents naught can be said but praise. Respectful in word and deed, every letter, every record shows that the young Puritans truly honored their fathers and mothers. It were well for them to thus obey the law of God, for by the law of the land high-handed disobedience of parents was punishable by death. I do not find this penalty ever was paid, as it was under the sway of grim Calvin, a fact which redounds to the credit both of justice and youth in colonial days.
It was not strange that Judge Sewall, always finding in natural events and appearances symbols of spiritual and religious signification, should find in his children painful types of original sin.
"Nov. 6, 1692.—Joseph threw a knop of Brass and hit his Sister Betty on the forehead so as to make it bleed; and upon which, and for his playing at Prayer-time and eating when Return Thanks, I whip'd him pretty smartly. When I first went in (call'd by his Grandmother) he sought to shadow and hide himself from me behind the head of the Cradle; which gave me the sorrowful remembrance of Adam's carriage."
It was natural, too, that Judge Sewall's children should be timid; they ran in terror to their father's chamber at the approach of a thunderstorm; and, living in mysterious witchcraft days, they fled screaming through the hall, and their mother with them, at the sudden entrance of a neighbor with a rug over her head.
All youthful Puritans were not as godly as the young Sewalls. Nathaniel Mather wrote thus in his diary:
"When very young I went astray from God and my mind was altogether taken with vanities and follies: such as the remembrance of them doth greatly abase my soul within me. Of the manifold sins which then I was guilty of, none so sticks upon me as that, being very young, I was whitling on the Sabbath-day; and for fear of being seen, I did it behind the door. A great reproach of God! a specimen of that atheism I brought into the world with me!"
It is satisfactory to add that this young prig of a Mather died when nineteen years of age. Except in Jonathan Edwards's "Narratives of Surprising Conversions," no more painful examples of the Puritanical religious teaching of the young can be found than the account given in the Magnalia of various young souls in whom the love of God was remarkably budding, especially this same unwholesome Nathaniel Mather. His diary redounded in dismal groans and self-abasement: he wrote out in detail his covenants with God. He laid out his minute rules and directions in his various religious duties. He lived in prayer thrice a day, and "did not slubber over his prayers with hasty amputations, but wrestled in them for a good part of an hour." He prayed in his sleep. He fasted. He made long lists of sins, long catalogues of things forbidden, "and then fell a-stoning them." He "chewed much on excellent sermons." He not only read the Bible, but "obliged himself to fetch a note and prayer out of each verse," as he read. In spite of all these preparations for a joyous hope and faith, he lived in the deepest despair; was full of blasphemous imaginations, horrible conceptions of God, was dejected, self-loathing, and wretched. Indeed, as Lowell said, soul-saving was to such a Christian the dreariest, not the cheerfullest of businesses.
That the welfare, if not the pleasure, of their children lay very close to the hearts of the Pilgrims, we cannot doubt. Governor Bradford left an account of the motives for the emigration from Holland to the new world, and in a few sentences therein he gives one of the deepest reasons of all—the intense yearning for the true well-being of the children; we can read between the lines the stern and silent love of those noble men, love seldom expressed but ever present, and the rigid sense of duty, duty to be fulfilled as well as exacted. Bradford wrote thus of the Pilgrims:
"As necessitie was a taskmaster over them, so they were forced to be such, not only to their servants, but in a sorte, to their dearest children; the which, as it did not a little wound ye tender harts of many a loving father and mother, so it produced likewise sundrie sad and sorrowful effects. For many of their children, that were of best dispositions and gracious inclinations, haveing lernde to bear ye yoake in their youth, and willing to bear parte of their parents burden, were, often times so oppressed with their hevie labours, that though their minds were free and willing, yet their bodies bowed under ye weight of ye same, and become decreped in their early youth; the vigor of nature being consumed in ye very budd as it were. But that which was more lamentable and of all sorrowes most heavie to be borne, was, that many of their children, by these occasions, and ye great licentiousness of youth in ye countrie, and ye manifold temptations of the place, were drawn away by evill examples into extravagante and dangerous courses, getting ye raines off their neks and departing from their parents. Some became souldiers, others took upon them for viages by sea, and other some worse courses, tending to disolutenes and the danger of their soules, to ye great greef of their parents and dishonor of God. So that they saw their posteritie would be in danger to degenerate and be corrupted."
Though Judge Sewall could control and restrain his children, his power waxed weak over his backsliding and pleasure-seeking grandchildren, and they annoyed him sorely. Sam Hirst, the son of poor timid Betty, lived with his grandfather for a time, and on April 1st, 1719, the Judge wrote:
"In the morning I dehorted Sam Hirst and Grindall Rawson from playing Idle tricks because 'twas first of April: They were the greatest fools that did so. N. E. Men came hither to avoid anniversary days, the keeping of them such as the 25th of Decr. How displeasing must it be to God the giver of our Time to keep anniversary days to play the fool with ourselves and others."
Ten years earlier the Judge had written to the Boston schoolmaster, begging him to "insinuate into the Scholars the Defiling and Provoking nature of such a Foolish Practice" as playing tricks on April first.
Sam was but a sad losel, and vexed him in other and more serious matters. On March 15th, 1725, the Judge wrote:
"Sam Hirst got up betime in the morning, and took Ben Swett with him and went into the Comon to play Wicket. Went before anybody was up, left the door open: Sam came not to prayer at which I was much displeased."
Two days later he writes thus peremptorily of his grandson:
"Did the like again, but took not Ben with him. I told him he could not lodge here practicing thus. So he log'd elsewhere."
Though Boston boys played "wicket" on Boston Common, I fancy the young Puritans had, as a rule, few games, and were allowed few amusements. They apparently brought over some English pastimes with them, for in 1657 it was found necessary to pass this law in Boston:
"Forasmuch as sundry complaints are made that several persons have received hurt by boys and young men playing at football in the streets, these therefore are to enjoin that none be found at that game in any of the streets, lanes or enclosures of this town under the penalty of twenty shillings for every such offence."
One needless piece of cruelty which was exercised toward boys by Puritan lawgivers is shown by one of the enjoined duties of the tithingman. He was ordered to keep all boys from swimming in the water. I do not doubt that the boys swam, since each tithingman had ten families under his charge; but of course they could not swim as often nor as long as they wished. From the brother sport of winter, skating, they were not debarred; and they went on thin ice, and fell through and were drowned, just as country boys are nowadays. Judge Sewall wrote on November 30th, 1696:
"Many scholars go in the afternoon to Scate on Fresh Pond. Wm. Maxwell and John Eyre fall in, are drowned."
In the New England Weekly Journal of January 15th, 1728, we read:
"On Monday last Two Young Persons who were Brothers, viz Mr. George and Nathan Howell diverting themselves by Skating at the bottom of the Common, the Ice breaking under them they were both drowned;"
and in the same journal of two weeks later date we find record of another death by drowning.
"A young man, viz, Mr. Comfort Foster, skating on the ice from Squantum Point to Dorchester, fell into the Water & was drown'd. He was about 16 or 18 years of age."
Advertisements of "Mens and Boys Scates" appear in the Boston Gazette, of 1749, and the Boston Evening Post, of 1758. The February News Letter, of 1769, has a notice of the sale of "Best Holland Scates of Different Sizes."
In the list of goods on board a prize taken by a privateersman in 1712 were "Boxes of Toys." Higginson, writing to his brother in 1695, told him that "toys would sell if in small quantity." In exceeding small quantity one would fancy. In 1743 the Boston News Letter advertised "English and Dutch Toys for Children." Not until October, 1771, on the lists of the Boston shop-keepers, who seemed to advertise and to sell every known article of dry goods, hardware, house furnishing, ornament, dress and food, came that single but pleasure-filled item "Boys Marbles." "Battledores and Shuttles" appeared in 1761. I know that no little maids could ever have lived without dolls, not even the serious-minded daughters of the Pilgrims; but the only dolls that were advertised in colonial newspapers were the "London drest babys" of milliners and mantua-makers, that were sent over to serve as fashion plates for modish New England dames. A few century-old dolls still survive Revolutionary times, wooden-faced monstrosities, shapeless and mean, but doubtless well-beloved and cherished in the days of their youth.
As years rolled by and eighteenth century frivolity and worldliness took the place of Puritan sobriety and religion, New England children shared with their elders in that growing love of amusement, which found but few and inadequate methods of expression in the lives of either old or young. In the year 1771 there was sent from Nova Scotia a young miss of New England parentage—Anna Green Winslow—to live with her aunt and receive a "finishing" in Boston schools. For the edification of her parents and her own practice in penmanship, this bright little maid kept a diary, of which portions have been preserved, and which I do not hesitate to say is the most sprightly record of the daily life of a girl of her age that I have ever read. There is not a dull word in it, and every page has some statement of historical value. She was twelve years old shortly after the diary was begun, and she then had a "coming-out party"—she became a "miss in her teens." To this rout only young ladies of her own age and in the most elegant Boston society were invited—no rough Boston boys. Miss Anna has written for us more than one prim and quaint little picture of similar parties—here is one of her clear and stiff little descriptions; and a graphic account also of the evening dress of a young girl at that time.
"I have now the pleasure to give you the result Viz; a very genteel well regulated assembly which we had at Mr. Soleys last evening, Miss Soley being mistress of the ceremony. Miss Soley desired me to assist Miss Hannah in making out a list of guests which I did. Sometime since I wrote all the invitation cards. There was a large company assembled in a large handsome upper room in the new end of the house. We had two fiddles and I had the honor to open the diversion of the evening in a minuet with Miss Soley. Here follows a list of the company as we form'd for country-dancing. Miss Soley and Miss Anna Green Winslow; Miss Calif and Miss Scott; Miss Williams and Miss McLarth; Miss Codman and Miss Winslow; Miss Ives and Miss Coffin; Miss Scollay and Miss Bella Coffin; Miss Waldo and Miss Quinsey; Miss Glover and Miss Draper; Miss Hubbard and Miss Cregur (usually pronounced Kicker) and two Miss Sheafs were invited but were sick or sorry and beg'd to be excused.
"There was a little Miss Russel and little ones of the family present who could not dance. As spectators there were Mr. & Mrs. Deming, Mr. & Mrs. Sweetser, Mr. and Mrs. Soley, Mr. & Mrs. Claney, Mrs. Draper, Miss Orice, Miss Hannah—our treat was nuts, raisins, cakes, Wine, punch hot and cold all in great plenty. We had a very agreeable evening from 5 to 10 o'clock. For variety we woo'd a widow, hunted the whistle, threaded the needle, & while the company was collecting we diverted ourselves with playing of pawns—no rudeness Mamma I assure you. Aunt Deming desires you would particularly observe that the elderly part of the Company were Spectators only, that they mixed not in either of the above-described scenes.
"I was dressed in my yelloe coat, black bib and apron, black feathers on my head, my paste comb and all my paste garnet marquasett & jet pins, together with my silver plume—my locket, rings, black collar round my neck, black mitts and yards of blue ribbon (black and blue is high tast) striped tucker & ruffles (not my best) and my silk shoes completed my dress."
How clear the picture: can you not see it—the low raftered chamber softly alight with candles on mantel-tree and in sconces; the two fiddles soberly squeaking: the rows of demure little Boston maids, all of New England Brahmin blood, in high rolls, with nodding plumes and sparkling combs, with ruffles and mitts, little miniatures of their elegant mammas, soberly walking and curtseying through the stately minuet "with no rudeness I can assure you;" and discreetly partaking of hot and cold punch afterward.
There came at this time to another lady in this Boston court circle a grandchild eight years of age, from the Barbadoes, to also attend Boston schools. Missy left her grandmother's house in high dudgeon because she could not have wine at all her meals. And her parents upheld her, saying she had been brought up a lady and must have wine when she wished it. Evidently Cobbett's statement of the free drinking of wine, cider, and beer by American children was true—as Anna Green Winslow's "treat" would also show.
Though Puritan children had few recreations and amusements, they must have enjoyed a very cheerful, happy home life. Large families abounded. Cotton Mather says:
"One woman had not less than twenty-two children, and another had no less than twenty-three children by one husband whereof nineteen lived to mans estate, and a third who was mother to seven and twenty children."
Sir William Phips was one of twenty-six children, all with the same mother. Printer Green had thirty children. The Rev. John Sherman, of Watertown, had twenty-six children by two wives—twenty by his last wife. The Rev. Samuel Willard, first minister to Groton, had twenty children, and his father had seventeen children. Benjamin Franklin was one of a family of seventeen. Charles Francis Adams has told us of the fruitful vines of old Braintree.
The little Puritans rejoiced in some very singular names, the offspring of Roger Clap being good examples: Experience, Waitstill, Preserved, Hopestill, Wait, Thanks, Desire, Unite, and Supply.
Of the food given Puritan children we know but little. In an old almanac of the eighteenth century I find a few sentences of advice as to the "Easy Rearing of Children." The writer urges that boys as soon as they can run alone go without hats to harden them, and if possible sleep without night-caps, as soon as they have any hair. He advises always to wet children's feet in cold water and thus make them (the feet) tough, and also to have children wear thin-soled shoes "that the wet may come freely in." He says young children should never be allowed to drink cold drinks, but should always have their beer a little heated; that it is "best to feed them on Milk, Pottage, Flummery, Bread, and Cheese, and not let them drink their beer till they have first eaten a piece of Brown Bread." Fancy a young child nowadays making a meal of brown bread and cheese with warm beer! He suggests that they drink but little wine or liquor, and sleep on quilts instead of feathers. In such ways were reared our Revolutionary heroes.
Of the dazzling and beautiful array in our modern confectioners' shops little Priscilla and Hate-Evil could never have dreamed, even in visions. A few comfit-makers made "Lemon Pil Candy, Angelica Candy, Candy'd Eryngo Root & Carroway Comfits;" and a few sweetmeats came to port in foreign vessels, "Sugar'd Corrinder Seeds," "Glaz'd Almonds," and strings of rock-candy. Whole jars of the latter adamantine, crystalline, saccharine delight graced the shelves of many a colonial cupboard. And I suppose favored Salem children, the happy sons and daughters of opulent epicurean Salem shipowners, had even in colonial days Black Jacks and Salem Gibraltars. The first-named dainties, though dearly loved by Salem lads and lasses, always bore—indeed, do still bear—too strong a flavor of liquorice, too haunting a medicinal suggestion to be loved by other children of the Puritans. As an instance, on a large scale, of the retributive fate that always pursues the candy-eating wight, I state that the good ship Ann and Hope brought into Providence one hundred years ago, as part of her cargo, eight boxes of sweetmeats and twenty tubs of sugar candy, and on the succeeding voyage sternly fetched no sweets, but brought instead forty-eight boxes of rhubarb.
The children doubtless had prunes, figs, "courance," and I know they had "Raisins of the Sun" and "Bloom Raisins" galore. Advertisements of all these fruits appear in the earliest newspapers. Though "China Oranges" were frequently given to and by Judge Sewall, I have not found them advertised for sale till Revolutionary times, and I fancy few children had then tasted them. The native and domestic fruits were plentiful, but many of them were poor. The apples and pears and Kentish cherries were better than the peaches and grapes. The children gathered the summer berries in season, and the autumn's plentiful and spicy store of boxberries, checkerberries, teaberries or gingerbread berries with October's brown nuts. There were gingerbread and "cacks" even in the earliest days; but they were not sold in unlimited numbers. The omnipotent hand of Puritan law laid its firm hold on their manufacture. Judge Sewall often speaks, however, of Banbury cakes and Meers cakes; Meer was a celebrated Boston baker and confectioner. The colonists had also egg cakes and marchepanes and maccaroons.
There were children's books in those early days; not numerous, however, nor varied was the assortment from which Puritan youth in New England could choose. Here is the advertisement of one:
"Small book in easey verse Very Suitable for children, entitled The Prodigal Daughter or the Disobedient Lady Reclaimed: adorned with curious cuts, Price Sixpence."
Somehow, from the suggestion of the title we should hardly fancy this to be an edifying book for children. John Cotton supplied them with
"Spiritual Milk for Boston Babes in Either England: Drawn out of the Breasts of both Testaments for their Souls Nourishment. But may be of like Use to Any Children."
Another book was published in many editions and sold in large numbers, and much extolled by contemporary ministers. It was entitled:
"A Token for Children. Being the exact account of the Conversion & Holy & Exemplary Lives of several Young Children by James Janeway."
To it was added by Cotton Mather:
"Some examples of Children in whom the fear of God was remarkably Budding before they died; in several parts of New England."
Cotton Mather also wrote: "Good Lessons for Children, in Verse." Other books were, "A Looking Glasse for Children," "The life of Elizabeth Butcher, in the Early Piety series;" "The life of Mary Paddock, who died at the age of nine;" "The Childs new Plaything" (which was a primer); "Divine Songs in Easy Language;" and "Praise out of the Mouth of Babes;" "A Particular Account of some Extraordinary Pious Motions and devout Exercises observed of late in many Children in Siberia." Also accounts of pious motions of children in Silesia and of Jewish children in Berlin. One oasis appeared in the desert waste—after the first quarter of the eighteenth century Puritan children had Mother Goose.
By 1787, in Isaiah Thomas' list of "books Suitable for Children of all ages," we find less serious books. "Tom Jones Abridged," "Peregrine Pickle Abridged," "Vice in its Proper Shape," "The Sugar Plumb," "Bag of Nuts Ready Crack'd," "Jacky Dandy," "History of Billy and Polly Friendly." Among the "Chapman's Books for the Edification and Amusement of young Men and Women who are not able to Purchase those of a Higher Price" are, "The Amours and Adventures of Two English Gentlemen in Italy," "Fifteen Comforts of Matrimony," "The Lovers Secretary," and "Laugh and be Fat." Another advertisement of about the same date contained, among the books for misses, "The Masqued Wedding," "The Elopement," "The Passionate Lovers," "Sketches of the History and Importance of the Fair Sex," "Original Love Letters," and "Six Dialogues of Young Misses Relating to Matrimony;" thus showing that love-stories were not abhorred by the descendants of the Puritans.
In such an exceptional plantation as New England, a colony peopled not by the commonplace and average Englishmen of the day, but by men of special intelligence, and almost universally of good education, it was inevitable that early and profound attention should be paid to the establishment of schools. Cotton Mather said in 1685, in his sermon before the Governor and his Council, "the Youth in this country are verie Sharp and early Ripe in their Capacities." So quickly had New England air developed the typical New England traits. And the early schoolmasters, too, may be thanked for their scholars' early ripeness and sharpness.
At an early age both girls and boys were sent to dame-schools, where, if girls were not taught much book-learning, they were carefully instructed in all housewifely arts. They learned to cook; and to spin and weave and knit, not only for home wear but for the shops; even little children could spin coarse tow string and knit coarse socks for shop-keepers. Fine knitting was well paid for, and was a matter of much pride to the knitter, and many curious and elaborate stitches were known; the herring-bone and the fox- and geese-patterns being prime favorites. Initials were knit into mittens and stockings; one clever young miss of Shelburne, N. H., could knit the alphabet and a verse of poetry into a single pair of mittens. Fine embroidery was to New England women and girls a delight. The Indians at an early day called the English women "lazie Squaes" when they saw the latter embroidering coifs instead of digging in the fields. Mr. Brownell, the Boston schoolmaster in 1716, taught "Young Gentle Women and Children all sorts of Fine Works as Feather works, Filigree, and Painting on Glass, Embroidering a new Way, Turkey-work for Handkerchiefs two new Ways, fine new Fashion purses, flourishing and plain Work." We find a Newport dame teaching "Sewing, Marking, Queen Stitch and Knitting," and a Boston shopkeeper taking children and young ladies to board and be taught "Dresden and Embroidery on gauze, Tent Stitch and all sorts of Colour'd Work." Crewels, embroidery, silks, and chenilles appear frequently in early newspapers. Many of the fruits of these careful lessons of colonial childhood remain to us; quaint samplers, bed hangings, petticoats and pockets, and frail lace veils and scarfs. Miss Susan Hayes Ward has resuscitated from these old embroideries a curious stitch used to great effect on many of them, and employed also on ancient Persian embroideries, and she points out that the designs are Persian also. This stitch was not known in the modern English needlework schools; but just as good old Elizabethan words and phrases are still used in New England, though obsolete in England, so this curious old stitch has lived in the colony when lost in the mother country; or, it may be possible, since it is found so frequently in the vicinity of Plymouth, that the Pilgrims obtained both stitch and designs in Holland, whose greater commerce with the Orient may have supplied to deft English fingers the Persian pattern.
Other accomplishments were taught to girls; "cutting of Escutcheons" and paper flowers—"Papyrotamia" it was ambitiously called—and painting on velvet; and quilt-piecing in a hundred different and difficult designs. They also learned to make bone lace with pillow and bobbins.
The boys were thrust at once into that iron-handed but wholly wise grasp—the Latin Grammar. The minds trained in earliest youth in that study, as it was then taught, have made their deep and noble impress on this nation. The study of mathematics was, until well into this century, a hopeless maze to many youthful minds. Doubtless the Puritans learned multiplication tables and may have found them, as did Marjorie Fleming, "a horrible and wretched plaege," though no pious little New Englanders would have dared to say as she did, "You cant conceive it the most Devilish thing is 8 times 8 and 7 times 7, it is what nature itself can't endure."
Great attention was paid to penmanship. Spelling was nought if the "wrighting" were only fair and flowing. I have never read any criticism of teachers by either parents or town officers save on the one question of writing. How deeply children were versed or grounded in the knowledge of the proper use of "Simme colings nots of interiogations peorids and commoes," I do not know. A boundless freedom apparently was given, as was also in orthography—if we judge from the letters of the times, where "horrid false spells," as Cotton Mather called them, abound.
It is natural to dwell on the religious teaching of Puritan children, because so much of their education had a religious element in it. They must have felt, like Tony Lumpkin, "tired of having good dinged into 'em." Their primers taught religious rhymes; they read from the Bible, the Catechism, the Psalm Book, and that lurid rhymed horror "The Day of Doom;" they parsed, too, from these universal books. How did they parse these lines from the Bay Psalm Book?
"And sayd He would not them waste; had not Moses stood (whom he chose) 'fore him i' th' breach; to turn his wrath lest that he should waste those."
Their "horn books"—
"books of stature small Which with pellucid horn secured are To save from fingers wet the letters fair,"
those framed and behandled sheets of semi-transparent horn, which were worn hanging at the side and were studied, as late certainly as the year 1715 by children of the Pilgrims, also managed to instil with the alphabet some religious words or principles. Usually the Lord's Prayer formed part of the printed text. Though horn-books are referred to in Sewall's diary and in the letters of Wait Still Winthrop, and appear on stationers' and booksellers' lists at the beginning of the eighteenth century, I do not know of the preservation of a single specimen to our own day.
The schoolhouses were simple dwellings, often tumbling down and out of repair. The Roxbury teacher wrote in 1681:
"Of inconveniences [in the schoolhouse] I shall mention no other but the confused and shattered and nastie posture that it is in, not fitting for to reside in, the glass broke, and thereupon very raw and cold; the floor very much broken and torn up to kindle fires, the hearth spoiled, the seats some burned and others out of kilter, that one had well-nigh as goods keep school in a hog stie as in it."
This schoolhouse had been built and furnished with some care in 1652, as this entry in the town records shows:
"The feoffes agreed with Daniel Welde that he provide convenient benches with forms, with tables for the scholars, and a conveniente seate for the scholmaster, a Deske to put the Dictionary on and shelves to lay up bookes."
The schoolmaster "promised and engaged to use his best endeavour both by precept and example to instruct in all Scholasticall morall and Theologicall discipline the children so far as they be capable, all A. B. C. Darians excepted." He was paid in corn, barley or peas, the value of L25 per annum, and each child, through his parents or guardians, supplied half a cord of wood for the schoolhouse fire. If this load of wood were not promptly furnished the child suffered, for the master did not allow him the benefit of the fire; that is, to go near enough the fireplace to feel the warmth.
The children of wise parents like Cotton Mather, were also taught "opificial and beneficial sciences," such as the mystery of medicine—a mystery indeed in colonial times.
Puritan schoolmasters believed, as did Puritan parents, that sparing the rod spoiled the child, and great latitude was given in punishment; the rod and ferule were fiercely and frequently plied "with lamming and with whipping, and such benefits of nature" as in English schools of the same date. When young men were publicly whipped in colleges, children were sure to be well trained in smaller schools. Every gradation of chastisement was known and every instrument from
"A beesome of byrche for babes verye fit To a long lastinge lybbet for lubbers as meete,"
from the "thimell-pie" of the dame's school—a smart tapping on the head with a heavy thimble—to belaboring with a heavy walnut stick or oaken ruler. Master Lovell, that tigerish Boston teacher, whipped the culprit with birch rods and forced another scholar to hold the sufferer on his back. Other schoolmasters whipped on the soles of the feet, and one teacher roared out, "Oh the Caitiffs! it is good for them." Not only were children whipped, but many ingenious instruments of torture were invented. One instructor made his scholars sit on a "bark seat turned upside down with his thumb on the knot of a floor." Another master of the inquisition invented a unipod—a stool with one leg—sometimes placed in the middle of the seat, sometimes on the edge, on which the unfortunate scholar tiresomely balanced. Others sent out the suffering pupil to cut a branch of a tree, and, making a split in the large end of the branch, sprung it on the culprit's nose, and he stood painfully pinched, an object of ridicule with his spreading branch of leaves. One cruel master invented an instrument of torture which he called a flapper. It was a heavy piece of leather six inches in diameter with a hole in the middle, and was fastened at the edge to a pliable handle. The blistering pain inflicted by this brutal instrument can well be imagined. At another school, whipping of unlucky wights was done "upon a peaked block with a tattling stick;" and this expression of colonial severity seems to take on additional force and cruelty in our minds that we do not at all know what a tattling stick was, nor understand what was meant by a peaked block.
I often fancy I should have enjoyed living in the good old times, but I am glad I never was a child in colonial New England—to have been baptized in ice water, fed on brown bread and warm beer, to have had to learn the Assembly's Catechism and "explain all the Quaestions with conferring Texts," to have been constantly threatened with fear of death and terror of God, to have been forced to commit Wigglesworth's "Day of Doom" to memory, and, after all, to have been whipped with a tattling stick.
COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE CUSTOMS
In the early days of the New England colonies no more embarrassing or hampering condition, no greater temporal ill could befall any adult Puritan than to be unmarried. What could he do, how could he live in that new land without a wife? There were no housekeepers—and he would scarcely have been allowed to have one if there were. What could a woman do in that new settlement among unbroken forests, uncultivated lands, without a husband? The colonists married early, and they married often. Widowers and widows hastened to join their fortunes and sorrows. The father and mother of Governor Winslow had been widow and widower seven and twelve weeks, respectively, when they joined their families and themselves in mutual benefit, if not in mutual love. At a later day the impatient Governor of New Hampshire married a lady but ten days widowed. Bachelors were rare indeed, and were regarded askance and with intense disfavor by the entire community, were almost in the position of suspected criminals. They were seldom permitted to live alone, or even to choose their residence, but had to find a domicile wherever and with whomsoever the Court assigned. In Hartford lone-men, as Shakespeare called them, had to pay twenty shillings a week to the town for the selfish luxury of solitary living. No colonial law seems to me more arbitrary or more comic than this order issued in the town of Eastham, Mass., in 1695, namely:
"Every unmarried man in the township shall kill six blackbirds or three crows while he remains single; as a penalty for not doing it, shall not be married until he obey this order."
Bachelors were under the special spying and tattling supervision of the constable, the watchman, and the tithingman, who, like Pliable in Pilgrim's Progress, sat sneaking among his neighbors and reported their "scirscumstances and conuersation." In those days a man gained instead of losing his freedom by marrying. "Incurridgement" to wedlock was given bachelors in many towns by the assignment to them upon marriage of home-lots to build upon. In Medfield there was a so-called Bachelor's Row, which had been thus assigned. In the early days of Salem "maid lotts" were also granted; but Endicott wrote in the town records that it was best to abandon the custom and thus "avoid all presedents & evil events of granting lotts vnto single maidens not disposed of." This line he crossed out and wrote instead, "for avoiding of absurdities." He kindly, but rather disappointingly, gave one maid a bushel of corn when she came to ask for a house and lot, and told her it would be a "bad president" for her to keep house alone. A maid had, indeed, a hard time to live in colonial days, did she persevere in her singular choice of remaining single. Perhaps the colonists "proverb'd with the grandsire phrase," that women dying maids lead apes in hell. Maidens "withering on the virgin thorn," in single blessedness, were hard to find. One Mistress Poole lived unmarried to great old age, and helped to found the town of Taunton under most discouraging rebuffs; and in the Plymouth church record of March 19, 1667, is a record of a death which reads thus:—
"Mary Carpenter sister of Mrs. Alice Bradford wife of Governor Bradford being newly entered into the 91st year of her age. She was a godly old maid never married."
The state of old maidism was reached at a very early age in those early days; Higginson wrote of an "antient maid" of twenty-five years. John Dunton in his "Life and Errors" wrote eulogistically of one such ideal "Virgin" who attracted his special attention.
"It is true an old (or superanuated) Maid in Boston is thought such a curse, as nothing can exceed it (and looked on as a dismal spectacle) yet she by her good nature, gravity, and strict virtue convinces all (so much as the fleering Beaus) that it is not her necessity but her choice that keeps her a Virgin. She is now about thirty years (the age which they call a Thornback) yet she never disguises herself, and talks as little as she thinks, of Love. She never reads any Plays or Romances, goes to no Balls or Dancing-match (as they do who go to such Fairs) to meet with Chapmen. Her looks, her speech, her whole behavior are so very chaste, that but once (at Govenor's Island, where we went to be merry at roasting a hog) going to kiss her, I thought she would have blushed to death.
"Our Damsel knowing this, her conversation is generally amongst the women (as there is least danger from that sex) so that I found it no easy matter to enjoy her company, for most of her time (save what was taken up in needle work and learning French &c.) was spent in Religious Worship. She knew time was a dressing-room for Eternity, and therefore reserves most of her hours for better uses than those of the Comb, the Toilet and the Glass.
"And as I am sure this is most agreeable to the Virgin modesty, which should make Marriage an act rather of their obedience than their choice. And they that think their Friends too slowpaced in the matter give certain proof that lust is their sole motive. But as the Damsel I have been describing would neither anticipate nor contradict the will of her Parents, so do I assure you she is against Forcing her own, by marrying where she cannot love; and that is the reason she is still a Virgin."
Hence it may be seen that though there was not in Boston the "glorious phalanx of old maids" of Theodore Parker's description, yet the Boston old maid was lovely even in colonial days, though she did bear the odious name of thornback.
An English traveller, Josselyn, gives a glimpse of Boston love-making in the year 1663.
"On the South there is a small but pleasant Common, where the Gallants, a little before sunset, walk with their Marmalet-Madams till the nine o'clock bell rings them home to their respective habitations."
This simple and quaint picture of youthful love in the soft summer twilight, at that ever beautiful trysting-place, gives an unwonted touch of sentiment to the austere daily life of colonial New England. The omnipotent Puritan law-giver, who meddled and interfered in every detail, small and great, of the public and private life of the citizen, could not leave untouched, in fancy free, these soberly promenading Puritan sweethearts. A Boston gallant must choose well his marmalet-madam, must proceed cautiously in his love-making in the gloaming, obtaining first the formal permission of parents or guardians ere he take any step in courtship. Fines, imprisonment, or the whipping-post awaited him, did he "inveigle the affections of any maide or maide servant" by making love to her without proper authority. Numberless examples might be given to prove that this law was no dead letter. In 1647, in Stratford, Will Colefoxe was fined L5 for "laboring to invegle the affection of Write his daughter." In 1672 Jonathan Coventry, of Plymouth town, was indicted for "making a motion of marriage" to Katharine Dudley without obtaining formal consent. The sensible reason for these courtship regulations was "to prevent young folk from intangling themselves by rash and inconsiderate contracts of maridge." The Governor of Plymouth colony, Thomas Prence, did not hesitate to drag his daughter's love affairs before the public, in 1660, by prosecuting Arthur Howland for "disorderly and unrighteously endeavouring to gain the affections of Mistress Elizabeth Prence." The unrighteous lover was fined L5. Seven years later, patient Arthur, who would not "refrain and desist," was again fined the same amount; but love prevailed over law, and he triumphantly married his fair Elizabeth a few months later. The marriage of a daughter with an unwelcome swain was also often prohibited by will, "not to suffer her to be circumvented and cast away upon a swaggering gentleman."
On the other hand, an engagement of marriage once having been permitted, the father could not recklessly or unreasonably interfere to break off the contract. Many court records prove that colonial lovers promptly resented by legal action any attempt of parents to bring to an end a sanctioned love affair. Richard Taylor so sued, and for such cause, Ruth Whieldon's father in Plymouth in 1661; while another ungallant swain is said to have sued the maid's father for the loss of time spent in courting. Breach of promise cases were brought against women by disappointed men who had been "shabbed" (as jilting was called in some parts of New England), as well as by deserted women against men.
But sly Puritan maids found a way to circumvent and outwit Puritan law makers, and to prevent their unsanctioned lovers from being punished, too. Hear the craft of Sarah Tuttle. On May day in New Haven, in 1660, she went to the house of a neighbor, Dame Murline, to get some thread. Some very loud jokes were exchanged between Sarah and her friends Maria and Susan Murline—so loud, in fact, that Dame Murline testified in court that it "much distressed her and put her in a sore strait." In the midst of all this doubtful fun Jacob Murline entered, and seizing Sarah's gloves, demanded the centuries old forfeit of a kiss. "Wherupon," writes the scandalized Puritan chronicler, "they sat down together; his arm being about her; and her arm upon his shoulder or about his neck; and hee kissed her, and shee kissed him, or they kissed one another, continuing in this posture about half an hour, as Maria and Susan testified." Goodman Tuttle, who was a man of dignity and importance, angrily brought suit against Jacob for inveigling his daughter's affections; "but Sarah being asked in court if Jacob inveagled her, said No." This of course prevented any rendering of judgment against the unauthorized kissing by Jacob, and he escaped the severe punishment of his offence. But the outraged and baffled court fined Sarah, and gave her a severe lecture, calling her with justice a "Bould Virgin." She at the end, demurely and piously answered that "She hoped God would help her to carry it Better for time to come." And doubtless she did carry it better; for at the end of two years, this bold virgin's fine for unruly behavior being still unpaid, half of it was remitted.
Of the etiquette, the pleasures, the exigencies of colonial "courtship in high life," let one of the actors speak for himself through the pages of his diary. Judge Sewall's first wife was Hannah Hull, the only daughter of Captain Hull of Pine Tree Shilling fame. She received as her dowry her weight in silver shillings. Of her wooing we know naught save the charming imaginary story told us by Hawthorne. The Judge's only record is this:
"Mrs. Hannah Hull saw me when I took my Degree and set her affection on me though I knew nothing of it till after our Marriage."
She lived with him forty-three years, bore him seven sons and seven daughters, and died on the 19th day of October, 1717.
Of course, though the Judge was sixty-six years old, he would marry again. Like a true Puritan he despised an unmarried life, and on the 6th day of February he made this naive entry in his diary: "Wandering in my mind whether to live a Married or a Single Life." Ere that date he had begun to take notice. He had called more than once on Widow Ruggles, and had had Widow Gill to dine with him; had looked critically at Widow Emery, and noted that Widow Tilley was absent from meeting; and he had gazed admiringly at Widow Winthrop in "her sley," and he had visited and counseled and consoled her ere his wife had been two months dead, and had given her a few suitable tokens of his awakening affection such as "Smoking Flax Inflamed," "The Jewish Children of Berlin," and "My Small Vial of Tears;" so he had "wandered" in the flesh as well as in the mind.
Such an array of widows! Boston fairly blossomed with widows, the widows of all the "true New England men" whose wills Sewall had drawn up, whose dying bedsides he had blessed and harassed with his prayers, whose bodies he had borne to the grave, whose funeral gloves and scarves and rings he had received and apprized, and whose estates he had settled. Over this sombre flower-bed of black garbed widows, these hardy perennials, did this aged Puritan butterfly amorously hover, loth to settle, tasting each solemn sweet, calculating the richness of the soil in which each was planted, gauging the golden promise of fruit, and perhaps longing for the whole garden of full-blown blossoms. "Antient maides" were held in little esteem by him; not one thornback is on his list.
Not only did he look and wander, but all his friends and neighbors arose and began to suggest and search for a suitable wife for him, with as officious alacrity as if he needed help, which he certainly did not. In March Madam Henchman strongly recommended to him "Madam Winthrop, the Major General's widow." This recommendation was very sweet to the widower, who had turned his eyes with such special approval on this special widow, and further and warm encouragement came quickly.
"Deacon Marion comes to me, sits with me a great while in the evening; after a great deal of Discourse about his Courtship He told me the Olivers said they wish'd I would court their Aunt. I said little, but said 'twas not five Moneths since I buried my dear Wife. Had said before 'twas hard to know whether to marry again or no or whom to marry."
The Olivers' aunt was Madam Winthrop. It would seem somewhat presumptuous and officious for nieces and nephews to suggest courtship, when there were grown up Winthrop children who might dislike the marriage, but in those days everyone meddled in love affairs; to quote Pope: "Marriage was the theme on which they all declaimed." The Judge gossiped publicly about his intentions. He writes: "They had laid one out for me, and Governor Dudley told me 'twas Madam Winthrop. I told him I had been there but thrice and twice upon business. He said cave tertium." Even solemn Cotton Mather proffered counsel in a letter on "paying regards to the Widow."
In spite of all these hints and commendations, and the Judge's evident pleasure in receiving them, the Winthrop agitation all came to naught, for about this time he was called to make a will for a Mr. Denison, of Roxbury, who died on March 22d. Though the Judge was too upright and too pious to let even his thoughts wander to a wife, the amazing rapidity with which he turned his longing eyes on the newly-made widow (cruelly forsaking Madam Winthrop) is only equalled by the act of the famous Irish lover who proposed to a widow at the open grave of her husband.
Judge Sewall went home with widow Denison from her husband's funeral and "prayed God to keep house with her." The very next day he writes, "Mr. Danforth gives the Widow Denison a high commendation for her Piety, Goodness, Diligence and Humility." On April 7th she came to the widower to prove her husband's will; and another match-making friend, Mr. Dow, "took occasion to say in her absence that she was one of the most Dutiful Wives in the World." A few days later the Judge made her a gift, "a Widow's book having writ her name in it."
At last, after talking the matter over with all his friends, he decided positively to go a-courting. Widow Denison came to his house and he says:
"I took her up into my chamber and discoursed Thorowly with her: told her I intended to visit her next Lecture Day. She said 'twould be talk'd of, I answered: In such Cases persons must run the Gantlet. Gave her an Oration."
He visited her as he had promised and gave her "Dr. Mathers Sermons neatly bound and told her in it we were invited to a wedding. She gave me very good Curds." Other love gifts followed: "K. Georges Effigies in Copper and an English Crown of K. Charles II. 1677." "A pound of Reasons and Proportionate Almonds," "A Psalmbook elegantly bound in Turkey leather," "A pair of Shoe Buckles cost five shillings three pence." "Two Cases with a knife and fork in each; one Turtle Shell Tackling; the other long with Ivory Handles squar'd cost four shillings sixpence."
In the meantime he read with Cousin Moodey the history of Rebekah's courtship, and then prayed over it, and over his own wooing. Madam Rogers and Madam Leverett much congratulated him, and his daughter Judith visited her prospective stepmother. But alas! the lady was coy and averse to a decision:
"She mentions her Discouragement by reason of Discourse she had heard. Ask't what I should allow her, she not speaking I told her I was willing to allow her two hundred and fifty pounds per annum if it should please God to take me out of the world before her. She answered she had better keep as she was than give up a certainty for an uncertainty. She would pay dear for her living in Boston. I desired her to make Proposals but she made none. I had thought of Publishment next Thursday. But I now seem far from it. My God who has the pity of a Father Direct and help me."
Mr. Denison's will left his widow a portion of his estate to dispose of as she wished if she did not marry again. Judge Sewall was unwilling to make equal provision for her, hence the stumbling block in their courtship.
After consulting with a friend, the Judge made a final visit to her on November 28th.
"She said she thought it was hard to part with all and having nothing to bestow on her Kindred. I had ask'd her to give me proposals in Writing and she upbraided me That I who had never written her a Letter should ask her to write. She asked me if I would drink, I told her yes. She gave me Cider Aples and a Glass of Wine, gathered together the little things I had given her and offered them to me, but I would none of them. Told her I wish'd her well and should be glad of her welfare. She seem'd to say she should not again take in hand a thing of this nature. Thank'd me for what I had given her and Desir'd my Prayers. My bowels yern towards Mrs. Denison but I think God directs me in his Providence to desist."
This love affair was not, however, quite ended, for the following Lord's Day "after dark" Widow Denison came "very privat" to his house. This Sunday visit betokened great anxiety on her part. She had walked in from Roxbury in the cold, and when we remember how wolves and bears abounded in the vicinity we comprehend still further her solicitude.
"She ask'd pardon if she had affronted me.... Mr. Denison spake to her after signing his will that he would not make her put all out of her Hand and power but reserve something to bestow on her friends that might want.... I could not observe that she made me any offer all the while. She mentioned two Glass Bottles she had. I told her they were hers and the other small things I had given her only now they had not the same signification as before, I was much concerned for her being in the cold, would fetch her a plate of something warm; she refused. However I fetched a Tankard of Cider and drank to her. She desired that nobody might know of her being here. I told her they should not. She went away in the bitter Cold, no moon being up, to my great pain. I Saluted her at Parting."
With that parting kiss on that dark cold night, in "great pain," ended the Judge's second wooing.
That he was sincerely in love with Widow Denison one cannot doubt, though he loved his money more. Disappointed, he did not again turn to courting until the following August—much longer than he had waited after the death of his wife. He then proceeded in a matter-of-fact way to visit Widow Tilley, whom he had early noted in meeting. He asked her, at his third visit, to "come and live in his house." "She expressed her unworthiness with much respect," and both agreed to consider it. He gave her a little book called "Ornaments of Sion;" Mr. Pemberton applauded his courtship; Mrs. Armitage said that Mrs. Tilley had been a great blessing to them; the banns were published; and the Judge's third wooing ended in a marriage on October 24th.
But the bride was very ill on her wedding night, and after several slight sicknesses through the winter, died on May 20th, to her husband's "great amazement." Again he was a-seeking a "dear Yoke fellow," and on September 30th, "Daughter Sewall acquainted Madam Winthrop that if she pleased to be within at 3 P.M. I would wait on her." This was the same Madam Winthrop whose attractions had been so completely obscured by the bright halo which encircled the much-longed-for Widow Denison.
"Madam Winthrop returning answer that she would be at home, I went to her house and spake to her saying my loving wife died so soon and suddenly 'twas hardly convenient for me to think of Marrying again, however I came to this Resolution that I would not make my Court to any person without first consulting with her. Had a pleasant Discourse about Seven Single persons sitting in the Fore-Seat. She propounded one after another to me but none would do."
Now, I think the Judge was very graceful in approaching a proposal to this widow, for on his next visit he asked to see her alone, and he resumed the pleasant discourse about the seven widows on the fore seat, and said:
"At last I pray'd Katharine might be the person assigned for me. She evidently took it up in the way of denyal as if she had catched at an opportunity to do it, saying she could not do it, could not leave her children."
The Judge begged her not to be so speedy in decision, and brought her gifts, "pieces of Mr. Belchar's cake and gingerbread wrapped in a clean sheet of paper;" China oranges; the News Letter; Preston's "Church Marriage;" sugared almonds (of which she inquired the price). He wrote her a stilted letter with an allusion in it to Christopher Columbus, and he had to explain it to her afterward. He gave money to her servants and "penys" to her grandchildren, and heard them "say their catechise;" and he had interviews and consultations with her relatives—her children, her sister—who agreed not to oppose the marriage.
Still the progress of the courtship was not encouraging. Katharine went to her neighbors' houses when she knew her suitor was coming to visit her, and left him to read "Dr. Sibbs Bowels" for scant comfort. She "look'd dark and lowering" at him and coldly placed tables or her grandchild's cradle between her chair and his as they sat together. She avoided seeing him alone. She "let the fire come to one short Brand beside the Block and fall in pieces and make no recruit"—a broad hint to leave. She "would not help him on with his coat"—a cutting blow. She would not let her servant accompany him home with a lantern, but heartlessly permitted her elderly lover to stumble home alone in the dark. She spoke to him of his luckless courtship of Widow Denison (a most unpleasant topic), thus giving a clue to the whole situation, in showing that Madam Winthrop resented his desertion of her in his first widowerhood, and like Falstaff, would not "undergo a sneap without reply." He said, in apologetic answer:
"If after a first and second Vagary she would Accept of me returning her Victorious Kindness and Good Will would be very Obliging."
Undeterred by these many rebuffs, as she grew cold he waxed warm, and a most lover-like and gallant scene ensued which would have done credit to a younger man than the Judge. Here it is in his own words:
"I asked her to Acquit me of Rudeness if I drew off her Glove. Enquiring the reason I told her 'twas great odds between handling a dead Goat and a Living Lady. Got it off.... Told her the reason why I came every other night was lest I should drink too Deep draughts of Pleasure. She had talked of Canary, her Kisses were to me better than the best Canary."
Naturally these warm words had a marked effect; she relaxed, drank a glass of wine with him, and I trust gave him a Canary-sweet kiss, and sent a servant home with him with a lantern.
The next visit the wind blew cold again. He had had one experience with a short-lived wife, and he had determined that should his next wife die he would still have some positive benefit from having married her. Hence he kept pressing Madam Winthrop in a most unpleasant and ghoulish manner to know what she would give him in case she died. He would allow her but one hundred pounds per annum. She in turn persisted in questioning him about the property he had given to his children; and she wished him to agree to keep a coach (which he could well afford to do), and she wanted it set on springs too. He said he could not do it while he paid his debts. She also suggested that he should wear a wig. This annoyed him beyond measure, for he hated with extreme Puritan intenseness those "horrid Bushes of Vanity," and the suggestion from his would-be bride was irritating in the extreme. He answered her with much self-control:
"As to a Periwigg my best and Greatest Friend begun to find me with Hair before I was born and has continued to do so ever since and I could not find it in my heart to go to another."
Still, when nearly all the men of dignity and position in the colony wore imposing stately wigs, no woman would be pleased to have a lover come a-courting in a hood.
So, though she gave him "drams of Black Cherry Brandy" and Canary to drink and comfits and lump sugar to eat, while he so pressed her to name her settlement on him, and while the wig and coach questions were so adversely met, she would not answer yes, and he regretted making more haste than good speed. At last the lover of the "kisses sweeter than Canary" critically notes that his mistress has not on "Clean Linen;" and the next day he writes rather sourly, "I did not bid her draw off her Glove as sometime I had done. Her dress was not so clean as sometime it had been;" the beginning of the end was plainly come. That week he forbade her being invited to a family dinner, and she in turn gave a "treat" from which he was excluded. Thus ended his fourth wooing.
The next widow on whom he called was Widow Belknap, but eftsoons he transferred his attention to Widow Ruggles and wrote thus sentimentally to her brother:
"I remember when I was going from school at Newbury to have sometime met your sisters Martha and Mary in Hanging Sleeves coming home from their school in Chandlers Lane, and have had the pleasure of speaking to them. And I could find it in my heart to speak to Mrs. Martha again, now I myself am reduc'd to my Hanging Sleeves. The truth is, I have little occasion for a Wife but for the sake of Modesty, and to lay my Weary Head in Her Lap, if it might be brought to pass upon Honest Conditions. You know your sisters Age and Disposition and Circumstances. I should like your advice in my Fluctuations."
The Judge called on Mrs. Martha, probably after learning with precision her circumstances. "I showed my willingness to renew my old acquaintance. She expressed her inability to be serviceable." Even after the Denison and Winthrop fluctuations he was not abashed by refusal, and he must have been (to quote Mrs. Peachum's words) "a bitter bad judge 'o women," for he called again and again.
"She seemed resolved not to move out of the house; made some Difficulties to accept an Election Sermon lest it should be an obligation to her. The coach staying long, I made some excuse for my stay. She said she would be glad to wait on me till midnight provided I should solicit her no more to that effect."
This decision he accepted.
Poor old wife-seeking Judge, with your hanging sleeves, your broken and drooping wings, feebly did you still flutter around for a resting-place to "lay your Weary Head in modesty." You fluctuated to a new widow, Madam Harris, and she gave you "a nutmeg as it grew," ever a true lover's gift in Shakespeare's day. On January 11th, 1722, this letter was sent to "Mrs. Mary Gibbs, widow, at Newton."
"Madam, your removal out of town and the Severity of the Weather are the Reason of my making you this Epistolary Visit. In times past (as I remember) you were minded that I should marry you by giving you to your desirable Bridegroom. Some sense of this intended Respect abides with me still and puts me upon enquiring whether you be willing I should marry you now by becoming your Husband. Aged feeble and exhausted as I am your favourable Answer to this Enquiry in a few lines, the Candour of it will much oblige, Madam, your humble serv't Samuel Sewall."
This not-too-alluring love-letter brought a favorable answer, for the Judge assured her she "writ incomparably well," and he accompanied this praise with a suitable and useful gift, "A Quire of Paper, a good Leathern Ink Horn, a stick of Sealing Wax and 200 Wafers in a little Box."
He was even sharper in bargaining with Widow Gibbs than he had been with other matrimonial candidates. She had no property to leave him by will, but he astutely stipulated that her children sign a contract that, should she die before him, they would pay him L100. She thought him "hard," and so did her sons and her son-in-law, and so he was—hard even for those times of hard bargains and hard marriage contracts in hard New England. He would agree to give her but L50 a year in case of his death. The value of wives had depreciated in his eyes since the L250 a year Widow Denison. His gifts too were not as rich as those bestowed on that yearned-for widow. He had seen too many tokens go for naught. Glazed almonds, Meers cakes, an orange, were good enough for so cheap a sweetheart. He remained very stiff and peremptory about the marriage contract, the L100, and wrote her one very unpleasant letter about it; and he feared lest she being so attached to her children might not be tender to him "when there soon would be an end of the old man." At last she yielded to his sharp bargain and they were married. He lived eight years, so I doubt not Mary was tender to him and mourned him when he died, hard though he was and wigless withal.
We gather from the pages of Judge Sewall's diary many hints about the method of conducting other courtships. We discover the Judge craftily and slyly inquiring whether his daughter Mary's lover-apparent had previously courted another Boston maid; we see him conferring with lover Gerrish's father; and after a letter from the latter we see the lover "at Super and drank to Mary in the third place." He called again when it was too cold to sit downstairs, and was told he would be "wellcomm to come Friday night." We read on Saturday:
"In the evening Sam Gerrish comes not; we expected him; Mary dress'd herself; it was a painfull disgracefull disapointment."
A month later the recreant lover reappeared and finally married poor disappointed Mary, who died very complaisantly in a short time and left him free to marry his first love, which he quickly did. We find the Judge after his daughter's death higgling over her marriage portion with Mr. Gerrish, Sr., and see that grief for her did not prevent him from showing as much shrewdness in that matter as he had displayed in his own courtships.
Timid Betty Sewall was as much harassed in love as in religion. We find her father, when she was but seventeen years old, making frequent investigation about the estate of one Captain Tuthill, a prospective suitor who had visited Betty and "wished to speak with her." The Judge had his hesitating daughter read aloud to him of the mating of Adam and Eve, as a soothing and alluring preparation for the thought of matrimony, with, however, this most unexpected result:
"At night Capt. Tuthill comes to speak with Betty, who hid herself all alone in the coach for several hours till he was gone, so that we sought her at several houses, till at last came in of herself and look'd very wild."
This action of pure maidenly terror elicited sympathy even in the Judge's match-making heart, and he told the lover he was willing to know his daughter's mind better. This was on January 10th, 1698. Ten days later we find wild-eyed Betty going out of her way to avoid drinking wine with one Captain Turner, much to her father's annoyance. By September she had refused another suitor.
Her father wrote thus:
"Got home [from Rhode Island] by seven, in good health, though the day was hot, find my family in health, only disturbed at Betty's denying Mr. Hirst, and my wife hath a cold. The Lord sanctify Mercyes and Afflictions."
And again, a month later:
"Mr. Wm. Hirst comes and thanks my wife and me for our kindness to his Son, in giving him the liberty of our house. Seems to do it in the way of taking leave. I thank'd him, and for his countenance to Hannah at the Wedding. Told him that the well wisher's of my daughter and his son had persuaded him to go to Brantry and visit her there, &c.; and said if there were hopes would readily do it. But as things were twould make persons think he was so involved that he was not fit to go any wether else. He has I suppose taken his final leave. I gave him Mr. Oakes Sermon, and my Father Hulls Funeral Sermon."
Two days later, Judge Sewall writes to Betty, who has gone to "Brantry" on a visit.
BOSTON, October 26, 1699.
"ELIZABETH: Mr. Hirst waits on you once more to see if you can bid him welcome. It ought to be seriously considered, that your drawing back from him after all that has passed between you, will be to your Prejudice; and will tend to discourage persons of worth from making their Court to you. And you had need well consider whether you will be able to bear his final leaving of you, howsoever it may seem grateful to you at present. When persons come toward us we are apt to look upon their undesirable Circumstances mostly: and thereupon to shun them. But when persons retire from us for good and all, we are in danger of looking only on that which is desirable in them, to our wofull disquiet. Whereas 'tis the property of a good Ballance to turn where the most weight is, though there be some also in the other Scale. I do not see but the match is well liked by judicious persons, and such as are your Cordial friends, and mine also.
"Yet notwithstanding, if you find in yourself an unmovable, incurable Aversion from him and cannot love and honor and obey him, I shall say no more, nor give you any further trouble in this matter. It had better off than on. So praying God to pardon us and pitty our Undeserving, and to direct and strengthen and settle you in making a right judgment, and giving a right Answer, I take leave, who am, Dear Child, Your loving father.
"Your mother remembers to you."
Even this very proper and fatherly advice did not have an immediate effect upon the shy and vacillating young girl, for not until a year later did she become the wife of persistent Grove Hirst.
One of the most typical stories of colonial methods of "matching" among fine gentlefolk is found in the worry of Emanuel Downing, a man of dignity in the commonwealth, and of his wife, Lucy (who was Gov. Winthrop's sister), in regard to the settlement of their children. Downing begins with anxious overtures to Endicott in regard to "matching his sonne" to an orphan maid living in Endicott's family, a maid who it is needless to state had a very pretty fortune. Downing states that he has been blamed for not marrying off his children earlier, "that none are disposed of," and deplores his ill-luck in having them so long on his hands, and he recounts pathetically his own and his son's good points. He also got Governor Winthrop to write to Endicott pleading the match. Endicott answered both letters in a most dignified manner, stating his objections to furthering Downing's wishes, giving a succession of reasons, such as the maid's unwillingness to marry, being but fifteen years of age, his own awkward position in seeming to crowd marriage upon her when she was so rich, etc., etc. The Downings had hoped to have thriftily two marriages in the family in one day, but the daughter Luce's affairs also halted. She had been enamoured of a Mr. Eyer, an unsuitable match. He had put out to sea, to the Downings' delight, but had returned at an unlucky time when she was on with a fresh suitor. Her mother was much distressed because, though Luce declared she much liked Mr. Norton, she still showed to all around her that "she hath not yet forgotten Mr. Eyer his fresh Red."