« PreviousContinue »
monasteries it does not appear, by searching the most ancient records, to have been demanded above three times, and, including this, just as often since. Taken on the spot and engraved by David Ogborne.”
Dugdale, from whom Blount seems to have obtained the greater part of his information on the Dunmow Bacon, gives the oath in prose, from the collections of Sir Richard St. George, Garter, about 1640. He adds, that, “in the book belonging to the house," he had found the memoranda of three claims prior to the dissolution. The first is in the seventh year of King Edward IV., when a gammon of bacon was delivered to one Steven Samuel of Little Ayston ; the second in the twenty-third year of King llenry VI, when a flitch was delivered to Richard Wright of Badbourge, near the city of Norwich; and the third, in 1510, the second year of King Henry VIII., when a gammon was delivered to Thomas Ley, fuller, of Coggeshall, in Essex.
Among the rolls belonging to the Lansdowne MSS. in the British Museum, No. 25, is a copy on parchment of the record of proceedings at the manor-court of Dunmow, late the priory, in the county of Essex, before the steward, jury, suitors, and other officers of the said court, on the delivery of two gammons of bacon to John Reynolds, of Hatfield Regis, and Ann, his wife, who had been married ten years; and to William Parsley, of Much Eyston, butcher, and Jane, his wife, who had been married three years on the 27th of June, 1701. It is stated that the bacon was delivered “with the usual solemnitv.” This record contains the rhyming oath and sentence. The jury consisted of five spinsters.
It is stated in a newspaper of the year 1772, that on the 12th of June that year, John and Susan Gilder, of the parish of Tarling, in Essex, made their public entry into Dunmow, escorted by a great concourse of people, and demanded the gammon of bacon, according to notice previously given, declaring themselves ready to take the usual oath ; but to the great disappointment of the happy couple and their numerous attendants, the priory gates were found fast nailed, and all admittance refused, in pursuance of the express orders of the lord of the manor. Gough, in his edition of Camden's Britannia, 1809, ii. 51, nentions that the custom is now abolished, “on account of the abuse of it in these loose-principled times.” The John Bull newspaper, Oct. 8, 1837, speaks of the renewal of this ceremony at a meeting of the Saffron Walden and Dunmow Agricultural Society.
The Duomow bacon is alluded to in the Visions of Pierce Plowman, and in Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Prologue. [And a very early notice of it occurs in MS. Laud. 416, a metrical paraphrase of the Ten Commandments, in the Bodleian Library:
* I can fynd no man now that wille enquere
The parfyte wais unto Dunmow;
That no man my fynd path or gap."] A similar custom prevailed at Whichenovre, in Staffordshire. This appears to have been in conformity to an ancient tenure and was certainly as old as the tenth year of King Edward III., when the manor was held by Sir Philip de Somerville. The oath, as appears by the following copy, was less strict than that at Dunmow; it was taken on a book laid above the bacon : “Here ve, Sir Philippe de Somervile, Lord of Whichenovre, maynteyner and gyver of this baconne, that I A. sithe I wedded B. my wife, and sythe I hadd hyr in my kepyng, and at my wylle, by a yere and a day, after our mariage, I wold not have chaunged for none other, farer ne fowler, rycher ne pourer, ne for none other descended of greater lynage, slepyng ne waking, at noo tyme. And yf the seyd B. were sole, and I sole, I would take her to be my wyfe, before all the wymen of the worlde, of what condiciones soever they be, good or evylle, as helpe me God and hys seyntrs ; and this flesh and all fleshes.” It is observable that this Whichenovre flitch was to be hanging in the hall of the manor “redy arrayede all times of the yere, bott in Lent.” It was to be given to every man or woman married, “after the day and the yere of their marriage be past; and to be gyven to everyche mane of religion, archbishop, bishop, prior, or other religious, and to everyche preest, after the year and day of their profession finished, or of their dignity reseyved.” See Plott's Hist. of Staffordshire, p. 410; and the Spectator, No. 607.
This whimsical institution it should seem was not confined
entirely to Dunmow and Whichenovre, for there was the same abroad at Bretagne.
[A notice of the custom occurs in the Chelmsford Chronicle for January, 1838: “25. The anniversary of the Dunmow Agricultural Society held, when the flitch of bacon was distributed : at the dinner at the Town Hall fifty gentlemen sat down, T, M. Wilson, Esq., in the chair.”]
In pursuing our notices of marriage customs we come to the consideration of the vulgar saying, that a husband wears horns, or is a cornute, when his wife proves false to him ; as also that of the meaning of the word cuckold, which has for many ages been the popular indication of the same kind of infamy, which also it has been usual slily to hint at by throwing out the little and forefinger when we point at those whom we tacitly call cuckolds.
In the Disputation between a Hee Conny-Catcher and a Shee Conny-Catcher, 4to., of the time of Queen Elizabeth, is the following witticism on this head : “ Hee that was hit with the horne was pincht at the heart.” Also, ibid. : “Let him dub her husband knight of the forked order.” So Othello :
“O curse of marriage!
When we do quicken.” In one of George Houfnagle's Views in Spain (Seville), dated 1593, is a curious representation of “riding the stang," or “ skimmington,” as then practised in that country. The patient cuckold rides on a mule, hand-shackled, and having on an amazing large pair of antlers, which are twisted about with herbs, with four little flags at the top, and three bells. The vixen rides on another mule, and seems to be belabouring her husband with a crabbed stick ; her face is entirely covered with her long hair. Behind her, on foot, follows a trumpeter, holding in his left hand a trumpet, and in his right a bastinado, or large strap, seemingly of leather, with which he beats
her as they go along. The passengers, or spectators, are each holding up at them two fingers like snail's horns. In the reference this procession is styled, in Spanish, “Execution de justitia de los cornudos patientes.”!
In the English Fortune Teller, 1609, the author, speaking of a wanton's husband, says: “He is the wanton wenches game amongst themselves, and wagge's sport to point at with two fingers.” Bulwer, in his Chirologia, 1644, p. 181, says: “To present the index and eare-finger (i. e. the fore and little finger) wagging, with the thumb applied unto the temples, is their expression who would scornfully reprove any. The same gesture, if you take away the motion, is used, in our nimblefingered times, to call one cuckold, and to present the badge of cuckoldry, that mentall and imaginary horne; seeming to cry,
O man of happy note, whom Fortune, meaning highly to promote, hath stucke on thy forehead the earnest penny of succeeding good lucke."" The following passage occurs in a curious publication, entitled the Horne exalted, 1661, p. 37 : “Horns are signified by the throwing out the little and fore finger when we point at such whom we tacitly called cuckolds." In the famous print of “a skimmington," engraved by Hogarth for Hudibras, we observe a tailor's wife employed in this manner to denote her own, but, as she thinks, her husband's infamy.
Winstanley, in his Historical Rarities, p. 76, says : « The Italians, when they intend to scoff or disgrace one, use to put their thumb between two of their fingers, and say “Ecco la fico ;' which is counted a disgrace answerable to our English custom of making horns to the man whom we suspect to be a cuckold." He goes on thus to account for it: “In the time of the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, anno 1161, Beatrix, the emperor's wife, coming to see the city of Millain in Italy, was by the irreverent people, first imprisoned and then most barbarously handled; for they placed her on a mule, with her face towards the tail, which she was compelled to use instead of a bridle; and when they had thus shown her to all the town, they brought her to a gate, and kicked her out. To avenge this wrong, the emperor besieged and forced the town, and adjudged all the people to die, save such as would undergo this ransome. Between the buttocks of a skittish mule a bunch of figs was fastened ; and such as would live must, with their hands bound behind, run after the mule till, with their teeth, they had snatched out one or more of the figs. This condition, besides the hazard of many a sound kick, was, by most, accepted and performed.”
| This punishment, however, seems only to have been inflicted on those who, availing themselves of the beauty of their wives, made a profit of their prostitution. See Colmenar's Delices de l'Espagne et du Portugal, where, speaking of the manners of the Spaniards, v. 839, he says: “ Lorsqu'un homme surprend sa femme en adultère, il peut la tuer avec son corrupteur, et l'impunité lui est assurée. Mais si, sachant que sa femme lui fait porter les cornes, il le souffre pour en tirer quelque profit, lorsque on vient à le découvrir, on le saisit lui et sa femme, on les met chacun à chevauchon sur un âne, on lui attache à la tête une belle grand paire de cornes, avec des sonnettes, en cet état on l'expose en montre au peuple. La femme est obligée de fouetter son mari, et elle est fouettée en même temps par le bourreau.” This account is also accompanied by a
Greene, in his Conceipt, 1598, p. 33, uses this expression of a cornute: “But certainely beleeved that Giraldo his master was as soundly armde for the heade, as either Capricorne, or the stoutest horned signe in the Zodiacke."
It is well known that the word horn in the Sacred Writings · denotes fortitude and vigour of mind ;! and that in the
classics, personal courage (metaphorically from the pushing of horned animals) is intimated by horns. Whence then are we to deduce a very ancient custom which has prevailed almost universally, of saying that the unhappy husbands of false women wear horns, or are cornutes ? It may be said almost universally, for we are told that even among the Indians it was the highest indignity that could be offered them even to point at a horn.3
There is a singular passage upon this subject in Nicolson and Burn's History of Westmoreland and Cumberland, i. 540, which I shall give, and leave, too, without comment, as I find it. They are speaking of the monument of Thomas the first
1 - His horn shall be exalted.” “The horn of my salvation,” &c. &c.
“Namque in malos asperrimus Parata tollo cornua.”
Horat. Epod. “ Jam feror in pugnas et nondum cornua sumpsi.” Ovid. de Ebrietate.
• In Spain it is a crime as nuch punishable by the laws to put up horns against a neighbour's house, as to have written a libel against him.