Page images
PDF
EPUB

By the following extract, wafers appear to have been used at funeral entertainments : “ 1671. Jan, 2, died Mr. Cornelius Bee, bookseller in Little Britain. Buried 4 Jan. at St. Bartholomew's, without sermon, without wine or wafers ; onely gloves and rosemary.” Peck's Desiderata Curiosa, ii. 549, from MS. Sloane 886, a Catalogue of Persons Deceased be tween 1628 and 1675, by one Smith, a Secondary of the Poultry Compter.

In Dudley Lord North’s Forest of Varieties, 1645, p. 105, is the following: “Nor are all banquets (no more than musick) ordained for merry humors, some being used even at funeralls.

In Pleasant Remarks on the Humors of Mankind, 12mo. p. 62, cciii. we read : “'Tis common in England for prentices, when they are out of their time, to make an entertainment, and call it the burial of their wives. Many aldermen would do the like, was it consistent with common decency, at the departure of theirs.” Again, p. 83, cclxxv.: “How like Epicurists do some persons drink at a funeral, as if they were met there to be merry and make it a matter of rejoycing that they have got rid of their friends and relations." Richard Flecknoe, in his Ænigmatical Characters, 1665, p. 14, speaking of “a curious glutton," observes on his fondness for feasting as follows: “In fine, he thinks of nothing else, as long as he lives, and, when he dyes, onely regrets that funeral feasts are quite left off, else he should have the pleasure of one feast more (in imagination at least), even after death; which he can't endure to hear of, onely because they say there is no eating or drinking in the other world.”

Books by way of funeral tokens used to be given away at the burials of the better sort in England. In my collection of portraits I have one of John Bunyan, taken from before an old edition of his works which I bought at Ware in Hertfordshire. It is thus inscribed on the back in MS.: “Funeral token in remembrance of Mr. Henry Plomer, who departed this life October 2, 1696, being 79 years of age, and is designed to put us that are alive in mind of our great change. Mr. Daniel Clerk the elder his book, Oct. 23, 1696.”

In the Athenian Oracle, iii. 114, a querist asks: “ Whether books are not more proper to be given at funerals than bisquets, gloves, rings, &c. ?" And it is answered: “Undoubt.

edly a book would be a far more convenient, more durable, and more valuable present than what are generally given, and more profitably preserve the memory of a deceased friend." It was anciently the general custom to give a cold entertainment to mourners at a funeral. In distant counties this practice is continued among the yeomanry. So the Tragique Historie of the Faire Valeria of London, 1598: “ His corpes was with funerall pompe conveyed to the church and there solemnly entered, nothing omitted which necessitie or custom could claime: a sermon, a banquet, and like observations." Again, in the old romance of Syr Degore:

“A great feaste would he holde
Upon his quene's mornynge day,
That was buryed in an abbay."i

FUNERALS IN THE CHURCH-PORCH. (Many relations might be given of funerals having been solemnized within the church-porch. St. Awdry, who died of the pestilence in the year 669, and St. Chad, who probably, says the Rev. Mr. Samuel Pegge, did not outlive the year 672, with other persons of that era, of extraordinary reputed sanctity, being anxious to creep near the church, were the first persons placed there. Among the many legends relative to Št. Swithin, there is one stating that his corpse not being allowed to enter the church, it was placed in the church-porch, where it remained forty days, during which time it rained incessantly. This account agrees in some measure with the Latin legend quoted in Lord Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors; which I imagine William of Malmsbury has also given us as a proof of St. Swithin's great hu

i See also Hayward's Life and Reigne of King Henry IV., 4to. 1599, p. 135 : “ Then hee (King Richard II.) was conveyed to Langley Abby in Buckinghamshire, and there obscurely interred, without the charge of a dinner for celebrating the funeral.

? (Until the time of Cuthbert, Archbishop of Canterbury, whose ponti. ficate began A.D. 740, and ended in 748, the custom of burying within the precincts of towns and cities did not prevail. Vide Matt. Parker's Antiq. p. 91, and Staveley's Hist. of Churches, p. 26.]

mility: “for when he was about to bid farewell to this life, he gave orders to be buried outside the church, exposed to the rain dropping from the skies, and the treading of the passersby ;” and so he continued for some time; but the ecclesiastics not liking that a person of his sanctity should be so exposed, dug him up, when it is probable that, agreeably with his desire to be buried outside the church, they placed him in the porch.

The church wardens' accounts of Banwell, Somersetshire, contain the following curious items : “1521. Recd. of Robart Cabyll, for the lyying of his wyffe in the porche, 38. 4d. Recd. of Robart Blandon, for lyyng of his wyffe in the church, 68. 8d.By which it appears that the fee was as much again for burying in the church as in the porch.]

SIN EATERS.

The following is extracted from Bagford's letter relating to the antiquities of London, printed in Leland's Collectanea, i. 76. It is dated February 1, 1714-5 : “Within the memory of our fathers, in Shropshire, in those villages adjoyning to Wales, when a person dyed, there was notice given to an old sire (for so they called him), who presently repaired to the place where the deceased lay, and stood before the door of the house, when some of the family came out and furnished him with a cricket, on which he sat down facing the door. Then

! [It was the practice among the Romans to lay the dead body in the porch of their houses, near the threshold, that passengers might inspect it, and be satisfied whether there were any signs of a violent death. For the benefit of a clearer view, the corpse was set in the position here mentioned, the feet towards the door; which custom Perseus thus alludes to in his third Satire:

“See now the trumpets and the torches !--see

Our spark laid out in sad solemnity!
Stretch'd on the bier, bedaub'd with unguents o'er,

While his stiff heels lie pointed to the door.”
This mode of placing the dead was likewise in use among the Greeks,
Hom. Il. xix. v. 212.]

they gave him a groat, which he put in his pocket; a crust of bread, which he eat; and a full bowle of ale, which he drank off at a draught. After this he got up from the cricket and pronounced, with a composed gesture, the ease and rest of the soul departed for which he would pawn his own soul. This I had from the ingenious John Aubrey, Esq., who made a collection of curious observations, which I have seen, and is now remaining in the hands of Mr. Churchill, the bookseller. How can a man think otherwise of this, than that it proceeded from the ancient heathens ?

Aubrey's collection, here mentioned, was most probably the Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaism, still preserved among the Lansdowne MSS., whence the following remarks on this subject, in Mr. Aubrey's own hand, have been extracted : “In the county of Hereford was an old custome at funeralls to hire poor people, who were to take upon them the sinnes of the party deceased. One of them (he was a long, leane, ugly, lamentable poor raskal), I remember, lived in a cottage on Rosse highway. The manner was, that when the corpse was brought out of the house, and layd on the biere, a loafe of bread was brought out and delivered to the sinne eater, over the corpse, as also a mazar bowle, of maple, full of beer (which he was to drink up), and sixpence in money; in consideration whereof he took upon him, ipso facto, all the sinnes of the defunct, and freed him or her from walking after they were dead. This custome alludes, methinks, something to the scapegoate in the old lawe, Levit. xvi. 21, 22. “And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goate, and confesse over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness. And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited ; and he shall let the goat goe into the wilderness. This custome, though rarely used in our dayes, yet by some people was observed even in the strictest time of the presbyterian government, as at Dynder (volens nolens the parson of the parish), the kindred of a woman deceased there had this ceremonie punctually performed, according to her will : and also the like was done at the city of Hereford in those times, where a woman kept, many yeares before her death, a mazard bowle for the sinne-eater; and the

like in otber places in this countie ; as also in Brecon.' believe this custom was heretofore used all over Wales."??

Bishop Kennett has added this note to Aubrey's MS. : “ It seems a remainder of this custom which lately obtained at Amersden, in the county of Oxford, where, at the burial of every corpse, one cake and one flagon of ale, just after the interment, were brought to the minister in the church-porch."

MORTUARIES.

The payment of mortuaries is of great antiquity. It was anciently done by leading or driving a horse or cow, &c. before the corpse of the deceased at his funeral. It was considered as a gift left by a man at his death by way of recompense for all failures in the payment of tithes and oblations, and called a corse-present. It is mentioned in the national council of Ensham, about the year 1006.

Some antiquaries have been led into a mistake by this leading of a horse before the corpse, and have erroneously represented it as peculiar to military characters.3

Offeringes at Burialles are condemned in a list of Grosse Poyntes of Poperie, evident to all Men, in A Parte of a Register, contayninge sundrie memorable matters, written by divers godly and learned in our time, whiche stande for and desire the Reformation of our Church in Discipline and Ceremonies, accordinge to the Pure Worde of God and the Law of our Lande, p. 63. This work is said by Dr. Bancroft to have been printed at Edinburgh by Robert Waldegrave, who printed most of the puritan books and libels in the latter end of Queen Elizabeth's reign.

1 “E. g. at Llanggors, where Mr. Gwin, the minister, about 1610, could not hinder the performance of this ancient custome.”

? MS. Lansd. 226, fol. 116. In another page Aubrey says: "A.D. 1686. This custom is used to this day in North Wales ;" where milk seems to have been the substitute for beer.

3 See Collier's Ecclesiastical History, i. 487 : Mortuaries were called by our Saxon ancestors saul sceat (soul shot, or payment). See a curious account of them in Dugdale's History of Warwickshire, Ist edit. p. 679. See also Cowel's Law Interpreter, in voce; and Selden's History of Tithes, p. 287.

« PreviousContinue »