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SATIRES ON MONASTIC INTEMPERANCE. 143
the difference of treatment experienced by the various
"The abbot and prior of Gloucester and suite,
They are sure from so doing advantage to have ;
We'll have all, and leave nought for our brothers to take,
And to keep up appearances, now go and pray.'
'You're a man of good habits, and give good advice.'
The abbot replies ;-they returned in a trice,
Till out of their eyes ran the liquor again.”1
Another brief extract from a satirical song composed by a monk at a somewhat later date illustrates the situation admirably:
"One law for our rulers, another for us.
To us wretches the smell ev'n of wine is unknown;
The vinegar's ours-the wine all their own.
Not a peg from the cloister must we dare to roam,
And with nectar of heaven their best moments crown."
The inquiry into the condition of religious houses under Henry VIII., which led to the suppression of 376 of those establishments, and the transfer of their revenues to the crown, revealed a state of affairs which
1 British Monachism, vol. i. p. 121.
some Catholics of to-day are reluctant to credit. But, as one of our most accurate and unprejudiced historians has said, the reports of those visitors were so minute. and specific, that it is rather a preposterous degree of incredulity to reject their testimony when it bears hard upon the regulars; and the commendation bestowed. upon some religious houses as pure and unexceptionable affords a presumption that the censure upon others was not an indiscriminate prejudging of their merits.1
The abbots were found to keep mistresses, to be the fathers of grown-up sons, who lived with them openly; and the inferior officers were shown to be dishonest men, who obtained their posts by flattery or purchase, and whose vices, when once they were in office, were of the worst kind. They oppressed people with violence and unfair exactions, frequented taverns and other indecorous places, had the company of women in private places and to eat and drink with them.2
The monks themselves were accused of the gravest breaches of the law-treason, perjury, gambling, drunkenness, "swearing by the body of Christ," murderous assaults upon each other when they were gambling or in their cups, and even deliberate murder for gain. "A certain knight," we are told, "had left a hundred marks by will to a certain house, and lay there sick; upon getting well, the monks, that they might not lose the money, plotted his death by poison or suffocation." 3
Nor were the nuns much better. Amongst the injunctions to the convent of Appleton, A.D. 1489, is one: "Item, that none of your sisters use the alehouse,
1 Hallam's Constitutional History of England, vol. i. p. 71. Murray. 2 British Monachism, vol. i. pp. 138-140.
3 Ibid., vol. ii. p. 19.
FRIARS AND CLERICS.
nor the waterside, where course of strangers dayly resorte." And in another case the question was asked: Item, whether any of the sisters be comenly drunke." They were accused of avarice, brawling, voluptuousness, and sloth; and one of them, the Prioress of Rumsey, was a notorious drunkard.1 What the monks and nuns did in and about the convents, the wandering friars performed throughout the length and breadth of the land. They were vowed to poverty, and many of them were bright examples of virtue and holiness, going about preaching and ministering to the poor, healing dissensions, and, as well as they were able, protecting the oppressed. But others accumulated property by the most detestable means—some even by procuring pardon for murderers; they were great liars, fraudulent, luxurious, and debauched. "They knew all the taverns, hostelers, and tapsters in every town, but shunned the beggars." Their time was often spent in intrigues with women, interference with families, and idle and useless gossip.2
But worst of all appear to have been the "clerics" or hired lay writers, who hung about the convents, and were chiefly engaged in copying or multiplying manuscripts. They are described as very low, profligate, disorderly people. The kind of esteem in which they were held is shown by the following lines from a mediæval ballad::
"But if thou begin for drink to call or crave,
Thou for thy calling such good reward shalt have,
With this extract we must bid adieu to the drinking
1 British Monachism, vol. ii. pp. 32, 33.
2 Ibid., pp. 42-47.
3 Ibid., p. 177.
practices of "Merrie England in the olden time." So far we have witnessed the state of affairs whilst the Roman Catholic Church held sway over the land, and in our next chapter we shall see whether there was any improvement under Protestant rule, and bring our inquiry down to the present day.
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ENGLAND FROM THE REFORMATION TO THE PRESENT DAY.
BEFORE entering upon the consideration of the drinking habits of the English in Protestant times, it will only be fair and impartial to state the plea which has been urged in favour of the medieval taverns; and we have the less hesitation in so doing, inasmuch as the justification for their existence on the grounds advanced no longer holds good in the present day. The village tavern, it is said, was not what it is to-day-a resort for the idle and dissolute; it was the "public-house," where men of all ranks met together and enjoyed each other's society-where, indeed, distinctions between the hall, castle, and the cottage were for the time obliterated. By some writers it is thought that the clergy themselves did not absolutely discountenance taverns for the laity, especially after the "ales" and similar meetings had been removed to the places called "church-houses" from within the precincts of the churches themselves. "When, therefore, the bishops ordered the clergy to expend less time in alehouses," says one author, "it is not to be inferred that the bishops regarded these places as necessarily vicious and scandalous; the fair inference from the episcopal injunction being that the chiefs of the Church wished to