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Pleasure in moderation is the cordial ; in excess, it is the bane of life.”.
Luxury, among the Romans, prevailed to such a degree, that several laws were made to suppress or at least limit it. The extravagance of the table began about the time of the battle of Actium, and continued in great excess till the reign of Galba. Peacocks, cranes of Malta, nightingales, venison, wild and tame fowl, were considered as delicacies. A profusion of provisions was the reigning taste. Whole wild boars were often served up, and sometimes they were filled up with various small animals, and birds of different kinds: this dish they called the Trojan horse, in allusion to the wooden horse filled with soldiers. Fowls, and game of all sorts, were served up in whole pyra. mids, piled up in dishes as broad as moderate tables. Lucullus had a particular name for each apartment; and whatever room he ordered his servants to prepare the entertainment, they knew by the direction, the expence to which they were
When he supped in the Apollo, the expence was fixed at 50,000 drachmæ; that is, 1,2501. M. Antony provided eight boars for twelve guests. Vitellius had a large silver platter, said to have cost a million of sesterces, called Minerva's Buckler. In this he blended together the livers of gilt heads, the brains of pheasants and peacocks, the tongues of phenicopters, and the milts of lampreys. Caligula served up to his guests pearls of great value dissolved in vinegar, the same was done also by Clodius, the son of Æsop, the tragedian. Apicius laid aside 90,000,000 of sesterces, besides a mighty revenue, for no other purpose but to be sacrificed to luxury: finding himself involved in debt, he looked over his account, and though he had the sum of 10,000,000 of sesterces still left, he poisoned himself, for fear of being starved to death.
The Roman laws to restrain luxury were Lex Orchia, Fannia Didia, Licinia Cornelia, and many others : but all these were two little ; for, as riches increased among them, so did sensuality.
What were the ideas of luxury entertained in England about two centuries ago, may be gathered from the following passage of Holinshed, who, in a discourse prefixed to his History, speaking of the increase of luxury, says, “ Neither do I speak this in reproach of any man, God is my judge: but to shew that I do rejoice rather to see how God has blessed us with his good gifts, and to behold how that, in a time wherein all things are grown to the most excessive prices, we yet do find means to obtain and achieve such furniture as heretofore was impossible. There are old men yet dwelling in the village where I remain, which have noted three things to be marvellously altered so in England within their round remembrance; one is, the multitude of chimnies lately erected, whereas, in their young days, there were not above two or three, if so many, in most uplandish towns of the realm (the religious houses and manor places of their lords always excepted, and, peradventure, some great parsonages), but each make his fire against a reredoss [skreen] in the hall where he dressed his meet, and where he dined. The second is, the great amendment of lodging : for, said they, our fathers and we ourselves have lain oft upon straw pallets covered only with a sheet, under coverlets made of a dog's waine or horharriots (to use their own terms), and a good log under their head instead of a bolster. If it were so that the father or good man of the house had a mattress or flock bed, and sheets, a sack of chaff to rest his head upon, he thought himself to be as well lodged as the lord of the town. So well were they contented, that pillows (said they) were thought meet only for women in childbed; as for servants, if they had any sheets above them, it was well; for seldom had they any under their bodies to keep them from pricking straws, that ran oft through the canvass and their hardened hides. The third thing they tell of, is the exchange of treene ['woaden] platters into pewter, and wooden spoons into silver or tin ; for so.common were all sorts of treene vessels in old times, that a man should hardly find four pieces of pewter (of which was one, peradventure, a salt) in a good farmer's house. Again, in time past, men were contented to dwell in houses built of sallow, willow, &c. so that the usz of oak was, in a manner, dedicated wholly unto churches, religious houses, princes' palaces, navigation, &c. But now willow, &c. are rejected, and nothing but oak any where regarded; and, yet, see the change; for when our houses were built of willow, then had we oaken men;
when our houses are come to be made of oak, our men are not only become willow, but a great many altogether of straw, which is a sore alteration. In these, the courage of the owner was a sufficient defence to keep the house in safety; but now the assurance of the timber must defend the men from robbing. Now have we many chimnies,
and yet our tenderlings complain of rheums, catarrhs, and poses; then had we none but reredoses, and our heads did never ache. For as the smoke in those days was supposed to be a sufficient hardening for the timber of the house, so it was reputed a far better medicine to keep the good man and his family from the quacks or pose; wherewith, as then, very few were acquainted. Again, our pewterers, in time past, empleyed the use of pewter only upon dishes and pots, and a few other trifles for service ; whereas now they are grown into such exquisite cunning, that they can, in a manner, imitate by infusion any formor fashion, of cup, dish, salt, bowl, or goblet, which is made by the goldsmith's craft, though they be ever so curious, and very artificially forged. In some places beyond the sea, a garnish of good flat English pewter (I say flat, because dishes and platters in my time began to be made deep, and like basins, and are, indeed, more convenient both for sauce and keeping the meat warm) is esteemed so precious, as the like number of vessels that are made of fine silver."
Particular instances of luxury in eating, however, might be adduced from an earlier period surpassing even the extravagance of the Romans. Thus, in the tenth year of the reign of Edward IV, 1470, George Nevill, brother to the Earl of Warwick, at his instalment into the archiepiscopal see of York, entertained most of the nobility and principal clergy, when his bill of fare was 300 quarters of wheat, 350 tuns of ale, 104 tuns of wine, a pipe of spiced wine, 80 fat oxen, 6 wild
bulls, 1204 wethers, 300 hogs, 300 calves, 3000 geese, 3000 capons, 3000 pigs, 100 peacocks,
200 cranes, 200 kids, 2000 chickens, 4000 pigeons, 4000 rabbits, 204 bitterns, 4000 ducks, 200 pheasants, 500 partridges, 2000 woodcocks, 400 plovers, 100 curlews, 100 quails, 1000 egrets, 200 rees, 400 bucks, does, and roebucks, 1506 hot venison pasties, 4000 cold ditto, 1000 dishes of jelly, parted, 4000 dishes of jelly, plain, 4000 cold custards, 2000 hot custards, 300 pikes, 300 breams, 8 seals, 4 porpusseś, 400 tarts. At this feast the Earl of Warwick was steward, the Earl of Bedford treasurer, and Lord Hastings comptroller, with many more noble officers; 1000 servitors, 62 cooks, 515 menial apparitors in the kitchen. But such was the fortune of the man, that, after this extreme prodigality, he died in the most abject but unpitied poverty, vinctus jacuit in summa inopia.
And as to dress, luxury in that article seems to have attained a great height long before Holinshed's time: for, in the reign of Edward III, we find no fewer than seven sumptuary laws passed in one session of parliament to restrain it. It was enacted, that men servants of lords, as also of tradesmen and artisans, shall be content with one meal of fish or flesh every day, and the other meals daily shall be of milk, cheese, butter, and the like. Neither shall they use any ornament of gold, silk, or embroidery ; nor their wives or daughters any veils above the price of twelve pence.
Artisans and yeomans shall not wear cloth above the price of 40s. the whole piece (the finest being about 61. per piece), nor the ornaments before-named. Nor the men any veils of silk, but only those of thread made in England. Gentlemen under