« FöregåendeFortsätt »
Various Methods of honouring Persons, something similar to those in the East, anciently practised in these Kingdoms.
I Do not know that any method can be taken, to repress that petulant delicacy with regard to Eastern gifts, which the Baron de Tott expressed in the passage cited in the last article, when he gives us an account of his receiving the robe with gratitude, but he rejected the two hundred sequins, in such a manner as might teach the visir no more to offer him such an affront; as well as to correct the unhappy representations persons have been ready to make, of some of the presents mentioned in Scripture, than to compare them with some things of the like kind in former ages in our own country. Such a comparison may be useful to persuade us to abate somewhat of that petulance, and not to pretend to put that construction on the managements of other countries, or other times, which is formed merely on our own usages.
We are ready decidedly to condemn the giving small sums of money to great personages by way of present, or things of little value. We consider such managements as affronting; but they were consistent with respect in other countries, and in our own too, in former times.
I would begin with what passed in Ireland, a part of our own country, some centuries back. The Countess of Moira, in a paper published in the seventh volume of the Archæologia, (or the Transactions of the Antiquarian Society,)
tells us, that "when the monarch of Ireland* called the king of Ulster to the field, or to a public assembly, he gave him ten ships, eleven cups, (whether of silver or of wood, we are not told) fifty horses, fifty swords, fifty large robes, fifty coats of mail, fifty mantles, fifty knives, ten greyhounds, twenty handsful of leeks, and twenty swans' eggs," p. 100, note. The ships, the swords, the coats of mail, &c. we would readily admit were proper presents from the monarch to a subordinate prince and ally, but is there any thing more laughable in any of the Eastern presents, than twenty handsful of leeks, to which perhaps may be added, the twenty swans' eggs?
But Ireland may be imagined to have been much more uncivilized than England; let us then run over the list Hume has given us in his history of England, from the history of the Exchequer by Madox, which I had an opportunity of consulting, as to the most of the articles, and found Hume's account just. There, among other things, we shall find "three Flemish caps, two robes of green," the promise of as many lampreys as a man could get ;" ten marks and three hawks ; ten bulls and ten cows; two hundred hens, by a good woman to have access to her husband, who was in confinement." How despicable in our eyes! Hume also mentions "an hundred shillings;
For they had several kingdoms then in Ireland, as we had seven in England in the time of the Saxons, one king being chosen as chief over the rest, called the monarch, as was the usage among the Saxons of England. * P. 333.
History of the Exchequer, p. 332.
y P. 329.
ten dogs; twenty lampreys; and twenty shads; and that the catalogue might be enlarged." But these things were many ages ago. Let us come nearer our own times. Queen Elizabeth was indisputably a great princess, and affected great magnificence, yet we find her receiving sums of money, and so low as ten pounds, for new-years' gifts; and from some people trinkets, and other trifles. One presented her with a pot of green, ginger, and another of orange flowers, a second with a marchpane, and a third with a pye oringed.* To which may be added, that a gentleman has assured me, that there is a story in the beginning of the Sidney papers, of Queen Elizabeth's putting into her pocket after dinner, at a place where she was visiting, an agate handled knife and fork, (after having had many things given her before during her visit,) which pocketing the knife and fork was thought an especial mark of her graciousness.
Shall we not, after this, be disposed to make great allowances for some of the gifts mentioned by travellers into the East, and particularly for some found in the sacred history? The usages of cher countries, and former times, must be expected greatly to differ from those of our own.
The reflection Mr. Hume makes, on that list of presents to our ancient princes, is extremely sensible; and as coming from one that was by no means prejudiced in favour of the Scripture account of persons and things, deserves the
a Archæol. vol. 1. 7. 10.
more notice. It is as follows: "It appears that the ancient kings of England put themselves entirely on the foot of the barbarous Eastern princes, whom no man must approach without a present, who sell all their good offices, and who intrude themselves into every business, that they may have a pretence for extorting money," He afterwards added. "It will however be subject to remark, that the same ridiculous practices and dangerous abuses prevailed in Normandy, and probably in all the other states of Europe. England was not in this respect more barbarous than its neighbours."
Giving and receiving Presents, Pledges of mutual Friendship.
WHEN the wise son of Sirach supposes, that the contumelious refusing to make a friendly exchange of presents with other people, is a just ground of shame, he seems to refer to that mutual accepting and offering presents which is now so common in these countries, and probably was so anciently, and which is esteemed such an essential part of friendliness of temper. "Be ashamed-of scorning to give and take."
A mutual exchange of kind offices, and even of little presents, is among us considered as an amiableness, and the contrary as a hoggishness that one ought to be ashamed of; but these feelings appear to be much more lively in the Eastern world, and were so when the book entitled Ecclesiasticus was written.
• P. 134, 135.
Vol. 2. p. 131.
Especially if we consider this book as drawn up in Egypt, and attend to Maillet's account of the use of presents in that country. "There is no nation in the world where presents are more used than in this, especially on occasion of death or marriages. . . . . . It is practised in the marriages of Christians as well as of the Jews, upon going in pilgrimage to Jerusalem, or to Mecca, and more particularly on a return from thence. It is farther practised at the time of the baptism of Christians, and of the circumcision of the Turks, which are the principal ceremonies of the two religions. It is true, that there is no dishonour attends the receiving these presents, for a return never fails of being made on the like occasions. Finally, it is above all made use of at the times of visiting each other, which is very frequently in the course of the year, and which are always preceded by presents of fowls, sheep, rice, coffee, and other things of the like nature.
This last article is very different from the usages that obtain in Europe, but shows their great use in intercourses of social life in Egypt.
In his last letter' he takes notice of the presents made to the conductor of the pilgrims going to Mecca, and says, that during his continuance at Cairo, after his entering upon his office in form," there are none of his friends, none of the rich men, or people of consideration at Cairo, but what make him a present of eatables, that may be of use to him in his jour
a See the prologue of the wisdom of Jesus the son of Sirach. Descript. de l'Egypte, Let. 11, p. 137.
f Let. dern. p. 227.