Domestic Life (2)

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXXII

We are able, fortunately, to give a description of the fare used during the same period in Ireland, at least by the upper classes, who could afford to procure it. Captain Bodley, a younger brother of the founder of the famous Bodleian Library in Oxford, has left an account of a journey into Lecale, in Ulster, in 1603, and of the proceedings of his companions-in-arms, and the entertainment they met with. His "tour" is full of that gossiping, chatty, general information, which gives an admirable idea of the state of society. This is his description of a dinner: "There was a large and beautiful collar of brawn, with its accompaniments, to wit, mustard and Muscatel wine; there were well-stuffed geese (such as the Lord Bishop is wont to eat at Ardbraccan), the legs of which Captain Caulfield always laid hold of for himself; there were pies of venison, and various kinds of game; pasties also, some of marrow, with innumerable plums; others of it with coagulated milk, such as the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London almost always have at their feasts; others, which they call tarts, of divers shapes, materials, and colours, made of beef, mutton, and veal."

Then he relates the amusements. After dinner they rode, and in the evening they played cards, and had, "amongst other things, that Indian tobacco, of which I shall never be able to make sufficient mention." Later in the evening "maskers" came to entertain them; and on one occasion, their host gave them up his own "good and soft bed, and threw himself upon a pallet in the same chamber."[6]

The large stand-bed, or four-post, was then coming into use, and was, probably, the "good and soft bed" which the host resigned to the use of the officers, and which, if we may judge by the illustration of this piece of furniture, would conveniently hold a considerable number of persons. The pallet was placed on the truckle-bed, which rolled under the large bed, and was generally used by a servant, who slept in his master's room. The reader will remember the speech of Mine Host of the Garter, in the "Merry Wives of Windsor," who says of Falstaff's room: "There's his chamber, his house, his castle, his standing-bed and truckle-bed."


[6] Chamber.—This most interesting and amusing journal is published in the Ulster Arch. Jour. vol. iii. p. 73, with a translation and notes. The original is in Latin.