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dwell. Generally in the shires they be of none accompt, save only in the common assembly of the realm to make laws, which is called the Parliament. The ancient cities appoint four and each borough two to have voices in it, and to give their consent or dissent in the name of the city or borough for which they be appointed.
Those whom we call yeomen next unto the nobility, knights and squires, have the greatest charge and doings in the commonwealth, or rather are more travailed to serve in it than all the rest as shall appear hereafter. I call him a yeoman whom our laws do call legalem hominem, a word familiar in writs and inquests, which is a freeman born English, and may dispend of his own free land in yearly revenue to the sum of 40/- sterling: this maketh (if the just value were taken now to the proportion of monies) £6 of our current money at this present. This sort of people confess themselves to be no gentlemen, but give the honour to all which be or take upon them to be gentlemen, and yet they have a certain pre-eminence and more estimation than labourers and artificers, and commonly live wealthily, keep good houses, and do their business, and travail to acquire riches These be (for the most part) farmers unto gentlemen, which with grazing, frequenting of markets, and keeping servants not idle as the gentleman doth, but such as get both their own living and part of their master's: by these means do come to such wealth, that they are able and daily do buy the lands of unthrifty gentlemen, and after setting their sons to the school at the universities, to the law of the realm, or otherwise leaving them sufficient lands whereon they may live without labour, do make their said sons by those means gentlemen. These be not called masters, for that (as I said) pertaineth to gentlemen only: but to their surnames, men add goodman: as if the surname be Luter, Finch, White, Browne, they are called Goodman Luter, Goodman White, Goodman Finch, Goodman Browne, amongst their neighbours I mean, not in matters of importance or in law. But in matters of law
and for distinction, if one were a knight they would write him (for example sake) Sir John Finch knight; so if he be an esquire, John Finch esquire or gentleman; if he be no gentleman, John Finch yeoman. For amongst the gentlemen they which claim
no higher degree, and yet be to be exempted out of the number of the lowest sort thereof, be written esquires. So amongst the husbandmen, labourers, lowest and rascal sort of the people, such as be exempted out of the number of the rascability of the popular be called and written yeoman, as in the degree next unto gentlemen....
Of the fourth sort of men which do not rule
The fourth sort or class amongst us is of those which the old Romans called capite censii proletarii or operae, day labourers, poor husbandmen, yea merchants and retailers which have no free land, copyholders, and all artificers, as tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, brickmakers, masons, etc. These have no voice nor authority in our commonwealth, and no account is made of them but only to be ruled, not to rule other, and yet they be not altogether neglected. For in cities and corporate towns for default of yeomen, inquests and juries are impanelled of such manner of people. And in villages they be commonly made churchwardens, aleconners, and many times constables, which office toucheth more the commonwealth and at the first was not employed upon such low and base persons. Wherefore generally to speak of the commonwealth, or policy of England, it is governed, administered, and manured by three sorts of persons, the Prince, Monarch, and head governor, which is called the King, or if the crown fall to a woman, the Queen absolute, as I have heretofore said: in whose name and by whose authority all things are administered. The gentlemen, which be divided into two parts, the barony or estate of lords containing barons and all that be above the degree of a baron, (as I have declared before): and those which be no lords, as knights, esquires, and simply gentlemen. The third and last sort of persons is named the yeomanry: each of these hath his part and administration in judgments, corrections of defaults, in election of offices, in appointing and collecting of tributes and subsidies, or in making laws, as shall appear hereafter.
SIR THOMAS SMITH, De Republica Anglorum 1583 (written c. 1551)
In London, the rich disdain the poor. The courtier the citizen. The citizen the country man. One occupation disdaineth another. The merchant the retailer.
tailer the craftsman. The better sort of craftsmen the baser. The shoemaker the cobbler. The cobbler the carman. One nice dame disdains her next neighbour should have that furniture to her house, or dainty dish or device, which she wants. She will not go to church, because she disdains to mix herself with base company, and cannot have her close pew by herself. She disdains to wear that everyone wears, or hear that preacher which everyone hears. So did Jerusalem disdain God's prophets, because they came in the likeness of poor men. She disdained Amos, because he was a keeper of oxen, as also the rest, for they were of the dregs of the people. But their disdain prospered not with them. Their house, for their disdain, was left desolate unto them.
THOMAS NASHE, Christs Teares over Ierusalem 1593
The gentlemen disdain traffic, thinking it to abase gentry, but in Italy with graver counsel the very princes disdain not to be merchants by the great, and hardly leave the retailing commodity to men of inferior sort. And by this course they preserve the dignity and patrimony of their progenitors, suffering not the sinew of the commonwealth upon any pretence to be wrested out of their hands. On the contrary, the English and French, perhaps thinking it unjust to leave the common sort no means to be enriched by their industry and judging it equal that gentlemen should live of their revenues, citizens by traffic, and the common sort by the plough and manual arts, as divers members of one body, do in this course daily sell their patrimonies, and the buyers (excepting lawyers) are for the most part citizens and vulgar men. And the daily feeling [? feeding] of this mischief makes the error apparent, whether it be the prodigality of the gentry (greater than in any other nation or age), or their too charitable regard to the inferior sort, or rashness, or slothfulness, which cause them to neglect and despise traffic, which in some commonwealths, and namely in England passeth all other commodities, and is the very sinew of the kingdom.
FYNES MORYSON, Itinerary 1617
English women (a foreign view)
Wives in England are entirely in the power of their husbands, their lives only excepted. Therefore, when they marry, they give up the surname of their father and of the family from which they are descended, and take the surname of
their husbands, except in the case of duchesses, countesses and baronesses, who, when they marry gentlemen of inferior degree, retain their first name and title, which, for the ambition of the said ladies, is rather allowed than commended. But although the women there are entirely in the power of their husbands, except for their lives, yet they are not kept so strictly as they are in Spain or elsewhere. Nor are they shut up: but they have the free management of the house or housekeeping, after the fashion of those of the Netherlands, and others their neighbours. They go to market to buy what they like best to eat. They are well dressed, fond of taking it easy, and commonly leave the care of household matters and drudgery to their servants. They sit before their doors, decked out in fine clothes, in order to see and be seen by the passers-by. In all banquets and feasts they are shown the greatest honour; they are placed at the upper end of the table, where they are the first served; at the lower end they help the men. All the rest of their time they employ in walking and riding, in playing at cards or otherwise, in visiting their friends and keeping company, conversing with their equals (whom they term gossips) and their neighbours, and making merry with them at child-births, christenings, churchings and funerals; and all this with the permission and knowledge of their husbands, as such is the custom. Although the husbands often recommend to them the pains, industry and care of the German or Dutch women, who do what the men ought to do both in the house and in the shops, for which services in England men are employed, nevertheless the women usually persist in retaining their customs. This is why England is called the Paradise of married women. The girls who are not yet married are kept much more rigorously and strictly than in the Low Countries.
The women are beautiful, fair, well-dressed and modest, which is seen there more than elsewhere, as they go about the streets without any covering either of huke or mantle, hood, veil, or the like. Married women only wear a hat both in the street and in the house; those unmarried go without a hat, although ladies of distinction have lately learnt to cover their faces with silken masks or vizards, and feathers, for indeed they change very easily, and that every year, to the astonishment of many.
VAN METEREN, Nederlandtsche Historie 1575 [Rye]
And this our life exempt from public haunt,
I would not change it. As You Like It, 11. i. 15-18
A Country Gentleman
Remember who commended thy yellow stockings.
Twelfth Night, II. v. 160
Is a thing, out of whose corruption the generation of a justice of peace is produced. He speaks statutes and husbandry well enough to make his neighbours think him a wise man; he is well skilled in arithmetic or rates: and hath eloquence enough to save his twopence. His conversation amongst his tenants is desperate; but amongst his equals full of doubt. His travel is seldom farther than the next market town, and his inquisition is about the price of corn: when he travelleth, he will go ten mile out of the way to a cousin's house of his to save charges; and rewards the servants by taking them by the hand when he departs. Nothing under a subpoena can draw him to London: and, when he is there, he sticks fast upon every object, casts his eyes away upon gazing, and becomes the prey of every cutpurse. When he comes home, those wonders serve him for his holiday talk. If he go to court, it is in yellow stockings; and if it be in winter, in a slight taffety cloak, and pumps and pantoffles. He is chained that woes the usher for his coming into the presence, where he becomes troublesome with the ill managing of his rapier, and the wearing of his girdle of one fashion and the hanger of another. By this time he hath learned to kiss his