Read CHAPTER III of English Travellers of the Renaissance, free online book, by Clare Howard, on ReadCentral.com.

SOME CYNICAL ASPERSIONS UPON THE BENEFITS OF TRAVEL

The traveller newly returned from foreign lands was a great butt for the satirists. In Elizabethan times his bows and tremendous politeness, his close-fitting black clothes from Venice, his French accent, his finicky refinements, such as perfumes and pick-tooths, were highly offensive to the plain Englishman. One was always sure of an appreciative audience if he railed at the “disguised garments and desperate hats” of the “affectate traveller” how; his attire spoke French or Italian, and his gait cried “behold me!” how he spoke his own language with shame and loathing. “You shall see a dapper Jacke, that hath beene but over at Deepe, wring his face round about, as a man would stir up a mustard-pot, and talke English through the teeth, like ... Monsieur Mingo de Moustrap." Nash was one of the best at describing some who had lived in France for half-a-dozen years, “and when they came home, they have hyd a little weerish leane face under a broad French hat, kept a terrible coyle with the dust in the streete in their long cloaks of gray paper, and spoke English strangely. Naught else have they profited by their travell, save learnt to distinguish of the true Burdeaux Grape, and know a cup of neate Gascoygne wine from wine of Orleance; yea, and peradventure this also, to esteeme of the poxe as a pimple, to weare a velvet patch on their face, and walke melancholy with their armes folded."

The Frenchified traveller came in for a good share of satire, but darker things were said of the Italianate Englishman. He was an atheist a creature hitherto unknown in England who boldly laughed to scorn both Protestant and Papist. He mocked the Pope, railed on Luther, and liked none, but only himself. “I care not,” he said, “what you talk to me of God, so as I may have the prince and the laws of the realm on my side." In politics he allied himself with the Papists, they being more of his way of living than the Puritans, but he was faithless to all parties. In private life he was vicious, and practised “such villainy as is abominable to declare,” for in Italy he had served Circes, who turns men into beasts. “But I am afraid,” says Ascham, “that over many of our travellers unto Italy do not eschew the way to Circe’s Court: but go and ryde and runne and flie thether, they make great hast to cum to her; they make great sute to serve her: yea, I could point out some with my finger that never had gone out of England, but onlie to serve Circes in Italie. Vanitie and vice and any licence to ill living in England was counted stale and rude unto them."

It is likely that some of these accusations were true. Italy more than any other country charmed the Elizabethan Englishman, partly because the climate and the people and the look of things were so unlike his own grey home. Particularly Venice enchanted him. The sun, the sea, the comely streets, “so clean that you can walk in a Silk Stockin and Sattin Slippes," the tall palaces with marble balconies, and golden-haired women, the flagellants flogging themselves, the mountebanks, the Turks, the stately black-gowned gentlemen, were new and strange, and satisfied his sense of romance. Besides, the University of Padua was still one of the greatest universities in Europe. Students from all nations crowded to it. William Thomas describes the “infinite resorte of all nacións that continually is seen there. And I thinke verilie, that in one region of all the worlde againe, are not halfe so many straungers as in Italie; specially of gentilmen, whose resorte thither is principallie under pretence of studie ... all kyndes of vertue maie there be learned: and therfore are those places accordyngly furnisshed: not of súche students alone, as moste commonly are brought up in our universitees (meane mens children set to schole in hope to live upon hyred learnyng) but for the more parte of noble mens sonnes, and of the best gentilmen: that studie more for knowledge and pleasure than for curiositee or luker: ... This last wynter living in Padoa, with diligent serche I learned, that the noumbre of scholers there was little lesse than fiftene hundreth; whereof I dare saie, a thousande at the lest were gentilmen."

The life of a student at Padua was much livelier than the monastic seclusion of an English university. He need not attend many lectures, for, as Thomas Hoby explains, after a scholar has been elected by the rectors, “He is by his scholarship bound to no lectures, nor nothing elles but what he lyst himselfe to go to." So being a gentleman and not a clerk, he was more likely to apply himself to fencing or riding: For at Padua “there passeth no shrof-tide without rennyng at the tilte, tourneiyng, fighting at the barriers and other like feates of armes, handled and furnisshed after the best sort: the greatest dooers wherof are scholers."

Then, too, the scholar diversified his labours by excursions to Venice, in one of those passenger boats which plied daily from Padua, of which was said “that the boat shall bee drowned, when it carries neither Monke, nor Student, nor Curtesan.... the passengers being for the most part of these kinds" and, as Moryson points out, if he did not, by giving offence, receive a dagger in his ribs from a fellow-student, he was likely to have pleasant discourse on the way. Hoby took several trips from Padua to Venice to see such things as the “lustie yong Duke of Ferrandin, well accompanied with noble menn and gentlemen ... running at the ring with faire Turks and cowrsars, being in a maskerie after the Turkishe maner, and on foote casting of eggs into the wyndowes among the ladies full of sweete waters and damaske Poulders,” or like the Latin Quarter students who frequent “La Morgue,” went to view the body of a gentleman slain in a feud, laid out in state in his house “to be seen of all men." In the outlandish mixture of nations swarming at Venice, a student could spend all day watching mountebanks, and bloody street fights, and processions. In the renowned freedom of that city where “no man marketh anothers dooynges, or meddleth with another mans livyng," it was no wonder if a young man fresh from an English university and away from those who knew him, was sometimes “enticed by lewd persons:” and, once having lost his innocence, outdid even the students of Padua. For, as Greene says, “as our wits be as ripe as any, so our willes are more ready than they all, to put into effect any of their licentious abuses." Thus arose the famous proverb, “An Englishman Italianate is a devil incarnate.”

Hence the warnings against Circes by even those authors most loud in praise of travel. Lipsius bids his noble pupil beware of Italian women: " ... inter faeminas, formae conspicuae, sed lascivae et procaces." Turler must acknowledge “an auntient complaint made by many that our countrymen usually bring three thinges with them out of Italye: a naughty conscience, an empty purse, and a weak stomache: and many times it chaunceth so indeede.” For since “youth and flourishing yeeres are most commonly employed in traveill, which of their owne course and condición are inclined unto vice, and much more earnestly imbrace the same if it be enticed thereto,” ... “many a time pleasures make a man not thinke on his returne,” ... but he is caught by the songs of Mermaids, “so to returne home with shame and shame enough."

It was necessary also to warn the traveller against those more harmless sins which we have already mentioned: against an arrogant bearing on his return to his native land, or a vanity which prompted him at all times to show that he had been abroad, and was not like the common herd. Perhaps it was an intellectual affectation of atheism or a cultivated taste for Machiavelli with which he was inclined to startle his old-fashioned countrymen. Almost the only book Sir Edward Unton seems to have brought back with him from Venice was the Historie of Nicolo Machiavelli, Venice, 1537. On the title page he has written: “Macchavelli Maxima / Qui nescit dissimulare / nescit vivere / Vive et vivas / Edw. Unton. " Perhaps it was only his display of Italian clothes “civil, because black, and comely because fitted to the body," or daintier table manners than Englishmen used which called down upon him the ridicule of his enemies. No doubt there was in the returned traveller a certain degree of condescension which made him disagreeable especially if he happened to be a proud and insolent courtier, who attracted the Queen’s notice by his sharpened wits and novelties of discourse, or if he were a vain boy of the sort that cumbered the streets of London with their rufflings and struttings.

In making surmises as to whom Ascham had in his mind’s eye when he said that he knew men who came back from Italy with “less learning and worse manners,” I guessed that one might be Arthur Hall, the first translator of Homer into English. Hall was a promising Grecian at Cambridge, and began his translation with Ascham’s encouragement. Between 1563 and 1568, when Ascham was writing The Scolemaster, Hall, without finishing for a degree, or completing the Homer, went to Italy. It would have irritated Ascham to have a member of St John’s throw over his task and his degree to go gadding. Certainly Hall’s after life bore out Ascham’s forebodings as to the value of foreign travel. On his return he spent a notorious existence in London until the consequences of a tavern brawl turned him out of Parliament. I might dwell for a moment on Hall’s curious account of this latter affair, because it is one of the few utterances we have by an acknowledged Italianate Englishman of a certain sort.

Hall, apparently, was one of those gallants who ruffled about Elizabethan London and used

“To loove to play at Dice
To sware his blood and hart
To face it with a Ruffins look
And set his Hat athwart."

The humorists throw a good deal of light on such “yong Jyntelmen.” So does Fleetwood, the Recorder of London, to whom they used to run when they were arrested for debt, or for killing a carman, making as their only apology, “I am a Jyntelman, and being a Jyntelman, I am not thus to be used at a slave and a colion’s hands." Hall, writing in the third person, in the assumed character of a friend, describes himself as “a man not wholly unlearned, with a smacke of the knowledge of diverse tongues ... furious when he is contraried ... as yourselfe is witnesse of his dealings at Rome, at Florence, in the way between that and Bollonia ... so implacable if he conceyve an injurie, as Sylla will rather be pleased with Marius, than he with his equals, in a maner for offences grown of tryffles.... Also spending more tyme in sportes, and following the same, than is any way commendable, and the lesse, bycause, I warrant you, the summes be great are dealte for.”

This terrible person, on the 16th of December 1573, at Lothbury, in London, at a table of twelve pence a meal, supped with some merchants and a certain Melchisedech Mallerie. Dice were thrown on the board, and in the course of play Mallerie “gave the lye with harde wordes in heate to one of the players.” “Hall sware (as he will not sticke to lende you an othe or two), to throw Mallerie out at the window. Here Etna smoked, daggers were a-drawing ... but the goodman lamented the case for the slaunder, that a quarrel should be in his house, ... so ... the matter was ended for this fitte.”

But a certain Master Richard Drake, attending on my Lord of Leicester, took pains first to warn Hall to take heed of Mallerie at play, and then to tell Mallerie that Hall said he used “lewde practices at cards.” The next day at “Poules" came Mallerie to Hall and “charged him very hotly, that he had reported him to be a cousiner of folkes at Mawe.” Hall, far from showing that fury which he described as his characteristic, denied the charge with meekness. He said he was patient because he was bound to keep the peace for dark disturbances in the past. Mallerie said it was because he was a coward.

Mallerie continued to say so for months, until before a crowd of gentlemen at the “ordinary” of one Wormes, his taunts were so unbearable that Hall crept up behind him and tried to stab him in the back. There was a general scuffle, some one held down Hall, the house grew full in a moment with Lord Zouche, gentlemen, and others, while “Mallerie with a great shreke ranne with all speede out of the doores, up a paire of stayres, and there aloft used most harde wordes againste Mr Hall.”

Hall, who had cut himself and nobody else nursed his wound indoors for some days, during which time friends brought word that Mallerie would “shewe him an Italian tricke, intending thereby to do him some secret and unlooked for mischief.” Then, with “a mufle half over his face,” Hall took post-horses to his home in Lincolnshire. Business called him, he tells the reader. There was no ground whatever for Mallerie to say he fled in disguise.

After six months, he ventured to return to London and be gay again. He dined at “James Lumelies the son, as it is said, of old M. Dominicke, born at Genoa, of the losse of whose nose there goes divers tales,” and coming by a familiar gaming-house on his way back to his lodgings, he “fell to with the rest.”

But there is no peace for him. In comes Mallerie and with insufferably haughty gait and countenance, brushes by. Hall tries a pleasant saunter around Poules with his friend Master Woodhouse: “comes Mallerie again, passing twice or thrice by Hall, with great lookes and extraordinary rubbing him on the elbowes, and spurning three or four times a Spaniel of Mr Woodhouses following his master and Master Hall.” Hall mutters to his servants, “Jesus can you not knocke the boyes head and the wall together, sith he runnes a-bragging thus?” His three servants go out of the church by the west door: when Mallerie stalks forth they set upon him and cut him down the cheek.

We will not follow the narrative through the subsequent lawsuit brought by Mallerie against Hall’s servants, the trial presided over by Recorder Fleetwood, the death of Mallerie, who “departed well leanyng to the olde Father of Rome, a dad whome I have heard some say Mr Hall doth not hate” or Hall’s subsequent expulsion from Parliament. This is enough to show the sort of harmless, vain braggarts some of these “Italianates” were, and how easily they acquired the reputation of being desperate fellows. Mallerie’s lawyer at the trial charged Hall with “following the revenge with an Italian minde learned at Rome.”

Among other Italianified Cambridge men whom Ascham might well have noticed were George Acworth and William Barker. Acworth had lived abroad during Mary’s reign, studying civil law in France and Italy. When Elizabeth came to the throne he was elected public orator of the University of Cambridge, but through being idle, dissolute, and a drunkard, he lost all his preferments in England. Barker, or Bercher, who was educated at St John’s or Christ’s, was abroad at the same time as Ascham, who may have met him as Hoby did in Italy. Barker seems to have been an idle person he says that after travels “my former fancye of professenge nothinge partycularly was verye muche encreased" and a papistical one, for on the accession of Mary he came home to serve the Duke of Norfolk, whose Catholic plots he betrayed, under torture, in 1571. It was then that the Duke bitterly dubbed him an “Italianfyd Inglyschemane,” equal in faithlessness to “a schamlesse Scote"; i.e. the Bishop of Ross, another witness.

Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, famous for his rude behaviour to Sir Philip Sidney, whom he subsequently tried to dispatch with hired assassins after the Italian manner, might well have been one of the rising generation of courtiers whom Ascham so deplored. In Ascham’s lifetime he was already a conspicuous gallant, and by 1571, at the age of twenty-two, he was the court favourite. The friends of the Earl of Rutland, keeping him informed of the news while he was fulfilling in Paris those heavy duties of observation which Cecil mapped out for him, announce that “There is no man of life and agility in every respect in Court, but the Earl of Oxford." And a month afterwards, “Th’ Erle of Oxenforde hath gotten hym a wyffe or at the leste a wyffe hath caught hym that is Mrs Anne Cycille, whearunto the Queen hath gyven her consent, the which hathe causyd great wypping, waling, and sorowful chère, of those that hoped to have hade that golden daye." Ascham did not live to see the development of this favorite into an Italianate Englishman, but Harrison’s invective against the going of noblemen’s sons into Italy coincides with the return of the Earl from a foreign tour which seems to have been ill-spent.

At the very time when the Queen “delighted more in his personage and his dancing and valiantness than any other," Oxford betook himself to Flanders without licence. Though his father-in-law Burghley had him brought back to the indignant Elizabeth, the next year he set forth again and made for Italy. From Siena, on January 3rd, 1574-5, he writes to ask Burghley to sell some of his land so as to disburden him of his debts, and in reply to some warning of Burghley’s that his affairs in England need attention, replies that since his troubles are so many at home, he has resolved to continue his travels. Eight months afterwards, from Italy, he begs Burghley’s influence to procure him a licence to continue his travels a year longer, stating as his reason an exemplary wish to see more of Germany. (In another letter also he assures Cecil that he means to acquaint himself with Sturmius that educator of youth so highly approved of by Ascham.) “As to Italy, he is glad he has seen it, but cares not ever to see it again, unless to serve his prince or country.” The reason they have not heard from him this past summer is that his letters were sent back because of the plague in the passage. He did not know this till his late return to Venice. He has been grieved with a fever. The letter concludes with a mention that he has taken up of Baptista Nigrone 500 crowns, which he desires repaid from the sale of his lands, and a curt thanks for the news of his wife’s delivery.

From Paris, after an interval of six months, he declares his pleasure at the news of his being a father, but makes no offer to return to England. Rather he intends to go back to Venice. He “may pass two or three months in seeing Constantinople and some part of Greece."

However, Burghley says, “I wrote to Pariss to hym to hasten hym homewards,” and in April 1576, he landed at Dover in an exceedingly sulky mood. He refused to see his wife, and told Burghley he might take his daughter into his own house again, for he was resolved “to be rid of the cumber." He accused his father-in-law of holding back money due to him, although Burghley states that Oxford had in one year L5700. Considering that Robert Sidney, afterwards Earl of Leicester, had only L1OO a year for a tour abroad, and that Sir Robert Dallington declares L200 to be quite enough for a gentleman studying in France or Italy including pay for a servant and that any more would be “superfluous and to his hurte," it will be seen that the Earl of Oxford had L5500 “to his hurte.”

Certain results of his travel were pleasing to his sovereign, however. For he was the first person to import to England “gloves, sweete bagges, a perfumed leather Jerkin, and other pleasant things." The Queen was so proud of his present of a pair of perfumed gloves, trimmed with “foure Tufts or Roses of coloured Silk” that she was “pictured with those Gloves upon her hands, and for many yeeres after, it was called the Earle of Oxford’s perfume." His own foreign and fashionable apparel was ridiculed by Gabriel Harvey, in the much-quoted description of an Italianate Englishman, beginning:

“A little apish hat couched faste to the pate, like an oyster."

Arthur Hall and the Earl of Oxford will perhaps serve to show that many young men pointed out as having returned the worse for their liberty to see the world, were those who would have been very poor props to society had they never left their native land. Weak and vain striplings of entirely English growth escaped the comment attracted by a sinner with strange garments and new oaths. For in those garments themselves lay an offence to the commonwealth. I need only refer to the well-known jealousy, among English haberdashers and milliners, of the superior craft of Continental workmen, behind whom English weavers lagged: Henry the Eighth used to have to wear hose cut out of pieces of cloth on that leg of which he was so proud unless “by great chance there came a paire of Spanish silke stockings from Spaine." Knit worsted stockings were not made in England till 1554, when an apprentice “chanced to see a pair of knit worsted stockings in the lodging of an Italian merchant that came from Mantua." Harrison’s description of England breathes an animosity to foreign clothes, plainly founded on commercial jealousy: “Neither was it ever merrier in England than when an Englishman was known abroad by his own cloth, and contented himself at home with his fine carsey hosen, and a mean slop: his coat, gown, and cloak of brown, blue, or puke, with some pretty furniture of velvet or of fur, and a doublet of sad tawny, or black velvet, or other comely silk, without such cuts and garish colours, as are worn in these days, and never brought in but by the consent of the French, who think themselves the gayest men when they have most diversities of rags and change of colours about them."

Wrapped up with economic acrimony there was a good deal of the hearty old English hatred of a Frenchman, or a Spaniard, or any foreigner, which was always finding expression. Either it was the ’prentices who rioted, or some rude fellow who pulls up beside the carriage of the Spanish ambassador, snatches the ambassador’s hat off his head and “rides away with it up the street as fast as he could, the people going on and laughing at it," or it was the Smithfield officers deputed to cut swords of improper length, who pounced upon the French ambassador because his sword was longer than the statutes allowed. “He was in a great fury.... Her Majestie is greatly offended with the officers, in that they wanted judgement."

There was also a dislike of the whole new order of things, of which the fashion for travel was only a phase: dislike of the new courtier who scorned to live in the country, surrounded by a huge band of family servants, but preferred to occupy small lodgings in London, and join in the pleasures of metropolitan life. The theatre, the gambling resorts, the fence-schools, the bowling alleys, and above all the glamor of the streets and the crowd were charms only beginning to assert themselves in Elizabethan England. But the popular voice was loud against the nobles who preferred to spend their money on such things instead of on improving their estates, and who squandered on fine clothes what used to be spent on roast beef for their retainers. Greene’s Quip for an Upstart Courtier parodies what the new and refined Englishman would say:

“The worlds are chaungde, and men are growne to more wit, and their minds to aspire after more honourable thoughts: they were dunces in diebus illis, they had not the true use of gentility, and therefore they lived meanely and died obscurely: but now mennes capacities are refined. Time hath set a new edge on gentlemen’s humours and they show them as they should be: not like gluttons as their fathers did, in chines of beefe and almes to the poore, but in velvets, satins, cloth of gold, pearle: yea, pearle lace, which scarce Caligula wore on his birthday."

On the whole, we may say that the objections to foreign travel rose from a variety of motives. Ascham doubtless knew genuine cases of young men spoiled by too much liberty, and there were surely many obnoxious boys who bragged of their “foreign vices.” Insular prejudice, jealousy and conservatism, hating foreign influence, drew attention to these bad examples. Lastly, there was another element in the protest against foreign travel, which grew more and more strong towards the end of the reign of Elizabeth and the beginning of James the First’s, the hatred of Italy as the stronghold of the Roman Catholic Church, and fear of the Inquisition. Warnings against the Jesuits are a striking feature of the next group of Instructions to Travellers.