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Their Food.


BOOK Their food was that mixture of animal and ve

getable diet which always attends the progress of civilisation. They reared various sorts of corn in inclosed and cultivated lands, and they fed domesticated cattle for the uses of their table.

For their animal food they had oxen, sheep, and great abundance of swine; they used, likewise, fowls, deer, goats, and hares ; but though the horned cattle are not unfrequently mentioned in their grants and wills, and were often the subjects of exchange, yet the animals most numerously stated are the swine. The country in all parts abounded with wood; and woods are not often particularised without some notice of the swine which they contained, or were capable of maintaining They also frequently appear in wills. Thus Alfred, a nobleman, gives to his relations an hide of land with one hundred swine ; and he directs one hundred swine to be given for his soul to one minster, and the same number to another ; and to his two daughters he gives two thousand swine. So Elfhelm gives land to St. Peter's at Westminster, on the express condition that they feed two hundred of these animals for his wife.?

They ate various kinds of fish ; but, of this description of their animal food, the species which is

1 i Will. in App. Sax. Dict.

2 Ibid.


most profusely noticed is the eel. They used eels CHAP. as abundantly as swine. Two grants are mentioned, each yielding one thousand eels), and by another two thousand were received as an annual rent. Four thousand eels were a yearly present from the monks of Ramsay to those of Peterborough. We read of two places purchased for twenty-one pounds, wherein sixteen thousand of these fish were caught' every year; and, in one charta, twenty fishermen are stated, who furnished, during the same period, sixty thousand eels to the monastery. Eel dikes are often mentioned in the boundaries of their lands.

In the dialogues composed by Elfric to instruct the Anglo-Saxon youths in the Latin language, which are yet preserved to us?, we have some curious information concerning the manners and trades of our ancestors. In one colloquy the fisherman is asked, What gettest thou by thine art ?'

Big loaves, clothing, and money." —How do you take them?' “ I ascend my ship, and cast my net into the river; I also throw in a hook, a bait, and a rod.” — Suppose the fishes are unclean ?' throw the unclean out, and take the clean for food.” — Where do you sell your fish?' “ In the city.” — Who buys them?' “ The citizens; I cannot take so many as I can sell." - What fishes do you take?' Eels, haddocks, minnows, and eel-pouts, skate, and lampreys, and whatever swims in the river.” — Why do you not fish in

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3 3 Gale, 477.

4 Ibid. 456. 5 Dugdale Mon. p. 244.

6 Ibid. p. 235. 7 In the Cotton Library, MS. Tib. A. 3.

8 The Saxon names for these are, ælar, hacodas, mynas, j æleputan, sceotan, j lampredan. MS. Tib. A. 3.


BOOK the sea ?' “Sometimes I do ; but rarely, because

a great ship is necessary there.” — What do you take in the sea ?' “ Herrings and salmons, porpoises, sturgeons, oysters, and crabs, muscles, winkles, cockles, flounders, plaice, lobsters', and such like.” —Can you take a whale ? “No, it is dangerous to take a whale ; it is safer for me to go to the river with my ship than to go with many ships to hunt whales.” — Why?' “ Because it is more pleasant to me to take fish which I can kill with one blow; yet many take whales without danger, and then they get a great price, but I dare not, from the fearfulness of


mind.” This extract shows the uniformity of human taste on the main articles of food. Fish was such a favourite diet, that the supply never equalled the demand, and the same fishes were then in request which we select, though our taste has declined for the porpoises. The porpoise is mentioned in a convention between an archbishop and the clergy at Bath, which enumerates six of them under the name of mere-swine, or the sea-swine, and thirty thousand herrings.

In the earlier periods of the Anglo-Saxon colonisation, their use of fish was more limited : for we read in Bede, that Wilfrid rescued the people of Sussex from famine in the eighth century by teaching them to catch fish : “For though the sea and their rivers abounded with fish, they had no more skill in the art than to take eels. The servants of Wilfrid threw into the sea nets made out of those


9 Derincgas į leaxas, mepespýnj tipian, ostpean y crabban, muslan, pine pinclan, jæ coccas, faze, ploc, lopýrtpan. MS. ib.

10 MS. CCC. apud Cantab. Miscell. G. p. 73.



by which they had obtained eels, and thus directed CHAP. them to a new source of plenty."! It may account for Wilfrid's superior knowledge, to remark, that he had travelled over the continent to Rome.

It is an article in the Penitentiale of Egbert, that fish might be bought though dead. 12 The same treatise allows herrings to be eaten, and states, that when boiled they are salutary in fever and diarrhæa, and that their gall mixed with pepper is good for a sore mouth!

HORSE-FLESH, which our delicacy rejects with aversion, appears to have been used, though it became unfashionable as their civilisation advanced. The Penitentiale says,

“ Horse-flesh is not prohibited, though many families will not buy it.”Ā But in the council held in 785, in Northumbria, before Alfwold, and in Mercia, before Offa, it was discountenanced. Many among you eat horses, which is not done by any Christians in the East. Avoid this.” 15

But though animal food was in much use among our ancestors, it was, as it is with us, and perhaps will be in every country in which agriculture has become habitual, and population much increased, rather the food of the wealthier part of the community than of the lower orders.

That it could not be afforded by all, is clear, from the incident of a king and queen visiting a monastery, and inquiring, when they saw the boys eating only bread, if they were allowed nothing else. The answer returned was, that the scanty means of the society could afford no better. The

1 Bede, lib. iv. c. 13.


13 Ibid.

14 Ibid.

1 Wilkins Conc. p. 123.

15 Ibid. p. 151.


queen then petitioned the king to enable them to provide additional food. 16

They had wheat and barley in general use, but their prices were different; wheat, like meat, was a dearer article, and therefore less universal. It is said of the Abbey of St. Edmund, that the young monks eat barley-bread, because the income of the establishment would not admit of their feeding twice or thrice a-day on wheaten bread." Their corn was thrashed with a flail like our own, and ground by the simple mechanism of mills, of which great numbers are particularised in the Doomsday Survey. In their most ancient law, we read of a king's grinding-servant 18 ; but both water-mills and wind-mills occur very frequently in their conveyances after that time.

THEY used warm bread. 19 The life of St. Neot states, that the peasant's wife placed on her oven “ the loaves which some call loudas.” 20 In the agreement of one of their social gilds, a broad loaf well besewon and well gesyfled is noticed. 21 In one grant of land we find six hundred loaves reserved as a renta, and oftentimes cheeses. They were allowed to use milk, cheese, and eggs, on their fast-days.2 Some individual devotees chose to be very rigorous. In 735, a lady is mentioned, in Oxford, of a noble family, who mortified herself by lying on the bare ground, and subsisting on broth made of the poorest herbs, and on a small quantity of barley-bread. 24 In the same century, ,

16 MS. Cotton Claud. C. 9. p. 128. 17 Dugd. Mon. p. 296.

18 Wilkins's Leg. Sax. p. 2. 19 Bede, ed. Smith, p. 234. 20 MS. Cott. Claud. A. 5. p. 157. 21 Dugd. Mon. p. 278.

22 Sax. Chron. 75. 23 Wilk. Leg. Sax. p. 194. 24 Dugd. Mon. 173.

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