Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

A CHAPTER ON NECKLACES,
OLD AND NEW.

or the substances of which they were composed, represented in the mythic language of the East.

Perhaps it might have been with such intentions that we find the necklace so favourite an adornment with the warriors of antiquity. The Medes, Persians, Indians, and Etruscans, wore them in the valuable shape of strings of pearls, sometimes en

THE readers of the Family Friend will perceive that we follow no particular rule in the introduction of these chapters on dress, but select them from humour only, preferring this to a methodical dissertation on the contents of wardrobes or jewel-cases. One object, however, we have for ransack-riched with jewels; while the chiefs and great men amongst the northern nations, were distinguished by necklaces and collars of gold, called torques, so that when conquered, the necklaces of both oriental and Celtic nations must have made an important part of the spoils.

ing from the armoires of antiquity, olden fashions and finery-to invest with additional interest the familiar objects of our own time, and rescue from the indifference of custom, articles which daily use has rendered common-place.

It is curious to trace the first appearance of necklaces amongst the Egyptians, in the same form as they exist at the present day upon the necks of the Patagonians, and the natives of the islands of the Pacific; for the ancient dwellers by the Nile wore necklaces of the seeds of leguminous plants, berries, and feathers (especially those of the poule de Numidie), precisely the same substances as are used in this ornament by the above people, except that the emu supplies the feathers, and that shells are Occasionally mingled with the brightcoloured berries. But shells were also used in necklaces by the Egyptians, as our readers may perceive in the table-cases of the Egyptian gallery in the British Museum.

Hence, probably, the adoption of the monile by the Romans as a reward for military valour, and hence also the surname of Torquatus Manlius, who was so called from his having torn the golden torque from the neck of an enemy on the field of battle.

Necklaces were worn by both Greek and Roman women, but only within doors, and on occasions of domestic festivity, as at weddings and dances; they were especially used as bridal presents, and the learned in mythology will remember that it was upon the occasion of Hermione's marriage that Vulcan, to revenge her mother's infidelity, bestowed upon her the fatal necklace which worked such wondrous evils on her race. Here we perceive that the Eastern superstitions connected with this ornament had accompanied the fashion of wearing it into Greece: the rich and beautiful necklace of Hermione was a talisman-not to counteract evil, but to produce it; so that byand-bye we find this very necklace, which Ovid tells us was of gold, and to the description of which Nomus devotes fifty lines of his Dionysica, bribing Eriphyle, the wife of Amphiaraus, to betray her husband.

Here, we may trace the next appearance of this trinket, when art began to be applied in its composition, and spherical beads of various substances were used; as well as its progression from a simple ornament to its superstitious use as an amulet. In one of these cases some very interesting specimens of our subject may be seen, tracing, as plainly as more important things might do, the gradual advance of art; there is one of round blue beads capped with silver, another representing deities and symbols, and a third with pendents in the form of the lock of horns, fishes, and cowries, which are well deserving of attention.

The two latter were of course worn as amulets, and being impressed with sacred images, were supposed to ward off danger and infection-to render the wearer courageous or agreeable, or invest him with the various qualities which their symbolism, and other gems of a greenish hue, were 1

For this description of monile, emeralds

Z

At Rome, as with the old Egyptians, the materials of the necklace soon altered from a simple row of berries or small spheres of glass, &c., to pearls, and amber, and precious stones; the single chaplet which primitively encircled the throat, gradually extended to a second, and even a third row: after which we find the original necklace adorned with drops or pendents, which, when worn, fell round the neck, like rays from a centre.

greatly prized; and amongst the treasures which time has restored to the museums and cabinets of the curious, from the buried toilets of Pompeii, a golden necklace is enumerated which was enriched with twelve small emeralds.

existence coeval with Stonehenge, and to
have preserved its memoirs in the funeral
barrows of the Britons and Anglo-Saxons.
In these tumuli, necklaces of various
kinds have been found, and beads of
crystal, jet, amber, and coloured glass,
are quite common in them.
In some,
necklaces of bone and ivory have been
discovered, and the Archælogical Society
have engraved one in their Journal, which
is formed of beads of bone and canel
coal.

Etruscan graves have also yielded up their treasures, and amongst a variety of other matters affording the most interesting illustrations of the domestic economies of the ancient Tuscan people, have preserved for us the fashion of these ornaments. Those purchased from the Prince of Canino, and deposited in our national Museum, are of gold: one represents a wreath of ivy-leaves in pairs, the stems of the leaves joining; and the ornaments of the others consist of circles, lozenges, rosettes, hippocampi (sea-horses), and a heart depends centrally from one of them.

In the wills of the Anglo-Saxons, we find the neck-bracelet, as its name implied in their language, frequently mentioned: and amongst other articles of jewellery, 'we read of golden vermiculated necklaces. Boadicea wore a golden necklace, and subsequently the torquis, or collar of honour, commonly of gold, was made the insignia of dukes and earls, both by the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans. The Norman kings wore a collar or necklace of gold, adorned with jewels, and which depended on the breast, like the collar or

Necklaces in the shape of serpents were worn by the Greeks and Romans, by whom this emblem was regarded as a charm against witchcraft and the "evil eye;" they were made to coil round the neck of the wearer, and it is remarkable that the neck-knighthood, of which, no doubt, these lace so fatal to Hermione and Eriphyle antique ornaments were the prototypes; was of this form. Some years back an inwhile such of our Saxon ancestors as scription, found in France, mentioned a could not procure the precious metals, torque dedicated to Esculapius, having rather than be without this favourite ornabeen made by twisting together two golden ment, wore them of brass and even iron. snakes, and offerings of trinkets in this shape were often made in honour of him by persons during illness, or on their recovery from it.

Amber appears, from the very earliest period, a favourite material for the necklaces of women, probably on account of its perfume, which Autolycus, the roguish pedlar, in the "Winter's Tale," alludes to in his rhyming list of wares,

Besides decorating the necks of brides and conquerors with these ornaments, the Romans carried their admiration of the necklace so far as to adorn the statues of their divinities with them; thus, a statue of Fortune, found at Herculaneum, had the representation of a necklace incrusted with silver, and a figure of Mercury, in the gallery of Greek and Roman antiquities in the museum (thought by some to be the most exquisite bronze in Europe), has a gold torquis round its neck this honour, however, the deities shared in common with favourite domestic animals; and horses were frequently adorned with them.

:

So much more remains to be said of the use of them by the ancients, that we leave, reluctantly, these classic reminiscences, to trace the history of the necklace at home, where it appears to have an

"Necklace amber, Perfume for a lady's chamber."

In Italy, we learn from an ancient chronicle, that ladies wore them made of bent gold coins, and that whistles, in the shape of a dragon, set with gold and pearls (probably to call servants), sometimes depended from them.

A picture of Joan of Navarre, wife of Henry IV., in whose reign necklaces were much worn by ladies, represents her wearing a collar of Esses.

A necklace on the ancient effigy of Lady Peyton, at Isleham Church, Cambridgeshire, is formed of pear-shaped stones or pearls, attached to a string or narrow band of gold, while another, represented in the Harleian MS., looks like

[graphic]

a wreath of small stars, and was, in all probability, of the same precious metal. In the middle ages we read that the necklaces of women were set with jewels and stones; and that some, called serpents, from the fashion of them, were also in vogue; and in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the necklaces of English ladies were arranged in the same manner as the rayed ones of the Romans.

Queen Elizabeth is always represented wearing strings of pearls, or jewelled carcanets, and the royal example appears to have been very generally followed by the dames of her realm, whose taste for a profusion of such ornaments has been handed down to us by the dramatists and other writers of the period; though in her reign, as in her father's, sumptuary laws were made to prevent persons below a certain rank from appearing in them. Barclay, in his "Ship of Fools," printed A. D. 1508, speaks of some who had their necks

"Charged with collars and chains, In golden withes."

and in a curious work called "The Four Pees," of John Heywood, written 1560, he makes the Pedlar vaunt, amongst other vanities of women, "of all manner of beads." The penalty for wearing anything of gold or gilt about the neck, in Henry VIII's time, unless the wearer was a gentleman, or could prove that he possessed over all charges, 2001. yearly value, was the forfeiture of the same; a regulation well calculated to maintain the restriction in tact.

All this while certain superstitions existed with regard to the necklace, as well as to all other trinkets of which gold and precious stones made part, occasioned, probably, by the antique use of gems as amulets, and from the pretended occult powers ascribed to them by the alchemists. Even Elizabeth, with all her keenness and masculine strength of mind, save where vanity and its natural craving, the love of admiration, were concerned, appears to have been just as impressible upon such subjects, as a peasant girl; and we find the Lord Chancellor Hatton, sending her a ring (in all probability of agate), to be worn on her breast, against infectious air. The physicians of those days did much to sustain the "charm" of our

subject. Necklaces made of the root of the male peony, were worn for the prevention of the falling sickness, while those made of amber were deemed good against infection; and to the doctrine of signatures which connected the medical properties of substances with their forms and colour, we may safely trace the common practice of ornamenting young children with necklaces of coral, as well as the invention of the silver-belled trifle, so called.

With the same purpose (that of assisting their teething), the anodyne necklace, which is made of beads of the white briony, is sometimes hung around the necks of infants, sustaining, even in our own times, a lingering faith in the medical virtues of the amulet.

But that our space forbids, the necklace worn by nuns might lead us to a dissertation on the religious uses of this ornament; but we must briefly glance at its secular history in modern times, when its most powerful spells have been those of fashion.

Coming down to the seventeenth century, we find the necklace quite as much in vogue as in the reign of Elizabeth: in Massinger's "City Madam," after her husband's knighthood, we find her brother observing to the lady,

"Your borrow'd hair,

Powder'd and curl'd, was by your dresser's art
Form'd like a coronet-hang'd with diamonds,
And richest orient pearls-your carkanet,
That did adorn your neck of equal value."

so that the love of gems and jewellery was by no means on the decline. In the picture of Charles and his queen, in "Heath's Chronicle," (1662), Catherine of Braganza wears two necklaces, one clasping the throat, and the other, to which a pendant is attached, falling low on the shoulders. Planché tells us that in Mary's reign, jewelled necklaces sparkled on the bosom, a fashion continued in that of her sister Anne of Denmark, who is usually drawn wearing one.

With the accession of George III., the maudlin sentimentality of the belles and macaronies of the period gave the name of esclavage to the necklace then in fashion, which consisted of several rows of gold chains, or beads, or jewels, ar

[graphic]

ranged one under the other in successive festoons, so as to cover the entire neck.

This was again displaced by the carcanet, or band of jewels set in gold, and we ourselves remember the négligé, with its tasseled ends falling gracefully beneath the throat; since then the necklace has gradually grown into disuse, so that our friend's information, that short golden ones were again in fashion, sounded pleasantly as news of an old acquaintance.

EMINENT FEMALE WRITERS.

ELIZABETH CARTER.

ELIZABETH Carter, eldest daughter of the Rev. Nicholas Carter, D.D., was born at Deal, in Kent, on the 16th December, 1717. In her early years, she gave no promise of excelling in literature, and her father was quite discouraged, and advised her to relinquish her studies; but intense and systematic application soon met with its reward. In a few years, she acquired a very critical knowledge of Greek and Latin, and had made considerable proficiency in Hebrew, and, before her twenty-first year, she added the French, Spanish, and German to her other acquirements. But all these attainments she felt to be nothing without religion. Her earnest piety was the most decided feature of her character in her youth, and continued undiminished to the last moments of her life.

Notwithstanding her laborious and severe studies, she found leisure for amuse

* "I talked of the difficulty of early rising. Dr. Johnson told me that the learned Mrs. Carter, at that period when she was eager in study, did not awake as early as she wished, and she therefore had a contrivance that, at a certain hour, her chamber light should burn a string, to which a heavy weight was suspended, which then fell with a strong, sudden noise: this roused her from sleep, and then she had no difficulty in getting up."-Boswell.

+ These acquirements were not made, as they never should be, at the expense of more femi

nine accomplishments. "Upon hearing a lady commended for her learning, Dr. Johnson said, A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek. My old friend, Mrs. Carter,' he added, 'could make a pudding as well as translate Epictetus from the Greek, and work a handkerchief as well as compose a poem.'"-Boswell.

ment, and for the display of a cheerful and ever gay disposition. Of dancing she was particularly fond, and entered with great vivacity and high spirits into all the innocent diversions of youth. She was fond of painting, and attained considerable excellence in the art; and, before her seventeenth year she courted the Muses, by translating from the Greek the thirtieth ode of Anacreon; and the next year she sent two or three poetical effusions to the "Gentleman's Magazine." In 1739, she gave a translation from the French critique of Crousaz on "Pope's Essay on Man," and of Algarotti's "Explanation of Newton's Philosophy, for the use of Ladies," which procured her a high reputation among the literati, both in England and on the Continent.* 1746, she wrote her "Ode to Wisdom," one of the most elegant and interesting of her poetical effusions. By this time, of course, her literary acquaintance was very extensive. Of these, Dr. Secker (afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury), was warmly attached to her, and was of great service to her in her literary pursuits; and Dr. Johnson was so struck with the depth and variety of her acquisitions, that he wrote a Greek epigram in her praise.†

In

Encouraged by the approbation of her intimate friend, Miss Talbot, and of Dr. Secker, she commenced, in 1749, when in her thirty-second year, a translation of the writings of Epictetus. It was completed in 1756, and published in 1758, in one volume, quarto. About one thousand three hundred copies were printed, and she realized one thousand pounds as the pecuniary reward of her labours. But a reward of a much higher kind awaited her- the applause and the approval of the learned, the wise, and the

* She was highly complimented for this effort, by a writer in the Gentleman's Magazine, And beam'd on female minds fair science's ray; "Be thine the glory to have led the way, Awaked our fair from too inglorious ease,

To meditate on themes sublime as these:
The many paths of nature to explore,
And boldly tread where none have reach'd be-

fore."

In a letter to Cave, he says, "I have composed a Greek epigram to Eliza, and think she ought to be celebrated in as many different languages as Louis le Grand."

[graphic]

and

good. Scholars were astonished that so difficult a Greek author should be translated with such accuracy, and elegance, and varied learning, by a woman, Dr. Johnson is reported, in consequence, to have said, when a celebrated Greek scholar was spoken of, "Sir, he is the best Greek scholar in England, except Elizabeth Carter."

editions.

In the year 1762, she was induced to publish a collection of her poems, in one small volume, which, before the close of the century, passed through five or six The character of her poetry is such as might have been expected from the elegance of her classical learning, the purity of her moral principles, and her consistent piety. While, to high imagination, or to great creative power, she can lay no claim, her language is clear and correct, her versification sweet and harmonious, and her sentiments all that the moralist or the Christian could wishpure, dignified, devotional, and sometimes rising to the sublime.

At this time her society was courted by the good and the learned everywhere; but she never favoured mere literary eminence, unless it were connected with purity of character. Without this, no talents, however brilliant, attracted her regard, or could be admitted into her social circle. What a change would soon be seen and felt throughout society, if every female had the firmness and moral courage to take this position, and to say to every known dissipated character what Henry V. said to Falstaff-"Not to come near our person by ten miles."

In the latter part of her life, Mrs. Carter began to feel heavily the devastation which death usually makes among the friends of those who are destined to long life. In 1768, Dr. Secker died; in 1770, her beloved companion, Miss Talbot; in 1774, her venerable father, at the age of eighty-six; and in 1800, her old and valued friend, Mrs. Montagu. She herself expired, with perfect calmness and resignation, on the morning of the 19th of February, 1806.

Of Mrs. Carter's poems we have before spoken. As a specimen we append the following "Ode to Wisdom," which has been universally admired, and would alone render her name immortal.

ODE TO WISDOM.

The solitary bird of night
Through the pale shades now wings his
flight,

And quits the time-shook tower,
Where, shelter'd from the blaze of day,
In philosophic gloom he lay
Beneath his ivy bower.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

+ Venus.

« PreviousContinue »