Erasmus, who was quoted in the preceding chapter as writing in the early years of the sixteenth century, may be regarded as good authority for the general conduct of inns in western Europe throughout that century, for they did not begin to change in character until after the Reformation when, in England, the dissolution of the religious houses occasioned the multiplication of inns. Naturally, these did not greatly differ from the few which had preceded them. They were something more than taverns, and yet, apart from the business of furnishing farmers with lodgings and stabling, depended, like the common taverns, on their tap rooms for their chief support.
In England the inn was about to undergo a transformation, but this was postponed until the accession of Elizabeth to the throne, when a new life was given to the English people, especially in military prowess and literary glory. Up to the time of Elizabeth, it will be recalled England had been the prey of conquerors. “Rule Britannia” had yet to be written. The Romans, the Saxons, the Danes, and the Normans in turn had conquered the land. In Elizabeth’s day, the Spanish, feeling themselves lords of the seas, sought to add England as another province to their mighty empire, but their expedition was annihilated instead. Having finished off the champion whose very name had been feared, England became mistress of the seas.
When the 608 religious houses, including 48 of the Knights Hospitaliers, in England were suppressed by Act of Parliament, in 1539, wayfarers were suddenly deprived of their accustomed places of refuge along the main travelled roads. This curtailment was followed more or less quickly by the opening of more inns. As for the poor wayfarer, he was entirely thrown upon the mercies of the charitable everywhere and those who could afford to pay for accommodation were now forced to find it in public inns. Many of the churches and abbeys formerly had, on certain church anniversaries, been accustomed to exhibit morality plays, and as these were in abeyance, a desire for popular theatrical exhibitions was formed. There were, of course, still in existence the stages, or movable elevated platforms, upon which the morality plays had been performed, usually by the churchmen themselves or the Mystery plays, which seem to have been the province of the guilds of Craftsmen, as in York and Chester; but when Elizabeth became queen and the new style of inn came in, plays on more vulgar subjects were written, and in these the galleries, which were a feature of the inn yards, presented a kind of amphitheatre which naturally lent itself to the accommodation of an audience. As is very well known the modern theatre was evolved from this simple beginning.
Plays were not given in all inns, but even after The Theatre and The Curtain, the first buildings in London to be designed and erected for theatrical exhibitions, plays were seen in The Bell Savage Inn, on Ludgate Hill; in The Cross Keys, in Gracechurch Street; and in The Bull, in Bishopsgate Street. These inns probably were not very new in 1576 when the first playhouse, The Theatre, was erected in Shore-ditch, by James Burbage. The very names indicate greater antiquity. The Cross Keys, for instance, received its sign from the insignia formerly found on the walls of religious houses. Of course, The Crossed Keys, or Keys in Saltier, as the insignia is known in heraldry, are the Keys of St. Peter. The Bull, “in all colors,” as one writer expresses it, was a fairly popular sign all over England, and, when playhouses became more common in London, there was a rather popular theatre in St. John Street, Smithfield, known as The Red Bull.
The history of The Bell Savage is varied according to the authority quoted. At times it is spelled “Belle” and thought to mean “The Indian Princess,” Pocahontas, who, however, did not visit England until the first quarter of the Seventeenth Century. Another view of the origin is given by Charles Hindley, in his “Tavern Anecdotes and Sayings.”
“The Bell Savage Inn,” he wrote, “was formerly situated in a yard so named on the north side of Ludgate Hill, and was a house of considerable fame and business, whence coaches took their departure to various parts of the country. Few signs have been so wrongly explained. There can be no reasonable doubt that the Bell Savage Yard, now (1875) a court surrounded with noble buildings, from one of which Cassell, Petter and Galpin’s numerous publications are issued, was once the site of an inn called The Bell and Hoop, or possibly The Bell and Hope, or Anchor, the symbol of hope; and that, as years went on, this degenerated, under the tenancy of one Savage, into The Bell Savage’s Inn, or simply The Bell Savage. The signboard, too, having commenced life with representations of the double security of a sailor, a bell, and anchor, or `hope’for we must remember that 400 years ago ships sailed up the Fleet as far as King’s Cross, and were moored almost at the door of our hostelrythe bell and hope got changed by degrees into a bell within a `hoop,’ and at last, during the tenancy of the now immortal Master Savage, the sign became a savage man under a bell, in which form it was well known in the old coaching days, from being painted on all the vehicles plying to and from Ludgate Hill.”
Over the page devoted to the above description in Mr. Hindley’s book is a reproduction of a crude wood cut picturing an angry woman striking a man who appears to have been drinking in a tavern. Under the picture is the legend, “The Belle Savage.
Hindley quotes Taylor, the water-poet, to substantiate his view of the origin of the inn’s sign. In Taylor’s work, entitled “The Carriers Cosmographie,” printed in 1637, occurs the statement, “The carriers of Doncaster, in York-shire, doe lodge at the Bell, or Bell Savage without Ludgate; they do come on Fridaies, and goe away on Saturdaies or Mundaies.” Walpole is given as authority for the statement that Grinling Gibbons, the wood carver, lived in Bell Savage Yard, “where he carved a pot of flowers which shook surprisingly with the motion of the coaches that pass by.”
As there were, in 1576, no fewer than 132 inns in the county of Middlesex and 77 in Surrey, in which the city of London lies, one may be sure that all of them were not the scenes of plays. It is an interesting fact that at this period there were only about one-sixth as many taverns as inns. However, there were more than 1,000 places designated as Alehouses or Tippling Houses in London in the same census.
Some of the inns in existence in London at this time which have become the centres of legends and tradition really dated back several centuries before. One of these was The Boar’s Head in Great Eastcheap, which, as Timbs reminds us, was mentioned as early as the time of Richard II. This famed inn or tavern was swept away by the Great Fire of 1666, but was rebuilt two years later, and when Washington Irving wrote so engagingly of the house in his “Sketch Book,” he seemed to believe he was idealizing the very spot where Falstaff and Prince Hal made merry, entirely forgetful of the fact that that Boar’s Head had fallen victim to the Great Fire.
As the original Boar’s Head was no more, the London admirers of Shakespeare in the eighteenth century were accustomed to hold their banquets in the rooms of its successor, and the last of these celebrations was held in the year 1784. The tavern, of course, was known to Goldsmith, who probably was responsible for leading the American essayist Irving astray, for in one of his essays, quoted by Burn in his “Catalogue of the Beaufoy Tokens,” he conjures up a merry party at the Boar’s Head, with Sir John Falstaff, Dame Quickly, Doll Tearsheat, Madame Proserpine and the merry men of Eastcheap. The last hostess of note of the Boar’s Head, according to Goldsmith, was a certain Jane Rouse. But even when Irving was rambling through the crooked streets of old London the ancient tavern had ceased to exist, and in its place he found two shops, for the ancient structure had been converted to other uses. Even these shops were removed in 1830 so that the north approach to the new London Bridge might be constructed. A monstrous statue to King William IV, who opened the bridge in 1831, was erected on the site of the old tavern, but it, too, has been removed.
There was another Boar’s Head Inn in Southwark, London, in the rear of Nos. 25 and 26 High Street. This was part of the benefaction of Sir John Falstaff, who gave it to Magdalen College, Oxford. This Sir John, who is said to have been a brave general in the French Wars of the fourth, fifth and sixth Henries, we are warned by Timbs, is not to be confused with Shakespeare’s fat Knight, although Sir Sidney Lee, in his life of Shakespeare, shows that originally the dramatist had named the character “Sir John Old-castle,” until a descendant raised an objection and then the character became “Sir John Falstaff.” Although Shakespeare did not live to hear further objections to selection, Fuller, in his “Worthies,” first published in 1662, regretted that Shakespeare had substituted the name and made over-bold with a great warrior’s memory.
Another contemporary inn which dated to medieval times was the White Hart in Bishopsgate Street, which was said to have once been part of the priory founded by Robert Fitzmary, in 1246, and believed to have been erected as a hostelry for the accommodation of strangers in connection with the priory. For many years the old building carried the figures 1480 on its front; evidently its landlord, in 1787, when the original façade was altered, had the date placed there believing that was the year the inn was established. The tavern was taken down in 1829 and rebuilt. The Inn was known to Stow, for he mentions it in his “Survey” in 1598, describing it as “a fair inn for receipt of travellers, next unto the Parish Church of St. Botolph without Bishops-gate.”
There was another White Hart, in Southwark, the Surrey side of London, and also very old, but now mainly recalled as the place where Sam Weller was the “boots,” and evidently another at the Holborn end of Drury Lane, because in 1910 it was announced that improvements had demanded the removal of “Ye Olde White Harte,” which, newspapers of the time informed us, dated from 1272, and this hostelry was described as the oldest tavern in London. There is a Hart Street in this neighborhood and it probably received its name from the tavern or inn sign. The White Hart, in Bishopsgate Street, of which a view was given in the European Magazine for March, 1787, had a pictorial sign over the doorway, showing a reclining white hart. This view also displays the date 1480 on one of the bays which interrupted an otherwise plain façade.
In the days when such cities as London had a distinct inn and tavern life there were to be found more than one tavern or inn bearing the same sign. As we have seen there were several White Harts, so were there several Mermaid Taverns, and more than one that boasted of the Mitre for its sign. It is therefore quite easy to regard the wrong Mermaid as the scene of the jollities of the Elizabethan poets and men-about-town of that day, and to make a similar mistake about the Mitre, which really got a place for itself in English literature. Some of the errors that have crept into statements have been due to the different ways in which the location of some of the famous taverns of other days have been described. For instance, take the Mermaid:
“The Mermaid in Bread Street,” observed Mr. Burn in his book on “London Traders, Taverns and Coffee-House Tokens in the Seventeenth Century,” “The Mermaid in Friday Street and the Mermaid in Cheape, were all one and the same. The tavern situated behind had a way to it from these thoroughfares, but was nearer to Bread Street than Friday Street.”
This Mermaid in Cheape is the one we are most concerned with, for it was, by tradition, the home of the Mermaid Club. Tradition also is responsible for the statement that Sir Walter Raleigh was the founder of that celebrated organization of wits which are said to have included Shakespeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Cotton, Carew, Martin and Donne. So far as is known Gifford, who edited the works of Ben Jonson in 1816, seems to have been either the creator of a legend or the fortunate possessor of a tradition, for there does not appear to be before his time any facts regarding the existence of the Mermaid Club or of its institution by Sir Walter, although both Jonson and Beaumont have left references to the Mermaid Tavern in their verses.
Jonson, in his verses on “Bread-street,” which are given in Gifford’s edition, displays enthusiasm for the tavern:
“At Bread-street’s Mermaid having dined and merry, Proposed to go to Holborn in a wherry.”
Francis Beaumont, in his oft-repeated epistle to Ben Jonson, gives us a lively picture of the wits at the Mermaid :
“Methinks the little wit I had is lost Since I saw you; for wit is like a rest Held up at tennis, which men do the best
With the best gamesters; What things have we seen
Done at the Mermaid ! heard words that have been So nimble, and so full of subtile flame, As if that every one from whence they came Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest, And had resolv’d to live a fool the rest
Of his dull life; then when there hath been thrown Wit able enough to justify the town For three days past, wit that might warrant be For the whole city to talk foolishly ‘Till that were cancell’d: and when that was gone We left the air behind us, which alone Was able to make the two next companies
Right witty; though but downright fools, mere wise.”
The Old Mermaid in Cheape passed out in the Great Fire of 1666, but its memories and its legends persist to the present time.
Without having attained the celebrity of The Mermaid, or rather, not having been referred to as often by modern essayists, was the ancient tavern in whose sign was The Mitre. As Hindley, in his “Tavern Anecdotes,” properly observes, “The Mitre is an ancient sign, coeval with the introduction and establishment of the prelacy in England.” That probably is not an accurate statement as applied to inn or tavern signs, which most likely did not exist until a long time after those events. But The Mitre in Cheape, which was one of the wards of Old London, recalled by Eastcheap and Cheapside of more modern times, had a history which the parish records of St. Michael’s, Cheapside, show to have antedated the year 1475. It had the distinction of having been frequently referred to in the plays of the times of Elizabeth and James. The third act of “Miseries of In-forced Marriage,” a comedy by George Wilkins, published in 1607, is laid in The Mitre. In Thomas Middleton’s “A Mad World, My Masters,” a comedy printed in 1608, Sir Bounteous Progress, one of the characters, when his grand-son arrives with his companions, a party of players to enact a little farce, exclaims :
“Why ! this will be a true feast, a right Mitre supper, a play and all.”
This tavern, being in the track of the Great Fire, also fell victim to the flames.
In one of the notes to his “History of English Dramatic Poetry to the Time of Shakespeare,” J. Payne Collier refers to a manuscript which he said was “in the possession of Mr. Thorpe, the enterprising bookseller of Bedford Street, which was full of songs and poems in the handwriting of a person named Richard Jackson, all copied prior to the year 1631, and including many unpublished pieces.” He mentions one song in five seven-line stanzas headed: “Shakespeare’s rime which he made at the Mytre in Fleete Street.” So here we have another famed Mitre Tavern. Another shorter piece, entitled “Shakespeare’s Rime,” is quoted :
“Give me a cup of rich Canary wine,
Which was the Mitre’s (drinks) and now is mine; Of which had Horace and Anacreon tasted, Their lives as well as lines ’till now had lasted.”
Collier declared his belief in the genuineness of these lines and mentioned that there were others in the collection attributed to Ben Jonson, Sir Walter Raleigh, Dr. Donne and others.
On the Bankside, Southwark, in Elizabeth’s day, was the Falcon Tavern, close to the playhouses. While it is not now easy to locate its exact site, since even the Falcon Stairs that led to the river have disappeared, it was not far east of the present Blackfriars Bridge. By some sort of ironic destiny the name survives in that of streets and squares in London, but all of them are on the opposite side of the Thames.
Like the Mitre and The Mermaid, The Falcon, on Bank-side, has been much celebrated for having welcomed to its hospitable rooms such players, poets and wits as Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Richard Burbage, John Heminge, John Lowin, and Henry Condell, to mention only a few of the genial company that frequented this part of London in the latter years of the sixteenth century. But it should be borne in mind that much of the celebrity of the old place rests upon the. lively imagination of writers of this period. There are . in existence views of the ancient tavern, all taken in the early part of the nineteenth century, and picturing the old place as a kind of none-too-well-preserved relic of Tudor days.
The Falcon was situated in what was known as Paris Garden Manor, and in his book on this estate Mr. Meynott says of the Falcon: “The front of it projected quite out of the line of the other houses thereabouts, and faced towards Gravel Lane. It had two large gateways and was a place of considerable business, and from it coaches left (in tolerably modern days, I mean) for various parts of Surrey, Kent and Sussex.” The same authority informs us that the next door house to the inn was for some time the residence of Sir Christopher Wren; so that while he was superintending the erection of St. Paul’s Cathedral he could view at a distance across the river the progress of his work. In the pictures made of the old inn, and probably it was as much inn as tavern since an early map of the Bankside carries the legend over the effigy of the house, “The Folken Inn,” only one gateway is shown and modern writers who have tried to justify Mr. Meynott’s statement with the pictures have always confessed their defeat. However, in the map referred to, a rather crude drawing of the inn appears and reveals the fact that in Shakespeare’s time The Falcon was at least one-third larger than it was in the early years of the nineteenth century.
Very little has come down to us about the innkeepers themselves, but the diligence of Hubert Hall of the Public Record Office, London, whose volume, “Society in the Elizabethan Age,” has long been regarded as an authority, has in one of his chapters given us a picture of “The Host.”
“The innkeeper paid somewhat dearly for the recognition of his social importance,” observed Mr. Hall; “whenever funds were urgently needed for some work of national importance, besides contributions from the clergy, impositions on shipping, licenses for exporting grain, and other noted expedients, a license re-imposed on every tavern and ale-house was sure to be resorted to.
“The host of such an inn as The Tabard, with his family and guests, was not very sumptuously accommodated in the matter of furniture. But then the requirements of the establishment were easily satisfied. The host himself was no longer the host of Chaucer, the portly and flourishing vintner, the fairest burgess in Cheape. The number of members had far outgrown the limits of the company, and many carried on the trade who were wholly unconnected with the guild.
“We find by the returns from the shires in 1577, that the average ale-house keeper formed one of the poorest and most squalid classes of the community. This was especially true of the country sort, as indeed it may be held to be in the present day (1886). In London, perhaps the taverner was rather objectionable in another aspect. Here the host him-self, unless actually a professed vintner or cook, was nominally a member of some other trade guild, a cloth-worker or the like, and left the supervision of the inn business to his good wife. A host of this kind, a sleeping partner in the trade, might too often be ranked as either a parasite or an usurer.”
So celebrated a person as Sir Walter Raleigh obtained a patent in the thirtieth year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, or in 1588, “to make lycences for keeping of taverns, and retailing of wynes throughout Englande.” About a century ago there was an inn in Lower Street, Islington, a suburb of London, whose sign was the Queen’s Head. While the origin of this building, which was regarded as “the most perfect of the kind remaining in London,” was said to be unknown, it was popularly believed to have been owned by Sir Walter, who was supposed to have hung out the Queen’s Head, in compliment to his royal mistress. At the time the house was described in Brayley’s “Londiniana,” in 1829, the highway was so much raised that access to the house was by a descent of four feet. Timbs, who states that the house was pulled down in 1820, at-tributes it to the period of Henry VII. It was a three-story building with the Tudor timbered and plastered walls so much admired, and was entered by a central porch. Evidently it had been originally erected as a residence, and the Queen’s Head sign hung up towards the end of the sixteenth century. Of course, the Queen whose rough portraiture was shown on the sign board was Good Queen Bess herself, which lends an air of credence to Brayley’s belief that Raleigh was connected in some proprietary way with the house.
A great many storied taverns or inns in London which flourished during the Elizabethan period have been entirely ignored by history, and all we know of most of them is found in scraps of contemporary verse. “Newes from Bartholomew fayre,” a poem which was printed in black letter in that period, enumerates some of the more noted houses of the time:
“There hath been great sale and utterance of Wine, Besides Beere, and Ale, and Ipocras fine, In every country, region, and nation, But chiefly in Billingsgate, at the Salutation; And the Bore’s Head, near London Stone; The Swan at Dowgate, a Taverne well renowne; The Mitre in Cheape, and then the Bull Head. And many like places that make noses red; The Bore’s Head in Old Fish Street: Three Crowns in the Vintry: And now, of late, St. Martin’s in the Sentree: The Windmill in Lothbury; the Ship at the Exchange; King’s Head in New Fish Street, where Roysters do range: The Mermaid in Cornhill; Red Lion in the Strand; Three Tuns in Newgate Market; Old Fish Street at the Swan.”
While a few of these signs persisted until a century ago, the majority of them were swept away by the Great Fire. Perhaps the word Ipocras in the above poem needs explanation. In Arnold’s “Chronicle,” where there occurs a receipt for the mixing of this favorite drink of Elizabeth’s day, we learn that it was little more than spiced red wine.
The old Bull and Mouth Inn, which was said to have really dated back to the seventh year of the reign of Henry VI, or 1429, formerly stood at the corner of Bull and Mouth Street and Aldersgate Street, St. Martin’s le Grand, London. The name is generally understood to have been a corruption of Boulogne Mouth, or Harbor, which was adopted as a tavern or inn sign in England some time after the year 1544, when Henry VIII took Boulogne. While the original inn, a most romantic-looking structure, with great galleries running around three sides of its coach yard, was pulled down about 1829, another Bull and Mouth Inn of what then was regarded as modern, was erected on the site. This structure was completed about 1840, only a part of the ground having been built upon immediately. Its early history does not appear to have been exciting, but in the days when stage coaches were multiplying in England, like modern inter-city buses, the old Bull and Mouth was the starting point for several important lines. Its story therefore belongs as much to the early nineteenth century as it does to the sixteenth, so we shall refer to it again.
French inns in the sixteenth century differed from those in England at the same time only as the customs of the two people differed. Life in neither was either refined or re-strained, if we are to judge from the glimpses we get in the verses of Villon, the pages of Scarron, or the Colloquies of Erasmus. It is true that the first of these ended his days on a gibbet before the sixteenth century was born, and that the second came into this world nine years after that century had passed, yet The Pineapple Tavern and The Puppet wine-shop referred to by the poet and the inhabitants of the inn at Mons, where Scarron lays the scene of his “Comical Romance,” indicate that the freedom of the French inns in the time of Erasmus had changed in character very little. Indeed, in virtually all parts of Europe they were mainly the resorts of people of light hearts and few moral principles. Villon’s companions may be interesting figures for ancient romance, but one would scarcely like to choose them for associates, even at a table d’hote.
There are, or were before the Great War, so many ancient buildings in France that at one time or another were occupied as inns, especially in the days of the diligences, that we can mention only one or two that seem to have some claim to a historic past. There is the old Guillaume le Conquerant at Dives, close to Caen, in that romantic, historic and picturesque part of France called Normandy.
Guillaume le Conquerant has had a great attraction for tourists who have heard of its storied career.
One American tourist writing home gave evidence of this magnetic call in these words : “We came back to Dives that evening in order to spend the night at the Inn called Guillaume le Conquerant. It was just as curious and interesting as I expected. It was built around a court and was full of delightful things, and there were two perfectly beautiful rooms with magnificent carved high dadoes and tapestry above and wonderful cabinets and bric-a-brac. They were where Madame de Sevigne had spent the evening with the Duchess of Something. The bedrooms all opened off very low galleries which went all around the court on the second floor. I had Madame de Sevigne’s room, and could not sleep; I was so afraid the canopy of magnificent, but very old brocade would fall on me.”
Inns such as this one in Normandy may have a great deal of their history based upon legend, but certainly Guillaume le Conquerant is very old. It is said to have been built by William the Conqueror himself, so that he might be on the spot to supervise the building of his fleet which was to carry him and his victorious army to England where, it will be remembered by all who have a few outstanding dates of English history at their finger-tips, he defeated the Saxons under Harold at the Battle of Hastings, in the year 1066. While the sceptical might doubt the validity of this legend of the old inn’s origin, they are bound to admit it is an extremely probable story, for Dives is not far from Bayeux, where the famed tapestry, supposed to have been embroidered by Queen Matilda with her own hands, may still be viewed.
Anna Bowman Dodd, in her entertaining volume, “In and Out of Three Normandy Inns,” has told some of the history of the old inn at Dives, having evidently collected her traditions in the neighborhood. She tells us that for five centuries “The inn became a manoir, the seigneurial residence of a certain Sieur de Semilly. It was his arms we saw yonder, joined to those of Savoy, in the door panel, one of the family having married into a branch of that great house.”
From the same source we learn that that weird, crafty king, Louis XI, also stopped in this inn on one occasion. “Of the famous ones of the world who had travelled along this Caen postroad and stopped the night here, humanly tired, like any other humble wayfarer, was a hurried visit from that king who loved his tradeLouis XI. He and his suite crowded into the low rooms, grateful for a bed and a fire, after the weary pilgrimage to the heights of Mont St. Michel. Louis’s piety, however, was not as lasting in its physically exhaustive effects, as were the fleshly excesses of a certain other kingone Henry IV, whose over-appreciation of the oysters served him here caused a royal attack of colic, as you may read at your pleasure in the State Archives in Paris, since, quite rightly, the royal secretary must write the court physician every detail of so important an event. What with these kingly travellers and such modern un-crowned kings as Puvis de Chavannes, Dumas, George Sand, Daubigny and Troyon, together with a goodly number of lesser great ones, the famous little inn has had no reason to feel itself slighted by the great of any century.
The “Duchess of Something,” referred to in the letter of the American tourist quoted above, was, according to the author of the little book about these Norman Inns, none other than the Duchesse de Chaumes, and the historic conversation was held in one of the famed lower rooms, that named “la Chambre de la Pucelle.”” Just why an apartment should be named for the Maid of Orleans, now St. Joan of Arc, is not entirely easy to explain. Certainly at the period when “la Pucelle” was leading the soldiers of France she was in this neighborhood, but if she ever stopped here, there does not seem to be even any well-defined tradition. It is agreeable to think that she stopped here, so let us enjoy the beautifully panelled apartment which is called the “room of the Maid.”
On that most picturesque spot in Europe, Mont St. Michel, Mrs. Dodd found another ancient inn. How long the Poulard Inn had been a hostelry is not known, but the building in which it was then (1892) kept by Madame Poulard dated back to the sixteenth century. In later times those venturous tourists who safely crossed the sands from the mainland which, when the tide is high, are hidden by the sea, were thrilled by the publicity which the innkeeper’s omelets received. There on the rock which from the mainland rises with its towers and pinnacles and spires like a gigantic cathedral out of the sea, is a little town, arid the Poulard Inn gave it some of its later day celebrity, and the picturesque town was placarded everywhere, directing the visitor to the inn of “L’Incomparable, la Fameuse Omelette!”
One probably never thinks of the magnificent de Medicis, or the war-like Sforzas, those great Italian families of the sixteenth century, having any connection with inns. How-ever, they did own a considerable number or at least licensed them within their domains. In Robert Dalington’s “Survey of the Great Dukes State of Tuscany, in the yeare of our Lord, 1596,” this early guide-book writer, his quarto pamphlet was printed in 1605, shows us that the Medici who was Duke at that time derived no mean revenue from the numerous “Camere Locande” in his Dukedom.
“He hath also no small matter of the Camere Locande lodgings for strangers, and the inns in the state; of some fortie, of others fiftie, and of some foure-score duckets, every third yeare”; observes Master Dalington, who continues, “he hath also in some places his bakehouses, where the innekeepers are enjoyned to take their bread of him. Though this exaction be so great upon the innes at Florence, and in the road way to Rome notwithstanding in Pisa the yoake is now so heavy, there the manner of raising the Gabell is thus : At every three yeares end, all the inne-keepers in the Cittie are to appeare at a Court in the Dogana kept for that purpose. There it is cryed by the Officer, that such, and such an Inne, paide these last three yeares so many Duckets to the Prince, who biddeth more? There is a, candle set up light, and while it lasteth, it is lawful to loan and bid for the same, and he that biddeth most shall have it. Wherein this one thing may seeme more strange, then that which bath beene already enformed concerning a man’s Corne, that in some cases he cannot make his provision of his owne : for here if another will give more for the Inne then I, though the house be mine owne, he shall have it, paying me onely my rent, and I shall be forced to seeke another. I have this privilege above another that I offering as much as he, I shall be first served. The Inne-keeper of Pisa where lye our English Merchants, avowed this to be most true; he paieth for these three yeares forty Duckets.”