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John Russell's Book of Nurture (c.1460)

    "In nomine Patris, God keep me, et Filii, for charity, Et Spiritus Sacti, where that I go by land or else by sea! An Usher I am ye may behold to a prince of high degree, That enjoys to inform and teach all those that would thrive in prosperity."

    Should I meet with any man who is either through inexperience or through negligence knows naught of such things as I shall hereafter diligently show, for my conscience' sake I will instruct him ;  for methinks it is charitable to teach virtue and good manners, in which most youths are barren and dull. But if there be any who can nothing good and are not willing to learn, give them a bauble to play with, for they will never thrive.

    As I rose out of my bed, in a merry season of May, 
To sport me in a forest, where sights were fresh and gay, 
I met with a forester; I prayed him to say me not nay, 
That in his woodland I might walk among the deer away. 
As I wandered at will, in the wood that was so green, 
There lay three herds of deer, a seemly sight, I ween.
I beheld on my right hand the sun that shone so sheen; 
I saw where walked a seemly young man, that slender was and lean. 

His bow he took in hand toward the deer to stalk,
I prayed him his shot to leave and softly with me to walk."

    Thereupon the young man was glad and loved to talk with me; but when I inquired whom he served, he said: "God help me, sir, I serve myself and else no other man."

    "Is thy governance good?" I said. "My son, tell me if thou wilt."
    "I would I were out of this world," said he; "I reck not how soon when!"
    "Say not so, good son, beware! Methinks you mean amiss for God forbids wanhope, which is a horrible sin. Therefore, good son, open your heart to me, peradventure I can relieve you. Remember that when bale is highest, boot is nighest."
    "In truth, sir, I have sought far and near in many a wildsome way to get me a master. But because I knew nothing good, and showed this wherever I went, every man denied me; day by day, wanton and over-nice, reckless, lewd and chattering like a jay, every man refused me."
    "Now, good son, if I will teach, will you learn? Will you be a serving-man, a ploughman, a labourer, a courtier, a clerk, a merchant, a mason or an artificer, a chamberlain, a butler, a panter or a carver?"
    "Teach me, sir, the duties of a butler, a panter or a chamberlain, and especially, the cunning of a carver. If you will make me to know all these, I will pray for your soul that it come never in pain!"
    "Son, I will teach you with right good will, so as you will love and fear God as is right and proper, be true to your master, and not waste his goods, but love and fear him, and duly fulfil his commandments.

   The duties of a Panter or Butler

    "The first year, my son, you shall be panter or butler. In the pantry, you must always keep three sharp knives, one to chop the loaves, another to pare them, and a third, sharp and keen, to smooth and square the trenchers with.

    "Always cut your lord's bread, and see that it be new; and all other bread at the table one day old ere you cut it, all household bread three days old, and trencher-bread four days old.

    "look that your salt be fine, white, fair, and dry; and have your salt-plane of ivory, two inches wide and three long; and see to it that the lid of the salt-cellar touch not the salt.

    "Good son, look that your napery be sweet and clean, and that your table-cloth, towel, and napkin be folded neatly, your table-knives brightly polished and your spoons fair washed - ye wot well what I mean.

    "Look ye have two wine-augers, a greater and a less, some gutters of boxwood that fit them, also a gimlet to pierce with, a tap and a bung, ready to stop the flow when it is time. So when you broach a pipe, good son, do after my teaching; pierce or bore with an auger or gimlet, slanting upward, four finger's breadth from the lower rim, so as not to cause the less to rise - I warn you especially."

    [Here follows a list of fruits and preserves, which presently becomes a mere dietary, ll.73-108]

    "Take good heed to the wines, red, white, and sweet; look to them every night with a candle, to see that they neither ferment nor leak. Never forget to wash the heads of the pipes with cold water every night; and always carry a gimlet, adze and linen clouts, large and small. If the wine ferment, ye shall know by its singing, so keep at hand a pipe of couleur de rose, that has been spent in drinking and add to to fermentation the dregs of this, and it shall be amended. If sweet wine be sick or pallid, put in a Romney to improve it."

    [Then follows a list of the sweet wines, and a long recipe for Hippocras, ll. 117-176]

The Buttery

    "See that your cups and pots be clean, both within and without. Serve no ale till it is five days old, for new ale is wasteful. And look that all things about you be sweet and clean.

    "Be fair of answer, ready to serve, and gentle of cheer, and then men will say; 'There goes a gentle officer.'

    "Beware that ye give no person stale drink, for fear that ye bring many a men into disease for many a year.

    "My son, it is now the time of day to lay the table. First, wipe it with a cloth ere it be spread, then lay on it a cloth called a cowche. You take one end and your mate the other, and draw it straight; and lay a second cloth with its fold on the outer edge of the table. Lift the upper part and let it hang even. And then lay the third cloth with its fold on the inner edge, making a state half a food wide, with the top. Cover your ewery-cupboard with a diapered towel, and put a towel round your neck, for that is courtesy, and put one end of it mannerly over your left arm; and on the same arm place your lord's napkin, and on it lay eight loaves of bread, with three or four trencher-loaves. Take one end of the towel in your left hand, as the manner is, together with the salt-cellar - look you do this - and take the other end of the towel in your right hand with the spoons and knives.

    "Set the salt on your lord's right hand, and to the left of your salt, one or two trenchers, and to the left again, your knife by itself and plain to see, and the white rolls, and beside them a spoon upon a fair folded napkin. Cover your spoon, napkin trencher and knife, so that they cannot be seen; and at the other end of the table place a salt with two trenchers.

    "If you wish to wrap up your lord's bread in a stately fashion, first square off the bread sharply and evenly, and see that no bun or loaf be larger in proportion to the others, and so shall ye be able to wrap it up mannerly for your master. Take a towel of Rennes cloth, two and a half yards long, fold it lengthwise and lay it on the table. Roll up a handful from each end tightly and stiffly, then in the middle of the towel place eight loaves or buns, bottom to bottom, and then wrap them wisely and skilfully. To tell you more plainly for your information: take the ends of the towel that lies on the bread, draw them out and twist tightly a handful nearest the bread and smooth the wrapper stiffly. When it is ready, you must open one end all in a moment before your lord.

    When your sovereign's table is dressed in this array, place salts on all the other tbales, and lay trenchers and cups; and then set out your cupboard with gay silver and silver-gilt, and your ewery board with basins and ewers, and hot and cold water, each to temper the other. Look that you have ever enough napkins, spoons and cups for your lord's table; also, for your own dignity, that your pots for ale and wine be as clean as possible, and beware ever of flies and motes, for your own sake. 

    "With lowly courtesy, make the surnape with a cloth under a double of fair napery; fold the two ends of the towel to the outer edge of the cloth, and so hold the three ends together; then fold them all so that there is a pleat at about a foot's distance, and lay it fair and smooth for your lord to wash after meat, if he will. At the right side of the table, you must guide it along, and the marshal must slip it further - the right side up of all three cloths - and let it be drawn straight and even, both in length and breadth; then raise the upper part of the towel and lay it without wrinkling straight to the other side so that half a yard or an ell hangs down at each end, where the sewer  may make a state, and so please his master. When your lord has washed, you must take up the surnape with your two arms, and carry it back to the ewery yourself. 

    "Carry a towel about your neck when serving your lord, bow to him, uncover your bread and set it by the salt. Look that all have knives, spoons and napkins, and always when you pass your lord, see that you bow your knees.

    "Go forth to the port-payne and there take eight loaves, and put four at each end of the table, and be sure that each person has a spoon and a napkin.

    "Watch the sewer to see how many pottages he covers, and de ye for as many, and serve each according to his degree; and see that none lack bread, ale or wine.

    "Be glad of cheer, courteous of knee, soft of speech; have clean hands and nails and be carefully dressed.

    "Do not cough or spit or retch too loud, or put your fingers into the cups to seek bits of dust.

    "Have an eye to all grumbling and fault-finding, and prevent backbiting of their fellows among the lords at meat, by serving all with bread, ale and wine; and so shall ye have of all men good love and praise."

simple conditions

    "I will that ye eschew forever the 'simple conditions' of a person that is not taught.

    "Do not claw your head or your back as if you were after a flea, or stroke your hair as if you sought a louse.

    "Be not glum, not twinkle with your eyes, nor be heavy of cheer; and keep your eyes free from winking and watering.

    "Do not pick your nose or let it drop clear pearls, or sniff, or blow it too loud, lest your lord hear.

    "Twist not your neck askew like a jackdaw; wring not your hands with picking or trifling or shrugging, as if ye would saw [wood]; nor puff up your chest, nor pick your ears, nor be slow of hearing.

    "Retch not, nor spit too far, nor laugh or speak too loud. Beware of making faces and scorning; and be no liar with your mouth, or gape, or yawn, or pout. And do not lick a dish with your tongue to get out dust.

    "Be not rash or reckless - that is not worth a clout.

    "Do not sigh with your breast, or cough, or breathe hard in the presence of your sovereign, or hiccough, or breathe hard in the presence of your sovereign, or hiccough, or belch, or groan never the more. Do not trample with your feet, or straddle your legs, or scratch your body - there is no sense in showing off. Good son, do not pick your teeth, or grind, or gnash them, or with puffing and blowing cast foul breath upon your lord. ... These gallants in their short coats - that is ungoodly guise. Other faults in this matter, I spare not to disapprove in my opinion, when [a servant] is waiting on his master's table. Every sober sovereign must despise all such things.

    "A man might find many more conditions than are named here ; but let every honest servant avoid them for his own credit.

    "Panter, yeoman of the cellar, bulter and ewerer, I will that ye obey the marshal, sewer and carver.

    "Good sir, I pray you teach me the skill of carving, and the fair handling of a knife, and all the ways that I shall break open, unlace and penetrate all manner of fowl, flesh and fish - how shall I demean me with each."

[Office of a Carver]

    "My son, thy knife must be clean and bright; and it beseems thee to have thy hands fair washed. Hold always thy knife surely, so as not to hurt thyself, and have not more than two fingers and the thumb on thy keen knife. 

    "Midway in thy hand, set the end of thy haft firmly; and unlace and mince with the thumb and two fingers only. In cutting and placing bread, and voiding of crumbs and trencher, look you have skill with two fingers and the thumb. Likewise, never use more for fish, flesh, beast or fowl - that is courtesy.

    "Touch no manner of meat with thy right hand, but with thy left, as is proper. Always with thy left hand grasp the loaf with all thy might; and hold thy knife firmly, as I have instructed thee. Ye do not right to soil your table, nor to wipe your knives on that, but on your napkin. 

    "First take a loaf of trenchers in your left hand, then your table-knife, as I have said before;  and with its edge raising your trencher up by you as near the point as you may, lay it before your lord. Right so set four trenchers, one by another, four square, and upon them a single trencher alone. And take your loaf of light bread, as I have told you, and cut with the edge of the knife near your hand; first pare the quarters of the loaf round all about, and cut the upper crust for your lord, and bow to him; and suffer the other part to remain still at the bottom, and so night spent out, and lay him of the crumbs a quarter of the loaf.

    "Touch not the loaf after it is so trimmed; put it on a platter or on the beforenamed almsdish. Make clean your board that ye be not blamed; and so shall the sewer serve his lord, and neither of you be vexed."

    [Here follows a list of Fumosities, indigestibilities, as Dr. Furnivall calls them, ll. 349-68. The young man then says:]

    "Now fair befal you, father, and well may ye [a]cheive For these points I hope full well to prove; And yet shall I pray for you daily while that I live, Both for body and soul that God you guide from grief."

    [He then begs to be taught the art of "carving of fish and flesh after the cook's care," and receives detailed instructions for every sort of food, roasted, baked and fried , for the serving of soups, making of sauces and carving of fish, ll. 377-649. He then says:]

    "Now, father, fair fall ye, and Christ you have in cure, 
For the nurture of carving, I suppose that I be sure. 
But yet another office there is, save I dare not endure 
To ask you any further, for fear of displeasure.
For to be a sewer I would I had the cunning, 
Then durst I do my devoir with any worshipful to be woning;
Since that I know the course 

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