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1583] COURT FASHIONS. 35
chemises of cambric. Lawns and cambrics had only been brought into England in this reign, and became exceedingly fashionable for ruffs and cuffs.
These ruffs were one of the most monstrous fashions of the time. They were worn by men and women alike, and were made of the finest lawn or cambric. They were at least a quarter of a yard deep, and were made to stick out stifily round the neck, either by being starched or by being supported with an elaborate arrangement of wires. Stowe, a historian who lived at that time, says "that he was held to be the greatest gallant or beau who had the deepest ruff and the longest rapier." At last Queen Elizabeth had "to place grave selected citizens at every gate to cut the ruffs and break the swords of all passengers, if the former exceeded a yard wanting a nail in depth, or the latter a full yard in length."
The women distinguished themselves by their enormous farthingales, which were petticoats stuck out straight from their waists, supported on structures of wicker. To make the structure more firm, they stuffed it with rags, tow, wool, and hair; and the men stuffed out their breeches in the same way. The ladies covered their farthingales with jewels and ornaments. The ruffs also were ornamented with embroidery, and sometimes with gold and silver lace. Stubbs, a stern Puritan moralist of those days, writes, "The women seem to be the smallest part of themselves, not natural women, but artificial women; not women of flesh and blood, but rather mawmets (dolls) of rags and cloutes compact together." Both men and women painted their faces, and the beaux wore jewels in their ears. Perfumes were exceedingly fashionable, and perfumed gloves were introduced from abroad, and became a favourite article of luxury.
Ealegh, like the other courtiers, was fond of fine clothes, and liked to show off his handsome person to good advantage. He was tall, with a wellshaped but not too slender figure. He had a fine broad forehead, and thick dark hair; his complexion was clear and ruddy, but became bronzed in after years by his voyages and exposure to the sun and wind; he wore the pointed beard and moustache then fashionable. His eyebrows, which were much arched and very strongly marked, gave his face a slightly scornful expression, whilst his finely-cut mouth showed decision and firmness. Several portraits of him still remain, in each of which he appears clothed with great magnificence, and wearing many jewels, for which he had a great fancy. A contemporary writer says that Ealegh's shoes were so bedecked with jewels that they were computed to be "worth more than six thousand six hundred gold pieces." In one of his portraits he wears a suit of silver armour, and is richly adorned with diamonds, rubies, and pearls. Current gossip spoke much of his magnificence, and of his favour with the Queen; but his haughty manners and his success at court did not tend to make him generally beloved.
THE excitement of court life and his rapid rise in royal favour must have been very dazzling to a young man like Walter Ealegh. But the court did not absorb all his energies, and he continued to take part iu Sir Humphry Gilbert's schemes of colonization, and to aid him as far as was possible.
For some time the energies of English explorers had been devoted to the discovery of a northwestern passage to Cathay. About the wealth of this country of Cathay many wonderful stories had been told since the thirteenth century. It was a country to the north-east of China, inhabited by an active and enterprising people. Some travellers had found their way thither by land, and the wonderful stories they had told about the wealth which they had seen there had excited men's curiosity, and stimulated their avarice. At last, in the fifteenth century, encouraged by the discoveries of Columbus, men began to talk about the possibility of finding a north-western passage by sea to Cathay.
The first man who attempted this was Sebastian Cabot. He was the son of John Cabot, a Venetian, who came to Bristol as a merchant, and there, under the patronage of Henry VII., engaged in voyages of discovery in the Atlantic. Columbus was at about the same time exploring the West Indies. John Cabot directed his great voyage of discovery in 1497 more northwards than did Columbus, and saw the mainland of America a year before Columbus first sighted it. After his death, Sebastian Cabot, his youngest son, who had been born at Bristol, carried on his father's schemes of exploration. Still in spite of the courage and energy of the English explorers, they reaped no such rich fruits from their voyages to the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland as did the Spaniards in more southern regions. But Cabot was convinced, as his father had been, that it would be possible to discover a new northwestern passage to Cathay, and so open up a trade with that fabled land. His efforts to discover this passage failed, as those of so many others have done since. Still men were not discouraged, and others hoped for success where he had been unsuccessful.
An attempt was also made to find a northeastern passage to Cathay. This led to the discovery, by Bichard Chancelor, in 1553, of Archangel, the Bussian port in the White Sea, and the opening up of the trade with Eussia. A company, afterwards known as the Muscovy or Eussia Company, was founded by a charter of Queen Mary
1580] PASSAGE TO CATHAY. 39
in 1555 to prosecute this trade, and much interest in Eussia and its inhabitants was excited. Still no one had reached Cathay. Belief in its fabulous riches had this good result, that it enticed men to endure endless hardships and perils in their pursuit, and led them to the discovery of new lands.
It was desire to find the north-west passage which made Humphry Gilbert first embark on his voyages. The scheme of finding out a passage to Cathay had been dropped for a time; but when he was only twenty-five years old, Gilbert began to do all he could to revive it. At first he met with little encouragement; but in 1576 he published a Discourse to prove a Passage by the North-West to Cathay and the East Indies. This writing helped to fire Martin Frobisher with ambition. He undertook in all three voyages with this object, and made many important discoveries in North America. .
Though Humphry Gilbert had given the impulse to these voyages he took no active part in them, owing to disputes and jealousies amongst their organisers. His mind was, in consequence, directed to more useful schemes, to those plans of colonization which we have seen him trying to carry out in 1578, with the aid of Ealegh and others. Since then, the brilliant success of Drake's voyages had increased, if possible, the thirst for maritime adventure.
On the 26th September, 1580, Drake had sailed