This was especially the harvest-month. “August they call Arn-monat, more rightly Barn-monat, intending thereby the then filling of their barns with corn.” The arable portion of an estate was probably comparatively small. The population of the towns was supplied with corn from the lands in their immediate vicinity. There was no general system of exchange prevailing throughout the country. In the small farms enough corn was grown for domestic use; and when it failed, as it often did, before the succeeding harvest, the cole-wort and the green pulse were the welcome substitutes. Wheaten bread was not in universal use. The young monks of the Abbey of St. Edmund ate the cheaper barley bread. The baker, in Alfric’s Colloquy, answers to the question of “What use is your art? we can live long without you:”—“You may live through some space without my art, but not long nor so well; for without my craft every table would seem empty, and without bread all meat would become nauseous. I strengthen the heart of man and little ones could not do without me.” In the representation of a dinner party (Fig. 247), some food is placed on the table; but the kneeling servants offer the roasted meat on spits, from which the guests cut slices into their trenchers. We smile at these primitive manners, but they were a refinement upon those of the heroes of Homer, who were their own cooks.

“Patroclus did his dear friend’s will: and he that did desire

To cheer the lords (come faint from fight) set on a blazing fire

A great brass pot, and into it, a chine of mutton put,

And fat goats’ flesh: Automedon held, while he pieces cut

To roast and boil, right cunningly: then of a well fed swine,

A huge fat shoulder he cuts out, and spits it wondrous fine:

His good friend made a goodly fire; of which the force once past,

He laid the spit low, near the coals, to make it brown at last:

Then sprinkled it with sacred salt, and took it from the racks:

This roasted and on dresser set, his friend Patroclus takes

Bread in fair baskets; which set on, Achilles brought the meat,

And to divinest Ithacus took his opposed seat

Upon the bench: then did he will his friend to sacrifice;

Who cast sweet incense in the fire, to all the Deities.

Thus fell they to their ready food.”

Chapman’s Translation of the Iliad, Book ix.

An illumination amongst the Harleian Manuscripts exhibits to us an interesting part of the economy of a lord’s house in the Saxon times. In the foreground are collected some poor people, aged men, women, and children, who are storing in their vessels, or humbly waiting to receive, the provisions which the lord and the lady are distributing at their hall door. It was from this highest of the occupations of the rich and powerful, the succour of the needy, that the early antiquaries derived our titles of Lord and Lady. The modern etymologists deny the correctness of this derivation, and maintain that the names are simply derived from a Saxon verb which means to raise up, to exalt. Horne Tooke, in his ‘Diversions of Purley,’ maintains this opinion; and our recent dictionary-makers adopt it. Nevertheless, we shall transcribe old Verstegan’s ingenious notion of the origin of the terms, which has something higher and better in it than mere word-splitting: “I find that our ancestors used for Lord the name of Laford, which (as it should seem) for some aspiration in the pronouncing, they wrote Hlaford, and Hlafurd. Afterward it grew to be written Loverd, and by receiving like abridgment as other our ancient appellations have done, it is in one syllable become Lord. To deliver therefore the true etymology, the reader shall understand, that albeit we have our name of bread from Breod, as our ancestors were wont to call it, yet used they also, and that most commonly, to call bread by the name of Hlaf, from whence we now only retain the name of the form or fashion wherein bread is usually made, calling it a loaf, whereas loaf, coming of Hlaf or Laf, is rightly also bread itself, and was not of our ancestors taken for the form only, as now we use it. Now was it usual in long foregoing ages, that such as were endued with great wealth and means above others, were chiefly renowned (especially in these northern regions) for their house-keeping and good hospitality; that is, for being able, and using to feed and sustain many men, and therefore were they particularly honoured with the name and title of Hlaford, which is as much to say, as an afforder of Laf, that is, a bread-giver, intending (as it seemeth) by bread, the sustenance of man, that being the substance of our food the most agreeable to nature, and that which in our daily prayers we especially desire at the hands of God. The name and title of Lady was anciently written Hleafdian, or Leafdian, from whence it came to be Lafdy, and lastly Lady. I have showed here last before how Hlaf or Laf was sometime our name of bread, as also the reason why our noble and principal men came to be honoured in the name of Laford, which now is Lord, and even the like in correspondence of reason must appear in this name of Leafdian, the feminine of Laford; the first syllable whereof being anciently written Hleaf, and not Hlaf, must not therefore alienate it from the like nature and sense, for that only seemeth to have been the feminine sound, and we see that of Leafdian we have not retained Leady, but Lady. Well then both Hlaf and Hleaf, we must here understand to signify one thing, which is bread; Dian is as much to say as serve; and so is Leafdian a bread-server. Whereby it appeareth that as the Laford did allow food and sustenance, so the Leafdian did see it served and disposed to the guests. And our ancient and yet continued custom that our ladies and gentlewomen do use to carve and serve their guests at the table, which in other countries is altogether strange and unusual, doth for proof hereof well accord and correspond with this our ancient and honourable feminine appellation.”