FW: Re: sources & misconceptions

Dennis Grace amazing at mail.utexas.edu
Thu Oct 3 13:31:16 PDT 1996

Greetings and Gesticulations, Cousins

First, Margaret Rae Carignan queried:

>>My apoligies to anyone who already recieved this missive but I would like to
>>know from you all if any one else has found any documentation supporting the
>>tankard hanging off the belt.....
<summa:  succinct nice letter discrediting such practices as unsupported
and a witty conclusion that said practice is, probably, not period>

To the foregoing, Laird Alan MacRonan MacCalum responded:

>There is likely little or no documentation, but chances are a few people at
>least would tie their wooden drinking vessels to their belts to keep both
>hands free (even carrying a basket over the arm limits use of that hand).
>This would most likely be found in the lower classes, and only when away
>from home or if they had no home.

Well, . . . no.  Such reasoning--though frequently employed in SCA
documentation--is specious.  Your argument seems to be, "Well, there's
certainly nothing preventing them from having done this, and it would have
been convenient, and I can't find any documentation to the contrary, so
I'll assume it to have been so."

By the same logic, let us look back to the United States in the dark days
of , say, 1985.  We know most men's pants had belt loops, and quite a few
of the men in that country drank coffee at work.  Since their coffee cups
were usually too big to fit into their pants pockets, and since the coffee
cups that have survived from that era have handles with conventient finger
holes, we can assume that they utilized their plentiful supply of heavy
duty stainless steel paper clips to attach their coffee cups to their belt
loops for inter-office sojourns.   Now, I can't find any pictures from that
period of men actually doing this, but . . . well, y'all can see where this
is going.

Personally, I could not care less whether you attach your tankard to your
belt, but I think you're merely acquiescing to modern anachronist fashion.
If you're truly interested in documenting this matter and presenting a
truly period mien, try--in addition to the obvious expedient of seeking out
Medieval and Renaissance paintings of burghers--mining the plays of
Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Jonson for references to tankard-carriage.   All
three playwrights make frequent use of drunken burghers and clowns.  I'm a
medievalist, so I have read very few of their plays more than once, but the
closest reference of this sort that I can recall is Falstaff's smuggled
bottle of sack in _1 Henry IV_, which, you will probably recall, he carried
in his holster in place of his weapon.   If anything, this reference only
demonstrates that Renaissance English soldiers did *not* regularly carry
spirits into battle.  Going back a few years, I can assure you that no such
references occur in either Chaucer or Langland, and the Ancrene Wisse
references to drunkenness all take place in the tavern with no references
to carrying mugs.  I would be interested to hear of any such examples any
one else can unearth.  Until said discoveries come to light, I remain, as

Yours in Meager Scholarly Service

Sir Lyonel Oliver Grace

Dennis G. Grace
PostModern Medievalist
Assistant Instructor
Division of Rhetoric and Composition
University of Texas

Micel yfel deth se unwritere
                                        --Aelfric of York (a really fun guy)

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