HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION ON GLOVES

THAT gloves, in some form or other, at first in a limited way only, have been in use from a very early period is without a doubt, and much has been written at various times on their origin and use; and this renders it less necessary in the present work to deal in any pedantic or lengthy manner with the history or manufacture of either of the subjects to which this work is dedicated. Still, for the benefit of the casual reader, a short résumé of a few general facts concerning our subjects may not be altogether unnecessary.

The origin of the glove has never been actually discovered, but it was certainly in use in very early times.

Perhaps the earliest mention of gloves is that in the Bible, where Rebecca, in order to secure the birthright for her son Jacob, put skins on his hands that so his father Isaac should not recognise the younger from the elder of the sons.

Before gloves, in their most primitive form, became in any degree to be commonly worn by either sex, by cleric or layman, the want of a covering for the hands was very probably supplied by long and loose sleeves falling at will over the wrists and hands. Numerous illustrations could be given of this kind of sleeve as a hand-covering derivable from brasses and medieval pictures.

In Frense Church, Norfolk, is a brass to the memory of Anne Duke (A.D. 1551), and another in Sawtrey Church, Hants; and in many others in various parts of the country exquisite representations are to be found, in brass and stone, of the falling sleeve or turn-over cuff usable as a covering for the wearer’s hands.

Planché, in his History of British Costume, speaks of the sleeves and mantles of the eleventh century being used as hand-coverings.

Gloves, though probably very unlike the article with which we are familiar, were known to, and worn by, the Roman and the Greek.

We have the authority of Planché that after the time of Henry I. (A.D. 1135) gloves, “some short, some reaching nearly to the elbows, embroidered at the tops and jewelled at the backs if pertaining to Princes or Prelates, became frequent.”

Here is a definite statement from a reliable authority that gloves, both plain and embroidered, were by no means uncommon, even at this early period of our history.

In Worcester Cathedral is a monument to King John, on which the King is represented in his regal habiliments, and on the hands are gloves with jewelled work on the backs.

In 1370 merchants were allowed to import leather gloves into Gascony, which proves that gloves had become articles of common everyday wear; in 1564 gloves were forbidden to be imported into England, and this prohibition was not withdrawn till 1825! There is ample evidence that a large and regular trade existed in this country at an early date; brasses on various tombs and sculptured effigies absolutely confirm the fact. In the Church of Fletching, in Sussex, is a memorial to a glover. It consists of a plain slab of stone, in which is inserted two small plates of brass, one representing a pair of gloves, with slightly embroidered gauntlets, showing the palms of the hands; and on the second brass, placed immediately below the first, is an inscription commencing, “Hic Jacit Petros Denot, Glover.” The date may be about 1450. Again, in the Church of St. Peter, in the chancel, at St. Albans, a brass shield at one time marked the grave of one John Atkin, Glover (A.D. 1449); there is also a brass to Bishop Bell in St. James’s Church, Clerkenwell, London, on which he is represented wearing gloves.

There is a monument in Norwich Cathedral to Bishop Goldwell, representing a full-length effigy, on the hands of which, though greatly mutilated, may be seen gloves with jewelled backs.

Thomas à Becket is said have been buried wearing his official gloves. This adds to the evidence that gloves, at any rate among ecclesiastics, were in common use. A pair of gloves are mentioned in the will of Bishop Riculfus, who died A.D. 915.

Henry II., who died A.D. 1189, and was buried at Fontevrault, is described as wearing his coronation robes, his golden crown on his head, and gloves on his hands. When the tombs of King John (A.D. 1216) and of Edward I. (A.D. 1307) were opened in the eighteenth century, gloves were found upon the hands of both these monarchs.

Probably the earliest existing examples of clerical gloves are those of William of Wykeham, the founder, in 1380, of New College, Oxford, which are now preserved in the Ashmolean Museum in that city.

In the reign of Henry VIII. gloves, worn by the nobility and gentry, were generally beautifully and elaborately embroidered; and later on, in the time of good Queen Bess, perfumed gloves became quite the fashion among ladies and gentlemen of the Court.

Early in the sixteenth century a curious custom prevailed of having slits cut in the fingers of the gloves, in order to display the jewelled rings on the hands of the wearers.

Stow, in his Annals (1615), page 868, describes how “Milloners, or Haberdashers had not then any gloves Imbroydered, or trimmed with gold, or Silke; neither Gold nor Imbroydered Girdles and Hangers, neither could they make any costly wash or perfume, until about the fourteenth or fifteenth yeare of the Queene (Elizabeth) the right honourable Edward de Vere, Earle of Oxford: came from Italy, and brought with him Gloves: sweete bagges, a perfumed leather Jerkin, and other pleasant things, and that yeer the Queene had a payre of perfumed Gloves trimmed onely with foure Tuftes or roses of cullered Silke, the Queene tooke such pleasure in those Gloves, that she was pictured with those Gloves uppon her hands, and for many yeeres after it was called the Earle of Oxfords perfume.”

Stow is evidently in error when he says haberdashers had neither embroidered nor perfumed gloves till the time of Queen Elizabeth, as such articles are mentioned in various documents at a much earlier date, though they may not have been of English manufacture or in common use.

In Nichols’ Progress of Queen Elizabeth it is recorded that “When the Queen went to Cambridge in 1578 the Vice-Chancellor presented a pair of gloves perfumed and garnished with embroiderie and goldsmith’s wourke, price lxs. It fortuned that the paper in which the gloves were folded to open; and hir Majestie behoulding the beautie of the said gloves, as in great admiration, and in token of her thankful acceptation of the same, held up one of her hands, and then smelling unto them, put them half waie upon her hands.”

As perfumed gloves became more common, quaint recipes were published instructing ladies and others in the art of making “washes, cosmeticks and perfumes.” The following, extracted from Beauties’ Treasury; or, the Ladies’ Vade Mecum, published in London in 1705, is of interest :—

“A rare Perfume to scent Gloves, Fans or the like Musk and Amber-Grease of each a scruple, dried leaves of sweet Marjoram, beat into fine powder an Ounce, the whitest Gum Tragacanth one Ounce, dissolved in half a Pint of White Wine, and into that Liquid put the rest, let it simmer over a gentle Fire and wilst it is so doing put in a scruple of Civet, and take off the composition, when having prepared your Gloves by laying them smooth and even on a clean Board or Carpet with a Brush dipt in this gently go over them, and when that is dry, do it a second time, and after that a third time, let them dry in the Shade and it will be a very pleasant wholesome and lasting Scent.” Another recipe from the same little volume is headed “The Roman and Millan Perfume for Gloves,” and among the ingredients mentioned therein are rosewater, jassamine, cloves, nutmegs, labdanum, and several of the items named in the previous recipe, ending with the words, “The Scent of which will greatly refresh and cherish the Vital Spirits.”

The price of perfumed gloves appears to have greatly exceeded that of those not so treated. In the Appendix of A Roll of Ancient Cookery is the following entry among accounts relating to an event in the household of Sir John Nevile, of Chete, Knight. “The Marriage of my son in law Roger Rockley and my daughter Elizabeth Nevile, the XIVth. of January, in the XVIIth. year of our Soveraigne Lord Henry King VIII.

“Item, for a Pair of perfumed gloves £0. 3. 4
 Item, for a Pair of other gloves.         0. 0. 4”

As an emblem the glove has been used for centuries past, sometimes as a love token, at others as a, sign of defiance; they have been presented to kings and queens by loyal subjects when visiting the houses of noblemen and gentry or on entering cities and towns, and on these state occasions the gloves had probably been specially made and beautifully embroidered.

Shakespeare makes several of his characters speak of gloves. In the Merchant of Venice Portia asks Bassanio for his gloves; in Romeo and Juliet and in the play of Henry V. the glove is spoken of.  Sir Walter Scott, in The Fair Maid of Perth, gives a Simon Glover for a father, and in Chapter II. of that novel the fair Catharine is described as “laying aside the splendid hawking glove she was embroidering for the Lady Drummond.”

A striking feature in ancient gloves is their great length and size; but it must be remembered that fit was scarcely a consideration in early days, the tight and well-fitting glove being comparatively a modern invention.

The fashion in the gloves and mittens of the civilian was often reproduced, more or less, in the iron gauntlet of the warrior, on which chasing or engraving would take the place of jewels and embroidery.

After the reign of Charles II. the beautifully embroidered gloves gradually gave place to those of a plainer character, and at the same time ceased to be so often used as a love or other token of any significance, though even yet it retains some small traces of its past importance. At funerals, to this day, gloves are often distributed to the mourners, and at what are known as Maiden Sessions the local authorities present white gloves to the Judges and Recorders.