MARGERY - VOLUME 1.
MARGERY - VOLUME 1.
In translating what is supposed to be a transcript into modern German of
the language of Nuremberg in the fifteenth century I have made no
attempt to imitate English phraseology of the same date. The difficulty
would in fact be insuperable to the writer and the annoyance to the
reader almost equally great.
I have merely endeavored to avoid essentially modern words and forms of
"PIETRO GIUSTINIANI merchant of Venice." This was the signature
affixed to his receipt by the little antiquary in the city of St. Mark
from whom I purchased a few stitched sheets of manuscript. What a name
As I remarked on the splendor of his ancestry he slapped his pocket and
exclaimed half in pride and half in lamentation:
"Yes they had plenty of money; but what has become of it?"
"And have you no record of their deeds?" I asked the little man who
himself wore a moustache with stiff military points to it.
"Their deeds!" he echoed scornfully. "I wish they had been less zealous
in their pursuit of fame and had managed their money matters better!--
And he pointed to little Marietta who was playing among the old books
and with whom I had already struck up a friendship. She this day
displayed some strange appendage in the lobes of her ears which on
closer examination I found to be a twist of thread.
The child's pretty dark head was lying confidentially against my arm and
as with my fingers I felt this singular ornament I heard from behind
the little desk at the end of the counter her mother's shrill voice in
complaining accents: "Aye Sir it is a shame in a family which has given
three saints to the Church--Saint Nicholas Saint Anna and Saint
Eufemia all three Giustinianis as you know--in a family whose sons have
more than once worn a cardinal's hat--that a mother Sir should be
compelled to let her own child--But you are fond of the little one Sir
as every one is hereabout. Heh Marietta! What would you say if the
gentleman were to give you a pair of ear-rings now; real gold ear-rings
I mean? Thread for ear-rings Sir in the ears of a Giustiniani! It is
absurd preposterous monstrous; and a right-thinking gentleman like you
Sir will never deny that."
How could I neglect such a hint; and when I had gratified the antiquary's
wife I could reflect with some pride that I might esteem myself a
benefactor to a family which boasted of its descent from the Emperor
Justinian which had been called the 'Fabia gens' of Venice and in its
day had given to the Republic great generals far-seeing statesmen and
When at length I had to quit the city and took leave of the curiosity-
dealer he pressed my hand with heartfelt regret; and though the Signora
Giustiniani as she pocketed a tolerably thick bundle of paper money
looked at me with that kindly pity which a good woman is always ready to
bestow on the inexperienced especially when they are young that no
doubt was because the manuscript I had acquired bore such a dilapidated
appearance. The margins of the thick old Nuremberg paper were eaten into
by mice and insects in many places black patches like tinder dropped
away from the yellow pages; indeed many passages of the once clear
writing had so utterly faded that I scarcely hoped to see them made
legible again by the chemist's art. However the contents of the
document were so interesting and remarkable so unique in relation to the
time when it was written that they irresistibly riveted my attention
and in studying them I turned half the night into day. There were nine
separate parts. All except the very last one were in the same hand
and they seemed to have formed a single book before they were torn
asunder. The cover and title-page were lost but at the head of the
first page these words were written in large letters: "The Book of my
Life." Then followed a long passage in crude verse very much to this
"What we behold with waking Eye
Can to our judgment never lie
And what through Sense and Sight we gain.
Becometh part of Soul and Brain.
Look round the World in which you dwell
Nor Snail-like live within your Shell;
And if you see His World aright
The Lord shall grant you double Sight.
For though your Mind and Soul be small
If you but open them to all
The great wide World they will expand
Those glorious Things to understand.
When Heart and Brain are great with Love
Man is most like the Lord above.
Look up to Him with patient Eye
Not on your own Infirmity.
In pious Trust yourself forget
For others only toil and fret
Since all we do for fellow Men
With right good Will shall be our Gain.
What if the Folk should call you Fool
Care not but act by Virtue's Rule
Contempt and Curses let them fling
God's Blessing shields you from their Sting.
Grey is my Head but young my Heart;
In Nuremberg ere I depart
Children and Grandchildren for you
I write this Book and it is true."
Below the verses the text of the narrative began with these words: "In
the yere of our Lord M/CCCC/lx/VI dyd I begynne to wrtre in thys lytel
Boke thys storie of my lyf as I haue lyued it."
It was in her sixty-second year that the writer had first begun to note
down her reminiscences. This becomes clear as we go on but it may be
gathered from the first lines on the second page which begins thus:
"I Margery Schopper was borne in the yere of our Lord M/CCCC/IV on
a Twesday after 'Palmarum' Sonday at foure houris after mydnyght.
Myn uncle Kristan Pfinzing was god sib to me in my chrystening. My
fader God assoyle his soul was Franz Schopper iclyped the Singer.
He dyed on a Monday after 'Laetare'--[The fourth Sunday in Lent.]--
Sonday M/CCCC/IV. And he hadde to wyf Kristine Peheym whyche was my
moder. Also she bare to hym my brethren Herdegen and Kunz Schopper.
My moder dyed in the vigil of Seint Kateryn M/CCCC/V. Thus was I
refte of my moder whyle yet a babe; also the Lord broughte sorwe
upon me in that of hys grace He callyd my fader out of thys worlde
before that ever I sawe the lyght of dai."
These few lines which I read in the little antiquary's shop betrayed me
to my ruin; for in my delight at finding the daily journal of a German
housewife of the beginning of the fifteenth century my heart overflowed;
forgetting all prudence I laughed aloud exclaiming "splendid"
"wonderful" "what a treasure!" But it would have been beyond all human
power to stand speechless for as I read on I found things which far
exceeded my fondest expectations. The writer of these pages had not been
content like the other chroniclers of her time and of her native town-
such as Ulman Stromer Andres Tucher and their fellows--to register
notable facts without any connection the family affairs items of
expenditure and mercantile measures of her day; she had plainly and
candidly recorded everything that had happened to her from her childhood
to the close of her life. This Margery had inherited some of her
father's artistic gifts; he is mentioned in Ulman Stromer's famous
chronicle where he is spoken of as "the Singer." It was to her mother
however that she owed her bold spirit for she was a Behaim cousin to
the famous traveller Behaim of Schwarzbach whose mother is known to have
been one of the Schopper family daughter to Herdegen Schopper.
In the course of a week I had not merely read the manuscript but had
copied a great deal of what seemed to me best worth preservation
including the verses. I subsequently had good reason to be glad that I
had taken so much pains though travelling about at the time; for a cruel
disaster befel the trunk in which the manuscript was packed with other
books and a few treasures and which I had sent home by sea. The ship
conveying them was stranded at the mouth of the Elbe and my precious
manuscript perished miserably in the wreck.
The nine stitched sheets of which the last was written by the hand of
Margery Schopper's younger brother had found their way to Venice--as was
recorded on the last page--in the possession of Margery's great-grandson
who represented the great mercantile house of Im Hoff on the Fondaco and
who ultimately died in the City of St. Mark. When that famous firm was
broken up the papers were separated from their cover and had finally
fallen into the hands of the curiosity dealer of whom I bought them. And
after surviving travels on land risk of fire the ravages of worms and
the ruthlessness of man for four centuries they finally fell a prey to
the destructive fury of the waves; but my memory served me well as to the
contents and at my bidding was at once ready to aid me in restoring the
narrative I had read. The copied portions were a valuable aid and
imagination was able to fill the gaps; and though it failed no doubt to
reproduce Margery Schopper's memoirs phrase for phrase and word for word
I have on the whole succeeded in transcribing with considerable
exactitude all that she herself had thought worthy to be rescued from
oblivion. Moreover I have avoided the repetition of the mode of talk in
the fifteenth century when German was barely commencing to be used as a
written language since scholars writers and men of letters always
chose the Latin tongue for any great or elegant intellectual work. The
narrator's expressions would only be intelligible to a select few and
I should have done my Margery injustice had I left the ideas and
descriptions whose meaning I thoroughly understood in the clumsy form
she had given them. The language of her day is a mirror whose uneven
surface might easily reflect the fairest picture in blurred or distorted
out lines to modern eyes. Much indeed which most attracted me in her
descriptions will have lost its peculiar charm in mine; as to whether I
have always supplemented her correctly that must remain an open
I have endeavored to throw myself into the mind and spirit of my Margery
and repeat her tale with occasional amplification in a familiar style
yet with such a choice of words as seems suitable to the date of her
narrative. Thus I have perpetuated all that she strove to record for her
descendants out of her warm heart and eager brain; though often in mere
outline and broken sentences still in the language of her time and of
her native province.
I MARGERY SCHOPPER was born in the year of our Lord 1404 on the
Tuesday after Palm Sunday. My uncle Christan Pfinzing of the Burg a
widower whose wife had been a Schopper held me at the font. My father
God have his soul was Franz Schopper known as Franz the Singer. He
died in the night of the Monday after Laetare Sunday in 1404 and his
wife my mother God rest her whose name was Christine was born a
Behaim; she had brought him my two brothers Herdegen and Kunz and she
died on the eve of Saint Catharine's day 1404; so that I lost my mother
while I was but a babe and God dealt hardly with me also in taking my
father to Himself in His mercy before I ever saw the light.
Instead of a loving father such as other children have I had only a
grave in the churchyard and the good report of him given by such as had
known him; and by their account he must have been a right merry and
lovable soul and a good man of business both in his own affairs and in
those pertaining to the city. He was called "the Singer" because even
when he was a member of the town-council he could sing sweetly and
worthily to the lute. This art he learned in Lombardy where he had been
living at Padua to study the law there; and they say that among those
outlandish folk his music brought him a rich reward in the love of the
Italian ladies and damsels. He was a well-favored man of goodly stature
and pleasing to look upon as my brother Herdegen his oldest son bears
witness since it is commonly said that he is the living image of his
blessed father; and I who am now an old woman may freely confess that
I have seldom seen a man whose blue eyes shone more brightly beneath his
brow or whose golden hair curled thicker over his neck and shoulders
than my brother's in the high day of his happy youth.
He was born at Eastertide and the Almighty blessed him with a happy
temper such as he bestows only on a Sunday-child. He too was skilled
in the art of singing and as my other brother my playmate Kunz had
also a liking for music and song there was ever a piping and playing in
our orphaned and motherless house as if it were a nest of mirthful
grasshoppers and more childlike gladness and happy merriment reigned
there than in many another house that rejoices in the presence of father
and mother. And I have ever been truly thankful to the Almighty that
it was so; for as I have often seen the life of children who lack a
mother's love is like a day when the sun is hidden by storm-clouds.
But the merciful God who laid his hand on our mother's heart filled
that of another woman with a treasure of love towards me and my brothers.
Our cousin Maud a childless widow took upon herself to care for us.
As a maid and before she had married her departed husband she had been
in love with my father and then had looked up to my mother as a saint
from Heaven so she could have no greater joy than to tell us tales about
our parents; and when she did so her eyes would be full of tears and as
every word came straight from her heart it found its way straight to
ours; and as we three sat round listening to her besides her own two
eyes there were soon six more wet enough to need a handkerchief.
Her gait was heavy and awkward and her face seemed as though it had been
hewn out of coarse wood so that it was a proper face to frighten
children; even when she was young they said that her appearance was too
like a man and devoid of charms and for that reason my father never
heeded her love for him; but her eyes were like open windows and out of
them looked everything that was good and kind and loving and true like
angels within. For the sake of those eyes you forgot all else; all that
was rough in her and her wide nose with the deep dent just in the
middle and such hair on her lip as many a young stripling might envy
And Sebald Kresz knew very well what he was about when he took to wife
Maud Im Hoff when he was between sixty and seventy years of age; and she
had nothing to look forward to in life as she stood at the altar with
him but to play the part of nurse to a sickly perverse old man. But to
Maud it seemed as fair a lot to take care of a fellow-creature as it is
to many another to be nursed and cherished; and it was the reward of her
faithful care that she could keep the old man from the clutch of Death
for full ten years longer. After his decease she was left a well-to-do
widow; but instead of taking thought for herself she at once entered on a
life of fresh care for she undertook the duty of filling the place of
mother to us three orphans.
As I grew up she would often instruct me in her kind voice which was as
deep as the bass pipe of an organ that she had set three aims before her
in bringing us up namely: to make us good and Godfearing; to teach us to
agree among ourselves so that each should be ready to give everything up
to the others; and to make our young days as happy as possible. How far
she succeeded in the first I leave to others to judge; but a more united
family than we ever were I should like any man to show me and because it
was evident from a hundred small tokens how closely we clung together
folks used to speak of us as "the three links" especially as the arms
borne by the Schoppers display three rings linked to form a chain.
As for myself I was the youngest and smallest of the three links and
yet I was the middle one; for if ever it fell that Herdegen and Kunz had
done one thing or another which led them to disagree and avoid or defy
each other they always came together again by seeking me and through my
means. But though I thus sometimes acted as peacemaker it is no credit
to me since I did not bring them together out of any virtue or
praiseworthy intent but simply because I could not bear to stand alone
or with only one ring linked to me.
Alas! how far behind me lies the bright happy youth of which I now
write! I have reached the top of life's hill nay I have long since
overstepped the ridge; and as I look back and think of all I have seen
and known it is not to the end that I may get wisdom for myself whereby
to do better as I live longer. My old bones are stiff and set; it would
be vain now to try to bend them. No I write this little book for my own
pleasure and to be of use and comfort to my children and grandchildren.
May they avoid the rocks on which I have bruised my feet and where I
have walked firmly on may they take example by an old woman's brave
spirit though I have learned in a thousand ways that no man gains profit
by any experience other than his own.
So I will begin at the beginning.
I could find much to tell of my happy childhood for then everything
seems new; but it profits not to tell of what every one has known in his
own life and what more can a Nuremberg child have to say of her early
growth and school life than ever another. The blades in one field and
the trees in one wood share the same lot without any favour. It is true
that in many ways I was unlike other children; for my cousin Maud would
often say that I would not abide rule as beseems a maid and Herdegen's
lament that I was not born a boy still sounds in my ears when I call to
mind our wild games. Any one who knows the window on the first floor
at the back of our house from which I would jump into the courtyard to
do as my brothers did would be fairly frightened and think it a wonder
that I came out of it with whole bones; but yet I was not always minded
to riot with the boys and from my tenderest years I was a very
thoughtful little maid. But there were things; in my young life very apt
to sharpen my wits.
We Schoppers are nearly allied with every worshipful family in the town
or of a rank to sit in the council and bear a coat of arms; these being
in fact in Nuremberg the class answering to the families of the
Signoria in Venice whose names are enrolled in the Libro d'Oro. What
the Barberighi the Foscari the Grimaldi the Giustiniani and the like
are there the families of Stromer Behaim Im Hoff Tucher Kresz
Baumgartner Pfinzing Pukheimer Holzschuher and so forth are with us;
and the Schoppers certainly do not rank lowest on the list. We who hold
ourselves entitled to bear arms to ride in tournaments and take office
in the Church and who have a right to call ourselves nobles and
patricians are all more or less kith and kin. Wherever in Nuremberg
there was a fine house we could find there an uncle and aunt cousins
and kinsmen or at least godparents and good friends of our deceased
parents. Wherever one of them might chance to meet us even if it were
in the street he would say: "Poor little orphans! God be good to the
fatherless!" and tears would sparkle in the eyes of many a kindhearted
woman. Even the gentlemen of the Council--for most of the elders of our
friends were members of it--would stroke my fair hair and look at me as
pitifully as though I were some poor sinner for whom there could be no
mercy in the eyes of the judges of a court of justice.
Why was it that men deemed me so unfortunate when I knew no sorrow and my
heart was as gay as a singing bird? I could not ask cousin Maud for she
was sorely troubled if I had but a finger-ache and how could I tell her
that I was such a miserable creature in the eyes of other folks? But I
presently found out for myself why and wherefore they pitied me; for
seven who called me fatherless seventy would speak of me as motherless
when they addressed me with pity. Our misfortune was that we had no
mother. But was there not Cousin Maud and was not she as good as any
mother? To be sure she was only a cousin and she must lack something of
what a real mother feels.
And though I was but a heedless foolish child I kept my eyes open and
began to look about me. I took no one into the secret but my brothers
and though my elder brother chid me and bid me only be thankful to our
cousin for all her goodness I nevertheless began to watch and learn.
There were a number of children at the Stromers' house--the Golden Rose
was its name--and they were still happy in having their mother. She was
a very cheerful young woman as plump as a cherry and pink and white
like blood on snow; and she never fixed her gaze on me as others did
but would frolic with me or scold me sharply when I did any wrong.
At the Muffels on the contrary the mistress was dead and the master
had not long after brought home another mother to his little ones a
stepmother Susan who was my maid was wont to call her; and such a
mother was no more a real mother than our good cousin--I knew that much
from the fairy tales to which I was ever ready to hearken. But I saw
this very stepmother wash and dress little Elsie her husband's youngest
babe and not her own and lull her till she fell asleep; and she did it
right tenderly and quite as she ought. And then when the child was
asleep she kissed it too on its brow and cheeks.
And yet Mistress Stromer of the Golden-Rose House did differently; for
when she took little Clare that was her own babe out of the water and
laid it on warm clouts on the swaddling board she buried her face in the
sweet soft flesh and kissed the whole of its little body all over
before and behind from head to foot as if it were all one sweet rosy
mouth; and they both laughed with hearty loving merriment as the mother
pressed her lips against the babe's white clean skin and trumpeted till
the room rang or clasped it wrapped in napkins to her warm breast as
if she could hug it to death. And she broke into a loud strange laugh
and cried as she fondled it: "My treasure my darling my God-sent jewel!
My own my own--I could eat thee!"
No Mistress Muffel never behaved so to Elsie her husband's babe.
Notwithstanding I knew right well that Cousin Maud had been just as fond
of me as Dame Stromer of her own babes and so far our cousin was no way
different from a real mother. And I said as much to myself when I laid
me down to sleep in my little white bed at night and my cousin came and
folded her hands as I folded mine and after we had said the prayers for
the Angelus together as we did every evening she laid her head by the
side of mine and pressed my baby face to her own big face. I liked this
well enough and I whispered in her ear: "Tell me Cousin Maud are you
not my real true mother?"
And she hastily replied "In my heart I am most truly; and you are a
very lucky maid my Margery for instead of only one mother you have two:
me here below to care for you and foster you and the other up among
the angels above looking down on you and beseeching the all-gracious
Virgin who is so nigh to her to keep your little heart pure and to
preserve you from all ill; nay perhaps she herself is wearing a glory
and a heavenly crown. Look at her face." And Cousin Maud held up the
lamp so that the light fell on a large picture. My eyes beheld the
lovely portrait in front of me and meseemed it looked at me with a deep
gaze and stretched out loving arms to me. I sat up in my bed; the
feelings which filled my little heart overflowed my lips and I said in a
whisper: "Oh Cousin Maud! Surely my mammy might kiss me for once and
fondle me as Mistress Stromer does her little Clare."
Cousin Maud set the lamp on the table and without a word she lifted me
out of bed and held me up quite close to the face of the picture; and I
understood. My lips softly touched the red lips on the canvas; and as I
was all the happier I fancied that my mother in Heaven must be glad too.
Then my cousin sighed: "Well well!" and murmured other words to
herself; she laid me in the bed again tucked the coverlet tightly round
me as I loved to have it gave me another kiss waited till I had settled
my head on the pillow and whispered: "Now go to sleep and dream of your
She quitted the room; but she had left the lamp and as soon as I was
alone I looked once more at the picture which showed me my mother in
right goodly array. She had a rose on her breast her golden fillet
looked like the crown of the Queen of Heaven and in her robe of rich