Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/99

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65
COUNTRY LIFE AND CHARACTER

spaces in front of the Guildhall and of the Chapel. Cleaning the streets was left to the individual householder who, however, seldom performed the duty till, like the poet's father, he was compelled by law.

Such a town of filth and thatched roofs was particularly liable to the double danger of disease and of fire. The plague was a regular visitant at Stratford every ten or twenty years. In the summer of 1564 this dread sickness swept away one-seventh of the population. The town was frequently devastated by fire, and several times nearly ruined.

Stratford has been chosen to illustrate the Elizabethan small town. Its manners and customs, government, trade, etc., are typical. It was slightly off the beaten track, however, therefore lacking in that element of bustle, of men of all sorts and conditions passing through on their way to somewhere else, that was characteristic of such a town as Coventry. Stratford also lacked what Coventry had, and York and Chester still have, a city wall.