chapter  8
34 Pages

The Mercery Trade in London: Prosperity and Conflict

This was the mercer-shopkeeper the average customer knew; the picture was accurate, but the criticism of greed may not have endeared it to mercers. It was mercers who were turned out of the Temple by Christ in the book of advice written by the French knight of La Tour Landry and the mercer William Caxton did not change this detail when he translated it for his English audience.2 The age-old criticisms of salesmen continued; the song about the dusty petit mercier written in the thirteenth century was still circulating and was soon to be attributed to a new, noble poet, Charles d’Orléans; but the eighty-foot-long gallery where the merciers sold their wares in the ancient palace of the kings of France in Paris excited many visitors with admiration in this century and the next. The mercer who sold Nicodemus and Joseph the spices to treat the dead body of Christ was a fast-talking crier of wares in the miracle play of the Passion de Notre Seigneur; his merceries were much the same as those of the Dit du mercier, but he had acquired piety and charity, for he refused payment as soon as he knew the holy purpose of the apostles.3