Motley

Motley

[mot-lee]
Motley, John Lothrop, 1814-77, American historian and diplomat, b. Dorchester, Mass. Author of two novels concerning Thomas Morton (1839 and 1849), as well as a number of articles for the North American Review. Motley's study of the history of the Netherlands resulted in The Rise of the Dutch Republic (3 vol., 1856), long a standard work and a popular success, and History of the United Netherlands (4 vol., 1860-67). His last work, The Life and Death of John of Barneveld, appeared in 1874. Motley had spent a short period in 1841 as secretary of the U.S. legation at St. Petersburg and later was minister to Austria (1861-67). President Grant appointed him minister to Great Britain in 1869, but difficulties arising from Motley's tendency to ignore the instructions of Secretary of State Hamilton Fish and from Grant's animosity toward his sponsor and friend, Charles Sumner, caused him to be relieved of his post in 1870.

See O. W. Holmes, John Lothrop Motley: A Memoir (1879); G. W. Curtis, ed., The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley (1889); John Lothrop Motley and His Family (ed. by his daughter, Susan M. Mildmay, and H. S. Mildmay, 1910).

Motley refers to the traditional costume of the court jester or the harlequin character in commedia dell'arte. The latter wears a patchwork of red, green and blue diamonds that is still a fashion motif.

The word motley is described in the Oxford English Dictionary as a cognate with medley, although the unrelated mottled has also contributed to the meaning. The word is most commonly used as an adjective or noun, but is also seen as a verb and adverb. When used as a noun, it can mean "a varied mixture."

The word originated in England between the 14th and 17th centuries and referred to a woolen fabric of mixed colors. It was the characteristic dress of the professional fool. During the reign of Elizabeth I, motley served the important purpose of keeping the fool outside the social hierarchy and therefore not subject to class distinction. Since the fool was outside the dress laws (sumptuary law), the fool was able to speak more freely.

Likewise, motley did not have to be checkered and has been recently thought to be one pattern with different colored threads running through it.

See also

Notes

External links

  • National Guild of Jesters (UK) Hall of Fame Various examples of motley.
Search another word or see motleyon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature