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Title: The Book of Christmas - descriptive of the Customs, Ceremonies, Traditions, - Superstitions, Fun, Feeling, and Festivities of the - Christmas Season
Author: Hervey, Thomas K.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Transcriber's Note: superscripted letters are preceded by a caret and
surrounded by curly braces: w^{th}. Bold text is surrounded by =equal
signs= and italic text by _underscores_.]


[Illustration: CHRISTMAS AND HIS CHILDREN.]



THE BOOK of CHRISTMAS.

[Illustration]

    Some say, that ever 'gainst that season comes
    Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
    This bird of dawning singeth allnight long.
                                  _Shakspeare._

    BOSTON:
    ROBERTS BROTHERS.
    1888.



THE

BOOK OF CHRISTMAS;

DESCRIPTIVE OF THE

CUSTOMS, CEREMONIES, TRADITIONS, SUPERSTITIONS, FUN, FEELING, AND
FESTIVITIES OF

The Christmas Season.

BY THOMAS K. HERVEY.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY R. SEYMOUR.

[Illustration: _Galantee Show._]


    BOSTON:
    ROBERTS BROTHERS.
    1888.



    University Press:
    JOHN WILSON AND SON, CAMBRIDGE.



CONTENTS.


                                                    PAGE

    INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER                                           7


    Part First.

    THE CHRISTMAS SEASON                                          29

      Mingled Origin of the Christmas Festival; Good Cheer
      of the Ancient Festival; Court Celebrations of
      Christmas; Celebrations at the Inns of Court; Lord of
      Misrule and Christmas Prince; Abbot of Unreason;
      Influence of the Festival on the Social Relations; Ben
      Jonson's Masque of Christmas; Father Christmas
      summoning his Spirits; Extinction of the Ancient
      Festival; Partial Revival; Summary of the Causes of
      its final Decline.


    FEELINGS OF THE SEASON                                      134

      Religious Influences; Assembling of Friends; Church
      Services of the Season; lengthened Duration of the
      Festival; Memories of the Season; Natural Aspects of
      the Season.


    SIGNS OF THE SEASON                                         157

      Domestic Preparations; Mince Pie; Travellers on the
      Highways; coming Home from School; Norfolk Coach;
      Evergreens for Christmas Decoration; Kissing under the
      Mistletoe; Christmas Minstrelsy; Waits; Carol Singing;
      Christmas Carols; Annual Carol Sheets; London Carol
      Singers; Bellman.



Part Second.


    THE CHRISTMAS DAYS                                          223


    ST. THOMAS'S DAY                                            225

      Various Country Customs on this day; St. Thomas's Day
      in London; City Parochial Elections; Lumber Troop and
      other City Associations.


    SPORTS OF THIS SEASON                                       233

      Ancient Jugglers; Galantee Show; Card Playing; Ancient
      Bards and Harpers; Modern Story-telling and Music;
      out-door Sports of the Season; Theatre and Pantomime;
      Mummers; Play of St. George.


    CHRISTMAS EVE                                               267

      London Markets on Christmas Eve; the Yule-clog;
      Christmas Candles; Wassail Bowl; Omens and
      Superstitions; Old Christmas Eve; Midnight Mass.


    CHRISTMAS DAY                                               285

      Religious Services; Plum Pudding; Charities of the
      Season; Old English Gentleman; Ancient Baronial Hall;
      Bringing in the Boar's Head; Modern Christmas Dinner.


    ST. STEPHEN'S DAY                                           302

      Boxing Day (origin of the name); Christmas-boxes;
      Christmas Pieces; Hunting the Wren (Isle of Man);
      Droleens, or Wren Boys (Ireland); Greek Songs of the
      Crow and Swallow.


    NEW YEAR'S EVE                                              315

      Scottish Observances; Night of Omens; Hogmanay;
      Seeing-in the New Year.


    NEW YEAR'S DAY                                              335

      Morning Congratulations; New-Year's Gifts.


    TWELFTH DAY AND TWELFTH NIGHT                               339

      Observances on the Virgil of the Epiphany; Humors of
      the Street; Twelfth Night Party; Twelfth Cake; Drawing
      for Characters; Three Kings of Cologne.


    SAINT DISTAFF'S DAY                                         351

      Rustic Sports.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                   PAGE
    CHRISTMAS AND HIS CHILDREN            _Frontispiece_
    THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS                    _Titlepage_
    "MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU"                         29
    SNAP-DRAGON                                      31
    BARONIAL HALL                                    42
    ENJOYING CHRISTMAS                               46
    MUMMERS                                          65
    GATE OF THE "OLD ENGLISH GENTLEMAN"             109
    FAMILY CONGRATULATION                           134
    COUNTRY CAROL SINGERS                           157
    COMING HOME FROM SCHOOL                         163
    NORFOLK COACH AT CHRISTMAS                      170
    TOO LATE FOR THE COACH                          172
    BRINGING HOME CHRISTMAS                         173
    THE MISTLETOE BOUGH                             191
    WAITS                                           197
    LONDON CAROL SINGERS                            215
    BELL-RINGING                                    219
    THE LORD OF MISRULE                             223
    CHRISTMAS PRESENTS                              224
    ST. THOMAS'S DAY                                233
    STORY TELLING                                   239
    CHRISTMAS PANTOMIME                             249
    GALANTEE SHOW                                   266
    MARKET--CHRISTMAS EVE                           267
    WASSAIL BOWL                                    275
    OLD CHRISTMAS                                   285
    CHRISTMAS PUDDING                               286
    COUNTRY CHURCH, CHRISTMAS MORNING               290
    BRINGING IN THE BOAR'S HEAD                     295
    CHRISTMAS DINNER                                300
    BOXING DAY                                      302
    SEEING-IN THE NEW YEAR                          331
    TWELFTH NIGHT KING                              339
    TWELFTH NIGHT IN LONDON STREETS                 343
    TWELFTH NIGHT                                   347
    RETURNING TO SCHOOL                             355



THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.



INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER.

                We take no note of time
    But from its loss; to give it, then, a tongue
    Is wise in man.
                                   DR. YOUNG.


TO give a language to time, for the preservation of its records and the
utterance of its lessons, has been amongst the occupations of man from
the day when first he found himself in its mysterious presence down to
these latter ages of the world; and yet, all the resources of his
ingenuity, impelled by all the aspirations of his heart, have only
succeeded in supplying it with an imperfect series of hieroglyphics,
difficult in their acquirement and uncertain in their use. Ages upon
ages of the young world have passed away, of which the old hath no
chronicle. Generations after generations of men have "made their bed in
the darkness," and left no monuments. Of the crowded memorials reared by
others along the stream of time, many (and those the mightiest) are
written in a cipher of which the key is lost. The wrappings of the mummy
are letters of a dead language; and no man can translate the ancient
story of the pyramid!

We have learnt to speak of time, because it is that portion of eternity
with which we have _presently_ to do,--as if it were a whit more
intelligible (less vague, abstract, and unimaginable) than that eternity
of which it is a part. He who can conceive of the one, must be able to
embrace the awful image of the other. We think of time as of a section
of eternity, separated and intrenched by absolute _limits_; and thus we
seem to have arrived at a definite idea, surrounded by points on which
the mind can rest. But when the imagination sets out upon the actual
experiment, and discovers that those limits are not assignable, save on
one only side, and finds but a single point on which to rest its failing
wing, and looks from thence along an expanse whose boundaries are
nowhere else within the range of its restricted vision,--then does the
mortal bird return into its mortal nest, wearied with its ineffectual
flight, and convinced that a shoreless ocean and one whose shores it
cannot see are alike formless and mysterious to its dim and feeble gaze.

And yet notwithstanding the connection of these two ideas,--of time and
of eternity,--(the notion of the former being only reached through the
latter) we deal familiarly, and even jestingly, with the one, while the
mind approaches the other with reverential awe. Types, and symbols, and
emblems--and those ever of a grave meaning--are the most palpable
expressions which we venture to give to our conceptions of the one;
whilst the other we figure and personify,--and that, too often, after a
fashion in which the better part of the moral is left unrepresented. Yet
who shall personify time? And who that has ever tried it, in the silence
of his chamber and the stillness of his heart, hath not bowed down in
breathless awe before the solemn visions which his conjuration has
awakened? Oh, the mysterious shapes which Time takes, when it rises up
into the mind as an image, at those hours of lonely inquisition!--"And
he said unto her, 'What form is he of?' And she said, 'An _old man_
cometh up; and he is _covered with a mantle_.'"--The mysterious presence
which it assumes "in thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep
sleep falleth on men"! Who, as he strove to collect the mournful
attributes about which his fancy had been busy into an impersonation,
hath not suddenly felt as if "a spirit passed before _his_ face! . . .
It stood still, but _he_ could not discern the form thereof; an image
was before his eyes, there was silence;" and out of that silence hath
seemed to come a voice like that which whispered to Job, "They that
dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are
crushed before the moth, they are destroyed from morning to evening;
they perish for ever, without any regarding it."

Time, abstractedly considered as what in truth it is,--a portion of the
vast ocean of eternity, a river flowing from the sea and flowing to the
sea, a channel leading from deep to deep, through shores on which the
races of the world are permitted to build for awhile, until the great
waters shall once more cover all, and time, _as_ time, "shall be no
more,"--must long have defied the skill of man to map out its surface,
and write his memorials upon its impalpable bosom. The thousand keels
that sweep over the visible waters of the world leave on their face
traces of their passage more legible and enduring than do the
generations of men as they come and go on that viewless and voiceless
stream. The ingenuity which has taught man to lay down the plan of the
material ocean, to assign to each spot on its uniform surface its
positive whereabout and actual relation, and by a series of imaginary
lines and figures to steer his way across its pathless solitudes with a
knowledge as certain as that which guides him amidst the substantive and
distinctive features of the solid earth, is scarcely more admirable than
that which, by a similar device, has enabled him to measure out the
expanse of the silent river, to cover, as it were, its surface with a
crowd of imaginary latitudes and longitudes intersecting each other at
all points, and to ascertain at any moment, by observation, his relative
position on the great stream of time.

How long the unaided genius of man might have been ere it could have
fallen upon a scheme for the one achievement or the other, if left to
struggle with its own resources and unassisted by hints from without, we
need not conjecture. But in each case the solution of the problem was
suggested to him, as the materials for working it are still furnished,
by the finger of God himself. The great architect of the universe hath
planted in its frame all necessary models and materials for the guidance
and use of its human inhabitants, leaving them to the exercise of those
powers and capacities with which they have been furnished to improve the
lessons and apply the examples thus conveyed. In each of the cases of
which we have spoken, the constellations which surround the world and
"are the poetry of heaven" have been the sources of the inspiration, as
they are still the lights by which that inspiration works. The hand that
fashioned the "two great lights," and appointed to them their courses,
and gave them to be "for signs and for seasons and for days and years,"
pointed out to man how he might, by the observation of their
revolutions, direct his course along the unbroken stream of time or
count its waves as they flowed silently and ceaselessly away. The sun
and moon were the ancient and at first the only measures of time, as
they are the essential foundations of all the modes by which man
measures it now; and in the order of the world's architecture, the
"watches of the element" which guide us yet were framed and "set in the
firmament of heaven" at that distant and uncertain period whose
"evening and morning were the fourth day."

Nor did the beneficent power which erected these great meters of time in
the constitution of the universe leave the world without suggestions how
their use might be improved in the business of more minute subdivision.
The thousand natural inequalities of the earth's surface, and the
vegetable columns which spring from its bosom, furnish--as do the spires
and towers and columns which man rears thereon--so many gnomons of the
vast dial, on which are unerringly written with the finger of shadow the
shining records of the sky. There is something unutterably solemn in
watching the shade creep, day by day, round a circle whose diameter man
might measure with his grave or even cover with his hand, and
contrasting the limits within which it acts with the spaces of time
which its stealing tread measures out, and feeling that it is the
faithful index of a progress before which the individual being and the
universal frame of things are alike hastening to rapid and inevitable
decay. There are few types more awfully representative of that which
they typify than is the shadow. It is Time almost made visible. Through
it the mind reaches the most vivid impersonation of that mysterious idea
which it is capable of containing. It seems as if flung directly from
his present and passing wing. The silent and ceaseless motion--gliding
for ever on and on, coming round again and again, but reverting never
and tarrying never, blotting out the sunshine as it passes and leaving
no trace where it has passed--make it the true and solemn symbol of him
(the old unresting and unreturning one) who receded not, even when that
same shadow went back on the dial of the king of Judah, nor paused when
the sun stood still in the midst of heaven and the moon lingered over
the valley of Ajalon! Of that mysterious type and its awful morals a
lost friend of ours[1] has already spoken better than we can hope to
speak; and as he is ("alas, that _he_ is so!") already one whose "sun
shall no more go down, neither shall _his_ moon withdraw itself," we
will avail ourselves of a language which deserves to be better known,
and sounds all the more solemnly that he who uttered it hath since
furnished in his own person a fresh verification of the solemn truths
which he sung so well.

    "Upon a dial-stone,
     Behold the shade of Time,
     For ever circling on and on
     In silence more sublime
     Than if the thunders of the spheres
     Pealed forth its march to mortal ears!

    "It meets us hour by hour,
     Doles out our little span,
     Reveals a presence and a power
     Felt and confessed by man:
     The drop of moments, day by day,
     That rocks of ages wears away.

    "Woven by a hand unseen
     Upon that stone, survey
     A robe of dark sepulchral green,
     The mantle of decay,
     The fold of chill oblivion's pall,
     That falleth with yon shadow's fall!

    "Day is the time for toil,
     Night balms the weary breast,
     Stars have their vigils, seas awhile
     Will sink to peaceful rest;
     But round and round the shadow creeps
     Of that which slumbers not, nor sleeps!

    "Effacing all that's fair,
     Hushing the voice of mirth
     Into the silence of despair,
     Around the lonesome hearth,
     And training ivy-garlands green
     O'er the once gay and social scene.

    "In beauty fading fast
     Its silent trace appears,
     And where--a phantom of the past,
     Dim in the mist of years--
     Gleams Tadmor o'er oblivion's waves,
     Like wrecks above their ocean-graves.

    "Before the ceaseless shade
     That round the world doth sail
     Its towers and temples bow the head,
     The pyramids look pale,
     The festal halls grow hushed and cold,
     The everlasting hills wax old!

    "Coeval with the sun
     Its silent course began,
     And still its phantom-race shall run,
     Till worlds with age grow wan,
     Till darkness spread her funeral pall,
     And one vast shadow circle all!"

To the great natural divisions of time (with their aid, and guided by
these hints) the ingenuity of man, under the direction of his wants, has
been busy since the world began in adding artificial ones, while his
heart has been active in supplying impulses and furnishing devices to
that end. Years, and months, and days--the periods marked out by the
revolutions of our celestial guides--have been aggregated and divided
after methods almost as various as the nations of the earth. Years have
been composed into cycles and olympiads and generations and reigns, and
months resolved into decades and weeks, days into hours, and hours into
subdivisions which have been again subdivided almost to the confines of
thought. Yet it is only in these latter ages of the world that a
measurement has been attained, at once so minute and so closely
harmonizing with the motions and regulated by the revolutions of the
dials of the sky, that, had the same machinery existed from the
commencement of time,--with the art of printing to preserve its
results,--the history of the past might be perused, with its
discrepancies reconciled and many of its blanks supplied. And could the
world agree upon its uniform adoption now, together with that of a
common epoch to reckon from, comparative chronology would be no longer a
science applicable to the future; and history, for the time to come (in
so far as it is a mere record of facts), would present few problems but
such as "he who runs may read."

But out of these conventional and multiplied divisions of time, these
wheels within the great wheel, arise results far more important than the
verification of a chronological series or the establishment of the
harmonies of history. Through them not only may the ages of the world be
said to intercommunicate, and the ends of the earth in a sense to meet,
but by their aid the whole business of the life of nations and of
individuals is regulated, and a set of mnemonics established upon which
hinges the history of the human heart. By the multiplied but regular
system of recurrences thus obtained, order is made to arise out of the
web of duties and the chaos of events; and at each of the thousand
points marked out on these concentric circles are written their
appropriate duties and recorded their special memories. The calendar of
every country is thus covered over with a series of events whose
recollection is recalled and influence kept alive by the return of the
cycles, in their ceaseless revolution, to those spots at which the
record of each has been written; and acts of fasting or of festival, of
social obligation or of moral observance,--many of which would be surely
lost or overlooked, amidst the inextricable confusion in which, without
this systematic arrangement, they must be mingled,--are severally
pointed out by the moving finger of Time as he periodically reaches the
place of each on his concentric dials.

But besides the calendar of general direction and national observance,
where is the heart that has not a private calendar of its own? Long ere
the meridian of life has been attained, the individual man has made many
a memorandum of joy or pain for his periodical perusal, and established
many a private celebration, pleasant or mournful, of his own. How many a
lost hope and blighted feeling which the heart is the better for
recalling, and would not willingly forget, would pass from the mind amid
the crowd and noise and bustle of the world, but for these tablets on
which it is ineffaceably written and yearly read! How many an act of
memory, with its store of consolations and its treasure of warnings,
would remain postponed, amid the interests of the present, till it came
to be forgotten altogether, but for that system which has marked its
positive place upon the wheels of time, and brings the record certainly
before the mental eye, in their unvarying revolution! Many are the uses
of these diaries of the heart. By their aid something is saved from the
wrecks of the past for the service of the present; the lights of former
days are made to throw pleasant reflections upon many an after period of
life; the weeds which the world and its cares had fostered are again and
again cleared away from the sweet and wholesome fountain of tears; the
fading inscriptions of other years are renewed, to yield their morals to
the future; and the dead are restored, for a fleeting hour of sweet
communion, or hold high and solemn converse with us from the graves in
which we laid them years ago.

And this result of the minute and accurate partitions of time, which
consists in the establishment of a series of points for periodic
celebration, is, as regards its public and social operation, more
important than may at first sight appear. The calendar of almost every
country is, as we have observed, filled with a series of anniversaries,
religious or secular, of festival or abstinence, or instituted for the
regulation of business or the operations of the law. In England,
independently of those periods of observance which are common to the
realm and written in her calendar, there are few districts which are
without some festival peculiar to themselves, originating in the grant
of some local charter or privilege, the establishment of some local
fair, the influence of some ancient local superstition, or some other
cause, of which, in many cases, the sole remaining trace is the
observance to which it has given rise,--and which observance does not
always speak in language sufficiently clear to give any account of its
parent. Around each of these celebrations has grown up a set of customs
and traditions and habits, the examination into which has led to many a
useful result, and which are for the most part worth preserving, as well
for their picturesque aspect and social character as for the sake of the
historic chambers which they may yet help us to explore. Their close
resemblance, as existing amongst different nations, has formed an
element in the solution of more than one problem which had for its
object a chapter of the history of the world; and they may be said, in
many cases, to furnish an apparent link of connection between
generations of men long divided and dwelling far apart. They form, too,
amid the changes which time is perpetually effecting in the structure of
society, a chain of connection between the present and former times of
the same land, and prevent the national individuality from being wholly
destroyed. They tend to preserve some similarity in the moral aspect of
a country from epoch to epoch, and, without having force enough to act
as drags on the progress of society towards improvement, they serve for
a feature of identification amid all its forms. Curious illustrations
they are, too, of national history; and we learn to have confidence in
its records when we find in some obscure nook the peasant of to-day, who
troubles himself little with the lore of events and their succession,
doing that which some ancient chronicler tells us his ancestors did a
thousand years ago, and keeping in all simplicity some festival, the
story of whose origin we find upon its written page.

To the philosophic inquirer, few things are more important in the annals
of nations than their festivals, their anniversaries, and their public
celebrations of all kinds. In nothing is their peculiar character more
strikingly exhibited. They show a people in its undress, acting upon
its impulses, and separated from the conventions and formalities of its
every-day existence. We may venture to say that could we, in the absence
of every other record, be furnished with a complete account of the
festivals, traditions, and anniversaries of any given nation now
extinct, not only might a correct estimate be therefrom made of their
progress in morals and civilization, but a conjectural history of their
doings be hazarded, which should bear a closer resemblance to the facts
than many an existing history constructed from more varied materials.

For these reasons--and some others, which are more personal and less
philosophical--we love all old traditions and holiday customs. Like
honest Sir Andrew Aguecheek, we "delight in masques and revels,
sometimes altogether." Many a happy chance has conducted us
unpremeditatedly into the midst of some rustic festival, whose
recollection is amongst our pleasant memories yet,--and many a one have
we gone venturously forth to seek,--when we dwelt in the more immediate
neighborhood of the haunts to which, one by one, these traditionary
observances are retiring before the face of civilization! The natural
tendency of time to obliterate ancient customs and silence ancient
sports, is too much promoted by the utilitarian spirit of the day; and
they who would have no man enjoy without being able to give a reason for
the enjoyment which is in him, are robbing life of half its beauty and
some of its virtues. If the old festivals and hearty commemorations in
which our land was once so abundant--and which obtained for her, many a
long day since, the name of "merrie England"--had no other
recommendation than their _convivial_ character, the community of
enjoyment which they imply, they would on that account alone be worthy
of all promotion, as an antidote to the cold and selfish spirit which is
tainting the life-blood and freezing the pulses of society. "'Tis good
to be merry and wise;" but the wisdom which eschews mirth, and holds the
time devoted to it as so much wasted by being taken from the
schoolmaster, is very questionable wisdom in itself, and assuredly not
made to promote the happiness of nations. We love all commemorations. We
love these anniversaries, for their own sakes, and for their uses. We
love those Lethes of an hour which have a virtue beyond their gift of
oblivion, and while they furnish a temporary forgetfulness of many of
the ills of life, revive the memory of many a past enjoyment, and
reawaken many a slumbering affection. We love those milestones on the
journey of life beside which man is called upon to pause, and take a
reckoning of the distance he has passed, and of that which he may have
yet to go. We love to reach those free, open spaces at which the
cross-roads of the world converge, and where we are sure to meet, as at
a common rendezvous, with travellers from its many paths. We love to
enter those houses of refreshment by the way-side of existence, where we
know we shall encounter with other wayfarers like ourselves,--perchance
with friends long separated, and whom the chances of the world keep far
apart,--and whence, after a sweet communion and lusty festival and
needful rest, we may go forth upon our journey new fortified against its
accidents, and strengthened for its toils. We love those festivals which
have been made, as Washington Irving says, "the season for gathering
together of family connections, and drawing closer again those bonds of
kindred hearts which the cares and pleasures and sorrows of the world
are continually operating to cast loose; of calling back the children of
a family who have launched forth in life and wandered widely asunder,
once more to assemble about the paternal hearth, that rallying place of
the affections, there to grow young and loving again among the endearing
mementos of childhood." Above all, we love those seasons ("for pity is
not common!" says the old ballad) which call for the exercise of a
general hospitality, and give the poor man his few and precious glimpses
of a plenty which, as the world is managed, his toil cannot buy; which
shelter the houseless wanderer, and feed the starving child, and clothe
the naked mother, and spread a festival for all,--those seasons which in
their observance by our ancestors, kept alive, by periodical
reawakenings, that flame of charity which thus had scarcely time wholly
to expire during all the year. We love all which tends to call man from
the solitary and chilling pursuit of his own separate and selfish views
into the warmth of a common sympathy, and within the bands of a common
brotherhood. We love these commemorations, as we have said, for
themselves; we love them for their uses; and still more we love them for
the memories of our boyhood! Many a bright picture do they call up in
our minds, and in the minds of most who have been amongst their
observers; for with these festivals of the heart are inalienably
connected many a memory for sorrow or for joy, many a scene of early
love, many a merry meeting which was yet the last, many a parting of
those who shall part no more, many a joyous group composed of materials
which separated only too soon and shall never be put together again on
earth, many a lost treasure and many a perished hope,--

    "Hopes that were angels in their birth,
     But perished young, like things of earth."

Happy, happy days were they!--"Oh, their record is lively in my
soul!"--and there is a happiness, still, in looking back to them:--

    "Ye are dwelling with the faded flowers
     Ye are with the suns long set,
     But oh, your memory, gentle hours,
     Is a living vision yet!"

Yet are they, for the most part, eras to count our losses by. Beside
them, in the calendar of the heart, is written many a private note, not
to be read without bitter tears:--

    "There's many a lad I loved is gone,
       And many a lass grown old;
     And when, at times, I think thereon,
       My weary heart grows cold."

"Oh, the mad days that I have spent," says old Justice Shallow, "and to
see how many of mine old acquaintance are dead!" Yet still we love these
commemorations and hail them, each and all, as the year restores them to
us, shorn and scarred as they are. And though many and many a time the
welcome has faltered on our lips as we "turned from all they brought to
all they could not bring," still by God's help we will enjoy them, as
yet we may,--drawing closer to us, and with the more reason, the friends
that still remain, and draining to the last--

        "One draught, in memory of many
    A joyous banquet past."

The revels of merry England are fast subsiding into silence, and her
many customs wearing gradually away. The affectations and frivolities of
society, as well as its more grave and solemn pursuits,--the exigences
of fashion, and the tongue of the pedagogue,--are alike arrayed against
them; and, one by one, they are retreating from the great assemblies
where mankind "most do congregate," to hide themselves in remote
solitudes and rural nooks. In fact, that social change which has
enlarged and filled the towns at the expense of the country, which has
annihilated the yeomanry of England, and drawn the estated gentleman
from the shelter of his ancestral oaks, to live upon their produce in
the haunts of dissipation, has been, in itself, the circumstance most
unfavorable to the existence of many of them, which delight in bye-ways
and sheltered places, which had their appropriate homes in the old manor
house or the baronial hall. Yet do they pass lingeringly away. Traces of
most of them still exist, and from time to time reappear even in our
cities and towns; and there are probably scarcely any which have not
found some remote district or other of these islands in which their
influence is still acknowledged, and their rites duly performed. There
is something in the mind of man which attaches him to ancient
superstitions even for the sake of their antiquity, and endears to him
old traditions even because they are old. We cannot readily shake off
our reverence for that which our fathers have reverenced so long, even
where the causes in which that reverence originated are not very obvious
or not very satisfactory. We believe that he who shall aid in preserving
the records of these vanishing observances, ere it be too late, will do
good and acceptable service in his generation; and such contribution to
that end as we have in our power it is the purpose of these volumes to
bestow. Of that taste for hunting out the obsolete which originates in
the mere dry spirit of antiquarianism, or is pursued as a display of
gladiatorial skill in the use of the intellectual weapons, we profess
ourselves no admirers. But he who pursues in the track of a receding
custom,--which is valuable either as an historical illustration or
because of its intrinsic beauty, moral or picturesque,--is an antiquary
of the beneficent kind; and he who assists in restoring observances
which had a direct tendency to propagate a feeling of brotherhood and a
spirit of benevolence, is a higher benefactor still. Right joyous
festivals there have been amongst us, which England will be none the
merrier--and kindly ones which she will be none the better--for losing.
The following pages will give some account of that season which has, at
all times since the establishment of Christianity, been most crowded
with observances, and whose celebration is still the most conspicuous
and universal with us, as well as throughout the whole of Christendom.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] The late John Malcolm, of Edinburgh.



Part First.

THE CHRISTMAS SEASON.

[Illustration: "MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU!"--_Page 29._]



THE CHRISTMAS SEASON.


      This Book of Christmas is a sound and good persuasion
      for gentlemen, and all wealthy men, to keep a good
      Christmas.

    A HA! CHRISTMAS! BY T. H. LONDON, 1647.

      Any man or woman . . . that can give any knowledge, or
      tell any tidings, of an old, old, very old
      gray-bearded gentleman, called Christmas, who was wont
      to be a verie familiar ghest, and visite all sorts of
      people both pore and rich, and used to appeare in
      glittering gold, silk, and silver, in the Court, and
      in all shapes in the Theater in Whitehall, and had
      ringing, feasts, and jollitie in all places, both in
      the citie and countrie, for his comming: . . . whosoever
      can tel what is become of him, or where he may be
      found, let them bring him back againe into England.

    AN HUE AND CRY AFTER CHRISTMAS.


IN Ben Jonson's "Mask of Christmas," presented before the court in
1616,--wherein the ancient gentleman so earnestly inquired after in one
of the quotations which heads this chapter, and a number of his
children, compose the _dramatis personæ_,--that venerable personage (who
describes himself as "Christmas, Old Christmas, Christmas of London,
and Captain Christmas") is made to give a very significant hint to some
parties who fail to receive him with due ceremony, which hint we will,
in all courtesy, bestow upon our readers. "I have seen the time you have
wished for me," says he; . . . "and now you have me, they would not let
me in. I must come another time!--a good jest! _As if I could come more
than once a year!_" Over and over again, too, has this same very
pregnant argument been enforced in the words of the old ballad, quoted
in the "Vindication of Christmas,"--

    "Let's dance and sing, and make good cheer,
     For _Christmas comes but once a year_!"

Now if this suggestion was full of grave meaning in the days of
Jonson,--when the respectable old man was for the most part well
received and liberally feasted, when he fed with his laughing children
at the tables of princes, and took tribute at the hands of kings, when
he showed beneath the snows of his reverend head a portly countenance
(the result of much revelling), an eye in which the fire was unquenched,
and a frame from which little of the lustihood had yet departed,--we
confess that we feel its import to be greatly heightened in these our
days, when the patriarch himself exhibits undeniable signs of a failing
nature, and many of his once rosy sons are evidently in the different
stages of a common decline. A fine and a cheerful family the old man
had; and never came they within any man's door without well repaying
the outlay incurred on their account. To us, at all times, their "coming
was a gladness;" and we feel that we could not, without a pang, see
their honest and familiar faces rejected from our threshold, with the
knowledge that the course of their wanderings could not return them to
us under a period so protracted as that of twelve whole months.

[Illustration: SNAP-DRAGON.--_Page 31._]

In that long space of time, besides the uncertainty of what may happen
to ourselves, there is but too much reason to fear that, unless a change
for the better should take place, some one or more of the neglected
children may be dead. We could not but have apprehensions that the group
might never return to us entire. Death has already made much havoc
amongst them, since the days of Ben Jonson. Alas for Baby-cocke! and woe
is me for Post-and-paire! And although Carol, and Minced-pie, and
New-year's Gift, and Wassail, and Twelfth-cake, and some others of the
children, appear still to be in the enjoyment of a tolerably vigorous
health, yet we are not a little anxious about Snap-dragon, and our mind
is far from being easy on the subject of Hot-cockles. It is but too
obvious that, one by one, this once numerous and pleasant family are
falling away; and as the old man will assuredly not survive his
children, we may yet, in our day, have to join in the heavy lamentation
of the lady at the sad result of the above "Hue and Cry." "But is old,
old, good old Christmas gone?--nothing but the hair of his good, grave
old head and beard left!" For these reasons, he and his train shall be
welcome to us as often as they come. It shall be a heavy dispensation
under which we will suffer them to pass by our door unhailed; and if we
can prevail upon our neighbors to adopt our example, the veteran and his
offspring may yet be restored. They are dying for lack of nourishment.
They have been used to live on most bountiful fare,--to feed on chines
and turkeys and drink of the wassail-bowl. The rich juices of their
constitution are not to be maintained, far less re-established, at a
less generous rate; and though we will, for our parts, do what lies in
our power, yet it is not within the reach of any private gentleman's
exertions or finances to set them on their legs again. It should be made
a national matter of; and as the old gentleman, with his family, will be
coming our way soon after the publication of the present volume, we
trust we may be the means of inducing some to receive them with the
ancient welcome and feast them after the ancient fashion.

To enable our readers to do this with due effect, we will endeavor to
furnish them with a programme of some of the more important ceremonies
observed by our hearty ancestors on the occasion, and to give them some
explanation of those observances which linger still, although the causes
in which their institution originated are becoming gradually
obliterated, and although they themselves are falling into a neglect
which augurs too plainly of their final and speedy extinction.

It is, alas! but too true that the spirit of hearty festivity in which
our ancestors met this season has been long on the decline; and much of
the joyous pomp with which it was once received has long since passed
away. Those "divers plente of plesaunces," in which the genius of mirth
exhibited himself,--

    "About yule, when the wind blew cule,
     And the round tables began,"--

have sent forward to these dull times of ours but few, and those sadly
degenerated, representatives. The wild, barbaric splendor; the unbridled
"mirth and princely cheare" with which, upon the faith of ancient
ballads, we learn that "ages long ago" King Arthur kept Christmas "in
merry Carleile" with Queen Guenever, "that bride soe bright of blee;"
the wholesale hospitality; the royal stores of "pigs' heads and gammons
of bacon" for a Christmas largesse to the poor, at which we get glimpses
in the existing records of the not over-hospitable reign of King John;
the profuse expenditure and stately ceremonial by which the season was
illustrated in the reign of the vain and selfish Elizabeth; and the
lordly wassailings and antic mummings, whose universal prevalence, at
this period of the year, furnished subjects of such holy horror to the
Puritans in the time of the first Charles,--have gradually disappeared
before the philosophic pretensions and chilling pedantry of these sage
and self-seeking days. The picturesque effects of society--its strong
lights and deep shadows--are rapidly passing away; as the inequalities
of surface from which they were projected are smoothed and polished
down. From a period of high ceremonial and public celebration, which it
long continued to be in England, the Christmas-tide has tamed away into
a period of domestic union and social festivity; and the ancient
observances which covered it all over with sparkling points are now
rather perceived--faintly and distantly and imperfectly--by the light of
the still surviving spirit of the season than contribute anything to
that spirit, or throw as of old any light over that season from
themselves.

Of the various causes which contribute to the mingled festival of the
Christmas-tide, there are some which have their origin in feelings, and
are the remains of observances that existed previously to that event
from which the season now derives its name. After the establishment of
Christianity, its earliest teachers, feeling the impossibility of
replacing at once those pagan commemorations which had taken long and
deep root in the constitution of society and become identified with the
feelings of nations, endeavored rather to purify them from their
uncleanness, and adapt them to the uses of the new religion. By this
arrangement, many an object of pagan veneration became an object of
veneration to the early Christians; and the polytheism of papal Rome
(promoted, in part, by this very compromise, working in the stronghold
of the ancient superstition) became engrafted upon the polytheism of the
heathen. At a later period, too, the Protestant reformers of that
corrupted worship found themselves, from a similar impossibility, under
a similar necessity of retaining a variety of Catholic observances; and
thus it is that festival customs still exist amongst us which are the
direct descendants of customs connected with the classic or druidical
superstitions, and sports which may be traced to the celebrations
observed of old in honor of Saturn or of Bacchus.

Amongst those celebrations which have thus survived the decay of the
religions with which they were connected, by being made subservient to
the new faith (or purified forms) which replaced them, that which takes
place at the period of the new year--placed as that epoch is in the
neighborhood of the winter solstice--stands conspicuous. Bequeathed as
this ancient commemoration has been, with many of its forms of
rejoicing, by the pagan to the Christian world, it has been by the
latter thrown into close association with their own festival observances
in honor of the first great event in the history of their revelation;
and while the old observances and the feelings in which they originated
have thus been preserved to swell the tide of Christian triumph, their
pedigree has been overlooked amid the far higher interest of the
observances by whose side they stand, and their ancient titles merged in
that of the high family into which they have been adopted.

In most nations of ancient or modern times, the period of what is
popularly called the winter solstice appears to have been recognized as
a season of rejoicing. The deepening gloom and increasing sterility
which have followed the downward progress of the sun's place in heaven
would generally dispose the minds of men to congratulation at the
arrival of that period when, as experience had taught them, he had
reached his lowest point of influence with reference to _them_; and the
prospects of renewed light, and warmth, and vegetation offered by what
was considered as his returning march, would naturally be hailed by the
signs of thanksgiving and the voice of mirth. The Roman Saturnalia,
which fell at this period, were accordingly a season of high festivity,
honored by many privileges and many exemptions from ill. The spirit of
universal mirth and unbounded license was abroad, and had a free
charter. Friends feasted together, and the quarrels of foes were
suspended. No war was declared and no capital executions were permitted
to take place during this season of general good-will; and the very
slave, beneath its genial influence, regained for a moment the moral
attitude of a man, and had a right to use the tongue which God had
given him, for its original purpose of expressing his thoughts. Not only
in the spirit of the time but in many of the forms which it took, may a
resemblance be traced to the Christmas rejoicings of later days. The
hymns in honor of Saturn were the Roman representatives of the modern
carol; and presents passed from friend to friend, as Christmas gifts do
in our day. (It may be observed here that the interchange of gifts and
the offering of donations to the poor appear to have been, at all
periods of rejoicing or delivery, from the earliest times, one of the
modes by which the heart manifested its thankfulness; and our readers
may be referred for a single example, where examples abound, to the
directions recorded in the Book of Esther, as given by Mordecai to the
Jews in Shushan, for celebrating their escape from the conspiracy of
Haman: that on the anniversaries of "the days wherein the Jews rested
from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow
to joy and from mourning into a good day, they should make them days of
feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another and gifts to
the poor.") But a more striking resemblance still between the forms
observed during the days of the Saturnalia and those by which the
Christmas festival was long illustrated may be noticed in the ruler, or
king, who was appointed, with considerable prerogatives, to preside over
the sports of the former. He is the probable ancestor of that high
potentate who, under the title of Christmas Prince, Lord of Misrule, or
Abbot of Unreason, exercised a similar sway over the Christmas games of
more recent times, and whose last descendant--the Twelfth-night
King--still rules with a diminished glory over the lingering revelries
of a single night.

In the Northern nations of ancient Europe the same period of the year
was celebrated by a festival in honor of the God Thor, which, like the
Roman Saturnalia and the festival of our own times, was illustrated by
the song, the dance, and the feast, executed after their barbarous
fashion, and mingled with the savage rites of their own religion. The
name of this celebration--Yule, Jule, Iul, or Iol--has given rise to
many disputes amongst antiquaries as to its derivation, whose arguments,
however, we need not report for the benefit of our readers till judgment
shall have been finally pronounced. When that time shall arrive, we
undertake to publish a new edition of the present work, for the purpose
of giving our readers an abstract of the pleadings and acquainting them
with the ultimate decision. In the mean time, we will let Sir Walter
Scott inform them how--

                          "The savage Dane,
    At Iol, more deep the mead did drain;
    High on the beach his galleys drew,
    And feasted all his pirate-crew;
    Then, in his low and pine-built hall,
    Where shields and axes decked the wall,
    They gorged upon the half-dressed steer,
    Caroused in sea of sable beer,--
    While round, in brutal jest, were thrown
    The half-gnawed rib and marrow-bone;
    Or listened all, in grim delight,
    While Scalds yelled out the joys of fight.
    Then forth in frenzy would they hie,
    While wildly loose their red locks fly,
    And, dancing round the blazing pile,
    They made such barbarous mirth the while,
    As best might to the mind recall
    The boisterous joys of Odin's hall."

Amongst other traces of the northern observances which have descended to
our times, and of which we shall have occasion hereafter to speak, the
name of the festival itself has come down, and is still retained by our
Scottish brethren, as well as in some parts of England.

The Christian festival of the Nativity, with which these ancient
celebrations have been incorporated, appears to have been appointed at a
very early period after the establishment of the new religion. Its first
positive footsteps are met with in the second century, during the reign
of the Emperor Concordius; but the decretal epistles furnish us with
traces of it more remote. At whatever period, however, its formal
institution is to be placed, there can be no doubt that an event so
striking in its manner and so important in itself would be annually
commemorated amongst Christians from the days of the first apostles, who
survived our Lord's resurrection. As to the actual year of the birth of
Christ, as well as the _period_ of the year at which it took place,
great uncertainty seems to exist, and many controversies have been
maintained. One of the theories on the subject, held to be amongst the
most probable, places that event upwards of five years earlier than the
vulgar era, which latter, however, both as regards the year and _season_
of the year, was a tradition of the primitive Church. In the first ages
of that Church, and up till the Council of Nice, the celebration of the
Nativity and that of the Epiphany were united on the 25th of December,
from a belief that the birth of Christ was simultaneous with the
appearance of the star in the East which revealed it to the Gentiles.
The time of the year at which the Nativity fell has been placed, by
contending opinions, at the period of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles,
at that of the Passover, and again at that of the Feast of the
Expiation, whose date corresponds with the close of our September.
Clemens Alexandrinus informs us that it was kept by many Christians in
April, and by others in the Egyptian month Pachon, which answers to our
May. Amongst the arguments which have been produced against the theory
that places its occurrence in the depth of winter, one has been gathered
from that passage in the sacred history of the event which states that
"there were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their
flocks by night." It is an argument, however, which does not seem very
conclusive in a pastoral country and Eastern climate. Besides the
employment which this question has afforded to the learned, it has, in
times of religious excitement, been debated with much Puritanical
virulence and sectarian rancor. For the purposes of commemoration,
however, it is unimportant whether the celebration shall fall or not at
the precise anniversary period of the event commemorated; and the
arrangement which assigns to it its place in our calendar fixes it at a
season when men have leisure for a lengthened festivity, and when their
minds are otherwise wholesomely acted upon by many touching thoughts and
solemn considerations.

From the first introduction of Christianity into these islands, the
period of the Nativity seems to have been kept as a season of festival,
and its observance recognized as a matter of state. The Wittenagemots of
our Saxon ancestors were held under the solemn sanctions and beneficent
influences of the time; and the series of high festivities established
by the Anglo-Saxon kings appear to have been continued, with yearly
increasing splendor and multiplied ceremonies, under the monarchs of the
Norman race. From the court the spirit of revelry descended by all its
thousand arteries throughout the universal frame of society, visiting
its furthest extremities and most obscure recesses, and everywhere
exhibiting its action, as by so many pulses, upon the traditions and
superstitions and customs which were common to all or peculiar to each.
The pomp and ceremonial of the royal observance were imitated in the
splendid establishments of the more wealthy nobles, and more faintly
reflected from the diminished state of the petty baron. The revelries of
the baronial castle found echoes in the hall of the old manor-house; and
these were, again, repeated in the tapestried chamber of the country
magistrate or from the sanded parlor of the village inn. Merriment was
everywhere a matter of public concernment; and the spirit which
assembles men in families now congregated them by districts then.

[Illustration: BARONIAL HALL.--_Page 42._]

Neither, however, were the feelings wanting which connected the
superstitions of the season with the tutelage of the roof-tree, and
mingled its ceremonies with the sanctities of home. Men might meet in
crowds to feast beneath the banner of the baron, but the mistletoe hung
over each man's own door. The black-jacks might go round in the hall of
the lord of the manor; but they who could had a wassail-bowl of their
own. The pageantries and high observances of the time might draw men to
common centres or be performed on a common account, but the flame of the
Yule-log roared up all the individual chimneys of the land. Old Father
Christmas, at the head of his numerous and uproarious family, might ride
his goat through the streets of the city and the lanes of the village,
but he dismounted to sit for some few moments by each man's hearth;
while some one or another of his merry sons would break away, to
visit the remote farm-houses or show their laughing faces at many a poor
man's door. For be it observed, this worthy old gentleman and his
kind-hearted children were no respecters of persons. Though trained to
courts, they had ever a taste for a country life. Though accustomed in
those days to the tables of princes, they sat freely down at the poor
man's board. Though welcomed by the peer, they showed no signs of
superciliousness when they found themselves cheek-by-jowl with the
pauper. Nay, they appear even to have preferred the less exalted
society, and to have felt themselves more at ease in the country mansion
of the private gentleman than in the halls of kings. Their reception in
those high places was accompanied, as royal receptions are apt to be, by
a degree of state repugnant to their frank natures; and they seem never
to have been so happy as when they found themselves amongst a set of
free and easy spirits,--whether in town or country,--unrestrained by the
punctilios of etiquette, who had the privilege of laughing just when it
struck them to do so, without inquiring wherefore, or caring how loud.

Then, what a festival they created! The land rang with their joyous
voices, and the frosty air steamed with the incense of the good things
provided for their entertainment. Everybody kept holiday but the cooks;
and all sounds known to the human ear seemed mingled in the merry pæan,
save the gobble of the turkeys. _There were no turkeys_,--at least they
had lost their "most sweet voices." The turnspits had a hard time of it,
too. That quaint little book which bears the warm and promising title of
"Round about our Coal Fire" tells us that "by the time dinner was over
they would look as black and as greasy as a Welsh porridge-pot." Indeed,
the accounts of that time dwell with great and savory emphasis upon the
prominent share which eating and drinking had in the festivities of the
season. There must have been sad havoc made amongst the live-stock. That
there are turkeys at all in our days is only to be accounted for upon
the supposition of England having been occasionally replenished with
that article from the East; and our present possession of geese must be
explained by the well-known impossibility of extinguishing the race of
the goose. It is difficult to imagine a consumption equal to the
recorded provision. Men's gastronomic capacities appear to have been
enlarged for the occasion, as the energies expand to meet great
emergencies. "The tables," says the same racy authority above quoted,
"were all spread from the first to the last; the sirloyns of beef, the
minc'd-pies, the plumb-porridge, the capons, turkeys, geese, and
plumb-puddings were all brought upon the board; and all those who had
sharp stomachs and sharp knives eat heartily and were welcome, which
gave rise to the proverb,--

    "'Merry in the hall, when beards wag all!'"

Now, _all_ men in those days appear to have had good stomachs, and, we
presume, took care to provide themselves with sharp knives. The only
recorded instance in which we find a failure of the latter is that
portentous one which occurred, many a long day since, in the court of
King Arthur, when the Christmas mirth was so strangely disturbed by the
mischievous interference of the Boy with the Mantle. Under the test
introduced by that imp of discord and which appears to have "taken the
shine out of" the monarch's own good sword Excalibur itself, there was
found but one knight, of all the hungry knights who sat at that Round
Table, whose weapon was sharp enough to carve the boar's head or hand
steady enough to carry the cup to his lip without spilling the lamb's
wool; and even he had a very narrow escape from the same incapacities.
But then, as we have said, this was at court, and under the influence of
a spell (with whose nature we take it for granted that our readers are
acquainted,--and, if not, we refer them to the Percy Ballads); and it is
probable that, in those early as in later days, tests of such extreme
delicacy were of far more dangerous introduction in the courts of kings
than amongst assemblies of more mirth and less pretension. We could by
no means feel sure that the intrusion, in our own times, of a similar
test into a similar scene might not spoil the revels.

[Illustration: ENJOYING CHRISTMAS.--_Page 46._]

But to return. The old ballads which relate to this period of the year
are redolent of good things, and not to be read by a hungry man with any
degree of equanimity. Of course they are _ex post facto_ ballads, and
could only have been written under the inspiration of memory, at a time
when men were at leisure to devote their hands to some other occupation
than that of cooking or carving. But it is very difficult to understand
how they ever found--as it appears they did--their mouths in a condition
to sing them at the season itself. There is one amongst those ballads,
of a comparatively modern date, printed in Evans's collection, which we
advise no man to read fasting. It is directed to be sung to the tune of
"The Delights of the Bottle," and contains in every verse a vision of
good things, summed up by the perpetually recurring burthen of

    "Plum-pudding, goose, capon, minc'd-pies, and roast beef."

Our readers had better take a biscuit and a glass of sherry before they
venture upon the glimpses into those regions of banqueting which we are
tempted to lay before them. The ballad opens like the ringing of a
dinner-bell, and, we conceive, should be sung to some such
accompaniment:--

    "All you that to feasting and mirth are inclin'd,
     Come here is good news for to pleasure your mind,--
     Old Christmas is come for to keep open house,
     _He scorns to be guilty of starving a mouse_:
     Then come, boys, and welcome for diet the chief,
     Plum-pudding, goose, capon, minc'd-pies, and roast beef."

"Diet _the chief_!"--by which we are to understand that this promising
muster-roll merely includes the names of some of the principal
viands,--the high-commissioned dishes of the feast,--leaving the
subalterns, and the entire rank and file which complete the goodly
array, unmentioned. It must have been a very ingenious or a very
strong-minded mouse which could contrive to be starved under such
circumstances. The ballad is long, and we can only afford to give our
readers "tastings" of its good things. It is everywhere full of most
gracious promise:--

    "The cooks shall be busied, by day and by night,
     In roasting and boiling, for taste and delight,
     Their senses in liquor that's nappy they'll steep,
     Though they be afforded to have little sleep;
     They still are employed for to dress us, in brief,
     Plum-pudding, goose, capon, minc'd-pies, and roast beef.

    "Although the cold weather doth hunger provoke,
     'T is a comfort to see how the chimneys do smoke;
     Provision is making for beer, ale, and wine,
     For _all that are willing or ready to dine_:
     Then haste to the kitchen for diet the chief,
     Plum-pudding, goose, capon, minc'd-pies, and roast beef.

    "All travellers, as they do pass on their way,
     At gentlemen's halls are invited to stay,
     Themselves to refresh and their horses to rest,
     Since that he must be old Christmas's guest;
     Nay, the poor shall not want, but have for relief
     Plum-pudding, goose, capon, minc'd-pies, and roast beef."

And so on, through a variety of joyous and substantial anticipations,
from which the writer draws an inference, which we think is most
satisfactorily made out:--

    "Then _well may we welcome_ old Christmas to town,
     Who brings us good cheer, and good liquor so brown;
     To pass the cold winter away with delight,
     We feast it all day, and we frolick all night."

In Ellis's edition of Brand's "Popular Antiquities" an old Christmas
song is quoted from "Poor Robin's Almanack" for 1695, which gives a
similar enumeration of Christmas dainties, but throws them into a form
calculated for more rapid enunciation, as if with a due regard to the
value of those moments at which it was probably usual to sing it. The
measure is not such a mouthful as that of the former one which we have
quoted. It comes trippingly off the tongue; and it is not impossible
that, in those days of skilful gastronomy, it might have been sung
eating. We will quote a couple of the verses, though they include the
same commissariat truths as that from which we have already extracted;
and our readers will observe, from the ill-omened wish which concludes
the second of these stanzas, in what horror the mere idea of _fasting_
had come to be held, since it is the heaviest curse which suggested
itself to be launched against those who refused to do homage to the
spirit of the times:--

    "Now thrice welcome Christmas,
       Which brings us good cheer,
     Minc'd pies and plumb-porridge,
       Good ale and strong beer;
     With pig, goose, and capon,
       The best that may be,
     So well doth the weather
       And our stomachs agree.

    "Observe how the chimneys
       Do smoak all about,
     The cooks are providing
       For dinner no doubt;
     But those on whose tables
       No victuals appear,
     _O may they keep Lent
       All the rest of the year_!"

The same author quotes, from a manuscript in the British Museum, an
Anglo-Norman carol of the early date of the thirteenth century, and
appends to it a translation by the late Mr. Douce, the following verse
of which translation informs us (what, at any rate, might well be
supposed, namely) that so much good eating on the part of the ancient
gentleman, Christmas, would naturally suggest the propriety of good
drinking, too:--

    "Lordings, Christmas loves good drinking,
       Wines of Gascoigne, France, Anjou,
     English ale, that drives out thinking,
       Prince of liquors old or new.
     Every neighbor shares the bowl,
       Drinks of the spicy liquor deep,
     Drinks his fill without controul,
       Till he drowns his care in sleep."

In a "Christmas Carroll," printed at the end of Wither's "Juvenilia," a
graphic account is given of some of the humors of Christmas, among which
the labors of the kitchen are introduced in the _first_ verse, with a
due regard to their right of precedency, and in words which, if few, are
full of suggestion:--

    "Lo, now is come our joyful'st feast!
       Let every man be jolly.
     Each roome with yvie leaves is drest,
       And every post with holly.
     Now, all our neighbour's chimneys smoke,
       And Christmas Blocks are burning;
     Their ovens they with bak't-meats choke,
       And all their spits are turning."

We must present our readers with another quotation from an old ballad,
entitled "Time's Alteration; or, The Old Man's Rehearsal, what brave
dayes he knew a great while agone, when his old cap was new," which
appears to have been written after the times of the Commonwealth. And
this extract we are induced to add to those which have gone before,
because, though it deals with precisely the same subjects, it speaks of
them as of things gone by, and is written in a tone of lamentation, in
which it is one of the purposes of this chapter to call upon our readers
to join. We are sorry we cannot give them directions as to the tune to
which it should be sung,--further than that it is obviously unsuited to
that of the "Delights of the Bottle," prescribed for the joyous ballad
from which we first quoted on this subject; and that, whatever may be
the _tune_, we are clear that the direction as to _time_ should be the
same as that which Mr. Hood prefixes to his song of the Guildhall
Giants; namely, "Dinner-time and mournful":--

    "A man might then behold,
       At Christmas in each hall,
     Good fires to curb the cold,
       And meat for great and small;
     The neighbours were friendly bidden,
       And all had welcome true,
     The poor from the gates were not chidden,
       When this old cap was new.

    "Black-jacks to every man
       Were fill'd with wine and beer;
     No pewter pot nor can
       In those days did appear;
     Good cheer in a nobleman's house
       Was counted a seemly shew;
     We wanted no brawn nor souse,
       When this old cap was new."

Can our readers bear, after this sad ditty, to listen to the enumeration
of good things described by Whistlecraft to have been served up at King
Arthur's table on Christmas day? If the list be authentic, there is the
less reason to wonder at the feats of courage and strength performed by
the Knights of the Round Table.

    "They served up salmon, venison, and wild boars,
     By hundreds, and by dozens, and by scores.

    "Hogsheads of honey, kilderkins of mustard,
       Muttons, and fatted beeves, and bacon swine;
     Herons and bitterns, peacocks, swan, and bustard,
       Teal, mallard, pigeons, widgeons, and, in fine,
     Plum-puddings, pancakes, apple-pies, and custard.
       And therewithal they drank good Gascon wine,
     With mead, and ale, and cider of our own;
     For porter, punch, and negus were not known."

But we cannot pursue this matter further. It is not to be treated with
any degree of calmness before dinner, and we have not dined. We must
proceed to less trying parts of our subject.

Of the earnest manner in which our ancestors set about the celebration
of this festival, the mock ceremonial with which they illustrated it,
the quaint humors which they let loose under its inspiration, and the
spirit of fellowship which brought all classes of men within the range
of its beneficent provisions, we have a large body of scattered
evidence, to be gleaned out of almost every species of existing record,
from the early days of the Norman dynasty down to the times of the
Commonwealth. The tales of chroniclers, the olden ballads, the rolls of
courts, and the statute-book of the land, all contribute to furnish the
materials from which a revival of the old pageantry must be derived, if
men should ever again find time to be as merry as their fathers were.

The numberless _local_ customs of which the still remaining tradition is
almost the sole record, and which added each its small contingent to the
aggregate of commemoration, would certainly render it a somewhat
difficult matter to restore the festival in its integrity; and, to be
very candid with our readers, we believe we may as well confess, at the
onset, what will be very apparent to them before we have done, that many
of the Christmas observances (whether general or local) are to be
recommended to their notice rather as curious pictures of ancient
manners than as being at all worthy of imitation by us who "are wiser in
our generation." Sooth to say, we dare not let our zeal for our subject
lead us into an unqualified approbation of all the doings which it will
be our business to record in these pages, though they seem to have made
all ranks of people very happy in other days;--and that is no mean test
of the value of any institution. Really earnest as we are in the wish
that the _sentiment_ of the season could be restored in its amplitude,
we fear that many of the fooleries by which it exhibited itself could
not be gravely proposed as worthy amusements for a nation of
philosophers.

Still these very absurdities furnish the strongest evidences of the
right good-will with which men--ay, grave and learned men--surrendered
themselves to the merry spirit of the time, of that entire abandonment
which forgot to make a reservation of their outward dignities and gave
them courage to "play the fool." Our readers need scarcely be told that
it must be a man of a very strong mind, or a man who could not help it,
who should dare to make a jack-pudding of himself in these days, when
all his fellows are walking about the world with telescopes in their
hands and quadrants in their pockets. No doubt it would have a somewhat
ridiculous effect to-day to see the members of the bar dancing a
galliard or a coranto, in full costume, before the Benchers,
notwithstanding that certain ancient forms are still retained in their
halls which have all the absurdity of the exploded ones without any of
their fun; and unquestionably we should think it rather strange to see a
respectable gentleman capering through the streets on a pasteboard
hobby-horse,--in lieu of the figurative hobby-horses on which most men
still exhibit,--although even that, we think, would offer an object less
ungracious than a child with an anxious brow and "spectacles on nose."
The great wisdom of the world is, we presume, one of the natural
consequences of its advancing age; and though we are quite conscious
that some of its former pranks would be very unbecoming, now that it is
getting into years, and "knows so much as it does," yet we are by no
means sure that we should not have been well content to have our lot
cast in the days when it was somewhat younger. They must have been very
pleasant times! Certain it is that the laugh of the humbler classes, and
of the younger classes, would be all the heartier, that it was echoed by
the powerful and the aged; the mirth of the ignorant more free and
genial, that the learned thought no scorn of it. For all that appears,
too, the dignities of those days suffered no detriment by their
surrender to the spirit of the times, but seem to have resumed all their
functions and privileges, when it had exhausted itself, with unimpaired
effect. Philosophers had due reverence, without erecting themselves
always on stilts for the purpose of attracting it; and names have come
down to us which are esteemed the names of grave and learned and wise
men,--even in this grave and learned and wise age,--who, nevertheless,
appear in their own to have conducted themselves at times very like
children.

From the royal Household-Books which exist, and from the Household-Books
of noble families (some of which have been printed for better
preservation), as also from the other sources to which we have alluded,
Mr. Sandys, in the very valuable introduction to his collection of
Christmas carols, already mentioned, has brought together a body of
valuable information,--both as to the stately ceremonies and popular
observances by which the season continued to be illustrated, from an
early period up to the time of its decline, amid the austerities of the
civil war. To this careful compilation we shall be occasionally indebted
for some curious particulars which had escaped ourselves, amid the
multiplied and unconnected sources from which our notes for this volume
had to be made. To those who would go deeper into the antiquarian part
of the subject than suits the purpose of a popular volume, we can
recommend that work, as containing the most copious and elaborate
synopsis of the existing information connected therewith which we have
found in the course of our own researches. It would be impossible,
however, in a paper of that length--or, indeed, in a volume of any
moderate size--to give an account of all the numerous superstitions and
observances of which traces are found, in an extended inquiry, to
exist,--throwing light upon each other and contributing to the complete
history of the festival. We have therefore gleaned from all quarters
those which appear to be the most picturesque and whose relation is the
most obvious, with a view, as much as possible, of generalizing the
subject and presenting its parts in relation to an intelligible whole.

As we shall have occasion, in our second part, to speak of those
_peculiar_ feelings and customs by which each of the several days of the
Christmas festival is specially illustrated, we shall not at present
pause to go into any of the details of the subject, although continually
tempted to do so by their connection with the observations which we are
called upon to make. The purpose of the present chapter is rather to
insist generally, and by some of its more striking features, upon the
high and lengthened festivity with which this portion of the year was so
long and so universally welcomed, and to seek some explanation of the
causes to which the diminution of that spirit, and the almost total
neglect of its ancient forms, are to be ascribed.

As early as the twelfth century we have accounts of the spectacles and
pageants by which Christmas was welcomed at the court of the then
monarch Henry II.; and from this period the wardrobe rolls and other
Household-Books of the English kings furnish continual evidences of the
costly preparations made for the festival. Many extracts from these
books have been made by Mr. Sandys and others, from which it appears
that the mirth of the celebration, and the lavish profusion expended
upon it, were on the increase from year to year, excepting during that
distracted period of England's history when these, like all other
gracious arrangements and social relations, were disturbed by the unholy
contests between the houses of the rival roses. There is, however, a
beautiful example of the sacred influence of this high festival
mentioned by Turner in his History of England, showing that its hallowed
presence had power, even in those warlike days, to silence even the
voice of war,--of all war save that most impious of (what are almost
always impious) wars, civil war. During the siege of Orleans, in 1428,
he says: "The solemnities and festivities of Christmas gave a short
interval of repose. The English lords requested of the French commanders
that they might have a night of minstrelsy, with trumpets and clarions.
This was granted; and the horrors of war were suspended by melodies,
that were felt to be delightful."

In the peaceful reign of Henry VII., the nation, on emerging from that
long and unnatural struggle, appears to have occupied itself, as did the
wise monarch, in restoring as far as was possible, and by all means, its
disrupted ties, and rebaptizing its apostate feelings; and during this
period the festival of Christmas was restored with revived splendor and
observed with renewed zeal. The Household-Book of that sovereign,
preserved in the chapter-house at Westminster, contains numerous items
for disbursements connected with the Christmas diversions, in proof of
this fact.

The reign of Henry VIII. was a reign of jousts and pageants till it
became a reign of blood; and accordingly the Christmas pageantries
prepared for the entertainment of that execrable monarch were
distinguished by increased pomp and furnished at a more profuse
expenditure. The festivities of Eltham and Greenwich figure in the pages
of the old chroniclers; and the account books at the chapter-house
abound in payments made in this reign, for purposes connected with the
revels of the season.

We shall by and by have occasion to present our readers with some
curious particulars, illustrative of the cost and pains bestowed upon
this court celebration during the short reign of the young monarch
Edward VI.

Not all the gloom and terror of the sanguinary Mary's reign were able
entirely to extinguish the spirit of Christmas rejoicing throughout the
land, though the court itself was too much occupied with its auto-da-fé
spectacles to have much time for pageants of less interest.

Our readers, we think, need scarcely be told that the successor of this
stern and miserable queen (and, thank God! the last of that bad family)
was sure to seize upon the old pageantries, as she did upon every other
vehicle which could in any way be made to minister to her intolerable
vanity, or by which a public exhibition might be made, before the slaves
whom she governed, of her own vulgar and brutal mind. Under all the
forms of ancient festival observance, some offering was presented to
this insatiable and disgusting appetite,--and that, too, by men entitled
to stand erect, by their genius or their virtues, yet whose knees were
rough with kneeling before as worthless an idol as any wooden god that
the most senseless superstition ever set up for worship. From all the
altars which the court had reared to old Father Christmas of yore, a
cloud of incense was poured into the royal closet, enough to choke
anything but a woman,--that woman a queen, and that queen a Tudor. The
festival was preserved, and even embellished; but the saint, as far as
the court was concerned, was changed. However, the example of the
festivity to the people was the same; and the land was a merry land, and
the Christmas time a merry time, throughout its length and breadth, in
the days of Queen Elizabeth.

Nay, out of this very anxiety to minister to the craving vanity of a
weak and worthless woman--the devices to which it gave rise and the
laborers whom it called into action--have arisen results which are not
amongst the least happy or important of those by its connection with
which the Christmas festival stands recommended. Under these impulses,
the old dramatic entertainments--of which we shall have occasion to
speak more at large hereafter--took a higher character and assumed a
more consistent form. The first regular English tragedy, called "Ferrex
and Porrex," and the entertainment of "Gammer Gurton's Needle," were
both productions of the early period of this queen's reign; and amid the
crowd of her worshippers (alas that it is so!) rose up--with the star
upon his forehead which is to burn for all time--the very first of all
created beings, William Shakespeare. These are amongst the strange
anomalies which the world, as it is constituted, so often presents, and
_must_ present at times, constitute it how we will. Shakespeare doing
homage to Queen Elizabeth! The loftiest genius and the noblest heart
that have yet walked this earth, in a character merely human, bowing
down before this woman with the soul of a milliner and no heart at all!
The "bright particular star" humbling itself before the temporal crown!
The swayer of hearts, the ruler of all men's minds, in virtue of his own
transcendent nature, recognizing the supremacy of this overgrown child,
because she presided over the temporalities of a half emancipated
nation, by rights derived to her from others and sanctioned by no
qualities of her own!

And yet if to the low passions of this vulgar queen, and the patronage
which they led her to extend to all who could best minister to their
gratification, we owe any part of that development by which this
consummate genius expanded itself, then do we stand in some degree
indebted to her for one of the greatest boons which has been bestowed
upon the human race; and as between her and mankind in general (for the
accounts between her and individuals, and still more that between her
and God, stand uninfluenced by this item) there is a large amount of
good to be placed to her credit. Against her follies of a day there
would have to be set her promotion of a wisdom whose lessons are for all
time; against the tears which she caused to flow, the human anguish
which she inflicted, and the weary, pining hours of the captives whom
she made, would stand the tears of thousands dried away, many and many
an aching heart beguiled of its sorrow, and many a captive taught to
feel that

    "Stone walls do not a prison make,
     Nor iron bars a cage;"

all the chords of human feeling touched with a hand that soothes as did
the harp of David, all the pages of human suffering stored with
consolations!

To any one who will amuse himself by looking over the Miracle Plays and
Masques, which were replaced by the more regular forms of dramatic
entertainment, and will then regale himself by the perusal of "Gammer
Gurton's Needle" or "Ferrex and Porrex," which came forward with higher
pretensions in the beginning of this reign, there will appear reason to
be sufficiently astonished at the rapid strides by which dramatic
excellence was attained before its close and during the next, even
without taking Shakespeare into the account at all. Put when we turn to
the marvels of this great magician, and find that in his hands not only
were the forms of the drama perfected, but that, without impeding the
action or impairing the interest invested in those forms, and besides
his excursions into the regions of imagination and his creations _out
of_ the natural world he has touched every branch of human knowledge and
struck into every train of human thought; that without learning, in the
popular sense, he has arrived at all the results and embodied all the
wisdom which learning is only useful if it teaches; that we can be
placed in no imaginable circumstances and under the influence of no
possible feelings of which we do not find exponents,--and _such_
exponents!--"in sweetest music," on his page; and above all, when we
find that all the final morals to be drawn from all his writings are
hopeful ones, that all the lessons which all his agents--joy or sorrow,
pain or pleasure--are made alike to teach are lessons of goodness--it is
impossible to attribute all this to aught but a revelation, or ascribe
to him any character but that of a prophet. Shakespeare knew more than
any other mere man ever knew; and none can tell how that knowledge came
to him. "All men's business and bosoms" lay open to him. We should not
like to have him quoted against us on _any_ subject. Nothing escaped
him, and he never made a mistake (we are not speaking of technical
ones). He was the universal interpreter into language of the human mind,
and he knew all the myriad voices by which nature speaks. He reminds us
of the vizier in the Eastern story, who is said to have understood the
languages of all animals. The utterings of the elements, the voices of
beasts and of birds, Shakespeare could translate into the language of
men; and the thoughts and sentiments of men he rendered into words as
sweet as the singing of birds. If the reign of Elizabeth had been
illustrated only by the advent of this great spirit, it might itself
have accounted for some portion of that prejudice which (illustrated, as
in fact it was, by much that was great and noble) blinds men still--or
induces them to shut their eyes--to the true personal claims and
character of that queen.

But we are digressing, again, as who does not when the image of
Shakespeare comes across him? To return:--

The court celebrations of Christmas were observed throughout the reign
of the first James; and the Prince Charles himself was an occasional
performer in the pageantries prepared for the occasion, at great cost.
But at no period do they appear to have been more zealously sought
after, or performed with more splendor, than during that which
immediately preceded the persecution, from whose effects they have never
since recovered into anything like their former lustihood. In the early
years of Charles the First's reign, the court pageants of this season
were got up with extraordinary brilliancy,--the king with the lords of
his court, and the queen with her ladies, frequently taking parts
therein. This was the case in 1630-31; and at the Christmas of 1632-33
the queen, says Sandys, "got up a pastoral in Somerset House, in which
it would seem she herself took a part. There were masques at the same
time, independently of this performance, the cost of which considerably
exceeded £2,000, besides that portion of the charge which was borne by
the office of the revels and charged to the accounts of that
department." In the same year, we learn that a grant of £450 was made to
George Kirke, Esq., gentleman of the robes, for the _masking attire_ of
the king and his party. In 1637 there is a warrant, under the privy
seal, to the same George Kirke for £150, to provide the masking dress of
the king; and, in the same year, another to Edmund Taverner for £1,400
towards the expenses of a masque to be presented at Whitehall on the
ensuing Twelfth Night. We have selected these from similar examples
furnished by Sandys, in order to give our readers some idea of the sums
expended in these entertainments, which sums will appear very
considerable when estimated by the difference between the value of
money in our days and that of two hundred years ago. Several of the
masques presented at court during this reign, and the preceding ones,
were written by Ben Jonson.

[Illustration: MUMMERS.--_Page 65._]

During the whole of this time, the forms of court ceremonial appear to
have been aped, and the royal establishments imitated as far as
possible, by the more powerful nobles; and the masques and pageantries
exhibited for the royal amusement were accordingly reproduced or
rivalled by them at their princely mansions in the country. Corporate
and other public bodies caught the infection all over the land; and each
landed proprietor and country squire endeavored to enact such state in
the eyes of his own retainers, as his means would allow. The sports and
festivities of the season were everywhere taken under the protection of
the lord of the soil; and all classes of his dependants had a customary
claim upon the hospitalities which he prepared for the occasion. The
masques of the court and of the nobles were imitated in the mummings of
the people,--of which we give a representation here, and which we shall
have occasion particularly to describe hereafter,--they having survived
the costly pageants of which they were the humble representatives. The
festival was thus rendered a universal one, and its amusements brought
within the reach of the indigent and the remote. The peasant, and even
the pauper, were made, as it were, once a year sharers in the mirth of
their immediate lord, and even of the monarch himself. The laboring
classes had enlarged privileges during this season, not only by custom,
but by positive enactment; and restrictive acts of Parliament, by which
they were prohibited from certain games at other periods, contained
exceptions in favor of the Christmas-tide. Nay, folly was, as it were,
crowned, and disorder had a license! Sandys quotes from Leland the form
of a proclamation given in his "Itinerary" as having been made by the
sheriff of York, wherein it is declared that all "thieves, dice-players,
carders" (with some other characters by name that are usually repudiated
by the guardians of order) "_and all other unthrifty folke_, be welcome
to the towne, whether they come late or early, att the reverence of the
high feast of Youle, till the twelve dayes be passed." The terms of this
proclamation were, no doubt, not intended to be construed in a grave and
literal sense, but were probably meant to convey something like a satire
upon the unbounded license of the season which they thus announce.

There are very pleasant evidences of the care which was formerly taken,
in high quarters, that the poor should not be robbed of their share in
this festival. The yearly increasing splendor of the royal celebrations
appears at one time to have threatened that result, by attracting the
country gentlemen from their own seats, and thereby withdrawing them
from the presidency of those sports which were likely to languish in
their absence. Accordingly, we find an order, in 1589, issued to the
gentlemen of Norfolk and Suffolk, commanding them "to depart from London
before Christmas, and to repair to their countries, there to keep
hospitality amongst their neighbors." And similar orders appear to have
been from time to time necessary, and from time to time repeated.

Amongst those bodies who were distinguished for the zeal of their
Christmas observances, honorable mention may be made of the two English
universities; and we shall have occasion hereafter to show that traces
of the old ceremonials linger still in those their ancient haunts. But
the reader who is unacquainted with this subject would scarcely be
prepared to look for the most conspicuous celebration of these revels,
with all their antics and mummeries, in the grave and dusty retreats of
the law. Such, however, was the case. The lawyers beat the doctors
hollow. Their ancient halls have rung with the sounds of a somewhat
barbarous revelry; and the walls thereof, had they voices, could tell
many an old tale, which the present occupants might not consider as
throwing any desirable light upon the historical dignities of the body
to which they belong. Our readers, no doubt, remember a certain scene in
"Guy Mannering," wherein the farmer Dinmont and Colonel Mannering are
somewhat inconsiderately intruded upon the carousals of Mr. Counsellor
Pleydell at his tavern in the city of Edinburgh and find that worthy
lawyer in what are called his "altitudes," being deeply engaged in the
ancient and not very solemn pastime of "High Jinks." Their memory may
probably present the counsellor "enthroned as a monarch in an
elbow-chair placed on the dining-table, his scratch-wig on one side, his
head crowned with a bottle-slider, his eye leering with an expression
betwixt fun and the effects of wine," and recall, assisted by the
jingle, some of the high discourse of his surrounding court:--

    "Where is Gerunto now? and what's become of him?"
    "Gerunto's drowned, because he could not swim," etc.

Now, if our readers shall be of opinion--as Colonel Mannering and the
farmer were--that the attitude and the occupation were scarcely
consistent with the dignity of a gentleman whom they had come to consult
on very grave matters, we may be as much to blame as was the
tavern-waiter on that occasion, in introducing them to the revels of the
Inns of Court. We will do what we can to soften such censure by stating
that there certainly appears at times to have arisen a suspicion, in the
minds of a portion of the profession, that the wig and gown were not
figuring to the best possible advantage on these occasions. For, in the
reign of the first James, we find an order issued by the benchers of
Lincoln's Inn, whereby the "under barristers were, by decimation, put
out of commons because the whole bar offended by not dancing on
Candlemas Day preceding, according to the ancient order of the society,
when the judges were present;" and this order is accompanied by a threat
"that, if the fault were repeated, they should be fined or disbarred."

There seems to have been a contest between the four Inns of Court as to
which should get up these pageantries with the greatest splendor, and
occasionally a struggle between the desire of victory and the
disinclination, or perhaps inability, to furnish the heavy cost at which
that victory was to be secured. Most curious particulars on these
subjects are furnished by the accompt-books of the houses: by the "Gesta
Grayorum" (which was published for the purpose of describing a
celebrated Christmas kept at Gray's Inn in 1594, and had its title
imitated from the then popular work called the "Gesta Romanorum"); by
Dugdale, in his "Origines Juridiciales,"; and by Nichols, in his
"Progresses of Queen Elizabeth." For some time Lincoln's Inn appears to
have carried it all its own way, having been first on the ground. The
Christmas celebrations seem to have been kept by this society from as
early a period as the reign of Henry VI.; although it was not until the
reign of Henry VIII. that they began to grow into celebrity, or at least
that we have any account of their arrangements. When, however, the
societies of the two Temples, and that of Gray's Inn, began, with a
laudable jealousy, to contest the palm of splendor, the necessary
expenditure appears occasionally to have "given them pause."
Accordingly, they held anxious meetings, at the approach of the season,
to decide the important question whether Christmas should be kept that
year or not; and one of the registers of the society of Lincoln's Inn,
bearing date the 27th of November, in the twenty-second year of the
reign of Henry VIII. contains the following order: "Yt is agreed that if
the two Temples do kepe Chrystemas, then Chrystemas to be kept here; and
to know this, the Steward of the House ys commanded to get knowledge,
and to advertise my master by the next day at night."

There is a curious story told in Baker's Chronicle of an awkward
predicament into which the society of Gray's Inn brought themselves by a
play which they enacted amongst their Christmas revels of 1527. The
subject of this play was to the effect that "Lord Governance was ruled
by Dissipation and Negligence; by whose evil order Lady Public-Weal was
put from Governance." Now, if these gentlemen did not intend, by this
somewhat delicate moral, any insinuation against the existing state of
things (which, being lawyers, and therefore courtiers, there is good
motive to believe they did not), it is, at all events, certain that, as
lawyers, they ought to have known better how to steer clear of all
offence to weak consciences. That respectable minister, Cardinal Wolsey,
felt himself (as we think he had good right to do) greatly scandalized
at what, if not designed, was, by accident, a palpable hit; and, in
order to teach the gentlemen of Gray's Inn that they were responsible
for wounds given, if they happened to shoot arrows in the dark, he
divested the ingenious author, Sergeant Roe, of his coif, and committed
him to the Fleet, together with one of the actors, of the name of
Moyle,--in order to afford them leisure for furnishing him with a
satisfactory explanation of the matter.

In Dugdale's "Origines Juridiciales," we have an account of a
magnificent Christmas which was kept at the Inner Temple, in the fourth
year of Queen Elizabeth's reign; at which the Lord Robert Dudley,
afterwards Earl of Leicester, presided, under the mock-title of
Palaphilos, Prince of Sophie, High Constable Marshal of the Knights
Templars, and Patron of the honorable order of Pegasus. A potentate with
such a title would have looked very foolish without a "tail;" and
accordingly he had for his master of the game no less a lawyer than
Christopher Hatton, afterwards Lord Chancellor of England, with four
masters of the revels, a variety of other officers, and fourscore
persons forming a guard. Gerard Leigh, who was so fortunate as to obtain
the dignity of a knight of Pegasus, describes, as an eye-witness, in his
"Accidence of Armorie," the solemn fooleries which were enacted on the
occasion by these worthies of the sword and of the gown.

Of course, it was not to be expected that such shrewd courtiers as
lawyers commonly are, if they had ever kept Christmas at all, should
fail to do so during the reign of this virgin queen, when its
celebration offered them such admirable opportunities for the
administration of that flattery which was so agreeable to her Majesty,
and might possibly be so profitable to themselves. We have great
pleasure in recording a speech made by her Majesty on one of these
occasions, nearly so much as two centuries and a half ago, but which for
its great excellence has come down to our days. The gentlemen of Gray's
Inn (their wits, probably, a little sharpened by the mistake which they
had made in her father's time) had ventured upon a dramatic performance
again; and, in the course of a masque which they represented before the
queen's Majesty, had administered to her copious draughts of that nectar
on which her Majesty's vanity was known to thrive so marvellously. They
appear, however, with a very nice tact, to have given her no more of it
on this occasion than was sufficient to put her Majesty into spirits,
without intoxicating her, for by this period of her life it took a great
deal of that sort of thing to intoxicate the queen's Majesty; and the
effect was of the pleasantest kind, and could not fail to be most
satisfactory to the gentlemen of Gray's Inn. For after the masque was
finished (in which we presume there had been a little dancing by the
lawyers who, would, as in duty bound, have stood on their wigs to
please her Majesty), and on the courtiers attempting, in _their_ turn,
to execute a dance, her Majesty was most graciously pleased to exclaim,
"What! shall we have bread and cheese after a banquet?"--meaning
thereby, we presume, to imply that the courtiers could not hope to leap
as high or, in any respect, to cut such capers as the lawyers had done.
Now, this speech of the virgin queen we have reported here less for the
sake of any intrinsic greatness in the thought or elegance in the form
than because, out of a variety of speeches by her Majesty, which have
been carefully preserved, we think this is about as good as any other,
and has the additional recommendation (which so few of the others have)
of exhibiting the virgin queen in a good humor. And, further, because
having recorded the disgrace into which the gentlemen of Gray's Inn
danced themselves, in the lifetime of her illustrious father, it is but
right that we should likewise record the ample indemnification which
they must have considered themselves to have received, at the lips of
his virgin daughter.

The celebrations at the Inns of Court were from time to time continued,
down to the period of the civil troubles which darkened the reign of
Charles I.; and so lately as the year 1641, when they had already
commenced, we find it recorded by Evelyn, in his Memoirs, that he was
elected one of the comptrollers of the Middle Temple revellers, "as the
fashion of the young students and gentlemen was, the Christmas being
kept this yeare with greate solemnity." During this reign, we discover
the several societies lessening their expenses by a very wise compromise
of their disputes for supremacy; for in the eighth year thereof the four
Inns of Court provided a Christmas masque in conjunction, for the
entertainment of the court, which cost the startling sum of £24,000 of
the money of that day, and in return King Charles invited one hundred
and twenty gentlemen of the four Inns to a masque at Whitehall on the
Shrove-Tuesday following.

That our readers may form some idea of the kind of sports which
furnished entertainment to men of no less pretension than Hatton and
Coke and Crewe, we will extract for them a few more particulars of the
ceremonies usually observed at the grand Christmases of the Inner
Temple, before quitting this part of the subject.

In the first place, it appears that on Christmas Eve there was a banquet
in the hall, at which three masters of the revels were present, the
oldest of whom, after dinner and supper, was to sing a carol, and to
command other gentlemen to sing with him; and in all this we see nothing
which is not perfectly worthy of all imitation now. Then, on each of the
twelve nights, before and after supper were revels and dancing; and if
any of these revels and dancing were performed in company with the fair
sex (which, on the face of the evidence, doth not appear), then we have
none of the objections to urge against them which we have ventured to
insinuate against the solemn buffooneries, to which the bar was fined
for refusing to surrender itself, in the time of James I. Neither do we
find anything repugnant to our modern tastes in the announcement that
the breakfasts of the following mornings were very substantial ones,
consisting of brawn, mustard, and malmsey, which the exhaustion of the
previous night's dancing might render necessary; nor that all the
courses were served with music, which we intend that some of our own
shall be this coming Christmas. But against most of that which follows
we enter our decided protest, as not only very absurd in itself, but
eminently calculated to spoil a good dinner.

On St. Stephen's Day, we learn that, after the first course was served
in, the constable marshal was wont to enter the hall (and we think he
had much better have come in, and said all he had to say beforehand)
bravely arrayed with "a fair rich compleat harneys, white and bright and
gilt, with a nest of fethers, of all colours, upon his crest or helm,
and a gilt pole ax in his hand," and, no doubt, thinking himself a
prodigiously fine fellow. He was accompanied by the lieutenant of the
Tower, "armed with a fair white armour," also wearing "fethers," and
"with a like pole ax in his hand," and of course also thinking himself a
very fine fellow. With them came sixteen trumpeters, preceded by four
drums and fifes, and attended by four men clad in white "harneys," from
the middle upwards, having halberds in their hands, and bearing on their
shoulders a model of the Tower, and each and every one of these latter
personages, in his degree, having a consciousness that he, too, was a
fine fellow. Then all these fine fellows, with the drums and music, and
with all their "fethers" and finery, went three times round the fire,
whereas, considering that the boar's head was cooling all the time, we
think once might have sufficed. Then the constable marshal, after three
courtesies, knelt down before the Lord Chancellor, with the lieutenant
doing the same behind him, and then and there deliberately proceeded to
deliver himself of an "oration of a quarter of an hour's length," the
purport of which was to tender his services to the Lord Chancellor,
which, we think, at such a time he might have contrived to do in fewer
words. To this the Chancellor was unwise enough to reply that he would
"take farther advice therein," when it would have been much better for
him to settle the matter at once, and proceed to eat his dinner.
However, this part of the ceremony ended at last by the constable
marshal and the lieutenant obtaining seats at the Chancellor's table,
upon the former giving up his sword: and then enter, for a similar
purpose, the master of the game, apparelled in green velvet, and the
ranger of the forest, in a green suit of "satten," bearing in his hand a
green bow, and "divers" arrows, "with either of them a hunting-horn
about their necks, blowing together three blasts of venery." These
worthies, also, thought it necessary to parade their finery three times
around the fire; and having then made similar obeisances, and offered up
a similar petition in a similar posture, they were finally inducted into
a similar privilege.

But though seated at the Chancellor's table, and no doubt sufficiently
roused by the steam of its good things, they were far enough as yet from
getting anything to eat, as a consequence; and the next ceremony is one
which strikingly marks the rudeness of the times. "A huntsman cometh
into the hall, with a fox, and a purse-net with a cat, both bound at the
end of a staff, and with them nine or ten couple of hounds, with the
blowing of hunting-horns. And the fox and the cat are set upon by the
hounds, and killed beneath the fire." "What this 'merry disport'
signified (if practised) before the Reformation," says a writer in Mr.
Hone's Year Book, "I know not. In 'Ane compendious boke of godly and
spiritual songs, Edinburgh, 1621, printed from an old copy,' are the
following lines, seemingly referring to some such pageant:--

    'The hunter is Christ that hunts in haist,
     The hunds are Peter and Pawle,
     The paip is the fox, Rome is the Rox
     That rubbis us on the gall.'"

After these ceremonies, the welcome permission to betake themselves to
the far more interesting one of an attack upon the good things of the
feast appears to have been at length given; but at the close of the
second course the subject of receiving the officers who had tendered
their Christmas service was renewed. Whether the gentlemen of the law
were burlesquing their own profession intentionally or whether it was
only an awkward _hit_, like that which befell their brethren of Gray's
Inn, does not appear. However, the common serjeant made what is called
"a plausible speech," insisting on the necessity of these officers "for
the better reputation of the Commonwealth;" and he was followed, to the
same effect, by the king's serjeant-at-law till the Lord Chancellor
silenced them by desiring a respite of further advice, which it is
greatly to be marvelled he had not done sooner. And thereupon he called
upon the "ancientest of the masters of the revels" for a song,--a
proceeding to which we give our unqualified approbation.

So much for the dinner. After supper, the constable marshal again
presented himself, if possible finer than before, preceded by drums,--as
so fine a man ought to be,--and mounted on a scaffold borne by four men.
After again going thrice round the hearth, he dismounted from his
elevation, and having set a good example by first playing the figurant
himself for the edification of the court, called upon the nobles, by
their respective Christmas names, to do the same. Of the styles and
titles which it was considered humorous to assume on such occasions, and
by which he called up his courtiers to dance, our readers may take the
following for specimens:--

"Sir Francis Flatterer, of Fowlehurst, in the county of Buckingham."

"Sir Randle Rackabite, of Rascall Hall, in the county of Rabchell."

"Sir Morgan Mumchance, of Much Monkery, in the county of Mad Popery."

And so on, with much more of the same kind, which we are sure our
readers will spare us, or rather thank us for sparing them. The
ceremonies of St. John's Day were, if possible, more absurd than those
by which St. Stephen was honored; but, that we may take leave of the
lawyers on good terms, and with a word of commendation, we will simply
add that the concluding one is stated to be that on the Thursday
following "the Chancellor and company partook of dinner of roast beef
and venison pasties, and at supper of mutton and hens roasted," which we
take to have been not only the most sensible proceeding of the whole
series, but about as sensible a thing as they or anybody else could well
do.

So important were these Christmas celebrations deemed by our ancestors,
and such was the earnestness bestowed upon their preparation, that a
special officer was appointed for that purpose, and to preside over the
festival with large privileges, very considerable appointments, and a
retinue which in course of time came to be no insignificant imitation
of a prince's. We are of course speaking at present of the officer who
was appointed to the superintendence of the Christmas ceremonials _at
court_. The title by which this potentate was usually distinguished in
England was that of "Lord of Misrule," "Abbot of Misrule," or "Master of
Merry Disports;" and his office was, in fact, that of a temporary
"Master of the Revels" (which latter title was formerly that of a
permanent and distinguished officer attached to the household of our
kings). Accordingly we find that amongst those of the more powerful
nobles who affected an imitation of the royal arrangements in their
Christmas establishments, this Christmas officer (when they appointed
one to preside over their private Christmas celebrations) was
occasionally nominated as _their_ "Master of the Revels." In the
Household-Book of the Northumberland family, amongst the directions
given for the order of the establishment, it is stated that "My lorde
useth and accustomyth yerly to gyf hym which is ordynede to be the
MASTER OF THE REVELLS yerly in my lordis hous in cristmas for the
overseyinge and orderinge of his lordschips Playes, Interludes, and
Dresinge that is plaid befor his lordship in his hous in the xijth dayes
of Cristenmas, and they to have in rewarde for that caus yerly, xx_s_."
In the Inns of Court, where this officer formed no part of a household,
but was a member elected out of their own body for his ingenuity, he was
commonly dignified by a title more appropriate to the extensive
authority with which he was invested, and the state with which he was
furnished for its due maintenance; namely, that of "Christmas Prince,"
or sometimes "King of Christmas." He is the same officer who was known
in Scotland as the "Abbot of Unreason," and bears a close resemblance to
the "Abbas Stultorum," who presided over the Feast of Fools in France,
and the "Abbé de la Malgourverné," who ruled the sports in certain
provinces of that kingdom. In a note to Ellis's edition of Brand's
"Popular Antiquities," we find a quotation from Mr. Warton (whose
"History of English Poetry" we have not at hand) in which mention is
made of an "Abbé de Liesse," and a reference given to Carpentier's
Supplement to Du Cange, for the title "Abbas Lætitiæ." We mention these,
to enable the antiquarian portion of our readers to make the reference
for themselves. Writing in the country, we have not access to the works
in question, and could not, in these pages, go farther into the matter
if we had.

We have already stated that the "Lord of Misrule" appears to bear a
considerable resemblance to that ruler or king who was anciently
appointed to preside over the sports of the Roman Saturnalia; and we
find on looking farther into the subject, that we are corroborated in
this view by one who, of course, asserts the resemblance for the purpose
of making it a matter of reproach. The notorious Prynne, in his
"Histrio-Mastix," affirms (and quotes Polydore Virgil to the same
effect) that "our Christmas lords of Misrule, together with dancing,
masques, mummeries, stage-players, and such other Christmas disorders,
now in use with Christians, were derived from these Roman Saturnalia and
Bacchanalian festivals; which," adds he, "should cause all pious
Christians eternally to abominate them." We should not, however, omit to
mention that by some this officer has been derived from the ancient
ceremony of the Boy-Bishop. Faber speaks of him as originating in an old
Persico-Gothic festival in honor of Buddha: and Purchas, in his
"Pilgrimage," as quoted in the Aubrey manuscripts, says, that the custom
is deduced from the "Feast in Babylon, kept in honour of the goddess
Dorcetha, for five dayes together; during which time the masters were
under the dominion of their servants, one of which is usually sett over
the rest, and royally cloathed, and was called Sogan, that is, Great
Prince."

The title, however, by which this officer is most generally known is
that of Lord of Misrule. "There was," says Stow, "in the feast of
Christmas, in the king's house, wheresoever he was lodged, a Lord of
Misrule, or Master of merry Disports; and the like had ye for the house
of every nobleman of honour or good worship, were he spiritual or
temporal. Among the which the Mayor of London and either of the Sheriffs
had their several Lords of Misrule ever contending, without quarrel or
offence, which should make the rarest pastimes to delight the
beholders."

Of the antiquity of this officer in England, we have not been able to
find any satisfactory account; but we discover traces of him almost as
early as we have any positive records of the various sports by which the
festival of this season was supported. Polydore Virgil speaks of the
splendid spectacles, the masques, dancings, etc., by which it was
illustrated as far back as the close of the twelfth century; and it is
reasonable to suppose that something in the shape of a master of these
public ceremonies must have existed then, to preserve order as well as
furnish devices, particularly as the hints for the one and the other
seem to have been taken from the celebrations of the heathens. As early
as the year 1489 Leland speaks of an Abbot of Misrule "that made much
sport, and did right well his office." Henry the Seventh's "boke of
paymentis," preserved in the Chapter House, is stated by Sandys to
contain several items of disbursement to the Lord of Misrule (or Abbot,
as he is therein sometimes called) for different years "in rewarde for
his besynes in Christenmes holydays," none of which exceeded the sum of
£6. 13_s._ 4_d._ This sum--multiplied as we imagine it ought to be by
something like fifteen, to give the value thereof in our days--certainly
affords no very liberal remuneration to an officer whose duties were of
any extent; and we mention it that our readers may contrast it with the
lavish appointments of the same functionary in after times. Henry,
however, was a frugal monarch, though it was a part of his policy to
promote the amusements of the people; and from the treasures which that
frugality created, his immediate successors felt themselves at liberty
to assume a greater show. In the subsequent reign, the yearly payments
to the Lord of Misrule had already been raised as high as £15 6_s._
8_d._; and the entertainments over which he presided were furnished at a
proportionably increased cost.

It is not, however, until the reign of the young monarch, Edward the
Sixth, that this officer appears to have attained his highest dignities;
and during the subsequent reign we find him playing just such a part as
might be expected from one whose business it was to take the lead in
revels such as we have had occasion to describe; namely, that of
arch-buffoon.

In Hollinshed's Chronicle, honorable mention is made of a certain George
Ferrers, therein described as a "lawyer, a poet, and an historian," who
supplied the office well in the fifth year of Edward the Sixth, and who
was rewarded by the young king with princely liberality. This George
Ferrers was the principal author of that well-known work, the "Mirrour
for Magistrates;" and Mr. Kempe, the editor of the recently published
"Loseley Manuscripts," mentions his having been likewise distinguished
by military services, in the reign of Henry the Eighth. It appears that
the young king having fallen into a state of melancholy after the
condemnation of his uncle, the Protector, it was determined to celebrate
the approaching Christmas festival with more than usual splendor, for
the purpose of diverting his mind; and this distinguished individual was
selected to preside over the arrangements.

The publication of the "Loseley Manuscripts" enables us to present our
readers with some very curious particulars, illustrative at once of the
nature of those arrangements, and of the heavy cost at which they were
furnished. By an order in council,--dated the 31st of September, 1552,
and addressed to Sir Thomas Cawarden, at that time Master of the King's
Revels,--after reciting the appointment of the said George Ferrers, the
said Sir Thomas is informed that it is his Majesty's pleasure "that you
se hym furneshed for hym and his bande, as well in apparell as all other
necessaries, of such stuff as remayneth in your office. And whatsoever
wanteth in the same, to take order that it be provided accordinglie by
yo^{r} discretion."

For the manner in which the Lord of Misrule availed himself of this
unlimited order, we recommend to such of our readers as the subject may
interest a perusal of the various estimates and accounts published by
Mr. Kempe from the manuscripts in question. Were it not that they would
occupy too much of our space, we should have been glad to introduce some
of them here, for the purpose of conveying to the reader a lively notion
of the gorgeousness of apparel and appointment exhibited on this
occasion. We must, however, present them with some idea of the train for
whom these costly preparations were made, and of the kind of mock court
with which the Lord of Misrule surrounded himself.

Amongst these we find mention made of a chancellor, treasurer,
comptroller, vice-chamberlain, lords-councillors, divine, philosopher,
astronomer, poet, physician, apothecary, master of requests, civilian,
disard (an old word for clown), gentleman-ushers, pages of honor,
sergeants-at-arms, provost-marshal, under-marshal, footmen, messengers,
trumpeter, herald, orator; besides hunters, jugglers, tumblers, band,
fools, friars (a curious juxtaposition, which Mr. Kempe thinks might
intend a satire), and a variety of others. None seem in fact to have
been omitted who were usually included in the retinue of a prince; and
over this mock court the mock monarch appears to have presided with a
sway as absolute, as far as regarded the purposes of his appointment, as
the actual monarch himself over the weightier matters of the state. But
the most curious part of these arrangements is that by which (as appears
from one of the lists printed from these manuscripts) he seems to have
been accompanied in his processions by an heir-at-law, and three other
children, besides two _base sons_. These two base sons, we presume, are
bastards; and that the establishment of a potentate could not be
considered complete without them. The editor also mentions that he was
attended by an almoner, who scattered amongst the crowd during his
progresses, certain coins made by the wire-drawers; and remarks that if
these bore the portrait and superscription of the Lord of Misrule, they
would be rare pieces in the eye of a numismatist.

The following very curious letter, which we will give entire, will
furnish our readers with a lively picture of the pageantries of that
time, and of the zeal with which full-grown men set about amusements of
a kind which are now usually left to children of a smaller growth.
Playing at kings is in our day one of the sports of more juvenile
actors. The letter is addressed by Master George Ferrers to Sir Thomas
Cawarden; and gives some account of his intended entry at the court at
Christmas, and of his devices for furnishing entertainment during the
festival.

      SIR,--Whereas you required me to write, for that y{^r}
      busynes is great, I have in as few wordes as I maie
      signefied to you such things as I thinke moste
      necessarie for my purpose.

      ffirst, as towching my Introduction. Whereas the laste
      yeare my devise was to cum of oute of the mone (moon)
      this yeare I imagine to cum oute of a place called
      _vastum vacuum_, the great waste, as moche to saie as
      a place voide or emptie w^{th}out the worlde, where is
      neither fier, ayre, nor earth; and that I have bene
      remayning there sins the last yeare. And, because of
      certaine devises which I have towching this matter, I
      wold, yf it were possyble, have all myne apparell
      blewe, the first daie that I p'sent my self to the
      King's Ma^{tie}; and even as I shewe my self that
      daie, so my mynd is in like order and in like suets
      (suits) to shew myself at my comyng into London after
      the halowed daies.

      Againe, how I shall cum into the Courte, whether under
      a canopie, as the last yeare, or in a chare
      triumphall, or uppon some straunge beaste,--that I
      reserve to you; but the serpente with sevin heddes,
      cauled hidra, is the chief beast of myne armes, and
      wholme[2] (holm) bushe is the devise of my crest, my
      worde[3] is _semper ferians_, I alwaies feasting or
      keping holie daies. Uppon Christmas daie I send a
      solempne ambassad^{e} to the King's Ma^{ie} by an
      herrald, a trumpet, an orator speaking in a straunge
      language, an interpreter or a truchman with hym, to
      which p'sons ther were requiset to have convenient
      farnyture, which I referre to you.

      I have provided one to plaie uppon a kettell drom with
      his boye, and a nother drome w^{th} a fyffe, whiche
      must be apparelled like turkes garments, according to
      the paternes I send you herewith. On St. Stephen's
      daie, I wold, if it were possyble, be with the King's
      Ma^{tie} before dynner. Mr. Windham, being my
      Admyrall, is appointed to receive me beneth the bridge
      with the King's Brigandyne, and other vessells
      apointed for the same purpose; his desire is to have
      the poope of his vessell covered w^{th} white and
      blew, like as I signefie to you by a nother l^{re}.

      Sir George Howard, being my M^{r.} of the Horsis,
      receiveth me at my landing at Grenwiche with a spare
      horse and my pages of hono^{r}, one carieng my hed
      pece, a nother my shelde, the thirde my sword, the
      fourth my axe. As for their furniture I know nothing
      as yet provided, either for my pages or otherwise,
      save a hed peece that I caused to be made. My
      counsailo^{rs}, with suche other necessarie psons
      y^{t} attend uppon me that daie, also must be
      consydered. There maie be no fewer than sixe
      counsailo^{rs} at the least; I must also have a
      divine, a philosopher, an astronomer, a poet, a
      phisician, a potecarie, a m^{r} of requests, a
      sivilian, a disard, John Smyth, two gentlemen ushers,
      besides juglers, tomblers, fooles, friers, and suche
      other.

      The residue of the wholie daies I will spend in other
      devises: as one daie in feats of armes, and then wolde
      I have a challeng pformed with hobbie horsis, where I
      purpose to be in pson. Another daie in hunting and
      hawking, the residue of the tyme shalbe spent in other
      devisis, which I will declare to you by mouth to have
      yo^{r} ayde and advice therin.

      S^{r}, I know not howe ye be provided to furnish me,
      but suer methinks I shold have no lesse than five
      suets of apparell, the first for the daie I come in,
      which shall also serve me in London, and two other
      suets for the two halowed daies folowing, the fourth
      for newe yeares daie, and the fifte for XII^{th} daie.

      Touching my suet of blew, I have sent you a pece of
      velvet which hath a kinde of powdered ermaines in it,
      vearie fytt for my wering, yf you so thynke good. All
      other matters I referre tyll I shall speake with you.

    GEORGE FERRERS.

In other letters from this Lord of Misrule to the Master of the Revels
he applies for eight visors for a drunken masque, and eight swords and
daggers for the same purpose; twelve hobby-horses, two Dryads, and Irish
dresses for a man and woman; and seventy jerkins of buckram, or canvas
painted like mail, for seventy "hakbuturs," or musketeers of his guard.

Such are some of the testimonies borne by the parties themselves to
their own right pleasant follies, and the expense at which they
maintained them; and to these we will add another, coming from an
adverse quarter, and showing the light in which these costly levities
had already come to be regarded by men of sterner minds so early as the
reign of Elizabeth. The following very curious passage is part of an
extract made by Brand, from a most rare book entitled "The Anatomie of
Abuses,"--the work of one Phillip Stubs, published in London in
1585,--and gives a quaint picture of the Lord of Misrule and his
retainers, as viewed through Puritan optics.

"Firste," says Master Stubs, "all the wilde heades of the parishe
conventynge together, chuse them a grand Capitaine (of mischeef) whom
they innoble with the title of my _Lorde of Misserule_, and hym they
crown with great solemnitie, and adopt for their kyng. This kyng
anoynted, chuseth for the twentie, fourtie, three score, or a hundred
lustie guttes like to hymself, to waite uppon his lordely majestie, and
to guarde his noble persone. Then every one of these his menne he
investeth with his liveries of greene, yellowe or some other light
wanton colour. And as though that were not (baudie) gaudy enough I
should saie, they bedecke themselves with scarffes, ribons, and laces,
hanged all over with golde rynges, precious stones, and other jewelles:
this doen, they tye about either legge twentie or fourtie belles with
rich handkercheefes in their handes, and sometymes laied acrosse over
their shoulders and neckes, borrowed for the moste parte of their pretie
Mopsies and loovyng Bessies, for bussyng them in the darcke. Thus
thinges sette in order, they have their hobbie horses, dragons, and
other antiques, together with their baudie pipers, and thunderyng
drommers, to strike up the Deville's Daunce withall" (meaning the Morris
Dance), "then marche these heathen companie towardes the church and
churche yarde, their pipers pipyng, drommers thonderyng, their stumppes
dauncyng, their belles iynglyng, their handkerchefes swyngyng about
their heades like madmen, their hobbie horses and other monsters
skyrmishyng amongst the throng: and in this sorte they goe to the
churche (though the minister bee at praier or preaçhyng) dauncyng and
swingyng their handkercheefes over their heades, in the churche, like
devilles incarnate, with suche a confused noise that no man can heare
his owne voice. Then the foolishe people, they looke, they stare, they
laugh, they fleere, and mount upon formes and pewes, to see these
goodly pageauntes, solemnized in this sort."

At the Christmas celebration held at Gray's Inn in 1594, to which we
have already alluded, the person selected to fill the office of
Christmas Prince was a Norfolk gentleman of the name of Helmes, whose
leg, like that of Sir Andrew Aguecheek, appears "to have been formed
under the star of a galliard." He is described as being "accomplished
with all good parts, fit for so great a dignity, and also a very proper
man in personage, and very active in dancing and revelling." The revels
over which this mock monarch presided were, as our readers will
remember, exhibited before Queen Elizabeth; and it was the exquisite
performance of this gentleman and his court which her Majesty described
as bearing the same relation for excellence to those of her own
courtiers which a banquet does to bread and cheese. We must refer such
of our readers as are desirous of informing themselves as to the nature
and taste of the devices which could make her Majesty so eloquent, to
the "Gesta Grayorum;" contenting ourselves with giving them such notion
thereof, as well as of the high dignities which appertained to a Lord of
Misrule, as may be conveyed by a perusal of the magnificent style and
titles assumed by Mr. Henry Helmes on his accession. They were enough to
have made her Majesty jealous, if she had not been so good-natured a
queen; for looking at the _philosophy_ of the thing, she was about as
much a mock monarch as himself, and could not dance so well. To be sure,
she was acknowledged by this potentate as Lady Paramount; and to a woman
like Elizabeth, it was something to receive personal homage from--

"The High and Mighty Prince Henry, Prince of Purpoole, Archduke of
Stapulia and Bernardia; Duke of High and Nether Holborn; Marquis of St.
Giles and Tottenham; Count Palatine of Bloomsbury and Clerkenwell; Great
Lord of the Cantons of Islington, Kentish Town, Paddington, and
Knightsbridge; Knight of the most Heroical Order of the Helmet, and
Sovereign of the same"!

It is admitted that no man can be a great actor who has not the faculty
of divesting himself of his personal identity, and persuading himself
that he really is, for the time, that which he represents himself to be;
his doing which will go far to persuade others into the same belief. Now
as her Majesty has pronounced upon the excellence of Mr. Henry Helmes's
acting, and if we are therefore to suppose that that gentleman had
contrived to mystify both himself and her, she would naturally be not a
little vain of so splendid a vassal. But seriously, it is not a little
amusing to notice the good faith with which these gentlemen appear to
have put on and worn their burlesque dignities, and the real homage
which they not only expected, but actually received. If the tricks
which they played during their "brief authority," were not of that
mischievous kind which "make the angels weep," they were certainly
fantastic enough to make those who are "a little lower than the angels"
smile. A Lord Mayor in his gilt coach seems to be a trifle compared with
a Lord of Misrule entering the city of London in former days; and the
following passage from Warton's "History of English Poetry," exhibits
amusingly enough the sovereign functions seriously exercised by this
important personage, and the homage, both ludicrous and substantial,
which he sometimes received:--

"At a Christmas celebrated in the hall of the Middle Temple, in the year
1635, the jurisdiction privileges and parade of this mock monarch are
thus circumstantially described. He was attended by his Lord Keeper,
Lord Treasurer with eight white staves, a Captain of his Band of
Pensioners and of his guard, _and with two Chaplains who were so
seriously impressed with an idea of his regal dignity that, when they
preached before him on the preceding Sunday in the Temple Church, on
ascending the pulpit they saluted him with three low bows_. He dined
both in the Hall and in his Privy Chamber under a cloth of Estate. The
pole-axes for his Gentlemen Pensioners were borrowed of Lord Salisbury.
Lord Holland, his temporary justice in Eyre, supplies him with venison
on demand; and the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs of London with wine. On
Twelfth-day, at going to Church, he received many petitions which he
gave to his Master of Requests; and like other kings he had a favourite,
whom--with others, gentlemen of high quality--he knighted at returning
from Church."

The Christmas Prince on this occasion was Mr. Francis Vivian, who
expended from his own private purse the large sum of £2,000 in support
of his dignities. Really, it must have tried the philosophy of these
gentlemen to descend from their temporary elevation, into the ranks of
ordinary life. A deposed prince like that high and mighty prince, Henry,
Prince of Purpoole, must have felt, on getting up on the morrow of
Candlemas-day, some portion of the sensations of Abou Hassan on the
morning which succeeded his Caliphate of a day, when the disagreeable
conviction was forced upon him that he was no longer Commander of the
Faithful, and had no further claim to the services of Cluster-of-Pearls,
Morning-Star, Coral-Lips or Fair-Face. In the case, however, of Mr.
Francis Vivian, it is stated that after his deposition he was knighted
by the king,--by way, we suppose, of breaking his fall.

In Wood's "Athenæ Oxonienses," mention is made of a very splendid
Christmas ceremonial observed at St. John's College, Oxford, in the
reign of our first James, which was presided over by a Mr. Thomas
Tooker, whom we elsewhere find called "Tucker." From a manuscript
account of this exhibition, Wood quotes the titles assumed by this
gentleman in his character of Christmas Prince; and we will repeat them
here, for the purpose of showing that the legal cloisters were not the
only ones in which mirth was considered as no impeachment of
professional gravity, and that humor (such as it is) was an occasional
guest of the wisdom which is proverbially said to reside in wigs--of
_all_ denominations. From a comparison of these titles with those by
which Mr. Henry Helmes illustrated his own magnificence at Gray's Inn,
our readers may decide for themselves upon the relative degrees of the
wit which flourished beneath the shelter of the respective gowns. Though
ourselves a Cantab, we have no skill in the measurement of the relations
of small quantities. Of the hearty mirth in each case there is little
doubt; and humor of the finest quality could have done no more than
produce that effect, and might probably have failed to do so much. The
appetite is the main point. "The heart's all," as Davy says. A small
matter made our ancestors laugh, because they brought stomachs to the
feast of Momus. And, Heaven save the mark! through how many national
troubles has that same joyous temperament (which is the farthest thing
possible from levity,--one of the phases of deep feeling,--) helped to
bring the national mind! The "merry days" of England were succeeded by
what may be called her "age of tears,"--the era of the sentimentalists,
when young gentlemen ceased to wear cravats, and leaned against pillars
in drawing-rooms in fits of moody abstraction or under the influence of
evident inspiration, and young ladies made lachrymatories of their
boudoirs, and met together to weep, and in fact went through the world
weeping. Amid all its absurdity, there was some real feeling at the
bottom of this too; and therefore it, too, had its pleasure. But there
is to be an end of this also. Truly are we falling upon the "evil days"
of which we may say we "have no pleasure in them." Men are neither to
laugh nor smile, now, without distinctly knowing why. We are in the age
of the philosophers.--All this time, however, Mr. Thomas Tucker is
waiting to have his style and titles proclaimed; and thus do we find
them duly set forth:--

"The most magnificent and renowned THOMAS, by the favor of Fortune,
Prince of Alba Fortunata, Lord of St. John's, High Regent of the Hall,
Duke of St. Giles's, Marquis of Magdalen's, Landgrave of the Grove,
Count Palatine of the Cloysters, Chief Bailiff of Beaumont, High Ruler
of Rome, Master of the Manor of Walton, Governor of Gloucester Green,
sole Commander of all Titles, Tournaments, and Triumphs, Superintendent
in all Solemnities whatever."

From these titles,--as well as from those which we have already
mentioned as being assumed by the courtiers of the illustrious Prince of
Sophie, our readers will perceive that alliteration was an esteemed
figure in the rhetoric of the revels.

In order to give our readers a more lively idea of this potentate, we
have, as the frontispiece to our second part, introduced a Lord of
Misrule to preside over the Christmas sports therein described. Although
the titles with which we have there invested him are taken from the
"Gesta Grayorum," the dress in which the artist has bestowed him is not
copied from any one of the particular descriptions furnished by the
different records. He is intended to represent the ideal of a Christmas
prince, and not the portrait of any particular one of whom we have
accounts. The artist's instructions were therefore confined to investing
him with a due magnificence (referring to the records only so far as to
keep the costume appropriate) and with a complacent sense of his own
finery and state, and we think that Mr. Seymour has succeeded very
happily in catching and embodying the mock heroic of the character. The
Prince of Purpoole, or His Highness of Sophie, must have looked just
such a personage as he has represented.

We must not omit to observe that a corresponding officer appears to have
formerly exercised his functions at some of the colleges at Cambridge,
under the more classical title of Imperator. And we must further state
that at Lincoln's-Inn, in the early times of their Christmas
celebrations, there appear to have been elected (besides the Lord of
Misrule, and, we presume, in subordination to him) certain dignitaries
exercising a royal sway over the revelries of particular days of the
festival. In the account given by Dugdale of the Christmas held by this
society in the ninth year of the reign of Henry VIII., mention is
made--besides the Marshal and (as he is there called) the Master of the
Revels--of a King chosen for Christmas day, and an officer for
Childermas day having the title of King of the Cockneys. A relic of this
ancient custom exists in the Twelfth Night King, whom it is still usual
to elect on the festival of the Epiphany, and of whom we shall have
occasion to speak at length in his proper place.

The length of the period over which the sway of this potentate extended
does not seem to be very accurately defined, or rather it is probable
that it varied with circumstances. Strictly speaking, the Christmas
season is in our day considered to terminate with Twelfth Night, and the
festival itself to extend over that space of time of which this night on
one side and Christmas eve on the other are the limits. In ancient
times, too, we find frequent mention of the _twelve_ days of Christmas.
Thus the George Ferrers of whom we have spoken, is appointed "to be in
his hyness household for the twelve days;" and he dates one of his
communications to Sir Thomas Cawarden, "From Greenwich y^{e} second of
January and y^{e} ix^{th} day of o^{r} rule." In the extract from the
Household-Book of the Northumberland family which we have already
quoted, mention is also made of the "Playes, Interludes and Dresinge
that is plaid befor his lordship in his hous in the xijth dayes of
Christenmas." Stow, however, says that "these Lords beginning their rule
at Allhallond Eve, continued the same till the morrow after the Feast of
the Purification, commonly called Candlemas day;" and that during all
that time there were under their direction "fine and subtle disguisings,
masks and mummeries, with playing at cards for counters, nayles and
points in every house, more for pastimes than for gaine." This would
give a reign of upwards of three months to these gentlemen. Dugdale, in
describing the revels of the Inner Temple speaks of the three principal
days being All-hallows, Candlemas, and Ascension days,--which would
extend the period to seven months; and the masque of which we have
spoken as forming the final performance of the celebrated Christmas of
1594, described in the "Gesta Grayorum," is stated to have been
represented before the queen at Shrovetide. At the Christmas exhibition
of St. John's college, Oxford, held in 1607, Mr. Thomas Tucker did not
resign his office till Shrove-Tuesday; and the costly masque of which we
have spoken as being presented by the four Inns of Court to Charles I.,
and whose title was "The Triumph of Peace," was exhibited in February of
1633. In Scotland, the rule of the Abbot of Unreason appears to have
been still less limited in point of time; and he seems to have held his
court and made his processions at any period of the year which pleased
him. These processions, it appears, were very usual in the month of May
(and here we will take occasion to observe parenthetically, but in
connection with our present subject, that the practice at _all_ festival
celebrations of selecting some individual to enact a principal and
presiding character in the ceremonial is further illustrated by the
ancient May King, and by the practice, not yet wholly forgotten, of
crowning on the first of that month a Queen of the May. This subject we
shall have occasion to treat more fully when we come to speak in some
future volume of the beautiful customs of that out-of-doors season).

From what we have stated, it appears probable that the officer who was
appointed to preside over the revels so universally observed at
Christmas time, extended, as a matter of course, his presidency over all
those which--either arising out of them or unconnected therewith--were
performed at more advanced periods of the succeeding year; that in fact,
the Christmas prince was, without new election, considered as special
master of the revels till the recurrence of the season. It is not
necessary for us to suppose that the whole of the intervals lying
between such stated and remote days of celebration were filled up with
festival observances; or that our ancestors, under any calenture of the
spirits, could aim at extending Christmas over the larger portion of
the year. It is, however, apparent that although the common observances
of the season were supposed to fall within the period bounded by the
days of the Nativity and the Epiphany, the special pageantries with a
view to which the Lords of Misrule were appointed in the more exalted
quarters were in years of high festival spread over a much more extended
time, and that their potential dignities were in full force, if not in
full display, from the eve of All-hallows to the close of Candlemas day.
It is stated in Drake's "Shakspeare and his Times," that the festivities
of the season, which were appointed for at least twelve days, were
frequently extended over a space of six weeks; and our readers know from
their own experience that, even in these our days of less prominent and
ceremonial rejoicing, the holiday-spirit of the season is by no means to
be restrained within the narrower of those limits. The Christmas feeling
waits not for Christmas day. The important preparations for so great a
festival render this impossible. By the avenues of most of the senses,
the heralds of old Father Christmas have long before approached to awake
it from its slumber. Signal notes which there is no mistaking, have been
played on the visual and olfactory organs for some time past, and the
palate itself has had foretastes of that which is about to be. From the
day on which his sign has been seen in the heavens, the joyous
influences of the star have been felt and the moment the school-boy
arrives at his home he is in the midst of Christmas. And if the "coming
events" of the season "cast their shadows before," so, amid all its
cross-lights it would be strange if there were no reflections flung
behind. The merry spirit which has been awakened and suffered to play
his antics so long is not to be laid by the exorcism of a word. After so
very absolute and unquestioned a sway, it is not to be expected that
Momus should abdicate at a moment's notice. Accordingly, we find that,
any thing enacted to the contrary notwithstanding, the genial feelings
of the time and the festivities springing out of them contrive to
maintain their footing throughout the month of January; and Christmas
keeps lingering about our homes till he is no longer answered by the
young glad voices to whom he has not as yet begun to utter his solemn
warnings and expound his sterner morals, and for whom his coming is
hitherto connected with few memories of pain. Till the merry urchins
have gone back to school there will continue to be willing subjects to
the Lord of Misrule.

In Scotland, the Abbot of Unreason was frequently enacted by persons of
the highest rank; and James V. is himself said to have concealed his
crown beneath the mitre of the merry abbot. As in England, his revels
were shared by the mightiest of the land; but they appear to have been
of a less inoffensive kind and to have imitated more unrestrainedly the
license of the Roman Saturnalia than did the merry-makings of the
South. The mummeries of these personages (a faint reflection of which
still exists in the Guisars whom we shall have to mention hereafter), if
less costly than those of their brethren in England, were not less
showy; and though much less quaint, were a great deal more free. "The
body-guards of the Abbot of Unreason were all arrayed in gaudy colors
bedecked with gold or silver lace, with embroidery and silken scarfs,
the fringed ends of which floated in the wind. They wore chains of gold
or baser metal gilt and glittering with mock jewels. Their legs were
adorned and rendered voluble by links of shining metal hung with many
bells of the same material twining from the ankle of their buskins to
their silken garters, and each flourished in his hand a rich silk
handkerchief brocaded over with flowers. This was the garb of fifty or
more youths, who encircled the person of the leader. They were
surrounded by ranks, six or more in depth, consisting of tall, brawny,
fierce-visaged men covered with crimson or purple velvet bonnets, and
nodding plumes of the eagle and the hawk, or branches of pine, yew, oak,
fern, boxwood, or flowering heath. Their jerkins were always of a hue
that might attract the eye of ladies in the bower or serving-damsels at
the washing-green. They had breeches of immense capacity so padded or
stuffed as to make each man occupy the space of five in their natural
proportions; and in this seeming soft raiment they concealed weapons of
defence or offence, with which to arm themselves and the body-guard if
occasion called for resistance. To appearance, they had no object but
careless sport and glee,--some playing on the Scottish harp, others
blowing the bagpipes or beating targets for drums, or jingling bells.
Whenever the procession halted they danced, flourishing about the
banners of their leader. The exterior bands perhaps represented in dumb
show or pantomime the actions of warriors or the wildest buffoonery; and
these were followed by crowds who, with all the grimaces and phrases of
waggery, solicited money or garniture from the nobles and gentry that
came to gaze upon them. Wherever they appeared, multitudes joined them,
some for the sake of jollity, and not a few to have their fate predicted
by spae-wives, warlocks, and interpreters of dreams, who invariably were
found in the train of the Abbot of Unreason."

In England, not only was this merry monarch appointed over the revelries
of the great and the opulent, but--as of most of the forms of amusement
over which he presided, so of the president himself--we find a rude
imitation in the Christmas celebrations of the commonalty. Nor was the
practice confined to towns or left exclusively in the hands of corporate
or public bodies. The quotation which we have already made from Stubs's
"Anatomie of Abuses," refers to a rustic Lord of Misrule; and while the
antics which took place under his governance do not seem to have risen
much above the performances of the morris-dancers, the gaudiness of the
tinsel attire paraded by him and his band forms an excellent burlesque
of the more costly finery of their superiors. Nay, the amusements
themselves exhibit nearly as much wisdom as those of the court (with
less of pretension), and we dare say created a great deal more fun at a
far less cost. As to the Scottish practices, our readers will not fail
to observe from our last quotation that the lordly Abbot and his train
were little better than a set of morris-dancers themselves, and that so
much of their practices as was innocent differed nothing from those
which Stubs and his brother Puritans deemed so ridiculous in a set of
parish revellers. In fact, the Lord of Misrule seems to have set himself
up all over the land; and many a village had its master Simon who took
care that the sports should not languish for want of that unity of
purpose and concentration of mirth to which some directing authority is
so essential.

We have already stated, and have made it quite apparent in our
descriptions, that the Christmas celebrations of the more exalted
classes are not put forward for the consideration of our readers on the
ground of any great wisdom in the matter or humor in the manner of those
celebrations themselves. But we claim for them serious veneration, in
right of the excellence of the spirit in which they originated, and the
excellence of the result which they produced. The very extravagance of
the court pageantries--their profuse expenditure and grotesque
displays--were so many evidences of the hearty reception which was given
to the season in the highest places, and so many conspicuous sanctions
under which the spirit of unrestrained rejoicing made its appeals in the
lowest. This ancient festival of all ranks, consecrated by all religious
feelings and all moral influences; this privileged season of the lowly;
this Sabbath of the poor man's year,--was recognized by his superiors
with high observance and honored by his governors with ceremonious
state. The mirth of the humble and uneducated man received no check from
the assumption of an unseasonable gravity or ungenerous reserve on the
part of those with whom fortune had dealt more kindly, and to whom
knowledge had opened her stores. The moral effect of all this was of the
most valuable kind. Nothing so much promotes a reciprocal kindliness of
feeling as a community of enjoyment; and the bond of good will was thus
drawn tighter between those remote classes, whose differences of
privilege, of education, and of pursuit, are perpetually operating to
loosen it, and threatening to dissolve it altogether. There was a great
deal of wisdom in all this; and the result was well worth producing even
at the cost of much more folly than our ancestors expended on it. We
deny that spectacles and a wig are the inseparable symbols of sapience;
and we hold that portion of the world to be greatly mistaken which
supposes that wisdom may not occasionally put on the cap and bells, and
under that disguise be wisdom still! The ancient custom which made what
was called a fool a part of the establishment of princes, and gave him a
right in virtue of his bauble to teach many a wise lesson and utter many
a wholesome truth--besides its practical utility, contained as excellent
a moral and was conceived in as deep a spirit as the still more ancient
one of the skeleton at a feast. "_Cucullus non facit monachum_," says
one of those privileged gentry, in the pages of one who, we are sure,
could have enacted a Christmas foolery with the most foolish, and yet
had "sounded all the depths and shallows" of the human mind, and was
himself the wisest of modern men. "Better a witty fool than a foolish
wit." There is a long stride from the wisdom of that sneering
philosopher who laughed _at_ his fellows to his who on proper occasions
can laugh _with_ them; and in spite of all that modern philosophy may
say to the contrary, there was in the very extravagances of Coke and
Hatton, and other lawyers and statesmen of past times--if they aimed at
such a result as that which we have mentioned, and in so far as they
contributed thereto--more real wisdom than all which they enunciated in
their more solemn moods, or have put upon record in their books of the
law.

[Illustration: GATE OF THE "OLD ENGLISH GENTLEMAN."--_Page 109._]

In the same excellent spirit, too, everything was done that could assist
in promoting the same valuable effect; and while the pageantries which
were prepared by the court and by other governing bodies furnished a
portion of the entertainments by which the populace tasted the season in
towns, and sanctioned the rest, care was taken in many ways (of which we
have given an example) that the festival should be spread over the
country, and provision made for its maintenance in places more secluded
and remote. A set of arrangements sprang up which left no man without
their influence; and figuratively and literally, the crumbs from the
table of the rich man's festival were abundantly enjoyed by the veriest
beggar at his gate. The kindly spirit of Boaz was abroad in all the
land, and every Ruth had leave to "eat of the bread and dip her morsel
in the vinegar." At that great harvest of rejoicing, all men were
suffered to glean; and they with whom at most other seasons the world
had "dealt very bitterly"--whose names were Mara, and who ate sparingly
of the bread of toil--gleaned "even among its sheaves," and no man
reproached them. The old English gentleman, like the generous
Bethlehemite in the beautiful story, even scattered that the poor might
gather, and "commanded his young men saying, . . . 'Let fall also some
of the handfuls of purpose for them and leave them, that they may glean
them, and rebuke them not.'" And the prayer of many a Naomi went up in
answer, "Blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee;" "blessed be he
of the Lord!"

In a word, the blaze of royal and noble celebration was as a great
beacon to the land, seen afar off by those who could not share in its
warmth or sit under the influence of its immediate inspirations. But it
was answered from every hill-top and repeated in every valley of
England; and each man flung the Yule log on his own fire at the cheering
signal. The hearth, according to Aubrey, at the first introduction of
coals, was usually in the middle of the room; and he derives from thence
the origin of the saying, "round about our coal fire." But whether the
huge fagot crackled and flustered within those merry circles or flared
and roared up the ample chimneys,--all social feelings, and all
beautiful superstitions and old traditions and local observances awoke
at the blaze; and from their thousand hiding-places crept out the
customs and ceremonials which crowd this festal period of the year, and
of which it is high time that we should proceed to give an account in
these pages. The charmed log that (duly lighted with the last year's
brand, which, as we learn from Herrick, was essential to its virtue)
scared away all evil spirits, attracted all beneficent ones. The 'squire
sat in the midst of his tenants as a patriarch might amid his family,
and appears to have had no less reverence, though he compounded the
wassail-bowl with his own hands and shared it with the meanest of his
dependants. The little book from which we have more than once quoted by
the title of "Round about our Coal-fire," furnishes us with an example
of this reverence too ludicrous to be omitted. Its writer tells us that
if the 'squire had occasion to ask one of his neighbors what o'clock it
was, he received for answer a profound bow and an assurance that it was
what o'clock his worship pleased,--an answer, no doubt, indicative of
profound respect, but not calculated to convey much useful information
to the inquirer. In fine, however, while the glad spirit of the season
covered the land, hospitality and harmony were everywhere a portion of
that spirit. The light of a common festival shone for once upon the
palace and the cottage, and the chain of a universal sympathy descended
unbroken through all ranks, from the prince to the peasant and the
beggar.

    "The damsel donned her kirtle sheen;
     The hall was dress'd with holly green;
     Forth to the wood did merry men go,
     To gather in the misletoe.
     Then opened wide the baron's hall,
     To vassall, tenant, serf and all;
     Power laid his rod of rule aside,
     And ceremony doffed his pride.
     The heir, with roses in his shoes,
     _Those nights_ might village partner chuse;
     The lord, underogating, share
     The vulgar game of 'post-and-pair.'

       .     .     .     .     .     .     .

     The fire with well-dried logs supplied,
     Went roaring up the chimney wide;
     The huge hall-table's oaken face,
     Scrubbed till it shone, the _time_ to grace,
     Bore then upon its massive board
     No mark to part the 'squire and lord.
     Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
     By old blue-coated serving-man;
     Then the grim boar's head frowned on high,
     Crested with bays and rosemary.
     Well can the green-garbed ranger tell,
     How, when, and where, the monster fell;
     What dogs, before his death, he tore,
     And all the batings of the boar.
     The wassail round, in good brown bowls,
     Garnished with ribbons, blithely trowls.
     There the huge sirloin reeked; hard by
     Plumb-porridge stood, and Christmas pye;
     Nor failed old Scotland to produce,
     At such high-tide, her savoury goose.
     Then came the merry masquers in,
     And carols roared with blithesome din;
     If unmelodious was the song,
     It was a hearty note, and strong.
     Who lists may, in their mumming, see
     Traces of ancient mystery;
     White shirts supplied the masquerade,
     And smutted cheeks the visors made:
     But, Oh! what masquers, richly dight,
     Can boast of bosoms half so light?
     England was merry England, when
     Old Christmas brought his sports again.
     'Twas Christmas broached the mightiest ale,
     'Twas Christmas told the merriest tale,
     A Christmas gambol oft would cheer
     The poor man's heart through half the year."

The ceremonies and superstitions and sports of the Christmas season are
not only various in various places, but have varied from time to time in
the same. Those of them which have their root in the festival itself
are for the most part common to all, and have dragged out a lingering
existence even to our times. But there are many which, springing from
other sources, have placed themselves under its protection or, naturally
enough, sought to associate themselves with merry spirits like their
own. Old Father Christmas has had a great many children in his time,
some of whom he has survived; and not only so, but in addition to his
own lawful offspring the generous old man has taken under his patronage
and adopted into his family many who have no legitimate claim to that
distinction by any of the wives to whom he has been united,--neither by
the Roman lady, his lady of the Celtic family, nor her whom he took to
his bosom and converted from the idolatry of Thor. His family appears to
have been generally far too numerous to be entertained at one time in
the same establishment, or indeed by the same community, and to have
rarely travelled therefore in a body.

In Ben Jonson's Masque of Christmas, to which we have already alluded,
the old gentleman is introduced "attired in round hose, long stockings,
a close doublet, a high-crowned hat with a broach, a long thin beard, a
truncheon, little ruffs, white shoes, his scarfs and garters tied cross,
and his drum beaten before him," and is accompanied by the following
members of his fine family: MISS-RULE, CAROLL, MINCED-PIE, GAMBOLL,
POST-AND-PAIR (since dead), NEW YEAR'S GIFT, MUMMING, WASSAIL,
OFFERING, and BABY-CAKE,--or BABY-COCKE, as we find him elsewhere
called, but who we fear is dead too, unless he may have changed his
name, for we still find one of the family bearing some resemblance to
the description of him given by Ben Jonson.

In the frontispiece to this volume the artist has represented the old
man like another magician, summoning his spirits from the four winds for
a general muster; and we hope that the greater part of them will obey
his conjuration. The purpose, we believe, is to take a review of their
condition and see if something cannot be done to amend their
prospects,--in which it is our purpose to assist him. Already some of
the children have appeared on the stage; and the rest, we have no doubt,
are advancing in all directions. We are glad to see amongst the
foremost, as he ought to be, ROAST BEEF,--that English "champion bold"
who has driven the invader hunger from the land in many a well-fought
fray, and for his doughty deeds was created a knight banneret on one of
his own gallant fields so long ago as King Charles's time. We suppose he
is the same worthy who, in the Romish calendar, appears canonized by the
title of Saint George, where his great adversary Famine is represented
under the figure of a dragon. Still following ROAST BEEF, as he has done
for many a long year, we perceive his faithful 'squire (bottle-holder
if you will) PLUM PUDDING, with his rich round face and rosemary
cockade. He is a blackamoor, and derives his extraction from the spice
lands. His Oriental properties have however received an English
education and taken an English form, and he has long ago been adopted
into the family of Father Christmas. In his younger days his name was
"PLUMB-PORRIDGE": but since he grew up to be the substantial man he is,
it has been changed into the one he now bears, as indicative of greater
consistency and strength. His master treats him like a brother; and he
has, in return, done good service against the enemy in many a
hard-fought field, cutting off all straggling detachments or flying
parties from the main body, which the great champion had previously
routed. Both these individuals, we think, are looking as vigorous as
they can ever have done in their lives, and offer in their
well-maintained and portly personages a strong presumption that _they_
at least have at no time ceased to be favorite guests at the festivals
of the land.

Near them stands, we rejoice to see, their favorite sister Wassail. She
was of a slender figure in Ben Jonson's day, and is so still. If the
garb in which she appears has a somewhat antiquated appearance, there is
a play of the lip and a twinkle of the eye which prove that the glowing
and joyous spirit which made our ancestors so merry "ages long ago," and
helped them out with so many a pleasant fancy and quaint device, is not
a day older than it was in the time of King Arthur. How should she grow
old who bathes in such a bowl? It is her fount of perpetual youth! Why,
even mortal hearts grow younger, and mortal spirits lighter, as they
taste of its charmed waters. There it is, with its floating apples and
hovering inspirations! We see too, that the "tricksy spirit," whose head
bears it (and that is more than every head could do) has lost none of
his gambols, and that he is still on the best of terms with the Turkey
who has been his playfellow at these holiday-times for so many years.
The latter, we suppose, has just come up from Norfolk, where Father
Christmas puts him to school; and the meeting on both sides seems to be
of the most satisfactory kind.

MUMMING also, we see, has obeyed the summons, although he looks as if he
had come from a long distance and did not go about much now. We fancy he
has become something of a student. Misrule too, we believe, has lost a
good deal of his mercurial spirit, and finds his principal resource in
old books. He has come to the muster, however, with a very long "feather
in his cap," as if he considered the present summons portentous of good
fortune. He looks as if he were not altogether without hopes of taking
office again. We observe with great satisfaction, that the Lord of
Twelfth Night has survived the revolutions which have been fatal to the
King of the Cockneys and so many of his royal brethren; and that he is
still "every inch a king." Yonder he comes under a state-canopy of cake,
and wearing yet his ancient crown. The lady whom we see advancing in the
distance we take to be Saint Distaff. She used to be a sad romp; but her
merriest days we fear are over, for she is looking very like an old
maid. Not far behind her we fancy we can hear the clear voice of Caroll
singing as he comes along; and if our ears do not deceive us, the Waits
are coming up in another direction. The children are dropping in on all
sides.

But what is he that looks down from yonder pedestal in the back-ground
upon the merry muster, with a double face? And why, while the holly and
the mistletoe mingle with the white tresses that hang over the brow of
the one, is the other hidden by a veil? The face on which we gaze is the
face of an old man, and a not uncheerful old man,--a face marked by many
a scar, by the channels of tears that have been dried up and the deep
traces of sorrows past away. Yet does it look placidly down from beneath
its crown of evergreens on the joyous crew who are assembled at the
voice of Christmas. But what aspect hath that other face which no man
can see? Why doth our flesh creep and the blood curdle in our veins as
we gaze? What awful mystery doth that dark curtain hide? What may be
written on that covered brow, that the old man dare not lift the veil
and show it to those laughing children? Much, much, much that might
spoil the revels. Much that man might not know and yet bear to abide.
That twin face is Janus, he who shuts the gates upon the old year and
opens those of the new, he who looks into the past and into the future,
and catches the reflections of both, and has the tales of each written
on his respective brows. For the past, it is known and has been
suffered; and even at a season like this we can pause to retrace the
story of its joys and of its sorrows as they are graven on that open
forehead,--and from that retrospect, glancing to the future for hope,
can still turn to the present for enjoyment. But oh, that veil and its
solemn enigmas! On that other brow may be written some secret which,
putting out the light of hope, should add the darkness of the future to
the darkness of the past, until, amid the gloom before and the gloom
behind, the festal lamps of the season, looked on by eyes dim with our
own tears, should show as sad as tapers lighted up in the chamber of the
dead. God in mercy keep down that veil!

    "Such foresight who on earth would crave,
     Where knowledge is not power to save?"

It will be our business to introduce to our readers each of the children
of old Christmas as they come up in obedience to the summons of their
father, reserving to ourselves the right of settling the order of their
precedence; and we will endeavor to give some account of the part which
each played of old in the revelries of the season peculiarly their own,
and of the sad changes which time has made in the natural constitutions,
or animal spirits, of some of them. Preparatory, however, to this we
must endeavor to give a rapid glance at the causes which contributed to
the decay of a festival so ancient and universal and uproarious as that
which we have described, and brought into the old man's family that
disease to which some of them have already fallen victims, and which
threatens others with an untimely extinction.

We have already shown that so early as the reign of Elizabeth the
Puritans had begun to lift up their testimony against the pageantries of
the Christmas-tide; and the Lord of Misrule, even in that day of his
potential ascendancy, was described as little better than the great
Enemy of Souls himself. Our friend Stubs (whose denunciations were
directed against _all_ amusements which from long usage and established
repetition had assumed anything like a form of ceremonial, and who is
quite as angry with those who "goe some to the woodes and groves and
some to the hilles and mountaines . . . where they spende all the night
in pastymes, and in the mornyng they return bringing with them birch
bowes and braunches of trees to deck their assemblies withall," in the
sweet month of May, as he could possibly be with the Christmas
revellers, although the very language in which he is obliged to state
the charge against the former was enough to tempt people out "a Maying,"
and might almost have converted himself) assures the reader of his
"Anatomie" that all who contribute "to the maintenaunce of these
execrable pastymes" do neither more nor less than "offer sacrifice to
the devill and Sathanas." It is probable, however, that the people of
those days, who were a right loyal people and freely acknowledged the
claim of their sovereigns to an absolute disposition of all their
temporalities (any of the common or statute laws of the land
notwithstanding), considered it a part of their loyalty to be damned in
company with their sovereigns, too, and resolved that so long as these
iniquities obtained the royal patronage it was of their allegiance to
place themselves in the same category of responsibility. Or perhaps
their notion of regal prerogative, which extended so far as to admit its
right to mould the national law at its good pleasure, might go the
further length of ascribing to it a controlling power over the moral
statutes of right and wrong, and of pleading its sanction against the
menaces of Master Stubs. Or it may be that Master Stubs had failed to
convince them that they were wrong, even without an appeal to the royal
dispensation. Certain it is that, in spite of all that Master Stubs and
his brethren could say, the sway of the Lord of Misrule, and the revels
of his court continued to flourish with increasing splendor during this
reign, and, as we have seen, lost no portion of their magnificence
during the two next, although in that time had arisen the great champion
of the Puritans, Prynne, and against them and their practices had been
directed whole volumes of vituperation, and denounced large vials of
wrath.

In Scotland, however, where the reformation took a sterner tone than in
the southern kingdom, and where, as we have said, the irregularities
committed under cover of the Christmas and other ceremonials laid them
more justly open to its censure, the effect of this outcry was earlier
and far more sensibly felt; and even so early as the reign of Queen Mary
an act passed the Scottish Parliament whereby the Abbot of Unreason and
all his "merrie disports" were suppressed.

In England, it is true that, according to Sandys, an order of the common
council had issued as early as the beginning of _our_ Mary's reign
prohibiting the Lord Mayor or Sheriffs from entertaining a Lord of
Misrule in any of their houses; but this appears to have been merely on
financial grounds, with a view of reducing the corporation expenditure,
and to have extended no further.

It was not, however, until after the breaking out of the Civil War that
the persecution of the Puritans (who had long and zealously labored not
only to resolve the various ceremonials of the season into their pagan
elements, but even to prove that the celebration of the Nativity at all
was in itself idolatrous) succeeded to any extent in producing that
result which the war itself and the consequent disorganization of
society must in a great measure have effected even without the aid of a
fanatical outcry. In the very first year of that armed struggle the
earliest successful blow was struck against the festivities with which
it had been usual to celebrate this period of the year, in certain
ordinances which were issued for suppressing the performance of plays
and other diversions; and in the following year some of the shops in
London were for the first time opened on Christmas day, in obedience to
the feelings which connected any observance of it with the spirit of
popery. By the year 1647 the Puritans had so far prevailed that in
various places the parish officers were subjected to penalties for
encouraging the decking of churches and permitting divine service to be
performed therein on Christmas morning; and in the same year the
observance of the festival itself, with that of other holidays, was
formally abolished by the two branches of the legislature.

It was found impossible, however, by all these united means, to
eradicate the Christmas spirit from the land; and many of its customs
and festivities continued to be observed, not only in obscure places,
but even in towns, in spite of prohibition and in spite of the
disarrangement of social ties. The contest between the Puritan spirit
and the ancient spirit of celebration led to many contests; and we have
an account--in a little book of which we have seen a copy in the
British Museum, entitled "Canterbury Christmas, or a True Relation of
the Insurrection in Canterbury"--of the disturbances which ensued in
that city upon the Mayor's proclamation, issued in consequence of that
Parliamentary prohibition at the Christmas which followed. This said
proclamation, it appears, which was made by the city crier, was to the
effect "that Christmas day and all other superstitious festivals should
be put downe and that a market should be kept upon Christmas day." This
order, it goes on to state, was "very ill taken by the country," the
people of which neglected to bring their provisions into the town, and
gave other tokens of their displeasure of a less negative kind. For, a
few of the shopkeepers in the city, "to the number of twelve at the
most," having ventured to open their shops in defiance of the general
feeling, "they were commanded by the multitude to shut up again; but
refusing to obey, their ware was thrown up and down and they at last
forced to shut in."

Nor were the revilings of the Puritans against the lovers of Christmas
observances suffered to remain unanswered. Many a squib was directed
against the Roundheads; and the popular regret for the suppression of
their high festival was skilfully appealed to by Royalist politicians
and favorers of the ancient religion. The connection between the new
condition of things in Church and State and the extinction of all the
merriment of the land was carefully suggested in publications that
stole out in spite of penalties and were read in defiance of
prohibitions. As an example, that curious little tract from which we
have more than once quoted under the title of "An Hue and Cry after
Christmas," bears the date of 1645; and we shall best give our readers
an idea of its character by setting out that title at length, as the
same exhibits a tolerable abstract of its contents. It runs thus: "The
arraignment, conviction, and imprisoning of Christmas on St. Thomas day
last, and how he broke out of prison in the holidayes and got away,
onely left his hoary hair and gray beard sticking between two iron bars
of a window. With an Hue and Cry after Christmas, and a letter from Mr.
Woodcock, a fellow in Oxford, to a malignant lady in London. And divers
passages between the lady and the cryer about Old Christmas; and what
shift he was fain to make to save his life, and great stir to fetch him
back again. Printed by Simon Minc'd Pye for Cissely Plum-Porridge, and
are to be sold by Ralph Fidler Chandler at the signe of the Pack of
Cards in Mustard Alley in Brawn Street." Besides the allusions contained
in the latter part of this title to some of the good things that follow
in the old man's train, great pains are taken by the "cryer" in
describing him, and by the lady in mourning for him, to allude to many
of the cheerful attributes that made him dear to the people. His great
antiquity and portly appearance are likewise insisted upon. "For age
this hoarie-headed man was of great yeares, and as white as snow. He
entered the Romish Kallendar, time out of mind, as old or very neer as
Father Mathusalem was,--one that looked fresh in the Bishops' time,
though their fall made him pine away ever since. He was full and fat as
any divine doctor on them all; he looked under the consecrated lawne
sleeves as big as Bul-beefe,--just like Bacchus upon a tunne of wine,
when the grapes hang shaking about his eares; but since the Catholike
liquor is taken from him he is much wasted, so that he hath looked very
thin and ill of late." "The poor," says the "cryer" to the lady, "are
sory for" his departure; "for they go to every door a-begging, as they
were wont to do (_good Mrs., Somewhat against this good time_); but Time
was transformed, _Away, be gone; here is not for you_." The lady,
however, declares that she for one will not be deterred from welcoming
old Christmas. "No, no!" says she; "bid him come by night over the
Thames, and we will have a back-door open to let him in;" and ends by
anticipating better prospects for him another year.

And by many a back-door was the old man let in to many a fireside during
the heaviest times of all that persecution and disgrace. On the
establishment of the Commonwealth, when the more settled state of things
removed some of the causes which had opposed themselves to his due
reception, the contests of opposition between the revived spirit of
festival and the increased sectarian austerity became more conspicuous.
There is an order of the Parliament in 1652 again prohibiting the
observance of Christmas day, which proves that the practice had revived;
and there are examples of the military having been employed to disperse
congregations assembled for that purpose. In the "Vindication of
Christmas," published about this time, the old gentleman, after
complaining bitterly of the manner in which he was "used in the city,
and wandering into the country up and down from house to house, found
small comfort in any," asserts his determination not to be so repulsed:
"Welcome or not welcome," says he, "I am come." In a periodical
publication of that day entitled "Mercurius Democritus, or a True and
Perfect Nocturnall, communicating many strange wonders out of the World
in the Moon, etc.," the public are encouraged to keep Christmas, and
promised better days. No. 37 contains some verses to that effect, of
which the following are the first two:--

    "Old Christmass now is come to town,
       Though few do him regard;
     He laughs to see them going down,
       That have put down his Lord.

    "Cheer up, sad heart, crown Christmass bowls,
       Banish dull grief and sorrow;
     Though you want cloaths, you have rich souls,
       The _sun_ may shine to-morrow."

And again in No. 38:--

    "A gallant crew, stir up the fire,
       The other winter tale,
     Welcome, Christmass, 'tis our desire
       To give thee more spic'd ale."

On the return of the royal family to England, the court celebrations of
Christmas were revived both there and at the Inns of Court; and the Lord
of Misrule came again into office. We have allusions to the one and the
other in the writings of Pepys and of Evelyn. The nobles and wealthy
gentry, too, once more at their country-seats, took under their
protection such of the ancient observances as had survived the
persecution, and from time to time stole out of their hiding-places
under the encouragement of the new order of things. But in none of its
ancient haunts did the festival ever again recover its splendor of old.
The condition of Charles's exchequer, and the many charges upon
it,--arising as well out of the services of his adherents as from his
own dissolute life,--left him little chance of imitating the lavish
appointments of the court pageantries in the days of Elizabeth and
James; and the troubles out of which the nation had emerged had made
changes as well in the face of the country as in the condition and
character of society, alike opposed to anything like a general and
complete revival of the merry doings of yore. In the country, estates
had passed into new hands, and the immemorial ties between the ancient
families and the tenants of the soil had been rudely severed. Many of
the old establishments in which these celebrations had been most
zealously observed, were finally broken up; and friends who had met
together from childhood around the Christmas fire, and pledged each
other year by year in the wassail-bowl, were scattered by the chances of
war. But out of this disturbance of the old localities and disruption of
the ancient ties of the land, a result still more fatal to these old
observances had arisen, promoted besides by the dissipation of manners
which the restored monarch had introduced into the country. Men rooted
out from their ancestral possessions and looking to a licentious king
for compensation, became hangers-on about the court; and others who had
no such excuse, seduced by their example and enamoured of the gayeties
of the metropolis and the profligacies of Whitehall, abandoned the
shelter of the old trees beneath whose shade their fathers had fostered
the sanctities of life, and from "country gentlemen" became "men about
town." The evils of this practice, at which we have before hinted as one
of those to which the decay of rural customs is mainly owing, began to
be early felt, and form the topic of frequent complaint and the subject
of many of the popular ballads of that day. The song of the "Old and
Young Courtier" was written for the purpose of contrasting the good old
manners with those of Charles's time; and the effects of the change upon
the Christmas hospitalities has due and particular notice therein. We
extract it from the Percy collection for our readers, as appropriate to
our subject and a sample of the ballads of the time:--

THE OLD AND YOUNG COURTIER.

    An old song made by an aged old pate,
    Of an old worshipful gentleman who had a greate estate,
    That kept a brave old house at a bountifull rate,
    And an old porter to relieve the poor at his gate;
                Like an old courtier of the Queen's,
                And the Queen's old courtier.

    With an old lady, whose anger one word assuages;
    They every quarter paid their old servants their wages,
    And never knew what belong'd to coachmen, footmen, nor pages,
    But kept twenty old fellows with blue coats and badges;
                Like an old courtier, etc.

    With an old study fill'd full of learned old books,
    With an old reverend chaplain,--you might know him by his looks,--
    With an old buttery hatch worn quite off the hooks,
    And an old kitchen, that maintained half-a-dozen old cooks;
                Like an old courtier, etc.

    With an old hall, hung about with pikes, guns, and bows,
    With old swords, and bucklers that had borne many shrewde blows,
    And an old frize coat, to cover his worship's trunk hose,
    And a cup of old sherry to comfort his copper nose;
                Like an old courtier, etc.

    With a good old fashion, when Christmasse was come,
    To call in all his old neighbours with bagpipe and drum,
    With good chear enough to furnish every old room,
    And old liquor able to make a cat speak, and man dumb;
                Like an old courtier, etc.

    With an old falconer, huntsman, and a kennel of hounds,
    That never hawked, nor hunted, but in his own grounds,
    Who, like a wise man, kept himself within his own bounds,
    And when he dyed gave every child a thousand good pounds;
                Like an old courtier, etc.

    But to his eldest son his house and land he assign'd,
    Charging him in his will to keep the old bountifull mind,
    To be good to his old tenants, and to his neighbours be kind;
    But in the ensuing ditty you shall hear how he was inclined;
                Like a young courtier, etc.

    Like a flourishing young gallant, newly come to his land,
    Who keeps a brace of painted madams at his command,
    And takes up a thousand pound upon his father's land,
    And gets drunk in a tavern, till he can neither go nor stand;
                Like a young courtier, etc.

    With a new-fangled lady, that is dandy, nice, and spare,
    Who never knew what belong'd to good housekeeping or care,
    Who buys gaudy-color'd fans to play with wanton air,
    And seven or eight different dressings of other women's hair;
                Like a young courtier, etc.

    With a new-fashion'd hall, built where the old one stood,
    Hung round with new pictures, that do the poor no good,
    With a fine marble chimney, wherein burns neither coal nor wood,
    And a new smooth shovelboard, whereon no victuals ne'er stood;
                Like a young courtier, etc.

    With a new study, stuff'd full of pamphlets and plays,
    And a new chaplain, that swears faster than he prays,
    With a new buttery-hatch that opens once in four or five days,
    And a new French cook, to devise fine kickshaws and toys;
               Like a young courtier, etc.

    With a new fashion, when Christmasse is drawing on,
    On a new journey to London straight we all must begone,
    And leave none to keep house, but our new porter John,
    Who relieves the poor with a thump on the back with a stone;
               Like a young courtier, etc.

    With a new gentleman usher, whose carriage is compleat,
    With a new coachman, footmen, and pages to carry up the meat,
    With a waiting-gentlewoman, whose dressing is very neat,
    Who when her lady has din'd, lets the servants not eat;
               Like a young courtier, etc.

    With new titles of honour bought with his father's old gold,
    For which sundry of his ancestors' old manors are sold;
    And this is the course most of our new gallants hold,
    Which makes that good housekeeping is now grown so cold,
              Among the young courtiers of the King,
              Or the King's young courtiers.

In a word, the old English feeling seemed nearly extinct for a time; and
the ancient customs which had connected themselves therewith, one by one
fell more or less into disuse. The chain of _universal_ sympathy and
_general_ observance, which had long kept the festival together in all
its parts, was broken; and the parts fell asunder, and were by degrees
lost or overlooked. Let no man say that this is scarcely worth
lamenting! Let none imagine that, in the decay of customs useless or
insignificant in themselves, there is little to regret! "The
affections," says Sterne, "when they are busy that way, will build their
structures, were it but on the paring of a nail;" and there is no
practice of long observance and ancient veneration--whether among
nations or individuals--round which the affections have not in some
degree twined themselves, and which are not therefore useful as supports
and remembrancers to those affections. There are few of the consequences
springing from civil war more lamentable than the disturbance which it
gives to the social arrangements, were it but to the meanest of them. It
is impossible that customs long identified with the feelings should
perish without those feelings (though from their own eternal principle
they will ultimately revive and find new modes of action) suffering some
temporary injury. It was a beautiful assertion of Dr. Johnson that his
feelings would be outraged by seeing an old post rooted up from before
his door which he had been used to look at all his life,--even though it
might be an incumbrance there. How much more would he have grieved over
the removal of a village Maypole, with all its merry memories and all
its ancient reverence!

The Christmas festival has languished from those days to this, but never
has been, and never will be extinct. The stately forms of its
celebration in high places have long since (and, in all probability,
forever) passed away. The sole and homely representative of the gorgeous
Christmas prince is the mock-monarch of the Epiphany,--the laureate of
our times, with his nominal duties, in the last faint shadow of the
court bards and masque-makers of yore; and the few lingering remains of
the important duties once confided to the master of the royal revels are
silently and unostentatiously performed in the office of the Lord
Chamberlain of to-day. But the spirit of the season yet survives, and,
for reasons which we shall proceed to point out, _must_ survive. True,
the uproarious merriment, the loud voice which it sent of old throughout
the land, have ceased; and while the ancient sports and ceremonies are
widely scattered, many of them have retreated into obscure places, and
some perhaps are lost. Still, however, this period of commemoration is
everywhere a merry time; and we believe, as we have already said, that
most of the children of Father Christmas are yet wandering up and down
in one place or another of the land. We call upon all those of our
readers who know anything of the "old, old, very old, gray-bearded
gentleman" or his family to aid us in our search after them; and with
their good help we will endeavor to restore them to some portion of
their ancient honors in England.

[Illustration: FAMILY CONGRATULATION.--_Page 134._]

FOOTNOTES:

[2] The evergreen holly is meant, a bearing peculiarly appropriate to
the lord of Christmas sports.

[3] His motto or impress.



FEELINGS OF THE SEASON.


OF all the festivals which crowd the Christian calendar there is none
that exercises an influence so strong and universal as that of
Christmas; and those varied superstitions, and quaint customs, and
joyous observances, which once abounded throughout the rural districts
of England, are at no period of the year so thickly congregated or so
strongly marked as at this season of unrestrained festivity and extended
celebration. The reasons for this are various and very obvious. In the
case of a single celebration, which has to support itself by its own
solitary influence long, perchance, after the feeling in which it
originated has ceased to operate, whose significance is perhaps dimly
and more dimly perceived (through the obscurity of a distance, year
after year receding further into shadow) by its own unaided and
unreflected light, the chances are many that the annually increasing
neglect into which its observance is likely to fall, shall finally
consign it to an entire obliteration. But a cluster of festivals,
standing in a proximate order of succession, at once throwing light upon
each other and illustrated by a varied and numerous host of customs,
traditions, and ceremonies,--of which, as in a similar cluster of stars,
the occasional obscuration of any one or more would not prevent their
memory being suggested and their place distinctly indicated by the
others,--present greatly multiplied probabilities against their
existence being ever entirely forgotten or their observation wholly
discontinued. The arrangement by which a series of
celebrations--beautiful in themselves, and connected with the paramount
event in which are laid the foundations of our religion--are made to
fall at a period otherwise of very solemn import (from its being assumed
as the close of the larger of those revolutions of time into which man
measures out the span of his transitory existence), and the chance which
has brought down to the same point and thrown together the traces of
customs and superstitions both of a sacred and secular character,
uniting with the crowd of Catholic observances, off-shoots from the
ancient Saturnalia, remains of old Druidical rites, and glimpses into
the mythology of the Northern nations, have written a series of
hieroglyphics upon that place of the calendar, which, if they cannot be
deciphered in every part, are still, from their number and
juxtaposition, never likely to be overlooked.

But though these causes are offered as accounting for the preservation
of many customs which, without them, would long since have passed into
oblivion, which exist by virtue of the position they occupy on the
calendar, yet the more conspicuous celebrations of this season need no
such aid and no such arguments. Nothing can be added to their intrinsic
interest, and they are too closely connected with the solemn warnings of
man's temporal destiny, and linked with the story of his eternal hopes,
ever to lose any portion of that influence, a share of which (without
thereby losing, as light is communicated without diminution) they throw
over all the other celebrations that take shelter under their wing.

In every way, and by many a tributary stream, are the holy and
beneficent sentiments which belong to the period increased and
refreshed. Beautiful feelings, too apt to fade within the heart of man
amid the chilling influences of worldly pursuit, steal out beneath the
sweet religious warmth of the season, and the pure and holy amongst the
hopes of earth assemble, to place themselves under the protection of
that eternal hope whose promise is now, as it were, yearly renewed. Amid
the echoes of that song which proclaimed peace on earth and good-will
towards men, making no exclusions, and dividing them into no classes,
rises up a dormant sense of universal brotherhood in the heart; and
something like a distribution of the good things of the earth is
suggested in favor of those, destitute here, who are proclaimed as joint
participators in the treasure thus announced from heaven. At no other
period of the year are the feeling of a universal benevolence and the
sense of a common Adam so widely awakened; at no season is the
predominant spirit of selfishness so effectually rebuked; never are the
circles of love so largely widened.

The very presence of a lengthened festivity--for festivity can never be
_solitary_--would, apart from its sacred causes, promote these wholesome
effects. The extended space of time over which this festival is spread,
the protracted holiday which it creates, points it out for the gathering
together of distant friends whom the passing nature of an occasional and
single celebration would fail to collect from their scattered places of
the world. By this wise and beautiful arrangement the spell of home is
still made to cast its sweet and holy influence along the sterile
regions as along the bright places of after-life, and from the dark
valleys and the sunny hilltops of the world to call back alike the
spoiled of fortune and the tired and travel-stained to refresh
themselves again and again at the fountain of their calmer hopes and
purer feelings. A wise and beautiful arrangement this would be, in
whatever season of the year it might be placed! Wise and beautiful is
any institution which sets up a rallying-place for the early affections
and re-awakens the sacred sympathies of youth,--which, from that
well-head of purity and peace, sends forth, as it were, a little river
of living waters, to flow with revivifying freshness and soothing
murmur along the wastes and wildernesses of after years; which makes of
that spring-time of the heart a reservoir of balm, to which in hours of
sorrow it can return for joy, and in years of guilt for regeneration;
and which, like the widow's cruse of oil, wasteth not in all the ages of
the mind's dearth. But how greatly are the wisdom and the beauty of this
arrangement increased by the sacred season at which it has been placed!
Under the sanctions of religion the covenants of the heart are renewed.
Upon the altars of our faith the lamps of the spirit are rekindled. The
loves of earth seem to have met together at the sound of the "glad
tidings" of the season, to refresh themselves for the heaven which those
tidings proclaim. From "Abana and Pharpar" and all the "rivers of
Damascus" the affections are returned to bathe in "the waters of
Israel." In many a peaceful spot and lowly home,

    "Wi' joy unfeigned, brothers and sisters meet,
     An' each for other's welfare kindly spiers;"

and as the long-separated look once more into the "sweet, familiar
faces," and listen in that restored companionship to strains such as
"once did sweet in Zion glide" (even as they listened long ago, and, it
may be, with some who are gone from them for ever),--

    "Hope springs, 'exulting on triumphant wing'
     That thus they all shall meet in future days,
       There ever bask in uncreated rays,
       No more to sigh or shed the bitter tear,
       Together hymning their Creator's praise
       In such society, yet still more dear,
     While ceaseless time moves round in an eternal sphere."

To this tone of feeling the services of the Church have for some time
previously been gradually adapting the mind. During the whole period of
Advent a course of moral and religious preparation has been going on,
and a state of expectation is by degrees excited, not unlike that with
which the Jews were waiting for the Messiah, of old. There is, as it
were, a sort of watching for the great event, a questioning where Christ
shall be born, and an earnest looking out for his star in the East that
we may "come to worship him." The feeling awakened by the whole series
of these services--unlike that suggested by some of those which
commemorate other portions of the same sacred story--is entirely a
joyous one. The lowly manner of the Saviour's coming, the exceeding
humiliation of his appointments, the dangers which beset his infancy,
and his instant rejection by those to whom he came, are all forgotten in
the fact of his coming itself, in the feeling of a mighty triumph and
the sense of a great deliverance, or only so far remembered as to temper
the triumph and give a character of tenderness to the joy. "The services
of the Church about this season," says Washington Irving, "are extremely
tender and inspiring. They dwell on the beautiful story of the origin
of our faith, and the pastoral scenes that accompanied its announcement.
They gradually increase in fervor and pathos during the season of
Advent, until they break forth in full jubilee on the morning that
brought 'peace and good-will to men.'" "I do not know," he adds, "a
grander effect of music on the moral feelings than to hear the full
choir and the pealing organ performing a Christmas anthem in a
cathedral, and filling every part of the vast pile with triumphant
harmony." We confess that, for ourselves, very sensible as we are to the
grander and more complicated effects of harmony, we have, on the
occasion in question, been more touched by the simple song of rejoicing
as it rang in its unaided sweetness through the aisles of some village
church. We have felt ourselves more emphatically reminded, amid pastoral
scenes and primitive choirs, of the music of congratulation which was
uttered through the clear air to men "abiding in the field, keeping
watch over their flocks by night,"--

               "The hallowed anthem sent to hail
    Bethlehem's shepherds in the lonely vale
    When Jordan hushed his waves, and midnight still
    Watched on the holy towers of Zion's hill."

Nor is the religious feeling which belongs to this season suffered to
subside with the great event of the nativity itself. The incidents of
striking interest which immediately followed the birth of the Messiah,
the persecutions which were directed against his life, and the starry
writing of God in the sky, which, amid the rejection of "his own," drew
to him witnesses from afar, all contribute to keep alive the sense of a
sacred celebration to the end of the period usually devoted to social
festivity, and send a wholesome current of religious feeling through the
entire season, to temper its extravagancies and regulate its mirth. The
worship of the shepherds; the lamentation in Rama, and the weeping of
Rachel for the murder of the innocents; the miraculous escape from that
massacre of the Saviour, and the flight of his parents into Egypt with
the rescued child; and the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles,
which is indeed the day of his nativity to _us_,--are all commemorated
in the Christian Church, and illustrated by the series of services
distributed through that period of religious worship which bears the
general title of Christmas.

There is, too, in the lengthened duration of this festival a direct
cause of that joyous and holiday spirit which, for the most part (after
the first tenderness of meeting has passed away, and a few tears perhaps
been given, as the muster-roll is perused, to those who answer to their
names no more), pervades all whom that same duration has tempted to
assemble.

Regrets there will no doubt, in most cases, be, for these distant and
periodical gatherings together of families but show more prominently
the blanks which the long intervals have created; this putting on anew,
as it were, of the garment of love but exposes the rents which time has
made since it was last worn; this renewing of the chain of our
attachments but displays the links that are broken! The Sybil has come
round again, as year by year she comes, with her books of the
affections; but new leaves have been torn away. "No man," says
Shakspeare, "ever bathed twice in the same river;" and the home-Jordan
to which the observers of the Christmas festival come yearly back to
wash away the leprous spots contracted in the world never presents to
them again the identical waters in which last they sported, though it be
Jordan still. Amid these jubilant harmonies of the heart there will be
parts unfilled up, voices wanting. "This young gentlewoman," says the
Countess of Rousillon to Lafeu, "had a father (oh that _had_! how sad a
passage 'tis!)." And surely with such changes as are implied in that
past tense some of the notes of life's early music are silenced forever.
"Would they were with us still!" says the old ballad; and in the first
hour of these reunions many and many a time is the wish echoed in
something like the words! And if these celebrations have been too long
disused, and the wanderer comes rarely back to the birthplace of the
affections, the feeling of sadness may be too strong for the joyous
influences of the season,--

    "A change" _he may find_ "there, and many a change!
     Faces and footsteps and all things strange!
     Gone are the heads of the silvery hair,
     And the young that were, have a brow of care,
     And the place is hushed where the children played!"

till, amid the bitter contrasts of the past with the present, and
thoughts of "the loved, the lost, the distant, and the dead," something
like

                                "A pall,
    And a gloom o'ershadowing the banquet-hall,
    And a mark on the floor as of life-drops spilt,"

may spoil his ear for the voice of mirth, and darken all the revels of
the merry Christmas-tide.

       *       *       *       *       *

To few assemblages of men is it given to come together in the scene of
ancient memories without having to "remember such things were that were
most precious." But excepting in those cases in which the suffering is
extreme or the sorrow immediate, after a few hours given to a wholesome
and perhaps mournful retrospect, the mind readjusts itself to the tone
of the time, and men for the most part seem to understand that they are
met for the purpose of being as merry as it is in their natures to be.
And to the attainment of this right joyous frame of mind we have already
said that a sense of the duration of the festival period greatly
contributes. In the case of a single holiday the mind has scarcely time
to take the appropriate tone before the period of celebration has
passed away; and a sense of its transitoriness tends often to prevent
the effort being made with that heartiness which helps to insure
success.

But when the holiday of to-day terminates only that it may make way for
the holiday of to-morrow, and gladness has an ancient charter in virtue
of which it claims dominion over a series of days so extended that the
happy school-boy (and some who are quite as happy as school-boys, and as
merry too) cannot see the end of them for the blaze of joyous things
that lies between,--then does the heart surrender itself confidently to
the genius of the time, and lets loose a host of cheerful and kindly
feelings, which it knows will not be suddenly thrown back upon it, and
heaps up pleasant devices upon the glowing flame of mirth, as we heap up
logs on the roaring fire, laying them decently aside at the end of the
season, as we lay aside the burned-out brand of the Yule log to
re-kindle the Christmas fire and the Christmas feeling of another year.

But there is yet another reason, in aid of those which we have
enumerated, accounting for an observance of the Christmas festivities
more universal, and a preservation of its traditions more accurate and
entire, than are bestowed in England upon the festival customs of any
other period of the year. This reason, which might not at first view
seem so favorable to that end as in truth it is, is to be found in the
outward and natural aspects of the season. We have been watching the
year through the period of its decline, are arrived at the dreary season
of its old age, and stand near the edge of its grave. We have seen the
rich sunshines and sweet but mournful twilights of autumn, with their
solemn inspirations, give place to the short days and gloomy evenings
which usher in the coming solstice. One by one the fair faces of the
flowers have departed from us, and the sweet murmuring of "shallow
rivers, by whose falls melodious birds sing madrigals," has been
exchanged for the harsh voice of the swollen torrent and the dreary
music of winds that "rave through the naked tree." Through many a
chilling sign of "weary winter comin' fast," we have reached the

    "Last of the months, severest of them all.

       .     .     .     .     .     .     .

     For lo! the fiery horses of the Sun
     Through the twelve signs their rapid course have run;
     Time, like a serpent, bites his forked tail,
     And Winter, on a goat, bestrides the gale;
     Rough blows the North-wind near Arcturus' star,
     And sweeps, unreined, across the polar bar."

The halcyon days, which sometimes extend their southern influence even
to our stern climate, and carry an interval of gloomy calm into the
heart of this dreary month, have generally ere its close given place to
the nipping frosts and chilling blasts of mid-winter. "Out of the South"
hath come "the whirlwind, and cold out of the North." The days have
dwindled to their smallest stature, and the long nights, with their
atmosphere of mist, shut in and circumscribe the wanderings of man.
Clouds and shadows surround us. The air has lost its rich echoes, and
the earth its diversified aspects; and to the immediate threshold of the
house of feasting and merriment we have travelled through those dreary
days which are emphatically called "the dark days before Christmas." Of
one of the gloomy mornings that usher in these melancholy days Ben
Jonson gives the following dismal description:--

    "It is, methinks, a morning full of fate!
     It riseth slowly, as her sullen car
     Had all the weights of sleep and death hung at it!
     She is not rosy-fingered, but swoln black!
     Her face is like a water turned to blood,
     And her sick head is bound about with clouds,
     As if she threatened night, ere noon of day!
     It does not look as it would have a hail
     Or health wished in it--as of other morns!"

And the general discomforts of the season are bemoaned by old Sackville,
with words that have a wintry sound, in the following passage, which we
extract from "England's Parnassus:"--

    "The wrathfull winter, proching on a pace,
     With blustring blast had all ybard the treene;
     And old Saturnus, with his frosty face,
     With chilling cold had pearst the tender greene;
     The mantle rent wherein inwrapped beene
     The gladsome groves that now lay over-throwne,
     The tapers torne, and every tree downe blowne;
     The soyle, that erst so seemely was to seeme,
     Was all dispoiled of her beauties hewe,
     And stole fresh flowers (wherewith the Somer's queene
     Had clad the earth), now Boreas blast downe blew;
     And small fowles flocking, in their songs did rew
     The Winter's wrath, where with each thing defast,
     In wofull wise bewayl'd the Sommer past:
     Hawthorne had lost his motley liverie,
     The naked twigs were shivering all for cold,
     And, dropping down the teares aboundantlie,
     Each thing, methought, with weeping eye me told
     The cruell season, bidding me withhold
     Myselfe within."

The feelings excited by this dreary period of transition, and by the
desolate aspect of external things to which it has at length brought us,
would seem, at first view, to be little in harmony with a season of
festival, and peculiarly unpropitious to the claims of merriment. And
yet it is precisely this joyless condition of the natural world which
drives us to take refuge in our moral resources, at the same time that
it furnishes us with the leisure necessary for their successful
development. The spirit of cheerfulness which, for the blessing of man,
is implanted in his nature, deprived of the many issues by which, at
other seasons, it walks abroad and breathes amid the sights and sounds
of Nature, is driven to its own devices for modes of manifestation, and
takes up its station by the blazing hearth. In rural districts, the
varied occupations which call the sons of labor abroad into the fields
are suspended by the austerities of the time; and to the cottage of the
poor man has come a season of temporal repose, concurrently with the
falling of that period which seals anew for him, as it were, the
promises of an eternal rest. At no other portion of the year, could a
feast of equal duration find so many classes of men at leisure for its
reception.

    "With his ice, and snow, and rime,
       Let bleak winter sternly come!
     There is not a sunnier clime
       Than the love-lit winter home."

Amid the comforts of the fireside, and all its sweet companionships and
cheerful inspirations, there is something like the sense of a triumph
obtained over the hostilities of the season. Nature, which at other
times promotes the expansion of the feelings and contributes to the
enjoyments of man, seems here to have promulgated her fiat against their
indulgence; and there is a kind of consciousness of an inner world
created, in evasion of her law,--a tract won by the genius of the
affections from the domain of desolation, spots of sunshine planted by
the heart in the very bosom of shadow, a pillar of fire lit up in the
darkness. And thus the sensation of a respite from toil, the charms of
renewed companionship, the consciousness of a general sympathy of
enjoyment running along all the links of the social chain, and the
contrasts established within to the discomforts without, are all
components of that propitious feeling to which the religious spirit of
the season, and all its quaint and characteristic observances, make
their appeal.

There is, too (connected with these latter feelings, and almost
unacknowledged by the heart of man), another moral element of that
cheerful sentiment which has sprung up within it. It consists in the
prospect, even at this distant and gloomy period, of a coming spring.
This is peculiarly the season of looking forward. Already, as it were,
the infant face of the new year is perceived beneath the folds of the
old one's garment. The business of the present year has terminated, and
along the night which has succeeded to its season of labor have been set
up a series of illuminations, which, we know, will be extinguished only
that the business of another seed-time may begin.

Neither, amid all its dreary features, is the _natural_ season without
its own picturesque beauty, nor even entirely divested of all its summer
indications of a living loveliness, or all suggestions of an eternal
hope. Not only hath it the peculiar beauties of old age, but it hath
besides lingering traces of that beauty which old age hath not been able
wholly to extinguish, and which come finely in aid of the moral hints
and religious hopes of the season.

The former--the graces which are peculiar to the season itself--exist in
many a natural aspect and grotesque effect, which is striking both for
the variety it offers and for its own intrinsic loveliness.

    "We may find it in the wintry boughs, as they cross the cold blue sky,
     While soft on icy pool and stream the pencilled shadows lie,
     When we look upon their tracery, by the fairy frost-work bound,
     Whence the flitting red-breast shakes a shower of blossoms to
            the ground."

The white mantle which the earth occasionally puts on with the rapidity
of a spell, covering, in the course of a night and while we have slept,
the familiar forms with a sort of strangeness that makes us feel as if
we had awakened in some new and enchanted land; the fantastic forms
assumed by the drifting snow; the wild and fanciful sketching of old
winter upon the "frosty pane;" the icicles that depend like stalactites
from every projection, and sparkle in the sun like jewels of the most
brilliant water; and, above all, the feathery investiture of the trees
above alluded to, by which their minute tracery is brought out with a
richness shaming the carving of the finest chisel,--are amongst the
features which exhibit the inexhaustible fertility of Nature in the
production of striking and beautiful effects. Hear how one of our best
poetesses, Mary Howitt, sings of these graces:--

    "One silent night hath passed, and lo,
     How beautiful the earth is now!
     All aspect of decay is gone,
     The hills have put their vesture on,
     And clothed is the forest bough.

    "Say not 'tis an unlovely time!
     Turn to the wide, white waste thy view;
     Turn to the silent hills that rise
     In their cold beauty to the skies,
     And to those skies intensely blue.

       .     .     .     .     .     .     .

    "Walk now among the forest trees:
     Saidst thou that they were stripped and bare?
     Each heavy bough is bending down
     With snowy leaves and flowers,--the crown
     Which Winter regally doth wear.

    "'Tis well; thy summer garden ne'er
     Was lovelier, with its birds and flowers,
     Than is this silent place of snow,
     With feathery branches drooping low,
     Wreathing around thee shadowy bowers!"

While on the subject of the natural beauties of this season, we must
introduce our readers to some admirable verses which have been furnished
to us by our friend Mr. Stoddart, the author of that fine poem the
"Death-Wake," and in which its peculiar aspects are described with a
very graphic pen:


A WINTER LANDSCAPE.

    The dew-lark sitteth on the ice, beside the reedless rill;
    The leaf of the hawthorn flutters on the solitary hill;
    The wild lake weareth on its heart a cold and changed look,
    And meets, at the lip of its moon-lit marge, the spiritual brook.

    Idly basks the silver swan, near to the isle of trees,
    And to its proud breast come and kiss the billow and the breeze;
    They wash the eider as they play about the bird of grace,
    And boom, in the same slow mood, away, to the moveless mountain-base.

    The chieftain-deer, amid the pines, his antlered forehead shows,
    And scarcely are the mosses bent where that stately one arose;
    His step is as the pressure of a light beloved hand,
    And he looketh like a poet's dream in some enchanted land!

    A voice of Winter, on the last wild gust of Autumn borne,
    Is hurried from the hills afar, like the windings of a horn;
    And solemnly and heavily the silver birches groan,
    And the old ash waves his wizard hand to the dim, mysterious tone.

    And noiselessly, across the heaven, a gray and vapory shred
    Is wandering, fed by phantom clouds that one by one are led
    Out of the wide North, where they grow within the aged sea,
    And in their coils the yellow moon is laboring lazily!

    She throws them from her mystic urn, as they were beckoned back
    By some enchantress, working out her spells upon their track;
    Or gathers up their fleecy folds, and shapes them, as they go,
    To hang around her beautiful form a tracery of snow.

    Lo, Winter cometh!--and his hoar is heavy on the hill,
    And curiously the frostwork forms below the rimy rill;
    The birth of morn is a gift of pearl to the heath and willow-tree,
    And the green rush hangs o'er its water-bed, shining and silvery.

    From the calm of the lake a vapor steals its restless wreath away,
    And leaves not a crisp on the quiet tarn but the wake of the swan
            at play;
    The deer holds up the glistening heath, where his hoof is lightly
            heard,
    And the dew-lark circleth to his song,--sun-lost and lonely bird!

But the season hath other striking aspects of its own. Pleasant, says
Southey,--

                  "To the sobered soul,
     The silence of the wintry scene;
     When Nature shrouds her in her trance,
                  In deep tranquillity.

    "Not undelightful now to roam
     The wild heath sparkling on the sight;
     Not undelightful now to pace
                  The forest's ample rounds,

    "And see the spangled branches shine,
     And snatch the moss of many a hue,
     That varies the old tree's brown bark,
                  Or o'er the gray-stone spreads."

Mr. Southey might have mentioned, too,--as belonging to the same class
of effects with those produced by the mosses "of many a hue" that "vary
the old tree's brown bark,"--those members of the forest which retain
their dead and many tinted leaves till the ensuing spring, hanging
occasional wreaths of strange and fantastic beauty in the white tresses
of winter, together with the rich contrast presented by the red twigs of
the dog-wood amid the dark colors of the surrounding boughs. The starry
heavens, too, at this period of the year, present an occasional aspect
of extraordinary brilliancy; and the long winter nights are illustrated
by a pomp of illumination, presenting magnificent contrasts to the cold
and cheerless earth, and offering unutterable revelations at once to the
physical and mental eye.

Amongst the traces of a _former_ beauty not utterly extinguished, and
the suggestions of a summer feeling not wholly passed away, we have
those both of sight and scent and sound. The lark, "all independent of
the leafy spring," as Wordsworth says, has not long ceased to pour his
anthem through the sky. In propitious seasons, such as we have enjoyed
for some years past, he is almost a Christmas-carol singer. The
China-roses are with us still, and under proper management will stay
with us till the snowdrops come. So will the anemones and the
wallflowers; and the aconite may be won to come, long "before the
swallow dares, and take the winds of _January_ with beauty." The cold
air may be kept fragrant with the breath of the scented coltsfoot, and
the lingering perfume of the mignonette. Then we have rosemary, too,
"mocking the winter of the year with perfume,"--

               "Rosemary and rue, which keep
    Seeming and savor all the winter long."

"It looks," says Leigh Hunt, pleasantly, "as if we need have no winter,
if we choose, as far as flowers are concerned." "There is a story," he
adds, "in Boccaccio, of a magician who conjured up a garden in
winter-time. His magic consisted in his having a knowledge beyond his
time; and magic pleasures, so to speak, await on all who choose to
exercise knowledge after his fashion."

But what we would allude to more particularly here are the evergreens,
which, with their rich and clustering berries, adorn the winter season,
offering a provision for the few birds that still remain, and hanging a
faint memory of summer about the hedges and the groves. The misletoe
with its white berries, the holly (Virgil's acanthus) with its scarlet
berries and pointed leaves, the ivy whose berries are green, the
pyracanthus with its berries of deep orange, the arbutus exhibiting its
flowers and fruit upon adjacent boughs, the glossy laurel and the
pink-eyed laurestine (not to speak of the red berries of the May-bush,
the purple sloes of the blackthorn, or others which show their clusters
upon leafless boughs, nor of the evergreen trees,--the pine, the fur,
the cedar, or the cypress), are all so many pleasant remembrancers of
the past, and so many types to man of that which is imperishable in his
own nature. And it is probably both _because_ they are such
remembrancers of what the heart so much loves, and such types of what it
so much desires, that they are gathered about our doors and within our
homes at this period of natural decay and religious regeneration, and
mingle their picturesque forms and hopeful morals with all the mysteries
and ceremonies of the season.

[Illustration: COUNTRY CAROL SINGERS.--_Page 157._]



SIGNS OF THE SEASON.


WE have said that the coming festivities of the season "fling their
shadows" long before: the _avant-couriers_ of the old man are to be seen
advancing in all directions. At home and abroad, in town and in country,
in the remote farmstead and on the king's highway, we are met by the
symptoms of his approach, and the arrangements making for his reception.

We will not dwell here on the domestic operations which are so familiar
to all,--the ample provision for good cheer, which has long been making
in every man's home who can at any time afford to make good cheer at
all. We need not remind our town readers of the increased activity
visible in all the interior departments of each establishment, and the
apparent extent and complication of its foreign relations; the councils
held with the housekeeper and cook; the despatches to the butcher,
baker, poulterer, and confectioner, which are their consequence; and the
efficient state of preparation which is arising out of all these
energetic movements. To our country readers we need not dwell upon the
slaughter of fowls in the poultry-yard, and game in the field, or the
wholesale doings within doors for the manufacture of pastry of all
conceivable kinds and in all its conceivable forms. And to neither the
one nor the other is it necessary that we should speak of the packages,
in every shape and size, which both are getting ready, for the
interchange between friends of the commodities of their respective
positions. Here, however, the town has clearly the advantage in point of
gain, and the country in point of character,--the former having little
besides barrels of oysters and baskets of Billingsgate fish to furnish
to the country larders in return for the entire range of the products of
the dairy, farmyard, and game-field.

But however lightly we may allude to the other articles which enter into
the charge of the commissariat department, and have no distinctive
character, at this particular season, beyond their unimaginable
abundance, we are by no means at liberty, without a more special notice,
to pass over the mystery of MINCE-PIE! We speak not here of the _merits_
of that marvellous compound; because a dish which has maintained without
impeachment, since long before the days of honest old Tusser (who calls
these marvels shred-pies), the same supreme character which it holds
amongst the men of these latter days, may very well dispense with our
commendation; and every school-boy knows, from his own repeated
experience, the utter inadequacy of language to convey any notion of the
ineffable flavor of this unapproachable viand. The poverty of speech is
never so conspicuous as when even its richest forms are used for the
purpose of describing that which is utterly beyond its resources; and we
have witnessed most lamentable, although ludicrous, failures, on the
part of eloquent but imprudent men, in their ambitious attempts to give
expression to their sensations under the immediate influence of this
unutterable combination. It is therefore to other properties than those
which make their appeal to the palate that we must confine ourselves in
our mention of mince-pie.

The origin of this famous dish, like that of the heroic in all kinds and
classes, is involved in fable. By some it has been supposed, from the
Oriental ingredients which enter into its composition, to have a
reference (as probably had also the plum-porridge of those days) to the
offerings made by the wise men of the East; and it was anciently the
custom to make these pies of an oblong form, thereby representing the
manger in which, on that occasion, those sages found the infant Jesus.
Against this practice--which was of the same character with that of the
little image called the Yule Dough, or Yule Cake, formerly presented by
bakers to their customers at the anniversary of the Nativity--the
Puritans made a vehement outcry, as idolatrous; and certainly it
appears to us somewhat more objectionable than many of those which they
denounced, in the same category. Of course it was supported by the
Catholics with a zeal the larger part of which (as in most cases of
controversy where the passions are engaged) was derived from the
opposition of their adversaries; and the latter having pronounced the
mince-pie to be an abomination, the eating thereof was immediately
established as a test of orthodoxy by the former. Sandys mentions that
even when distressed for a comfortable meal they would refuse to partake
of this very tempting dish, when set before them, and mentions John
Bunyan when in confinement as an example. He recommends that under such
extreme circumstances they should be eaten with a protest, as might be
done by a lawyer in a similar case.

In a struggle like this, however, it is clear that the advocates of
mince-pie were likely to have the best of it, through the powerful
auxiliary derived to their cause from the savoriness of the dish itself.
The legend of the origin of eating roast-pig, which we have on the
authority of Charles Lamb, exhibits the rapid spread of that practice,
against the sense of its abomination, on the strength of the
irresistible appeals made to the palate by the _crackling_. And
accordingly, in the case of mince-pie we find that the delicious
compound has come down to our days, stripped of its objectionable forms
and more mystic meanings, from the moment when they ceased to be topics
of disputation, and is freely partaken of by the most rigid
Presbyterian, who raises "no question" thereon "for conscience' sake."

It may be observed, however, that relics of the more recondite virtues
ascribed to this dish by the Catholics, in the days of its sectarian
persecution, still exist in the superstitions which attach certain
privileges and promises to its consumption. In some places the form of
this superstition, we believe, is, that for every house in which a
mince-pie shall be eaten at the Christmas season, the eater shall enjoy
a happy month in the coming year. As, however, this version would limit
the consumption, as far as any _future_ benefit is attached to it, to
the insufficient number of twelve, we greatly prefer an edition of the
same belief which we have met with elsewhere, and which promises a happy
_day_ for every individual pie eaten during the same period,--thereby
giving a man a direct and prospective interest in the consumption of as
large a number out of three hundred and sixty-five as may happen to
agree with his inclination.

Leaving, however, those proceedings which are going on within our homes,
and of which the manufacture of mince-pies forms so important an
article, we must turn to the symptoms of the approaching holiday that
meet the eye at every turn which we make out of doors. He who will take
the king's highway in his search after these, planting himself on the
outside of a stage-coach, will have the greater number of such signs
brought under his observation in the progress of a journey which whirls
him through town and village, and by park and farmhouse.

The road is alive with travellers; and along its whole extent there is
an air of aimless bustle, if we may so express ourselves,--an appearance
of active idleness. No doubt he who shall travel that same road in the
days of hay-making or harvest will see as dense a population following
their avocations in the open air and swarming in the fields. But then at
those periods of labor the crowds are more widely scattered over the
face of the country, and each individual is earnestly engaged in the
prosecution of some positive pursuit, amid a silence scarcely broken by
the distant whistle or occasional song that comes faintly to the ear
through the rich sunny air. People are busier without being so bustling.
But now all men are in action, though all men's business seems
suspended. The population are gathered together in groups at the corners
of streets or about the doors of ale-houses, and the mingling voices of
the speakers and the sound of the merry laugh come sharp and ringing
through the clear frosty air. There is the appearance, every way, of a
season of transition. The only conspicuous evidence of the business of
life going forward with a keen and steady view to its ordinary objects,
exists in the abundant displays made at the windows of every
shopkeeper, in every village along the road. Vehicles of all kinds are
in motion; stage-coach, post-chaise, and private carriage are alike
filled with travellers passing in all directions to their several places
of assembling, and give glimpses of faces bright with the re-awakened
affections that are radiating on all sides to common centres. Everywhere
hearts are stirred and pulses quickened by pleasant anticipations; and
many a current of feelings which for the rest of the year has wandered
only in the direction of the world's miry ways and been darkened by its
pollutions, met by the memories of the season and turned back from its
unpleasing course, is flowing joyously back by every highway into the
sweet regions of its pure and untainted spring.

[Illustration: COMING HOME FROM SCHOOL.--_Page 163._]

But of all wayfarers who are journeying towards the haunts of Christmas,
who so happy as the emancipated school-boy? And of all vehicles that are
carrying contributions of mirth to that general festival, what vehicle
is so richly stored therewith as the post-chaise that holds a group of
these young travellers? The glad day which has been the subject of
speculation so long before, and has been preceded by days which, in
their imaginary calendar, are beyond any question the very longest days
of all the year, has at length arrived, after seeming as if it never
would arrive, and the long restrained and hourly increasing tide of
expectation has at length burst its barriers, and is rushing forward
with no little noise, into the sea of fruition. "_Eja! quid silemus?_"
says the well-known breaking-up song of the Winchester boys; and the
sentiment therein expressed is wide awake (as everything must be, on
this morning, that lies within any reasonable distance of their voices)
in the breast of every school-boy, at all schools.

    "Appropinquat ecce! felix
       Hora gaudiorum,
     Post grave tedium,
     Advenit omnium
       Meta petita laborum.
         Domum, domum, dulce domum!
         Domum, domum, dulce domum!
         Dulce, dulce, dulce domum!
         Dulce domum resonemus.

    "Musa! libros mitte, fessa;
       Mitte pensa dura,
     Mitte negotium,
     Jam datur otium,
       Mea mittito cura!
         Domum, domum, etc.

       .     .     .     .     .     .     .

    "Heus, Rogere, fer caballos;
       Eja nunc eamus,
     Limen amabile,
     Matris et oscula,
       Suaviter et repetamus
         Domum, domum, etc.

    "Concinamus ad Penates,
       Vox et audiatur;
     Phosphore! quid jubar,
     Segnius emicans,
       Gaudia nostra moratur.
         Domum, domum, etc."

And away they go well inclined to act up to the injunctions of the
ancient song. "_Concinamus, O Sodales!_" Our readers will do well on the
present occasion to translate the verb by its English equivalent,--to
shout. "_Vox et audiatur!_"--small doubt of that! That deaf-looking old
woman by the way-side must be "very deaf indeed" if the sounds of that
merriment have failed at least to reach her ears,--though they may get
no further; for she looks like one of those in whom all the avenues by
which mirth reaches the heart, where they have not been closed at their
external outlets by the infirmities of age, are choked up within by the
ruins of that heart itself. But the entire progress of these glad hearts
to-day is in the nature of a triumph, and all objects in its course are
ministers to their unreflecting mirth. Theirs is the blessed age, and
this its most privileged day, when the spirit can extract from all
things the chyle of cheerfulness. That urchin who is flinging alms (a
most gracious act in childhood!) is doing so to the sound of his merry
neighbor's trumpet; and yet the act performed and the duty remembered,
amid all the heydey and effervescence of the spirits, has not lost its
gracefulness for the frolicsome mood by which it is attended. There are
men in this world who dispense their charities to the flourish of _their
own_ trumpets; and though they are practised performers on that
instrument, and play with considerable skill, the effect is unpleasing
and the act a mockery. Away go the light-hearted boys! away past the
aged and the poor,--as happiness has long since done, and the happy have
long continued to do!--awaking the shrill echoes of the road and all its
adjacent fields with the sound of their revelry. Every school-boy knows
the programme. Flags flying, horns blowing, racing against rival
chaises, taunts from the foremost, cheers from the hindmost, all sorts
of practical jokes upon each other and upon all they meet and all they
pass, and above all, the loud, ringing laugh,--the laugh of boyhood, so
unlike all other laughter, that comes out clear and distinct, direct
from the heart, stopping nowhere on its way, not pausing to be
questioned by the judgment nor restrained by the memory, presenting no
hollowness nor flatness to the nicest attention, betraying no under-tone
to the finest ear, giving true and unbroken "echoes to the seat where
_mirth_ is throned," born spontaneously of that spirit, and excited so
often by causes too minute for older eyes to see. And it is in this very
causelessness that consists the spell of childhood's laughter, and the
secret of youth's unmingled joy. We seldom begin to seek _reasons_ for
being gay till we have had some for being grave; and the search after
the former is very apt to bring us upon more of the latter. There are
tares among that wheat. The moment we commence to distrust our
light-heartedness, it begins to evade us. From the day when we think it
necessary to reason upon our enjoyments, to philosophize upon our
mirth, to analyze our gladness, their free and unmingled character is
gone. The toy is taken to pieces to see of what it was composed, and can
no more be put together in the same perfect form. They who have entered
upon the paths of knowledge, or gone far into the recesses of
experience, like the men of yore who ventured to explore the cave of
Trophonius, may perhaps find something higher and better than the
light-heartedness they lose, but they smile never more as they smiled of
old. The fine, clear instrument of the spirit that we bring with us from
heaven is liable to injury from all that acts upon it here; and the
string that has once been broken or disordered, repair it as we may,
_never_ again gives out the precise tone which it did before. The old
man,--nay, even the young man,--let him be as merry as he may, and laugh
as long and loudly as he will, never laughs as the school-boy laughs.

But of all this, and all the slumbering passions yet to be awakened in
those young breasts, and of many a grief to come, there is no token to
darken the joy of to-day. The mighty pleasures towards which they are
hastening have as yet never "broken the word of promise to their hope."
The postilions are of their party, and even he with the bottle-nose, who
seems to be none of the youngest, is a boy for the nonce. The very
horses appear to have caught the spirit of the occasion, and toss their
heads and lay their haunches to the ground and fling out their forelegs
as if they drew the car of Momus. The village boys return them shout for
shout, fling up their hats as the triumph approaches, and follow it till
their breath fails. The older passer-by returns their uproarious salute,
taking no umbrage at their mischievous jokes and impish tricks, and
turning, as the sounds of the merry voices die in the distance, to a
vision of the days when he too was a boy, and an unconscious rehearsal
of the half-forgotten song of "Dulce, dulce domum!"

And then the "limen amabile," and the "matris oscula," and the
"Penates," towards which they are advancing; the yearning hearts that
wait within those homes to clasp them; the bright eyes that are even now
looking out from windows to catch the first token of "their coming, and
look brighter when they come;" the quiet halls that shall ring to-night
to their young voices; and the lanes and alleys whose echoes they shall
awaken to-morrow, and still more loudly when the ice comes; and, above
all, the Christmas revelries themselves! The whole is one crowded scene
of enjoyment, across whose long extent the happy school-boy has as yet
caught no glimpse of that _black Monday_ which forms the opposite and
distant portal of this haunted time.

Amongst the signs of the time that are conspicuous upon the roads the
traveller whose journeyings bring him towards those which lead into the
metropolis will be struck by the droves of cattle that are making their
painful way up to the great mart for this great festival. But a still
more striking, though less noisy, Christmas symptom forms a very amusing
object to him who leaves London by such of its highways as lead
eastward. There is little exaggeration in the accompanying picture of a
Lynn or Bury coach on its town-ward journey with its freight of turkeys
at the Christmas season. Nay, as regards the freightage itself, the
artist has kept himself within bounds. Many a time have we seen a
Norfolk coach with its hampers piled on the roof and swung from beneath
the body, and its birds depending, by every possible contrivance, from
every part from which a bird could be made to hang. Nay, we believe it
is not unusual with the proprietors, at this season, to refuse inside
passengers of the human species, in favor of these Oriental gentry, who
"pay better;" and on such occasions of course they set at defiance the
restriction which limits them to carrying "four insides." Within and
without, the coaches are crammed with the bird of Turkey; and a
gentleman town-ward bound, who presented himself at a Norwich
coach-office at such a time, to inquire the "fare to London," was pertly
answered by the bookkeeper, "Turkeys." Our readers will acquit us of
exaggeration when we tell them that Mr. Hone, in his "Every-Day Book,"
quotes from an historical account of Norwich an authentic statement of
the amount of turkeys which were transmitted from that city to London
between a Saturday morning and the night of Sunday, in the December of
1793, which statement gives the number as one thousand seven hundred,
the weight as nine tons, two hundredweight, and two pounds, and the
value as £680. It is added that in the two following days these were
followed by half as many more. We are unable to furnish the present
statistics of the matter; but in forty years which have elapsed since
that time the demand, and of course the supply, must have greatly
increased; and it is probable that the coach-proprietors find it
convenient to put extra carriages on the road for these occasions.

[Illustration: NORFOLK COACH AT CHRISTMAS.--_Page 170._]

In making the annexed sketch we presume that Mr. Seymour must have had
in mind, and intended to illustrate by "modern instances," that class of
"wise saws" such as "Birds of a feather flock together," "Tell me the
company, and I will tell you the man," and others which tend generally
to show that men are apt to catch the hues of surrounding objects, and
take the features of their associates. If this was not his design, we
have only the alternative conclusion, that he had drawn turkeys till he
could draw nothing else, and till his best efforts at representing "the
human face divine" resulted in what the Scotch call a "bubbly-jock."
Some poet, in describing the perfections of his mistress's countenance,
speaks of it as conveying the impression that she "had looked on heaven,
and caught its beauty." Our friend the guard of this coach seems to
have looked on those turkeys of which he has charge till he has "caught
their beauty." It is impossible to conceive that the breath which he is
pouring into that horn of his should issue in any other form of sound
than that of a gobble. The coachman is clearly a turkey in disguise; and
the old-looking figure that sits behind him, with something like a
sausage round its neck, is probably his father. As for the swan with two
necks that floats on the panel of the coach-door, it is a
strange-looking bird at any time, but looks considerably more strange in
its present situation. It is unquestionably out of place, and forms no
fitting cognizance for a Norfolk coach at Christmas time.

Norfolk must be a noisy county. There must be a "pretty considerable
deal" of gabble towards the month of November in that English Turkistan.
But what a silence must have fallen upon its farmyards since Christmas
has come round! Turkeys are indisputably born to be killed. That is an
axiom. It is the end of their training, as it ought to be (and, in one
sense, certainly _is_) of their desires. And such being the destiny of
this bird, it may probably be an object of ambition with a respectable
turkey to fulfil its fate at the period of this high festival. Certain
it is that at no other time can it attain to such dignities as belong to
the turkey who smokes on the well-stored table of a Christmas
dinner,--the most honored dish of all the feast. Something like an
anxiety for this promotion is to be inferred from the breathless haste
of the turkey of which our artist has here given us a sketch, in its
pursuit of the coach which has started for London without it. The
picture is evidently a portrait. There is an air of verisimilitude in
the eager features, and about the action altogether, of the bird, which
stamps it genuine. In its anxiety it has come off without even waiting
to be killed; and at the rate after which it appears to be travelling,
is, we think, likely enough to come up with a heavily laden coach. We
hope, however, that it is not in pursuit of the particular coach which
we have seen on its way to the "Swan with two Necks," because we verily
believe there is no room on _that_ conveyance for a single additional
turkey, even if it should succeed in overtaking it.

[Illustration: TOO LATE FOR THE COACH.]

One of the most striking signs of the season, and which meets the eye
in all directions, is that which arises out of the ancient and still
familiar practice of adorning our houses and churches with evergreens
during the continuance of this festival. The decorations of our
mantel-pieces, and in many places of our windows, the wreaths which
ornament our lamps and Christmas candles, the garniture of our tables,
are alike gathered from the hedges and winter gardens; and in the
neighborhood of every town and village the traveller may meet with some
such sylvan procession as is here represented, or some group of boys
returning from the woods laden with their winter greenery, and like the
sturdy ambassador in the plate, engaged in what we have heard
technically called "bringing home Christmas" This symptom of the
approaching festivity is mentioned by Gay in his "Trivia":--

    "When Rosemary and Bays, the poet's crown,
     Are bawl'd in frequent cries through all the town,
     Then judge the festival of Christmass near,--
     Christmass, the joyous period of the year!
     Now with bright holly all the temples strow;
     With Lawrel green, and sacred Misletoe."

[Illustration: BRINGING HOME CHRISTMAS.--_Page 173._]

The practice of these decorations, which is recommended to modern times
by its own pleasantness and natural beauty, is of very high antiquity,
and has been ascribed by various writers to various sources. They who
are desirous of tracing a Christian observance to a Christian cause
remind us of those figurative expressions in the prophets which speak
of the Messiah as the "Branch of righteousness," etc., and describe by
natural allusions the fertility which should attend his coming. "The
Lord shall comfort Zion," says Isaiah: "he will comfort all her waste
places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like
the garden of the Lord." Again, "The glory of Lebanon shall come unto
thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the
place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious."
And Nehemiah, on an occasion of rejoicing, orders the people, after the
law of Moses, to "go forth unto the mount and fetch olive branches, and
pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of
thick trees," and to make booths thereof, "every one upon the roof of
his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God,"
and in the streets; "and all the congregation of them that were come
again out of the captivity" sat under these booths, "and there was very
great gladness." A writer in the "Gentleman's Magazine" asks if this
custom may not be referred, as well as that of the palms on Palm Sunday,
to that passage in the Scripture account of Christ's entry into
Jerusalem which states that the multitude "cut down branches from the
trees, and strawed them in the way."

The practice, however, of introducing flowers and branches amongst the
tokens of festivity seems, and very naturally, to have existed
universally and at all times. It was, as we know, a pagan manifestation
of rejoicing and worship, and is forbidden on that express ground in
early councils of the Christian Church. Hone, in his "Every-Day Book,"
quotes Polydore Virgil to the effect that "trymming of the temples with
hangynges, flowres, boughes, and garlondes, was taken of the heathen
people, whiche decked their idols and houses with suche array;" and it
came under the list of abominations denounced by the Puritans for the
same reason. The practice was also in use amongst the nations both of
Gothic and Celtic origin; and Brand quotes from Dr. Chandler's "Travels
in Greece" a very beautiful superstition, mentioned as the reason of
this practice, amongst the votaries of Druidism. "The houses," he says,
"were decked with evergreens in December, that the sylvan spirits might
repair to them and remain unnipped with frost and cold winds until a
milder season had renewed the foliage of their darling abodes."

In England the practice, whencesoever derived, has existed from the very
earliest days, and, in spite of outcry and prohibition, has come down in
full vigor to our own. In former times, as we learn from Stow, in his
"Survey of London," not only were our houses and churches decorated with
evergreens, but also the conduits, standards, and crosses in the
streets; and in our own day they continue to form a garniture not only
of our temples and our houses, but constitute a portion of the striking
display made at this festive season in our markets and from the windows
of our shops. Holly forms a decoration of the shambles, and every tub
of butter has a sprig of rosemary in its breast.

The plants most commonly in use for this purpose appear to have
generally been the holly, the ivy, the laurel, the rosemary, and the
mistletoe; although the decorations were by no means limited to these
materials. Brand expresses some surprise at finding cypress included in
the list, as mentioned in the tract called "Round about our Coal-Fire,"
and observes that he "should as soon have expected to have seen the
_yew_ as the cypress used on this joyful occasion." The fact, however,
is that yew _is_ frequently mentioned amongst the Christmas decorations,
as well as box, pine, fir, and indeed the larger part of the Christmas
plants which we have enumerated in a former chapter. The greater number
of these appear to have been so used, not on account of any mystic
meanings supposed to reside therein, but simply for the sake of their
greenery or of their rich berries. Stow speaks of the houses being
decked with "whatsoever the year afforded to be green;" and Sandys
observes that "at present great variety is observed in decorating our
houses and buildings, and many flowers are introduced that were unknown
to our ancestors, but whose varied colors add to the cheerful effect; as
the chrysanthemum, satin-flower, etc., mingling with the red berry of
the holly and the mystic mistletoe. In the West of England," he adds,
"the myrtle and laurustinum form a pleasing addition." There is a very
beautiful custom which we find mentioned in connection with the subject
of evergreens as existing at this season of the year in some parts of
Germany and Sicily. A large bough is set up in the principal room, the
smaller branches of which are hung with little presents suitable to the
different members of the household. "A good deal of innocent mirth and
spirit of courtesy," it is observed, "is produced by this custom."

Herrick, however (a poet amid whose absurd conceits and intolerable
affectation there are samples of the sweetest versification and touches
of the deepest pathos, and who amongst a great deal that is liable to
heavier objections still, has preserved many curious particulars of old
ceremonies and obsolete superstitions), carries this custom of adorning
our houses with evergreens over the entire year, and assigns to each
plant its peculiar and appropriate season. To Christmas he appoints
those which we have stated to be most commonly used on that occasion,
but insists upon a change of decoration on the eve of Candlemas Day:--

    "Down with the rosemary, and so
     Down with the baies and misletoe;
     Down with the holly, ivie, all
     Wherewith you drest the Christmas hall;
     That so the superstitious find
     Not one least branch there left behind;"

and he urges the maids to the careful performance of this charge by the
following threat:--

    "For look! how many leaves there be
     Neglected there, maids, trust to me,
     So many goblins you shall see."

The plant by which he orders these to be replaced for Candlemas Day is
box, whose turn is to continue--

    "Until the dancing Easter Day
     Or Easter's Eve appeare."

Then the box is to make way for "the crisped yew;" which is to be
succeeded at Whitsuntide by birch and the flowers of the season; and
these again are to yield to the--

    "Green rushes, then, and sweetest bents,
     With cooler oken boughs;"

whose reign continues till the period again comes round of preparation
for Christmas. We believe that it is still usual in many parts of
England to suffer the Christmas greens to remain in the windows of our
churches, and sometimes of our houses, until Candlemas Eve.

Of those plants, then, which are considered as containing meanings that
make them appropriate decorations for the Christmas-tide, or which have
for any reason been peculiarly devoted to that season, the laurel, or
bay, may be dismissed in a few words. Since the days of the ancient
Romans this tree has been at all times dedicated to all purposes of
joyous commemoration, and its branches have been used as the emblems of
peace and victory and joy. Of course its application is obvious to a
festival which includes them all, which celebrates "peace on earth,"
"glad tidings of great joy," and a triumph achieved over the powers of
evil and the original curse by the coming of the Saviour.

We may add that, besides forming a portion of the household decorations,
it is usual in some places to fling branches and sprigs of laurel on the
Christmas fire, and seek for omens amid the curling and crackling of its
leaves:--

    "When laurell spirts i' th' fire, and when the hearth
     Smiles to itselfe and guilds the roofe with mirth;
     When up the Thyrse is rais'd, and when the sound
     Of sacred orgies flyes around, around,"

says Herrick. At the two English universities the windows of the college
chapels are still carefully decked with laurel at the season of
Christmas.

The holly is a plant of peculiar veneration at this period of the
year,--so much so as to have acquired to itself by a popular metonymy
the name of the season itself, being vulgarly called "Christmas." It is
no doubt recommended to the general estimation in which it is held by
the picturesque forms of its dark, glossy leaves and the brilliant
clusters of its rich red berries. There is in the Harleian Manuscripts a
very striking carol of so remote a date as the reign of Henry VI., which
is quoted by most of the writers on this subject, and gives a very
poetical statement of the respective claims of this plant and of the ivy
to popular regard. The inference from the second and fourth verses
(taken in connection with the authorities which place it amongst the
plants used for the Christmas ornaments) would seem to be, that while
the former was employed in the decorations within doors, the latter was
confined to the exteriors of buildings. Mr. Brand, however, considers
those passages to allude to its being used as a vintner's sign and
infers from others of the verses that it was also amongst the evergreens
employed at funerals. It runs thus:--

    "Nay, Ivy! nay, it shall not be, I wys;
     Let Holy hafe the maystry, as the manner ys.

    "Holy stond in the halle, fayre to behold;
     Ivy stond without the dore: she ys ful sore a cold.
                                  Nay, Ivy! etc.

    "Holy and hys mery men they dawnsyn and they syng.
     Ivy and hur maydenys they wepyn and they wryng.
                                  Nay, Ivy! etc.

    "Ivy hath a lyve; she laghtyt with the cold:
     So mot they all hafe that wyth Ivy hold.
                                  Nay, Ivy! etc.

    "Holy hat berys as rede as any rose,
     The foster the hunters kepe hem from the doos.
                                  Nay, Ivy! etc.

    "Ivy hath berys as blake as any slo;
     Ther com the oule and ete hym as she goo.
                                  Nay, Ivy! etc.

    "Holy hath byrdys a ful fayre flok,
     The Nyghtyngale, the Poppingy, the gayntyl Lavyrok.
                   Nay, Ivy! etc.

    "Good Ivy, what byrdys ast thou?
     Non but the howlet that kreye 'How, how!'
             Nay, Ivy! nay, hyt shal not, etc."

We had some thoughts of modernizing the orthography, and very slightly
the diction, of this curious old ballad; but it reads best in its own
quaint garb, and even those of our friends who are not in the habit of
perusing ancient writings will find scarcely any difficulty in making it
out.

The rosemary, besides its rich fragrance, and probably _because_
thereof, was supposed to possess many occult virtues, and was used for
the sake of one or other of them on occasions both of rejoicing and of
mourning. It was believed to clear the head, to strengthen the memory,
and to make touching appeals to the heart. For these reasons it was
borne both at weddings and at funerals. Herrick says:--

    "Grow for two ends, it matters not at all,
     Be 't for my bridal or my burial."

"There's rosemary," says Ophelia; "that's for remembrance: pray you,
love, remember;" and the custom of decking the corpse with this flower,
as well as that of flinging its sprigs into the grave, would naturally
spring out of this touching superstition. Its presence at bridals would
seem to suggest that it was dedicated to hope as well as to memory. We
have in Shakspeare's play of "Romeo and Juliet" allusions to the use of
this herb on both of these important but very different occasions, which
allusions are affecting from the application of both to the same young
girl. The first, which refers to the joyous celebration, occurs in an
interview between Romeo and the Nurse of Juliet, in which arrangements
are making for the secret marriage, where the garrulous old woman
observes, as hinting at Juliet's willingness, "She hath the prettiest
sententious of it, of you and rosemary, that it would do you good to
hear it." The second is in that scene in which Juliet is supposed to be
dead:

    "_Friar._ Come, is the bride ready to go to church?
     _Capulet._ Ready to go, but never to return!"

And is inserted amongst the holy father's exhortations to resignation:--

    "Dry up your tears, and stick your rosemary
     On this fair corse; and, as the custom is,
     In all her best array bear her to church."

Independently of the beautiful suggestion to remembrance which is made
by its enduring perfume, that precious perfume itself would recommend
this herb, for reasons less fine, as "strewings fitt'st for graves." The
fact of its being in bloom at this season would naturally introduce the
rosemary, with all its fine morals, into the Christmas celebrations;
and such customs as that which prescribed that the wassail-bowl should
be stirred with a sprig of this plant before it went round amongst
friends, seem to have a very elegant reference to its secret virtues
("that's for remembrance," perhaps), and suggest that the revellings of
the season in those old times were mingled with the best and most
refined feelings of our nature.

But the mistletoe, the mystic mistletoe, where is the man whose
school-boy days are gone by, in whom that word conjures up no merry
memories?

"Oh, the mistletoe-bough!" who hath not, at the name, thronging visions
of sweet faces that looked sweetest in those moments of their startled
beauty beneath the pendent bough! If the old spells with which
superstition has invested the mistletoe have lost some of their power
over me, it hath now another, which in earlier days I knew not of,--the
power to restore the distant and to raise the dead. I am to laugh no
more as I have laughed of old beneath the influence of that mystic
cognizance of the gay Christmas-tide; but even now as I write thereof,
look in upon my heart bright portraits, traced with a skill which no
mortal pencil shall achieve,--faces on which the earth hath long lain,
and others from whom the wide spaces of the world have separated me for
many a weary year; and, heavier far, some to whom _unkindness_ hath made
me too long a stranger! There they rise and stand, one by one, beneath
the merry snare, each with the heightened beauty on her cheek, which is
the transient gift of the sacred bough!

O M----! how very fair is thine image in the eye of memory, and how has
thy going away changed all things for me! The bright and the beautiful
lie still about,--still bright and beautiful even to me,--but in another
manner than when thou wert here. All things are tinged with thy loss.
All fair things have a look, and all sweet sounds a tone, of mourning
since thou leftest me. How long it seems, as if ages, instead of years,
of the grave had grown between us, as if, indeed, I had known thee in
some former and far-removed state of being! I do not love to think of
thee as dead, I strive to think of thee rather as of one whom I have
left behind in the quiet valley of our youth and our love,--from whom I
have wandered forth and lost my way amid the mazes of the world. But
where is the clew that should lead me back to thee? There may have been
fairer (sweeter never) things than thou in this fair world, but my heart
could never be made to believe or understand it. Had I known thee only
in that world, I might not so have marked thy beauty; but thou wert with
me when the world left me. In the flood of the sunshine, when a thousand
birds are about us, we go upon our way with a sense that there is melody
around, but singling perhaps no one note to take home to the heart and
make a worship of. But the one bird that sings to us in the dim and
silent night--oh! none but they on whom the night has fallen can know
how dear its song becomes, filling with its music all the deserted
mansions of the lonely soul. But the bird is dead, the song is hushed,
and the houses of my spirit are empty and silent and desolate!

And thou whom the grave hath not hidden, nor far distance removed, from
whom I parted as if it were but yesterday, and yet of whom I have
already learned to think as of one separated from me by long years of
absence and death, as if it were very long since I had beheld thee,--as
if I gazed upon thee from a far distance across the lengthened and
dreary alleys of the valley of the dead! Physically speaking, thou art
still within my reach; and yet art thou to me as if the tomb or the
cloister had received thee, and made of thee (what the world or the
grave makes of all things we have loved) a dream of the night, a phantom
of the imagination, an angel of the memory, a creation of the hour of
shadows! Whatever may be thy future fortunes, however thy name may
hereafter be borne to my mortal ear, my heart will ever refuse to
picture _thee_ but as one who died in her youth!

And _thou_!--thou too art there, with thy long fair hair and that harp
of thine which was so long an ark of harmony for me. "Alas! we had been
friends in youth." But _all_ things bring _thee_ back, and I am haunted
yet, and shall be through the world, by the airs which thou wert wont to
sing me long ago. I remember that even in those days, at times, in the
silent night, when broken snatches of melodies imperfectly remembered
stole through the chambers of my heart,--ever in the sweet tones in
which it had learned to love them,--I have asked myself if the ties that
bound us might ever be like those passing and half-forgotten melodies;
if the time could ever come when they should be like an old song learned
in life's happier day, and whose memory has been treasured, to make us
weep in the years when the heart has need to be soothed by weeping; if
there would ever be a day when thy name might be sounded in mine ear as
the name of a stranger! And that day has long since come,--

    "For whispering tongues will poison truth."

How truly may we be said to live but in the past and in the future,--to
have our hearts made up of memory and of hope, for which the present
becomes, hour after hour, more and more of a void! And alas! is it not
true, as a consequence, that the more they are occupied with memory, the
less room have they for hope? And thus the one is ever gaining upon the
other, and the dark waters of memory are hourly spreading upon that
shore where hope had room to build her edifices and to play about them,
till at length they cover all, and hope, having "no rest for the sole of
her foot," flies forward to a higher and a better shore!

And such are my visions of the mistletoe; these are amongst the spirits
that rise up to wait upon my memory,--"they and the other spirits" of
the mystic bough! But brighter fancies has that charmed branch for many
of our readers, and merrier spirits hide amid its leaves. Many a
pleasant tale could we tell of the mistletoe-bough which might amuse our
readers more than the descriptions to which we are confined, if the
limits of our volume would permit. But already our space is scarcely
sufficient for our purpose. We think we can promise our readers in
another volume a series of tales connected with the traditions and
superstitions which are detailed in the present, and which may serve as
illustrations of the customs of the Christmas-tide.

Some of the names by which this remarkable plant were formerly called
are, "misselden," "misseldine," and, more commonly, "missel." Old Tusser
tells us that,--

    "If snow do continue, sheep hardly that fare,
     Crave mistle and ivy;"

and Archdeacon Nares says "the missel-thrush" is so designated "from
feeding on its berries." From the generality of the examples in which
this plant is mentioned by the name of "missel," it is suggested to us,
by Mr. Crofton Croker that the additional syllable given to the name
now in common use is a corruption of the old _tod_, and that mistletoe,
or mistletod, implies a _bush_, or bunch, of missel, such as is commonly
hung up at Christmas. He quotes in support of this suggestion the
corresponding phrase of "ivy-tod," which occurs frequently in the
writings of the Elizabethan age. If this be so, the expression "the
mistletoe-bough" includes a tautology; but as it is popularly used, we
retain it for the instruction of such antiquarians of remote future
times as may consult our pages for some account of the good old customs
which are disappearing so fast, and may fail to reach their day.

That this plant was held in veneration by the pagans, has been inferred
from a passage in Virgil's description of the descent into the infernal
regions. That passage is considered to have an allegorical reference to
some of the religious ceremonies practised amongst the Greeks and
Romans, and a comparison is therein drawn between the golden bough of
the infernal regions, and what is obviously the misletoe:--

    "Quale solet silvis brumali frigore _viscum_
     Fronde virere nova, quod non sua seminat arbos,
     Et croceo fetu teretis circumdare truncos," etc.

The reference is given by Mr. Christie in his "Enquiry into the Ancient
Greek Game" of Palamedes; and he mentions likewise the respect in which
this plant was held by the Gothic as well as the Celtic nations. Sandys
furnishes a legend from the Edda in proof of the extraordinary qualities
ascribed to it by the former. Amongst the Celtic nations it is well
known to have been an object of great veneration, and the ceremony of
collecting it by the Druids against the festival of the winter solstice
was one of high solemnity. It was cut by the prince of the Druids
himself, and with a golden sickle. It was said that those only of the
oaks were sacred to the Druids which had the mistletoe upon them, and
that the reverence of the people towards the priests, as well as their
estimation of the mistletoe, proceeded in a great measure from the cures
which the former effected by means of that plant. Medicinal properties,
we believe, are still ascribed to it, and it was not very long ago
deemed efficacious in the subduing of convulsive disorders. Sir John
Colbatch, in his dissertation concerning it, observes that this
beautiful plant must have been designed by the Almighty "for further and
more noble purposes than barely to feed thrushes, or to be hung up
surreptitiously in houses to drive away evil spirits." Against the
latter it appears to have been used as a charm up to the last century.

Its introduction into the Christian festival might therefore be
considered appropriate as emblematic of the conquest obtained over the
spirits of darkness by the event of the Nativity; and perhaps its
supposed healing properties might be deemed to recommend it further, as
a symbol of the moral health to which man was restored from the original
corruption of his nature, and a fitting demonstration of the joy which
hailed the "Sun of Righteousness" that had arisen, "with _healing_ in
his wings."

Notwithstanding all this, however, Brand is of opinion that its heathen
origin should exclude it at all events from the decorations of our
churches, and quotes a story told him by an old sexton at Teddington, in
Middlesex, of the clergyman of that place having observed this profane
plant intermingled with the holly and ivy which adorned the church, and
ordered its immediate removal. Washington Irving, who has studied old
English customs and manners with sincere regard, introduces a similar
rebuke from the learned parson to his unlearned clerk, in his account of
the Christmas spent by him at Bracebridge Hall.

[Illustration: THE MISTLETOE BOUGH.--_Page 191._]

The reverence of the mistletoe among the Ancient Britons appears,
however, to have been limited to that which grew upon the oak; whereas
the _Viscum album_, or common mistletoe,--the sight of whose pearly
berries brings the flush into the cheek of the maiden of modern
days,--may be gathered besides from the old apple-tree, the hawthorn,
the lime-tree, and the Scotch or the silver fir. Whether there remain
any traces of the old superstitions which elevated it into a moral or a
medical amulet,--beyond that which is connected with the custom
alluded to in the opening of our remarks upon this plant, and
represented, by our artist here,--we know not. We should, however, be
very sorry to see any light let in amongst us which should fairly rout a
belief connected with so agreeable a privilege as this. That privilege,
as all our readers know, consists in the right to kiss any female who
may be caught under the mistletoe-bough,--and, we may hope, will
continue, for its own pleasantness, even if the superstition from which
it springs should be finally lost. This superstition arose, clearly
enough, out of the old mystic character of the plant in question, and
erects it into a charm, the neglect of which exposes to the imminent
danger of all the evils of old-maidenism. For, according to Archdeacon
Nares, the tradition is, "that the maid who was not kissed under it, at
Christmas, would not be married in that year,"--by which, we presume,
the Archdeacon means in the following year. Accordingly, a branch of
this parasitical plant was hung (formerly with great state, but now it
is generally suspended with much secrecy) either from the centre of the
roof, or over the door,--and we recommend this latter situation to our
readers, both as less exposed to untimely observation, and because every
maiden who joins the party must of necessity do so by passing under it.
We learn from Brand that the ceremony was not duly performed unless a
berry was plucked off with each kiss. This berry, it is stated by other
authorities, was to be presented for good luck to the maiden kissed;
and Washington Irving adds that "when the berries are all plucked, the
privilege ceases." If this be so, it behooves the maidens of a household
to take good care that the branch provided for the occasion shall be as
well furnished with these pearly tokens as the feast is likely to be
with candidates for the holy state of matrimony. The practice is still
of very common observance in kitchens and servants' halls, particularly
in the country. But, as we have hinted, we have met with it (and so, we
dare say, have most of our readers) in higher scenes; and many a merry
laugh have we heard ring from beneath the mistletoe-bough. There are
lips in the world that we would gladly meet there in this coming season.

Another of the symptoms of the approaching season which has, at least to
us, a very pleasing effect, consists in the bursts of solemn minstrelsy
by which we are aroused from our slumbers in the still hour of the
winter nights, or which, failing to break our sleep, mingle with our
dreams, leading us into scenes of enchantment, and filling them with
unearthly music. This midnight minstrelsy, whether it comes in the shape
of human voices, hallowing the night by the chanting of the Christmas
carol, or breaks upon the silence of the mid-watches from the mingling
instruments of those wandering spirits of harmony, the waits, has in
each case its origin in the _Gloria in Excelsis_,--the song with which
the angels hailed the birth of the Redeemer in the fields near
Bethlehem. "As soon," says Jeremy Taylor, "as these blessed choristers
had sung their Christmas carol, and taught the Church a hymn to put into
her offices forever on the anniversary of this festivity, the angels
returned into heaven." Accordingly, these nocturnal hymns, although they
spread over the entire period of Advent, grow more and more fervent and
frequent as the season approaches, and the night which ushers in the
great day itself is filled throughout all its watches with the continued
sounds of sacred harmony. How beautiful is the effect given to this
music by this consideration of its meaning and its cause! Many and many
a time have we been awakened by the melody of the waits when

                  "The floor of heaven
    _Was_ thick inlaid with patines of bright gold,"--

and have lain and listened to their wild minstrelsy, its solemn swells
and "dying falls" kept musical by the distance and made holy by the
time, till we have felt amid all those influences as if it were

                  "No mortal business, nor no sound
    That the earth owes,"

and could have fancied that the "morning stars" were again singing, as
of old they "sang together for joy," and that the sounds of their far
anthem came floating to the earth. This sort of fancy has occurred over
and over again to him who has looked out from his bed upon a sky full of
stars, and listened at the same time to invisible and distant music,
under the holy impressions of the season. Shakspeare has helped us to
this feeling, perhaps, as we can trace his influence upon _all_ our
feelings, and upon none more than the most sacred or the most solemn:--

    "There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st,
     But in his motion like an angel sings,
     Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubims;
     Such harmony is in immortal souls."

To the rudest carol that ever flung its notes upon the still air of
these solemn hours we have hearkened with a hush of pleasure which
recognized how well--

        "Soft stillness, and the night,
    Become the touches of sweet harmony!"

And the wildest music that ever broke upon that solemn calm from the
instruments of the most unskilful waits,--if it were but remote enough
to keep its asperities out of the ear, and send us only its floating
tones,--has brought Shakspeare into our hearts again:--

    "_Portia._ Methinks it sounds much sweeter than by day.
     _Nerissa._ Silence bestows that virtue on it, madam."

The waits of to-day are the remote and degenerated successors of those
ancient bards who filled an important place in the establishments of
princes and nobles, as also of those wandering members of the
fraternity who, having no fixed position, carried their gift of music
from place to place as the tournament or the festival invited. Those of
our readers who have much acquaintance with the old chroniclers have not
to be told by us that these latter were frequently drawn together in
considerable numbers by the Christmas celebrations. The name "wait," or
"wayte," itself is of great antiquity amongst us, and appears to have
been the title given to some member of the band of minstrels who either
replaced the ancient minstrel-chronicler in the royal establishments, or
was probably under his direction, the duty of which particular member it
was to pass at night from door to door of the chambers and pipe the
watches upon some species of instrument. As early as the reign of Edward
III. we have mention of this individual minstrel by his title of
"wayte," and in the subsequent ordinances for royal households the name
frequently occurs. Dr. Burney, in his "History of Music," quotes from
the "Liber niger domus regis," of Edward IV.'s time, a full description
of the duties, privileges, and perquisites of this ancient officer. It
is probably from this member of the royal household and his office that
the corporations for towns borrowed their earliest appointment of
watchmen; and the ancestors of those ancient gentlemen whose most sweet
voices are amongst the lost sounds of the metropolis, and whose
mysterious cries will soon, we fear, be a dead language, were no doubt
in their original institution minstrels or waits. The sworn waits are,
we believe, still attached to many corporations (although some of their
duties have been alienated, and some of their prerogatives usurped), and
amongst others to that of the City of London. The bellman and those
"wandering voices," the watchmen, where they still exist, have, however,
a title to the same high and far descent, and have succeeded to most of
the offices of the ancient waits. It would seem, too, that both these
latter important personages have at all times had it in view to assert
their claim to a minstrel origin, their announcements being generally
chanted in a species of music quite peculiar to themselves, and such as
the world can never hope to hear again when these gentry shall be
extinct. "Oh, what a voice is silent!" wrote Barry Cornwall long before
the introduction of the new police into our streets; and the passionate
exclamation must surely have originated in a prophetic vision of the
extinction of the Dogberry who piped the night-watches in Bedford
Square. As for those wandering musicians who charm the long nights of
the Christmas time with _unofficial_ music, and are waits by courtesy,
they bear the same relation to the corporation minstrels of modern times
as did the travelling bards of former days to the ancient minstrels who
were established in the households of nobles or of kings. The waits
still on some occasions close their performance by calling the hour,
and by certain other announcements descriptive of the weather or
characteristic of the season.

[Illustration: WAITS.--_Page 197._]

The sacred origin and meaning of this practice have, however, in modern
days been a good deal lost sight of by these uncertificated harmonists
in their selection of tunes. In London, particularly, the appropriate
music of religious celebration, which in awaking the sleeper should
bring the lessons of the season directly to his heart, are (excepting
perhaps on the eve of the Nativity itself) most frequently supplanted by
the airs of the theatre; and the waits for the most part favor us by
night with repetitions of the melodies with which the barrel-organists
have labored to make us familiarly acquainted during the day. It is with
some such strain that the group of instrumentalists, by whom our artist
has here represented these peripatetic musicians, appear to be regaling
their neighborhood, in so far as we may venture to judge of the
character of the music, by the accompaniment which it is receiving from
the lady in the distance. Not that we could by any means have
conjectured from the appearance of the performers themselves that the
air, however profane, had been at all of the lively, unless what poor
Matthews called the "deadly lively," kind,--and, in fact, the vicinity
in which the lady appears may perhaps suggest that her joyous
inspiration is not derived wholly from the music. She appears to be
dancing "unto her own heart's song." If we may presume to argue from the
aspects and attitudes of the gentlemen of the bass-viol and flute, he of
the trombone (who is evidently performing with considerable energy)
appears to have got a good way before his companions without being at
all conscious of it; and indeed there is something about his
accoutrements, if carefully inspected, which seems to hint that the
source of his vigor, and perhaps of his unconsciousness, is of the same
kind with that of the lady's liveliness. We have in the case of each a
sort of insinuation as to the cause of the _spirited_ character of the
performances, and in that of our friend with the trombone it seems a
good deal more clear that his pocket has contributed to the supply of
his instrument than that his instrument will ever do much for the supply
of his pocket. As for the violin, it is clearly in the enjoyment of a
sinecure at this late hour, the sensitive performer having apparently
lulled himself to sleep with his own music. "Poor knave, I blame thee
not; thou art o'er watched!"

                    "O murd'rous slumber,
    Lay'st thou thy leaden mace upon my boy
    That plays thee music? Gentle knave, good night;
    I will not do thee so much wrong to wake thee."

But we will not answer for the old gentleman with the water-jug, who
looks down so benignantly from that window overhead. He seems about to
furnish an illustration of the assertion that--

                "The heart that music cannot melt,
    Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;"

and appears to have conceived a stratagem against the group below which,
if carried into successful execution on this winter night, will probably
_spoil_ more than the music. It bids fair at once to waken the
violin-player and to silence the trombone.

The practice of hailing the Nativity with music, in commemoration of the
song of the angels, is in full observance in Roman Catholic countries as
well as in our own. There are, we fancy, few of our readers who have not
had opportunities of listening to the divine strains which mingle in the
Roman services that usher in the blessed morning itself. The _noëls_ of
France are of the same character as the Christmas carols of England; and
the visits of our street musicians at this season are closely resembled
by the wanderings of the Italian _pifferari_. These _pifferari_ are
Calabrian shepherds who come down from the mountains at the season of
Advent, and enter the Italian cities, saluting with their hill music the
shrines of the Virgin and Child which adorn the streets. Of these rude
minstrels Lady Morgan, in her "Italy," gives some account, and states
that having frequently observed them stopping to play before the shop of
a carpenter in Rome, her inquiries on the subject were answered by the
information that the intention of this part of their performance, was to
give his due share of honor to Saint Joseph. Our friend Mr. Hone, in his
"Every-Day Book," has given, from an old print in his possession, a
representation of this practice, in which two of these mountaineers are
playing before the shrine of the Virgin. The practice is continued till
the anniversary day of the Nativity.

With modern carol-singing there are few of our readers, in town or in
country (for the practice, like that of which we have just spoken, is
still very general), who are not well acquainted. For some curious
antiquarian information on the subject we must refer them to Mr.
Sandys's Introduction, and to a paper in Mr. Hone's book of "Ancient
Mysteries." The word itself is derived by Brand, after Bourne, from
_cantare_, to sing, and _rola_, an interjection of joy; and although in
vulgar acceptance it has come to be understood as implying particularly
those anthems by which the Christmas-tide is distinguished, it has at
all times been properly applied to all songs which are sung upon any
occasion of festival or rejoicing. In strictness, therefore, even in its
application to the musical celebrations of Advent, a distinction should
be drawn between those carols which are of a joyous or festive
character, and those more solemn ones which would be better described by
the title of Christmas hymns.

The practice itself, as applied to religious commemoration, is drawn
from the very first ages of the Church. It is frequently referred to in
the Apostolic writings, and the celebrated letter of the younger Pliny
to the Emperor Trajan, in the seventh year of the second Christian
century, mentions, amongst the habits of the primitive Christians, their
assembling at stated times "to sing among themselves alternately a hymn
to Christ, as to God." Such a practice, however, constitutes no
peculiarity of the new worship, hymns of praise to their deities having
made a portion of the rites of most religions. Indeed, in the more
severe times of the Early Church there are prohibitions against this
form of worship, as against several other practices to which we have
alluded, on the express ground of its resemblance to one of the customs
of the pagan celebration.

The custom of celebrating the festivities of the season by the singing
of carols in these islands, appears to have mingled with the Christmas
observances from the earliest period. We have specimens of the carols
themselves of a remote date, and have already given an extract from one,
the manuscript of which, in the British Museum, is dated as far back as
the thirteenth century. There are evidences of the universality of the
practice in the fifteenth century; and the great popularity of these
songs about this time is proved by the fact of a collection thereof
having been printed in the early part of the following century by
Wynkyn de Worde. It is to the Puritans that we appear to have been
indebted for the introduction of the religious carol. Those enemies of
all mirth, even in its most innocent or valuable forms, finding the
practice of carol-singing at this festive time too general and rooted to
be dealt with by interdiction, appear to have endeavored to effect their
objects by directing it into a channel of their own, and probably
retaining the ancient airs, to have adapted them to the strange
religious ballads, of which we must give our readers a few specimens.
The entire version of the Psalms of David made by Sternhold and Hopkins
was published about the middle of the sixteenth century; and some time
before the middle of the seventeenth a duodecimo volume appeared, under
the title of "Psalmes or Songs of Zion, turned into the language and set
to the tunes of a strange land, by W. S. [William Slatyr], intended for
Christmas Carols and fitted to divers of the most noted and common but
solemne tunes everywhere in this land familiarly used and knowne."

Of these old ballads of both kinds, many (and snatches of more) have
survived to the present day, and may be heard, particularly in the
Northern counties of England, ringing through the frosty air of the long
winter nights, in the shrill voices of children, for several weeks
before Christmas, probably, too, to the old traditional tunes. They
are, however, as might be expected of compositions which have no more
substantial depositary than the memories of the humble classes of the
young, full of corruptions, which render some of them nearly
unintelligible. The difficulty of restoring these old carols in their
original forms is becoming yearly greater, in consequence of the modern
carols, which are fast replacing them by a sort of authority. In country
places many of the more polished carols, of modern composition, find
their way into the Church services of this season; and amongst the
singers who practise this manner of appealing to the charities of the
season with most success are the children of the Sunday-schools and the
choristers of the village church. These, with their often sweet voices,
bring to our doors the more select hymns and the musical training which
they have gathered for more sacred places; and from a group like that
which stands at the parsonage door in our plate, we are more likely to
hear some carol of Heber's, some such beautiful anthem as that
beginning, "Hark! the herald angels sing," than the strange, rambling
old Christmas songs which we well remember when we were boys. These
latter, however, occasionally are not without a wild beauty of their
own. We quote a fragment of one of them from memory. We think it
begins:--

    "The moon shines bright, and the stars give light,
     A little before the day;"

and wanders on somewhat after the following unconnected fashion:--

    "Awake, awake, good people all!
       Awake, and you shall hear
     How Christ our Lord died on the cross
       For those he loved so dear.

    "O fair, O fair Jerusalem!
       When shall I come to thee?
     When shall my griefs be at an end,
       That I thy tents may see!

    "The fields were green as green could be
       When, from his glorious seat,
     The Lord our God he watered us
       With his heavenly good and sweet.

    "And for the saving of our souls
       Christ died upon the cross!
     We never shall do for Jesus Christ
       What he has done for us!

    "The life of man is but a span,
       And cut down in its flower;
     We're here to-day, and gone to-morrow,
       We're all dead in an hour.

    "Oh, teach well your children, men!
       The while that you are here,
     It will be better for your souls,
       When your corpse lies on the bier.

    "To-day you may be alive, dear man,
       With many a thousand pound;
     To-morrow you may be a dead man,
       And your corpse laid under ground,--

    "With a turf at your head, dear man,
       And another at your feet.
     Your good deeds and your bad ones
       They will together meet.

    "My song is done, and I must begone,
       I can stay no longer here;
     God bless you all, both great and small,
       And send you a happy new year."

Our Lancashire readers know that a similar wish to that expressed in the
two last lines is generally delivered in recitative at the close of each
carol, or before the singers abandon our doors,--which wish, however, we
have heard finally changed into a less quotable ejaculation in cases
where the carolists had been allowed to sing unregarded.

The gradual decay into which these ancient religious ballads are rapidly
falling was in some measure repaired by Mr. Davies Gilbert in 1823, who
published a collection containing upwards of twenty carols in a restored
state, with the tunes to which it was usual to sing them in the West of
England. Of Welsh carols various collections are mentioned both by Hone
and by Sandys, and in that country the practice is in better
preservation than even in England. In Ireland, too, it exists to the
present day, although we have not met with any collection of Irish
carols; and in France, where there are numerous collections under the
title of _noëls_, the custom is universal. In Scotland, however, it was
extinguished, with the other Christmas practices, by the thunders of
John Knox and his precisians, and we believe has never been in any
degree restored. We should add that there are numerous carols for the
Christmas season scattered through the writings of our old poets,
amongst whom Herrick may be mentioned as conspicuous.

But the most ample and curious published collection of Christmas carols
with which we have met is that by Mr. Sandys to which we have so often
alluded; and from the text of this collection we will give our readers
one or two specimens of the quaint beauties which occasionally mingle in
the curious texture of these old anthems. Mr. Sandys's collection is
divided into two parts, the first of which consists of ancient carols
and Christmas songs from the early part of the fifteenth to the end of
the seventeenth century. We wish that in cases where the authorship
belongs to so conspicuous a name as Herrick,--and indeed in all cases
where it is ascertained,--the names of the authors had been prefixed.
The second part comprises a selection from carols which the editor
states to be still used in the West of England. We can inform him that
many of these we have ourselves heard, only some dozen years ago,
screamed through the sharp evening air of Lancashire at the top pitch of
voices that could clearly never have been given for any such purposes,
"making night hideous," or occasionally filling the calm watches with
the far-lulling sounds of wild, sweet harmony. The practice, however,
is, under any circumstances, full of fine meanings that redeem the
rudeness of performance; and for ourselves, we like the music at its
best and worst.

Of the festive songs we have already given occasional examples in the
progress of this work, and shall just now confine ourselves to extracts
from those of a more religious character. From the old part of the
collections before us we will give a verse of a short carol which, while
it will exhibit in a very modified degree the familiar tone in which the
writers of these ancient songs dealt with the incidents of the sacred
story, is full of a tenderness arising out of that very manner of
treatment. We give it in the literal form in which we find it in this
collection, with the exception of extending an occasional cypher. It
begins with a burden:--

    "A, my dere son, sayd mary, a, my dere,
     Kys thi moder, Jhesu, with a lawghyng chere;"

and continues:--

    "This endnes nyght I sawe a syght
           all in my slepe,
     Mary that may she sang lullay
          and sore did wepe.
     To kepe she sawght full fast a bowte
          her son fro cold;
     Joseph seyd, wiff, my joy, my leff,
          say what ye wolde;
     No thyng my spouse is In this howse
         unto my pay;
     My son a kyng that made all thyng
         lyth in hay.
                            "A, my dere son."

Some of these ancient carols run over the principal incidents in the
scheme of man's fall and redemption; and we are sorry that our limits
will not permit us to give such lengthened specimens as we should
desire. We will, however, copy a few verses from one of a different
kind, in which, beneath its ancient dress, our readers will see that
there is much rude beauty. It begins:--

    "I come from heuin to tell
     The best nowellis that ever be fell."

But we must take it up further on:--

    "My saull and lyfe, stand up and see
     Quha lyes in ane cribe of tree;
     Quhat babe is that so gude and faire?
     It is Christ, God's Sonne and Aire.

       .     .     .     .     .     .     .

     O God, that made all creature,
     How art thou becum so pure,
     That on the hay and straw will lye,
     Amang the asses, oxin, and kye?

    "And were the world ten tymes so wide,
     Cled ouer with gold and stanes of pride,
     Unworthy zit it were to thee,
     Under thy feet ane stule to bee.

    "The sylke and sandell, thee to eis,
     Are hay and sempill sweiling clais,
     Quhairin thow gloiris, greitest king,
     As thow in heuin were in thy ring.

       .     .     .     .     .     .     .

    "O my deir hert, zoung Jesus sweit,
     Prepare thy creddill in my spreit,
     And I sall rock thee in my hert,
     And neuer mair from thee depart."

The Star-song in this collection is, if our memory mislead us not,
Herrick's, and taken from his "Noble Numbers." It begins:--

    "Tell us, thou cleere and heavenly tongue,
     Where is the babe but lately sprung?
     Lies he the lillie-banks among?

    "Or say if this new Birth of our's
     Sleep, laid within some ark of flowers,
     Spangled with deaw-light; thou canst cleere
     All doubts, and manifest the where.

    "Declare to us, bright star, if we shall seek
     Him in the morning's blushing cheek,
     Or search the beds of spices through,
     To find him out?"

The second part of Sandys's collection contains an imperfect version of
a carol of which we find a full and corrected copy in Mr. Hone's
"Ancient Mysteries," formed by that author's collation of various copies
printed in different places. The beautiful verses which we quote are
from Hone's version, and are wanting in that of Sandys. The ballad
begins by elevating the Virgin Mary to a temporal rank which must rest
upon that particular authority, and is probably a new fact for our
readers:

    "Joseph was an old man,
       And an old man was he,
     And he married Mary,
       Queen of Galilee,"--

which, for a carpenter, was certainly a distinguished alliance. It goes
on to describe Joseph and his bride walking in a garden,--

    "Where the cherries they grew
       Upon every tree;"

and upon Joseph's refusal, in somewhat rude language, to pull some of
these cherries for Mary, on the ground of her supposed misconduct,--

    "Oh! then bespoke Jesus,
       All in his mother's womb,
    'Go to the tree, Mary,
       And it shall bow down;

    "'Go to the tree, Mary,
       And it shall bow to thee,
     And the highest branch of all
       Shall bow down to Mary's knee.'"

And then, after describing Joseph's conviction and penitence at this
testimony to Mary's truth, occur the beautiful verses to which we
alluded:

    "As Joseph was a walking,
       He heard an angel sing:
    'This night shall be born
       Our heavenly king.

    "'He neither shall be born
        In housen nor in hall,
      Nor in the place of Paradise,
        But in an ox's stall.

    "'He neither shall be clothed
        In purple nor in pall,
      But all in fair linen,
        As were babies all.

    "'He neither shall be rock'd
        In silver nor in gold,
      But in a wooden cradle,
        That rocks on the mould.

    "'He neither shall be christen'd
        In white wine nor in red,
      But with the spring water
        With which we were christened.'"

The strange, wild ballad beginning,--

    "I saw three ships come sailing in,
       On Christmas day, on Christmas day;
    I saw three ships come sailing in,
       On Christmas day in the morning,"--

and the still stranger one of "The Holy Well," we would have copied at
length, as examples of these curious relics, if we could have spared the
space. Of the latter, however, we will give our readers some account, to
show the singular liberties which were taken with sacred personages and
things in these old carols. In the one in question, the boy Jesus,
having asked his mother's permission to go and play, receives it,
accompanied with the salutary injunction,--

    "And let me hear of no complaint
       At night when you come home.

    "Sweet Jesus went down to yonder town,
       As far as the Holy Well,
     And there did see as fine children
       As any tongue can tell."

On preferring, however, his petition to these children,--

    "Little children, shall I play with you,
       And you shall play with me?"

he is refused on the ground of his having been "born in an ox's stall,"
they being "lords' and ladies' sons."

    "Sweet Jesus turned him around,
     And he neither laugh'd nor smil'd,
     But the tears came trickling from his eye
     Like water from the skies."

Whereupon he returns home to report his grievance to his mother, who
answers,--

    "Though you are but a maiden's child,
       Born in an ox's stall,
     Thou art the Christ, the King of Heaven,
       And the Saviour of them all;"

and then proceeds to give him advice neither consistent with the
assertion in the last line, nor becoming her character:--

    "Sweet Jesus, go down to yonder town,
       As far as the Holy Well,
     And take away those sinful souls,
       And dip them deep in hell.

    "Nay, nay, sweet Jesus said,
       Nay, nay, that may not be;
     For there are too many sinful souls
       Crying out for the help of me."

Both these latter carols are given by Sandys as amongst those which are
still popular in the West of England; and we remember to have ourselves
heard them both many and many a time in its Northern counties.

We must give a single verse of one of the ancient French provincial
_noëls_, for the purpose of introducing our readers to a strange species
of chanted burden; and then we must stop. It is directed to be sung _sur
un chant joyeux_, and begins thus:

    "Quand Dieu naquit à Noël,
       Dedans la Judée,
     On vit ce jour solemnel
       La joie inondée;
     Il n'étoit ni petit ni grand
     Qui n'apportât son présent
     Et n'o, n'o, n'o, n'o,
     Et n'offrit, frit, frit,
     Et n'o, n'o, et n'offrit,
     Et n'offrit sans cesse Toute sa richesse."

Our readers are no doubt aware that the carol-sheets still make their
annual appearance at this season, not only in the metropolis, but also
in Manchester, Birmingham, and perhaps other towns. In London they pass
into the hands of hawkers, who wander about our streets and suburbs
enforcing the sale thereof by--in addition to the irresistible
attraction of the wood-cuts with which they are embellished--the further
recommendation of their own versions and variations of the original
tunes, yelled out in tones which could not be heard without alarm by any
animals throughout the entire range of Nature, except the domesticated
ones, who are "broken" to it. For ourselves, we confess that we are not
thoroughly broken yet, and experience very uneasy sensations at the
approach of one of these alarming choirs.

    "'T is said that the lion will turn and flee
      From a maid in the pride of her purity."

We would rather meet him under the protection of a group of London
carol-singers. We would undertake to explore the entire of central
Africa, well provisioned and in such company, without the slightest
apprehension, excepting such as was suggested by the music itself.

By these gentry a very spirited competition is kept up in the article of
annoyance with the hurdy-gurdies, and other instruments of that class,
which awaken the echoes of all our streets, and furnish a sufficient
refutation of the assertion that we are not a musical nation. We have
heard it said that the atmosphere of London is highly impregnated
with coal-smoke and barrel-organs. The breath of ballad-singers should
enter into the account at this season. The sketch from life which we
have given of one of these groups will convey to our readers a very
lively notion of the carol-singers of London, and supply them with a
hint as to the condition in this flourishing metropolis of that branch
of the fine arts. Our friends will perceive that this is a family of
artists, from the oldest to the youngest. The children are born to an
inheritance of song, and begin to enter upon its enjoyment in the
cradle. That infant in arms made his _débût_ before the public a day or
two after he was born, and is already an accomplished chorister; and the
hopeful boy who is howling by his mother's side acquits himself as
becomes the heir-at-law to parents who have sung through the world, and
the next in reversion to his father's fiddle.

[Illustration: LONDON CAROL SINGERS.--_Page 215._]

A very curious part of the business, however, is, that these people
actually expect to get money for what they are doing! With the most
perfect good faith, they really calculate upon making a profit by their
outrages upon men's feelings! It is for the purpose of "putting bread
into their mouths" that those mouths are opened in that portentous
manner. For ourselves, we have a strong conviction that the spread of
the emigration mania has been greatly promoted by the increase of
ballad-singers in the land. We have frequently resolved to emigrate, on
that account, ourselves; and if we could be perfectly certified of any
desirable colony, to which no removals had taken place from the class in
question, we believe we should no longer hesitate. The existence of that
class is a grievous public wrong, and calls loudly for legislation. We
have frequently thought that playing a hurdy-gurdy in the streets should
be treated as a capital crime.

Of the annual sheets and of such other carols as may be recoverable from
traditional or other sources, it is to be regretted that more copious
collections are not made, by the lovers of old customs, ere it be too
late. Brand speaks of an hereditary collection of ballads, almost as
numerous as the Pepysian collection at Cambridge, which he saw, at
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in the printing-office of the late Mr. Saint,
amongst which were several carols for the Christmas season. Hone, in his
"Ancient Mysteries," gives a list of eighty-nine carols in his
possession, all in present use (though likely soon to become obsolete),
and exclusive of the modern compositions printed by religious societies,
under the denomination of carols. He furnishes a curious proof of the
attachment which the carol-buyers extend, from the old carols
themselves, to the old rude cuts by which they are illustrated. "Some of
these," he says, "on a sheet of Christmas carols, in 1820, were so rude
in execution that I requested the publisher, Mr. T. Batchelar, of 115,
Long Alley, Moorfields, to sell me the original blocks. I was a little
surprised by his telling me that he was afraid it would be impossible
to get any of the same kind cut again. When I proffered to get much
better engraved, and give them to him in exchange for his old ones, he
said, 'Yes, but better are not so good; I can get better myself. Now
these are old favorites, and better cuts will not please my customers so
well.'" We have before us several of the sheets for the present season,
issued from the printing-office and toy warehouse of Mr. Pitts, in the
Seven Dials; and we grieve to say that, for the most part, they show a
lamentable improvement in the embellishments, and an equally lamentable
falling-off in the literary contents. One of these sheets, however,
which bears the heading title of "Divine Mirth," contains some of the
_old_ carols, and is adorned with impressions from cuts, rude enough, we
should think, to please even the customers of Mr. Batchelar.

Amongst the musical signs of the season we must not omit to place that
once important gentleman, the bellman, who was anciently accustomed, as
our excellent friend Mr. Hone says, at this time, "to make frequent
nocturnal rambles, and proclaim all tidings which it seemed fitting to
him that people should be awakened out of their sleep to hearken to."
From that ancient collection, "The Bellman's Treasury," which was once
this now decayed officer's vade-mecum, we shall have occasion to
extract, here and there, in their proper places, the announcements by
which, of old, he broke in upon the stillness of the several nights of
this period. In the mean time our readers may take the following example
of bellman verses, written by Herrick, and which we have extracted from
his "Hesperides:"

    "From noise of scare-fires rest ye free,
     From murders Benedicitie;
     From all mischances that may fright
     Your pleasing slumbers in the night.

    "Mercie secure ye all, and keep
     The goblin from ye while ye sleep.
     Past one aclock, and almost two.
     My masters all, good day to you!"

The bell of this ancient officer may still be heard, at the midnight
hour of Christmas Eve (and perhaps on other nights), in the different
parishes of London, performing the overture to a species of recitative,
in which he sets forth (amongst other things) the virtues of his patrons
(dwelling on their liberality), and offers them all the good wishes of
the season. The printed papers containing the matter of these
recitations he has been busy circulating amongst the parishioners for
some time; and, on the strength thereof, presents himself as a candidate
for some expression of their good-will in return, which, however, he
expects should be given in a more profitable form. These papers, like
the carol-sheets, have their margins adorned with wood-cuts after
Scriptural subjects. One of them now lies before us, and we grieve to
say that the quaint ancient rhymes are therein substituted by meagre
modern inventions, and the wood-cuts exhibit a most ambitious pretension
to be considered as specimens of improved art. There is a copy of Carlo
Dolce's "Last Supper" at the foot.

The beadle of to-day is in most respects changed, for the worse, from
the bellman of old. Still, we are glad to hear his bell--which sounds
much as it must have done of yore--lifting up its ancient voice amongst
its fellows at this high and general season of bells and bob-majors.

[Illustration: BELL-RINGING.]



Part Second.

THE CHRISTMAS DAYS.

[Illustration: The Lord of Misrule

    The High and Mighty Prince, Henry Prince of Purpoole,
    Archduke of Stapulia and Bernardia, Duke of High and
    Nether Holborn, Marquis of St. Giles and Tottenham, Count
    Palatine of Bloomsbury and Clerkenwell, Great Lord of the
    Cantons of Islington, Kentish Town Paddington & Knightsbridge
                                                  _Gesta Grayorum._
]



THE CHRISTMAS DAYS.


HAVING given our readers an historical and general account of this
ancient festival, and a particular explanation of some of the principal
tokens which, in modern times as of old, bespeak the coming of its more
high and ceremonious days, we must now proceed to furnish them with a
more peculiar description of those individual days themselves; confining
ourselves, as nearly as completeness of view will admit, within the
limits which bound what is, in its most especial and emphatic sense, the
Christmas season. In order, however, to attain this completeness of
view, it has been necessary to allow ourselves certain points lying on
both sides, _without_ those strict boundaries; and the selection which
we have made includes the two conditions of giving us latitude enough
for our purpose, and keeping reasonably close to the heart of the
subject at the same time. The reasons for this particular selection will
more fully appear in the accounts which we have to give of the
individual days on which that selection has fallen, and in the further
remarks which we have to make, generally on that portion of the year
which we place under the presidency of

    OUR LORD OF MISRULE.

[Illustration: CHRISTMAS PRESENTS.]



ST. THOMAS'S DAY.

21ST DECEMBER.


THIS day, which is dedicated to the apostle St. Thomas, we have chosen
as the opening of the Christmas festivities; because it is that on which
we first seem to get positive evidence of the presence of the old
gentleman, and see the spirit of hospitality and benevolence which his
coming creates brought into active operation. Of the manner in which
this spirit exhibits itself in the metropolis, we are about presently to
speak; but must previously notice that in many of the rural districts of
England there are still lingering traces of ancient customs, which meet
at this particular point of time and under the sanction of that same
spirit. These practices, however various in their kinds, are for the
most part relics in different shapes of the old mummeries, which we
shall have to discuss at length in the course of the present chapter;
and are but so many distinct forms in which the poor man's appeal is
made to the rich man's charity, for a share in the good things of this
merry festival.

Amongst these ancient customs may be mentioned the practice of "going a
gooding," which exists in some parts of Kent, and is performed by women,
who present sprigs of evergreens and Christmas flowers, and beg for
money in return. We believe the term "going a gooding" scarcely requires
illustration. It means, simply, going about to wish "good even,"--as,
according to Nares, fully appears from this passage in Romeo and
Juliet:--

      "_Nurse._ God ye good morrow, gentlemen.
    _Mercutio._ God ye _good den_, fair gentlewoman."

In this same county, St. Thomas's Day is likewise known by the name of
"Doleing Day," on account of the distribution of the bounty of different
charitable individuals. This word "dole" is explained by Nares to mean
"a share or lot in any thing distributed," and to come from the verb _to
deal_. He quotes Shakspeare for this also:--

                          "It was your presurmise
    That in the _dole_ of blows your son might drop."

The musical procession known in the Isle of Thanet and other parts of
the same county by the name of "hodening" (supposed by some, to be an
ancient relic of a festival ordained to commemorate the landing of our
Saxon ancestors in that island, and which, in its form, is neither more
nor less than a modification of the old practice of the "hobby horse"),
is to this day another of the customs of this particular period.

A custom analogous to these is still to be traced in Warwickshire;
throughout which county it seems to have been the practice of the poor
to go from door to door of every house "with a bag to beg corn of the
farmers, which they call going a corning." And in Herefordshire a
similar custom exists, where this day is called "Mumping Day," that is,
begging day.

To the same spirit we owe the Hagmena or Hogmanay practice, still in use
in Scotland, as well as that of the Wren Boys in Ireland, both of which
will be described hereafter, although their observance belongs to later
days of the season, and probably many others which will variously
suggest themselves to our various readers as existing in their several
neighborhoods.

In the great metropolis of England, where poverty and wretchedness exist
in masses upon which private benevolence cannot efficiently act, and
where imposture assumes their forms in a degree that baffles the charity
of individuals, the bequests of our ancestors have been to a great
extent placed for distribution in the hands of the various parish
authorities. St. Thomas's Day in London therefore is connected with
these charities, by its being that on which some of the most important
parochial proceedings take place; and amongst these are the wardmotes,
held on this day for the election, by the freemen inhabitant
householders, of the members of the Common Council, and other officers
of the respective city wards.

The civil government of the City of London is said to bear a general
resemblance to the legislative power of the empire; the Lord Mayor
exercising the functions of monarchy, the Aldermen those of the peerage,
and the Common Council those of the legislature. The principal
difference is, that the Lord Mayor himself has no negative. The laws for
the internal regulation of the city are wholly framed by these officers
acting in common council. A Common-Councilman is, therefore, a personage
of no mean importance.

Loving Christmas and its ceremonies with antiquarian veneration, we must
profess likewise our profound respect for wards of such high sounding
names as Dowgate, and Candlewick, and Cripplegate, and Vintry, and
Portsoken; the last of which, be it spoken with due courtesy, has always
reminded us of an alderman's nose; and for such distinguished callings
as those of Cordwainers, and Lorimers, and Feltmakers, and Fishmongers,
and Plasterers, and Vintners, and Barbers; each of whom we behold in
perspective transformed into what Theodore Hook calls "a splendid
annual," or in less figurative language, Lord Mayor of London! There is
a pantomimic magic in the word since the memorable days of Whittington.
But to our theme.--

Pepys, the gossipping secretary of the Admiralty, records in his curious
diary his having gone on St. Thomas's Day (21st December), 1663, "to
Shoe Lane to see a cocke-fighting at the new pit there, a spot," he
adds, "I was never at in my life: but, Lord! to see the strange variety
of people, from parliament-man (by name Wildes, that was deputy governor
of the Tower when Robinson was Lord Mayor) to the poorest 'prentices,
bakers, brewers, butchers, draymen, and what not; and all these fellows
one with another cursing and betting. I soon had enough of it. It is
strange to see how people of this poor rank, that look as if they had
not bread to put into their mouths, shall bet three or four pounds at a
time and lose it, and yet as much the next battle, so that one of them
will lose £10 or £20 at a meeting."

Now the cock-fighting of our times, under the immediate patronage of
Saint Thomas, and those of Pepys's differ little except in the character
of the combatants. In his (comparatively speaking) barbarous days, it
was sufficient to pit two birds, one against the other, to excite the
public or amuse the spectators. But a purer taste prevails among the
present citizens of London; for our modern "fighting-cocks," as the
candidates for civic honors are called, seem on this day to be fully
occupied with the morning exhibition of their own foul tongues,--and
bets often run as high as parties, on these occasions.

"Saint Thomas's birds"--another name for these civic
fighting-cocks--have been trained in various ale-house associations,
such as the "Ancient and honorable Lumber Troop," the venerable "Society
of Codgers," "the free and easy Johns," the "Councillors under the
Cauliflower," and other well-known clubs,--where politics, foreign and
domestic, night after night are discussed, and mingle with the smoke of
tobacco, inhaled through respectable clay pipes and washed down with
nips of amber ale, or quarts of frothy-headed porter. Indeed the
qualification for admission into the Lumber Troop is, we have been told,
the power of consuming a quart of porter at a draught, without, once
pausing to draw a breath,--which feat must be performed before that
august assembly. We once visited the head-quarters of this
porter-quaffing troop, and found the house, with some difficulty, near
Gough Square,--which lies in that intricate region between Holborn Hill
and Fleet Street. It was a corner house, and an inscription upon the
wall, in letters of gold, informed the passer-by that this was the place
of meeting of the Lumber Troop. The room in which they met is small,
dark, and ancient in appearance, with an old-fashioned chimney-piece in
the centre, and a dais or raised floor at one end, where, we presume,
the officers of the troop take their seats. Above their heads, upon a
shelf, some small brass cannon were placed as ornaments, and the walls
of the room were decorated with the portraits of distinguished
troopers,--among whom Mr. Alderman Wood, in a scarlet robe, and Mr.
Richard Taylor were pointed out to our notice. Over the fire-place hung
the portrait of an old gentleman, in the warlike costume of Cromwell's
time, who was, probably,

    "Some Fleet Street Hampden."

The obscurity which conceals the origin of many interesting and
important institutions hangs over the early history of the Lumber Troop.
Tradition asserts that, when Henry VIII. went to the siege of Boulogne,
he drained the country of all its soldiers; and the citizens of London
who remained behind, inspired with martial ardor, formed themselves into
a troop, for the protection of old England. In the grotesque and gouty
appearance of these troopers, their name of the Lumber Troop is said to
have originated. Their field days, as may be expected, were exhibitions
of merriment; and their guards and midnight watches scenes of feasting
and revelry. The "Lumber-pye" was formerly a dish in much repute, being
composed of high-seasoned meats and savory ingredients, for the
preparation of which receipts may be found in the old cookery books.
Recently, it has been corrupted into Lombard Pie, on account, as is
said, of its Italian origin,--but we profess allegiance to the more
ancient name.

Let those who hold lightly the dignity of a Lumber Trooper, and who
perhaps have smiled at the details here given, inquire of the
representatives of the city of London in the parliament of England,
their opinion of the matter. We have been assured that these jolly
troopers influence every city election to such an extent that, without
an understanding with these worthies, no candidate can have a chance of
success. In the same way, the codgers, in Codger's Hall, Bride Lane
(said to have been instituted in 1756, by some of the people of the
Inner Temple, who imagined their free thoughts and profound cogitations
worthy of attention, and charged half-a-crown for the _entrée_), and
other ale-house clubs, exert their more limited power. Hone, in his
Every-Day Book, observes that "these societies are under currents that
set in strong, and often turn the tide of an election in favor of some
'good fellow,' who is good nowhere but in 'sot's-hole.'" And he adds,
commenting upon St. Thomas's Day, "Now the 'gentlemen of the inquest,'
chosen 'at the church' in the morning, dine together, as the first
important duty of their office; and the re-elected ward-beadles are busy
with the fresh chosen constables; and the watchmen [this was before the
days of the police] are particularly civil to every 'drunken gentleman'
who happens to look like one of the new authorities. And now the
bellman, who revives the history and poetry of his predecessors, will
vociferate--

[Illustration: ST. THOMAS'S DAY.--_Page 233._]

    "'My masters all, this is St. Thomas'-day,
      And Christmas now can't be far off, you'll say.
      And when you to the Ward-motes do repair,
      I hope such good men will be chosen there,
      As constables for the ensuing year,
      As will not grudge the watchmen good strong beer.'"

The illustration of this part of our subject which our artist has given,
exhibits the scene of one of these parish elections; and includes, in
the distance, a vision of those good things to which all business
matters in England--and above all, in its eastern metropolitan city--are
but prefaces.

We may observe, here, that St. Thomas's Day is commonly called the
shortest of the year, although the difference between its length and
that of the twenty-second is not perceptible. The hours of the sun's
rising and setting, on each of those days, are marked as the same in our
calendars, and the latter is sometimes spoken of as the shortest day.

   -     -     -     -     -     -     -

As the days which intervene between this and the Eve of Christmas are
distinguished by no special ceremonial of their own, and as the numerous
observances attached to several of the particular days which follow will
sufficiently prolong those parts of our subject, we will take this
opportunity of alluding to some of the sports and festivities not
peculiar to any one day, but extending more or less generally over the
entire season.

Burton in his "Anatomy of Melancholy" mentions, as the winter amusements
of his day, "Cardes, tables and dice, shovelboard, chesse-play, the
philosopher's game, small trunkes, shuttlecocke, billiards, musicke,
masks, singing, dancing, ule-games, frolicks, jests, riddles, catches,
purposes, questions and commands, merry tales of errant knights,
queenes, lovers, lords, ladies, giants, dwarfes, theeves, cheaters,
witches, fayries, goblins, friers," &c. Amongst the list of Christmas
sports, we elsewhere find mention of "jugglers, and jack-puddings,
scrambling for nuts and apples, dancing the hobby-horse, hunting owls
and squirrels, the fool-plough, hot-cockles, a stick moving on a pivot
with an apple at one end and a candle at the other, so that he who
missed his bite burned his nose, blindman's buff, forfeits, interludes
and mock plays:" also of "thread my needle, Nan," "he can do little that
can't do this," feed the dove, hunt the slipper, shoeing the wild mare,
post and pair, snap-dragon, the gathering of omens, and a great variety
of others. In this long enumeration, our readers will recognize many
which have come down to the present day, and form still the amusement of
their winter evenings at the Christmas-tide, or on the merry night of
Halloween. For an account of many of those which are no longer to be
found in the list of holiday games, we must refer such of our readers as
it may interest to Brand's "Popular Antiquities," and Strutt's "English
Sports." A description of them would be out of place in this volume; and
we have mentioned them only as confirming a remark which we have
elsewhere made; viz., that in addition to such recreations as arise out
of the season or belong to it in a special sense, whatever other games
or amusements have at any time been of popular use, have generally
inserted themselves into this lengthened and joyous festival; and that
all the forms in which mirth or happiness habitually sought expression
congregated from all quarters at the ringing of the Christmas bells.

To the Tregetours, or jugglers, who anciently made mirth at the
Christmas fireside, there are several allusions in Chaucer's tales; and
Aubrey, in reference thereto, mentions some of the tricks by which they
contributed to the entertainments of the season. The exhibitions of such
gentry in modern times are generally of a more public kind, and it is
rarely that they find their way to our firesides. But we have still the
galantee-showman wandering up and down our streets and squares, with his
musical prelude and tempting announcement sounding through the sharp
evening air, and summoned into our warm rooms to display the shadowy
marvels of his mysterious box to the young group, who gaze in great
wonder and some awe from their inspiring places by the cheerful hearth.

Not that our firesides are altogether without domestic fortune-tellers
or amateur practitioners in the art of sleight-of-hand. But the
prophecies of the former are drawn from, and the feats of the other
performed with the cards. Indeed we must not omit to particularize cards
as furnishing in all their uses one of the great resources at this
season of long evenings and in-door amusements, as they appear also to
have formed an express feature of the Christmas entertainments of all
ranks of people in old times. We are told that the squire of three
hundred a-year in Queen Anne's time "never played at cards but at
Christmas, when the family pack was produced from the mantel-piece;" and
Stevenson, an old writer of Charles the Second's time, in an enumeration
of the preparations making for the mirth of the season, tells us that
"the country-maid leaves half her market and must be sent again, if she
forgets a pack of cards on Christmas Eve." And who of us all has not
shared in the uproarious mirth which young and unclouded spirits find,
amid the intrigues and speculations of a round game! To the
over-scrupulous on religious grounds, who, looking upon cards as the
"devil's books," and to the moral alarmist who, considering card-playing
to be in itself gaming, would each object to this species of recreation
for the young and innocent, it may be interesting to know that the
practice has been defended by that bishop of bishops, Jeremy Taylor
himself, and that he insists upon no argument against the innocence of a
practice being inferred from its abuse.

We have before alluded to the bards and harpers who assembled in ancient
days at this time of wassail, making the old halls to echo to the voice
of music, and stirring the blood with the legends of chivalry or
chilling it with the wizard tale. And the tale and the song are amongst
the spirits that wait on Christmas still, and charm the long winter
evenings with their yet undiminished spells. Many a Christmas evening
has flown over our heads on the wings of music, sweeter, far sweeter,
dearer, a thousand times dearer, than ever was played by wandering
minstrel or uttered by stipendiary bard; and we have formed a portion of
happy groups, when some thrilling story has sent a chain of sympathetic
feeling through hearts that shall beat in unison no more, and tales of
the grave and its tenants have sent a paleness into cheeks that the
grave itself hath since made paler still.

The winter hearth is the very land of gossip-red. There it is that
superstition loves to tell her marvels, and curiosity to gather them.
The gloom and desolation without, with the wild, unearthly voice of the
blast, as it sweeps over a waste of snows and cuts sharp against the
leafless branches, or the wan sepulchral light that shows the dreary
earth as it were covered with a pall, and the trees like spectres rising
from beneath it, alike send men huddling round the blazing fire, and
awaken those impressions of the wild and shadowy and unsubstantial, to
which tales of marvel or of terror are such welcome food. But other
inspirations are born of the blaze itself; and the jest and the laugh
and the merry narration are of the spirits that are raised within the
magic circles that surround it.

    "They should have drawn thee by the high heap't hearth,
       Old Winter! seated in thy great armed-chair,
     Watching the children at their Christmas mirth;
       Or circled by them, as thy lips declare
     Some merry jest, or tale of murder dire,
       Or troubled spirit that disturbs the night;
     Pausing at times to move the languid fire,
       Or taste the old October, brown and bright."

The song and the story, the recitation and the book read aloud are, in
town and in village, mansion and farmhouse, amongst the universal
resources of the winter nights now, as they or their equivalents have at
all times been. The narratives of "old adventures, and valiaunces of
noble knights, in times past," the stories of Sir Bevys of Southampton
and Sir Guy of Warwick, of Adam Bell, Clymme of the Clough, and William
of Cloudesley, with other ancient romances or historical rhymes, which
formed the recreation of the common people at their Christmas dinners
and bride-ales long ago, may have made way for the wild legend of the
sea, or fearful anecdote--

    "Of horrid apparition, tall and ghastly,
     That walks at dead of night, or takes its stand
     O'er some new opened grave, and, strange to tell,
     Evanishes at crowing of the cock;"

and for the more touching ballads which sing of the late repentance of
the cruel Barbara Allan,--

    "O mither, mither, mak my bed,
       O mak it saft and narrow;
     Since my love died for me to-day,
       I'll die for him to morrow;"

or how the

    "Pretty babes, with hand in hand,
       Went wandering up and down;
     But never more could see the man
       Returning from the town;"

or how "there came a ghost to Margaret's door," and chilled the
life-blood in her veins, by his awful announcement,--

    "My bones are buried in a kirk-yard,
       Afar beyond the sea;
     And it is but my sprite, Marg'ret,
       That's speaking now to thee;"

or may have been replaced, in higher quarters, by the improved narrative
literature of the present day, and the traditions or memories which
haunt all homes. But the spirit of the entertainment itself is still the
same, varied only by circumstances in its forms.

[Illustration: STORY TELLING.--_Page 239._]

It is apparently by a group of the latter kind that this branch of the
Christmas amusements is illustrated in the plate. The youthful members
of a family are listening, in all probability, to some tale of their
sires, related by the withered crone, who, grown old in that service,
links those young beings with a generation gone by, and stands, as it
were, prophesying "betwixt the living and the dead." If we may judge
from the aspect of the aged sybil herself, and the pale and earnest
faces that surround her, the narrative which she is imparting is one of
the fearful class, and not to be listened to beyond the cheering
inspirations of that bright fire; although the moving shadows which it
flings upon the old walls are amongst the terrors which are born of her
story. For the scene of these emotions, the artist has chosen, as
artists still love to do, the chamber of an ancient mansion, with its
huge chimney and oriel-window. And it may be that for picturesque
effects which are to address themselves to the eye, artists are right in
so doing. No doubt, the high chronicles of chivalry, and the mysterious
traditions of the past, comport well with the gloom of the gothic
gallery;--and, certainly, the long rambling passages of an old house
afford at once room for the wandering of ghosts, and that dim, shadowy
light by which imagination sees them best. But the true poetry of life
is not confined to ancient dwellings; and every house, in every crowded
thoroughfare of every city, has its own tales to tell around the
Christmas fire. The most pert-looking dwelling of them all, that may
seem as if it were forever staring out of its sash windows into the
street, has its own mysteries, and is, if it have been tenanted
sufficiently long, as closely haunted by recollections as the baron's
castle, or the squire's old manor-house. Like them,--

    "_Its_ stones have voices, and _its_ walls do live;
     It is the house of memory!"

Within its neat parlors and light saloons, the lyre of human passions
has been struck on all its chords. Birth and death, marriage and
separation, joy and grief, in all their familiar forms, have knocked at
its painted door, and crossed its narrow threshold; and the hearts
within have their own traditions of the past, and their own reckonings
to take, and their own anecdotes to revise, and their own ghosts to
bring back, amid the commemorations of this festal time.

And--whatever may be said for the ancient ghost stories, which are fast
losing ground--fitting it is that, amid the mirth of this pleasant time,
such thoughts should be occasionally stirred, and those phantoms of the
heart brought back. Not that the joy of the young and hopeful should be
thereby darkened, but that they may be duly warned that "youth's a stuff
will not endure," and taught in time the tenure upon which hope is held.
That was a beautiful custom of the Jews which led them, when they built
houses, to leave ever some part unfinished, as a memento of the ruin and
desolation of their city. Not that they, therefore, built the less, or
the less cheerfully; but that in the very midst of their amplest
accommodations they preserved a perpetual and salutary reference to the
evil of their condition,--a useful check upon their worldly thoughts.
And thus should mirth be welcomed and hopes built up, wherever the
materials present themselves; but a mark should, notwithstanding, be
placed upon the brightest of them all, remembrances ever let in, which
may recall to us the imperfect condition of our nature here, and speak
of the certain decay which must attend all hopes erected for mere
earthly dwellings.

But _thou_ shouldst speak of this, thou for whom the following lines
were written long ago, though they have not yet met thine eye, thou who
hast learnt this lesson more sternly than even I, and speakest so well
of _all_ things! Many a "Winter's Tale" have we two read together
(Shakspeare's among the rest--and how often!), and many a written lay
has linked our thoughts in a sympathy of sentiment, on many an evening
of Christmas. It may be that on some night of that which is approaching,
these lines may meet thy notice, and through them, _one more_ winter's
eve may yet be spent by thee and me, in a communion of thought and
feeling. No fear that joy should carry it all, with us! No danger that
the ghosts of the past should fail to mingle with our Christmas
feelings, in that hour! There can be no future hope built up for thee or
me, or for most others who have passed the first season of youth, to
which something shall not be wanting; which shall not, like the houses
of the Jews, be left imperfect in some part; and for the same
reason,--even for the memories of the ruined past!

    Farewell! I do not bid thee weep;
    The hoarded love of many years,
    The visions hearts like thine must keep,
    May not be told by tears!
    No! tears are but the spirit's showers,
    To wash its _lighter_ clouds away,
    In breasts where sun-bows, like the flowers,
    Are born of rain and ray;
    But gone from thine is all the glow
    That helped to form life's promise-bow!

    Farewell! I know that never more
    Thy spirit, like the bird of day,
    Upon its own sweet song shall soar
    Along a sunny way!
    The hour that wakes the waterfall
    To music, in its far-off flight,
    And hears the silver fountains call,
    Like angels through the night,
    Shall bring thee songs whose tones are sighs
    From harps whose chords are memories!

    Night! when, like perfumes that have slept,
    All day, within the wild-flower's heart,
    Steal out the thoughts the soul has kept
    In silence and apart;
    And voices we have pined to hear,
    Through many a long and lonely day,
    Come back upon the dreaming ear,
    From grave-lands, far away;
    And gleams look forth, of spirit-eyes,
    Like stars along the darkening skies!

    When fancy and the lark are still--
    Those riders of the morning gale!
    And walks the moon o'er vale and hill
    With memory and the nightingale;
    The moon that is the daylight's ghost
    (As memory is the ghost of hope),
    And holds a lamp to all things lost
    Beneath night's solemn cope,
    Pale as the light by memory led
    Along the cities of the dead!

    Alas, for thee! alas for thine!
    Thy youth that is no longer young!
    Whose heart, like Delphi's ruined shrine,
    Gives oracles--oh! still divine!--
    But never more in song!
    Whose breast, like Echo's haunted hall,
    Is filled with murmurs of _the past_,
    Ere yet its "gold was dim," and all
    Its "pleasant things" laid waste!
    From whose sweet windows never more
    Shall look the sunny soul of yore!

    Farewell! I do not bid thee weep,
    The smile and tear are past for thee;
    The river of thy thoughts must keep
    Its solemn course, too still and deep
    For idle eyes to see!
    Oh! earthly things are all too far
    To throw their shadows o'er its stream!
    But, now and then, a silver star,
    And, now and then, a gleam
    Of glory from the skies be given,
    To light its waves with dreams of heaven!

To the out-door sports of this merry time which arise out of the natural
phenomena of the season itself, we need do no more than allude here,
because every school-boy knows far more about them than we are now able
to tell him, though we too reckoned them all amidst the delights of our
boyhood. The rapid motions and graceful manœuvres of the skilful amongst
the skaters, the active games connected with this exercise (such as the
Golf of our northern neighbors, not very commonly practised in England),
the merry accidents of the sliders, and the loud and mischievous laugh
of the joyous groups of snowballers,--are all amongst the picturesque
features by which the Christmas time is commonly marked in these
islands. To be sure, the kind of seasons seems altogether to have
abandoned us in which the ice furnished a field for those diversions
during a period of six weeks; and the days are gone when fairs were held
on the broad Thames, and books were printed and medals struck on the
very pathway of his fierce and daily tides. Even now as we write
however, in this present year of grace, old Winter stands without the
door in something like the garb in which as boys we loved him best, and
that old aspect of which we have such pleasant memories, and which
Cowper has so well described:

    "O Winter! ruler of the inverted year!
     Thy scattered hair with sleet-like ashes filled;
     Thy breath congealed upon thy lips; thy cheeks
     Fringed with a beard made white with other snows
     Than those of age; thy forehead wrapt in clouds;
     A leafless branch thy sceptre; and thy throne
     A sliding car indebted to no wheels,
     But urged by storms along thy slippery way!"

In looking over a description of London we have met with a quotation of
a passage from Fitz-Stephen, an old historian of that city, in which he
gives a quaint description of these familiar sports, as they were
practised in King Henry the Second's day on the large pond or marsh
which then occupied the site of what is now Moorfields. The passage is
short and we will quote it.

"When that vast lake," he says, "which waters the walls of the city
towards the north is hard frozen, the youth in great numbers go and
divert themselves on the ice. Some, taking a small run for increment of
velocity, place their feet at a proper distance and are carried sliding
sideways a great way. Others will make a large cake of ice, and seating
one of their companions upon it, they take hold of one another's hands
and draw him along; when it happens that, moving so swiftly on so
slippery a place, they all fall headlong. Others there are who are still
more expert in these amusements on the ice; they place certain bones,
the leg bones of animals, under the soles of their feet by tying them
round their ankles, and then, taking a pole shod with iron into their
hands, they push themselves forward by striking it against the ice, and
are carried on with a velocity equal to the flight of a bird or a bolt
discharged from a cross-bow."

But amongst all the amusements which in cities contribute to make the
Christmas time a period of enchantments for the young and happy, there
is another, which must not be passed over without a word of special
notice; and that one is the theatre,--a world of enchantment in itself.
We verily believe that no man ever forgets the night on which as a boy
he first witnessed the representation of a play. All sights and sounds
that reached his senses before the withdrawing of the mysterious
curtain, all things which preceded his introduction to that land of
marvels which lies beyond, are mingled inextricably with the memories of
that night, and haunt him through many an after year. The very smell of
the lamps and orange-peel, the discordant cries, the ringing of the
prompter's bell, and above all the heavy dark green curtain itself,
become essential parts of the charm in which his spirit is long after
held. It was so with ourselves; and though many a year is gone by since
that happy hour of our lives, and most of the spells which were then
cast have been long since broken, yet we felt another taken from us when
at Drury Lane an attempt was made to substitute a rich curtain of
crimson and gold for the plain dark fall of green. And then the
overture! the enchanting prelude to all the wonders that await us! the
unearthly music leading us into fairy land! the incantation at whose
voice, apparently, the mysterious veil on which our eyes have been so
long and so earnestly rivetted rises, as if by its own act, and reveals
to us the mysteries of an enchanted world! From that moment all things
that lie on this side the charmed boundary are lost sight of, and all
the wonders that are going on beyond it are looked on with the most
undoubting faith. It is not for a moment suspected that the actors
therein are beings of natures like ourselves, nor is there any
questioning but that we are gazing upon scenes and doings separated from
the realities of life. Verily do we believe that never again in this
life are so many new and bewildering and bewitching feelings awakened in
his breast, as on the first night in which the boy is spectator of a
theatrical performance, if he be old enough to enjoy and not quite old
enough clearly to understand what is going on.

At this holiday period of the year the boxes of our theatres are filled
with the happy faces, and their walls ring with the sweet laughter of
children. All things are matters of amazement and subjects of
exclamation. But in London above all things,--far, far beyond all other
things (though it does not begin for some days later than this) is the
pantomime with its gorgeous scenery and incomprehensible transformations
and ineffable fun. "Ready to leap out of the box," says Leigh Hunt,
"they joy in the mischief of the clown, laugh at the thwacks he gets for
his meddling, and feel no small portion of contempt for his ignorance in
not knowing that hot water will scald, and gunpowder explode; while with
head aside to give fresh energy to the strokes, they ring their little
palms against each other in testimony of exuberant delight." The
winter pantomimes are introduced on the evening next after Christmas
night; and some account of this entertainment seems, as a feature of the
season, due to our Christmas readers.

[Illustration: CHRISTMAS PANTOMIME.--_Page 249._]

From Italy, then, we appear to have derived our pantomime,--the
legitimate drama of Christmas, and to pagan times and deities the origin
of our pantomimical characters may be directly referred. The nimble
harlequin of our stage is the Mercury of the ancients, and in his magic
wand and charmed cap may be recognized that god's caduceus and petasus.
Our columbine is Psyche, our clown Momus, and our pantaloon is
conjectured to be the modern representative of Charon,--variously
habited indeed, according to Venetian fancy and feelings. Even Punch,
the friend of our childhood, the great-headed, long-nosed, hump-backed
"Mister Pōnch," it seems, was known to the Romans, under the name of
Maccus.

Our pantomime, however, is an inferior translation, rather than a good
copy, from its Italian original. The rich humor, the ready wit, the
exquisite raciness of the Italian performance have all evaporated, and
with us are burlesqued by the vapid joke, the stale trick, and acts of
low buffoonery. We read of the pantomimic actors, Constantini and
Cecchini, being ennobled; of Louis XIII. patronizing the merits of
Nicholas Barbieri, and raising him to fortune; that Tiberio Fiurilli,
the inventor of the character of Scaramouch, was the early companion of
Louis XIV., and that the wit of the harlequin Dominic made him a
favored guest at the same monarch's table. These instances of
distinction are alone sufficient proof of the superior refinement of the
actors of Italian pantomime, above our vulgar tribe of tumblers. The
Italian artists were fellows "of infinite jest," whose ready wit enabled
them to support extempore dialogue, suiting "the action to the word, and
the word to the action;" for the Arlequino of Italy was not a mute like
his English representative. Many of the Italian harlequins were authors
of considerable reputation; Ruzzante, who flourished about 1530, may be
regarded as the Shakspeare of pantomime. "Till his time," says
D'Israeli, "they had servilely copied the duped fathers, the wild sons,
and the tricking valets of Plautus and Terence; and perhaps, not being
writers of sufficient skill but of some invention, were satisfied to
sketch the plots of dramas, boldly trusting to extempore acting and
dialogue. Ruzzante peopled the Italian stage with a fresh, enlivening
crowd of pantomimic characters. The insipid dotards of the ancient
comedy were transformed into the Venetian Pantaloon, and the Bolognese
Doctor; while the hare-brained fellow, the arch knave, and the booby,
were furnished from Milan, Bergamo, and Calabria. He gave his newly
created beings new language and a new dress. From Plautus, he appears to
have taken the hint of introducing all the Italian dialects into one
comedy, by making each character use his own,--and even the modern
Greek, which, it seems, afforded many an unexpected play on words for
the Italian. This new kind of pleasure, like the language of Babel,
charmed the national ear; every province would have its dialect
introduced on the scene, which often served the purpose both of
recreation and a little innocent malice. Their masks and dresses were
furnished by the grotesque masqueraders of the Carnival, which,
doubtless, often contributed many scenes and humors to the quick and
fanciful genius of Ruzzante."

To the interesting essay, by the author of the "Curiosities of
Literature," from whence this extract is derived, we beg leave to refer
the reader for an anecdotical history of pantomime. Mr. D'Israeli in
conclusion observes, that "in gesticulation and humor our Rich appears
to have been a complete mime; his genius was entirely confined to
pantomime, and he had the glory of introducing Harlequin on the English
stage, which he played under the feigned name of Lun. He could describe
to the audience by his signs and gestures, as intelligibly as others
could express by words. There is a large caricature print of the triumph
which Rich had obtained over the severe muses of tragedy and comedy,
which lasted too long not to excite jealousy and opposition from the
_corps dramatique_.

"Garrick, who once introduced a speaking Harlequin, has celebrated the
silent but powerful language of Rich:--

    "When LUN appeared, with matchless art and whim,
     He gave the power of speech to every limb,
     Tho' mask'd and mute, convey'd his quick intent,
     And told in frolic gestures what he meant;
     But now the motley coat and sword of wood
     Require a tongue to make them understood!'"

Foote, it was, we think, who attempted to get a standing for a Harlequin
with a wooden leg upon the English stage; and though he was supported by
a clown upon crutches, these and other efforts to effect a witty reform
in the mechanism of an English pantomime proved unsuccessful. "Why is
this burlesque race here," inquires Mr. D'Israeli, "privileged to cost
so much, to do so little, and repeat that little so often?" In 1827,
according to a statement which we believe to be tolerably correct, the
"getting up," as it is termed, of the pantomimes produced on the 26th of
December, in London, cost at--

    Covent Garden        £1,000
    Drury Lane            1,000
    Surrey                  500
    Adelphi                 200
    Olympic                 150
    Sadler's Wells          100
    West London             100
                         ------
    Making the total of  £3,050

and in other years, we believe the cost has been considerably more; and
yet this enormous expenditure left no impression on the popular memory,
mere stage-trick being far below the exhibition of a juggler. True it
is, that clever artists have been for many years employed to design and
paint the scenery of the pantomimes, and consequently admirable pictures
have been exhibited, especially at the national theatres, where this
feature, indeed, constitutes the main attraction of the evening's
performance. The stupid tragedy of "George Barnwell," produced for the
sake of the city apprentices, was formerly the usual prelude to the
Christmas pantomime on the night of St. Stephen's Day. Hone, in his
"Every-Day Book," has chronicled that "the representation of this
tragedy was omitted in the Christmas holidays of 1819, at both theatres,
for the first time." To be sure, this dull affair answered the purpose
as well as any other, it being an established rule with the tenants of
the theatrical Olympus that nothing shall be heard save their own
thunders, previously to the pantomime on St. Stephen's night. The most
famous pantomime which has been played in our times is unquestionably
Mother Goose. When it was produced, or to whom the authorship is
ascribed, we know not; but in 1808 it was revived and played at the
Haymarket, with an additional scene representing the burning of Covent
Garden Theatre. The pantomimes of the last thirty years have failed to
effect a total eclipse of the brilliancy of "Harlequin and Mother Goose,
or the Golden Egg;" which found its way into the list of provincial
stock-pieces.

Connected with this golden age of English pantomime, the recollection of
Grimaldi, Joey Grimaldi, as the gallery folk delighted to call him, is
an obvious association. His acting like that of Liston must have been
seen to be understood or appreciated; for no description can convey an
adequate idea of the power of expression and gesture. They who have not
seen Joey may never hope to look upon his like; and they who have seen
him must never expect to see his like again. On the English stage never
was clown like Grimaldi! He was far more than a clown, he was a great
comic actor. But his constitution soon gave way under the trials to
which it was exposed. In the depth of winter, after performing at
Sadler's Wells, he was brought down night after night wrapped in
blankets to Covent Garden; and there had, for the second time in the
course of the same evening, to go through the allotted series of
grimaces, leaps, and tumbles. Poor Grimaldi, sunk by these exertions
into a premature old age, was finally obliged to retire from the stage
on the 27th of June, 1828; and the Literary Gazette thus pleasantly, but
feelingly, announced his intention:--

"Our immense favorite, Grimaldi, under the severe pressure of years and
infirmities, is enabled through the good feeling and prompt liberality
of Mr. Price, to take a benefit at Drury Lane on Friday next; the last
of Joseph Grimaldi! Drury's, Covent Garden's, Sadler's, everybody's Joe!
The friend of Harlequin and Farley-kin! the town clown! greatest of
fools! daintiest of motleys! the true ami des enfans! The tricks and
changes of life, sadder, alas! than those of pantomime, have made a
dismal difference between the former flapping, filching, laughing,
bounding antic and the present Grimaldi. He has no spring in his foot,
no mirth in his eye! The corners of his mouth droop mournfully
earthward; and he stoops in the back, like the weariest of Time's
porters! L'Allegro has done with him, and Il Penseroso claims him for
its own! It is said, besides, that his pockets are neither so large nor
so well stuffed as they used to be on the stage: and it is hard to
suppose fun without funds, or broad grins in narrow circumstances."

The mummers, who still go about at this season of the year in some parts
of England, are the last descendants of those maskers, who in former
times, as we have shown at length, contributed to the celebrations of
the season, at once amongst the highest and lowest classes of the land;
as their performances present, also, the last semblances of those
ancient Mysteries and Moralities, by which the splendid pageants of the
court were preceded. Sir Walter Scott, in a note to "Marmion," seems to
intimate that these mummeries are, in fact, the offspring and relics of
the old Mysteries themselves. The fact, however, seems rather to be,
that these exhibitions existed before the introduction of the Scripture
plays; and that the one and the other are separate forms of a practice
copied directly from the festival observances of the pagans.
Accordingly, Brand speaks of a species of mumming which "consists in
changing clothes between men and women who, when dressed in each other's
habits go from one neighbor's house to another, partaking of Christmas
cheer and making merry with them in disguise;" and which practice he
traces directly to the Roman Sigillaria. In various parts of the
Continent also, as in France and Germany, certain forms of mumming long
existed, which appear to have been originally borrowed from the rites of
idolatry: and the Scottish Guisars, or Guisarts, if the very ingenious
explanation of their hogmanay cry given by Mr. Repp (and for which we
refer our readers to vol. iv., part 1, of the Archæologia Scotica) be
correct, connect themselves with the superstitions of the northern
nations.

Amongst the forms of ancient mumming which have come down to the present
or recent times, we may observe that the hobby-horse formed as late as
the seventeenth century a prominent character, and that something of
this kind seems still to exist. Dr. Plot in his "History of
Staffordshire" mentions a performance called the "Hobby-horse Dance," as
having taken place at Abbot's Bromley during the Christmas season,
within the memory of man; and we have already shown that a modification
of the same practice continues to the present day, or did to within a
few years back, in the Isle of Thanet. This dance is described by Dr.
Plot as being composed of "a person who carried the image of a horse
between his legs, made of thin boards, and in his hand a bow and arrow.
The latter, passing through a hole in the bow and stopping on a
shoulder, made a snapping noise when drawn to and fro, keeping time with
the music. With this man danced six others, carrying on their shoulders
as many reindeer heads with the arms of the chief families to whom the
revenues of the town belonged. They danced the heys, and other country
dances. To the above Hobby-horse there belonged a pot, which was kept by
turns by the reeves of the town, who provided cakes and ale to put into
this pot,--all people who had any kindness for the good intent of the
institution of the sport, giving pence a-piece for themselves and
families. Foreigners also that came to see it contributed; and the
money, after defraying the expense of the cakes and ale, went to repair
the church and support the poor." A reason given by some as the origin
of this practice, we have already stated in our mention of "hodening;"
and our readers will see that its object, like that of the other similar
observances of this season, was charity.

In some parts of the north of England, a custom exists to the present
time which appears to be composed of the ancient Roman sword-dance, or,
perhaps, the sword-dance of the northern nations, and lingering traces
of the obsolete "Festival of Fools." This practice, which is called the
"Fool Plough," consists in a pageant composed of "a number of
sword-dancers dragging a plough, with music, and one, sometimes two, in
very strange attire; the Bessy in the grotesque habit of an old woman,
and the fool almost covered with skins, a hairy cap on, and the tail of
some animal hanging from his back. The office of one of these
characters, in which he is very assiduous, is to go about rattling a box
amongst the spectators of the dance, in which he receives their little
donations." Our readers will probably remember that a set of these
mummers are introduced by Washington Irving, in his account of a
Christmas spent in Yorkshire.

The old Christmas play of "Saint George and the Dragon" is still amongst
the most popular amusements of this season, in many parts of England.
Whether this particular kind of performance is to be considered as
dating from the return of the Crusaders, or that similar representations
had existed previously, the characters of which alone were changed by
that event, does not appear from any other remains that have reached us.
There is evidence, however, that plays founded upon the legend of Saint
George are of a very remote date; and, in all probability, they were
introduced not long after the age of the Crusades. From various
contributors to Mr. Hone's "Every-Day Book," we learn that versions of
these plays are still performed amongst the lower orders at the
Christmas tide, in the extreme western counties of England, as also in
Cumberland, and some others of the more northern ones; and one of those
correspondents, dating from Falkirk, gives an account of a play still
performed by the Guisars, in some parts of Scotland, which is of similar
construction and evidently borrowed from the same source, but in which
one Galgacus is substituted for Saint George, as the hero of the piece;
and the drama is made by that substitution to commemorate the successful
battle of the Grampians, by the Scots under that leader, against the
invader, Agricola. If Mr. Reddock be right in this opinion, Agricola is
for the nonce elevated to the title of king of Macedon. The party who
carries the bag for these mummers is a very questionable trustee, being
no other than Judas Iscariot. Sir Walter Scott, in his notes to
"Marmion," speaks of the same play as one in which he and his companions
were in the habit of taking parts, when boys; and mentions the
characters of the old Scripture-plays having got mixed up with it in the
version familiar to him. He enumerates Saint Peter, who carried the
keys; Saint Paul, who was armed with a sword; and Judas, who had the bag
for contributions; and says that he believes there was also a Saint
George. It is not unlikely there might, though he is not mentioned by
Mr. Reddock, for the confusion of characters in all these versions is
very great. In the Whitehaven edition, Saint George is son to the king
of Egypt, and the hero who carries all before him is Alexander. He
conquers Saint George and kills the king of Egypt. In fact the legend,
as it exists in the old romance of "Sir Bevys of Hampton," has
everywhere been mixed up with extraneous matter, and scarcely any two
sets of performers render it alike. The plot seems, in all, to be pretty
nearly the same; and the doctor, with his marvellous cures and empirical
gibberish, seems to be common to them all. "But so little," says Sandys,
"do the actors know the history of their own drama, that sometimes
General Wolfe is introduced, who first fights Saint George, and then
sings a song about his own death. I have also seen the Duke of
Wellington represented." Mr. Reddock mentions, that during the war with
France one of the characters in his version "was made to say that he had
been 'fighting the French,' and that the _loon_ who took leg-bail was no
less a personage than" the great Napoleon. Mr. Sandys mentions that
occasionally there is a sort of anti-masque, or burlesque (if the
burlesque itself _can_ be burlesqued) at the end of the performance;
when some comic characters enter, called Hub Bub, Old Squire, etc., and
the piece concludes with a dance. At other times, the performances are
wound up by a song.

We may mention that we have in our possession an Irish version of the
same play, as it is still played by the boys in that country; in which
version, as might be expected, the championship is given to Saint
Patrick, who asserts that Saint George was nothing more than "Saint
Patrick's boy," and fed his horses. Another of the characters in this
edition of the story is Oliver Cromwell, who, after certain
grandiloquent boastings (amongst others, that he had "conquered many
nations with his copper nose"), calls upon no less personage than
Beelzebub to step in and confirm his assertions.

The costume and accoutrements of these mummers (of whom we have given a
representation at page 65) appear to be pretty generally of the same
kind, and, for the most part, to resemble those of morris-dancers. They
are thus correctly described by Mr. Sandys. Saint George and the other
tragic performers wear "white trousers and waistcoats, showing their
shirt-sleeves, and are much decorated with ribbons and handkerchiefs,
each carrying a drawn sword in his hand, if they can be procured,
otherwise a cudgel. They wear high caps of pasteboard covered with fancy
paper, adorned with beads, small pieces of looking-glass, bugles, etc.,
several long strips of pith generally hanging down from the top, with
shreds of different colored cloth strung on them, the whole having a
fanciful and smart effect. The Turk sometimes has a turban. Father
Christmas is personified as a grotesque old man, wearing a large mask
and wig, with a huge club in his hand. The doctor, who is sort of
merry-andrew to the piece, is dressed in some ridiculous way, with a
three-cornered hat and painted face. The female when there is one, is
in the costume of her great-grandmother. The hobby-horse, when
introduced, has a sort of representation of a horse's hide; but the
dragon and the giant, when there is one, frequently appear with the same
style of dress as the knights."

We will present our readers with the version of this old drama given by
Mr. Sandys, as still performed in Cornwall. Elsewhere, we have met with
some slight variations upon even this Cornwall piece, but will be
content to print it as we find it in the collection in question. Our
Lancashire readers will at once recognize its close resemblance to the
play performed in that county, about the time of Easter, by the
Peace-eggers, or Paste-eggers, of whom we shall speak, in their proper
place, in a future volume.


    _Enter the Turkish Knight._

    Open your doors and let me in,
    I hope your favors I shall win;
    Whether I rise or whether I fall
    I'll do my best to please you all.
    Saint George is here, and swears he will come in,
    And if he does, I know he'll pierce my skin.
    If you will not believe what I do say,
    Let Father Christmas come in,--clear the way!
                                               [_Retires._


    _Enter Father Christmas._

    Here come I, old Father Christmas,
      Welcome, or welcome not,
    I hope old Father Christmas
      Will never be forgot.
    I am not come here to laugh or to jeer,
    But for a pocketful of money and a skinful of beer.
    If you will not believe what I do say,
    Come in the King of Egypt,--clear the way!


    _Enter the King of Egypt._

    Here I, the King of Egypt, boldly do appear,
    Saint George! Saint George! walk in, my only son and heir.
    Walk in, my son, Saint George! and boldly act thy part,
    That all the people here may see thy wond'rous art.


    _Enter Saint George._

    Here come I, Saint George, from Britain did I spring,
    I'll fight the Dragon bold, my wonders to begin,
    I'll clip his wings, he shall not fly;
    I'll cut him down, or else I die.


    _Enter the Dragon._

    Who's he that seeks the Dragon's blood,
    And calls so angry, and so loud?
    That English dog, will he before me stand?
    I'll cut him down with my courageous hand.
    With my long teeth and scurvy jaw,
    Of such I'd break up half a score,
    And stay my stomach, till I'd more.

[_Saint George and the Dragon fight,--the latter is killed._

    _Father Christmas._

    Is there a doctor to be found
      All ready, near at hand,
    To cure a deep and deadly wound,
      And make the champion stand?


    _Enter Doctor._

    Oh! yes, there is a doctor to be found
      All ready, near at hand,
    To cure a deep and deadly wound,
      And make the champion stand.

    _Fa. Chris._ What can you cure?

    _Doctor._ All sorts of diseases,
    Whatever you pleases,
    The phthisic, the palsy, and the gout;
    If the devil's in, I'll blow him out.

    _Fa. Chris._ What is your fee?

    _Doctor._ Fifteen pound, it is my fee,
      The money to lay down;
    But, as 'tis such a rogue as thee,
      I cure for ten pound.
    I carry a little bottle of alicumpane,
      Here Jack, take a little of my flip flop,
      Pour it down thy tip top,
    Rise up and fight again.

[_The Doctor performs his cure, the fight is renewed, and the Dragon
again killed._

    _Saint George._

            Here am I, Saint George,
              That worthy champion bold!
            And with my sword and spear
              I won three crowns of gold!
            I fought the fiery dragon,
              And brought him to the slaughter;
            By that I won fair Sabra,
              The King of Egypt's daughter.
    Where is the man, that now me will defy?
    I'll cut his giblets full of holes, and make his buttons fly.


    _The Turkish Knight advances._

    Here come I, the Turkish knight,
    Come from the Turkish land to fight!
    I'll fight Saint George, who is my foe,
    I'll make him yield, before I go;
    He brags to such a high degree,
    He thinks there's none can do the like of he.


    _Saint George._

    Where is the Turk, that will before me stand?
    I'll cut him down with my courageous hand.

[_They fight, the Knight is overcome, and falls on one knee._


    _Turkish Knight._

    Oh! pardon me, Saint George! pardon of thee I crave,
    Oh! pardon me, this night, and I will be thy slave.

    _Saint George._

    No pardon shalt thou have, while I have foot to stand.
    So rise thee up again, and fight out sword in hand.

[_They fight again, and the Knight is killed; Father Christmas calls for
the Doctor, with whom the same dialogue occurs as before, and the cure
is performed._

_Enter the Giant Turpin._

    Here come I, the Giant! bold Turpin is my name,
    And all the nations round do tremble at my fame.
    Where'er I go, they tremble at my sight,
    No lord or champion long with me would fight.


    _Saint George._

    Here's one that dares to look thee in the face,
    And soon will send thee to another place.

[_They fight, and the Giant is killed; medical aid is called in, as
before, and the cure performed by the Doctor, who then, according to the
stage direction, is given a basin of girdy grout, and a kick, and driven
out._


    _Father Christmas._

    Now, ladies and gentlemen, your sport is most ended.
    So prepare for the hat, which is highly commended.
    The hat it would speak, if it had but a tongue.
    Come throw in your money, and think it no wrong.

And these, with the dance filling up the intervals and enlivening the
winter nights, are amongst the sports and amusements which extend
themselves over the Christmas season and connect together its more
special and characteristic observances.

[Illustration: GALANTEE SHOW.]

[Illustration: MARKET--CHRISTMAS EVE.--_Page 267._]



CHRISTMAS EVE.

24TH DECEMBER.

    "Some say, that ever 'gainst that season comes
     Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
     This bird of dawning singeth all night long:
     And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
     The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
     No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
     So hallow'd and so gracious is the time."
                                     HAMLET.


THE progress of the Christmas celebrations has at length brought us up
to the immediate threshold of that high day in honor of which they are
all instituted; and amid the crowd of festivities by which it is on all
sides surrounded, the Christian heart makes a pause to-night. Not that
the Eve of Christmas is marked by an entire abstinence from that spirit
of festival by which the rest of this season is distinguished, nor that
the joyous character of the event on whose immediate verge it stands
requires that it should. No part of that season is more generally
dedicated to the assembling of friends than are the great day itself and
the eve which ushers it in. Still, however, the feelings of rejoicing
which properly belong to the blessed occasion are chastened by the
immediate presence of the occasion itself; and touching traditions and
beautiful superstitions have given an air of solemnity to the night,
beneath whose influence the spirit of commemoration assumes a religious
character, and takes a softened tone.

Before however, touching upon the customs and ceremonies of the night,
or upon those natural superstitions which have hung themselves around
its sacred watches, we must take a glimpse at an out-of-door scene which
forms a curious enough feature of Christmas Eve, and is rather connected
with the great festival of to-morrow than with the hushed and expectant
feelings which are the fitting moral condition of to-night.

Everywhere throughout the British isles Christmas Eve is marked by an
increased activity about the good things of this life. "Now," says
Stevenson, an old writer whom we have already quoted for the customs of
Charles the Second's time, "capons and hens, besides turkeys, geese,
ducks, with beef and mutton, must all die; for in twelve days a
multitude of people will not be fed with a little;" and the preparations
in this respect of this present period of grace, are made much after the
ancient prescription of Stevenson. The abundant displays of every kind
of edible in the London markets on Christmas Eve, with a view to the
twelve days' festival of which it is the overture, the blaze of lights
amid which they are exhibited and the evergreen decorations by which
they are embowered, together with the crowds of idlers or of purchasers
that wander through these well-stored magazines, present a picture of
abundance and a congress of faces well worthy of a single visit from the
stranger, to whom a London market on the eve of Christmas is as yet a
novelty.

The approach of Christmas Eve in the metropolis is marked by the
Smithfield show of over-fed cattle; by the enormous beasts and birds,
for the fattening of which medals and cups and prizes have been awarded
by committees of amateur graziers and feeders; in honor of which
monstrosities, dinners have been eaten, toasts drunk, and speeches made.
These prodigious specimens of corpulency we behold, after being thus
glorified, led like victims of antiquity decked with ribbons and other
tokens of triumph, or perhaps instead of led, we should, as the animals
are scarcely able to waddle, have used the word goaded, to be immolated
at the altar of gluttony in celebration of Christmas! To admiring
crowds, on the eve itself, are the results of oil-cake and
turnip-feeding displayed in the various butcher's shops of the
metropolis and its vicinity; and the efficacy of walnut-cramming is
illustrated in Leadenhall market, where Norfolk turkeys and Dorking
fowls appear in numbers and magnitude unrivalled. The average weight
given for each turkey, by the statement heretofore quoted by us of the
number and gravity of those birds sent up to London from Norfolk during
two days of a Christmas some years ago, is nearly twelve pounds; but
what is called a fine bird in Leadenhall Market weighs, when trussed,
from eighteen to one or two-and-twenty pounds,--the average price of
which may be stated at twenty shillings; and prize turkeys have been
known to weigh more than a quarter of a hundred weight.

Brawn is another dish of this season, and is sold by the poulterers,
fishmongers, and pastry-cooks. The supply for the consumption of London
is chiefly derived from Canterbury, Oxfordshire, and Hampshire. "It is
manufactured from the flesh of large boars, which are suffered to live
in a half-wild state, and, when put up to fatten, are strapped and
belted tight round the principal parts of the carcass, in order to make
the flesh become dense and brawny. This article comes to market in rolls
about two feet long and ten inches in diameter, packed in wicker
baskets."

Sandys observes that "Brawn is a dish of great antiquity, and may be
found in most of the old bills of fare for coronation and other great
feasts." "Brawn, mustard, and malmsey were directed for breakfast at
Christmas, during Queen Elizabeth's reign; and Dugdale, in his account
of the Inner Temple Revels, of the same age, states the same directions
for that society. The French," continues Sandys, "do not appear to have
been so well acquainted with it; for, on the capture of Calais by them,
they found a large quantity, which they guessed to be some dainty, and
tried every means of preparing it; in vain did they roast it, bake it,
and boil it; it was impracticable and impenetrable to their culinary
arts. Its merits, however, being at length discovered, 'Ha!' said the
monks, 'what delightful fish!'--and immediately added it to their
fast-day viands. The Jews, again, could not believe it was procured from
that impure beast, the hog, and included it in their list of clean
animals."

Amid the interior forms to be observed, on this evening, by those who
would keep their Christmas after the old orthodox fashion, the first to
be noticed is that of the Yule Clog. This huge block, which, in ancient
times, and consistently with the capacity of its vast receptacle, was
frequently the root of a large tree, it was the practice to introduce
into the house with great ceremony, and to the sound of music. Herrick's
direction is:--

    "Come, bring with a noise
     My merrie, merrie boys,
       The Christmas log to the firing;
     While my good dame she
     Bids you all be free,
       And drink to your heart's desiring."

In Drake's "Winter Nights" mention is made of the Yule Clog, as lying,
"in ponderous majesty, on the kitchen floor," until "each had sung his
Yule song, standing on its centre,"--ere it was consigned to the flames
that

    "Went roaring up the chimney wide."

This Yule Clog, according to Herrick, was to be lighted with the brand
of the last year's log, which had been carefully laid aside for the
purpose, and music was to be played during the ceremony of lighting:--

    "With the last yeere's brand
     Light the new block, and
       For good successe in his spending,
     On your psaltries play,
     That sweet luck may
       Come while the log is a teending."

This log appears to have been considered as sanctifying the roof-tree,
and was probably deemed a protection against those evil spirits over
whom this season was in every way a triumph. Accordingly, various
superstitions mingled with the prescribed ceremonials in respect of it.
From the authority already quoted on this subject, we learn that its
virtues were not to be extracted, unless it were lighted with clean
hands--a direction, probably, including both a useful household hint to
the domestics, and, it may be, a moral of a higher kind:--

    "Wash your hands or else the fire
     Will not tend to your desire;
     Unwash'd hands, ye maidens, know,
     Dead the fire though ye blow."

Around this fire, when duly lighted, the hospitalities of the evening
were dispensed; and as the flames played about it and above it, with a
pleasant song of their own, the song and the tale and the jest went
cheerily round. In different districts, different omens attached
themselves to circumstances connected with this observance, but
generally it was deemed an evil one if the log went out during the night
or, we suppose, during the symposium. The extinguished brand was, of
course, to be preserved, to furnish its ministry to the ceremonial of
the ensuing year.

The Yule Clog is still lighted up, on Christmas Eve, in various parts of
England, and particularly in the north. In some places, where a block of
sufficient dimensions is not readily come by, it is usual to lay aside a
large coal for the purpose, which, if not quite orthodox, is an
exceedingly good succedaneum, and a very rich source of cheerful
inspirations.

Another feature of this evening, in the houses of the more wealthy, was
the tall Christmas candles, with their wreaths of evergreens, which were
lighted up, along with the Yule log, and placed on the upper table, or
dais, of ancient days. Those of our readers who desire to light the
Christmas candles, this year, may place them on the sideboard, or in any
other conspicuous situation. Brand, however, considers the Yule log and
the Christmas candle to be but one observance, and that the former is
only a substitute for the latter. By our ancestors, of the Latin church,
Christmas was formerly called the "Feast of Lights," and numbers of
lights were displayed on the occasion. The lights and the title were
both typical of the religious light dawning upon the world at that
sacred period,--of the advent, in fact, of the "Light of lights," and
the conquest over moral darkness. Hence, it is thought, arose the
_domestic_ ceremony of the Christmas candle, and that the Yule block was
but another form of the same,--the poor man's Christmas candle.

Occasionally, the Catholics appear to have made these Christmas candles
(as also the candles exhibited by them, on other occasions of the
commemorations connected with their religion) in a triangular form, as
typical of the Trinity. Mr. Hone, in his volume on the subject of
"Ancient Mysteries," gives a representation of one of these candles; and
Mr. Crofton Croker, in a letter to us, speaking of the huge dip candles
called Christmas candles, exhibited at this season in the chandlers'
shops in Ireland, and presented by them to their customers, says, "It
was the custom, I have been told (for the mystery of such matters was
confined to the kitchen), to burn the three branches down to the point
in which they united, and the remainder was reserved to 'see in,' as it
was termed, the new year by." "There is," says Mr. Croker, "always
considerable ceremony observed in lighting these great candles on
Christmas Eve. It is thought unlucky to snuff one; and certain auguries
are drawn from the manner and duration of their burning."

[Illustration: WASSAIL BOWL.--_Page 275._]

The customs peculiar to Christmas Eve are numerous, and various in
different parts of the British isles; the peculiarities, in most cases,
arising from local circumstances or traditions, and determining the
_particular_ forms of a celebration which is _universal_. To enter upon
any thing like an enumeration of these, it would be necessary to allow
ourselves another volume. We must, therefore, confine ourselves to the
general observances by which the Christmas spirit works, and each of our
readers will have no difficulty in connecting the several local customs
which come under his own notice with the particular feature of common
celebration to which they belong.

But all men, in all places, who would keep Christmas Eve as Christmas
Eve should be kept, must set the wassail-bowl a-flowing for the
occasion. "Fill me a mighty bowl!" says Herrick, "up to the brim!" and
though this fountain of "quips and cranks and wreathed smiles," belongs,
in an especial sense, to Twelfth-night (Twelfth-night not being
Twelfth-night without it), yet it should be compounded for every one of
the festival nights, and invoked to spread its inspirations over the
entire season.

    "Honor to you who sit
     Near to the well of wit,
     And drink your fill of it!"

again says our friend Herrick (what could we do without him, in this
Christmas book of ours?). And surely, judging by such effects as we have
witnessed, Herrick must have meant the wassail-bowl. We are perfectly
aware that there are certain other dwellers in that same bowl. Truth has
been said to lie at the bottom of a well; and we have certainly seen him
unseasonably brought up out of the very well in question, by those who
have gone further into its depths than was necessary for reaching the
abode of wit. No doubt, truth is at all times a very respectable
personage; but there are certain times when he and wit do not meet on
the best of terms, and he is apt, occasionally, to be somewhat of a
revel-marrer. The garb and temper in which he often follows wit out of
that bowl are not those in which he appears to the most advantage. We
know, also, that there is yet a deeper deep, in which worse things still
reside; and although there be pearls there, too,--and the skilful diver
may bring treasures up out of that bowl, and escape all its evil
spirits, besides,--yet it is, at any rate, not on this night of subdued
mirth that we intend to recommend an exploration of these further
depths. But still the bowl should be produced, and go round. A cheerful
sporting with the light bubbles that wit flings up to its surface are
perfectly consistent with the sacred character of the night, and, for
ourselves, _we_ will have a wassail-bowl this Christmas Eve.

The word "wassail" is derived from the Saxon _was haile_; which word,
and _drinc-heil_ (_heil_, health) were, as appears from old authors
quoted by Brand, the usual ancient phrases of quaffing, among the
English and equivalent to the "Here's to you," and "I pledge you," of
the present day. "The wassail-bowl," says Warton, "is Shakspeare's
gossip's bowl, in the Midsummer Night's Dream." It should be composed,
by those who can afford it, of some rich wine highly spiced and
sweetened, with roasted apples floating on its surface. But ale was more
commonly substituted for the wine, mingled with nutmeg, ginger, sugar,
toast, and roasted crabs. "It is," says Leigh Hunt, "a good-natured
bowl, and accommodates itself to the means of all classes, rich and
poor. You may have it of the costliest wine or the humblest malt liquor.
But in no case must the roasted apples be forgotten. They are the _sine
qua non_ of the wassail-bowl, as the wassail-bowl is of the day (_he_ is
speaking of New Year's Day); and very pleasant they are, provided they
are not mixed up too much with the beverage, balmy, comfortable, and
different, a sort of meat in the drink, but innocent withal and
reminding you of the orchards. They mix their flavor with the beverage,
and the beverage with them, giving a new meaning to the line of the
poet,--

    'The gentler apple's winy juice;'

for both winy and gentler have they become by this process. Our
ancestors gave them the affectionate name of 'lamb's wool;' for we
cannot help thinking, in spite of what is intimated by one of our
authorities, that this term applied more particularly to the apples and
not so much to the bowl altogether; though if it did, it shows how
indispensably necessary to it they were considered." With all deference
to Mr. Leigh Hunt's pleasant and graceful trifling, lamb's wool was the
title given to the composition itself, no doubt on account of the
delicate and harmonious qualities, to which the apples contribute their
share. Our readers will find an account of the alleged origin of this
annual practice in a curious description of an old wassail-bowl, carved
upon the oaken beam that supported a chimney-piece in an old mansion in
Kent, which description is copied by Hone into his "Every-Day Book,"
from the "Antiquarian Repertory." In the halls of our ancestors, this
bowl was introduced with the inspiring cry of "wassail," three times
repeated, and immediately answered by a song from the chaplain. We hope
our readers will sing to the wassail-bowl this Christmas-tide.

We find that in some parts of Ireland and in Germany, and probably in
districts of England, too, Christmas Eve is treated as a night of omens,
and that practices exist for gathering its auguries having a resemblance
to those of our northern neighbors at Halloween. Many beautiful, and
some solemn superstitions belong to this night and the following
morning. It is stated by Sir Walter Scott, in one of his notes to
"Marmion," to be an article of popular faith, "that they who are born on
Christmas or Good Friday have the power of seeing spirits, and even of
commanding them;" and he adds that "the Spaniards imputed the haggard
and downcast looks of their Philip II. to the disagreeable visions to
which this privilege subjected him."

Among the finest superstitions of the night may be mentioned that which
is alluded to by Shakspeare in the lines which we have placed as the
epigraph to the present chapter. It is a consequence or application of
that very ancient and popular belief which assigns the night for the
wanderings of spirits, and supposes them, at the crowing of "the cock,
that is the trumpet to the morn," to start "like a guilty thing upon a
fearful summons," and betake themselves to flight. Here again, as in so
many cases of vulgar superstition, a sort of mental metonymy has taken
place; and the crowing of the cock, which in the early stage of the
belief was imagined to be the signal for the departure of evil spirits,
only _because_ it announced the morning, is, in the further stage which
we are examining, held to be a sound _in itself_ intolerable to these
shadowy beings. Accordingly it is supposed that on the eve of Christmas
"the bird of dawning singeth all night long," to scare away all evil
things from infesting the hallowed hours:--

    "And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
     The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
     No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
     So hallow'd and so gracious is the time."

In the south-west of England there exists a superstitious notion that
the oxen are to be found kneeling in their stalls at midnight of this
vigil, as if in adoration of the Nativity,--an idea which Brand, no
doubt correctly, supposes to have originated from the representations by
early painters of the event itself. That writer mentions a Cornish
peasant who told him (1790) of his having with some others watched
several oxen in their stalls, on the eve of old Christmas Day. "At
twelve o'clock at night, they observed the two oldest oxen fall upon
their knees, and, as he expressed it in the idiom of the country, make
'a cruel moan like Christian creatures.'" To those who regard the
analogies of the human mind, who mark the progress of tradition, who
study the diffusion of certain fancies, and their influence upon
mankind, an anecdote related by Mr. Howison in his "Sketches of Upper
Canada," is full of comparative interest. He mentions meeting an Indian
at midnight, creeping cautiously along in the stillness of a beautiful
moonlight Christmas Eve. The Indian made signals to him to be silent;
and when questioned as to his reason replied,--"Me watch to see the deer
kneel; this is Christmas night, and all the deer fall upon their knees
to the Great Spirit, and look up."

In various parts of England, bees are popularly said to express their
veneration for the Nativity by "singing," as it is called, in their
hives at midnight, upon Christmas Eve: and in some places, particularly
in Derbyshire, it is asserted that the watcher may hear the ringing of
subterranean bells. In the mining districts again, the workmen declare
that--

          "Ever 'gainst that season comes
    Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,"

high mass is solemnly performed in that cavern which contains the
richest lode of ore, that it is brilliantly lighted up with candles, and
that the service is chanted by unseen choristers.

Superstitions of this kind seem to be embodied in the carol commencing
with "I saw three ships come sailing in," to which we have before
alluded; the rhythm of which old song is to our ear singularly
melodious:--

    "And all the bells on earth shall ring
       On Christmas-day, on Christmas-day,
     And all the bells on earth shall ring
       On Christmas-day in the morning.

    "And all the angels in heaven shall sing
       On Christmas-day, on Christmas-day,
     And all the angels in heaven shall sing
       On Christmas-day in the morning.

    "And all the souls on earth shall sing
       On Christmas-day, on Christmas-day,
     And all the souls on earth shall sing,
       On Christmas-day in the morning."

Such fancies are but the natural echoes in the popular mind of ancient
songs and customs; and so strongly is that mind impressed with the
feeling of a triumph pervading the entire natural economy on

              "the happy night
    That to the cottage as the crown,
    Brought tidings of salvation down,"

that even the torpid bees are figured in its superstitions to utter a
voice of gladness, the music of sweet chimes to issue from the bosom of
the earth, and rich harmonies to echo and high ceremonies to be
gorgeously performed, amid the hush and mystery of buried cells.

We must not omit to mention that these supposed natural testimonies to
the triumph of the time have been in some places used as means of
divination on a very curious question. The change of style introduced
into our calendars nearly a century ago, and by which Christmas Day was
displaced from its ancient position therein, gave great dissatisfaction
on many accounts, and on none more than that of its interference with
this ancient festival. The fifth and sixth of January continued long to
be observed as the true anniversary of the Nativity and its vigil; and
the kneeling of the cattle, the humming of the bees, and the ringing of
subterranean bells, were anxiously watched for authentications on this
subject. The singular fact of the budding about the period of old
Christmas Day of the Cadenham oak, in the New Forest of Hampshire, and
the same remarkable feature of the Glastonbury thorn (explained in
various ways, but probably nowhere more satisfactorily than in the
number for the 31st December, 1833, of the Saturday Magazine), were of
course used by the vulgar as confirmation of their own tradition; and
the putting forth of their leaves was earnestly waited for as an
unquestionable homage to the joyous spirit of the true period.

We have already alluded to the high ceremonies with which the great day
is ushered in amongst the Catholics, and to the beautiful music of the
midnight mass:--

    "That only night of all the year
     Saw the stoled priest his chalice rear."

The reader who would have a very graphic and striking account of the
Christmas Eve mass, as performed by torchlight amid the hills in certain
districts of Ireland, will find one in Mr. Carleton's "Traits and
Stories of the Irish Peasantry."

We have also mentioned that all the watches of this hallowed night shall
ring to the sounds of earthly minstrelsy, intimating, as best they may,
the heavenly choirs that hailed its rising over Judea nearly two
centuries ago. Not for the shepherds alone, was that song! Its music was
for us, as for them; and all minstrelsy, however rude, is welcome on
this night that gives us any echoes of it, however wild. For us too, on
the blessed day of which this vigil keeps the door, "is born in the city
of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord;" and we too amid the
sacred services of to-morrow will "go even unto Bethlehem, and see this
thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us."

[Illustration: OLD CHRISTMAS

                            In furry pall yclad,
    His brows enwreathed with holly never sere,
    Old Christmas comes to close the wained year:
                                            _Bampfylde._
]



CHRISTMAS DAY.

25TH DECEMBER.


AND now has arrived the great and important day itself which gives its
title to the whole of this happy season, and the high and blessed work
of man's redemption is begun. The pæan of universal rejoicing swells up
on every side; and after those religious exercises which are the
language that man's joy should take first, the day is one of brightened
spirits and general congratulation. In no way can man better express his
sense of its inestimable gift than by the condition of mind that
receives gladly, and gives freely; than by mustering his worldly
affections, that he may renew them in the spirit of the time. This is
not the proper place to speak more minutely of the _religious_
sentiments and services which belong to the season than we have already
done. We may merely remark that the streets of the city and the thousand
pathways of the country are crowded on this morning by rich and poor,
young and old, coming in on all sides, gathering from all quarters, to
hear the particulars of the "glad tidings" proclaimed; and each lofty
cathedral and lowly village church sends up a voice to join the mighty
chorus whose glad burthen is--"Glory to God in the highest; and on earth
peace, good will toward men."

[Illustration: CHRISTMAS PUDDING.--_Page 286._]

From the religious duties of the day, we must turn at once to its
secular observances; and these we will take in the order, with reference
to the progress of its hours, in which they come, mingling the customs
of modern times with those of the past in our pages, as, in many
respects, we wish our readers would do in practice.

The plate then on the other side represents the earliest, and not the
least important, of the worldly ceremonies of the day, the due
observance thereof being essential to the due observance of that later
ceremony which no man holds to be unimportant, least of all on Christmas
Day, the dinner. But, "oh! Molly Dumpling! oh! thou cook!" if that clock
of thine be right, thou art far behindhand with thy work! Thou shouldst
have risen when thou wast disturbed by the Waits at three o'clock this
morning! To have discharged thy duty faithfully, thou shouldst have
consigned that huge pudding at least two hours earlier to the reeking
caldron! We are informed by those who understand such matters, that a
plum pudding of the ordinary size requires from ten to twelve hours
boiling; so that a pudding calculated for the appetites of such a party
as our artist has assembled further on, for its consumption, and due
regard being had to the somewhat earlier hour than on days in general at
which a Christmas dinner is commonly discussed, should have found its
way into the boiler certainly before six o'clock. Molly evidently wants
a word of advice from the ancient bellman:--

    "Up, Doll, Peg, Susan! You all spoke to me
     Betimes to call you, and 'tis now past three,
     Get up on your but-ends, and rub your eyes,
     For shame, no longer lye abed, but rise;
     The pewter still to scow'r and house to clean,
     And you abed! good girls, what is't you mean?"

On the subject of the identity of the modern plum pudding with the
ancient _hackin_, we are furnished with the following curious remarks by
Mr. Crofton Croker, which we think well worth submitting for the
consideration of the curious in such matters.

"The 'hackin,'" says that amusing old tract, entitled 'Round about our
Coal Fire,' "'must be boiled by daybreak, or else two young men must
take the maiden [i. e., the cook] by the arms, and run her round the
market-place, till she is ashamed of her laziness.' Brand, whose
explanation Hone in his Every-Day Book has adopted, renders 'hackin' by
'the great sausage;' and Nares tells us, that the word means 'a large
sort of sausage, being a part of the cheer provided for Christmas
festivities,'--deriving the word from _hack_, to cut or chop. Agreeing
in this derivation, we do not admit Nares's explanation. 'Hackin,'
literally taken, is mince-meat of any kind; but Christmas mince-meat,
everybody knows, means a composition of meat and suet (hacked small)
seasoned with fruit and spices. And from the passage above quoted, that
'the hackin must be boiled, i. e., boiling, by daybreak,' it is obvious
the worthy archdeacon who, as well as Brand and Hone, has explained it
as a great sausage, did not see that 'hackin' is neither more nor less
than the old name for the national English dish of plum pudding.

"We have heard first-rate authorities upon this subject assert, the late
Dr. Kitchener and Mr. Douce were amongst the number, that plum pudding,
the renowned English plum pudding, was a dish comparatively speaking of
modern invention; and that plum porridge was its ancient representative.
But this, for the honor of England, we never would allow, and always
fought a hard battle upon the point. Brand indeed devotes a section of
his observations on popular antiquities to 'Yule-doughs, mince-pies,
Christmas-pies, and plum porridge,' omitting plum pudding, which new
Christmas dish, or rather new name for an old Christmas dish, appears to
have been introduced with the reign of the 'merry monarch,' Charles II.
A revolution always creates a change in manners, fashions, tastes, and
names; and our theory is that, among other changes, the 'hackin' of our
ancestors was then baptized plum pudding. In Poor Robin's Almanack for
1676, it is observed of Christmas,--'Good cheer doth so abound as if
all the world were made of minced-pies, plum pudding, and furmity.' And
we might produce other quotations to show that, as the name 'hackin'
fell into disuse about this period, it was generally supplanted by that
of plum pudding."

Plum pudding is a truly national dish, and refuses to flourish out of
England. It can obtain no footing in France. A Frenchman will dress like
an Englishman, swear like an Englishman, and get drunk like an
Englishman; but if you would offend him forever, compel him to eat plum
pudding. A few of the leading restaurateurs, wishing to appear
extraordinary, have _plomb-pooding_ upon their cartes; but in no
instance is it ever ordered by a Frenchman. Everybody has heard the
story of Saint Louis--Henri Quatre,--or whoever else it might be--who,
wishing to regale the English ambassador on Christmas Day with a plum
pudding, procured an excellent receipt for making one, which he gave to
his cook with strict injunctions that it should be prepared with due
attention to all particulars. The weight of the ingredients, the size of
the copper, the quantity of water, the duration of time,--everything was
attended to, except one trifle; the king forgot the cloth; and the
pudding was served up like so much soup, in immense tureens, to the
surprise of the ambassador, who was, however, too well-bred to express
his astonishment.

Amongst our ancestors, the duties of the day which followed first after
those of religion were the duties which immediately spring out of a
religion like ours,--those of charity.

                          "When
    Among their children, comfortable men
    Gather about great fires, and yet feel cold,
    Alas! then for the houseless beggar old!"

was a sentiment of which they never allowed themselves to lose sight.
Amid the preparations making for his own enjoyment, and the comforts by
which he set at defiance the austerities of the season, the old English
gentleman did not forget the affecting truths so beautifully embodied in
words by Mary Howitt:--

    "In rich men's halls, the fire is piled,
     And ermine robes keep out the weather;
     In poor men's huts, the fire is low,
     Through broken panes the keen winds blow,
     And old and young are cold together.

    "Oh! poverty is disconsolate!
     Its pains are many, its foes are strong!
     The rich man, in his jovial cheer,
     Wishes 'twas winter through the year;
     The poor man, 'mid his wants profound,
     With all his little children round,
     Prays God that winter be not long!"

Immediately after the services of the day, the country gentleman stood
of old, at his own gate (as we have represented him at page 109), and
superintended the distribution of alms to the aged and the destitute.
The hall, prepared for the festival of himself and his friends, was
previously opened to his tenants and retainers; and the good things of
the season were freely dispensed to all. "There was once," says the
writer of "Round about our Coal Fire," "hospitality in the land. An
English gentleman at the opening of the great day had all his tenants
and neighbors enter his hall by daybreak; the strong beer was broached,
and the black-jacks went plentifully about, with toast, sugar, nutmeg,
and good Cheshire cheese. . . . The servants were then running here and
there with merry hearts and jolly countenances. Every one was busy in
welcoming of guests, and looked as snug as new-licked puppies. The
lasses were as blithe and buxom as the maids in good Queen Bess's days,
when they ate sirloins of roast-beef for breakfast. Peg would scuttle
about to make a toast for John, while Tom run _harum-scarum_ to draw a
jug of ale for Margery."

[Illustration: COUNTRY CHURCH, CHRISTMAS MORNING.--_Page 290._]

Of this scene we have given a representation at page 42; and much of
this ancient spirit, we hope and believe, still survives in this
Christian country. The solemn festivals of ancient superstition were
marked either by bloody sacrifice, secret revelling, or open
licentiousness. There was no celebration of rites, real or symbolical,
which might become a religion of cheerfulness, decency, and mercy. There
was no medium between a mysteriousness dark and gloomy as the grave,
and a wild and savage enthusiasm or riotous frenzy, which mingled with
the worship of the gods the impassioned depravity of human nature. From
Moloch, upon whose dreadful altar children were offered, to Bacchus, at
whose shrine reason and virtue were prostrated, there were none of the
fabled deities of antiquity whose service united the spirit of devotion
with innocent pleasures and the exercise of the domestic charities. This
was reserved for the Christian religion, one of the marks of whose
divinity it is that it can mingle with many of the pleasures, and all
the virtues of the world, without sullying the purity of its
glory,--without depressing the sublime elevation of its character. The
rites of Ceres were thought profaned if the most virtuous believer of
the divinity of that goddess beheld them without having undergone the
ceremonies of special initiation. The worship of Saturn gave rise to a
liberty inconsistent with the ordinary government of states. At the
altar of Diana, on certain days, the Spartans flogged children to death.
And the offerings which on state occasions the Romans made to Jupiter,
were such as feudal vassals might offer to their warlike lord. But now,
thank God!--to use the words of Milton's Hymn on the Nativity,--

         "Peor and Baalim
          Forsake their temples dim,
            With that twice-batter'd God of Palestine;
          And mooned Ashtaroth
          Heaven's queen and mother both,
            Now sits not girt with tapers' holy shine;
    The Lybick Hammon shrinks his horn;
    In vain the Tyrian maids their wounded Thammuz mourn.

         "And sullen Moloch, fled,
          Has left in shadows dread
            His burning idol all of blackest hue;
          In vain with cymbals' ring,
          They call the grisly king,
            In dismal dance about the furnace blue:
    The brutish Gods of Nile as fast,
    Iris, and Orus, and the dog Anubis haste.

         "Nor is Osiris seen
          In Memphian grove or green,
            Trampling the unshowered grass with lowings loud;
          Nor can he be at rest,
          Within his sacred chest;
            Nought but profoundest hell can be his shroud.
    In vain, with timbrelled anthems dark,
    The sable-stoled sorcerers bear his worshipp'd ark.

         "He feels from Judah's land
          The dreaded Infant's hand;
            The rays of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyne;
          Nor all the gods beside
          Longer dare abide;
            Not Typhon huge, ending in snaky twine:
    Our Babe, to show his God-head true,
    Can in his swaddling bands control the damned crew."

Oh! how different were those religions of the passions and the senses
from that of the sentiments and pure affections of the Christian heart;
which, as it rises to heaven in sublime devotion, expands in charity
towards its kind, until it comprehends all humanity in the bond of
universal benevolence. To ameliorate the temporal, as well as elevate
the spiritual state of man, is its distinguishing excellence, the
sublime peculiarity of its character as a religious dispensation. All
the systems of superstition were external and gross, or mysterious and
occult. They either encouraged the follies and the passions of men, or
by a vain and fruitless knowledge flattered their vanity. But
Christianity came to repress the one and to dissipate the other; to make
the exercise of the virtues the result and the proof of mental
attachment to the doctrines which, while they afford grand subjects of
eternal interest, contain the principles of all true civilization. It is
in this religion alone that faith is the sister of charity; that the
former brightens with the beams of another world the institutions by
which the latter blesses this,--those institutions of mercy and of
instruction which cover the land with monuments of humanity that are
nowhere to be found but among the temples of our faith.

And now, when silent and desolate are even the high places over which
Augustus ruled, fallen majestic Rome with all her gods, the religion
proclaimed to the humble shepherds, whose sound was first heard by the
moonlight streams and under the green boughs, has erected on the ruins
of ancient grandeur a sublimer dominion than all those principalities of
the earth which refused its hospitality. It came in gentleness and
lowliness and the spirit of peace; and now it grasps the power of the
universe, and wields the civilized energies of the greatest of all the
nations to the beneficent extension of its authority,--imperishable in
its glory, and bloodless in its triumphs!

[Illustration: BRINGING IN THE BOAR'S HEAD.--_Page 295._]

On the opposite side, our artist has given a lively and correct
representation of the high festival anciently celebrated on Christmas
Day in the old baronial hall; and has presented it at that important
moment when the procession of the boar's head is making its way, with
the customary ceremonies, to the upper table. Our account of Christmas
would not be complete without some notice of this grand dish at the
feasts of our ancestors, and some description of the forms which
attended its introduction.

The boar's head soused, then, was carried into the great hall with much
state, preceded by the Master of the Revels, and followed by choristers
and minstrels, singing and playing compositions in its honor. Dugdale
relates that at the Inner Temple, for the first course of the Christmas
dinner, was "served in, a fair and large bore's head upon a silver
platter, with minstrelsye." And here we would observe, what we do not
think has been before remarked, that the boar's head carols appear to
have systematically consisted of three verses. A manuscript indeed which
we once met with, stated that the "caroll, upon the bringynge in of the
bore's head, was sung to the glorie of the blessed Trinytie;" and the
three subsequent illustrative specimens--in which the peculiarity
mentioned may be observed--tend to confirm this notion. At St. John's,
Oxford, in 1607, before the bearer of the boar's head--who was selected
for his height and lustiness, and wore a green silk scarf, with an empty
sword-scabbard dangling at his side--went a runner dressed in a
horseman's coat, having a boar's spear in his hand, a huntsman in green
carrying the naked and bloody sword belonging to the head-bearer's
scabbard, and "two pages in tafatye sarcenet," each with a "mess of
mustard." Upon which occasion these verses were sung:--

    "The boare is dead,
     Loe, heare is his head,
       What man could have done more
     Then his head of to strike,
     Meleager like,
       And bringe it as I doe before?

    "He livinge spoyled
     Where good men toyled,
       Which made kinde Ceres sorrye;
     But now, dead and drawne,
     Is very good brawne,
       And wee have brought it for ye.

    "Then sett downe the swineyard,
     The foe to the vineyard,
       Lett Bacchus crowne his fall;
     Lett this boare's head and mustard
     Stand for pigg, goose, and custard,
       And so you are welcome all."

So important was the office of boar's-head bearer considered to be,
that, in 1170, Holinshed has chronicled the circumstance of England's
king, Henry II., bringing up to the table of his son, the young prince,
a boar's head, with trumpeters going before him. From this species of
service it is probable that many of our heraldic bearings have
originated. "The ancient crest of the family of Edgecumbe," observes
Ritson, "was the boar's head crowned with bays upon a charger; which,"
he adds, "has been very injudiciously changed into the entire animal."

This same diligent arranger and illustrator of our old ballads gives us,
in his collection of ancient songs, a Boar's-head Carol, which probably
belongs to the fourteenth century, from a manuscript in his
possession,--now, we believe, in the British Museum.


_In die nativitatis._

      "Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell,
       Tydyngs gode y thyngke to telle.
     The borys hede that we bryng here,
     Be tokeneth a prince with owte pere,
     Ys born this day to bye vs dere,
                                  Nowell.

    "A bore ys a souerayn beste,
     And acceptable in every feste,
     So mote thys lorde be to moste & leste,
                                  Nowell.

    "This borys hede we bryng with song,
     In worchyp of hym that thus sprang
     Of a virgyne to redresse all wrong,
                                  Nowell."

The printing-press of Wynkyn de Worde has preserved to us the carol
believed to have been generally used, prior to 1521, upon these
occasions; a modernized version of which continues to be sung in Queen's
College, Oxford. It is entitled "A Caroll bringyne in the Bores heed;"
and runs thus:--

      "Caput apri defero
       Reddens laudes Domino,
     The bore's heade in hande bring I
     With garlandes gay and rosemary,
     I pray you all synge merely,
       Qui estis in convivio.

    "The bore's head I understande
     Is the chefe servyce in this lande,
     Loke wherever it be fande,
       Servite cum cantico.

    "Be gladde, lordes both more and lasse,
     For this hath ordayned our stewarde,
     To chere you all this Christmasse,
     The bore's head with mustarde."

A tradition of the same college states the introduction there of the
boar's head (which according to Ritson, is now a mere representation
"neatly carved in wood") to be contrived "as a commemoration of an act
of valor performed by a student of the college, who while walking in the
neighboring forest of Shotover, and reading Aristotle, was suddenly
attacked by a wild boar. The furious beast came open-mouthed upon the
youth; who, however, very courageously, and with a happy presence of
mind, is said to have rammed in the volume, and cried _græcum est_,
fairly choking the savage with the sage." To this legend a humorous
"song in honor of the Boar's head at Queen's College, Oxford," refers,
having for its motto, _Tam Marti quam Mercurio_, but for which we cannot
afford space.

The ancient mode of garnishing the boar's head was with sprigs of
sweet-scented herbs. Dekker, than whom we could not name a more
appropriate authority on this subject, speaking of persons apprehensive
of catching the plague, says, "They went (most bitterly) miching and
muffled up and down, with rue and wormwood stuft into their eares and
nostrils, looking like so many bore's heads, stuck with branches of
rosemary, to be served in for brawne at Christmas." The following lines
describe the manner of serving up this famous dish:--

    ----"if you would send up the brawner's head,
    Sweet rosemary and bays around it spread;
    His foaming tusks let some large pippin grace,
    Or 'midst these thundering spears an orange place;
    Sauce like himself, offensive to its foes,
    The roguish mustard, dangerous to the nose;
    Sack, and the well spiced hippocras, the wine
    Wassail, the bowl with ancient ribands fine,
    Porridge with plums, and Turkeys, with the chine."

Sack and hippocras are no longer to be found in our cellars; but, as we
have shown, we still compound the wassail-bowl.

[Illustration: CHRISTMAS DINNER.--_Page 300._]

The Christmas dinner of modern days is, as most of our readers know, a
gathering together of generations, an assembling of Israel by its
tribes. In the one before us, the artist has given a pretty extensive
muster. We have them of the seven ages and the several professions.
Contrast with this modern Christmas dinner, as well as with the high
festival of yore, the dreary picture of a Christmas Day and dinner,
under the stern prescription of the Puritans, as given in his Diary, by
Pepys, the chatty secretary to the Admiralty. "1668, Christmas-day. To
dinner," thus he writes, "alone with my wife; who, poor wretch! sat
undressed all day till ten at night, altering and lacing of a noble
petticoat; while I, by her, making the boy read to me the life of Julius
Cæsar and Des Cartes' book of Music."

To the heads of the very respectable family before us, we have already
been introduced, in an earlier part of this volume, and are glad to meet
with them again, under circumstances so auspicious, and supported by
their junior branches. In a family so flourishing, we might have
expected to escape the exhibition of antiquated celibacy. But, no! that
is clearly an old maid, who is hobnobbing with the gentleman in the
foreground, and, we must say, there is something about _him_ which
carries a strong suspicion of old-bachelorship. We suppose the one and
the other are to be found in most families. However, they are not the
parties who least enjoy this sort of _reunions_. We fancy, it is
known to most people that meetings of this description are very happy
ones amongst the members of a family, and remarkably uninteresting to
third parties. We should certainly prefer reading Des Cartes, with Pepys
and his wife, to finding ourselves a "foreigner" in such a group as the
present.

But the best of the day is yet to come! and we should have no objection
to join the younger members of that group in the merry sports that await
the evening. We need not give the programme. It is like that of all the
other Christmas nights. The blazing fire, the song, the dance, the
riddle, the jest, and many another merry sport, are of its spirits.
Mischief will be committed under the mistletoe-bough, and all the good
wishes of the season sent round under the sanction of the wassail-bowl.



ST. STEPHEN'S DAY.

26TH DECEMBER.


THIS day, which, in our calendar, is still dedicated to the first
Christian martyr, St. Stephen (for John the Baptist perished in the same
cause before the consummation of the old law and the full introduction
of the Christian dispensation), is more popularly known by the title of
Boxing-day; and its importance amongst the Christmas festivities is
derived from the practice whence that title comes.

[Illustration: BOXING DAY.--_Page 302._]

We have already mentioned that the custom of bestowing gifts at seasons
of joyous commemoration, has been a form of thankfulness at most
periods; and that it may have been directly borrowed, by the Christian
worshippers, from the polytheists of Rome, along with those other modes
of celebration which descended to the Christmas festival from that
source,--introduced, however, amongst our own observances, under
Scripture sanctions, drawn both from the old and new Testaments. The
particular form of that practice whose donations are known by the title
of Christmas-boxes (and which appear to differ from New-year's gifts
in this, that the former, passing from the rich to the poor and from the
master to his dependants, are not reciprocal in their distribution,
whereas the latter are those gifts, for the mutual expression of
goodwill and congratulation, which are exchanged between friends and
acquaintances), was, perhaps, originally one of the observances of
Christmas Day, and made a portion of its charities. The multiplied
business of that festival, however, probably caused it to be postponed
till the day following, and thereby placed the Christmas-boxes under the
patronage of St. Stephen. The title itself has been derived, by some,
from the box which was kept on board of every vessel that sailed upon a
distant voyage, for the reception of donations to the priest,--who, in
return, was expected to offer masses for the safety of the expedition,
to the particular saint having charge of the ship,--and above all, of
the box. This box was not to be opened till the return of the vessel;
and we can conceive that, in cases where the mariners had had a perilous
time of it, this casket would be found to enclose a tolerable offering.
Probably the state of the box might be as good an evidence as the
log-book, of the character of the voyage which had been achieved. The
mass was at that time called Christmass, and the boxes kept to pay for
it were, of course, called Christmass-boxes. The poor, amongst those who
had an interest in the fate of these ships, or of those who sailed in
them, were in the habit of begging money from the rich, that they might
contribute to the mass boxes; and hence the title which has descended to
our day, giving to the anniversary of St. Stephen's martyrdom the title
of Christmas-boxing day, and, by corruption, its present popular one of
Boxing-day.

A relic of these ancient boxes yet exists in the earthen or wooden box,
with a slit in it, which still bears the same name, and is carried by
servants and children for the purpose of gathering money, at this
season, being broken only when the period of collection is supposed to
be over.

Most of our readers know that it was the practice, not many years ago
(and in some places is so still), for families to keep lists of the
servants, of tradesmen and others, who were considered to have a claim
upon them for a Christmas-box, at this time. The practice, besides
opening a door to great extortion, is one in every way of considerable
annoyance, and is on the decline. There is, however, as they who are
exposed to it know, some danger in setting it at defiance, where it is
yet in force. One of the most amusing circumstances arising out of this
determination to evade the annoyances of Boxing-day, is related by
Sandys. A person in trade had imprudently given directions that he
should be denied, on this day, to all applicants for money; and amongst
those who presented themselves at his door, on this errand, was
unfortunately a rather importunate creditor. In the height of his
indignation at being somewhat uncourteously repulsed, he immediately
consulted his lawyer, and, having done _that_, we need scarcely relate
the catastrophe. It follows as a matter of course. A docket was struck
against the unsuspecting victim of Christmas-boxophobia.

Boxing-day, however, is still a great day in London. Upon this
anniversary, every street resounds with the clang of hall-door knockers.
Rap follows rap, in _rap_id succession, the harsh and discordant tones
of iron mingling with those of rich and sonorous brass, and giving a
degenerate imitation of the brazen clangor of the trumpet, which formed
the summons to the gate in days of old, and which, together with the
martial music of the drum, appears to have been adopted, at a later
period, by the Christmas-boxers, on St. Stephen's Day. Pepys, in his
Diary (1668), records his having been "called up by drums and trumpets;
these things and boxes," he adds, "have cost me much money this
Christmas, and will do more." Which passage seems to have been in the
memory of our facetious publisher, when he made the following entry in
his journal of last year, from whence we have taken the liberty of
transcribing it. "Called out," says Spooner (1834), "by the parish
beadle, dustmen, and charity-boys. The postman, street-sweepers,
chimney-sweepers, lamp-lighters, and waits will all be sure to wait upon
me. These fellows have cost me much money this Christmas, and will do
more, the next."

There is an amusing account, given by a writer of the querulous class,
of a boxing-day in London, a century ago. "By the time I was up," says
he, "my servants could do nothing but run to the door. Inquiring the
meaning, I was answered, the people were come for their Christmas-box:
this was logic to me; but I found at last that, because I had laid out a
great deal of ready-money with my brewer, baker, and other tradesmen,
they kindly thought it my duty to present their servants with some
money, for the favor of having their goods. This provoked me a little,
but being told it was the 'custom,' I complied. These were followed by
the watch, beadles, dustmen, and an innumerable tribe; but what vexed me
the most was the clerk, who has an extraordinary place, and makes as
good an appearance as most tradesmen in the parish; to see him come
a-boxing, _alias_, a-begging, I thought was intolerable; however I found
it was 'the custom,' too; so I gave him half-a-crown, as I was likewise
obliged to do to the bellman, for breaking my rest for many nights
together."

The manner in which the beadle approaches his "good masters and
mistresses," for a Christmas-box, particularly in the villages near the
British metropolis, is, as we have before said, by the presentation of a
copy of printed verses, ornamented with wood engravings. These
broadsides are usually termed "Bellman's verses;" and we quite agree
with Mr. Leigh Hunt in his opinion, that "good bellman's verses will
not do at all. There have been," he remarks, "some such things of late
'most tolerable and not to be endured.' We have seen them witty, which
is a great mistake. Warton and Cowper unthinkingly set the way." "The
very absurdity of the bellman's verses is only pleasant, nay, only
bearable, when we suppose them written by some actual doggrel-poet, in
good faith. Mere mediocrity hardly allows us to give our Christmas-box,
or to believe it now-a-days in earnest; and the smartness of your
cleverest wordly-wise men is felt to be wholly out of place. No, no!
give us the good old decrepit bellman's verses, hobbling as their
bringer, and taking themselves for something respectable, like his
cocked-hat,--or give us none at all."

Upon the bellman's verses which were last year circulated by the beadles
of Putney, Chiswick, and other parishes on the west side of London, it
was recorded, that they were "first printed in the year 1735," and our
curiosity induced us to inquire of the printer the number annually
consumed. "We used, sir," said he, "not many years ago, to print ten
thousand copies, and even more, but now I suppose we don't print above
three thousand." Whether the trade of this particular dealer in
bellman's verses has passed into other hands, or whether the
encouragement given to the circulation of these broadsides has declined,
the statement of an individual will not of course enable us to
determine. But we are inclined to think that, like other old Christmas
customs, the popularity of bellman's verses is passing away, and that,
before many years have elapsed, penny magazines and unstamped newspapers
will have completely superseded these relics of the rude, but sincere,
piety of our ancestors.

The claims of dustmen to be remembered upon "Boxing-day" were formerly
urged, without literary pretensions; but now "the march of intellect"
has rendered it necessary for them to issue their addresses in print.
One of these, which lies before us, represents that "the United
Association of Dustmen and Scavengers, of the Parish of ------ have the
honor to pay their humble duty and respects to the good [_Master_ or
_Mistress_] of this house, and to solicit a Christmas mark of
approbation of their unwearied exertions, which they flatter themselves
conduce so eminently to the comfort and salubrity of the greatest
metropolitan city of civilized Europe." Here, however, is another, in
which the spirit of St. Stephen's Day is embittered by the rivalries of
business; and the harmony of those two respectable bodies, the
scavengers and dustmen, appears to have been disturbed. The dustmen, it
will be seen, repudiate the scavengers, and appeal to Saint Stephen on a
separate interest.

"_To the Worthy Inhabitants of the Southampton Estate._

"Ladies and Gentlemen,--At this season, when you are pleased to give to
laboring men, employed in collecting your dust, a donation called
Christmas-box, advantage of which is often taken by persons assuming the
name of Dustmen, obtaining under false pretences your bounty, we humbly
submit to your consideration, to prevent such imposition, to bestow no
gift on any not producing a brass figure of the following
description,--A Scotch Fifer, French horn, etc., between his legs; James
Dee and Jerry Cane; Southampton Paving Act, on the bell; Contractor,
Thomas Salisbury.

"No connection with scavengers. Please not to return this bill to any
one."

The principal Wait also leaves a notice of a more imposing description,
stating a regular appointment to the office by warrant and admission,
with all the ancient forms of the City and Liberty of Westminster; and
bears a silver badge and chain, with the arms of that city.

We cannot dismiss the various modes of collecting Christmas-boxes,
without a few words upon the pieces of writing carried about by parish
boys, and which once presented the only evidence that the schoolmaster
was abroad. It appears formerly to have been the practice at this season
to hang up in our churches the work of the most skilful pen-man in the
parish, after it had been generally exhibited; the subject of which was
the life of some saint, or other religious legend. Pepys thus mentions
the custom:--"26 December, 1665. Saw some fine writing work and
flourishing of Mr. Hore, with one that I knew long ago, an acquaintance
of Mr. Tomson's at Westminster, that is this man's clerk. It is the
story of the several Archbishops of Canterbury, engrossed on vellum, to
hang up in Canterbury cathedral in tables in lieu of the old ones, which
are almost worn out."

To this usage, which was no doubt of monkish origin, we are inclined to
refer the specimens of caligraphy upon gaudily ornamented sheets of
paper, brought round on St. Stephen's Day by parish boys and
charity-school children, and displayed for admiration and reward. The
walls of school-rooms, and the houses of the children's parents are
afterwards decorated with these "Christmas pieces," in the same manner
as were anciently the walls of churches.

There are in the different Christian countries of Europe a variety of
popular practices connected with St. Stephen's Day; such as that of
bleeding horses, which is mentioned by old Tusser in his "December's
Abstract:"--

    "At Christmas is good
     To let thy horse blood;"

and more particularly in his "December's Husbandry:"--

    "Ere Christmas be passed, let horse be let blood,
     For many a purpose, it doth them much good,
     The _day of St. Stephen_ old fathers did use."

These various popular observances, however, are generally of that local
and peculiar kind which we are compelled to omit in our enumeration, for
reasons already given. But there is one of so striking a character, that
we must pause to give some account of it.

This custom, which is called "hunting the wren," is generally practised
by the peasantry of the south of Ireland on St. Stephen's Day. It bears
a close resemblance to the Manx proceedings described by Waldron,--as
taking place however on a different day. "On the 24th of December," says
that writer, in his account of the Isle of Man, "towards evening the
servants in general have a holiday; they go not to bed all night, but
ramble about till the bells ring in all the churches, which is at twelve
o'clock. Prayers being over, they go to hunt the wren; and after having
found one of these poor birds, they kill her and lay her on a bier with
the utmost solemnity, bringing her to the parish church and burying her
with a whimsical kind of solemnity, singing dirges over her in the Manx
language, which they call her knell; after which Christmas begins."

The Wren-boys in Ireland, who are also called Droleens, go from house to
house for the purpose of levying contributions, carrying one or more of
these birds in the midst of a bush of holly, gaily decorated with
colored ribbons; which birds they have, like the Manx mummers, employed
their morning in killing. The following is their song; of which they
deliver themselves in most monotonous music:--

    "The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
     St. Stephen's-day was caught in the furze,
     Although he is little, his family's great,
     I pray you, good landlady, give us a treat.

    "My box would speak, if it had but a tongue,
     And two or three shillings would do it no wrong;
     Sing holly, sing ivy--sing ivy, sing holly,
     A drop just to drink, it would drown melancholy.

    "And if you draw it of the best,
     I hope, in heaven your soul will rest;
     But if you draw it of the small,
     It won't agree with these Wren-boys at all."

If an immediate acknowledgment, either in money or drink, is not made in
return for the civility of their visit, some such nonsensical verses as
the following are added:--

    "Last Christmas-day, I turned the spit,
     I burned my fingers (I feel it yet),
     A cock sparrow flew over the table,
     The dish began to fight with the ladle.

    "The spit got up like a naked man,
     And swore he'd fight with the dripping pan;
     The pan got up and cocked his tail,
     And swore he'd send them all to jail."

The story told to account for the title of "king of all birds," here
given to the wren, is a curious sample of Irish ingenuity, and is thus
stated in the clever "Tales of the Munster Festivals," by an Irish
servant in answer to his master's inquiry:--

"Saint Stephen! why what the mischief, I ask you again, have I to do
with Saint Stephen?"

"Nothen, sure, sir, only this being his day, when all the boys o' the
place go about that way with the wran, the king of all birds, sir, as
they say (bekays wanst when all the birds wanted to choose a king, and
they said they'd have the bird that would fly highest, the aigle flew
higher than any of 'em, till at last when he couldn't fly an inch
higher, a little rogue of a wran that was a-hide under his wing took a
fly above him a piece, and was crowned king, of the aigle an' all, sir),
tied in the middle o' the holly that way you see, sir, by the leg, that
is. An old custom, sir."

Vainly have we endeavored to arrive at the probable origin of hunting
and killing these little birds upon this day. The tradition commonly
related is by no means satisfactory. It is said that a Danish army would
have been surprised and destroyed by some Irish troops, had not a wren
given the alarm by pecking at some crumbs upon a drum-head,--the remains
of the sleeping drummer's supper; which roused him, when he instantly
beat to arms. And that from this circumstance the wren became an object
of hatred to the Irish.

Songs similar in spirit to that of the Irish Droleen boys were popularly
sung by the Greeks. In D'Israeli's "Curiosities of Literature," may be
found translations of "the crow song," and "the swallow song;" between
which and the Irish wren song the resemblance is very striking.
"Swallow-singing or chelidonising, as the Greek term is," was, it
appears, a method of collecting eleemosynary gifts in the month of
Boedromion or August. We think D'Israeli is right in his opinion that
there is probably a closer connection between the custom which produced
the songs of the crow and the swallow and that of our northern
mummeries, than may be at first sight suspected. The subject of mumming
we have elsewhere treated at some length; but this curious variety of
the practice, and the manner in which it seems to connect the subject
with the ceremonies of the Greeks, we could not allow ourselves wholly
to omit.



NEW YEAR'S EVE.

31ST DECEMBER.


THIS is the last day of the year, and the feelings which belong to it
are of a tangled yarn. Regrets for the past are mingled with hopes of
the future; and the heart of man, between the meeting years, stands like
the head of Janus looking two ways.

The day and eve which precede the New Year are marked, in England, by
few outward observances, save such as are common to the season; and it
is in the peculiar trains of thought to which they give rise that they
have a character of their own.

In Scotland, on the other hand, the festival of this season is, since
the Reformation, nearly limited to these two days; and the last day of
the year is distinguished both by omens and by customs peculiar to
itself. In Mr. Stewart's "Popular Superstitions of the Highlands," there
is an account of some of these omens, as they were gathered, at no
distant period, in that land of mist and mystery; and a singular example
may be mentioned in the auguries drawn from what was called the
Candlemas bull. The term Candlemas, which has been given to this
season, in Scotland and elsewhere, is supposed to have had its origin in
some old religious ceremonies which were performed by candle light; and
the bull was a passing cloud, which in Highland imagination assumed the
form of that animal, and from whose rise or fall, or motions generally
on this night, the seer prognosticated good or bad weather. Something of
the same kind is mentioned in Sir John Sinclair's "Statistical Account
of Scotland," who explains more particularly the auguries gathered from
the state of the atmosphere on New Year's Eve. The superstition in
question, however, is not peculiar to the Highlands of Scotland, but
shared with the northern European nations in general, most of whom
assigned portentous qualities to the winds of New Year's Eve.

It is on this night that those Scottish mummers, the Guisars, to whom we
have already more than once alluded, still go about the streets, habited
in antic dresses, having their faces covered with vizards and carrying
cudgels in their hands. The doggerel lines repeated by these masquers,
as given by Mr. Callender, in a paper contributed by him to the
Transactions of the Antiquarian Society of Scotland, are as follows:--

       "Hogmanay,
        Trollolay,
    Gie me o' your white bread,
    I'll hae nane o' your grey;"

and much learning has been exhausted, and ingenuity exercised in their
explanation. The admirable paper of Mr. Repp, in the same Transactions
(to which we have already alluded, and which we recommend to the notice
of our antiquarian readers), connects them, as we have before hinted,
with another superstition common to many of the northern nations; and
which may be compared with one of the articles of popular belief before
described, as prevailing in England, on Christmas Eve; that, viz., which
seems to imply that the spirits of evil are at this time in peculiar
activity, unless kept down by holier and more powerful influences.
According to this able investigator, the moment of midnight, on New
Year's Eve, was considered to be a general removing term for the races
of genii, whether good or bad; and the first two lines of the cry in
question, which as he explains them, after the Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic
dialects, were words of appeal to the good genii (the hoghmen or
hillmen), and of execration against the evil ones (the trolles), were so
used, in consequence of such belief (that these different spirits were,
at that hour, in motion), and of the further one that the words of men
had power to determine that motion to their own advantage. It is well
known that, in some countries, and we may mention Germany, great
importance is attached to words involuntarily uttered at certain
seasons, and under certain circumstances, and they are supposed to be
either words of betrayal, leaving the speaker open to the machinations
of evil spirits, who may apply them in a strained and fatal sense, if at
all ambiguous; or words of power, controlling the designs of demons, and
compelling them to work out the good of the utterer, against their will.
Now a superstition of this kind, Mr. Repp says, attaches _generally_ to
the doctrines of demonology; and he states that he could prove his
position by many instances from Arabic and Persian fairy lore. We may
observe that some of the Highland superstitions mentioned by Mr.
Stewart, such as that of sprinkling the household with water drawn from
_the dead and living ford_, and that of fumigating the apartments and
half smothering their tenants with the smoke from burning piles of the
juniper-bush (both considered to operate as charms against the spells of
witchcraft and the malignity of evil eyes), have, evidently, their
origin in that same belief, that the powers of evil are on the wing at
this mysterious and solemn time of natural transition.

Some ancient superstitions are likewise alluded to in the old dialogue
of Dives and Pauper, as being in force at the beginning of the year, and
which appear to have had a like origin with the Highland ones above
described. As an example, mention may be made of the practice of
"setting of mete or drynke by nighte on the benche, to fede Alholde or
Gobelyn."

We must not forget to observe that Brand speaks of an ancient custom,
which he says is still retained in some parts of England, in which
young women go about on this eve carrying a wassail-bowl, and singing
certain verses from door to door, which custom has certainly some
analogy with the hogmanay practice in Scotland. And we may further
state, while we are in the way of tracing resemblances, that the _het
pint_, which, in Scotland, was formerly carried about the streets at the
midnight of the New Year's coming in, and which was composed of ale,
spirits, sugar, and nutmeg or cinnamon, is neither more nor less, though
it was borne about in a kettle, than a Scottish version of the
wassail-bowl.

In Ritson's collection of ancient songs, there is a very spirited carol
given at length, which appears to have been sung by these English
wassail mummers, in honor of their bowl; but which some of its verses
prove to be a Twelfth-night song, and show, therefore, that a similar
practice marked the night of the Epiphany. It begins right heartily:--

    "A jolly wassel-bowl,
       A wassel of good ale,
     Well fare the butler's soul
       That setteth this to sale;
                      Our jolly wassel;"

but is too long for insertion in our pages. We should mention here,
however, that ale in all its forms, whether in that of wassail
composition or in its own simple dignity, "prince of liquors, old or
new!" was ever the most cherished beverage of our ancestors, and many
and enthusiastic are the songs in its praise. Our readers may take the
following verse from a very pleasant example of these carols:--

    "I love no rost, but a nut brown toste,
       And a crab layde in the fyre,
     A little bread shall do me stead,
       Much breade I not desyre:
     No froste nor snow, no winde, I trowe,
       Can hurt mee if I wolde;
     I am so wrapt, and throwly lapt
       Of jolly good ale and olde.
         Back and syde go bare, go bare,
           Both foote and hand, go colde;
         But belly God send thee good ale inoughe,
           Whether it be new or olde."

We believe that most of the customs which, up to a recent period, filled
the streets of Edinburgh with mirth and bustle, on the eve of the New
Year, have met with discouragement, and of late fallen into disuse, in
consequence of some outrages which were committed under their shelter,
in the year 1811. We presume, however, that there are still many places
of the northern kingdom, in which the youth waits impatiently for the
striking of the midnight hour, that he may be the earliest to cross the
threshold of his mistress, and the lassie listens eagerly, from the
moment when its chiming has ceased, to catch the sound of the
_first-foot_ on the floor:--

              "The _first foot's_ entering step,
    That sudden on the floor is welcome heard,
    Ere blushing maids have braided up their hair;
    The laugh, the _hearty kiss_, the good New Year,
    Pronounced with honest warmth."

Considerable importance was formerly, and probably is still, attached to
this custom. The welfare of a family, particularly of the fairer portion
of its members, was supposed to depend much on the character of the
person who might first cross the threshold, after the mid-hour of this
night had sounded. Great care was therefore taken to exclude all
improper persons; and when the privilege of the season is taken into
consideration (that viz., of the hearty kiss above mentioned), it is
probable that the maidens themselves might consider it desirable to
interfere after their own fashion in the previous arrangements which
were to secure the priority of admission to an unobjectionable guest.

But our space does not permit us to inquire at length in the present
volume into any other customs than those which belong to an _English_
Christmas season. We have only been able occasionally to advert to
others, even amongst our own sister nations, when they helped to throw
light upon those which on this occasion are our immediate subject. We
must therefore return at once to the only general and conspicuous
observance of this eve in England, viz., that which is commonly called
"seeing the New Year in."

It is almost impossible for man on this day to be insensible to the
"still small voices" that call upon him for a gathering up of his
thoughts. In the very midst of the house of mirth, a shadow passes
through the heart and summons it to a solemn conference. The skeleton
who sits at all feasts, though overlooked at most from long habit, gets
power on this day to wave his hand, and points emphatically, with his
"slow-moving finger," to the long record whose burthen is "passing
away!" The handwriting of Time comes visibly out upon the wall; and the
spirit pauses to read its lessons, and take an account of the wrecks
which it registers and the changes which it announces. Properly
speaking, every day is the commencement of a new year, and the
termination of an old one; but it is only, as we have said at the
beginning of this book, by these emphatic markings that man is attracted
to a consideration of a fact, whose daily recurrence at once makes its
weighty importance and causes it to be forgotten, as if it were of none!

But on this particular day, no man fails to remember that--

    "Again the silent wheels of time
     Their annual round have driven;"

and how solemn are the reflections which suggest themselves to him who
casts his eye over the space of a year, in a spirit which can look
beyond his own personal share in its doings, and embrace the wide human
interests that such a retrospect includes! "What a mighty sum of
events," says that excellent writer, William Howitt, "has been
consummated; what a tide of passions and affections has flowed; what
lives and deaths have alternately arrived; what destinies have been
fixed forever! . . . Once more our planet has completed one of those
journeys in the heavens which perfect all the fruitful changes of its
peopled surface, and mete out the few stages of our existence; and every
day, every hour of that progress has in all her wide lands, in all her
million hearts, left traces that eternity shall behold." Oh! blessed
they and rich, beyond all other blessedness and all other wealth which
"Time's effacing fingers" may have left them, who, on the last night of
the year, can turn from reviews like these to sleep upon the pillow of a
good conscience, though that pillow should be moistened, aye, steeped in
their tears!

No doubt it is in the name of his own private affections that man is
first summoned to that review, which the wise will end by thus
extending; and the first reckoning which each will naturally take is
that of the treasures which may have been lost or gained to himself in
the year which is about to close. Through many, many a heart, that
summons rings in the low, sweet, mournful voice of some beloved one,
whom in that bereaving space we have laid in the "narrow house;" and
then it will happen (for man is covetous of his griefs, when his
attention is once called to them) that the ghost which took him out into
the churchyard to visit its own tomb, will end by carrying him round its
dreary precincts and showing him all the graves that he has planted
from his childhood. There _will_ be hours on a day like this to many,
and in some year or another to most, when the cheerful hopes which are
also of the natural spirit of the season would contend in vain with the
memories which it conjures up, but for that furthest and brightest hope
which lies beyond the rest, and which is at this moment typified and
shadowed forth by the returning sun and the renewing year.

We cannot refrain from pausing here, to quote for our readers a few
exquisite and affecting lines written in the seventeenth century by
Henry King, Bishop of Chichester, to one such beloved remembrancer, and
in the cheering spirit of that same precious hope. We fancy they are
very little known.

    "Sleep on, my love! in thy cold bed,
     Never to be disquieted!
     My last 'good night!'--thou wilt not wake
     Till I thy fate shall overtake;
     Till age, or grief, or sickness must
     Marry my body to that dust
     It so much loves,--and fill the room
     My heart keeps empty in thy tomb.
     Stay for me there!--I will not faile
     To meet thee in that hollow vale:--
     And think not much of my delay,
     I am already on the way,
     And follow thee with all the speed
     Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
     Each minute is a short degree,
     And every houre a step tow'rds thee:--
     At night, when I betake to rest,
     Next morn I rise nearer my West
     Of life, almost by eight houres' sail,
     Than when sleep breathed his drowsy gale!"

There are in the last volume of poems published by Mr. Tennyson, some
beautiful verses, in which the natural thoughts that inevitably haunt
this season of change are touchingly expressed, as they arise even in
the young breast of one for whom "seasons and their change" are
immediately about to be no more. We are in a mood which tempts us to
extract them.

    If you're waking, call me early, call me early, mother dear,
    For I would see the sun rise upon the glad New-year--
    It is the last New-year that I shall ever see,
    Then ye may lay me low i' the mould, and think no more of me.

    To-night I saw the sun set: he set and left behind
    The good old year, the dear old time, and all my peace of mind;
    And the New-year's coming up, mother, but I shall never see
    The may upon the blackthorn, the leaf upon the tree.

    Last May we made a crown of flowers: we had a merry day:
    Beneath the hawthorn on the green they made me Queen of May;
    And we danced about the maypole, and in the hazel-copse,
    Till Charles's wain came out above the tall white chimney-tops.

    There's not a flower on all the hills: the frost is on the pane:
    I only wish to live till the snowdrops come again:
    I wish the snow would melt and the sun come out on high--
    I long to see a flower so before the day I die.

    The building rook 'll caw from the windy tall elm-tree,
    And the tufted plover pipe along the fallow lea,
    And the swallow 'll come back again with summer o'er the wave,
    But I shall lie alone, mother, within the mouldering grave.

    Upon the chancel casement, and upon that grave of mine,
    In the early, early morning the summer sun 'll shine,
    Before the red cock crows from the farm upon the hill,
    When you are warm asleep, mother, and all the world is still.

    When the flowers come again, mother, beneath the waning light,
    Ye 'll never see me more in the long gray fields at night;
    When from the dry dark wold the summer airs blow cool,
    On the oat-grass and the sword-grass, and the bulrush in the pool.

    Ye 'll bury me, my mother, just beneath the hawthorn shade,
    And ye 'll come sometimes and see me where I am lowly laid,
    I shall not forget ye, mother, I shall hear ye when ye pass,
    With your feet above my head in the long and pleasant grass.

    I have been wild and wayward, but ye 'll forgive me now:
    Ye 'll kiss me, my own mother, upon my cheek and brow;
    Nay,--nay, ye must not weep, nor let your grief be wild,
    Ye should not fret for me, mother, ye have another child.

    If I can, I'll come again, mother, from out my resting-place
    Tho' ye 'll not see me, mother, I shall look upon your face;
    Tho' I cannot speak a word, I shall hearken what ye say,
    And be often--often with ye when ye think I'm far away.

    Good night! good night! when I have said good night for evermore,
    And ye see me carried out from the threshold of the door,
    Don't let Effie come to see me till my grave be growing green;
    She'll be a better child to you than ever I have been.

    She'll find my garden tools upon the granary floor;
    Let her take 'em,--they are hers,--I shall never garden more:
    But tell her, when I'm gone, to train the rosebush that I set,
    About the parlor window, and the box of mignonette.

    Good night, sweet mother! call me when it begins to dawn:
    All night I lie awake, but I fall asleep at morn:
    But I would see the sun rise upon the glad New year,
    So, if you're waking, call me, call me early, mother dear!

And it is wholesome that the mournful reflections which the period
suggests _should_ be indulged, but not to the neglect of its more
cheerful influences. The New Year's Eve is in all quarters looked upon
as a time of rejoicing; and perhaps no night of this merry season is
more universally dedicated to festivity. Men are for the most part met
in groups to hail the coming year with propitiatory honors; and copious
libations are poured to its honor, as if to determine it to look upon us
with a benignant aspect. We generally spend _our_ New Year's Eve in some
such group; but, we confess, it is not every class of wassailers that
will suit us for the occasion. The fact is, after all our resolves to
work up our minds to the pitch of gladness, aye, and notwithstanding our
_success_, too, there are _other_ feelings that _will_ intrude in spite
of us; and we like to find ourselves in a party where their presence is
not looked upon as a marrer of the revels. When fitly associated for
such a night, we find the very feelings in question for the most part to
harmonize very delightfully with the predominant spirit of the time,
producing a sort of mixed sensation which is full of luxury and
tenderness. Bye the by, we have no great wish to have for our companions
at any time those precisians who insist greatly on the _external_
solemnities. "Ye are sae grave, nae doubt ye're wise," says Burns. But
for ourselves, gentlemen, our sympathies lie with those who can be made
to understand that the garb of even folly may by possibility be at times
worn by those who conceal beneath it more sickness of the heart, as well
as more wisdom, than shall ever be dreamt of in _your_ philosophy,--who
know, in fact, that that same folly is sometimes the very saddest thing
in the world; that the jingle of the cap and bells is too often but a
vain device, like that of the ancient Corybantes, to drown the "still
small" sounds whose wailing is yet heard over all.

And on the night before us, of all nights in the year, the smile and the
laugh go freely round, but ever and anon there is, as it were, the echo
of a far sigh. A birth in which we have a mighty interest is about to
take place, but every now and then comes to the heart the impression of
low whispering and soft treading in the back-ground, as of those who
wait about a death-bed. We are in a state of divided feelings, somewhat
resembling his whose joy at the falling of a rich inheritance is dashed
by tender recollections of the friend by whose departure it came. Let
Mr. Tennyson explain for us why this is so:--

    "Full knee-deep lies the winter snow,
     And the winter winds are wearily sighing:
     Toll ye the church-bell sad and slow,
     And tread softly and speak low,
     For the old year lies a-dying.
         Old year, you must not die.
         You came to us so readily,
         You lived with us so steadily,
         Old year, you shall not die.

    "He lieth still: he doth not move:
     He will not see the dawn of day.
     He hath no other life above.
     He gave me a friend, and a true true-love,
     And the New-year will take 'em away.
         Old year, you must not go.
         So long as you have been with us,
         Such joy as you have seen with us,
         Old year, you shall not go!

    "He frothed his bumpers to the brim;
     A jollier year we shall not see.
     But tho' his eyes are waxing dim,
     And tho' his foes speak ill of him,
     He was a friend to me!
         Old year, you shall not die.
         We did so laugh and cry with you,
         I've half a mind to die with you,
         Old year, if you _must_ die.

    "He was full of joke and jest,
     But all his merry quips are o'er,
     To see him die, across the waste
     His son and heir doth ride post-haste,
     But he'll be dead before!
         Every one for his own!
         The night is starry and cold, my friend,
         And the New-year, blithe and bold, my friend,
         Comes up to take his own.

    "How hard he breathes!--over the snow,
     I heard just now the crowing cock.
     The shadows flicker to and fro;
     The cricket chirps: the light burns low:
     'Tis nearly one[4] o'clock.
         Shake hands before you die.
         Old year, we'll dearly rue for you.
         What is it we can do for you?
         Speak out before you die!

    "His face is growing sharp and thin.
     Alack! our friend is gone!
     Close up his eyes: tie up his chin:
     Step from the corpse, and let _him_ in
     That standeth there alone,
         And waiteth at the door.
         There's a new foot on the floor, my friend,
         And a new face at the door, my friend,
         A new face at the door!"

Occasionally, too, there will come a thought across us, in these hours,
which _cannot_ be made to harmonize with the feelings we are seeking to
encourage, and has the unpleasing effect of a discord. It is felt at
times, for instance, to be a sort of indecency that we should be looking
out merrily for the New Year, when the old one is perishing by our side,
and, for an instant, the heart's joyous issues are thrown back upon it.
And then, again, the looker forward to hail the "coming guest" will
suddenly fix his eyes upon the veil which shrouds that face; and the
chill of a moment will creep over his heart, as he speculates on what it
may conceal, or, gazing on the sealed book which the New Year carries in
his hand, asks himself how many of those who sit with him on this night
about the social table, may have their names written in its last page!
Thoughts like these, however, are instantly treated like informers, and
ducked, as they deserve to be, in the wassail-bowl.

[Illustration: SEEING-IN THE NEW YEAR.--_Page 331._]

But, in any case, we have never failed to observe that, as the midnight
hour draws near, a hush falls upon these assemblies; and when men rise
to usher in the new comer, it is for the most part in silence. We do not
believe _that_ moment is ever a merry one. The blithe spirits of the
night stand still. The glasses are full,--but so is the heart, and the
eye is strained upon the finger of the dial whose notes are to sound the
arrival, as if held there by a spell. We do not think that any man, of
all that group whom our artist has represented, could turn his face away
from the dial, even by an effort; and he who could, would be out of
place in any assembly of which we made one, unless we were out of place
ourselves. The instant the solemn sounds of the midnight chime have
ceased, the bells from a thousand steeples lift up their merry voices,
but they never, at that moment, found a true echo in _our_ hearts; and
the shout which rises from the wassail table, in answer, has ever seemed
to us to want much of the mirth to which it makes such boisterous
pretension.

But this oppressive sensation soon passes away; and the glad bells of
the spirit, like those of the steeples, ring freely out. When the old
year is fairly withdrawn, when we have ceased to hear the sound of the
falling earth upon its coffin-lid, when the heir stands absolutely in
our presence, and the curtain which hides his features has begun slowly
to rise (while the gazer on that curtain can discover, as yet, nothing
of the dark things that lie behind, and the hopes which the New Year
brings are seen through it, by their own light),--then does the heart
shake off all that interfered with its hearty enjoyment, and then "comes
in the sweet o' the night!" We are, ourselves, of that party in the
plate; and it will be late, we promise you, before we separate. One song
to the past! and then, "shall we set about some revels?"--as our old
friend, Sir Andrew, hath it.

      "Here's to the year that's awa!
       We'll drink it, in strong and in sma';
    And to each bonny lassie that we dearly loo'd,
       In the days o' the year that's awa!

     "Here's to the soldier who bled!
      To the sailor who bravely did fa'!
    Oh, their fame shall remain, though their spirits are fled,
      On the wings o' the year that's awa!

     "Here's to the friend we can trust,
      When the storms of adversity blaw;
    Who can join in our song, and be nearest our heart,
      Nor depart,--like the year that's awa!"

And now are we in the humor, this New Year's morning, for keeping such
vigils as they did in Illyria; for "were we" too "not born under
Taurus?" No advocates do we mean to be for those whose zeal in symposiac
matters, like that of Bardolph, "burns in their noses;" but occasions
there are, and this is one, when we hold it lawful to sound the
wassail-bowl to some considerable depth. Like honest Isaak Walton, we
love to keep within the bounds of "such mirth as does not make friends
ashamed to look on one another, next morning;" but we feel that we may
venture to be a little intemperate, in the present instance, and yet
hold our heads up, even if we should chance to meet one of those gentry
whom Burns presumes to be wise, because they "are sae grave." What says
Innocentius?--and he was a Father of the Church; "_Fecundi calices, quem
non fecere disertum?_" "Carry Master Silence to bed!" therefore, for we
are about to be talkative, and expect to be answered. No man need sit
with us longer than he likes: but it is the opening of another year, and
_we_ must see more of it. We find much virtue in Sir Toby's excellent
reasoning, that "not to be abed after midnight is to be up betimes;" and
have no sympathy for those who would insist, to-day, with the stolid Sir
Andrew, that "to be up late is to be up late." "A false conclusion!"
says Sir Toby; and so say we. So fill the glasses, once more, from the
wassail-bowl, and let us "rouse the night-owl" in another "catch!"

But alas! it is later than we thought, and the owl is gone to bed; for
we hear the cry of that other bird whom Herrick calls "the Bellman of
the night:"--

    "Hark! the cock crows, and yon bright star
     Tells us the day himself's not far;
     And see! where, breaking from the night,
     He gilds the eastern hills with light!"

Honest Master Cotton had evidently been sitting up all night, himself,
when he wrote these lines; and being therefore a boon companion, and a
true observer of Christmas proprieties, we will take his warning, and to
bed ourselves. So "a good New Year to you, my masters! and many of
them!" as the bellman (not Herrick's) says, on this morning.

FOOTNOTE:

[4] (Twelve?)



NEW YEAR'S DAY.

1ST JANUARY.


THE first of January, forming the accomplishment of the eight days after
the birth of Christ, has been sometimes called the octave of Christmas;
and is celebrated in our church services as the day of the Circumcision.

Of this day we have little left to say; almost all that belongs to it
having been of necessity anticipated in the progress of those remarks
which have brought us up to it. It is a day of universal congratulation;
and one on which, so far as we may judge from external signs, a general
expansion of the heart takes place. Even they who have no hearts to
open, or hearts which are not opened by such ordinary occasions, adopt
the phraseology of those whom _all_ genial hints call into sympathy with
their fellow-creatures; and the gracious compliments of the season may
be heard falling from lips on which they must surely wither in the very
act of passing. To have your morning's salutation from a worthy like our
friend with the umbrella in the plate, must be much the same thing as
riding out into the highway, and getting your New Year's greeting from a
raven by the roadside. Mathews's undertaker, who used to sing the song
of "Merry I have been, and merry could I be," at his club, to a tune
considerably below a dirge in point of liveliness, was a brother of the
same family.

Of New Year's gifts, which are the distinguishing feature of this day,
we have already said enough, in pointing out the distinction betwixt
them and Christmas-boxes. They still pass generally from friend to
friend, and between the different members of a family; and are in such
cases, very pleasant remembrancers; but the practice in ancient times
had some very objectionable features. It was formerly customary for the
nobles and those about the court to make presents on this day to the
sovereign; who, if he were a prince with anything like a princely mind,
took care that the returns which he made in kind should at least balance
the cost to the subject. The custom, however, became a serious tax when
the nobles had to do with a sovereign of another character; and in
Elizabeth's day it was an affair of no trifling expense to maintain
ground as a courtier. The lists of the _kind_ of gifts which she exacted
from all who approached her (for the necessity of giving, the
consequences of not giving, amounted to an exaction), and the accounts
of the childish eagerness with which she turned over the wardrobe
finery, furnished in great abundance as the sort of gift most suited to
her capacity of appreciation, furnish admirable illustrations of her
mind. She is said to have taken good care that her returns should leave
a very substantial balance in her own favor. The practice is stated to
have been extinguished in the reign of George III.

A worse custom still, however, was that of presenting gifts to the
Chancellor by suitors in his court, for the purpose of influencing his
judgments. The abuses of the New-Year's-gift practice have, however,
been cleared away, and have left it what it now is,--a beautiful form
for the interchanges of affection and the expression of friendship.

In Paris, where this day is called the "Jour d'Etrennes," the practice
is of still more universal observance than with us, and the streets are
brilliant with the displays made in every window of the articles which
are to furnish these tokens of kindness, and with the gay equipages and
well-dressed pedestrians passing in all directions, to be the bearers of
them, and offer the compliments which are appropriate to the season. The
thousand bells of the city are pealing from its hundred belfries,
filling the air with an indescribable sense of festival, and would alone
set the whole capital in motion if they were a people that ever sat
still. This singing of a thousand bells is likewise a striking feature
of the day in London; and no one who has not heard the mingling voices
of these high choristers in a metropolis, can form any notion of the
wild and stirring effects produced by the racing and crossing and
mingling of their myriad notes. It is as if the glad voices of the earth
had a chorus of echoes in the sky; as if the spirit of its rejoicing
were caught up by "airy tongues," and flung in a cloud of incense-like
music to the gates of heaven.

We need scarcely mention that most of the other forms in which the mirth
of the season exhibits itself, are in demand for this occasion; and that
among the merry evenings of the Christmas-tide, not the least merry is
that which closes New Year's Day. To the youngsters of society, that day
and eve have probably been the most trying of all; and the strong
excitements of a happy spirit drive the weary head to an earlier pillow
than the young heart of this season at all approves. But his is the
weariness that the sweet sleep of youth so surely recruits; and
to-morrow shall see him early afoot, once more engaged in those winter
amusements which are to form his resource till the novelties of
Twelfth-day arrive.

    "There will come an eve to a longer day,
     That will find thee tired--but not of play;
     And thou wilt lean as thou leanest now,
     With drooping limbs and an aching brow;
     And wish the shadows would faster creep,
     And long to go to thy quiet sleep!--
     Well were it then if thine aching brow
     Were as free from sin and shame as now!"

[Illustration: Twelfth Night King.

    Let not a man be seen here,
    Who unurged will not drink
    To the base from the brink,
    A health to the King!
                         _Herrick._
]



TWELFTH DAY AND TWELFTH NIGHT.

6TH JANUARY.


TWELFTH-DAY (so called from its being the twelfth after Christmas Day)
is that on which the festival of the Epiphany is held. This feast of the
Christian Church was instituted, according to Picart, in the fourth
century, to commemorate the manifestation of our Saviour to the
Gentiles; and the name Epiphany (Επιφανεια), which signifies an
appearance from above, was given to it in allusion to the star described
in Holy writ, as the guide of the Magi or Wise Men to the cradle of the
Blessed Infant. "In Italy," says Mr. Leigh Hunt, "the word has been
corrupted into Beffania or Beffana, as in England it used to be called
Piffany; and Beffana in some parts of that country has come to mean an
old fairy or Mother Bunch, whose figure is carried about the streets,
and who rewards or punishes children at night, by putting sweetmeats or
stones and dirt into a stocking hung up for the purpose, near the bed's
head. The word 'Beffa,' taken from this, familiarly means a trick or
mockery put upon any one; to such base uses may come the most splendid
terms!" But what is quite as extraordinary as that the primitive
signification of a word not familiarly understood should, amid the
revolutions of centuries, be lost in a different or distorted into an
inferior meaning, is the preservation in popular rites of trivial
details, which, as we have before stated, conclusively identify many of
the practices of our modern Christian festivals as echoes of ancient
pagan observances. Of this, Twelfth-day presents a remarkable instance.

The more we examine the Saturnalia of the Romans and compare those
revels with the proceedings of our Twelfth-night, the more satisfied do
we feel of the correctness of Selden's view. "Christmas," he says, in
his "Table Talk," "succeeds the Saturnalia; the same time, the same
number of holy-days. Then the master waited upon the servants, like the
Lord of Misrule." There is here a general likeness to the season of
which we treat; but, as Mr. Brand further states, the Greeks and Romans
at this period also "drew lots for kingdoms, and like kings exercised
their temporary authority;" and Mr. Fosbroke mentions that "the king of
Saturnalia was elected by beans," which identifies our Twelfth-night
characters, as well as our mode of selecting them, with those of the
ancients. Through so many centuries has chance decided who should wear a
crown! By the French Twelfth-day was distinguished as "La Fête des
Rois," a name of course obnoxious to the revolutionary fraternity of
1792, who caused such feast to be declared anti-civic, and replaced it
by "La Fête des Sans-Culottes."

However, before entering upon the important discussion of the "absolute
monarchy" of "the king of cakes and characters," in which, without any
reference to profane ceremonies, there was sufficient found to offend
puritanical ideas, we must be allowed to mention some customs observed
on the vigil or eve of the feast of the Epiphany. Amongst these was the
practice of wassailing the trees to ensure their future fruitfulness,
mentioned by Herrick:--

    "Wassail the trees, that they may beare
     You many a plum, and many a peare;
     For more or lesse fruits they will bring,
     As you do give them wassailing."

The merry bowl which, notwithstanding that it had been so often drained,
was still kept brimming throughout all the Christmas holidays, was now
when they were drawing to a close actually flowing over; and the warm
heart and jovial spirit of the season, not content with pledging all
those who could drink in return, proceeded to an excess of
boon-companionship, and after quaffing a wassail-draft to the health and
abundant bearing of some favorite fruit-tree, poured what remained in
the cup upon the root, as a libation to its strength and vitality. Here,
also, we cannot fail to recognize the rites of classical times lurking
in the superstitions used in the cider districts of England. A pleasant
custom of this kind is mentioned in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1791,
as existing in certain parts of Devonshire. It is there stated that "the
farmer, attended by his workmen with a large pitcher of cider, goes to
the orchard on this evening; and there, encircling one of the best
bearing trees, they drink the following toast three times:--

        "Here's to thee, old apple-tree!
    Whence thou mayst bud, and whence thou mayst blow!
    And whence thou mayst bear apples enow!
         Hats full! caps full!
         Bushel, bushel-sacks full!
    And my pockets full too!--Huzza!"

This done they return to the house, the doors of which they are sure to
find bolted by the females, who, be the weather what it may, are
inexorable to all entreatries to open them till some one has guessed at
what is on the spit, which is generally some nice little thing difficult
to be hit on, and is the reward of him who first names it. The doors are
then thrown open; and the lucky clodpole receives the titbit as a
recompense. Some, it is added, "are so superstitious as to believe that
if they neglect this custom the trees will bear no apples that year."

    "Health to thee, good apple-tree!
     Well to bear, pockets full, hats full,
     Pecks full, bushel-bags full,"--

is another version of the address used on these occasions, preserved by
Brand. We find recorded in one quarter or another a variety of analogous
and other customs observed in different parts of England on this vigil;
but our diminishing space will not permit us to enter upon a description
of them.

[Illustration: TWELFTH NIGHT IN LONDON STREETS.--_Page 343._]

To illustrate "Twelfth-night," our artist has made two studies of the
scenes it presents in London,--abroad and at home; and these involve our
consideration of the subject, accordingly.

During the entire twelve months there is no such illumination of
pastry-cooks' shops, as on Twelfth-night. Each sends forth a blaze of
light; and is filled with glorious cakes, "decorated," to use the words
of Mr. Hone, "with all imaginable images of thing animate and inanimate.
Stars, castles, kings, cottages, dragons, trees, fish, palaces, cats,
dogs, churches, lions, milkmaids, knights, serpents, and innumerable
other forms, in snow-white confectionery, painted with variegated
colors." "This 'paradise of dainty devices,'" he continues, "is crowded
by successive, and successful, desirers of the seasonable delicacies;
while alternate tappings of hammers and peals of laughter, from the
throng surrounding the house, excite smiles from the inmates." This last
observation requires explanation, for our country readers.

Let all idle gazers, then, in the streets of London beware of
Twelfth-night! There is then that spirit of mischievous fun abroad,
which, carried on without the superintending power of a Lord of
Misrule, exhibits itself in transfixing the coat-skirts of the
unconscious stranger to the frame of the door or window, at which he may
have paused to stare and wonder. Once fairly caught, lucky is the wight
who can disengage himself, without finding that, in the interim, his
other skirt has been pinned to the pelisse or gown of some alarmed
damsel, whose dress is perhaps dragged, at the same moment, in opposite
directions, so that he can neither stand still nor move, without aiding
the work of destruction. These practical facetiæ are the performances of
that class of nondescript lads, "perplexers of Lord Mayors and
irritators of the police," whose character Mr. Leigh Hunt has as truly
drawn as our artist has depicted their persons: "those equivocal
animal-spirits of the streets, who come whistling along, you know not
whether thief or errand-boy, sometimes with a bundle and sometimes not,
in corduroys, a jacket, and a cap or bit of hat, with hair sticking
through a hole in it. His vivacity gets him into scrapes in the street;
and he is not ultra-studious of civility in his answers. If the man he
runs against is not very big, he gives him abuse for abuse, at once; if
otherwise, he gets at a convenient distance, and then halloos out, 'Eh,
stupid!' or 'Can't you see before you?' or 'Go and get your face
washed!' This last is a favorite saying of his, out of an instinct
referable to his own visage. He sings 'Hokee-Pokee,' and 'A shiny
Night,' varied, occasionally, with an uproarious 'Rise, gentle Moon,' or
'Coming through the Rye.' On winter evenings, you may hear him indulging
himself, as he goes along, in a singular undulation of yowl, a sort of
gargle, as if a wolf was practising the rudiments of a shake. This he
delights to do, more particularly in a crowded thoroughfare, as though
determined that his noise should triumph over every other and show how
jolly he is, and how independent of the ties to good behavior. If the
street is a quiet one, and he has a stick in his hand (perhaps a
hoop-stick), he accompanies the howl with a run upon the gamut of the
iron rails. He is the nightingale of mud and cold. If he gets on in
life, he will be a pot-boy. At present, as we said before, we hardly
know what he is; but his mother thinks herself lucky if he is not
transported."

Of Twelfth-night, at home, when "the whole island keeps court,--nay all
Christendom,"--when "all the world are kings and queens, and everybody
is somebody else," a huge cake, the idol of young hearts, is the
presiding genius of the evening. The account given by Nutt, the editor
of the "Cook and Confectioner's Dictionary," of the twelfth-cakes and
dishes in vogue a hundred years ago, proves the nursery rhymes of--

    "Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pye,"

who

    "When the pye was opened all began to sing,"

to be no such nonsense as was generally supposed. He tells us of two
great pies, made of coarse paste and bran, into one of which, after it
was baked, live frogs were introduced, and into the other, live birds;
which, upon some curious persons lifting up the covers, would jump and
fly about the room, causing "a surprising and diverting hurly-burly
among the guests." What feeble imitations are the castles, ships, and
animals that now adorn our Twelfth-night cakes, to the performances of
Nutt! How much, every way, inferior are the specimens of art produced,
even by the renowned author of the "Italian Confectioner," the
illustrious Jarrin! On the battlements of the castles of former days
were planted "kexes," or pop-guns, charged with gunpowder, to be fired
upon a pastry ship, with "masts," ropes, we doubt not of spun sugar,
"sails, flags, and streamers." Nor was the naval power of England lost
sight of; for the "kexes" of this delicious ship were, also, charged
with gunpowder, and, when she was fired upon from the castle, her guns
were able to return the salute. Then, to take off the smell of the
powder, there were eggshells, filled with rose-water, for the spectators
to break, "and throw at one another." Nor must a stag of pastry filled
with claret be forgotten; which, when wounded, poured forth its blood,
free and sparkling as a ruby, for those whose nerves were delicate and
needed the refreshment of a glass of wine. Such were the "subtilties,"
as these jugglings in confectionery are called, which we now behold
represented by the painted figures, "so bad to eat, but so fine to look
at," that adorn our twelfth-cakes.

[Illustration: TWELFTH NIGHT.--_Page 347._]

"How to eat twelfth-cake," says Hone, "requires no recipe; but how to
provide it, and draw the characters, on the authority of Rachel Revel's
'Winter Evening Pastimes,' may be acceptable. First, buy your cake.
Then, before your visitors arrive, buy your characters,--each of which
should have a pleasant verse beneath. Next, look at your invitation
list, and count the number of ladies you expect, and afterwards the
number of gentlemen. Then, take as many female characters as you have
invited ladies, fold them up exactly of the same size, and number each
on the back, taking care to make the king No. 1, and the queen No. 2.
Then prepare and number the gentlemen's characters. Cause tea and coffee
to be handed to your visitors, as they drop in. When all are assembled,
and tea over, put as many ladies' characters in a reticule as there are
ladies present; next, put the gentlemen's characters in a hat. Then call
on a gentleman to carry the reticule to the ladies as they sit; from
which each lady is to draw one ticket, and to preserve it unopened.
Select a lady to bear the hat to the gentlemen for the same purpose.
There will be one ticket left in the reticule, and another in the
hat,--which the lady and gentleman who carried each is to interchange,
as having fallen to each. Next, arrange your visitors, according to
their numbers; the king No. 1, the queen No. 2, and so on. The king is
then to recite the verse on his ticket, then the queen the verse on
hers; and so the characters are to proceed, in numerical order. This
done, let the cake and refreshments go round; and hey! for merriment!"

As _our_ contribution towards the merriment of this evening, we cannot
do better than present our readers with a copy of the following letter,
respecting the manufacture of Twelfth-night characters,--which document
was handed to us by the artist to whom it was addressed.--

      "SIR,--As I am given to understand that you are an
      artist of celebrity, I will thank you to make me a
      hundred and forty-four different characters, for
      Twelfth-night, the entire cost not to exceed two
      shillings and sixpence each, say three plates at two
      pounds ten shillings a plate, including the poetry,
      which you can, I am told, get plenty of poets to write
      for nothing, though I should not mind standing a
      trifle,--say twopence more, if the verses gave
      satisfaction. You will please do your best for me,
      and, trusting to your speedy attention to this order,
      I remain your well-wisher and obedient servant, who
      will furnish the coppers."

Though we publish this letter, that is no reason why we should publish
the writer's name. It is evident he was a young hand in the trade, and
desirous to rival the graphic and literary talent displayed in
Langley's and Fairburn's characters,--of which we have preserved
specimens in our portfolio. Mr. Sandys speaks rather disparagingly of
the merit of these productions, and this, considering that gentleman's
antiquarian zeal, we must confess, surprises us. In the copy of
Langley's characters which we possess, the same love of alliteration,
upon which we have already commented as encouraged in the Court of
Misrule, is observable. We have, for instance, "Bill Bobstay," "Prudence
Pumpkin," "Percival Palette," "Judy Juniper," "Peter Puncheon," "Simon
Salamander," "Countess Clackett," "Leander Lackbrain," "Nelly Nester,"
"Felicia Frill," etc.

Where the monarch of the evening and his queen are not determined by
this kind of pictorial lottery, a bean and a pea are put into the cake;
and whoever finds them in the pieces taken, he and she become the king
and queen of the evening. Other matters, such as a small coin, a ring,
etc., are often introduced into Twelfth-night cakes, and give to the
finders characters to be supported for the evening. In some countries,
says Sandys, a coin was put "instead of the bean, and portions of the
cake assigned to the Virgin Mary and the Three Kings, which were given
to the poor; and if the bean should happen to be in any of these
portions, the king was then chosen by pulling straws."

The three kings mentioned in the above extract are those worthies
commonly known by the title of the Three Kings of Colen (Cologne),
identified by old legends with the Wise Men of the East, who did homage
to our Saviour on the day of which the Epiphany is the anniversary
celebration. They are stated to have been Arabians; and are
distinguished in the traditionary tales of the Early Church by the names
of Melchior, Balthazar, and Gasper. Their bodies are said to have been
finally deposited at Cologne, after several removals; and the practice
of electing a king on the evening of the Epiphany has been, by some,
thought to have a reference to their supposed regal characters. We
imagine, however, it will be sufficiently evident to our readers, after
what we have formerly said, that it is not necessary for us to seek
further than we have already done for the origin of the Twelfth-night
king.



SAINT DISTAFF'S DAY.

7TH JANUARY.

CONCLUSION.


THE day which precedes this is, as we have already informed our readers,
the last of the twelve days which constitute what is emphatically the
Christmas season; and with the revelries of Twelfth-night the general
holiday is in strictness considered to be at an end. As however we found
it necessary to approach the throng of its celebrations with some degree
of preparation,--to pass through some of its lighted antechambers,
before we ventured to trust our eyes amid the blaze of the temple
itself,--so also we dare not step at once from its thousand lights into
the common air of the every-day world without a previous subjecting of
our imaginations to the diminished glare of the outer chambers which lie
on this other side. And this it is the more incumbent on us to do,
because the revellers whose proceedings it is our business to describe
take the same course in returning to the business of life.

It is not, as we have said, to be expected that after the full chorus of
increased mirth which hath swelled up anew for the last of these
celebrations, the ear should all at once accustom itself to a sudden and
utter silence,--should endure the abrupt absence of all festival sound;
nor can all the laughing spirits of the season who were engaged in added
numbers for the revelries of last night, be got quietly laid at rest in
the course of a single day. One or other of them is accordingly found
lurking about the corners of our chambers after the ceremonies for which
they were called up are over, encouraged to the neglect of the order for
their dismissal by the young hearts, who have formed a merry alliance
with the imps which they are by no means willing to terminate thus
suddenly. And sooth to say, those youngsters are often able to engage
heads who are older, and we suppose should know better, in the
conspiracies which are day by day formed for the detention of some one
or more of these members of the train of Momus.

Even in rural districts, where the necessary preparations in aid of the
returning season are by this time expected to call men abroad to the
labors of the field, our benevolent ancestors admitted the claim for a
gradual subsiding of the Christmas mirth in favor of the children of
toil. Their devices for letting themselves gently down were recognized;
and a sort of compromise was sanctioned between the spirit of the past
holiday and the sense of an important coming duty to be performed. The
genius of mirth met the genius of toil on neutral ground for a single
day; and the two touched hands in recognition of the rightful dominion
of each other, ere they severally set forth in their own separate
directions.

Thus, on the day which followed Twelfth-night, the implements of labor
were prepared and the team was even yoked for a space; but the business
of turning the soil was not required to be laboriously engaged in until
the Monday which followed, and which therefore bore (and bears) the
title of Plough Monday. After a few hours of morning labor, a sort of
half-holiday was the concluding privilege of this privileged season; and
the husbandman laid aside his plough, and the maiden her distaff, to
engage in certain revels which were peculiar to the day and to the
country districts. From the partial resumption of the spinning labors of
the women on this morning, the festival in question takes its name; and
it is (or was) sometimes called also "Rockday," in honor of the rock,
which is another name for the distaff. It is described as being "a
distaff held in the hand, from whence wool is spun by twirling a ball
below."

Of the sports by which this day was enlivened we doubt if there are any
remains. These seem to have consisted in the burning, by the men who had
returned from the field, of the flax and tow belonging to the women, as
a sort of assertion of the supremacy of the spirit of fun over his
laborious rival for this one day more, and a challenge into his court;
and this challenge was answered by the maidens, and the mischief
retorted, by sluicing the clowns with pails of water. It was, in fact, a
merry contest between these two elements of water and of fire; and may
be looked upon as typical of that more matter-of-fact extinction which
was about to be finally given to the lights of the season when the
sports of this day should be concluded. Of these merry proceedings our
artist has given a very lively representation; and Herrick's poem on the
subject, which we must quote from the "Hesperides," includes all that is
known of the ancient observances of St. Distaff's day.

    "Partly work and partly play,
     You must on S. Distaff's day;
     From the plough soone free your teame,
     Then come home and fother them,
     If the maides a spinning goe,
     Burne the flax, and fire the tow;

       .     .     .     .     .     .     .

     Bring in pailes of water then,
     Let the maides bewash the men:--
     Give S. Distaffe all the right,
     Then bid Christmas sport good-night:
     And next morrow, every one
     To his own vocation."

   -     -     -     -     -     -     -

[Illustration: RETURNING TO SCHOOL.--_Page 355._]


OUR REVELS NOW ARE ENDED; and our Christmas prince must abdicate. In
flinging down his wand of misrule, we trust there is no reason why he
should, like Prospero, when his charms were over and he broke his staff,
drown this, his book, "deeper than did ever plummet sound." The spells
which it contains are, we believe, all innocent; and, we trust, it may
survive to furnish the directions for many a future scheme of Christmas
happiness.

And _now_ Father Christmas has at length departed,--but not till the
youngsters had got from the merry old man his last _bon-bon_. The
school-boy, too, has clung to the skirts of the patriarch's coat, and
followed him as far as he could. And farther had _he_ gone, but for a
clear and undoubted vision of a dark object, which has been looming
suspiciously through the gloom, for some weeks past. He first caught a
glimpse of it, on stepping out from amongst the lights of Twelfth-night;
but he turned his head resolutely away, and has since looked as little
in that direction as he could. But there is no evading it now! There it
stands, right in his way, plain and distinct and portentous! the gloomy
portal of this merry season, on whose face is inscribed, in characters
which there is no mystifying, its own appropriate and unbeloved
name,--BLACK MONDAY!

And, behold! at the gloomy gate a hackney coach! (more like a mourning
coach!)--_Black Monday_, visible in all its appointments, and _black
Friday_, looking blacker than ever, this black Monday, frowning from its
foot-board!

And lo! through its windows, just caught in the distance, the last
flutter of the coat-tails of old Father Christmas!--

OUR REVELS ARE, indeed, ENDED!


THE END.



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Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Page 85, "ever" changed to "over" (preside over the arrangements)

Page 124, "arraingment" changed to "arraignment" (The arraignment,
conviction)

Page 235, "anouncement" changed to "announcement" (and tempting
announcement)

Page 326, "moulde ring" changed to "mouldering" (within the mouldering)

Varied alphabetizing in the list of ad pages at the end of the book was
retained. For example, "Edward Lear" was left above "Walter Savage
Landor" and "Francis Jacox" was left after "Richard Jeffries."





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