By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Christmastide - Its History, Festivities, and Carols
Author: Sandys, William
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Christmastide - Its History, Festivities, and Carols" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)Music transcribed by Linda Cantoni.

[Transcriber’s Note: Italic text is surrounded by _underscores_ and
superscripted text is preceded by a ^ and surrounded with {curly
braces}. Certain letters in the text were smaller and these letters are
surrounded by ~t~.]



James Stephanoff, del. Ashbee & Dangerfield, lith.



its History, Festivities, and Carols.



    LONDON: Printed by E. TUCKER, Perry’s Place, Oxford Street.



    High Sheriff of Hertfordshire,




  Play before Queen Elizabeth                         _frontispiece_
  Ushering in the Boar’s Head                                    30
  Pageant before Henry the Eighth                                66
  Lord of Misrule, G. Ferrers                                    86
  New Year’s Gifts to Queen Elizabeth                           100
  Temple Revels, temp. Charles the Second                       130
  The Wassail Bowl                                              134
  Old Christmas Festivities                                     142
  The Christmas Tree                                            152


   1 Edward the First’s Offering at the Epiphany                  1
   2 Froissart’s Christmas Log                                   23
   3 Merry Carol                                                 45
   4 Archie returning his Christmas Gift                         63
   5 Teonge’s Twelfth Night at Sea                               85
   6 Charles the Second gambling at Christmas                   103
   7 Pepys’ Wassail Bowl                                        127
   8 Modern Christmas Plays                                     145
   9 Three Kings offering                                       159
  10 Carol Singers of old                                       173
  11 Decorating with Evergreens                                 199
  Carols                                                        215
  A Mock Play                                                   292
  Christmas Play of St. George and the Dragon, as
        represented in the West of England                      298
  Index to Carols                                               303
  Index to principal matters                                    305
  Index of References                                           306


  A Virgin most pure                                            313
  A Child this day is born                                      315
  The Lord at first had Adam made                               316
  The first Nowell                                              318
  This New Christmas Carol                                      319
  God rest you, merry gentlemen                                 320
  St. Stephen                                                   321
  God’s dear Son                                                323
  To-morrow shall be my dancing-day                             324
  I saw three ships                                             325
  Joseph was an old man                                         326
  In those twelve days                                          327




IT would not be consistent with the proposed character of this
work to enlarge on the Christian dispensation, as connected with
the sacred feast of Christmas; to show Christianity as old as the
Creation; that the fall of man naturally involved his punishment;
and hence the vicarious sacrifice of our Saviour to redeem us from
sin and death. These are subjects to be entered on by those who have
had opportunities, if not of thinking more, at least of reading
more, relative to them, than the writer of these pages, whose
leisure hours are few, and whose endeavour will be to give, in as
popular and interesting a manner as his abilities will enable him,
some information respecting the mode of keeping this Holy Feast,
particularly in England, in the olden times, and in the middle ages.

The Nativity is hailed by Christians of all denominations, as the dawn
of our salvation; the harbinger of the day-spring on high; that promise
of futurity, where care, sin, and sorrow enter not, where friends long
severed shall meet to part no more; no pride, no jealousy, no self
(that besetting sin of the world) intruding. Well, then, may we observe
it with gratitude for the unbounded mercy vouchsafed to us; for the
fulfilment of the promise pronounced in the beginning of the world,
releasing us from the dominion of Satan. A promise which even the
Pagans did not lose sight of, although they confused its import, as a
glimmering of it may be traced through their corrupted traditions and
superstitious ceremonies.

Has the early dream of youth faded away purposeless?—the ambition of
manhood proved vanity of vanities? Have riches made themselves wings
and flown away? or, has fame, just within the grasp, burst like a
bubble? Have the friends, the companions of youth, one by one fallen
off from thy converse; or the prop of advancing age been removed,
leaving thee weak and struggling with the cares of life; or, has “the
desire of thine eyes” been taken from thee at a stroke? Under these and
other trials, the Christian looks to the anniversary of the Nativity
(that rainbow of Christianity) as the commemoration of the birth of
the Blessed Redeemer, who will give rest to the weary, and receive in
his eternal kingdom all those who truly trust in him. And well may His
name be called, “Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting
Father, the Prince of Peace!”

The season of Christmas, however, was not only set apart for sacred
observance, but soon became a season of feasting and revelry; so much
so, that even our sumptuary laws have recognised it, and exempted
it from their operation. When Edward the Third, in his tenth year,
endeavoured to restrain his subjects from over luxury in their meals,
stating that the middle classes sought to imitate the great in this
respect, and thus impoverished themselves, and became the less able
to assist their liege lord, he forbade more than two courses, and two
sorts of meat in each, to any person, except in the great feasts of the
year, namely, “La veile et le jour de Noël, le jour de Saint Estiephne,
le jour del an renoef (New Year’s Day), les jours de la Tiphaynei et de
la Purification de Nostre Dame,” &c.

A cheerful and hospitable observance of this festival being quite
consistent with the reverence due to it, let us—after having as our
first duty repaired to the house of our Lord, to return humble thanks
for the inestimable benefits now conferred—while preparing to enter
into our own enjoyments, enable, as far as in our power, our dependants
and poorer brethren, to participate in the earthly comforts, as they do
in the heavenly blessings of the season. Remember the days of darkness
will come, and who can say how soon, how suddenly? and if long and
late to some, yet will they surely come, when the daughters of music
are laid low, then the remembrance of a kindly act of charity to our
neighbour will soothe the careworn brow, and smooth the restless pillow
of disease. “Go,” then, “your way; eat the fat and drink the sweet, and
send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is
holy unto our Lord.”

A great similarity exists in the observances of the return of the
seasons, and of other general festivals throughout the world; and
indeed the rites and ceremonies of the various pagan religions have, to
a great extent, the marks of a common origin; and the study of popular
antiquities involves researches into the early history of mankind, and
their religious ceremonies.

Immediately after the deluge, the religion of Noah and his family was
pure; but a century had scarcely elapsed before it became perverted
among some of his descendants. That stupendous pagan temple, the Tower
of Babel, was built, and the confusion of tongues, and dispersion of
mankind, followed. As the waves of population receded farther from the
centre, the systems of religion—except with the chosen people—got
more and more debased, and mingled with allegories and symbols. But
still, even the most corrupt preserved many allusions to the fall of
man, and his redemption; to the deluge, and the deliverance by the
ark; and to a future state. Thus, whether in China, Egypt, India,
Africa, Scandinavia, in the rites of Vitzliputzli in Mexico, and of
Pacha Camac, in Peru, among the Magi, the Brahmins, the Chaldæans, the
Gymnosophists, and the Druids, the same leading features may be traced.
It has even been supposed, that amongst a chosen race of the priests,
some traditionary knowledge of the true religion prevailed, which they
kept carefully concealed from the uninitiated.

One of the greatest festivals was that in celebration of the return
of the sun; which, at the winter solstice, began gradually to regain
power, the year commenced anew, and the season was hailed with
rejoicings and thanksgivings. The Saxons, and other northern nations,
kept a feast on the 25th of December, in honour of Thor, and called it
the _Mother-Night_, as the parent of other nights; also _Mid-Winter_.
It was likewise called _Gule_, _Gwyl_, _Yule_, or _Iul_, and half
a dozen similar names, respecting the meaning of which learned
antiquaries differ: Gebelin and others stating they convey the idea
of revolution or wheel; while others, equally learned, consider the
meaning to be festival, or holy-day. _Gwyl_ in Welsh, and _Geol_
in Saxon, both signify a holy-day; and as _Yule_, or _I-ol_, also
signifies ale, an indispensable accompaniment of Saxon and British
feasts, they were probably convertible terms. The word _Yule_ may be
found in many of our ancient metrical romances, and some of the old
mysteries, as applied to Christmas, and is still so used in Scotland,
and parts of England. The word _Gala_ would seem to have a similar
derivation. The curious in these matters may, however, refer to the
learned Hickes’s two folios, Gebelin’s nine quartos, and Du Cange’s
ten folios, and other smaller works, and satisfy their cravings after

The feast of the birth of Mithras was held by the Romans on the 25th
of December, in commemoration of the return of the sun; but the most
important heathen festival, at this period of the year, was the
_Saturnalia_, a word which has since become proverbial for high-jinks,
and all manner of wild revelry. The origin seems to be unknown, but
to have been previous to the foundation of Rome, and to have had some
reference to the happy state of freedom and equality in the golden age
of Saturn, whenever that era of dreams existed; for, when we go back
to the olden times, no matter how far, we find the archæologists of
that age still looking back on their older times: and so we are handed
back, not knowing where to stop, until we stumble against the Tower of
Babel, or are stopped by the prow of the Ark, and then decline going
any farther.

The Greeks, Mexicans, Persians, and other great nations of antiquity,
including of course the Chinese, who always surpassed any other
country, had similar festivals. During the Saturnalia among the Romans,
which lasted for about a week from the 17th of December, not only were
masters and slaves on an equality, but the former had to attend on
the latter, who were allowed to ridicule them. Towards the end of the
feast a king or ruler was chosen, who was invested with considerable
powers, and may be supposed to be intimately connected with our Lord of
Misrule, or Twelfth Night King,—presents also were mutually given, and
public places decked with shrubs and flowers. The birth of our Saviour
thus took place at that time of the year, already marked by some of the
most distinguished feasts. And why should it not have been so? We know
that, at whatever period of the year it took place, it would have been,
for Christians, “The Feast of Feasts;” and it is surely no derogation
to imagine, that it was appointed at this time as the fulfilment of all
feasts, and the culmination of festivals. The rising of the Christian
Sun absorbed in its rays the lesser lights of early traditions,
and it has continued to illuminate us with its blended brilliancy.
Abercrombie, in his work on the Intellectual Powers, has some able
remarks on the value of an unbroken series of traditional testimony
or rites, especially as applicable to Christianity. “If the events,
particularly, are of a very uncommon character, these rites remove any
feeling of uncertainty which attaches to traditional testimony, when it
has been transmitted through a long period of time, and, consequently,
through a great number of individuals. They carry us back, in one
unbroken series, to the period of the events themselves, and to the
individuals who were witnesses of them. The most important application
of the principle, in the manner now referred to, is in those
observances of religion which are intended to commemorate the events
connected with the revelation of the Christian faith. The importance
of this mode of transmission has not been sufficiently attended to by
those who have urged the insufficiency of human testimony, to establish
the course of events which are at variance with the common course of

During the Commonwealth, some of the Puritan party endeavoured to show
that the 25th of December was not really the Birth of our Saviour, but
that it took place at a different time of the year. Thomas Mockett, in
‘Christmas, the Christian’s Grand Feast,’ has collected the principal
statements corroborative of this view—arguments they cannot be called;
and after all, his conclusion is nothing more than, be the 25th of
December the right day or not, Christians were not bound to keep it
as a feast, because the supreme authority of the land, and ordinances
of both Houses of Parliament, had directed otherwise. Parliament,
however, cannot control the day of the Nativity, though it can do a
great deal; having, on one occasion, according to tradition, nearly
passed an act against the growth of poetry (an enactment perhaps not
much wanted at present), though this was said to have been a clerical
error; and, at another time, after inflicting a punishment of fourteen
years’ transportation, gave half to the king and half to the informer;
this, as may be supposed, was subsequently repealed. If, however, it
is safe to say anything against Parliament, even of two hundred years
since, without fear of the pains and penalties of contempt, it might
be presumed that, like the patient in the ‘Diary of a Physician,’ they
had “turned heads.” Dr. Thomas Warmstry, in ‘The Vindication of the
Solemnity of the Nativity of Christ,’ published three years previous to
Mockett’s tract, gives satisfactory replies to the objections made by
the Puritans, and seems to have embodied the arguments against them,
considering it sufficient for us that the Church has appointed the 25th
of December for our great feast.

Whether the Apostles celebrated this day, although probable, is not
capable of proof; but Clemens Romanus, about the year 70, when some
of them were still living, directs the Nativity to be observed on the
25th of December. From his time to that of Bernard, the last of the
Fathers, A.D. 1120, the feast is mentioned in an unbroken series; a
tract, called ‘Festorum Metropolis,’ 1652, naming thirty-nine Fathers,
who have referred to it, including Ignatius, Cyprian, Athanasius,
Gregory Nazianzen, Ambrosius, Chrysostom, Augustine, and Bede; besides
historians and more modern divines. ‘The Feast of Feasts,’ 1644,
also contains many particulars of the celebration during the earlier
centuries of Christianity. About the middle of the fourth century, the
feasting was carried to excess, as may have been the case occasionally
in later times; and Gregory Nazianzen wars against such feasting, and
dancing, and crowning the doors, so that the temporal rejoicing seems
to have taken the place of the spiritual thanksgiving. In the same
age there occurred one of those acts of brutality, which throughout
all ages have disgraced humanity. The Christians having assembled
in the Temple at Nicomedia, in Bithynia, to celebrate the Nativity,
Dioclesian, the tyrant, had it inclosed, and set on fire, when about
20,000 persons are said to have perished; the number, however, appears

The early Christians, of the eastern and western Churches, slightly
differed in the day on which they celebrated this feast: the Easterns
keeping it, together with the Baptism, on the 6th of January, calling
it the Epiphany; while the Westerns, from the first, kept it on the
25th of December; but in the fourth century the Easterns changed
their festival of the Nativity to the same day, thus agreeing with
the Westerns. The Christian epoch was, it is said, first introduced
into chronology about the year 523, and was first established in
this country by Bede. New Year’s Day was not observed by the early
Christians as the Feast of the Circumcision, but (excepting by some
more zealous persons, who kept it as a fast) with feasting, songs,
dances, interchange of presents, &c., in honour of the new year;
though the bishops and elders tried to check these proceedings, which
were probably founded in some measure on the Roman feast of the
double-faced Janus, held by them on this day. According to Brady, the
first mention of it, as a Christian festival, was in 487; and it is
only to be traced from the end of the eleventh century, under the title
of the Circumcision; and was not generally so kept until included in
our liturgy, in 1550; although, from early times, Christmas Day, the
Nativity, and Twelfth Day, were the three great days of Christmas-tide.
Referring to the probability, that the feasting on New Year’s Day
might have been derived from the feast of Janus, it must be observed,
that some of the early Christians, finding the heathens strongly
attached to their ancient rites and customs, which made it difficult
to abolish them (at least until after a considerable lapse of time),
took advantage of this feeling, and engrafted the Christian feasts on
those of the heathen, first modifying and purifying them. The practice
may have been wrong, but the fact was so. Thus, Gregory Thaumaturgus,
bishop of Neocæsarea, who died in 265, instituted festivals in honour
of certain Saints and Martyrs, in substitution of those of the
heathens, and directed Christmas to be kept with joy and feasting, and
sports, to replace the _Bacchanalia_ and _Saturnalia_. Pagan temples
were converted into Christian churches; the statues of the heathen
deities were converted into Christian saints; and papal Rome preserved,
under other names, many relics of heathen Rome. The Pantheon was
converted into a Romish church, and Jupiter changed to St. Peter.

When Pope Gregory sent over St. Augustin to convert Saxon England, he
directed him to accommodate the ceremonies of the Christian worship as
much as possible to those of the heathen, that the people might not be
too much startled at the change; and, in particular, he advised him
to allow the Christian converts, on certain festivals, to kill and
eat a great number of oxen, to the glory of God, as they had formerly
done to the honour of the devil. St. Augustin, it appears, baptized no
fewer than 10,000 persons on the Christmas day next after his landing
in 596, and permitted, in pursuance of his instructions, the usual
feasting of the inhabitants, allowing them to erect booths for their
own refreshment, instead of sacrificing to their idols,—objecting
only to their joining in their dances with their pagan neighbours.
Thus several of the pagan observances became incorporated with the
early Christian festivals; and to such an extent, that frequent
endeavours were made, by different Councils, to suppress or modify
them; as, in 589, the songs and dances, at the festivals of Saints,
were prohibited by the Council of Toledo, and by that of Chalon, on the
Saone, in 650. In after times, the clergy still found it frequently
requisite to connect the remnants of pagan idolatry with Christianity,
in consequence of the difficulty they found in suppressing it. So,
likewise, on the introduction of the Protestant religion, some of the
Roman Catholic ceremonies, in a modified state, were preserved; and
thus were continued some of the pagan observances. In this manner may
many superstitious customs, still remaining at our great feasts, and in
our games and amusements, be accounted for.

The practice of decorating churches and houses with evergreens,
branches, and flowers, is of very early date. The Jews used them at
their Feast of Tabernacles, and the heathens in several of their
ceremonies, and they were adopted by the Christians. Our Saviour
Himself permitted branches to be used as a token of rejoicing, upon
His triumphal entry to Jerusalem. It was natural, therefore, that at
Christmas time, when His Birth, and the fulfilment of the promise to
fallen man, were celebrated, that this symbol of rejoicing should be
resorted to. Some of the early Councils, however, considering the
practice somewhat savoured of paganism, endeavoured to abolish it;
and, in 610, it was enacted, that it was not lawful to begirt or adorn
houses with laurel, or green boughs, for all this practice savours of
paganism. In the earlier carols the holly and the ivy are mentioned,
where the ivy, however, is generally treated as a foil to the holly,
and not considered appropriate to festive purposes.

    “Holly and Ivy made a great party,
     Who should have the mastery
       In lands where they go.
     Then spake Holly, I am friske and jolly,
     I will have the mastery
     In lands where they go.”

But in after times it was one of the plants in regular use. Stowe
mentions holme, ivy, and bays, and gives an account of a great storm
on Candlemas Day, 1444, which rooted up a standard tree, in Cornhill,
nailed full of holme and ivy for Christmas, an accident that by some
was attributed to the evil spirit. Old Tusser’s direction is “Get
ivye and hull (holly) woman deck up thine house.” The misletoe—how
could Shakespeare call it the “baleful misletoe?”—was an object of
veneration among our pagan ancestors in very early times, and as it
is probable it was the golden branch referred to by Virgil, in his
description of the descent to the lower regions, it may be assumed to
have been used in the religious ceremonies of the Greeks and Romans.
His branch appears to have been the misletoe of the oak, now of great
rarity, though it is found on many other trees. It was held sacred by
the Druids and Celtic nations, who attribute to it valuable medicinal
qualities, calling it _allheal_ and _guidhel_, and they preferred,
if not selected exclusively, the misletoe of the oak. Vallancey says
it was held sacred because the berries as well as the leaves grow in
clusters of three united to one stalk, and they had a veneration for
the number three; his observation, however, is incorrect as to the
leaves, which are in pairs only. The Gothic nations also attached
extraordinary qualities to it, and it was the cause of the death of
their deity Balder. For Friga, when she adjured all the other plants,
and the animals, birds, metals, earth, fire, water, reptiles, diseases,
and poison, not to do him any hurt, unfortunately neglected to exact
any pledge from the misletoe, considering it too weak and feeble to
hurt him, and despising it perhaps because it had no establishment of
its own, but lived upon other plants. When the gods, then, in their
great assembly, amused themselves by throwing darts and other missiles
at him, which all fell harmless, Loke, moved with envy, joined them
in the shape of an old woman, and persuaded Hoder, who was blind, to
throw a branch of misletoe, and guided his hand for the purpose; when
Balder, being pierced through by it, fell dead. The Druids celebrated
a grand festival on the annual cutting of the misletoe, which was held
on the sixth day of the moon nearest their new year. Many ceremonies
were observed, the officiating Druid being clad in white, with a golden
sickle, and received the plant in a white cloth. These ceremonies kept
alive the superstitious feelings of the people, to whom no doubt the
Druids were in the habit of dispensing the plant at a high price; and
as late as the seventeenth century, peculiar efficacy was attached
to it, and a piece hung round the neck was considered as a safeguard
against witches. In modern times it has a tendency to lead us towards
witches of a more attractive nature; for, as is well known, if one can
by favour or cunning induce a fair one to come under the misletoe he
is entitled to a salute, at the same time he should wish her a happy
new year, and present her with one of the berries for good luck; each
bough, therefore, is only laden with a limited number of kisses, which
should be well considered in selecting one. In some places people try
lots by the crackling of the leaves and berries in the fire.

From the pagan Saturnalia and Lupercalia probably were derived those
extraordinary but gross, and as we should now consider them, profane
observances, the Feast of Asses and the Feast of Fools, with other
similar burlesque festivals. In the early ages of Christianity, there
were practices at the beginning of the year of men going about dressed
in female attire or in skins of beasts, causing occasionally much
vice and debauchery; but the regular Feast of Asses and Feast of
Fools were not apparently fully established until the ninth or tenth
century; a period when it was considered a sufficient qualification
for a priest, if he could read the Gospels and understand the Lord’s
Prayer. All sorts of buffooneries and abominations were permitted at
these representations; mock anthems and services were sung; an ass,
covered with rich priestly robes, was gravely conducted to the choir,
and provided from time to time with drink and provender, the inferior
clergy, choristers, and people dancing round him and imitating his
braying; while all sorts of impurities were committed, even at the holy
altar. A hymn was sung, commencing—

    Orientis partibus
    Adventavit asinus;
    Pulcher et fortissimus,
    Sarcinis aptissimus.
    Hez, Sire Asnes, car chantez;
    Belle bouche rechignez;
    Vous aurez du foin assez.
    Et de l’avoine à planter.
    Lentus erat pedibus,
    Nisi foret baculus,
    Et cum in clunibus
    Pungeret aeuleus.

and after several verses in this strain, finishing with—

    Hez va! hez va! hez va, hez!
    Bialx Sire Asnes car allez;
    Belle bouche car chantez.

On the mock mass being completed, the officiating priest turned to
the people and said, “Ite missa est,” and brayed three times, to which
they responded by crying or braying out, Hinham, Hinham, Hinham. This
festival is said to have been in commemoration of the flight to Egypt;
but there was one kept at Rouen in honour of Balaam’s ass, where the
performers, if they may be so called, walked in procession on Christmas
Day, representing the prophets and others, as David, Moses, Balaam,
Virgil, &c., just as General Wolfe may now be seen as a party in the
Christmas play of St. George and the Dragon. Many attempts were made
from the twelfth to the end of the sixteenth century to suppress these
licentious abuses of sacred things; and although by that time they were
abolished in the churches, yet they were continued by the laity, and
our modern mummers probably have their origin from them. A pupil of
Gassandi, writing to him as late as 1645, mentions having seen in the
church at Aix, the Feast of Innocents (which was of a similar nature)
kept by the lay brethren and servants in the church, dressed in ragged
sacerdotal ornaments, with books reversed, having large spectacles,
with rinds of scooped oranges instead of glasses. Louis the Twelfth,
in the early part of the sixteenth century, ordered the representation
of the gambol of the ‘Prince des Sots’ and the ‘Mère sotte,’ in which,
according to a note to Rabelais, liv. i, c. 2, ed. 1823, Julius the
Second and the Court of Rome were represented. This was about the time
probably when the principality of Chauny wishing to have some swans
(_cignes_) for the waters ornamenting their town, unluckily wrote to
Paris for some _cinges_ (singe being then written with a _c_), and
in due time received a wagonful of apes. They could, therefore, have
readily proffered their scribe as the prince des sots, excepting
that it takes a wise man to make a good fool. At Angers, there was
an old custom called Aquilanneuf, or Guilanleu, where young persons
went round to churches and houses on the first of the year, to collect
contributions, nominally to purchase wax in honour of the Virgin, or
the patron of the church, crying out, _Au gui menez Rollet Follet, tiri
liri mainte du blanc et point du bis_; they had a chief called _Roi
Follet_, and spent their money in feasting and debauchery. An order was
made by the synod there, in 1595, which stopped the practice in the
churches, but another, in 1668, was necessary to modify and restrain it

Feasts of this description were not much in vogue in England, though
they were introduced, as we find them prohibited at Lincoln, by Bishop
Grosthead, in the time of Henry the Third; but towards the end of the
following century they were probably abolished. There are traces of
the fool’s dance, where the dancers were clad in fool’s habits, in the
reign of Edward the Third. A full account of these strange observances
may be found in Ducange, and in Du Tilliot’s Mémoires de la Fête des

Christianity was introduced among the Britons at a very early period,
but there are no records, that can be considered authentic, of their
mode of keeping the feast of the Nativity, though it was doubtless
observed as one of their highest festivals. Some of the druidical
ceremonies might have been embodied, and even the use of the mysterious
misletoe then adopted, the aid of the bards called in, and ale and mead
quaffed in abundance. The great and veritable King Arthur, according to
the ballad of the “Marriage of Sir Gawaine,”—

    “......a royale Christmasse kept,
     With mirth and princelye cheare;
     To him repaired many a knighte,
       That came both farre and neare.”

This, though ancient, is certainly of a date long subsequent to the
far-famed hero; but it ought to be taken as authority, for, according
to the modern progress of antiquarianism, the farther off we live
from any given time or history, the more we know about it; the old
Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and Mediævals, knowing nothing respecting
themselves and their next door neighbours, while we are as familiar as
if we had been born and bred with them. By the same rule of remoteness,
the modern chronicler, Whistlecraft (Frere), should be taken as
authority, for the particulars of the ancient Christmas feast, on which
he humorously thus dilates:—

    “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.”

After the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity, Easter,
Whitsuntide, and Christmas, were kept as solemn festivals; the
kings living at those times in great state, wearing their crowns,
receiving company on a large scale, and treating them with great
hospitality. The Wittenagemots were also then held, and important
affairs of church and state discussed. Knowing the affection of the
early Saxons for their ale and mead, and that quaffing these from the
skulls of their enemies, while feasting from the great boar Scrymer,
was—notwithstanding the apparent sameness of the amusement—one of
their anticipated joys in a future state, we can readily imagine that
excesses frequently took place at these festivals. The wassail bowl,
of which the skull of an enemy would thus appear to have formed their
_beau idéal_, is said to have been introduced by them. Rowena, the
fair daughter of Hengist, presenting the British king, Vortigern, with
a bowl of wine, and saluting him with “Lord King Wass-heil;” to which
he answered, as he was directed, “Drinc heile,” and saluted her then
after his fashion, being much smitten with her charms. The purpose of
father and daughter was obtained; the king married the fair cup-bearer,
and the Saxons obtained what they required of him. This is said to
have been the first wassail in this land; but, as it is evident that
the form of salutation was previously known, the custom must have been
much older among the Saxons; and, indeed, in one of the histories, a
knight, who acts as a sort of interpreter between Rowena and the king,
explains it to be an old custom among them. By some accounts, however,
the Britons are said themselves to have had their wassail bowl, or
lamb’s wool—_La Mas Ubhal_, or day of apple fruit—as far back as the
third century, made of ale, sugar (whatever their sugar was), toast and
roasted crabbs, hissing in the bowl; to which, in later times, nutmeg
was added. The followers of Odin and Thor drank largely in honour
of their pagan deities; and, when converted, still continued their
potations, but in honour of the Virgin Mary, the Apostles, and Saints;
and the early missionaries were obliged to submit to this substitution,
being unable to abolish the practice, which afterwards degenerated into
drinking healths of other people, to the great detriment of our own.
Strange! that even from the earliest ages, the cup-bearer should be one
of the principal officers in the royal presence, and that some of the
high families take their name from a similar office.

The feast of Christmas was kept in the same state on the Continent,
and the bishops were accustomed to send their eulogies—_Visitationis
Scripta_—on the Nativity, to kings, queens, and others of the blood
royal. But it is foreign to the purpose of this work to refer to the
customs abroad, unless it may be necessary to do so slightly, for the
purpose of illustration. It may be mentioned, however, that at this
festival, in 800, Charlemagne received from the pope, Leo the Third,
the crown of Emperor, and was hailed as the pious Augustus the Great,
and pacific Emperor of the Romans.

Alfred, as might be expected from his fine character, reverently
observed the festival. On one occasion he gave to the celebrated
Asser, by way of gift, an abbey, in Wiltshire, supposed to have been
Amesbury; another, at Barnwell, in Somersetshire; a rich silk pall,
and as much incense as a strong man could carry on his shoulder,—a
truly princely New Year’s gift. He directed Christmas to be kept for
twelve days; so that now, if not at an earlier date, the length of the
feast was defined, and the name, probably, of Twelfth-day given to the
last day of it; though, in the old Runic festivals, among the ancient
Danes, it appears to have been more correctly called the thirteenth
day, a name which would sound uncouth to our modern ears: Who would
eat any thirteenth cake? Alfred was commemorating this festival, with
his army, at Chippenham, in 878, when he was surprised by Guthrum,
and his Danes, and compelled to fly and conceal himself in the Isle
of Athelney, his power fading away for a time, even like that of a
twelfth-night king. Something similar happened a century before, when
Offa, king of Mercia, about the year 790, was completing Offa’s dyke.
The Welsh, despising the solemnity of the time, broke through, and
slew many of Offa’s soldiers, who were enjoying their Christmas. The
Danish kings kept the feast much in the same manner as the Saxons; and
there is a story told of Canute, who had many good qualities about him,
which shows the rudeness of the times, even in the royal circle, though
such a scene may even now be realized in Oriental courts. While this
monarch was celebrating his Christmas in London, A.D. 1017, Edric, earl
of Mercia, who had treacherously betrayed and deserted Ethelred and
Edmund Ironside, boasted of his services to Canute, who turned to Eric,
earl of Northumberland, exclaiming, “Then let him receive his deserts,
that he may not betray us, as he betrayed Ethelred and Edmund.” The
Norwegian immediately cut him down with his battle-axe, and his body
was thrown from a window into the Thames. Such speedy justice would
rather astonish a drawing-room now-a-days.

Dancing seems then, even as at present, to have been a favourite
Christmas amusement, and certainly in one instance was carried to an
extreme. Several young persons were dancing and singing together on
Christmas Eve, 1012, in a churchyard, and disturbed one Robert, a
priest, who was performing mass in the church. He entreated them in
vain to desist: the more he begged the more they danced, and, we may
conclude, showed him some of their best _entrechâts_ and capers. What
would, in modern times, have been a case for the police, was then
a subject for the solemn interference of the powers of the church.
Robert, as they would not cease dancing, as the next best thing, prayed
that they might dance without ceasing. So they continued without
intermission, for a whole year, feeling neither heat nor cold, hunger
nor thirst, weariness nor decay of apparel; but the ground on which
they performed not having the same miraculous support, gradually wore
away under them, till at last they were sunk in it up to the middle,
still dancing as vehemently as ever. Sir Roger de Coverley, danced down
the whole length of the Crystal Palace, would have been nothing to
this. A brother of one of the girls took her by the arm, endeavouring
to bring her away; the limb, however, came off in his hand, like Dr.
Faustus’s leg, in the hand of the countryman, but the girl never
stopped her dancing, or missed a single step in consequence. At the end
of the year Bishop Hubert came to the place, when the dancing ceased,
and he gave the party absolution. Some of them died immediately after,
and the remainder, after a profound sleep of three days and three
nights, went about the country to publish the miracle.

It was at Christmas, 1065, that Westminster Abbey was consecrated,
in the presence of Queen Edgitha, and a great number of nobles and
priests, Edward the Confessor being himself too ill to attend; and
indeed he died on the 5th of January, 1066, and was buried in the Abbey
on the following day; his tomb there, and his name of the Confessor,
given him by the priests, having caused him probably to be better known
than any particular merits of his own deserve.

A great change was now about to take place in the government of our
country: William of Normandy claimed it as his of right against Harold;
and, having power to support his claim, in the space of a few months
became King of England, placing his Norman followers in the high places
of the land.




THE Anglo-Norman kings introduced increased splendour at this festival,
as they did on all other occasions; the king wearing his crown and
robes of state, and the prelates and nobles attending, with great pomp
and ceremony, to partake of the feast provided by their monarch, and
to receive from him presents, as marks of his royal favour; returning,
probably, more than an equivalent. William the Conqueror, was crowned
on Christmas day, 1066.

    “On Christmas day in solemne sort,
       Then was he crowned here,
     By Albert, Archbishop of Yorke,
       With many a noble peere.”

There was some disturbance during the ceremony, owing to the turbulence
or misconception of his Norman followers, who, as well as their master,
were disposed to rule with a rod of iron. William gave a striking
proof of how little his nature was capable of understanding “good will
towards men,” when he kept his Christmas at York, in 1069, with the
usual festivities, and afterwards gave directions to devastate the
country between York and Durham; thus consigning 100,000 people to
death, by cold, hunger, fire, and sword. Well, perhaps some of us are
William the Conquerors in heart; what else is a bully at school, or a
bully in society, or, yet more, a bully in domestic life? Who can count
the misery caused by one selfish, one imperious tyrant, whose victims
dare not, or will not, complain; the crouching child, the trembling,
submissive, broken-hearted, yet even still the loving wife? Oh!
woman,—woman, how few amongst us are able to appreciate you! We see
you fair and accomplished; we find you loving and affectionate; we know
you virtuous and faithful; but, can we estimate your truthfulness, your
negation of self, your purity of thought? Partakers of our joys, but
partners indeed in our sorrows; how many a weary heart of man, crushed
by the pressure of worldly cares and trials, have you not saved, and
brought to the contemplation of better things! “She openeth her mouth
with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”

It would be easy to give a list of the different places where our
monarchs kept their Christmasses, from the time of the Conquest, in
nearly, if not quite, an unbroken series; but as this would be scarcely
as amusing as a few pages in a well conducted dictionary, it will no
doubt be considered to have been wisely omitted. It may be stated, in
general terms, that the earlier kings occasionally passed Christmas
in Normandy, and that some of the principal towns favoured, besides
London and Westminster, appear to have been, Windsor, York, Winchester,
Norwich, Worcester, Gloucester, Oxford, Eltham, and Canterbury; and
in the time of the Tudors, Greenwich. Some examples of marked or
distinguished Christmasses will be given in the following pages.

In 1085, William, who was fond of magnificence, kept his Christmas with
great state at Gloucester, which was a favourite place with him and
his son William. He was either in a particular good humour, or wished
to perform what he might think an act of grace, and compensate the
severity with which he treated his conquered, or rather semi-conquered
new subjects, by showing favour to his own countrymen;—a sort of
liberal disposition of public gifts to family friends, that may be
seen occasionally even in modern times—so he gave bishoprics to three
of his chaplains, namely, that of London to Maurice, of Thetford
to William, and of Chester to Robert. There is a somewhat strange
regulation among the constitutions of Archbishop Lanfranc for the
government of the monks of his cathedral, which contain numerous
injunctions respecting washing and combing, and other matters that
would now surprise even a well-regulated boys’ school. On Christmas Eve
they are directed to comb their heads before they washed their hands,
while at other times they were to wash first, and comb afterwards. We
do not see the philosophy of this curious distinction.

William Rufus, the weak and profligate successor of the Conqueror, kept
the Christmas in state, like his father, and Henry the First followed
their example; even in 1105, which was “annus valde calamitosus,”
wherein he raised many tributes, he still kept his Christmas in state,
at Windsor. In 1116, he kept it at St. Albans, when the celebrated
monastery there was consecrated. In the Christmas 1126-7, which was
held at Windsor, anticipating the struggle for the crown that would
take place after his death, he assembled all the principal clergy and
nobles (David, king of Scots, being also present), and caused them to
swear that they would maintain England and Normandy for his daughter,
the Empress Matilda, after his death. In these early times, however, a
few oaths, more or less, were of little consequence; the “time whereof
the memory of man runneth not to the contrary” was of very short
date; a week sometimes making a man to forget utterly what he might
previously have sworn to; and the vicar of Bray would have been by no
means a reprehensible character.

King Stephen, after his accession, wore his crown and robes of state
like the former kings, and kept his Christmas at London; but about
the fifth year of his reign, the internal wars and tumults became and
continued of such magnitude, that during the remainder of this troubled
reign, the celebration of festivals was laid aside.

Henry the Second renewed the celebration of Christmas with great
splendour, and with plays and masques; and the lord of Misrule
appears to have been known at this time, if not at a much earlier
date. In 1171, he celebrated the feast at Dublin, in a large wooden
house erected for the purpose, and entertained several of the Irish
chieftains, as well as the principal men of his own court and army;
the Irish were much surprised at the great plenty and variety
of provisions, and were especially amused at the English eating
cranes; however, after a very short hesitation they joined readily
in the feasting themselves, and history does not say that any ill
effects followed. Cranes continued to be favourites at Christmas and
aristocratic feasts for some time; at the celebrated and often quoted
enthronisation banquet of Archbishop Nevil, in the time of Edward the
Fourth, there were no less than 204 of these birds. There were some
strange dishes, however, in vogue in the time of Henry the Second,
as far as the names, whatever the actual merits of the compounds
might have been. Dillegrout, karumpie, and maupigyrnun, may have far
surpassed some of our grand sounding modern dishes, where the reality
sadly disappoints the ear. This dillegrout also was rather an important
dish, as the tenant of the manor of Addington, in Surrey, held it by
service of making a mess of dillegrout on the day of the coronation.
Fancy the anxiety on this ceremony, not only for the excellence of the
dish, but that it shall not be proclaimed a failure, and thus risk the
possession of the manor, and some more favoured tenant being put in
possession, on the tenure of providing a plum-pudding every Christmas,
or something similar, like the celebrated King George’s pudding, still
tendered to visitors at the Isle of Portland. This dillegrout, too,
required some little skill to make it well, being compounded of almond
milk, the brawn of capons, sugar and spices, chicken parboiled and
chopped, and was called, also, ‘le mess de gyron,’ or, if there was fat
with it, it was termed maupigyrnun.

At Christmas, 1176, Roderick, king of Connaught, kept court with Henry
at Windsor, and in 1183, Henry kept the feast at Caen, in Normandy, and
there wished his son Henry (who died not long afterwards) to receive
homage from his brothers; but the impetuous Richard would not consent,
the “merry” Christmas was, therefore, sadly interrupted, and fresh
family feuds arose; they had previously been but too frequent, Henry’s
life having been much embittered by the conduct of his sons.

When Richard himself came to the throne, he gave a splendid
entertainment during Christmas, 1190, at Sicily, when on his way to the
Crusades, inviting every one in the united English and French armies
of the degree of a gentleman, and giving each a suitable present,
according to his rank. Notwithstanding, however, the romance of Richard
Cœur de Lion affirms that—

    “Christmas is a time full honest,
     Kyng Richard it honoured with gret feste;”

and an antiquary of course ought to consider these romances of equal
authenticity with the old chronicles; yet one cannot help thinking that
during Richard’s short reign, his captivity and his absence from his
kingdom must have interfered with his Christmas celebrations; in fact,
he, of the lion-heart, seems to have been more ornamental than useful
in the pages of history.

John celebrated the feast pretty regularly, but seems occasionally
to have selected a city or town for the purpose, where some great
personage was allowed to provide for the entertainment; as, for
instance, the celebrated Hubert de Burgh, at Canterbury, in 1203. In
1213, he kept his Christmas at Windsor with great festivity, and gave
many presents. He was accustomed to make a present to his chancellor,
every Christmas, of two marks of gold, according to ancient custom,
no doubt by way of New Year’s gift, and gave him half that value at
Easter and Whitsuntide. In 1214, he was keeping his Christmas at
Worcester, when he was informed of the resolution of the barons to
withdraw their allegiance, unless their claims were attended to. This
information being ill-suited for the festivities then in progress,
the king departed suddenly and shut himself up in the Temple; but the
barons went to him on the Epiphany of 1215 with their demands, to
which he promised a satisfactory answer at the ensuing Easter. The
dissensions between himself and his barons, ending in Magna Charta,
are well-known matters of history. In the following year the chief
barons of the realm were under sentence of excommunication, and the
city of London was under an interdict; but the citizens disregarded
this, kept open their churches, rang their bells, enjoyed their turtle
and whitebait (whatever the turtle and whitebait of that time might
have been), drank their hippocras, ale, mead, and claret or clarré,
and celebrated their Christmas with unusual festivity. The English had
long been celebrated for their pre-eminence in drinking; as Iago says,
“your Dane, your German, and your swag-bellied Hollander, are nothing
to your English.” They probably inherited the talent from the Saxons,
for their kings had their wine, mead, cyder, ale, pigment, and morat,
to which their Norman successors added claret or clarré, garhiofilac,
and hippocras. Morat was made from honey and mulberries; claret,
pigment, hippocras, and garhiofilac (so called from the girofle or
cloves contained in it), were different preparations of wine mixed with
honey and spices, no doubt very palatable; and hippocras particularly
was indispensable at all the great feasts. Garhiofilac was probably
made of white wine, and claret of red wine, as there is an order of
Henry the Third in existence, directing the keepers of his wines at
York, to deliver to Robert de Monte Pessulano two tuns of white wine
to make garhiofilac, and one tun of red wine to make claret for him at
the ensuing Christmas, as he used to do in former years. These sheriffs
were very useful persons in those times, and performed many offices for
our olden monarchs that would somewhat surprise a modern high sheriff
to perform now, when he is only called upon to attend to the higher
duties of his office, and becomes officially one of the first men in
his county. Henry the Third, in his twenty-sixth year, directed the
sheriff of Gloucester, to cause twenty salmons to be bought for the
king, and put into pies against Christmas; and the sheriff of Sussex to
buy ten brawns with the heads, ten peacocks, and other provisions for
the same feast.

[Illustration: James Stephanoff, del. Ashbee & Dangerfield, lith.


In his thirty-ninth year, the French king, having sent over as a
present to Henry (whether as a New Year’s gift or not does not exactly
appear) an elephant—“a beast most strange and wonderfull to the
English people, sith most seldome or never any of that kind had beene
seene before that time,”—the sheriffs of London were commanded to
build a house for the same, forty feet long and twenty feet broad, and
to find necessaries for himself and keeper.

The boar’s head just referred to was the most distinguished of the
Christmas dishes, and there are several old carols remaining in honour
of it.

    “At the begynnyng of the mete,
    Of a borys hed ye schal hete,
    And in the mustard ye shal wete;
                And ye shal syngyn or ye gon.”

The dish itself, though the “chief service in this land,” and of very
ancient dignity—probably as old as the Saxons,—was not confined
to Christmas; for, in 1170, when King Henry the Second had his son
Henry crowned in his own lifetime, he himself, to do him honour,
brought up the boar’s head with trumpets before it, “according to the
manner.” It continued the principal entry at all grand feasts, and
was frequently ornamented. At the coronation feast of Henry the Sixth
there were boars’ heads in “castellys of golde and enamell.” By Henry
the Eighth’s time it had become an established Christmas dish, and we
find it ushered in at this season to his daughter the Princess Mary,
with all the usual ceremonies, and no doubt to the table of the monarch
himself, who was not likely to dispense with so royal a dish; and so to
the time of Queen Elizabeth, and the revels in the Inns of Court in her
time, when at the Inner Temple a fair and large boar’s head was served
on a silver platter, with minstrelsy. At the time of the celebrated
Christmas dinner, at Oxford, in 1607, the first mess was a boar’s head,
carried by the tallest of the guard, having a green scarf and an empty
scabbard, preceded by two huntsmen, one carrying a boar spear and the
other a drawn faucion, and two pages carrying mustard, which seems to
have been as indispensable as the head itself. A carol was sung on the
occasion, in the burden of which all joined. Queen’s College, Oxford,
was also celebrated for its custom of bringing in the boar’s head with
its old carol. Even in the present day, though brawn, in most cases,
is considered as a sort of substitute, the boar’s head with lemon in
his mouth may be seen, though rarely, and when met with, may be safely
recommended as a dainty; but some of the _soi-disant_ boars’ heads seen
at Christmas in a pompous state of whiskerless obesity, may without
disparagement take Lady Constance’s words literally and “hang a calf
skin on their recreant limbs.” Brawn is probably as old as boar’s
head; but the inventor of such an arrangement of hogsflesh must have
been a genius, and would have been a patentee in our days, and probably
have formed a joint-stock brawn association. We have just observed it
in the time of Henry the Third, and the ‘begging frere,’ in ‘Chaucer’s
Sompnoure’s Tales,’ says, “geve us of your braun, if ye have any,” and
it may be found in most of the coronation and grand feasts; even in
the coronation feast of Katharine, queen to Henry the Fifth, in 1421,
brawn and mustard appear, though the feast was intended to be strictly
a fish dinner, and with this exception and a little confectionary,
really was so, comprising, with other marine delicacies, “fresh
sturgion with welks,” and “porperous rosted,” the whole bill of fare,
however, would match even the ministerial whitebait dinner. This is not
the only instance where brawn was ranked with fish; for when Calais
was taken, there was a large quantity there; so the French, guessing
it to be some dainty, tried every means of cooking it; they roasted
it, boiled it, baked it, but all in vain, till some imaginative mind
suggested a trial _au naturel_, when its merits were discovered. But
now came the question, in what class of the animal creation should it
be placed? The monks tasted and admired: “Ha! ha!” said they, “capital
fish!” and immediately placed it on their list of fast-day provisions.
The Jews were somewhat puzzled, but a committee of taste, of the most
experienced elders, decided that it certainly was not any preparation
from impure swine, and included it in their list of clean animals.

At the coronation of Henry the Seventh, a distinction was made between
“brawne royall,” and “brawne,” the former probably being confined to
the king’s table. Brawn and mustard appear to be as inseparable as
the boar’s head and mustard, and many directions respecting them may
be found at early feasts. In the middle of the sixteenth century brawn
is called a great piece of service, chiefly in Christmas time, but
as it is somewhat hard of digestion, a draught of malvesie, bastard,
or muscadell is usually drunk after it, where either of them is
conveniently to be had.

    “Even the two rundlets,
     The two that was our hope, of muscadel,
     (Better ne’er tongue tript over,) these two cannons,
     To batter brawn withal, at Christmas, sir,—
     Even these two lovely twins, the enemy
     Had almost cut off clean.”

At the palace, and at the revels of the Inns of Court, it seems to have
been a constant dish at a Christmas breakfast. Tusser prescribes it
amongst his good things for Christmas, and it has so remained to the
present time. The salmon recently mentioned, as having been ordered for
the king, continued to be a favourite dish for this feast. Carew says—

    “Lastly, the sammon, king of fish,
     Fils with good cheare the Christmas dish.”

There used to be a superstition at Aberavon, in Monmouthshire, that
every Christmas Day, in the morning, and then only, a large salmon
exhibited himself in the adjoining river, and permitted himself to be
handled and taken up, but it would have been the greatest impiety to
have captured him. One would not wish to interfere with the integrity
of this legend, by calling on the salmon some Christmas morning, for
fear that he may have followed the tide of emigration, or may have been
affected by free trade.

The salmon, however, is not the only living creature, besides man, that
is supposed to venerate this season.

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

According to popular superstition the bees are heard to sing, and the
labouring cattle may be seen to kneel, on this morning, in memory of
the cattle in the manger, and the sheep to walk in procession, in
commemoration of the glad tidings to the shepherds.

Howison, in his ‘Sketches of Upper Canada,’ mentions an interesting
incident of his meeting an Indian at midnight, on Christmas Eve, during
a beautiful moonlight, cautiously creeping along, and beckoning him to
silence, who, in answer to his inquiries, said, “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 our notice of Christmas wines, we must not omit malt-wine or ale,
which may be considered, indeed, as our national beverage.

    “The nut-brown ale, the nut-brown ale,
     Puts downe all drinke when it is stale,”

or, as it has been classically rendered, alum _si sit stalum_. The
Welsh who are still famous for their ale, had early laws regulating it,
while the steward of the king’s household had as much of every cask of
plain ale as he could reach with his middle finger dipped into it;
and as much of every cask of spiced ale as he could reach with the
second joint of his middle finger. As millers are remarkable for the
peculiarity of their thumbs, no doubt these stewards were gifted with
peculiarly long middle fingers. Ale, or beer, was afterwards divided
into single beer, or small ale, double beer, double-double beer, and
dagger ale; there was, also, a choice kind, called March ale; and our
early statute books contain several laws regulating the sale of ale,
which was to be superintended by an ale-taster, and the terrors of the
pillory and cucking-stool held over misdemeanants.

It maybe expected that “Christmas broached the mightiest ale,” and
Christmas ale has, accordingly, been famous from the earliest times.—

    “Bryng us in good ale, and bryng us in good ale,
     For our blyssd Lady sake, bring us in good ale,”

is a very old wassailing cry, and the wandering musicians always
expected a black jack of ale and a Christmas pye. A favourite
draught, also, was spiced ale with a toast, stirred up with a sprig
of rosemary,—“Mark you, sir, a pot of ale consists of four parts:
imprimis, the ale, the toast, the ginger, and the nutmeg.” Mead, or
metheglin, was another national drink, and here the steward was only
allowed as far as he could reach in the cask with the first joint of
his middle finger. That metheglin was so called from one Matthew Glinn,
who had a large stock of bees that he wished to make profitable, must
be considered more as a joke than a tradition.

Henry the Third generally kept his Christmasses with festivities. In
1230, there was a grand one at York, the King of Scots being present;
but four years afterwards he kept it at Gloucester, with only a small
company, many of the nobles having left him in consequence of the
great favour he was showing foreigners, to their injury. In 1241, he
again offended them by placing the Pope’s legate, at the great dinner
at Westminster Hall, in the place of honour, that is, the middle,
he himself sitting on the right-hand, the Archbishop of York (the
Archbishop of Canterbury being dead) on his left-hand, and then the
prelates and nobles, according to rank. This etiquette, as to place
at table, is certainly as old as the Egyptians, and many a wronged
or neglected individual’s dinner has been spoilt, who has failed in
getting such a place above the salt, or at the cross table, as he
considered his merits entitled him to.

On one occasion, in his forty-second year, Henry rather took undue
advantage of the custom of the season, and being distressed for money,
required compulsory New Year’s Gifts from the Londoners. His wars
frequently distressed him for money, and in 1254, his queen sent him,
to Gascoigne, 500 marks from her own revenues, as a New Year’s Gift,
toward the maintenance of them. In several instances, he kept his
Christmasses at the expense of some of the great nobles, as Hubert de
Burgh, and Peter, bishop of Winchester, who, in 1232, not only took all
the expense upon himself, but gave the king and all his court festive
garments; and, in another year, when Alexander, King of Scots, married
his daughter Margaret, the Archbishop of York, where the feast was
held, gave 600 fat oxen, which were all spent at one meal, and expended
4000 marks besides. This convenient practice saved the pocket of the
sovereign, and gratified the ambition of the subject; but the great
expense caused by such a favour, must have been something like the
costly present of an elephant, by an Eastern despot, to a subject. In
his later years, the king laid aside hospitality very much.

The three Edwards kept the feast much as before, and Edward the First
is said to have been the first king who kept any solemn feast at
Bristol, holding his Christmas there in 1284. In his wardrobe accounts,
there are some valuable particulars of the custom of the king at this
time. In pursuance of ancient usage, he offered at the high altar,
on the Epiphany, one golden florin, frankincense, and myrrh, in
commemoration of the offering of the three kings; a custom carried down
with some variation to the present day. In the same accounts, some of
the New Year’s Gifts given to him are mentioned; among them, a large
ewer set with pearls all over, with the arms of England, Flanders, and
Barr, a present from the countess of Flanders; a comb and looking-glass
of silver-gilt enamelled, and a bodkin of silver in a leathern case,
from the countess of Barr; also, a pair of large knives of ebony and
ivory, with studs of silver enamelled, given by the Lady Margaret, his
daughter, duchess of Brabant.

The custom of giving New Year’s Gifts existed from the earliest
period, and as Warmstry, in his ‘Vindication,’ says, may be “harmless
provocations to Christian love, and mutuall testimonies thereof to good
purpose, and never the worse because the heathens have them at the like
times.” The Romans had their Xenia and Strenæ, during the Saturnalia,
which were retained by the Christians, whence came the French term
_étrennes_; a very ancient one, for in the old mystery, “Li Gieus de
Robin et de Marion,” in the thirteenth century, Marion says, she will
play, “aux jeux qu’on fait aux étrennes, entour la veille de Noël.” The
Greek word strenæ, is translated in our New Testament, delicacies; so
that, whether delicacies were called strenæ because such gifts were
generally of an elegant or graceful nature, or the New Year’s Gifts
adopted a word previously applied to delicacies, seems immaterial, as
the result is the same. These “diabolical New Year’s Gifts,” as some
called them, were denounced by certain of the councils, as early as
the beginning of the seventh century, though without effect. They were
either in the nature of an offering from an inferior to his superior,
who gave something in return, or an interchange of gifts between
equals. Tenants were accustomed to give capons to their landlords at
this season, and in old leases, a capon, at Christmas, is sometimes
reserved as a sort of rent,—

    “Yet must he haunt his greedy landlord’s hall,
     With often presents at ech festivall;
     With crammed capons ev’ry New Year’s morne.”

The practice of New Year’s Gifts is of great antiquity in this country.
In the twelfth century, Jocelin of Brakelond, when about to make a gift
to his abbot, refers to it, as being according to the custom of the
English; and, in very early times, the nobility, and persons connected
with the court, gave these New Year’s Gifts to the monarch, who gave
in return presents of money, or of plate, the amount of which in time
became quite a matter of regulation; and the messenger, bringing the
gift, had, also, a handsome fee given him. How much kindly feeling is
caused by the interchange of these gifts, and how much taste and fancy
displayed at Fortnum and Mason’s, and other places, to tempt us to
purchase for the gratification of our younger friends, and receive our
reward in the contemplation of their unfeigned pleasure and amusement!
Humorous and witty, as well as elegant, bon-bons and souvenirs, drawing
the money from us like so many magnets; as Nasgeorgus says—

    “These giftes the husband gives his wife,
       And father eke the childe,
     And maister on his men bestowes
       The like, with favour milde.”

There are some particulars in the wardrobe accounts of the New Year’s
Gifts of Edward the Second, and also payments made to him to play
at dice at Christmas; a custom existing probably long before his
time, and certainly continued down to a comparatively recent period,
gambling at the groom-porter’s having been observed as late as the
time of George the Third. He also gave numerous gifts, being, as is
well known, of extravagant and luxurious habits. In his eleventh
year, especially, at Westminster, several knights received sumptuous
presents of plate from him, and the king of the bean (Rex Fabæ) is
mentioned as receiving handsome silver-gilt basins and ewers as New
Year’s Gifts. Two of the kings of the bean named, are, Sir William de
la Bech, and Thomas de Weston, squire of the king’s household. Edward
kept several stately Christmasses, and one at Nottingham in 1324,
with particular magnificence, glory, and resort of people. Even when
a prisoner at Kenilworth in 1326-7, he kept up a degree of state,
although his son, Edward the Third, then aged about sixteen years, was
crowned on Christmas Day, 1326, the queen-mother keeping open court,
with a great assembly of nobles, prelates, and burgesses, when it was
decided to depose the father, whose melancholy fate is well known.
Edward the Third became not only a great warrior, but, also, in many
respects, a great monarch, and his Christmasses, with other feasts,
were held with much splendour. One at Wells, where there were many
strange and sumptuous shows made to pleasure the king and his guests,
is particularly mentioned; but that at Windsor, in 1343-4, is by far
the most distinguished in history, as the king then renewed the Round
Table, and instituted the celebrated Order of the Garter, making St.
George the patron; whether from the circumstance of the countess of
Salisbury having dropped her garter (whence the old Welsh tune took its
name of Margaret has lost her garter), cannot now be distinctly proved;
but we may as well leave the balance in favour of gallantry. Suffice
it, that never has any order of knighthood enrolled such a succession
of royal, brave, and world-renowned characters. In 1347 at Guildford,
and 1348 at Ottford, in Kent, there were great revellings at Christmas.
In the first of these years, there were provided for the amusements of
the court, eighty-four tunics of buckram, of divers colours; forty-two
visors of different likenesses; twenty-eight crests; fourteen coloured
cloaks; fourteen dragons’ heads; fourteen white tunics; fourteen heads
of peacocks, with wings; fourteen coloured tunics, with peacocks’
eyes; fourteen heads of swans, with wings; fourteen coloured tunics of
linen; and fourteen tunics, coloured, with stars of gold and silver. In
the following year, quadrupeds were in the ascendancy, instead of the
feathered creation, and amongst the things mentioned in the wardrobe
expenses are, twelve heads of men, surmounted by those of elephants;
twelve of men, having heads of lions over them; twelve of men’s heads,
having bats’ wings; and, twelve heads of wodewoses, or wildmen. A good
pantomime decorator would have been invaluable in those days. On New
Year’s Eve 1358, Edward, with his gallant son, were in a different
scene, fighting under the banners of Sir Walter de Mauny before the
walls of Calais, which place the French thought had been betrayed to
them; but the plot was counteracted, and they were defeated, and many
French knights made captives, who were hospitably entertained by the
English king on the following day, being New Year’s Day.

The mummeries, or disguises, just referred to, were known here as
early as the time of Henry the Second, if not sooner, and may have
been derived originally from the heathen custom of going about, on
the kalends of January, in disguises, as wild beasts and cattle, and
the sexes changing apparel. They were not confined to the diversions
of the king and his nobles; but a ruder class was in vogue among the
inferior orders, where, no doubt, abuses were occasionally introduced
in consequence. Even now, our country geese or guise dancers are a
remnant of the same custom, and, in some places, a horse’s head still
accompanies these mummers. The pageants, in former times, of different
guilds or trades, some of which still exist, and, at the Lord Mayor’s
shows, had all probably a common origin, modified by circumstances;
but, with respect to those of the city, I must refer to Mr. Fairholt’s
account, printed for the Percy Society, where he has treated largely
on the subject. Who knows how many juvenile citizens may not have been
fired by ambition at the sight of these soul-stirring spectacles,
to becoming common councilmen, aldermen, sheriffs, and lord-mayors
themselves—to have at their beck, the copper-cased knights; the brazen
trumpets; the prancing horses, bedecked with streamers; the marshalmen,
in martial attire; gilded coach, with the sword of state looking out of
window!—and then the charms of the dinner, in all the magnificence of
turtle-soup, barons of beef, champagne, venison, and minced pies, with
Gog and Magog looking benignly on; though they must miss the times,
when the Lord Mayor’s Fool used to jump into a huge bowl of Almayn

Edward the Third gave and received New Year’s Gifts, as former kings;
and we find an instance of presents given to Roger Trumpony and his
companions, minstrels of the king, in the name of the king of the bean.
He also made the usual oblations at the Epiphany.

The continental usages were, in many places, similar to our own; but,
as before intimated, they will be but slightly noticed. Charles the
Fifth, of France, for instance, in 1377, held the feast of Christmas,
or Noël as it was called, at Cambray, “et là, fist ses sérimonies
impériaulx, selon l’usage,” referring evidently to old customs; he
also presented gold, incense, and myrrh, in three gilt cups. Not many
years afterwards, the duke of Burgundy gave New Year’s Gifts of greater
value than any one, and especially to all the nobles and knights of
his household, to the value of 15,000 golden florins; but there was
probably as much policy in this, as any real regard for the sacred

Richard the Second was young when he came to the throne, extravagant,
fond of luxury and magnificence, and the vagaries of fashion in dress
were then, and for a long time after, unequalled; his dress, was
“all jewels, from jasey to his diamond boots.” It is to be expected,
therefore, that his Christmasses were kept in splendour, regardless
of expense; and this appears to have been the case even to the close
of his short and unfortunate reign; as, in 1399, there was a royal
Christmas at Westminster, with justings and running at the tilt
throughout, and from twenty-six to twenty-eight oxen, with three
hundred sheep, and fowls without number, were consumed every day.
In the previous Christmas, at Lichfield where the Pope’s nuncio and
several foreign gentlemen were present, there were spent two hundred
tuns of wine, and two thousand oxen, with their appurtenances. It is to
be assumed that the pudding was in proportion to the beef; so these, in
point of feasting, must have been royal Christmasses indeed.

In the midst of all this grandeur, there was a want of cleanliness and
comfort in the rush-strewn floors and imperfectly furnished rooms and
tables, that would have been very evident to a modern guest; and the
manners at table, even in good society, would rather shock our present
fastidious habits. Chaucer, not long previously, in describing the
prioresse, who appears to have been a well-bred and educated person
for the time, proves the usual slovenliness of the domestic habits, by
showing what she avoided—

    “At mete was she wel ytaughte withalle;
     She lette no morsel from hire lippes falle,
     Ne wette hire fingres in hire sauce depe.
     Wel coude she carie a morsel, and wel kepe,
     Thatte no drope ne felle upon hire brest.
     In curtesie was sette ful moche hire lest.
     Hire over lippe wiped she so clene,
     That in hire cuppe was no ferthing sene,
     Of grese, whan she dronken hadde hire draught.”

or, according to the Roman de la Rose, from whence Chaucer took this

    “Et si doit si sagement boyre,
     Que sur soy n’en espande goutte.”

It must be remembered, however, that there were no forks in those
days. The Boke of Curtasye of the same age, reprobates a practice that
is even now scarcely obsolete, and may unexpectedly be seen in company,
where it excites surprise, to say the least of it;—

    “Clense not thi tethe at mete sittande,
     With knyfe ne stre, styk ne wande.”

Richard also had his pageants, or disguisings, but instead of
looking to the brute or feathered creation for models, we find,
on one occasion, there is a charge for twenty-one linen coifs for
counterfeiting men of the law, in the king’s play or diversion at
Christmas, 1389. If the men of the law had been as plentiful as at
present, there would have been no need of making any counterfeits,
where a sufficient quantity of real ones might have been procured so
cheap. The unfortunate Richard was murdered on Twelfth Day, 1400, a sad
finish to all his Christmasses. At the same time, a plan was laid by
the earls of Kent and Huntingdon (recently degraded from the dukedoms
of Exeter and Surrey), with the earl of Salisbury and others, to gain
access, under colour of a Christmas mumming, at Windsor, where Henry
the Fourth and the princes were keeping the feast, and thus effect
the restoration of Richard; but one of the conspirators, the earl of
Rutland (degraded from duke of Aumarle), gave timely notice of it, in
order, as it is said, to forestal his father, the duke of York, who had
got some knowledge of the plot. Henry the Fourth kept his Christmas
feasts in the usual style, and does not require any particular notice,
which might tend to needless repetition.



THE wild course of Henry the Fifth, while Prince of Wales, and
his brilliant but short career as king, are well known, and are
immortalised by Shakespeare;—

    “Never was such a sudden scholar made:
     Never came reformation in a flood,
     With such a heady current, scouring faults;”

his historical plays have probably supplied many with their principal
knowledge of the early annals of our country, from King Lear downwards;
and we must not quarrel with the dramatic fate of Cordelia, although
her real story was more prosperous, as we have, consequently, some of
the most pathetic passages in the works of our immortal bard—that is,
if such bard there ever was; for the overbearing mass of intellect,
imagination, and beauty, presented to us under the name of Shakespeare,
is such, that one almost considers the name a myth, and decides that,
at least, the Seven Sages must have been engaged in its production.
When his warlike avocations allowed him Henry the Fifth kept the feast
with splendour; but his reign was nearly brought to a close at its
outset, if we are to believe those historians who state that, when
he was keeping the Christmas of 1413-14, at Eltham, there was a plot
for seizing him and his three brothers, and the principal clergy, and
killing them. As this plot was, however, attributed to the Lollards,
some of whom were taken and executed, and rewards offered for Sir John
Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, imputing thereby the attempts to him, the
account must be taken with considerable allowance.

Even in the midst of the horrors of war Henry did not forget the
Christian mercies of this tide; for during the siege of Rouen in his
sixth year, and that city being in great extremity from hunger, he
ceased hostilities on Christmas Day, and gave food to all his famishing
enemies who would accept of it.

    “Alle thay to have mete and drynke therto,
     And, again, save condyte to come and to go.”

Something like this occurred, in 1428, at the siege of Orleans, “where
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. They
borrowed these musicians and instruments from the French, and Dunois
and Suffolk also exchanged gifts.” In his eighth year, Henry, with
his queen, the “most fair” Katherine, sojourned at Paris during the
feast, and “kept such solemn estate, so plentiful a house, so princely
pastime, and gave so many gifts, that from all parts of France,
noblemen and others resorted to his palace, to see his estate, and do
him honour.” This was a stroke of policy to ingratiate himself with the
French, and the French king at the same time kept his Christmas quietly.

Henry the Sixth, for the first few years of his troubled reign, was a
mere child; though, in the tenth year of his reign, and the same of
his age, having just previously received the homage of the French and
Norman nobles at Paris, he celebrated the Feast with great solemnity at
Rouen; a place where, not long after, some of those in high places of
our country were to disgrace themselves by the cruel punishment of Joan
of Arc. He seems afterwards to have kept his Christmas in the usual
manner, until the disastrous wars of York and Lancaster, during which
the fate of the monarch,—and, indeed, who, for the time being, was
such monarch—depended on the predominance of the white or red rose.

There are several instances recorded of New Year’s Gifts, or Christmas
Boxes, given to and by him when a boy; amongst others, to his mother
Queen Katherine; to Queen Jane, widow of Henry the Fourth; and, to the
Cardinal of England; being tablets of gold, ornamented with precious
stones. On one occasion he gave his mother a ruby, set in a ring of
gold, that the duke of Bedford had given him at a previous Christmas.
At another time he gave his mother a tablet of gold, with a crucifix
garnished with sapphires and pearls, weighing about fourteen ounces of
gold, which was bought of John Patteslee, goldsmith, for forty pounds.
The usual payment to the heralds for their largess seems to have been
a hundred shillings. A small quarto book, with rich illuminations,
given to Henry by the abbot of Edmundsbury, is now in the British
Museum. The kings of arms and heralds were accustomed, in preceding
reigns, to have their livery out of the great wardrobe, at Christmas,
like other squires of the court; but the practice having apparently
got into disuse during the boyhood of Henry, they petitioned, in the
eighteenth year of his reign, to have them again, which was granted,
and they again were decorated as at present, like gilded court cards.

In 1428, a sum of four pounds was given to Jakke Travaill and
companions, for making divers plays and interludes before the king, at

Plays and interludes, with disguisings and mummings, were of very
ancient date, and derived, like many other things, from the heathens.
As early as 408 stage plays and spectacles were forbidden by the
Concilium Africanum, on the Lord’s day, and other solemn Christian
festivals, and by several subsequent councils, whose orders seem
to have been but little attended to, showing how deep-rooted was
the attachment to these shows. The early secular plays, principally
performed by strolling minstrels, were frequently of a comic nature,
but of a gross character, and accompanied by music, dancing, and
mimicry. About the twelfth century the ecclesiastics introduced
miracle-plays and scripture-histories, to counteract the secular
plays, and these became common in the time of Henry the Second; the
miracle-play of St. Katherine was acted at Dunstaple early in the
twelfth century. London became famous for them, and in some places
different trade-guilds produced each their separate play or mystery,
as we find in the case of the Chester and Coventry Mysteries, and
others. It was found expedient in these to introduce some comic
passages, to relieve the length of the performances, and attract the
notice of the audience, who probably paid on the voluntary system,
as each thought proper. Thus, in the ‘Chester Mysteries,’ about the
fourteenth century, Noah’s wife refuses to go into the ark, without
her gossips, every one, and swears by Christ and by Saint John; and
when she is at last forced in, she salutes Noah with a hearty box on
the ear. In the Cornish Mystery of the ‘Creation of the World,’ by
Jordan, which is, however, nearly three centuries later in date, the
lady is much more civil, and is very careful to collect her property,
like a thrifty housewife, because “they cost store of money.” In the
‘Secunda Pastorum’ of the Towneley Mysteries, which are said to be
about a century later than those of Chester, Mak, the buffoon of the
piece, steals a sheep from the Shepherds, while they are asleep, and
takes it home to his wife, who puts it into the cradle, endeavouring
to make it pass for a child, and praying that if ever she beguiled the
Shepherds, who have come in search of it, she may eat the child lying
there. The trick, however, is discovered, one of the Shepherds, going
to kiss the child, finds the long snout. A similar story is told of
Archie Armstrong, the jester, in the seventeenth century, excepting
that his fraud was not discovered. In the ‘Slaughter of the Innocents,’
a cowardly character, called Watkyn, requests Herod to knight him, that
he may be properly qualified to assist; he is nevertheless well beaten
by the women, and goes to complain accordingly.

These Mysteries abound in anachronisms: Pharaoh in his pursuit of the
Israelites, when in fear of drowning, recommends his people to lift
up their hearts to Mahownde, or Mahomet; Herod constantly swears by
him, sometimes even calling him St. Mahomed, as the Sicilian peasants
swear by _Santu Diavolu_, and promises to make one of his counsellors
Pope, by way of reward; Noah’s wife swears by Mary; Caiaphas sings
mass; and the Shepherds are acquainted with the fools of Gotham; but as
individuals of this class are of a very ancient, as well as lasting,
breed, the statement may be correct, if applied to some Gotham in
Palestine. In the ‘Mactatio Abel,’ of the same collection, Cain is
made to speak in the rudest dialect of West York, using the vulgarest
phrases, with gross buffoonery.

The pilgrims and crusaders, on their return from the East, introduced
other subjects, and the frequent use of the name of Mahomed or Mahomet
may have some connection with them. The Christmas play of St. George
and the Dragon—

    “St. George! that swindg’d the dragon, and e’er since
     Sits on his horseback, at mine hostess’ door,”—

with the King of Egypt, and fair Sabra, his daughter, still extant in
some parts of the country, may have the same origin. It is evidently
of great antiquity; and the fact of its being performed in similar
manner in the extreme northern and western parts of the country, a
considerable part indeed being nearly identical, tends to prove this.
“St. George!” was the old battle cry of the English, or “Sand Jors!”
as an old German poem, of the fourteenth century, on the battle of
Poictiers, calls it.

After the introduction of miracle-plays and mysteries, if there was a
deficiency at any time of ecclesiastical performers, the clergy took
secular players to assist them; and besides the fraternities and
guilds, as before mentioned, some of the public schools also claimed
an exclusive privilege of performing plays at particular times and
places; the scholar of Paul’s School, indeed, applied to Richard the
Second to prohibit inexperienced persons from presenting the ‘History
of the Old Testament,’ which the clergy had been at great expense to
represent publicly at Christmas. The parish-clerks were also famed for
their representations, which seem frequently to have taken place at
Clerkenwell, and occasionally lasted for several days. One is mentioned
by Stow, in 1409, at Skinner’s Well, near Clerkenwell, which lasted
eight days, commencing from the Creation of the World; which was indeed
the favourite beginning, if we may judge from the sets of mysteries
still extant; the authors thinking that date sufficiently remote:
unlike some pedigree hunters, who some way down their ornamented
tree, place a note, stating that about this time the world began;
or the Chinese picture of the Creation, which has, in a corner, a
Chinese mandarin looking on through a telescope. About the middle of
the fifteenth century, moralities, or morals, appear to have been
introduced, consisting of allegorical personifications, and with them
the Vice with his dagger of lath and fool’s coat. The scripture-plays
were not, however, immediately abandoned, and may be met with, though
perhaps in the shape of a puppet-show, as late certainly as the time
of Queen Anne, when at Heatley’s Booth, at Bartholomew Fair, might be
seen the old Creation of the World, newly revived, commencing with the
Creation of Adam and Eve, and finishing with rich Dives in Hell, and
Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom. The French had representations similar
to those of the English, at least as early in date; and, in 1313,
Philippe-le-Bel exhibited, on the occasion of conferring knighthood
on his children, the following spectacles:—‘Adam et Eve;’ ‘Les
Trois Rois;’ ‘Le Meurte des Innocens;’ N. S. riant avec Sa Mère, et
mangeant des pommes; Hérode et Caiphe en mitre, &c. In France, and in
Spain, where they had their Autos Sacramentales, as they called these
mysteries, from an equally early date, these performances have been
continued to modern times among the country people, and most of their
collections of carols contain two or three short mysteries. The plays
exhibited at court, during the Christmas, were probably different
from those of the clergy, and more in the nature of mummeries, or
disguisings, with pageants, until the time of Queen Elizabeth, when
the regular drama was performed before her, a practice which has been
renewed in the elegant Christmas festivities of our present Queen.

After Edward the Fourth became the undisputed king of this country, he
resumed the custom of keeping Christmas with pomp, wearing his crown,
and keeping his estate, and making presents to his household; but the
parliament nevertheless, in 1465, thought it necessary to pass one of
those useless acts against excess in dress, forbidding cloth of gold,
and shoes with pikes more than two inches long, to any under a lord.
In 1461, also, all diceing, or playing at cards, was prohibited except
at Christmas. Cards forming then, as since, an essential part, in
many places, of the Christmas amusements. Among the Christmas gifts,
during this reign, several were given to players and minstrels. Margery
Paston, in a letter to her husband John Paston, 24th Dec., 1484, says
that his eldest son had gone to Lady Morley to know how the Christmas
next after her husband’s death was kept, and that there were no
disguisings, nor harping, nor luting, nor singing, nor loud disports;
but playing at the tables, and chess, and cards.

Richard the Third’s reign was too short and turbulent to give much
opportunity for festivities, but he nevertheless kept two or three
Christmasses in state, and particularly in 1484, at Westminster, when
he wore his crown at a royal banquet on the Epiphany, clad in rich
attire, of which he was fond; and it was observed that the princess
Elizabeth was dressed in splendid robes of the same form and colour as
those of the queen, whence inferences were drawn that he wished to get
rid of the queen, either by death or divorce. Yet even now we hardly
know the real character of Richard, and whether there were not some
lights to relieve the dark shade: ambitious he was, and unscrupulous,
but eloquent, and brave or bold; and perhaps, after all, his hump was
only a high-shoulder. The old Countess of Desmond, who danced with
him in her youth, describes him as a handsome man, somewhat dazzled
probably by dancing with royalty. Shakespeare has rather treated him
like a mad dog, and given him a bad name.

With Henry the Seventh commenced that series of splendid Christmasses
which lasted, with little interruption, until the time of the civil
wars, and were especially magnificent in the first half of the reign
of Henry the Eighth, and of which historians have left us such
particulars, that we can fancy ourselves present at them. In Christmas,
1489, however, the measles were prevalent, and proved fatal to several
ladies and gentlewomen, and there were no disguisings, and but few
plays, though there was an abbot of Misrule, who “made much sport
and did right well his office;” the ambassadors of Spain dined at
the king’s board on Twelfth Day, and the officers of arms had their
largess, as they were accustomed. In the following year, to make up
for it, there was a goodly disguising on New Year’s Night, and many
plays during the Christmas. There are some household books of this
king still extant at the Chapter-House, which contain many particulars
of the payments for the Christmas diversions. Among these there are
numerous gifts to different sets of players; dramatic performances,
such as they were, being frequent in this reign; but the payments are
somewhat of the smallest, varying from ten shillings to £2. 13_s._
4_d._ for each set of players, excepting on occasions when some of the
gentlemen of his chapel played before him, who received as much as £6.
13_s._ 4_d._ for their services, which sum appears also to have been
the usual reward for the lord of Misrule. It is probable, however, that
the players had rewards from other people besides the king, and that
when the cap was handed round a handsome collection was frequently
made. On one occasion no less than £12. was given to a little maiden
that danced: now, considering how careful Henry was of his money, and
comparing her reward to that of the players, we must presume her to
have been the Taglioni of her day. The payments by the nobles were
frequently small; in Lord Howard’s account there is one of 3_s._ 4_d._
to four players.

Besides the plays, there were disguisings and banquets; and Walter
Alwyn and Jakes Haute had, at different Christmasses, each £20 and
upwards, for the disguisings or revels. In 1493, on Twelfth Night,
there was a great banquet and wassail, and a pageant of Saint George
with a castle; and twelve lords, knights, and esquires, with twelve
ladies, danced after the wassail. Henry the Eighth at this time was but
a fat-cheeked child, so could scarcely reckon his taste for this sort
of amusement—in which he afterwards so much delighted—from so early
a date, but had plenty of opportunities subsequently of maturing it.
On Twelfth Day the king made the accustomed offerings of gold, myrrh,
and frankincense: the dean of the chapel sent to the Archbishop of
Canterbury the offering by a clerk or priest, who was to have the next
benefice in the gift of the archbishop. The king was to wear his crown
and his royal robes, kirtle, surcoat, furred hood, and mantle, with
long train, and his sword before him; his armills of gold set with rich
stones on his arms, and his sceptre in his right hand.

The wassail was introduced in the evening with great ceremony: the
steward, treasurer, and comptroller of the household went for it with
their staves of office; the king’s and the queen’s sewers, having fair
towels round their necks, and dishes in their hands, such as the king
and queen should eat of; the king’s and queen’s carvers following in
like manner. Then came in the ushers of the chamber, with the pile
of cups—the king’s, the queen’s, and the bishop’s—with the butlers
and wine, to the cupboard, or sideboard as we should now call it; and
squires of the body to bear them. The gentlemen of the chapel stood at
one end of the hall, and when the steward came in with the wassail, he
was to cry out three times, “Wassail, wassail, wassail!” to which they
answered with a good song—no doubt a wassail song or a carol, as they
were prevalent at this time.

The terms wassail and wassailing are, as before mentioned, of very
early date. Mr. Hunter, in his interesting essay on Robin Hood, notices
a payment of a hundred shillings made, in the time of Edward the
Second, to Isabelle del Holde and Alisoun Conand, damsels of the queen,
for crying Noël and Wessel. They were not, however, absolutely confined
to Christmas, but were used to indicate any convivial and festive

    “The king doth wake to-night, and takes his rouse,
     Keeps wassel.”

The meetings indeed were themselves called after them—

    “He is wit’s peddler, and retails his wares
     At wakes and wassels, meetings, markets, fairs.”

One of the earliest wassail songs is that introduced by Dissimulation,
disguised as a religious person, in Bale’s old play of Kynge Johan,
about the middle of the sixteenth century. He brings in the cup by
which the king is poisoned, stating that it “passith malmesaye,
capryck, tyre, or ypocras,” and then sings—

    “Wassayle, wassayle out of the mylke payle,
     Wassayle, wassayle as white as my nayle,
     Wassayle, wassayle in snowe, froste, and hayle,
     Wassayle, wassayle with partriche and rayle,
     Wassayle, wassayle that muche doth avayle,
     Wassayle, wassayle that never wylle fayle.”

In Caxton’s Chronicle the account of the death of King John represents
the cup to have been filled with good ale; and the monk bearing it,
knelt down, saying, “Syr, wassayll for euer the dayes so all lyf dronke
ye of so good a cuppe.”

The loving-cup, at city and other feasts, may be considered as
an offshoot of the wassail-bowl, drinc-heil being converted into
drink-all. In after times the term became applied almost exclusively to
Christmas, perhaps from wassailing being more common at that period,
and there was a custom in many places of carrying the bowl round,
generally by young women, from door to door, with an appropriate song,
the bearer expecting a small gift in return. Selden, in his ‘Table
Talk,’ alluding to this custom, says, “The Pope, in sending relics to
princes, does as wenches do by their wassails at New Year’s tide, they
present you with a cup, and you must drink of a slabby stuff; but the
meaning is, you must give them moneys ten times more than it is worth.”

The days generally chosen for the wassail bowl were Christmas Eve,
New Year’s Eve or Twelfth Night, which in some places was called
Wassail eve. Machyn, in his Diary, mentions his being at supper at
Mrs. Lentall’s, at Henley-on-Thames, on Twelfth Eve, 1556, when there
came in “xij wessells with maydens syngyng with their wessells, and
after cam the cheyff wyffes syngyng with their wessells; and the
gentyll-woman had hordenyd a grett tabull of bankett, dyssys of spyssys
and frut, as marmelad, gynbred, gele, comfett, suger plat, and dyver
odur.” Master Machyn is somewhat arbitrary in his spelling, even
allowing for the eccentricities in this art at the time in which he

In the seventeenth century the wassail bowl was carried round to the
houses of the gentry and others, the bearers expecting a gratuity:—

    “Good dame, here at your door
       Our wassel we begin;
     We are all maidens poor,
       We pray now let us in
                 With our wassel.

     Our wassel we do fill
       With apples and with spice,
     Then grant us your good will
       To taste here once or twice
                 Of our good wassel.“

The custom is still partially extant. Many great houses had, and
no doubt still have, wassail bowls of massive silver. Wassail, in
Ben Jonson’s mask of Christmas, is described as a neat sempster and
songster; her page bearing a brown bowl, dressed with ribbons and
rosemary, before her.

The practice of introducing the bowl is still retained in Christmas
meetings, though the component parts are generally ale, sugar, nutmeg,
and a toast, omitting the roasted apples, which are necessary to
constitute genuine lamb’s wool; “lay a crab in the fire to roast for
lamb’s wool;” in olden times indeed the apple was almost an inseparable

    “....sometimes lurk I in a gossip’s bowl,
     In very likeness of a roasted crab;
     And, when she drinks, against her lips I bob,
     And on her wither’d dew-lap pour the ale.”

There are several old wassail songs still existing, as well as some
that bear a more modern stamp. In Devonshire, and elsewhere, it is
an old custom to wassail the apple and pear trees, by pouring out a
libation at the foot, in order that they may bear the better.

    “Wassaile the trees, that they may beare
     You many a plumb, and many a peare;
     For more or less fruits they will bring,
     As you doe give them wassailing.”

From what we read of the character of Henry the Seventh, we cannot
fancy him entering into these amusements with unrestrained hilarity,
but to have treated them as part of the state ceremonies, counting the
necessary cost with reluctance. All the forms to be adopted for each
day were laid down in exact manner, and no doubt the time and quantity
of smiles and laughter were properly regulated. Even his jokes were
somewhat of a severe practical kind; he once asked an astrologer if he
knew where he, the astrologer, should pass his Christmas, and on his
professing his ignorance, told him that he was then the most skilled of
the two, as he knew the astrologer would pass it in the Tower, and sent
him there accordingly, and then we may suppose ate his Christmas dinner
with much self-satisfaction. The custom of giving Christmas-boxes and
New Year’s Gifts, seems now to have been organised into a regular
system; there was a graduated scale for giving and receiving, according
to the rank of the parties, and the amount was as well ascertained as
the _quiddam honorarium_ to a barrister or a physician.

At New Year’s Day in the morning, an usher of the chamber came to the
door of the king’s chamber, and said, “There is a New Year’s Gift come
from the queen,” to which the king answered, “Sir, let it come in;” the
usher with the gift was then admitted, and afterwards the ushers with
gifts from the nobles, according to their rank, and these messengers
had rewards given them, from ten marks to the queen’s messenger, if
a knight, down to forty shillings to an earl and countess’s servant.
The queen received gifts in the same manner, though of less value. The
king was on this day to wear his kirtle, his surcoat, and his pane of
arms, with his hat of estate, and his sword borne before him. No doubt
an accurate list was kept of those expected to give their New Year’s
Gifts, and as their messengers arrived they were marked off; or, if
they failed in their duty, were looked on with suspicion and ill will.
In one year he gave away as much as £120 in New Year’s Gifts, but this
was probably in return for presents of much larger amount, or in reward
to those bringing gifts; the whole must have been a sadly formal
proceeding, and more to the glorification of man than any other purpose.

On Christmas Day and the other feast days, the queen made her
offerings, amounting generally to five shillings in each case, and
also gave away money in alms, charges being made for sixty shillings
for this purpose on New Year’s Eve. She also gave numerous sums at
Christmas, in gifts; as, to the grooms and pages of the household £20;
to the lord of Misrule 20_s._; to my lord privy seal’s fool 3_s._ 4_d._

Cards were much used, as in former times, and sums of a hundred
shillings are charged for the queen’s “disporte at cardes.” The lord,
or abbot, of Misrule, as he was indiscriminately called, was now an
important officer, and an essential accompaniment to the Christmas
revels; payments are frequently made to him, generally of ten marks or
£6. 13_s._ 4_d._ Under these or some other similar names this personage
existed from very early times, not only at court, but in the houses of
the nobility, of the lord-mayor and sheriffs, in the Inns of Court, and
at the different colleges; he is even mentioned in the original draft
of statutes, of Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1546, soon after which
time he appears to have reached the summit of his magnificence. Many of
the nobility kept the feast with great splendour, and probably during
the time of Henry the Seventh, exceeded even the court in this respect.
They had their own players, minstrels, and waits, and officers of their
household, in imitation of the royal establishment; having among their
retainers many gentlemen and frequently some knights.

Edward Stafford, duke of Buckingham, gave some princely entertainments
during this reign; on the Epiphany, 1508, he had 459, to dinner, of
different degrees, including 134 gentry, with two minstrels, six
trumpets, four waits, and four players. The supply of provisions was
fully commensurate with the demand, but it would not afford much
interest to give it in detail; as unusual dishes now, may be mentioned
a salt sturgeon, three swans, two peacocks, two herons, four dog fish,
and half a fresh conger; oysters were probably scarce, as only 200 are
mentioned, valued at 4_d._; the wines were Gascony, Malvoisy, Rhenish,
and Ossey, besides 259 flaggons (gallons) and one quart of ale; there
were also two gallons of furmity, a dish which has continued in use
to the present time. On the previous Christmas Day, the guests being
fewer in number, the consumption of ale was only 171 flaggons and one
quart, of which seventeen flaggons and three quarts were for breakfast;
but this was not far from the time when the maids of honour had a chet
loaf, a manchet, a gallon of ale, and a chine of beef for breakfast.

Swans were standard dishes formerly at great houses at Christmas, and
other great festivals; Chaucer’s monk, no doubt a good judge,

    “A fat swan loved he best of any rost.”

In the Northumberland Household Book, five are directed for Christmas
Day, three for New Year’s Day, and four for Twelfth Day. Except in the
state of a cygnet, and that rarely, the bird now is not met with at

The humbler classes of society also had their rejoicings at this tide,
and were allowed certain privileges and facilities for the purpose,
the restrictions under which artificers, labourers, and servants
were placed as to not playing at cards and certain other games being
suspended during Christmas, when there was, among other sports, playing
at cards for counters, nails, and points, in every house; but, as Stow
says, more for pastime than for gain. The holidays, according to this
annalist, extended from All-Hallows Evening to the day after Candlemas
Day, and there was a penalty attached to any householder allowing such
games, except during this time. Dramatic performances were exhibited at
the houses of the great and wealthy, where the tenants and peasantry
were allowed access, and cheered with good Christmas hospitality; carol
singing was encouraged, and it is not improbable that some of our
modern carols may be connected with this age, though somewhat modified.




WHEN Henry the Eighth came to the throne the festivities at Christmas,
as well as those at other seasons, were kept with great splendour. He
was then young, of manly address, and tall handsome person, skilled
in martial exercises, of great bodily strength and activity, and
accomplished; fond of exhibiting his prowess; and, though naturally
overbearing, possessed some chivalrous qualities in the early part
of his reign, until freed from the advice of Wolsey, and spoiled
by flattery and adulation, and the unrestrained indulgence of his
passions; for, as the cardinal said of him in his dying state, “he
is a prince of most royal courage; rather than miss any part of his
will, he will endanger one half of his kingdom.” Had he not been
so unfortunate as to rule in what was then a despotic monarchy, he
might have passed through life as an impetuous, convivial, somewhat
overbearing person, rather keeping his family in fear, but not much
worse than characters we all now and then meet with in society, who
bully their wives, children, servants, and clerks, bluster at committee
meetings, and are somewhat troublesome members of clubs. As the case
was, however, he presents a memorable example of the effects of
uncontrolled selfishness, pride, and passion.

Plays, masques, pageants, and similar diversions were frequent and
splendid during this reign, or rather during the first half of it; for
after Henry became interested in the reformed religion, and encumbered
with the succession of his wives, and also grew unwieldy in shape, and
unfitted for personally partaking in their amusements, they gradually
fell off, both in magnificence and in frequency, till they nearly
ceased altogether. In his younger days he was generally a performer,
and a skilful one, in those pastimes; and numerous entries may be found
of payments of every description connected with Christmas—such as
for disguisings, lord of Misrule, New Year’s gifts, Christmas-boxes,
&c. In his first year he kept it at Richmond with great royalty, and
although there had not been time to arrange such a pageant or masque as
we shall find in after-times, yet the lord of Misrule, whose payment,
in the time of Henry the Seventh, never exceeded £6 13_s._ 4_d._, was
paid £8 6_s._ 8_d._, which was afterwards increased to £15 6_s._ 8_d._
The lord of Misrule, in the first and several of the following years,
was William Wynnesberry, who also appears in his father’s reign: other
persons named in this office are, Richard Pole, Edmund Travore, and
William Tolly.

Sir Walter Scott gives a humorous account (except to the sufferer) of
the ill usage of an apparitor, or macer, of the see of St. Andrew,
in 1547. He was sent with letters of excommunication against Lord
Borthwick, and, unluckily for him, chose the time when the inmates of
his castle were engaged in the revels of the Abbot of Unreason, as
this festive ruler was called in Scotland. The unfortunate apparitor
was of course looked on as an alien enemy, or an outlaw, or any other
terrible thing, and was immediately seized and well ducked; after which
he was compelled to eat the parchment letters of excommunication,
which had been previously steeped in a bowl of wine, and then to drink
off the wine. In the play of Sir John Oldcastle, a similar incident
is introduced, but the sumner of the Bishop of Rochester, who is the
sufferer there, and has to eat the waxen seal also, is told that “tough
wax is the purest of the honey.”

In 1545, Sir Thomas Cawarden, who died 1560, was appointed master of
the revels. In the same year payments were made to Robert Amadas,
for plate of gold stuff for the disguising, of £451 12_s._ 2_d._;
and to William Buttry, for silk for the same purpose, of £133 7_s._
5_d._; so that, taking the difference of value of money into account,
Henry began his reign with a determination to spare no expense in his
entertainments, and subsequently the charges were much increased. In
his second year the Christmas was kept at Richmond, and on the Twelfth
Day we have a specimen of the pageants afterwards so much in fashion,
though rather wild perhaps for our present tastes. This was devised
like a mountain, glittering, as if with gold, and set with stones, on
the top of which was a tree of gold, spreading out on every side with
roses and pomegranates; it was brought towards the king, when out
came a lady, dressed in cloth of gold, and the henchmen, or children
of honour, who were dressed in some disguise, and they danced a morris
before the king; after which they re-entered the mountain, which was
drawn back, and then the wassail or banquet was brought in, and so
ended the Christmas. These pageants must have been managed something
like the pantomime or melo-dramatic devices we see on our own stage,
and produced perhaps as much effect, taking into account the increase
of modern fancy and expectation in this respect.

[Illustration: James Stephanoff, del. Ashbee & Dangerfield, lith.


In his third year, at Greenwich, there was a magnificent Christmas,
with such abundance of viands for all comers of any honest behaviour,
as had been seldom seen; and the invention of the devisers of pageants
was taxed to the utmost, and dancing-masters were doubtless in request
for the rehearsals; the clever Mr. Flexmore would have been invaluable.
On New Year’s Night, there was erected in the hall, a castle, with
gates, towers, and dungeon, garnished with artillery, and other warlike
weapons of the most approved form; and in the front of it was written
its name, “_Le Fortresse dangerus_,” that is evidently, dangerous from
the ladies’ eyes, and not from the warlike preparations. For in this
castle were six fair ladies, no doubt selected for their grace and
beauty, all clothed in russet satin, laid over with leaves of gold, and
each hood knit with laces of blue silk and gold; and coifs and caps of
gold on their heads. From the abundance of gold on these occasions, we
could almost imagine that some “diggins” must have been known then.
Well, after this castle, with the golden damsels in it, had been drawn
about the hall, and the queen had seen it, (for Henry really was
attached to her for the first few years of his reign,) in came the king
with five select companions, dressed in coats, of which half was of
velvet satin, with spangles of gold, the other half of rich cloth of
gold, having on their heads caps of russet satin, embroidered with fine
gold bullion. These gallant knights vigorously assaulted the castle,
and the ladies seeing them so courageous, capitulated with them, and
yielded it up, after which they came down and danced together for some
time, when the ladies in their turn became the conquerors, and took
the knights into the castle, which suddenly vanished out of sight; by
which we must assume, not that they all vanished into the air, but that
they were drawn out of the hall as fast as the living, and probably
concealed machinery used for the purpose, could make away with them.
The sports of this Christmas, however, were not yet at an end; for on
the night of the Epiphany, the king and eleven chosen companions were
disguised after the manner of Italy, called a mask, a thing not before
seen in England; they were dressed in long and broad garments, wrought
with gold, and had visors and caps of gold; and after the banquet they
came in with six gentlemen, disguised in silk, bearing staff torches,
and desired the ladies to dance. Some of them were content to do so,
but others that knew the fashion of it refused, because it was a thing
not commonly seen, something like the hesitation shown when the waltz,
the polka, and other strange matters, were first introduced here, the
passion for which, after a little time, made up for the shyness with
which they were at first admitted into good society.

These pageants must have been gorgeous affairs, as far as dress and
decorations, but would hardly suit the present taste; the descriptions
here given will enable any one inclined (if any) to imitate them.

In the following year the Christmas was again kept at Greenwich, and
on Twelfth Day a mount was introduced, ornamented with flowers of silk,
and full of slips of broom, signifying Plantagenet; the branches being
made of green satin, and the flowers of flat gold of Damascus. On the
top was a goodly beacon giving light, round which sat the king and
five others, dressed in coats and caps of crimson velvet, spangled and
embroidered with gold. Four wodehouses (or wild men) drew the mount
towards the queen, and then the king and his companions descended
and danced; the mount then suddenly opened, and out came six ladies,
dressed in crimson satin, embroidered with gold and pearls, and with
French hoods on their heads, and they danced by themselves for a time;
after which the lords and ladies danced together; the ladies then
re-entered the mount, which was conveyed out of the hall, and then
there was a very sumptuous banquet.

These French hoods were probably a new fashion, and as fashions
travelled into the country but slow in those times, when there were
neither electric telegraphs, railroads, stagecoaches, newspapers,
magazines, nor penny, nor, indeed, any other postage, they do not seem
to have got into Cornwall much before the year 1550; for the wife of
one of the prisoners condemned to suffer for the riot at that time,
intending to go to beg his life, took so long to adjust her new French
hood to her taste, that her husband was hung before she arrived. It is
to be hoped that she was not taking this course of revenging Henry’s
injuries to the sex.

In the fifth year of this reign, Sir Harry Guildford, master of the
revels, immortalised his name by inventing an interlude, in which was a
moresco dance of six persons and two ladies.

In the sixth year, there was another grand Christmas; and on Twelfth
Night the pageant may be considered as a ballet of action, differing
from some of modern times, simply in this: that in ours professing
to mean something, the meaning cannot be discovered, while in these
there was no meaning at all. On New Year’s Night the king and the
Duke of Suffolk, his chivalrous brother-in-law, with two others,
dressed in mantles, hose, doublets, and coats of cloth of silver,
lined with blue velvet, the silver being pounsed, so that the velvet
might be seen through, led in four ladies in gowns, after the fashion
of Savoy, of blue velvet, lined with cloth of gold; and mantles like
tippets, knit together of silver; with bonnets of burnished gold. They
were accompanied by four torch-bearers, in white and blue satin. The
fanciful attire of the party pleased much, especially the queen, into
whose chamber they went and danced, after which they put off their
visors, and made themselves known, when the queen heartily thanked the
king for her goodly pastime, and kissed him; finding it necessary, in
these early times, probably to flatter his vanity, and keep him in good

On Twelfth Night we have the ballet, though what we should call now
of limited interest. The king and the queen came into the hall at
Greenwich, where this Christmas was kept, when suddenly a tent of
cloth of gold entered; before it stood four men-at-arms, armed at all
points, with swords in their hands, then, at the sound of trumpets,
four more came in, and a fierce, but bloodless, combat ensued, of four
to four; but before the victory could be awarded to either party,
suddenly (again) there came out of a place like a wood, eight wild men,
with ugly weapons and terrible visages, dressed in green moss made of
silk, green moss being the assumed substance of which wild men make
their apparel. These attacked the knights, but after a terrific combat
of eight to eight, were driven out of the hall by the knights, who
followed them. After these warlike representations the tent opened, and
six ladies and six lords, richly apparelled, came out and danced; after
which they again entered the tent, which was conveyed out of the hall;
and then the king and queen were served with a right sumptuous banquet,
which, indeed, formed an essential part of every entertainment.

There were payments made this Christmas to Leonard Friscobald of £247
12_s._ 7_d._, for velvets and silks for the disguising; and to Richard
Gybson, for certain apparel for the same, of £137 14_s._ 0½_d._; and,
in after years, we find other similar payments to this Gybson; so that
trade benefited by these amusements, which is a natural consequence.

In his seventh year Henry kept his Christmas at Eltham; and in the fine
old hall there, on Twelfth Night, a castle was introduced, having in
it ladies and knights dressed in braids of gold, with moving spangles,
silver and gilt, set in crimson satin, and not fastened; the ladies’
heads and bodies being after the fashion of Amsterdam. This castle was
attacked by certain vagrant knights, who were, however, repulsed after
a severe struggle. Dancing then of course took place; and afterwards a
banquet of 200 dishes, with great plenty to everybody.

In his eighth year, there was a grand Christmas at Greenwich; and on
Twelfth Night, the Queen of Scots also being a visitor, an artificial
garden was set up, called the Garden of Espérance. This had towers at
each corner, and was surmounted with gilt rails, and the banks were
all set with artificial flowers of silk and gold, the leaves being of
green satin, “so that they seemed very flowers.” In the middle was a
pillar of antique work, all gold, and set with pearls and stones, and
on the top an arch crowned with gold, within which stood a bush of red
and white roses of silk and gold, and a bush of pomegranates of like
materials. Of course there were knights and ladies, richly apparelled,
walking in this garden; there were indeed six of each, who came down
and danced, and were afterwards conveyed out of the hall in the garden,
and the entertainments concluded as usual with a great banquet. Our
friend Richard Gybson had £130 19_s._ 0½_d._ for divers things bought
by him for this disguising.

In the following year, in consequence of the prevalence of the sweating
sickness from July to December, there was no solemn Christmas kept at
Court; but in several following years it was kept much as before, and
it will be needless to multiply examples, especially as the pageants
were in general of a less marked description.

As, in nearly every year, there were payments made to sets of players,
the highest being in general £4 to the king’s old players, who are
distinguished from the king’s players, whose fee was usually but £3
6_s._ 8_d._, it seems that during the Christmas, on what may be called
the off-nights, there were some performances by them. The children also
of the king’s chapel gave their assistance, but their services were
estimated higher, as there are several payments of £6 13_s._ 4_d._ to
Mr. Cornish, for playing before the king with them.

In his tenth year, also, the gentlemen of the king’s chapel had £13
6_s._ 8_d._ for their good attendance in Christmas, and there are
similar charges in subsequent years.

In the eleventh year there was another mask, and Richard Gybson
received £207 5_s._ 1½_d._ for the revels called “a maskelyn” at New
Hall, or Beaulieu, in Essex.

In the fourteenth year the Christmas was kept at Eltham, where the
Cardinal made many reformations in the royal household, and all that
had no masters were sent away; in modern phrase, no followers were

In the sixteenth year there were grand feats of arms, and an assault
made on a strong artificial fort at Greenwich, where the king and the
Duke of Suffolk distinguished themselves; the whole concluding with
masks and dancing.

In his seventeenth year—in consequence of the prevalence of the plague
according to historians, and partly perhaps because he was now maturing
his plans for the possession of Ann Boleyn (who would not yield to him,
as her sister Mary had done), and for the divorce of Queen Catherine,
though not effected until long afterwards—the king kept his Christmas
quietly at Eltham, whence it was called the still Christmas. Wolsey,
however, would not follow his master’s example, and kept a royal
Christmas at Richmond, with plays and disguisings, which gave much
offence to see him keep an open court, and the king a secret one.

In the following year, however, the king made up for this intermission
of revels, by keeping a solemn Christmas at Greenwich, with revels,
masks, disguisings, and banquets; and there were justs kept on the
30th of December, and also on the 3d of January, where 300 spears were
broken. Afterwards the king and fifteen others, in masking apparel,
took barge, and went to the Cardinal’s place, where was a great company
of lords and ladies at supper,—

    “..........having heard by fame
     Of this so noble and so fair assembly,
     This night to meet here, they could do no less,
     Out of the great respect they bear to beauty.”

The maskers danced, after which the ladies plucked away their visors,
so that they were all known; and the sports were concluded with a
great banquet. Previous to this time the Christmas festivities at
the Inns of Court had become celebrated, and as we shall find, in
subsequent reigns, surpassed those of the court in fancy, and wit, and
real splendour; nor is this a matter of surprise when we consider the
concentration of talent that must always exist in these communities,
some fresh from the universities, embued with classic lore, though
in the age of which we are now writing perhaps somewhat pedantic;
others, fraught with the accumulated knowledge of years, sharpened by
the continual collision with intellects as keen as their own; and few
perhaps are better able to appreciate true wit and humour than those
who seek it as a relief from deep and wearing mental labour, not that
all hard and plodding students can appreciate them, many are but what
we used to call at school, muzzes, _et præterea nihil_.

That the entertainments were somewhat stiff or pedantic was of the
spirit of the times, and yet there was a freedom in dancing “round
about the coal fire,” which would scarcely suit the present day,
though it would attract a considerable number of spectators to see
the barristers, dressed in their best, singing and dancing, before
the chancellor, judges, and benchers, and that on penalty of being
disbarred; a threat absolutely held out, in the time of James the
First, at Lincoln’s Inn, because they did not dance on Candlemas Day,
according to the ancient order of the Society, and some were indeed put
out of commons by decimation. Imagine an unfortunate suitor inquiring
about a favourite counsel, who had his case at his fingers’ ends, and
being told he was disbarred, because he had refused to dance the night
before with his opponent’s counsel; the benchers not having taken into
consideration the difficulty of a little man, as he was, polking
with a fat barrister, gown, and wig, and all. Dugdale gives the
following programme of the performances at a date somewhat later than
that of which we are now speaking. “First, the solemn revells (after
dinner and the play ended,) are begun by the whole house, judges,
sergeants-at-law, benchers; the _utter and inner barr_; and they led
by the _master of the revels_; and one of the gentlemen of the utter
barr are chosen to sing a song to the judges, sergeants, or masters of
the bench; which is usually performed; and in default thereof there
may be an amerciament. Then the judges and benchers take their places,
and sit down at the upper end of the hall. Which done, the _utter
barristers_ and _inner barristers_ perform a second solemn revell
before them. Which ended, the _utter barristers_ take their places and
sit down. Some of the gentlemen of the _inner barr_ do present the
house with dancing, which is called the _post revels_, and continue
their dances till the judges or bench think meet to rise and depart.”
So that a barrister might be punished for not singing, as well as not
dancing. Whether he was obliged to sing carols, or might choose his own
song, such as, “Oh! brief is my joy,” “Ye shall walk in silk attire,
and siller ha’ to spend,” “Bid me discourse,” &c., does not appear on
record. Lincoln’s Inn celebrated Christmas as early as the time of
Henry the Sixth, but the Temple and Gray’s Inn afterwards disputed the
palm with it, and indeed the latter on some occasions seems to have
surpassed the other Inns of Court.

The first particular account of any regulations for conducting one of
these grand Christmasses, is in the ninth of Henry the Eighth, when,
besides the King for Christmas Day, the marshal, and master of the
revels, it is ordered that the King of the Cockneys on Christmas Day
should sit and have due service, and that he and all his officers
should use honest manner and good order, without any waste or
destruction making in wines, brawn, chely, or other vitails; and also
that he and his marshal, butler, and constable-marshal should have
their lawful and honest commandments by delivery of the officers of
Christmas; and that the said King of Cockneys nor none of his officers
meddle neither in the buttery nor in the steward of Christmas his
office, upon pain of forty shillings for every such meddling; and,
lastly, “that Jack Straw and all his adherents should be thenceforth
utterly banisht, and no more to be used in this house, upon pain to
forfeit, for every time, five pounds, to be levied on every fellow
hapning to offend against this rule.”

Who this Jack Straw was, and what his offences were, does not appear,
unless a kind of Wat Tyler against the peace and dignity of the King
of Cockneys. One of the leaders of Wat Tyler’s insurrection, indeed,
according to some accounts, the next in command, assumed the name of
Jack Straw, others being called Wyl Wawe, Jack Shepherd, Tom Miller,
and Hob Carter; besides the celebrated priest, John Ball, who began one
of his sermons on Blackheath with

    “When Adam dolue and Evah span,
     Who was then a gentle-man?”

But there was also a Jack Straw hung and quartered in the eighth of
Henry the Sixth.

In the eighteenth year of Henry, the Society of Gray’s Inn got into a
worse difficulty than paying allegiance to Jack Straw, and that, too,
in perfect innocence on their part; but they had a play or disguising,
which had been in great part devised by Serjeant John Roe twenty years
before. The plot was, that Lord Governance was ruled by Dissipation and
Negligence, by whose misgovernance and evil order, Lady Public-weal
was put from Governance, which caused _Rumor populi_, Inward grudge,
and Disdain of wanton sovreignetie to rise with a great multitude to
expel Negligence and Dissipation, and restore Public-weal again to
her estate. It was set forth with rich and costly apparel, with masks
and morescoes, and was highly praised. But the proud Wolsey, who was
then busying himself about the intended divorce, fancied it reflected
on him, and sent in a great fury for the unlucky serjeant, took his
coif from him, and sent him to the Fleet prison, together with one of
the actors, Thomas Moyle of Kent, who probably gained this unenviable
distinction by having excelled in the performance of the character
intrusted to him; all the actors were highly rebuked and threatened.
After a time the matter was satisfactorily explained, and the captive
revellers were liberated.

It was found prudent from time to time to make regulations in respect
to these revels, in order to limit the expenses, and, if possible, to
check the rivalry between the different societies, and they were not
therefore performed every year.

During the Christmas of 1529, Cardinal Wolsey, who had been disgraced
a short time before, was dangerously ill, which produced a short
return of favour with the selfish monarch, who became much worried
with his state, and also the unsettled position of his own domestic
arrangements; for although it was supposed that Ann Boleyn was in fact
living with him as his queen, yet no divorce had taken place from
Catherine, who had still a strong party in her favour, and excited
much sympathy. However, for the king’s recreation, a solemn Christmas
was kept at Greenwich, with justs, banquets, masks and disguisings,
attended by the two legates and many of the nobility; but the queen
gave them no manner of countenance, her mind being so troubled. In
the two following years she kept the Christmas with him, and there
were masks and interludes; but in his twenty-third year, at a solemn
Christmas at Greenwich, there was no mirth, the queen and her ladies
being absent—like Queen Vashti she refused to come, and no wonder,
for in a very few days after her royal estate was given unto another,
and Henry publicly married Anne Boleyn. After this time he does not
appear himself to have mixed in the Christmas festivities, though
yearly entries may be found of payments to players, for playing before
him, and sometimes to the gentlemen of the chapel, and the children as
before, with occasional notices of solemn Christmasses; but his temper
grew worse, and his zest for these amusements gradually less, as his
age and person increased.

In the Christmas of his twenty-ninth year, after the death of Queen
Jane in the previous October, he appeared in mourning apparel, which
was somewhat unnecessary, as he had made an offer, although an
unsuccessful one, to the Duchess Dowager of Longueville, within a month
after the death of his wife. His Twelfth Day, 1540, was rather unlucky
for him; although great rejoicings were going forward, as he then
married Anne of Cleves, from whom, as it is known, he was soon after

Card playing and other games were still continued, and different
payments were made on this account; the king, one Christmas, having
as much as £212 10_s._ for this purpose. Payments were made also to
Princess Mary to disport her with at Christmas, generally £20, and in
her own private accounts are payments at Christmas, varying from £1
to £4, to have in her purse and to play at cards. The Lady Anne Boleyn
received as much as £100 at a time, towards her New Year’s Gift. The
Princess Mary, from her childhood, had an establishment of her own, and
was accustomed to these festivities before she had completed her sixth
year, having a lord of Misrule, John Thurgoode, one of the valets of
her household about this time; but the sanction of the great cardinal
was necessary even for her; and in 1525 there is an application by the
Council of her household to him, to know whether they may appoint a
lord of Misrule, and provide for interludes, disguisings, or plays,
and a banquet; and whether the princess was to send New Year’s Gifts
to the king and queen, and the French queen, and of what value. The
princess herself had received New Year’s Gifts as early as her third
year, when the cardinal gave her a cup of gold; the French queen, a
pomander; Lady Mountjoy, two smocks; a favourite gift by the bye,
as we shall hereafter see that Queen Elizabeth had many of these,
handsomely decorated, given to her. In after years we find at different
times gifts of the following nature given to the Princess Mary. Lady
Dorset and others gave her wrought smocks and handkerchiefs; her
brother the prince, a little tablet of gold; the Princess Elizabeth, a
little chain, and a pair of hose, wrought in gold and silk; the Lady
Margaret, a gown of carnation satin of the Venice fashion; Lady Butler,
a pepper-box, silver-gilt; the Earl of Hertford, a diamond ring; three
Venetians, a fair steel glass; Mr. Thomas Hobbs, yeoman of the robes, a
pair of silver snuffers; Mrs. Whelar, a pen and inkhorn, silver-gilt;
the Italian dancer, a partlet of gold, wrought; Lady Brown, a
fuming-box of silver; and the king’s master-cook, a marchpane; which
was the usual present of this functionary. All the servants who brought
these gifts had handsome presents in money in return, the king’s
messenger having as much as forty shillings given him. Besides money
gifts to her own household, and to the king’s minstrels and musicians,
among whom the harper had 5_s._, she gave others of value in various
Christmasses to distinguished persons; as, in 1543, a chair to the
king, of which the covering and embroidery cost £21 6_s._ 8_d._; also,
to the lord admiral, a brooch of gold, of the history of Moses striking
water out of the rock, and a balas set in the same; she herself having
a brooch of the history of Noah’s flood, set with little diamonds and
rubies; the king, and the queen for the time being, and the Prince
Edward, as we may imagine, also received gifts from his sisters; and
on one occasion the Lady Elizabeth gave him a cambric shirt of her own
working. In the present day it would probably have been a couvrette,
or an embroidered smoking cap, though he was rather young for that.
His times were innocent of this strange fashion, though they had quite
sufficient eccentricities of their own to answer for. It is a pity that
the recent act, compelling chimneys to consume their own smoke, does
not extend to smokers; it is almost worth while mooting the point,
whether it does or not.

The nobility kept the feast in manner similar to the court, making
allowance for difference of station. They had their lord of Misrule, or
master of the revels, and their minstrels, their players, with their
interludes and disguisings; the chaplain being frequently the maker
of the interludes; and most minute rules were laid down to regulate
the different payments and gifts. The Earl of Northumberland, whose
household book has been so often quoted in illustration of the manners
and customs of this age, used to give, when he was at home, to those of
his chapel, if they played the play of the Nativity on Christmas Day,
20_s._; and to his master of the revels, 20_s._; to the king’s servant,
bringing a New Year’s gift, he gave £5, or if a special friend of his
own, £6 13_s._ 4_d._; to the queen’s servant, £3 6_s._ 8_d._; but to
the servant (probably a domestic), bringing one from Lord Percy, only
12_d._; to his three minstrels, on New Year’s Day, for playing at the
chamber doors of the different members of the family £1 3_s._ 4_d._; to
his six trumpets, 20_s._; to his officer of arms, for crying largess,
20_s._; to the grooms of his chamber, to put in their box, 20_s._; to
the abbot of Misrule, 20_s._; to his chaplain for making an interlude,
the price seems to be 13_s._ 4_d._, rather moderate when compared with
the other gifts. Different presents also to various sets of players;
also 20_s._ each to the barne-bishops (boy-bishops) of Beverley and
York, showing that the custom still existed.

Traces of the boy-bishop may be found as far back as the
Constantinopolitan synod in 867, and as early as Edward the First’s
reign, one of them was permitted to sing vespers before him at Heton,
near Newcastle, in 1299, when on his way to Scotland, and received
forty shillings for himself and the boys who sang with him. In the
time of Edward the Second payments were made to this personage; and
Dean Colet, in his regulations for St. Paul’s School, 1512, directs
the scholars to go every Childermas Day to St. Paul’s to hear the
child-bishop’s sermon, and each to offer him a penny. Henry the Eighth,
however, put down the custom, which was revived by Queen Mary, but
finally abolished by Elizabeth.

The Earl of Northumberland’s three henchmen presented him with gloves,
and received 6_s._ 8_d._ in return; and his footmen also gave him
gloves, and received 3_s._ 4_d._ in reward. My lord and lady were
accustomed to make offerings at high mass on Christmas Day, New Year’s
Day, and Twelfth Day; but of rather small amount, his lordship’s being
12_d._ and her ladyship’s 8_d._ In lesser establishments there was, of
course, less state and smaller payments; and in the household accounts
of the Lestranges of Hunstanton, in the eleventh of Henry, is a payment
of 4_d._ to the Lord of Christmas, at Kyngstede. Different sums also
are charged for New Year’s gifts.

The lower classes still continued the customs of their forefathers, but
occasionally required some check, to prevent their revelries becoming
of too gross a description, and to amend abuses. In the third of Henry
the Eighth, people were forbidden to appear abroad like mummers, their
faces covered with vizors, and in disguised apparel. But it was by
no means the intention to debar them from proper recreations during
this season; many indulgences being afforded them, and their landlords
and masters assisted them with the means of enjoying their customary
festivities, listening to their legendary tales round the Yule-log, and
occasionally joining in their sports; a practice scarcely yet obsolete
in some parts of the country, and pity it should become so.

    “A Christmas gambol oft’ would cheer
     The poor man’s heart through half the year.”

In the thirty-third of Henry, when certain games were forbidden to
artificers, husbandmen, apprentices, servants, and others of that
class, they were still allowed to play at tables, tennis, dice, cards,
bowls, clash, coyting, and logating, at Christmas; though there is a
proclamation by the Sheriff of York, where the privilege is extended
beyond our ideas of liberality, as all manner of whores and thieves,
dice-players, carders, and all other unthrifty folk, were to be welcome
in the town, whether they came late or early, at the reverence of the
high feast of Yule, till the twelve days were passed. One fancies a
spice of irony in this invitation. Heywood, the epigrammatist, at a
little later date, used to say, that he did not like to play at king
and queen, but at Christmas, according to the old order of England;
and that few men played at cards, but at Christmas; and then almost
all, men and boys. Heywood evidently had not been initiated into any
of our whist clubs, or he would have found not a few who play at other
times than Christmas. And as to that time, there are still many houses
where cards are regularly produced on Christmas Day, a practice which,
certainly, to those unaccustomed to it, even the old order of England
will not qualify.

There is a story told of an ambitious shoemaker, whose Christmas coat
was spoiled, in the reign of Henry, by his seeking to imitate his
superiors; and this at a time when the distinction of apparel was
marked, and not as at present, when simplicity of dress is frequently
the best mark of a gentleman. Sir Philip Calthrop, having bought as
much fine French tawney cloth as would make him a gown, gave it to a
tailor, at Norwich, to make up, when John Drake, a shoemaker, passing
by, and admiring it, ordered one of the same materials and fashion.
Sir Philip, calling in on a subsequent day, and seeing a similar
gown-piece, asked for whom it was made, when he was told it was for a
shoemaker, and to be of the same fashion as his own: upon which, his
pride being touched, he ordered the tailor to make his gown as full of
cuts as his shears would make it. The tailor fulfilled his directions,
and performed the same operation for the gown of the unfortunate
shoemaker, who, by some accident, could not go to fetch it away until
Christmas morning, intending, no doubt, to astonish his wife and dazzle
his companions with his splendour. On seeing the havoc made in his
intended state dress, he began to cry out vehemently, but was told it
was made exactly like the knight’s; upon which he exclaimed, “By my
latchet, I will never wear gentleman’s fashion again.”

Payments were made by Henry the Eighth to waits, at Canterbury, as
they were by Henry the Seventh, as well as at other places. These,
however, were not at Christmas time, nor were they peculiar to
Christmas, but formed part of the musical establishments of the court
and the nobility. Originally, indeed, they do not seem of necessity
to have been of a musical class; or, at any rate, there were some who
were not so; as, in the time of Henry the Third, Simon le Wayte held
a virgate of land at Rockingham, in Northamptonshire, on the tenure
of being castle-wayte, or watch, and the same custom was observed in
other places. This Simon le Wayte fled for theft, and was not the only
suspected person of his craft: for, at the time the treasury exchequer
was broken open and robbed, in the time of Edward the First, Gilbertus
le Wayte, who was keeper of the watch, was very naturally taken up on
suspicion, but it does not appear what was done with him. After this
the wait seems to have been a musician, usually playing the pipe or
hautboy, who kept watch at night, and made _bon guet_ at the different
chamber doors, particularly at Christmas time; and Edward the Fourth
had one attached to his establishment for this purpose. In the old lay
of Richard Cœur-de-Lion, there is notice of—

    “A wayte ther com in a kernel (_battlement_),
     And a pypyd a moot in a flagel” (_flageolet_).

Among the minstrels in the household of Edward the Third, there were
three waits, who had 12_d._ a day in time of war, and only 20_s._ a
year in time of peace. Henry the Sixth also had one in his household,
and frequent mention is made of them from his time to the end of Henry
the Eighth, and in subsequent reigns. In Charles the First’s band, of
fifty-eight, there were twenty-five for the waits; and, as is well
known, they exist to the present time; the regular wait even exhibiting
his regular appointment and badge, with the portcullis, although waking
people at most irregular hours, and with most irregular tunes. The
City of London had its waits, who attended the Lord Mayor on public
occasions, such as Lord Mayor’s day, and on public feasts, and great
dinners. They are described as having blue gowns, red sleeves and caps,
every one having his silver collar about his neck. Several other towns
also had their own establishments of waits, and there are many entries
of payments made to them by our kings, and other great personages; as,
to the waits of Canterbury, before mentioned, those of Colchester—as
far back as Edward the Fourth—Dover, Coventry, Northampton, Newcastle,
&c.; and as they appear to have been on the watch to catch any great
person that came in their way, they would seem to have handed down this
part of their trade to the bell-ringers of the present age, part of
whose occupation appears to be to get paid for not ringing. One of the
old towers in Newcastle was formerly called the wait’s tower, and was
the place of their meeting. There is a tradition of their having played
to Oliver Cromwell, on his route to or from Scotland.



ALTHOUGH in the short reign of Edward the Sixth, the splendour of the
royal Christmasses was, in general, somewhat reduced, yet, in 1551-2,
there was one of the most magnificent revellings on record; for the
youthful king being much grieved at the condemnation of the Duke of
Somerset, it was thought expedient to divert his mind, by additional
pastimes, at the following Christmas. George Ferrers, of Lincoln’s
Inn, being a gentleman of some rank, was appointed lord of Misrule,
or master of the king’s pastimes, and acquitted himself so well as
to afford great delight to many, and some to the king, but “not in
proportion to his heaviness.” George Ferrers seems to have been well
adapted for his responsible office; not only being a gentleman, but
a person of decision, and determined to carry it through, with due
spirit and display; and to see that his officers, as well as himself,
were well attended to. He complained to the master of the revels, Sir
Thomas Cawarden, that the apparel provided for his counsellors was
not sufficient, or fit for the purpose, and no doubt had the defect
remedied; as, from the account of the expenses, the dresses were
handsome, and his own in particular may be called superb. He also
stated he should require John Smyth, as his disard, or clown; besides
jugglers, tumblers, and fools, &c.; and a new fool’s coat, with a hood,
was made for Smyth, what he had already not being fit for the purpose.
The dress of this clown, who was probably a well-known court fool, from
his being applied for by name, will show that no expense was spared,
even about the officers of this gallant lord of Misrule. He had a long
fool’s coat, of yellow cloth of gold, all over fringed with white, red,
and green velvet, containing 7½ yards, at £2 per yard, garded with
plain yellow cloth of gold, four yards, at 33_s._ 4_d._ per yard; with
a hood, and a pair of buskins, of the same figured gold, containing 2½
yards, at £5; and a girdle of yellow sarcenet, containing one quarter,
16_d._ The whole value being £26 14_s._ 8_d._, a goodly sum for the
dress of a jester.

[Illustration: James Stephanoff, del. Ashbee & Dangerfield, lith.


At the risk of being tedious, the various dresses of the lord of
Misrule himself must be mentioned, to give some notion of the style
in which this celebrated revelling was got up. On Christmas Day, and
during that week, he wore a robe of white baudekyn (a rich stuff,
made of silk, interwoven with golden thread), containing nine yards,
at 16_s._ a yard, garded with embroidered cloth of gold, wrought in
knots, fourteen yards, at 11_s._ 4_d._ a yard; having a fur of red
feathers, with a cape of camlet thrum. A coat of flat silver, fine with
works, five yards at 50_s._, with an embroidered gard of leaves of
gold, and silk, coloured, containing fifteen yards, at 20_s._ A cap of
maintenance, of red feathers and camlet thrum, very rich, with a plume
of feathers. A pair of hose, the breeches made of a gard of cloth of
gold, embroidered in panes; nine yards of garding, at 13_s._ 4_d._,
lined with silver sarcenet, one ell, at 8_s._ A pair of buskins, of
white baudekyn, one yard, at 16_s._, besides making and other charges,
8_s._ more. A pair of pantacles, of Bruges satin, 3_s._ 4_d._; a girdle
of yellow sarcenet, containing a quarter of a yard, 16_s._ The whole
cost being £52 8_s._ 8_d._, independent of the cap of maintenance.

For the remaining dresses, it is unnecessary to state the quantities
and particular prices. He had, for New Year’s Day, and that week, a
robe of red baudekyn, with an embroidered gard of purple silver; a
coat of the same materials, embroidered and garded in like manner; a
pair of hose, slopwise; the breeches of cloth of gold figured with
red and green velvet, with a cut gard of cloth of gold on it; and a
pair of buskins of red baudekyn; the cost being £34 15_s._ A hunter’s
coat, of cloth of gold, figured with red and green velvet church-work,
garded with a border of cloth of gold, embroidered, lined with under
sleeves of white baudekyn; a hat of plain cloth of gold, garnished
with leaves of green satin. The cost £19 14_s._ 4_d._ For Twelfth Day,
and his progress in London, he wore a robe of wrought purple furred
velvet, the inside white and black, like powdered ermine, with a coat,
a head-piece, and a scapular, of the same; the garment welted above,
with blue and yellow gold tinsel; the hat garnished with purple velvet,
striped with threads of silver; and an ell of white and blue taffeta,
for laces for the same. A pair of hose, the breeches of purple cloth
of silver, welted with purple tinsel and gold. A pair of buskins,
striped purple velvet, with threads of silver, £33 12_s._; the above
sums being exclusive of workmanship, and other necessary materials.
These dresses, which were supplied from the king’s stores, must have
satisfied the cravings of the most finished exquisite: and, taking into
account that he was attended by the following attendants of his court,
besides Venus, who formed part of the pageant, and that they were all
handsomely or appropriately dressed, it was enough to turn any moderate
man’s head. His suite was composed of his heir apparent, who was John
Smyth, before mentioned, three other sons, and two natural sons (the
sons being represented in handsome fool’s dresses), counsellors, pages
of honour, gentlemen ushers, sergeant at arms, a provost marshal, under
marshal, lieutenant of ordnance, heralds for himself, others for Venus,
a trumpeter for himself, and another for Venus, an orator, interpreter,
a jailor, footmen, a messenger, an Irishman, an Irishwoman, six
hunters, jugglers, a fool for his lordship, and one for Venus.

On the 4th of January, he went by water, from Greenwich to London, and
landed at the Tower wharf, attended by a number of young knights and
gentlemen, with trumpets, bagpipes, and flutes, and a morris dance with
a tabret. One strange part of the procession, also, was a cart, with
the pillory, gibbet, and stocks. He then rode through Tower-street,
where he was received by Sergeant Vawee, the lord of Misrule to John
Mainard, one of the sheriffs of London, who conducted him to the house
of Sir George Barne, the lord mayor, where there was a banquet: and, at
his departure, the lord mayor gave him a standing cup, with a cover of
silver-gilt, of the value of £10, for a reward. He also set a hogshead
of wine and a barrel of beer at his gate, for the train that followed

The motto taken by Ferrers was, _semper ferians_ (always keeping
holiday), and his crest was the holm-bush, or evergreen holly. He had
himself to incur considerable expenses, independent of the assistance
he received from the king’s stores; but the honour qualified this, and,
of course, men of family and property were selected for the onerous

In the following year the revels were kept nearly in the same manner;
and, on this occasion, the king’s lord of Misrule was graciously
pleased to knight the sheriff’s lord of Misrule; and they had a great
banquet at my lord Treasurer’s.

Towards the end of the short reign of Edward, it was enacted, that
the Eves of Christmas Day, the Circumcision, and the Epiphany, should
be kept as fasts. But this was repealed very early in the reign of
Mary, who, about the same time, issued a proclamation to prevent
books, ballads, and interludes, from touching on points of doctrine
in religion; and which, in effect, stopped all interludes and dramas,
without special license. Her short reign was not very congenial to
Christmas festivities, her own melancholy temperament, and domestic
disappointments, interfering with them at court; but they were
still kept up throughout the country, although much checked by the
persecutions on account of religion. And what more fierce and rancorous
than the persecution of man by his fellow-man, of Christian by his
so-called fellow Christian, in the name of the All-merciful God;
slaying and torturing by fire and sword, for difference in the worship
of that Being, who abounds in pity and compassion for the erring
sinner! Proud, cold, vindictive man! it will be an awful question to
answer hereafter, “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s
blood crieth unto me from the ground.”

The Christmas masques were not, however, abandoned, and in the first
Christmas after the marriage of Philip and Mary, there was one where
the characters seem somewhat incongruous with the disposition of Mary,
as there were six Venuses, or amorous ladies, with six cupids, and male
and female Turks, &c.

Among the numerous miscellaneous New Year’s gifts presented to Mary in
1556, were the fore part of a kyrtell, and a pair of sleeves, of cloth
of silver, richly embroidered all over with Venice silver, and raised
with silver and black silk, given by the princess Elizabeth; a table,
painted of the queen’s marriage, by Suete, painter; a smock, wrought
all over with silk, and collar and ruffs of damask, gold, pearl, and
silver, by the Duchess of Somerset; six sugar loaves, six tapnetts of
figs, four barrels of suckets, and orange water, &c., by Lady Yorke,
who, apparently, had a sweet tooth; two fat oxen, by Mr. Michael
Wentworth—in the present time we should have taken them for granted,
as prize oxen; two guinea-cocks, scalded by Gent; a marchpane, and two
dishes of jelly, by Burrage, master cook; a fat goose and a capon, by
Mrs. Preston; a cake of spice bread, by Kelley, plasterer; nutmegs and
ginger, and a long stalk of cinnamon elect, in a box, by Smalwodde,
grocer; a basket of pomegranates, cherries, apples, oranges, and
lemons, by Harris, fruiterer; three rolls of songs, by Sheparde, of the
chapel; a fair lute, edged with passamayne of gold and silk, by Browne,
instrument maker.

The lord-mayor kept his state as usual, and in the end of January,
1557, the lord treasurer’s lord of Misrule,—for this officer’s power
was frequently extended to Candlemas Day—came to the lord-mayor with
his suite, and invited him to dinner.

In the following year there is a notice of the lord of Misrule, which
would be rather strange if we did not know that going to the Poultry
Compter in those days was not always a mark of disgrace or difficulty,
as in recent times; but after all allowance made, some part of the
account is suspicious; however, as we have not got the name of the
master reveller, we may give the story, that on New Year’s Eve a
lord of Misrule, with his herald, trumpets, and drums, and several
attendants, disguised in white, went to London, and was brought to the
Poultry Compter, and divers of his men lay all night there, and they
went astray home again, by four and six together, to Westminster, on
horseback and on foot. It is to be hoped that those who came disguised
in white did not go home disguised in liquor; but let us give them the
benefit of the doubt.

Queen Elizabeth, who, to powerful intellect, joined much of the
arbitrary temper of her father, possessed also great vanity and
fondness of display. In her time, therefore, the festivities were
renewed with great pomp and show; and theatrical entertainments were
also particularly encouraged, and were frequently performed before the
queen, especially at Christmas time. To restrain somewhat the great
expenses of these entertainments, she directed, in her second year,
estimates to be made of them previously; but this wholesome practice,
judging from the cost of after years, did not exist very long. In
1559, which may be called her first Christmas, the play before her,
on Christmas Night, unluckily contained some offensive or indecent
matter, as the players were commanded to leave off, and the mask came
in dancing. On the Twelfth Night following there was a play, and then a
goodly mask, and afterwards a great banquet.

In 1561, a lord of Misrule, having with him a train of 100 horsemen,
richly apparelled, rode through London to the Inner Temple, where there
was great revelling throughout the Christmas; Lord Robert Dudley,
afterwards Earl of Leicester, being the constable and marshal, under
the name of Palaphilos; and Christopher Hatton, afterwards chancellor,
was master of the game. A sort of parliament had been previously
held on St. Thomas’s Eve to decide whether the Society should keep
Christmas; and if so, the oldest bencher delivered a speech on the
occasion, the oldest butler was to publish the officers’ names, and
then, “in token of joy and good liking, the bench and company pass
beneath the hearth, and sing a carol, and so to boyer.” It was at this
Temple Grand Christmas that Ferrex and Porrex, which may be considered
as the first play assuming the character of the regular tragedy, was
performed. The revels at these Grand Christmasses generally continued
throughout the whole twelve days; Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and
Twelfth Day, being more particularly distinguished. On this occasion,
at the breakfast of Twelfth Day, were brawn, mustard, and malmsey; the
dinner of two courses to be served in the hall, and after the first
course came the master of the game, apparelled in green velvet, and the
ranger of the forest in green satin, bearing a green bow with arrows,
each of them having a hunting horn about his neck; after blowing three
blasts of venery, they paced three times round the fire, which was then
placed in the middle of the hall. The master of the game next made
three courtesies and knelt down, and petitioned to be admitted into the
service of the lord of the feast. This ceremony having been performed,
a huntsman came into the hall with a fox, and a purse-net with a cat,
both bound at the end of a staff, and nine or ten couple of hounds, the
horns blowing. The fox and cat were then set upon by the hounds, and
killed beneath the fire; a pleasant Christmas amusement. This sport
being finished, the marshal ushered all in their proper places, and
after the second course, the oldest of the masters of the revels sang
a song, with the assistance of others present; after some repose and
further revels, supper of two courses was served, and when that was
finished, the marshal was borne in by four men, on a sort of scaffold
or framework, and taken three times round the hearth, crying out, “A
lord, a lord,” &c.; after which he came down and went to dance. The
lord of Misrule then addressed himself to the banquet,—the unfortunate
fox and cat ought to have formed part—which ended with minstrelsy,
mirth, and dancing; when they all departed to rest.

In 1573, there was some urgent expedition necessary in getting the
revels ready in time; for a set of unfortunate plasterers were kept at
work all night, and as they could not be spared, nor trusted, to go
abroad to supper, they were allowed bread, and cheese, and beer, for
that meal. The queen generally had masks of different kinds before her
at Christmas time, of greater or less magnificence; but mention must
not be omitted of the celebrated Christmas at Gray’s Inn, in 1594, of
which an account was published under the title of Gesta Grayorum. Mr.
Henry Helmes, the Christmas Prince, took for his style, “The High and
Mighty Prince; Henry, Prince of Purpoole; Arch-duke 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.” According to our views, the entertainments would be considered
heavy and pedantic in their nature; but they were in the style of the
age, and seem to have given much satisfaction. There was a cessation
of sports from Twelfth Night till the 1st of February, the prince
being supposed absent in Russia on public affairs. On that day he was
received at Blackwall, as if on his return, and that and the following
day were spent in revelling and feasting, which then ceased until
Shrovetide, when a mask was performed before the queen, containing,
as usual, some gross flattery, and she was so much pleased with the
performance, that on the courtiers dancing a measure after it, she
exclaimed, “What! shall we have bread and cheese after a banquet.”

She was particularly partial to theatrical performances, and throughout
her reign frequent mention is made of the plays performed during
Christmas, at Court, and the rewards given to the players; the
children of St. Paul’s also, and the scholars on her new foundation in
Westminster, often performed before her at this season.

In 1560 and several following years, Sebastian Westcott, master of the
children of St. Paul’s, received £6 13_s._ 4_d._, for their services,
which seems to have been the usual price paid to regular players for a
play, until the end of her reign, when it was increased to £10. Richard
Farrant, the master of the children of Windsor, received for their
services, in 1574, as much as £13 6_s._ 8_d._

In 1560, Sir Thomas Benger was made master of the revels, succeeding
Sir Thomas Cawarden; he dying in 1577, Mr. Thomas Blagrave, who had
acted since 1573, held the office for a short time; but Mr. Edmund
Tylney was appointed in 1579, and died in 1610.

The play performed on Twelfth Night, 1571, was called Narcissus,
in which a live fox was let loose and chased by dogs; so that the
introduction of live animals on the stage is not a modern invention.
On New Year’s Day 1574, the children of Westminster performed Truth,
Faithfulness, and Mercy. The scholars on the foundation at Westminster,
known as the queen’s scholars, have continued the custom of acting
plays to the present time, the performances having for very many years
past been one of Terence’s plays, of which four are taken in rotation,
and excellent acting is in general exhibited to a select and talented
audience; the concluding ceremony of the cap, however, reminds one of
the usual termination of the country Christmas play of St. George. In
the beginning of this reign there are references to the custom, then
called an old one, of scholars being allowed, even by their foundation
deed, to bar out their masters a week before Christmas and Easter.

At Christmas 1574, she had a company of Italian players, amongst
others, one of them was a tumbler. On New Year’s Night 1582, there
were also sundry feats of tumbling by the servants of Lord Strange,
besides plays during the Christmas, and a mask of ladies. In several
following years a tumbler, called Symons, seems to have been famed for
divers feats of activity, and the queen apparently took pleasure in
such exhibitions. In 1600, a person, called Nycke, tumbled before her,
and 14_s._ are charged for his silk hose. In her latter years we find
Edward Allen, John Heming, and Thomas Pope, presenting plays before
her. The rewards given to the players, vary from £6 13_s._ 4_d._ to
£40. As the ‘Merry Wives of Windsor,’ written at the queen’s request,
and other of Shakespeare’s plays, were performed at court, we may
fairly presume that some of them were performed at Christmas, and that
the great Bard himself may have acted before her.

In 1592, the vice-chancellor, and heads of colleges, at Cambridge, were
directed to act a comedy before the queen, at Christmas; but these
unfortunate victims of too much learning were obliged to memorialize
the vice-chamberlain, stating their inability to act in English, and
asking leave to perform in Latin. They must have been in their glory
in the reign of Elizabeth’s successor, the pedant James, whom, on one
occasion, they addressed as Jacobissime Jacobe. Like her predecessors,
the queen would play at dice at Christmas time, but she had dice set
for her that threw the high numbers only, as fives and sixes; and, as
she knew not the trick, she was kept in good humour by her success,
as she, of course, won; and her courtiers probably thought it worth
some sacrifice to avoid incurring the effects of the paternal temper
existing in her.

Kemp, in his celebrated morris-dance, from London to Norwich, takes
particular notice of the Norwich waits, saying that few cities have
the like, and none better; who, besides their excellency in wind
instruments, their rare cunning on the viol and violin, had admirable
voices, every one of them being able to serve as a chorister in
any cathedral church. One Richard Reede, a wait of Cambridge, is
particularly mentioned, as having 20_s._ for his attendance at a
gentleman’s mansion, during the Christmas of 1574. Besides these,
Puttenham speaks of tavern minstrels, that gave a fit of mirth for a
groat, much in the style of our present peripatetic street musicians;
their matter being for the most part stories of old time, as the tale
of Sir Topas, the exploits of Bevis of Southampton, Guy of Warwick,
Adam Bell, and Clymm of the Clough, and such other old romances or
historical rhymes, made purposely for recreation of the common people
at Christmas dinners, and brideales, and in taverns, and alehouses, and
such other places of base resort.

The nobility, as in former times, imitated the court in the manner of
keeping Christmas, and the gentry followed in their steps; but they
were allured to town by the superior festivities in the metropolis, to
the neglect of their friends and dependents in the country, besides
dissipating their means in London, and thus causing an inability to
preserve proper hospitality and charity in their own neighbourhood. In
order to check this practice, an order was made in 1589, directing the
gentlemen of Norfolk and Suffolk to leave London before Christmas, and
repair to their own countries, there to keep hospitality among their
neighbours. Their presence also would not only enable them to increase
the real enjoyment of their dependents, but would serve to controul any
tendency to riot or debauch at the country alehouses, at this time the
resort of many idle strollers, under the guise of minstrels, jugglers,
revellers, &c., and would, if right-minded themselves, give a proper
direction to the festivities.

    “At Christmas be mery, and thanke god of all;
     And feast thy pore neighbours, the great with the small.”

In 1581, there was a book written by Thomas Lovell, published by John
Aldee, against the ‘Use and Abuse of Dauncinge and Mynstralsye.’ It
is of a puritanical nature, being a supposed dialogue between Custom
who defends them, and Verity who attacks them and is made victorious.
Custom, however, pleads hard for dancing at Christmas time, showing
that it had been a usage of long standing.

    “Christmas is a mery time,
       good mirth therfore to make;
     Young men and maids together may
       their legs in daunces shake;
     Wee se it with some gentlemen
       a common use to be,
     At that time to provide to have
       some pleasant minstrelsie.”

Towards the end of the Queen’s life, when she herself failed in health
and spirit, there was in general a great abatement in Christmas
festivities; the country taking the tone from the monarch. In ‘Summer’s
Last Will and Testament,’ written about this time, Autumn talks of
Christmas, as—

    “..... a pinch-back, cut-throat churl,
     That keeps no open house, as he should do,
     Delighteth in no game or fellowship,
     Loves no good deeds and hateth talk;
     But sitteth in a corner turning crabs,
     Or coughing o’er a warmed pot of ale;”

and in ‘Father Hubbard’s Tales,’ by Middleton, the Ant’s Tale,
referring probably to the time about the end of this reign, and
showing the nature of the amusements in vogue at Christmas, the writer
says, “Do but imagine now what a sad Christmas we all kept in the
country, without either carols, wassail-bowls, dancing of Sellenger’s
round in moon-shine about maypoles, shoeing the mare, hoodman-blind,
hot-cockles, or any of our old Christmas gambols; no, not so much as
choosing king and queen on Twelfth Night.”

With Elizabeth’s fondness for luxury and dress, and her passion for
adulation, it may well be imagined that her New Year’s Gifts were
rigidly expected, or exacted, from all classes connected with her; from
Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, down to Smyth the dustman;
and they were of a most miscellaneous description. In the preceding
reigns, when she was princess, she was in the habit of giving and
receiving them, but in a comparatively quiet and unobtrusive manner,
frequently consisting of presents of gilt plate, and the messengers
with gifts to her always receiving rewards; but on one occasion she
gave her brother, King Edward, a translation in Latin, in her own hand,
of an Italian sermon of Occhini; her pride of scholarship even then
showing itself. There are many instances of authors giving compositions
of their own as New Year’s Gifts, and of books being printed with that
name, no doubt by way of attracting at this season. On New Year’s Day,
1561, Nowell, Dean of St. Paul’s, who preached before the queen on
that day, got much blamed by her, for having laid on her cushion, as a
New Year’s Gift, a prayer-book richly bound, having several fine cuts
and pictures of the stories of saints and martyrs; for she considered
these as being contrary to the proclamation against images, pictures,
and Romish relics in churches, and desired such mistake might never
occur again. One can fancy the venerable Dean shrinking under the
stern rebuke of the peremptory young lady on a point of ecclesiastical
discipline. In return for the gifts presented to her, she generally
gave articles of gilt plate, as cups, bowls, salts, &c., varying
according to the rank of the person; from 400 ounces to Sir Christopher
Hatton, to two ounces to Mrs. Tomysen, the dwarf; and also presents of
money to the servants. It would be useless to insert a long list of
these gifts, a few will show the variety, the value and taste of some,
and the strangeness, according to our ideas, of others.

[Illustration: James Stephanoff, del. Ashbee & Dangerfield, lith.


In 1560, she had a pair of silk stockings given her by Mrs. Montagu,
her silk-woman, which by some are said to have been the first pair
worn in England; however, they became common soon afterwards. It
may be mentioned, as an act of kindness, that in this year she gave
sixty French crowns, as a New Year’s Gift, to —— Penne, widow, who
had been formerly nurse to King Edward. In the following year she
received presents in money from £40 by the Archbishop of Canterbury,
in a red silk purse in demy sovereigns, to £4 by Lady Cheeke, in a
russet silk purse; also various articles of dress, most of them richly
wrought, among which were smocks worked in silk; and standing collars
and partelets wrought with gold, silver, and silk; and miscellaneous
articles, from handsome pieces of jewellery, down to one pye of
quinces, by John Betts, servant of the pastry, who received two gilt
spoons in return. In subsequent years the gifts are much of the same
nature, and a few only need be particularised. Some may be considered
as partaking of a professional character: her doctors generally giving
a pot of orange blossoms and a pot of ginger, or something similar; and
her apothecary a box of lozenges, or a pot of conserves; while her cook
gave a marchpane, made into some kind of device; and her serjeant of
the pastry, a quince pie, and sometimes a pie of quinces and wardens

In 1574, the favourite, Earl of Leicester, gave her a splendid fan,
that ladies now might envy, being of white feathers, set in a handle
of gold; one side of it garnished with two very fair emeralds, one of
them especially fine, and garnished with diamonds and rubies; and the
other side garnished with diamonds and rubies; and on each side a white
bear and two pearls hanging, a lion rampant with a white muzzled bear
at his foot. Handsomely wrought smocks are frequently mentioned. This
article, as is well known, was different from that in present wear, the
ornamental part could be safely exhibited, and gentlemen could present
them without breach of decorum; though in our present fastidious days,
a New Year’s Gift to a lady of a chemisette, berthe, or gilêt, might be
considered as a somewhat eccentric _gage d’amour_.

In 1578, Philip Sidney gave a cambric smock, which may be considered as
quite in the florid or decorated style of workmanship; the sleeves and
collar being wrought with black work, and edged with a small bone lace
of gold and silver; and a suite of ruffs cutwork, flourished with gold
and silver, and set with spangles. In the same year, Sir Gawen Carew
gave one worked with Venice gold, and edged with a small bone lace of
Venice gold; Smyth, the dustman, gave two bolts of cambric; her doctors
and apothecary, pots of ginger and candy; and Mark Anthony, a violl.

In the following year, Morrys Watkins, whoever he might be, gave
eighteen larks in a cage, and received 20_s._ in reward. In several
years there are handsome gowns, petticoats, kirtles, doblets, and
mantles, some embroidered with precious stones, bracelets, and other
ornaments; so that it does not appear so very surprising that at her
death, Elizabeth left a hoard of 2000 dresses behind her. It must be
presumed, however, that she was not in the habit of giving away any of
her apparel, or her ladies’ maids would have had rich perquisites.

In 1582, Lady Howard gave her a jewel of gold, representing a cat
and mice playing with her, garnished with small diamonds and pearls;
typifying perhaps the queen and her maids; and she received from eight
maskers a flower of gold, garnished with sparks of diamonds, rubies,
and opals, with an agate of her majesty’s “phisnamy,” and a pearl
pendant, with devices painted in it.

In 1589, she had a jewel of gold, like an alpha and omega, whatever
that might be, garnished with sparks of diamonds. Sir Francis Drake
also gave her a fan of white and red feathers, the handle of gold,
enamelled with a half moon of mother of pearl, within that a half moon
garnished with sparks of diamonds, and a few seed pearls on one side,
having her majesty’s picture within it, and on the other side a device
with a crow over it. Lord North, in his Household Book, charges £40, as
his New Year’s Gift to the queen, and £16 10_s._ given at court at New
Year’s tide. It need scarcely be observed that the custom of New Year’s
Gifts was prevalent among all classes, and many examples might be given
of payments on account of them in the domestic records of the age.

The customs in France about this time were very similar to ours. In
Sully’s ‘Memoirs,’ 1606, it is stated, “Les cérémonies du jour de
l’an, des rois et jours suivans, se passèrent à l’accoustumée, en
présens, festins, banquets, balets, mascarades, courses de bague, et
autres réjouissances et magnificences, le roy, la reine, et la reine
Marguerite vous ayant envoyé vos estrennes, et à madame vostre femme



PLAYS and other Christmas festivities continued throughout the reign of
James the First; and amongst others we find ‘Measure for Measure,’ and
the ‘Plaie of Errors,’ by Shaxberd—a new reading as to the spelling of
the name of our glorious bard—also ‘King Lear,’ and ‘Love’s Labour’s
Lost.’ Many of Fletcher’s plays likewise were first acted before the
court at Christmas.

Masks were performed almost yearly; and in one of them, the ‘Queen’s
Mask of Moors,’ the queen with eleven ladies of honour took parts. Ben
Jonson himself wrote several for the court, and Inigo Jones assisted
in the scenery and decorations. James performed one good act, by
inflicting a penalty of £10 on any one making use, in plays, shows, or
pageants, jestingly or profanely, of the Holy Name of God, or of our
Saviour, or of the Holy Ghost, or of the Trinity.

At the very commencement of this reign, John Hemynges and his company
received £53 for performing six interludes or plays; and on the 8th of
January, 1604, the queen and her ladies presented a mask, by Samuel
Daniell, called the ‘Vision of the Twelve Goddesses.’ In the following
year, Hemynges and his company received £60, for the same number of
plays, and £10 a play seems to have been the usual reward. At the
same time, the queen and her ladies performed Ben Jonson’s mask of
‘Blackness,’ being the first in which he was employed. It was got up
in a magnificent style, having cost the exchequer £3000. After the
performance, there was a banquet in the great-chamber, which was so
furiously assailed by the hungry guests, that the table and trestles
went down before one bit was touched.

There are some strange stories of scenes of excessive conviviality in
this reign, particularly during the visit of the Danish king, Christian
the Fourth, in 1606, when, on one occasion, during the personation of
the mask of ‘Solomon, and the Queen of Sheba’—the King of Denmark
being the Solomon of the night—the representative of the Queen of
Sheba had imprudently imbibed too much of the nectar that she was
to have offered to Solomon, and stumbling, distributed her classic
offerings of wine, jelly, and cakes, over his dress. He in his turn,
attempting to dance, found it necessary to fall, and cling to the
floor, until taken off to bed.

    “_Cassio._ Is your Englishman so exquisite in his drinking?
     _Iago._ Why, he drinks you with facility, your Dane dead drunk.”

Some ladies, representing Faith, Hope, Charity, Victory, and Peace, who
were assumed to have been the attendants of the Queen of Sheba, on her
celebrated visit, sympathised with their mistress, and were obliged,
with proper assistance to guide their tottering limbs, to retire for a
time in a state of maudlin sensibility.

From Gervase Markham’s account, in his ‘English Housewife,’ of a
moderate dinner of this time, we may somewhat judge of the prevalent
profusion:—The first course should consist of “sixteen full dishes;
that is, dishes of meat that are of substance, and not empty, or for
show—as thus, for example; first, a shield of brawn, with mustard;
secondly, a boyl’d capon; thirdly, a boyl’d piece of beef; fourthly,
a chine of beef, rosted; fifthly, a neat’s tongue, rosted; sixthly,
a pig, rosted; seventhly, chewets baked; eighthly, a goose, rosted;
ninthly, a swan, rosted; tenthly, a turkey, rosted; the eleventh,
a haunch of venison, rosted; the twelfth, a pasty of venison; the
thirteenth, a kid, with a pudding in the belly; the fourteenth, an
olive-pye; the fifteenth, a couple of capons; the sixteenth, a custard,
or dowsets. Now, to these full dishes may be added, sallets, fricases,
quelque choses, and devised paste, as many dishes more, which make the
full service no less than two and thirty dishes; which is as much as
can conveniently stand on one table, and in one mess. And after this
manner you may proportion both your second and third courses, holding
fulness on one half of the dishes, and show in the other; which will
be both frugal in the splendour, contentment to the guest, and much
pleasure and delight to the beholder.”

If this was a frugal—a sort of friendly—dinner, what must have been
a state one—of the Belgravian or East Indian class, for instance?

On Twelfth Night, 1606, the mask of ‘Hymen,’ by Ben Jonson, was
performed, in honour of the unfortunate marriage of Robert, Earl of
Essex, with Lady Frances, daughter of the Earl of Suffolk, afterwards
so well known as the vicious wife of the equally vicious favourite,
Somerset. In the following year was the mask of ‘Beauty,’ in which
the queen and her ladies took part; but, though intended for Twelfth
Night, it was not performed, for some reason, until Sunday, the 14th of
January, Sunday being by no means an unusual day for these festivities.
The following Christmas was dull and heavy, like the weather; still
there were plays at court.

On the 1st of January, 1611, Prince Henry, accompanied by twelve
other persons of rank, performed the mask of ‘Oberon,’ of which
the expenses were £1092 6_s._ 10_d._ , including £16 paid to Inigo
Jones, for his labour; it being the joint production of him and Ben
Jonson, and contained a variety of delicate music. It was performed
in the new and beautiful banquetting-house, at Whitehall. There were,
likewise, two other masks, by Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones, in the same
Christmas, which cost the queen £600. In one of them, called, ‘Love
freed from Ignorance and Folly’—the name of the other being ‘Love
Restored’—there were twelve she-fools introduced, dressed in coloured
taffeta, lined with fustian, who performed a dance, and received each
£1 for her trouble. In November, 1612, Prince Henry died; a prince
who, according to most accounts, was much loved, and from whose early
promise much was expected. Whether his father much mourned him seems
a doubtful question: it has been surmised that he was jealous of his
popularity. At all events the following Christmas was kept with the
usual festivities, and his daughter Elizabeth was affianced to the

On the 26th of December, 1613, the favourite, Somerset, was married
to the Countess of Essex, at Whitehall, in the presence of the King,
Queen, and Prince Charles, and many of the nobility, and several
entertainments were given in the course of the Christmas, to the
well-matched pair. On the 4th of January, they went to a grand
entertainment, at Merchant Tailors’ Hall, and, after supper, were
entertained with a wassail, two pleasant masks, and dancing. On Twelfth
Day the gentlemen of Gray’s Inn invited them to a mask—the ‘Mask of
Flowers’—but they did not consent willingly to this act, evidently
considering it a degradation, their repugnance having been overcome by
Lord Bacon. It appears to have been performed at the banquetting-house.

In 1616, Ben Jonson presented the well-known mask, called the ‘Mask of
Christmas,’ the principal characters being Christmas and his children,
Misrule, Carol, Minced-Pie, Gambol, Post and Pair, New Year’s Gift,
Mumming, Wassel, Offering, and Baby-Cake. Prince Charles performed, and
obtained great applause in his mask, called ‘The Vision of Delight, or
Prince’s Mask,’ represented on Twelfth Night, 1618, when the Muscovy
ambassadors were feasted at court, and a sum of £750 was issued for the
occasion. A mask of ladies had been prepared for the same Christmas,
and many rehearsals had taken place, but for some reason it was
forbidden by the king and queen; to the great disappointment of the
ladies, no doubt.

The Inns of Court continued their revels as in former reigns. Sir Simon
D’Ewes complains of some great irregularities at the Temple, in 1620,
and some subsequent years, arising from gambling and quarrelling.
In Christmas, 1622-3, the Society of the Middle Temple incurred the
displeasure of the king—who apparently cared little for any one but
himself—by a demonstration in favour of his amiable and talented
daughter, Elizabeth of Bohemia. The lieutenant of the Middle Temple had
thirty of the best gentlemen of the society to sup with him; during the
meal, he took a cup of wine in one hand, and his drawn sword in the
other, and drank a health to the distressed Lady Elizabeth, after which
he kissed his sword, and swore to live and die in her service, and then
passed the cup and sword round.

On the Twelfth Day in the same Christmas, a ludicrous scene occurred,
for at dead of night, the gentlemen of Gray’s Inn, in order to make an
end of their Christmas, shot off all the chambers they had borrowed
from the Tower, which were as many as filled four carts. The king, who,
as is well known, could not bear the sight of a naked sword, being
awakened with the noise, started out of bed, crying out, “Treason!
treason!” The city was in confusion, and the court in arms, the Earl
of Arundel running to the king’s bed-chamber, with his sword drawn, to
rescue his sovereign.

In 1607, there was a celebrated exhibition of the Christmas Prince,
at St. John’s College, Oxford, conducted with more than usual pomp. A
numerous court was appointed, and pageants and dramatic performances
were from time to time exhibited; the “Prince,” Mr. Thomas Tucker,
continuing in his office until Shrove Tuesday. There were some
disturbances, in consequence of the inability of many people to
find room, but probably not more than occur now occasionally at the
Commemoration. Sir John Finett, who was master of the ceremonies to
James the First and Charles the First, and who seems to have considered
the settlement of points of etiquette as the very essence of good
government, in his quaint publication, called ‘Philoxenis,’ gives
many curious particulars of disputes, in several years, both in this
reign and the following one, between the royal ambassadors; and claims
of precedence, and fanciful privileges on the part of themselves and
their wives; and of his own skill and finesse in arranging them, so as
in general to give satisfaction, and prevent the peace of Europe from
being disturbed, which, from his statement, but for his diplomatic
powers, would appear to have been inevitable, had one ambassador’s
wife got a back to her chair, while another only had an ottoman. On
New Year’s Night, for instance, the intended mask was obliged to be
postponed, in consequence of some scruple on these formal matters,
of the French ambassador, but Sir John happily overcame this before
Twelfth Day, when the mask was proceeded with, and the French,
Venetian, and Savoyard ambassadors were present. In the following year
the prince was a principal actor in the mask, and the French ambassador
took umbrage, because the Spanish ambassador was invited. This schism
was beyond Sir John Finett’s controul; a correspondence ensued, but
the French ambassador was recalled before his time had expired. Many
of the disputes remind one of the points of etiquette respecting the
old French court privilege of the tabouret—as to wearing a cocked hat
fore and aft, as it is called, or athwart the head—as to wearing a
hat always in a club-room, or in the House of Commons, if a member—as
to the number of yards to a peeress’ train—as to the feather in the
cap of a Highland chief or chieftain—as to the persons entitled to
wear long-tailed wigs, or short-tailed wigs, or wigs with a curly
tail—and many other equally important points. However, etiquette is
probably necessary for the good rule of society, and high and low have
their own regulations. We find, in the East, it is considered a highly
aristocratic privilege, on ceremonial occasions, that the palanquin
should be borne crossways, instead of lengthways, probably because
it has a greater chance of being in the way; but it is thought of so
much importance, that a few years since, Sri Sunkur Bharti, and Sidha
Lingayah Charanti, whoever those grandees might have been, contested
the point by appeal to the privy council.

The practice of giving New Year’s Gifts and Christmas Boxes remained as
before; the value of the gifts to the king having become quite a matter
of regulation. An earl, for instance, was to buy a new purse of about
5_s._ price, and put in it twenty pieces of 20_s._ value each, and go
to the presence chamber on New Year’s Day, about eight in the morning,
and give them to the lord chamberlain; then to go to the jewel house
for a ticket to receive 18_s._ 6_d._ as a gift, and give 6_d._ there
for a box for the ticket; then to go to Sir Wm. Veall’s office, and
receive the 18_s._ 6_d._; then to the jewel house again, and choose a
piece of plate of about thirty ounces weight, and mark it, and fetch
it away in the afternoon, give the gentleman that delivered it to him
40_s._ in gold, and to the box 2_s._ and to the porter 6_d._

On New Year’s Day, 1604, the young prince, then in his tenth year,
gave his father as his gift, a short Latin poem, in hexameter verse,
which no doubt delighted the king. In 1610, he gave his sister, for his
New Year’s Gift, a cabinet of ivory, wrought with silver; five years
before this, when she was eight years of age, she had received from
the corporation of Coventry a pair of fat oxen, as their gift at this
season; certainly a very substantial mark of respect, but a sort of
_bon-bon_ that would somewhat astonish the royal nursery at present.

The New Year’s Gifts, given by the Prince Palatine in 1612, when he
married the Princess Elizabeth, were of a sumptuous description, but
may be considered more in the light of marriage presents than New
Year’s Gifts. The jewels, he gave to his mistress alone, were valued at
£35,000, comprising a rich chain of diamonds, with pendant diamonds for
the ears; and two pearls scarcely to be equalled for size and beauty.
To each of her attendants he gave £100; and to her chief usher, £150;
to Mrs. Dudley, a chain of pearls and diamonds, worth £500; to Lord
and Lady Harrington, golden and gilt plate of the value of £2000; to
the prince, a rapier and pair of spurs set with diamonds; and handsome
presents to the king and queen. There was great splendour in dress at
this wedding; the Lady Wotton had a gown that cost £50 a yard; and
Lord Montacute spent £15,000 in apparel for his two daughters. Our
ladies (independent of jewels) would have some difficulty to match this
at present; but there was great extravagance of dress, in general,
in the course of this reign. Even Archie Armstrong, the well-known
court-jester, had, on the occasion of this marriage, a coat of crimson
velvet and gold lace, yellow worsted hose, and crimson garters.

As specimens of the gifts presented in private life, we find Sir
Francis Bacon sending to the lady and daughters of Sir M. Hicks some
carnation stockings, with a request that they would wear them for
his sake. This would be considered a strange sort of keepsake from a
gentleman to a lady at present; but, as the Queen of Spain, in the
former days of Spanish etiquette, was said to have no legs; so, from
the long dresses now worn, it does not appear to signify much, except
as a matter of personal convenience to themselves, whether our ladies
have legs or not.

Turkeys and capons were Christmas presents during this age, as the
former are still: Justice Greedy says,—

    “...... I remember thy wife brought me,
     Last New Year’s tide, a couple of fat turkeys.”

The goose was the more ancient dish than the turkey, which was not
introduced into England until the sixteenth century, and the goose is
still the favourite bird in Paris and other parts of France, as it also
is in the west and some other parts of England. Indeed the Norfolk
people may fairly be suspected of having introduced the turkey as the
Christmas bird, when we find that several tons weight of them are sent
to London from that county annually at this season, some individual
birds weighing at least a quarter of a hundred. In Spain patients used
to present their medical attendants with turkeys; so that men in large
practice had to establish a little trade in them. These turkeys were
driven by gipseys from parts of Old Castile, chiefly from Salamanca;
the march was about 400 miles, and lasted about half a year, so that
the birds left the farmer in the state of chickenhood, but arrived
almost at the maturity of turkeyhood on the journey.

There was a good deal of gambling at court during Christmas, in the
course of this reign, no one being admitted that brought less than
£300. In one night, Montgomery, who played the king’s money, won for
him £750, which he had for his trouble; Lord Monteagle lost for the
queen £400, and Sir Robert Cary for the prince, £300. The following
may give some notion of the manner of keeping Christmas, by an English
gentleman, at this time, as mentioned in Armin’s ‘Nest of Ninnies.’ “At
a Christmas time, when good logs furnish the hall fire, when brawne is
in season, and indeed all reveling is regarded, this gallant knight
kept open house for all commers, where beefe, beere, and bread was no
niggard. Amongst all the pleasures provided, a noyse of minstrells
and a Lincolnshire bagpipe was prepared; the minstrells for the great
chamber, the bagpipe for the hall; the minstrells to serve up the
knight’s meate, and the bagpipe for the common dauncing.”

The Christmas-block or Yule-log, above referred to, is of very ancient

    “Heap on more wood—the wind is chill;
     But let it whistle as it will,
     We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.”

A massive piece of wood was selected, frequently the rugged root of
a tree grotesquely marked, which was brought into the great hall or
kitchen, with rejoicing and merriment. The old Christmas gambol of
drawing Dun out of the mire—which is referred to as far back as the
‘Towneley Mysteries,’ “Bot if this draght be welle drawen Don is in the
myre,”—was probably connected originally with drawing in the Christmas

    “If thou art Dun we’ll draw thee from the mire,
     Of this (save reverence) love, wherein thou stick’st
     Up to the ears.”

A log of wood is brought in, which is called Dun the cart-horse, and is
supposed to stick in the mire. Some of the party then advance and try
to extricate him, but they require more assistance; this continues till
all are engaged, and Dun is at length drawn out, “I see I’m born still
to draw Dun out o’ th’ mire for you.” Much fun arises from the feigned
awkwardness of the revellers, and contrivances to drop the log on each
other’s toes. Herrick says—

     “Come, bring with a noise,
      My merrie merrie boyes,
    The Christmas log to the firing;
      While my good dame, she
      Bids ye all be free,
    And drinke to your heart’s desiring.

      With the last yeere’s brand
      Light the new block, and
    For good success in his spending,
      On your psalteries play,
      That sweet luck may
    Come while the log is a teending,“

Formerly, each of the family sat down on the log in turn, sang a Yule
song, and drank to a merry Christmas and happy New Year: after which
they had, as part of their feast, Yule dough, or Yule cakes, on which
were impressed the figure of the infant Jesus, and sometimes they were
made in the shape of a little image, studded with currants and baked,
and the bakers gave them as presents to their customers. Bowls of
frumenty, made from wheat cakes or creed wheat, boiled in milk, with
sugar and nutmeg, &c., also made part of the feast. Nor was the wassail
bowl, or the tankard of spiced ale, omitted, but formed a prominent
part of the entertainment; Christmas ale being generally of superlative

Horace brings out his log and his best wine, as some of his winter

    “Dissolve frigus, ligna super foco
     Large reponens; atque benignius
       Deprome quadrimum Sabina,
       O Thaliarche merum diota,”

and in the same ode, refers to pastimes similar to some of ours at

    “Nunc et latentis proditor intimo
     Gratus puellæ risus ab angulo,
     Pignusque dereptum lacertis,
     Aut digito male pertinaci.”

Christmas candles of large size, frequently presents from the
chandlers, were at the same time used in some places; and, when tired
of the sports, the party gathered round the log, and sang carols, or
told legendary tales. The Essex logs appear to have been in repute,
“We shall have some Essex logs yet to keep Christmas with,” says
a character in one of Middleton’s plays; and there were sometimes
services reserved to furnish these Christmas logs; as the cellarist of
St. Edmundsbury, for instance, held Hardwick under the Abbey, and was
bound annually to provide four Christmas stocks, each of eight feet
in length. The strangest log on record, however, is that mentioned by
Froissart, at a great feast held by the Count de Foix. After dinner he
went up into a gallery, to which there was an ascent of twenty-four
steps; it being cold, he complained that the fire was not large enough,
on which a person named Ernauton d’Espaign, having seen below several
asses laden with wood, went down and brought up-stairs on his back one
of the largest, with his load of wood, and threw him on the fire, feet
upwards, to the delight of the count and the astonishment of all; and
of the poor ass, no doubt, more than all.

A small portion of the log was to be carefully preserved to light that
of the following year; and on the last day of its being in use, which,
in some places, was on Candlemas Day, a small piece having been kept on
purpose, the custom was to—

    “Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
       Till sunne-set let it burne;
     Which quencht, then lay it up agen,
       Till Christmas next returne.

     Part must be kept, wherewith to teend
       The Christmas log next yeare;
     And where ’tis safely kept, the fiend
       Can do no mischiefe there.“

The Souche de Noël, in some places on the Continent, was very similar
to our log.

As to minstrels, the waits of Southwark, according to the Citizen in
the ‘Knight of the Burning Pestle,’ were as rare fellows as any in
England, and two shillings would bring them all o’er the water with a
vengeance, as if they were mad. In the commencement of the following
reign a character in a play by Shirley introduces the city waits in a
speech that, with one slight alteration, is applicable to the present
panic felt by many persons respecting the possibility of foreign
invasion: “We will have the city waites down with us, and a noise of
trumpets; we can have drums in the country, and the train-band, and
then let the [French] come an they dare.”

Burton, in his ‘Anatomy of Melancholy,’ mentions “The ordinary
recreations which we have in winter, and in most solitary times busie
our minds with, are _cardes_, _tables_, and _dice_, _shovelboard_,
_chesse-play_, the philosopher’s game, small trunkes, shuttle-cocke,
billiards, musicke, masks, singing, dancing, ulegames, 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.

After the accession of Charles the First, Christmas was frequently
observed with great splendour, and a variety of plays, masks, and
pageants, in which the king and queen, with some of the courtiers,
occasionally took part, until about the year 1641, when the civil
disturbances interfered with all social enjoyments, and the spirit
of fanaticism even endeavoured to abolish any commemoration of the
Nativity of our Saviour. The king had his mask on Twelfth Day, and the
queen hers on the Shrovetide following, and considerable sums were
granted for the expenses, often exceeding £2000.

The Christmas of 1632-3 was dull; the queen, having some little
infirmity, the bile or some such thing, kept in, and there was but
one play and no dancing; the gambling however remained as before, the
king carrying away £1850, of which the queen took half. On Twelfth
Night however she feasted the king at Somerset House, and presented a
pastoral, in which she herself took part, and which, with other masks,
cost considerably more than £2000.

In the following year there were no masks, but ‘Cymbeline’ was acted
before the court, and well liked. Prynne, in his ‘Histriomastix,’
having been supposed to reflect on the queen for her love of these
diversions, was severely punished, as is well known.

In the Christmas of 1641-2 only one play was acted, being on Twelfth
Day, at the cockpit in Whitehall; but the king and queen were in no
mood to be present, as the king on the previous day had paid his
eventful visit to the House of Commons to demand the five members:
and after this time he had matter of too much moment to engage his
attention to allow of any further indulgence in festivities or
amusement, thenceforth, alas! unknown to him. The struggle then
began on the part of the Puritans to abolish Christmas as a festival
altogether. The first ordinances to suppress the performance of plays
were issued in 1642, and doubt began to be expressed as to the proper
manner of keeping this feast: in Christmas 1643, some in the city
opened their shops, but they were shut again, people being afraid of
any popish observance, as they called it, of the day. On one occasion,
1644, Christmas Day was kept as a fast, as it fell on the last
Wednesday of the month, which was the day appointed by parliament for a
monthly fast, and it was ordered that this should not be an exception.

Ministers were prohibited from preaching God’s word on the Nativity,
and were imprisoned if they attempted to do so; and in 1647 the parish
officers of St. Margaret’s, Westminster, were committed and fined for
allowing some of them to preach on Christmas Day, and for adorning the
Church with rosemary and bays.

On the 3d of June in that year, the parliament abolished the observance
of Christmas and many other holidays, directing that, instead of them,
all scholars, apprentices, and servants should, with leave of their
masters, have a holiday on the second Tuesday in every month. On this
being proclaimed at Canterbury, just previous to the ensuing Christmas,
and the mayor directing a market to be kept on that day, a serious
disturbance took place, wherein many were severely hurt.

On the 24th of December, 1652, the observance of Christmas Day was
strongly prohibited, and several entries may be found in Evelyn’s
Memoirs, in that and subsequent years, to the effect that no service
was allowed in the churches on that day, so that it was kept at home
or privately by the right-minded, who occasionally got into difficulty
in consequence. Evelyn with his wife and others, while taking the
sacrament on Christmas Day, 1657, were taken into custody for breach
of the ordinance of the parliament, but were let off. In a satirical
list of supposed works called ‘Bibliotheca Parliamenti,’ 1653, is
‘An Act for the speedy suppressing all Plays, the Fools being all
turned Commanders or Parliament men.’ Even in the midst of fanaticism,
however, Christmas festivities could not be entirely abolished; and in
the ‘Vindication of Christmas,’ old Father Christmas, complaining of
his treatment for the last twelve years, says, “But welcome, or not
welcome, I am come;” and says his best welcome was with some Devonshire
farmers, thus describing his entertainment:—“After dinner we arose
from the boord, and sate by the fire, where the harth was imbrodered
all over with roasted apples, piping hot, expecting a bole of ale for
a cooler, which immediately was transformed into warm lambwool. After
which we discoursed merily, without either prophaness or obscenity;
some went to cards: others sang carols and pleasant songs (suitable to
the times); then the poor labouring hinds, and maid-servants, with the
plow-boys, went nimbly to dancing; the poor toyling wretches being glad
of my company, because they had little or no sport at all till I came
amongst them; and therefore they skipped and leaped for joy, singing a
carol to the tune of hey,

    ‘Let’s dance and sing, and make good chear,
      For Christmas comes but once a year;
    Draw hogsheads dry, let flagons fly,
      For now the bells shall ring;
    Whilst we endeavour to make good
      The title ’gainst a king.’

Thus, at active games and gambols of hot cockles, shoeing the wild
mare, and the like harmless sports, some part of the tedious night was
spent; and early in the morning, I took my leave of them, promising
they should have my presence again the next 25th of December, 1653.“

Herrick, in his ‘New Year’s Gift’ sent to Sir Simeon Steward, sings—

    “Of Christmas sports, the wassel boule,
     That tost up after fox-i-th’-hole;
     Of blind-man-buffe, and of the care
     That young men have to shooe the mare;
     Of Twelf-tide cakes, of pease and beanes,
     Wherewith ye make those merry sceanes,
     When as ye chuse your king and queen,
     And cry out, ‘Hey for our town green.’”

The noblemen and gentry were, in the early part of the reign,
directed to return to their mansion-houses in the country, to keep up
hospitality during the Christmas; and many of them lived like petty
princes, their household establishments forming almost a mimic court.
The Christmas feast was kept up, the poor man’s heart was cheered by
earthly comforts, and he was led to the contemplation of the eternal
blessings bestowed on man at this tide. The great hall resounded with
the mirth of the servants, and tenants, and other dependents, whose
gambols amused the lord of the mansion, and his family, and friends;
and their presence and participation in the festivities, together with
the shows exhibited by them, of which the poorer class were frequently
allowed to be the amused spectators, encouraged them, and mitigated the
trials and privations of the winter.

A splendid Christmas, held by Richard Evelyn, Esq., High Sheriff of
Surrey and Sussex, in 1634, at Wotton, may be taken as an example. A
lord of Misrule was appointed; in this case, Owen Flood, gentleman,
trumpeter to Mr. Evelyn, was chosen, and regulations were made to
support his authority; amongst others, that if any man should kiss any
maid, widow, or wife, except to bid welcome or farewell, without his
lordship’s consent, he should have punishment as his lordship should
think convenient; it is to be presumed, however, that the misletoe
bough was a privileged place, a sort of kissing sanctuary. The hall
of the mansion being open on these occasions, many gifts were made to
assist in provisioning the guests, and, at this time, the contributions
were, two sides of venison, two half brawns, three pigs, ninety capons,
five geese, six turkeys, four rabbits, eight partridges, two pullets,
five sugar-loaves, half a pound of nutmegs, one basket of apples and
eggs, three baskets of apples, and two baskets of pears.

The Christmas festivities, at some of the colleges, and at the Inns of
Court, were continued in this reign. In 1627-8, there was a collision
between Mr. Palmer, lord of Misrule of the Temple, and the lord-mayor
and city authorities. The Temple lord chose to claim rents of 5_s._ a
piece from the houses in Ram Alley and Fleet Street, and broke open
doors to enforce it, if not quietly opened. The lord-mayor went with
his watch to meet him, and after some scuffle, Mr. Palmer was wounded
and taken prisoner, and sent to the Compter, and, after two nights, was
released, by the intercession of the attorney-general, on payment of
all damages, and restoring the rents.

In the ninth of Charles, the Inns of Court spent £2400 about their
Christmas celebration, and the king was so pleased with it, that he
asked 120 of the members to a mask at Whitehall, on the following
Shrove Tuesday.

There was also a splendid Christmas at the Middle Temple, in 1635,
when Mr. Francis Vivian, of Cornwall, who had been fined in the Star
Chamber, about three years before, in respect of a castle he held in
that county, was the Christmas Prince, and expended £2000 out of his
own pocket, beyond the allowance of the Society, in order to support
his state with sufficient dignity. He had his lord keeper, lord
treasurer, eight white staves, captain of pensioners and his guard,
and two chaplains, who, when they preached before him, saluted him on
ascending the pulpit with three low bows, as was then done to the king.
The lord-mayor and sheriffs supplied him with wine, and Lord Holland,
his justice in Eyre, with venison. These descriptions really make us
regret the cessation of such festivities.

In December, 1641, Evelyn was elected one of the comptrollers of the
Middle Temple revellers, the Christmas being kept with great solemnity;
but he got excused from serving. The most magnificent entertainment,
however, given by the Inns of Court, was on Candlemas Day, 1633—which
day was frequently distinguished by a farewell Christmas entertainment,
and the rule of the Christmas Prince extended to it—when the two
Temples, Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn, jointly presented Shirley’s
‘Triumph of Peace,’ at an expense to the Societies of more than
£20,000. The music, under the superintendence of William Lawes and
Simon Ives, cost £1000, and the dresses of the horsemen were valued at
£10,000. Whitelocke and Hyde were two of the principal managers, and
the former wrote for it his celebrated ‘Coranto.’ The king was so much
entertained, that he requested it to be performed again a few days
afterwards at Merchant Tailors’ Hall. Whether Gray’s Inn was more or
less inclined to play than the other Inns is not very material; but the
following order, in the fourth of Charles, may be taken either way,
“that all playing at dice, cards, or otherwise, in the hall, buttry, or
butler’s chamber, should be thenceforth barred, and forbidden at all
times of the year, the twenty days in Christmas only excepted.” The
Inner Temple, not to be outdone in propriety, ordered, in 1632, that no
play should be continued after twelve at night, not even on Christmas

New Year’s Gifts were given as in former reigns; even little Jeffery
Hudson gave the queen in 1638, ‘The New Year’s Gift,’ written by
Microphilus, meaning himself. The Duke of Buckingham, who was
regardless of expense, appears to have given £20 to the celebrated
Archie, the king’s jester; and £13 6_s._ 8_d._ to the king’s fool,
meaning his other court fool, probably David Dromon. There is a story
told of Archie, who having fooled many was fooled himself; and perhaps
by this very nobleman. Archie went to him, or to the nobleman whoever
he was, to bid him good morrow on New Year’s Day, and received twenty
pieces of gold as his New Year’s Gift; but covetously desiring more,
shook them in his hand, and said they were too light. The donor said,
“I prithee, Archie, let me see them again, for there is one among
them I would be loth to part with.” Archie unsuspectingly returned
them, expecting them to be increased; but the nobleman put them in his
pocket, with this remark, “I once gave money into a fool’s hand, who
had not the wit to keep it.” The story of his having stolen a sheep,
and hid it in a cradle, has been mentioned before, but is probably

This Archie, or Archibald Armstrong, may be considered as the last of
the regular or official court fools; for Killigrew, in the succeeding
reign, although a licensed wit, was of a higher class, both by birth
and education; and Pepys’s account of his having a fee for cap and
bells was apparently meant as a joke. The last play, in which the
regular fool was introduced, was probably, ‘The Woman Captain,’ by
Shadwell, 1680. Tarleton, in the preceding century, was a celebrated
performer in these characters.

A strange appendage this officer or attendant was to royal and noble
establishments; known even in oriental courts; and continued from the
time of the Anglo-Saxons, or perhaps of the ancient Britons, to the
time of which we are now writing. They often became such favourites
as to gain great influence with their royal and noble masters, and
frequently possessed more wit and discretion than the so-called or
self-called sages, who endeavoured to make them their laughing stock,
but whose attempts frequently flew back, like the boomerang, on their
own heads. They differed of course much in merit, from the fellow of
infinite jest to the mere practical joker, or the half-witted butt for
the gibes of others. Will Somers was a recognised favourite of the
capricious Henry the Eighth, and appears to have been a man of good
conduct; two or three portraits of him may be still seen among the
royal pictures at Hampton Court. It would be out of place to give any
anecdotes of these characters here, or we might begin with Goles, the
domestic fool of William the Conqueror, when Duke of Normandy, who
saved his master’s life by giving timely notice of a conspiracy; then
mentioning William Picolf, who held land from King John on performing
fool’s service; Martinot of Gascoigne, fool to Edward the First; Robert
le Foll, to Edward the Second; Ward, to Richard the Second, who, having
some personal resemblance to that king, was induced after his death to
personate him, for the purpose of an insurrection; Peche, in the time
of Henry the Seventh; Sexton, Somers, and Williams, in the time of
Henry the Eighth, the latter having been fool to Cardinal Wolsey, and
when recommended by him to the king, after his disgrace, the faithful
servant was obliged to be moved from his old master almost by force;
Chester, who seems to have been somewhat of an impertinent disposition,
in the time of Queen Elizabeth; with others that might be named, down
to Archie Armstrong, Davie Dromon, George Stone, and Dicky Pearce;
with a few words for Jane the female fool to Queen Mary; female fools,
however, being rare. There were also celebrated professional fools in
continental courts, as Moret, Bagot, Chichot, who was a man of courage,
and accompanied his master to the wars; Triboulet, fool to Francis the
First; and Mathurine, a female fool, who was with Henry the Fourth of
France when he was stabbed by Jean Chastel, and was the means of the
criminal being discovered.

Will Somers’s notion of cramming himself with salt beef, when on a
voyage, may be submitted to travellers for consideration. When he was
crossing to Boulogne with his master, Henry, the weather was rough,
and he was observed to eat salt beef greedily, and on the king asking
him the reason why he preferred salt meat when there was plenty of
fresh, he replied, “Don’t blame me for filling my stomach with salt
meat, because, if we are cast away, I know what a quantity of water
I shall have to drink after it.” These personages, however, did not
always enjoy their privileges without drawbacks, and were liable to
punishment, even to whipping. George Stone, in the time of James the
First, had a sound flogging for saying, when the Earl of Nottingham
went ambassador to Spain, that there went sixty fools into Spain,
besides my lord admiral and his two sons. Archie Armstrong, as is well
known, was sentenced to have his coat pulled over his head, discharged
the king’s service, and banished the court, for abuse of Archbishop
Laud, having given “great praise to God, but little _laud_ to the
devil.” It was not, however, of much consequence to him, for he was a
careful man, and by this time—

    “Archee, by kings and princes grac’d of late,
     Jested himself into a fair estate.”




WE have observed that the churchwardens of St. Margaret’s, Westminster,
were fined in 1647 for decorating their church at Christmas. The
practice, as before referred to, existed from the earliest times; and
in the churchwardens’ accounts of various parishes in the fifteenth
and following centuries, entries may be found of payments for holme,
holly, and ivy; and even during the Commonwealth the practice was not
extinct, although the puritans tried to abolish it; for in ‘Festorum
Metropolis,’ 1652, the author, who supports the cause of Christmas,
then endeavoured to be suppressed by the puritans, mentions the
trimming of churches and houses with bays, rosemary, holly, ivy, box,
and privet, and answers the objections made to the practice. Coles
also, in his ‘Art of Simpling,’ 1656, says, that in some places setting
up holly, ivy, rosemary, bays, &c. in churches at Christmas, was still
in use. Aubrey mentions it as the custom in many parts of Oxfordshire
for the maid-servant to ask one of the men for ivy to dress the house,
and if he refused or neglected it, she was to steal a pair of his
breeches, and nail them up to the gate in the yard or highway. Poor
Robin, whose Almanac contains many allusions to Christmas customs, in a
Christmas song of 1695, sings,

    “With holly and ivy
       So green and so gay,
     We deck up our houses
       As fresh as the day;
     With bays and rosemary,
       And laurel compleate,
     And every one now
       Is a king in conceite.”

The practice has continued to the present time, when the addition of
the chrysanthemum, satin flower, and other everlastings, mingling with
the red berry of the holly and the waxen one of the mystic misletoe,
together with occasionally the myrtle and laurustinum, have a very
pleasing and cheerful effect. In most places these greens and flowers
are taken down after Twelfth Day, except in churches, where they are
frequently kept till Lent; but, according to Herrick, they should
remain in houses until Candlemas Day, and then

    “Down with the rosemary and so
     Down with the baies and misletoe;
     Down with the holly, ivie, all
     Wherewith ye drest the Christmas hall;
     That so the superstitious find
     No one least branch there left behind,
     For look, how many leaves there be
     Neglected there, maids, trust to me,
     So many goblins you shall see.”

After the Restoration, the festive as well as the sacred observance of
Christmas was immediately resumed, and on the very first Christmas Day,
Evelyn says, Dr. Rainbow preached before the king, when the service
was performed with music, voices, &c., as formerly. The court revels,
however, never recovered their former splendour; plays, masks, and
pageants were nearly abandoned, and the festivities gradually assumed
the form of a mere state party, until in the time of our present gifted
queen, the plays at court have been resumed with the utmost taste and
talent. The manners of the country in general had been much changed
during the ascendancy of the puritan party and the troubles occasioned
by the civil wars; and the habits of Charles the Second were of too
indolent and sensual a nature to care much for any trouble in the court
pageants, though gambling at the groom-porter’s was prevalent—Charles
generally opening there the Christmas revels, if they may be so called;
the play was deep, of which many instances are given, the ladies
joining in it. A pastoral, however, by Crowne, called ‘Calisto,’ was at
one time acted by the daughters of the Duke of York (afterwards James
the Second) and the young nobility; and Lady Anne, afterwards queen,
about the same time acted the part of Semandra, in Lee’s ‘Mithridates.’
Betterton and his wife instructed the performers; in remembrance of
which, when Anne came to the throne, she gave the latter a pension of
£100 a year.

[Illustration: James Stephanoff, del. Ashbee & Dangerfield, litho.


The Inns of Court continued their revels; and in January, 1662, Pepys
mentions that while he was at Faithorne’s, the celebrated engraver’s,
he saw the king’s life-guards, he being gone to Lincoln’s Inn, where,
according to old custom, there was a prince and all his nobles, and
other matters of sport and charge. Evelyn, who was present at these
revels, speaks somewhat disdainfully of them, calling them “the solemn
foolerie of the Prince de la Grange, where came the king, duke,” &c. It
began with a grand mask, and a formal pleading before the mock princes,
grandees, nobles, and knights of the sun. He had his lord chancellor,
chamberlain, treasurer, and other royal officers, gloriously clad and
attended; and ended in a magnificent banquet; one Mr. Lort being the
“young spark” who maintained the pageantry.

In January, 1688, Evelyn went, after the meeting of the Royal Society,
to see the revels at the Middle Temple, which he calls an old, but
riotous, custom, and had no relation to virtue or policy. He did not
know that the most eager in these sports are frequently among the
wisest of their class, and that the philosopher can sometimes wear the
garb of folly gracefully.

Towards the end of the seventeenth century, however, these revels
ceased, having gradually fallen off, and the dignity of master of
the revels, instead of being eagerly sought for, as in former times,
required a bribe or premium to induce any member to take it upon him.
We find, for instance, in the records of Gray’s Inn, on the 3d of
November, 1682, that Mr. Richard Gipps, on his promise to perform the
office of master of the revels that and the next term, should be called
to the bar, of grace, that is, without payment of the usual fees.

The amusing gossip Pepys was a much more agreeable Christmas
companion apparently than Evelyn. How one would like to have joined
such a party as he describes on the 4th of January, 1667, when having
had company to dinner, at night, the last thing they had was a flagon
of ale and apples drunk out of a wood cup as a Christmas draught, which
made all merry! This was keeping up the old custom of the wassail
bowl (was Knipp of this sociable party?); and no doubt Pepys entered
heartily into all the old customs, and certainly was liberal as to his
gifts; for, on December 28th, 1668, he says that drums, trumpets, and
boxes cost him much money that Christmas. On the previous Christmas Day
he had been quiet, though probably in expectation of some approaching
party, having dined at home with his wife, who sat undressed all day
until ten at night, altering and lacing of a “noble petticoat.” So,
ladies we see, even in those times, contrived and worked a little
to vary and ornament that apparel which adds so much grace to their
charms; and though “when unadorned, adorned the most,” is frequently
quoted with approbation, yet it probably is often misunderstood, and
simplicity with taste in ornament is always an object of admiration.
Pepys gives an amusing account of Sir George Downing, a man of thrift,
who asked some poor people (poor relations probably) to dine with him
at Christmas, and gave them nothing but beef, porridge, pudding, and
pork; there was nothing said during the dinner, except his mother would
remark, “It’s good broth, son.” “Yes, it is good broth,” he would
answer. “Confirm all,” says the lady, and say, “Yes, very good broth.”
By and bye, she would say, “Good pork;” to which the son would respond,
“Yes, very good pork.” And so throughout the scanty bill of fare, the
humble guests saying nothing, as they went not out of love or esteem,
but for the purpose of getting a good dinner, a rare occurrence
perhaps to some of them.

The Rev. Henry Teonge, chaplain of one of our ships of war, gives
the following description of a Christmas Day of quite another sort,
in 1675, “Crismas Day wee keepe thus: At four in the morning our
trumpeters all doe flatt their trumpetts, and begin at our captain’s
cabin, and thence to all the officers’ and gentlemen’s cabins; playing
a levite at each cabine door, and bidding good morrow, wishing a merry
Crismas. After they goe to their station, viz. on the poope, and sound
three levitts in honour of the morning. At ten we goe to prayers and
sermon; text, Zacc. ix, 9. Our captaine had all his officers and
gentlemen to dinner with him, where wee had excellent good fayre: a
ribb of beefe, plumb-puddings, minct pyes, &c., and plenty of good
wines of severall sorts; dranke healths to the king, to our wives
and friends, and ended the day with much civill myrth.” Teonge and
his companions seem to have been a merry, pleasant set, and he thus
describes their ensuing Twelfth Day. “Very ruff weather all the last
night, and all this day. Wee are now past Zante; had wee beene there
this day, wee had seene a greate solemnity; for this day being 12 day,
the Greeke Bishop of Zante doth (as they call it) baptise the sea, with
a great deale of ceremonie, sprinkling their gallys and fishing-tackle
with holy water. But wee had much myrth on board, for wee had a greate
kake made, in which was put a beane for the king, a pease for the
queen, a cloave for the knave, a forked stick for the cuckold, a ragg
for the slutt. The kake was cut into severall pieces in the great
cabin, and all put into a napkin, out of which every one took his
piece, as out of a lottery; then each piece is broaken to see what was
in it, which caused much laughter, to see our leiuetenant prove the
coockold, and more to see us tumble one over the other in the cabin, by
reason of the ruff weather.” The celebrated Lord Peterborough, then a
youth, was one of the party on board this ship, as Lord Mordaunt.

Poor Robin’s almanack, for 1675, gives some notion of the bill of fare
for Christmas at this time among the middle classes.

    “Now the season of the year
     Bids thee to provide good cheer,
     For to feast thy needy neighbours,
     Who do live by their hard labours;
     Then thy coyn freely bestow
     For raisins, sun, and maligo;
     No currans, prunes, nor sugar lack,
     Pepper, both the white and black,
     Nutmegs, ginger, cloves, and mace,
     Rice for porridge i’ th’ first place;
     Pork and mutton, veal and beef,
     For hungry stomachs good relief;
     Pig, goose, turkey, capon, coney,
     What may be had for thy money;
     Plum-pudding, and furmity,
     Mutton pasties, Christmas pye;
     Nappy ale, a full carouse
     To the master of the house;
     And instead of tobacco pipes,
     The fidler up an old dance strikes.”

In following years there are descriptions somewhat similar.

New Year’s Gifts were continued; and at court they seem to have been
arranged according to rule, and were generally in money. The aggregate
amount presented was about £3000, sent in purses, worth 30_s._ or
40_s._ each, the donors receiving gifts of gilt plate in return. Pepys
mentions his going to the jewell office, on the 4th of January, 1661,
to choose a piece of plate for Earl Sandwich, who had given twenty
pieces of gold in a purse. His account will suffice to show the perfect
matter of routine then existing, as well as the amount of recognised
official peculation. He chose a gilt tankard, weighing thirty-one
ounces and a half, but this was an ounce and a half more than the Earl,
or the value of the Earl’s gift, was entitled to, this limit being
thirty ounces; so Pepys was obliged to pay 12_s._ for the extra ounce
and a half, so much was it a matter of calculation. He adds, “Strange
it was for me to see what a company of small fees I was called upon
by a great many to pay there, which, I perceive, is the manner that
courtiers do get their estates.”

[Illustration: James Stephanoff, del. Ashbee & Dangerfield, lith.


The spirit of Christmas, however, had received a check in the time of
the Commonwealth, which it struggled in vain to overcome entirely.
The hospitality and festivities in private houses recovered, and were
prevalent in the eighteenth century, and exist in many parts, and
to a certain extent, even in the present utilitarian age; but the
pageants and masks, in the royal household, and at the Inns of Court,
had received a death-blow; although they were not actually abolished
until the latter end of the century. Evelyn mentions a riotous and
revelling Christmas at the Inner Temple, according to custom, as late
as 1697, and says that his brother, who appears to have been a worthy,
as well as a wealthy, squire, in the previous year _more veterum_, kept
a Christmas at Wotton, in which they had not fewer than 300 bumpkins
every holyday.

In 1702, Poor Robin makes complaints of the falling off of Christmas

    “But now landlords and tenants too
     In making feasts are very slow;
     One in an age, or near so far,
     Or one perhaps each blazing star;
     The cook now and the butler too,
     Have little or nothing for to do;
     And fidlers who used to get scraps,
     Now cannot fill their hungry chaps;
     Yet some true English blood still lives,
     Who gifts to the poor at _Christmas_ gives,
     And to their neighbours make a feast,
     I wish their number were increast,
     And that their stock may never decay,
     _Christmas_ may come again in play,
     And poor man keep it holyday.”

Many of the popular ballads, in the latter part of the seventeenth
century, refer to the same falling off in Christmas feasting,
complaining of the degeneracy of the times. Poets and ballad writers,
however, from the earliest times, certainly as far back as Homer,
have been noted for this species of grumbling. Praising the bygone
times, in order to conceal the annoyance at having had so many of our
would-be-original good things said by our ancestors before us.

Nedham in his ‘History of the Rebellion,’ 1661, alluding to the times
before the Commonwealth, says—

    “Gone are those golden days of yore,
       When Christmas was a high day;
     Whose sports we now shall see no more,
       ’Tis turn’d into Good Friday.”

In ‘The Old and Young Courtier,’ printed in 1670, we have comparisons
between the times of Elizabeth and the then modern times, including the
following lines as to Christmas,—

    “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 roome,
     And old liquor, able to make a cat speak, and man dumb.
                                 Like an old courtier of the queen’s,
                                 And the queen’s old courtier.”

then comes the contrast,—

    “With a new fashion, when Christmas 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 of the king’s,
                                 And the king’s young courtier.”

In “‘Time’s Alteration; or, the Old Man’s Rehearsal,’ what brave dayes
he knew a great while agone, when his old cap was new,” there is much
in the same strain,—

    “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 show;
     We wanted no brawn nor souse,
       When this old cap was new.“

But, ‘Old Christmas Returned,’ probably written at the time of
the Restoration and prior to the last-named ballads, gives a more
favourable view, and welcomes the return of Christmas.

    “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.

     A long time together he hath been forgot,
     They scarce could afford for to hang on the pot;
     Such miserly sneaking in England hath been,
     As by our forefathers ne’er us’d to be seen;
     But now he’s returned you shall have in brief,
     Plum-pudding, goose, capon, minc’d pies and roast beef.“

The last line forms the burden of every stanza. A few years later, in
1695, Poor Robin welcomes Christmas much in the same terms,—

    “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.”

Really, one may say with Terence, “jamdudum animus est in patinis,”
and eating seems to be a happy invention, occupying a valuable portion
of our existence. Old Tusser, long before, had recommended somewhat
similar dishes for Christmas,—

    “Brawn, pudding, and souse, and good mustard withal,
     Beef, mutton, and pork, shred pies of the best,
     Pig, veal, goose, and capon, and turkey well dressed;
     Cheese, apples, and nuts, jolly carols to hear
     As then in the country is counted good cheer.”

This was hearty and hospitable fare, fit for the fine old gentry of
England; but Massinger talks of something more luxurious, hardly to be
surpassed in our scientific days.

    “Men may talk of country Christmasses,
     Their thirty pound butter’d eggs, their pies of carps’ tongues,
     Their pheasants drench’d with ambergris, the carcases
     Of three fat wethers bruised for gravy to
     Make sauce for a single peacock.”

The well-known minced or Christmas pie is of considerable antiquity,
and many references are made to it in early writers. It is customary,
in London, to introduce them at the lord-mayor’s feast, on the 9th
of November, where many hundreds of them appear; but this is an
irregularity that some archæological lord-mayor will, no doubt, by
and bye, correct; at any rate they should be eaten under protest, or
without prejudice, as lawyers say. They ought to be confined to the
season of Christmas, and the practice of using up the remnant of the
mince meat, even up to Easter, should be put a stop to by some of our
ecclesiastical reformers. So much were they considered as connected
with Christmas, that the puritans treated their use as a superstitious
observance, and after the Restoration they almost served as a test of
religious opinions. Bunyan, when in confinement and in distress for a
comfortable meal, for some time refused to injure his morals by eating
them when he might have done so. Misson, in the beginning of the last
century, says they were made of neats’ tongues, chicken, eggs, sugar,
currants, lemon and orange peel, with various spices.

The modern receipts are similar, and the less meat they contain the
better. The following is a well-tried and much approved one, and has
been handed down in the same family for generations: “A pound of
beef suet, chopped fine; a pound of raisins, do. stoned; a pound of
currants, cleaned dry; a pound of apples, chopped fine; two or three
eggs; allspice beat very fine, and sugar to your taste; a little salt,
and as much brandy and wine as you like:” a small piece of citron in
each pie is an improvement, and the cover or case should be oblong,
in imitation of the crache or manger where our Saviour was laid, the
ingredients themselves having been said to have some reference to the
offering of the wise men.

James the First’s dislike to the look of a naked sword took its rise
from about the time of his birth; but Lord Feesimple, a cowardly
character, in ‘Amends for Ladies,’ one of Field’s plays, attributes his
lack of courage to an incident during that extensive chopping season,
the necessary precursor of minced pies. “I being in the kitchen, in
my lord my father’s house, the cook was making minc’d pies; so, sir,
I standing by the dresser, there lay a heap of plums; here was he
mincing; what did me? I, sir, being a notable little witty coxcomb,
but popp’d my hand just under his chopping-knife, to snatch some
raisins, and so was cut o’er the hand; and never since could I endure
the sight of any edge tool.” There is a superstition that in as many
different houses as you eat minced pies during Christmas, so many happy
months will you have in the ensuing year; you have only therefore to
go to a different house each day in the Christmas to ensure a happy
twelvemonth, a simple receipt, if effectual. Something like this is
mentioned in ‘Dives and Pauper,’ by W. de Worde, 1496, where the custom
is reprobated of judging of the weather of the coming year by that of
the days of Christmas. This was also prognosticated by the day of the
week on which Christmas Day fell, and there are some old Christmas
songs referring to it. In the ‘Golden Legend,’ of the same printer, is
a more laudable prejudice, “That what persone, beynge in clene lyfe,
desyre on thys daye a boone of God; as ferre as it is ryghtfull and
good for hym; our lorde at reuerēce of thys blessid and hye feste of
his Natiuite wol graūt it to hym.”

The north of England is celebrated for its Christmas pies of a
different description, composed of turkeys, geese, game, and various
small birds, weighing sometimes half a hundred weight and upwards, and
calculated to meet the attacks of a large Christmas party throughout
the festival. Plum-pudding, of which the old name is said to have been
_hackin_, until the time of Charles the Second, is another valuable
dish; though, fortunately for its admirers, not confined to Christmas
time. Plum-porridge seems to be something like the French edition of
plum-pudding brought up to our ambassador many years since, which had
been boiled without the cloth; it is, however, mentioned by Misson, and
not very many years since the custom existed of serving up a tureen of
it at the table of the royal chaplains at St. James’s Palace.

An amusing little book, called ‘Round about our coal-fire, or Christmas
Entertainments,’ gives an account of the manner of observing this
festival, by the middling classes, about the middle of the seventeenth
century, and as the writer, in the spirit of grumbling, refers to
former times, he may be supposed to carry back his reference to old
times for a century earlier. “The manner of celebrating this great
course of holydays,” he says, “is vastly different now to what it was
in former days: there was once upon a time hospitality in the land;
an _English_ gentleman, at the opening of the great day, had all his
tenants and neighbours enter’d his hall by day-break, the strong beer
was broach’d, and the black-jacks went plentifully about with toast,
sugar, nutmeg, and good Cheshire cheese; the rooms were embower’d
with holly, ivy, cypress, bays, laurel, and misleto, and a bouncing
_Christmas_ log in the chimney, glowing like the cheeks of a country
milk-maid; there was the pewter as bright as _Clarinda_, and every bit
of brass as polished as the most refined gentleman; the servants were
then running here and there, with merry hearts and jolly countenances;
every one was busy in welcoming of guests, and look’d as snug as
new-lick’d puppies; the lasses were as blithe and buxom as the maids
in good Queen _Bess’s_ days, when they eat 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_.”
“In these times all the spits were sparkling, the _hackin_ (pudding)
must be boil’d by day-break, or else two young men took the maiden by
the arms, and run her round the market-place, till she was ashamed of
her laziness.” “This great festival was, in former times, kept with
so much freedom and openness of heart, that every one in the country
where a gentleman resided, possessed at least a day of pleasure in the
_Christmas_ holydays; the tables were all spread, from the first to the
last, with 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 stomacks and sharp knives, eat
heartily and were welcome, which gave rise to the proverb, _Merry in
the hall, where beards wag all_. There were then turnspits employed,
who, by the time dinner was over, would look as black and as greasy
as a Welsh porridge-pot, but the jacks have since turned them all out
of doors. The geese, who used to be fatted for the honest neighbours,
have been of late, sent to _London_, and the quills made into pens,
to convey away the landlord’s estate; the sheep are drove away, to
raise money to answer the loss at a game at dice or cards, and their
skins made into parchment for deeds and indentures; nay, even the poor
innocent bee, who was used to pay its tribute to the lord once a year
at least in good metheglin, for the entertainment of the guests, and
its wax converted into beneficial plaisters for sick neighbours, is now
used for the sealing of deeds to his disadvantage.” He adds, however,
“the spirit of hospitality has not quite forsaken us; several of the
gentry are gone down to their respective seats in the country, in order
to keep their _Christmas_ in the old way, and entertain their tenants
and tradesfolks as their ancestors used to do; and I wish them a merry
_Christmas_ accordingly.”

[Illustration: James Stephanoff, del. Ashbee & Dangerfield, lith.


He gives a ridiculous example of the influence of the squire in former
times; that if he asked a neighbour what it was o’clock, the answer
would be with a low scrape, “It is what your worship pleases.” Dr.
Arbuthnot, however, is reported to have given a similar answer to Queen
Anne, “Whatever time it pleases your majesty.”

Among the amusements mentioned are mumming or masquerading, when the
squire’s wardrobe was ransacked for dresses, and burnt corks were
in requisition; blind-man’s buff, puss in the corner, questions and
commands, hoop and hide, story-telling, and dancing. In some places it
seems to have been the custom to dance in the country churches, after
prayers, crying out, “Yole, yole, yole!” &c.

Previous to the time of Queen Anne, it had been the custom for the
officers of his court and for the suitors to present gifts to the
chancellor; the officers also exacting gifts from the suitors to
reimburse themselves. The chancery bar breakfasted with the chancellor
on the 1st of January, and gave him pecuniary New Year’s Gifts to gain
his good graces according to their means and liberality. The practice
also was common to the other courts; and the marshal of the King’s
Bench used to present the judges with a piece of plate, a gift which
Sir Matthew Hale wished to decline, but fearing he might injure his
successors, he received the value in money, and distributed it among
the poor prisoners. Sir Thomas More always returned the gifts, and
being presented on one occasion, by one Mrs. Goaker, with a pair of
gloves containing forty angels, he said to her, “Mistresse, since it
were against good manners to refuse your New-year’s gift, I am content
to take your gloves, but as for the _lining_ I utterly refuse it.” When
Lord Cowper, however, became lord keeper, in 1705, he determined to
abolish the practice, and mentioned the subject to Godolphin, the prime
minister, that he might not injure his patronage in the value of the
place, but he was desired, in effect, to act as he thought proper. He
incurred much obloquy at first from the other courts and public offices
where the practice likewise existed, but he persevered, and his example
was followed, though slowly, by them.

There is an old custom in the north of England, according to Brockett’s
‘North Country Glossary,’ that the first person who enters the house on
New Year’s Day is called First-Foot, who is considered to influence the
fate of the family, especially the female part, for the whole of the
year. Need we doubt that the fair damsels of the household take good
care that some favoured swain shall be this influential First-Foot,
hoping perhaps that ere the next season he may have a dwelling of his
own to receive such characters, instead of enacting it himself; of
course he comes provided with an acceptable New Year’s Gift.




THE masks and pageants at court appear to have been gradually abandoned
from the time of the Restoration, as before mentioned. They were
succeeded by grand feasts and entertainments, which also fell gradually
into disuse, and latterly even that relic, the Christmas tureen of
plum-porridge, served up at the royal chaplains’ table, was omitted,
and the crown-pieces under their plates for New Year’s Gifts soon
followed. The poet-laureat has long since been relieved from that
tax on his imagination, the New Year’s Ode; and the only remaining
ceremony is, I believe, the offering on Twelfth Day. George the First
and Second were in the habit of playing at hazard in public at the
groom-porter’s, where several of the nobility, and even some of the
princesses, staked considerable sums; but in the time of George the
Third the practice was abolished, and a handsome gratuity given to the
groom-porter by way of compensation.

It will be understood that the remarks as to the abatement in Christmas
festivities, apply more particularly to what may be considered as state
or public observances; for Christmas feasting and revelry were still
kept up throughout the last century in many parts, according as the
spirit of hospitality prevailed, accompanied, but too frequently, by
that excess for which those times have gained an unenviable celebrity,
and where the motto appears to have been—

    “Fill up the bowl, then, fill it high,
     Fill all the glasses then, for why
     Should every creature drink but I?
     Why, man of morals, tell me why?”

Hals, in that very scarce book, his ‘History of Cornwall,’ reprinted,
with some omissions, a few years since, by the late Davies Gilbert,
P.R.S., mentions the hospitality existing in that county in the
beginning of the eighteenth century, referring particularly to the
establishment of John Carminow, who kept open house for all comers and
goers, drinkers, minstrels, dancers, and what not, during the Christmas
time; his usual allowance of provisions for that season being twelve
fat bullocks, twenty Cornish bushels of wheat (about sixty of usual
measure), thirty-six sheep, with hogs, lambs, and fowls, of all sorts,
and drink made of wheat and oat malt proportionable; barley-malt being
then little known in those parts. Genuine hospitality was indeed to be
met with in most of the provinces; but still the general effect was
a falling off in the observance of Christmas. Garrick, in returning
thanks to his friend Bunbury (the caricaturist) for some Norfolk game,
at Christmas, says,—

    “Few presents now to friends are sent,
     Few hours in merry-making spent;
     Old-fashioned folks there are indeed,
     Whose hogs and pigs at Christmas bleed;
     Whose honest hearts no modes refine,
     They send their puddings and their chine.”

Even down to the present time—although the spirit has sadly abated,
and been modified, and is still abating under the influence of the
genius of the age, which requires work and not play—the festivities
are yet kept up in many parts in a genial feeling of kindness and
hospitality, not only in the dwellings of the humbler classes, who
encroach upon their hard-gained earnings for the exigencies of the
season, and of those of higher grade, where the luxuries mingle with
the comforts of life; but also in the mansions of the opulent, and in
the baronial hall, where still remain the better privileges of feudal
state; and especially in the palace of our sovereign, who wisely
considers the state of royalty not incompatible with the blessings of
domestic enjoyment, and has shown how the dignity of a reigning queen
is perfectly consistent with the exemplary performance of the duties of
a wife and mother.

And surely a cheerful observance of this festival is quite allowable
with the requirements for mental exertion of the present times; and
hospitality and innocent revelry may be used as safety valves for our
high pressure educational power,—

    “Kind hearts can make December blithe as May,
     And in each morrow find a New Year’s Day.”

In some parts the wassail-bowl may yet be found, though most commonly
in the guise of toast and ale, without the roasted apples.

In juvenile parties, snap-dragon, throwing its mysterious and
witch-like hue over the faces of the bystanders, is sometimes
yet permitted. Not Poins’s, who swallowed down candle-ends for
flap-dragons; but the veritable Malaga fruit, carolling away in the
frolicsome spirit, burning the fingers but rejoicing the palate of the
adventurous youth, and half frightened little maiden reveller. The
custom is old, but not quite so old as stated in the curious play of
‘Lingua;’ by the performance of one character, wherein—Tactus—Oliver
Cromwell is said to have had his first dream of ambition.

    “_Memory._ O, I remember this dish well; it was first
    invented by Pluto, to entertain Proserpina withal.

    _Phantastes._ I think not so, Memory; for when Hercules had
    kill’d the flaming dragon of Hesperia, with the apples of
    that orchard he made this fiery meat; in memory whereof he
    named it snapdragon.“

There is still a species of flapdragon in the west, among the
peasantry, by means of a cup of ale or cyder with a lighted candle
standing in it: the difficulty being for a man to drink the liquor,
without having his face singed, while his companions are singing some
doggrel verses about Tom Toddy.

The waits still remain, as we know from auricular experience, though
their performances are of a most heterodox nature, generally comprising
a polka or galope, with some of the latest opera airs, instead of the
genuine old carol tunes; and indeed the street carol singer himself
is almost extinct, and when met with, his stock is confined to three
or four different carols, with one tune, while the broadside carols
themselves are much limited, in variety, even to what they were a few
years back, my own collection, which is large, having been commenced
long since. Christmas-boxes still prevail; self-interest will endeavour
to keep these alive, and most housekeepers have a list of regular
applicants, besides a few speculators, who think it worth while to ask.
The principal wait claims his privilege, under a regular appointment,
by warrant and admission, with all the ancient forms of the city and
liberty of Westminster, having a silver badge and chain, with the arms
of that city. The constant dustmen, who have “no connection with the
scavengers,” in order to warn against base pretenders, leave printed
applications, sometimes of a classical nature, as, for instance,
requesting “you will not bestow your bounty on any persons who cannot
produce a medal, having on one side a bust of Julius Cæsar’s wife,
surrounded with the superscription, ‘_Pompeia, Jul. Cæs. Uxor._’”
One hardly sees the connection between “Julius Cæsar’s wife” and the
dustman’s Christmas-box, and it gives a curious sort of fame to be
so selected; and, by parity of reasoning, it may be assumed that the
dustmen of Rome would have carried round a medal with Nimrod’s wife.
These Christmas boxes, like New Year’s gifts, are probably of pagan
origin, but seem to differ, inasmuch as they are more commonly given to
dependents, while the latter are frequently reciprocal, and if given
by an inferior, as an offering to a superior, meet generally with some
return. Some have derived the Christmas box from the practice of the
monks to offer masses for the safety of all vessels that went long
voyages, in each of which a box, under the controul of the priest,
was kept for offerings; this was opened at Christmas, whence the name
arose: but this does not seem a probable derivation. Apprentices,
journeymen, and servants, even of the higher class, such as butlers
of the Inns of Court, had their boxes. John Taylor, the water poet,
without due reverence of the law, compared Westminster Hall to a
butler’s box, at Christmas, amongst gamesters; for whosoever loseth
the box will be sure to be a winner. Some of these were earthen boxes,
with a slit to receive money, and was broken after the collection
was made; similar boxes of wood may still be seen. Many entries may
be found in old accounts of payments made in the nature of Christmas
boxes, and the kings of France indeed used to give presents to their
soldiers at this time. In the countries where the disgraceful practice
of slavery yet remains, a young slave child would appear to be
considered as a desirable present, and advertisements to the following
effect may be occasionally seen, outraging the feelings, and showing
an utter indifference to the common ties of humanity. “To be sold, a
little mulatto, two years of age, very pretty, and well adapted for a
_festival present_.” It is to be presumed this “very pretty” child had
a mother. Poor creature! When will this abomination of man selling his
fellow-man cease on the earth? How would the slaveholders like to give
the blacks their turn? We may remember that about the time of Julius
Cæsar’s wife, we have lately mentioned, and long before America was
known, white slaves from Britain were imported into Rome, as valuable
articles for the sports of the amphitheatres. However, we must leave
slavery to the lash of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin;’ but in describing a
festival peculiarly commemorative of peace, good will, and freedom to
man, one could not help raising a voice, however feeble, against such
an evil.

In our younger days—addressing now of course those whose younger days
are past—the magic-lantern, even the common Dutch toy of the class,
and especially the ‘Galanti show,’ used to afford great amusement;
and when the phantasmagoria was introduced it seemed inexplicable.
The dissolving views, and the great advances made in exhibitions of
this class have placed the old lantern much in the back ground, and
even the old-fashioned conjuring tricks are now known to nearly every
school-boy, without taking into account the penetrating eyes of clever
little ladies fixed on you, to find you out.

[Illustration: James Stephanoff, del. Ashbee & Dangerfield, lith.


In recent times the Christmas tree has been introduced from the
continent, and is productive of much amusement to old and young, and
much taste can be displayed and expense also incurred in preparing
its glittering and attractive fruit. It is delightful to watch the
animated expectation and enjoyment of the children as the treasures are
displayed and distributed; the parents equally participating in the
pleasure, and enjoying the sports of their childhood over again. And
where can the weary world-worn man find greater relief from his anxious
toil and many cares, and haply his many sorrows, than in contemplating
the amusements of artless children, and assisting as far as he is
able; for it is not every one has tact for this purpose, and our young
friends soon detect this, and discover the right “Simon Pure.”

In the younger days of many of us the Christmas Pantomime was looked
forward to as a source of the highest gratification, and the promise
was in general realized; for who that ever saw _the_ Grimaldi can
ever forget the genuine pleasure afforded by his inimitable humour,
laughable simplicity, and irresistible fun? Surely he never could
belong to private or domestic life, but must have been always the
same—stealing tarts from his own baker, and legs of mutton from his
own butcher, and filling his pockets with his wife’s dresses and
bed-furniture. When, in after life, we were introduced to him, in
private, and found a quiet, respectable gentleman, in plain clothes,
and no red half-moon cheeks, talking as rationally as other people, we
could hardly believe but that we had been imposed upon. Peace to thy
memory, Grimaldi! for many a joyous hour hast thou given the young, and
of many a weary hour hast thou relieved the old.

It is not our province to argue here whether the modern pantomime is
derived from the ancient Greek, harlequin being Mercury; columbine,
Psyche; pantaloon, Charon; and the clown, Momus—still retaining, in
his painted face and wide mouth, the resemblance of the ancient masks.
It is more probable that they were introduced into Italy, as Sismondi
says, with other characters of the same class, in the sixteenth
century, by the wandering comedians of the time.

The harlequin and scaramouch in early times were, however, speaking
characters, and often celebrated wits. Constantini, Tiberio Fiurilli
(the inventor of the character of scaramouch), Cecchini, Sacchi, and
Nicholas Barbieri, were all highly patronised by royalty; and the
reputation of Domenic, who was occasionally admitted to the table of
Louis the Fourteenth, is well known. The harlequinade or pantomime, as
it is popularly called, was introduced here in 1717, by Mr. Rich, who
was a celebrated harlequin himself, and acted under the name of Lun.
This pantomime was called ‘Harlequin Executed,’ and was performed at
the theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Between 1717 and 1761, when he
retired, he composed several harlequinades, which were all successful.
The present handsome though somewhat bizarre dress of harlequin, is
said to have been introduced by Mr. Byrne, a celebrated performer,
who was never excelled in this character, at Christmas, 1799, in
‘Harlequin Amulet,’ and at the same time he introduced new steps and
leaps. Before this time the dress was a loose jacket and trousers, but
the party-coloured jacket, though of inferior quality, was worn by
merry-andrews at least a century before this time, and may have been
modified from the motley of the fool. The wand of harlequin would seem
to be somewhat akin to the dagger of lath of the old vice, but used for
a different purpose, and the cap is an article of mystery, as, when
placed on his head, he is rendered invisible to the other characters.

The pantaloon was taken from the Venetians, and his former dress, a
gown over a red waistcoat, was that of a Venetian citizen. Pulcinello,
or Punch, as I am informed by an Italian friend, of considerable
literary acquirements—the Chevalier Mortara—is derived from one
Paolo or Paol Cinello, who was an attendant or buffoon at an inn at
Acerras, about the year 1600, and so famous for his humour, that Silvio
Fiorillo, the comedian, persuaded him to join his troop, whence his
fame soon spread.

In some parts, particularly in the west and north of the kingdom,
the old Christmas play is still kept up, and a specimen is hereafter
given. The subject of these plays, which agree in general effect,
although varying in detail, is ‘St. George and the Dragon, with the
King of Egypt, and Fair Sabra, his daughter;’ usually accompanied by
‘Father Christmas and the Doctor,’ and sometimes by very incongruous
characters; as the great and exemplary man, whose loss the nation is
now lamenting, as that of the first character in its history, the Duke
of Wellington; and General Wolfe, who fights St. George, and then
sings a song about his own death, beginning—

    “Bold General Wolfe to his men did say,
     Come, come, ye lads, come follow me,
     To yonder mountain, which is so high;
     Ye lads of honour, all for your honour,
     Gain the victory or die.”

Occasionally burlesque characters are introduced, who have nothing to
do with the piece, as Hub-Bub, Old Squire, &c., and they generally
announce themselves, as one mentioned about 1760, by Jackson, in his
‘History of the Scottish Stage.’

    “My name it is Captain Calf-tail, Calf-tail,
       And on my back it is plain to be seen;
     Although I am simple and wear a fool’s-cap,
       I am dearly beloved of a queen.”

The buffoon of the piece used formerly to wear a calf-skin, “I’ll go
put on my devilish robes, I mean my Christmas calf’s-skin suit, and
then walk to the woods,” says Robin Goodfellow, in the time of James
the First. “I’ll put me on my great carnation nose, and wrap me in a
rousing calf-skin suit, and come like some hobgoblin.” The performers,
who are usually young persons in humble life, are attired, including
St. George and the Dragon, much in the same manner, having white
trousers and waistcoats, showing their shirt-sleeves, and decorated
with ribbons and handkerchiefs; each carrying a drawn sword or cudgel
in his hand: as one of the Somersetshire mummers says, “Here comes
I liddle man Jan wi’ my sword in my han!” They wear high caps of
pasteboard, covered with fancy paper, and ornamented with beads, small
pieces of looking-glass, bugles, &c., and generally have long strips
of pith hanging down from the top, with shreds of different coloured
cloth strung on them, the whole having a fanciful and smart effect.
The Turk sometimes has a turban; Father Christmas is represented as a
grotesque old man, with a large mask and comic wig, and a huge club in
his hand; the Doctor has a three-cornered hat, and painted face, with
some ludicrous dress, being the comic character of the piece; the lady
is generally in the dress of last century, when it can be got up; and
the hobby-horse, when introduced, which is rarely, has a representation
of a horse’s hide. Wellington and Wolfe, when they appear, are dressed
in any sort of uniform that can be procured for the nonce, and no
doubt will now be found as militia men of the county where the play is

These plays are of very remote origin, and founded probably on the old
mysteries before mentioned, the subject of St. George being introduced
at the time of the crusades. A play was performed before Henry the
Fifth at Windsor, in 1416, when the Emperor Sigismund was with him,
founded on the incidents of the life of St. George, and “his ridyng and
fighting with the dragon, with his speer in his hand.”

It is curious to observe how near, in many cases, the style of the
early drama approaches to the homeliness of our present country
Christmas plays; so that one may suppose that not only their structure
is derived from the ancient representations, but that even some of the
speeches have been carried down with some little modification. When St.
George struts in, saying, “Here am I, St. George,” he is but repeating
the introduction of characters sometimes used of old. Johnson, who
wrote the favourite romance of the ‘Seven Champions of Christendome,’
about the time of Elizabeth, took his subject from early metrical
romances, and particularly from the story of St. George and the fair
Sabra, in the old poetical legend of Sir Bevis of Hampton, which is
older than Chaucer.

The Cornish had their Guary or Miracle Play from a very early date, and
amphitheatres are still existing where they used to be performed.

The ‘Creation of the World,’ by William Jordan, of Helstone, in 1611,
has been published by the late Davies Gilbert, as also two other
Cornish mysteries, of much earlier date, ‘The Passion of our Lord,’
and the ‘Resurrection.’ Carew, in his ‘Survey of the County,’ gives
an amusing anecdote of the stupidity, feigned or real, of one of the
performers. It having come to his turn, the ordinary or manager, said
“Goe forthe, man, and shew thy selfe.” The actor stepped forward, and
gravely repeated, “Goe forthe man, and shew thy selfe.” The ordinary,
in dismay, whispered to him, “Oh, you marre all the play.” The actor,
with very emphatic gesture, repeated aloud, “Oh, you marre all the
play.” The prompter, then losing his patience, reviled the actor with
all the bitter terms he could think of, which the actor repeated with a
serious countenance, as if part of the play. The ordinary was at last
obliged to give over, the assembly having received a great deal more
sport than twenty such guaries could have afforded.

The play of ‘Alexander the Great,’ acted in the north, and printed at
Newcastle, in 1788, is very similar to the Cornish St. George; and
others, all showing from their likeness a common origin, may be found
in Scotland, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, Dorsetshire, and
other parts. In Yorkshire and Northumberland, and other places in
the north, they had the sword or rapier dance, where the performers
were dressed in frocks, or white shirts, with paper or pasteboard
helmets,—calling themselves Hector, Paris, Guy of Warwick, and
other great names, and performing many evolutions with their swords,
accompanied by a fiddler or doctor, and a character called Bessy.

Cards, dancing, and music, are still resorted to; but the brawl, the
pavan, the minuet, the gavot, the saraband, and even the country dance,
excepting in the exhilirating form of Sir Roger de Coverley, have given
place to the quadrille, the polka, and the galope; and if we look at
the figures of some of the old dances, our drawing-room coryphees will
not be sorry to be spared the task of learning them. Take the account
of the brawl in one of our old plays, which one of the characters says
she has forgotten: “Why! ’tis but two singles on the left, two on the
right, three doubles, a traverse of six round; do this twice, curranto
pace; a figure of eight, three singles broken down, come up, meet two
doubles, fall back, and then honour.” But if we have not gained much
in the exhibition of this accomplishment, it is amply made up in the
quality of our domestic musical acquirements, where, instead of a ditty
or lesson, or sonata, droned out on the virginals or harpsichord, our
ladies now treat us not only with the elegant compositions of the
talented Osborne, and other able modern writers, but with the classical
works of Beethoven, Mozart, and other masters of the noble science.
Many of our male amateurs also, both vocal and instrumental, have
acquired considerable skill; but as they in general are pretty well
aware of their own merits, it will not be necessary to remind them
here. Singing, however, is more particularly in quest at Christmas
time, but the old carol is rarely now to be met with, though several of
them possess much pleasing harmony. One of the great gratifications,
however, of these Christmas meetings, where they can take place, is
the re-union, even though for a short space, of relations and friends,
renewing, as it were, the bonds of love and friendship; casting off for
a time the cares of the world; joining, if not audibly, yet mentally,
in the praise of that Creator, who has given us so much “richly to
enjoy;” and, if it be His will that loved and familiar faces, one
by one, drop off, yet are we not left comfortless; for though they
cannot return to us, we, through faith in Him, whose Nativity we now
commemorate, shall join them, in that blessed region, where the cares
and trials of our weary pilgrimage here will be forgotten, as a dream
that is past; and hope shall be fulfilled, when “the desire cometh,”
that “is a tree of life.”

Our pagan ancestors observed their sacred festival at this season,
in honour of their unknown gods, and of a mystic mythology, founded
on the attributes of the Deity; but corrupted in the course of ages
into a mass of fables and idolatry: but we keep it in commemoration of
Him, who, as at this time, mercifully revealed Himself to us; who is
omniscient and omnipresent, and of whom my lamented and learned friend,
Dr. Macculloch, has emphatically said, referring to the true Christian,
“Not an object will occur to him, in which he will not see the hand of
God, and feel that he is under the eye of God; and if he but turn to
contemplate the vacancy of the chamber around him, it is to feel that
he is in the presence of his Maker; surrounded, even to contact, by Him
who fills all space. Feeling this, can he dare to be evil?”



THE subjects of the offerings at the Epiphany, with the accompanying
legend of the Three Kings or Magi, and that of carol singing, require
so much space that it has been thought preferable to devote particular
chapters to them, rather than interrupt the narrative of Christmas

The offerings on the day of the Epiphany were in remembrance of the
Manifestation of our Saviour to the Gentiles, and of the gifts made to
Him by the Magi, or Wise Men of the East; when “the kings of Tarshish
and of the isles brought presents; the kings of Sheba and Saba offered
gifts,” or, as the ‘Bee Hive,’ of the Romish Church, states it, “Kings
came out of the Moor’s land to worship Christ.”

The king of the bean was the forerunner of our Twelfth-Day King; in the
Saturnalia a king was elected, and as some say by beans, by way of lot,
and he was invested with full power over the guests, and from him the
lord of Misrule, under his various names, may take his origin; but the
king of the bean and Twelfth-Day king were strictly confined to Twelfth
Day, and ephemeral in their rule.

At the time of our Saviour’s birth, there was an expectation of his
appearance among many of the heathen nations; it is said even that the
initiated in the religious mysteries of the Persians, possessed as a
secret handed down from the time of Zoroaster, that a divine prophet
should be born of a virgin, whose birth should be proclaimed by the
appearance of a bright star. The celebrated prophecy of Balaam, also
made an impression on the surrounding nations; “I shall see him, but
not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh; there shall come a star out
of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the
corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.” When the star
eventually appeared, the Magi, or Three Kings, as they are commonly
called, eagerly followed it to the cradle of our Saviour to pay their

    “See how from far upon the eastern road,
     The star-led wizards haste with odours sweet.”

According to old legends, which are always fond of embellishment,
this star was an eagle flying and beating the air with his wings, and
had within it the form and likeness of a young child, and above him
the sign of a cross. D’Israeli mentions some rays of this star, in a
collection of relics.

There are numerous histories of the magi or kings themselves, all
agreeing as to their number having been three, but some of them
differing entirely in name. We may, however, consider Melchior, Jasper,
and Balthasar, to be the genuine ones, and certainly more euphonious
than Galagalath, Magalath, and Tharath; but even the legends that
agree in the names, differ in the description of their persons, or in
the appropriation of the presents given by them; but as Bede, in the
seventh century, was the first writer in this country who has given
a description of them, which he, no doubt, took from some earlier
account, we may adopt, in the main, his history. According to this,
Melchior was old, with gray hair and long beard, and offered gold to
our Saviour in acknowledgment of his sovereignty; Jasper was young,
without any beard, and offered frankincense in recognition of the
divinity; and Balthasar was of a dark complexion, as a Moor, with a
large spreading beard, and offered myrrh to our Saviour’s humanity; or
as one of my family, Sandys the traveller, translates the description
from ‘Festa Anglo-Romana,’—

    “Three kings the King of kings three gifts did bring,
     Myrrh, incense, gold, as to man, God, a king.
     Three holy gifts be likewise given by thee
     To Christ, even such as acceptable be
     For myrrha tears; for frankincense impart
     Submissive prayers; for pure gold a pure heart.”

Many of the ancient ecclesiastical writers endeavoured to find out
mystical meanings in every sacred subject, in which, however, they
have followers in the present day; so that the variety in appearance
of the Three Kings may be supposed to have some reference to the three
races of man, where, according to the Armenian tradition, Shem had
the region of the tawny, Japhet that of the ruddy, and Ham that of the

The early heralds, who considered that none could be ennobled, or good,
or great, without the aid of their science, little anticipating that,
in after times, any one might have “arms found” for him, with crest
and motto, according to order and price, and having some vague notions
of the early origin of the same, emblazoned coats of arms for all the
great characters in the Bible, commencing with Adam—giving one even
to our Saviour. It may, therefore, be readily supposed that the Three
Kings had theirs. Their journey lasted twelve days, during which they
required no refreshment, it seeming to them as one day. After they had
presented their gifts, the Virgin Mary gave them in return one of our
Saviour’s swaddling clothes, which they took as a most noble gift. In
after days they were baptised by St. Thomas, and some time subsequent
to their deaths, their bodies were taken by the Empress Helena, in
the fourth century, to Constantinople; from thence they were moved to
Milan; and when this city was taken by the Emperor Frederick, in 1164,
he gave these relics to Reinaldus, Archbishop of Cologne, whence they
are commonly called the Three Kings of Cologne. There is some story
of Louis the Eleventh having moved some of the bones from Cologne,
as they were considered to be of sovereign virtue in royal ailments.
Their names even were thought of great efficacy in falling-sickness
and madness, if written on parchment, and hung about the patient’s
neck, with the sign of the cross; and, as it is to be presumed in all
these cases, with a good deal of faith. Another charm is rather more
extensive in its benefits:—

          “Sancti Tres Reges
      Gaspar, Melchior, Belthazar,
    Orate pro nobis, nunc et en hora
            Mortis nostræ.

    “Ces billets ont touché aux trois têtes de S.S. Rois à

    Ils sont pour des voyageurs, contre les malheurs de chemins,
    maux de tête, mal caduque, fièvres, sorcellerie, toute sorte
    de malefice, et mort subite.“

It was found in the purse of Jackson, a celebrated smuggler, convicted
of murder, in 1749, but did not prove efficacious with him, as he died,
struck with horror, just after being measured for his irons. Another
charm is to write their names in virgin wax, with a cross against each,
and place it under the head of one who has had any thing stolen from
him, and he will dream of what has become of the stolen article. If he
does not remember his dream, it must be his own fault, of course. The
names of the Three Kings, together with those of the four shepherds,
who went to our Lord in Bethlehem—Misael, Achael, Cyrianus, and
Stephanus—(in the Chester mysteries they have the more humble names of
Harvey, Tudd, and Hancken), form a charm against the bite of serpents,
and other venomous reptiles and beasts. One John Aprilius, when he
was hung, having implored their assistance, was more successful than
Jackson; for, after having been suspended for three days, he was found
to be alive, and being taken down, he went to Cologne, half naked,
with the halter about his neck, to return thanks, and, probably, to
request that next time he might be taken down a little sooner. One
Roprecht, a robber, was hung for certain crimes against society, but
his body disappeared from the gibbet, whether by the intervention of
the Three Kings or not, was unknown. In a short time, however, it was
found hanging again, with the addition of a pair of boots and spurs.
As he was now really dead, and could tell no tales, this freak of his
absconding for a short time, for the purpose, apparently, of being hung
over again in boots and spurs, could not be explained by the people;
but the fact was, that some passer-by had, in the first instance, found
him still living, and compassionately maintained him for some time;
but, like the warmed viper, he returned to his old knavish practices,
and stole his benefactor’s horse, when, being pursued and taken, he
was, after some trouble, replaced in his old noose, and left to his

According to Picart, the Feast of the Epiphany was established in the
fourth century, though Brady says it was first made a separate feast
in 813. It became, however, one of the most popular of the Christmas
festivals, and some of the most splendid entertainments were given
on this day; and in our times it is probably the most popular day
throughout the Christmas, thanks to the Twelfth Cake, and drawing for
characters, with other amusements. It was a very early custom to choose
a Twelfth day king, or king of the bean, as he was formerly called;
and this was originally a case of election, although afterwards, as at
present, taken by lot; but, at the same time, the practice of election
was also continued, even to recent times; the French court choosing one
of the courtiers for king, who was then waited on by the other nobles,
as late as the time of the revolution, when, amongst other vagaries,
the ruling citizens, for the time being, changed “La fête de Rois,” to
“La fête de Sans-culottes.” The students and citizens in the various
cities and universities in Germany, also, used to choose one of their
companions for king; and this practice would appear preferable to our
practice of drawing for characters, and would probably ensure the
election of the person best calculated to promote the wit and enjoyment
of the evening, instead of taking the chance of the least adapted, or
who may be called the “slowest” of the party drawing the lucky card.
Even now, however, occasionally an election is made, and the fortunate
elect then chooses his court for the evening.

In the last century, the Twelfth Night cards represented ministers,
maids of honour, and other attendants of a court, and the characters
were to be supported throughout the night. At present they are in
general grotesque, and seldom possess much wit or humour. Many early
notices may be met with of the antiquity of the custom. In “Les
Crieries de Paris,” of the thirteenth century, the “Gastel à fève
orroiz” is mentioned, which is described as a cake, with a bean for
the “Fête de Rois,” and we shall find a present given to the court
minstrels on the Epiphany, in the name of the king of the bean, in the
time of Edward the Third. Down to the time of the civil wars, the feast
was observed with great splendour, not only at court, but at the Inns
of Court, and the universities (where it was an old custom to choose
the king by the bean in a cake), and in private mansions and houses.

The lord mayor and aldermen, and the crafts of London also, used to go
to St. Paul’s on Twelfth Day, to hear a sermon, which is mentioned as
an old custom, in the early part of Elizabeth’s reign.

The usual course, of choosing by the bean, was to insert it in the
cake, though sometimes a piece of money was put in instead. The cake
was then cut up, and the person to whom the piece with the bean fell
was the king for the evening. Sometimes pieces were allotted to our
Saviour, and the Virgin Mary, and the Three Kings, which were given
to the poor; and if the bean should be in either of these portions,
the king was chosen by pulling straws. Baby-cake, in the mask of
‘Christmas,’ was attended by an usher, bearing a great cake, with a
bean and pea. The king elect chose his queen, or occasionally a pea was
inserted in the cake for the purpose, and they chose their officers;
and in France, when either of them drank, the company were to cry out,
on pain of forfeit, “Le Roi (ou la Reine) boit.”

Louis the Fourteenth, on one occasion, in his youth, was king of the
bean, but would not undertake the office, handing it over to his
governor, De Souvre.

Herrick, in the seventeenth century, refers to the practice of choosing
by the bean and pea:—

      “Now, now the mirth comes,
       With the cake full of plums,
    Where beane’s the king of the sport here;
       Beside we must know,
       The pea also
    Must revell as queene in the court here.

       Begin then to chuse,
       This night as ye use,
    Who shall for the present delight here;
       Be a king by the lot,
       And who shall not
    Be Twelfth-Day queene for the night heere.“

The French twelfth-cake is still plain in appearance, containing a
bean: it was composed, about 250 years since, of flour, honey, ginger
and pepper; what it is made of now, Monsieur Verey can no doubt tell,
if he will; they are however far exceeded in appearance by the rich
frosted, almond-pasted, festooned, bedizened, and carefully-ornamented
cakes of the English pattern, gladdening the eyes of joyful holiday
young people, and through them the hearts of their parents. The eager
grouping of passers-by, to see the shop-windows crowded with these
elegant productions of confectionary science, causes stoppages in
our highways and thoroughfares, with reiterated “Move-ons” from our
policemen. About twenty-five years ago there was one exhibited, said
to weigh one ton, but it might have weighed any given number, being
simply several large wedges of cake, all plastered together, at the
top and sides, with one uniform coat of sugar-frost. Speaking from
memory, and with a taste somewhat blunted to these enjoyments, the
flavour was somewhat below the average, and curiosity was rewarded by
ascertaining—to use a bad pun, which it is hoped may be excused—that
it really was [Greek: mega hkakon] (mega cakon).

The adoration of the Magi was a favourite subject in the early
mysteries. The celebrated Marguerite de Valois, Queen of Navarre, wrote
one on it as well as on the Nativity, the Massacre of the Innocents,
and the Flight into Egypt, which were all published in 1547, in the
collection of her works, called ‘Marguerites de la Marguerite des
princesses, très-illustre Reyne de Navarre.’

There are said indeed to have been representations in the French
churches of the Three Magi as early as the fifth century; and there are
French mysteries relating to them in the eleventh century, and also a
Latin one mentioned by Lebeuf, wherein Virgil accompanies the kings on
their journey; and at the end of the Adoration joins them very piously
in the benedicamus.

The first feast of the Three Kings was celebrated at Milan in 1336, by
the friar preachers, and was called the Feast of the Star. A golden
star was exhibited, as if in the sky, preceding them; the Three Kings
appeared on horseback, crowned and richly clad, with a large retinue,
and bearing golden cups filled with myrrh, frankincense, and gold.
They asked Herod where Christ should be born, and having been answered
in Bethlehem, proceeded to the church of St. Eustorgius, preceded by
trumpets, horns, apes, baboons, &c. In the church, on one side of the
altar, was the representation of a manger, with an ox and an ass; and
the infant Saviour in the arms of his mother, to whom the kings then
made their offerings. It forms a favourite subject in our early English
Mysteries, which were suppressed early in the time of James the First;
but it was introduced as a puppet-show at Bartholomew fair as late as
the time of Queen Anne. In ‘Dives and Pauper,’ 1496, it is stated, “For
to represente in playnge at Crystmasse Herodes and the Thre Kynges and
other processes of the gospelles both than and at Ester, and other
times also, it is lefull and com̄endable.”

Several provincial French collections of Carols, published within
these few years, contain a Mystery or Scripture play of the Adoration.
The Feast of the Star, just mentioned, was retained to some extent in
Germany up to the end of the last century; and Hoffman, in his ‘Horæ
Belgicæ,’ contains the Star-song used on the occasion, as old perhaps
as the fifteenth century, of which a nearly literal translation is
given hereafter. The history of these kings was a favourite subject for
tapestry and illuminations for books, of which numerous examples might
be given; also for paintings on church and monastic walls, as Barclay,
in his Egloges, says,

       “. . the Thre Kinges, with all their company,
    Their crownes glistning bright and oriently,
    With their presentes and giftes misticall.
    All this behelde I in picture on the wall.”

The offerings by our sovereigns of gold, frankincense, and myrrh,
continued down to the present time, is referred to elsewhere in this
work. Melchior was said to have presented a golden apple, formerly
belonging to Alexander the Great,—made from the tribute of the
world—and thirty pieces of gold.

The history of these pieces of gold is curious, showing how ingeniously
these legends were dovetailed together. They were first coined by
Terah, the father of Abraham, and taken by the latter, when he left the
land of the Chaldees. They were by him paid away to Ephron as part of
the purchase money for the field and cave of Machpelah. The Ismaelites
then, according to one account, paid them back as the price of Joseph
to his brethren; and as, according to our version of the Scriptures,
the price of Joseph was but twenty pieces, we may imagine the remainder
were given for some other purpose; though Adam Davie, who wrote in
1312, referring to this event, says—“Ffor thritti pens thei sold that
childe.” The money was afterwards paid to Joseph by his brethren during
the time of scarcity; and on the death of Jacob, his son paid them to
the royal treasury of Sheba for spices to embalm him. The celebrated
Queen of Sheba, on her visit to Solomon, presented them to him with
many other gifts. In the time of his son Rehoboam, when the King of
Egypt spoiled the temple, the King of Arabia, who accompanied him,
received these pieces of money in his share of the plunder, and in his
kingdom they remained until the time of Melchior, who presented them
to our Saviour. On the flight into Egypt, the holy family were closely
pursued by Herod’s soldiers, and coming to a field where a man was
sowing asked the way: when they had passed on, the corn miraculously
sprang up; just afterwards Herod’s soldiers arrived and inquired of the
sower if he had seen our Saviour and his parents, but he told them that
no one had passed since his corn was sown, on which the soldiers turned
back and gave up the pursuit.

This legend is mentioned in the carol of the Carnal and the Crane. In
the hurry of the flight the Virgin Mary dropped these pieces of money
and the other gifts. They were found by a shepherd, who kept them by
him, and in after years, being afflicted by some disease incurable by
mortal aid, applied to our Saviour, who healed him, and he then offered
these gifts at the high altar. They were subsequently paid to Judas by
the priests as the reward of his perfidy. There are two reasons given
for his requiring thirty pieces of money: one that he considered he had
lost thirty pieces by the box of precious ointment not having been sold
for 300 pence, of which he would have purloined the tenth part; and the
other, that having been sent by our Saviour, on Holy Thursday, with
this amount of money, to provide for the last supper, he fell asleep in
the way and was robbed. In the midst of his distress the rich _Jew_,
Pilate, met him, and he then agreed to betray his master for the amount
he had lost.

In one of our ancient chronicles there is a legend of the life of
Judas, before he became an apostle, very similar, in many respects,
to the well-known history of Œdipus, which need not be repeated here.
When, smitten by remorse, he returned the money to the priests, and
destroyed himself: they applied half in purchase of the potter’s
field, and with the other half bribed the soldiers who guarded the
sepulchre to say that the disciples came by night and stole the body
of our Saviour. After this, having performed their mission, they were
dispersed, and all traces of them lost. They were made of the purest
gold, the term pieces of silver used in some parts of our translation
with reference to them, being, according to the history, merely a
common or generic name for money, like _argent_ in French; on one
side was a king’s head crowned, and on the other some unintelligible
Chaldaic characters, and they were said to have been worth three
florins each.

There are many old manuscript histories of these kings in existence,
at the Museum and elsewhere, one of which resolves the whole story
into alchemy; and early printed histories, as by Güldenschaiff, in
1477, and Wynkyn de Worde, in the beginning of the sixteenth century.
Some account of particularly splendid feasts on Twelfth Day have been
mentioned in the foregoing pages.

Their names were occasionally used as a term of adjuration, which, in
former times, whatever may be case now, was a mark of respect. Diccon,
in that quaint production ‘Gammer Gurton’s Needle,’ of which the plot
and catastrophe would rather astonish a modern audience, says to Dame

    “There I will have you swear by oure dere lady of Bullaine,
     Saint Dunstone and Saint Donnyke, with the Three Kings of Kullain,
     That ye shall keep it secret.”

I will now conclude this chapter with the ‘Star Song,’ before referred

    “We come walking with our staves
         Wreathed with laurel,
     We seek the Lord Jesus, and would wish
         To put laurel on his knees;
       Are the children of Charles the King,
       Pater bonne Franselyn, Jeremie.

    We did come before Herod’s door, &c.
    Herod, the king, came himself before, &c.

    Herod then spake with a false man’s heart, &c.
    Why is the youngest of three so swart? &c.

    Altho’ he is swart, he is well be known, &c.
    In orient land he has a throne, &c.

    We all came over the lofty hill, &c.
    And there saw we the Star stand still, &c.

    Oh, Star! you must not stand still so, &c.
    But must with us to Bethlehem go, &c.

    To Bethlehem, the lovely town, &c.
    Where Mary and her child sit down, &c.

    How small the child, and how great the good, &c.
    A blessed New Year that gives us God, &c.




THE term carol, appears originally to have signified a song, joined
with a dance, a union frequently found in early religious ceremonies;
and it is used in this sense by Chaucer, Boccacio, Spenser, and others.
By some it has been derived from _cantare_, to sing, and _rola_, an
interjection of joy. It was, however, applied to joyous singing,
and thus to festive songs; and as these became more frequent at
Christmas, it has for a long time past, though not exclusively yet more
particularly, designated those sung at this feast. But strictly, it
should be applied only to those of a cheerful character, and not to the
Christmas hymn, which is of a more solemn cast; many of them, indeed,
being more suitable for Passion Week than for Christmas; and a large
and appropriate collection might be readily selected for that season,
and an interesting work made to illustrate them. In practice, however,
the word carol is applied indiscriminately to both classes, whether
cheerful or solemn.

In the earlier times, music, both instrumental and vocal, was
introduced into religious ceremonies, and was a necessary accompaniment
to all the sacred feasts and games. Jubal’s harp or organ, whatever
that instrument may have been, was doubtless, like the harp of David,
used on such occasions, and the science of music was a necessary
part of the education of many of the priesthood. In the records and
sculptures of the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and other great
nations of antiquity, and in the recent discoveries at ancient Nineveh,
we find descriptions and representations connected with it.

The Hebrews, as we know, had numerous psalms and hymns, one of the
earliest on record being that of Miriam and her companions, on the
overthrow of the Egyptians, when they celebrated the downfall of the
horse and his rider, with timbrels and with dances. The Druids had
recourse to music, and the Anglo-Saxons and Gothic nations made great
use of hymns in their public worship. Some early specimens of the
primitive music have been handed down to us, but do not impress us with
much respect for the powers of harmony of our forefathers, and their
neumes, and other obscure and imperfect methods of notation, must have
cramped them. Certain of the old chants have a pleasing solemnity,
and it has of late been much the custom to revive or to imitate them,
commencing even with the old Ambrosian chant; though, as our ancestors
considered the introduction of the Gregorian chant to have been a
great improvement on it, we may very safely be of the same opinion,
as this is really fine, and we need not here trouble ourselves with
the Lydian, Phrygian, or Dorian modes. With respect to the merits of
ancient music, our taste and skill have been so gradually improving,
that we can scarcely be judges of what—though flat, insipid, and
meaningless to us—might have given much gratification to the less
educated ears of former times. Even within the last few years, a
great advance has been made in our own musical knowledge: pieces and
composers, popular in the early part of this century, are now scarcely
known; and recollected, perhaps (if at all), with amazement at their
having ever been listened to; while works of the great masters, then
thought impracticable, and containing difficulties not understood, or
considered insuperable, are played and appreciated in most good musical
meetings. More might be said on this subject, but want of space, and
not of materials, compels a postponement, till some future opportunity.
It may be mentioned, that much curious information, respecting our
ancient national airs, with the tunes themselves, will be found in
the very interesting work on the subject, by my friend, Mr. William
Chappell, who, it is to be hoped, will, at no distant time, increase
our obligation to him, by further publication from the large store in
his possession, still unedited. Many of these airs are very pleasing,
yet simple in construction, and still remain popular after the lapse of
centuries; they are, however, much more recent than the ancient music
before referred to.

The Romans had their hymns on the calends of January, and the practice
was adopted by the early Christians, especially on their Sabbath-days
and festivals, and on the vigils of their saints. St. Paul and St.
James both refer to this custom, and Pliny the younger, in a letter
to Trajan, mentioning the Christians, says, “They were wont to meet
together on a certain day, before it was light, and sing among
themselves, alternately, a hymn to Christ, as to God.” Bishop Taylor
observes, that the well-known “Gloria in Excelsis,” sung by the angels
to the shepherds, on the night of the Nativity, is the earliest
Christmas carol. We have many carols now existing, that are founded
on the appearance of the angels to the shepherds; and the subject is
represented in several of the ancient mysteries, and occasionally in a
very familiar and homely manner.

In the Chester mysteries, for instance, the three shepherds, with
their man Trowle, who is the buffoon of the piece (though the greater
part of the play of the shepherds is of a humorous nature, comprising
the homely dialogue of rustic labourers), having eaten their supper
of sheep’s head, soused in ale, with onions, garlic, and leeks, and
other viands of like quality, and plenty of ale, are having a bout at
wrestling, where Trowle throws his masters. In the midst of their sport
the star appears, and afterwards the angels’ song is heard. They then
proceed reverently, though “rude in speech,” to Bethlehem, and make
their offerings; the first shepherd, addressing our Saviour,—

    “Heale, Kinge of heaven, so hie,
     Borne in a crebe,
     Mankinde unto Thee
     Thou haste made fullye.
     Heale, kinge! borne in a mayden’s bower,
     Profittes did tell thou shouldest be our succore,
     Thus clarkes doth saye.
     Lor, I bringe thee a bell;
     I praie Thee save me from hell,
     So that I may with Thee dwell,
     And serve thee for aye.”

The second Shepherd presents a flagon with a spoon, and the third a
cap, but finishes his speech with some degree of pathos.

    “This gueifte, Sonne, I bringe Thee is but small,
     And though I come the hyndmoste of all,
     When Thou shall them to Thy blesse call,
     Good Lorde, yet thinke on me.”

Well may we say, seeing how small our gifts are, “Good Lord, yet think
on me.”

In the second century, Telesphorus refers to the Christians celebrating
public worship, on the night of the Nativity, and then solemnly singing
the angels’ hymn, because in the same night, Christ was declared to
the Shepherds by an angel; and in the early times of Christianity
the bishops were accustomed to sing hymns on Christmas Day among
their clergy. Aurelius Prudentius, towards the end of the fourth
century, wrote a divine hymn or carol in Latin, which is still extant;
but, besides that it consists of twenty-nine stanzas, it is not of
sufficient general interest to be printed here.

The Bretons were very similar in manners and language to the
inhabitants of Britain, many of them having had the same origin, and
being, in fact, a colony from our island. The Cornouaille of Bretagne,
however, must not be confounded with our province of that name by the
well-wishers of the latter, because the romance writers do not speak
in such terms of some of their knights as their friends might have

There is a Breton song, said to be as old as the fifth century,
arranged as a dialogue between a Druid and a scholar, which is similar
in idea and construction to the carol beginning, “In those twelve
days,” and to that called ‘Man’s Duty,’ though the twelve subjects
given are quite different from those in the carols, and refer to some
druidical superstitions. It is called ‘Ar Rannou,’ or ‘Les Series,’ and
is in the “dialecte de Cornouaille.” The early missionaries engrafted
on this a poem or song of the same construction, where the twelve
subjects were connected with the Christian religion, and agree much
with those in the carols, which there is fair reason to suppose may
have been taken from this early poem. These subjects are,—one God;
two Testaments; three Patriarchs; four Evangelists; five books of
Moses; six water-vessels at Cana of Galilee; seven Sacraments; eight
Beatitudes; nine degrees of Angels; ten Commandments; eleven stars
that appeared to Joseph; twelve Apostles. The hymn itself is in Latin,
and at the end of each verse all the previous subjects are repeated in
the style of the ‘House that Jack built,’ an example to which I refer
simply from its being so well known, the style itself being of great
antiquity, and taken originally from an old Hebrew hymn, of which some
particulars, with a translation, may be found in Halliwell’s ‘Nursery
Rhymes of England;’ but the butcher, the ox, the dog, and the cat, with
the other characters mentioned there, have all a mystical meaning. The
last verse of the old Latin hymn may be given as a specimen:—

    “....Die mihi quid duodecim?
     ....Duodecim Apostoli;
     Undeim stellæ
     A Josepho visæ:
     Decem mandate Dei,
     Novem angelorum chori,
     Octo beatitudines;
     Septem sacramenta;
     Sex hydriæ positæ
     In Cana Galileæ;
     Quinque libri Moysis,
     Quatuor Evangelistæ,
     Tres Patriarchæ,
     Duo testamenta;
     Unus est Deus,
     Qui regnat in Cœlis.”

In the fourth century, St. Ambrose introduced the chant known by his
name, at Milan, of which he was the bishop, and some reformation took
place in church music; and when the Gregorian chant was composed,
about two centuries later, a still greater advance was made. The
Anglo-Saxons, after their conversion, preserved their fondness for
religious music, it being a common practice in their guilds that
each member should sing two psalms daily, one for the dead, and the
other for the living members. Particular hymns were appropriated to
particular feasts; the Nativity, therefore, especially had its own.
When the Anglo-Normans obtained the government, they equally encouraged
music, and introduced greater pomp into their ceremonies.

In the twelfth century, or sooner, the monks composed legends in verse,
of the lives of the saints, &c., for the proper holidays; and religious
pieces suited to the time, with appropriate hymns, were recited at
Christmas; some Latin hymns of this description of the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries, being still extant.

King John, in 1201, gave 25_s._ to the clerks who chanted “Christus
vincit” before him on Christmas Day; and these spiritual songs were
gradually introduced into the palace, and private houses, together with
others for the same purpose, of a lighter description, which were found
acceptable, and thus the carol had its origin.

The theatrical exhibitions at this season, of which the subjects were
originally taken from the Holy Scriptures, as they gradually ripened
into maturity, also occasionally had songs incidental to them. The
angels’ song to the Shepherds, in the Towneley mysteries, may be taken
as a carol.

    “Herkyn, hyrdes, awake, gyf lovyng ye shalle,
     He is borne for youre sake, Lorde perpetualle;
     He is comen to take and rawnson you alle,
     Youre sorowe to slake, Kyng imperialle,
                                 He behestys;

     That chyld is borne
     At Bethlehem this morne,
     Ye shalle fynde Hym beforne
                                 Betwix two bestys.“

In the Coventry pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, towards the
beginning of the fifteenth century, there are three songs which are
in the nature of carols. One, by the women, is a lullaby song, on our
infant Saviour, beginning, “Lully lulla, thou littell tine’ child,”
and referring to Herod’s wrath. One by the Shepherds is short, and may
serve as an example.

    “As I out rode this endenes (last) night,
     Of thre ioli sheppardes I saw a sight,
     And all a bowte there fold a star shone bright,
     They sange terli terlow,
     So mereli the sheppards ther pipes can blow.”

In the same pageant one of the prophets says—

    “Novellis, novellis of wondrfull mrvellys,
     Were ’hy and defuce vnto the heryng,
     Asse scripture tellis these strange novellis to you I bryng.”

One of the earliest known carols, however, in our island, is the
Anglo-Norman one, of the thirteenth century, first printed in Douce’s
‘Illustrations of Shakespeare,’ with a free translation, which is not
only of a cheerful, but of a festive nature, giving the

    “....host’s command,
     And Christmas joins him hand in hand,
       To drain the brimming bowl.”

It is in effect a Christmas drinking song.

Edward the Fourth had regulations for the singing of songs before him
at Christmas, by the clerks and children of his chapel, and the custom
of singing songs had now become general. In some of the early ones,
scraps of Latin were introduced, probably from the Christmas hymns,
which they were intended in a great measure to supersede; as, for
example, from additional MS., 5665, British Museum, about the time of
Henry the Eighth, which contains several others.

    “Now make us ioye in this feste,
     In quo xpûs natus est,
     A patre unigenitus,
     iij zong maydens cam till us,
     Syng we to hym and say well come,
     Veni Redemptor gentium.

     Agnoscat omne seculum,
     A bryzth sterre iij kyngs made come,
     A solis ortus cardine,
     So myzthi a lord ys non as he,
       Veni Redemptur omniu gentium.“

Others, again, were in a simple, familiar style, adapted to the
hearths of our unsophisticated ancestors; a style, by the by, we
may soon expect to see again, if the taste for mediævalism and
præ-Raphaelism extends much more, and we shall have a modern ode to
parliament, beginning—

    “Sit you merry gentlemen,
       Let nothing you dismay.”

In the fifteenth century, the Low Countries had their carols, similar
to the English; in some cases, even the subjects being the same, and
equally adapted to the simplicity of their hearers. Several examples of
these are given by Hoffman, in the second part of his Horæe Belgicæe;
and I must here express my thanks to Mr. Thoms, who will, _no doubt_,
convey them safely to the editor of that very useful publication,
‘Notes and Queries,’ for the kind loan of this book.

There is a story on record, of a terrible plague at Goldsberg, in 1553,
which carried off above 2500 persons, leaving not more than twenty-five
housekeepers alive in the place. The plague having abated, one of the
few survivors went, on Christmas Eve, to the lower ring, and sang a
carol, according to old custom; he was gradually joined by others, to
excite each other to thanksgiving; and thence arose a custom for the
people to assemble in large numbers, at the upper and lower ring, on
Christmas morning, to sing carols, beginning with, “Unto us this day a
child is born.”

In the time of Henry the Seventh, after the introduction of the
wassail, a good song, that is, no doubt, a carol, was to be given
in answer to the steward’s cry of wassail, by those belonging to
the chapel; and when the king held his state on other occasions, at
Christmas, the carol was introduced. The reward given to the children
of the chapel, for singing “Gloria in excelsis,” appears to have been
usually 40_s._; and, in the seventh year of his reign, there is a
payment of £1 to Newark, for making of a song, probably a carol. In the
‘Northumberland Household Book,’ the reward to the singers varies from
6_s._ 8_d._ to 20_s._ On Christmas Day, 1521, the Princess Mary gave
10_s._ to John Sentone, and other clerks, of the college of Windsor,
singing before her. William Cornyshe, a musician of those days, was
paid 13_s._ 4_d._ for setting a carol; but scanty reward, even if he
was only arranging any well-known tune; but the price of a collection
was low in proportion, for at St. Mary-at-Hill, in 1537, Sir Mark had
only 3_s._ 4_d._ for ‘Carolls for Christmas,’ being five square books.
One would gladly multiply this small fee by a good round figure, to get
hold of these five square books now.

Few of the oldest song tunes had much melody, and there are probably
none extant beyond the fifteenth century; but here I must again refer
to Mr. Chappell’s valuable collection of English airs.

Church music was cultivated in the sixteenth century, by clergy and
laity, and secular music was also in request. The pious puritans, both
in England and Scotland, used to unite their rhapsodies to popular song
tunes (as has been done in modern times), frequently preserving a few
lines at the commencement. Luther himself composed some appropriate
hymns of thanksgiving for Christmas.

There are some collections of old carols and songs, with the music,
of the early part of the sixteenth century, or somewhat earlier, in
the British Museum, but not of a popular description, or of interest,
except to the musical antiquary; and some of the old psalm tunes,
as the Bristol, Salisbury, and Kenchester, have a similarity to the
graver style of old carol tunes. Tusser, who prescribes jolly carols
for Christmas, mentions one to be sung to the tune of King Solomon.
Several of the existing carol tunes are very pleasing, and are of
considerable antiquity; one or two of them, according to repute, having
been known in Cornwall for three hundred years and upwards; and some of
the northern tunes are, probably, equally old, though the age may be a
little overstated. The natives of Cornwall have been famous for their
carols from an early date. Scawen says, they had them at several times,
especially at Christmas, which they solemnly sang, and sometimes used
in their churches after prayers, the burthen of them being “Nowell,
nowell, good news, good news, of the gospel.”

Henry the Eighth, and his children, being skilled in music, and
keeping also the Christmas feast with great magnificence, carol
singing flourished; and Latin hymns being abolished at the time of
the Reformation, the carols became still more in vogue, and were sung
throughout the kingdom. At the grand Christmasses, at the Inns of
Court, the master of the revels was, after dinner and supper, to sing a
carol or song, and command other gentlemen to sing with him; but it is
to be assumed that he selected such “other gentlemen” as could respond
properly to his call. The Roman Catholics observed the custom equally
with the Reformed church.

    “And carols sing in prayse of Christ, and for to help them heare,
     The organs answere every verse with sweete and solemne cheare.”

The carols at this time seem to have been of two descriptions: one of a
serious sort, sung commonly in churches, and through the streets, and
from house to house, as they were in Shakespeare’s time, ushering in
the Christmas morning; and the other of a more convivial nature, and
adapted to feasting. The festive carols were sung by the company, or
by itinerant minstrels, that went round for the purpose, to the houses
of the wealthy: some of them were called wassail songs. Those of the
religious or grave style were getting out of use in private houses,
until the time of the puritans, who, when they began to strive for
the mastery, tried to bring them back, in substitution of the lighter
ones, and subsequently endeavoured to abolish the latter altogether. As
early as 1596, one of them says, that superstition and idolatry were
entertained, which appeared in keeping of festival days, bonfires,
pilgrimages, singing of carols at Yule.

The carol, beginning,

    “All you that are to mirth inclined,”

was written by the well-known Thomas Deloney, at the end of the
sixteenth century. In the former part of the seventeenth century,
carols continued in great repute, and were introduced at all the
feasts, even those of the higher ranks; and Bishop Andrews, in a sermon
on the Nativity, in 1619, celebrates it as glorious in all places, as
well at home with carols, as in the church with anthems.

At the celebrated feast of the ‘Christmas Prince,’ at St. John’s
College, Oxford, in 1607, the boar’s head was ushered in with a
peculiar carol, of which there were several connected with this
important dish, and all the company joined in it by way of chorus.
There is an amusing anecdote of carol singers of this date, in
‘Pasquil’s Jests,’ 1609, which may as well be given in the words of the

“_A Tale of a Merry Christmas Carroll, sung by women._

“There was sometime an old knight, who being disposed to make himselfe
merry in a Christmas time, sent for many of his tenants, and poore
neighbors, with their wives, to dinner; when, having made meat to be
set on the table, would suffer no man to drinke, till he that was
master ouer his wife should sing a carroll, to excuse all the company.
Great nicenesse there was, who should bee the musician, now the cuckow
time was so farre off. Yet, with much adoe, looking one upon another,
after a dry hemme or two, a dreaming companion drew out as much as hee
durst, towards an ill-fashioned ditty. When, having made an end, to the
great comfort of the beholders, at last it came to the woman’s table,
where, likewise, commandment was given, that there should no drinke be
touched till she that was master ouer her husband had sung a Christmas
carroll; whereupon they fell all to such a singing, that there was
never heard such a catterwalling peece of musicke; whereat the knight
laughed heartely, that it did him halfe as muche good as a corner of
his Christmas pie.”

This jolly old knight might have been a descendant of the squire of
Gamwell Hall, in the time of Robin Hood (who Mr. Hunter has lately
brought down a little from his supposed aristocratic birth, and cleared
from the mist of poetic legend)—for he is made to say,

    “....Not a man here shall taste my _March_ beer,
       Till a Christmas carol he does sing;
     Then all clapt their hands, and they shouted and sung,
       Till the hall and the parlour did ring.”

Sir Thomas Overbury, who died in 1613, in his description of a
Franklin, says, he kept the “wakefull ketches” on Christmas Eve, with
other observances, yet held them no relics of popery; other writers of
the same age also refer to them. As the rule of the puritans advanced,
and the time of the Commonwealth approached, endeavours were made,
as stated in a former page, to suppress all observances of Christmas;
and carol singing would naturally share the same fate, and join
therefore in the struggle to avoid absolute destruction. In ‘Festorum
Metropolis,’ 1652, it is stated, “As for our songs and carrols,
brethren, they are collected and composed out of the Scriptures,
containe matter of instruction and edification, they implant the
history and benefits of Christ’s birth in the minds of poor ignorant
people; and oftentimes he is taken by a song that will flye a sermon.”
They were still preserved in private, and in remote places, and old
Christmas, in his visit to Devonshire, before mentioned, names the
carols and pleasant songs as part of the amusements of the evening.
Warmstry, also, in his ‘Vindication of Christmas,’ in answer to an
objection, whether the feast might not be a remnant of the Saturnalia,
and whether the carols might not arise from the hymn to Ceres, during
that feast called [Greek: ioulos], says “_Christmasse Kariles_, if they
be such as are fit for the time, and of holy and sober composures, and
used with Christian sobriety and piety, they are not unlawfull, and may
be profitable, if they be sung with grace in the heart.” An observation
that may well be remembered in the present times, in answer to any

Warton mentions two celebrated itinerant ballad, and therefore
doubtless carol, singers, about the middle of this century, called
Outroaringe Dick and Wat Wimbars, who occasionally made 20_s._ a day,
by attending fairs and meetings; but they must have been of earlier
date, as they are mentioned also in ‘Kind Hart’s Dreame,’ by Henry
Chettle, in 1592; their gains, therefore, taking into account the
difference of value in money, were large, and such as would tempt many
a modern carol-singer, as well as some members of a recently reformed
learned profession, anxiously looking for any respectable life-boat to
save them from sinking.

After the Restoration, the people gladly returned to their amusements
without restraint, and from the reaction, in many instances perhaps,
went into the opposite extreme and indulged in too much conviviality.
Carol singing was renewed with increased zeal.

    “Carols and not minc’d meat make Christmas pies,
     ’Tis mirth, not dishes, sets a table off;
     Brutes and phanaticks eat and never laugh.”

It so continued down to the present century, when it apparently began
to abate; but it will be unnecessary to give any references to prove
the continuance of such a custom, when, to a certain extent, it exists
at present, though this and other observances are much shorn of their
honours. Many of us will recollect when at Christmas time every street
of any note had its carol singers, with their bundle of various carols,
whereas now scarcely one vagrant minstrel can be found throughout the
town, brass bands having blown them out; but there is still some demand
for the carols, and specimens of broadside carols may be procured from
the printers of this class of literature, in St. Andrew’s Street,
Monmouth Court, Long Lane, and elsewhere.

In Birmingham also, and other large manufacturing towns, and other
neighbourhoods where the practice of carol singing is retained, popular
editions of the style called chap-books, as well as broadsides may
be found; several of them of considerable antiquity, handed down
for many generations, and frequently illustrated by woodcuts of the
most grotesque nature in point of execution and design. Many of us
will also recollect when carols were sung in the country, not only
in the farm-houses, in mansions, and baronial halls, but likewise in
churches—as Heath says, was the custom, in Scilly, in the middle of
last century—and this with much propriety and right feeling.

    “If unmelodious was the song,
     It was a hearty note and strong.”

Each succeeding year shows a falling-off in the number of houses
where the practice is now admitted; and in many parts the carols are
scarcely heard at all, people getting too refined, or—too good(?); the
extreme west and north, and some of the manufacturing districts, being
the most likely places to hear them, as they were, in former times,
among the yeomanry of our land. The custom exists also in Ireland and
Wales, there being many carols in the Welch language, some of which
are of ancient date, and others recent; one David Jones, of Rhuddlan,
having died about twenty years since, who for fifty-three successive
years, sang at the church there, a new carol of his own composing every
Christmas; a worthy poet laureat of his parish.

The practice of singing carols on the Continent is of ancient date.
Crysostom, the unfortunate youth in Don Quixote, “was such a great man
at composing couplets, that he made carols for Christmas Eve, and plays
for the Lord’s Day, which were represented by the young men in our
village; and every body said they were tip-top.”

The Spaniards, before their country got into so much confusion, used,
in most respectable families, to set up a _nacimiento_, which was a
rude imitation of rocks, with baby houses, &c., and clay figures,
representing the Nativity, the Shepherds, the ox, and ass, kneeling to
the Holy Infant, with Joseph and Mary in a ruinous stable. They had
numerous collections of carols, and parties used to meet, dancing,
reciting speeches, and singing carols to the sound of the zambomba,
an instrument formed by stretching a piece of parchment, slightly
covered with wax, over the mouth of an earthen jar, with a slender reed
fixed in the centre, from which a sound was produced something like
the tambourine, when rubbed by the finger. The only refreshments were
Christmas cakes, called _oxaldres_, and sweet wines, and home-made

In France, the custom of carol singing was of very early date, and
there are many collections of them, including several in the _patois_,
or provincial dialect. They are called noël, or nouel, and sometimes
nuel, derived evidently from the same source, as novell or nowell, used
in some of our old carols, and references to Christmas, as in Chaucer,
for instance.

    “Janus sit by the fuyr with double berd,
     And drynketh of his bugle horn the wyn;
     Biforn him stont the braun of toskid swyn,
     And nowel crieth every lusty man.”

The term is, however, sometimes used in the sense of news or tidings.
Some writers have derived it from natalis, as signifying a cry of joy
at Christmas, but this seems a doubtful etymology. It may have the
same origin as yule, or gule, but it was not absolutely confined to
Christmas time, though it was probably borrowed from its use then. It
was frequently used as a sort of burden to carols. In a carol, or hymn,
by Herrade de Landsberg, Abbess of Hohenbourg, as early as the twelfth
century, saluting the holy “crêche,” or manger, she sings,

        “Leto leta concio
    Cinoël resonat tripudio,
    Cinoël hoc in natalitio,
         Cinoël, cinoël,
         Noël, noël, noël,
         Noël, noël, noël, noël, &c.”

In Normandy it is called nuel. In Burgundy the people pronounce noé for
noël. A priest at Dijon, wishing to avoid this error, fell into the
opposite extreme, and in one of his discourses repeated three or four
times, “l’Arche de noël, et le patriarche Noé.” The Poitevins write
nau; and in la vielle Bible des noëls, is found “chanter no.” Rabelais
talks of “les beaulx et joyeulx noelz, en langaige poitevin,” and
quotes the two last lines of the following commencement of one sung in
Poitou, within the last twenty years, if not still.

      “An sainct nau,
    Chanteray sans point m’y feindre,
    Je n’en daignerois rien craindre,
       Car le jour est ferian,
         Nau, nau, nau.”

Many early instances occur of its use as a cry of joy; as at the
baptism of Charles the Sixth, of France, in December, 1368; the entry
of Philip, Duke of Burgundy, with his sister, into Paris, in 1429; and
the entry into Paris of Charles the Seventh, in 1437, where the people
proclaimed their delight with loud shouts of noël.

    “Ce jour vint le Roy à Verneuil,
     Où il fut receu à grand joye
     Du peuple joyeux à merveil,
     En criant Noël par la voye.”

On the entry of Henry the Fifth into Rouen, in January, 1419, though
this was about Christmas time, and on his return to London, he was
received with cries of “Nowell! nowell!” and so afterwards, when
the English Regent went through Paris in state, in 1428, “on crioit
haultement nouel!” and again on the proclamation of Henry the Sixth.

The ancient French customs were in many respects similar to those of
England, having a common origin; and Christmas was considered, in like
manner, a great time for feasting and rejoicing. In the old poem, of
the date of 1400, or thereabouts, called the “Bataille de Karesme
et de charnage,” Karesme has on his side all the fishes, both sea
and fresh-water—being a decided advocate of temperance—vegetables,
cheese, milk, &c.; Charnage has the animals, birds, &c. The battle is
fierce, and the issue doubtful, when night separates the combatants;
but Karesme, hearing that Noël was approaching, with considerable
succour to his enemy, makes peace on certain terms, by advice of his

The practice of singing carols in France, in the language of the
country, is of very early date, and had its origin, probably, as early
as the time when the people ceased to understand or to use Latin,
the Christmas hymns previously having been in that language. In “Les
crieries de Paris,” of the end of the thirteenth century, par Guillaume
de la Villeneuve, appears, “Noël, noël, à moult granz cris;” meaning
collections of noëls, of which it is said, that the Duc de la Vallière
had a valuable manuscript collection of the fourteenth century. The
editor of ‘Noël Burguignon,’ in 1720, mentions a volume that had come
to his hands, containing three collections of old noëls, printed at
Paris, in Gothic letters, of which the first two were without date;
the first containing the noël mentioned by Rabelais; the third was
dated 1520, composed by “_feu Maître Lucas le Moigne, en son vivant
Curé de S. George de Pui-la-Garde, au diocese de Poitou._” He also
mentions an old noël in the time of Louis the Twelfth, to the tune
of “_A vous point vu la Perronelle?_” Brunet gives the title of a
collection printed at Lyon, about 1520, containing one in the patois of
that province, which would appear to be different from that by Lucas le

About 1540, Clement Marot made his celebrated version of the psalms
into French rhyme, which were sung to popular tunes, and adopted by the
French court; and some were probably introduced at Christmas, as well
as the noëls. About the same time, Calvin introduced the psalms into
his congregation at Geneva, and Sternhold and Hopkins brought out their
version in England, “with apt notes to sing them withall.”

In the same century was a collection of “Noëls vieux et nouveaux.”
Pasquier, in his work on France, published in 1643, says, “En ma
ieunesse c’estoit une coustume que l’on ausit tournée en cérémonie,
de chanter tous les soirs presque en chaque famille des noüels, qui
estoient chansons spirituelles faites en l’honneur de nostre Seignor.
Lesquelles on chante encores en plusieurs Eglises pendant que l’on
célèbre la grand messe le iour de noüel, lors que le prestre reçoit
les offrandes. Or cette allegresse manifesta encores hors les Eglises;
parce que le peuple n’auoit moyen plus ouvert pour denoter sa ioye,
que de crier en lieu public noüel, quand il vouloit congratuler à un
Prince.” In 1610, appeared ‘Melanges de la musique de Eustaché du
Caurroy, maistre de la musique de la Chappelle du Roy,’ which contains
some noëls, of one of which Burney has given the music; and it is said
that the greater part of the noëls sung in France are gavots and other
airs, which Du Caurroy composed for Charles the Ninth. The well-known
air, ‘Charmante Gabrielle,’ was also a Christmas hymn. In ‘Recueil
de Poètes Gascons, première partie, contenant les œuvres de Pierre
Goudelin de Toulouse,’ Amsterdam, 1700, are some carols. There are
upwards of twenty different collections in the patois. In 1699, was
a collection by Le Sieur Nicolas Saboly. In 1701, one was published
at Dijon, in the dialect of the province, which at first gave some
offence, from the freedom of the compositions; but the naïveté of the
patois, which also prevented their being perfectly understood, saved
them. There were subsequent editions of these. In 1720, the fourth
edition of ‘Noël Bourgignon de Gui Barôzai,’ was published, containing
thirty-four noëls, and two chansons, with the music to each, and an
ample glossary; and there was a subsequent edition in 1736. There is
also a recent edition by Fertiault, at Paris, in 1842. Many of these
are written in a vein of burlesque humour, quite out of character with
the subject, and in a very free and irreverent style. In the seventh
noël, the salutation of the Virgin by the angel, is quite in the manner
of a _petit maître_.

    “Po lai fenétre el antri,
     Et peù de queique distance,
     Ai li fi lai reverance,
     Car el étó bén épri.
     Dei vo gar, mai chére aimie,
     Dit-i d’ene douce voi, &c.”

The effect of the salutation reminds one of the old lines,

    “Gaude Virgo, Mater Christi,
    Quæ per aurem concepisti.”

and of a similar conceit in Molière’s ‘Ecole des Maris.’ There is some
buffoonery introduced into the fourteenth of the Coventry plays, as
gross as this, but which was adapted to the rude audiences of its time;
and the language of the buffoons of the piece, Primus and Secundus
Detractator, forms an exception to its general gravity and seriousness.
The fifth noël, amongst other things, introduces the adoration and
offering of the Three Kings, in the following manner.

      “Ai lai Nativitati,
    Chanton, je vo suplie,
    Troi Roi d’autre contai,
    Moitre au estrôlôgie,
    De l’anfan nôvea nai
    Saivein lai prôfecie.

      Ai lai Nativitai,
    Chanton, je vo suplie,
    De l’etoile guidai
    Tô troi de compagnie,
    Patire sans menai,
    Gran seùte, ni meignie.

      A lai Nativitai,
    Chanton, je vo suplie,
    L’un pris soin d’epotai,
    De lai myére candie,
    L’autre d’or efeignai,
    E’ne bonne poignie.

      Ai lai Nativitai,
    Chanton, je vo suplie,
    Le tier pu macherai,
    Qu’ein Roi d’Etîôpie,
    Prezanti po son plai
    De l’ançan d’Airaibir.“

The thirteenth is a dialogue between a shepherd and his wife, and
begins in the following quaint way.

    “Fanne, coraige,
    Le Diale á mor,
    Aipre l’oraige,
    J’on le beá jor.”

The glossary contains, incidentally, some curious particulars. It
is stated to be the custom in the provinces, for the master of the
family, with his wife and children, to sing noëls; “une très grosse
buche,” called _lai suche de noei_, was put on the fire, and the
younger children were sent into the corner of the room, to pray that
the _suche_ might produce bon-bons; and on their return, packets of
sugar-plums, &c., were found near the _suche_, to whom the children
implicitly attributed the power of producing them.

There was a collection of Noëls Bourguignons, by De la Monnoye, of
which a translation into the common language of the country was
published in 1735. De la Monnoye was denounced by the priests at Dijon,
for his carols; but the translation, though it might have taken off the
sting, probably lessened the humour also.

In 1738 was published, at Troyes, ‘La Grande Bible Renouvelles de Noëls
Nouveaux,’ in four parts, containing ninety noëls, many of them of a
rude and humble description. In 1750, at Avignon, ‘Nouveaux Cantiques
Spirituels Provençaux,’ with the music; it contains some noëls,
though not exclusively confined to them. In 1785, at Paris, ‘Noëls
Nouveaux sur les Chants des Noëls anciens, notez pour en faciliter
le chant,’ par M. l’Abbé Pellegrin. In 1791, at Avignon, Recueil de
Noëls Provençaux,’ par le Sieur Peirol, Menuisier d’Avignon, nouvelle
édition. This contains forty-two noëls, besides five pieces of a
different description. They are mostly of a light and joyous nature,
and the subjects are very similar to those in our carols. In 1805,
there was a collection of noëls published at St. Malo, and another
edition in 1819, containing twenty-one noëls; and at the commencement
of the work are three pastorals, or dramatic pieces, in the style of
our old mysteries; one on the Birth of our Saviour; another on the
Adoration of the Three Kings; and the third on the Massacre of the
Innocents, where Herod orders all children under the age of _seven_
to be killed, which gives his own son, who is one of the sufferers,
an opportunity for making a speech; to this is added the regrets of
Herod for the massacre, in the form of a dialogue between himself and
the Innocents. I have also a collection of “Noëls Vieux et Nouveaux,”
of which the title-page and first two or three leaves are torn out.
In 1807, there was a collection, at Avignon, of Noëls Provençaux, by
Le Sieur Nicolas Saboly, a new edition, containing ninety. The tunes
of some of the more favourite noëls may occasionally be found in
collections of popular French airs; and among the chap books of the
day are small collections of noëls at small prices, and collections of
Spanish and German carols may be met with.

There are some curious burdens or refrains to some of the French noëls;
one will be seen in the selection given, “Turelurelu, patapatan;”
but these words are intended to represent the sounds of the flute
and tambour. They often introduce in their old songs “Lurelure,” or
something similar; indeed “Leire la, Leire lanleire,” is very ancient,
as also is “Dondon,” another refrain. “Mironton,” “Biribi,” and
“Turlututu,” are other terms, of which the explanation must be left
to wordy antiquaries. The English refrains, however, seem equally
as inexplicable as the French; unless we suppose, with some learned
expositor, that the well-known “Down derry down” has reference to the
oak, and is derived from the Druid, “Hob y deri danno;” but then how
are we to account for “Hey troly loly lo,” and “Dumble dum deary,” &c.?
In the Elizabethan age, “Hey, nonny, nonny” was somewhat a favourite,
though there were some strange burdens also at this time, that would
make us fancy that the celebrated Tarleton and Kemp must occasionally
have improvised any clinking nonsense that entered their heads, which
was afterwards printed with the songs.



SEVERAL of the circumstances referred to in the carols, may also
be found in the early mysteries, and are probably handed down from
them, or from some legend common to both. Some, indeed, may have been
derived from the Apocryphal New Testament, as from the birth of Mary,
the Protevangelion, and the infancy. The tradition, for instance, of
Joseph being an old man, is derived from both sources; in the Coventry
Mysteries he complains of his age in many passages.

    “....I am so agyd and so olde,
     Yt both my leggys gyn to folde,
     I am ny almost lame.”

In the cherry-tree carol, and in the Dutch date-tree carol, he is
described as an old man, and weary. This cherry-tree carol, of which
there are two or three varieties, one of which is printed in the
following collection, appears to have been of the fifteenth century,
if not older; as, in Hoffman’s specimens of Dutch carols of that age,
there is one very similar, merely substituting a date for a cherry
tree, the date perhaps having been considered more oriental. The
following is the translation given in ‘Notes and Queries.’

       “Joseph he led the ass,
        The bridle held he;
        What found they by the way,
        But a date tree?
    Oh! ass’s foal, thou must stand still,
    To gather dates it is our will,
        So weary are we.
    The date tree bowed to the earth,
        To Mary’s knee;
    Mary would fill her lap
        From the date tree.
    Joseph was an old man,
        And wearied was he.
    Mary, let the date tree bide,
    We have yet forty miles to ride,
    And late it will be.
    Let us pray this Blessed Child
        Grant us mercie.”

The tradition is also introduced in the early mysteries, and the
following is the manner in which it is treated in the fifteenth of the
Coventry plays, that may serve as a specimen of these performances,
somewhat quaint and rude to our modern ears; and it would puzzle a
practised Shakesperian reader, even a well-skilled relation of my own
in this art, to give one of these ancient dramas with any effect.—Mary

              A my swete husbond, wolde ye telle to me
              What tre is yon standynge upon yon hylle?

    _Joseph._ Forsoothe, Mary, it is clepyd a chery tre,
              In tyme of yer ye myght fede yow yon yō fylle.

     _Maria._ Turne ageyn, husbond, and beholde yon tre,
              How yt it blomyght now so swetly.

    _Joseph._ Cum on, Mary, yt we worn at yon cyte,
              Or ellys we may be blamyd I telle yow lythty.

     _Maria._ Now, my spouse, I pray yow to be hold
              How ye cheryes growyn upon yon tre,
              For to have yr of ryght fayn I wold,
              And it plesyd yow to labor so mech for me.

    _Joseph._ Yor desyr to fulfylle I shall assay sekyrly,
              Ow to plucke yow of these cherries it is a werk wylde,
              For ye tre is so hyg’ it wol not be lyghtly,
              Yr for lete hy pluk yow cheryes begatt yow wt childe.

     _Maria._ Now, good Lord, I pray the, graunt me yis boun,
              To have of yese cheries, and it be yor wylle,
              Now I thank it God, yis tre bowyth to me down,
              I may now gadery anowe and etyn my fylle.

    _Joseph._ Ow, I know weyl I have offendyd my God ī trinyte,
              Spekyn to my spowse these unkynde wordys.
              For now I beleve wel it may non other be,
              But yt my spowse beryght ye kyngys son of blys,
              He help us now at oure nede!“

In the French mystery, or Pastoral, as it is called, of the Naissance,
on the first appearance of Joseph and Mary, in their humble condition,
the host resists all the entreaties of his wife to let them in—she,
with the compassion of a woman (found, as Mungo Park relates, even
in the uncivilised interior of Africa) being moved with the apparent
helpless condition of the Virgin—the surly host, however, says,

    “Fermez, fermez la porte,
     Nous ne logerons point des gens de cette sorte.”

Thus repulsed, they then take shelter in the stable.

The legend of the roasted cock coming to life, in proof of our
Saviour’s birth, which is mentioned in the carol of the ‘Carnal and the
Crane,’ may also be found in an old carol for St. Stephen’s Day, of the
time of Henry the Sixth; but in this, instead of crowing three times,
as in the more modern carol, the bird, which in the older version
is called a capon, crows, “Christus natus est.” The legend of the
husbandman, in the same carol, whose seed sprang up before Herod and
his train arrived, has been already referred to, as forming part of one
of the old mysteries.

The curious fancy, in the carol of ‘I saw three ships,’ is old; one of
the ancient Dutch carols given by Hoffman, beginning

    “There comes a vessel laden,
     And on its highest gunwale,
     Mary holds the rudder,
     The angel steers it on.”

And in an after verse,

    “In one unbroken course
     There comes that ship to land,
     It brings to us rich gifts,
     Forgiveness is sent to us.”

Ritson also mentions the following lines, as sung at Christmas time,
about the middle of the sixteenth century.

    “There comes a ship far sailing then,
     Saint Michel was the stieres-man;
       Saint John sate in the horn.
     Our Lord harped, our Lady sang,
     And all the bells of heaven they rang,
       On Christ’s Sonday at morn.”

A modern broadside carol, called ‘The Sunny Bank,’ gives these lines

    “O he did whistle, and she did sing,
     And all the bells on earth did ring,
     For joy that our Saviour he was born
     On Christmas Day in the morning.”

Hone, in his Mysteries, mentions a carol printed by J. Bradford,
Little Britain, 1701, having a large woodcut, representing the stable
at Bethlehem; our Saviour in the crib, watched by the Virgin and
Joseph; shepherds kneeling, and angels attending; a man playing on the
bagpipes; a woman with a basket of fruit on her head; a sheep bleating,
and an ox lowing on the ground; a raven croaking, and a crow cawing
on the hay-rack; a cock crowing above them; and angels singing in the
sky. The animals and birds have labels, which are thus explained. The
cock croweth, _Christus natus est_, Christ is born. The raven asked,
_Quando?_ When? The cow replied, _Hac nocte_, this night. The ox cryeth
out, _Ubi? Ubi?_ Where? where? The sheep bleated out, _Bethlehem_,
Bethlehem. Voice from heaven sounded, _Gloria in Excelsis_, Glory be on
high. There is an old French mystery of the Nativity, referred to in
“Noei Borguignon de Gui Barôzai,” where four animals are introduced,
much in the same manner; the ox and ass of the manger, the cock of
the passion, and the lamb of St. John the Baptist. The cock exclaims,
with a piercing voice, _Christus natus est_. The ox, with a lengthened
bellowing, demands _Ubi?_ pronouncing it oubi. The lamb answers
_Bethleem_, lengthening the first syllable; and the ass concludes, with
_hinhamus, hinhamus_, signifying _eamus_.

Several carols refer to the crucifixion and resurrection, and, as
formerly observed, are more adapted to Easter than Christmas; but there
are also regular Christmas carols, which carry our Saviour’s history
down to the time of his death. It may be readily supposed, that the
cross itself has a legend attached to it, and its origin indeed dates
from the death of Adam. When he was at the point of death, he directed
his son Seth to apply to the angel of Paradise, for some of the oil of
mercy, and obtained from him three kernels from an apple of the tree
of life, which he was instructed to plant after Adam’s death; one in
his mouth, and one in each nostril. From the tree which sprang from
these kernels, the rod of Moses, with which he worked his miracles,
was taken, and also the wood with which he cured the bitter water,
and the pole whereon the brazen serpent was raised. At the time of
building Solomon’s temple, the tree was cut down for use, but it was
in every case found too long or too short, or with some other defect,
and was thrown aside as unserviceable for the temple, and applied
as a foot-bridge; but the Queen of Sheba, during her visit to King
Solomon, refused to pass over it, stating it would prove the ruin of
the Jews. It was then used as a seat, but the Sybil would not sit on
it, predicting that the Redeemer would die triumphantly on it, for the
salvation of mankind. It afterwards remained in the pool of Bethesda
until the time of the crucifixion, when some difficulty arising in
procuring proper wood for the cross, some of the Jews thought of this
tree, which they found perfectly adapted for the purpose.

One of the versions of the legend states, that a smith being applied
to, to make three nails to fasten our Saviour to the cross, he refused
to do so, and feigned sickness, upon which his wife came forward and
made them. After the crucifixion, the cross, with its nails, became
buried in rubbish, and was lost sight of, until Helena, the mother of
Constantine the Great, went to Jerusalem, in 326, and after diligent
search found it, together with the crosses of the two thieves, Titus
(the penitent) and Dumachus, the former of whom had prevented the
latter from robbing Joseph and Mary, on their flight to Egypt, and the
child Jesus had then foretold that they would be crucified with Him,
thirty years afterwards, and that Titus should go to Paradise.

Three crosses having been found by Helena, and the inscription having
been detached, a difficulty arose how to identify the true one;
but this was removed by placing them by the side of a lady who was
dangerously ill, and she was immediately restored to health on the
application of the real cross. She gave the nails and part of the
cross to her son, and founded a church at Rome, where she placed the
remainder, with the inscription. Constantine, it is said, placed one of
the nails on the bridle of his war-horse, and one on his sword, and the
third was cast into a dangerous gulf of the sea, to appease a storm.

According to Fabian, Athelstan had in his possession one of the nails,
with part of the cross; and another part with a nail; and the crown of
thorns, were said to have been at Nôtre Dame, in Paris; and portions
of it claimed to be preserved in other churches.

There is a curious story on the subject, related in Harl. MS. 2252
(temp. Hen. 8), entitled, “A grete myracle of a knyghte, callyde Syr
Roger Wallysborow.” Being in the Holy Land, he wished to bring off
privily a piece of the cross, and praying to that effect, his thigh
opened miraculously, and received it. He then returned to Cornwall, his
native country, having in the course of his voyage, by virtue of the
fragment of the cross, appeased the elements, and prevented shipwreck.
On his arrival, his thigh opened to liberate the precious relic, of
which he gave part to the parish church where this happened, hence
called Cross parish, and the remainder to St. Buryan, where his lands

The slaughter of the Innocents is referred to in several carols, and
there are some written expressly for Innocents’ Day; the day of the
week on which it falls being considered unlucky throughout the year by
many. Brand mentions a custom in Roman Catholic countries of running
through all the rooms of a house, making a pretended search in and
under the beds, in commemoration of Herod’s search for the children;
and there is a tradition that his own son was killed among them, which
made Augustus say, that it was better to be Herod’s hog than his son,
referring to his being a Jew, and therefore forbidden to kill swine,
playing also on the Greek words, [Greek: un] (un) a hog, and [Greek:
uion] (uion) a son. Some carols, or Christmas songs, refer to the
bringing in of the boar’s head; and in the old carol of St. Stephen’s
Day, before mentioned, St. Stephen, who is stated to be in king Herod’s
service, is, somewhat inconsistently with such service, introduced as
bringing in a boar’s head.

    “Stevyn out of kechon cam w^{t} boris hed on honde,
     He saw a sterr was fayr and bryzt ou^{r} bedlem stondæ,
     He kyst a down the bors hed and went into the halle,
     I forsak the kyng herowds and thi werks alle,
     I forsak the kyng herowds and thi werks alle,
     Ther is a chyd in bedlem born is bet^{r} than we alle.”

It is difficult to say whether the boar’s head was first introduced at
Christmas as a kind of anti-judaical test, because the Jews would not
eat it—something like pork was said to be eaten at Easter, together
with tansy pudding (a corruption from athanasia);—but as the boar’s
head seems to have been a favourite at all great feasts, at least, from
the time of that greatest of boars, Scrymer, it is probable that it
thus became a “chief service” at the greatest of feasts.

There are several ancient MS. carols in the British Museum,
particularly in Sloane MS. 2593 and Harl. MS. 5396, Additional MSS.
5465 and 5665 and Cotton MS. Vespasian A, xxv, of which several, and
probably the best, have been printed in Christmas carols, edited by
Mr. Wright, for the Percy Society, in 1841, and in the collection of
Christmas carols, by the author of the present work, in 1833. There
is also a curious collection of songs and carols, supposed to have
been a minstrel’s book of the fifteenth century, edited, in 1847,
for the Percy Society, by Mr. Wright, whose ability in all matters
connected with the history, customs, and antiquities of our country,
are so well known; old carols may also be found in the libraries of the
Universities. The oldest printed collection of carols was by Wynkyn
de Worde, in 1521, which contains one on bringing in the boar’s head.
Another rare collection was printed by Richard Kele, in the Poultry,
between 1546 and 1552.

In 1562, John Tysdale had a license for printing ‘Certayne goodly
carowles to be songe to the glory of God;’ and, in the same year,
Rowlande Hall had one for ‘Crestenmas carroles auctorysshed by my lorde
of London.’ In 1563, John Day printed some carols of Thomas Becon; and,
in 1569, Richard Jonnes and James Robertes, each printed a collection;
the last being by Christopher Payne. About the same time Tusser wrote
a carol, as well as other poetry, illustrative of Christmas-tide. In
1579, J. Alder had a license for ‘a Godly Hymn or Carol for Christmas,’
and in 1580, for ‘Godly Carols, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs.’ In ‘Songs
of Sundry natures,’ by William Byrd, 1589, there is a Christmas carol
which has been printed by Mr. J. Payne Collier, the distinguished
editor of Shakespeare, in Lyrical Poems, for the Percy Society. In
1597 was published at Edinburgh, ‘Ane Compendioos Booke of Godly and
Spirituall Songs,’ which contains some carols; these with the other
songs were adapted to popular tunes, the intention being to supersede
the use of profaner ballads: it was reprinted in 1801. In ‘Ancient
Scottish Poems,’ Dunbar has inserted one from the Bannatyne MS. In
1630, ‘Certaine of David’s Psalmes, intended for Christmas carolls,
fitted to the most common but solempne tunes, everywhere familiarly
used, by William Slatyr,’ was printed by Robert Young, and a similar
work in 1642. There is one also at the end of Aylett’s ‘Eclogues and
Elegies.’ In Herrick’s ‘Noble Numbers,’ 1640, there are five carols,
or songs in the nature of carols, some of which were set to music by
Henry Lawes, and were sung before the court, and there are many poems
connected with Christmas customs in his other works.

In 1661 was published a collection called ‘New Carolls for this Merry
Time of Christmas, to sundry pleasant Tunes, with new Additions,
never before printed, to be sung to delight the Hearers; printed by H.
B., for Andrew Kemb.’ In the title-page was a print of the Wise Men
discovering the Star. There were likewise ‘Christmas carols, fit also
to be sung at Easter,’ and ‘New Christmas Carols,’ in 1688. Some of
these collections were encouraged by the puritans, to drive away those
of a lighter description; and, in 1684, ‘A Small Garland of Pious and
Godly Songs,’ of this nature, was printed at Ghent, for the purpose of
superseding the popular ballad, and may be assumed to have contained
serious carols for the same purpose.

We must not omit to mention Milton’s ‘Ode and Hymn on the Nativity.’

    “It was the winter wild,
     While the heaven-born child,
       All meanly wrapt, in the rude manger lies;”

and single hymns or carols may be found in other writers, to name which
would only be to swell this, already I fear, too tiresome list. Lewis’s
‘Presbyterian Eloquence,’ 1720, contains a catalogue of Presbyterian
books, in which is the following: ‘A Cabinet of Choice Jewels; or,
the Christian’s Joy and Gladness: set forth in sundry pleasant new
Christmas carols, viz. a carol for Christmas Day, to the tune of Over
Hills and High Mountains; for Christmas Day, at night, to the tune of
My Life and my Death; for St. Stephen’s Day, to the tune of O, cruel
bloody Tale; for New Year’s Day, to the tune of Caper and Firk it; for
Twelfth Day, to the tune of O Mother Roger.’ Several of Poor Robin’s
Almanacs contain carols or Christmas poems.

In the broadside and other lists of chap books, ballads, &c. published
about 150 years ago, the names of several well known carols occur,
as, ‘When Jesus Christ was twelve years old,’ ‘Joseph an aged man
truly,’ ‘Jury came to Jerusalem,’ ‘Angel Gabriel,’ ‘Christus natus
est,’ &c. There is also a small collection printed, about the same
time, by William Thackery, at the Angel, in Duck Lane. The carol,
‘Christians awake, salute the happy morn,’ is said to have been written
by Mr. Greatorex, the father of the late organist, about a century
since, and it is stated that Mr. Webbe, the composer, set one. The
late Mr. Hone, in his work on Mysteries, 1823,—where, as well as in
his ‘Every Day Book,’ ‘Year Book,’ and ‘Table Book,’ much interesting
information may be found relating to Christmas customs—gives a list
of eighty-nine recent carols, and mentions one by Francis Hoffman, in
1729, with the curious title of ‘_A Christmas Carol on Pekoe Tea_’;
or, a Sacred Carol, which like tea that is perfectly good and fine,
will be most useful and grateful all the year round, from Christmas
to Christmas, for ever; humbly addressed to Queen Caroline, and the
princess Carolina, and all the Royal Family.’ Perhaps, if this could
be seen, it might turn out to be a tea-dealer’s puff, for even now
with all our worldly experience, we are occasionally taken in to read
a puff from its innocent and unassuming appearance. There have been
frequent publications of carols, from time to time, for use, according
to the demand, partly in broadsides and partly in the nature of chap
publications, and in a popular form down to the present time, which
need not, and indeed cannot, be enumerated; and the account given of
the old collected publications is not presumed to be perfect.

In 1822 the late Mr. Davies Gilbert published twelve favourite western
carols, with the tunes, and in 1823 a second edition, containing
twenty, with a few old ballads, &c. In 1833, the author of the present
work published a collection of eighty carols, ancient and modern,
with seventeen tunes; and a copy of the Christmas play of St. George
and the Dragon, with an introduction relating to Christmas customs,
the essential part of which has been embodied in these pages. Mr.
Parker, in 1838, printed sixteen original carols, of a devout nature,
with tunes adapted; and Mr. Chappell introduced some carols in his
collection of National English Airs.

In 1847 Mr. Sharpe published eleven Christmas carols, with good
illustrations; and in the same year, Dr. Rimbault, a great musical
antiquary, edited, in a tasteful form, five old carols, with six
tunes. In 1841, as before mentioned, Mr. Wright edited a collection of
forty-nine old Christmas carols, for the Percy Society; and in 1847,
songs and carols for the same Society; they are seventy-six in number,
of which about half may be considered carols; there was an illustrated
collection by Mr. Cundell, in 1846, and there are probably others which
have not come to my knowledge.

Mr. Hervey, in 1836, published the ‘Book of Christmas,’ containing a
good deal of information in a pleasing style, with illustrations; and
two years since a very elegant work was edited by Mr. H. Vizetelly,
called ‘Christmas with the Poets,’ being a selection of poetical
pieces, including some carols from the thirteenth century to the
present time, forming an interesting collection, embellished with fine

Besides the several broadside carols, and printed collections in town
and country, before referred to, there have been various collections
of Welsh carols; several are among the Myvyrian MSS., belonging to the
Cymmrodorion: No. 14, written about the year 1640, contains thirty-two;
and No. 15, of about the same date, has two. The _Lffyr Carolan_, or
‘Book of Carols,’ fourth edition, Shrewsbury, 1740, comprises sixty-six
carols for Christmas, and five summer carols; and _Blodeugerdd Cymric_,
or the ‘Anthology of Wales,’ Shrewsbury, 1779, contains forty-eight
Christmas carols, nine summer carols, three May carols, one winter
carol, one nightingale carol, and a carol to Cupid, which might
interest my readers, if I could translate it.

The carols printed in the following pages, are taken from a collection
of several hundred English, including the broadside publications for
the last thirty years; and French, including several editions in the
_patois_. Some of the English, according to reputation, have been
known in Cornwall for nearly three hundred years past, and these,
with others, have been obtained from old manuscript copies now in my
possession, or oral tradition from the singers themselves, and the
tunes have been procured in the same way, though I am indebted to my
friend, Mr. Wm. Chappell, for the harmonies.

I have selected, out of several versions of the western Christmas
play of ‘St. George and the Dragon,’ that which seemed best adapted
for the purpose. Specimens have been printed in Hone’s ‘Every Day
Book,’ the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine,’ and the ‘Popular Rhymes’ of Mr.
Halliwell, who has applied his store of reading to the illustration of
our poetical literature. There is a version also in that dialect with
some description, in Jan Trenoodle’s ‘Specimens of Cornish Provincial
Dialect,’ a small work for which I am answerable, and therefore,
perhaps, ought not to refer to it, but I know no other of the sort.

The play of ‘Alexander and the King of Egypt,’ is a representation of
the northern Christmas play, and is taken from a rare printed copy in
my possession. It consists of six pages, with very common paper and
type, the title-page being, ‘Alexander and the King of Egypt. A mock
play, as it is acted by the mummers every Christmas. Newcastle: Printed
in the year 1788,’ It is given here verbatim, with two or three slight
omissions, necessary for modern ears. The great similarity between the
northern and western plays will immediately be seen, showing the common
origin; but these performances must be seen to be properly appreciated.

The mummers, in several parts of the country where they do not go to
the extent of acting the old Christmas play, are generally dressed
somewhat in the manner described for ‘St. George and the Dragon,’ one
of the party being the clown or buffoon of the set; and they have some
doggrel lines, of which a few show symptoms of the same antiquity
as the plays; for rhymes, that appear to have been the _ad libitum_
production of some modern rustic wit, will be introduced, with “A room!
a room! a gallant room!” or some such line, and the characters are
then introduced in the style of the plays, and this style, as before
referred to, is as old as the Mysteries; take, for example, a specimen
from the sixth of the Chester Plays, where the Nuntius says,—

    “Make rombe, lordinges, and geve us waie,
     And lette Octavian come and plaie;
     And Syble the Sage, that well fayer maye,
     To tell you of propheseye.”

Two or three specimens of these mummers’ songs are given by Mr. Dixon,
in his ‘Collection of Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England,’
edited for the Percy Society in 1846. These mummings, as well as the
plays and carol singings, end in an appeal to the box, and right
enough too; for, do not we all, when we have given our services for
any purpose, carry round the box, in some shape or other, whether the
clergyman for his tithes, the lawyer and physician for their fees, the
soldier for his pay, or the statesman for his salary?

In the selection of Carols, I have tried to vary them in age, style,
and subject, as far as the materials would permit, without making it
too long; and trust that I may, throughout this work, have succeeded
in my endeavour to gratify, and not to satiate my readers. I have to
express my thanks to Mr. James Stephanoff, for the interest he has
taken in the subjects entrusted to his pencil, and the skill and spirit
with which he has treated them. The design for the binding has been
given by my brother, Mr. Sampson Sandys; and from the well-known zeal
and ability of the publisher and printer, I am placed in this awkward
predicament, that any failure must rest with myself; and I am fully
aware that it can be no excuse, that the work was undertaken as a
relief, from the pressure of repeated domestic losses of the severest
nature: but I can unaffectedly say, “If I have done well, and as is
fitting the story, it is that which I desired; but, if slenderly and
meanly, it is that which I could attain unto.”





    SEIGNORS, ore entendez à nus,
    De loinz sumes venuz à vous,
      Pur quere noël;
    Car l’em nus dit que en cest hostel,
    Soleit tenir sa feste anuel,
      Ahi, cest jur.
        Deu doint à tuz icels joie d’amurs,
        Qui à danz noël ferunt honors!

    Seignors, jo vus dis por veir,
    Ke danz noël ne velt aveir,
      Si joie non;
    E repleni sa maison,
    De payn, de char, e de peison,
      Por faire honor.
        Deu doint à tuz ces joie d’amur!

    Seignors, il est crié en l’ost,
    Que cil qui despent bien, e tost,
      E largement;
    E fet les granz honors sovent,
    Deu li duble quanque il despent,
      Por faire honor.
        Deu doint à....

    Seignors, escriez les malveis,
    Car vuz nel les troverez jameis
      De bone part;
    Botun, batun, ferun, groinard,
    Car tot dis a le quer cunard,
      Por faire honor.
        Deu doint....

    Noël beyt bien li vin Engleis,
    E li Gascoin, e li Franceys,
      E l’Angevin;
    Noël fait beivere son veisin,
    Si qu’il se dort, le chief enclin,
      Sovent le jor.
        Deu doint à tuz cels....

    Seignors, jo vus di par noël,
    E par li sires de cest hostel,
      Car bevez ben;
    E jo primes beverai le men,
    E pois après chescon le soen,
      Par mon conseil;
    Si jo vus di trestoz; ‘Wesseyl!’
    Dehaiz eit qui ne dirra, ‘Drincheyl!’



      LORDINGS, from a distant home,
      To seek old Christmas we are come,
        Who loves our minstrelsy:
      And here, unless report mis-say,
      The grey-beard dwells, and on this day,
      Keeps yearly wassel, ever gay,
        With festive mirth and glee.
    To all who honour Christmas, and commend our lays,
    Love will his blessings send, and crown with joy their days.

      Lordings list, for we tell you true,
      Christmas loves the jolly crew
        That cloudy care defy:
      His liberal board is deftly spread
      With manchet loaves and wastel-bread;
      His guests with fish and flesh are fed,
        Nor lack the stately pye.

      Lordings, you know that far and near,
      The saying is, “Who gives good cheer,
        And freely spends his treasure;
      On him will bounteous Heaven bestow
      Twice treble blessings here below;
      His happy hours shall sweetly flow,
        In never-ceasing pleasure.”

      Lordings, believe us, knaves abound,
      In every place are flatterers found,
        May all their arts be vain!
        But chiefly from these scenes of joy,
        Chase sordid souls that mirth annoy,
        And all who with their base alloy,
          Turn pleasure into pain.

        Christmas quaffs our English wines,
        Nor Gascoigne juice, nor French declines,
          Nor liquor of Anjou:
        He puts th’ insidious goblet round,
        Till all the guests in sleep are drown’d
        Then wakes ’em with the tabor’s sound,
          And plays the prank anew.

        Lordings, it is our host’s command,
        And Christmas joins him hand in hand,
          To drain the brimming bowl:
        And I’ll be foremost to obey:
        Then pledge me, sirs, and drink away,
        For Christmas revels here to day,
          And sways without controul.
    Now wassel to you all, and merry may ye be!
    But foul that wight befall, who drinks not health to me!


    WELCŪ ȝole in good array,
    In worship of þ^{e} holiday,
    Welcū be þ^{u} heuē kyng,
    Welcū þ^{u} born ī on mornyng,
    Welcū to þ^{e} now wil we syng,
    Welcū ȝole for eu^{r} & ay,
    Welcū be þ^{u} mare myld,
    Welcū be þ^{u} & þ^{i} child,
    Welcū fro þ^{e} fynd þ^{u} as schilde,
    Welcū ȝole for eu^{r} & ay,
    Welcū be ȝ^{e} steuē & ione,
    Welcū childrn eūechone,
    Welcū thomas, mart^{r}, all on,
    Welcū ȝole for eu^{r} & ay,
    Welcū be þ^{u} good newyere,
    Welcū þ^{e} xij days efere,
    Welcū be ye all þ~t~ bene here,
    Welcū ȝole for ew^{r} & ay,
    Welcū be ȝe lord and lady,
    Welcū be ȝe all þis cūpane,
    ffore ȝolis love makis mere,
    Welcū ȝole fore ew^{r} & ay.


    NAY iuy, nay, hyt shall not be I wys,
    Let holy hafe þ^{e} maystry as þ^{e} maner ys.

    Holy stond in þ^{e} hall fayre to behold,
    Iuy stond w^{t} out þ^{e} dore, she ys ful sore a cold.
                                            Nay iuy, &c.

    Holy and hys mery men þey dawnsyn & þey syng,
    Iuy and her maydenys þey wepyn & þey wryng.
                                            Nay, &c.

    Iuy hath a lyve she laghtyt w^{t} þe colde,
    So mot þey all ha fae þ^{t} w^{t} jvy hold.
                                 Nay iuy, nay, hyt, &c.

    Holy hat berys as rede as any rose,
    The foster þe hunters kepe hem fro þe dos.
                                 Nay iuy, nay, hyt, &c.

    Iuy hath berys as blake as any slo,
    Ther com þe oule & ete hym as she goo.
                                 Nay iuy, nay, hyt, &c.

    Holy hath byrdys a ful fayre flok,
    The nyghtyngale þe perpyinguy, þe gayntyl lauyrok.
                                               Nay, &c.

    Gode iuy what byrdys ast þu?
    Non but þe howlat þ^{t} kreye how how.
                            Nay iuy, nay, hyt shal not, &c.


    NOW ys Crystemas y-cum,
    Fadyr and Son togedyr in oon,
    Holy Goste, as ye be oon,
                   in fere-a,
    God sende us a good n(e)w yere-a.

    I wolde yow synge for and I mygȝhgt,
    Off a chylde ys fayre in syghgȝt,
    Hys modyr hym bare thys yndyrs nyghȝt
                  so stylle-a,
    And as yt was hys wylle-a.

    There cam iij kynges fro Galylee
    Into Bethleem, that fayre cytee,
    To seke hym that ever shulde be
                  by ryghȝt-a
    Lorde and kynge and knyghȝt-a.

    As they cam forth with there offrynge,
    They met with Herode that mody kynge,
                  thys tyde-a,
    And thys to them he sayde-a.

    “Off wens be ye, yow kynges iij.?
    Off the Este, as ye may see,
    To seke hym that ever shulde be
                  by ryghgȝt-a
    Lorde and kynge and knyghȝt-a.”

    “Wen yow at thys chylde have be,
    Cum home aȝeyne by me,
    Tell me the syghȝtes that yow have see,
                  I praye yow;
    Go yow no nodyr way-a.”

    They toke her leve both olde and yonge
    Off Herode that mody kynge;
    They went forth with there offrynge
                  by lyghȝth-a,
    By the sterre that shoone so bryghȝt-a.

    Tyll they cam in to the place
    There Jhesu and hys modyr was,
    Offryd they up with grete solace
                  in fere-a
    Golde and sence and myrre-a.

    The fadyr of hevyn an awngylle down sent,
    To thyke iij kynges that made presente
                  thys tyde-a,
    And thys to them he sayd-a.

    “My lorde have warnyd yow everychone,
    By Herode kynge yow go not home;
    For and yow do, he wylle you slone
                  and strye-a.
    And hurte yow wondyrly-a.”

    Forthe them wente thys kynges iij,
    Tylle they cam home to there cuntré
    Glade and blyth they were alle iij,
    Off the syghȝtes that they had see,
    The cumpany was clene-a.

    Knele we now here a-down,
    Pray we in good devocioun
    To the kynge of grete renown,
                    of grace-a,
    In hevyn to have a place-a.


    NOWELL, nowell, nowell, nowell,
    Tydyng gode y thyngke to telle.

    The borys hede, that we bryng here,
    Betokeneth a prince withoute pere,
    Ys born this day to bye us dere,

    A bore ys a souerayn beste,
    And acceptable in eury feste,
    So mote thys lord be to moste and leste,

    This borys hede we bryng w~t~ song,
    In worchyp of hym that thus sprang
    Of a virgyne to redresse all wrong.



    NOWELL, nowell, nowell, nowell.
    Who ys there that syngith so nowell, nowell?

    I am here, syre Cristsmasse;
    Well, come, my lord s^{r} Crstsmasse,
    Welcome to vs all bothe more & lasse,
                                Com ner, nowell.

    _Dievs wous garde brewe s^{rs}_ tydyge y ȝow bryng.
    A mayde hath borne a chylde full ȝong,
    The weche causeth ȝew for to syng,

    Criste is now born of a pure mayde,
    In an oxe stalle he ys layde,
    Wher’for syng we alle atte abrayde,

    _Bevvex bien par tutte la company_,
    Make gode chere and be ryght mery,
    And syng w^{t} vs now ioyfully,


      A Bonne God wote!
      Stickes in my throate,
    Without I have a draught
      Of cornie aile,
      Nappy and staile,
    My lyffe lyes in great wauste.
      Some ayle or beare,
      Gentill butlere,
    Some lycoure thou hus showe,
      Such as you mashe,
      Our throates to washe,
    The best were that yow brew.

      Saint, master, and knight,
      That Saint Mault hight,
    Were prest betwen two stones;
      That swet humour
      Of his lycoure
    Would make us sing at once.
      Mr. Wortley,
      I dar well say,
    I tell you as I thinke,
      Would not, I say,
      Byd hus this day,
    But that we shuld have drink.

      His men so tall
      Walkes up his hall,
    With many a comly dishe;
      Of his good meat
      I cannot eate,
    Without a drink i-wysse;
      Now gyve hus drink,
      And let cat wynke,
    I tell you all at once,
      Yt stickes so sore,
      I may sing no more,
    Tyll I have dronken once.


Nowel el el el, now is wel that evere was woo.

    A BABE is born al of a may,
      In the savasyoun of us,
    To hem we syngyn bothe nyȝht and day,
      _Veni creator spiritus_.

    At Bedlem that blyssid pas,
      The chylde of blysse born he was,
    Hym to serve, go ȝeve us gras,
      _O lux beata trinitas_.

    Ther come thre kynges out of the est,
      To worchepe the Kyng that is so fre,
    With gold and myrre and francincens,
      _A solis ortus cardine_.

    The herdes herdyn an aungele cry,
      A merye song then sungyn he,
    Qwy arn ȝe so sore a-gast?
      _Jam ortus solis cardine_.

    The aungele comyn down with on cry,
      A fayr song then sungyn he,
    In the worchepe of that chyld,
      _Gloria tibi, Domine_.



    Make we myrth,
    For Crystes byrth,
    And syng we ȝole tyl Candelmes.

    THE fyrst day of ȝole have we in mynd,
    How God was man born of owre kynd;
    For he the bondes wold onbynd
            Of all owre synnes and wykednes.

    The secund day we syng of Stevene,
    That stoned and steyyd up even
    To God that he saw stond in hevyn,
            And crounned was for hys prouesse.

    The iij day longeth to sent Johan,
    That was Cristys darlyng, derer non,
    Whom he betok, whan he shuld gon,
            Hys moder der for hyr clennesse.

    The iiij day of the chyldren ȝong,
    That Herowd to deth had do with wrong,
    And Crist thei coud non tell with tong,
            But with ther blod bar hym wytnesse.

    The v day longeth to sent Thomas,
    That, as a strong pyller of bras,
    Held up the chyrch, and sclayn he was,
            For he sted with ryȝtwesnesse.

    The viij day tok Jhesu hys name,
    That saved mankynd fro syn and shame,
    And circumsysed was for no blame,
            But for ensample of meknesse.

    The xij day offerd to hym kynges iij,
    Gold, myr, and cense, thes gyftes free,
    For God, and man, and kyng was he,
            Thus worschyppyd thei his worthynes.

    On the xl day cam Mary myld,
    Unto the temple with hyr chyld,
    To shew hyr clen that never was fylyd,
            And therwith endyth Crystmes.


            BLYSSID be that lady bryght,
            That bare a chyld off great myght,
            Withouten peyne, as it was right,
                                Mayd mother Marye.

    Goddys sonne is borne, his moder is a maid,
    Both aftur and beforne, as the prophycy said,
                            With ay;
            A wonder thyng it is to se,
            How mayden and moder on may be;
            Was there nonne but she,
                                Maid moder Marye.

    The great lord of heaven our servant is becom,
    Thorow Gabriels stevyn, owr kynd have benom,
                                With ay;
                A wonder thyng it is to se,
                How lord and servant on may be;
                Was ther never nonne but he,
                                      Born off maid Marye.

    Two sons togyther they owght to shyne bryght;
    So did that fayer ladye, whan Jesu in hir light,
                                With ay;
                A wonder thyng is fall,
                The lord that bought fre and thrall,
                Is found in an assis stall,
                                      By his moder Mary.

    The shepherdes in her region thei lokyd into Heaven,
    Thei se an angell commyng down, that said with myld steven.
                                With ay;
                Joy be to God almyght,
                And pece in yerth to man is dyte,
                Fore God was born on Chrismes nyght,
                                      Off his moder Marye.

    Thre kynges off great noblay, whan that chyld was born,
    To hym they tok the redy way, and kneled hym beforn,
                                With ay;
                Thes iij kynges cam fro fare,
                Thorow ledyng of a stare,
                    And offered hym gold, encence, and mure.
                                      And to hys moder Mary.


    HEY, hey, hey, hey, the borrys hede is armyd gay.
    The boris hede in hond I bryng,
    With garlond gay in porttoryng,
    I pray yow alle with me to synge,
                                                With hay.

    Lordys, knyȝttes, and skyers,
    Persons, prystis, and wycars,
    The boris hede ys the furt mes,
                                                With hay.

    The boris hede, as I yow say,
    He takis his leyfe, and gothe his way,
    Gone after the xij, theyl ffyt day,
                                                With hay.

    Then commys in the secunde kowrs with mykylle pryde,
    The crannus, the heyrrouns, the bytteris by ther syde,
    The pertrychys and the plowers, the wodcokus and the snyt,
                                                With hay.

    Larkys in hot schow, ladys for to pyk,
    Good drynk therto, lycyus and fyne,
    Blwet of allmayne, romnay and wyin,
                                                With hay.

    Gud bred alle and wyin dare I welle say,
    The boris hede with musterd armyd soo gay;
    Furmante to pottage, with wennissun fyne,
    And the hombuls of the dow, and all that ever commis in;
    Cappons i-bake, with the pesys of the roow,
    Reysons of corrons, with odyre spysis moo.


    Caput afri differo
    Reddens laudes domino.

    THE bore’s heed in hand bring I,
    With garlans gay and rosemary,
    I pray you all synge merely
                                Qui estis in convivio.

    The bore’s heed, I vnderstande,
    Is the chefe seruyce in this lande;
    Loke, where euer it be fande,
                                Seruite cum cantico.

    Be gladde lordes, bothe more and lasse,
      For this hath ordeyned our stewarde,
    To chere you all this Christmasse,
      The bores heed with mustarde.


In Betheleem.

    BE we mery in this feste,
    In quo saluator natus est.

    In Betheleem, that noble place,
    As by prophesy sayd it was,
    Of the vyrgyn Mary, full of grace,
      Saluator mundi natus est.
                                    Be we mery, &c.

    On Chrystmas nyght, an angel it tolde
    To the shephardes, kepyng theyr folde,
    That into Betheleem with bestes wolde,
      Saluator mundi natus est.
                                    Be we mery, &c.

    The shephardes were copassed ryght,
    About them was a great lyght,
    Drede ye nought, sayd the angell bryght,
      Saluator mundi natus est.
                                    Be we mery, &c.

    Beholde to you we brynge great ioy,
    For why, Jesus is borne this day
    (To vs) of Mary, that mylde may,
      Saluator mundi natus est.
                                    Be mery, &c.

    And thus in fayth fynde it ye shall,
    Lyenge porely in an oxe stall.
    The shephardes than lauded God all,
      Quia Saluator mundi natus est.
                                    Be mery, &c.


Sung to the Tune of “ESSEX LAST GOOD NIGHT.”

    ALL you that in this house be here,
      Remember Christ that for us dy’d,
    And spend away with modest cheere,
      In loving sort this Christmas tide.

    And whereas plenty God hath sent,
      Give frankly to your friends in love:
    The bounteous mind is freely bent,
      And never will a niggard prove.

    Our table spread within the hall,
      I know a banquet is at hand,
    And friendly sort to welcome all
      That wil unto their tacklings stand.

    The maids are bonny girles I see,
      Who have provided much good cheer,
    Which at my dame’s commandment be
      To set it on the table here.

    For I have here two knives in store,
      To lend to him that wanteth one;
    Commend my wits, good lads, therefore,
      That comes now hither having none.

    For if I schuld, no Christmas pye
      Would fall, I doubt, unto my share;
    Wherefore I will my manhood try,
      To fight a battle if I dare.

    For pastry-crust, like castle walls,
      Stands braving me unto my face;
    I am not well until it falls,
      And I made captain of the place.

    The prunes so lovely look on me,
      I cannot chuse but venture on:
    The pye-meat spiced brave I see,
      The which I must not let alone.

    Then, butler, fill me forth some beer,
      My song hath made me somewhat dry:
    And so again to this good cheer,
      I’le quickly fall couragiously.

    And for my master I will pray,
      With all that of his household are,
    Both old and young, that long we may
      Of God’s good blessings have a share.


    REMEMBER, O thou man, O thou man!
    Remember, O thou man!
    Thy time is spent;
    Remember, O thou man, how thou art dead and gone,
    And I did what I can, therefore repent;
    Remember Adam’s fall,
      O thou man, O thou man!

    Remember Adam’s fall,
    From heaven to hell;
    Remember Adam’s fall,
    How we were condemned all,
    In hell perpetuall
      Therefor to dwell.
    Remember God’s goodnesse,
      O thou man, man, O thou man!

    Remember God’s goodnesse,
    And his promise made,
    Remember God’s goodnesse,
    How he sent his sonne doutlesse,
    Our sinnes for to redresse,
      Be not affraid.

    The angels all did sing,
    O thou man, O thou man!
    The angels all did sing,
    Vpon the shepheardes hill.

    The angels all did singe,
    Praises to our heauenly King,
    And peace to man liuing,
      With a good will.

    The shepheards amazed was,
    O thou man, O thou man!
    The shepheards amazed was,
    To heare the angels sing;
    The shepheards amazed was,
    How it should come to passe,
    That Christ, our Messias,
      Should be our King.

    To Bethlem did they goe,
    O thou man, O thou man!
    To Bethlem did they go,
    The shepheards three;
    To Bethlem did they goe,
    To see where it were so or no.
    Whether Christ were borne or no,
      To set man free.

    As the angels before did say,
    O thou man, O thou man!
    As the angels before did say,
    So it came to passe;
    As the angels before did say,
    The found a babe where it lay.
    In a manger wrapt in hay,
      So poor he was.

    In Bethlem he was borne,
    O thou man, O thou man!
    In Bethlem he was borne,
    For mankind sake;
    In Bethlem he was borne,
    For vs that were forlorne,
    And therefore tooke no scorne,
      Our flesh to take.

    Giue thanks to God always,
    O thou man, O thou man!
    Giue thanks to God always,
    With heart most ioyfully;
    Giue thankes to God always,
    For this our happy day:
    Let all men sing and say,
            Holy, holy.


    JESUS Christ of Nazareth,
    He is born of a maiden pure,
    Wherein God is blessed.

    All the angels of the kingdom of Heaven,
    And all the shepherds of earth
    They sung, they had great joy.

    When Herod became aware
    That a little child was born,
    Then had he in his heart great spite.

    He had search made here and there,
    For young children of two years,
    All of which he deprived of life.

    When our Lady heard this,
    And that Herod was thus massacring infants,
    She felt in her heart great grief.

    She spoke to Joseph without delay;
    Get you ready, we must away,
    We should be gone, ’tis more than time.

    All the angels of the kingdom of Heaven,
    And all the clergy of the earth,
    They all delighted were and glad!

    Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
    He is born of a maiden pure,
    Wherein God is blessed.


  IN those twelve days, and in those twelve days, let us be glad,
  For God of his power hath all things made.

    What is that which is but one?
    We have but one God alone,
    In Heaven above sits on his throne.

    What are they which are but two?
    Two Testaments, as we are told,
    The one is New and the other Old.
                    And in those, &c.

    What are they that are but three?
    Three persons in the Trinity,
    To Father, Son, and Ghost Holy.
                    And in those, &c.

    What are they that are but four?
    Four Gospels written true,
    John, Luke, Mark, and Matthew.
                    And in those, &c.

    What are they that are but five?
    Five senses we have to tell,
    God grant us grace to use them well.
                    And in those, &c.

    What are they that are but six?
    Six ages this world shall last,
    Five of them are gone and past.
                    And in those, &c.

    What are they that are but seven?
    Seven days in the week have we,
    Six to work and the seventh holy.
                    And in those, &c.

    What are they that are but eight?
    Eight beatitudes are given,
    Use them well and go to Heaven.
                    And in those, &c.

    What are they that are but nine?
    Nine degrees of angels high,
    Which praise God continually.
                    And in those, &c.

    What are they that are but ten?
    Ten commandments God hath given,
    Keep them right and go to Heaven.
                    And in those, &c.

    What are they that are but eleven?
    Eleven thousand virgins did partake,
    And suffered death for Jesus’ sake.
                    And in those, &c.

    What are they that are but twelve?
    Twelve apostles Christ did chuse,
    To preach the Gospel to the Jews.
                    And in those, &c.



    JOSEPH was an old man, and an old man was he,
    When he wedded Mary, in the land of Galilee;
    When Joseph and Mary walked in the garden good,
    There was cherries and berries as red as the blood.

    O then bespoke Mary, so meek and so mild,
    Pluck me some cherries, Joseph, for I am with child;
    O then bespoke Joseph, with words so unkind,
    Let him pluck the cherries that brought thee with child.

    O then bespoke Jesus in his mother’s womb,
    Bow down then the tallest tree, that my mother may have some;
    Then bowed down the tallest tree, it bent to Mary’s hand,
    Then she cried, See, Joseph, I have cherries at command.

    O then bespoke Joseph, I have done Mary wrong,
    But cheer up, my dearest, and be not cast down;
    Then Joseph and Mary did to Bethlehem go,
    And with travels were weary walking to and fro.

    They sought for a lodging, but the inns were fill’d all,
    They, alas! could not have it, but in an ox’s stall;
    But before the next morning our Saviour was born,
    In the month of December, Christmas Day in the morn.



    A CHILD this day is born,
      A child of high renown,
    Most worthy of a sceptre,
      A sceptre and a crown.
            Novels, novels, novels,
              Novels, sing all we may,
            Because the King of all kings
              Was born this blessed day.

    The which the holy prophets
      Spake of long time before,
    That from the fall of Adam
      He should us all restore.
            Novels, &c.

    This child, both God and man,
      From Heaven down to us came,
    He is the King of all kings,
      And Jesus is his name
            Novels, &c.

    These tidings shepherds heard,
      In field watching their fold,
    Were by an angel unto them,
      That night reveal’d and told.
            Novels, &c.

    Who standing near by them,
      To them shined so bright,
    That they amazed were
      At that most glorious sight.
                                  Novels, &c.

    To whom the angel spoke,
      Saying, Be not afraid,
    Be glad, poor silly shepherds,
      Why are you so dismayed?
                                  Novels, &c.

    For lo! I bring you tidings
      Of gladness and of mirth,
    Which cometh to all people by
      This holy infant’s birth.
                                  Novels, &c.

    Him hath God lifted up,
      As light and shepherd’s horn,
    Which in the city of David,
      This present time was born.
                                  Novels, &c.

    The only Son of God was he,
      The Lord and God most highest;
    And He is the true shepherd,
      The young child Jesus Christ.
                                  Novels, &c.

    Then was there with the angel,
      An host incontinent
    Of heavenly bright soldiers,
      Which from the highest was sent.
                                  Novels, &c.

    Lauding the Lord our God,
      And his celestial king;
    All glory be in Paradise,
      This heavenly host did sing.
                                  Novels, &c.

    Glory be unto our God,
      That sitteth still on high,
    With praises and with triumph great,
      And joyful melody.
                                  Novels, &c.

    But when this holy army
      Of heavenly soldiers bright,
    Was unto God returned,
      And vanish’d out of sight.
                                  Novels, &c.

    The shepherds’ hearts joyful,
      At this great glorious news,
    That the King of all kings
      Was risen amongst the Jews.
                                  Novels, &c.

    Without the least of hinderance,
      Anon they went in then,
    And found the young child, Jesus Christ,
      Thus born in Bethlehem.
                                  Novels, &c.

    And as the angel told them,
      So to them did appear;
    They found the young child, Jesus Christ,
      With Mary, his mother dear.
                                  Novels, &c.

    Now such a place it was,
      Where this was come to pass,
    For want of room this child was laid
      Betwixt an ox and ass.
                                  Novels, &c.

    Not sumptuously, but simply,
      Was this young King array’d;
    A manger was the cradle,
      Where this young child was laid.
                                  Novels, &c.

    No pride at all was found
      In this most holy child,
    But he being void of all sin,
      The lamb of God most mild.
                                  Novels, &c.

    His body unto bitter pains
      He gave to set us free;
    He is our Saviour, Jesus Christ,
      And none but only he.
                                  Novels, &c.

    To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
      All glory be therefore,
    To whom be all dominion
      Both now and evermore.
                                  Novels, &c.


    AS I passed by a river side,
      And there as I did reign,
    In argument I chanced to hear
      A carnal and a crane.

    The carnal said unto the crane,
      If all the world should turn,
    Before we had the Father,
      But now we have the Son.

    From whence does the Son come?
      From where and from what place?
    He said, In a manger,
      Between an ox and ass!

    I pray thee, said the carnal,
      Tell me before thou go,
    Was not the mother of Jesus
      Conceived by the Holy Ghost?

    She was the purest virgin.
      And the cleanest from sin;
    She was the handmaid of our Lord,
      And mother of our King.

    Where is the golden cradle
      That Christ was rocked in?
    Where are the silken sheets
      That Jesus was wrapt in?

    A manger was the cradle
      That Christ was rocked in;
    The provender the asses left,
      So sweetly he slept on.

    There was a star in the West land,
      So bright it did appear,
    Into king Herod’s chamber,
      And where king Herod were.

    The wise men soon espied it,
      And told the king on high,
    A princely Babe was born that night,
      No king could e’er destroy.

    If this be true, king Herod said,
      As thou tellest unto me,
    This roasted cock that lies in the dish
      Shall crow full fences three.

    The cock soon freshly feather’d was,
      By the work of God’s own hand,
    And then three fences crowed he,
      In the dish where he did stand.

    Rise up, rise up, you merry men all,
      See that you ready be,
    All children under two years old
      Now slain they all shall be.

    Then Jesus, ah! and Joseph,
      And Mary, that was so pure,
    They travell’d into Egypt,
      As you shall find it sure.

    And when they came to Egypt’s land,
      Amongst those fierce wild beasts,
    Mary, she being weary.
      Must needs sit down to rest.

    Come sit thee down, says Jesus,
      Come sit thee down by me,
    And thou shalt see how these wild beasts
      Do come and worship me.

    First, came the lovely lion,
      Which Jesus’s grace did spring,
    And of the wild beasts in the field,
      The lion shall be king.

    We’ll choose our virtuous princes.
      Of birth and high degree,
    In every sundry nation,
      Where’er we come and see.

    Then Jesus, ah! and Joseph,
      And Mary, that was unknown,
    They travelled by a husbandman,
      Just while his seed was sown.

    God speed thee, man! said Jesus,
      Go fetch thy ox and wain,
    And carry home thy corn again,
      Which thou this day hast sown.

    The husbandman fell on his knees,
      Even before his face;
    Long time hast Thou been looked for.
      But now Thou art come at last.

    And I myself do now believe
      Thy name is Jesus called;
    Redeemer of mankind thou art,
      Though undeserving all.

    The truth, man, thou hast spoken,
      Of it thou mayest be sure,
    For I must lose my precious blood
      For thee and thousands more.

    If any one should come this way,
      And enquire for me alone,
    Tell him that Jesus passed by
      As thou thy seed did sow.

    After that there came king Herod,
      With his train so furiously,
    Enquiring of the husbandman
      Whether Jesus passed by.

    Why the truth it must be spoke,
      And the truth it must be known,
    For Jesus passed by this way,
      When my seed was sown.

    But now I have it reapen,
      And some laid on my wain,
    Ready to fetch and carry
      Into my barn again.

    Turn back, says the captain,
      Your labour and mine’s in vain,
    It’s full three quarters of a year
      Since he his seed has sown.

    So Herod was deceived,
      By the work of God’s own hand,
    And further he proceeded
      Into the Holy Land.

    There’s thousands of children young,
      Which for his sake did die;
    Do not forbid those little ones,
      And do not them deny.

    The truth now I have spoken,
      And the truth now I have shown;
    Even the blessed virgin,
      She’s now brought forth a Son.


    AS it fell out one May morning,
      And upon one bright holiday,
    Sweet Jesus asked of his dear mother,
      If He might go to play.

    To play, to play, sweet Jesus shall go,
      And to play pray get you gone,
    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.

    He said, God bless you every one,
      And your bodies Christ save and see;
    Little children, shall I play with you,
      And you shall play with me?

    But they made answer to him, No!
      They were lords’ and ladies’ sons;
    And He, the meanest of them all,
      A maiden’s child, born in an oxen’s stall.

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

    Sweet Jesus turned him about,
      To his mother’s dear home went he,
    And said, I have been in yonder town,
      As after you may see.

    I have been down in yonder town,
      As far as the Holy Well,
    And there did I meet as fine children
      As any tongue can tell.

    I bid God bless them every one,
      And their bodies Christ save and see;
    Little children, shall I play with you,
      And you shall play with me?

    But they made answer to me, No!
      They were lords’ and ladies’ sons,
    And I, the meanest of them all,
      A maiden’s child, born in an ox’s stall.

    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.

    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.

    O then spoke the angel Gabriel,
      Upon one good Saint Stephen,
    Altho’ you’re but a maiden’s child,
      You are the King of Heaven.


    A VIRGIN most pure as the prophets do tell,
    Hath brought forth a babe, as it hath befell,
    To be our Redeemer from death, hell, and sin,
    Which Adam’s transgression had wrapt us all in.
          Rejoice and be you merry, set sorrow aside,
          Christ Jesus our Saviour was born on this tide.

    In Bethlehem city, in Jury it was,
    Where Joseph and Mary together did pass,
    And there to be taxed with many one more,
    For Cæsar commanded the same should be so.
          Rejoice, &c.

    But when they had entered the city so far,
    The number of people so mighty was there,
    That Joseph and Mary whose substance was small,
    Could get in the city no lodging at all.
          Rejoice, &c.

    Then they were constrained in a stable to lie,
    Where oxen and asses they used to tie;
    Their lodging so simple, they held it no scorn,
    But against the next morning our Saviour was born.
          Rejoice, &c.

    The King of all Glory to the world being brought,
    Small store of fine linen to wrap him was bought;
    When Mary had swaddled her young son so sweet,
    Within an ox manger, she laid him to sleep.
          Rejoice, &c.

    Then God sent an angel from heaven so high,
    To certain poor shepherds in fields where they lie,
    And bid them no longer in sorrow to stay,
    Because that our Saviour was born on this day.
          Rejoice, &c.

    Then presently after the shepherds did spy
    A number of angels appear in the sky,
    Who joyfully talked and sweetly did sing,
    To God be all glory, our Heavenly King.
          Rejoice, &c.

    Three certain wise princes, they thought it most meet,
    To lay their rich offerings at our Saviour’s feet;
    Then the shepherds consented and to Bethlehem did go,
    And when they came thither, they found it was so.
          Rejoice, &c.



    GOD rest you, merry gentlemen,
        Let nothing you dismay,
    For Jesus Christ our Saviour
        Was born upon this day,
    To save us all from Satan’s power
        When we were gone astray.
    O tidings of comfort and joy,
    For Jesus Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas Day.

    In Bethlehem, in Jury,
        This blessed babe was born,
    And laid within a manger
        Upon this blessed morn;
    The which his mother Mary
        Did nothing take in scorn.
                                    O tidings, &c.

    From God, our Heavenly Father,
        A blessed angel came,
    And unto certain shepherds
        Brought tidings of the same,
    That there was born in Bethlehem
        The Son of God by name.
                                    O tidings, &c.

    Fear not then, said the Angel,
        Let nothing you affright,
    This day is born a Saviour
        Of a pure Virgin bright;
    So frequently to vanquish all
        The friends of Satan quite.
                                    O tidings, &c.

    The shepherds at these tidings
      Rejoiced much in mind,
    And left their flocks a feeding
      In tempest, storm, and wind,
    And went to Bethlehem straightway,
      This blessed Babe to find.
                                    O tidings, &c.

    But when they came to Bethlehem,
      Where our dear Saviour lay,
    They found Him in a manger,
      Where oxen fed on hay;
    His mother, Mary, kneeling,
      Unto the Lord did pray.
                                    O tidings, &c.

    Now to the Lord sing praises
      All you within this place,
    And with true love and brotherhood
      Each other now embrace;
    This holy tide of Christmas
      All others doth deface.
                                    O tidings, &c.


    GOD’S dear Son without beginning,
      Whom the wicked Jews did scorn;
    The only wise without all sinning
      On this blessed day was born.
    To save us all from sin and thrall,
      When we in Satan’s chains were bound,
    And shed his blood to do us good,
      With many a purple bleeding wound.

    At Bethlehem, king David’s city,
      Mary’s Babe had sweet creation,
    God and Man endu’d with pity,
      And a Saviour of each nation.
    Yet Jewry land with cruel hand,
      Both first and last his power envy’d;
    Where He was born, they did Him scorn,
      And shew’d Him malice when He died.

    No princely palace for our Saviour,
      In Judea could be found.
    But blessed Mary’s meek behaviour,
      Patiently upon the ground,
    Her babe did place in vile disgrace,
      Where oxen in their stalls did feed;
    No midwife mild had this sweet Child,
      Nor woman’s help at mother’s need.

    No kingly robes nor golden treasure
      Deck’d the birth-day of God’s Son;
    No pompal train at all took pleasure
      To this King of kings to run.
    No mantle brave could Jesus have,
      Upon His cradle for to lye;
    No musick’s charms in nurse’s arms,
      To sing the Babe a lullaby.

    Yet as Mary sat in solace,
      By our Saviour’s first beginning,
    Hosts of angels from God’s palace
      Sounded sweet from Heaven singing;
    Yea, heaven and earth, for Jesus’ birth,
      With sweet melodious tunes abound,
    And every thing for Jewry’s King,
      Upon the earth gave chearful sound.

    Then with angel’s love inspired,
      The wise princes from the East,
    To Bethlehem as they desired,
      Came whereas the Lord did rest:
    And there they laid before the maid,
      Before her Son, our God and King,
    Their offerings sweet, as was most meet,
      Unto so great a power to bring.

    Now to Him that us redeemed,
      By His precious death and passion;
    And us sinners so esteemed
      To buy us dearly thus salvation;

    Yield lasting fame that still the name
      Of Jesus may be honored here;
    And let us say that Christmas Day
      Is still the best day in the year.


    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 what was in those ships all three,
      On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?
    And what was in those ships all three,
      On Christmas Day in the morning?

    Our Saviour Christ and his lady,
      On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
    Our Saviour Christ and his lady,
      On Christmas Day in the morning.

    Pray whither sailed those ships all three,
      On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
    Pray whither sailed those ships all three,
      On Christmas Day in the morning.

    O, they sailed into Bethlehem,
      On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
    O, they sailed into Bethlehem,
      On Christmas Day in the morning.

    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.

    Then let us all rejoice amain,
      On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
    Then let us all rejoice amain,
      On Christmas Day in the morning.


    THE first nowell the angel did say
    Was to three poor shepherds in the fields as they lay;
    In fields where they lay keeping their sheep,
    In a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
                            Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell,
                            Born is the King of Israel.

    They looked up and saw a star
    Shining in the east, beyond them far,
    And to the earth it gave great light,
    And so it continued both day and night.
                                            Nowell, &c.

    And by the light of that same star,
    Three wise men came from country far;
    To seek for a King was their intent,
    And to follow the star wherever it went.
                                            Nowell, &c.

    This star drew nigh to the north-west,
    O’er Bethlehem it took its rest,
    And there it did both stop and stay
    Right over the place where Jesus lay.
                                            Nowell, &c.

    Then did they know assuredly
    Within that house the King did lie;
    One entered in then for to see,
    And found the Babe in poverty.
                                            Nowell, &c.

    Then enter’d in those wise men three,
    Most reverently upon their knee,
    And offer’d there, in His presence,
    Both gold, and myrrh, and frankincense.
                                            Nowell, &c.

    Between an ox-stall and an ass,
    This child truly there born He was;
    For want of clothing they did Him lay
    All in the manger, among the hay.
                                            Nowell, &c.

    Then let us all, with one accord,
    Sing praises to our Heavenly Lord,
    That hath made Heaven and earth of nought,
    And with His blood mankind hath bought.
                                            Nowell, &c.

    If we in our time shall do well,
    We shall be free from death and hell;
    For God hath prepared for us all
    A resting-place in general.
                                            Nowell, &c.


    THE Lord at first had Adam made
      Out of the dust and clay,
    And in his nostrils breathed life,
      E’en as the Scriptures say;
    And then in Eden’s Paradise
      He placed him to dwell,
    That he within it should remain,
      To dress and keep it well.
                    Now let good Christians all begin
                      An holy life to live,
                    And to rejoice and merry be,
                      For this is Christmas Eve.

    And thus within the garden he
      Commanded was to stay;
    And unto him in commandment
      These words the Lord did say:
    “The fruit that in the garden grows
      To thee shall be for meat,
    Except the tree in the midst thereof,
      Of which thou shalt not eat.
                                    Now let good, &c.

    “For in that day thou dost it touch,
      Or dost it then come nigh,
    And if that thou dost eat thereof,
      Then thou shalt surely die.”
    But Adam he did take no heed
      To that same only thing,
    But did transgress God’s holy laws,
      And sore was wrapp’d in sin.
                                    Now let good, &c.

    Now mark the goodness of the Lord,
      Which He to mankind bore;
    His mercy soon he did extend
      Lost man for to restore;
    And then, for to redeem our souls
      From death, and hell, and thrall,
    He said his own dear Son should come
      The Saviour of us all.
                                    Now let good, &c.

    Which promise now is brought to pass,
      Christians believe it well,
    And by the coming of God’s Son,
      We are redeem’d from hell.
    And if we truly do believe,
      And do the thing that’s right,
    Then by His merits we at last
      Shall live in Heaven bright.
                                    Now let good, &c.

    Now, for the benefits that we
      Enjoy from Heaven above,
    Let us renounce all wickedness,
      And live in perfect love.
    Then shall we do Christ’s own command,
      Even his written word;
    And when we die, in Heaven we shall
      Enjoy our living Lord.
                                    Now let good, &c.

    And now the tide is nigh at hand,
      In which our Saviour came;
    Let us rejoice and merry be,
      In keeping of the same.
    Let’s feed the poor and hungry sort,
      And such as do it crave;
    And when we die, in Heaven be sure
      Our reward we shall have.
                                    Now let good, &c.


        TO-MORROW shall be my dancing day,
          I would my true love did so chance
        To see the legend of my play,
          To call my true love to my dance.
    Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love;
    This have I done for my true love.

        Then was I born of a virgin pure,
          Of her I took fleshly substance;
        Thus was I knit to man’s nature,
          To call my true love to my dance.
                      Sing, oh! &c.

        In a manger laid and wrapp’d I was,
          So very poor, this was my chance,
        Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass,
          To call my true love to my dance.
                      Sing, oh! &c.

        Then afterwards baptized I was,
          The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
        My Father’s voice heard from above,
          To call my true love to my dance.
                      Sing, oh! &c.

      Into the desert I was led,
        Where I fasted without substance;
      The Devil bade me make stones my bread,
        To have me break my true love’s dance.
                    Sing, oh! &c.

      The Jews on me they made great suit,
        And with me made great variance,
      Because they lov’d darkness rather than light,
        To call my true love to my dance.
                    Sing, oh! &c.

      For thirty pence Judas me sold,
        His covetousness for to advance;
      Mark whom I kiss, the same do hold,
        The same is he shall lead the dance.
                    Sing, oh! &c.

      Before Pilate the Jews me brought,
        Where Barabbas had deliverance,
      They scourg’d me and set me at nought,
        Judged me to die to lead the dance.
                    Sing, oh! &c.

      Then on the cross hanged I was,
        Where a spear to my heart did glance,
      There issued forth both water and blood,
        To call my true love to my dance.
                    Sing, oh! &c.

      Then down to hell I took my way
        For my true love’s deliverance,
      And rose again on the third day,
        Up to my true love and the dance.
                    Sing, oh! &c.

      Then up to Heaven I did ascend.
        Where now I dwell in sure substance,
      On the right hand of God, that man
        May come unto the general dance.
                    Sing, oh! &c.


    NOW when Joseph and Mary
      Were to Bethlehem bound,
    They with travelling were weary,
      Yet no lodging they found
    In the city of David,
      Tho’ they sought o’er all;
    They, alas! could not have it,
      But in an oxes stall.

    The place was no braver
      But as mean as might be,
    Our Redeemer and Saviour,
      The great King of Glory,
    Then the sweet Babe of Heaven
      Was born there we find,
    Whose sweet life was once given
      For the sins of mankind.

    Whilst the shepherds were feeding
      Of their flocks in the fields,
    The birth of our Saviour
      Unto them was revealed;
    Many angels assembling,
      In their glory appeared,
    Whilst the shepherds were trembling,
      Being smitten with fear.

    O forbear to be fearful,
      We have reason to sing;
    Then rejoice and be chearful,
      We glad tidings do bring:
    There is born in the city
      Of David, therefore,
    Such a Saviour of pity,
      Whom we all do adore.

    He’s the Prince of Salvation,
      Then be not afraid,
    And with this salutation
      To the shepherds they said,
    Be no longer a stranger,
      For in mean swadling clothes
    He is laid in a manger;
      Then the shepherds arose.

    Being resolved together
      They to Bethlehem go,
    And when they came thither
      They found it was so;
    They with duty adore him,
      Coming where he was laid—
    Strait they fell down before him,
      This obedience they made.

    Nay, the wise men, whose prudence
      Had discovered the star,
    Came to pay their obedience
      When they travell’d from far;
    Bringing with them the choicest
      That their land did afford,
    Of gold, myrrh, and spices,
      To present to the Lord.

    Their example engages
      Every Christian to be,
    Ever since in all ages,
      Both noble and free;
    Then rejoice and be merry,
      In a moderate way,
    Never, never be weary,
      To honour this day.

    Which afforded a blessing
      To the race of mankind,
    Far beyond all expressing
      Therefore let us mind;
    Whilst on earth he was dwelling,
      He was still doing good,
    Nay, his love more excelling,
      For he shed his own blood.

    To redeem us and save us
      From the guilt of our sins,
    For His love he would have us
      A new life to begin;
    Then remember the season,
      Be you kind to the poor,
    It’s no more than is reason,
      We have blessings in store.


    THIS new Christmas carol, let us cheerfully sing,
    To the honor and glory of our Heavenly King;
    Who was born of a virgin, blessed Mary by name,
    For poor sinners’ redemption, to the world here He came.

    The mighty Jehovah, by the prophets foretold,
    That the sweet Babe of Heaven mortal eyes should behold;
    Both King, Prince, and Prophet, nay, our Saviour beside,
    Let His name through all ages be ever glorified.

    Now, when Joseph and Mary was espoused, we find,
    Having seen her condition, he was grieved in mind;
    Aye, and thought to dismiss her, whom he loved so dear,
    But an angel from Heaven did her innocence clear.

    He declared in a vision, that a Son she should have,
    By the Father appointed, fallen mortals to save;
    And the same should be called blessed Jesus by name,
    From the high court of Heaven this Ambassador came.

    Then the righteous man, Joseph, believed the news,
    And the sweet Virgin Mary he did no wise refuse;
    Thus the blest amongst women, did bear and bring forth
    A sweet Prince of Salvation, both in Heaven and Earth.

    When the days of her travail did begin to draw nigh,
    Righteous Joseph and Mary went immediately
    To the city of David, to be taxed indeed,
    E’en as Cæsar Augustus had firmly decreed.

    Being come to the city, entertainment they crave,
    But the inns were so filled they no lodging could have,
    For the birth of our Saviour, though he was Prince of all,
    He could have there no place but a poor oxes stall.

    Now the proud may come hither, and perfectly see,
    The most excellent pattern of humility;
    For, instead of a cradle, deckt with ornaments gay,
    Here, the great King of Glory, in a manger He lay.

    As the shepherds were feeding their flocks in the field,
    The sweet birth of our Saviour unto them was revealed,
    By blest angels of glory, who those tidings did bring,
    And directed the shepherds to their heavenly King.

    When the wise men discover’d the bright heavenly star,
    Then with gold and rich spices, straight they came from afar,
    In obedience to worship with a heavenly mind,
    Knowing that He was born for the good of mankind.

    Let us learn of those sages, who were wise, to obey;
    Nay, we find through all ages they have honoured this day,
    Ever since our Redeemer’s bless’d nativity,
    Who was born of a virgin to set sinners free.


    WHEN Cæsar did the sceptre sway,
    Of Roman state God’s word did say,
    That all the world should out of hand,
    Be taxed by his great command.
      Noel, noel, we may rejoice
      To hear the angel Gabriel’s voice—Noel, noel.

    In David’s city, in Bethlehem,
    Great store of people thither came,
    According to the king’s decree,
    In Jury land taxed to be.
                                         Noel, noel, &c.

    Then Joseph with his virgin bright,
    Came with the rest at that same tide,
    And their substance being but small,
    Could get in the inn no lodging at all.
                                         Noel, noel, &c.

    At length a stable room they had,
    In which the virgin was full glad;
    And in that stable so forlorn
    The world’s Redeemer there was born.
                                         Noel, &c.

    No palace nor a costly inn
    Was found to put our Saviour in;
    No costly robes of silver and gold,
    To wrap Him in as reason would.
                                         Noel, &c.

    No music nor sweet melody,
    But glorious angels from on high,
    Declare to shepherds where they lay,
    That Jesus Christ was born this day.
                                         Noel, &c.

    Thus Jesus Christ, in humble wise,
    Appeared thus to human eyes;
    Then may we all both more and less
    Cast off the bands of wickedness.
                                         Noel, &c.

    Let variance, strife, and all debate,
    ’Twixt neighbours now be out of date,
    That peace may spread throughout earth then,
    There shall be good will with men.
                                         Noel, &c.

    Rejoice, rejoice, in sober wise,
    And praise the Lord who rules the skies,
    Who for our sakes thought it no scorn
    To give command now Christ is born.
                                         Noel, &c.


    SAINT Stephen was an holy man,
      Endued with heavenly might,
    And many wonders he did work
      Before the people’s sight.
    And by the blessed Spirit of God,
      Which did his heart inflame,
    He spared not in every place
      To preach Christ Jesus’ name.
            O man, do never faint nor fear,
              When God the truth shall try,
            But mark how Stephen for Christ’s sake
              Was willing for to die.

    Which doctrine seem’d most wond’rous strange
      Among the faithless Jews,
    And for the same despitefully
      Good Stephen they accused.
    Before the elders was he brought
      His answer for to make,
    But they could not his spirit withstand,
      Whereby this man did speak.
                                   O man, &c.

    And then false witness did appear,
      And looked him in the face,
    And said he spake blasphemous words
      Against that holy place;
    And how he said that Jesus Christ
      The temple would destroy,
    And change the laws which they so long
      From Moses did enjoy.
                                   O man, &c.

    Whilst this was told, the multitude
      Beholding him aright,
    His comely face began to shine
      Most like an angel bright.
    The high priest then to them did say,
      And bid them tell at large,
    If this was true, which at that time
      They laid unto his charge.
                                   O man, &c.

    Then Stephen did put forth his voice,
      And he did first unfold
    The wond’rous works that God hath wrought,
      Even from their fathers old;
    That they thereby might plain perceive
      Christ Jesus should be he,
    That from the burthen of the law
      Should save us frank and free.
                                   O man, &c.

    But, oh! quoth he, you wicked men,
      Which of the prophets all
    Did not your fathers persecute
      And keep in woeful thrall;
    Who told the coming of the just
      In prophecies most plain;
    Who here amongst you was betray’d
      And most unjustly slain?
                                   O man, &c.

    But when they heard him so to say,
      Their hearts in sunder clave,
    And gnashing on him with their teeth,
      Like mad men they did rave;
    And with a shout most loud and shrill,
      Upon him they all ran,
    And then without the city gates
      They ston’d this holy man.
                                   O man, &c.

    Then he most meekly on his knees,
      To God did pray at large,
    Desiring that He would not lay
      This sin unto their charge;
    Then yielding up his soul to God,
      Who had it dearly bought,
    He lost his life, whose body then
      To grave was seemly brought.
                                 O man, &c.


    HARK! the herald Angels sing,
    Glory to the new-born King;
    Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
    God and sinner reconcil’d.
                      Hark! the herald angels sing,
                      Glory to the new-born King.

    Joyfull all ye nations rise,
    Join the triumph of the skies,
    With the angelic host proclaim,
    Christ is born in Bethlehem.
                                Hark! the herald, &c.

    Christ by highest Heaven ador’d,
    Christ the everlasting Lord!
    Late in time behold Him come,
    Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
                                Hark! the herald, &c.

    Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
    Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
    Light and life to all He brings,
    Risen with healing on His wings.
                                Hark! the herald, &c.

    Mild he lays his glory by,
    Born that man no more may die,
    Born to raise the sons of earth,
    Born to give them second birth.
                                Hark! the herald, &c.



    GUILLÔ, pran ton tamborin;
    Toi, pran tai fleùte, Robin.
    Au son de cés instruman,
    Turelurelu, patapatapan;
    Au son de cés instruman
    Je diron Noei gaiman.

    C’ étó lai môde autrefoi
    De loüé le Roi dé Roi,
    Au son de cés instruman,
    Turelurelu, patapatapan;
    Au son de cés instruman,
    Ai nos an fan faire autan.

    Ce jor le Diale at ai cu,
    Randons an graice ai Jésu,
    Au son de cés instruman,
    Turelurelu, patapatapan,
    Au son de cés instruman,
    Fezon lai nique ai Satan.

    L’homme & Dei son pu d’aicor
    Que lai fleùte & le tambor.
    Au son de cés instruman,
    Turelurelu, patapatapan,
    Au son de cés instruman,
    Chanton, danson, sautons-an.


Per le jour des Reys.

_Un Pastou ben de Hiérusalém & dits a sons Coumpaignons._

    DE noubélos Efans, en benen de la bilo
    E’ bist passá, tres Reys d’uno faysso gentilo,
    E’ demandon per tout l’hostalet benazit
    Que le Rey d’Israel per palays a cauzit.

      Qualqu’un a decelat que porton per estrenos,
    Tres Brustietos d’Encens, d’Or, é de Myrro plenos
    Que li ban humblomen ufri, digomendiu,
    Que confesson deja qu’el es Rey, home, Diu.

      Elis parlon sampa de l’Efantet aymable
    Que nous aus l’autre jour troubeguen à l’estable,
    A qui Peyret dounéc un Aignelet pla fayt,
    E’ jou sense reprochi, un picharrou de layt.

      Posco dounc oüey metis uno ta bélo troupo
    Hurousomen trouba le bél efan de poupo,
    Mentre que de nous aus quadun le pregara
    De nous salba l’esprit quand le cos mourira.


    TRES Rei de l’Orian
    Son conduit per un Astre
    Ver lou nouvel Enfan,
    Qu’an adoura lei Pastre
    Venouen sensen
    Creigne auū desastre,
    L’Astre avancen
    S’arreste en Bethlehem.

      S’isten, vount ’ei l’Enfan,
    Fixa l’astre admirable,
    Intron dessu lou chan,
    Trouvon Jesus aimable.
    Descouvron qu’ei
    Lou sul Dieou veritable,
    Qu’es homme, & rei;
    Chacun lou recounei.

      A ginoux, à sei pé
    Entoura de sei pagé
    Em’un profond respé,
    Liaguen fa seis houmage
    Lisfron perlor
    Aquelei pious mage
    De sei tresor
    L’encen, la mirrhe, & l’or.

      Fasen nostei presen
    A Jesus, qui nous amou,
    Oufren li nostei ben,
    Nostei cor, nosteis amou.
    Enfan tan doux,
    Vost’amour nous enflamou,
    Nou charma tous;
    Voulen ama que vous.


Sur un chant joyeux.

    QUAND Dieu naquit á Noël
      Dedans la Judeé,
    On vit ce jour solemnel
      La joie inondée;
    Se n’etoit ni petit ni grand
    Qui n’apportât son presént,
    Et n’o, n’o, n’o, n’o,
    Et n’offrit, frit, frit,
    Et n’o, n’o, & n’offrit,
    Et n’offrit sans cesse Toute sa richesse.

    L’un apportoit un agneau
      Avec un grand zele,
    L’autre un peu de lait nouveau
      Dedans une écuelle;
    Tel, sous ses pauvres habits,
    Cachoit un peu de pain bis,
    Pour la, la, la, la,
    Pour la, sain, sain, sain,
    Pour la, la, pour la sain,
    Pour la Ste Vierge et Joseph Concierge.

    Ce bon Père putatif
      De Jesus mon Maitre,
    Que le pasteur plus chétif
      Desiroit connaitre,
    D’un air obligeant & doux,
    Recevoit les dons, de tous,
    Sans cé, cé, cé, cé,
    Sans céré, ré, ré,
    Sans cé, cé, sans céré,
    Sans cérémoniè, Pour le fruit de vie.

    Il ne fut pas jusqu’ aux Rois
      Du rivage Maure,
    Qui joint au nombre de trois,
      Ne vinssent encore;
    Ces bons Princes d’Orient.
    Offrirent en le priant,
    L’en, l’en, l’en, l’en, l’en,
    Cens, cens, cens, cens, cens,
    L’en, l’en, l’en, cens, cens, cens,
    L’encens & la myrrhe et l’or qu’on admire.

    Quoiqu’il n’en eût pas besoin,
      Jesus notre Maitre,
    Il en prit avecque soin
      Pour faire connoitre
    Qu’il avoit les qualités
    Par ces dons représentés,
    D’un vrai, vrai, vrai, vrai,
    D’un Roi, Roi, Roi, Roi,
    D’un vrai, vrai, d’un Roi, Roi,
    D’un vrai, Roi de Gloire en qui l’on doit croire.

    Plaise à ce divin Enfant
      Nous faire la grâce,
    Dans son sejour triomphant
      D’avoir une place:
    Si nous y sommes jamais,
    Nous goûterons une paix
    De lon, lon, lon, lon,
    De gue, gue, gue, gue,
    De lon, lon, de gue, gue,
    De longue durée dans cet empireé.



    LON de la gran carriere,
      Ver lou Pourtaou-Limber,
    Ay vis pareisse en l’air
      Un Ange de lumiere,
    Cridavou de per-tout,
    Bergié, reveillas-vous.

      Ere su ma mounture,
    D’abord sieou descendu,
    Et m’a dit, beou Moussu,
      Ay, la belle aventure,
    Es na lou Fis de Dieou,
    Toun Mestre amay lou mieou.

      Foou quitta ta famille,
    Vay-t’en en Bethelem,
    Trouvaras l’Inoucen
      A cent pas de la ville,
    Portou-ye quaouquouren,
    Es lougea paouramen.

      Ay poursui moun vouyage,
    Ay vis veni de gen,
    Qu’eroun touteis ensen,
      Em’un grand equipage,
    Erou trés gran Seignour,
    Eme toutou sa cour.

      Chascun avié sei Page,
    Eme sei Gardou cor,
    Me sieou pensa d’abor,
      Qu’éroun leis trés Rei Mage,
    Que venien adoura
    Lou gran Rei nouveou na.

      Me sieou més à n’un cayre,
    Per lei leissa passa,
    Et puis ay demanda
      A seis homes d’affayre,
    Si van en Bethelem
    Veire lou Dieou neissen.

      Yá un d’aquelei Garde
    Que má brutalisa,
    Su lou cham m’a douna
      Un bon co d’halabarde:
    Si m’espouffesse pa,
    Me venié may piqua.

      Yeou ay suivi la foulou,
    Sen me descouragea,
    La doulour m’a passa,
      Ou bout d’une miéchourou,
    Sieou ana eme lou trin
    Jusquo ver lou Douphin.

      Avien de dromadairou,
    Quantita de charrios,
    Et de cameou fort gros,
      La suite érou fort bellou,
    Jamay yeou n’ay ren vi
    Eme tant de plesi.

      Un astre lei guidave,
    Plus brillan qu’un souleou,
    Jamay ren de tant beou,
      Tout lou mounde badave:
    Lou tem m’a ren dura,
    Tant ére esmerveilla.

      Aprés dex jour de marche,
    L’astre s’es arresta
    Sur un lio tout trouca,
      Ben plus precioux que l’Arche,
    Aqui lou Tout-puissan
    Parci coum’un enfan.



    L’AN mil siés cens quaranto cinc,
      Repassen per nostro memorio,
    Coussi Jousép en paure trinc
      Acoumpaignée le Réy de Glorio,
    Quand demourabo dins les réns
    De Mario la piucélo préns.

    Jousép é Mario maridats
      En Béthléhen sén ban amaço,
    Nou soun pas fort amounedats.
      Més bé soun de Rouyalo raço,
    E l’efan és Rey dins les réns,
    De Mario la piucélo préns.

    Sense gran argen al paquét
      N’an pas un trinc de grand parado,
    Non menoun que le bourriquét
      Dambé le bioou soun camarado,
    Diu mentretan és dins les réns,
    De Mario la piucélo préns.

    Aprép un penible cami
      Sant Jousép é la santo méro,
    Que nou saben pas oun dourmi,
      Ban beilha dins uno feignéro,
    Oun l’efan que Diu sort des réns
    Nou laysso plus sa méro préns.

    Aqui la paillo lour fa liéyt
      Sense cousseno ni courtino,
    Oun las estelos de la néyt
      Bezen ajayre lour Regino,
    E’ naysse l’efan de sous réns
    Piucélo toutjour é nou préns.


    J’ANTAN po no ruë,
    Passai lé menétrei,
    Acouté come ai juë.
    Su los hauboi dé noei;
    No devan le feù
    Po le meù,
    Chantons an jeusqu’ai méneù.

    An Deçanbre on trezeule,
    Dé noei tô lé jor;
    Dé chantre fot-an-gueule,
    An antone é carrefor;
    No devan le feù, &c.

    Lé borgei dan lai grainge
    Voù grulló le Pòpon,
    Chantire ai sai loüainge
    Dé noei de tô lé ton;
    No devan le feù, &c.

    Lé bone jan disire
    De noei bé dévo,
    Ma quant ai lé chantire,
    Ai n’aivein pa lé pié chau;
    No devan le feù, &c.

    Dans lo froide chambrôte,
    Lé none an ce sain moi,
    Faute d’autre émusôte,
    Chante noei queique foi;
    No devan, &c.

    Lé prôve laivandeire,
    Au son de lo rullô,
    An chante ai lai riveire,
    Lai téte au van, lé pié mô!
    No devan, &c.

    Qui montre au feù sé cueùsse
    Trepille de chantai,
    Qui sòfle dan sé peùce,
    Nán di pa noei si gai’;
    No devan, &c.


      I HERE along our street
      Pass the minstrel throngs:
      Hark! they play so sweet,
    On their hautboys, Christmas songs!
      Let us by the fire
      Ever higher
    Sing them till the night expire!

        In December ring,
        Every day the chimes;
        Loud the gleemen sing,
    In the streets, their merry rhymes.
                      Let us, &c.

        Shepherds at the grange,
        Where the Babe was born,
        Sang with many a change,
    Christmas carols until morn.
                      Let us, &c.

        These good people sang,
        Songs devout and sweet,
        While the rafters rang,
    There they stood with freezing feet.
                      Let us, &c.

        Nuns in frigid cells,
        At this holy tide,
        For want of something else,
    Christmas songs at times have tried.
                      Let us, &c.

        Washerwomen old,
        To the sound they beat,
        Sing by rivers cold,
    With uncovered heads and feet.
                      Let us, &c.

        Who by the fireside stands,
        Stamps his feet and sings;
        But he who blows his hands,
    Not so gay a carol brings.
        Let us by the fire
        Ever higher
    Sing them till the night expire.


A Mock Play.


_Enter_ Alexander.—Alexander _speaks_.

    SILENCE, brave gentlemen; if you will give me an eye,
    _Alexander_ is my name, I’ll sing the Tragedy;
    A ramble here I took, the country for to see,
    Three actors here I’ve brought so far from _Italy_;
    The first I do present, he is a noble king,
    He’s just come from the wars, good tidings he doth bring;
    The next that doth come in, he is a docter good,
    Had it not been for him, I’d surely lost my blood:
    Old _Dives_ is the next, a miser you may see,
    Who, by lending of his gold, is come to poverty.
    So, gentlemen, you see four actors will go round;
    Stand off a little while, more pastime shall be found.


_Enter_ Actors.

    Room, room, brave gallants, give us room to sport,
    For in this room we have a mind to resort—
    Resort, and to repeat to you our merry rhyme,
    For remember, good sirs, this is _Christmas_ time;
    The time to cut up goose pies now doth appear,
    So we are come to act our merry mirth here:
    At the sounding of the trumpet, and beating of the drum,
    Make room, brave gentlemen, and let our actors come.
    We are the merry actors that traverses the street;
    We are the merry actors that fight for our meat;
    We are the merry actors that show the pleasant play:
    Step in, thou king of _Egypt_, and clear the way.

    _King of Egypt._ I am the king of _Egypt_, as plainly doth appear,
    And Prince _George_ he is my only son and heir:
    Step in, therefore, my son, and act thy part with me,
    And shew forth thy praise before the company.

    _Prince George._ I am Prince _George_, a champion brave and bold,
    For with my spear I’ve won three crowns of gold;
    ’Twas I that brought the Dragon to the slaughter,
    And I that gain’d the _Egyptian_ monarch’s daughter.
    In Egypt’s fields I prisoner long was kept,
    But by my valour I from them soon ’scap’d:
    I sounded at the gates of a divine,
    And out came a giant of no good design;
    He gave me a blow, which almost struck me dead,
    But I up with my sword, and did cut off his head.

    _Alexander._ Hold, Stacker, hold, pray do not be so hot,
    For on this spot thou knowest not who thou’s got;
    ’Tis I that’s to hash thee and smash thee as small as flies,
    And lend thee to _Satan_ to make minch pies:
    Minch pies hot, minch pies cold—
    I’ll send thee to Satan ere thou be three days’ old.
    But, hold, Prince _George_, before thou go away,
    Either thou or I must die this bloody day;
    Some mortal wounds thou shalt receive by me,
    So let us fight it out most manfully.


Alexander _and_ Prince George _fight_: _the latter is wounded, and

King of Egypt _speaks_.

    Curs’d Christian, what is this thou hast done?
    Thou hast ruin’d me by killing my best son.

    _Alex._ He gave me a challenge—why should I him deny?
    How high he was, but see how low he lies!

    _K. of Egypt._ O Sambo! Sambo! help me now,
    For I never was in more need;
    For thou to stand with sword in hand,
    And to fight at my command.

    _Doct._ Yes, my liege, I will thee obey,
    And by my sword I hope to win the day:
    Yonder stands he who has kill’d my master’s son;
    I’ll see if he be sprung from royal blood,
    And through his body make an ocean flood.
    Gentleman, you see my sword-point is broke,
    Or else I’d run it down that villain’s throat.

    _K. of Egypt._ Is there never a doctor to be found,
    That can cure my son of his deadly wound?

    _Doct._ Yes, there is a doctor to be found,
    That can cure your son of his deadly wound.

    _K. of Egypt._ What diseases can he cure?

    _Doct._ All diseases, both within and without,
    Especially the itch, ...., palsy, and the gout;
    Come in, you ugly, nasty, dirty....,
    Whose age is threescore years or more,
    Whose nose and face stands all awry,
    I’ll make her very fitting to pass by.
    I’ll give a coward a heart, if he be willing,
    Will make him stand without fear of killing.
    And any man that’s got a scolding spouse,
    That wearies him with living in his house,
    I’ll ease him of his complaint, and make her civil,
    Or else will send her headlong to the devil.
    Ribs, legs, or arms, when any’s broke, I’m sure
    I presently of them will make a cure;
    Nay, more than this by far, I will maintain,
    If you should break your neck, I’ll cur’t again.
    So here’s a doctor rare, who travels much at home,
    Here take my pills, I cure all ills, past, present, and to come:
    I in my time many thousands have directed,
    And likewise have as many more dissected.
    To cure the love-sick maid, like me there’s none,
    For with two of my pills the job I’ve done;
    I take her home, and rubs her o’er and o’er,
    Then if she dies ne’er believe me more.
    To cure your son, good sir, I do fear not,
    With this small bottle, which by me I’ve got.
    The balsam is the best which it contains,
    Rise up, my good Prince _George_, and fight again.


Prince George _arises_.—Prince George _speaks_.

    O, horrible! terrible! the like was never seen—
    A man drove out of seven senses into fifteen;
    And out of fifteen into fourscore!
    O, horrible! terrible! the like was ne’er before.

    _Alex._ Thou silly ass, that lives by grass, dost thou abuse a stranger.
    I live in hopes to buy new ropes, and tie thy nose to the manger.

    _Pr. Geo._ Sir, unto you I bend.

    _Alex._ Stand off, thou slave, I think thee not my friend.

    _Pr. Geo._ A slave, sir! that is for me by far too base a name,
    That word deserves to stab thy honour’s fame.

    _Alex._ To be stab’d, sir, is the least of all my care,
    Appoint your time and place, I’ll meet you there.

    _Pr. Geo._ I’ll cross the water at the hour of five.

    _Alex._ I’ll meet you there, sir, if I be alive.

    _Pr. Geo._ But stop, sir,—I’d wish you to a wife, both lusty and young,
    She can talk both _Dutch_, _French_, and the _Italian_ tongue.

    _Alex._ I’ll have none such.

    _Pr. Geo._ Why, don’t you love your learning?

    _Alex._ Yes, I love my learning as I do my life,
    I love a learned scholar, but not a learned wife,
    Stand off, had I as many hussians, shusians, chairs, and stools,
    As you have had sweethearts, boys, girls, and fools;
    I love a woman, and a woman loves me,
    And when I want a fool I’ll send for thee.

    _K. of Egypt._ Sir, to express thy beauty, I am not able,
    For thy face shines like a very kitchen table;
    Thy teeth are no whiter than the charcoal,
    And thy breath stinks like the.......!

    _Alex._ Stand off, thou dirty dog, for by my sword thou’s die,
    I’ll make thy body full of holes, and cause thy buttons flie.


King of Egypt _fights_, _and is killed_.

_Enter_ Prince George.

    Oh! what is here? Oh! what is to be done?
    Our king is slain, the crown is likewise gone;
    Take up the body, bear it hence away,
    For in this place no longer shall it stay.


            Bounser Buckler, velvet’s dear,
            And _Christmas_ comes but once a year,
            Though when it comes, it brings good cheer,
            But farewell _Christmas_ once a year.
        Farewell, farewell, adieu! friendship and unity,
    I hope we have made sport, and pleas’d the company;
    But, gentlemen, you see, we’re but young actors four,
    We’ve done the best we can, and the best can do no more.


Christmas Play of St. George and the Dragon.


_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 for to laugh or to jeer,
    But for a pocketfull of money, and a skinfull of beer;
    To show some sport and pastime,
    Gentlemen and ladies in the Christmas time.
    If you will not believe what I do say,
    Come in the Turkish Knight—clear the way.

_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.
    St. 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,
    Come in the King of Egypt—clear the way.

_Enter the_ King of Egypt.

    Here I, the King of Egypt, boldly do appear,
    St. George, St. George, walk in, my son and heir.
    Walk in, my son St. George, and boldly act thy part,
    That all the people here may see thy wondrous art.

_Enter_ Saint George.

    Here come I, St. 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.

[St. 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. Chr._ What can you cure?

    _Doct._ All sorts of diseases,
    Whatever you pleases,
    The phthisic, the palsy, and the gout;
    Whatever disorder, I’ll soon pull him out.

    _Fa. Chr._ What is your fee?

    _Doct._ Fifteen pounds, it is my fee,
      The money to lay down;
    But as ’tis such a rogue as he,
      I’ll cure him for ten pound.
    I have a little bottle of Elicumpane,
      Here, Jack, take a little of my flip-flop,
      Pour it down thy tip-top:
    Rise up, and fight again.

[The Doctor _gives his medicine_: St. George _and the_ Dragon _again
fight, and the latter is again killed_.]

St. George.

    Here am I, St. George, that worthy champion bold,
    And with my sword and spear I’ve won three crowns of gold:
    I fought the fiery dragon, and brought him to the slaughter;
    By that I’ve won fair Sabra, the King of Egypt’s daughter.

_The_ Turkish Knight _advances_.

    Here come I, the Turkish Knight,
    Come from the Turkish land to fight.
    I’ll fight St. 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.

St. 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, saying_—

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

St. George.

    I’ll never pardon a Turkish Knight;
    So rise thee up again, and try thy might.

      [_They fight again, when the_ Knight _is killed, and a
        scene with_ Father Christmas _and the_ Doctor _occurs
        as before, and the_ Knight _is cured. The_ Doctor
        _then, according to the stage direction, has a basin of
        girdy grout given him, and a kick, and is driven out.
        Sometimes the_ Giant Turpin _is introduced, but his part
        is little more than a repetition of the_ Turkish Knight.
        _If there is a fair_ Sabra, _she is generally a mute,
        and now comes forward to_ Saint George.]

Father Christmas.

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



    I had hoped to have inserted a Carol by the Rev. R. S.
      Hawker, of Moorwenstow, Cornwall, but it was previously
      engaged for the Christmas number of ‘Household Words.’
      I must, however, take the opportunity of correcting a
      mistake in ‘Trenoodle’s Specimens of Cornish Dialect,’
      where the song of ‘The Trelawney Rising’ is treated as an
      old ballad. This spirited composition is the production of
      Mr. Hawker.

  No.                                                          PAGE
  1. Seignors, ore entendez à nus                               215
       From Douce’s Illustration of Shakespeare
             (MS. Reg. 16, E viii, 13th century).

  2. Lordings, from a distant home                              217
       Translation of the same, from Douce’s Illustrations.

  3. Welcū ȝole in good array                                   218
       Douce MS., 302. 15th century.

  4. Holy stond in þe hall fayre to behold                      219
       Harln. MS., 5396. Temp. Hen. 6.

  5. Now ys Crystemas y-cum                                     220
       Wright’s Carols (Harln. MS., 541. Temp. Hen. 7.)

  6. The borys hede, that we bryng here                         223

  7. I am here, syre Cristsmasse                                224
       Both from Additional MS., 5665. Temp. Hen. 8.

  8. A bonne God wote!                                          224
       Wright’s Carols, Cotton. MS., Vespasian, A, xxv.

  9. A Babe is born al of a may                                 226
       The same, Sloane MS., 2593.

  10. The fyrst day of ȝole have we in mynd                     227

  11. Blyssid be that lady bryght                               228
        Both from Wright’s Songs and Carols.

  12. Hey, hey, hey, hey, the borrys hede is armyd gay          230
        Wright’s Carols.

  13. The bore’s heed in hand bring I                           231
        Ritson’s Ancient Songs.

  14. In Betheleem, that noble place                            232
        Bibliographical Miscellanies (Kele’s Christmas

  15. All you that in this house be here                        233
        Wright’s Carols (New Carols, 1661).

  16. Remember, O thou man, O thou man!                         235
        Melismata, 1611.

  17. Jesus Christ of Nazareth                                  237
        Translated from Hoffman’s Horæ Belgicæ, part 2,
             p. 16.

  18. What is that which is but one?                            238

  19. Joseph was an old man, and an old man was he              241

  20. A child this day is born                                  242

  21. As I passed by a river side                               246

  22. As it fell out one May morning                            251

  23. A Virgin most pure, as the prophets do tell               254

  24. God rest you, merry gentlemen                             256

  25. God’s dear Son without beginning                          258

  26. I saw three ships come sailing in                         260

  27. The first nowell the angel did say                        261

  28. The Lord at first had Adam made                           263

  29. To-morrow shall be my dancing day                         266

  30. Now when Joseph and Mary                                  268

  31. This new Christmas Carol, ‘Let us cheerfully sing’        271

  32. When Cæsar did the sceptre sway                           273

  33. Saint Stephen was a holy man                              275

  34. Hark! the herald angels sing                              278
        This and the sixteen preceding are from manuscript
             copies, several of which are also printed as

  35. Guillô pran ton tamborin                                  279
        Noei Bourgignon.

  36. De noubélos Efans en benen de la bilo                     280
        Recueil de Poetes Gascons, 1700.

  37. Tres Rei de l’Orian                                       281
        Nouveaux Cantiques Spirituels Provençaux, 1750.

  38. Quand Dieu naquit a Noel                                  282
        Noels Vieux & Nouveaux.

  39. Lon de la gran carriere                                   284
        Recueil de Noels Provençaux, 1791.

  40. L’An mil sies cens quaranto cinc                          287
        Recueil de Poetes Gascons.

  41. J’antan po no ruë                                         288
        Noei Bourgignon.

  42. I hear along the street                                   290
        Translation of No. 41, by Longfellow.

  Christmas Play of Alexander                                   292

  The like of St. George                                        298


  Ale Christmas, account of                                 35

  Boar’s head and brawn                                 30, 32
  Boy Bishop, referred to                                   80

  Carol singing                                            173
  Carols, list of                                          207
  Carol, Merry, tale of                                    185
  Carol, Cherry Tree, account of                           200
  Carol singing in France                                  192
  Christmas block                                          113
  Christmas boxes                                          149
  Christmas plays                                          153
  Christmas tree                                           151
  Cross, account of                                        204

  Epiphany, offerings on                            37, 42, 55
  Evergreens, practice of decorating with              11, 127

  Feasts of fools and asses                                 13
  Fools, domestic, referred to                             124

  Gray’s Inn, Christmas feast                               93
  Gray’s Inn, Serjeant Roe’s play at                        76

  Inns of Court, revels                                     73

  King of the bean                            39, 42, 164, 166

  Lord of Misrule                            60, 86, 91, 121-2

  Minced pies                                              138
  Misletoe                                                  12
  Mysteries and miracle plays                               48

  New year’s gifts         37, 39, 42, 47, 59, 78, 90, 99, 110,
                                                 123, 133, 143
  Noël, description of term                                190

  Pageants, revels, and mummings    40, 44, 48, 65-70, 86, 106
  Pantomime, Christmas                                     152

  Star-song                                                171

  Temple Christmas feasts                              92, 122
  Thirty pieces of silver, legend of                       169
  Three Kings, history of                                  159
  Turkeys at Christmas                                     112
  Twelfth cake                                             166
  Twelfth Night—Epiphany                                  164
  Twelfth Night at sea                                     132

  Waits                                            83, 96, 116
  Wassail bowl                                          18, 55

  Yule, explanation of                                       5


    _To avoid encumbering the pages with foot-notes, all
      references requiring them have been omitted, but the
      principal works and passages referred to will be found in
      this Index, excepting those that already appear in the
      body of the work._

Many of the old Chronicles have been inspected for historical facts,
but it has not been thought necessary to specify them, except in a few
instances; and where one is cited, the fact is frequently corroborated
by two or three others. Hickes’s ‘Thesaurus,’ vol. i, pp. 209-14, and
Gebelin’s ‘Allegories Orientales,’ contain a good deal of learning
about Yule or Gule, and the former as to midwinter. Du Cange’s
‘Glossary,’ in voce Festum, gives many particulars respecting the
Feasts of Asses and Fools. The Wardrobe Accounts, temp. Edw. First,
have entries connected with that time; and Mr. Collier’s ‘Annals of the
Stage, and History of Dramatic Poetry,’ and the ‘Account of Revels,’ by
Mr. Peter Cunningham, both works containing much valuable information,
the Privy Purse Expenses of Elizabeth of York, of Henry the Eighth,
and of the Princess Mary, the ‘Northumberland Household Book,’ and
Nichols’s ‘Progresses of Queen Elizabeth and King James,’ are the
authorities for many of the plays and masks, and the particulars of the
accounts connected with them, and the New Year’s Gifts from the time
of Henry the Seventh to that of James the First; and many additional
particulars may be found in them. Brady’s ‘Clavis Calendaria’ contains
much information respecting the early history of Christmas; and
Mosheim’s ‘Ecclesiastical History,’ may also be consulted. Spelman’s
‘Glossary,’ voce Xenia, and Boulanger, ‘l’Antiquité Devoilée,’ iv, 16,
17, a work however not to be recommended, speak of the ancient New
Year’s Gifts. Madox’s ‘History of the Exchequor’ states the movements
of our early monarchs, mentioning for a long series of years where
they kept their Christmasses; and Turner’s, Henry’s, and Lingard’s
‘Histories of England,’ and the ‘Pictorial History,’ may be referred
to also, by those wishing to look further into the subject. Many facts
taken from these books do not appear to require more than this general
reference to them.


     3   29      Nehemiah, viii, 10.

    15   31      Rabelais, vol. i, 478, _n._ ed. 1823.

    20   22      Lingard’s Hist. Eng. ed. 1837, vol. i, 259.

    21   22      John of Bromton. Twysden, X Scriptores.

    25   26      Archæologia, vol. xi, 13 (from Wilkins’s Concil.).

    27   26      Blount, Fragmenta Antiq., by Beckwith, 50.

    30   13, 21  Madox’s Hist. Exchequer, 258.

    33   13      The Woman’s Prize, Fletcher, iv, 2.

    34    9      Hamlet i, 1.

    36   18, 29  Baker’s Chronicle, 82, 83.

    37   31      Théâtre Français au moyen Age, 1842, p. 118.

    38   20      Cronica Jocelini de Brakelonda, 46.

    39   21      Archæologia, xxvi, 342.

    40   24, 30  Archæologia, xxxi, 37, 38, 43, 122.

    42    9      Cotton MS. Nero, C. viii.

     —   15      Petitôt Mémoires, 1st Ser. vi, 66.

     —   22      Monstrelet, ed. 1840, i, 153.

    44   11      Warton, Hist. of Poetry, 8vo, ii, 71, 72.

    45   —      Henry V, i, 1.

    46   24      Archæologia, xxi, 66. Old Poem on Siege of Rouen.

     —   31      Petitôt Mémoires, 1st Ser. viii, 35.

    47   26, 31  Excerpta Historica, 148, 150.—(Cotton MS. Cleopatra,
                       F. iv.)

     —   28      Proceedings of Privy Council, iii, 285.

    48    4      Fairholt’s History of Costume.—(Harl. MS. 2278.)

     —   11      Proceedings of Privy Council, v, 114.

     —   14      Rymer’s Fœdera, x, 387.

     —   30      Collier, Hist. Dram. Poetry, ii, 127.

    50   17      King John, ii, 1.

    51   28      Harl. MS. 5931.

    52    3      Fabliaux et Contes du xii et xiii siècles, i, 329, &c.

    54   29      Additional MS. 6113.

    55   25      Antiquarian Repertory, i, 328.

    56    4      Hamlet, i, 4.

     —    7      Love’s Labour Lost, v, 2.

    57   31      Ritson’s Ancient Songs, 304. (From New Christmas Carols.)

    58   15      Midsummer Night’s Dream, ii, 1.

     —   24      Herrick’s Works, ii, 92.

    59   25      Ordinances of Royal Household, 120.

    61   14      Archæologia, xxv, 319-27.

    66    6      Hall’s, Holinshed’s, and Baker’s Chronicles may be
                       consulted for this and most of the Christmas revels
                       in the time of Henry VIII; also Collier’s Annals of
                       the Stage, for many particulars of payments and

    72   29      Henry VIII, i, 4.

    76   18      Hall’s Chronicle.

    78   14      Ellis’s Original Letters, i, 271.—(Cotton MS. Vespasian,
                       F. xiii.)

    79   16      Cotton MS. Appendix, xxviii.

    80   27      Strutt’s Sports, &c. 305.

    81    8      Archæologia, xxv, 422.

    82    4      Leland’s Itinerary, iv, 182.

    83    7      Camden’s Remains, 262.

     —   18      Archaeological Journal, No. 4, 367.

     —   24      Kalendars of the Exchequer, i, 269.

    89   10      Particulars of George Ferrer’s Misrule will be found in
                       Stow’s Annals, Baker’s Chronicle, Loseley MS. 45,
                       &c. and Machyn’s Diary, 13, &c.

    90   10      Loseley MS. 90.

    91   17      Machyn’s Diary, 162.

    92    4      Machyn’s Diary, 222.

    93   19      Dugdale Origines Jurid.

     —   24      Account of Revels, 28.

    95    —      See Collier, i, 196, &c., for this page.

    96   13      Lansdowne MS. 71.

     —   22      Ben Jonson’s Conversations with Drummond, 23.

    102   —      See Archæologia, i, 9; Ditto, xix, 292; Nichols’s
                       Progresses; Sloane MS. 4827; Ditto, 814, Additional
                       MS. 5751;—for particulars of New Year’s Gifts in
                       this and preceding pages.

    103   6      Account of Revels, 204

    108  12, 22  Pictorial History of England, iii, 88.

    110  25      Nichols’s Progresses, i, xl, _n._

     —   30      Account of Revels, xi.

    111  30      Lansdowne MS. 92.

    112  26      Doblado’s Letters.

    113  17      Introduction to Canto 6, Marmion.

     —   28      Romeo and Juliet, i, 4.

    115   6      Horace, lib. i, od. 9.

     —   19      Michaelmas Term, ii, 3.

     —   23      Promptorium Parvulorum, 238.

    116   2      Johnes’s Translation, vol. iii, c. 7.

     —   16      Herrick’s Works, ii, 124.

     —   30      Witty Fair One, iv, 2.

    118  27      Nichols’s Illustrations of Manners and Expenses, 53.

    121  25      Archæologia, xviii, 335.

    122   6      Curiosities of Literature, iii, 269.

    124   6      Hone’s Every Day Book, i, 9. (Banquet of Jests, 1634.)

    125  29      Petitôt Mémoires, 47, 101.

    136  17      Percy’s Reliques, ed. 1840, 169.

     —   28      Evans’s Ballads, iii, 262.

    137  15      Evans’s Ballads, i, 146.

    138  15      City Madam, ii, 1.

    144  23      Roper’s Life of Sir T. More, 73.

    146  17      Cowley’s Anaercontiques, No. 2.

    147   9      Wine and Walnuts, ii, 157.

     —   30      New Year’s Day, by Hartley Coleridge.

    149  30      Brady Clavis Calendaria, ii, 316, 17.

    154  20      In Wily Beguiled.

    155  22      Collier’s Annals of the Stage, i, 22.

    157  18      Malcontent, by Marston, iv, 2.

    158   —      Dr. Macculloch’s Proofs and Illustrations of the
                       Attributes of God, i, 358, a work of remarkable
                       learning and information joined to sincere and
                       unaffected piety—the production of a gifted and
                       accomplished man, whose death will ever be
                       regretted by those who, in his lifetime, enjoyed
                       his friendship.

    160  25      Milton’s Ode on the Nativity.

    161  25      Sandys’s Travels, 141.

    162  12      Harl. MSS. 437, 619.

     —   16      Apocryphal New Testament, 2, 3.—Infancy, iii, 2.

     —   29      Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, 1638, 225.

    163  16      Diary of Philip Henslowe, 70.

     —   22, 28  Hone’s Every Day Book, i, 46.

    165  16      Fabliaux et Contes, par Barbazan et Meon, ii, 285.

     —   18      Strutt’s Sports and Pastimes, 8vo, 344.

    166  12      Archives Curieuses de l’Histoire de France, 2 Series, v,

    168  13      Warton’s History of Poetry, 8vo, ii, 91 _n._

     —   16      Harl. MS. 5931.

    170   9      French Mystery of the 15th Century, ‘Le Geu des trois

    171  13      MS. Bibl. Reg. 5 F. xiv, 7. Ib. 18 A, x, 8. Harl. MS.

     —   14      Harl. MS. 2407, 13.

    178  24      This reference should be ‘Popular Rhymes and Nursery

    179  12      Barzaz-Breiz, Chants Populaires de la Bretagne, i, 1, 25.

    180   2      Description of Patent Rolls, by T. D. Hardy, 129.

    183   6      Privy Purse Expenses of Princess Mary, Introduction,

     —    7      Privy Purse Expenses of Elizabeth of York, 83.

    184  25      Barnaby Googe, translation of Naogeorgus.

    185  11      Pictorial History of England, iii, 446 (address by Mr.
                       John Davison to General Assembly in Scotland,

    186  25      Old Ballads, 1723, p. 69.

    188  11      Batt upon Batt, 1711, p. 6.

    191   6      Bibliothèque de l’Ecole des Chartes, i, 250.

     —   20      Rabelais, vi, 209, _n._ (liv. 4, c. 22).

     —   26      Pasquier les Recherches de la France, 383-4.

     —   30      Ménage Diction. Etymol., voce Noël.

    192   3      Archæologia, 22.

     —   17      Fabliaux et Contes, iv, 80, 99.

    194   1      Laborde’s Essai, i, 118, _n._

    200  27      Notes and Queries, v, 7, communication by Mr. Thoms.

    203   8      Introduction to Scotch songs, i, 104.

    206   2      See French mystery of fifteenth century, La Nativité,
                       edited by Jubinal, ii, 19, Cornish play of Creation
                       of the World, and poem of Mount Calvary, for
                       further particulars.

     —   26      Horne’s introduction to the Scriptures, i, 629.

    213   2      Maccabees, 15, 38.

Music to Carols.



[Illustration: Music]

[Illustration: Music]


[Illustration: Music]


[Illustration: Music]

[Illustration: Music]


[Illustration: Music]


[Illustration: Music]


[Illustration: Music]


[Illustration: Music]

[Illustration: Music]


[Illustration: Music]


[Illustration: Music]


[Illustration: Music]


[Illustration: Music]


[Illustration: Music]


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber’s Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired. Unconventional spelling was
retained especially in quotations of older texts, expect much variation
as in “tres,” “très,” and “trés.”

Table of Contents, Music, “226” changed to “326” for (Joseph was an old

Page 124, “boomarang” changed to “boomerang” (boomerang, on their own)

Page 205, “crucifixon” changed to “crucifixion” (time of the

Page 254, “trangression” changed to “transgression” (Which Adam’s

Page 304, “noubelos” changed to “noubélos” to match usage in text (36.
De noubélos Efans)

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Christmastide - Its History, Festivities, and Carols" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.