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of our kings). Accordingly we find that, amongst those of the more powerful nobles who affected an imitation of the royal arrangements in their Christmas establishments, this Christmas officer (when they appointed one to preside over their private Christmas celebrations) was occasionally nominated as their "Master of the Revels." In the Household-Book of the Northumberland family, amongst the directions given for the order of the establishment, it is stated that "My lorde useth and accustomyth yerly to gyf hym which is ordynede to be the MASTER OF THE REVELLS yerly in my lordis hous in cristmas for the overseyinge and orderinge of his lordschips Playes, Interludes, and Dresinge that is plaid befor his lordship in his hous in the xijth dayes of Cristenmas, and they to have in rewarde for that caus yerly, xxs." In the Inns of Court, where this officer formed no part of a household, but was a member elected out of their own body, for his ingenuity, he was commonly dignified by a title more appropriate to the extensive authority with which he was invested, and the state with which he was furnished for its due maintenance, viz., that of "Christmas prince," or sometimes, "King of Christmas." He is the same officer who was known in Scotland as the "Abbot of Unreason," and bears a close resemblance to the "Abbas Stultorum," who presided over the feast of fools, in France, and the "Abbé de la Malgourverné," who ruled the sports in certain provinces of that kingdom. In a note to Ellis's edition of " Brand's Popular Antiquities," we find a quotation from Mr. Warton (whose "History of English Poetry" we have not at hand), in which mention is made of an "Abbé de Liesse," and a reference given to Carpentier's Supplement to Du Cange, for the title "Abbas Lætitiæ.” We mention these, to enable the antiquarian portion of our readers to make the reference for themselves. Writing in the country, we have not access to the works in question, and could not, in these pages, go further into the matter if we had.
We have already stated, that the "Lord of Misrule" appears to bear a considerable resemblance to that ruler or king who was anciently appointed to preside over the sports of the Roman Saturnalia; and we find on looking further into the subject, that we are corroborated in this view by one who, of course, asserts the resemblance for the purpose of making it a matter of reproach.
The notorious Prynne, in his Histrio-Mastix, affirms (and quotes Polydore Virgil to the same effect) that "our Christmas lords of Misrule, together with dancing, masques, mummeries, stageplayers, and such other Christmas disorders, now in use with Christians, were derived from these Roman Saturnalia and Bacchanalian festivals;—which," adds he, "should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them." We should not, however, omit to mention that by some this officer has been derived from the ancient ceremony of the Boy-Bishop. Faber speaks of him as originating in an old Persico-gothic festival, in honor of Budha; and Purchas, in his Pilgrimage, as quoted in the Aubrey MSS., says, that the custom is deduced from the "Feast in Babylon, kept in honor of the goddess Dorcetha, for five dayes together; during which time the masters were under the dominion of their servants, one of which is usually sett over the rest, and royally cloathed, and was called Sogan, that is, Great Prince."
The title, however, by which this officer is most generally known is that of Lord of Misrule. "There was," says Stow, "in the feast of Christmas, in the king's house, wheresoever he was lodged, a Lord of Misrule, or Master of merry Disports; and the like had ye for the house of every nobleman of honor, or good worship, were he spiritual or temporal. Among the which the Mayor of London and either of the Sheriffs had their several Lords of Misrule, ever contending, without quarrel or offence, which should make the rarest pastimes, to delight the beholders."
On the antiquity of this officer in England, we have not been able to find any satisfactory account; but we discover traces of him, almost as early as we have any positive records of the various sports by which the festival of this season was supported. Polydore Virgil speaks of the splendid spectacles, the masques, dancings, &c., by which it was illustrated as far back as the close of the twelfth century; and it is reasonable to suppose that something in the shape of a master of these public ceremonies must have existed then, to preserve order, as well as furnish devices,— particularly as the hints for the one and the other seem to have been taken from the celebrations of the heathens. As early as the year 1489, Leland speaks of an Abbot of Misrule, "that
made much sport, and did right well his office." Henry the Seventh's "boke of paymentis," preserved in the Chapter-house, is stated by Sandys, to contain several items of disbursement to the Lord of Misrule (or Abbot, as he is therein sometimes called), for different years, "in rewarde for his besynes in Christenmes holydays," none of which exceeded the sum of £6. 13s. 4d. This sum (multiplied, as we imagine it ought to be, by something like fifteen, to give the value thereof in our days), certainly affords no very liberal remuneration to an officer whose duties were of any extent; and we mention it that our readers may contrast it with the lavish appointments of the same functionary in after times. Henry, however, was a frugal monarch, though it was a part of his policy to promote the amusements of the people; and from the treasures which that frugality created, his immediate successors felt themselves at liberty to assume a greater show. In the subsequent reign, the yearly payments to the Lord of Misrule had already been raised as high as £15. 6s. 8d.; and the entertainments over which he presided were furnished at a proportionably increased cost.
It is not, however, until the reign of the young monarch, Edward the Sixth, that this officer appears to have attained his highest dignities; and during the subsequent reign we find him playing just such a part as might be expected from one whose business it was to take the lead in revels such as we have had occasion to describe,-viz. that of arch-buffoon.
In Hollinshed's Chronicle, honorable mention is made of a certain George Ferrers, therein described as a "lawyer, a poet, and an historian," who supplied the office well, in the fifth year of Edward VI.; and who was rewarded by the young king with princely liberality. This George Ferrers was the principal author of that well-known work, the "Mirror for Magistrates;" and Mr. Kempe, the editor of the recently published "Loseley Manuscripts," mentions his having been likewise distinguished by military services in the reign of Henry VIII. It appears that the young king having fallen into a state of melancholy, after the condemnation of his uncle, the Protector, it was determined to celebrate the approaching Christmas festival with more than usual splendor, for the purpose of diverting his mind; and this
distinguished individual was selected to preside over the arrange
The publication of the Loseley Manuscripts enables us to present our readers with some very curious particulars, illustrative at once of the nature of those arrangements, and of the heavy cost at which they were furnished. By an order in council, dated the 31st of September, 1552, and addressed to Sir Thomas Cawarden, at that time master of the King's Revels, after reciting the appointment of the said George Ferrers, the said Sir Thomas is informed that it is his Majesty's pleasure "that you se hym furneshed for hym and his bande, as well in apparell as all other necessaries, of such stuff as remayneth in your office. And whatsoever wanteth in the same, to take order that it be provided accordinglie by yo' discretion."
For the manner in which the Lord of Misrule availed himself of this unlimited order, we recommend to such of our readers as the subject may interest, a perusal of the various estimates and accounts published by Mr. Kempe, from the MSS. in question. Were it not that they would occupy too much of our space, we should have been glad to introduce some of them here, for the purpose of conveying to the reader a lively notion of the gorgeousness of apparel and appointment exhibited on this occasion. We must, however, present them with some idea of the train for whom these costly preparations are made, and of the kind of mock court with which the Lord of Misrule surrounded himself.
Amongst these we find mention made of a chancellor, treasurer, comptroller, vice chamberlain, lords-councillors, divine, philosopher, astronomer, poet, physician, apothecary, master of requests, civilian, disard (an old word for clown), gentleman-ushers, pages of honor, sergeants-at-arms, provost-marshal, footmen, messengers, trumpeter, herald, orator; besides hunters, jugglers, tumblers, band, fools, friars (a curious juxtaposition, which Mr. Kempe thinks might intend a satire), and a variety of others. None seem, in fact, to have been omitted who were usually included in the retinue of a prince; and over this mock court the mock monarch appears to have presided with a sway as absolute, as far as regarded the purposes of his appointment, as the actual
monarch himself over the weightier matters of the state. the most curious part of the arrangements is, that by which (as appears from one of the lists printed from one of these MSS), he seems to have been accompanied in his procession by an heirat law, and three other children, besides two base sons. These two base sons, we presume, are bastards; and that the establishment of a potentate could not be considered complete without them. The editor also mentions that he was attended by an almoner, who scattered amongst the crowd, during his progresses, certain coins made by the wire-drawers; and remarks that, if these bore the portrait and superscription of the Lord of Misrule, they would be rare pieces in the eye of a numismatist.
The following very curious letter, which we will give entire, will furnish our readers with a lively picture of the pageantries of that time, and of the zeal with which full-grown men set about amusements of a kind which are now usually left to children of a smaller growth. Playing at kings is, in our day, one of the sports of most juvenile actors. The letter is addressed by Master George Ferrers to Sir Thomas Cawarden; and gives some account of his intended entry at the court at Christmas, and of his devices for furnishing entertainment during the festival.
"Whereas you required me to write, for that y' busynes is great, I have in as few wordes as I maie signefied to you such things as I thinke moste necessarie for my purpose.
"ffirst, as towching my Introduction. Whereas the laste yeare my devise was to cum of oute of the mone (moon), this yeare imagine to cum oute of a place called vastum vacuum, the great waste, as moche to saie as a place voide or emptie wthout the worlde, where is neither fier, ayre, nor earth; and that I have bene remayning there sins the last yeare. And, because of certaine devises which I have towching this matter, I wold, yf it were possyble, have all myne apparell blewe, the first daie that I p'sent my self to the King's Matie; and even as I shewe my self that daie, so my mynd is in like order and in like suets (suits) to shew myself at my comyng into London after the halowed daies.
"Againe, how I shall cum into the Courte, whether under a