Page images


are sory

[ocr errors]

hoarie headed man was of great yeares, and as white as snow, he entered the Romish Kallendar time out of mind, as o’d or very neer as Father Mathusalem was, one that looked fresh in the Bishops' time, though their fall made him pine away ever since ; he was full and fat as any divine doctor, on them all, he looked under the consecrated lawne sleeves, as big as Bulbeefe, just like Bacchus upon a tunne of wine, when the grapes hang shaking about his eares; but since the Catholike liquor taken from him he is much wasted, so that he hath looked very thin and ill of late.“ The poor,” says the cryer to the lady,

for" his departure, “ for they go to every door a-begging, as they were wont to do (good Mrs., Somewhat against this good time), but Time was transformed, Away, be gone, here is not for you."

The lady, however, declares that she, for one, will not be deterred from welcoming old Christmas. “No, no,” says she, “bid him come by night over the Thames, and we will have a back-door open to let him in ;”—and ends by anticipating better prospects for him another year.

And by many a back-door was the old man let in, to many a fire-side, during the heaviest times of all that persecution and disgrace. On the establishment of the Commonwealth, when the more settled state of things removed some of the causes which had opposed themselves to his due reception, the contests of opposition between the revived spirit of festival and the increased sectarian austerity became more conspicuous. There is an order of the parliament, in 1652, again prohibiting the observance of Christmas-day-which proves that the practice had revived ; and there are examples of the military having been employed to disperse congregations assembled for that purpose. In the “ Vindication of Christmas,” published about this time, the old gentleman, after complaining bitterly of the manner in which he was " used in the city, and wandering into the country, up and down, from house to house, found small comfort in any,” asserts his determination not to be so repulsed :-“Welcome, or not welcome,” says he, “I am come.” In a periodical publication of that day, entitled “ Mercurius Democritus, or a True and perfect Nocturnall, communicating many strange wonders, out of the world in the Moon, &c.," the public are encouraged to keep Christmas,

[ocr errors]

and promised better days. No. 37 contains some verses to that effect, of which the following are the two first :

- Old Christmass now is come to town,

Though few do him regard,
He laughs to see them going down,

That have put down his Lord.

Cheer up, sad heart, crown Christmass bowls,

Banish dull grief and sorrow,
Though you want cloaths, you have rich souls,

The sun may shine to-morrow.”

And again, in No. 38:

“ A gallant crew, stir up the fire,

The other winter tale,
Welcome, Christinass, 'tis our desire

To give thee more spic'd ale."


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


“ An old song made by an aged old pate,

Of an old worshipful gentleman, who had a greate estate,
That kept a brave old house at a bountifull rate,
And an old porter to relieve the poor at his gate ;

Like an old courtier of the queen's,
And the queen's old courtier.

“ With an old lady, whose anger one word asswages ;

They every quarter paid their old servants their wages,
And never knew what belong'd to coachmen, footmen, nor pages,
But kept twenty old fellows with blue coats and badges ;

Like an old courtier, &c.

“ With an old study fill'd full of learned old books,

With an old reverend chaplain, you might know him by his looks,
With an old buttery hatch worn quite off the hooks,
And an old kitchen, that maintained half-a-dozen old cooks :

Like an old courtier, &c.

“ With an old hall, hung about with pikes, guns, and bows,

With old swords, and bucklers, that had borne many shrewde blows,
And an old frize coat, to cover his worship’s trunk hose,
And a cup of old sherry to comfort his copper nose;

Like an old courtier, &c.

“ With a good old fashion, when Christmasse was come,

To call in all his old neighbors with bagpipe and drum,
With good chear enough to furnish every old room,
And old liquor able to make a cat speak, and man dumb;

Like an old courtier, &c.

“ With an old falconer, huntsman, and a kennel of hounds,

That never hawked, nor hunted, but in his own grounds,
Who, like a wise man, kept himself within his own bounds,
And when he dyed gave every child a thousand good pounds;

Like an old courtier, &c.


“ But to his eldest son his house and land he assign'd,

Charging him in his will to keep the old bountifull mind,
To be good to his old tenants, and to his neighbors be kind;
But in the ensuing ditty you shall hear how he was inclin'd;

Like a young courtier, &c.

“ Like a flourishing young gallant, newly come to his land,

Who keeps a brace of painted madams at his command,
And takes up a thousand pound upon his father's land,
And gets drunk in a tavern, till he can neither go nor stand ;

Like a young courtier, &c.

“ With a new fangled lady, that is dandy, nice, and spare,

Who never knew what belong’d to good house-keeping or care,
Who buys gaudy-color'd fans to play with wanton air,
And seven or eight different dressings of other women's hair;

Like a young courtier, &c.

« With a new-fashion'd hall, built where the old one stood,

Hung round with new pictures, that do the poor no good,
With a fine marble chimney, wherein burns neither coal nor wood,
And a new smooth shovelboard, whereon no victuals ne'er stood ;

Like a young courtier, &c.

“ With a new study, stuff?d full of pamphlets and plays,

And a new chaplain, that swears faster than he prays,
With a new buttery-hatch that opens once in four or five days,
And a new French cook, to devise fine kickshaws and toys;

Like a young courtier, &c.

“ W a new fashion, when Christmasse is drawing on,

On a new journey to London straight we all must begone,
And leave none to keep house, but our new porter John,
Who relieves the poor with a thump on the back with a stone;

Like a young courtier, &c.

“ With a new gentleman usher, whose carriage is compleat,

With a new coachman, footmen, and pages to carry up the meat,
With a waiting-gentlewoman, whose dressing is very neat,
Who when her lady has din’d, lets the servants not eat;

Like a young courtier, &c.

“ With new titles of honor bought with his father's old gold,

For which sundry of his ancestors' old manors are sold;
And this is the course most of our new gallants hold,
Which makes that good house-keeping is now grown so cold,

Among the young courtiers of the king,
Or the king's young courtiers.”

In a word, the old English feeling seemed nearly extinct for a time;—and the ancient customs which had connected themselves therewith, one by one, fell more or less into disuse. The chain of universal sympathy and general observance, which had long kept the festival together in all its parts, was broken ; and the parts fell asunder, and were, by degrees, lost or overlooked. Let no man say that this is scarcely worth lamenting! Let none imagine that, in the decay of customs, useless or insignificant in themselves, there is little to regret! “ The affections,” says Sterne, “when they are busy that way, will build their structures, were it but on the paring of a nail ;” and there is no practice of long observance and ancient veneration,—whether among nations or individuals,-round which the affections have not in some degree twined themselves, and which are not therefore useful as supports and remembrancers to those affections. There are few of the consequences springing from civil war more lamentable than the disturbance which it gives to the social ar

« PreviousContinue »