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During the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. the celebration of Twelfth Night was, equally with Christmas-Day, a festival through the land, and was observed with great ostentation and ceremony in both the Universities, at Court, at the Temple, and at Lincoln's and Gray's-Inn. Many of the Masques of Ben Jonson were written for the amusement of the royal family on this night, and Dugdale in his "Origines Judiciales," has given us a long and particular account of the revelry at the Temple on each of the twelve days of Christmas, in the year 1562, It appears from this document that the hospitable rites of St. Stephen's Day, St. John's Day, and Twelfth Day, were ordered to be exactly alike, and as many of them are, in their nature, perfectly rural, and were, there is every reason to suppose, observed, to a certain extent, in the halls of the country-gentry and substantial yeomanry, a short record here, of those that fall under this description, cannot be deemed inapposite.

The breakfast on Twelfth Day is directed to be of brawn, mustard, and malmsey; the dinner of two courses, to be served in the hall, and after the first course" cometh in the Master of the Game, apparelled in green velvet: and the Ranger of the Forest also, in a green suit of satten; bearing in his hand a green bow and divers arrows, with either of them a hunting horn about their necks: blowing together three blasts of venery, they pace round about the fire three times. Then the Master of the Game maketh three curtesies, kneels down, and petitions to be admitted into the service of the Lord of the Feast.

"This ceremony performed, a hunstman cometh into the hall, with a fox and a purse-net; with a cat, both bound at the end of a staff; and with them nine or ten couple of hounds, with the blowing of hunting-horns. And the fox and cat are by the hounds set upon, and killed beneath the fire. This sport finished, the Marshal (an officer so called, who with many others under different appellations, were created for the purpose of conducting the revels) placeth them in their several appointed places."

After the second course, the "antientest of the Masters of the Revels singeth a song, with the assistance of others there present;" and after some repose and revels, supper, consisting of two courses, is then served in the hall, and being ended, "the Marshall presenteth himself with drums afore him, mounted upon a scaffold, borne by four men ; and goeth three times round about the harthe, crying out, aloud, A Lord, a Lord,' etc., then he descendeth, and goeth to dance." "This done, the Lord of Misrule (an officer whose functions will be afterwards noticed) addresseth himself to the Banquet; which ended with some minstralsye, mirth and dancing, every man departeth to rest."

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Herrick, who was the contemporary of Shakspeare for the first twenty-five years of his life, that is, from the year 1591 to 1616, has given us the following curious and pleasing account of the ceremonies of Twelfth Night, as we may suppose them to have been observed in almost every private family:

use some common terms yet current among us. When a person is much elated, we say he is "In a merry Pin," which no doubt originally meant, he had reached that mark which had deprived him of his usual sedateness and sobriety: we talk of taking a man" A Peg lower," when we imply we shall check him in any forwardness; a saying which originated from a regulation that deprived all those of their turn of drinking, or of their Peg, who had become troublesome in their liquor: from the like rule of society came also the expression of "He is a Peg too low." i. e. has been restrained too far, when we say that a person is not in equal spirits with his company; while we also remark of an individual, that he is getting on "Peg by Peg." or, in other words, he is taking greater freedoms than he ought to do, which formerly meant, he was either drinking out of his turn, or, contrary to express regulation, did not confine himself to his proper portion, or peg, but drank into the next, thereby taking a double quantity." Brady's Clavis Calendaria, vol. ii. p. 322, 323. 1st edit.

Nichols's Progresses of Elizabeth, vol. i. Entertainments at the Temple, &c. p. 22, 24,

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The Twelfth Day was the usual termination of the festivities of Christmas with the higher ranks; but with the vulgar they were frequently prolonged until Candlemas, to which period it was thought a point of much importance to retain a portion of their Christmas cheer.

It should not be forgotten here, that Shakspeare has given the appellation of Twelfth Night to one of his best and most finished plays. No reason for this choice is discoverable in the drama itself, and from its adjunctive title of What You Will, it is probable, that the name was meant to be no otherwise appropriate than as designating an evening on which dramatic mirth and recreation were, by custom, peculiarly expected and always acceptable. *

It appears from a passage from Warner's Albion's England, that between Twelfth Day and Plough-Monday, a period was customarily fixed upon for the celebration of games in honour of the Distaff, and which was termed Rock-Day. † The notice in question is to be found in the lamentations of the Northerne-man over the decline of festivity, where he exclaims,

"Rock and plow-mondaies, gams sal gang,

With saint-feasts and kirk sights."

That this festival was observed not only during the immediate days of Warner and Shakspeare, but for some time afterwards, we learn from a little poem by Robert Herrick, which was probably written between the years 1630 and 1640. Herrick was born in 1591, and published his collection of poems, entitled Hes

* The only rite that still lingers among us on the Twelfth Day, is the election of a King and Queen, a ceremony which is now usually performed by drawing tickets, and of which Mr Brand, in his commentary on Bourne's Antiquities of the Common People, has extracted the subsequent detail from the Universal Magazine of 1774-I went to a friend's house in the country to partake of some of those innocent pleasures that constitute a merry Christmas; I did not return till I had been present at drawing King and Queen, and eaten a Slice of the Twelfth Cake, made by the fair hands of my good Friend's Consort. After Tea yesterday, a noble Cake was produced, and two Bowls, containing the fortunate chances for the different sexes. Our Host filled up the tickets; the whole company, except the King and Queen, were to be Ministers of State, Maids of Honour, or Ladies of the Bed-chamber.

"Our kind Host and Hostess, whether by design or accident, became King and Queen. According to Twelfth-Day Law, each party is to support their character till Midnight. After supper one called for a King's Speech, &c." Observations on Popular Antiquities, edit. of 1810, p. 228.

Dr. Johnson's definition of the word Rock in the sense of the text, is as follows:

(rock, Danish; rocca, Italian; rucca, Spanish; spinrock, Dutch) A distaff held in the hand, from which the wool was spun by twirling a ball below." I shall add one of his illustrations:

"A learned and a manly soul

I purpos'd her; that should with even powers,
The rock, the spindle, and the sheers, controul
Of destiny, and spin her own free hours.

Chalmers's Poets, vol. iv. p. 564. Albion's England, chap. 24.

Ben Jonson

perides, in 1648. He gives us in his title the additional information that Rock, or Saint Distaff's Day, was the morrow after Twelfth Day; and he advises that it should terminate the sports of Christmas.


Partly worke and partly play

Ye must on S. Distaff's day:

From the plough soone free your teame;
Then come home and fother them.

If the Maides a spinning goe,
Burne the flax, and fire the tow:
Scorch their plackets, but beware
That ye singe no maiden-haire.
Bring in pailes of water then,
Let the Maides bewash the men.
Give S. Distaffe all the right,

Then bid Christmas sport good night,

And next morrow, every one

To his owne vocation."*

The first Monday after Twelth Day used to be celebrated by the ploughmen as a Holiday, being the season at which the labours of the plough commenced, and hence the day has been denominated Plough-Monday. Tusser, in his poem on husbandry, after observing that the "old guise must be kept," recommends the ploughmen on this day to the hospitality of the good huswife:

"Good huswives, whom God hath enriched ynough,
forget not the feasts, that belong to the plough:
The meaning is only to joy and be glad,

He then adds,

for comfort with labour, is fit to be had."

"Plough-Munday, next after that Twelftide is past,

bids out with the plough, the worst husband is last :
If plowman get hatchet, or whip to the skreene,
maids loveth their cocke, if no water be seene."

These lines allude to a custom prevalent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and which Mr. Hilman, in a note on the passage, has thus explained: "After Christmas (which formerly, during the twelve days, was a time of very little work), every gentleman feasted the farmers, and every farmer their servants and task-men. PloughMonday puts them in mind of their business. In the morning the men and maid-servants strive who shall shew their diligence in rising earliest; if the ploughman can get his whip, his ploughstaff, hatchet, or any thing that he wants in the field, by the fire-side, before the maid hath got her kettle on, then the maide loseth her Shrovetide cock, and it wholly belongs to the men. Thus did our forefathers strive to allure youth to their duty, and provided them innocent mirth, as well as labour. On this Plough-Monday they have a good supper and some strong drink, that they might not go immediately out of one extreme into another."+

In the northern and north-western parts of England, the entire day was usually consumed in parading the streets, and the night was devoted to festivity. The ploughmen, apparently habited only in their shirts, but in fact with flannel jackets underneath, to keep out the cold, and these shirts decorated with roseknots of various coloured riband, went about collecting what they called "ploughmoney for drink." They were accompanied by a plough, which they dragged along, and by music, and not unfrequently two of the party were dressed to personate an old woman, whom they called Bessy, and a Fool, the latter of these characters being covered with skins, with a hairy cap on his head, and the tail of some animal pendent from his back. On one of these antics was devolved the office of collecting money from the spectators by rattling a box, into which their

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contributions were dropped, while the rest of the ploughmen were engaged in performing a sword-dance, a piece of pageantry derived from our northern ancestors, and of which Olaus Magnus has left us an accurate description in his history of the Gothic nations.* It consisted, for the most part, in forming various figures with the swords, sheathed and unsheathed, commencing in slow time, and terminating in very rapid movements, which required great agility and address to be conducted with safety and effect.+

It was the opinion of Dr. Johnson that Shakspeare alluded to the sword-dance, where, in Anthony and Cleopatra, he makes his hero observe of Augustus, that "He, at Philippi, kept

His sword even like a dancer."+

But Mr. Malone has remarked, with more probability, that the allusion is to the English custom of dancing with a sword worn by the side; in confirmation of which idea, he quotes a passage from All's Well That Ends Well, where Bertram, lamenting that he is kept from the wars, says,

"I shall stay here the forehorse to a smock,
Creaking my shoes on the plain masonry,
Till honour be bought up, and no sword worn,
But one to dance with."

It has been observed in a preceding page, that, among the common people, the festivities of Christmas were frequently protracted to Candlemas-Day. This was done under the idea of doing honour to the Virgin Mary, whose purification is commemorated by the church at this period. It was generally, remarks Bourne, "a day of festivity, and more than ordinary observation among women, and is therefore called the Wives' Feast-Day." S The term Candlemas, however, seems to have arisen from a custom among the Roman Catholics, of consecrating tapers on this day, and bearing them about lighted in procession, to which they were enjoined by an edict of Pope Sergius, A. D. 684; but on what foundation is not accurately ascertained. At the Reformation, among the rites. and ceremonies which were ordered to be retained in a convocation of Henry VIII., this is one, and expressedly because it was considered as symbolical of the spiritual illumination of the Gospel. ++

From Candlemas to Hallowmas, the tapers which had been lighted all the winter in Cathedral and Conventual Churches ceased to be used; and so prevalent, indeed, was the relinquishment of candles on this day in domestic life, that it has laid the foundatiou of one of the proverbs in the collection of Mr. Ray:

"On Candlemas-day throw Candle and Candlestick away."

On this day likewise the Christmas greens were removed from churches and private houses. Herrick, who may be considered as the contemporary of Shakspeare, being five-and-twenty at the period of the poet's death, has given us a pleasing description of this observance; he abounds, indeed, in the history of local rites, and, though surviving beyond the middle of the seventeenth century, paints with great accuracy the manners and superstitions of the Shakspearean era. He has paid particular attention to the festival that we are describing, and enumerates the various greens and flowers appropriated to different seasons in a little poem entitled

Olai Magni Gent. Septent. Breviar. p. 341.

See Brand on Bourne's Antiquitates Vulgares, p. 194; and Strutt's Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, p. 307, edit. of 1810. Of this curious exhibition on Plough-Monday, I have often, during my boyhood, at York, been a delighted spectator, and, as far as I can now recollect, the above description appears to be an accurate detail of what took place.

Act iii. sc. 9. ++ Fuller's Church History, p. 222.

§ Bourne's Antiquities apud Brand, p. 244.

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The usage which we have alluded to, of preserving the Christmas cheer and hospitality to Candlemas, is immediately afterwards recorded and connected with a singular superstition, in the following poems under the titles of


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.--

End now the white-loafe, and the pye,
And let all sports with Christmas dye. ‡

To the exorcising power of the Christmas Brand is added, in the subsequent effusion, a most alarming denunciation against those who heedlessly leave in the Hall on Candlemas Eve, any the smallest portion of the Christmas greens.


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."§

The next important period of feasting in the country occurred at Shrove tide, which among the Roman Catholics was the time appointed for shriving or confession of sins, and was also observed as a carnival before the commencement of Lent. The former of these ceremonies was dispensed with at the Reformation; but the rites attending the latter were for a long time supported with a rival spirit of hilarity. The Monday and Tuesday succeeding Shrove Sunday, called Collop Monday and Pancake Tuesday, were peculiarly devoted to Shrovetide amuse

Hesperides, p. 337.
Ibid. p. 337, 338

Teend, to kindle.

Hesperides, p. 361. Dramatic amusements were frequent on this day, as well in the halls of the nobility in the country, as at court. With regard to their exhibition in the latter, many documents exist; for instance, in a chronological series of Queen Elizabeth's payments for plays acted before her (from the Council Registers) is the following entry:

18th March, 1573-4. To Richard Mouncaster, (Mulcaster, the Grammarian), for two plays presented before her on Candlemas-day and Shrove-Tuesday last, 20 marks."✦

Gentleman's Magazine, vide life of Richard Mulcaster, May, June, and July, 1800,

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