'A massy bowl,
to deck the jovial day,
Flash'd from its ample round a sunlike ray.
Full many a cent'ry it shone forth to grace
The festive spirit of th' Andarton race,
As, to the sons of sacred union dear,
It welcom'd with lamb's-wool the rising year.'
Held in the Roman Catholic Church as the festival
of Cirumcision Domini; observed as a feast in the
Church of England on the same account.
Born: Soame Jenyns, 1704, London; Baron Franz Von
Trenck, 1710; Edmund Burke, 1730, Dublin; G. A.
Burger, 1748, Walmerswemde; Miss Maria Edgeworth,
1767; Edward Stanley, Bishop of Norwich, 1779; Francis
Earl of Ellesmere, 1800.
Died: Louis XII of France, 1515; W. Wycherley,
1716; C. A. Helvetius, 1772, Paris; Silvio Tellico,
1854; John Britton, antiquary and topographer, 1857.
Feast Day: St. Fulgentius, bishop and confessor; St. Odilo
or Olou, sixth abbot of Cluni; St. Almachus, martyr;
St. Eugendus, abbot; St. Faine or Fanchea, virgin, of
Ireland; St. Mochua or Moncain, alias Claunas, abbot
in Ireland; and St. Medina, alias Cronan, of Balla,
abbot in Ireland.
In the oratorical era of the House of Commons —the
eighteenth century—who greater in that arena than
Edmund Burke? A wonderful basis of knowledge was
crowned in his case by the play of the most brilliant
imagination. It is an example of 'inconsistency in
expectations,' to look for life-long solidity of
opinion in such a man. His early friend, Single-speech
Hamilton, hit off his character as a politician in a
single sentence: 'Whatever opinion Burke, from any
motive, supports, so ductile is his imagination, that
he soon conceives it to be right.' Goldsmith's epitaph
upon him, in the poem, Retaliation, is not less true:
'Here lies our good Edmund, whose genius was such,
We scarcely can praise it or blame it too much;
Who, born for the universe, narrowed his mind,
And to party gave up what was meant for mankind.
Though fraught with all learning, yet straining his
To persuade Tommy Townsend to lend him a vote;
Who, too deep for his hearers, still went on
And thought of convincing, while they thought of
Though equal to all things, for all things unfit;
Too nice for a statesman, too proud for a wit;
For a patriot too cool; for a drudge disobedient,
And too fond of the right to pursue the expedient.
In short, 'twas his fate, unemployed or in place,
To eat mutton cold, and cut blocks with a razor.'
Turning away from the inconstancy of Mr. Burke as a
politician, let us contemplate him as a private friend
in a day's journey, as delineated by Mr. Hardy in his
Memoirs of Lord Clearlemont.
'One of the most satisfactory days, perhaps, that
I ever passed in my life was going with him, tete-a-tete, from London to Beaconsfield. He stopped
at Uxbridge whilst the horses were feeding, and
happening to meet some gentlemen, of I know not what
militia, who appeared to be perfect strangers to him,
he entered into discourse with them at the gate way of
the inn. His conversation at that moment completely
exemplified what Johnson said of him: "That you could
not meet Burke for half an hour under a shed, without
saying he was an extraordinary man." He was on that
day altogether uncommonly instructive and agreeable.
Every object of the slightest notoriety, as we passed
along, whether of natural or local history, furnished
him with abundant materials for conversation. The
house at Uxbridge, where the Treaty was held during
Charles the First's time; the beautiful and undulating
grounds of Bulstrode, formerly the residence of
Chancellor Jeffries; and Waller's tomb, in
Beaconsfield Churchyard, which, before we went home,
we visited, and whose character—as a gentleman, a
poet, and an orator—he shortly delineated, but with
exquisite felicity of genius, altogether gave an
uncommon interest to his eloquence; and, although
one-and-twenty years have now passed since that day, I
entertain the most vivid and pleasing recollection of
G. A. BURGER
To the poet Burger belongs the honour of having, by
two ballads, impressed the poetical mind of England,
and conduced in some measure to its being turned into
new channels. A translation of these ballads, which
appeared in 1796, was the first publication of Scott.
The ride of the spectre bridegroom with his mistress,
in Scott's version of Lenore, is a splendid piece of
'Strong love prevailed; she busks, she bounce,
mounts the barb behind,
And round her darling William's waist
Her lily arms
And hurry! hurry! off they rode,
As fast as fast might be;
Spurned from the courser's thundering heels,
flashing pebbles flee.
And on the right, and on the left,
Ere they could snatch a view,
Fast, fast, each mountain, mead and plain,
and castle, flew.
"Sit fast—dost fear? The moon shines clear—
goes my barb—keep hold!
Fear'st thou?" "0 no," she faintly said;
so stern and cold?
What yonder rings? what yonder sings?
the owlet gray?"
"'Tis death bells' clang, 'tis funeral song,
body to the clay.
With song and clang, at morrow's dawn,
Ye may inter
To-night I ride, with my young bride,
To deck our
Come with thy choir, thou coffined guest,
To swell our nuptial song!
Come, priest, to bless our marriage feast,
Come all, come all along! "
Ceased clang and song; down sank the bier;
shrouded corpse arose:
And hurry! hurry! all the train
The thundering steed pursues.
And forward! forward! on they go;
High snorts the straining steed;
Thick pants the
riders' labouring breath,
As headlong on they speed.
"0 William, why this savage haste?
And where thy
"'Tis distant far, low, damp, and chill,
narrow, trustless maid."
"No room for me?" "Enough for both;
speed, my barb, thy course!"
O'er thundering bridge, through boiling surge,
drove the furious horse.
Tramp! tramp! along the land they rode,
splash! along the sea;
The scourge is white, the spur is bright,
flashing pebbles flee.
Fled past on right and left how fast,
grove, and bower!
On right and left fled past how
Each city, town, and tower!
"Dost fear? dost fear? The moon shines clear,
fear to ride with me?
Hurrah! hurrah! the dead can
"0 William, let them be!
See there! see there! What yonder swings
And creaks 'mid whistling rain?"
"Gibbet and steel, the accursed wheel;
A murderer in his chain.
Hollo! thou felon, follow here:
To bridal-bed we
And thou shalt prance a fetter dance
Before me and
And hurry! hurry! clash, clash, clash!
And fleet as wind through hazel-bush
Tramp! tramp! along the land they rode,
splash! along the sea;
The scourge is red, the spur drops blood,
flashing pebbles flee.
How fled what moonshine faintly chewed!
what darkness hid!
How fled the earth beneath their feet,
above their head!
"Dost fear? dost fear? The moon shines clear,
well the dead can ride;
Does faithful Helen fear for them?"
"0 leave in peace the dead!"
"Barb! barb! methinks I hear the cock,
will soon be run:
Barb! barb! I smell the morning air;
The race is
Tramp! tramp! along the land they rode,
splash! along the sea;
The scourge is red, the spur drops blood,
flashing pebbles 'lee.
"Hurrah! hurrah! well ride the dead;
The bride, the
bride is come:
And soon we reach the bridal-bed,
here's my home."'
In his latter days, as a professor in the
university of Gottingen, Burger was inefficient, yet
still much respected as the writer of the immortal
Lenore. 'When Tiede became acquainted with him, he had
been lately separated from his third wife. He was
lean, pale, shrunken—misery was written in his
features. His voice had lost its force; he could only
make himself intelligible with difficulty; and yet he
was obliged to speak. Now and then he would ride out,
and there was something spectral about the pale man as
he trotted through the streets of Gottingen on his
lean white horse. One was reminded of the Ride of
Death, which he had so forcibly described. Sometimes a
ray of sunshine would fall on his gloomy soul, when
any one succeeded in drawing him against his will into
his old circle of good friends, whom he now anxiously
avoided—shunning, indeed, all intercourse with mankind
. . . . In unconstrained moments, Burger could appear
unconstrained, sympathetic, and even cheerful. He had
something amiable and child-like in his nature.'—Kopke's
Reminiscences of Ludwig Tieck, 1856.
FRANCIS, EARL OF ELLESMERE
There is something in Johnson's remark, that
personal merits in a man of high rank deserve to be
'handsomely acknowledged.' Sure of homage on account
of birth and means, it must be unusually good impulses
which lead him to study, to useful arts, or to
administrative business. The second son of the Duke
and Duchess of Sutherland, destined to an immense
collateral inheritance, the Earl of Ellesmere devoted
himself to elegant literature—in which his own efforts
were far above mediocrity—to the patronage of the
ennobling arts, and to disinterested duty in the
public service. The benevolence of his nature led him
in early life, as a member of the House of Commons, to
lean to a liberal class of measures which were then
little patronised, but the benefits of which were
afterwards realized. At a time, moreover, when few
were thinking much of the tastes and gratifications of
the great body of the people, Lord Ellesmere prepared
a splendid picture gallery winch he made easily
accessible to the public. This amiable nobleman died
on the 18th February 1857.
While a literary man has his natural life, like
other men, his fame has another and distinct life,
which grows to maturity, flourishes a greater or less
space of time, decays, and comes to an end, or in rare
cases perseveres in a sort of immortality. Wycherley
is one of the larger class of poets whose fame-life
may be said to have died. First, his poems dropped out
of notice; finally, his plays. Yet his name has still
a place in literary biography, if only for one or two
anecdotes which it includes, and for his having as a
veteran patronised the youthful Pope.
One of Wycherloy's most successful plays was
entitled The Plain Dealer; and thereby hangs one of
the anecdotes: 'Wycherley went down to Tunbridge, to
take either the benefit of the waters or the
diversions of the place; when walking one day upon the
Wells Walk, with his friend Mr. Fairbeard of Cray's
Inn, just as he came up to the bookseller's, the
Countess of Drogheda, a young widow, rich and
beautiful, came to the bookseller and inquired for The
"Madam," says Mr. Fairbeard," since you are for
the Plain Dealer, there he is for you," pushing Mr. Wycherley towards her.
"Yes," says Mr. Wycherley, "this lady can bear
plain dealing, for she appears to be so accomplished,
that what would be a compliment to others, when said
to her would be plain dealing"
"No, truly, sir," said the lady, "I am not without my
faults more than the rest of my sex: and yet,
notwithstanding all my faults, I love plain dealing,
and never am more fond of it than when it tells me of
"Then, madam," says Mr. Fairbeard, "you and the
Plain Dealer seem designed by heaven for each other."
'In short, Mr. Wycherley accompanied her on her
walks, waited upon her home, visited her daily at her
lodgings whilst she stayed at Tunbridge, and after
she went to London, at her lodgings in Hatton Garden,
where in a little time he obtained her consent to
The story unfortunately does not end so pleasantly.
The lady proved unreasonably jealous, and led her
husband a rather sad life. After her death, her
bequest to him was disputed at law, and, drowned in
debt, he was immured in a jail for seven years!—such
frightful penalties being then exigible by creditors.
LOUIS XII OF FRANCE
He was one of the few sovereigns of France who were
entirely estimable. He was sober, sweet-natured,
modest, laborious, loved knowledge, was filled with
sentiments of honour, religion, and benevolence. He
strove by economy to keep down the amount of the
public burdens, and when his frugal habits were
ridiculed in the theatre, he said laughingly that he
would rather have the people to be amused by his
stinginess than groan under his prodigality. He held
as a principle that the justice of a prince obliged
him to owe nothing, rather than his greatness to give
much. It was rare indeed to find such. correct ideas
regarding the use and value of money in those days.
The first wife of Louis XII being dead, he
married, at fifty-three, a second and youthful spouse,
the Princess Mary, sister of Henry VIII, and did not
outlive the event three months. His widow returned to
her own country, and married her first lover, Charles
Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.
CORONATION OF CHARLES
II AT SCONE, 1651
On the 1st of January 1651, the son of Charles I
was crowned as Charles II by the Scots at Scone, the
southern part of the country being occupied at the
time by Cromwell with a hostile army. The extreme
measure of cutting off the late king and extinguishing
the monarchy was generally disapproved of in Scotland;
but in taking up the young king, the Scots were
chiefly animated by a desire of preserving and
advancing their favourite Presbyterian church
arrangements, according to the spirit of the famous
Solemn League and Covenant.
Charles, who was then only
twenty, being anxious to get a footing in his father's
lost dominions, consented, much against his will, to
accept this Covenant, which inferred an active
persecution of both popery and prelacy; and the Scots
accordingly received him amongst them, fought a battle
for him against Cromwell at Dunbar, and now crowned
him. A. sermon was preached on the occasion by
Robert Douglas, who had the reputation (but upon no
just grounds) of being a descendant of Mary queen of
The crown was put upon the young king's head by
the Marquis of Argyle, whom ten years after he sent to
the scaffold for compliances with Cromwell. The defeat
of the Scots and their young king at Worcester on the
3rd September of this year put an end to Charles's
adventure, and he with difficulty escaped out of the
country. How he subsequently treated the Covenant and
its adherents need not here be particularised.
MARCH OF GENERAL MONK FROM COLDSTREAM
On the 1st of January 1660, General Monk commenced
that march from Scotland to London which was so
instrumental in effecting the Restoration. He started
with his little army of six or seven thousand men from
the town of Coldstream, in Berwickshire—a name which
has been commemorated in the title of a regiment which
he is believed to have embodied at the place, or soon
after. Monk had spent about three weeks at Coldstream,
which was a favourable spot for his purpose, as the
Tweed was there fordable; but he seems to have found
it a dismal place to quarter in. On his first arrival,
he could get no provisions for his own dinner, and was
obliged to content himself with a quid of tobacco. His
chaplains, less easily satisfied, roamed about till
they obtained a meal at the house of the Earl of Hume
near by.—Monk, a Historical Study, by M. Guizot,
translated by J. Stuart Wortley, 1838.
UNION OF IRELAND WITH GREAT BRITAIN, 1801
On the 1st of January 1801—the initial day of the
nineteenth century—Ireland passed into an
incorporating union with Great Britain, and the three
kingdoms were thenceforth styled the United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Ireland.
The expression, 'initial day of the nineteenth
century,' requires something to be said in its defense,
for many persons regard the year 1800 as the beginning
of the present century. The year 1801 is, in reality,
entitled to this honour, because then only had the
previous century been completed. To make this plain,
let the reader reflect that it required the year 100
to complete the first century, the year 200 to
complete the second century, and so on through all
that followed. To say, then, that the year 1800 was
the first of a new century, is to be led by sound,
instead of fact.
DISCOVERY OF THE PLANETOIDS
On the 1st of January 1801, the Sicilian
astronomer, M. Piazzi, discovered a new planet, to
which he gave the name of Ceres, in honour of a
goddess formerly in much esteem in Sicily. It was the
first discovered of a number of such bodies of small
size, which occupy the place due to one such body of
large size, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. At
present (1861), the number is over seventy.
'It was noted that between the orbits of Mercury
and Venus there is an interval of thirty-one millions
of miles; between those of Venus and the Earth,
twenty-seven millions; and between those of the Earth
and Mars, fifty millions; but between the orbits of
Mars and Jupiter there intervenes the tremendous gap
of three hundred and forty-nine millions of miles, to
the apparent interruption of the general order, which,
how-ever, is again resumed beyond Jupiter.' This wide
interval, and some other considerations, having raised
the suspicion of an unknown planet between Mars and
Jupiter, a combination of twenty-four practical
observers was formed to search for the missing link. 'On New-Year's Day 1801, ere they had well got into
harness, Piazzi, one of their number [at Palermo],
made an observation on a small star in Taurus, which
he took for one of Mayer's. On the 2nd of January, he
found that the supposed star had retrograded no less
than 4' in AER, and 32' in north declination. This retrogradation continued till about the 12th, when the
movement became direct, and he followed the body till
it was lost in the solar rays. Illness, however,
prevented his getting observations enough to establish
its nature, and he considered it to be cometary.
Meantime, he had written to Bode and Oriani on the
subject, but the delays of the post in that
comparatively recent day, by keeping back the
intelligence, precluded its being examined during that
apparition. Curiosity and zeal were, however, on the
alert; Bode immediately suspected the real nature of
the stranger; and Olbers, Burckhardt, and Gauss
computed its orbit from the slender data thus
afforded. The knowledge of its having been stationary
on the 12th of January, with an elongation from the
sun of 4s 2° 37' 48" aided the computation, and proved
it to be a superior planet. Thus was Ceres
discovered on the 1st of January 1801. Its diameter,
according to Sir William Herschel, is only 163
miles.'— Smythe's Cycle of Celestial Objects, i. 154.
New Year's Day Festivities
'Long ere the lingering dawn of that blithe morn
Which ushers in the year, the roosting cock,
his wings, repeats his larnun shrill;
But on that morn
no busy flail obeys
His rousing call; no sounds but sounds of joy
Salute the year—the first-foot's entering step,
sudden on the floor is welcome heard,
maids have braided up their hair;
The laugh, the
hearty kiss, the good new year
Pronounced with honest
warmth. In village, grange,
And borough town, the
steaming flagon, borne
From house to house, elates the
poor man's heart,
And makes him feel that life has
still its joys.
The aged and the young, man, woman,
Unite in social glee; even stranger dogs,
Meeting with bristling back, soon lay aside
snarling aspect, and in sportive chase,
scour, or wallow in the snow.
With sober cheerfulness,
the grandam eyes
Her offspring round her, all in
health and peace;
And, thankful that she's spared to
see this day
Return once more, breathes low a secret
That God would shed a blessing on their
As New-Year's Day, the first of January bears a
prominent place in the popular calendar. It has ever
been a custom among northern nations to see the old
year out and the new one in, with the highest
demonstrations of merriment and conviviality. To but a
few does it seem to occur that the day is a memorandum
of the subtraction of another year from the little sum
of life; with the multitude, the top feeling is a
desire to express good wishes for the next
twelvemonths' experience of their friends, and be the
subject of similar benevolence on the part of others,
and to see this interchange of cordial feeling take
place, as far as possible, in festive circumstances.
It is seldom that an English family fails to sit up on
the last night of the year till twelve o'clock, along
with a few friends, to drink a happy New Year to each
other over a cheerful glass. Very frequently, too,
persons nearly related but living apart, dine with
each other on this day, to keep alive and cultivate
mutual good feeling. It cannot be doubted that a
custom of this kind must tend to obliterate any shades
of dissatisfaction or jealous anger, that may have
arisen during the previous year, and send the kindred
onward through the next with renewed esteem and
regard. To the same good purpose works the old custom
of giving little presents among friends on this day:
'The King of Light, father of aged Time,
Hath brought about that day which is the prime,
the slow-gliding months, when every eye
of a sober jollity.'
Charles Lamb had a strong appreciation of the
social character of New-Year's Day. He remarks that no
one of whatever rank can regard it with indifference.
'Of all sounds of all bolts,' says he, 'most solemn
and touching is the peal which rings out the old year.
I never hear it without a gathering up of my mind to a
concentration of all the images that have been
diffused over the past twelvemonth; all I have done or
suffered, performed or neglected, in that regretted
time. I begin to know its worth as when a person dies.
It takes a personal colour; nor was it a poetical
flight in a contemporary, when he exclaimed:
"I saw the skirts of the departing year."'
One could wish that the genial Ella had added
something in recommendation of resolutions of
improvement of the year to come, for which Now-Year's
Day is surely a most appropriate time. Every first of
January that we arrive at, is an imaginary milestone
on the turnpike track of human life: at once a
resting-place for thought and meditation, and a
starting point for fresh exertion in the performance
of our journey. The man who does not at least propose
to himself to be better this year than he was last,
must be either very good or very bad indeed! And only
to propose to be better, is something; if nothing
else, it is an acknowledgment of our need to be so,
which is the first step towards amendment. But, in
fact, to propose to oneself to do well, is in some
sort to do well, positively; for there is no such
thing as a stationary point in human endeavours; he
who is not worse today than he was yesterday, is
better; and he who is not better, is worse.'
The merrymakings of New-Year's Eve and New-Year's
Day are of very ancient date in England. The head of
the house assembled his family around a bowl of spiced
ale, comically called lamb's wool, from which ho drank
their health; thou passed it to the rest, that they
might drink too. The word that passed amongst them was
the ancient Saxon phrase, Wass hael; that is, To your
health. Hence this came to be recognised as the
Wassail or Wassel Bowl. The poorer class of people
carried a bowl adorned with ribbons round the
neighbourhood, begging for something wherewith to
obtain the means of filling it, that they too might
enjoy wassail as well as the rich. In their
compotations, they had songs suitable to the occasion,
of which a Gloucestershire example has been preserved:
Wassail! wassail! over the town,
Our toast it is white, our ale it is brown:
bowl it is made of the maplin tree,
We be good fellows
all; I drink to thee.
Here's to [The name of some horse] and to his right
God send our maister a happy New Year;
A happy New
Year as e'er he did see—
With my wassailing bowl I
drink to thee.
Here's to [The name of another horse], and to his
God send our mistress a good Christmas pie
Christmas pie as e'er I did see—
With my wassailing
bowl I drink to thee.
Here's to Filpail, and her long tail,
God send our measter us never may fail
Of a cup of good beer; I pray you draw near,
then you shall hear our jolly wassail.
Be here any maids, I suppose here be some;
they will not let young men stand on the cold stone;
Sing hey 0 maids, come troll back the pin,
fairest maid in the house, let us all in.
Come, butler, come bring us a bowl of the best:
hope your soul in heaven may rest:
But if you do bring us a bowl of the small,
down fall butler, bowl, and all.'
What follows is an example apparently in use
Here we come a wassailing,
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a
So fair to be seen.
Chorus. Love and joy come to you,
And to your wassel too,
And God send you a happy New Year,
A New Year,
And God send you a happy New Year!
Our wassel cup
is made of rosemary-tree,
So is your beer of the best
We are not daily beggars,
That beg from door to door;
But we are neighbours' children,
Whom you have seen before.
Call up the butler of this house,
Put on his golden
Let him bring us up a glass of beer
And the better
we shall sing.
We have got a little purse,
Made of stretching leather skin,
We want a little
of your money
To line it well within.
Bring us out a table,
And spread it with a cloth;
Bring us out a mouldy
And some of your Christmas loaf.
God bless the master of this house,
And all the little children,
That round the table go!
Good master and mistress,
While you're sitting by the fire,
Pray think of us
Who are wandering in the mire.
Chorus. Love and joy come to you, &c.
The custom of wassail at the New Year was kept up
in the monasteries as well as in private houses. In
front of the abbot, at the upper end of the refectory
table, was placed the mighty bowl styled in their
language Poculum Caritatis, and from it the superior
drank to all, and all drank in succession to each
other. The corporation feasts of London still
preserve a custom that affords a reflex of that of the
wassail bowl. A double-handled flagon full of
sweetened and spiced wine being handed to the master,
or other person presiding, he drinks standing to the
general health, as announced by the toastmaster; then
passes it to his neighbour on the left hand, who
drinks standing to his next neighbour, also standing,
and so on it goes, till all have drunk. Such is the
well-known ceremony of the Loviny Cup.
[Receipt for Making the Wassailbowl
- Simmer a small
quantity of the following spices in a teacupful of
water, viz.:—Cardamums, cloves, nutmeg, mace, ginger,
cinnamon, and coriander. When done, put the spice to
two, four, or six bottles of port, sherry, or madeira,
with one pound and a half of fine loaf sugar (pounded)
to four bottles, and set all on the fire in a clean
bright saucepan; meanwhile, have yolks of 12 and the
whites of 6 eggs well whisked up in it. Then, when the
spiced and sugared wine is a little warm, take out one
teacupful; and so on for three or four cups; after
which, when it boils, add the whole of the remainder,
pouring it in gradually, and stirring it briskly all
the time, so as to froth it. The moment a fine froth
is obtained, toss in 12 fine soft roasted apples, and
send it up hot. Spices for each bottle of wine:—10
grains of mace, 46 grains of cloves, 37 grains of
cardamums, 28 grains of cinnamon, 12 grains of nutmeg,
48 grains of ginger, 49 grains of coriander
seeds.—Mark Lane Express.]
Till very few years ago in Scotland, the custom of
the wassail bowl at the passing away of the old year
might he said to be still in comparative vigour. On
the approach of twelve o'clock, a hot pint was
prepared—that is, a kettle or flagon full of warm,
spiced, and sweetened ale, with an infusion of
spirits. When the clock had struck the knell of the
departed year, each member of the family drank of this
mixture 'A good health and a happy New Year and many
of them' to all the rest, with a general hand-shaking,
and perhaps a dance round the table, with the addition
of a song to the tune of Hey tuttie taitic:
'Weel may we a' be,
Ill may we never see,
Here's to the king
And the gude companie!' &c.
The elders of the family would then most probably
sally out, with the hot kettle, and bearing also a
competent provision of buns and short-bread, or bread
and cheese, with the design of visiting their
neighbours, and interchanging with them the same
cordial greetings. If they met by the way another
party similarly bent, whom they knew, they would stop
and give and take sips from their respective kettles.
Reaching the friend's house, they would enter with
vociferous good wishes, and soon send the kettle
a-circulating. If they were the first to enter the
house since twelve o'clock, they were deemed as the
first-foot; and, as such, it was most important, for
luck to the family in the coming year, that they
should make their entry, not empty-handed, but with
their hands full of cakes and bread and cheese; of
which, on the other hand, civility demanded that each
individual in the house should partake.
To such an extent did this custom prevail in
Edinburgh in the recollection of persons still living,
that, according to their account, the principal
streets were more thronged between twelve and one in the morning than they usually were at
midday. Much innocent mirth prevailed, and mutual good
feelings were largely promoted. An unlucky
circumstance, which took place on the 1st January of
1812, proved the means of nearly extinguishing the
custom. A small party of reckless boys formed the
design of turning the innocent festivities of firstfootinq to account for purposes of plunder. They
Kept their counsel well. No sooner had the people come
abroad on the principal thoroughfares of the Old Town,
than these youths sallied out in small bands, and
commenced the business which they had undertaken.
Their previous agreement was, to look out for the
white neckcloths,—such being the best mark by which
they could distinguish in the dark individuals likely
to carry any property worthy of being taken. A great
number of gentlemen were thus spoiled of their watches
and other valuables. The least resistance was resented
by the most brutal maltreatment. A policeman, and a
young man of the rank of a clerk in Leith, died of the
injuries they had received. An affair so singular, so
uncharacteristic of the people among whom it happened,
produced a widespread and lasting feeling of surprise.
The outrage was expiated by the execution of three of
the youthful rioters on the chief scone of their
wickedness; but from that time, it was observed that
the old custom of going about with the hot pint—the
ancient wassail —fell off.
A gentleman of Preston has communicated to a
popular publication that for many years past he has
been in the habit of calling on a friend, an aged
lady, at an early hour of New-Year's Day, being by her
own desire, as he is a fair-complexioned person, and
therefore assumed to be of good omen for the events of
the year. On one occasion, he was prevented from
attending to his old friend's request, and her first
caller proved to be a dark-complexioned man; in
consequence of which there came that year sickness,
trouble, and commercial disaster.
In the parish of Berlen, near Snodland, in the
county of Kent, are the remains of the old mansion of
Groves, originally the property of a family named
Hawks. On part of this house being pulled down in the
latter part of the eighteenth century, there was found
an oak beam supporting the chimney, which presented an
antique carving exactly represented in the engraving
at the head of this article. The words Wass hell
and Drinc hello leave no doubt that the bowl in the centre
was a representation of the wassail bowl of the time
when the house was built, probably the sixteenth
century. The two birds on the bowl are hawks—an
allusion to the name of the family which originally
possessed the mansion.
"The wassail bowle,' says Warton, 'is
Gossip's Bowl in the Midsummer Night's Dream. The
composition was ale, nutmeg, sugar, toast, and roasted
crabs or apples.' The word is interpreted by Verstegan
as wase hale—that is, grow or become well. It came in
time to signify festivity in general, and that of
rather an intemperate kind. A wassail candle was a
largo candle used at feasts.
First-footing in Edinburgh
There was in Scotland a first footing independent
of the hot pint. It was a time for some youthful
friend of the family to steal to the door, in the hope
of meeting there the young maiden of his fancy, and
obtaining the privilege of a kiss, as her first-foot.
Great was the disappointment on his part, and great
the joking among the family, if through accident or
plan, some half-withered aunt or ancient grand-dame
came to receive him instead of the blooming Jenny.
It may safely be said that New-Year's Day has
hitherto been observed in Scotland with. a heartiness
nowhere surpassed. It almost appears as if. by a sort
of antagonism to the general gravity of the people,
they were impelled to break out in a half-mad
merriment on this day. Every face was bright with
smiles; every hand ready with the grasp of friendship.
All stiffness arising from age, profession, and rank,
gave way. The soberest felt entitled to take a license
on that special day. Reunions of relatives very
generally took place over the festive board, and thus
many little family differences were obliterated. At
the pre-sent time, the ancient practices are somewhat
decayed; yet the First of January is far from being
reduced to the level of other days.
A grotesque manorial custom is described as being
kept up in the reign of Charles II, in connection
with Hilton in Staffordshire. There existed in that
house a hollow brass image, about a foot high,
representing a man kneeling in an indecorous posture.
It was known all over the country as
Jack of Hilton.
There were two apertures, one very small at the mouth,
another about two-thirds of an inch in diameter at the
back, and the interior would hold rather more than
four pints of water, 'which, when sot to a strong
fire, evaporates after the same manner as in an
Æolipile, and vents itself at the mouth in a constant
blast, blowing the fire so strongly that it is very
audible, and makes a sensible impression in that part
of the fire where the blast lights.'
Now the custom was this. An obligation lay upon the
lord of the adjacent manor of Essington, every
New-Year's Day, to bring a goose to Hilton, and drive
it three times round the hall fire, which Jack of
Hilton was all the time blowing by the discharge of
his steam. He was then to carry the bird into the
kitchen and deliver it to the cook; and when it was
dressed, he was further to carry it in a dish to the
table of his lord paramount, the lord of Hilton,
receiving in return a dish of meat for his own mess.
At Coventry, if not in other places throughout
England, it is customary to eat what are called
God-cakes on New-Year's Day. They are of a triangular
shape, of about half an inch thick, and filled with a
kind of mince-meat. There are halfpenny ones cried
through the street; but others of much greater
price--even it is said to the value of a pound—are
used by the upper classes.
Part 2 of Jan 1st