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it closed the next day, referring unto the opening and closing of the womb of Mary. Suitable to this relation is the thorn of Glastonbury, and perhaps the daughter thereof. Strange effects are naturally taken for miracles by weaker heads, and artificially improved to that apprehension by wiser. Certainly many precocious trees, and such as spring in the winter, may be found in England. Most trees sprout in the fall of the leaf, or autumn, and if not kept back by cold and outward causes, would leaf about the solstice. Now if it happen that any be so strongly constituted as to make this good against the power of winter, they may produce their leaves or blossoms at that season, and perform that in some singles which is observable in whole kinds : as in ivy, which blossoms and bears at least twice a year, and once in the winter; as also in furze, which flowereth in that season.'
Walsingham has the following passage, Historia Brevis, 1574, p. 119. Anno 1336. "In multis locis Angliæ salices in Januario flores protulerunt, rosis in quantitate et colore persimiles."
I have no doubt but that the early blossoming of the Glastonbury thorn was owing to a natural cause. It is mentioned by Gerard and Parkinson in their Herbals. Camden also notices it. Ashmole tells us that he had often heard it spoken of, "and by some who have seen it whilst it flourished at Glastonbury." He adds: "Upon St. Stephen's day, anno 1672, Mr. Stainsby (an ingenious inquirer after things worthy memorial) brought me a branch of hawthorne having green leaves, faire buds, and full flowers, all thick and very beautifull, and (which is more notable) many of the hawes and berries upon it red and plump, some of which branch is yet preserved in the plant booke of my collection. This he had from a hawthorne tree now growing at Sir Lancelote Lake's house, near Edgworth, in Middlesex, concerning which, falling after into the company of the said knight, 7th July, 1673, he told me that the tree, whence this branch was plucked, grew from a slip taken from the Glastonbury thorn about sixty years since, which is now a bigg tree, and flowers every winter about Christmas. E. Ashmole." See the Appendix to Hearne's Antiquities of Glastonbury, p. 303.
A pleasant writer in the World, No. 10 (already quoted in this work), has the following irony on the alteration of the
style in 1752. The paper is dated March the 8th, 1753. "It is well known that the correction of the calendar was enacted by Pope Gregory the Thirteenth, and that the reformed churches have, with a proper spirit of opposition, adhered to the old calculation of the Emperor Julius Caesar, who was by no means a Papist. Near two years ago the Popish calendar was brought in (I hope by persons well affected). Certain it is that the Glastonbury thorn has preserved its inflexibility, and observed its old anniversary. Many thousand spectators visited it on the parliamentary Christmas Day-not a bud was to be seen! -on the true Nativity it was covered with blossoms. One must be an infidel indeed to spurn at such authority."
The following is from the Gent. Mag. for January, 1753, xxiii. 49, dated Quainton in Buckinghamshire, Dec. 24; "Above two thousand people came here this night with lanthorns and candles, to view a black thorn which grows in this neighbourhood, and which was remembered (this year only) to be a slip from the famous Glastonbury thorn, that it always budded on the 24th, was full blown the next day, and went all off at night; but the people finding no appearance of a bud, 'twas agreed by all that Dec. 25th, N.S., could not be the right Christmas Day, and accordingly refused going to church, and treating their friends on that day as usual; at length the affair became so serious, that the ministers of the neighbouring villages, in order to appease the people, thought it prudent to give notice, that the old Christmas Day should be kept holy as before. Glastonbury.—A vast concourse of people attended the noted thorns on Christmas Eve, new style; but to their great disappointment, there was no appearance of its blowing, which made them watch it narrowly the 5th of January, the Christmas Day, old style, when it blowed as usual."
"Millar, in his Dictionary, observes on this Glastonbury thorn, that the fabulous story of its budding on Christmas Day in the morning, flowering at noon, and decaying at night, is now with great reason disbelieved; for, although it may sometimes happen that there may be some bunches of flowers open on the day, yet for the most part it is later in the year before they appear; but this in a great measure depends on the mildness of the season."
Collinson, in his History of Somersetshire, ii. 265, speaking of Glastonbury, says: "South-west from the town is Wearyall
Hill, an eminence so called (if we will believe the monkish writers) from St. Joseph and his companions sitting down here, all weary with their journey. Here St. Joseph struck his stick into the earth, which, although a dry hawthorn staff, thenceforth grew and constantly budded on Christmas Day. It had two trunks or bodies till the time of Queen Elizabeth, when a puritan exterminated one, and left the other, which was of the size of a common man, to be viewed in wonder by strangers; and the blossoms thereof were esteemed such curiosities by people of all nations, that the Bristol merchants made a traffick of them, and exported them into foreign parts. In the great rebellion, during the time of King Charles I., the remaining trunk of this tree was also cut down; but other trees from its branches are still growing in many gardens of Glastonbury and in the different nurseries of this kingdom. It is probable that the monks of Glastonbury procured this tree from Palestine, where abundance of the same sort grew, and flower about the same time. Where this thorn grew is said to have been a nunnery dedicated to St. Peter, without the pale of Weriel Park, belonging to the abbey. It is strange to say how much this tree was sought after by the credulous; and though a common thorn, Queen Anne, King James, and many of the nobility of the realm, even when the times of monkish superstition have ceased, gave large sums of money for small cuttings from the original."
Taylor, the Water Poet, in his Wandering to see the Wonders of the West, 4to. 1649, p. 6, speaking of the thorn of Glastonbury, tells us that, during the great rebellion, "the soldiers, being over zealous, did cut it downe in pure devotion; but a vintner dwelling in the towne did save a great slip or branch of it, and placed or set it in his garden; and he with others did tell me that the same doth likewise bloome on the 25th day of December yearly. I saw the sayd branch, and it was ten foote high, greene and flourishing: I did take a dead sprigge from it, wherewith I made two or three tobacco stoppers, which I brought to London."
["Nay, that miraculous thorn at Glassenbury, which was wont to celebrate the festival of Christ's Nativity, by putting forth its leaves and flowers, was cut in pieces by these militia men, that it might no longer preach unto men the birthday of their Saviour." Symmons's Vindication of Charles I., 1648.]
VARIOUS VULGAR ERRORS.
BARRINGTON, in his Observations on our Antient Statutes, p. 474, says, it is supposed to be penal to open a coal mine, or to kill a crow, within five miles of London; as also to shoot with a wind-gun. As to the wind-gun, he takes that to arise from a statute of Henry VII., prohibiting the use of a cross-bow.
To these vulgar errors may be added the supposing that the king signs the death-warrant (as it is called) for the execution of a criminal: as also that there is a statute which obliges the owners of asses to crop their ears, lest the length of them should frighten the horses which they meet on the road.
In the Gentleman's Magazine for September 1734, iv. 489, we have the following from Bayle: "There is nothing strange in errors becoming universal, considering how little men consult their reason. What multitudes believe, one after another, that a man weighs more fasting than full; that a sheepskin drum bursts at the beat of a wolfskin drum; that young vipers destroy the old females when they come to the birth, and strike the male dead at the instant of their conception, with many other truths of equal validity!"
To these vulgar errors, adds Barrington, ut supra, p. 475, may be added perhaps the notion, that a woman's marrying a man under the gallows will save him from the execution. This probably arose from a wife having brought an appeal against the murderer of her husband, who afterwards repenting the prosecution of her lover, not only forgave the offence, but was willing to marry the appellee.
In Warning for Servants, or the Case of Margaret Clark, lately executed for firing her Master's House in Southwark, 1680, p. 31, we read: "Since this poor maid was executed, there has been a false and malicious story published concerning her in the True Domestick Intelligence of Tuesday, the 30th of March: 'Kingstone, March the 21. There was omitted in the Protestant Domestick Intelligence in relating the last words and confession of Mary Clark (so he falsely calls her), who was executed for firing the house of M. De La Noy, dyer in Southwark viz. that at her execution there was a fellow who
Scaliger asserts the falsity of this from his own experience and observation.
designed to marry her under the gallows (according to the antient laudable custome), but she, being in hopes of a reprieve, seemed unwilling; but when the rope was about her neck, she cryed she was willing, and then the fellow's friends disswaded him from marrying her; and so she lost her husband and her life together.' There is added: We know of no such custome allowed by law, that any man's offering at a place of execution to marry a woman condemned shall save her."
Barrington, ut supra, p. 474, supposes that an exemption granted to surgeons from serving on juries is the foundation of the vulgar error, that a surgeon or butcher (from the barbarity of their business) may be challenged as jurors. It is difficult, he adds, to account for many of the prevailing vulgar errors with regard to what is supposed to be law. Such are that the body of a debtor may be taken in execution after his death, which, however, was practised in Prussia before Frederick the Great abolished it by his Code. Other vulgar errors are, that the old statutes have prohibited the planting of vineyards, or the use of sawing mills, relating to which I cannot find any statute; they are however established in Scotland, to the very great advantage both of the proprietor and the country.
An ingenious correspondent, to whom I have not only this obligation, suggests two additional vulgar errors. When a man designs to marry a woman who is in debt, if he take her from the hands of the priest, clothed only in her shift, it is supposed that he will not be liable to her engagements. The second is, that there was no land-tax before the reign of William the Third.2
1 I may likewise add to these, that any one may be put into the Crown Office for no cause whatsoever, or the most trifling injury. It is also a very prevailing error, that those who are born at sea belong to Stepney parish.
2 The following legend, intended to honour the Virgin Mother, is given in a Short Relation of the River Nile, &c., 12mo. Lond. 1672, p. 87. The writer says: "Eating some dates with an old man, but a credulous Christian, he said, that the letter O remained upon the stone of a date for a remembrance that our blessed lady, the Virgin, with her divine babe in her arms, resting herself at the foot of a palm tree, (which inclined her branches and offered a cluster of dates to her Creatour,) our lady plucked some of the dates, and eating them, satisfied with the taste and