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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

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

" 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 bunstman cometh into the ball, 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-borns. And the fox and cat are by the bounds 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) placelh 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."

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. Ist edit.

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


Now, now the mirth comes

Who unurg'd will not drinke
With the cake full of plums,

To the base from the brink
Where Beane's the king of the sport here; A health to the King and the Queene here.

Beside, we must know,
The Pea also

Next crowne the bowle full
Must revell, as Queene, in the court here.

With gentle lambs-wooll;

Adde sugar, nutmeg and ginger,
Begin then to chuse,

With store of ale too;
This night as ye use,

And thus ye must doe
Who shall for the present delight here,

To make the wassaile a swinger.
Be a King by the lot,
And who shall not

Give then to the King
Be Twelfe-day Queene for the night here.

And Queene wassailing;

And though with ale ye be whet here;
Which knowne, let us make

Yet part ye from hence,
Joy-sops with the cake;

As free from offence,
And let not a man then be seen here,

As when ye innocent met here."

Herrick's Hesperides, p. 376, 377.

The Twelfth Day was the usual termination of the festivities of Christmas with the higher rapks; but with the vulgar they were frequently prolonged until Candlemas, lo 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-leasts 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 cominentary 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 liad 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

1 purpos’d her; that should with even powers,
The rock, the spindle, and the sheers, controul

Of destiny, and spin her own free hours. Ben Jonson
Chalmers's Poets, vol. iv. p. 564. Albion's England, chap. 24.


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,

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

" 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 servanls and task-men. PloughMonday puls 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 loselh ber Shrovelide 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


* Hesperides, p. 374.

+ Tusser Redivivus, p. 79, 80.

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