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to direct us; we must oftentimes trace a tedious retrospective Course, perhaps to return at last weary and unsatisfied, from the making of Researcbes, fruitless as those of fome antient enthusiastic Traveller, who ranging tbe barren African Sands, had in vain attempted to investigate the hidden Sources of the Nile.
Rugged and narrow as this Walk of Study may seem to many, yet Fancy (who shares with Hope the pleasing Office of brightening a Passage through every Route of human Endeavour) opens from hence to Prospects, enriched with the choicest Beauties of her magic Creation.
The prime Origin of the superstitions Notions and Ceremonies of the People is absolutely unattainable; we despair of ever being able to reach the Fountain Head of Streams which have been running and increasing from the Beginning of Time. All that we aspire to do, is only to trace backwards, as far as possible, the Courses of them on those Charts, that remain, of the distant Countries from whence they were first perceived to flow.
Few, who are defirous of investigating the popular Notions and vulgar Ceremonies in our Nation, can fail of deducing them in their first Direction from the Times when Popery was our established Religion.
We shall not wonder that there were able to survive the Reformation, when we consider, that though our sensible and spirited Forefathers were, upon Conviction, easily induced to forego religious Tenets, which had been weighed in the Balance, and found wanting; yet were the People by no means inclined to annihilate the seemingly innocent Ceremonies of their former fuperftitious Faith.
These, consecrated to the Fancies of Men, by a Usage from Time immemorial, though erazed by public Authority from the written Word, were committed as a venerable Deposit to the keeping ot oral Tradition : like the Penates of a. nother Troy, recently destroyed, they were religiously brought off, after having been snatched out of the smoking Ruins of Popery.
It is not improbable that, in the Infancy of Protestantism, the continuance of many of there was connived at by the State. For Men, " who are but Children of a larger
“ Growth,” are not weaned all at once, and the Refor. mation of Manners, and of Religion, is always most surely established, when effected by flow Degrees, and as it were imperceptible Gradations.
Thus also at the first Promulgation of Christianity to the Gentile Nations, through the Force of Conviction they yielded indeed to Truth; yet they could not be persuaded to relinquilh many of their Superstitions, which, rather than forego them altogether, they chose to blend and incorporate with their new Faith.
Christian, or rather Papal Rome, borrowed her Rites, Notions, and Ceremonies, in the most luxurious Abundance from ancient and Heathen Rome; and much the greater Number of these flaunting Externals, which Infallibility has adopted, and used as Feathers to adorn her Triple-Cap, have been stolen out of the Wings of the dying Eagle.
With regard to the Rites, Sports, &c. of the Common People, I am aware that the morose and bigotted Part of Mankind * without diftinguishing between the right Use and the Abuse of such Entertainments, cavil at and malign them. Yet mult such be told that Shows and Sports have been countenanced by the best and wiseft of States; and though it caonot be denied that they have been sometimes prostituted to the Purposes of Riot and Debauchery, yet were we to reprobate every thing that has been thus abused, Religion itself could not be retained; perhaps we should be able to keep nothing.
The common People, confined by daily Labour, seem to require their proper Invervals of Relaxation; perhaps it is of
* I shall quote here the subsequent curious Thoughts on this Subject : the Puritans are ridiculed in them,
These teach that Dancing is a Jezebell,
Randolph's Poems. 1646.
the highest political Utility to encourage innocent Sports and Games among thèm. The Revival of many of these, would, I think, be highly pertinent at this particular Season, when the general Spread of Luxury and Diffipation threatens more than at any preceding Period to extinguish the Character of our boasted national Bravery. For the Observation of an honest old Writer, Stow, (whọ tells us, speaking of the May-games, Midsummer-Eve * Rejoicings, &c. antiently used in the Streets of London, “ which open Pastimes " in my Youth being now fuppreft, worse Practices witbin " Doors are to be feared," may be with fingular Propriety adopted on the most transient Survey, of our present popular Manners.
Mr Bourne, my Predecessor in this Work, has noc, from whatever Cause, done Justice to the Subject he undertook to treat of. Far from having the Vanity to think that I have exhausted it, the utmost of my Pretensions is to the Merit of baving endeavoured, by making Additions, to improve it., I think him, however, deserving of no small Share of Praise for his imperfect Attempt, for “ much is due to those, who “ first broke the way to Knowledge, and left only to their « Succeflors the Talk of fmothering it."
New Lights have arisen fince his Time. The Fnglish Antique has become a general and fashionable Study; and the Discoveries of the very respectable Society of Antiquaries, have rendered the Recesses of Papal and Heathen Antiquities easier of access.
I fatter myself I have turned all these Circumstances in fome Measure to Advantage. I have gleaned Passages that seemed to throw Light upon the Subject, from a great Variety of Volumes, and those written too in several Languages; in the doing of which, if I shall not be found to having deserved the Praise of Judgment, I must at least make Pretensions to the Merit of Industry.
I call to mind here the pleasing Account Mr Sterne has left us in his Sentimental Journey, of the Grace-dance after Supper.-I agree with that amiable Writer in thinking that Religion may mix herself in the Dance, and that innocent Cheerfulness is no inconsiderable Part of Devotion ; such indeed as cannot fail of being grateful to the Good Being, -it is a silent but eloquent Mode of praising him!
Elegance Elegance of Composition will hardly be expected in a Work of this Kind, which stands much less in need of Attic Wit, than of Roman Perseverance and Durch Affiduity.
I shall offer fome Discoveries, which are peculiarly my own ;
tor there are Customs yet retained here in the North, of which I am persuaded the learned of the Southern Part of the Island have not heard, which is, perhaps, the fole Cause why they have never before been investigated.
In perusing the fobsequent Observations, the candid Rea. der, who has never before considered this neglected Subject, is requested not to be rash in paffing Sentence, but to fufpend his Judgment, at least, till he has carefully examined all the Evidence; by which Caution I do not wish to have it understood, that our Determinations are thought to be in. fallible, or that every Decision here is not amenable to an higher Authority. In the mean Tim: Prejudice may be forwarned, and it will apologize for many seemingly trivial Reasons, assigned for the beginning and transmitting of this or that Notion or Ceremony, to reflect, that what may appear foolish to the enlightened Understandings of Men in the eighteenth Century, wore a very different Afpect when viewed through the Gloom that prevailed in the seventh or cighth.
I should trespass upon the Patience of my Reader, were I'to enumerate all the Books I have consulted on this Oc. cafion; to which, however, I shall take care in their proper Places to refer : but I own myself under particuJar Obligations to Durand's Ritual of Divine Offices; a Work inimical to every Idea of rational Worship, but to the Enquirer into the Origin of our popular Ceremonies, an in. valuable Magazine of the most interesting Intelligence, I would stile this performance the great Ceremonial Law of the Romanilts, in Comparison with which the Mofaic Code is bar. ren of Rites and Ceremonies. We stand amazed on perusing it at the enormous Weight of a new Yoke which boly Church fabricating with her own Hands has imposed on her servile Devotees,
Yet the Forgers of these Shackles had artfully contrived to make them fit easy, by twisting Flowers around them. Dark as this Pi&ture, drawn by the Pencil of gloomy Super
ftition, appeared upon the whole, yet was its deep Sbade contrasted with pleasing Lights.
The Calendar was crowded with Red-Letter Days, nomi. nally indeed consecrated to Saints; but which; by the encouragement of Idleness and Dissipation of Manners, gave every Kind of Countenance to SINNERS.
A Profusion of childila Rites, Pageants, and Ceremonies, diverted the Attention of the People from the Consideration of their real State, and kept them in Humour, if it did not sometimes make them in Love with their savilh Modes of Worship,
To the Credit of our sensible and manly Forefathers, they were among the first who felt the Weight of tbis new and unnecessary Yoke, and had Spirit enough to throw it off.
I have fortunately in my Possession one of those antient Romish Calendars of fingular Curiosity, which contains under the immoveable Feasts and Falls, (I regret much its Silence on the moveable ones) a Variety of brief Observations contributing not a little to the Elucidation of many of our popular Customs, and proving them to have been sent over from Rome, with Bulls, Indulgencies, and other Baubles, bartered, as it should seem, for our Peter.pence, by those who trafficked in spiritual Merchandize from the Continent.
These I shall carefully translate (though in some Places it is extremely difficult to render the very barbarous Latin, of which I fear the Critic will think I have transfused the Bar. barity, Brevity, and Obscurity into my own English) and lay before my Reader, who will at once fee and acknowledge their Utility.
A learned Performance, by a Dodor Moresin in the Time of James I. and dedicated to that Monarch, is also luckily in my Poffeffion. It is written in Latin, and entitled, “. The Origin and locrease of Depravity in Religion ;" containing a very masterly Parallel between the Rites, Notions, &c. of Heatben and those of Papal Rome.
The copious Extracts from this Work, with which I shall adorn the subsequent Pages will be their own Eulogy, and supersede my poor Encomiums,