vol II date / index
St. Bertille, Abbess of Chelles, A. D. 692.
Powder Plot, 1605.
This is a great day in the calendar of the church of England: it is duly noticed by the almanacs, and kept as a holiday at the public offices. In the "Common Prayer Book," there is "A Form of Prayer with Thanksgiving, to be used yearly upon the Fifth day of November; for the happy deliverance of King JAMES I., and the three Estates of England, from the most Traiterous and bloody-intended Massacre by Gunpowder: And also for the happy Arrival of His late Majesty (King WILLIAM III.) on this Day, for the Deliverance of our Church and Nation."
There cannot be a better representation of "Guy Fawkes," as he is borne about the metropolis, "in effigy," on the fifth of November, every year, than the drawing to this article by Mr. Cruikshank. It is not to be expected that poor boys should be well informed as to Guy's history, or be particular about his costume. With them "Guy Fawkes-day," or, as they as often call it, "Pope-day," is a holiday, and as they reckon their year by their holidays, this, on account of its festivous enjoyment, is the greatest holiday of the season. They prepare long before hand, not "Guy," but the fuel wherewith he is to be burnt, and the fireworks to fling about at the burning: "the Guy" is the last thing thought of, "the bonfire" the first. About this time ill is sure to betide the owner of an ill-secured fence; stakes are extracted from hedges, and branches torn from trees; crack, crack, goes loose paling; deserted buildings yield up their floorings; unbolted flip-flapping doors are released from their hinges as supernumeraries; and more burnables are deemed lawful prize than the law allows. These are secretly stored in some enclosed place, which other "collectors" cannot find, or dare not venture to invade. Then comes the making of "the Guy," which is easily done with straw, after the materials of dress are obtained: these are an old coat, waistcoat, breeches, and stockings, which usually as ill accord in their proportions and fitness, as the parts in some of the new churches. His hose and coat are frequently "a world too wide;" in such cases his legs are infinitely too big, and the coat is "hung like a loose sack about him." A barber's block for the head is "the very thing itself;" chalk and charcoal make capital eyes and brows, which are the main features, inasmuch as the chin commonly drops upon the breast, and all deficiencies are hid by "buttonning up:" a large wig is a capital achievement. Formerly an old cocked hat was the reigning fashion for a "Guy;" though the more strictly informed "dresser of the character" preferred a mock-mitre; now, however, both hat and mitre have disappeared, and a stiff paper cap painted, and knotted with paper strips, in imitation of ribbon, is its substitute; a frill and ruffles of writing-paper so far completes the figure. Yet this neither was not, nor is, a Guy, without a dark lantern in one hand, and a spread bunch of matches in the other. The figure thus furnished, and fastened in a chair, is carried about the streets in the manner represented in the engraving; the boys shouting forth the words of the motto with loud huzzas, and running up to passengers hat in hand, with "pray remember Guy! please to remember Guy[!"]
Please to remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot;
We know no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
Holla boys! holla boys! huzza—a—a!
A stick and a stake, for king George's sake,
A stick and a stump, for Guy Fawkes's rump!
Holla boys! holla boys! huzza—a—a
Scuffles seldom happen now, but "in my youthful days," "when Guy met Guy—then came the tug of war!" The partisans fought, and a decided victory ended in the capture of "Guy" belonging to the vanquished. Sometimes desperate bands, who omitted, or were destitute of the means to make "Guys," went forth like Froissart's knights "upon adventures." An enterprise of this sort was called "going to smug a Guy," that is, to steal one by "force of arms," fists, and sticks, from its rightful owners. These partisans were always successful, for they always attacked the weak.
In such times, the burning of "a good Guy" was a scene of uproar unknown to the present day. The bonfire in Lincoln's Inn Fields was of this superior order of disorder. It was made at the great Queen-street corner, immediately opposite Newcastle-house. Fuel came all day long, in carts people have remembered when upwards of two hundred cart-loads were brought to make and feed this bonfire, and more than thirty "Guys" were burnt upon gibbets between eight and twelve o'clock at night.
At the same period, the butchers in Clare-market had a bonfire in the open space of the market, next to Bear-yard, and they thrashed each other "round about the wood-fire," with the strongest sinews of slaughtered bulls. Large parties of butchers from all the markets paraded the streets, ringing peals from marrow-bones-and-cleavers, so loud as to overpower the storms of sound that came from the rocking belfries of the churches. By ten o'clock, London was so lit up by bonfires and fireworks, that from the suburbs it looked in one red heat. Many were the overthrows of horsemen and carriages, from the discharge of hand-rockets, and the pressure of moving mobs inflamed to violence by drink, and fighting their way against each other.
This fiery zeal has gradually decreased. Men no longer take part or interest in such an observance of the day, and boys carry about their "Guy" with no other sentiment or knowledge respecting him, than body-snatchers have of a newly-raised corpse, or the method of dissecting it; their only question is, how much they shall get by the operation to make merry with. They sometimes confound their confused notion of the principle with the mawkin, and for "the Guy," they say, "the Pope." Their difference is not by the way of distinction, but ignorance. "No popery," no longer ferments; the spirit is of the lees.
The day is commonly called Gunpowder treason, and has been kept as an anniversary from 1605, when the plot was discovered, the night before it was to have been put in execution. The design was to blow up the king, James I., the prince of Wales, and the lords and commons assembled in parliament. One of the conspirators, being desirous of saving lord Monteagle, addressed an anonymous letter to him, ten days before the parliament met, in which was this expression, "the danger is past, so soon as you have burnt the letter." The earl of Salisbury said it was written by some fool or madman; but the king said, "so soon as you have burnt the letter," was to be interpreted, in as short a space as you shall take to burn the letter. Then, comparing the sentence with one foregoing, "that they should receive a terrible blow, this parliament, and yet should not see hurt them," he concluded, that some sudden blow was preparing by means of gunpowder. Accordingly, all the rooms and cellars under the parliament-house were searched; but as nothing was discovered, it was resolved on the fourth of Nobember, at midnight, the day before the parliament met, to search under the wood, in a cellar hired by Mr. Percy, a papist. Accordingly sir Thomas Knevet, going about that time, found at the door a man in a cloak and boots, whom he apprehended. This was Guy Fawkes, who passed for Percy's servant. On removing the wood, &c. they discovered thirty-six barrels of gunpowder, and on Guy Fawkes being searched, there were found upon him, a dark lantern, a tinder-box, and three matches. Instead of being dismayed, he boldly said, if he had been taken within the cellar, he would have blown up himself and them together. On his examination, he confessed the design was to blow up the king and parliament, and expressed great sorrow that it was not done, saying, it was the devil and not God that was the discoverer. The number of persons discovered to have been in the conspiracy were about thirteen; they were all Roman catholics, and their design was to restore the catholic religion in England. It appears that Guy Fawkes and his associates had assembled, and concerted the plot at the old King's-head tavern, in Leadenhall-street. Two of the conspirators were killed, in endeavouring to avoid apprehension; eight were executed. Two jesuits, Oldcorn and Garnet, also suffered death; the former for saying, "the ill success of the conspiracy did not render it the less just;" the latter for being privy to the conspiracy and not revealing it.
A corporation notice is annually left at the house of every inhabitant in the city of London, previous to lord mayor's day. The following (delivered in St. Bride's) is its form:
October the 11th, 1825.
BY Virtue of a Precept from my LORD MAYOR, in order to prevent any Tumults and Riots that may happen on the Fifth of NOVEMBER and the next ensuing LORD MAYOR'S DAY, you are required to charge all your Servants and Lodgers, that they neither make, nor cause to be made, any SQUIBS, SERPENTS, FIRE BALLOONS, or other FIREWORKS, nor fire, fling, nor throw them out of your House, Shop, or Warehouse, or in the Streets of this City, on the Penalties contained in an Act of Parliament made in the Tenth year of the late King WILLIAM.
Note. The Act was made perpetual, and is not expired, as some ignorantly suppose.
C. PUCKERIDGE, Beadle.
Taylor, Printer, Basinghall Street.
On the fifth of November, a year or two ago, an outrageous sparkle of humour broke forth. A poor hard-working man, while at breakfast in his garret, was enticed from it by a message that some one who knew him wished to speak to him at the street door. When he got there he was shaken hands with, and invited to a chair. He had scarcely said "nay" before "the ayes had him," and clapping him in the vacant seat, tied him there. They then painted his face to their liking, put a wig and paper cap on his head, fastened a dark lantern in one of his hands, and a bundle of matches in the other, and carried him about all day, with shouts of laughter and huzzas, begging for their "Guy." When he was released at night he went home, and having slept upon his wrongs, he carried them the next morning to a police office, whither his offenders were presently brought by warrant, before the magistrates, who ordered them to find bail or stand committed. It is illegal to smug a man for "a Guy."
Angular Physalis. Physalis Alkakengi.
Dedicated to St. Bertille.