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December 21.

St. Thomas, the Apostle. St. Edburge.

St. Thomas.

This apostle is in the church of England calendar and almanacs. He is affirmed to have travelled and promulgated christianity among the Parthians, Medes, Persians, and Carmenians, and to have been the apostle of the Indies; where he effected numerous conversions, and by his preaching raised the indignation of the Bramins, who instigated the people against him till they threw stones and darts at him, and ended his life by running him through the body with a lance.

It is said that the body of the apostle was carried to the city of Edessa. On the discovery of Malabar, by the Portuguese, they found there the Nestorian christians of St. Thomas, whom they treated as heretics, and held a council, which passed decrees for their purgation. Yet may of the Malabarians still maintain the Nestorian doctrines and ceremonies, and refuse to acknowledge the authority of the pope.

Ribadeneira pretends that on the eve of Christmas, in the church of St. Thomas at Malabar, a stone cross commences to shed blood as soon as the Jesuits begin to say mass, "and not before." He says, "The holy cross also begins, by little and little, to change its natural colour, which is white, turning into yellow, and afterwards into black, and from black into azure colour, until the sacrifice of the mass being ended, it returns to its natural colour: and that which augments both admiration and devotion is, that, as the holy cross changes its colours, it distils certain little drops of blood, and by little and little tthey grow thicker, until they fall in so great abundance that the clothes with which they wipe it are dyed with the same blood: and if any year this miracle fail, it is held as a certain sign of great calamity that is to come upon them, as experience has shown them." Perhaps it is further miraculous, that in a country where there is liberty of thought and speech, and a free press, no stone cross will do the like.


Going a gooding on St. Thomas's day formerly prevailed in England. Women begged money, and in return presented the donors with sprigs of palm and branches of primroses.*[1] Mr. Ellis says, "this practice is still kept up in Kent, in the neighbourhood of Maidstone." Mr. Brand adds, "My servant B. Jelkes, who is from Warwickshire, informs me that there is a custom in that county for the poor on St. Thomas's day to go with a bag to beg corn of the farmers, which they call going a corning."



In London, on St. Thomas's day, wardmotes are held for the election of the inquest and common councilmen, and other officers, who are annually chosen for the service and representation of the respective wards.

It is a remarkable fact that the majority of the inhabitants, in many wards, are indifferent to these elections, and suffer their ample franchise to run to waste, like housewives who are careless of their serviceable water; hence important offices are frequently filled by persons either ignorant of the duties they should discharge, or indifferent to them, or unqualified to understand them.

The Ward Inquests.

From "An Inquiry into the Nature and Duties of the Office of Inquest Jurymen," by Mr. Thomas Newell, of Cripplegate Ward, published in 1825, in appears that the ward inquest should be elected on St. Thomas's day, before the common councilmen are elected, inasmuch as "the alderman is commanded by his precept from the lord mayor, to give all the articles of the precept in charge to the inquest; which they cannot take charge of unless they are elected first." It is now the common practice of wardmotes, to elect the inquest last. This has arisen, perhaps, from what may be called, in the ordinary sense of the word, the "political" importance usually atteached to the election of the common councilmen, and by this means the inquest, though foremost in power, has been degraded in rank, and sunk into comparative insignificance. Withal it is to be observed, that the inquest, with the aldermen, are the returning officers of the election of the common councilmen; so that where the practice prevails of electing the inquest last, such inquests are in fact constituted too late to take cognizance, as an inquest, of the election of the common council, and such inquests are consequently incompetent upon their oaths, as inquest men, to return the common councilmen, as having been truly and duly elected.

It appears further, that another extraordinary inroad has been made in London, upon the right of the wardmote inquests to return the jurors to serve in the mayor's and sheriffs' courts of the city. By some by-law or order of the court of aldermen, that court claims to exercise this most important and ancient right of the wardmote inquests; and issues a precept to the alderman of each ward, requiring him to acquaint the inquest "that they are not hereafter to intermeddle or concern themselves in the making of the said returns." This mandate is said to be conformed to at this time by all the inquests; so that the court of aldermen seems to have obtained the inquests to surrender their right to nominate the juries in the city courts, without a struggle. If the proceedings of the court of aldermen were illegal, it is clear that each alderman, in his own ward, illegally dispossessed each inquest of its right, and then, exercised their usurped power when they met together as a court of aldermen.

From the elections in each ward on this day, the citizens are all in a hurry, and there is much discussion at the few remaining clubs and tavern parlours in the different parishes, concerning the qualifications of the respective candidates. All freemen, being householders, are entitled to vote.


Sparrowwort. Erica passerina.
Dedicated to St. Thomas, Apostle.

Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:

1. Gentleman's Magazine, April 1794. [return]