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"The King Drinks!"

The bean found out, and monarch crown'd,
He dubs a fool, and sends him round,
To raise the frolic when it's low—
Himself commands the wine to flow.
Each watches for the king to quaff,
When, all at once, up springs the laugh;
They cry "The king drinks!" and away
They shout a long and loud huzza!
And when its ended comes the dance,
And—thus is Twelfth-night spent in France.


January 6.

Epiphany.—Old Christmas-day.
Holiday at the Public-offices.


It is only in certain rural parts of France that the merriments represented above still prevail. The engraving is from an old print, "I. Marriette ex." inscribed as in the next column.

Les Divertissements du Roi-boit.

Loin dicy mille soins facheux,
Que porte avec soy la coronne;
Celle quá table Bacchus donne
Ne fit jamais de malheureux."

This print may be regarded a faithful picture of the almost obsolete usage.

During the holidays, and especially on Twelfth-night, school-boys dismiss "the cares and the fears" of academic rule; or they are regarded but as a passing cloud, intercepting only for an instant the sunshine of joy wherewith their sports are brightened. Gerund-grinding and parsing are usually prepared for at the last moment, until when "the master's chair" is only "remembered to be forgotten." There is entire suspension of the authority of that class, by whom the name of "Busby" is venerated, till "Black Monday" arrives, and chaises and stages convey the young Christmas-keepers to the "seat of government."

Dr. Busby's Chair.

Him! sui generis, alone,
Busby! the great substantive noun!
Whose look was lightning, and whose word
Was thunder to the boys who heard,
Is, as regards his long vocation,
Pictured by this his great location,
Look on it well, boys, and digest
The symbols!—learn—and shun the rest!


The name of Busby!—not the musical doctor, but a late magisterial doctor of Westminster school—celebrated for severe discipline, is a "word of fear" to all living who know his fame! It is perpetuated by an engraved representation of his chair, said to have been designed by sir Peter Lily, and presented by that artist to king Charles II. The arms, and each arm, are appalling; and the import of the other devices are, or ought to be, known by every tyro. Every prudent person lays in stores before they are wanted, and Dr. Busby's chair may as well be "in the house" on Twelfth-day as on any other; not as a mirth-spoiler, but as a subject which we know to-day that we have "by us," whereon to inquire and discuss at a more convenient season. Dr. Busby was a severe, but not an ill-natured man. It is related of him and one of his scholars, that during the doctor's absence from his study, the boy found some plums in it, and being moved by liquorishness, began to eat some; first, however, he waggishly cried out, "I publish the banns of matrimony between my mouth and these plums; if any here present know just cause or impediment why they should not be united, you are to declare it, or hereafter hold your peace;" and then he ate. But the doctor had overheard the proclamation, and said nothing till the next morning, when causing the boy to be "brought up," and disposed for punishment, he grasped the well-known instrument, and said, "I publish the banns of matrimony between this rod and this boy: if any of you know just cause or impediment why they should not be united, you are to declare it."—The boy himself called out, "I forbid the banns!" "For what cause?" inquired the doctor. "Because," said the boy, "the parties are not agreed!" The doctor enjoyed the validity of the objection urged by the boy's wit, and the ceremony was not performed. This is an instance of Dr. Busby's admiration of talent: and let us hope, in behalf of its seasonableness here, that it was at Christmas time.

The King drinks.

We recur once more to this subject, for the sake of remarking that there is an account of a certain curate, "who having taken his preparations over evening, when all men cry (as the manner is) The king drinketh, chanting his masse the next morning, fell asleep in his memento ; and when he awoke, added, with a loud voice, The king drinketh." This mal-apropos exclamation must have proceeded from a foreign ecclesiastic: we have no account of the ceremony to which it refers, having prevailed in merry England.

An excellent pen-and-ink picture of "Merry England"* [1] represents honest old Froissart, the French chronicler, as saying of some English in his time, that "they amused themselves sadly after the fashion of their country;" whereon the pourtrayer of Merry England observes, "They have indeed a way of their own. Their mirth is a relaxation from gravity, a challenge to 'Dull Care' to 'be gone;' and one is not always clear at first, whether the appeal is successful. The cloud may still hang on the brow; the ice may not thaw at once. To help them out in their new character is an act of charity. Any thing short of hanging or drowning is something to begin with. They do not enter into their amusements the less doggedly because they may plague others. They like a thing the better for hitting them a rap on the knuckles, for making their blood tingle. They do not dance or sing, but they make good cheer—'eat, drink, and are merry.' No people are fonder of field-sports, Christmas gambols, or practical jests. Blindman's-buff, hunt-the-slipper, hot-cockles, and snap-dragon, are all approved English games, full of laughable surprises and 'hair-breadth 'scapes,' and serve to amuse the winter fireside after the roast beef and plum-pudding, the spiced ale and roasted crab, thrown (hissing-hot) into the foaming tankard. Punch (not the liquor, but the puppet) is not, I fear, of English origin; but there is no place, I take it, where he finds himself more at home or meets a more joyous welcome, where he collects greater crowds at the corners of streets, where he opens the eyes or distends the cheeks wider, or where the bangs and blows, the uncouth gestures, ridiculous anger and screaming voice of the chief performer excite more boundless merriment or louder bursts of laughter among all ranks and sorts of people. An English theatre is the very throne of pantomime; nor do I believe that the gallery and boxes of Drury-lane or Covent-garden filled on the proper occasions with holiday folks (big or little) yield the palm for undisguised, tumultuous, inextinguishable laughter to any spot in Europe. I do not speak of the refinment of the mirth (this is no fastidious speculation) but of its cordiality, on the return of these long-looked-for and licensed periods; and I may add here, by way of illustration, that the English common people are a sort of grown children, spoiled and sulky, perhaps, but full of glee and merriment, when their attention is drawn off by some sudden and striking object.

The comfort, on which the English lay so much stress, arises from the same source as their mirth. Both exist by contrast and a sort of contradiction. The English are certainly the most uncomfortable of all people in themselves, and therefore it is that they stand in need of every kind of comfort and accommodation. The least thing puts them out of their way, and therefore every thing must be in its place. They are mightily offended at disagreeable tastes and smells, and therefore they exact the utmost neatness and nicety. They are sensible of heat and cold, and therefore they cannot exist, unless every thing is snug and warm, or else open and airy, where they are. They must have 'all appliances and means to boot.' They are afraid of interruption and intrusion, and therefore they shut themselves up in in-door enjoyments and by their own firesides. It is not that they require luxuries (for that implies a high degree of epicurean indulgence and gratification,) but they cannot do without their comforts; that is, whatever tends to supply their physical wants, and ward off physical pain and annoyance. As they have not a fund of animal spirits and enjoyments in themselves, they cling to external objects for support, and derive solid satisfaction from the ideas of order, cleanliness, plenty, property, and domestic quiet, as they seek for diversion from odd accidents and grotesque surprises, and have the highest possible relish not of voluptuous softness, but of hard knocks and dry blows, as one means of ascertaining their personal identity."

Twelfth-day, in the times of chivalry, was observed at the court of England by grand entertainments and tournaments. The justings were continued till a period little favourable to such sports.

In the reign of James I., when his son prince Henry was in the 16th year of his age, and therefore arrived to the period for claiming the principality of Wales and the duchy of Cornwall, it was granted to him by the king and the high court of parliament, and the 4th of June following appointed for his investiture: "the Christmas before which," sir Charles Cornwallis says, "his highnesse, not onely for his owne recreation, but also that the world might know what a brave prince they were likely to enjoy, under the name of Meliades, lord of the isles, (an ancient title due to the first-borne of Scotland,) did, in his name, by some appointed for the same purpose, stragely attired, accompanied with drummes and trumpets, in the presence, before the king and queene, and in the presence of the whole court, deliver a challenge to all knights of Great Britaine." The challenge was to this effect, "That Meliades, their noble master, burning with an earnest desire to trie the valour of his young yeares in foraigne countryes, and to know where vertue triumphed most, had sent them abroad to espy the same, who, after their long travailes in all countreyes, and returne," had nowhere discovered it, "save in the fortunate isle of Great Britaine: which ministring matter of exceeding joy to their young Meliades, who (as they said) could lineally derive his pedegree from the famous knights of this isle, was the cause that he had now sent to present the first fruits of his chivalrie at his majesties' feete; then after returning with a short speech to her majestie, next to the earles, lords, and knights, excusing their lord in this their so sudden and short warning, and lastly, to the ladies; they, after humble delivery of their chartle concerning time, place, conditions, number of weapons and assailants, tooke their leave, departing solemnly as they entered."

Then preparations began to be made for this great fight, and each was happy who found himself admitted for a defendant, much more an assailant. "At last to encounter his highness, six assailants, and fifty-eight defendants, consisting of earles, barons, knights, and esquires, were appointed and chosen; eight defendants to one assailant, every assailant being to fight by turnes eight severall times fighting, two every time with push and pike of sword, twelve strokes at a time; after which, the barre for separation was to be let downe until a fresh onset." The summons ran in these words:

"To our verie loving good ffreind sir Gilbert Loughton, knight, geave theis with speed:

"After our hartie commendacions unto you. The prince, his highnes, hath comanded us to signifie to you that wereas he doth intend to make a challenge in his owne person at the Barriers, with sixe other assistants, to bee performed some tyme this Christmas; and that he hath made choice of you for one of the defendants (whereof wee have comandement to give you knowledge), that theruppon you may so repaire hither to prepare yourselfe, as you may bee fitt to attend him. Hereunto expecting your speedie answer wee rest, from Whitehall this 25th of December, 1609. Your very loving freindes, Notingham. | T. Suffolke. | E. Worcester."

On New-year's Day, 1610, or the day after, the prince's challenge was proclaimed at court, and "his highnesse, in his own lodging, in the Christmas, did feast the earles, barons, and knights, assailants and defendants, untill the great Twelfth appointed night, on which this great fight was to be performed."

On the 6th of January, in the evening, "the barriers" were held at the palace of Whitehall, in the presence of the king and queen, the ambassadors of Spain and Venice, and the peers and ladies of the land, with a multitude of others assembled in the banqueting-house: at the upper end whereof was the king's chair of state, and on the right hand a sumptuous pavilion for the prince and his associates, from whence, "with great bravery and ingenious devices, they descended into the middell of the roome, and there the prince performed his first feats of armes, that is to say, at Barriers, against all commers, being assisted onlie with six others, viz. the duke of Lenox, the earle Arundell, the earle of Southampton, the lord Hay, sir Thomas Somerset, and sir Richard Preston, who was shortly after created lord Dingwell."

To answer these challengers came fifty-six earles, barons, knights, and esquires. They were at the lower end of the roome, where was erected "a very delicat and pleasant place, where in privat manner they and their traine remained, which was so very great that no man imagined that the place could have concealed halfe so many." From thence they issued, in comely order, to the middell of the roome, where sate the king and the queene, and the court, "to behold the barriers, with the several showes and devices of each combatant." Every challenger fought with eight several defendants two several combats at two several weapons, viz. at push of pike, and with single sword. "The prince performed this challenge with wonderous skill and courage, to the great joy and admiration of the beholders," he "not being full sixteene yeeres of age untill the 19th of February." These feats, and other "triumphant shewes," began before ten o'clock at night, and continued until three o'clock the next morning, "being Sonday." The speeches at "the barriers" were written by Ben Jonson. The next day (Sunday) the prince rode in great pomp to convoy the king to St. James', whither he had invited him and all the court to supper, whereof the queen alone was absent; and then the prince bestowed prizes to the three combatants best deserving; namely, the earl of Montgomery, sir Thomas Darey (son to lord Darey), and sir Robert Gourdon.* [2] In this way the court spent Twelfth-night in 1610.

On Twelfth-night, 1753, George II. played at hazard for the benefit of the groom porter. All the royal family who played were winners, particularly the duke of York, who won 3000l. The most considerable losers were the duke of Grafton, the marquis of Hartington, the earl of Holderness, earl of Ashburnham, and the earl of Hertford. The prince of Wales (father of George III.) with prince Edward and a select company, danced in the little drawing room till eleven o'clock, and then withdrew.[3]

Old Christmas-day.

According to the alteration of the style, OLD Christmas-day falls on Twelfth-day, and in distant parts is even kept in our time as the festival of the nativity. In 1753, Old Christmas-day was observed in the neighbourhood of Worcester by the Anti-Gregorians, full as sociably, if not so religiously, as formerly. In several villages, the parishioners so strongly insisted upon having an Old-style nativity sermon, as they term it, that their ministers could not well avoid preaching to them: and, at some towns, where the markets are held on Friday, not a butter basket, nor even a Goose, was to be seen in the market-place the whole day.‡ [4]

To heighten the festivities of Christmas, 1825, the good folks of "London and its environs" were invited to Sadler's Wells, by the following whimsical notice, printed and distributed as a handbill:

"SOVEREIGNS WILL BE TAKEN, during the Christmas holidays, and as long as any body will bring them to SADLER'S WELLS; nay so little fastidious are the Proprietors of that delectable fascinating snuggery, that, however incredible it may appear, they, in some cases, have actually had the liberality to prefer Gold to Paper. Without attempting to investigate their motives for such extraordinary conduct, we shall do them the justice to say, they certainly give an amazing quantum of amusement, All in One Night, at the HOUSE ON THE HEATH, where, besides the THREE CRUMPIES, AND THE BARON AND HIS BROTHERS, an immense number of fashionables are expected on MERLIN'S MOUNT, and some of the first Cambriam families will countenance HARLEQUIN CYMRAEG, in hopes to partake of the Living Leek, which being served up the last thing before supper, will constitute a most excellent Christmas carminative, preventing the effects of night air on the crowds who will adorn this darling little edifice. In addition to a most effective LIGHT COMPANY engaged here, a very respectably sized Moon will be in attendance to light home a greater number of Patrons than ever this popular petted Palace of Pantomime is likely to produce. We say nothing of warmth and comfort, acquired by recent improvements, because these matters will soon be subjects of common conversation, and omit noticing the happiness of Half-price, and the cheering qualities of the Wine-room, fearful of wounding in the bosom of the Manager that innate modesty which is ever the concomitant of merit; we shall therefore conclude, by way of invitation to the dubious, in the language of an elegant writer, by asserting that the Proof of the Pudding is in—VERBUM SAT."


Mean Temperature   -   -   -  37 . 12.

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

1. In the New Monthly Magazine, Dec. 1825. [return]

2. Mr. Nichols's Progresses of James I. [return]

3. Gentleman's Magazine. [return]

4. Ibid. [return]