MR. REDDOCK'S paper on this subject, at page 13, has elicited the following letter from a literary gentleman, concerning a dramatic representation in England similar to that which Mr. Reddock instances at Falkirk, and other parts of North Britain. Such communications are particularly acceptable; because they show to what extent usages prevail, and wherein they differ in different parts of the country. It will be gratifying to every one who peruses this work, and highly so to the editor, if he is obliged by letters from readers acquainted with customs in their own vicinity, similar to those that they are informed of in other counties, and particularly if they will take the trouble to describe them in every particular. By this means, the Every-Day Book will become what it is designed to be made,—a storehouse of past and present manners and customs. Any customs of any place or season that have not already appeared in the work, are earnestly solicited from those who have the means of furnishing the information. The only condition stipulated for, as absolutely indispensable to the insertion of a letter respecting facts of this nature, is, that the name and address of the writer be communicated to the editor, who will subjoin such signature as the writer may choose his letter should bear to the eye of the public. The various valuable articles of this kind which have hitherto appeared in the work, however signed by initials or otherwise, have been so authenticated to the editor's private satisfaction, and he is thus enabled to vouch for the genuineness of such contributions.
To the Editor of the Every-Day Book.
In your last number appeared a very amusing article touching some usages and customs in Scotland, and communicated from Falkirk. In the description of the boys' play, ingeniously suggested as typical of the Roman invasion under Agricola, we, however, read but a varied edition of what is enacted in other parts besides Scotland, and more particularly in the western counties, by those troops of old Father Christmas boys, which are indeed brief chronicles of the times. I mean, those paper-decorated, brick-dust-daubed urchins, 'yclept Mummers.
To be sure they do not begin,
"Here comes in the king of Macedon;"
but we have instead,
"Here comes old Father Christmas,
Christmas or Christmas not,
I hope old Father Christmas never will be forgot."
And then for the Scottish leader Galgacus, we find,
"Here comes in St. George, St. George
That man of mighty name,
With sword and buckler by my side
I hope to win the game."
These "western kernes" have it, you see, Mr. Editor, "down along," to use their own dialect, with those of the thistle. Then, too, we have a fight. Oh! how beautiful to my boyish eyes were their wooden swords and their bullying gait!—then we have a fight, for lo
"Here's come I, the Turkish knight,
Come from the Soldan's land to fight,
And be the foe's blood hot and bold
With my sword I'll make it cold."
A vile Saracenic pun in the very minutes of deadly strife. But they fight—the cross is victorious, the crescent o'erthrown, and, as a matter of course, even in our pieces of mock valour, duels we have therein---the doctor is sent for; and he is addressed, paralleling again our players of "scotia's wild domain," with
"Doctor, doctor, can you tell
What will make a sick man well?"
and thereupon he enumerates cures which would have puzzled Galen, and put Hippocrates to a "non-plus;" and he finally agrees, as in the more classical drama of your correspondent, to cure our unbeliever for a certain sum.
The "last scene of all that ends this strange eventful history" consists in the entrance of the most diminutive of these Thespians, bearing, as did Æneas of old, his parent upon his shoulders, and reciting this bit of good truth and joculation (permitting the word) by way of epilogue:
"Here comes I, little Johnny Jack,
With my wife and family at my back,
Yet, though my body is but small,
I'm the greatest rogue amongst ye all;
This is my scrip—so for Christmas cheer
If you've any thing to give throw it in here."
This may be but an uninteresting tailpiece to your correspondent's clever communication, but still it is one, and makes the picture he so well began of certain usages more full of point.
I doat upon old customs, and I love hearty commemorations, and hence those mimics of whom I have written---I mean the mummers---are my delight, and in the laughter and merriment they create I forget to be a critic, and cannot choose but laugh in the fashion of a Democritus, rather than weep worlds away in the style of a Diogenes.
I am, &c. &c.
J. S. Jun.
Jan. 4, 1826.
In the preface to Mr. Davies Gilbert's work on "Ancient Christmas Carols," there is an account of Cornish sports, with a description of a "metrical play," which seems to be the same with which is the subject of the preceding letter.
Being on the popular drama, and as the topic arose in Mr. Reddock's communication from Scotland, and whimsical dramatic anecdote, with another of like kin from that part of the kingdom, is here subjoined from a Scottish journal of this month in the year 1823.
New Readings of Burns.
We were lately favoured with the perusal of a Perth play-bill, in which Tam O'Shanter, dramatized, is announced for performance as the afterpiece. A ludicrous mistake has occurred, however, in the classification of the Dramatis Personæ. The sapient playwright, it would appear, in reading the lines
"Tam had got planted inco richt,
Fast by an ingle bleezin' finely,
Wi' reaman; swats that drank divinely,"
very naturally conceiving ream an' swats, from the delectable style of their carousing, to be a brace of Tam's pot companions, actually introduced them as such, as we find in the bill that the characters of "Ream" and "Swats" are to be personated by two of the performers!
This reminds us of an anecdote, connected with the same subject, which had its origin nearer home. Some time ago we chanced to be in the shop of an elderly bookseller, when the conversation turned upon the identity of the characters introduced by Burns in his Tam O'Shanter. The bibliopole, who had spent the early part of his life in this neighbourhood, assured us that, "exceptin' Kerr, he kent every body to leuk at that was mentioned, frae Tam himsel' doun to his mare Maggie." This being the first time we had ever heard Mr. Kerr's cognomen alluded to, in connection with Tam O'Shanter, we expressed considerable surprise, and stated that he undoubtedly must have made a mistake in the name. "It may be sae, but is a point easily sattled," said he, raxing down a copy of Burns from the shelf. With "spectacles on nose," he turned up the poem in question. "Ay, ay," said he, in an exulting tone, "I thocht I was na that far wrang—
"Care mad to see a man sae happy,
E'n drowned himself amang the happy."
Now, I kent twa or three o' the Kerr's that leev't in the town-head, but I never could fin' out whilk o' them Burns had in his e'e when he wrote the poem."*
To Thespian ingenuity we are under an obligation for an invention of great simplicity, which may be useful on many occasions, particularly to literary persons who are too far removed from the press to avail themselves of its advantages in printing short articles for limited distribution.
A Dramatic Printing Apparatus.
Itinerant companies of comedians frequently print their play-bills by the following contrivance: The form of letter is placed on a flat support, having ledges at each side, that rise within about a thirteenth of an inch of the inked surface of the letter. The damped paper is laid upon the letter so disposed, and previously inked, and a roller, covered with woollen cloth, is passed along the ledges over its surface; the use of the ledges is to prevent the roller from rising in too obtuse an angle against the first letters, or going off too abruptly from the last, which would cause the paper to be cut, and the impression to be injured at the beginning and end of the sheet. The roller must be passed across the page, for if it moves in the order of the lines, the paper will bag a little between each, and the impression will be less neat.†
Mean Temperature . . . 35 . 65.
Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:
1. Ayr Courier. [return]
2. Dr. Aikin's Athenæum.[return]