Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

torted new year's gifts; and he cites from a MS. of the public revenue, anno 5, Edward VI. an entry of "rewards given on new year's day to the king's officers and servants in ordinary 155l. 58., and to their servants that present the king's majestie with new year's gifts." An orange stuck with cloves seems, by reference to Mr. Fosbroke and our early authors, to have been a popular new year's gift. Mr. Ellis suggests, that the use of this present may be ascertained from a remark by old Lupton, that the flavour of wine is improved, and the wine itself preserved from mouldiness, by an orange or lemon stuck with cloves being hung within the vessel so as not to touch the liquor.

Thomas Naogeorgus, in "The Popish Kingdome," a Latin poem written in 1553, and Englished by Barnabe Googe, after remarking on days of the old year, urges this recollection:

The next to this is Newe yeares day
whereon to every frende,
They costly presents in do bring,

and Newe yeares giftes do sende,
These giftes the husband gives his wife,
and father eke the childe,
And maister on his men bestowes
the like, with favour milde.

Honest old Latimer, instead of presenting Henry VIII. with a purse of gold, as was customary, for a new year's gift, put into the king's hand a New Testament, with a leaf conspicuously doubled down at Hebrews xiii. 4, which, on reference, will be found to have been worthy of all acceptation, though not perhaps well accepted. Dr. Drake is of opinion that the wardrobe and jewellery of queen Elizabeth were principally supported by these annual contributions on new year's day. He cites lists of the new year's gifts presented to her, from the original rolls published in her Progresses by Mr. Nichols; and from these it appears that the greatest part, if not all the peers and peeresses of the realm, all the bishops, the chief officers of state, and several of the queen's household servants, even down to her apothecaries, master cook, serjeant of the pastry, &c. gave new year's gifts to her majesty; consisting, in general, either of a sum of money, or jewels, trinkets, wearing apparel, &c. The largest sum given by any of the temporal lords was 201.; but the archbishop of Canterbury gave 401., the archbishop of York 301., and the other spiritual lords 201. and 107.; many of the temporal lords and great officers, and

most of the peeresses, gave rich gowns,
petticoats, shifts, silk stockings, garters,
sweet-bags, doublets, mantles embroidered
with precious stones, looking-glasses, fans,
bracelets, caskets studded with jewels,
and other costly trinkets. Sir Gilbert
Dethick, garter king at arms, gave a book
of the States in William the Conqueror's
time; Absolon, the master of the Savoy,
gave a Bible covered with cloth of gold,
garnished with silver gilt, and plates of
the royal arms; the queen's physician
presented her with a box of foreign
sweetmeats; another physician presented
a pot of green ginger, and a pot of orange
flowers; her apothecaries gave her a box of
lozenges, a box of ginger candy, a box of
green ginger, and pots of other conserves.
Mrs. Blanch a Parry gave her majesty a
little gold comfit-box and spoon; Mrs.
Morgan gave a box of cherries, and one
of apricots. The queen's master cook
and her serjeant of the pastry, presented
her with various confectionary and pre-
serves. Putrino, an Italian, gave her two
pictures; Ambrose Lupo gave her a box of
lute strings, and a glass of sweet water;
each of three other Italians presented her
with a pair of sweet gloves; a cutler
gave her a meat knife having a fan haft
of bone, with a conceit in it; Jeromy
Bassano gave two drinking glasses; and
Smyth, the dustman, presented her ma-
jesty with two bolts of cambrick. Some of
these gifts to Elizabeth call to recoilection
the tempting articles which Autolycus, in
the "Winter's Tale," invites the country
girls to buy: he enters singing,

Lawn, as white as driven snow;
Cypress, black as e'er was crow;
Gloves, as sweet as damask roses
Masks for faces, and for noses;
Bugle bracelet, necklace-amber,
Perfume for a lady's chamber;
Golden quoifs, and stomachers,
For my lads to give their dears;
Pins, and poking-sticks of steel,
What maids lack from head to heel :
Come, buy of me, come: come buy, come
buy;

Buy, lads, or else your lasses cry,
Come, buy, &c.

Dr. Drake says, that though Elizabeth made returns to the new year's gifts, in plate and other articles, yet she took sufficient care that the balance should be in her own favour.

No. 4982, in the Catalogue for 1824, of Mr. Rodd, of Great Newport-street, is a roll of vellum, ten feet long, containing the

new year's gifts from king James I. to the persons whose names are therein mentioned on the 1st of January 1605, with the new year's gifts that his majesty received the same day; the roll is signed by James himself and certain officers of his household.

In a "Banquet of Jests, 1634," 12mo., there is a pleasant story of Archee, the king's jester, who, having fooled many, was fooled himself. Coming to a nobleman, upon new year's day, to bid him good-morrow, Archee received twenty pieces of gold; but, covetously desiring more, he shook them in his hand, and said they were too light. The donor answered: "I prithee, Archee, let me see them again, for there is one amongst them I would be loth to part with :" Archee, expecting the sum to be increased, returned the pieces to his lordship; who put them in his pocket with this remark, "I once gave money into a fool's hand, who had not the wit to keep it."

Pins were acceptable new year's gifts to the ladies, instead of the wooden skewers which they used till the end of the fifteenth century. Sometimes they received a composition in money: and hence allowances for their separate use is still denominated" pin-money."

Gloves were customary new year's gifts. They were more expensive than in our times, and occasionally a money present was tendered instead: this was called "glove-money." Sir Thomas More, as lord chancellor, decreed in favour of a Mrs. Croaker against the lord Arundel. On the following new year's day, in token of her gratitude, she presented sir Thomas with a pair of gloves, containing forty angels. "It would be against good manners," said the chancellor, to forsake a gentlewoman's new year's gift, and I accept the gloves; their lining you will be pleased otherwise to bestow."

Mr. Brand relates from a curious MS. in the British Museum, of the date of 1560, that the boys of Eton school used on this day to play for little new year's gifts before and after supper; and also to make verses, which they presented to the provost and masters, and to each other: new year's gifts of verses, however, were not peculiar to schoolboys. A poet, the beauties of whose poetry are justly remarked to be "of a kind which time has a tendency rather to hallow than to inJure," Robert Herrick, presents us, in his Hesperides, with "a New Year's Gift

sent to Sir Simon Steward." He commences it merrily, and goes on to call it Verse, crown'd with ivy and with holly; a jolly That tells of winter's tales and mirth, That milk-maids make about the hearth; Of Christmas' sports, the wassail bowl, That tost-up after fox-i' th' hole; Of blind-inan-buff, and of the care That young men have to shoe the mare; Of twelfth-tide cakes, of pease and beans, Wherewith ye make those merry scenes; A plenteous harvest to your grounds Of crackling laurel, which fore-sounds Of those, and such like things, for shift, We send, instead of New Year's Gift. Read then, and when your faces shine With buxom meat and cap'ring wine, Remember us in cups full crown'd And let our city-health go round. Then, as ye sit about your embers, Call not to mind the fled Decembers, But think on these, that are t'appear, As daughters to the instant year; And to the bagpipes all address And thus throughout, with Christmas plays, Till sleep take place of weariness. Frolick the full twelve holidays.

Mr. Ellis, in a note on Brand, introduces a poetical new year's gift in Latin, from the stern Buchanan to the unhappy Mary of Scotland.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"New year's gifts," says Dr. Drake, were given and received, with the mutual expression of good wishes, and particularly that of a happy new year. The compli ment was sometimes paid at each other's doors in the form of a song; but more generally, especially in the north of Eng-. land and in Scotland, the house was entered very early in the morning, by some young men and maidens selected for the purpose, who presented the spiced bowl, and hailed you with the gratulations of the season.' To this may be added, that it was formerly the custom in Scotland to send new year's gifts on new year's eve; and on new year's day to wish each other a happy new year, and ask for. a new year's gift. There is a citation in Brand, from the "Statistical Account of Scotland," concerning new year's gifts to servant maids by their masters; and it mentions that "there is a large stone, about nine or ten feet high, and four broad, placed upright in a plain, in the (Orkney) isle of North Ronaldshay; but no tradition is preserved concerning it. whether erected in memory of any signa event, or for the purpose of administering justice, or for religious worship. The

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

writer of this (the parish priest) has seen fifty of the inhabitants assembled there, on the first day of the year, dancing by moonlight, with no other music than their own singing."

In Mr. Stewart's " Popular Superstitions of the Highlands," there is some account of the Candlemas bul, on new year's eve, as introductory to the new year. The term Candlemas, applied to this season, is supposed to have originated in some old religious ceremonies performed by candlelight. The Bull is a passing cloud, which Highland imagination perverts into the form of that animal; as it rises or falls or takes peculiar directions, of great significancy to the seers, so does it prognosticate good or bad weather. The more northern nations anciently assigned portentous qualities to the winds of new year's eve. One of their old legends in Brand may be thus versified—the last line eking out the verse:

If New Year's eve night-wind blow south,
It betokeneth warmth and growth;
If west, much milk, and fish in the sea;
If north, much cold, and storms there will be;
If east, the trees will bear much fruit
il north-east, flee it man and brute.

Mr. Stewart says, that as soon as night sets in it is the signal with the Strathlown highlander for the suspension of his isual employment, and he directs his atention to more agreeable callings. The nen form into bands with tethers and es, and, shaping their course to the uniper bushes, they return home laden with mighty loads, which are arranged ound the fire to-day till morning. A cerain discreet person is despatched to the lead and living ford to draw a pitcher of water in profound silence, without the essel touching the ground, lest its virtue hould be destroyed, and on his return all etire to rest. Early on new year's mornng the Usque-Cashrichd, or water from he dead and living ford, is drank, as a potent charm, until next new year's day, gainst the spells of witchcraft, the maligity of evil eyes, and the activity of all nfernal agency. The qualified highlander hen tales a large brush, with which he rosely asperses the occupants of all ed; from whom it is not usual for im to receive ungrateful r nstrances gainst ablution. This eded, and the foors and windows being thoroughly losed, and all crevices stopped, he kindles piles of the collected juniper, in the dif

ferent apartments, till the vapour from the burning branches condenses into opaque clouds, and coughing, sneezing, wheezing, gasping, and other demonstrations of suffocation ensue. The operator, aware that the more intense the "smuchdan," the more propitious the solemnity, disregards these indications, and continues, with streaming eyes and averted head, to increase the fumigation, until in his own defence he admits the air to recover the exhausted household and himself. He then treats the horses, cattle, and other bestial stock in the town with the same smothering, to keep them from harm throughout the year. When the gudewife gets up, and having ceased from coughing, has gained sufficient strength to reach the bottle dhu, she administers its comfort to the relief of the sufferers: laughter takes place of complaint, all the family get up, wash their faces, and receive the visits of their neighbours, who arrive full of gratulations peculiar to the day. Mu nase choil orst, "My Candlemas bond upon you" is the customary salutation, and means, in plain words, "You owe me a new year's gift." A point of great emulation is, who shall salute the other first; because the one who does so is entitled to a gift from the person saluted. Breakfast, consisting of al! procurable luxuries, is then served, the neighbours not engaged are invited to partake, and the day ends in festivity.

66

[ocr errors]

IS a

Riding stang, a custom that will be observed on hereafter, prevails in some parts of England on new year's day to the present hour. The "stang cowl-staff; the cowl is a water-vessel, borne by two persons on the cowl-staff, which is a stout pole whereon the vessel hangs. "Where's the cowl-staff?" cries Ford's wife, when she purposes to get Falstaff into a large buck-basket, with two handles; the cowl-staff, or stang," is produced, and, being passed through the handles, the fat knight is borne off by two of Ford's men. A writer in the Gentleman s Magazine, 1791, says, that in Westmoreland and Cumberland, on the 1st of Ja nuary, multitudes assemble early in the morning with baskets and "stangs," and whoever does not join them, whether inhabitant or stranger, is immediately mounted across the "stang," and carried, shoulder height, to the next public-house, where sixpence liberates the prisoner. Women are seized in this way, and car

ried in baskets-the sex being privileged from riding "stang," in compliment, perhaps, to the use of side-saddles. In the same part of the country, no one is allowed to work on new year's day, however industrious. Mr. Ellis shows that it was a new year's day custom in ancient Rome for tradesmen to work a little only, for luck's sake, that they might have constant business all the year after.

A communication in an English journal of January 1824 relates, that in Paris on new year's day, which is called le jour d'étrennes, parents bestow portions on their children, brothers on their sisters, and husbands make presents to their wives. Carriages may be seen rolling through the streets with cargoes of bon-bons, souvenirs, and the variety of et cæteras with which little children and grown-up children are bribed into good humour; and here and there pastrycooks are to be met with, carrying upon boards enormous temples, pagodas, churches, and playhouses, made of fine flour and sugar, and the embellishments which render French pastry so inviting. But there is one street in Paris to which a new year's day is a whole year's fortune-this is the Rue des Lombards, where the wholesale confectioners reside; for in Paris every trade and profession has its peculiar quarter. For several days preceding the 1st of January, this street is completely blocked up by carts and waggons laden with cases of sweetmeats for the provinces. These are of every form and description which the most singular fancy could imagine; bunches of carrots, green peas, boots and shoes, lobsters and crabs, hats, books, music instruments, gridirons, frying-pans, and saucepans; all made of sugar, and coloured to imitate reality, and all made with a hollow within to hold the bon-bons. The most prevailing device is what is called a cornet, that is, a little cone ornamented in different ways with a bag to draw over the large end, and close it up. In these things, the prices of which vary from one franc (tenpence) to fifty, the bon-bons are presented by those who choose to be at the expense of them, and by those who do not, they are only wrapped in a piece of paper; but bon-bons in some way or other must be presented. It would not, perhaps, be an exaggeration to state that the amount expended for presents on new year's day in Paris, for sweetmeats alone, exceeds 500,000 francs, or 20,000l. sterling. Jewellery is also sold to a very

large amount, and the fancy articles exported in the first week in the year to England and other countries, is computed at one-fourth of the sale during the twelve months. In Paris it is by no means uncommon for a man of 8,000 or 10,000 francs a year to make presents on new year's day which cost him a fifteenth part of his income. No person able to give must on this day pay a visit empty-handed. Every body accepts, and every man gives according to the means which he possesses. Females alone are excepted from the charge of giving. A pretty woman, respectably connected, may reckon her new year's presents at something considerable. Gowns, jewellery, gloves, stockings, and artificial flowers, fill her drawing-room; for in Paris it is a custom to display all the gifts, in order to excite emulation, and to obtain as much as possible. At the palace the new year's day is a complete jour de fête. Every branch of the royal family is then expected to make handsome presents to the king. For the six months preceding January 1824, the female branches were busily occupied in preparing presents of their own manufacture, which would fill at least two common-sized waggons. The duchess de Berri painted an entire room of japanned pannels, to be set up in the palace; and the duchess of Orleans prepared an elegant screen. An English gentleman who was admitted suddenly into the presence of the duchess de Berri two months before, found her, and three of her maids of honour, lying on the carpet, painting the legs of a set of chairs, which were intended for the king. The day commences with the Parisians, at an early hour, by the interchange of their visits and bon-bons. The nearest relations are visited first, until the furthest in blood have had their calls; then friends and acquaintances. The conflict to anticipate each other's calls, occasions the most agreeable and whimsical scenes among these proficients in polite attentions. In these visits, and in gossiping at the confectioners' shops, which are the great lounge for the occasion, the morning of new year's day is passed; a dinner is given by some

nber of the family to all the rest, ande e evening concludes, like Christmas G with cards, dancing, or any other ar asement that may be preferred. One of the chief attractions to a foreigner in Paris is the exhibition, which opens there on new year's day, of the finest specimens of the Sevres china manu

factured at the royal establishment in the neighbourhood of Versailles during the preceding year.

Undoubtedly, new year's gifts originated in heathen observances, and were grossly abused in after ages; yet latterly they became a rational and pleasant mode of conveying our gentle dispositions towards those we esteem. Mr. Audley, in his compendious and useful "Companion to the Almanack," says, with truth, that they are innocent, if not praiseworthy; and he quotes this amiable sentiment from Bourne : "If I send a new year's gift to my friend, it shall be a token of my friendship; if to my benefactor, a token of my gratitude; if to the poor, which at this season must never be forgot, it shall be to make their hearts sing for joy, and give praise and adoration to the Giver of all good gifts." The Jews on the first day of their new year give sumptuous entertainments, and joyfully wish each other a happy new year.' This salutation is not yet obsolete even with us; but the new year's gift seldom arrives, except to honest rustics from their equals; it is scarcely remembered with a view to its use but by young persons, who, "unvexed with all the cares of gain," have read or heard tell of such things, and who, with innocent hearts, feeling the kindness of the sentiment, keep up the good old custom among one another, till mixture with the world, and "long experience, makes them ," and sordid. sage,'

[ocr errors]

New year's day in London is not observed by any public festivity; but little social dining parties are frequently formed amongst friends; and convivial persons may be found at taverns, and in publicans' parlours, regaling on the occasion. Dr Forster relates, in his "Perennial Calendar," that many people make a point to wear some new clothes on this day, and esteem the omission as unlucky: the practice, however, from such motives, must obviously be confined to the uninformed. The only open demonstration of joy in the metropolis, is the ringing of merry peals from the belfries of the numerous steeples, late on the eve of the new year, and until after the chimes of the clock have sounded its last hour.

On new year's day the man of business opens new account-books. "A good beginning makes a good ending." Let every man open an account to himself; and so begin the new year that he may expect to say at its termination-it has been a

good year. In the hilarity of the season let him not forget that to the needy it is a season of discomfort.

There is a satisfaction

In doing a good action:

An economist can

and he who devises liberal things will
find his liberality return to him in a full
tide of happiness.
afford to be generous. "Give me neither
poverty nor riches," prayed the wise man.
To him who is neither encumbered by
wealth, nor dispirited by indigence, the
stores of enjoyment are unlocked.

He who holds fast the Golden Mean,
And lives contentedly between

The little and the great,
Feels not the wants that pinch the poor,
Nor plagues that haunt the rich man's door,
Embitt'ring all his state.

The tallest pines feel most the pow'r
Of wintry blasts; the loftiest tow'r

Comes heaviest to the ground;
The bolts that spare the mountain's side,
His cloud-capt eminence divide,

And spread the ruin round.
The well-inform'd philosopher
Rejoices with a wholesome fear,

And hopes, in spite of pain;
If Winter bellow from the North,
Soon the sweet Spring comes dancing
And Nature laughs again.

If hindrances obstruct thy way,
Thy magnanimity display,

And let thy strength be seen;
But oh! if fortune fill thy sail
With more than a propitious gale,
Take half thy canvass in.

CHRONOLOGY.

Cowper.

1308. On the 1st of January in this year, William Tell, the Swiss patriot, associated himself on this day with a band of his countrymen, against the tyranny of their oppressors. For upwards of three centuries the opposition was carried on, and terminated by the treaty of Westphalia in 1648, declaring the independence of Switzerland.

1651. On the 1st of January Charles II. was crowned at Scone king of the Scots. Charles, when a child, was weak in the legs, and ordered to wear steel - boots. Their weight so annoyed him that he pined till recreation became labour. An old rocker took off the steel-boots, and concealed them; promising the countess of Dorset, who was Charles's governess, that she would take any blame for the act

« AnteriorContinua »