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tard." Ben Jonson, in his "Devil's an Ass" (i. 1), thus refers to it:

"He may, perchance, in tail of a sheriff's dinner,
Skip with a rime o' the table, from new nothing,
And take his almain leap into a custard,

Shall make my lady mayoress and her sisters,
Laugh all their hoods over their shoulders."

St. Martin's Day (November 11). The mild weather about this time has given rise to numerous proverbs; one of the well-known ones being "St. Martin's little summer,' an allusion to which we find in " 1 Henry VI." (i. 2), where Joan of Arc says:

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Expect Saint Martin's summer, halcyon days."

which Johnson paraphrases thus: "Expect prosperity after misfortune, like fair weather at Martlemas, after winter has begun." As an illustration, too, of this passage, we may quote from the Times, October 6, 1864: “It was one of those rare but lovely exceptions to a cold season, called in the Mediterranean St. Martin's summer."

A corruption of Martinmas is Martlemas. Falstaff is jocularly so called by Poins, in "2 Henry IV." (ii. 2), as being in the decline, as the year is at this season: And how doth the martlemas, your master?"

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This was the customary time for hanging up provisions to dry, which had been salted for winter use.

St. Nicholas (December 6). This saint was deemed the patron of children in general, but more particularly of all schoolboys, among whom his festival used to be a very great holiday. Various reasons have been assigned for his having been chosen as the patron of children-either because the legend makes him to have been a bishop while yet a boy, or from his having restored three young scholars to life who had been cruelly murdered,' or, again, on account of his early

1 See Douce's "Illustrations of Shakespeare," p. 25; "The Church of Our Fathers," by D. Rock, 1853, vol. iii. p. 215; Gent. Mag., 1777, vol. xliii. p. 158; see Nares's "Glossary," vol. ii. pp. 601, 602; Brady's "Clavis Calendaria."

abstinence when a boy. In the "Two Gentlemen of Verona " (iii. 1) he is alluded to in this capacity:


Speed. Come, fool, come; try me in thy paper.
Launce. There; and Saint Nicholas be thy speed."

Nicholas's clerks was, and still is, a cant term for highwaymen and robbers; but though the expression is very common, its origin is a matter of uncertainty. In " 1 Henry IV." (ii. 1) it is thus alluded to:

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Gadshill. Sirrah, if they meet not with Saint Nicholas' clerks, I'll give thee this neck.

Chamberlain. No, I'll none of it: I pr'thee, keep that for the hangman: for I know thou worshippest Saint Nicholas as truly as a man of falsehood may."

Christmas. Among the observances associated with this season, to which Shakespeare alludes, we may mention the Christmas Carol, a reference to which is probably made in "A Midsummer-Night's Dream" (ii. 1), by Titania:

"No night is now with hymn or carol blest."

Hamlet (ii. 2) quotes two lines from a popular ballad, entitled the "Song of Jephthah's Daughter," and adds: “Thefirst row of the pious chanson will show you more.'

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In days gone by, the custom of carol-singing was most popular, and Warton, in his "History of English Poetry," notices a license granted in 1562 to John Tysdale for printing"Certayne goodly carowles to be songe to the glory of God;" and again "Crestenmas Carowles auctorisshed by my lord of London.””


In the "Taming of the Shrew" (Ind., sc. 2), Sly asks whether "a comonty is not a Christmas gambold." Formerly the sports and merry-makings at this season were on a most extensive scale, being presided over by the Lord of

'Drake's "Shakespeare and his Times," vol. i. p. 198.

2 See Sandy's "Christmastide, its History, Festivities, and Carols;" also Athenæum, Dec. 20, 1856..

3 His blunder for comedy.

Misrule.' Again, in "Love's Labour's Lost" (v. 2), Biron speaks of "a Christmas comedy."

As we have noticed, too, in our chapter on Plants, a gilt nutmeg was formerly a common gift at Christmas, and on other festive occasions, to which an allusion is probably made in the same scene. Formerly, at this season, the head of the house assembled his family around a bowl of spiced ale, from which he drank their healths, then passed it to the rest, that they might drink too. The word that passed among them was the ancient Saxon phrase wass hael, i. e., to your health. Hence this came to be recognized as the wassail or wassel bowl; and was the accompaniment to festivity of every kind throughout the year. Thus Hamlet (i. 4)


"The king doth wake to-night, and takes his rouse,
Keeps wassail."

And in "Love's Labour's Lost" (v. 2), Biron speaks of:

"wakes and wassails, meetings, markets, fairs."

In "Macbeth" (i. 7), it is used by Lady Macbeth in the sense of intemperance, who, speaking of Duncan's two chamberlains, says:

"Will I with wine and wassail so convince,

That memory, the warder of the brain,

Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason
A limbeck only."

In "Antony and Cleopatra" (i. 4), Cæsar advises Antony to live more temperately, and to leave his "lascivious wassails." a

In the same way, a "wassail candle" denoted a large candle lighted up at a festival, a reference to which occurs in "2 Henry IV." (i. 2):

1 See "British Popular Customs," 1876, pp. 459, 463; Nares's "Glossary," vol. ii. p. 943; “Antiquarian Repertory," vol. i. p. 218.

2 This was a deep draught to the health of any one, in which it was customary to empty the glass or vessel.

3 See Douce's "Illustrations of Shakespeare," 1839, pp. 441-449.

Chief-Justice. You are as a candle, the better part burnt out.
Falstaff. A wassail candle, my lord; all tallow."

A custom which formerly prevailed at Christmas, and has not yet died out, was for mummers to go from house to house, attired in grotesque attire, performing all kinds of odd antics.' Their performances, however, were not confined to this season. Thus, in "Coriolanus" (ii. 1) Menenius speaks of making “faces like mummers."

Cakes and Ale. It was formerly customary on holidays and saints' days to make cakes in honor of the day. In "Twelfth Night" (ii. 3), Sir Toby says: "Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?" To which the Clown replies: "Yes, by Saint Anne; and ginger shall be hot i' the mouth too."

Wakes. In days gone by, the church wake was an important institution, and was made the occasion for a thorough holiday. Each church, when consecrated, was dedicated to a saint, and on the anniversary of that day was kept the wake. In many places there was a second wake on the birthday of the saint. At such seasons, the floor of the church was strewed with rushes and flowers, and in the churchyard tents were erected, to supply cakes and ale for the use of the merrymakers on the following day, which was kept as a holiday. They are still kept up in many parishes, but in a very different manner.' In "King Lear" (iii. 6), Edgar says: Come, march to wakes and fairs, and market towns." We may also compare "Love's Labour's Lost" (v. 2) and "Winter's Tale" (iv. 2). In "Hamlet" (i. 4) it is used in the sense of revel.

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1 See "British Popular Customs," pp. 461, 469, 478, 480.
* See Brand's "Pop. Antiq.," 1849, vol. i. pp. 1–15.



As every period of human life has its peculiar rites and ceremonies, its customs and superstitions, so has that ever all-eventful hour which heralds the birth of a fresh actor upon the world's great stage. From the cradle to the grave, through all the successive epochs of man's existence, we find a series of traditional beliefs and popular notions, which have been handed down to us from the far-distant past. Although, indeed, these have lost much of their meaning in the lapse of years, yet in many cases they are survivals of primitive culture, and embody the conceptions of the ancestors of the human race. Many of these have been recorded by Shakespeare, who, acting upon the great principle of presenting his audience with matters familiar to them, has given numerous illustrations of the manners and superstitions of his own country, as they existed in his day. Thus, in "Richard III." (iii. 1), when he represents the Duke of Gloster saying,

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'So wise so young, they say, do never live long,"

he alludes to the old superstition, still deeply rooted in the minds of the lower orders, that a clever child never lives long. In Bright's "Treatise of Melancholy" (1586, p. 52), we read: "I have knowne children languishing of the splene, obstructed and altered in temper, talke with gravity and wisdom surpassing those tender years, and their judgments carrying a marvellous imitation of the wisdome of the ancient, having after a sort attained that by disease, which others have by course of yeares; whereof I take it the proverb ariseth, that they be of shorte life who are of wit so pregnant.'" There are sundry superstitious notions relating to

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