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their hue and cry; therefore our custom with respect to them is, that when they be taken, they undergo the punishment of the “Coking Stole :” and there stand barefoot, and their hair down their backs, so as to be seen by all passers by, as long as our bailiff shall determine.” It was called by the Saxons the “ Scealfing Stole,” or “Scolding Stool.”
I have been thus particular in describing the two species of Cucking Stools, viz. :—the tumbrels at Wootton Basset, Kingston upon Thames, and Gravesend, and the trebuchets at Liverpool, the Green Park, Banbury, near Worthing, and also those mentioned by Messrs. Manning and Bray, and Mr. Bellamy, and referred to in the poems of Gay and West, and by M. Misson in his travels, as entries will no doubt be found as to Wiltshire Cucking Stools, some of which would hardly be intelligible without this explanation
2. -THE MUMMERS.
In several parts of Wiltshire, groups of persons grotesquely dressed go round from house to house on the morning of Christmas Day, and act a sort of drama, founded on a legend of St. George. There were a few years ago and probably are still, Mummers at Wootton Rivers, and on Christmas Day, 1852, a party of Mummers came from Avebury, and after performing there, came round to the neighbouring villages, when going from house to house they acted their Drama and after it sung a Hymn.
The verses repeated by the Mummers of the different places are all founded on the same origin, but as they are not committed to writing they vary in a trifling degree, and have in some instances considerable interpolations.
About fifteen years ago one of my friends applied to different sets of Mummers, and wrote down their verses from their dictation. The interpolations were of course not the same with different sets of Mummers, but the original verses were so-indeed some of the
interpolations had reference to Napoleon, and the French war which ended in 1814, and were easily separated from the original text. The Characters in the Drama as performed in Wiltshire are:
1. OLD FATHER CHRISTMAS.
6. A character called LITTLE JACK: And the verses they repeat, divested of modern extraneous matter, were as follows;
Enter Old FATHER CHRISTMAS, with a long beard. Oh! here come I old Father Christmas, welcome, or welcome not,
I hope old Father Christmas will never be forgot.
Make room! room! I say !
Enter MINCE PIE.
Enter a TURKISH KNIGHT, with a wooden sword.
Enter St. GEORGE with a wooden sword.
If thy mind is high, my mind is bold,
If thy blood is hot, I will make it cold. [ST. GEORGE AND THE TURKISH KNIGHT fight—the latter falls.] Turkish Knight. Oh! St. George spare my life! Father Christmas. Is no Doctor to be found
To cure this man who's bleeding on the ground.
Enter the DOCTOR.
I cure the sick of ev'ry pain,
And raise the dead to life again.
But fifteen I must take of thee
Before I set this gallant free.
The fame of which spreads far and wide,
I drop a drop on this poor man's nose. · [The Doctor touches the TURKISH KNIGHT's nose, and he instantly
springs on his feet quite recovered.] Enter LITTLE JACK, a Dwarf, with several dolls strapped at his back.
Oh! in come I, little saucy Jack,
Ladies and gentlemen give us what you please. The acting of this Drama, more or less modified, is not confined to Wiltshire, as the Right Hon. Davies Gilbert, M.P., mentions it in the county of Cornwall, and Mr. Hone, at Whitehaven, in the
county of Cumberland ; indeed, it will be seen from the extracts given hereafter, that the play is the same, though in these versions of it some of the characters are omitted.
Mr. Davies Gilbert, in his Work on Ancient Christmas Carols, published in 1823, (preface p. 4,) says—" Two of the sports most used in Cornwall were, the one, a metrical play exhibiting the successful prowess of St. George exerted against a Mohammedan adversary; the other, a less dignified representation of some transactions at a market or fair.
[In the first, St. GEORGE enters accoutred in complete armour and exclaims
“Here come I, St. George,
The valiant Champion bold,
The PAGAN enters.
“Here come I, the Turkish Knight,
· .. . bold And if your blood is hot
I soon will make it cold.” [They fight : the TURKISH KNIGHT falls; and rising on one knee
“Oh pardon me St. George!
Oh pardon me I crave !
[SAINT GEORGE however again strikes him down; but immediately relenting, calls out
“ Is there no doctor to be found
To cure a deep and deadly wound ?” [A DOCTOR enters, declaring that he has a small phial filled with the juice of some particular plant capable of recalling any one to life; he tries however, and fails, when ST. GEORGE kills him, enraged by his want of success. Soon after this, the TURKISH KNIGHT appears perfectly well, and having been fully convinced of his errors by the strength of St. GEORGE's arm, he becomes a Christian, and the scene closes. ]
The Fair, or Market, usually followed as a farce. “Several persons arranged on benches were supposed to sell corn, and one applying to each seller in his turn, enquired the price, using a set form of words to be answered in a corresponding manner. If any error were committed, a grave personage was introduced, with much ceremony, grotesquely attired, and provided with a large stick, who, after stipulating for some ludicrous reward, such as a gallon of moonlight, proceeded to shoe the untamed colt, by striking the persons in error on the sole of the foot.”
This is the whole of the account given by Mr. D. Gilbert of these Cornish Dramas,
Mr. Hone, in his Every Day Book, (vol. 2, p. 1646,) under the date of Christmas Day, gives extracts from a Mumming acted at Whitehaven. The title page of it is “ Alexander and the King of Egypt, as it is acted by the Mummers every Christmas :—Whitehaven : printed by T. Wilson, King-street;" (eight pages, 8vo.) It appears also from Baker's Biographia Dramatica (Tit : Alexander,) that this Drama was printed in 4to. at Newcastle, in 1788. The characters are:
THE KING OF EGYPT.
And ACTORS who were to be a sort of Chorus.
For in this room we wish for to resort ;