Page images

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


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 :

3. A TURKISH (evidently a Saracen) KNIGHT.

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!
That I may lead Mince Pie this way.
Walk in Mince Pie, and act thy part,
And show the gentles thy valiant heart.

Room! room! you gallant souls give me room to rhyme,
I'll show you some festivity this Christmas time.

Enter a TURKISH KNIGHT, with a wooden sword.
I am a valiant Turkish Knight,
And dare with any man to fight;
Bring me the man that bids me stand,
Who says he'll cut me down with audacious hand,
I'll cut him and hew him as small as a fly,
And send him to Satan to make mince pie.

Enter ST. GEORGE with a wooden sword.
Oh! in come I, St. George, the man of courage bold,


sword and buckler I've won three crowns of gold ; I fought the fiery dragon and brought him to the slaughter; I won a beauteous Queen-a King of Egypt's daughter :


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 fightthe 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.

Yes! an Italian Doctor's to be found
To cure the Knight who's bleeding on the ground:

I cure the sick of ev'ry pain,

And raise the dead to life again.
Father Christmas. Doctor, what is thy fee?
The Doctor. Ten pounds is my fee,

But fifteen I must take of thee

Before I set this gallant free.
Father Christmas. Work thy will, doctor.
The Doctor. I have a little bottle by my side

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,
With all my family at my back.
Christmas comes but once a year,
And when it comes it brings good cheer:
Roast beef, plum pudding, and mince pie,
Who likes that any better than I?
Christmas ale makes us dance and sing;
Money in purse is a very fine thing.

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,
And with my sword and spear
I've won three crowns of gold.
I slew the Dragon he,
And brought him to the slaughter;
By which I gained fair Sabra,
The King of Egypt's daughter.”

The PAGAN enters.

“Here come I, the Turkish Knight,
Come from the Turkish land to fight


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 !
Oh give me but my

life And I will be thy slave !" [SAINT GEORGE however again strikes him down; but immediately relenting, calls out

If any

“ 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. 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 :


And ACTORS who were to be a sort of Chorus.
The Actors say at the beginning (inter alia)

“Room! room ! brave gallants, give us room to sport,

For in this room we wish for to resort;

« PreviousContinue »