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strange a manner, as made me very desirous to know the meaning of it. Upon my coming up to her, I found that she was overlooking a ring of wrestlers, and that her sweetheart, a person of small stature, was contending with a huge brawny fellow, who twirled him about, and shook the little man so violently, that by a secret sympathy of hearts it produced all those agitations in the person of his mistress, who I dare say like Cælia in Shakspeare on the same occasion, could have wished herself “ invisible to catch the strong fellow by the leg."* The 'squire of the parish treats the whole company every year with a hogshead of ale; and proposes a beaver hat as a recompense to him who gives most falls. This has raised such a spirit of emulation in the youth of the place, that some of them have rendered themselves very expert at this exercise; and I was often surprised to see a fellow's heels fly up, by a trip which was given him so smartly that I could scarcely discern it. I found that the old wrestlers seldom entered the ring until some one was grown formidable by having thrown two or three of his opponents; but kept themselves as it were in a reserved body to defend the hat, which is always hung up by the person who gets itin one of the most conspicuous parts of the house, and looked upon by the whole family as something redounding much more to their honour than a coat of arms. There was a fellow who was so busy in regulating all the ceremonies, and seemed to carry such an air of importance in his looks, that I could not help inquiring who he was, and was immediately answered, “ That he did not value himself upon nothing, for that he and his ancestors had won so many hats, that his parlour looked like a haberdasher's shop.” However, this thirst of glory in them all was the reason
* As You like it. Act. i. Sc. 6. Shaksp.
that no one man stood “ lord of the ring” for above three falls while I was among them.
• The young maids, who were not lookers-on at these exercises, were themselves engaged in some diversions; and upon my asking a farmer's son of my own parish what he was gazing at with so much attention, he told me, “That he was seeing Betty Welch," whom I knew to be his sweetheart, “ pitch a bar."
• In short, I found the men endeavoured to shew the women they were no cowards, and that the whole company strived to recommend themselves to each other, by making it appear that they were all in a perfect state of health, and fit to undergo any fatigues of bodily labour.
Your judgment upon this method of love and gallantry, as it is at present practised among us in the country, will very much oblige,
If I would here, put on the scholar and politician, I might inform my readers how these bodily exercises or games were formerly encouraged in all the commonwealths of Greece; from whence the Romans afterwards borrowed their pentathlum, which was composed of running, wrestling, leaping, throwing, and boxing, though the prizes were generally nothing but a crown of cypress or parsley, hats not being in fashion in those days: that there is an old statute, which obliges every man in England, having such an estate, to keep and exercise the long-bow; by which means our ancestors excelled all other nations in the use of that weapon, and we had all the real advantages, without the inconvenience of a standing army: and that I once met with a book of
projects, in which the author considering to what noble ends that spirit of emulation, which so remarkably shews itself among our common people in these wakes, might be directed, proposes that for the improvement of all our handicraft trades there should be annual prizes set up for such persons as were most excellent in their several arts. But laying aside all these political considerations, which might tempt me to pass the limits of my paper, I confess the greatest benefit and convenience that I can observe in these country festivals, is the bringing young people together, and giving them an opportunity of shewing themselves in the most advantageous light. A country fellow that throws his rival upon his back, has generally as good success with their common mistress ; as nothing is more usual than for a nimble-footed wench to get a husband at the same time that she wins a smock. Love and marriages are the natural effects of these anniversary assemblies. I must therefore very much approve the method by which my correspondent tells me each sex endeavours to recommend itself to the other, since nothing seems more likely to promise a healthy offspring, or a happy cohabitation. And I believe I may assure my country friend, that there has been many a court lady who would be contented to exchange her crazy young husband for Tom Short, and several men of quality who would have parted with a tender yoke-fellow for Black Kate.
I am the more pleased with having love made the principal end and design of these meetings, as it seems to be most agreeable to the intent for which they were at first instituted, as we are informed by the learned Dr. Kennet,* with whose words I shall conclude my present paper.
• In his Parochial Antiquities, 4to. 1695, p. 610, 614.
· These wakes, says he, were in imitation of the ancient áyámas, or love-feasts; and were first established in England by Pope Gregory the Great, who, in an epistle to Melitus the abbot, gave orders that they should be kept in sheds or arbories made up with the branches or boughs of trees round the church.
He adds, that this laudable custom of wakes prevailed for many ages, until the nice puritans began to exclaim against it as a remnant of popery; and by degrees the precise humour grew so popular, that at an Exeter assizes the Lord Chief Baron Walter made an order for the suppression of all wakes; but on Bishop Laud's complaining of this innovating humour, the king commanded the order to be reversed.
N° 162. WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 1711.
-Servetur ad imum,
. . Hor. Ars. Poet, v. 126.
Nothing that is not a real crime makes a man appear so contemptible and little in the eyes of the world as inconstancy, especially when it regards religion or party. In either of these cases, though a man perhaps does but his duty in changing his side, he not only makes himself hated by those he left, but is seldom heartily esteemed by those he comes over to.
In these great articles of life, therefore, a man's conviction ought to be very strong, and if possible so well timed, that worldly advantages may seem to have no share in it, or mankind will be ill-natured enough to think he does not change sides out of principle, but either out of levity of temper, or prospects of interest. Converts and renegadoes of all kinds should take particular care to let the world see they act upon honourable motives ; or, whatever approbations they may receive from themselves, and applauses from those they converse with, they may be very well assured that they are the scorn of all good men, and the public marks of infamy and derision.
Irresolution on the schemes of life which offer themselves to our choice, and inconstancy in pursuing them, are the greatest and most universal causes of all our disquiet and unhappiness. When ambition pulls one way, interest another, inclination a third, and perhaps reason contrary to all, a man is likely to pass his time but ill who has so many different parties to please. When the mind hovers among such a variety of allurements, one had better settle on a way of life that is not the very best we might have chosen, than grow old without determining our choice, and go out of the world as the greatest part of mánkind do, before we have resolved how to live in it. There is but one method of setting ourselves at rest in this particular, and that is by adhering stedfastly to one great end as the chief and ultimate aim of all our pursuits. If we are firmly resolved to live up to the dictates of reason, without any regard to wealth, reputation, or the like considerations, any more than as they fall in with our principal design, we may go through life with steadiness and pleasure; but if we act by several broken views, and will not only be virtuous, but wealthy, popular, and every