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Herrick has not overlooked the posset in his Hesperides, p. 253 :
" What short sweet prayers shall be said,
And how the posset shall be made
And maidens’-blush for spiced wine.”'
"Now some prepare t' undress the bride,
While others tame the posset's pride." It is mentioned too among the bridal rites in the West Country Clothier, before cited, where we are told “the sackposset must be eaten.” In the Fifteen Comforts of Marriage, p. 60, it is called “an ancient custom of the English matrons, who believe that sack will make a man lusty, and sugar will make him kind."
Among the Anglo-Saxons, as Strutt informs us, in his Manners and Customs, i. 77, at night the bride was by the women attendants placed in the marriage-bed, and the bridegroom in the same manner conducted by the men, where having both, with all who were present, drunk the marriage health, the company retired. In the old song of Arthur of Bradley we read:
" And then they did foot it and toss it,
Till the cook had brought up the posset ;
Took leave of Arthur and his bride." Misson, in his Travels in England, translated by Ozel), p. 352, says: The
posset is a kind of cawdle, a potion made up of milk, wine, yolks of eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg,' &c. He adds (p. 354): “They never fail to bring them another sack-posset next morning.”
A singular instance of tantalizing, however incredible it may seem, was most certainly practised by our ancestors on this festive occasion, i. e. sewing up the bride in one of the sheets. Herrick, in his Hesperides, in the "Nuptial Song on Sir Clipes by Crew and his Lady,” expressly mentions this as a then prevailing custom :
“ But since it must be done, dispatch and sowe
Up in a sheet your bride, and what if so," &c.
It is mentioned too in the account of the marriage ceremonial of Sir Philip Herbert and the Lady Susan, performed at Whitehall in the time of James I., before cited : “At night there was sewing into the sheet."
In the Papal times no new-married couple could go to bed together till the bridal bed had been blessed. In a manuscript entitled, Historical Passages concerning the Clergy in the Papal Times, cited in the History of Shrewsbury, 1779, p. 92, it is stated that “the pride of the clergy and the bigotry of the laity were such that new-married couples were made to wait till midnight, after the marriage-day, before they would pronounce a benediction, unless handsomely paid for it, and they durst not undress without it, on pain of excommunication.” The Romish rituals give the form of blessing the nuptial bed. We learn from “ Articles ordained by King Henry VII. for the Regulation of his Household," published by the Society of Antiquaries, that this ceremony was observed at the marriage of a princess. “ All men at her coming in to be voided, except woemen, till she be brought to her bedd : and the man, both: he sitting in his bedd, in his shirte, with a gowne cast about him. Then the bishoppe with the chaplaines to come in and blesse the bedd: then every man to avoide without any drinke, save the twoe estates, if they liste priviely.” See also the Appendix to Hearne's History and Antiquities of Glastonbury, p. 309; and St. Foix, Essais sur Paris.
MORNING AFTER THE MARRIAGE. “Among the Anglo-Saxons,” as we gather from Strutt, i. 77, after the marriage, “next morning the whole company came into the chamber of the new-married couple, before they arose, to bear the husband declare the Morning's Gift, when his relations became sureties to the wife's relations for the performance of such promises as were made by the husband.” This was the ancient pin-money, and became the separate property of the wife alone.
Owen, in his Welsh Dictionary, v. Cowyll, explains that word as signifying a garment or cloak with a veil, presented
by the husband to his bride on the morning after marriage ; and, in a wider sense, the settlement he has made on her of goods and chattels adequate to her rank. In more modern times there is a custom similar to this in Prussia. There the husband may. (is obliged if he has found her a virgin) present to his bride the Morgengabe, or gift on the morning after marriage, even though he should have married a widow.
The custom of awaking a couple the morning after the marriage with a concert of music, is of old standing. In the letter from Sir Dudley Carleton to Mr. Winwood, describing the nuptials of the Lady Susan with Sir Philip Herbert, it is stated that “they were lodged in the council chamber, where the king gave them a reveille matin before they were up." Of such a reveille matin, as used on the marriages of respectable merchants of London in his time, Hogarth has left us a curious representation, in one of his prints of the Idle and Industrious Apprentices.
So in the Comforts of Wooing, &c. p. 62: “ Next morning come the fidlers and scrape him a wicked reveillez. The drums rattle, the shaumes tote, the trumpets sound tan ta ra, ra, ra, and the whole street rings with the benedictions and good wishes of fidlers, drummers, pipers, and trumpetters. You may safely say now the wedding's proclaimed.” Mason, in his Travels in England, translated by Ozell, p. 252, speaking of the reveillez on the morning after a wedding, says: “If the drums and fiddles have notice of it, they will be sure to be with them by daybreak, making a horrible racket, till they have got the pence.” Gay, in his Trivia, has censured the use of drums in this concert :
“ Here rows of drummers stand in martial file,
And with their vellum thunder shake the pile,
The proper preludes to a state of peace ?" The custom of creeling, on the second day after marriage, has been already noticed, from Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland. Allan Ramsay, in his Poems, 1721, p. 125, mentions this custom as having been practised the day after the marriage. He adds, “ 'Tis a custom for the friends to endeavour the next day after the wedding to make the newmarried man as drunk as possible.”
“ In North Wales," says Pennant's manuscript, on the
Sunday after marriage, the company who were at it come to church, i. e. the friends and relations of the party make the most splendid appearance, disturb the church, and strive who shall place the bride and groom in the most honourable seat. After service is over, the men, with fiddlers before them, go into all the ale-houses in the town.”
In the Monthly Magazine for 1798, p. 417, we read: “It is customary, in country churches, when a couple has been newly married, for the singers to chaunt, on the following Sunday, a particular psalm, thence called the Wedding Psalm, in which are these words : ‘Oh, well is thee, and happy shalt thou be.'
The Mercheta Vulierum has been discredited by an eminent antiquary. It was said that Eugenius III., King of Scotland, did wickedly ordain that the lord or master should have the first night's lodging with every woman married to his tenant or bondman; which ordinance was afterwards abrogated by King Malcolme III, who ordained that the bridegroom should have the sole use of his own wife, and therefore should pay to the lord a piece of money called Marca. (Hect. Boet. 1. ii. c. 12, Spotsw. Hist. fol. 29.) One cannot help observing, on the above, that they must have been bondmen or in the ancient sense of the word,) villains, indeed, who could have submitted to so singular a species of despotism.'
DUNMOW FLITCH OF BACON.
A Custom formerly prevailed, and has indeed been recently observed, at Dunmow in Essex, of giving a flitch of bacon to any married man or woman who would swear that neither of them, in a year and a day, either sleeping or waking, repented of their marriage. The singular oath administered to them ran thus :
"I found the subsequent clause in a curious MS. in the Cotton Library, Vitell. E. 5. entitled, Excerpta ex quodam antiquo registro prioris de Tynemouthi, remanente apud comitem Northumbriæ de Baroniis et Feodis : Rentale de 'Tynemuth, factum A.1). 1378. “Omnes tenentes de Tynemouth, cum contigerit, solvent Layrewite filiabus vel ancillis suis et etiam Merchet pro filiabus suis maritandis.”
“ You shall swear, by custom of confession,
If ever you made nuptial transgression,
The parties were to take this oath before the prior and convent and the whole town, humbly kneeling in the churchyard upon two hard pointed stones, which still are shown. They were afterwards taken upon men's shoulders, and carried, first, about the priory churchyard, and after through the town, with all the friars and brethren, and all the townsfolk, young and old, following them with shouts and acclamations, with their bacon before them.
I have a large print, now become exceedingly rare, entitled “An exact perspective view of Dunmow, late the Priory, in the County of Essex, with a representation of the ceremony and procession in that Mannor, on Thursday the 20th of June, 1751, when Thomas Shapeshaft, of the parish of Weathersfield, in the county aforesaid, weaver, and Ann his wife, came to demand and did actually receive a Gammon of Bacon, having first kneeled down upon two bare stones within the church door and taken the oath, &c. N.B. Before the dissolution of
Blount's Jocular Tenures, by Beckwith, 1784, p. 296. A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1751, xxi. 248, attributes the origin of this ceremony to an ancient institution of the Lord Fitzwalter, in the reign of King Henry III., who ordered that “whatever married man did not repent of his marriage, or quarrel with his wife, in a year and a day after it, should go to his priory, and demand the bacon, on his swearing to the truth, kneeling on two stones in the churchyardl.” The form and ceremony of the claim, as made in 1701 by William Parsley, of Much Easton, in the county of Essex, butcher, and Jane his wife, is detailed in the same page.