Page images
[ocr errors]

Bowed money appears anciently to have been sent as a token of love and affection from one relative to another. Thus we read in the Third Part of Conny-Catching, “Then taking fourth a bowed groat, and an old pennie bowed, he gave it her as being sent from her uncle ana aunt.” In the Country Wake, a comedy by Doggett, 1696, v. i., Hob, who fancies he is dying, before he makes his last will and testimony, as he calls it, when his mother desires him to try to speak to Mary, “for she is thy wife, and no other,” answers, I know, I'm sure to her—and I do own it before you all ; I ask't her the question last Lammas, and at Allhollow's-tide we broke a piece of money, and if I had liv'd till last Sunday, we had been ask'd in the church," [In an old penny history, called Bateman's Tragedy, or the perjured Bride justly rewarded, being the history of the unfortunate love of German's wife and young Bateman, an allusion occurs to this practice: “Long they dwelt not on this theme, before they fell to that of love, renewing their vows of eternal love and constancy that nothing but death should be able to separate them : and, to bind it, he broke a piece of gold, giving her the one half, and keeping the other himself : and then with tears and tender kisses they parted.”]

Swinburne on Spousals, p. 10, says: “Some spousals are contracted by signs, as the giving and receiving a ring, others by words."

In the play of the Vow-Breaker, i. 1, Young Bateman and Anne, we read : " Ba. Now, Nan, here's none but thou and I; thy love

Emboldens me to speak, and cheerfully
Here is a peece of gold ; 'tis but a little one,
Yet big enough to ty and seale a knot,
A jugall knot on earth, to which high heaven
Now cries amen: say thou so too, and then
When eyther of us breakes this sacred bond,
Let us be made strange spectacles to the world,

To heaven, and earth.
An. Amen, say I ;

And let heaven loth me when I falsifie."

Afterwards, on Young Bateman's return from the warz, during whose absence Anne has been induced by her father to marry another person, Anne says, “I am married.”

Ba. I know thou art, to me, my fairest Nan :

Our vows were made to heaven, and on earth
They must be ratifide: in part they are,
By giving of a pledge, a peice of gold :
Which when we broke, joyntly then we swore,
Alive or dead, for to enjoy each other,

And so we will, spight of thy father's frownes."
And afterwards, act iii. sc. I, Anne, seeing the ghost of
Young Bateman, who had hanged himself for her sake, ex-
claims :

" It stares, beckons, points to the peece of gold

We brake between us : looke, looke there,- here, there!" [Compare also the following lines in the Exeter Garland, 8vo. about 1750:

"A ring of pure gold she from her finger took,
And just in the middle the same then she broke:
Quoth she, as a token of love you this take,

And this as a pledge I will keep for your sake."] In the Scourge for Paper Persecutors, 1625, p. 11, we find the penance for anti-nuptial fornication :

“Or wanton rig, or letcher dissolute,

Doe stand at Paul's-crosse in a sheeten sute." In Codrington's Second Part of Youth's Behaviour, or Decency in Conversation amongst Women, 1664, p. 33, is the following very remarkable passage : “ It is too often seen that young gentlewomen by gifts are courted to interchange, and to return the courtesie : rings indeed and ribbands are but trifles, but believe me, they are not trifles that are aimed at in such exchanges : let them therefore be counselled that they neither give nor receive any thing that afterwards may procure their shame."

In Whimzies, or a New Cast of Characters, 1631, the unknown author, in his description of a pedlar, ii. 21, has the following passage : can it allude to the custom of interchanging betrothing rings?! “St. Martin's rings and counterfeit bracelets are commodities of infinite consequence. They will passe

I “St. Martin's rings were imitations of gold ones, made with copper, and gilt. They may have been so called from the makers or vendors of them residing within the collegiate church of St. Martin's-le-Grand."Halliwell's Dictionary, p. 543.

for current at a May-pole, and purchase a favour from their May-Marian.

In Herrick's Hesperides, p. 201, a Jimmal ring is mentioned as a love-token :

The Jimmal Ring, or True-love Knot.
Thou sent'st to me a true-love knot; but I
Return'd a ring of jimmals, to imply

Thy love had one knot, mine a triple-tye.The difference between the betrothing or affiancing ceremony and that of marriage is clearly pointed out in the following passages : Sponsalia non sunt de essentia sacramenti matrimonii, possuntque sine illius præjudicio omitti, sicut et pluribus in locis revera omittuntur,' dit le Rituel d'Evreux de l'annee 1621. Le Concile Provincial de Reims en 1583 dit: Sponsalia non nisi coram parocho, vel ejus vicario deinceps fiant, idque in ecclesia et non alibi.' Les Statuts Synodaux de Sens, en 1524: 'Possunt prius et debent dare fidem inter se de matrimonio contrahendo, et hoc palam in ecclesia et in presentia sacerdotis, &c.'” Traité des Superstitions, par M. Jean Baptiste Thiers, Par. 1704, iv. 470. To the betrothing contract under consideration must be referred, if I mistake not, and not to the marriage ceremony itself (to which latter, I own, however, the person who does not nicely discriminate betwixt them will be strongly tempted to incline), the wellknown passages on this subject in Shakspeare's play of Twelfth Night.

I am by no means satisfied with the comment of Steevens on these passages, though at first I had hastily adopted it. After painful research, I can find no proof that in our ancient ceremony at marriages the man received as well as gave the ring: nor do I think the custom at all exemplified by the quotation from Lupton's first book of Notable l'hings. The expression is equivocal, and “his maryage ring” I should think means no more than the ring used at his marriage, that which he gave and which his wise received : at least we are not warranted to interpret it at present any otherwise, till some passage can actually be adduced from the ancient manuscript rituals to evince that there ever did at marriages tako

I See the last act of that play.

place such "interchangement of rings,” a custom which however certainly formed one of the most prominent features of the ancient betrothing ceremony.

A MS. missal, as old as the time of Richard the Second, formerly the property of University College in Oxford, gives not the least intimation that the woman too gave a ring. I shall cite this afterwards under Marriage Ceremonies. The following passage from Coats's Dictionary of Heraldry, 1725, 0. ANNULUS, would bear hard against me, were it supported by any other authority than that of an ipse dixit: “ But for my part, I believe the rings married people gare one another do rather denote the truth and fidelity they owe to one another, than that they import any servitude.” And yet concession must be made that the bridegroom appears to have had a ring given him as well as the bride in the diocese of Bordeaux in France.'

In Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, 1792, ii. 80, the minister of Galston, in Ayrshire, informs us of a singular custom there : “When a young man wishes to pay his addresses to his sweetheart, instead of going to her father's and professing his passion, he goes to a public-house; and having let the landlady into the secret of his attachment, the object of his wishes is immediately sent for, who never almost

1 " Dans le diocese de Bourdeaux on donnoit, comme en Orient, au futur epoux et a la future epouse, chacun un anneau en les epousant. moins cela est-il préscrit par le Rituel de Bourdeaux (pp. 98, 99) de 1596. Benedictio annulorum. Benedic Domine, hos annulos, &c. Aspergat sacerdos annulos arras et circumstantes aqua benedicta. Deinde sacerdos accipit alterum annulum inter primos tres digitos, dicens, Benedic Domine kunc annulum, &c., et infigit illum in digitum quartum dextræ manus sponsi, dicens, In nomine Patris, &c. Pari modo alterum annulum accipit et benedicit ut supra, et tradit eum sponso, qui accipiens illum tribus digitis, infigit illum in quarto digito manus dextere ipsius sponsæ, &c.”— Traité des Superstitions, iv. 512. The following, too, occurs, ibid. p. 513: “Certaines gens en vûe de se garentir de malefice, font benir plusieurs anneaux, quand ils trouvent des prêtres assés ignorans, ou assés complaisans pour le faire, et les mettent tous dans le doigt annulaire de la maine gauche ou de la main droite de leurs epouses, car en certains dioceses c'est à la main droite, et en d'autres c'est a la main gauche, qu'on le donne aux nouvelles mariées, quoique le quatrieme Concile Provincial de Milan en 1576, ordonne qu'on le mette à la main gauche (Constit. p. 3, n. 9). Mais ils ne sçauroient mettre ce mauvais moien en pratique sans tomber dans la superstition de la vaine observance, et dans celle de l'observance des rencontres."


upon him.

refuses to come. She is entertained with ale and whisky, or brandy, and the marriage is concluded on. The second day after the marriage, a creeling, as it is called, takes place. The young wedded pair, with their friends, assemble in a convenient spot. A small creel, or basket, is prepared for the occasion, into which they put some stones : the young men carry it alternately, and allow themselves to be caught by the maidens, who have a kiss when they succeed. After a great deal of innocent mirth and pleasantry, the creel falls at length to the young

husband's share, who is obliged to carry it generally for a long time, none of the young women having compassion

At last, his fair mate kindly relieves him from his burden; and her complaisance in this particular is considered as a proof of her satisfaction with the choice she has made. The creel goes round again; more merriment succeeds; and all the company dine together and talk over the feats of the field. Perhaps the French phrase, 'Adieu panniers, vendanges sont faites,' may allude to a similar custom.”

[In Guernsey, when a young man offers himself to a young lady, and is accepted, the parents of the parties give what is termed a flouncing ; that is, they invite their friends to a feast. The young lady is led round the room by her future fatherin-law, and introduced to his friends, and afterwards the young man is paraded in like manner by his future father-inlaw; then there is an exchange of rings and some articles of plate, according to the rank of the parties. After this, it is horrid for the damsel to be seen walking with any other male person, and the youth must scarce glance at anything feminine; in this way they court for years. After this ceremony, if the gentleman alters his mind, the lady can claim half his property; and if the fickle lass should repent, the gentleman can demand the half of hers. The natives of Guernsey keep themselves very secluded ; they have three classes of society —the sixties, the forties, and the twenties. The first, in their evening visiting carry a lantern with three lights ; the second, one with two ; and the third one.

In Wales, there is a custom called bundling, in which the betrothing parties go to bed in their clothes. It has given rise to many actions for seduction.]

« PreviousContinue »