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An article from Rome, dated the 14th o, November, 1820, says, “Bishop Benvenuti, vice-legate at Macerata, having received orders from the holy father to have all the Carbonari in that city arrested and sent to Rome, under a good escort, proceeded forthwith to execute the order. In consequence he had all the colliers by trade (Charbonniers de profession) which he could find within his reach —men, women, and children, arrested, and sent manacled to Rome, where they were closely imprisoned. The tribunal having at length proceeded to examine them, and being convinced that these Carbonari had been colliers ever since they were born, acquitted them, and sent them to their homes. Bishop Benvenuti was deprived of his employment.”
October 20, 1826.
Dear Sir, –In your last week's number of the Every-Day Book, your correspondent *, *, P. gives a short account of Blackford, the backsword-player, and also mentions one of his descendants who signalized himself at the “Hungerford revel” about two years since. In the year 1820, I visited the latter revel; perhaps a description may be acceptable to you, and amusing to your readers.
I think it may be generally allowed that Wiltshire, and the western counties, keep up their primitive customs more than any counties. This is greatly to the credit of the inhabitants; for these usages tend to promote cheerful intercourse and friendly feeling among the residents in the different villages, who on such occasions assemble together In Wiltshire I have remarked various customs, particularly at Christmas, which I have never seen or heard of in any other place. If these customs were witnessed by a stranger, I am sure he must fancy the good old days of yore, where every sea
* New Trines.
# Set vol. i. col. 1486.
son brought its particular custom, which was always strictly adhered to. Wiltshire consists of beautiful and extensive downs, and rich meadow and pasture lands, which o some of the finest dairies and farms that can be met with in the kingdom. The natives are a very strong and hardy set of men, and are particularly fond of robust sports; their chief and favourite amusement is backswording, or singlestick, for which they are as greatly celebrated as the inhabitants of the adjoining counties, Somersetshire and Gloucestershire. At this game there are several rules observed. They play with a large round stick, which must be three feet long, with a basket prefixed to one end as a guard for the hand. The combatants throw off their hats and upper garments, with the exception of the shirt, and have the left hand tied to the side, so that they cannot defend themselves with that hand. They brandish the stick over the head, guarding off the adversary's blows, and striking him whenever an o portunity occurs. Great skill is often used in the defence. I have seen two men play for upwards of half an hour without once hitting each other. The blood must flow an inch from some part of the head, before either party is declared victor. Blackford, the backsword player, was a butcher residing at Swindon; he died a few years ago. His “successor” is a blacksmith at Lyddington, named Morris Pope, who is considered the best player of the day, and generally carries off the
prizes at the Hungerford revel, which he
always attends. This revel is attended by all the best players in Wiltshire and Somersetshire, between whom the contest lies. To commence the fray, twenty very excellent players are selected from each county; the contest lasts a considerable time, and is always severe, but the Wiltshire men are generally conquerors. Their principal characteristics are skill, strength, and courage—this is generally allowed by all who are acquainted with them. But Hungerford revel is not a scene of contention alone, it consists of all kinds of rustic sports, which afford capital fun to the spectators. They may be laid out thus— 1st. Girls running for “smocks,” &c., which is a well-known amusement at country fairs. 2d. Climbing the greasy pole for a piece of bacon which is placed on the
top. This affords very great amusement, as it is a difficult thing to be accomplished. The climber, perhaps, may get near the top of the pole, and has it in his power to hold himself up by both hands, but the moment he raises one hand to unhook the prize, he is almost sure to slide down again with great rapidity, bearing all below him who are so foolish as to climb after him. 3d. Old women drinking hot tea for snuff. Whoever can drink it the quickest and hottest gains the prize. 4th. Grinning through horse-collars. Several Hodges stand in a row, each holding a collar; whoever can make the ugliest face through it gains the prize. This feat is also performed by old women, and certainly |. latter are the most amusing. 5th. Racing between twenty and thirty old women for a pound of tea. This occasions much merriment, and it is sometimes astonishing to see with what agility the old dames run in order to obtain their favourite. 6th. Hunting a pig with a soaped tail. This amusement creates much mirth, and in my opinion is the most laughable.— Grunter with his tail well soaped is set off at the foot of a hill, and is quickly pursued; but the person who can lay any claim to him must first catch him by the tail, and fairly detain him with one hand. This is an almost impossible feat, for the pig finding himself pulled back, tries to run forward, and the tail slips from the grasp of the holder. It is pretty well known that such is the obstimate nature of a pig, that on being pulled one way he will strive all he can to go a contrary. In illustration of this circumstance, though known perhaps to some of your readers, I may mention a curious wager a few years ago between a pork butcher and a waterman. The butcher betted the waterman that he would make a pig run over one of the bridges, (I forget which,) quicker than the waterman would row across the river. The auditors thought it impossible; the bet was eagerly accepted, and the next day was appointed for the performance. When the signal for starting was given, the waterman began to row with all his might and main, and the butcher catching hold of the tail of the pig endeavoured to pull him back, upon which the pig pulled forward, and with great rapidity ran over the bridge, pulling the butcher after him,
who arrived on the opposite side before his opponent. 7th. Jumping in sacks for a cheese. An excellent caricature of jumping in sacks, published by Hunt, in Tavistockstreet, conveys a true idea of the manner in which this amusement is carried on : it is truly laughable. Ten or eleven candidates are chosen; they are tied in sacks up to their necks, and have to jump about five hundred yards. Sometimes one will out-jump himself and fall; this accident generally occasions the fall of three or four others, but some one, being more expert, gets on first, and claims the prize. About ten years ago, before Cannon the prize-fighter was publicly known, as a native of Wiltshire he naturally visited the Hungerford revel. There was a man there celebrated over the county for boxing; it was said that with a blow from his fist he could break the jaw-bone of an ox; upon the whole he was a desperate fellow, and no one dared challenge him to Jight. Cannon, however, challenged him to jump in sacks. It was agreed that they should jump three times the distance of about five hundred yards. The first time Cannon fell, and accordingly his opponent won; the second time, Cannon's opponent fell, and the third time they kept a pretty even pace for about four hundred yards, when they bounced against each other and both fell, so that there was a dispute who had won. Cannon's opponent was for dividing the cheese, but he would not submit to that, and proposed jumping again; the man would not, but got out of the sack,and during the time that Cannon was consulting some friends on the course to be pursued, ran off with the cheese. Cannon, however, pursued, and after a considerable time succeeded in finding him. He then challenged him to fight: the battle lasted two hours, and Cannon was victor. This circumstance introduced him to the sporting world. You must allow me, dear sir, to assure you, that it is not my wish to make your interesting work a “sporting calendar,” by naming “sporting characters.” I tell you this lest you should not incline to read further, especially when you see 8th. Donkey Racing. I will certainly defy any one to witness these races, without being almost convulsed with laughter. Each candidate rides his neighbour's donkey, and he who arrives first at the appointed place claims the prize, which is generally a smock-frock, a waistcoat, a hat, &c. &c.
9th. Duck Hunting. This sport generally concludes the whole: it is a very laughable, but certainly a very cruel amusement. They tie a poor unfortunate owl in an upright position, to the back of a still more unfortunate duck, and then turn them loose. The owl presuming that his inconvenient captivity is the work of the duck, very unceremoniously commences an attack on the head of the latter, who naturally takes to its own means of defence, the water: the duck dives with the owl on his back; as soon as he rises, the astonished owl opens wide his eyes, turns about his head in a very solemn manner, and suddenly recommences his attack on the oppressed duck, who dives as before. The poor animals generally destroy each other, unless some humane person rescues them.
Like all other Wiltshire amusements, the Hungerford revel always closes with i. humour and conviviality; the ale owing plentifully, and the song echoing loud .. gaily from the rustic revellers. Although the revel is meant to last only one day, the very numerous attendants keep up the minor sports sometimes to the fourth day, when all depart, and Hungerford is once more a scene of tranquility.
The revel takes place about this time of the year, but I really cannot call to my recollection the precise day. Hoping, however, that this is of no material consequence, I beg to remain,
Dear Sir, &c.
EARL of WARwick, THE KING MAKER.
This nobleman, who at one time is said to have entertained thirty thousand people at the boards of his different manors and estates in England, and who, when he travelled or lodged in any town, was accompanied by four or five hundred retainers, wrote, on All Souls' day the following remarkable letter for the loan of a small sum. It is divested of its ancient spelling. “To our right trusty and well-beloved
Friend, Sir Thomas Topof NHAM.
“Right trusty and well beloved friend,
we greet you well, heartily desiring to
hear of your welfare; and if it please you to hear of our welfare, we were in good health at the making of this letter, entreating you heartily, that ye will consider our message, which our chaplain Master Robert Hopton shall inform you of; for we have great business daily and have had here before this time, wherefore we entreat you to consider the purchase, that we have made with one John Swyffham (Southcote) an esquire of Lincolnshire, of 88l. by the year, whereupon we must pay the last payment, the Monday next after St. Martin's day, which sum is 4581. Wherefore we entreat you with all our heart, that ye will lend us ten, or twenty pounds, or what the said Master Robert wants of his payment, as we may do for you in time for to come, and we will send it you again afore new year's day, as we are a true knight. For there is none in your country, that we might write to for trust, so well as unto you, for as we be informed, ye be our well willer, and so we entreat you, that ye consider our intent of this money, as ge will that we do for you in time to come... Written at London, on All Soul's Day, within our lodging in the Grey Friars, within Newgate. “Ric. ERLE WARwyke.”
This letter is not dated, as to the year, but is known from circumstances to have been written before 1455. Sir Thomas Toddingham was a wealthy knight of Norfolk, who had an unfortunate marriage with one of the Wodehouses. The epistle shows the importance of ten, or twenty
unds, when rents were chiefly received in kind, and the difference between one degree of wealth and another, was exemplified by the number of a baron's retainers. “Now,” says Burke, “we have a ton of ancient pomp in a vial of modern luxury.”
“DEATH of The Lortesy.”
Introductory to particulars respecting Lotteries, two engravings are inserted, representing exhibitions that appeared in the streets of the metropolis, with the intent to excite adventure in “the last state lottery that will ever be drawn in England.”
* Morning Herald, Sept. S, 1817.