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Benjamin Mayo is believed to be the proper name of the “General,” his other appellations he derived from having been the ringleader of the boys, from his youth to the present time, on all occasions for which they assemble together in the town of Nottingham. In order “to secure the boundaries of the town, a certain number of respectable characters, annually appointed, form what is calied the Middleton, Mickleton, or Leet Jury, and circumambulate them twice a year, with the coroner at their head; it is also the duty of this jury to break down all obstructions in old roads, to fine those persons who may have made such encroachments as do not immediately obstruct a public road, and to \present all nuisances at the quarter sessions.” At the Easter and Michaelmas quarter sessions, the day for these duties is always appointed to be the Monday se’nnight following; and hence it is called Middleton Monday. The name of “Middleton is said to be retained from lord Middleton,” who is steward of the Peveril Court, which has now no jurisdiction in Nottingham, it being a town-county. The origin of these matters, however, is of little consequence in an account of the “General;” they are only referred to as preparatory to the observation, that he is a conspicuous personage in the ceremonial of the day. On “Middleton Monday” all the school-boys in the town expect a holyday; it is the juvenile Saturnalia; and though the “General" is great on all occasions, he is especially so on “Middleton Monday;" for compared with him, the mayor, the coroner, and other municipal authorities, are subordinate officers in the estimation of the youthful tribes. Previous to the jury commencing their survey, away trots “General,” with several hundreds of boys at his heels, to secure the sacred and inviolable right of a holyday. Two or three urchins, with shining, morning faces, lead the way to their own schoolmaster's, who, in violation of the “orders of the day,” is seated amidst the few children whose parents have refused to grant a holyday, and \ therefore dare not “play travant.” Some \“devoted Decius” in miniature, ventures it), on the forlorn hope of procuring lièrty for the rest. Down drop books,
pens, pencils, to the increasing ery of * Out, out, out.” The commander-inchief arrives, amidst the cheers of his enthusiastic and devoted troops, takes up his position opposite to the door, and commands the onset. The "advanced guard assail the portal with redoubled blows of their pocket-handkerchiefs, and old rope-ends, knotted into tommies, and the main body throw the missile mud. Ere long, a random stone breaks some window; this is speedily followed by a second and third crash; out sallies the master to seize the culprit, his sentinels are overpowered, the invaders rush in, the besieged are unmercifully belaboured till the capitulation is completed, but no sooner do they join the “liberating army,” than a shout of triumph is raised, and the place is abandoned. The aide-decamps having reported to “the General,” what other fortresses hold out, the nearest is attacked in the same way. It often lappens, however, that a parley is demanded, and “the General” shamelessly receives a bribe to desist. Alas ! that one so devoted to the cause of liberty should be so easily corrupted—twopence will induce the commander-in-chief to withdraw, with his faithful followers, of fickle principle, and leave the anxious gar. rison to the uncontrolled power of its wily governor. Upwards of twenty years ago, opposition to “the General” was rare, but about that period schoolmasters, began to learn their strength. One individual successfully resisted during a three hours' siege; the house for years bore marks of the mud with which it was pelted; but ever after he was triumphant, though frequently at the expense of an oaken staff, or an ash sapling, broken in repulsing the invaders. After repeated assaults, “ the General” deemed this “hold” impregnable, and desisted from his attacks. So many of the disciples of learning being emancipated, or prisoners, as “ the General” can liberate or capture, he sets forward with the “surveying council,” escorted by his army, to commence the perambulation of the town. If a projecting scraper endanger the shins of the burgesses, it is recorded, and the Middleton jury pass on ; but the juvenile admirers of summary and instantaneous justice are for the immediate removal of the offender. Perhaps the good old dame of the house “likes not these new regulations,” and takes up a strong position
in its defence, armed with a mop and bucket of water. Aster a momentous pause, a hardy champion rushes forward to seize the offensive iron, and wrench it from its seat; he retires, overwhelmed and half drowned ; hero after hero presses on, and is defeated; till some modern Ajax grapples with the mop, and making a diversion in favour of the assailants, the luckless scraper is borne off in triumph,
View “the General” at eleven o’clock, with his forces drawn up in front of the Castle lodge, demanding admittance into the Castle yard—a summons always evaded by the distribution of a quantity of cakes and gingerbread. On “the General's” word of command the precious sweets are thrown, one by one, over the gate, and the confusion of a universal scramble ensues. After the whole is distributed, the popularity of “the General” rapidly wanes; hundreds are reduced to scores, and scores to ones—at noon he is
Deserted in his utmost need
In memory, however, of his departed o: never deigns to work for the rest of the day.
Before the approach of “Middleton Monday,” fifty times a day the important question is put to the General, “When will be Middleton Monday?" Once he said, “I don't know yet, the mayor ha'n't ax'd me what day 'll suit me.” On the following Saturday he answered, “The mayor sent his respects to know if I’d let it be Middleton Monday next week; and I sent my respects, and I’d come.”
Ben Mayo has ever been “null, void, and of no effect,” except in his character of “General.” He is a harmless idiot, who, during most of his life, has been an inmate of St. Peter's workhouse. He is now nearly fifty years of age. If erect, he would be under the middle size; his stature not being more than four feet nine inches. He is very round-shouldered. His eyes are dark grey, and rather lively; the lower part of his face is no way remarkable, but his forehead is very high, and singularly o in the middle; his head, which is thinly covered with hair cut very short, always projected before him in his shuffling gait, which is rather a run than a walk. His vestment generally consists of the “hodden grey” uniform of the parish; his shirt collar, like that of some other public characters,
is usually unbuttoned, and displays his copper-coloured bosom. Grey stockings and quarter boots complete his equipment, for he never wears a hat. Thou coarse, his dress is generally clean and tidy. “The General” is constant in his attendance at church, where his behaviour is serious; and he would on no account be seen about in the streets on the Sabbath, for, being one of the public characters of the town, it would be setting a bad example. In politics, he is a staunch
supporter of the powers that be; on such
occasions as the king's birth-day, and the coronation, Ben is sure to be seen with a bunch, of blue riband to his coat, while at an election, to display his loyalty, he is dusted with power-blue from the crown of his head to the skirts. He has, however, no objection to aid “the Jacobin corporation,” as far as in him lies; and, according to his own account, he is particularly intimate with the mayor for the time being, whom he allows to be the first man in the town—himself being second. He is remarkably fond of peace and with his wand in hand will “charge it, where there is no fear of its being broken. Like other military men, “General” is a favourite with the ladies, inasmuch as he is known equally to high and low, and makes promises to all indiscriminately (who please him) that he will marry them “next Sunday morning;” at the same time, he cautions the favoured fair not to be later than half past seven, “for fear somebody else should get him.” The “General’s” usual occupation is to sell the cheap commodities of the walking stationers, such as dreadful shipwrecks, horrid murders, calendars of the prisoners, last dying speeches and behaviours, or lists of the race horses. Sometimes, when the titles of these occur closely, he makes curious “varieties of literature.” Not long since, he was calling “A right and true calendar of all the running horses confined in his majesty's gole, owners’ names, horses’ names, and colours of the riders, tried, cast, 'quit, and condemned before my lord judge this 'sizes and how they came in every heat of the three days, with the sentences of the prisoners.” About four years ago, at Lenton soft and wakes, which are always at W
Nottingham, being only a mile Æsistant, some wag set “General” to proclaim the
Lenton fair. On this occasion he mounted an enormous cocked-hat of straw, and had his wand in his hand. He jumbled together pigs, gingerbread, baa-lambs, cows, dolls, horses, ale, fiddling, sheep, &c. in a confused mass; whilst the latter part of the proclamation, though perfectly true, was very far from being “quite correct.”
Of the many anecdotes current of “General,” one or two authentic ones will display the union of shrewdness and simplicity common to persons of his order of intelligence. On a certain occasion, when public attention was directed towards the commander-in-chief, one evening in the twilight Ben began, “Here's the grand and noble speech as the duke of York made yesterday.” A person, who had heard nothing of such a speech, immediately purchased one, and on approaching a window found himself possessed of a piece of blank paper. “General,” said he, “here's nothing on it.” “No, sir, the duke of York said nowt.” Being set, at the workhouse, to turn a wheel, he did so properly enough for about half an hour, but i. tired, he immediately began to turn backwards, nor could he be persuaded to the contrary. A blockhead once tried to make him quarrel with an idiot lad, as they were employed in sweeping the street together; “Oh," said he, “he is a poor soft lad, and beneath my notice.” ere is another instance of his dislike of work: having been set to weed part of the garden, he performed the task by pulling up all the flowers and herbs, and leaving the weeds growing. He once found a sixpence, and ran up the street shouting, “Who's lost sixpence, who's lost sixpence " “It's mine, General,” said one. “But had your's a hole in it !” “Yes,” said he—“But this hasn't," rejoined General, and away he ran. His mode of running is remarkable, inasmuch as one leg is considerably shorter than the other, which gives his body an up-and-down motion. One peculiarity is, that when he has any fresh papers to sell he will never stop to take money till quite out of breath, and arrived at the extremity of the town.
Sir, In your last year's volume I see you have taken great notice of St. Clement, and the customs observed on his day; but I do not see any mention of a custom which was common in JP'orcestershire, where I was born. I am entirely ignorant of its origin; yet in my youth I have often been at its celebration. The custom was as follows:—
On the afternoon of St. Clement's day, a number of boys collected together in a body, and went from house to house; and at the door of each house, one, or sometimes more, would recite, or chaunt, the following lines—
Catherine and Clement, be here, be here;
Some would say, And God will send you a good night's rest
* See vol. i. tol. 1437,
Sometimes grown men would go in like manner, and, to such, the people of the house would give ale or cider; but to the boys they gave apples, or, if they had none to spare, a few halfpence. Having col
lected a good store of apples, which they sel
dom failed to do, the boys repaired to some one of their houses, where they roasted and ate the apples; and frequently the old would join the young, and large vessels of ale or cider would be brought in, and some of the roasted apples thrown hot into it, and the evening would then be spent with much mirth and innocent amusement; such as, I sorrow to think, have departed never to return.
Such, sir, was one of the usages “ in my youthful days,” in that part of the country of which I have spoken. I have had but little intercourse with it of late years, but I fear these improved times have left but little spirit or opportunity for the observance of such ways, or the enjoyment of such felicity. Much has been said of improvement, and the happy state of the present over times past; but, on striking the balance, it may be found that the poor have lost much of their solid comfort, for the little improvement they have obtained.
You, Mr. Editor, have exposed with a masterly hand the superstitions and monkery of the olden time, for which you have my best thanks, in common, I believe, with those of nine out of every ten in the nation; but should a Mr. HoNE arise two hundred years hence, I think he would have something to say upon these our times. I fear, however, I am going beyond my object, which is not to find
fault, but to acquaint you with a practice which, if worthy a place in your o: instructive, and highly useful work, I shall be glad to see there memorialed. I am, &c. " SELIts.
NATURALists' CALENDAR. Mean Temperature ... 40' 02.
SPECTREs AND APPARITIONS.
In a popular “ calendar” there are some observations on this day, which, as the time for telling “Ghost stories” is come in, seem appropriate. They are to the effect, that there is an essential difference between “Ocular Spectres” and “Spectral Illusions.'
Ocular Spectres move with the motion of the eye, whatever may be the forms of the spectrum on the retina; hence, they are spectra in the eye. Spectral Illusions, or Ghosts, seem to move with their own proper motion, like real persons, and the objects in dreams; hence they are not in the eye itself cr retina, but may arise in the brain. We know nothing of the particular laws whereby these forms are regulated, as they occur without the conscious precurrence of the usual chains of thought, and often represent forms, and combinations of forms, almost entirely new to us. Some persons only see these spectres once or twice in their lives, and that only during diseases: others are continually harassed by them, and often mistake some one consistent spectre, which frequently comes and converses with them, for their guardian angel. In proportion, however, as the phantom gains on the credulity of the patient who beholds it, the latter approximates towards insanity. According to the disturbance of the brain of the individuals, the spectres are either horrifying or delightful, and partake of the character of the patient's mind, as it is influenced variously by desire, fear, hope, and so on. We have known instances where the antiphlogistic measures resorted to with success, have been viewed by the Fo when recovered, as positive evils, laving forcibly torn from him some perpetual and pleasing illusion. The late Mr. John Wheeler, prebendary of Westminster, used to relate a remarkable story of the Abbé Pilori at Florence, who incurred a tremendous spectral disorder in consequence of a surfeit of mushrooms he one day ate. These fungi, not digesting, disturbed his brain, and he saw the frightful and appalling forms of scorpions continually before his eyes for a length of time. This brings to our minds yet another observation with regard to spectra. Persons who are somewhat delirious from fever are apt to give to half-distinguished forms, in a darkish chamber, the most frightful imaginary shapes. This is a disorder distinct from that of seeing Fo A. Y. R. a child, being ill qfie ever, saw some bulbous roots laying sich, a table in the room, and conceived toss of immediately to be scorpions; nor legends anything convince her of the caion, that and they consequently, were remsally exerts of the room to relieve her terro