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beautiful to my boyish eyes were their wooden swords and their bullying gait! —then we have a fight, for lo
"Here's come I, the Turkish knight.
A vile Saracenic pun in the very minute of deadly strife. But they fight—the cross is victorious, the crescent o'erthrown, and, as a matter of course, even in our pieces of mock valour, duett we have therein—the doctor is sent for; and he is addressed, paralleling again our players of "Scotia's wild domain," with
"Doctor, doctor, can yon tell What will make a sick man well t"
and thereupon he enumerates cures which would have puzzled Galen, and put Hippocrates to a " non-plus;" and he finally agrees, as in the more classical drama of your correspondent, to cure our unbeliever for a certain sum.
The " last scene of all that ends this strange eventful history'- consists in the entrance of the most diminutive of these Thespians, bearing, as did /Eneas of old, in- parent upon his shoulders, and reciting this bit of good truth and joculation (permitting the word)by way of epilogue:
"Here comes I, little Johnny Jack,
This may be but an uninteresting tailpiece to your correspondent's clever communication, but still it is one, and makes '.he picture he so well began of certain usages more full of point.
I doat upon old customs, and I love hearty commemorations, and hence those ujimics of whom I have written—I mean the mummers—are my delight, and in the laughter and merriment they create I forvet to be a critic, and cannot choose but laugh in the fashion of a Democritus, rather than weep worlds away in the style of a Diogenes.
I am, &c. 8cc
J. S. jun.
In the preface to Mr. Davie3 Gilbert's work on "Ancient Christmas Carols," there is an account of Cornish sports,
with a description of a "metrical play," which seems to be the same with wlncb is the subject of the preceding letter.
Being on the popular drama, and a» the topic arose in Mr. Reddock's communication from Scotland, a whimsical dramatic anecdote, with another of like kin from that part of the kingdom, is here subjoined from a Scottish journal of this month in the year 1823.
New Readings of Burns.
We were lately favoured with the perusal of a Perth play-bill, in which Tain O'Shanter, dramatized, is announced for performance as the afterpiece. A ludicrous mistake has occurred, however, in the classification of the Dramatis Personam. The sapient playwright, it would appear, in reading the lines
"Tarn bad got planted unco richt,
Fast by an ingle bleezin' finely,
Wi' reaman swats that drank divinely,"
very naturally conceiving ream an' swats, from the delectable style of their carousing, to be a brace of Tarn's pot companions, actually introduced them as such, as we find in the bill that the characteis of " Ream" and " Swats" are to be personated by two of the performers 1
This reminds us of an anecdote, connected with the same subject, which had its origin nearer home. Some time ago we chanced to be in the shop of an elderly bookseller, when the conversation turned upon the identity of the characters introduced by Burns in his Tam O'Shanter. The bibliopole, who had spent the early part of his life in this neighbourhood, assured us that, "exceptin' Kerr, he kent every body to leuk at that was mentioned, frae Tam himsel' doun to his mare Maggie." This being the first time we had ever heard Mr. Kerr's cognomen alluded to, in connection with Tam O'Shanter, we expressed considerable surprise, and stated that he undoubtedly must have made a mistake in the name. "It may be sae, but its a point easily sattled," said he, raring down a copy of Burns from the shelf. With "spectacles on nose." he turned up the poem in question. "Ay, ay," said he, in an exulting tone, " I thocht I was na that far wrang—
"Care mad to see a man sae happy,
Now, I kent twa or three o' the Kerr'i
A Dramatic Printing Apparatus. Itinerant companies of co edians frequently print their play-bills by the following contrivance: The form of letter is placed on a flat support, having ledges at each side, that rise within about a thirteenth of an inch of the inked surface of the letter. The damped paper is laid upon the letter so disposed, and previously inked, and a roller, covered with woollen cloth, is passed along the ledges over its surface; the use of the ledges is to prevent the roller from rising in too obtuse an angle against the first letters, or going off too abruptly from the last, which would cause the paper to be cut, and the impression to be injured at the beginning and end of the sheet. The roller must be passed across the page, for if it moves in the order of the lines, the paper will bat; a little between each, and the impression will be less neat.f
Naturalists' Calendar. Mean Temperature ... 35 • 65.
On the 16th and 17th of January, 1809, Mr. Howard observed, that the snow exhibited the beautiful blue and pink shades at sunset which are sometimes observable, and that there was a strong evaporation from its surface. A circular area, of five inches diameter, lost 150 grains troy, from sunset on the 15th to sunrise next morning, and about 50 grains more by the following sunset; the gauge being exposed to a smart breeze on the house top. The curious reader may hence compute for himself, the enormous quantity raised in those 24 hours, without any visible lique
* Ayr Courier.
r (>r. Aikm% Alh.-n.Liun.
faction, from an acre of snow: the effects of the load thus given to the air were soon perceptible. On the 17th, a small brilliant meteor descended on the S. E. horizon about 6 p. m. On the 18th, though the moon was still conspicuous, the horns of the crescent were obtuse. On the 19th appeared the Cirrus cloud, followed by the Cirrostratus. In the afternoon a freezing shower from the eastward glazed the windows, encrusted the walls, and encased the trees, the garments of passengers, and the very plumage of lhe birds with ice. Birds thus disabled were seen lying on the ground in great numbers in different parts of the country. Nineteen rooks were taken up alive byone person at Castle Eaton Meadow, Wilts. The composition of this frozen shower, examined on a sheet of paper, was no less curious than these effects. It consisted of hollow spherules of ice, filled with water; of transparent globules ot hail; and of drops of water at the point of freezing, which became solid on touching the bodies they fell on. The thermometer exposed from the window indicated 30,5°. This was at Plaistow. The shower was followed by a moderate fall of snow. From this time to the 24th, there were variable winds and frequent falls of snow, which came down on the 22d in flakes as large as dollars, with sleet at intervals. On the 24th a steady rain from W. decided for a thaw. This and the following night proved stormy: the melted snow and rain, making ahout two inches depth of water on the level, descended suddenly by the rivers, and the country was inundated to a greater extent than in the year 1795. The River Lea continued rising the whole of the 26th, remained stationary during the 27th, and returned into its bed in the course of the two following days. The various chan nels by which it intersects this part of the country were united in one current, above* a mile in width, which flowed with great impetuosity, and did much damage. From breaches in the banks and mounds, the different levels, as they are termed, of embanked pasture land, were filled to the depth of eight or nine feet. The cattle, by great exertions, were preserved, being mostly in the stall; and the inhabitants, driven to their upper rooms, were relieved by boats plying under the windows. The Thames was so full during this time, that no tide was perceptible; happily, however, its bank suffered no injury; and the
recession of the water from the levels proceeded with little interruption till the 23d of February, when it nearly all subsided. No lives were lost in these parts; but several circumstances concurred to render this inundation less mischievous than it might have been, from the great depth o. snow on the country. It was the time of neap tide; the wind blew strongly from the wettward, urging the water down the Thames; while moonlight nights, and a temperate atmosphere, were favourable to the poor, whose habitations were filled with water. On the 28th appeared a lunar halo of the largest diameter. On the 29th, after a fine morning, the wind began to blow hard from the south, and during th' whole night of the 30lh it raged with exc. *ive violence from the west, doing considerable damage. Tlte barometer rose, during this hurricane, onetenth of an inch per hour. The remainder of the noon «a> stormy and wet, and it
closed with squally weather; which, with the frequent appearance of the rainbow, indicated the approach of a drier atmosphere, a change on few occasions within Mr. Howard's recollection more desirable. Numerous inundations, consequent on the thaw of the 24th, appear to have prevailed in low and level districts all along the east side of the island: but in no part with more serious destruction of property, public works, and the hoi es of the husbandman, than in the fens of Cambridgeshire: where, by some accounts. 60,000, by others above 150,000 acres of land, were laid under deep water, through an extent of 15 miles. It is a fact worth preserving, that about 500 sacks filled with earth, and laid on the banks of the Old Bedford river, at various places, where the waters were then flowing over, proved effectual in saving that part of the country from a general deluge.
"Have you been sworn at Highgate V is a question frequently asked in every Dart of the kingdom; for, that such a custom exists in this village is known far and neir, though many who inquire, and are asked, remain ignorant of the ceremony. As the practice is declining, diligence has been exercised to procure information on the spot, and from every probable source, concerning this remarkable usage.
The village of Highgate take its name from the gate across the public road into London, opposite the chapel, which is sometimes erroneously called the church, for it is, in fact, only a chapel of ease to Hornsey church. This road runs through land belonging to the bishopric of London, and was made, by permission of the bishop in former times, probably when the whole of this spot, and the circumjacent country, was covered with wood, and part of the great forest of Middlesex, which, according to Matthew 1'aris, was infested by wolves, stags, boars, and other wild beasts, besides robbers. This gate, from being on the great northern eminence towards London, was called the high- gate; as the land became cleared of wood, houses arose near the spot, and hence the village now called Highgate. It seems probable, that the first dwelling erected here was the gate-house. The occupier of the inn of that name holds it under a lease from the bishop, under which lease he also farms the bishop's toll. In the year 1769 the old gate-house, which extended over the road, was taken down, and the present common turnpike-gate put up. So much, then, concerning Highgate, as introductory to the custom about to be related.
"Swearing on the horns," which now is " a custom more honourM in the breach than in the observance,'' prevailed at Highgate as a continual popular amusement and private annoyance. An old and respectable inhabitant of the village says, that sixty years ago upwards of eighty stages stopped every day at the Red Lion, and that out of every five passengers three were sworn. It is a jocular usage of the place, from beyond the memory of man, especially encouraged by certain of the villagers, to the private advantage of pub''c landlords. On the drawing up of coaches at the inn-doors, particular invitations were given to the company to »light, and after as many as could be collected were got into a room for purposes of refreshment, the subject of being "sworn »'■ Highgate" was introduced, and while
a little artifice easily detected who had not taken the oath, some perhaps expressed a wish to submit to the ceremony. It often happened however, that before these facts could be ascertained "the homs" were brought in by the landlord, and as soon as they appeared, enough were usually present to enforce compliance. "The horns," fixed on a pole of about five feet in height, were erected, by placing the pole upright on the ground, near the person to be sworn, who was required to take off his hat, and all present having done the same, the landloid then, in a loud voice, swore in the "party proponent." What is called the oath is traditional, and varies verbally in a small degree. It has been taken down in writing from the lips of different persons who administer it, and after a careful collation of the different versions the following may be depended on as correct.—The landlord, or the person appointed by him to "swear in, proclaims a'.oud—
"Upstanding and uncovered! Silence 1' Then he addresses himself to the person he swears in, thus :—
"Take Notice what I now say unto you, for that is the first word of your oath—mind that I You must acknowledge me to be your adopted Father, I must acknowledge you to be my adopted son (or daughter.) If you do not call me father you forfeit a bottle of wine, if I do not call you son, I forfeit the same. And now, my good son, if you are travelling through this village of Highgate, and you have no money in your pocket, go call for a bottle of wine at any house you think proper to go into, and book it to your father's score. If you have any friends with you, you may treat them as well, but if you have money of your own, you must pay for it youiself. For you must not say you have no money when you have, neither must you convey the money out of your own pocket into your friends' pockets, for I shall search you as well as them, and if it is found that you or they have money, you forfeit a bottle of wine for trying to cozen and cheat your poor old ancient father. You must not eat brown bread while you can get white, except you like the brown the best; you must not drink small beer while you can get strong, except you like the small th best. You must not kiss the maid while yov can kiss the mistress, except you like the maid the best, but sooner than lose a good chance you may kiss them both. And now, my good son, fo: a word or two of advice. Keep from all houses of ill repute, and every place of public resort for bad company. Beware of false friends, for they will turn to be your foes, and inveigle you into houses where you may lose your money and get no redress, Keep from thieves of every denomination. And now, my good son, 1 wish you a safe journey through Highirate and this life. I charge you, my good son, that if you know any in this company who have not taken this oath, you must cause them to 'take it, or make each of them forfeit a bottle of wine, for if you fail to do so you wi.i forfeit a bottle of wine yourself. So now, my son, God bless you! Kiss the horns or a pretty girl if you see one here, which you like best, and so be free of Highgate!"
If a female be in the room she is usually saluted, if not, the horns mutt be kissed: the option was not allowed formerly. As soon as the salutation is over the swearerin commands "silence!'' and then addressing himself to his new-made "son," he says, "I have now to acquaint you with your privilege as a freeman of this place. If at any time you are going through Highgate and want to rest yourself, and you see a pig lying in a ditch you have liberty to kick her out and take her place; but if you see three lying together you must only kick out the middle one and lie between the other two! God save the king I" This important privi'■sge of the freemen of Highgate was first discovered by one Joyce a blacksmith, who a few years ago kept the Coach and Horses, and subjoined the agreeable information to those whom " he swore in." When the situation of things and persons seems to require it, the "bottle of wine" is sometimes compounded for by a modus of sundry glasses of" grog," and in many cases a pot of porter.
"mind that!' That is, that that « that," is " that."
There is one circumstance essential for
a freeman of Highgate to remember, and
* that is the first word of his oath,—mind
that!" If he fail to recollect that, he is
subject to be resworn from time to time,
and so often, until he remember that. He
is therefore never to forget the injunction
before he swears, to take notice what is
said, "for that is the first word of your
oath—mind that .'" Failure of memory
is deemed want of comprehension, which
is no plea in the high court of Highgate—
There is no other formality in the administration or taking of this oath, than what is already described; and the only other requisite for "a stranger in Highgate" to be told, is, that now in the year 1826, there are nineteen licensed houses in this village, and that at each of these houses the " horns" are kept, and the oath administered by the landlord or his deputy.
To note the capabilities of each house, their signs are here enumerated, with the quality of horns possessed by each.
1. The Gate-house is taken first in order, as being best entitled to priority, because it has the most respectable accommodation in Highgate. Besides the usual conveniences of stabling and beds, it has a coffee-room, and private rooms for parties, and a good assembly-room. The horns there are Stag's.
2. Mitre, has Stag's horns.
3. Green Dragon, Stag's horns.
4. Red Lion and Sun, Bullock's horns. The late husband of Mrs. Southo, the
present intelligent landlady of this house, still lives in the recollection of many inhabitants, as having been a most facetious swearer in.
5. Bell, Stag's horns. This house now only known as the sign of the "Bell," was formerly called the " Bell and Horns!" About fifty years ago, it was kept by one Anderson, who had his " horns" over his door, to denote that persons were sworn there as well as at the Gate-house. Wright, the then landlord of the " Red Lion and Sun," determined not to be outrivalled, and hung out a pair of bullock's horns so enormous in size, and otherwise so conspicuous, as to eclips* the "Bell and Horns;" at last, all the public houses in the village got " horns," and swore in. It is within recollection that every house in Highgate had " the horns" at the door as a permanent sign. 6. Coach and Horses, . Ram's horns. 7- Castle, Ram's horlls
8. Red Lion Ram's horns
9. Wrestler's, .... Stag's horns.
J??""'w', Stag's horns.
11. Lord Nelson, . . . Stag's horns.
12. Duke of Wellington, . Stag's horns. This house is at the bottom of Highgate
Hill, towards Finohlcy, in the angle formed by the intersection of the old road