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which made a goodly show, namely, in New Fish Street, Thames Street,* &c."
This pleasing picture is in a great measure confirmed by other writers, and even by one, who speaks of the custom only incidentally, and in illustration of his doctrines. 'Seie to me," says Bishop Pecock,† “good sire, and answere hereto; whanne men of the cuntree uplond bringen into Loudoun in Mydsomer-eve braunchis of trees fro Bischopis-wode, and flouris for the feeld, and bitaken tho to citessins of Londoun, for to therwith araie her housis, schulen men of Londoun receyving and taking the braunchis and flouris, seie and holde, that the braunchis grewen out of the cartis, which broughten hem to Londoun, and that the cartis, or the hondis of the bringers weren groundis and fundamentis of the braunchis and flouris? Goddis forbade so litel witt be in her hedis. Certes though Crist and his apostlis weren now lyvyng in Londoun, and wolde bringe, so as is now seid, braunchis fro Bischopis-wode, and flouris fro the feelde into Londoun, and wolden hem delyvere to men, that thei make therwith her housis gay into remembrance of St. John the Baptist, and of this that was prophecied of him, that manye schulden joie in his burthe, &c."||
Hutchinson also in his history of Northamptonshire, shows that the day was celebrated with kindred festivities, as indeed it no doubt was through the whole island. His words are, "another custom used on this day, is to dress out stools with a cushion of flowers. A lair of
* Stow's Survey, p. 39. 8vo. London, 1842.
+ Lewis' Life of Reynold Pecock, p. 49. 8vo. Oxford, 1820. i.e. them.
§ i.e. their.
Reynold Pecock was Bishop of St. Asaph and Chichester in the reign of Henry VI.
clay is placed on the stool, and therein is stuck with great regularity an arrangement of all kinds of flowers so close as to form a beautiful cushion; these are exhibited at the doors of houses in the villages, and at the ends of streets and cross lanes of larger towns where the attendants beg money from passengers, to enable them to have an evening feast and dancing. This custom is evidently derived from the Ludi Compitalii of the Romans; this appellation was taken from the Compita, or cross lanes, where they were instituted and celebrated by the multitude assembled before the building of Rome. Servius Tullius revived this festival after it had been neglected for many years. It was the feast of the Lares or household Gods, who presided as well over houses as streets. This mode of adorning the seat or couch of the Lares was beautiful, and the idea of reposing them on aromatic flowers and beds of roses was excellent. The chief part of the ceremonies and solemnities of this feast used by the Romans, as we are told by the poets and historians, was exhibiting the household Gods, crowning and adorning them with chaplets and garlands of flowers, and offering sacrifices up and down the streets. Suetonius tells us that Augustus ordered the Lares to be crowned twice a year. We are not told there was any custom among the Romans of strangers or passengers offering gifts. Our modern usage of all these old customs terminates in seeking to gain money for a merry night."*
Before quitting this part of my subject, I have yet a few words to add in regard to bonfires. This term has been derived by some from the circumstance of the fires having been originally made of bones. Thus Fuller says, "Some deduce it from fires made of bone relating it to
* A VIEW OF NORTHUMBERLAND. By W. Hutchinson. vol. ii.— appendix on Ancient Customs, p. 16, 4to. Newcastle, 1778.
the burning of martyrs, first fashionable in England in the reign of King Henry the Fourth. But others derive the word (more truly in my mind) from Boon, that is Good, and Fires; whether good be taken for merry and chearfull, such fires being always made on welcome occasions."* It is hard to say which of the divine's derivations is the most absurd. The more probable explanation seems to be that of Dr. Hickes, and which has been adopted by Lye in the ETYMOLOGICON of Junius-namely, that it was derived from the Anglo-Saxon-bælfyr, a burning pile, by the change of a single letter only, baal in the Islandic signifying a conflagration.
It appears, too, among other ceremonies, that on these occasions a wheel, covered with lighted straw, was taken to the top of a hill and rolled down, which, we may presume, was originally intended to symbolize the approaching descent of the sun, then in his highest place in the zodiac. But as the early idea faded away under the influence of Christianity, an idle superstition took the place of a beautiful symbol, and people fancied all their ill luck rolled away with the wheel.† The Church, too, had its own version of the matter, and one not a jot more rational than the popular belief, the wheels according to the priests signifying that the fame of St. John, who had been falsely
* Mixt Contemplations of Better Times. By Thomas Fuller, B.D. p. 25. 12mo. London, 1660.
+"Some others get a rotten wheele, all worne and cast aside,
supposed to be Christ, diminished on the appearance of the latter, just as the sun was then beginning to descend from the highest point of the zodiac.*
The bonfires were only one feature in the festivities of this season, though I have given them precedence because in their very nature they point out the pagan origin of the whole. A yet more striking part of the Midsummer pageant was the array and marching of the city watch, as we find it described by Stow. "Then had ye besides the standing watches all in bright harness, in every ward and street of this city and suburbs, a marching watch that passed through the principal streets thereof. The whole way for this marching watch extendeth to three thousand two hundred tailor's yards of assize; for the furniture whereof with lights there were appointed seven hundred cressets,† five hundred of them being found by
"Rota in quibusdam locis volvitur, ad significandum quod sicut sol ad altiora sui circuli pervenit, nec altius potest progredi, sed tunc sol descendit in circulo, sic et fama Joannis, qui putabatur Christus, descendit, etiam quod ipse testimoniu habet, dicēs - - me oportuit minui, illam autem crescere-quod dicunt quidam dictum esse eo quòd tunc dies incipiunt minui, et in nativitate Christi crescere. Sed quia ante festum S. Joannis decrescunt, et ante natale Dmni crescunt, intelligendum est de nativitate in matre, qu scilicet conceptus est uterque; qm Joannes conceptus fuit decrescentibus diebus, ut in Septembri, et Christus in crescentibus, ut in Aprili : Vel de die mortis utriusque; nam corpus Christi exaltatu est in cruce, corpus Joannis capite minoratum."-Durandi Ration. Div. Offici. p. 292. lib. vii. c. 14.
Douce, in his ILLUSTRATIONS OF SHAKSPEARE, derives the word cresset from the French croiset, a cruet or earthen pot, while Hanmer and others deduce it from croisette, a little cross, because, as they say, the cresset was surmounted by a little cross. Either etymology seems to me improbable. I should be much more inclined to seek for the origin of the word, as Minshew has done, in the Belgic KAERSE, candela, lychnus, which at all events describes the cresset whatever form it might assume, whereas either croiset or croisette can only apply to it under a particular shape, and one which it certainly did not always assume.
the companies, the other two hundred by the chamber of London. Besides the which lights every constable in London, in number more than two hundred and forty, had his cresset; the charge of every cresset was in light two shillings and four pence; and every cresset had two men, one to bear or hold it, another to bear a bag with light, and to serve it, so that the poor men pertaining to the cressets, taking wages, besides that every one had a straw hat, with a badge painted, and his breakfast in the morning, amounted in number to almost two thousand. The marching watch contained in number about two thousand men, part of them being old soldiers of skill, to be captains, lieutenants, serjeants, corporals, &c., wiflers, drummers, and fifes, standard and ensign bearers,
Whiffler is explained by Douce in his Illustrations of Shakspeare (vol. i. p. 506) to mean a fifer, and to be derived from whiffle, another name for a fife or a small flute, but he has given no authority whatever for this signification of the word whiffle. His dictum therefore can hardly be received, and the less as Minshew (sub voce) explains Whiffler by "bastionero," i.e. a staff-bearer, an interpretation which to my mind is fully borne out by Randle Holme in his description of the Printers' and Founders' May Festival-" About 10 of the clock in the morning on the feastday, the company invited meet at the place appointed, and from thence go to some church thereabouts in this following order. First 4 Whifflers (as servitures) by two and two walking before with white staves in their hands, and red and blew ribbons hung beltwise upon their shoulders; these make way for the company."-A Store House of Armoury and Blazon, by Randle Holme, book iii. chap. 3, fol. 127. It is scarcely possible with such a quotation before our eyes to put the slightest faith in Mr. Douce's unsupported assertion, although he has in part borrowed it from Warton, who in a note upon Othello explains whiffler to mean fifer. But if any thing else be wanted we find in Grose's Provincial Glossary" WHIFFLERS; Men who make way for the corporation of Norwich by flourishing their swords."-The only error of Grose is in making that to be provincial which was clearly general. Nares, who had some reading, but not a grain of common sense, and who seems