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trace a very tedious retrospective course, perhaps to return at last, weary and unsatisfied, from researches as fruitless as those of some ancient enthusiastic traveller, who, ranging the barren African sands, had in vain attempted to investigate the hidden sources of the Nile.

Rugged, however, and narrow as this walk of study may seem to many, yet must it be acknowledged that Fancy, who shares with Hope the pleasing office of brightening a passage through every route of human endeavours, opens from hence, too, prospects that are enriched with the choicest beauties of her magic creation.

The prime origin of the superstitious notions and ceremonies of the people is absolutely unattainable. We must despair of ever being able to reach the fountain-head of streams which have been running and increasing from the beginning of time.1 All that we can aspire to do is only to trace their

1 Misson, in his Travels in England, translated by Ozell, p. 66, has some sensible observations upon customs. "All reasonable people will imagine," he says, "that, as there is man and man, so there is custom and custom. It has been in all ages a practice to talk and write upon the manners and customs of different nations; but it has also in all ages been known that there was nothing so general as not to admit of some exception. By degrees, customs alter in the very same country, conformably to the quality and education of the inhabitants. By a nation we always understand the greater number; and this greater number is not made up of the persons of the highest birth or merit, no more than it is of the beggars and scoundrels that compose the lees and chaff of the country. It consists of the people that live in a certain state of mediocrity, and whose humour, taste, and manners, as to certain respects, differ from each other only as to more or less."

White, in his Natural History of Selborne, p. 202, observes: "It is the hardest thing in the world to shake off superstitious prejudices: they are sucked in as it were with our mother's milk; and, growing up with us at a time when they take the fastest hold and make the most lasting impressions, become so interwoven with our very constitutions, that the strongest sense is required to disengage ourselves from them. No wonder, therefore, that the lower people retain them their whole lives through, since their minds are not invigorated by a liberal education, and therefore not enabled to make any efforts adequate to the occasion. Such a preamble seems to be necessary before we enter on the superstitions of this district, lest we should be suspected of exaggeration in a recital of practices too gross for this enlightened age."

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Superstition," says Mr. Harris, in the Life of Charles I., p. 52, note, "is a debasement of reason and religion; 'tis entertaining_misapprehensions of Almighty God; 'tis the practice of things weak and ridiculous, in

courses backward, as far as possible, on those charts that now remain of the distant countries whence they were first perceived to flow.

Few who are desirous of investigating the popular notions and vulgar ceremonies of our own nation can fail of deducing them, in their first direction, from the time when Popery was our established religion.' We shall not wonder that these were able to survive the Reformation, when we consider that, though our own sensible and spirited forefathers were, upon conviction, easily induced to forego religious tenets which had been weighed in the balance and found wanting, yet were the bulk of the people by no means inclined to annihilate the seemingly innocent ceremonies of their former superstitious

order to please Him, whereby it excites in the mind chimerical hopes, illgrounded fears, and vain expectations: in short, it is weakness, attended with uneasiness and dread, and productive of confusion and horror. Every one knows the mischiefs superstition has produced in the world; gods of all sorts and kinds: sacrifices of beasts and men; rites, ceremonies, and postures; antic tricks and cruel torments; with every other thing which, from time to time, has been falsely called by the name of religion, have arose from hence. It took its rise early in the world, and soon spread itself over the face of the earth; and few, very few, were there who were wholly free from it. The doctrine of Christ, indeed, was calculated to destroy its dominion, and to restore religion to its original lustre : yet, notwithstanding this, superstition very soon found an entrance among Christians, and at length encreased to an enormous size. The reformation of religion and the revival of letters were somewhat unfriendly to it; but whether it be the craft of those who subsist by the credulity and ignorance of others, or whether it be a proneness in men to superstition, or their laziness and inattention to other than sensible objects-I say, whether it be owing to one or all of these causes, superstition remained still alive, and shewed itself even among those who gloried that they had got rid of the Papal yoke."

A sensible writer in the Gent. Mag. for July 1783, vol. liii. p. 577, says: "I have often wished to know the first foundation of several popular customs, appropriated to particular seasons, and been led to think however widely they may have deviated from their original design and meaning, of which we have now wholly lost sight, they are derived from some religious tenets, observances, or ceremonies. I am convinced that this is the case in Catholic countries, where such like popular usages, as well as religious ceremonies, are more frequent than amongst us; though there can be little doubt but that the customs I refer to, and which we retain, took their rise whilst these kingdoms were wholly Catholic, immersed in ignorance and superstition." See a further quotation from this writer's remarks under the head of Shere Thursday, in the present volume, p. 149.


These, consecrated to the fancies of the multitude by a usage from time immemorial, though erased by public authority from the written word, were committed as a venerable deposit to the keeping of oral tradition; and like the penates of another Troy, recently destroyed, were religiously brought off, after having been snatched out of the smoking ruins of Popery. It is not improbable, indeed, but that, in the infancy of Protestantism, the continuance of many of them was connived at by the state. For men, who "are but children of a larger growth," are not to be weaned all at once; and the reformation both of manners and religion is always most surely established when effected by slow degrees, and, as it were, imperceptible gradations.

Thus, also, at the first promulgation of Christianity to the Gentile nations, though the new converts yielded through the force of truth to conviction, yet they could not be persuaded to relinquish many of their superstitions, which, rather than forego altogether, they chose to blend and incorporate with their new faith.

And hence it is that Christian, or rather Papal, Rome has borrowed her rites, notions, and ceremonies, in the most luxuriant abundance, from ancient and Heathen Rome,2 and that much the greater number of those flaunting externals which Infallibility has adopted by way of feathers to adorn the triple Cap, have been stolen out of the wings of the dying Eagle.

With regard to the rites, sports, &c. of the common people, I am aware that the morose and bigoted part of mankind,

It is wittily observed by Fuller, Ch. Hist., p. 375, that, as careful mothers and nurses, on condition they can get their children to part with knives, are contented to let them play with rattles, so they permitted ignorant people still to retain some of their fond and foolish customs, that they might remove from them the most dangerous and destructive superstitions.

"In proof of this assertion, see Dr. Middleton's curious letter from Rome. 3 In A Disputation betwixt the Devil and the Pope, &c., 4to. Lond. 1642, signat. A 3, to the Pope's inquiry, "What Factious Spirits doe in England dwell?" the Devil answers :

"Few of your party: they are gone as wide,

As most report, and mad on t'other side;

There, all your bookes and beades are counted toyes,

Altars and tapers are pull'd downe by boyes,

without distinguishing between the right use and the abuse of such entertainments, cavil at and malign them: yet must such be told that shows and sports have been countenanced in all ages, and that too by the best and wisest of states; and though it cannot be denied that they have sometimes been prostituted to the purposes of riot and debauchery, yet, were we to reprobate everything that has been thus abused, religion itself could not be retained: perhaps, indeed, we should be able to keep nothing.

The common people, confined by daily labour, seem to require their proper intervals of relaxation; perhaps it is of the highest political utility to encourage innocent sports and games among them. The revival of many of these would, I think, be highly pertinent at this particular juncture, when the general spread of luxury and dissipation threatens more than at any preceding period to extinguish the character of our boasted national bravery. For the observation of an honest old writer, Stow (who tells us, speaking of the May games, Midsummer Eve rejoicings, &c., anciently used in the streets of London, "which open pastimes2 in my youth


Discord they say doth so possesse the land,

'Tis thought they will not let the organs stand,
The cleane-washt surples which our priests put on,
There is the smock o' th' Whore of Babylon,

And I have had report by those have seen them,

They breake the windows 'cause the Saints are in them:

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I call to mind here the pleasing account Sterne has left us, in his Sentimental Journey, of the grace-dance after supper. I agree with that amiable writer in thinking that Religion may mix herself in the dance, and that innocent cheerfulness forms no inconsiderable part of devotion; such, indeed, cannot fail of being grateful to the Good Being, as it is a silent but eloquent mode of praising him.

2 "The youths of this city," he says, "have used on holidays, after evening prayer, at their master's door, to exercise their wasters and bucklers; and the maidens, one of them playing on a timbrel, in sight of their masters and dames, to dance for garlands hanged athwart the streets." Strype's edit. of Stow's Survey, book i. p. 251.

† See more of the Puritan detestation of the Cross-form in the present volume, 156.

being now supprest, worse practices within doors are to be feared,") may with too singular propriety be adopted on the most transient survey of our present popular manners.1

Bourne, my predecessor in this walk, has not, from whatever cause, done justice to the subject he undertook to treat of. Let it not be imputed to me that I am so vain as to think that I have exhausted it, for the utmost of my pretensions is to the merit of having endeavoured, by making additions and alterations, to methodise and improve it. I think it justice to add, too, that he was deserving of no small share of praise for his imperfect attempt, for "much is due to those who first broke the way to knowledge, and left only to their successors the task of smoothing it."

New and very bright lights have appeared since his time. The English antique has become a general and fashionable study: and the discoveries of a chartered Society of Antiquaries, patronised by the best of monarchs, and boasting among its members some of the greatest ornaments of the British empire, have rendered the recesses both of Papal and Heathen Antiquities much easier of access.

I shall presume to flatter myself that I have, in some measure, turned all these circumstances to advantage. I have gleaned passages that seemed to throw light upon the subject, as my numberless citations will evince, from an immense variety of volumes, both printed and manuscript; and those written too in several languages: in the doing of which, if I shall not be found to have deserved the praise of judgment, I must at least make pretensions to the merit of industry.

Elegance of composition will hardly be expected in a work of this nature,2 which seems to stand much less in need of

1 The Rev. Mr. Ledwich, in his Statistical Account of the Parish of Aghaboe in the Queen's County, Ireland, 8vo. Dubl. 1796, tells us, p. 95: "A delineation of the customs and manners of the people of this parish would seem to be a proper and interesting addition to this work. This I should have attempted, did their peculiarity demand notice. The national character of the original natives is, with us, entirely lost. Their diversions of foot-ball and hurling are seldom practised, or their ancient customs at marriages and interments." It must not, however, be dissembled that the learned writer is of opinion that the change is for the better.

2 In general it may be observed that readers, provided with keen appetites for this kind of entertainment, must content themselves with the homely manner of serving it up to them. Indeed, squeamishness in this

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