London, Volume 1

Knight, Charles


The Old Spring-Time in London.

The Old Spring-Time in London.




There was an interesting remnant of the habits and feelings of our ancestors, existing down to nearly the close of the last century, when we find it recorded that on the ,

according to annual and


custom, a number of persons went into the fields and bathed their faces with the dew of the grass, under the idea that it would render them beautiful.

And were they very far wrong? We suspect that, if the enlightened writer and the


persons had stood side by side to test the value of the custom, the latter would have had much the best of the argument. Their glowing cheeks and animated features, kissed by the young May herself in token of her approbation of such loving votaries, would certainly have put to shame his pale countenance yet heavy with sleep. Pepys, about a century and a quarter earlier, knew better than to call so beautiful a custom by so unworthy a name. He writes in his diary day,

My wife away: down with Jane and W. Hewer to Woolwich, in order to a little air, and to lie there to-night, and so to gather May-dew to-morrow morning, which

Mrs. Turner has taught her is the only thing in the world to wash her face with.

He emphatically adds,

I am contented with it


No doubt. Excellent Mrs. Turner! would there were many such teachers now! What matters it whether the dew, as was said, or the freshness and beauty of the time and season, and the exhilaration of spirits consequent upon their enjoyment in the society of the young and light-hearted,--as was doubtless thought by the chief promoters of such recreations,--was the real cause? The result was obtained, and it was left to wiser posterity to refuse

to be contented with it;

to exhibit that partial, and, considered with reference to itself only, that most unfortunate advance in philosophy, which too often pulls down without building up, and which is so very busy in the matter of human improvement, that it has not a moment to spare for human happiness. A glimpse of better things is, however, we hope, dawning; and as it has been said, in connection with literature, that no great work remains long neglected, let us hope that the statement will prove at least partially true with that greatest of practical poems--an old May-day.

The eve of May-day in London during the reign of Henry VIII. presented an animated scene. The citizens of all classes then met together in every parish, and sometimes or parishes were joined in the celebration. They then divided into companies, and repaired to the neighbouring woods and groves, some to Highgate or Hampstead, some to Greenwich, some to Shooter's Hill. There the night was spent in cutting down green boughs and branches, in preparing the May-pole, and in a variety of sports and pastimes. In the earlier part of his reign the King himself made a point of joining in these


and with as keen a relish as any of his subjects. The picturesque old chronicler, Hall, seems to have taken a particular pleasure in recording all those occasions which exhibited the more genial part of the royal disposition. In the year of the reign he writes,

The King and the Queen, accompanied with many lords and ladies, rode to the high ground of Shooter's Hill to take the open air, and as they passed by the way they espied a company of tall yeomen, clothed all in green, with green hoods and bows and arrows, to the number of

two hundred

. Then


of them, which called himself Robin Hood, came to the King, desiring him to see his men shoot, and the King was content. Then he whistled, and all the

two hundred

archers shot and loosed at once; and then he whistled again, and they likewise shot again; their arrows whistled by craft of the head, so that the noise was strange and great, and much pleased the King, the Queen, and all the company. All these archers were of the King's guard, and had thus appareled themselves to make solace to the King. Then Robin Hood desired the King and Queen to come into the green wood, and to see how the outlaws live. The King demanded of the Queen and her ladies if they durst adventure to go into the wood with so many outlaws. Then the Queen said, if it pleased him she was content. Then the horns blew till they came to the wood under Shooter's Hill, and there was an arbour made with boughs, with a hall, and a great chamber and an inner chamber, very well made, and covered with flowers and sweet herbs, which the King much praised. Then said Robin Hood, Sir, outlaws' breakfast is venison, and therefore you must be content with such fare as we use. Then the King departed and his company, and Robin Hood and his men them conducted; and as they were returning there met with them


ladies in a rich

chariot drawn with


horses, and every horse had his name on his head, and on every horse sat a lady with her name written. On the


courser, called Cawde, sate Humidite, or Humide; on the


courser, called Memeon, rode Lady Vert; on the


, called Pheaton, sate Lady Vegetave; on the


, called Rimphon, sate Lady Pleasance; on the


, called Lampace, sate Sweet Odour; and in the chair sate the Lady May, accompanied with Lady Flora, richly appareled; and they saluted the King with diverse goodly songs, and so brought him to Greenwich.


The crowds of people who had witnessed this spectacle,

to their great solace and comfort,

now returned to their own shares in the important business of the day. Let us follow of these companies. , they adorned the May-pole with flowers and foliage from end to the other, the pole itself being previously painted with the most brilliantly variegated colours. yoke of oxen were now attached to it, this May-pole being of unusual length; and each ox having a sweet nosegay of flowers tied to the tips of his horns. Men, women, and children, all dressed in their gayest habiliments, and laden with green boughs, completed
the procession, which now set forth towards the place where the pole was to be elevated. As they passed through the streets of London, they found

Each street a park,

Made green, and trimm'd with trees;


the church porches decorated

With hawthorn-buds, and sweet eglantine,

And garlands of roses :

they heard music sounding from every quarter, and here and there they beheld in their way some May-pole, preserved from the last year, already elevated, and a wide circle of beaming faces dancing round it. They looked, and hurried on to the place of their destination. The church of St. Andrew the Apostle was called St. Andrew , from the circumstance that from time immemorial a Maypole or shaft had been set up there which towered considerably it. Long streamers or flags were now attached to the pole, which was then finally reared to its proper position amidst the lusty cheers of the multitudes gathered round. Summer-halls, bowers, and arbours were now formed near it; the Lord and Lady of the May were chosen, and decorated with scarfs, ribbons, and other braveries; and then the dances, feastings, and merriment of the day fairly began. When

envious night

approached, and the bonfires were about to be lighted, the Lady of the May, with her attendant female satellites, withdrew; not, however, till she had called for

the merry youngsters,





and given

To this, a garland interwove with roses;

To that, a carved hook, or well-wrought scrip;

Gracing another with her cherry lip.


This was probably the last of the many splendid scenes which witnessed in connection with its famous May-pole, for the next May-day was that emphatically branded as

Evil May-day,

from the nature of the occurrence which signalised it. About this time it appears

a great heart-burning and malicious grudge grew amongst the Englishmen of the City of London against strangers; and namely, the artificers found themselves much aggrieved because such number of strangers were permitted to resort hither with their wares, and to exercise handicrafts, to the great hinderance and impoverishing of the King's liege people.

[n.172.2]  These feelings were fostered by John Lincoln, a broker, and Dr. Bell, a canon, who openly preached against the strangers. The latter were consequently insulted, and some of them beaten in the streets; but upon their seeking the protection of the Lord Mayor, several of the most malignant of their assailants were sent to prison.

Then suddenly,

says Stow,

rose a secret rumour, and no man could tell how it began, that, on May-day next following, the City would slay all the aliens; insomuch that divers strangers fled out of the City.

The rumour reached the ears of the King's council on May-day eve, and the attention of the Mayor and his brethren being immediately called to the circumstance, an assembly was held at the earliest possible hour to devise such measures of precaution as might appear necessary. The famous Sir Thomas More took an active part in these proceedings; which resulted in an order, delivered by each alderman personally to his ward, that no man after should stir out of the house, but keep his doors shut and his servants within until o'clock in the morning. Probably these precautions would have sufficed, but for the want of prudence in of the aldermen, who, returning from his ward just after the proclamation had been made, and finding young men playing at


bucklers in Cheap, with many others looking on, commanded them to leave off. of them asked, why? Upon which the alderman would have sent him to the Compter; but that formidable body, the 'prentices of London, was at this time in full vigour: the cry of 'Prentices 'Prentices! Clubs! Clubs! resounded through the street, and the alderman found safety only in flight. The mischief was now set on foot. The throng of excited people was swelled from all quarters; serving-men, watermen, and even courtiers, left their houses to join in the fray. The prisoners before mentioned were soon released. At Gate Sir Thomas More met them, and earnestly and kindly exhorted them to go to their respective homes. But at this moment the people within threw out stones and bats, and, among several others, hurt Nicholas Dennis, a sergeant-at-arms, who cried in a fury,

Down with them!

The doors and windows of the neighbouring houses were forced instantly, and the insides completely gutted. After that they ran into , in the neighbourhood of which dwelt a Frenchman, with whom various other foreigners lodged. This man's house they likewise spoiled. Others went to different parts, broke open the strangers' houses, and committed similar excesses. Thus they were engaged till about in the morning, when they began to withdraw. But the Mayor was on the watch, and at once captured and sent to the Tower and other places of confinement of their number, including women, and lads not above or years old. They were tried in the on the , and on the John Lincoln and some others were brought forth for execution. When the former had suffered, a respite arrived for the others. For what followed we must borrow the graphic pen of Hall, who most probably witnessed the scene he describes:--

Thursday, the

22nd day of May

, the King came into


Hall, for whom at the upper end was set a cloth of estate, and the place hanged with arras: with him went the Cardinal, the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, &c.

[n.173.1]  The Mayor and aldermen were there, in their best livery, by of the clock. Then the King commanded that all the prisoners should be brought forth. Then came in the poor younglings and old false knaves, bound in ropes, all along, after another, in their shirts, and every a halter about his neck, to the number of men and women. And when all were come before the King's presence, the Cardinal rose, laid to the Mayor and commonalty their negligence, and to the prisoners he declared they had deserved death for their offence. Then all the prisoners together cried, Mercy, gracious lord, mercy! Then the lords all together besought his Grace of mercy, at whose request the King pardoned them all. And then the Cardinal gave unto them a good exhortation, to the great gladness of the hearers. And when the general pardon was pronounced, all the prisoners shouted at once, and all together cast up their halters into the hall roof, so that the King might perceive they were none of the discreetest sort. Not the least interesting feature of this scene is the conduct of the rioters not apprehended. These sly fellows, keeping among the crowd without till they heard how matters were going,

suddenly stripped them into their shirts, with halters,

and with penitent faces took their places among the other offenders just in time to hear the pardon pronounced. The device succeeded,


and some who would certainly have otherwise been dealt with hardly, as leaders in the affair, escaped. Thus ended for the present Evil May-day. But the real punishment of the people for this outbreak was the deprivation of their popular sports which they experienced when the came round again. The great shaft of St. Andrew's lay for years unused over the doors and below the penthouses of the street. In the year of the ensuing reign, probably in consequence of some rumours as to its restoration, a fanatic clergyman preached against it at Cross.

I heard his sermon,

says Stow,

and I saw the effect that followed. For in the afternoon of that present Sunday the neighbours and tenants

over whose doors the shaft had lain, after they had dined to make themselves strong, gathered more help, and with great labour raising the shaft from the hooks whereon it had rested




years, they sawed it in pieces, every man taking for his share so much as had lain over his door and stall.

Thus was this


, as he, poor man, termed it, mangled, and after burned.

Gradually, we presume, the May-poles resumed their former ascendancy, for in the Parliamentarians ordered that

all and singular May-poles be taken down.

When Charles II. ascended the throne, the famous May-pole of was restored with great pomp and rejoicing, amidst multitudes of people, whose shouts and acclamations were heard from time to time through the whole day. When this pole had ceased to be any longer the centre of the merry May-day circles, and the interest with which it was originally regarded had faded away, it was given to Sir Isaac Newton, and by his directions removed to Wanstead to support the then largest telescope in the world.

Whilst the May-day games in the early part of Henry's reign existed in all their splendour and popularity, archery also, after a long period of continual decline, suddenly revived. What the edicts of successive monarchs, from the time of the great national victories of Cressy, Agincourt, Poitiers, down almost to the accession of Henry,--now compelling every to furnish himself with the necessary implements, now prohibiting all other sports, &c.--failed to do, was at once accomplished by the publication, through the novel agency of the press, of the ballads and traditionary stories that told of the great outlaw of Sherwood. Henceforward he and his Maid Marian generally formed companion figures in the May-day dances, and archery again became popular. The King, himself an admirable bowman, encouraged this noble amusement by every means in his power. He founded the establishment of archers, under the title of the Fraternity of St. George, who were authorized to

exercise shooting at all manner of marks and butts, and at the game of the popinjay, and other games, as at fowl and fowls, as well in the City as suburbs, and in all other places.

There was a remarkable passage in the charter, to the effect that, in case any slew another by an arrow shot in these sports, he was not to be sued or apprehended if he had immediately before he shot used the warning cry,--Fast! Scenes like that described in Hall's account of another of the King's Maying excursions must have also wonderfully popularized the revival of the use of the national weapon. On this occasion,

his Grace, being young, and not willing to be idle, rose in the morning very early to fetch May or green boughs, himself fresh and richly appareled, and clothed all his knights, squires, and gentlemen in white

satin, and all his guard and yeomen of the crown in white sarcenet. And so went every man with his bow and arrows shooting to the wood, and so repaired again to the court, every man with a green bough in his cap; and at his returning, many hearing of his going a-Maying were desirous to see him shoot; for at that --time-his- Grace shot as strong and as great a length as any of his guard. There came to his Grace a certain man with bow and arrows, and desired his Grace to take the muster of him and to see him shoot. For (as) at that time his--Grace was contented, the man put his


foot in his bosom, and so did shoot, and shot a very good shot, and well towards his mark; whereof not only his Grace, but all other, greatly marvelled. So the King gave him a reward for his so doing, which person afterwards of the people and of them in the court was called Foot in Bosom.


An incident of a somewhat similar nature led to more important results. Whilst keeping his court at Windsor, Henry caused various matches to be made, in which many of the principal archers of the day were engaged. When these had all shot, and some so well that nothing better could have been possibly anticipated, the King noticed Barlow, a member of his body-guard, who had yet to shoot.

Win them,

cried he,

and thou shalt be Duke over all archers.

Barlow did

win them,

by surpassing the best of the previous shots; and the gratified King, having commended him for his skill, on learning that he resided in , named him Duke of that place. The dukedom was, it appears, hereditary, and an annual show preserved the memory of the event. So late as we find this show kept up with extraordinary magnificence. On the of that year

the citizens set forth at their great charge a shootingmatch with much state, the Duke of


and all his nobility and officers marching through the City of London to the shooting-place. And


he gave a summons to all his Marquises, Earls, and Barons, with all their trains of archery in and about the City of London, to be in readiness to accompany him into the field, every


with a long bow and


shafts, on the aforesaid--day, to meet him in Smithfield. And so they did. The Duke with his company set forth from Merchant Tailors' Hall. There repaired unto him all those that were appointed for conducting of his person to the place of meeting, as true Barons, and a multitude of good archers in their habits, under his own ensign. Who, with sound of trumpet, drums, and other instruments, passed along

Broad Street

(where the Duke dwelt), through


, to Finsbury, and from thence to Smithfield. There was also the Marquis Barlo (who presented to his nobleness a wedge of gold, whilst a page flung abroad from a box glistering spangles), and the Marquis of Clerkenwell, with hunters, who wound their horns; and the Earl of Pancridge, and the Marquis of


, and the Marquis of Hogsden, and the Marquis of Shakelwell, and other such nobility, with all their trains, making a surprising show. For they marched in very great pomp, oddly habited, through several places and chief streets of London. The number of archers that now shot were

three thousand

. The number of them that accompanied the archers as whifflers and those that guarded them with bills was

four thousand

, besides pages and henchmen. Their attire was very gorgeous, a great many wearing chains of

gold; the number of these chains were

nine hundred and forty-two


The Duke of was not the only member of the aristocracy of archers in London formally recognised by the King. There was a Prince Arthur, at the head of another band, who held their meetings at Mile End. Coming day to see their performances, the King was so pleased that he took them under his direct patronage, and confirmed by charter their

famous order of Knights of Prince Arthur's Round Table, or Society :

and from that time, whenever he saw a

good archer indeed,

he chose him, and ordained such a for a knight of the same order. It is satisfactory to find that these contemporary, and in some respects rival potentates, and their descendants, were on exceedingly good terms. On of Prince Arthur's field-days, held in the same year as the Duke of Shoreditch's pageant just described, and with scarcely less magnificence, a deputation from the Duke presented a buck of the season to the Prince, then in his tent at Mile End, to regale him and his illustrious knights after the toils of the day.


This was the golden age of archery as an amusement; but it was almost as brief as it was brilliant. As the introduction of gunpowder had already excluded the bow from the field, so now the growth of the City absorbed after another all the places available for its pursuit as a pastime. Even in Hall and Henry VIII.'s time the system had begun of raising a hedge here, widening a ditch there, in the common fields around, but it was not as yet destined to be successful.

Before this time the towns about London, as






, and others, had so enclosed the common fields with hedges and ditches, that neither the young men of the City might shoot, nor the ancient persons might walk for their pleasure in the fields, except either their bows and arrows were broken or taken

away, or the honest and substantial persons arrested or indicted, saying that no Londoners should go out of the City but in the highways. This saying sore grieved the Londoners, and suddenly this year a great number of the City assembled themselves in a morning, and a turner in a fool's coat came crying through the city, Shovels and spades'! and so many people followed, that it was wonder; and within a short space all the hedges about the towns were cast down, and the ditches filled and everything made plain, the workmen were so diligent. The King's Council, hearing of this assembly, came to the Grey Friars and sent for the Mayor and Council of the City to know the cause, which declared to them the nuisance done to the citizens, and their commodities and liberties taken from them.

And so after the fields were never hedged.

[n.177.1]  The Chronicler's


applied to scarce half a century.

What should I speak of the ancient daily exercises in the long bow by citizens of the City,

exclaims Stow in ,

now almost clearly left off and forsaken? I overpass it. For, by the means of closing in of common grounds, our archers, for want of room to shoot abroad, creep into bowling-alleys, and ordinary dicing-houses, near home.

A few years later James I. issued a commission to

view and survey on such grounds next adjoining to the City of London and the suburbs within


miles' compass, and the same to reduce in such order and state for the archers as they were in the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII., and to cause the banks, ditches, and quicksets to be made plain and reformed.

At this period and for some time previous the great archery-grounds of London were Finsbury Fields. These extended from the open country down to the very wall of the City itself, where stood Moor Gate. The only buildings beyond Moor Gate were those scattered along a kind of avenue, then occupied by bowyers, fletchers, and stringers, but since known to fame as Grub Street, and more recently as . Beyond Grub Street the broad meadows were dotted in every direction with the archers' marks, which were pillars of stone or wood supporting a target, the whole being crowned by a representation of a flying bird, a serpent, or a swan, according to the fancy of the individuals by whom they were generally erected. There were no less than of these marks in , each being distinguished by a name, most commonly of a fanciful kind, exhibiting a strange partiality for alliteration. was called Daye's Deed, another Dunstan's Darling; others respectively, Pakes his Pillar, Partridge his Primrose. Some more than ordinarily skilful shot doubtless was often the immediate cause of the erection of a pillar. The shortest distance from to another was score yards, the greatest ! By the marks had been reduced to only, and the archers had degenerated almost in the same proportion; the greatest distance being now only , and the least about score yards. Compare this with the state of things in the reign of Henry VIII., when no man was allowed to shoot at a mark less distant than score yards; or with the almost miraculous shots mentioned in our old ballads, when a slender hazel rod was set up to be shot at yards distant! This degeneracy afforded a fair mark to another kind of archers-the satirists, with whom Finsbury Fields and their visitors became a continual theme of amusement. of them writes-


Now lean Attorney, that his cheese

Ne'er par'd, nor verses took for fees;

And aged Proctor, that controls

The feats of punck in court of Paul's;

Do each with solemn oath agree

To meet in Fields of Finsbury :

With loins in canvass bow-case tyed,

Where arrows stick with mickle pride;

With hats pinn'd up, and bow in hand,

All day most fiercely there they stand,

Like ghosts of Adam Bell and Clymme:

Sol sets for fear they'll shoot at him.D'Avenant's Long Vacation. Works, 1673, p. 289.

The combination of the wits and their old and untiring enemies, the builders, was too much for the Finsbury archers. Charles I. issued a commission similar to that of his father; but still the work of innovation went on. The archers then once more took the matter in their own hands, and made visits every now and then to level hedges, fill up ditches, and replace marks; but at last they grew tired even of that method. The year saw the last effort of the kind they made.

The bowling-alleys, to which Stow says the archers were driven, were by no means a novelty in England, although from this period more attention was paid to the game. Stow gives elsewhere a striking proof of the justness of his complaint

concerning bowling-alleys and dicing-houses. He says that , in , being deserted by its noble owners, the Percy family,


in the reign of Henry VII., the gardens were converted into bowling-alleys, and the other parts of the estate into dicing-houses. In the following century the bowling-greens of London were the admiration of all foreigners.

Among the other sports contemporaneous with the May-games, and no doubt generally introduced into them, the principal next to archery were quarterstaff, wrestling, and the different varieties of sports with the ball. Mixed with them were the grosser excitements of cock-fighting and bull and bear baiting. All these old English sports remained in the century pretty much in the same state as when they were noticed by Fitz-Stephen in the . Before we say anything of these, however, we must mention an amusement which more than any of them carries us back to the poetical freshness of those olden times. Fitz-Stephen speaks of the youths using their bucklers like fighting-men, and the maidens

dancing and tripping till moonlight;

but Stow gives us the entire picture.

The youths of this city also have used on holidays after evening prayer, at their masters' doors, to exercise their wasters and bucklers; and the maidens,


of them playing on a timbrel in sight of their masters and dames, to dance for garlands hanged athwart the streets.

Stow had a painter's eye and a poet's feeling; let us add, also, that later

moralists might have taken home some of his lessons with advantage. Continuing the same subject, he says,

which open pastimes in my youth, being now

suppressed, worser practices within doors are to be feared.

A sport practised till very recently at our country fairs was for many centuries a great favourite. We allude to the manly game of quarter-staff, so often mentioned in the Robin Hood ballads as of the chief instruments, next to--the bow, with which the mighty archer exhibited his versatile prowess; although it is curious enough, by the bye, to notice how often he was beat at it, whilst engaged in enlisting recruits for Sherwood. This truly formidable weapon, which appears to have belonged almost exclusively to our own country, was firmly grasped in the middle by hand, whilst the other shifted to and fro towards either extremity, according as the or the other was to be brought suddenly down upon the exposed head or shoulders of the unfortunate antagonist. The great characteristic of the quarterstaff was its large compass both for attack and defence; with a turn of the wrist a wide circle was described, through which it was difficult to enter, but from which it was easy to strike when the slightest inattention of eye or hand invited the blow.

Next to archery, wrestling appears to have engaged the especial favour of the civic authorities. On the feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle the Lord Mayor went out into the precincts of the City, most probably into Finsbury Fields, with his sceptre, sword, and cap borne before him, and followed by the aldermen in scarlet gowns with golden chains, himself and they all on horseback. A tent being pitched for their reception, the people began to wrestle before them, at a time. After all was over, a parcel of live rabbits was turned loose among the crowd for their especial amusement. It is a curious study to trace through the old records the existence of what we may call the parochial feeling, which arrayed on these great public festivals the players of parish or district against another, and to see the ludicrous disputes to which it often led. But sometimes the jealousy assumed a deeper cast, and presented scenes belonging rather to a tragedy than a farce. Stow has preserved the memory of of these scenes, which is too interesting in itself, as well as too characteristic of the times, to be omitted here.



, on St. James's-day, the citizens kept games of defence and wrestlings near to the hospital of Matilda, at St. Giles in the Fields, where they challenged and had the mastery of the men in the suburbs, and other commoners. The bailiff of


, devising to be revenged, proclaimed a game to be at


upon Lammas-day; whereunto the citizens willingly repaired. When they had played awhile, the bailiff with the men of the suburbs harnessed themselves treacherously, and fell to such fighting that the citizens (being sore wounded) were forced to run into the city, where they rung the common bell, and assembled the citizens in great numbers. When the matter was declared, every man wished to revenge the fact; but the Lord Mayor of the City, being a wise and quiet man, willed them


to move the Abbot of


in the matter, and if he would promise to see amends made it was sufficient. But a certain citizen, named Constantine Fitz-Arnulit, willed that all the houses of the abbot and bailiff should be pulled down. Which desperate words were no sooner spoken, but the common people (as unadvisedly) issued forth of the City without any order, and fought a cruel battle, Constantine pulling down divers houses; and the people (as praising Constantine) cried

The Joy of the Mountain, the Joy of the Mountain; God help, and the Lord Lodowike!

The abbot, coming to London to complain, hardly escaped with life through the back door of the house where he was. Ultimately, Hubert de Burgh, with a great army of men, came to the Tower, obtained possession of Constantine, whom he hung with


others, and so put an end to the wrestling fray.

The writer who has left us so interesting though brief a description of London in the century, Fitz-Stephen, says, with reference to the very ancient game of foot-ball,--

After dinner, all the youth of the City goeth to play at the ball in the fields; the scholars of every study have their balls. The practisers also of all the trades have every


their ball in their hands. The ancienter sort, the fathers, and the wealthy citizens, come on horseback to see their youngsters contending at their sport, with whom in a manner they participate by motion; stirring their own natural heat in the view of the active youth, with whose mirth and liberty they seem to communicate.

centuries later we find the same game played in .[n.181.1]  Every will remember the famous passage in Shakspere concerning tennis-balls, where, the Dauphin of France having, in reply to Henry V.'s demand of the sovereignty of France, sent a present of tennis-balls, Henry quietly remarked,

When we have matched our rackets to these balls, we will in France, by God's grace, play a set shall strike his father's crown into the hazard.

These are almost the words of the old chroniclers; and this is the historical English notice of the game, which we find to have been subsequently much favoured by the court from the time of Prince Henry (the son of James I.) to Charles II., who was so ardent a player, that on occasion, having caused himself to be weighed before and after, he found he had lost during the game and a half. Charles was also a great patronizer of the game of pall-mall, which consisted in striking a ball through a hoop suspended from a pole. The place where he generally pursued this sport still bears its name--the in . With all their vices, and they were neither light nor few, Charles and his courtiers were certainly free from any touch of effeminacy. Their sinews relaxed not in the siren's lap. Rochester himself performed some of the most extraordinary feats in swimming ever witnessed; and other courtiers day for a wager, in the presence of Charles, ran down a stout buck in , and held him fast prisoner. It is a pity that the

merry monarch

did not confine his patronage to such innocent sports alone. Bull and bear baiting, and cock-fighting, put down by Cromwell and the Puritans (who went to the very fountain-head of the practical part of the evil by killing all the bears), now again broke forth in all their enormity. Indeed, still more infamous feature was added--the baiting of a horse. Evelyn was present at of these exhibitions, when the horse beat off every assailant, and was at last, to gratify the revolting appetites of the spectators, stabbed with knives. need scarcely wonder, however, that the English character remained so long debased by these brutalities, when we find from Fitz-Stephen that children were positively trained in the century to the enjoyment of cock-fighting. He says,

Yearly at

Shrovetide the boys of every school bring fighting-cocks to their masters, and all the forenoon is spent at school to see those cocks fight together.

With the close of the century may be said to have also departed the old popular sports of England. The May-day amusements had then entirely disappeared, unless we may consider as exceptions the


bathers in the dew before mentioned, the milk-maids who danced some time longer with their pails hung round with wreaths of flowers, or the sweeps in all their dusky splendour, who continue dancing still. People now, instead of hurrying forth at sun-rise to Greenwich and Shooter's Hill, repaired at a more fashionable hour to the velvet lawns and shady avenues of , or went at sun-set to Ranelagh and , to enjoy their music, fire-works, and water-works, their wonderful mechanism, their extraordinary cascades, and their trees with thousands of lamps glowing as resplendently as Aladdin's famous fruit in the cave. The archers' meetings had then given place to shooting-matches, of the kind described in an advertisement of the period:

A stall-fed fat deer to be shot for at the Greyhound in


, on Wednesday in Whitsun week, for half a crown a man;


men to shoot.

Then bowls, which had usurped the place of archery in the popular estimation, saw itself in course of being thrust aside by skittles. The ball games had merged into cricket, which was then played by the 'prentices in the porches of Covent Garden. This excellent sport, now the only generally popular we possess, has feature deserving especial notice; we allude to that social admixture of all classes, from the nobleman to the ploughman, sometimes exhibited in the array of players of the different clubs, even in places like Hampstead Heath, but much more commonly in the rural districts of England. Lastly, it was about this period that quarter-staff and wrestling changed into single-stick and prize-fights. The principal weapons at this latter amusement were broad-sword, and sword and dagger; and the combatants were persons who engaged in it as a regular trade, supporting themselves by the subscription purses which occasionally rewarded their exertion, and by the more regular fees paid for admission. Many of these men rambled about the country like so many knights-errant, seeking adventures, and making the quiet little country villages resound again with their boasting challenges. Here is a picture of a prizefight in London:--Seats filled and crowded by , drums beat, dogs yelp, butchers and foot-soldiers clatter their sticks; at last the heroes, in their fine-bosomed holland shirts, mount the stage about ; cut large collops out of another to divert the mob, and make work for the surgeons; smoking, swearing, drinking, thrusting, justling, elbowing, sweating, kicking, cuffing, all the while the company stays. In the early part of the eighteenth century, Figg, the immortalized of Hogarth, who had previously taught the use of the singlestick and small-sword, began to give lessons in boxing, which soon became the great popular amusement of the people of London. It was encouraged by the magistrates, with the idea of its tending to produce a general manliness of character; and patronised by the great on account of its affording a new opportunity of gratifying their taste for gambling. The Duke of Cumberland, the hero of Culloden, lost some thousands of pounds by the defeat of Broughton, of the chief pugilists of the day. The challenges of these gentry were, at this time, regularly


published in the daily prints; and a few striking specimens of their flowery eloquence and modesty might be culled from those sources. The following is but a mild specimen:--

Whereas I, William Willis, commonly called by the name of the fighting Quaker, have fought Mr. Smallwood about


months since, and held him the tightest to it, and bruised and battered more than any


he ever encountered, though I had the ill fortune to be beat by an accidental fall; the said Smallwood, flushed with the success blind Fortune then gave him, and the weak attempts of a few vain Irishmen and boys, that have of late fought him for a minute or


, makes him think himself unconquerable; to convince him of the faulty of which I invite him to fight me for

one hundred pounds

, at the time and place above mentioned, when I doubt not I shall prove the truth of what I have asserted by pegs, darts, hard blows, falls, and cross-buttocks.

Blind Fortune

still refused to open her eyes. The fighting Quaker was again vanquished. We have dwelt somewhat upon this subject not merely because it so long and deeply interested the people of London, but also because of the contrast it presents to the delightful amusements of the same people centuries earlier. Happily it no longer attracts its thousands of spectators. The pickpockets, whether on or off the stages of these disgusting exhibitions, seek elsewhere, rather than in the pleasant meadows of the counties around London, for a profitable sphere of exertion. Pugilism is gone, bull and bear baiting are gone, cock-fighting is gone. We have then nothing to undo, however much there may be to do in the way of establishing sports worthy of the epithet National. The step the popular sports was the shutting up and building over the old places fitted for their exercise; may not the last them be the re-opening of new ones? A general desire now exists among all classes for open public places and walks, and some individuals have nobly distinguished themselves by providing them. Lord Holland gave the public place near Ampthill but or years since; Mr. Strutt another, still more recently, at Derby; and it is said the Duke of Norfolk has announced his intention of following their example at Sheffield. In London, the has been for some time partially thrown open. An entirely new park is also about to be formed for the East of London; and lastly, has been already purchased, and rendered the property of the people for ever. From walking in these places to playing in them (at certain times and under certain regulations of course) will be no very difficult transition. Would there be less delight or more evil in seeing the countless thousands of our hard-working population flocking into the Regent's or to play at cricket, to run, or to leap, than, as at present, to skate? or in making holidays depend upon a less precarious authority than the weather? The feeling which chokes up our bridge-ways with eager faces, till they overflow the very parapets, to look at a boat-race, requires but a fair opportunity of development to produce an incalculable amount of innocent enjoyment. Let that opportunity be afforded, and we do not despair of seeing

Merry England

more than ever deserve that name; or that the time shall come when every man will, as of old,

walk into the sweet meadows and green woods, there to rejoice his spirits with the beauty and savour of sweet flowers, and with the noise of birds, praising God in their kind,



on each May-day; or when London shall again present some such refreshing glimpses of a happy population as that here shown. The modes in which a spirit of enjoyment develops itself are, of course, transitory; but the spirit itself, when once awakened, is permanent, and creates for itself modes adapted to the character of an age. What the working population have been accustomed to waste in gross excitements would buy them many holidays of innocent, and manly, and tasteful pleasures.


[n.171.1] Hall's Chronicle, p. 589.

[n.172.1] Browne's Pastorals.

[n.172.2] Stow, b. i. p. 253.

[n.173.1] Hall, p. 591.

[n.175.1] Hall, p. 515.

[n.177.1] Hall, p. 568.

[n.181.1] See Clean your Honour's Shoes, p. 21.

[n.183.1] Stow.