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NEW CURIOSITIES OF LITERATURE AND BOOK OF THE MONTHS.
D'ISRAELI rendered "the Curiosities of Literature" so interesting, that Mr. Soane has done well to avail himself of the attraction the very title affords. Here, however, the resemblance between the two writers ends. Their objects are altogether different, and their plan and style equally dissimilar. For the anecdotal, gossiping pages of the senior illustrator, Mr. Soane offers deep research, great antiquarian knowledge, and a thorough acquaintance with the ceremonies, customs, and manners of the olden time, from which patient investigation and extensive reading have enabled him to elicit facts of the deepest interest to the historical enquirer.
The book comprises twelve divisions, each devoted to a particular month, descriptive of its origin, name, Saints' days, festivals, traditions, and customs; antiquarian and historical illustrations enrich every description, and the whole forms one of the most valuable works that has for a length of time issued from the press.
We can make but one extract, and that shall refer to the coming festival of Christmas :
"CHRISTMAS EVE; December 24th.-In the primitive church Christmas Day was always observed as a Sabbath, and hence, like other Lord's-Days, it was preceded by an Eve or Vigil as an occasion of preparing for the day following. No festival of the church was attended by more popular superstitions and observances, the ceremonies of the Saturnalia from which it was derived being improved upon by Christian and Druidical additions. The day of this Vigil was passed in the ordinary manner, but with the evening the sports began; about seven or eight o'clock hot cakes were drawn from the oven; ale, cyder, and spirits, went freely round; and the carol-singing commenced, which was continued through the greater part of the night.
"The connection of this festival with the Roman Saturnalia has never been disputed by those competent to form a judgment, and in some existing observances in Franconia the traces of it are undeniable. In the nights of the three Thursdays preceding the nativity, the young of either sex go about beating at the doors of the houses singing the near birth of our Saviour, and wishing the inhabitants a happy new year, for which, in return, they are presented with pears, apples, nuts, and money. With what joy in the churches not only the priests, but the people also, receive the birth-day of Christ may be inferred from this, that the image of a new-born child being placed upon the altar, they dance and chaunt as they circle round it, while the elders sing much as the Corybantes are fabled to have exulted about the crying Jove in the cavern of Mount Ida.
"In addition to what has been here advanced, we have the unquestionable authority of Bede for asserting that it had been observed in this country long before by the heathen Saxons. They called it, he says, the Mother-Night, or Night of Mothers, and probably on account of the ceremonies used by them during their vigil. But, in fact, though particular portions of this festival may be traced to the Romans or to the ancient Saxons, the root of the whole affair lies much deeper, and is to be sought in far remoter periods. It was clearly in its origin an astronomical observance to celebrate the Winter Solstice and the consequently approaching prolongation of the days, as is demonstrated by the emblematic Christmas candles and Yule-logs, the symbols of increasing light and heat.
"CHRISTMAS DAY.—December 25. There is much doubt as to the origin of this festival. The earliest churchman who makes any mention of it is Theo
philus, bishop of Antioch, about the year 170, in his paschal letter, and for the first four centuries it was far from being universally celebrated. It is even a matter of great uncertainty when it should be kept, and Cassian tells us that the Egyptians observed the Epiphany, the Nativity, and Baptism of Christ on the same day; while modern chronologists, at the head of whom is Scaliger, agree that Christ was born at the end of September or the beginning of October, about the time of the Jewish Feast of the Tabernacles.
"In the earlier ages this day was called in the Eastern Church the Epiphany, or Manifestation of the Light, a name which was subsequently given to Twelfth Night. On this occasion it was used allusively to the birth of Christ, and hence also came the custom, which prevailed in the ancient church, of lighting up candles at the reading of the gospels even at mid-day, partly to testify the general joy, and partly to symbolize the new light that was shining on mankind. The fact is incidently mentioned by Jerome while defending the worship of relicks and dead men's bones against the attacks of Vigilantius, who, it seems had loudly protested against any such practice on the heretical plea that the intercession of the saints was useless. But Vigilantius was altogether a doubtful character; he maintained that it was idle to burn wax-tapers by day-light, that alms ought not to be sent to Jerusalem, that clerical celibacy was abominable, and the retirement of monks into the deserts and solitudes was no better. No wonder that the wrath of the mild and gentle Jerome should blaze forth as it did against such doctrines as these; a saint may be provoked, if we can believe the proverb.
"This day was also called Theopany, which means much the same thing as Epiphany, but which can hardly be traced beyond the time of St. Basil.
"Christmas would also appear to have been called Noel or Nowel, though this latter word was used with three or four very different meanings.
"First, it signified the season of Christmas, that is to say the time of the festival commemorative of Christ's nativity; thus in the old French proverb, on a tant crie Noël qu'enfin il est venu-literally, we have cried out Christmas so long that it has come at last-but meaning to imply we have talked of a thing so long that at last it has happened.
Secondly, it signifies a carol, when that word is restricted in its use to a song, or hymn upon the nativity, but, as we shall presently see, the carol was sung at other seasons also; thus for example, Les Noëls du Sieur François Colletet sont de plaisans Noëls.
"Thirdly, it signifies news or tidings; as for instance,
"I come from Heaven to tell
The best nowellis that ever befell;
Fourthly, it was used merely as an exclamation of joy, if, indeed, it would not still seem to be employed as before, News! news! thus,
"Nowell! nowell! nowell! nowell!
Who ys ther that syngyt so, nowell! nowell?'
But though this would appear to be one and the same word, only used in different senses, I cannot help suspecting that we have two words sprung from very different roots and corrupted by time into the same mode of writing and pronouncing. Noël, when signifying 'tidings,' is likely enough to have come from the French nouvelles, though I would not venture to affirm it; but in the other cases, I have no doubt whatever as to its origin; and in defiance of so many opposite derivations assert that Noël is neither more nor less than a corruption of Yole, Yule, Gale, or Ule, for it was written in all these ways; the addition of N to words beginning with a vowel is so common in our old writers that few can be ignorant of it, and the phrase is just as applicable to Christmas as it was to Midsummer, seeing that at either time it bore a reference to the solstice. From having been used to designate Christmas, we may easily imagine how it came to be applied to the songs of the season, and even from frequent repetition to become a mere cry of joy. I am the more confirmed in
my notion by the fact that yol, or yule, so repeatedly occurs as a simple exclamation, either to express boisterous mirth or as an accompaniment to some superstitious ceremony. As to Todd's derivation of the word from the Hebrew GNOUL, a child, it is too absurd for argument.
Among the Anglo-Saxons this day was the beginning of the year; and in the shows of a later, but still remote, time, Christmas was personified in his pageant by an old man hung round with savoury dainties.'
"No sooner had midnight passed, and the Day of the Nativity commenced, than the people hastened to welcome it with carols, and these, as Bourne tells us, were generally sung with some others from the nativity to the Twelveth Day, the continuance of Christmas.' In the present day, the place of the carols is supplied amongst the higher and middling classes by tunes played just before midnight by the so-called Waits, whilst the carols themselves are annually published in the humblest form, and with the coarsest wood cuts, for amusement of the people.
"On the Christmas Day these carols used at one time to take the place of psalms in the churches, and more particularly at the afternoon service, the whole congregation joining in them. At the end of the carol the clerk would declare, in a loud voice, his wishes for a merry Christmas and a happy new year to all the parishioners.
Carol-singing was, and still is, a custom on the continent, as we find mentioned in Lady Morgan's ITALY; and, though now it is confined with us to the humbler classes, yet in former times it amused the highest. 'At the table,' says Leland, in the medell of the hall sat the Deane and thoos of the king's chapell, whiche incontynently after the king's furst course singe a carall.'
"In conclusion, so far as regards this part of my subject, I am tempted to say a few words upon the etymology of CAROL. Johnson would seem to be unquestionably right in deducing it from the Italian, carola, though carola does not mean a song, but 'a round dance accompanied by song,' being itself derived from the Greek xopos or the Latin chorus, both of which equally signified mixture of song and dance. It is true that carol is restricted in its meaning to song only, but precisely the same limitation of sense has happened with the word chorus, which has been borrowed from the same original, and which yet, with us, excludes all idea of dancing. The only thing that appears to militate against the supposition is, that we have in the middle-age Latinity the word carola with four very different meanings. In the barbarous language of the cloisters, it signified:-1st, a balustrade or railing-2ndly, a procession around chapels enclosed within railings-3rdly, a chest to hold writing materials, with a lock and key, such as was forbidden to be kept in the monks' dormitories without especial permission of the Abbot-and lastly, it was used for some smaller specimens of gold or silver work, but of what particular kind it is impossible to say. Now the connexion between this word and our carol is by no means evident, and yet, the two being so exactly similar in sound and spelling, one cannot altogether get rid of the idea of their somehow being the same, though to all appearance so completely sundered by difference of meaning.
"The earliest known collection of carols supposed to have been published is only known from the last leaf of a volume, printed by Wynkin de Worde in 1521. It is now in the Bodleian Library, and has two carols upon it; the one a caroll of huntynge' reprinted in the last edition of Juliana Berners' 'Boke of St. Albans; the other, a Caroll on bringing up a bore's head to the table on Christmas Day,' which is given by Ritson in the second volume of his Ancient Songs, p. 14. The carol, however, as it is now heard at Queen's College, Oxford, differs much from the old version, and is sung every Christmas Day in the Hall to the common chaunt of the prose version of the psalms in Cathedrals.*
The bores-heed in hand bring I,
The bores-heed, I understande,
Be gladde, lordes, both more and lasse,
The Carol as sung at Queen's College, Oxford, and given in Dibdin's Ames. Vol. ii. p. 252.
The boar's-head in hand bear I,
Caput Apri defero
The boar's-head, as I understand,
Our steward hath provided this
Caput Apri defero
Anderson, Mrs. Mary, of Belle Vue, Coupar Angus, co. Perth, widow of Dr. John Anderson, 2nd Nov.
Byng, Miss, elder sister of the late Geo.
bers was eldest son of the late Sir Samuel Chambers, of Bredgar House, Kent, by Barbara, his wife, dau. of the Hon. Philip Roper, and nephew of Mr. Chambers, the Banker, of Bond-street, whose misfortunes are so well known. Chisenhale, John Chisenhale, Esq.,at Arley Hall, Lancashire, 27th Oct., aged 58. This gentleman, whose patronymic was Johnson, assumed the surname of Chisenhale on succeeding to the es tates of his maternal ancestors, one of whom was the famous Colonel Chisenhale, so distinguished as one of the defenders of Lathom House, under the heroic Countess of Derby. Chisholm, Alexander, Esq., Cor. Mem. F.S.A., Sc., at Rothsay, Isle of Bute. Clarke, Charlotte, relict of William Stanley Clarke, Esq., 12th Nov., at Letherhead, aged 70. Cochrane, Maria, relict of James Coch
rane, Esq., at Wilton-street, 7th Nov. Cole, Lady Frances, relict of the late
Gen. the Hon. Sir I. Lowry Cole, 1st Nov., aged 64. Her Ladyship was relict of the late eminently distinguished officer, Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole, and second dau. of James, 1st Earl of Malmesbury, the celebrated diplomatist of the reign of George III. Lady Frances was born 22nd of August, 1784, and married 15th June, 1815. She leaves three sons (the eldest, Arthur Lowry Cole, a Captain in the 69th), and four daughters.
Coleman, Mathew Leonard, Esq., of the
ing the Durapore division of the Bengal Army, 27th Aug., aged 67. Cornwallis, the Countess of, 4th Nov., aged 37. The death of this estimable lady took place at St. Leonard's-onSea, after a lengthened illness, at the early age of thirty-seven. Her Ladyship was fourth daughter of Thomas