Page images
PDF
EPUB

figuring at cross-hands and right and left; the dark ages were cutting pirouettes and rigadoons; and the days of Queen Bess, jigging merrily down the middle, through a line of succeeding generations.

The worthy 'Squire contemplated these fantastic sports, and this resurrection of his old wardrobe, with the simple relish of childish delight. He stood chuckling and rubbing his hands, and scarcely hearing a word the parson said, notwithstanding that the latter was discoursing most authentically on the ancient and stately dance of the Pavon, or peacock, from which he conceived the minuet to be derived.* For my part, I was in a continual excitement from the varied scenes of whim and innocent gayety passing before me.

It was inspiring to see wild-eyed frolic and warm-hearted hospitality breaking out from among the chills and glooms of winter, and old age throwing off his apathy, and catching once more the freshness of youthful enjoyment. I felt also an interest in the scene, from the consideration that these fleeting customs were posting fast into oblivion, and that this was, perhaps, the only family in England in which the whole of them were still punctiliously observed. There was a quaintness too, mingled with all this

* Sir John Hawkins, speaking of the darce called the Pavon, from pavo, a peacock, says, “ It is a grave ana majestic dance; the method of dancing it anciently was by gentlemen dressed with caps and swords, by those of the long robe in their gowns, by the peers in their mantles, and by the ladies in gowns with long trains, the motion whereof, in dancing, resembled that of a peacock.”History of Music.

revelry, that gave it a peculiar zest: it was suited to the time and place; and as the old Manor-house almost reeled with mirth and wassail, it seemed echoing back the joviality of long-departed years.

But enough of Christmas and its gambols: it is time for me to pause in this garrulity. Methinks I hear the question asked by my graver readers, “ To what purpose is all this—how is the world to be made wiser by this talk ?" Alas! is there not wisdom enough extant for the instruction of the world? And if not, are there not thousands of abler pens

labouring for its improvement ?-It is so much pleasanter to please than to instruct--to play the companion rather than the preceptor.

What, after all, is the mite of wisdom that I could throw into the mass of knowledge; or how am I sure that my sagest deductions may be safe guides for the opinions of others? But in writing to amuse, if I fail, the only evil is my own disappointment. If, however, I can by any lucky chance, in these days of evil, rub out one wrinkle from the brow of care, or beguile the heavy heart of one moment of sorrow--if I can now and then penetrate through the gathering film of misanthropy, prompt a benevolent view of human nature, and make my reader more in goodhumour with his fellow beings and himself, surely, surely, I shall not then have written entirely in vain.

.

[The following modicum of local history was lately put into my hands by an odd-looking old gentleman in a small brown wig and snuff-coloured coat, with whom I became acquainted in the course of one of my tours of observation through the centre of that great wilderness, the City. I confess that I was a little dubious at first, whether it was not one of those apocryphal tales often passed off upon inquiring travellers like myself; and which have brought our general character for veracity into such unmerited reproach. On making proper inquiries, however, I have received the most satisfactory assurances of the author's probity; and, indeed, have been told that he is actually engaged in a full and particular account of the very interesting region in which he resides, of which the following may be considered merely as a foretaste.]

[ocr errors]

LITTLE BRITAIN.

What I write is most true * * * * I have a whole booke of cases lying by me, which if I should sette foorth, some grave auntients (within the hearing of Bow bell) would be out of charity with me.-Nashe.

In the centre of the great City of London lies a small neighbourhood, consisting of a cluster of narrow streets and courts, of very venerable and debilitated houses, which goes by the name of Little Britain. Christ Church school and St. Bartholomew's hospital bound it on the west; Smithfield and Long lane on the north ; Aldersgate-street, like an arm of the sea, divides it from the eastern part of the city ; whilst the yawning gulf of Bull-and-Mouth-street separates it from Butcher lane, and the regions of New-Gate. Over this little territory, thus bounded and designated, the great dome of St. Paul's, swelling above the intervening houses of Paternoster Row, Amen Corner, and Ave-Maria lane, looks down with an air of motherly protection,

This quarter derives its appellation from having

« PreviousContinue »