British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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64                                SHROVE TUESDAY.                        [Feb. 3'
routs and throngs numberlesse of ungovernable numbers, with uncivill civil commotions.
" Then Tim Tatters—a most valiant villaine—with an ensign made of a piece of a baker's maukin fixed upon a broomstaffe, he displaies his dreadful colours, and calling the ragged regiment together, makes an illiterate oration, stuft with most plentiful want of discretion, the conclusion whereof is, that somewhat they will doe, but what they know not; until at last comes marching up another troupe of tatterdemalions, proclayming wars against no matter who, so they may be doing. Then these youths arm'd with cudgels, stones, hammers, rules, trowels, and handsawse, put play-houses to the sacke, and * * * to the spoyle, in the quarrel breaking a thousand quarrels—of glasse, I mean—making ambitious brickbats breake their neckes, tumbling from the tops of lofty chimnies, terribly untyling houses, ripping up the bowels of feather beds, to the inriching of upholsters, the profit of plaisterers and dirt-dawbers, the gaine of glasiers, joyners, carpenters, tylers, and bricklayers; and, what is worse, to the contempt of justice; for what avails it for a con­stable with an army of reverend rusty bill-men to command peace to these beastes ? for they with their pockets, instead of pistols, well charged with stone-shot, discharge against the image of authority whole volleys as thicke as hayle, which robustious repulse puts the better sort to the worst part, making the band of unscowered halberdiers retyre faster than ever they come on, and show exceeding discretion in proving tall men of their heels. So much for Shrove Tuesday, Jacke-a-Lent's gentleman usher; these have been his humours in former times, but I have some better hope of reformation in him hereafter, and indeed I wrote this before his coming this yeere, 1617, not knowing how hee would behave himselfe; but tottering betwixt despaire and hope I leave him."
In connection with the custom of eating pancakes on this
day, Fosbroke in his Encyclopedia of Antiquities (vol. ii.
. p. 572) says that " Pancakes, the Norman Crispellce, are
taken from the Fornacalia, on Feb. 18th, in memory of the
practice in use before the goddess Fornax invented ovens."
The Saxons called February " Solmonath," which Dr. F. Sayers, in his Disquisitions, says is explained by Bede's
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