BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

The Customs, Ceremonies, Traditions, Superstitions, Fun, Feeling,
And Festivities Of The Christmas Season.

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night after night, wrapped in blankets, to Covent Garden ; and there had for the second time in the course of the same evening, to go through the allotted series of grimaces, leaps, and tumbles. Poor Grimaldi, sunk by these exertions into a premature old age, was finally obliged to retire from the stage on the 27th of June, 1828;—and the Literary Gazette thus pleasantly, but feelingly, announced his intention :—
" Our immense favorite, Grimaldi, under the severe pressure of years and infirmities, is enabled, through the good feeling and prompt liberality of Mr. Price, to take a benefit at Drury Lane on Friday next;—the last of Joseph Grimaldi! Drury's—Covent Garden's—Sadler's—everybody's Joe ! The friend of Harlequin and Farley-kin !—the town clown !—greatest of fools !—daintiest of motleys !—the true ami des enfans! The tricks and changes of life—sadder, alas ! than those of pantomime—have made a dis­mal difference between the former flapping, filching, laughing, bounding antic, and the present Grimaldi. He has no spring in his foot—no mirth in his eye !—The corners of his mouth droop, mournfully, earthward ; and he stoops in the back, like the weariest of Time's porters ! L'Allegro has done with him, and II Penseroso claims him for his own ! It is said, besides, that his pockets are neither so large, nor so well stuffed, as they used to be on the stage : and it is hard to suppose fun without funds, or broad grins in narrow circumstances."
The mummers, who still go about, at this season of the year, in some parts of England, are the last descendants of those masquers who, in former times (as we have shown at length), contributed to the celebrations of the season, at once amongst the highest and lowest classes of the land ; as their performances present, also, the last semblances of those ancient mysteries and moralities, by which the splendid pageantries of the court were preceded. Sir "Walter Scott, in a note to " Marmion," seems to intimate that these mummeries are, in fact, the offspring and relics of the old mysteries themselves. The fact, however, seems rather to be, that these exhibitions existed before the introduction of the Scrip­ture plays; and that the one and the other are separate forms of a practice, copied directly from the festival observances of the pagans. Accordingly, Brand speaks of a species of mumming
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