BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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186
THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
torn too,' so I gave him half-a-crown ; as I was likewise obliged to do the bellman, for breaking my rest for many nights together."
The manner in which the beadle approaches his " good mas­ters and mistresses," for a Christmas-box,—particularly in the villages near the British metropolis,—is, as we have before said, by the presentation of a copy of printed verses, ornamented with wood engravings. These broadsides are usually termed " Bell­man's verses ;" and we quite agree with Mr. Leigh Hunt in his opinion, that " good bellman's verses will not do at all. There have been," he remarks, "some such things of late ' most tolera­ble and not to be endured.' We have seen them witty,—which is a great mistake. Warton and Cowper unthinkingly set the way." " The very absurdity of the bellman's verses is only pleasant, nay, only bearable, when we suppose them written by some actual doggrel-poet, in good faith. Mere mediocrity hardly allows us to give our Christmas-box, or to believe it now-a-days in earnest; and the smartness of your cleverest worldly-wise men is felt to be wholly out of place. No, no! give us the good old decrepit bellman's verses, hobbling as their bringer, and taking themselves for something respectable, like his cocked-hat,—or give us none at all."
Upon the bellman's verses which were last year Circulated by the beadles of Putney, Chiswick, and other parishes on the west side of London, it was recorded, that they were " first printed in the year 1735 ;"—and our curiosity induced us to inquire of the printer the number annually consumed. " We used, sir," said he, " not many years ago, to print ten thousand copies, and even more ; but now I suppose we don't print above three thousand." Whether the trade of this particular dealer in bellman's verses has passed into other hands,—or whether the encouragement given to the circulation of these broadsides has declined,—the statement of an individual will not of course enable us to determine. But we are inclined to think that,—like other old Christmas customs, —the popularity of bellman's verses is passing away; and that, before many years have elapsed, penny magazines and unstamped newspapers will have completely superseded these relics of the rude, but sincere, piety of our ancestors.
The claims of dustmen to be remembered, upon " Boxing day,'
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