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PASTIMES AND HOLIDAYS. " What is a gentleman without his recreations ?"-Old Play. In the Games and Diversions of a people, we may trace the distinguishing features of the national character ; and the rude pastimes of our ancestors are a practical illustration of the courage and hardiness for which they were celebrated. Some of the old sports would be incompatible with the refinement of the present day, but others are of a nature less objectionable, and the memory of which is worthy of preservation. Many of the ancient Games and Holidays were rural festivities, commemorative of the return of the seasons, and not only innocent in themselves, but conducive to health and good-fellowship. Of this description were the May Games, the Harvest Supper, the Feast of Sheep Shearing, Midsummer-Eve rejoicings, and the celebration of the New Year: all these may be traced to the earliest times; indeed they are coeval with society, and the Feast of the Ta. bernacle among the Jews, and the ancient honours paid to Ceres, Bacchus, and Saturn by the heathens, were only analogous observances, under a different appellation.
A revival of some of the old Sports and Pastimes would, probably, be an improvement in national manners; and the modern attractions of Rouge et Noir, French bazard, Roulette, “blue ruin," and muddy porter, be beneficially exchanged for the more healthy recreations of former ages. “ Worse practices within doors," as Stowe remarks, “it is to be feared, have succeeded the more open pastimes of the older time.”
The recreations of our Saxon ancestors were such as were common among the ancient Northern nations; consisting mostly of robust exercises, as hunting, hawking, leaping, runping, wrestling, and casting of darts. They were also much addicted to gaming; a propensity'unfortunately transmitted, unimpaired, to their descendants of the present day. Chess was a favourite game with them, and likewise backgammon, said to have been invented about the tenth century. The Normans introduced the chivalrous games of tournaments and justs. These last became very prevalent, as we learn from a satirical poem of the thirteenth century, a verse from which has been thus rendered by STRUTT in bis “ Sports and Pastimes :"
• If wealth, Sir Knight, perchance be thine,
You are not worth a rotten pear.' When the military enthusiasm which characterised the middle ages had subsided, and chivalry was on the decline, a prodigious change took place in the manners of the people. Violent exercises grew out of fashion with persons of rank, and the example of the nobility was followed by other classes. Henry VII. Henry VIII, and James I. endeavoured to revive the ancient military exercises, but with only ephemeral success.
We learn from Burton, in his “ Anatomy of Melancholy," what were the most prevalent sports at the end of the sixteenth century.* Hunting, hawking, running at rings, tilts and tournaments, horse-races and wild goose chaces, were the pas. times of the gentry ; while the lower classes recreated themselves at May Games, Wakes, Whitson Ales; by ringing of bells, bowling, shooting, wrestling, leaping, pitching the bar, playing with keel pins, coits, tronks, wasters, foils, football, balown, and running at the quintain. Speaking of the Londoners, Burton says, “ They take pleasure to see some pageant or sight go by, as at a coronation, wedding, and such like solemn niceties; to see an ambassador or prince received and entertained with masks, shows, and fireworks.” The following be considers common amusements, both in town and country_namely, “bull-baitings, and bear-bait. ings, in which our countrymen and citizens greatly delight and frequently use ; dancers on ropes, jugglers, comedies, tragedies, artillery-gardens, and cock-fighting.” The winter recreations consisted of cards, dice, tables, shovelboard, chess, the philosopher's game, shuttlecock, billiards, music, masks, dancing, ule-games, riddles, cross purposes, merry tales of knights-errant, thieves, witches, fairies, and goblins.
In addition to the May-games, morris-dancing, pageants, and processions, which were common throughout the king. dom, the Londoners had peculiar privileges of hunting, hawking, and fishing; they had also large portions of ground allotted to them in the vicinity of the city, for the practice of such pastimes as were not prohibited ; and for those, especi. ally, that were conducive to health. On the holidays, during the summer season, the young men exercised themselves in the fields with leaping, archery, wrestling, playing with balls, and practising with their waşters and bucklers. The city damsels had also their recreations, playing upon their timbrels, and dancing to the music, which they often practised by moonlight. One writer says, it was customary for the maidens to dance in presence of their masters and mistresses, while one of their companions played the music on a timbrel; and to stimulate them, the best dancers were rewarded with a garland; the prize being exposed to public view during the performance. To this custom SPENSER alludes,
* In his dry way, Old Burton says, “Cards, dice, hawkes, and hounds, are rocks upon which men lose themselves when they are improperly handled and beyond their fortunes.” Hunting and hawking, he allows, are “ honest recreations, and fit for some great men, but not for every base and inferior person, who, while they maintain their
faulkoner, and dogs, and hunting nags, their wealth runs away with - their hounds, and their fortunes fly away with their hawkes."
" The damsels they delight, When they their timbrels smite,
And thereunto dance and carol sweet." The London apprentices often amused themselves with their wasters and bucklers, before the doors of their masters, Hunting, with the Lord Mayor's pack of hounds, was a diversion of the metropolis, as well as sailing, rowing, and fishing on the Thames. `Duck-hunting was a favourite recreation in the summer, as we learn from Strype.
Having thus given a general view of public amusements from an early period, I shall shortly describe some of the most popular påstimes, many of which have been either modified or suplanted by other recreations. · First, of the game of HAND-BALL, called, by the French, palm-play, because the exercise consisted in receiving the ball, and driving it back again with the palm of the hand. Formerly they played with the naked hand, then with a glove, which in some instances was lined ; afterwards they bound cords and tendons round the hands to make the ball rebound more forcibly: hence the racket derived its origin. In the reign of Charles I. palm-play was very fashionable in France, being played by the nobility for large sums of money; when they had lost all they had about them, they would sometimes pledge a part of their dress, rather that
give up the game. In England it was a favourite pastime among the youth of both sexes, and in many parts of the kingdom, they played during the Easter holidays, for tansy cakes. It is still played, though under a different name, and probably under a different modification of the game; it is now called Fives.
STOOL-BALL is frequently mentioned by the writers of the last century, but without any description of the game. Dr. Johnson describes it as a play, where balls are driven from stool to stool, but does not say in wbat inanner, or 10 wliat purpose. It seems to have been a game more appropriated to the women than to the men, but occasionally played by hoth sexes, as appears from the following song, written by D'Urfey to the play of Don Quixote :
• Down in a vale, on a summer's day,
And for cakes, and ale, and cider, and perry. Chorus. Come all, great, small, short, tall, away to stool-ball."
FOOT-BALL was formerly much in vogue among the common people, though of late years it has fallen into disrepute, and is little practised. Many games with the ball require the assistance of a club or bat, and probably the most ancient is that well-known game in the North, under the name of Goff. It requires much room to play this game properly, therefore it is rarely seen in the vicinity of the metropolis. PALL-MALL had some resemblance to Goff. The game consisted in striking a round box ball with a mallet, through two high arches of iron, one at each end of the alley ; which he that could do at the fewest blows, or at the number agreed upon, wins. It was a fashionable amusement in the reign of Charles II. and a well-known street, then a walk in St. James's Park, derived its name from Charles and his cour. tiers there playing at mall : the denomination mall, being evidently derived from the mallet or wooden hammer used by the players.
The noble game of Cricket bas superseded most of the ancient ball-games, and this is now so frequent a pastime among all ranks, that it does not require illustration.
RUNNING AT THE Quintain is a game of great antiquity.