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ST. VALENTINE'S DAY.
I early rose just at the break of day
That the lasses went out to seek for their makes, or mates, i.e., Valentines, is also shown in poor Ophelia's broken snatches of a song:
Good morrow! 'tis St. Valentine's day
To be your Valentine.
In the Gentleman's Magazine for 1779, a correspondent under the name of Kitty Curious, relates an odd ceremony that she has been witness to in some humble village in Kent. The girls from five or six to eighteen years old were assembled in a crowd, burning an uncouth effigy, which they called a holly-boy, and which they had stolen from the boys, while in another part of the village the boys were burning what they called an ivy-girl, which they had stolen from the girls. The ceremony of each burning was attended with huzzas and other acclamations according to the receipt of custom in all such cases.
The Monday before Shrove Tuesday was in old times called Collop Monday, "collop” being a term for slices of dried or salted meat, as
signifies a slice of fresh meat. The etymology is too uncertain to make it worth while to quote the different accounts of it, but upon this day it was customary to feast upon eggs and collops, and, as Lent was approaching, our ancestors used to cut up their meat in slices, and preserve it, till the season of fast was over, by salting, or drying it. In some parts the day seemed to have been kept as the vigil, or eve, of Shrove Tuesday, and in the neighbourhood of Salisbury, we are told, the boys went about from door to door, singing thus :
Shrove-tide is nigh at hand,
An apple, or a dumpling,
Or a piece of pancake. The observance of this day originated, if we may believe Polydore Virgil, in the Roman feasts of Bacchus, and some vestiges of such an origin remain to the present time in the custom that the Eton boys have of writing verses at this season in praise of the Lybian God. These were composed in all kinds of measures and affixed to the college-doors.
Another opinion on the origin of choosing Valentines is formed on a tradition among the common people, that at this season of the year birds choose their mates, a circumstance that is frequently alluded to by our poets; yet this seems to be a mere poetical idea borrowed, in all probability, from the practice in question.
Madam Royale, the daughter of Henry IV. of France, built a palace near Turin, which was called the Valentine, on account of the great veneration in which the Saint was held in that country. At the first entertainment given there by the princess, who was naturally of a gallant disposition, she desired that the ladies should choose their lovers by lots. The only difference with respect to herself was that she should be at liberty to fix on her own partner. At every ball during the year, each lady received from her gallant à nosegay; and at every tournament, the lady furnished his horse's trappings, the prize obtained being hers.
The following ceremonies of this day are of a much humbler description; they are given by a female correspondent of the “Connoisseur," and are quoted in Time's Telescope for 1814.
I got five bay-leaves, and pinned four of them to the four corners of my pillow, and the fifth to the middle, and then, if I dreamed of my sweetheart, Betty said we should be married before the year was out. But to make it more sure, I boiled an egg hard, and took out the yolk and filled it up with salt; and when I went to bed, eat it, shell and all, without speaking or drinking after it, and this was have the same effect with the bay-leaves. We also wrote our lovers' names upon bits of paper, and rolled them up in
clay, and put them into water : and the first that rose up was to be our Valentine.
SHROVE TUESDAY,-or Pancake Tuesday,-or Fastings Even, Fasterns, Fasten, as it is sometimes called from being the vigil of Ash Wednesday, the commencement of the Lent Fast,-is a day of great importance in the ritual calendar. It is said to have received its first, and more general, appellation from the circumstance of its being a day when every one was bound to confess and be shrove, or shriven, so long as the Roman Catholic faith was predominant. That none might plead forgetfulness of this ceremony the great bell was rung at an early hour in every parish, and in after times this ringing was still kept up in some places, though the cause of it ceased with the introduction of Protestantism; it then got the name of the Pancake-Bell, for reasons which we shall see hereafter.
Notwithstanding this necessity for confession, Shrove Tuesday with us had all the features of the last day of the Italian carnival. What it was in the old time may be judged from the account given by Taylor, the Water-poet* Always before Lent there comes waddling a fat, grosse, groome, called Shrove Tuesday, one whose manners shows he is better fed than taught, and indeed he is the only monster for feeding amongst all the dayes of the yeere, for he devoures more flesh in fourteene houres than this old kingdom doth (or at least should doe) in sixe weekes after. Such boyling and broyling, such roasting and toasting, such stewing and brewing, such baking, frying, mincing, cutting, carving, devouring, and gorbellied gurmondizing, that a man would thinke people did take in two month's provision at once. Moreover it is a goodly sight to see how the cookes in great men's kitchins doe frye in their master's suet, that if ever a cooke be worth the eating, it is when Shrove Tuesday is in towne, for he is so stued and larded, basted, and almost over-roasted, that a man may eate every bit of him and never take a surfet. In a word, they are that day extreme cholerike, and too hot for any man to meddle with, being monarchs of the marrow-bones, marquesses of the mutton, lords high regents of the spit and the kettle, barons of the gridiron, and sole commanders of the frying-pan. And all this hurly burly is for no other purpose than to
stop the mouth of this land-wheale, Shrove Tuesday, at whose entrance in the morning all the whole kingdome is in quiet, but by the time the clocke strikes elevenwhich by the help of a knavish sexton is commonly before nine, then there is a bell rung called the Pancake-Bell, the sound whereof makes thousands of people distracted and forgetful either of manner or humanitie. Then there is a thinge cal'd wheaten flowre, which the sulphory, necromanticke cookes doe mingle with water, eggs, spice, and other tragicall, magicall inchantments, and then they put it by little and little into a frying pan of boyling suet, where it makes a confused dismal hissing-like the Lernean snakes in the reeds of Acheron, Stix, or Phlegeton, -until at last by the skill of the cooke it is transformed into the forme of a Flap-jack, which in our translation is call'd a pancake, which ominous incantation the ignorant people doe devoure very greedily-having for the most part well dined before-but they have no sooner swallowed that sweet candied baite, but straight their wits forsake them, and they runne starke mad, assembling in routs and throngs numberlesse of ungovernable numbers, with uncivill civill commotions.
Then Tim Tatters a most valiant villaine-with an ensign made of a piece of a baker's maukin fixed upon a broome-staffe, 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 handsawes, put play-houses to the sacke, and to the spoyle, in the quarrel breaking a thousand quarrels—of glasse, I meane-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 dirtdawbers, the gaine of glasiers, joyners, carpenters, tylers, and bricklayers; and, which 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 worser part, making the band of unscowred halberdiers retyre faster than ever they come on, and show exceeding discretion in proving tall men of their heeles. So much for Shrove Tuesday, Jacke-a-Lent's gentleman usher; these have beene 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."
Besides pancake-eating in the olden time, Shrove Tuesday was made merry by foot-ball games, in which sometimes one parish would take the field against another.
After the amiable day of St. Valentine, and at the close of the merry carnival time of Catholic countries, comes Lent; and here we cannot do better than quote old Herrick's excellent directions for
THE KEEPING OF THE TRUE LENT.
Is this a fast, to keep
The larder lean,
Of flesh, yet still
Or ragged to go,
Thy sheaf of wheat,
From old debate,