Have you ever looked at a landscape painting and imagined it coming to life? Japanese videographer Yusuke Shigeta decided to transform an ancient artwork into an animation that now looks like something from a video game. His work is titled Sekigahara-Sansui-zu-Byobu (Folding Screen of Painted Sekigahara Landscapes) and is based on a 17th-century multi-panel screen that depicts the Battle of Sekigahara.
One of the most important wars in Japanese history, the Battle of Sekigahara took place during the Sengoku period on October 21, 1600, in what is now Gifu prefecture. All told, 160,000 men faced each other; the samurai warriors of Tokugawa Ieyasu against a coalition of Toyotomi loyalist clans. The Tokugawa troops won, leading to the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan for another two and a half centuries until 1868.
Paul Levy, in the Spectator, reviews Norman Kolpas’s Foie Gras: A Global History, which defends the rich delicacy and its creation via the practice of gavage (the fattening of geese and ducks by tubular feeding) against a recent wave of Puritanism and snobbish morality posing that got the product banned in California and removed from the shelves of Fortnum & Mason in Britain.
[T]he main opposition claim is that the production of the hyper-fatty livers of ducks and geese is physically cruel and therefore immoral.
The factual argument is just plain wrong, and so is the ethical judgment that depends on it. I have witnessed the ‘force-feeding’ of ducks, and it is not a case of animal abuse. What actually happens is that the nicely behaved ducks (imprinted à la Konrad Lorenz) form an orderly line to take their turn swallowing a flexible tube that in seconds whooshes pellets of maize or mash of cereal down their gullets. They appear to relish this, and are, in my experience, fussed about and petted affectionately by the farming women of the south-west of France who perform what is called the gavage.
The problem, says Norman Kolpas, is that our celebrities and anti-foie gras activists ‘immediately and understandably tend to anthropomorphize the birds, imagining how it might feel for a human to have a feeding tube jammed down the throat’. This image of oral rape comes from an ignorance of bird physiology. The human esophagus is a more rigid structure of muscle, cartilage and bone, and inserting a tube down it means getting past the epiglottis, which triggers the human gag reflex. These waterfowl species do not have a gag reflex.
The gavage, in fact, mimics the birds’ natural pre-migratory behavior; following the seasons, they gorge themselves with food in preparation for their long flights. This had been remarked at least as early as 400 BC, when, says Kolpas, ‘well-fattened geese were deemed sufficiently worthy to be presented as a gift when Agesilaus, king of Sparta, visited Egypt’. The Greeks and Romans force-fed geese with figs rather than grain, a practice later adapted for rich pork liver, as recommended by Apicius. Foie gras found its way to south-western France with the conquest of Gaul (121-51 BC), and then Jewish slaves, cooks and farmers spread it east across Europe. Though goose makes the most appreciated fat liver, the amount of goose foie gras now produced globally has become minuscule (about 5 percent) compared with duck foie gras, mostly from (pond-shunning) hybrid male Moulard ducks, whose meat is also succulent and valued.
The adoption by Poland of a Liberal Constitution so alarmed the despotisms of its neighboring empires that they invaded and punished Poland with the Second Partition of 1793. The actual document was seized and carried off and locked away in the Kremlin in Moscow, in a trunk tightly chained, as if it constituted a kind of weapon of mass destruction, which to autocracy and despotism perhaps it did.
The most comprehensive statistical source for democide statistics, Death By Government, puts the toll at 106 million. Necrometrics estimates that Stalin and Mao alone killed 60 million. Wikipedia, defining democide more narrowly, puts the toll between 21 million and 70 million. The Museum of iCommunism estimates 100 million murdered. The Black Book of iCommunism estimates 80 to 100 million.
But these are just statistics. As psychologists have pointed out, it’s impossible for the human mind to grasp the magnitude of that level of horror through sheer numbers. Just as Schindler’s List was instrumental in getting the public to come to finally terms with the Holocaust, it is perhaps through film that death toll of communism can best be understood.
Every May 1st for the last several years, Ilya Somin has written an editorial for the Washington Post declaring the “May Day” so beloved by the Left to be renamed “Victims of Communism Day.” I concur, and so, while socialists blissfully celebrate their worker’s paradise this May Day, indifferent to the human cost of their political philosophy, I propose that well-meaning people consider watching a film on the subject, both out of respect for those lost and to be intellectually armed against the ignorance of those still in denial. Here are some recommendations.
GoodFruit.com pays tribute to the oldest domestic fruit tree in North America.
Hidden from view, down an embankment in an unremarkable business park north of Boston stands a very, very old pear tree.
The Endicott tree may be the oldest cultivated fruit tree in North America and is protected as a national landmark.
Historians estimate it was planted more than 380 years ago in the early 1630s. For reference, the Declaration of Independence was signed about 140 years later.
My hunt for this tree, which still produces pears, was exciting. I suppose I should have celebrated when I finally located the Endicott tree, but I didn’t.
Instead, I paused, stretched out on a grassy slope facing the diminutive tree and wondered how it survived centuries of encroachment by industry and suburbs.
In the early July sun, I could see a few small pears growing under a canopy held together by support wires and steel, surrounded by an iron fence that propped and protected the historic tree.
I was surprised how it appeared caged and suspended like an upside-down marionette, cornered in by a parking lot. The setting for this tree is in stark contrast to the grand old Bartlett “dinosaur” trees from my grandfather’s orchard in Washington state.
Many of my summer childhood days were spent climbing those giants, hiding in the canopy with binoculars looking for pirates and an occasional barn cat.
Though the Endicott tree was not what I expected, it was captivating. Every crag in the bark was deep, every pear nearly identical in size and shape, and it truly was a wonder to me that it was still producing.
It’s worth noting that the tree’s stubborn survival and historic significance has earned a spot for its genetic daughters to be propagated and protected at the National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon.
I highly recommend anyone traveling near Danvers, Massachusetts, to seek out this tree.
Peter Paul Rubens, The Resurrection of Christ, 1611-1612, Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp
From Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869:
Easter, the anniversary of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, is one of the three great festivals of the Christian year,—the other two being Christmas and Whitsuntide. From the earliest period of Christianity down to the present day, it has always been celebrated by believers with the greatest joy, and accounted the Queen of Festivals. In primitive times it was usual for Christians to salute each other on the morning of this day by exclaiming, ‘Christ is risen;’ to which the person saluted replied, ‘Christ is risen indeed,’ or else, ‘ And hath appeared unto Simon;’—a custom still retained in the Greek Church. Easter retains many religious customs today but there are also many commercial aspects to the holiday. The Easter bunny, Easter candy and Easter baskets are all part of the celebration. Giving Easter baskets filled with candy is a joyous family activity, but it is important to remember the true meaning of the Easter holiday. Read the rest of this entry »
“For the last week, a team from the National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training has been in Holly Springs, documenting and scanning various extant slave quarters, slave cabins and tenant/sharecropper housing. The team used a really fancy 3D laser scanner, that will create 3D images of the exterior and interior of these structures. Eventually, they will be able to create “virtual reality” tours of these structures.
Thank you to the members of the team, Isabella Jones, Sreya Chakraborty, and Ina Sthapit, for coming to town and performing this invaluable service. Thank you also to Pam Zelman, with Preserve Marshall County and Holly Springs, Inc., who did much of the heavy lifting locally, arranging access to all of these sites. Thank you to the homeowners who graciously opened their doors to the team. I acted as a sort of local historical advisor at a few of their stops. Chelius Carter, with PMCHS, was instrumental in getting the team to town, and allowed the team to stay in the Hugh Craft House.
The team has a few more stops before they leave town on Friday, so if you see them around, welcome them to town! This is really important historical and preservation work.”
Our new home, Cedarhurst, has the old Antebellum kitchen and servants’ quarters in the backyard, remodeled in recent years with little architectural regard, alas! into an auxiliary apartment.
Karen contacted the Park Service team, and they are going to survey the Cedarhurst kitchen next!
Very old photograph of Cedarhurst from Mrs. N.D. Deupree’s “Some Historic Homes of Mississippi,” from Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. VII (1903).
Cedarhurst and Airliewood are both located on Salem Avenue and were constructed of brick in the late 1850s. The houses incorporate features promoted by A. J. Downing in his books concerned with appropriate architecture and landscaping for country houses. Downing considered the Tudor Gothic style ‘. . . to be the most convenient and comfortable, and decidedly most picturesque and striking style, for country residences of the superior class.”[Andrew J. Downing, A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening Adapted to North America with a View to the Improvement of Country Residences, C.M. Saxon & Company, New York,1857, pp. 400-401.] Evidently Gen. US Grant thought the houses were to be a superior class also because when he came to Holly Springs in 1862 he selected Airliewood for his headquarters, Cedarhurst for General Ord and Walter Place for Mrs. Grant.
Cedarhurst and Airliewood are picturesque, with their high-pitched roofs broken by decorative gables that are embellished with fanciful bargeboards and accented with finials and penants. The tall, paired, octagonal chimneys are considered a major part of the Gothic design and are sharp contrast to the simple chimneys of Greek revival houses.
The repetition of the pointed arch in the fenestrations underscores the fact that the houses are Gothic. The pointed arch is achieved in Cedarhurst by shaped bricks whereas labels or hoods emphasize the pointed arch on Airliewood. According to Downing “. . . the windows in the best Tudor mansions, affect a great variety of forms and sizes. . .” [Ibid., 398.] Both Cedarhurst and Airliewood meet this qualification as they have single, double, and bay windows. The front windows on the principal floor extend to the floor.
In addition to the Gothic features already mentioned, Cedarhurst is trimmed with octagonal colonettes, pointed-arch tracery, and a balustrade — all cast by the local antebellum industry — the Jones, McIlwaine, and Company foundry. The tall trees of holly, cedar and other varieties are in harmony with the vertical lines of the building.
Cedar Hearst was built for Dr. Charles Bonner, a Pennsylvanian of Irish descent who married Mary Wilson of Holly Springs. The house is frequently referred to as the home of Sherwood Bonner, the second child of the Charles Bonners, who became a writer of Southern dialect stories and secretary to the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Catherine Sherwood Bonner had strong feelings for her home place. She frequently referred to the house in her correspondence with Longfellow. [Jean Nosser Biglane, An Annotated and Indexed Edition of the Letters of Sherwood Bonner, M.A. thesis, Mississippi State University, 1972.] On October 31, 1877, she wrote from Holly Springs to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Cambridge, Mass.:
Did I ever tell you what a beautiful home mine was? The places not well-kept up now, but nothing can take away the grander of the old trees, or make the flowers less fragrant. The wide gallery in front is all overrun with Madeira vine; it is in full blossom now, and we sit on the porch every evening in the moonlight, talking of the past days that its aromatic sweetness, more than anything else seems to recall.
Sherwood Bonner returned to Holly Springs to care for her father and brother who died on September 9, 1878 during the yellow fever epidemic. In November, 1878, Ms. Bonner wrote to Longfellow concerning cleaning the house after the epidemic: “You know all the carpets have to be taken up, the rooms fumigated, the walls calcimined, and everything thoroughly aired. It is an immense undertaking.” In the same letter she wrote: “I do not know what I shall do. There is some talk of a division of property. I know that my father would wish that I should keep the house we love so well; yet I know I should be so unhappy here, shut in with sorrow; and it is so large house for my Aunty, Helena, and myself. I cannot bear to give it up; and yet I want a home in Boston. In December she wrote: “I had hoped to leave Holly Springs before Xmas; but I’m detained here by business matters. It breaks my heart afresh to be here at the time that has never failed of happiness, in the home that always threw open its hospitable doors to welcome Christmas guests.” On April 18, 1879: “We are all here together in the old home. Aunty has made up her mind that she cannot live away from it, so she will stay here for the present at least.”
By August 7, 1881, Sherwood Bonner was faced with the possibility of having to sell her home at a public auction if she did not pay her brother-in-law $1500 for her sister’s share of the house. She wrote to Mr. Longfellow:
It is cruel but he is determined — Of course it will be sold at an utter sacrifice — as things always are forced sale — and we must see this beautiful home go. For myself I would be reckless enough to make no effort to save it — but there is Aunty’s old age and Lillian’s future to be considered. All the cares of the world seemed to crowd upon me — and I am alone. My attorney strongly advises me to close with his offer — saying it is absolutely securing me at a small sums a very fine and valuable property — and that he can borrow the money for me for long term of years. But you can imagine how I shrink from incurring such a debt. I should have to mortgage my part of the plantation — and in the case of my death it would be sold. And this is where our only income comes from. The house is nothing but a white elephant. I have asked time to consider and I lay the matter before you, because I know you will help me to some extent. If I could pay them a certain part of the sum, I should be willing to borrow a smaller sum. I shall have three hundred dollars in a week or so, from the Lippincott’s — so there is a beginning. And I’m trying as well as I can, for the perturbation of my soul, to complete a Harper story, though not to fetch one hundred more — And you will help me, will you not to save my home — to secure for myself a retreat for my ruined life where I may die with dignity . . .
Mr. Longfellow wrote that he would send the money after the middle of the month. He died before fulfilling his promise; however, Miss Alice Longfellow, his daughter, sent the “generous gift” to Miss Bonner.
Sherwood Bonner died of cancer in Holly Springs on July 22, 1883. Her daughter Lillian sold the house around the turn of the century to Mr. W. A. Belk. Cedarhurst is now owned and occupied by Mrs. Fred M. Belk, Sr.
–Mary Wallace Crocker, Historic Architecture of Mississippi, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 1973, pp. 166-168.
DOWN with rosemary and bayes,
Down with the mistleto,
Instead of holly, now up-raise
The greener box, for show.
The holly hitherto did sway;
Let box now domineere,
Until the dancing Easter-day,
Or Easter’s eve appeare.
Then youthful box, which now hath grace
Your houses to renew,
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.
When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kinne
To honor Whitsontide.
Green rushes then, and sweetest bents,
With color oken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments,
To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift; each thing his turn does hold;
New things succeed as former things grow o
Tintoretto, Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, 1550-1555, Gallerie dell Accademi, Venice
From Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869:
From a very early, indeed unknown date in the Christian history, the 2nd of February has been held as the festival of the Purification of the Virgin, and it is still a holiday of the Church of England. From the coincidence of the time with that of the Februation or purification of the people in pagan Rome, some consider this as a Christian festival engrafted upon a heathen one, in order to take advantage of the established habits of the people; but the idea is at least open to a good deal of doubt. The popular name Candlemass is derived from the ceremony which the Church of Rome dictates to be observed on this day; namely, a blessing of candles by the clergy, and a distribution of them amongst the people, by whom they are afterwards carried lighted in solemn procession. The more important observances were of course given up in England at the Reformation; but it was still, about the close of the eighteenth century, customary in some places to light up churches with candles on this day.
At Rome, the Pope every year officiates at this festival in the beautiful chapel of the Quirinal. When he has blessed the candles, he distributes them with his own hand amongst those in the church, each of whom, going singly up to him, kneels to receive it. The cardinals go first; then follow the bishops, canons, priors, abbots, priests, &c., down to the sacristans and meanest officers of the church. According to Lady Morgan, who witnessed the ceremony in 1820:
‘When the last of these has gotten his candle, the poor conservatori, the representatives of the Roman senate and people, receive theirs. This ceremony over, the candles are lighted, the Pope is mounted in his chair and carried in procession, with hymns chanting, round the ante-chapel; the throne is stripped of its splendid hangings; the Pope and cardinals take off their gold and crimson dresses, put on their usual robes, and the usual mass of the morning is sung.’
Lady Morgan mentions that similar ceremonies take place in all the parish churches of Rome on this day.
It appears that in England, in Catholic times, a meaning was attached to the size of the candles, and the manner in which they burned during the procession; that, moreover, the reserved parts of the candles were deemed to possess a strong supernatural virtue:
‘This done, each man his candle lights,
Where chiefest seemeth he,
Whose taper greatest may be seen; And fortunate to be,
Whose candle burneth clear and bright: A wondrous force and might
Both in these candles lie, which if At any time they light,
They sure believe that neither storm Nor tempest cloth abide,
Nor thunder in the skies be heard, Nor any devil’s spide,
Nor fearful sprites that walk by night,
Nor hurts of frost or hail,’ &c.
The festival, at whatever date it took its rise, has been designed to commemorate the churching or purification of Mary; and the candle-bearing is understood to refer to what Simeon said when he took the infant Jesus in his arms, and declared that he was a light to lighten the Gentiles. Thus literally to adopt and build upon metaphorical expressions, was a characteristic procedure of the middle ages. Apparently, in consequence of the celebration of Mary’s purification by candle-bearing, it became customary for women to carry candles with them, when, after recovery from child-birth, they went to be, as it was called, churched. A remarkable allusion to this custom occurs in English history. William the Conqueror, become, in his elder days, fat and unwieldy, was confined a considerable time by a sickness. ‘Methinks,’ said his enemy the King of France, ‘the King of England lies long in childbed.’ This being reported to William, he said, ‘When I am churched, there shall be a thousand lights in France !’ And he was as good as his word; for, as soon as he recovered, he made an inroad into the French territory, which he wasted wherever he went with fire and sword.
At the Reformation, the ceremonials of Candlemass day were not reduced all at once. Henry VIII proclaimed in 1539:
‘On Candlemass day it shall be declared, that the bearing of candles is done in memory of Christ, the spiritual light, whom Simeon did prophesy, as it is read in. the church that day.’
It is curious to find it noticed as a custom down to the time of Charles II, that when lights were brought in at nightfall, people would say–‘God send us the light of heaven!’ The amiable Herbert, who notices the custom, defends it as not superstitious. Some-what before this time, we find. Herrick alluding to the customs of Candlemass eve: it appears that the plants put up in houses at Christmas were now removed.
Down with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the mistletoe;
Instead of holly now upraise
The greener box for show.
The holly hitherto did sway,
Let box now domineer,
Until the dancing Easter day
Or Easterâ€™s eve appear.
The youthful box, which now hath grace
Your houses to renew,
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.
When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin’,
To honour Whitsuntide.
Green rushes then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments,
To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift; each thing in turn does hold;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.’
The same poet elsewhere recommends very particular care in the thorough removal of the Christmas garnishings on this eve:
‘That so the superstitious find
No one least branch left there behind;
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected there, maids, trust to me,
So many goblins you shall see.’
He also alludes to the reservation of part of the candles or torches, as calculated to have the effect of protecting from mischief:
‘Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
Till sunset let it burn,
Which quenched, then lay it up again, Till Christmas next return.
Part must be kept, wherewith to tend
The Christmas log next year;
And where â€˜tis safely kept, the fiend Can do no mischief there.’
Considering the importance attached to Candlemass day for so many ages, it is scarcely surprising that there is a universal superstition throughout Christendom, that good weather on this day indicates a long continuance of winter and a bad crop, and that its being foul is, on the contrary, a good omen. Sir Thomas Browne, in his Vulgar Errors, quotes a Latin distich expressive of this idea:
‘Si sol splendescat Maria purificante,
Major erit glacies post festum quam fait ante;
which maybe considered as well translated in the popular Scottish rhyme:
If Candlemass day be dry and fair,
The half o’ winter’s to come and mair;
If Candlemass day be wet and foul,
The half o’ winter’s gave at Yule.’
In Germany there are two proverbial expressions on this subject: 1. The shepherd would rather see the wolf enter his stable on Candlemass day than the sun; 2. The badger peeps out of his hole on Candlemass day, and when he finds snow, walks abroad; but if he sees the sun shining, he draws back into his hole. It is not improbable that these notions, like the festival of Candlemass itself, are derived from pagan times, and have existed since the very infancy of our race. So at least we may conjecture, from a curious passage in Martinâ€™s Description of the Western Islands. On Candlemass day, according to this author, the Hebrideans observe the following curious custom:
The mistress and servants of each family take a sheaf of oats and dress it up in women’s apparel, put it in a large basket, and lay a wooden club by it, and this they call Brύd’s Bed.; and then the mistress and servants cry three times, “Brύd is come; Brύd is welcome!” This they do just before going to bed, and when they rise in the morning they look among the ashes, expecting to see the impression of Brύd’s club there; which, if they do, they reckon it a true presage of a good crop and prosperous year, and the contrary they take as an ill omen.
Groundhog Day is simply a modern commercialized adaptation of the earlier weather traditions associated with the Christian feast day.
Born: Richard II, King of England, 1366; Joan d’Arc, 1402; Peter Metastasio, poet, 1698; Benjamin Franklin, philosopher, Boston, U.S., 1706; David Dale, philanthropist, 1739; George Thomas Doo, engraver, 1800.
Feast Day: St. Melanius, bishop, 490. St. Nilammon, Hermit. St. Peter, abbot of St. Austin’s, Canterbury, 608.
This day, called Twelfth-Day, as being in that number after Christmas, and Epiphany from the Greek ‘‘Î•Ï€Î¹Î¦Ã¡Î½Ñ”Î¹Î±”, signifying appearance, is a festival of the Church, in commemoration of the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles; more expressly to the three Magi, or Wise Men of the East, who came, led by a star, to worship him immediately after his birth. (Matt. ii. 1-12.) The Epiphany appears to have been first observed as a separate feast in the year 813. Pope Julius I is, however, reputed to have taught the Church to distinguish the Feasts of the Nativity and Epiphany, so early as about the middle of the fourth century.
The primitive Christians celebrated the Feast of the Nativity for twelve days, observing the first and last with great solemnity; and both of these days were denominated Epiphany, the first the greater Epiphany, from our Lord having on that day become Incarnate, or made his appearance in “the flesh;” the latter, the lesser Epiphany, from the three-fold manifestation of His Godhead—the first, by the appearance of the blazing star which conducted Melchior, Jasper, and Balthuzar, the three Magi, or wise men, commonly styled the three Kings of Cologne, out of the East, to worship the Messiah, and to offer him presents of “Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh”—Melchior the Gold, in testimony of his royalty as the promised King of the Jews; Jasper the Frankincense, in token of his Divinity; and Balthuzar the Myrrh, in allusion to the sorrows which, in the humiliating condition of a man, our Redeemer vouchsafed to take upon him: the second, of the descent of the Holy Ghost in the form of a Dove, at the Baptism: and the third, of the first miracle of our Lord turning water into wine at the marriage in Cana. All of which three manifestations of the Divine nature happened on the same day, though not in the same year.
‘To render due honour to the memory of the ancient Magi, who are supposed to have been kings, the monarch of this country himself, either personally or through his chamberlain, offers annually at the altar on this day, Gold, Frank-incense, and Myrrh; and the kings of Spain, where the Feast of Epiphany is likewise called the “Feast of the Kings,” were accustomed to make the like offerings. — Brady.
In the middle ages, the worship by the Magi was celebrated by a little drama, called the Feast of the Star:
‘Three priests, clothed as kings, with their servants carrying offerings, met from different directions before the altar. The middle one, who came from the east, pointed with his staff to a star. A dialogue then ensued; and, after kissing each other, they began to sing, “Let us go and inquire;” after which the precentor began a responsory, “Let the Magi come.” A procession then commenced; and as soon as it began to enter the nave, a crown, with a star resembling a cross, was lighted up, and pointed out to the Magi, with, “Behold the Star in the East.” This being concluded, two priests standing at each side of the altar, answered meekly, “We are those whom you seek;” and, drawing a curtain, shewed them a child, whom, falling down, they worshipped. Then the servants made the offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which were divided among the priests. The Magi, meanwhile, continued praying till they dropped asleep; when a boy, clothed in an alb, like an angel, addressed them with, “All things which the prophets said are fulfilled.” The festival concluded with chanting services, &c. At Soissons, a rope was let down from the roof of the church, to which was annexed an iron circle having seven tapers, intended to represent Lucifer, or the morning star; but this was not confined to the Feast of the Star.’ — Fosbroke’s Antiquities, ii. 700.
At Milan, in 1336, the Festival of the Three Kings was celebrated in a manner that brings forcibly before us the tendency of the middle ages to fix attention on the historical externals of Christianity. The affair was got up by the Preaching Friars. The three kings appeared, crowned, on three great horses richly habited, surrounded by pages, body guards, and an innumerable retinue. A golden star was exhibited in the sky, going before them. They proceeded to the pillars of St. Lawrence, where King Herod was represented with his scribes and wise men. The three kings ask Herod where Christ should be born, and his wise men, having consulted their books, answer, at Bethlehem. On which the three kings, with their golden crowns, having in their hands golden cups filled with frankincense, myrrh, and gold, the star going before, marched to the church of St. Eustorgius, with all their attendants, preceded by trumpets, horns, asses, baboons, and a great variety of animals. In the church, on one side of the high altar, there was a manger with an ox and ass, and in it the infant Christ in the arms of his mother. Here the three kings offer Him gifts. The concourse of the people, of knights, ladies, and ecclesiastics, was such as was never before beheld.
In its character as a popular festival, Twelfth-Day stands only inferior to Christmas. The leading object held in view is to do honour to the three wise men, or, as they are more generally denominated, the three kings. It is a Christian custom, ancient past memory, and probably suggested by a pagan custom, to indulge in a pleasantry called the Election of Kings by Beans. In England, in later times, a large cake was formed, with a bean inserted, and this was called Twelfth-Cake. The family and friends being assembled, the cake was divided by lot, and who-ever got the piece containing the bean was accepted as king for the day, and called King of the Bean.
In England, it appears there was always a queen as well as a king on Twelfth-Night. A writer, speaking of the celebration in the south of England in 1774, says:
‘After tea, a cake is produced, with two bowls containing the fortunate chances for the different sexes. The host fills up the tickets, and the whole company, except the king and queen, are to be ministers of state, maids of honour, or ladies of the bed-chamber. Often the host and hostess, more by design, than accident, become king and queen. According to Twelfth-Day law, each party is to support his character till midnight.’
In the sixteenth century, it would appear that some peculiar ceremonies followed the election of the king and queen. Barnaby Goodge, in his paraphrase of the curious poem of Nagcorgus, The Popish Kingdom, 1570, states that the king, on being elected, was raised up with great cries to the ceiling, where, with chalk, he inscribed crosses on the rafters to protect the house against evil spirits.
A Twelfth-Day custom, connected with Paget’s Bromley in Staffordshire, went out in the seventeenth century. A man came along the village with a mock horse fastened to him, with which he danced, at the same making a snapping noise with a bow and arrow. He was attended by half-a-dozen fellow-villagers, wearing mock deers’ heads, and displaying the arms of the several chief landlords of the town. This party danced the Hays, and other country dances, to music, amidst the sympathy and applause of the multitude. There was also a huge pot of ale with cakes by general contribution of the village, out of the very surplus of which ‘they not only repaired their church, but kept their poor too; which charges are not now, perhaps, so cheerfully borne.’
On Twelfth-Night, 1606, Ben Jonson’s masque of Hymen was preformed before the Court; and in 1613, the gentleman of Gray’s Inn were permitted by Lord Bacon to perform a Twelfth-Day masque at Whitehall. In the masque the character of Baby cake is attended by ‘an usher bearing a great cake with a bean and all with good will have spared unto your lordship, please.’
On Twelfth-Day, 1563, Mary Queen of Scots celebrated the French pastime of the King of the Bean at Holyrood, but with a queen instead of a king, as more appropriate, in consideration of herself being a female sovereign. The lot fell to the real queen’s attendant, Mary Fleming, and the mistress good-naturedly arrayed the servant in her own robes and jewels, that she might duly sustain the mimic dignity in the festivities of the night. The English resident, Randolph, who was in love with Mary Beton, another of the queen’s maids of honour, wrote in excited terms about this festival to the Earl of Leicester.
‘Happy was it,’ says he, ‘unto this realm, that her reign endured no longer. Two such sights, in one state, in so good accord, I believe was never seen, as to behold two worthy queens possess, without envy, one kingdom, both upon a day. I leave the rest to your lordship to be judged of. My pen staggereth, my hand faileth, further to write.’
The queen of the bean was that day in a gown of cloth of silver; her head, her neck, her shoulders, the rest of her whole body, so beset with stones, that more in our whole jewel-house were not to be found. . . The cheer was great. I never found myself so happy, nor so well treated, until that it came to the point that the old queen [Mary] herself, to show her mighty power, contrary unto the assurance granted me by the younger queen [Mary Fleming], drew me into the dance, which part of the play I could with good will have spared unto your lordship, as much fitter for the purpose.”
Charles I had his masque on Twelfth-Day, and the Queen hers on the Shrovetide following, the expenses exceeding Ã‚Â£2000; and on Twelfth-Night, 1633, the Queen feasted the King at Somerset House, and presented a pastoral, in which she took part.
Down to the time of the Civil Wars, the feast was observed with great splendour, not only at Court, but at the Inns of Court, and the Universities (where it was an old custom to choose the king by the bean in a cake), as well as in private mansions and smaller households.
Then, too, we read of the English nobility keeping Twelfth-Night otherwise than with cake and characters, by the diversion of blowing up pasteboard castles; letting claret flow like blood, out of a stag made of paste; the castle bombarded from a pasteboard ship, with cannon, in the midst of which the company pelted each other with egg-shells filled with rose-water; and large pies were made, filled with live frogs, which hopped and flew out, upon some curious person lifting up the lid.
Twelfth-Night grew to be a Court festival, in which gaming was a costly feature. Evelyn tells us that on Twelfth-Night, 1662, according to custom, his Majesty [Charles II] opened the revels of that night by throwing the dice himself in the Privy Chamber, where was a table set on purpose, and lost his Â£100. [The year before he won Â£1500.] The ladies also played very deep. Evelyn came away when the Duke of Ormond had won about Â£1000, and left them still at passage, cards, &c., at other tables.
The Rev. Henry Teonge, chaplain of one of Charles’s ships-of-war, describes Twelfth-Night on board:
‘Wee had a great kake made, in which was put a beane for the king, a pease for the queen, a cloave for the knave, &c. The kake was cut into several pieces in the great cabin, and all put into a napkin, out of which every one took his piece as out of a lottery; then each piece is broaken to see what was in it, which caused much laughter, and more to see us tumble one over the other in the cabin, by reason of the ruff weather.’
The celebrated Lord Peterborough, then a youth, was one of the party on board this ship, as Lord Mordaunt.
The Lord Mayor and Aldermen and the guilds of London used to go to St. Paul’s on Twelfth-Day, to hear a sermon, which is mentioned as an old custom in the early part of Elizabeth’s reign.
A century ago, the king, preceded by heralds, pursuivants, and the Knights of the Garter, Thistle, and Bath, in the collars of their respective orders, went to the Royal Chapel at St. James’s, and offered gold, myrrh, and frankincense, in imitation of the Eastern Magi offering to our Saviour. Since the illness of George III, the procession, and even the personal appearance of the monarch, have been discontinued. Two gentlemen from the Lord Chamberlain’s office now appear instead, attended by a box ornamented at top with a spangled star, from which they take the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and place them on an alms-dish held forth by the officiating priest.
In the last century, Twelfth-Night Cards represented ministers, maids of honour, and other attendants of a court, and the characters were to be supported throughout the night. John Britton, in his Autobiography, tells us he ‘ suggested and wrote a series of Twelfth-Night Characters, to be printed on cards, placed in a bag, and drawn out at parties on the memorable and merry evening of that ancient festival. They were sold in small packets to pastrycooks, and led the way to a custom which annually grew to an extensive trade. For the second year, my pen-and-ink characters were accompanied by prints of the different personages by Cruikshank (father of the inimitable George), all of a comic or ludicrous kind.’ Such characters are still printed.
The celebration of Twelfth-Day with the costly and elegant Twelfth-cake has much declined within the last half-century. Formerly, in London, the confectioners’ shops on this day were entirely filled with Twelfth-cakes, ranging in price from several guineas to a few shillings; the shops were tastefully illuminated, and decorated with artistic models, transparencies, &c. We remember to have seen a huge Twelfth-cake in the form of a fortress, with sentinels and flags; the cake being so large as to fill two ovens in baking.