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Chambers, Robert, 1802-1871 / Chambers's book of days, a miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography & history, curiosities of literature and oddities of human life and character
Vol. I (1879)

April,   pp. 452-564 PDF (74.3 MB)


Page 564

ASTONBU;RY WATERS.           THE BOOK OF DAYS.            HISTORY OF SILK STOCKINGS.
Dryden speaks of the use of the quarter-stafr
in a manner which would imply that in his timre,
when not in use, the weapon was hung upon the
back, for he says
'His quarter-staff, which lie could ne'er forsake,
Hung half before and half behind his back.'
Bacon speaks of the use of cudgels by the
captains of the Roman armies ; but it is very
questionable whether these cudgels partook of
the character of the quarter-staff. Most persons
will remember how often bouts at quarter-staff'
occur in the ballads descriptive of the adventures
of Robin Hood and Little John. Thus, in the
encounter of Robin with the tanner, Arthur-a-
Bland:
'Then Robin he unbuckled his belt,
And laid down his how so long;
He took up a staff of another oak graff,
That was both stiff and strong.
But let me measure," said jolly Robin,
" Before we begin our fray;
For Ill not have mine to be longer than thine
For that will be counted foul play."
I pass not for length," bold Arthur replied,
" My staff is of oak so free;
Eight foot and a half it will knock down a calf,
And I hope it will knock down thee."
Then Robin could no longer forbear,
He gave him such a knock,
Quickly and soon the blood came down,
Before it was ten o'clock.
About and about and about they went,
Like two wild boars in a chase,
Striving to aim each other to maim,
Leg, arm, or any other place.
And knock for knock they hastily dealt,
Which held for two hours and more
That all the wood rang at every bang,
They plied their work so sore.'
In the last century games or matches at
cudgels were of frequent occurrence, and public
subscriptions were entered into for the purpose
of finding the necessary funds to provide prizes.
We have in our possession the original subscrip-
tion list for one of these cudgel matches. which
was played for on the 30th of April 1748. at
Shrivenhain, in the county of Berks, the patrons
on that occasion being Lord Barrington. the
Hons. Daniel and Sanuel Barrington, Wither-
ington Morris, Esq., &c.  The amount to be
distributed in prizes was a little over five
pounds. We find now-a-days pugilists engage
im a much more brutal and less scientific dis-
play for a far less sum. The game appears to
have almost gone out of use in England, although
we occasionally hear of its introduction into
some of our public schools.
WONDERS OF THE GLASTONBURY WATERS.
Under the 30th April 1751, Richard Gough
enters in his diary-' At Glastonbury, Somerset,
a man thirty years afflicted with an asthma,
dreamed that a person told him, if he drank of
such particular waters, near the Chain-gate, seven
Sunday mornings, he should be cured, which he
501
accordingly did and was well, and attested it on
oath. This being rumoured abroad, it brought
numbers of people from all parts of the kingdom
to drink of these miracelous waters for various
distempers, -and many were healed, and great
numbers received benefit.'
Five days after, Mr Gough added: ''Twas
computed 10,000 people were now at Glaston-
bury, from different parts of the kingdom, to
drink the waters there for various distempers.'
Of course, a therapeutical system of this kind
could not last long. Southey preserves to us in
his Con mon-place Book a curious example of
the cases. A young man, witnessing the per-
formance of Hamlet at the Drury Lane Theatre,
was so frightened at sight of the ghost, that a
humour broke out upon him, which settled in
the king's evil. After all medicines had failed,
he came to these waters, and they effected a
thorough cure. Faith healed the ailment which
fear had produced.
The last of April may be said to have in it a
tint of the coming May. The boys, wisely pro-
vident of what was to be required to-morrow,
went out on this day to seek for trees from which
they might obtain their proper supplies of the
May blossom. Dryden remarks the vigil or eve
of May day:
'Waked, as her custom was, before the day,
To do th' observance due to sprightly May,
For sprightly May commands our youth to keep
The vigils of her night, and breaks their rugged
sleep.,
EARLY HISTORY OF SILK STOCKINGS.
April 30th 1560. Sir Thomas Gresham writes from
Antwerp to Sir William Cecil, Elizabeth's great
minister, ' I have written into Spain for silk hose
both for you and my lady, your wife; to whom it
may please you I may be remembered.' These silk
hose, of black colour, were accordingly soon after sent
by Gresham to Cecil.t
Hose were, up to the time of Henry VIII., made out
of ordinary cloth : the king's own were formed of
yard-wide taffata. It was only by chance that he
might obtain a pair of silk hose from Spain. His son
Edward VI. received as a present from Sir Thomas
Gresham-Stow speaks of it as a great present-
' a pair of long Spanish silk stockings.' For some
years longer, silk stockings continued to be a great
rarity. 'In the second year of Queen Elizabeth,'
says Stow, 'I her silk woman, Mistress Montague,
presented her Majesty with a pair of black knit silk
stockings for a new-year's gift ; the which, after a
few days wearing, pleased her Highness so well that
she sent for Mistress Montague, and asked her where
she had them, and if she could help her to any more
who answered, saying, " I made them very carefully,
of purpose only for your Majesty, and seeing these
please you so well, I will presently set more in hand."
"Do so," quoth the Queen, "for indeed I like silk
stockings so well, because they are pleasant, fine, and
delicate, that henceforth I will wear no more cloth
stockings."  And from  that time to her death the
Queen never wore cloth hose, but only silk stock-
ings.'
* Palamon and Arcite. B.L.
t BHurgon's Life of Sir Th mas Gresham, 2 vols. 839
vol i., p. 110. 302.
+ Stow's Chronicle, edit. 1631, p. 887.


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