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pair of ever being able to reach the Fountain Head of Streams which have been running and increasing from the Beginning of Time. All that we aspire to do, is only to trace backwards, as far as possible, the Courses of them on those Charts, that remain, of the distant Countries from whence they were first perceived to flow.
Few, who are desirous of investigating the popular Notions and vulgar Ceremonies in our Nation, can fail of deducing them in their first Direction from the Times when Popery was our established Religion.
We shall not wonder that these were able to survive the Reformation, when we consider, that though our sensible and spirited Forefathers were, upon Conviction, easily induced to forego religious Tenets, which had been weighed in the Balance, and found wanting; yet were the People by no means inclined to annihilate the seemingly innocent Ceremonies of their former superstitious Faith.
These, consecrated to the Fancies of Men, by a Usage from Time immemorial, though erazed by public Authority from the written Word, were committed as a venerable Deposit to the keeping of oral Tradition : like the Penates of another Troy, recently destroyed, they were religiously brought off, after having been snatched out of the smoking Ruins of Popery.
It is not improbable that, in the Infancy of Protestantism, the continuance of many of these was connived at by the State. For Men, “ who are but Children of a
larger Growth,” are not weaned all at once, and the Reformation of Manners, and of Religion, is always most surely established, when effected by slow Degrees, and as it were imperceptible Gradations.
Thus also at the first Promulgation of Christianity to the Gentile Nations, through the Force of Conviction
they yielded indeed to Truth; yet they could not be persuaded to relinquish many of their Superstitions, which rather than forego them altogether, they chose to blend and incorporate with their new Faith.
Christian, or rather Papal Rome, borrowed her Rites, Notions, and Ceremonies, in the most luxurious Abundance from ancient and Heathen Rome; and much the greater Number of these flaunting Externals, which Infallibility has adopted, and used as Feathers to adorn her Triple Cap, have been stolen out of the Wings of the dying Eagle.
With regard to the Rites, Sports, &c. of the Common People, I am aware that the morose and bigoted Part of Mankind * without distinguishing between the right Use and the abuse of such Entertainments, cavil at and maliga them. Yet must such be told that Shows and Sports have been countenanced by the best and wisest of States; and though it cannot be denied that they have been sometimes prostituted to the Purposes of Riot and Debauchery, yet were we to reprobate every thing that has been thus abused, Religion itself could not be retained; perhaps we should be able to keep nothing. .. The Common People, confined by daily Labour, seem
* I shall quote here the subsequent curious Thoughts on this Sub-ject: the Puritans are ridiculed in them.
These teach that Dancing is a 'Jezabell,
Randolph's Poems, 1646.
to require their proper Intervals of Relaxation , perhaps it is of the highest political Utility to encourage Innocent Sports and Games among them. The revival of many of these, would, I think, be highly pertinent at this particular Season, when the general Spread of Luxury and Dissipation threatens more than at any preceding Period to extinguish the Character of our boasted national Bravery. For the Observation of an honest old Writer, Stow; (who tells us, speaking of the May-games, MidsummerEve * Rejoicings, &c. antiently used in the Streets of London, “ which open Pastimes in my Youth being now
supprest, worse Practices within Doors are to be feared)" may be with singular propriety adopted on the most transient Survey of our present popular Manners.
Mr. Bourne, my predecessor in this Walk, has not, from whatever Cause, done Justice to the Subject he undertook 10 treat of. Far from having the Vanity to think that I have exhausted it, the utmost of my Pretensions is to the Merit of having endeavoured, by making Additions, to improve it. I think him, however, deserving of no small Share of Praise for his imperfect Attempt, for “ much is due to those, who first broke the Way to knowledge, and left only to their Successors the Task of smoothing it."
New Lights have arisen since his Time. The English Antique has become a general and fashionable Study; and the Discoveries of the very respectable Society of
* I call to mind here the pleasing Account Mr. Sterne has left us in his Sentimental Journey, of the Grace-dance after Supper.---I agree with that amiable Writer in thinking that Religion may mix herself in the Dance, and that innocent Cheerfulness is no inconsiderable Part of Devotion; such indeed as cannot fail of being grateful to the Good Being,-- it is a silent but eloquent Mode of praising him!
THE GENERAL PREFACE.
Antiquaries have rendered the Recesses of Papal and Heathen Antiquities easier of access.
I flatter myself I have turned all these Circumstances in some measure to Advantage. I have gleaned Passages .that seemed to throw Light upon the Subject, from a great variety of Volumes, and those written too in several Languages; in the doing of which, if I shall not be found to have deserved the Praise of Judgment, I must at least make Pretensions to the Merit of Industry:
Elegance of Composition will hardly be expected in a Work of this Kind, which stands much less in need of Attic Wit, than of Roman Perseverance and Dutch Assiduity.
I shall offer some Discoveries, which are peculiarly my own; for there are Customs yet retained here in the North, of which I am persuaded the learned of the Southern Part of the Island have not heard, which is, perhaps, the sole Cause why they have never before been investigated.
In perusing the subsequent Observations, the candid Reader, who has never before considered this neglected Subject, is requested not to be rash in passing Sentence, but to suspend his Judgment, at least, till he has carefully examined all the Evidence; by which Caution I do not wish to have it understood, that our Determinations are thought to be infallible, or that every Decision here is not amenable to an higher Authority. In the mean time Prejudice may be forwarned, and it will apologize for many seemingly trivial Reasons, assigned for the beginning and transmitting of this or that Notion, or Ceremony, to reflect, that what may appear foolish to the en lightened Understandings of Men in the Eighteenth Century, wore a very different Aspect when viewed through the Gloom that prevailed in the seventh or eighth.
I should trespass upon the patience of my Reader, were I to enumerate all the Books I have consulted on this Occasion; to which, however, I shall take care in their proper Places to refer : but I own myself under particular Obligations to Durand's Ritual of Divine Offices; a Work inimical to every Idea of rational Worship, but to the Enquirer into the Origin of our popular Ceremonies, an invaluable Magazine of the most interesting Intelligence. I would stile this Performance the great Ceremonial Law of the Romanists, in Comparison with which the Mosaic Code is barren of Rights and Ceremonies. We stand amazed on perusing it at the enormous Weight of a new Yoke which Holy Church fabricating with her own Hands has imposed on her servile Devotees.
Yet the Forgers of these Shackles had artfully contrived to make them sit easy, by twisting Flowers around them. Dark as this Picture, drawn by the Pencil of gloomy Superstition, appeared upon the whole, yet it was its deep Shade contrasted with pleasing Light.
The Calendar was crowded with Red-Letter Days, nominally indeed consecrated to Saints ; but which, by the encouragement of Idleness and Dissipation of Manners, gave every kind of countenance to SINNERS.
A Profusion of childish Rites, Pageants and Ceremonies diverted the Attention of the People from the consideration of their real State, and kept them in humour, if it did not sometimes make them in love with their slavish Modes of Worship.
To the Credit of our sensible and manly Forefathers, they were among the first who felt the Weight of this