A Christmas Play from Keynsham [Hunter] 1822

C.R.Baskervill (1924) pp.240,268-272


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Context:
Location: Keynsham, Somerset, England (ST6568)
Year: Perf. 1822
Time of Occurrence: Christmas
Collective Name: Christmas Boys

Source:

C.R.Baskervill
Mummers' Wooing Plays in England
Modern Philology, 1924, Vol.21, No.3, pp.240,268-272


Cast: (Click on any name for the character name index.)
Text:

Father Christmas

In come I, Old Father Christmas, welcome or welcome not
I hope old Father Christmas will never be forgot.
A room, a room
I do persume
For me and my brave gallants all
Please Sir to give leave to rhyme
For now I an come this merry Christmas time.
Activity of Youth, Activity of Age
The like was never seen before, nor acted on the stage.
As I walk down
in Warwickshire
To view the red Deer
Which runs here and there
And there I saw bold Robin Hood
And with my staff all on my shoulder
So soon I cleared the way
With my one two and three
I made them for to flee
Any man do more than me.
Walk in Saint George.

Saint George

In come I Saint George that noble Knigh
Which lost my blood in English fight
This is the reason
That makes me carry this bloody weapon.
Any man do more than me.

Father Christmas

Walk in the valiant Soldier.

Slasher

In come I the valiant Soldier bold
Slasher is my name
Sword and Buckler by my side
I warrant to win the game.

Saint George

Very likely!

Slasher

And very likely too!
And what makes your nose look so red?

Slasher

You eat more bread and cheese and drink more ale
And that will keep you from looking pale.

Saint George

Slasher, Slasher, don't be so hot
For in this place you know not whom youve got

Slasher

A battle, a battle let thee and I try
Which on the ground first shall lie.

{They fight and St George is slain.}

Slasher

Five pound I would give if a noble Doctor can be found.

{Enter Doctor}

Doctor

See Sir, see Sir, here comes this noble Doctor
who travels much at home
Don't go about like your little Quack Doctors.
I go about for the good of the country
more to cure than I do to kill.
Bring me an old woman that has lain in the grave.
If she will arise & take one of my pills,
I will be bound in a fifty pound bond her life to save.
Thomas!

{Enter Thomas}

Thomas

Yes, Sir.

Doctor

This man is not dead.

Thomas

Not dead! Sir.
He has only got the tooth-ache.
I think you had better draw it, Sir.

Doctor {pretends to draw an immense tooth which he exhibits}

Gentlemen, Gentlemen all
Is not this enough to kill any man at all.
I have travelled through Ireland Scotland & France
Rise up, St. George, and have a dance.

Saint George

Terrible, Terrible, the like was never seen
Enough to frighten any man out of seven senses into seventeen
Any man do more than me.

Father Christmas

Walk in Shepherdess.
Once I was a Shepherd walking on the plain
Courting of my Shepherdess all among the swain
See, see, who comes here. What shining beautys this
Which takes my delight all in the shady bliss.

Shepherdess

Tis I and my harmless damsel walking on the plain
I an lost, I fear I shall not be found again.

Father Christmas

Miracle thy beauty, I am sure you are no less
Mistress take this little bottle and quench your thirst.

Shepherdess

Yes kind Sir let me thank you for it first
It is very good indeed Sir, - much better may you be
I thank you kind Sir for giving it to me.

Father Christmas

If I had a thing as I could call my own
How proud and lofty I should be

Shepherdess

Thou has said enough to shoot the dart
So let us gain the prince's heart.

Prince

Good morrow, Moll, this morning gay
Where art thou going so soon this way
I have something to say to thee if thou will stay.

Shepherdess

What hast thou got to say to me
Come tell me quick and true
For here I stand spending my time to thee
I know not how.

Prince

Thy father and thy mother too
Told me that we should married, married be
And so pull down thy swathful look
And swap thy love on me.

Shepherdess

I will never marry with a cloud
But I will have a handsome young man
To lie in bed with me.

Prince

What dost thou talk of now
Am I not handsome enough for thee
Pray look another twich

{And here end this tragi-comic Pastoral. Father Christmas here beginning to sing his Carol - of which two are commonly in use: 'While Shepherds watch their flock by night' and 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' &c.}


Notes:

"The texts printed here were written down in the early part of the nineteenth-century and are preserved in manuscripts in the British Museum. The Keynsham Play exists in two forms in Hunter's manuscripts entitled 'Collectanea Hunteriana. Popular Antiquities, etc.' The form written and signed by an actor of the play, James Cantle, with notes in a different hand, presumably that of Hunter, is found in Additional MS 24,546, fols. 46-47. Hunter's arrangement of the text, which is printed below, is in Add, MS 24,542, fols. 25-27. In an introduction he tells briefly of this and of similar plays that he had often witnessed in Yorkshire. The part of his account which bears on the play published here is as follows:

'It is usual at Christmas in most parts of England for a number of young men (about ten) to dress themselves fantastically, putting the shirt of the outside and decorating themselves with foil especially where that metal is known with Assidue, and in this disguise to go from house to house offering to perform a Christmas play, and of course expecting a gratuity. These people are called in the North by the name of Mummers. I never heard any other name: but when I met a party of them at Keynsham in Somersetshire, they called themselves Christmas Boys. They usually carried old swords which were used in the fight which generally made part of the entertainment.... I have obtained from a Country youth who was one of the performers a copy of the Dialogue in a play which I witnessed at Keynsham in Somersetshire on 27 of December 1822.'"

It is Hunter's version - transcribed from C.R.Baskervill (1923) - that is encoded here.


File History:
19th June 1999 - Entered by Peter Millington

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