Page images
PDF
EPUB

plaster of Paris, or lime. Opposite to her sits her caro sposo, or husband, dressed as a grand sultan, or Muscovite czar : while all the little signorini of the family, male . and female, habited as harlequins, columbines, and kings and queens, are crammed into the carriage: even the coachman is supplied with a dress, and appears in the character of an elderly lady, or an Arcadian shepherdess; and the footman takes the guise of an English miss, or a French court-lady, and figures in a spenser and short petticoat, or, accoutred with a hoop and a fan, salutes the passers-by with ' Buon giour, Messieurs.'

"At the Ave Maria, or fall of day, the cannon again fire, as a signal to clear the street for the horse course. All noise then ceases; the carriages file off by the nearest avenue; their owners scramble to their windows, balconies, chairs, or scaffolds; while the pedestrians, that have no such resources, driven by the soldiery from the open street, are crowded on the footways to suffocation. But no. terror, no discipline, can restrain their ardour to see the first starting of the horses. ,

"A temporary barrier, erected near the Porta del Popolo, is the point from which the race commences; another on the Piazza di Venezia is the termination of the course. The horses are small, and of little value: they have no rider, but are placed each in a stall behind a rope, which is dropped as soon as the moment for starting arrives; when the animals seldom require to be put in motion by force. A number of tinfoil and paper flags are stuck over their haunches; small pointed bodices are placed to operate as a spur; and the noise and the pain of these decorations serve to put the horse on its full speed, to which it is further urged by the shouting of the populace. At the sound of the trumpet (the signal for starting), even at the approach of the officer who gives the order, the animals exhibit their impatience to be off; and they continue their race, or ratber their flight, amidst the screams, plaudits, and vivats of the people of all ranks. This scene forms the last of each day's spectacle, when every one is obliged to quit his carnival habit; for it is only on one or two particular evenings that there is a masked ball at the Aliberti."

Mr. Constance. We thank you, Angelina, for reading the account of the carnival, since it makes us acquainted with the proceedings of a festival of great importance on the Continent; but I think it must have occurred to you, notwithstanding the lively manner in which the fair author has described the amusements, to be a species of entertainment ill suited to the sober habits of Englishmen, and affording opportunities for dissipation and idleness. Where the Twelfth Day is devoted to gathering neighbours and friends together, as it is in this country, for friendly and social purposes, benevolence and good will are thereby promoted, and an intimacy cemented, which frequently lasts through life. But not so with the carnival; the noise and confusion of masquerading in public places is not to be compared with the quiet and harmonious enjoyments of home.—You will now please to proceed, William, to the next remarkable day.

William. It is the 8th of this month, and is called St. Lucian, after a learned man of that name, who suffered martyrdom on the rack in the year 312, for composing and reciting an admirable eulogy on the Christian religion. He was a native of Syria, and lived in the time of Maximinus II. by whose command he was tortured, and finally slain. He was benevolent, just, and amiable, giving his fortune to the poor, and employing himself in the study of the Scriptures, which he revised and circulated. Plough Monday, which you observe in the calendar, always happens on the Monday after Epiphany, and was devoted by our forefathers to the examining of their ploughs. It is now frequently observed by the inhabitants of the north of England, by a variety of ceremonies, gambols, and antics. The rustic sword-dance, probably introduced by the Danes, is performed on this occasion, by young men decorated with ribands, and dressed in white linen. They also drag a plough from door to door, soliciting plough money. But this is quite a rural holyday, and of course unnoticed by persons in large towns.

Maria. Pray, who was St. Hilary, whose festival is on the 14th; was he not one of the " Fathers of the Christian church"?

William. He was; and received that title for his writings in the cause of Christianity. He was an excellent orator and poet, and is said to have been the first composer of hymns to be sung in churches. He was born at Poictiers, of illustrious parents, and was there chosen bishop in the year 355; but was afterwards banished, by order of the Emperor Constantius, for his opposition to the tenets of the sect called Arians. He then travelled into various parts, preaching Christ, under accumulated sufferings; but finally returned to his native place, where he ended his days in the year 368. He was educated in the Pagan religion, and converted to Christianity by the perusal of the Scriptures.

Mr. Constance. This saint also gives name to one of the Terms, or periods of the year, when the courts of justice are opened for the trial of civil causes; perhaps, William, you had better describe the Terms now, which will prevent the necessity of recurring to them at any of our future meetings.

William. Of the exact origin of the present arrangement of law seasons, I am quite ignorant; time, however, has so far perfected what was formerly but very incomplete. Our Christian forefathers heard appeals on each day of the week throughout the year; but this being found incon-* venient, partial improvement was progressively made until the year 932, when a council was held in Germany for the particular consideration of the subject; and such regulations were then adopted, as were afterwards enforced upon all Christian nations. Since that period, it has occasionally been revised, and is even now under improvement, to meet the increased wants of the people. There are four Terms in the year: the first is called St. Hilary, or Lent Term, which commences on the 23d of this month, and continues until the 12th of February; the second is named Easter Term, and begins on the Wednesday fortnight after Easter Day, and ends the first Monday after Ascension Day; the third, Trinity Term, beginning on the first Friday after Trinity Sunday, and ending on the Wednesday fortnight from that period; and the fourth, entitled Michaelmas Term, commences on the 6th of November, and ends on the 28th of the same month,

Charles. Then, according to your statement, William, the time occupied in hearing civil causes in these four Terms scarcely amounts to four months in the year.

William. True ; but in consequence of the great increase of business, since the first enactment of a Term for each season, the sittings have, by statute, been extended to fourteen days after Term, in addition to the sittings at Nisi Prius, which are held during Term-time by each of the Courts of King's Bench, Common Pleas, and Exchequer. The latter court, indeed, is open eight days before Easter and Michaelmas Terms, and four days before Trinity. So that the period is greatly extended since the first institution of Terms.

Maria. But that which happens on the festival of St. Hilary is a University Term, is it not?

William. It is so: Hilary Term at Cambridge begins on the 14th of this month, nine days before the Law Term. And the University Terms, although they are knowa c5

by the same titles, differ from the Law Terms, both in the time of their commencement and termination; as do also the Candlemas, Whitsuntide, Lammas, and Martinmas Terms of Scotland.

Mr. Constance. Having explained the periods of the different Terms, you will now please to proceed to an account of St. Prisca.

William. The 18th and 20th days of this month are devoted to the remembrance of St. Prisca and St. Fabian, the former a young and accomplished Roman lady, who suffered martyrdom in the year 275, for refusing to abjure the religion of Christ, in which she had been early educated; and the latter, who bore the character of an " incomparable man," was also a martyr to the same good cause. He was elected by the people and clergy to succeed St. Anterius in the pontificate, in the year 236; When he sent St. Dionysius and other preachers into Gaul, and was instrumental in making many converts. He filled the papal chair for fourteen years, and in 250 suffered martyrdom, under the persecution of Decius, the immediate successor of the Emperor Philip; who, beings deemed a Christian, and admiring the integrity of Fabian, had committed his treasures to his care, which Decius demanded on ascending the throne; but, not receiving so much as his avarice led him to expect, the disappointment proved fatal to Fabian: he was beheaded.

Mrs. Constance. The fate of St. Agnes, whose name is mentioned on the 21st, is so honourable to our sex, that I cannot refrain from relating it. We learn, from ancient writers, that she was but thirteen years of age at the time of her death; and that she not only met it with courage, but with a smiling countenance. Her beauty had induced many of the young noblemen of Rome to endeavour to gain her in marriage, but without avail, as she repeated always,

« PreviousContinue »