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at the time of its subjugation by Julius Caesar: the people were in a state little short of barbarism, and did not indulge in the luxury of dress; it is not impossible, therefore, that Blaise might have introduced it here. But you were about to speak of this procession, Charles.
Charles. Yes, Sir. About four years ago, when I accompanied my father into the wool counties, I saw a very singular procession of woolcombers, which I understood was made once in twenty years, in honour of this Bishop Blaise. It was led by a man, grotesquely arrayed in wool, whom they called Jason, considered to be the protector of the golden fleece: he was followed by others, dressed as shepherds and shepherdesses. A lamb and a bouquet of flowers, made of wool, were next carried by a beautiful young girl, smartly dressed: then came the effigy of the venerable bishop, with the keys of St. Peter and his mitre, which were all made of wool, and gilt. He had on a large wig, which reached down to the saddle, and his woollen bridle was held by two little pages; whilst others were at the stirrups, with a bible in one hand, and a wool-comb in the other. After the bishop, a great number of persons followed, decorated with scarfs, sashes, high caps, flags, and a great number of curious devices, all made of wool, of different kinds and colours; and this curious procession was closed by a cart, in which two woolcombers were at work. It altogether formed a very singular parade, and looked a great deal more splendid than you might suppose.
Arthur. And is it true, papa, that all the seats in the Parliament-house are made of woolsacks?
Mr. Constance. No, my dear, not all; though there are four in the House of Lords, upon which the Lord Chancellor and the twelve Judges usually sit. They have been so from time immemorial; and were placed there for the purpose of reminding their Lordships of the importance of that commodity, and the necessity of their paying a special regard to the manufactures, of which wool forms an essential part. But it is of course only the shape of a woolsack that is retained; they are covered, like the other seats, with crimson cloth.
Charles. I believe the memory of St. Blaise has been handed down to us by a number of superstitious accounts as to his capability of working miracles: amongst others, that a faith in him was an infallible cure for a sore throat.
Angelina. I should think, with all reverence for the memory of the worthy bishop, that a sore throat would be sooner and more effectually cured by wrapping it round with some of that article of which he is considered the patron. But, William, 1 am desirous of knowing the history of St. Agatha, whose name stands opposite the 5th of this month.
William. St. Agatha, like the lovely St. Agnes, mentioned in January, fell a victim to beauty, and an ardent love of Christianity; but the violence of her tortures are almost too severe to relate, while the accounts of her miraculous deeds show an ingenious wickedness in their invention; though great part of her history, I have no doubt, is true. We are told she was a native of Sicily; where, even to this day, she is honoured as a guardian saint and protectress; but her history not having been preserved with that care which her merits appear to have deserved, I am not able to give you her age. She is said to have been extremely beautiful, and nobly descended; and that Quintianus, governor of the province in which she lived, smitten with her personal accomplishments and extraordinary capabilities, endeavoured to obtain her affections. In this, however, he was foiled, as she constantly refused to listen to his protestations; which so roused his indignation, that he persecuted her with brutal, unrelenting violence, causing her to be publicly scourged, immured in a loathsome dungeon, and at last, determined upon her destruction, for resolutely refusing to sacrifice to the Pagan deities. She, steadfast in her belief, bore the tortures of the rack, the searing with hot irons, and even the deprivation of her breasts, it is said, with a firmness and resolution only shown by those who have fallen in the cause of Christianity. She lived, however, after these accumulated sufferings, to receive fresh proofs of the tyrant's thirst for revenge: he remanded her to prison, to undergo additional torments; but the walls of her place of confinement are said to have fallen down, killing two of those who were preparing fresh instruments of cruelty; and that Heaven, hearing her prayers for release from her enemies, closed her eyes in death as she was summoned to prepare for the rack. She died on the 5th of February, about the year 252, under the Emperor Decius.
Maria. Poor girl! what an accumulation of sufferings! I am not surprised that her memory is held in veneration by those of her own country.
Mr. Constance. The actual place of her birth has been disputed; the cities of Palermo and Catania contending for the honour: but it has been well remarked, that " they do much better, who, by copying her virtues, strive to be her fellow-citizens in heaven." The Catanians, however, have a splendid annual fete to her memory, on which occasion her effigy is idolized in the most profane manner, by all classes of the people, and their city brilliantly illuminated.
William. The miraculous portion of the history of St. Agatha, consists in an absurd notion that her veil, which was deposited in a church built and dedicated to her memory at Catania, would, by its sacred influence, protect that ancient city from the eruptions of Mount Etna; but, as the city has since been both overwhelmed by lava, and overturned by earthquakes, destroying at one time 18,000 people, her veil has not had that complete dominion over the mountain, which the Catanians are disposed to believe, even at the present day. Many other miracles, connected with her history, are related, but all too absurd to repeat.
Arthur. Pray, William, why is the next day in the calendar called Shrove Tuesday? It is also known by the name of Pancake Day; and I have kept it by eating pancakes.
William. I dare say you have. But, when doing so, it probably never occurred to you that you were performing a religious rite, instituted by the members of the ancient church of Rome. It is known by both the names you have mentioned. The term shrove is derived from the verb shrive, which means "to confess;" and the reason of the name being given to that Tuesday, was from a cus* torn, among Roman Catholics, of confessing their sins on that day, previously to receiving the sacrament, in order to qualify themselves for a more religious observance of the approaching fast of Lent. They were also strictly enjoined to partake of no sort of flesh for food; and hence arose the custom of making pancakes or fritters, and thereby calling it Pancake Day.
Mr. Constance. But although Arthur has frequently kept the day by partaking of these fritters, I believe he has seldom been known to confess his sins,
Arthur. No, papa; it has never been required of me.
Mr. Constancej True, my dear, it has not: you do not profess the Roman Catholic religion. Confession, in the manner prescribed by the Roman church, was no longer allowed in ours, when its service was reformed and purified. The day, however, became, in process of time, a day of general invitations and merry-makings, by way of taking leave of meat and other dainties of the table for the season: but that which was at first innocent, and even religious in its intent, was at length perverted into a day of rioting and drunkenness; when cock-fighting, bull-baiting, and such other diversions as were calculated to promote cruelty and barbarity, were very generally practised.
William. The custom of throwing at cocks, barbarous and inhuman as was the practice, found supporters in this country until within a very few years; and, I fear, is not now entirely abolished in the north of England. The custom was not only cruel but cowardly; and had nothing whatever to recommend it as a manly sport, which I think you will readily acknowledge, when I tell you, that the poor creature destined for the victim of the day, was tied to a stake at the distance of twenty-two yards from its persecutors, who were allowed three throws at it for twopence, with a thick stick about three feet long. The sport consisted in witnessing the agitation of the poor bird, and the dexterity with which it evaded the threatened blow; while the gain was to be found, when, having knocked it down, they were enabled to seize the bird in their hands, before it could recover from the severity of the shock, and claim it as their prize.
Mrs. Constance. The custom of such cruel diversions in Britain, I have heard attributed to the loose pastimes formerly practised at the Carnivals performed here, when Catholicism was the established religion of the state ; and that it is a relic of a very barbarous age.
Mr. Constance. The origin of cock-fighting in this country has not been determined. The birds were found in England by Julius Caesar; and it is expressly mentioned in his Commentaries, that they were kept merely for pleasure, as the natives did not deem it lawful to eat either domestic fowls, geese, or hares. But the oldest account of their being used for fighting is to be found in a