The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A Mock Play

William Hone, The Every Day Book, 2 Vols. London: William Tegg, 1825, 1827.

Volume 2

Whitehaven Customs.

To the Editor of the Every-Day Book.

Whitehaven, 4th Sept. 1826.

Sir,—You furnished your readers last Christmas with a dish, greatly up-heaped, of information regarding the manner in which it was kept in various parts of the kingdom. I enclose herein a printed copy of the play, which is said, or rather rung, at and about that time, by numbers of boys in this town. The comedians, of which there are many companies, parade the streets, and ask at almost every door if the mummers are wanted. They are dressed in the most grotesque fashion; their heads adorned with high paper caps, gilt and spangled, and their bodies with ribbons of various colours, while St. George and the prince are armed with ten swords. The “mysterie” (query?) ends with a song, and afterwards a collection is made. This is the only relic of ancient times which exists in this town, excepting, indeed, it be the Waites—a few persons who parade the streets for a fortnight or three weeks before Christmas, and play upon violins one or two lively jig tunes, and afterwards call upon the inhabitants for a few pence each. The same persons, when they hear of a marriage, or of the arrival from abroad of a sea-faring man, regularly attend and fiddle away till they raise the person or persons; and for this they expect a trifling remuneration.

I am satisfied you will join me, in surprise, that for so great a number of years. such a mass of indecent vulgarity as “Alexander and the king of Egypt,” should been used ‘without alteration.

Upon the death of any individual, poor or rich, in this town, and the day before the funeral, the parish clerk, or the clerk of the church in whose church-yard the corpse is to be interred, goes round the town, with or without mourning as the case may be, and rings a bell, like a bellman, and thus announces his purpose: “All friends and neighbours are desired to attend the corpse of A. B. from Queen-street to St. James’s church to-morrow afternoon at four o’clock.”

Some of these hints may be of use to you—if so I shall rejoice; for a kinder- hearted publication than yours I never perused.

For the present I am, Mr. Hone,

Yours, most respectfully,

An Admirer Of Your Every-Day Book.

The tract accompanying the preceding communication is entitled “Alexander and the King of Egypt; a mock Play, as it is acted by the Mummers every Christmas. Whitehaven. Printed by T. Wilson, King-street.” Eight pages, 8vo. An opportunity is thus obligingly afforded of making the following extracts:

Act I. Scene I.

Enter Alexander

Alexander speaks

Silence, brave gentlemen, if you will give, air eye,
Alexander is my name, I’ll sing a tragedy
A ramble here I took the country for to see,
Three actors I have brought, so far from Italy
The first I do present, he is a noble king,
He’st just comc from the wars, good tidings he doth bring;
The next that doth come in he is a doctor good,
Had it not been for him I’d surely lost my blood,
Old Dives is the next, a miser you may see,
Who, by lending of his geld, is come to poverty
So, gentlemen, you see, our actors will go round,
Stand off a little while more pastime will be found.

Act I. Scene II

Enter Actors

Room, room, brave gallants, give us room to sport,
For in this room we wish for to resort,
Resort and to repeat to you our merry rhyme,
For remember, good aim, this is Christmas time
The time to cut up goose-pies now doth appear,
So we are come to act our merry Christmas here,
At the sound of the trumpet and beat of the drum
Make room, brave gentlemen, and let our actors come.
We are the merry actors that traverse the street;
We are the merry actors that fight for our meat;
We are the merry actors that show pleasant play
Step in thou King of Egypt and clear the way.

K. of Eqypt. I am the King of Egypt as plainly doth appear,
And Prince George lie is my only son and heir,
Step in therefore, my son, and act thy part with me,
And show forth thy fame before the company•

P. George. I am Prince George, a champion brave and bold,
For with my spear I’ve won three crowns of gold,

Twas I that brought the dragon to the slaughter,
And 1 that gain’d the Egyptian monarch’s daughter.
In Egypt’s fields I prisoner long was kept,
But by my valour I from them escap’d;
I sounded loud at the gate of a divine,
And out came a giant of no good design,
He gave me a blow which almost struck me dead,
But I up with my sword and cut off his head.

Alex. Hold, Slacker, hold, pray do not be so hot,

For in this spot thou know’st not who thou’st got,
‘Tis I that’s to hash thee and smash thee as small as flies,
And send thee to Satan to make mince pies.
Mince pies hot, mince pies cold,
I’ll send thee to Satan ‘ere thou’rt three days old;
But hold, Prince George, before you go away,
Either you or I must die this bloody day,
Some mortal wounds thou shalt receive by las,
So let us fight it out most manfully.

Act II. Scene I

Alexander and Prince George fight, the latter is wounded and falls.

King of Egypt speaks.

Curs’d Christian, what is this thou hast done?
Thou hast ruin’d me by killing my best son.

Alex. He gave me a challenge, why should I him deny?
How high he was, but see, how low he lies.

K. of Egypt. O Sambo, Sambo, help me now,
For I was never more in need,
For thee to stand with sword in hand,
And to fight at my command.

Doctor. Yes, my liege, I will thee obey,
And by my sword I hope to win the day;
Yonder stands he who has kill’d my master’s son,
And has his ruin thoughtlessly begun,
I’ll try if he be sprung from royal blood,
And though his body make an ocean flood,
Gentlemen, you see my sword’s point is broke,
Or else I’d run it through that villain’s throat.

K. of Egypt. Is there never a doctor to be found,
That cast cure my son of his deadly wound?

Doctor. Yes there is a doctor to be found.
That can cure your son of his deadly wound

K. of Egypt. What diseases can he cure?

[The doctor relates in ribald lines his various remedies, and the scene ends.]

Act II. Scene II.

Prince George arises

Prince George speaks.

O horrible! terrible! the like was never seen
A man drove out of seven senses into fifteen
And not of fifteen into four score,
O horrible! terrible! the like was ne’er before.

Alex. Thou silly ass, that liv’st on grass
dost thou abuse a stranger?

I live in hopes to buy new ropes, and tie thy nose to a manger.

P. George. Sir, unto you I bend,

Alex. Stand off thou slave, I think thee not my friend;

P. George. A slave Sir, that’s for me by far too base a name,
That word deserves to stab thine honour’s fame!

Alex. To be stabb’d, sir, is least of all my care,
Appoint your time and place, I’ll meet yen there.

P. George. I’ll cross the water at the hour of five.

Alex. I’ll meet you there, sir, if I be alive,

P. George. But stop, sir, I’ll wish you a wife both lusty and young,
Can talk Dutch, French, and the Italian tongue Alex. I’ll have none such.

P. George. Why don’t you love your learning?

ALex. Yes, I love my learning as I love my life,
I love a learned scholar, but not a learned wife;
Stand off, &c.

K. of Egypt. Sir, to express thy beauty I’m not able,
For thy face shines like the very kitchen table,
Thy teeth are no whiter than the charcoal, &c.

Alex. Stand off thou dirty dog, or by my sword thou’lt die,
I’ll make thy body full of holes, buttons to fly.

Act II. Scene III

King of Egypt fights, and is killed.

Enter Prince George.

Oh! what is here? oh! what is to be done?
Our king is slain, the crown is likewise gone;
Take up his body, bear it hence away,
For in this place no longer shall it stay.

The Conclusion.

Bouncer Buckler, velvet’s dear,
And Christmas comes but once a year,
Though when it comes it beings good cheer
But farewell Christmas once a year.
Farewell, farewell, adieu! friendship and unity,
I hope we have made sport, and pleas’d the company;
But, gentlemen, you see we’re but actors four,
We’ve done our best, and the best can do no more.

Editor's Note: This entry is strikingly similar to “A Mock Play” from William Sandys, 1852. Recall that one "W.S." has previously submitted a version of “St. George He Was For England” for Volume 2 of the Every-Day Book.

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