C.M.Yonge (1858)


Location: town
Time of Occurrence
Collective name
Christmas Boys; Mummers


Source author
[Charlotte Mary Yonge]
Source title
The Christmas Mummers
Source publication
London, J. and C.Mozley, 1856, pp.87-93


Old Father Christmas / Edmund Harper
St. George / Bill Bowles
Turkish Knight / George Lemming
Foreign King / Prince of Morocco / King
Doctor / Peter Lamb
Johnny Jack / Aseph


{When at last they were all ready, off they marched with all the little boys and girls running behind them; and went straight to Farmer Buller's door, where they knew they should find a welcome. They all stood in a row, and began to sing as loud as they were able -}


"I wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy New Year,
A pantryful of good roast-beef,
And barrels full of beer."

{That brought a whole cluster of little heads to the window, and presently Tom Buller opened the door, and called out, "Hollo, Christmas boys, come you in. You're to show off in the big kitchen, 'cause Polly has got a cold."}

{That big kitchen was a famous place, all stuck with holly and mistletoe, from the fine brown beams overhead, to the bright coppers under the polished dresser, that glittered all over with the old pewter set, that Mrs. Buller had inherited from her mother.}

{The young Bullers, and one or two very smart little cousins from school, were all drawn up in the kitchen, and two of the boys were moving the great oak table out of the way, that there might be a free space. Even Farmer Buller was there himself, and called out, "Hollo, my lads, that's right. Speak out so that we can hear you." And Edmund heard Miss Mary whisper to the little cousin with the long blue ribbons, "That's Edmund Harper that saved the box out of the fire."}

{He had not meant to be known, with his eyebrows black with burnt cork, and the whole row of dangling strips over his face, and he felt a little bit shy and queer; but he knew they would all be daunted if he did not set them an example, so he bravely stept out, with his tall crown-like cap, his little cross-headed staff in his hand, and his white-flannel shirt, and white-fustian trowsers sewn all over with bands of scarlet paper, and he spoke up and out, as he paced about the kitchen:}

[Old Father Christmas]

"Room, room, brave gallants, room,
I'm just come to show you some merry sport and game;
To help pass away
This cold winter day.
Old activity, new activity,
such activity as never was seen before,
And perhaps will never be seen no more."

{Then, after standing still a moment, he went on:}

"Here comes I, Old Father Christmas,
Welcome, or welcome not
I hope Old Father Christmas
Will never be forgot
All in this room, there shall be shown
The dreadfullest battle that ever was known;
So walk in, St. George, with thy free heart,
And see whether thou can'st claim peace for thine own part."

{So then out marched Bill Bowles, tall, but round-shouldered, rather ashamed of his height, and only comfortable in feeling his sword. His helmet was of light brown paper, with a blue running pattern on it; and his shirt, which he wore over his jacket, was adorned with bows of every colour of rainbow; but his heavy shoes made a disconsolate clumping, and his gruff voice stuck fast in his throat, as he mumbled and growled out, what, if anyone could have heard it, would have been,}

St. George

"In comes I, St. George, St. George that man of courage bold;
With my broad sword and spear, I won ten crowns of gold.
I fought that fiery dragon,
And drove him to the slaughter;
And by that means, I won
The King of Egypt's daughter.

{This defiance, grumbling and ashamed as it was, called out George Lemming, kicking up his toes high in the air, and bawling out,}

Turkish Knight

"Here comes I, the Turkish knight,
Just come from Turkey land to fight:
I'll fight thee, St. George, St. George, thou man of courage bold;
If thy blood be too hot, I'll quickly fetch it cold!"

{The Turkish knight's loudness seemed to stir up St. George to speak somewhat lass at the bottom of his throat, as he made answer,}

St. George

"Wo, ho! my little fellow, thou talk'st very bold;
Just like the little Turks, as I have been told;
Therefore, thou Turkish knight,
Pull out thy sword and fight;
Pull out thy purse and pay;
I'll have satisfaction ere thou goest away."

Turkish Knight

"Satisfaction! no satisfaction at all!
My head is made with iron, my body lined with steel,
I'll battle thee, to see which on the ground shall fall."

{St. George and the Turkish knight thereupon began to clatter their sword fiercely together with a gallant noise, till presently the Turkish knight sank down all in a heap, leaning on his sword, so much shocking St. George, that he cried out,}

St. George

"Oh, only behold, and see what I have been and done,
Cut and slain my brother, just like the evening sun!"

{But after piteously marching round his foe, St. George bethought himself:}

St. George

"I have a little bottle called Elecampane,
If the man is alive, let him rise and fight again."

{The Elecampane brought the Turkish knight to his knee, entreating,}

Turkish Knight

"O pardon me, St. George! O pardon me, I crave!
O pardon me this once, and I will be thy slave!"

{However St. George answered,}

St. George

"I never will pardon a Turkish knight:
Therefore arise, and try thy might."

{Clatter, clash, thump, went the swords again, and down flump went the Turk at full length on the stone floor, his grand crimson bow on his back looking very grand; and this brought out his father, whom the boys at Braydon called the Foreign King, though in some places he is Prince of Morocco. He was Will Blake, and very squeaky was his voice, especially as he wanted to make it lamentable, as he screamed out,}

Foreign King

"St. George! St. George! What hast thou done?
For thou has slain mine only son!"

{And after walking round the fallen knight several times, he called,}

Foreign King

"Is there a doctor to be found,
That can cure this man lies bleeding on the ground?"

{Forth stepped Peter Lamb, responding,}


"O yes, there is a doctor to be found,
That can cure this man lies bleeding on the ground."


"Doctor. Doctor, what is thy fee?"


"Ten Guineas is my fee,
but ten pounds I'll take of thee."


"Take it, Doctor; but what can'st thou cure?"


"I can cure the ague, palsy, and the gout,
And that's a roving pain that goes within and out.
A broken Leg or arm, I soon can cure the pain
And if thou break'st thy Neck, I'll stoutly set it again.
Bring me an old woman of four score years and ten,
Without a tooth in her head,
I'll bring her young and plump again."


Thou be'st a noble doctor,
if that's all true thou be'st talking about."


"I'm not like these little mountebank doctors
that go about the streets, and say this, and that, and the other,
and tell you as many lies in one half-hour
as you would find true in seven years;
but what I does, I does clean before your eyes;
and, ladies and gentlemen, if you won't believe your own eyes,
it is a very hard case."


"'Tis, Doctor."


"I carry a little bottle by my side
that I call golden foster-drops.
On drop to the root of this man's tongue,
and another on his crown,
and it will strike the heat throughout the body,
and raise him off the ground."

{As he spoke, the doctor administered the little bottle, and the Turkish knight slowly rose up, while St. George took leave of him, saying,}

St. George

"Arise, arise, thou cowardly dog,
and see how uprightly thou canst stand.
Go home into your own country,
and tell them what Old England has done for you,
and how they'll fight the thousand better men than you."

{Lastly came Aseph, with his long pink-and-silver scarf tied over his shoulder, just as it had been on Guy Fawkes, with the whole nest of little dolls peeping out of a bundle on his back, and with a tin money-box in his hand, with a penny in it to make grand jingle. He felt rather shy and awkward, but he put a good face upon it, and gave himself courage with the rattle of his money, shouting out,}

Johnny Jack

"Here comes I, little Johnny Jack,
Wife and family at my back.
My family's large, though I am small,
And so a little helps us all.
Roast-beef, plum-pudding, strong beer, and mince-pies,
Who loves that better than Father Christmas and I?
One mug of Christmas ale, Sir, will make us merry and sing;
Some money in our pockets will be a very fine thing.
So, ladies and gentlemen, all at your ease,
Give the Christmas boys just what you please."

{Then he came to a full stop; but Father Christmas gave him a poke, and he went round sheepishly, holding out his box, and not looking anyone in the face. He felt his colour come up scarlet as he heard the tittering of the maids and children, and thought they knew him. Plump he felt more that one penny and halfpenny come tumbling into the box; and when he passed by Mr. Buller he heard a little tinkle that he hoped would turn out to be a sixpence, but he did not dare look in his shyness. Then they all joined hands and stood round, and Edmund started them off in one of their best carols, which they sang with a hearty good-will.}

{Afterwards, Nanny the maid served them all round with the great can of beer that they knew so well in harvest-times, and the boys came shyly peeping under their dangling masks to make out who they were; and Farmer Buller told them they had been a famous set of Christmas boys: so they all tramped off, very well pleased with themselves, to repeat their performance at Mr. Oakes's, and so on from one of the bettermost houses to another.}


Peter Millington's Notes:

This is a shilling pocket novel. The chapter entitled "How Father Christmas kept the secret" contains a narrative of the performance of a Christmas play, including these lengthy textual quotations.

The author is given on the title page as "The Author of 'The Heir of Redclyffe'", but is identified as Charlotte Yonge in the British Library Catalogue. Yonge hailed from Hampshire, and the quoted text probably came from there. She published a text from Hursley or Otterbourne in "John Keble's Parishes: A History of Hursley and Otterbourne" (Macmillan, 1898)

The character in the novel who plays the doctor is named Peter Lamb. This is also the name used for the Doctor in one of the versions from Burghclere, Hants., published in R.J.E.Tiddy (1923) pp.185-188, and at nearby Thatcham, Berkshire (S.Roud & M.Bee, 1991, pp.72-75). The singularity of this name suggests a link between Yonge's novel and the oral versions.