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CHRISTMAS HIS MASQUE.] Not dated in the second folio; but probably printed after the author's death. It is a humorous trifle, calculated for the season, and merely intended to excite an hour's merriment, as introductory, perhaps, to some entertainment of a higher kind. Granger, in his Biographical Dictionary, vol. ii. p. 296, 8vo. after bestowing just praise on Milton's admirable Masque, very gravely adds, "but the generality of these compositions are trifling and perplexed allegories. Ben Jonson, (poor Ben is always the foil,) in his Masque of Christmas, has introduced 'Minced Pye' and 'Babie Cake,' who act their parts in the drama. But the most wretched of these performances could please by the help of musick, machinery, and dancing." The masque before us had not the advantage of much machinery, I suspect. But could Granger find nothing in Jonson to oppose to Comus, but this magnificent "drama," as he is pleased to call it! an innocent Christmas gambol, written with no higher end in view than producing a hearty laugh from the good natured James, and the holyday spectators of the show. But such is the mode in which Jonson is constantly treated; and yet the critics who institute these parallels, (not exactly "after the manner of Plutarch," it must be granted,) are astonished at being told that they always want candour, and not seldom common sense. Granger's ridiculous parade of "perplexed allegories," &c., is worse than useless here. They might indeed perplex him; but he should have recollected that Minced Pye and Babie Cake were sufficiently familiar to those who witnessed their appearance; and that ignorance is the worst of all possible pleas for the contemptuous sneer of criticism.
THE MASQUE OF CHRISTMAS.
THE COURT BEING SEATED,
Enter CHRISTMAS, with two or three of the guard, attired in round hose, long stockings, a close doublet, a high-crowned hat, with a brooch, a long thin beard, a truncheon, little ruffs, white shoes, his scarfs and garters tied cross, and his drum beaten before him.
HY, gentlemen, do you know what you
do? ha! would you have kept me out? CHRISTMAS, old Christmas, Christmas of London, and captain Christmas? Pray you, let me be brought before my lord chamberlain, I'll not be answered else: 'Tis merry in hall, when beards wag all: I have seen the time you have wish'd for me, for a merry Christmas; and now you have me, they would not let me in: I must come another time! a good jest, as if I could come more than once a year: Why, I am no dangerous person, and so I told my friends of the guard. I am old Gregory Christmas still,' and though I come out of Pope's-head-alley, as good a Protestant as any in my parish. The truth is, I have brought a Masque here, out o' the city, of my
1 Old Gregory Christmas.] An allusion to Pope Gregory's alteration of the Calendar, not long before the accession of James.
own making, and do present it by a set of my sons, that come out of the lanes of London, good dancing boys all. It was intended, I confess, for CurriersHall; but because the weather has been open, and the Livery were not at leisure to see it till a frost came, that they cannot work, I thought it convenient, with some little alterations, and the groom of the revels' hand to't, to fit it for a higher place; which I have done, and though I say it, another manner of device than your New-year's-night. Bones o' bread, the king! (seeing James) Son Rowland! son Clem! be ready there in a trice: quick, boys!
Enter his Sons and Daughters (ten in number), led in, in a string, by CUPID, who is attired in a flat cap, and a prentice's coat, with wings at his shoulders.2
MISRULE, in a velvet cap, with a sprig, a short cloak, great yellow ruff, like a reveller, his torch-bearer bearing a rope, a cheese, and a basket.
CAROL, a long tawney coat, with a red cap, and a flute at his girdle, his torch-bearer carrying a song-book open.
MINCED-PIE, like a fine cook's wife, drest neat; her man carrying a pie, dish, and spoons.
GAMBOL, like a tumbler, with a hoop and bells; his torch-bearer arm'd with a colt-staff, and a binding cloth.
POST AND PAIR, with a pair-royal of aces in his hat; his garment all done over with pairs and purs; his squire carrying a box, cards, and counters.
2 Who is attired in a flat cap, with wings at his shoulders.] This Cupid is worthy of Bunbury himself. But the whole is a whimsical burlesque. An additional proof of the judgment of Granger in selecting it to oppose to Comus !