Home Stories Christmas History



Christmas Dreams
CHRISTOPHER NORTH To-morrow is Merry Christmas; and ...

Santa Claus At Simpson's Bar
BRET HARTE It was nearly midnight when the festiviti...

A Christmas Carmen
JOHN G. WHITTIER I Sound over all wat...

Hymn For Christmas
FELICIA HEMANS Oh! lovely voices of the sky ...

Neighbors Of The Christ Night
NORA ARCHIBALD SMITH Deep in the shelter of ...

A Christmas Lullaby
JOHN ADDINGTON SYMONDS Sleep, baby, sleep! T...

The Christmas Masquerade
MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN ON Christmas Eve the Mayor...

The Same Christmas In Old England And New

The first Christmas in New England was celebrated by some people who
tried as hard as they could not to celebrate it at all. But looking back
on that year 1620, the first year when Christmas was celebrated in New
England, I cannot find that anybody got up a better fete than did
these Lincolnshire weavers and ploughmen who had got a little taste of
Dutch firmness, and resolved on that particular day, that, whatever else
happened to them, they would not celebrate Christmas at all.

Here is the story as William Bradford tells it:

"Ye 16. day ye winde came faire, and they arrived safe in this harbor.
And after wards tooke better view of ye place, and resolved wher to
pitch their dwelling; and ye 25. day begane to erecte ye first house
for comone use to receive them and their goods."

You see, dear reader, that when on any 21st or 22d of December you give
the children parched corn, and let them pull candy and swim candles in
nut-shells in honor of the "landing of the Forefathers"--if by good luck
you be of Yankee blood, and do either of these praiseworthy things--you
are not celebrating the anniversary of the day when the women and
children landed, wrapped up in water-proofs, with the dog and John
Carver in headpiece, and morion, as you have seen in many pictures. That
all came afterward. Be cool and self-possessed, and I will guide you
through the whole chronology safely--Old Style and New Style, first
landing and second landing, Sabbaths and Sundays, Carver's landing and
Mary Chilton's landing, so that you shall know as much as if you had
fifteen ancestors, a cradle, a tankard, and an oak chest in the
Mayflower, and you shall come out safely and happily at the first
Christmas day.

Know then, that when the poor Mayflower at last got across the Atlantic,
Massachusetts stretched out her right arm to welcome her, and she came
to anchor as early as the 11th of November in Provincetown Harbor. This
was the day when the compact of the cabin of the Mayflower was signed,
when the fiction of the "social compact" was first made real. Here they
fitted their shallop, and in this shallop, on the sixth of December, ten
of the Pilgrims and six of the ship's crew sailed on their exploration.
They came into Plymouth harbor on the tenth, rested on Watson's island
on the eleventh,--which was Sunday,--and on Monday, the twelfth, landed
on the mainland, stepping on Plymouth rock and marching inland to
explore the country. Add now nine days to this date for the difference
then existing between Old Style and New Style, and you come upon the
twenty-first of December, which is the day you ought to celebrate as
Forefathers' Day. On that day give the children parched corn in token of
the new provant, the English walnut in token of the old, and send them
to bed with Elder Brewster's name, Mary Chilton's, Edward Winslow's, and
John Billington's, to dream upon. Observe still that only these ten men
have landed. All the women and children and the other men are over in
Provincetown harbor. These ten, liking the country well enough, go
across the bay to Provincetown where they find poor Bradford's wife
drowned in their absence, and bring the ship across into Plymouth harbor
on the sixteenth. Now you will say of course that they were so glad to
get here that they began to build at once; but you are entirely
mistaken, for they did not do any such thing. There was a little of the
John Bull about them and a little of the Dutchman. The seventeenth was
Sunday. Of course they could not build a city on Sunday. Monday they
explored, and Tuesday they explored more. Wednesday,

"After we had called on God for direction, we came to this resolution,
to go presently ashore again, and to take a better view of two places,
which we thought most fitting for us; for we could not now take time for
further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent,
especially our beer."

Observe, this is the Pilgrims' or Forefathers' beer, and not the beer of
the ship, of which there was still some store. Acting on this resolution
they went ashore again, and concluded by "most voices" to build Plymouth
where Plymouth now is. One recommendation seems to have been that there
was a good deal of land already clear. But this brought with it the
counter difficulty that they had to go half a quarter of a mile for
their wood. So there they left twenty people on shore, resolving the
next day to come and build their houses. But the next day it stormed,
and the people on shore had to come back to the ship, and Richard
Britteridge died. And Friday it stormed so that they could not land, and
the people on the shallop who had gone ashore the day before could not
get back to the ship. Saturday was the twenty-third, as they counted,
and some of them got ashore and cut timber and carried it to be ready
for building. But they reserved their forces still, and Sunday, the
twenty-fourth, no one worked of course. So that when Christmas day came,
the day which every man, woman and child of them had been trained to
regard as a holy day--as a day specially given to festivity and
specially exempted from work, all who could went on shore and joined
those who had landed already. So that William Bradford was able to close
the first book of his history by saying: "Ye 25. day begane to erect
ye first house for comone use to receive them and their goods."

Now, this all may have been accidental. I do not say it was not. But
when I come to the record of Christmas for next year and find that
Bradford writes: "One ye day called Chrismas-day, ye Gov'r caled them
out to worke (as was used)," I cannot help thinking that the leaders had
a grim feeling of satisfaction in "secularizing" the first Christmas as
thoroughly as they did. They wouldn't work on Sunday, and they would
work on Christmas.

They did their best to desecrate Christmas, and they did it by laying
one of the cornerstones of an empire.

Now, if the reader wants to imagine the scene,--the Christmas
celebration or the Christmas desecration, he shall call it which he
will, according as he is Roman or Puritan himself,--I cannot give him
much material to spin his thread from. Here is the little story in the
language of the time:

"Munday the 25. day, we went on shore, some to fell tymber, some to saw,
some to riue, and some to carry, so no man rested all that day, but
towards night some as they were at worke, heard a noyse of some Indians,
which caused vs all to goe to our Muskets, but we heard no further, so
we came aboord againe, and left some twentie to keepe the court of gard;
that night we had a sore storme of winde and rayne.

"Munday the 25. being Christmas day, we began to drinke water aboord,
but at night the Master caused vs to have some Beere, and so on board we
had diverse times now and then some Beere, but on shore none at all."

There is the story as it is told by the only man who chose to write it
down. Let us not at this moment go into an excursus to inquire who he
was and who he was not. Only diligent investigation has shown beside
that this first house was about twenty feet square, and that it was for
their common use to receive them and their goods. The tradition says
that it was on the south side of what is now Leyden street, near the
declivity of the hill. What it was, I think no one pretends to say
absolutely. I am of the mind of a dear friend of mine, who used to say
that, in the hardships of those first struggles, these old forefathers
of ours, as they gathered round the fires (which they did have--no
Christian Registers for them to warm their cold hands by), used to
pledge themselves to each other in solemn vows that they would leave to
posterity no detail of the method of their lives. Posterity should not
make pictures out of them, or, if it did, should make wrong ones; which
accordingly, posterity has done. What was the nature, then, of this
twenty-foot-square store-house, in which, afterward, they used to sleep
pretty compactly, no man can say. Dr. Young suggests a log cabin, but I
do not believe that the log cabin was yet invented. I think it is more
likely that the Englishmen rigged their two-handled saws,--after the
fashion known to readers of Sanford and Merton in an after age,--and
made plank for themselves. The material for imagination, as far as
costume goes, may be got from the back of a fifty-dollar national
bank-note, which the well-endowed reader will please take from his
pocket, or from a roll of Lorillard's tobacco at his side, on which he
will find the good reduction of Weir's admirable picture of the
embarkation. Or, if the reader has been unsuccessful in his investment
in Lorillard, he will find upon the back of the one-dollar bank-note a
reduced copy of the fresco of the "Landing" in the Capitol, which will
answer his purpose equally well. Forty or fifty Englishmen, in hats and
doublets and hose of that fashion, with those odd English axes that you
may see in your AEsop's fable illustrations, and with their
double-handled saws, with a few beetles, and store of wedges, must make
up your tableau, dear reader. Make it vivant, if you can.

To help myself in the matter, I sometimes group them on the bank there
just above the brook,--you can see the place to-day, if it will do you
any good--at some moment when the women have come ashore to see how the
work goes on--and remembering that Mrs. Hemans says "they sang"--I throw
the women all in a chorus of soprano and contralto voices on the left,
Mrs. Winslow and Mrs. Carver at their head, Mrs. W. as prima assoluta
soprano and Mrs. Carver as prima assoluta contralto,--I range on the
right the men with W. Bradford and W. Brewster as leaders--and between,
facing us, the audience,--who are lower down in the valley of the brook,
I place Giovanni Carver (tenor) and Odoardo Winslow (basso) and have
them sing in the English dialect of their day,

Suoni la tromba,

Carver waving the red-cross flag of England, and Winslow swinging a
broadaxe above his head in similar revolutions. The last time I saw any
Puritans doing this at the opera, one had a star-spangled banner and the
other an Italian tricolor,--but I am sure my placing on the stage is
more accurate than that. But I find it very hard to satisfy myself that
this is the correct idealization. Yet Mrs. Hemans says the songs were
"songs of lofty cheer," which precisely describes the duet in Puritani.

It would be an immense satisfaction, if by palimpsest under some old
cash-book of that century, or by letters dug out from some family
collection in England, one could just discover that "John Billington,
having become weary with cutting down a small fir-tree which had been
allotted to him, took his snaphance and shot with him, and calling a dog
he had, to whom in the Low Countries the name Crab had been given, went
after fowle. Crossing the brook and climbing up the bank to an open
place which was there, he found what had been left by the savages of one
of their gardens,--and on the ground, picking at the stalkes of the
corne, a flocke of large blacke birds such as he had never seen before.
His dogge ran at them and frightened them, and they all took wing
heavily, but not so quick but that Billington let fly at them and
brought two of them down,--one quite dead and one hurt so badly that he
could not fly. Billington killed them both and tyed them together, and
following after the flocke had another shot at them, and by a good
Providence hurte three more. He tyed two of these together and brought
the smallest back to us, not knowing what he brought, being but a poor
man and ignorant. Hee is but a lazy Fellowe, and was sore tired with the
weight of his burden, which was nigh fortie pounds. Soe soon as he saw
it, the Governour and the rest knew that it was a wild Turkie, and
albeit he chid Billington sharply, he sent four men with him, as it were
Calebs and Joshuas, to bring in these firstlings of the land. They found
the two first and brought them to us; but after a long search they could
not find the others, and soe gave them up, saying the wolves must have
eaten them. There were some that thought John Billington had never seen
them either, but had shot them with a long bowe. Be this as it may,
Mistress Winslow and the other women stripped them they had, cleaned
them, spytted them, basted them, and roasted them, and thus we had fresh
foule to our dinner."

I say it would have been very pleasant to have found this in some
palimpsest, but if it is in the palimpsest, it has not yet been found.
As the Arab proverb says, "There is news, but it has not yet come."

I have failed, in just the same way, to find a letter from that
rosy-cheeked little child you see in Sargent's picture, looking out of
her great wondering eyes, under her warm hood, into the desert. I
overhauled a good many of the Cotton manuscripts in the British Museum
(Otho and Caligula, if anybody else wants to look), and Mr. Sainsbury
let me look through all the portfolios I wanted in the State Paper
Office, and I am sure the letter was not there then. If anybody has
found it, it has been found since I was there. If it ever is found, I
should like to have it contain the following statement:--

"We got tired of playing by the fire, and so some of us ran down to the
brook, and walked till we could find a place to cross it; and so came up
to a meadow as large as the common place in Leyden. There was a good
deal of ice upon it in some places, but in some places behind, where
there were bushes, we found good store of berries growing on the ground.
I filled my apron, and William took off his jerkin and made a bag of it,
and we all filled it to carry up to the fire. But they were so sour,
that they puckered our mouths sadly. But my mother said they were
cranberries, but not like your cranberries in Lincolnshire. And, having
some honey in one of the logs the men cut down, she boiled the
cranberries and the honey together, and after it was cold we had it with
our dinner. And besides, there were some great pompions which the men
had brought with them from the first place we landed at, which were not
like Cinderella's, but had long tails to them, and of these my mother
and Mrs. Brewster and Mrs. Warren, made pies for dinner. We found
afterwards that the Indians called these pompions, askuta squash."

But this letter, I am sorry to say, has not yet been found.

Whether they had roast turkey for Christmas I do not know. I do know,
thanks to the recent discovery of the old Bradford manuscript, that
they did have roast turkey at their first Thanksgiving. The veritable
history, like so much more of it, alas! is the history of what they had
not, instead of the history of what they had. Not only did they work on
the day when all their countrymen played, but they had only water to
drink on the day when all their countrymen drank beer. This deprivation
of beer is a trial spoken of more than once; and, as lately as 1824, Mr.
Everett, in his Pilgrim oration, brought it in high up in the climax of
the catalogue of their hardships. How many of us in our school
declamations have stood on one leg, as bidden in "Lovell's Speaker,"
raised the hand of the other side to an angle of forty-five degrees, as
also bidden, and repeated, as also bidden, not to say compelled, the
words, "I see them, escaped from these perils, pursuing their almost
desperate undertaking, and landed at last, after a five-months' passage,
on the ice-clad rocks of Plymouth, weak and exhausted from the voyage,
poorly armed, scantily provisioned, depending on the charity of their
ship-master for a draught of beer on board, drinking nothing but water
on shore, without shelter, without means, surrounded by hostile

Little did these men of 1620 think that the time would come when ships
would go round the world without a can of beer on board; that armies
would fight through years of war without a ration of beer or of spirit,
and that the builders of the Lawrences and Vinelands, the pioneer towns
of a new Christian civilization, would put the condition into the
title-deeds of their property that nothing should be sold there which
could intoxicate the buyer. Poor fellows! they missed the beer, I am
afraid, more than they did the play at Christmas; and as they had not
yet learned how good water is for a steady drink, the carnal mind almost
rejoices that when they got on board that Christmas night, the
curmudgeon ship-master, warmed up by his Christmas jollifications, for
he had no scruples, treated to beer all round, as the reader has seen.
With that tankard of beer--as those who went on board filled it, passed
it, and refilled it--ends the history of the first Christmas in New

* * * * *

It is a very short story, and yet it is the longest history of that
Christmas that I have been able to find. I wanted to compare this
celebration of Christmas, grimly intended for its desecration, with some
of the celebrations which were got up with painstaking intention. But,
alas, pageants leave little history, after the lights have smoked out,
and the hangings have been taken away. Leaving, for the moment, King
James's Christmas and Englishmen, I thought it would be a pleasant thing
to study the contrast of a Christmas in the countries where they say
Christmas has its most enthusiastic welcome. So I studied up the war in
the Palatinate,--I went into the chronicles of Spain, where I thought
they would take pains about Christmas,--I tried what the men of "la
religion," the Huguenots, were doing at Rochelle, where a great assembly
was gathering. But Christmas day would not appear in memoirs or annals.
I tried Rome and the Pope, but he was dying, like the King of Spain, and
had not, I think, much heart for pageantry. I looked in at Vienna, where
they had all been terribly frightened by Bethlem Gabor, who was a great
Transylvanian prince of those days, a sort of successful Kossuth, giving
much hope to beleaguered Protestants farther west, who, I believe,
thought for a time that he was some sort of seal or trumpet, which,
however, he did not prove to be. At this moment of time he was
retreating I am afraid, and at all events did not set his
historiographer to work describing his Christmas festivities.

Passing by Bethlem Gabor then, and the rest, from mere failure of their
chronicles to make note of this Christmas as it passed, I returned to
France in my quest. Louis XIII. was at this time reigning with the
assistance of Luynes, the short-lived favorite who preceded Richelieu.
Or it would, perhaps, be more proper to say that Luynes was reigning
under the name of Louis XIII. Louis XIII. had been spending the year in
great activity, deceiving, thwarting, and undoing the Protestants of
France. He had made a rapid march into their country, and had spread
terror before him. He had had mass celebrated in Navarreux, where it had
not been seen or heard in fifty years. With Bethlem Gabor in the
ablative,--with the Palatinate quite in the vocative,--these poor
Huguenots here outwitted and outgeneralled, and Brewster and Carver
freezing out there in America, the Reformed Religion seems in a bad way
to one looking at that Christmas. From his triumphal and almost
bloodless campaign, King Louis returns to Paris, "and there," says
Bassompierre, "he celebrated the fetes this Christmas." So I thought I
was going to find in the memoirs of some gentleman at court, or
unoccupied mistress of the robes, an account of what the most Christian
King was doing, while the blisters were forming on John Carver's hands,
and while John Billington was, or was not, shooting wild turkeys on that
eventful Christmas day.

But I reckoned without my king. For this is all a mistake, and
whatever else is certain, it seems to be certain that King Louis
XIII. did not keep either Christmas in Paris, either the Christmas
of the Old Style, or that of the New. Such, alas, is history, dear
friend! When you read in to-night's "Evening Post" that your friend
Dalrymple is appointed Minister to Russia, where he has been so
anxious to go, do not suppose he will make you his Secretary of
Legation. Alas! no; for you will read in to-morrow's "Times" that it
was all a mistake of the telegraph, and that the dispatch should
have read "O'Shaughnessy," where the dispatch looked like
"Dalrymple." So here, as I whetted my pencil, wetted my lips, and
drove the attentive librarian at the Astor almost frantic as I sent
him up stairs for you five times more, it proved that Louis XIII.
did not spend Christmas in Paris, but that Bassompierre, who said
so, was a vile deceiver. Here is the truth in the Mercure
Francaise,--flattering and obsequious Annual Register of those

"The King at the end of this year, visited the frontiers of Picardy. In
this whole journey, which lasted from the 14th of December to the 12th
of January (New Style), the weather was bad, and those in his Majesty's
suite found the roads bad." Change the style back to the way our
Puritans counted it, and observe that on the same days, the 5th of
December to the 3d of January, Old Style, those in the suite of John
Carver found the weather bad and the roads worse. Let us devoutly hope
that his most Christian Majesty did not find the roads as bad as his
suite did.

"And the King," continues the Mercure, "sent an extraordinary
Ambassador to the King of Great Britain, at London, the Marshal Cadenet"
(brother of the favorite Luynes). "He departed from Calais on Friday,
the first day of January, very well accompanied by noblesse. He
arrived at Dover the same evening, and did not depart from Dover until
the Monday after."

Be pleased to note, dear reader, that this Monday, when this Ambassador
of a most Christian King departs from Dover, is on Monday the 25th day
of December, of Old Style, or Protestant Style, when John Carver is
learning wood-cutting, by way of encouraging the others. Let us leave
the King of France to his bad roads, and follow the fortunes of the
favorite's brother, for we must study an English Christmas after all. We
have seen the Christmas holidays of men who had hard times for the
reward of their faith in the Star of Bethlehem. Let us try the fortunes
of the most Christian King's people, as they keep their second Christmas
of the year among a Protestant people. Observe that a week after their
own Christmas of New Style, they land in Old Style England, where
Christmas has not yet begun. Here is the Mercure Francais's account of
the Christmas holidays,--flattering and obsequious, as I said:

"Marshal Cadenet did not depart from Dover till the Monday after"
(Christmas day, O. S.). "The English Master of Ceremonies had sent
twenty carriages and three hundred horses for his suite." (If only we
could have ten of the worst of them at Plymouth! They would have drawn
our logs for us that half quarter of a mile. But we were not born in the
purple!) "He slept at Canterbury, where the Grand Seneschal of England,
well accompanied by English noblemen, received him on the part of the
King of England. Wherever he passed, the officers of the cities made
addresses to him, and offers, even ordering their own archers to march
before him and guard his lodgings. When he came to Gravesend, the Earl
of Arundel visited him on the part of the King, and led him to the Royal
barge. His whole suite entered into twenty-five other barges, painted,
hung with tapestry, and well adorned" (think of our poor, rusty shallop
there in Plymouth bay), "in which, ascending the Thames, they arrived in
London Friday the 29th December" (January 8th, N. S.). "On disembarking,
the Ambassador was led by the Earl of Arundel to the palace of the late
Queen, which had been superbly and magnificently arranged for him. The
day was spent in visits on the part of his Majesty the King of Great
Britain, of the Prince of Wales, his son, and of the ambassadors of
kings and princes, residing in London." So splendidly was he
entertained, that they write that on the day of his reception he had
four tables, with fifty covers each, and that the Duke of Lennox, Grand
Master of England, served them with magnificent order.

"The following Sunday" (which we could not spend on shore), "he was
conducted to an audience by the Marquis of Buckingham," (for shame,
Jamie! an audience on Sunday! what would John Knox have said to that!)
"where the French and English nobility were dressed as for a great feast
day. The whole audience was conducted with great respect, honor, and
ceremony. The same evening, the King of Great Britain sent for the
Marshal by the Marquis of Buckingham and the Duke of Lennox; and his
Majesty and the Ambassador remained alone for more than two hours,
without any third person hearing what they said. The following days were
all receptions, banquets, visits, and hunting-parties, till the embassy

That is the way history gets written by a flattering and obsequious
court editor or organ at the time. That is the way, then, that the dread
sovereign of John Carver and Edward Winslow spent his Christmas
holidays, while they were spending theirs in beginning for him an
empire. Dear old William Brewster used to be a servant of Davison's in
the days of good Queen Bess. As he blows his fingers there in the
twenty-foot storehouse before it is roofed, does he tell the rest
sometimes of the old wassail at court, and the Christmas when the Earl
of Southampton brought Will. Shakespeare in? Perhaps those things are
too gay,--at all events, we have as much fuel here as they have at St.

Of this precious embassy, dear reader, there is not a word, I think, in
Hume, or Lingard, or the "Pictorial"--still less, if possible, in the
abridgments. Would you like, perhaps, after this truly elegant account
thus given by a court editor, to look behind the canvas and see the
rough ends of the worsted? I always like to. It helps me to understand
my morning "Advertiser" or my "Evening Post," as I read the editorial
history of to-day. If you please, we will begin in the Domestic State
Papers of England, which the good sense of somebody, I believe kind Sir
Francis Palgrave, has had opened for you and me and the rest of us.

Here is the first notice of the embassy:

Dec. 13. Letter from Sir Robert Naunton to Sir George Calvert.... "The
King of France is expected at Calais. The Marshal of Cadenet is to be
sent over to calumniate those of the religion (that is, the
Protestants), and to propose Madme. Henriette for the Prince."

So they knew, it seems, ten days before we started, what we were coming

Dec. 22. John Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Carleton. "In spite of penury,
there is to be a masque at Court this Christmas. The King is coming in
from Theobalds to receive the French Ambassador, Marshal Cadenet, who
comes with a suite of 400 or 500."

What was this masque? Could not Mr. Payne Collier find up the libretto,
perhaps? Was it Faith, Valor, Hope, and Love, founding a kingdom,
perhaps? Faith with a broadaxe, Valor and Hope with a two-handled saw,
while Love dug post-holes and set up timbers? Or was it a less
appropriate masque of King James' devising?

Dec. 25. This is our day. Francis Willisfourd, Governor of Dover Castle
to Lord Zouch, Warden of the Cinque Ports. "A French Ambassador has
landed with a great train. I have not fired a salute, having no
instructions, and declined showing them the fortress. They are
entertained as well as the town can afford."

Observe, we are a little surly. We do not like the French King very
well, our own King's daughter being in such straits yonder in the
Palatinate. What do these Papists here?

That is the only letter written on Christmas day in the English
"Domestic Archives" for that year! Christmas is for frolic here, not for
letter-writing, nor house-building, if one's houses be only built

But on the 27th, Wednesday, "Lord Arundel has gone to meet the French
Ambassador at Gravesend." And a very pretty time it seems they had at
Gravesend, when you look on the back of the embroidery. Arundel called
on Cadenet at his lodgings, and Cadenet did not meet him till he came to
the stair--head of his chamber-door--nor did he accompany him further
when he left. But Arundel was even with him the next morning. He
appointed his meeting for the return call in the street; and when the
barges had come up to Somerset House, where the party was to stay,
Arundel left the Ambassador, telling him that there were gentlemen who
would show him his lodging. The King was so angry that he made Cadenet
apologize. Alas for the Court of Governor John Carver on this
side,--four days old to-day--if Massasoit should send us an ambassador!
We shall have to receive him in the street, unless he likes to come
into a palace without a roof! But, fortunately, he does not send till we
are ready!

The Domestic Archives give another glimpse:

Dec. 30. Thomas Locke to Carleton: "The French Ambassador has arrived at
Somerset House with a train so large that some of the seats at
Westminster Hall had to be pulled down to make room at their audience."
And in letters from the same to the same, of January 7, are accounts of
entertainments given to the Ambassador at his first audience (on that
Sunday), on the 4th at Parliament House, on the 6th at a masque at
Whitehall, where none were allowed below the rank of a Baron--and at
Lord Doncaster's entertainment--where "six thousand ounces of gold are
set out as a present," says the letter, but this I do not believe. At
the Hampton entertainment, and at the masque there were some disputes
about precedency, says John Chamberlain in another letter. Dear John
Chamberlain, where are there not such disputes? At the masque at
Whitehall he says, "a Puritan was flouted and abused, which was thought
unseemly, considering the state of the French Protestants." Let the
Marshal come over to Gov. John Carver's court and see one of our masques
there, if he wants to know about Puritans. "At Lord Doncaster's house
the feast cost three thousand pounds, beside three hundred pounds worth
of ambergris used in the cooking," nothing about that six thousand
ounces of gold. "The Ambassador had a long private interview with the
king; it is thought he proposed Mad. Henriette for the Prince. He left
with a present of a rich jewel. He requested liberation of all the
imprisoned priests in the three kingdoms, but the answer is not yet

By the eleventh of January the embassy had gone, and Thomas Locke says
Cadenet "received a round answer about the Protestants." Let us hope it
was so, for it was nearly the last, as it was. Thomas Murray writes that
he "proposed a match with France,--a confederation against Spanish
power, and asked his Majesty to abandon the rebellious princes,--but he
refused unless they might have toleration." The Ambassador was followed
to Rochester for the debts of some of his train,--but got well home to
Paris and New Style.

And so he vanishes from English history.

His king made him Duke of Chaulnes and Peer of France, but his brother,
the favorite died soon after, either of a purple fever or of a broken
heart, and neither of them need trouble us more.

At the moment the whole embassy seemed a failure in England,--and so it
is spoken of by all the English writers of the time whom I have seen.
"There is a flaunting French Ambassador come over lately," says Howel,
"and I believe his errand is naught else but compliment.... He had an
audience two days since, where he, with his train of ruffling
long-haired Monsieurs, carried himself in such a light garb, that after
the audience the king asked my Lord Keeper Bacon what he thought of the
French Ambassador. He answered, that he was a tall, proper man. 'Aye,'
his Majesty replied, 'but what think you of his head-piece? Is he a
proper man for the office of an ambassador?' 'Sir,' said Bacon, 'tall
men are like houses of four or five stories, wherein commonly the
uppermost room is worst furnished.'"

Hard, this, on us poor six-footers. One need not turn to the biography
after this, to guess that the philosopher was five feet four.

I think there was a breeze, and a cold one, all the time, between the
embassy and the English courtiers. I could tell you a good many stories
to show this, but I would give them all for one anecdote of what Edward
Winslow said to Madam Carver on Christmas evening. They thought it all
naught because they did not know what would come of it. We do know.

And I wish you to observe, all the time, beloved reader, whom I press to
my heart for your steadiness in perusing so far, and to whom I would
give a jewel had I one worthy to give, in token of my consideration (how
you would like a Royalston beryl or an Attleboro topaz).[A] I wish you
to observe, I say, that on the Christmas tide, when the Forefathers
began New England, Charles and Henrietta were first proposed to each
other for that fatal union. Charles, who was to be Charles the First,
and Henrietta, who was to be mother of Charles the Second, and James the
Second. So this was the time, when were first proposed all the precious
intrigues and devisings, which led to Charles the Second, James the
Second, James the Third, so called, and our poor friend the Pretender.
Civil War--Revolution--1715--1745--Preston-Pans, Falkirk and
Culloden--all are in the dispatches Cadenet carries ashore at Dover,
while we are hewing our timbers at the side of the brook at Plymouth,
and making our contribution to Protestant America.

[A] Mrs. Hemans says they did not seek "bright jewels of the
mine," which was fortunate, as they would not have found
them. Attleboro is near Plymouth Rock, but its jewels are
not from mines. The beryls of Royalston are, but they are
far away. Other good mined jewels, I think, New England
has none. Her garnets are poor, and I have yet seen no
good amethysts.

On the one side Christmas is celebrated by fifty outcasts chopping wood
for their fires--and out of the celebration springs an empire. On the
other side it is celebrated by the noblesse of two nations and the
pomp of two courts. And out of the celebration spring two civil wars,
the execution of one king and the exile of another, the downfall twice
repeated of the royal house, which came to the English throne under
fairer auspices than ever. The whole as we look at it is the tale of
ruin. Those are the only two Christmas celebrations of that year that I
have found anywhere written down!

You will not misunderstand the moral, dear reader, if, indeed, you
exist; if at this point there be any reader beside him who corrects the
proof! Sublime thought of the solemn silence in which these words may be
spoken! You will not misunderstand the moral. It is not that it is
better to work on Christmas than to play. It is not that masques turn
out ill, and that those who will not celebrate the great anniversaries
turn out well. God forbid!

It is that these men builded better than they knew, because they did
with all their heart and all their soul the best thing that they knew.
They loved Christ and feared God, and on Christmas day did their best to
express the love and the fear. And King James and Cadenet,--did they
love Christ and fear God? I do not know. But I do not believe, nor do
you, that the masque of the one, or the embassy of the other, expressed
the love, or the hope, or the faith of either!

So it was that John Carver and his men, trying to avoid the celebration
of the day, built better than they knew indeed, and, in their faith,
laid a corner-stone for an empire.

And James and Cadenet trying to serve themselves--forgetful of the
spirit of the day, as they pretended to honor it--were so successful
that they destroyed a dynasty.

There is moral enough for our truer Christmas holidays as 1867 leads in
the new-born sister.

Next: The History Of John Wildgoose

Previous: The Survivor's Story

Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed: 3263