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.