In the reigns of George IV. and William IV., though not kept with the grandeur of earlier reigns, were observed with much rejoicing and festivity, and the Royal Bounties to the poor of the metropolis and the country districts surrounding Windsor and the other Royal Palaces were dispensed with the customary generosity. In his "Sketch Book," Washington Irving, who was born in the reign of George III. (1783), and lived on through the reigns of George IV., and William IV., and the first two decades of the reign of Queen Victoria, gives delightful descriptions of the of the period, recalling the times when the old halls of castles and manor houses resounded with the harp and the Christmas Carol and their ample boards groaned under the weight of hospitality.


He had travelled a good deal on both sides of the Atlantic and he gives a picturesque account of an old English stage coach journey "on the day preceding Christmas." The coach was crowded with passengers. "It was also loaded with hampers of game, and baskets and boxes of delicacies; and hares hung dangling their long ears about the coachman's box, presents from distant friends for the impending feast. I had three fine rosy-cheeked schoolboys for my fellow-passengers inside, full of the buxom health and manly spirit which I have observed in the children of this country. They were returning home for the holidays in high glee, and promising themselves a world of enjoyment. It was delightful to hear the gigantic plans of the little rogues, and the impracticable feats they were to perform during their six weeks' emancipation from the abhorred thraldom of book, birch, and pedagogue."

Then follows Irving's graphic sketch of the English stage coachman, and the incidents of the journey, during which it seemed "as if everybody was in good looks and good spirits.
"Game, poultry, and other luxuries of the table, were in brisk circulation in the villages; the grocers,' butchers,' and fruiterers' shops were thronged with customers. The house-wives were stirring briskly about, putting their dwellings in order; and the glossy branches of holly, with their bright red berries, began to appear at the windows."
"In the evening we reached a village where I had determined to pass the night. As we drove into the great gateway of the inn, I saw on one side the light of a rousing kitchen fire beaming through a window. I entered, and admired, for the hundredth time, that picture of convenience, neatness, and broad, honest enjoyment, the kitchen of an English inn. It was of spacious dimensions, hung round with copper and tin vessels highly polished, and decorated here and there with a Christmas green....

The scene completely realised poor Robin's [1684] humble idea of the comforts of mid-winter:
'Now trees their leafy hats do bare
To reverence winter's silver hair;
A handsome hostess, merry host,
A pot of ale now and a toast,
Tobacco and a good coal fire,
Are things this season doth require.' "
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The Wittenagemots of our Saxon ancestors were held, under the solemn sanctions and beneficent influences of the time; and the series of high festivities established by the Anglo-Saxon kings appear to have been continued, with yearly increasing splendor and multiplied ceremonies, under the monarchs of the Norman race. From the court, the spirit of revelry descended, by all its thousand arteries, throughout the universal frame of society, -visiting its furthest extremities and most obscure recesses, and everywhere exhibiting its action, as by so many pulses, upon the traditions, and superstitions, and customs which were common to all, or peculiar to each. The pomp and ceremonial of the royal observance were imitated in the splendid establishments of the more wealthy nobles; and more faintly reflected from the diminished state of the petty baron.


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The revelries of the old baronial castle found echoes in the hall of the old manor-house, -and these were, again, repeated in the tapestried chamber of the country magistrate, or from the sanded parlor of the village inn. Merriment was, everywhere, a matter of public concernment; and the spirit which assembles men in families now, congregated them by districts then.

In this work, all spellings and punctuation were reproduced from the original work except in the very few cases where an obvious typo occurred. These typos are corrected without comment.
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