Page:Our American Holidays - Christmas.djvu/195

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167
GOOD WISHES AT CHRISTMAS

And a cheerful thing it is, on this day of universal equality, on this day which—

“To the cottage and the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down,”

to think that we can touch and hold each other with friendly hands all over our land. We all of us shake hands on Christmas Day. Leigh Hunt had a quaint fancy that he had, as it were, by lineal descent, shaken hands with Milton. He would argue thus: he knew a man who had shaken hands with Dr. Johnson, who had clasped the hand of him who had shaken Dryden’s right hand, who himself had thus greeted Andrew Marvell, who knew Master Elwood, the Quaker friend of Milton, who knew Milton himself; and thus, though our Sovereign has her hand kissed, not shaken, by her subjects, yet doubtless she will clasp the hands of her children, who, shaking those of others, will let the greeting and the good wishes descend to the lowest on that ladder of society which we are all trying to climb.

As for hearty good wishes, spoken in all kinds of voices, from the deepest bass to the shrillest treble, we are sure that they circulate throughout the little island, and are borne on the wings of the post all over the seas. Erasmus, coming to England in Henry VIII’s time, was struck with the deep heartiness of our wishes—good, ay, and bad too; but he most