went about at Christmas time, and would act in the houses of those who would like to receive them a little drama, mostly, though not always, representing a fight between St. George and a Mohammedan leader, and commemorative therefore of the Holy wars. One of the characters with a hump-back represented Old Father Christmas, who sometimes appeared mounted on a wooden horse covered with trappings of dark cloth, from which the old man is generally more than once thrown. The character of his wife, Old Bet, was taken by a boy with a shrill voice dressed as a very old woman in a black bonnet and red cloak. The rest of the party was decked out as befitted the character each was intended to assume, garnished with bows and coloured strips of paper, caps, sashes, buttons, swords, helmets, &c.
The representation of the play concluded with a song or songs.
The libretto of the play is much too long to reproduce here, but as I treated this subject rather exhaustively in a paper I read before the Folklore Society in April, 1880—in which I gave two different versions of the Mummer plays—I will now merely refer such of my readers who may be interested in this subject to the print of that paper in the Folklore Record, vol. iii. p. 87.
These I have subdivided into (α) Rustic, (β) Nursery or Domestic, (γ) Counting out or “Lot” rhymes.
The first were sometimes used merely as a rhyme or jingle attached to a game or trick; sometimes as a means of divination by which children—both boys and girls—would attempt to foretell their future life, or to gain a peep into their matrimonial future; sometimes by way of invocation to or apostrophe upon some object of natural history in which they were interested, or upon which they were experimenting; and sometimes apparently without reference to any special subject or object.
Those of the second class appear to be mostly confined to very