The Science of Fairy Tales/Chapter 4
FAIRY BIRTHS AND HUMAN MIDWIVES (continued).
The magical ointment—Human prying punished by fairies, and by other supernatural beings—Dame Berchta—Hertha—Lady Godiva—Analogous stories in Europe—In the East—Religious ceremonies performed by women only—Lady Godiva a pagan goddess.
Before we quit the subject of fairy births, we have a few more stories to discuss. They resemble in their general tenor those already noticed; but instead of one or other of the incidents considered in the previous chapter we are led to a different catastrophe by the introduction of a new incident—that of the Magical Ointment. The plot no longer hinges upon fairy gratitude, but upon human curiosity and disobedience.
The typical tale is told, and exceedingly well told—though, alas! not exactly in the language of the natives—by Mrs. Bray in her Letters to Southey, of a certain midwife of Tavistock. One midnight, as she was getting into bed, this good woman was summoned by a strange, squint-eyed, little, ugly old fellow to follow him straightway, and attend upon his wife. In spite of her instinctive repulsion she could not resist the command; and in a moment the little man whisked her, with himself, upon a large coal-black horse with eyes of fire, which stood waiting at the door. Ere long she found herself at the door of a neat cottage; the patient was a decent-looking woman who already had two children, and all things were prepared for her visit. When the child—a fine, bouncing babe—was born, its mother gave the midwife some ointment, with directions to "strike the child's eyes with it." Now the word strike in the Devonshire dialect means not to give a blow, but to rub, or touch, gently; and as the woman obeyed she thought the task an odd one, and in her curiosity tried the effect of the ointment upon one of her own eyes. At once a change was wrought in the appearance of everything around her. The new mother appeared no longer as a homely cottager, but a beautiful lady attired in white; the babe, fairer than before, but still witnessing with the elvish cast of its eye to its paternity, was wrapped in swaddling clothes of silvery gauze; while the elder children, who sat on either side of the bed, were transformed into flat-nosed imps, who with mops and mows were busied to no end in scratching their own polls, or in pulling the fairy lady's ears with their long and hairy paws. The nurse, discreetly silent about what she had done and the wonderful metamorphoses she beheld around her, got away from the house of enchantment as quickly as she could; and the sour-looking old fellow who had brought her carried her back on his steed much faster than they had come. But the next market-day, when she sallied forth to sell her eggs, whom should she see but the same ill-looking scoundrel busied in pilfering sundry articles from stall to stall. So she went up to him, and with a nonchalant air addressed him, inquiring after his wife and child, who, she hoped, were both as well as could be expected. "What!" exclaimed the old pixy thief, "do you see me to-day?" "See you! to be sure I do, as plain as I see the sun in the skies; and I see you are busy into the bargain," she replied. "Do you so?" cried he; "pray, with which eye do you see all this?" "With the right eye, to be sure." "The ointment! the ointment!" exclaimed the old fellow; "take that for meddling with what did not belong to you: you shall see me no more." He struck her eye as he spoke, and from that hour till the day of her death she was blind on the right side, thus dearly paying for having gratified an idle curiosity in the house of a pixy.
In this tale the midwife acquired her supernatural vision through gratifying her curiosity; but perhaps in the larger number of instances it is acquired by accident. Her eye smarts or itches; and without thinking, she rubs it with a finger covered with the Magical Ointment. In a Breton variant, however, a certain stone, perfectly polished, and in the form of an egg, is given to the woman to rub the fairy child's eyes. In order to test its virtue she applies it to her own right eye, thus obtaining the faculty of seeing the elves when they rendered themselves invisible to ordinary sight. Sometimes, moreover, the eye-salve is expressly given for the purpose of being used by the nurse upon her own eyes. This was the case with a doctor who, in a north country tale, was presented with one kind of ointment before he entered the fairy realm and another when he left it. The former gave him to behold a splendid portico in the side of a steep hill, through which he passed into the fairies' hall within; but on anointing one eye with the latter ointment, to that eye the hill seemed restored to its natural shape. Similarly in Nithsdale a fairy rewards the kindness of a young mother, to whom she had committed her babe to suckle, by taking her on a visit to Fairyland. A door opened in a green hillside, disclosing a porch which the nurse and her conductor entered. There the lady dropped three drops of a precious dew on the nurse's left eyelid, and they were admitted to a beautiful land watered with meandering rivulets and yellow with corn, where the trees were laden with fruits which dropped honey. The nurse was here presented with magical gifts, and when a green dew had baptized her right eye she was enabled to behold further wonders. On returning, the fairy passed her hand over the woman's eye and restored its normal powers; but the woman had sufficient address to secure the wonder-working balm. By its means she retained for many years the gift of discerning the earth-visiting spirits; but on one occasion, happening to meet the fairy lady who had given her the child, she attempted to shake hands with her. "What ee d' ye see me wi'?" whispered she. "Wi' them baith," answered the matron. The fairy accordingly breathed on her eyes; and even the power of the box failed afterwards to restore their enchanted vision. A Carnarvonshire story, probably incomplete, makes no mention of the ointment conferring supernatural sight; but when the midwife is to be dismissed she is told to rub her eyes with a certain salve, whereupon she at once finds herself sitting on a tuft of rushes, and not in a palace: baby and all had disappeared. The sequel, however, shows that by some means she had retained the power of seeing fairies, at least with one eye; for when she next went to the town, lo and behold! busily buying was the elf whose wife she had attended. He betrayed the usual annoyance at being noticed by the woman; and on learning with which eye she saw him he vanished, never more to be looked upon by her. A tale from Guernsey attributes the magical faculty to some of the child's saliva which fell into the nurse's eye. And a still more extraordinary cause is assigned to it in a tradition from Lower Brittany, where it is said to be due to the sacred bond formed between the woman and a masculine elf when she became godmother and he godfather to the babe.
The effect of the wonder-working salve or water is differently described in different tales. The fairy maiden Rockflower speaks of it to her lover, in a Breton tale from Saint Cast, as "clearing his eyes like her own." And this is evidently to be understood in all cases. Accordingly, we find the invariable result is that the favoured mortal beholds swarms of fairies who were invisible before. But their dwellings, their clothing, and their surroundings in general suffer a transformation by no means always the same. A hovel or a cavern becomes a palace, whose inhabitants, however ugly they may be, are attired like princesses and courtiers, and are served with vessels of silver and gold. On the other hand a castle is changed by the magical balm into "a big rough cave, with water oozing over the edges of the stones, and through the clay; and the lady, and the lord, and the child, weazened, poverty-bitten crathurs—nothing but skin and bone, and the rich dresses were old rags." This is an Irish picture; but in the north of England it is much the same. Instead of a neat cottage the midwife perceives the large overhanging branches of an ancient oak, whose hollow and moss-grown trunk she had before mistaken for the fireplace, where glow-worms supplied the place of lamps. And in North Wales, when Mrs. Gamp incautiously rubbed an itching eye with the finger she had used to rub the baby's eyes, "then she saw with that eye that the wife lay on a bundle of rushes and withered ferns, in a large cave of big stones all round her, with a little fire in one corner of it; and she also saw that the lady was only Eilian, her former servant-girl, whilst with the other eye she beheld the finest place she had ever seen." More terrible still, in another story, evidently influenced by the Welsh Methodist revival, the unhappy woman beheld "herself surrounded by fearful flames; the ladies and gentlemen looked like devils, and the children appeared like the most hideous imps of hell, though with the other parts of her eyes all looked " grand and beautiful as before."
However disturbing these visions may have been, the nurse was generally discreet enough to maintain perfect silence upon them until she got back to the safety of her own home. But it is not very surprising if her tongue sometimes got the better of her, as in a story obtained by Professor Rhys at Ystrad Meurig. There the heroine said to the elf-lady in the evening, as she was dressing the infant: "You have had a great many visitors today." To this the lady sharply replied: "How do you know that? Have you been putting the ointment to your eyes?" Thereupon she jumped out of bed, and blew into her eyes, saying: "Now you will see no more." The woman could never afterwards see the fairies, nor was the ointment entrusted to her again. So in the Cornish tale of Cherry of Zennor, that young damsel, being hired by a fairy widower to keep house for him, has the assurance to fall in love with him. She touches her own eyes with the unguent kept for anointing the eyes of her master's little boy, and in consequence catches her master kissing a lovely lady. When he next attempts to kiss Cherry herself she slaps his face, and, mad with jealousy, lets slip the secret. No fairy widower with any self-respect could put up with such conduct as this; and Cherry has to quit Fairyland. Her parents had supposed her dead; and when she returned they believed at first it was her ghost. Indeed, it is said she was never afterwards right in her head; and on moonlight nights, until she died, she would wander on to the Lady Downs to look for her master.
The earliest writer who mentions a story of this type is Gervase of Tilbury, marshal of the kingdom of Aries, who wrote about the beginning of the thirteenth century. He professes to have himself met with a woman of Aries who was one day washing clothes on the banks of the Rhone, when a wooden bowl floated by her. In trying to catch it, she got out of her depth and was seized by a Drac. The Dracs were beings who haunted the waters of rivers and dwelt in the deep pools, appearing often on the banks and in the towns in human form. The woman in question was carried down beneath the stream, and, like Cherry of Zennor, made nurse to her captor's son. One day the Drac gave her an eel pasty to eat. Her fingers became greasy with the fat; and she happened to put them to one of her eyes. Forthwith she acquired a clear and distinct vision under the water. After some years she was allowed to return to her husband and family; and going early one morning to the market-place of Beaucaire, she met the Drac. Recognizing him at once, she saluted him and asked after the health of his wife and child. "With which eye do you see me?" inquired the Drac. The woman pointed to the eye she had touched with the eel-fat; and thrusting his finger into it, the Drac vanished from sight.
The only punishment suffered in these cases is the deprivation of the power of seeing fairies, or banishment from their society. This seems mild enough: much more was generally inflicted. The story first quoted relates what seems to be the ordinary form of vengeance for disregard of the prohibition to use the fairy eye-salve, namely, loss of sight in the offending eye. Spitting or striking is usually the means adopted by the elves to effect this end. Sometimes, however, the eye is torn from its socket. Whether there is much to choose between these different ways of undergoing the punishment is doubtful; but it should be noted that the last-mentioned mode is a favourite one in Brittany, and follows not so much on recognition as on denunciation by the virtuous mortal of the elf's thieving propensities. "See what thieves these fairies are!" cried a woman who watched one of them putting her hand into the pocket of a country woman's apron. The fairy instantly turned round and tore out her eye. "Thieves!" bawled another on a similar occasion, with the same result. In a Cornish tale a woman is entrusted in her own house with the care of an elf-child. The child brought remarkable prosperity to the house, and his foster-mother grew very fond of him. Finding that a certain water in which she was required to wash his face made it very bright, she determined to try it on her own, and splashed some of it into her eye. This conferred the gift of seeing the little people, who played with her boy, but had hitherto been invisible to her; and one day she was surprised to meet her nursling's father in the market—stealing. Recognition followed, and the stranger exclaimed:
"Water for elf, not water for self,
You've lost your eye, your child, and yourself."
From that hour she was blind in the right eye. When she got home the boy was gone; and she and her husband, who had once been so happy, became poor and wretched.
Here poverty and wretchedness, as well as the loss of an eye, were inflicted. In a Northumbrian case the foster-parent lost his charge and both eyes. So in a story from Guernsey, the midwife, on the Saturday following her attendance on the lady, meets the husband and father in a shop filling his basket to right and left. She at once comprehends the plenty that reigned in his mysterious dwelling. "Ah, you wicked thief, I see you!" she cried. "You see me; how?" he inquired. "With my eyes," she replied. "In that case I will soon put you out of power to play the spy," he answered. So saying, he spat in her face, and she became blind on the spot. A Danish story also relates that a midwife, who had inadvertently anointed her eyes with the salve handed to her by the elf-folk for the usual purpose, was going home afterwards and passed by a rye-field. The field was swarming with elves, who were busy clipping off the ears of rye. Indignantly she cried out: "What are you doing there?" The little people thronged round her, and angrily answered: "If thou canst see us, thus shalt thou be served;" and suiting the action to the word, they put out her eyes.
Human beings, however, betray their meddling with fairy ointment in other ways than by speech. The following curious story was related as current at his native place, by Dr. Carré of St. Jacut-de-la-Mer, to M. Sébillot. A fisherman from St. Jacut was the last to return one evening at dusk from the scene of his labours; and as he walked along the wet sand of the seashore, he suddenly came upon a number of sea-fairies in a cavern, talking and gesticulating with vivacity, though he could not hear what they said. He beheld them rub their eyes and bodies with a sort of pomade, when, lo! their appearance changed, and they were enabled to walk away in the guise of ordinary women. Hiding carefully behind a large rock, he watched them out of sight; and then, impelled by curiosity, he made straight for the cave. There he found what was left of the pomade, and taking a little on his finger, he smeared it around his left eye. By this means he found himself able to penetrate the various disguises assumed by the fairies for the purpose of robbing or annoying mankind. He recognized as one of that mischievous race a beggar-woman whom he saw a few days afterwards going from door to door demanding charity. He saw her casting spells on certain houses, and peering eagerly into all, as if she were seeking for something to steal. He distinguished, too, when out in his boat, fish which were real fish from fish which were in reality "ladies of the sea," employed in entangling the nets and playing other tricks upon the seamen. Attending the fair of Ploubalay, he saw several elves who had assumed the shapes of fortune-tellers, showmen, or gamblers, to deceive the country folk; and this permitted him to keep clear of their temptations. But as he smiled to himself at what was going on around him, some of the elves, who were exhibiting themselves on a platform in front of one of the booths, caught sight of him; and he saw by the anger in their looks that they had divined his secret. Before he had time to fly, one of them, with the rapidity of an arrow, struck his clairvoyant eye with a stick and burst it. That is what happened to him who would learn the secrets of the sea-fairies.
Such was the punishment of curiosity; nor is it by fairies alone that curiosity is punished. Cranmere Pool on Dartmoor is, we are told, a great penal settlement for refractory spirits. Many of the former inhabitants of the parish are supposed to be still there expiating their ghostly pranks. Of the spirit of one old farmer it is related that it took seven clergymen to secure him. They, however, succeeded at last in transforming him into a colt, which was given in charge to a servant-boy with directions to take him to Cranmere Pool, and there on the brink of the pool to slip off the halter and return instantly without looking round. He did look round, in spite of the warning, and beheld the colt in the form of a ball of fire plunge into the water. But as the mysterious beast plunged he gave the lad a parting kick, which knocked out one of his eyes, just as the Calender was deprived of his eye in the "Arabian Nights." Still worse was the fate that overtook a woman, who, at midnight on New Year's Eve, when all water is turned into wine, was foolhardy enough to go to a well. As she bent over it to draw, one came and plucked out her eye, saying:
"All water is wine,
And thy two eyes are mine."
A variant of the story relates that the woman herself disappeared, and gives the rhyme as
"All water is wine,
And what is thereby is mine."
At the end of the last chapter we noted as a characteristic of fairy nature the objection to be recognized and addressed by men who are privileged to see them. We are now able to carry the generalization a step further. For, from the instances adduced in the foregoing pages, it is obviously a common belief that supernatural personages, without distinction, dislike not merely being recognized and addressed, but even being seen, or at all events being watched, and are only willing to be manifested to humanity at their own pleasure and for their own purposes. In the stories of the Magical Ointment it is not so much the theft as the contravention of the implicit prohibition against prying into fairy business that rouses elfin anger. This will appear more clearly from the fuller consideration of cases like those mentioned in the last paragraph, in which punishment follows directly upon the act of spying. In Northamptonshire, we learn that a man whose house was frequented by fairies, and who had received many favours from them, became smitten with a violent desire to behold his invisible benefactors. Accordingly, he one night stationed himself behind a knot in the door which divided the living-room of his cottage from the sleeping-apartment. True to their custom, the elves came to disport themselves on his carefully-swept hearth, and to render to the household their usual good offices. But no sooner had the man glanced upon them than he became blind; and so provoked were the fairies at this breach of hospitality that they deserted his dwelling, and never more returned to it. In Southern Germany and Switzerland, a mysterious lady known as Dame Berchta is reputed to be abroad on Twelfth Night. She is admittedly the relic of a heathen goddess, one of whose attributes was to be a leader of the souls of the dead; and as such she is followed by a band of children. For her the peasants on Twelfth Night set a repast, of which, if she be pleased, she and her troop partake. A servant boy at a peasant's farm in the Tirol on one such occasion perceived Lady Berchta's approach, and hid himself behind the kneading-trough to watch what she would do. She immediately became aware of his presence as he peeped through a chink, and called to one of her children to go and stop that chink. The child went and blew into it, and the boy became stark-blind. Thus he continued for a year, nor could any doctor help him, until an old experienced man advised him to go to the same place on the following Twelfth-tide, and falling down on his knees behind the kneading-trough, to bewail his curiosity. He accordingly did so. Dame Berchta came again, and taking pity on him, commanded one of her children to restore his sight. The child went and blew once more through the chink, and the boy saw. Berchta, however, and her weird troop he saw not; but the food set out for them had disappeared.
The tradition of the goddess Hertha lingered until recently, and perchance lingers still, in the island of Rügen. She had her dwelling, it is believed, in the Herthaburg; and often yet, in the clear moonlight, out of the forest which enfolds that hill, a fair lady comes surrounded by her maids to bathe in the lake at its foot. After awhile they emerge from the waters, and, wrapt again in their long white veils, they vanish flickering among the trees. But to the belated wanderer, if any such there be, who looks upon this scene, it is a vision of dread; for he is drawn by irresistible might to the lake wherein the white lady is bathing, to be swallowed up in its depths. And it is said that every year the lady must lure one unhappy mortal into the flood. So in the classic mythology, if Ovid report aright, Actæon met the fearful fate of transformation into a stag by "gazing on divinity disrobed," and was torn in pieces by his own hounds. Hertha was, indeed, according to Tacitus, more terrible than Diana, since death was the penalty even when duty called her slaves to the awful sight.
These traditions have led us away from the Magical Ointment, which thus appears to be only one aspect of the larger theme of the objection on the part of supernatural beings to human prying. Nor need we regret having strayed; for we are brought naturally to one of the most interesting of our national legends, namely, that of Lady Godiva; and it will well repay a little consideration. As generally told today it bears an unmistakable resemblance to the foregoing stories; but there seems some difficulty in classing it with them, because Peeping Tom is wanting in the most ancient version known to us.
Godiva, properly Godgifu, was an undoubted historical personage, the wife of Leofric, Earl of the Mercians, and mother of the Earls Morcar and Edwin, and of Edith, wife first of Gruffydd, Prince of North Wales, and afterwards of King Harold the Second. The earliest mention of her famous ride through Coventry is by Roger of Wendover, who wrote in the beginning of the thirteenth century, or a hundred and fifty years or thereabout after her death. His account of the matter is as follows: "The countess Godiva, who was a great lover of God's mother, longing to free the town of Coventry from the oppression of a heavy toll, often with urgent prayers besought her husband, that from regard to Jesus Christ and His mother, he would free the town from that service, and from all other heavy burdens; and when the earl sharply rebuked her for foolishly asking what was so much to his damage, and always forbade her evermore to speak to him on the subject; and while she, on the other hand, with a woman's pertinacity, never ceased to exasperate her husband on that matter, he at last made her this answer: 'Mount your horse, and ride naked before all the people, through the market of the town from one end to the other, and on your return you shall have your request.' On which Godiva replied: 'But will you give me permission if I am willing to do it?' 'I will,' said he. Whereupon the countess, beloved of God, loosed her hair and let down her tresses, which covered the whole of her body like a veil, and then mounting her horse and attended by two knights, she rode through the market place without being seen, except her fair legs; and having completed the journey, she returned with gladness to her astonished husband, and obtained of him what she had asked, for Earl Leofric freed the town of Coventry and its inhabitants from the aforesaid service, and confirmed what he had done by a charter." According to the more modern version, the inhabitants were enjoined to remain within doors, and, in the Laureate's words:
"one low churl, compact of thankless earth,
The fatal byword of all years to come,
Boring a little auger-hole in fear,
Peep'd—but his eyes, before they had their will,
Were shrivell'd into darkness in his head,
And dropt before him. So the powers who wait
On noble deeds, cancell'd a sense misus'd."
It is not my business now to prove that the legend is untrue in fact, or I should insist, first, that its omission by previous writers, who refer both to Leofric and Godgifu and their various good deeds, is strong negative testimony against it; and I should show, from a calculation made by the late Mr. M. H. Bloxam, and founded on the record of Domesday Book, that the population of Coventry in Leofric's time could scarcely have exceeded three hundred and fifty souls, all in a greater or less degree of servitude, and dwelling probably in wooden hovels each of a single story, with a door, but no window. There was, therefore, no market on the scale contemplated by Roger of Wendover,—hardly, indeed, a town through which Godgifu could have ridden; and a mere toll would have been a matter of small moment when the people were all serfs. The tale, in short, in the form given by the chronicler, could not have been told until after Coventry had risen to wealth and importance by means of its monastery, whereof Godgifu and her husband were the founders. Nobody, however, now asserts that Roger of Wendover's narrative is to be taken seriously. What therefore I want to point out in it is that Godgifu's bargain was that she should ride naked before all the people. And this is what the historian understands her to have done; for he states that she rode through the market-place without being seen, except her fair legs, all the rest of her body being covered by her hair like a veil. He tells us nothing about a proclamation to the inhabitants to keep within doors; and of course Peeping Tom is an impossibility in this version of the tale.
Coventry has for generations honoured its benefactress by a periodical procession, wherein she is represented by a girl dressed as nearly like the countess on her ride as the manners of the day have permitted. When this procession was first instituted, is unknown. The earliest mention of it seems to be in the year 1678. Its object then was to proclaim the Great Fair, and Lady Godiva was merely an incident in it. The Lansdowne MSS. in the British Museum contain an account of a visit to Coventry by the "captain, lieutenant, and ancient" of the military company of Norwich, who travelled in the Midland Counties in August 1634. These tourists describe St. Mary's Hall as adorned at the upper end "with rich hangings, and all about with fayre pictures, one more especially of a noble lady (the Lady Godiva) whose memory they have cause not to forget, for that shee purchas'd and redeem'd their lost infringed liberties and ffreedomes, and obtained remission of heavy tributes impos'd upon them, by undertaking a hard and unseemly task, w'ch was to ride naked openly at high noone day through the city on a milk-white steed, w'ch she willingly performed, according to her lord's strict injunction. It may be very well discussed heere whether his hatred or her love exceeded. Her fayre long hayre did much offend the wanton's glancing eye." In this record we have no additional fact except the mention of "high noone day" as the time of the journey; for the allusion to "the wanton's glancing eye" is too vague to be interpreted of Peeping Tom, and the writer does not refer to any commemorative procession. It has been supposed, therefore, that the carnival times of Charles the Second both begot the procession and tacked Peeping Tom to the legend. But it is more likely that the procession is as old as the fair, which was held under a charter of Henry the Third, granted in 1217. Such pageants were not uncommon in municipal life, and were everywhere to the taste of the people. Whether Lady Godiva was a primitive part of it is another question. The mention of the procession in 1678 occurs in a manuscript volume of annals of the city, in a handwriting of the period. The entry in question is as follows: "31 May 1678 being the great Fair at Coventry there was an extraordinary" [Here the bottom of the page is reached; and in turning over the chronicler has omitted a word, for on the top of the next page we read:] "Divers of the Companies" [i.e., the City Guilds] "set out each a follower, The Mayor Two, and the Sheriffs each one and 2 at the publick charge, there were divers Streamers with the Companies arms and Ja. Swinnertons Son represented Lady Godiva."
This brief entry is by no means free from ambiguity. Perhaps all that we are warranted in inferring from it is that the annual procession was, that year, of unusual splendour. Whether, as has been conjectured, it was the first time Lady Godiva had ever made her appearance, there seems more doubt. Apart from any evidence, there is no improbability in supposing that she may have formed part of earlier processions; though it may be that during the period of Puritan ascendency the show had been neglected and the lady in particular had been discountenanced. If this be so, however, it is difficult to account for the manner in which her figure is referred to by the writer, unless there were some personal reason connected with James Swinnerton, or his son, undiscoverable by us at this distance of time.
But whatever doubt may exist as to Godiva's share in the early processions, there appears no less as to the episode of Peeping Tom. Looking out of an upper story of the King's Head, at the corner of Smithford Street, is an oaken figure called by the name of the notorious tailor. It is in reality a statue of a man in armour, dating no further back than the reign of Henry the Seventh; and, as a local antiquary notes, "to favour the posture of his leaning out of window, the arms have been cut off at the elbows." This statue, now generally believed to have been intended for St. George, could not have been thus appropriated and adapted to its present purpose until its original design had been forgotten and the incongruity of its costume passed unrecognized. This is said to have been in 1678, when a figure, identified with the one in question, was put up in Grey Friars Lane by Alderman Owen.
It must not be overlooked that there may have been from the first more than one version of the legend, and that a version rejected by, or perhaps unknown to, Roger of Wendover and the writers who followed him may have always included the order to the inhabitants to keep within doors, of which Peeping Tom would seem to be the necessary accompaniment. Unfortunately, we have no evidence on this point. The earliest record of such a version appears in one of the manuscript volumes already alluded to. It has not been hitherto printed; and it is so much at variance, alike with the legend preserved in the thirteenth century, and the poem of the nineteenth century, that I quote it entire:—"The Franchisment and Freedome of Coventry was purchased in manner Following. Godiua the wife of Leofric Earle of Chester and Duke of March requesting of her Lord freedome for this That Towne, obtained the same upon condition that she should ride naked through the same; who for the Love she bare to the Inhabitants thereof, and the perpetuall remembrance of her Great Affection thereunto, performed the same as Followeth. In the forenoone all householders were Commanded to keep in their Families shutting their doores and windows close whilst the Dutchess performed this good deed, which done she rode naked through the midst of the Towne, without any other Coverture save only her hair. But about the midst of the Citty her horse neighed, whereat one desirous to see the strange Case lett downe a Window, and looked out, for which fact or for that the Horse did neigh, as the cause thereof, Though all the Towne were Franchised, yet horses were not toll-free to this day."
The manuscript in which this passage occurs is copied from an older manuscript which appears to have been compiled in the sixteenth century. Unfortunately, however, the latter is imperfect, a leaf having been torn out at this very point. We cannot, therefore, say with certainty that the account of the famous ride was ever comprised in it. But the expressions made use of imply that the windows were closed with shutters rather than glass, and that they were opened by letting down the shutters, which were either loose or affixed by a hinge to the bottom sills. It is a question exactly at what period glass came into general use for windows in the burgesses' houses at Coventry. Down almost to the middle of the fifteenth century all glass was imported; and consequently it was not so common in the midlands as near the coast, especially the south-eastern coast. We shall probably be on the safe side if we assume that in the early years of the sixteenth century, at all events, the ordinary dwelling-house at Coventry was no longer destitute of this luxury. It would seem, therefore, that the story, in the form here given, cannot be later, and may be much earlier, than the latter years of the fifteenth century.
Failing definite evidence to carry us back further, it becomes of importance to inquire whether there are any traditions in other places from which we may reason. In the "History of Gloucestershire," printed by Samuel Rudder of Cirencester in 1779, we read that the parishioners of St. Briavels, hard by the Forest of Dean, "have a custom of distributing yearly upon Whitsunday, after divine service, pieces of bread and cheese to the congregation at church, to defray the expenses of which every householder in the parish pays a penny to the churchwardens; and this is said to be for the privilege of cutting and taking the wood in Hudnolls. The tradition is that the privilege was obtained of some Earl of Hereford, then lord of the Forest of Dean, at the instance of his lady, upon the same hard terms that Lady Godiva obtained the privileges for the citizens of Coventry." It appears that Rudder, while in the main accurately relating both custom and tradition, has made the mistake of supposing that the payment was made to the churchwardens, whereas it was in all probability made to the constable of the castle of St. Briavels as warden of the Forest of Dean. The custom is now in a late stage of decadence, and local inquiries have failed to elicit any further details throwing light on the point under consideration.
I am not aware of any other European tradition that will bear comparison with that of Godiva, but Liebrecht relates that he remembers in his youth, about the year 1820, in a German newspaper, a story according to which a countess frees her husband's subjects from a heavy punishment imposed by him. She undertakes to walk a certain course clad only in her shift, and she performs it, but clad in a shift of iron. The condition is here eluded rather than fulfilled; and the point of the story is consequently varied. It would be interesting to have the tale unearthed from the old newspaper, and to know where its scene was laid, and whether it was a genuine piece of folklore.
Eastern tales, however, furnish us repeatedly with incidents in which a lady parades the streets of a city, and during her progress all folk are bidden to close their shops and withdraw into their houses on pain of death. The example of the Princess Badroulboudour will occur to every reader of the "Arabian Nights." This, however, is by no means a solitary example. In the story of Kamar Al-Zaman and the Jeweller's Wife, one of the stories of the "Nights" rejected on moral grounds by Lane, but translated by Burton, a dervish relates that he chanced one Friday to enter the city of Bassorah, and found the streets deserted. The shops were open; but neither man nor woman, girl nor boy, dog nor cat was to be seen. By and by he heard a sound of drums, and hiding himself in a coffee-house, he looked out through a crevice and saw forty pairs of slave girls, with uncovered heads and faces displayed, come walking through the market, and in their midst a lady riding unveiled and adorned with gold and gems. In front of her was a damsel bearing in baldric a great sword with haft of emerald and tassels of jewel-encrusted gold. Pausing close to the dervish, the lady said to her maidens: "I hear a noise of somewhat within yonder shop; so do ye search it, lest haply there be one hidden there, with intent to enjoy a look at us while we have our faces unveiled." Accordingly they searched the shop opposite the coffee-house, and brought forth a man. At the lady's command the damsel with the sword smote off his head, and leaving the corpse lying on the ground, the procession swept on. It turned out that the lady was the wife of a jeweller to whom the King of Bassorah was desirous of granting a boon, and at her request the boon obtained was a proclamation commanding that all the townsfolk should every Friday enter the mosques two hours before the hour of prayer, so that none might abide in the town, great or small, unless they were in the mosques or in the houses with the doors locked upon them; but all the shops were to be left open. Then the lady had permission to ride with her slave-women through the heart of the town, and none were to look on her from window or lattice; and every one whom she found abroad she was at liberty to kill. A similar incident is related in the life of Kurroglú, the robber-poet of Persia, where a beautiful princess passes in state through the bazaars every Friday on her way to the mosque, while all the men are banished. Here, again, some one was of course found playing the spy.
A version of the incident, which can be traced further back in literary form than either of the foregoing, occurs in the "Ardshi-Bordshi." This book is a Mongolian recension of a Sanskrit collection of stories concerning Vikramàditya, a monarch who, if he ever lived, seems to have flourished about the beginning of the Christian era. He was celebrated, like Solomon, for his wisdom and his might; and his name became the centre of a vast accretion of legends. Some of these legends were translated into Mongolian late in the Middle Ages, and formed a small collection called after Ardshi-Bordshi, the nominal hero. In the story to which I wish to direct attention, a certain king has a daughter bearing the name of Sunshine, of whom he was so jealous that if any one looked upon her his eyes were put out, and the man who entered her apartments had his legs broken. Naturally, the young lady got tired of being thus immured, and complained to her father that, as she had no opportunity of seeing man or beast, the time hung heavily on her hands; and she begged him to let her go out on the fifteenth of the month and look about her. The king agreed to this; but, the sly old rascal! nothing was further from his intention than to gratify his daughter's longing for masculine converse. Wherefore he issued a decree that all objects for sale were to be exposed openly to the view, all cattle to be left indoors, the men and women were to withdraw into their houses and close their doors and windows, and if any one came forth he should be severely punished. On the appointed day, Sunshine, surrounded by her ladies, and seated in a brand-new chariot, drove through the town, and viewed the merchandise and goods exposed for sale. The king had a minister, named Moon, who could not restrain his curiosity; and he peeped at her from a balcony. The princess, as he did so, caught sight of him and made signs to him, which were interpreted by the penetration of his wife to be an invitation to meet her clandestinely. The wife hardly displayed what most ladies would deem "a proper spirit" in advising compliance; and the consequence of taking that advice would have been serious trouble both to himself and to the princess, had it not been for the ready wit of the two women, who got over the difficulty by contriving an ingenious equivocation not unknown in other stories, by which the princess cleared herself and her lover on oath.
It is true that in these tales the lady who rides forth is not naked; but to ride openly and unveiled would be thought almost as immodest in countries where strict seclusion is imposed upon women. All these tales include the Peeping Tom incident; and it appears, indeed, so obvious a corollary to the central thought of Lady Godiva's adventure that it is hardly likely to have required centuries for its evolution. From some traditions, however, it is absent. A story belonging to the Cinderella cycle, found at Smyrna, relates that when a certain king desired to marry his own daughter, the maiden, by the advice of her Fate, demanded as the price of compliance three magnificent dresses. Having obtained these, she asked permission to go unseen (like Badroulbadour) to the bath. The king, to gratify her, forbade his subjects on pain of death to open their shops or to show themselves in the streets while she passed by. She thus got an opportunity of escaping from the city, of which she did not fail to make use,—greatly, no doubt, to her unnatural father's disgust. An Indian tradition also tells us that the inhabitants of Chamba were under the necessity of digging a canal for irrigation, but when it was dug, owing to the enchantments of an evil spirit, not a drop of water could be got to flow along its course. A magician at last found out that the spell could be dissolved if the beautiful and virtuous young princess of Chamba would consent to traverse a given distance of the plain entirely naked, in full view of the populace, and to lose her head when the journey was accomplished. After much hesitation, her compassion triumphed over her shame; and she undertook the task. But lo! as she advanced, a thick line of young trees arose to right and left, completely hiding her from cynical eyes. And the shady canal is shown today by the good people of Chamba as one of the most authentic monuments of their history.
So far the stories. Concerning which it must be observed that they are evidence that the myth of Lady Godiva is widely diffused in the East, and that the spy is usually, though not always, part of the tale. The Smyrnœan version must probably be thrown out of the reckoning. It is, as I have already mentioned, a variant of the Cinderella cycle. The problem of the plot is how to get the heroine unseen out of her father's clutches. This is commonly effected by the simple mechanism of a disguise and a night escape. Other methods, I need not now detail, are, however, sometimes adopted; and the excuse of going to the bath, with the order to the people to close their shops and keep within doors, would seem to reveal nothing more than the unconscious influence of Aladdin or some other of the Eastern stories. Throwing this out, then, as accidental, an overwhelming proportion of the analogues cited contains the spy. It would be dangerous to reason on the supposition that the proportions of all the Asiatic variants extant correspond with those of the variants cited; but we are at liberty to assume that a large number, if not the majority, comprise the incident of Peeping Tom. None of them was known in Europe until Galland published his translation of the "Arabian Nights" in the year 1704—upwards of two centuries later than the latest period at which the story as given in the Coventry manuscript can have come into existence.
But the stories, though they may go a little way to help us in regard to the incident of Peeping Tom, throw no light on the origin of the legend, or of the procession. Let us therefore turn to one or two curious religious ceremonies, which may have some bearing upon it. A potent spell to bring rain was reported as actually practised during the Gorakhpur famine of 1873-4. It consisted of a gang of women stripping themselves perfectly naked, and going out by night to drag the plough across a field. The men were kept carefully out of the way, as it was believed that peeping by them would not only vitiate the spell, but bring trouble on the village. It would not be a long step from this belief to a story in which peeping was alleged to have taken place with disastrous effects, either to the village, or (by favour of the deities intended to be propitiated) to the culprit himself. At the festival of the local goddess in the village of Serúr, in the Southern Mahratta country, the third and fourth days are devoted to private offerings. Many women, we are told, on these days walk naked to the temple in fulfilment of vows, "but they were covered with leaves and boughs of trees, and surrounded by their female relations and friends."
The performance of religious rites by women alone, when men are required under heavy penalties to absent themselves, is, indeed, not very uncommon in savage life. Nor is it confined to savage life. When Rome was at the height of her civilization and her triumphs, the festival of the Bona Dea was rendered notorious by the divorce of Cæsar's wife and by legal proceedings against an aristocratic scoundrel, who, for the purposes of an intrigue with her, had violated the sacred ceremonies. The Bona Dea, or Good Goddess, was a woodland deity, the daughter and wife of Faunus. Her worship had descended from a remote antiquity; and her annual festival was held in the month of December, and was attended only by women. The matrons of the noblest families of Rome met by night in the house of the highest official of the state to perform the traditional ceremonies of the goddess, and to pray for the well-being of the Roman people. Only women, and those of the most unsullied character, were permitted to attend; and the breach of this rule by Clodius, disguised in woman's garb, constituted a heinous offence against the state, from the penalties of which he only escaped, if we may believe Cicero, by bribing the judges.
At the village of Southam, not far from Coventry, another procession in honour of Godiva formerly took place. Very little is known about it now, save one singular fact, namely, that there were two Godivas in the cavalcade, and one of them was black. Southam was part of the property possessed by Earl Leofric; and it has been suggested that this is enough to account for the commemoration of Godgifu. It would no doubt be an excellent reason for affixing her renowned name to a periodical ceremony already performed there. But it would hardly be a reason for commemorating her extortion of privileges in which the inhabitants of Southam did not share; and it would leave the black lady unexplained. She may, indeed, have been a mere travesty, though the hypothesis would be anything but free from difficulty. Here, again, if we have recourse to the comparison of ceremonies, we may obtain some light. Among the tribes of the Gold Coast of Africa the wives of men who have gone to war make a daily procession through the town. They are stark naked, painted all over with white, and decorated with beads and charms. Any man who is found in the town is attacked and driven away. And on the occasion of a battle the women imitate the actions the men are thought to be performing, with guns, sticks, and knives. The Gold Coast is a long way off; but not only do black women there paint themselves white in their sacred rites, white women in Britain have painted themselves, if not black, at least a dark blue. Pliny records that both matrons and unmarried girls among the Britons in the first century of the Christian era were in the habit of staining themselves all over with the juice of the woad; and he adds that, thus rivalling the swarthy hue of the Æthiopians, they go on these occasions in a state of nature. We are sometimes taught that when the English invaded Britain, the natives whom they found here were all driven out or massacred. There are, however, many reasons for doubting that this wholesale destruction was as complete as has been imagined. The name of Coventry betrays in its termination a Celtic element; and this could hardly have entered into it had there not been in the neighbourhood a considerable British-speaking population. What is more likely than that at Southam this population continued and preserved its customs, and that one of such customs was that very religious rite of which Pliny speaks? Unhappily he tells us nothing about the rite itself, nor the deity in whose honour it was performed. But it would not involve a great stretch of fancy to suppose that in the black lady of Southam we have a survival of the performance. It is not too much to say that this explanation would have the merit of being intelligible and adequate.
In all countries ceremonies of a special character are usually dramatic. They represent, or are believed to represent, actions of the divinities in whose honour they are performed. The rites of the Bona Dea, we know, were of this kind; and they consequently degenerated into orgies of a shameful character. The Coventry procession is admittedly a representation of Godgifu's ride. It is not now, nor has it been so long as we have any records of it—that is to say for two hundred years—connected with any professed act of worship; but this is not incompatible with its being the long-descended relic of some such observance as those I have described. The introduction of Christianity did not annihilate the older cults. The new religion incorporated some of them; and although the rest were no longer regarded as sacred, the feeling of obligation remained attached to them for centuries. They were secularized, and ultimately degraded for the most part into burlesque. Such as were connected with municipal life, or, as we shall see in a future chapter, with family life, retained a measure of solemnity long after it had passed away from rites which had been abandoned to an unorganized mob. This is well illustrated by the contrast between the ceremonial at Coventry (whatever its origin) and that at St. Briavels. The stronger hand of a municipality would have a restraining power wanting to that of a village community, or a parish—especially if the latter had been governed by a lord, who in later times had been shorn of his authority, or had ceased to reside among, or take an interest in the affairs of, his tenantry. Something like this I take to have been the history of St. Briavels. There does not appear from Rudder's account to have been, in his time at least, any pageant commemorative of the achievement of the lady to whom the parishioners reckoned themselves to owe their privileges; nor have I been able to trace one by local inquiries. But the tradition is at St. Briavels unmistakably connected with a religious and social rite. The distribution of food on a day of high and holy festival in the church to the congregation, and paid for by a levy upon every householder in the parish, can point to nothing else than a feast of the whole community as a solemn act of worship. Its degeneracy in more recent times has been thus described to me by the Rev. W. Taprell Allen:—"For many years it was customary to bring to the church on Whitsun-day afternoon baskets of the stalest bread and hardest cheese, cut up into small pieces the size of dice. Immediately after the service the bread and cheese were scrambled for in the church, and it was a custom to use them as pellets, the parson coming in for his share as he left the pulpit. About 1857, or perhaps a year or two later, the unseemly custom was transferred from the church to the churchyard, the bread and cheese being thrown down from the church tower. Later on it was transferred to the road outside the church gates. It now lasts but a few minutes. A few years ago all the roughs of the Forest used to come over, and there was much drinking and fighting; but now it is very different. The custom has in fact been dying out." From these later stages of decay the Godiva pageant was saved by becoming a municipal festival. And while at St. Briavels we can watch the progress of degeneration from a point at which the religious character of the ceremony had not quite vanished, down to the most unblushing burlesque, and to its ultimate expulsion from consecrated precincts,—at Coventry we see but one phase, one moment, at which the rite, if it ever had any title to that name, seems to have been photographed and rendered permanent.
It is obvious, however, that a feast is not a dramatic representation of a ride; and the point requiring elucidation is the intimate relation of the feast at St. Briavels with a story apparently so irrelevant as that of the countess' ride. To explain this, we must suppose that the feast was only part—doubtless the concluding part—of a ceremony, and that the former portion was a procession, of which the central figure was identical with that familiar to us at Coventry. But such a procession, terminating in a sacred feast, would have had no meaning if the naked lady represented a creature merely of flesh and blood. It is only explicable on the hypothesis that she was the goddess of a heathen cult, such as Hertha (or Nerthus), whose periodical progress among her subject tribes is described in a well-known passage by Tacitus, and yet survives, as we have seen, in the folklore of Rügen. Now the historian tells us that Hertha was Mother Earth, the goddess of the soil, whose yearly celebration would appropriately take place in the spring or early summer. To her the produce of the land would be ascribed; and in her name and by her permission would all agricultural operations be performed. Such a goddess it must be who is honoured by the ceremonies already noticed in India. Such a goddess, at any rate, was the Bona Dea; and to such a goddess we may readily believe would be ascribed the privilege of cutting wood. It is quite consistent with this that the payment by every household at St. Briavels should be made to the warden of the forest, and that it should be spent by him on the goddess' festival. We are left to surmise what were the tolls and burdens at Coventry, so vaguely referred to by Roger of Wendover. Pigs and horses, we learn from two different sources, were not included in the exemptions obtained by the countess; and the reason for this in the latter case is accounted for by the incident of Peeping Tom.
One other point is worthy of mention: both at St. Briavels and at Coventry the commemoration takes place nearly at the same time of year. The Great Fair at Coventry opens on the day after Corpus Christi Day—that is to say, the Friday after Trinity Sunday. Corpus Christi Day itself was the day on which the celebrated Coventry Miracle Plays were performed; and the Fair opened the next morning. At the same time of year too—namely, on Ascension Day—a custom, for which there is no explanation in any record, was observed at St. Michael's Church, York, when ale and bread and cheese were yearly given away in the church to the poor of the parish. Although Ascension Day is separated by three weeks from Corpus Christi, the movable character of the feasts would bridge this gulf without any difficulty; and heathen observances of the same nature, and referring to the same season, when they had to be reconciled to the Christian calendar, might easily find places in some instances on one day and in others on another day. Godgifu and her husband were honoured as founders of the Benedictine monastery at Coventry, which rose upon the ruins of an earlier house of Benedictine nuns founded by Osburg, a lady of the royal house, nearly two hundred years before. This nunnery had been destroyed in the Danish wars about the year 1016. Consequently, if any legend, or ceremony, was known or practised at Coventry in connection with some traditional patroness, the name of Godgifu was ready to hand to be identified with it. Through the monastery Coventry first rose to wealth and repute; and the townsfolk on this score owed a debt of gratitude to the foundress, though there is no record whether any special day was set apart in her honour.
On the whole, then, there is ground for supposing that the legend and procession of Lady Godiva are survivals of a pagan belief and worship located at Coventry; that the legend was concerned with a being awful and mysterious as Dame Berchta, or Hertha herself; and that the incident of Peeping Tom was from the first, or at all events from an early date, part of the story. The evidence upon which these conclusions rest may be shortly recapitulated thus:—
1. The absence of historical foundation for the tradition.
2. The close resemblance between the tradition and other stories and superstitions which unquestionably deal with heathen goddesses, such as Berchta and Hertha.
3. The equally close analogy between the procession and that described in Eastern stories, which, so far as we know, could not have reached England at the latest period when the procession could possibly have been instituted; and between the procession and certain heathen rites practised not only in the East, but as near home as Rome and Germany,—nay, in Britain itself.
4. The occurrence of a similar procession at Southam, in the same county, having the special feature of a black lady, best explained as a survival of certain rites practised by the ancient Britons.
5. The connection between the analogous legend at St. Briavel's and the remains of a sacred communal feast that can hardly be anything else than the degraded remnant of a pagan observance.
The want of historical evidence cannot, of course, be overlooked; but we must remember that in investigating traditions and traditional observances we are dealing with a phase of civilization of which history only yields rare and indirect glimpses. It is the absence of direct evidence that, not only in the science of Folklore, but also in the physical sciences, causes resort to the evidence afforded by comparison of other structures and processes. On the validity of this evidence, and -the reasoning based upon it, nearly all our scientific learning depends. In spite, therefore, of the defects in the historical evidence, and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it can scarcely be denied that the analogies in both custom and legend here brought together amount to a fairly strong presumption in favour of the conclusions I have ventured to draw from them.
If I may formulate my conjecture as to the course of development actually pursued, it would be something like this. The ceremony at Coventry is a survival of an annual rite in honour of a heathen goddess, from which men were excluded. This rite, like all such, would have been a part of the tribal cult, and intimately associated with the tribal life and organization. Side by side with it a myth would have been evolved, accounting for the performance as a dramatic representation of an event in the goddess' career. This myth would have been similar in outline to those recited above, and would have comprised an explanation of the exclusion of men. When Christianity spread through the district the inhabitants would still cling to their old custom and their old myth, as we know was done elsewhere, because it was bound up with their social life. But, if not violently put down by the rulers of the land, both custom and myth would, little by little, lose their sacred character as the new religion increased in influence, and would become transformed into municipal ceremonies. This process would be slow, centuries being required for its completion; but it would be aided by the gradual development of the tribe first into a settled village community, and thence into a mediæval township. With the loss of sanctity the reason for prohibiting the attendance of men would vanish; but the tradition of it would be preserved in the incident of the story which narrated Peeping Tom's treachery.
- Mrs. Bray, vol. i. p. 174.
- "Revue Celtique," vol. i. p. 231; Keightley, p. 312, citing "The Local Historian's Table-Book," by M. A. Richardson. Cromek, p. 242; "Y Cymmrodor," vol. iv. p. 209; "Revue des Trad. Pop." vol. iii. p. 426; " Revue Celtique," vol. i. p. 232.
- Sébillot, "Contes," vol. ii. p. 34; "Revue des Trad. Pop." vol. iii. p. 428; Sébillot, "Litt. Orale," p. 21; Kennedy, p. 106; Keightley, p. 311; "Y Cymmrodor," vol. vi. p. 166; Wirt Sikes, p. 87. This story purports to be quoted from Howells, p. 349—an impossible reference, seeing that the volume in question only contains 194 pages. The peculiarities of Mr. Sikes' authorities, however, need very little comment.
- "Y Cymmrodor," vol. vi. p. 194; Hunt, p. 120.
- Gerv. Tilb. Dec. iii. c. 85.
- Sébillot, "Contes," vol. ii. p. 42; "Litt. Orale," p. 23; "Trad. et Super." p. 109. But in these cases the operation was performed painlessly enough, for the victims were unaware of their loss until they came to look in the glass. In one of Prof. Rhys' stories the eye is pricked with a green rush; "Y Cymmrodor," vol. vi. p. 178; Hunt, p. 83. See also Sébillot, "Contes," vol. i. p. 119.
- Keightley, p. 310; "Revue des Trad. Pop." vol. iii. p. 426; Thorpe, vol. ii. p. 129, quoting Thiele. In another Danish tale given on the same page, the woman's blindness is attributed to her having divulged what she had seen in Fairyland.
- Sébillot, "Litt. Orale," p. 24.
- "Choice Notes," p. 170; Thorpe, vol. iii. p. 8. The latter form of the story seems more usual. See Gredt, pp. 28, 29, where we are plainly told that the hapless mortals are fetched away by the devil.
- Steinberg, p. 132 (see also Thorpe, vol. ii. p. 12); Von Alpenburg, p. 63. See a similar story in Grimm, "Teut. Myth." p. 276, from Börner, "Folk-tales of the Orlagau." In the latter case, however, the punishment seems to have been inflicted for jeering.
- Jahn, p. 177, quoting Temme, "Volkssagen"; Ovid, "Metam." l. iii. fab. 3; Tacitus, " Germ." c. 40.
- Roger of Wendover, "Flowers of History," sub anno 1057. I quote from Dr. Giles' translation.
- See his Presidential Address to the Warwickshire Naturalists' and Archæologists' Field Club, 1886.
- MS. marked D. This entry is an interpolation in a list of mayors and sheriffs in a different handwriting. There are several such interpolations in the volume. Coventry possesses a number of MS. volumes of annals, one of which (see below) seems to date from the latter part of the sixteenth century, and the rest from the latter part of the seventeenth. In the MS. marked F. (considered by Mr. W. G. Fretton, F.S.A., to be in the handwriting of John Tipper, of Bablake, Coventry, a schoolmaster and local antiquary at the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries), and also in the MS. in the British Museum (Additional MSS. 11,364), the entry runs simply:—"1678 Michaell Earle (Mercer) Mayor; Francis Clark, George Allatt, Sherriffs. This year ye severall Companies had new streamers, and attended ye Mayor to proclaim ye faire, and each company cloathed one boy or two to augment ye show." The latter MS. elsewhere speaks of the story of Godiva's ride as "comonly known, and yearly comemorated by the Mayor, Aldermen, and ye severall companies."
- This statue used to be decked out on the occasion of the procession in the long peruke and neckcloth of the reign of Charles II. See T. Ward, "Collections for the Continuation of Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire" (2 vols., fol. MS., Brit. Mus., Additional MSS., Nos. 29,264, 29,265), vol. ii. fol. 143.
- MS. marked E, Coventry, seventeenth century. A careful examination of the language of Roger of Wendover, Matthew Paris, John of Brompton, and Matthew of Westminster, shows that Roger of Wendover's account is the source of the other three, Matthew Paris copying most closely, and John of Brompton most freely. John of Brompton and Matthew of Westminster omit the escort. Their statement as to Godiva's being unseen refers to the hair which covered her; and the latter informs us, with a touch of rhetoric, that Leofric regarded it as a miracle.
- Rudder, p. 307. The Rev. W. Taprell Allen, M.A., Vicar of St. Briavels, has been kind enough to supply me with the correction from local inquiries and intimate acquaintance with the traditions and affairs of the parish extending over many years. See also "Gent. Mag. Lib." (Manners and Customs), p. 230.
- Liebrecht, p. 104.
- Burton, "Nights," vol. ix. p. 255; Burton, "Supp. Nights," vol. iii. p. 570 (Appendix by Mr. W. A. Clouston). Kurroglú flourished in the second half of the seventeenth century.
- This story is edited by Jülg in Mongolian and German (Innsbruck, 1867). Miss Busk gives a free adaptation rather than a translation of the German version, "Sagas," p. 315. Prof. De Gubernatis, "Zool. Myth." vol. i. p. 138, of course interprets it as a sun-myth an interpretation to which the names Sunshine and Moon, and the date of the adventure (the fifteenth of the month), lend themselves.
- Von Hahn, vol. ii. p. 225; "Tour du Monde," vol. xxi. p. 342, quoted by Liebrecht, p. 105.
- "Panjab N. and Q." vol. iii. pp. 41, 115; "Journal Ethnol. Soc. London," N.S., vol. i. p. 98.
- The information relating to the Bona Dea has been collected by Preller, "Röm. Myth." vol. i. p. 398; and see the authorities he has cited.
- Ellis, p. 226; Pliny, "Nat. Hist." l. xxii. c. 1. For the information as to the procession at Southam I am indebted to Mr. W. G. Fretton, who formerly lived there.
- "Germania," c, 40; cf. c. 9.
- Nicholson, p. 32.
- I am indebted to Mr. Samuel Timmins, F.S.A., and to Mr. W. G. Fretton, F.S.A., for a great amount of local information and other assistance which they have spared no pains to render me, and to the Town Clerk of Coventry for permission to inspect the invaluable local manuscripts belonging to the Corporation.