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manners and customs, but frequently as essential links in the history of romance.
A student who is anxious to obtain that extensive knowledge of the habits, customs, and phraseology of our ancestors, without which the humour of Shakespeare and many of his contemporaries can only be imperfectly appreciated, will do well to turn his attention to the ancient literature of the cottage, and make himself acquainted with the tales that were familiar “ as household words” to the groundlings of the Globe or the Blackfriars. Those who despise this troublesome method of illustration do so without reflection, and invariably without a practical knowledge of its extreme utility. Let us ask, where would a reader turn for explanations of the jocular allusions in a modern farce or extravaganza ? Certainly not to the works of Faraday or Mrs. Somerville, but oftener to the ballads of Seven Dials, or even to the songs of the nursery. The observation is true when applied to a more ancient period. If any proof were necessary, it would be found in the fact, that the tale of Jack the Giant Killer is quoted in the second greatest tragedyKing Lear.
Very few copies of the numerous merriments which were published during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are now preserved ; but most of them continued to be faithfully reprinted till the close of the eighteenth centuary. For literary purposes, therefore, these later editions are nearly as valuable as the earlier ones. The collection here described consists almost exclusively of copies which appeared during the last century, many of them having the same woodcuts which were used for the original black-letter editions. The late Mr. Haslewood preserved many curious volumes of merriments printed between the years 1730 and 1760, and several of them are now in my possession. The auction* sales of London have also furnished me with many valuable additions ; and a few have been kindly presented by friends.
The collection is peculiarly rich in the garlands and merriments printed in the North of England between 1740 and 1810, especially in those which emanated from the presses of White and Saint of Newcastle-on-Tyne, and the Robertsons of Glasgow. The nucleus of this portion was selected from a parcel containing more than one thousand such pieces, which I was enabled to purchase through the kindness of William Euing, Esq., of Glasgow ; and I nearly completed the series by the purchase of many others from
* Amongst these may be mentioned Walsh's sale at Messrs. Sotheby and Wilkinson's, Jan. 1847, where there were several curious volumes, viz., 164, 165, 167, 168, and 414, bought by me for £9; and Pigott's sale in the following May, many curious garlands, viz., 23, 161, 162, 163, and 164, bought by me for £18:17:6. The prices, however, produced at such sales have too often exceeded reasonable limits, and I have therefore chiefly relied on other sources. At Wilkes' sale, in March 1847, a small volume of garlands, greatly inferior to several I had bought at the same place two months previously for about £2 each, produced twelve guineas.
Mr. J. Bell of Gateshead, Mr. Lilly, Mr. Russell Smith, and others; it was still further increased by the dispersion of a larger collection formed by Mr. William Garret of Newcastle-upon-Tyne during the last thirty years, which was more extensive than select, but it contained many I had nowhere else met with, and on the whole was a singular accumulation. I had previously offered Mr. Garret £80 for the collection, but without success. At the sale, however, I was enabled to secure every tract of any importance not previously in my possession.
To these may be added the merriments, histories, patters, garlands, and what the French call merveilles, printed at Aldermary Churchyard, Bow Churchyard, Cirencester, Northampton, etc. The following pages, it is scarcely necessary to say, notice a very small proportion of these ; but they are all curious, many intrinsically valuable, and no inconsiderable number illustrate county history. In fact, nothing has come amiss which has appeared in the shape of the old penny or halfpenny vernacular chapmen's tracts; the object being to form a collection which should furnish a distinct idea of what was, till within the last half century, the household literature of the illiterate."
1. THE LIFE AND PRANKS OF Long MEG OF WestMINSTER. Imprinted at London for Abraham Veale, dwellinge in Pauls Church yeard, at the
signe of the Lambe. 12mo, 1582. This is in black-letter, and differs in many particulars from the subsequent impression of 1635. It has, however, a manuscript title-page, and some doubts may be entertained whether the date there assigned to it is correct; but there can be no hesitation in ascribing it to an earlier period than any edition hitherto described. Thomas Gubbin, in 1590, had a license to print “ the life of Long Megg of Westminster”; and she is alluded to in Nash's Strange Newes, 1592. Long Meg is thus mentioned by Gabriel Harvey, in his Pierce's Supererogation, or a New Praise of the Old Asse, 4to, 1600 :—“ Phy, Long Megg of Westminster would have bene ashamed to disgrace her Sonday bonet with her Satterday witt. She knew some rules of decorum; and although she were a lustie bounsing rampe, somewhat like Gallemella or Maide Marian, yet was she not such a roinish rannell, or such a dissolute gillian flurtes, as this wainscot-faced Tomboy.” In Holland's Leaguer, 1632, mention is made of a house kept by Long Meg in Southwark :-“ It was out of the citie, yet in the view of the citie, only divided by a delicate river ; there was many handsome buildings, and many hearty neighbours, yet at the first foundation it was renowned for nothing so much as for the memory of that famous Amazon, Longa Margarita, who had there for many yeeres kept a famous infamous house of open hospitality.” According to Vaughan's Golden Grove, 1608, “Long Meg of Westminster kept alwaies twenty courtizans in her house, whom by their pictures she sold to all commers.” She is also remembered by Middleton, in the Roaring Girl, act v, scene 1:-“Was it your Meg of Westminster's courage that rescued me from the Poultry puttocks indeed?” See also the Scornful Lady, act v, scene 2. Westminster Meg is mentioned by Ben Jonson. See his Works, ed. Gifford, viii, 78:
Or Westminster Meg,
And feet like a plane. Gifford says she performed many wonderful exploits about the time that Jack the Giant-killer flourished. She was buried, as all the world knows, in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey, where a huge stone is still pointed out to the Whitsuntide visitors as her grave-stone.
This work continued to be printed till the commencement of the present century, and I possess