Monday, December 21, 2009

Revisiting "Old Christmas"

Monday, December 21, 2009
Susan reporting:

Some of the most charming recollections of Christmas past were written by the American author Washington Irving (1783-1859) for The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. , first published in seven parts in 1819-1820.  The section that is now called "Old Christmas" was based on notes Irving made while visiting England from 1805-1815 (think of it as an American's view of Regency England.) He was particularly intrigued by the old traditions and celebrations of a large country house called Bracebridge Hall, traditions which even in the early 19th c. were being regarded as part of a fading past.  Irving's descriptions influenced Charles Dickens, who, a generation later, wrote his own version of Christmas past in A Christmas Carol.

It seems in the spirit of both the season and the Two Nerdy History Girls to feature a few selections from "Old Christmas" this week.  The happiest holidays to you all!

"The [Christmas Eve] dance, like most dances after supper, was a merry one; some of the older folks joined in it, and the Squire himself figured down several couples with a partner with whom he affirmed he had danced at every Christmas for nearly half-a-century. Master Simon, who seemed to be a kind of connecting link between the old times and the new, and to be withal a little antiquated in the taste of his accomplishments, evidently piqued himself on his

dancing, and was endeavouring to gain credit by the heel and toe, rigadoon, and other graces of the ancient school; but he had unluckily assorted himself with a little romping girl from boarding-school, who, by her wild vivacity, kept him continually on the stretch, and defeated all his sober attempts at elegance; such are the ill-assorted matches to which antique gentleman are unfortunately prone!"

Illustrations for "Old Christmas" by Randolph Caldecott, 1875.


Vanessa Kelly said...

You've got to watch out for those romping girls from boarding school!

I guess antique gentlemen have always gone for ill-assorted matches. Wild vivacity has other attractions besides those displayed on the dance floor.

Happy Holidays to you and yours, TNHG!

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

I know -- I love the way that romping girl in the picture is in full-attack-romp, too! Poor old Master Simon doesn't stand a chance.

Many thanks for the holiday wishes -- and back to you, Vanessa!

Karen said...

Merry Christmas to everyone, and a happy new year, too. Loretta and Susan, thank you so much for this blog. It has become one of my favorites!

nightsmusic said...

The old man in that picture looks like he's just trying to get through the dance and stay as far from his partner as possible :)

Thank you for a wonderful blog. It's great fun!

Merry Christmas to both of you and yours. May your new year be blessed with wonderful things.

Mme.Tresbeau said...

A wonderful, blessed season to you all.

I'll add my thanks for this blog as well. It's fabulous: interesting and informative, and often very funny. It's great, and so are the THG!

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