Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Department of Quotation: Twelfth Night (6 January)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Loretta reports:

From The Every-day Book, by William Hone, published 1827

To explain, to those who may be ignorant of the practice. On Twelfth-night in London, boys assemble round the inviting shops of the pastrycooks, and dexterously nail the coat-tails of spectators, who venture near enough, to the bottoms of the window frames; or pin them together strongly by their clothes. Sometimes eight or ten persons find themselves thus connected. The dexterity and force of the nail driving is so quick and sure, that a single blow seldom fails of doing the business effectually. Withdrawal of the nail without a proper instrument is out of the question; and, consequently, the person nailed must either leave part of his coat, as a cognizance of his attachment, or quit the spot with a hole in it. At every nailing and pinning shouts of laughter arise from the perpetrators and the spectators. Yet it often happens to one who turns and smiles at the duress of another, that he also finds himself nailed. Efforts at extrication increase mirth, nor is the presence of a constable, who is usually employed to attend and preserve free "ingress, egress, and regress," sufficiently awful to deter the offenders.

If you read the e-text, you'll see, further down, mention of Twelfth-cakes.  Colonial Williamsburg offers a recipe. And here's a BBC story, complete with wrong date (????)


News From the Holmestead said...

Wicked! Wicked! Deliciously wicked! This gives me a GREAT idea for a story! I am hugging this to myself in glee. Thank you!

By the way, I'd never heard of this before. I think it would have been hilarious to see.

Sherrie Holmes

Vanessa Kelly said...

What a truly bizarre tradition!

nightsmusic said...

I love it! I think it would have been great entertainment for the spectators. I had never heard of it either, but I do think too it's a great story idea :)

And though the cake looks wonderful, I don't eat cakes with fruit in them like that. Which is really a shame I guess, because I'm sure it's tasty.

LorettaChase said...

I'd never heard of this either, and I am still scratching my head, trying to figure out how and why the custom started. But I do love the illustration!

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

A very weird tradition indeed. You have to wonder how this got started, and what the significance once must have been. Post more from Mr. Hone any day! :)

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