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old drinking trowl from Gammer Gurton's Needle. He sings it, to be sure, with many variations, as he received it from his father's lips; for it has been a standing favourite at the Half-Moon and Bunch of Grapes ever since it was written : nay, he affirms that his predecessors have often had the honour of singing it before the nobility and gentry at Christmas mummeries, when Little Britain was in all its glory.*
* As mine bost of the Half-moon's Confession of Faith may not be familiar to the majority of readers, and as it is a specimen of the current songs of Little Britain, I subjoin it in its original orthography. I would observe, that the whole club always join in the chorus with a fearful thumping on the table and clattering of pewter pots.
I cannot eate but lytle meate,
My stomacke is not good,
With him that weares a hood.
I nothing am a colde,
Of joly good ale and olde.
Chorus. Backe and syde go bare, go bare,
Booth foote and hand go colde,
Whether it be new or olde.
It would do one's heart good to hear on a club night the shouts of merriment, the snatches of song, and now and then the choral bursts of
I have no rost, but a nut browne toste,
And a crab laid in the fyre;
Much breade I not desyre.
Can horte mee if I wolde,
Of joly good ale and olde.
And Tyb my wife, that, as her lyfe,
Loveth well good ale to seeke,
The teares run downe her cheeke.
Even as a mault-worme sholde,
Of this joly good ale and olde.
Now let them drynke, tyll they nod and winke,
Even as goode fellowes sholde doe,
Good ale doth bring men to.
Or have them lustily trolde,
Whether they be yonge or olde.
half a dozen discordant voices, which issue from this jovial mansion. At such times the street is lined with listeners, who enjoy a delight equal to that of gazing into a confectioner's window, or snuffing up the steams of a cook-shop
There are two annual events which produce great stir and sensation in Little Britain ; these are St. Bartholomew's Fair, and the Lord Mayor's day. During the time of the Fair, which is held in the adjoining regions of Smithfield, there is nothing going on but gossiping and gadding about. The late quiet streets of Little Britain are overrun with an irruption of strange figures and faces; every tavern is a scene of rout and revel. The fiddle and the song are heard from the tap-room, morning, noon, and night; and at each window may be seen some group of boon companions, with half shut eyes, hats on one side, pipe in mouth and tankard in hand, fondling, and prozing, and singing maudlin songs over their liquor. Even the sober decorum of private families, which I
must say is rigidly kept up at other times among my neighbours, is no proof against this Saturnalia. There is no such thing as keeping maid servants within doors. Their brains are absolutely set madding with Punch and the Puppet Show; the Flying Horses; Signior Polito; the Fire Eater; the celebrated Mr. Paap; and the Irish Giant. The children too lavish all their holyday money in toys and gilt gingerbread, and fill the house with the Lilliputian din of drums, trumpets and penny whistles.
But the Lord Mayor's day is the great anniversary. The Lord Mayor is looked up to by the inhabitants of Little Britain as the greatest potentate upon earth; his gilt coach with six horses as the summit of human splendour; and his procession, with all the Sheriffs and Aldermen in his train, as the grandest of earthly pageants. How they exult in the idea, that the King himself dare not enter the city, without first knocking at the gate of Temple Bar, and asking permission of the Lord Mayor: for if he did, heaven and earth! there is no
knowing what might be the consequence. The man in armour who rides before the Lord Mayor, and is the city champion, has orders to cut down every body that offends against the dignity of the city; and then there is the little man with a velvet porringer on his head, who sits at the window of the state coach and holds the city sword, as long as a pike staffOd's blood! if he once draws that sword, Majesty itself is not safe!
Under the protection of this mighty potentate, therefore, the good people of Little Britain sleep in peace. Temple Bar is an effectual barrier against all interior foes; and as to foreign invasion, the Lord Mayor has but to throw himself into the Tower, call in the train bands, and put the standing army of Beef-eaters under arms, and he may bid defiance to the world!
Thus wrapped up in its own concerns, its own habits, and its own opinions, Little Britain has long flourished as a sound heart to this great fungous metropolis. I have pleased myself with considering it as a chosen spot, where the