Occidental Star,” she was extremely fond of the chase, and followed the hounds at her palace at Oaklands [sic] when she was entering on the seventy-seventh year of her age. Often, when she was not disposed to hunt herself, she was entertained with the sight of the pastime, and at Lord MONTACUTE’S seat at Cowdrie, in Sussex, in 1591, the warlike daughter of Bluff King
HAL, having plentifully dined, saw from a turret “sixteen bucks, all having fayre lawe, pulled down with greyhounds, in a laund or lawn.” With regard to the man with the bow and arrows who joined in the “horn dance” at Abbots Bromley, it may be mentioned that every archer who passed through the King’s forest was obliged to have arrows only that were rounded, instead of sharp at the point, the precaution being insisted on to prevent his Majesty’s deer from being shot. The hobby-horse rider was a common partaker in these pastimes, this particular mummer being carefully trained in “carreeras,” “prankers,” “ambles,” “false trots,” and “Canterbury paces.” Touching the “horn dance” itself, it will be found that in a beautifully illuminated manuscript in the Bodleian Library, executed in the reign of EDWARD III., there are represented two groups of dancing mummers, including one male performer with a stag’s head and antlers, the others wearing masks simulating the heads of hares, rabbits, goats, dogs, and hawks. There are two lady mummers, who do not, however, wear any distinctive apparel, while in other manuscripts of the period occur numerous pictures of “wodehouses,” who were mummers masquerading as wild or savage men, painted in skins or woollen rugs to simulate fur. The imitation of animals even went further than the adoption of masks. In the Bodleian MS. just cited there is a picture of a man walking on all fours who is made up as a stag, in almost exactly the same manner as would be the case if he made his appearance in a similar capacity in a Drury-lane pantomime, there being an aperture in the breast of the sham animal, through which orifice the player could see while he danced to the music of a drum. Another illuminated parchment shows us a mummer disguised as a goat walking on his hind legs, which, with his beard and a pair of enormous horns, presents a preposterously absurd appearance; but in some instances the actor only bent his body to a crouching attitude, supporting his hands on a short staff, upon which he could lean at pleasure, while the aperture in the breast of the fictitious stag was made sufficiently large for the whole face to be visible. This was designedly done with the intention that, when the mummer had a visage susceptible of varied grimace, he should have an opportunity of earning the plaudits of the spectators by the hideous contortions which he made.
The origin of mummers defies the researches of the most industrious of antiquaries. It is certain that in rural Italy in ancient times mummers used to wander up and down the country disguised either as deer or goats, or as wolves, bears, and foxes, and these common and jocular entertainments may have been indirectly the foundation of many of the myths subsequently worked with such exquisite skill into the “Metamorphoses” of OVID. It would be rash to assert that our old English mumming or disguisements came to us directly from Italy. In all likelihood the Normans at the Conquest brought with them a good many foreign games and interludes, and to them we certainly owe our minstrels and jongleurs, who superseded the Saxon gleemen, who were, for their part, the lineal descendants of the Scandinavian Scaulds. The Saxons also had their gleemaidens or female minstrels, whose province it was in general to dance and to tumble, whence they acquired the names of “tumblesteres” and “sayloures,” from “salio,” to leap or dance, and on church festivals, just as at Christmas time the regular theatres avail themselves of the services of music-hall artistes, so, when a miracle play was performed under the auspices of the clergy, male and female “tumblesteres” and “sayloures” were called in to interpolate a little horseplay in the otherwise devout drama. Thus, in one mediaeval painting extant, illustrating a miracle play on the subject of “HERODIAS,” SALOME is depicted as inducing King HEROD to order the decapitation of JOHN the Baptist by standing on her head in the royal presence. These were some of the amusements which attained the highest popularity in the days when England really seemed to be, and probably was, a very merry country; and truly the people had some cause to try their very best to be joyous, since, if they had plenty of games and sports, they were able to bear with greater resignation the tyranny of their feudal lords, and the poverty and dirt in which they lived. Horn dances and morris dances, hobby-horse races and miracle plays, plenty of music, and an occasional feast when oxen were roasted whole, and the conduits ran ale and wine, made them forget the plague, the falling sickness, and the black death. The Feast of Fools was a partial compensation for the exactions of the clergy, and even the rapacity of the King and his barons would be occasionally rebuked by the minstrels, as occurred on a memorable occasion in the reign of EDWARD II. While seated at dinner, in Royal state, in Westminster Hall, on the festival of Pentecost, attended by the peers of the realm, the Monarch was accosted by a woman habited like a minstrel, riding on a great horse, who proceeded to the Royal table, upon which she deposited a letter, and having done so she turned her horse, saluted all the company, and retired. The letter was found to contain some very severe reflections on the conduct of the King, which greatly angered him, and the actress was arrested, but, the real author of the communication being discovered, she was pardoned. The most curious feature in the story is that the doorkeeper of Westminster Hall, being reprimanded on account of her admission, excused himself by protesting that it had always been customary to allow the entry of minstrels and persons in disguisements, on the supposition that they came for the pleasure of his Majesty. The simple meaning is that all these mumming and disguisements were merely early forms of those masquerades which are still popular on the Continent, but which have all but disappeared from England. Screened by a grotesquely-painted mask or by the head and antlers of a sham deer, the people would on occasion make fun of their rulers, and say some very biting things, which at holiday season were not resented. The meaning or the reason of a “horn dance” in 1892 it is slightly difficult to discern.