31st December

Born: Hermann Boerhaave, distinguished physician, 1668, Voorhout, near Leyden; Charles Edward Stuart, The Younger Pretender, 1721, Rome; Charles, Marquis Cornwallis, Indian commander, 1738; Dr. Johann Gaspar Spurzheim, phrenologist, 1776, Longwich, near Troves.

Died: Commodus, Roman emperor, murdered, 192 A.D.; John Wycliffe, early reformer, 1384, Lutterworth,, Leicestershire; Thomas Erastus, physician, and author of treatise on Excommunication, 1583, Basle; Giovanni Alfonso Borelli, physician and anatomist, 1679; Robert Boyle, natural philosopher, 1691, London; John Flamsteed, astronomer, 1719, Greenwich; Jean - Francois Marmontel, tale-writer, 1799; William Gifford, reviewer and satirist, 1826, London.

Feast Day: St. Sylvester, pope and confessor, 335. St. Columba, virgin and martyr, 3rd century. St. Melania the Younger, 439.


As a general statement, it may be asserted that neither the last evening of the old year nor the first day of the new one is much, observed in England as an occasion of festivity. In some parts of the country, indeed, and more especially in the northern counties, various social merry-makings take place; but for the most part, the great annual holiday-time is already past. Christmas Eve, Christmas-day, and St. Stephen's or Boxing Day have absorbed almost entirely the tendencies and opportunities of the community at large in the direction of joviality and relaxation. Business and the ordinary routine of daily life have again been resumed; or, to apply to English habits the words of an old Scottish rhyme still current, but evidently belonging to the old times, anterior to the Reformation, when Christmas was the great popular festival:

Yule's come and Yule 's gane,
And we hae feasted weel;
Sae Jock maun to his flail again,
And Jenny to her wheel.

Whilst thus the inhabitants of South Britain are settling down again quietly to work after the festivities of the Christmas season, their fellow-subjects in the northern division of the island are only commencing their annual saturnalia, which, till recently, bore, in the license and boisterous merriment which used to prevail, a most unmistakable resemblance to its ancient pagan namesake. The epithet of the Daft [mad] Days, applied to the season of the New Year in Scotland, indicates very expressively the uproarious joviality which characterized the period in question. This exuberance of joyousness-which, it must be admitted, sometimes led to great excesses-has now much declined, but New-year's Eve and New-year's Day constitute still the great national holiday in Scotland. Under the 1st of January, we have already detailed the various revelries by which the New Year used to be ushered in, in Scotland. It now becomes our province to notice those ceremonies and customs which are appropriate to the last day of the year, or, as it is styled in Scotland, Hogmanay.

This last term has puzzled antiquaries even more than the word Yule, already adverted to; and what is of still greater consequence, has never yet received a perfectly satisfactory explanation. Some suppose it to be derived from two Greek words, άιαμηνη (the holy moon or month), and in reference to this theory it may be observed, that, in the north of England, the term used is Hagmenu, which does not seem, however, to be confined to the 31st of December, but denotes generally the period immediately preceding the New Year. Another hypothesis combines the word with another sung along with it in chorus, and asserts 'Hogmanay, trollolay!' to be a corruption of 'Homma est né-Trois Bois lá' ('A Man is born-Three Kings are there'), an allusion to the birth of our Saviour, and the visit to Bethlehem of the Wise Men, who were known in medieval times as the 'Three Kings.'

But two additional conjectures seem much more plausible, and the reader may select for himself what he considers the most probable. One of these is, that the term under notice is derived from Hoggu-nott, Hogenat, or Hogg-night, the ancient Scandinavian name for the night preceding the feast of Yule, and so called in reference to the animals slaughtered on the occasion for sacrificial and festal purpose word hogg signifying to kill. The other derivation of Hogmanay is from 'Au gui menez' ('To the mistletoe go'), or 'Au gui ľan neuf' ('To the mistletoe this New Year '), an allusion to the ancient Druidical ceremony of gathering that plant. In the patois of Touraine, in France, the word used is Aguilanneu; in Lower Normandy, and in Guernsey, poor persons and children used to solicit a contribution under the title of Hoguinanno or 0guinano; whilst in Spain the term, Aguinaldo, is employed to denote the presents made at the season of Christmas.

In country places in Scotland, and also in the more retired and primitive towns, it is still customary on the morning of the last day of the year, or Hogmanay, for the children of the poorer class of people to get themselves swaddled in a great sheet, doubled up in front, so as to form a vast pocket, and then to go along the streets in little bands, calling at the doors of the wealthier classes for an expected dole of oaten-bread. Each child gets one quadrant section of oat-cake (some-times, in the case of particular favourites, improved by an addition of cheese), and this is called their hogmanay. In expectation of the large demands thus made upon them, the housewives busy themselves for several days beforehand in preparing a suitable quantity of cakes. The children on coming to the door cry, 'Hogmanay!' which is in itself a sufficient announcement of their demands; but there are other exclamations which either are or might be used for the same purpose. One of these is:

Hogmanay, Trollolay,
Give us of your white bread, and none of your gray.

And another favourite rhyme is:

Get up, goodwife, and shake your feathers,
And dinna think that we are beggars;
For we are bairns come out to play,
Get up and gie's our hogmanay!

The following is of a moralising character, thougha good deal of a truism:

Get up, goodwife, and binna sweir,
And deal your bread to them that's here;
For the time will come when ye'll be dead,
And then ye'll neither need ale nor bread.

The most favourite of all, however, is more to the point than any of the foregoing :

My feet's cauld, my shoon's thin;
Gie's my cakes, and let me rin!

It is no unpleasing scene, during the forenoon, to see the children going laden home, each with his large apron bellying out before him, stuffed full of cakes, and perhaps scarcely able to waddle under the load. Such a mass of oaten alms is no inconsiderable addition to the comfort of the poor man's household, and enables him to enjoy the New-year season as much as his richer neighbours.

In the primitive parish of Deerness, in Orkney, it was customary, in the beginning of the present century, for old and young of the common class of people to assemble in a great band upon the evening of the last day of the year, and commence a round of visits throughout the district. At every house they knocked at the door, and on being admitted, commenced singing, to a tune of its own, a song appropriate to the occasion. The following is what may be termed a restored version of this chant, the imagination having been called on to make up in several of the lines what was deficient in memory. The 'Queen Mary' alluded to is evidently the Virgin:

This night it is grid New'r E'en's night,
We're a' here Queen Mary's men;
And we 're come here to crave our right,
And that's before our Lady.
The very first thing which we do crave,
We 're a' here Queen Mary's men;
A bonny white candle we must have,
And that's before our Lady.
Goodwife, gae to your butter-ark,
And weigh us here ten mark.
Ten mark, ten pund,
Look that ye grip weel to the grund.
Goodwife, gae to your geelin vat,
And fetch us here a skeet o' that.
Gang to your awmrie, gin ye please,
And bring frae there a yow-milk cheese.
And syne bring here a sharping-stane,
We'll sharp our whittles ilka ane.
Ye'll cut the cheese, and eke the round,
But aye take care ye cutna your thoom.
Gae fill the three-pint cog o' ale,
The maut maun be aboon the meal.
We houp your ale is stark and stout,
For men to drink the auld year out.
Ye ken the weather's snow and sleet,
Stir up the fire to warm our feet.
Our shoon's made o' mare's skin,
Come open the door, and let's in.

The inner-door being opened, a tremendous rush was made ben the house. The inmates furnished a long table with all sorts of homely fare, and a hearty feast took place, followed by copious libations of ale, charged with all sorts of good-wishes. The party would then proceed to the next house, where a similar scene would be enacted. How they contrived to take so many suppers in one evening, heaven knows ! No slight could be more keenly felt by a Deerness farmer than to have his house passed over unvisited by the New-year singers.

The doings of the guisers or guizards (that is, masquers or mummers) form a conspicuous feature in the New-year proceedings throughout Scotland. The favourite night for this exhibition is Hogmanay, though the evenings of Christmas, New-year's Day, and Handsel Monday, enjoy like-wise a privilege in this respect. Such of the boys as can lay any claim to the possession of a voice have, for weeks before, been poring over the collection of 'excellent new songs,' which lies like a bunch of rags in the window-sill; and being now able to screech up 'Barbara Allan,' or the 'Wee cot-house and the wee kail-yardie,' they determine upon enacting the part of guisers. For this purpose they don old shirts belonging to their fathers, and mount mitre-shaped casques of brown paper, possibly borrowed from the Abbot of Unreason; attached to this is a sheet of the same paper, which, falling down in front, covers and conceals the whole face, except where holes are made to let through the point of the nose, and afford sight to the eyes and breath to the mouth. Each vocal guiser is, like a knight of old, attended by a sort of humble squire, who assumes the habiliments of a girl, 'with an old-woman's cap and a broomstick, and is styled 'Bessie: Bessie is equal in no respect, except that she shares fairly in the proceeds of the enterprise. She goes before her principal, opens all the doors at which he pleases to exert his singing powers; and busies herself, during the time of the song, in sweeping the floor with her broomstick, or in playing any other antics that she thinks may amuse the indwellers. The common reward of this entertainment is a halfpenny, but many churlish persons fall upon the unfortunate guisers, and beat them out of the house. Let such persons, however, keep a good watch upon their cabbage-gardens next Halloween!

The more important doings of the guisers are of a theatrical character. There is one rude and grotesque drama which they are accustomed to perform on each of the four above-mentioned nights; and which, in various fragments or versions, exists in every part of Lowland Scotland. The performers, who are never less than three, but sometimes as many as six, having dressed themselves, proceed in a band from house to house, generally contenting themselves with the kitchen for an arena; whither, in mansions presided over by the spirit of good-humour, the whole family will resort to witness the spectacle. Sir Walter Scott, who delighted to keep up old customs, and could condescend to simple things without losing genuine dignity, invariably had a set of guisers to perform this play before his family both at Ashestiel and Abbotsford. The drama in question bears a close resemblance, with sundry modifications, to that performed by the mummers in various parts of England, and of which we have already given a specimen.

Such are the leading features of the Hogmanay festivities in Scotland. A similar custom to that above detailed of children going about from house to house, singing the Hagmena chorus, and obtaining a dole of bread or cakes, prevails in Yorkshire and the north of England; but, as we have already mentioned, the last day of the year is not in the latter country, for the most part, invested with much peculiar distinction. One or two closing ceremonies, common to both countries-the requiem, as they may be termed, of the dying year-will be more appropriately noticed in the concluding article of this work.


A singular custom, almost unparalleled in any other part of Scotland, takes place on New-year's Eve (old style) at the village of Burghead, on the southern shore of the Moray Firth, about nine miles from the town of Elgin. It has been observed there from time immemorial, and both its origin, and that of the peculiar appellation by which it is distinguished, form still matter of conjecture and dispute for antiquaries. The following extract from the Banffshire Journal presents a very interesting and comprehensive view of all that can be stated regarding this remarkable ceremonial:

'Any Hogmanay afternoon, a small group of sea-men and coopers, dressed in blue overfrocks, and followed by numbers of noisy youngsters, may be seen rapidly wending their way to the south-western extremity of the village, where it is customary to build the Clavie. One of the men bears on his shoulders a stout Archangel tar-barrel, kindly presented for the occasion by one of the merchants, who has very considerately left a quantity of the resinous fluid in the bottom. Another carries a common herring-cask, while the remainder are laden with other raw materials, and the tools necessary for the construction of the Clavie. Arrived at the spot, three cheers being given for the success of the undertaking, operations are commenced forthwith. In the first place, the tar-barrel is sawn into two unequal parts; the smaller forms the groundwork of the Clavie, the other is broken up for fuel.
A common fir prop, some four feet in length, called the 'spoke,' being then procured, a hole is bored through the tub-like machine, that, as we have already said, is to form the basis of the unique structure, and a long nail, made for the purpose, and furnished gratuitously by the village black-smith, unites the two. Curiously enough, no hammer is allowed to drive this nail, which is 'sent home' by a smooth stone. The herring-cask is next demolished, and the staves are soon under-going a diminution at both extremities, in order to fit them for their proper position. They are nailed, at intervals of about two inches all round, to the lower edge of the Clavie-barrel, while the other ends are firmly fastened to the spoke, an aperture being left sufficiently large to admit the head of a man. Amid tremendous cheering, the finished Clavie is now set up against the wall, which is mounted by two stout young men, who proceed to the business of filling and lighting.
A few pieces of the split-up tar-barrel are placed in a pyramidal form in the inside of the Clavie, enclosing a small space for the reception of a burning peat, when everything is ready. The tar, which had been previously removed to another vessel, is now poured over the wood; and the same inflammable substance is freely used, while the barrel is being closely packed with timber and other combustible materials, that rise twelve or thirteen inches above the rim.
'By this time the shades of evening have begun to descend, and soon the subdued murmur of the crowd breaks forth into one loud, prolonged cheer, as the youth who was despatched for the fiery peat (for custom says no sulphurous lucifer, no patent congreve dare approach 'within the sacred precincts of the Clavie) arrives with his glowing charge. The master-builder relieving him of his precious trust, places it within the opening already noticed, where, revived by a hot blast from his powerful lungs, it ignites the surrounding wood and tar, which quickly bursts into a flame. During the short time the fire is allowed to gather strength, cheers are given in rapid succession for 'The Queen,' 'The Laird,' 'The Provost,' 'The Town,' 'The Harbour,' and 'The Railway,' and then Clavie-bearer number one, popping his head between the staves, is away with his flaming burden. Formerly, the Clavie was carried in triumph round every vessel in the harbour, and a handful of grain thrown into each, in order to insure success for the coming year; but as this part of the ceremony came to be tedious, it was dropped, and the procession confined to the boundaries of the town.
As fast as his heavy load will permit him, the bearer hurries along the well-known route, followed by the shouting Burgheadians, the boiling tar meanwhile trickling down in dark sluggish streams all over his back. Nor is the danger of scalding the only one he who essays to carry the Clavie has to confront, since the least stumble is sufficient to destroy his equilibrium. Indeed, this untoward event, at one time looked on as a dire calamity, foretelling disaster to the place, and certain death to the bearer in the course of next year, not unfrequently occurs. Having reached the junction of two streets, the carrier of the Clavie is relieved; and while the change is being effected, firebrands plucked from the barrel are thrown among the crowd, who eagerly scramble for the tarry treasure, the possession of which was of old deemed a sure safeguard against all unlucky contingencies.
Again the multitude bound along; again they halt for a moment as another individual takes his place as bearer-a post for the honour of which there is sometimes no little striving. The circuit of the town being at length completed, the Clavie is borne along the principal street to a small hill near the northern extremity of the promontory called the 'Doorie,' on the summit of which a freestone pillar, very much resembling an ancient altar, has been built for its reception, the spoke fitting into a socket in the centre. Being now firmly seated on its throne, fresh fuel is heaped on the Clavie, while, to make the fire burn the brighter, a barrel with the ends knocked out is placed on the top. Cheer after cheer rises from the crowd below, as the efforts made to increase the blaze are crowned with success.
'Though formerly allowed to remain on the Doorie the whole night, the Clavie is now removed when it has burned about half an hour. Then comes the most exciting scene of all. The barrel is lifted from the socket, and thrown down on the western slope of the hill, which appears to be all in one mass of flame-a state of matters that does not, however, prevent a rush to the spot in search of embers. Two stout men, instantly seizing the fallen Clavie, attempt to demolish it by dashing it to the ground: which is no sooner accomplished than a final charge is made among the blazing fragments, that are snatched up in total, in spite of all the powers of combustion, in an incredibly short space of time. Up to the present moment, the origin of this peculiar custom is involved in the deepest obscurity. Some would have us to believe that we owe its introduction to the Romans; and that the name Clavie is derived from the Latin word clavus, a nail-witches being frequently put to death in a barrel stuck full of iron spikes; or from clavis, a key-the rite being instituted when Agricola discovered that Ptoroton, i.e., Burghead, afforded the grand military key to the north of Scotland.
As well might these wild speculators have remarked that Doorie, which may be spelled Durie, sprang from durus, cruel, on account of the bloody ceremony celebrated on its summit. Another opinion has been boldly advanced by one party, to the effect that the Clavie is Scandinavian in origin, being introduced by the Norwegian Vikings, during the short time they held the promontory in the beginning of the eleventh century, though the theorist advances nothing to prove his assumption, save a quotation from Scott's Marmion; while, to crown all, we have to listen to a story that bears on its face its own condemnation, invented to confirm the belief that a certain witch, yclept, a Kitty Clavers,' bequeathed her name to the singular rite.
Unfortunately, all external evidence being lost, we are compelled to rely entirely on the internal, which we have little hesitation, however, in saying points in an unmistakable manner down through the long vistas of our national history to where the mists of obscurity hang around the Druid worship of our forefathers. It is well known that the elements of fire were often present in Druidical orgies and customs (as witness their cran-tara); while it is universally admitted that the bonfires of May-day and Mid-summer eve, still kept up in different parts of the country, are vestiges of these rites. And why should not the Clavie be so too, seeing that it bears throughout the stamp of a like parentage? The carrying home of the embers, as a protection from the ills of life, as well as other parts of the ceremony, finds a counterpart in the customs of the Druids; and though the time of observance be somewhat different, yet may not the same causes (now unknown ones) that have so greatly modified the Clavie have likewise operated in altering the date, which, after all, occurs at the most solemn part of the Druidical year?'


Of Wycliffe, 'the morning star of the Reformation,' very little is with certainty known beyond what is gathered from his writings; hence he has been compared to 'the voice of one crying in the wilderness '-a voice and nothing more-a mighty agency manifest only in its effects. A portrait of the reformer is preserved at Lutterworth, but it can scarcely be of the age assumed; it is probably the copy of a contemporary picture. At any rate, it fulfils our ideal of Wycliffe. We behold, in what was said to be his 'spare, frail, emaciated frame,' the countenance of a Yorkshireman, firm and nervous; of one who could form his own opinion and hold it against the world, and all the more resolutely because against the world.

The year of Wycliffe's birth is usually stated as 1324, three years before the accession of Edward III. His name he took from his native village, situated about six miles from Richmond in York-shire, and thus it is sometimes written John de Wycliffe. In his time there were in truth but two professions-arms and the church; most lawyers, physicians, and even statesmen, were ecclesiastics. The universities were therefore thronged with crowds of students, 'perhaps as numerous (if medieval statistics are to be credited) as the entire populations of Oxford and Cambridge at this day. Wycliffe was sent to Oxford, where, in course of time, he rose to high distinction as a lecturer, became a consummate master in dialectics, and the pride of the university. 'He was second to none in philosophy,' writes Knighton, a monk, who abhorred him;' and in the discipline of the schools he was incomparable.' He was promoted to various dignities -to the wardership of Baliol and Canterbury Halls, to the living of Fillingham, and finally to that of Lutterworth in Leicestershire, with which his name is most intimately associated, as where he dwelt longest, and where he died.

Wycliffe first rose into national publicity by his bold denunciations of the mendicant friars, who were swarming over the land, and interfering with the duties of the settled priesthood. In this contest he carried with him the sympathy, not only of the laity, but of the clergy, who saw in the friars troublesome interlopers. He treated all the orders with asperity. He branded the higher as hypocrites, who, professing beggary, had stately houses, rode on noble horses, and had all the pride and luxury of wealth, with the ostentation of poverty. The humbler, he rated with indignation as common able-bodied vagabonds, whom it was a sin to permit to saunter about, and fatten on the thrift of the pious.

Edward III, in 1366, called on Wycliffe for his advice as to his relation to the pope. Urban V had demanded payment of the tribute due under the convention of King John, and which had fallen thirty-three years into arrear. With many subtle and elaborate arguments, Wycliffe counseled resistance of the claim. He was still further honored by his appointment, in 1374, as a member of a deputation sent by Edward to Gregory XI to treat as to the adjustment of differences between English and ecclesiastical law. It is supposed that the experience gained in this journey sharpened and intensified Wycliffe's aversion to the papacy, for on his return he began to speak of the pope as Antichrist, the proud worldly priest of Rome, and the most cursed of clippers and cut-purses. This daring language soon brought him into conflict with the authorities, and in 1377 he was cited to appear at St. Paul's, to answer the charge of holding and publishing certain heretical doctrines. Wycliffe presented himself on the appointed day, accompanied by his friend John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster; but an altercation arising between Gaunt and Courtney, the bishop of London, the crowd broke into a tumult, and the court separated without doing anything. Other attempts were made to bring him to judgment, but with no decisive results. His teaching was condemned by convocation; Richard II, by letter, commanded his silence at Oxford, but at Lutterworth he wrote and preached with undaunted spirit. He owed something of this impunity to the great schism which had broken out in 1378 in consequence of the election of two popes, by which for several years the papal power was paralysed. Wycliffe seized the occasion for writing a tract, in which he called upon the kings of Christendom to use the opportunity for pulling down the whole fabric of the Romish dominion, 'seeing that Christ had cloven the head of Antichrist, and made the two parts fight against each other.' The favour of John of Gaunt was likewise a strong defense, but it is doubtful whether he would have cared to stand between Wycliffe and the terrible penalty of proven heresy. Gaunt was no theologian; he rejoiced in humbling the clergy, but he skewed no desire to tamper with the faith of the people.

Wycliffe's opinions are difficult to define, first, because they were progressive, changing and advancing with experience and meditation; and second; became the authorship of many manuscripts ascribed to him is doubtful. He commenced by questioning the polity of Roman Catholicism, and ended in asserting its theology to be erroneous. In doctrine, Calvin might have claimed Wycliffe as a brother, but far beyond Calvin he was ready to accord perfect freedom of conscience. 'Christ,' he said, 'wished his law to be observed willingly, freely, that in such obedience men might find happiness. Hence he appointed no civil punishment to be inflicted on the transgressors of his commandments, but left the persons neglecting them to the suffering which shall come after the day of doom.'

In the matter of church-government, he advocated principles which would almost identify him with the Independents. The whole framework of the hierarchy he pronounced a device of priestly ambition-the first step in the ascending scale, the distinction between bishop and presbyter being an innovation on the practice of the primitive church, in which all were equal. He was opposed to establishments and endowments, insisting that pastors should depend on the free offerings of their flocks. As a missionary, he was the director of a number of zealous men, styled 'poor priests,' who received and busily diffused his doctrines. 'Go and preach,' he said to them; 'it is the sublimest work: but imitate not the priests, whom we see after the sermon sitting in the ale-houses, or at the gaming table, or wasting their time in hunting. After your sermon is ended, do you visit the sick, the aged, the poor, the blind, and the lame, and succour them according to your ability.'

His industry was astonishing. The number of his books, mostly brief tracts, baffles calculation. Two hundred are said to have been burned in Bohemia. His great work was the translation of the Scriptures from the Vulgate into English. Of this undertaking, Lingard says: ' Wycliffe multiplied copies with the aid of transcribers, and his poor priests recommended it to the perusal of their hearers. In their hands it became an engine of wonderful power. Men were flattered with the appeal to their private judgment; the new doctrines insensibly acquired partisans and protectors in the higher classes.' Wycliffe's translation did much to give form and permanence to the English language, and it will for ever remain a mighty landmark in its history.

Dean Milman thus pithily sums up Wycliffe's merits as an author: 'He was a subtle schoolman, and a popular pamphleteer. He addressed the students of the university in the language and logic of the schools; he addressed the vulgar, which included no doubt the whole laity and the vast number of the parochial clergy, in the simplest and most homely vernacular phrase. Hence he is, as it were, two writers: his Latin is dry, argumentative, syllogistic, abstruse, obscure; his English rude, coarse, but clear, emphatic, brief; vehement, with short stinging sentences and perpetual hard antithesis.'

In 1379, Wycliffe was attacked with an illness which his physicians asserted would prove fatal. A deputation of friars waited on him to extort a recantation, but the lion sat up in bed and sternly dismissed them, saying: 'I shall not die, but recover, and live to expose your evil deeds;' and he did live until 1384. On the 29th of December of that year, he was in his church hearing mass when, just as the host was about to be elevated, he was struck down with palsy. He never spoke more, and died on the last day of the year, aged about sixty.

Wycliffe's influence appeared to die with him; more than a century elapsed between his death and the birth of Latimer; yet his memory, his manuscripts, and above all his version of the Scriptures, gave life to the Lollards, whom no persecution could extirpate, and whose faith at last triumphed in the supremacy of Protestantism. In 1415, the Council of Constance, which consigned John Huss and Jerome of Prague to the flames, condemned forty-five articles, said to be extracted from the works of Wycliffe, as erroneous and heretical. Wycliffe they designated an obstinate heretic, and ordered that his bones, if they could be distinguished from those of the faithful, should be dug up and cast on a dunghill. Thirteen years later, this sentence was executed by the bishop of Lincoln, at the command of the pope. The Reformer's bones were disinterred and burned, and the ashes cast into the Swift, whence, says Fuller, 'they were conveyed to the Avon, by the Avon to the Severn, by the Severn to the narrow seas, and thence to the main ocean. Thus the ashes of Wycliffe are the emblem of his doctrine, which is now dispersed all the world over.'


There are many curious circumstances connected with the ownership of abandoned, lost, or unclaimed property. In such cases the crown generally comes forward as the great claimant, subject of course to such pretensions as other parties may be able to substantiate in the matter. If a man finds or picks up treasure, it becomes a knotty point to determine whether he may keep it. If the owner has thrown it away, the finder may keep it; but if the owner hides it or loses it, without an intention of parting with it, there is often much legal difficulty in deciding whether the crown or any one else acquires a right to it.

And so it is out at sea, and on the British coasts. The laws concerning wrecked property are marked by much minuteness of detail, on account of the great diversity of the articles forming the cargoes of ships, and the relation they bear to the 'sink or swim' test. As a general rule, the king or queen is entitled to wrecks or wrecked property, unless and until a prior claimant appears. The main object of this prerogative was, not to grasp at the property for emolument, but to discourage the barbarous custom of wrecking, by which ships and human life were often purposely sacrificed as a means of giving booty to the wreckers who lived on shore. Then, to determine who shall obtain the property if the crown waives its claim, ship-wrecked goods are divided into four classes-flotsam, jetsam, ligan, and simple wreck.

Flotsam is when the ship is split, and the goods float upon the water between high and low water marks. Jetsam is when the ship is in danger of foundering, and the goods are cast into the sea for the purpose of saving it. Ligam, ligam, or lagan, is when heavy goods are thrown into the sea with a buoy, so that mariners may know where to retake them. Wreck, properly so called, is where goods shipwrecked are cast upon the land. By degrees, as the country became more amenable to law, the sovereign gave up the claim to some of these kinds of wrecked property, not unfrequently vesting them in the lords of adjacent manors. Ligan belongs to the crown if no owner appears to claim it; but if any owner appears, he is entitled to recover the possession; for even if the goods were cast over-board without any cask or buoy, in order to lighten the ship, the owner is not, by this act of necessity, construed to have renounced his property.

All the goods called flotsam, jetsam, and ligan become wreck if thrown upon the land, instead of floating, and subject to the laws of wreck. By a very curious old law, if a man, or a dog, or a cat escape quick' or alive out of a ship, that ship shall not be regarded as wreck; it still continues the property of the same owner as before; the words man, dog, or cat, are interpreted to mean any living animals by which the ownership of the vessel might be ascertained. Lord Mansfield put a very liberal interpretation upon this old statute. A case was brought before him for trial, in which the lord of a manor claimed the goods of a wrecked ship cast on shore, on the ground that no living creature had come alive from the ship to the shore. But Lord Mansfield disallowed this claim. He said: 'The coming to shore of a dog or a cat alive can be no better proof than if they should come ashore dead. The escaping alive makes no sort of difference. If the owner of the animal were known, the presumption of the goods belonging to the same person would be equally strong, whether the animal were living or not.'

The records of our law and equity courts give some curious information concerning the struggles between the crown and other persons, concerning the right to property thrown ashore. One famous case is known by the title Rex v. Two Casks of Tallow. Another, Rex v. Forty Nine Casks of Brandy, shews the curious manner in which the judgment of the court awarded some casks to the crown and some to the lord of the manor-according as the casks were found floating beyond three miles from the shore, floating within that distance, lying on the wet foreshore, lying on the dry foreshore, or alternately wet and dry.

A still more curious case was tried at the end of December 1809, between the crown and Mr. Constable, lord of the manor of Holdernesse, in Yorkshire. It was a struggle who should obtain a cask of wine, thrown ashore on the coast of that particular manor. The lord's bailiff, and some custom-house officers, hearing of the circumstance, hastened to the spot, striving which should get there first. The officers laid hold of one end of the cask, saying: 'This belongs to the king.' The bailiff laid hold of the other end, and claimed it for the lord of the manor. An argumentative dispute arose. The officers declared that it was smuggled, 'not having paid the port duty.' The bailiff retorted that he believed the wine to be Madeira, not port. The officers, smiling, said that they meant port of entry, not port wine-a fact that possibly the bailiff knew already, but chose to ignore. The bailiff replied: 'It has been in no port, it has come by itself on the beach.' The officers resolved to go for further instructions to the custom-house. But here arose a dilemma: what to do with the cask of wine in the interim As the bailiff could not very well drink the wine while they were gone, they proposed to place it in a small hut hard by. They did so; but during their absence, the bailiff removed it to the cellar of the lord of the manor. The officers, when they returned, said: ' Oh, ho ! now we have you; the wine is the king's now, under any supposition; for it has been removed without a permit.' To which the bailiff responded: 'If I had. not removed the wine without a permit, the sea would have done so the next tide.' The attorney-general afterwards filed an information against the lord of the manor; and the case came on at York-on the question whether the bailiff was right in removing the wine without a custom-house ' permit '

The arguments pro and con were very lengthy and very learned; for although the cask of wine could not possibly be worth so much as the costs of the case, each party attached importance to the decision as a precedent. The decision of the court at York was a special verdict, which transferred the case to the court of Exchequer. The judgment finally announced was in favour of the lord of the manor -on the grounds that no permit is required for the removal of wine unless it has paid duty; that wine to be liable to duty, must be imported; that wine cannot be imported by 'itself, but requires the agency of some one else to do so; and that there- fore wine wrecked, having come on shore by itself, or without human volition or intention, was not 'imported,' and was not subject to duty, and did not require a permit for its removal.

The trial virtually admitted the right of the lord of the manor to the wine, as having been thrown ashore on his estate; the only question was whether he had forfeited it by the act of his servant in removing it from the spot without a permit from the custom-house officers; and the decision of the court was in his favour on this point. But it proved to be by far the most costly cask of wine he ever possessed; for by a strange arrangement in these Exchequer matters, even though the verdict be with the defendant, he does not get his costs.


The close of the year brings along with it a mingled feeling of gladness and melancholy-of gladness in the anticipation of brighter days to come with the advent of the New Year, and of melancholy in reflections on the fleeting nature of time, and the gradual approach to the inevitable goal in the race of life. That so interesting an occasion should be distinguished by some observance or ceremony appears but natural, and we accordingly find various customs prevail, some sportive, others serious, and others in which both the mirthful and pensive moods are intermingled.

One of the best known and most general of these customs is, that of sitting up till twelve o'clock on the night of the 31st December, and, then, when the eventful hour has struck, proceeding to the house-door, and unbarring it with great formality to 'let out the Old, and let in the New Year.' The evening in question is a favourite occasion for social gatherings in Scotland and the, north of England, the assembled friends thus welcoming together the birth of another of Father Time's ever-increasing, though short-lived progeny. In Philadelphia, in North America, we are informed that the Old Year is there 'fired out,' and the New Year 'fired in,' by a discharge of every description of firearm-musket, fowling-piece, and pistol. In the island of Guernsey, it used to be the practice of children to dress up a figure in the shape of a man, and after parading it through the parish, to bury it on the sea-shore, or in some retired spot. This ceremony was styled 'enterrer le vieux bout de I'an.'

A custom prevails, more especially among English dissenters, of having a midnight service in the various places of worship on the last night of the year, the occasion being deemed peculiarly adapted both for pious meditations and thankfulness, and also for the reception and retention of religious impressions. And to the community at large, the passing away of the Old Year and the arrival of his successor is heralded by the peals of bells, which, after twelve o'clock has struck, burst forth from every steeple, warning us that another year has commenced. At such a moment, painful reflections will obtrude themselves, of time misspent and opportunities neglected, of the fleeting nature of human existence and enjoyment, and that ere many more years have elapsed, our joys and sorrows, our hopes and our forebodings, will all, along with ourselves, have become things of the past. Such is the dark side of the question, but it has also its sunny side and its silver lining :

For Hope shall brighten days to come
And Memory gild the past.

And on such an occasion as we are contemplating, it is both more noble and more profitable to take a cheerful and reassuring view of our condition, and that of humanity in general-laying aside futile reflections on past imprudence and mismanagement, and resolving for the future to do our utmost in fulfilling our duty to God and our fellow-men.

With the 'Ringing out of the Old Year' we now conclude our labours in The Book of Days; and in reference to the aspirations just alluded to, which every generous mind must feel, we take leave of our readers, in the subjoined utterance of our greatest living poet:

Ring out wild bells to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The Year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The Year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly-dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.