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and authorize any human institutions. When the reformation of the calendar was in agitation, to the great disgust of many worthy persons, who urged how great the harmony was in the old establishment between the holidays and their attributes (if I may call them so), and what a confusion would follow, if Michaelmas-day, for instance, was not to be celebrated when stubble-geese are in their highest perfection; it was replied that such a propriety was merely imaginary, and would be lost of itself, even without any alteration of the calendar by authority: for if the errors in it were suffered to go on, they would in a certain number of years produce such a variation, that we should be mourning for good King Charles on false thirtieth of January, at a time of year when our ancestors used to be tumbling over head and heels in Greenwich-park in honour of Whitsuntide; and at length, be choosing king and queen for Twelfth-night, when we ought to be admiring the London Prentice at Bartholomew Fair.

Cogent as these reasons may seem, yet I think I can confute them from the testimony of a standing miracle, which, not having submitted to the fallible authority of an act of parliament, may well be said to put a supernatural negative on the wisdom of this world. My readers, no doubt, are already aware that I have in my eye the wonderful thorn of Glastonbury, which, though


1 The fair began every year at Smithfield on Aug. 24. Originally a cloth market, it lasted in one form or other from the reign of Henry II. to 1855.

A famous hawthorn near Glastonbury Abbey in Somersetshire, which was reputed to blossom on Christmas-day. Legend said it was the walking-stick of Joseph of Arimathea. This essay was doubtless suggested to Walpole by a paragraph in the Gent's. Mag., 1753.

“A vast concourse of people attended the noted thorn on Christmas day, new style, but to their great disappointment there was no appearance of its blowing, which made them watch it narrowly the 5th of January, Christmas day, old style, when it blowed as usual.”

hitherto regarded as a trunk of popish imposture, has notably exerted itself as the most protestant plant in the universe. It is well known that the correction of the calendar was enacted by Pope Gregory the Thirteenth, and that the reformed churches have with a proper spirit of opposition adhered to the old calculation of the emperor Julius Caesar, who was by no means a papist. Near two years ago the popish calendar was brought in (I hope by persons well affected). Certain it is, that the Glastonbury thorn has preserved its inflexibility, and observes its old anniversary. Many thousand spectators visited it on the parliamentary Christmas-day. Not a bud was there to be seen! On the true nativity it was covered with blossoms. One must be an infidel indeed to spurn at such authority. Had I been consulted (and mathematical studies have not been the most inconsiderable of my speculations), instead of turning the calendar topsyturvy, by fantastic calculations, I should have proposed to regulate the year by the infallible Somersetshire thorn, and to have reckoned the months from Christmas-day, which should always have been kept as the Glastonbury thorn should blow.

Many inconveniences, to be sure, would follow from this system; but as holy things ought to be the first consideration of a religious nation, the inconveniences should be overlooked. The thorn can never blow but on the true Christmas-day; and consequently the apprehension of the year's becoming inverted by sticking to the Julian account can never hold. If the course of the sun varies, astronomers may find out some way to adjust that; but it is preposterous, not to say presumptuous, to be celebrating Christmas-day when the Glastonbury thorn, which certainly must know times and seasons better than an almanac maker, declares it to be heresy.

Nor is Christmas-day the only jubilee which will be

morally disturbed by this innovation. There is another anniversary of no less celebrity among Englishmen, equally marked by a marvellous concomitance of circumstances, and which I venture to prognosticate will not attend the erroneous calculation of the present system. The day I mean is the first of April. The oldest tradition affirms that such an infatuation attends the first day of that month, as no foresight can escape, no vigilance can defeat. Deceit is successful on that day out of the mouths of babes and sucklings. Grave citizens have been bit upon it; usurers have lent their money on bad security; experienced matrons have married very disappointing young fellows; mathematicians have missed the longitude; alchemists the philosopher's stone; and politicians preferment, on that day.

What confusion will not follow, if the great body of the nation are disappointed of their peculiar holiday! This country was formerly disturbed with very fatal quarrels about the celebration of Easter; and no wise man will tell me that it is not as reasonable to fall out for the observance of April-fool day. Can any benefits arising from a regulated calendar make amends for an occasion of new sects? How many warm men may resent an attempt to play them off on a false first of April, who would have submitted to the custom of being made fools on the old computation? If our clergy come to be divided about Folly's anniversary, we may well expect all the mischiefs attendant on religious wars; and we shall have reason to wish that the Glastonbury thorn would declare as remarkably in favour of the true April-fool day as it has in behalf of the genuine Christmas.

There are many other inconveniences, which I might lament very emphatically, but none of weight enough to be compared with those I have mentioned. I shall only hint at a whole system overturned by this revolution in

the calendar, and no provision, that I have heard of, made by the legislature to remedy it. Yet in a nation which bestows such ample rewards on new-year and birthday odes, it is astonishing that the late act of parliament should have overlooked that useful branch of our poetry, which consists of couplets, saws, and proverbs, peculiar to certain days and seasons. Why was not a new set of distichs provided by the late reformers? Or at least a clause inserted in the act enjoining the poet-laureate, or some beneficial genius, to prepare and new-cast the established rhymes for public use? Were our astronomers so ignorant as to think that the old proverbs would serve for their new-fangled calendar? Could they imagine that St. Swithin would accommodate his rainy planet to the convenience of the calculations? Who that hears the following verses but must grieve for the shepherd and husbandman, who may have all their prognostics confounded, and be at a loss to know beforehand the fate of their markets? Ancient sages sung,

If St. Paul be fair and clear,
Then will betide a happy year;
But if it either snow or rain,
Then will be dear all kind of grain:
And if the wind doth blow aloft,

Then wars will vex the realm full oft. 1 I have declared against meddling with politics, and therefore shall say nothing of the important hints contained in the last lines: yet if certain ill-boding appearances abroad should have an ugly end, I cannot help saying that I shall ascribe their evil tendency to our having been lulled asleep by resting our faith on the calm weather on the pretended conversion of St. Paul; whereas it was very

1 It was long believed that the condition of weather on St. Paul's day, January 25, determined the character of the whole year. The verses quoted are one of many translations of four mediæval lines beginning, "Clara dies Pauli bona tempora denotat anni".

blustering on that festival according to the good old account, as I honestly, though vainly, endeavoured to convince a great minister of state, whom I do not think proper to mention.

But to return to April-fool day; I must beg my readers and admirers to be very particular in their observations on that holiday, both according to the new and old reckoning. And I beg that they will transmit to me or my secretary, Mr. Dodsley, a faithful and attested account of the hap that betides them or their acquaintance on each of those days; how often and in what manner they make or are made fools; how they miscarry in attempts to surprise, or baffle any snares laid for them. I do not doubt but it will be found that the balance of folly lies greatly on the side of the old first of April; nay, I much question whether infatuation will have any force on what I call false April-fool day. I should take it very kind if any of my friends, who may happen to be sharpers, would try their success on the fictitious festival; and if they make fewer dupes than ordinary, I flatter myself that they will unite their endeavours with mine in decrying and exploding a reformation which only tends to discountenance good old practices and venerable superstitions.



The gods they challenge, and affect the skies:
Heaved on Olympus, tottering Ossa stood;

On Ossa, Pelion nods with all his wood.-Pope. OTHING has more retarded the advancement of

learning than the disposition of vulgar minds to ridicule and vilify what they cannot comprehend. All (M 249)


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