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"A low mimick of kings. The vice is the fool of a farce; from whence the modern punch is descended." Thus far Dr. Johnson. The
first position in his note is questionable, the others erroneous. The vice belonged to the old moralities; and the modern Punch is most certainly not descended from him, but legitimately from a character well known in the theatres of ancient Rome. We have borrowed him from the Italian Polichinello. With respect to the former part of the note, Hamlet's expression may be quite literal. Thus in King Henry the Fifth, we have "this grace of kings." Afterwards indeed, Shakspeare, in his usual manner, recollecting the ambiguity of the term, takes up another simile, and makes Hamlet call his uncle a king of shreds and patches. See a former note in vol. i. p. 467.
Scene 2. Page 248.
HAM. The body is with the king, but the king is not with
Hamlet's riddle seems still unresolved. Can
this be its meaning? Instead of giving a direct answer to the inquiry after the body of Polonius, he seizes the opportunity of venting his sarcasın against the king, by saying that the body, i. e. the external appearance or person of the monarch, is with his uncle; but that the real and lawful king is not in that body.
Sc. 5. p. 262.
OPH. To be your Valentine.
The custom of choosing Valentines is of very long standing, and, like many others of a popular nature, is no more than a corruption of something similar that had prevailed in the times of paganism. It was the practice in ancient Rome, during a great part of the month of February, to celebrate the Lupercalia, which were feasts in honour of Pan and Juno, whence the latter deity was named februata, februalis, and februlla. On this occasion, amidst a variety of ceremonies, the names of young women were put into a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. The pastors of the early Christian church, who by every possible means endeavoured to eradicate the vestiges of Pagan superstitions, and chiefly by some commutation of
their forms, substituted, in the present instance, the names of particular saints instead of those of the women and as the festival of the Lupercalia had commenced about the middle of February, they appear to have chosen Saint Valentine's day for celebrating the new feast; because it occurred nearly at the same time. This is, in part, the opinion of a learned and rational compiler of the lives of the saints, the Reverend Alban Butler. It should seem, however, that it was utterly impossible to extirpate altogether any ceremony to which the common people had been much accustomed; a fact which it were easy to prove in tracing the origin of various other popular superstitions and accordingly the outline of the ancient ceremonies was preserved, but modified by some adaptation to the Christian system. It is reasonable to suppose that the above practice of choosing mates would gradually become reciprocal in the sexes; and that all persons so chosen would be called Valentines, from the day on which the ceremony took place. There is another opinion on the origin of choosing Valentines, which has been formed on a tradition among the common people, that at the above season of the year birds choose their mates, a circumstance that is frequently alluded to by poets, and particularly
by Chaucer; yet this seems to be a mere poetical idea, borrowed in all probability from the practice in question. Again, it has been supposed that the custom originated in the following manner. During carnival time, which usually hap pens about Saint Valentine's day, great numbers of knights assembled together in the various courts of Europe to entertain the. ladies with feasts and tournaments, when each lady made choice of a knight who usually enlisted in her service for a whole year, during which period he bound himself to perform, at the instance of his mistress, whatever was consistent with propriety. One employment was the writing verses full of tenderness; not that it was requisite for the heart to be at all concerned in the matter. A little reflection, however, may serve to show that even this practice is only derivative from the older one.
It is presumed that the earliest specimens remaining of poetical Valentines are those preserved in the works of Charles duke of Orleans, a prince of high accomplishments, and the father of Louis the Twelfth of France. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Agincourt, and remained a captive in this country twenty-five years, during which time he wrote several thousand lines of
poetry, a few of them in English. Many of these poems are written on Saint Valentine's day, and in some of them his mistress is called his Valentine. In the Royal library of manuscripts, now in the British museum, there is a magnificent volume containing probably all that the duke wrote whilst in England. It belonged to king Henry the Seventh, for whom it has been copied from some older manuscript, and is beautifully illuminated. In one of the paintings the duke is represented in the White tower sitting at a writingtable, with guards attending him. In another part of it he is looking out of a window; and in a third he is going out of the tower to meet some person who has just alighted from his horse. At a distance is London bridge with the houses on it, and the curious chapel, all very distinct, and probably faithful copies. Besides the above work, this fine manuscript contains some compositions by the celebrated Eloisa, and other matters of less consequence.
In one of the duke's poems, he feigns that on Saint Valentine's day Youth appears to him with an invitation to the temple of love. On the same day he devotes himself to the service of several ladies, according to what he states to have been