Location: Upper and Lower Howsell, Worcestershire, England (SO7848)
Year: Perf. 1856 to 1857
Time of Occurrence: Christmas
Collective Name: Mummers


Cuthbert Bede
Modern Mumming
Notes and Queries, 6th Apr. 1861, Series 2, Vol.XI, pp.271-272



{Little Devil-doubt having brushed away the snow, and cleared a space, the performers ranged themselves in a semicircle, and the play began:-"}

{THE MUMMER'S MASQUE. (As performed with great success at the Theatres Rural.) Enter LITTLE DEVIL-DOUBT, saying -}

Little Devil Doubt

A room, a room, brave gallants all
Pray give us room to raise; [Note 1]
We come to show activity
These merry Christmas days.
Activity in me, activity in you;
The like was never seen, or acted on a stage.


Old Father Christmas

In comes I, Old Father Christmas!
Welcome here, or welcome not,
I hope Old Father Christmas will never be forgot.


Noble Captain

In comes I, the Noble Captain;
I'm just arrived from France.
With my broadsword and spear
I'll make King George to dance.

{Enter KING GEORGE, saying -}

King George

In comes I, King George,
That man of courage bold.
With my broadsword and spear
I won ten pounds of gold. [Note 2]
I fought the fiery Dragon,
And brought him to great slaughter;
And by those means I won
The King of Egypt's daughter.

{They fight. KING GEORGE lays the NOBLE CAPTAIN prostrate. NOBLE CAPTAIN gets up and walks back to his place.}

{Enter BOLD BONAPARTE, saying -}


In comes I, Bold Bonaparte;
I'll cut and slay with all my heart;
Ten thousand guns to ev'ry station;
I'll fight King George and all his nation.

King George

I'll point a place there on the ground,
And there I'll lay that dreadful wound.


Adone, Sir! adone, Sir! I'll cut thee, I'll slay thee!
I'll let thee to know that I am the champion of Great Britain.

{They fight. KING GEORGE kills BOLD BONAPARTE, who falls upon the ground.}

King George

Oh! Ladies and gentlemen, see what I have done!
I have cut him down, like the evening sun.
He shall rise again, like a man of courage bold:
If his blood is hot, I'll soon make it cold.

{BOLD BONAPARTE jumps up and runs away - probably to St. Helena.}

{Enter LITTLE DEVIL-DOUBT, saying -}

Little Devil Doubt

In comes I, little jack,
With a wife and family pinn'd on my back;
If you don't give me some money to keep me in store,
I'll never try to work any more.

{Enter the TURKISH KNIGHT, saying -}

Turkish Knight

In comes I, the Turkish Knight;
Just come from the Turkish land to fight -
To fight that man, Bold Slasher, of courage bold;
And, if his blood's hot, I'll make it cold.

{Enter the VALIANT SOLDIER, saying -}

Valiant Soldier

In comes I, the Valiant Soldier;
Bold Slasher is my name;
With my broadsword and spear
I wish to win the game.
Pull out your purse and pay;
Pull out your sword and slay.
For satisfaction I will have
Before I go away.
And that King George shall have his right and will,
The Turkish Knight I'll fight and kill.

{They fight. The TURKISH KNIGHT is killed.}

Valiant Soldier

The Turkish Knight is dead and gone,
No more of him you'll see;
His body's dead, his blood is shed;
What will become of me?
Pray, tell me if any Doctor you can find?
If so, my ghost shall fly like chaff before the wind.

King George

There is a Doctor, both neat and good,
And with his hands he'll stop the blood,
Cure his deep and deadly wound,
And raise the dead man from the ground.

Valiant Soldier

Call him.

King George

Doctor! Doctor!


Yes, Sir.

Valiant Soldier

How came you a Doctor?


By my travels.

Valiant Soldier

Where have you travelled?


I've travell'd through Hikity Pikity,
High Germany, France, and Spain;
Three times round the world, and back again.

Valiant Soldier

What can you cure?


I can cure the hikity pikity, palsy, gout,
Pains within and pains without;
If there are nineteen devils in that man,
I'm bound to see that I drive twenty out.
Broken legs, broken arms. I maintains
That if I break that man's neck, I'll put it in place,
and not charge a farthing for my pains. [Note 3]
Recollect, ladies and gentlemen,
I'm not one of those ram, sham, quack doctors;
I'm one of the real miracle doctors;
One as can kill, and one as can cure;
and I do all the good in this country;
and in my left-hand coat-pocket I've got a box of pills,
called Jusipher's pills.
I'll give him a blue 'un. {Gives him a blue 'un,}
And in my right-hand coat-pocket I've got a bottle of drops,
called the Gosipherlosipher drops.
I'll put a drop to his nose, and a drop to his temple,
and strike a light in that man's body,
that you'll see him move immediately, already -

{He does so.}

{The TURKISH KNIGHT jumps up and says -}

Turkish Knight

Oh, see! what a horrible terrible thing it is
to see a man jump out of seven senses into seventeen,
and out of seventeen into four score.
If ever I live to get over this I'll never fight no more.

{Enter BEELZEBUB, saying -}


In comes I, old Father Beelzebub,
And on my shoulder I carry a club;
And in my hand I carry a can,
Don't you think I'm jolly old man?
As jolly as I am, Christmas comes but once a year,
Now's the time for roast beef, plum pudding,
mince pies, and strong beer.

{Enter LITTLE DEVIL-DOUBT, saying to the audience -}

Little Devil Doubt

In comes I, Little Devil-doubt;
If you don't give me money I'll sweep you out.
Money I want, and money I crave,
If you don't give me money I'll sweep you to your grave.

{He sweeps around with his besom.}

{Enter the TURKISH KNIGHT, raging.}

Turkish Knight

In comes I as hasn't been hit,
With my large head and my little wit;
My head's so large, my wit's so small,
I'll sing you a song, and endeavour to please you all.

{He sings some popular song of the day, the others joining in chorus, while LITTLE DEVIL-DOUBT goes round to the audience and collects their donations.}



Bede's Notes:

"... In the Christmas of 1856-7, I witnessed several performances of a set of mummers, who lived in the hamlets of Upper and Lower Howsell, in the parish of Leigh, Worcestershire; and went the round of the Malvern district with their Masque. I took a sketch of their performance, and also took down the words of their little drama from the dictation of their chief performer...
With this preface, let me come to my Worcestershire version. Like the Homeric ballads, it had been handed down by oral tradition; and had been taught to the boys by their elder relatives, who had learnt it from the dictation of their seniors. One of the boys thought that 'his uncle had wrote some of it.' The lads were well up in their parts, and were spirited performers. The Valiant Soldier wore a real soldier's coat; Old Father Christmas carried holly; the Turkish Knight had a turban; and all of them were decked out with ribbons, and scarves, and had their faces painted. Little Devil-doubt had a black face, and carried a money-box, a besom, and a bladder; with the bladder he thwacked the performer whose turn it was to speak - a proceeding that reminds us of Mr. Lemuel Gulliver and the philosophers of Laputia. Little Devil-doubt having brushed away the snow, and cleared a space, the performers ranged themselves in a semicircle, and the play began:-"

Bede's Footnotes:

Note 1: "The boy told me that this meant, room to raise the slain people from the ground."
Note 2: "This ought to be 'three crowns of gold.' The alteration reminds one of the stonemason with his shortened sentence of 'A virtuous woman is 5s. to her husband.'"
Note 3: "These are not unlike the professions of the Dr. Eisenbart of the German song."

Bede's final note:

"Such was the Worcestershire version of the play of St. George. Beelzebub was identical with Old Father Christmas (in the other versions he is called Hubbub and Lord Grub); and the Valiant Soldier and Noble Captain were, in theatrical parlance, 'doubled' by the same performer."

File History:

2000-01-01 - Encoded by Peter Millington
2003-05-30 - Cast list added by Peter Millington
2021-01-15 - TEI-encoded by Peter Millington


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