The Complaint of Christmas: A Serialised Christmas Tale. Part 3

Profligate Court vs Humble Country

The story of Christmas’ journey continues (Part 1 & Part 2 here)


Christmas searches for a more accommodating household

Thus was poore Christmas used, which made me and my consorts looke very blanke upon the matter: so we wandred up and downe from house to house but found little comfort. Some would onely smile on me, another aske me how I did, and give me a cup of small Beere and a crust, and so farewell: a fourth, that laid all on his backe, would not looke on me; so away went wee still jogging on. At last I cast up my dimme eyes, and I saw a house where for foure or five yeares together I had not beene bountifully, but profusely entertained, for the Master of it did almost surfeit me every meale:

The prodigal man’s servant accuses Christmas of ruining him

A way went we thither, and comming to the gate, the grumbling Servingman (that opened his mouth wider than a trap doore) told me, there was no entertainment for me, but began to raile at me, and said, that his Master was the worse for me by a thousand pound a yeare, therefore bid me be gone, for he had warrant from his Master to locke me, out of doores; telling mee moreover, if I would speake with his master I must to London, for he was sojourning there, not intending to returne while the Parliament was ended.

Christmas bemoans excess

Well, thought I, it were good if the Proclamation that summons all Country-Gentlemen to returne into the Countrey, would take hold of him and many others that lye lurking there because they would not be troubled in the Country with their poore nieghbours. As for thy Master, that spent more in three or foure yeare, than hee is able to get together againe in threescore, I did not entice to that expence. Can I helpe his riot and excesse? I desire to undoe no man. I love to see men bountifull, not prodigall: I never enticed him to luxury; I thought what would become of his prodigality. He was prodigall because hee would be accounted a good house-keeper. A good house-keeper? Oh simplicity that for keeping three or foure prodigall and fulsome feasts he should make himselfe a begger for ever after. I thinke indeed now that a good house is [illeg.] abler to keepe him, than he a good house. No, no, they are the meanes that blesse, no man can live without them, though few have them.

The description of his Bacchanalian Feasts

What cause had your Master to feast all the richest in the Country, and at one sumptuous and sinfull supper, to consume more than would releeve a Parish of poore folks a quarter? Is this charity? No, no. But I thinke your Master doth scarce know where he may [illeg.] reade this. His fulsome, gluttonous, and Bacchanalian Feasts, did presage of fasts. It grieved mee first to foresee it, now to know it. Is it charity to lard and grease the fat Country Bores, I meane the rich chuffes that have enough in their Barnes to releeve themselues and their poore neighbours? This kils, not cures charity. Gluttonous Feasts cost much, doe little good, much hurt. They mingle Earth, Heaven, Sea, and Fire in their bellies at one sitting. What Fowle soever flies in the Aire, what Beast soever treads on the Earth, what Fish soever swimmes in the Sea, and what strange drinkes, Wines, and strong Waters soever, (that are of fiery natures) we barrall up in our bellies at one dinner or supper: So that the confusion of these Elements cannot choose but beget divers tempests in us, which like earthquakes continually shake our bodies by the arising of hot and fiery vapours from our stomackes.

So that if Nature could finde her tongue now, as in the dayes of Ould, shee would complaine once more to Jove of her wrongs: for is it not against Nature to see fishes that should swimme in the Seas, first swimme in wine vinegar, then in wine, being so scorcht, carbonadoed, sows’d, and so martyred, that when it comes to the Table, a man cannot judge whether it be fish or flesh? Then to have another dish brought to the boord couer’d ouer with an inundation of Vinegar, Oyle, and Pepper? Is it not against Nature to have pounds of Butter rosted, whose Cooking with whitebread, Cinamond and Sugar will cost more than halfe a dozen Milch Kine will yeeld in a weeke? Is it not against Nature to have Mutton larded with Ambergreece, and breaded with Ciuet? To have Birds come to the Table lim’d to the dish with viscous and clammy sawces, faster than they were before in the Fowlers lime-twigs? And to have many of these invented and made dishes come to a Table, doe you thinke it would not make Nature complaine? Yes, yes; for all this doth no good to Charity. And it is no wonder, as the Philosopher faith, why so suddenly we dye, seeing we live by [illeg.] Deathe .

A true celebration described

Some will out-Epicure Geta the Emperour, that had his Table furnish’d with dishes according to the Alphabet: some againe almost as gluttonous as Theocritus [illeg.] Chius , that having devoured at one bit, a live fish, said that hee had swallowed heaven: To whom one answered, that he wanted one thing, which was to drinke off the Sea at a draught; now if hee had but remembred to bid him eat the earth instead of bread, he had made a pretty meale of it. Alas, alas, this luxuriousnesse kils as many as Physicke. Let Christmas be at a feast where is good store of good cheere, but not too dainty or costly, but such as a mans [illeg.] owne yard or pasture affords: where the Tables are fill’d with guests, not rich, but poore: not so few as the Graces, that are onely three; or no more than the Muses, nine; for a feast ought to be absolute for all commers. I am of his minde, for if I have a moderate preparation of meat and drinke, honest mirth, good welcome, and a cup of good Wine or Beere; I care not for set Suppers, high Musicke, complementall Cringies. No, no, if your master had but began thus moderately, he need not now to have taken the City over his head to hide him selfe from me. But he is not the first that hath done so, (though that bee no excuse for him) I would he might be the

last, for I and my followers fare the worse for him and such profuse Prodigals.


Next Instalment – Christmas meets good folks at last & we see Christmas done properly


3 thoughts on “The Complaint of Christmas: A Serialised Christmas Tale. Part 3

  1. Pingback: The Complaint of Christmas: A Serialised Christmas Tale. Part 4 « In Pursuit of History

  2. Pingback: The Complaint of Christmas: A Serialised Christmas Tale. Part 5 « In Pursuit of History

  3. Neil Howlett

    Thanks for making more of John Taylor’s work accessible.
    He is one of the truly great characters of early modern England.
    The woodcut you show looks like another instance of Taylor re-using one (or both). It is also interesting to compare this with the woodcut from his ‘Praise and Antiquity of Beggars etc’.
    See for that and a link to the discussion of Taylor’s re-use of woodcuts by Mercurius Politicus.


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