LITERATURE, AMUSEMENT, AND INSTRUCTION.
|VOL. XVII, NO. 482.]
||SATURDAY, MARCH 26, 1831.
Who has not heard of the Vicar of Bray, and his turning, turning, and turning again? Here is his church, and a goodly tower withal, which we, in our turn, have endeavoured to turn to the illustration of our pages. There is no sinister motive in the selection; but if we have hit the white, or rather the black, of such variableness, "let the galled jade wince," and pay the Mirror the stale compliment of veluti in speculum.
Bray is a small village about one mile from Maidenhead, and its name would have remained "unsaid, unsung," had it not been for its never-enough-to-be-ridiculed Vicar. Camden supposes Bray to have been occupied by the Bibroci, who submitted to Caesar, and obtained his protection, and with it a secure possession of one of the most beautiful spots in this county; so that submissiveness seems to have been the very air of the place in all times. Philippa, the queen of Edward III., had rents assigned to her from this and the adjoining manor of Cookham. It is now considered as part of the royal domain, being attached to the liberties of Windsor Castle, and retaining some peculiar privileges, among which is an exemption from tolls in the adjacent market-towns. In default of male heirs, lands are not divided here among females of the same degree of kindred, but descend solely to the eldest. The church is "a spacious structure," says the Windsor Guide, and "composed of various materials, and exhibiting a mixture of almost every style of architecture," says the "Beauties of England and Wales;" but we leave the reader to his own conclusion from our Engraving, sketched in the summer of last year. We take for granted the church does not change in appearance every year, if its Vicar once did in creed.
The story of the Vicar of Bray is told with some variations, but the fact is not questioned. In the Beauties of England and Wales we read that his name was Simon Symonds, that he possessed the benefice in the reign of Henry VIII. and the three succeeding monarchs, and that he died in the forty-first year of Elizabeth. "This man was twice a Protestant and twice a Papist; and when reproached for the unsteadiness of his principles, which could thus suffer him to veer with every change of administration, replied, 'that he had always governed himself by what he thought a very laudable principle, which was, never on any terms, if he could avoid it, to part with his vicarage." This creed has been amplified into a song, which we shall quote presently, more for its being a good conceite than for its scarceness.
The author just quoted from the Beauties observes, in a note—"Several late writers, particularly Ireland and Ferrar, who have mentioned the above circumstances, describe them as happening in the reign of Charles the Second, James the Second, &c. This mistake throws the imputation of apostacy on the worthy person who held the vicarage towards the conclusion of the 17th century. It should be remarked, that the story was first published by Fuller, in his Church History; and as the author died in the year 1661, it is evident that it must have been circulated previous to that event."
We have not the Church History at hand, but Fuller, in his Worthies, says, "Bray is a village well known in Barkshire, the vivacious Vicar whereof, living under King Henry the Eighth, King Edward the Sixth, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth, was first a Papist, then a Protestant, then a Papist, then a Protestant again. This Vicar being tax't by one for being a turncoat, not so (said he) for I always kept my principles, which is this, to live and die Vicar of Bray."
Lastly, here is the song:—
THE VICAR OF BRAY.
In good King Charles's golden days,
When loyalty had no harm in't,
A zealous high-churchman I was,
And so I got preferment.
To teach my flock I never miss'd:
Kings are by God appointed;
And those are damn'd that do resist,
And touch the Lord's anointed:
And this is law, I will maintain
Until my dying day, sir,
That whatsoever king shall reign,
I will be Vicar of Bray, sir.
When royal James obtain'd the throne,
And Popery came in fashion,
The penal laws I booted down,
And read the declaration:
The Church of Rome I found would fit
Full well my constitution;
And had become a Jesuit,
But for the Revolution,
And this is law, &c.
When William was our king declared,
To ease the nation's grievance,
With his new wind about I steer'd,
And swore to him allegiance:
Old principles I did revoke,
Set conscience at a distance;
Passive obedience was a joke,
And pish for non-resistance.
And this is law, &.c.
When gracious Anne ascends the throne.
The Church of England's glory,
Another face of things was seen,
And I became a Tory:
Occasional conformists base,
I damn'd their moderation,
And thought the church in danger was
By such prevarication,
And this is law, &c.
When George in pudding-time came o'er,
And moderate men look'd big, sir,
I turn'd a cat-in-pan once more,
And then became a Whig, sir:
And so preferment I procured
By our new faith's defender,
And always every day abjured
The Pope and the pretender.
And this is law, &c.
The illustrious house of Hanover,
And Protestant succession,
To these I do allegiance swear
While they can keep possession:
For by my faith and loyalty
I never more will falter,
And George my lawful king shall be
Until the time shall alter.
And this is law, &c.
ANOTHER OLD SONG.
ORIGIN OF THE SONG "FOUR AND TWENTY FIDDLERS ALL ON A ROW."
The fiddle was not allowed to be a concert instrument till the reign of Charles the Second, who, in imitation of Louis the Fourteenth, established a band of twenty-four violins, alias fiddles, which gave birth to Tom Durfey's song of "Four and Twenty Fiddlers all on a Row," &c.: a humorous production, in which there is a mockery of every instrument, and almost every trade, and which used to be performed between the acts, or between the play and farce, by some man of humour at benefits.
The author of the Guardian, in No. 67, gives an account of Tom Durfey, with a view to recommend him to the public notice for a benefit play, and says, that he remembered King Charles the Second leaning on Tom Durfey's shoulder more than once, and humming over a song with him.
Roi des Violons, or King of the Fiddlers, was anciently a