Colour plate: Morris Dancedetails

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Colour plate: Morris Dance

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This plate is inside the front cover, before the title-page, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to call it a frontispiece: it doesn’t face the title page.

It shows some jesters, harlequins and dancers, a musician playing the pipe and drum, a knight on horseback, a monk, a queen, and has the following words in scrollwork:

Old England
A Pictorial Museum
National Antuquities
Vol I
1844” (p. ii)

The coloured engraving which is given as a title to the first volume of ‘Old England’ is the representation of an ancient window of stained glass, formerly in the house of George Tollett, Esq., of Betley, in Staffordshire, which has been conjectured by Mr. Douce, from certain peculiarities of costume, to have been executed in the time of Edward IV. [circa 1460 – 1483]. The six interior lozenges on which we have engraved the title of ou work are vacant in the original. The figures on the other lozenges represent the performers of a Morris Dance round a May=pole, from which are displayed a St. George’s red cross and a white pennon. Immediately below the May-pole is the character who manages the pasteboard honny-horse, who, from the crown which he wears, and the richness of his attire, appears to represent the King of May; while, from the two daggers stuck in his cheeks, he may be supposed to have been a juggler and the master of the dance. Beneath the King of May is Maid Marian, as the Queen of May, with a crown on her head and attired in a style of high fashion, her coif floating behind, her hair unbound and streaming down her waist, and holding in her hand an emblematic flower, Margaret, eldest daughter of Henry VII., when married to James, King of Scotland, appeared thus, wearing a crown and with her hair hanging down her back. Of the other characters some are obvious enough, but others are conjectural. The left-hand figure at the top is the court fool, with his cockscomb cap and his bauble. The first figure to the right is supposed to represent a Spaniard, and the next a Morisco or Moor, both men of rank, in rich dresses, with the long outer sleeves hanging loose like ribbons, a fashion once prevalent in England as well as on the Continent. Beneath the Morisco is the instrumental performer, with his pipe and tabor; below him, th lover or paramour of Maid marian; and under him the friar, in the Franciscan habit. The King of May is the supposed representative of Robin Hood; the Queen of May, of his favourite Marin; and the friar, of his chaplain Friar Tuck. Passing by Marian, we have the inferior fool furnished with his bib; above him, the representative of the clown or peasant; and next above, the franklin or gentleman. The dresses are curiously appropriate to the characters. (p. v)

The window depicted here is in the Victoria and Modern museum in London.

I note that the Victoria and Albert Museum page gives a later date for the window (1550 – 1621).


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Scanner dpi:

400 dots per inch



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