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back again and again to stick pins in sinners' sides ; stifle the babe that has been neglected by a harsh mother; fling cattle which want tending into bogs which ought to have been drained; spoil milk which has been left by sluttish dairy-maids; and jabber, scoff, and torture men in the reflected images of their own wickedness. Why always in the night, amid
The dark sublime of extra-natural scenes?
Where hags their cauldrons, fraught with toads, prepare,
Why, but that all evil spirits are but human vices riding on the broomsticks of memory, and compounding in the cauldron of remorse the toads and snakes of retribution. The diseased mind peoples the night with hags and witches, and influences dire, as excuses-lame as they are for its own wickedness and folly, which dare not face the daylight.
Some strange old customs suggest themselves in connexion with broomsticks. There is the salutation of the broom, which, like the throwing of old shoes for luck, has a smack of poetry in it, and recals Arbuthnot's remark on the brooming of servants, who, "if they came into the best apartment to set anything in order, were saluted with a broom." The hanging out of the broom at the mast-heads of ships offered for sale originated from that period of our history when the Dutch admiral, Van Tromp, with his fleet, appeared on our coasts in hostility against England; and to indicate that
* Amwell Scott-On Painting.
he would sweep the English navy from the seas, hoisted a broom at the mast-head of his ship. To repel this insolence the English admiral hoisted a horsewhip, equally indicative of his intention to chastise the Dutchman. The pennant, which the horsewhip symbolized, has ever since been the distinguishing mark of English ships of war. The custom of hanging out the broom has another meaning in Russia; there it is the custom in the villages for parents who have marriageable and unbetrothed daughters to hoist a broom over the cottage doorway, that the swains may know where to seek for virgins.
Few associations of the broomstick are more interesting than those of the poor Flanders peasantry, who a few years ago came to this country in vast numbers, to penetrate into every nook and corner of every town in the land with the cry, "Buy a broom!" There are few of them left, and those few have modern airs and modern dress, which separate them entirely from the upright, short-coated, wooden-featured "Buy-a-brooms" of our infancy. We well remember the favourite ditty, sung in a plaintive voice at the parlour window, or on the doorstep,
A large one for a lady,
A small one for a baby,
Come buy of me a broom,
which touched many a heart, and secured for the singer many a basin of warm soup and lapful of kitchen-pieces,
"Notes and Queries."
besides some halfpence for the immortal "brooms." In the most squalid wretchedness, confined within the precincts of Whitechapel and Petticoat Lane, these modest broom-merchants took up their abode, to sally forth every morning into the genteel squares and by-streets of London, having a bobbing courtesy ready the moment a face was seen at a window, and a song at the first appearance of a child. William Hone published an engraving of them in his inimitable "Year Book," with the following doggrel of his own composition attached to the print :
"These poor Buy-a-broom' girls exactly dress now
Yet, pray judge for yourself; and don't, if you please,
Cry, The Every-Day Book is quite right, I dare say.'
But ask for the print at old shops (they'll show it),
And look at it 'with your own eyes,' and you'll know it."
We took Hone's advice, and found they wouldn't "show it" at the print shops, and so waited for an opportunity to see it at the British Museum, and then were satisfied as to the identity hinted at by Hone. Was ever dress so comical? The hair skewered into an immense tight knob, and covered with a cap too small for an infant, and tied under the chin; the body as unbending as an oak tree, and apparently encased in metal clothing set out in formal flutes, like a large beehive or cone of carpentery; and the grey legs-oh, for Bloomer trousers to hide such! our veritable broomstick is more flexible. But they were poor, and suffered
much; and though most comical illustrations of the Flemish costume, there was always something sad about them as they courtesied at the windows just before dinner-time, and sniffed the odour of the kitchen with a relish which told too plainly of their condition.
Of all the quaint literary allusions to the broom, nothing can surpass the passage in Richter's story of Lenette, in the fifth chapter of the "Thorn Pieces," where poor Lenette endures one of those many perversions of thrift, for the exercise of which the crookedminded adventurer had such a peculiar gift. Those who have read "Jean Paul" will see in this much more than is apparent on the surface of the incident; it is, in fact, a masterly illustration of crotchetty-mindedness :-"On the morrow he sat in judgment on everything that was going on behind him (continuing to write, however, at the same time, but always worse and worse), and examined one thing after the other, in order to decide whether or not it had the free pass of necessity. The writing martyr endured much with tolerable fortitude; but when Wendeline went into the bedroom, and swept the straw under the green marriage torus with a long broom, this last cross was too heavy for his shoulders. Besides, he had read yesterday, in an old journal of natural history, that the theologian, Johann Pechmann, could not endure the sound of a broom, that the rustling of a broom almost took away his breath, and that he had once fairly taken to his heels and run away from a street-sweep who chanced to push against him. Such reading had the effect of making him more attentive to a similar case, and at the same time more intolerant. Without rising
from his seat, he called out to the domestic sweep in his bed-chamber-Lenette, pray don't scratch and scrape with that broom; it prevents me from thinking. There was once an old clergyman, named Pechmann, who would rather have been condemned to sweep the streets of Vienna himself, than to hear them swept; yes, who would even have preferred a flogging with the birch to its horrid whetting and grinding noise and do you think I can have one sensible thought fit to appear before the compositor and printer, in the neighbourhood of this house-broom? Only think a little of this, Lenette.'"*
Here our broomstick would have told its story, but that its fallen state is so suggestive of the fate of man, that we should lose the very pith and marrow of its teachings were we to lay down our pen without deducing this moral epilogue. The history of a broomstick is a fit emblem of the history of man; for its green vigour when flourishing in the woods, and its neglected and enfeebled state after a life of good services, are exact counterparts of the sunny freshness of early life and the imbecilities of age. The most useful labourers in the van of progress, those who sweep away the abuses of society, are not they who reap the largest rewards : poets, philosophers, and philanthropists fall friendless and penniless into old age, and, like worn out broomsticks, are cast aside and forgotten; while the fawning and hypocritical too often feather their nests snugly, and retire from a world which they have defiled, into a retirement which laughs nobler souls to scorn.
* See also pp. 136, 142, of the English translation of the "Flower, Fruit, and Thorn Pieces."