Today I’m posting a special blog, a Christmas Party Blog Hop. Twenty-six writers of fiction (mostly, but not all, historical) have got together to offer you a feast of festive fare – seasonal celebrations for the winter solstice.
First you will see my own contribution, a passage from the first novel in The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez (The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez). Below that is a list of all the other party-goers, with links to their own contributions to our Christmas party. Click on the links to visit their blogs.
Do add your own comments, and Please Spread the Word! so as many people as possible can join the party.
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And a Merry Christmas to you all!
Christmas 1586 – Burbage’s Company of Players Celebrate
Christoval (Kit) Alvarez works as an assistant physician at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, which cares for the London poor. Simon Hetherington is a boy actor with the Earl of Leicester’s Men, managed by James Burbage, who owns the Theatre, one of the earliest London playhouses, located north of Bishopsgate. Kit is also an agent in Sir Thomas Walsingham’s secret service, which sometimes involves disguise. Before Christmas, Kit joins the players in an expedition out into the countryside to gather greenery to decorate the playhouse and the hospital, where the players have agreed to provide a Christmas entertainment for the patients. [Sidney’s poems were not printed publicly until a few years after this.]
‘We will be taking two handcarts,’ Burbage said, herding his motley company together in the frosty December dawn. ‘One for the Theatre and one for the hospital. When we have decorated the playhouse we will trundle ourselves across London and help you decorate the hospital, Kit.’
Although it was so cold that we walked in a cloud of our own misty breath, the brisk pace soon warmed us up. By the time we reached the wood, one or two were even unwinding the scarves with which they had swathed their heads and noses. With so many hands to the work, we had soon filled the two carts with evergreen branches of spruce, long festoons of ivy, and holly from the berried tree that Guy had discovered. It took longer to find mistletoe, but then one of the young lads, who had wandered off on his own, came running back with the news that he had spotted an old apple tree groaning under the weight of mistletoe.
‘Here,’ he said triumphantly, pointing to the tree on the edge of a farmer’s orchard. ‘Enough for us to set up shop.’
The old tree looked as though it would never bear apples again, for the mistletoe had colonised it entirely. Great balls of the fleshy growth sprouted from every branch, so large I would barely have been able to close my arms around one.
Burbage made a face. ‘We cannot help ourselves to this, not without the farmer’s permission. I shall enquire.’
With that he strode off. From the impressive straightness of his back, I knew he was casting himself into one of his kingly parts. I remembered Simon’s advice to me when I was about to go off to the Fitzgeralds’ house in the role of tutor. I had used it again, when playing the messenger boy.
Think yourself into the skin of the person you are playing, and everyone will believe you.
While Burbage was away on his royal embassage, we sat on the edges and shafts of the carts and ate the food we had brought with us until he returned, beaming.
‘He has granted us permission and has even given half a sovereign to the hospital. Here you are, Kit. Take charge of this.’
I put the half sovereign carefully into my purse. I had not carried so great a value in coin since Sir Anthony . . . But I would not let myself think of that.
Christopher Haigh twirled a ball of mistletoe over his head. ‘Are there many pretty maidens at the hospital, Kit? I’ll wager you know a few.’
I grinned. Christopher played the young lover in romances and fancied himself an irresistible ladies’ man.
‘There are all the nursing sisters,’ I said, wickedly. ‘Droves of them.’
His eyes sparkled.
‘I don’t believe any of them are a day over . . . seventy. And none under forty either.’
I ducked and ran as he chased me through the orchard, shouting abuse.
The entertainment at the hospital was a great success, neither as lively as Master Burbage would have liked, nor as restrained as the governors would have preferred. On the whole I think it did the patients good. Certainly the children had the best Christmas of their lives, for they came from homes where no one would ever have heard such music or eaten such bonbons as Guy extracted mysteriously from behind their ears or under their chins. Many families of the patients came too, and took back word of the players’ Twelfth Night comedy, so when the day came they had a good audience. Even my father agreed to attend. It was not the serious play I had hoped would change his view of the playhouse, but to my relief it was not too vulgar either.
Because of the early dusk on this January day, the performance had taken place early. Afterwards, Master Burbage treated the company to a supper at the Dolphin, to which my father and I were invited. My father declined and set off home, but I went gladly enough. After our supper, we sat over some good French wine, which I suspected might have been smuggled in through one of the Sussex ports, and people exchanged Twelfth Night gifts. I had bought a large box of crystallised fruits for the company, which went the rounds of the table. For Simon, however, I had bought an individual gift, a beautifully tooled leather belt with a silver clasp. He put it on at once, rolling up his old belt and stuffing it in his pocket.
‘This is very fine, Kit! Thank you.’
‘I am told it is Spanish. It does look Spanish. Probably some of Drake’s loot.’
He laughed. ‘I shall wear it with a swagger then. I have this for you.’
He handed me a small square parcel wrapped in a piece of blue cloth. There was no mistaking what it contained, from the feel and weight of it.
‘Oh, Simon.’ It took my breath away. It was a volume of Sir Philip Sidney’s poems, privately printed and bound in soft blue leather, the same colour as the piece of cloth. It must have cost a month of his wages.
‘This is doubly welcome,’ I said, ‘for it is not only Twelfth Night today. It is my seventeenth birthday.’
At that everyone had to drink my health, and I am afraid we made a rather raucous party.
[The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez, Ch.15]
On UK Amazon: http://amzn.to/1iFqcG1
On US Amazon: http://amzn.to/1slpVQM
The fourth book in the series, Bartholomew Fair, is now available.
On UK Amazon: http://amzn.to/1yyqHin
On US Amazon: http://amzn.to/1ul5TEB
Today (20th December) I am also on the History Girls blog, with a post about the real Richard (Dick) Whittington. Have a look! http://the-history-girls.blogspot.co.uk/
Thank you for joining our party. Now follow on to the next enjoyable entertainment…
- Helen Hollick : “You are Cordially Invited to a Ball”(plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/nsodv78
- Alison Morton :“Saturnalia surprise – a winter party tale” (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/op8fz57
- Andrea Zuvich : No Christmas For You! The Holiday Under Cromwell – http://tinyurl.com/pb9fh3m
- Ann Swinfen : Christmas 1586 – Burbage’s Company of Players Celebrates – [You are here!]
- Anna Belfrage : All I want for Christmas (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/okycz3o
- Carol Cooper : How To Be A Party Animal – http://wp.me/p3uiuG-Mn
- Clare Flynn : A German American Christmas – http://tinyurl.com/mmbxh3r
- Debbie Young : Good Christmas Housekeeping (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/mbnlmy2
- Derek Birks : The Lord of Misrule – A Medieval Christmas Recipe for Trouble – http://wp.me/p3hedh-3f
- Edward James : An Accidental Virgin and An Uninvited Guest – http://tinyurl.com/o3vowum and – http://tinyurl.com/lwvrxnx
- Fenella J. Miller : Christmas on the Home front (plus a giveaway prize) –
- J. L. Oakley : Christmas Time in the Mountains 1907(plus a giveaway prize) –
- Jude Knight : Christmas at Avery Hall in the Year of Our Lord 1804 – http://wp.me/p58yDd-az
- Julian Stockwin: Join the Party – http://tinyurl.com/n8xk946
- 15. Juliet Greenwood :Christmas 1914 on the Home Front (plus a giveaway) – http://tinyurl.com/q6e9vnp
- Lauren Johnson : Farewell Advent, Christmas is come” – Early Tudor Festive Feasts – http://tinyurl.com/mmclaey
- Lucienne Boyce : A Victory Celebration – http://tinyurl.com/ovl4sus
- Nancy Bilyeau : Christmas After the Priory(plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/p52q7gl
- Nicola Moxey : The Feast of the Epiphany, 1182 – http://tinyurl.com/qbkj6b9
- Peter St John: Dummy’s Birthday –
- Regina Jeffers : Celebrating a Regency Christmas (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/pt2yvzs
- Richard Abbott : The Hunt – Feasting at Ugarit http://bit.ly/1wSFNMK
- Saralee Etter : Christmas Pudding — Part of the Christmas Feast – http://tinyurl.com/lyd4d7b
- Stephen Oram : Living in your dystopia: you need a festival of enhancement…(plus a giveaway prize) – http://wp.me/p4lRC7-aG
- Suzanne Adair :The British Legion Parties Down for Yule 1780 (plus a giveaway prize) –
- Lindsay Downs : O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree (plus a giveaway prize) –
Thank you for joining us !