Monday, January 11, 2016

Black Monday - return to school after 12 days of Christmas holidays

What to send on the journey back to school? In this image from Georgian England it is a whole cake and apples. The days from Christmas through Twelfth Night were full of food and celebration, and no work.  Followed by Distaff Day, when women began spinning (with its distaff) flax, and the men start working until they stopped to burn the flax so the women threw water on them (image below). Now, back to crying students and Black Monday...

Grose's A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue in 1788 even included the term:  "Black Monday.  The first Monday after the school-boys holidays, or breaking up, when they are to go to school, and produce or repeat the tasks set them."

1790 getting ready for school -
Cruikshank also made a sketch of the day in 1826 
The woeful faces of the boys-
In 1804 a long poem was printed about the return to school... The Christmas Holidays; and Black Monday, Or the Boy's Return to School; in Blank verse by Henry Whitfield… King’s College… London: 1804

And from Victorian times...
"BLACK MONDAY is a day to which unthinking youth look forward with considerable apprehension. It is the day on which the long vacation terminates, and school duties are resumed. No more "hours of idleness," no more visits to the picture-gallery or museum, no more pleasant evening parties, round games, and acting charades—no more excursions with fond mammas and pretty cousins, no more donations from liberal uncles or philanthropic grandmothers; but school and its duties again demand your attention. … To many lads the prospect is an unpleasing one, and hence they have named the day on which it is revealed to them in all its gloominess—Black Monday.
Ah me, a time will come, when they will feel surprised that so gross a misconception could ever have occupied their minds! When they will wish, but in vain, that Black Mondays could return for them, ...that in all a man's career no period is so free from care, anxiety, and sorrow, no period so genuinely happy, as the few years spent in the "groves of Academe!"
The forest, the jungle, and the prairie… by Alfred Elliott    London: 1868

And now for a picture of the odd Distaff Day 'celebrations'...
The two sketches on preparing to leave are from the British Museum online collection.  The coach and distaff sketches are from The Book of Christmas Thomas Kibble Hervey… Illustrations by R. Seymour.  London: 1836

©2016 Patricia Bixler Reber
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