Thomas Hardy famously used a mumming play as a dramatic device in his novel Return of the Native, and seems to have had an abiding interest in folk-drama generally; his last published work which was not poetry was The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall, billed as a 'play for mummers'. He came from a long line of folk-musicians and his cousins performed in the Puddletown play. Despite this, the play he used in his novel appears not to have a local origin, though his description of the players was accurate, and he later borrowed a genuine Dorset script to write a new version for a stage production of Return in the 1920s, thus inadvertently becoming an early revivalist.
The author has collected together numerous references to mumming plays in Dorset, and the paper is well illustrated with photographs from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library and elsewhere. The incident in which the Fordington mummers did battle with the Bockhampton band in Dorchester in 1845 is covered, with contemporary newspaper accounts reproduced here in full for the first time.The author explores the social and economic background to this event in the context of the upheavals of the time amongst the rural workforce, which included rick-burnings and the'Swing riots' as well as the Tolpuddle Martyrs' trial.
|The Symondsbury Mummers|
The Appendix includes the scripts of ten Dorset plays, including Hardy's own version. These are well annotated with extensive notes, and illustrations, including some musical notation and a photograph of one of Udal's original scripts.
Like most academic offprints, the presentation is somewhat plain, being a straightforward reproduction of pages from the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Proceedings, bound with a plastic clip. Like the Proceedings, however, it is printed to A4 format, and so is equivalent to a paperback with over twice its number of pages, and is some 36,500 words long.
- Mumming Plays in Hardy's Wessex is available, printed to order, from Merry Meet Magazine at the address below, or from the website www.merrymeetmagazine.co.uk, priced at £ 12.50 inc. UK p&p. The price is the actual cost of production and postage.