Shrove Tuesday

Sir David Dalrymple, in his ” Annals of Scotland,” lately published, thinks it improbable, because inconsistent with the religious rigour of the times, that Margery, daughter of King Robert the First, in 1316, should take the diversion of hunting on a Shrove Tuesday. But Shrove Tuesday, as soon as the Shrift, or confession at Mattins, was celebrated, was a day of extraordinary festicity (sic) and indulgence, in consideration of the long season of fasting and humiliation which commenced on the following day. This point is clearly and ingeniously proved in the second volume of Mr. Warton’s “History of English Poetry,” p. 387.

There is a passage in Stowe’s chronicle which abundantly confirms Mr. Warton’s reasoning about the festivities of Shrove-Tuesday ; and shews that a princess, in the fourteenth century, might on that day indulge herself in the sports of the field, without incurring the censures of the Church. The passage is this, under the year 1526 :

” Op Shrove Tuesday there was holden solemne justes at Greenwich, the King and eleven others on the one part, and the Marques of Excester with eleven other on the contrarie part,” etc.—Chron. fol. 526, col. 2, edit. 1615.

Antiquarius asks, ” Whence originated the custom at Westminster school, of the under-clerk of the college entering on Shrove Tuesday into the school, and, preceded by the Beadle and the other officers, of throwing a large pancake over the bar, which divides the upper from the under school ?

Shrive is an old Saxon word (of which Shrove is a corruption), and signifies confession. Hence Shrove-Tuesday signifies Confession-Tuesday ; on which day all the people in every parish throughout England (during the Romish times) were obliged to confess their sins, one by one, to their own parish priests, in their own parish churches; and, that this might be done the more regularly, the great bell in every parish was rung at ten o’clock (or perhaps sooner), that it might be heard by all, and that they might attend, according to the custom then in use. And as the Romish religion has given way to a much better, I mean the Protestant religion, yet the custom of ringing the great bell in our ancient parish churches, at least in some of them, yet remains, and obtains in and about London the name of Pancake-bell; perhaps because, after the confession, it was customary for the several persons to dine on pancakes or fritters. Latter churches, indeed, have rejected that custom of ringing the bell on Shrove-Tuesday ; but the usage of dining on pancakes or fritters, and such-like provision, still continues.