A Twelfth Night Party (1839)

This is a set of complete instructions on how to run a “modern” (1839) Twelfth Night party.


A Writer in the Gentleman’s Magazine, thinks the practice of choosing king and queen on Twelfth Night owes its origin to the custom among the Romans, which they took from the Grecians, of casting dice to decide who should be king of the feast, or as Horace calls him, ” Arbiter bibendi.” Whoever threw the lucky cast, which they called Venus or Basilicus, gave laws for the night. Persons of the same rank drew lots for kingdoms, and, like kings, exercised their temporary authority.

The following directions for the modern Twelfth Night, are given in Rachel Revel’s Winter Pastimes.

” First buy your cake; and, before your visitors arrive, buy your characters, each of which should have pleasant verse beneath. Next look at your invitation list, and count the number of ladies you expect, and afterwards the gentlemen. Then take as many female characters as you have . . . . .


This is a sport the performers in which act more for the amusement of the spectators than for their own. A prize, consisting of a smock frock, a new hat, or something of that kind, is the reward of the person who first reaches the goal. As many as present themselves are allowed to compete; and when the competitors are numerous, the scene is indescribably ludicrous.

A certain space of ground, selected generally on account of the irregularity of its surface, is marked out, at the end of which the goal or winning post is erected. The runners are enclosed from the bottom of the feet to the neck in sacks, in which the hands are also confined, and the sack is then fastened round the neck.

At a given signal, they all start, but at a speed very disproportioned to their wishes. Some, with all their eagerness and efforts to advance, remain jumping and striving without making visible progress; some again, become prostrate at the very outset; and others, having apparently no guidance of themselves, jostle against their neighbours, and speedily cover the ground with the fallen.

These constant mishaps and the unsuccessful attempts of the prostrate to rise, excite the risible faculties of the spectators, who endeavour, by shouts and applause, to reanimate the panting rustics to renewed exertions.


Each candidate for the prize in this race appears on the ground with a wheelbarrow. The ground selected for the race is generally an uneven surface, limited by ditches on each side, and concluding by going over a small bridge without railings on either side, the water below being of the depth of from two to three feet. Along this course, over the bridge, and up to the goal, the candidates must drive their barrows blindfolded—if they can : we say if they can, for very few ever attain that enviable distinction.

When they are all in line and the signal given, off they start at any pace they choose; but any impetuosity in this sport is in general severely punished ; for if the fleet bumpkin should escape the Scylla and Charybdis on each side of him, he is almost certain to be soused head over heels in the turbid stream below the treacherous bridge.


The Jingling Match is a diversion common enough at country wakes and fairs. The performance requires a large circle, enclosed with ropes, which is occupied by as many persons as are permitted to play, rarely exceeding nine or ten.

All of these, except one of the most active, who is the jingler, have their eyes blinded with handkerchiefs or napkins. The eyes of the jingler are not covered ; but he holds a small bell in each hand, which he is obliged to keep ringing incessantly so long as the play continues, which is commonly about twenty minutes, though sometimes it is extended to half an hour.

In some places, the jingler has also small bells affixed to his knees and elbows. His business is to elude the pursuit of his blinded companions, who follow him, by the sound of the bells, in all directions, and sometimes oblige him to exert his utmos abilities to effect his escape, which must be done within the boundaries of the rope, for the law of the sport forbid him to pass beyond it. If he be caught in the time allotted for the continuance of the game, the person who caught him claims the prize: if, on the contrary, they are not able to take him, the prize becomes his due.


A Match of this kind is recorded in a paper of Addison’s. ” The prize,” we are told, ” was one guinea, to be conferred upon the ablest whistler; that is, he that could whistle clearest, and go through his tune without laughing, to which at the same time he was provoked by the antic postures of a merry-andrew, who was to stand upon the stage, and play his tricks in the eye of the performer. There were three competitors : the first two failed; but the third, in defiance of the zany and all his arts, whistled through two tunes with so settled a countenance that he bore away the prize, to the great admiration of the spectators.” Addison tells us he was present at this performance, which took place at Bath about the year 1708.

The evening at fairs is commonly concluded with singing for laces and ribands, which indiscrimately admits of the exertions of both sexes.



As the forfeits are paid, they are placed in store in the lap of a lady called the forfeit keeper; and at the conclusion of the game, the drawing commences.

To prevent fraud, the forfeits are covered with a shawl or napkin, placed over the lady’s lap, and the person who draws the forfeits, introduces the hand beneath the covering, without raising it more than is necessary to introduce the hand.

A player who has not forfeited is summoned to inflict the penances; or if there be none, a child is selected; or the forfeit keeper prescribes the necessary punishment for the forfeit which her neighbour draws.

The forfeit keeper then says to the person who is to impose the penalty, ” What punishment do you award to this forfeit 1″ The other generally answers, ” If it belongs to a lady, I award such a punishment; if to a gentleman, so and so ; or, whether lady or gentleman, they must do so and so.”

In spite of the precautions taken to conceal the name of the owner of the forfeit from the person who imposes the punishment, it often happens that, in collusion with the drawer of the forfeit, who can easily recollect the person who gave a particular forfeit, the imposer of the punishment discovers it, and affixes a punishment accordingly.

To avoid this inconvenience, and to provide forfeits for games that require a great number, it is better to use white cards, write the name on them, and roll them up before they are given to the person who holds the forfeits.

As soon as the penance is declared, the person who has hold of the forfeit, draws it and exhibits it to the company. The person to whom it belongs is then obliged to execute the inflicted penance, and he does not receive back his forfeit till he has done so. He has then the privilege of ordering a penance in return, whilst the forfeit keeper or the child draws the forfeits.

Each player may prescribe the punishment, and draw a forfeit in turn.

It sometimes happens that one forfeit is pledged for two or three penances, in which case it is not returned till they are all performed. I do not advise the adoption of this method, as it is likely to create confusion: if there are not sufficient materials for forfeits, it is better to write the names on bits of paper and double them up. In good society, it is unnecessary to have valuable forfeits, to ensure the performance of the penances in order to regain them.

Although this method of imposing punishments is generally adopted, it would perhaps be better to draw the forfeits openly, and even to find out to whom they belong first. The players would have the double advantage of the benefit of the talents of some present, without imposing punishment beyond the power of others.

For instance, a lively air, a drawing, verses, anecdotes, &c., might be required. As few possess impromptu talent, twenty-four hours might be given for the performance of the penance; and the delay would render the next evening’s meeting still more agreeable.




This is to be obliged to do whatever the company or a portion of those named beforehand may require. A lady is placed at the discretion of the gentlemen; and a gentleman at the discretion of the ladies. Not to weary the penitent, the company should inflict short, easy penances; such as a couplet, a song, &c.


This is to execute some task which each person in company successively imposes without uttering a word.


The gentleman, or lady, on whom this penance is imposed, asks each player, ” What would you not like to do?” And, according to the answer, he must do it himself. Thus, when a lady says

” I do not wish you to sing a song,” he must execute that penance, and then return and ask the next person what he or she would not wish to do, and perform it in the same manner.—The person who imposes the penance rarely sends him to all the persons in company, especially if very numerous; but names a certain number.



A Stool or chair is placed in the middle of the circle, and the person who is to perform the part of the statue stands upon it. Each player then requests him to take any attitude he chooses. One requires him to place his hand upon his heart, another to bend the arm or knee, to look up to the ceiling, to recline the head to the right or left; but all the attitudes should be graceful. When any one wishes to conclude the penance, he says, ” I order you to come down.” This is a penance chiefly for ladies.


The following is an example :—

H. I. H. W. G. O. G. F. Y.

Happy is he who gains one glance from you.

I. F. Y. C M, T. D.

I fear your cruelty more than death.


Compliment. Insult.


Bouts Rimes.

An even number of words, forming one or more couplets of rhymes, is proposed to the person to be fined. The owner of the forfeit must impromptu produce as many verses as words are given. The most uncommon words are selected to increase the difficulty.


This is often awarded to a forfeit, when it is known that the owner can acquit himself with credit. A single couplet is sufficient unless more have been imposed.—As some people do not possess the faculty of versifying, attention should be paid to select couplets adapted to the tone of the society.


Comparisons must present, at the same time, a likeness and a difference. The party who has to make the comparisons may compare himself, or one of the players that is named to him, or that he selects himself. Sometimes the penance requires him to compare a certain number of players, and sometimes the whole company.

A lady may be compared to the Hortensia: the resemblance, says the gentleman, lies in her beauty, and the privilege she possesses of appearing to advantage in every view: the difference lies in the absence of perfume.

A young man may be compared to a branch of myrtle, which preserves its verdure in all seasons as he preserves his sentiments—this is the resemblance ; but if thrown into the fire it crackles, whilst he consumes in silence—this is the difference.


Emblems, like comparisons, are either individual or collective. This is a very ingenious amusement. Each in turn proposes an emblem for every one in company ; and he forfeits, if he hesitates, repeats himself, or gives an emblem that appears unsuitable. The following are examples.

A tuberose may be selected as the emblem of a young lady ; as, like that flower, she affects the head.

The vine will be an emblem of another; as, like the grape, she pleases to intoxication.

A pin is another emblem ; as, like it, she pierces, but attaches.


It is reported that Xeuxis, the famous Grecian painter, assembled the finest women of his time; and, imitating the perfection which each possessed in some particular portion of her person, produced a Venus which deserved the admiration of his own age and of posterity.

This little anecdote doubtless gave rise to the penance in question. The person on whom it is imposed fills the agreeable part of Xeuxis ; and, taking those attractions of each lady in company which appear most brilliant, he forms with the whole a perfect Venus.

By way of exercising the ingenuity of the gentlemen, sometimes a moral, and sometimes a physical goddess is required. Thus, for the latter, the gentleman takes only the visible attractions of the ladies; the complexion of one, the eyes of another, the bosom of a third, the style of a fourth, and so on; and for the former, only the intellectual qualities, such as candour, modesty, mind, heart, tenderness, affection, &c.


For this goddess, the image of moral perfection, the same method is adopted as in making a Venus, the image of physical perfection. The person charged with this agreeable duty, borrows wit from one lady, candour from another, and modesty, benevolence, mildness, and generosity, from others.


These hold a distinguished rank as a mode of penance. Ladies are generally required to sing; and even gentlemen who have a good voice.

Songs form a very agreeable amusement, if, instead of being imposed by chance, they are required only from persons who possess a good voice, or if some one else be requested to accompany them with the voice or with any instrument, such as the harp, guitar, piano, or violin.


These also may be required, with or without accompaniment. Such little concerts are equally pleasant to the performers and auditors.


If you are condemned to be frank, you address each person in company, saying something agreeable in a rather severe manner, or something malicious in a good natured tone. This penance requires much circumspection, delicacy and good feeling, a sufficient proof that it must not be generally enforced.


The person who is condemned to make his will leaves, to the different individuals in company, all the moral and physical qualities he is supposed to have.

This penance affords great scope for the complimentary or satirical turn of the party, and presents a very favourable opportunity for the display of talent and wit.



The player who is ordered to confess, chooses his own confessor; but a lady must confess a gentleman, and a gentleman a lady. It is not required that the truth should be answered, as may be well supposed ; but the answers must be to the point, or the question be adroitly eluded. The following are the questions generally put: If a young man is to confess, he is asked, Are you in love? How often have you been in love? What is the first letter of the lady’s name whom you love best? Describe your mistress. In what does your hope, faith and charity consist? What qualities do you possess? What faults ? What do you think of love ? Are you jealous? Is it from a natural distrust, vanity, or excess of love ? Have you ever been inconstant? Have you ever spoken ill of ladies? Have you kept your love-vows ? Have not you looked upon love as a pastime ?

If a young lady—Is your heart at liberty? What qualities would you desire in a friend ? in a lover ? in a husband ? What circumstances would afford you the greatest pleasure ? What affects you the most ? What do you think of most frequently ? Let me know your opinion of marriage. Are you constant ? Have you never wished to please one whom you could not love ? Have you not refused your lover a salute when you wished for it yourself? Have you never quarrelled with him, to try the power of your charms? Can you love till death? Do you always think of the pleasure of his first avowal of love? or do you think more of the last new fashion, balls, routs and romances ?


The person who inflicts the punishment of the learned ass, reserves to himself to be the master of the animal, or points out some one in league with him to take that office. When the person who inflicts the penance does not name his keeper, the ass is at liberty to choose one for himself. The learned ass is always a gentleman, and goes on four legs.

His master stands up by the side of him, and addresses the company in a mountebank style: ” Ladies and gentlemen, here is an ass that deserves the degree of Doctor, for he can read the bottom of your hearts. Now, Sir Ass, walk round and jump for the company.” The ass then makes one or two rounds, and raises his four legs like a lion rampant.

The master then says, ” Now is the time to shew your skill: examine attentively and tell us which of these ladies is the greatest coquette.” The ass examines the ladies attentively, approaches their knees, capers about them, and then according to his own knowledge, aided by a little spice of malice, he bows his head several times before the lady whom he thinks the greatest coquette. This generally produces loud shouts of laughter at her expense.

The master then proceeds in the same way, and asks the ass successively, ” Which gentleman is the most fickle ?” ” Which lady is the most constant ?” ” Which is the most sensitive ?” “the most amorous?” “the most indiscreet?” “the most wicked,” &c.; and the ass always selects and replies in the same manner.

Sometimes, to render the game more piquant, the master asks ” Which is the most faithful V ” Shew us the most innocent;” and Sir Ass, after several turns and capering about and negative

shakes of the head, returns to his master with his head up to intimate that he can find neither. This is generally the conclusion of the game.

The discourse we have assigned to the master varies of course according to the tact of the party who fills the part. The ass is obliged to remain dumb.

Sometimes the learned ass has no keeper ; and each person in company asks a question in turn ; but this method is not equal to the first. The questions want connexion, and are not put in that mountebank style which is so amusing.


The person on whom this temporary infirmity is inflicted, rises and stands in the middle of the circle, and must answer three times, ” I am deaf, I can’t hear ;” and, the fourth time, ” 1 hear.”

Of course the spite of the players induces them to render the penance severe. If the deaf person be a gentleman, a lady approaches and offers something agreeable to him ; and the unfortunate wight is compelled to reply in the stated form. Two other malicious ladies make him similar offers ; or a gentleman, taking a lady by the hand, says, ” I bring this lady to you—salute her.” The deaf person hears not. At the fourth question, however, when his ears are opened, he is told to conduct some lady to kiss the wall, to sing a song, &c. The deaf man is allowed to refuse, and of course does not neglect his privilege.

This penance is also inflicted on ladies; but then it is by no means so amusing.


In the French games, kisses are too much multiplied. In Britain, they can be assigned as punishments only to ladies.


When the lady attempts to do this, a gentleman may place himself between the candle and the shadow.


A gentleman presents the candlestick somewhat elevated; and, when the lady is about to kiss it, she is saluted by the gentleman.

Or, if this punishment be imposed on a gentleman, he requests a lady to hold a lighted candle for a few seconds; and, having thus transformed the lady into a candlestick, he salutes her. This penance is imposed only on young gentlemen, who, it is thought, will be stupid enough to kiss the real candlestick, and thereby create some laughter ; or when it is thought that the same effect will be produced by the young lady being ignorant of the consequence of holding the candle.


The lady and gentleman are placed on their knees, back to back. They both turn their heads at the same time, one to the right and the other to the left, and endeavour to bring their lips together for the required salute. The gentleman may pass his arm round his companion’s waist, in order to lessen the fatigue and support her, if she lose her equilibrium.


This is remarkable for the difficulty of performance. How unpleasant to be unable to salute the lady of your choice, except through the close bars of the back of a chair !


The lady who performs this penance approaches a young man, who advances eagerly to salute her, but finds himself repulsed and the favour granted to his neighbour.

When this trick is known, the young man who advances first cannot be deceived again; therefore he is not the one whom they endeavour to mystify; but his neighbour who, thinking he has only to present himself, advances; and the lady, whose choice is free, repulses him, and bestows the favour on the next to him. Sometimes she returns to the one who was before deceived, which renders the game more piquant.


When the lady attempts to do this, our gentlemen place themselves in the four corners of the room, and she is forced to salute them one after the other; or one gentleman, when the thing is not understood, may in succession, occupy more than one of the four corners of the room, and salute her in each.


For a lady, this penance consists in receiving a salute from more than one gentleman in the room.


Here the punishments which would seem merely accessories of games are, in reality, the foundation of them. The sole object of many games is to furnish an opportunity for accumulating forfeits, and, consequently, penances. Many gentlemen, and even many ladies, would care little to join in them if they did not hope to perform some penance at the conclusion. Frequently, even when vanity renders the players anxious and attentive to avoid forfeiting, the thought of the agreeable penance attached to it, induces them skilfully to feign abstraction, or inattention. By increasing then the number of rounds, and applying to several what has been prescribed to one only, the penance becomes a game.


When any one is ordered as a punishment to perform the office of postman, he must commence in the following manner :—He must get together in a bag, or reticule, or in the corner of a shawl, as the sex may be, several pieces of paper folded up as letters.

He then stands up in front of the players, and, adressing the player who was on his right hand, when he was seated, presents a letter, saying, ” It is from such a place, &c.” and takes care to make some allusion to the acquaintance, friendship, or relationship existing amongst the players. The party to whom the letter is sent asks how much the postage is?

The postman demands as much as he chooses: for instance, he may charge four, six, eight, ten, or twelve pence : the postage is of course paid in kisses. But the lady may refuse to take in the letter, if she thinks the postage too heavy, as a proof that she is not satisfied ; and the postman must pass on. This is a lesson for those gentlemen who are too bold ; for a postage of two or three pence is, almost by the rules of the game, paid immediately in ready cash.

This penance is generally prescribed to a gentleman, who addresses himself to the ladies only. But if, by the casting of the lots, it comes to the turn of the lady, she presents letters to the gentlemen only in the party. In this case, the postage is very trifling, as the lady generally says the postage is paid, &c. &c.

If a successor is found for the postman, by the substitution of his right hand neighbour, this penance becomes a game.

The postman receives a forfeit from every one who refuses to pay the postage, on account of the demand being exorbitant: the lady, on the contrary, receives forfeits from those that want to pay the postage.

This game is amusing enough for two or three rounds : it is not often played longer, because it accumulates plenty of forfeits and offers no variety.


The gentleman condemned to act as the bailiff, says to a lady, ” Pay, or I must put in a distress for so many kisses ;” and at the same time he endeavours to get possession of her gloves, handkerchief, bonnet, reticule, or shawl. ” But,” says the lady, ” I am short of money; at all events take off something; the interest is usurious;” with similar phrases. The creditor stands out for the full amount of his demand; but as the lady will not surrender, they bargain between them till finally the lady pays.

When the lady resolutely refuses, and ” says I am insolvent,” she lets the importunate creditor carry off some trifle belonging to her, that he has been able to get possession of, and which he is afterwards obliged to return.

But when this penance is turned into a game, the article seized becomes a forfeit. The creditor passes from one lady to another to the end of the circle.

In the second round, the ladies become creditors, and distrain on the gentlemen; but, instead of demanding kisses of their debtors, they require a song, a declamation, and very frequently an extemporary verse. If the unfortunate debtors cdnnot comply, the lady endeavours to enforce the distress; this however, as the gentlemen are on their guard, is not always easily effected.

The creditors, both male and female, are replaced in the same manner as in the preceding game.


The company being seated in circle, one of the players, who is the penitent or Patipata, kneels down before a person of different sex; but to prevent fatigue, especially if the penitent be a female, she is seated on a footstool or cushion. The person on whose knees the penitent’s head reclines, takes good care that he can see nothing; and, pointing with his finger to some person or object in the room, says, ” Patipata, who shall kiss that ?”

The penitent names any one he chooses; and the person so named is obliged to obey. As soon as that is performed, Patipata is again asked, and another player is named, and the game continues till Patipata names himself, for then he kisses the object pointed out, and is absolved from his penance.

This game of penance in which a great many – players join, is extremely amusing, in consequence of the curious circumstances which the chance decisions of the penitent produce. He frequently sends one gentleman to embrace another; and a lady to kiss the hands or hair of another lady; a third is obliged to kiss her own arm or knee; and a fourth to imprint a kiss on his own cheek or forehead. The door, the walls, the vases, the furniture, chimney, clock, &c., come in also for their share of the kisses which the blind distributor orders.

As Patipata can answer ‘/’ whenever he chooses, he generally takes care to do so immediately after any disagreeable object has been embraced, because he knows they change the object: but it frequently happens that he is mistaken in his conjectures, and, when he expected to indemnify himself by saluting a rosy cheek, finds himself obliged to kiss the back of a sofa, the snuffers, or some such object. Patipata is allowed to raise his head and witness the execution of his decisions ; and he lays it down immediately afterwards.

When this penance is a game, and Patipata names himself, and embraces one of the players, the latter takes his place; but when it is an inanimate object, the unlucky Patipata is obliged not only to kiss it, but also to continue his task. If he does not like to abide by his own decision, he may refuse the salute, by paying a forfeit, and must continue his unsuccessful career; no one else has this privilege; and the penitent can take advantage of it only three times: the fourth time he is obliged to accede to his own decisions. If the object however is animated, the player who sat originally on the right of Patipata, is obliged to take his place.

Source: Games and sports: being an appendix to Manly exercises and Exercises for ladies, containing the various in-door games and sports, the out-of-door games and sports, those of the seasons, &c  Donald Walker, 1839

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