“Bells are musics laughter.” By Thomas Hood (1799-1845), British poet and humorist.
Bells hold a long time association with Christmas. In Victorian times, carol singers used small handbells to play the tune of the carol. Sometimes there were bells without singing – Church bells are rung after sunset to signal the start of the Christmas Eve service, the first of Christmas. In England, the bellman goes round at midnight ringing his bell, and rattling off a stanza or two, for the gratuity which he confidently anticipates; while watchmen, firemen, rate-collectors, postmen, chimney-sweeps, street scavengers, the errand-boys of your baker, butcher, poultry merchant, and green-grocer, even to the hired singers in the churches all expect their Christmas-box. In Victorian times, carol singers used small hand bells to play the tune of the carol and sometimes there were bells without singing. Church bells are rung after sunset to signal the start of the Christmas Eve service, the first of Christmas.
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The Bellman stands full face, shouting with wide-open mouth and ringing his hand-bell.
In his left hand he holds out his verses headed by a little figure of Napoleon wearing a huge tricorne and holding a gigantic sword:
‘This little Boney-says he’ll come At merry Christmas time,
But that I say is all a hum Or I no more will rhyme
Some say in Wooden house he’ll glide, Some say in air Balloon,
E’en those who airy schemes deride. Agree his coming soon.
Now honest people list to me, Though Income is but small, I’ll bet my Wig, to one Penney, He does not come at all.’ Hand-colored etching and aquatint.
Via British Museum