Mrs Crupps, David Copperfield’s landlady had a constitutional objection to ‘spies, intruders and informers and named no names, let them the cap fitted wear it’.
Petty officialdom love telling the rest of us how to live our lives, which in the 17th century was enshrined in one person: Oliver Cromwell, and his Puritan supporters.
The Second Protectorate Parliament in England sat for two Sessions, with Thomas Widdrington as Speaker. In its First Session, the Commons was the only Chamber; in the Second, an ‘Other House’ (Lords), with power to veto was in evidence.
The First Session ran from September 1656 until Today in 1657 which saw an Act, ‘For the Better Observation of the Lord’s Day’. (1)
Cromwell and his Puritans, in the Lord’s Name, loved to ban things: the Second Chamber of Peers, for ten years from 1649; Christmas and celebrations on Holy Days were seen as superstitious, contraventions being reported by a system of spies.
In addition Sundays, (The Lord’s Day), became extremely doleful as the 1657 Act said: [banning anything]: ‘Adjudged prophanation of the Lords Day, Travelling, Innkeeping &c; Entertaining such &c; Persons being in Taverns, Inns &c; keeping open door, Dauncing, Singing &c; Washing Whiting &c; Burning Beet, Gathering Rates, melting Tallow or Wax, Brewing, Baking, Butchers and other exposing Wares to Sale, Taylours, Barbers, Fairs, Wakes, Revels &c; Walking in Times of Publique Worship, Travelling and Carrying Burdens or Doing Worldly Labour’.
One such victim was the diarist John Evelyn who wrote about living through the time of the Commonwealth. In 1657 he and his wife went to London to take part in a ‘Christmas service to be held in secret’.
The authorities were alerted, soldiers broke up the service and arrested those present, but Evelyn records that after a few hours under arrest at a private house where he wasn’t deprived of his dinner, the prisoners were released, and Evelyn and his wife after an examination by officials, were allowed home.
Sundays in the Author’s lifetime were days of restrictions on all types of entertainment and one wasn’t allowed to play in the street. The Lord’s Day Observance Society still cast its shadow over life.
(1) The 2 sessions from 17th September 1656 until 4th February 1658. The first ran until 26th June 1657.
Ref: Acts and Ordinances of 1642-60 originally published by HMSO. London 1911.