14 Caroling

The familiar custom of caroling probably extends from the medieval custom of wassailing (trolling the streets for wassail). Remember the poor caroler in Dickens? Scrooge ran him out of the office with a ruler. In this excerpt, from Punch, a similarly cynical mind is at work:

The CAROL ACADEMY: The Daily Express of December 20 states that is has discovered a school for the training of young carol-cadgers, presided over by an expert ex-beggar and especially flourishing about Christmas time. We are fortunate in obtaining a rough-drafted prospectus of the same. The subjects of instruction include:

Variations on three well-known Hymn-tunes, or,
   How to sing in several keys at once.

The Art of Repetition, or Boring for Coppers.

Carolling into Keyholes, with Hints on being kick-proof.

Some Useful Repartees, on being sent empty away.

Lugubriousness as an Aid to Moneymaking.

The Borrowed Baby, and where to Pinch it
  within earshot the Philanthropic.

How to avoid being Pinched (by the Police).

The Whole Theory of being a Public Nuisance.

Professor Fagin receives pupils of any age from three years upwards, exhibitions being granted to infants in arms. The third and fourth cadgers of a family pay half-fees, which in ordinary cases are the price of a pot of beer per hymn-tune, and 50 per cent extra with words. All fees are strictly payable in advance. Applications for admission to the Academy may be made at any time to the Principal by Parents or Guardians, there being no irksome restrictions as to Health Certificates or Character. The sole qualification is the possession of a pair of lungs.

--Punch, January 1907

This charming excerpt borrowed from Sarah Hollis' The Country Diary Christmas Book, published in 1993 (Henry Holt).