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amusement, we enter on more significant ground when we take into consideration the various passages in the early dramatists and other writers (collected together in Nares' Glossary), which show that tops were at one time owned by the parish or village.
" He's a coward and a coystril that will not drink to my niece, till his brains turn like a parish-top."—Shakespeare, Twelfth Nighty i. 3.
"A merry Greek, and cants in Latin comely,
Spins like the parish-top."
— Ben Jonson, New I tin, ii. 5.
" I'll hazard My life upon it, that a boy of twelve
Should scourge him hither like a parish-top, And make him dance before you."
—Beaumont and Fletcher, Thierry and Theod., ii. 1.
" And dances like a town top, and reels and hobbles."
—Ibid., Night Walker, i. 1.
Every night I dream I am a town-top, and that I am whipt up and down with the scourge stick of love.—" Grim, the Collier of Croydon," ap. Dodsley, xi. 206.
In the Fifteen Comforts of Marriage, p. 143, we read: " Another tells 'em of a project he has to make town tops spin without an eel-skin, as if he bore malice to the schoolboys."
Poor Robin, in his Almanack for 1677, tells us, in the Fanatick's Chronology, it was then " 1804 years since the first invention of town-tops."
These passages seem to refer to a custom of keeping tops by a township or parish, and they are confirmed by Evelyn, who, speaking of the uses of willow wood, among other things made of it, mentions great " town-topps " (Sylva, xx. 29). The latest writers who give positive information on the subject are Black-stone, who, in his note on Shakespeare, asserts that to "sleep like a town top " was proverbial, and Hazlitt, who, in his collection of English Proverbs, has " like a parish-top." (See also Brand, ii. 448.)