Cruikshank, 1853, Illustrated London News
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The Guy Fawkes Mask- Origins and Evolution

Before there was the graphic novel V for Vendetta by Alan Moore (1982-1985), or the movie of the same name (2005),  there were "Guys"--  men dressed up in women's clothing, wearing blackface or masks.  And there were effigies of Guy Fawkes, often wearing masks, that were part of  annual bonfire celebrations and processions as well as generalized charivari activities centered around Bonfire Treason Day, Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire Night which is celebrated on November 5, the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

This page explores the origins and evolution of the mask and its design. Two traditions generally have informed the design and use of the mask. The first is the necessity to conceal the identities of participants and the second is to assist in the creation of effigies. Both traditions change through time. The use of the mask in "people power" protests as depicted in V for Vendetta has its origin in the need to disguise participants in order to avoid arrest.  In Britain,  in order to be arrested a person's identity had to be determined.
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The Design Concept

Pre-Mask Effigies

Written Accounts

Early Mask Traditions

21st Century Examples


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The Design Concept

The design of the mask and  effigy derive in part from descriptions of  Fawkes:

 "a tall, powerfully built man, with thick reddish-brown hair, a flowing moustache in the tradition of the time, and a bushy reddish-brown beard."

-Fraser, Antonia, (2005) [1996], The Gunpowder Plot, p.84.

The design was also informed by contemporary engravings of the plotters. This one was done by Hogberg. The engravings most likely are accurate as the artists and their representatives traveled widely in England where they had many patrons and  where many of the plotters were well known.

Although the source of the primary description remains obscure, it might be observed that neither the description nor the print are identical to the mask as it evolved. This may indicate that the design concept merged with existant types incorporating attributes of other evil characters, possibly the devil.

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Pre-Mask Effigies

Prior to the formalization of the design concept, effigies did not have masks but were designed to appear as military men, later this image turned to that of a clown.

In earliest processions the effigy was not of Guy Fawkes but of the Devil. Later Guy became known as the "Devil in the Vault," In this way attributes of the devil may have been merged with those of Fawkes.

-Broadside, Boston, South end forever [cut] North end forever. Extraordinary verses on Pope-night. or, A commemoration the fifth of November, giving a history of the attempt, made by the papishes, to blow up king and Parliament, A. D. 1588. Together with some account of the Pope himself, and his wife Joan: with several other things worthy of notice, too tedious to mention. Sold by the printers boys in Boston [1768].

The later clown-like design aspect comes from the world view of the time which regarded Fawkes as a failed freedom fighter. Other images, such as those done by Cruikshank for the novels of Ainsworth,  depict Fawkes more seriously. More to come.

Early works by Cruikshank portray as a military man all be it silly.

-Cruikshank, Squib, 1849.

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Written Accounts

Written accounts such as those below describe the evolution of the concept of disguise or "Guising." Events such as these led to the removal of Gunpowder Treason Day from the Book of Common Prayer in 1859. This was done so that authorities had greater powers to shut down demonstrations once the day was no longer a national holiday. From these events Moore in V for Vendetta derived his concept of demonstrations by participants in Fawkes Masks exercising "people power." Accounts of demonstrations on the fifth of November prior to the revolution in the American colonies made the concerns of the authorities well founded. Stamp Act protests which led to the revolution were modeled after celebrations of the fifth of November. Such protests, while threatening, never resulted in significant loss of life or destruction of property, hence the allusion to peaceful protest in V for Vendetta. However, these celebrations were never quiet!

JAMES WHEELER, JOHN DENNIS, GEORGE DUFF, DANIEL JOHN QUAY, THOMAS GROVES, Violent Theft > highway robbery, Violent Theft > highway robbery, 4th December 1828.

Reference Number: t18281204-181

Second Middlesex Jury - Before Mr. Baron Hullock.

180. JAMES WHEELER , JOHN DENNIS , GEORGE DUFF , DANIEL JOHN QUAY , and THOMAS GROVES , were indicted for feloniously assaulting Thomas Brooks on the King's highway, on the 5th of November , at St. Leonard, Shoreditch, putting him in fear, and taking from his person, and against his will, 1 purse, value 6d.; 5 sovereigns, and 1 watch, value 50l. , his property.

MR. ADOLPHUS conducted the prosecution

MR. THOMAS BROOKS . I am a merchant , of the City. On the 5th of November, about eleven o'clock in the morning, I was near the Rosemary Branch public-house, at Hoxton , walking in the public-way, and observed a mob coming from Hoxton in a contrary direction to what I was going - there were thirty of forty of them; they had an ass, and a man in disguise sat on it - I stepped from the foot-path into the road, to make way for them; part of the mob (probably half of them) passed me, when one of the mob seized my watch-ribbon; I seized another part of it and struggled with him; I seized the upper part, nearest to the watch - I struggled with him, and others came and got the watch out of my fob; and as I still retained hold of the ring, they began to beat me with sticks- in the struggle, the ring which fastened the ribbon to the watch, broke, and then they got my watch; they struck me about the head and shoulders with sticks, and one blow came on my face, and cut me in two places, which bled; they immediately left me and went towards the Rosemary Branch; I should think the whole transaction did not last more than four or five minutes - some persons afterwards came and assisted me; I went into a house - a surgeon, who was passing, came and dressed my face - after that, I went to put my hand to my pocket to give the surgeon something, and found my pocket turned out, and my purse containing five sovereigns was gone; I saw the prisoners at the office, and cannot swear that either of them were among the men.

JOHN JOHNSON . I live with my father, at No. 25, Queen-street, Spitalfields. On the 5th of November, at half-past nine o'clock in the morning, I was coming down Brick-lane, a young man snatched my cap off and ran into George-street with it, and there was a whole mob with a man - they had a young man with a mask on his face in the mob - there was no donkey then; they took the man up in their arms and carried him down George-street - and when they came to near the end of George-street they turned round another street, and round another at the end of that, and went up Hare-street-fields; they there met three or four young men coming with a donkey, and sat the man in the mask on it - they then went down towards Bethnal-green-road into Hackney-road, crossed there, and down some more turnings into Philip-street.

Q. Well; did you see Mr. Brooks at any time? A. Yes; I was in what I think is called Hyde-place - a good many of them collected round him; some went on in front and came back again; they all turned to him, and John Quay struck him with a stick; I am certain of Quay's person; they all got round him, and I saw a young man put his hand to his watch and pull it out; I should know him again I think - it was not any of the prisoners; he took his watch, and then ran away across the bridge and down a place - I saw Wheeler there, he was round the mob and acting with them; I did not see him do any thing - he was among the men who were engaged about the prosecutor. I got my cap from the young man.

Q.After the gentleman was robbed, what became of the party? A. They all went across the brick-field - they kept together while they were in my sight; I saw an officer and told him, and came to Worship-street with him.

Cross-examined by MR. PHILLIPS. Q. Was there not a great many persons there? A. Yes, it was Guy Fawkes - there were forty or fifty in the crowd, and great confusion among them; I am above thirteen years old - I was very much frightened.

Q.Were you not a good deal occupied in trying to get your cap during a good deal of the time? A. Yes: the occurrence with the prosecutor was over in about five minutes.

Cross-examined by MR. BODKIN. Q. You are quite sure the man who stole the watch is not here? A. Yes; quite sure - I have seen them about the streets before; I was looking at Wheeler particularly, and saw him do nothing.

MR. ADOLPHUS. Q.Had you got your cap before the robbery of after? A.When they all came round the robbery - I have seen Quay about the street, and am positive I saw him strike the gentleman.

THOMAS ALDER . I am a butcher. I was present at the first of the transaction about the Guy; I saw the prisoner Wheeler first running with a stick about half-past nine o'clock in the morning, when I was at home at breakfast; I looked out of the window - they brought a young man down to be a Guy, but he would not; they got another, and dressed him out with ribbons and leaves; I saw no more; Wheeler was busy about it; he had on a blue jacket and trousers, and a hairy-cap.

Cross-examined by MR. BODKIN. Q. Where was this? A. In Cheesman's-court, George-street, Bethnal-green.

SARAH TAYLOR . I live in King's-row, close to the Rosemary Branch. I saw a Guy and the mob; I was close to Mr. Brooks with my little girl; I saw Mr. Brooks step out of the carriage-road on to the footpath out of their way - I saw the crowd rush against him, and I suppose that was about three minutes before they got his watch; they struck him three or four times on his face and head - the blood gushed out of him and came on my hand: Wheeler and Dennis were there; I saw Wheeler rush against Mr. Brooks for the space of half a minute, and then I saw his hand in his pocket; I did not see Dennis do any thing, but he had a stick in his hand, and was close with Mr. Brooks.

Cross-examined by MR. BODKIN. Q.How old was your child? A.Four years - she was walking; she was alarmed and cried, and I was alarmed; I am sure I was close to Mr. Brooks, and observed the crowd before they came up to him.

Q. Did you observe before they came up that they had a quarrel among themselves, and were striking each other? A. No, I did not; there might be four or six persons close to Mr. Brooks at the time I saw Wheeler's hand in his pocket - but I saw Wheeler for the space of half a moment before he went up to Mr. Brooks; I did not say the mob all rushed on him together - I do not mean to say they went up singly; the footpath is only on one side of the road and I was on that side; I know Moss, he was not there - I did not see him there.

HENRY PAGE . I am a butcher. On the 5th of November, about eleven o'clock in the day, Wheeler came to my shop; I live about fifty yards from where Mr. Brooks was robbed - I saw none of the transaction, but saw Mr. Brooks bleeding afterwards; Wheeler came in a direction from where Mr. Brooks was bleeding, about that time - Mrs. Taylor was in my shop two minutes before, and went towards where Mr. Brooks was robbed.

SAMUEL BOULTON . I am a coal-dealer. On the day Mr. Brooks was robbed, I saw Wheeler at Page's window, apparently asking for money - that was about ten minutes past eleven o'clock; he followed the mob, and joined them; I did not see Mr. Brooks, but saw a scuffle - I cannot say whether Wheeler was in the scuffle, but I saw him join that part of the mob.

Q.What was the scuffle? A. They were striking a person with sticks, and surrounding him; I cannot say it was Mr. Brooks.

JAMES LITTON . I am a butcher. I met the Guy Fawkes at Haggerstone about an hour before the robbery, about ten o'clock, but saw no more of them; I cannot recognise any of the prisoners but Groves - he was at the latter part of the mob; I met the mob; one on the opposite side called out to knock my hat off, and another immediately said, "Knock his head off;" I took out my steel, and one of them said,"No, No;" I cannot say who it was, but believe it was Groves trying to prevent their touching me.

WILLIAM BARLOW . I am a coal and corn-dealer. I saw a parcel of men and boys coming up the lane by my house, on the 5th of November, about eleven o'clock; I live at the corner of Haggerstone-lane, about a quarter of a mile from where Mr. Brooks was robbed; to the best of my recollection Duff was among them; I never saw him before - I saw nothing of the robbery.

JOSEPH DORMER . On the 5th of November, about eleven o'clock, I saw some persons on the canal-bridge; I

do not know how far it was from where Mr. Brooks was robbed - they were running; I saw Duff among them, and saw him strike a donkey with a stick: I did not see Mr. Brooks.

RICHARD SAUNDERS . I am a constable. On the 5th of November, I was at work in Bridport-place, in the parish of Shoreditch; there was a cry of Stop thief! I ran out, and followed a gang of about thirty as far as the brickfields in Ball's-pond - they stopped there, and threatened to rip me up; I cannot say whether either of the prisoners were there.

THOMAS HAYWOOD . I live in Pelham-street. On the 5th of November I saw the Guy Fawkes; I was near the place where Mr. Brooks was robbed and wounded - I was not quite so near to him as to Mr. Goodyear, who was robbed; I came up after Mr. Brooks was robbed - I saw Wheeler and Groves there - I did not see them doing any thing; it was over: they were going up further - about forty or fifty persons were with them.

JOSHUA ARMSTRONG . I am an officer. I apprehended Wheeler on the 10th of November, at a public-house, and asked him where he was on the 5th - be said he was at home from nine o'clock in the morning till between one and two, making fire-works; nothing further passed then; after I brought him out of the tap-room I told him to go in and sit down again, not being satisfied sufficiently to take him, and in less than five minutes we had information that he had left the house, and was gone to the Bull's Head public-house; I went there, and took him - I told him the charge; he said he should like to see the party, to see if they should know him - he was taken to different houses, and then to the Whitmore's Head, Hoxton; I sent for Taylor, told her to go into the room, and see if she knew any body - she went in, came out, and said she knew one man there, and pointed out Wheeler as one of the men who were round Mr. Brooks at the time he was robbed; Page, the butcher, went in - he came out, and said he knew one man, and pointed out Wheeler: I then told Waters, in the prisoner's presence, to take him - he called to me, in the prisoner's presence, and said, "I want to speak to you;" I went, and Wheeler said, "I am not going to suffer for other chaps - I know the chap who robbed him, and I had a sovereign out of the money at the Halifax Arms, next day;" Groves came to me and surrendered, as he had heard I had been to his master's about him.

Cross-examined by MR. BODKIN. Q.How far is the second public-house from the first? A.About two hundred yards - I had not told him the charge; when I first took him, I asked him about the 5th of November: I went to look after him again in three minutes - I found him then in custody.

THOMAS WATERS . I am an officer of Worship-street. I was with Armstrong when Wheeler was taken - after he had been identified, as I was taking him to the watch-house, he said it was hard to suffer for other people; I immediately called Armstrong to him - he said, "If you will do what is right, I will do what is right;" I said I always did right on duty; he then said, "It was not me that took the purse - it was another chap that took it, and gave me a sovereign out of it the next day, at the Halifax Arms;" I said he had better disclose that to the Magistrate.

WHEELER'S Defence. When Armstrong took me out of the Halifax Arms he let me go again: I went in for a few minutes, and came out and went to the Bull's Head - a man stopped me, and said I wanted to rob him of a cart; he took me into the house - the officers came and said,"We have got you now, and will keep you;" they took me to two or three houses - then took me to a house in Hoxton, among a parcel of respectable people, and fetched the woman in; I was sitting by the side of an officer, and she said, "That is one of them," and as we went along Hattfield said, "I know you know about it, why don't you tell me whether any of the people at the Halifax Arms were with you or not?" I said, "I don't know" - he said,"If you will tell me of six people, I will let you go;" I said, "Would you have me swear to six innocent people? I will do no such a thing" - I have witnesses to prove Taylor has forsworn herself.

QUAY's Defence. People outside can swear I was at home at the time.

GEORGE CECIL . I am a silk-weaver, and live at No. 37, St. John-street; Quay lives in my house, and is in my employ: on the 5th of November I saw him first - about a quarter to eight o'clock he got up; he is a weaver, and works in my house - I had occasion to go out at twenty minutes to eleven o'clock, and left him at work; my wife was then out - I returned at half-past eleven, and found him at home at work; I did not notice his shoes to see if he had been out - I know his father; he was not in my house that day.

MR. ADOLPHUS. Q.What first called your attention to the prisoner on the 5th of November? A.Because I was at work on the 5th, and he worked; I was at work on the 4th and 6th, and he also - I cannot say how far my place is from Hoxton.

MR. PHILLIPS. Q. Do you know where Hoxton is? A. Yes - Quay has lived in my house about three years; he bears an excellent good character - I have left him in my place for days and half days together; I have a deal of silk there.

BETSY CECIL . I am the wife of the last witness. I saw Quay at work on the 5th of November, at half-past ten o'clock; I went out soon after that - he is a hard-working industrious young man.

MR. ADOLPHUS. Q. Did you or your husband go out first? A. I did - at what time he went out I do not know; I did not meet him.

JAMES JOHN QUAY . I am the prisoner's father - he was at work on the 5th of November; he came up to my place where I live, which is right opposite Cecil's, and asked me to give him a bit of stuff to mend his harness - that was about ten minutes before eleven o'clock; after I gave it to him he walked towards the back-window - some boys were letting off some little cannons in the yard; he looked at them, came from the window, and said, "Father, it is just gone eleven o'clock, I shall go back and get to work till dark, and then leave off.

MR. ADOLPHUS. Q. About what time of day did he come to you? A. About ten minutes before eleven o'clock- I know the time by what he told me; he told me the clock had struck eleven - he goes by Spitalfield's clock, which is about a quarter of a mile from our window, and we can plainly hear it; I did not hear it - I am not so quick of hearing, but my daughter heard it.

JOSEPH FLETCHER MOSS . I live at No. 29, Pool-street, New North-road, and am a tailor. I know Sarah Taylor - she was a tenant of mine prior to Michaelmas twelve month; I saw her on the 5th of November at the bottom of Abury-street, facing the canal, about one hundred and fifty or two hundred yards from where the robbery was committed - she had a child in her arms; she remained there in conversation with me about five minutes - there was then a party, a mob returning from towards the Rosemary Branch - she walked towards the mob, and I walked home.

Q. Could you, where you stood, see any thing done in the scuffle? A.Certainly not - she was nearer to it than me, but I did not see the scuffle - it was half an hour after.

MR. ADOLPHUS. Q. This was after the robbery was over? A. Yes.

Seven witnesses deposed to the good character of Quay, and the same number to that of Wheeler.


QUAY - GUILTY - DEATH . Aged 17.

Quay recommended to Mercy by the Jury on account or his good character .




The said prisoners were all again indicted for feloniously assaulting Sarah Warner on the King's highway, on the 5th of November , putting her in fear, and taking from her person, and against her will, 1 handkerchief, value 1s.; 3 shillings; 12 halfpence, and 6 keys, her property. Also for feloniously assaulting John Goodyear , on the same day, and taking from his person, and against his will, 1 seal, value 1s., and 1 key, value 6d., his property ; but no evidence was offered. ACQUITTED


7 November 1867 Page 12 col a

Disgraceful Riot at Malton.—A 5th of November outrage of the most disgraceful nature occurred at Malton on Tuesday night. About 6 o’clock crowds of men and boys began to assemble in the streets, and for four hours literally took possession of the town.  About 9 o’clock the crowd must have reached 500 people, who moved from street to street, setting all law and order at defiance.  The police were totally powerless, and whenever they attempted to assert their authority they were hooted and mobbed, stones and fireworks being thrown at them.  For every policeman there were at least 100 marauders.  For four hours the town was in a most disgraceful state, at times as many as a dozen rockets being fired at once.  It is no exaggeration to say hundreds of rockets, squibs and crackers were let off in the streets.  For several hours it was impossible to pass along the streets, and at one period it was thought desirable that special constables should be sworn in.  As night advanced, and the places where fireworks could be obtained were closed the crowd gradually dispersed.  Guns and pistols however, were fired for some time, and one young man had his arm fearfully shattered.  A disturbance so disgraceful and lawless has never before occurred at Malton.


4 November 1870 Page 6 col b.

The Fifth of November.—Great apprehension prevails in the town of Godalming, in Surrey, lest the 5th of November should be marked by a serious breach of the peace.  For many years it has been customary to have a display of fireworks in the streets, but through the force of public opinion the practice had nearly died out, and there was no reason to suppose that anything more than a few squibs and crackers would be furtively let off.  A few days since, however, some 18 or 20 persons forwarded a requisition to the mayor for a public meeting, with a view to prevent altogether the letting off of fireworks.  This attempt by a portion of the inhabitants to stop the pyrotechnic display elicited a great deal of opposition from those whom it was their intention to overawe.  The mayor convened a meeting in the Town-hall, which was soon filled to suffocation, while a noisy mob outside joined its demonstrations to those which were made within.  The Rev. W. D. Long, the vicar, proposed “That this meeting resolves that the mayor and corporation of Godalming be called on to take sufficient means to stop the letting off of fireworks, the same being the cause of great damage to property, fright to persons, and stoppage to business.” The resolution having been seconded, amidst a scene of great confusion, Mr. H. Bridger moved, as an amendment, “That the corporation not having sufficient means to stop the letting off of fireworks, and the 5th of November being too near at hand to concert any measures of prevention, no steps be taken in the matter.”  The amendment was carried, with only four dissenters, the Vicar protesting that it was illegal.  The mayor asked those who had voted for the amendment to hold up their hands in favour of the preservation of order, but the meeting broke up amid great confusion.  On the Rev. Mr. Long emerging into the street he was mobbed, and the crowd sang in lusty chorus “The Sour Apple Tree.” with special reference to the rev. gentleman, while a few of the roughs raised a cry of “Chuck him into the river.” No one, however, used personal violence, the police and many well-disposed persons being at hand to prevent any such attempt, and he was eventually allowed to proceed to his home in peace.  The stormy proceedings of the meeting and the behaviour of the crowd on this occasion here naturally caused great alarm, and the borough authorities have deemed it advisable to take extra precautions to preserver the peace. The Home Secretary has been communicated with, and the following letter addressed to the Mayor of Godalming, has been received:- “Whitehall, Nov.1,--Sir,--I am directed by Mr. Secretary Bruce to inform you that representations have been made to him respecting the proceedings of a public meeting recently held at the Town-hall at Godalming, where it was proposed that measures should be adopted to prevent the letting off of fireworks in the streets of that place on the approaching 5th of November; and in calling your attention thereto, although the Secretary of State has no doubt that you will feel the necessity of taking such precautionary measures as will prevent ay disturbance of the public order, I am to remind you that the practices complained of are not only objectionable as tending to cause inconvenience and excite alarm, but are expressly opposed to the Godalming Local Act and the General Highways Acts, which forbid the letting off of squibs and fireworks in the public highways; and Mr. Bruce hopes, therefore, that you will take decided and effectual measures for securing obedience to the law.”-E. N. Knatchbull-Hugessen.”  The Mayor has issued copies of the above letter in a public notice which has been extensively circulated, and has called upon every male inhabitant of the borough between the ages of 18 and 50 to attend at the Town-hall for the purpose of being sworn in as a special constable to preserve the peace should it be threatened by to-morrow’s expected proceedings.  In addition to these precautions it is understood that the assistance of a body of police from London will be secured, so that anything short of an actual riot will be put down by a force of overwhelming strength.  The more influential portion of the inhabitants condemn the action of the requisitionists who called the public meeting, and assert that the 5th of November saturnalia would have died a natural death but for the ill-advised proceedings by which the gauntlet has been thrown down to the lower orders of the population.

-Times Of London


1847 One hundred and seventy 'of the principal tradesmen and other

  respectable inhabitants' were summoned to be sworn in as special

  constables. On their way to a meeting on the night of November 4th, they

  were attacked by Bonfire Boys in the High Street. Tar-barrels were lighted

  and several incidents occurred. The police fastened a chain across the road

  near Keere Street and ambushed some of the 'Boys', who were arrested.

  The next day, 100 of the 'A! Division of the Metropolitan Constabulary

  arrived, and great was the excitement in Lewes that evening. It was an

  incident involving the mail-gig from Brighton which brought things to a

  head. Lord Chichester read the Riot Act from the steps of the County Hall

  and gave the crowd five minutes in which to depart. In the free fight that

  ensued, many of the Metropolitan Police were injured, but the streets were

  eventually cleared. Lewes, Sussex

-CBC= Cliffe Bonfire Society. Chronology Cliffe, Lewes Sussex

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When did Masks become Essential?
This image of 1805 demonstrates that masks were not an essential part of the celebration at that time.

The image below of a village celebration of 1857 also shows that  neither fancy dress, masquerade. nor masks were essential components for celebrants.
While conclusive research has yet to be done it appears that masquerade, and fancy dress did not come into the tradition until the formation of bonfire societies in the mid to late 19th century. Jim Etherington notes in the history of the Cliffe Bonfire Society in Lewes Sussex: "the bonfire boys were compelled to hold their celebrations in Wallands Park, away from the High Street, until 1850. In that year the reintroduction of the Catholic hierarchy into Britain led the town authorities to permit the celebrations to return to the High Street. However this return to the streets of Lewes was marked by a significant change in the celebration’s character and heralded the formation of the Cliffe Bonfire Society. Recognising that riotous proceedings would no longer be tolerated the bonfire boys formed themselves into Bonfire Societies and set about organising military style torchlight processions efficiently marshalled by members resplendent in various titles including Commander-in-Chief, Staff Officer and Inspector General."
- This does not mean that the mask concept had not evolved but that a new politically correct phase of the development of "bonfire" had begun. This phase called for more organized masquerade style costuming most likely including the Guy concept.

The image below depicts a 19th Century bonfire celebration in Lewes, Sussex UK. The only guy like representation present is the effigy. A general masquerade atmosphere seems to dominate.

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Early Mask Traditions

1726 Edition

The many functions of the same mask concept/design can be sen in William Hogarth's work of 1725- 1726, " Burning ye Rumps at Temple-Barr. Down with the rump parliament." from Hudibras.

This is an early reference to a procession of effigies, of the rumps being taken to bonfires, which Hogarth illustrates in keeping with the references in the text to the Gunpowder Plot and Butler refers to in terms of thanksgiving. (the celebration of the deliverance from the Gunpowder Treason was considered a Thanksgiving celebration) One can assume that Hogarth is portraying accurately a Guy Fawkes/Bonfire procession of the first quarter of the 18th century.

Hudibras, Samuel Butler.1663-1678, Canto 2, Part III


Who star'd about, as pale as death,
And, for a while, as out of breath,
Till, having gathered up his wits,
He thus began his tale by fits:

That beastly rabble—that came down 1505
From all the garrets—in the town,
And stalls, and shop-boards—in vast swarms,
With new-chalk'd bills—and rusty arms,
To cry the cause—up, heretofore,
And bawl the bishops—out of door; 1510

Are now drawn up—in greater shoals,
To roast—and broil us on the coals,
And all the grandees—of our members
Are carbonading—on the embers;

Knights, citizens, and burgesses— 1515

Held forth by rumps—of pigs and geese,

That serve for characters—and badges

To represent their personages.

Each bonfire is a funeral pile,

In which they roast, and scorch, and broil,

And ev'ry representative

Have vow'd to roast—and broil alive:

And 'tis a miracle we are not

Already sacrific'd incarnate;

For while we wrangle here, and jar, 1525

W are grilly'd all at Temple-bar;

Some, on the sign-post of an ale-house,

Hang in effigy, on the gallows,3

Made up of rags to personate

Respective officers of state; 1530

That, henceforth, they may stand reputed,

Proscrib'd in law, and executed,

And, while the work is carrying on,

Be ready listed under Dun,

That worthy patriot, once the bellows, 1535

And tinder-box of all his fellows ;


 Some, on the sign-post of an ale-house,

Hang in effigy, on the gallows,] For, or instead of, a gallows, would, perhaps, be a more correct reading: it is better to hang the effigy on the sign-post, than the original on the lamp-iron.


Who, for his faithful service then,

Is chosen for a fifth agen: 1540

For since the state has made a quint

Of generals, he's listed in 't.s

This worthy, as the world will say,

Is paid in specie, his own way;

For, moulded to the life, in clouts, 1546

They've pick'd from dunghills hereabouts,

He's mounted on a hazel bavin'

A cropp'd malignant baker gave 'em ;

And to the largest bonfire riding,

They've roasted Cook already, and Pride in ;


He's mounted on a hazel bavin] An hazel faggot, such as bakers heat their ovens with.


On whom, in equipage and state,

His scare-crow fellow-members wait,

And march in order, two and two,

As at thanksgivings th' us'd to do;

Each in a tatter'd talisman, 1555

Like vermin in effigy slain.

But, what's more dreadful than the rest,
Those rumps are but the tail o' th' beast,
Set up by popish engineers,
As by the crackers plainly appears; 1560

For none, but Jesuits, have a mission
To preach the faith with ammunition,
And propagate the church with powder;
Their founder was a blown-up soldier.
Those spiritual pioneers o' th' whore's, 1565

That have the charge of all her stores;

1521. Since first they fail'd in their designs,

To take in heav'n by springing mines,

And, with unanswerable barrels

Of gunpowder, dispute their quarrels,


 Alluding to the gunpowder-plot, in the reign of James I. supposed to have been conducted by the jesuits, and for which Garnet and Oldcorn suffered.


And, with unanswerable barrels

Of gunpowder, dispute their quarrels, 1570

Now take a course more practicable,

By laying trains to fire the rabble,

And blow us up, in th' open streets,

Disguis'd in rumps, like sambenites,*

More like to ruin and confound, 1575

Than all their doctrines underground.

Nor have they chosen rumps amiss,

For symbols of state-mysteries;

Tho' some suppose, 'twas but to shew

How much they scorn'd the saints, the few,

Who, 'cause they 're wasted to the stumps,

Are represented best by rumps.

But Jesuits have deeper reaches

In all their politic far-fetches;

And from the Coptic priest, Kircherus, 1585

Found out this mystic way to jeer us

For, as the Egyptians us'd by bees

T express their ancient Ptolemies,

And by their stings, the swords they wore,

Held forth authority and pow'r; 1590

Because these subtle animals

Bear all their int'rests in their tails;

And when they 're once impair'd in that,

Are banish'd their well-order'd state:

They thought all governments were best 1596

By hieroglyphic rumps exprest.

For, as in bodies natural,

The rump's the fundament of all;

So, in a commonwealth or realm,

The government is called the helm; 1600

With which, like vessels under sail,

They're turn'd and winded by the tail.


-Butler, Samuel, Hudibras; with notes by T.R. Nash, Vol 2, 1835 (1663-1678).


About Hudibras:

The work is a satirical polemic upon Roundheads, Puritans, Presbyterians and many of the other factions involved in the English Civil War. The work was begun, according to the title page, during the civil war and published in three parts in 1663, 1664 and 1678, with the first edition encompassing all three parts in 1684 (see 1684 in poetry). The Mercurius Aulicus (an early newspaper of the time) reported an unauthorised edition of the first part was already in print in early 1662

Published only four years after Charles II had been restored to the throne and the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell being completely over, the poem found an appreciative audience. The satire is not balanced as Butler was fiercely royalist and only the parliamentarian side are singled out for ridicule. Butler also uses the work to parody some of the dreadful poetry of the time.

The epic tells the story of Sir Hudibras, a knight errant who is described dramatically and with laudatory praise that is so thickly applied as to be absurd, and the conceited and arrogant person is visible beneath. He is praised for his knowledge of logic despite appearing stupid throughout, but it is his religious fervour which is mainly attacked:

For his Religion, it was fit
To match his learning and his wit;
'Twas Presbyterian true blue;
For he was of that stubborn crew
Of errant saints, whom all men grant
To be the true Church Militant;
Such as do build their faith upon
The holy text of pike and gun;
Decide all controversies by
Infallible artillery;
And prove their doctrine orthodox
By apostolic blows and knocks;
Call fire and sword and desolation,
A godly thorough reformation,
Which always must be carried on,
And still be doing, never done;
As if religion were intended
For nothing else but to be mended.

His squire, Ralpho, is of a similar stamp but makes no claim to great learning, knowing all there is to know from his religion or “new-light”, as he calls it. Butler satirises the competing factions at the time of the protectorship by the constant bickering of these two principal characters whose religious opinions should unite them.

These are fawning but barbed portraits and are thought to represent personalities of the times but the actual analogues are, now as then, debatable. "A Key to Hudibras" printed with one of the work's editions (1709) and ascribed to Roger L'Estrange names Sir Samuel Luke as the model for Hudibras. Certainly, the mention of Mamaluke in the poem makes this possible although Butler suggests Hudibras is from the West Country making Henry Rosewell a candidate. The witchfinder, Matthew Hopkins, John Desborough, parliamentarian general, and William Prynne, lawyer, all make appearances, and the character of Sidrophel is variously seen as either William Lilly or Paul Neale


The knight and his squire sally forth and come upon some people bear-baiting. After deciding that this is anti-Christian they attack the baiters and capture one after defeating the bear. The defeated group of bear-baiters then rallies and renews the attack, capturing the knight and his squire. While in the stock the pair argue on religion.

Part two describes how the knight's imprisoned condition is reported by Fame to a widow Hudibras has been wooing and she comes to see him. With a captive audience, she complains that he does not really love her and he ends up promising to flagellate himself if she frees him. Once free he regrets his promise and debates with Ralpho how to avoid his fate with Ralpho suggesting that oath breaking is next to saintliness:

For breaking of an oath, and lying,
Is but a kind of self-denying;
A Saint-like virtue: and from hence
Some have broke oaths by Providence
Some, to the glory of the Lord,
Perjur'd themselves, and broke their word;

Hudibras then tries to convince Ralpho of the nobility of accepting the beating in his stead but he declines the offer. They are interrupted by a skimmington, a procession where women are celebrated and men made fools. After haranguing the crowd for their lewdness, the knight is pelted with rotten eggs and chased away.

He decides to visit an astrologer, Sidrophel, to ask him how he should woo the widow but they get into an argument and after a fight the knight and squire run off in different directions believing they have killed Sidrophel.

The third part was published 14 years after the first two and is considerably different from the first parts. It picks up from where the second left off with Hudibras going to the widow's house to explain the details of the whipping he had promised to give himself but Ralpho had got there first and told her what had actually happened. Suddenly a group rushes in and gives him a beating and supposing them to be spirits from Sidrophel, rather than hired by the widow, confesses his sins and by extension the sins of the Puritans. Hudibras then visits a lawyer—the profession Butler trained in and one he is well able to satirise—who convinces him to write a letter to the widow. The poem ends with their exchange of letters in which the knight's arguments are rebuffed by the widow.

Before the visit to the lawyer there is a digression of an entire canto in which much fun is had at the events after Oliver Cromwell's death. The succession of his son Richard Cromwell and the squabbles of factions such as the Fifth Monarchists are told with no veil of fiction and no mention of Sir Hudibras.


1751- Gentleman's Magazine, complaint against throwing fireworks into crows and window breaking and fence burning by
 masked revellers (Hutton 398)

1835- Cartoon of the Reform Bill and Henry Brogham. “Guy Vaux Guy Vaux, Guy and his companions did contrive to blow up
the king and parliament alive!” Depicts a realistic Guy chaired with a mask. Men with sticks, hat on stick. Man in front waves

mask. Guy has matches and lantern.

- Source: Bodleian, John Johnson Collection. VADS, Note however that none of the participants is masked- the mask is taken to

 represent Fawkes.


1846- Lewes, Sussex: "It was with pity and shame I last night beheld the assassin-like and un-English disguise and mask resorted to among

 you (the bonfire boys) to avoid recognition. What can be more cowardly? Is this the mode off action for the open-hearted, open-hnanded

 manly youth of England?…Throw away the shelter of the Italian Bravo, and appear in your true characters as Englishmen, who can never

feel ashamed of being known, when engaged honestly in a good cause."-M.A. Lower, Observations on the Doings in Lewes on the Evening of

5th November (Lewes, 1846), p. 9-10.

In the print below from the Illustrated London News of 1853 Cruikshank employs a very well-developed mask concept
Note that the mask is used as a shortcut for the construction of the effigy and not as worn by celebrants.

1862  Cruikshank creates the chaired floppy Fawkes engraving below for Chambers Book of Days. Effigy has mask. Head falls forward and has a conical hat with ribbons on it. Children also have masks.

In the engraving above from 1882 depicting celebrations in Exeter we have a glimpse of one version of the mask tradition. Special participants around the bonfire taunt the crowd. No one in the crowd has fancy dress or mask so,  perhaps, participants in the drama of bonfire only needed masks both to add to theatrical effects and perhaps to obscure identity.

1903- Kensington, London:  “The guy, an unusually large one, was mounted in a small cart drawn by a pony. It was preceeded, first, by a man ringing a bell, and then by two dancers, wearing costumes resembling that of a clown and masks ot the common painted kind sold in the shops at this season, who danced up the street in front of the effigy in the real old style, lifting the arms in the air alternately, in time to the motion of the feet.  (They did not sing or shout.) For musicians they had a man playing on a shrill long tin whistle or pipe, and another following the cart beating a drum.  A man in women’s clothes walked beside the cart, occasionally cuting a clumsy caper, as well s his clinging skirts would allow.  The rear of the procession was brought up by the clown, capering and curveting and shaking his money-box.  It was a poor vulgar show, no doubt, but it retained in its debased state several  of the principal features of the old Morris-dance. There were the time honoured figures of the Fool and the Bessy, accompanying the dancers; the drum and penny whistle represented the ancient tabor and pipe; while the bell which the Fool formerly wore hung at his back, was now carried in the van to inform the householders of the passing of the show(very possibly the original prupose for which the bell was introduced)”- “Guy Fawkes Day”, Charlotte S. Burne, in: Folk –Lore, Vol. XXIII. December, 1912, No. IV.p.411-12.

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21st Century Examples

From: Alan Moore – meet the man behind the protest mask

by Tom Lamont

Moore on the origins of the mask design concept in V for Vendetta

But Moore has been caught off-guard in recent years, and particularly in 2011, by the inescapable presence of a certain mask being worn at protests around the world. A sallow, smirking likeness of Guy Fawkes – created by Moore and the artist David Lloyd for their 1982 series V for Vendetta. It has a confused lineage, this mask: the plastic replica that thousands of demonstrators have been wearing is actually a bit of tie-in merchandise from the film version of V for Vendetta, a Joel Silver production made (quite badly) in 2006......

It all comes back to Moore.....

"… It's peculiar. It feels like a character I created 30 years ago has somehow escaped the realm of fiction.".....

....."That smile is so haunting," says Moore. "I tried to use the cryptic nature of it to dramatic effect." We could show a picture of the character just standing there, silently, with an expression that could have been pleasant, breezy or more sinister." .....

....."Moore first noticed the masks being worn by members of the Anonymous group, "bothering Scientologists halfway down Tottenham Court Road" in 2008."

But with the mask's growing popularity, Moore has come to see its appeal as about something more than identity-shielding. "It turns protests into performances. The mask is very operatic; it creates a sense of romance and drama. I mean, protesting, protest marches, they can be very demanding, very gruelling. They can be quite dismal. They're things that have to be done, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're tremendously enjoyable – whereas actually, they should be."

At one point in V for Vendetta, V lectures Evey about the importance of melodrama in a resistance effort. Says Moore: "I think it's appropriate that this generation of protesters have made their rebellion into something the public at large can engage with more readily than with half-hearted chants, with that traditional, downtrodden sort of British protest. These people look like they're having a good time. And that sends out a tremendous message.".....

...."He sees parallels between the dystopia predicted in the story and the world today. The book foretold the prevalence of CCTV cameras on city streets, for instance; and Moore takes a particular satisfaction in a strand of the plot that seemed to anticipate the sort of internet-based dissent that has made groups such as Anonymous and Assange's WikiLeaks such major agents of protest. "The reason V's fictional crusade against the state is ultimately successful is that the state, in V for Vendetta, relies upon a centralised computer network which he has been able to hack. Not an obvious idea in 1981, but it struck me as the sort of thing that might be down the line." Moore is not computer-literate. "This was just something I made up because I thought it would make an interesting adventure story. Thirty years go by and you find yourself living it."

He is careful to point out that "I have no particular connection or claim to what [the protesters] are doing, nor am I suggesting that these people are fans of mine, or of V for Vendetta." Ultimately, use of the mask may be down to the simple fact that "it's cool-looking. I'm not trying to make a proprietorial statement."

He is also aware of how badly things can go wrong when a fiction of his spreads too far from source. Last year, an unhinged man in Florida went on a shooting spree in a school, spray-painting a "V" symbol on the wall (matching a symbol that appears in the comic and film incarnations of V for Vendetta) before killing himself. "A horrible, pointless episode," says Moore. "So there's always... Now I didn't feel responsible, but..." He does not finish the thought, but trusts the V mask will remain an essentially peaceful tool of protest. "At the moment, the demonstrators seem to me to be making clearly moral moves, protesting against the ridiculous state that our banks and corporations and political leaders have brought us to."

David Lloyd, V for Vendetta's co-creator, has admitted going along to a demo in New York to see the masks in use. The extent of Moore's own activism has been "a good moan in the local pub"; he does not see himself donning a mask ("Be a bit weird, wouldn't it?"). But his sympathies are with the protesters, and there is a clear sense of pride for him that so many people – if not "the 99%" then a great, unignorable bloc – have caused such a stir. "It would be probably be better if the authorities accepted this is a new situation, that this is history happening. History is a thing that happens in waves. Generally it is best to go with these waves, not try to make them turn back – the Canute option. I'm hoping that the world's leaders will realise this."

Back in the early 80s, approaching the end of Vendetta's epic 38-part cycle, Moore was struggling to think of another "V" word with which to title a closing chapter. He'd already used Victims, Vaudeville and Vengeance; the Villain, the Voice, the Vanishing; even Vicissitude and Verwirrung (the German word for confusion). "I was getting pretty desperate," he says.

He eventually settled on Vox populi. "Voice of the people. And I think that if the mask stands for anything, in the current context, that is what it stands for. This is the people. That mysterious entity that is evoked so often – this is the people."


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