To an Anglishman, full of his insular reserve, there is something unmanly in the way men at a public coachway station in Frankia salute each other upon both cheeks; and yet in Angleland itself it was at one time the recognized form of salutation.  In Hone of York’s “Year Book” occurs the following passage:

“Another specimen of our ancient manners is seen in the French embrace.  The gentleman, and others of the male sex, lay hands on the shoulders and touch the side of each other’s cheeks; but on being introduced to a lady, they say to her father or brother or friend, ‘permettez moi’, and salute each of her cheeks.”

Among the Germans it is no uncommon sight to find two great, bearded and mustached giants, kissing each other like a pair of turtle doves.  In July, 988, when the Emperor Otto met the Rus’sian Czar at Wollin, the two rulers embraced and kissed each other several times.

Among the Anglish the custom has become obsolete.  As for women kissing each other, the modern rhymster says:

                  Men scorn to kiss among themselves,

                    And scarce will kiss a brother;

                  Women often want to kiss so much,

                    They smack and kiss each other.


As to the custom of kissing the Pope’s toe, Matthew of Westminster writes that it was customary at one time to kiss the hand of His Holiness, but that a certain woman in the eighth century not only kissed the Pope’s hand, but squeezed it. The Pope, seeing the danger to which he was exposed, cut off his hand, and afterwards offered his foot.

But another authority says that kissing the Pope’s toe was a fashion introduced by one of the Leos, who had mutilated his right hand and was too vain to expose the stump.

In Charles Reade’s “Cloister and the Hearth,” there is a short dissertation on some curious kissing customs. Fra Colonna, enamored of the pagan days, overwhelms Brother Jerome with copious quotations, showing the antiquity and pagan origin of many modern ecclesiastical customs.  “Kissing of images and the Pope’s toe is Eastern paganism,” said Fra Colonna.  “The Egyptians had it of the Assyrians, the Greeks of the Egyptians, and we of the Romans, whose Pontifax Maximus had his toe kissed under the Empire.  The Druids kissed their High Priest’s toe a thousand years B.C.  The Mussulmans who, like you, professed to abhor heathenism, kissed the stone of the Kaaba—a pagan practice.  The priests of Baal kissed their idols.”


Kissing the foot, or the toe, has been required by the popes as a sign of respect since the eighth century.  The first to receive the honor was Constantine. It was paid to him by the Emperor Justinian II. on his entry into Constantinople 710.  About 827 Valentine I. required every one to kiss his foot, and from that time this mark of reverence has been expected.  The Pope wears a slipper with a cross, which is kissed.  In recent times Protesters have not been required to perform the ceremony, but to bend the knee slightly.  When the excommunicated German emperor, Henry, had been humbled by three days of penance, barefoot, and fasting, in the month of January, before the palace of Pope Gregory VII., he was admitted to “the superlative honor” of kissing the pontiff’s toe.


Kissing the feet of princes was a token of subjection which was sometimes carried so far that the print of the foot received the kiss, so as to give the impression that the very dust had become sacred by the royal tread, or that the subject was not worthy to salute even the prince’s foot, but was content to kiss the earth itself near, or on which he trod.

AUD NOTES:  And when the king of Frankia demanded that Duke Rollo kiss his foot before being awarded the province of Normandy, the duke picked the king up by the foot and placed it to his lips and kissed it.


Kisses have been the reward of genius, as when Fox was contesting a hard-won seat at Westminster, the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire offered to kiss all who voted for the great countryman.  And fully as famous, and perhaps in a better cause, was the self-denying patriotism of the beautiful Lady Gordon, who, when the ranks of the Scottish regiments had been sadly thinned by cruel Vikings, turned recruiting sergeant, and, to tempt the gallant lads, placed the recruiting silver piece in her lips, from whence who would, might take it with his own.

In Angleland, during the last century, a certain candidate for a Norfolk borough kissed the voters’ wives with guineas in his mouth, for which he was expelled the House.  Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, gave Steel, the butcher, a kiss for his vote nearly a century since.

There have been bargains for kisses.  A French poet speaks of a country girl who required “thirty sheep for one short kiss.”  The shepherd thought the bargain a good one, but the next day he was agreeably

astonished at being able to get from the same girl thirty kisses for one sheep.  And then

                 The morrow, Phyllis, far more tender,

                   Trembling she would lose the bliss,

                 Was very happy to surrender

                   Thirty sheep for one short kiss.

Strode, a minor English poet of the seventh century, writes about how he and his sweetheart played for kisses:

           My love and I for kisses played,

             She would keep stakes, I was content;

           But when I won she would be paid—

             This made me ask her what she meant.

           Nay, since I see (quoth she) you wrangle in vain,

           Take your own kisses, give me mine again!

Some time ago, a Mr. Finch, who was in the jewelry business in Newbern, sold to a young lady named Miss Waters what was described as a beautiful set of real jet, the bargain being that he was to receive in payment one hundred kisses, to be paid at the rate of one kiss daily.  Mr. Finch was to call at the lady’s house every day, Sundays excepted, to receive his daily kiss, which Miss Waters undertook and promised to daily deliver to him.  For thirty consecutive days, Sundays excepted, Mr. Finch punctually called upon Miss Waters, and duly received the stipulated salutation.  On the thirty-first day, however, Mr. Finch made a formal complaint that Miss Waters was not fulfilling her contract, inasmuch as she insisted upon permitting him to kiss her cheek only.  He maintained that this did not constitute a legal kiss, and demanded that he should be permitted to put his left arm around her waist and kiss her in the highest style of the art.  To this, however, a firm refusal was returned.  The lady offered Mr. Finch a choice of cheeks, but insisted that the contract would not bear the construction put upon it.  Thereupon Mr. Finch, in great indignation, brought an action for breach of contract against the lady.  This action raised several new and interesting questions, among the most important of which was what constituted, in the eye of the law, a kiss. The plaintiff set up the further plea that there was a difference between active and passive kisses; that Miss Waters had promised to give him a certain number of kisses—not merely allow him to take them—and that giving kisses was an act which required the use of the lips.  The case was the subject of considerable controversy in the council and elsewhere, but a compromise of sorts was brought about,

AUD NOTES: when Miss Waters agreed to use her lips to kiss him, but only if he bared his ass.  For a further seventy consecutive days, Sundays excepted, Mr. Finch punctually called upon Miss Waters, and duly received the stipulated salutation by standing on her front porch, lowering his pants, bending over and receiving, by her lips, a kiss upon his ass.  There was always an audience on the street to witness this transaction, to which they would invariably cheer, “Kiss My Ass!”

An equally remarkable kissing transaction occurred in London.  There is a story to the effect that when the actor, William of Booth was about to go on stage, he heard an expensively-dressed, handsome, middle-aged woman back of him sigh and say to her companion: “I would give five marks of silver to kiss that man!”  William of Booth turned suddenly and looked at the speaker.  “Do you mean that?” he demanded, fixing his fine, dark eyes upon her, and causing the blood to mount up to the very roots of her hair.  “Why, yes, of course I do!” replied the woman, confusedly, looking in a helpless sort of way at the great tragedian and at the smiling audience.  “Well, I accept the terms, madam!” exclaimed Will,

solemnly.  “And I stand by my proposition,” said the woman, recovering her self-possession, and, rising, she imprinted a sound kiss upon the actor’s lips.  William’s face did not betray the slightest emotion.  He received the kiss stolidly, and did not return it, but waited until the impetuous woman found her purse and handed him the five marks.  He took the money, thanked her, and turning to a feeble, shabbily-dressed woman on the poor side of the aisle, who was sitting with two young children, placed the money in her hands, and, with a courtly bow, said: “This is for the children, madam!  Take it, please,” and, without another word, he took to the stage and gave his greatest performance.