logo Enthusiasms No 37
A collection of shorter pieces on subjects of
interest, outrage or enthusiasm ...

A Wonderful New Website

One of the most interesting websites to appear in a good long while is that featuring transcriptions of the printed volumes chronicling the proceedings of the Old Bailey.  At present the first half of the eighteenth century is covered, but a much broader chronological span is planned.  A friend 'in the know' tells me that further trial details are due to be posted on the site during 'late spring,' and that the project will be completed early in 2004.  From her research point-of-view, things will hot up after 1788, when numerous Gypsies begin to be transported or hanged, primarily for horse stealing.  But already there is a considerable amount to interest at least some readers of Musical Traditions.

Far from being dry and boring, the trial accounts bring to life an era which is most often inaccessible, and which seldom appears with such vivid detail, unmediated by the prejudices of historians.  In addition to lurid and often quite unsettling accounts of atrocities perpetrated within the underbelly of London society, here may be found numerous performance details of a traditional culture long since defunct of fiddlers, dancers, singers, dancing masters, owners of public houses where dancing took place (including an early reference to an Irish dance club in London), and music played in booths at fairs.

In the wake of reading many of the trial details I was listening to the excellent Topic double CD of Harry Cox.  His phenomenal repertory included numerous ballads and songs derived from broadsides, issued, by and large, during the nineteenth century, but including some which had been in currency prior to that date.  Armed now with these accounts I found I was able to appreciate the details of the songs with a renewed intensity.  Many themes run throughout both sources sailors ashore, bilked by painted doxys of their bright golden store; masked highwaymen robbing on the King's highway; the injustices of transportation to Van Dieman's Land, often for seemingly inconsequential offences.  In fact, all the rigs of the time.

The website is fully searchable by keyword, either singly or in a combination of two words or more, and response time is very fast.  In addition to recent transcriptions of the published blackletter proceedings, reproductions of the original pages are accessible with a click of a mouse.  One problem is highlighted in blackletter script many of the 's' characters (though not all - there was a formal usage) appear as an 'f'.  This has resulted in a number of errors.  Most amusingly, perhaps, is a relatively frequent appearance of that unusual musical personage, the 'sidler'.  No doubt such errors will be corrected as time and opportunity allow.

In addition to the trial accounts, the advertisements which appear in the published volumes have also been transcribed.  These too hold a fascination.  Before you rush off to examine the site at your leisure, I offer details of the following two books, newly-published in 1731, which bear directly on research currently being undertaken by scholars:

Advertisement from Old Bailey Proceedings; Humphrey Parsons , Session VII, Wednesday 8th September 1731, 1-20 The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Ref s17310908-426

The Singing Master's Guide to his Scholars: With the Psalms according to the Old and New Translations ; the Old on one side, and the New on the other.  By several Hands , viz. Sternhold and Hopkins, Barton, Patrick, Tate and Brady, Milbourne and Sandys.  Contriv'd for Common Use With the Tunes in Two Parts.  By Daniel Warner . of Ewelm in Oxfordshire, Singing-Master.  Price bound 2 s 6d.

This Day is Publish'd,
WITT Musically Embelish'd; being a Collection of Forty New English Ballads; the Words by divers eminent Hands set to Musick, with a thorough Bass for the Harpsichord, by Mr. John-Frederick Lampe , and the Tunes all transposed for the Flute.  Price 5 s.  Engrav'd, Printed and Sold by T. Cobb, who marry'd the Widow of Mr. John Cluer , at the Printing-Office in Bow-Church-Yard , London.  Where may be had the Third Edition of the Modern Musick-master , or the Universal Musician .  Consisting of Instructions to Singing , and Directions to play on the Common Flute, German Flute, Hautboy, Violin, Harpsichord, or Organ.  With a brief History of Musick, from its Origin to this present Time.  In which Volume is included many other valuable Pieces, engrav'd on above 320 Plates, price 7 s. 6 d.  Also, Books of Instructions for any single Instrument, pr. 1 s. 6 d.

Keith Chandler - 10.3.03

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