The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #128220   Message #2868948
Posted By: Lighter
21-Mar-10 - 08:33 PM
Thread Name: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Bullies, I will go out on a limb to say that no earlier commentator, including the great Hugill, Whall, Colcord, and Doerflinger, knew anything significant about shantying before the 1830s (its rise or anything else) that we have not already covered on the "SF to Sydney 1853" thread.

Even Whall and Robinson were far too young to have observed the early years of shantying-as-we-know-it. The same goes for Sharp's and Carpenter's singers. Dana might have learned something useful at second hand if he'd thought to ask.

Everything they say about it is hypothetical. (Which is not to say it is necessarily wrong.) When Doerflinger writes of a "revival of shanty-singing" after the War of 1812, he's making the unwarranted assumption that shanties (songs, not singouts, made specifically for shipboard work) were well-known before the war - a statement for which we have no evidence at all. I believe these authorities were placing too much significance on the scattered references to sailors chanting or singing in ancient and medieval times.

Patterson (who gives some unique and therefore questionable info)claimed that "Whisky, Johnny" was originally sung in Elizabethan times as "Malmsey, Johnny." He gave no evidence, and there doesn't seem to be any.

Hugill showed that while the "anatomical ptogression" of the bawdy "A-Roving" did appear as a song in Heywood's "Rape of Lucrece," Heywood's song wasn't presented as a sea song and there's no reason to assume that it was. The song itself is not identical to "A-Roving."

Gibb, my placement of the dawn of the shanty around 1820 may well be a few years too early, but shanties seem to have been frequent enough on the brig Pilgrim in 1834. With no media coverage, telephones, or downloads, it must have taken at least a few years for the practice to become a custom. My guess is that that happened during the mid to late 1820s, but admittedly that's just a guess based on insufficient evidence.