The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46310 Message #3887531
Posted By: GUEST
08-Nov-17 - 10:14 AM
Thread Name: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
I do quite like Lloyd's version.
What made Lloyd so partial to the name St James Hospital?
Well we can only guess. It has become part of the mythology about the song created by various mainly US folklorists (Lodewick, Barry, Wayland Hand (or some similar name). It was Lodewick who appears to have first asserted that the name came from St James Hospital, London, a claim for which he gives absolutely no reference/example. This is somewhat typical of those folkloric articles. Lodewick is the source of the Dublin/Cork mistake on Goldstein's liner notes as well.
My thought at the moment is that the jazz hit is crucial to this, the Armstrong St James Infirmary Blues. The specific mention of St James is a persuasive part of the argument that St James Infirmary derives from a British song. And Lloyd was one of those advancing this idea. Lloyd himself only ever pointed to the song Sharp collected in the Appalachians which had the words St James in. He never cited a British Isles version (not surprisingly, because after six months of following back references and searching indexes, I have been unable to find any such thing)
The other point here is that modern listeners would not know what a Lock Hospital was. There is a great deal of tosh online about this in connection with St James and the Rake. My Oxford dictionary gives a definition (venereal disease hospital) and earliest usage (about 1770). If he used the only 19 century version he appeared to have access to (the Such) he would have had to say Lock Hospital. I think the origin of Lock hospital may come from a Greek word meaning to do with childbirth (ie gycaecological) as my dictionary helpfully lists lochia close to lock hospital. This makes sense to me, though of course women could be locked up in these without trial/appeal in the late 19 century when there was a big panic about public health and venereal disease, resulting in contagious disease acts, which you can google if you like. This context for me explains why there were broadsheets: the old song has been described as 'homiletic'.
I am thinking that one thing Lloyd set out to do in his version was sort of sum up what he knew about the song. Then I think he alters the song to fit the assertions he has made about it in his articles.
The 2nd Lloyd article on the song and the first (the Keynote one and the Sing one) both mention the Such broadside. Lloyd takes two verses out of this, ones that make the venereal disease hints fairly strong.
In his essay be comments on the bravado with which the funeral is ordered: so he alters the last verse to state 'don't muffle your drums' whereas the 19c versions state that the drums should be muffled. My thinking this is to fit his view of what the song was about, to make it more 'cohesive', if you like.
I believe the bit about muskets he made up, and the 'bright muskets' seems definitely to be a bit of Lloyd poetic touch. Muskets were replaced by rifles, and sound olde worlde, so might appeal. The old versions say 'guns'.
I do like Lloyd's version, but having ended up feeling a bit 'conned' when I honestly took it to be a faithful rendering of some 19 century original, which, as far as I can ascertain it isn't.
Thank you for reading.