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Lyr Req: 'Courtenay' Victorian ballad, Kent UK

Paul Burke 11 Aug 10 - 05:35 PM
GUEST,oaktree 12 Aug 10 - 07:44 AM
GUEST,oaktree 12 Aug 10 - 07:45 AM
GUEST,oaktree 12 Aug 10 - 07:47 AM
GUEST,oaktree 12 Aug 10 - 07:48 AM
Paul Burke 12 Aug 10 - 01:37 PM
Jim Dixon 19 Aug 10 - 04:21 PM
Jim Dixon 19 Aug 10 - 04:23 PM
Jim Dixon 19 Aug 10 - 04:25 PM
Jim Dixon 19 Aug 10 - 04:26 PM
Jim Dixon 19 Aug 10 - 04:50 PM
Paul Burke 19 Aug 10 - 05:35 PM
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Subject: Lyr Req: 'Courtenay' Victorian ballad, Kent UK
From: Paul Burke
Date: 11 Aug 10 - 05:35 PM

In Philip Rogers' excellent book, "The Battle in Bossenden Wood" (OUP 1961), he mentions in a footnote a ballad composed about the event.

A deranged vintner from Truro, John Tom, had disappeared in 1837 while on a business trip, and reappeared in Kent as "Sir William Courtenay". Avoiding a sentence of transportation for perjury and released from incarceration as a lunatic, he gathered a band of followers with quasi-religious millenarian promises, and led them aimlessly around the North Kent countryside for a day, during which he killed a man who dared to stand up to him. Eventually the band was cornered by the militia, a skirmish followed, and Tom was killed, along with some of his followers and some soldiers. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Hernhill churchyard, while some of his surviving followers were transported to Australia.

The footnote says "...Julia de Vaynes, editor of a collection of Kentish broadsides, poems etc. printed in 1882 (The Kentish Garland),. In the index, under Courtenay (Vol. II, p. 900, she wrote..." (a criticism of the local vicar's failure to conduct a proper funeral ceremony).

Does anyone have access to this, or any other ballad about the event?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Courtenay' Victorian ballad, Kent UK
From: GUEST,oaktree
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 07:44 AM

I used to have a small collection of songs old and new (there's a musical!) about the Battle of Bossenden Wood and "Sir William Courtenay" but they're currently packed in a box in the roof of someone else's house in another county.

Ballad about "Courtenay".


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Courtenay' Victorian ballad, Kent UK
From: GUEST,oaktree
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 07:45 AM

Hmm, the comment is only getting through with a single link so I've split it.

Another partial lyric.

I believe the whole book is downloadable as a 17mb .pdf via this page.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Courtenay' Victorian ballad, Kent UK
From: GUEST,oaktree
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 07:47 AM

Let's try two more this time.

Verses found in "Courtenay"'s pocket after his death.

Tribute on youtube.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Courtenay' Victorian ballad, Kent UK
From: GUEST,oaktree
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 07:48 AM

And lastly....

Website about the musical.

Page at h2g2 about the musical.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Courtenay' Victorian ballad, Kent UK
From: Paul Burke
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 01:37 PM

Thanks oaktree, that's brilliant. I particularly like the bit of mythmaking by slight re- ordering of events in the musical. By over- condensing, I did a bit of that myself in the precis above. He was away from his family much longer than I'd suggested, and the "insurrection" lasted three days, not one.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Courtenay' Victorian ballad, Kent UK
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 04:21 PM

From The Kentish Garland, Volume 1: The County in General edited by Julia H. L. De Vaynes, with additional notes [etc.] by Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth (Hertford: Stephen Austin & Sons, 1881), page 328ff:

Kentish Election Group.

We do not consider our opening volume on The County in General could claim to be fairly representative of our Kentish ballad literature, without the insertion of a few flowers or weeds of the poetical (?) crop which plentifully sprang up and flourished during the Kentish elections of by-gone years; when an election was an election indeed, the Ballot undreamed of: while banners, brilliant colours, brimming bumpers, and broken heads, were grand and recognized institutions. We cannot pass over (though they belong to a later period than the majority of our political songs,) the eccentric writings which graced the candidature of one of the most extraordinary beings who ever sought the favour of any constituency?John Tom, of Truro, alias Sir William Percy Honeywood Courtenay, Knight of Malta, heir of Powderham Castle, and the Hales estate. Arriving at Canterbury in the beginning of September, 1832, he issued addresses to the electors of the old cathedral city, dated sometimes from his hostelry the "Rose," and at others from Powderham Castle. The opening one on Dec. 5th ought to have at once disposed of any doubt regarding the mental state of its author, and from one to five shillings was offered for copies. Its successors rivalled it in absurdity, but they were nearly outdone by the contents of his weekly paper The Lion, which terminated, after eight numbers, on May 4th, 1833. The fourth number, for April 6th, contained an amusing and mythical account of its author's adventures, in which his style and titles are thus declared:?"Sir William Courtenay, the only male child of the last Lord Courtenay, of Powderham Castle, Devon, heir to the Hales's blood and other lands, King of Jerusalem, Prince of Arabia, King of the Gypsies, Defender of his King and Country, etc." At the City Nomination, on Dec. 10th, 1832, Sir William Courtenay, in presenting himself to the body of citizens assembled in the Hall, did it in the most extraordinary manner, bounding over the heads of those who were before him, and alighting on the table in a theatrical attitude, perfectly à la Kean; his costume adding to the effect of the scene, being composed of crimson velvet and gold, with a mantle and cap to correspond, silk stockings of the same colour, and Turkish slippers, and though considerably handsome, also considerably disfigured by a super-abundance of moustache, etc.*

When the poll was closed on Dec. 12, Sir William had received 375 votes, the numbers for his opponents being?Hon. R. Watson, 834, and Lord Fordwich, 802. The author of the amusing pamphlet, The Eccentric and Singular Productions of Sir W. Courtenay, K. M., etc. (from page 6 of which the above extract is taken), remarks in his introduction (page 4):

"If it be asked how it happened that a stranger, and a stranger with so many evident marks of lunacy about him, could for a moment be thought of, or could find a proposer and seconder on the day of nomination, we must leave the question unanswered. We believe, however, we are not far from the truth, when we add, that there was more of joke than of earnest, more of whim than of serious intention in the business, from first to last. It was laughed at by all parties in the beginning, and while going on; and had the hoax turned out successful, we should like to know who could have refrained from laughing, and that, too, most immoderately."

Sir William was convicted of perjury, on July 25th, 1833, at Maidstone, and sentenced to three months' imprisonment, to be followed by seven years' transportation, but his insanity being certified by the surgeon of Maidstone Gaol, he was removed to Barming Heath, where it would have been better had he spent the remainder of his days, so that the county might have been spared the spectacle of disgraceful ignorance and superstition displayed in "the Courtenay riots," terminating in the Blean Wood tragedy of May 31st, 1838. This madman assured his followers that he had come to earth in a cloud, and would be removed from them in the same manner; that neither bullets nor weapons could injure him or them, if they had faith in him as their Saviour; and that if leader or followers appeared to be slain and their bodies were kept three days, being washed every night with water, on the third day they would return to life! We were assured by the niece of one of his dupes, that (in one case, at least,) the experiment was tried in full faith of success! From the pieces which appeared in "Sir William's" organ, The Lion, and their Election predecessors, we reproduce the following: The Song, and A New Song, are given on page 12 of the collection of Bills, Letters, etc., given in The Eccentric and Singular Productions of Sir W. Courtenay.

[I have put the songs in separate messages following this one.--JD]

We gladly take our leave of "Sir William" and his friends; returning to other and saner subjects. In our Election Group we have no desire to rake together the smouldering ashes of party feuds and prejudices, but only strive to preserve a few noteworthy "squibs," allowing each side to have its say: a fair field and no favour.

* W. Harrison Ainsworth, in Rookwood (Book III. Chapter V.), gives a capital ten stanza ballad on "Sir William," entitled, The Knight of Malta: A Canterbury Tale. ("Come list to me, and you shall have, without a hem or haw, sirs.") The "Knight" thus describes his appearance in verses 2-4:?
    To execute my purpose, in the first place, you must know, sirs,
    My locks I let hang down my neck?my beard and whiskers grow, sirs:
    A purple cloak I next clapped on, a sword tagged to my side, sirs,
    And mounted on a charger black, I to the town did ride, sirs.

    With my coal-black beard, and purple cloak,
    jack-boots, and broad-brimmed castor,
    Hey-ho! for the Knight of Malta!


    Two pages were there by my side, upon two little ponies,
    Decked out in scarlet uniform as spruce as macaronies;
    Caparison'd my charger was, as grandly as his master,
    And o'er my long and curly locks I wore a broad-brimmed castor.

    With my coal-black beard, &c.

    The people all flocked forth, amazed, to see a man so hairy,
    Oh! such a sight had ne'er before been seen in Canterbury!
    My flowing robe, my flowing beard, my horse with flowing mane, sirs!
    They stared?the days of Chivalry, they thought, were come again, sirs!

    With my coal-black beard, &c.
The 9th stanza succinctly describes the circumstances which caused his conviction for perjury:
    At the trial of some smugglers next, one thing I rather queer did,
    And the justices upon the bench I literally bearded;
    For I swore that I some casks did see, though proved as clear as day, sirs,
    That I happened at the time to be some fifty miles away, sirs.

    With my coal-black beard, &c.
Mr. Ainsworth in a note to his ballad gives an excellent account of this madman, extracted from "An Essay on his Character, and Reflections on his Trial, published at the theatre of his exploits;" Charles Mackay has an article on the subject in his work on Popular Delusions, and it forms the theme of a very full and most interesting paper in the First Series of Mr. E. Walford's Traditions of Great Families.


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Subject: Lyr Add: SONG. On Sir William Courtenay...
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 04:23 PM

Ibid.

Song.
[On Sir William Courtenay, Knight of Malta.]


HEALTH to the brave, the gallant Knight,
The Knight of Malta is our own;
Preserved thro' many a dang'rous fight,
He comes to make our cause his own;
He comes to make our cause his own,
To save us from oppression's grave,
Your labours with success to crown:
He comes, the poor, th' opprest to save.

Then hail him, hail the lib'ral Knight,
O! make, my friends, his cause your own:
He'll heal your wounds, assert your right,
If with success his cause you crown.

Sir William's wise, religious, just,
He wishes but to see you free;
My friends, in God then put your trust,
And hail this star of Liberty.
Hear him but speak, all doubt is lost,
His manner confidence demands,
Support him without fee or costs,
And for him hold up both your hands.

Then aid, O! aid the gallant Knight,
To drive corruption from the throne!
O! aid him in the glorious fight;
I mean the fight of words alone!

My friends, with firm persuasive words
Boldly your mighty cause sustain;
Ne'er may the murd'ring strife of swords
Be sought but on a foreign plain.
O! England! O! my native land,
Still may'st thou flourish great and free,
And may we all, with heart and hand,
Support the cause of Liberty!

But while in Freedom's cause we pray,
We'll hold the scales with even hand,
That we may not be dup'd by Grey,
The tool of wily Tallyrand.


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Subject: Lyr Add: A NEW SONG. On Sir William Courtenay...
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 04:25 PM

Ibid.

A New Song.

TUNE, God save the King.

O LORD our God behold,
Our joys, how manifold,
At Courtenay's fame,
Freemen, let all unite,
And strive with all my* might,
To bring him in this night,
Be it your aim.

Long has our Courtenay mourned,
Sighed for past joys?return?
Where are they flown?
Gone with corruption's sway,
Britons, ye'll rue the day,
Unite with Courtenay pray,
As 'twere thy own.

Yet may we see the day,
May God behold, and stay
Corruptive power.
Be not your hearts dismay'd,
Bravely your parts you play'd,
Neither desert your aid,
At the last hour.

With wisdom planted strong,
Dauntless he'll face the throng,
Whilst in his power;
And when this day shall close
With the corruptive dose,**
Let's bravely face our foes
To the last hour.

Thus may our God protect
Brave Courtenay, step by step,
Nor on him lour!
May laurels grace his brow,
In this our cause just now!
Then fervently we'll bow
At the last hour.

* Sic in original.
** Ditto.


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Subject: Lyr Add: A SONG. In honour of Sir Wm. Courtenay's
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 04:26 PM

Ibid.

[The Lion, No. 7, April 27, 1833.]
A Song.
Tune, The King! God bless him!

Composed in honour of Sir Wm. Courtenay's triumph of Truth over Injustice.

OH, now let us greet our Champion's return,
With legal advice did we press him,
That the Corporate body might have, in their turn,
A just and a hearty good dressing.
And now since our Courtenay's with victory crown'd,
In the joy of our pride we address him;
Then with heart and with soul, let the bumper go round?
Here's a health to Sir William! God bless him!

We'll welcome to Boughton this friend of the poor,
Who are anxiously waiting to cheer him;
He's faithful and just?what can we say more?
Oh, no?we can never forget him.
With four faithful friends?James and Georges combined,
To them we did fearlessly trust him,
Then with heart, and with soul, let the bumper go round?
Here's a health to Sir William! God bless him!

And now let us offer up gratitude's pray'r
To the Divine Redeemer of all,
For him, who now tastes of deliverance sweet,
From foes who would wish to enthral.
And may he continue, supported by truth,
With friends who know how to caress him;
Then, with heart and with soul, let the bumper go round?
Here's a health to Sir William! God bless him!

April, 1833.

Sole Agent:
John Waters Banks, 46, Union Street, Northgate.
Printed & published by Elijah Lazarus, Canterbury.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE KNIGHT OF MALTA (W. H. Ainsworth)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 04:50 PM

From Rookwood: a Romance, Volume 2 by William Harrison Ainsworth (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1834), page 23:


THE KNIGHT OF MALTA,
A Canterbury Tale.

Come list to me, and you shall have, without a hem or haw, sirs,
A Canterbury pilgrimage, much better than old Chaucer's.
'Tis of a hoax I once played off, upon that city clever,
The memory of which, I hope, will stick to it for ever.

With my coal-black beard, and purple cloak, jack-boots, and broad-brimmed castor,
Hey ho for the Knight of Malta!

To execute my purposes, in the first place you must know, sirs,
My locks I let hang down my neck?my beard and whiskers grow, sirs;
A purple cloak I next clapped on, a sword tagged to my side, sirs,
And mounted on a charger black, I to the town did ride sirs,

With my coal-black beard, &c.

Two pages were there by my side, upon two little ponies,
Decked out in scarlet uniform, as spruce as maccaronies;
Caparisoned my charger was, as grandly as his master,
And o'er my long and curly locks I wore a broad-brimmed castor.

With my coal-black beard, &c.

The people all flocked forth, amazed to see a man so hairy,
Oh! such a sight had ne'er before been seen in Canterbury!
My flowing robe, my flowing beard, my horse with flowing mane, sirs!
They stared?the days of chivalry, they thought, were come again, sirs!

With my coal-black beard, &c.

I told them a long rigmarole romance, that did not halt a
Jot, that they beheld in me a real Knight of Malta!
Tom à Becket had I sworn I was, that saint and martyr hallowed,
I doubt not just as readily the bait they would have swallow'd,

With my coal-black beard, &c.

I rode about, and speechified, and everybody gullied,
The tavern keepers diddled, and the magistracy bullied:
Like puppets were the townsfolk led in that show they call a raree;
The Gotham sages were a joke to those of Canterbury,

With my coal-black beard, &c.

The theatre I next engaged, where I addressed the crowd, sirs,
And on retrenchment, and reform, I spouted long and loud, sirs,
On tithes, and on taxation, I enlarged with skill and zeal, sirs,
Who so able as a Malta Knight, the malt tax to repeal, sirs.

With my coal-black beard, &c.

As a candidate I then stepped forth to represent their city,
And my non-election to that place was certainly a pity!
For surely I the fittest was, and very proper very,
To represent the wisdom and the wit of Canterbury.

With my coal-black beard, &c.

At the trial of some smugglers next, one thing I rather queer did,
And the justices upon the bench I literally bearded;
For I swore that I some casks did see, though proved as clear as day, sirs,
That I happened at the time to be some fifty miles away, sirs,

With my coal-black beard, &c.

This last assertion, I must own, was somewhat of a blunder,
And for perjury indicted they compelled me to knock under;
To my prosperous career this slight error put a stop, sirs,
And thus crossed the Knight of Malta was at length obliged to hop, sirs.

With his coal-black beard, and purple cloak, jack-boots, and broad-brimmed castor,
Good bye to the Knight of Malta!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Courtenay' Victorian ballad, Kent UK
From: Paul Burke
Date: 19 Aug 10 - 05:35 PM

Jim, thanks. It's difficult to imagine that less than 200 years ago, ordinary people could be taken in by a lunatic who claimed extraordinary powers and privileges and led them to poverty, destruction, and death, and didn't emerge unscathed himself.


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