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Sea Shanty - 19th century Brit Lit?

comstone 24 Apr 11 - 04:47 PM
Gibb Sahib 24 Apr 11 - 05:04 PM
MGM·Lion 25 Apr 11 - 12:16 PM
Steve Gardham 25 Apr 11 - 06:54 PM
curmudgeon 25 Apr 11 - 08:47 PM
Charley Noble 25 Apr 11 - 09:14 PM
Jack Campin 25 Apr 11 - 09:19 PM
Gibb Sahib 25 Apr 11 - 11:06 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 26 Apr 11 - 06:46 PM
MGM·Lion 27 Apr 11 - 01:10 AM
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Subject: Sea Shanty - 19th century Brit Lit?
From: comstone
Date: 24 Apr 11 - 04:47 PM

Looking for references to shanties sung in 19th century (or early 20th century) British Literature.

I understand that the Royal Navy didn't sing shanties during work (so say two sources on shanties). But the merchant marines did, of course. Yet I can find no references to shanties in 19th century British fiction -- novels, short stories, poetry. It seems the Conrad and fellows overlooked the shanty as a real experience of the men as they worked.

Anyone know of fiction that depicts these shanties in British/Irish/Scottish/Canadian literature?

Grateful,
Bruce


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanty - 19th century Brit Lit?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 24 Apr 11 - 05:04 PM

Chanties weren't well known enough by the general population to be a really effective literary device until, perhaps, the 1880s. Kipling started using them in poetry. At some point in the early 20th century, the idea of chanties became popular and, according to my belief (so far something of a hypothesis because I have not combed all those sources), it was their use in British literature that helped enshrine them as something thought to be especially representative of British heritage.

Our biggest list of references to chanties is the "Advent and Development of Chanties" thread, which has really combed the 19th century well. However, some references in fiction, which don't add any new evidence for chanty history -- references that are obviously just based on secondhand information -- have admittedly been glossed over starting in the late 19th and early 20th century. The references just become too numerous and repetitious (derivative) to note for the purpose of musical history (as opposed to literary history). I have turned up many references in the 1910s and 1920s that I have rejected for that reason.
Unfortunately, I have not kept detailed stock of which of those were British as opposed to American, etc.


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanty - 19th century Brit Lit?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 25 Apr 11 - 12:16 PM

Moby Dick has only one or two shanty refs ~~ in particular in ch 22, where, tho Captain Bildad had forbidden the singing of profane songs on board, "the hands at the windlass ... roared forth some sort of chorus about the girls in Booble Alley with hearty good will" -- surely "Haul Away For Rosie".

The description of the singing of "15 Men" with Long John Silver as shantyman at beginning of ch 10 of Stevenson's Treasure Island accords precisely with descriptions of how shanties were sung & used; tho this song seems to have been made up by RLS himself, & the period [a few years after after the battle of Fontenoy 1745, in which one of the main characters, Dr Livesey, had fought] a bit early.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanty - 19th century Brit Lit?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 25 Apr 11 - 06:54 PM

The 2 that immediately spring to mind are 'Spin a Yarn Sailor' by Sinbad, and 'Two years before the Mast' by Dana.


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanty - 19th century Brit Lit?
From: curmudgeon
Date: 25 Apr 11 - 08:47 PM

I had thought that comstone was only concerned with British Lit. If not, add "Story of a Bad Boy" by Thomas Bailey Aldrich{1869} to the list of American Lit.

Tom


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanty - 19th century Brit Lit?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 25 Apr 11 - 09:14 PM

Bruce-

There's a wealth of shanties here for you to review as Gibb Sahib has pointed out. You've got your work cut out for you.

Can you define more precisely what you are looking for and why?

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanty - 19th century Brit Lit?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 25 Apr 11 - 09:19 PM

I don't know if you count these as literature, but there was one genre that might have references: the emigrant travel diary.

There must be thousands of these in existence - lots of people going on one-way trips across the ocean or on long military voyages would often keep them, and they often survive in family heirloom collections or, if you really get lucky, a publicly accessible library. Hardly any of them have been published. Most of the people who kept them would never have encountered shanties before, so they'd be a new experience, something you'd want to write down.


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanty - 19th century Brit Lit?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 25 Apr 11 - 11:06 PM

"the hands at the windlass ... roared forth some sort of chorus about the girls in Booble Alley with hearty good will" -- surely "Haul Away For Rosie".

Hmm. Marryat also mentioned "Buble Alley" in his description of a "Sally Brown" chanty at the brake windlass in 1837 -- assuming that Booble Alley is what got you thinking?

It seems to me rather unlikely that they would be saying "haul away..." while heaving at the windlass. I do think it was possible that "booble alley" was being rhymed with "Sally," and even the phrase about "round the corner, sally," since that was in evidence in Melville's time.

Looks like the "Booble" phrase first turns up in evidence connected with "Haul Away Joe" in C. Sharp's 1914 collection.

Yes, Bruce, do elaborate on your interest. Why is "British/Irish/Scottish/Canadian" literature of interest? Is it (for example) to contrast with American literature (where one finds many more references)? I'm curious...


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanty - 19th century Brit Lit?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 26 Apr 11 - 06:46 PM

From Treasure island - I've always taken to be a reference to shanties:-
'I remember him looking round the cove and whistling to himself as he did so, and then breaking out in that old sea-song that he sung so often afterwards:

"Fifteen men on the dead man's chest—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!"

in the high, old tottering voice that seemed to have been tuned and broken at the capstan bars.'

Is that the sort of thing you meant?


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanty - 19th century Brit Lit?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 27 Apr 11 - 01:10 AM

I wrote of that one, Al, and the use to which it was actually put later at beginning of ch 10, in 3rd post on this thread above.

~M~


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