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John Gay on street ballad singers

Jack Campin 06 Jun 18 - 04:57 AM
Jim Carroll 06 Jun 18 - 06:15 AM
Lighter 06 Jun 18 - 11:06 AM
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Subject: John Gay on street ballad singers
From: Jack Campin
Date: 06 Jun 18 - 04:57 AM

From "Trivia, or the Art of Walking the Streets of London", 1715-17.

Let not the Ballad-Singer's shrilling Strain
Amid the Swarm thy list'ning Ear detain:
Guard well thy Pocket; for these Syrens stand
To aid the Labours of the diving Hand;
Confed'rate in the Cheat, they draw the Throng,
And Cambrick Handkerchiefs reward the Song.

The whole poem is a terrific description of urban chaos.

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Subject: RE: John Gay on street ballad singers
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Jun 18 - 06:15 AM

Terrific poem Jack - thanks
Jim Carroll

This from the same century
The Bag-Piper In Tottenham-Court Road, Daniel Defoe
The following traditionary anecdote, which has an imme¬diate reference to De Foe's story of the blind piper, is derived from the London Magazine for April, 1820: it was addressed to the editor by a correspondent; but the original source of the information has not been ascertained.
"I forward you a rather remarkable anecdote relative to a statue, the original work of the famous Caius Gabriel Cibber, which has, for many years, occupied a site in a garden on the terrace in Tottenham-Court Road.
" The statue in question is executed in a fine free-stone, representing a bag-piper in a sitting posture, with his dog and keg of liquor by his side; the latter of which stands upon a neat stone pedestal.—The following singular history is attached to its original execution:—
"During the Great Plague of London, carts were sent round the city each night, the drivers of which rung a bell, as intimation for every house to bring out its dead. The bodies were then thrown promiscuously into the cart, and conveyed to a little distance in the environs, where deep ditches were dug, into which they were deposited.
"The piper (as represented in the statue) had his constant stand at the bottom of Holborn, near St. Andrew's church. He became well known about the neighbourhood, and picked up a living from the passengers going that way, who generally threw him a few pence as the reward of his musical talent. A certain gentleman, who never failed in his gene¬rosity to the piper, was surprised, on passing one day as usual, to miss him from his accustomed place: on inquiry, he found that the poor man had been taken ill, in consequence of a very singular accident.—On the joyful occasion of the arrival of one of his countrymen from the Highlands, the piper had made too free with the contents of his keg: these so overpowered his faculties that he stretched himself out upon the steps of the church, and fell fast asleep. Those were not times to sleep on church steps with impunity. He was found in that situation when the dead-cart went its round; and the carter, supposing of course, as the most likely thing in every way, that the man was dead, made no scruple to put his fork under the piper's belt, and, with some assistance, hoisted him into his vehicle, which was nearly full, with the charitable intention that our Scotch musician should share the usual brief ceremonies of interment. The piper's faithful dog protested against this seizure of his master, and at¬tempted to prevent the unceremonious removal; but failing of success, he fairly jumped into the cart after him, to the no small annoyance of the men, whom he would not suffer to come near the body: he further took upon himself the office of chief mourner, by setting up the most lamentable howling as they passed along.
" The streets and roads by which they had to go being very rough, the jolting of the cart, added to the howling of the dog, had soon the effect of awakening our drunken musician from his trance. It was dark, and the piper, when he first recovered himself, could form no idea either of his numerous companions or of his conductors. Instinctively, however, he felt about for his pipes, and playing up a merry Scotch tune, terrified, in no small measure, the carters, who fancied they had got a legion of ghosts in their conveyance. A little time, however, put all to rights;—lights were got; and it turned out that the noisy corpse was the well-known living piper, who was joyfully released from his awful and perilous situation. 'The poor man fell bodily ill after this unpleasant excursion; and was relieved, during his malady, by his former benefactor, who, to perpetuate the remem¬brance of so wonderful an escape, resolved, as soon as his patient had recovered, to employ a sculptor to execute him in stone,—not omitting his faithful dog, keg of liquor, and other appurtenances.
"The famous Caius Gabriel Cibber (father to Colley Cibber the comedian) was then in high repute, from the circum¬stance of his having executed the beautiful figures which originally were placed over the entrance gate of Old Bethlem Hospital; and the statue in question of the Highland Bag¬piper remains an additional specimen of the merits of this great artist.
“It was long after purchased by John the great Duke of Argyle, and came from his collection, at his demise, into the possession of the present proprietor."
The little garden mentioned in the preceding extract was nearly opposite to Howland-street; but some years ago a small shop, afterwards occupied as a toy-shop, was built upon it, in front of the house distinguished as No. 178, Tottenham-Court Road.   The statue was removed and sold.

From The Journal of the Plague, Daniel Defoe, 1772
Appendix V1, pp346, 1882 edition

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Subject: RE: John Gay on street ballad singers
From: Lighter
Date: 06 Jun 18 - 11:06 AM

Thanks, guys. Great stuff.

DeFoe's "Journal of the Plague Year" was published in 1722.

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