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Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al

16 Mar 00 - 05:56 AM (#195958)
Subject: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: Tony in Darwin

'(One of)...the chief musical events of the (late Victorian) period...(was)...the rescue and recording of English folk-song at the last moment before universal standardization education would have obliterated it...

The first serious collector of English folk-songs had been the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, a Devonshire parson of the old highly cultivated type, who besides writing some successful novels and two of the best-known modern English hymns (Onward, Christian soldiers and Now the day is over), published in 1889 a collection of songs and tunes obtained from old singers in his native county. Before him it had been widely assumed that (save perhaps on the Scottish border) the English people, unlike the Germans, Scots, Welsh and Irish, had no folk-songs worth mentioning. His discoveries were quickly followed by others in other parts of England. Collections by W.A.Barrett, F.Kidson, and Lucy Broadwood (with J.A.Fuller-Maitland) appeared within four years; and in 1898 the English Folk-Song Society was founded. Yet all this was but preliminary to the main effort.

About 1903 the Rev C.L.Marson, vicar of Hambridge in Somerset, discovered folk-songs among his parishioners, and in 1904 he brought down a musical friend from London, Cecil Sharp (1859-1924), to record them. The back parts of pastoral Somerset were then - with similar parts of Lincolnshire - probably the most isolated in England. Sharp recorded nearly one hundred folk-songs in Hambridge alone, and by Marson's aid he was enabled to collect a great many more in the regions round. Five volumes edited by Marson and himself were the result. Thenceforward he made folk-music his life-work. Besides songs he collected dances; and having mastered the old dance notation proceeded (after 1906) to launch the folk-dance movement also. In these ways a unique and precious heritage of the English people, both in music and dance, was saved from extinction within the narrowest possible margin of time.

In the story of its rescue Sharp's name leads all the rest, for his wonderful energy and enthusiasm put him easily at the head of the achievment. But the first initiatives, it will be seen, came, as was almost inevitable in those days, from the cultivated country clergy. Had the work been done a century earlier, it might have made a contribution to English literature as well as to music. But words corrupt more easily than tunes; and the versions in which they survived, at that late stage in the dissolution of English country life, were mostly of little interest save to ballad specialists.'

from 'England, 1870 - 1914' by R.C.K.Ensor, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, Oxford University Press, Ely House, London W.1, 1936, pp544-5.

See also the excellent info at:

Now, although this was about Rev. S. Baring-Gould, there will doubtless be an onslaught of derisive comments about what a bastard Cecil Sharp was, and how I could dare to mention his name in the same (type-written & quoted) breath as the Rev. Sabine etc.
And fair enough too - in some circles Sharp is thought to be more a bowdleriser than a collector, and that English folk-heritage suffered from his censorship of less-than-wholesome thoughts...

Let the battle commence! [BG]


16 Mar 00 - 06:51 AM (#195967)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: Alan of Australia

There is a web page on B-G. Click here.

'at one time he had listed under his name in the catalogue of the British Museum Library more books than any other English author...' - Rev. Bickford Dickinson, B-G's grandson & biographer. (Taken from a foreword written by Cyril Tawney for a compilation of B-G's writings called "Myths of the Middle Ages").

On the subject of C#, whatever you may think of his published versions of folk songs, the fact remains that he collected thousands of songs in England and later in the Southern Appalachians, far more than any other collector. Without him much of this would have been lost altogether.


16 Mar 00 - 07:08 AM (#195972)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: Alan of Australia

Some C# links:-

A short biography.

Click here if you're feeling rich.

And then there's this.


16 Mar 00 - 07:17 AM (#195974)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: Malcolm Douglas

Baring Gould bowdlerised for publication too, and may indeed have been a worse offender (by today's standards) than Sharp.  The idea was to get the songs taken up by the middle classes, so they had to be "nice".  That's just the way things were at the time.  We owe both men an enormous debt.


16 Mar 00 - 07:58 AM (#195992)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: Stewie

Hi Tony, D.K. Wilgus was rather scathing of the cleric in question:

At the one extreme are the collections of S. Baring-Gould and H. Fleetward Sheppard. These collectors alone tinkered with both texts and tunes. Their manner of dealing with the tunes was to collect as many variants as possible and either to give 'that form of the air which seemed ... most genuine' or 'to discover what was the original form of the air, which deflects this way or that according to the capabilities or idiosyncrasies of the singers'. Unfamiliar folk intervals were modified to humour the public. Most of the musical liberties seem to have been corrected by Cecil Sharp in the 1905 edition of 'Songs and Ballads of the West'; and fortunately the original materials collected by Baring-Gould, Sheppard and F.W. Bussell are deposited in the municipal library at Plymouth. The published texts are bowderlerised, emended, shortened, rewritten, extended; they suffer every possible indignity, especially addition by the Rev Sabine Baring-Gould. This worthy was emulating the Scots more completely than any of the other collectors, seeking to perform for English traditional song what Burns and Ramsay did for the 'stupid and nasty songs of Scotland': take them in hand and rewrite them. Though the good cleric butchers the text and aids in 'restoring' the tunes, he does provide, however, particularly in Songs and Ballads of the West', the fullest notes of any of these collectors. [D.K. Wilgus 'Anglo-American Folksong Scholarship Since 1898 Rutgers Uni Press 1959 pp126-127]

Cheers, Stewie.

16 Mar 00 - 08:14 AM (#196000)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: GeorgeH

Well thank heavens that Malcolm Douglas (and, I'm sure Malcolm would accept, many others, including Carthy himself) are capable of a better balanced view than D K Wilgus (whoever Wilgus is he seems every bit as much a product of his class as Sharp and Baring-Gould, and markedly more pompous, too). Whatever their "failings" from the perspective of contemporary liberal society, B-G, Sharp etc. fell in love with the music they heard, and our own musical experiences are so much the richer as a result.

Also - the processes of editing for performance (including combining different versions, matching words to the tune of a different song, etc) have been commonplace in "the revival" (Carthy, and Bert Lloyd, etc). Of course, as with many of the victorian collectors, they also preserve the original material . .

So - can someone please tell me what Mr "Holier than Thou" Wilgus has contributed to MY musical enjoyment, 'cause I have a pretty clear view of the contributions of Sharp, Baring-Gould, Carthy and Lloyd!


16 Mar 00 - 09:12 AM (#196034)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: Stewie

The aim of Wilgus, a well-respected folksong scholar, was to write 'a critical history of folksong study', and that is exactly what he did. By its very nature, the history had to be critical - as every history is. Quite rightly, he was critical of some of B-G's methods. He points out that it was only in the 20th century that folksong study developed from 'an antiquarian, esthetic and literary pastime toward a disciplined study of a segment of traditional culture'. The comment re B-G has to be seen in the context of his overall purpose. George, it might be worth your while reading his book before condemning him out of hand. Perhaps you would rather we simply put all folksong collectors on pedestals. He is not denying that B-G played an important role, but it is to scholarhip's greater benefit that the original materials were preserved. You may believe that there is no place for critical folksong scholarship and that your 'musical enjoyment' is all that is important - and that's fair enough. There's little point in shooting messengers simply because they present facts that are not to your liking.


16 Mar 00 - 09:59 AM (#196060)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: GeorgeH

Stewie, I take your point.

But no, I don't need to read Wilgus before commenting adversely on that section of him which you quoted. I merely remarked on him with the same "sensitivity" he shows towards the Victorian collectors; his remark "they" [the traditional material] "suffer every possible indignity . . " shows a failure to understand the nature and ownership of "the tradition" every bit as profound as that of the victorians, and less excusable simply because we do now have a fuller understanding of the tradition.

This is not to deny that Wilgus may offer both worth and interest to me. But can you please tell me why "it is to scholarhip's greater benefit that the original materials were preserved". Scholarship certainly carries its own benefits, which are independent of the material being studied. I do see benefits in the original material having been preserved (the credit for which goes to the Victorians, not their detractors), but certainly not for its benefit to modern-day scholarship.

Sure, there is a place for "Critical folk song scholarship" - that's a description which can be applied to what is (in my opinion) the best of the Mudcat. Such scholarship serves to heighten others' understanding, awareness and appreciation of "Folk". As it happens, most (but not all) "academic" folk song song "Scholarship" I've seen stikes me as essentially bogus navel-gazing. Wilgus may be an exception, but your quote from him augers ill. Just what "facts" does he express? His views are heavily overlaid with his own judgemental sneering, and it's with seeming reluctance that he conceeds that BG provides "the fullest notes of any of these collectors". The extract you give us isn't good scholarship, it's more on the level of propagandist popular journalism.

As for putting people on pedestals - well, yes, I'd like to do that to all who promote our wonderful traditions; even Wilgus can have his (rather lower than the victorians, though) . . that's not to place any of them beyond FAIR AND REASONED criticism ("no gods, and precious few heros" is my belief). Your extract from Wilgus must stand or fall in its own right; to my mind it shows a profound lack of understanding and falls.


16 Mar 00 - 08:09 PM (#196411)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: McGrath of Harlow

Stewie, me eyes are buzzing reading your posts - break up the paragraphs please - imagine if GeorgeH had done his longer post the same way you did your pair, (A little <, followed by a >, with a P in between at tyhe end of the paragraphs will do the job fine... )

17 Mar 00 - 06:11 AM (#196674)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: Stewie

Greetings, George. Earlier, I could have said it was a fine St Patrick's day, but now it's pissing down here, as it has over the last few weeks.

I take your point too, but I really don't think the good Dr Wilgus's credibility or sensitivity need necessarily stand or fall on the passage that I quoted. Tony was looking for a bit of controversy and I threw that in to cut the grease of any hagiography that might ensue. I must say, though, that I agree with most of what Wilgus had to say. However, I was unfair to him in that I quoted him out of context. It was 1 am and I had no inclination to type or paraphrase further.

A reading of the extract alone could convey the impression that Wilgus was suggesting some dishonesty or deception on the part of B-G. That is far from the truth. He is at pains to point out that no editorial dishonesty was involved, that these Victorian editors were 'not of the tribe of Percy' and that their basic honesty could not be questioned. Their aim was to introduce traditional song into middle class life 'by providing tunes and texts for performance and appreciation, not for study'. He points out that this is a laudable aim but, from the scholarly viewpoint, 'the value of the collections was diminished'. He agrees with what Malcolm said above - that it was the way of the times. However, he also points to the activities of Lucy Broadwood, Fuller-Maitland and the early members of the Folk Song Society as a contrast to the B-G approach.

The fact remains that B-G added, amended, bowdlerised, rewrote, emended or shortened texts. You ask why it is to the greater benefit of scholarship that the original texts be preserved. Wouldn't you agree that any scholarship can only be as good as its materials? If the scholar is to deal with B-G amended texts rather than the original materials, he is already another remove from the tradition. The original materials themselves are problematic enough with collations from chapbooks, Fortey ballad sheets etc without the rewritings of the collectors. I admit that 'butchers' may be somewhat intemperate, but the basic point holds.

I must admit to a personal fondness for Wilgus because he was one of the few scholars, until very recently, to recognise that old-time or hillbilly music is worthy of serious study. Wilgus has paid his dues to the folk song community as a singer of folksongs in the late 30s when few were interested, as a member of the Kentucky Folklore Society, as founder and editor of the Kentucky Folklore Record and as founder of the Kentucky Folklore Archive, as well as numerous publications. I agree that navel-gazing folksong academics abound, but Wilgus is not one of them. He can be difficult going at times, but he is never abstruse or incomprehensible in the fashion of Cantwell and others. And his book is a classic!

One final quote from him:

In the fire of acrimonious debate and on the anvil of reason are being forged the tools of a scholarship that is at once scientific and humane ... In 1937, Reed Smith suggested that to 'the things that the Psalmist held to be past finding out - the way of a man with a maid, the way of the eagle in the air and the way of the serpent on the rocks'- one might add 'the way of a folksong in oral tradition'. To the glory of the 20th century scholars, they have continued to track the untrackable with heat and light.

Regards, Stewie.

Regards, Stewie.

15 Aug 16 - 03:29 AM (#3805183)
Subject: ADD: Now the Day Is Over
From: Joe Offer

I would think this is Sabine Baring-Gould's most famous composition. Any corrections?

Thread #32698   Message #431758
Posted By: wysiwyg
03-Apr-01 - 01:03 AM
Thread Name: BS: To whom it may concern

Oh, I get it--another Bizarre Moment. Ah well. Always good to post another song. Any thread will do ya know. Lessee...

Oh yes. A lullabye.


Words: Sabine Baring-Gould, 1865 (Last verse mod. Susan Hinton)
Music: "Merrial," Joseph Barnby, 1868

Now the day is over,
Night is drawing nigh,
Shadows of the evening
Steal across the sky.

Now the darkness gathers,
Stars begin to peep,
Birds, and beasts and flowers
Soon will be asleep.

Jesus, give the weary
Calm and sweet repose;
With Thy tenderest blessing
May mine eyelids close.

Grant to little children
Visions bright of Thee;
Guard the sailors tossing
On the deep, blue sea.

Comfort those who suffer,
Watching late in pain;
Those who plan some evil
From their sin restrain.

Through the long night watches
May Thine angels spread
Their white wings above me,
Watching round my bed.

When the morning wakens,
Then may I arise
Pure, and fresh, and sinless
In Thy holy eyes.

Glory to the Father,
Glory to the Son,
Glory to the Spirit,
While the ages run.

15 Aug 16 - 05:53 AM (#3805200)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: Jack Campin

One of Baring-Gould's more influential pieces of work was in a very different field: his book on werewolves was one of Bram Stoker's major sources for "Dracula" and played a key role in starting the whole modern horror genre. (A first edition of that book is fantastically rare and VERY expensive - no dealer has one in stock, you'll have to trawl for book auctions).

He also wrote a very good travel guide to the French Riviera, based on a lifetime's experience (he grew up in France). Better than what H.V. Morton did a few decades later.

15 Aug 16 - 08:49 AM (#3805217)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: McGrath of Harlow

Maybe "Onward Christian Soldiers" is better known especially as a tune.

15 Aug 16 - 09:22 AM (#3805221)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: leeneia

I often see posts complaining that songs were bowdlerized.

Why is it, that whenever a nice version and a dirty version of a tune are in circulation, that the dirty version is assumed to be the original? The dirty version may simply be a parody.

Rhythm and rhyme are hard work. Why would poets want to write dirty songs that would never leave the pub or the ditch, when they could write nice songs that would go into general circulation?

15 Aug 16 - 10:01 AM (#3805226)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al

Why would poets want to write dirty songs that would never leave the pub or the ditch, when they could write nice songs that would go into general circulation?


a) They weren't poets

b) They wrote for the amusement of themselves and their friends

c) 'Nice songs' tend to be really dull

15 Aug 16 - 10:03 AM (#3805227)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al

Burns wrote bawdy versions of a number of his poems and songs, given that he was often in various kinds of trouble, perhaps he had a financial motive.

15 Aug 16 - 11:02 AM (#3805233)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: GUEST,Derrick

            I think the situation worked both ways,some coarse songs were "cleaned up" to appeal to a polite audience and some polite songs acquired a coarse version.
The Victorians were very prim and proper in the area of sexual relations,covering ankles and the bottoms of table legs be seen to be correct.

15 Aug 16 - 11:26 AM (#3805240)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: Steve Gardham

All a matter of personal taste. It takes all sorts to make a world, thankfully.

15 Aug 16 - 01:30 PM (#3805253)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: GUEST,Ellen Vannin

The Victorians didn't cover table/piano kegs etc for modesty. That's a myth. However the content of many folksongs would have been illegal to publish at the time because of their perceived obscenity. If published in their entirety they would have had to buried in academic obscurity. Just as any racist folksong would be now. Different times, different sensitivities.

15 Aug 16 - 03:31 PM (#3805261)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: Joe Offer

Leeneia has a point - in this day and age, the bawdy songs seem to be mostly parodies of songs meant for a broader audience, so one would think that the same would hold true for the bawdy songs of old.

There are certain clues that indicate when a text has been changed, either to bawdy or from bawdy. Sometimes, it takes some good sleuthing to figure out which was the original text.

And I'm not so sure "bowdlerizing" is so bad. There are lots of really good songs from the 19th century that simply cannot be sung nowadays because of their racist or sexist language. The Cat Came Back is a perfect example, as well as many of the songs of Stephen C. Foster.

But if bowdlerize we must, I should hope we would do it carefully, and not lay "political correctness" on too thick.


15 Aug 16 - 08:50 PM (#3805304)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: McGrath of Harlow

There's a difference between songs using plain speech and real life and the calculated nudge-nudge bawdry of a lot of broadsheet versions. And there's a difference between what people might sing in the pub and in the kitchen or at a celebration.

And just because the people who make songs might be unknown and illiterate, that doesn't mean what they make isn't poetry.

16 Aug 16 - 08:41 AM (#3805354)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: GUEST,oldnic kilby

If you look at the original field note books it is easy to see when the song is getting "raunchy " as he often wrote " This is too crude to take down " and his writing got somewhat shaky.

16 Aug 16 - 08:02 PM (#3805456)
From: McGrath of Harlow

The other hymn we can thank Baring-Gould for is the lovely carol,
"THE ANGEL GABRIEL FROM HEAVEN CAME", which is a translation from the Basque.

And here it is for those who haven't come across it:

The angel Gabriel from Heaven came,
His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
"All hail," said he, "thou lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favored lady," Gloria!

"For know a blessèd mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee,
Thy Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
Most highly favored lady," Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
"To me be as it pleaseth God," she said,
"My soul shall laud and magnify His holy Name."
Most highly favored lady, Gloria!

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
In Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,
And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say—
"Most highly favored lady," Gloria!

17 Aug 16 - 02:27 AM (#3805488)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: Mr Red

The Victorians didn't cover table/piano kegs etc for modesty.
My Aunt, who knew many Victorians, thought that was why they did it. It is clear that it was a fashion, at some stage, in the Victorian era. And fashion never was allied to function, other than as an extremely short-lived fad.

Martin Graebe has done a lot of research on the Sabine Baring Gould collection. There is a contact page on his website.

17 Aug 16 - 06:00 PM (#3805630)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: The Sandman

"The Victorians didn't cover table/piano kegs etc for modesty. That's a myth."
then give us a good reason why they did it, my grandfasther who was born in the 1880s thought that was the reason, but you obviously know better.

18 Aug 16 - 07:06 AM (#3805668)
Subject: RE: Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould et al
From: McGrath of Harlow

Why should a fashion need a good reason, or any reason at all?