1823 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas D'Urfey

John Wilson, et. al., in Blackwood's Magazine (July 1823); Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 1:332-33.



TICKLER. Look over any of the song-books that contain the ditties of our grandmothers or great-grandmothers, and you will scarcely ever turn up a song familiar to any body but professed readers.

ODOHERTY. More's the pity. By all that's laughable, the reflection saddens me. Pills to Purge Melancholy, has become a melancholious book in itself. You read page after page, puzzling yourself to make out the possibility — how any human mouth could by any device have got through the melodies — the uncouth melodies—

BULLER. You know Tom D'Urfey's plan? He used to take a country dance, the more intricate the better — for as you see by his dedication, he prided himself on that kind of legerdemain — and then put words to it as well as he could.

ODOHERTY. I know — I know — but I was saying that it is an unpleasant sort of feeling you have about you, when you peruse, like a groping student, songs that you are sure made palace and pot-house ring with jollity and fun in the days of merry King Charles, and warmed the gallantry of the grenadiers of Britain at the siege of Namur, under hooked-nose Old-glorious, or of

Our countrymen in Flanders
A hundred years ago,
When they fought like Alexanders
Beneath the great Marlbro'.

NORTH. Ay, "the odor's fled." They are like uncorked soda-water. Honest Tom D'Urfey, I think I see him now in my mind's eye, Horatio. Holding his song-book with a tipsy gravity, and trolling forth—

Joy to great Caesar,
Long life and pleasure,

With old Rowley on his shoulder, partly out of that jocular familiarity which endeared him to the people in spite of all his rascalities, and partly to keep himself steady, humming the bass.