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A Newly Discovered Musical Setting from Fletcher’s Beggars9 Bush John P. Cutts An early seventeenth-century musical setting of a song from Fletcher’s Beggars’ Bush has come to light, and that in quite remarkable circumstances. James Walter Brown recorded in 1920-1921 that he had in his possession two manuscript partbooks compiled c.1637 by Thomas Smith, later bishop of Carlisle, which contained several songs not extant elsewhere.1 He had received them in February 1917 from the widow of a friend with a letter saying “I found the enclosed among my hus­ band’s books, and thought they might be of some interest to you. If so, please keep them; if not, burn them.” Brown remembered his friend claiming to have bought them from an old book stall and, realizing how narrowly they had escaped destruction, deter­ mined that their proper home was the “Bodleian library in Ox­ ford, where they were copied and ‘sowne together’ nearly 300 years ago”; there they would be more accessible to students than in the Chapter library of Carlisle Cathedral where he had first thought of placing them. The part-books never got to the Bodleian; they are indeed in the Cathedral library at Carlisle.2 By kind permission of the Cathedral Chapter I have been provided with a complete micro­ film of the two part-books, and am in process of drawing up a detailed description of their contents, but preliminary investi­ gation has uncovered important material which I feel it neces­ sary to record separately at this time. Apparently Brown held onto the part-books personally for some time, judging from a note pencilled in the manuscript itself to the effect that he sent the manuscript books “To Dr. E. H. Fellowes/13th March 1924” and “Received them back 101 102 Comparative Drama /31 May 1924.” These manuscript books contain settings of several songs from the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher (Brown himself in his first article [p. 573] had claimed that “two of them” were by John Fletcher, but he did not identify them) and Fellowes himself brought out a few years later an edition3 of whatever musical settings of songs from the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher he could find supplementary to Lindsay’s list.4 The strange fact is that Fellowes did not avail himself of the set­ tings in the Smith MS. part-books which up to that time had certainly not proved extant elsewhere. The Smith MS. had settings of two songs from The Mad Lover. “Arme, arme, arme, arme, ye scoutes are all come in” [In the Altus book pp. 113-18, but written out with Treble and Bass complete. Unascribed but entitled at the end “ye Battle”] “Orpheus I am come from the world below” [In the Bassus book pp. 94-95, but written out with Treble and Bass separately but complete] and one from Beggars’ Bush “Bring out yor conny-skins faire maides to mee” [In the Bassus book pp. 96-97, but written out with Treble and Bass separately but complete] The last one is the subject of this present paper because it has proved extant nowhere else whereas the former two have sur­ vived in other manuscripts and have been the subject of fairly recent study.5 Brown concluded his two excursions into the manuscript part-books with quoting a modernized (i.e., expanding abbrevi­ ations) text (p. 296) of “Bring out yor conny-skins faire maides to mee” as a fitting close, “a ditty in Autolycus’s vein” to this “bundle of sheets and patches,” without noticing at all that this was one of Fletcher’s songs. Presumably, therefore, the two Fletcher songs Brown claimed to have noticed must be those from The Mad Lover, both of which are extraordinary speci­ mens of dramatic settings vastly superior, in their attempt to be dramatic, to almost every one Fellowes actually published. Both would have been a boon to scholars had their existence been known in the 1930’s so that they could have been published. These two Mad Lover settings did not come to light in other manuscript sources until many years later. And yet it would be strange...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 101-105
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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