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THE FINE OLD ENGLISH GENTLEMAN.
THE FINE OLD ENGLISH GENTLEMAN.
This song is altered from an old ballad, entitled "The old and young Courtier." Pepya writes in his Diary, June 16, 1668 : "Come to Newbery, and there dined—and musick: a song of the * Old Courtier of Queen Elizabeth,' and how he was changed upon the coming in of the King, did please me mightily, and I did cause W. Hewer to write it out." The old ballad begins:
An old song made by an aged old pate
Of an old worshipful gentleman, who had a great estate,
That kept a brave old house at a bountiful rate,
And an old porter to relieve the poor at his gate;
Like an old courtier of the Queen's
And the Queen's old courtier.
The " Fine old English Gentleman " was made the subject of a curious copyright trial, an account of which is given by Mr. Henry Phillips, in his "Recollections." He says: " Having been invited to an evening party in the City, where music was to be the presiding deity, I met (I believe for the first time) an amateur of some celebrity, Mr. Crewe, whc> was a bookseller in Lamb's, Conduit Street, and possessed of a beautiful voice. He sang the Irish melodies charmingly, generally without accompaniment, which gave them a wildness and originality, that at times was quite enchanting. ' Rich and rare were the gems she wore,' was- one of his great songs; in fact, I think he rarely escaped without singing it. This evening he threw off his bardic mantle, and sang a song we had never heard before, 'The Old English Gentleman." All were in raptures with it; 'Whose is it?' 1 Where did it come from V ' How did you obtain it ?' were the questions put from all quarters, terminating with, \ Do sing it again!' As for me, I was in ecstasies; I saw in an instant what I could do with it, and eagerly inquired where it could be obtained. Whether I might introduce it to the public. I felt it was a fortune to me if I could be the person to do so. Mr. Crewe informed me it was a very old song, and that any one had a right to it. With this, I begged a copy, which he said he would send me next day. In strict accordance with his promise, I received and immediately began to study it. My conception of the reading was rapid in the extreme, and I soon gained the confidence necessary for its production; but one thing presented itself as an obstacle to success, which was, that the third verse related to the death of the old English gentleman. ' This won't do,' thought I; ' the living multitudes do not like to hear of the old gentleman dying, so I wrote a fourth verse myself, which ran thus:
* These good old times have passed away, and all such customs fled,
We've now no fine old gentlemen, or young ones in their stead;
Necessity has driven hope and charity away,
Yet may we live to welcome back that memorable day,
"Which reared those fine old gentlemen, all of the olden time.'
" The first time I sang it in public, was at a grand concert given on the stage of her Majesty's Italian Opera in the Haymarket, where Sir George Smart conducted. We had a very large orchestra, led by Mori, and nearly all the first Italian and English singers appeared during the evening. Towards the end of the first act, I sat down to the grand piano-forte, and commenced' The old English Gentleman.' At the end of the first verse, the applause was great; at the termination of the second verse, still greater; at the third, it increased; and at the end such a storm arose that I was quite bewildered, and could not understand whether it meant condemnation of my song, or a re-demand. In my hesitation I hurried off the stage, and made for our ante-room at the back. Sir George hastened after me, saying rather angrily, 'Why don't you come back?'