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THE GIKL I LEFT BEHIND ME
This air is contained in a manuscript in the possession of Dr. Rimbault, of date about 1770, and in several manuscript collections of military music of the latter half of the last century. It is a march, and is either entitled The girl I left behind me, or Brighton. Camp.
One of the lines in the song " The girl I left behind me," is, " But now I'm bound to Brighton Camp," and this gives a clue to the date of the words.
Although there were encampments along the coast between 1691 and 1693, before the victory of La Hogue, I do not attribute the song to so early a date, because I find no traces of words or music in the numerous publications in the first half of the eighteenth century; but in 1758 and 9 there were also encampments, whilst Admirals Hawke and Rodney were watching the French fleet in Brest harbour. The French had prepared " flat-bottomed boats " for the landing of troops. In 1759 all danger of a descent upon our coast was averted by Admiral Boscawen's victory over one French fleet, and Admiral Hawke's over another. These and other successes of the year were chronicled in a song entitled " The year fifty-nine." In that year, also, a farce was printed, entitled The Invasion, to ridicule the unnecessary apprehensions which some persons had entertained of a nocturnal descent upon our coast by means of the flat-bottomed boats, and Garrick produced a pantomime, entitled Harlequin's Invasion, with the same object.
It appears, therefore, that the song of The girl I left behind me may be dated, with great probability, in 1758.
In 1795 a song was written, entitled " Blyth Camps, or The Girl I left behind me." It was printed in Bell's Rhymes of the Northern Bards, 8vo., Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1812. It is a lame alteration of "Brighton Camp," commencing
thus :— " I'm lonesome since I left Blyth camps,
And o'er the moor that's sedgy, With heavy thoughts my mind is filled, Since I parted with my Betsy."
About 1790, when the celebrated John Philip Kemble became manager of Brury Lane Theatre (and subsequently of Covent Garden), he introduced this air as the Morris-dance for village festivities on the stage, and as the march for processions. It has since been constantly applied to the same purposes.
It has also been played for at least seventy years, as a Loth-to-depart when a man-of-war weighs anchor, and when a regiment quits the town in which it has been quartered. The custom has become so universal, that any omission to perform it would now be regarded as a slight upon the ladies of the place.
" The girl I left behind me" is included in two collections of Irish music—in Moore's Irish Melodies, and in Bunting's last collection, 4to., 1840. Each editor gives a different termination to the first and second parts of the tune, and these variations are quite necessary to establish an Irish origin. The question is of priority.
All the evidence I have been able to collect is against the authenticity of Moore's version. Among Irish musical authorities I enquired of the late Edward Bunting, J. A. Wade, J. C. Clifton, and Tom Cooke; among English, of Dr. Crotch, W. Ayrton, and of several band-masters. All were well acquainted with the tune, but no one had heard it as printed by Moore before the publication of his Melodies. I have also the best means of knowing that