Familiar Songs - Their Authors & Histories

300 traditional songs, inc sheet music with full piano accompaniment & lyrics.

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Although John Gay was the intimate friend of Pope and Swift, and wrote the best poetical fables in our language, he will be longest remembered by his few songs, the most famous of which is " Black-eyed Susan." He was born in Devonshire, England, in 1688. He was apprenticed to a silk-mercer, hated the business, escaped from it to follow his lit­erary inclinations, and made friends who encouraged and assisted him. His " Beggar's Opera," which had a first run of sixty-two nights, was immensely popular in city and country, and is still a favorite for its sweet songs. It was brought out at Lincoln's Inn Fields, under the management of Mr. Eich; and the joke was bandied about, that "'The Beggar's Opera' had made Gay rich, and Eich gay." Its success gave rise to the English opera, which from that time disputed the stage with the Italian. Gay wrote a continua­tion of the "Beggar's Opera," in which he transferred his characters to America; but the Lord Chamberlain refused to allow it to be played. He published it, and the notoriety which its attempted suppression gave, caused him to realize more money than its success­ful representation would have been likely to. The Duchess of Marlborough gave two hun­dred and forty dollars for a single copy of it. Gay died suddenly, December 4, 1732. Upon Pope's letter to Swift, announcing the event, Swift wrote: " Eeceived December 15, but not read until the 20th, by an impulse foreboding some misfortune." Pope wrote of Gay:
" Of manners gentle, of affections mild; In wit a man, simplicity a child."
The ballad of "Black-eyed Susau" was magnificently set to a re-arranged old English ballad air, by Rchard Leveridge.