Familiar Songs - Their Authors & Histories

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

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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?'