The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

April 13, 2016

April 13, 1729

Bishop Thomas Percy (April 13, 1729 to September 30, 1811) was, among other things, an antiquarian, and rescued many old manuscripts, one even on the verge of being used to light a fire. The Bishop of Dromore (Ireland) was a friend of Samuel Johnson, who encouraged his collecting. Percy, one reads, encouraged, through the publication of the ballads he edited, various currents in the romanticism which was becoming very popular in the late 18th century.

The book in question: Reliques of Ancient English Poetry: Consisting of Old Heroic Ballads, Songs, and Other Pieces of Our Earlier Poets; Together with Some Few of Later Date, Volume 3. (1765).

About our selection Thomas Percy wrote:

This excellent old song, the subject of which is a comparison between the manners of the old gentry, as still subsisting in the times of Elizabeth, [died in 1603] and the modern refinements affected by their sons in the reigns of her successors, is given, with corrections, from an ancient black-letter copy in the Pepys Collection, [and] compared with another [copy] printed among some miscellaneous " poems and songs" in a book intitled, " Le Prince d'Amour," 1660, 8vo.  

The old song is titled "The Old and Young Courtier" and we excerpt a description:

Of an old worshipful gentleman, who had a greate 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 never knew...[
what they all did,  the] coachmen, foot men, ... pages, 
But kept twenty old fellows with blue coats and badges; 
Like an old courtier, &c. 

With an old study fill'd full of learned old books, 
With an old reverend chaplain, you might know him by his looks. 
With an old buttery hatch worn quite off the hooks, 
And an old kitchen, that maintain'd half a dozen old cooks: 
Like an old courtier, &c. 

With a good old fashion, when Christmasse was come, 
To call in all his old neighbours with bagpipe and drum, 
With good chear enough to furnish every old room, 
And old liquor able to make a cat speak, and man dumb, 
Like an old courtier, &c.

With an old falconer, huntsman, and a kennel of hounds, 
That never hawked, nor hunted, but in his own grounds ; 
Who, like a wise man, kept himself within his own bounds, 
And when he dyed gave every child a thousand good pounds ; 
Like an old courtier, &c.

But to his eldest son his house and land he assign'd, 
Charging him in his will to keep the old bountifull mind, 
To be good to his old tenants, and to his neighbours be kind: 
But in the ensuing ditty you shall hear how he was inclin'd;
Like a young courtier of the king's, 

Like a flourishing young gallant, newly come to his land, 
Who keeps a brace of painted madams at his command, 
And takes up a thousand pound upon his father's land, 
And gets drunk in a tavern, till he can neither go nor stand; 
Like a young courtier, &c.

Bishop Percy was helped by the family of the Duke of Northumberland in his hunt for all manuscripts. He suspected he might be kin to that ancient lineage; the question remains unanswered to my knowledge. Another  question is to what extent the Earl of Grantham really had the tender conscience portrayed by Julian Fellowes.  The lines above are kind of an answer to that query.

No comments: