"The lyric repository": literate conviviality
Price, C. 2018. "The lyric repository": literate conviviality.
The image opposite the title page of a 1787 publication by Samuel French of a book of lyrics, “selected for their poetical and literary merit” is the subject of this paper. It is a cartoon: the work of Thomas Rowlandson. The slim volume in which it appears is kept in the British Museum Prints and Drawings collection (no. 1880,0911.2051).
Such books formed something of a literary sub-genre in their own right, and were clearly designed to appeal to a literate bourgeoisie. The engraving—“with etched vignette of harp, sheet music and laurel”—and the Latin quotations, attest to the cultural narrative in which this publication wishes to situate itself; here are all the hallmarks of a venerable classical tradition.
By contrast, Rowlandson’s caricature seems to undercut this seriousness of intent: a group of men—women conspicuously absent from this company, as in all such representations—sit around a table laden with glasses and punch bowl, singing in a manner strongly suggestive of alcohol-fuelled conviviality. The publisher of the volume seems not to have noticed a subversion which is all too apparent to modern eyes.
This paper will examine this and other books and prints—and the musical repertoire to which they refer—to offer some insight into a cultural phenomenon which has not been granted much critical scrutiny: the gathering for convivial song in more or less formal contexts. Using recorded extracts created in the course of recent research, some explanation for this subaltern behaviour will be sought in its own words and music.
|Conference||The 34th Annual Conference on Music in 18th-Century Britain|
|Publication process dates|
|Deposited||31 Jul 2019|
|Completed||30 Nov 2018|
|Accepted author manuscript|
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