Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/509

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Y.

YANIEWICZ, violin player. See Janiewicz, vol. ii. p. 30 b.

YANKEE DOODLE. The origin of the American national air is enveloped in almost as great obscurity as that which surrounds the authorship of 'God save the King.' Though the song is but little more than a century old, the number of different accounts of its origin which are given in American works is extremely bewildering. The most satisfactory course will therefore be to notice briefly the various existing statements on the subject, together with a few remarks on the credibility of the different theories.

1. It has been stated repeatedly in American periodicals during the past forty years that a ballad existed in England which was sung to the tune of 'Yankee Doodle,' the words of which ran—

        Nankee Doodle came to town,
          On a little pony,
        He stuck a feather in his cap,
          And called him Macaroni.

and that another ballad sung to the same tune began 'The Roundheads and the Cavaliers.' Both these songs were said to date from the time of the Rebellion, and the 'Nankee Doodle' in the former is stated to have been a nickname for Cromwell, and to have alluded to his entry into Oxford 'on a small horse with his single plume, which he wore fastened in a sort of knot, which the adherents of the royal party called "Macaroni" out of derision.'

This story is said to occur in the 'Musical Reporter' of May 1841 ('Historical Magazine,' 1857, P. 221), but whoever invented it showed a lack of antiquarian knowledge in fixing upon the period of the Civil War as the date of the song. No scholar could imagine Cromwell 'with a single white plume,' and the occurrence of the word 'Macaroni' alone points to the date of the rhyme, the term having first arisen in connection with the Macaroni Club, which flourished between 1750 and 1770. The Rev. T. Woodfall Ebsworth, undoubtedly the greatest living authority on English ballads, in reply to an enquiry addressed to him on the subject, writes as follows:—'I believe that I have seen and weighed, more or less, every such ballad still remaining in print, and most of those in MS. that search has detected: and I can declare unhesitatingly that I never came across any indication of such an anti-Cromwellian original as the apocryphal "Nankee Doodle came to town." I believe that none such is extant or ever appeared. … There is no contemporary (i.e. 1640–1660—or, say, 1648–1699) ballad specially entitled "The Roundheads and the Cavaliers," although separate rhymed poems on each class are well known to me—not songs or meant to be sung.'

2. It has not escaped notice that the nursery-rhyme,

        Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
          Kitty Fisher found it,
        Not a bit of money in it,
          Only binding round it.

which has been familiar as far back as the memories of those now living, has always been sung to the tune of 'Yankee Doodle.' This fact has been pressed into the service of what we may call the pre-Revolution theory in a very ingenious manner, principally owing to that inventive and unreliable antiquary, Dr. Rimbault. In the 'Historical Magazine' (1858, p. 214) a letter from this gentleman is printed in which he states that the tune occurs in Walsh's 'Collection of Dances for the year 1750' under the name of 'Fisher's Jig,' that Kitty Fisher was a celebrated beauty of Charles II.'s reign, whose portrait appears among Hollar's engravings of English courtesans, and that it is certain that the air is known in England as 'Kitty Fisher's Jig.' Walsh's 'Collection of Dances for the year 1750' seems unfortunately to have disappeared: there is no copy of it in the British Museum, Royal College of Music, or Euing Libraries, and though the present writer has examined many collections of dance tunes of the 18th century, no copy of 'Fisher's Jig' has turned up. The statement that Kitty Fisher lived in the reign of Charles II. is absolutely wrong. Her real name was Fischer, and she was the daughter of a German. She was for many years a reigning toast in the last century, and in 1766 was married to a Mr. Norris. She died in 1771. It would therefore have been impossible for her portrait to have been engraved by Hollar, even if he had engraved a series of portraits of English courtesans, which was not the case. It is not to be wondered at that in the face of this tissue of mis-statements we should find Lucy Locket—whose name is unmistakeably borrowed from the Beggar's Opera—described as, like Kitty Fisher, 'a well-known character in the gay world.'

3. In Littell's 'Living Age' (Boston, Aug. 1861), a story is told, on the authority of a writer in the New York 'Evening Post,' to the effect that the song is sung in Holland by German harvesters, whence it may have come to America. Unfortunately for the credibility of this account, its inventor has fitted some words to the tune which are in no known language, conclusively proving the story to be a hoax, though the Duyckincks have thought it worth reproducing in their Cyclopaedia.