Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/510
494 YANKEE DOODLE.
4. It is stated that in Burgh's 'Anecdotes of Music' (1814), the air of 'Yankee Doodle' is said to occur in J. C. Smith's 'Ulysses'—a statement we have been unable to verify, as no copy of that opera is accessible.
5. A writer in 'All the Year Round' (Feb. 1870) alleges that T. Moncrieff had traced the air to a fife-major of the Grenadier Guards, who composed it as a march in the last century. It is most probable that the air was originally a military quick-step, but this account of its authorship is too vague to be accepted implicitly.
6. In Admiral Preble's 'History of the Flag of the United States,' it is stated that the tune occurs in an opera of Arne's to the words 'Did little Dickey ever trick ye?' This is an error: the song in question is in Arnold's 'Two to One' (1784), and there the tune is called 'Yankee Doodle.' As this is probably the earliest instance of its appearance in print, it is given below, the words of the song being omitted.
7. Passing by the fanciful opinions that 'Yankee Doodle' is of Spanish or Hungarian origin, we come to the traditional account of its origin, which agrees with what may be gathered from the above accounts, viz. that the tune is of English origin and not older than the middle of the last century. The Boston 'Journal of the Times' for September 1768 is said to contain the earliest mention of it, in the following paragraph (quoted in the 'Historical Magazine' for 1857):—'The [British] fleet was brought to anchor near Castle William; that night … those passing in boats observed great rejoicings, and that the Yankee Doodle song was the capital piece in the band of music.' It is only a few years before this that the traditional account places the origin of the song. In 1755, during the French and Indian war, General Amherst had under his command an army of regular and provincial troops. Among the former was a Dr. Schuckburgh (whose commission as surgeon is dated June 25, 1737), to whom the tune is traditionally ascribed, though it seems more probable that he was only the author of the words. It is said that 'the fantastic appearance of the colonial contingent, with their variegated, ill-fitting, and incomplete uniforms,' was a continual butt for the humour of the regular troops, and that Dr. Schuckburgh recommended the tune to the colonial officers 'as one of the most celebrated airs of martial musick. The joke took, to the no small amusement of the British corps. Brother Jonathan exclaimed that it was "'nation fine," and in a few days nothing was heard in the provincial camp but the air of Yankee Doodle.' This account is said to have appeared in the 'Albany Statesman' early in the present century; it is also to be found in vol. iii. of the 'New Hampshire Collections, Historical and Miscellaneous' (1824). The words evidently date from about the year 1755. The original name of the song is 'The Yankee's Return from Camp,' and it begins:—
Father and I went down to camp,
The author of the account of the song in the 'New Hampshire Collections' quotes a version printed about 1790, and there are several others extant, though even in 1824 it is said that the burlesque song was passing into oblivion. It is noticeable that in the later versions of the song the early notices of 'Captain Washington' are replaced by the following:—
And there was Captain Washington,
The tune itself seems also to have suffered several changes. Mr. A. W. Thayer has kindly favoured us with the following version as it was sung sixty years since, and as it has been handed down by tradition in his family from revolutionary times:—
In spite of various attempts to dislodge it, 'Yankee Doodle' remains the national air of the United States. As a melody it has little beyond simplicity in its favour, but there is a quaint direct and incisive character about it which redeems it from vulgarity, beside which the historical associations of the tune, connected as it is with the establishment of American Independence, should have saved it from some of the criticisms to which it has been subjected. In the words of the Hon. Stephen Salisbury, 'Yankee Doodle is national property, but it is not a treasure of the highest value. It has some antiquarian claims for which its friends do not care. It cannot be disowned, and it will not be disused. In its own words,
It suits for feasts, it suits for fun,