Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Memoirs of a Folk-Song Collector in Rural England

A Folk-Song Collector Recollects Her Perambulations in Rural England in Search of the Music of the Rustic People and Their Forebears
by Miss Letitia Vormal de Hyde

August 18th , 1896, Houghton Weevils, Somersetshire.
It was sultry as I stepped off the train at the tiny halt at Houghton Weevils, and sought a dog-cart to convey me, my recording phonograph, portable escritoire and wax cylinders to Lingham Peveril, where Miss Lucy Broadwood had previously in conversation indicated that I might find some interesting singers of rustic songs. The only dog-cart, it transpired, had no dog, but several chickens and a ferret. The cartman apologised and explained that his dog had recently died and this arrangement was temporary, and he was expecting a new canine by the next post. He further explained that the ferret provided little by way of locomotive effort, it being there simply “pour encourager les autres”. He gave the ferret a poke with a long stick, there was an enthusiastic clucking, and the cart lurched forward. As the cart did a power-slide off the main road onto the track leading to Lingham Peveril, the driver commented that the track had become deeply rutted and uneven in the recent rains, and, although it was now dry, I should take pains to hold on securely. I looked around but could see nothing sufficing as even a handhold. The driver, introducing himself as Mr. Muttock, offered himself as a stanchion, if I were to place my arms firmly around his lower waist. This I did, and each time the cart bumped and jarred over some obstruction, Mr Muttock bounced upwards against my hands. When this happened, he said, through a strange grimace and with glazing eyes, that I should not be afeared, it was all “most satisfactory”.
(to be continued)

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