“The Convivial Songster”


I wrote a short while ago about music-making in the Georgian home. Here’s a fascinating advertisement for the kind of music available for home music-making in 1783. Note the list of song types, in which “Songs on the Caprices of Women” is given its own category!

Singing or playing an instrument were important ’accomplishments’ for young women to acquire. Young men too might use any skills in such areas to impress potential brides — and their mothers — with their suitability.

It’s also worth noting the price of this collection. Two shillings and sixpence — perhaps £25.00 in today’s terms — would put the collection well beyond the reach of anyone save the more prosperous merchants, the gentry and the aristocracy. The music of the poor, played in taverns and at variuos gatherings, would have been picked up by listening and played by ear. Even many churches of the time lacked any music at all, especially in rural areas. When the congregations did sing, it was usually simple psalms. An organ was a great possession, probably only available as a gift from a wealthy patron. Otherwise, singing would have been unaccompanied, or assisted by whatever instruments happened to be available.

Convivial Songster, New Edition.

This Day is Published, Embellished with an elegant Frontispiece of the Chapel of Venus, an engraved Title page, and a beautiful Vignette. Price 2 shillings and 6 pence, bound in red, The Convivial Songster; Containing a select Collection of the best Songs in the English Language, classed under the following Heads, viz. Humorous, Amorous, Bacchanalian, Satyrical, Songs on the Caprices of Women, Dialectic Songs, Sea Songs, Miscellaneous and Original Songs, with the Music prefixed to each; selected from the best Authors, and the most approved Collections, and expressly intended for the Use of those who will wish to please the Companies where Humour, Mirth, and Wit are understood and applauded. With an Introduction, containing Rules and Instructions for such as wish to become pleasing and good Singers. To which is added a great Number of entirely original Toasts and Sentiments, no where [sic] to be found but in this Work.

N.B. The Tunes themselves form a pleasing Collection, are put in the most familiar Keys, and, to such as play the German Flute, Violin, etc are, from the Scarceness and Goodness of many of them, worth more than the Price of the Book.

(The Norfolk Chronicle, 4th January, 1783)

About William Savage

Author of mystery stories set in Georgian Norfolk.
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5 Responses to “The Convivial Songster”

  1. noelleg44 says:

    What a terrible fate, William, if you were a tone-deaf young woman!


    • Indeed. I suppose you would need to develop another acceptable accomplishment, like watercolour painting or fine sewing. You would be forgiven much if you were beautiful, of course. Best of all, be rich. That would make society ignore everything else!


  2. nmayer2015 says:

    There is a publication by Leigh Hunt about a Musical Evening. I am not certain of the exact title. later than the 18th century work, of course.
    Jane Austen copied music from other sources into her own music books and I think many must have done the same.. I wonder if the subscriber and circulating libraries had music scores or if they were only at music stores.The publication noted above was a book so it might have been included .


    • I am sure you are right. Many people would have copied favourite pieces for their own use — especially given the price of new music. I don’t know about libraries. On the other hand, there was often a premium on presenting something new and unfamiliar. Perhaps one family bought a book, then shared it with friends.


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