Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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296                Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
Still, there was a certain demand for music, and, in this as in other cases, the demand brought a supply. There were then, as now, festive occasions on which music was required, if only for dancing, or processions, or " waits " at Christmas. In almost every village, at the commencement of this century, what was called " a case of viols" was to be found, con­sisting of the treble viol (or violin), the tenor (or alto), and the bass viol; the latter a title by which the violoncello is still known in country places. And there were persons who could play on these instruments after a certain fashion, singly or in concert. The "fiddle" has always served for the votaries of Terpsichore, and a fiddler was seldom wanting in country places. It may be questioned, indeed, whether greater difficulty would not be found in getting one—that is, a local fiddler, " to the manner born "—now than there was 50 or 100 years ago. And for this reason: the pianoforte has superseded the fiddle, and there are few houses now above the cottage class in which a pianoforte is not to be found, and also some one (of the feminine gender, as a rule) able to sit down and play a quadrille or a waltz. The pianoforte is to the woman of the present generation what the violin was to the man of the last. In our grandfathers' days there was really no instrument for a woman to play upon. A Queen, like Elizabeth, might play on the virginal, and, after the virginal, the spinet might be found in a few " great houses," and, at a later date, the harpsichord became more common. But these were the rare luxuries of the rich and great. The middle classes, and even the classes above them, the gentry and clergy, knew little or nothing of them, and, though Fielding might make Sophia Western play her father to sleep upon one, and Scott depict Flora Macdonald as fascinating Waverley with her harp-playing, yet to play on any instrument 150 years ago was a rare accomplishment for an English woman of the middle classes, because musical instruments for women were almost unknown. The only music heard in the cottage, the farm-house, and even the manor-house, was that of the spinning-wheel.
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