In 1867, the proper Victorian editors of a collection of “loose and humorous” seventeenth-century English broadside ballads apologized for the bawdry and sensual excess of the content by claiming that it illuminated a forgotten aspect of a bygone era. “It is well for the student to see it,” they wrote, “that he may be under no illusion as to that time; as it will be right for the student of Victorian England, two or three hundred years hence, to see productions that we would not willingly circulate now.”1 Had the good nineteenth-century philologists given even a cursory glance at any random selection of notated music from the same era, they would have realized that it was not only popular broadsides that display what they referred to rather euphemistically as “sensual feelings.”2 Far from being unwilling to circulate expressions of the erotic, the leading music printers of early modern England, from the assignees of Thomas Morley through Henry Playford and beyond, aided and abetted the mass dissemination of an astonishing array of sexually-charged material by the leading composers of art-music as well as that most versatile pornographer, Anonymous. In spite of its ubiquity, there is little that unifies this body of work. It includes the courtly Petrarchisms and text-painting I wish to thank my Graduate Research Assistants Emily Hoyler and Jesse Revenig for their assistance with preparation of the final version of this chapter, especially the music examples. The quotation comes from “The second Letter from [Lord] B[uckhurst] to Mr. E[therege],” in John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester [et al.], Poems on Several Occasions (Antwerp: n.d., [1680?]), 82.
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- Arts and Humanities(all)