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Mus. 87

Manuscript. 'Elizabeth Davenant's book': songs for voice and unfigured bass, dated '1624' (flyleaf at end of volume); copyists unidentified; English, mid-1620s. Elizabeth Davenant was probably the daughter of the Oxford vintner John Davenant (d. 1622), and therefore sister to the playwright Sir William Davenant (1606-1668). If this is correct, Mus. 87 was almost certainly compiled in Oxford. This is also suggested by the (anonymous) setting of words by the Oxford-based playwright Thomas Goffe; see the comments below on item 7.

The volume is in two layers: (1) pages rastrated with five-line staves; (2) pages rastrated with six-line staves for keyboard or lute notation, all of which are usused. It is unclear whether one or two hands copied the music; in the inventory below, a second hand may have been responsible for items 6 and 11-25. Several different hands appear to have copied the verbal texts; no attempt is made here to distinguish between them. At least some of the music seems to have been composed directly on the pages of the manuscript; see the comments below on item 25. Many of the vocal lines have been ornamented.

  • Item 5: here adapted for solo voice and bass. This anthem circulated in a wide variety of versions and arrangements. For what may be its original form, scored for voices and viols, see Mus. 56-60, item 42. For a 'liturgical' version, see Mus. 544-53, manuscript item 1. For an alternative arrangement for solo voice and bass, see Mus. 49 (pp. 88-151), item 3.
  • Item 7: words from the play 'The Courageous Turk' by Thomas Goffe (1590/91-1629), written for and first acted by the Students of Christ Church, Oxford. See the copy of the play-text (1656 edition) at Wt.8.25, p. 140.
  • Items 8 and 9: music probably not by Robert Johnson (ii), as sometimes suggested.
  • Item 22: the initials 'C: P:', written at the end of the music, have been interpreted by others in the past as 'C: L:'. It is unknown whether these refer to the author of the words or the composer of the music.
  • Item 23: like several others songs in Mus. 87, this one is laid out on a double-page spread. Most unusually, however, the music is given on the right-hand page, the continuation stanzas on the left with the volume inverted. Below these stanzas, the copyist has written (and then deleted) the opening line of item 26 (= the dedicatory acrostic-based poem to Elizabeth Davenant).
  • Item 25: emendations made to the music imply that this setting was composed directly on the page, in the following stages: (1) text-underlay written out in full; (1) music for the vocal part added; (2) the bass added; (3) adjustment of the music.
  • Item 26: dedicatory acrostic-based poem to Elizabeth Davenant; words only.
Table of titles and composers in modern form. Display form found in manuscript.
1 Alfonso Balls? Chloris sighed and sang and wept f. 1r
2 Thomas Campion Come you pretty false-ey'd wanton f. 1v
3   Whither away, my sweetest dearest? f. 1v
4   If, when I die, to Hell's eternal shade f. 2r
5 Thomas(?) Wilkinson Hear my prayer, O Lord ff. 2v-3r
6   My strength hath failed f. 3r
7   Drop, drop, golden showers ff. 3v-4r
8   Have you seen the white lily grow ff. 4v-5r
9   Care, charming sleep ff. 5v-6r
10   Cease, O cease this hum of grieving f. 6v
11 William Webb As life what is so sweet f. 7r
12 John Wilson Go, happy heart, for thou shalt lie ff. 7v-8r
13   Sleep, sleep, though grief torments thy body ff. 8v-9r
14   Eyes, gaze no more, as yet you may in time f. 9v
15   Away, good night, and I will call thee kind f. 10r
16 John Wilson Sleep, sleep, faire virgin f. 10v
17 Robert Johnson (ii) Woods, rocks and mountaines f. 11r
18 Henry Lawes Like to the damask rose ff. 11v-12r
19   I prithee leave, love, me no more f. 12v
20   Shall I weep or shall I sing? f. 13r
21   Music, thou soul of Heaven ff. 13v-14r
22 C. P. Gently, gently, prithee, Time ff. 14v-15r
23   O let sweet slumber dreams ff. 15v-16r
24   To those whose bosoms harbours woes ff. 16v-17r
25   Apollo once a year may merry be ff. 17v-18r
26   Express thy much imperfect skill, rude Muse f. 19r

Upright format, 285 x 190 mm. 94 folios, of which only the first 20 are foliated (in modern pencil). Collation: A6 (ff. 1-6), B8 (ff. 7-14), C6 (ff. 15-20), then 26 unfoliated leaves of 5-line staves, all of which are unused. A wholly blank leaf then prefaces the second layer, which comprises 47 unfoliated leaves of 6-line staves, also unused. An extension leaf has been pasted to the lower edge of f. 3r to accommodate the end of item 6. Mid 17th-century binding of vellum over thick card. Flyleaf at end of volume inscribed 'Mris Elizabeth Davenant 1624'. Inscription of f. 1r: 'Kath: Law: May the 6th 1663 / began my excersis'; the name has sometimes been interpreted as 'Low', leading to the hypothesis that the volume was connected in the 1660s with Edward Lowe and his family. Further inscription on f. 1r (in a later hand): 'T: Tusday May the 5th'; this hand may be that of Richard Goodson Jr, although the sample is too small for the identification to be verified. No early bookplate. 19th-century shelfmark: I.1.51.

Provenance unknown; not listed in any of the 18th-century catalogues of the Christ Church music collections. Most likely from the Goodson bequest, partly because of the absence of an early bookplate, partly because of the possible presence of an inscription by Goodson Jr on f. 1r (see comments above).

Microfilm: manuscript music, reel 10.

Select bibliography:

  • J. P. Cutts, '"Mris Elizabeth Davenant 1624": Christ Church MS. Mus. 87', Review of English Studies, 10 (1959), 168-77. Find in a Library
  • Manuscripts at Oxford, Part II: Christ Church Library, MS. 87; Bodleian Library, MS. Mus. B.1, facsimile with introduction by Elise Bickford Jorgens, English Song 1600-1675, vol. 7 (New York and London, 1987); this includes (at p. ix) additional bibliography. Find in a Library