Index of Quotations:
Robert Armin in his play "The Historie of the Two Maids of More-Clack" of 1609
(Performed by the Children of the King's Revels).
The play opens preparing for a wedding:
Humil: What are the Waits of London come?
Serving man: Yes sir.
Humil: Play in their highest key then. [hoboyes play]
Serving man: Sound Hoboyes.
Humil: Make the Gods dance, cause jovial mirth. Music in heaven for this earthly marriage.
From "Bygone Lancashire" by Ernest Axon (1892)
"Since the days of the venerable gaol-keeper, it has been known as Covell Cross. All that is left of it now is the round foundation stone, level with the pavement. For some unknown reason, what remained of the shaft or 'stoop' was taken down about the year 1826, and placed in the garret at the Judges' Lodgings. Twelve or fifteen years ago it was removed thence to the corridor under the Nisi Prius Court at the Castle, and not long afterwards it was 'cleared out as rubbish!' Such was the ill-fate of the cross at which (as well as at the Market Cross, which has also disappeared) new Sovereigns were always proclaimed by the civic authorities, with the accompaniment of 'the town musick and four drums' a cross to which, on all occasions of public rejoicing or thanksgiving, the mayor and his colleagues were accustomed to walk in state, 'with musick playing and drums beating.'"
Bath Waits: A letter to a future President of the USA:
"Abbe Green, Bath decem 23 1786:
We arrived here about four oclock a fryday afternoon, after a very pleasent journey, the weather was somewhat cold, but a clear Sky and a fine Sun Shine was ample compensation. We found convenient apartments, good Beaf mutton and excellent fish for dinner; it was fortunate that we engaged Lodgings before we came, as every House is full, to day being rainy and fogy we have not made any excursion, or looked about us, we wanted a little remit after rising 3 mornings by candle light and riding through the cold. I hope an additional quantity of bed Cloaths will make you comfortable; we had the city musick this morning to wait upon us, and welcome us to Bath, I Suppose we Shall have Some more compliments of the Same kind." (Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams.)
Anonymous poem from the 1680s:
The public waits who liveries do own,
And badges of a City, or some Town,
Who are retain'd in constant Yearly pay,
Do at their solemn public meetings play.
And up and down the Streets, and Town in cold
Dark nights, when th' Instruments they can scarce hold
They play about, and tell what hour it is,
And weather too, this Course they do not miss,
Most part of Winter, in the Nights; and when
Some generous Persons come to Town, these Men
As soon as they're Inform'd, do then repair
Unto their Lodgings, play them some fine Air
Or brisk new tune such as themselves think fit,
And which they hope, with th' Gallants fancies hit,
They cry God Bless you Sirs; again then play,
Expecting Money, e'er they go away.
From "The Knight of the Burning Pestle", (1607) Act 1. Beaumont and Fletcher
Speaker of the Prologue: Methinks “The Knight of the Burning Pestle” were better.
Citizen's Wife: I’ll be sworn, husband, that’s as good a name as can be.
Citizen: Let it be so.—Begin, begin; my wife and I will sit down.
Speaker of the Prologue: I pray you, do.
Citizen: What stately music have you? You have shawms?
Speaker of the Prologue: Shawms! No.
Citizen: No! I’m a thief, if my mind did not give me so. Ralph plays a stately part, and he must needs have shawms: I’ll be at the charge of them myself, rather than we’ll be without them.
Speaker of the Prologue: So you are like to be.
Citizen: Why, and so I will be: there’s two shillings;—[Gives money.]—let’s have the waits of Southwark; they are as rare fellows as any are in England; and that will fetch them all o’er the water with a vengeance, as if they were mad.
Speaker of the Prologue: You shall have them. Will you sit down, then?
Thomas Blount, Fragmenta Antiquitatis (Beckwith, 1815, p. 565)
"Blount, in his Fragmenta Antiquitatis (Beckwith, 1815, p. 565), gives the following account of a custom observed at Doncaster. He says at this place on the 5th November, yearly, whether it happens on a Sunday, or any other day in the week, the town waits play for some time on the top of the church steeple, at the time when the congregation are coming out of the church from morning service, the tune of 'God Save the King'. This has been done for four-score years at least, and very possibly ever since the 5th of November has been a festival, except that formerly the tune played was 'Britons, strike home'. The waits always receive from the churchwardens sixpence a-piece for this service."
A description of Christmas festivities at St. John's College, Oxford in 1607, published in "Christmas - its Origins and Associations" by William Dawson (1902).
"At this time, as on all other Holy-dayes, the Princes allowed Musitions (which were sent for from Reading, because our owne Town Musick had given us the slipp, as they use to doe at that time when we had most need of them) played all dinner time, and allso at supper."
Chambers' Book of Days
"Down to the year 1820, perhaps later, the waits had a certain degree of official recognition in the cities of London and Westminster. In London, the post was purchased; in Westminster, it was an appointment under the control of the High Constable and the Court of Burgesses. A police enquiry about Christmas-time, in that year, brought the matter in a singular way under public notice. Mr. Clay had been the official leader of the waits for Westminster; and on his death, Mr Monro obtained the post. Having employed a number of persons in different parts of the city and liberties of Westminster to serenade the inhabitants, trusting to their liberality at Christmas as a remuneration, he was surprised to find that other persons were, unauthorised, assuming the right of playing at night, and making applications to the inhabitants for Christmas-boxes. Sir R. Baker, the police magistrate, promised to aid Mr. Monro in the assertion of his claims; and the result, in several police cases, shewed that there really was this vested right to charm the ears of the citizens of Westminster with nocturnal music. At present, there is nothing to prevent any number of itinerant minstrels from plying their midnight calling."
"It [the ghost] took, for some moments, no more apparent heed of him, than he of it. The Christmas Waits were playing somewhere in the distance, and, through his thoughtfulness, he seemed to listen to the music. It seemed to listen too." (from "The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain", a short story by Charles Dickens (1848).)
"As I passed along the High Street, I heard the Waits at a distance, and struck off to find them. They were playing near one of the old gates of the City, at the corner of a wonderfully quaint row of red-brick tenements, which the clarionet obligingly informed me were inhabited by the Minor-Canons. They had odd little porches over the doors, like sounding-boards over old pulpits; and I thought I should like to see one of the Minor-Canons come out upon his top stop, and favour us with a little Christmas discourse about the poor scholars of Rochester; taking for his text the words of his Master relative to the devouring of Widows' houses.
The clarionet was so communicative, and my inclinations were (as they generally are) of so vagabond a tendency, that I accompanied the Waits across an open green called the Vines, and assisted--in the French sense--at the performance of two waltzes, two polkas, and three Irish melodies, before I thought of my inn any more. However, I returned to it then, and found a fiddle in the kitchen, and Ben, the wall-eyed young man, and two chambermaids, circling round the great deal table with the utmost animation." (From "The Seven Poor Travellers", a short story by Charles Dickens, published 1854.)
Bath Waits: Austin Dobson (1840-1921), "A French Critic on Bath", from "De Libris: Prose and Verse" 1908:
"One seems to see the clumsy stage-coaches depositing their touzled and tumbled inmates, in their rough rocklows and quaint travelling headgear, at the "Bear" or the "White Hart," after a jolting two or three days' journey from Oxford or London, not without the usual experiences, real and imaginary, of suspicious-looking horsemen at Hounslow, or masked "gentlemen of the pad" on Claverton Down. One hears the peal of five-and-twenty bells which greets the arrival of visitors of importance; and notes the obsequious and venal town-waits who follow them to their lodgings in Gay Street or Milsom Street or the Parades, where they will, no doubt, be promptly attended by the Master of the Ceremonies, "as fine as fivepence," and a very pretty, sweet-smelling gentleman, to be sure, whether his name be Wade or Derrick."
George Ebers (1837-1898) - "Margery"
Chapter 1: And when the town-pipers struck up with trumpets and kettledrums, bagpipes and horns, when the far-away muttering and roll of voices swelled to a roaring outcry and an uproarious shout, when from every mouth at every window the cry rose: "They are corning!"--yet did I not gaze at their Majesties, to whom the day and festival belonged, but only sought him who was mine--my own.
Chapter 14: And at a later day old Heyden himself told me that he, who while yet but a youth had been the prefectus of the town-pipers, had been nigh to madness when his wife, his Elslein, had been snatched from him after scarce a year and a half of married life. After he had recovered his wits, he had conceived that any balance or peace of mind was only to be found in a convent, near to God; and it was at that time that the wise and excellent Ulman Stromer had spoken the words which had been thenceforth the light and guiding line of his life. He had remained in the world; but he had renounced the more honorable post of prefect of the town-musicians, and taken on him the humble one of organist, in which it had been granted to him to offer up his great gift of music as it were a sacrifice to Heaven.
Chapter 14: Then, when we went on together into the guest chamber, it fell that the town-pipers at that minute ceased to play and there was silence on all, as though a flourish of trumpets had warned of the approach of a prince; and yet it was only in honor of Ann and her wondrous beauty.
Chapter 17: It seemed as though he could never have enough of dancing with Ann, and so soon as the town pipers struck up, with cornets, trumpets, horns, and haut-boys, fiddles, sack-buts and rebecks, the rattle of drums and the groaning of bagpipes, while the Swiss fifes squeaked shrilly above the clatter of the kettle-drums, methought the music itself flung him in the air and brought him low again.
On Glasgow Waites
"A remnant of this custom, still popularly called waits, yet exists in the magistrates annually granting a kind of certificate or diploma to a few musicians, generally blind men of respectable character, who perambulate the streets during the night and morning, for about three weeks or a month previous to New-year's Day, in most cases performing on violins the slow, soothing airs peculiar to a portion of the old Scottish melodies; and in the solemn silence of repose the effect is very fine. At the commencement of the New-year, these men call at the houses of the inhabitants, and, presenting their credentials, receive a small subscription."
The Bremen Town Musicians, The Brothers Grimm
There once was a man who had a donkey that had carried the grain sacks to the mill tirelessly for many long years. But his strength was failing and he was growing more and more unfit for work. So his master began to consider getting rid of him. But the donkey, who became aware that his master had something evil in mind, ran away and set out on the road to Bremen. There he thought he could surely become a town musician.
After he had walked for a while, he found a hunting hound lying on the road, howling pitifully. "Why are you howling so, old fellow," asked the donkey.
"Ah," replied the hound, "because I am old and grow weaker each day, and can no longer hunt, my master wanted to shoot me dead. So I fled. But how am I supposed to earn my bread now?"
"You know what," said the donkey, "I am going to Bremen and shall become town musician there. Come with me and engage yourself as a musician as well. I will play the lute and you shall beat the kettledrum."
The hound agreed, and they went on together. It wasn't long before they saw a cat sitting on the path, with a face like three rainy days. "Now then, old whiskers, what has gone wrong for you," asked the donkey.
"Who can be merry when his neck is at risk," answered the cat. "Because I am old now, my teeth are dull, and I prefer to sit by the fire and spin rather than chase after mice, my mistress wanted to drown me. However, I did manage to sneak away. But it's hard to know what to do. Where am I to go now?"
"Go with us to Bremen. You know something about night music. You can become a town musician there."
The cat thought that was a good idea and went with them. As the three went on together, they passed by a farm, where the rooster was sitting on the gate crowing with all his might.
"Your crowing pierces right through to the marrow," said the donkey. "What's on your mind?"
"The lady of the house has ordered the cook to chop off my head this evening. Tomorrow, on Sunday, company is coming and they want to eat me in the soup. Now I am crowing at the top of my lungs while still I can."
"Oh come on!" said the donkey. "Why don't you come away with us. We are going to Bremen. You can find something better than death everywhere. You have a good voice, and when we make music together it will sound magnificant." The rooster liked the suggestion and the four went on together.
They could not reach the town of Bremen in one day, however, and that evening they came to a forest where they wanted to spend the night. The donkey and the hound laid themselves down under a large tree, the cat climbed onto a branch, and the rooster flew up to the top of the tree, where it was safest for him.
Before he went to sleep he looked around in all four directions. Then he saw a light shining. So he told his companions that there must be a house nearby, for he saw a light. The donkey replied, "Then let's get up and go over there, for the acommodations here are poor." The hound thought that a few bones with some meat on them would do him good, too.
So they made their way to the place where the light was, and soon saw it shine brighter and grow larger, until they came to a well-lighted robbers house. The donkey, as the tallest, went to the window and looked in.
"What do you see, my grey steed?" asked the rooster.
"What do I see?" answered the donkey. "A table covered with good things to eat and drink, and robbers sitting at it, enjoying themselves."
"That would be the sort of thing for us," said the rooster.
Then the animals considered how they might manage to drive the robbers away. At last they thought of a way. The donkey was to place himself with his forefeet upon the window, the hound was to jump on the donkey's back, the cat was to climb upon the dog, and lastly the rooster was to fly up and perch upon the cat's head. When this was done, at a given signal, they began to perform their music together. The donkey brayed, the hound barked, the cat mewed, and the rooster crowed. Then they burst through the window into the room, with the tinkling of glass panes.
At this horrible shrieking, the robbers sprang up, thinking a ghost was coming in, and fled in a great fright out into the forest.
The four companions then sat down at the table, each eating to his heart's content the dishes that tasted best to him.
When they were done, they put out the light and each sought out a sleeping place according to his own taste. The donkey laid himself down in the manure, the hound behind the door, the cat upon the hearth near the warm ashes, and the rooster perched himself on the roof. And being tired from their long walk, they soon went to sleep.
When it was past midnight, and the robbers saw from afar that the light was no longer burning in their house, and all appeared quiet, the captain said, "We really ought not to have let ourselves be scared off like that." He sent one of the robbers back to check if anyone was still in the house.
The robber found everything quiet. He went into the kitchen to light a candle, and, taking the fiery eyes of the cat for live coals, he held a match to them to light it. But the cat did not understand the joke, and flew in his face, spitting and scratching. He was dreadfully frightened, and ran to the back door, but the dog, who lay there sprang up and bit his leg. And as he ran across the yard by the dungheap, the donkey gave him a smart kick with his hind foot. The rooster, too, who had been awakened by the noise, cried down from the roof, "Cock-a-doodle-doo."
Then the robber ran back as fast as he could to his captain, and said, "Oh, there is a horrible witch sitting in the house, who spat on me and scratched my face with her long claws. And by the door there's a man with a knife, who stabbed me in the leg. And in the yard there lies a black monster, who beat me with a wooden club. And above, upon the roof, sits the judge, who called out, bring the rogue here to me. So I got away as fast as I could."
After this the robbers never again dared enter the house. But it suited the four musicians of Bremen so well that they did not care to leave it any more.
Peter Heylin (1447 - 1486)
Oct. 28 . Tuesday, and S. Simon and Jude's day, I married my dearest mistress miss Lettice Heygate in the church or chapel of Magd. Coll. which I had caused to be set out in the best and richest ornaments the College had, my old and true friend Jack Allibond performing the ceremony, and kept my wedding dinner in my chamber in the College, to which I did invite some of the Fellowes of the College, some Drs of the Towne and their wives. I placed her at the head of the table, desiring her to bid her friends welcome, for the day was hers, and had the Towne musick to entertaine her withall, which I had caused to play that morning at her chamber dore, which open carnage of the business made it less suspected. The day was verie dark and rainy, which seemed somewhat ominous: but I thank God, wee have had gene rally a very faire and sunshining fortune. I bedded her that night at the King's head, where (I thank God I can say it safely) I exchanged maydenheads with her, and the next day went with my brother and sister to Minster c. 1630.
Peter Heylin's own memoranda, in "Memorial of Bishop Waynflete" (1447-1486) by Peter Heylin (1599-1662), ed. by J Bloxam for the Caxton Society in 1851.
Siege of Jerusalem, Edited by Michael Livingston
Originally Published in Siege of Jerusalem Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 2004
A Tale of a Tub Composed by Ben. Jonson.
Hugh: Sir I thank you for't. That your good worship, would not let me run Longer in error, but would take me up thus -
Preamble: You are my learned, and canonick neighbour: I would not have you stray; but the incorrigible Knot-headed beast, the Clowns, or Constables, Still let them graze; eat Salads; chew the Cud: All the town-musick will not move a log.
Hugh: The Beetle and wedges will where you will have 'hem.
Will Kempe on the Norwich Waits
In the 16th and 17th centuries it is quite evident that members of the Town Waits were skilled musicians. William Kemp, in his account of his nine days' Morris from London to Norwich in 1599, speaks of being welcomed by the City Waits:
"Passing the gate, Wifflers (such Officers as were appointed by the Mayor) to make me way through the throng of the people, which prest so mightily upon me: with great labour I got thorow that narrow preaze into the open market place. Where on the crosse, ready prepared, stood the Citty Waytes, which not a little refreshed my weariness with towling thorow so narrow a lane, as the people left me: such Waytes (under Benedicite be it spoken) fewe Citties in our Realme have the like, none better. Who besides their excellency in wind instruments, their rare cunning on the Vyoll, and Violin: theyr voices be admirable, everie one of them able to serve in any Cathedrall Church in Christendome for Quiristers." (Nine Daies Wonder, 1600)
THE LADY MOTHER: A COMEDY.
by Henry Glapthorne, 1635.
- From Act 2, Scene 1 -
Sucket. So, so; now set him in the chaires. Hart of valour! He looks like a Mapp o'th'world. Death, what are these?
Grimes. The Town Waites whome I appointed to come and visitt us.
Sucket. 'Twas well donn: have you ere a good song?
Timothie. Yes, they have many.
Sucket. But are they bawdy? come, sir, I see by your simp'ring it is you that sings, but do not squeake like a French Organ-pipe nor make faces as if you were to sing a Dirge. Your fellowes may goe behind the arras: I love to see Musitions in their postures imitate those ayrey soules that grace our Cittie Theaters, though in their noats they come as short of them as Pan did of Apollo.
[The waits play]
Grimes. Well, sir, this is indifferent Musicke, trust my judgment.
Le Morte d'Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory, 1485
"At the last he came to a Castel and there he herd the waytes upon the wallys"
Fynes Moryson, An Itinerary Vol. IV 1617
In like sorte many Cittyes mantayne at publike charge Musitians, vsing Sagbutts, Hoboyes, and such loude Instruments, which wee call the waytes of Cyttyes, and these play at the publicke house of the Citty each day at Noone, when the Senatours goe to dinner, and at all publike Feasts.
Chapter VII of The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, Christopher Marlowe (1604)
"Lastly was heard by Faustus all manner of instruments of music – as organs, clarigolds, lutes, viols, citterns, waits, horn-pipes, anomes, harps, and all manner of other instruments of music."
Sir Walter Scott, Old Mortality, Chapter 4
The cavalcade of horsemen on their road to the little borough-town were preceded by Niel Blane, the town-piper, mounted on his white galloway, armed with his dirk and broadsword, and bearing a chanter streaming with as many ribbons as would deck out six country belles for a fair or preaching. Niel, a clean, tight, well-timbered, long-winded fellow, had gained the official situation of town-piper of—by his merit, with all the emoluments thereof; namely, the Piper’s Croft, as it is still called, a field of about an acre in extent, five merks, and a new livery-coat of the town’s colours, yearly; some hopes of a dollar upon the day of the election of magistrates, providing the provost were able and willing to afford such a gratuity; and the privilege of paying, at all the respectable houses in the neighbourhood, an annual visit at spring-time, to rejoice their hearts with his music, to comfort his own with their ale and brandy, and to beg from each a modicum of seed-corn.
In addition to these inestimable advantages, Niel’s personal, or professional, accomplishments won the heart of a jolly widow, who then kept the principal change-house in the borough. Her former husband having been a strict presbyterian, of such note that he usually went among his sect by the name of Gaius the publican, many of the more rigid were scandalized by the profession of the successor whom his relict had chosen for a second helpmate. As the browst (or brewing) of the Howff retained, nevertheless, its unrivalled reputation, most of the old customers continued to give it a preference. The character of the new landlord, indeed, was of that accommodating kind, which enabled him, by close attention to the helm, to keep his little vessel pretty steady amid the contending tides of faction. He was a good-humoured, shrewd, selfish sort of fellow, indifferent alike to the disputes about church and state, and only anxious to secure the good-will of customers of every description. But his character, as well as the state of the country, will be best understood by giving the reader an account of the instructions which he issued to his daughter, a girl about eighteen, whom he was initiating in those cares which had been faithfully discharged by his wife, until about six months before our story commences, when the honest woman had been carried to the kirkyard.
“Jenny,” said Niel Blane, as the girl assisted to disencumber him of his bagpipes, “this is the first day that ye are to take the place of your worthy mother in attending to the public; a douce woman she was, civil to the customers, and had a good name wi’ Whig and Tory, baith up the street and down the street.
Joseph Addison writing in "The Tatler", 9 September 1709
"For as the custom prevails at present, there is scarce a young man of any fashion in a Corporation who does not make Love with the Town-Musick. The Waits often help him through his courtship..."
"A Journey to Edenborough" by Joseph Taylor, (circa 1700).
"Wee arrived at Dunstable, in Bedfordshire about two in the Afternoone, and sett up at the Redd Lyon; This Town is scituate in a Chalky ground, and has a good Market for Corn and Catle on Wednesdayes; The Employment of the poor Women consists of making of Straw hatts. It is famous for the largenesse of the Larkes caught about it, which are reccon'd the best in England: We din'd here, and were entertain'd by the Town Musick.
The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker, Tobias Smollett, (1771)
"Mrs. Tabitha's favourite dog Chowder, having paid his compliments to a female turnspit, of his own species, in the kitchen, involved himself in a quarrel with no fewer than five rivals, who set upon him at once, and drove him up stairs to the dining-room door, with hideous noise: there our aunt and her woman, taking arms in his defence, joined the concert; which became truly diabolical. This fray being with difficulty suppressed, by the intervention of our own footman and the cook-maid of the house, the ’squire had just opened his mouth, to expostulate with Tabby, when the town-waits, in the passage below, struck up their music (if music it may be called), with such a sudden burst of sound, as made him start and stare, with marks of indignation and disquiet. He had recollection enough to send his servant with some money to silence those noisy intruders; and they were immediately dismissed, though not without some opposition on the part of Tabitha, who thought it but reasonable that he should have more music for his money."
THE LIFE Of the Learned and Reverend Dr. Peter Heylyn, CHAPLAIN to Charles I. and Charles II. MONARCHS of GREAT BRITAIN.
Written by GEORGE VERNON, Rector of Bourton on the Water in Glocestershire.
Unto one of the most principal parts of which the Reader is now invited, viz. his Marriage, which was so far from being Clandestine and Clancular (as it was objected to him in Print above thirty years after its solemnization) that he ordered it to be performed upon St. Simon and Iudes day, between ten and eleven of the Clock in the morning in his own College-Chappel, which by his appointment was set out with the richest Ornaments, in the presence of a sufficient number of Witnesses of both Sexes, according to Law and Practice. The Wedding-Dinner was kept in his own Chamber, some Doctors and their Wives, with five or six of the Society being invited to it. Mrs. Bride was placed at the head of the Table, the Town-Musick playing, and himself waiting most part of the Dinner, and no Formality wanting which was accustomably required (even to the very giving of Gloves) at the most solemn Wedding.
[For more on Revd Heylyn, visit http://www.berkshirehistory.com/bios/pheylyn.html]
THE LONDON SPY, Ned Ward (1709)
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We blundered on in pursuit of our night's felicity, but scarce had walked the length of a horse's tether, ere we heard a noise so dreadful and surprising that we thought the Devil was riding on hunting through the City, with a pack of deep-mouthed hell-hounds, to catch a brace of tallymen [note 1] for breakfast. At last bolted out from the corner of a street, with an ignis fatuus dancing before them, a parcel of strange hobgoblins covered with long frieze rugs and blankets, hooped round with leather girdles from their cruppers to their shoulders, and their noddles buttoned up into caps of martial figure, like a knight errant at tilt and tournament with his wooden head locked in an iron helmet. One was armed, as I thought, with a lusty faggot-bat, and the rest with strange wooden weapons in their hands in the shape of clyster-pipes, but as long, almost, as speaking-trumpets. Of a sudden they clapped them to their mouths and made such a frightful yelling that I thought the world had been dissolving and the terrible sound of the last trumpet to be within an inch of my ears.
Under these amazing apprehensions I asked my friend what was the meaning of this infernal outcry. 'Prithee,' says he, 'what's the matter with thee? Thou look'st as if thou wert galleyed. Why these are the city waits, who play every winter's night through the streets to rouse each lazy drone to family duty.' 'Lord bless me!' said I. 'I am very glad it's no worse. I was never so scared since I popped out of the parsley-bed. Prithee, let us make haste out of the hearing of them, or I shall be forced to make a close-stool pan of my breeches.' At which my friend laughed at me. 'Why, what' says be, 'don't you love music? These are the topping tooters of the town, and have gowns, silver chains, and salaries, for playing "Lilliburlero" to my Lord Mayor's horse through the city.' 'Marry,' said I, 'if his horse liked their music no better than I do, he would soon fling his rider for hiring such bugbears to affront His Ambleship. For my part when you told me they were waits, I thought they had been the Polanders and was never so afraid but that their bears had been dancing behind them.'
Notes on Ned Ward's 'The London Spy':
1. 'tallymen': Ward and other contemporary writers can find no words strong enough to express their hatred of the tallyman or itinerant vendor of goods on the instalment plan.
2. 'galleyed': Condemned to the galleys.
The Waits in Samuel Pepys' Diary
Historical references to Waits are few and far between, and the same is true in Samuel Pepys' diary. The reason may be the same in both cases: that Waits were so much a part of everyday life as to not require comment. Another reason in Pepys' case, however, may well be that the Waits were not recovered following the interregnum.
The reason that Waits rarely appear in Town Council records during the interregnum is not so much because of 'puritanical' views about music. Puritans were against music in church, but not against music as such. Oliver Cromwell enjoyed listening to his personal band of musicians as much as any other ruler of England. However, the times were 'out of joint', and much of local government was in disarray, so that non-essentials such as Waits were often the first to have their salaries stopped.
We can probably assume that during the diary period (1660-1669), many Waits were still recovering from their years in the wilderness, and may well have consisted of old men and their apprentices, with few musicians in their prime. We should probably keep this in mind when reading Pepys' sometimes disparraging comments on Waits, together with the fact that he was himself an accomplished amateur musician, singer and composer and had access to the very finest music in the land, at court, in the London churches, and in the London theatres.
In fact, Pepys only refers to Waits by name once in the diary, which leads one to wonder what other references to Waits we might discover if we widened our search to include 'Town Music' and other such phrases.
The first reference is during a trip to his country house at Brampton, near Huntingdon. On the way home to London, he spent the night at the Bear Inn in Cambridge.
15 October 1662 ......but waked very earely, and when it was time did call up Will and we rose; and Musique (with a Bandore for the Base) did give me a Levett,1 and so we got ready....
On a visit to the well on Epsom Downs, Pepys thinks he has heard the Waits, but finds he is mistaken:
27 July 1663 .... There was at a distance, under one of the trees on the common, a company got together that sung; I, at that distance, and so all the rest, being a quarter of a mile off, took them for the waytes; so I rid up to them and find them only voices - some Citizens, met by chance, that sing four or five parts excellently. I have not been more pleased with a snapp of Musique, considering the circumstances of the time and place, in all my life anything so pleasant....
When Pepys got himself invited to the Lord Mayor's Day banquet, he didn't think much of the musical entertainment. It would appear that he was expecting the City of London Waits, but they didn't perform.
29th October 1663 .... I expected Musique, but there was none; but only trumpets and drums, which displeased me.
At Christmas in 1666 Pepys is awoken by the King's Trumpets, expecting payment - something which we normally associate with Waits, and which gave rise to the term "Christmas Waits".
27 December 1666 Up, and called up by the King's Trumpets, which cost me 10s.
A period of five years elapses before Pepys mentions the Cambridge Waits again, on another visit to Cambridge (he never mentions the London or Westminster Waits), but they have not improved. This time he is staying at The Rose.
9 October 1667 Up, and got ready and eat our breakfast and then took coach; and the poor, as they did yesterday, did stand at the coach to have something given them, as they do to all great persons, and I did give them something; and the town musique did also come and play; but Lord, what sad music they made - however, I was pleased with them, being all of us in very good humour....
On the same visit, whilst staying at Brampton, Pepys records a visit from Huntingdon Waits, who obviously thought the three mile walk each way worth the effort for the chance of extracting a gratuity from him.
11 October 1667 ..... But before we went out, the Huntington music came to me and played, and it was better then that of Cambridge.
In June of the next year, Pepys and his wife went on holiday to the West country. Only his rough notes survive from this trip. On Saturday, 13th June 1668 he was in Bath, experiencing the hot springs:
Carried back wrap in a sheet and in a chair2 home and there one after another thus carried (I staying above two hours in the water) home to bed sweating for an hour and by and by comes music to play to me extraordinary good as ever I heard at Landon almost anywhere _________ } 0-5-0
On Monday, 15th June they came to Marlborough and stayed at The Hart:
..... My wife pleased with all this evening reading of Mustapha3 to me till supper and then to supper and had music whose innocence pleased me and I did give them________________ 0-3-0
On Tuesday, 16th June, they dined at Newbery:
....and music which a song of the old Courtier of Q. Eliz. and how he was changed upon the coming in of the King did please me mightily and I did cause WH to write it out4 ________________ 0-3-6
They spent that night in Reading, and on the next morning, 17th June, they were given a huntsup, but Pepys was less than impressed:
Music the worst have had came to our chamber door but calling us by wrong names we gave them nothing
In the Autumn of the same year, Pepys records the following piece of gossip about the King's and the court's debaucheries whilst on a progress in East Anglia:
23 October 1668 .....How the King and these gentlemen did make the fiddlers of Thetford, this last progress, to sing them all the bawdy songs they could think of. ....
Notes on Pepys' quotes:
1 LEVETT: reveille, reveille music. (known to Waits as 'A Hunts-up')
2 a Bath Chair.
3 Mustapha; a tragedy by the Earl of Orrery
4 'The Queen's Old Courtier' (and other titles) sung on a single note. It was not the old courtier but his son who in James I's time was 'changed' (i.e. came to typify a new style in manners and morals). See C.M.Simpson, Brit. broadside ballad, pp. 591+.
James Shirley in his play "The Wittie Faire One" of 1633
When planning a wedding: "we'll ha' the City Waits down with us".
Roger Whitley's Diary 1684-1697
28 [December 1693], Thursday, Bryan Bolland came, stayd awhile. Brereton came about corne; that night Belman came for his box; Streete, Lloyd & the Constable dined with me, went about 4. the 2 Aldermen stayd; then came Warburton; then the Citty musick; all went past 5. Johnson came past 6, went about 7.
Roger Whitley's Diary 1684-1697: Bodleian Library, MS Eng Hist c 711 (2004).
Whitley was a Cheshire gentleman, Whig Member of Parliament for Chester in 1689-97 and landholder in Wales.
Registered Charity Number 1127315.