Lucy Broadwood and Cecil Sharp (1859-1924)

‘…he puffed and boomed and shoved and ousted, and used the Press to advertise himself’. (SHC Ref.2297/9).

Such was Lucy Broadwood’s view of Cecil Sharp, England’s most prolific folk music and dance collector and the acknowledged father of what is now widely known as the First Folk Revival. At the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards on 19 February 2014, the first inductee to the Folk Awards Hall of Fame is Cecil Sharp.

Lucy Broadwood’s papers include a large collection of letters written to her by many of the leading figures in London musical life and in the folk song movement, including Cecil Sharp. Lucy’s letters show that she had mixed feelings about Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams did not share them.

On 6 February 1904, Lucy met with Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Cecil Sharp, then a London music teacher who had come to folk song through his interest in traditional English dance tunes. Her diary records that they ‘discussed [the] Folk Song Society and made a scheme for reviving its dying embers’ (SHC Ref.6782/18). Sharp and Vaughan Williams were elected members and Lucy became Secretary and editor of the Society’s Journal. The emphasis moved from dry academic debate to the active collection and dissemination of folk song and the Society took off.

It is clear from Lucy’s correspondence and from the comments of Vaughan Williams that Lucy came to disapprove of Cecil Sharp. When he founded the English Folk Dance Society in 1911 she did not give it her support. She handed over the editorship of the Journal to Frank Howes in 1926 but continued to contribute material. She remained a member of the committee and when Lord Tennyson died in 1928 she was elected president. The Society merged with Folk Song Society in 1932 to form English Folk Dance & Song Society.

Letters relating to Cecil Sharp in Lucy Broadwood’s papers

  • Annie G Gilchrist at Bazil Point, Hesketh Park, Southport, Lancs, to Lucy Broadwood at 84 Carlisle Mansions, 25 Apr 1909.

Annie thanks Lucy for communicating her interesting discovery of Sicilian pentatonics. While Lucy has been ‘tootling Gaelic melodies on this primitive instrument’, she has heard that Mr C# [Cecil Sharp] has been practising on the pipe and tabor – a pair of which he has picked up in Gloucester in the hope of illuminating the structure and limitations of morris tunes. She has acquired two Irish oat-pipes. (SHC Ref. 2185/LEB/1/261)

  •  Cecil Sharp at Dragonfield, Uxbridge, Middx, to Lucy Broadwood at 84 Carlisle Mansions, 14 Nov 1914.

He discusses a reference he has found to Danish sailors singing about Daniel Rantzan, a thirteenth-century Dane, which has a possible connection with ‘the prototype of our Reuben Ranzo’. (SHC Ref. 2185/LEB/1/627)

  • Mrs Ella Leather at Castle House, Weobley, Herefordshire, to Lucy Broadwood at 41 Drayton Court, 19 Dec 1924. She thanks Lucy for the copy of her obituary of Cecil Sharp. (SHC Ref. 2185/LEB/1/639)

Envelope of notes annotated by Lucy, 1916-1919: ‘notes etc to be entered in folk song books and journals’. Includes MS notes on a variety of folk songs; MS musical extracts; notes and citations from published sources; a programme of ‘Musical Illustrations to Lecture’, nd. Also letters from Anne Gilchrist, 1916; Cecil Sharp, 1919; Herbert HE Craster, 1919; and W Barclay Squire, nd. (SHC Ref. 2185/LEB/2/36-71)

  • Printed brochure and list of subscribers to the Cecil Sharp memorial fund, 1924 – 1932. The brochure contains a short biography and work in collecting folk songs and dances; and photographs of people from whom he collected and of dances being performed throughout the country. All appeal expenses were defrayed by the English Folk Dance Society. (SHC Ref. 2185/LEB/2/79)
  • English County Songs, collected and edited by Lucy E Broadwood and JA Fuller Maitland (The Leadenhall Press, London, 1893). Lucy’s own heavily annotated, specially bound copy, with blank sheets between each printed page. She has copied, stuck, or loosely inserted newscuttings and musical examples that she had collected or which were sent to her by named contributors such as Annie Gilchrist, Gavin Greig, Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Of particular interest is a letter relating to ‘The Moon Shines Bright’, inserted between pp108-109, signed by ‘2033 Pte RV Williams’, sent by Ralph Vaughan Williams, [1914 x 1916]. (SHC Ref. 2185/LEB/5/118)
  • Envelope of papers annotated by Lucy Broadwood, c.1890-1910: contains music, words and research notes relating to the song known variously as ‘Bold Saxons’, ‘Both Sexes’ or ‘Adam & Eve’, collected by Lucy Broadwood, Annie Gilchrist, Cecil Sharp and Sabine Baring Gould from several named sources, 1890-1909. (SHC Ref. 2297/1)
  • Journal of the English Folk Dance & Song Society issued for the Jubilee of the Folk Song Society, 1898-1948 (Vol.V, no.3, Dec 1948). Includes profile of Lucy Broadwood by Ralph Vaughan Williams; and of other prominent members of the Folk Song Society including Frank Kidson, Frances Tolmie and Cecil Sharp. (SHC Ref. 2297/5)
  • Unsigned, annotated typescript letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Joan Bray replying to her request (see SHC Ref. 2297/7) in the negative. He returns her enclosures and suggests that Lucy and JA Fuller Maitland may have misjudged Cecil Sharp, 19 Jul 1958. (SHC Ref. 2297/8/1-4)
  • Letter from Lucy to Bertha Broadwood from 41 Drayton Court in which she comments on the disposal of effects from The Pavilion, the family’s residence in Melrose, Scotland; and comments of Cecil Sharp that he ‘unfortunately took up old songs and old dance collecting as a profession, &, not being a gentleman, he puffed and boomed and shoved and ousted and used the Press to advertise himself; so that, although we pioneers were the people from whom he originally learnt all that he knew of the subjects, he came to believe himself to be King of the whole movement’, 22 Jul 1924. (SHC Ref. 2297/9)

[This letter was originally clipped to Joan Bray’s letter to Ralph Vaughan Williams (SHC Ref. 2297/7) suggesting that it may also have been enclosed with the letter and may have prompted the defence of Cecil Sharp included in Vaughan Williams’ reply (SHC Ref. 2297/8)].

  • Lucy E Broadwood’s diaries and notebooks,1882-1929:

Although Lucy had always been interested in traditional song, her diaries do not begin to reflect her work as a collector until the late 1880s when she begins to note correspondence with local collectors. Her diary for 1891 records that she began writing to her local informants requesting more songs. The gradually increasing circle of folksong correspondents and visitors included Frank Kidson, Annie Gilchrist, Frances Tolmie, Gavin Greig, Alexander Keith, Cecil Sharp, Percy Merrick and Samuel Willett. (SHC Ref. 6782)

Want to find out more?

To find out more about Cecil Sharp see the English Folk Dance and Song Society website.

Images of Cecil Sharp. By kind permission of the English Dance and Folk Song Society

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *