Living History & Reenactment Music

Musical Rambles Through History © by Sara L. Johnson

A Little Song, Song, Song, Not Very Long
Little Man and Little Maid

Little Man and Little Maid

I have a copy of the delightful song book The Edinburgh Musical Miscellany, printed in Edinburgh in 1793 by Grant & Moir. Every once in awhile, playing through the songs, I come across a tune, and say, "I know that tune!!! But what was its name the last time I made its acquaintance???" Song CXIV, on page 266 is one such tune, The Little Man and Little Maid. The tune appeared in John Playford's first edition of The English Dancing Master, of 1651, as Paul's Steeple, or St. Paul's Steeple. The same tune is used for the Scottish song John Anderson, My Jo, the text of which can be found about 1620, and I don't know about any earlier printings of the tune itself. As to the words of the two songs, same general topic, but Little Man and Maid is more genteel, as befits these Delicate Times.

The last line of the song was a puzzler: "And could have of a cat but her skin." Then I discovered in The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, based on the original 1870 book of Ebenezer Cobham Brewer, an explanation, sort of, for the phrase: "What can you have of a cat but her skin? Said of something that is useless for any purpose but one. The cat's fur was used for trimming cloaks, etc., but the flesh was no good for anything."