‘THE TOWN MAY DA- DA- DA-M ME AS A POET,BUT THEY SING MY SONGS FOR ALL THAT’

Wit and Mirth: or Pills to purge Melancholy; being a Collection of the best merry Ballads and Songs, old and new. Fitted to all Humours, having each their proper Tune for either Voice, or Instrument: most of the Songs being new set. Vol. I. [ - the Sixth and Last].

London: Printed by W. Pearson, for J. Tonson ... 1719 [-20].

6 vols., 12mo., with engraved frontispiece portrait of D’Urfey in volume I, letterpress music in the text throughout; contemporary sprinkled calf, spines gilt in compartments, morocco labels, some skilful restoration to joints and headcaps, but a very attractive and sound set.

£2250

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Wit and Mirth: or Pills to purge Melancholy; being a Collection of the best merry Ballads and Songs, old and new. Fitted to all Humours, having each their proper Tune for either Voice, or Instrument: most of the Songs being new set. Vol. I. [ - the Sixth and Last].

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The first complete edition, second issue of volumes I-V with titles altered to the familiar Wit and Mirth from Songs Compleat, 1719 (a change at the time of the publication in 1720 of volume VI, which is always entitled Wit and Mirth).

The origins of Wit and Mirth: or Pills to Purge Melancholy, the most famous song book of its day, may be traced back to a single volume of ‘witty ballads, jovial songs, and merry catches’ by an earlier generation of lyricists, published without music in 1661 under the title An Antidote against Melancholy: made up in Pills. For the third edition, still without music but livened up by more recent songs, the title was changed to Wit and Mirth: An Antidote against Melancholy (1682), and in 1699, still in one volume, it was published by Henry Playford with music. Over the course of the next two decades it was expanded and republished again and again, eventually to become this six-volume definitive edition of contemporary popular comic and bawdy ballads, with an increasing emphasis on the work of the stammering dramatist and lyricist Thomas D’Urfey, whose songs were sung by all the town. Among the composers were Dr. John Blow and Henry Purcell.

Day and Murrie 236-240, & 242.

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