The celebrated Miss Nancy Dawson and her hornpipe

Nancy Dawson spent eight years dancing in London, at Sadler’s Wells, Covent Garden and Drury Lane, but she never enjoyed the position of a leading dancer in a company. It was her hornpipe, danced in the Beggar’s Opera in October 1759, that shot her into celebrity status and ensured the survival of her name. Her reputation was slandered in one of the worst examples of 18th century gutter-press ‘authentic memoirs’, but her will presents a different picture. This
paper will look at the long term survival of the tune of ‘Nancy Dawson’ as well as examining her career and the way in which she figured, in words and pictures, in the celebrity culture of the day.
 
Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson have written extensively on 17th and 18th century singers for musical periodicals and for New Grove. They were Research Associates for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, for which they wrote over 60 articles, and have edited facsimile editions of the complete songs of Richard Leveridge in Music for London Entertainment 1660-1800 (1997) and of The Monthly Mask of Vocal Music, 1702-1711 (2007). ‘The Harmonious Unfortunate; new light on Catherine Tofts’ appeared in the Cambridge Opera Journal, vol. 22 (2011) and ‘The Subscription Musick of 1703-04’ was in the Musical Times for Winter 2012. Their ‘Theatre Dancers at the Court of Queen Anne’ was published in Court Historian in December 2010 and, with Michael Burden, they compiled ‘Images of Dancers on the London Stage, 1699-1800’, published in Music in Art, vol. 36 (2011).
 
Author: 
Olive Baldwin
Thelma Wilson
Symposium_number: 
16
Symposium Title: 
The dancer in celebrity in the long 18th-century 2014