Annotation:Beggar's Will (The)

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X:1 % T:Beggar’s Will, The M:9/8 L:1/8 R:Air or Slip Jig S:John Rook music manuscript collection (Waverton, Cumbria, 1840, p. 251) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:D G|FGA ABA A2G|FGA ABc d2F|G2G G2G FGA| B2A G2FE2||d|cde dcB A2A|d2c d2B e2F| G2G G2E FGA|B2A G2F E2||

BEGGAR'S WILL, THE. English, Air or Slip Jig (9/8 time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. The tune is contained in the 1840 music manuscript collection of multi-instrumentalist John Rook, of Waverton, Cumbria. It is perhaps named for the oft-retold but probably apocryphal story of a lame beggar who receives money or kindness over a period of years from a gentleman. When the beggar is about to die he contacts the gentleman, who attempts to ease his suffering, but the man dies. A few days later the man receives word that the beggar has bequeathed him all his worldly possessions--which to the gentleman's surprise amounts to a huge sum of money. The story feeds into the myth that street beggars are not as destitute as they seem, and that their mendicancy is but an act or a choice. A version of the tale is related by William Thomas Parke in his Musical Memoirs, vol. II (1830, pp. 79-80):

The following curious circumstance occurred to Mr. Boyce, son of the doctor [Ed. Dr. William Boyce (1711–1779), English-born composer and Master of the King's Musick], more than twenty years after his father's death: Mr Boyce received a letter by post from an unknown person, requesting he would call on him immediately, having an important communication to make relative to his late father. The mention of his father induced him to repair to the address indicated, which was in an obscure and dirty court in the heart of St. Giles's. When he arrived there he inquired of the people of the house for the person he came in quest of, and being told he lodged in the three pair of stairs back room, he ascended, and on entering the room, one of the most wretched imaginable, he was addressed by an old man, in tolerably good language, lying on a miserable bed, in an apparent state of great exhaustion, as follows: Sir, I have been a beggar nearly the whole of my life, and during your good father's time my station was in the street in which he lived; and so kind and liberal was he to me, that few days passed without my receiving marks of his charity. I now feel that I am on my death-bed, and having been successful in my calling, I request you will accept the amount of my savings, as a token of gratitude to your departed father." Mr. Boyce, who was struck with the declaration of the old man, told him to be of good cheer, as it was possible he might recover; but the old man added, with a faint smile, "If you will be kind enough to call here again in three days from this, you will receive a parcel directed for you, which will be the last trouble I shall give you." He did call, and found the beggar had, as he had predicted, breathed his last; and on opening the the parcel, to his great surprise he found it to contain the beggar's will in his favour, together with bank notes to the amount of upwards of 2,000₤.

See also the related "Barney Brallaghan," "Blewitt's Jig," "Irish Lilt (1) (An)," and "Miss Blewit's Jig."

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