Physical Snob

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PHYSICAL SNOB, THE. English, Country Dance Tune (9/8 time). F Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABBCC. The melody dates to c. 1800, however, the original source has been lost and it has survived only by being printed in much later country dance collections, such as Bentley's 1960's Failibroome. Dance instructions are for a longways dance for three couples, and it is a very popular dance with modern English Country Dancers. There was a broadside ballad called "The Physical Snob" [Roud Number: V1973] about a cobbler who moonlights as a quack physician. It goes:

I am a physical snob, Sirs,
Can cure ev'ry disease very vast!
There's no greater dab at a job, Sirs,
Than litte Emanuel Last.
A son of a seventh son I, Sirs,
Altho' in no chariot I rolls!
As a physician I patch up your bodies,
As a cobbler I patch up your soles.
With my fol de rol, &c.

Your Warnick-lane physic disciples,
Strut about, and look wond'rous big;
But alas! all their knowledge is plac'd
In a gold-headed cane and bush wig;
As for me, Sirs, I cure all distempers,
Howsomever so bad they may be;
But, like many of my learned brothers,
No prescription without I've a fee.
With my fol de rol, &c.

Master Bobby, a crop of this age,
T'other day in great haste for me sent;
Lest death should push him off life's stage,
So away the the gemman I went:
I gave him a potion for sleeping,
Which, a little while after he'd ta'en,
He was put into bed, and he slept, Sirs,
So sound that he ne'r wak'd again.
With my fol de rol, &c.

When my physical habit I quit,
As a cobbler appearing to view,
I ne'er fear each fancy shall hit,
If I gain approbation from you;
And when I'm at work in my stall,
Or in physical habit, I sing,
Whether handling the potion or awl,
Like a true Briton, God save the King.
With my, &c.

The song appears in numerous early 19th century song collections, including The Jovial Songster (1800), The Nightingale (1802) and Charles Wilson's The Myrtle and Vine; or, Complete Vocal Library (1803). Dancing master John Durang (1768-1822, for whom see "Durang's Hornpipe (1)") contributed several new works to Bill Rickett's circus in late 18th/early 19th century America, including “a Comic Piece, in One Act, called The Physical Snob," although as the play is missing it is not able to be determined whether there is a connection to the country dance or the song.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes), 1986. Bentley (Fallibroome Collection, vol. 1). Christian (A Playford Assembly). 2015; p. 87.

Recorded sources:




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