Pretty Nun (The)

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PRETTY NUN, THE. English, Country Dance Tune and Jig (6/4 and 6/8 time). A Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB (Raven): AA'BB (Young). The melody was the vehicle for a country dance ("Longways for as many as will") in London publisher John Walsh's Second Book of the Compleat Country Dancing-Master (1719, republished in editions of 1735 and 1749), and in John Young's Third Volume of the Dancing Master, 2nd edition of c. 1726.

'The Pretty Nun' has been a trope since Chaucer's time. The Weekly Journal, or Saturday's Post (No. 274) of January 25, 1724, mentions an encounter with a 'pretty nun' in an piece on attending a masked ball:

In walking up and down the Room, I was often put in mind of Æsop’s Capt, which being transformed into a beautiful young Woman, yet still retained something of her former Nature; so several of our Masks forgetting their Characters, broke out into something that discovered them. I was very intent upon a Presbyterian Parson and a pretty nun, who were dancing a Minuet, when the Musick happening to play out of Time, the Nun, of a sudden, rapt out an Oath, and damn'd them with a very good Grace, Mr. Tesimony, not to be behind Hand with her, cursed for Company: I was very desirous of knowing the Order of Religious, which this pretty Nun profess'd, therefore when this Dance was over, I took an Occasion of talking with her, an found her very free of Conversation; in fine, she gave me to understand that she was of the Sisterhood, an belonged to a certain Convent, of which Mother N______[Nature?], is Lady Abbess. She let me know that Mr. Tesimony and she were old Acquaintance, the he was a Captain of Dragoons, and formerly a Member of the Hell Fire Club.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 19.

Recorded sources:




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