William Sandys, F.S.A., was born in 1792, educated at Westminster, and was an English solicitor (lawyer) by profession from 1814 until 1873. His Christmas publications include:
1833, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (which contained 80 carols)
1852, Christmas-tide, Its History, Festivities and Carols, With Their Music
His first carol book, published in 1833, contained an lengthy introduction of 136 pages, followed by three sections of music. Part 1 contained 34 "Ancient Carols and Christmas Songs from the early part of the fifteenth to end of the seventeenth century." Part 2 contained a selection of 40 carols "still used in the West of England.' The third part contained six French Provincial carols. In all, he reproduced 80 carols, all without music. He also reproduced 18 tunes on 12 pages of music. In addition, he contained a copy of "The Christmas Play of St George as represented in Cornwall." It is substantially the same as the version printed in his 1852 volume (see below).
His second carol book, published in 1852, is similar to the first, but was intended for the popular market as opposed to the scholarly market which was the target of the 1833 volume. The introduction runs 214 pages, but the number of carols drops to 42 (without music). He also prints 12 tunes, plus two plays:
While he is considered to be not as good a musician as his predecessor, Davies Gilbert (another Cornish gentleman and antiquary, who published two small carol collections in 1822 and 1823), Sandys was the first major collector of the 19th century, and was a primary source for many subsequent collectors. His publications, together with those of Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol, 1843, et al), redefined, continued, and intensified the trend of Christmas celebration in England following the drought created by the Puritans during the English Civil War, and the devastation occasioned by the Industrial Revolution.
He had a wide variety of interests and published several other volumes on various topics. He was well known in his day as an antiquary, with a special interest in music; he was also a member of the prestigious Percy Society in the 1840s. He collaborated with Simon Andrew Forster (1807 - 1870) — the younger son of 'Royal‘ Forster, the violin maker — in The History of the Violin and other Instruments Played on with the Bow (1864).
He died in London on February 18, 1874.
Note that Hugh Keyte, an editor of The New Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) believes that "Joshua Sylvestre" is a pseudonym for a collaboration between William Sandys (1792-1874) and William Henry Husk (1814-1887).
Books by Sandys
A Short View of the History of Free-Masonry, Dedicated to the Grand Lodge of England, London: Crew and Spencer, 1829.
Specimens of Macaronic Poetry, London: Richard Beckley, 1831.
Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern, London: Richard Beckley, 1833
Specimens of Cornish Provincial Dialect, 1846. Written under the pseudonym of “Uncle Jan Treenoodle.”
Festive Songs Principally of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries Bound with Pleasant Quippes for Upstart Newfangled Gentlewomen and A Treatyse Shewing and Declaring the Pryde and Abuse of Women Now a Dayes, London: The Percy Society, 1848.
Christmas-tide; it's History, Festivities and Carols, London, John Russell Smith, 1852 (some sources give the date as 1860; the book itself has no date).
The History of the Violin, and Other Instruments Played on with the Bow from the Remotest Times to The Present, with Simon Andrew Forster, London: William Reeves, 1864.
Transactions of the Loggerville Literary Society, London: John Russell Smith, 1867.
Other Sandys literary contributions:
“A Cornish Christmas Play,” from William Hone, The Every-day Book and Table Book, Vol. II, London: Thomas Tegg & Son, 1827. Opens in a new window at another site.
“Christmas Drama of St George,” Gentlemen's Magazine & Historical Review, June, 1830.
“Christmas Play of St. George” or ”Christmas Play of St. George and the Dragon.” Reproduced from Sandys' 1833 Christmas collection. May be the same as the 1830 publications from Gentlemen's Magazine. Opens in a new window at another site.
These two plays share a common theme, and some common dialogue.
William E. Studwell and Dorothy E. Jones, Publishing Glad Tidings: Essays on Christmas Music (New York: Haworth Press, 1998).
Sir Richard R. Terry, from the preface to Gilbert and Sandys' Christmas Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd, 1931)
Note: F. S. A stands for "Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries." The society still exists. According to their web page, "To be elected persons shall be 'excelling in the knowledge of the antiquities and history of this and other nations' and be 'desirous to promote the honour, business and emoluments of the Society'." The Society one of the UK's oldest learned societies, having held their inaugural meeting in 1707 and having received their Royal Charter in 1751. See: Society of Antiquaries of London. Their library contains over 100,000 books. Membership is by invitation only.
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