Baring-Gould, Sabine

Baring-Gould, Sabine
   Ordained in 1864, he served in several parishes, but in 1881 he appointed himself rector of the estate of Lew Trenchard (Devon) which he had inherited in 1872, and he remained there as squire and parson till his death. In a long and busy life, he was involved in numerous fields and wrote over 200 books, including 40 novels, travel books (West Country, Iceland, France, etc.), archaeology, hagiography, mythology, history, biography, folklore, and folk-song, in addition to hymns (including 'Onward Christian Soldiers', c.1864), sermons, and numerous articles, and in his day was a tremendously popular author. Perhaps it is inevitable that in scholarly terms his output is more notable for its quantity than its quality, but in this as in everything his achievements were erratic, ranging from the excellent to the not very good.
   Baring-Gould's interests roamed over many aspects of folklore, but it is in his folk-song collections that Baring-Gould made a lasting contribution. He was one of the first of the Victorian folk-song enthusiasts in the field, commencing his collecting in 1888, and publishing Songs of the West (1891) and A Garland of Country Song (1895). His books inspired others, such as Anne *Gilchrist, to take an interest, but his cavalier attitude to both texts and tunes gave him a bad name with other collectors. Nevertheless, he was one of the few of his generation who showed an interest in the singers as well as the songs, and he left several descriptions of the old men and women from whom he collected and whom he manifestly loved for their own sake. He commented, in his Reminiscences: 'To this day I consider the recovery of our Westcountry melodies has been the principal achievement of my life' (quoted in Dickinson, 1970: 123). He also had an extensive knowledge, and collection, of *broadsides and *chapbooks which he put to good use in his historical notes. Cecil *Sharp took Baring-Gould in hand for a revised edition of Songs of the West in 1905, the edition which is now accepted as the best, and the two men also collaborated on English Folk Songs for Schools (1906). His other song venture was the six-volume English Minstrelsie (1895-7), a meandering collection of art, popular, and folk-song, with his valuable and authoritative notes on the songs and often on the performers of bygone days. Baring-Gould left a mass of material when he died and his vast manuscripts are only now being identified and made available.
   ■ DNB; Bickford H. C. Dickinson, Sabine Baring-Gould: Squarson, Writer and Folklorist (1970); Harold Kirk-Smith, Now the Day is Over: The Life and Times of Sabine Baring-Gould (1997); William E. Purcell, Onward Christian Soldier: A Life of Sabine Baring-Gould (1957).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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