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Frank Kidson

(1855—1926) writer and antiquary


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(1855–1926). Born and living for most of his life in Leeds, he was proud of his home town and Yorkshire roots, and made a modest living as a journalist and author. Along with Lucy Broadwood and Sabine Baring-Gould he formed part of an important generation of pre-Folk Song Society song enthusiasts whose early collecting activities were undertaken more or less in isolation but whose individual efforts, and first publications, became both standard works and catalysts for the movement which included the formation of the Society in 1898, and the widespread increase in interest in the subject in the early 20th century. Kidson's first book was Old English Country Dances (1890) which made available dance-tunes of previous eras, but his second work, Traditional Tunes (1891), had much more effect, despite being published in a limited edition. On the formation of the Society, Kidson was immediately elected to its Executive Committee, and he remained supportive of the Society's work all his life. Kidson became the acknowledged successor to William Chappell as the leading musical antiquary of his generation, and he built up both a remarkable collection of early printed and manuscript material, and also an unrivalled knowledge of the history of popular song and music. His enthusiasm for folksong, experience of the oral tradition, and his interest in and knowledge of broadside and chapbook material were elements which Chappell lacked. Many tributes from other folk-song collectors, writers, and editors, remark how this tremendous knowledge was always readily available to others, and Kidson served the Journal of the Folk-Song Society for many years as advisor, selector, and annotator.

Among Kidson's other publications were his seminal reference work, British Music Publishers, Printers and Engravers: Provincial, Scottish and Irish, from Queen Elizabeth's Reign to George the Fourth's (1900), The Beggars Opera, and over 400 entries for the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. His only other book of folk songs was A Garland of English Folk-Songs (1926), but after his death, his niece, Ethel Kidson, edited and published some of the songs from his collection, as Folk Songs of the North Countrie (1927) and English Peasant Songs (1929).

From A Dictionary of English Folklore in Oxford Reference.


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