[Peter Opie, folklorist, with wife Iona Opie, of children's games and nursery rhymes.] Two Typed Letters Signed to W. J. MacQueen-Pope, on the music hall, John Dunn and 'Jump Jim Crow', the Great Macdermott and 'Jeremiah, blow the fire'.

Peter Opie (1918-1982), folklorist who, with his wife Iona Opie (1923-2017), worked on children's games and literature, donating their collection to the Bodleian [W. J. MacQueen-Pope (1888-1960)]
Publication details: 
Opie's two letters on letterhead of 'IONA OPIE | PETER OPIE', Rockbourne House, 100 High Street, Alton, Hampshire. 20 and 25 January 1951. With carbon copy of a reply from MacQueen-Pope, 23 January 1951.
SKU: 22915

The three items (two letters from Peter Opie to MacQueen-Pope and carbon copy of his reply to the first of these) are in fair condition, on aged and lightly-creased paper, with a slight nick at the head of the first letter. Inspired by the recent publication of MP's 'The Melody Lingers On: The Story of Music Hall' (1950), Opie writes to MP via his publishers W. H. Allen & Co, and signs both letters 'Peter Opie.' MP writes to Opie at Rockbourne House. ONE: TLS from Opie to MP. 20 January 1951. 1p, 4to. He has been 'absorbed this last week' in MP's 'detailed and fascinating account of Music Hall', and as editor with his wife of the forthcoming 'Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes' asks MP to elucidate two points, the first relating to John Dunn, Thomas D. Rice and the song 'Jump Jim Crow'; the second with relation to 'the splendid Concanen sheet' of the Great Macdermott's song 'Jeremiah, blow the fire'. Regarding the second point he writes: 'Since we have only found this rhyme in the nursery in the 20th century, it looks as if it is a memory of Macdermott's song. We would be considerably indebted to you if you could give us the original words of this song. I am afraid the sheet is not in the British Museum. I wonder, also, if you have any idea of its date? Judging by the name of the composer, and the style of Concanen's drawing, I should say some time before 1880. What would you?' He ends in concurring with 'the reviewer in the T.L.S.' that MP is being unduly modest 'in disclaiming that you have written a definitive history of the Halls. It is difficult to imagine a more comprehensive work on the subject, unless, of course, you yourself intend a further and definitive history'. TWO: Unsigned Carbon of TL from MP to Opie. 23 January 1951. 1p, 4to. He gives information about James Dunn, one of whose popular 'turns' was 'the performance of Jim Crow - which had been invented or copied from the American negroes by Thomas D. Rice [...] Another expert in this curious act was Yates, an actor-manager who ruled the Adelphi Theatre for some years from 1825'. He gives a long anecdote about Yates performing the 'turn' on the hustings, after being caught voting Tory at an election ('they disapproved of actors showing political favour'). Regarding 'Jeremiah, blow the fire', MP only has the cover of the song, the rest having possibly become detached. He will 'have it searched for. Meanwhile I think Francis Day and Hunter could help you with the words and date. It was originally published by Francis Brothers and Day - so they will have a record.' THREE: TLS from Opie to MP. 25 January 1951. 1p, landscape 12mo. Thanking MP for his 'helpful letter'. 'Were we not already in page proof I should seek to include some of your further anecdotes about Jim Crow. It seems to have had a famous history. Bernard Shaw told us the dance was also a great favourite of Barry Sullivan's. I would like to see someone do it now.' He will 'write to Mr. Abbott immediately'.