OK, folk dancers, you’ve patiently sat through all the Romances and the set-up of the Second Generation series—now you’re going to hit dancing pay-dirt with A31_An Abbey Champion, published in 1946. Ruth Allen’s chronology shows the installment as beginning in August of 1932 and ending in July of 1933, when Queen Marigold begins her reign. It is an important book for the folk-dance reader, as it shows the expansion of the repertoire in the late Twenties and early Thirties; an expansion beyond Sharp’s exploration of the complex set dances of the early volumes of Playford’s The Dancing Master (published between 1651 and 1728) and into both late eighteenth-century dances as well as the traditional repertoire.
The cover is difficult to interpret until one has read the book, but it represents the performance of the Folk Play, with Littlejan as the Fool and the head girl, Alison, as the tall doctor behind her along with St. George and other characters from the play. The illustrator, Margaret Holder, met with Elsie Oxenham’s approval (she did not approve of all of illustrations her publishers gave her), but I don’t find this a particularly appealing image—without the inside information that the reader will have at the end of the book I can’t equate the jester that I see with the word “champion,” nor does this say to me either “folk” or even “Abbey.” [Read more…]