For yet more dancing, we turn to Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day. This is an English folk carol, and it is probably centuries old, but it first appeared in print in William B. Sandys’s 1833 collection, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern, Including the Most Popular in the West of England…. Sandys (1792-1874) was a lawyer and amateur antiquarian whose pastime was collecting carols, particularly from the West of England. He was clearly fascinated by holiday traditions: he prefaced his published collection with an extensive essay on the history of midwinter celebrations, both pagan and Christian. At the close of his introduction, Sandys explains that he printed his personal collection of folk carols to help preserve them lest they become lost to the oral tradition.
“[It was] an occasional amusement during some visits to the West of England, to collect any carols I met with. These gradually accumulated, and it was my intention, a few years since, to have printed a few of the most popular … The practice [of caroling] appearing to get more neglected every year, which will hereafter increase the difficulty of obtaining specimens, I determined to hazard the ensuing selections from a very large number of descriptions.” (Sandys 1833, cxliii)
Sandys’s collection includes a wide variety of pieces, including medieval carols in Middle English and a selection of French carols. Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day appears in the second section of Sandys’s collection, which is devoted to English folk carols. Sandys explains,
“The carols contained in the Second Part…are selected from upwards of one hundred obtained in different parts of the West of Cornwall, many of which, including those now published, are still in use. Some few of them are printed occasionally in the county, and also in London, Birmingham, and other places, as broadside carols … but a large portion, including some of the most curious, have, I believe, never been printed before.” (Sandys 1833, 182)
Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern was an influential catalyst for the Victorian Christmas revival. In addition to Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, Sandys’s collection also introduced Victorian carolers to The First Nowell, I Saw Three Ships, and God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, the carol we’ll explore next.