The oddly named Mr Beveridge’s Maggot will be familiar to many Jane Austen fans: the music and dance was wonderfully incorporated into both the BBC’s 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice (with Jennifer Ehle as Lizzie and Colin Firth as an unforgettable Darcy) and in the 1996 film adaptation of Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam. Actually, however well this music seems to ‘fit’ with our notions of Regency period music, the music would never have featured in dances of the time: being 150 years old, it would have been considered incredibly old-fashioned – just imagine a teenager of today dancing the Charleston and you’ll get the picture!
Mr Beveridge’s Maggot first appeared in print in Playford’s Dancing Master of 1695 – a work which appeared in numerous editions dating back to the mid 17th century and which contained both the music and instructions for over 100 English country dances. Many of the tunes were attributed to Playford himself, although it is more likely that he simply collected and transcribed music that had existed for many years. The dances were re-published in the early 20th century by Cecil Sharp and these reconstructed forms remain popular today.