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Saturday morning quotes 3.47: Edward Doughtie (1935 – 26 March 2014)

April 4, 2014

With much regret we report the sad news of Edward Doughtie’s passing on 26th March 2014. A frequent correspondent and a mentor who treated us as colleagues, Ed shared his knowledge and wisdom with an old-school sense of decorum. With gently wry suggestions and kind supportive words, he helped add substance to our understanding of the sources, literary context and musical sound world of English lute songs, and we have made it a point to honor his contributions on a number of occasions.

As a professor of English literature, Doughtie’s main concern was the literary context of the lute song repertory. But in the Introduction to Lyrics from English Airs (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1970), he suggested with characteristic understatement that “…The reader who is not a music historian might not object to a brief consideration of the musical context and some reminders of the parallels between music and poetry during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.” The Introduction then offers a detailed  forty-one page description of the literary history and musical development of English lute songs that is a model of clarity.

His specialist knowledge of the sources of English lute songs did not go unnoticed by music historians, and Professor Doughtie’s work was cited several times in Diana Poulton’s standard reference biography of John Dowland (John Dowland: his life and works, London, 1972; Berkeley, Cal., 2nd edition, 1982). In their anniversary edition of Dowland’s Lachrimae or Seaven Teares (Fretwork Editions, London 2004), David Pinto and Lynda Sayce acknowledge Doughtie’s helpful assistance in tracking down surviving copies of the original print.

Some 50 years ago in an undated article, “Words for Music: Simplicity and Complexity in the Elizabethan Air” (Rice University Studies, c.1963), Professor Doughtie demonstrated a deep understanding of the structural and emotional underpinnings of lute songs in his descriptive analysis of Dowland’s “Weepe you no more sad fountaines” (1603):

“This song will bear repeated hearings, not only because of its formal and musical beauty, but also because of the subtleties that gradually reveal themselves. The mood and general meaning of the poem are clear on the first hearing…The situation and the conclusion are understood or inferred; the poem dwells on the moment, the emotions. In later hearings, one becomes aware of a phenomenon that is possible only in artfully conceived strophic songs. Because the same melody is used for both stanzas, the memory juxtaposes the two sets of words; one hears the echo, so to speak, of the first stanza while one is hearing the second stanza.”

Our correspondence with Ed Doughtie began with a question concerning an odd poetical construct found in the text of Dowland’s “I saw my Lady weepe”, and culminated in his contribution of an essay published in the booklet of our 2013 recording  John Dowland: A Pilgrimes Solace. On several occasions, Ed kindly expressed his appreciation for our interpretive insights, and he helped clarify many other textual details enabling us to bridge the vast chasm that lies between simply performing a song and completely inhabiting the emotional context of a piece.

Pointing out that he was now retired, he shared some of his more current interests and projects including a rather racy novel or two, one of which featured the colorful character of a curmudgeonly Tobias Hume. An active amateur violinist and violist, Ed also sent us the score of a song he had composed, titled “Night Song”. We promptly arranged it as a lute song and when Donna posted a video that included film noir imagery, he wrote to express his delight at having finally achieved Rock Star status.

One of our last communications was a few weeks ago after Ed sent us a rather hefty carton containing a large stack of facsimiles and source material on English lute songs, complete with his handwritten annotations. Dismissively suggesting that we could recycle the papers if we wished, he knew just how much we would value these mementos of such a significant body of work, and just how much enjoyment we continue to derive from deciphering his scrawled marginalia. Ed sent the carton by post ornately decorated with no fewer than twenty-nine individual 33-cent postage stamps affixed to the top, knowing that we would appreciate the wry reminder that the contents contained the minutia of a labor of love; scrawls on scores that symbolize his life’s work. We do.

Note: Edward Doughtie gave us permission to share our arrangement of his composition, “Night Song.” Write and let us know how Ed’s work contributed to your understanding of lute songs, and we will gladly send you a copy of our score of the song.


  1. Dan Winheld permalink

    I found a used copy of “Lyrics from English Airs” only just this past year, still haven’t read all of it yet. Thanks for this news and background, and so sorry for such a loss.

    What a song & video combination! Raymond Chandler down and out in London, Philip Marlowe come home at last.

  2. David Lamb permalink

    My heart-felt sympathy at the loss of your old friend Edward Doughtie. He and I were born in the same year, and I have to deal with the loss of too many of those in my cohort. It was only a few weeks ago that I became aware of Doughtie through his lovely and moving “Night Song.” I am grateful to know this tiny fragment of his work and regret that I came in too late to get to know him. I keep reminding myself that although we lose dear friends, their music and poetry lives in our hearts forever. May your friend’s poetry bring you peace. D. Lamb

  3. David Pinto permalink

    Sad to see here by chance about Ed Doughtie; but also a chance for a salute. I was introduced to him by Diana Poulton, after Faber Music of London contracted me to produce an edition of Dowland’s Lachrimae. He immediately, generously and trustingly, sent me his microfilm of copies of the original print that had gone abroad in the 17th century, and were then in the same family still, that of the Fürst Alexander zu Dohna-Schlobitten at Lörrach. Though only intermittently keeping in touch (the edition ran on the rocks as Faber’s commitment to early music faltered) I did let him know about anything on Dowland that came my way, and was most tickled by his rather too polite appreciation of my firmly-held and unshakeable views that catholicism infects Dowland’s music root and branch. He mentioned a picaresque novel on Tobias Hume: I haven’t see if that came to anything. But it was his careful doctoral work on English songbooks that should affectionately seal his memory. That certainly inspired me though no pupil of his to try harder. In the cliché, a scholar and a gentleman, in the woods of Vermont or anywhere.

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