HOLIDAY QUESTIONS his Holiday Question 13 (b) (Spectator, August 8),
Mr. Mackenzie Stewart falls for a 200- year-old fallacy that 'country dance' is derived from 'contredanse.' This fallacy was published in the Gentleman's Magazine (1758), when gentlemen looked to France for all their culture.
In fact, 'contredanse is derived from 'country
dance.' The argument is given in The Dance (p. 25). by Cecil J. Sharp and A. P. Oppd (Halton and Truscott Smith, 1924). Briefly : in England under the Tudors and early Stuarts there were country dances of various forms—rounds, square-eights, etc., as well as longways, with partners facing each other. Under the later Stuarts nearly all the country dances except the longways faded out. In 1706, there was published in Paris a Recueil de Contredanses, con- taining thirty-two longways country dances 'after the English model.' including sixteen taken from an English book. The word 'contredanse' only reached the French dictionaries after this (in 1718), though it has been found in a Frenchman's diary of 1626 describing English country dances at a time when the rounds and square-eights were still 'popular.
Mr. Stewart's question should have been 'What is the significance of "contre" in "contredanse"?' with the answer 'Country.'—Yours faithfully, Glendarroch, Dairy, Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire IIUGH FOSS