Roger de Coverley

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Roger de (or of) Coverley (also Sir Roger de Coverley or ...Coverly) is the name of an English country dance and a Scottish country dance (also known as The Haymakers). An early version was published in The Dancing Master, 9th edition (1695)[1]. The Virginia Reel is probably related to it. The name refers to a fox, and the dance's steps are reminiscent of a hunted fox going in and out of cover.

References in modern culture[edit]

It is mentioned in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (1843) when the Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge a party from his apprenticeship with Mr. Fezziwig. "...the great effect of the evening came after the Roast and Boiled, when the fiddler ... struck up 'Sir Roger de Coverley'. Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig." In the 1951 film Scrooge, based on Dickens's story and starring Alastair Sim in the title role, the fiddler is shown playing the tune at an energetic tempo during the party scene. It also figures in William Makepeace Thackeray's short story "The Bedford-Row Conspiracy" as the musical center piece of a political feast pitting the Whigs against the Torys and in Arnold Bennett's novel "Leonora" as music considered more suitable for a ball by the older gents to the likes of the Blue Danube Waltz.

It is mentioned also in the book Silas Marner by George Eliot, when the fiddler at the Cass New Year's Eve party plays it to signal the beginning of the evening dancing; it is furthermore mentioned in the children's book The Rescuers by Margery Sharp.

Also Harry Thompson, in his first novel This Thing of Darkness, mentioned this dance. "... and so it was that, five minutes later, he found himself bowing to her, and she curtsying in reply, as they lined up facing one another for the commencement of the Sir Roger de Coverley".[1]

The dance plays a part in the Dorothy Sayers short story "The Queen's Square", and is mentioned in Washington Irving's The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent..

Sir Roger de Coverly also gets a mention in "Stig of the Dump" by Clive King when Barney and his sister attend a fancy dress party.

It is also mentioned in D H Lawrence's Sons and Lovers (1913), where Gertrude Morel is reported never to have learned the dance.

The dance is also mentioned in Anthony Trollope's novel Can You Forgive Her? Vol. 2 Ch. IX

The tune was used by Frank Bridge in 1922 as the basis of a work for strings titled Sir Roger de Coverly (A Christmas Dance). H. E. Bates used the name Sir Roger to refer to a real hunted fox in the novel Love for Lydia.

Sir Roger de Coverley was also the name of a character in The Spectator (1711). An English squire of Queen Anne's reign, Sir Roger exemplified the values of an old country gentleman, and was portrayed as lovable but somewhat ridiculous ('rather beloved than esteemed') (Spectator no. 2), making his Tory politics seem harmless but silly. He was said to be the grandson of the man who invented the dance.

Joseph Heller included a character, "Major —— de Coverley" (a possible reference to "...Coverly") in his novel, Catch 22.

Thomas Pynchon, in his 1973 novel, Gravity's Rainbow, includes a character, DeCoverly Pox. The name is a likely play on "DeCoverley" and Roger the fox of the eponymous dance.[2].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thompson, Harry (16 January 2006). This Thing of Darkness (Paperback ed.). Headline Review. p. 187. ISBN 978-0755302819.
  2. ^ Pynchon, Thomas (1973). Gravity's Rainbow. Viking Compass Edition. pp. 9, 21. ISBN 978-0670003747.

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