Sunday, April 03, 2011

Sir Billy and His Filly

I've been listening intermittently in the car to Stanford historian Jack Rakove's Colonial and Revolutionary History podcast course. The good professor has referred several times to a bit of doggerel concerning Sir William Howe's liaison while in New York with Elizabeth Loring, the wife of a loyalist by the name of Joshua Loring, suggesting that Sir Billy's extramarital bliss accounted for his slow departure from New York to Philadelphia in 1777.

Sir William, he, snug as a flea,
Lay all this time a-snoring;
Nor dreamed of harm, as he lay warm
In bed with Mrs. ------.


Awake, arouse, Sir Billy,
There's forage in the plain.
Ah, leave your little Filly,
And open the campaign.

In his lectures, Prof. Rakove suggests that Sir William ultimately decamped for Pennsylvania rather than venture up the Hudson because he misunderstood the penultimate line to be "Ah, leave for Philly".

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