Cuckolds all a Row ~ Lovelace

Cuckles all a Row

Cuckolds all a Row ~ Barraclough Cuckolds all a Row ~ Lovelace Cuckolds all a Row ~ Sharp

Cuckolds all a Row ~ Lovelace or Cuckles all a Row is an English Country Dance. It was found in the Lovelace Manuscript (written somewhere around the 1640s) and later published in The English Dancing Master. It was interpreted by George Williams in 2022. It is a Facing Couples dance. There is no progression in this dance. It is a USA dance. The dance lasts 72 bars. It is in the key: C major.

This is one of the few dances for which we have a description before Playford. The Lovelace Manuscript in the Houghton Library at Harvard University, filed as MS Eng. 1356 contains descriptions of 20 country dances (of which this is one). The manuscript is undated but was probably written between 1621~1649.

The dance also appears in Playford (starting in the first edition of 1651 and continuing until 1728)

Cecil Sharp interpreted the Plavford version in 1911 (and bowdlerized the title to Hey, boys, up go we and changed the music). I shall try here to interpret what the Lovelace Manuscript says to do.

The Playford Ball quotes Samuel Pepys in 1662 as quoting Charles II "Then to country dances; the King leading the first, which he called for, which was, says he 'Cuckolds all awry.' The old dance of England."

Lovelace description (transcription by Dafydd Cyhoeddwr:

Both couple shall stand 4 square, and leade up to one another, and downe agayne twice; then each man shall goe round about his owne woeman, then the last parte of the tune is to be playd againe, after that he hath gone round about his owne woman, first, and then about the woman, that is opposite against him, and then hee shall goe round the woeman that was opposite to him first, and his own last;
Sides all twice, first with his owne woeman, and then with her, that is opposite to him, then the 2 men shall change places, the woemen also allmost at the same time, then joyne all hands, and goe round, till you come to your places, then the woemen shall crosse over first; and then the men and joyne hands like before, and turne round the other way till you come to your places
Armes all twice, once with your owne woemen, and once with the other, but if you please you shall armes with your owne last, then each man shall take the woeman, that is right over against him, and the one shall draw her upwards and the other downwards; and presently draw them againe close together in theire places holding hands; then one couple shall pass through the other, first and then presently the other shall passe through, then the last part of the tune being played againe, they shall draw them contrary to that as they did before like as he that drawes his woeman upward before, shall now draw her downward, and the other upward, and then passe through agayne, contrary to what was done before.

Playford (1651) describes it thus:

Meet all forward and backe That again Turn back to back with the Co. We. faces again, goe about the Co. We. not turning your faces Turn back to back to your owne, faces againe, goe about your owne not turning faces

Sides all with your owne sides all with the Co. Men change places, We. change places, hands all goe round We. change places, Men change places, hands all and goe round to your places

Armes all with your owne armes all with the Co. Men put the Co. We. back by both hands, fall even on the Co. side men cast off to the right hand, your We. following, come to the same place again put them back again, fall on your owne side, men cast off to the left hand and come to your places the We. following

Lovelace says each man shall goe round about his owne woeman. First question: Does the woman also go about the man? Lovelace doesn't say she should. Neither does Playford for that matter. Sharp has the woman active also. There are plenty of Playford dances which start with M1 setting to someone who doesn't set back, so it is certainly possible that only the man is involved.

In Wallingford-House (Playford, 1670) The first man goes round his own wo the second wo. follows makes it pretty clear that the 1st woman is not moving.

Then what does "go about" mean? If it's only the man active then presumabley he just loops around the woman and returns to place. Playford says not turning your faces. Faces is plural. Does that include the women? or just the two men?

Sharp thinks "not turning your faces" means a gypsy, you keep your face toward your partner. But that's an odd interpretation. A back to back seems much more likely. I've never heard someone say "don't turn your face" when describing a gypsy, but it is exactly what someone would say when describing a back to back.

I suspect Lovelace did not intend for the women to move here. But modern dancers would not stand for that, so I shall have people doing back to backs. Not that Lovelace has the back to back start with partner (which is unnatural as you are facing your neighbor), then with neighbor, then neighbor again (presumably in the opposite direction) and then partner again. This ordering is different from Playford's.

Looking back at Playford we see something quite different: Turn back to back with the Co. We. faces again, goe about the Co. We. not turning your faces. Playford, pretty clearly intends two different moves, though Sharp interprets both as gypsies. John Sweeney has an interesting take on this, he says that Turn back to back just means turning your back to someone, probably while doing fancy steps so as to show off your body from all angles. (To my mind this argues against the women doing it, because why show off if the person you are showing off to also has her (his) back to you.) There is an interesting interpretation of this done by the Newcastle Country Dancers in 2012 where people turn their back and then bump rumps.


The second part seems the same in Lovelace and Playford, except that in Lovelace the second circle goes in the opposite direction from the first, while Playford doesn't specify a direction. And Sharp's interpretation of that seems fine (except that I would use inline sideing rather than swirly siding, and make the second circle be to the right — like Playford Sharp doesn't specify a direction).


The third part begins with arming. Lovelace suggests that you could arm with your partner last, rather than first. Clearly everyone must agree to this before the dance or there will be massive confusion. I'm not going to take him up on this alternative, the siding starts with partner, and so should arming, in my opinion.

Then we have the half poussette. If I read it correctly, Playford has the men pushing (he says "men put the Co. We. back") while Lovelace has the men pulling (he says "shall draw her"). Micheal Barraclough points out, in his interpretation, that Playford's description of the second half of this move isn't like a poussette. However Lovelace's description is like a poussette.

Playford follows the poussette with a chase; Lovelace does not, he describes something which sounds like matchboxes, with couples passing first inside and then outside each other. I'm assuming they retain hands from the poussette so this is actually a dip and dive figure. Lovelace doesn't say which couple goes first, but I assume it's the one containing M1.

Note that this breaks the symmetry of the dance. Up to this point the 2s have done exactly the same as the 1s (rotated 180 degrees), suddenly they are different.

Lovelace's second poussette now goes in the opposite direction (Playford doesn't really specify a direction, he says "put them back again" which I would think meant continue in the same clockwise fashion).

The dance, Cuckolds All A Row, originally used its own tune, but Sharp decided to use that of Hey Boys, up we go instead. It was published by Playford with that dance. It was performed by Bare Necessities (Earl Gaddis, Mary Lea, Peter Barnes, and Jacqueline Schwab) on the album A Playford Ball. The music is used with permission from the Country Dance Society, Boston Centre, Inc.

The animation plays at 125 counts per minute. Men are drawn as rectangles, women as ellipses. Each couple is drawn in its own color.

The dances of George Williams (including this one) are licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike: CC BY-NC-SA license.
An online description of the dance may be found here.

I.A1-4In a double, and back (toward the other couple)
5-8That again
I.B11-4Face partner, right shoulder back to back
5-8Face neighbor, left shoulder back to back
I.B21-4Still facing neighbor, right shoulder back to back
5-8Face partner, left shoulder back to back
II.A1-4Partner side right
5-8Neighbor side left
II.B11-2Men change places
3-4Women change
5-8Circle left once
II.B21-2Women change
3-4Men change
5-8Circle right once
III.A1-4Partners arm right
5-8Neighbors arm left
III.B11-4Half Poussette with neighbor, women push
5-8W1+M2 arch, others duck under to trade places, then M1+W2 arch and trade back
III.B21-4Half Poussette with neighbor, women push
5-8M1+W2 arch, others duck under to trade places, the W1+M2 arch and trade back

If you find what you believe to be a mistake in this animation, please leave a comment on youtube explaining what you believe to be wrong. If I agree with you I shall do my best to fix it.

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I do not have a publication date for the dance and not know whether it is under copyright or not. The interpretation is copyright © 2022 by George Williams. And is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. My visualization of this dance is copyright © 2022 by George W. Williams V and is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This website is copyright © 2021,2022 by George W. Williams V
Creative Commons License My work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Most of the dances have more restrictive licensing, see my notes on copyright, the individual dance pages should mention when some rights are waived.