The tune is of French origin and dates at least from the 18th century. Allegedly it was composed the night after the Battle of Malplaquet in 1709. It became a French folk tune and was popularized by Marie Antoinette after she heard one of her maids singing it. The melody became so popular in France that it was used to represent the French defeat in Beethoven's composition "Wellington's Victory" Opus 91 written in 1813. The melody also became widely popular in the United Kingdom. By the mid-19th century it was being sung with the words "For he's a jolly good fellow", often at all-male social gatherings.
By 1862, it was already familiar in America. British and American versions of the lyrics differ. "And so say all of us" is typically British, while "which nobody can deny" is regarded as the American version, but "which nobody can deny" has been used by non-American writers, including Charles Dickens in Household Words, Hugh Stowell Brown in Lectures to the Men of Liverpool and James Joyce in Finnegans Wake.
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Composer Anonymous Instrument Piano