The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #125119   Message #2767874
Posted By: Steve Gardham
17-Nov-09 - 02:09 PM
Thread Name: Early Broadsides (was-Music o t People)
Subject: Early Broadsides (was-Music o t People)
Anyone dropping in and wanting to read/contribute to this one, Brian Peters and I were discussing the possibility that several of the 'Child Ballads' originated on 17thc broadsides. Brian referred to a 1989 article by David Atkinson on 'James Harris, The Daemon Lover (Child 243) which in passing presents the possibility that some of these broadsides of Child Ballads had earlier versions.
This was started on the thread 'Music of the People...Don't make me laugh!' still current.

Joe, do you want to make some sort of link? Like this? (click)

Firstly the main thrust of David's article in FMJ Vol 5 Number 5 demonstrates that the 17thc broadside 'A warning for Married Women' ascribed to Laurence Price is undoubtedly the model for the later 18thc broadsides 'The Distressed Ship Carpenter' and that these 18thc/19thc broadsides are very likely the origin of all of the versions collected in oral tradition, particularly in England and North America. The Scottish versions are something different and I don't want to go into my views on those here and cloud the issue.

David does indeed present the possibility that some of these MIGHT have predecessors. In fact he uses the word 'might' rather a lot in the article, where 'might not' would be just as apt. Having spoken to David on several occasions since that article, I think I can safely say I think his view has changed somewhat on the relationship between broadsides and the oral tradition.

If you read the article carefully what he actually is saying is that some of these early broadside ballads were based on earlier models or stories. Absolutely. Nearly all of Shakespeare's plays were such, but I don't think anyone would claim he didn't write them. Romeo and Juliet is a great example and very relevant here. It is well-known that Shakespeare's source for the play was a ballad translated from the French before he was born. Of course the French version can be traced back to Italian stories of the 12th/13th century (off the top of my head so don't quote me). Of course many of the broadside ballads that weren't on contemporary events were based on existing stories. Another good example is 'The Bramble Briar', unquestionably based on the first part of 'Isabella and the Pot of Basil' from the Decameron, which in itself was only a collection of stories.

David gets one ballad wrong in mentioning Child 20,'a German analogue to which actually has Satan carry away the mother when she denies that the children are hers'; but this is understandable as Child got it completely wrong(IMO). Almost all of Child's notes on Child 20 actually pertain to Child 21 The Maid and the Palmer. He does refer to 2 recently collected Danish versions, but these are derived from Danish translations of Scottish versions, ironically by Grundtvig who gave Child most of his European analogues. In my well considered opinion, having studied with a fine tooth comb all extant versions, 'The Cruel Mother' originated with the 17thc broadside 'The Duke's Daughter's Cruelty' and again ironically this would have been another good example of a broadside origin for David to have used, later in his article.

David quite rightly emphasised the fact that many of these ballads that eventually entered oral traditional were written as moral warnings as is obviously the subject of the article. I think that 'The Duke's Daughter's Cruelty' was written for precisely the same reason, not however 'a warning to married women' but as a warning to young well-heeled girls not to get romantically involved below their station.

David made reference to Robin Hood ballads, a few of which undoubtedly can be traced back to the 16th century. There are earlier references to 'rhymes of Robin Hood and Little John' but personally I don't think these can have been ballads. Outlaw stories that sparked some of the stories in the ballads were undoubtedly in existence very early and some of these were based on earlier outlaws like Fulk Fitzwarren. BUT undoubtedly the bulk of the RH ballad were written expressly for the upmarket readership of the Garlands. They were again undoubtedly meant to be sung as they all had tunes, but not sung by the peasantry who could never have afforded to buy these relatively expensive books even if they could have read them.
Which in fact is why the only ones found in oral tradition in the 19thc were those few that had been reprinted on cheap broadsides then. Child only included them all for the sake of completeness.