The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #126347   Message #2863459
Posted By: John Minear
13-Mar-10 - 01:11 PM
Thread Name: From SF to Sydney - 1853 Shanties Sung?
Subject: RE: From SF to Sydney - 1853 Shanties Sung?
Well, I haven't come across any clear reference to "Sally Brown" the song in Dickens, but I'll keep looking into that. However, I did come across two other rather interesting items. First of all, I am wondering if there could be any connection between our "Sally Brown" the sea chanty lady, and this poem by Thomas Hood called "Faithless Sally Brown", published in THE UNIVERSAL SONGSTER in 1825, as "Young Ben, the Carpenter, and Sally Brown":

It shows up in a number of publications throughout the 19th century and was apparently very popular. It has one line in it which goes: "Oh Sally Brown, Oh Sally Brown". Of course the influence could have gone the other way and Mr. Hood may have been aware of the sea song "Sally Brown". And, once his poem was written, it may have reacted back on the chanty. Anyone have thoughts on this? I can't exactly tell what "minstrel" means in this context. Was his poem picked up and used by the blackface minstrels? Or was there a broader meaning to the word back then in England.

The second interesting item is from one of the speeches of Abraham Lincoln, given to "the Springfield Scott Club" on August 14, 26, 1852, in which he quotes a verse from Captain Marryat's "Sally Brown" referring to her as a "bright mulatter". Lincoln says,

"Now, should Pierce ever be President, he will, politically speaking, not only be a mulatto, but he will be a good deal darker one than Sally Brown." !

This doesn't indicate that Lincoln knew "Sally Brown" as a chanty, per se, but that he was familiar with Marryat's work, which apparently was also popular. However, the fact that Lincoln quotes this verse in a speech would indicate that his audience would know what he was talking about - maybe - with regard to the song itself. Here is another discussion about Marryat from TAIT'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE of 1839:,+Sally+Brown%22&cd=6#v=onepage&q=%22Oh%2C%20Sally%20Brown%22&f=f

The interesting thing here is the reference to "the Yankee salt-water lyric of Sally Brown". Does this indicate a sense that this was a song of American origin? There are many quotes of Marryat's whole passage on "Sally Brown" in the literature of the time according to Google.

The existence of Hood's popular poem, the popularity of Marryat's book and account of "Sally Ann" and the example of Lincoln's use of the latter in a political speech, raises the interesting question of the influence of published works on the oral tradition of "Sally Brown". Using the examples of both "broadside ballads" and published versions of the "Child ballads" and their influence on the "folk process" of the singing of these songs in the 19th century, and later, we might get some sense of how this worked in the realm of chantydom as well. However, I'd be the first to say that I cannot document any direct links here. There does seem to be the potential for some muddying up of the waters though.