The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #141964 Message #3298540
Posted By: John Minear
29-Jan-12 - 01:17 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Demon Lover in New England?
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Demon Lover in New England?
In looking back over this discussion, I see that we have focused a good bit of attention on the two versions of "The House Carpenter" collected in the Northeast - both of them from the Helen Hartness Flanders Collection - which are the most "unique." Actually, neither of them was titled "The House Carpenter." One, from Ellen Sullivan, was called "The Banks of Claudy" and the other one from Edith Price, was called "The Daemon Lover." They are unique not only in relationship to all of the other versions that we have found from the Northeast, but also in relation to all of the other versions found in North America (including Canada). They are of interest because they supposedly preserve aspects of this ballad that are not found otherwise on the American side of the Atlantic, namely the supernatural and the diabolical dimensions.
However, just because both of these versions were "collected" in the Northeastern part of the United States, one from Springfield VT (Sullivan), and one from Newport RI (Price), does not mean that they are necessarily "American" versions of this ballad. In fact we know from Mrs. Sullivan and Miss Price that they were not American versions. Mrs. Sullivan learned "The Banks of Claudy" in her childhood in County Cork, Ireland. It is an Irish version of this ballad that she brought over with her to Vermont. And Miss Price learned "The Daemon Lover" from a "friend" whose family had "come over from England", and it is possibly of Scottish origin.
Neither of these two versions have much at all to do with the other versions found in New England and Canada. We can see that clearly when we compare them with the oldest version we have found which is the one from Sarah Willard, of Moriah Center NY from 1869. The Willard version stands squarely in the midst of the rest of those versions normally associated with North America.
When we look at the larger picture of the Northeastern region of America, I think that these two "unique" versions are almost entirely marginalized, and rightfully so. They do not represent early traditional variants of this ballad in this country. I am here suggesting that the Price version did not come "over from England" early on, but much later, and was limited to a single family that "brought it over" and handed it on to Miss Price.
It seems to me that the best way to understand and appreciate the remainder of the American versions found in the Northeast is to place them in the larger context of all other versions found ithroughout the United States, but especially in the Southern Appalachians. As we know, there are many. And I would imagine that the versions found "up North" are probably quite similar to those found "down South" in the Appalachians.
To undertake this kind of study is more than I can do at this point. I am not aware of any detailed analysis of this ballad in America that is very recent. I would appreciate any information that anyone might have on this. I suspect that Gardner-Medwin (1971) may be the most recent work done on the North American versions.
While I think that the versions we have found from New England and Canada definitely help us understand better the spread of this ballad in North America, I don't think that either the Sullivan or the Price versions contribute very much at all to such an understanding. The Sullivan version tells us that the ballad had found its way to Ireland and did come over to New England with a fairly recent Irish immigrant. I'm not at all sure what the Price version tells us and will not venture an opinion on that.
I understand much better now why we did not turn up any versions of this ballad in the Boston area, and especially why there were not any early versions there, due to immigration patterns and religious belief systems. It would seem that the major influence in the Northeast is the same as that down South, in other words the ubiquitous "Scotch-Irish" presence. That this traditional frame of reference undoubtedly had some other "Scottish" influence mixed in with it goes without saying. However, when and where that happened remains to be discovered, although we can assume that it took place prior to the publication of the Andrews/De Marsan broadside in 1858.
I will look forward to additional finds and information, and to discussion of the materials that we have been able to collect here.