The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #143842   Message #3338625
Posted By: John Minear
15-Apr-12 - 10:26 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Child Ballads in 18th c. America?
Subject: RE: Origins: Child Ballads in 18th c. America?
Steve & Jonathan, I appreciate the suggestion about the "songsters". I spent some time last evening looking at a couple of them:

I did not turn up any trace of these ballads in either of these songsters, although I confess that I was getting cross-eyed again and fairly mushed out before I finished. It was interesting to me to see so many Scottish songs, but none of the Scottish ballads.

This morning I did a quick Google Book search for "The Brown Girl" and for "Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender" just to see if it turned up any references to a songster. No luck there. I did turn up some other kinds of interesting references. One that caught my eye was this "songster"(?) from the previous century (1723):

Here is an 1839 reference to this version:

I'm wondering if this kind of book from the 18th century was circulating in America at all. It is pretty interesting to compare the collections of songs contained in the 1723 book and those in the later songsters! And here is something from in between from Ritson (1829):

This looks closer to the earlier material rather than the later stuff.

Does anyone have a specific reference to a Child Ballad in one or more of the American "songsters", or a specific place to look for this? Jonathan could you post the LOC site?

I've been spending most of my time the last day or so on Cox's West Virginia material and I'm beginning to get a strong impression of "class difference" running through all of this. And here I am talking about the American side of things. The people who generally sang these ballads, at least in West Virginia at the time when Cox was collecting, which was about the same time that Sharp was collecting in other areas of the Southern Appalachians, and Alphonso Smith was collecting in Virginia, circa 1915, were not of the same "class" as those doing the "collecting". And in reading the West Virginia accounts of the origins of those ballads, they were not from printed sources or books but what we might call "family and friends oral tradition". I don't see any mention of "songsters" or of "broadsides", which may suggest a class difference between those who were singing ballads and those who were reading books. I'm not wanting to head off into socio-economic discussions here.