Article MT144

Glimpses into the 19th Century Broadside Ballad Trade

No. 9: Some Devon printers1

Documentary evidence for the printing of broadside ballads in the west country is sparse and we may well begin by defining an area as the 'far west' in which context we know that Bates and Picken printed in Plymouth, Keys in Devonport, Trewman, Healey, Clark and Besley in Exeter, a G Ingram Clark in Ilfracombe, Wilson in Bideford, Arnley in Fowey and Penaluna and Woolcock in Helston.2  Besley and Keys are the subjects of further study in this series and Penaluna and Woolcock will figure in the very next piece on Cornish printers. 

This piece concentrates on Devon, giving details of printing activity and attempting to examine stock and its genesis and pedigree.  It is admitted that there is a lack of full comprehensiveness in coverage since information is difficult to come by and one can only work from extant material - assuming, then, that there may be other material waiting to be discovered.  It should also be added that, in footnotes, not every known printing is listed but a selection given to illustrate points made.

The first thing to note is that Clark and Healey are each represented by a single sheet only.

Healey printed The Gosport Tragedy (the extended title includes the words, The Perjur'd Ship Carpenter).  This is the classic story of Molly succumbing to the advances of her lover, William, who subsequently boards ship to fight for the king.  She appears as a ghost with a baby daughter in her arms, frightening a member of the crew who approaches the captain and he, in turn; 'his merry men all' whereupon William himself, seeing Molly's ghost, confesses and dies.  The piece, in nineteenth century broadside terms, is a legacy from an earlier era and can be found in Garlands - one from Stonecutter Street, London, indicates at least eighteenth century provenance - and in Dicey's and Marshall's catalogue.3  Evans, Pitts, Davenport and Jennings, all operating early in the nineteenth century, printed it.4  Leslie Shepard hinted that Pitts may have shared some stock with the Evans family and it may have been the same family that introduced it to broadside repertoire.5  As detailed in footnotes, these printings all appear in a clutch in place in the Madden collection given over to early production suggesting a solid presence in repertoire early in nineteenth century printing history.  After this initial outburst (and including Birt's catalogue) we find only the names of Turner in Coventry and Besley in Exeter and Besley, operating as the century moved on, is not known for printing older pieces so it may be that he got it from Healey who got it from who knows where.6  No details at all have emerged concerning Healey.  The printing alone identifies him.

It was Sir Frederick Madden who, in the course of compiling his collection, placed The Hardy Tar under Clark's name but so far no other details have been found for that printer either.  He does not appear in Ian Maxted's survey of the print trade in Devon nor in the British Book Trade Index, our two best sets of records; nor in local directories.  The text of The Hardy Tar is not the usual one to be found under the same title where the imagery and the phraseology offer conventional portraiture and sentiment open to shifts of expression, as the refrain indicates:

Then O protect the hardy tar, be mindful of his merit
And when again you're plung'd in war he'll show his daring spirit…
Instead there is a sprightly account of an encounter between a 'Dog Lion' and one, 'Dawe', the latter emerging victorious.  The whole is couched in terms of Caesar's famous dictum, veni, vidi, vici and one suspects that it is actually a recounting of a local election matter.  Nonetheless it concludes with a warning to anyone daring to challenge English might and spirit; concluding that Dawe, the current Caesar, would 'eat the Boney part, sir!'…which gives a clue to dating but hardly more.  The piece would seem to be a one-off and simply (not so simply) illustrates how local printers plied their jobbing trade, a feature discussed again below.  It should also be added that no name exists on the piece: one relies on Madden for the implied ascription.7

Details of Trewman's career are extensive but he belongs to that category of person who spanned the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries and may not, therefore, be properly accounted for in a nineteenth century context.  Further, his career is associated more with the production of the Exeter Flying Post.  This in 1791 he had bought from Thomas Brice (1749-c.1803).  At the same time, Brice is known to have printed The Maid's Lamentation…and Rodney's Complete Victory over the French Fleet (Dominica ) in 1782 and was himself the nephew of a well-known eighteenth century printer, Andrew Brice, who printed broadsides in his time.8

With this connection and, presumably, some knowledge about Brice's affairs, it would be no surprise that Trewman printed familiar broadside texts and, sure enough, he did print The Prodigal Daughter…in the 1770s.  This piece consisted of an eight-page chapbook whose imprint reads:

Exeter.  Printed by R.& N. Trewman, behind the Guildhall, where country shopkeepers, travellers, and others, may be supplied with a variety of old and new ballads, penny histories, etc., etc., etc.
In respect of this legend, we may also take the example of Thomas Brice again since in 1783 he printed The Art and Mystery of Gossiping, 'Printed by Thomas Brice in Goldsmith Street, where travellers and shopkeepers may be supplied'.  These notices are couched in terms that we would recognise from much nineteenth century production and add to the possibility that Trewman both knew of the workings of the ballad trade and that he himself printed other ballads.9  On the strength of the issue of The Prodigal Daughter…Ian Maxted has estimated that Trewman was able to produce a hundred sheets of popular literature in addition to his principal work of producing a newspaper and books. 

Gallows and political literature was also much in favour at this time and Trewman may well have been involved though nothing of his, so far, been detected.

We can at least catch a glimpse of methods of distribution where it is clear that Trewman used men on horseback to deliver his newspaper, The Exeter Flying Post, as well as hawkers on foot (as did the proprietors of the Sherborne Mercury whose readership extended as far as Plymouth).  This enabled Trewman and others to penetrate many smaller communities even if some of these communities had actually to be content with sharing access through other nearby centres.  Newsmen would take out newspapers, patent medicines and books and bring back orders and advertisements; and sometimes they dealt in other commodities as if to favour customer and proprietor.  The Sherborne newsmen were themselves known as 'Sherbornes'.

Amongst travellers, Ian Maxted cites a Mrs Drew who walked the Devon lanes selling almanacks when into her 90s and Thomas Liscombe, a hawker, who supplied Devon and Cornwall with ballads and other materials but who was arrested for murder at the end of 1812.

Ian Maxted also suggests that; in general, because many surviving broadsheets were printed on one side of paper only it was because they were pasted up - paper being expensive, it would have been more economical to use both sides and some examples of this can be found printed on waste paper (John Wilson, as discussed below, did just that).10

Trewman, then, provides us with circumstance and probability if not much hard evidence of ballad production though he certainly also printed two loyal songs in broadside form in 1792.  We might take his case as a pattern for other printers here discussed as one whose potential ballad production may not have been the most important part of his business interests.  Exeter, be it said, enjoyed a reputation as a centre for printing in an area which was slow to develop its capacity.

At the other end of the productive spectrum during the nineteenth century, G Ingram Clark in Ilfracombe printed The Home Rule Banner Man (to be sung to the tune of The Fine Old English Gentleman), a piece critical of Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who served in two Gladstone governments and eventually saw Home Rule come to Ireland.  He himself was prime minister in 1908.  The piece appears to have been a one-off job and is not in the line of material familiar in the Pitts and Catnach mould.  Rather, if anything, it parallels the kind of election literature that we are finding increasingly to be part of the stock-in-trade of printers.11  As in the case of his namesake, there are no other details of Clark's career available as yet.

We know more about Picken in respect of mainstream broadside printing.There are seven extant sheets.  One is of Poor Caroline of Edinburgh Town which, like the appearance of The Gosport Tragedy above, indicates an acquaintance with older stock.  The Bodleian Allegro archive contains the other sheets and we learn that Picken operated from 38 Tavistock-Street, Devonport and that his products were also sold by 'R. Bond, junr. 3 Bull-Hill, near the Guildhall, Plymouth, and R. Bond, senr. 23, Bond Street, Jersey'.12  Picken is also recorded in Pigot's directory of Devon for 1830-1831 as working out of 41 Chapel Street, Devonport.  Like other printers - Wilson below, for instance - his change of address is not unusual.

Along with the appearance of Poor Caroline… there is other evidence that Picken had acquaintance with broadside printing practice since on a copy of Rigs and Humours of the Fair, we find the following legend:

Printed and Sold by W. PICKEN, 38, Tavistock-Street,
Devonport, - Where Travellers and Country Shopkeepers;
may be supplied with Childrens Books; Street Songs, Scrip-
ture Pieces, etc., cheaper than other House in England.
As can be seen, like other printers discussed in this series, Picken worked as a jobber and yet another text, The Drunken Wife…, reinforces this, referring to a variety of printed material such as 'Reading Easies' and Memorandum Books.13

It is not easy, though, to discern any pattern of acquisition or distribution of broadside material.  Pitts and Catnach and also Keys in Devonport share pieces in common with Picken and it is not unlikely that Pitts and Catnach provided an initial stimulus to production, but the general indication is of too scattered a nature to reveal any close connection between Picken and other printers. 

Taking the Picken pieces one by one: The Beverly Maid and the Tinker, a piece of near bawdy, appeared also in the stock of Pitts, Keys, Wright in Birmingham, Wheeler in Manchester, Harkness in Preston, Walker in Durham and Baird in Cork, a disparate crew who provide extensive geographical parameters but not a particularly solid centre.  The Sailor Boy, on the same sheet, is one of several with the same title (Pitts printed one beginning, 'Down by a chrystal river side', for instance).  In the case of Picken, the piece begins, 'The bitter wind blew keen and cold' and concerns shipwreck and the making of orphans.  In this guise it could be found in the stock of Boag in Newcastle, Swindells and Cadman in Manchester, Wright in Birmingham and Catnach.  The distribution, then, is, like that of The Beverly Maid…, wide and may have been stimulated by the old faithful, Catnach, but, again like The Beverly Maid…, not particularly concentrated.14  Yet in both cases the extent of distribution is significant in itself.

The Village Bells seems only to have had a limited take-up and something of a strange one in that only one London printer, Taylor, appears to have printed it and then we find the names of Williams of Portsea and Willey and Clift in Cheltenham and Cirencester respectively.  The Rigs and Humours of the Fair, on the same sheet, can be found elsewhere under an alternative title as John the Miller and there are several variations on the theme itself but in the form that Picken had The Rigs and Humours… it appears otherwise only from the same Williams and Willey.  We may see here an embryo distribution network but, equally, knowledge is too sparse to speculate further.15

The pattern persists.  Woman is the Comfort of Man could be found in catalogues and under a dozen printers' names including those of Pitts and Keys and a number of 'lesser' imprints such as those of Tinker in Hull, Ibbotson in Bradford and Willey.  The Glasses Sparkle, on the same sheet, has a similar kind of distribution, again including Pitts and Keys (and Catnach this time).  A clue to its first appearance comes in a copy issued in the Minstrel in Baltimore in 1812.  Kay of Edinburgh printed the piece in 1827 and so did Williams in London in a compilation entitled Lydia's Leaves, dating from 1830.  It continued in popularity, appearing in songsters during the mid-century period but there is no record of it during the later part of the century.  As with other Picken printings the names of less well-known printers, in this case those of Williams in Portsea, Pennell in Liverpool, Watts in Birmingham - here, though, there may have been a nexus of printers operating since Russell and Jackson, both in Birmingham, and Houghton in Worcester also printed the piece - throw open the possibilities of distribution.  There is information (from the web) that the author was a W D Diggs and the music by T A Geary and that it appeared between 1818 and 1822.  So far it has not been possible to confirm this and the Minstrel evidence is contradictory but the Kay reference does point back in time a little.16  Perhaps the Geary manifestation was a take-up of an existing text.  Suffice to say that The Glasses Sparkle was apparently hugely popular at one time.

Love's a Tyrant (sometimes 'Love is…') was issued by both Pitts and Catnach and yet again we find the usual assortment of 'lesser' printers such as Wilkinson and then Gardner and Heywood in Manchester and Wright in Birmingham - plus Russell and Whiting in Birmingham too.  One note in an appearance in the Vocal Library of 1820 adds that it was written by Dibdin…this is the earliest dated reference followed by a printing in the British Minstrel for 1824 and by Kay of Edinburgh (1827).  The popularity of Love's a Tyrant reached more or less to mid-century in The Popular Songster issued in Glasgow in 1848.  Thereafter it seems to have succumbed.17  The text is consistent although different printers took the liberty of setting it out in individual style.

Jonathan Brown ('Twas down in a snug little country town…') was printed by both Pitts and Catnach and by such as Stephenson in Gateshead, Talbot in Cambridge and Jacques in Manchester.  Similarly, Madam Sneak appeared in Pitts' stock but also in that of Sleath in Stony Stratford and Palser in London.18

In view of this apparently random nature of known printings we can only surmise that Picken was aware of the popular nature of certain pieces or that he simply pinched them or shared them; or, again, had at hand a supply of material emanating from other areas of the country.  None of this need be accounted unusual.  We seem to be looking at normal printer practice in terms of acquisition of stock.

In local terms, any relationship with Keys in Devonport is unproven although the two pieces already cited as also being printed by Keys may suggest a connection and in one other case, The Drunken Wife.  A companion to The Drunken Husband, beginning, 'Attend, ye men of all ranks of life…', in amongst several texts concerning the same subject, only Picken and Keys appear to have issued the particular version.19

And in one more case a seeming independence is revealed.  The Rambling Miner, a piece about sexual boasting, does not appear elsewhere.  This phenomenon, if it can be verified, is interesting in that Wilson, discussed below, also issued at least one unique piece as did Besley (we are perhaps reminded too of Merry's piece on agricultural distress in Bedfordshire, an exploitation of a generic occurrence in a local setting).20  Once again, possibilities are indicated - that printers if not often took to offering a local event for delectation.  Wilson in Bideford, as discussed below, offers further illustration.

That is, at present, as much as can be said about Picken although his presence was, clearly, not without a certain prominence and, as noted, he seems to have shared characteristics of issue with other printers across the south of England.

Bates provides us with another cameo.  Ian Maxted lists him as printing between 1830 and 1856 during the full heyday of broadside printing.  In addition, Pigot's directory has him at 1830-1831 Old Town street, Plymouth; and other directories add one more year at least to his productive span (1857).  It may be that he retired soon after although he lived at 3 Saltram Place between 1862 and 1867 or it could have been that the business was maintained although no details survive…he is listed, finally, in an 1885 directory.21

Amongst known pieces issued by Bates, The Quarter Day, one about rent-collecting, mentions the building of the new London Bridge in 1831 so a tentative date before which it could not have been issued is suggested.  It was around then that a copy appeared in the London Melodist (c.1831) where it was indicated that it had been written by a J Bruton (about whom nothing has so far been found) and sung at the Eagle Tavern.  It was not widely taken up although Pitts and Catnach had seized on it…only Shelmerdine in Manchester, Williams in Portsea and Bates are recorded outside London.  It seems to have continued in popularity, since Such printed it.22

Tom Starboard is credited to a T Knight - about whom, unfortunately (the tale is becoming familiar), nothing has so far been found - and concerns a seaman and his 'faithful Nan'.  Homeward bound, Tom's ship is wrecked but a league from England and all save he lost.  Then he is pressed and loses an arm.  Nan, meanwhile, hears that he has died and when Tom hastens to return to her, he finds that she has succumbed in grief.  The piece had wide distribution, with Evans as first printer, then Pitts and Catnach and other London printers.  There was a strong presence in catalogues especially in the north of England and Scotland and the same sorts of less well-known 'country' printers' names which can be noted in connection with The Quarter Day appear - Wardman in Bradford, Wrighton in Birmingham, Williams in Portsea again, King in Oxford.  Other than on individual sheets the piece appeared in popular songsters which at least indicates continuing interest.  The earliest of these is English Minstrel apparently issued around 1810 after the heights of Dibdinism but no doubt drawing on its legacy.  In terms of dating first issue, apart from Evans, after 1786 when he first issued printing, Shelmerdine in Manchester printed it and he began working in 1800 and Kendrew in York also printed it, in his case commencing work in 1803.  Thus, in the absence of information about the supposed author, a date early in the century for the first appearance of the piece is the nearest we can come to at present.23

My Friend and Pitcher came from the pen of John O'Keeffe (1747-1843), Irish-born but thoroughly Anglicised dramatist.  Both Pitts and Catnach printed it.  Of the names of outriders in broadside production, Lane and Walker in Norwich, Keys in Devonport and Nicholson in Stourport stand out.  Nicholson records that it was sung by a Miss Snell thus underlining once again how printers drew for stock on popular entertainment.  There was a connection between Lane and Walker in Norwich and Pitts since his sister, Hannah, lived in Norwich and, according to Leslie Shepard, Lane's and Walker's pieces 'bear a remarkable similarity' to Pitts' texts issued when he first became established in Seven Dials.24  The other possible connection within the complex, this time between Evans of West Smithfield and Pitts, has already been noted.  In this case, copies of the text share the same eighteenth woodcut as header, a distinctly eighteenth century vignette of two men and a woman round a table.  The date on the Pitts copy is given as 1811 and on the Evans copy 1796.  A potential pedigree is thus clearly visible and it may have been Evans, then, who established the piece in broadside repertoire.  The text, at this distance in time, seems slight and sentimental as the refrain indicates:

My friend so rare, my girl so fair!
With such, what mortal can be richer?
Give me but these, a fig for care!
With my sweet girl, my friend and pitcher…
Its popularity seems to have been extended through Disley, that is after the first full flush of broadside production.25

Dot and Carry One can be found in two forms, the second of which was late, printed by R March after 1881.  Bates' piece is echoed in various songsters such as British Minstrel (1824), Vocal Library (1820) and Model Song Book (c.  1848), in the latter case coming initially from Goode of London.  We appear to have a period of issue defined for us.  Bates's name is the only one connected with The Coal Meter ('Twas in the middle of the day…').  The two pieces were issued together (see also below).  No other information has come to light so far concerning these two pieces and it is not possible, at this stage, to know if The Coal Meter was exclusive to Bates.26

Whilst the random selection of names of printers of particular issues may be no more than coincidence, of course, there is a suggestion about Bates once more of connections within the printing trade, of an appreciation of fashion and of some independence of choice.  The possibility of a Bates-Keys tie-up cannot be dismissed.  And whilst there is insufficient evidence for certainty Bates would appear to have operated as a mainstream printer with no unusual characteristics in his output.

We know a lot more about John Wilson in Bideford.  He was born in Torrington, the son of Robert who himself was a printer first in Torrington, 1803-1807, and then in Bideford between 1819 and 1834.  Pigot's 1830-1831 directory of Devon gives the information that John Wilson was working out of Quay, Bideford, as bookseller, stationer, printer and binder.  Ian Maxted indicates that he was a debtor in 1834 (shades of Merry) but certainly back printing in 1836.  In the 1841 census he is recorded as being aged 42, and working as printer, living in High Street, Bideford.  True to general form as jobber, he was selling ink in 1843 and acting as agent for tea in 1844.  White's directory of 1850 indicates that he was working as 'Bookseller, etc.'.  In 1851, living at 34 Chapel Street, he is recorded as Printer, 'Master, employing one man and one boy', and his two sons are recorded as journeymen printers.  Kelly's directory of 1856 gives Wilson's name as printer and engraver in Bridge street.  Billings' directory of 1857 gives the information that he worked as printer out of Bridge Street, Bideford.  He established the Bideford Miscellany in 1849 and the Bideford Gazette in 1854.In 1861, John Wilson is recorded as Head of household with two sons, all operating as printers and living in Bridge Street.  In addition, John senior was acting as compositor, Robert, the elder son, as customs agent and John junior as engraver.27

John Wilson was buried on November 16th 1865, then aged 66 and his two sons carried on the business.  The 1871 census gives the information that Robert, the elder, aged 39, was operating as printer and customs agent and that John, his brother, aged 36, as a printer and engraver.  Both were living in 7 Mill Street, Bideford.  In 1881 Robert is seen to be a printer employing two men and a boy - and he still lived at 7 Mill Street.  John, however, had married and was then operating as printer, living at 56 High Street.  The family firm evidently operated right up until 1926 (Maxted).

These are the bare details and it is not possible at this stage to equate entirely the issue of broadsides with the progress of the family firm.  The information that follows appears to confirm John senior's involvement but not that of his sons.

The first thing to note about stock is that it has a fair degree of compass which suggests that Wilson was acquainted with the ins and outs of broadside production.  For example, he printed The Outlandish Knight which immediately links him with older repertoire.28  There is, further, a mix of this inherited title and contemporary pieces, some out of scribbledom, and they embrace topical events and fashions and ephemera as well as established and continuing favourites.

One or two other points may be made as preliminary when the Wilson stock as it appears in the Bodleian Allegro archive is considered.  Firstly, of the available sheets, eight appear as single texts: Christ Offering Living Water; Ratcatcher's Daughter; Faith, Hope, & Charity; The New Fashion'd Farmer; Lady Franklin's Lament; The Fisherman's Girl; An Electioneering “Ditty”; The Outlandish Knight…  Immediately, the compass is evident.  Then, secondly, there are seven sheets with two texts on each, as follows:

Jeannette and Jeannot
The Polka

New Union Hymn
The Soul's Enjoyment

Jesus Says There's Room
The Prodigal's Welcome

The Whole Hog or None
The Perfect Cure

The Painful Plough
I've Been Roaming

The Soldier's Prayer
I Die For My Country

Old Towler
The Woodpecker

Sets of three texts appear three times:
The Rose of Allandale
I've Been Roaming
The Moon Is Up

Wait For the Wagon
Auld Days

Answer to Jeannette and Jeannot
The Gipsy's Tent
Life On the Ocean Wave

There is one set of six texts entitled The Dying Son's Farewell, a collection of semi-religious texts, printed for the Vendor - which suggests a distinctive commission.  Yet Wilson enjoyed enough success to chance issuing songsheets in one of which we find the following titles: The Wandering Boy; Old Towler; The Mariners Compass; The Woodpecker; Smoky House and Scolding Wife; Home, Sweet Home; Second Thoughts are Best and Answer to Home, Sweet Home.  Printing a sheet in this fashion not only seems to indicate success in Wilson's affairs but to reflect his continuing awareness of demand and supply.  Interestingly, only Old Towler as a tune, Home Sweet Home and Second Thoughts are Best appear to have survived into the twentieth century, the latter better known perhaps as 'Come write me down ye powers of love'.  One other sheet has been cut into constituent parts, the issues with The Rose of Ardee and Uncle Ned, England's Golden Days and The Red Cross Banner, The Rose of Allandale, I've Been Roaming and The Moon is Up and Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny Shore and The Mariner's Grave

Finally, some texts were printed on printers' waste (see Ian Maxted's remark above): Jeannette and Jeannot and The Polka; and Answer to Jeannette and Jeannot, The Gipsy's Tent and Life on the Ocean Wave.

All this suggests that Wilson was aware of conventional practice amongst printers and it may even indicate a one-time wider range of material.  That is as far as we can reasonably suppose.  There are other multiples, which are considered later below.

A survey of individual pieces follows…The Wandering Boy, for instance ('When the winter winds whistle across the wild moor'), was widely printed and both Pitts and Catnach indicated on copy that it was performed for popular entertainment - sung by a Master Hyde and by one Freyer at a London concert.  The author was Henry Kirk White (1785-1806).  Wilson's text takes a usual form which itself is different to that, say, of Pratt (Birmingham) who began, 'I was born in the country far over the mountains…' (another written piece, this time from H Harrison Roberts).  The Wilson form appeared on a Pitts songsheet which had the title Caroline Triumphant which gives us a around which to speculate for date of issue since this refers to the time during 1820-1821 when George IV was trying to rid himself of his queen although, given White's dates and issue by both Pitts and Catnach, it might appear that the piece arrived in broadside repertoire before this.  It also evoked an Answer from Walker in Norwich.  Kendrew of York issued it alongside The Wandering Girl, another popular piece.29

Jeannette and Jeannot - 'You are going far away, far away, from poor Jeannette' - had a reasonable amount of take-up - Ross, Harkess, Paul, Ryle, Pratt, Warr, Goode, Johnson… and it inspired an Answer ('Cheer up, cheer up, my own Jeannette though far away I go'…Henson in Northampton, Walker in Durham, Harkness in Preston, Ryle and Paul in London…) which Wilson also printed and there was yet another piece entitled Jeannot's Return (not in the Wilson stock).  Selkirk in Newcastle seems to have made the tale a special subject, printing Jeannette and Jeannot, Jeannette's Farewell and The Soldier's Wedding ('Give me your hand, my own Jeannette').  Jeannette's and Jeannot's Wedding appeared from Dalton in York.  Pratt printed 'From the field of fight returning' another piece on the couple.  But there are no Pitts or Catnach printings and the evidence emerging from the list of printers given above seems to point nearer to the mid-century mark for first issue.  Despite the French-sounding names Jeannette and Jeannot refers to the red jacket and cockade of the British army.  It also inspired at least a polka and a quickstep…all of which suggests that Wilson was tuned in to a popular theme and a popular manifestation as home entertainment and public spectacle.  The piece is credited to Charles Jefferies (1806-1863) with music by Charles W Grover (1807-1865) which might help pinpoint a first issue during the heyday of broadside printing during the 1830s and 1840s.  The polka version would not have appeared until more or less mid-century: there is no evidence that the polka as form entered England before the 1840s…indeed, its invention is credited to a Bohemian girl around 1835.30  All told there was obviously something of a craze for the tale(s).

Incidentally almost, Wilson also printed a piece entitled The Polka to the tune of the Boatman's Dance indicating how the dance was popular 'Among all classes high and low…' and citing as evidence 'Vic and Al' and 'old duke Nosey' (Wellington), solidly mid-century and reflecting a current trend.31

The sort of summary seen in the case of Jeannette and Jeannot can be attached to A Life on the Ocean Wave ('A life on the ocean wave, a home on the rolling deep') and The Gypsy's Tent.  The former, now the celebrated march of the Royal Marines, dates from 1838, with words by one, Epes Sargeant (1812-1880), and music by Henry Russell (1810-1900).32  The words of The Gypsy's Tent are credited to a 'Miss Cook', that is, Eliza Cook (1818-1889), and consist of a romantic celebration of gipsy life, ending,

There's many a king would have less to repent
If his throne was as pure as a gypsy's tent.
It appeared in a number of printer's catalogues - Sanderson, Pearson, Johnson and so on - and in the stock of several mid-century printers such as Paul, Ryle and Hodges in London, Jackson in Birmingham, Harkness in Preston and Walker in Durham - where the information suggests a date of issue before 1834.  Such continued to print it.  Obviously it enjoyed wide popularity and was associated with the celebrated Zulema, a singer, re-emerging in the opera Loriena in 1882 as a piece with music by the American composer, Septimus Winner (1827-1902).33  It indicates as do other pieces in the Wilson repertoire such as A Life on the Ocean Wave, that he drew on popular entertainment for source and it is also worth noting how, in the realm of popular entertainment in Britain, products from America were emerging…the Christy Minstrel phenomenon noted below is another example.

Thus, Uncle Ned reflected a craze for nigger minstrelsy.  This really began in the 1790s in America and in mid-nineteenth-century the songs of the Christy Minstrels (Uncle Ned was printed in Christy Song books), as one example, became popular in England.  Uncle Ned, in fact, was a Stephen Foster composition dating from 1848 and is credited with an unusual degree of sympathy for the negro, whereas nigger minstrelsy began by lampooning - Jim Crow and Dandy Jim being prime examples, the one exploiting the negro who thought himself better than his masters and the other featuring an ultra-fashionable and ultimately ridiculous figure.  The broadside take-up seems to have been limited - Hodges, Ross, Pratt and Jackson in Birmingham; but there were several printings in songbooks and the piece continued in popularity throughout the century.  Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny Shore is yet another example of nigger minstrelsy.  This song, written by Charles T White in 1847 is not to be confused with the better-known Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny (1878).  It sometimes went under an alternative title which was its opening line of 'De Floatin' Scow ob ole Virginia'; and was apparently sung by Confederate soldiers as they re-crossed the Potomac after the battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg, known as the bloodiest day of the Civil War in America.  It seems to have been a rarity in broadside printing terms, found only in Wilson's and Ryle's stock, although it appeared also in a couple of Christy Minstrel songbooks.  At length, the two pieces firmly root Wilson mid-century.34

The Ratcatcher's Daughter was not, apparently, widely printed.  Only Harkness has been identified apart from Wilson.  Harkness printed the piece in two forms, the one beginning 'In Westminster not long ago…' and the other adopting a fashionable V instead of a W, a feature, it may be recalled, of Dickens novels - of Sam Weller, perhaps…'Not long ago, in Vestminster'.  These two forms are duplicated in so far unattributable copies.  The piece would seem to be urban in character and concerns the fortunes of the daughter who sold sprats and formed an attachment to a 'lily-vite sand man'.  She drowned - 'haccident' - and he cut not only his own throat but that of his donkey…a seemingly heartless story.35  The New-Fashion'd Farmer lamented the change whereby farmers now aped the more sophisticated in society and their daughters, in similar style, took up the pianoforte.  The complaint is older but references to the pianoforte are coincidental with the appearance of the fashionable upright as opposed to square piano mid-century.  This piece, like The Ratcatcher's Daughter, has only been attributed to one printer, in this case Pitts, apart from Wilson, although some unattributed copies exist.36

Lady Franklin's Lament is an interesting version of the story; not the more well-known piece familiar to us from the singing of such as Al O'Donnell and Martin Carthy wherein the viewpoint changes from that of an observer to that of Lady Franklin but as a direct, continuous lament from the principal:

My Franklin dear may be laid low
Amongst the icebergs drear…
Franklin was lost in 1847.  No printing equivalent to that of Wilson has yet been located.37 

The Rose of Allandale and Wait for the Waggon were both surveyed briefly in a previous piece (on Merry, the Bedford printer), the first appearing in 1835 and the second around 1850.38  The Mariners Compass appeared as a Pitts imprint and in several catalogues and in the Wilson form began 'Sam Spritsail's the lad you delight in'.  Jennings and Catnach had the piece too.  Perhaps, then, there is a collective indication of a fairly early entry into nineteenth-century repertoire - as with several pieces taken up by Catnach and other printers noted above.  There was another version (not in Wilson's stock), seemingly issued mid-century, beginning 'You sons of the main that delight in the flood' - printed by Jackson and Harkness, for example.39  The Red-Cross Banner would also appear to have been a mid-century production, a predictable eulogy for England's glory:

That England's red-cross banner waves
The foremost of the free…
Apart from the Wilson copy, the piece appears in one or two catalogues, and is attributed to Fortey - the only other name pinpointed.  In England's Golden Days we find lush panoramas and a contented populace with the squire, pointer and gun and the peasant with his nut-brown ale…surely, a legacy from an earlier era.  Even more interestingly here, only Wilson seems to have printed this.  The Mariner's Grave is a straightforward and again predictable lament which certainly took off in popularity mid-century amongst the major London printers, Ryle, Paul, Birt, Hodges, Disley and Such.  It also found favour with Harkness, Ross, Walker and Allerton (York) in the north, Ringham in Lincoln and Sefton in Worcester.  It appeared in various catalogues and in the New Concert Room Songster dating from 1854.  Its tone may be gauged from the opening stanza:
I remember the night was dreary and wet,
And dismally dash'd the proud wave;
While the rain and the sleet;
Cold and heavily beat,
On the Mariner's newly-dug grave…
There are one or two differences in setting-out amongst printings but the text is absolutely consistent. There are no early nineteenth-century printings40

Auld Days is, like England's Golden Days, a slight harking back, in this case, perhaps just an excuse to employ the spelling of 'auld', 'fauld' and 'cauld' but without any sustained attempt to suggest a north-country or even Scottish 'accent'.  No printing bar Wilson's has so far been located.  Minnie is a conventional love lament:

Oh! Minnie, dear Minnie, come o'er the lea,
For the sun's blooming high in the cloudless blue sky,
And a true heart is waiting for thee…
Minnie seems to have been a mid-century concoction, issued by Fortey, Disley and Ryle in London, Bebbington in Manchester, Forth in Pocklington, Andrews in Leeds and Pratt in Birmingham.  Ryle's copies indicate performance at the Drury Lane Theatre, yet one more indication of the inter-action between printers and venues for popular entertainment.  Other slight pieces included The Moon is Up ('and in the sky'…there was one other form with the same title), printed with a familiar nod to Pitts and Catnach.  The tone may be gauged from a two-line refrain:
Then come with me and roam afar
And listen to my sweet guitar.
The London Melodist, printed around 1831, printed it.  The spread of printers is not wide but includes Williams in Portsea and Jackson and Pratt in Birmingham.  Smoky House and Scolding Wife is a complaint of husbands about wives' sulks but, after Wilson, the evidence for printings is small - Pitts and Hoggett in Durham.  I've Been Roaming was a popular piece in the concert hall, sung by Madame Vestris, by Catherine Stephens (and, in parody form, by one, Liston) according to notes on copy.  On one copy a tune is given as sung by Catherine Stephens.  The piece was widely printed and is credited to a George Soame, with music by C E Horne.  The tone is very light:
I've been roaming, I've been roaming,
Where the meadow dew is sweet;
And I'm coming, and I'm coming,
With its pearls upon my feet…
Wilson's copy is devoid of the repeat of one stanza which features in some copy but is otherwise totally consistent with other texts.41

The Woodpecker, written by Thomas Moore in 1801 in the rather surprising context of the then Upper Canada, begins, 'I knew by the smoke that so gracefully curl'd'…, and goes on to set out a rural idyll in which:

…I heard not a sound
But the woodpecker tapping the hollow beech-tree…
and in which the protagonist encounters an innocent maiden with whom he could live 'blest'.  The early date of composition and the take-up in broadside form are interestingly separate.  A copy appeared in the Vocal Library in 1820; another in Little Warbler and Comic Songs as printed by Oliver and Boyd in Edinburgh in the same year; yet another in the Model Song Book c.1848.  Separate printings came pouring out of the Pitts and Catnach houses and there is a clutch of other London printers - Hodges, Ryle and Paul (together), Batchelar, Taylor; and then in a varied list outside London - Gibbs in Ledbury, Child and agents in Hereford and other towns in the south west midlands, Harkness; Swindells; Oliver in Darlington.  Besley printed it too.  Baring-Gould gave the information that the music was by Michael Kelly, a Dublin composer; and several copies note that John Braham sang it.  Popularity, then, is clearly demonstrated.  And it also evoked two known Answers… from Harkness and Evans.42

The Fisherman's Girl, whose friends are dead and gone and herself cast adrift, lights on a 'noble cottage' from whence issues forth a young man who invites her in and offers shelter and turns out to be her brother…God, the piece emphasises, was her protector.  This is one of those pieces in the Wilson repertoire which may perhaps be associated with religious revivalism as briefly noted below.  There is some evidence to suppose a reasonable take-up in printers' catalogues from Pitts, Birt, Fordyce and Collard but not many printings extant besides that from Wilson - one from Swindells, some from Fordyce and one from Ordoyno in Nottingham.43 

The Rose of Ardee enjoyed great popularity, being found in Pitts and Catnach and then in a number of country printers' stock.  It seems too to have flourished in particular during the mid-century years.  There is no evidence at all that it is Irish in origin - like other pieces with 'Irish' references this one merely used the town name for rhyming purposes.44

The Whole Hog or None is a generic title with variants on American domestic issues such as the career of Brigham Young (from de Marsan in New York around 1860), and inclusive of the visits to England of an American or a Canadian and the sights seen - in Wilson at Sydenham Palace, a Mr Blondini.  This presumably referred to Charles Blondini, who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope several times during 1859-1860.  Apart from Wilson, Fortey, Disley and Such are the only ascertainable names associated with issue and none offered the same text as Wilson.  His, it seems, is unique.45

The Perfect Cure is another mid-century piece and concerns the adventures of a young man who, trying his luck with a girl, finds another suitor's hat on a chair, is assaulted by that suitor and then, later, is sworn for paternity.  In one version he pays half-a-crown a week - not in Wilson where he merely pays 'for what I never done' (this is the same as in Harkness).  In one other copy, the piece was evidently sung by a Master Simonds 'with applause at the Bell Hotel, Cheltenham'.  Otherwise the piece does not appear to have had extensive take-up.46  Nevertheless, the fashionable nature of the piece is underlined.

The Soldiers Prayer and I Die for my Country, printed together with a potted biography of Lord Raglan illustrate how Wilson followed historical actuality, obviously being centred on the Crimean War.  In the first piece the reference is unmistakable:

May the angels guard their slumber, is our
prayer in the Crimea…
The second piece is more of an armchair view of battle in which the soldier will die for England ('Hurrah!')…  Neither of these pieces appears to have been printed by anyone bar Wilson.47

The Painful Plough reflects agricultural distress which was a frequent occurrence and one can only surmise that Wilson issued it commensurate with a particular peak.48

The Landlord's Resolution is a piece found in the University of Sheffield library (no other printing has been located) as is A Curious Piece of Antiquity of the Crucifixion of Our Saviour and the Two Thieves.49

From all this we can begin to gauge Wilson's interest in the fashionable as it changed and see that he drew on pieces that were available all across the country.  And we can see that the bulk of Wilson's output would seem, at this distance, to have been light in character with the occasional serious venture such as The Soldier's Prayer.  All this might serve to illustrate a determination to entertain rather than to instruct as various garlands did.  Finally, we can trace a steady progress through the mid-century mark for Wilson.

It is worth reflecting on those pieces which seem only to have been issued by Wilson not necessarily because of their intrinsic value as to suggest an independent mind at work.  In this respect, one other point remains to outline: as far as local pieces are concerned, in 1856 Wilson did print a piece on a local event, the heroics of one James Braund, fisherman pilot (christened 31st December 1809, married Mary Ann 15th March 1832, lived at Bucks Mill Hamlet, Parkham, Devon) entitled The Braunds of Bucks! The Braunds of Bucks!

Inscription.  James Braunds; within the last 8 years saved 7 lives, with a little herring-boat, besides vessels, and on going off to a ship in distress, she was driven over Bideford Bar, and his boat forced to follow the vessel's perilous track, miraculously escaping…
And there is one piece on local parliamentary elections entitled An Electioneering Ditty, for the first day of November, A. D. 1849.  And, as in the case of Wilson, we know that Tavistock election literature was printed…during 1857 - Traitors, Trimmers, Turncoats, and Trelawney, or Tavistock suited to a T and several addresses to the electorate in Tavistock, for instance…in the same manner as was revealed in the piece on Merry in this series; and although we lack the detail necessary at present to establish any norm, it becomes increasingly more clear that printers regularly dabbled in elections as part of their jobbing trade.50 

However, perhaps the more intriguing aspect of Wilson's output lies not in the appreciation of broadside tradition or the exploitation of current events that is demonstrated above but in the issue of a substantial number of religious and quasi-religious pieces which would appear to extend our perception of Wilson as an independent-minded printer, eager to exploit local phenomena.  These pieces appear in the same kinds of format as the secular pieces described above, with single issues, sheets with two pieces on them and multiples.  Christ Offering Living Water is an anti-drink piece; Faith, Hope and Charity a religious poem on the subject of Christ.51  In one of the multiples there is a freemason's hymn, not surprising since freemasonry apparently occupied a distinguished (sanctified?) place in society at the time in Devon and Cornwall.52  Issues with two texts include one with a New Union Hymn on it placed with The Soul's Enjoyment, or The Road to Heaven; and a sheet containing Heaven is my Home and The Lovely Name of Jesus.53  One further two-text sheet has on it The Christian Soldier and I Bid you all Farewell the subject of which is repentance.54  One sheet in addition to that containing the New Union Hymn has three hymns on it.55  A sheet with four pieces on it includes two carols, Shepherds Rejoice and Star of Bethlehem and While Shepherds Watched…placed with a hymn, Teach Me thy Love.56

Other sheets are multiples as follows:

A Dying Son's Farewell57 containing:

On the Tree
The Lord will Provide
A Dying Son's Farewell
Canaan, Bright Canaan
The Christian's Dream
Will you go?

The Harvest Home58 containing:

Harvest Home
Believer's Hopes
Fall of Babylon
The Pilgrim's Hymn

and a further sheet59 containing:

Christ is Come to Reign
His Trumpet Sounds
Heaven is my Home
The Sinner's Wants
The Stages of Life…

Without going into prolonged analysis, these issues clearly reflect the religious revival that swept the west country during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (even more in Cornwall than in Devon).  Wilson obviously had an eye for local developments and, apart from in the stock of Woolcock in Helston who will be discussed in the next piece in this series, this kind of piece simply does not appear in the majority of stocks of southern English printers.  The general tone may be gauged from the following three extracts from text…

(1) Believer's Hope

My soul is now united,
To CHRIST the living vine,
His grace I long have slighted,
But now I feel him mine,
I was to God a stranger,
'Till Jesus took me in,
He freed me from all danger,
And pardon'd all my sins…

(2) The Christian Soldier

I by faith entrusted am,
In the service of the Lamb;
Present pay from him receive,
Peace of conscience he does give:
I'm a soldier, soon shall be,
Happy in eternity.

(3) Jesus Says there's Room

'Tis Jesu's name I now do hear,
How glorious is the sound,
He says poor sinners do not fear,
For mercy shines around.
Come hasten then and you shall find
That mercy still abounds,
You need not now be left behind,
For Jesus says there's room…60

All told, then, if not in the major league of Pitts and Catnach, nor even, perhaps, locally, of Besley and Keys, Wilson nonetheless is a distinctive figure, with a considerable span of output, some evidence of independence of choice of material and a concentrated effort mid-century.  There is no concrete evidence that broadside printing continued within the family after John Wilson's death.

We have, in the end, a sketchy appreciation of broadside printing in Devon but we are able to see that it spanned the century - and when Besley and Keys are considered that it achieved respectable capacity.  Given, too, that jobbing printing was a norm there may well be other evidence that printers dabbled in the trade.  There, as it were, the case rests.

Roly Brown - 30.9.04
Oradour-sur-Vayres, France


Article MT144

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