English 3960, sec. 2
Spring 1997 / MWF, 1:25-2:15 p.m.
THE BEST-SELLING works of English literature
early in the nineteenth century were written not by such famous authors
as Wordsworth or Byron or Austen or Scott, but by anonymous hacks, who
often worked under time pressure at the counter of a local pub. There they
wrote ballads, songs, and "news" reports that were sold on the streets
to the urban poor, by impoverished hawkers, for a penny a sheet. Thousands
of these works, usually "illustrated" by eye-catching wood engravings,
were printed in the slums of London and the provinces. Some were recycled
from oral tradition; some purported to be what TV now calls Eyewitness
News, and were pitched at the same level of sensationalism. The most sensational
street ballads sold hundreds of thousands of copies. (The printers, who
dealt in hype, sometimes claimed millions of copiesˇthis in a country with
a population of eleven million people, many of whom could not read.) Because
these ballads were so cheap, so plentiful, so popular, so subliterary,
and so low-class, they have almost entirely disappeared. Amateur collectors
saved the relatively few survivors: these are now mostly housed in scattered
research libraries, from London to Minneapolis. Only a few have been reprinted.
Lind Hall 215 / Michael Hancher
This seminar will study samples of this literature, placing
them in historical context. We will focus on several scrapbooks of street
ballads that are owned by the Department of Special Collections and Rare
Books, Wilson Library. Much of the work of the seminar will involve selecting
particularly interesting items from those scrapbooks, finding out as much
about them as we can, and editing them for electronic
publication on the World Wide Webˇwhere they may once again find readers
in the thousands, if not millions.
Course packet includes the following items:
Leslie Shepard. The Broadside Ballad: A Study in Origins
and Meaning (subtitle on cover: The Development of the Street Ballad
from Traditional Song to Popular Newspaper). Hatboro, PA: Legacy, 1978.
ISBN 0˝913714˝01˝1 (paper).
Scrapbook, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections,
Wilson Library, catalogued as Collection of eighty street ballads on
forty sheets, mostly with a woodcut printed at London, the majority by
J. Catnach (1820˝1830).
Excerpts from scrapbooks, Department of Rare Books and Special
Collections, catalogued as Collection of ballads, songsheets (<London>:
J. Pitts, 1805-1840?).
Charles Dickens. "Seven Dials." Sketches by Boz, Illustrative
of Every-Day Life and Every-Day People. 1835-36. Ed. Andrew Lang. 2
vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1898. 81˝86.
Henry Mayhew. London Labour and the London Poor: The Condition
and Earnings of Those That Will Work, Cannot Work, and Will Not Work.
4 vols. 2nd ed. London: Griffin, n.d. :
"Of the Publishers and Authors of Street-Literature" (1:234)
"Of Long Song-Sellers" (1: 235)
"Long-Song Seller" (wood engraving ) (1:209)
"Of Street ŰBallads on a Subject'" (1:297˝99)
"Of the Street Poets and Authors" (1:300˝01)
"Of the Experience of a Street Author, or Poet" (1:301˝02)
"Of the ŰGallows' Literature of the Streets" (1:302˝04, 307˝09)
"The Poetry of Seven Dials." Quarterly Review 112
Some relevant books:
Collection of 13 broadsheets and street ballads. N.p.:
n.d. (Contents: <1> The British Neptune; or, Convivial songster.--<2>
Comus's chaplet.--<3> Twentieth century music hall songs.--<4> The
bouquet.--<5> A song sung on Monday, 18th. of April, 1814.--<6> Tax
and axe.--<7> West of England agricultural show.--<9> Yeovil agricultural
show.--<10> A copy of verses for the year 1830.--<11> Figaro in London.
no. 167. Feb. 14, 1835.--<12> A poem on the ever memorable battle of
Waterloo.--<13> A poem on the exile of Buonaparte.) WILSON Rare Books
Collection of ballads, songsheets.
2 vols. London: J. Pitts, 1805-1840?. (216 broadside ballads.) WILSON Rare
Books Quarto 820.1 Z.
Collection of eighty street ballads
on forty sheets, mostly with a woodcut printed at London, the majority
by J. Catnach (1820˝1830). London : n.p., n.d. WILSON Rare Books
Quarto 820.1 C683.
Anderson, Patricia. The Printed
Image and the Transformation of Popular Culture, 1790-1860. Oxford:
Clarendon P, 1991. WILSON Z1003 .A57.
Ashton, John, ed. Modern Street Ballads. London: Chatto
and Windus, 1888. WILSON 820.1 As3m.
Carnell, Peter W. Ballads in the Charles Harding Firth
Collection of the University of Sheffield : A Descriptive Catalogue With
Indexes. Sheffield, Eng.: Centre for English Cultural Tradition and
Language, University of Sheffield, 1979. WILSON Quarto PR507 .C37x 1979.
ˇˇˇ. Broadside Ballads and Song-Sheets from the Hewins
Mss. Collection in Sheffield University Library: A Descriptive Catalogue
with Indexes and Notes. Sheffield, Eng.: Sheffield University Library
and the Centre for English Cultural Tradition and Language, 1987. WILSON
Quarto PR507 .C37x 1987.
Fraser, Claud Lovat, ed. Old Broadside Ballads, Reproduced
from Original Examples in Facsimile. Norwood, PA: Norwood Editions,
1974. WILSON 820.1 F8616.
Henderson, W. Victorian Street Ballads: A Selection of
Popular Ballads Sold In the Street in the Nineteenth Century. London:
Country Life, 1937. WILSON 820.114 H37.
Hindley, Charles, ed. Curiosities of Street Literature.
London: Reeves and Turner, 1871. WILSON AnnexˇSub Basement Quarto 820 C926.
ˇˇˇ. The Life and Times of James
Catnach, Late of Seven Dials, Ballad Monger. London: Reeves and Turner,
1878. WILSON 019.242 C29h.
Holloway, John, and Joan Black, eds. Later English Broadside
Ballads. London: Routledge, 1975. WILSON 820.1 H728.
Pollard, Michael, ed. Ballads and Broadsides. Oxford: Pergamon,
1969. WILSON 820.1 P762.
Popular Literature in Eighteenth
and Nineteenth Century Britain. Reading, Eng.: Research Publications,
1985-1990. WILSON Mfilm 3877; WILSON Reference PR149 .P66 P67x 1990.
Shepard, Leslie. The History
of Street Literature: The Story of Broadside Ballads, Chapbooks, Proclamations,
News-Sheets, Election Bills, Tracts, Pamphlets, Cocks, Catchpennies and
other Ephemera. Newton Abbot, Eng.: David and Charles, 1973. WILSON
ˇˇˇ. John Pitts: Ballad Printer
of Seven Dials, London 1765-1844; With a Short Account of His Predecessors
in the Ballad and Chapbook Trade. London: Private Libraries Association,
1969. WILSON 019.242 P687s.
Simpson, Claude M. The British Broadside Ballad and Its
Music. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1966. MUSIC 784.4942
Wiltenburg, Joy. Disorderly Women
and Female Power in the Street Literature of Early Modern England and Germany.
Charlottesville : University Press of Virginia, 1992. WILSON PR418 .W65
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Department of English, University of Minnesota
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Created 4 March 1997
Last revised 29 June 1997