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roses, eyes serene, distilling balmy dew, 'fairer than Pandora, or Venus, Juno, Dido, or Diaphy,' * the centre of graces, the godess of harmony ;' no wonder, therefore, that Betty's hand is
in her purse,
• Audit, et excurrit, nudis ancilla lacertis't in a trice she has the precious Ballad safe in the recesses of her pocket. Or, suppose Betty married to Splitfig the grocer at the corner of Leather Lane, and in matronly dignity standing at her husband's shop-door, how can she turn a deaf ear to such blandish
I sing in praise of woman, and it will not you surprise,
The God bless the women, speak well of the women,
May Heaven bless the women, they're the glory of the land.' For, not only is woman an angel, a jewel, a treasure, not only may she wear a crinoline “big enough to cover half the street if she thinks fit,'—but the wretch that strikes his wife
may perdition be his doom May she beat him with the fire-shovel up and down the room.'
Many a warning story has been written on the dangers of poaching, but it would be hard to set them forth in a more pointed light than Mr. Catnach in “The Oakham Poachers.' There is a reckless defiance of all the laws of rhyme in this ballad, in entire accordance with the lawlessness of its heroes, though not quite in unison with the attendant woodcut which represents a very respectable old gentleman, with his wife and children cosily taking tea at a round table.
Here and there among sorry rhymes we stumble upon an old friend, as • The last Rose of Summer,' or, “Let Fame sound the Trumpet,' Time has not Thinned thy Flowing Hair,' or “The Bay of Biscay;' and still more rarely on a stanza of real poetry, such as “Come into the Garden, Maud, which reads oddly enough on the same page with “The Labouring Man' in ten verses of this kind
• To please you all, I do intend,
About the labouring man.' * Village Regulations' is a sentimental retrospect (much after
* Daphne (?)
† V. Bourne, 'Poemata.'
the fashion of some of Mr. C. Dickens' musings) of 'My Boyhood's Home ;' and not without a faint sparkle of wit,-thus at v. 2,
“When I saw the little wooden bridge my heart beat with joy Where I used to fish with benten pin and bit of thread when I
was a boy,
Chorus. Regulations, &c. * Ivy up every house, nasturtions all round the back, Large geraniums well cultivated with five green leaves and two
black. One coach yard paved with stones that look like petrified kidney
potatoes One inn, two public houses, threo fourpenny shops, and no
waiters. Besides, there's one great mansion I've kept back for that I
cannot bear It's the Poorhouse I mean, and I hope and trust none of us may
ever go there' From the domain of sentiment, beauty, and romance, we now pass to the ghastly regions of crime, especially that of Murder,' which no less a critic and philosopher than Thomas De Quincey has treated as one of the Fine Arts, and made the subject of one of his most brilliant Essays, but which here comes before us in all its naked deformity; in spite of some considerable variety in the mode of treatment. Of these Dying Speeches and Confessions' we have thirteen before us, stretching from the famous murder of Maria Martin by W. Corder in the Red Barn (1825) down to J. R. Jeffery's murder of his little boy in October, 1866. Many of these are clearly by the same hand, probably one of the five or six well-known authors, who also chant their own verses in the streets. “I gets,' says one of the fraternity, I gets a shilling a copy for the verses written by the wretched culprit the night previous to his execution.' And I, says another, did the helegy on Rush. I didn't write it to horder ; I knew that they would want a copy of verses from the
* Mayhew's London Poor,' vol. iii.
wretched * The street singers say so; but in the 'Roxburghe Ballads' there are many professing to be written by criminals, from which we take a single verse :
wretched culprit. And when the publisher (Mr. Catnach) read it; “ that's the thing for the streets," he says. But I only got a shilling for it.' 'It's the same poet as does 'em all,' says a third authority, "and the same tip; no more nor a bob for nothing. This was paltry pay under any circumstances, but still more so when we find from Mr. Mayhew that in the case of the chief modern murders these · Execution Ballads' commanded a most enormous sale; thus, Of Rush's murder
2,500,000 copies. Of the Mannings
2,500,000 Of Courvoisier
.. 1,666,000 Of Greenacre
1,666,000 Of Corder (Maria Martin)
166,000 So that Catnach must have reaped a golden harvest for many a long day, even if sold to the street patterers or singers at the low rate of 3d, a dozen.
The Dying Speech and Confession Ballad,' strictly so called, is said to have been unknown in the trade until the year 1820,* when a change in the law prolonged the term of existence between the trial and death of the criminal. Before that, says a street patterer, † there wasn't no time for lamentation; sentence to-day, scragging to-morrow, or, leastways, Friday to Monday.' And with regard to this matter of time, it must also be noted that many of the most popular Ballads being composed on the spur of the moment for the purpose of being sung while all London is ringing with the event, all niceties of rhyme, metre, and orthography have to be utterly disregarded.
As far as can be ascertained, the sale of Ballads in Rush's case far exceeded that of any now before us. Even that of Müller did not amount to more than forty or fifty thousand copies—though no modern murder ever surpassed it in atrocity, or in the profound interest which it excited throughout England. And this difference is no doubt to be explained by the fact that since
“I am a poor prisoner condemned to die,
Ah wo is me, ah wo is me for my great folly,
Be warned young wantons, hemp passeth green holly.
Luke Ilutton's Dying Lament, day before he was
hanged at York, 1659. + Mayhew's ‘London Poor.'
Rush's day the daily penny newspapers have almost forestalled the Halfpenny Ballads by giving a full account of the different enormities in all their minute and hideous details. The force of public opinion, too, thus exerted through the Press, has been brought to bear on the question of crime, and much of the morbid sympathy which found expression in the case of such a monster as Rush, had died away in 1864, when detectives tracked Müller across the Atlantic, and brought him back to be hanged by an English hangman, in the presence of an English mob. To every one of the murderers, Constance Kent at Roadhill House, Jeffery, Forward at Ramsgate, and the Pirates of the · Flowery Land'—one and all alike-stern justice is meted out with inflexible severity. The wretched girl who at Salisbury confessed her crime to the judge, makes no excuse for her guilt, but tells only of the intolerable remorse that would give her no rest
• My infant brother so haunted me,
I declare I'm guilty, and deserve to die.' Scoundrels,' malefactors,' 'villains,' are the gentlest names for this Newgate gallery, and the gallows in every case is promised, with a sort of grim satisfaction, that augurs strongly for a deep popular belief in the justice of those solemn words, Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.'
• The Political Ballads' are ten in number, of which seven are devoted to the special subject of Reform, the ridicule of Johnny Russell, and the express glorification of Gladstone, Beales, Bright, and Co. The remaining three are “John Bull and the Taxes,' “Stop the Beer on Sunday,' and a 'Political Litany on the present Session of Parliament,' amusing enough in their way, but of which a verse or two will amply suffice as specimens. • John Bull and the Taxes’ is probably a new edition of an older prose ballad, which dates as far back as Washington Irving's Sketch Book, and in fourteen brisk stanzas strings together the innumerable articles on which a hungry Chancellor of the Exchequer lays his iron hand, after the following fashion :
• They are going to tax the butter
And they're going to tax the eggs,
And tax the wooden legs.
You have to keep you warm,
This is clearly a verse out of the older ballad, while another quite as clearly belongs to our own times :
• They will tax the ladies crinolines
Won't that be jolly fun,
They'll tax the hot-cross buns.
With feathers white and red
That put them on their head.'
But in spite of the heavy burden of all this taxation, the author is in a good temper all the way through, and the whole business seems to him more or less a good joke, even when he attributes all taxes to the Whigs,' and 'Satan' their prime chief and instigator ; in this latter point agreeing with sturdy old Sam Johnson's reply to Boswell, Sir, I have always said, the first Whig was the Devil.'*
The Political Litany' differs from all our other ballads in being entirely in prose, and for the most part is rather a bitter satire on the noble Earl Russell (then Prime Minister, February, 1866), whom the poet irreverently addresses as . O dearly bought and never to be forgotten Johnny,' while he is equally severe on Johnny's coadjutors in office, as a single sentence will prove :
When the Whigst shall cease to be a milk and water set, and prove to the people of England that like good and trusty servants, they will
for their rights, and pass such measures as will be for the benefit of the nation at large ; then and not till then shall we consider them as trumps, and look upon them with confidence.'
But it is for Johnny himself that he specially reserves his sagest advice, his keenest wit, his sharpest warning. The burden and chorus of one of the ballads is
When we get Johnny's Reform,'
a future date, which in his eyes is clearly equivalent to the •Greek Kalends.' Reform is a mere shadow, a scrap of moonshine, a popular cry, which
*Little Johnny bless the darling boy
Long time has nursed as his favourite toy,' but which will never be realized; a sort of dreamy, minor mil
* "Sir,' replies obsequious Bozzy,' he was.'—Croker's ‘Boswell,' p. 606.
+ In a very recent edition of this ballad, the word Whigs is amusingly converted into Tories, so as to apply to the present Government.