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Glimpses into the nineteenth century broadside ballad trade

No. 41: Porter - a Cotswold printer1

The progress of those printers who worked at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is not particularly well-documented.  Often, in censuses and in notices of marriage,death and burial, whilst there are tantalising glimpses of possible lives and, occasionally, these lives begin to help unravel the less than straightforward world of practice in the issue of ballads, there are some characters who are just out of focus.  In trying to trace the fortunes of one printer it is sometimes the case that the most of clarifying detail comes from the lives of other printers for whom the same lack of supportive material obtains.  This happens time and again - as will be seen in discussion below where the same names crop up issuing the same ballads.  The present enquiry is an attempt to situate Porter amongst his contemporaries, consolidating the few known details of his life and practice; and, further, to try to confirm historical dating of ballads as far as is possible and through various comparisons and contrasts to illustrate something of the kinds that Porter and others issued.  All this inevitably involves a certain amount of speculation and there are, as might be expected, loose ends.  Several peripheral areas of enquiry surface and this has resulted in the addition, sometimes, of quite extensive footnotes, hopefully not too tedious in nature.  This might be a way of indicating areas of study for other researchers.

To begin with, we note that Thomas Smith Porter takes his place in a panorama amongst numbers of ballad-printers from a geographical area that, even stretching the parameters a little, we may designate as 'Cotswolds' (sometimes spoken of in the vernacular as 'Cotsall'), these printers and their domiciles ranging from Ricketts in Highworth, near to Swindon, via Willey in Cheltenham right over to Chilcot in Leominster and to the Ledbury printers Gibbs and Ward.  Porter himself is known to have worked out of Cirencester and the general roll-call includes Clift in the same town- with a substantial body of ballads available to us in the Madden collection.  However, as one amongst Clift's hardly known Cirencester neighbours, Shipway, Turner, and Shatford, Porter's life-history needs substantiation - and, indeed, another printer who might be usefully included in this latter group is Bence, one or two of whose ballads do appear in the Madden collection, who worked out of Wotton under Edge where Porter is found after a move from Cirencester.2

The likeliest confirmation of a birth-date for Porter is around 1787-9 ...  There is a baptismal record for Thomas and for a brother, Alexander, in Abenhall, Gloucestershire, dating from 1801.  The father's name is given as Jasper Porter and the mother's as Ann Smith which accounts for Thomas Smith Porter's slightly unusual middle name.  The ages of the boys are given as 14 for Thomas and 12 for Alexander.  There is, later, a marriage entry for a Thomas Smith Porter and an Elizabeth Holder, dated 6th September 1813, the marriage having taken place in Westbury on Severn, Elizabeth's home town.  On the marriage certificate Porter is listed as a bachelor residing in the 'Cottage Precincts' within the city of Gloucester.

There was certainly then a change of circumstances.  The births of children are recorded.  First came Alexander, actually born on 8th December 1814 and then baptised on 22nd January 1815 in Cirencester.  The date of Alexander's birth immediately suggests that the known 1815 date for Porter activity in Cirencester as described below can (just) be put back in time a little and, what is more, Porter 's occupation in amongst details of Alexander's baptism is already being given as 'printer'.  Louisa was born on 5th February 1817 and baptised on 15th March 1817 in Cirencester - Porter's occupation being given on this occasion as 'Stationer'.  Finally, there is Ellen, baptised on 25th August 1819 in Wotton under Edge (there is an address of 'Longstreet').  No date of birth is available.  In this particular record, despite the father's name being given as William Smith Porter, his occupation is given as 'Printer and Stationer' and it looks very much as if we can say that two and two make four.

These scraps and what follows establish the outline of Porter's life and there is reasonably useful evidence of a printing career.  The British Book Trade Index (BBTI), for instance, locates Porter as bookseller, printer, bookbinder and stationer, a comprehensive portfolio suggesting an established business; and this confirms the scraps set out above: Porter is seen to have worked out of Cirencester between 1815 and 1816 and then for another year, 1818-1819, in Wotton under Edge.  There is also a paper read to the Cirencester Naturalists' and Archaeological Society by Herbert E Norris in Cirencester in 1912 (reported in the Wilts and Gloucester Standard 16th March of that year) offering the information that Porter had premises in Castle Street, Cirencester, 'opposite the Swan Inn' during 1815 and 1816.  A 'magazine', The Gleaner or Cirencester Weekly, was cited as having come from Porter during 1816 and turns out to have had precisely a year's output.  Porter claimed his weekly paper as the first to have appeared in Cirencester and that this was:

This - alas - was not so since, according to Norris, the Cirencester Post or Gloucester Mercury preceded The Gleaner by a century.

Online references give the information that in 1815 Porter had 'printed and published' a collection entitled 'The Gloucestershire garland' with its wonderfully fulsome sub-title:

This effulgence, together with that claim to fame as publisher of The Gleaner, might give us a glimpse of the sense Porter had of himself at that point in time.

There is also a reference in the Norris article to a 'rare' ballad in the Bingham Library (then in Cirencester), Verses on the Illumination, that Norris thought was written by a Sarah Browning, on the occasion of the battle of Waterloo.  The identity of Sarah Browning has not been discovered nor have the 'Verses ...' themselves been found.  The contents of the Bingham Library were removed to the Gloucestershire County Archives and nothing further about Porter or his output has been gleaned from that Gloucester source.

The Norris article went on to indicate that, somewhat bizarrely perhaps, at one stage Porter was a 'vendor of horse medicines', yet which, together with the references to the collected verse and to the magazine, actually shows that Porter conformed, to an extent, to a regular printer profile, and was involved in more than one simultaneous enterprise.  This matter has been discussed previously in this series.  There is one other detail, found on Porter copy of Light Bob (see further below), which indicates that the ballad was issued from 'Porter's Warehouse' in Cirencester (my italics), thus supporting the idea of a business that was not necessarily limited to printing - as we might expect with that designation as 'Stationer' already noted.  The conjunction of the two descriptions 'Printer' and 'Stationer' might also suggest that the terms were interchangeable.  It brings to mind the designation on Pitts ballads: 'Toy and Marble Warehouse'.

Part of Porter's working life can, then, be firmly established in Cirencester.  To add to this, there is also a reference in the Gloucestershire Quarter Sessions Archives to the effect that Porter had done the legal deed and applied to a clerk of the peace for a certificate signifying his intention to use a printing press and had received a certificate for that purpose - in Wotton in 1818.  But, apart from the details that have been set out above, there is nothing else either from Cirencester or from Wotton that would fill out the picture of Porter's domicile nor of any part of his working life including his activities as printer of ballads.  The dates of the cessation of his working activity and of his death have not yet been uncovered.3

We are left with a small crop of ballads in the Madden collection that were evidently unknown to or ignored by Norris.  The full list is as follows:

This list can be subdivided.  The first four pieces came out of Cirencester.  The Country Lass and The Mouth of the Nile have both 'Wotton-under-Edge and Cirencester' as locations.  The rest were all printed out of Wotton.  On some ballads this address is printed as 'Wotton-Underedge'.

There is one more Porter ballad entitled And All His Thoughts are Fix'd on Home - with a first line of 'When storms disturb old ocean's bed ...' in a Baring-Gould collection; but it has not been possible to look at it.


We can make further inroads by looking, firstly, at those ballads that can be linked to historical events, useful because this reflects a time before which the particular piece could not have been issued but that do give us a focus, as in the present case, on a time when Porter was working.  Thus, The Waterloo Wedding is a good example where at least a starting-date for enquiry is offered that sits within the period that Norris described.  The piece turns out to be of the same order as a number of other texts such as The Plains of Waterloo - and, as does that ballad, features a returned lover, 'a valiant man', and where the climax of the narrative emerges thus:

As a cautionary note, there is often a complication in the dating of balladry based on particular events because of the matter of retrospection in printing where the subject-matter is concerned.  Much Nelson balladry, for instance, is of this nature and has been explored on this site.4  Conversely, we must not forget ballads such as those on executions - again, as already discussed at length on this site - that were of the moment only.5

Here we have a ballad that is not about Waterloo itself but is a lyric composition on a theme involving a successful love affair that appears in many a guise in ballad-printing history.

Several printers appear to have put out the same or very similar copy of The Waterloo Wedding more or less at the same time, thus circumscribing the time during which the particular ballad appears to have achieved its greatest popularity.  Thomas Stevens Storer in Bristol printed the piece and there is support for his printing activity in the English Short Title Catalogue which indicates that he had issued The apprehending and taking of Phoebe Cluer, on suspicion of the murder of her child from 'No.4 Narrow Wine St., Bristol' and, in the same source, as another marker, The Gosport Tragedy, from the same address although the ESTC often includes question marks along with its datings, as with the given date here - 'c.1800?'.  Storer also issued England's Glory, a panegyric to the British sailor consequent upon the defeats of Napoleon's armies and fleet at Aboukir Bay (1798).  A British Book Trade Index reference has Storer working in 1809.  With his printing of The Waterloo Wedding we can extend his operative period to a time around 1815 and all this detail suggests that he, like Porter, is very much an 'early' printer.6

We can also confirm the general date of issue of The Waterloo Wedding by citing Sarah Taylor copy.  She was printing ballads in Birmingham between 1807 and 1818, thus, in her case, giving us a narrow three years upon which to exercise conjecture.7

Then the trail meanders a trifle.  Richard Hook, printer, in Brighton, issued the piece and, according to the Roud broadside index, he also issued a catalogue of songs dated between c.1820 and 1824.8  It looks as if his copy of The Waterloo Wedding appeared in retrospective manner and, certainly, that an extended time for the general issue of the ballad could be edged forward a little.  This same momentum also involved James Rosson in Middlewich who, working between 1822-1828, printed the piece more than once with certain misprints that had appeared in initial copy corrected.9  The life of the piece - in a way not entirely helpfully for our dating of Porter - can be seen to have been gradually prolonged.

In this respect, there is copy from J Cooper in Newcastle-under Lyme but nothing conclusive has emerged that illuminates his life and work except that the piece was actually printed for him and not by him.  There are a few more such 'Cooper' ballads in the Bodleian archives - for instance, General Wolf (sic) together with How deep in love am I; and The Rosy Morn.  The Cooper in question looks to be a printer operating during the early part of the nineteenth century at a time commensurate with the emergence of Porter.  This idea emerges in a curious detail in the Bodleian archive of Ballads Online.  Cooper's The Waterloo Wedding and its companion piece, The Rosy Morn (a different copy to the one noted above), were located on the back of a paper 'wrapped for pins'.  The curiosity becomes something slightly more substantial when we find that a Midlands Directory has a J Cooper as 'Pin maker and dealer in small wares' living in Church Lane, Newcastle-under-Lyme.  There, tantalisingly, the Cooper matter rests.10

Shipway in Cirencester, another printer who issued The Waterloo Wedding, is pertinent on account of his location but the only other morsel of information about Shipway found so far is that he printed a ballad on the execution in Warwickshire of three men, Warner, Ward and Williams, the execution taking place in 1818; this printing subject to the normal strictures that applied to all execution balladry as noted above.  The 1818 date is clearly relevant to Porter's case and the two ballads cited here give the impression that Shipway had a well-founded business.11

Finally, there is Collard in Bristol.  Continuity in Collard's working life is unclear to us.  References in the British Book Trade Index have him working between 1818 and 1831 in 'Bridewell-Lane' and 'Hotwell-Road' in Bristol; but also in 'Hotwells rd' and 'St James' back' between 1842 and 1847.  The first set of addresses is that found on many of his ballad-printings as they appear in the Madden collection (the actual form of address is that given here, or as 'Bristol and Hotwells'); and he did print The famous 18-verse song of The Battle of Waterloo which, at least, supports a time of issue for his copy of The Waterloo Wedding.12

In the case of Porter, crucially, we see that his was a retrospective issue since the address given on copy is that of Wotton and this brings into focus a period after 1818.  Overall, we can see that the piece was popular during the late 1810s and beyond; and, perhaps, that Porter may have followed precedent.

There is a second historical ballad entitled The Mouth of the Nile that also came out retrospectively and the designation on Porter copy is interesting in that the address is given as 'Wotton-under-Edge & Cirencester', as if the printer was working out of two premises.  This could offer us the prospect of a change of address or, at least, the opening of business in Wotton in 1817.

The text is clearly centred on the naval battle at Aboukir Bay and begins:

Familiar tributes are paid to Nelson and there is a strong cameo of the blowing up of the French ship L'Orient that made a huge impression on those involved in the action.  As the piece progresses, '... the frenchmen repine we took nine sail of the line', and 'Great news shall be sent to George our King'.  Porter's final, slightly puzzling stanza suggests that he got this piece from elsewhere: A comparison with text from Armstrong where the narrative is the same reveals a rather more logical sequence: All the same, Armstrong printed, as far as can be told, after Porter so, if there is a source for the Porter text, it must lie elsewhere and is not easily discernible.

There are such changes in detail in various copy over time ...  Pitts, printing from his first address between 1802 and 1819, has 'round their cans do sing' but both he in other copy from his second address after 1819 and Catnach manage 'canns'.  Wood in Liverpool has 'round their cans do sing' ...  Dickinson in York has 'around'.  Pitts sticks to 'Bonaparte' and 'wage'.  Catnach has 'Buonaparte' and 'wages'.

But to complete the list of printers who issued the piece, we can add copy found in the output of Batchelar, essentially a camp-follower of Catnach; from Hillat and Martin in London, for whom BBTI gives a reference to 1839 - though there is a substantial output from the two printers that must indicate that their joint career was more extensive than this; and from Such who had the same sort of textual changes as those mentioned above - for instance, in the penultimate line as set out above where Such had 'wages'.  Essentially, the narrative is the same - as it is in later copy from Cadman in Manchester and from Harkness.  All the printers in this extended list bar Catnach whose operative times overlap those of Porter have trading dates at some time after Porter.  Similarly - as pointed out before - Armstrong copy appeared between 1820 and 1824 and copy from Dickinson between 1823 and 1834.  It looks as though it was George Wood who printed from Liverpool.  There are also unattributed copies of the ballad in the Bodleian archive and references in the Roud index to the Crampton and Baring-Gould collections; and the piece appeared in Catnach's 1832 list and that of Pitts in 1836.  Whilst there does not appear to be any record in Songsters, there is copy in Ashton's Real Sailor Songs as late as 1891 and it is obvious that the ballad had a prolonged life.  However, it does seem to have emerged early in the nineteenth century judging on the appearance of copy from Pitts and Porter (and, perhaps, Catnach).  The title also appears in Collard's 1837 list which must indicate that the ballad was printed by him at an earlier time.  Porter, in all this, can be seen to have been shrewd enough to pick up on current popularity of the piece, however his sometimes ragged detail appeared.  In every case, though, issue of the piece is always retrospective, not put out in the excitement of the moment.13

There is also a third 'historical' ballad from Porter - entitled SONG that, despite its loose title, is very much about an event.  It opens as follows:

But we can actually get much closer to the action by considering the 'CHORUS': And the second stanza is also revelatory, beginning: The date is a little askew.

The piece attempts to evoke the feats of arms of General Sir Ralph Abercrombie (born in 1734) who died of wounds received in the battle (1801), as a subsequent stanza tells us; and, in a telescoped version of events we also learn of the endeavours of Sir Sidney Smith (1764-1840), a colourful if somewhat rash character, who achieved particular fame at the siege of Acre in 1799.

The ballad continues:

In fact, the correct name is 'Oakes'- this looks very much like a printer's error considering the following rhyme in text.  Hildebrand Oakes, Baronet (1754-1822), fought in the first phase of the battle when the French took the initiative under General Jacques-Francois Menou (1750-1810) - not 'Moreau'.  General John Hely-Hutchinson (1757-1832) was second-in-command to Abercrombie.  Fighting began on 21st March 1801 (as the ballad has it) and actually went on throughout the summer until Menou besieged the British forces in Alexandria but then himself capitulated on 2nd September.  We can not consider the ballad without, too, noting the errors, in this case to do with naming, of a sort that besprinkle much balladry that is, ostensibly, based on a particular event and might mark the haste with which a ballad was put together.14

The Porter dates that we have, however, absolutely confirm the retrospective nature of his printing of the ballad.  He was working in Cirencester - well after the date of the event in 1801 but before 1818 and his move to Wotton.  It might even be suggested that there was no excuse for the errors ...  Importantly, this appears to be the only extant issue.

There is a better-known piece, Death of Abercrombie, written by Thomas Dibdin (1771-1841) - 'TWAS on the spot in ancient lore oft nam'd ...' - and put to music by John Braham (1777-1856).  This was printed by Pitts (after 1819), Jennings, Walker in Norwich and Stark in Gainsborough.  Pitts also issued another Thomas Dibdin and Braham ballad on the events beginning 'Come all you gallant generals Britannia now may boast ...' and this, too, came from his second address after 1819.  R Evans in Chester issued a ballad entitled Abercrombie's Glory.  The printer was likely to have been Richard H; Evans, printer and stationer of Foregate Street in Chester between 1823 and 1832, and who died in 1833 (BBTI).

It is still notable, in the flurry of Abercrombie pieces to appear, that there are a number of early printers involved; and we should add that attention to the subject-matter looks to have been prolonged into the 1820s.  The Dibdin piece also appeared in Songsters at an early time and this life-span took in the mid-century after which there is no sign of either the particular ballads or of the particular subject-matter.15


Apart from the ballads discussed above that involve specifically dated events and given the intervals between each event and Porter printings, we can bring into focus other ballads of his that have a historical context, even if it is not precisely defined or dated.  First off, we can cite The Belfast Shoemaker.  The emergence of the ballad in nineteenth century repertoire, interestingly and quite significantly, includes a profile amongst Scottish printers - Buchan in Peterhead; Randall in Stirling; and Robertson in Glasgow, in connection with whom a date of 1807 for issue of the ballad is given in reference.  This Scottish aspect of ballad issue would be well worth pursuing even if there is no obviously tangible connection between Scottish and English printers - possible progenitors, so to speak, and camp-followers.  Scottish printings, as has been seen the case with Abercrombie ballads, do crop up before English ones in several instances.  Sometimes such Scottish presence is identified only by references but their existence and the dates of the printers involved are valid enough - here, in the case of Robertson, as an important factor in the present discussion, suggesting early printing of the particular ballad in a particular form.  Other Scottish printings of various ballads under review are noted below in text.16

The Porter version concerns 'a rambling shoemaker' from Belfast who enlisted, to his 'sad misfortune' - in fact, he was drunk at the time.  He had 'a loving sweetheart', named Jane Wilson who 'griev'd' to see him go.  The train 'march'd to Tipperary'.  But on a wet and dark night 'I took my liberty', fleeing into the North but, strangely for geographical nicety, resting 'in the Forth'.  This latter reference is a strange one and can only be otherwise associated with the 1798 Irish insurrection during which fighting took place in the Forth, a barony (geographical and administrative area) outside Wexford town.  Its 'position' in the ballad becomes more clear, as will be seen.

At length, the train caught up with the shoemaker and:

During the ensuing 'combat' they stole his hammer and sold it for five loaves, 'a curious meal'.


Not to be put down, the shoemaker: This narrative is, to say the least, ragged and rushed towards its end.  But it bears comparison with other text and Porter, we find, occupies a place as one of the earlier English printers along with Pigott, Jennings, Pitts and Hurd.  Sometimes details differ.  Pigott, for instance, has 'Jane Milson' as opposed to Robertson and Porter who have Jean Wilson - but this change might simply indicate printers' errors.  Otherwise, the close identity of dates of issue discussed above and what is known about the lives of the printers cited here confirm a time of popularity for the piece and Porter's place within the hierarchy.

Pigott copy, for instance,has an address on it as '60 Old St'.  BTTI references have George Pigott in 'Old St Rd' with a date of 1805 and then Charles Pigott at 52 Compton St, Clerkenwell in 1825 and Perry Pigott at the same address between 1821 and 1829.  There seems little doubt that it is the first-named who issued The Belfast Shoemaker.  The Bodleian has a goodly selection of Pigott printings from the same address, several of which, as it happens and as will be confirmed below, mirror the Porter corpus with maids bewailing the loss of their sweethearts and with some amused 'country' pieces, such as Doctor Brown, The Barley Raking and The Bold Cobler - all with the same address, although it is frequently couched in a slightly different ways on copy: 'Old Street', '60 Old Street', 'Pigott, Old Street' and 'old-street'.

John Jennings printed his ballad from 13 Water-lane, Fleet Street, London between 1802 and 1809 (details of Jennings' career have already been noted) and this supports the idea of a general period during which the ballad appeared in England though Porter is not yet in the frame.

Hurd's copy was issued from 'Shaston' (the alternative name for 'Shaftesbury' in Dorset) and there is increasing evidence that the period of issue for Hurd ballads can be dated to the second decade and the earliest years of the 1820s of the new century.  Hurd copy of the ballad shows one or two changes compared to how it appeared in Porter's hands and in the hands of Pigott and Jennings.  There is no Light Horse, for instance; and (it is a fairly obvious change) the name 'Carry' in Porter appears as 'Cary'.

Pitts copy begins with the line commensurate to that of Porter - 'I am a bold shoemaker, from Belfast town I came'.  It was printed from Pitts' first address between 1802 and 1819, thus encapsulating Porter's working life as ballad-printer and, possibly, even pre-dating Porter issue.17

Subsequently, Birt (printing between 1833 and 1841), Such and Harkness extended the life of the ballad, the latter two in decidedly different terms to how Porter printed the piece.  Whilst the overall narrative proceeds in much the same manner as found generally in copy of the ballad, Such begins with:

Such has a very full version of the piece as does Harkness: all the known elements as they appeared in Porter issue.  But in the case of Harkness in particular there are also changes that are not merely orthographic but alter the tenor of the piece.  Harkness seems seem to place it more firmly within a northern Irish context with reference to 'Chapel' that is emphasised by an accompanying indication that 'To work on Sunday did not with me agree'.  On the other hand, Such insisted that the march was to 'Chapel Lixod' with a confusing echo of 'Chapelizod', a district of Dublin ... the only such place, it seems, in Ireland.  Whatever the nature of these alterations as far as location is concerned they still represent a distinct change from earlier text.  Moreover, both printers have the shoemaker eventually fighting along with Father Murphy during the 1798 Irish insurrection; and cite the battle of New Ross, a victory for the insurgents.  The location of this battle might even be tied in with the reference to the Forth, as described above.  Harkness copy goes even so far as to boast that the shoemaker could fight and beat any 'orangeman' - a decidedly partial aspect to the story, far from what is found in Porter copy.18  This development is paralleled by copy in the Library of Congress collection (noted in Steve Roud's index) which, entitled Bold Shoemaker, declares that 'I am a bold republican, John Irvin is my name ...'  Finally in this montage, Harkness identifies the man who betrayed the shoemaker as 'George Clark of Garrick', a full reference not found elsewhere on copy.

Given that a single narrative impulse is generally adhered to amongst printers even when details begin to differ with the passing of time and accretions occur, it is possible to consolidate intimations of the date of the emergence of the piece into the public glare by taking up certain points of detail on copy and then making one or two leaps of the imagination.  Thus, there is a history attached to the reference to 'Blues'.  A Royal Warrant had been issued for the raising of a regiment in the new regular army in 1661 and the regiment acquired the nickname 'Royal Blues' on account of its blue uniform.  It became the 'Royal Horse Guards, Blues' in 1750 and, eventually, amalgamated to form the 'Blues and Royals'.  After lengthy service abroad during the later eighteenth century the regiment had stayed put in the UK between 1796 and 1812.  Following Wellington's appointment as colonel the 'Blues' fought at Vittoria (1813) and at Waterloo.  Yet there is no sign in the history of the particular regiment of any association with Ireland that appears in the ballad under review - more specifically Belfast or Tipperary or even Wexford - and we can only surmise that this is a printer's speculative insertion - or an oral contribution,true enough to the inconsistency in general ballad-printing habits.

Essentially, the regiment - the 'Blues' - was prominent during the later eighteenth century and the Napoleonic wars and could be found on home ground before 1812.  There seems to have been a gap between this period and that during which Porter took inspiration, joining in the apparent first consensus of issue of the ballad during the second decade of the nineteenth century.  Again, then, in sum, knowing when Porter printed out of his two addresses, the conclusion is very much in support for the printing dates given by Norris as noted earlier in this piece.19

There is a similar situation as regards the Porter printing of Light Bob.  This piece can also be found as copy without imprint; and, importantly, in Collard's 1837 list.  There is no sign of Collard copy in the Madden collection nor in the Bodleian archives but the 1837 reference presents us with the notion of copy being issued before that time and, given the evidence, already canvassed, that ballads came out of Collard's activities in Bristol between 1818 and 1831, this may well have also been the time when he issued Light Bob.  The dates are, admittedly, rather unhelpful as detail apropos the emergence of Porter as printer but Porter's own issue is particularly noteworthy in such a sparse showing and might even suggest a printer who, as in the case of SONG, has an independent streak.  Porter's Light Bob came from his location in Cirencester which sets its appearance somewhere around 1815-1816 as the initial dating set out above indicated and before 1818 (or slightly earlier) after which he moved premises to Wotton.  This may allow us a view of a period for general, if limited, issue of the piece at the end of the 1810s - and this is a time in which we might place Collard copy.

Whether or not one could include the unattributed copy within these parameters is still an open question.  The piece uses the long 'S' which might just suggest an early issue but this is not necessarily a guaranteed sign as noted above in connection with a Pitts printing, The Baker's Courtship, which appeared after 1819 (and is further referred to in footnote 26 here).  There is nothing else to help: no address, for instance.

Nor is there any sign of the ballad later - although there is always the possibility that copy from other printers has not yet been located.  That said, as was the case with Belfast Shoemaker, it is to internal detail that we must now turn for a morsel of enlightenment.20

The ballad concerns a lamenting maiden, familiar from much similar balladry, and a chorus sums up her dilemma:

The presence of a 'Light Bob' in text is the most significant aspect although the ballad is not quite straightforward on the matter.  Certainly the 'colours were flying' and 'Light Bobs look so gay'; but it is the sailors who 'stamp and swear' and who tell the maiden that she would see her love 'no more'.  In fact, what emerges from the ballad is less to do with the military than it is to a familiar lyrical complaint when the maid declares that her 'Light Bob' had 'plainly' played her false 'For he changes like the weather-cock that changes with the wind'.

'Light Bobs', we find, was the nickname of the British Army's Light Infantry.21  The particular regiment was raised in 1755 as the 54th Regiment of Foot.  In 1781 a regional title, 52nd Oxfordshire Regiment of Foot, was bestowed, and in 1803 the regiment became the first to be designated 'Light Infantry'.  The 'explanation' of 'Light' would seem to be clear enough; and 'Bobs' looks to have derived from the adoption (1777) of short, cropped hair - 'bobbed' - during the American Wars of Independence.

'Light Bobs', at any rate, retained a red coat despite other such 'light' regiments wearing green as a uniform colour and, as well as fighting in the American Wars of Independence, saw service also in India and during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars - which, in effect, brings the story up to date and within Porter's ken.

In the ballad it is probably of relatively minor significance that the nickname was evoked except as a contemporary reference or one of an exotic nature.  Clearly enough, the term 'Light Bob' is but a peg on which to hang the narrative.  We are not looking at a ballad based on a single event.  The narrative, then, is of a similar sort to that of The Waterloo Wedding.  What we glimpse is a historical background dating from the late eighteenth century and inclusive of the period of the Napoleonic wars and this could be said to embrace Porter's perception of both the nature and effect of balladry and of the world round him, particularly in the possibilities of commercial exploitation of events and characteristics.

As summation - whilst the piece might seem to be fairly inconsequential in itself, it can be taken along with The Waterloo Wedding, The Mouth of the Nile, SONG and The Belfast Shoemaker to offer degrees of detail that, at the least, help confirm the dating of Porter's activities.  Together, the five ballads discussed above set Porter firmly in historical time for which the known references, those of Norris, in particular, can serve as indicators.

There is another ballad that could be said to be historically-based.  The Cries of the Nation, working a well-worn theme, is a piece that appears as issue from Porter, Bloomer in Birmingham, Walker in Norwich and Collard through his ubiquitous list; and, when the respective dates of activity amongst the printers are computed, this indicates that the ballad could have come out at the end of the 1810s and may even tilt the balance of issue in favour of the 1820s.  Bloomer worked between 1817 and 1827.  Walker, even further removed,printed his piece at some stage between 1820 and 1827.  Collard's dates remain uncertain although, based on the cache of Collard ballads printed between 1818 and 1831the consensus is likely to be that this was the period during which he issued The Cries of the Nation.  As a long shot, it may be that this small nexus does provide us with a possible notion that Porter did print in the earliest part of the 1820s.  However, once again it has to be said that we have no evidence that Porter was printing ballads at that time.22

The piece offers a cumbersome amalgam of general comment and fragments of detail, beginning with a general plea:

There is then a parade of victims beginning with starving 'seamen' who cannot get a 'birth' (sic).  Generally in the country, 'Duties are so high nothing can be made' and sea-ports are ruined for want of trade.

It is necessary to be careful with pieces such as this one.  There is evidence that the same sorts of complaints that are to be found in this particular ballad also figure in pieces that appeared at quite different times.  In fact, any number of expanded concerns can be found as time passed and in this progression there are ballads about general poverty and about the fortunes of individual trades - the plight of weavers, for instance, as factories displaced cottage industry work.23

In the Porter ballad, after the detail noted above,poverty is expressed in a particular manner that is demarcated.  Thus:

One wonders about the message in the last two lines.  It is not to be expected, though, that ballads would make too many distinctions: it is not the ballad way.  In the case of farmers, however, in an extremely complicated and long-running debate that saw acts of parliament and agitation follow rapidly one on another, it does look as if the reference in the ballad is to that period consequent upon the introduction of the act passed by the Tory government under Lord Liverpool in 1814 to keep the price of grain artificially high so as to prevent wholesale imports.  In 1815 this led to great social unrest.  In 1816 a devastating harvest spawned widespread agricultural (and, indeed, industrial) depression and high unemployment.  The notorious events at Peterloo in 1819 serve as an indicator of the crisis and can be seen as a defining moment in social progress as embryo unions began to emerge, not only protesting against working conditions but expressing the frustration attendant on the absence of franchise for so many people.  During this time, assessments of the relationship between production and prices appeared to move with sudden stops and starts.  Ultimately, agitation for repeal of the Corn Laws gathered strength but it was a feature of the 1820s and after until full repeal much later - in 1846.  Not so incidentally, the atrocious harvests appear to have been paralleled throughout the world.  Abnormal weather conditions can be traced to a violent volcanic eruption whose effects were felt continuously during 1816 and 1817.


This is a somewhat different picture as compared to that of farmers: begging for drink from farmers.  Then we have a sort of anecdotal cameo where: Inevitably the workhouse is mentioned as the last resort for many.  The period under review saw the culmination of the movement towards enclosures and, at the same time, a chaotic implementation of Poor Laws.  One result was the expansion of previously piecemeal creation of workhouses, as mentioned in the ballad, in a more systematic but no less harsh system of workhouse ethics.  In this, the poverty of the very poor remained as a blot on society - and the ballad in question refers to this as a separate feature to that which engulfed farmers.  The point separating the fate of farmers and of the general poor working man may be somewhat arcane (and would have been especially to the poor).  Nevertheless, it helps to set the ballad in a historical context.24

This context is also indicated in another way through certain lines in the ballad that evade the immediate issue, and where the virtues of being poor are well supported and echo the same perpetual respect for and endurance of one's own poverty and virtue found in most of Porter's 'rural' ballads (as discussed below) and which are indicative of a society that appears to be stable and, ultimately, regulated through hierarchy:

A final stanza, hoping for 'times to mend' and a stated belief that, somehow, 'GOD' presides over all seems to imply that all will be well as a consequence.  Perhaps Porter rests his case, so to speak, on a look to the re-emergence of past values.25

We see, too, that copy is sparse, thus once more suggesting that Porter sometimes displayed a singular cast of mind.


Of the rest of the Porter cache, it may safely be said that their themes are found regularly enough in other contemporary printers' stocks and, moreover, that their substance is redolent of an earlier historical age.

There are, for instance, half a dozen pieces that cast a light eye chiefly on rural society: Dolly Duggins, The Pleasures of Matrimony, A Wife well Managed, The Country Lass, Lawyer Sly, and Nobody's coming to bury me.  The first three of these pieces are also to be found in the ballad stock of Hurd who is turning out to be another 'early' printer of ballads.  The main point, where dating is concerned in this instance, is that there is no direct evidence that these pieces appeared as Porter (or Hurd) copy after the 1810s.  Other printers' contributions, as they did with ballads discussed above, do modify this position to an extent, as will be seen.  The quest here is, initially, to pinpoint Porter and his activities.

Dolly Duggins gives us a starter in the matter:

and, later: This sets the tone; and a final stanza sets a time for issue: Porter copy would, at first glance, look as if it appeared before Napoleon's exile as the text above suggests ('Should Bonyparte come ...' - my italics) but was actually issued from Wotton in or after 1818 and so after Waterloo.  Some other printers look to have issued the piece at a similar time - for example, Sarah Taylor in Birmingham, working between 1807 and 1818 and Thomas Stevens Storer, working during the 1810s at least; and both of whom have already featured in discussion.  Just as is the case with Porter, it is not yet possible to determine whether the issue of the ballad by Sarah Taylor or Storer came before Waterloo or after.

The boast apropos Bonaparte is particularly defiant.  More prosaically - but only just - the images set Dolly firmly in a context of hoped-for bucolic extravagance that is mirrored in the other Porter printings in this group of ballads.

The life of the ballad was prolonged by still other printers such as William Armstrong in Liverpool, whose working dates covered the short period between 1820 and 1824 (and for whom, be it noted, ballads were printed - the perpetrator has not yet been identified); and Armstrong has the wording as 'one above another' as opposed to Porter's 'the other' (the lines quoted above reveal this).  Armstrong also has 'and never ask'd', and 'Bonaparty'.  Three printings can be found in the Bodleian archive and the changes are typical of how different printers got to work.

Copy from Angus posits a familiar conundrum, the surname being all that is found on the larger part of Angus copy.  It does, though, seem clear enough that the person of the Angus family involved was Margaret, widow of the first Thomas Angus (who died in 1788) and mother to the second Thomas, with whom she issued some ballads, and to George, who took over the family business in 1825 and used a specific address that identifies his printings.  Margaret Angus worked between 1774 and 1825.  The Angus imprint still gives us pause for thought since it employs the long 's' that might just have implied issue even earlier than that of Porter though this is not at all an infallible sign as the case of Pitts demonstrates.  There is also a change in wording from the phrase Porter used where the Angus imprint has an almost determined 'antique' note with 'one above t'other' - but yet copy is entitled 'A New song'.  One notes the spelling of 'Bonaparte'.

Pitts got in on the act after 1819, printing from his second address and not, then, a particularly early issue.  He nevertheless employed the long 's' and the ampersand.  In this copy he also uses the wording 'th(e) ... other' - unfortunately, broken into two by the end of a line and with the 'e' printed upside down.  Pitts also has 'ask'd'; and the spelling 'Bonaparte'.  Dolly Duggins does not appear in his 1836 list which might very well suggest that the piece had its day ... and there is no clear evidence of issue of the ballad from this latter historical period at all.

Collard, mind, is turning out to be an important figure in this discussion and, as with his copy of The Waterloo Wedding, included Dolly Duggins in his 1837 list which should mean that he issued it first prior to that date although there is no extant copy in either the Madden collection or the Bodleian archives.  When we once again adopt a reverse procedure in placing the reference to Collard issue against detail of other printers and their respective copies, beginning with Porter (in the manner suggested in connection with issue of Waterloo Wedding), a particular period is brought into focus that can be located around the 1818 date attached to Collard activities in Bristol.  There is a reasonable case to be made out for his issue of the ballad at around this time- perhaps, as with Pitts, a year or so later.

It is also clear that copies with printers' names on them are sparse, a factor that in several cases discussed here may delimit issue to a short period of time.

There is one other copy - without imprint and alongside a piece entitled I'll love you no more.  There are no real clues on it that might help to suggest a period of issue in this form.  It is hard to tell if I'll love you no moreis from the same printer and this particular ballad is only found otherwise in what appear to be later copies.

Overall - given the details and deviances assembled above, it does still look as if Dolly Duggins emerged at the end of the 1810s and the beginning of the 1820s.  Such a surmise is reinforced by the Wotton address on Porter copy.26

As for The Pleasures of Matrimony, in contrast to the troublesome account of married life in Dolly Duggins, Porter copy begins:

A picture of contentment is set out with a wife faithfully attendant on her husband's whims - and tolerant of his drunken behaviour at times - and their children kept 'in subjection and fear'.  Terms of endearment between husband and wife are never less than 'my love' and 'my dear'.  Finally: The sober tone, again, is clear enough and the context, it seems, one of hierarchy and stasis in society.  Some printers turn Porter's four-line stanzas into stanzas of eight lines but there are no other major changes.

The list of printers includes Hurd (who also printed an 'Answer'), Catnach, printing from 1813 on and Pitts, issuing his copy after 1819.  Collard printed the piece and the same suggestions for his involvement as given above obtain here, the address on copy given as 'BRIDEWELL-LANE' and 'HOTWELL-ROAD' - after 1818, then.  Walker in Norwich printed it in the 1820s but before 1827 since his address on copy, at Duke's Palace in Norwich, changed around that point in time, the circumstances surrounding this change having been discussed already.  Porter, in this list, must be accorded 'early' status.

Then there are Williams in Portsea, a printer whose career flourished during the 1830s and 1840s; and, in Birmingham, Thomas Aston Jackson, son of William Jackson and who was printing ballads in 1852-1853.  Neither of these two printers, in the light of the other dates given here, can be associated with the emergence of Porter.  One can add that at least the life of the piece was not suddenly curtailed.  The relative paucity of early extant issue is, once again, also a notable feature.27

A Wife Well Managed (in Porter copy) combines the complaints in Dolly Duggins and the smooth comfort of The Pleasures of Matrimony and the emphasis in text is on the wife's demands for fashionable clothes and accoutrements.  A Yorkshire farmer marries a 'buxom dame', perhaps an epithet already slipping out of circulation.  The farmer's new wife, nevertheless, presents a determined picture.  Thus:

She also insisted on having a barber 'dress her curls' ... but the husband 'in a passion flew' and he 'burst her wig and all, O'.

Muffs, usually made from an expensive fur such as sable, were a strong fashion accessory in 1800 but by 1811 had begun to decline in popularity.  Scarf-like 'Tippets', on the other hand, kept their place as accessory right through the new century.  In 1800 they were more usually found amongst 'gentlewomen' but they were taken up by all classes as the century progressed.  Initially they would have been made of a good-quality fur or even of swansdown.  The reference to 'badger's skin' is most likely meant to add to the touch of farce.  The material is hardly the stuff of high fashion.

As something of an aside, it is worth noting that Isabella Thorpe, in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, written during 1798-1799, revised in 1803 but not issued until 1817 (posthumously: but also a significant date in the present discussion), is involved in guessing the price and weighing the merits of a new muff and tippet.  In actuality, too, Lady Bridges, mother of Elizabeth Bridges, who married Edward Austen, Jane's brother, set out a list of bridal necessities in 1791 that included both a sable muff and a tippett and, further, issued the same list to her two other daughters.  This helps to ground both the popularity of the accessory and a period during which this was apparent and then, by association, a fashionable reason for its inclusion in the Porter ballad.28

Short-waisted gowns - those with a high waist - developed into the Empire line and it is again clear that the farmer's wife was ape-ing high fashion.  The hunting cap was probably the round animal skin variety worn by both hunters and by 'peasants' and, like badgers' skin, represents another sad fall from fashionable grace.

One cannot doubt the ridicule.

At any rate, the farmer insists on making his wife work in the dairy, milk the cows and help with the pigs.  She protests that her 'lilly white hands are slender' and that the farmer has servants to do the work.  However:

The situation, needless to say, remains unresolved; but given the amusement, the tone and the details are clear, offering an idea of the same sort of general dispensation of mores that subsist in The Pleasures of Matrimony and, so often, balladry in general.

Pitts also produced copy of A Wife Well Managed as did Swindells and there is copy without imprint.  The Pitts copy came from his first address.  Copy without imprint carries exactly the same narrative as do the other printings.  The piece surfaced in Hurd's output which would date it to the late 1810s or, possibly, the early 1820s.  The association in time between Hurd and Porter is clear enough and a similar time-scale seems to obtain with all named copy listed here.  Issue is sparse too - a feature of several Porter printings.  At the same time the name of Swindells gives us a conundrum just as did that of Margaret Angus.  Swindells printings most often only have the surname on them and it was George who was the first in the family line, listed in BBTI at '5 Hanging Bridge', Manchester, working between 1780 and 1796 as a printer of chapbooks, and who was succeeded by Alice (his wife and widow) and his son John who then traded together as 'Swindells and Co.' However, BBTI does list Alice seperately as printing between 1790 and 1828 and on various copy the designation 'A Swindells' appears.  All in all, one would be inclined to plump for Alice as printer of A Wife Well Managed.29

Lawyer Sly is intriguing.  Porter's is the only extant copy although - yet again - the piece features in Collard's 1837 list.  It would be useful to know if there was any sharing or filching - a nigh impossible hope.  As it is Porter sets a kind of limit on speculation because there is no sign of him after his sojourn in Wotton that ended in 1819 but Collard issue could well have been early in his Hotwells ballad career, thus bringing him nearer to Porter in time.

The piece is quite unlike other Porter ballads although there is a progression of figures who might seem to sum up a layer of the same hierarchical society found in other Porter printings being discussed here.  In the course of the narrative, 'I went to live with lawyer sly' and all the 'rhino' was acquired when clients 'took the law'; but, 'of latin quite fatigued', the protagonist took up with a doctor:

Next comes a place with an actor: There is nothing else to say except that Porter was capable, on this form, of putting out amusing if pot-boiling nonsense.30

The Country Lass has more solidity and history to it.  It is a rather comfortable piece, redolent of a supposed rural idyll and beginning:

We follow the lass through her day's work of milking and mowing, taking in the harvest, 'Some with their hook and sickles & some with scythes to mow' and then winter, In all, 'I think a country life all others does surpass'.  The piece offers a classic ballad portrait of the surface of country living, with the images drawn from a settled social structure.  Nothing of possible social undercurrents can be detected and the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars is far from visible.  As in much balladry, the long view is of peace and contentment - a hope rather than an actuality, concomitant with successful courtships and marriages to wealthy partners, themselves usually imagined.

The key figure in printing is Evans - and here we have yet another dilemma emerging in a similar way to that posed by the Angus and Swindells names.  There is copy from 42 Long Lane dated July 1794.  Whilst this copy does not give us the name of the printer, it is known that John Evans was printing from this address at that time.  Another copy of the piece was printed by Evans and Howard together from 42 Long-lane and this would have been in 1805.  BBTI lists their collaboration at that date.  Confusingly in terms of clear attribution and dating, there is copy from J Evans and Sons of The Carpenter, a Hannah More piece, printed at this time, as well as The White Hat, issued from the 'Cheap Repository' in Long Lane in 1819.  It looks as if printings were being issued from both 41 and 42 Long Lane - this is the information given in the BBTI - and that the address of 'Long-lane' found on several Evans ballads actually subsumed both numbered addresses.  Whatever the case, the assembly of dates runs to include the emergence of Porter although the first-named Evans copy is a precursor by some stretch.31

And The Country Lass certainly enjoyed a degree of popularity during this period.  Jennings (as reminder - printing out of Water Lane between 1802 and 1809), and Pitts, printing the piece between 1802 and 1819 (and, it should be said, copy from his second address after 1819) make up a group of the usual suspects that also includes the less well-known Clouter, in Bristol.  The combined dates of these printings both pre-date and absorb Porter activities and form an early group - rounded off by Armstrong, working between 1820 and 1824 (we should remember that copy was printed for Armstrong and not by him).  Armstrong has a slightly different first line - 'I am a cheerful country lass' - as compared with the usual one which is 'I am a brisk and bonny lass' but there are no other significant changes.

Later printers were Annie Ryle, Pratt and Such but none of these affect any summation of the emergence of Porter since they all worked after 1836.  There are, as well, some extant copies without imprint - and copies in the Baring-Gould and Frank Kidson collections.  It would still be safe to offer the first flush of printing as the most relevant one involving Porter.32

Finally in this group: Porter printed a copy of Nobody coming to bury me ...  His piece begins:

The parson would not bury Miss Bailey ...  Then we find out why: The pound note turned out to be 'a Forgery!' so that Miss Bailey was ''turn'd out of my clay'.  The final stanza, however, indicates a kind of revenge or triumph, as follows: This strange little piece, 'spoken' by a ghost and detailing a jilting, is - like Lawyer Sly - another example of an initially surprising choice of material in the Porter œuvres.  It may have derived as broadside copy from previous issue through Laurie and Whittle on February 12th 1804 which describes an 'Unfortunate Miss Bailey, seduc'd by a Captain in Halifax' and 'who hang'd herself one morning in her garters' and appeared as a ghost complaining that the sexton would not bury her, whereupon Captain Smith determined that he would pay the sexton a bribe of a one pound note - and that would be that.  The ghost then vanished.  Laurie and Whittle copy informs us that this piece was also performed by Charles Matthews (1776-1835) at The Haymarker theatre in London and by John Fawcett, actor and playwrite (1768-1837), at Covent Garden in a production entitled Love Laughs at Locksmiths, a comic opera by Michael Kelly first performed at the Haymarket theatre, London in 1803.34

But there is a second Laurie and Whittle version of the story entitled:

This is the more likely precedent for Porter (if, that is, he arrived at it in this way) since it has several lines in common, especially in the 'CHORUS' noted above that is exactly the same in Laurie and Whittle and Porter copy and with the important word 'bury' in it rather than 'marry'.  Pitts and Jennings also printed this jointly.  And it is found in The Pride of Albion.  A Collection of New and Pleasing Songs, Etc., printed in 1810, which carried the following information along with text: In the case of the Pride of Albion reference, we can only take the attribution to Kertland at face value but the same attribution to Kertland appeared on the Laurie and Whittle ballad.  Laurie and Whittle, incidentally, noted the name of the singer as 'Mr. R. Jones' (my italic) ...35

Laurie and Whittle also printed a third piece, on August 1st 1806, this time with text insisting that nobody was coming to 'marry me' (again, my italics).  Copy also proclaims that the piece was 'intended as a companion to the second appearnce of Miss Bailey's Ghost.  Just Publish'd':

This was performed by the then celebrated singer Dorothy Jordan (1761-1816- apparently, she preferred the name 'Dora') at the Drury Lane Theatre but it differs considerably from the Porter issue: no Captain Smith, no pound note, no grave.  It is a pure lament by the principal that she might die an old maid.  It could have been that the piece was conceived for the particular actress, noted for her comedic roles, at a time when it was a regular way of presenting material.  Plays were written for actresses ...36

The printed appearance of Laurie and Whittle copy is worth remarking.  Each ballad has a substantial illustration - not just a motif or header block - and print-face is often in italics.  This style is characteristic of Laurie and Whittle in ballads that they issued around the turn of the nineteenth century.  We know this because, usefully, all Laurie and Whittle copy, as can be seen, is dated, either to a month and year or even to a specific day.  Further, legend on Laurie and Whittle copy indicates that some of their illustrations are 'engravings' (and that copy, too, is from stage productions).  BBTIgives the information that Robert Laurie and James Whittle worked together during the period between 1797 and 1818 and there are also separate entries for the two men.  The trading that Laurie was involved with was as map and chart seller, print seller, bookseller, publisher of maps and publisher of prints.  Whittle, almost likewise, traded as a seller of maps, charts and prints.  Nowhere is the word 'Printer' used.  The appearance of copy may well be the result of their main focus in selling what must have been finely detailed work.  For our purposes this may not matter in the end.  The more important factor is that Laurie and Whittle just feature within the spread of years during which we know that Porter was working and were, therefore, available for plundering or, at least, for offering ideas to be used.

Apropos of any source for Porter, apart from the Laurie and Whittle pre-existent text that might just have the connective edge, there is the possibility that Porter took his own cue straight from stage performance as it could have been experienced.

We note, too, that Evans and Howard had printed a copy of the third Laurie and Whittle text in the British Neptune or Convivial Songster (c.1805) - at this pointing enquiry seemingly representing one of the earliest entries into Songster repertoire.37

The 'marry' version was printed by Pitts and Mantz jointly as Nobody Coming to Woo and all known Pitts and Mantz copy came out between 1802 and 1819, just in time, one might say, to overlap with Porter and, it seems, at one and the same time that the Pitts and Jennings 'bury' version was printed.  The title is also included in Pitts' 1836 list.  John Marshall in Newcastle, operating at least in 1805 (BBTI), took it up- his dates of working are given variously (see footnote); and George Angus printed it, his working dates being between 1817 and 1825.  The piece also appears in copy from Swindells and, bearing in mind the appearance of the piece as printed first by Laurie and Whittle as a 'marry' version in 1804 and then its subsequent history, it seems likely that it was Alice Swindells who printed the piece during this operative period.38

In the roll-call (not every instance is recorded here), Kendrew in York printed a 'marry' version at some stage between 1803 and 1838...  an enormous swathe of time and possibly reflective of the continued popularity of the piece.  It is worth pursuing Kendrew's progress because it does allow us a view of a printer who, in part, issued some copy with very much the same historical background and social mores as pieces from Porter.  This is represented by ballads such as Dame Durden, The scolding wife and Dick's Courtship.  Equally, though, Kendrew adopted changing fashions in ballad-production that had changing circumstances as background - the first obvious instance of which might be said to have been in Bonaparte's disasters in Russia which, one would have thought, came out around 1812 - John Lump in his Glory also mentions 'Boney'.  Porter, as we have seen, followed a similar path.  But Kendrew's career, further still, embraces the printing of Dibdin pieces.  Dibdin was extremely popular as source for various printers but there is no sign of him in the Porter ballads.  Perhaps even more significantly, where Kendrew 's participation in the process of adapting material is concerned, we find later ballads such as I've been roaming ..., O' we're a noddin', nid, nid, noddin' and Follow, follow, over mountain, representing a large collection of mainly frothy stocking-fillers that sprinkle the mid-nineteenth century ballad repertoire - a phenomenon discussed briefly at the end of this article.  And there are shades in between.  Porter has none of this although this is hardly surprising considering the apparently short duration of his career.  In any case, there has to be much more to say about Kendrew who went on printing up until 1838.39

Harkness also took up the piece, printing a 'marry' version; and there is copy without imprint as well as an appearance in Songsters during the course of the nineteenth century- for instance, in Universal Songster, Volume 1, in two editions dated 1825 and 1828.  During this whole period of the life of the piece, there is also a strong Scottish presence that underlines our previous encounters: Oliver and Boyd, for instance, operating c.1810 in Edinburgh; Thomas Johnston in Falkirk at around 1813; Randall in Stirling at around the same date and just after; 'J Fraser and Co.' in Stirling,printing at around 1816; and Joseph M'Nairn in Newton Stewart, known to be in business between 1820 and 1837 and designated 'printer' in a Pigot 1825 directory.  The generally early presence is notable.40

Nonetheless, all this may be accounted somewhat peripheral.  The more pertinent information that we have is enough to offer a context for the Porter ballad-printing in which, apart from Porter (and Laurie and Whittle), only Pitts and Jennings, jointly, issued the 'bury me' version as a broadside ballad.

The piece would probably be best known now as My Father's a Hedger and Ditcher which Alfred Williams got from an informant (his title is There's Nobody Comes to Marry Me); and which was also sung in recent times by Mary Ann Carolan.  This song follows the 'marry' pattern as set out above.  The late Bruce Olson gave the information (it can be found online) that My father's a hedger and ditcher was derived from My father's a delver of dykes that was in circulation around 1725 - which puts a new perspective on the whole Laurie and Whittle involvement and on stage performances; and a copy of Hedger and Ditcher also appeared in The Union Imperial Songbook of 1815 (according to another online reference), suggesting that the form of the piece may have changed yet again.  The matter is pretty well entangled but the 'bury' image is still the key, with its small but exclusive printing group.41

As a side issue, taking the Pitts and Mantz and the Pitts and Jennings versions together, one wonders just how (even unto Porter) the tentacles of Pitts' influence spread - a general subject which is more or less taken for granted but could do with closer investigation.42


The three remaining pieces in the Porter output confirm most of the propositions advanced above.  The first of them, The Ways of the World, was the most extensively printed of the three and, whilst there are 'later' printers, 'early' names as found throughout this discussion continue to emerge.  Thus we find copy from Evans; and Pitts; and a title from Collard in his 1837 list.  The list includes Catnach, whose printing career began in 1813; Hoggett in Durham, printing between 1816 and 1837; Bloomer (printing ballads between 1817 and 1827) and Russell (working between 1814 and 1839) in Birmingham - all of whom can be seen to have begun their ballad careers at the same time that Porter was printing although there is no direct evidence of them having printed the particular piece at a time commensurate with that of Porter.  And then there are those printers who came even later: Wheeler in Manchester, for example, with a copy issued c.1837, and William Jackson in Birmingham, printing between 1839 and 1852-1853 before his son took over the business; Pratt, also in Birmingham (c.1850); Williams in Portsea, essentially a printer of the 1830s and 1840s; and the camp-followers of the same heyday Disley, Fortey, Such and others.  Most printers - and there are several more cited in the Roud index - have at least catalogue references if not known extant copy but none of them would parallel the emergence of Porter as one of their number, his printing being quite clearly an earlier venture in time.  In this descent in time we find James Sherring of Yeovil, one of a myriad printers who so far remain in obscurity (like Henry Hurton, noted in a recent Enthusiasms piece on this site).  The sole BBTI reference to Sherring is to 1830 and this would discount him too in respect of Porter's emergence as a ballad-printer.

We should not overlook copy from Clift in Cirencester (printing between 1824 and 1842), one of only two examples of Porter ballads appearing in Clift's stock; but the appearance of the Clift ballad would not affect any portrait we might conceive of Porter.

There are, too, copies without imprint, always difficult to account for and none standing out as offering obviously contemporaneous printings to that of Porter even if the theme is pursued in very like manner.

Several copies have the word 'Ways' altered to 'Way' in their titles: Catnach in his 1832 list, Pitts on copy, Williams too ...  Sherring and Hoggett.  One copy from Evans has a full title of Way of the World; Or, An Alteration to the Short Sketch of the Times.  Several printers offer a different ballad with the same title - Fortey and Ryle, for instance, with a piece beginning 'As you travel through life ...', quite differently to the Porter ballad; or Willey and Phillips (in Brighton) with The Fatal English Poor Law; Or, the Ways of the World.  Obviously, then, the theme was popular over a long period of time and the content of the ballad somewhat generic save, in the last two copies cited, where there is a blunt reference to the Poor Laws.43

The central figures to be associated with Porter - Evans, Catnach, Pitts and Collard - operated during the period already discussed, namely towards the end of the second decade of the nineteenth century, Pitts and Catnach, of course, quite a known way beyond too ...  Collard's career is also extensive and, as has been noted, as yet unsurveyed in detail.  But the important point - to re-iterate - is that the period of issue from these printers in its earliest phase includes Porter's activity in significant part.

The Ways of the World in Porter copy offers a prolonged complaint about life and times with a gesture to the past that is present in other Porter ballads:

and, in contrast, it is necessary 'To see how the world goes in these new fashion times'.  In these times, despite individual industry, 'Some that dont (sic) strive at all do better than they'.

Neighbours, too, if fortune should frown on you, speak fair enough to your face but carp behind your back:

Nonetheless, 'we' are all implicated and 'all for ourselves for to serve our own needs'.  Even further, The reason is that trade is 'at a Stand', everyone is short of bread and everyone has to pawn possessions ...

Historical context in this is vague enough, references are non-specific and such complaints could be echoed at other times.  The piece is standard rhetorically.  But Porter must have thought the piece worth a commercial punt.  It seems that the ballad also looks back with approval on earlier days, a feature not unknown in other Porter ballads.

The same textual form and narrative is found in other known copy although there are alterations in single words and in the run of the text.  Some lines - even couplets - are compressed.  Clift copy has already been noted, worth a second look on account of the shared Cirencester background with Porter, and it paralleled Porter in essentials though certain expressions are changed or loosened - 'For 'twas the old rule & custom ...' instead of 'It's the old rule and custom ...'; 'How one half lives the other never knows ...' for 'How one half this world lives the other half never knows ...'; and 'They'll backbite ...' for 'They will backbite ...'.  There is a slight change in viewpoint now and then - 'You swagger and brag ...' instead of the more passive 'To swagger and brag ...', for example.  None of this makes a huge difference to the import of the ballad but Clift does also leave out one of Porter's nine stanzas:

It could be said that, unlike text in Clift copy, this Porter stanza offers a punch-line.

It might be further remarked that two lines in Porter text demonstrate a deflection from the gravity of the situation:

This reference is repeated in other printings, including that of Clift, if in one or two cases in slightly different terms.  Sherring has: Catnach, like Porter, uses the word 'Humoursome' ...

Evans printed one copy as The World's Ways and whilst text is only partly visible on available copy what can be seen is commensurate with that of Porter.  An alternative Evans title has already been mentioned here.45

Overall, given the first issues of a ballad that was taken up until well on in the nineteenth century, Porter remains as an early protagonist.

The second of this group of three pieces, The Drowsy Sleeper, does not feature very strongly in ballad-printing history and there are differences in text and there is more than one title.  But the piece is one of a genre concerning frustrated lovers and, often, fathers who either banish the suitor or kill him.  The Bodleian lists some one hundred and twenty-seven examples ranging from (say) The Leicestershire Garland, printed at 'Aldermary Church Yard' in which the lovers 'both fell a bleeding facrafice' through The Yarmouth Tragedy from Evans et al; and even as a completely transformed Vilikins and his Dinah.46

The piece begins in Porter with the suitor addressing his lover, as follows:

The lover answers, asking who it might be under her window, complaining, mildly, that she had waited a long time for him to come and warning him that if her father heard them, he would press-gang her Jemmy.  And this is what happens, with the father boasting that although he allows her to write to Jemmy explaining the nature of her situation.  She, insisting that she is still owed her 'fortune' of five hunded pounds, declares that her heart still belongs to Jemmy - or 'Single I'll go for evermore'.47

In this case, then, there is no bloody dénouement that we encounter in earlier versions of similar stories.

Evans printed the piece with a title of The Cruel Father.  Pitts copy, entitled Cruel Father; or The Maiden's Complaint, has much the same text as that of Porter but his copy uses the long 'S' (not really, as pointed out, a guide to the date of issue - but its use does not feature in Porter copy) and contains one or two different phrases.  He has, for instance, 'He'll find a cruel prefs gang for you' whilst Porter has a more straightforward 'He'll send the press-gang for you'.  Like Porter, he printed the piece in four-line stanzas.  His copy, in any case, was printed after 1819 and thus after our last glimpse of Porter.  Catnach also printed the piece with the same title as that of Pitts.  Finally, Birt had the piece as The Maiden's Complaint.48

Under the title, The Drowsy Sleeper, there is copy from Crome, who is most relevant through the possibility that he issued copy parallel in time to Porter's progress.  Crome copy (printed in one block rather than in separate stanzas) is slightly more elaborate, with the girl calling for her lover:

There are also more exchanges between father and daughter, neither giving way, and she insistent (upping her value, too): Porter concludes his piece as follows: Pitts follows suit except that he has 'delight' instead of 'desire'.  Birt has the same lines as Porter.  Crome, though, elaborates a part of the story.  In response to the father's determination to 'confine' his daughter, she replies: To put all this into perspective apropos Crome: any comparison between Porter and Crome issue requires yet another reversal of position in the hierarchy - Crome in comparison to Porter.  In this comparison and considering what we know of Porter as set out above this confirms the Bodleian date of 1817 for Crome issue.49

The piece is found in Irish copy - known to be 'late' in appearance - printed with a title of The Cruel Father by Baird in Cork and - we might even say cheekily - Baird insisted that it was 'A New Song'.50

Yet the piece does have a previous appearance in a ballad opera, The Restauration (sic) of King Charles II, written by Walter Ashton and dating from 1732.  Interestingly, too, there is also copy as The Drowsy Maid from W Eyres in Warrington in a compilation entitled The Silk Merchant's Daughter Garland.  This is to make direct comparison with copy from the nexus of printers noted above.  William Eyres, son of John (printing 1756-1761), worked between 1756 and 1803, thus, in respect of The Drowsy Sleeper, pre-dating Porter.  Eyres had been printer, publisher, bookseller, bookbinder and librarian and perhaps owner of a circulating library, another in the line of printers who found it necessary for survival to exploit the many faces of printing work.  We can only speculate that Eyres was the first or one of the first printers to put the piece out in ballad form and so to offer precedent or, equally, that printers like Porter took it straight from a ballad-opera.  The ever-present possibilities inherent in oral dissemination also remain but to fall back on this possibility is not, at this stage of enquiry, helpful.51

Finally, Porter's The Triumph of Freedom, with a somewhat bombastic content, seems to be the only extant printing apart from copy in Baring-Gould collections which, so far, lack full bibliographical information.  Porter copy includes these lines:

The triumph is rhetorical and surmise might suggest that the 'tyrant' was Napoleon with, say, Wellington as a saviour - and the piece was issued at Wotton - after 1815 then ... It might even just be that Porter was indulging in pure politics and even had in mind someone who won a local election (there was an election in Cirencester in 1818 - but, by then, Porter was in Wotton).  At a stretch, too, one might account this piece a 'historical' ballad ...  Whatever the case, it is a ballad quite unlike anything else in the Porter œuvres and so continues that occasional line of surprises in which Porter indulges.52

There is one other possible byway to explore.  The metrical form of the piece echoes Scots wha hae hath Wallace bled.  Robert Burns wrote this in 1793 and it was thought to be associated with the speech that Robert the Bruce gave to his troops before the battle of Bannockburn.  It seems more likely that it was written as tribute to Thomas Muir, an advocate with strong radical sympathies and, indeed, active support for the kinds of political systems found also in Tom Paine's works.  The short version of Muir's story is that he was transported to Australia for his beliefs, escaped, but had been badly wounded and, eventually, died in exile in France in 1799.  Burns, known to have radical ideas himself, seems to have used the name of Wallace both for obviously 'Scottish' purposes and as a disguised reference to Muir, presumably to escape prosecution.  He began the poem on the day that Muir's trial for sedition opened and there is some evidence in his correspondence that he did intend his poem as tribute to Muir.

In whatever way the piece entered the public domain (the sung version having text set to the traditional air of Hey Tuttie Tatie) it became well known and it would not be surprising that, if it was 'in the air', the writing of the Porter piece could have been a short step and without reference to the background of the original.  The Burns and Muir connection certainly fits into the time-scale of potential Porter issue; but there does not seem to be any reason why Porter should - suddenly - embrace any radical cause especially in view of his clear adherence to the values of an ordered and somewhat conservative society.  One might speculate on the possibility of commission which, as something of a jobbing printer, Porter, like many another, would have considered legitimate work.  The strange echoes remain.53


In putting it all together we can see, firstly, that the very range of Porter wares laid out for perusal might suggest that they were not his only printings, a matter of possible intrigue.  There is then the matter of how, on a few occasions, he exhibited an independent cast of mind amongst the lives and work of other printers.  We have found three ballads exclusive to Porter: his piece on Abercrombie entitled SONG, Lawyer Sly and The Triumph of Freedom.  And, in terms of hierarchy, whilst Pitts can not be denied his place, he is not entirely the prominent figure looming in the background.  Catnach also rarely offers a profile.  Porter is certainly not a camp-follower of either Pitts or Catnach; and this is a vital factor in establishing his pedigree - which invokes the notion of his being an 'early' printer.  These considerations give us parameters.

Secondly, within these parameters, we find an apparent tie-up in some form or another with other printers, be it deliberate, or in the nature of copying - even purely coincidental - that shows a printer aware of the appeal of ballads and with an eye to the activities of competitors and, perhaps, to the sharing of material.  We should not forget the presence in ballad background of printers such as Eyres - even if not as a broadside ballad printer - and then, with less daylight between them and Porter, Laurie and Whittle.  And we can focus still more closely.  Apart from the two clear predecessors in printing, and inclusive of those printgs without attribution, there are over forty printers who can be loosely associated with Porter's printings.  However, there is a group of around a dozen who may be discounted insofar as they printed at times after the emergence of Porter himself - specifically, after 1820.  These have been mentioned in text: and some of the more obvious examples would be, say, Birt, Williams and Harkness and the London printers who 'followed' Pitts and Catnach.  Several printers issued ballads at a time when Porter did too, but then continued to issue ballads after Porter (apparently) disappeared from view - Kendrew, Walker, Hogget and Russell, for example, each of whom emerge just at the tail-end of Porter's productive life of ballad-printing as far as it is known.  There are a few printers, like Sherring, Hook, Rosson and Cooper who are relatively obscure - in one way, this does help to confirm the 'early' nature of ballad issue in which Porter is found.  We are still left with a group that it is more definitely appropriate to describe as 'early' in respect of their emergence in time.  Of these, Collard (there is no sure ground of dating here) with six ballads in common and Hurd and Evans with three stand out.  Pitts certainly shares ballads in common with Porter within an 'early' time-scale; and - again - one more issued with Jennings.  Jennings on his own (so to speak), Sarah Taylor, Clouter and Alice Swindells also share ballads with Porter.  There is, then, a certain concentration of printers not just in historical time but where particular texts suggest at least a fashion and perhaps a contemporary relevance.

The list of 'early' ballad-printers, then, would include Evans, Pigott, Jennings, Hurd, Clouter, Storer, Sarah Taylor, Shipway, Crome - and we could include Margaret Angus.  Then Alice Swindells, Pitts, Catnach et al appear.  Collard's connections have not, so far, been pinpointed as far as dating is concerned but his presence is major.

Thirdly, in this core group we find some shared ballads that reflect a historical period of relative stability with its own mores that underlines the 'early' manifestation as discussed here.  Still - and quite normally - we see that some of Porter's ballads, concomitant with the collective activity of printers as noted throughout discussion, had a prolonged life.  The Pleasures of Matrimony, A Wife Well Managed, The Country Lass, Nobody Coming to Bury Me, The Ways of the World, The Drowsy Sleeper and The Belfast Shoemaker all stand out as being reasonably long-lived.  We can view the two aspects of continuity and change together in, say, the subject-matter and the imagery of The Belfast Shoemaker that would seem to set its origin firmly in the eighteenth century and Porter seems to have erred on the side of caution and to have followed precedent or, at least, a contemporary mode of issue - unlike, say, Such and Harkness in their very much changed issues of The Belfast Shoemaker at a later stage in ballad-printing history.  Similarly, reviewing the two commentaries on the state of the nation - The Ways of the World and The Cries of the Nation - there is an apparent grounding in eighteenth century society.  Indeed, The Ways of the World even refers to 'my grandmothers (sic) days'.  To be fair, this might be a claim found in ballads of a different period in time ... a conventional kind of claim in balladry.  The immediate impulse for Porter, understandably, would seem to have been that of commercial motivation - yet, as with The Belfast Shoemaker, the form (not necessarily the details) of the pieces in other copy emerging later in time is unaltered.

This can be further illustrated.  Porter drew on stock characters that would appear to date from a former historical time of relative stability and of predominantly rural social mores involving - say - sailors, farmers, milkmaids and common couples.  There is nothing in Porter that elevates the high and the mighty of the times even if the rich receive a side-swipe now and then.  There are, to be sure, two panegyrics - Nelson in The Mouth of the Nile and, in a completely different fashion, in The Triumph of Freedom - where the 'hero' is not even named ....

Of the rural characters, some of their portraits depend on the conventions of balladry itself for effect as in the the images of squabbling couples and the pretence of fashion amongst the poorer - if socially ambitious - people in society.

Whilst similar characters do resurface in the output of later printers there is a marked change of portraiture, of tone and of language as the new century progressed.  There is, for instance, a definite shift towards a nebulous romanticism; and this can be mirrored in many ballads as the new century wore on, a quite different currency to the one that can be found in the Porter ballads that are usually rather more pithy in character.  One might cite 'newer' pieces such as The Light Guitar, I've been roaming, I'd be a butterfly, My heart and lute, The moon is up, Rise, gentle moon, Love's Ritornella and The Arab Steed, most having a life on stage and in lyric collections as well as featuring on broadsides.  We can refer back to Kendrew for further illustration.

It is not that the examples of a romantic inclination are entirely absent from repertoire at an early mark since there are glimpses in, say, My friend and Pitcher, a piece that certainly appeared in 1799, and The mountain maid, dating from Kane O'Hara's burletta, Midas, a favourite from the 1760s on; but that the fashion for them amongst printers is a feature of a time after Porter's career.  Obviously, the matter is complex but would seem to be a profitable one for looking at how the delineation of broadside repertoire at different times can be highlighted.  The kind of change will be seen as inevitable as society and its obsessions changed.54

Otherwise, we do not have enough Porter ballads to be able to abstract anything more and it looks as if much the same could be said of some of the other printers whose activities coincided with those of Porter - Clouter and Storer, for example.  Of others still there must be a great deal more to say based on their output - the Angus and Swindells families and Collard in particular.  Catnach and Pitts stand rather outside this line of enquiry insofar as they are accepted as major movers and shakers and have been moderately well studied.  In all this, the many references to dates of birth and death above should enable us to see that Porter was very much a figure of business and entertainment that flourished during the late eighteenth century and in the early part of the nineteenth; and that this is a way of illustrating the epithet 'early' as used here.

In spite of the fact, then, that Porter sometimes displayed an independence of mind in his choice of material, most often that material does locate him amongst a general - one might almost say 'safe' - run of printers who all adopted similar strategies and mostly at the same or closely aligned dates.

The crucial features of ballad-production at this time seem always to have been those of theme, image and archetype.

Roly Brown - 13.6.15
Oradour sur Vayres, France


Article MT299

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