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Glimpses into the nineteenth century broadside ballad trade

No. 43: Miss Patty Puff1

Often, in the course of studying nineteenth century broadside ballad printers, connective issues emerge and it is always difficult to know how much to include in any one article or to set aside for separate treatment.  There follows here a brief look at a printing entitled Miss Patty Puff, copy of which was introduced into an examination of the output of Ring Hurd (Shaftesbury) and could be seen to have had connections with the ballad Mrs. FLINN and the BOLD DRAGOON (that Hurd, amongst many others, printed).2  Some material relating to Mrs. FLINN ..., already discussed in the Hurd article on this site, is recalled here but the connections between it and Miss Patty Puff are somewhat tortuous in nature and extend beyond the two ballads.  It seems useful also to find out what tune was used.

Pitts had the principal piece as Miss Patty Puff & her two Sweethearts3:

Thus, being loved by the pair and 'loving both they say', Miss Patty Puff So the rivals fought, using pistols and for ammunition, Tommy Twist with cotton balls and Billy Boot with cobbler's wax.  At the signal to fire, Tommy 'swoon'd away' and Billy, not seeing this, 'ran off without delay'.  But: Advice is then given to any modern heroes.  Tell the constable when a challenge is issued. The first thing to note would be the convolutions of the lines - if the piece was meant for singing it would be a challenge to find a tune, especially as the second set of coupled lines in each stanza came into focus.  It might be thought that a tune was already in mind.

Then it could be useful to ponder some of the accoutrements in text: caps and bonnets, a constable, guns and swords ...

The constable is the most significant of these features.  Appointed by the church vestry and normally someone of at least a little substance, the constable was responsible for a wide range of duties including, say, during parts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the collection of Land Tax; but the more obvious and long-standing task was to try to maintain law and order.  The post was superseded in the late 1820s particularly in respect of large-scale industrialisation and growth in the population when, eventually, a police force came into being.  We are looking, then, at a time when the constable was a respected (if sometimes ridiculed) figure in the then social hierarchy and this is a period that the ballad appears to portray, quite possibly during the late eighteenth century.

Swords had been carried chiefly by the aristocracy, seemingly for the look of the thing, and this time had gone in England by the end of the eighteenth century.  One commentator indicates that the fashion had already declined in the 1750s and had disappeared entirely in Bath - well-enough known as a centre of fashion - in the 1770s.  A period for lesser creatures to imitate their betters would have to be allowed.4  Clearly, the sword carried in the ballad was not, so to speak, a serious weapon and any mention of it might well be taken as a comment on the wearer's attempt to display social status.  It is hard not to assume a degree of ridicule which the tenor of the ballad generates anyway.

Such an assemblage of information is, at the same time, a bit of a sledgehammer for nuts, when the amusement generated in text can be weighed down by too much serious reference.  Yet a degree of elucidation does help to focus in on a period when the ballad may have first appeared or was popular.

Jennings issued the piece from his premises in Water Lane, Whitefriars, the address as given on Bodleian copy and before 1809.  The Jennings title had the additional phrase Duel-A-La-Mode.  Pollock in North Shields also had this fuller title, a little later in the day.  And in both cases there is a further reference.  Jennings copy stipulates usage of the tune for Mrs. Flinn and the Bold Dragoon whilst Pollock copy indicates that the piece was A PARODY OF THE BOLD DRAGOON.  'Parody', as has been discussed on this site previously, is not necessarily an imitation that might deliver an ironic twist on the narrative line but can be found as an extension of it and perhaps with a change of direction.5

Mrs Flinn and the Bold Dragoon is as light-hearted in character - scurrilous even - as Miss Patty Puff.  Numerous copies of Mrs. Flinn ... exist in ballad repertoire and some have already been noted in the Hurd piece on this site.  Pitts and Hurd, for example, were early printers of the piece.  Pitts copy was also issued from the same address as his copy of Miss Patty Puff - '14 Great St.  Andrew freet, Seven Dials' - thus narrowing the period of the appearance of both ballads, in his case, to the years 1802-1819.  This period obviously coincides with that during which Jennings printed the ballad; and most likely Hurd too.6

The Pitts and Hurd versions are much the same with certain orthographic differences only that do not affect the narrative content.  Copy from Hurd begins:

The fan and the quizzing glass immediately give the game away as to fashionable provenance in the eighteenth century although both items continued to be used well on into and through the Regency period.  The glass was a single lens affair, held on a ribbon round the neck, not to be confused with the double-lensed lorgnette.  One distinguished 'quizzer', inevitably caricatured, was Charles James Fox.  Hogarth, Gillray and Cruickshank all portrayed him, usually unflatteringly - Gillray saw him as a stock Jacobin figure owing to Fox's radical ideas.  Fox, though, died in 1806.  If 'quizzers' had a general profile at that time, it may well put another marker down as to when the ballad, Mrs. Flinn ..., would have had full currency, thus giving a perspective on its pedigree - with Jennings, perhaps, as the marginal favourite for issuing it first.

Hurd copy continues, unflattering to the heroine - 'She had a rolling eye, its fellow it had none' and if you wished to know the reason why, ''twas because she had but one'.  And, because of her gait, the rolling eye could not be kept idle and so she continued to leer at her dragoon - he with his long sword ... 'Whack row de dow'.

Nevertheless, soon he led her to the church - 'O the beauteous Miss Flinn' (Pitts has 'beautious') who could have cracked a walnut between her nose and chin: Sadly, after twelve months the dragoon had to lay her underground.  But soon Essentially, as in Miss Patty Puff, the things to note are the convolutions of line in the piece and the same sort of phrasing appearing, more or less, as a chorus that, in each case, might suggest that there was, indeed, a tune - or tunes - in mind.7

Other printers of Mrs. Flinn ... include Evans (this is through copy found in a modern collection and there is no extant single copy), Garland in Sussex, Swindells, Croshaw, Fordyce and Marshall; and there is reference in Roud to a collection that includes the name of Kendrew.  This takes the matter well on into the nineteenth century.8

Several copies of the piece appear under the alternative title of The Bold Dragoon and, as such, it is not that ballad beginning 'My father is a lawyer, a man of high renown ... ', printed, say, by Pitts between 1802 and 1819, or by Marshall and Sanderson and by Such - and that has had long song currency.9  Most often, The Bold Dragoon in single ballad form is, in fact, the same Mrs. Flinn... so argument is circular.  It is still necessary to find a tune that would suit the scansion.

The Bold Dragoon (that turns out to be Mrs. Flinn ...) was printed - using known trading dates as found in BBTI and on Bodleian copy- by Pitts between 1802 and 1819; by Catnach after 1813; by Mate in Dover (1807-1825); by Swindells (Alice - 1790-1828); and then by Fordyce and Birt during the latter part of the 1820s; by Bennett in Bristol (1817-1830); by Garland in Sussex (a sole reference to 1820); by Marshall in Newcastle (1810-1831); by Gibbs in Ledbury (1821-1859); and, as the century wore on, by Williams in Portsea (dates given extend from 1795 until 1844 but address on copy together with life-details suggest that ballad-printing took place late on); by Croshaw in York (as a family hierarchy between 1823 and 1847); by Harkness in Preston (1840-1866); and by Bebbington (1855-1861) et al in Manchester.  Sanderson in Edinburgh also printed the piece and the Scottish Book Trade Index indicates that this was William, printer, operating between 1817 and 1836 - though ballad-printing may not have been a principal occupation.  There are several references in Roud to songsters with dates of issue extending up to 1864 and Rodey Maguire's Comic Variety Songster.  In this welter of issue the ballad has a historic life that extends beyond the phenomenon of Miss Patty Puff - which itself seems to have disappeared by the mid-century, even from songsters.10

The piece was almost untouched textually throughout its printed life.  Harkness (The bold dragoon) may be forgiven for the line, 'Now he was tall and slam'.  Copy from Marshall entitled Mrs. Flinn and the Bold Dragoon (where he employed the long 's') had as header a clear picture of an eighteenth century soldier with tall, conical hat, who might even have been seen during the Jacobite era, whilst Fordyce, in his copy entitled The bold dragoon, presents an elegant country gentleman with a feather in his hat and a cane: eighteenth century at least and possibly earlier in its portrait.  Harkness has a figure of a seated man in toga (or robe) with a large sword pointed downwards.  Harkness copy, too, was entitled The bold dragoon.  There is evidently scant concern for matching text and header.

The abbreviated chorus line was always similar: 'Whack! row de dow dow' (Croshaw in a copy entitled Mrs. Flinn and the bold dragoon) or 'Whack, row de dow (Fordyce).11

When the the dates of printing of Miss Patty Puff are computed,any usage of the tune of Mrs. Flinn ... looks to put that ballad at an earlier point in time, possibly even before the turn of the century.  In turn, if Mrs. Flinn ... used the tune of The Bold Dragoon, we may be looking for the tune even further back in time.


There are also side-shoots to the matter.  Oxlade in Portsea printed a piece entitled MISS M'CANN: OR, The Old Maid's Levee that begins thus:

This would have been between 1813 and 1820 during which time the Oxlade imprimatur can be identified (an article is in preparation).

Jennings issued this piece too,as Old Maid's Levee, from 15 Water Lane and thus before 1809.

It was also included later as Miss M'Cann, Or, the Old Maid's Levee in Universal Songster 3, the dates of issue extending from 1825 to 1834 as three-volume editions.In Burton's Comic Songster of 1839, an American copy, issued by James Kay in Philadelphia, the title is given as Old Man's Levee.

The three pieces demonstrate something of how printers re-fashioned ideas but, for present purposes, the resemblances in scansion in all three ballads, elaborate if not wholesale, are striking enough.  In all three, too, the inclusion of nonsense 'choruses' is prominent.  Each 'chorus' adds a layer of comedy to the narrative.  There is a similar offering in the ballad The Hump-back'd Drummer and the Cross-ey'd Cook.

And in one way to complete a circle, the advice, in a printing from R T Edgar (Newcastle) in 1824, is to use the tune of The Bold Dragoon.12


To return to the principal ballad: as single issue Miss Patty Puff itself looks to have emerged fairly early in the century.  It also looks as if the two ballads, Mrs. Flinn ... and Miss Patty Puff, were issued in close proximity by both Jennings and Pitts - as a reminder, the Jennings years ending in 1809 and the Pitts years for the issue of both ballads sitting between 1802 and 1819.

The evidence given above would seem to offer at least the first decade of the nineteenth century as context for Miss Patty Puff and within that conservative context copy can be found in ASHBURNER'S NEW VOCAL AND POETIC REPOSITORY of 1807, with the full title as it appears on Jennings copy (or vice versa).  Ashburner also included Mrs. Flinn ... in the same edition and again the prospect of one ballad following another in close order arises.  More usefully, the inclusion of the two pieces in the Ashburner repository indicates that the first appearance of both ballads was before 1807.13

At the other end of a time-scale for Miss Patty Puff is copy in Universal Songster, Volume One, in both 1825 and 1834 editions.  The piece was also included in King's Choice Collection of English Songs, printed in 1834 and with a coloured frontispiece of Mrs. Flinn ... which ballad is also included in the volume.  The 'King's' selection forms part of a compound volume in the Harvard College Library under the title of Dixon's (The Celebrated Buffo Singer) Oddities, printed in 1842 - 'a collection of nerve-working, side-cracking, etc.  songs' - which goes, generally, for the content of 'King's' too.  A 'buffo' in one manifestation is a male singer of comic opera and the term derives from the Italian and Opera Buffa.  The better singers, offering, say, a passage of rapid notes, do not produce them as a staccato rattle but try to invest meaning ... In other words, the style is not merely mechanical; is more subtle.  Scattered references to it appear right throughout the period under review.14

At length, the apparent tie-up between the two ballads is reinforced but nothing is simple.  In Ashburner (1807) and in the Universal Songster (both the 1825 and 1834 editions) reference is made to the tune of The Bold Dragoon - not to Mrs. Flinn ...  The buck, so to speak, stops there.


Further still - another side-shoot - there is ballad copy under the title Bolting the moon that is related in form to the ballads described above and that also cites the tune, The Bold Dragoon, as vehicle.  The ballad concerns a domestic squabble and the opening phrase is already familiar as is the convolution of the following text:

The landlord, rising later, found that he had been 'gull'd' and when she arrived back, he 'pull'd the bolt on her': Whilst in prison, she 'bung'd the jailer's eye' (plied him, one imagines, with strong liquor) and he belted her! There is a warning: ' never think of Dotting any more moons in ... '.

The structure of the piece and the 'chorus' both seem to resemble if not mirror the ballads already examined and the reference to the tune of The Bold Dragoon establishes a connection.  There is one qualification: Bolting the Moon does not appear as single copy nor in songsters before 1825 and, whilst visibility in a songster seems very often to imply a previously issued text, the appearance of the piece must be accounted imitative and of little help in placing the first appearance of the text and tune in time.15

To add to the mix, there is a poem by Sir Walter Scott that is related in form to the songs described here and entitled THE BOLD DRAGOON, with a sub-title of The Plains of Badajos.  In the National Library of Scotland Inglis collection of printed music there is the further information that it was 'Written for this work during the war in Spain'.  A stanza gives the flavour:

The poem, it seems, actually treated of the battle of Campo Major (25th March 1811) but since the battle was part of the full story of Badajos (sometimes Badajoz), the latter is the attachment generally held, as the title suggests; and the poem is dated to 1812.  Scott, as is well known, used ballads as models on several occasions and his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802)is a most particular legacy.

It was George Thomson (1757-1851) in his Collection of Select Melodies (in several volumes) who appears to have been the first to have supplied music - which was the work of Beethoven, well-known for his arrangements of Irish and Scottish airs.  In the Inglis collection (NLS), this tune is, nonetheless, given as being 'Irish'.16


The crucial question is still: what tune?  The 'old' Bold Dragoon tune ('My father ... ', etc) as found associated with well enough known sung versions (such as those in Bronson), is four-square and comes nowhere near a fit.  But there is a tune by the same name of The Bold Dragoon to be found in The Edinburgh Repository of Music, Vol.I, printed in successive editions from 1815 on; and in O'Neill (1903).  These, if at first glance inviting some manipulation to make either fit to text, do turn out to be most relevant.  In turn, the tune found in these sources is the same as that adopted by Beethoven - with a twirl of two - for his setting of the Scott poem: The Bold Dragoon.17

There is another glimpse of this tune given in discussion of a piece entitled Madame Boney 2 in Oskar Cox Jensen's book on Napoleonic songs.  The text has much the same convolutions as those noted throughout this article - the first stanza given here is from a Pitts copy of text and the second from the Napoleonic volume.  Thus, Pitts begins:

The piece is, predictably enough, full of ridicule, underscoring Napoleon's 'murdering trade'.  As the narrative proceeds, 'then for life, he took the wife' but subsequently 'turn'd her out of doors' and so, in Jensen (the text is the same as is found in Pitts): The new wife would have been Marie-Louise whom Napoleon married in 1810 after a divorce from his first wife, Joséphine Beauharnis.  The ballad is thus dated approximately.

Crucially, the tune given for this piece only differs from that in O'Neill and elsewhere as described here in that it is slightly extended in places in order to accommodate the differing line-lengths in text.  In any singing context this is not an unreasonable solution.18

Whilst Miss Patty Puff and, indeed, Mrs. Flinn ... can both be sung to this tune (with, no doubt, certain slight adjustments) the intimation of each chorus line leaves things in slight abeyance.  Printers, in any case, would not necessarily have been expected to be intimate with the arts of singing of any sort.  The tune of The Bold Dragoon as recommended on copy must remain a quarter-mystery.


There are still bits and pieces to add - such as notice of an occasion in 1808 when Miss Patty Puff was delivered on stage - 'Sung with unbounded applause, by Mr. Johnstone, in the New Musical Farce called In and out of Tune, at the Royal theatre, Drury Lane' (an online reference).  The farce was written by Dennis Lawler, an Irish-born author.  Detail can be accumulated ...   Johnstone, for instance, was sometimes described as 'Irish' Johnstone which might just account for the comment on the tune as given above respecting Beethoven.  InBiographica Dramatica; OR, A COMPANION TO THE PLAYHOUSE ... Vol.II, 1812, online, In and Out of Tune is described as a 'Musical Afterword' and the information given that it was 'Acted at Drury Lane March 1808; but with indifferent success'.  As in other cases - other 'reviews' - the Morning Chronicle recommended changes which, apparently, were made ... an interesting insight into how performances could, it seems, be altered on the hoof.  Even more interestingly, the author of In and Out of Tune, Lawler, is not mentioned.

There followed a dispute between Lawler and Andrew Cherry (writer of 'Loud roared the dreadful thunder ...'), who, after a series of confused exchanges, put the piece out as something of an adapatation for 'London liking' to which Lawler took exception.  The matter does not seem to have been resolved and the piece continued to appear as an adaptation.  But one published 'edition' - not in single ballad form - also notes that the piece as it is found in a production entitled In and Out of Tune, was 'composed and arranged for the pianoforte by Domenico Corri'.  This must suggest either usage of an older tune or one specially composed for the farce, a not untypical move in the theatres of the day.  To add to this, early in 1808 the Morning Chronicle reported that 'A new operatic Farce of "IN AND OUT OF TUNE", was last night brought forward at this Theatre' (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane) and that 'Johnstone sang two excellent songs', neither named; but one of them to be guessed.  Further, 'The whole of the music is by CORRI, and does infinite credit to his taste and science'.  Does this imply that Corri's tune was original or is it that he did use an existing tune?19

The attention paid to the piece, as is it set out above, reflects the kind of tie-up between ballads and theatre that can be found in newspaper reports and theatre histories; and the date of the emergence of the piece into the public eye is confirmed and extended, albeit in new musical environments.

There is yet another aspect of the history of Miss Patty Puff.  Baring-Gould located the ballad in a collection printed by John Lowndes in London in 1824, just before the second string of single ballads from Birt and Fordyce was issued.  This collection was entitled Comic Songs and recitations Forming Mr. Merryman's Magazine of Miscellaneous Mirth, issued from Lowndes' permanent address at 36 Bow Street; and the recommended air was The Bold Dragoon.

Moreover, in terms of interlocking visibility, it is worth noting that Lowndes was also known as the 'Publisher of George Cruikshank's prints in London' and there is an online British Museum reference to a coloured print of Mrs. Flinn ... by Cruikshank - along with text from Laurie and Whittle dated exactly to 25th March 1808.  The National Army Museum gives another example of a print online - 'by an unknown artist' but dated c.1800 which, if it is at all valid, supports the suggestion being made in this article that Mrs. Flinn ... did, indeed, emerge at the turn of the new century: before the Laurie and Whittle ballad appeared and underlining its appearance in Ashburner.  If, apropos the National Army Museum print, this is a suspect interpretation, there can still be no doubt about the initial period during which Miss Patty Puff was popular.

Lastly, if not germane to the first appearance of Miss Patty Puff - in Universal Songster Volume 1 (1825), online, there is an engraved picture, no holds barred, of a gross Miss Patty Puff, a threadbare Billy Boot and a scrawny Timmy Twist.  The currency of comment through cartoons that can be seen in the work of Cruikshank et al is again illustrated.20

The - tentatively advanced - weight of evidence for first issue of Miss Patty Puff begins to collect around a date after the turn of the new century and the coloured prints and the dates of its appropriation in the theatre confirm this.  Its after-life in some songsters is common enough throughout broadside balladry.  Mrs. Flinn ... may well have appeared at a point close in time to the issue of Miss Patty Puff but is most likely of a slightly earlier vintage.  The Bold Dragoon, in turn, whilst close in its textual nature, has a tune that precedes them both, perhaps even by a country mile but - alas - that tune's first appearance is still, so far, undetermined.

Roly Brown - 27.10.16
Oradour sur Vayres, France Footnotes:

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