Article MT308
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Glimpses into the nineteenth century broadside ballad trade

No. 44: Notes on the death and life of Crazy Jane1

In this article a tangle of popular cultures is exposed both directly and indirectly and a number of possible avenues for exploration revealed: simply too many for immediate pursuit.  It is hoped that the relevant broadside balladry still forms a prominent feature and that links can be observed with previous discussions; but there is sometimes an inevitable in-balance as subjects and characters intervene.  For example, the names of a large number of performers in various theatres are canvassed and some small detail in text or in notes added, though without any extensive descriptions of careers which, in any case, are, for the most part, peripheral in nature.  Some of these characters have resisted attempts to outline their lives.

One other point should be made at the outset.  Newspaper references are extracted from those newspapers accessible to the writer.  But there may be other newspapers that appeared during the early decades of the nineteenth century during the general period of the exposure of Crazy Jane up until the 1830s.  If references to Crazy Jane and related material as presented below were to be computed with those in other newspapers, the popularity of Crazy Jane may well be extended even more.  Readers with access to local newspapers of the period should be able to test this out.

To begin, then, at a kind of beginning: the ballad of Crazy Jane was cited in the Hurd piece appearing on this site recently.  This current article has its genesis in considering the tune linked with Crazy Jane that Hurd adopted for his 1817 broadside ballad, The death of the Princess Charlotte.2

The original impulse for Crazy Jane came from Matthew Gregory 'Monk' Lewis (1775-1818), best known for two works.  The first is his novel The Monk , published in 1794, a startling product of Gothic imagination which led to a degree of fame and notoriety for him and the assumption of the soubriquet 'Monk' after the title of the novel.  The second is Crazy Jane, a poem.3  This, it appears, was written in 1796.  The circumstances for its composition came about during one of Lewis's frequent visits to the Duke of Argyll's estate at Inverary.  Lewis, it should be said, was well-enough acquainted with 'high' society.  It seems that he fell in love with the Duke's daughter, Lady Charlotte, but without a potentially happy ending for Lewis ... Lady Charlotte married a Campbell ... and married again later.  The more exact spur to Lewis's imagination is described in a book, by a Margaret Baron-Wilson, The Life and Correspondence Of M. G. Lewis , published in 1839.4  Lewis and Lady Charlotte, walking in the grounds of Inverary castle, came across a maniac:

Indeed, it is this popular aftermath that brought the poem and its tunes (and their relationship with the Hurd ballad) into the limelight.

First: the text and some of its history after publication ...

The language is but slightly heightened in what might seem to have been a mild outburst; and, in content, the piece is not far removed from songs about maidens who pined for their lovers, departing or lost, or who died for love, common enough themes in traditional song and in other song circles, as will be seen.

It is, all the same, the frisson of madness that is prominent and Crazy Jane takes her place in a line of characters.  One might cite Shakespare's Ophelia (Hamlet) and the ballad figure, Tom 'o Bedlam as examples ...  Crazy Jane also follows figures introduced, for example, by Sterne in A Sentimental Journey (1768) where Maria is found to be 'love-mad' and Crazy Kate in Cowper's poem The Task (1785).  Kate, a servant girl, has taken to a wild and uncomfortable life, obsessed with a lover who had deserted her:

Some of Wordsworth's figures in his Lyrical Ballads (1798) share certain similar characteristics - The Mad Mother and The Thorn provide examples, the latter with a principal figure, one Martha Ray, who 'was with child, and she was mad', an interesting one in view of certain variants on the Crazy Jane story as reviewed below.

Yet the period in time was suffused with such fancies at many levels of textual output.  Usually, as it grew in impact, the Georgian Gothic imagination expended even more energy conspicuously on spirits, ghosts, the macabre and sometimes the bloody.  Apart from Lewis's own The Monk (1796), there are three principal works that sum up the obsessions: first, Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764), then, Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliff (1794) and, finally, the apogee, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818).  Lewis was familiar with these novels and it will be seen that the ideas provoked by a conjunction of love and madness persisted during the period of Crazy Jane's progress.  Even nowadays most people are acquainted with the strange world of Frankenstein if only through the cinema.7


In the form of broadside balladry Crazy Jane enjoyed widespread popularity.  Output would appear to have begun with Burbage and Stretton in London working between 1797 and 1807 and Pitts, the latter from both his addresses pre-and-post 1819.  They are accompanied or followed by Catnach (after 1813); Charles Pigott at 52 Crompton Street, Clerkenwell whose only BBTI references is to 1825; and then further on in time in London the mid-century printers, Fortey, Ryle and Such who all printed it as Poor Crazy Jane.  There are copies from Mate in Dover, Walker in Norwich, Russell in Birmingham, Swindells in Manchester, Armstrong in Liverpool (printed for him), Dickinson in York, Harkness in Preston, Walker in Durham, and Ross in Newcastle.  The Roud index also records copy without imprint.  This represents a healthily long life as a single ballad.8

Mention should be made of Thompson, another printer in Liverpool, little-known, it seems, although there are over fifty of his ballads in the Bodleian archive.  George Thompson's trading dates, according to BBTI, were between 1816 and 1821. The Bodleian gives dates of 1789 to 1820.  A number of addresses are supplied and they suggest that he was almost peripatetic.  Most of Thompson's printing years can be abstracted from copy and account for the period between 1808 and 1821, well after the emergence of Crazy Jane.9

Given the extent of printing it is not surprising that printers did have small differences in text.  Pitts, for example, has:

Swindells copy also has this form.  The long 's' would seem to have been resurrected.

Again as examples, Pigott, Walker and Armstrong have a more straightforward version:

Several printers substituted 'frenzied for 'frantic' and the adoption of 'Why' seems to have been universal.  There are expected changes in punctuation, ever a lax feature.  The narrative, though, remains the same.

There are numerous references to the poem in catalogues and lists: for example, Catnach's 1832 list, George Walker's catalogue in 1839; in Fordyce c.1841-1844 and Ross 1849 ...  Similarly, there is a prolonged showing in songsters as recorded in the Roud index - not all titles are included here by any means but a sequence of dates is outlined.  The piece appeared in The Skylark songster in 1800 and Marshall included it in Northern Minstrel (part one) in 1806 and again after 1810 in A Garland ... ; and as put out by Oliver and Boyd around the 1810 mark.  The bulk of songster copy seems to have increased during the period around and after 1820, a logical development from previous exposure as a single broadside ballad.  The British Orpheus of 1820 included Crazy Jane and so did the Vocal Library in the same year.  Scott in Greenock, printing from 1810 to 1829, had the piece in a songster entitled Paidin O'RaffertyCrazy Jane appeared in The Amatory Songster between 1825 and 1830; in The National Songster, from Kay in Edinburgh in 1827; in Cyclopaedia of Popular Song around 1835.  There was a fair showing in the 1840s and 1850 and some songster copy even later.

But to return to the first probable printed exposure in single ballad form: the Burbage and Stretton printing would most likely have appeared around 1799 when the piece was also first issued with music as described below; and it may have been that Burbage and Stretton were the printers who introduced 'Why' in place of 'Say ...'  As well, the particular printing has a woodcut of a distraught woman under a tree: at least a hint that the printer was alive to the theme of the poem and concerned to match header and text - not, as was seen in the case of Hurd, content with using unrelated headers for text.10


The profile of Crazy Jane is found first in contexts other than broadside ballad printing during the three years after its first appearance.  As will be shown, it was almost obligatory in advertisements and in newspapers to describe Crazy Jane as a 'favourite song'.  Moreover, this particular appellation indicates that composers must have taken up the poem during the years 1796-1799 and, certainly, from that point on.  The developments are considered below.


Firstly, inclusive of the progress of Crazy Jane as poem, broadside ballad and song we come across variants and material links to related topics that extend the life of the poem in fascinating ways and in crowded sequence.  In broadside form, Davenport issued a piece entitled The Birth of Crazy Jane but this was almost certainly post-hoc, and in text working back to a time before Jane's madness.  In historical time Davenport's copy must have been put together between 1796, the time of the poem's emergence, and 1801-2, the period when Davenport printed from the address on copy at St George's Court, Smithfield.

The piece begins softly - romantically - in drawing-room language:

… and this vein is continued until the tone changes and Jane's fate becomes evident: Another broadside example of spin-off is copy, noted in the Roud index, from 'T. Evans' entitled Crazy Jane's Epitaph ('The passing bell no longer toll'd').  The Bodleian gives working dates of 1790 to 1813 for 'T. Evans' and it seems likely that the piece came out just after the turn of the century since it appeared in another guise as early as 1801 in the Lancaster Gazetteer - as an 'anonymous' piece (but also entitled Crazy Jane's Epitaph): Also in broadside form Jennings issued a ballad entitled Henry; Or, the Sequel to Crazy Jane ('A coward to love and manly duty…').  Another form of the title was Henry; Or, the Sequel…, found in Universal Songster Volume 3, a much later compendium but the tune suggested being that of Crazy Jane ...  A third title was that of Henry. A Sequel to Crazy Jane, found in The New Whim of the Night, Or the Town and Country Songster for 1801, printed for a G. Sheppard, actually by J. Davenport (the Davenport and Sheppard combination is well-represented in the Bodleian archive).  In this particular volume, in the normal songster fashion, the poem takes its place amongst an extended variety of others; but also alongside recommendations for the season's country dances.  The fashionable nature of the volume can thus be partly gauged (and this fashionable bias is the way in which the original poem was often promoted).

The four Henry poems noted above head the same text where the more curious drift is towards a certain sympathy for Henry.  The scene is set as might be expected:

But then: Jane's heart was evidently 'pierced by deeper grief' and she 'smote her breast', for, it is insisted, 'all perjured traitors she disdained'.
Nevertheless, of Henry: The piece was not the only one to give attention to Henry. If we step forward a little in time we can find ' A S0NG (to the tune of Crazy Jane )' dating from (at least) 1809: Henry, carrying a ringlet, thinks to send some kind of message to Jane, perhaps through the agency of a dove he spies. In the end, though: Reverting to chronological sequence, we find that the NewWhim ... volume also carries an 'anonymous' poem entitled The Death of Crazy Jane : This may or may not have been the same piece as that appearing in The Monthly Magazine in 1802 where a short review of the song says that it was ' written by Mr. Anderson.  Compofed by Thomas Thompfon, Organist, Newcastle-upon-Tyne'.  The reviewer wrote of Thomson's music: This provides a distinct lead towards the variety of settings of Crazy Jane and related poems and a notion of preference. At the same time, the 'drawing-room' context is clear: a later description might be 'parlour song'.14

The Ghost of Crazy Jane, another anonymous poem, is found in the Whim ... volume).  Wefind a girl wandering:

She thinks that she sees a spectre: So it proves: It could be supposed that this apparition is, then, one that could that appear to everyone - given a heightened use of the imagination that seems to have been prevalent at the time.
Nor was this the only poem under the same title.  There was an anonymous version, so far escaping clear dating, beginning as follows: And there is yet another version of The Ghost ... : This was written by William Nicholson (1782-1849).

Further, we find an online reference to an advertisement for a version of The Ghost of Crazy Jane, 'written and composed by a lady', London, Goulding and Co [1806].  The separation of the terms 'written' and 'composed' is worth bearing in mind since there is an element of confusion in their application as the story of Crazy Jane unfolds.15

There is also a poem in the New Whim ... volume entitled Henry and Emma where the recommended tune is that of Crazy Jane.

In 1800 the Aberdeen Journal advertised yet another early example of spin-off involving Henry:

This was reviewed - favourably - in the Monthly Magazine ... and headed: 'Compofed and dedicated to the Hon. Mifs Frafer, of Saltoun', an earnest of milieu, not at all surprising and like so many such references to the kinds of more or less fashionable clientele for whom the pieces were written and composed.  The text was by John Rannie whose life-dates begin uncertainly in the 1760s and who died in 1810.

Further in the line of broadside printings Pitts issued Henry's Sorrow for Crazy Jane with a slightly peculiar opening line, 'As not why a prey to anguish…' that turns out to be 'Ask not why ... ' in printings from Williams in Portsea and Plant in Nottingham.16

The take-up and variations were also prolonged in copy of The Lament for Crazy Jane that appeared in New York (an online reference to a Library of Congress copy).

The Grave of Crazy Jane can be found in The Edinburgh Annual Register, Vol. 9, edited by Sir Walter Scott in 1816; again in more than one 1820 songster volume; and in Universal Songster 2 (1829).  The poem in question was written by one John Finlay (1782-1810) and appears in his Poetical Works, published in 1820:

The principal image here is of a robin red-breast, not any human character, to which an appeal is made: But, in the end: The condemnation may seem to be an unfair one and skates over the ostensible subject of death.  The connection with Crazy Jane has slackened.17
Further afield, there was yet another textual development appearing in America in 1811: In this version, we learn that Jane has had a baby and the denouement follows: This echoes the New Whim version of Death of Crazy Jane, noted above.

Altogether, the momentum has roamed far from the first appearance and take-up of Crazy Jane but the tenor of the pieces listed above is clear enough.  The popularity of the poem and its companion pieces had been maintained already through a dozen years or more.  This, to re-iterate, was largely through the medium of language found in drawing-room pieces, somewhat genteel and frequently clouded with nouns and adjectives reversed and verbs in a passive mode.

After all the more or less direct links between the original poem and its successors, the London printers Joshua Davenport and W. Holland, Shelmerdine in Manchester and T. Goode (London) in the Polka Song Book of 1846, all came out with a piece entitled Crazy Paul!! A new ballad' that purports to offer a perspective on the then Czar and his resistance to Bonaparte and encouragement to Britain during a time of shifting alliances:

This is pointed enough; and apart from an echo in the opening line where 'Why' has been retained which itself is a kind of parody its particular relevance to the present enquiry is that, in the Holland printing, it is not only precisely dated - to February 5th1801 - but the tune of Crazy Jane is recommended, underlining the tune's popularity as a vehicle at a very early stage.

It is probably enough to say that Czar Paul II is still a controversial figure with some present-day commentators supporting his attempts to reform aspects of Russian culture and government; but his reputation during a century or more concentrated on his admitted instability in decision to the extent that in some circles he was, for a time, thought to have been mad.  He was assassinated in 1801 and the 'reason' given in Russia was because of this 'madness'.  The appearance of the poem together with its closeness to the assassination may be regarded as being a somewhat unfortunate conjunction.  In the end, the particular ballad could be considered of the moment as events took over and alliances changed but it is a strange quirk that the element of madness still pertained.19

All told from this brief survey of the immediate fortunes of Crazy Jane, exposure of the piece and those pieces inspired by it could be described (and was described) as a rage of fashion during the earliest years of the nineteenth century; but it appears that public interest in most Gothic manifestations subsided during the 1820s, as will be seen.  This did not deter printers, as listed above, who carried on issuing the particular piece (and its family) in a way akin to the retrospective issue of ballads on historical events.


What is of concern next is the question of tunes and there was a crop of musical settings to come out more or less at the same time.  One of the earliest would have been from John Davy (1763-1824), obscurely born in Devon but achieving a degree of metropolitan fame.  Registration of Davy's setting of Crazy Jane at Stationers Hall (an online reference) was made in 1799 as follows:

Further Davy copy appeared in 1800.  By that date, too, his setting of Crazy Jane had already entered the market in America through copy sold in New York - an amazingly quick take-up.20

The reference to the performance in Bath indicates that Mrs. Rosamond (or Rosamund or Rosamon) Mountain (née Wilkinson) gained early prominence in presenting Crazy Jane to the public as a song - using the Davy tune.  She had first appeared, as Miss Wilkinson, in theatre in 1782.  She attracted much attention in Liverpool both as an actress and as a singer.  Her benefit - a common way of acquiring money - was 'extremely lucrative, and, beside, she wounded the heart of Mr. Mountain, then leader of the band at Liverpool, and a native of Ireland.'21

Mrs. Mountain appeared in a variety of performance situations - oratorio and sacred music, for example - at the beginning of the nineteenth century: The Messiah, The Creation, Arnold's Elisha, Rauzzini's Requiem.  The last sight of her as noted in newspapers would seem to have been in 1813 but her name can be found online associated with several theatre productions up until at least 1825 after which she seems to have disappeared from view.  She died in 1841.  Her connection with Crazy Jane does not seem to have been strong or prolonged; but clearly enough indicates an early take-up.22

In counterpoint to the use of the Davy tune, there is an entry in a short title catalogue at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge to the effect that 'Crazy Jane, a favourite ballad ... for three voices…', set by Harriet Abrams, had been published by Lavenu - 'at around 1799' (my italics).  The date of this piece, just as in the case of Davy, draws attention.  Harriet Abrams was born (c.1758) into a large family of musicians of Jewish descent, several of whom were to be seen singing with her and she made a career - principally - in concert performance rather than 'acting'.  She made her debut (aged around 15) in an opera, May-Day, or The Little Gipsy, written especially for her by David Garrick and her music teacher, Thomas Arne, in October 1775 at the Royal Theatre, Drury Lane.  She was then and afterwards thought not to have had much of a stage presence nor do there appear to be any particular roles associated with her name but, all the same, her musicianship generally was much admired.  One measure of this esteem is that later, at regular benefits - 1792, 1794 and 1795 - Haydn was at the piano.

Other references give Abrams copy of Crazy Jane as having been set for voice and piano or harp but precise dates escape us.  It may well have been that this setting preceded that for three voices.  Whatever the case, this brings the Abrams-Davy debate axis into focus.  It is difficult, in the end, to separate the appearance of the 'original' Davy and Abrams tunes but there could only have been a matter of a few months between - perhaps even weeks.23

It turns out that Abrams tune is generally thought to have been the more popular one, as indicated in the comparison with Thomas Thompson's setting noted in text above and as pursued through reference below.

As a composer Harriet Abrams was known for somewhat sentimental songs, a number of which are listed in a British Museum catalogue of printed music.  The Orphan's Prayer another combination of a Lewis text and an Abrams tune, published by Lavenu in 1800, is prominent enough (Lavenu was referred to in the recent Hurd article on MT and was instrumental in issuing many songs at the turn and after the turn of the century).  The Abrams setting of the poem entitled The Shade of Henry by Miles Peter Andrews (he was also a member of Parliament) and beginning 'Stranger do you ask me why I still heave the anguish'd sigh…' might be seen to be capitalising on her success with Crazy Jane.  This setting, 'a favourite song set to music with an accompaniment for the harp or piano forte by Miss Abrams', was another song published by Lavenu (1800) and it went into several editions.  Harp and piano forte, as becomes increasingly obvious, were instruments much employed at the time.24

Stationers Hall had also registered a piece that took up Harriet Abrams 'Crazy Jane tune as 'The Popular Air ...  Arranged with Variations for the Piano Forte, by T. Haigh' (1789-1808).  This was on the first of January 1800, certainly pushing the date of Harriet Abrams' original venture further back in time to confirm that probable appearance in 1799, as it was referred to above.26

And in terms of historical time there are early notices of performance ...  The Caledonian Mercury advertised a concert in February 1800 at the George Street Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh where the song 'Crazy Jane' was to be sung by a 'Mr. URBANI'; again, then, suggesting a slightly earlier publication date.  The singer was Pietro Urbani (1749-1816) who worked in London and Glasgow as a musician around 1780 and set up as a music-publisher by 1795 - a venture that, unfortunately, failed.  Eventually, too, he died destitute in Dublin: a fore-runner of what befell several musicians and singers who can be associated with Crazy Jane, as will be shown.

In March of the same year (1800), the Portsmouth Telegraph ... advertised 'the celebrated song of "Crazy Jane," by Mrs. T. Collins' at the end of Act III of the play SPEED THE PLOUGH, at the Portsmouth Theatre.  There are no clues as to which tune was used by either Urbani or Mrs. Collins.  It might just be added that Mrs. Collins was the wife of Mr. T. Collins who sang 'an admired comic song' called The Nottingham Fair during the same performance.  Collins was the Proprietor and Manager of the Portsmouth theatre at this time.  The Nottingham Fair is but one of several pieces that bring us a little closer to the familiar territory of traditional song.26

Whilst there is no mention of Harriet Abrams in these references, a reasonable, early, dateline for the appearance of Crazy Jane as song is secured; and as supporting evidence of the song's popularity the Caledonian Mercury, with an advertisement in May 1800, referred to a performance 'for the benefit' of Mrs. Kemble at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh during which one might hear:

Click grahic above for MIDI file playback.


The Abrams connections blossomed during the period between 1801 and 1805.  Sometimes, preference for a particular setting is somewhat unclear as the case of a 'Mrs. Bland' exemplifies although the odds eventually yield a positive conclusion, given below.  One early on-line record invokes the name of the singer Maria Bland (1769-1838, born Maria Theresa Romanzini) through whom, in 1799 (my italics: the date is significant in appearing to confirm the issue of the song in one setting or another before 1800), Crazy Jane became 'a hit' in London after Mrs. Bland apparently 'sang it four times in two weeks as an entr'acte piece at Drury Lane'.28

It may well be that the reference given above is actually shorthand for advertisement and comment in newspapers.  In date order, there was a benefit - already noticed in the case of Mrs. Mountain and an important aspect of a theatrical career as discussed further below - that was to be held for Mrs. Bland at The Royal Drury Lane in 1803 at a performance of As You Like It ... when 'In the courfe of the Evening, (by most particular defire, and for one Night only) Mrs. Bland will fing the popular Ballad of 'Crazy Jane' ...'  At a performance of Much Ado About Nothing in 1803, again at the Royal, Drury Lane, 'For the benefit of Mr. FOSBROOK, Box book and Houfe-keeper', Mrs. Bland 'by moft particular defire' sang the 'popular ballad' Crazy Jane.  There was also an advertisment for the King's theatre in 1803, where there was a performance of 'LOVE FOR LOVE ... NOT ACTED THESE THREE YEARS' and 'For the benefit of Mr. CAULFIELD and Mr. SEDGWICK'.  At the end of Act IV, 'by moft particular defire' Ms. Bland would sing 'the popular ballad' of Crazy Jane. Then, in 1804 at the Royal Drury Lane at a performance of Pizarro, 'In the courfe of the evening', Mrs. Bland sang 'the favourite Ballad of 'Crazy Jane''.  It can also be seen how the song appeared in different theatrical contexts - plays and an opera (Pizarro).29

Where Mrs. Bland's name is invoked there is no direct mention anywhere of the Harriet Abrams tune but one commentary notes that Mrs. Bland, held to be the best ballad singer of her generation (the word 'ballad' is considered further below in text), was:

This reference would seem to offer a strong association between Mrs. Bland and the Abrams setting.

Several newspaper reports illustrate how Mrs. Bland made regular appearances, aside from those when she presented Crazy Jane.  A number of these were before the turn of the century during which time, for instance, The Monthly Mirror records an appearance in 1798 (online); but her career may be easily enough traced right up until 1812.  There is, though, no sign of Crazy Jane on any of these latter occasions.  Sadly, in a curious parallel to the fate of several personnel at one time or another associated with Crazy Jane, Mrs. Bland sank into imbecility.31

Apart from Mrs. Bland, a Mrs. Second (Mary Second) is found as a regular performer of Crazy Jane and it can eventually be established that she used Harriet Abrams' tune.  When Rossini's Semiramide was to be presented at the Royal, Covent Garden in 1801, it was advertised that, at the end of the opera, 'Mrs. Second will sing "Crazy Jane" in character' (other participants were a Mrs. Hilligsberg who is mentioned further below; and Incledon who, aside from Braham, was perhaps the most popular male singer of the day).  Very soon afterwards in 1801 there is a report on 'MRS. SECOND'S Fatima, in Blue Beard, and her "Crazy Jane" in character'', at the Liverpool Theatre which 'convinced the theatrical world her genius was not altogether confined to singing': an interesting sidelight on Mrs. Second's career, not unlike that of other personnel whose mixed talents were paraded in the theatre.  On another occasion, 'For the benefit of Mrs. MATTOCKS', again in 1801, Mrs. Second was to sing Crazy Jane.  And at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden 1802 there was a performance of THE WOODMAN, for the benefit of Incledon when, at the 'End of the Opera, Mrs. Second will fing Crazy Jane' - as seems to be usual in description, 'in character'.  Again at the Royal, Covent Garden, in 1805,there was a programme 'FOR THE BENEFIT OF SIGNORA STORACE' - when 'a Comic Opera, not acted these two years, called THE SIEGE OF BELGRADE' was presented.  The opera was followed by Mrs. Second singing Crazy Jane.  Similarly, at the Russell Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, in April 1805, a concert was to be given by Madame Storace, Braham and Incledon and 'In the course of the Performance Mrs. Second will assist, and by particular desire of several Lords' (sic) of Distinction, sing 'Crazy Jane'.

Clearly, Crazy Jane was not always strictly relevant to the course of any evening.  Its appearance may, all the same, be seen to reflect a demand.

The matter of which tune Mrs. Second used appears to have been clinched at another concert in the Russell Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh during May 1805 where she rendered Crazy Jane to the tune supplied by 'Miss Abrams'.

Sadly, whilst there are newspaper reports of appearances up until October of that year, Mrs. Second then died.

However, there followed a period, that of 1807-1813, when another singer's name came to be associated with Crazy Jane.  There was an advertisement in January 1807 put out by Corri's Rooms, Edinburgh - mentioned elsewhere in this discussion as a venue - for a performance of "CRAZY JANE" by a Mrs. Dickons, 'accompanied on the Grand Piano Forte by herfelf' and using the 'Abraams tune' (sic).  Mrs. Dickons was formerly Caroline Poole who under both her names established herself as singer, actress and pianist and even composed one or two songs and performed them (noted again below in text).  She mirrored Mrs. Second in these manifestations of multi-talents.

In 1807,the Morning Post noted that:

Mrs. Dickons would appear to have made Edinburgh her base during the winter of 1807.  The Corri's advertisement was followed up in reportage in the Caledonian Mercury ...  In February 1807 Mrs Dickons, 'By particular Defire', sang the 'Ballad, "Crazy Jane" in Corri's Rooms, Edinburgh, as an addition to a 'Grand Piano Forte' concert; and two days later, there is more comment in the same newspaper: Mrs. Dickons continued to embrace Crazy Jane.  The Morning Post advertised 'SIGNORA STORACE's NIGHT (for this night only)' to be held on April 13th 1807 at the Royal, Drury Lane at which Mrs. Dickons would sing, amongst other items, "Crazy Jane in character".

Following this and 'fixed for May 19th' 1808 at the Royal, Covent Garden', effectively during a summer season, there was to be a 'Mrs. DICKONS night' that presented a 'Comic Opera, TWO FACES UNDER A HOOD, during which Mrs. Dickons 'will sing in character the celebrated ballad of "Crazy Jane."' This advertisement re-appeared as the month went on and an acknowledgement followed, in which Mrs. Dickons was credited with singing 'all her favourite Airs ... & last, not least, Crazy Jane.'

Quite how Mrs. Dickons organised her appearances is a matter of some conjecture still but in June 1809 there was an advertisement for a performance to be given on in July at the Royal, Edinburgh, on behalf of Mrs. Dickons ('Positively the Last Night of her appearance this season').  This was of Bickerstaffe's Lionel and Clarissa, one of a myriad of pieces that artistes would have been engaged in presenting, having enjoyed popularity since its first outing in 1768:

Again, the mixture is notable and, again, there is a slight gesture towards the more familiar canons of traditional song…

Three years later - quite a gap - there is a reference to a performance at the Royal, Lyceum 'For the benefit of Mr. PALMER' when 'In the course of the evening (for that night only) Mrs. Dickons will sing the celebrated Ballad of Crazy Jane in character'.

Given the initial reference to the Abrams tune, it might be assumed that this was the one that Mrs. Dickons continued to prefer.

Mrs. Dickons had other interests as might be expected.  During June 1812 she appeared in an opera, entitled - coincidentally, The Maniac.  She also sang in Drury Lane in the opera False Alarms along with Braham, Mrs. Mountain, Mrs. Bland and Johnstone and again in Drury Lane together with Braham and Michael Kelly, all notables in the theatre - but without any mention of Crazy Jane.  She was recorded as singing at the Theatre Royal, Covent-Garden in 1819 so had not completely disappeared.32

Finally, apropos Harriet Abrams, there is a useful, perhaps slightly tongue-in-cheek look at the Abrams phenomenon in Baron-Wilson's commentary ... She wrote:

There are points beyond the good humour to be made.

Firstly, the word 'original' may seem to leave Davy (and one or two others) in the cold.

Secondly, there do not appear to be any newspaper reports that have Harriet Abrams actually singing her piece in the theatre - although, since she and her sisters performed regularly, this is certainly a possibility.  The 'fashionable parties', meanwhile, seem largely to have gone un-recorded but such was the assumed audience in comment on various performances with unabashed reference to the fashionable and upper social echelons, that this link can be assumed.  Indeed, several references come under this umbrella indicated by the columns entitled The Mirror of Fashion found in the Morning Chronicle (for example, in 1803) and Fashionable World in the Morning Post (again as an example, in 1806).  In addition, it was almost standard practice to refer to the 'nobility' and 'gentry'.  Another notice indicates how there was a performance at the behest of the officers of HMS Charlotte in 1819.  This kind of sponsorship can be mirrored elsewhere.

Thirdly, taking this aspect a step further, Baron-Wilson's comments underline the increasingly obvious variety of performance contexts - and more instances are offered below in discussion.33

The whole range of references given above seem to favour Harriet Abrams' tune but - a side issue, to be sure - they are also valuable in emphasising a context in theatre with all the verbal trimmings of advertisement and praise and, as noted above, the place that 'benefits' had in the theatre.  These were clearly a regular and necessary part of remuneration.


The list of female singers of Crazy Jane can be added to.  A Mary Taylor, née Valentine, who was a member of the Theatre Royal, Norwich company, had received a benefit evening on the early date of 21st April, 1800, at which she sang Crazy Jane.  At Hull's Theatre Royal in 1803 there was a performance of The Beggar's Opera - 'Not Acted here thefe Seven Years', this time for the benefit of a Mrs. Chapman who, almost inevitably, sang Crazy Jane 'in character' (in the same programme 'OLD TOWLER' and 'Black-Ey'd Susan' were sung 'By a Gentleman'…).

At the Royal, Drury Lane in 1805 there was a programme 'For the BENEFIT of Mr. KELLY' during which a Madame Laborie sang 'the part of Crazy Jane' (Madame Laborie re-appears, chiefly as a dancer, in comments below …)  Kelly, already mentioned, was Michael Kelly (1762-1826) who had a distinguished career as a tenor soloist (the lead role was created for him in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro), was one-time manager of the Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres along with Sheridan; and author of Reminiscences, completed in 1825 and published during the year of his death.

Again in 1805, this time at the Theatre Royal, Hull, for 'the BENEFIT of Mr. WOOD', there was a performance of The Beaux Strategem, at the end of which Crazy Jane was sung 'in character' by a Mrs. Bramwell.  Giles Scroggin's Ghost - 'A comic song by Mr. Bennett' - was also in evidence.34

In Corri's Rooms, Edinburgh in 1806, Crazy Jane was sung by a Mrs. Atkins (and to add to Bennet's Giles Scroggins' Ghost noted above, it is worth mentioning that a Mr. Hill sang The Death of Abercrombie).  There is a trickle of such songs being featured in theatre programmes as discussion is revealing and the songs are also found on broadside ballads.  Occasionally, as can be seen, they sometimes impinge on traditional song repertoire.35

Both Mrs. Atkins and Mr. Hill had travelled from London where they had previously been engaged at The Royal, Covent Garden, an example of how performers spread their respective wings or were obliged to range far and wide for work.  This would have been as their respective contracts, most often with London theatres, terminated and tours of the provinces were undertaken.  It should be said that theatre contracts in London offered salaries.36

New or, at least, different singers continued to appear ...  In 1807 The Hull Packet gave notice that at the Theatre Royal, Hull, there was to be a performance of 'The VENETIAN OUTLAW; Or, THE BRAVO OF VENICE' and at the end of the performance Crazy Jane was to be sung 'In character' by a Miss Jackson.

Further still, this time in 1810, as The Hull Packet advertised it, there was to be a production of As You Like It at the Theatre Royal, Hull, for the benefit of a Miss Johnson (who danced a 'pas seul' - see more below) and when, at the end of the play, a Miss King would present Crazy Jane 'in Character'.  In February 1811 the Morning Post advertised Crazy Jane, yet again 'in character' (copy is almost unreadable but the artiste may well have been Miss Feron (1793/7? -1853), who is mentioned elsewhere in the advertisement.  This would seem to be confirmed in a report during the same year in the Caledonian Mercury advertising a benefit concert at The Royal, at the head of Leith Walk, Edinburgh, where Miss Feron would sing Crazy Jane in character.37

Some male singers also favoured Crazy Jane.  Urbani has already been mentioned above (1800).  There is notice of 'Johnstone' in the Morning Post in 1801 at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden which theatre presented 'MR. JOHNSTONE'S NIGHT' with a title of ABROAD AND AT HOME when, 'In the course of the evening (by particular desire)' he sang 'the favourite ballad of Crazy Jane'.  Unfortunately, it is not known which setting he used.  All the same, the advertisement did duty on other occasions during May of that year.  'MR. JOHNSTONE' featured on several such nights and, apart from prolonging the attention paid to Crazy Jane, again the reliance for income on benefit occasions is demonstrated.  The weight of evidence shows that this was an essential part of an artiste's financial comfort or otherwise.  Johnstone, known as 'Irish' Johnstone by reason of his adoption of Irish character, was a familiar figure at the time in situations slightly less than formal drama; more as an entertainer.38

The life of the song of Crazy Jane continued.  In 1807 a play, The Surrender of Calais, was put on at the Royal theatre, Haymarket 'for the benefit of Mr. and Mrs. Liston and, in the course of the evening we find a performance of 'Crazy Jane, in character, by Mr. Liston ...'  (Liston also sang Giles Scroggins' Ghost; and Mrs. Liston sang Nobody's Coming to Marry me, discussed at length in the Porter article on this site, MT 299).39


Varied contexts for performance noted by Baron-Wilson, emerge ...  In a sober reference, in 1801, Mr. G. Nichols's 'annual concert' in Cambridge received' the aid of some of the Cambridge Gentlemen'.  At this concert:

In view of a liking for Crazy Jane displayed by Mrs. Dickons, the addition of the name of Mr. Dickons is not without note.40

In another context - In Ranelagh, in a 'great display of fashions' at'MRS. METHVEN'S MASQUERADE', reported in the Morning Post, 'Lord Pomfret unsexed himself in the character of Crazy Jane…'41 and another report in the Morning Post reads as follows:

Slightly less bizarrely, at a 'MILITARY FETE' in Horsham, a 'commemoration of the glorious victory of Trafalgar', there would seem to have been a sort of parade during which 'The characters were supported with great spirit'.  One of the characters was 'a Crazy Jane'.43

And almost as part of a mainstream kind of mixed presentation, in 1801 at the New Royal Circus, London, there was a 'NOVELTY' evening consisting of 'FANCY'S FESTIVAL', where one might have heard the Harp and Union Pipes, and where a Mrs. Herbert sang Crazy Jane.  The full content of 'FANCY'S FESTIVAL' can only be guessed at but is likely to have followed the regular yoking together of plays, comic operas and songs, a matter, as will be discovered, of theatre legislation and in which figures such as the aforesaid Johnstone flourished.  For example, in this line, at the Royalty theatre, 'Well's-ftreet, Goodman's-fields', in 1802, there was of 'a spectacle including "Crazy Jane," by Mrs. Herbert'.  Similarly, at the same venue, during a 'NOVELTY' evening with various additions to the 'Popular Spectacle' of 'BLUE BEARD', she again sang Crazy Jane.  In December the following year, again at the Royal, Goodman's Fields, during the evening, one was promised a 'magnificent fairy grove', 'feats of strength, martial pieces of music' and 'voyages in balloons'.  In 1804 at Sadler's Wells Aquatic Theatre there was 'A Real Waterfall'.  Such 'novelty' evenings, such 'spectacles' were common enough.  During the same year Astley's, more or less as ever, included 'several feats of Horsemanship'; and, later in the year, a 'Troupe of Jumpers'.  Numbers of actresses and singers, like Mrs. Herbert, would include appearances in such programmes during the course of their careers.  She, indeed, appeared at the Royal in 'an entirely new Divertissement' and, a little later, in a 'Comic Harlequinade' and, later still, all these appearances a matter only of weeks, in a 'Comic Pantomime'.44

It seems likely through the presence of these notices of very different contexts that there were other events exploiting the song; but it is the theatre, as already demonstrated, that provides the best evidence of how the piece was disseminated and in what musical form.


Baron-Wilson's comments on composers, some well-known and others obscure (and it is still difficult to find supportive detail for certain references), fill out the picture of settings of the Crazy Jane poem.  Following her lead - there was, for example, a setting, registered at Stationers Hall in 1799 and, therefore, possibly composed at an earlier date still, by a Gustav Adam von Nolcken (Baron - 1733-1813)- a Swedish ambassador to Britain.

Another early setting was 'for Harp or Piano Forte' by a J. Latour, thought to have been issued around 1799.  This was Jean Théodore Latour (1766-1837), official pianist to King George IV; but no further details have emerged.45

Then there was George Kauntz (born Kauntze, c. 1766 - no date of death available but he was alive 1819, discharged - finally - from the army at that time).  Kauntz served as a musician in the Coldstream Guards Band (1794) but also worked in the family music-publishing business that had already been established 'opposite the Admiralty' and then at '2 St James' by 1802 and it looks as though he was involved in 1796, after his band-playing days.  Kauntz's Collection of Original and Selected Music ... of English, Scotch, Irish and German Compositions had appeared in 1790 ...  Kauntze's setting of Crazy Jane is thought to have appeared in 1800, in amongst the first rush.46

An online reference totes the name of George Ebenezer Williams (1783-1819) who could have been one and the same as the Organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey between 1814 and 1819 and is known to have written some secular vocal music.47

Perhaps a more salient note, involving a better-known composer, is found in an 1807 newspaper reference entitled LA BELLE ASSEMBLÉE; Or, BELL'S Court and Fashionable Magazine which advertised a performance - 'For the benefit of Mrs. Mountain' (the same) - of 'an original and most pathetic Song, entitled "The Death of Crazy Jane," set to Music for the Harp and Piano-forte, expressly and exclusively for this Work, by Mr. Hook'.48

James Hook (1746-1827) was a prolific composer - of comic opera and farce, for instance - who set many songs such as Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill.  Composers like Hook are known to have dipped into the known traditional repertoire for material or re-worked existing 'art' songs, as did Samuel Arnold with a production centred on Auld Robin Gray or Joseph Dale with an arrangement of Dorothy Jordan's song, The Blue Bell of Scotland, both these characters mentioned elsewhere in this article.

There is a gloss: 'Pathetic', a word that has appeared more than once here as found in contemporary commentary and newspapers and it is not one simply dismissive of weakness as in more modern usage but was in regular use at the time when Crazy Jane and its associated pieces were prominent.  It refers to the intended effect of arousing sympathy in the reader through the particular circumstances described.  The principle can be found exemplified in much of Wordsworth's poetry, framed as a statement of intent in Lyrical Ballads (1798).

There is, in fact, another example of a ballad, described as 'Pathetic' and printed by Evans, namely Julia's Lamentation,which begins:

The drift is quite clear, working a well-known seam; and the outcome is predictable enough; This seem to be much like Crazy Jane's fate.  Another example of the use of the term is in 'POOR SENSELESS MARY A FAVOURITE PATHETIC BALLAD, composed by Sir. J. R. Stevenson (1761-1833) and sung by Mr. Braham, with universal applause in the opera of False Alarms, at the Royal Theatre, Drury Lane'.49

At a quite later date, in 1819, there was an unusual occasion during which the principal attraction was a giant mechanical organ named 'THE APPOLONICON' (sometimes 'Apollonicon' and 'Appollonicon'), built by a successful duo, Benjamin Flight (1767-1849) and Joseph Robson (1770-1842?).  This machine, whatever its novelty value, ushered in a golden age of English organ music.  The Apollonicon enjoyed considerable attention after its first appearance in 1817 and there are numerous newspaper references to it during the years 1817-1820 (at the least).  Initially, it could be viewed at a venue in St. Martin's Lane, London: Flight's and Robson's own premises described as 'their rooms' (but not quite, perhaps, in the same mould as Corri's rooms in Edinburgh mentioned in text here) - and also as their 'warerooms'.

Moreover, with specific reference to the subject of this article, at the Apollonicon's first appearance, the programme included 'Crazy Jane, with Cramer's Variations'.  John Baptist Cramer (1771-1858) was the son of a German immigrant, William - many German musicians travelled to England to pursue their respective careers - and thought to be one of the best pianists of his day.  He also wrote a deal of music, particularly for the aspiring pianist and held the opinion that 'experience has proved that introducing popular airs, arranged as lessons for the practice of learning, greatly promotes their application and improvement'.  There is a twist to this reference.  Cramer had written his variations of the Crazy Jane tune composed by Harriet Abrams as early as 1801, one of several composers, as has been seen, who very quickly took up the Lewis poem or Abrams tune and confirming the idea of a 'rage' of interest.50

However, to continue in date sequence from the 1819 performance noted above, in 1823, at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, as advertised by the Morning Post, 'for Miss PATON'S BENEFIT', The Belle's Stratagem was to be performed and 'the Masquerade Scene', offered 'Crazy Jane, in Character, by Miss. Paton.'  The performance was noted again in the same newspaper - this time with the comment that Miss Paton sang 'with admirable feeling and effect'.  The composer's name was not given but likely to have been the one who emerged in connection with Miss Paton just days later when there was an advertisement for a publication:

Harriet Wainwright's name, then, can be added to the list of composers who set Crazy Jane.  She was also known as 'a singer of no mean pretensions'.51

As for Miss Paton (1802-1864): she had travelled to Edinburgh and the Royal theatre to receive a benefit performance and the small litany of songs is worth notice:

Baring-Gould's compendium, English Minstrelsy offers food for thought, especially in relationship to traditional song repertoires.  The trickle of such songs found in a theatre context has been noted and continued, as will be seen.  Essentially, though, the songs were mostly of what might be called a 'drawing-room type' and have little relationship to traditional song - except that, now and again, a boundary, so to speak, was crossed.  Black-Ey'd Susan and Nobody's Coming to Marry Me provide easy examples.  George Barnwell is noted in the Morning Post in 1818.  Much later in he century, Baring-Gould's compendium offers a substantial survey.  Some such songs appeared in the collections of Alfred Williams - Giles Scroggins' Ghost, for example.  This matter is intriguing but too substantial to consider at length here.

Miss Paton was Mary Ann Paton who, after showing promise as a singer aged eight, moved as part of her family to London in 1811.  From then on Miss Paton enjoyed a career extending to at least 1840 and embracing material as diverse as classical operas such as The Barber of Seville and, as seen here, 'ballads'.52

In May of 1823, there was a performance of Dibdin's The English Fleet, with John Braham and 'Catherine, Miss Stephens'.  During the evening Miss Stephens sang Crazy Jane 'in character'.  It is not yet possible to say whether she sang Crazy Jane at any other time.

Catherine Stephens (1794-1882) was briefly mentioned in the MT article 155 on Besley of Exeter.  She became Countess of Essex through marriage to an octogenarian widower who died in 1839.  She performed in a host of 'serious' productions during what was the typically charged life of a singer or an actor and was well-known for her soprano voice particularly in singing 'ballads'.53


As well as taking up the Crazy Jane poem, various composers, some of whose lives elude investigation as yet, set the spin-off pieces.  The Ghost of Crazy Jane was set c.1800 by Thomas Bolton (1770-1820), music teacher and composer.  Another version of The Ghost ... 'written and composed by a lady' (1806) has already been mentioned in discussion.54

John Rannie, already mentioned in discussion, aside from Henry's Return, wrote a piece, one amongst several that had the same title of The Death of Crazy Jane.  Rannie's version appeared in 1799, 1800, 1802 and 1804; and the 1799 edition listed it as 'a Favourite Song ...', beginning: 'O'er the gloomy woods resounding ...' and it was published by Bland and Wells, with music by yet another composer, Reginald Spofforth (1768-1827 - responsible for the music to Hail, Smiling Morn that has become a regular item in the carol-singing pubs around Sheffield).55

The Epitaph of Crazy Jane, written by a James Sanderson (c. 1769-c.1841), was set to music by a Mr. G. Fox, and issued c.1799.  This early date needs to be borne in mind as indicating just how close together in time the many variants of the theme of Crazy Jane.  No comprehensive details of Fox have been unearthed but that he existed is confirmed elsewhere, not as composer but again linked with Spofforth:

'Nelfon's Victory' was accounted 'a tolerable compofition'.  Sanderson, like Fox, appears to have been both writer and composer, notable for his setting of Hail to the Chief (1812), stanzas from Scott's Lady of the Lake, adopted by America as a Presidential Anthem.56

We also find 'Crazy Jane's Epitaph. A favourite song, etc.' put out by a William Howgill (c.1768-1824), but without a date of publication.  Howgill was a native of Whitehaven, known for a variety of compositions and active in London at around 1810.  Some of his pieces were noted in The Monthly Magazine for 1805.57

The volume of Crazy Jane material that appeared in close order is yet again revealed in the Sequel to Crazy Jane, another 'favourite Song', written by C. Poole' (Caroline Poole, born around 1780 - the maiden name of Mrs. Dickons who was discussed above).  It is thought that the piece was issued in 1800; and in the same year appeared 'The Birth of Crazy Jane. A New Song. With an accompaniment for the Harp or Piano by John Bernard Sale' (1779-1856): words by a James Henry Pye (1744-1813).58

There were two other pieces in this extended line of issue: 'The Death of Crazy Jane. A Favourite Song, with an Accompaniment for The Piano-Forte or Harp, etc.' written by Joseph Dale (already mentioned in text) with music by 'an Amateur' (hardly helpful); and 'Trust the Ghost of Crazy Jane. A Favourite Song with an Accompaniment of Fashion' (even less helpful).  Both these pieces were registered at Stationers Hall in 1799 and 1800 respectively.59

A Thomas Welsh (c.1780-1848) can also be linked with Crazy Jane.  Welsh was a singer, actor, pianist and composer, a teacher of singing of, amongst others, Catherine Stephens, mentioned above in this article; and of Mary Ann Wilson, whom he married in 1827.  In 1800 he put out a piece entitled Crazy Henry to Crazy Jane 'with an accompaniment for the Piano Forte ... 1s. 6d., Longman, Clementi, and Co.'  There is a short review in which the reviewer avers: 'This fong is compofed with confiderable ability, and deserves to be ranked with the moft refpectable vocal productions of the day' - a fair example of not saying much at all and representing several such reviews of the period.60

Yet another of those pieces entitled The Death of Crazy Jane was written by Robert Anderson (1770-1833) and had music by none other than James Hook (1746-1827) who composed music for a number of Anderson poems - in this case:

The same sorts of characters appear in familiar form as they had done in the original Crazy Jane and in this latter version Jane thinks that 'Henry comes ...' only to admit - 'Ah! no! No! My senses wander'.  Following this, 'The corse of the poor shrivell'd Maniac was found ...'; and so: Hook's setting was published in 1813.

After this The Ghost of Crazy Jane 'with variations for the piano forte' by Louis Janson (c.1774-1840) appeared in January 1814.  It turns out that Janson took to the drink and subsequently declined.  This distressful fate echoes that of Urbani, both dying in poverty and, indeed, to John Rannie; and so to poems of a melancholy nature is added a curious series of parallel in actual lives - also including those of both Sarah Wilkinson and C. A. Somerset as described below in text.61

Finally, there is a complex light thrown onto The Death of Crazy Jane as having been set to a tune entitled Gin ye meet a bonny laffie ... and this serves to indicate that not all tunes associated with the Crazy Jane phenomenon were obviously composed even if there is still a suspicion that this was so.  The pedigree of this music runs via Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) during the early part of the eighteenth century who the while claimed older precedents and then on through James Hogg (1770-1835); and then The Songs of Scotland of 1825 compiled by Alan Cunningham (1784-1842).  Burns thought that the tune was 'very old' and could be traced 'in some of our most ancient manuscript music-books'.  The Roud index has references to the same tune in a group of songsters.62.


It is not just as a particular song that Crazy Jane's life was prolonged.  Spin-off poems enjoyed a similar attention.  The theatre, as evidenced above, offered programmes of a mixed nature and Crazy Jane appeared in different guises.  In one example, notice was, firstly, given in the Morning Post in 1801 (early on, then) that the 'KING's THEATRE' would present a 'NEW BALLET of BARBARA ALLEN'; and that, secondly:

Cramer's name has already surfaced through his Crazy Jane variations for the 'piano forte'.  French-born Madame Marie-Louise Hilligsberg (c.1765/1770-1804), perhaps the better-known of a married couple, was one of a number of dancers whose performances were particularly admired during the last decade of the eighteenth century before she moved with her husband to France during 1802-1803.  Many performers went on, of course, to develop careers during the nineteenth century, as is shown in comment and in notes here.63

The reference to 'Barbara Allen' is, in fact an inaccurate one although from time to time it continued to appear in advertisements.  The 'ballet' was actually entitled Barbara and Allen and was 'composed' by J. H. D'Egville and published in London in 1801.  D'Egville is considered further below.

It is the pas de trois, in this case,that invites most attention as being an entity even if illustrative of the narrative of Crazy Jane.  This dance appearance can be paralleled.  Barbara and Allen is described in another report (from 1801): 'A favourite ballet composed by Mr. d'Egville as represented at the King's theatre, Haymarket, including the famous pas seul of Mademoiselle Parisot'.  Yet again, then, attention must be given to terminology, in this case pas seul, indicative of a single item.  The use of language in these cases is similar to that of 'ballad' as referred to above.  And one notes, interestingly, that the name of D'Egville seems to have been attached to the ballet and not to its music.

Further, in 1805, at the King's Theatre, 'Mademoiselle PARISOT' was to be seen on this occasion in a 'Grand SERIOUS OPERA' and at the end of the first act one could enjoy 'the favourite Ballet of CRAZY JANE; in which Mademoiselle Parisot will dance (by particular desire and for the last time) her most favourite hornpipe of Barbara and Allen'.64

Apart from anything else this once again illustrates the habit of mixing genres in the theatre.  Similarly they separate any theatrical whole of Crazy Jane the ballet from a particular dance within it.  They also distinguish the 'composition' of a ballet and the writing of music.  In this respect there is an advertisement fora performance of the Grand Opera IL RATTO DI PROSERPINA ... 'to which will be added, a new Ballet, composed for the occasion by Mr. d'Egville, entitled CRAZY JANE' (and almost certainly the same ballet referred to in respect of Parisot).  Subsequently, The Monthly Mirror recorded that:

Again at the King's Theatre, 'This evening will be presented, the third time, the grand Serious Opera entitled LA CLEMENZA DI SCIPIONE ... and at the 'End of the Opera, will be performed a new Ballet, called CRAZY JANE. Composed by Mr. d'Egville'.  This would seem to underline the suggestion already made here that D'Egville's part was in supplying a ballet but not music.  This is echoed in an advertisement from 1806, featuring a performance at the King's theatre, Haymarket of 'The Grand Ballet, entitled LA FILLE SAUVAGE; or, Le Pouvrir de la Musique. Composed by Mr. James D'Egville. Music by Mortellari.' (Mortellari, 1750-1807)  The ballet followed a 'Grand Serious Opera' with music by Cimarosa (1749-1801), in the habit of mixing genres during the one evening.66

Further, Lavenu, presumably seeing opportunity, had just advertised new music including 'the popular Ballet of CRAZY JANE; as danced at the King's Theatre, and the Theatre-Royal, Drury-lane: composed and arranged for the Piano Forte, with accompaniment for the harp, ad libitum, by Fiorillo, price 10s. 6d.'

And so another name has entered the equation, that of Frederico Fiorillo (1755-1823), born in Brunswick and like so many others of his profession, travelling for work, initially to Poland and then finding a post as chef d'orchestre to the theatre in Riga; from thence through Italy and France; and eventually to London.67

Collectively, descriptions such as 'hornpipe', pas de trois and pas seul are specific; and it looks, too, as if the term 'Opera' may sometimes have referred to cut-down versions, or perhaps extracts rather than to full-blown versions; or that it was a convenient term for an assemblage of music and song of a varied nature.  In this respect, 'Serious Opera', referred to above, was a particular term in use at the time - as Parke's fascinating and often quite witty memoires illustrate.  There is, indeed, no better demonstration of the distinctions amongst presentations than to quote Parke at some length - almost at random selecting the year 1786. He wrote:

Babini, in the crowded litany of prominent singers and composers who spanned the turn of the century (1754-1816), was a tenor mentioned, for instance, in Burney's survey of world music of 1789 and Rossini's Memoirs of 1824.  Babini (sometimes Babbini) also composed - a series of romances, for instance, issued during 1800-1801. Sestini (1749-1814) seems to have had an important profile after making her London debut in 1783.

Parke went on to note a new serious opera, composed by Tarchi, called 'Virginia', opening on 4th May.

The clutch of Italian names reflects the love affair between London audiences and Italian composers and singers (Cherubini 1760-1842, Paesiello 1740-1816, Tarchi 1760-1814).  To pursue the line further is not particularly relevant to the present enquiry.

Parke, nonetheless, mentioned a 'concert of ancient music ... on January 31st' that 'their Majesties honoured by their presence ... Mr. Cramer was the leader.  Muzio Clementi, whose name has briefly studded this enquiry, 'presided at the piano-forte'.

Further, Parke noted that Salomon gave 'six subscription concerts in Hanover Square, the first of which took place on the second of March.  Further still, 'six oratorios were given this season ... by command of their Majesties'.

Still other events appear in Parke's memoirs.  At the Covent Garden theatre, 'Mrs. Billington ... made her debut on the London boards, on the thirteenth of February, as Rosetta, in the opera of 'Love in a Village''.  Billington's name has already appeared in this enquiry.  And appears again - 'A new comic opera was produced at Covent Garden Theatre on the 8thof March, called 'The Fair Peruvian'.  The overture and music were by Mr. Hook. In this piece Mrs Billington, whose powers are now considerably developed, sang two airs with ... uncommon effect.'

There were musical performances at Ranelagh and Vauxhall, well-known venues, and three 'grand performances at Westminster Abbey'.  'The King's Theatre opened for the season on the 23rd December, with the serious opera of 'Alceste'.  Again at King's 'a new comic opera called 'Giannina Berdoni,' was performed on the 9thof January (1787).

And so it went on.  The intensely crowded nature of performance is well illustrated and the variety underlined.  Artistes were not necessarily confined to one genre.  Royal patronage (George III) is manifested in the naming of theatres was much valued amongst fashionable adherents.  Similarly, whilst a goodly portion of material simply disappeared ('The Fair Peruvian'?), at the same time the presence of distinguished classical composers is notable.  Much of this glory, though, is clearly way beyond the initial and then the prolonged exposure of Crazy Jane.68


However, in the main line of enquiry here D'Egville may be further canvassed as an example of how the strands came together - though not in direct association with Crazy Jane.  In 1779 Stationers Hall advertised the registration of a 'ballet' at the King's Theatre published by Messrs. Broderip and Wilkinson and entitled Télémaque. A Grand Ballet.  The information is given that the 'ballet' was composed (my italics) by D'Egville… but 'The music Composed and Compiled by D'Egville and Bossi' (Cesari Bossi: 1773-1802) - in fact the music was culled from several pre-existent pieces.  But from the same Stationers Hall source comes another entry, this time to 'Soirées Amusantes' that included 'The favourite Tamborine Dance. As danced by Mademoiselle Parisot at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane'; and 'The Finale' in the grand ballet of Terpsichore's Return', composed by D'Egville with music by a Joseph Woelfl - Joseph Johann Baptiste Woelfl (1773-1812), an Austrian pianist and composer who first appeared in London in May of 1805, just before Les Soirées Amusantes was registered with Stationers Hall on 12th November 1805.  The 'Tambourine Dance' can be added to Parisot's hornpipe and pas seul as items in her repertoire.69

The relationship between D'Egville and 'ballet' is the important issue.

Thus, with Crazy Jane particularly in mind - in 1806 the Royal Theatre Drury Lane presented 'MR. D'EGVILLE's NIGHT' when one could see 'the favourite ballet of CRAZY JANE (composed by Mr. [D'Egville])in which Madame Laborie (late of the Opera) has undertaken to perform the part of Crazy Jane' - as a dancer.  She was, indeed, best-known as a dancer and there are several references in newspaper reports to her performances.70


By the middle 1820s newspaper references to the song Crazy Jane were becoming fewer and, likewise, the several ballets seem not to have enjoyed prolonged exposure.  The references given here are, in any case, indicative rather than comprehensive.  But it seems clear that song and ballet as they pertained to Crazy Jane were more or less superseded by the drama - as recorded in 1827 in the Morning Chronicle when amongst the items presented at the 'SURREY THEATRE' was 'a new Melo-drama called CRAZY JANE'.  There is a brief sequence of reports in one of which the piece was described as 'the National Melo-drama of CRAZY JANE' (my italics).  It was also noted that 'Jane' was performed by a Miss Montgomery (yet another name in the crowded forum.71

The idea of 'Melo-drama' was a fairly new phenomenon, created in part in order to satisfy a growing public of, perhaps, unsophisticated taste as referred to above - an audience rather like Elizabethan and Jacobean 'groundlings' - and performance consisted of short scenes interspersed with musical accompaniments.  The morality was simple: good and evil; the characters likewise and using overblown language.  Often, in 'Melo-drama', villains were of a superior social status and, in contrast, victims (the heroes and heroines) of a much more diminished caste.  This acts as a reminder that, in traditional song, the tale was often about those who came from very different social strata and when one of the aims for the principals was frequently to marry someone of a higher social standing - love aside.

Almost to re-iterate, in any one programme one might find a 'Melo-Drama' alongside pantomime, 'ballad opera', circus, equestrianism, aquatic drama, glass-playing, tight-rope walking and much else that has been mentioned above.  Philip Astley's was the most prominent name in such offerings in no less than nineteen theatres, where one might encounter entertainment such as:

One commentator reckoned such a show to constitute 'organized chaos'.72

In one such performance in 1827 - though not quite so comprehensively mixed - there appeared 'A new Comic Drama entitled ROUGH AND SMOOTH; or, Nature and Sentiment; by the Author of Crazy Jane' whose name is not supplied but which was given in a later report (1828) when, at the 'ROYAL AMPITHEATRE, Charlotte Street, Liverpool', there was a presentation including 'Pantomime' and 'Equestrianism':

Somerset's 'Melo-Drama' had been performed in 1824 and, in it, Jane Arnold - not, then, the original Crazy Jane - suffers a miscarriage that turns her mind to madness and death.  Advertisements, nonetheless, clearly relied on a public awareness of the original poem and the various adaptations of it.  Somerset had simply invoked names as used in earlier versions of the poem and the song and, what is more, in a curious parallel with a novel by Sarah Wilkinson (described further below).  The use of the name Crazy Jane lay simply in the alliance of the creator of the drama and the merest hint of the nature of the narrative in Lewis's poem.

Somerset's 'Melo-Drama'was issued and re-issued in at least 1828, 1829 and 1830.  The verdict on him appears to have been that, whilst he was clever and well-educated, he had been led - even consigned - to producing 'popular melodramas' for the Surrey, Adelphi and Olympic theatres and nothing more.  One comment indicates that he was paid but '25s' for a play; and his lasting epitaph seems to have been that of wearing a placard round his neck bearing the legend 'Ladies and Gentlemen I am starving'.74

The prolongation of 'Melo-drama' can be seen during 1829, in Liverpool, at HOLLOWAY'S SANS PAREIL, following but not connected to Somerset's emergence, but here the links begin to get more strained still with 'an interesting Melo-Drama, founded on facts in the reign of Queen Elizabeth entitled CRAZY JANE'.  Nothing further has been found that would expand these brief details.  Rather more clearly: in Leicester in 1832 at the 'Theatre' there was a performance of I TOOK A WIFE and this was 'To conclude with the new and interesting Melo-drama (never acted here) called CRAZY JANE'.  A Mrs. Christian played Crazy Jane and the piece was to be presented 'as performed by her in London with loud and unbounded applause'.  Again, as in the case of the 'Melo-Drama' there would appear not to have been a long run.75

'Melo-drama' also chimed in with the spread of Romanticism (though 'Romantic' is really too simple a term to be of great use: more as a gesture towards a period in time, roughly between 1790 and 1830) with settings involving ruined castles, mountains and exotic travel - and in which the Gothic imagination roamed.


As summary: the essential content and the drift in theatre life that took in variants of the Crazy Jane story is easily discernible.  It can be seen that Crazy Jane as poem and song had been replaced even though there were resonances long after Lewis first penned his piece; and whilst much of the above as it referred to the theatre may be accounted slightly off-centre as regards the poem and song Crazy Jane the continued re-workings and evocations do illustrate the persistent degree of interest, markedly of a cross-current nature.

Indeed, the craze and its immediate developments having died down, as a matter of seeing how the thematic Gothic content of Crazy Jane was passed on, modified and re-issued, it is easy enough to find a small crop of rather more strange developments of the basic history outlined here.

The most prominent, associated at one remove with C. A. Somerset as described above, may have been the appearance of a novel entitled The Tragical History of Jane Arnold, sometimes issued with a more full title that added '... commonly called Crazy Jane; and Mr. Henry Percival' and sometimes with the epithet 'Tragic' rather than 'Tragical', depending on which printer issued copy; in itself, perhaps, telling us much about the lack of protection for authors about which there was much debate; and also about the whims of printers.  The novel was written by a Sarah Wilkinson as one in a series of chapbook publications, sometimes known as 'Blue' books, that besprinkled the Gothic literary era.

Online sources reveal that Morren, printer of broadsides, Edinburgh, issued a copy of this story, probably in chapbook form and stimulated, no doubt, by its first appearance under the auspices of Anne Lemoine.  There is also copy from Angus in Newcastle, issued at around 1812.

Sarah Wilkinson's own life was full of tragedy.  She appears in history almost always as being in straitened circumstances, despite an occasional success; putting out chapbook after chapbook, and adaptations - 'tradactions' - of works that included two versions of the 'Monk' Lewis' melodrama The Castle Spectre, one in 1807 and another in 1820.The height of the Gothic 'chapbook' era looks if as it had occurred around 1810.  Thereafter, Wilkinson full novels appeared intermittently and included The Bandit Of Florence (1819) and The Curator's Son (1830), Gothic in nature but without the shock-horror found in The Monk.

Sarah Wilkinson, who had a daughter, Amelia Scadgell (or 'Scudgell'), but who may or may not have been married, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1824; had to give up custody of her daughter and, after a life that declined in all respects, died through her cancer.76

As if Sarah Wilkinson's life and demise were not enough there was already one sad life-case reported in the Ipswich Journal:

Life and art, memorable indeed.

And the echoes of the deaths of certain writers who took up the Crazy Jane theme prolongs the irony.

In terms of cultural absorption - oral remembrance - a court case from 1829 reveals how a Mrs. Carr was referred to by her neighbours as Crazy Jane.77

In these incidences it is worth noting how the newspapers drew on public memory and, pertinently, for how long Crazy Jane had already been absorbed into that memory - perhaps until people no longer actually did truly recall any of the circumstances of the first or any early appearance of the poem; a process that we are familiar with in the course of taking up traditional songs.

The vicissitudes of memory apart, whilst the height of popularity for Crazy Jane and associated manifestations had long passed, a print appeared as conceived by Richard Dadd (1817-1886) that was called Sketch for an idea of Crazy Jane.  He also painted Agony-Raving Madness in 1854.  The two works together underline a streak of obsession in Dadd's life and work and a credulous public.  Dadd was, to say the least, an unfortunate individual.  His own life was hair-raising: the murder of his own father whom he thought to be the Devil in disguise, a flight to France, an eventual return and confinement to Bethlem Hospital and then Broadmoor.  He became known for his depictions of fairies and other supernatural subjects, all in minute detail and a good number created whilst he was a psychiatric patient.  Dadd, in some measure, lived out the Gothic fantasy.

Such themes persisted and in a painting by James John Hill (1830-1870) we come across a portrait of Mad Margery, a Young Woman Driven Mad and Living in the Fields that evokes very similar histories as did that of Crazy Jane.78

The Mistletoe Bough, mentioned in discussion and doleful enough, illustrates how themes and associations persisted.

It is worth indicating that Crazy Jane surfaced as a text in the Hardy Puddletown manuscripts - a date of April 25th 1800 is attached in records although, as noted in the Hurd piece on this site, there has to be a doubt about the dating.  Hardy was not born until 1840.  Was it, then, that he used existing manuscripts?  Alternatively, the date - not on copy - might indicate a first publication of Crazy Jane.  It does transpire, anyway, that the Hardy record is in the nature of a Crazy Jane text that is faithful to the original save for one or two orthographic features - such as 'witts' and by the absence of the final lines as found in the Lewis version.79

One other off-centre example of how the name 'Crazy Jane' was adopted is that of the naming of race-horses after the character in the poem.  And in this regard, Parisot had had a horse named after her that won the Epsom Derby in 1796;(an online reference).  The appearance of horses so-named continued right through into the 1820s and several new owners are mentioned in both English and Irish newspapers.  However, it becomes clear that such-and-such a horse was 'out of' Crazy Jane; and that then Crazy Jane became a pony or was used for coursing rather than racing.  It is the name alone that binds them together and this race-horse phenomenon has to be seen as - amusingly? - peripheral to the progress of Crazy Jane in all its other guises.80

Much later again, W. B. Yeats wrote a series of Crazy Jane poems with a stylized tone of lament and rage at the world.  The Yeats sequence of seven poems is small enough and its matter and form are far removed from the original poem - with which, it is still worth noting - he was familiar.  The poem as song, though, may have eluded him.  In any case, Yeats has a wonderful way of re-constituting older material.  The obvious example would be Down by the sally gardens, thought to be derived from You Rambling Boys of Pleasure.81


The overall impact of Crazy Jane was, to say the least, considerable, not too far removed from that of Black-Ey'd Susan and in varied situations.  In these disparate contexts - if, latterly, as rather isolated examples - social trends, theatre performance (a myriad list of actors and of plays and related items), literary output including chapbook production, some visual art and (in the present instance the proper study of mankind) broadside balladry, are amply illustrated.  More particularly, as is the case with all broadside ballads and songs that have received individual attention throughout this series, there has been an attempt to discover something about genesis in print or appearance in vocal form.  In this case, it can be seen quite clearly that Crazy Jane came out of mainstream if not elevated poetry and that its progress was diverse.

Finally, it is worth recording that whilst Crazy Jane seemed to have sunk out of sight, Henry Burstow's list of songs included Crazy Jane, The Birth of Crazy Jane and The Death of Crazy Jane.  Further still, Crazy Jane was collected by Kenneth Peacock in Newfoundland as late as 1952 and the lyrics show a remarkable faithfulness to the original and their vehicle is an interestingly plangent tune that contrasts eloquently with the drawing-room output of Harriet Abrams et al.  It is altogether an unusual survival.82

Click grahic above for MIDI file playback.


Roly Brown - 16.3.17
Oradour sur Vayres, France

Article MT308

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