00. Introduction

No. 2                                      Songs, within memory

          Specimens of Songs and parts of Songs, (from memory) sung about the streets within my recollection and without molestation.

          Every one of the songs mentioned might be bought of the those [sic] who sold ballads in the streets against the walls, each song for a halfpenny.

                 The Bishop of London in 1750 in his letter to the Clergy and People of London and Westminster on the late Earthquakes Says. The Infamous and obscene songs and ballads that are openly sung in our public streets, to the great uneasiness of all modest virtuous persons who are passing by; to the great corruption and depravity xxx of our servants and children and to the total discouragement of virtue among the common people in general.”
                                                                             Ladys Mag. May. 1750— p.194.1


     The Songs that are defective were all known to me when I was an apprentice boy – but forgotten past recollection.
     Those made perfect have been so made from the recollection of old fellows whom I have known

Written 1819


The following songs and specimens of songs, are all of them from ballads, bawld and about the streets, and hung sold against the walls. It will seem incredible that such songs should be allowed but it was so. There is not one of them that I have not myself heard sung in the streets, as well as at Chair Clubs, Cock & Hen Clubs & Free & Easys. Every one of them are were recollected by Mr Tijou,i and most of them by Mr Hayward,ii and some lines or passages have been added by them these persons. It must not be supposed that they were sung only in the places which I have mentioned, they were sung in all parts of the town. There were probably a hundred ballad singers then for one now.2

The cou causes of their being discontinued to be sung are various among others, a more active Police. The Society Association against republicans and levellers also contributed to this end, John Reeves and his associates, together with the magistrates, extinguished them.3 The association printed a large number of what they called Patriotic Loyal songs, and gave them to ballad singers; if any one was found singing any but loyal songs, he or she was carried before a magistrate who admonished and dismissed him or her, and they were then told they might have loyal songs for nothing, and that they would not be molested while singing them. Thus the bawdy songs; and those in praise of thieving and getting drunk were pushed out of existence. These loyal songs were succeeded by Dibdin Seas Songs, so that and the old blackguard songs were in a few years unknown to the youths4 of the rising generation, and thus the taste for them subsided. I have no doubt at all that if ballad singers were now to be left at liberty to do as sing they pleased by the police, that to sing these songs that the people in the streets would not permit the singing of such songs them. Such songs as even 35 years ago produced applause met with applause and the singers with encouragement would now cause the singers to be rolld in the mud.
          Not one of these songs even the most infamous was at all objected to. since I can remember, and Servant maids used to stop in the markets, to hear them sung, and used to purchase them. This was the case with Morgan Rattler.
          Another cause of their suppression discontinuance was the proceedings of the Society for the suppression of Vice.5

Place's Notes

i. Mr Tijou is a Carver and Gilder & is in a large way of business in Greek Street Soho

ii. Mr Haywood is an attorney living in Tooks Court


Editor's Notes

1. The Bishop of London, Thomas Sherlock, published a letter "On the Occasion of the Late Earthquakes" in (1750), that complained of the increasing number of "Places of Diversions" and noted: "While I was writing this I cast my Eye upon a News-Paper of the Day, and counted no less than fifteen Advertisements for PlaysOperasMusick, and Dancing, for Meetings at Gardens, for Cock-fightingPrize-fighting, &c." The letter was published on its own but was also printed in Volume 1, Issue 10 of the  Ladies Magazine or the Universal Entertainer by Jasper Goodwill (1749-1752) in March 1750. Sherlock then published a much lengthier supplement, which was similarly published in The Ladies Magazine, in serial form, over five issues. Place's reference comes from the third installment of the supplement, which was published in Volume 1, Issue 13, (May 19-June 2, 1750).

2. Chair Clubs, Cock and Hen Clubs and Free and Easys were all kinds of clubs that encouraged singing. Cock and Hen Clubs were notable in that they admitted women as well as men. There was a Cock and Hen Club that met at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket in the 1790s, but most of them met in more out of the way places, such as the Golden Hart in St Giles.

3. John Reeves was the founder of The Association for Preserving Liberty and Property Against Republicans and Levellers, which met at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand between November 1792 and June 1793. They were formed with the intention of preventing the spread of seditious activity in the wake of the French Revolution and particularly targeted the London Corresponding Society, of which Place would later become a key member.

4. Charles Dibdin (1745-1814) was probably the era's best-known writer of popular song. He began his career as an actor and writer of songs and comic operas for the London stage, working alongside the likes of Isaac Bickerstaff, Thomas Arne, and David Garrick. In the 1780s and 1790s he pioneered solo entertainments initially on tour, and then in purpose-built theaters in London, initially at 411 Strand and then at Leicester Place. A mainstay of these solo shows were songs about sailors, performed in character,  that contributed to the more favorable reputation of the navy during the Napoleonic Wars. These Sea Songs (or "Dibdins" as they were sometimes known) proved extremely popular, and are featured prominently both in broadside ballad collections from the period and in more elite collections of sheet music intended for domestic performance, such as that belonging to Jane Austen's family. Songs such as "The Sailor's Adieu" and "Tom Bowling" remained popular well into the late Victorian period, inspiring, among other things, Gilbert and Sullivan's opera, H.M.S. Pinafore, the subtitle of which is a reference to a Dibdin Song "The Lass That Loved a Sailor."

5. The Society for the Suppression of Vice, or the Proclamation Society was founded in 1802 by William Wilberforce to improve public morality following a Royal Proclamation in 1787. In an address in 1803 it listed as its concerns the "profanation of the Lord's Day and profane swearing; publication of blasphemous, licentious and obscene books and prints; selling by false weights and measures; keeping of disorderly public houses, brothels and gaming houses; procuring; illegal lotteries; cruelty to animals."

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For discussions of Place's account of these songs see:

V.A.C. Gatrell, The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People, 1770-1868 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 109-155.

Saree Makdisi,  Making England Western: Occidentalism, Race and Imperial Culture (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2013), pp. 39-132.

Ian Newman, "'Civilizing Taste': Sandman Joe, the Bawdy Ballad, and Metropolitan Improvement," Eighteenth-Century Studies, 48.4 (2015), pp. 437-456.