24. To the Hundreds of Drury I write

                  No 24.       1

To the Hundredsi of Drury I write,
and the rest of my flashy companions,
To the buttocksi* that pad it all night
      To pimps whores bawds and their stallions
To those that are down in the whit ii
      Rattling their darbiesiii with pleasure,
Who laugh at the rumiii* culls they’ve bit,
While here they are snackingiv their treasure.

This time I expect to be nubb’dv
      My dudsvi are grown wondrous seedyvii
I pray you now send me some bub,viii
      A bottle or two, to the needy.
I beg you won’t bring it yourself
      The hangman is at the Old Bailey
I’d rather you'd send it by half
      For, if they twigix you, they’ll nailx you.

Moll Spriggins came here t’other night,
      She tipp’dxi us a jorumxii of diddle,xiii
Garnish is the prison’rs delight,
      We footed away to the fiddle,
Her fortune at diving,xiv did fail,
      For which she had chang'd habitation
But now the whore pads in the jail
      And laughs at the fools of the nation.

This time I expect no reprieve,
      The sheriff’s come down with the warrants,
An account now behind us we leave
      Of our friends, education and parents,
Our bolts are knock'd off in the whit,
      Our friends to die penitent pray us,
The Nubbing cullxv pops from the pitxvi
     And into the tumbrilxvii conveys us.

Through the streets as our wheels slowly move
      The toll of the death bell dismays us,
With nosegays and gloves we are decked,
      So trim and so gay they array us,
The passage all crowded we see,
      With maidens that move us with pity;
Our air all admiring, agree
      Such lads are not left in the City.

Oh! then to the tree I must go,
      The judge he has ordered that sentence.
And then comes a gownsman you know,
      And tells a dull tale of repentance,
By the gullet we’re ty’d very tight,
      We beg all spectators, pray for us,
Our peepers are hid from the light,
      The tumbril shoves off and we morrice.

i. Hundreds— the wretched Courts Lanes and Allie in St Giles
i*. Miserable haggard Prostitutes.
ii. Whit— Tothill Fields Prison
iii. Darbies— Irons. 
iii*. Rum Culls—those whom they robbed
iv. Snacking — dividing—spending.
v. Nubb’d— Hanged
vi. Duds— Cloaths.
vii–Seedy—Worn out.
viii. Bub—Drink.  Liquor.
ix. Twig—See
x. Nail—Seize. Not for Bringing the liquor but because
                             you are known –“want you.”
xi. Tipp’t— Gave 
xii. Jorum— Pot—bowl— 
xiii. Diddle— Punch—mixed liquor— &c  
xiv. Diving—Picking of Pockets.
xv. Nubbing. Cull—Jack Ketch.
xvi. Pit— — Goal.
xvii. Tumbrill— Cart

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This song was originally published with the title "John Sheppard's Last Epistle" on the day that the notorious thief Jack Sheppard was executed (The Daily Journal, Monday November 16, 1724 no 1193).  Even before his death Jack Sheppard was a notorious folk hero. His exploits were sensationalized and accounts of his life were written by Daniel Defoe and William Harrison Ainsworthand many others. A pantomime based on his life "Harlequin Sheppard" was put on at Drury Lane a few weeks after his death, and Sheppard is often cited as one of the inspirations behind MacHeath in Gay's Beggar's Opera. 

The words to the song were reprinted nearly half a century later in The Humours of London (1770). The tune was used for a variety of different songs, including one in The Vocal Miscellany (1734), and A Complete Collection of English and Scottish Tunes (1735),  and another in The Musical Companion Or Ladies Magazine (1741) starting "Since Life is At Best But A Cheat", suggesting is was a well known song in the 1730s and 40s.

The tune "To The Hundred of Drury I Write" appeared in at least two ballad operas in 1732: The "Humours of the Court" and "The Devil of A Duke". The printed script to the latter of these also contained the music, which can be found in the image below.

Appearing in the Festival of Anacreon (1790), the song "The Night Before Larry Was Stretched" is directed to be sung to the tune "To The Hundred of Drury I Write", this the subsequently appeared in Paddy Whack's Bottle Companion (1791). Indeed "The NIght Before Larry Was Stretched" (Roud 37837) has a close relationship to this song -- and his since gone on to have a significant recording history, particularly in Ireland where it has been recorded by Frank Harte and The Wolfe Tones, and indeed has provided the name to a popular session held at the Cobblestone Pub in Dublin.

"To the Hundreds of Drury" is also known sometimes as the Bowman's Prigg's Farewell and as Moll Spriggins. It appeared under the latter title in The Frisky Songster (1776).

A truncated variant of the song was reprinted in The confession, &c. of Thomas Mount (New Haven: 1791). p with the title A Song made by a Flash Cove the evening before his Execution.


Further Reading

Robin Hamilton "All's Bowman!: The Cant Lexis in London in 1725"


To The Hundreds Of Drury I Write Tune
Air 4 is identified as the Tune to The Hundreds of Drury from "The Devil of A Duke" (1732)


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