27. Brick Dust Nan

         No. 27
 Brick Dust Nan

By the side of a green stagnant Pool, Brick dust Nan she stood scratching of her head,
    Her matted locks all over her skull, like the bristles of the Hedge Hog were spread;
But the wind blew her tatters1 abroad, and her arse and brown beauties reveald,
    When a link boy2 through the mud, bare footed scamperd over the field.
                                           With his lid, lod, lid, lod — &c.

Oh! my dear tho’ I cant so well draw, for the playing at the house ant’ begun,
    No tobacco ant' so sweet to my jaw, as a kiss from the lips of my Nan;
Running up to her straightway he gave her such a ribb squeezing huggs
    I could doss in a dusthouse with thee, tho’ bit by the Blood sucking buggs.
                                             With his lid lod — &c.

A courting they sat in the rain for the space of a quarter of an hour,
    Then their wedding to keep in the dry to a hog sty they instantly did scour;
Where the rats hungry round them explor’d, yet undauntedly they took their repose,
    All night in the litter they dossed, and got up in the morning to louse.3
                                             With their lid, lod &c.


Editor's Notes

1. Tatters: Tattered clothing

2. A link boy: pickpocket

3. Louse: to lounge around

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This is a song by George Alexander Stevens (1710-1780), a well known actor, playwright and songwriter. He is probably best known for his Lecture on Heads, through which he pioneered a new form of commercial entertainment, the one man show, which would have a significant influence on music hall traditions of the nineteenth century. Stevens wrote numerous comic afterpieces and plays. His works, such as Gay Bacchus, were (like Sandman Joe) performed at the Anacreontic Society which met at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand.

Brick Dust Nan is printed originally in Stevens's Songs, Comic, and Satyrical (1772) with the title "A Pastoral" and the tune "Despairing beside a clear stream" was indicated. This was a poem sometimes known as "Colin's Complaint" by Nicholas Rowe, it was set to music more than once, but most famously by Thomas Arne (composer of "Rule Britannia"). An earlier tune for the same poem appears in Gay's Beggar's Opera, for Polly's Song "Can Love Be Controll'd By Advice". This tune was adapted from the ballad "The Frantick Lover." (Roud V22631). Stevens's "Brickdust Nan" was included in many later songsters from the period including The Humours of London (1780) where it appeared with the subtitle "A love song from low life", and a longer version appeared in the Festival of Momus (1787). Later it appeared in the songster The Corinthian, published by Duncombe in around 1833, where it was printed with an indication of a tune "The Exciseman."

The version Place remembers has some notable (and fascinating) differences from the one Stevens printed in 1777.