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Folk songs in print: text and tradition.

'Oral tradition' has long been considered a defining characteristic of folk songs. Yet England has been a text-based society over the whole of the period from which ballads and folk songs are known (often through printed sources). In place of the emphasis on orality, therefore, a characteristic kind of textuality, described here as 'vernacular', unstable, or 'centrifugal', is identified in folk songs, irrespective of whether they are manifested in singing or in print. Unlike the 'literary' texts presented, for example, in Percy's Reliques, individual texts of this kind carry no special textual authority in themselves but rather an inherent reference outwards towards all their other actual and potential manifestations, regardless of format, embracing the possibility of variation as well as of continuity. This kind of vernacular textuality, it is argued, provides an important locus for the instantiation of 'tradition'.


Cecil Sharp, in English Folk-Song: Some Conclusions, summed up an attitude towards folk songs in cheap print which apparently grew out of his collecting experiences and which was shared by many of his contemporaries: 'A broadside version of a ballad is usually ... a very indifferent one, and vastly inferior to the genuine peasant song.' (1) Sharp's entire theory of folk-song transmission and communal re-creation, with its quasi-Darwinian triad of continuity, variation, and selection, is predicated upon oral transmission. (2) Yet it remains the case that vast numbers of songs, including classic ballads and items from the standard folksong repertoire, were printed and reprinted from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries and distributed throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, as broadsides and/or in garlands or songsters (small chapbooks containing several songs). (3) Between 1557 and 1709 more than three thousand broadside-ballad titles were registered with the Stationers' Company in London. (4) Tessa Watt estimates that somewhere between six hundred thousand and three to four million broadside ballads were printed in the second half of the sixteenth century. (5) In the nineteenth century, Henry Mayhew reported that over one-and-a-half million broadside copies were sold of 'The Murder of Maria Marten', a ballad subsequently collected from a number of different singers across England. (6) (Figure 1) It is difficult to imagine that these masses of printed items did not make a very substantial contribution to the dissemination and persistence of folk songs among singers--the 'continuity' of Sharp's triad.

Of course, broadsides and songsters at large embraced a very disparate range of songs or verses, some of them topical and possibly only of restricted interest, some of them popular songs of their day. Most probably not all of the songs printed on broadsides ever actually became current with singers, or more than briefly so. Nevertheless, it is still the case that significant numbers of broadsides are readily identifiable with the folk songs and ballads that were later collected directly from singers. Estimates are that up to ninety-five per cent of what have come to be considered as the standard repertoire of English 'folk' songs, as noted from singers, have at some time also circulated in cheap printed form. (7) Dianne Dugaw has noted that virtually all of the female-warrior, cross-dressing ballads that have been collected from singing have also appeared in print, and nearly all that have appeared in print have been collected from singers. (8) There is no reason to think that in this regard such songs are in any way exceptional. And not only are the texts of folk songs printed on broadsides often not readily distinguishable from those taken down from singers, but different broadside printings of the same song (even by the same printer) can display just the same kinds of textual variants as arise between versions recorded from different singers. (9)


English folk songs, therefore, largely exist not just as the transient products of oral performance but simultaneously as the products of a process of 'textualization', whereby a work of verbal art becomes a written or printed 'text', and acquires characteristics associated with the condition of being a 'text'. (10) These characteristics include, most significantly, a degree of fixed spatial and especially linear arrangement, which provides the potential for the exact reproduction over time and space of the work of verbal art, even of the precise arrangement of words on the page and the shape of the letters, potentially without limit. This diachronic reproducibility in turn imparts a profound appearance of permanence and stability, and consequently of an authority that resides in the printed text itself and which is also vested in the author who lies behind it. In light of the sorts of figures quoted above, English folk songs have to be considered as to some extent actually characterized by their susceptibility to transfer into, and out of, textual form. Even the relatively small proportion of songs of similar kind that are not known to have circulated in cheap print must be regarded as retaining this same potential for textualization.

In practice, and probably necessarily, the characteristics of textualization accrue to words most simply by virtue of their being transferred in some form to a physical medium. (11) For English folk songs, this can be writing in the form of either manuscript or print--most especially cheap print of the broadside and garland kind--and/or, at a later date, audio recording in its various formats from wax cylinders onwards. Writing, print, and audio recordings are all 'textual' media. Although they differ in terms of precisely what they can reproduce (witness the controversy surrounding the introduction of the phonograph in folk-song collecting, with Percy Grainger championing the new technology and others, like Sharp and Anne Gilchrist, more concerned about its limitations), (12) for the present purpose, the crucial common factor is that they preserve the physical presence of a verbal text in its sequential form, which is apparently permanent and could be reproduced exactly over and again. The result is a song that is seemingly text-bound, and in sharp contrast with the essentially evanescent oral performance of a song which has gone once its singing has ended. (13) At the root of the present discussion, then, is the apparent dichotomy between what has often been perceived as the stability of print, and the variability that is characteristic of folk singing--the paradox of the fundamentally textual nature of 'traditional' songs when they have for so long been held to represent a quintessentially oral tradition. (14)

For Sharp has been by no means alone in maintaining the essentially oral nature of folk songs. G.H. Gerould, for example, defined folk song by 'the moulding processes of oral transmission', and described the ballad as a 'completely oral' phenomenon. (15) The entry (by George Herzog) for 'song' in the Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend states: 'Folk song comprises the poetry and music of groups whose literature is perpetuated not by writing and print, but through oral tradition.' (16) In 1954 the International Folk Music Council, meeting in Sao Paulo, adopted a resolution commencing 'Folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission', drawn up by a commission that included Cecil Sharp's co-worker Maud Karpeles (and her brother-in-law and English Folk Dance and Song Society director, Douglas Kennedy), who always upheld Sharp's evolutionary theory and its oral basis. (17) Representative, perhaps, of more recent scholarship is Philip Bohlman's textbook on folk music in the modern world, which describes the coexistence of 'oral tradition' and 'written tradition' as a 'blatant paradox'. (18) The dialectic of stability and change characteristic of folk song is specifically equated with 'oral tradition', at the same time as literacy ('one of the most consistent contexts for folk music in oral tradition') and the printing of songs are acknowledged to feed into that dialectic, but it seems implicit that 'written tradition' is more or less secondary to the essential prerequisite that is 'oral tradition'. In contemporary ballad and folk-song studies, 'orality' and 'oral tradition'--terms used, sometimes a little imprecisely, to stand for a whole complex embracing oral performances, the process of oral transmission, and a corpus of what is deemed to be 'oral literature'--remain paradigmatic. The talismanic adjective 'oral' runs through so much of the published scholarship that it would be superfluous to attempt to cite examples here.

Even Francis James Child, whose attitude both to ballads circulating among singers in his own day and to ballads in print can appear inconsistent, was increasingly being guided by the idea of oral tradition by the time of his 1860 edition of English and Scottish Ballads. (19) Child (reflecting received opinion which can be traced, for example, in Herder and Grimm) termed the ballads 'popular' and envisaged the emergence of this sort of 'popular' or 'folk' literature as the direct consequence of a pre-literate social environment. (20) 'The condition of society in which a truly national or popular poetry appears explains the character of such poetry. It is a condition in which the people are not divided by political organization and book-culture into markedly distinct classes, in which consequently there is such community of ideas and feelings that the whole people form an individual.' (21) Later, when the imagined classless, stateless, preliterate community gave way to 'increased civilization, and especially the introduction of book-culture', a situation was reached where 'the popular poetry is no longer relished by a portion of the people, and is abandoned to an uncultivated or not over-cultivated class--a constantly diminishing number'. (22) With rather greater clarity, Child's former student William Wells Newell, co-founder of the American Folklore Society and first editor of the Journal of American Folklore, explicitly defined folklore at large as oral tradition: the formerly universal customs and beliefs of the whole community, now largely restricted to the conservative and less educated classes, which are best characterized by their oral transmission and represent a counterpart and complement to written literature. (23) And more than a century later, a recent survey of the state of folklore as an academic discipline still admits the critical importance of 'orality' as an 'organizing concept' for the field. (24)

Child's designated successor, G.L. Kittredge, wrote of his mentor's 'complete understanding of the "popular" genius, a sympathetic recognition of the traits that characterize oral literature wherever and in whatever degree they exist'. (25) Professor Child is generally credited, too, with having laid the foundations for the study of oral literature at Harvard, represented in subsequent generations by the enormously influential work of Milman Parry and Albert Lord on the 'Homeric Question' and on South Slavic epic poetry. (26) Later still, the ballad scholar David Buchan would write, 'Child possessed a remark-able capacity for distinguishing the stylistic traits of oral--or as he would call it, popular--balladry.' (27) Buchan's own work in The Ballad and the Folk endeavoured to demonstrate the amenability of Scottish ballads to oral-formulaic re-creation on the Parry Lord model. In brief, the argument is that the true oral ballad singer, like the singer of epic tales, does not memorize an entire text but re-creates or 'improvises' it anew at each performance, drawing on a common stock of stories, episodes, structural techniques, and a formulaic vocabulary and 'grammar' which are peculiar to oral artistry, and that the impress of this process remains in the form of distinctive verbal and structural patternings in ballad texts.

In England, the folk revival has long been driven by the idea of oral tradition. As Vic Gammon has noted in regard to the Victorian and Edwardian collectors, 'The factor which differentiates the English folk song movement from earlier interest in old and popular song is the insistence that both tune and text should be taken directly from oral tradition.' (28) This preference reflects a variety of different impulses related to aspects of the prevailing social and intellectual environment. Among these were the Victorian interest in 'popular antiquities', for which W.J. Thoms coined the term 'folklore' in 1846; the founding of the Folklore Society in 1878, and the emergence of a widely accepted theory of cultural evolution whereby folklore at large was equated with the sporadic 'survivals' of the culture of a largely superseded period of social evolution. (29) Also important was a reaction against the sort of literary antiquarianism exemplified by the ballads and songs printed in Thomas Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry and Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. A reaction, too, against social and cultural modernity encouraged early collectors, many of whom were musicians first and foremost, to seek out folk melodies that could represent an indigenous, English musical idiom (an exercise in Romantic nationalism which can, ironically, be compared with that of Percy and Scott).

The manuscripts of Sabine Baring-Gould, for example, give the impression that he rarely missed an opportunity to note when singers appeared 'illiterate'. Lucy Broadwood has been criticized for seeking to create the impression that singers such as Henry Burstow of Horsham in Surrey, who stated quite clearly that he learned songs from print as well as from other sources, had always learned them by ear, from singers who could not read. (30) And later, the American collector James Madison Carpenter (a protege of Kittredge's at Harvard), who recorded folk songs in Britain between 1928 and 1935, would regularly note against song texts 'never saw in print', information he presumably encouraged his contributors to volunteer. Singers like Harry Cox appear to have picked up from collectors the idea that a good memory would be more highly prized than an extensive collection of songs in print. (31) Bob Copper, too, who recorded singers in southern England for the BBC in the 1950s, has remarked that he liked meeting those who were illiterate because he knew that they had the songs in their hearts as well as their heads, and that they had not learned them from a book. (32) Examples like these could certainly be multiplied, but should be sufficient to demonstrate the primacy accorded to oral performance and transmission. More recent students of the subject--A.L. Lloyd, for example, and especially R.S. Thomson in his groundbreaking thesis on the broadside trade and its impact on folk-song transmission--have begun, gradually, to redress the balance in terms of recognition of the broadsides so disparaged by Sharp and his contemporaries. (33) But within this specifically English context, as among folk-song studies at large, it is still fair to point to the defining idea of oral tradition, in academic and more general discussions alike. (34)

Yet the kind of society that folk-song collectors encountered in mainly rural England in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was certainly nothing like preliterate, classless, or homogeneous. Accordingly, and in line with the theory of cultural evolution, folk songs had to be ascribed to just a particular, and extremely small, section of the community: the 'unlettered' or 'non-educated', the 'common people', 'the remnants of the peasantry', in Sharp's words. (35) As early as 1846, James Henry Dixon had published a volume with the title Ancient Poems, Ballads, and Songs of the Peasantry of England. (36) Whether termed the 'common people', the 'peasantry', or the 'folk', this section of the populace was believed to be constantly diminishing as education advanced and the older singers died out. The younger singers' preferences were perceived as being for the popular songs of the day. This is just this sort of situation that Child envisaged, although it is not necessary to presume direct lines of influence between English and American scholars and collectors. (37) Eventually, however, cultural evolution and 'survivals', and along with them the whole idea of the 'folk', became gradually but generally-discredited, largely as a consequence of the way in which anthropology developed as a discipline, studying real people in real social/historical environments.

Accordingly, if folklore, or folk songs in particular, were still to equate with culture, then it had to be the culture of the people from whom they had actually been collected in the early years of the twentieth century. For A.L. Lloyd, folk song became synonymous with 'lower-class' song. (38) Folk songs could be described as the songs of the 'rural working class'. (39) Yet, while on the one hand 'folk song' obviously is a form of cultural expression, on the other hand it equally obviously does not directly equate with the totality of the singing culture of the working class (that is, if 'culture' is to be used in anything like the rather comprehensive and defining way in which the term is normally employed). Indeed, the early collectors themselves had deliberately, if more or less subconsciously, spurned that equation. 'Folk songs' then--and, largely, now--were defined generically on aesthetic criteria, in terms of the subject matter and style of their words and music, and, to a lesser extent, their style of performance. Other parts of the repertoire of rural singers (parlour ballads, music hall and popular songs, for example) that these collectors are, quite correctly, accused of having failed to record, were purposeful omissions: 'What the folk song collectors did ... was to impose meaning on certain aspects of the musical activities of the rural working class.' (40) In effect, the demise of the 'folk' as a meaningful social category has been, more or less inevitably, accompanied by a partial conceptual separation of 'folklore' from 'culture'.

One consequence of that separation has been the charge of cultural intervention. Dave Harker accused the early collectors and editors of 'mediating'--appropriating and misrepresenting--'workers' song-culture'. (41) Yet, as Chris Bearman's detailed demographic analyses have shown in regard to Cecil Sharp's Somerset singers, the real people who sang the folk songs he collected by no means belonged to a single, uniform social grouping. (42) No more than two-thirds of the male singers could be fitted into a category of manual or industrial wage-earners. Perhaps even more significant are the sheer range of occupations that the singers were engaged in, men and women alike, the absence of clear divisions between urban and rural within the region, and the fact of very considerable social mobility among the singers and their families. Sharp's contributors included, among others, farmers and farmers' wives, clergymen, tradesmen, artisans, skilled and unskilled labourers, self-employed women, paupers, gypsies, and single women of independent means. Some of these people were notable local figures and were worth substantial sums by the time they died; others died in virtual poverty. In some cases the singers' occupations changed during their lifetimes, taking them either up or down the social scale.

There are other examples, too. Recent and continuing research by Martin Graebe (with assistance from Chris Bearman) into the men and women from whom Baring-Gould collected songs on Dartmoor suggests that the apparent emphasis on poverty and illiteracy that comes through in his manuscripts and publications may have created something of a false impression. (43) Among the singers were farmers, some of whom were the owners of their holdings, established tradesmen listed in commercial directories of the time, innkeepers, and artisans, as well as labourers and the like--in fact, a cross-section of men and women, often well-respected within their own communities and a few of whom were property owners of some substance. Frank Kidson's contributors also included people of considerable social standing in late Victorian Leeds. (44) Joseph Taylor, from whom Percy Grainger collected songs between 1905 and 1908, was bailiff of a large estate in Lincolnshire, a position of considerable responsibility, having previously worked as woodman and carpenter, and he was also parish clerk of Saxby All Saints. Grainger described him as 'neither illiterate nor socially backward', and his granddaughter resented the label of 'peasant' that was sometimes attached to her grandfather. (45) Coincidentally, Bob Copper's father Jim, just like his own father James 'Brasser' Copper before him, eventually became the bailiff on a large Sussex farm, having started work as a shepherd-boy. (46)

By E.P. Thompson's criterion for the emergence of social classes, which requires the appearance of a sense of class-consciousness--'class happens when some men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs'--it would not be easy to present Sharp's folk songs from Somerset, for example, as inherently the property of the working class. (47) Of course, there are many different ways of defining social class and perhaps of arriving at a different conclusion. Indeed, class itself may not be the best concept to use when seeking to describe what is now emerging as the rather disparate and quite complex range of social groups from whom folk songs were being collected in Victorian and Edwardian England. For the early modern period, when a not insignificant number of the classic ballads and folk songs later collected from singers were already circulating in print, the very terminology of social 'class', and especially of class-consciousness and conflict, remains highly problematic. (48) Historians of the period offer a complex picture of extremely heterogeneous and often ambiguous social relations. (49) Besides economic circumstances, the social environment was differentiated in multiple ways by forces of cohesion and conflict arising out of such proximate factors as kinship and neighbourliness, paternalism and deference, gender and occupation, cultural and religious habit. Marked regional and local variations were evident, and the period was characterized by constant social mobility. Everyday reality at the local level was then determined by the interplay of these kinds of forces of social identification and differentiation, and by individuals' differing perceptions of those forces.

Within that context, the impression is that habits of singing and listening were widespread in early modern England. Relatively little is known for certain and the early references tend to be brief, allusive, often literary, and somewhat difficult to interpret. (50) The historical records do provide a certain amount of hard evidence for the ubiquity of musicians, singers, and ballad sellers, especially when they came into contact with officialdom. (51) The writing, printing, and singing of scurrilous, libellous, and political songs predictably attracted attention, like the conviction of three fiddlers from Middlesex, named Moseley, Markehall, and Greene, 'being poore people', for singing 'libellous songs against the duke of Buckingham'. (52) There are remarks about singers and singing to be gleaned from writers both well-known and more obscure, and as diverse as George Puttenham, Sir Philip Sidney, Miles Coverdale, Thomas Deloney, Roger Ascham, Samuel Harsnet, Thomas Tusser, Henry Chettle, Thomas Nashe, Robert Burton, Sir William Cornwallis, Richard Corbet, Nicholas Breton, John Earle, Wye Saltonstall, Izaak Walton, John Aubrey, Dorothy Osborne, Addison, Pope, and Defoe. (53) Ballads and broadsides, songs and singing, permeate the drama--most pertinently, for the present purpose, the Tudor and early Stuart popular drama (Shakespeare's Autolycus, Mopsa, and Dorcas, Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, and the rest), although this remains indirect testimony from imaginative writing. Then, of course, there is the also indirect but nonetheless compelling evidence of the sheer quantity of ballads and songs extant in early manuscripts and in print, some of which have subsequently been collected from singers. Printed songs of the broadside and garland kind appear to have circulated very widely indeed, socially as well as geographically, disseminated along with all sorts of everyday commodities, passed from hand to hand, pasted onto walls, sung out loud, copied, and learned from singing.

Such as it is, then, this variety of evidence probably is sufficient to permit the assumption of some familiarity with what would now be broadly called folk songs among groups of men and women in urban and rural environments across the broad swathe of early modern English society that historians designate by the phrase 'the middling sort of people'. (54) It is probably safe to assume that the poor, in so far as they were able to participate at all, shared much the same cultural space. And it does appear that some of the gentry would have come into contact with some of the same songs, if only through the theatre or antiquarian literary interest, although their reception might on occasion have been of a different nature (as some of the less complimentary literary references suggest). By the late nineteenth century, however, it is equally probably fair to say that folk songs were not generally characteristic of the cultural life of the expanding and aspiring bourgeoisie. It is difficult, though, to go very much further than that by way of generalization, and safer simply to state that folk songs, at the time the Victorian and Edwardian collectors were noting them down, were most prevalent in the cultural life of rural and urban workers, broadly defined, and of others who shared something of their communal/cultural/ideological space.

Two further, somewhat tentative, points concerning the social dimension to the circulation of folk songs over time are perhaps worth making here. The first is that, with the expansion of primary literacy and the growth in different kinds of reading matter, the sort of broad social grouping described by the phrase 'rural and urban workers' had probably also, by the nineteenth century if not before, come to represent the main market for songs in cheap print of the broadside and chapbook kind. Thus, if the transition from early modern to modern England did indeed see a concentration of familiarity with folk songs into a somewhat narrower social grouping than before, then that concentration was quite probably matched by a roughly similar pattern as regards the circulation of the same kinds of songs in cheap print. The second, and more contentious, point is that the late Victorian and Edwardian folk revivalists themselves have occasionally been credited with certain democratic ideas that gave them some sort of perceived ideological/cultural affinity with the people who sang the folk songs they collected. (55) And, certainly, by the time of the post-war folk revival an ideological affinity had become an important focus for widespread and socially diverse folk singing. (56)

So, once the diachronic dimension is added to synchronic snapshots like those of Sharp's Somerset singers or Baring-Gould's singers on Dartmoor, the possibility of class ownership in a repertoire of folk songs begins to recede. None of this is to deny the existence of folk-song repertoires localized to particular groups or communities at particular moments in time, or to take from individual singers their artistic 'ownership' of the particular items that they sing. The concept of 'song ownership' within groups of singers is well documented--though even there it can give rise to disputes which do not allow of any logical resolution (as, for instance, when the same song has been learned by different singers from different sources, including, perhaps, print). (57) Certain songs at particular times and places can indeed be identified with specific social groups, and this may be especially the case with regard to some kinds of occupational songs and local songs. But neither is there any question that, so far as the great bulk of the English folk-song repertoire is concerned, the same songs have been sung in very many different contexts, at many different times and places, and by many different people--and accordingly the notion of any kind of absolute cultural ownership is unsustainable. Over the long term, in the presence of geographical dissemination and temporal and social difference and change--not to mention unrestricted circulation in print--it becomes very difficult to equate folk songs at large with specific social situations in a stable and unequivocal way.

So, if folk songs are not the property of an invented 'folk', and if the standard repertoire of ballads and rural folk songs is not intrinsically the cultural property of a particular social class, then what might remain of the received folk-song concepts? An answer, of course, lies in the much vaunted 'oral tradition'. Unquestionably, folk songs were transmitted and performed orally, that is to say passed on by singing and learned by listening, sometimes by singers who might not have been able to read, but also by singers who were perfectly literate but still happened to learn their songs from oral performances. Walter Pardon described how he had learned songs from his uncle Billy Gee by listening to him singing them over when they had time on their hands in the early 1930s when work was scarce, and how in turn Uncle Billy had learned them from Walter's grandfather, Thomas Cook Gee, who, according to Billy, had had copies of them on broadsides. (58) Harry Cox told Charles Parker of how his father, Bob Cox, who could neither read nor write, learned songs off other people: 'He got them to write him one out if he liked, same as I should ... Well, then he gave 'em two bob to keep singing on it and reading on it to him. And that's how he learned his songs.' (59) George Dunn from Staffordshire sang folk songs and ballads which he had learned from his father, who could neither read nor write, and which George himself had never seen in print until he came into contact with collectors (he also sang some popular songs learned from printed sources). (60) Most of Cecil Sharp's Somerset singers, the available evidence suggests, learned their songs directly from other singers. (61)

The point here is certainly not to deny the possibility, even the overwhelming probability, of the widespread oral transmission of folk songs among singers--yet where the same songs could also circulate widely in cheap print of the broadside and garland kind, then their texts cannot be regarded as being in an intrinsic or defining way 'oral'. Rather, they are inherently 'textual', in the sense of their being readily amenable, both in potential and in practice, to translation into and out of a written form, no matter by what route they might have been transmitted in any particular instance. No doubt singers have very often written down songs in notebooks and the like to assist in the learning process and for subsequent reference. Indeed, the reciprocity of singing, writing, and print is clearly implicit in the brief descriptions above of how Harry Cox's father Bob, or Walter Pardon and his Uncle Billy, had learned their songs. Harry Cox told Bob Thomson that his father probably learned 'The Foggy Dew' via a broadside purchased at Norwich market by his wife, Harry's mother, who could read--which Thomson justly describes as an example of 'effective' literacy. (62) (Figure 2) The version that Harry himself sang departs remarkably little from the broadside text issued by Pitts, Catnach, Such, and other printers in London and the provinces. (63)


One of the Somerset singers, Fred Crossman, did in fact state that he had learned 'As I Walked Through the Meadows' from a 'ballet' (broadside) at Bridgwater fair when he was about twelve years old (in the mid nineteenth century). (64) Again, in the 1960s Fred Hamer recorded a conversation with a Mr Hill from Tetford in Lincolnshire, who had learned 'The Butcher and the Chambermaid' (a song earlier collected from at least four different singers by Cecil Sharp) from a songsheet sold in the marketplace at Market Rasen before the First World War. (65) Henry Burstow, as noted above, learned songs from ballad sheets sold at fairs and from other printed sources. James Madison Carpenter collected 'Seventeen Come Sunday' from Harry Wiltshire of Bampton, who had learned it from his grandfather Shadrach 'Shepherd' Hayden, and characteristically noted 'Never saw in print'; but he also recorded that William Hands of Willersey in Gloucestershire had heard the same song 'sung by a ballet singer in Stratford, selling ballets'. (66) And the songs of the Copper family have been preserved not only by constant singing out loud but also because Jim Copper in 1936 wrote out their words in the now-famous Copper family songbook, which Bob Copper calls a 'legacy': 'that book is treasured more than the family bible'. (67) Just as it would be possible to multiply over and again examples of singers learning songs from other singers without the intervention of writing, it would equally be possible to adduce many more examples of singers learning the words of songs (the tunes perhaps less so) from written and printed sources. But the point should be clear enough, and it is much more important to acknowledge the constant reciprocity of the two ways of learning than to suggest a dichotomy of routes or kinds of song.

In fact, none of this is altogether surprising because it has never been realistic to think of any part of England in the late Victorian/Edwardian period, the heyday of folk-song collecting, as an oral society. Literacy--while always allowing for the immense inherent difficulties first of definition and then of measurement, for the different uses that could be made of reading and of writing in different circumstances, and for variations in the practice of literate skills over time and with occupation, gender, age, social status, and region or locality--had long been quite widespread. By the turn of the nineteenth century literacy rates had reached levels around the ninety per cent mark. This is certainly not to deny the presence of non-literate people, some of whom were no doubt singers of folk songs, but it is to deny their isolation from the culture of writing and print that pervaded their social world. Contact, either direct or indirect, with the written and printed word must have been almost universal. Indeed, the researches of social historians over the past quarter of a century or so have steadily built up and reinforced a picture of the constant juxtaposition of the oral and the written and/or printed word in dynamic, reciprocal, mutually reinforcing interrelationships in England (and lowland Scotland, too, for that matter) at least as far back as the early modern period and to some extent beforehand, with literacy as such expanding from that time to the present day, although not at an entirely steady, linear rate. (68) As Keith Thomas has written of the early modern period: 'Literates and illiterates need not necessarily have different mental habits; and the illiterates of early modern England were in quite a different position from the non-literate inhabitants of purely oral societies. They lived in a world which was to a great extent governed by texts, even though they could not read themselves.' (69)

Thus the non-literate could still quote with great accuracy biblical and other texts. Proverbs printed in the Adages of Erasmus were part of the everyday parlance of people who may never have heard of Erasmus. While the Opies stressed the modern oral transmission of their collections of nursery rhymes, several classics of the genre appeared first in print in the seventeenth century. The general, pervasive habit of reading out loud meant that access to texts from print was never restricted to the technically literate. Familiarity with printed matter was assured even among those who could not read it by the pasting up in public and reading out of texts ranging from official proclamations to libellous ballads. 'Ballading' of one's enemies in the form of verse libels was practised across the social spectrum, and while public performance, sometimes in conjunction with rough music and ridings, would seem to be the main point of such verses, in fact they were usually written down as well, some-times illustrated with drawings, and even printed. Broadsides themselves were widespread, and in this sort of environment a single literate singer must have been able to ensure the very much wider circulation of a printed song. Conversely, although it is much harder to demonstrate, it seems certain that on occasion printers and publishers in the broadside trade were responsible for the writing down and reprinting of folk songs that were already circulating among singers. (70)

So it is scarcely coincidental that there should exist written and printed evidence for the circulation of some of the standard repertoire of folk songs in England over a period of some five centuries, during which time they have continued to share in a fundamentally text-based culture. And if folk songs are not the products either of an 'unlettered' 'folk' or of necessarily oral transmission, then their textual nature becomes an increasingly important defining feature. But the textualization of folk songs into cheap print, on broadsides or in garlands and songsters, must be of a rather particular kind, for it does not appear to be driven first and foremost by the potential for precise reproduction over time and space. Harry Cox's 'The Foggy Dew' is very close to the broadsides but it is not word for word the same; other singers' versions differ rather more, while still bearing a recognizable connection. Versions of 'The Murder of Maria Marten' collected from singers vary from the first broadside printings (which, in view of the date of their appearance relative to the events described, probably do represent the original composition of the ballad) in ways that can be associated with the effects of oral performance and transmission, or at least with the artistic freedom of the individual singer. (71) Baring-Gould had initially valued the melodies of folk songs far more than their words because he thought that the texts were merely those printed on broadsides; however, as he wrote to Child, once he had made the comparison, he realized that singers in Devon and Cornwall did not in fact slavishly reproduce the printed words, and this recognition seems to have had a significant impact on his attitude to folk-song collecting. (72)

The late seventeenth-century broadside text of 'The Cruel Mother', titled 'The Duke's Daughter's Cruelty', 'Printed for J. Deacon, at the Sign of the Angel in Guiltspur-street' (probably some time between 1684 and 1695), contains most--but not all--of the episodes and motifs that recur in versions from singers--but not all of them always--right up to the twentieth century. (73) It includes an incipit of three stanzas which describes how a duke's daughter who lived in York secretly fell in love with and became pregnant by her father's clerk, providing a succinct but implicitly quite detailed social and spatial context for the story. An explanation along the same lines recurs in a number of the versions that have been collected from singers. There is, as well, a three-stanza coda of moralizing comment, of the kind sometimes considered characteristic of broadside ballads, ending 'Young Ladies all of beauty bright, Take warning by her last good-night', but this probably does not recur in versions from singers. In addition, the broadside's particular refrain, 'Come bend and bear away the Bows of Yew ... Gentle Hearts be to me true', does not appear to have been collected from singing, although an alternating refrain is, of course, characteristic of the ballad. The broadside, just like the ballad from singing, displays very clearly the strongly marked verbal parallelisms, and binary, ternary, and annular patternings at the levels of stanzaic, tonal, and character structure, that have been considered especially characteristic of oral ballads, most notably by David Buchan in The Ballad and the Folk. This particular printing also contains a couple of textual oddities: a stanza that seemingly belongs to 'The Famous Flower of Serving-men', and the anomalous appearance of an additional child following the murder. The interloping stanza is probably not to be found again in texts from singers, although it can be argued that there is some similarity of narrative and especially emotional situation which might underlie the transfer of idea between ballads. Just occasionally, additional children do apparently occur in versions collected from singing, although the influence of this particular broadside cannot be assumed.

It is quite unknown whether 'The Cruel Mother' was already current among singers at the time the broadside was printed in the late seventeenth century, although its closeness to the ballad as later collected makes it quite tempting to presume that it was, and the textual oddities just mentioned look like the kind of quirks that a singer might have introduced. Howbeit, the broadside text briefly described here exists in a dynamic relationship with texts taken down from singers--cognate with them, but neither more nor less authoritative (not even by virtue of chronological precedence, since that remains uncertain), neither more nor less prone to variation. It is just one representative instance of the ballad's 'text' imagined as an abstraction that embraces all possible manifestations. Potentially, these are without limit (the record of collected versions is intrinsically incomplete--indeed, probably only the tip of the iceberg of recapitulations in singing across time and space), and they can be either printed (or written) or verbal (sung) without distinction. And while their variability is in practice constrained within the normal limits of observable folk-song variation, it can still be fairly substantial in terms of curtailment or expansion of the pattern that is apparent, for instance, from the broadside or from a particular singer's rendition--Danny Brazil's haunting few stanzas, for example. (74) In fact, it is a mistake to think of the broadside, any more than the set of words sung by any singer at any given moment, as being the pattern, the 'text'.

Examples such as this point to a reciprocity between print and singing stretching across several centuries. But the aim of singing--or, for that matter, of reprinting--has not necessarily been fidelity to the printed text. (75) In other words, the textualization of folk songs into cheap print does not impose the aura of permanence and stability that might be expected from a condition of potentially exact reproducibility over time and space. In practice, whether a sung version remains very close to a printed item or differs from it much more considerably is presumably a reflection of the individual singer's exposure to different possibilities as well as of his or her own artistic choice and temperament. (It is scarcely surprising, for instance, that similarities should generally be more apparent between texts collected from singers and those printed on broadsides in, say, the nineteenth century, than between singers' versions and those extant in print from a much earlier date.) (76) What is at issue here is a question of textual authority, or perceived authority--and that invested in broadside, garland, or songster print is, the evidence from folk-song collections suggests, strictly limited, and absolutely no more nor less than that which might attach to a set of words learned directly from another singer. Consequently, printed texts (probably just like texts noted down in manuscript) should not necessarily be expected to provide singers with anything more than an optional 'template'.

In this light, too, some of the stylistic distinctions that have been drawn between songs from print and from singing appear less rigid than is sometimes assumed. Thus the verbal and structural repetitions, parallelisms, and patternings, as well as the recurrent 'commonplaces' or formulaic diction, noted in texts collected from singing can also on occasion be found in broadside texts (of which 'The Duke's Daughter's Cruelty' is a good but by no means unique example). (77) Functionally, they provide a range of optional, mnemonic, narrative and linguistic structuring devices. These in turn can be variously interpreted, either as reflecting the specific impress of oral performance and transmission, or as relating more generally to processes of song creation, learning, adaptation, retention, and transmission, but irrespective of format. Equally, the supposed characteristics of broadside style are common enough among songs noted directly from singing: the presence, for example, of an audience-oriented narrative voice, which comes through especially in opening gambits such as 'Come all you ... and listen to my song' or moralizing comments of the 'take warning by me ...' variety, as well as the provision of deictic information in the form of everyday detail. (78) While it is possible to regard these as devices particularly appropriate to printing for the popular market and the circumstances of street singing and sale, (79) they seem just as appropriate to the act of engaging and holding the attention of more or less any group of listeners. This is not to deny the possibility of matters of style being closely related to the circumstances of production and performance--but it is to suggest that they need not be restricted to those particular circumstances, and that they can continue to function as song texts are transferred into and out of textual form. Rather than emphasising such distinctions, and the exceptions that inevitably come to mind, it is much more useful for the present purpose to think of the textual nature of printed folk songs as being continuous with that of folk songs collected from singing, and embodying paradigms of type and version, continuity and variation, stability and change.

Historically, however, this textual continuity has been obscured by the history of ballad publication, and especially the neoclassical and Romantic assimilation of broadside and other balladry to a canon of serious literature during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries--the so-called 'ballad revival', associated especially with Addison's papers on 'Chevy Chase' and 'The Two Children in the Wood' published in the Spectator in 1711, and with Thomas Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry which first appeared in 1765. (80) Beginning with Percy's Reliques--or perhaps with A Collection of Old Ballads (1723-25), or with the poetical miscellanies of the late seventeenth century, or the gathering together of items of literary historical and/or antiquarian interest in collections of broadsides like that begun by John Selden and continued by Samuel Pepys--collectors/editors/literati started to privilege certain ballads and songs in printed formats. Percy's Reliques comprised edited, emended, collated texts, with learned headnotes, in volumes that both physically and intellectually carried some considerable literary prestige. The broad thrust of Percy's model was emulated and extended through many subsequent ballad publications: among them, Thomas Evans's Old Ballads, Historical and Narrative (1777-84), Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802-03), and numerous collections produced by Scott's associates, such as Robert Jamieson's Popular Ballads and Songs (1806) and William Motherwell's Minstrelsy: Ancient and Modern (1827). Editions like these were designed to offer access to 'old' texts of national or regional ballad literature, as accurately as they could be recovered or reconstructed, even approaching towards definitive, archetypal, 'original', or Ur-texts, as conjectured by their editors. And it is worth noting that, for Percy (unlike James Macpherson, to whose Ossian the Reliques was an English response), those 'original' texts were written and not oral sources--'ancient' manuscript verse, which secondarily gave rise to oral minstrelsy, broadside balladry, and traces such as the Folio Manuscript. (81)

'Old' texts immured in several volumes (A Collection of Old Ballads, Percy's Reliques, Evans's Old Ballads, and Scott's Minstrelsy all conformed to the multi-volume format) of carefully designed and relatively expensive print, geared to the expectations of the contemporary literary intelligentsia in terms of both editorial practice and apparatus, are almost inevitably imbued with an authorial/editorial stamp and consequent sense of proprietorship--and with an aura of textual authority and stability. (82) There is even some evidence that the literary historical kudos that came to be attached to 'old' ballads during the eighteenth century was not confined to the literary elite. The Diceys, the dominant printers of broadsides and chapbooks of the mid century, based in London and Northampton, reprinted items from A Collection of Old Ballads, complete with headnotes, which were advertised for their age and historicity but were clearly aimed at a more popular market. (83) (Percy himself purchased broadside ballads from Dicey, although, unlike his acquaintance with Pepys's collection, he was reluctant to acknowledge this source.) Volumes such as Reliques of Ancient English Poetry and Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border rapidly acquired an iconic status, reflected in their importance to the Romantic movement, the rise of the literary ballad, and the spread of Romantic nationalism right across Europe. The influence of Percy's Reliques can be traced in English poetry through Wordsworth and Coleridge, Chatterton, and Blake, and in Germany through Herder to Goethe and the poets of the Sturm und Drang generation.

A consequence of the 'ballad revival', then, was the beginning of the entrenchment of a perception of the textual authority of ballads in print. Subsequently, some ballad and folk-song editors did begin to value much more individual textual variations and the idea of oral tradition. (84) Scott later came to regret his emendation and collation of texts. So, too, did William Motherwell, who in the remarkable Introduction to Minstrelsy: Ancient and Modern effectively repudiated his own editorial practice and emphasised instead multiplicity and variation in ballad and folk-song texts, and the importance of oral transmission in the preservation of their essential language and substance. (85) It seems possible, as well, that purchasers of Dicey broadsides might not generally have endowed their texts with quite the same authority as that accorded by book collectors to ballads in print. But in a sense the damage was done, and a modern sensibility, through which still run the currents of Romanticism, continues to privilege ideas of linear literary history and individual authorship made manifest through the printed word, and the consequent sense of the authority of printed texts that such paradigms impose.

Songs textualized into printed volumes do indeed admit the possibility of valued, private ownership; they belong to the realm of individual, silent reading or perhaps of polished performance. In practice, if only because of the publisher's investment, songs in this format undergo only restricted reproduction in print; attention is usually paid to accuracy, and alterations require some sort of authorization on the part of author/editor/copyright holder. In short, they carry a strong sense of textual stability and authority. They can be related, too, physically as well as intellectually, to other works of serious 'literature' of similar appearance and kind, similarly situated in literary history and circulating in the same relatively prestigious marketplace. They can be variously described as 'literary', 'private', and 'permanent'. In marked contrast, however, the textualization of songs into cheap print of the broadside and songster kind belongs to the realm of street rendition or performance, of being carried by pedlars and pasted on walls, of being printed many times over with scant regard for precision and limited respect for ownership of a copyright kind, and of being informally shared and read, perhaps copied, and sung out loud. These sorts of printed items carry little sense either of authorial proprietorship or of a fixed place in a linear literary history, and little sense of textual stability and authority. Physically and intellectually, they belong with other works of similar kind--chapbooks, jestbooks, almanacs, and the whole range of ephemeral broadside print--which were widely disseminated in large numbers over an extended period of time, in a dispersed, popular marketplace readily permitting a multiplicity of ownership. They are amenable to virtually unlimited reproduction, including recasting or recomposition, in speech or song as well as through reprinting. They are also simply much more prone to damage and destruction than are printed books. They can be described as 'vernacular', 'public', and 'transient'.

Drawing on narratological concepts of textuality and intertextuality, it is possible to create a workable distinction between these two kinds of song texts. (86) Those of the former type are rich with a sense of the attempt to define a text that belongs to a point in literary history, and they seem to demand an appropriately literary process of reception on the part of (first and foremost) the reader or (secondarily) the sophisticated listener or singer. Their inherent frame of reference is primarily inwards, towards their own limited recapitulation in print, towards a range of other texts of a similar physical nature and literary purpose, and towards texts of similar time and place (which can encompass both their real time and place of publication and their imagined time and place of origin). They are thus characterized by a textuality that implies a degree of direction and focus, and can be described analogically as 'centripetal'. Song texts of the latter, 'vernacular', type inhabit a much broader set of contexts, and there is scope for great freedom in their reception by listener, singer, or reader alike. Their inherent frame of reference is primarily outwards, towards their endless recapitulation and recreation across time and space in print, writing, and sound, and towards a huge range of texts of comparable nature and purpose, extending widely over time and place. Their textuality is characterized by very significantly less direction and focus, and can be termed 'centrifugal'. Works of the former kind are suggestive of a barrier between the literate and the oral; with those of the latter kind the apparent boundary between the printed text and the singer's song is quite illusory. Interestingly, Motherwell did not count broadsides as proper publications and regarded them as legitimate sources of songs alongside texts taken down from singers. (87)

Admittedly, the distinctions drawn here suggest a dichotomy, where in practice the implications of textualization most probably spread across a wide spectrum and may be somewhat fluid. Allan Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany (1723-37), even when published in four volumes, remained much closer as a functioning songbook to the single-sheet and pamphlet formats in which the songs were first published than, say, Percy's Reliques. Even some Reliques texts may have subsequently fed back into popular circulation via chapbook borrowings. (88) In part, the question is one of individual, subjective attitudes to texts, which are no doubt variable and which are difficult to reconstruct at a historical distance. Thomson notes, for example, that there are some grounds for believing that certain singers have been less inclined to learn songs from chapbooks than from slips or sheets in the broadside format, and that for Harry Cox 'the chapbook was a reading book which one kept carefully as a part of a library whereas the slip was for instant use and was disposable' (this was in the twentieth century, of course). (89) Nevertheless, the dichotomy described above is reflective of the history of the printing of ballads and songs, and of a legitimate distinction between, on the one hand, the reciprocity of printed texts with singing and, on the other, their appropriation into the realm of literary history.

In fact, texts characterized by a vernacular, unstable, 'centrifugal' textuality of the kind outlined here, on the face of it a rather peculiar condition, illustrate particularly well poststructuralist insights into the very nature of texts, their indeterminacy and lack of inherent authority, and the way in which both their status and their meaning are constantly relativized and destabilized. This kind of textuality accords very well, too, with the reciprocity of the oral and the written/printed word. Indeed, poststructuralist ways of thinking have brought about something of a convergence in the manner in which the reception of written and of oral texts is conceived, through the recognition of a similar transience of meaning creation in the presence both of writing and of oral utterance. (90) In folkloristic parlance, it becomes possible to regard a broadside text as analogous to a 'performance', cognate with other performances over time and space. (91) And the effective anonymity of early modern and later broadsides, largely printed without ascription, has an equivalence of sorts to the poststructuralist decentring of the authorial function (most famously announced in Roland Barthes's essay on 'The Death of the Author'). (92)

Indeed, a perception of effective anonymity of authorship--that is, in practice if not always in demonstrable fact--is implicit in much thinking about folk songs. There is, for instance, some argument as to whether some of the songs written by Robert Burns can really be called 'traditional' or 'folk' songs, since they are of known authorship. (93) On the other hand, they circulate among singers and are subject to some variation, there are some difficulties of attribution, and Burns's own aspiration to be the 'anonymous voice of Scotland' has been to a significant extent achieved. The textuality of Burns's songs might fall some way towards the 'centrifugal' end of the spectrum suggested above, their frame of reference being not solely or even primarily towards their literary author and his works, but also towards their currency with different singers, in different forms, at different times and places. In contrast, the textuality of modern songs of well-known provenance and composition is more plainly 'centripetal'. The inherent frame of reference for 'Yellow Submarine', frequently cited as an example of a pop song that has become a 'folk' song because it is often sung in informal circumstances, is towards the well-defined commercial model. (94) Arguably, there has been far more threat to the continuance of 'tradition' from the advance of copyright and intellectual property legislation, which enshrines notions of ownership and 'originality', than from the decline of orality (although informal song parodies and imitations might go some way towards reclaiming a vernacular stake in the texts of authored, commercial songs). In this regard, it is perhaps also worth noting the relative resistance within folk revivals towards the kind of star system so heavily promoted by the popular music industry, one consequence of which is possibly to reduce the textual authority of individual revival recordings. (95) Even so, the modern mass culture industry can be expected to exert pressure towards commercial definition even within folk revivals. (96)

So it should be apparent that a vernacular, 'centrifugal' textuality--which applies to songs in print as in singing, which embraces temporal and spatial extension, performance and variation, and which repudiates the textual authority of the author, the performer, or the printed word itself--is especially amenable to the expression of 'tradition'. Over the years, a vast range of meanings and values, often subtly differentiated and by no means always mutually exclusive, has been accorded to the idea of tradition. (97) The word is resonant with its ultimate root in Latin tradere and its various senses of transfer or delivery, to 'give', 'entrust', 'hand over', 'hand down', 'pass on'; and 'tradition' or 'traditional' can refer both to the matter that is handed down and to the process of handing down or passing on. However, in practice the quality of 'tradition', or sense of being 'traditional', does not simply inhere in a certain canon of material or in the mere repetition of an activity. Rather, it is the product of a continual process of creative selection on the part of individuals or groups of people, who themselves ascribe this quality to, identify it in, or express it through certain cultural products (ballads and folk songs, for example) and/or processes (such as the performance and transmission of songs). And the operation of selectivity and creativity in the location and expression of tradition has the enormously telling consequence--for the present discussion especially--that tradition is, probably always and necessarily, a value that is ascribed to cultural products and/or processes in the present. Yet at the same time the ascription of the quality of 'tradition' or 'traditional' equally necessarily serves in some manner to connect the present situation with other situations, for it embodies the very idea of handing down or passing on, which in turn requires the establishment, or at least the perception, of some such link. In particular, the identification of tradition serves to establish the perception of a temporal connection between the present and the past.

Accordingly, then, the sort of textuality posited here for folk songs and ballads, either in vocal form or in manuscript or cheap print, provides a ready-made locus for the ascription and expression, or 'instantiation', of tradition--that is to say, for the identification of a particular song in the present situation with other instances of the 'same' song, or songs of the 'same' kind, in other situations, across time and space. At any moment, for any listener or singer, a text, be it printed or vocal, that is inherently imbued with reference outwards towards other manifestations of itself, can readily take on references to and hence connections with other particular singers and performances, other particular occasions and relationships, other particular places and moments in time. Those connections are, of course, in a sense more or less transient, for they are recognized in that moment by that listener or singer, or perhaps a consensus of listeners and singers. Nevertheless, they do invite the association with that song at that moment of the value that is described as 'tradition' or being 'traditional', and the regular recurrence of such associations can amount to a kind of 'critical mass' which seems to demand that the epithet 'traditional' attach to that song.

That is not to say that only folk songs or ballads, or even only effectively anonymous vernacular songs, can be a focus for tradition. It has long been accepted that sometimes (though by no means always) singers value popular songs as much as folk songs, parlour ballads as much as Child ballads (not, however, to say that they are incapable of distinguishing between these things on aesthetic grounds). Other facets besides the purely textual can always be invoked to impart a sense of 'traditional weight' to songs and singing: subject matter, poetic and musical style, styles of singing and performance, continuity of social occasion, sense of place, repetition over time, affective association and engagement. In general, it might be useful to think of four different categories--temporal, aesthetic, social, spatial--that can all potentially contribute to a sense of the presence of tradition in cultural products and processes. These facets of tradition can then be invoked, singly or together, in endlessly variable combinations, and for reasons affective, ideological, and/or simply empirical, in order to identify particular cultural products and processes with the quality of being 'traditional'. This multiplicity is important, not just for reasons of semantic precision but because the multifaceted nature of tradition also serves as a reminder that tradition is an intangible value perceived and ascribed in the present, and both in the performance and in the reception. Tradition, momentarily recognized by individuals in the present, is existential, transient, phenomenological.

All of which is true--and yet the kind of 'centrifugal' textuality outlined here, with its inherent reference outwards from the specific textual instance to its recapitulation across time and space, occasion and relationship, does go some way towards inscribing the possibility of tradition into texts. To play (as many others have already done) on the title of D.K. Wilgus's famous presidential address to the American Folklore Society, 'The Text Is the Thing', the text may not be the thing but it is most certainly one of the things. (98) The folk songs and ballads on which this discussion has concentrated are indeed 'traditional' after all, in the sense that their characteristic textuality intrinsically provides a grounding for the ascription and expression of tradition. And this can remain so even when the specific instance is that of a song in print; indeed, the very amenability of folk songs to textualization--the ready transfer of vocal expression into and out of print--is itself a marker of their peculiarly fluid textual nature. Tradition still does not absolutely inhere in folk song and ballad texts, whether printed or sung, but the instincts of the early collectors in sensing that this is where it is likely to be expressed were not so misguided. Tradition remains a potentially arbitrary, transient attribute, and in the end textuality is perhaps unlikely to be a sole determinant of 'traditional weight'. But a vernacular textuality is certainly a more realistic descriptor for folk or 'traditional' song in England than the chance absence or presence of writing or print.


(1) Cecil J. Sharp, English Folk-Song: Some Conclusions (London: Simpkin; Novello; Taunton: Barnicott & Pearce, 1907), p. 101.

(2) Sharp, English Folk-Song, pp. 10, 16-31.

(3) Studies of the publication and distribution of broadsides and chapbooks include: Carole Rose Livingston, British Broadside Ballads of the Sixteenth Century: A Catalogue of the Extant Sheets and an Essay, Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, vol. 1390 (New York and London: Garland, 1991); Victor E. Neuburg, Popular Literature: A History and Guide from the Beginning of Printing to the Year 1897 (London: Woburn Press, 1977); Hyder E. Rollins, 'The Black-Letter Broadside Ballad', Publications of the Modern Language Association, 34 (new series, 27) (1919), 258-339; Leslie Shepard, The Broadside Ballad: A Study in Origins and Meaning (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1962); Leslie Shepard, The History of Street Literature: The Story of Broadside Ballads, Chapbooks, Proclamations, News-Sheets, Election Bills, Tracts, Pamphlets, Cocks, Catchpennies, and Other Ephemera (Newton Abbott: David & Charles, 1973); Margaret Spufford, Small Books and Pleasant Histories: Popular Fiction and Its Readership in Seventeenth-Century England (London: Methuen, 1981; repr. Past and Present Publications, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985); Margaret Spufford, The Great Reclothing of Rural England: Petty Chapmen and Their Wares in the Seventeenth Century, History Series, vol. 33 (London: Hambledon Press, 1984); Margaret Spufford, 'The Pedlar, the Historian and the Folklorist: Seventeenth Century Communications', Folklore, 105 (1994), 13-24; Robert S. Thomson, 'The Development of the Broadside Ballad Trade and its Influence upon the Transmission of English Folksongs', doctoral thesis, University of Cambridge, 1974; Tessa Watt, Cheap Print and Popular Piety 1550-1640, Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).

(4) Hyder E. Rollins, An Analytical Index to the Ballad-Entries (1557-1709) in the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1924).

(5) Watt, Cheap Print and Popular Piety, p. 11.

(6) Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor: A Cyclopaedia of the Condition and Earnings of Those That Will Work, Those That Cannot Work, and Those That Will Not Work, 4 vols (London: Griffin, Bohn, 1861-62; repr. New York: Dover, 1968), i, 284, gives the number of copies as 1,650,000. Charles Hindley, The Life and Times of James Catnach, (Late of Seven Dials), Ballad Monger (London: Reeves and Turner, 1878; repr. Detroit: Singing Tree Press, 1968), p. 186; Charles Hindley, The History of the Catnach Press, at Berwick-upon-Tweed, Alnwick and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in Northumberland, and Seven Dials, London (London: Charles Hindley, 1887; repr. Detroit: Singing Tree Press, 1969), p. 79, quotes a more modest 1,166,000.

(7) Thomson, 'The Development of the Broadside Ballad Trade', p. 274; Rainer Wehse, 'Broadside Ballad and Folksong: Oral Tradition versus Literary Tradition', Folklore Forum, 8 (1975), 324-34 [2-12] (p. 333 [11]). Writing in English Dance & Song, 63.4 (2001), 16; 64.4 (2002), 24-25 (p. 24), and in personal communications, Steve Gardham, who has been painstakingly through many of the printed collections in search of songs also known from singing, puts the figure as high as ninety-five per cent of the standard English folk-song repertoire, or ninety-eight per cent of the English and Irish folksong repertoire, and also estimates that at least fifteen per cent of English folk songs can be found on broadsides of the seventeenth century or earlier.

(8) Dianne M. Dugaw, 'Anglo-American Folksong Reconsidered: The Interface of Oral and Written Forms', Western Folklore, 43 (1984), 83-103 (p. 102); Dianne Dugaw, Warrior Women and Popular Balladry, 1650-1850, Cambridge Studies in Eighteenth-Century English Literature and Thought, 4 (Cambridge: Cambridg University Press, 1989; repr. with a new preface, Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 86.

(9) Dugaw, 'Anglo-American Folksong Reconsidered'; Roger de V. Renwick, 'The Oral Quality of a Printed Tradition', Acta Ethnographica Hungarica, 47 (2002), 81-89; repr. in Folk Ballads, Ethics, Moral Issues: Papers of the 31st International Ballad Conference, Budapest 21-23 April 2001, ed. by Gabor Barna and Ildiko Kriza, Szegedi Vallasi Neprajzi Konyvtar-Bibliotheca Religionis Popularis Szegediensis, 10 (Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 2002), pp. 81-89.

(10) Balz Engler, 'Textualization', in Literary Pragmatics, ed. by Roger D. Sell (London: Routledge, 1991), pp. 179-89 (pp. 182-84). The spatial arrangement of words in written texts is emphasised in Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (London: Methuen, 1982), pp. 91, 99-100.

(11) This discussion is mostly concerned with the words of folk songs, not least because only rarely have broadsides, garlands, and the like included printed music notation (and even then it is not always clear that it really represents a tune intended to accompany the printed words). Probably the majority of singers of folk songs (outside times of conscious revival) have learned tunes directly from other singers, and musical literacy has always been much less than general literacy, although there is, for instance, substantial evidence for local musicians' use of tune-books. While the critical vocabulary for analysing simultaneously the words and tunes of folk songs does not really exist, it should be evident that some of the ideas being developed in the present discussion could potentially be applicable to folk music and the musical dimension of folk songs. Charles Seeger's entry on 'oral tradition in music' in Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend, ed. by Maria Leach, associate editor Jerome Fried, 2 vols (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1949-50), ii, 825-29, remains suggestive of some problems but also some parallels in this regard.

(12) Michael Yates, 'Percy Grainger and the Impact of the Phonograph', Folk Music Journal, 4.3 (1982), 265-75.

(13) Ong, Orality and Literacy, pp. 32, 91: 'Sound exists only when it is going out of existence.'

(14) Dianne Dugaw, 'Chapbook Publishing and the "Lore" of "the Folks"', in The Other Print Tradition: Essays on Chapbooks, Broadsides, and Related Ephemera, ed. by Cathy Lynn Preston and Michael J. Preston, New Perspectives in Folklore, vol. 3, Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, vol. 1470 (New York: Garland, 1995), pp. 3-18 (p. 15), observes that many folklore genres besides folk song have a substantial record in print, and that this comprises an inseparable component of the history of traditions. In principle, the textual model developed in the present essay might prove applicable to other genres of 'folk' literature in text-based societies such as England. Recent research, for example, has shown that extant historical references to mumming plays (beginning around the second quarter of the eighteenth century) coincide remarkably closely with the known publication of such plays in chapbook texts: Eddie Cass, The Lancashire Pace-Egg Play: A Social History (London: FLS Books, [2001]), especially chapter 6 and p. 134.

(15) Gordon Hall Gerould, The Ballad of Tradition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932), pp. 2, 3.

(16) Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend, ii, 1032.

(17) Journal of the International Folk Music Council, 7 (1955), 23; Maud Karpeles, 'Some Reflections on Authenticity in Folk Music', Journal of the International Folk Music Council, 3 (1951), 10-14; Maud Karpeles, 'Definition of Folk Music', Journal of the International Folk Music Council, 7 (1955), 6-7; Maud Karpeles, An Introduction to English Folk Song (London: Oxford University Press, 1973; repr. with a new foreword by Peter Kennedy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 2-11.

(18) Philip V. Bohlman, The Study of Folk Music in the Modern World, Folkloristics (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1988), p. 28 (and the whole of chapter 2).

(19) Michael J. Bell, '"No Borders to the Ballad Maker's Art": Francis James Child and the Politics of the People', Western Folklore, 47 (1988), 285-307, especially pp. 288-89; Sigrid Rieuwerts, '"The Genuine Ballads of the People": F.J. Child and the Ballad Cause', Journal of Folklore Research, 31 (1994), 1-34, especially pp. 9-10. For Child it was primarily the oral tradition of an earlier time, for he wrote of the sources of balladry in England and Scotland as 'sealed or dried up for ever': Sigurd Bernhard Hustvedt, Ballad Books and Ballad Men: Raids and Rescues in Britain, America, and the Scandinavian North Since 1800 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1930), p. 248; E.B. Lyle, 'Child's Scottish Harvest', Harvard Library Bulletin, 25 (1977), 125-54 (p. 142); Sigrid Rieuwerts, 'The Folk-Ballad: The Illegitimate Child of the Popular Ballad', Journal of Folklore Research, 33 (1996), 221-26 (pp. 222-23). Even so, he did urge the continued collection of ballads from non-written sources: F.J. Child, 'Old Ballads. Prof. Child's Appeal', Notes and Queries, 4th series, 11 (1873), 12; The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, ed. by Francis James Child, 5 vols (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1882-98; repr. New York: Dover, 1965), I, vii, ix. At the same time, he famously described the great broadside collections as 'veritable dunghills, in which, only after a great deal of sickening grubbing, one finds a very moderate jewel' (Hustvedt, Ballad Books and Ballad Men, p. 254). Yet printed broadsides and garlands from the sixteenth and especially the seventeenth centuries, but also the eighteenth and nineteenth too, still provide the weightiest body of evidence for the great age of the Child ballads. Roy Palmer, '"Veritable Dunghills": Professor Child and the Broadside', Folk Music Journal, 7.2 (1996), 155-66 (p. 158), estimates that they provide sources for at least one-third of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, and the prime or sole versions for sixty-two out of the 305 (and there are broadside versions of other classical ballads of which Child was either unaware or else chose not to print).

(20) This obviously touches on a vast area of intellectual history, but some of the ramifications are described, from a German-American perspective, in Regina Bendix, In Search of Authenticity: The Formation of Folklore Studies (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997). Nicholas Hudson, '"Oral Tradition": The Evolution of an Eighteenth-Century Concept', in Tradition in Transition: Women Writers, Marginal Texts, and the Eighteenth-Century Canon, ed. by Alvaro Ribeiro and James G. Basker (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), pp. 161-76, and Nicholas Hudson, 'Constructing Oral Tradition: The Origins of the Concept in Enlightenment Intellectual Culture', in The Spoken Word: Oral Culture in Britain 1500-1850, ed. by Adam Fox and Daniel Woolf, Politics, Culture and Society in Early Modern Britain (Manchester; New York: Manchester University Press, 2002), pp. 240-55, chart how the possibility that 'oral tradition' could give rise to literature of outstanding merit gained acceptance in Britain during the eighteenth century.

(21) Francis J. Child, '"Ballad Poetry", Johnson's Universal Cyclopaedia, 1900', Journal of Folklore Research, 31 (1994), 214-22 (p. 214). Child's article on 'Ballad Poetry' first appeared in Johnson's Universal Cyclopaedia in 1874, and was reprinted in the Journal of Folklore Research in 1994, which is cited here for convenience's sake.

(22) Child, 'Ballad Poetry', p. 214.

(23) Michael J. Bell, 'William Wells Newell and the Foundation of American Folklore Scholarship', Journal of the Folklore Institute, 10 (1973), 7-21, especially pp. 11-13; Bell, 'No Borders to the Ballad Maker's Art', p. 306.

(24) Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 'Folklore's Crisis', Journal of American Folklore, 111 (1998), 281-327 (p. 309); the emphasis on orality (linked to the performance orientation in folklore studies) is, however, presented as problematic because it is defined largely in relation to technologies of print and recording.

(25) Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, i, xxx. The importance of 'oral tradition' pervades Kittredge's introduction to the single-volume edition of the Child ballads: English and Scottish Popular Ballads, Edited from the Collection of Francis James Child, ed. by Helen Child Sargent and George Lyman Kittredge (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1904).

(26) David E. Bynum, 'Child's Legacy Enlarged: Oral Literary Studies at Harvard Since 1856', Harvard Library Bulletin, 22 (1974), 237-67.

(27) David Buchan, The Ballad and the Folk (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972; repr. with foreword by Ian A. Olson, Phantassie, East Lothian: Tuckwell Press, 1997), p. 277.

(28) Vic Gammon, 'Folk Song Collecting in Sussex and Surrey, 1843-1914', History Workshop Journal, 10 (1980), 61-89 (p. 72); Gammon goes on to summarize the social and intellectual environment within which these collectors were working.

(29) The importance of the doctrine of cultural evolution to folklore studies at large in Victorian/Edwardian England is admirably described by Gillian Bennett, 'Geologists and Folklorists: Cultural Evolution and "The Science of Folklore"', Folklore, 105 (1994), 25-37.

(30) English Traditional Songs and Carols, With Annotations and Pianoforte Accompaniments, ed. by Lucy E. Broadwood (London: Boosey, 1908), p. xi; Henry Burstow, Reminiscences of Horsham, Being Recollections of Henry Burstow, the Celebrated Bellringer & Songsinger, ed. by William Albery, Foreword by A.E. Green and Tony Wales (Norwood, Penn.: Norwood Editions, 1975 [first published Horsham: Free Christian Church Book Society, 1911]), pp. xxxi, 107-08; Journal of the Folk-Song Society, 1 (1902), 139; Mike Yates, 'Henry Parker Such: A Short Biographical Note', English Dance & Song, 60.3 (1998), 17-18 (p. 17).

(31) Thomson, 'The Development of the Broadside Ballad Trade', pp. 216-17.

(32) Bob Copper, 'Songs & Southern Breezes: Collecting Days with the BBC in the 1950s', talk presented at Cecil Sharp House, London, 9 November 2001; Bob Copper, 'Bob and Pete Across the Divide', BBC Radio 4, 29 January 2002; Peggy Seeger and the Copper Family, concert at Cecil Sharp House, London, 12 November 2002.

(33) A.L. Lloyd, Folk Song in England (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1967), pp. 26-32; Thomson, 'The Development of the Broadside Ballad Trade'. Michael Pickering and Tony Green, 'Towards a Cartography of the Vernacular Milieu', in Everyday Culture: Popular Song and the Vernacular Milieu, ed. by Michael Pickering and Tony Green, Popular Music in Britain (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1987), pp. 1-38 (pp. 14-15), offer a balanced summary.

(34) To cite a couple of strongly worded examples: C.J. Bearman, 'Resources in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library--The Lucy Broadwood Collection: An Interim Report', Folk Music Journal, 7.3 (1997), 357-65 (p. 362); C.J. Bearman, 'Cecil Sharp in Somerset: Some Reflections on the Work of David Harker', Folklore, 113 (2002), 11-34 (pp. 25-27).

(35) Sharp, English Folk-Song, pp. 3-4. With regard to the 'peasantry', David Harker, 'Cecil Sharp in Somerset: Some Conclusions', Folk Music Journal, 2.3 (1972), 220-40 (p. 225), is probably right to challenge the existence of such a group in Victorian and Edwardian England (although the social and economic situation in parts of Scotland or Ireland might be considered more akin to feudalism). Indeed, Sharp himself conceded that 'the peasantry, as a class, is extinct', even while asserting that the 'English peasant still exists' (English Folk-Song, p. 119). C.J. Bearman, 'Who Were the Folk? The Demography of Cecil Sharp's Somerset Folk Singers', Historical Journal, 43 (2000), 751-75 (pp. 757-61), mounts a valiant statistical defence based on the contemporary definition of 'peasant' as 'one who lives in the country and works on the land'. Nevertheless, Konrad Kostlin, 'Feudale Identitat und dogmatisierte Volkskultur', Zeitschrift fur Volkskunde, 73 (1977), 216-33, argues that the 'folk-as-peasant' only emerged as a conceptual category after the demise of feudalism. For the early folk-song collectors and editors 'peasant' was most likely less a technical description than part of the slightly abstract language of cultural evolution, influenced by Romanticism and the literary pastoral.

(36) Ancient Poems, Ballads, and Songs of the Peasantry of England, Taken Down from Oral Recitation, and Transcribed from Private Manuscripts, Rare Broadsides, and Scarce Publications, ed. by James Henry Dixon, Publications of the Percy Society, vol. 17 (London: Percy Society, 1846; repr. East Ardsley: EP Publishing, 1973)--whether the contents of this publication bear out the title is, for the present purpose, beside the point.

(37) Sharp, for instance, does not mention Child's essay on 'Ballad Poetry' in English Folk-Song. It is, however, worth remarking Sharp's use of very similar language to describe the origin of folk songs in an idealized, pre-literate, socially undifferentiated community ('the product of a people as yet undivided into a lettered and an unlettered class', etc.): Dianne Dugaw, 'Francis Child, Cecil Sharp, and the Legacy of the Pastoral in Folksong Study', Folklore Historian, 14 (1997), 7-12 (p. 9), quoting Cecil Sharp, 'Lecture on Folk Songs from Somerset', Hampstead, March 1905, London, Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, Cecil J. Sharp MSS Collection: Miscellaneous material, Box 5, Item 3, p. 4.

(38) Lloyd, Folk Song in England, p. 179.

(39) Georgina Boyes, The Imagined Village: Culture, Ideology and the English Folk Revival, Music and Society (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993), p. 47; Gammon, 'Folk Song Collecting in Sussex and Surrey', pp. 80, 83, 84.

(40) Gammon, 'Folk Song Collecting in Sussex and Surrey', p. 84.

(41) Dave Harker, Fakesong: The Manufacture of British 'Folksong' 1700 to the Present Day, Popular Music in Britain (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1985), pp. xiii-xiv.

(42) Bearman, 'Who Were the Folk?'; Christopher James Bearman, 'The English Folk Music Movement 1898-1914', doctoral thesis, University of Hull, 2001, pp. 137-63; and personal communication.

(43) Martin Graebe, 'Sabine Baring-Gould and His Old Singing-Men', in Folk Song: Tradition, Revival, and Re-creation, ed. by Ian Russell and David Atkinson (forthcoming 2003); Martin Graebe, lecture presented at Cecil Sharp House, London, 9 November 2002; and personal communication.

(44) John Francmanis, 'Folk Song and the "Folk": A Relationship Illuminated by Frank Kidson's Traditional Tunes', in Folk Song: Tradition, Revival, and Recreation.

(45) Percy Grainger, 'Collecting with the Phonograph', Journal of the Folk-Song Society, 3 (1908), 147-69 (p. 164); Percy Aldridge Grainger, Program-Note on 'Lincolnshire Posy': English Folksongs Gathered in Lincolnshire (England) by Lucy E. Broadwood and Percy Aldridge Grainger and Set for Wind Band (Military Band) (August 1939), p. [2]; Ruairidh Greig, 'Joseph Taylor from Lincolnshire: A Biography of a Singer', in Folk Song: Tradition, Revival, and Re-creation; Unto Brigs Fair: Joseph Taylor and Other Traditional Lincolnshire Singers Recorded in 1908 by Percy Grainger (12" L.P., LEA 4050, Leader, 1972).

(46) Bob Copper has told the story of his family several times, especially in A Song for Every Season: A Hundred Years of a Sussex Farming Family (London: Heinemann, 1971; [new edn] Peacehaven: Coppersongs, 1997) and Early to Rise: A Sussex Boyhood (London: Heinemann, 1976; repr. London: Javelin Books, 1988), and again in the introduction to The Copper Family Song Book--A Living Tradition, music transcription by David and Caro Kettlewell, music artwork by Bob Copper (Peacehaven: Coppersongs, 1995). Some more information, especially concerning the quite complex social context of Rottingdean in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is sketched in by Reg Hall and Vic Gammon in a booklet accompanying a CD of early recordings of the Coppers: Come Write Me Down: Early Recordings of the Copper Family of Rottingdean (C.D., TSCD534, Topic, 2001).

(47) E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (London: Penguin, 1968; repr. with new preface, 1980), pp. 8-9. (A.L. Lloyd in Folk Song in England, p. 179, quoted Thompson's formulation in support of '"lower-class" song'.)

(48) Keith Wrightson, 'The Social Order of Early Modern England: Three Approaches', in The World We Have Gained: Histories of Population and Social Structure: Essays Presented to Peter Laslett on His Seventieth Birthday, ed. by Lloyd Bonfield, Richard M. Smith, and Keith Wrightson (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), pp. 177-202; Keith Wrightson, 'Estates, Degrees, and Sorts: Changing Perceptions of Society in Tudor and Stuart England', in Language, History and Class, ed. by Penelope J. Corfield (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991), pp. 30-52.

(49) Early modern social relations are described by, for example, Keith Wrightson, English Society 1580-1680, Hutchinson Social History of England (London: Hutchinson, 1982); J.A. Sharpe, Early Modern England: A Social History 1550-1760, 2nd edn (London: Arnold, 1997), Part 2 'The Social Hierarchy and Social Change'.

(50) Peter Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (London: Maurice Temple Smith, 1978; repr. Aldershot: Wildwood House, 1988), chapter 3 and especially pp. 77-87, discusses the limitations but also the great potential of the available evidence and methodologies for reconstructing the popular culture of early modern times. Bruce R. Smith, The Acoustic World of Early Modern England: Attending to the O-Factor (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1999), is suggestive, although the chapter on ballads itself (chapter 7) contains some incautious statements.

(51) Watt, Cheap Print and Popular Piety, pp. 14-38, summarizes the evidence for the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The Records of Early English Drama volumes published by the University of Toronto Press contain many references.

(52) Adam Fox, Oral and Literate Culture in England 1500-1700, Oxford Studies in Social History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), chapter 6, and pp. 382-93 (for Moseley, Markehall, and Greene, p. 389).

(53) Many of these references, and some others too, can be found in sources such as E.K. Chambers, English Literature at the Close of the Middle Ages, Oxford History of English Literature, II, part 2 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1945; 2nd impression with corrections, 1947), pp. 139-40; Fox, Oral and Literate Culture in England, pp. 26-30. Natascha Wurzbach, The Rise of the English Street Ballad, 1550-1650, translated by Gayna Walls, European Studies in English Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990 [first published in German, 1981]), Appendix, pp. 253-84, reprints contemporary comments from 1550 to 1700, including extracts from the drama.

(54) Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe, chapter 2, emphasises both variety of cultural experience and interactions between different cultural levels, within a 'great tradition'/'little tradition' cultural model, while other social historians have rejected a 'popular'/'elite' model in favour of areas of cultural 'consensus'. Smith, The Acoustic World of Early Modern England, pp. 37-44, on 'speech communities', addresses the possibilities of unity and variety (making an especially interesting analysis of the 1575 revels for Queen Elizabeth at Kenilworth Castle, which included a bride-ale, morris dancing, and the Coventry Hock Tuesday play) and argues that the middling social group would have participated in the most extended networks of communication.

(55) Julian Onderdonk, 'Vaughan Williams and the Modes', Folk Music Journal, 7.5 (1999), 609-26 (pp. 622-23).

(56) The most sustained analysis of this sort of ideological continuity is Ian Watson, Song and Democratic Culture in Britain: An Approach to Popular Culture in Social Movements (London: Croom Helm; New York: St Martin's Press, 1983).

(57) Ginette Dunn, The Fellowship of Song: Popular Singing Traditions in East Suffolk (London: Croom Helm, 1980), chapter 5. Walter Pardon, A World Without Horses: A Portrait of a Traditional Singer (C.D., TSCD514, Topic, 2000), track 5, talking to Pat Mackenzie and Jim Carroll, gave a succinct description of 'song ownership' in practice in Norfolk.

(58) Walter Pardon, Put a Bit of Powder On It, Father (2 C.D.s, MTCD 305-06, Musical Traditions, 2000), booklet, p. 2.

(59) Harry Cox, The Bonny Labouring Boy: Traditional Songs & Tunes from a Norfolk Farm Worker (C.D., TSCD512D, Topic, 2000), booklet, p. 6.

(60) George Dunn, George Dunn (12" L.P., LEE 4042, Leader, 1973), booklet, [p. 1]; George Dunn, 'The Minstrel of Quarry Bank: Reminiscences of George Dunn (1887-1975)', ed. by Roy Palmer, Oral History, 11.1 (1983), 62-68, and 11.2 (1983), 61-68 (11.1, p. 67); George Dunn, Chainmaker (2 C.D.s, MTCD 317-18, Musical Traditions, 2002), booklet, p. 4; Roy Palmer, 'Cecilia Costello and George Dunn, Traditional Singers from the Urban Midlands: An Introduction', English Dance & Song, 34.1 (1972), 17-18 (p. 18); Roy Palmer, George Dunn, The Minstrel of Quarry Bank: Reminiscences & Songs of George Dunn (1887-1975) (Dudley: Dudley Metropolitan Borough Leisure and Amenity Services, 1984), p. 8.

(61) Bearman, 'Cecil Sharp in Somerset', p. 27.

(62) Thomson, 'The Development of the Broadside Ballad Trade', p. 256.

(63) Harry Cox, What Will Become of England?, The Alan Lomax Collection: Portraits (C.D., 11661-1839-2, Rounder, 2000), track 18; Thomson, 'The Development of the Broadside Ballad Trade', pp. 242-43, 256-57; Robert S. Thomson, 'The Frightful Foggy Dew', Folk Music Journal, 4.1 (1980), 35-61 (pp. 41, 52-53).

(64) Bearman, 'Cecil Sharp in Somerset', pp. 27, 32 n. 15.

(65) The Leaves of Life: Songs, Stories, Tunes and a Play from Eight Counties of England: The Field Recordings of Fred Hamer (Cassette, VWML 003, Vaughan Williams Memorial Library (EFDSS), 1989), side A, track 13.

(66) Library of Congress, American Folklife Center, Archive of Folk Culture, James Madison Carpenter Collection, AFC 1972/001, MS pp. 00194-00195, 00582-00583.

(67) Copper, A Song for Every Season (1971), p. 2; The Copper Family Song Book, p. vii.

(68) Studies of oral and literate culture include: Jonathan Barry, 'Literacy and Literature in Popular Culture: Reading and Writing in Historical Perspective', in Popular Culture in England, c. 1500-1850, ed. by Tim Harris, Themes in Focus (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1995), pp. 69-94; Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe, pp. 254-57; M.T. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record: England 1066-1307, 2nd edn (Oxford: Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1993); Fox, Oral and Literate Culture in England; Fox and Woolf, The Spoken Words; R.A. Houston, Scottish Literacy and the Scottish Identity: Illiteracy and Society in Scotland and Northern England 1600-1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), chapter 6; James Raven, 'New-Reading Histories, Print Culture and the Identification of Change: The Case of Eighteenth-Century England', Social History, 23 (1998), 268-87; Barry Reay, 'The Context and Meaning of Popular Literacy: Some Evidence from Nineteenth-Century Rural England', Past and Present, 131 (1991), 89-129; Barry Reay, Popular Cultures in England 1550-1750, Themes in British Social History (London: Longman, 1998), chapter 2; Margaret Spufford, 'First Steps in Literacy: The Reading and Writing Experiences of the Humblest Seventeenth-Century Spiritual Autobiographers', Social History, 4 (1979), 407-35; Spufford, 'The Pedlar, the Historian and the Folklorist'; Keith Thomas, 'The Meaning of Literacy in Early Modern England', in The Written World: Literacy in Transition: Wolfson College Lectures 1985, ed. by Gerd Baumann (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), pp. 97-131; David Vincent, 'The Decline of the Oral Tradition in Popular Culture', in Popular Culture and Custom in Nineteenth-Century England, ed. by Robert D. Storch (London: Croom Helm; New York: St Martin's Press, 1982), pp. 20-47; David Vincent, Literacy and Popular Culture: England 1750-1914, Cambridge Studies in Oral and Literate Culture, 19 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

(69) Thomas, 'The Meaning of Literacy in Early Modern England', p. 107.

(70) The actual evidence for this quite reasonable and oft-repeated conviction is anecdotal at best: e.g. Broadwood, English Traditional Songs and Carols, p. x; Shepard, The Broadside Ballad, pp, 78, 79; Shepard, The History of Street Literature, p. 70; Thomson, 'The Development of the Broadside Ballad Trade', p. 170; Watt, Cheap Print and Popular Piety, pp. 6, 13, 257-58, 323-24.

(71) Flemming G. Andersen and Thomas Pettitt, '"The Murder of Maria Marten": The Birth of a Ballad?', in Narrative Folksong: New Directions: Essays in Appreciation of W. Edson Richmond, ed. by Carol L. Edwards and Kathleen E.B. Manley (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1985), pp. 132-78.

(72) Okehampton, Wren Trust, microfiche copies of Baring-Gould MSS, Harvard Notebook, Appendix, nos 4 and 5 (letters of 14 July and 23 August 1890); cited from copies in Vaughan Williams Memorial Library (Harvard Notebook, microfiche 3).

(73) Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, ii, 500-01; iii, 502; iv, 451 (Child originally designated this text '20 O' and later corrected this to '20 P'); The Pepys Ballads, ed. by W.G. Day, 5 facsimile vols, Catalogue of the Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1987), facsimile v, 4. Some details of the broadside text are discussed at greater length in David Atkinson, 'History, Symbol, and Meaning in "The Cruel Mother"', Folk Music Journal, 6.3 (1992), 359-80, where the broadside is reproduced (p. 361); a transcript is also printed in English Dance & Song, 64.3 (2002), 15.

(74) British Library, National Sound Archive, Gwilym Davies Collection, C742/44, C742/49; National Sound Archive, Mike Yates Collection, C796/140 C3 (C.D. copies in Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, CD 36, track 16); Mike Yates, 'Danny Brazil--An Appreciation', English Dance & Song, 61.4 (1999), 26-28.

(75) Even R.S. Thomson's pioneering study which emphasises the impact of broadsides on folk-song transmission implicitly concedes this much, by identifying three possibilities: (1) ballads that demonstrate a definite adherence to the broadside form, usually accompanied by melodic stability; (2) ballads that show signs of broadside derivation but have 'evolved' by a process of selection from the printed text; (3) ballads that have altered both in oral transmission and in their broadside forms ('The Development of the Broadside Ballad Trade', p. 218). There are numerous further illustrations of the same point to be gleaned from studies of the 'evolution' of individual songs that have also circulated in print, although their authors have not always drawn quite this conclusion: e.g. Flemming G. Andersen, 'From Tradition to Print: Ballads on Broadsides', in The Ballad as Narrative: Studies in the Ballad Traditions of England, Scotland, Germany and Denmark, by Flemming G. Andersen, Otto Holzapfel, and Thomas Pettitt (Odense: Odense University-Press, 1982), pp. 39-58; Andersen and Pettitt, 'The Murder of Maria Marten'; Joel H. Baer, 'Bold Captain Avery in the Privy Council: Early Variants of a Broadside Ballad from the Pepys Collection', Folk Music Journal, 7.1 (1995), 4-26; David C. Fowler, '"The Gosport Tragedy": Story of a Ballad', Southern Folklore Quarterly, 43 (1979), 157-96; Elizabeth James, '"The Captain's Apprentice" and the Death of Young Robert Eastick of King's Lynn: A Study in the Development of a Folk Song', Folk Music Journal, 7.5 (1999), 579-94; Thomas Pettitt, 'The Later English Ballad Tradition: "The Outlandish Knight" and "Maria Marten"', in The Ballad as Narrative, pp. 71-84; Thomas Pettitt, '"Worn by the friction of time": Oral Tradition and the Generation of the Balladic Narrative Mode', in Contexts of Pre-Novel Narrative: The European Tradition, ed. by Roy Eriksen, Approaches to Semiotics, 114 (Berlin; New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1994), pp. 341-72; Thomas Pettitt, 'The Ballad of Tradition: In Pursuit of a Vernacular Aesthetic', in Ballads into Books: The Legacies of Francis James Child: Selected Papers from the 26th International Ballad Conference (SIEF Ballad Commission), Swansea, Wales, 19-24 July 1996, ed. by Tom Cheesman and Sigrid Rieuwerts (Bern: Peter Lang, 1997), pp. 111-23; Thomas Pettitt, 'Ballad Singers and Ballad Style: The Case of the Murdered Sweethearts', in The Entertainer in Medieval and Traditional Culture: A Symposium: Proceedings of the 18th International Symposium Organized by the Centre for Medieval Studies, Odense University, 20-21 November, 1994, ed. by Flemming G. Andersen, Thomas Pettitt, and Reinhold Schroder (Odense: Odense University Press, 1997), pp. 101-31; Tom Pettitt, 'Textual to Oral: The Impact of Transmission on Narrative Word-Art', in Oral History of the Middle Ages: The Spoken Word in Context, ed. by Gerhard Jaritz and Michael Richter, Medium Aevum Quotidianum, Sonderband 12, CEU Medievalia, 3 (Krems and Budapest: Medium AEvum Quotidianum and Department of Medieval Studies, Central European University, 2001), pp. 19-38; Thomson, 'The Frightful Foggy Dew'.

(76) Thomson, 'The Development of the Broadside Ballad Trade', p. 218.

(77) Verbal and narrative patternings in texts of ballads from singing and from print, in examples chosen largely to illustrate stylistic differences between the 'textual' and the 'oral', are analysed in exemplary detail by Flemming Andersen and Thomas Pettitt in the studies cited in note 75 above.

(78) Wehse, 'Broadside Ballad and Folksong', makes this point both generally and specifically with regard to the audience-directed openings of songs (pp. 330-31 [8-9]). Wehse hints, too, at an inherent circularity in an argument that effectively equates ballads of the 'Child' kind with oral circulation, and then goes on to identify the style of more discursive narrative songs specifically with broadsides and circulation in print.

(79) Natascha Wurzbach, 'An Approach to a Context-Oriented Genre Theory in Application to the History of the Ballad: Traditional Ballad--Street Ballad--Literary Ballad', Poetics, 12 (1983), 35-70; Wurzbach, The Rise of the English Street Ballad.

(80) The entire process is still admirably described by Albert B. Friedman, The Ballad Revival: Studies in the Influence of Popular on Sophisticated Poetry (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1961); the climate of literary antiquarianism is considered in Nick Groom, The Making of Percy's Reliques, Oxford English Monographs (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), chapter 2. The particular issues of Percy's intentions and the intricacies of his editing are discussed by Nick Groom in The Making of Percy's Reliques, and in the introduction to Thomas Percy, Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, 3 vols (London: Routledge/Thoemmes Press, 1996); also by Zinnia Knapman, 'A Reappraisal of Percy's Editing', Folk Music Journal, 5.2 (1986), 202-14.

(81) Nick Groom, 'Celts, Goths, and the Nature of the Literary Source', in Tradition in Transition, pp. 275-96; Groom, The Making of Percy's Reliques, chapter 3.

(82) Joseph M.P. Donatelli, '"To Hear with Eyes": Orality, Print Culture, and the Textuality of Ballads', in Ballads and Boundaries: Narrative Singing in an Intercultural Context: Proceedings of the 23rd International Ballad Conference of the Commission for Folk Poetry (Societe Internationale d'Ethnologie et de Folklore), University of California, Los Angeles, June 21-24, 1993, ed. by James Porter (Los Angeles: Department of Ethnomusicology & Systematic Musicology, UCLA, 1995), pp. 347-57 (pp. 352-53); Susan Stewart, 'Notes on Distressed Genres', Journal of American Folklore, 104 (1991), 5-31, especially pp. 10-11.

(83) Dianne Dugaw, 'The Popular Marketing of "Old Ballads": The Ballad Revival and Eighteenth-Century Antiquarianism Reconsidered', Eighteenth-Century Studies, 21 (1987), 71-90.

(84) This process is briefly traced by Sigrid Rieuwerts, 'From Percy to Child: The "Popular Ballad" as "a distinct and very important species of poetry"', in Ballads and Boundaries, pp. 13-20.

(85) Motherwell's Minstrelsy commenced publication in fascicles in 1824 and appeared in one volume in 1827, so that the Introduction, which is in effect a conclusion, postdates the editorial work and reflects his continuing experience of song collecting: Mary Ellen Brown, William Motherwell's Cultural Politics, 1797-1835 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001), chapter 4. Motherwell's ideas had an enormous influence on the Danish ballad editor Svend Grundtvig, who in turn shaped Child's thinking about the ballad: Mary Ellen Brown, 'Mr. Child's Scottish Mentor: William Motherwell', in Ballads into Books, pp. 29-39, especially pp. 35-37.

(86) The concepts of textuality and intertextuality have become part of the standard language of literary theory, and as a result they are often used in slightly different ways (and often more or less interchangeably); the underlying principles are adequately described in literary reference works. At its simplest, textuality describes the very nature of 'texts', in opposition to the humanistic idea of 'works', by referring to the way in which a text is merely a part of the endless play of always preexistent language, so that there is no fixed, external origin or privileged source, no transcendent referent, to authorize its shape and meaning. Texts therefore lack closure or resolution and are never self-sufficient; instead, meaning is generated unstably from the process of interaction between the text and a web of other possible texts and contexts. In direct consequence, intertextuality refers to the way in which texts 'inhabit' one another, each having its source in other texts and drawing meaning from its relations with other prior and potential texts.

(87) Brown, William Motherwell's Cultural Politics, p. 99.

(88) Groom, The Making of Percy's Reliques, pp. 176-77.

(89) Robert S. Thomson, 'The Transmission of Chevy-Chase', Southern Folklore Quarterly, 39 (1975), 63-82 (p. 74).

(90) Engler, 'Textualization', pp. 184-85; Walter J. Ong, 'Before Textuality: Orality and Interpretation', Oral Tradition, 3 (1988), 259-69.

(91) Renwick, 'The Oral Quality of a Printed Tradition', as the title suggests, describes an 'oral attitude' to broadside printing (p. 85). Suggestive, too, are various new approaches to manuscript texts of early poetry: e.g. John Dagenais, 'That Bothersome Residue: Toward a Theory of the Physical Text', in Vox intexta: Orality and Textuality in the Middle Ages, ed. by A.N. Doane and Carol Braun Pasternack (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991), pp. 246-59; A.N. Doane, 'Oral Texts, Intertexts, and Intratexts: Editing Old English', in Influence and Intertextuality in Literary History, ed. by John Clayton and Eric Rothstein (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991), pp. 75-113; A.N. Doane, 'The Ethnography of Scribal Writing and Anglo-Saxon Poetry: Scribe as Performer', Oral Tradition, 9 (1994), 420-39; John Miles Foley, The Singer of Tales in Performance, Voices in Performance and Text (Bloomington; Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995); Tim William Machan, 'Editing, Orality, and Late Middle English Texts', in Vox intexta, pp. 229-45; Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe, Visible Song: Transitional Literacy in Old English Verse, Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England, 4 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Carol Braun Pasternack, The Textuality of Old English Poetry, Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England, 13 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

(92) Roland Barthes, 'The Death of the Author', in Image-Music-Text, essays selected and translated by Stephen Heath (London: Fontana, 1977), pp. 142-48; also Michel Foucault, 'What Is an Author?', in The Foucault Reader, ed. by Paul Rabinow (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), pp. 101-20. Of course, a minority of broadsides does have identifiable authors (which is still not to say that they necessarily represent the origin of the song narrative), but there is no clear indication that this known authorship has either maintained any particular textual authority or had any discernible impact on the ballads' popularity or otherwise with singers. Broadside versions ascribed to 'L.P'.--Laurence Price, seventeenth-century writer of broadside ballads and pamphlets--are extant for three of the Child ballads: 'The Famous Flower of Serving-men' (Child 106), lines from which found their way into the broadside printing of 'The Cruel Mother'; 'Robin Hood's Golden Prize' (Child 147); and 'James Harris (The Daemon Lover)' (Child 243). Of these, the first has been collected from singers in versions that show some similarity to the Price text but nonetheless display variation; the second does not appear to have remained current with singers. Child 243 has been collected quite extensively (especially in America) in versions that, although telling recognizably the same story, bear rather little resemblance to the Price text; closer to versions taken down from singers are the very different mid eighteenth-century garland text (Child 243 B) and, in America, the De Marsan broadside printed in New York around 1860.

(93) Mary Ellen Brown, Burns and Tradition (Urbana; Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984), chapter 4.

(94) The refutation of the 'folk song' argument is best made by a singer--'the drunkards on the bus chorussing "Yellow Submarine" ... would have to have spent their lives on Saturn never to have heard the Beatles' recording': Brian Peters, 'Future Traditions: A Different Prescription', South Riding Folk Network News, 26 (2000), 2.

(95) Niall MacKinnon, The British Folk Scene: Musical Performance and Social Identity, Popular Music in Britain (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1994), pp. 73-75. Conversely, a recording such as Simon and Garfunkel's 'Scarborough Fair', their artful appropriation and highly successful com-modification of a Child ballad, has little significance for the folk revival.

(96) Tamara E. Livingston, 'Music Revivals: Towards a General Theory', Ethnomusicology, 43 (1999), 66-85 (p. 80).

(97) Among studies that underlie statements in the remainder of this paragraph and that have been particularly influential in formulating the concept of tradition that is outlined here are: Dan Ben-Amos, 'The Seven Strands of Tradition: Varieties in Its Meaning in American Folklore Studies', Journal of Folklore Research, 21 (1984), 97-131; Ruth Finnegan, 'Tradition, But What Tradition and For Whom?', Oral Tradition, 6 (1991), 104-24; Henry Glassie, 'Tradition', Journal of American Folklore, 108 (1995), 395-412; Richard Handler and Jocelyn Linnekin, 'Tradition, Genuine or Spurious', Journal of American Folklore, 97 (1984), 273-90; The Invention of Tradition, ed. by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, Past and Present Publications (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983); Barry McDonald, 'The Idea of Tradition Examined in the Light of Two Australian Musical Studies', Yearbook for Traditional Music, 28 (1996), 106-30; Barry McDonald, 'Tradition as Personal Relationship', Journal of American Folklore, 110 (1997), 47-67; Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, revised and expanded edn (London: Fontana, 1983), pp. 318-20. Ben-Amos remains the standard review of 'tradition' in the literature of folklore studies; McDonald adds some more recent references to the now substantial literature on tradition. Obliquely relevant, too, since (like it or not) the folk revival largely constitutes the current situation and perspective both for folk-song scholarship and for much if not most 'traditional' singing, is Livingston, 'Music Revivals: Towards a General Theory'.

(98) D.K. Wilgus, 'The Text Is the Thing', Journal of American Folklore, 86 (1973), 241-52.
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Author:Atkinson, David
Publication:Folk Music Journal
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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