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Title: From the stage to the street : theatre music and the broadside ballad in London, 1797-1844
Author: Bartlett, Georgina Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 8507 7911
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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The broadside ballad was a type of cheap literature that appeared after the invention of Gutenberg's moveable-type technology (c.1450); it soon proliferated in Europe-particularly in Britain, where it thrived for nearly 400 years. British broadsides were typically printed with strophic verses on a single-sided sheet, which also featured a woodcut illustration and a tune reference (suggesting a common or popular melody to which the verses could be sung). As a form of cheap literature, the broadside was primarily bought on the street by the 'working classes'-wage earners; as such, the broadside tradition is an important source of information on the attitudes and tastes of the working classes in Britain from at least the seventeenth century through to the nineteenth. However, professional and leisure classes also interacted meaningfully with the broadside ballad-not least as contemporaneous collectors, who amassed the vast collections of broadside materials that still exist in libraries across the world, especially in Britain and the United States. Though tens of thousands of broadsides have been preserved in collections, the broadside tradition has proven a complicated one to study, as it has many components: it is material culture, poetry, visual art, and of course music. The majority of work on the broadside tradition has been undertaken on seventeenth-century ballads (particularly at the English Broadside Ballad Archive at the University of California, Santa Barbara). But the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries actually saw the British broadside trade reach its height in terms of production. According to the broadside collector Charles Hindley, writing in the mid-nineteenth century, tens of thousands of broadside copies of a single song could be printed in London at a time when the population of the city was still less than 2 million. With this considerable market penetration, the broadside was understandably an influential tradition in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, playing an important part in British society-and in British musical history. Nevertheless, to date, the field of music history has had relatively little to say about these later broadsides, for the simple reason that we have not known to what music they were sung. Come the late-eighteenth century, broadside ballads changed considerably. They were no longer satirical verses that recirculated established tunes: tune references all but disappeared in fact, leaving no trace of the music to which they were sung and raising three questions for music historians that have remained largely unanswered. Firstly, how were the melodies of these songs communicated to contemporaneous broadside sellers and purchasers without tune references? Secondly, what melodies were used for these songs? And thirdly, how can scholars identify and find the music to this prolific musical tradition today? This project has attempted to answer these questions-at least in part-by exploring the crossover of music from the theatre to the broadside trade during the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. My initial hypothesis was that the broadside trade reprinted songs from theatrical productions as a form of unlicensed merchandise-trading on the popularity of songs from the theatre; if (a proportion) of the songs from late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century broadsides came from theatre performances, then contemporaneous sellers and purchasers of broadsides would have been able to access the melodies to these verses through stage performances. And if my hypothesis was correct, then the melodies of these songs could be found today by identifying the original theatrical works from which these songs came and then locating their scores. To test this hypothesis and discover the extent of this potential crossover, I built a database that cross-references the songs from 521 staged musical entertainments produced in London (from the English comic opera tradition and related genres) with the Bodleian Library's Broadside Collections (which have been helpfully digitised in the Ballads Online database). There are six collections within the Bodleian's broadside holdings that include items from the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries (containing 11,432 broadside editions from 1797-1844 in total): these are the John Johnson Collection, the Harding Collection, the Firth Collection, the Curzon Collection, the Douce Collection, and the Bodleian's own Rare Books Collection. The specific dates of the project were set as 1797-1844, because this was the period during which the two giants of the early-nineteenth century broadside trade (John Pitts, active 1797-1844, and James Catnach, active 1813-1841) operated their presses in London-in the Seven Dials, to be specific. At its completion, the database has shown that 205 songs from 132 theatrical works were printed in 724 editions (print runs), resulting in 932 individual sheets in the Bodleian's Collections from the period in question (an additional three theatre songs from three theatrical works were found to have been reprinted as broadsides, but outside the dates 1797-1844). In total, 6.3% of the Bodleian's broadside editions from these dates include songs from the theatre. The information from the database provides firm data regarding the crossover of broadside songs from the theatre to the broadside tradition; but this project focuses not just on what theatrical songs crossed over from the stage to the street, but also why and how they did so. The project closely examines the findings of the database to better understand this migration, paying particular attention to those theatres whose productions were most closely associated with the broadside trade, and the broadside presses who were most actively engaged in the 'poaching' of songs from the theatres. It particularly focuses on the role of geography in this interchange, examining the physical and sonic contexts of the broadside trade in London, especially that of the Seven Dials and St Giles's parish-an area that was the hub of both theatrical entertainment and broadside printing in the city. The project also examines the texts and music of these theatrical broadsides, considering the effect that theatre music had on the sound of street song, the theatrical contexts from which these songs were taken for the broadside trade, the means by which the songs and melodies may have migrated from the theatres to the broadside tradition, and the performance practices of these theatrical broadsides on the street.
Supervisor: Aspden, Suzanne Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Music