This ballad begins: 'They told him gently she was gone, / And spoke of Heaven and smiled, / And drew him from the lonely room / Where lay the lovely child.'
Although the bottom edge of this broadside is damaged, the address, 96 King Street, Calton, suggests that this sheet was published by Robert McIntosh of Glasgow. McIntosh's premises in King Street were registered in the 1849 Edinburgh Directory. The National Library of Scotland's collection includes other broadsides published by McIntosh, most of which appear to include a woodcut illustration that bears no relation to the subject matter. 'Little Nell' was the main character in Charles Dickens's 1841 novel 'The Old Curiosity Shop'.
Early ballads were dramatic or humorous narrative songs derived from folk culture that predated printing. Originally perpetuated by word of mouth, many ballads survive because they were recorded on broadsides. Musical notation was rarely printed, as tunes were usually established favourites. The term 'ballad' eventually applied more broadly to any kind of topical or popular verse.
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