The Word on the Street
home | background | illustrations | distribution | highlights | search & browse | resources | contact us

Broadside entitled 'The life of James Revel'


This moral lesson in rhyming couplets has a prose introduction that begins: 'Giving a sorrowful account of his fourteen years' transportation to Botany Bay, New South Wales, in February 1808, and his return home to London, in March 1st 1823, with a serious word of advice to all young men and women.' The poem then opens: 'My loving countrymen pray lend an ear / Unto these relations I bring you to hear.' It was published by John Smith of Edinburgh.

Poems or ballads designed for moral instruction were a common subject of broadsides. Often they would be attributed to a condemned, repentant prisoner although probably written by an anonymous journalist. In this case it seems more likely that John Revel did have personal input, as the details of his life in Australia are very specific, and the poetic style is less formulaic than in other moral poems and lamentations of the time. This is a good example of how broadsides can provide insight into various levels and experiences of past British society.

Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.

previous pageprevious          
Date of publication: 1823   shelfmark: F.3.a.14(12)
Broadside entitled 'The life of James Revel'
View larger image

NLS home page   |   Digital gallery   |   Credits

National Library of Scotland © 2004

National Library of Scotland