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Broadside ballad entitled 'The Downfall of Spittal! A New Song'


The political ballad begins: 'Come join in my chorus, true Aytounites all, / And sing of our triumph and SPITTAL'S down-fall, / For altho' to the Whigs it be wormwood and gall, / Yet the draper must certainly go to the wall'. A note below the heading states that it should be sung to the tune of 'Which Nobody Can Deny', which is an alternative title for 'For He's A Jolly Good Fellow'. The sheet was published by Grant of Edinburgh, and the date of publication was probably some time between 1833 and 1837.

This ballad refers to the downfall of Sir James Spittal, who was Provost of Edinburgh from 1833-37. Aytoun (1797-1881) never succeeded in his fight to become Provost. The writer's emphasis on ridiculing Spittal because he worked as a silk merchant reveals much about the writer's - and society's - prejudices. For as the nouveau riche acquired more power and influence in early nineteenth century society, they were frequently attacked for trying to take over the running of the country. This is why Spittal is described as a 'pert little Draper' who should return to his '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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Probable period of publication: 1833-1837   shelfmark: ABS.10.203.01(088)
Broadside ballad entitled 'The Downfall of Spittal! A New Song'
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