This ballad begins: Sir John is a dangerous man - / He was born silly towns to beguile - / Beware, oh beware, if you can, / Of the magic that lurks in his smile'. An epistle is, here, a verse composition written in the form of a letter. There are no publication details for this sheet.
This ballad appears to be a satirical critique of a politician called Sir John Dudley, who is hoping that Edinburgh will provide him with a safe parliamentary seat. The writer's references to 'Brougham and Grey' suggest that the ballad was written some time during the 1830s, as Henry Brougham (1778-1868) served in Earl Grey's (1764-1845) Whig government during this era. The writer spotlights Dudley's protean talent for transforming his politics from Whig to Radical, depending on whatever it takes to be elected. This is why the writer warns Edinburgh not to be beguiled by his French tricolour banner, which is merely a flag of political convenience.
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:
1830-1840 shelfmark: ABS.10.203.01(097)
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