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Broadside ballad entitled 'Beautiful Nell'


Verse 1: 'Don't talk to me of pretty girls, of lovely women don't, / I'll never listen to a word, I won't, no that I won't! / There's not a beauty in the land to match my peerless belle; / I'll tell you all about my love, my beautiful, my Nell.' This song was to be sung to an 'Original' tune, and could be bought for one penny. It was published on 9th May 1868 by the Poet's Box, probably in Glasgow.

This comic ballad is quite strikingly evocative of the social life of a wealthy Victorian bachelor. The scenes in the ballroom mention the different dances that take place, as well as describing the varieties of wine and types of food on offer. The ballad also reflects the comparatively chaste attitudes to romance that prevailed in Victorian times, as the narrator is disgraced publicly for trying to 'steal a kiss'. By contrast, some ballads dating from the eighteenth century have much bawdier contents.
The Poet?s Box in Glasgow operated from 1849 to 1911. Matthew Leitch was the proprietor at 6 St. Andrew Lane?s, a narrow street on the south side of Gallowgate, from 1850 to 1858. His son William Munsie Leitch worked at the same address from 1859 to 1865 and at varous addresses in London Street until 1911. Many of the broadsides published by the Glasgow Poet?s Box were dated and some carried advertisements, not just for printed items but also for shoe blacking and ?soap for lovers?! Like the other ?boxes? in Dundee and Edinburgh, the Glasgow one sold love songs, sea shanties, parodies and dialogues. It is not clear what the connection between the different Poet?s Boxes were. They almost certainly sold each other?s sheets. It is known that John Sanderson in Edinburgh often wrote to the Leitches in Glasgow for songs and that later his brother Charles obtained copies of songs from the Dundee Poet?s Box. There was also a Poet?s Box in Belfast from 1846 to 1856 at the address of the printer James Moore, and one in Paisley in the early 1850s owned by William Anderson.
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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Date of publication: 1868   shelfmark: L.C.1269(162a)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Beautiful Nell'
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