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Broadside poem entitled 'Mary, Queen o' Scots'


This poem begins: 'I look'd far back into other years, and lo! in bright array, / I saw, as in a dream, the forms of ages pass away.' A note underneath the title states that 'Copies of this splendid production can always be obtained at the POET'S BOX, 80 London Street, Glasgow'. A further note at the foot of the sheet states that it was published on Saturday the 27th of October, 1877.

Written in a lofty and epic style, this broadside poem tells of the tragic fate that befell Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (1542-87). The daughter of James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise, Mary Stuart made the fatal mistake of laying a claim to the English throne - a blunder that ultimately led to the executioner's platform. The poem offers its audience a condensed version of Mary's life story, recounting her childhood in France and turbulent adulthood in Scotland and England. Mary's tragedy can be viewed as one of circumstance, since she was a Catholic who tried to ascend to the English throne during the Reformation. Elizabeth I (1533-1603) had Mary executed in 1587, when it seemed that England was in danger of suffering a Spanish invasion. This work was composed by Henry Glassford Bell (1803-74), a poet and man of letters from Glasgow.
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.
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.

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Date of publication: 1877   shelfmark: RB.m.143(006)
Broadside poem entitled 'Mary, Queen o' Scots'
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