Verse 1: Now I am not a fast young lady, / Nor do I lead a fashionable life, / For my father is a farmer / In a village down in Fife, / And I am his only daughter, / And he calls me pretty Nell, / And I am often seen with a pitcher, / Drawing water from the well.' The sheet does not contain any publication details, but a note beneath the title states that the song was 'Written and Composed expressly for Miss NELL MOONEY, by Mr James A. Kerr, Edinburgh.'
The title of this ballad, and the fact that it was to be sung to a tune called 'Pretty Nell', suggests that it is an updated version of an older song. A character called 'Pretty Nell' does appear in an Irish folk song commonly known as 'The Handsome Cabin Boy' but it is is not possible to say with any certainty that that is the song referred to as 'Pretty Nell' on this broadside. Many thousands of broadside ballads were written or adapted, and a significant number of these were, like this example, idealistic songs written by a man about a beautiful young woman.
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:
1830-1850 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.178.A.2(238)
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