The Broadside Ballad



I open this chapter with a statement of limitation: of all the broadside ballads extant from the years 1575–1700 only about 30 actually deal with the subject of crimes committed by women. A larger number are concerned with crimes committed by men, which necessarily form part, perhaps the most immediate part, of the context for my main subject. Of course, a high proportion of those ballads we know, mainly through entries in the registers of the Stationers’ Company, to have been written in the period have perished, and some of these were certainly about women’s crimes. It is particularly regrettable, for my purposes, that the four ballads registered on the subject of Anne Brewen’s murder of her husband, recorded in the pamphlet, The trueth of the most wicked & secret murthering of Iohn Brewen, Goldsmith of London (1592), have all disappeared;1 so too other ballads linked with extant pamphlets about women’s crimes, such as the ballad of ‘the woman that was Lately burnt in Saint Georges feildes’,2 probably about Margaret Fernseede; ‘Two unnaturall Mothers’,3 probably about the infanticidal women described by Henry Goodcole as Natures Cruell Step-Dames (1637); the ‘sorrowful ballad made by Mistris Browne … consentinge to the killinge of her husband’;4 and five ballads including the ‘pitiful lamentacon of Rachell Merrye’,5 related to one of the cases dramatised in Robert Yarrington’s play, Two Lamentable Tragedies (1601).6


Seventeenth Century Injure Child Early Modern Period Person Mode Henry VIII 
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Copyright information

© Sandra Clark 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of English and Humanities, Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonUK

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