I have been listening to Rachel McDonough’s renditions of ballads from the Francis Child collection for about four years. These ballads are mostly of English/Scotts/Irish origin from the 1600-1700s or earlier.
While many of these ballads were revived/re-discovered in the 1960s by the likes of Ewan MacColl, Martin Carthy or collectors such as Albert Lloyd they were often truncated or censored to make them suitable for radio. It is usually these truncated versions that end up being endlessly re-recorded by folk/pop musicians.
I think the work of the YouTube community recording and sharing these ballads in their original state is important. Not many artists are going to put the 27-minute-long Will Steward and John on their album, so we are lucky to have Raymond Crooke’s rendition.
I have only recorded 21 of the 305 Child Ballads, but Rachel recently highlighted that beyond the Child collection there are many other ballads catalogued in the Roud index (of 25,000 songs) which do not have published recordings. The index was created and is maintained by Steve Roud.
This post documents my research in putting Roud #556, Love in a Tub, or The Old Miser Outwitted to music. Love in a Tub appears as a broadside around 1764. The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library hosts the Roud index and here is the entry for #556. In some cases the Roud entry is just a reference to an entry in another catalogue document, for example this 1905 catalogue of broadsides and chapbooks at Harvard.
Incidentally, archive.org is an absolutely incredible resource for the ballad researcher. With a library of over 2.6 million scanned and indexed (i.e. you can search for words) books it is possible to find an entry in a catalogue and then track down the referenced chapbook or possibly the broadside at the Bodleian Ballad database.
The two references to Love in a Tub in the Bodleian database do not suggest a tune, but do have consistent lyrics apart from the ‘long s’ (which fell out of use by the 1800s) in one of the versions.
I think the woodblock image in the first version is trying to show the process of building the woman into the barrel, which would be quite a time consuming challenge, if you look closely you can see the woman’s head poking out the bottom of the barrel. This video showing the construction of barrel’s shows how challenging this might be.
Another version, found in New York is referenced at the Isaiah Thomas Broadside Ballad Project.
In the Roxburghe Ballads index there is a reference to Love in a Tub, suggesting that it was a new song in 1684 and that it should be sung to the tune of Daniel Cooper. This means that the song was already almost 100 years old when it was printed in the 1764 broadside.
I did find a very scratchy 1942 recording of Harvey Murchie (from Houlton, Maine), part of the Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection, singing the song with lyrics clearly modified from the broadside. The lyrics were most likely modified through the ‘folk process’. It amazes me that this recording is possibly the only time the song had been sung since its popularity in the 1700s, possibly passed down through Harvey’s family and carried with them when they emigrated from Ireland (I am assuming this from the accent, as I can find no biographical details on Harvey).
I did have a go at transcribing the 1700s music notation in this broadside of Daniel Cooper, but couldn’t get the tune to scan with the lyrics. Interestingly, there is a dance called Daniel Cooper which was popular with the Russian court and even got a mention by Tolstoy in War and Peace.
There are echos of the tune from the Daniel Cooper broadside in the Russian Dance tune, and it is fascinating that a ‘Cooper’ features in the Love in a Tub story. None of the tunes on thesession.org with names matching the ones referred to in the Daniel Cooper ballad seemed to relate to the annotated melody.
I am not sure what the connection is, but there was a play by Sir George Etherege called Love in a Tub written around 1660. I read through most of the play, but could find no correlation between the story in the ballad and the story in the play.
The idea of hiding a woman in a barrel in order to procure her as a wife seems like a trope that would have captured the popular imagination and founds its way into other poems and songs. Sadly I can find no references to putting people in barrels apart from the brutal execution of St Eulaia of Barcelona 303 C.E.
I ended up setting the ballad to my own melody. The final result is available here. Text of the broadside and chords provided below:
G C G C Let every one that is to mirth inclin’d C G Am C Come draw near I pray and listen awhile, G D C D Tis witty and pretty, diverting new, C G D G And tho’it is merry, it is certainly true. In the City of London there lately did well, A topping-wine merchant that’s known very well; He had but one Daughter, a Beauty most bright, Who was all his Comfort and all his Delight A handsome young Vintner lived very near, Who dealt with this Merchant for Thousands a Year; And being invited to Supper one night, He happened to see this Beauty so bright. Instead of his stomach he feasted his eyes On the charms of her beauty which did him surprise But that very night fortune prov'd so kind, That he to the lady discover'd his mind. Young cupid so cunningly acted his part, That with the same passion he wounded her heart, So that when he began to discover his mind, He found that to love she was quickly inclin'd. Said she, sir, your stock you know is but low, Some hundreds of pounds to my father you owe, And I am a lady of noble estate, How do you presume to talk at this rate? Dear madam, said he, had I thousands a year, I'd part with it all for the sake of my dear, Then let not true love be despised for gold, For riches can't buy it, 'tis not to be sold. She granted hm love, and to him she reply'd, My dear, I would have you be well satisty'd; 'Tis fitting my father consents we should wed, Not a farthing of portion else is to be had. (this line missing from the broadside I sung from) If you will be true, my dear jewel, he said, A politic fancy I have in my head, And when you do hear it, I fear not, says he, But unto the project you will quickly agree. You see in a vault where your father's wine stands There are some empty casks on the left hand; The cooper's my friend, I can trust him said he, I'll give him ten guineas in gold for his fee. He shall head you up in a hogshead this night, Your father will think it is good Lisbon white, And I'll come and buy the same as it stands; And pay him the money down at his demands. She liked the project and both were agreed, The cooper was sent for, he came with all speed, He took the young lady without more delay, And into the hogshead he put her straitway. He headed it up all secure and nice, Then strait came the vintner up in a trice; And seeing the merchant, said sir at this time I am in great want of a hogshead of wine. Then to the wine cellar they both did repair, To taste of the liquors, but when they came there He knowing the hogshead did make this reply, Sir, this for my money, if any, I'll buy. When I was here last, if the truth I may tell, I tasted the liquor, and liked it well, For the same they agreed, the money was paid, He turned him round to the merchant and said: Sir, all in the hogshead I've bought, it is mine, But only the staves and the hoops they are thine: Yes, yes, said the merchant, and I am content, Then straitway to taste of the liquor they went. He then took a piercer, and pierced the fame, But never a drop from the hogshead there came; The vintner said what a bargain is this, For never a drop in the hogshead there is. Nay, nay, said the merchant,'the bargain is good’, For you bought the hogshead just as it stood, Let what will be in it, either beer, ale, or wine, You've bought it, paid for it, so it shall be thine They open'd the hogshead, the lady came forth, The old man he star'd and rap'd out an oath, If this be your bargain, e'en take her, said he, Sure never poor old man was bubbl'd like me. It is but a folly to fly in a rage, I find that youth is too cunning for age; You bought her, I sold her, so love her, said he, Three thousand pounds portion I’ll freely give thee The vintner he loves her as dear as his life, And as 'tis reported, the proves a good wife He follows his calling of drawing good bub, By this you may see there is Love in a Tub;