by Regan Walker

Inside the Old Bailey Court


Echo in the Wind, my new Georgian romance set in 1784, smuggling features prominently. Tea drinking was so popular that many people turned a blind eye to the activities of the smuggling gangs. Because it was an illegal trade, it is impossible to know exactly how much tea was smuggled into Britain during the years of high taxation in the eighteenth century, but it is clear that while tea drinking was becoming ever more popular and widespread, the official imports of tea were not increasing. By the 1780s, in areas where the smugglers operated most freely, virtually all the tea consumed was smuggled.

Echo in the Wind includes a smuggling trial at the Old Bailey. To portray the trial accurately, I dove into the Old Bailey archives. (Yes, the trials are available in an online database:

How smuggling cases were portrayed:

Before the 1770s, England’s government portrayed smuggling as a crime against the nation, but after this time, smuggling became a crime of assault against revenue officers. During the first part of the eighteenth century, smugglers might refer to their trade in terms of tradition. They were surprised to find they awaited execution for such a commonplace activity. But after the 1770s, smugglers increasingly considered smuggled goods to be their private property. To them, the revenue officers were wrong for seizing what was not theirs by right.

Some of that can be seen in the trial scene in my story. To capture the trial as it might have occurred, I scanned dozens of transcripts of Old Bailey trials. In the end, I selected the trial of John Shelley for my model. He was accused of disturbing the peace, assaulting “officers of the king” and failing to pay duties on imported tea, otherwise known as “unaccustomed goods”.

Since my heroine, Lady Joanna West, is the “master of the beach” for a gang of smugglers operating off the West Sussex coast, she listens carefully as the trial begins:

With a word from the judge, a clerk at the end of the counsel table stood and began to read from a paper.

“The prisoner, one John Shelley, is accused of disturbing of the peace of our Lord the King on the nineteenth of November last. With firearms and other weapons, including bludgeons, a blunderbuss, a pistol and a sword called a cutlass, he did unlawfully, riotously and feloniously assault officers of the king. He and ten other persons took away three hundred pounds weight of tea, being unaccustomed goods liable to pay duties, and which duties had not been paid.”

“A smuggling case!” Cornelia exclaimed in a whisper to Joanna. At the mention of “unaccustomed goods” Joanna had known the nature of the case they were to hear. Her stomach was already tied in knots at the thought of what lay ahead.

The clerk paused and then began again. “The prisoner is charged with another count for forcibly assaulting, hindering, obstructing and opposing said officers.”

Looking up from the paper he held, he asked the accused, “How do you plead?”

The man responded from where he cowered behind the wooden railing. “Not guilty.” By the look on his face, Mr. Shelley well understood he faced the possibility of execution.

As a lawyer, I found the transcripts from the Old Bailey trials fascinating. As a writer, I recognized them as having the potential to add realistic drama to my story, adding to the heroine’s fear of ending up on the gallows.

The Old Bailey:

Newgate and the Old Bailey

By the time of my story, the Old Bailey had long been the place where criminals were tried. Between 1674 and 1834, over 100,000 criminal trials were carried out at the Old Bailey. In the late 18th century, the Old Bailey was a small court adjacent to Newgate gaol. Hangings were a public spectacle in the street outside the Old Bailey until May 1868

The result of the trials:

The majority of smugglers tried at the Old Bailey before 1787 had been charged with the capital offenses of armed assembly or carrying illicit goods. But this was to change. Between 1787 and 1814, 49 out of 64 smuggling cases featured assault and/or obstruction as the main charges.

Throughout the eighteenth century, the acquittal rate was seldom less than 25 per cent, and often more than 50 per cent of those indicted. As the century progressed, the conviction rate fell well below 25 per cent. In 1784, the year of my story, the conviction rate was only 14% (out of 1037 indictments, there were only 149 convictions).

A letter in the Morning Chronicle for 1 January 1773 complained, “The numerous acquittals at the Old Bailey, on some days greater than the convictions, are truly alarming.” They further observed, “Whenever any case admits of the least doubt, the Judge and Jury give it a cast in favour of life and liberty.”

It is no surprise that during the 1780s and later, communities were more frequently the smugglers’ willing accomplices than their terrorized victims. Then, too, the rule of law posed formidable problems for the prosecutors. The law was slow and costly, and biased judges and juries often failed to convict on the most straightforward evidence. Bribery produced many false alibis and witnesses “disappeared” or had convenient lapses of memory.

And what of Mr. Shelley?


Hanging in the street near Old Bailey


At the end of the trial in my story, Mr. Shelley is found guilty in one of those rare instances of conviction. Of course, this causes Lady Joanna much fear. After some upheaval in the court and much sobbing by the man’s relations, this is how the scene ends:

The prisoner was led away and the gallery began to empty. The women who had watched the trial beside them were dabbing at their eyes with handkerchiefs as they stood to leave.

Once they were gone, Cornelia abruptly stood. “Tea, I think, is in order. Twinings?”

Joanna got to her feet, her shoulders sagging with the weight of what she had witnessed. “Some refreshment after that is welcome, though I shouldn’t wonder if we ought to drink something stronger than tea.” Particularly if it were tea she knew might very well be smuggled. But then, so was most of England’s brandy.



“Walker sweeps you away to a time and place you’ll NEVER want to leave!”

~ NY Times Bestselling author Danelle Harmon


England and France 1784

Cast out by his noble father for marrying the woman he loved, Jean Donet took to the sea, becoming a smuggler, delivering French brandy and tea to the south coast of England. When his young wife died, he nearly lost his sanity. In time, he became a pirate and then a privateer, vowing to never again risk his heart.

As Donet’s wealth grew, so grew his fame as a daring ship’s captain, the terror of the English Channel in the American War. When his father and older brother die in a carriage accident in France, Jean becomes the comte de Saintonge, a title he never wanted.

Lady Joanna West cares little for London Society, which considers her its darling. Marriage in the ton is either dull or disastrous. She wants no part of it. To help the poor in Sussex, she joins in their smuggling. Now she is the master of the beach, risking her reputation and her life. One night off the coast of Bognor, Joanna encounters the menacing captain of a smuggling ship, never realizing he is the mysterious comte de Saintonge.

Can Donet resist the English vixen who entices him as no other woman? Will Lady Joanna risk all for an uncertain chance at love in the arms of the dashing Jean Donet?


Echo in the Wind on Amazon:



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THE FOOL OF A BEAR baiter looked at her as if she had two heads.

“I mean it, you puffed up bully.” She flicked the whip at him and knocked the tattered hat from his head. “This dog belongs to Miss Worthy. Should you try to take him I shall horsewhip you within an inch of your life.” She stepped forward and raised the whip to prove her point.

“And I will take up where she leaves off,” Lucy declared. She handed Horatio’s lead to the menacing footman and pushed her sleeves up to her elbows.

“You’re both mad. I’ll teach you to strike me, you silly chit.” He raised his fist and might have hit Adelaide had two things not happened almost at once. She was lifted away from him. At the same time, a powerful hand shot out and knocked the man on his arse.


Her husband glared at the two ruffians who held the scarred dogs on leads. They retreated immediately. He stood over the barker, shaking with fury. “That chit is the Duchess of Selridge. My wife.” The man’s face paled noticeably. “If you value your life you will take this sideshow back to Bankside and never show your face to me again. Understood?”

The barker and his dog handlers nodded vigorously and made haste to do exactly as Marcus said. Adelaide found herself guided by an overbearing grip to her elbow as she was propelled back to the phaeton. The Earl of Creighton offered Lucy his arm and escorted her back towards the Serpentine, her footman and Horatio close behind her. Lucy waved, her face wreathed in concern.

Adelaide was suddenly snatched off her feet.

“Your leg.” The words of concern came out in a squeak as Marcus lifted her by the waist and deposited her with a short drop onto the bench seat. He climbed in beside her and, with a brief nod to the Earl of Creighton, started the grays toward the main gate of the park.

She looked back at the two dogs as the barker and his henchmen dragged them towards the crowd of young gentlemen. The dogs gazed at her forlornly. Their eyes said so much and it broke Adelaide’s heart. A horse and rider stepped out of a copse of oak trees. Dylan raised his hat to her in silent salute and then walked his horse in the direction of the barker, the dogs, and the crowd.

Adelaide turned to find her husband’s gaze fixed on Dylan’s back. She did not like the expression she saw there. When he turned his piercing green eyes on her, she liked it even less. She searched her mind for the words to cool that emerald fire. “Marcus, I realize I shouldn’t have—”

“We’ll talk about it when we get home, Adelaide. I’d rather not be involved in two scenes in Hyde Park in the same day, if it’s all the same to you.”

“Is there going to be a scene?” She tried to pass the question off as a jest.

“Oh, yes, madam. Count on it.”




Most of the early forms of dog fighting involved baiting them with other animals. The most popular of these were bull-baiting and bear-baiting. The first record we have of a bull-baiting in England gives the date of 1209. The so-called sport lasted until the 19th century. Bull-baiting was actually required in the 17th century, as the theory was it tenderized the meat. As for the practice of baiting between dogs and monkeys, rats, ponies, and even lions—I am still trying to find a twisted justification for those events. I doubt I ever will.

Both dog fighting and cock fighting were considered gentlemen’s sports. The major spectators, therefore, were members of the aristocracy. Queen Elizabeth I enjoyed animal baiting and banned plays on Thursdays, as that was when most animal baitings took place. King James was also a fan and retired several mastiffs after they defeated a lion. He felt after they had defeated a lion, any other opponent would be beneath them. Dogs fighting each other was established as a sport by the mid-17th century and was legal in England through the mid-1800’s. Some owners of fighting dogs were indeed gentlemen and members of the peerage, but the sport also became popular among the working class as well.

The venues for bear-baiting were called bear gardens. They consisted of a circle, fenced completely by a high wooden fence. There were raised seats around it for spectators, very like a Roman arena. A post was set in the ground at the back of the “pit.” The bear was chained to the post by his leg or his neck. A group of baiting dogs was then turned loose on the bear. In its earliest form, this dog was what we know as the Old English Bulldog. The dogs were replaced as they tired, were wounded, or were killed. The most well-known area for these events was the Paris Garden area of London, a section of Bankside lying west of The Clink at Southwark.


Bull-baiting was conducted in a similar fashion, with the dogs sometimes tied to the bull’s back. The last recorded bull-baiting took place in 1838. Once bull-baiting and bear-baiting became illegal, dog-fighting came into its own. It was an exceedingly popular sport amongst the aristocracy and was equally popular with the middle and lower classes, especially after the Industrial Revolution. The fact it was not legal did little to slow it down. Much as the laws today have done little to prevent it.


There were those who opposed dog fighting in all its forms. As early as the 16th and 17th centuries the Puritans opposed it – not for its inherent cruelty, but because it brought pleasure to the spectators. Those Puritans were seriously anti-pleasure. It wasn’t until the early 18th century, when people, beginning with William Wilberforce, began to read the biblical term “dominion” as “stewardship” that people began to see these sports as cruel and demeaning. Rather than seeing animals as lesser creatures to be dominated and used in any fashion man desired, Wilberforce espoused the idea that humans were put on earth to care for animals and to look out for their best interests.

Baiting sports were prohibited by Parliament with the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835. However, as I said earlier in this post, this resulted in an increased popularity in the sport of dog fighting. Legal or not, it became a lucrative business beginning in the Victorian era. Those dogs bred for bear-baiting and bull-baiting, a cross between English bulldogs and rat terriers, were called Bull Terriers. These were tough, tenacious, compact dogs of around 50 pounds with powerful jaws for tearing and biting. After 1835, larger dogs were crossed with these dogs to create the dog we know as the pitbull today.

I will not engage in the debate for or against the breed in this post. I only know my two grandnieces, ages two and three, learned to walk by pushing up on and holding on to a large white pitbull named Penny. She is their constant companion and watches over them with a vigilance many young mothers might seek to emulate.

Dog fighting was and remains one of most heinous, disgusting, and cowardly acts of cruelty ever conceived. It is the provenance of classless, ignorant, cowards – men, and sometimes women, who do not have the courage to prove their over-inflated egos by engaging in combat themselves. They prefer to force animals who have no choice to prove it for them. The only thing it proves is we have not come very far in the last 800 or so years. And we still have a long way to go. Fortunately, there are still people like, Addy, heroine of my book, Lost in Love, in the world. People who are not afraid to speak for those creatures who cannot speak for themselves. To all Athe modern-day Adelaide Formsby-Smythes in the world, I say “Thank you!” and “Keep up the fight!” To those dogs still waiting to be rescued from the wastes of human flesh who force you to act against your loving and gentle natures, please hang on. We will never give up. We’re coming for you. Hang on, babies. Just hang on.



When Adelaide Formsby-Smythe insults the Duke of Selridge to the point she sees her own murder in his eyes, her wish that the ground would open up and swallow her seems a perfectly reasonable response. Until it does.

Thus, Major Marcus Winfield, now the Duke of Selridge, ends the worst year of his life by falling into an underground cave with the younger sister of his former fiancée. An offense punishable by—marriage!


Although he never imagined marrying Adelaide, Marcus decides they will limp along quite well together. There’s no need to mention he’s being blackmailed… or that his irritating new wife fills his nights with a passion he cannot deny.

Adelaide, however, having unexpectedly married the man of her dreams, will settle for nothing less than her new husband’s heart. She’ll make him love her. Far less bothersome that way when she has to tell him she’s a thief. And possibly a murderess.


Lost in Love is available now through these links :

The History of the Country House Guidebook

by Louisa Cornell

Anyone who writes romances set in Regency England must have a thorough knowledge of that quintessential piece of British architecture – the English country house. One of the best resources for the study of these monuments to old titles and often older money is the country house guidebook. They usually include photographs of the most beautiful rooms, and more often than not, a floor plan of the house. I have an ever-increasing collection of these guidebooks, many for homes I have not visited. Yet. Frequent visits to Amazon used books and Ebay make adding to my collection easy. And I have friends who enable my addiction by bringing these books back from their trips to England for me.

Elizabeth I actually set the wheels to the country house tour in motion. Whilst her father made pilgrimages to tour his own homes, Elizabeth I often traveled England visiting houses of the nobility. Therefore, as early as the Elizabethan age, the aristocratic pattern of building large country houses for the sake of display and prestige was set by these royal pilgrimages.

In the Georgian era, the increasing wealth of the expanded upper classes provided time for travel and cultural pursuits. More and more turnpike roads were created, making travel faster and safer. Inns were built to accommodate tourists. By the end of the 18th century clergymen, lawyers, military officers, bankers, merchants, minor landowners, and members of the aristocracy were all making tours.

Frequent wars on the Continent thwarted traditional Grand Tour Destinations. Even without wars, travel for women was restricted. Visiting other ‘good’ families was an acceptable way to broaden their knowledge and tastes – cross pollinating ideas, styles, and fashions.

Houses near large conurbations were especially susceptible. Walpole’s neo-Gothic Strawberry Hill near Twickenham was a particularly sought out destination. When visiting an area, day trips to nearby country houses were a favorite activity. The expectation was an owner would, as part of their duty to better society, open their house. Part of being a polite land owner was allowing tourists to visit one’s house and grounds. Key questions in planning these visits were – find the houses, determine whether the owners were amenable to visitors, no matter how genteel. Areas with a higher density of fine houses, within a day or two ride of a city or other existing tourist destinations – Norfolk, Derbyshire, Wiltshire – became part of the unofficial British Grand Tour.

By the latter part of the 18th century the number of people visiting country houses had grown exponentially. As these numbers increased so did the need to manage the situation. Some owners simply refused visitors access. By 1760, Chatsworth was specifically open two days per week.

In 1774, Walpole began issuing tickets and rules for good conduct. He only allowed a maximum of four visitors per day, and children were absolutely forbidden. Smart man. He wrote his own guidebook and printed them on his own printing press. He seldom gave them out as he was afraid people would never leave should they try to see everything he described in the guidebook.

Frontispiece to A Description of the Villa
at Strawberry Hill

Only a handful of houses attracted hundreds of visitors. Wilton House in Wiltshire was one. The increase in visitors eventually led to formal opening hours and standardized tours led by housekeepers. Inns were built near to these houses to cater to tourists.

Internal tours were conducted by the housekeeper.Whilst their stories of family history might or might not be true, their information about works of art and collections in the house were more often than not quite wrong. Some housekeepers were even rumored to simply make things up. Demand for more accurate information gave birth to the concept of the guidebook. In the beginning, the standard form of these guidebooks was a map of an agreed upon route through the home,with entries on each work of art. Indeed most of the ones from the 1730’s and 1740’s were in-house creations with the aforementioned maps, i.e. a floor plan with a suggested route through the house. All of them were focused on an individual house and were basically a catalogue of the artworks and collections in the house.Usually published after a house became established as a tourist attraction, they included information about those things visitors were expected to notice. And, of course, they excluded those things visitors were expected to ignore.

[A Guide to Burghley House, Northamptonshire, the seat of the Marquis of Exeter; containing a catalogue of all the paintings, antiquities, &c. With biographical notices of the artists. [By Thomas Blore. With plates.]]

Only a handful of houses had their own guidebooks before 1800. In 1774 Benton Seeley’s guide to the House and Gardens at Stowe was the first to be published by an outside publisher. It ran to twenty editions in sixty years.

Early guidebooks not designed in-house were published to take advantage of the new market and to build on tours available at multiple country houses. They were designed to be practical for travelers – small, lightweight, simply bound pamphlets with marbled paper covers. They were comprised of information about the house and gardens – according to the paths visitors were expected to take. The guidebook to Hawkstone in Shropshire provided information about various views and spaces of the renowned gardens there.

Hawkstone Park, depicted here by John Emes,  a landscaped parkland and pleasure gardens belonging to the Hawkstone Hall estate in Shropshire. (1790)

Places popular with the 18th and early 19th century visitors were :

Stowe, Buckinghamshire – It was the first to attract visitors in significant numbers, to have its own inn, and to have its own guidebook. It was primarily famous for its gardens.

Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire – It was known for its art collection. It offered impressive tours conducted by the housekeeper. It was considered one of the first “modern” stately homes as its interiors were the work of Robert Adam.

Stourhead, Wiltshire – One of several popular houses in Wiltshire, it could easily be included in a tour of the West Country. Visitors came to see the gardens, the park, and the fabulous ‘Pope’s cabinet’ on display in the house.

Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire – Studley was most known for its gardens and its connection to the ruins of Fountains Abbey,which was purchased by the Aislabie family in 1767. However, visitors were rarely admitted to the house.

As outside publishers realized the value of these guidebooks they were designed to be more functional. They came in small octavo form, bound in paper covers, lightweight and inexpensive. They were sized in easy to carry forms to be used as one toured the house. Their appeal as a souvenir was heightened by the addition of illustrated frontspieces – the most common being images of the house. The most elaborate guidebooks included a series of illustrations. Some editions of the guide to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire included a fold-out map of the gardens, often with hand-colored details, and a set of views of the house.

Booksellers began to see the value in guidebooks and before long rival booksellers were publishing guidebooks of the same house. Eventually they became available in London bookstores as well as in the shops near the houses themselves. People began to read them whether they ever intended to visit the houses or not. The guidebooks began to include a wider range of information. They began to describe the surrounding countryside, details about the family, an architectural history of the house – which included information about everyone from the architect to the plasterers and other artisans involved in the creation of the house. And, of course, they also served as catalogues of the works of art and collections assembled in each house.

Eventually, writers took on the task of writing guidebooks for specific areas, such as Stephen Glover’s The Peak Guide published in 1830. He was among the first to write a guidebook for an area, rather than an individual house. However, his book does include extensive entries on houses in the area. The entry for Chatsworth is over 37 pages and includes detailed entries on important paintings and the artists who painted them.

‘Plan of the Library Story’ from ‘The Peak Guide; containing the topographical, statistical, and general history of Buxton, Chatsworth, Edensor, Castlteon [sic], Bakewell, Haddon, Matlock, and Cromford’ by Stephen Glover of Derby [1830]

The country house guidebook has come a long way and has undergone numerous permutations to become the stylish, slim, photograph-heavy little books sold in the souvenir shops and village booksellers in and around Britain’s stately country houses. They began as and continue to be important sources of information about the treasures, mysteries, histories, and families of these magnificent microcosms of British history.

Treating Mental Illness During the Regency – Rotation Therapy



The Treatments That Put the “Mad” in “Mad Doctor”

by Louisa Cornell

Many of the treatments used for mental illness during the Regency were heinous forms of torture perpetrated on people too vulnerable to protest. The believed causes of mental illness ranged from ill humors – imbalances in the blood – to congestion of the brain to masturbation. It is no surprise the so-called cures and treatments based on these assumptions were equally… punitive and fantastical. One such method was inspired by the work of Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin. Known as rotation therapy, there were two main methods of implementing this supposedly therapeutic procedure.

  1. An ordinary chair, suspended from the ceiling, with ropes attached to the legs. The ropes were used to spin the chair until it was set in motion.


2. A pole fixed from the floor to the ceiling by iron rods. It had a horizontal arm        attached, which was used to hang a chair or bed and to spin the patient.


Psychiatric Treatments

The basis for Erasmus Darwin’s theories about this treatment? He observed children spinning themselves to induce vertigo and the resulting laughter as the children grew dizzy and fell down struck him as a helpful state to induce in the mentally ill. The fact the children did this to themselves voluntarily and only to the point they grew slightly dizzy and fell down appears to have eluded the great man.

The patients were spun in a circular motion until they promised to obey the doctors and get better. (Who wouldn’t?) Once the promise was made, the patient was released and allowed time to sleep and recover. (Not to mention vomit and change his trousers.) Rather like being forced to ride the tilt-a-whirl non-stop until one promised not to be mentally ill any longer. As expected once the shock wore off the patient was still mentally ill, necessitating a repeat of the procedure.

Known side effects of the treatment included :

Bowel Movement

“Positive” Results (according to the doctors)

The powerful shock to the disposition subdued even the most refractory of patients. Further results were tiredness, and a deep sleep, which often lasted for many hours.

I daresay many patients were “cured” simply at the sight of these spinning torture chambers. More on this subject in future posts. Wait until you hear how some “mad” doctors persuaded women unwilling to sleep with their husbands to crawl back into bed. It does not involve dinner and a nice bottle of wine!

Recurring Phrases in the English Ballad

by Louisa Cornell

My study of the music of the Regency Era has covered a broad range of musical forms. One of the most typically English forms is that of the traditional ballad. It is a difficult field of study in one aspect as many of these songs have been passed down in varying forms long before they were written down. Their authors were often unknown and their words were interchangeable depending on the singer and the venue in which they were performed. In addition to word of mouth, during the Regency many of these songs came from the music hall in the form of parlour ballads, music hall comic operas and eventually in the form of commercial print literature and broadsheet publications.



A few of the commonalities they shared were formulaic diction, stock phrases and narrative motifs. One of the most fascinating of these is the stock phrase. Each of these phrases had a message or meaning the listener knew at once because it was such a standard in so many ballads. The best examples of these can be found in what was known as the “Child’s ballads” – songs of love, betrayal, murder, and mystery collected and published in the nineteenth century by Francis James Child in his The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Here are a few of those stock phrases, some quite chilling when one learns their meaning!


Lily-white hand    serves as a warning something dramatic is about to happen. When written as a man taking a lady’s hand it can denote either rape or seduction. And whilst the rape connotation always ends tragically (such as in Prince Heathen) the seduction connotation can go either way (in Katherine Jafray she is seduced and later rescued by her lover.) In addition to her lovely skin tone the phrase may also denote the lady’s virtue as well.


Playing at the ball – serves a rather eerie purpose as it usually forewarns a love affair, adultery or violent death (sometimes all three.) A group of ladies or boys are seen playing at a ball and one is singled out as the ‘fairest flower’ of them all. The word play can be used to mean a literal game, a symbol of fate or to signify manipulation and pursuit. In some ballads the game is followed by the immediate death of the game’s spectator.


Where will I get a bonny boy – This plea is generally met with a willing response from a boy to either carry a message or run an errand. His efforts can end well or ill. In Lord Lovel the lover receives a message from his lady, but when he returns it is too late, she has died of longing for his return. However, in Geordie the condemned husband is saved. The term bonny is used to denote health, strength, vigor, and physical beauty.


She dressed herself in silks so fine / rich attire / scarlet red – a ballad character who dresses in her finest is often about to embark on a journey. Some of its other uses include outfitting oneself for war. Most often this journey is to confront a lover who is about to marry another. As you can imagine, many of these ballads do not end well for any of the parties concerned. Sometimes the heroine is dressing to go to her execution. One does want to look nice for such an occasion.


O mother, mother make my bed – This one, unfortunately, never bodes well. It always signals the imminent death of the speaker. It usually refers to the grave. The best example can be found in Bonny Barbara Allen.



As many of the early singers of these ballads could not read or write and learned the words and melodies by heart, these phrases enabled them to compose their own songs or to add their own or local twists to a song familiar to their listeners. In later years it served to give a ‘traditional’ flavor to the songs used in the music halls and the broadsheet ballads. These phrases were familiar to the man on the street and to even the most discerning music listener of the era.

And interestingly enough, the use of phrases like this is nothing new. They can be found in the works of Homer and in the verses of many of the epic poems even before the middle ages.

A particularly maudlin form of the English ballad is the murder ballad. But that is a story for another post.