Ed de Moel

Child Ballads - Narrative

Bonny Barbara Allen

    1. 'Bonny Barbara Allan,' Tea-Table Miscellany, IV, 46, ed. 1740; here from the edition of London, 1763, p. 343.
    2. 'Sir John Grehme and Barbara Allan,' Percy's Reliques, 1765, III, 131.
    Version A
    1. 'Barbara Allen's Cruelty,' etc., Roxburghe Ballads, II, 25; reprint of the Ballad Society, III, 433.
    2. Roxburghe Ballads, III, 522.
    3. Broadside formerly belonging to Percy,
    4. Percy's Reliques, 1765, III, 125.
    Version B
  1. 'Barbara Allan,' Motherwell's Manuscript, p. 288, from recitation. Version C

A a is wrongly said by Stenhouse, The Scots Musical Museum, IV, 213, to have appeared in Ramsay's Miscellany in 1724. It is not even in the edition of 1733, but, according to Mr. Chappell, was first inserted in that of 1740. Ramsay's copy is repeated in Herd, 1769, p. 29, 1776, I, 19, Johnson's Museum, p. 230, No 221, and Ritson's Scotish Song, II, 196. C was perhaps derived from Ramsay, but possibly may have come down by purely oral tradition. Some later copies of B have Reading Town for Scarlet Town (Chappell).

The Scottish ballad is extended in Buchan's Manuscripts, I, 90, Motherwell's Manuscript, p. 671, to forty-one stanzas. In this amplified copy, which has no claim to be admitted here, the dying lover leaves his watch and gold ring, his Bible and penknife, a mill and thirty ploughs, nine meal-mills and the freights of nine ships, all to tocher Barbara Allan. This is the ballad referred to by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe in Stenhouse's edition of the Museum, IV, 300*, as sung by the peasantry of Allandale. Doubtless it was learned by them from some stall-print.

Pepys makes this entry in his Diary, January 2, 1666: "In perfect pleasure I was to hear her [Mrs. Knipp, an actress] sing, and especially her little Scotch song of Barbary Allen." Goldsmith, in his third essay, 1765, p. 14, writes: The music of the finest singer is dissonance to what I felt when an old dairy maid sung me into tears with 'Johnny Armstrong's Last Good-night,' or 'The Cruelty of Barbara Allen.'[foot-note]

A b is translated by Loeve-Veimars, p. 379, von Marges, p. 34; B d by Bodmer, I, 85.

This page most recently updated on 05-Mar-2011, 17:22:57.
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