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16 gallows ballads from Victorian London.
February 13, 2011 7:38 AM   Subscribe

16 gallows ballads from Victorian London.
I've just completed a year-long project selecting, researching and writing about some of my favourite gallows ballads from the British Library's collection. These were the printed broadsheets knocked out overnight by jobbing hacks in London's Seven Dials slum and sold at the foot of the scaffold whenever there was a popular public hanging. Each entry in the menu linked above has the ballad's full lyrics, plus my own research on the real-life murder that inspired it and a scan of the original sheet itself.

Among my favourites are:

Mary Arnold, The Female Monster (1843): Former prostitute uses carnivorous beetles to blind her own infant child. Hopes to increase its value as a tool for begging, but wins only prison and transportation.

The Life and Trial of Palmer (1856): Boozy, gambling doctor poisons family and friends to clear his debts. Hanged at Stafford Gaol, but survives as footnote in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Murder at Westmill (1848): Nine-year-old boy brutally murders his infant sister. Mother driven mad by the crime.

Jealous Annie (1848): Annette Meyers shoots dead her sleazy soldier boyfriend after he suggests she pimps herself out for cash. A sympathetic jury helps her escape execution, but not transportation to Van Diemens' Land.
posted by Paul Slade (4 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

I discovered your murder ballads about a month ago, and have been crawling through them ever since. Great work, thanks so much for posting it.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:36 AM on February 14, 2011


Thanks, Stag. You're one guy I definitely want on my side!
posted by Paul Slade at 11:04 AM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


We're all on your side.
posted by staggernation at 9:07 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's getting weird in here.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:09 AM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


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