New book: 20 execution songs from Victorian London.
February 6, 2024 10:20 AM   Subscribe

New book: 20 execution songs from Victorian London.
PlanetSlade's fourth book is out today. It collects all my Gallows Ballads and Bushranger Ballads essays into this volume, and added some bonus material. Sold at chaotic public hangings, these lurid songs described the condemned man’s crime and warned spectators not to follow his example. Many claimed to set out the killer’s own confession – his “last goodnight” – placing these verses atop their own blood-soaked account of exactly what he’d done. Celebrity hangings, like that of Frederick and Maria Manning in 1849, produced many rival ballad sheets and total sales of well over two million copies

Each chapter here gives its ballad’s full lyrics, plus my own research into the real-life crime which inspired it and a chance to hear the song performed. Highlights include:

Jealous Annie (1848): Annette Meyers shoots dead her sleazy soldier boyfriend after he tries to pimp her out. A sympathetic jury helps her escape execution.

Jones & Harwood (1851): Two Surrey men repent on the scaffold after a local cleric is killed while they're burgling his home. But did the real murderer escape?

The Life and Trial of Palmer (1856): Boozy doctor poisons family and friends to clear his debts. He survives today as a footnote in the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Role: Writer & publisher
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