Search the Collection
Advanced Search

Broadsheet featuring the ballad 'The Poor Charlies Lamentation'.

Date: 1832 -1835
Overall: 225 x 161 mm, 0.014 kg
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Broadsheet
Object No: 00017359
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    This broadsheet titled 'The Poor Charlies Lamentation' is an attack on British politician Sir Robert Peel, in particular his act of 1829 to establish a Metropolitan Police force and his Anatomy Act of 1832 giving over the bodies of those who died in poorshouses to doctors and anatomists for dissection. Both acts were seen as oppressive to the poor. The Charlies, the old watchmen who lost their jobs to the Police, are the subject of the ballad, they will be forced to take up the Government's Bounty Scheme and migrate to Van Dieman's Land to escape dissection.
    SignificanceBroadsheets were designed as printed ephemera to be published and distributed rapidly. This also meant they were quickly disposed of with many of them not surviving the test of time. The museum's broadsheet collection is therefore a rare and valuable example of how maritime history was communicated to a wide audience, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. They vibrantly illustrate many of the themes and myths surrounding life at sea. Some of them also detail stories about transportation and migration.
    HistoryThe Poor Charlies Lamentation

    O Hear the act of Mr. Peel,
    Which I'm afraid we all fhall (shall) feel,
    His heart muft (must) be as hard as fteel (steel) ,
    To ruin us poor Charlies.


    We fhall (shall) be undone one and all
    No more the hour of night we'll call:
    pray don't laugh at our downfall,
    But pity us poor Charlies.

    Oh! dear we are all in a mefs (mess) ,
    We fhall (shall) all be driven to diftrefs (distress) ,
    It's a devilifh (devilish) hard i muft (must) confefs (confess),
    So long I have been a Charlie.

    Spoken -- Good morning, Paddy, I fuppofe (suppose) you are juft (just) come off your bate, as you look rather gapifh (gapish). but I think Mr. Peal's new Watchman's Act, will drive us all of our bate.
    Well, but if they drive us off our bate, fure (sure) what will they do for Guardians of the Night. Oh, but boy, they are determined on haing a frefh (fresh) fet (set) of men as big as beef eaters, fix (six) feet high, & they are to have blunderbufs (blunderbuss), a cutlafs (cutlass), a fhillaleigh (shillaleigh), a rattle and a lantern. knock down a dozen fellows at once, and fill the watch houfe (house) in five minutes
    We fhall (shall) be undone, & c

    You'll own it as a fhocking (shocking) thing,
    No more we fhall (shall) our rattle fpring (spring),
    Or hear the buxom blades to fing (sing),
    Wha time now, honeft (honest) Charlie,
    I firmly pray now from my heart,
    Before I with my box do part,
    That Mr. Peal, may feel the fmart (smart)
    Inftead (Instead) of us poor Charlies.

    Spoken --- And who the devil do you cal this Mr Peal now, fure (sure) this is the fame (same) man that ftood (stood) up for the Emancipation bill, and the rights of Old Ireland. -- The very fame (same) man, faith he is, and if he can put up a Catholic, he can knock down a Watchman, for they tell me he is the devil upfet (upset) all our boxes, break our rattles, and put our lanthorns out Paddy, Oh Faith fure (sure); and bad luck to him, and if he does put our lanthorns out, may he be glad to carryu the lantern himfelf (himself), and may he, the fift (first) night he goes on his beat, lofe (lose) his coat and lantern too, and get the fack (sack) into the bargin;
    We fhall (shall) be undone, &c.
    Ten years I've been on my laft (last) beat
    Where iwells and blowings us'd to meet,
    In my box they had many a treat,
    And never forget poor Charlie.

    Some of their names to you I'll tell
    There was dumpling Bet and bandy Nell,
    One eyed Peg and long nofed (nosed) Sall
    Oh well they knew poor Charlie,

    Oh faith, the d----' peal him for me, for I've been 15 years on my bate, and took up all that came in my, both gentle and fimple (simple), drunk or fober (sober), what did deferve (deserve) it, and what did not deferve (deserve) it, for fure (sure), if they did not deferve (deserve) it, then they ight another time, & faith, the devil a one flipped (slipped) thro' my hands for I locked all up I met with, & all I did not meet with and all that did not come 'twas all the fame (same) to me and may St. Patrick, fly away with me, if I would not have locked up Mr. Peal, if I had thought he had acted fo (so) genteel to us poor Watchmen.

    This Act will ?mak fam (same) thoufands (thousands) grin
    No more we'll rattle a drop of gin, In the work houfe (house) we muft (must) go in What a treat for us poor Charlies.

    I furey (surely) would have broke my neck
    If fuch (such) as this I did expect,
    They want our bodies to dissect
    What an end for honeft (honest) Charlie ;

    (Yes, I afsure (assure)you that Mr. Peal has not only endeavoured to ruin us poor Charlies but he has alfo (also) caudes (caused) a bill to be pafsed (passed) fpecifying (specifying), taht all persons who die in Hospitals, Work houfes (houses), prifons (prisons) & all others, who are not poised (?) of a certain fum (sum) of money, shall (shall) be given to the Doctors for difsection (dissection) the fame (same) has caufed (caused) all in the afore faid (said) places to petition Parliament against the proceedings, and I expect the plaster maker will soon be ready with their Burking utensilr, and the best thing we can do it for & all to agree take a wife a piece from the Work houses over 50, and under 90, years of age and petition the Secretary of state to send us to Van Dieman's Land to ?pulate the country. We shall be undone, & c,


    Then old women make no delay,
    But ready get to bolt away,
    And take a trip to Botany Bay
    Along with us poor Charlies.

    Yes that will do upou my life
    We will agree to tke a wife,
    And they'll be free from that disecting ?ife
    In Botany Bay with Charlie.

    Now to conclude unto the laft (last),
    I hope the day will come to paft (pass),
    When W--- will drive an afs (ass),
    And P--- be made a Charlie.

    Pitts, Printer, 6, Great St. Andrew Street, Seven Dials.

    Broadsheets or broadsides, as they were also known, were originally used to communicate official or royal decrees. They were printed on one side of paper and became a popular medium of communication between the 16th and 19th centuries in Europe, particularly Britain. They were able to be printed quickly and cheaply and were widely distributed in public spaces including churches, taverns and town squares. Their function expanded as they became used as a medium to galvanise political debate, hold public meetings and advertise products or cultural events.

    The cheap nature of the broadside and its wide accessibility meant that its intended audience were often literate individuals but from varying social standings. The illiterate may have also had access to this literature as many of the ballads were designed to be read aloud. In 'Popular Culture in Seventeenth-Century England', Peter Burke notes that the golden age of the broadside ballad, between 1600 and 1700, saw ballads produced at a penny each which was the same price for admission to the theatre.

    The ballads also covered a wide range of subject matter such as witchcraft, epic war battles, murder and maritime themes and events. They were suitably dramatic and often entertaining, but as James Sharpe notes, also in 'Popular Culture in Seventeenth-Century England', some of them were designed as elaborate cautionary tales for those contemplating a life of crime.

    The broadside ballads in the museum's collection were issued by a range of London printers and publishers for sale on the streets by hawkers. They convey, often comically, stories about love, death, shipwrecks, convicts and pirates. Each ballad communicates a sense that these stories were designed to be read aloud for all to enjoy, whether it was at the local tavern or a private residence.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Broadsheet featuring the ballad 'The Poor Charlies Lamentation'.

    Web title: 'The Poor Charlies Lamentation'

    Related People
    Printer: John Pitts

    Discuss this Object


    Please log in to add a comment.