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Broadsheet featuring the ballad 'The Sailor's Will'.

Date: 1790 - c 1870
Overall: 234 x 175 mm, 0.023 kg
Medium: Woodcut engraving and printed text on paper mounted on card.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Broadsheet
Object No: 00017387
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    Broadsheet featuring the ballad titled 'The Sailor's Will'.
    The printer is unknown.
    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. Here is not a world of high-art but the rowdy life of the streets of Georgian and Victorian London. Being ephemera, the survival rate is poor.
    HistoryThe Sailor's Will.

    Since all muft (must) die, as well as I,
    Let all like me prepare ;
    From fate to fly, is vain to try,
    This all mankind declare,

    Then while I'm well, I'll make my will,
    Left (lest) fudden (sudden) death befall me ;
    Thay I may find, myfelf (myself) refigned (resigned),
    When fate fhall (shall) pleafe (please) to call me.

    Then, thus as under, I furrender (surrender),
    Myfelf (myself), and all I'm worth ;
    Fift (first) let the grave, my body have,
    Full fix (six) deep in earth.

    Six tars dead drunk, to bear my trunk,
    In coffin heart of oak ;
    And let fix (six) more, jog on before,
    With each a pipe to fmoke (smoke).

    Let grog and flip, to wet the lip,
    In plenty go around ;
    But let no eye prefume (presume) to cry,
    Becaufe (because) I'm under ground.

    Inftead (instead) of fighs (sighs), and weeping eyes,
    Sing fongs (songs) of mirth and laughter,
    For who can tell what heav'n or hell,
    My fate may be hereafter.

    Be fure (sure) with liquor, to ply the vicar,
    As long as he can ftand (stand) ;
    And when that he no more can fee (see),
    Then tip him t'other can.

    Unto my wife, chief joy of life,
    My worldly ftore (store) I give ;
    With all I have, if aught I fave (save),
    In money while I live,

    Two pair of fhoes (shoes), and three of hofe (hose),
    My beft (best) new velvet breeches :
    Befides (besides) a pair not fit to wear,
    With divers colour'd ftiches (stiches).

    My watchman's coat, of ftuff (stuff) fo (so) ftout (stout),
    To far no wind nor rain ;
    My jacket too, of good true blue,
    And trowfers (trousers) void of ftain (stain).

    My woollen cap and fmall (small) round hat,
    Of macaroni make ;
    My fhirts (shirts) of check, my oaken ftick (stick),
    Which ftouteft (stoutest) heads would break.

    My fealskin (sealskin) pouch my filver (silver) watch,
    My hammock, bed and bolfter (bolster),
    A broken glafs (glass) to fee (see) her face,
    My piftols (pistols), cafe (case) and bolfter (bolster).

    An empty cask, a powder flask,
    My fhot (shot), pouch, bag and wallet :
    An old firelock, with broken ftock (stock),
    I beg fhe'll (she'll) overhaul it.

    A reat arm'd chair, in good repair,
    And two juft (just) all to pieces;
    A few old plates, a pair of grates,
    And three old Chefhire (Cheshire) cheefes (cheeses).

    A tub of pork juft (just) brought from Cork,
    A pound or two of bacon,
    My fundy (sundy) wig my fow (sow) and pig,
    And a well fatten'd capon.

    A rufty (rusty) fpade (spade), a Penknife blade,
    A word (sword) without a handle ;
    A box of lint, my fteel (steel) and flint,
    And half a fmall (small) wax candle.

    Then, this my will let all fulfil, / Though whimfical (whimisical) I call it ;
    Nor landfman (landsman) dare with haughty air
    To criticfe (criticise) or ?

    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.

    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.

    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 occasionally they 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.

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