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The Anglo-Scottish Ballad and its Imaginary Contexts

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David Atkinson

6. Agency, Intention, and the Problem of Version (with a brief history of ballad editing)

Note de l’éditeur

An earlier version of this chapter was published as ‘Editing the Child Ballads: Agency, Intention, and the Problem of Version’, Variants, 6 (2007), 123–62, and the material is reused with permission.

Texte intégral

  • 1 The phrase apparently comes from Arthur Kyle Davis, Jr., ed., More Traditional Ballads of Virginia, (...)
  • 2 See, for example, Dave Harker, Fakesong: The Manufacture of British ‘Folksong’, 1700 to the Present (...)

1To acknowledge the sources of variance, the material nature of the ballad, the synergy of sound and writing, and the end of the metaphysics of presence does not necessarily undermine the type/version paradigm of ballad studies, but it certainly complicates a matter that, since the dawn of the so-called ‘post-Child era of scientific folklore’, has appeared relatively unproblematic.1 One of the reasons for this is that for much of the time the ballad has been represented by a single material instance, in the form of a set of words and a notated melody written down by a collector from a contributor ‘in the field’. The editor’s task has been conceived as comprising little more than the obligation to reproduce words and music verbatim. Students of the subject have been quick enough to condemn editors who have done anything else – for example, by conflating different texts, or adjusting words to meet the social constraints on publication in Victorian and Edwardian England.2 Child’s English and Scottish Popular Ballads has been received as definitive particularly because he went back to the manuscripts that lay behind earlier published ballad volumes, such as Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry and Walter Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, which had tended to conflate sources so as to produce a single representative text. In contrast, Child (ostensibly at least) reproduced discrete ballad versions – individual manifestations of the abstract ballad type.

  • 3 Ilana Harlow, ‘Tale-Type’, in Encyclopedia of Folklore and Literature, ed. Mary Ellen Brown and Bru (...)
  • 4 Peter L. Shillingsburg, Scholarly Editing in the Computer Age: Theory and Practice, 3rd edn (Ann Ar (...)

2The type/version paradigm of ballad studies and of Child’s edition was outlined in chapter one, but it is worth noting that the Finnish folk narrative scholars Julius and Kaarle Krohn and Antti Aarne had also arrived, apparently quite independently, at the same paradigm of type and version at much the same time.3 This coincidence is perhaps sufficient to suggest a general indebtedness to the habit of close observation and classification of all kinds of phenomena that came to characterize the intellectual climate of the late nineteenth century. All of the versions of a ballad type or tune family, or a folk narrative type, are considered to be cognate, so that there is no single authoritative text – even though there must have been at some point an ‘original’ text. This, it is worth observing, means that the ballad or folktale version is, on the face of it, not at all the same as what literary editors mean by a version of a literary work, which usually involves both a degree of authorial intention and the implication of development towards a (more or less well achieved) finality.4

  • 5 Scholars who have commented explicitly on this confusion include Ruth Finnegan, Oral Traditions and (...)
  • 6 The best critical account of the subject remains Albert B. Friedman, The Ballad Revival: Studies in (...)

3Child’s editorial approach has left an impression of empiricism, even of scientific method, which has enabled subsequent editors and scholars to envisage the version as the fundamental unit of ballad study. Yet an examination of Child’s treatment of versions suggests that there is a sense in which this new method merely poses the same problem as faced Walter Scott, but at one further remove. For the integrity of the version is far from transparent. That much is apparent from the confusion that persists in the terminology itself, with differing and often imprecise, but nonetheless frequently interchangeable, usages of the terms ‘variant’ and ‘version’ to describe anything from a particular narrative pattern to the single momentary rendering of a song.5 A little more precisely, a distinction can be drawn between the use of the word ‘version’ to describe the general way in which a particular individual habitually performs a certain song, and its use to refer to a single, discrete rendition of that song, so that every iteration, even by the same individual, comprises a distinct version. To trace the problem of version back to its roots, it will be useful to consider very briefly the history of ballad editing in English.6

  • 7 One earlier contender in the history of ballad editing is A Collection of Old Ballads (1723–25), wh (...)
  • 8 J. G. Lockhart, Memoirs of Sir Walter Scott, 5 vols (London: Macmillan, 1900), i, 29–30.
  • 9 [Thomas Percy], Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, 3 vols (London: J. Dodsley, 1765), i, ix.
  • 10 Friedman, Ballad Revival, pp. 185–232; Nick Groom, The Making of Percy’s Reliques (Oxford: Clarendo (...)
  • 11 Friedman, Ballad Revival, pp. 204–05.

4Although there are earlier publications that can be considered as ballad editions, the history of ballad editing is often taken to begin with Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, first published in 1765, not least because of the iconic role it played in stimulating the European ballad revival of the Romantic age.7 The young Walter Scott’s account of his discovery of the Reliques, which so entranced him as to make him forget his dinner, is well known, but it is perhaps still worth quoting the delight he felt at finding the kind of imaginative literature he had loved since his childhood ‘considered as the subject of sober research, grave commentary, and apt illustration, by an editor who showed his poetical genius was capable of emulating the best qualities of what his pious labour preserved’.8 It is perhaps unfortunate (at least in the view of more recent scholars) that Percy allowed his preface to convey the impression that his work constituted an eighteenth-century edition of a seventeenth-century manuscript, long after he had in fact abandoned any such intention: ‘The Reader is here presented with select remains of our ancient English Bards and Minstrels… The greater part of them are extracted from an ancient folio manuscript, in the Editor’s possession, which contains near 200 poems, songs, and metrical romances.’9 In fact, the Reliques constitutes an elaborate bricolage created out of a wide range of sources – among them the Percy folio manuscript; broadside ballads, in particular black-letter broadsides from the Pepys collection and eighteenth-century sheets printed by the Dicey firm; earlier printed collections such as Thomas D’Urfey’s Wit and Mirth; or, Pills to Purge Melancholy, Allan Ramsay’s Tea-Table Miscellany and The Ever Green, and A Collection of Old Ballads; and some verses sent by correspondents, in particular Scottish ballads from David Dalrymple, Lord Hailes, some of which conceivably derive from some sort of field-collecting, though not necessarily without literary ‘improvement’.10 All of Percy’s sources were subject to extensive collation and synthesis, alterations of spelling and punctuation, and, in varying degrees, Percy’s own ‘improvements’. In certain cases – ‘The Child of Elle’, for example – these last amount to wholesale rewriting. Percy made rather little effort to document his textual sources, and in consequence he has left the impression of having sought to mislead later readers – and for that, as Albert Friedman memorably puts it, ‘scholarship has consigned him to the special hell reserved for bad editors’.11

  • 12 [Joseph Ritson], A Select Collection of English Songs, 3 vols (London: J. Johnson, 1783), i, x.
  • 13 [Thomas Percy], Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, 4th edn, 3 vols (London: F. and C. Rivington, 1 (...)
  • 14 Friedman, Ballad Revival, p. 205.
  • 15 John W. Hales and Frederick J. Furnivall, eds, Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscript: Ballads and Romance (...)

5The Reliques of Ancient English Poetry was a huge literary success, however, with four editions during the editor’s lifetime and subsequent reprints throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Beginning in 1783, the bad-tempered antiquarian Joseph Ritson launched a drawn-out attack on Percy’s editorial integrity, accusing him of every kind of forgery and fabrication.12 Percy’s position was not helped by his refusal to produce the folio manuscript in public, though he did have unimpeachable witnesses to attest to its actual existence. He did make some alterations in the fourth edition of the Reliques in response to Ritson’s criticisms, and introduced a little more clarity into the preface along with a system of marking with asterisks (some of) those instances where ‘any considerable liberties’ had been taken with the old copies.13 But, Friedman observes, these adjustments amount to ‘admissions of guilt rather than effectual efforts to atone in a substantial way for editorial waywardness’.14 The eventual publication of a scholarly edition of the folio manuscript tended only to endorse Ritson’s criticisms of Percy’s editing.15

  • 16 Friedman, Ballad Revival, p. 204.
  • 17 Groom, Making of Percy’s Reliques, pp. 106–44.
  • 18 Groom, Making of Percy’s Reliques, esp. p. 227.

6Yet, as Friedman also indicates, there is a certain unfairness about all this criticism, since if Percy had remained more faithful to his sources the ballads would without doubt have been less widely read.16 It was his literary success that brought the ballads to the attention of the educated elite not just in England but across Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Although Samuel Johnson had been an important influence, encouraging Percy in the direction of an antiquarian edition of the folio manuscript, in the end Johnson’s influence was outweighed by that of William Shenstone, whose guiding principle was not antiquarian scholarship but literary ‘taste’.17 Given the eclecticism both of Percy’s selection of source materials and of the ways he made use of them, it is evident that, the statement in the preface notwithstanding, the Reliques is quite simply not intended to represent what modern scholars would call an edition of the folio manuscript, in the sense of being one that vests ultimate textual authority in that document.18 Bearing in mind that the practice of editing with reference to an identified textual authority was already established with eighteenth-century editions of Shakespeare, in view of Percy’s rejection of this principle it might almost be better not really to think of him as an editor at all. Certainly, a tendency among modern scholars to dismiss the Reliques as badly edited and consequently ‘inauthentic’ risks seriously underestimating its impact on the currency of ballad literature over a long period of time and at different social levels.

  • 19 Sir Walter Scott, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, ed. T. F. Henderson, 4 vols (Edinburgh: Oliver (...)
  • 20 Friedman, Ballad Revival, p. 241.
  • 21 Friedman, Ballad Revival, pp. 242–43; Sigurd Bernhard Hustvedt, Ballad Books and Ballad Men: Raids (...)
  • 22 Scott, Minstrelsy, ed. Henderson, i, 167–68 (and see also i, xvii–xxi). A new edition of the Minstr (...)

7Walter Scott wrote that in compiling his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, first published in 1802–03, it had been his intention ‘to imitate the plan and style of Bishop Percy, observing only more strict fidelity concerning my originals’.19 Ritson’s attacks appear to have had the effect of compelling subsequent editors at least to begin to take some account of his demands for textual fidelity.20 Nonetheless, Scott’s editorial method was still essentially one of collation and emendation of all the manuscript texts that he happened to have to hand from his various sources, several of which were already subject to a tendency towards ‘improvement’. Scott’s intention was to offer ballads that were more complete than any of their individual exemplars, even though this inevitably meant the introduction of words, phrases, lines, and occasionally even stanzas of his own making.21 His key claim as editor was to have taken no further liberties than, where exemplars disagreed, to have preserved ‘the best or most poetical reading of the passage’, but inevitably he was also obliged to admit to having made rearrangements ‘to recover the rhyme’ and ‘to remove obvious corruptions, and fit the ballads for the press’.22

  • 23 Friedman, Ballad Revival, p. 243; Hustvedt, Ballad Books and Ballad Men, p. 33; Scott, Minstrelsy, (...)

8The Minstrelsy ballads are thus for the most part composites; but while they are unlikely to resemble any real or imagined ‘original’ ballad texts, commentators have nonetheless found themselves compelled to acknowledge, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, that Scott’s editorial art, if the phrase may be allowed, was, at its best, capable of capturing something of the quintessence of Scottish balladry.23 And while Scott’s method was founded on Percy’s, owing to its rather greater regard for textual authority it can, with a little imagination, perhaps be situated within an editorial tradition. That is to say, Scott’s collation and emendation of different copies of the same ballad has something in common with stemmatics, or genealogical editing, as a method for recovering the ‘original’ forms of biblical and classical texts, comprising the analysis of different manuscript witnesses in order to work out their affiliations on the basis of shared errors, and the consequent reconstruction of an archetypal text, employing editorial conjecture where correction of the transmitted text is judged necessary in order to restore an original reading.

  • 24 Hustvedt, Ballad Books and Ballad Men, p. 32, praises Henderson’s edition but considers its merits (...)
  • 25 James Reeves, ed., The Idiom of the People: English Traditional Verse [...] from the manuscripts of (...)
  • 26 Scholars of the so-called ‘Finnish school’ have endeavoured to reconstruct archetypes of folktales (...)

9The practice of stemmatics was not fully established until the mid-nineteenth century, and it would be unwise to exaggerate the extent to which Scott was pursuing any such rigorous method – for one thing, he omitted to provide a record of variants in the form of an editorial collation or apparatus, and he certainly altered far more than any genealogical editor would ever want to justify. All the same, read in T. F. Henderson’s edition (which has been the standard reference copy for scholars for more than a century), which records Scott’s use of different manuscript sources as well as many of the corrections, emendations, and rewritings, the Minstrelsy can take on the outlines of a critical edition of a rather peculiar, ‘proto-genealogical’, imaginative kind.24 Years later, James Reeves gave an example of a fully documented instance of this kind of editorial treatment of a folk song, ‘O No John’(Roud 146), from the Cecil Sharp manuscripts, which he was the first editor to print and which he wanted to present in the ‘completest text compatible with respect for the words of the singers’.25 It should be added that this was not generally Reeves’s editorial policy, and neither did he maintain that it enabled him to restore a lost ‘original’– but then, neither did Scott. The important point here is not so much to defend Walter Scott as to emphasize that the pursuit of an archetypal form, by means of textual reconstruction and emendation, is a defensible editorial method.26

10Scott later came to regret his editorial policy, writing in a letter to William Motherwell of 3 May 1825 that each ballad text, as taken down from a particular contributor in a particular part of the country, amounts to an independent literary production:

  • 27 William Motherwell, The Poetical Works of William Motherwell, with memoir by James M’Conechy, Esq., (...)

I think I did wrong myself in endeavouring to make the best possible set of an ancient ballad out of several copies obtained from different quarters, and that, in many respects, if I improved the poetry, I spoiled the simplicity of the old song. There is no wonder this should be the case when one considers that the singers or reciters by whom these ballads were preserved and handed down, must, in general, have had a facility, from memory at least, if not from genius (which they might often possess), of filling up verses which they had forgotten, or altering such as they might think they could improve. Passing through this process in different parts of the country, the ballads, admitting that they had one common poetical original (which is not to be inferred merely from the similitude of the story), became, in progress of time, totally different productions, so far as the tone and spirit of each is concerned. In such cases, perhaps, it is as well to keep them separate, as giving in their original state a more accurate idea of our ancient poetry, which is the point most important in such collections.27

  • 28 Mary Ellen Brown, William Motherwell’s Cultural Politics, 1797–1835 (Lexington: University Press of (...)

11This opinion of Scott’s, along with his own accumulating experience of ballad collecting in the field, helped Motherwell formulate the introduction to his Minstrelsy: Ancient and Modern of 1827, in which he rejected the practice of editorial collation and emendation – in spite of the fact that he had treated many of his own published ballad texts in just that manner, since the introduction was written after the book had commenced publication (and is therefore probably better considered as an afterword or conclusion).28 Instead, Motherwell now brought to the matter the zeal – not to mention the rhetoric – of the convert:

  • 29 William Motherwell, Minstrelsy: Ancient and Modern (Glasgow: John Wylie, 1827), pp. iv, v, vi (resp (...)

it has become of the first importance to collect these songs with scrupulous and unshrinking fidelity. If they are at all worth preserving […] it assuredly must be in the very garb in which they are remembered and known, and can be proved to exist amongst us. It will not do to indulge in idle speculation as to what they once may have been, and to recast them in what we may fancy were their original moulds.
With many of these ballads, liberties of the most exceptionable and flagrant description have occasionally been taken by their respective editors, liberties as uncalled for as they are unpardonable in the eye of every rigid and honest critick. Some of these offences against truth and correct taste, are of a very deep, others of a lighter shade of criminality, but be they what they may in magnitude, all are alike deserving of unmitigated condemnation.
By selecting the most beautiful and striking passages, which present themselves in the one copy, and making these cohere as they best may, with similar extracts detached from the other copy, the editor of oral poetry succeeds in producing from the conflicting texts of his various authorities, a tirdd [
sic] version more perfect and ornate than any individual one as it originally stood. This improved version may contain the quintessence – the poetick elements of each copy consulted, but in this general resemblance to all, it loses its particular affinity to any one. Its individuality entirely disappears, and those features by which each separate copy proved its authenticity, in the collated version, become faint and dubious, confused and undistinguishable.29

  • 30 Motherwell, Minstrelsy: Ancient and Modern, p. vi.

12Each version – which seems, in effect, to mean each copy of the same ballad taken down from a different source – is entitled to be considered of equal ‘authenticity’ (read ‘authority’).30 And where space permits the reproduction of just one text (Motherwell does not quite say this, but it seems to be implied), the editor is still bound to reproduce it with the utmost fidelity:

  • 31 Motherwell, Minstrelsy: Ancient and Modern, p. vii.

Under the pressure of such circumstances, then, it surely is the duty of the collector and editor of Traditionary ballads, to avoid the perilous and frequently abortive task, of uniting discordant and essentially incohesive texts, and to content himself with merely selecting that one of his copies which appears the most complete and least vitiated – and to give it purely and simply as he obtained it, without hazarding any emendation whatsoever.31

  • 32 Flemming G. Andersen, ‘“All There Is... As It Is”: On the Development of Textual Criticism in Balla (...)

13Motherwell’s introduction, indebted to Scott’s letter, exerted a strong influence on the practice of the Danish ballad editor Svend Grundtvig, who commenced publication of Danmarks gamle Folkeviser in 1853 and summarized his own editorial policy as being to print ‘all there is… as it is’, and Grundtvig in turn guided Child.32 And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

  • 33 Friedman, Ballad Revival, pp. 237–40; Gregory, Victorian Songhunters, pp. 39–42.
  • 34 John Bell, ed., Rhymes of Northern Bards, introduction by David Harker (Newcastle upon Tyne: Frank (...)
  • 35 Francis James Child, ed., English and Scottish Ballads, 8 vols (Boston: Little, Brown, 1857–58), i, (...)
  • 36 Hales and Furnivall, eds, Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscript, i, xxiii.
  • 37 See Gregory, Victorian Songhunters, pp. 325–58; Sigrid Rieuwerts, ‘The Ballad Society: A Forgotten (...)

14Or not quite. For one thing, it would be misleading to exaggerate either (i) the extent to which the vesting of authority in a single, discrete text was a novel idea when Child started to publish the volumes of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads in 1882; or (ii) the impression that there was but a single trajectory in ballad editing extending from Reliques of Ancient English Poetry through to Child’s edition and beyond. Ritson, for example, edited a number of ballad books which by and large adhere to his insistence on printing texts just as they were found.33 John Bell, editor of the north-eastern collection Rhymes of Northern Bards, which appeared in 1812, has been credited with having treated his sources ‘with more respect than any later editor of non-copyright material except Child’.34 And Child’s preface to his own earlier edition of English and Scottish Ballads, which began publication in 1857 and which drew its texts from previous printed collections, including Percy’s Reliques, states: ‘With respect to the texts, the Editor, after selecting the most authentic copies, has carefully adhered to the originals as they stand in the printed collections, sometimes restoring a reading which had been changed without reason, and in all cases indicating deviations, whether his own or those of others, in the margin.’35 Similarly, Hales and Furnivall affirm that their approach to editing the Percy folio is to give the texts just as they stand in the manuscript, with any necessary alterations recorded in the notes.36 In principle, too, the various volumes published by the Ballad Society in the late nineteenth century adhere to scholarly principles.37

  • 38 William Allingham, ed., The Ballad Book: A Selection of the Choicest British Ballads (London and Ca (...)
  • 39 Allingham, ed., Ballad Book, p. xxx.
  • 40 Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed., The Oxford Book of Ballads (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), pp. ix–xi.
  • 41 Robert Graves, The English Ballad: A Short Critical Survey (London: Ernest Benn, 1927), p. 33; Robe (...)
  • 42 James Kinsley, ed., The Oxford Book of Ballads (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), pp. vi–vii.

15Conversely, the practice of editorial collation, synthesis, and imaginative reconstruction continued to be embraced, and defended, by editors after Motherwell and even after Child. The Anglo-Irish poet William Allingham, for example, set out in the Ballad Book, which first appeared in 1864, to present a selection of ballads ‘in at once the best and the most authentic attainable form’ by collating, and occasionally altering, multiple copies.38 ‘In short,’ he proclaims, somewhat romantically, ‘the present editor, has dealt, as poet and critic, with a heap of confused materials, much as he would have dealt orally with the same materials, had fortune placed him in the world some three centuries ago in the condition of a ballad-minstrel (many worse conditions for a poet), singing in hall or cottage to groups of old and young.’39 In his Oxford Book of Ballads of 1910, Arthur Quiller-Couch, writer, critic, and editor of several famous anthologies, known by his nom de plume as ‘Q’, explicitly acknowledges the editorial practice of Scott and Allingham as his model and offers the reader a single, and in many instances composite, ‘best’ copy of each ballad, albeit with the most significant interpolations enclosed within square brackets.40 The poet and novelist Robert Graves, too, published ballad anthologies, in 1927 and 1957, and he again chose ‘to give a version compressed from several surviving variants […] and so show the potential completeness that the ballad had while it was still alive’.41 Quiller-Couch’s Oxford Book of Ballads was reprinted until eventually replaced in 1969 by James Kinsley’s edition, who explicitly rejected his predecessor’s method and instead reproduces each ballad from a single source, with emendation kept to a minimum.42

  • 43 Gregory, ‘In the Shadow of Child’, p. 71; Gregory, Victorian Songhunters, p. 301.

16The contrasting Victorian (and later) approaches to ballad editing have been characterized as positivist and scientific (Child et al.), versus Romantic, idealist, and neo-Platonic (Allingham, Quiller-Couch, Graves).43 More often than not, however, they reflect first and foremost a difference in the nature of the source materials and the editors’ and publishers’ intentions. On one side were those charged with editing a specified corpus, contained within a particular manuscript or collection of broadsides, for a largely scholarly readership; on the other, those whose project was to present the ballads at large to a general readership, drawing on a potentially unbounded corpus that could include multiple iterations of the ‘same’ thing, and who were obliged to do so within constraints of space and budget.

  • 44 It is explained, for example, in Hales and Furnivall, eds, Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscript, i, xxii (...)

17Howbeit, Child’s practice – that is to say, to edit at the level of the individual text – is held to represent the scholarly ideal. And yet (as with so many of the classic published ballad collections) there is actually no clear statement of editorial policy in The English and Scottish Popular Ballads at all. The reader is left to deduce, for example, that italic font in texts derived from early manuscripts represents the expansion of manuscript contractions – a convention that, to be fair, may have been more familiar in Child’s time.44 More importantly, though Child did not conflate texts in the Walter Scott manner, he did nonetheless collate texts; and on occasion he did adopt readings other than those of his source text, sometimes introducing emendations of his own. It is possible to substantiate these assertions by dipping into The English and Scottish Popular Ballads more or less at random, but a few examples will illustrate the main categories of editorial practice that demand consideration here.

  • 45 London, British Library, Additional MS 29408–29409, vol. 2, pp. 111–13.
  • 46 Cambridge, MA, Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Eng 1491 (2) [recatalogued from 25241.10.5F (...)
  • 47 The apparatus and other notes referred to here are at ESPB, i, 226, 504.
  • 48 Peter Buchan, Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland, 2 vols (Edinburgh: W. and D. Lain (...)
  • 49 W. Christie, ed., Traditional Ballad Airs, 2 vols (Edinburgh: Edmonston & Douglas; David Douglas, 1 (...)

18Child 20 I is a text of ‘The Cruel Mother’, for which the base text (Child 20 I a) is found in the British Library manuscript of the Scottish ballad collector Peter Buchan.45 Child did not live to see the same ballad in another Peter Buchan manuscript, formerly in the possession of Buchan’s nephew, David Scott of Peterhead, and now at Harvard.46 Variant readings are collated in the critical apparatus which is printed after all the texts of ‘The Cruel Mother’.47 The copies collated here are from Peter Buchan’s Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland (Child 20 I b);48 and William Christie’s Traditional Ballad Airs, where the words are ‘epitomized [from Buchan’s Ancient Ballads and Songs], and somewhat changed for this Work, some of the changes being made according to the way the Editor has heard it sung’, and matched with a melody collected in Banffshire (Child 20 I c).49

  • 50 There is a further peculiarity to note here: in the British Library MS, someone has made a small nu (...)

19So, in line 3.1, ‘She did her down to the greenwood gang’, Child rejected ‘green woods’, the reading of the base text in the British Library MS, in favour of ‘greenwood’, which is the reading in Ancient Ballads and Songs, though the apparatus does not record this last point (the Harvard MS has ‘green wood’, though the space between the n of ‘green’ and the w of ‘wood’ is very slight). In lines 14.1 and 16.1, Child emended the word ‘fool’, which is the reading in the British Library MS (and the Harvard MS) and Ancient Ballads and Songs (and also in Christie’s equivalent of 14.1, though this is not recorded) to ‘fowl’, even though ‘fool’ is a perfectly acceptable Scots spelling (Child notes against ‘fool’ in the apparatus: ‘i. e. “fowl” spelt phonetically’).50 In lines 16.1 and 16.2, which in the British Library MS end with the words ‘wood’ and ‘flood’, respectively, Child chose to print ‘wood [s]’and ‘flood [s]’, maintaining consistency with the plural forms of the same words in lines 14.1 and 14.2, but with only the presence of square brackets in the body of the Child 20 I text to indicate the emendation. The apparatus does not record it, and neither does it record that ‘woods’ and ‘floods’ are the readings in Ancient Ballads and Songs (and in the Harvard MS).

  • 51 James Henry Dixon, ed., Scottish Traditional Versions of Ancient Ballads (London: Percy Society, 18 (...)
  • 52 Glasgow University Library, MS Murray 501, pp. 475–76; transcribed copy in Cambridge, MA, Harvard U (...)

20Further collation of Child 20 I against the two manuscripts (bearing in mind that Child did not have the opportunity to consult the Harvard manuscript) and Ancient Ballads and Songs reveals a number of variant readings (discounting minutiae of punctuation) not noted or only partially recorded in Child’s apparatus (Table 6.1). Child also notes that the same ballad is found in a couple of other places: ‘Printed as from the MS. in Dixon’s Scottish Traditional Versions of Ancient Ballads […] with a few arbitrary changes’;51 and in William Motherwell’s manuscript.52 These copies are not collated, though they do contain variant readings.

Child 20 I

British Library Additional MS 29408-29409

Harvard MS Eng 1491 (2)

Peter Bitchan, Ancient Battads and Songs (1828)

recorded in ESPB apparatus

2.2

belly did her betray

belly did her betray

belly it did her betray

belly it did her betray

yes

3.1

greenwood

green woods

green wood

greenwood

partially

4.1

lent

lent

lent

leant

no

5.2

bodyes

bodies

bodies

bodies

no

8.2

with the white bread and wine

with the white bread and wine

with white bread and wine

with white bread and wine

yes

9.1

wi

with

with

with

no

10.2

none of

none of

nane o'

nane o'

no

11.1

none of

none of

nane o'

nane o'

no

11.2

wore we of

wore we of

wear'd we o'

wear'd we o'

partially

13.2

sort of death
you must die

sort of death
you must die

sort o' death
you maun die

sort of death
you maun die

no
yes

14.1

fowl

fool

fool

fool

yes

16.1

fowl wood[s]

fool wood

fool woods

fool
woods

yes
no

16.2

flood[s]

flood

floods

floods

no

Table 6.1 Child 20 I variant readings

  • 53 ESPB, i, 245–47.
  • 54 [Geo. R. Kinloch], Ancient Scottish Ballads (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, & Green; Edinburgh (...)
  • 55 CSD gote & c., n. 2; DSL-SND1 gote, n. 2.
  • 56 Stephen Knight, ed., Robin Hood: The Forresters Manuscript, British Library Additional MS 71158 (Ca (...)

21On occasion, too, Child was not averse to more radical conjectural emendation. Thus the first line of the final stanza of ‘Bonnie Annie’ (Child 24 A) reads: ‘He made his love a coffin of the gowd sae yellow’.53 However, the base text in George R. Kinloch’s Ancient Scottish Ballads has: ‘He made his love a coffin off the Goats of Yerrow’.54 On the face of it, Child’s emendation appears not unreasonable, and it is duly recorded in the apparatus. Kinloch, however, had satisfactorily explained ‘Goats’ as meaning inlets of the sea, and the usage is attested elsewhere,55 though he was unable to give a location for ‘Yerrow’. In a similar vein, Stephen Knight has commented on Child’s (duly recorded) emendation in ‘Robin Hood Rescuing Will Stutly’ (Child 141) of the ‘doubtless’ of early printed copies to ‘doughty’, observing, ‘he presumably did not note the ironical implication of doubtles in the sense of “fearless”’.56 The adjective occurs in the context of the sheriff’s men running away when assailed by Robin Hood and his companions. Knight’s reading of ‘doubtless’ is indeed aesthetically attractive, but it should be noted that some of the later sources mentioned in Child’s headnote, such as A Collection of Old Ballads, do in fact have ‘doughty’.

  • 57 Peter L. Shillingsburg, Resisting Texts: Authority and Submission in Constructions of Meaning (Ann (...)

22Collation, emendation, and the exercise of editorial choice over variant readings constituted for Child perfectly respectable editorial practices, precedented in the editing of Shakespeare, for example. The collation of variants within an apparatus appended to a clear reading text was – and remains – standard practice, though it is not without consequences. As Peter Shillingsburg has intimated, one difficulty is that the method necessarily tends to privilege one set of readings, which provide the clear reading text, at the expense of all those collated in the apparatus – that is to say, it privileges one text over another.57 This sort of privileging is an artefact of the editing process and has potentially serious consequences in that it may, for the general reader in particular, suppress an awareness of the intrinsic instability and variability of texts. The effect is especially pronounced when the apparatus is some pages removed from the reading text, as is often the case in The English and Scottish Popular Ballads.

  • 58 Later, Child printed a further copy, from New York, designated Child 10 Z, which he also considered (...)
  • 59 ‘Ballad of “The Three Sisters”’, Notes and Queries, 1st ser., 6 (1852), 102.
  • 60 J. F. Campbell, Popular Tales of the West Highlands, 4 vols (Edinburgh: Edmonston & Douglas, 1860–6 (...)
  • 61 [Thomas Hughes], The Scouring of the White Horse; or, The Long Vacation Ramble of a London Clerk (C (...)

23Child’s collations of variant texts, moreover, are not consistent, encompassing both (i) collations of texts that are genetically derived one from the other, and (ii) collations of texts that are merely quite similar. In the first of these categories are the many instances (like Child 20 I) where Child follows a base text in a manuscript but also records variant readings arising when it was subsequently published, recopied in manuscript, or reprinted elsewhere. In the second category are instances such as Child 10 R, where he simply brings together texts of ‘The Two Sisters’ from quite different sources but of a sufficient degree of similarity to permit collation.58 Child 10 R a, which provides the base text, was published in Notes and Queries in 1852 as a ‘Lancashire ballad’.59 Child 10 R b was written down by Lady Louisa Primrose at Wishaw House in 1861 for J. F. Campbell, who also cited parts of it in his Popular Tales of the West Highlands.60 Child 10 R c was printed in 1859 in The Scouring of the White Horse by Thomas Hughes (author of Tom Brown’s Schooldays), under the title of ‘The Barkshire Tragedy’, in a supposed representation of dialect speech, which Child interpreted as deriving from Berkshire.61 Clearly, these three texts are most unlikely to be genetically related to one another in any immediate way.

  • 62 Child’s apparatus has ‘west countree’, while The Scouring of the White Horse has ‘West Countree’wit (...)
  • 63 Tristram Potter Coffin, The British Traditional Ballad in North America, rev. edn, with supplement (...)

24Among the narrative differences that might be noted are the status of the sisters’ father: a king of the north countree (Child 10 R a); a farmer in the north countree (Child 10 R b); a ‘varmer’ in the West Countree (Child 10 R c).62 He gives his daughters gifts in Child 10 R a, apparently sparking off the jealousy between them; whereas in Child 10 R b it is the elder sister’s lover who turns up in the second stanza, falls in love with the younger sister, and gives her a gift; in Child 10 R c there are neither gifts nor lover. In Child 10 R a the miller fishes the drowning girl out of the stream, takes her gold chain from her, pushes her back in, and ends up being hanged for his pains. Child 10 R b goes on to recount that the elder sister sailed over the sea, ‘And died an old maid of a hundred and three’, while the lover became a beggar-man, ‘And he drank out of a rusty tin can’. In Child 10 R c the miller is hunted down and hanged, while the elder sister fled the country ‘And died an old maid among black savagees’. Child 10 R a more or less fits into the portmanteau story type A in Tristram Coffin’s classification of ballad narrative variants, but he evidently felt the more or less burlesque ‘old maid’ ending was quite distinctive and Child 10 R b and c would fall within his story type P.63

  • 64 As noted in chapter 1, a degree of confusion between ‘version’and ‘variant’persists to the present (...)
  • 65 [David Herd], The Ancient and Modern Scots Songs, Heroic Ballads, & c. (Edinburgh: Martin & Wothers (...)
  • 66 ESPB, v, 109.

25Possibly the tactic of collating texts that can at best be described as ‘generally similar’ can be interpreted as thinking in terms of ‘variants’(groupings of individual texts that share similar characteristics) as opposed to ‘versions’(something closer to individual texts derived from distinct sources).64 Presumably it was also driven at least in part by the requirement to conserve space in an edition that was already growing like Topsy. On the other hand, Child grouped together a copy of ‘The Jolly Beggar’ from David Herd’s Ancient and Modern Scots Songs (Child 279 B a) with a broadside, The Jolly Beggars, from the British Library (Child 279 B b), which are similar in outline but differ so much in detail that they could not be conveniently collated, and instead the broadside text is printed in full in the critical apparatus.65 Child thought the variant readings of the broadside were ‘not the accidents of tradition, but deliberate alterations’.66

  • 67 For example, Child 53 A, C and Child 76 D, E. Discussion of Child’s treatment of the ballads from t (...)
  • 68 See, for example, David Atkinson and Julia C. Bishop, ‘The Contributor as Collector: Ann Lyall and (...)

26Where Child had access to more than one text from the same source he mostly collated the variant readings in the critical apparatus, except for one or two instances where he evidently judged the differences between texts to be sufficient to warrant printing them in full.67 An editor certainly has to bear in mind the possibility that different texts deriving from a single contributor might have been acquired from different sources and maintained their conceptual independence.68 Nevertheless, allowing that it is very difficult to know for sure, in very many instances there most probably does exist some sort of direct genetic connection between variant texts of the same ballad deriving from the same contributor. What an editor is being called upon to do is to make a judgement concerning the significance of degrees of difference. Does each separate manifestation, rendering, or iteration invariably warrant entirely separate editorial treatment, or does this only become the case once a certain degree of difference has been attained, and if so where does the line of demarcation lie?

  • 69 Dianne M. Dugaw, ‘Anglo-American Folksong Reconsidered: The Interface of Oral and Written Forms’, W (...)

27Likewise with broadside texts, which are often assumed to have been copied directly from one printing to another by the same and/or different printers, and yet can display just the same sorts of variation as are found among collected ballads.69 Child tended to collate different broadside printings together and his practice may have contributed to a widespread impression of the intrinsic stability of printed texts. Of course, if they were copied one from another they would be genetically related in some degree, and their variant readings might appear semantically quite insignificant even while their bibliographic codes might be very different indeed. Conversely, the broadsides themselves might well have existed at quite different times and in quite different places, and it is therefore difficult not to allow that they are just as much different versions as ballads collected from contributors similarly separated by time and space. And if the argument holds for different printings, does it not then equally hold for the individual sheets, even if they are to all intents and purposes lexically identical?

28The decision is inevitably profoundly affected by the pragmatics of editing. One suspects that Child’s judgements were influenced as much by the ease or otherwise of compiling collations of variant readings as by a coherent philosophical position concerning what constitutes an autonomous version. His system of designation using upper-case and lower-case lettering is certainly neither transparent nor consistent throughout The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. And while the trajectory from Percy, or at least from Scott, through to Child appears on the face of it to have determined that the locus of authority for ballad editing should lie not with the abstract ballad type but with the supposedly concrete, unitary version, and thence with its individual source, be that a person or a printing, the precise definition of version and source has remained elusive.

29Child, then, was not editing in accordance with a single defined theory of text. Like Percy and Scott, Child was a pioneer, but since his time the theory of text for ballad editing has remained largely uncharted. In practice, the majority of editors of ballad materials have been concerned with the presentation of single texts derived from single sources, and have therefore been able to make policy on the fly, perpetuating the type/version paradigm even while version itself has remained undefined. A representative statement of policy is given by Arthur Kyle Davis in the introduction to Traditional Ballads of Virginia:

  • 70 Arthur Kyle Davis, Jr., ed., Traditional Ballads of Virginia, collected under the auspices of the V (...)

No editorial liberties have been taken with the text. In every case, it is given as it was sent in, presumably as it was sung, essentially without emendation. Punctuation has, of course, been supplied where it was lacking or inaccurate; bad or unusual spelling, where it had no connection with the original pronunciation or rendition, has been corrected; stanza divisions have been provided, sometimes conjecturally, in order to present the words in a standard and readable form. But the essential folk quality of these ballads has not been tampered with. No attempt has been made to ‘improve upon’ oral tradition, after the manner of Bishop Percy, Sir Walter Scott, and others. The endeavor has been to present it as accurately as possible.70

  • 71 Davis, ed., More Traditional Ballads of Virginia, p. xvii.

30As the second sentence in the quotation indicates, one reason why this approach appears non-problematical lies in the presumed closeness of the texts to what was taken down ‘in the field’. In More Traditional Ballads of Virginia, Davis writes, ‘the effort has been to present the song as it was actually sung, so far as can be determined’.71

  • 72 Davis, ed., Traditional Ballads of Virginia, p. 16.
  • 73 Davis, ed., Traditional Ballads of Virginia, p. 18.
  • 74 Davis, ed., More Traditional Ballads of Virginia, p. xvii.

31This, however, turns out to be not without its difficulties. Collectors turn out to differ widely in their ability to take down music notations, so that ‘it is ticklish business for an editor […] to decide which aberrations are those of the transcriber, which of the singer. And the latter must be preserved at all cost, just as an obvious verbal intrusion (if one may speak of an “intrusion” here) must be preserved in the text, whether or not it makes sense, because it is preserved by the folk’– and yet at the same time, ‘obvious musical errors have been eliminated; in a few instances, after consultation, the musical editors have made minor alterations which, in their considered opinion, bring the text nearer to what the singer must actually have sung’.72 Moreover, problems arise when there is a discrepancy between the words as written down under the music transcription and those of the same stanza given in the separately written text. In Traditional Ballads of Virginia, such cases ‘have not been altered as errors of copying, but left as interesting variants’.73 More Traditional Ballads of Virginia, however, is seemingly a little more circumspect: ‘The discrepancy arises chiefly from the fact that the musical transcriber has heard the words differently from the textual transcriber. Where one or the other was obviously in error, the two have been brought into conformity, but in a few cases, rather than make an arbitrary decision, the two readings have been allowed to stand as self-declared variants. The remaining differences are slight, and both readings are phonetically possible.’74 Here, then, is what might be interpreted as a subtle shift of editorial policy, away from absolute documentary fidelity and towards critical emendation – implicitly towards the idea of recovering what the contributor intended.

32What is beginning to become apparent is that the location of textual authority in the words and tune just as they were taken down ‘in the field’ from the individual contributor is not in itself sufficient. Not only are spelling and punctuation, and to a lesser extent line and stanza divisions, extraneous to ‘the song as it was actually sung’, but the possibility is there that the music and words as transcribed could actually be a misrepresentation of what it is that the editor is seeking to recover. In other words, a degree of ‘intentionalism’ has begun to infiltrate the editorial process itself. Just as the ‘social theory of text’ acknowledges that non-authorial agents (printers, publishers, editors, and so forth) have the capacity to intervene between author and reader, and to alter the former’s intentions, through deliberate and accidental alterations to literary texts, the inference here is that collectors, transcribers, and editors stand in the same relation vis-à-vis the source of any particular ballad – that is to say, they have a necessary role as agents.

33For the would-be editor, there are seemingly both gains and losses to be had from the appearance of a tacit intentionalism in ballad editing. The gain may well be a seeming shift of the locus of textual authority away from documentary records and on to the contributor per se. This accords well with ethnographic perspectives on traditional singers and singing, and with the Romantic notion of the autonomy of the creative artist (though not with the fact that the contributor is most commonly not the original author or prime creator of the ballad in question). The loss is that the editor, faced with the diminished authority of documentary evidence, is then thrown back on his or her own inference as to what really constituted the contributor’s intention. In fact, the seeming gain from the locating of textual authority with an autonomous source will turn out to be illusory and unattainable.

  • 75 Julia C. Bishop, ‘“Dr Carpenter from the Harvard College in America”: An Introduction to James Madi (...)

34The problems are highlighted by the ballads in the collection made by James Madison Carpenter in Britain and Ireland (mostly in England and Scotland), and the USA, from the late 1920s onwards (he had probably ceased most of his collecting activity by the end of the 1930s).75 Working under the auspices of Harvard, it is little surprise that (although his doctoral dissertation was on sea shanties) Carpenter accorded great weight to his discovery of Child ballads still current in England and Scotland, and that the ballads should represent the most complex and theoretically challenging part of his collection. Most of them exist in multiple iterations of the ‘same’ thing:

  • a dictaphone recording of at least a few stanzas

  • a rough copy text (mostly typescript, with handwritten alterations)

  • a fair copy text (typescript)

  • a lacquer disc copy of the dictaphone recording (sometimes more than one copy)

  • Carpenter’s transcription of the sound recording (often more than one attempt).

  • 76 Washington, DC, Library of Congress, American Folklife Center, Archive of Folk Culture, AFC1972/001 (...)
  • 77 The manuscripts and some of their challenges are described in a little more detail in David Atkinso (...)

35Carpenter described his method of ballad collecting in an interview with Alan Jabbour in 1972.76 Initially, he asked his contributors to sing a few stanzas into the dictaphone, and then had them dictate the entire text, two lines at a time, which he took down on a portable typewriter. These texts typed ‘in the field’ are believed to constitute the rough copy texts. He made it clear, however, that he also discussed the songs with the contributors, asking them, for example, if they knew of further stanzas that he himself knew from printed sources (and on a few occasions he revisited a contributor after a lapse of time to go over the texts again). It is at this stage(s) that some of the handwritten amendments to the rough copy texts are thought to have been made. In a few instances, too, he noted words from the cylinder recordings on to the rough copy typescripts. Certainly, some of the amendments take the form of variant readings, additional stanzas, and the like. However, there are also many more mundane alterations – insertion of punctuation, standardization of spellings, and so forth – which look to have been made, quite possibly at a significantly later date, in anticipation of eventual publication of the ballad collection (which was never achieved in his lifetime).77

36By and large, the fair copy texts then reproduce the rough copy texts with all their amendments in a neat form, but also with a large number of minor variants, especially concerning the spellings of Scots words, and a smaller number of more substantial variants, some of which do not have any evident precedent. In addition, the sound recordings frequently preserve sets of words that vary to a greater or lesser extent from the typescripts. The dictaphone recordings are generally of extremely poor quality. In some cases the disc copies, which were made at an earlier stage in the life of the wax cylinders, provide a better (though still not very good) signal. Carpenter’s own music transcriptions, with accompanying words, were made from the sound recordings; where they are available, they are invaluable for identifying and decoding the sound recordings, but at the same time inevitably they influence what the modern listener hears and writes down.

37Carpenter’s ballads, therefore, present the editor with manuscript materials of a complexity that has not faced – or at least has not been reported by – other ballad editors since Child’s day. The editor is no longer dealing simply with single texts derived from single sources, but with dynamic texts that may derive from multiple sources – that is to say, from both the contributor and the collector, and from their unique interaction. Consequently, if an editor were to seek to pursue an intentionalist policy, he or she would have to be constantly making decisions as to what exactly was the contributor’s intention. For example, where variant readings, or additional lines or stanzas, are inserted into the typescript by hand, should they be considered as the contributor’s afterthoughts, or as the contributor’s responses to Carpenter’s suggestions, and in either case should they be included as constituting part of the contributor’s own final intention?

38In the interview with Alan Jabbour, Carpenter described this sort of situation in some detail:

  • 78 Author’s transcription, with ellipses to edit out some of Carpenter’s hesitations.

One thing that I attribute the value of my collection is the fact that… I have the ability to hold great masses of stuff in my memory. And I go over the ballads until I know them consecutively, straight through like that, and… after the person has finished singing, very often the excitement of singing on to a dictaphone makes him forget one or two or three stanzas that he knows. And so, with the thing in my mind, I say, ‘Well, was there any stanza that began so-and-so?’ He’ll say, ‘Oh yes!’, and away he’d start with his things, you see. Now that’s the difference between my collecting and that of just the haphazard collector. I… loved the stuff and was eager to get it… perfectly. And I’d always jog their memory after they’d finished: ‘Was this in it? Was that in it?’ Naturally, I didn’t… pump him nor prime him nor put my stuff in, but if he knew a stanza or two or three that he had forgotten, and it comes, you see, and makes your collection complete. So many people, when you are trying to write for dictation… when you are waiting the two minutes for him to copy, then the sequence slips out of your mind and the next stanza that you were going to put in just slides through and you go to the third one instead.78

  • 79 Two points are worth making here. First, it is a not infrequent observation that singers can find i (...)

39One might feel suspicious of Carpenter’s insistence that he did not ‘pump’ or ‘prime’ his contributors, but if textual authority is to be located with the contributor’s intention, then the correction of lapses of memory or other failures of execution would surely comply with that intention. No singer intends to stumble over or forget their words. But then, by the same token, where Carpenter’s typescript has an ellipsis, should an editor fill that in too? The number and nature of variant readings among Carpenter’s rough copies are perhaps sufficient to permit the inference that at least some of his contributors may not have been regular performers of the items they gave him and that they may have struggled on occasion to recall the words.79

40Further points of decision arise where there occurs a ‘nonsense’ word. Should that be considered to be the contributor’s error, or Carpenter’s error, and should it be editorially emended? After all, an intentionalist policy permits the correction of ‘evident’ errors. For example, Sam Bennett, the remarkable singer and fiddle-player from Ilmington, Warwickshire, dictated a stanza of ‘The Baffled Knight’ (Child 112) in the following form:

  • 80 The full set of references is Carpenter Collection, Cylinders 107 12:07, 108 00:00; Disc sides 238 (...)

And as they rode upon the way
They saw some poops of hay
Oh is not this a pretty place
For boys and girls to play?
80

Fig. 6.1 Carpenter Collection, MS p. 04267. Courtesy of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, USA.

  • 81 OED pook, n.
  • 82 The word does occur elsewhere in the collection, but in a manuscript that was supplied to Carpenter (...)
  • 83 See further Julia C. Bishop, ‘Grouping, Grawping and Groping towards a Critical Edition of the Jame (...)

41The word poops, which in none of its dictionary meanings has anything to do with hay, is unexpected. The anticipated reading would be pooks, which is found in other texts of ‘The Baffled Knight’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines pook thus: ‘A heap, spec. (a) a haycock; a roughly assembled heap of hay, oats, barley, or other unsheafed produce, not more than 5 feet high, pitched together for carting to a rick; (b) a tall stack of corn, wheat, etc., in the sheaf, in the form of a steep cone 9 or 10 feet high, built up temporarily in the harvest field to dry grain before it is carried to the main rick.’81 There are at least four different possibilities here, of which the most obvious are the following: (i ) that Carpenter simply misheard or mistyped the word pooks – a word that in any case, as an American and a native of Mississippi, may not have been familiar to him;82 (ii ) that Sam Bennett mispronounced a word that in his own mind he understood as pooks; (iii ) that Bennett said what he meant, poops, but that to his mind the word meant the same as pooks; (iv ) that Bennett meant and said poops, knowing it to be nonsensical in this context, perhaps because he had learned the song that way and did not want to change it. The same sorts of considerations will apply wherever a word is misspelled in a manner that might, but equally might not, represent a genuine dialectal pronunciation: how is the intention to be divined and how should the word be rendered in a critical edition?83

  • 84 Shillingsburg, Scholarly Editing, p. 165.
  • 85 Jerome J. McGann, A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism (Charlottesville: University Press of Virg (...)

42The collection thus exposes some of the potential pitfalls of an intentionalist policy for ballad editing. There are possible ways of cutting this particular Gordian knot – for example, publishing the materials in an electronic archive. An archive, however, does not constitute an edition. As Shillingsburg observes, ‘a “mere” archive of source materials will strike most new readers and researchers from other fields as an undigested chaos of material in which everyone must become an editor before proceeding’.84 Instead, however, of attempting to counter objections to intentionalist editing by adopting a quite different practice, it is possible to incorporate the issues raised into a redefined theory of text. Literary editors faced with intractable layers of manuscript revision, and with the agency of others besides the author who have had various inputs into the published form of a text, which may or may not have met with the author’s approval, have been drawn to the conclusion that authors are not altogether independent agents and that the production of texts necessarily takes place within a social, historical, and institutional context.85 The locus of textual authority does not rest with the author alone, but is dispersed across a social nexus that includes authors, collaborators, friends, copyists, editors, printers, publishers, censors, reviewers, critics, and the reading public – so that it might, for instance, support the choice of a published text as a base text even where a manuscript survives.

43The social theory of text has considerable attractions for the editing of ballad texts in light of the problems raised by the Carpenter collection. For one thing, it will justify the straightforward choice of fair copy as base text, against which variants can be collated. This will have certain advantages in terms of reducing, or at least systematizing, editorial guesswork or inference, and ensuring some degree of consistency of treatment – it renders the editing process more transparent. The corollary is that textual authority is located not with the contributor as autonomous source, but with the social nexus that brought that particular text into being. In particular, the necessary agency of the collector is brought fully into the equation. Ballad texts edited in this light embody an awareness of multiple agency which is essential to literary or musical production of any kind.

  • 86 Shillingsburg, Scholarly Editing, p. 30; Shillingsburg, Resisting Texts, pp. 152, 154.
  • 87 Roland Barthes, ‘The Death of the Author’, in Image–Music–Text, trans. Stephen Heath (London: Fonta (...)

44While it can be objected that the social theory of text downplays the creative input of the artist – in the ballad case, the contributor (singer) – the theory remains focused on multiple sorts of agency, among which that of the author or equivalent must be acknowledged at least as a major organizing principle.86 Nevertheless, it is difficult to imagine the appearance of such a theory in textual criticism prior to the decentring of the author brought about by literary theory during the second half of the twentieth century. The crucial corollary of the ‘death of the author’, however, was the ‘birth of the reader’– the recognition that the process of reading, or reception, is essential for a work to be fully realized.87 The reader thus becomes a prime point of agency in literary production. Applied to the ballad, the social theory renders the collector no longer as unreliable agent or mediator but instead as the necessary representative of an essential process of textual reception. And this is not because the collector is simply the individual who translates vocalized sound into writing. Rather, it is because the role of the collector stands for that of every listener/reader.

45At the root of this is the fact that the ballad medium, as argued in chapter one, is language and music. The task of the ballad singer is one of textualization – the ‘inscription’ of language into sound, just as that of the literary author is to ‘inscribe’ language into written marks on paper or electronic signs in a word processor. The task of the listener is one of reception – the ‘translation’ of vocalized sound into language, just as the reader of a literary text ‘translates’ written or printed marks into language. That is to say, the ballad, rendered either as sound or as writing, comprises a semiotic code through which language and music are represented in tangible, material form. So although the ballad collector does subsequently give physical form to language once again – a further textualization or inscription, this time into writing or recorded sound – his or her initial role in textual reception is not intrinsically different from that of any other reader/listener. What the collector does is simply to provide a reification of the process of reception and to bring it to the attention of the editor (who may, of course, be the same person), who then has to locate it within a theory of text and deal with it accordingly.

46Now it should be evident that this process of ‘inscription’ and ‘reinscription’ is by no means an objective one, and that its products will be inherently variable. This instability finds its immediate reification in such things as the rendering of spelling, punctuation, and word, line, and stanza divisions. These are all products of the reception process. Unlike the literary author, the ballad singer has virtually no authority whatsoever over such matters. Here is Carpenter’s description (in the interview with Alan Jabbour) of the way in which he exercised control over the dictation of the ballad texts:

  • 88 Author’s transcription.

Then, after his, after his singing, then I’d, I’d take the… the little portable typewriter on my knees, and say to him, ‘Now, now, dictate that song to me, two, two lines at the time.’ And… he’d say, for instance, ‘… The king sut in Dunfermline toun / Drinking the blude reid wine’, and I’d stop him and then type that out, and then hold up my finger for him, and… he would finish, ‘Says whaur’ll I get a skeely skipper / To sail this ship o mine?’ in other words, give me the second two lines, and I’d type that right straight through… There was no conversation went on at all, I’d just hold up my finger and he’d sing, he’d dictate another two lines, and then I’d record that, and, right straight through.88

47Textual reception is necessarily dependent upon such things as pronunciation and hearing, knowledge and expectation, understanding and interpretation, and these all find their eventual reification in the received text. A word such as poops is a visible instance of the process, which is best accounted for, if not necessarily explained, in terms of the operation of multiple agencies in ballad textualization.

  • 89 Exemplified by so-called ‘mondegreens’–phrases that have been misheard or misunderstood and consequ (...)

48Not only different collectors, but each different listener, will therefore engage with the same initial rendering in different ways, and should they then reproduce it as text they might do so differently.89 That is why a sound recording (even an idealized one capable of introducing no artefacts of its own), though it can certainly carry information of a different and more extensive kind than writing, comes no closer to providing a definitive text. Neither does the work of the ballad editor. Instead, what the editor can do is to present a text that is necessarily a product of multiple agencies, including both editor and reader, and of concomitant textualizations of an underlying medium of language and music into different tangible semiotic codes, such as sound and writing, in the course of its passage into print. The ballad does not bear the authority of an autonomous source.

49To that extent, Walter Scott’s first instinct was correct. The contributor, like the collector, like anyone else, also represents an agency within a continuous process of textual reception, which has moments of textualization in material form. In this manner, it might be argued, variance (and even the quality of ‘tradition’ itself) is built into the ballad because it depends for its very existence upon multiple agencies and cannot be referred back to the authority or intention of a unitary source. The answer to the question about the nature of the version is that, at least from the perspective of textual criticism, the unitary version can only ever be the representation of the momentary rendering of a ballad’s reception, necessarily mediated through whatever channel(s) of agency has enabled its textualization.

Notes

1 The phrase apparently comes from Arthur Kyle Davis, Jr., ed., More Traditional Ballads of Virginia, collected with the cooperation of Members of the Virginia Folklore Society (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1960), p. xvii.

2 See, for example, Dave Harker, Fakesong: The Manufacture of British ‘Folksong’, 1700 to the Present Day (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1985). A more balanced, but nonetheless quite critical, account of ballad editing runs through the work of David Gregory. See E. David Gregory, ‘In the Shadow of Child: Other Victorian Perspectives on Ballad Editing’, in Ballad Mediations: Folksongs Recovered, Represented, and Reimagined, ed. Roger deV. Renwick and Sigrid Rieuwerts, BASIS, vol. 2 (Trier: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2006), pp. 69–77; E. David Gregory, Victorian Songhunters: The Recovery and Editing of English Vernacular Ballads and Folk Lyrics, 1820–1883 (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2006); E. David Gregory, The Late Victorian Folksong Revival: The Persistence of English Melody, 1878–1903 (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2010). One specific target for criticism is the absence of melodies from earlier editions, which is a fair point, but one that, ironically, tends also to emphasize the inherent separability of words and music.

3 Ilana Harlow, ‘Tale-Type’, in Encyclopedia of Folklore and Literature, ed. Mary Ellen Brown and Bruce A. Rosenberg (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1998), pp. 641–43.

4 Peter L. Shillingsburg, Scholarly Editing in the Computer Age: Theory and Practice, 3rd edn (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996), pp. 44–45.

5 Scholars who have commented explicitly on this confusion include Ruth Finnegan, Oral Traditions and the Verbal Arts: A Guide to Research Practices (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 162; D. K. Wilgus, Anglo-American Folksong Scholarship since 1898 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1959), pp. 396–97 n. 88.

6 The best critical account of the subject remains Albert B. Friedman, The Ballad Revival: Studies in the Influence of Popular on Sophisticated Poetry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961).

7 One earlier contender in the history of ballad editing is A Collection of Old Ballads (1723–25), which shows signs of editing work in terms of the bringing together of items and the provision of headnotes to the ballads. On the other hand, there is no real evidence of textual editing. William St Clair, The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 345, 501, maintains that its purpose was to reassert the rights held in the ballads by their current owners. It is still not uncommon to find the poet and playwright Ambrose Philips credited as editor of A Collection of Old Ballads, but there is no real evidence for this attribution. See Lillian de la Torre Bueno, ‘Was Ambrose Philips a Ballad Editor?’, Anglia, 59 (1935), 252–70.

8 J. G. Lockhart, Memoirs of Sir Walter Scott, 5 vols (London: Macmillan, 1900), i, 29–30.

9 [Thomas Percy], Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, 3 vols (London: J. Dodsley, 1765), i, ix.

10 Friedman, Ballad Revival, pp. 185–232; Nick Groom, The Making of Percy’s Reliques (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999). A useful brief account is Zinnia Knapman, ‘A Reappraisal of Percy’s Editing’, Folk Music Journal, 5.2 (1986), 202–14.

11 Friedman, Ballad Revival, pp. 204–05.

12 [Joseph Ritson], A Select Collection of English Songs, 3 vols (London: J. Johnson, 1783), i, x.

13 [Thomas Percy], Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, 4th edn, 3 vols (London: F. and C. Rivington, 1794), i, xvi–xvii.

14 Friedman, Ballad Revival, p. 205.

15 John W. Hales and Frederick J. Furnivall, eds, Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscript: Ballads and Romances, 3 vols (London: N. Trübner, 1867–68); Frederick J. Furnivall, ed., Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscript: Loose and Humorous Songs (London: printed by and for the editor, 1868).

16 Friedman, Ballad Revival, p. 204.

17 Groom, Making of Percy’s Reliques, pp. 106–44.

18 Groom, Making of Percy’s Reliques, esp. p. 227.

19 Sir Walter Scott, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, ed. T. F. Henderson, 4 vols (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1932 [1902]), iv, 52.

20 Friedman, Ballad Revival, p. 241.

21 Friedman, Ballad Revival, pp. 242–43; Sigurd Bernhard Hustvedt, Ballad Books and Ballad Men: Raids and Rescues in Britain, America, and the Scandinavian North since 1800 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1930), pp. 28–33; Charles G. Zug, III, ‘The Ballad Editor as Antiquary: Scott and the Minstrelsy ’, Journal of the Folklore Institute, 13 (1976), 57–73.

22 Scott, Minstrelsy, ed. Henderson, i, 167–68 (and see also i, xvii–xxi). A new edition of the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border is in preparation under the general editorship of Sigrid Rieuwerts and can be expected to provide a definitive account of Scott’s editing.

23 Friedman, Ballad Revival, p. 243; Hustvedt, Ballad Books and Ballad Men, p. 33; Scott, Minstrelsy, ed. Henderson, i, xxxii–xxxiii.

24 Hustvedt, Ballad Books and Ballad Men, p. 32, praises Henderson’s edition but considers its merits as an indictment of Scott’s editing–these interpretations are essentially opposite sides of the same coin.

25 James Reeves, ed., The Idiom of the People: English Traditional Verse [...] from the manuscripts of Cecil J. Sharp (London: Heinemann, 1958), pp. 33–37 (quotation from p. 34).

26 Scholars of the so-called ‘Finnish school’ have endeavoured to reconstruct archetypes of folktales and ballads from a collation of extant texts. For some ballad examples, see Eleanor Long, ‘The Maid’ and ‘The Hangman’: Myth and Tradition in a Popular Ballad (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1971); Holger Olof Nygard, The Ballad of ‘Heer Halewijn’, its Forms and Variations in Western Europe: A Study of the History and Nature of a Ballad Tradition (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1958); Archer Taylor, ‘Edward’ and ‘Sven i Rosengård’: A Study in the Dissemination of a Ballad (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1931); Lajos Vargyas, Researches into the Mediaeval History of Folk Ballad, trans. Arthur H. Whitney (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1967).

27 William Motherwell, The Poetical Works of William Motherwell, with memoir by James M’Conechy, Esq., 2nd edn (Glasgow: David Robertson, 1847), p. xxxiii.

28 Mary Ellen Brown, William Motherwell’s Cultural Politics, 1797–1835 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001), pp. 78–102. See also Hustvedt, Ballad Books and Ballad Men, pp. 75–77; William B. McCarthy, ‘William Motherwell as Field Collector’, Folk Music Journal, 5.3 (1987), 295–316 (esp. pp. 300–04).

29 William Motherwell, Minstrelsy: Ancient and Modern (Glasgow: John Wylie, 1827), pp. iv, v, vi (respectively).

30 Motherwell, Minstrelsy: Ancient and Modern, p. vi.

31 Motherwell, Minstrelsy: Ancient and Modern, p. vii.

32 Flemming G. Andersen, ‘“All There Is... As It Is”: On the Development of Textual Criticism in Ballad Studies’, Jahrbuch für Volksliedforschung, 39 (1994), 28–40; Mary Ellen Brown, ‘Mr. Child’s Scottish Mentor: William Motherwell’, in Ballads into Books: The Legacies of Francis James Child, ed. Tom Cheesman and Sigrid Rieuwerts (Bern: Peter Lang, 1997), pp. 29–39.

33 Friedman, Ballad Revival, pp. 237–40; Gregory, Victorian Songhunters, pp. 39–42.

34 John Bell, ed., Rhymes of Northern Bards, introduction by David Harker (Newcastle upon Tyne: Frank Graham, 1971 [1812]), p. liii. See also Harker, Fakesong, p. 72.

35 Francis James Child, ed., English and Scottish Ballads, 8 vols (Boston: Little, Brown, 1857–58), i, xi.

36 Hales and Furnivall, eds, Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscript, i, xxiii.

37 See Gregory, Victorian Songhunters, pp. 325–58; Sigrid Rieuwerts, ‘The Ballad Society: A Forgotten Chapter in the History of English Ballad Studies’, in Folk Song: Tradition, Revival, and Re-Creation, ed. Ian Russell and David Atkinson (Aberdeen: Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, 2004), pp. 28–40.

38 William Allingham, ed., The Ballad Book: A Selection of the Choicest British Ballads (London and Cambridge: Macmillan, 1864), p. v (see also pp. xxvi–xxx).

39 Allingham, ed., Ballad Book, p. xxx.

40 Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed., The Oxford Book of Ballads (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), pp. ix–xi.

41 Robert Graves, The English Ballad: A Short Critical Survey (London: Ernest Benn, 1927), p. 33; Robert Graves, ed., English and Scottish Ballads (London: Heinemann, 1957), pp. xxiv–xxv.

42 James Kinsley, ed., The Oxford Book of Ballads (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), pp. vi–vii.

43 Gregory, ‘In the Shadow of Child’, p. 71; Gregory, Victorian Songhunters, p. 301.

44 It is explained, for example, in Hales and Furnivall, eds, Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscript, i, xxiii.

45 London, British Library, Additional MS 29408–29409, vol. 2, pp. 111–13.

46 Cambridge, MA, Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Eng 1491 (2) [recatalogued from 25241.10.5F *], pp. 718–21 [cited from microfilm copy in London, Vaughan Williams Memorial Library]. Buchan apparently copied out several different ballad manuscripts, of which the Harvard MS is the most comprehensive. See William Walker, Peter Buchan and Other Papers on Scottish and English Ballads and Songs (Aberdeen: D. Wyllie & Son, 1915), pp. 17–195; also Mary Ellen Brown, ed., The Bedesman and the Hodbearer: The Epistolary Friendship of Francis James Child and William Walker (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, for the Elphinstone Institute, 2001), pp. 3–5. For an accessible account of the controversy surrounding Buchan’s ballad collecting, see Sigrid Rieuwerts, ‘The Case against Peter Buchan’, in The Flowering Thorn: International Ballad Studies, ed. Thomas A. McKean (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2003), pp. 341–51.

47 The apparatus and other notes referred to here are at ESPB, i, 226, 504.

48 Peter Buchan, Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland, 2 vols (Edinburgh: W. and D. Laing; J. Stevenson; Aberdeen: A. Brown & Co.; Glasgow: J. Wylie; Robertson and Atkinson; Perth: D. Morison & Co.; London: J. Darling, 1828), ii, 217–20.

49 W. Christie, ed., Traditional Ballad Airs, 2 vols (Edinburgh: Edmonston & Douglas; David Douglas, 1876–81), i, 106–07. Christie’s text begins with the equivalent of stanza 7 of Child 20 I and ends with the equivalent of stanza 14 (although this is perhaps not quite clear from Child’s apparatus).

50 There is a further peculiarity to note here: in the British Library MS, someone has made a small number of pencil alterations, including the substitution of ‘fowl’ for ‘fool’ in these two lines (the other alterations do not correspond to anything in ESPB).

51 James Henry Dixon, ed., Scottish Traditional Versions of Ancient Ballads (London: Percy Society, 1845), pp. 50–52.

52 Glasgow University Library, MS Murray 501, pp. 475–76; transcribed copy in Cambridge, MA, Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Eng 1556 [recatalogued from 25241.20*], 2 vols, pp. 558–60 [cited from microfilm copy in London, Vaughan Williams Memorial Library]. Several of the ballads in Motherwell’s manuscript are duplicates of those in Peter Buchan’s manuscripts.

53 ESPB, i, 245–47.

54 [Geo. R. Kinloch], Ancient Scottish Ballads (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, & Green; Edinburgh: John Stevenson, 1827), pp. 123–26.

55 CSD gote & c., n. 2; DSL-SND1 gote, n. 2.

56 Stephen Knight, ed., Robin Hood: The Forresters Manuscript, British Library Additional MS 71158 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1998), p. 92.

57 Peter L. Shillingsburg, Resisting Texts: Authority and Submission in Constructions of Meaning (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997), pp. 17–18. It remains to be seen whether electronic editions really can circumvent this difficulty.

58 Later, Child printed a further copy, from New York, designated Child 10 Z, which he also considered ‘a variety of [Child 10] R’ (ESPB, ii, 509).

59 ‘Ballad of “The Three Sisters”’, Notes and Queries, 1st ser., 6 (1852), 102.

60 J. F. Campbell, Popular Tales of the West Highlands, 4 vols (Edinburgh: Edmonston & Douglas, 1860–62), iv, 125–27. Child’s location of Wishaw House in Lancashire, the same county as Child 10 R a, is an error for Lanarkshire (ESPB, i, 136). Campbell, incidentally, held decidedly to the ‘neo-Platonic’ school of editing: ‘A ballad then bears the stamp of originality, and the traces of many minds; it may be of generations of singers of all classes of society, and of many districts; it may even be found in several different dialects, or even languages, and yet be the same ballad nevertheless. To strike out any bit of a genuine ballad is to mutilate it; to add anything to it is to disfigure it; but it is quite legitimate to fuse as many versions as can be got, so as to complete the story, and to select the best of several lines, if the fact be stated’(iv, 127).

61 [Thomas Hughes], The Scouring of the White Horse; or, The Long Vacation Ramble of a London Clerk (Cambridge: Macmillan, 1859), pp. 158–60.

62 Child’s apparatus has ‘west countree’, while The Scouring of the White Horse has ‘West Countree’with upper-case initials–in English usage there is potentially a difference of meaning.

63 Tristram Potter Coffin, The British Traditional Ballad in North America, rev. edn, with supplement by Roger deV. Renwick (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1977), pp. 32, 34.

64 As noted in chapter 1, a degree of confusion between ‘version’and ‘variant’persists to the present day. See [Stith Thompson], ‘Variant’, in Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend, ed. Maria Leach, 2 vols (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1949–50), pp. 1154–55. Ballad scholars are currently more likely to think of Child 10 R a, b, and c as three distinct versions.

65 [David Herd], The Ancient and Modern Scots Songs, Heroic Ballads, & c. (Edinburgh: Martin & Wotherspoon, 1769), pp. 46–47; The Jolly Beggars ([1800?]) [London, British Library, 1078. m. 24.(30.)].

66 ESPB, v, 109.

67 For example, Child 53 A, C and Child 76 D, E. Discussion of Child’s treatment of the ballads from the Anna Brown repertoire is omitted here because the matter is quite complicated and there is now an excellent new edition of Anna Brown’s ballads: Sigrid Rieuwerts, ed., The Ballad Repertoire of Anna Gordon, Mrs Brown of Falkland, Scottish Text Society, 5th ser., no. 8 (Woodbridge and Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, for the Scottish Text Society, 2011).

68 See, for example, David Atkinson and Julia C. Bishop, ‘The Contributor as Collector: Ann Lyall and “The Fair Flower of Northumberland”’, in Emily Lyle: The Persistent Scholar, ed. Frances J. Fischer and Sigrid Rieuwerts, BASIS, vol. 5 (Trier: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2007), pp. 5–24.

69 Dianne M. Dugaw, ‘Anglo-American Folksong Reconsidered: The Interface of Oral and Written Forms’, Western Folklore, 43 (1984), 83–103. See also David Atkinson, ‘Are Broadside Ballads Worth Editing?’, Variants, 10 (2013), 235–55.

70 Arthur Kyle Davis, Jr., ed., Traditional Ballads of Virginia, collected under the auspices of the Virginia Folk-Lore Society (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1929), p. 21.

71 Davis, ed., More Traditional Ballads of Virginia, p. xvii.

72 Davis, ed., Traditional Ballads of Virginia, p. 16.

73 Davis, ed., Traditional Ballads of Virginia, p. 18.

74 Davis, ed., More Traditional Ballads of Virginia, p. xvii.

75 Julia C. Bishop, ‘“Dr Carpenter from the Harvard College in America”: An Introduction to James Madison Carpenter and his Collection’, Folk Music Journal, 7.4 (1998), 402–20.

76 Washington, DC, Library of Congress, American Folklife Center, Archive of Folk Culture, AFC1972/001, James Madison Carpenter Collection, Reel tapes, AFS 14762–14765.

77 The manuscripts and some of their challenges are described in a little more detail in David Atkinson, ‘The Secret Life of Ballad Manuscripts’, Variants, 8 (2012), 183–206 [and note the corrigendum in Variants, 10 (2013), 13].

78 Author’s transcription, with ellipses to edit out some of Carpenter’s hesitations.

79 Two points are worth making here. First, it is a not infrequent observation that singers can find it difficult to recall the words of a song other than in direct association with the melody, and vice versa, and that external interruptions can altogether disrupt the flow. Both Cecil Sharp and Percy Grainger allude to aspects of this phenomenon. See Cecil J. Sharp, English Folk-Song: Some Conclusions (London: Simpkin; Novello, 1907), p. 19; Percy Grainger, ‘Collecting with the Phonograph’, Journal of the Folk-Song Society, 3.3 (no. 12) (1908), 147–242 (p. 147). So it is certainly possible that Carpenter’s method of taking down the words from spoken dictation, two lines at a time, may have been the inadvertent cause of certain lapses of memory. Secondly, some singers are on record as having been only too glad to be pointed towards fuller texts of songs they knew only in part. See, for example, Vic Gammon, Desire, Drink and Death in English Folk and Vernacular Song, 1600–1900 (Aldershot and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008), p. 245; Roy Palmer, ‘George Dunn: Twenty-One Songs and Fragments’, Folk Music Journal, 2.4 (1973), 275–96 (p. 275). So Carpenter’s potential promptings, if such they were, need not necessarily be considered as being at odds with the contributors’ own intentions.

80 The full set of references is Carpenter Collection, Cylinders 107 12:07, 108 00:00; Disc sides 238 03:43, 04:24, 239 00:00; MS pp. 04267, 06451, 07861. The stanza in question is not on the sound recording or in Carpenter’s transcription from it. It is presented here in accordance with orthographic principles developed for a critical edition of the Carpenter collection.

81 OED pook, n.

82 The word does occur elsewhere in the collection, but in a manuscript that was supplied to Carpenter (Carpenter Collection, MS pp. 05118–05120, 06445).

83 See further Julia C. Bishop, ‘Grouping, Grawping and Groping towards a Critical Edition of the James Madison Carpenter Collection of Traditional Song and Drama’, Dialect and Folk Life Studies in Britain: The Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture in its Context, University of Leeds, 19 March 2005, available at http://library.leeds.ac.uk/multimedia/imu/2163/JuliaBishop2.pdf; Thomas A. McKean, ‘The Dialect Conundrum in Transcribing Early Sound Recordings’, in From ‘Wunderhorn’ to the Internet: Perspectives on Conceptions of ‘Folk Song’ and the Editing of Traditional Songs, ed. Eckhard John and Tobias Widmaier, BASIS, vol. 6 (Trier: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2010), pp. 209–24.

84 Shillingsburg, Scholarly Editing, p. 165.

85 Jerome J. McGann, A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1992 [1983]); Jerome J. McGann, The Textual Condition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), pp. 19–47.

86 Shillingsburg, Scholarly Editing, p. 30; Shillingsburg, Resisting Texts, pp. 152, 154.

87 Roland Barthes, ‘The Death of the Author’, in Image–Music–Text, trans. Stephen Heath (London: Fontana, 1977), pp. 142–48.

88 Author’s transcription.

89 Exemplified by so-called ‘mondegreens’–phrases that have been misheard or misunderstood and consequently written down incorrectly, amounting to a kind of aural malapropism. The term comes from the lines in ‘The Bonny Earl of Murray’ (Child 181) ‘They hae slain the Earl o Moray / An laid him on the green’ rendered as ‘They hae slain the Earl o Moray / An Lady Mondegreen’.

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