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Black-letter Broadside Ballads Of The years 1595-1639

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45
John Spenser, a Cheshire gallant
Pepys, i, 114, three woodcuts, four columns. The first part is in B.L., the second in roman and italic type.
Some Cheshire antiquary may know the facts of John Spenser's lewd life and melancholy death, but I have found nothing to add to the account given in the ballad. Thomas Dickerson, too, is a name unfamiliar in balladry: had he come earlier, his initials at the end of ballads would have caused confusion with those of Thomas Deloney. Dickerson, of course, also wrote the second part, though he foists the authorship upon John Spenser himself. This is a splendid ballad of its particular kind. Spenser's repentance is thoroughly edifying: it is a bit curious, perhaps, that a man so widely loved as he is said to have been should have kept this love during a whole life of dissipation and have lost it for "one offence but small," even though that small offence was murder. It is also a pity that he delayed so long in subscribing to the sentiments of "A Constant Wife and a Kind Wife, a Loving Wife and a Fine Wife, Which Gives Content unto Man's Life," a ballad (Pepys, 1, 390; iv, 82; Lord Crawford, Catalogue of English Ballads, No. 1456; etc.) to which in several verses he seems to be referring. For Spenser the author evidently had much sympathy, and the mention of the two milk-white butterflies and the two milk-white doves that alighted on the body of the dangling corpse seems to indicate that Spenser actually was innocent. At least it is an unmistakable sign that Spenser's repentance had been so sincere as to win complete forgiveness. As John Trundle printed the ballad, its date may be assumed to be 1626. The tune may be equivalent to Rogero {Popular Music, 1, 94).
256
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