A Century Of Ballads 1810-1910, Their Composers & Singers

With Some Introductory Chapters On Old Ballads And Ballad Makers - online book.

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36                A CENTURY OF BALLADS
Mrs. Woffington, which was published shortly after the death of Mrs. Gibber, there is a passage referring to the attraction of ballad operas for the public.
The shade of Mrs. Woffington asks what enter­tainments are now the fashion in town, and Mrs. Cibber replies : " They have been mostly amused with comic operas, consisting of very indifferent poetry put to old tunes, without character, and scarcely with any sentiment."
Mrs. Woffington: " Astonishing ! "
Mrs. Cibber: "And more so when you con­sider that these harmonious pieces would fill houses when Garrick and myself, in Shakespeare's best plays, could scarcely pay expenses."
From which it would appear that there is really nothing new under the sun, and that the twentieth-century public's predilection for musical plays as compared with the more serious drama is simply a reversion to the popular taste of two centuries ago.
The eighteenth century, then, saw a revival of the taste for popular ballads, a revival that has lasted all through that and the following century up to the present day.
Turning to individual ballads, we come to those two rousing old ditties "The British Grena­diers" and "Down among the Dead Men," which both apparently date from the reign of
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