Bicycle Built for Two (Daisy Bell)
DESCRIPTION: The singer describes his love for Daisy Bell. His poverty being what it is, he cannot offer a fancy wedding or carriage, but proposes they ride a "bicycle built for two." In the original, she accepts
AUTHOR: Harry Dacre
EARLIEST DATE: 1892 (sheet music)
KEYWORDS: love marriage technology
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Gilbert, p. 255, "(Daisy Bell)" (1 partial text)
Silber-FSWB, p. 247, "A Bicycle Built for Two (Daisy Bell)" (1 text)
Geller-Famous, pp. 100-102, "Daisy Bell" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fuld, pp. 188-189+, "Daisy Bell -- (A Bicycle Built for Two)"
DT, DAISYBEL* (DAISYBL2* -- containing many sundry parodies)
ADDITIONAL: Robert A. Fremont, editor, _Favorite Songs of the Nineties_, Dover Publications, 1973, pp. 64-69, "Daisy Bell" (1 text, 1 tune, a print of the sheet music, with the tune shown in tonic sol-fa as well as music notation)
Aline Waites & Robin Hunter, _The Illustrated Victorian Songbook_, Michael Joseph Ltd., 1984, pp. 107-110, "Daisy Bell (1 text, 1 tune, plus a color print of an early sheet music cover)
"Hilda, Hilda, Give Me Your Answer True" (song by Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll, written to Hilda and Enid Moberly Bell) (Cohen: Morton N. Cohen, editor, with the assistance of Roger Lancelyn Green, _The Letters of Lewis Carroll_, two volumes, Oxford University Press, 1979, p. 983)
NOTES: Harry Dacre (formerly "Harry Decker," and probably born under the name "Frank Dean") was an Englishman who made a visit to the Americas in the 1890s. Among other things, he brought along a bicycle, upon which he was forced to pay duty. A friend remarked that it was well it had not been a bicycle built for two. Somehow that inspired this insipid song.
According to Waites & Hunter, no publisher was willing to touch it at first. But a singer named Katie Lawrence picked it up and made it a hit. She also contributed, in a small way, to women's liberation, since she dressed in pants to perform the song -- a woman in long skirts couldn't really operate a bicycle.
Jon W. Finson, The Voices That Are Gone: Themes in Nineteenth-Century American Popular Song, Oxford University Press, 1994, pp. 144-145, says that this song launched a minor explosion of bicycle songs, most not worth the effort of remembering. He also quotes Edward Marks to the effect that this launched the popularity of waltz songs, although that seems to have had many causes.
I thought it went without saying that the verse "Richard, Richard, here is your answer true, You're half crazy if you think that will do... But I'll be switched If I'll be hitched On a bicycle built for two" is a parody. But I've heard people sing it as part of the actual song. Such are the ways of tradition.
Another parody comes from the pen of none other than Lewis Carroll. In an 1893 letter to Hilda Moberly Bell (the niece of Charles Dodgson's close friend Gertrude Chataway), Dodgson wrote
Give me your answer true;
I'm a crazy builder,
All for the love of you.
Dodgson added a verse for Hilda's sister Enid Moberly Bell:
Give me your answer true;
It wasn't Hilda I meaned,
It was only you!
(Source: Morton N. Cohen, editor, with the assistance of Roger Lancelyn Green, The Selected Letter of Lewis Carroll, Pantheon, 1982, pp. 247-248). - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.