Great Booby, The
DESCRIPTION: This great booby fails at his ABC's and at plowing, and is a country clown in town. He falls out of a boat. "To go and see the circus [playhouse] sir to me is most inviting." He may become an entertainer
EARLIEST DATE: before 1681 (broadside, Bodleian Douce Ballads 1(92a))
LONG DESCRIPTION: Through the centuries of broadsides the story outline stays the same and some verses remain, but the details change as the signs of the country bumpkin change. In all the versions, after his father turns the whip on him when he can't make the ox or horse plow, he goes to town to escape school and see the fashions and, for his trouble, is called a country clown and great booby. Once in town, whether London or Boston, his tour depends upon the times, but he is always ridiculed for his manners and naivety. In 17C London he goes to St Paul's steeple, Westminster Abbey, Pye-corner [orders roast meat he cannot pay for], Smithfield [loses his purse to a woman pick-pocket after she runs up a wine bill], the Exchange and Paris Garden, making a fool of himself at every stop. In 19C London or Boston or "town" the tour is much briefer but no less disastrous. And there's always the tumble from the boat. He may end as an entertainer: a bear-baiter in 17C London or a singer or clown later. And, depending on the site, the 19C broadsides my say he has heard that the French or British are coming, but only a booby would believe that Napoleon or John Bull is really coming.
KEYWORDS: travel ordeal farming humorous
FOUND IN: US(MA)
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Thompson-Pioneer 87, "The County Clown" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: John Payne Collier, A Book of Roxburghe Ballads (London, 1847 ("Digitized by Microsoft")), pp.221-226, "The Great Boobee" ("My friend if you will understand my fortunes what they are") (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: John Ashton, _A Century of Ballads_, Elliot Stock, London, 1887; reprinted 1968 by Singing Tree Press, pp. 48-51, "The Great Boobee" (1 text)
Bodleian, Douce Ballads 1(92a), "The Great Boobee" ("My friends if you will understand"), F. Coles (London), 1624-1680; also Douce Ballads 3(35a), Vet. A3 b.43(9), "The Great Boobee"
Bodleian, Harding B 16(283b), "The Great Booby" ("My feyther he put me to school"), A. Carvalho (London), 19C; also Harding B 17(119a), "The Great Booby"
LOCSinging, as104880, "The Great Booby" ("My feyther put me to the school"), L. Deming (Boston), no date
VonWalthour,CDDrive>g>g(118),"Great Booby" ("My feyther put me to the school"), unknown, no date
cf. "Sellingers Round" (tune)
NOTES: Broadsides LOCSinging as104880 and VonWalthour,CDDrive>g>g(118) appear to be the same edition.
Collier p. 221, referring to "The Great Boobee": "a remarkable and very droll ballad, relating to old manners and amusements: by various allusions in it we may assign it to the reign of James I." The Collier and Bodleian Douce Ballads version shares some verses with Thompson-Pioneer, VonWalthour and Bodleian Harding but includes many more examples and does not end with the circus.
Chappell has a list of "Ballads Printed For and Sold By William Thackeray at the Angel in Duck-Lane, London" that includes "Great Booby." Chappell: "The above list of Thackeray's is probably one of his latest, seeming to have been issued about the year 1689." Wm Chappell, The Roxburghe Ballads (London, 1871), p. xxvii. - BS
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