Brown Girl (I), The [Child 295]
DESCRIPTION: The Brown Girl's former lover tells her he cannot marry her because she is so brown. She cares not. He writes again, saying he is sick and asking her to release him from his promise. She comes slowly and releases him, but promises to dance on his grave
EARLIEST DATE: before 1788
KEYWORDS: courting promise betrayal revenge death
FOUND IN: Britain(England,Scotland(Aber,High)) Canada(Mar) Ireland US(Ap,MW,NE,NW,SE,So)
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Child 295, "The Brown Girl" (2 texts)
Bronson 295, "The Brown Girl" (49 versions+2 in addenda, but mostly these are Laws P9; of the 49, #1, #3, #8, #13, #16, #17, (#19), #24, #25, #35, #36, #41, #44, #8.1 are listed by Laws as "A Rich Irish Lady," as is #8 though it mixes with "The Death of Queen Jane"; #2, #5, #10, #15, #20, #21, #29, #32a/b, #34, #37, #38(a), #45, #47, #49, #41.1 are apparently LP9 as well; #4, #6, #7, #11, #31, #39, #42 are fragments which appear more likely to be LP9; #14, #22, #23, #27 are fragments identified by Laws with LP9 though this cannot be proved; #9 (Baring-Gould's) is definitely the Child version, and #33, #48 probably; #18 is a fragment that might be part of "Glenlogie"; #26, #28 have no text; #30, #40, #43 might be either)
Bronson-SingingTraditionOfChildsPopularBallads 295, "The Brown Girl" (5 versions: #1, #20, #26, #41, #47, although only #1 is certainly this piece)
Leach-TheBalladBook, pp. 678-680, "The Brown Girl" (2 texts, but "B" is Laws P9)
Boette-SingaHipsyDoodle, p. 4, "The Bonny Brown Girl" (1 text, 1 tune)
Quiller-Couch-OxfordBookOfBallads 157, "The Brown Girl" (1 text)
NorthCarolinaFolkloreJournal, Paul Robertson, "Ballads & Bytes: The Digitally Reproduced Folksong Collections of Dr. I. G. Greer and Dr. W. Amos Abrams" Vol. LV, No. 2 (Fall-Winter 2008), p. 56, "The Brown Girl" (1 partial text, a reproduction of the last page of a decorated manuscript copy; based on the reproduction, it's hard to tell if it is Child 295 or Laws P9, but it's clearly one or the other)
cf. esp. "A Rich Irish Lady (The Fair Damsel from London; Sally and Billy; The Sailor from Dover; Pretty Sally; etc.)" [Laws P9]
cf. "Lord Thomas and Fair Annet" [Child 73]
NOTES [136 words]: Identified by some (including Roud) with the ballad Laws calls "A Rich Irish Lady" and Randolph labels "Pretty Sally of London." The difference between the two is that, in "The Brown Girl," the girl is unforgiving; in "Pretty Sally" it is the man. Laws therefore declares that the two ballads are related but distinct.
It should be observed that "A Rich Irish Lady" is much, much, much more popular; other than Baring-Gould's text (Child's B), I know of no traditional texts of the Child song. Any text listed as Child 295 should be carefully checked to see if it is not Laws P9 instead.
No attempt has been made to list here all the songs claimed as Child #295 when in fact they are Laws P9.
For further discussion on this point, including the opinions of various editors on the matter, see the entry on Laws P9. - RBW
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