Fate of the Nancy Bell, The
DESCRIPTION: An old sailor recounts the aftermath of a shipwreck. 10 survivors wash up on an island and after a month, proceed to draw lots as to who will be eaten by the rest. At the end the narrator is rescued as he is finishing off the last of the others.
AUTHOR: William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911)
EARLIEST DATE: 1866 (_Fun_ magazine)
KEYWORDS: sailor ship wreck cannibalism humorous
FOUND IN: Britain US
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Harlow-ChantyingAboardAmericanShips, pp. 194-196, "The Fate of the Nancy Bell" (1 text)
Grigson-PenguinBookOfBallads 105, "The Yarn of the Nancy Bell" (1 text)
ST Harl194 (Partial)
NOTES [107 words]: Harlow-ChantyingAboardAmericanShips's version leaves out the first seven verses of the original. - SL
This seems to be typical; the longest version I've seen has 23 verses, but most of the printed texts I've found have fewer than 20.
Grigson claims that this piece was early set to music and gives the impression that it became traditional. That it was set to music is clear; that it was highly popular is also clear (Granger's Index to Poetry lists no fewer than 20 anthologies containing it, which is a higher total than I can recall for any folk piece). But I've seen no evidence, apart from Harlow, that it was actually traditional. - RBW
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