18th Century Ballad Sellers

Itinerant ballad-sellers often appear on the margins of 18th century artwork, often singing or selling ballads that provide commentary on the main action in the artwork itself. The ballads and similar broadsides also appear to be hung up in interiors, as seen in Kitchen Interior or The Fellow 'Prentices at their Looms.

The 18th century English term for a ballad seller appears to be “ballad-monger” (see references from 1738, 1730, and 1800).


Last Dying Speech and Confession

A printed document purporting to report the last words of a condemned criminal; an enterprising ballad-seller could sell such documents at public executions. For more on this, see “Tracking the petty traitor across genres,” “Ballads and the emotional life of crime,” and “The maiden’s bloody garland: Thomas Warton and the elite appropriation of popular song” in Ballads and Broadsides in Britain, 1500-1800, or “Criminal biography and the last dying confessions” in Crime, Policing and Punishment in England, 1660-1914.