Saturday, September 21, 2013

At the Music Hall: The Ratcatcher’s Daughter

The Victoria & Albert Museum
In Westminster not long ago,There lived a Ratcatcher’s Daughter.
She was not born at Westminster,
But on t’other side of the water.
Her father killed rats and she sold sprats,
All round, and over the water,
And the gentlefolks, they all bought sprats,
Of the pretty Ratcatcher’s Daughter. 

She wore no hat upon her head,
Nor cap, nor dandy bonnet,
Her hair of her head it hung down her neck,
Like a bunch of carrots upon it.
When she cried sprats in Westminster,
She had such a sweet loud voice, Sir,
You could hear her all down Parliament Street,
And as far as Charing Cross, Sir, 
The rich and poor both far and near,
In matrimony sought her,
But at friends and foes she cocked her nose,
Did this pretty little Ratcatcher’s daughter.
For there was a man cried "Lily white Sand,"
Who in Cupid’s net had caught her,
And over head and ears in love,
Was the pretty little Ratcatcher’s daughter. 

Now, "Lily white Sand" so ran in her head,
When coming down the Strand, oh,
She forgot that she’d got sprats on her head,
And cried "buy my lily white Sand oh!"
The folks, amazed, all thought her crazed,
All along the Strand, Oh,
To hear a girl with sprats on her head,
Cry, "buy my lily white Sand, oh!" 

The Ratcatcher’s Daughter so ran in his head,
He didn’t know what he was arter,
Instead of crying "Lily white Sand,"
He cried "Do you want any Ratcatcher’s daughter."
His donkey cocked his ears and brayed,
Folks couldn’t tell what he was arter,
To hear a lily white sand man cry,
"Do you want any Ratcatcher’s daughter?" 

Now they both agreed to married be,
Upon next Easter Sunday,
But the Ratcatcher’s daughter had a dream,
That she shouldn’t be alive next Monday,
To buy some sprats, once more she went,
And tumbled into the water,
Went down to the bottom, all covered with mud,
Did the pretty little Ratcatcher’s daughter. 

When Lily white Sand he heard the news,
His eyes ran down with water,
Says he in love I’ll constant prove,
And, blow me if I live long arter,
So he cut his throat with a piece of glass,
And stabbed his donkey arter,
So there was an end of Lily white Sand,
His ass, and the Ratcatcher’s daughter!

The Music Halls were the gathering place of the lower classes. Adventurous aristocrats would sometimes venture to the Music Halls for some tawdry fun. But, for more middle-class and upper-class clientele, song and supper rooms and clubs opened in the 1830s. These more elegant venues served hot food and provided entertainment until the wee small hours of the morning. The clubs were rooms like The Coal Hole, off the Strand in London, and Evans’ Song and Supper Rooms in Covent Garden.

The star of Evans was a singer called Sam Cowell who was most famous for his song, “The Rat Catcher’s Daughter.” This song was so popular that fellow performer Charles Sloman, who was famous for improvising lines, wrote an extra two verses (seen above). 

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