75  An Excellent New SONG,/ OF THE/ Two Happy LOVERS [Pepys 5.184]

Author: Anonymous

Recording: An Excellent New SONG, OF THE Two Happy LOVERS

Emotions - anxiety Emotions - joy Emotions - love Gender - courtship Gender - femininity Gender - masculinity

Song History

This song, probably published around 1690, owes its place in our chart to the subsequent popularity of its tune for the singing of other ballads (see Featured tune history). The song itself was less successful than the melody, and it survives in only one edition. The fact that this is a white-letter edition probably indicates that the publishers intended it for the more refined end of the ballad market, but several of the songs that adopted the tune were black-letter publications, aimed at a much broader audience.

Perhaps the main distinguishing feature of An Excellent New Song is the fact that Cynthia’s sweetheart, Celia, is a man. In seventeenth-century ballads and other forms of literature, the name Celia is almost invariably applied to a woman (as we might expect). Indeed, ‘Celia’ was a name very commonly attributed to young and lovely female sweethearts. Its attachment to a man in this ballad is therefore difficult to explain. The other names that appear in the song – Cynthia and Amintor – are also commonly encountered in pastoral and romantic literature of the period more generally (Cynthia is also associated with the moon). Cupid is not named in the song, though he is addressed as ‘Fond Boy’ in the opening verse. This expression was in common usage in the early-modern period and there were numerous precedents for its application to Cupid (See Drayton, J. S. and Nevile; see also Related texts).

Christopher Marsh


Anon, Amintor’s lamentation for Celia’s unkindness... To a delicate New Tune: Or, Since Celias my foe (1672-96).

An Answer to the Unconstant Shepherd: OR, Fair Cynthia's grief and care crowned with joy and happiness... To an excellent New Tune (1683-1703).

Anon, The Happy Lover: Or, Celia won by Aminta’s loyalty... To an Excellent New Tune: Or, Why are my Eyes, &c. (1664-1706).

Michael Drayton, Endimion and Phoebe Ideas Latmus (1595), C2v.

Robert Nevile, The poor scholar a comedy (1662), F4r.

J. S., The triumph of wit (1688), p. 143.

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Featured Tune History

'To an excellent New Play-house Tune' (standard name: Fond boy)

The purpose of this section is to provide brief notes on the melody followed by detailed evidence relating to  its career, paying particular attention to the ‘echoes’ (inter-song associations and connections) that may have been set up if it was nominated for the singing of more than one ballad. In the list presented in the ‘Songs and Summaries’ section below, we have endeavored to include as many of the black-letter ballads that used the tune as possible, under any of its variant names. Titles from our chart of best-sellers are presented in bold type (these are also in colour when there is a link to the relevant ballad page on the website). It should be noted that it is extremely difficult to date many ballads precisely and the chronological order in which the songs are listed is therefore very approximate (we have drawn on previous attempts to date the ballads, making adjustments when additional evidence can be brought into play).  In most cases, we list the earliest surviving edition of a ballad, though in many instances there may have been earlier versions, now lost.

Versions and variations

The notation that appears on this ballad sheet is an attempt to represent the tune but it is full of inaccuracies and only makes sense when compared with other versions. These can be found in several printed sources. In John Hudgebut’s Thesaurus Musicus…, The First Book (1693), the melody appears in conjunction with the text of another song that, in its white-letter broadside version, was sung ‘To the Tune of, Fond Boy’. The editor of Thesaurus Musicus attributes the tune to the composer, Thomas Tollett (the comparatively elaborate melody does indeed bear the hallmarks of professional composition). It can also be found in the song collection, Wit and Mirth (1719-20) and in a ballad opera by Charles Johnson. Another version occurs, without title, in the manuscript book of violin tunes kept by the Newcastle coal merchant, Henry Atkinson, during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

These examples of the tune are all very closely related but they also display several minor variations in detail. On ballads of the period, it was almost always referred to as ‘Fond boy’ and does not appear to have accumulated alternative titles. This presumably indicates a strong sense of connection between the melody and the particular song under discussion here.

Echoes (an overview)

This ballad is included in our list primarily because of the popularity of its tune towards the end of the seventeenth century. It was indeed ‘much in Request’, as claimed at the top of the sheet. The melody apparently originated in the theatre, though its title, ‘Fond Boy’, derived from the opening line of our hit ballad.

It was subsequently nominated on several other black-letter broadsides, most of them issued in the 1690s. Over half of these followed the original in concentrating on romance, though only one mirrored An Excellent New SONG in presenting an ultimately reassuring message about the prospects for happy relationships between the sexes (The Dorset-shire DAMOSEL: OR, Young NANCY at her last Prayer). Others argued or strongly implied that marriage was best avoided because of some combination of deceit, infidelity and impotence (see, for example, The West-Country Counsellor, The Catalogue of Contented Cuckolds and The West-Country Frolick). Clearly, there was scope for the contrasting associations of the tune – hopeful and hopeless – to pull against one another when ballads were sung and heard.

Beyond romance, there were also occasional songs about an unusual variety of topics, including a practical joke, a murder, an economic argument and a siege. On the last of these subjects, there was perhaps some connection to be drawn between the predominantly romantic resonances of the melody and the expressions of devotion to brave King William, though we cannot know how these may have played out in performance and reception.

Perhaps because of the variety of topics covered by this tune, inter-textual references do not appear to have been particularly prominent. It is worth noting, however, the affinity between couplets at the ends of verses in two of the listed ballads: ‘To a cunning Man therefore the Farmer did go,/ To be told whether he was a Cuckold or no’ (The Lancashire Cuckold) and ‘Therefore pray now resolve me before I do go,/ Whether you do intend for to have me or no?’ (The Dorset-shire DAMOSEL).

[See 'Postscript', below, for additional notes on this melody].

Songs and Summaries

An Excellent New SONG, OF THE Two Happy LOVERS… To an excellent New Play-house Tune, much in Request (P. Brooksby, 1685-98). Pepys 5.184; EBBA 22446. Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Emotions – love, anxiety, joy. Cynthia prefers Celia to Amintor (both are men) but fears that he does not truly love her, so he reassures her and all is well.

The West-Country Counsellor: OR, The Devonshire Damsels ADVICE to the Lasses of London... To the Tune of Fond Boys, &c. (J. Deacon, 1685-99). Crawford 1017; EBBA 33632. Gender – courtship, masculinity, sex; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – suspicion; Bodies – looks/physique; Places – English; Employment – apprenticeship/service; Society – friends, rural life, urban life. Young maidens are advised to beware of all sorts of men because 90% of them are ‘False and Deceitful’,the only exceptions being individuals with black or brown hair.

The Frolicksome Duke: OR, The Tinker’s good Fortune... Tune of, Fond Boy, &c. (J. Blare, 1685-1706). Pepys 4.235; EBBA 21895. Humour – extreme situations/surprises, deceit/disguise, mockery; Society – rich/poor; Recreation – alcohol, food, hospitality, music; Bodies – clothing; Emotions – confusion, joy, wonder; Employment – crafts/trades, apprenticeship/service;  For the amusement of a duke, a drunken tinker in a deep sleep is transported to the ancestral palace and treated like an aristocrat when he wakes up, but when he gets drunk and falls asleep again he is taken back to the place from which he started.

The Lancashire Cuckold: OR, THE Country Parish-Clark betray'd by a Conjurer's Inchanted Chamber-pot. To the Tune of, Fond Boy, &c. (J. Blare, 1690-1706).  Pepys 4.145; EBBA 21809.  Gender – adultery/cuckoldry, sex, marriage, masculinity, femininity; Humour – bawdry, domestic/familial, extreme situations/surprises; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – anger, anxiety; Family – children/parents; Bodies – physique; Nature – flowers/trees; Places – English; Recreation – music, alcohol.  A farmer watches from a hollow tree while a hired conjuror with magical bagpipes establishes that his wife has committed adultery with the parish clerk.

The York-shire Tragedy: GIVING An Account of a Barbarous Murther... To the Tune of, Fond Boy (J. Blare, 1685-1706). Pepys 2.182; EBBA 20798. Violence – interpersonal, punitive; Crime – murder, robbery/theft, punishment; Death – execution, godly end; Family – children/parents; Morality – general; Economy – money; Emotions – horror, despair; Bodies – clothing, injury; Religion – prayer, sin/repentance, heaven/hell, Christ/God; Places – English. This begins with a brutal double-murder perpetrated by burglars and ends with the execution of the ring-leader (it also notes the role of a friend of one of the victims in tracking the criminals down).

The Catalogue of Contented Cuckolds... To the Tune of, Fond Boy, &c. or, Love’s a sweet Passion, &c. (J. Conyers, 1692). Roxburghe 2.43; EBBA 30268. Gender – adultery/cuckoldry, masculinity, femininity, marriage, sex; Humour – bawdry, domestic/familial, mockery; Employment – crafts/trades, professions, apprenticeship/service, sailors/soldiers; Society – friendship; Recreation – alcohol; Emotions – suspicion, contentment; Economy – money; Morality – romantic/sexual; Places – English; Violence – interpersonal. An assortment of cuckolds gathers in a tavern to share their tales, and they all resolve to accept the infidelities of their wives rather than stand up for their rights.

The West-Country MISER: OR, AN Unconscionable Farmer's Miserable End... Tune of, Love’s a sweet passion: or, Fond Boy, &c. (J. Wolrah, c. 1692).  Pepys 4.236; EBBA 21896.  Economy – hardship, prices/wages; Emotions – anger; Employment – agrarian; Morality – social/economic; Religion – church, moral rules, angels/Devils; Society – neighbours; Death – result of immorality.  Two men meet for a heated conversation about the morality of grain-hoarding and, later on, the less charitable of the two receives a visit from the Devil and dies.

The Dorset-shire DAMOSEL: OR, Young NANCY at her last Prayer... To the Tune of, Fond Boy, &c. Or, Love’s a sweet Passion, &c. (J. Deacon, 1692-99). Crawford 646; EBBA 33245. Gender – courtship; Economy – money; Emotions – love, longing; Employment – crafts/trades, female, sailors/soldiers; Family – pregnancy/childbirth, children/parents; Bodies – clothing; Politic – war; Places – English. Nancy implores Ralph to say whether he still plans to marry her, and Ralph reassures her (though he explains that he may need to fight in the current wars and that the wedding will have to wait until peace returns).

The West-Country Frolick: OR, Buxome Kate’s Merry Intrigue... To the Tune of, Fond Boy, Or, Love’s a sweet passion (J. Deacon, 1692-99). Douce 3(103b). Gender – courtship, sex, masculinity, femininity; Humour – bawdry, mockery, extreme situations/surprises; Emotions – longing, suspicion, anger; Employment – female, apprenticeship/service, crafts/trades; Disability – physical; Violence – interpersonal. Buxom Kate is concerned that her sweetheart, Robin the Miller, may be sexually inadequate, and when she resolves to try him out her worst fears are realised (so she throws him down the stairs).

The Glory of Flanders: OR, The Triumphant Army’s Victory oer the French at Namur... The Tune, Fond Boy (J. Bissel, 1695).Pepys 2.337; EBBA 20956. Politics – war, foreign affairs, Royalist; Royalty – praise; Violence – between states; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Emotions – joy, pride; Death – warfare; Environment – buildings; News – international; Places – European. A song in praise of ‘valliant King William’ and his soldiers, who have forced the French to surrender the town of Namur in Flanders.


The tune was also used on several white-letter ballads, with songs about gender relations once again to the fore (see, for example, The Seven Merry WIVES OF LONDON). There were also more occasional ballads about William’s wars or loyalty to the crown (The Valiant Seaman’s Courage).

It is an interesting feature of both the black-letter and white-letter ballads that a substantial number of them recommend Henry Purcell’s theatre tune, ‘[If] Love’s a sweet passion’, as an alternative to ‘Fond boy’. This appeared first in The Fairy Queen (1692) and soon achieved success as a broadside melody. Both are six-line tunes, capable of carrying mirth and/or melancholy, and both were attached primarily to ballads about courtship and marriage.

Christopher Marsh


Henry Atkinson, violin manuscript (1695-c.1750), Northumberland Record Office, MS MU 207, p. 122.

John Hudgebut, Thesaurus Musicus…, The First Book (1693), p. 12.

Charles Johnson, The Village Opera (1729), p. 5.

Claude Simpson, The British broadside ballad and its music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp. 223-24.

Wit and Mirth (1719-20), vol. 6, p. 113.

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Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Fond boy notation

The purpose of this section is to provide evidence relating to  the career of the image under discussion, paying particular attention to the ‘reflections’ (inter-song associations and connections) that may have been set up if it was chosen to illustrate more than one ballad. The list given below includes all ballads from the Pepys and Roxburghe collections that feature this woodcut or a close variant (these are the two largest collections, including approximately 3300 sheets, in total). References to ballads from other collections occur only when the featured edition of the song under consideration here (or the featured edition of another song from our list) comes from such a source. Ballads from our chart of best-sellers are presented in bold type, and they also appear in colour where there is a link to another song in the database. Please note, however, that the editions of hit songs listed below are not necessarily those for which digital images are presented on this website. Cross-references to other examples of our featured woodcuts are also presented in bold. It is extremely difficult to date many ballads precisely and the chronological order in which the songs are listed is therefore very approximate (we have drawn on previous attempts to date the ballads, making adjustments when additional evidence can be brought into play).

Reflections (an overview)

Claude Simpson described the musical notation on this ballad as ‘wretched’ but not ‘garbled beyond recognition’. Indeed, the rhythm and melodic contours in the first two lines are just about recognisable, after which the ballad-maker began placing the notes almost at random. As is often the case, the musical notation, instead of being a guide for the musically literate, was actually something more like a signifier of music for everyone else. Most people could not read the notes, but we assume that they recognised what was laid out before them as music. We have searched the two largest ballad collections for other examples of this particular notation but there are none to be found. The only ballad listed below is therefore our featured edition.

Songs and summaries

An Excellent New SONG, OF THE Two Happy LOVERS (P. Brooksby, 1685-98). Pepys 5.184; EBBA 22446. Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Emotions – love, anxiety, joy. Cynthia prefers Celia to Amintor (both are men) but fears that he does not truly love her, so he reassures her and all is well (picture placement: the notation appears beneath the title, and there are no pictures).

Christopher Marsh

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Related Texts

The only publication we have found that might be related directly to An Excellent New Song was a translation of Torquato Tasso’s play, Aminta, originally written in late sixteenth-century Italy. Several English editions were issued in the seventeenth century but one in particular may be relevant here: Aminta: the famous pastoral... translated into English verse by John Dancer. Together with divers ingenious poems (1660). The narratives of the play and the ballad are not closely aligned but the theme of pastoral romance is shared and Cupid features in both.

Another point of contact is the general trajectory from apparent incompatibility to mutual love. In Tasso’s play, Aminta/Amintor is a central character and references to Cynthia are merely incidental; in the ballad, Cynthia is the leading woman and Aminta/Amintor is a side character. The 1660 edition of the play also includes various unrelated poems at the end, and in two of these Cupid is referred to as ‘fond boy’. It is entirely possible that these common features are all coincidental but we mention them just in case the author of the ballad was at some level remembering and referencing the earlier work.

Christopher Marsh

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An Excellent New SONG,/ OF THE/ Two Happy LOVERS:/ OR,/ The Young Man and Maids Constancy.

To an excellent New Play-house Tune, much in Request.

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its text]


FOnd Boy what dost thou mean, thus my Heart to surprize:

And make me love another whilst my Celia dies?

My Celia is fair, and my Heart doth retain;

But Oh, when I see Amintor, I’m ravish’d again.

Then shoot thy Kind Dart, let thy Heart be my Prize:

I’ll intreat the kind Gods for to open my Eyes.


Dear Celia! oh then, Why so cruel to me?

When I that was always so Just unto thee:

How happy were I, that I could but obtain

One Smile of my own dear Celia again:

I will never forsake him as long as I live,

Whatever in Love he do’s want I will give.


Amintor is kind, and likewise is fair;

But none in the Word [‘World’ in another edition] can with Celia compare:

If his Love it were true, and that I might find

That for ever, for ever, to me he’d be kind,

I’d freely enjoy my Dear in my Arms,

And keep him secure from all other Harms.


Why should I prove false to him that I love,

For another to me he Unconstant may prove:

My Celia has Charms which I do adore;

If he’ll be but kind, I desire no more:

For to ramble in Love I do not admire,

If I have my dear Celia ‘tis all I desire.




DEar Cynthia! ne’r fear, thy Love shall be true,

There’s none in the World that I love now but yo[u]

Then do not despair in your true Love no more;

For ‘tis you my dear Cynthia that I must adore:

I did but to try whether loyal you’d be,

But I never, no never will prove false to thee.


I always was Just to the Promise I made,

Though you my dear Cynthia was ever afraid:

My Heart it was struck when I heard thee Complain

Oh my Celia! my Celia! he does me disdain:

I did but to try whether loyal you’d be,

But I never, no never will prove false to thee.


Printed for P. Brooksby at the Golden Ball in Pye-corner.

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This ballad is included according to the criteria for List C (see Methodology). The evidence presented here is accurate, to the best of our knowledge, as of 1st January 2024.

New tune titles deriving from the ballad: 'Fond boy' (24 ballads).

Appearances on publishers' lists: none.

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: none.

No. of known editions c.1560-1711: 1

No. of extant copies: 2

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: no known pictures but our featured edition includes musical notation (inaccurate but recognisable) for the tune.

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library databases: 1 reference, with no evidence of later collection as a folk-song (Roud no. V53122).

Pre-1640 bonus: no.

POINTS: 48 + 0 + 0 + 2 + 2 + 5 + 0 + 0 = 57

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This box will be used to highlight any new information on this song that might come to light after the launch of the website.

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