104  The Careless Gallant: Or, A farewel to Sorrow [Pepys 4.241]

Author: Jordan, Thomas (c. 1614–1685)

Recording: The Careless Gallant

Death - general Economy - money Employment - professions Gender - sex Politics - court Recreation - alcohol Recreation - food Recreation - good fellowship Recreation - music Religion - Muslims Religion - heaven/hell

Song History

The Careless Gallant was written by Thomas Jordan. It was published by the Ballad Partners in both white-letter and black-letter formats in 1675. 

Author and Context

Thomas Jordan (c. 1612-1685) was an actor, but the closure of the theatres during the 1640s and 1650s, forced him to rely on his skills as a musician and writer. After the execution of the king in 1649, he used print and manuscript publications to promote the royalist cause. He was ultimately rewarded for his loyalty with the role of London's City Poet, responsible for the increasingly politicized Lord Mayor's show. Unlike most of his predecessors in the post, Jordan was perfectly happy to embrace the popular market; many of his songs appeared as broadside ballads, though few carried his name.

Context and Content

The Careless Gallant, originally entitled ‘The Epicure’, was written for the inauguration of the new Lord Mayor on 29 October 1675. While ‘The Epicure’ was performed (perhaps by Jordan himself) for the Lord Mayor and his elite guests at the mayoral feast that followed the pageant, both the polite and popular broadside versions were adapted and produced for sale to the socially varied crowds who came to see the pageant itself.

The song playfully critiqued the vain, the rich, and the powerful, but the precise targets in each version were adapted to suit the audience that was most likely to hear it. Jordan perhaps made some of these adaptations himself, in which case, he may have had a deal with the publishers involving payments based on sales, rather than just the usual one-off fee for authors. If so, then both sides did well. 

Publishing History and Popularity

The Careless Gallant was one of Jordan's best-selling ballads. Four broadside editions appeared between 1675 and 1682 and the title was included on William Thackeray’s trade list in 1689. The song also appeared in song books. John Playford published eight verses of 'the Epicure' in the 1675 pageant pamphlet. The Ballad Partners' eleven-verse version was notably more coherent than Playford's arrangement. Perhaps in consequence, Playford published another version of the song following the broadside, under the title ‘The Town Gallant’, along with musical notation, in his 1676 Choice Ayres anthology. 

Angela McShane


Angela McShane, The Ballad Trade and its Politics in Seventeenth Century Britain (Woodbridge, forthcoming), ch. 9.

Thomas Jordan, Triumphs of London (London, 1675), pp. 20-22.

John Playford’s Choice Ayres (1676), p. 95.

Nicholas D. Nace, 'The Author of Sodom among the Smithfield Muses', The Review of English Studies, 68: 284 (April 2017), pp. 296–321

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Featured Tune History

‘To an Excellent, and delightful Tune’ (standard name: The flatteries of fate)

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 endeavoured 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

This tune dates from the 1670s and was composed by Robert Smith. Notation can be found in a number of sources from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries: Playford’s Choice Songs and Ayres (1673); also his Choice Ayres, Songs and Dialogues (1676); and in most editions of the famous song collection, Wit and Mirth (1719-20, for example). These versions of the tune are similar but there are some small variations. On our recording, we have used Playford’s 1676 rendition which is distinguished from other versions by the avoidance of the conspicuous flattened seventh in the penultimate verse. The melody was usually identified either as ‘The flatteries of fate’ or ‘The new made gentlewoman’.

Echoes (an overview)

This tune was popular during the 1670s. It apparently takes its main name, ‘The Flatteries of Fate’, from the opening line of a song that appeared in the collection, Westminster-Drollery (1671). The song’s three verses of disconsolate love-poetry were later expanded and issued as a ballad entitled Fedelia’s Lamentation, Or, A Lady bewailing her Unfortunate Love. This ballad combined with others to establish a strong connection between the melody and texts that dealt with courtship, marriage and sex.

Most of these titles imagined a female perspective, and a variety of characters was represented: lustful young women (The Longing Maid); young wives whose old husbands could not satisfy them (The unequal Marriage); prostitutes who made good money (The new made Gentlewoman Or, The dishonest Lady); women who warned others about the deceitfulness of men (The Subtile Damosel: Or, Good Counsel for Maids); and, bucking the cynical trend somewhat, women whose love for their wholesome sweethearts was strong and true (A Tryal of True Love: Or, The Loyal Damosels Resolution).

Within this context, Thomas Jordan’s hit song, The Careless Gallant, was something of an outlier in that the perspective it presents is definitively male. Men are here advised to live for the moment, spending their money freely and urgently on wine and women (‘for Abigal, Hannah, and sister Prudence,/ Will simper to nothing a hundred years hence’). The song thus picks up the sex and the cynicism from other ballads, but articulates it from a somewhat satirical masculine viewpoint. The effect is to confirm the female opinion that men are driven by base desires but The Careless Gallant celebrates these desires rather than criticising them.

The songs listed below are not as rich in direct textual cross-references as some of those associated with other melodies. The situation is complicated by the fact that there seem to have been two forms of the tune in circulation, one rather shorter than the other. There are one or two noticeable echoes, however. The Damosels hard shift and The new made Gentlewoman, for example, feature comparable lines set to the second strain of the tune: ‘And could very well love/ yet Ime never the near’; ‘And yet for her wages shes never the near’. The VOLUNTEERS kind Answer is a direct answer to A Tryal of True Love, and the refrains of the two songs are very closely related. The romantic optimism of these refrains may also have been intended and interpreted as a counter-blast to the cynicism of other songs to the tune. Compare, for example, representative refrains from two contrasting ballads:

‘Though now she seems pleasant, & sweet to the sence,/ Will be damnable mouldy a hundred years hence’ (The Careless Gallant).

‘I still will be constant/ And true to my Friend,/ For I will go with my love,/ To the worlds end’ (A Tryal of True Love).

Of course, repetitive refrains were particularly important in the stimulation of comparisons between songs because they were sounded so frequently, thus increasing very significantly the chances of memorisation and subsequent recall (whether conscious or unconscious).

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

Songs and Summaries

The unequal Marriage, OR The Old Bridegroom, and young Bride... Tune of The Flatteries of Fate (F. Coles, T. Vere, and J. Wright, 1671-74). Bodleian 4o Rawl. 566(91). Gender – marriage, adultery/cuckoldry, sex, femininity, masculinity; Society – old/young; Humour – bawdry, domestic/familial, mockery; Emotions – frustration, contentment; Disability – physical; Economy – money. An old man marries a young woman and proves unable to satisfy her sexually, so she finds herself ‘A Gallant most stout’ to do the business.

A Tryal of True Love: Or, The Loyal Damosels Resolution... Tune of, The Flatteries of Fate: Or, Jenny, Jenny, &c.  (W. Thackeray, T. Passenger, and W. Whitwood, 1671-79).  Roxburghe 3.122-23; EBBA 30436.  Gender – courtship, femininity; Emotions – love, patriotism; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Family – children/parents, siblings; Places – travel/transport.  A young woman expresses her deep devotion to her soldier-sweetheart and resolves to travel with him when he goes away to war, even ‘To the Worlds end’.

The VOLUNTEERS kind Answer, TO The Loyal Damosels Resolution... Tune of, The Flatteries of Fate: Or, Jenny, Jenny, &c. (W. Thackeray, T. Passenger, and W. Whitwood, 1671-79). Pepys 3.307; EBBA 21323. Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Emotions – love, patriotism; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Family – parents/children, siblings, kin; Economy – hardship/prosperity; Death – warfare; Politics – war, foreign affairs; Violence – between states. A soldier answers the ballad above, reciprocating his sweetheart’s declaration of love and agreeing to take her with him to war.

The new made Gentlewoman Or, The dishonest Lady... To a new Tune, Or, The Flatteries of Fate (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1675-80). Crawford 243; EBBA 33312. Gender – sex, masculinity, femininity; Employment – prostitution, crafts/trades, professions; Bodies – clothing, adornmnet, health/sickness; Economy – money, livings; Recreation – fashion; Society – rural life, urban life. In the first part, a country maiden explains how she came to London and found that her beauty enabled her to make a good fortune by selling sex; and in the second, a gentleman complains that his contact with her has given him the pox (‘she makes me go stradling with swelling my eggs/ you may drive a wheel-barrow between my 2 legs’).

The Damosels hard shift for a Husband; OR, A Womans Delight is all in a Man... Tune is, Oh how I sigh; Or, The Tyrant, Or, The New made Gentlewoman, Or Jenny (F. Coles, T. Veres, J. Wright, and J. Clark[e], 1675-80). Bodleian 4o Rawl. 566(131). Gender – courtship, femininity, marriage; Emotions – longing, sorrow, frustration; Employment – female, crafts/trades; Economy – money; Bodies – clothing, adornment, looks/physique; Family – pregnancy/childbirth. A young woman is desperate for a husband but feels that men tend to pass her by, despite her determination to be ‘the best Wife/ that ever had Man’.

The Longing Maid... To a pleasant New Tune, Or, The New made Gentlewoman (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1675-80). Bodleian 4o Rawl. 566(113). Emotion – longing; Gender – sex, courtship, femininity; Recreation – music, dance, fashion, games/sports, walking; Bodies – looks/physique, adornment; Environment – flowers/trees; Religion – Protestant nonconformity. A young woman longs for sex, ideally after marriage, so a young man who overhears her monologue undertakes to satisfy her on both scores.

The Careless Gallant: Or, A farewel to Sorrow... To an Excellent, and delightful Tune (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1675-80).  Pepys 4.241; EBBA 21901.  Recreation – good fellowship, alcohol, music, food; Death – general; Gender – sex; Employment – professions; Economy – money; Politics - court.  A man trumpets the advantages of extravagant good fellowship, arguing that it is the only sensible response to the transitory nature of life.

The Subtile Damosel: Or, Good Counsel for Maids... To the Tune of, the new made Gentlewoman (Richard Hardy, 1676-85). Crawford 602; EBBA 33127. Gender – courtship, masculinity; Emotions – anger, suspicion; Employment – crafts/trades; Bodies – looks/physique; Morality – romantic/sexual; Recreation – alcohol, dance, games/sports, fairs/festivals; Society – education. A young woman, abandoned by the man who professed to love her, warns others that trustworthy men aged between eighteen and thirty are desperately rare.

Fedelia’s Lamentation, Or, A Lady bewailing her Unfortunate Love... To a pleasant new Tune, or Flatteries of Fate (imprint missing, later seventeenth century). Douce 1(78a). Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Emotions – love, despair; Environment – birds, flowers/trees; Death – heartbreak. A woman addresses others of her sex, describing the misery that dominates her life as a result of the cruelty visited upon her by the man she loves.

The Trappaner Trappand OR A cunning Gossip caught in a trap... Tune of the flatteries of Fate, or Mall Cooper is grown so gallant and gay (imprint missing, later seventeenth century). Wood E 25(51). Bodies – clothing; Recreation – fashions; Crime – robbery/theft; Economy – shopping, credit/debt; Employment – crafts/trades; Gender – femininity; Morality – social/economic; Places – English. This tells the story of a young Oxfordshire woman who tries to con a shopkeeper into supplying clothes without payment, but her trick is discovered and her reputation is ruined.


It seems certain that the white-letter ballad, The True English Prophet (1697), was intended for the tune, despite the recommendation that it be sung to ‘a New Play-House Tune’ (such misleading formulae were common). The metre of the text fits the tune perfectly, and the refrain’s use of the expression ‘a Hundred Years hence’ is clearly based on the deployment of an identical expression in The Careless Gallant. Despite the recycled terminology, there is an interesting tension between the two songs, brought into play by the associations of the melody. The central message of The True English Prophet – that everything will be better if we just wait patiently for ten decades – is undercut by the ghostly presence of The Careless Gallant, arguing forcefully that pleasure must be taken now because everyone will be dead ‘a hundred years hence’.

Christopher Marsh


John Playford, Choice Songs and Ayres (1673), p. 44.

                Choice Ayres, Songs and Dialogues (1676), p. 95.

Claude Simpson, The British broadside ballad and its music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp.220-22.

Westminster-Drollery (1671), p. 24.

Wit and Mirth: or Pills to Purge melancholy (1719-20), vol. 3, p. 175.

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Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Man with purse

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)

This image appears on one surviving ballad from the early seventeenth century, and then much later on a small number that were issued in the 1670s and 1680s. It seems that the same block produced all the extant images, though it is difficult to be sure.

The man in the picture played a number of different roles, most of which drew upon the fact that he carries a purse. He represents, for example, the victim of a pickpocket (about to have his purse cut) and perhaps the Duke of Parma’s agent (about to hand a courtship gift to a heroic English female warrior). In most cases, alternative interpretations are also possible – viewers must decide how to interpret the pictures for themselves.

Other surviving copies of The Careless Gallant also display the picture, though most of these were examples of the same edition. The picture’s appearance on this ballad can be connected with the song’s message that life is to be enjoyed, ideally with plentiful alcohol, because it doesn’t last: ‘In frolics dispose your pounds, shillings, and pence,/ For we shall be nothing a hundred years hence’.

The publishers of our featured edition also issued another song, The Wicked-mans Warning-peice,  that argued precisely the opposite – that eternity is forever – and the picture was deployed here too. Moreover, it appears immediately above a verse in which we are warned not to waste our money on drink. This looks like a deliberate cross-reference, designed to set up tensions and stimulate debate. Was the man with the purse a reckless enemy to his own immortal soul or a rationally hedonistic ally of his all-too mortal body?

Songs and summaries:

The Arrainement condemnation and execution of the gran[d cutpurse] John Selman + The Captaine Cut-purse (imprint missing, 1612).  Pepys 1.130-31v; EBBA 20057.  Crime – robbery, punishment; Death – execution, result of immorality; Morality – social/economic; Religion – church, sin/repentance; Recreation – alcohol, games, good fellowship.  Two songs - one autobiographical and one in a narrator’s voice – that both describe the wicked thieving ways of John Selman, whose worst crime was to cut a purse during a church service in the King’s Chapel on Christmas Day (picture placement: he appears beneath the title of the second song).

The Careless Gallant: Or, A farewel to Sorrow (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1675-80).  Pepys 4.241; EBBA 21901. Recreation – good fellowship, alcohol, music, food; Death – general; Gender – sex; Employment – professions; Economy – money; Politics - court. A man trumpets the advantages of extravagant good fellowship, arguing that it is the only sensible response to the transitory nature of life (picture placement: he appears in a row of men that also includes a gallant with hand on hip, a Carousing man with goblet and jug and two other happy drinkers).

Poor Robin's Prophesie, or, The merry Conceited Fortune-teller (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1675-80).  Pepys 4.304; EBBA 21966.  Humour – satire, verbal; Society – criticism; Morality – social/economic; Employment – crafts/trades, professions; Economy – extortion; Recreation – alcohol, games, good fellowship.  A fortune-teller predicts that all dishonesty and extortion will come to an end ‘when the Devil is blind’ (picture placement: he stands beneath the title, approaching a finely-dressed gentleman from the right).

The Wicked-mans Warning-peice, or, A looking-Glass for a lewd liver (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1675-80).  Pepys 2.23; EBBA 20647. Religion – body/soul, Christ/God, divine intervention, heaven/hell, moral rules, sin/repentance, charity; Society – criticism, rich/poor; Death – general; Emotions – fear; Morality – general; Recreation - alcohol. A hard-hitting call to repentance, drawing attention to the many sins that prevail and the likelihood of divine vengeance (picture placement: he appears over the second column of text, walking towards a Scholar with scroll).

The Valarous Acts performed at GAUNT, [by] the brave Bonny Lass Mary Ambree (J. Wright, J. Clark, W. Thackeray, & T. Passenger, 1682-84).  Pepys 2.132; EBBA 20752.  Gender – cross-dressing, femininity, masculinity; Employment – female/male, sailors/soldiers; Violence – between states; Humour – deceit/disguise, extreme situations, misunderstanding; Politics – foreign affairs; Death – warfare; Emotions – joy; Bodies – clothing, physique.  This celebrates the heroic bravery of an English female soldier who fought in the Low Countries and told the Duke of Parma she couldn’t marry him because he was a foreigner (picture placement: he stands beneath the title and appears to approach a Woman in plumed hat).

Christopher Marsh

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Related Texts

John Playford published two shorter versions of Jordan's The Careless Gallant: as 'The Epicure' in the original pageant pamphlet: Thomas Jordan, Triumphs of London (1675), pp. 20-22; and as ‘The Town Gallant’, with musical notation, in Choice Ayres (1676). 

Angela McShane

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The Careless Gallant: Or, A farewel to Sorrow.

Whether these Lines do please, or give offence,/ Or shall be damn'd as neither wit nor sence,/ The Poet is, for that, in no suspence,/ For it is all one a hundred years hence.

To an Excellent, and delightful Tune.

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its text]


LEt us sing and be merry, dance, joke, and rejoyce,

With Claret and Sherry, Theorbo and voice,

The changeable world to our joy is unjust,

All treasures uncertain,

Then down with your dust:

In frolicks dispose your pounds, shillings, and pence,

For we shall be nothing a hundred years hence.


We'l sport and be free, with Frank, Betty, and Dolly,

Have Lobsters and Oysters to cure melancholly,

Fish=dinners will make a man spring like a Flea,

Dame Venus, loves Lady,

Was born of the Sea:

With her and with Bacchus, we'l tickle the sense,

For we shall be past it a hundred years hence.


Your beautiful bit, who hath all eyes upon her,

That her honesty sells for a hogo of honour,

whose lightness and brightness doth cast such a splender,

That none are thought fit,

But the Stars to attend her;

Though now she seems pleasant, & sweet to the sence

Will be damnable mouldy a hundred years hence.


Your greatest Grand=Seignior who rants it in riot,

Not suffering his poor Christian neighbours live quiet,

Whose numberless army that to him belongs,

Consists of more Nations,

Than Babel hath tongues:

Though numerous as dust, yet in spight of defence,

Shall all lie in ashes a hundred years hence.


Your Usurer that in the hundred takes twenty,

Who wants in his wealth, and pines in his plenty,

Lays up for a season which he shall ne'r see,

The year of one thousand,

Eight hundred and three;

Shall have chang'd all his Baggs, his houses and Rents,

For a worm-eaten Coffin a hundred years hence.


The Second Part, to the same Tune.


YOur Chancery-Lawyer, who by conscience thrives,

In spinning a sute to the length of three lives,

A sute which the Clyent doth wear out in slavery,

whilst pleader makes conscience

a cloak for his Knavery:

Can boast of his cunning but i'th present-Tence,

For Non est inventus a hundred years hence.


Then why should we turmoyl in cares and fears?

And turn our tranquillity to sighs and tears,

Let's eat, drink, and play, e're the worms do corrupt us,

For I say, that

Post mortem nulla voluptas:

Let's deal with our Damsels, that we may from thence

Have broods to suceed us a hundred years hence.


I never could gain satisfaction upon,

Your dreams of a bliss when we'r cold as a stone,

The Sages, call us Drunkards, Gluttons, & wenchers,

But we find such Morsels,

upon their own Trenchers:

For Abigal, Hannah, and sister Prudence,

Will simper to nothing a hundred years hence.


The Plush=coated Quack that his fees to inlarge,

Kills people with Licence, and at their own charge,

Who builds a vast structure of ill gotten wealth,

from the degrees of a Piss=pot,

and ruines of health:

Though treasures of life he pretends to despence,

Shall be turn'd into mummy a hundred years hence.


The Butterflye Courtier that Peagant of state,

The Mouse=trap of honour, and May=game of fate,

With all his ambitions, intrigues, and his tricks,

must dye like a Clown,

and then drop into Stix;

His plots against death, are too slender a fence,

For he'l be out of fashion a hundred years hence.


Yea, the Poet himself that so loftily sings,

As he scorns any subjects, but Hero's or Kings,

Must to the Capricio's of fortune submit,

and often be counted

a fool for his wit,

Thus beauty, wit, wealth, law learning, and sence,

All come to nothing a hundred years hence.


Printed for F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke.

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

No. of known editions c. 1560-1711: 4

No. of extant copies: 8

Appearances on Ballad Partners' lists: Thackeray, 1689 (as 'A Hundred years hence' from refrain).

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: none.

3-yr periods that produced multiple editions: 1675-77 (3).

New tune titles generated: none.

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: none known.

Pre-1640 bonus: no.

POINTS: 8 + 8 + 10 + 0 + 18 + 0 + 0 + 0 = 44

[On this ballad, see also Angela McShane, Political Broadside Ballads of Seventeenth-Century England, no. 488X].

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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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