46  A lamentable Ballad of a Combat lately performed neere London,/ betwixt Sir James Steward, and Sir George Wharton  [Euing 195]

Author: Anonymous

Bodies - clothing Bodies - injury Death - duelling/jousting Death - godly end Emotions - anger Emotions - disdain Emotions - excitement Emotions - patriotism Gender - masculinity Places - English Places - nationalities Recreation - games/sports Religion - Christ/God Religion - prayer Royalty - praise Violence - interpersonal

Song History

A lamentable Ballad of a Combat describes an infamous duel that was fought between two young courtiers on 9 November, 1609. The first, Sir George Wharton, was the son of the 3rd Baron Wharton, head of a Westmorland family that had been prominent in the Anglo-Scottish borders for centuries. Following the accession of James I in 1603, George spent much of his time at court, where he seems to have established a reputation as something of a hothead. The second combatant, Sir James Stuart, was Scottish, the son of Lord Blantyre. Stuart was also James I’s godson, and one source described him as ‘a great minion of the king’ (see Beaulieu). He was married to Lady Dorothy Hastings but the couple had no children at the date of the duel. The two young men were reputedly good friends.

Contemporary letters and other sources enable us to reconstruct this fateful episode (Beaulieu, Edmondes, Screven). On 8 November, 1609, Wharton and Stuart fell out while playing cards in the Earl of Essex’s chambers in Whitehall. Although the subject of the dispute struck commentators as ‘light’, it nevertheless led to tragedy within twenty-four hours. The two men parted after their initial quarrel, but Wharton soon issued a written challenge, alleging that the‘extreme vaineglorious’ Stuart had accused him of lacking the courage to fight.

Stuart responded, also in writing, claiming that he had merely been reacting to Wharton’s ‘barbarous and uncivil insolency in such a place, and before such a company’. Stuart accepted the challenge and nominated the time, place and weapons for the duel: 3 o’clock on the afternoon of 9 November, ‘at the further end of Islington’, with a rapier and a dagger (see Cromwell).

As planned, the duel took place in Islington fields and both men were ‘slayne dead at the ynstant’. According to one letter-writer, ‘They arre boothe burried privately by the King’s commandment in the church of Islington and in one grave together’ (Screven). The interment of the two men was duly recorded, without comment, in the parish registers of St. Mary, Islington.

This episode played its part in the escalating Jacobean controversy over duelling (see Peltomen). During the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, England had seen an upsurge in duelling as sections of high society fell under the influence of fashionable Italian ideas about courtesy, civility, politeness and honour. Promoters of these ideas called for restraint and composure in all courtly interactions but, by emphasising minute interpersonal gestures and their significance, they also heightened sensitivities about breaches of etiquette. This was a recipe for trouble, particularly when combined with the argument that assaults upon a gentleman’s honour had to be actively confronted. Renaissance honour was fundamentally interactive, and rising numbers of duels were the consequence.

The danger of these encounters was exacerbated by the use of rapiers, fashionable and deadly, rather than the heavier and more cumbersome swords of English tradition. As duelling became more common, it also became more lethal (this section draws extensively on Markku Peltomen’s work).

Not surprisingly, duelling had its critics, led in the early seventeenth century by the king himself. The Wharton-Stuart duel helped to drive a vigorous government campaign against the activity, particularly in the 1610s. Royal proclamations banned duelling and outlawed even the reporting of duels. Books were issued to reinforce the proclamations, and Sir Francis Bacon promoted the Court of Star Chamber as an institution in which offenders could be prosecuted. He and the king were concerned about various aspects of duelling, including the manner in which its private nature undermined royal authority and the toll it was taking upon young men of high rank (it was also represented as a foreign import).

The Wharton-Stuart case clearly energised these objections and motivated James to denounce duelling forcefully and openly in order to counter rumours that it had his approval. A letter written by Lord Eure shortly after the duel reported that ‘the untymely and more unfortunate end’ of the two courtiers had created an impression that the king was pleased at the spread of ‘duellos doctrine’ (Peltomen p. 83). Several books of the period echoed government criticisms of duelling, with particular reference to the tragic loss of Wharton and Stuart (see Spencer and Wilson). The voices raised in defence of duelling were, however, equally insistent and the practice continued into the nineteenth century.

A lamentable Ballad of a Combat was registered with the Stationers’ Company in 1624, though it had probably first appeared in earlier editions, now lost. Several subsequent editions were issued during the remainder of the seventeenth century, and the song’s popularity only waned after 1700. It did not disappear completely, however, and it can sometimes be found in eighteenth-century song-collections (see Ritson).

Moreover, there is interesting evidence of the ballad’s survival in nineteenth-century Scotland. Walter Scott printed a version and explained that the ballad had been ‘preserved by tradition in Ettrick Forest’. He also quoted a correspondent, James Hogg, who claimed to have ‘heard this song sung by several old people’. Hogg also reported the belief of many Scots that Wharton, the Englishman, had actually cheated in the duel by wearing concealed armour. This suspicion also features in the original ballad (see the opening of 'The second part') and the dependence of the Scottish song on the English one is clear in other ways too. This relationship is only partly obscured by the introduction of Scottish dialect in the version published by Scott (for example, the line ‘yet neither would from the other fly’ becomes ‘But frae the other nane wad steer’). It would be interesting to know how this geographical and linguistic transposition came about.

The authors of the original Jacobean ballad clearly knew the Wharton-Stuart case well, though they mistakenly set the duel ‘near Waltham’ rather than in Islington. The ballad-makers also had a good understanding of duelling as a deeply patterned activity. Indeed, the song presents many features of the classic Renaissance duel: the affront that simply cannot be tolerated despite the triviality of the trigger (a card-game); the challenge laid down and accepted (though not here in writing); the setting up of the meeting as a private and unlicensed contest; the emphasis upon the duel as a combat of equals (in rank, weapons, clothing); the refusal of either party to give ground in the fight, and the understanding that somebody has to die for the purpose of the conflict to be fulfilled; the maintenance of bravery despite the discomfort of serious injuries; and the honour-related terminology that runs through the ballad (‘gallant’, ‘unmanly’, ‘valiant’, ‘base’, ‘courage’ and so on).

The song is not exactly an intervention in the broader debate about the validity of duelling, and it perhaps offers something to supporters and opponents alike. The conflict is to some degree glorified, though the ballad starts by noting the ‘rash’ nature of the initial dispute and ends with a plea for such ‘quarrels’ to cease.

The juxtaposition of aggression and civility is an interesting feature of the song. Wharton and Stuart, after losing their tempers and organising the duel, spend their last evening drinking wine together (‘all as faire, as calme, as coole,/ as love within their bosome lay’). And during the fight itself, the mortally-wounded Stuart has to talk his adversary out of sending for a surgeon to treat his injuries. To us, the contrasts seem bizarre but to early-modern supporters of duelling they perhaps helped to capture the essence of a ritual that was somehow civilised and courteous, despite all the blood.

The ballad, finally, presents some intriguing echoes of the mega-hit, A Memorable Song on the unhappy hunting in Chevy-Chase. Stuart’s claim that ‘There’s ne’er a Lord in England breaths,/ shall make me give an inch of way’ recalls Earl Percy’s boast that ‘I will not yield to any Scot/ that ever yet was born’. Stuart also notes that ‘one or both [must] lose his life and breath’, echoing Earl Douglas’ prediction that ‘one of us two shall dye’. Both ballads also pit an Englishman of the borders against a Scot, something that must have generated additional interest during the reign of James VI/I, ruler of both kingdoms from 1603. This context is referred to directly in the final verse of A lamentable Ballad, with its prayer ‘That Britaine all may live in one,/ in love and perfect unitie’.

To complicate matters, it is also notable that the Chevy-Chase ballad depicts a thoroughly medieval combat, rather than a fashionable Renaissance duel. The affinities between the songs may suggest that the two traditions were more closely related than is sometimes supposed (on this possibility, see Luke).

Christopher Marsh


Francis Bacon, The charge of Sir Francis Bacon... touching duells (1616).

J. Beaulieu, letter to W. Trumbull (12 November 1609), Historical Manuscripts Commission, Report on the manuscripts of the Marquess of Downshire..., vol. 2, Papers of William Trumbull the Elder 1605-1610 (1936), p. 182.

Broadside ballads from the Bodleian Libraries: http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/ 

Thomas Cromwell, Walks through Islington (1835), pp. 267-68. This includes a transcript of Wharton’s challenge and Stuart’s response. The original source is in the British Library: Stowe MS 143, fos. 105-06.

Thomas Edmondes, letter to W. Trumbull (November 1609), Historical Manuscripts Commission, Report on the manuscripts of the Marquess of Downshire..., vol. 2, Papers of William Trumbull the Elder 1605-1610 (1936), pp. 184-85.

English Broadside Ballad Archive: https://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/

English Short Title Catalogue.

Jillian Luke, ‘“Draw thy rapier, for we’ll have a bout”: duelling on the early modern stage’, The seventeenth century 34.3 (2019), pp. 283-303.

Parish register of St. Mary, Islington, Middlesex (10 November 1609), available at www.ancestry.co.uk

Markku Peltomen, The duel in early modern England. Civility, politeness and honour (Cambridge, 2003).

Joseph Ritson, Ancient songs (1790), pp. 199-205.

Hyder E. Rollins, An analytical index to the ballad-entries (1557-1709) in the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London (1924; Hatboro, Pennsylvania, 1967), nos. 324 and 2907.

Walter Scott, Minstrelsy of the Scottish border, 3 vols. (London and Edinburgh, 1806), vol. 2, ‘The duel of Wharton and Stuart’.

Thomas Screven, letter to the Earl of Rutland (16 November 1609), Historical Manuscripts Commission, Twelfth report, appendix, part IV. The manuscripts of his Grace the Duke of Rutland... Preserved at Belvoir Castle, vol. 1 (1888), p. 419.

John Spencer, A discourse of divers petitions of high concernment and great consequence (1641), p. 22.

‘WHARTON, George (1583-1609), of Wharton Hall, Westmld’: https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1558-1603/member/wharton-george-1583-1609

Arthur Wilson, The history of Great Britain being the life and reign of King James the First (1653), p. 61.

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Featured Tune History

To the tune of ‘Down Plumpton Parke’ (lost tune with standard name, Down Plumpton Park)

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

No tune by the name of ‘Down Plumpton Park’ has been found. All we can say is that the melody was also known as ‘Sir George Wharton’, a title that derives from the hit ballad under discussion here.

Echoes (an overview)

We have found only three surviving black-letter ballads to this lost tune. The first of these represented a repentant robber, executed at Kendal, and its refrain generated the tune title, ‘Down Plumpton Park’ (there was a park of this name near Penrith). The other two ballads were both about duels fought between men of high rank, and the popularity of A lamentable Ballad of a Combat lately performed neere London must have ensured that interpersonal confrontations between noblemen were perceived as the tune’s main thematic province during the seventeenth century.

It is also worth noting that all five of the men whose deaths are described in these ballads came from either Westmorland in north-west England or from Scotland (though several of them died further south). It therefore seems likely that the tune also had distinctly northern associations.

There were also some very close textual similarities between the two duelling songs. The opening verses of A NOBLE DEWELL are clearly modelled on the corresponding section of A lamentable Ballad of a Combat. Compare, for example, the first lines of the two songs:

‘It grieves me for to tell the woe,/ neere London late that did befall,/ On Martlemas Eve, oh woe is me,/ I grieve the chance and ever shall:/ Of two right gallant Gentlemen,/ who very rashly fell at words,/But so their quarrell could not fall,/ till they fell both by their keene swords’ (A lamentable Ballad of a Combat).

‘My heart doth bleed to tell the wo/ or chance of grief that late befell/ At Biglesworth in Bedfordshire/ as I to you for truth will tell,/ There was two valliant Noble men,/ that very rashly fell at words,/ And nothing could appease their wraths/ till they betook them to their Swords’ (A NOBLE DEWELL)

After the second verses, the narratives diverge as the specific details of the two fights are supplied, but the parallel openings and the shared tune must have encouraged automatic comparison between the two songs.

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

Songs and Summaries

The Lamentation of Jhon [sic] Musgrave, who was executed at Kendall for robbing the King's Receiver of great store of treasure. To a newe tune (copied out by hand, 1603-16).  Shirburn Ballads II (later editions of the song named the tune ‘Wharton’). Crime – robbery; Death – execution, godly end, result of immorality; Religion – moral rules, sin/repentance, Christ; Emotions – sorrow; Morality – general; Recreation – good fellowship; Nature – animals.  A young man expresses great sorrow for his crime and prepares himself to face his execution.

A lamentable Ballad of a Combat lately performed neere London,  betwixt Sir Iames Steward, and Sir George Wharton Knights... To the Tune of, Downe Plumpton Parke (F. C., 1626-56). Euing 195; EBBA 31951. Gender – masculinity; Bodies – clothing, injury; Violence – interpersonal; Death – duel, godly end; Emotions – anger, disdain, excitement, patriotism; Places – English, nationalities; Recreation – games/sports; Religion – Christ/God, prayer; Royalty – praise. Two knights fall out while gaming, and a deadly duel is arranged and fought.

A NOBLE DEWELL, OR, An unmatchable Combate betwixt Sir William [Gray] and the Earl of Southast [sic]... Tune of, Sir George Wharton (John Andrews, c. 1660). Wood 401(99). Politics – controversy, domestic, obedience; Gender – masculinity; Religion – Protestant nonconformity; Violence – interpersonal, civil war, political; Crime – murder; Death – unlawful killing; Emotions – sorrow; News – convicts/crimes, domestic; Places – English, travel/transport; Royalty – general. Sir William Gray (a loyal cavalier) and the Earl of Southast (a Presbyterian) fight a duel over religion and high office, and the latter kills the former, then robs him of his jewels before being apprehended.


The tune fell out of fashion in the later seventeenth century and it does not appear to have been nominated for the singing of white-letter ballads or songbook texts.

Christopher Marsh

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Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Gallant on tiles

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 was a very popular woodcut, particularly in the first half of the seventeenth century, and was used on ballads issued by many different publishers. By the 1680s, the Gallant on tiles had been dropped from all songs, including later editions of A lamentable Ballad. It seems that the woodblock(s) had either fallen to pieces or out of fashion.

High demand for the image in previous decades meant that there were several subtly different versions; printers clearly knew the value of having a copy of the block in stock. On The two Welsh Lovers, the Gallant on tiles actually appeared twice (comparing the images raises the intriguing possibility that carvers sometimes copied even some of the imperfections in the blocks from which they worked).

In cinematic terms, the Gallant on tiles was a romantic male lead who occasionally experimented with other roles. More often than not, we are clearly being encouraged to admire his conduct in love, or at least to feel sympathy towards him. The self-confident stance, the rich clothing, the ready sword and the interactive hand gesture all contributed to the effect, and these components also made the picture ideal for positioning alongside other recycled woodcuts, many of which featured women (the Woman in charge is mentioned alongside the Gallant on tiles fourteen times in the list below).

The gallant’s manliness also suited him to occasional ballads describing feats of bravado: the man who can eat prodigious quantities in A wonder in Kent, for example, or the duelling aristocrat on A lamentable Ballad. On this hit song, he plays his part in a simple but effective picture scheme: on the left, the two men encounter one another from the safety of their separate boxes; on the right, now thrown together in a single box, they fight to the death (romantic ballads also used this two-into-one layout, though without the knives).

From time to time, the gallant also represented unreliable lovers and victims of female deceit or dominance, but the strength of his predominantly positive reputation is suggested by the highly unusual decision to label him as ‘A disguised Jesuit’ on A Scourge for the POPE. Viewers expected him to be good, and sometimes needed guidance when he played more negative roles. Here we meet a message that seems quite common when generic ‘goodies’ represent ‘baddies’: behind the pleasing exteriors of the people we know, there may lurk darker possibilities. The Gallant on tiles also makes this point on The Honest Age, a ballad that pretends all is well in the world when everyone knows it isn’t.

Songs and summaries

The Golden Age: Or, An Age of plaine-dealing (I.T., 1597-1626?).  Pepys 1.152-3; EBBA 20066. Society – criticism; Humour – satire; Employment – crafts/trades.  A song that purports to celebrate the fact that all is good and just in the present age (picture placement: he stands alongside a Woman in charge).

The Constant Lover.  Who his affection will not move, Though he live not where he love (Henry Gosson, 1601-40).  Roxburghe 1.68-69; EBBA 30047.  Gender – courtship, masculinity; Emotions – love, frustration; History – ancient/mythological, romance; Religion – ancient gods.  A man declares his undying devotion for a woman who lives some distance away (picture placement: he appears on the right side of the sheet, next to a woman with a leafy fan).

A delicate new Ditty composed upon the Posie of a Ring (H. Gosson, 1601-40).  Roxburghe 1.80-81; EBBA 30055.  Emotions – love; Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity.  An uncomplicated courtship ballad in which a man and a woman each declare their exclusive devotion to the other (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, alongside a woman with a leafy fan who stands with her back to him).

The Honest Age (H.G., 1601-40).  Pepys 1.156-7; EBBA 20068. Society – criticism; Humour – satire; Employment – trades and crafts.  A song purporting to celebrate the fact that all is just and true in the current age (picture placement: he appears alongside the Woman in charge on the right of the sheet).

The two Notinghamshire Lovers: or, The Maid of Standon in Notingham-shire, and the Leicestershire man (H. G., 1601-40).  Roxburghe 3.178-79; EBBA 30475.  Gender – courtship; Family – children/parents, kin; Death – suicide, heartbreak; Morality – familial;  Emotions – love, despair, guilt; Society – friendship; Violence – interpersonal, self-inflicted; Environment – birds, weather.  A woman plans to elope with her sweetheart but he fails to turn up for their meeting, initiating a chain of events that leads to the death of both parties (picture placement: he appears over the final column of text, next to Queen Elizabeth).

A most delicate, pleasant, amorous, new Song (H.G, 1601-40).  Pepys 1.254-5; EBBA 20117. Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Emotions – joy, love.  A man sings in sentimental praise of his sweetheart (picture placement: he appears alongside a woman holding a bouquet).

A Lovers Lamentation to his faire Phillida (H. G., 1601-40).  Pepys 1.346; EBBA 20015.  Death – grief, tragedy; Gender – courtship, masculinity; Emotions – sorrow; Nature – flowers/trees.  A man expresses profound grief following the death of the woman he loves (picture placement: he appears over the opening verse and there are no other woodcuts).

A pleasant new Ballad, both merry and witty, That sheweth the humours, of the wives in the City (H. G., 1601-40).  Pepys 1.376-77; ESTC 20174.  Gender – marriage, femininity, masculinity; Humour – extreme situations; Morality – romantic/sexual.  A husband rebukes his rude, shrewish and materialistic wife and successfully wins from her a declaration of obedience (picture placement: he appears on the left, alongside an aristocratic woman with a leafy fan and Gallant with small hand, but he also appears on the right, next to a different woman with a fan).

A wonder in Kent (H.G., 1601-40).  Pepys 1.72-3; EBBA 20270.  Recreation – food; Gender – masculinity; Humour – extreme situations; News – sensational.  This is an account of a gluttonous hero who can eat vast quantities of food (picture placement: he looks towards the all-consuming hero, depicted in the first woodcut).

The two faithfull Friends. The pleasant History of Alexander and Lodwicke, who were so like one another, that none could know them asunder (Henry Gosson, 1601-40).  Pepys 1.82-83; EBBA 20275.  Society – friendship; History – ancient/mythological; Family – children/parents; Gender – marriage, masculinity; Places – European; Politics – general; Royalty – general; Bodies – physique; Emotions – love; Disability – physical; Violence – interpersonal.  A complicated historical tale of the unshakeable friendship between two look-alike princes (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, next to a man of similar stature who stands outdoors).

A pleasant new Northerne Song. called the two York-shire Lovers (John Wright, 1602-46).  Roxburghe 1.288-89; EBBA 30203. Gender – courtship; Bodies – physique/looks; Emotion – longing, love; Employment – agrarian; Nature – animals, birds; Recreation – music; Places – English.  A young Yorkshireman chances upon a beautiful maiden who, having heard his declaration of love, agrees to marry him (picture placement: he stands over the first column of text, next to a woman with a leafy fan or bouquet).

A pleasant new Northern Song, called the two York-shire Lovers (I. W., 1602-46).  Pepys 1.240-1; EBBA 20110.  Gender – courtship; Bodies – physique/looks; Emotion – longing, love; Employment – agrarian; Nature – animals, birds; Places – English; Society – rural life.  A young Yorkshireman chances upon a beautiful maiden who, having heard his declaration of love, agrees to marry him (picture placement: he stands next to a Woman in charge, though the arm with which she usually gestures is missing here).

A pleasant Song, made by a Souldier, whose bringing vp had bin dainty, and partly fed by those affections of his vnbridled youth, is now beaten with his owne rod (John Wright, 1602-46).  Pepys 1.465; EBBA 20034.  Employment – sailors/soldiers; Family – kin; Morality – familial; Nature – birds; Bodies – health/sickness; Emotions – anger; Violence – between states.  A soldier tells his life-story and criticises his wealthy kin for failing to help him, now that he has come home and is in need (picture placement: he stands over the opening verses and there are no other woodcuts).

Any thing for a quiet life; Or the Married mans bondage to a curst Wife (G. P. 1609-32). Pepys 1.378-79; EBBA 20175.  Gender – marriage, femininity, masculinity, courtship; Family – pregnancy/childbirth; Recreation – fashions, food, hospitality, good fellowship; Society – neighbours; Emotions – sorrow; Humour – mockery.  A young man marries a domineering woman and regrets it immediately and forever after (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, alongside a woman with a leafy fan).

The Complaint of a Lover forsaken of his Love (Edward Wright, 1611-56).  Roxburghe 1.54-55; EBBA 30040.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Environment – flowers/trees; Emotions – love, distain, despair; Death – heartbreak, suicide; Bodies – adornment; Violence – self-inflicted.  A heartbroken man prepares to drink poison because the woman he loves has treated him with scorn (picture placement: he appears on the right side of the sheet, next to a woman with a leafy fan).

Impossibilities. OR, A matter of no thing, yet some thing youle finde I know in the reading, will pleasure your minde (Edward Wright, 1611-56).  Roxburghe 1.164-65; EBBA 30102.  Society – criticism; Humour – extreme situations/surprises; Morality – familial, romantic/sexual, social/economic, general; Employment – apprenticeship/service, crafts/trades, professions; Gender – adultery/cuckoldry, marriage, sex; Nature – animals, birds, weather; Religion – charity; Places – English. This argues that the world will be truly renewed and full of honest people only when a long list of highly implausible developments have occurred (picture placement: he stands on the far right, alongside a man in a long dark gown).

Leanders love to loyall Hero (I. W., c.1614).  Pepys 1.344-45; EBBA 20161.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; History – ancient/mythological, romance, heroism; Death – accident, tragedy, grief, suicide; Emotions – love, longing, anxiety, sorrow; Places – European, extra- European. This is the ancient tragedy of two lovers, separated by the dangerous waters of the Hellespont (picture placement: he stands beneath the title, to the right of a fortified town).

An excellent Ditty, both merry and witty, Expressing the love of the Youthes of the City (John Grismond, 1616-38).  Pepys 1.242-3; EBBA 20111. Gender – courtship; Society – urban life; Places – English; Recreation – festivals.  A positive celebration of courtship (picture placement: he stands next to a Woman in charge, though the arm with which she usually gestures is missing here).

The Drunkards Dyall: or, Good Sir, Your Nose is durty (Phil. Byrch, 1618-23.  Pepys 1.428-29; EBBA 20200.  Gender – courtship; Recreation – alcohol, tobacco; Humour – bawdry, misunderstanding, mockery. A man indulges in a major drinking session with a mocking young woman and ends up with a terrible hangover and no purse (picture placement: he appears on the far right, alongside an image of a well-dressed couple).

The Maunding Souldier: OR, The Fruits of Warre is Beggery (F. Grove, 1623-62).  Roxburghe 1.474-75; EBBA 30317.  Employment – sailors/soldiers, begging; Politics – foreign affairs;  Bodies – health/sickness; Disability – physical; Violence – between states; Places – European, travel/transport; Gender – masculinity; History – recent; Society – rich/poor.  A poor soldier asks for charity, having suffered terrible hardships in numerous campaigns over many years (picture placement: he appears on the right, next to a a man who walks with a stick).

A man cannot lose his money, but he shall be mockt too (Francis Grove, 1623-62).  Pepys, 1.466-67v; EBBA 20219.  Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Humour – deceit/disguise, mockery; Morality – sexual; Recreation – food; Bodies – clothing.  A naive young man is tricked out of his money by a crafty woman who falsely promises to marry him (picture placement: he appears alongside a Woman in Charge).

A Womans Birth, OR A perfect relation more witty then common, Set forth to declare the descent of a Woman (Francis Groves, 1623-62).  Roxburghe 1.466-67; EBBA 30313.  Gender – femininity; History – ancient/mythological; Bodies  - physique/looks, clothing. This describes the creation of woman as a drunken mistake by the gods and traces all the alleged female faults back to this ancient occurrence (picture placement: he stands on the right side of the sheet, alongside an aristocratic woman).

A Scourge for the POPE (John Trun[dle], 1624?).  Pepys 1.60; EBBA 20264.  Religion – Catholicism; Emotions - anger.  A fierce attack upon Catholics, who are not welcome in England (picture placement: he faces a pope in his throne and appears with the caption, ‘A disguised Jesuit’).

The two Welsh Lovers (imprint partially missing, 1624-26?).  Pepys 1.270-1; EBBA 20125. Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity, adultery/cuckoldry, marriage; Environment – landscape, rivers, flowers/trees; Places – Welsh, nationalities; Recreation - music. A Welsh woman regrets her marriage and resolves to resume her relationship with a former sweetheart (picture placement: he appears on both sides of the ballad, first gesturing towards a woman with a bouquet and second with his back to a Woman in Charge).

A new Ballad of the Souldier and Peggy (F. Coules, 1624-56).  Roxburghe 1.370-71; EBBA 30250.  Gender – marriage, courtship, femininity, masculinity; Morality – familial, romantic/sexual; Family – children/parents; Emotions – longing, sorrow, contentment; Employment – sailors/soldiers, crafts/trades; Nature – sea; Places – travel.  Peggy, a married women, runs off with a soldier, but returns home within three months and seeks forgiveness of her husband (picture placement: he stands on the right side of the sheet, next to a woman with a fan and directly above a verse about the husband’s efforts to find his wife).

Fond Love why dost thou dally: OR, The passionate Louers Ditty, In praise of his Loue thats faire and witty (Francis Coules, 1624-80).  Roxburghe 1.126-27; EBBA 30079.  Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Bodies – physique/looks;  Emotions – longing, love; History – ancient/mythological, romance; Recreation – music; Religion – ancient gods.  A loquacious lover pleads with his sweetheart to grant his desires and praises her manifold qualities (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, to the right of another gallant with a sword and a woman in a farthingale skirt).

The Despairing Lover, Whose minde was much tormented, Because of his True-Love Hee thought hee was prevented (F. Coules, 1624-80).  Roxburghe 1.82-83; EBBA 30057.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Death – suicide, heartbreak; Environment – animals, sea, weather; Places – European, extra-European, travel/transport; Emotions – despair, joy, love. A man feels rejected by his sweetheart and prepares to kill himself, but she intervenes in the nick of time and a loving outcome is assured (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, next to a woman who holds a leafy fan).

The distressed Virgin: OR, The false Young-man, and the constant Maid (F. Coules, 1624-80).  Roxburghe 1.90-91; EBBA 30062.  Gender – courtship, Cupid, masculinity, femininity; Morality – romantic/sexual; Death – heartbreak; Emotions – sorrow.  A young woman, abandoned by the man to whom she was engaged, expresses her extreme sadness and declares her readiness to die (picture placement: he appears on the right side of the sheet, with his back towards a Woman in Charge).

The forlorne Traveller: Whose first beginning was pleasure and joy, But his riotous spending wrought his decay (F. Coules, 1624-80).  Roxburghe 1.524-25; EBBA 30350.  Places – English, travel; Recreation – alcohol, dance, music; Death – result of immorality; Economy – hardship/prosperity, money; Family – children/parents; Society – friendship; Emotions – sorrow; Employment – sailors/soldiers, alehouses/inns; Morality – social/economic. A man regrets that a life of constant revelry in many of the towns of England has left him penniless, and he urges others to learn the lessons (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, to the right of another gallant in a plumed hat).

The lovely Northerne Lasse, Who in this ditty here complaining, shewes What harme she got milking her dadyes Ewes (F. Coules, 1624-80).  Roxburghe 1.190-91; EBBA 30133.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity, sex; Morality – romantic/sexual;  Employment – agrarian, female/male; Family – children/parents. A maiden becomes pregnant by a seductive but unreliable shepherd’s boy but eventually another man falls in love with her and all is well (picture placement: he appears on the right side of the sheet, turning his back on a Woman in Charge).

The Nightingale: Whose curious Notes are here explain'd, In a dainty Ditty sweetly fain'd (F. Coules, 1624-80).  Roxburghe 1.296-97; EBBA 30207.  Environment – birds, fowers/trees; Recreation – music, walking; Emotions – joy; Employment – agrarian, crafts/trades, apprenticeship/service; Gender – courtship; Society – urban life, rural life; Places – English; Politics – court. A song celebrating the sweet music of the nightingale, loved by all manner of men and women (picture placement: he appears directly over the opening line - ‘You Gallants that resort…’ -  and to the right of a small walking group whose female leader holds a flower).

A lamentable Ballad of a Combat lately performed neere London,  betwixt Sir Iames Steward, and Sir George Wharton Knights (F. C., 1626-56). Euing 195; EBBA 31951. Gender – masculinity; Bodies – clothing, injury; Violence – interpersonal; Death – duel, godly end; Emotions – anger, disdain, excitement, patriotism; Places – English, nationalities; Recreation – games/sports; Religion – Christ/God, prayer; Royalty – praise. Two knights fall out while gaming, and a deadly duel is arranged and fought (picture placement: he stands beneath the title, to the right of a front-facing gallant with a sheathed sword).

The Westerne Knight, and the young Maid of Bristoll (F. Coules, 1629).  Pepys 1.312-313; EBBA 20148.  Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity, sex; Morality – sexual; Family – pregnancy/childirth; Places - English.  A knight seduces a young woman with a promise of marriage and then tries to abandon her before doing the right thing in the end (picture placement: he stands on the right side of the sheet, alongside a Woman in Charge).

A new Ballad intituled, The Old mans complaint against his wretched sonne [issued with An excellent Ballad of the Mercers sonne of Midhurst] (H. G., 1629-40).  Pepys 1.137; EBBA 20004.  Family – children/parents, pregnancy/childbirth; Morality – familial; Society – old and young; Gender – marriage; Death – suicide, general; Emotions – anger, fear; Bodies – health/sickness.  An old man is horribly treated by his son and daughter-in-law but justice is done in the end (picture placement: he appears alongside a Woman in Charge and a man who reaches into his pocket).

The two Loving Sisters: Wherein the one to the other doth shew, How Cupid in a Dreame did her wooe (E. B., c. 1631).  Roxburghe 1.530-31; EBBA 30353.  Family – siblings; Gender – courtship; History – ancient/mythological; Religion –ancient gods.  A conversation between two sisters about marriage, during which the older reveals that she has been visited in the night by Cupid, and the younger suggests that they each seek a husband as a matter of urgency (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, alongide a woman with a fan).

Man's Felicity and Misery: Which is a good Wife and a bad (Francis Grove, c. 1632).  Roxburghe 1.274-75; EBBA 30194. Gender – marriage, femininity, adultery/cuckoldry; Humour – extreme situations, domestic/familial; Morality – familial; Family – children/parents, kin; Employment – female; Bodies – looks/physique; Recreation – alcohol, food.  A dialogue ballad in which two cousins, Edmund and David, compare the qualities and failings of their wives (picture placement: he stands beneath the title, next to a woman with a leafy fan).

The Honest Wooer, His minde expressing in plaine and few termes, By which to his Mistresse his love he confirmes (F. C., c. 1632).  Roxburghe 1.156-57; EBBA 30098.  Gender – courtship; Emotions – love; History – ancient/mythological, romance.  A plain-talking man declares his love for a woman, and she reciprocates (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, alongside a Woman in Charge). 

Man's Felicity and Misery: Which is a good wife and a bad (F. Grove, c. 1632).  Pepys 1.392-93; EBBA 20182.  Gender – marriage, femininity; Humour – extreme situations, domestic/familial; Morality – familial; Family - kin.  A dialogue ballad in which two cousins, Edmund and David, compare the qualities and failings of their wives (picture placement: he stands beneath the title, to the right of a man in similar attire).

The praise of London (F. C., c. 1632).  Pepys 1.188-9; EBBA 20084.  Places – English; Society – urban life.  A song that praises London for its all-round vibrancy (picture placement: he and a Woman in Charge stand as if looking proudly towards the city, itself depicted in two woodcuts beneath the title).

Constant, faire, and fine Betty. Being The Young-mans praise, of a curious Creature (John Wright the younger, 1634-58).  Roxburghe 1.66-67; EBBA 30046.  Gender – courtship, femininity; Bodies – physique/looks; Emotions – love; History – ancient/mythological; Religion – ancient gods.  A man sings the praises of his beautiful and loyal sweetheart, and she responds by declaring her wish to marry him (picture placement: he appears on the right side of the sheet, alongside a  Woman in Charge).

A pleasant new Song betwixt the Saylor and his Love (F. C., 1638-55).  Roxburghe 1.368-69; EBBA 30249. Gender – marriage, masculinity, femininity; Employment -  sailors/soldiers; Environment – animals, crops, birds, sea; Religion – ancient gods; History – ancient/mythological; Recreation – music; Places – travel/transport.  A sailor returns home after a long time away and persuades his wife not to be resentful (picture placement: he appears over the opening lines, next to a woman with a leafy fan). 

An excellent Ballad Intituled, The Constancy of Susanna (John Wright, 1640-46).  Roxburghe 1.60-61; EBBA 30043.  Religion – Bible, Christ/God, divine intervention, prayer; Gender – marriage, adultery/cuckoldry, sex, femininity, masculinity; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – fear, confusion, anger; Bodies – physique; Crime – false witness; Death – execution, result of immorality; Nature – flowers/trees; Places – extra-European; Society – neighbours; Violence – punitive. This tells the Biblical story of Susanna and her heroic rejection of the sexual advances made my two lecherous elders of Babylon (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, to the right of a wise old man and a woman who stands in a garden).

A new Ballad, containing a communication between the carefull Wife, and the comfortable Husb touching the common cares and charges of House-hold (no imprint, mid-seventeenth century).  Roxburghe 1.38; EBBA 30031.  Gender – marriage; Economy – hardship/prosperity, household, livings, money;  Employment – female/male, agrarian, crafts/trades; Family – pregnancy/childbirth; Environment – animals; Religion – Christ/God, prayer.  A wife and husband review the challenges and responsibilities of making a living, and they resolve to pull together for their mutual benefit (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, next to a woman with a leafy fan).

Nick and Froth; OR, The Good-fellows Complaint for want of full Measure (no imprint, mid-seventeenth century).  Roxburghe 2.376-77; EBBA 30812.  Employment – alehouses/inns; Emotions – anger; Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship;  Gender – masculinity, femininity; Morality – social/economic; Places – English.  An attack on tapsters and victuallers for conning their customers by serving short measure in a variety of questionable drinking vessels (picture placement: the top part of the woodcut, in a reversed version, appears on the right, alongside images of two other men).

A New, Rare, and Exellent sonnet of A Brave and lusty youth full Groome, that Was in Love and could not tell with Whom (F. C., J. W., T. V., and W. G., 1655-58).  Roxburghe 3.186-87; EBBA 30654.   Gender – courtship, masculinity, singles; Humour – extreme situations/surprises, mockery, satire; Emotions – confusion.  A young man is deeply in love but cannot identify the object of his affections, and he asks us not to laugh at him in his predicament (picture placement: he appears beneath the title, alongside Queen Elizabeth).

Truths Integrity: OR, A curious Northerne Ditty, called, Love will finde out the way (F. Coules, 1656-80).  Roxburghe 1.426-427; EBBA 30290.  Emotions – love; Gender – courtship, marriage; History – heroism; Society – rich/poor.  This rehearses the argument that love is an unstoppable force and cannot be defeated (picture placement: he appears alongside a Woman in Charge).

Christopher Marsh

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Related Texts

Hyder Rollins notes that a book about the Wharton-Stuart duel was registered in June 1613. It was entitled A discours of Combatts occasioned by the lamentable and untymely end of Sir George Wharton and master James Stuard. Sadly, it does not seem to have survived. The title alone indicates that this particular duel helped to stimulate broader discussion of duelling. It is a shame that we cannot compare the book with the ballad.

Christopher Marsh

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A lamentable Ballad of a Combat lately performed neere London,/ betwixt Sir James Steward, and Sir George Wharton Knights, who were/ both slaine at that time. To the Tune of, Downe Plumpton Parke.

[We have not recorded this song because the tune is unknown]


IT grieves me for to tell the woe,

neere London late that did befall,

On Martlemas Eve, oh woe is me,

I grieve the chance and ever shall:

Of two right gallant Gentlemen,

who very rashly fell at words,

But so their quarrell could not fall,

till they fell both by their keene swords.


The one was Sir George Wharton call’d,

the good Lord Whartons sonne and heire,

The other Sir James the Scottish knight,

a man that valiant heart did beare:

Neere to the Court these Gallants stout,

fell out as they in gaming were,

And in their fury grew so hot,

they hardly could from blowes forbeare.


Nay, kind intreaties could not stay

Sir James from striking in that place,

For in the height and heat of blood,

he stroke young Wharton ore the face.

What dost thou meane, said Wharton then,

to strike in such unmanly sort?

That I will take it at thy hand

the tongue of man shall nere report.


Why doe thy worst then, said Sir James,

and marke me Wharton what I say,

There’s nere a Lord in England breathes,

shall make me give an inch of way:

This brag’s too large stout Wharton said,

let our brave English Lords alone,

And talke to me who am your foe,

for thou shalt find enough of one.


Alas Sir, said the Scottish Knight,

thy blood and mind’s too base for me,

Thy oppositions be too bold,

and will thy dire destruction be:

Nay, said young Wharton, you mistake,

my courage and valour equals thine,

To mak’t apparant cast thy Glove

to gage, to try as I doe mine.


I, said Sir James, hast thou such spirit,

I did not thinke within thy breast,

That such a haughty daring heart,

as thou mak’st shew of, ere could rest:

I interchange my Glove with thee,

take it and point thy bed of death,

The field I meane where we must fight,

and one or both lose life and breath.


Wee’l meet neere Waltham, said Sir George,

to morrow that shall be the day:

Wee’l either take a single man,

and try who beares the bell away:

This done, together hands they shooke,

and without any envious signe,

They went to Ludgate, where they staid,

and drunke each man a pint of Wine.


No kind of anger could be seene,

no words of malice might bewray,

But al as faire, as calme, as coole,

as love within their bosome lay:

Till parting time, and then indeed,

they shew’d some rancour of their heart,

George, said Sir James, when next we meet,

so sound I know we shall not part.


And so they parted both resolv’d,

to have their valours throughly try’d;

The second part shall briefly shew,

both how they met, and how they dy’d.


The second part, To the same tune.


YOung Wharton was the first that came,

to the pointed place on the next day,

Who presently spyed Sir James comming

as fast as he could post away:

And being met in manly sort,

the Scottish Knight did to Wharton say,

I doe mislike thy Doublet George,

it sits so cleare on thee this day.


Hast thou no privie Armour on?

nor yet no privie coat of steele?

I nere saw Lord in all my life,

become a Doublet halfe so weele;

Now nay, now nay, stout Wharton said,

Sir James Steward that may not be,

Ile not an armed man come hither,

and thou a naked man truely.


Our men shall rip our Doublets George,

so shall we know whether of us doe lye,

And then weele to our weapons sharpe,

our selves true Gallants for to try:

Then they slipt off their Doublets faire,

standing up in their shirts of Lawne,

Follow my counsell the Scottish Knight said,

and Wharton to thee Ile make it knowne.


Now follow my counsell, Ile follow thine,

and weele fight in our shirts said he,

Now nay, now nay, young Wharton said,

Sir James Steward that may not be,

Unlesse we were drunkards and quarrellers,

that had no care over our sell,

Not caring what we goe about,

or whether our soules go to heaven or hell.


Weele first to God bequeath our soules,

then next our Corps to dust and clay:

With that stout Wharton was the first

tooke Rapier and Poniard there that day:

Seven thrusts in turnes these Gallants had,

before one drop of blood was drawne,

The Scottish Knight then spake valiantly,

stout Wharton still thou holdst thine owne.


With the next thrust that Wharton thrust,

he ran him through the shoulder bone:

The next was through the thicke of the thigh,

thinking he had the Scottish Knight slaine.

Then Wharton said to the Scottish Knight,

are you a living man tell me,

If there be a Surgeon in England can,

he shall cure your wounds right speedily.


Now nay, now nay, the Scottish Knight said,

Sir George Wharton that may not be,

The one of us shall kill each other,

ere off this ground that we doe flee:

Then in a maze Sir George lookt backe,

to see what company was nigh:

They both had dangerous markes of death,

yet neither would from the other fly.


But both through body wounded sore,

with courage lusty strong and sound,

They made a desperate deadly close,

they both fell dead unto the ground:

Our English Knight was first that fell,

the Scottish Knight fell immediately:

Who cryed both to Jesus Christ,

receive our soules, O Lord, we dye.


God blesse our noble King and Queene,

and all their Noble Progenie,

That Brittaine all may live in one,

in love and perfect unitie.

Thus to conclude, I make an end,

wishing that quarrels still may cease,

And that we still may live in love,

in prosperous state in joy and peace.


Printed at London for F. C. dwelling in the/ Old-Baily.

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

Shirburn ballads: not included.

Appearances on Ballad Partners' lists: Pavier and partners, 1624 (as 'Wharton and Steward'); Coles, Vere, Wright and Clarke, 1675; and Thackeray, 1689 ('Wharton & Stuart').

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: none.

No. of known editions c.1560-1711: 10

No. of extant copies: 13

New tune-titles generated: 'Wharton' (1 ballad).

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: none known.

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library databases: 25 references, with no evidence of later collection as a folk-song (Roud no. 8192).

POINTS: 0 + 30 + 0 + 20 + 13 + 2 + 0 + 3 = 68

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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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