“Fair Margaret and Sweet William”

Alternate titles: “Lady Margot and Sweet Willie”; “Lady Maggie”; “Lyddy Margot”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1765 (Percy); c.1720 (broadside, Bodleian Douce Ballads 1(72a))
Keywords: marriage questions death ghost
Found in: Britain(England,Scotland(Aber)) US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,SE,So) Canada(Mar,Newf,Ont)

Description

Margaret learns that her lover is to be wed. After the wedding, she (or her ghost) visits the wedding chamber and asks the husband if he is happy with his wife. He says that he would prefer her. But when he calls at Margaret's home, she is dead

Notes

A fragment of this ballad is found in John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont's 1611 play "The Knight of the Burning Pestle," Act II, scene viii:

When it was grown to dark midnight

And all were fast asleep,

In came Margaret's grimly ghost

And stood at William's feet.

Child and Bronson both have cutting remarks about the history of this song, which was rewritten "in what used to be called an elegant style" by David Malloch/Mallet, while "a print of c. 1711 was probably occasioned by someone's invention of a fresh tune, not the least folkish in character." (This is the basis of Bronson's "A" group of tunes.)

Grieg/Keith see this as much the same ballad as Child #73, and Bronson sees similarities in the tunes, but concludes that the melodies, like the texts, justify separating them. (Note that "Fair Margaret" is *not* a murder ballad!) - RBW

See a parody attributed to David Malle: broadside Bodleian, Firth b.22(f. 79), "William and Margaret" ("'Twas at the silent solemn hour"), S. Watts (London), 1785; also Harding B 5(58), "A Lamentable Ballad" or "The Tragical End of William and Margaret" ("When all was wrap'd in dark midnight"); Harding B 5(57), "William and Margaret" - BS

Cross references

Broadsides

Recordings

References

  1. Child 74, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (3 texts)
  2. Bronson 74, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (79 versions, 4 of which are in one or another appendix, presumably because of the commonplace title and lack of text)
  3. BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 134-139, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (2 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #31}
  4. Percy/Wheatley III, pp. 124-127, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (1 text); cf. pp. 308-312, "Margaret's Ghost" (a rewritten version, possibly by the eighteenth century poet David Mallet)
  5. Belden, pp. 48-52, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William (4 texts)
  6. Randolph 16, "Lady Margaret" (2 texts plus 2 fragments, 3 tunes) {A=Bronson's #43, C=#20, but very possibly not this song, D=#44}
  7. Eddy 12, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (2 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #25}
  8. Gardner/Chickering 5, "Sweet William and Lady Margaret" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #58}
  9. Flanders/Brown, pp. 213-214, "Lady Margaret and Sweet William" (1 text)
  10. Flanders/Olney, pp. 80-85, "Prince William and Lady Margaret"/"Lady Margaret and King William" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  11. Flanders-Ancient2, pp. 122-147, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (7 texts plys 2 fragments, 5 tunes)
  12. Davis-Ballads 19, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (12 texts plus 3 fragments, of which the "I" and "O" fragments might not be this song; 8 tunes entitled "Sweet William and Lady Margaret," "Lady Marget," "Fair Margaret and Sweet William," Lady Margaret," "Lady Margaret and Sweet William"; 13 more versions mentioned in Appendix A) {Bronson's #30, #51, #50, #59, #14, with alterations, #55, #23, #39}
  13. Davis-More 19, pp. 138-145, "Fair Margaret and Sweet Williams" (3 texts, 2 tunes)
  14. BrownII 20, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (4 texts plus 2 excerpts and mention of 1 more)
  15. Chappell-FSRA 10, "False William" (1 text)
  16. Hudson 11, pp. 87-90, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (2 texts)
  17. Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 103-105, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (1 text, properly titled "Lady Margaret," plus a quotation; tune on p. 390)
  18. Brewster 11, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (4 texts plus a fragment, the latter short enough that it might be from something else; 1 tune) {Bronson's #13}
  19. Ritchie-Southern, pp. 12-13, "Sweet William and Lady Margaret" (1 text, 1 tune)
  20. SharpAp 20 "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (8 texts plus 9 fragments, 17 tunes){Bronson's #33, #73, #24, #35, #34, #14, #59, #15, #62, #52, #12, #67, #42, #41, #70, #47, #74}
  21. Sharp/Karpeles-80E 16, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (1 text, 1 tune, composite and abridged) {Bronson's #67}
  22. Karpeles-Newfoundland 8, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (1 text, 3 tunes) {Bronson's #68}
  23. Peacock, pp. 383-384, "Fair Marjorie's Ghost" (1 text, 1 tune)
  24. Mackenzie 7, "William and Margaret" (1 text)
  25. Leach, pp. 247-250, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (2 texts)
  26. Wyman-Brockway I, p. 94, "Sweet William and Lady Margery" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #9}
  27. McNeil-SFB2, pp. 139-142, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (1 text, 1 tune)
  28. OBB 62, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (1 text)
  29. Friedman, p. 52, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William (1 text+1 fragment)
  30. Niles 29, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  31. Gummere, pp. 200-202+348, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (1 text)
  32. Chappell/Wooldridge II, pp. 131-132, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (1 text, perhaps abridged, 1 tune) {Bronson's #78}
  33. Abrahams/Foss, p. 180, "(Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (1 tune, with no source listed; partial text)
  34. LPound-ABS, 16, pp. 40-43, "Sweet William" (1 text)
  35. JHCox 11, "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" (7 texts, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #10, #26}
  36. Silber-FSWB, p. 220, "Lady Margaret" (1 text)
  37. DT 74, LADYMARG LADYMAR2*
  38. Roud #253
  39. BI, C074