“The Mistletoe Bough”


In the castle, beneath the mistletoe bough, the lord's daughter prepares to wed young Lovell. The girl, tired of dancing, decides to hide and have Lovell find her. He never does. Years later, her body is found "in a living tomb," trapped in a chest


Peter Underwood's _Gazeteer of British, Scottish & Irish Ghosts_, pp. 22-23, reports this of Bramshill House near Basingstoke in Hampshire: "An ancient chest in the panelled gallery is said to have been the 'death bed' of a young bride who died on the eve of her wedding." Her ghost is reported to have walked.

Probably unrelated, but a garbled version might perhaps have inspired this song. Alternately, it might come from the same roots as "Ginevra," by Samuel Rogers, which has the same story though the bride is Italian. I do not know the date of "Ginevra," but Rogers lived from 1763 to 1850, so his piece probably predates this.

Incidentally, the _New Century Handbook of English Literature_ (ed. Clarence L. Barnhart with William D. Haley, revised edition, Meredith Publishing, 1967, entry on "Ginevra") say that this story was told of several English castles. - RBW

Same tune

  • The Vorkhouse Boy (PBB 102, "The Workhouse Boy"; cf. broadside Bodleian Firth c. 16(311), unknown, no date; a parody in "Dutch" dialect of this song, with very similar lyrics except that the girl is transformed to a boy in a poorhouse per)
  • Billy Jenkins, or The two houses of parliament (parody per broadside Harding B 11(2462), which also contains the original)


  • Bodleian, Harding B 11(2462), "The Mistletoe Bough," J. Harness (Preston), 1840-1866; also Harding B 15(204b), "Mistletoe Bough," H. Disley (London), 1860-1883 (partly illegible); Harding B 11(2464), "Mistetoe Bough," H. Such (London), 1863-1885


  1. Randolph 802, "The Mistletoe Bough" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 466-468, "The Mistletoe Bough" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 802)
  3. PBB 102, "The Workhouse Boy" (1 text, obviously a)
  4. cf. Gardner/Chickering, p. 481, "The Mistletoe Bough" (source notes only)
  6. Roud #2336
  7. BI, R802


Author: Thomas Haynes Bayly?
Earliest date: 1855 (National Temperance Songster)
Found in: US(MA,MW,So)