“The Warranty Deed (The Wealthy Old Maid)”


A lawyer, underemployed and impoverished, at last decides to marry a wealthy old maid. The bride prepares for their wedding night by taking off wig, false teeth, false eye, and other decorations. The husband, who failed to get a "warranty deed," flees


Gilbert has a piece (pp. 194-195), "It Takes A Girl to Fool You Every Time," which has this exact plot but entirely different lyrics, reportedly by Ned Oliver. I strongly doubt the latter went into oral tradition (it's not as good a song, anyway), but it may have been inspired by this piece.

Arnold Keith Storm also sings a piece, "Patched Up Old Devil," on this theme. It appears to be from family tradition; I have not encountered it elsewhere. As with Gilbert's piece, the plot is the same but the song quite distinct.

The pop folk version of this, "The Very Unfortunate Man," was reportedly assembled (I use the word advisedly) by Jimmy Driftwood.

I have heard that there was an unpublished 1898 play by Mark Twain with this exact plot. It sounds *extremely* close to this song. It sounds as if there has to be dependence -- with this probably the original, since the Twain play ended up in a drawer, almost entirely unseen until around 2005. - RBW

Cross references


  1. Laws H24, "The Warranty Deed"
  2. Randolph 465, "The Warranty Deed" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 333-335, "The Warranty Deed" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 465)
  4. DT 651, (UNFORTUN)
  5. Roud #2188
  6. BI, LH24


Alternate titles: “The Unfortunate Man”; “The Very Unfortunate Man”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1940 (Randolph)
Found in: US(NE,So)