Item #20402 Governor Wall’s Ghost. Tune—Snug Little Island [caption title]. Anonymous.
Governor Wall’s Ghost. Tune—Snug Little Island [caption title].

Governor Wall’s Ghost. Tune—Snug Little Island [caption title].

[London]: Printed by J. Davenport, George’s Court, [1802]. First edition. Broadside in two columns, 14 x 7 inches. Woodcut vignette at the head of the text. A bit closely trimmed and neatly mounted at each corner to a sheet of later stiff stock; cheap paper a bit worn and toned, but overall a very good copy of an ephemeral item. Item #20402

“In a terrible fright, I awake ‘tother night, / Which very much did me appal, O! / And what should it be, disconcerted to me? / But the spectre of Governor Wall, O!” An ephemeral topical cheap catch-penny ballad sheet published in the wake of the celebrated execution of Joseph Wall in full view of a cheering crowd in front of Newgate on 28 January 1802. Wall had ordered British soldiers flogged to death in 1782 while serving as Military Governor of Goree Island off Senegal; after a jail break and a number of years as a fugitive on the continent, Wall returned to England in 1801 to sue for money he was owed, and gave himself up: “To free himself of this difficulty Wall had to clear his name. The death of Captain Roberts in Ireland some ten years before and the ‘supposed dissolution or dispersion of the other principal witnesses taught him to rely with perfect security in his surrendering himself for trial’ (Life, 6). . . . The privy council held several deliberations on the case, but it had become a subject of great public interest and popular indignation, and a pardon was politically inexpedient. It would have been unwise to spare the life of an officer condemned for brutality to his soldiers when at the same time sailors were being executed at Spithead for mutiny against their officers” (DNB). Wall’s execution struck a popular note, and this ballad spares no gory detail of the execution. The printer Davenport also published a pamphlet account of the execution, Life, Trial, and Particulars of the Execution of Governor Wall, who was Executed on Thursday Morning Last, fronting Newgate, giving his print shop address as 6, George’s Court, St. John’s Lane, West Smithfield, London; Davenport appears as the printer of a number of ballad broadsides cataloged by the Bodleian Ballads Online Project, though this ballad does not seem to be there collected, nor is it found on COPAC. Harvard holds a copy of the text of this ballad cataloged as “By W.J.” and without an imprint given, and we await a comparison image to see whether it is a different edition than this.

Price: $850.00

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