A fayre portion for a fayre mayd


‘A Fayre Portion for a Fayre Mayd : OR, The thriftie Mayd of Worstersheere’ was printed in London, and is attributed to the royalist ballad writer, Martin Parker (fl. 1624–1647). 

Click here for an easy-to-read transcription and a recording of the ballad being sung.

What is a broadside ballad?

Ballads are lively narrative verses or songs. They were recited and sung to familiar tunes in alehouses and public places. They were circulated widely on broadsides as a kind of tabloid press in early modern Britain. Broadsides are cheaply-produced single sheets of paper, printed only on one side and designed to be pasted on walls or thrown away after reading.

What do these woodcuts tell us?

Small, relatively generic woodcuts such as these were often used across a variety of ballads and other single sheet ephemera because it was both cost and time effective for publishers to reuse the same printing blocks, sometimes for decades. Indeed, the clothing depicted in the four different woodcuts date from different time periods: 

• The male figure in the first image sports loose breeches, paired with a large, flat lace collar and a wide brimmed hat with ostrich feathers, all of which were in fashion during the early 1620s.
• The first female figure is wearing a high-necked bodice and a full skirt, with a stiff ruff, folded fan and ornamented silk scarf draped across her shoulders. These items of clothing date from the late Elizabethan period (1558–1603).
• The clothing worn by the second male figure date from the reign of King Charles I (r.1625–1649). The wide, pale knee-length boots, long breeches (almost meeting the boots), richly patterned cloak and broad brimmed hat are all indicative of Cavalier fashion.
• The open necked gown, with stiff freestanding lace collar and bejewelled hair worn by the final female figure date from the early Jacobean period (1603–1625).

Analysis of the fashions illustrated in the woodcuts suggests that this ballad was printed during the reign of Charles I, which, in turn, reinforces the attribution to Martin Parker as the author.

Full title:
A fayre portion for a fayre mayd: or, The thriftie mayd of Worstersheere, who liues at London for a marke a yeare; this marke was her old mothers gift, shee teacheth all mayds how to shift. To the tune of, Gramercy penny.
c. 1623-1661, London
Broadside ballad
Martin Parker
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

Full catalogue details

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