The New Way To Make Love

James Bell

Joy & Jealousy

  1. The New Way To Make Love
"I have a medicine will quickly cure that disease..."


I wanted to do one song, just one song, that demonstrated just how doggone long those old English Broadside ballads could be. This one is 39 - count them, thirty nine - verses, and I'm glad I did it and I'm never ever going to do it again. The story is completely insane, but I'll do my best to summarise it. A young steward falls for the daughter of a lord, and writes her a love letter, which she scornfully rejects. But he then bumps into a doctor, who offers him an ingenious plan, involving the four key devices that any young buck in that era must employ in order to win lady fair - namely: deception, cross-dressing, stalking and faking your own death. Please do not, under any circumstances, try this at home.


1. Young lovers, for love I'd not have you despair, But unto my frolicsome song lend an ear, At Oxford there lived two lords of great fame, One had a fair daughter, sweet Susan by name 2. The other lord he had a steward we hear, Was deeply in love with this lady fair, But yet for to court her he darest not pretend, For fear of the anger of her noble friends 3. So great was his love he could not take rest For love and fear struggling both in his breast : At last in distraction a letter he writes, And defiantly sends it to his lady bright. 4. Saying “Pardon fair lady, I humbly pray, But pity a lover that long-wishing lay, I am a lord's steward, so mean in degree, I die for thy sake, charming creature," said he 5. The lady returned this scornful reply, "You impudent fellow; I do not think that I, Who am a lady, my father's own heir, Would wed a lord's steward, I pray now forbear." 6. As soon as the steward her answer received, His heart was oppressed, and his spirits were grieved, So pensive he grew, that within a short time His place to another was forced to resign 7. He being invited one day to a feast A frolicsome doctor was one of the guests He quickly perceived the steward was in love, So he called him aside, and went to a grove. 8. “Kind sir,” says the doctor, “take it not amiss, For I perceive your distemper is this, That you are in love with a young lady fair, I'd have you discover it now if you are. 9. I have a medicine will quickly cure that disease,” The steward smiled and seemed very well pleased, Saying “That's my distemper, if you can me cure, I fifty bright guineas for you will procure.” 10. “But she is so much, sir, beyond my degree, For such a noble lord's daughter is she.” “Never heed,” says the doctor, “my wife does her know, If you'll be ruled by me we'll order it so.” 11. “I know of a chambermaid she is need, She sent to my wife to help her with speed : You shall dress yourself in female attire, My wife for a chambermaid soon shall you hire,” 12. “But what must I do, sir,” the steward he said, “I don't understand, sir, the work of a maid.” “Your work will be little”, the doctor did say, “It's only to dress this young lady gay.” 13. “My wife shall not know but you are a maid, So you shall be dressed e'er she sees you,” he said. He liked of the frolic, all things did prepare. And he did appear like a female so fair, 14. The doctor he goes to his wife, then he said, “My dear, such a lady asked you for a maid ; Where I dined today, a brisk maid I did see Take her to your lady, my dear, instantly.” 15. “Come, I will go with you,” the woman did say, “The lady will like you, because you are gay.” The steward did strut with an air and a grace, And goes with the woman to see his new place. 16. The lady the chambermaid liked I declare, So she gave her earnest, and hired she were; “I love a neat maid,” the lady did cry, “For I with my chambermaid always do lie.” 17. The steward a-curtsy he drop to the ground, For joy of that word he was ready to swoon ; Being hired, he back to the doctor did he Overjoyed that he was with his lady to be 18. The doctor cried, “Steward how will you forbear, Don't for fear that discovered you are ; It is a temptation I needs must confess, But you must forbear it, sir, nevertheless.” 19. The steward he goes to his place for to find, The lady she liked of his service so well He was her bedfellow, he knew all her mind, Each night they would talk of their sweethearts kind. 20. “Here was a lord's steward,” the lady did say, “Not long since he wrote a letter to me, And really I liked his person,” said she, “But only he is so mean in degree.” 21. One night as they both were laid down in their bed The chambermaid unto the lady she said: “Madam, this day I the steward did see Of which you did speak t'other night unto me.” 22. “Well, how did you like him?” the lady did say “Why madam, I think he is proper and gay; His courteous behaviour, his carriage and mean, His person I think it is fit for a queen.” 23. So then with a smile the young lady replied, “I wish that he lying here was by my side ; But unto the match you may very well think My parents by any means will not consent.” 24. They talk of love stories till they fall asleep, Then close to her side the steward did creep; Her charms he admired, as by her he lay. But remembered still what the doctor did say, 25. One day he to the young doctor did go, Saying, “Doctor, I very impatient do grow, Do strive to finish the frolic,” he said, “Or else I discovered shall be I'm afraid.” 26. The doctor he gave him a medicine to take, Saying, “This will lay you in a sound sleep; T’will stop any motion,” the doctor he said, “That all which do see you will think you are dead.” 27. “Then they'll soon discover that you are a man, And when from sleep you recover again, For fear that the lady exposed should be, Her parents will instantly give her to thee.” 28. Then home to his lady he instantly goes, And first took the medicine and fell in a doze, The lady awakening in the dead of the night, Began to be in a desperate fight. 29. She pulled him and hauled him, but thinking him dead Like one in distraction she jumped out of bed And unto her mother she runs in a fright, Saying “Mother, the chambermaid's dead by my side.” 30. The servants they ran up the stairs with all speed Some ran for the doctor the maid for to bleed “It is but a folly to bleed her,” he said “For really to tell you the truth she is dead.” 31. The lady sat down, and she bitterly wept “I'm sure I am grieved that she died by my side, She was a good servant,” the young lady said, “I'm sure I am sorry poor Betty is dead.” 32. To lay out the corpse the maids did prepare, Had you seen how they at one another did stare; “If I am not mistaken,” then said pretty Nan, “I think our chambermaid's turned to a man.” 33. “A man!” says the lady, “I'm sure you are all wild, I hope that the rogue has not got me with child.” “With child,” says the mother, “You impudent quean! [immoral woman / prostitute] What is it by all this juggling you mean?” 34. “Dear mother, I hope you will not me blame, I'm sure that I nothing did know of the same; Twas the doctor's wife that brought him to me, Therefore let us send for her hastily.” 35. When to the woman they had told their tale, She cried, "In your judgement, girls, do you not fail" She goes to the corpse and she pulls down the sheet She cries, "He's a man! I plainly see it." 36. But as they were in the midst of their fright He waked from his sleep, and started upright: They took to their heels, and downstairs they did fly The old lord he arose when he heard the outcry. 37. The steward he dressed himself, and down he did come The old lord he said, "What is this you have done? Come tell me the truth or I solemnly swear I surely will punish you very severe." 38. He down'd on his knees, and the truth did relate, The lord he did laugh till his sides they did ache, He liked of the frolic so well, as we hear, He willingly gave him his daughter so dear. 39. But is that the truth? I now declare, I really believe that he did it for fear : The lady his daughter by him was trepanned [i.e. tricked] For it was plainly proved she had lain with a man.

Credits & Copyright

Traditional, adapted and recorded by James Bell in 2012/3. Released in November 2013. Remastered in May 2017. (P) House of Lyra. Photo by Ryan McGuire (CC Public Domain).

The text is taken from a broadside ballad. The tune is my own. It's followed by the dance tune 'Cuckolds All In A Row'.