Printed ballad sheet, True Courage
Written and sung by Mr Dibdin
Printed by J. Davenport
Mid to late 18th century
Museum no. S.1244-1986
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Ballad sheets like this were cheaply printed by letterpress, sometimes with woodcut illustrations. They were sold at fairs or on the street so that people could buy the words of songs that probably had well-known tunes. Early ballad sheets are quite rare as they were made of poor quality paper. Unless kept carefully, they would not have survived the passage of time. Charles Dibdin the elder who wrote this song was an actor, singer and composer who is best known for his patriotic nautical songs. His song 'Tom Bowling' is still performed today at The Last Night of the Proms. He was one of the most popular songwriters of the 18th century and composed over a thousand songs. Dibdin began his career tuning harpsichords for a music seller in London's Cheapside and went on to be a singer and composer at Covent Garden where his first opera was accepted when he was nine. He also worked with The Royal Circus.