NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XXV, No. 3, September 1969
FROM ADVICE TO LAMENTS:
NEW YORK AUTOGRAPH ALBUM VERSE: 1820–1850
W. K. McNeil
IN her article on Australian autograph album verse, Dorothy
Howard lists thirteen types of album verse prevalent in that
country. Included in her grouping are rhymes offering advice
on various subjects, chief among which are life, love, marriage,
friendship, and behavior. Then there are verses containing
vows of love, loyalty and devotion and those which are personal
tributes: pleas for remembrance; best wishes; laments; brief
tales of nonsense; taunting rhymes; verses of protest (i.e., ones
containing taboos); words of wisdom; tricks and formula rhymes;
flyleaf and cover rhymes. With the exception of the taunting
rhymes, by which Miss Howard means racial slurs, all of these
types were utilized in nineteenth century New York.
In addition other kinds of selections were used which, apparently,
haven’t been found in Australia. These include quotations
of poems and the verses of popular songs and the parodies
of these. Most of these verse types were used in New York
albums during the thirty years after 1820 when the custom,
which was inherited from Europe, began on a large scale both in
New York and nationally. Then there are rhymes about God.
This paper mill be devoted to all verse forms used in New York autograph albums of the first half of the nineteenth century. Because there are two distinct stylistic periods of nineteenth
century New York State album verse, one from 1820–1850 and the
other from 1850–1900, this paper will cover only the first era
while reserving the later one for a future paper.
The most popular type of verse during the first half of the
century was the advice rhyme. These rhymes were so frequently
used during this period that it seems the main purpose of autograph albums then was to provide a place where people could offer instructive guideposts for their friends. Although many topics were considered, those which appeared most were conduct,
friendship, religion, God, and Heaven....
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