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New York Folklore Quarterly, Vol. XXV, No. 3, September 1969

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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.

Advice Rhymes

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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