Author: Edward Cray

James Maidment, Esq., was an antiquarian, genealogist-for-hire, avid Freemason, co-editor of a five-volume anthology of Restoration dramatic works, and, perhaps most importantly, a member of the second “wave” of Scottish ballad collectors. He printed several rare tracts on the history and antiquities of Scotland (1822), and edited works for the Abbotsford, Bannatyne, Hunterian, and Maitland clubs, as well as for the Spottiswoode Society. (Several of these clubs or societies were created during the 19th century to publish material relevant to Scotland’s history and culture. The members subscribed to the publications of the society.)

Born in London in 1794/1795, he qualified as a Scottish lawyer in 1817 and spent much of his life in Edinburgh. Maidment shared the decade of his birth with fellow ballad enthusiasts Peter Buchan (1790), George Ritchie Kinloch (1796?), and William Motherwell (1797). Along with the somewhat older Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe and Robert Jamieson, both born in 1780, they were a formidable group of collectors, commentators, and publishers.

They were also friends and colleagues, bound by a feeling that the texts they collected were not to be tampered with. They scorned, as Motherwell put it in the introduction to his Minstrelsy, Ancient and Modern, “the old song editors whose mischievous and dishonest propensities cannot be too severely reprobated.” Only the beloved Sir Walter Scott, Bart., escaped their censure, and that in part because  Scott recanted his own “polishing” of the border ballads he had published in his Minstrelsy. In the preface to his Scotish Ballads and Songs (1868), Maidment speaks of Sir Walter Scott’s Border Minstrelsy, saying of himself, “. . . it was from its illustrious compiler that he acquired that taste for literary pursuits which he has ever retained through a long life.” Several of Maidment’s early works were undertaken at the suggestion of Sir Walter. William Motherwell said of Maidment’s A North Countrie Garland “it makes considerable addition to our catalogue of ancient Ballads.” Small wonder that Sigurd B. Hustvedt wrote in his Ballad Books and Ballad Men, “Maidment ranks among the most respectable editors.” Francis James Child, compiler of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882-1898), apparently thought so too and was much beholden to these young turks. Together, Maidment and company furnished versions of more than 100 of the 305 works canonized in Professor Child’s seminal collection. From Maidment’s A North Countrie Garland (1824), Child reprinted no less than ten of the 15 songs and ballads included in that slender volume – three for which Maidment is the sole source, four of which Child classified as “A” texts, and three of which Child designates as other version letters.

  • “Burd Ellen and Young Tamlane” - Child 28, only version
  • “Childe Vyet” – Child 66, version Ab
  • “Mary Hamilton” – Child 173 , version M
  • “The Burning of Frendraught” – Child 196, version Ab
  • “Bonny John Seton” – Child 198, version A
  • “Catherine Jaffery” – Child 221, version G
  • “Eppie Morrie” – Child 223, only version<
  • “Errol’s Place” – Child 231, version Db
  • “Lord Salton and Auchanachie” – Child 239, version Ab
  • “Lord Thomas Stuart” – Child 259, only version

Add too “Rob Roy Mcgregor” (Child 225, version E) that Child draws from the same Pitcairn Manuscript referenced by Mr. Maidment. Professor Child also cites “Bold Rankin” (Child 93, version D) and “Tom Linn” (Child 39, version Db), which he draws from A New Book of Old Ballads (1843). A review of his later work on ballads in Notes and Queries[28 March 1868, page 306] comments that “In his love for the Ballad Literature of his native land, and in his skill in collecting and editing the best specimens of it, Mr. Maidment has shown himself a worthy famulus [servant]...”

About the Author: Edward Cray is the author of 17 books including, most recently, a biography of Woody Guthrie, Ramblin’ Man, published by W.W. Norton in 2004. A lifelong journalist, now a professor of journalism at the University of Southern California, he considered a career as a folklorist in the 1950s. He has maintained his interest in folklore and song since then. His anthology of American bawdy songs, The Erotic Muse (now in its second edition), is considered a standard reference work.