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The Bloody Battle at Billingsgate 'The Orange – Hit and Miss'
This is an example of flyting—a form of (usually good-natured) verbal banter common among the fishwives of London’s Billingsgate Market: ‘When they have done their faire, they meet in mirth, singing and dancing, and in the middle they use scolding and end not till their money or wit be cleane spent out’ (Donald Lupton, 1622). These railing matches were evidently something of a spectacle, with onlookers even awarding a prize for the ‘victor’. The tune called for on the Pepys broadsheet (and used here) is ‘The Orange’. Also known as ‘With a Fading’, it was associated with Jigs, drolls and clowning. We have combined it with another tune, ‘Hit and Miss’.
Characters Kate and Doll, two fishwives Onlooker/narrator
Narrator One morning of late, hard by Billingsgate, There Dolly, she happen’d to meet with young Kate, They quarrell’d and fought and made a sad rout And if you wou’d know, Sirs, what it was about, I will tell ye.
Last Wednesday night, young Kate did invite The husband of Dolly, her joy and delight, And merrily they did frolic and play A whole winter’s night till the morning next day: Was it fitting?
Doll You’re impudent grown, shall I lye alone, And you have delight while his poor wife has none? You saucy young sow, I will not allow Such business, but here I will pummel ye now, Ye bold strumpet.
Kate Marry, say, Mistress Gill, my mind to fulfill, I’de have you to know he shall come when he will! And yet, not by stealth, ye impudent elf— I have as much right to the man as your self, He’s no husband.
Doll I’de have ye to know before I do go, That I can a Lawful Certificate show; Thus I am his wife, the joy of his life, But you have, between us, created much strife, Ye bold strumpet.
Kate A twelvemonth ye whor’d, then he did afford A marriage, by leaping twice over a sword, Your shams I degrade, for Robin he said, That under a hedgerow that writing he made: Hopeful marriage!
Doll Ye pitiful trull, I never did gull [prostitute herself] Like you, the poor drummer last summer at Hull: An impudent stock, ye went breaking his lock, And stole the man’s shirt for to make ye a smock, Ye bold strumpet.
Kate Slut, this is a lie! Narrator She then did reply, Kate But here is one truth which you cannot deny, Ye pittiful punk, last week ye were drunk, Four men had ye home, and they told me ye stunk Like a polecat.
Are you not a shame to all of your name? All honest good people against you exclaim; You left your poor brats and went to The Three Spats [unclear on the broadsheet] There lay with a man for a bushel of sprats Out upon ye!
Doll I’ll make ye to smoke for what ye have spoke, Since you do so often my patience provoke, What flesh can forbear? Besides, I declare, Your neighbours know all well enough what you are, Mistress Trinkets.
Narrator She gave her a thrust, and said, Kate Do your worst, If you have much money that does lie and rust, Why then, go to Law—I won’t stand in awe! Narrator With that, down her face she her tallens did claw With a vengance
The other she flew, and gave her her due, First tore off her hood, coiff and filleting too: They fight and did scold, and both kept their hold, At length in the kennel [gutter], together they roll’d Like two fat sows.
The women and men soon parted ’em then, And bid them be friendly and quiet agen: Their words did prevail, together they sail, And drank up two quarts of hot brandy and ale In good friendship.