Welcome to The British Literary Ballads Archive, a site dedicated to a unique genre of literary imitations of traditional ballads. The site contains a growing archive of over 700 poems, as well as short biographical sketches of the poets who wrote them.

FacebookTwitterGoogle Bookmarks

Robert Lambe (1712-95)



Born in Durham, northeastern England, in 1712. Graduating from Cambridge, he took holy orders, and from 1747 he was a vicar of Norham in Northumberland. Child, in his headnote to “Kemp Owyne” (No. 34) writes about the pretended anonymity of Lambe’s own literary ballad:

The Rev. Mr Lamb, of Norham, communicated to Hutchinson [William, 1732-1814], author of ‘A View of Northumberland,’ a ballad entitled ‘The Laidley Worm of Spindleston Heughs,’ with this harmless preamble: “A song 500 years old, made by the old Mountain Bard, Duncan Frasier, living on Cheviot, A. D. 1270. From an ancient manuscript.” This composition of Mr. Lamb’s — for nearly every line of it is his — is not only based on popular tradition, but evidently preserves some small fragments of a popular ballad, and for this reason is given in an Appendix. [Francis James Child, ed., The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (New York: Dover, 1965) 1: 308]

Lambe is also known as the author of a learned History of Chess (1764), and as the editor of “An Exact and Circumstantial History of the Battle of Flodden, in verse, written about the time of Queen Elizabeth” (1774) with numerous etymological notes. Thomas Percy, in the preface of his Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, acknowledges Lambe’s service to him.  (M. Y.)

1.The Laidley Worm of Spindleston Heughs