Freeth, John

(1731-1808)
   Known as the "Birmingham poet," by trade he was an innkeeper, as well as political ballad writer. He earned the reputation of being one of the best political ballad writers in the kingdom. Nothing is known of his education or his early years, although he was probably an itinerant street singer. The Leicester Arms, Birmingham, or "Freeth's Coffee House," of which he was landlord from 1768 until his death, became renowned for entertainment. To draw attention to the hospitality he provided, Freeth issued printed invitation cards written in verse. He performed his own songs, written to popular tunes about local and national events, affairs of state and often of a radical nature; others were complimentary, jocular, and satirical. The words of nearly 400 songs appeared in several collections between 1766 and 1805. The most substantial of these collections is his The Political Songster: Touch on the Times (1790). Some of his poems: "Botany Bay," "Bunker's Hill, or the Soldier's Lamentation," "Cottager's Complaint," "Marble Playing," "On the Petitions for the Abolition of the Slave Trade," "The Colliers' March," "The New Navigation," "The Paviers."
   Sources: Dictionary of National Biography. Electronic Edition 1.1. Oxford University Press, 1997. Frontispiece of the Political Songster (www.search.revolutionaryplayers.org.uk/). Dictionary of National Biography. Electronic Edition 1.1. Oxford University Press, 1997. The New Oxford Book of Eighteenth Century Verse. Roger Lonsdale, ed. Oxford University Press, 2003. The Oxford Book of English Traditional Verse. Frederick Woods, ed. Oxford University Press, 1983.

British and Irish poets. A biographical dictionary. . 2015.

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