“Who are you, who are you, my friend,
All ou[t] at your elbows and toes?”
“I’m John Brown, at your service, Sir,
A spinner with scarce any clothes.”
“How’s that, John Brown, John Brown,
After spinning away all your life?”
“It’s all o’ that there Yankee war,
That brotherly murderin strife.”
“What’s that, John Brown, John Brown;
That I see you have got in your hand?”
“It’s my wife’s wedding-ring as I’m going
To pawn at the pawnbroker’s stand.”
“Not that, John Brown, John Brown,
Can’t you find something better to sell?”
“Why I’ve sold every stick as I’ve got
To get bread, for the wife, boys, and fell.”
“Oh that, John Brown, John Brown,
Mustn’t be, mustn’t be, my friend.”
“Well then, you, and the likes as is rich,
Your help and your money just lend.”
“Well that, John Brown, John Brown,
Woul[d] perhaps be the right thing to do.”
“I should just think it was, else we’ll starve
Close to well-fed millowners like you.”
“Well well, John Brown, John Brown,
You mustn’t take on so my man.”
“Take on so, why fever will soon
Take the lot o’ us out o’ the lan’.”
“What, what, John Brown, John Brown,
So bad as all that has it got?”
“Yes you and all them as has means
Might save us from going to rot.”

Title:Dialogue Between a Millowner and John Brown


Publication:The Bolton Chronicle

Published in:Bolton

Date:8th November 1862

Keywords:charity, class, poverty, war


This anonymous poem is specifically on the subject of the Cotton Famine, and refers to ‘that there Yankee war, / That brotherly murderin strife’ as the reason for the poor state of John Brown’s clothes. It takes the form of a dialogue with two lines of mill-owner questioning Brown, two of Brown’s response. The main themes are poverty and the pawning of domestic goods, in the poem Brown is about to pawn his wife’s wedding ring, having already sold everything else. There is a hint of class frustration and resentment here – Brown explains the necessity of charity from ‘you and the likes as is rich’ and the possibility of starving ‘Close to well-fed millowners like you.’ – SR