Help with Heinlein quote

Page Stephens hpst at EARTHLINK.NET
Fri Apr 15 17:40:59 UTC 2005

Assuming Heinlein was familiar with such things as the music hall recitation
about Sweeney Todd he might have been referring to this.

It is also sung hence the chords although every time I have heard it it is
basically recited.

It goes essentially as follows:


(A) Dm A Dm / Bb Am Dm / Dm A Dm / Dm Am Dm /
F - / Gm / Dm A Dm / Gm Dm /
Dm A Dm / Dm A Dm Am / Dm A / Dm A / Dm - / Dm A Dm

In Fleet Street, that's in London Town
When King Charlie wore the crown,
There lived a man of great renown
'Twas Sweeney Todd the Barber.

One shave from him and you'd want no more,
You'd feel his razor sharp,
Then tumble, wallop!, through the floor
And wake up playing a harp, and singing . . .

Sweeney Todd the Barber, by God he were better than the play,
Sweeney Todd the Barber, "I'll polish 'em off" he used to say.
His clients through the floor would slope
But he had no fear of the hangman's rope
"Dead men can't talk with their mouths full of soap,"
Said Sweeney Todd the Barber.

Now underneath the shop, it's true
Where the bodies tumble through,
There lived a little widow, who
Loved Sweeney Todd the Barber.

She made her living by selling pies,
Her meat pies were a treat,
Chock full of meat and such a size
For she was getting the meat from mister

Sweeney Todd the Barber, by God he were better than the play,
Sweeney Todd the Barber, "I'll polish 'em off" he used to say.
For many a poor orphan lad
The first square meal he ever had
Was a hot meat pie made out of his dad
>From Sweeney Todd the Barber

It was Saturday night in Old Sweeney Todd's shop
And the customers sat in a row.
While behind a screen Sweeney shaved some poor mug
And his sweetheart made pies down below.

Though none were aware, it were "cut prices" there,
They were rolling up in twos and threes,
And his foot got quite sore pressing knob on the floor
And his voice went from saying "Next please!"

Well in came a swell and he asked Sweeney Todd
"Just a shave and a perfumed shampoo,
For I've just got engaged." Sweeney just pressed the knob and
"There, now it's all fallen through."

Well a bookmaker sat with his mouthful of soap, said,
"They're all backing favourites today,
So I 'spect I'll go down," Sweeney said, "Yes you will,"
And he did, he went down straight away.

But what rotten luck, the darn trap went and stuck
For the hinge he'd forgotten to grease,
And a customer started calling out "Police!"
Just as Sweeney was shouting, "Next please!"

Yes, he ran to the door and he shouted out "Police!"
He shouted out "Police!", nine times or ten
But no policeman came, it wasn't no wonder
Police weren't invented by then.

But up came the bold Bow Street Runners (Hurrah!)
And he had to let many a pie burn
And they dragged him to Quad, and next day Sweeney Todd
Was condemned to be switched off at Tyburn.

And there on the gibbet he hangs in his chains
And they do say a little black crow
Made a sweet little nest in old Sweeney Todd's whiskers
And he sang as he swang to and fro . . .


Sweeney Todd the Barber, by God he were better than the play,
Sweeney Todd the Barber, they buried him underneath the clay
And Old Nick calls him from his grave shouting,
"Wake up, Sweeney, I need a shave,
And Mrs Nick wants a permanent wave from Sweeney Todd the Barber."
----- Original Message -----
From: "Mullins, Bill" <Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL>
Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2005 11:44 AM
Subject: Help with Heinlein quote

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Mullins, Bill" <Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL>
> Subject:      Help with Heinlein quote
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> In Robert Heinlein's novel _Time Enough for Love_, at the end of
> "Prelude II," Lazarus Long makes a will that will "found a home for
> indigent and superannuated pickpockets, prostitutes, panhandlers,
> piemen, priggers and other unworthy poor starting with 'P.'"
> In a discussion on, the head of the Heinlein Society,
> David Silver, proposes that the construction of the alliterative list of
> beneficiaries may be related to the death of the 19th century actress,
> Lotta Crabtree.  A recent article in the LA Times pointed out that on
> her death in 1924 (when Robert Heinlein was graduated from high school),
> she left her fortune (~$4M) to endow funds for "disabled World War I
> veterans, dumb animals, destitute thespians, and discharged convicts."
> I searched ProQuest for contemporary accounts of her death and her will
> (there are many; her will was widely constested), and I don't think the
> alliterative list that showed up in the LA Times article was original
> with Crabtree or her will -- I think the author of the Times article,
> Cecilia Rasmussen, came up with it as a stylistic device of her own.
> But the original question stands -- what is the origin of the list of
> "unworthy poor starting with 'P'"?  Did Heinlein make this up on his
> own?  Is he referencing some other work (he was strongly influenced as a
> writer by Mark Twain and James Branch Cabell, among others)?
> And what is a pieman?  The only OED defintion is one who sells pies --
> not particulary relevant to the discussion at hand.  One member of the
> discussion group has suggested it may refer to someone involved in a
> short con.  A prigger is new to me, but the OED has citations up to the
> 1700's showing it to be a thief.  Jon Lighter -- will the next HDAS shed
> light on these two words?
> Anyone who can illuminate the subject, thanks much.

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