Familiar Songs - Their Authors & Histories

300 traditional songs, inc sheet music with full piano accompaniment & lyrics.

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Charles Mackay, author of this lyric, was born in 1812, in Perth, Scotland, of an ancient and honorable family. His life has been spent mainly in London, where he has been an editor of newspapers, reviews, and books of antiquarian research, a writer of prose, and a maker of songs. He composed many of the airs for the latter, and, in connec­tion with Sir Henry Rowley Bishop, arranged one hundred of the choicest English melo­dies. He visited the United States in 1857, and delivered a lecture in Boston, on " Songs: national, historical, and popular."
The music of this song is the composition of Henry Russell. Of this singer, a com­petent judge and a fair critic, Mr. Henry Phillips, says: "At the same period (about 1840), a singer was gradually, but with the most decided certainty, gaining ground as a musical entertainer. Belonging to no particular school, possessing no particular voice, not particu­larly gifted as a musician, as a declaimer not particularly refined,—still, on he came, and day by day advanced in public favor, casting into shadow the most accomplished vocalists, and seizing with vigor and firmness subjects that enthralled the audience, held them firm within his grasp, and overwhelmed them with a common sense wonder. Who was this stupendous stranger? A lad of Hebrew extraction, whose father had a curiosity-shop near Covent Garden, who sang when a little boy at the Surrey Theatre, in a piece called " Gulliver and the Liliputians," and who from that time had scarcely been heard of, till he came, the herald of an enormous reputation, the most popular singer of the multitude in England; a man who in due time eclipsed even John Parry in everything but refinement. This wondrous person was Mr. Henry Russell, whose name, long after he had retired, held sway over the minds and hearts of the multitude. Let us see how all this popularity was attained. It was not by voice, appearance, elegance, or knowledge, but by that uncommon circumstance*possessed by so few—common sense. He adapted his themes to his powers: he chose subjects well understood by the general public; he gained the habit and power of distinct articulation; and the very coarseness which caused a shudder in the refined listener, awoke the enthusiasm of the throng."