John Braham and "The Death of Nelson".
Musical World, May I, 1847
A TOP HIS COLUMN IN TRAFALGAR SQUARE, ADMIRAL LORD HORATIO NELson gazes over London's cityscape. His stance is calm and selfpossessed, the corners of his month tightened in a slight moue of concentration, his empty right sleeve pinned neatly to his chest whilst his remaining hand rests on the sword angled behind him; his right leg. slightly bent with its toes protruding from the very limit of his pedestal (as if he might step serenely into space), gives a casual elegance to his posture. Such is the view accessible mostly to the birds swooping around his figure, because Nelson is surprisingly small (5.5m) in relation to the column and its massive base (46.5m). (1) From the pavement, we see only that nonchalant, easy shape: a look-out. or so it might seem, for the nation's future.
This monument, erected in 1843 and one of London's most prominent landmarks, (2) was the product of an industry that had assiduously constructed and sustained the Nelson myth since the admiral's death at the Battle ot Trafalgar in 1805. Its message of patriotic heroism had been vigorously disseminated through diverse channels: festivals, books, pamphlets, pictures, statues, china, memorabilia, objets d'art, and music. One such latter contribution (perhaps the most influential of all the musical manifestations) to this concretization of Nelson's image was John Braham's song, "The Death of Nelson." Nelson's Column, a fixed structure in space suggesting a living being, was thus partly brought into being by Braham's conversely fluid, temporal evocation of the admiral's death. Indeed, in this article I ask whether the song might be heard as an aural monument: an edifice in rhythmic motion and tonal architecture that promoted shared reflection. facilitating the visitation of different aspects of the events at Trafalgar from the sailors' first sight of the French to the death of their hero and commander in the midst of an important victory. Above all, it gave repeated, insistent voice to those vital words that shaped Nelson's legend--'"England expects that every man this day will do his duty"--words which would be similarly inscribed (in abbreviated form) on the bas-relief illustration of the stricken Nelson on the pedestal of the column. (3) In so doing, the song invites consideration of the links between both its creator (Braham) and its subject (Nelson), and music's role in commemorative art both as offering a visceral experience of recall, and as shaping the metropolitan landscape.
Nelson needs little introduction; not so the other protagonist here, John Braham (1774-1856). (4) Yet he was once the best-known singer of his day, beginning his professional career as a boy treble at Covent Garden in 1787. Following adolescence, he re-emerged as a tenor under the tutelage of Venanzio Rauzzini, making his second London debut at the age of twenty-three in Stephen Storace's Mahmoud at Drury Lane in 1796. Something of his remarkable impact can be gleaned from his immediate employment at the King's Theatre, which staged Italian operas and hired, in the mam, only Italian singers. Braham subsequently became among the earliest British singers to build a successful career in Italy from 1797, performing at various theaters including La Scala, Milan. In 1801 he returned to London, becoming the country's leading tenor for the next forty or so years. He made-and lost--a veritable fortune; appeared in some of the most historically significant musical works of the period, including the first British performances of Weber's Der Freischutz (1824) and Oberon (1826); combined singing with composition and impresarial activities; and was feted and castigated in turns by the press. Unusually, he was both Britain's most accomplished elite singer and the one with the surest popular reach.
How then did Braham's career entwine with that of Nelson? On Saturday April 27, 1811. the Guildhall in London exhibited a new monument to the admiral. Erected by the artist James Smith at a cost of [pounds sterling]4442 7s 4d, it was one of the quirkier homages to Nelson's war effort (see fig. I, above). One unconventional feature was the diminutive representation of Nelson himself; the eye is drawn instead to the various figures mourning his loss. The main group comprises a perturbed but naked Neptune, his modesty carefully protected by the draping gown of the City of London as she inscribes Nelson's victories on a plinth, while Britannia, perched on a doleful lion, stares mournfully at a small portrait of Nelson cradled in her lap. The supporting plinth is adorned by two sailors, while Richard Brinsley Sheridan's long dedication sits above a picture of the fleet.
That same night, Saturday April 27, 1811, a different kind of monument to Nelson was unveiled. It emerged obscurely during the first night of a new ballad opera. The Americans, at the Lyceum, written by Samuel James Arnold (the theater's manager) with music by Matthew Peter King and John Braham. Their efforts met with a skeptical reception. Set in Philadelphia, the plot boasted a villainous Quaker slave-owner, a figure who, given the energetic Quaker leadership of the abolition movement, critics found to be bizarre and unconvincing. (5) Fortunately, as the Times noted, there was one number in the opera deserving of more positive mention, sung by Braham in the leading role of a sea-captain:
The chef-d'oeuvre of the evening was a song on the Death of Kelson, which presented us with a splendid counterpart to Braham's Death of Abemomby. The burthen, "England expects that every man This day will do his duty," which was varied in tense in the other verses, would have ensured success and popularity to a much worse composition."
The review recalls Braham's earlier song of commemoration to General Sir Ralph Abercromby (fatally wounded during the Battle of Alexandria against Napoleon's forces in 1801), first performed in Thomas Dibdin's ballad opera. Thirty Thousand; or Who's the Richest?, in December 1804," and which had soon become a popular item in the tenor's concert programs." Shortly after Nelson's death on October 21, 1805, a writer identified only by the initials "J. M. L." adroitly turned the words of this song to the admiral instead.''
There is no indication that Braham ever sang that version himself. But along with King, he had composed the music for and sung in Drury Lane's initial tribute to the admiral, I 'ictory and Death of Lord Viscount
Kelson, which ran from November 11th to the 19th. 1805. Braham's music for his solo number was of suitably somber tone, to words by Richard Cumberland
In death's dark house the hero lies. Cold is his heart, and clos'd his eyes; His flag, that to the foe ne'er bow'd, His signal once, is now his shroud. The partners of his former wars, View his brave body trench'd with scars; He gave the wreck--he could no more--All but his life was lost before. Death, the great conqu'ror, could not win the whole, Earth keeps his ashes, heav'n receives his soul. (10)
Other theaters had offered similar tributes to the fallen admiral in the aftermath of Trafalgar. Covent Garden presented Nelson's Glory from November 7th to the 13th, while the King's Theatre staged a ballet choreographed by Domenico Rossi, The Naval Victory and Triumph of Lord Nekon, on December 7th. This latter spectacle provoked a commotion during its performance. The opening battle scene was "rapturously applauded." but problems arose when the action then moved on to Nelson's convulsive expiration in the Victory's cabin: "the representation became too strong tor the feelings of the audience, and a general cry of 'off, off', prevailed." (11 ) Braham. who had sung in Peter von Winter's Il ratio di Proserpina earlier that evening, was sent back onstage to apologize, only calming the vociferous spectators when he assured them that "the Ballet should be totally withdrawn."'- The view of the Times was that the scene had been staged too soon after the event--indeed. Nelson's body had barely arrived on English shores and was yet to be buried. Moreover, this audience comprised many who were personally acquainted with the admiral: "The scene was too strong for the feelings of those who loved and admired him, and therefore we are not surprised that it should have been protested against in the manner it was." (13) Sensibilities were thus apparent over what was regarded as a fitting commemoration of Nelson, and what crossed that line.
Plainly, scenes of his death, although the frequent subject of pictorial representations, were not yet considered suitable for live performance. (14)
These theatrical events were only the beginning. Nelson's death--and his preceding victories--provoked a vast outpouring of ballads: Mark Philp has identified around ninety songs, ranging from street ballads to parlour songs, but suggests more might be found. (15) Of them all, the one that had the greatest endurance and reach across society was Braham and Arnold's "The Death of Nelson." It begins with a plaintive recitative in minor key set at the site of Nelson's tomb in St Paul's:
O'er Nelson's Tomb, with silent grief oppress'd, Britannia mourns her Hero, now at rest: But those bright laurels ne'er shall fade with years, Whose leaves are water'd by a Nation's tears.
Then it finds a more rousing vein as it sweeps the listeners into a revisioning of the battle:" (1)
'Twas in Trafalgar's bay We saw the Frenchmen lay, Each heart was bounding then, We scorn'd the foreign yoke, For our Ships were British Oak, And hearts of oak our men! Our Nelson mark'd them on the wave, Three cheers our gallant Seamen gave, Nor thought of home or beauty, Along the line this signal ran, England expects that ev'ry man This day will do his duty! And now the Cannons roar Along th'arfrighted shore, Our Nelson led the way, His Ship the Vict'ry nam'd! Long be that Victory fam'd, For Vict'ry crown'd the day! But dearly was that conquest bought, Too well the gallant Hero fought, For England home and beauty, He cried as 'midst the fire he ran, "England shall find that ev'ry man This day will do his duty!" At last the fatal wound Which spread dismay around The Hero's breast receiv'd; "Heav'n fights on our side, The day's our own," he cried! "Now long enough I've liv'd!" "In honor's cause my life was past, In honor's cause 1 tall at last, For England home and beauty," Thus ending life as he began. England confess'd that ev'ry man That day had done his duty! (17)
Arnold wove his text into the fabric of patriotic tradition: those "hearts of oak" in the first verse recalled an earlier naval anthem ("Heart of Oak") written by David Garrick and set to music by William Boyce in 1760, which itself referenced "Rule Britannia!" (1740). (18) But as mentioned earlier, the greatest emphasis in both musical and textual terms in "The Death of Nelson" was given to various spins on Nelson's legendary signal, "England expects that even' man will do his duty." Conveyed to the Fleet by hoisted flags on HMS Victory shortly before battle commenced, (1) '' the signal expressed a sentiment further emphasized by Nelson's later iterations of "Thank God I have done my duty" as he lay dying. (1) " In Britain, the signal's wording first emerged as reported speech in the Times on 8 November, the day after news of the admiral's death had broken. (21) Three days later, it adorned Braham and Cumberland's Victory and Death of Lord Viscount Nelson at Drury Lane on 11 November:
Over the stage was an inscription, illuminated with rays of glory, the ever-memorable words or" the departed hero--" England expects that every man will do his duty,"--which a suspended figure of Fame appeared to be communicating to the fleet in perspective. (22)
Beyond its various repetitions in the press.-"' the phrase also echoed in more formal surroundings. At the opening of Parliament in the House of Lords on January 21, 1806, Viscount Carleton referred to "the greatest nasal victory that had ever been gained," despite costing the life of the "heroic" admiral:
That sublime sentiment, so nobly conceived, "England expects every man to do his duty," was practically illustrated in the destruction of two-thirds of the Combined Fleet [of France and Spain], and in the valour and precision with which the orders of the Commander in Chief had been executed. (24)
The memorability of the signal surely also lay in the irony that Nelson's exhortations to duty had been exacted not simply from England's seamen and officers but also from himself.
The song, patterned in the four- and eight-measure phrases common to popular ballads, translated Nelson's words into sounds. The structure of the chorus was expanded to nine measures, enabling a repetition of the phrase. "This day will do his duty!" by doubling the length of the beats allotted to each syllable (with the exception of the final word, "duty," which reverts to the original eighth notes), creating the sense of a ritardando although maintaining the existing overall tempo (see figure 2). This rhythmic device provides an imposing flourish at the end of each chorus. The climactic high notes placed on "man" and "his" arguably also foregrounded those to whom the signal was addressed rather than only Nelson himself. Those notes were at the highest extent of Brabant's natural voice (often described as chest voice or voce di petto), thus allowing him to endow the phrase with a suitably martial and virile timbre, rather than the sweeter, more vulnerable falsetto normally employed by tenors of that period above the stave. (25)
The other repeated phrase in Braham and Arnold's song was "For England. home and beauty." Providing a felicitous rhyme for "duty" (alternatives were surely limited), the reference to "beauty" gestured also to Nelson's much-advertised affair with Emma Hamilton, as well as usefully suggesting that defense of the nation was ineluctably bound with the defense of personal happiness and domesticity. That potent coupling would also later find its way into other works: Micawber offers the phrase as a final flourish in a letter in Dickens's David Copperfield (1850); Sherlock Holmes cites it in The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans (1908); so too (more ironically) does a one-legged sailor beggar in James Joyce's I Ulysses (1922). (26)
The combination of those two phrases--one factual, the other invented--set to Braham's robust melodies provided a powerful aural imprinting of the Nelson myth of patriotic sacrifice and its reward of victory. Yet Braham was not simply responding to the image of a distant hero. He had reportedly first taught singing to Nelson's wife Frances in Bath in 1795. and later encountered the admiral and his new mistress Emma Hamilton in 1799 in Livorno during his sojourn in Italy, visiting the couple almost every day. (27) That relationship continued when all had returned to Britain, as demonstrated by Lord Minto's description to his wife of his visit to Nelson's residence in Surrey in March, 1802:
I went to Lord Nelson's on Saturday to dinner, and returned to-day in the forenoon. The whole establishment and way of life are such as to make me angry, as well as melancholy; but I cannot alter it, and I do not think myself obliged, or at liberty, to quarrel with him for his weakness, though nothing shall ever induce me to give the smallest countenance to Lady Hamilton. She looks ultimately to the chance of marriage, as Sir William will not be long in her way, and she probably indulges a hope that she may survive Lady Nelson: in the meanwhile she and Sir William, and the whole set of them, are living with him at his expense. She is in high looks, but more immense than ever. The love she makes to Nelson is not only ridiculous, but disgusting; not only the rooms, but the whole house, staircase and all, are covered with nothing but pictures of her and him, of all sizes and sorts, and representations of his naval actions, coats-of-arms, pieces of plate in his honour, the flag-start of L'Orient. &c.--an excess of vanity which counteracts its own purposes. If it was Lady Hamilton's house there might be a pretence for it; to make his own house a mere looking-glass to view himself all day is bad taste. Braham, the celebrated Jew singer, performed with Lady Hamilton. She is horrid, but he entertained me in spite of her. (28)
Minto's letter introduces two further aspects of my broader narrative linking Nelson and Braham: the first is the notion of Nelson as a social actor, in the overt display of his life through assembled objects and images. That perception is confirmed by Colin White's analysis of Nelson as a man for whom "leadership was a role, consciously acted out" complete with "actions and gestures." (29) His decision as a young midshipman ("Well then, I will be a hero, and confiding in Providence I will brave every danger") to assume the mantle of idealized valor led to a hitherto unknown level of celebrity tor a naval commander. " Instantly recognizable with his "scarred. dismembered body," (31) he could not walk the streets without being thronged by admiring passersby, while a chance appearance in a box at the theater could provoke a "deafening" uproar from the assembled audience. (32 ) Long before Trafalgar, writes Kathleen Wilson, Nelson had become a "cynosure for national sentiment and sensibility." (33) Given his deliberate courting of tame, therefore, it is unsurprising that Nelson found himself at ease with professional performers. Emma Hamilton was a former artist's model and singer, famed for her tableaux of "Attitudes"; (34) her predecessor as Nelson's mistress was the Italian soprano Adelaide Correglia. (35) The company of the young star tenor Braham proved similarly congenial. And unlike Minto, Braham could hardly have disapproved of the admiral's domestic situation, given his own relationship with the married soprano Nancy (Anna) Storace since 1796: she bore their first child in 1802.
The other noteworthy feature in Minto's letter was his description of Braham. Throughout his life, the tenor was subject to anti-Semitic slurs both privately and publicly. As Michael Ragussis points out, Braham was the "most famous Jewish performer of the time"; (36) during his early career few reviews failed to make some (often slighting) reference to his religion. One exception was Richard Mackenzie Bacon's appreciative analysis for the Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review in 1818. Just over a decade later, however, the Spectator could devote an entire article to Braham's praise without any mention of his ethnicity, describing him simply "as one of the most extraordinary men of the age" who had "delighted three generations" and who would "leave no successor": (37)
where is the individual who can superadd to his magnificent voice, the science, the skill, the extensive knowledge, the comprehensive range, the mastery of even' style and species of vocal music, which are the characteristics of BRAHAM? (38)
Several factors might have influenced the lessening of anti-Semitic comments about Braham in the late 1820s: the triumph of his remarkable talents over prejudice; his conversion to Christianity in 1816 (although disputed as insincere by some such as Charles Lamb) (39) in order to marry Frances Bolton; (4) " the more liberal stances of certain newspapers; and the shift towards greater acceptance of religious difference demonstrated by the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in 1828 (removing obstacles for dissenters and nonconformists) and the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829. Dills similarly supporting Jewish emancipation were presented in Parliament on several occasions from 1830 onwards, but did not achieve significant progress until the Religious Opinions Relief Act of 1846. Even so, it was not until the Jew Relief Act of 1858 that Parliament admitted its first Jewish members, two years after Braham's death.
Yet the altered attitudes towards Braham might have owed something to an additional factor. While the Spectators article alluded to various arias that demonstrated the singer's powers to the full (such as "Total Eclipse" from Handel's Samson, where Braham's "intensity of feeling" was such that it "thrilled through" the listener), it denominated his renditions of "The Death of Nelson" as drawing by far the greatest popular acclamation. (41) Did Braham's association with the nation's most lauded patriot of the epoch-or more, his active contribution to the framing and dissemination of the Nelson myth--lead to a greater acceptance of his religious identity? Certainly, "The Death of Nelson" had swiftly become his preferred signature song. It was a permanent fixture in Braham's benefit nights; (42) it was referenced in a panegyric to Braham written by Harry Stoe Van Dyk, reprinted in the Literary Chronide in 1822 and The Drama in 1823 ("But, when thou nsest to a bolder strain, / Forgotten glories seem to live again; / The sounds of sorrow die along thy breath, / In "Abercrombie's" or in "Nelson's Death:" / Yet, still we trace a grandeur in their swell, / That tells the soul how gloriously they fell!"); (43) it was interpolated in Braham's performances of various operas, such as Guy Mannering at Drury Lane in 1823 ("The Death of Nelson afforded him an opportunity for display of that lofty, bold, and brilliant department of musical composition, in which he stands on the stage unrivalled and alone"); (44) or took pride of place at charity events, such as the Covent Garden Theatrical Fund Dinner in 1823, chaired by the Duke of York ("Mr. Braham sung the popular air, the 'Death of Nelson." accompanying himself on the piano. The company received it with ardent demonstrations of applause"). (45)
The song was not unanimously appreciated, however. The Scottish novelist Mary Brunton, on a rare visit to London in 1812, attended an "oratorio" at Covent Garden where initially she found the music in general "far superior" to any that she had previously heard: "All went on peaceably enough, till it pleased Braham, the most delightful singer that ever sung, to sing a nonsensical song about Lord Nelson. Although the words and tune were equally despicable, the song was encored; Braham was engaged elsewhere, and went off without complying." (46) As the requests for an encore nevertheless demonstrated, Brunton's displeasure (unfortunately not further elaborated) was a lone affair. The song's popularity became such that when Ferdinand Ries transcribed it for piano variations in 1822, the Harmonicon, then Britain's most scholarly music periodical, produced a somewhat ambiguous review:
As a National Song, Mr. Braham's "Death of Nelson" has pleased, and continues to please, a vast majority of the inhabitants of the British Isle: it has therefore accomplished its purpose: for to whom are national songs,--which are always appeals to the passions, and seldom free from vain-glory,--addressed?--To the multitude. They are meant to flatter the pride of the people, to cherish their love of country, and to inflame their zeal in its defense. Of such compositions, this most popular singer has produced some that have operated with great force on public feelings, and will hereafter even be considered as features in the musical history of the present eventful age. They will be preserved along with the Tyrtean strains of Dibdin, Arne. and Pureell. (47)
Although, the critic opined, Braham's "national songs" did not fulfil the criteria of "refined musical taste," nonetheless "they never aimed at that character" because "they were written for the many," not the few. (48) As such, the songs possessed "merit of a superior order, and such as can only be attained by genius." (49)
In fashioning a suitably heroic commemoration of Nelson, Braham was thus also indirectly fashioning a new image of himself: one that proclaimed his allegiance to his countrymen and nation both in terms of his choice of the textual content of his songs but also in his musical settings and impassioned delivery. And it was an image that continued to gain impetus throughout his long career. Remarkably, Braham was still continuing to sing in the 1840S. An article entitled "Braham's Re-appearance" in the British Minstrel in 1844 noted that his career was "without parallel. To have sung so variously, so well, and so long, belongs to himself alone." (50) Waiting for him to appear on stage, the reviewer reflected on how many in the audience might have remembered his earlier performances, concluding "not ten--very likely not one." (51) But such musing "brought back to our remembrance the victory of Trafalgar; and the shout with which his 'Death of Nelson' was received at its first performance still rang in our ears." (52) For the Musical World in 1845, the song was similarly an immediate stimulus for national spirit: "Who ever heard Braham sing his 'Death of Nelson' without feeling his heart glow with patriotism and with unspeakable admiration for England's departed naval hero?" (53)
In her study of the nineteenth-century commemorations of Robert Burns in the light of Pierre Nora's notion of lieux de memoire, Ann Rigney argues for poetry's special place:
To say that some poetry is "timeless" sounds cliched, but it also points in the direction of the peculiar capacity of artworks to be "re-usable" at later points in time, and hence to the temporal layering that their remembrance entails: where military heroes were remembered for specific deeds and events located in the past, artists and writers were remembered for works that were still "alive" in the present, that is, still capable of generating affect, provoking pleasure, and inviting reenactment. (54)
What, though, if an artwork is both a poem (indeed, a song) and a commemoration of a military hero--and therefore exists both as a recollection of a past event as well as an example of the lived experience of the present? In the various reviews of Braham's performances of the song, the "cheers" of the audience are often mentioned. Such expressions were not just a mark of appreciation of Braham's performance, but were often interpolated by spectators during the second verse, after the narrator refers to the "three cheers" given by the "gallant Seamen." In the song, the cheers precede the first mention of Nelson's signal, but to those familiar with James Stanier Clarke and John McArthur's Life of Nelson (1810) they might have recalled Captain Blackwood's description of the sailors' response to the signal as he stood on the deck of the Victory with Nelson: "The shout with which it was received throughout the Fleet was truly sublime." (35) In any event, for the audience the song provided a means of active participation in or re-enactment of the commemorative event, not just the witnessing of it.
And then there were consonances between Nelson's projected image of an energetic masculinity and that of Braham. Mackenzie Bacon's article for Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review in 1818 emphasized the singer's astonishing volume, the "ear-piercing, animating sounds with which he invests a call to glory "; (56) indeed, his performance of the opening recitative of the "Death of Nelson" provided "the highest example of force and volume of voice connected with powerful and articulate speaking." (37) Like Nelson, Braham too exhibited true mastery of his profession: "His mind is rich with the stores of science--his imagination bold and vivid. " (58) Indeed, Bacon complains of Braham's propensity to "surprise" his audience rather than please them. (59) The tenor is located at the very top of his profession ("the most accomplished singer it has fallen to the lot of the present or perhaps of any generation of men to hear"), (60) and already imitated throughout "the whole kingdom." (61) There was moreover a "violence" in Braham's singing, an emphatic quality in delivery, a "fertile" imagination of the bold and unexpected, a seizing of the day, all of which suggest Nelson himself. And yet both men importantly also shared more tender qualities and combined their vigor with vulnerability: Nelson was renowned for his "compassion and empathy" with his men; Braham for his "sounds most touching and full of beauty." (62) Of all the singers of his generation, Braham thus surely offered the nearest approximation to the temperament of Nelson: an aural impression of the man not just through words and music but through vocal timbre and expressivity. This, we might hazard, was what Nelson--or at least his inner self--could have sounded like.
In his discussion of monumentahty, Henri Lefebvre makes a comparison with musical structures: "a monumental work like a musical one ... has a horizon of meanings: a multiplicity of specific and indefinite meanings, a shitting hierarchy in which one or another momentarily gains prominence." (63) Given music's verticality of structure, we might think rather of a palimpsest than a horizon: a layering of perceptions, experiences, and interpretations that can be sounded simultaneously although distinguished separately. In the case of Braham and Arnold's "The Death of Nelson," the song evoked for its earliest audiences possibly even actual recall of the battle itself (for the few who participated in it) or at least the moment when news of the conflict arrived in Britain; or sight of the yacht Chatham carrying Nelson's body from the Victory berthed at Woolwich to the Royal Naval Hospital at Greenwich while the surrounding vessels lowered their flags, bells tolled, and minute guns were fired; (64) or the three days he spent lying in state as a hundred thousand people filed past his bier; or of the two-mile long funeral procession of boats and barges that accompanied the slow journey on the Thames from Greenwich to the Admiralty in Whitehall on January 8, 1806; or, the next day, when the first of the long, winding cortege of 160 carriages had reached St Paul's before the last had even left Whitehall, with the streets lined several deep with spectators; or even of later private visits to Nelson's tomb in the crypt of St Paul's, and to the monuments that began to be erected across the country. As Henrietta Fonsonby, Countess of Bessborough wrote in a letter on November 6th: "I can think of nothing else, and hardly imagin'd it possible to feel so much grief for a Man I did not know": (65) and again, on November 10th, that Nelson's death "has taken possession of every one's Mind... . Almost every body wears a black crape scarf or cockade with Nelson written on it--this is almost general high and low; indeed, the enthusiasm is general beyond anything I ever saw." (66) In short, it would have been nigh impossible to have been in London during those weeks between Nelson's death and his funeral, or even elsewhere in the country, and not have experienced something of this outpouring of shared emotion: one that extended tor many people, as Wilson suggests, beyond Nelson to their own bereavements, injuries, and losses inflicted by the "war machine" of the Napoleonic epoch. (67)
Yet as the years went by and new generations of audiences emerged in the 1830S and 1840S, the song's evocation of actual memory of a nation's mourning was gradually replaced with a vision, rather than a direct experience, of the past. At the same time, it acquired new meaning as indicating not only the brevity and glory of Nelson's life but also the contrasting longevity and spirit of Braham's extraordinary career. In the assumption of the song by other singers (notably Sims Reeves) during the latter half of the century, (68) it subsequently became an aural configuring of the myths of both Nelson and Braham. The milieux de memoire, "real environments of memory," as Nora describes, had given way to lieux de memoite, "sites of memory": the "ultimate embodiments of a memorial consciousness." (69 ) In this its last crystallization, the song intrigues as a monumental work that commemorates not only two different but strangely allied figures--both outsiders, both charismatic performers, both men who placed their inimitable stamp on London's history--but also those hidden audiences who once listened to and lent their own voices to its performance.
The University of Manchester
Brunton, Mary. Emmeline, with Some Other Pieces. Edinburgh: Manners and Miller, Archibald Constable and Co., John Murray. 1N19.
Clarke, James Stanier, and John McArthur. The Life of Admiral Lord Nelson. London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1810.
Coleman, Terry. The Nelson Touch: The Life and Legend of Horatio Nelson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Conway, David. "Jewry in Music: Jewish Entry to the Musical Professions 1780-1850." PhD diss. University College London, 2007.
Cumberland. Richard. A Melo-Dramatic Piece; being an occasional attempt to commemorate The Death and Victory of Lord Viscount Nelson. The Overture and Music composed by Mr. P. King and Mr. Braham; and Represented at the Theatre-Royal, Drury Lane on Monday, November 11, 1805. London: Lackington, Allen and Co., 1805.
Fairburn's Naval Songster, or Jack Tar's Chest of Conviviality for 1806: Being an excellent Cargo of celebrated, popular and choice Sea-Songs, intended to commemorate the last glorious Victory, Death and Memory of Britannia's ever to be lamented, Immortal and Fallen Hero, ADMIRAL LORD I 'ISCOUNT NEL-SON!!!. London: John Fairburn, 1806.
Fraser, Flora. Beloved Emma: The Life of Emma, Lady Hamilton. London: Bloomsbury, 2012.
Granville, Lord Granville Leveson Cower. Lord Granville Leveson Comer (First Earl Granville): Private Correspondence 1781 to 1831. Edited by Castalia Countess Granville. 2 vols. London: John Murray, 1916.
Jones, Stephen. Biographia Dramatica, or a Companion to the Playhouse. 3 vols. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, etc., 1812.
Knight, Roger. Pursuit of I ictory: The Life and Achievement of Horatio Nelson. London: Allen Lane, 200s.
Lamb, Charles. "Imperfect Sympathies." In The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, edited by E. V. Lucas, L287-290. 7 vols. London: Methuen, 1903.
--. "The Religion of Actors." In The Works of Charles and Mary Land'. edited by E. V. Lucas. IL58-64. 7 vols. London: Methuen, 1903.
Lambert, Andrew. Nelson: Britannia's Cod of War. London: Faber and Faber. 2010.
Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.
Levien, John Mewhurn. The Singing of John Braham. London: Novello, 1944.
Malum, Alfred Thayer. The Life of Nelson: the Embodiment of the Sea Power of Great Britain. 2nd ed. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1899.
Nora, Pierre. "Between Memory and History: Les Lienx de Memoire." Translated by Marc Roudebnsh. Representations 26 (Spring 1989): 7-24.
Philp, Mark. Reforming Ideas in Britain: Politics and Language in the Shadow of the French Revolution, 1789-1815. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Popham, Home Riggs, Sir. Telegraphic Signals: or Marine Vocabulary. London: Printed for T Egerton, Military Library, near Whitehall, 1803.
Ragussis, Michael. Theatrical Nation: Jews and Other Outlandish Englishmen in Georgian Britain. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.
Rigney. Ann. "Embodied Communities: Commemorating Robert Burns. 1859." Representations 115, no. 1 (Summer 2011): 71-101.
White, Colin. "Nelson Apotheosised: The Creation of the Nelson Legend." In Admiral Lord Nelson: Context and Legacy, edited by David Cannadine, 93-114. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Wilson, Kathleen. "Nelson and the People: Manliness, Patriotism and Body Politic." In Admiral Lord Xelson: Context and Legacy, edited by David Cannadine, 49-66. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Wollenberg, Susan. "'Thus We Kept Away Bonaparte': Music in Oxford at the Time of the Napoleonic Wars." In Resisting Napoleon: The British Response to the Threat of Invasion, 1798-1815, edited by Mark Philp, 192-204. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006.
This paper arose from research generously funded by a Leverbulme Trust Major Research Fellowship: "A History of Voices: Singing in Britain 1690 to the Present" (2016-10).
(1.) The monument designed by William Raikon was modeled on "Augustus's Temple of Mars Ultor in the Roman Imperial Forum." presenting Nelson as "the national god of war" and the personification ot "the vengeance of the nation" (Andrew Lambert. Nelson: Britannia's God of War [London: Faher and Faber. 2010], 328), The final eost of the monument was [pounds sterling]47.000.
(2.) The stonework was completed in 1843; Trafalgar Square opened to the public in 1844. Decorative work on the pedestal was undertaken between 1849 and 1854; tour bronze liarbary lions (commissioned only in 1858 from Sir Edwin Landseer) were added in 1867.
(3.) On the pedestal, the wording of the signal was given as "England expects every man will do his duty."
(4.) Braham's year of birth is often given as 1777. as published during his lifetime. The burial certificate makes 11 plain that the eorreet year was 1774. No biography ot Braham currently exists, although useful summaries appear in John Mew burn Levien's The Singing of John Braham (London: Novello. 1944). as well as Grove Music Online and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
(5.) Stephen Jones, Biographia Dramatica, or a Companion to the Playhouse (London: Longman. Hurst, Rocs. Ornic, etc, 1812), 3:449.
(6.) "Lyceum Theatre." The Times. April 29. 1811,
(7.) The Universal Magazine reported that "Braham was rapturously applauded in the principal song, which we have thought proper to print with our few pieces of poetry, as it relates to the valour and death of one of our most distinguished generals" (July to December 1804, 11, 554).
(8.) Susan Wollenberg, "'Thus We Kept Away Bonaparte': Music in Oxford at the Time of the Napoleonic Wars," in Resisting Napoleon: The British Response to the Threat of Invasion, 1798-1815, ed. Mark Philp (Aldershot: Ashgate. 2006), 194.
(9.) J. M. L., "The Death of Nelson," The Lady's Monthly Museum. March 1806, 207.
(10.) Cumberland, A Melo-Dramatic Piece; being an occasional attempt 10 commemorate The Death and Victory of Lord Viscount Nelson. The Overture and Music composed by Mr. I'. Kino and Mr. Braham; and Represented at the Theatre-Royal, Drury Lane on Montlay. November 11,1805 (London: Lackington, Allen and Co.. 1805).
(11.) Times. December 9, 1805, 2.
(12.) Times. December 9, 1805, 2.
(13.) Times. December 9, 1805. 2.
(14.) For example, Benjamin West's 1806 painting. "The Death of Lord Nelson" received the following evaluation in La Belle Assemblee: "Lord Nelson lies, with his head falling back, on the breast, and in the arms of his Chaplain. His face and eyes are elevated to Heaven. His countenance expresses a most resigned and noble piety, a dignity, and a consciousness of having done his duty to his King and Country. In the countenance of Nelson, the painter has shewn his power of exhibiting the most difficult and composite passions with the most natural and tempered correctness. In Nelson there is nothing of affectation; every thing is as simple as was the character ot the man there is a kind ot serene and saint-like heroism, the comfort and composure of a dying martyr" ("Mr. West's Grand Historical Picture of the Death of Lord Nelson." La Belle Assembler. May 1806, I, no. 4, 217).
(15.) Mark Philp, Reforming Ideas in Britain: Polities and Language in the Shadow of the French Revolution, 1789-1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 23S. Many of the songs can be viewed in Fairbum's Naval Songster, or Jack Tar's Chest of Conviviality for 1806: Being an excellent Cargo of celebrated, popular and choice Sea-Songs, intended to commemorate the last glorious Victory, Death and Mentor)' of Britannia's ever to be lamented, Immortal and Fallen Hero, ADMIRAL LORD VISCOUNT NELSON!!! (London: John Fairburn. 1806).
(16.) In 1905, the Musical limes published a claim that Braham had plagiarized the opening of Htienne Mehul's "Chant du depart" (1794), a revolutionary anthem of the First Empire (Musiatl Times, July 1, 1905, 453). There are strong melodic similarities, but given that both songs use a common harmonic structure (I-V7-I) with a brief modulation into the dominant key at the end of the first two phrases, any resemblance may be coincidental. Alternatively. Braham might have deliberately subverted those initial phrases from the French anthem into a starting point for a eulogy on Nelson's defeat of the French.
(17.) "The Death of Nelson." John Braham and Samuel James Arnold (Colliding. D'Almaine, Potter & Co., ca 1811), 10X--109. A recent performance of the song at the Romantic Song Network conference in 20 IX can be viewed at https://rnsn.glasgow.ac.uk/conccrt/concert-video/ (at 2 1123).
(18.) I am grateful to Ian Newman for this insight. "Heart of Oak" later became the official march of the Royal Navy.
(19.) The numeric flag code used by Nelson had been first devised by Rear Admiral Sir Home Riggs I'opham in 1800. See Sir Home Riggs I'opham. Telegraphic Signals, or Marine Vocabulary (London: Printed for T. Egerton. Military Library, near Whitehall, 18o3).
(20.) Terry Coleman, The Nelson Touch: The Lilt: and Legend of Horatio Nelson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 322. According to the surgeon Dr. Beatry, Nelson continually repeated these words during his final moments.
(21.) "[H]e caused it to be understood on board of even' ship 'That England expected every man to do his duty. " Times, November 8, 1805, 3.
(22.) Jones, Biographia Dramatica, 379-80.
(23.) On Monday December 2nd. tor example, the wording of the signal appeared in correct form in the Times; and then prefaced an anonymous poem, "Nelson and Collingwood." published in the same newspaper on December 7th.
(24.) Times, January 22, 1800, 2.
(25.) The modern tenor, with his ability to extend the natural male voice up to a high C, only emerged during the 1830s. The original score of the ballad was apparently in D major, a tone higher than the edition printed here. See Musical Times, July 1, 1905. 453.
(26.) Charles Dickens, The Personal History of David Copperfield (Leipzig: Bemhard Tauchmtz. 1850), 3:225-26; Arthur Conan Doyle. "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans," in The Complete Sherlock, ed. P. D. James (London: Vintage Classics. 20oy). 1164; Joyce, Ulysses (New York: Dover, 2009). 216.
(27.) Illustrated London News, March 20. 1852, 245-46. Levien claims that Nelson's "intimate" Stead, the financier Abraham Goldsmid, was an early patron of Braham, and that the singer could have encountered Nelson at Goldsmid's soirees (Levien, The Singing of John Braham, 10-12).
(28.) This account appears in Alfred Thayer Mahan's The Life of Nelson: the Embodiment of the Sea Power of Great Britain, 2nd ed. (London: Sampson Low. Marston & Co., 1899), 535-36. Lord Minto. known as Sir Gilbert Eliot between 1777 and 1797, was viceroy of the Anglo-Corsican Kingdom from 1793 to 1796. and Liter Governor-General ot India from 1807 to 1813.
(29.) White, "Nelson Apotheosised: The Creation of the Nelson Legend," in Admiral Lord Nelson: Context and Legacy, ed. David Carmadine (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 95.
(30.) Coleman, The Nelsom Touch, 14.
(31.) Kathleen Wilson, "Nelson and the People: Manliness, Patriotism and Body Politic," in Cannadine. Admiral Lord Nelson, 60.
(32.) Wilson, "Nelson and the People." 61. Henrietta Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough, met him shortly before he left for Trafalgar, and found him "perfectly unassuming and natural" although she had heard that he was "vain and full of himself": "Talking of Popular Applause and his having been Mobb'd and Huzza'd in the city, Ly. Hamilton wanted him to give an account of it, but he stopp'd her. 'Why,' said she, 'you like to he applauded--you cannot deny it.' 'I own it.' he answer'd: 'popular applause is very acceptable and grateful to me, but no Man ought to be too much elated by it: it is too precarious to be depended upon, and it may be my turn to feel the tide set as strong against me as ever it did tor me' " (Henrietta Ponsonby to Lord Granville Leveson Gower, September 12. 1805, 111 Lord Granville Leveson Gower [First Earl Granville]: Private Correspondence 1781 to 1821, ed. Castalia Countess Granville [London: John Murray, 1916. 2:112.
(33.) Wilson. "Nelson and the People," 61.
(34.) See Goethe's descriptions of Emma's "attitudes": "the spectator sees what thousands of artists would have liked to express realized before him in movements and surprising transformations ... as a performance it's like nothing you ever saw before in your life" (Flora Fraser, Beloved Emma: The Lite of Emma, Lady Hamilton [Bloomsbury, 2012], 115).
(35.) Coleman, The Nelson Touch, 116.
(36.) Ragussis, Theatrical Nation: Jews and Other Outlandish Englishmen in Georgian Britain (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), 82.
(37.) "John Braham," Spectator, March 21, 1829, 187-88.
(38.) "John Braham." Spectator, March 21. 1829, 187-88.
(39.) Lamb. "The Religion of Actors," 111 The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, ed. E. V. Lucas (London: Methuen, 1903). 1:288. Sec also his "Imperfect Sympathies" (2:62).
(40.) David Conway, "Jewry in Music: Jewish Entry to the Musical Professions 1780-1850" (PhD diss. University College London. 2007), 1 18.
(41.) As with other elite analyses of his career, though, the Spectator saw Braham's willingness to communicate with broader audiences as a negative sign that he was prepared "to lower his songs and his singing to the level of the audience" (The Spectator, March 21, 1829, 187).
(42.) See tor example, "Drnry Lane," Times, May 2, 181s. 2; "Coveut Garden," Observer. May 17, 1818, 3; and "Drury Lane again." Theatrical Observer, June 13, 1822, 3.
(43.) Literary Chronicle, July 27. 1822. 467; The Drama, May 1823. 216.
(44.) The Drama, December 1823, 2.17.
(45.) Mirror of the Stage, May 4. 1823, 11/20. 115.
(46.) Brunton, Emnteline, with Sonic Oilier Pieces (Edinburgh: Manners and Miller, Archibald Constable and Co., John Murray. 1819), 106-107.
(47.) Hamumiam, November 1823, 1/11. 169.
(48.) Hatmonicon, November 1823, 1/11, 169. On "national song" sec the introduction to this special issue.
(49.) Harmonium, 169.
(50.) "Braham's Reappearance," British Minstrel, January 1844. 35.
(51.) "Braham's Reappearance," 35.
(52.) "Braham's Reappearance," 35.
(53.) Musical World, September 4, 1845, 428.
(54.) Rigney, "Embodied Communities: Commemorating Robert Burns. 1859," Representations 115 (Summer 2011): 83.
(55.) Clarke and MeArthur. The Life of Admiral Lord Nelson (London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1810), 666. Captain Blackwood was with Nelson on board the Victory when the signal was made.
(56.) "Mr. Braham," Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review, January 1818, 88.
(57.) "Mr. Braham," 90.
(58.) "Mr. Braham," 86.
(59.) "Mr. Braham." 92.
(60.) "Mr. Braham." 86.
(61.) "Mr. Braham," 94.
(62.) "Mr. Braham," Xy.
(63.) Lefebvre. The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), 222.
(64.) Roger Knight. Pursuit of Victory: The Life and Achievement of Horatio Nelson (London: Allen Lane, 2005).
(65.) Ponsonby to Granville, November 6, 1805, in Private Correspondence, 132.
(66.) Ponsonby to Granville. November 10. 1805, in Private Correspondence, 135.
(67.) "Nelson was thus the screen upon which all those who had fought in the war machine, who had lost their limbs or senses or a loved one to its cruelties, could project their own experience, identifications and desires for recognition" (Wilson. "Nelson and the People", 63).
(68.) See, tor example, the hand-over of the song from Braham to the tenor Sims Reeves during the "London Wednesday Concerts" at Exeter Hall in 1849. marked by a series of reviews in the Dramatic and Musical Review from January to March.
(69.) Nora, "Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mhnoire," trans. Marc Roudebush, Representations 26 (Spring 1089): 7, 12.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Studies in Romanticism|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2019|
|Previous Article:||"Erin go Bragh" in London: Irishness in the Nineteenth-Century English-Printed Street Ballad.|
|Next Article:||Joseph Johnson's Hat, or, The Storm on Tower Hill.|