Friday, November 17, 2017

"The Blue Bell of Scotland": Popular song, National Air & "Volkslied" - Pt. 3: The German Versions (1839-1852)

3. The German Versions (1839-1852) 


"The Blue Bell of Scotland" also became very popular in Germany. But it took some time, in fact nearly four decades, until the first adaptation was introduced. But then several versions with different German texts were published and at the end of the century the song was a standard for choirs and was even sung in schools. 

Of course there was, thanks to Ossian and Percy's Reliques, a great interest for Scottish - but not yet Irish - songs in Germany since the 1770s. Herder and others translated a considerable number of texts. But it seems that at first there was much less interest in the tunes. Only very few were made available. The first anthology with music, Haydn's Alt-Schottische Balladen und Lieder (1803/4, at the Internet Archive), wasn't particularly successful. Even Beethoven's Schottische Lieder (op. 108, 1822, at Beethoven-Haus) were at first received with some skepticism (see Waltz). 

But in 1826 "Robin Adair", introduced via France with Boieldieu's La Dame Blanche, was a great hit (see my text at JustAnotherTune). It became one of the most popular Volkslieder in Germany during the 19th century and opened the door for more British songs, especially Scottish and Irish national airs. Meanwhile in Heidelberg Professor Thibaut (see here in my blog), jurist and music theorist, was busy translating and arranging foreign songs. He also performed them regularly with his choir. Thibaut owned copies of some of Thomson's collections and he made good use of them. None of his works were published at that time but the manuscript of "Alte Volksgesänge" (see RISM 453009283) has survived. 

In the '30s Burns was discovered in Germany, more than three decades after his death. Several books of translations appeared even though the original tunes remained rare. German composers preferred to write their own melodies. Thomas Moore became even more popular and many of his songs from the Irish Melodies and the Popular National Airs were made available. From then on Scottish, Irish and English songs always made up a not insignificant part of the German singing repertoire. 

A key role was played by Friedrich Silcher (1789-1860), director of music at the University of Tübingen. He had already made himself a name as editor and arranger of German Volkslieder. Between 1835 and 1841 he first published the four volumes of his Ausländische Volksmelodien, an anthology of international national airs that was mostly derived from Moore's collections (at the Internet Archive; see here in my blog). Here he introduced German versions of for example "The Last Rose of Summer", "Here comes the Bard", "Home, Sweet Home"and "My Heart's in the Highlands" These songs would become popular Volkslieder nearly everybody was familiar with. 


"The Blue Bell of Scotland" was first published in Germany circa 1810 in a rather obscure collection, guitar player Carl Kreye's VI Englische National-Lieder (No. 3, p. 5). But this was only Mrs. Jordan's original version and he didn't include a translation. Apparently nothing did come of this publication and it would take nearly two decades until the song appeared again in print. Professor Thibaut in Heidelberg must have known at least Mrs. Grant's version from Thomson's anthology. But it seems he didn't use it. At least the song can not be found in his manuscript. 

Who knew it was Franz Kugler (1808-1858; see Wikipedia), a young poet and songwriter who later would become a famous art historian. In 1829 he had spent some time in Heidelberg and had also sung in Thibaut's choir. A year later his Skizzenbuch appeared. This was a very tasteful collection of songs and poetry and here we can find a "Harfenlied" (p. 80) written to the tune of "O where, and o where is your Highland Laddie gone". This poem is in no way related to the original text and the melody was not included. One may assume that Kugler expected his readers to be familiar with it. Some years later instrumental versions of "The Blue Bell of Scotland" by piano players Auguste de Sayve (see Hofmeister, Nov/Dec 1832, p. 89) and Henri Herz (see Hofmeister, Juni 1836, p. 52-3; at IMSLP) were published. 

It seems that the tune was already well known in Germany by that time. But the first successful German adaptation of the song only appeared in 1839: in the third volume of Silcher's Ausländische Volksmelodien (No. 8, p. 11): 

Hinaus, ach hinaus zog des Hochlands kühner Sohn;
Er zog in den Streit für seines Königs Thron.
Er geht, es eilt ihm nach der Liebsten Klageton,
'Und er sucht ihn ihr Blick, nie kehrt er mehr zurück.

Ach dort, wo kein Berg die müde Sonne deckt,
Von mir liegt er fern auf blut'gen Sand gestreckt;
Wo ihn nicht mehr mein Ruf zu frühem Jagen weckt,
Ach, das Schwert, das ihn traf, senkt mich in Todesschlaf. 
This volume offered a good selection of international Volkslieder. There are four tunes - Irish, Indian, Venetian and Neaplitan - from Moore's collections as well as French and Scandinavian songs. Most interesting is a real Scottish tune, the one of "The Bush Aboon Traquair" which is here combined with a poem by Friedrich Rückert (No. 6, pp. 8-9). "Hinaus, ach hinaus" fits in well here. At that time every anthology needed at least one patriotic war song. 

This text's author is not known. Silcher was not always forthcoming about his sources. Perhaps he had found it in a literary magazine and then dispossessed the original writer. This was also the case with another song in this collection, the "Minstrel Boy" in the fourth volume. But this free adaptation isn't that bad. In fact it sounds quite effective when sung to the tune. There are only two verses but they are more dramatic than the original text. Here the brave warrior doesn't return home and at the end of the second verse the girl also dies. 

We can see that he used the simplified version of the tune. Perhaps he had a sheet music edition with this variant at hand. For this collection Silcher had arranged the song for one voice accompanied by piano or guitar. Later he also wrote an arrangement for male choirs that was first published in 1860 in the 12th volume of his XII Volkslieder für Mannerstimmen (see Bopp, p. 215; also in Volkslieder, 1902, No. 135, pp. 243-4).


Only three years later the song appeared again, this time with both the original English text and a new German translation: 
  • Scotch National Song: The Blue Bells of Scotland. Schottisches Nationallied: Die Blauen Glöckchen von Schottland (Choice of the Most Favorite English, Scottish and Irish Romances and Airs No. 10), Schlesinger, Berlin, n. d. [1842] (see Hofmeister, März 1842, p. 42; AMZ 44, 1842, col. 222), at the Internet Archive 
"Wohin zog, o, zog dein Hochlandsbursch davon?"
"In den Kampf mit Frankreichs Sohn für König George auf seinen Thron.
Und, o, wünscht mein Herz, wär er doch zu Hause schon!"

"O wo ist, o wo ist deines Hochlandsburschen Haus?"
"Sein Haus ist in lieb' Schottland in dem Blumenglöcklein Strauss.
Und o aus dem Herzen kommt er mir nie heraus."

"In welch ein Kleid denn gekleidet dein Hochlandbursche geht?"
"Seine Mütze, die ist von Tartan grün, und sein Brustlatz, der ist von Plaid,
Und immer mein Herz nach dem Hochlandburschen steht."

"Ach denk' nur, ach denk' nur, wenn dein Hochlandbursche fiel?"
"Ich setzt' mich hin und weinte bei der Trauerpfeife Spiel
Vor Schmerz bräch' mein Herz, wenn er fiel, wenn er fiel."
The German version was by Philipp Kaufmann (1802-1846; see Goedeke, Grundriss, p. 1041) who had made himself a name as a translator of Shakespeare and also of Burns' songs (see Gedichte von Robert Burns, 1839, at Google Books). His text is much closer to the original but otherwise not very convincing. It sounds clumsy and stiff and not particularly well singable. 

The publisher also included accompanying arrangements for guitar and piano by Eduard Salleneuve respectively Sigmund Jähns, both respected musicians. Interestingly the original variant of the tune was used here, not the simplified one á la Silcher. In fact the song was newly imported again, in this case - believe it or not - by the King of Prussia. At least that's what is claimed on the cover of the sheet music: 
"played before his Majesty Frederik William of Prussia on the Duke of Wellingten's presenting new colours to the 72 regiment of Scotch Highlanders of Windsor Castle the 26 January 1842."

"gespielt vor Sr. Maj. dem Könige Friedrich Wilhelm IV zu Schloss Windsor am 26. Januar 1842 bei Übergabe der neuen Fahne an das 72te Regiment der Schottischen Hochländer und so beifällig aufgenommen, dass S. M. der König eine Abschrift nach Deutschland mitnahm." 
In January 1842 the King had traveled to London to attend the christening of the new-born Prince of Wales. There he also took part in a parade by a Scottish regiment that received new colours (see Natzmer, p. 38 & p. 48; Gentleman's Magazine 17 (N.S.), 1842, p. 317). It is interesting to see that this song was performed at such an official occasion. Apparently Mrs. Jordan's old popular dittie was at that time really regarded in England as an authentic Scottish air. 

It may also sound unusual that the King of Prussia himself - or maybe someone from his entourage - brought the song to Germany and then passed it on to a music publishing house. But there is no reason to disbelieve this story. The publisher surely wouldn't have dared to claim this on the sheet music if it wasn't true. In a catalog published in 1846 (p. 74) he could still boast about his royal informant: "Von S. Maj. dem König Friedrich Wilhelm IV. aus England mitgebracht". 

Some years later this version was revived by August Neithardt (1793-1861, see Wikipedia), at that time director and conductor of the Königliche Domchor in Berlin. In fact the song became part of the repertoire of this famous choir. In 1850 they toured in England and it was among the pieces performed there. Neithardt's arrangement was even published as sheet music in London by Novello (see Musical Times 4, 1850, p. 107).

 Only the following year this version appeared in print in Germany together with three other popular British standards: 
  • August Neithardt, 4 Volkslieder für Vokalquartett, op. 141. (Heimath, süsser Ort. Des Sommers letzte Rose. Blaue Glöcklein von Schottland. Rule Britania), Schlesinger, Berlin, 1851 (see Hofmeister, Juli 1851, p. 142); at UDK Berlin 
Of course the Domchor also performed the song at concerts in German, for example in one on March 1, 1852 (NBM 6, 1852, p. 72). 


At around that time a third German version of "The Blue Bell of Scotland" was published: 
  • Johannes Dürrner, 6 Schottische Nationalgesänge mit deutschem und englischem Texte, für 4 Männerstimmen (Solo u. Chor). Part. u. Stimmen (Die Blumen vom Walde, Das Mädchen von Gowrie, John Anderson, The blue Bells of Scotland, Schotten, deren edles Blut, Schwarz ist die Nacht). Gewidmet den deutschen Liedertafeln, Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig, 1852 (see Hofmeister, Oktober 1852, p. 187; NZM 37, No. 10, 3.9.1852, p. 104)
    - 4 songs reprinted in: Vivat Paulus. Liederbuch des Universitäts-Sängervereins zu St. Pauli, Leipzig, 1863, pp. 14-24, here No. 6d, pp. 22-4 
Auf deinen Höh'n, du mein liebes Vaterland,
da blüht ja so schön die Blum' am Waldesrand!
Die Blume blüht so blau, so blau im Sonnenschein:
Und liebliches Grün schließt rings die Blumen ein.
Die Glockenblumen blühn so hell im Sonnenschein,
Und liebliches Grün schliesst rings die Blumen ein!

O Heimathland bist du mir doch so hold und lieb.
In weitester Fern mein Herz bei Dir stets blieb.
Wohl ist die Welt so schön, so weit mein fuß mich trug,
Doch du warst's allein, für das mein Herze schlug.
Wohl ist die Welt so schön, so weit mein fuß mich trug,
Doch du warst's allein, für das mein Herze schlug.

Wo rings im Wald die rothen Disteln blühn,
Und Rosmarin und Raute sie umblühn,
Da lebt mein Volk so treu, mein Volk so treu und kühn,
Und preiset das Land, wo blau die Blumen blühn.
Da lebt mein Volk so treu, mein Volk so treu und kühn,
Und preiset das Land, wo blau die Blumen blühn. 
Johannes Dürrner (1810-1859, see BMLO; see Eichner), composer, conductor, arranger and teacher, came from the town of Ansbach and studied in Leipzig with Mendelssohn and others. Among his first works were settings of some of Burns' songs (see Eicher, pp. 175-7). In 1844 he moved to Edinburgh and worked there for the rest of his life as music teacher. His subsequent works, mostly songs, were published both in Germany and in Britain (see f. ex. Copac). 

This was the very rare case of a musician from Germany who lived in Scotland and produced a collection of Scottish songs for the German market. He of course had there easy access to all anthologies of national airs published in Britain. This was very different from editors and translators in Germany who often had difficulties to find those publications. Very few were available there. In Edinburgh Dürrner was also in contact with G. F. Graham and other local experts. His aim was to offer the German choirs arrangements that allowed them to perform these songs in an "authentic" way (see Eichner, p. 186-7). 

The German text was written by Wilhelm Doignon (1820-1863; see Stadt Weißenburg-Wiki), a teacher, pastor and poet from the town of Weißenburg in Bavaria. Dürrner had already used some of his poems in an earlier publication. In this case he seems to have commissioned translations of three of the six songs from Doignon in whose own collection of poetry they were also published later (1860, pp. 361-2). Interestingly this text is very different from the original version, in fact not a translation but a completely new song. There is no reference to Scotland nor to going to war. Instead Doignon wrote a home song celebrating the beauty of the "Heimathland". It was closer to "Home, Sweet Home" than to Mrs. Jordan's "The Blue Bell of Scotland".


Three German adaptations of this song appeared in a comparatively short time, in the course of 13 years between 1839 and 1852. But more would follow. At first I have to mention a Danish publication. Composer A. P. Bergreen was at that time very busy producing a comprehensive anthology of international national airs, the Folke-Sange og Melodier, Fædrelandske og Fremmede. The first edition had appeared in the '40. and the second one came out in 10 volumes between 1860 and 1870. 

The fourth volume of the latter was dedicated to British songs - Engelske, Skotske og Irske Folk-Sange og Melodier (1862) - and here he included the original version of "The Blue Bell of Scotland" in an arrangement for vocals and piano together with a Danish translation (No. 68, p. 108; notes, p. 175 & p. 182). He had received the song from one Cora Nygaard in 1844. Her father had heard it in London sung by a Scotsman in 1807. Berggreen noted that what she had sent to him was nearly identical to the version in Chappell's book. 

Some years later Hermann Kestner (1810-1890; see here in my blog) tried his hand at the song. We can find his attempt in the second booklet of the Schottische Volkslieder (1868, No. V, pp. 8-9), a part of the short-lived series Ausländische Volkslieder für Sopran, Alt, Tenor und Bass that he had put together with composer Eduard Hille who wrote the arrangements. His source was Graham's book but he preferred to use an "older" text even though he was not sure if this was the one written by Mrs. Grant. His translation is not convincing. Instead it sounds rather stiff. 

The next in the row was Alfons Kissner (1844-1928), a scholar of Romance and English literature who during the 1870s translated a great number of Scottish, Irish and Welsh songs into German. They were made available in a series of songbooks with arrangements by several different musicians, for example his father (see here in my blog). His version "The Blue Bell of Scotland" appeared in Schottische Lieder aus älterer und neuerer Zeit (1874, No. 1, pp. 6-8). He was the first one to offer a translation of Mrs. Grants text. Another new adaptation was used in 1886 Lange's Ausländischer Liederschatz (No. 36, p. 44), an anthology of foreign Volkslieder with arrangements for vocals and piano. But this was only a mutilated text of two verses that didn't make much sense. At least Mrs. Jordan is identified as the song's author. 


Now we have altogether six German translations of this song published between 1839 and 1886. But only two of them became popular and were regularly used again: Silcher's "Hinaus, ach hinaus" and "Auf deinen Höh'n", written by Doignon for Dürrner. It is not unreasonable to assume that these two texts survived because they were better singable than the others. Those four adaptations - by Kaufmann, Kestner, Kissner and Lange - all sound, I have already mentioned that, mostly clumsy and stiff and they were later ignored. 

Of course Silcher was immensely popular in Germany. He can be seen as one of the most influential promoters of Volkslieder. His publications were regularly reprinted and the two arrangements of the song remained easily available for a long time. Other editors also adopted this version and arranged it anew. Most important in this respect was Ludwig Erk (1807-1883), music educator and song collector, who edited songbooks for all purposes. His arrangement of "Hinaus, ach hinaus" - he usually called it "Des Mädchens Klage" or "Hochlands Sohn" - for male choirs can be found for example in his colleague Wilhelm Greef's Männerlieder, a very popular collection that was reprinted for several decades (Vol. 9, 1849, here 6th ed., 1869, No. 22, p. 26) and in Erk's own Deutscher Liederschatz for schools (1859, here 4th ed. 1889, No. 135, p. 131). Mixed choirs were supplied with an arrangement for example in the Sängerhain (see 50 Years' Jubilee Edition, 1899, Vol. 2, No. 68, pp. 112-3) and those who preferred to sing this song at home with piano accompaniment found it in his Liederschatz (Vol. 3, 1879, No. 79, p. 74). Interestingly he also had done some research and knew about Mrs. Jordan. In his books she nearly always received credit as the song's author. 

Other arrangements for choirs were published for example in Wilhelm Meyer's Volks-Liederbuch (1873, No. 102, pp. 109-10) - here Kestner's text was also included -, Jakob Blied's Vater Rhein. Liederbuch für deutsche Männerchöre (here 2nd ed., 1897, No. 113, pp. 320-1) and a popular collection with the title Neuester Liederschatz (No. 36, p. 56). 

Editors of songbooks for schools also revived the song. At that time the pupils were plagued with a great number of patriotic ditties but this one had at least a good tune and a certain exotic touch. Arrangements for choirs can be found in collections like Voigt's Volksweisen für die reifere Jugend (H. 1, 9th. ed., 1880, Nr. 32, pp. 25-6), Lützel's Chorlieder für Gymnasien und Realschulen (3rd ed., 1885, No. 80, pp. 172-3), Manderscheid's Frauenchöre für den Gesangsunterricht (1902, No. 108, pp. 192-3) or Polyhymnia. Auswahl von Männerchören für Seminare und höhere Lehranstalten by Bösche, Linnarz and Reinbrecht (Vol. 2, here 10th ed., 1904, No. 34, pp. 46-7). These are only a few examples. 

Arrangements for piano and vocals were also offered regularly. I will only mention here from the '60s Carl Stein's Album volksthümlicher deutscher und ausländischer Lieder (2nd ed. 1868, No. 63, pp. 140-1) and from the '90s Victorie Gervinus, a respected music scholar. The song was included both in her Naturgemässe Ausbildung in Gesang und Klavierspiel (1892, Nr. 61, pp. 190-1), an instruction book for singing and piano playing, and in the posthumously published Volksliederbuch (1896, No. 61, p. 67), a collection of German and international Volkslieder she used to sing at home. 

Johannes Dürrner died in Edinburgh in 1859. But his songs remained popular among choir singers in Germany. The original arrangement of "Auf deinen Höh'n" was reissued several times as sheet music during the '80s and '90s (see Hofmeister September 1885, p. 256; Mai 1892, p. 194; Dezember 1896, p. 626; Januar 1897, p. 23). Meanwhile other arrangers had adopted this version. In Switzerland it was Ignaz Heim (1818-1880; see ADB 50, 1905, pp. 133-5, at wikisource; see here in my blog), a very successful and influential editor of songbooks for choirs, who used it in some of his own collections, both in the Neue Volksgesänge für den Männerchor (Vol. 1, 1865, No. 17, pp. 40-1 & 9th ed., 1882, No. 17, pp. 40-1) and the Sammlung von drei- und vierstimmigen Volksgesängen für Knaben, Mädchen und Frauen. Liederbuch für Schule, Haus und Verein (1869 , No. 93, pp. 162-3). He changed the words a little bit.  Now it was about roses in the Alps and the text sounded even less Scottish. 

In Germany Doignon's original text was sung but the poet's name was lost. The song was usually treated as an anonymous Volkslied even though it wouldn't have been too difficult to check Dürrner's original sheet music for the author's name. This piece was most popular among editors of songbooks for schools and we can find it for example in Lüdicke's Liederwald. Lieder für deutsche Schulen (H. 4, 3rd. ed., 1883, No. 30, p. 41), Theodor Schmidt's Auserlesene weltliche Männerchöre zum Gebrauche in Lehrerbildungsanstalten (2, 1886, No. 44, pp. 180-1) - here Dürrner's arrangement was reprinted -, Robert Schwalm's Schulliederbuch (4th ed., 1899, No. 76, p. 74), Hesse's & Schönstein's Schulliederbuch (H. 3, 5th ed., 1899, No. 90, pp. 137-8), Linnarz' Auswahl von Chorgesängen, a collection for girls' schools (1908, No. 60, pp. 98-9). The latter is interesting because here we can find the song neatly packed together with the other five standards from the British Isles that were at that time among the most popular Volkslieder in Germany (pp. 94-105): "Robin Adair", "My Heart's in the Highlands", "Long, long ago", "The Last Rose of Summer" and "Home, Sweet Home".
Occasionally Silcher's and Dürrner's versions were included together, for example in Böhme's great compendium Volksthümliche Lieder der Deutschen (1895, No. 732, p. 561) or in another songbook for schools, Bösche's & Linnarz' Auswahl von Liedern für deutsche Schulen (H. 4, 2nd ed. ,1900, No. 54-5, pp. 71-3). Sometimes only an English text was printed as in Irmer's Sammlung französischer und englischer Lieder für den Schulgebrauch (2nd ed., 1911, No. 26, p. 81) and in Französische und Englische Volkslieder für den Schulgebrauch by Simon & Stockhaus (1912, Nr. 21, p. 75). These examples should suffice. Not only in Britain but also in Germany a complete bibliography of all editions of the different versions of this song would be a challenging undertaking. 

"The Blue Bell of Scotland" was one of a group of British songs, mostly older popular hits, that were adopted as Volkslieder in Germany. During the 19th century the Volkslied-genre was not only a nationalist undertaking but also had an international dimension. Songs from other countries were accepted without prejudice. Interestingly foreign patriotic and home songs like "Home, Sweet Home", "My Heart's in the Highlands" and of course "The Blue Bell of Scotland" found particular favor. Perhaps German singers could relate to them so well because songs of this type already made up a considerable part of the singing repertoire. 

These imported songs were performed by choirs, became standards in songbooks for schools and the people also sang them at home, accompanied by guitar or piano. In fact in 1899 it was noted that "today even the farmhand and the peasant girl" knew the German versions of "Long, long ago" and "The Last Rose of Summer" (see Fleischer 1899, p. 6). I assume this was also true of "The Blue Bell of Scotland". Most of the time this song was regarded as an anonymous Volkslied. At best the editors referred to it as "schottische Volksweise". Only very few of them - Erk and some others, see also Tappert 1871, p. 812 - managed to name Mrs. Jordan as its original author. But that was not uncommon. For example "Home, Sweet Home" by Payne and Bishop and Bayly's "Long, long ago" (see my article at JustAnotherTune) were usually sold as "Irish" Volkslieder. In these cases it would also not have been too difficult to find out about the real authors. 

Nonetheless it is still interesting to see that the song has survived. Mrs. Jordan surely would have been surprised that her tune was also well known outside of Britain. One may assume that Mr. Dutton of the Dramatic Censor would have been shocked even more about its great success. He had called out this "undeservedly popular" song as a "Namby Pamby insipidity" and regarded it as "convincing proof of the frivolity and depraved taste of the age" and "insignificance itself". But the people did not agree and kept Mrs. Jordan's "old Scottish Ballad" alive for such a long time. 

  • August Bopp, Friedrich Silcher, Stuttgart 1916 
  • Wilhelm Doignon, Gedichte, Meyer, Weissenburg i. R., 1860 , at Google Books 
  • Barbara Eichner, Singing the Songs of Scotland. The German Musician Johann Rupprecht Dürrner and Musical Life in Nineteenth-Century Edinburgh, in: Peter Horton & Bennett Zorn, Nineteenth-Century British Music Studies Vol. 3, London & New York, 2016 (2003), pp. 171-94 
  • Oskar Fleischer, Ein Kapitel vergleichender Musikwissenschaft, in: Sammelbände der Internationalen Musik-Gesellschaft 1, 1899-1900, pp. 1-53, at the Internet Archive 
  • Karl Goedeke, Grundriß zur Geschichte Der Deutschen Dichtung aus den Quellen, Bd. 3, Abt. 2, Dresden 1881, available at the Internet Archive 
  • Franz Kugler, Skizzenbuch, Reimer, Berlin, 1830, at UB Düsseldorf 
  • Oldwig von Natzmer, Unter Hohenzollern. Denkwürdigkeiten aus dem Leben des General Oldwig von Natzmer. aus der Zeit Friedrich Wilhelms IV., Teil I, 1840-1848, hg. von G. E. v. Natzmer, Perthes, Gotha, 1888, at the Internet Archive 
  • Wilhelm Tappert, Die Frauen und die musikalische Komposition, in: Musikalisches Wochenblatt 2, 1871, pp. 809-12, at the Internet Archive 
  • Sarah Clemmens Waltz, Great Expectations: Beethoven’s Scottish Songs, in: Beethoven Journal 26, 2011, pp. 12-25 

Go back to 2. Mr. Thomson, Mr. Ritson & Mr. Johnson (1802-3)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"The Blue Bell of Scotland": Popular Song, National Air & "Volkslied" - Pt. 2: Mr. Thomson, Mr. Ritson & Mr. Johnson (1802-3)

1. Mrs. Jordan's New Hit (1800)
2. Mr. Thomson, Mr. Ritson & Mr. Johnson (1802-3) 
3. The German Versions (1839-1852) 


In the first part I have described how a new popular song was introduced on stage and then quickly became a great hit, a "favourite air". One of the major critics didn't like it but that didn't matter much. Other performers and publishers jumped on the band-wagon and offered their own versions to get a slice of the new cake. In the earliest ads the song was called an "old Scottish Ballad". In fact it was a simple song in the popular style that was supposed to sound like an old traditional. Of course this can be seen an attempt at taking advantage of the great enthusiasm for Scottish national airs. 

But it was a mistake to try to pass it off as an "old" song. The publisher tried to correct this by noting in the ads that Mrs. Jordan herself had written the tune. But that didn't help much. Soon editors of songbooks and scholars began to look for precursors and older versions. What they then did was to create a fictitious history around the song that was later taken at face value. One may also say that their attempts at dispossessing Mrs. Jordan of her song proved to be very successful. 


The first one to offer a new "older" version was George Thomson (1757-1851; see McAulay, pp. 44-52) from Edinburgh, editor of the Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs. This great representative anthology of Scottish songs appeared since 1793. He did his best to modernize the genre and often added new - in his eyes better - texts. Thomson also commissioned popular composers from the continent like Pleyel, Haydn and later Beethoven to write new arrangements. In 1802 the third volume of the Select Collection was published. All arrangements were by Joseph Haydn. Here we can find "O Where tell me. Air, The blue bell of Scotland" (No. 135). The tune is nearly identical and even in the same key but there is a new text by "written for this work on the Marquis of Huntly's departure for the continent with his regiment, in 1799, by Mrs. Grant, Laggan". Anne MacVicar Grant (1755-1838, see Wikipedia) was a Scottish writer and poet who occasionally helped out Mr. Thomson with new lyrics. Her attempt doesn't sound particularly convincing. It is is more along the lines of standard patriotism and lacks the touching simplicity of the original words:
Oh where, tell me where, is your Highland Laddie gone?
O where, tell me where, is your Highland Laddie gone?
He’s gone with streaming banners where noble deeds are done,
And my sad heart will tremble till he come safely home.
He’s gone with streaming banners, where noble deeds are done.
And my sad heart will tremble, till he come safely home.

O where, tell me where, did your Highland Laddie stay?
O where, tell me where, did your Highland Laddie stay?
He dwelt beneath the holly trees, beside the rapid Spey,
And many a blessing follow'd him, the day he went away;
He dwelt beneath the holly-trees, beside the river Spey,
And many a blessing follow'd him, the day he went away.

O what, tell me what, does your Highland Laddie wear?
O what, tell me what, does your Highland Laddie wear?
A bonnet with a lofty plume, the gallant badge of war.
And a plaid across the manly breast that yet shall wear a star,
A bonnet with a lofty plume, the gallant badge of war,
And a plaid across the manly breast that yet shall wear a star.

Suppose, ah, suppose, that some cruel, cruel wound
Should pierce your Highland Laddie, and all your hopes confound!
The pipe would play a cheering march, the banners round him fly,
The spirit of a Highland chief would lighten in his eye;
The pipe would play a cheering march, the banners round him fly,
And for his King and Country dear with pleasure would he die.

But I will hope to see him yet in Scotland’s bonnie bounds,
But I will hope to see him yet in Scotland’s bonnie bounds,
His native land of liberty shall nurse his glorious wounds,
While wide through all our Highland hills his warlike name resounds,
His native land of liberty shall nurse his glorious wounds,
While wide through all our Highland hills his warlike name resounds. 
There is no mention of Mrs. Jordan as the author and original performer of this song. Instead Thomson clearly tried to suggest that the tune already existed before she sang it on stage. I won't doubt that the Marquis sailed to France in 1799. But the text was surely written later and is based on Mrs. Jordan's version. Apparently Thomson had at first not even planned to include this song. It looks as if it was Haydn's own idea to arrange it and then he sent it to him unsolicited in January 1802 (see Edwards, p. 8): 
"I send you with this the favourite air 'The Blue Bells of Scotland,' and I should like that this little air should be engraved all alone and dedicated in my name as a little complimentary gift to the renowned Mrs. Jordan, whom, without having the honour of knowing, I esteem extremely for her great virtue and reputation" (Hadden, pp. 149-50).
Haydn liked the tune. It was later also included in his Six Admired Scotch Airs (1805, pp. 2-5, at Google Books). But it is not clear how and where he had received the song. He can't have heard it himself because the last time he was in England was in 1795. But it is also unlikely that he had a copy of the original sheet music. It seems he wasn't familiar with the text and had asked Thomson to send it to him (see Edwards, p. 8). It is also strange to see that he was so impressed by Mrs. Jordan even though he didn't know her personally. 

Thomson must have then asked Mrs. Grant to produce a new text which she did on short notice. This volume was ready at the end of April 1802 when it was entered at Stationer's Hall (see Kassler, 28.4.1802). The text can also be found in Anne MacVicar Grant's own collection of poetry published the following year, the Poems on Various Subjects, together with a short note about this one and her other works for Thomson (1803, pp. 407-9): 
"The Author wrote these songs at the request of her Friend Mr. George Thomson, in whose valuable Collection the Airs will be found, joined to the Verses, along with the beautiful Accompaniments of Haydn." 


The second attempt to dispossess Mrs. Jordan followed soon. Antiquarian and scholar Joseph Ritson (1752-1803, see Wikipedia; see Bronson) was one of the foremost experts on national songs and old English poetry. Among his many relevant publications were a series of songsters, collections of texts of songs from the North-East of England, for example The Bishopric Garland or Durham Minstrell (1784), The Yorkshire Garland (1788) and the Northumberland Garland, Or Newcastle Nightingale (1793).

The last of this series was The North-Country Chorister; An unparalleled variety of excellent songs. Collected and published together, for general Amusement, by a Bishoprick Ballad-Singer,  published first in 1802, shortly before his death. Here we can find another version of the song with the title "The New Highland Lad". With seven verses it was the longest so far and he added a short but somewhat nasty and unkind remark: "This song has been lately introduced upon the stage by Mrs. Jordan, who knew neither the words, nor the tune" (No. IV, pp. 12-3, here in: Northern Garlands, 1809): 
There was a Highland laddie courted a lawland lass,
There was, &c.
'He promis'd for to marry her, but he did not tell her when;
And t'was all in her heart she lov'd her Highland man.

Oh where, and oh where does your Highland laddie dwell?
Oh where, &c.
He lives in merry Scotland, at the sign of the Blue bell;
And I vow in my heart I love my laddie well.

What cloaths, O what cloaths does your Highland laddie wear?
What cloaths, &c.
His coat is of Saxon green, his waistcoat of the plaid;
And it's all in my heart I love my Highland lad.

Oh where and oh where is your Highland laddie gone?
Oh where, &c.
He's gone to fight the [faithless] French whilst George is on the throne,
And I vow in my heart I do wish him safe at home.

And if my Highland laddie should chance to come no more,
And if, &c.
They'll call my child a love-begot, myself a common whore;
And I vow in my heart I do wish him safe on shore.

And if my Highland laddie should chance for to dye,
And if, &c.
The bagpipes shall play over him, I'll lay me down and cry,
And I vow in my heart I love my Highland boy.

And if my Highland laddie should chance to come again,
And if, &c.
The parson he shall marry us, and the clerk shall say amen;
And I vow in my heart I love my Highland man. 
We don't know who this "Bishoprick Ballad-Singer" was and Mr. Ritson didn't tell his readers when exactly he had heard and written down the text, before May 1800 or later. But it is highly unlikely that it was a precursor of Mrs. Jordan's song. There is simply no evidence for such a claim and no other earlier variants have been found. Why should a stage star from London borrow a song from an obscure ballad singer who was busy somewhere in the North-East of England? For me this text looks like it was derived from Mrs. Jordan's original lyrics and this would also be much more likely. 

It is easily possible that this particular provincial performer had simply adopted a current popular hit, added some variations and additional verses and sang it to a different tune. Folklorists often tend to assume priority for variants from oral tradition even if they were collected after the publication of the printed version. This may have been the case here. As long as we don't have an actual date Mr. Ritson's text surely can't serve as evidence for any kind of claims about the song's origin and age. We only know that it was first published two years after Mrs. Jordan first performance and the original sheet music. 


The following year the sixth and last volume of James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum appeared. Here we can find another version of "The Blue Bell of Scotland" (Nr. 548, pp. 566-7), this time with a different tune and a new set of words that looks as if it was derived from the variants available at the time: 

O where and o where does your highland laddie dwell;
O where and o where does your highland laddie dwell;
He dwells in merry Scotland where the blue bells sweetly smell,
And all in my heart I love my laddie well
He dwells in merry Scotland where the blue bells sweetly smell
And all in my heart I love my laddie well.

O what lassie what does your highland laddie wear,
O what lassie what does your highland laddie wear,
A scarlet coat and bonnet blue with bonny yellow hair,
And none in the world can with my love compare.

O what lassie what if your highland lad be slain,
O what lassie what if your highland lad be slain,
O no true love will be his guard and bring him safe again,
For I never could live without my highlandman.

O when and o when will your highland lad come hame,
O when and o when will your highland lad come hame,
When e'er the war is over he'll return to me with fame,
And I'll plait a wreath of flow'rs for my lovely highlandman.

O what will you claim for your constancy to him,
O what will you claim for your constancy to him,
I'll claim a Priest to marry us, a clerk to say Amen,
And ne'er part again from my bonny highlandman. 
But for some reason there is no information about the source of this piece. When and where did Mr. Johnson get the tune and the text? Who sang it that way? This is not particularly helpful. Perhaps he had to use a different melody to avoid problems with the publisher of Mrs. Jordan's song. Or perhaps he wanted to imply that this is an older variant. But he didn't say that. Therefore it is not clear what to make of his version of the song. 


At that point - in 1803 - three additional versions of "The Blue Bell of Scotland" were available. There is no evidence that any of them was older than the song introduced by Mrs. Jordan in May 1800. All three only came to light two respectively three years after her first performance and the publication of the original sheet music. I tend to think that these were deliberate attempts to undermine her claim to the song. Thomson, Ritson and Johnson created alternate histories that were later often adopted uncritically by other writers and scholars. 

This was for example the case with R. A. Smith who reprinted the version from the Scots Musical Museum in his Scotish Minstrel (Vol. 5, 1821, pp. 58-9) and referred to it as the "Old Set". Smith also included Mrs. Jordan's tune together with Johnson's text as the "Modern Set". This was of course misleading. 

William Stenhouse - in his commentary in a later reprint of the Museum (Vol. 6, 1839, p. 480) - regarded the song as a "parody" of Anne MacVicar Grant's poem. Apparently he thought she was the original author of "Blue Bell of Scotland". Interestingly David Laing quoted in his additional notes (pp. 526-7) an informative remark by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe who referred to Ritson's "older words of this ballad" and also claimed to have found "another set of words, probably as old, which I transcribed from a 4to collection of songs in MS. made by a lady upwards of seventy years ago". But the text quoted here bears only a very superficial resemblance to Mrs. Jordan's "Blue Bell". It is also about someone going to war. Strangely it looks more similar to Ritson's and Johnson's versions, especially in the fifth verse: 
O, fair maid, whase aught that bonny bairn,
O, fair maid, whase aught that bonny bairn?
It is a sodger's son, she said, that's lately gone to Spain,
Te dilly dan, to dilly dan, te dilly, dilly dam.


O, fair maid, what if he should come hame?
O, fair, &c.
The parish priest should marry us, the clerk should say amen.
Te dilly dan, &c.
"The Blue Bell of Scotland" was of course also included in G. F. Graham's Songs of Scotland, at that time the most comprehensive anthology of Scottish songs (Vol. 2, 1848, pp. 106-7). Mr. Graham felt it necessary to commission a new text - "Oh, I Ha'e Been On The Flow'ry Banks of Clyde" - from one Miss Stirling Graham of Duntrune because he regarded "the old words as very silly". His notes are quite interesting and he was able to compile all information that was available so far. Graham correctly saw it as an English and not a Scottish song. But nonetheless he still got the chronology wrong and believed that the variants published by Ritson, Johnson and Sharpe were all older than Mr. Jordan's popular hit.

William Chappell also discussed the song in his Popular Music of the Olden Time (c.1860, II, pp. 739-40). He saw clearly that Mrs. Grant's version was written after the publication of Mrs. Jordan's "Blue Bells" and correctly noted that Sharpe's text "is in a different metre, and could not be sung to" the two available tunes. But he also claimed - without any further evidence - that Johnson's tune was the original one and that the text published by Ritson already existed before Mrs. Jordan wrote her song. At least he acknowledged that she had composed the tune she sang:
"As to the words, all the verses were not fit for the stage; therefore Mrs. Jordan selected four, made trifling alterations in them, and sang them to a tune of her own."
In the meantime composer Sir Henry Bishop (1786-1855) had also attempted to "dispossess, if possible, the old song of Mrs. Jordan". This was only reported in 1870 by writer and poet Charles Mackay in his Recollections (pp. 199-201). Sir Henry claimed to have found the English song "I have been a forester this many a long day" and "three or four bars of the melody were almost identical". It seems he believed that this was the original source of Mrs. Jordan's tune. As far as I can see nobody else has ever seen this tune except Mr. Mackay who wrote "The Magic Harp" to this melody. There is a song with this title but only with the music written by one Stephen Stratton (see Copac). In fact this story sounds very dubious and I would not take it too seriously. 

We can see that most of the research about this song during the 19th century was not particularly convincing. All these writers had problems with the exact chronology and missed the very simple point that Mrs. Jordan had been the first one to perform "The Blue Bell of Scotland". All other variants were only published thereafter. Instead they relied on Ritson's dubious and unverifiable claims. Not at least they misled themselves by assuming that the tune in the Scots Musical Museum must be older than the "modern" popular hit. 

As a result the song's real history has been seriously obscured. This can be seen in some publications from the turn of the century. Banks in his Immortal Songs of Camp and Field: The Story of Their Inspiration (1799, pp. 279-87; see here p. 286) wrote about Anne MacVicar Grant's life, then quoted from both Ritson and Mackay and in the end claimed wrongly that Mrs. Jordan's text was an "altered version of Mrs. Grant's song". In Crosland's English Songs and Ballads (c. 1902, p. 197) it was only described as "anonymous". Even in modern works Mrs. Jordan doesn't get the credit she deserves. Roger Fiske in his Scotland in Music (1983, p. 73) stated that the song "was published as her own composition." This is of course also misleading. 

There is no reason to doubt that Dorothea Jordan was the author of both the tune and the text of "The Blue Bell of Scotland". The song's history started exactly on May 12, 1800 when she performed it first at Drury Lane. I know of no evidence that an earlier variant existed. The versions presented by Thomson, Ritson and Johnson were only published after that date and there is no proof that they were older. Later claims by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe and Sir Henry Bishop that they had found a precursor are also not convincing. This is all that can be said at the moment. 

  • Louis Albert Banks, Immortal Songs of Camp and Field: The Story of Their Inspiration, Cleveland, 1899, at the Internet Archive 
  • Betrand H. Bronson, Joseph Ritson: Scholar-At-Arms, 2 Vols., Berkeley, 1938 
  • William Chappell, Popular Music of the Olden Time.; A Collection of Ancient Songs, Ballads and Dance Tunes, Illustrative of the National Music of England, Vol. II, London, n. d. [1860], at the Internet Archive 
  • T.W.H. Crosland, English Songs and Ballads, London, 1902, at the Internet Archive 
  • Warwick Edwards, New Insights into the Chronology of Haydn's Folksong Arrangements: Reading Between the Lines of the George Thomson Correspondence, in: Haydns Bearbeitungen Schottischer Volkslieder. Bericht über das Symposium 21. - 22. Juni 2002, Haydn-Studien 8.4, 2004, pp. 325-40, here pdf at University of Glasgow
  • Roger Fiske, Scotland In Music. A European Enthusiasm, Cambridge 1983
  • G. F. Graham, The Songs of Scotland Adapted To Their Appropriate Melodies Arranged With Pianoforte Accompaniments By G. F. Graham, T. M. Muddle, J. T. Surenne, H. E. Dibdin, Finlay Dun, &c. Illustrated with Historical, Biographical, and Critical Notices, 3 Vols, Edinburgh, 1848-9, at the Internet Archive 
  • J. Cuthbert Hadden, Haydn. With Illustrations and Portraits, London & New York, 1902, at the Internet Archive 
  • Michael Kassler, Music Entries at Stationers' Hall 1710-1818. From Lists prepared for William Hawes, D. W. Krummel, and Alan Tyson and from Other Sources, Burlington, 2004 (Online Edition, 2013, partly at Google Books
  • Charles Mackay, Forty Years' Recollections of Life, Literature, and Public Affairs. From 1830-1870, Vol. 2, London, 1870, at the Internet Archive 
  • Karen McAulay, Our Ancient National Airs: Scottish Song Collecting from the Enlightenment to the Romantic Era, Farnham 2013 
  • Joseph Ritson (ed.), Northern Garlands, Triphook, London, 1810, at the Internet Archive 
  • R. A. Smith, The Scotish Minstrel. A Selection from the Vocal Melodies of Scotland Ancient & Modern Arranged for the Piano Forte, Purdie, Edinburgh, n. d. [1821-24], 6 Vols., at the Internet Archive 

Go back to: 1. Mrs. Jordan's New Hit (1800)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

"The Blue Bell of Scotland": Popular Song, National Air & "Volkslied" - Pt. 1: Mrs. Jordan's New Hit (1800)

1. Mrs. Jordan's New Hit (1800) 

What is a "national song", what is a "folk song", what is "popular song"? These are of course artificial genres. A song can start its life in one field and then end up in another. A brand new popular song can be passed off as an "old ballad" and after some time it may be regarded as such. Any connection to the original author is lost then. An interesting example is "The Blue Bell of Scotland", one of the most popular English songs during the 19th century. It was immensely successful not only in Britain but also in the USA and even in Germany. 

"The Blue Bell of Scotland" was written and introduced by British actress Dorothea Jordan in 1800. That year it appeared first as sheet music: 
  • The Blue Bell of Scotland. A Favorite Ballad. As Composed and Sung by Mrs. Jordan at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, John Longman, Clementi & Co., London, n. d. [1800], at the Internet Archive & Hathi Trust 

O where and o where is your Highland Laddie gone?
O where and o where is your Highland Laddie gone?
He's gone to fight the French for King George upon the Throne,
And it's O in my heart I wish him safe at home,
And it's O in my heart I wish him safe at home.

O where and O where did your Highland Laddie dwell?
O where and O where did your Highland Laddie dwell?
He dwelt in merry Scotland at the sign of the Blue Bell,
And it's O in my heart I love my Laddie well,
And it's O in my heart I love my Laddie well.

In what cloaths in what cloaths is your Highland Laddie clad?
In what cloaths in what cloaths is your Highland Laddie clad?
His bonnet of the Saxon green and his Waistcoat of the plaid.
And it's O in my heart I love my Highland Lad,
And it's O in my heart I love my Highland Lad

Suppose and suppose that your Highland Lad should die -
Suppose and suppose that your Highland Lad should die -
The bagpipes should play over him and I'd sit me down and cry!
And its O in my heart I wish he may not die,
And its O in my heart I wish he may not die. 
Dorothea Bland (1761-1816; see Wikipedia; BDA 8, pp. 245-265; Tomalin 1995; Boaden 1831; Public and Private Life, 1886) was born in Ireland. In 1777 she first appeared on stage in Dublin but then quickly moved to England and there she called herself Mrs. Jordan. Her debut in London at Drury Lane was in 1785 and she performed there and in other theatres until 1809. Since 1791 she lived with the Duke of Clarence, later William IV, with whom she had 10 children. In 1815, after some serious trouble with the Duke and heavily in debt, Mrs. Jordan moved to France where she died the following year. 

She was a good singer with a "voice of compelling sweetness" (BDA 8, p. 252) and accompanied herself on the lute (see the image at UofIllinois). Songs by all important composers were performed by her on stage. A songster with many of these pieces already appeared in 1789: 
  • Jordan's Elixir of Life, And Cure for the Spleen; Or, A Collection of All the Songs Sung by Mrs. Jordan, Since her first Appearance in London. With many other Favourite Songs, Sung by her in The Theatres in Dublin, York Edinburgh and Cheltenham, and a number of Duetts, Trios, Glees, &c. that she has a part in. To Which Is Prefixed, Authentic Memoirs of Mrs. Jordan, Now First Published, Holland, London, 1789 [ESTC T69914], at Google Books 
A great number of songs were published with her name on the sheet music (see Copac) and some of them she had written herself. It seems to me that her musical achievements - as a singer, songwriter and instrumentalist - are rarely discussed. In Tomalin's biography only two pages are dedicated to this topic (pp. 178-9) and others have shown even less interest. But female songwriters were quite uncommon at that time and in this respect she was treated - as will be seen - rather unfairly by contemporary critics and scholars. "The Blue Bell of Scotland" happened to be her greatest success. But in the course of only a few years she was more or less dispossessed of this song.


At first it is necessary to reconstruct the early history of the song. When and where did she introduce it? Why did it become such a big hit? Are there early reviews about her performances? The best and most useful sources are of course contemporary advertisements and reports in newspapers and magazines. The theaters announced every new show and often also the new songs performed there. Thankfully today a lot of this publications are available now in digital databases and that makes it much easier to use them. Particularly valuable are the 17th & 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers (BBCN) and the 19th Century British Library Newspapers (BNCN). 

Mrs. Jordan introduced her new song on May 12, 1800 at Drury Lane. This show was first announced on May 2 (Oracle and Daily Advertiser, No. 22276, at BBCN): 

 A series of ads followed in different newspapers until the day of the performance (see f. ex.: Oracle and Daily Advertiser No. 22 279, 6.5.1800; Morning Post and Gazetteer No. 9878, 8.5.1800; Morning Herald No. 12.5.1800, at BBCN; see also London Stage 5.3, p. 2272). 
"Mrs. Jordan's Night Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Mrs. Jordan respectfully informs the Public, that on her Night, Monday the 12th of May, will be performed the Comedy of The Inconstant; Or The Way To Win Him. [...] With A Favourite Farce. In the course of which will be introduced an old Scotch Ballad, called 'The Blue Bell of Scotland,' to be sung by Mrs. Jordan, and accompanied by her on the lute". 
The Inconstant was a comedy by George Farquhar, a hundred years old but still popular. Interestingly the song was described here only as an "old Scotch ballad". Of course it was neither old nor Scotch nor a ballad. An ad in Bell's Weekly Messenger (No. 211, 11 May 1800) sounded a little bit different but particularly emphasized that she played the lute. 
"Mrs. Jordan’s night, to-morrow, at Drury-Lane, will prove the night of Dramatic attraction; when, in addition to her comic excellence in the ‘Inconstant’, she means to treat her fashionable friends with the sprightly Blue-bells, rapturously accompanied by her sweet-toned lute". 
The day after the first performance the song was entered at Stationers' Hall (Kassler, p. 429) to secure the copyright and the publisher first announced the sheet music (Morning Chronicle, No. 9664, 13.5.1800). The same ad would reappear regularly during the next weeks (see f. ex.: Star, No. 3646, 14.5.1800; Oracle and Daily Advertiser, No. 22 286, 14.5.1800; Morning Herald, No. 6132, Evening Mail, 14.-16.5 and more, at BBCN). It seems that someone at the publishing house felt it necessary to add a note that this was a song with a new melody by Mrs. Jordan herself: 
"Mrs. Jordan's favourite Song, 'The Blue Bell of Scotland,' was this day published, by John Longman, Clementi, and Co. No. 26, Cheapside. Price 1s. N.B. The Melody of the above song composed by Mrs. Jordan." 
She performed the song again in the course of the next weeks, first on May 23 at a benefit for the actress Miss de Camp where she played Roxalana in Bickerstaffe's The Sultan, or, A Peep into the Seraglio. We can see that authenticity wasn't particularly important at that time. An actress could sing an "old Scotch Ballad" during a play staged in a completely different exotic scenery: 
"In the course of which will be introduced an old scotch Ballad, called 'The Blue Bell of Scotland,' to be sung by Mrs. Jordan, and accompanied by her on the Lute" (Morning Chronicle, No. 9668, 17.5.1800, at BBCN). 
"[Mrs. Jordan] will introduce the favourite Air of 'The Blue Bell of Scotland', accompanied by her on the Lute" (True Briton, No. 2312, 21.5.1800, at BBCN; see also LS 5.3, p. 2277). 
The next occasion was on May 30, in The Country Girl, Garrick's edited version of an old piece by Wycherley. Mrs. Jordan played the title role "in which character she will, by particular Desire, introduce the favourite Ballad of 'The Blue Bell of Scotland'" (see Morning Chronicle, No. 9669, 19.5.1800 & No. 9672, 22.5.1800, at BBCN; LS 5.3, p. 2280). Then she sang it once again on June 13 in The Sultan, this time not at Drury Lane but at Covent Garden in a benefit for the General Lying In Hospital (see Morning Herald, No. 6157, 12.6.1800; True Briton, No. 2331, 13.6.1800, at BBCN; LS 5.3, p. 2285):

 In several reviews of Mrs. Jordan's performances that appeared in May and June we can also find remarks about her new song, for example in The Monthly Mirror (IX, June 1800, p. 364): 
"This unimitable actress [...] introduced a new song, called The Blue Bells of Scotland. It is a simple little ballad, of which, as a composition, or a tune, nothing extraordinary can be said; but it pleased, and will continue to please whenever it is sung by Mrs. Jordan - such is the exquisite sweetness of her voice, and, what is scarcely less fascinating, the accompanying naivité of her manner."
On May 17 Thomas Dutton's Dramatic Censor offered a short report about the show on the 12th (p. 172, at BP): 
"[...] the popularity of Mrs. Jordan, who took her benefit this evening, attracted a crowded and a literally overflowing house [...] Mrs. Jordan introduced in the course of the Entertainment, the admired ballad, entitled, 'The Blue Bell of Scotland.' She was received with the warmest applause."
But it seems that Mr. Dutton didn't like this song. A review of the performance of The Country Girl on May 30 included some very unkind words about "The Blue Bell of Scotland" (Dramatic Censor, No. XXIII, 7.6.1800, pp. 231-2, at BP): 
"Mrs. Jordan performed the part of Peggy, with her accustomed naivette; and in the course of the play introduced The Blue Bell of Scotland. The popularity of this ballad, which, bye the bye, takes its title from the most trifling circumstance in the whole song, affords convincing proof of the frivolity and depraved taste of the age. Possessing no other recommendation, but Namby Pamby insipidity, this self-same Blue Bell (if we may be pardoned the use of a pun) literally 'bears away the bell' from a number of songs, which combine sentiment with simplicity and neatness of diction. It must, however, be confessed, that Mrs. Jordan's singing is a sufficient source of attraction to ensure success to insignificance itself." 
He preferred songs like "Crazy Jane" (see sheet music at the Internet Archive) and "The Fisherman and the River Queen" (text in The Whim of the Day, 1801, p. 12), both with words by M. G. Lewis, the author of the celebrated novel The Monk and performed at this show by actress and singer Theresa Bland. Perhaps they were more suitable for intellectual listeners like this particular writer. But these songs were never as popular as Mrs. Jordan's "Blue Bell", no matter what the critics said.

Two weeks later, in a report about the benefit at Covent Garden on June 13, he referred to the "flimsy, but undeservedly popular song, 'The Blue Bell of Scotland'" (Dramatic Censor, No. XXV, 21.6.1800, p. 281, at BP). Of course already at that time critics like Mr. Dutton were often living on a different planet than the audiences. It seems he still did not understand why the people loved this song. Mrs. Jordan's abilities as a singer surely played an important role. But she was busy introducing new songs all the time and no other piece from her repertoire had become such a big success. 

At around the same time she used to sing another song, "I Rise With The Morn". This one was not written by herself but by "a Lady of Fashion", whoever that was. The publisher promoted the sheet music with as much ads as he did with "The Blue Bell of Scotland". But that didn't help much. This song was never as successful as her big hit and then quickly forgotten (see LS 5.3, p. 2271; sheet music at the Internet Archive; see Copac; see f. ex. Oracle and Daily Advertiser, No. No. 22292, 21.5.1800, at BBCN).

But why did the people then like Mrs. Jordan's "The Blue Bell of Scotland"? It was not only a simple song with a catchy tune. This was a time of constant warfare. Many men left as soldiers and a line like "its O in my heart I wish he may not die" surely reflected the feelings of countless women who didn't know if they will ever see their husbands or boy-friends again. This was not run-of-the-mill patriotism. With these simple but touching words she spoke directly to the many people who could easily identify with what was expressed here. 


Mrs. Jordan's new song was quickly adopted by other performers. Actress and singer Fanny Kemble sang it "by particular Desire" in Edinburgh already in July to "universal applause". This must have been the first time that this "much admired Scotch Ballad" crossed the Scottish border (see Caledonian Mercury, No. 12298, 19.7.1800, at BNCN). 

A "new Scotch Ballet Dance, by Mrs. Byrne, named The Blue Bell of Scotland, in which Mr. and Mrs. Byrne dance in a a style thoroughly unequalled" was performed first on July 28 at the New Royal Circus in London during a spectacle with the title The Magic Flute that also included trampoline performances, "astonishing feats on the slack-rope", horses and more music (see f. ex. Morning Chronicle, No. 9725, 28.7.1800 & 9731, 30.7.1800, at BBCN). In some previous shows they had already performed "a favourite Scotch Pastoral Dance, called Jocky and Jenny" (see f. ex. Sun, No. 2418, 21.6.1800, at BBCN). I wonder if they only changed the title. 

Parodies were also a sure sign for a song's success. One was introduced already in August in an "entirely new grand Spectacle [...], called The Inquisition; Or, The Maid of Portugal". Here the audience heard "an entirely NEW PARODY (written by Mr. Upton), on the celebrated Song of The Blue Bell of Scotland, to be sung in Character of Poor Nan, by Mr. Johannet"(Albion and Evening Advertiser, No. 282, 2.8.1800, at BBCN). The text of "The Bell of Tothill Fields" was later also printed in The New Whim of the Night, or the Town and Country Songster for 1801 (pp. 74-5): 
Oh! where, and oh! where does your own true lover stray?
He's sent upon his travels, for he's gone to Botany Bay:
And it's, oh! my poor heart, they have torn my love away.


Oh! what cloaths, and what cloaths did your own true lover wear?
He's cloath'd in woollen yarn, and they've shav'd off all his hair:
And it's, oh! in my heart, that I'd love him to despair. 
Of course other publishers also jumped on the band-wagon to try to get a slice of this new cake. It didn't matter that Longman, Clementi & Co. had entered it at Stationer's Hall to protect their investment. Soon new versions appeared. The first one to offer his own edition was guitar-maker and music seller Joseph Buckinger who noted that "the above Song was originally set for the Lute, and accompanied" by himself: "no copies are genuine but those signed by him" (Morning Chronicle, No. 6157, 12.6.1800, at BBCN; see Copac). This was only a month after the song's first performance. Riley in London also announced his sheet music at the end of June (Portsmouth Telegraph, No. 38, 30.6.1800, p. 1, at BNCN; see Copac).

In July Goulding & Co. published "The Blue Bell of Scotland arranged as a Sonata for the Piano Forte" by composer Joseph Mazzinghi (see Sun, No. 2445, 23.7.1800, BBCN; at Levy Sheet Music). Later Domenico Corri recycled the tune as a rondo (see Copac). A reprint of the original edition also appeared in Dublin (at Hathi Trust) and publisher James Peck offered an arrangement "for Two or Three Voices with a Piano-Forte Accompaniment" (at the Internet Archive). Here the melody was simplified a little bit and printed in half and quarter notes. It is not clear who had first introduced it that way. The following year the tune was also for the first time included in a book, in one of William Campbell's dance collections: Vol. 16 of his Strathspey Reels, Waltzes & Irish Jiggs for the Harp, Piano Forte & Violin. With their Proper Figures as Danced at Court, Bath, Willis's, Hanover Square Rooms, &c. &c (p. 12; see Cooper 2017). He only forgot to mention Mrs. Jordan's name. 

These are only some examples. Many more would follow. In the meantime the song had also crossed the ocean and had become available in North America. The sheet music was published there first in December in Carr's Music Journal (No. 25 , Dec. 1, pp. 2-4, at Hathi Trust; at Levy Sheet Music): "The very popular and beautiful Scotch Ballad Sung by Mrs. Oldmixon called The Blue Bell of Scotland. As lately revived in England by Mrs. Jordan and sung by her with the most unbounded applause". It seems the publisher really believed that this was an old song and Mrs. Jordan had only "revived" it. 

Mrs. Oldmixon was a popular American actress and singer. By all accounts she was the first one to perform the song there. In Philadelphia she sang it on December 7 in St. David's Day (see James 1957, p. 45), a new play by Thomas Dibdin that had been debuted in London in March that year (see London Stage 5.3, p. 2259). Perhaps a copy of "The Blue Bell of Scotland" came to America with this particular play and it first remained connected to it as well as to Mrs. Oldmixon. Another edition of sheet music must have been published at around the same time: 
  • The Blue Bell of Scotland. A favorite Scotch ballad sung by Mrs. Oldmixon in St. David's Day, Willig, Philadelphia, n. d. [c. 1800/1801], at Levy Sheet Music [pdf]; at LoC 
Interestingly it was not the original version´of the tune that at first reached the USA but a simplified one in half and quarter notes. There was also a small but notable change of the text. In Carr's version the Highland Laddie is "gone across the ocean in search of wealth to roam" and on Willig's sheet music he goes to war "to redress its countrys wrong" [sic]. In North America it wouldn't have made much sense to sing about going to war "for King George upon his Throne". 

But there were also sheet music editions that offered both the tune and the text in its authentic shape, for example by Gilfert in New York (n. d., at Levy Sheet Music). Here Mrs. Jordan was also named as the song's composer. In 1806 the above mentioned publisher Riley emigrated to the USA (Humphries, p. 380) and he published his edition there again, only with his new address in New York on the cover (at Levy Sheet Music). We can see here that the song came to North America several times. Both the original version and modified variants were available. 

At this time "The Blue Bell of Scotland" had become popular both in Britain and in North America. But unlike many other successful songs it did not fall out of favor after some time. It was published again numerous times on sheet music, in songbooks and in songsters. There were new vocal arrangements as well as instrumental versions (see f. ex. Copac, Roud Index #13849; LoC). A complete bibliography would be a very challenging undertaking. But - as will be seen - the song quickly lost all connections to Mrs. Jordan. Soon it would be regarded as an anonymous "old Scottish ballad". 

  • BBCN = 17th & 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers (Gale - via
  • BNCN = 19th Century British Library Newspapers (Gale - via 
  • BDA = Philip H. Highfill et al., (ed.), A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers, and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800, Vol. 1 - 16, Carbondale 1973 - 1993 
  • BP = British Periodicals (ProQuest - via 
  • LS = The London Stage 1660-1800. A Calendar Of Plays, Entertainments & Afterpieces Together With Casts, Box-Receipts And Contemporary Comment compiled from Playbills, Newspapers and Theatrical Diaries of the Period, 5 Parts in 11 Vols., Carbondale 1960-1968, at Hathi Trust 
  • James Boaden, The Life of Mrs. Jordan. Including Original Private Correspondence and Numerouis Anecdotes of her Contemporaries. In Two Volumes, Bull, London, 1831, at the Internet Archive (Vol. 1 & Vol. 2
  • Paul Cooper, The Dance Collections of William Campbell (2017), at: Your learning resource for the dances of the 18th and 19th centuries 
  • Charles Humphries & William C.Smith, Music Publishing in the British Isles from the Beginning Until the Middle of the Nineteenth Century, 2nd Ed., Oxford 1970 
  • Reese Davis James, Cradle of Culture 1800 - 1810. The Philadelphia Stage, Philadelphia, 1957, at the Internet Archive 
  • Michael Kassler, Music Entries at Stationers' Hall 1710-1818. From Lists prepared for William Hawes, D. W. Krummel, and Alan Tyson and from Other Sources, Burlington, 2004 (Online Edition, 2013, partly at Google Books)  
  • The Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music (John Hopkins University) 
  • The Public and Private Life of that Celebrated Actress, Miss Bland, Otherwise Mrs. Ford, Or, Mrs. Jordan. Accompanied by Numerous Remarks and anecdotes of Illustrious and Fashionable Characters. By a Confidential Friend of the Departed, Duncombe, London, n. d. [1886?], at the Internet Archive 
  • Claire Tomalin, Mrs. Jordan's Profession. The story of a great Actress and a future King, London & New York, 2012 (1995)