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Past Images of the Month - July 2020

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Quadrilling. A favourite Song by the Author of "Rejected Addresses". The Decorations designed and executed by William Hawkes Smith. [Fourth edition?] Birmingham, 1822.

Quadrilling. A favourite Song by the Author of "Rejected Addresses". The Decorations designed and executed by William Hawkes Smith. [Fourth edition?] Birmingham, 1822.

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DECORATED SONGS of the 1820s

Lithography was perfected as a printing process in 1799 by its inventor, Adolf Senefelder (1771-1834) of Munich – who two years later travelled to London to take out an English patent, and at the same time established lithographic presses in Berlin, Paris and Vienna.  By now Senefelder had entered into a profitable working partnership with the Offenbach music publisher Johann Anton André (1775-1842), and it seems remarkable that this country should have been more sluggish than the continent – indeed for nearly half a century – in exploiting the new resource for any but pictorial lithographs.

One notable exception however was the Unitarian Birmingham printer, bookseller and stationer, William Hawkes Smith (1785-1840), who from 1820 designed, printed and published the handful of 'decorated songs' which remain uniquely curious collectors' items.  Described as 'favourite and popular Songs copiously illustrated by comic and characteristic Groups', these offer a running visual accompaniment to their vocal lines and texts and are as witty as they charming.  Smith's three known examples are shown here (though not in their earliest impressions).  The 'decorated song' genre was continued by the London publisher Mayhew & Co., the designer Nathaniel Whittock and various writers and composers.  The Museum will be hoping to acquire more samples!

William Hawkes Smith was born in Birmingham and baptised on 16 August, 1785.  His family were all Uniterians.  He was the second son and third child of Edward Smith and his wife Sarah née Hawkes.  The Smith family had lived in the Birmingham area for centuries and were a large but close group, many of them concerned with improving the lives of the inhabitants of their town.  In 1814 he married Elizabeth Sweet of Hillersdon House, Devon and had a family of at least five children.

He printed, published and illustrated a number of books and articles on architecture, topography, education and the errors of the social system, and wrote long letters to the newspaper.  In 1836, after going into partnership with William & Thomas Radclyffe, Printers and Stationers, he wrote Birmingham and it’s Vicinity, as a Manufacturing and Commercial District which proved popular.  He died on 14 April, 1840, and was buried at the Nonconformist Old Meeting House in Birmingham.  Both he and his father are described in their wills as Notary Public.

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Washing Day. A proper new Ballad, for wet weather. The Decorations designed and executed by W. Hawkes Smith. [Second edition ?] Birmingham, [1822?].

The Dance of Love; or Cupid Grand Ballet-Master. A favourite Song, adapted to a celebrated French Air, ... The Decorations designed & executed by W. Hawkes Smith. Birmingham, [1823]. With MS. annotations by a former owner. The Latin quotation on the title-page is from Virgil's Eclogues ('Love conquers all things, and let us too surrender to Love'.)

Der Freischutzism, or 'Tis a Hit! A Song, written by a Freeshot, Author of many Rejected Addresses. London, [1824?]. The dedicatee John Pritt Harley (1786-1858), was a popular actor and singer, specialising in comic roles and with a huge repertoire of comic songs. He made his London debut at the Lyceum on 15 July 1815 as Marcelli in The Devil’s Bridge but moved quickly to Drury Lane in September the same year.  When John Bannister retired, Harley took over most of his roles and Bannister, who took a great interest in his career, referred to him as his theatrical son and successor.  In 1828 he became Master of Drury Lane Theatrical Fund replacing the retiring Master, Edmund Kean.  Until 1836 he remained basically at the Lane with summer excursions to the provinces and engagements at the Lyceum, where he was for some time Stage Manager. He worked with Madame Vestris and finally with Charles Kean at the Princess’s. He suffered a stroke in the Theatre where he was playing Lancelot Gobbo and died at home two days later. He was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery on 28 August 1858. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

The Life of King William; The Pride of the Islands, a National Medley .. written and composed by W. T. Moncreiff. Embellished with ... designs by N. Whittock. London, [1830?]. The sailor depicted is Thomas Potter Cooke (1786-1864) who was born in London on 23 April and entered the Royal Navy at an early age. He served under Nelson and was on HMS Raven at the Battle of St. Vincent.  In 1804 he began his long career on the stage. He made his mark as an actor, singer, dancer and pantomimist.  He became one of the best known stage personalities of the age, chiefly through his representations of the British Sailor in nautical dramas, but also as the villain or supernatural being in the Gothic melodramas so popular at the time.  He died 10 April 1864 and was buried in Brompton Cemetery.

Haste, Ladies Haste! Gallopading. Written and composed by G. M. Rycot Esqre. Embellished with ... designs by N. Whittock. London, [1830].

The Athenaeum Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, 6 March 1830. (under New Musical Publications).


The reference to the 'Author of Rejected Addresses' above seems here to require a footnote. Rejected Addresses or The New Theatrum Poetarum, first published on 10 October 1812, relates to the opening of the present Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on that date, and to a competition advertised two months beforehand by the theatre's management.  The previous theatre had burned down in 1809 – its replacement would be the fourth building on the site – and the competition, for a celebratory address to be delivered at the opening, attracted widespread publicity.  From more than one hundred entries received, the prize was won by Lord Byron and delivered on the night by Robert Elliston (who went on to play Hamlet in the ensuing performance).  The anonymous publication Rejected Addresses purports to show some of the 'also-rans' but was in fact a clever parody of the style of some eighteen well-known writers of the time, including Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Scott, Thomas Moore and Byron himself, identified only by their initials.  The true authors were the brothers James and Horace Smith, poets, journalists and in Horace's case also novelist, whose greatest success this was to become.  Published on the very day and with the theatre's encouragement, it quickly became a best seller, running into at least seven editions by the end of the year and with new editions being published as late as 1890.

Rejected Addresses or The New Theatrum Poetarum. Fourth edition. London, 1812.