“By Parker and by Nelson led, all opposition is in vain, at the gates of Copenhagen, our tars have crushed the haughty Dane …”
So come on the words of a piece of music by composer Michael Kelly, written a few hours after news reached London of Admiral Horatio Nelson’s victory over a Danish fleet in April 1801.
The song is one of a number – some previously unreleased – discovered at the Museum of London during the lockdown. Found by librarian Lluis Tembleque Teres, the four tributes to Nelson were part of the sheet music collection of Emma Hamilton, the actor and model who captured the heart of the naval hero after the Battle of the Nile in 1798.
Alongside Kelly’s play, which was performed at the Drury Lane Theater at the time, there is also a completely unknown sheet music written by William Douglas, 4th Duke of Queensberry, a landowner and company figure whose play has eclipsed his musical skills, until now.
There is music for a sailor’s song tribute to Nelson, the lyrics of which have been known since a letter from Nelson to William Douglas was auctioned off in 2013. It is now clear that the Duke had added music. and a chorus to the words transcribed by Nelson after he heard his crew sing the song the day after the victory at Cape St. Vincent in 1797.
Finally, there is a cantata from 1805 by Italian composer GG Ferrari, with lyrics by poet Peter Pindar, which celebrates Nelson’s victory at Aboukir Bay at the Battle of the Nile.
Although the cantata was commissioned by Lady Hamilton and printed and marketed in London, few copies of the score have survived.
Each piece was written by a personal friend and given to Hamilton, whose affair with Nelson – while married to Sir William Hamilton, then British Ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples – caused a huge public scandal.
The collection was donated to the Museum of London in 1931 by silk merchant and philanthropist Ernest Makower, who later became administrator of the museum. To celebrate the discoveries, the Museum of London will join the Guildhall School of Music and Drama for a public performance of the music collection.
“Finding names in Emma Hamilton’s music albums and then finding them in Emma’s biographies that I read was like unearthing pieces from such a remarkable life, but pieces we didn’t know were missing. “said Tembleque Teres.
“Songbooks turned into something else, they weren’t just part of Emma Hamilton’s music collection anymore; the scores were composed by longtime friends, and with their freebies they privately endorsed a relationship the country saw as a very public scandal.