In the last post on Victorian songs I wrote about the attractive cover artwork found on many of the songs. Sometimes the artwork can be the only way in which you can date a piece of music. Music is notorious for often not having a printing date, and cataloguer’s detective skills can be needed. Writing this post and updating a catalogue record led to me reading a selection of writings on the American Civil War (1861-1865) in The Times newspaper. Highly recommended – there is some fabulous war reporting.
The reason I was looking at the background to the Civil War was that I was surprised to find a Victorian song entitled Our Queen Varine in our Victorian song collection. Varina “Varine” Howell Davis was the wife of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate states throughout the Civil War. Although I had realised that there was some British support for the Confederacy, it was surprising to find such vocal support as this song. Not an American import, the song was published in London by C. Lonsdale. The artwork on the cover with its seven stars representing seven states would suggest that the song was published around February / March 1861 about the time of the Montgomery Convention when Jefferson Davis was elected provisional President; and almost certainly before April / May 1861 when Virginia seceded from the Union, and the seven Confederate states became eight.
The song extols the merits of Jefferson Davis “Revered by all who own his sway, by freeborn and by slave” and of his “Queen of our hearts, Varine! Varine!” And is staunchly on the side of the Confederacy.
Nearly 20 years later another song in the collection pays homage to some contemporary heroes, Majors Bromhead and Chard, who led the defence of Rorke’s Drift immortalised in the film Zulu. The grand march, Honor to the brave, by J. Riviere, a former leader of the orchestra and musical director at the Adelphi Theatre, and H. Hersee (probably Henry Hersee) includes a rollicking piano introduction followed by a stirring chorus “Let Rorke’s Drift be ne’er forgot, Where England’s banners wave!”
Printed inside the front cover is a telegram from the Cape: At “Rorke’s Drift” Zululand, January 24th 1879. For 12 hours “Rorke’s Drift” had been attacked by 4,000 Zulus and defended by 80 men of the gallant 24th under Lieut. Bromhead and Lieut. Chard, R.E.
Oddly I can find no record of this telegram anywhere else. A long telegram was sent off on the 25th January by the then Lieutenant Chard to Lord Chelmsford. This was reported and forwarded on to Britain and Australia from Madeira by the special correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. It would be interesting to know if the telegram printed next to the song was indeed sent from Rorke’s Drift, or if it was printed purely to add verisimilitude.