19th Century Music Manuscript Discovered!

Look what we’ve found! This manuscript collection of vocal music by the composer John Lodge Ellerton (1801-1873) was recently discovered during cataloguing of the Bridge Memorial Library, the historic library of the college.

'Now the Bright Morning Star': setting of Milton by John Lodge Ellerton, MS / MISC 69

‘Now the Bright Morning Star’: setting of Milton by John Lodge Ellerton, MS / MISC 67

The collection contains 39 works, mainly part songs, in one volume and bound with the title ‘glees’ in gold lettering on the spine. Glees were a popular form of part singing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and are well represented elsewhere in the Bridge Memorial Library (see our past exhibition Catches and Glees in the Jerwood Library).

Born in Liverpool, Ellerton was educated at Rugby School and Brasenose College, Oxford, before studying counterpoint with Pietro Terziani in Rome for two years. It seems he had the means to support himself as a composer and published many works at his own expense. His music, whilst not now well known, was generally well received by contemporaries. A critic for the Musical Times described his part-writing as ‘healthy and vigorous’,[1] and the biographer David Baptie described him as ‘an amateur composer of elegant taste and decided ability’.[2] However, it was not always his composing he was remembered for. For Richard Wagner it was Ellerton’s hospitality that was more memorable: in his autobiography Wagner recalled one particularly ‘agreeable’ evening at the end of which Ellerton ‘had to be taken home by two men, one holding each arm, quite as a matter of course, as it was obvious that he would not have got far across the road without this help’.[3]

Ellerton’s manuscript is now on display in the library.

[1] C. Lonsdale, ‘A Set of Twelve Glees by John Lodge Ellerton’, The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, vol. 14, no. 334, supplement (Dec. 1. 1870), p. 716.

[2] David Baptie, Sketches of the English Glee Composers (London: William Reeves, [n.d.]), p. 130.

[3] Richard Wagner, My Life (London: Constable and Co., 1911), pp. 629-630.

4 thoughts on “19th Century Music Manuscript Discovered!

  1. Hello Emma,
    This is a fascinating discovery. I’ve been interested in Ellerton for a few years now, and have written a short biography of him which I’ll be happy to email to you if you like (or you can download it here http://www.mediafire.com/view/s8kpqwguh9hruzs/ellerton_lifeW97.doc). The music that he’s best remembered for are his string quartets, of which he wrote at least 50. The manuscript parts of most of them are in the library of the RCM, but I’m not aware of any other surviving manuscripts. Some of his published glees are in the British Library, He’s reputed to have written 61, of which 22 are listed in David Baptie’s book of 1896. I’d be interested in taking a look at the manuscripts some time, if you’re agreeable.
    Very best wishes

  2. I thought “Now the bright morning star” might be a number from his oratorio Paradise Lost, but on checking the index of the latter it seems not. Also, being for SATB with piano accompaniment I guess it doesn’t qualify as a glee. If you haven’t done so already I’ll be happy to list the contents of the ms and try to match them with his publications.in the BL. I should be able to get to Greenwich in a week or two – nice and easy from Tunbridge Wells.
    Many thanks

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