Until now, Thaddeus Lipinski is a name you would not have been aware of when you visit the Talbot catalogue raisonné and read the weekly blogs. Thaddeus has been instrumental in the initial appearance of the website, as well as helping to deliver the blog posts since the project launched three years ago (just think about that for a moment). Since the start Thaddeus has been a member of the steering group and an important supporter of the project. So I’m pleased that Thaddeus is now a guest contributor.
One of the attractions of a sunny summer is going to music concerts, ideally outdoors. In the UK, two iconic concerts lying at opposite ends of the music scale are synonymous with summer: Glastonbury Festival, set in a sprawling Somerset farm and the BBC Proms, at the circular Royal Albert Hall in London. The BBC Proms provides easy access to classical performances over the summer months. This was my view from the top gallery at an earlier concert.
Talbot’s family would certainly have listened to music at Lacock, although it would be in a more intimate setting. We know some aspects of the Talbot family’s activities through the journals of Amélina Petit de Billier (1798-1876), a French governess to Henry’s stepsisters who became a valued member of the family. Larry Schaaf calls Amélina his “understudy herione” to Talbot’s endeavours, as she later became his agent in Paris. Several photographs of Amélina exist, by herself or posed in a group (see Schaaf 1957), but I’m using one that Henry photographed in 1842.
Amélina, known as Amandier or Mamie to her friends, observed the world with her “bright dark eyes”. She was multilingual, well informed and an accomplished musician, playing the guitar, harp and the piano. At one time Amélina had both the harp and piano in her room at Lacock.
In a letter written to Henry, his half-sister Caroline Augusta mentioned her governess with fondness:
“I am sure Amandier will be pleased to hear, that my fingers have forgotten very little of what she taught me – tho’ it is many Years since they swept the strings!”
Amélina’s diary mentions that Admiral Fielding bought a harp in 1827 from a piano tuner, who had brought it up from Devizes, just under 16 km (10 miles) away. It stood 1.7m high. Amélina considered it a “perfect instrument” – and so it should be, as it had been made by the French instrument maker Sébastien Érard (1752-1831), whose harps and pianos were highly regarded by wealthy society and professional musicians. Henry photographed the “Angel” harp in 1840, in the library, and it is still at Lacock today.
As we have seen with Amélina, Henry sometimes posed his subjects with musical instruments. However, within the catalogue raisonné there are few examples of sheet music photographed by Talbot. Did these scores have meaning to Henry, or were they what was at hand for his experiments? These printed sheets are a mixture of Lieder, where poems are set to music, as well as other songs. One of the scores is Franz Schubert’s Nähe des Geliebten (D162), based on J.W. von Goethe’s poem, “Nearness of the Beloved”. Another salted paper print shows music set to Lord Byron’s lament “When we two parted”, which is reworked as “When we Last Parted”.
Above are two compositions of the same poem. The text is taken from Andrew McDonald’s 1791 opera, “Love and Loyalty”. On the left I’ve processed and reversed Talbot’s waxed paper negative-camera for the music score to “Annot Lyle’s Song”. The score appears to be from a published book as it is open on page 14. What is interesting is that several musical settings of the compositions also exist, as you can see from the Internet Archive copy on the right. They also differ in tempo and key. This could indicate it was a popular poem in its day. A German translation even turns up in Schubert’s composition, Lied der Anne Lyle (D830).
So, to celebrate Talbot’s enduring images of music history, why not go to a concert of your choice? I might even see you there.
• Questions or Comments? Thaddeus Lipinski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org • Thaddeus Lipinski, BBC Proms, 2011. • WHFT, Portrait of Amélina Petit de Billier with her guitar, seated against a pale backdrop, Salted Paper Print, National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, 1937-3564/3, Schaaf 2759. • WHFT, Amélina’s harp in the library at Lacock Abbey, Salted Paper Print, National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, 1937-0366/107, Schaaf 3686 • Matilda Talbot, My Life and Lacock Abbey (George Allen and Unwin, 1956) • Lady Elisabeth Feilding to WHFT, 29 January 1843, The British Library, London, Doc No. 4710. • Caroline Augusta to WHFT, 16 December 1853, The British Library, London, Doc No. 6883. • The journal of Amélina Petit de Billier, 1827: Regarding Talbot’s discovery of the Magna Carta. • Processed image of copy of printed sheet music, “Annot Lyle’s Song”, Andrew McDonald, 1791; National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, 1937-1238, Schaaf 678 • Wert thou like me: Annot Lyle’s song from Musical illustrations of the Waverly novels by Flower, Eliza, 1803-1846; Internet Archive. • Thanks to Brian Liddy and Jane Edwardson for helping with further research on Schaaf 678. • Thanks also to Roger Watson, who helped with queries about Lacock Abbey.