I’ve now added new content to Songs of the Victorians! Users can now view the archive page and the analysis page of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s “The Lost Chord” (1877), a song setting of Adelaide Procter’s “A Lost Chord” (1860). Many of you may know “The Lost Chord,” since it, along with Balfe’s “Come into the Garden, Maud,” is one of the most famous Victorian parlor songs. It has often been interpreted as a sentimental poem about the vital importance of religion and religious music in an uncertain world, but these interpretations do not take into account the surprising harmonic twists and the publication contexts of the poem (the poem was first published in The Englishwoman’s Journal, a feminist periodical, and later in Legends and Lyrics, a volume of Procter’s collected works). I’m arguing that the song actually undercuts the expected sentimental solace and gives the poem new access to the political and social message of its two publication contexts: it unites the feminist and the religiously questioning reading. By examining the musical reception history of Procter’s poem through multiple incarnations and remediations, we can rediscover this “lost chord,” hear its overlooked commentaries on women’s lives and religious doubt, and reinstate it in the polyphony of critical discourse.
The final section of Songs of the Victorians (until I start accepting submissions from other scholars), on Arthur Somervell’s Maud (1898), a song cycle that uses Alfred Tennyson’s monodrama Maud (1855) as text, is almost done. I hope to have it go live next week.
I’d love to hear your comments on this new section, so please leave your thoughts below. Thanks!