Henry Fothergill Chorley

Henry Fothergill Chorley

Henry Fothergill Chorley (15 December 1808 – 16 February 1872) was an English literary, art and music critic and editor. He was also an author of novels, drama, poetry and lyrics.

Chorley was a prolific and important music and literary critic and music gossip columnist of the mid-nineteenth century and wrote extensively about music in London and in Europe. His opera libretti and works of fiction were far less successful. He is perhaps best remembered today for his lyrics to "The Long Day Closes," a part song set by Arthur Sullivan in 1868.

Life and career

Chorley was born in Blackley Hurst, near Billinge in Lancashire, England. Chorley was the youngest of four children of Quaker parents, John Chorley (1771–1816), an iron worker and lock maker, and Jane Chorley, née Wilkinson (1779–1851). Chorley's father died, leaving his mother alone with young children. Jane Chorley moved her family to Liverpool to help take care of her half-brother, Dr Rutter, when he became ill. Chorley was educated by private tutors in Liverpool and then the school of the Royal Institution. His youth was shaped partly by spending time in the household of the wealthy and intellectual Mrs Benson Rathbone of Green Bank, and he became a close friend of her son Benson, who died in an accident in 1834.Bledsoe, Robert. [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/5350 "Chorley, Henry Fothergill (1808–1872)",] "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 6 October 2008, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/5350]

Journalism and non-fiction works

He began working in merchants' offices, hoping to become a musician, but his uncle discouraged that as an impractical ambition. However, Chorley soon took to musical and literary criticism. He began to write for the "Athenaeum" in 1830 and remained its music and literature critic until 1868. While there, he reviewed approximately 2,500 books. He also became music critic for "The Times" and wrote, for these and other journals, reviews and musical gossip columns, discussing composers and performers in Britain and on the European continent. In these positions, he had much influence. He had strongly conservative views and was a persistent opponent of innovation, but was a lively chronicler of London life. ["See" Preface by Robin Gordon-Powell, Archivist & Music Librarian of the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society, to the score of "The Masque at Kenilworth", published by The Amber Ring in 2002] In 1850 and 1851, Chorley succeeded edited the "Ladies' Companion", which covered fashion and domestic women's issues. In the "Athenaeum" and elsewhere, Chorley often criticised the music of Schumann and Wagner for what he called "decadence".

In addition to criticism for journals, Chorley wrote voluminously on literature and art. His non-fiction books were widely-read and included "Music and Manners in France and Germany" (1841), which includes a detailed description of contemporary opera in Paris and Felix Mendelssohn's career in Leipzig, Germany. He expanded the German section of this book and published it 1854 as "Modern German Music". ["Modern German Music – Recollections and Criticisms", "The Times" review, 25 April 1854, p. 8, col. B] His masterpiece was "Thirty Years' Musical Recollections" (1862), which covers, year-by-year, the opera seasons of European operas in London between 1830 and 1859. In the work, he blames the autocratic manager of Her Majesty's Theatre, Benjamin Lumley, for a decline in the quality of performances there. On the other hand, he praises the efforts of Giulia Grisi, Mario and Michael Costa, together with a group of journalists (including himself), for successfully creating the Royal Italian Opera at Covent Garden in 1847. He also wrote the well-received "Memorials of Mrs. Hemans" (1836), "Handel Studies" (1859), an annotated edition Mary Russell Mitford's letters (2 vols., 1872) and "The National Music of the World" (1882).

Fiction and playwriting

Chorley also wrote, with far less success, novels, stories, drama and verse, and various librettos. His works of fiction included "Sketches of a Seaport Town" (1834), a collection of stories, essays, and novellas related to Liverpool. The next year, he wrote "Conti the Discarded". Neither of these achieved success. His plays, "Old Love and New Fortune" (1850) and "Duchess Eleanour" (1854), did not gain a following. He wrote two novels, "Roccabella" (1859) and "A Prodigy: a Tale of Music" (1866). His libretti included "The Amber Witch" for composer William Vincent Wallace, "The May Queen - A Pastoral" (1858) for William Sterndale Bennett, and two for his friend Arthur Sullivan: "The Sapphire Necklace" and "The Masque at Kenilworth". ["Birmingham Musical Festival", "The Times" review, 12 September 1864, p. 10, col. A] He published an English version of Meyerbeer's "Dinorah", and wrote the words for several well-known songs, including Gounod's "Nazareth", Henry Russell's "The Brave Old Oak", Edward J Loder's "The Three Ages", the English form of the Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria", Sullivan's "The Long Day Closes", and the hymn "God, the Omnipotent!".

Chorley wrote the English libretto for Gounod's "Faust", for its first presentation in London in 1863 (at Her Majesty's Theatre). During rehearsals, it was found that the lines were unsingable. Both Sims Reeves and Charles Santley made strenuous and persistent complaints to Messrs. Chappell's, and new translations were made secretly, since no-one dared to tell Chorley. The first he knew of it was at the first performance. Chorley, as reviewer, waited to make his comment until the final announced performance, of which he wrote that it was "seriously imperilled by a singular translation". Unfortunately for him, the final performance in question had not taken place, so the "Musical World" was able to compliment him on his poetic imagination. [C. Pearce, "Sims Reeves - Fifty Years of Music in England" (Stanley Paul, London 1924), pp. 241-42.]

Personality and last years

Chorley was an considered eccentric and abrasive, but he was respected for his integrity and kindness. He enthusiastically gave and attended dinner parties and was known as a big drinker. He cultivated friendships with Elizabeth Barrett and Mendelssohn, and later Charles Dickens, Arthur Sullivan and Charles Santley, among others. After the death of his brother, John Rutter Chorley (1806–1867), he inherited enough money to retire from the "Athenaeum", although he continued to contribute articles for that paper and also for "The Orchestra". He left a very considerable estate of £45,000.

Chorley died at his home in London in 1872, at the age of 63, and is buried in Brompton Cemetery. ["The Times", 21 February 1872, p. 5, col. E]



*Bledsoe, Robert Terrell, "Henry Fothergill Chorley: Victorian Journalist". Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998. ISBN 978-1-84014-257-0
*Bledsoe, Robert Terrell. [http://connection.ebscohost.com/content/article/1040981473.html;jsessionid=C20DBA3C1E57233DD36AF81A091B5EDF.ehctc1 "Henry Fothergill Chorley and the Receptions of Verdi's Early Operas in England",] "Victorian Studies", Summer 85, Vol. 28 Issue 4, p. 631
*Chorley, Henry Fothergill, "Autobiography, Memoir and Letters", edited by H. G. Hewlett, 2 vols. (1873).
*Chorley, Henry Fothergill, "Thirty Years' Musical Recollections" (Hurst and Blackett, 1862). [http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=PoAQAAAAYAAJ&dq=%22henry+fothergill+chorley%22&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=ewKVODvQh7&sig=HBifqHKaFT4Tmvg7fpi1Ll4rO40 Available online here]
*Lehmann, R. C. "Memories of half a century" (1908)
*Marchand, L. A. "The Athenaeum: a mirror of Victorian culture" (1941)
*Sanders, V. (ed.) "Martineau, Harriet: selected letters (1990)

External links

* [http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/person.asp?search=ss&sText=chorley&LinkID=mp00874 Portrait of Chorley in the National Portrait Gallery, London]
*worldcat id|lccn-n83-47792
* [http://www.enotes.com/nineteenth-century-criticism/aurora-leigh-elizabeth-barrett-browning/henry-fothergill-chorley-review-date-1856 A literary review piece by Chorley]
* [http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=WwbMdpVsvREC&dq=%22henry+fothergill+chorley%22&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=Yt4YHiWRqh&sig=3We-8TTeeGDOJLwem6qB9o_XkOA "Old Love and New Fortune", a play by Chorley]

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