George Linley (1798-10 September 1865), was an English verse-writer and musical composer. The son of a tradesman, he was born at Leeds in 1798, and partly educated at Eastbury's Quaker school. Linley contributed verses to the local newspapers, and published some pamphlets before leaving Leeds in early life. After a residence in Doncaster (see Modern Hudibras, p. 66 ) and Edinburgh, he finally settled in London, where he made some reputation as the writer and composer of songs and ballads.
Linley wrote and composed several hundred songs between 1830 and 1865. Among his most fashionable and popular ballads, composed between 1830 and 1847,were, Thou art gone from my gaze, Song of the roving gipsey, Constance; and later, between 1852 and 1862, with a stronger vein of melody, Minnie, Old friends at home, and the Robert Burns poem, The Jolly Beggars. Linley wrote the English words to "God Bless the Prince of Wales", completed and performed in 1863. The opening lyrics are:
- Among our ancient mountains,
- And from our lovely vales,
- Oh! Let the prayer re-echo
- God bless the Prince of Wales!
Linley's flowing style of composition was little suited to the stage, and his musical pieces produced at London theaters had small measure of success. The musical play, Franceses Doria, for which he wrote the songs and the music, was produced at the Princess's Theatre, London, on 3 March 1849, and published in the same year. The Toymakers, an operetta, was brought out at Covent Garden Theatre by the English Opera Company on 19 November 1861. Law versus Love, comedietta in one act, by him, was performed at the Princess's Theatre on 6 December 1862.
Linley was also the author of some farces, and of satirical poems. His Musical Cynics of London, a Satire; Sketch the First, London, 1862, a savage onslaught upon music critic Henry Fothergill Chorley proved more fatal to the reputation of the author than to that of the victim. It contained smart and clever passages, and, like the Modern Hudibras, 1864, was widely read, and passed through two editions. The Showman, a work upon which Linley was engaged towards the end of his life, was not published. He died, after a lingering illness, at Kensington, London, on 10 September 1865. He left a widow, a daughter, and three sons.
His obituary, published in the Annals of Yorkshire upon his death, reads:
- 10th [September]. Died in London, this day, the popular composer and art critic, George Linley, at the age of 67 years. He was a native of Leeds, and was born in Briggate, in 1798. His first education was received in a well-known Quaker's School, kept by Joshua Eastbury, where he was well known to Mr. Robt. Barr and other school companions. He left his native town early in life, settled in London, and soon distinguished himself as a sweet melodist and a popular song composer. His aptitude in exercising those gifts of versification and satire, which he possessed to the very last, was exhibited in early youth by several very smart verses and brochures, the publication of which brought him, like Shakespere [sic], into disfavour with some of the magnates of the town and neighbourhood. The ability which they displayed, however, was generally recognised and admitted, and George Linley was regarded with anticipations of future excellence and distinction by many of his fellow townsmen, whose expectations were not disappointed. It is within the mark to affirm that Mr.Linley wrote the words and music of more English ballads than any other composer; and it is not too much to say many of these obtained, and have retained, unprecedented popularity. Amongst the most popular of the hundreds Linley composed may be mentioned "Thou art gone from my gaze," "Little Nell," "I cannot mind my wheel, mother," "Constance," "Ever of thee," &c. Linley also wrote two or three operas, which were produced with considerable success in London. As to the entertainments (" Mary, Queen of Scots," &c.), poems, pamphlets, criticisms, satires, &c., they are almost beyond enumeration from their number and variety. His last poem, "The Showman," finished but a short time before his death, is still unpublished, but will, we believe, be included in the complete collection of his poems which he had very nearly ready for publication when death stayed his busy hand and brain. Linley was a kind-hearted generous man, a true friend, and a genial, merry companion. He hated humbug with a mortal hatred, under whatever shape it appeared. It was this feeling that led him to be so severe in his celebrated satire, "Musical Cynics," in which Linley roughly handled those critics of the metropolitan press whom he considered ignorant of the true principles of the art about which they were employed to write. In all art, especially in music, he preferred soul, feeling, and taste, to pedantic knowledge and automatic mechanism, however wonderful and brilliant. He was not a profound musician, but his melodies will live in the hearts of thousands long after this generation shall have passed away. Mr. Linley died peacefully, after a long and trying illness, in the full possession of his intellect, and knowledge of his approaching dissolution. He was buried at Kensal-green Cemetery on Friday, the 15th instant, being followed to the grave, as mourners and old friends, by Mr. Robert Addison, Mr. George Metzler, Mr. Thomas Blake, Signor Ferrari, &c. Mr. Linley left a widow, two sons, and a daughter to mourn his loss. One of his sons holds an excellent Government appointment. The absence of the happy face and wit of George Linley from many a gathering of musical and literary men in London will be long felt as a loss not easily supplied.
- Sheet music for "Bonny Jean.", Augusta, GA: Blackmar & Bro. From Confederate Imprints Sheet Music Collection.
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