English, Department of



Bill Adams

Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 22 (1991)


Published by The George Eliot Review Online https://GeorgeEliotReview.org


One day in May 1873 a curious letter was delivered to the Lewes's London home. Couched in the most formal terms, it read:

Mr. C.V. Stanford presents his compliments to "George Eliot" and hopes he may be excused for troubling him (sic) with the following request. He has lately finished writing music to three songs from "The Spanish Gypsy", namely "Bright Fedalma", "Spring comes hither", and "Came a pretty maid", and hopes eventually to complete the music to the whole subject. He trusts that it may not be thought too much if he asks for permission to publish the songs he has already written: and if the author would add permission to publish the remainder when completed, he would feel doubly grateful. The songs have received the approval of several good judges, and so he hopes that they may prove adequate to their subject.

On 29th May a reply was despatched to Mr. Stanford in Cambridge with, one feels, a tongue in the cheek:

Mrs. G.H. Lewes (George Eliot) presents her compliments to Mr. C.V. Stanford and begs to say that she has no objection to the publication.....

We should forgive Stanford his formality: he was, after all, a young twenty-one year old student at Trinity College, Cambridge, and the recently appointed organist of the college chapel. His illustrious career in English music was only on the first rung of its ladder - and he was, of course, addressing one of the country's most famous literary figures.