In The Devout Lover
, a work exactly contemporary with Love’s old sweet song
, White composed a hit that took the music-making world of late Victorian England by storm. With its quixotically elongated phrases, its gallant cadences and its marvellous melody, it is easy to see why. The almost continual rubato demanded of this music recalls the style of Elgar (only two years younger), whose favourite marking of nobilmente would have perfectly suited much of White’s music. The lyric suggests a seventeenth-century courtier of Herrick’s generation, or a Restoration dandy, but it is in fact by Walter Herries Pollock (1850–1926), well-known Victorian man of letters (a Jane Austen authority and editor of the Saturday Review
) and equally famous amateur fencer. The poem was published in Songs and Rhymes
in 1882. The extent of the song’s popularity in the drawing room is shown by a drawing from Punch
(from a series entitled ‘Songs and their Singers’) where the title is amusingly mismatched with a depiction of an imaginary performer.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2012