Extracted from the cantata Lalla Rookh
, first performed in Brighton in 1877, this ballad was popularised by the leading Victorian tenor Sims Reeves. Born in Kilmurry, Ireland, lyricist William Gorman Wills settled in London, where he wrote for magazines and the stage, and was a highly successful portrait painter. A confirmed bachelor, he lived in squalor with a collection of stray cats, monkeys and other animals. Frederic Clay was born in Paris, the son of an English MP. He worked for a time in the Treasury but preferred to devote himself to composition. As W S Gilbert’s first musical stage collaborator and a close friend of Arthur Sullivan, he was responsible for introducing them to each other. While Gilbert and Sullivan went on to conspicuous success, Clay impressed on a more modest scale with such settings as this.
from notes by Andrew Lamb © 2003