Behind this enduringly popular song lies another supposedly true and affecting love story. Annie Fortescue Harrison, born in Calcutta and the daughter of a Conservative MP, went on holiday to Hillsborough Castle in County Down, the seat of the Marquis of Downshire. There she fell in love with Lord Arthur Hill, younger son of the 4th Marquis. Lord Arthur’s first wife had died a year after their marriage, and supposedly differences in social class made Miss Fortescue Harrison an unacceptable replacement. For whatever reason, she quietly left Hillsborough and expressed her feelings by setting these verses to music. Lord Arthur then heard the song at a concert in London, leading to their reunion and their marriage in March 1877. The song was published that year, at first under the composer’s maiden name and then with her married name added, with a dedication to its original singer, the baritone Signor Campobello (né Campbell). Lord Arthur Hill became MP for County Down and later West Down, and was Comptroller of Queen Victoria’s household between 1885 and 1898. Though Lady Arthur Hill went on composing, she never matched the success of this early song. Her lyricist, Meta Caroline Orred, was born in Scotland, but lived most of her life in Hampshire. She published various collections of poetry in the 1870s.
from notes by Andrew Lamb © 2003