Lass of Richmond Hill, The
DESCRIPTION: The singer, a shepherd, praises the "sweet lass of Richmond Hill": he'd "crowns resign to call her mine" "I'd die for her, How happy will the shepherd be" who wins her; "may her choice be fixed on me"
AUTHOR: Words: Leonard MacNally; tune: James Hook (source: I'Anson; see bibliography below)
EARLIEST DATE: 1786 (words), 1789 (tune) according to I'Anson (see bibliography below); 1803 (Wilson)
KEYWORDS: love nonballad shepherd
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South))
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Williams-Thames, p. 70, "The Lass of Richmond Hill" (1 text) (also Wiltshire-WSRO Ox 281)
Wiltshire-WSRO Mi 752, "Ye Zephyrs Gay" (1 fragment)
ADDITIONAL: C.H. Wilson, The Myrtle and Vine (London, 1803 (Third Edition) ("Digitized by Google")) Vol. II, pp. 96-97, "The Lass of Richmond Hill" ("On Richmond Hill there lives a lass") (1 text)
Bodleian, Harding B 11(2590), "Lass of Richmond Hill" ("On Richmond hill there lives a lass"), J. Pitts (London), 1819-1844; also Firth b.28(32d), 2806 c.16(49a), Johnson Ballads 528, Firth c.17(29), Johnson Ballads fol. 12, Firth c.26(125)[some words illegible], 2806 c.17(221), Firth b.26(228), Firth c.19(56), Firth c.19(56)[almost entirely illegible], "[The] Lass of Richmond Hill"; Firth b.27(532), Harding B 15(93b), "Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill"
LOCSheet, sm1881 16793, "Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill", Wm. J.A. Lieder (New York), 1881 (with tune)["words and music by Ada Burnett"]
The Kentish Maid ("Let other swains their nymphs compare") (The Ulverston New Poetical Miscellany, p. 57)
NOTES: All texts I have seen are just the 20 lines described above. That considered, there is a strange, supposedly "true and pathetic story," published in 1826 (Mirror, pp. 29-30), and repeated verbatim in 1830 (Pulleyn, p. 73) (see bibliography below): the "daughter of a merchant of immense wealth" fell in love with "a young officer, of exemplary character, and of respectable though poor parents"; her father confined his daughter to the house and forbade the officer to enter; in despair she jumped from a window and was killed; the young officer "afterwards served in America, and was shot at the head of his company." This is certainly the stuff of many ballads in the Index, but hardly seems to fit this one. Nevertheless, it seems to have a little of the story right.
Apparently, real persons' names were incorrectly attached to the song, among them, "[by] Lord Stourton, on the strength of the lines, 'I'd crowns resign to call her mine,' argued that she could have been no other than Mrs Fitzherbert, whom George IV morganatically married" (I'Anson, p. 260). "[I]t was also suggested that the heroine was none other than the mysterious Hannah Lightfoot, the fair Quakeress who, under the aegis, it is said, of George III, then Prince of Wales, so suddenly and mysteriously disappeared" (idem).
I'Anson exhausts the subject and asserts that "the real object of the song [was] the charming Frances I'Anson, ... daughter of a rich attorney ... [who] owned the ... residence [Hill House,] at Richmond [, Yorkshire]... Leonard MacNally, the Irish barrister, was her devoted admirer" (idem). Frances was '[b]orn on October 17, 1766, the only daughter of William, the wealthy attorney ...[and] she has been described as indeed very beautiful, a tall and graceful blonde, with brown hair, blue eyes, and an exquisite complexion." MacNally, son of a Catholic, was raised as a Protestant. "Tradition has it" that Frances's father opposed the match and she was "rusticated for a space at Hill House." While she was there MacNally sent her a copy of the verses in autumn 1786. "She could not resist this" (quoting correspondence). They were married in 1787, "we may assume, with the sanction of the parents of the bride." (Ibid. pp. 265-266.)
I'Anson says more about Frances and Leonard - a later member of the United Irish Society and one of the counsel for Napper Tandy - but that has nothing to do with the song (ibid, p. 267). "The notice of the death of Mrs MacNally, 'The Lass of Richmond Hill,' appears in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' of October 1795" (ibid., p. 268).
I'Anson goes on to prove by correspondence of the day that the composer of the song was this same Leonard MacNally, with the tune being by James Hook, musical director of Vauxhall Gardens from 1773 until 1820 (ibid., p. 261). "'Incledon, the incomparable ballad singer, was singing it to enthusiastic Vauxhall crowds in London at the time when the mob was storming the Bastille in Paris [July 1789]'" (ibid., p. 266). - BS
Against all that set these observations by Kellett, pp. 100-101: The Lass of Richmond Hill was "popularly believed to be Frances l'Anson, born in Leyburn, Wenlseydale, in 1766. Her father, a lawyer, moved with his family to London in 1773, and Frances there married an Irish barrister, Leonard MacNally, in 1787. He wrote the words of the song Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill, and James Hook the melody. The tradition that Frances lived at Hill House, Richmond, North Yorkshire, is not supported by recent research -- and the idea may have arisen from the fact that her grandfather and mother had lived there. There is no evidence either to connect Frances with the southern Richmond, named after the Yorkshire town." - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
- (The) Mirror: "Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill" in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction Vol. VII No. 295, July 15, 1826 ("Digitized by Google")
- Kellett: Arnold Kellett, The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition, and Folklore, revised edition, Smith Settle, 2002
- I'Anson: J. Coventry I'Anson, "Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill" in Sylvanus Urban, editor, The Gentleman's Magazine Vol. CCXCVI, March 1904 ("Digitized by Google")
- Pulleyn: "Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill" in William Pulleyn, The Etymological Compendium, Thomas Tegg, 1830 ("Digitized by Google")
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