Twelfth Day of Advent

Away they went, helter-skelter! Tom and Joe, Bob and Dick, and Harry Price from Blackberry Farm, and Bessie, the lodge-keeper’s little daughter, shouting and laughing, past the mill and over the turnip-field, for school had broken up, and they had a whole month’s holiday to look forward to.

From In the Holidays by Graham Clifton Bingham, v. 1 in The Daisy Chain Library published in London by Ernest Nister & in New York by E.P. Dutton & Co., 1891.

Presumably this picture is of “Bessie, the lodge-keeper’s little daughter” clad in her gorgeous, deep red fur-trimmed coat, with ice skates strapped to her boots. Unfortunately there is no attribution for the illustrator.

However, the author of the verses is credited. Graham Clifton Bingham (1859-1913) was a composer, musician, lyricist and children’s book author. He contributed verses for several children’s picture books published by the German publisher and printer, Ernest Nister.

Perhaps he is best known for writing the lyrics for the Victorian parlour song Love’s Old Sweet Song (music by Irish composer James Lynam Molloy, 1837-1909), published in 1884. Hugely popular in the 1890s, the song was sometimes mistakenly known as Just a Song at Twilight, which was the first line of the song’s chorus. This is the title I remember, from when my grandmother used to sing it.

It was said at the time of Molloy’s death that every British home which had a piano had a copy of Love’s Old Sweet Song. The song’s popularity continued into the twentieth century, immortalised by Molly Bloom singing it in one of that century’s most famous books, James Joyce’s Ulysses, published in 1922 in Paris by Sylvia Beach, of the famous bookshop Shakespeare & Company.


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