Sometimes research isn’t easy. A lot of the time research isn’t easy.
I long for the days when each new piece of information connects with the next, unwinding a tangled tale that at first glance may seem like a mystery. So far during my trip, Lucy Havens has proven to be that hallowed discovery. In less than a day, I had manage to accrue enough information to form a convincing story, but this had also spun into several more questions that sparked interest in my research project and others too.
Today, however, has proven to be one of those unyielding days where my plan to do in-depth research into a particular volume hasn’t quite worked out and I am coming up trumps. By way of justifying (mainly to myself) that I haven’t just wasted a day in the library, let me recount exactly what I mean.
Having carried out quite a lot of work on the other 4 Scottish volumes (and being forced to wait for more materials on Lucy Havens turning up down at the State Library), I set myself the task to research the Marion Crawford volume. This volume dates a little later than the others with most of the music bring published in the 1840s and 50s. There are some items from the 1830s and as late the 1870s do appear as well. There is an odd pencil scribbling in the front, which appears to read:
‘For Miss Boyle
Miss Boyle, Auburn’
There are also several unidentifiable scribbles that could be nothing more than a child having got hold of a pencil! This could be some attempt at ownership of the volume but without a year it is difficult to pin down just who ‘Miss Boyle’ could be. Searching through the census records, database collections and even the newspaper only demonstrated how many 19th century Miss Boyle’s there were in Australia. And even if I was to find the right Miss Boyle, what is her connection to Marion Crawford?
I know what you are think – why am I going on about this Crawford woman, when he name isn’t even at the from of the volume. Well, her name is scrawled across almost every piece music in a few variations – ‘Miss Crawford’, ‘Marion Crawford’ and ‘M Crawford’.
I naively thought that a name such as Miss Marion Crawford would yield more results, since the spelling of the first name is rather unusual for a women. Once again, however, with each search to find Miss Crawford and Marion Crawford I was led down a dark path to a dead end.
After looking at Graeme Skinner’s Australharmony site I thought I had turned up a positive result. Mrs Chester aka Marian Maria Crawford was a singer and actor who had starred on both the British and Australian stage. Surely she would have owned such a volume of music? Unfortunately, the dates of her arrival and life in Australia does not match with the music in the volume. It would seem that she died in 1867 in Newcastle, NSW but there is music dated from 1870. A very close fit, but not quite close enough.
Next, I turned to the newspapers hoping that something might pop up for a Marion or a Miss Crawford. After trailing through many articles on Marion Crawford, governess of the late Queen Mother, an article on a ‘Miss Crawford’s Recital’ popped up. I got a little excited at this point putting 2 and 2 together: music + recital = the wrong Miss Crawford!
Once again, the dates just don’t add up! This is dated 1899 so it is highly unlikely a young performer would be playing music from 30-5o years before. Sheet music collection was still a popular pursuit and a young girl would probably put together her own volume of favourite songs and pieces from the period. Furthermore, there is no reference to a first name so I can’t even say that this girl is a Marion!
Another quick search and another result, this time for a Marion Crawford who won prizes at the Victoria Ladies’ College in South Melbourne. I quickly turned to the music prize, but she didn’t appear there. Rather, this Marion Crawford seems to have been rather good at arithmetic, spelling and sewing.
On my journey into deeper, unknown territories seeking out Marion Crawford I came across another popular actress called Alice Crawford, F. Marion Crawford (an American writer noted for his many weird and fantastic stories) and the sister of a young nurse who passed away in the 1880s.
Just as I was about to lose my patients, I decided to draw a line under my research for today and write this post instead. Unfortunately, sometimes collections of music just don’t have enough information within them to confidently identify their owner. But that does not mean that it is useless for my research! The collection itself is packed with Romantic settings of Scottish music with a particular Jacobean slant and it feels like the volume was once owned by someone influenced by the works of Walter Scott. Some of the pieces were published in Glasgow – a nice connection – and a few appear to be quite rare.
While I may never know the full story about the owner and how it came to Sydney, the story of the book may still prove to be an exciting one!