Music Theory for the “Weaker Sex”: Oliveria Prescott’s Columns for The Girl’s Own Paper *

Rachel Lumsden



KEYWORDS: gender, history of theory, public music theory, pedagogy, journalism, nineteenth-century Britain

ABSTRACT: In this article, I examine a cluster of music theory essays by Oliveria Louisa Prescott (1842–1917), which were published between 1886 and 1891 in The Girl’s Own Paper (TGOP), the most popular periodical for young women in Victorian England. Although little known today, Prescott sustained a vibrant musical career in London as a composer and teacher, and her articles on music theory regularly appeared in major periodicals such as The Musical World and TGOP.

Prescott’s work for TGOP presents a rare opportunity to explore music theory that was not just written by a woman, but also intended for a genteel female audience in the Victorian era. Her articles include explanations of fundamental theoretical subjects (cadences, basic harmonic progressions) as well as short analyses of solo piano works by Beethoven and Mendelssohn. But these articles are also noteworthy for their discussions of more advanced theoretical topics (such as chromatic harmony), concepts that might seem surprising for a popular periodical for young ladies. Mainstream journalism is often devalued as a “less serious” form of intellectual discourse, but Prescott’s work complicates stereotypes of ignorant amateur female musicians and the so-called “private” sphere, and it demonstrates how print journalism could serve as a vital public platform for the circulation of music theory among young British women in the Victorian era.

DOI: 10.30535/mto.26.3.4

PDF text | PDF examples
Received January 2019
Volume 26, Number 3, September 2020
Copyright © 2020 Society for Music Theory


[1.1] If you’ve ever enjoyed the guilty pleasure of flipping through a popular magazine for young women from the 1980s, you’ll recall being bombarded by a bewildering gush of suggestions, guidance, and propaganda about what “womanhood” is supposed to be. Popular magazines like Seventeen or YM offer an unrelenting barrage of content that attempts to shape and influence young women: tips about clothing, makeup, and hair-styling; portraits of famous actors and hit-making musicians; and even advice on urgent day-to-day issues like “how to be the best kisser” or “how to be popular.” As a 1988 tagline from Seventeen claims, its pages are “where the girl ends and the woman begins.”

[1.2] To the modern reader, it probably does not come as much of a surprise that these popular magazines do not include in-depth information about music theory and analysis. But young women’s periodicals published a century earlier, in the late nineteenth century, reflect a different perspective that prioritizes music as an important part of young women’s education and development. In the late 1880s, The Girl’s Own Paper (the most popular periodical for young women in England) ran a short series of articles on music theory and analysis by Oliveria Louisa Prescott (1842–1917). Prescott’s work for The Girl’s Own Paper is significant for several reasons. As an early historical example of “public” music theory, her articles illustrate one of the primary rewards of public work in the humanities—the chance to reach a wider, more diverse audience. J. Daniel Jenkins describes how public music theory involves “an eclectic collection of scholarship, journalism, podcasts, videocasts, and other various items” that are “accessible to a general public” (2017, paragraph 3). In recent years, scholars have revealed important insights about the myriad ways that public music theory has helped educate audiences; this scholarship has also expanded contemporary conceptions of what music theory is and what music theorists do.(1) However, this research has largely focused on contributions since the 1950s. Prescott’s articles thus offer an earlier, nineteenth-century perspective on public music-theory making. Finally, her writings present a rare opportunity to examine music theory that was not just written by a woman, but specifically intended for a female audience during the Victorian era.

[1.3] This article is organized into four main parts. Since Prescott and The Girl’s Own Paper are unfamiliar to most readers, I begin with a short introductory section that provides a brief biographical sketch and background information on the periodical. Second, I consider how she uses gendered metaphors to explain basic theoretical concepts. Third, I turn to some of the more advanced theoretical content in these articles, including voice leading and chromatic harmony, examining how her articles contain a level of theoretical detail that is surprising for a magazine for young women, and not found in other contemporaneous analyses of the same pieces in the British press. I conclude by discussing her emphasis on the importance of theoretical understanding for women, and how her views intersect with contemporaneous debates about the changing status of women in late nineteenth-century Britain.

Biographical Sketch of Prescott and Background on “The Girl’s Own Paper”

Example 1. Oliveria Prescott Prize winners, 1910–1954. Commemorative plaques, Royal Academy of Music

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[2.1] Prescott is little-known today, but in her time she was an accomplished composer, pedagogue, and theorist.(2) The youngest child in a wealthy London family, she entered the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) as a composition student in 1871; the registration record noted that she was “very talented.”(3) At the RAM, she studied composition with George Macfarren (their professional relationship will be discussed in more detail in section 4, below). Prescott was a successful student: she earned a Bronze Medal in harmony in 1875 (“Royal Academy of Music” 1875, 171), a Silver Medal in harmony in 1877 (“Royal Academy of Music” 1877b, 391), and a Certificate of Merit in harmony in 1879 (Gwffyn 1879, 473). She apparently valued her years at the RAM, as she later established the “Oliveria Prescott Prize,” an annual award that provided distinguished composition students with orchestral scores (Example 1).(4)

Example 2. Oliveria Prescott, Concert Finale (ca. 1879), title page and mm. 1–32. Courtesy of the British Library

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[2.2] Prescott sustained an active and multifaceted musical career for more than three decades. Her orchestral and chamber works were performed in concerts during the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s, and some of her music was published, although many of her pieces (especially her large-scale orchestral works) have not survived.(5) Prescott was featured in an 1887 article on women composers in The Englishwoman’s Review; the author emphasized that “although the name of Miss Prescott is not so prominently before the British public as that of many ladies who have achieved success as composers through some ephemeral melodious trifles, from an artistic point of view her career is of more interest, owing to the high standard she has hitherto retained in her compositions” (de Ternant 1887, 59). Prescott gained some recognition for her compositions: her Symphony in B flat, one of the first symphonies composed by a British woman, received third place (“high commendation”) in the Alexandra Palace Symphony Competition in 1876 (Fuller 2018, 155; “Notes” 1876, 265).(6) During her years at the Academy, Prescott completed several other large-scale works that were performed on RAM concerts at St. James’s Hall, including her Overture in C minor (“Tithonus”), Symphony in D minor (“Alkestis”), and Magnificat.(7) Unfortunately performances of Prescott’s orchestral music dwindled after her years at the RAM; her orchestral music was never published, and has been lost.(8) One of the few instrumental pieces that has survived is a piano duet arrangement of her Concert Finale (Example 2), a lighter, more popularly-oriented work originally for piano and orchestra that (as the score’s title page notes) was “composed for the end of a miscellaneous programme.”(9)

Example 3. Women presenters in the first twenty-five years of the Musical Association (1874–1899)

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[2.3] Prescott was also directly involved with several professional organizations for British musicians. During the 1890s, she was the only woman who served on the Council of the Musical Artists’ Society, an organization that planned concerts and performances in London (Fuller 2018, 156).(10) She was also a charter member and active participant in the Musical Association, an academic society founded in 1874 “for the investigation and discussion of subjects connected with the art and science of music” (Proceedings 1874–1875).(11) Prescott’s name occurs frequently in the published Proceedings of the Musical Association: she regularly attended monthly meetings in the 1880s and 1890s, was an active participant in the question-and-answer sessions following the paper presentations, and presented a paper herself in 1892, entitled “Musical Design, a Help to Poetic Intention.” Prescott was the second of only four women presenters in the first twenty-five years of the Association’s monthly meetings, and the only woman who presented a paper on a theoretical topic during these years (Example 3). Her work seems to have been positively received: during the discussion following Prescott’s paper, the session chair H. C. Banister thanked Prescott for her “interesting and admirable paper,” which he described as “most intelligently and intelligibly” presented (Prescott 1891–1892, 133–34).(12)

[2.4] Prescott also worked as a music teacher at the Church of England High School for Girls, and taught correspondence courses in music for Newnham College.(13) She maintained her ties to the Academy, serving as amanuensis to George Macfarren, and helped transcribe music and select text passages for his 1883 oratorio King David.(14) Macfarren dedicated his earlier oratorio Joseph (1877) to her, noting in the front matter of the score: “In remembrance of happy hours spent in its inscription, this oratorio is dedicated by the composer to his pupil, friend, and amanuensis, Oliveria Louisa Prescott.”

[2.5] But Prescott’s most prolific and interesting contributions were as a writer on music; in many ways, she was a late nineteenth-century example of a public music theorist. In the 1880s alone, she wrote more than fifty articles for major periodicals such as The Musical World and The Musical News. Some of her work as a public music theorist was eventually published in book form: a selection of her articles from The Musical World were reprinted as Form, Or Design, In Music (1882), and material from a six-week public lecture series in 1893 was later published as About Music, and What it Is Made Of: A Book for Amateurs (1904).(15) An anonymous reviewer of Prescott’s 1893 public lecture series noted, “That the subjects were dealt with attractively and adequately will readily be assumed by all who know Miss Prescott’s peculiar fitness for such a task. Such lectures have an educational value which can scarcely be too highly rated” (“Miscellaneous Concerts, Lectures” 1893, 745).(16) Prescott’s articles for The Girl’s Own Paper thus represent one small yet significant part of her wide-ranging musical career.

Example 4. Front page, first issue of The Girl’s Own Paper, January 3, 1880

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[2.6] The Girl’s Own Paper (hereafter, TGOP) was the most well-known and widely circulated young women’s periodical in late nineteenth-century Britain (the front page of the first issue is shown in Example 4). Established in 1880, by the end of its first year it sold more than 250,000 copies weekly (double that of its “sister” publication The Boy’s Own Paper), and continued to dominate the market for decades.(17) Published every Saturday and priced at the affordable rate of one penny for its first twenty-nine years, each issue was sixteen pages long and featured a heterogeneous assemblage of items, including short stories, serialized fiction, poetry, and illustrations, as well as non-fiction articles on a dizzying array of topics, such as fashion, childcare, domestic life, education, careers, and music (Barger 2016, 21; Moruzi 2012, 84). It is important to emphasize that the “girl” in the magazine’s title is something of a misnomer. TGOP was not a children’s periodical; during this era other periodicals were published for children, which contained more juvenile content.(18) As Barger, Moruzi, and others have explained, TGOP was supposedly intended for women between fifteen and twenty-five, but the actual age of readers of the magazine varied wildly—correspondents’ ages ranged from six-year-olds to mothers, self-proclaimed “grey-haired” readers, and grandmothers.(19) Skelding argues that Charles Peters, who edited the magazine from 1880 to 1907, “deliberately fostered the notion that the G.O.P. appealed to all generations of women” (2001, 40).

[2.7] TGOP was a general periodical that did not focus specifically on music (unlike The Musical Times or The Musical World). But music was still a central part of TGOP: Barger (2016, 1) notes that more than 1300 of the 1500 issues of TGOP published between 1880 and 1908 contained some kind of musical content.(20) The broad range of musical features published in TGOP reflected the varied scope of the periodical as a whole, and included: fiction and poetry about musicians, primers on musical instruments, instructional advice about performing and learning music, printed scores for performance, short descriptions of recently published compositions, composition competitions, and columns on other topics that were tangentially related to music, such as “how to” articles about creating needlework and painted decorations for your piano (Miller 1885; “A Pretty Pianoforte Back” 1897). Barger emphasizes how TGOP had a significantly greater amount—and variety—of musical articles and features than its “sister” publication The Boy’s Own Paper (46–48). For Barger, the profusion of musical content in TGOP reflects widespread views of Victorian womanhood, in which amateur music-making was connected to the domestic realm and considered an appropriately feminine pursuit that helped enhance a woman’s femininity. As Barger explains:

The music making in TGOP kept its female readers safely in the home setting on instruments presenting a graceful appearance in performance. . . . And music, which occupied hours of practice but whose performance seldom led to status or income, fit in nicely with society’s expectations for these stay-at-home maidens. (49–50)

Thus, Prescott’s articles were one small piece of a much larger editorial vision of TGOP, in which music was presented as an important component of female development and womanhood alongside other appropriately “female” topics, such as beauty regimens, romantic relationships, and fashion.

Gendering Music Theory

[3.1] In many ways, Prescott’s articles contain exactly the kind of subject matter one might expect to find in a popular Victorian periodical for young women. She frequently uses gendered discourse in her writing, and her (often florid) descriptions involve imagery frequently associated with the female domestic sphere, such as fashion, flowers, and ideas of “home,” caring, and emotional connections with friends and family. Of course, these are all gendered subjects associated with well-worn stereotypes of “proper” womanhood, which intersect with “separate spheres” ideologies that were pervasive in the Victorian era, in which “each sex was to have its own distinct sphere of influence” (Burstyn 1980, 31). In an 1884 essay (published just two years before Prescott’s first article for TGOP), John W. Burgon emphasizes women’s innate connection to the domestic sphere—to “whatever belongs to and makes the happiness of Home”:

Home is clearly Woman’s intended place; and the duties which belong to Home are Woman’s peculiar province . . . And it is in the sweet sanctities of domestic life,—in home duties,—in whatever belongs to and makes the happiness of Home, that Woman is taught by the SPIRIT to find scope for her activity,—to recognize her sphere of most appropriate service. (1884, 17; italics in the original)(21)

[3.2] One of the most famous champions of separate spheres ideologies was John Ruskin (1819–1900), a prolific writer and one of the most well-known cultural critics of the Victorian era. Ruskin’s Sesame and Lilies (1865) contains two lengthy essays outlining the innate differences between men and women. For Ruskin, men and women “are in nothing alike” and the “separate characters” of each gender depends on ensconcing women entirely within the private, domestic sphere ([1865] 1905, 121). Ruskin maintains a set of strict binary oppositions between the genders. He explains that “the man’s power is active, progressive, defensive. He is eminently the doer, the creator, the discoverer, the defender” (121). In contrast, women’s “intellect is not for invention or creation, but for sweet ordering, arrangement, and decision. She sees the qualities of things, their claims, and their places . . . And wherever a true wife comes, this home is always round her . . . home is yet wherever she is; and for a noble woman it stretches far round her . . . This, then, I believe to be,—will you not admit it to be?—the woman’s true place and power” (122–23).(22)

[3.3] Music was one of many cultural realms that reinforced and perpetuated Victorian gender ideologies. In her important historical study of women and music in late-Victorian Britain, Paula Gillett stresses that “like other areas of social and economic life, the world of nineteenth-century music practice, both amateur and professional, was sharply divided by gender” (2000, 3). For example, in his wildly popular book Music and Morals (1871), H. R. Haweis included a separate section on “Women and Music” that emphasizes the inherent associations between domestic music-making and the female sphere.(23) Haweis explains that music provides a vital outlet for women, since “the emotional force in women is usually stronger, and always more delicate, than in men” (112). Haweis describes how music-making offers “a power of relief and a gentle grace of ministration little short of supernatural” for the “many thousands” of women “in our placid modern drawing rooms” (114). Clearly, TGOP was not alone in connecting amateur music-making with the female sphere because of its associations with emotion, domesticity, and the home.

Example 5. Untitled illustration from The Girl’s Own Paper (Benedict 1880, 12)

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Example 6. “A Rehearsal.” The Girl’s Own Paper (Benedict 1881c, 81)

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[3.4] Prescott’s repeated focus on the piano in her articles (most of which include discussions of piano performance or works for piano solo) also reflects gendered conceptions of Victorian amateur musical life. As Ruth Solie argues, “there is no doubt that domestic music-making, and especially piano playing, had become thoroughly associated with young women by the middle of the nineteenth century” (2004, 89).(24) Barger notes the prominent role the piano played within the pages of TGOP: during the first three decades of TGOP’s publication, the piano was showcased in virtually all facets of the magazine’s production, from actual musical content (scores, music articles) to prose, poetry, and even non-musical features such as fashion (several examples will be discussed below).(25) The images shown in Examples 5 and 6 provide a visual representation of how piano-playing women were typically depicted in domestic settings in TGOP. Prescott’s emphasis on the piano in her articles is entirely in keeping with this editorial vision of TGOP, which reflected broader cultural ideals regarding women, pianos, and the domestic sphere. As Haweis proclaimed in Music and Morals, “That domestic and long-suffering instrument, the cottage piano, has probably done more to sweeten existence and bring peace and happiness to families in general, and to young women in particular, than all the homilies on the domestic virtues yet penned” (1871, 115).

[3.5] Many of the rhetorical flights of fancy in Prescott’s TGOP articles reinforce the contemporaneous associations between domestic music-making and the feminine sphere discussed in the previous paragraphs. She frequently draws on distinctly gendered tropes as a means of enhancing her musical and theoretical observations. Space does not permit me to discuss every example of gendered discourse in her TGOP articles, so the remainder of this section focuses on family and romantic relationships, flowers, and fashion.

Domestic and romantic relationships

[3.6] Several of Prescott’s analyses feature imagery that involves family and romantic relationships. One particularly striking simile appears in an article about Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in G minor, op. 49, no. 1, where she describes the key relationships in the second movement (Rondo). Prescott notes that the middle section of the lengthy G-minor episode (mm. 16–78) contains a modulation to Bflat major (mm. 30–64). She employs a vivid phrase to emphasize how the Bflat-major section is enveloped within G-minor material: “It is this return to the G minor passage which encloses the episode in one whole; the B flat song [mm. 30–64] being, as it were, nursed by the repeated G minor” (1887b, 556; my emphasis). Prescott’s use of the colorful verbs “nursed” and “encloses,” along with the phrase “one whole,” suggests the image of a mother feeding her child. In the Victorian era discussions of breastfeeding often focused on the unique bond it creates between mother and child, which typically aroused potent glorifications of the feminine sphere. As Ruskin exclaims, “this is wonderful to me—oh, how wonderful!—to see the tender and delicate woman among you, with her child at her breast” ([1865] 1905, 140). An 1881 article in TGOP begins with a lengthy section about breastfeeding, which emphasizes how “no artificial food can possibly be so good for an infant as its mother’s milk . . . [A] child thus nourished has a far better prospect of life and health than one brought up by hand [bottle]” (Lamb 1881, 699). The author characterizes nursing as a woman’s “duty and her privilege . . . A mother who deserves the name delights in self-sacrifice for the sake of her children, and notably during their helpless days” (699).(26)

[3.7] Prescott also discusses romantic relationships in her articles. Given the enduring connections between heterosexual romantic relationships and the female sphere in the Victorian era (famously showcased in the novels of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters), it does not come as a surprise that romance also saturated TGOP; virtually every issue contains references to love and romance in its fiction, poetry, and music. Practical advice about men and romantic relationships also regularly appears in the “answers to correspondents” section. For example, a response to “Troubled One” advises, “Why did you allow this very excellent young man to kiss you on several occasions when you were alone? You should have objected on the first attempt; and said that you could not allow such familiarity except from an engaged lover” (“Answers to Correspondents” 1891a, 384).(27)

[3.8] Discussions of romance in TGOP are also frequently connected with flowers, especially roses. An article entitled “What the Flowers Say” explains the symbolic meaning of various types of flowers; the author emphasizes that “flowers are in a special manner connected with the romance of life” (J. Mason 1881, 250). The author spends the most time admiring roses, which he describes as “the flower of love and beauty”; the author stresses that “No other [flower] has been more highly praised by poets in every country and in all past times,” which is why roses “take a leading place in speaking the language of flowers” (250).(28)

[3.9] Roses were also specifically aligned with women themselves, especially alongside discussions of love and romance. Certainly, the link between women and flowers was not unique to TGOP—it permeated Victorian culture. Countless Victorians associated the supposedly delicate, emotional character of women with flowers. Ruskin notes that there is “a difference between the making of a girl’s character and a boy’s—you may chisel a boy into shape, as you would a rock, or hammer him into it, if he be of a better kind, as you would a piece of bronze. But you cannot hammer a girl into anything. She grows as a flower does” ([1865] 1905, 131; my emphasis). Haweis employs a similar comparison when he discusses women’s inherently emotional nature (which he characterizes as women’s “natural, dramatic feeling”) and their reactions when listening to music: “At times she is shaken and melts into tears, as the flowers stand and shake when the wind blows upon them and the drops of rain fall off” (1871, 112).

[3.10] In TGOP roses, romance, and women are frequently entwined into a triptych of idealized womanhood. For example, the poem “An English Rose” combines these themes to create a saccharine portrait of Victorian womanhood:

Fit type they of truest womanhood,
Just such as one my eyes rest on to-day,
Wandering in sunlit paths beside the wood,
Roses in hand, and she as fair as they;
Gracious and loving in her every mood,
Queen of all hearts that fall beneath her sway! (Weatherly 1890, 8)

Example 7. “A June Rose.” The Girl’s Own Paper (1894, 505)

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Numerous songs feature similar imagery, such as “My Love is Near!,” which contains the lines “And the heart of the red rose is not more sweet than the lips of her I hasten to meet—My love so dear, so dear! (Ellicott 1889, 37–38).(29) The illustration “A June Rose” (1894), shown in Example 7, visually depicts the strong connection between women and roses commonly found in TGOP.

[3.11] In the following excerpt, Prescott invokes romantic love—and roses—to enrich a digression about analysis and interpretation she includes as part of her article on Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in E-flat major, op. 7:

There is no rule as to what music means. It means a feeling, doubtless, but what causes that feeling may be one thing in one person, and another thing in another person. A tender phrase in the music may mean that the composer was thinking of the beautiful curve of the lady’s lip as she smiled upon him one day; or it may mean that as he wrote it he remembered the tender thought that was in his mind when he gave her the first primrose of the year. A fiercer phrase may have been suggested by the only unkind word his friend ever said to him, or by the rough answer he once gave her, and regretted ever after. (1888, 408)

Prescott includes this lengthy passage after describing Beethoven’s op. 7 sonata as “the Beloved” because of its dedication to “a great and noble lady” (the Countess Babette von Keglevics) as a possible token of their relationship (1888, 408). This paragraph serves several important purposes. First, the location of this passage—just before she begins her analysis of the sonata—helps to create a transition for her readers into the more technical theoretical content that comprises the rest of the essay, which features theoretical topics such as form and key relationships, voice leading, and chromatic harmonies (her analysis will be discussed in more detail in the next section of this article). Second, Prescott argues that musical meaning is fluid, not fixed—there is no way to determine unequivocally the exact meaning of a work, or a composer’s intention. Her choice to include several vivid impressions of an imagined love affair (the couple’s argument, or “the beautiful curve of the lady’s lip”) as a way to explain her broader points about musical meaning dovetails nicely with the origin story she provides about the sonata, and makes perfect sense within this larger context. But this passage also presents a romantic account that is entirely in keeping with the overall content of TGOP, with its strong associations between romance and the female sphere. Prescott’s decision to dwell on the minutiae of a romantic relationship in such detail (especially given the article’s relatively short length, three pages) ultimately helps to express her deeper philosophical ideas about subjectivity and analysis in a way that reflects the typical tone of TGOP.

[3.12] Prescott’s fanciful discussion of romance and roses in op. 7 also provides a provocative point of comparison with other contemporaneous authors who discussed the sonata for an amateur audience in the British popular press. For example, The Monthly Musical Record printed all of Carl Reinecke’s The Beethoven Pianoforte Sonatas—Letters to a Lady in seventeen installments between July 1896 and August 1898.(30) Reinecke’s work is organized as a series of letters to an unnamed amateur female musician whose musicianship he clearly respected; at the end of his first letter he proclaims, “although a witty person has asserted that the step from dilettante to artist is often only a small one, yet always such as the dilettante never can take, I am still of opinion that, for all that, there are dilettantes who surpass many musicians in certain respects, and I believe you are to be numbered among these” (1896a, 147; italics in the original).(31) Nonetheless, his accounts of the sonatas are strikingly vague and focus primarily on performance-based issues such as dynamics, ornamentation, and phrasing. His notably short discussion of op. 7 does not mention its dedication or any possible connections with romance, but simply contains a few brief suggestions about performance practice. The only specific detail he provides about the first movement is a recommendation that the “passing shakes” in mm. 109–110 should be accented on the first note so that they sound “almost like semiquaver triplets” (243). His overall description of the sonata also provides a sharp contrast to Prescott’s and lacks her picturesque rhetoric. Reinecke explains that op. 7 “breathes more audibly of cheerfulness; gracefulness and liveliness are its principal attributes, and even in the short minor episode of the third and fourth movements the mood experiences no real gloom” (Reinecke 1896b, 242–43).

[3.13] But the most revealing contemporaneous discussion of op. 7 appeared in The Musical World in December 1887, just three months before Prescott’s article in TGOP.(32) This article presents an analysis of the work by her teacher George Macfarren, based on lectures he delivered in May 1886 at Cambridge and the RAM. Macfarren had recently died in October 1887, so this article was not written by him, but by Prescott herself (1887c, 1028). (The differences between these two analyses will be examined in more detail in the next section of this article; here I focus specifically on the programmatic aspects of op. 7.) She describes how Macfarren explained that Beethoven’s dedication to Countess von Keglevics may have suggested a possible romantic relationship, but this interpretive detail is presented in The Musical World in a much more matter-of-fact tone, without the maudlin details of romance, lips, and roses in Prescott’s TGOP article:

Beethoven’s admiration, at the time we are speaking of, was for the Countess Babette von Keglevics, and he found expression for his thoughts in the E flat sonata Op. 7. So much was it supposed by them to follow the course of his feelings, that his friends called it ‘Die Beliebte’—the beloved. To the same lady, when married, he dedicated another work. (1887c, 1029)

[3.14] The two articles also employ different strategies for depicting the overall narrative arc of a sonata form movement. Macfarren’s analysis concludes with a paragraph that likens the movement to the career and conquests of a male hero: “Many musical compositions will compare with a literary tale. The opening phrases are as the hero; you follow his adventures, and come across different persons, mark the successive points of his personal character, and bring his career to a happy close” (1887c, 1030). But Prescott’s article provides a different narrative description that invokes gendered themes associated with the private, domestic realm. She explains that the arrival of the recapitulation signals that “We are home again after long wanderings, and the old familiar story is to be told again” (1888, 410). Her emphasis on home rather than career, on “we” rather than “he,” provides a striking contrast to the manly strivings articulated in Macfarren’s analysis.

[3.15] Prescott’s handling of these aspects of the sonata in different ways in two different contexts raises several compelling questions. Was she recounting Macfarren’s analytical comments faithfully for The Musical World article, indicating that he did not dwell on romance or home in his lecture (so the tone and rhetoric used in her TGOP article was her own invention)? Or did Macfarren include tangents about romance and domesticity in his Cambridge and RAM lectures, but Prescott only chose to share those details in her own article for TGOP? Given that Macfarren was an esteemed professor and his lectures about this piece occurred at two of the premier musical institutions of the day (one of which, Cambridge, excluded women), it seems more likely that the first interpretation is correct. (In addition, throughout the article Prescott is careful to use quotation marks for material that she felt she had accurately transcribed from Macfarren’s lectures, and parentheses for passages about which she was less certain. Both of these passages appear in quotation marks.(33)) In any case, Prescott’s evocative account of the programmatic aspects of this sonata, with its colorful details of romance, lips, and roses, suggests that she deliberately chose to discuss musical meaning in op. 7 by using metaphors that would be familiar to her amateur female readers, and in keeping with the general purview of TGOP.

Fashion

Example 8. “Gown with Flounces of Woollen Lace, and Gown of Plain Beige.” The Girl’s Own Paper (Lady Dressmaker 1886, 552)

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[3.16] Some of Prescott’s most fanciful imagery relates to fashion, a topic she returns to for general stylistic observations as well as more specific theoretical topics. Along with music, fashion was one of the most prominent subjects in TGOP, as evinced by its numerous regular columns devoted to clothing trends, such as “The Dress of the Month” (a monthly column that ran from February 1880 to August 1880) or “Dress: In Season and In Reason” (a monthly column that ran from October 1883 to September 1891). These columns also featured lavish illustrations of trendy dresses and accessories. Remarkably, many of these drawings fused fashion with music, often displaying women adorned in chic outfits at the piano. For example, an image of two fashionistas beside a piano appears in an 1886 installment of “Dress: In Season and in Reason” (shown in Example 8), and three of the seven installments of “The Dress of the Month” depict women in musical settings (two of these are provided in Examples 9 and 10). Thus in TGOP, fashion and music often appeared together, interlaced into a larger idealization of proper femininity.

Example 9. “Indoor Costume.” The Girl’s Own Paper (“The Dress of the Month” 1880a, 316)

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Example 10. Untitled illustration from The Girl’s Own Paper (“The Dress of the Month” 1880b, 477)

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[3.17] Prescott frequently weaves evocative descriptions of fashion and dress into her articles as a way to reinforce her musical observations. In a discussion of proper piano playing, she references historical fashion trends to emphasize how performances of baroque gavottes should be stylistically and historically accurate:

The gavotte used to be danced by ladies with powdered hair and elegant dresses; and you and I must play it as if we had our hair powdered and an elegant pink frock on—perhaps a beauty spot on our cheek and a gold-headed cane in our hand. (1887a, 377)

[3.18] Prescott especially likes to integrate fashion into her discussions of form. In her analysis of Mendelssohn’s Lied ohne Worte in G major, op. 62, no. 4, she invokes the image of a Court dress to describe the phrase expansion at the end of the movement:

It is the lengthening out of the phrase which gives greater value to the close of the movement, and points it out as the end. We may think of this repeated and lengthened phrase as the coda, or tail-piece, of the movement; it is like the train of a lady’s Court dress, which gives dignity and grace to her whole appearance. (1891, 443)

Example 11. “A Court Dress of 1897.” The Girl’s Own Paper (Lady Dressmaker 1897, 697)

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Court dresses in the Victorian era were elaborate formal costumes worn by women and girls when they were presented at court. The importance of a woman’s dress to this event cannot be overstated. As the author of an 1880 article explains, “the dress must be well made and all the details well carried out” (Holt 1880, 420). The author cautions that “every lady attending the Court must have a train, lappets, Court plumes, and a really low dress. So strict are the laws with regard to this, that people are appointed to prevent ladies passing who fall short in these requirements” (419). The author also advises that “the train must be at least three yards long, and is generally four” (419). Thus, a Court dress serves as a particularly apt metaphor for a coda, given the typical length of its train.(34) The illustration of a Court dress shown in Example 11 demonstrates the elaborate detail in the construction of these gowns, which also frequently incorporated flowers into their designs.(35)

[3.19] Prescott observes a similar level of intricacy and care in Mendelssohn’s piece. More than one-third of her article is devoted to the changes Mendelssohn makes in the return of the A section (mm. 21–35) and how these changes elevate the piece beyond mere triviality. Regarding the A’ section, Prescott writes, “A composer, who did not want to take much trouble about his music, might have copied out the strain from the beginning . . . added a couple of chords at the end, and sent off his music to the printer” (1891, 443). Instead, Mendelssohn sets the return of the A section over a pedal bass, which gives it “a new colour” (443), and he expands and alters the consequent phrase (initially a four-bar consequent that ends with a PAC in m. 12).(36) Prescott notes how this phrase is “almost recomposed”; it not only contains material from the B section (mm. 17–18), but also leads to “a new form of the cadence” in m. 28 (what modern theorists would describe as an IAC) (443). Most importantly, the phrase is expanded in mm. 28–35, which contains “the repetition of this newly-formed phrase with yet another cadence, lengthened out for two bars more than before” (443). Prescott argues that this passage—which she describes as “a piece of delicate art”—is what makes op. 62, no. 4 distinctive. She writes, “That little extension, however, is a piece of delicate art—the art of a man who was skilled enough both to write large works and to put good workmanship into his smallest trifles” (443). For Prescott, so-called “domestic” works often relegated to the amateur female sphere (such as Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne Worte) can also contain structural aspects that blur the boundaries between “low” and “high” art, just as fashion and sewing (pursuits that were typically associated with women and the domestic sphere, and frequently denigrated as mere craft) can involve skill and artistry—as with the design and construction of a woman’s Court dress.(37)

Example 12. Alderman’s collar (chain of office). Sir Polydore de Keyser (1832–1898), Lord Mayor of London 1887–1888, portrait by John Caller

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[3.20] Prescott begins this article with a long explanation of rondo form, where she draws on a detailed metaphor involving an alderman’s collar (shown in Example 12) to describe the sections of a rondo and possibilities for different types of rondo forms:

This rondo design is something after the fashion of an alderman’s collar, which is made of beautiful medallions joined together with links of gold. Between every two medallions there is one link; the link may be as beautiful as you please, but the medallion is the chief, the principal subject. If you please, also, you may take off two medallions with their connecting link and make an ornament for the dress of the alderman’s little daughter, if he is so fortunate to have one; this is the rondo with one episode; or you may take off three medallions with their two links, or four with three links; each group will be complete as an ornament, and like different kinds of rondo. (1891, 443)

Prescott’s discussion of the alderman’s collar is particularly noteworthy for the way in which it subtly subverts traditional patriarchal structures. An alderman’s collar (also known as a chain of office or livery collar) is worn by British government officials as an indication of their rank and status; particular chains of office are often associated with specific positions. (For example, the chain of office for the Lord Mayor of London, shown in Example 12, is still in use today.(38)) Prescott quite literally dismantles the alderman’s collar in this passage, not just describing how it might be reconfigured to represent different types of rondo forms, but even how it could be disassembled in order to make a decoration for the dress of the official’s “little daughter.” Here she makes her analytic ideas about various types of rondo form more accessible to her readers through metaphor, by undoing the alderman’s collar and placing it on the dress of a young girl. But in a broader sense, one might also read Prescott’s description of the alderman’s collar as an attempt to demystify topics typically associated with the masculine sphere in the Victorian era (composition, analysis, formal structure) by aligning her structural discussion of rondos specifically with the “little daughters” who were reading her article.(39)

[3.21] This example also provides a helpful transition into the next two sections of this article, which outline how Prescott’s essays did not just reinforce Victorian gender stereotypes—they also disrupted them. Context matters, and Prescott seems to have been keenly aware of the editorial tone of TGOP and the kinds of subject matter that its readers would find compelling. But sometimes her articles also go beyond this more conventional material, venturing into more detailed, technical topics that transgress the boundaries of the content usually found in TGOP.

Advanced Theoretical Content: Pushing the Boundaries of TGOP

Voice Leading and Harmony

Example 13. Voice-leading and V4/3, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in E-flat major, op. 7, I, mm. 59–63 (Prescott 1888, 411)

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Example 14. Voice leading and chordal sevenths, Beethoven, op. 7, I, mm. 65–67

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[4.1] Prescott tends to focus on issues of harmony and form most frequently in her articles, but there are a few instances where she also discusses voice leading. Her discussions of voice leading are significant because music articles in TGOP did not typically have this level of musical specificity (indeed, no other articles in TGOP that I have encountered contain detailed voice leading rules). For example, Prescott explains the characteristic upwards resolution of the chordal seventh in the common progression I–V4 3–I6. She cites mm. 59–63 of the first movement of Beethoven’s op. 7 piano sonata as “an example of the resolution of the dominant seventh upwards . . . In this case the seventh, instead of its usual fall to the next chord, may rise; and it does so here with very pleasant effect” (1888, 411) (Example 13).(40) Prescott also highlights Beethoven’s “strict preparation” of chordal sevenths a few measures later: “there is a diatonic prepared seventh of G (G in bass), resolved on the chord of C. This C chord is the dominant, with its seventh, of F, and makes a transient modulation into that key. The seventh is strictly prepared, as befits even the dominant seventh when used in company with other prepared discords” (411) (Example 14). For Prescott, a “transient modulation” seems to be a fleeting harmonic departure that doesn’t fully disrupt the prevailing key of a passage (what modern theorists would call a tonicization)—in this example, the brief I6–ii7–V7–I progression in F major in mm. 65–67.(41) But her larger point here is that Beethoven’s “strict preparation” of chordal sevenths may be found in both of the seventh chords that create the brief tonicization of the dominant of Bflat.

[4.2] Sometimes Prescott’s articles even include chromatic harmonies. Her decision to present this more advanced subject matter is particularly remarkable not just because TGOP was a general-interest periodical (not a specialty publication for musicians), but also because its articles were typically only two to three pages long, so space constraints required Prescott to select her content very carefully. She discusses diminished seventh chords most often. She analyzes diminished seventh chords in two ways: both use a similar explanation for the chord’s basic structure and origin, but involve slightly different surface-level interpretations, depending on how the chord resolves.

Example 15. Diminished seventh chords as variants of V. Beethoven, op. 7, I, mm. 29–32 (Prescott 1888, 411)

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[4.3] Prescott frequently interprets diminished sevenths as a first-inversion dominant seventh with a minor ninth and omitted root. In her analysis of the first movement of Beethoven’s op. 7 sonata, she notices the diminished seventh chord in mm. 29–30 (what we would call viio4 3 of Bflat) that helps launch the eventual modulation to the second key (Example 15):

There is a diminished seventh with E flat in the bass. It is the minor ninth of F with the root left out, the dominant chord of the new key B flat, and is resolved after its 2-bars length on the tonic chord of B flat minor. (1888, 411)

Example 16. Diminished seventh chords as variants of II. Beethoven, op. 7, I, mm. 78–81 (Prescott 1888, 412)

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[4.4] Other times, Prescott describes viio7/V as the “chromatic chord of the supertonic” that resolves to “tonic” (this interpretation seems to hinge on Prescott’s view of cadential 6 4 chords as tonic harmonies, a perspective shared by her teacher George Macfarren).(42) In the same analysis of Beethoven’s op. 7 sonata, she interprets the diminished seventh in mm. 79–80 as “the chromatic super-tonic of the coming key of C . . . The latter note [E flat] is the minor ninth of the chord whose absent root is D” (412) (Example 16).

[4.5] Conceiving of diminished seventh chords as dominant minor ninths with missing roots is a familiar nineteenth-century idea, discussed by theorists such as Gottfried Weber.(43) This derivation of the diminished seventh chord also continues in some well-known twentieth- and twenty-first century theoretical work, such as Piston 1944 and Damschroder 2017.(44) But Prescott seems to have based her interpretation of this harmony on the work of her teacher George Macfarren, who in turn took many of his ideas from Alfred Day’s Treatise on Harmony, first published in 1845. Macfarren and Day were good friends; Macfarren noted that their friendship “sprang into closest intimacy” when Day started to share his “novel principles” of music theory with him (Day [1845] 1855, x). Macfarren edited and revised the second edition of Day’s treatise (published posthumously in 1885), and he also wrote a lengthy appendix to the second edition (Day [1845] 1855, 189–223). Macfarren also based his Rudiments of Harmony (first published in 1860) on Day’s work.

[4.6] Day’s harmonic theories generated quite a bit of controversy in England because of his capricious use of the overtone series and his designation of the supertonic as a “fundamental” chromatic chord. A review of the second edition explained that Day’s treatise “has been attacked and defended for forty years” (“Alfred Day’s Treatise on Harmony” 1885, 743). Critiques of Day’s ideas were presented at the Musical Association (Cobb 1883–1884; Pearce 1887–1888; Stephens 1874–1875) and published in The Musical Times (Lecky 1880).(45) Macfarren’s support for Day was unwavering, and he even resigned his professorship at the RAM for several years for refusing to stop teaching Day’s ideas.(46) But his approaches were also widespread. Macfarren later returned to the RAM and continued to teach Day’s methods throughout his tenure there. Macfarren also circulated Day’s ideas in his own harmonic treatises, which were wildly popular: by 1890 Macfarren’s Rudiments of Harmony (largely borrowed from Day) was already in its twentieth edition.(47)

[4.7] Both Macfarren and Day made a distinction between “strict” (diatonic) and “free” (chromatic) styles, and attempted to use the overtone series to create “fundamental” chromatic chords in each key, from which they derived various chromatic harmonies. Their “fundamental” chromatic chords originate from the tonic, dominant, and supertonic scale degrees, and they invoked the overtone series to justify why these particular pitches should be “chosen as roots” (Day [1845] 1855, 60). They argued that the fifth of the generating note, or third partial, is the first new pitch in the harmonic series; the supertonic is the fifth (or third partial) of that fifth, and “the first harmonic that is common to both, it being the fifth of the dominant, and the major ninth of the tonic” (62).(48) The tonic, dominant, and supertonic scale degrees were then used to generate “fundamental” chromatic chords of the seventh, ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth, each of which may be constructed on one of the three primary “roots.”(49) Critics of Day and Macfarren pointed out the inconsistencies in their use of the harmonic series (Why is the supertonic selected as a “root” when it occurs so late in the harmonic series of the tonic fundamental?), and the numerous problems of intonation in their chordal derivations (to give just one example, the sevenths of the tonic, dominant, and supertonic fundamental chromatic chords would be too flat if derived from an overtone series on each of these pitches).(50)

Example 17. Fundamental chromatic chords of the minor ninth (Day [1845] 1885, 93)

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Example 18. “Inversions” of the three fundamental minor ninth chords (Day [1845] 1885, 99–100, 102)

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[4.8] For Day and Macfarren, diminished seventh chords didn’t exist as independent harmonies, but were really minor ninth chords built on the tonic, dominant, and supertonic degrees, in first inversion and with no root (Examples 17 and 18). Day explains that fundamental minor ninth chords “are very well known in their inversions” and usually appear without a root ([1845] 1855, 93); Macfarren goes a step further than Day and stresses that “the root of the chord may only be sounded in the bass, and is subsequently omitted in all the inversions” ([1860] 1890, 41).(51) The true “diminished seventh” interval in the chord commonly known as the diminished seventh is not between the root and the bass, but rather between the third and the minor ninth (Day [1845] 1855, 94). In his own work, Macfarren even referred to this harmony as the “so-called chord of the diminished seventh” ([1860] 1890, 139).

Example 19. Gendering diminished seventh chords. Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in G minor, op. 49, no. 1, I, mm. 91–93

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[4.9] Prescott’s analysis of diminished seventh chords thus reflects prominent (albeit controversial) harmonic approaches of the day in Britain, and demonstrates that she helped to circulate contemporaneous theoretical ideas to a female audience. But she also explains these complex theoretical concepts in her own way, sometimes situating these ideas in a gendered context. In her analysis of the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in G minor, op. 49, no. 1, she combines her discussion of the diminished seventh chord (shown in Example 19)—again described as a “chromatic chord of the supertonic”—with yet another gendered metaphor about dressmaking:

The second five-bar phrase is turned off into a chord, which we think will take the music into D minor; but, after hovering awhile in the chord which suggests the change, it is proved to be really the chromatic chord of the supertonic of G, by its resolution in the tonic, and the apparent modulation is avoided. A little piece is “let in” here, to use a dressmaker’s expression, which was not found in the first part, and this adds to the new sound of the old music. (1887b, 555)

Example 20. “The Song of the Sewing Machine.” The Girl’s Own Paper (1880, 136)

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[4.10] Prescott compares the diminished seventh chord to a technique familiar to accomplished seamstresses: inserting a gusset. A gusset is a piece of fabric added to a garment to expand it or to connect one part of the garment with another. An article in TGOP on sewing technique includes the phrase “let in” while defining a gusset as “a small piece of material let in to give ease to some part of an article or for enlarging it” (Crane 1897, 556). References to gussets and techniques of “letting in” occur frequently in TGOP. For example, an illustrated poem entitled “The Song of the Sewing Machine” (shown in Example 20) contains the lines “band and gusset and seam,/seam and gusset and band” while describing the joy of women sewing “in the comfort of many a homelike room” (“The Song of the Sewing Machine” 1880, 136).(52)

Example 21. Beethoven, op. 49, no. 1, I, mm. 25–29

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[4.11] Prescott’s gusset metaphor reflects this passage of music particularly well. During the exposition, this phrase serves as the conclusion of the second theme, and leads directly to a cadence in the secondary key, Bflat major (Example 21, mm. 25–29). But in the recapitulation, the cadential dominant is preceded by a two-measure expansion with a “new sound” (the diminished seventh chord in mm. 91–92) before the dominant arrival that eventually leads to the G-minor cadence (refer back to Example 19).(53) Prescott could have chosen many different metaphors to characterize the newly added diminished seventh chord in this passage (such as adding a row of decorative stones to a pathway, or adding another layer of fruit to a trifle, to give just two examples). But her decision to include a metaphor involving the details of dressmaking technique demonstrates that she seems to have thought carefully and strategically about the rhetoric in her articles for TGOP, and even drew on gendered metaphors to explain more advanced theoretical concepts.

Incongruities in Prescott’s Articles, Within and Beyond TGOP

[4.12] The previous example encapsulates some of the tensions found in Prescott’s articles. Her entwining of gendered imagery with more advanced theoretical content is compelling on its own, but it also problematizes the place of her writing within the larger context of TGOP. Her articles (particularly Prescott 1887b, 1888, 1889, and 1891) contain more theoretical detail than other music articles published in TGOP, which typically featured basic information about learning to play an instrument or (for more accomplished readers) performance practice. For example, Lady Benedict considers performance issues such as dynamics, fingering, and phrasing in her series of articles on Beethoven’s piano sonatas; her descriptions of individual sonatas are notably brief (a few short sentences for each movement).(54) The only theoretical content in these articles is a short overview of the four movements of a typical sonata at the beginning of her first article (Benedict 1881b).(55) Her entire account of Beethoven’s op. 49, no. 1 sonata consists of six sentences with no theoretical details, and includes rudimentary performance-oriented recommendations such as “beware of beginning the rondo too quickly, because the semiquavers in the left hand must be taken without slackening speed” (1881b, 26). Benedict’s articles thus provide a sharp contrast to the more detailed topics found in Prescott’s analyses.

[4.13] But the differences between Prescott’s work for TGOP and its other musical content are not unique to her writings; they reflect a larger trend within women’s periodicals of this era. Feminist scholars such as Beetham (1996), Moruzi (2012), and Moruzi and Smith (2010) have argued that the incongruous content within Victorian women’s periodicals serves as an important site for constructing—and deconstructing—traditional ideas of womanhood. In her groundbreaking work on nineteenth-century women’s periodicals, Beetham explains that “femininity is always represented in [women’s] magazines as fractured, not least because it is simultaneously assumed as given and as still to be achieved . . . [T]his femininity has been addressed in and through a form which is itself fractured and heterogenous” (1996, 1). At first glance, TGOP might seem to be entirely conservative in orientation because of its frequent emphasis on morality and “proper” womanhood, and because it was published by the Religious Tract Society.(56) However, like other profitable and successful magazines of its time, TGOP actually included a range of articles and perspectives that sometimes expressed dramatically different viewpoints. Skelding highlights how TGOP “seems to have steered an uneasy course between two extremes” (2001, 36), and notes the TGOP’s “frequently baffling tendency to project apparently divergent, or contradictory, notions of femininity; combing the radical with the domestic and reactionary” (35). She stresses that TGOP “does not project one view of women but many views” (51).

Example 22. “The Dream of Home.” The Girl’s Own Paper (1889, 664)

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[4.14] For example, Prescott’s articles with advanced theoretical content were often surrounded by more conservative, traditionally feminine items, as if to temper their potentially challenging subject matter. Her analysis of Beethoven’s op. 7 sonata is preceded by an article entitled “Wedding Anniversaries” that describes the custom of giving gifts to symbolize certain anniversaries (for example, silver for a twenty-fifth anniversary) (Dyer 1888, 407). Her op. 7 article is followed by another article with a domestic focus, which explains how to make different homemade crafts out of wood sticks to entertain children (“How to Amuse Children” 1888, 412). The most striking juxtaposition involves Prescott’s analysis of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in D major, op. 28. Sandwiched between the second and third pages of the article is the full-page image shown in Example 22, entitled “The Dream of Home,” which depicts a demure young woman plucking what appears to be a dital harp, a Victorian parlor instrument.(57) The music notation at the top of the illustration does not reference the Beethoven sonata Prescott discusses, but instead shows a rudimentary progression of tonic and dominant seventh chords in C major. The conservative content found within and around Prescott’s articles thus seems an attempt to mitigate the more advanced topics she presents, diluting the theoretical content in her articles with material that extolls the virtues of traditional womanhood. These juxtapositions reflect the magazine’s broader editorial vision; Barger explains that in TGOP “the musically accomplished young lady was expected to live her life so that she did not lose as an ideally feminine woman what she gained in proficiency as a musician” (2016, 3).

[4.15] But the issues in which Prescott’s articles appeared also featured more progressive content. For example, the same March 1888 issue discussed above (which includes Prescott’s op. 7 analysis, surrounded by the articles on “Wedding Anniversaries” and “How to Amuse Children”), also contains a lengthy article entitled “Odd Characters: A Gallery of Eccentric Women,” which describes the relationship between Eleanor Butler (1739–1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755–1831). Colloquially known as “the ladies of Llangollen,” Butler and Ponsonby were a lesbian couple who lived together for approximately 50 years in a Welsh cottage. The article describes how the two women decided “to fly from the world, and seek some secluded spot where they could live entirely for each other” (N. Mason 1888, 402).(58) The articles that appear before and after Prescott’s op. 49, no. 1 analysis also encapsulate the fractures commonly found within TGOP. Prescott’s analysis (which features the gendered metaphor about dressmaking and the diminished seventh chord discussed above) is preceded by an installment of the regular column “Dress: In Season and In Reason” by the Lady Dressmaker, which describes several recent fashion trends.(59) But the selection that follows Prescott’s analysis is more forward-looking. “Such a Coward!,” the final installment of a four-part short story, chronicles how the courageous Céline dramatically rescues her cousins—including her arrogant and outspoken male cousin, Alfie—from a wild bull they encounter while picnicking in the country. In contrast to Alfie, who selfishly leaves his cousins behind and runs to safety as he “trembled with haste and fear,” Céline remains calm and fends off the furious bull by distracting him with a cloth (“Such a Coward” 1887, 556). Alfie praises Céline’s bravery at the end of the story, confessing, “I couldn’t have believed I could have been such a coward . . . as to leave the girls and Emmie [his younger sister] to manage for themselves when I was the only man of the party, and ought to have protected them. I think I just lost my head with fright” (557). Thus, the theoretical detail in Prescott’s writings did depart from the usual musical content in TGOP, but it was entirely in keeping with the heterogeneous scope of the magazine. Although TGOP was certainly not a radical feminist magazine, its diverse content reflects the broader trends of women’s magazines of the era, which contained fractures and incongruities that pushed the boundaries of traditional womanhood. As Skelding argues, the articles in TGOP serve as an “on-going debate”; ultimately TGOP provided “a forum for the discussion of contemporary issues affecting young women and girls . . . [I]ts pages were used as a medium to wage contemporary debates about the woman’s place in society” (2001, 50).

[4.16] But Prescott’s analyses didn’t just create fractures within the pages of TGOP; they also differ from other analyses of the same pieces intended for an amateur Victorian audience. Prescott’s analyses in TGOP are actually more detailed than other contemporaneous articles on the same works featured in the British press, such as Reinecke’s Letters to a Lady on Beethoven’s piano sonatas (previously discussed in paragraph [3.12]). To cite another example, a lengthy article published in The Musical Standard, in which Ernst Pauer examines Beethoven’s piano sonatas in E-flat major (op. 7), C-sharp minor (op. 27, no. 2), and C major (op. 53), also lacks the theoretical intricacies of Prescott’s analyses.(60) His discussion of the first movement of op. 7 is limited to a single paragraph that does not include any in-depth information on voice leading, harmony, or form. Like Reinecke and Lady Benedict, his analytic observations consist of whimsical yet vague generalities; he characterizes the first movement as “grand, bold, manly; yet at times it is relieved by passages of great smoothness and tenderness, and shows Beethoven’s anxiety to exhibit sufficient contrasts” (1882, 367).(61)

[4.17] Even a contemporaneous book on Beethoven’s sonatas that was popular in Victorian Britain lacked the theoretical detail of Prescott’s analyses. In 1886 Ernst von Elterlein’s Beethoven’s Pianoforte Sonatas (an English translation of a German text first published in 1856) was published in England. The preface explains how Elterlein’s book “stands forth as an honourable exception amidst the host of insipid commentaries on the great master’s works—the multitudinous explanations that explain nothing” ([1856] 1886, vi).(62) Thus “every musical student or amateur can safely trust him [Elterlein] as a competent and agreeable guide” (vii). However, Elterlein’s descriptions of individual sonata movements are of similar length as Reinecke’s and Lady Benedict’s (a paragraph or less), and are notably nebulous. For example, his entire discussion of the second movement of Beethoven’s op. 28 sonata (the same movement analyzed in Prescott 1889) consists of the following sentence: “The second movement, andante, D minor, 3/4 time, produces a feeling like that which comes over us when light films of cloud veil the sun, making a beautiful landscape shine in fallow light, the cloud only breaking a little now and then to admit the kindly sunbeams” (69). Elterlein’s lush descriptions of Beethoven’s piano sonatas were harshly ridiculed by Reinecke, who dismissed Elterlein’s work as “poetical commentaries,” arguing that it is “superfluous to increase the number of this mode of explanation, especially as it always remains doubtful whether the true comprehension of these masterpieces is really helped thereby” (1896a, 147). Elterlein’s accounts, while also geared towards an amateur audience, thus lack the details of performance practice found in Reinecke’s and Lady Benedict’s writings, but they also lack the theoretical detail found in Prescott’s articles, and they do not include the explicitly gendered metaphors she uses in her articles for TGOP.

[4.18] Prescott’s writings also differ from Macfarren’s. Macfarren’s books focus on broader theoretical issues of harmony and voice leading, and do not contain in-depth analyses of any of the works Prescott analyzes for TGOP. To my knowledge, the only substantive examination of any of these pieces by Macfarren appears in The Musical World article on Beethoven’s op. 7 sonata (briefly discussed above in paragraphs [3.13]–[3.15]), which was written by Prescott. (For the sake of clarity, in the following paragraphs I refer to The Musical World article as Macfarren’s since it presents his analysis, even though it was compiled by Prescott.) Prescott’s analysis of op. 7 for TGOP is actually more theoretically rich than Macfarren’s. Both Macfarren’s and Prescott’s articles provide a basic overview of the form of the movement, and the two articles also share several music examples that identify the main themes of the movement.(63) However, Prescott’s article is approximately twice as long as Macfarren’s, and the balance of content also differs between the two articles. Of Macfarren’s twenty-two short paragraphs, thirteen present basic background information about Beethoven and the sonata and explain Prescott’s involvement in writing the article; only nine brief paragraphs in Macfarren’s article provide any theoretical observations about the movement. In contrast, Prescott’s article contains twenty-eight much longer paragraphs of analysis, and only six paragraphs of introductory or background information.

[4.19] Prescott’s (1888) article features many details of chromatic harmony, modulations, form, and phrase structure that are not found in Macfarren’s article. For example, Prescott notices several instances of irregular phrases that Macfarren does not mention (such as the overlapping five-measure phrases in mm. 9–13, 13–17, and 17–21, and the five-measure phrase in mm. 45–49) (410). Macfarren’s article also omits the descriptions of voice leading found in Prescott’s analysis (see paragraph [4.1]). Prescott’s article contains lengthy examinations of the modulations and chromatic harmonies found in the development and recapitulation (including the diminished seventh chords discussed in paragraphs [4.3] and [4.4]). In contrast, Macfarren does not feature chromatic harmony in his analysis. His article summarizes the development and recapitulation with a single sentence: “Many new effects occur in the 2nd part [development and recapitulation] besides those already noticed” (Prescott 1887c, 1030).

[4.20] Prescott was careful to distinguish her work from Macfarren’s, and seems to have had some anxieties about being perceived as merely his pupil or assistant. Macfarren clearly respected Prescott’s intelligence and musicianship; as previously discussed (paragraph [2.4]), he dedicated his 1877 oratorio Joseph to Prescott while she was still a student, describing her as his “pupil, friend, and amanuensis.”(64) Macfarren continued to rely on Prescott for help with his compositions because of his visual impairment. Banister (1891) emphasizes Prescott’s integral role in the creation of Macfarren’s 1883 oratorio King David, because she helped him select texts. When Macfarren expressed his uncertainty about setting a particular passage of text, Prescott composed her own setting to demonstrate how it could work well. After Macfarren heard Prescott’s composition, he exclaimed that he now had “a greater difficulty before me” because he had to create something “different to yours” (Banister 1891, 308).

[4.21] Remarkably, Prescott begins her article on op. 7 for TGOP with this same anecdote about King David.(65) Prescott then explains that her analysis of op. 7 presents a similar problem since she has Macfarren’s comments about the piece (presumably the same “notes of a lecture” that she used for the article in The Musical World discussed above). However, Prescott stresses that she has thought carefully about the piece and created something original in its own right, which has new insights not found in Macfarren’s analysis:

The tables are now turned upon the pupil; she wishes to write an analysis of a certain sonata, and there lie on the desk before her her own notes of a lecture given by her master on the very same sonata. Yes, there is the groundwork of what I must say in those notes, but how am I to say that which shall be my own? Shall I make it my own by saying that I have proved the truth of all the analysis by experiment, and that I have added much that was not said by him? (1888, 408)

Prescott also concludes her article by differentiating her analysis from Macfarren’s one final time. Her last sentence states, “if any readers wish to see for themselves what the old professor really said on this sonata, let them refer to the Musical World for December 31, 1887, where they will find gems of his thought, set by these clumsy but affectionate hands” (412).

[4.22] Prescott’s self-deprecating tone (with the reference to her “clumsy yet affectionate hands”) captures some of the widespread anxieties about the emerging professionalism of women during this era, which will be the focus of the next section of this article. Prescott’s analyses for TGOP, which feature both detailed theoretical content and blatantly gendered discourse, attempt to navigate an uneasy divide between conservative and progressive, amateur and professional that is often found in women’s magazines of this era. As Moruzi emphasizes, “The tensions between the ideal of female domesticity and the new realities of women’s lives are reflected in girls’ magazines of the period and demonstrate how difficult it can be to reconcile these opposing forces” (2012, 12). Prescott’s choice to include in-depth theoretical content in a general-interest periodical for women also creates a complicated picture of the musical level and abilities of her readers: her concise, straightforward mode of presentation seems to indicate that she believed her (amateur, female) readers were fully capable of understanding more advanced theoretical topics such as chromatic harmony. Somewhat ironically, her articles for TGOP might well represent the most detailed and nuanced discussion of these pieces in English for a Victorian audience, and reveal that music theorizing can and did happen in other places outside of published tomes or specialty periodicals for musicians.

Music Theory and Women’s Education

[5.1] In this section, I examine instances where Prescott broaches broader issues of music theory and women’s education in her articles. These passages illustrate how her work can be characterized as an early example of public music theory, and how it intersects with contemporaneous debates about gender and womanhood.

[5.2] Accessibility is one primary feature of public work in the humanities, and Prescott adopts a warm, welcoming tone in her articles that helps make her theoretical topics more reader-friendly. Her articles are liberally sprinkled with inclusive forms of direct address—there is a heavy reliance on the pronoun “you,” and the article “A Letter on Musical Rhythm” even begins, “My dear pupil” (1886, 601). Prescott also cultivates an encouraging, egalitarian tone by frequently using “we,” a pedagogical approach that dissolves and dismantles hierarchies between teacher and student. “That is one of the things we all have to learn,” she later remarks, while describing the importance of using correct rhythms and metrical placement when composing (601).(66) Prescott also uses a string of references to “we” and “us” in a different article (“Touching the Pianoforte”) to emphasize how pianists should cultivate an expressive, individualistic tone to maximize the emotional impact of their performances: “That is, after all, the reason we love the piano. For we, who cannot sing our beautiful thoughts, or speak them like the orator, or write them like the poet and the novelist, we want something else by which we can tell those around us of the love and beauty that are about us all . . . So if you have a loving thought in your music, tell it to the piano with a loving and lingering touch” (1887a, 378).

[5.3] Beyond these rhetorical flourishes, Prescott seems keen to encourage her female readers to learn as much as they can about music theory, and to use their theoretical knowledge to develop a deeper understanding of music. An especially provocative passage appears at the beginning of Prescott’s analysis of the second movement of Beethoven’s op. 28 piano sonata, where she dwells on the importance of analysis for girls for one full paragraph. She writes that analysis should not create

Fright or terror for you . . . you need not be afraid to try. I have heard so many little girls—aye, and big ones too—say, “Oh, it’s too difficult for me to understand music”; but so long as you have love for music, and patience to dwell upon it, its meaning will unfold to you. Have you not seen the flower-bud seem to open and smile upon your baby-sister, while your mother holds her to the pretty thing? Just so will music unfold and smile upon you as you dwell upon its beauties.(67) (1889, 663)

This remarkable passage is noteworthy not just because it encourages women to learn more about theory and analysis, but because of the gendered rhetoric that Prescott employs—her saccharine metaphors invoke stereotypically feminine imagery that includes love, patience, flowers, beauty, motherhood, and even a baby sister. Prescott is really a master of journalistic economy here, not just churning out an abundant ooze of femininity in a few short sentences, but exploiting that same feminine imagery to argue her point about analysis and women, just as she did with the gendered metaphors related to theoretical topics discussed in the previous sections of this article.

[5.4] Prescott’s advocacy for women to learn music theory seems to have intersected with her work outside TGOP and her broader views of women’s education and professionalism in music. In the 1880s and 1890s debates about women’s rights and women’s education were raging in full force in England, with the rise of the “New Woman,” the passage of the Married Women’s Property Act in 1870 and 1882,(68) and the recent founding of several important women’s colleges, such as the Cambridge-affiliated Girton College in 1869. Prescott was personally invested in women’s education, as she worked as a music teacher at the Church of England High School for Girls in London, and taught correspondence classes in harmony, counterpoint, and composition for Newnham College (the second Cambridge-affiliated women’s college, founded in 1871). Fuller emphasizes the significance of Prescott’s position at Newnham, even though it was just for correspondence courses, explaining that Prescott was “one of the few women of her generation to work in music at a British university” (2018, 156). It is obviously impossible to know Prescott’s exact opinion regarding the changing status of women in the late nineteenth century, but aside from her own experiences educating young women, she also wrote at least two articles that reveal how her desire for women to learn more about the basic structures of music may have dovetailed with her views of contemporaneous debates about women’s work.

[5.5] In May 1883, Steven S. Stratton presented a paper on “Woman in Relation to Musical Art” before the Musical Association (the same academic organization previously discussed, in which Prescott was a charter member and active participant). Stratton attempted to account for the lack of “great” women composers by describing the institutional barriers women traditionally faced—in particular, lack of access to professional education. He argued that with better educational opportunities, more women composers—and better women composers—would emerge, and he included a list of several hundred women composers from 1500 to the present in a lengthy appendix to his essay (139–146).(69) During the question-and-answer session following Stratton’s paper, Ferdinand Praeger vehemently disagreed with Stratton by invoking separate spheres ideologies, citing women’s supposed intellectual weakness and their “natural” association with stereotypically feminine realms such as emotion and feeling.(70) Praeger claimed that “woman is incapable of great composition” (Stratton 1883, 136) because “woman’s brain is not capable. She has not the reasoning power, nor has she the intensity . . . [She] lacks the reasoning power to go step by step, which is one of the most important items in composition” (135). Praeger stresses that woman’s “genius” is that of instinct, not reason:

Woman is gifted beyond man with a genius—I say genius advisedly—that we cannot understand—her marvelous power of instinct . . . Men can give reason, they give details, they go step by step to prove that such and such a thing must occur, but woman has direct genius, she has instinct, and does a thing because she feels [emphasis Praeger’s]. Ask her for reasons and she will refuse them because she cannot give them . . . you will never do any good in point of reasoning, if you reason with her ever so long; it will be no good; she cannot follow it.” (134)

In Praeger’s view, the paucity of women composers resulted from women’s inherent lack of ability for reasoned, logical thought.

[5.6] Prescott did not respond to Praeger during the question-and-answer session (indeed, no women participated in the discussion following Stratton’s paper), but she wrote a lengthy rebuttal to Praeger’s comments that was published in The Musical World, entitled “Is Reason or Instinct the Best Composer?” (1883). She begins by describing a dream she had after hearing Praeger’s remarks, in which two male musicians, “Reason” and “Instinct,” attempt to create a composition. After quarreling about whose approach is best, Reason and Instinct eventually realize that composition should be a collaborative process that fuses both of their perspectives, and so “they shook hands and went to work together” (366).(71) At the end of the article, she annihilates Praeger’s position by humorously pointing out the flaws in his supposedly “logical” reasoning: “he also forgot that he was jumping to the conclusion that women cannot reason. The frightened child at night puts his head under the bed-clothes and thinks he is safe because he cannot hear the noise. This is all very well when the child is frightened at nothing; but if there is a real burglar or fire the bed-clothes will not save him” (366; italics in the original). Prescott concludes, “there are two kinds of reasoning, one by deduction, the other by induction”; although induction is “more natural to women,” they can (and should) use both modes of thought (366; italics in the original). She writes that women “do not often take the trouble to prove in argument what they already know . . . But they can if they try” (366)—just as she did in her article.

[5.7] But Prescott’s ideas about women’s work also extended beyond the musical realm. In 1894 she wrote an article for The Musical News (a popular British periodical for both men and women) that described an upcoming “Imperial Exhibition of Women’s Work,” which would showcase women’s contributions in a broad range of different fields. Prescott argued that the exhibition would help dispel long-held gendered stereotypes regarding man’s supposed “power” and woman’s innate “weakness”:

For the workers among the weaker sex have to contend against two deeply-rooted ideas. One of these is a distortion of the song “Men must work and women must weep.” Kingsley never meant in that refrain to claim the monopoly of either privilege for either sex. Yet that is the common idea, as untrue as it is unfair to both sexes.

The other deeply-rooted idea is that women’s work is weak. What a blessed word is that word weak! How it is applied here, there, and everywhere to express dissatisfaction of any sort, just as its opposite, powerful, is applied everywhere and to everything to express approval! . . . I suppose women’s work was very bad at one time, in the days when a blue-stocking was a dreadful person in grotesque attire, when paper flowers and wax grapes were the expression of domestic fine art, and “Avison’s beautiful air” with variations for three performers on one pianoforte the joy of the musical amateur. Still, even in those times, the women did but “match the men” . . . for men in those days had no time for anything good but fighting. They did that thoroughly.

In all the years since then, however, our work has been getting better. It is to show that women’s work can improve, for it has improved, that it can be good, for it is good, and make it yet better, and yet easier, that this exhibition has been planned. (1894, 101; italics in the original)

[5.8] Prescott published these two articles—“Is Reason or Instinct the Best Composer” (1883) and “Review of the Imperial Exhibition of Women’s Work” (1894)—eleven years apart, shortly before and after her work for TGOP. Her articles demonstrate that her commitment to women’s education was not perfunctory, but serious and enduring. Her writings for TGOP represent just one small part of her many contributions as a music theorist. But when viewed alongside her other pedagogical work with women and her writing about women’s education, these articles reflect some of the major tensions of the late nineteenth century regarding the changing status of women and improving women’s education. In an 1890 article for The Musical World, written in the midst of her work for TGOP, Prescott mused, “My own little life of music is a very quiet one; chiefly comprised within the walls of my study, from whence I look out as from a watch tower upon the struggles, the sorrows, hopes, and joys of my fellows, having those of my own which they perhaps have little knowledge of” (1890, 66). Perhaps Prescott hoped that her work as a public music theorist would not just educate the next generation of women and enrich their musical experiences, but also help to eradicate the loneliness and isolation experienced by many professional women of Prescott’s generation.

Conclusion

[6.1] Prescott’s articles for The Girl’s Own Paper raise a number of complex questions about what “counts” as music theory. When I first encountered her writings in TGOP, I initially dismissed them: the articles were short, her colorful language struck me as unscholarly, and the theoretical content seemed straightforward and primarily pedagogical. Why should anyone be interested in Prescott’s work, especially given our rich trove of nineteenth-century music theory treatises? But I eventually realized that my own scholarly biases were prohibiting me from appreciating how these articles offer something unique and distinctive. As Thomas Christensen has argued, too often theorists focus solely on the “elite texts” of music theory; broadening our perspective to include other genres and venues in which music theory can and does take place “allows us to see music theory as a living, engaging, and ultimately human pursuit” (2011, 201).

[6.2] So-called “public” music theory like Prescott’s is important because it expands our existing histories of music theory, and it presents a richer, fuller picture of who music theorists and readers of music theory can be. Sir Donald Francis Tovey is often considered the first British public music intellectual, but Tovey was actually preceded by a vibrant and longstanding tradition of public music scholarship in Britain, which included theorists such as Prescott.(72) Her work demonstrates how journalism served as a vital public platform for sharing music theory among British women in the late nineteenth century, and it complicates the stereotype of the ignorant amateur female musician. Furthermore, if we prematurely dismiss work like Prescott’s for being “superficial” or “weak,” we run the risk of replicating the very same binary oppositions of “powerful” and “weak” that Prescott herself argued against more than a century ago. Sometimes music theory can be discovered in the most unexpected settings, but I think that tells us something about the value of what we do as music theorists. We can find music theory happening in all sorts of extraordinary places, if we take the time to look—and if we dare to read with an open mind.

    Return to beginning    



Rachel Lumsden
Florida State University
College of Music
122 N. Copeland St.
Tallahassee, FL 32306
rllumsden@fsu.edu

    Return to beginning    



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—————. (1867) 1892. Six Lectures on Harmony. 4th ed. Longmans, Green, & Co.

“Madame Viard-Louis’ Concerts.” 1879. The Musical Times and Singing-Class Circular 20 (435), May 1: 267.

“Madame Viard-Louis’ Concerts.” 1879. The Musical Times and Singing-Class Circular 20 (435), May 1: 267.

Mann, Melissa Elliot. 2003. “The Creation of a Canon: Patterns in Reception of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas.” PhD diss., University of Connecticut.

Mann, Melissa Elliot. 2003. “The Creation of a Canon: Patterns in Reception of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas.” PhD diss., University of Connecticut.

Mason, James. 1881. “What the Flowers Say.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, January 15: 250–52.

Mason, James. 1881. “What the Flowers Say.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, January 15: 250–52.

Mason, Nanette. 1888. “Odd Characters: A Gallery of Eccentric Women, Part V—The Ladies of Llangollen.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, March 24: 402–4.

Mason, Nanette. 1888. “Odd Characters: A Gallery of Eccentric Women, Part V—The Ladies of Llangollen.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, March 24: 402–4.

Mavor, Elizabeth. 1971. The Ladies of Llangollen: A Study in Romantic Friendship. Michael Joseph.

Mavor, Elizabeth. 1971. The Ladies of Llangollen: A Study in Romantic Friendship. Michael Joseph.

Medicus. 1882. “How to Nurse and Tend the Aged.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, November 25: 122–23.

Medicus. 1882. “How to Nurse and Tend the Aged.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, November 25: 122–23.

Miller, Fred. 1885. “Pianoforte Fronts: And How to Decorate Them.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, July 4: 628–29.

Miller, Fred. 1885. “Pianoforte Fronts: And How to Decorate Them.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, July 4: 628–29.

“Miscellaneous Concerts, Lectures, &c.” 1893. The Musical Times and Singing-Class Circular 34 (610), December 1: 744–46.

“Miscellaneous Concerts, Lectures, &c.” 1893. The Musical Times and Singing-Class Circular 34 (610), December 1: 744–46.

Moruzi, Kristine. 2012. Constructing Girlhood through the Periodical Press, 1850–1915. Routledge.

Moruzi, Kristine. 2012. Constructing Girlhood through the Periodical Press, 1850–1915. Routledge.

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Moruzi, Kristine and Michelle Smith. 2010. “‘Learning What Real Work . . . Means’: Ambivalent Attitudes Towards Employment in the ‘Girls Own Paper.’” Victorian Periodicals Review 43 (4): 429–45.

“Music in Birmingham.” 1884. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 25 (496): 340–41.

“Music in Birmingham.” 1884. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 25 (496): 340–41.

“Music in Bristol.” 1891. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 32 (575), January 1: 28–29.

“Music in Bristol.” 1891. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 32 (575), January 1: 28–29.

“The Musical Artists’ Society.” 1885. The Era 2438, Saturday, June 13: 16.

“The Musical Artists’ Society.” 1885. The Era 2438, Saturday, June 13: 16.

“New Music.” 1880. The Graphic (London) 529, January 17: 75.

“New Music.” 1880. The Graphic (London) 529, January 17: 75.

“Notes.” 1876. The Musical Standard 10 (612), April 22: 265.

“Notes.” 1876. The Musical Standard 10 (612), April 22: 265.

“Notes on Music.” 1899. Liverpool Mercury, etc. 16017, April 29: 9.

“Notes on Music.” 1899. Liverpool Mercury, etc. 16017, April 29: 9.

“Obituary: Ernst Pauer.” 1905. The Musical Times 46 (748), June 1: 399.

“Obituary: Ernst Pauer.” 1905. The Musical Times 46 (748), June 1: 399.

Palmer, Fiona M. 2017. Conductors in Britain, 1870–1914: Wielding the Baton at the Height of Empire. The Boydell Press.

Palmer, Fiona M. 2017. Conductors in Britain, 1870–1914: Wielding the Baton at the Height of Empire. The Boydell Press.

Patmore, Coventry. (1854–1862) 1885. The Angel in the House. 6th ed. George Bell & Sons.

Patmore, Coventry. (1854–1862) 1885. The Angel in the House. 6th ed. George Bell & Sons.

Pauer, Ernst. 1882. “L. Van Beethoven’s Earlier Sonatas.” The Musical Standard, December 9: 366–69.

Pauer, Ernst. 1882. “L. Van Beethoven’s Earlier Sonatas.” The Musical Standard, December 9: 366–69.

Pearce, Charles William. 1887–1888. “Some Further Modifications of Day’s System of Harmony, Suggested from an Educational Point of View.” Proceedings of the Musical Association, 14th session (paper presented June 4, 1888): 173–99.

Pearce, Charles William. 1887–1888. “Some Further Modifications of Day’s System of Harmony, Suggested from an Educational Point of View.” Proceedings of the Musical Association, 14th session (paper presented June 4, 1888): 173–99.

Piston, Walter. 1944. Harmony. W. W. Norton & Company.

Piston, Walter. 1944. Harmony. W. W. Norton & Company.

Prescott, Oliveria. 1882. Form, Or Design, In Music: Part I—Instrumental, Part II—Vocal. Duncan Davison & Co.

Prescott, Oliveria. 1882. Form, Or Design, In Music: Part I—Instrumental, Part II—Vocal. Duncan Davison & Co.

Prescott, Oliveria. 1883. “Is Reason or Instinct the Best Composer?” The Musical World, June 9: 347; June 16: 366.

—————. 1883. “Is Reason or Instinct the Best Composer?” The Musical World, June 9: 347; June 16: 366.

Prescott, Oliveria. 1886. “A Letter on Musical Rhythm.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, June 19: 601–2.

—————. 1886. “A Letter on Musical Rhythm.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, June 19: 601–2.

Prescott, Oliveria. 1887a. “Touching the Pianoforte.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, March 12: 377–78.

—————. 1887a. “Touching the Pianoforte.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, March 12: 377–78.

Prescott, Oliveria. 1887b. “An Analysis of Beethoven’s Sonata in G minor, Op. 49, No. 1.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, May 28: 555–56.

—————. 1887b. “An Analysis of Beethoven’s Sonata in G minor, Op. 49, No. 1.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, May 28: 555–56.

Prescott, Oliveria. 1887c. “Beethoven’s Sonata in E Flat, Op. 7: Notes of a Lecture Given by the Late Sir George Macfarren.” The Musical World, December 31: 1028–30.

—————. 1887c. “Beethoven’s Sonata in E Flat, Op. 7: Notes of a Lecture Given by the Late Sir George Macfarren.” The Musical World, December 31: 1028–30.

Prescott, Oliveria. 1888. “Beethoven’s Sonata in E Flat, Op. 7: Analysis of its Design and Harmony.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, March 24: 408, 410–12.

—————. 1888. “Beethoven’s Sonata in E Flat, Op. 7: Analysis of its Design and Harmony.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, March 24: 408, 410–12.

Prescott, Oliveria. 1889. “Musical Design for Musical Babes: Analysis of the Slow Movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in D, Op. 28.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, July 20: 662–66.

—————. 1889. “Musical Design for Musical Babes: Analysis of the Slow Movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in D, Op. 28.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, July 20: 662–66.

Prescott, Oliveria. 1890. “Brothers and Sisters.” The Musical World, January 25: 66.

—————. 1890. “Brothers and Sisters.” The Musical World, January 25: 66.

Prescott, Oliveria. 1891. “Mendelssohn’s ‘Song Without Words,’ in G, Op. 62, No. 4.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, April 11: 443.

—————. 1891. “Mendelssohn’s ‘Song Without Words,’ in G, Op. 62, No. 4.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, April 11: 443.

Prescott, Oliveria. 1891–1892. “Musical Design, a Help to Poetic Intention.” Proceedings of the Musical Association, 18th session (paper presented May 10, 1892): 121–34.

—————. 1891–1892. “Musical Design, a Help to Poetic Intention.” Proceedings of the Musical Association, 18th session (paper presented May 10, 1892): 121–34.

Prescott, Oliveria. 1894. “Review of the Imperial Exhibition of Women’s Work.” The Musical News, August 4: 101.

—————. 1894. “Review of the Imperial Exhibition of Women’s Work.” The Musical News, August 4: 101.

Prescott, Oliveria. 1904. About Music, and What it is Made Of: A Book for Amateurs. Methuen & Co.

—————. 1904. About Music, and What it is Made Of: A Book for Amateurs. Methuen & Co.

“Pretty Pianoforte Back, A.” 1897. The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, August 7: 708–9.

“Pretty Pianoforte Back, A.” 1897. The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, August 7: 708–9.

Proceedings of the Musical Association. 1874–1875. First Session. Kraus reprint Ltd., 1966.

Proceedings of the Musical Association. 1874–1875. First Session. Kraus reprint Ltd., 1966.

Proceedings of the Musical Association. 1917–1918. Forty-Fourth Session. Kraus reprint Ltd., 1966.

Proceedings of the Musical Association. 1917–1918. Forty-Fourth Session. Kraus reprint Ltd., 1966.

“Provincial.” 1894. The Musical News, February 24: 180–81.

“Provincial.” 1894. The Musical News, February 24: 180–81.

Reid, Ellis. 1882. “Rose.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, July 29: 692.

Reid, Ellis. 1882. “Rose.” The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, July 29: 692.

Reinecke, Carl. 1896a. “The Beethoven Piano Sonatas—Letters to a Lady.” Parts I and II. The Monthly Musical Record, July 1: 146–48.

Reinecke, Carl. 1896a. “The Beethoven Piano Sonatas—Letters to a Lady.” Parts I and II. The Monthly Musical Record, July 1: 146–48.

Reinecke, Carl. 1896b. “The Beethoven Piano Sonatas—Letters to a Lady.” Part VII. The Monthly Musical Record, November 1: 242–46.

—————. 1896b. “The Beethoven Piano Sonatas—Letters to a Lady.” Part VII. The Monthly Musical Record, November 1: 242–46.

“Royal Academy of Music.” 1875. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 17 (390), August 1: 170–71.

“Royal Academy of Music.” 1875. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 17 (390), August 1: 170–71.

“Royal Academy of Music.” 1876a. The Era (London) 1957, March 26: 3.

“Royal Academy of Music.” 1876a. The Era (London) 1957, March 26: 3.

“Royal Academy of Music.” 1876b. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 17 (398), April 1: 428.

“Royal Academy of Music.” 1876b. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 17 (398), April 1: 428.

“Royal Academy of Music.” 1877a. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 18 (413), July 1: 334.

“Royal Academy of Music.” 1877a. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 18 (413), July 1: 334.

“Royal Academy of Music.” 1877b. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 18 (414), August 1: 390–91.

“Royal Academy of Music.” 1877b. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 18 (414), August 1: 390–91.

“Royal Academy of Music.” 1878. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 19 (425), July 1: 394.

“Royal Academy of Music.” 1878. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 19 (425), July 1: 394.

Ruskin, John. (1865) 1905. “Lecture II—Lilies: Of Queens’ Gardens” from Sesame and Lilies. Reprinted in The Complete Works of John Ruskin, vol. 18, eds. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, 109–44. George Allen.

Ruskin, John. (1865) 1905. “Lecture II—Lilies: Of Queens’ Gardens” from Sesame and Lilies. Reprinted in The Complete Works of John Ruskin, vol. 18, eds. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, 109–44. George Allen.

Saslaw, Janna. 1990–1991. “Gottfried Weber and Multiple Meaning.” Theoria 5: 74–103.

Saslaw, Janna. 1990–1991. “Gottfried Weber and Multiple Meaning.” Theoria 5: 74–103.

Shirlaw, Matthew. 1917. The Theory of Harmony: An Inquiry into the Natural Principles of Harmony, with an Examination of the Chief Systems of Harmony from Rameau to the Present Day. Novello and Company.

Shirlaw, Matthew. 1917. The Theory of Harmony: An Inquiry into the Natural Principles of Harmony, with an Examination of the Chief Systems of Harmony from Rameau to the Present Day. Novello and Company.

Skelding, Hilary. 2001. “Every Girl’s Best Friend? The Girl’s Own Paper and its Readers.” In Feminist Readings of Victorian Popular Texts: Divergent Femininities, eds. Emma Liggins and Daniel Duffy, 35–52. Ashgate.

Skelding, Hilary. 2001. “Every Girl’s Best Friend? The Girl’s Own Paper and its Readers.” In Feminist Readings of Victorian Popular Texts: Divergent Femininities, eds. Emma Liggins and Daniel Duffy, 35–52. Ashgate.

Snigurowicz, Diana. 1991. “The Musical Standard—Complete Introduction.” RIPM guide, https://www.ripm.org/pdf/Introductions/MSTintroEnglish.pdf.

Snigurowicz, Diana. 1991. “The Musical Standard—Complete Introduction.” RIPM guide, https://www.ripm.org/pdf/Introductions/MSTintroEnglish.pdf.

Solie, Ruth A. 2004. Music in Other Words: Victorian Conversations. University of California Press.

Solie, Ruth A. 2004. Music in Other Words: Victorian Conversations. University of California Press.

“The Song of the Sewing Machine.” 1880. The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, February 28: 136.

“The Song of the Sewing Machine.” 1880. The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, February 28: 136.

Stephens, Charles Edward. 1874–1875. “On the Fallacies of Dr. Day’s Theory of Harmony, with a Brief Outline of the Elements of a New System. Proceedings of the Musical Association, 1st session (paper presented February 1, 1875): 51–73.

Stephens, Charles Edward. 1874–1875. “On the Fallacies of Dr. Day’s Theory of Harmony, with a Brief Outline of the Elements of a New System. Proceedings of the Musical Association, 1st session (paper presented February 1, 1875): 51–73.

Stratton, Stephen S. 1883. “Woman in Relation to Musical Art.” Proceedings of the Musical Association, 9th session (1882–1883), May 7: 115–46.

Stratton, Stephen S. 1883. “Woman in Relation to Musical Art.” Proceedings of the Musical Association, 9th session (1882–1883), May 7: 115–46.

“Such a Coward!” 1887. The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, May 28: 556–57.

“Such a Coward!” 1887. The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, May 28: 556–57.

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Tick, Judith. 1986. “Passed Away Is the Piano Girl: Changes in American Musical Life, 1870–1900.” In , eds. Jane Bowers and Judith Tick, 325–48. University of Illinois Press.

“To-Day’s Apparel.” 1897. The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, July 31: 696–98.

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“The Unvarnished Side of Hospital Nursing.” 1888. The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, September 15: 808, 810.

“The Unvarnished Side of Hospital Nursing.” 1888. The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, September 15: 808, 810.

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“Work for All.” 1883. The Girl’s Own Paper, Saturday, November 24: 119–20.

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Wright, David C. H. 2013. The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music: A Social and Cultural History. Boydell Press.

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Footnotes

* Many thanks to Jennifer Saltzstein, Charles Brewer, Lauren Hartburg, and the anonymous reviewers of this article for their help with this project. Original British spellings have been retained in all quotations in this article.
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Many thanks to Jennifer Saltzstein, Charles Brewer, Lauren Hartburg, and the anonymous reviewers of this article for their help with this project. Original British spellings have been retained in all quotations in this article.

1. Recent scholarship on pubic music theory includes a special session “Perspectives on Public Music Theory and Analysis” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Music Theory (2018), with papers by Alyssa Barna, J. Daniel Jenkins, Miriam Piilonen, Alexander Rehding, Daniel B. Stevens, and Christian Thorau; the conference “Public Music Discourse: In Honor of the Bernstein Centenary” (2018), organized by J. Daniel Jenkins at the University of South Carolina; Engaging Students: Essays in Music Pedagogy, vol. 5 (2017), with essays by Janet Bourne, J. Daniel Jenkins, Crystal Peebles, and Natalie Williams.
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2. At present, scant biographical information on Prescott is available. She was the daughter of Fredrick Prescott (1797–1888) and Elizabeth Oliveria (1802–1893), a descendant of Oliver Cromwell (Fuller 2018, fn. 17, 166). Prescott lived at 13 Oxford Square in London until after her parents passed away. Then she and two of her unmarried siblings (her sister Lucy and brother Henry) moved to a large house near Chilworth, Surrey, called Brantyngeshay (154). Prescott never married or had children; when she died, her personal wealth was £4807, the equivalent of £376,000 in 2016 (154 and fn. 26, 166).
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3. Email correspondence, Ilse Woloszko, library assistant, Royal Academy of Music (RAM), August 2018. Prescott entered the RAM on September 14, 1871. According to Sophie Fuller (2018, 154 and fn. 18, 166), Prescott was only the fourth student (male or female) to attend the RAM whose principal area of study was composition.
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4. Commemorative plaques held by the RAM list winners of the Oliveria Prescott prize from 1910 to 1954. The prize is no longer awarded; archivists at the RAM were not able to determine when or why it was terminated (email correspondence, Ilse Woloszko, August 2018).
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5. Prescott’s published works are primarily accessible compositions geared towards amateur audiences, including songs, unaccompanied choral works, a “Romance” for cello and piano, a children’s operetta entitled Carrigraphuga (The Castle of the Fairies), and a Concert Finale for piano duet (an arrangement of her Concert Finale for piano and orchestra, discussed in [2.2] and fn 9). See Fuller 2018, 154–57, and 1994, 252–53; Fuller 2018, back matter (“Compositions”); and “Advertisements” 1902, 15.
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6. The winners were Francis William Davenport (first prize) and Charles Villiers Stanford (second prize), who had their works performed. Thirty-eight symphonies were submitted; the competition judges were Joseph Joachim and George Alexander Macfarren. For a short history of the competition, see “Notes on Music” 1899, 9.
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7. Several of these pieces received positive reviews in major periodicals of the day. For example, one review described Prescott’s Overture in C minor as a “success of the most positive character” and a piece of “great merit . . . full of poetical feeling, graceful melody, and skillful instrumentation” (“Royal Academy of Music” 1876a, 3). A review of her Symphony in D minor emphasized that the piece “show[s] that this earnest and energetic student is rapidly adding to the reputation she has already acquired at the public performances of the Academy” (“Royal Academy of Music” 1878, 394). For other reviews of Prescott’s large-scale works performed on RAM concerts, see “Royal Academy of Music” 1876b, 428; ““Royal Academy of Music” 1877a, 334; and “London Gossip” 1877, 2.
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8. Few performances of Prescott’s orchestral works occurred after she completed her studies at the RAM. She composed an orchestral overture (“In Woodland: By Beech, and Yew, and Tangled Brake”) that was performed alongside Hubert Parry’s “English” Symphony and Wagner’s “Flying Dutchman” Overture at the Monday Popular Concert in Bristol in December 1890. An anonymous review of this concert noted, “There is a good deal of excellent workmanship in the composition, as well as striking melody. The Overture was admirably played and met with a warm reception” (“Music in Bristol” 1891, 29).
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9. As an anonymous reviewer of the piano duet version of Concert Finale explained, “It is often a puzzle at an amateur concert how to wind up the entertainment. Oliveria Prescott has provided for this need in the shape of a well-arranged pianoforte duet edition of her ‘Concert Finale,’ which is cheerful, of moderate length, and well suited for this purpose” (“New Music” 1880, 75).

Prescott’s Concert Finale had at least three major public performances. Her duet arrangement was performed on a Musical Artists’ Society concert in London on June 7, 1884; she played one of the piano parts herself (“Concerts” 1884, 374). To my knowledge, the first performance of the original version (with Madame Viard-Louis as the piano soloist) occurred on an orchestral concert at St. James Hall on April 23, 1879; the program also included Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A major, op. 92. A review described Prescott’s piece as “an animated movement, very simple in character, and not calling for particular remark” (“Madame Viard-Louis’ Concerts” 1879, 267). The original version was also performed in Birmingham on May 7, 1884, by the Edgbaston Amateur Musical Union, along with Mendelssohn’s Symphony in C minor, op. 11, Beethoven’s “Creatures of Prometheus” Overture, and Sterndale Bennett’s “Naïdes” Overture (“Music in Birmingham” 1884, 340).
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10. Before joining the Council, Prescott had several chamber works performed on concerts of the Musical Artists’ Society during the 1880s. An anonymous review commended her “Bohemian Song” for voice and string quartet, emphasizing that “the greatest vocal success of the night was won by Miss Oliveria Prescott. This bright and charming part-song was so much admired that the composer was called to the platform and applauded with the greatest enthusiasm” (“The Musical Artists’ Society” 1885, 16).
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11. Prescott is listed as “original member” of the organization in the first Proceedings of the Musical Association (1874–1875, viii). Forty-three years later, her death was noted in the 1917–1918 Proceedings, which described her as an “original member” who “in years gone by had lectured before the Association” (Proceedings 1917–1918, viii–ix).
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12. In her paper, Prescott argues that formal design is not just important for creating well-constructed absolute music, but also for composing successful “poetic” music (program music and music with text), and that in the best “poetic” music “the literary form of idea is explained by the musical form” (1891–1892, 129). Her examples (which she performed herself at the piano) outline the large-scale form and key relationships in works such as Euridice’s Act 3 aria “Che fiero momento” from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, the Queen of the Night’s Act 2 aria “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, the overture to Weber’s Der Freischütz, and Beethoven’s Fidelio.

Henry Charles (H. C.) Banister (1831–1897) was a composer, writer, and professor of harmony at the RAM and Guildhall School of Music. In addition to writing several books on music theory in the 1880s and 1890s, he also published a biography of George Macfarren (Banister 1891).
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13. Prescott began teaching correspondence courses as early as 1876, before she had completed her studies at the RAM. Advertisements for her teaching in the Journal of the Women’s Education Union mention that “Miss Prescott holds a certificate of efficiency from the Professor of Music at Cambridge” (“Cambridge University, Instruction by Correspondence” 1876, 113–14). A section in the back matter to Prescott 1882 (“Compositions”) lists these teaching credentials: “lecturer in Harmony, Counterpoint, and Composition to the Cambridge Correspondence Classes; One of the Harmony Professors at the Guildhall School of Music; and Teacher of Harmony and Counterpoint at the Church of England High School for Girls, Upper Baker Street, N.W.”
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14. Banister discusses Macfarren’s various amanuenses, including Frederick Barnes, Windeyer Clark, and Clara A. Macirone, and describes how Prescott “assisted her professor with an affection only equaled by its efficiency” (1891, 203). Her professional relationship with Macfarren will be discussed in more detail in section 4.
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15. Space does not permit me to discuss these lengthy books in this particular context, but I examine About Music, and What it Is Made Of in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Public Music Theory, edited by J. Daniel Jenkins. Three different versions of Prescott’s Form, Or Design, In Music were published. In this article, I cite the first complete edition (1882) when referring to this book. Prescott’s short, thirty-two-page pamphlet on form in instrumental music was published by Duncan Davison and Co. in 1880, which later became “Part 1” of the complete volume (Form, Or Design, In Music: Part I—Instrumental, Part II—Vocal), published by Duncan Davison and Co. in 1882. E. Ascherberg and Co. published a second edition in 1894. For advertisements and reviews, see “Form, Or Design, In Music” 1880, and “Advertisement.” 1885.
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16. On February 20, 1894, Prescott gave another lecture entitled “About Music and What it Is Made Of” in the Church Institute Lecture Hall, Newcastle-On-Tyne. An anonymous review of the lecture described her as “the well-known lady composer and lecturer” and emphasized that she was “heartily applauded for her artistic efforts,” which included an analysis of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in A-flat major, op. 110, and analytic discussions of two of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words and the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in E-flat major, op. 7, both of which she also performed (“Provincial” 1894, 181).
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17. Barger 2016, 3; Beetham 1996, 138; Forrester 1980, 14; Moruzi 2012, 10, 83. Skelding (2001, 36–37) characterizes TGOP as the “best-selling and longest-running” periodical for women of its time. TGOP was offered both as a cheaper weekly magazine and a more expensive monthly compendium priced at 6 pence (Forrester 1980, 16; Moruzi 2012, 84). TGOP editor Charles Peters developed this tiered pricing plan to appeal to a wide range of working-, middle-, and upper-class readers (Forrester 1980, 25–26; Moruzi 2012, 84).
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18. Moruzi explains that the main characters in “girls” periodicals were usually in their late teens or early twenties, which reflected the older readership of these publications (2012, 9). In contrast, the fiction in children’s periodicals usually featured main characters who were younger than fifteen.
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19. Forrester discusses how an 1880 correspondent to the magazine called herself “grey hairs” (1980, 24); a selection of letters from readers printed in 1897 featured contributions from women of a variety of ages, eighteen and above (2001, 40–41). See also Barger 2016, 23; Beetham 1996, 138; Forrester 1980, 25–26; and Moruzi 2012, 9. Moruzi describes how “girl” in late nineteenth-century British periodicals was sometimes used as a signifier for “unmarried” woman, but the wide age range of correspondents to TGOP indicates that its readers included married and unmarried women of all ages (9).
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20. Barger defines “musical content” as “a music score, an instalment [sic] of serialized fiction about a musician, music-related nonfiction, poetry with musical relevance, an illustration depicting music making or a reply to a correspondent” (2016, 1). Barger notes that if all chapters of a story in which music makes a “cameo appearance” are included, the figure rises to almost all of these 1500 issues, approximately 98 percent (1).
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21. John William Burgon (1813–1888) was a British Anglican clergyman and Dean of Chichester Cathedral.
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22. The British poet Coventry Patmore (1823–1896) expressed similar ideas in his well-known poem “The Angel in the House” (1854–1862). This lengthy narrative poem depicts an idealized version of a submissive Victorian wife, and contains sentiments such as “Man must be pleased; but him to please is woman’s pleasure” ([1854–1862] 1885, 73); and “He is her lord, for he can take/Hold of her faint heart with his hand” (129).
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23. The best-selling Music and Morals went through sixteen editions before 1900. Hugh Reginald Haweis (1838–1901) was a British reverend and writer; in addition to Music and Morals, he also completed a musical memoir, My Musical Life (1896).
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24. Tick 1986 contains an excellent discussion of the changing role of the “piano girl” in the United States in the late 1800s, which dovetails with many of the ideas in Solie 2004.
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25. Barger characterizes the piano in this era as “the ubiquitous household instrument,” which “found its most ardent executants in England’s middle-class maidens caught up in the piano mania that for a time seemed unabated” (2016, 4).
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26. I believe that Prescott’s choice to combine “nursed” with “encloses”—and the phrase “one whole”—denotes a mother’s embrace while nursing her child, but she could also be using “nursed” in a more general sense, to refer to nursing the ill. Sick nursing was unequivocally associated with the female sphere in this era, and many articles in TGOP discuss women’s supposedly innate abilities for invalid nursing (see especially Westland 1887 and Watson 1888). Professional nursing had also become a prominent career for British women, in part because of the popularity of Florence Nightingale (1820–1910), who trained female nurses during the Crimean War, wrote the foundational book Notes on Nursing (1859), and created the first secular nursing school in the world at St. Thomas’s Hospital (London) in 1860. Numerous articles on nursing as a profession for women are found in TGOP, such as Caulfeild 1880, 1886; Medicus 1882; “Work for All” 1883; “The Unvarnished Side of Hospital Nursing” 1888; and “The Costumes of Hospital Nurses” 1890.
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27. Other responses printed in the “Answers to Correspondents” section confirm that TGOP maintained strict standards for female behavior, and sharply criticized female readers who may have transgressed them. For example, a response to “Mistletoe” reprimands its writer, “Of course you should not correspond with a man in secret. This is far too serious a procedure at the early age, too, of eighteen. It would be exceedingly wrong to do so clandestinely” (“Answers to Correspondents” 1891b, 447).
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28. Other examples abound throughout TGOP. “Rose,” a poem published in 1882, chronicles the rise and fall of a romantic relationship specifically through the flower. At the height of the couple’s romance, “All the roses woke about us/As we wandered hand in hand” (Reid 1882, 692). Long after the lovers part and their romance has ended, the protagonist clutches a single rosebud given by her lover, sighing, “All the flowers so quick to waken/Now are fallen and forsaken,/Save one rosebud in my hand” (692).
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29. Other examples include the song “The Burden of the Wind,” which features the lines “The scent of the beauteous rose, As it lay near the heart I lov’d, And droop’d in soft repose, As it lay near the heart I lov’d” (Helmer 1889, 286). The lyrics to another song, “My Love,” proclaim, “My love is like a young rose blushing at the wild embrace of the summer breeze” (Banks 1893, 308).
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30. These articles were a translation of Reinecke’s German text, Die Beethoven’schen Clavier-Sonaten: Briefe an eine Freundin (1895). Book versions of the English translation were also published in London by Augener & Co. in 1898 and 1912.

The Monthly Musical Record was published in London by Augener & Co., and ran from 1871 to 1960. Between 1884 and 1922 the journal averaged 300 pages per year, almost double its initial annual average of 166 pages. More information about this periodical may be found in Kitson (2011, 2013–2014, 2013–14).
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31. Reinecke does not reveal the identity of his supposed addressee; as Melissa Mann explains, “despite the unusual title, there is no foreword or explanatory note of any kind” (2003, 178).
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32. The Musical World was an extremely popular music journal that ran weekly from 1836 to 1891. Kitson describes it as “the pre-eminent nineteenth-century British music journal” that “was without rival in Great Britain,” especially during the first three decades of its publication (1996, ix).
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33. Prescott begins the article in The Musical World with a detailed discussion of her editorial use of quotation marks and parentheses for Macfarren’s comments (1887c, 1028).
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34. Trains of Court dresses remained long, even as hemlines on other kinds of women’s dresses were shortening as Victorian fashion trends changed. As the author of an 1893 article notes, “All our skirts have been so gradually shortened that one hardly realizes that we are now expected to wear them at least two inches off the ground. . . . Full dress toilets, Court Dresses, and wedding-gowns are all favoured with long trains, and on them only are they to be seen” (“Frocks and Gowns for the Month” 1893, 408).

Prescott was not always consistent with her use of metaphors for codas, and sometimes chose different metaphors to describe different kinds of codas. In an earlier article for TGOP on the second movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in D major, op. 28, she explains that the coda “is the end of the movement, called the ‘coda,’ the meaning of which word we may understand if we think what is a caudal appendage. It is not a piece of trimming like the tail of a gown, but a real part, like the tail of a dog” (1889, 663). Perhaps Prescott used a different metaphor in this earlier article because Beethoven’s sonata is significantly longer than the Mendelssohn movement (and its coda is much more substantial as well).
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35. Women presented at Court typically carried bouquets (as shown in Example 11), demonstrating yet another realm of Victorian womanhood in which flowers played a prominent role. The article in which this illustration appeared describes the lilacs integrated into this Court dress, which was “worn by one of our own girls at the Drawing-room of May 11” (“To-Day’s Apparel” 1897, 697). The author also discusses the roses featured in the dress worn by the girl’s mother, noting that “There is no doubt about this being a year of roses. They are the most worn of any of the floral kingdom, and as for decoration they are seen on every dinner-table in town” (697).
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36. In this paragraph I use the terms “PAC” and “IAC” to help quickly orient the reader to the passages Prescott discusses; she does not use this modern terminology in her essay.
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37. Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne Worte was strongly associated with female amateurs in the Victorian era. Leppert discusses the gendered implications of Lieder ohne Worte and explains that these pieces “were marketed to women” (1993, 213). Wilfrid Blunt emphasizes that “probably no piano music was performed more often, or more painfully, in the drawing-rooms of Victorian England than these charming and slight, but by no means insignificant, miniatures” (1974, 83). In an 1881 article for TGOP, Lady Benedict laments that “there is not an amateur who does not play them, or, at least try to play them” (1881a, 537).
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38. This particular chain of office, known as the Collar of SS, has been in continuous use since the sixteenth century (Weinreb et al. 2010, 512). At present, only two women have served as Lord Mayor of London, out of the approximately 700 Lord Mayors who have served since 1189: Dame Mary Donaldson (1983) and Dame Fiona Woolf (2013).
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39. The connections between composition, analysis, and the masculine sphere during the Victorian era will be discussed in more detail in section 5, below.
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40. Prescott’s teacher George Macfarren expressed similar opinions about the upward resolution of the chordal seventh of V in Macfarren [1867] 1892, 102–103, and Macfarren [1860] 1890, 38.
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41. Earlier in this article, Prescott describes how “transient” modulations occur in the recapitulation and coda, but they “have been so nearly related [to the main key] that they have not put away the feeling of the main key” (1888, 411). In About Music, and What It Is Made Of she defines “transient modulations” as brief departures from the key that “decorate it with variety,” but emphasizes that “they do not take away from the influence of the key which belongs to that few minutes of time” (1904, 248). She cites examples of transient modulations in the opening of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in F minor, op. 57 (mm. 5–8), the second subject of his Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major (“Eroica”), op. 55, and the “Lacrimosa” (m. 11) from Mozart’s Requiem in D minor, K. 626 (84 and 248). The phrase “transient modulation” also briefly appears in Macfarren ([1867] 1892, 214–15).
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42. See Macfarren [1867] 1892, 89–90, and [1860] 1890, 14 and 17–18.
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43. See Saslaw 1990–1991, 86–87, 91–92, 95–101, and Wason 1985, 38. Saslaw discusses Weber’s Versuch einer geordneten Theorie der Tonsetzkunst (1817/1824/1832), and notes that James F. Warner published an English translation of the third edition of the treatise (The Theory of Musical Composition) in 1846 (75). Alfred Day’s treatise (discussed in more detail in [4.5]) was first published in 1845; it is not clear if he knew Weber’s work. For more detail about the wide variety of conceptions of the diminished seventh chord in the nineteenth century, see Damschroder 2008, especially pp. 166–185 and 190–197.
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44. Thanks to one of the anonymous reviewers of this article for suggesting that I include these more recent sources. Walter Piston’s Harmony contains an entire chapter on the diminished seventh chord, which he calls “the incomplete dominant minor ninth” (1944, 176). He notes that “dominant ninth chords are most often found with root omitted . . .[C]omposers have shown a distinct preference for the incomplete forms of these chords over the comparatively thick and heavy effect of the ninth chord with root” (176). He also emphasizes that it would be “illogical to refer to the leading-tone as ‘root’ of the chord” (177).

Damschroder’s textbook Tonal Analysis: A Schenkerian Perspective (2017) often describes diminished seventh chords as ninth chords with missing roots, and uses a bullet symbol to indicate the absent root. He argues that chromatic chords like diminished sevenths contain chromatic inflections (“surges”) that propel harmonic and linear motion; these chords can also “evolve” from their original diatonic origin (for example, by having a missing root). See Damschroder 2017, 55–58, 145–47, 151–52, and 238–40.
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45. Even Macfarren’s preface to Day [1845] 1855 notes that initially the treatise “was received worse than coldly by the heads of the musical profession” (x). For more on the reception and influence of Day’s work in England (and beyond), see Thompson 1980, 22–36.
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46. Banister (1887–1888, 70) describes how Macfarren dramatically resigned “about 1843” when RAM officials discovered he was teaching Day’s “new-fangled notions” instead of the “authorised” theory book. Macfarren quit after a confrontational meeting with Cipriani Potter (principal of the RAM), Sterndale Bennett, and “three others” (70). According to Banister, Macfarren was reinstated “within a very few years” (70).
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47. Macfarren discusses Day’s influence in Macfarren [1867] 1892, viii, 2–3, and 215, and in more detail in the front matter of Day [1845] 1855, ix–xv.
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48. Day writes, “the harmonics in nature rise in the same manner; first the harmonics of any given note, then those of its fifth or dominant, then those of the fifth of that dominant, being the second or supertonic of the original note” ([1845] 1855, 60). The next fifth is not used to generate a “fundamental” chromatic chord because it is “not a note of the diatonic scale, being a little too sharp,” but it can be used as part of a chromatic chord (60). Day describes the generation of these “fundamental” chromatic harmonies in more detail on pp. 62–64.

For a similar discussion of the origins of “fundamental discords” see Macfarren [1867] 1892, 96–98, and 122. In his appendix to the second edition of Day’s Treatise, Macfarren explains that the dominant, supertonic, and tonic create “fundamental” chromatic chords because they “consist of notes of the harmonic column naturally generated by a chosen root or fundamental note”; they are not to be confused with Rameau’s or Logier’s use of the term “fundamental,” which has “a different meaning” (Day [1845] 1855, 196).

Macfarren and Day both emphasize that in the free (chromatic) style, fundamental chromatic chords may be used within a key without preparation and “without involving any change of tonality” ([1867] 1892, 122). Day argues that the fundamental chromatic chords do not require preparation because they are “already prepared by nature [the overtone series]” ([1845] 1855, 60). See also Macfarren [1867] 1892, 122–23, and Day [1845] 1855, 63–64.
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49. Day discusses chords of the (major-minor) seventh, and major and minor ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth, each of which has its own detailed chapter. Day only allows the eleventh on the dominant “because its resolution, if taken on either tonic or supertonic, would be out of the key” ([1845] 1855, 60).
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50. Detailed discussions of these issues may be found in Cobb 1883–1884; Lecky 1880; Shirlaw 1917, 413–19; Stephens 1874–1875, 51–58; and Thompson 1980, 23–24.
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51. Macfarren elaborates on this idea, explaining that “the root, save under peculiar circumstances and for peculiar effects, is not sounded in any part other than the bass, because of the extreme dissonance this forms against the 9th when it appears in any of the upper parts of the harmony” ([1867] 1892, 134).
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52. “The Song of the Sewing Machine” is a re-imagining of the popular Victorian poem “The Song of the Shirt” (1843), written by Thomas Hood (1799–1845). Hood’s poem chronicles the horrendous working conditions of a poor female seamstress, and features the lines “Work—work—work,/Till the eyes are heavy and dim!/Seam, and gusset, and band,/Band, and gusset, and seam” while describing the tedious, painful work of sewing by hand to try to earn a living. “The Song of the Sewing Machine” thus provides a sharp contrast to Hood’s poem, as it depicts the contentment of women blissfully sewing at home on their machines.
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53. In the recapitulation Beethoven also expands the cadential that leads to the cadence, prolonging the original single measure of dominant harmony in the exposition (m. 28) to four measures in the recapitulation (mm. 93–96). As previously discussed (see paragraph [4.4] and footnote 42), Prescott analyzes cadential chords as tonic harmonies, similarly to Macfarren.
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54. Lady Benedict’s four-part series on Beethoven’s piano sonatas ran from October 1881 to January 1882. Little is known about Mary Comber Fortey, Lady Benedict (later Lawson) (1857 or 1858–1911). She was a talented amateur pianist, and the second wife of the conductor and composer Sir Julius Benedict (1804–1885), whom she married in 1879 and with whom she had studied piano (Palmer 2017, 79). Her composition “Time at the Ferry” was also published in the November 4, 1882 issue of TGOP.
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55. Benedict describes this passage as a general “outline” of basic sonata structure, and includes observations such as this elementary description of a first movement recapitulation, “we return at last to our first theme in the original key, and then, instead of modulating as before, we have our second theme, likewise in the original key, or sometimes, when the sonata is in the minor, this is given in the tonic major, and after that we wind up” (1881b, 25).
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56. Founded in 1799, the Religious Tract Society (RTS) was an interdenominational British Protestant organization that originally published religious tracts, but later published popular books and magazines. The RTS published three best-selling weekly magazines: The Girl’s Own Paper, The Boy’s Own Paper, and The Leisure Hour.
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57. Many thanks to Charles Brewer for his help identifying this instrument. The dital harp was a hybrid string instrument developed by Edward Light during the Victorian era; it combined features of the harp and English guitar, and was used as a parlor instrument. For more information and a photograph of a dital harp, see http://www.mimo-international.com/mimo/detailstatic.aspx?RSC_BASE=IFD&RSC_DOCID=MINIM_UK_42627&TITLE=/dital-harp (accessed January 7, 2020). For a modern recording of a dital harp performance, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdm0Xi8I3a8 (accessed January 7, 2020).
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58. Butler and Ponsonby entertained a number of high-profile visitors, including Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth; Wordsworth wrote a sonnet in their garden containing the lines “Sisters in love, a love allowed to climb/Even on this earth, above the reach of time” (N. Mason 1888, 403). For more information about Butler and Ponsonby, see Mavor 1971.
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59. The article includes helpful observations such as “the chief change in the new bodices consists in their being made with flat basques (called ‘Puritan’) at the back, with no fullness introduced at all” (Lady Dressmaker 1887, 554). The author also explains that lately “fashions have grown quieter and more sensible,” and advises that “most women and girls have more gowns than are at all needful . . . three dresses are usually quite enough for comfort and good looks” (552).
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60. The Musical Standard was published in London from 1862 to 1933. Beginning in 1866, it published weekly issues that were usually sixteen pages long, including four pages of advertising. The magazine aimed to present “a well-rounded picture of professional and amateur musical life—both sacred and secular” (Snigurowicz 1991, ix). Issues typically featured articles on various musical subjects, including an editorial on “controversial topics of the day,” concert reviews, and news about musical events in Britain and abroad (xi).
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61. Of course, Pauer’s emphasis on the “grand, bold, manly” quality of the first movement also differs from the gendered metaphors Prescott employs in her analysis, which focus on the female sphere. Pauer (1826–1905) was a pianist, teacher, composer, editor, and writer. Born in Vienna, he immigrated to England in the 1850s and was a professor of piano at the RAM, the Royal College of Music, and the Guildhall School of Music. He also published several books, including The Art of Pianoforte Playing (1877) and Musical Forms (1878) (“Obituary: Ernst Pauer” 1905, 399). The Musical Standard article was based on a December 7, 1882 lecture by Pauer at the London Institute.
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62. The preface to the English translation was written by Pauer (whose article on Beethoven’s piano sonatas is discussed above) and dated June 1875. The English translation was by Emily Hill of the third edition (1863) of Elterlein’s Beethovens Clavier-Sonaten für Freunde de Tonkunst erläutert. The English translation seems to have been quite popular; by 1903 the book had already gone through six editions. Ernst von Elterlein was the pseudonym of Ernst Gottschald (b. 1826, date of death unknown), an amateur musician who also wrote a book about Beethoven’s symphonies (Beethoven’s Symphonien in idealen Gehalt, 1854). For more on Elterlein, see Mann 2003, 152–53 and 163–71.
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63. Portions of Macfarren’s Examples 1, 3, 6, 7, 9, and 10, which describe the major themes and motives of the movement, also appear in Prescott’s article.
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64. Banister characterizes Prescott as Macfarren’s “indefatigable friend” (1891, 302); letters from Macfarren to Prescott address her as “My dearest Oliveria” (302) and “my dear Oliveria” (303, 304, 305). For more on Macfarren’s sight impairment and his work with Prescott and other amanuenses, see Banister 1891, 202–3 and 302–8.
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65. When Prescott describes Macfarren’s reaction to her setting, she uses language similar to what later appeared in Banister 1891. She notes that Macfarren replied, “Now I have a new difficulty before me . . . for I have not only to make something that shall be good, but something that shall be different to yours” (Prescott 1888, 408).
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66. Prescott concludes the article with a similarly personal, egalitarian tone: “Can you stop to read any more? No, your head begins to spin round. Brains are like precious stones; we value them for their rarity, therefore we must be careful not to waste them. Some other day I will tell you of the varieties of phrase-rhythm that are to be found in different kinds of music” (1886, 602).
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67. Prescott’s comments about her readers not being “afraid” of analysis are part of the introduction to this article, where she describes the recent inception of the RAM local examinations and encourages her readers to take the exams (1889, 662–63). In an earlier article, she also notes that Beethoven’s op. 7 was chosen for the RAM local examinations in Spring 1888 (1888, 408). For an overview of the various local music exams in Victorian England and the founding of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music examinations (still in existence today), see Wright 2013, 19–81.
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68. The Married Women’s Property Act of 1870 granted women legal ownership of their wages and inheritance. The Married Women’s Property Act of 1882 recognized married women as separate legal entities, giving wives the legal right to hold stock in their own names, to sue and be sued, and to own, buy, or sell property. Before the passage of these laws, women automatically relinquished their right to hold separate, personal property upon marriage: any wages, gifts, or inheritance were considered the legal property of their husbands.
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69. Stratton emphasizes, “I grant, without reserve, that woman has not yet produced a great [his emphasis] composer; I do not accept the axiom that she never can do so . . . judging of her work, the wonder is, not that she has not done more, but that she has accomplished anything at all; only to-day is she entering upon an open path with freedom of action to work as she may” (1883, 129). He explains, “I believe the chief hindrances to woman’s progress as a composer to have been defective education, the former position of music itself, and also of the musician . . . [W]oman has not become great in this art, because she has had no fair chance hitherto” (130).
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70. Praeger (1815–1891) was a German composer, pianist, and writer who immigrated to London in 1834. He was an active teacher and performer, and published the memoir Wagner as I Knew Him (1892).
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71. As Instinct concludes, “the fact is I can’t do without you nor you without me . . . It must be a partnership affair. I must fetch the ideas and lick them into shape, and you shall find out the mistakes; only don’t be conceited, there’s a good fellow, for you put me out of temper” (Prescott 1883, 366).
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72. Born 33 years after Prescott, Sir Donald Francis Tovey (1875–1940) published a number of groundbreaking essays and books between 1930 and 1950, including A Companion to Beethoven’s Pianoforte Sonatas (1931) and Essays in Musical Analysis (1935–1939, 1944).
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Recent scholarship on pubic music theory includes a special session “Perspectives on Public Music Theory and Analysis” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Music Theory (2018), with papers by Alyssa Barna, J. Daniel Jenkins, Miriam Piilonen, Alexander Rehding, Daniel B. Stevens, and Christian Thorau; the conference “Public Music Discourse: In Honor of the Bernstein Centenary” (2018), organized by J. Daniel Jenkins at the University of South Carolina; Engaging Students: Essays in Music Pedagogy, vol. 5 (2017), with essays by Janet Bourne, J. Daniel Jenkins, Crystal Peebles, and Natalie Williams.
At present, scant biographical information on Prescott is available. She was the daughter of Fredrick Prescott (1797–1888) and Elizabeth Oliveria (1802–1893), a descendant of Oliver Cromwell (Fuller 2018, fn. 17, 166). Prescott lived at 13 Oxford Square in London until after her parents passed away. Then she and two of her unmarried siblings (her sister Lucy and brother Henry) moved to a large house near Chilworth, Surrey, called Brantyngeshay (154). Prescott never married or had children; when she died, her personal wealth was £4807, the equivalent of £376,000 in 2016 (154 and fn. 26, 166).
Email correspondence, Ilse Woloszko, library assistant, Royal Academy of Music (RAM), August 2018. Prescott entered the RAM on September 14, 1871. According to Sophie Fuller (2018, 154 and fn. 18, 166), Prescott was only the fourth student (male or female) to attend the RAM whose principal area of study was composition.
Commemorative plaques held by the RAM list winners of the Oliveria Prescott prize from 1910 to 1954. The prize is no longer awarded; archivists at the RAM were not able to determine when or why it was terminated (email correspondence, Ilse Woloszko, August 2018).
Prescott’s published works are primarily accessible compositions geared towards amateur audiences, including songs, unaccompanied choral works, a “Romance” for cello and piano, a children’s operetta entitled Carrigraphuga (The Castle of the Fairies), and a Concert Finale for piano duet (an arrangement of her Concert Finale for piano and orchestra, discussed in [2.2] and fn 9). See Fuller 2018, 154–57, and 1994, 252–53; Fuller 2018, back matter (“Compositions”); and “Advertisements” 1902, 15.
The winners were Francis William Davenport (first prize) and Charles Villiers Stanford (second prize), who had their works performed. Thirty-eight symphonies were submitted; the competition judges were Joseph Joachim and George Alexander Macfarren. For a short history of the competition, see “Notes on Music” 1899, 9.
Several of these pieces received positive reviews in major periodicals of the day. For example, one review described Prescott’s Overture in C minor as a “success of the most positive character” and a piece of “great merit . . . full of poetical feeling, graceful melody, and skillful instrumentation” (“Royal Academy of Music” 1876a, 3). A review of her Symphony in D minor emphasized that the piece “show[s] that this earnest and energetic student is rapidly adding to the reputation she has already acquired at the public performances of the Academy” (“Royal Academy of Music” 1878, 394). For other reviews of Prescott’s large-scale works performed on RAM concerts, see “Royal Academy of Music” 1876b, 428; ““Royal Academy of Music” 1877a, 334; and “London Gossip” 1877, 2.
Few performances of Prescott’s orchestral works occurred after she completed her studies at the RAM. She composed an orchestral overture (“In Woodland: By Beech, and Yew, and Tangled Brake”) that was performed alongside Hubert Parry’s “English” Symphony and Wagner’s “Flying Dutchman” Overture at the Monday Popular Concert in Bristol in December 1890. An anonymous review of this concert noted, “There is a good deal of excellent workmanship in the composition, as well as striking melody. The Overture was admirably played and met with a warm reception” (“Music in Bristol” 1891, 29).
As an anonymous reviewer of the piano duet version of Concert Finale explained, “It is often a puzzle at an amateur concert how to wind up the entertainment. Oliveria Prescott has provided for this need in the shape of a well-arranged pianoforte duet edition of her ‘Concert Finale,’ which is cheerful, of moderate length, and well suited for this purpose” (“New Music” 1880, 75).

Prescott’s Concert Finale had at least three major public performances. Her duet arrangement was performed on a Musical Artists’ Society concert in London on June 7, 1884; she played one of the piano parts herself (“Concerts” 1884, 374). To my knowledge, the first performance of the original version (with Madame Viard-Louis as the piano soloist) occurred on an orchestral concert at St. James Hall on April 23, 1879; the program also included Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A major, op. 92. A review described Prescott’s piece as “an animated movement, very simple in character, and not calling for particular remark” (“Madame Viard-Louis’ Concerts” 1879, 267). The original version was also performed in Birmingham on May 7, 1884, by the Edgbaston Amateur Musical Union, along with Mendelssohn’s Symphony in C minor, op. 11, Beethoven’s “Creatures of Prometheus” Overture, and Sterndale Bennett’s “Naïdes” Overture (“Music in Birmingham” 1884, 340).
Before joining the Council, Prescott had several chamber works performed on concerts of the Musical Artists’ Society during the 1880s. An anonymous review commended her “Bohemian Song” for voice and string quartet, emphasizing that “the greatest vocal success of the night was won by Miss Oliveria Prescott. This bright and charming part-song was so much admired that the composer was called to the platform and applauded with the greatest enthusiasm” (“The Musical Artists’ Society” 1885, 16).
Prescott is listed as “original member” of the organization in the first Proceedings of the Musical Association (1874–1875, viii). Forty-three years later, her death was noted in the 1917–1918 Proceedings, which described her as an “original member” who “in years gone by had lectured before the Association” (Proceedings 1917–1918, viii–ix).
In her paper, Prescott argues that formal design is not just important for creating well-constructed absolute music, but also for composing successful “poetic” music (program music and music with text), and that in the best “poetic” music “the literary form of idea is explained by the musical form” (1891–1892, 129). Her examples (which she performed herself at the piano) outline the large-scale form and key relationships in works such as Euridice’s Act 3 aria “Che fiero momento” from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, the Queen of the Night’s Act 2 aria “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, the overture to Weber’s Der Freischütz, and Beethoven’s Fidelio.

Henry Charles (H. C.) Banister (1831–1897) was a composer, writer, and professor of harmony at the RAM and Guildhall School of Music. In addition to writing several books on music theory in the 1880s and 1890s, he also published a biography of George Macfarren (Banister 1891).
Prescott began teaching correspondence courses as early as 1876, before she had completed her studies at the RAM. Advertisements for her teaching in the Journal of the Women’s Education Union mention that “Miss Prescott holds a certificate of efficiency from the Professor of Music at Cambridge” (“Cambridge University, Instruction by Correspondence” 1876, 113–14). A section in the back matter to Prescott 1882 (“Compositions”) lists these teaching credentials: “lecturer in Harmony, Counterpoint, and Composition to the Cambridge Correspondence Classes; One of the Harmony Professors at the Guildhall School of Music; and Teacher of Harmony and Counterpoint at the Church of England High School for Girls, Upper Baker Street, N.W.”
Banister discusses Macfarren’s various amanuenses, including Frederick Barnes, Windeyer Clark, and Clara A. Macirone, and describes how Prescott “assisted her professor with an affection only equaled by its efficiency” (1891, 203). Her professional relationship with Macfarren will be discussed in more detail in section 4.
Space does not permit me to discuss these lengthy books in this particular context, but I examine About Music, and What it Is Made Of in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Public Music Theory, edited by J. Daniel Jenkins. Three different versions of Prescott’s Form, Or Design, In Music were published. In this article, I cite the first complete edition (1882) when referring to this book. Prescott’s short, thirty-two-page pamphlet on form in instrumental music was published by Duncan Davison and Co. in 1880, which later became “Part 1” of the complete volume (Form, Or Design, In Music: Part I—Instrumental, Part II—Vocal), published by Duncan Davison and Co. in 1882. E. Ascherberg and Co. published a second edition in 1894. For advertisements and reviews, see “Form, Or Design, In Music” 1880, and “Advertisement.” 1885.
On February 20, 1894, Prescott gave another lecture entitled “About Music and What it Is Made Of” in the Church Institute Lecture Hall, Newcastle-On-Tyne. An anonymous review of the lecture described her as “the well-known lady composer and lecturer” and emphasized that she was “heartily applauded for her artistic efforts,” which included an analysis of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in A-flat major, op. 110, and analytic discussions of two of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words and the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in E-flat major, op. 7, both of which she also performed (“Provincial” 1894, 181).
Barger 2016, 3; Beetham 1996, 138; Forrester 1980, 14; Moruzi 2012, 10, 83. Skelding (2001, 36–37) characterizes TGOP as the “best-selling and longest-running” periodical for women of its time. TGOP was offered both as a cheaper weekly magazine and a more expensive monthly compendium priced at 6 pence (Forrester 1980, 16; Moruzi 2012, 84). TGOP editor Charles Peters developed this tiered pricing plan to appeal to a wide range of working-, middle-, and upper-class readers (Forrester 1980, 25–26; Moruzi 2012, 84).
Moruzi explains that the main characters in “girls” periodicals were usually in their late teens or early twenties, which reflected the older readership of these publications (2012, 9). In contrast, the fiction in children’s periodicals usually featured main characters who were younger than fifteen.
Forrester discusses how an 1880 correspondent to the magazine called herself “grey hairs” (1980, 24); a selection of letters from readers printed in 1897 featured contributions from women of a variety of ages, eighteen and above (2001, 40–41). See also Barger 2016, 23; Beetham 1996, 138; Forrester 1980, 25–26; and Moruzi 2012, 9. Moruzi describes how “girl” in late nineteenth-century British periodicals was sometimes used as a signifier for “unmarried” woman, but the wide age range of correspondents to TGOP indicates that its readers included married and unmarried women of all ages (9).
Barger defines “musical content” as “a music score, an instalment [sic] of serialized fiction about a musician, music-related nonfiction, poetry with musical relevance, an illustration depicting music making or a reply to a correspondent” (2016, 1). Barger notes that if all chapters of a story in which music makes a “cameo appearance” are included, the figure rises to almost all of these 1500 issues, approximately 98 percent (1).
John William Burgon (1813–1888) was a British Anglican clergyman and Dean of Chichester Cathedral.
The British poet Coventry Patmore (1823–1896) expressed similar ideas in his well-known poem “The Angel in the House” (1854–1862). This lengthy narrative poem depicts an idealized version of a submissive Victorian wife, and contains sentiments such as “Man must be pleased; but him to please is woman’s pleasure” ([1854–1862] 1885, 73); and “He is her lord, for he can take/Hold of her faint heart with his hand” (129).
The best-selling Music and Morals went through sixteen editions before 1900. Hugh Reginald Haweis (1838–1901) was a British reverend and writer; in addition to Music and Morals, he also completed a musical memoir, My Musical Life (1896).
Tick 1986 contains an excellent discussion of the changing role of the “piano girl” in the United States in the late 1800s, which dovetails with many of the ideas in Solie 2004.
Barger characterizes the piano in this era as “the ubiquitous household instrument,” which “found its most ardent executants in England’s middle-class maidens caught up in the piano mania that for a time seemed unabated” (2016, 4).
I believe that Prescott’s choice to combine “nursed” with “encloses”—and the phrase “one whole”—denotes a mother’s embrace while nursing her child, but she could also be using “nursed” in a more general sense, to refer to nursing the ill. Sick nursing was unequivocally associated with the female sphere in this era, and many articles in TGOP discuss women’s supposedly innate abilities for invalid nursing (see especially Westland 1887 and Watson 1888). Professional nursing had also become a prominent career for British women, in part because of the popularity of Florence Nightingale (1820–1910), who trained female nurses during the Crimean War, wrote the foundational book Notes on Nursing (1859), and created the first secular nursing school in the world at St. Thomas’s Hospital (London) in 1860. Numerous articles on nursing as a profession for women are found in TGOP, such as Caulfeild 1880, 1886; Medicus 1882; “Work for All” 1883; “The Unvarnished Side of Hospital Nursing” 1888; and “The Costumes of Hospital Nurses” 1890.
Other responses printed in the “Answers to Correspondents” section confirm that TGOP maintained strict standards for female behavior, and sharply criticized female readers who may have transgressed them. For example, a response to “Mistletoe” reprimands its writer, “Of course you should not correspond with a man in secret. This is far too serious a procedure at the early age, too, of eighteen. It would be exceedingly wrong to do so clandestinely” (“Answers to Correspondents” 1891b, 447).
Other examples abound throughout TGOP. “Rose,” a poem published in 1882, chronicles the rise and fall of a romantic relationship specifically through the flower. At the height of the couple’s romance, “All the roses woke about us/As we wandered hand in hand” (Reid 1882, 692). Long after the lovers part and their romance has ended, the protagonist clutches a single rosebud given by her lover, sighing, “All the flowers so quick to waken/Now are fallen and forsaken,/Save one rosebud in my hand” (692).
Other examples include the song “The Burden of the Wind,” which features the lines “The scent of the beauteous rose, As it lay near the heart I lov’d, And droop’d in soft repose, As it lay near the heart I lov’d” (Helmer 1889, 286). The lyrics to another song, “My Love,” proclaim, “My love is like a young rose blushing at the wild embrace of the summer breeze” (Banks 1893, 308).
These articles were a translation of Reinecke’s German text, Die Beethoven’schen Clavier-Sonaten: Briefe an eine Freundin (1895). Book versions of the English translation were also published in London by Augener & Co. in 1898 and 1912.

The Monthly Musical Record was published in London by Augener & Co., and ran from 1871 to 1960. Between 1884 and 1922 the journal averaged 300 pages per year, almost double its initial annual average of 166 pages. More information about this periodical may be found in Kitson (2011, 2013–2014, 2013–14).
Reinecke does not reveal the identity of his supposed addressee; as Melissa Mann explains, “despite the unusual title, there is no foreword or explanatory note of any kind” (2003, 178).
The Musical World was an extremely popular music journal that ran weekly from 1836 to 1891. Kitson describes it as “the pre-eminent nineteenth-century British music journal” that “was without rival in Great Britain,” especially during the first three decades of its publication (1996, ix).
Prescott begins the article in The Musical World with a detailed discussion of her editorial use of quotation marks and parentheses for Macfarren’s comments (1887c, 1028).
Trains of Court dresses remained long, even as hemlines on other kinds of women’s dresses were shortening as Victorian fashion trends changed. As the author of an 1893 article notes, “All our skirts have been so gradually shortened that one hardly realizes that we are now expected to wear them at least two inches off the ground. . . . Full dress toilets, Court Dresses, and wedding-gowns are all favoured with long trains, and on them only are they to be seen” (“Frocks and Gowns for the Month” 1893, 408).

Prescott was not always consistent with her use of metaphors for codas, and sometimes chose different metaphors to describe different kinds of codas. In an earlier article for TGOP on the second movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in D major, op. 28, she explains that the coda “is the end of the movement, called the ‘coda,’ the meaning of which word we may understand if we think what is a caudal appendage. It is not a piece of trimming like the tail of a gown, but a real part, like the tail of a dog” (1889, 663). Perhaps Prescott used a different metaphor in this earlier article because Beethoven’s sonata is significantly longer than the Mendelssohn movement (and its coda is much more substantial as well).
Women presented at Court typically carried bouquets (as shown in Example 11), demonstrating yet another realm of Victorian womanhood in which flowers played a prominent role. The article in which this illustration appeared describes the lilacs integrated into this Court dress, which was “worn by one of our own girls at the Drawing-room of May 11” (“To-Day’s Apparel” 1897, 697). The author also discusses the roses featured in the dress worn by the girl’s mother, noting that “There is no doubt about this being a year of roses. They are the most worn of any of the floral kingdom, and as for decoration they are seen on every dinner-table in town” (697).
In this paragraph I use the terms “PAC” and “IAC” to help quickly orient the reader to the passages Prescott discusses; she does not use this modern terminology in her essay.
Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne Worte was strongly associated with female amateurs in the Victorian era. Leppert discusses the gendered implications of Lieder ohne Worte and explains that these pieces “were marketed to women” (1993, 213). Wilfrid Blunt emphasizes that “probably no piano music was performed more often, or more painfully, in the drawing-rooms of Victorian England than these charming and slight, but by no means insignificant, miniatures” (1974, 83). In an 1881 article for TGOP, Lady Benedict laments that “there is not an amateur who does not play them, or, at least try to play them” (1881a, 537).
This particular chain of office, known as the Collar of SS, has been in continuous use since the sixteenth century (Weinreb et al. 2010, 512). At present, only two women have served as Lord Mayor of London, out of the approximately 700 Lord Mayors who have served since 1189: Dame Mary Donaldson (1983) and Dame Fiona Woolf (2013).
The connections between composition, analysis, and the masculine sphere during the Victorian era will be discussed in more detail in section 5, below.
Prescott’s teacher George Macfarren expressed similar opinions about the upward resolution of the chordal seventh of V in Macfarren [1867] 1892, 102–103, and Macfarren [1860] 1890, 38.
Earlier in this article, Prescott describes how “transient” modulations occur in the recapitulation and coda, but they “have been so nearly related [to the main key] that they have not put away the feeling of the main key” (1888, 411). In About Music, and What It Is Made Of she defines “transient modulations” as brief departures from the key that “decorate it with variety,” but emphasizes that “they do not take away from the influence of the key which belongs to that few minutes of time” (1904, 248). She cites examples of transient modulations in the opening of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in F minor, op. 57 (mm. 5–8), the second subject of his Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major (“Eroica”), op. 55, and the “Lacrimosa” (m. 11) from Mozart’s Requiem in D minor, K. 626 (84 and 248). The phrase “transient modulation” also briefly appears in Macfarren ([1867] 1892, 214–15).
See Macfarren [1867] 1892, 89–90, and [1860] 1890, 14 and 17–18.
See Saslaw 1990–1991, 86–87, 91–92, 95–101, and Wason 1985, 38. Saslaw discusses Weber’s Versuch einer geordneten Theorie der Tonsetzkunst (1817/1824/1832), and notes that James F. Warner published an English translation of the third edition of the treatise (The Theory of Musical Composition) in 1846 (75). Alfred Day’s treatise (discussed in more detail in [4.5]) was first published in 1845; it is not clear if he knew Weber’s work. For more detail about the wide variety of conceptions of the diminished seventh chord in the nineteenth century, see Damschroder 2008, especially pp. 166–185 and 190–197.
Thanks to one of the anonymous reviewers of this article for suggesting that I include these more recent sources. Walter Piston’s Harmony contains an entire chapter on the diminished seventh chord, which he calls “the incomplete dominant minor ninth” (1944, 176). He notes that “dominant ninth chords are most often found with root omitted . . .[C]omposers have shown a distinct preference for the incomplete forms of these chords over the comparatively thick and heavy effect of the ninth chord with root” (176). He also emphasizes that it would be “illogical to refer to the leading-tone as ‘root’ of the chord” (177).

Damschroder’s textbook Tonal Analysis: A Schenkerian Perspective (2017) often describes diminished seventh chords as ninth chords with missing roots, and uses a bullet symbol to indicate the absent root. He argues that chromatic chords like diminished sevenths contain chromatic inflections (“surges”) that propel harmonic and linear motion; these chords can also “evolve” from their original diatonic origin (for example, by having a missing root). See Damschroder 2017, 55–58, 145–47, 151–52, and 238–40.
Even Macfarren’s preface to Day [1845] 1855 notes that initially the treatise “was received worse than coldly by the heads of the musical profession” (x). For more on the reception and influence of Day’s work in England (and beyond), see Thompson 1980, 22–36.
Banister (1887–1888, 70) describes how Macfarren dramatically resigned “about 1843” when RAM officials discovered he was teaching Day’s “new-fangled notions” instead of the “authorised” theory book. Macfarren quit after a confrontational meeting with Cipriani Potter (principal of the RAM), Sterndale Bennett, and “three others” (70). According to Banister, Macfarren was reinstated “within a very few years” (70).
Macfarren discusses Day’s influence in Macfarren [1867] 1892, viii, 2–3, and 215, and in more detail in the front matter of Day [1845] 1855, ix–xv.
Day writes, “the harmonics in nature rise in the same manner; first the harmonics of any given note, then those of its fifth or dominant, then those of the fifth of that dominant, being the second or supertonic of the original note” ([1845] 1855, 60). The next fifth is not used to generate a “fundamental” chromatic chord because it is “not a note of the diatonic scale, being a little too sharp,” but it can be used as part of a chromatic chord (60). Day describes the generation of these “fundamental” chromatic harmonies in more detail on pp. 62–64.

For a similar discussion of the origins of “fundamental discords” see Macfarren [1867] 1892, 96–98, and 122. In his appendix to the second edition of Day’s Treatise, Macfarren explains that the dominant, supertonic, and tonic create “fundamental” chromatic chords because they “consist of notes of the harmonic column naturally generated by a chosen root or fundamental note”; they are not to be confused with Rameau’s or Logier’s use of the term “fundamental,” which has “a different meaning” (Day [1845] 1855, 196).

Macfarren and Day both emphasize that in the free (chromatic) style, fundamental chromatic chords may be used within a key without preparation and “without involving any change of tonality” ([1867] 1892, 122). Day argues that the fundamental chromatic chords do not require preparation because they are “already prepared by nature [the overtone series]” ([1845] 1855, 60). See also Macfarren [1867] 1892, 122–23, and Day [1845] 1855, 63–64.
Day discusses chords of the (major-minor) seventh, and major and minor ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth, each of which has its own detailed chapter. Day only allows the eleventh on the dominant “because its resolution, if taken on either tonic or supertonic, would be out of the key” ([1845] 1855, 60).
Detailed discussions of these issues may be found in Cobb 1883–1884; Lecky 1880; Shirlaw 1917, 413–19; Stephens 1874–1875, 51–58; and Thompson 1980, 23–24.
Macfarren elaborates on this idea, explaining that “the root, save under peculiar circumstances and for peculiar effects, is not sounded in any part other than the bass, because of the extreme dissonance this forms against the 9th when it appears in any of the upper parts of the harmony” ([1867] 1892, 134).
“The Song of the Sewing Machine” is a re-imagining of the popular Victorian poem “The Song of the Shirt” (1843), written by Thomas Hood (1799–1845). Hood’s poem chronicles the horrendous working conditions of a poor female seamstress, and features the lines “Work—work—work,/Till the eyes are heavy and dim!/Seam, and gusset, and band,/Band, and gusset, and seam” while describing the tedious, painful work of sewing by hand to try to earn a living. “The Song of the Sewing Machine” thus provides a sharp contrast to Hood’s poem, as it depicts the contentment of women blissfully sewing at home on their machines.
In the recapitulation Beethoven also expands the cadential that leads to the cadence, prolonging the original single measure of dominant harmony in the exposition (m. 28) to four measures in the recapitulation (mm. 93–96). As previously discussed (see paragraph [4.4] and footnote 42), Prescott analyzes cadential chords as tonic harmonies, similarly to Macfarren.
Lady Benedict’s four-part series on Beethoven’s piano sonatas ran from October 1881 to January 1882. Little is known about Mary Comber Fortey, Lady Benedict (later Lawson) (1857 or 1858–1911). She was a talented amateur pianist, and the second wife of the conductor and composer Sir Julius Benedict (1804–1885), whom she married in 1879 and with whom she had studied piano (Palmer 2017, 79). Her composition “Time at the Ferry” was also published in the November 4, 1882 issue of TGOP.
Benedict describes this passage as a general “outline” of basic sonata structure, and includes observations such as this elementary description of a first movement recapitulation, “we return at last to our first theme in the original key, and then, instead of modulating as before, we have our second theme, likewise in the original key, or sometimes, when the sonata is in the minor, this is given in the tonic major, and after that we wind up” (1881b, 25).
Founded in 1799, the Religious Tract Society (RTS) was an interdenominational British Protestant organization that originally published religious tracts, but later published popular books and magazines. The RTS published three best-selling weekly magazines: The Girl’s Own Paper, The Boy’s Own Paper, and The Leisure Hour.
Many thanks to Charles Brewer for his help identifying this instrument. The dital harp was a hybrid string instrument developed by Edward Light during the Victorian era; it combined features of the harp and English guitar, and was used as a parlor instrument. For more information and a photograph of a dital harp, see http://www.mimo-international.com/mimo/detailstatic.aspx?RSC_BASE=IFD&RSC_DOCID=MINIM_UK_42627&TITLE=/dital-harp (accessed January 7, 2020). For a modern recording of a dital harp performance, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdm0Xi8I3a8 (accessed January 7, 2020).
Butler and Ponsonby entertained a number of high-profile visitors, including Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth; Wordsworth wrote a sonnet in their garden containing the lines “Sisters in love, a love allowed to climb/Even on this earth, above the reach of time” (N. Mason 1888, 403). For more information about Butler and Ponsonby, see Mavor 1971.
The article includes helpful observations such as “the chief change in the new bodices consists in their being made with flat basques (called ‘Puritan’) at the back, with no fullness introduced at all” (Lady Dressmaker 1887, 554). The author also explains that lately “fashions have grown quieter and more sensible,” and advises that “most women and girls have more gowns than are at all needful . . . three dresses are usually quite enough for comfort and good looks” (552).
The Musical Standard was published in London from 1862 to 1933. Beginning in 1866, it published weekly issues that were usually sixteen pages long, including four pages of advertising. The magazine aimed to present “a well-rounded picture of professional and amateur musical life—both sacred and secular” (Snigurowicz 1991, ix). Issues typically featured articles on various musical subjects, including an editorial on “controversial topics of the day,” concert reviews, and news about musical events in Britain and abroad (xi).
Of course, Pauer’s emphasis on the “grand, bold, manly” quality of the first movement also differs from the gendered metaphors Prescott employs in her analysis, which focus on the female sphere. Pauer (1826–1905) was a pianist, teacher, composer, editor, and writer. Born in Vienna, he immigrated to England in the 1850s and was a professor of piano at the RAM, the Royal College of Music, and the Guildhall School of Music. He also published several books, including The Art of Pianoforte Playing (1877) and Musical Forms (1878) (“Obituary: Ernst Pauer” 1905, 399). The Musical Standard article was based on a December 7, 1882 lecture by Pauer at the London Institute.
The preface to the English translation was written by Pauer (whose article on Beethoven’s piano sonatas is discussed above) and dated June 1875. The English translation was by Emily Hill of the third edition (1863) of Elterlein’s Beethovens Clavier-Sonaten für Freunde de Tonkunst erläutert. The English translation seems to have been quite popular; by 1903 the book had already gone through six editions. Ernst von Elterlein was the pseudonym of Ernst Gottschald (b. 1826, date of death unknown), an amateur musician who also wrote a book about Beethoven’s symphonies (Beethoven’s Symphonien in idealen Gehalt, 1854). For more on Elterlein, see Mann 2003, 152–53 and 163–71.
Portions of Macfarren’s Examples 1, 3, 6, 7, 9, and 10, which describe the major themes and motives of the movement, also appear in Prescott’s article.
Banister characterizes Prescott as Macfarren’s “indefatigable friend” (1891, 302); letters from Macfarren to Prescott address her as “My dearest Oliveria” (302) and “my dear Oliveria” (303, 304, 305). For more on Macfarren’s sight impairment and his work with Prescott and other amanuenses, see Banister 1891, 202–3 and 302–8.
When Prescott describes Macfarren’s reaction to her setting, she uses language similar to what later appeared in Banister 1891. She notes that Macfarren replied, “Now I have a new difficulty before me . . . for I have not only to make something that shall be good, but something that shall be different to yours” (Prescott 1888, 408).
Prescott concludes the article with a similarly personal, egalitarian tone: “Can you stop to read any more? No, your head begins to spin round. Brains are like precious stones; we value them for their rarity, therefore we must be careful not to waste them. Some other day I will tell you of the varieties of phrase-rhythm that are to be found in different kinds of music” (1886, 602).
Prescott’s comments about her readers not being “afraid” of analysis are part of the introduction to this article, where she describes the recent inception of the RAM local examinations and encourages her readers to take the exams (1889, 662–63). In an earlier article, she also notes that Beethoven’s op. 7 was chosen for the RAM local examinations in Spring 1888 (1888, 408). For an overview of the various local music exams in Victorian England and the founding of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music examinations (still in existence today), see Wright 2013, 19–81.
The Married Women’s Property Act of 1870 granted women legal ownership of their wages and inheritance. The Married Women’s Property Act of 1882 recognized married women as separate legal entities, giving wives the legal right to hold stock in their own names, to sue and be sued, and to own, buy, or sell property. Before the passage of these laws, women automatically relinquished their right to hold separate, personal property upon marriage: any wages, gifts, or inheritance were considered the legal property of their husbands.
Stratton emphasizes, “I grant, without reserve, that woman has not yet produced a great [his emphasis] composer; I do not accept the axiom that she never can do so . . . judging of her work, the wonder is, not that she has not done more, but that she has accomplished anything at all; only to-day is she entering upon an open path with freedom of action to work as she may” (1883, 129). He explains, “I believe the chief hindrances to woman’s progress as a composer to have been defective education, the former position of music itself, and also of the musician . . . [W]oman has not become great in this art, because she has had no fair chance hitherto” (130).
Praeger (1815–1891) was a German composer, pianist, and writer who immigrated to London in 1834. He was an active teacher and performer, and published the memoir Wagner as I Knew Him (1892).
As Instinct concludes, “the fact is I can’t do without you nor you without me . . . It must be a partnership affair. I must fetch the ideas and lick them into shape, and you shall find out the mistakes; only don’t be conceited, there’s a good fellow, for you put me out of temper” (Prescott 1883, 366).
Born 33 years after Prescott, Sir Donald Francis Tovey (1875–1940) published a number of groundbreaking essays and books between 1930 and 1950, including A Companion to Beethoven’s Pianoforte Sonatas (1931) and Essays in Musical Analysis (1935–1939, 1944).
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