Manuscripts from the Jenny Lind Collection
In celebration of Jenny Lind’s 2020 bicentennial, Stanford Libraries is pleased to make available to the public the manuscript scores and letters contained in the Jenny Lind Collection, one of the largest extant collections of primary source materials once belonging to Lind. Comprising both manuscripts and print publications, the Lind Collection was assembled by her husband, composer and conductor Otto Goldschmidt (1829-1907). Upon his death it passed down through family members to Mrs. Frank Ward, a great granddaughter, and was then sold through a dealer to the theater historian and collector Samuel Stark. Stark donated it to Stanford Libraries in 1963.
The Lind Collection consists of manuscript and printed scores, letters, images, financial ledgers, and books owned by Lind. There are numerous pencil annotations authenticating Jenny Lind’s hand throughout, likely made by Goldschmidt or one of their children. Scores written out by Lind as well as scores of works written for her by composers including Taubert, Dalayrac, and Ziedner, are present.
All of the digitized manuscripts are available for close viewing and download, and may be browsed in the Rare Music Materials online exhibit. Also included there is the ca. 1846 Jenny Lind paper doll set, a charming recent acquisition. Complete contents of the Jenny Lind Collection are listed in an online finding aid.
Swedish soprano Jenny Lind (1820-1887) was one of the 19th century’s most celebrated persons, following a successful operatic career with a remarkable (and remarkably-hyped) American tour sponsored by the great showman, Phineas T. Barnum. Lind was a child star on the Stockholm stage, singing, dancing, and acting in productions beginning at the age of 10. Her operatic career spanned from 1838 until her retirement in 1849. During those years she counted among her friends, admirers, (and a few rumored paramours?) Hans Christian Andersen, Felix Mendelssohn, Frédéric Chopin, and Robert and Clara Schumann. Queen Victoria, her contemporary, became both an ardent fan and close friend.
After dinner we had a real treat, for dear Jenny Lind came & sang more beautifully & exquisitely than ever. I annexed the Programmes. Her singing of those German Ballads is so enchanting & touching. "Das erste Veilchen" is a most touching, simple song, which she sang with that thrilling fullness of voice, which seems to gust out. A perfect "bijou" was that song of Taubert's "Ich muss nun einmal singen,” which is so sprightly, & in which she warbled really like a bird. The other music was also very good, but of course she was the principal attraction. She looked well, but does not intend to return to the stage…
The earliest item in the Lind Collection, and perhaps its most personal, is an album amicorum that belonged to Lind's half-sister, Amalia Maria Constantia Rådberg (1811-1835). Entries date from between 1825 and 1835, and include what one might typically find in a teenager's autograph book, such as poetry, colored drawings, songs, pressed leaves, and heartfelt quotations entered in various hands. For example:
Amelie gave great power. She wins hearts without weapons. She makes me warm. Friend found, and true to her until her grave.
Also, an inspirational text for the 14-year old Amalia, from her mother:
You enter the world amongst people without knowing them, the evil ones aren’t always as evil as they seem, the good ones not so good as they should. The best human love character more than they make use of it. You shall meet both evil and good people on your way through life, and your heart will have pain, but don’t give up on character. Both evil and good people will treat you well, but therefore don’t love the sin - and should experience teach you that you found a traitor instead of a friend, leave them and forgive. God has given us character and friendship to survive these terrible events in life.
Be strong and now to uplift yourself
Be true to pride over pain
It usually on the path of life
[will] burden innocent hearts.
The following page holds a cleverly-disguised secret: a painted wreath of forget-me-nots encircling a cut-paper design, with a tiny ribbon at its center. Using the ribbon as a handle, the paper can be lifted to reveal a hidden lock of hair surrounded by the inscription, "N'oubliez jamais les conseilles du mamman," ("Never forget mother's advice"). Could this lock have belonged to Amalia and Jenny’s mother?
Entries cease in 1835, when Amalia succumbed to "nervous fever" at the age of 24. Following her wishes, the album was passed on to Lind, who kept it until her own death in 1887.
Another early item is Lind’s letter to "Tante" (her friend Mina Fundin's mother, sent from Skytteholm, August 1835), here in the original Swedish as well as in an English translation. It is annotated, "J.L’s earliest letter." Away on holiday, Jenny reassures tante/aunty that she is taking care of Mina, referring to herself as "a sensible old woman."
Lind’s success in European opera houses was reported in American newspapers during the 1840s. One entry hinted at things to come:
It is but recently that the American public has heard aught of Jenny Lind, a Danish vocalist, who has attained great celebrity on the Continent of Europe. She has been engaged for the London boards, and straightaway the newspapers are prodigal of notices of her voice, and talent and history. Our curiosity to hear her is stimulated by every foreign arrival, and we cannot doubt that she is indeed a marvel. Should her success in London confirm the impression she has made upon those who have listened to her in Germany, there is no part of the world, it would seem to us, where a more profitable and brilliant career is open for her than the United States presents. A consummate vocalist and actress, with a tolerable familiarity with the English language and some charms of person, would become almost an idol of popular enthusiasm on this side of the water, and would coin money at her pleasure. Is there no benevolent entrepreneur, who will enter into this speculation a la Wykoff?
In 1849 the impresario P.T. Barnum traveled to London and convinced Lind to take on a grand concert tour of America, which was to result in both artistic and commercial success. Lind's much-anticipated debut took place in front of a crowd of 7000 at the Castle Garden Theater in lower Manhattan on September 11, 1850.
Now came a moment of intense excitement, for next upon the programme was Jenny Lind in the Casta Diva. The doors at the back of the stage opened and the "queen of song" stood before the American audience for the first time. The scene at this moment baffles all description. The whole audience rose to their feet and for two or three minutes a perfect storm of applause, with waving of thousands of handkerchiefs, greeted her appearance, bouquets also being showered at her feet. The lady evidently felt strongly and reciprocated generously this outburst of welcome, and curtseying low with an expression of sincere gratification, she awaited a pause in the manifestation. The symphony was played, and a death-like stillness reigned through the house, the audience holding its breath as soon as her lips parted to commence her performance.
Reportage of Lind’s tour was a daily fixture in newspapers across the country, and helped to established Lind as an early exemplar of what we now refer to as the "cult of celebrity." Average citizens, many of whom had read about Lind’s earlier European performances, were hungry for reports on how she looked, what she wore, where she went, who she met, and how she sounded.
Lind and her entourage, including the baritone Giovonni Belletti and the pianist/composer Julius Benedict, exposed a broad American public to classical song, though the draw for some in her audience no doubt was the novelty of seeing in person Barnum’s "Swedish Nightingale" rather than an edifying concert experience. Healthy box office proceeds, some of which were donated to American organizations during the tour, allowed Lind to continue her philanthropic efforts in both the US and on the Continent, and further solidify her morally upstanding public persona.
Lindomania swept the country all the way to San Francisco, where in 1851 the opera house was named after the singer, despite the fact that Lind never traveled anywhere remotely near the West Coast. A plaque on the Financial District Hilton at 750 Kearny Street commemorates the former establishment.
Lind’s contract underwent a number of revisions before she and Barnum amicably dissolved their agreement in 1851. Lind took over management of the remainder of her tour, an action unusual for a professional female singer at that time.
At a guaranteed $1000 per concert, Barnum reportedly paid Lind $187,000 in advance of the tour. Additional proceeds were split between them; the inaugural New York concert alone brought in $10,000 for Lind, which she promptly donated to local charities including the Fireman's Fund. This spirit of generosity pervaded the whole of the American tour.
Iconic items in the Lind Collection are the two bound volumes of sheet music prepared in England for the American tour. Volume one includes solo works for soprano and volume two includes songs and duets for soprano and baritone (the singer Giovanni Belletti, who had performed with Lind in England, performed with her on the tour along with the pianist and composer Julius Benedict). The volumes were assembled in 1849 in London by James Henry Mapleson, Music Librarian and Transcriber of Music to Her Majesty’s Theater. The well-worn physical condition of these volumes attest to the many miles they traveled, from Great Britain to New York, through New England, down the Eastern seaboard and to New Orleans, and including a stop in Havana.
Ever the showman, Barnum cooked up a number of publicity stunts to draw headlines for the tour. One was a contest for the best ode entitled "Greeting to America," which would be set to music by Julius Benedict and sung at Lind's inaugural concert. Poet and literary critic Bayard Taylor beat out several hundred others for the notoreity and the $200 prize money. Despite middling reviews, the lyrics were widely reprinted.
…if this be the best of seven hundred, we are thankful not to have been on the committee for reading the other six hundred and ninety-nine. Bating one or two halts in the metre, there is a melodious succession of words, without any distinct meaning anywhere.
Dr. Edward Stanley, Bishop of Norwich, and his wife Catherine befriended Lind in 1847 when she traveled to Norwich to give a series of concerts, and took her into their home, even as more conservative tongues wagged about the supposed impropriety of the clergy socializing with a stage personality. Mrs. Stanley provided moral support to Lind and encouraged her expanding philanthropic activities, which continue today as part of her lasting legacy. For example, in 1849, Lind gave concerts to raise funds for a children’s hospital, and after some political deliberations, the Jenny Lind Infirmary for Sick Children was established. It exists today as the Jenny Lind Children’s Department of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. Lind said,
…of all the money God allowed me to give away when my poor throat could call an audience to listen to its production, none has borne a nobler or more genuine fruit than the Jenny Lind Hospital in Norwich.
A group of letters to Catherine Stanley date from the mid- to late 1850s, when Lind was a young mother, living first in Germany and then relocating with her growing family to England, and tentatively reentering public musical life. In the letter above, Lind lists her complaints about a nursemaid, whom she ultimately terminates.
A letter from American composer and educator C. Jerome Hopkins and a musical score of one of his compositions were among items saved by Lind. In his letter, the impressionable teen (and budding musician) describes being taken to hear Lind perform in Boston, and then to her hotel to play some of his compositions for her. He then recounts his struggle to become a professional composer, and wonders if Lind would consider performing his song, "Fare Thee Well," in one of her recitals, admitting that it would be a huge boost for his career. Unctuous in tone throughout, he writes,
I need hardly beg to assure you that it is not my vanity which prompts me to this, my dear Madam, but my love for my Art for whose sake I have suffered.
It is unknown if Lind ever performed the piece.
As in the American tour books, the Lind Collection materials document a sampling of the singer’s vocal style in the form of written ornamentation and cadenzas. In 1883 Lind was appointed the first Professor of Singing at the Royal College of Music, a position she held until 1886. As there was yet no building in which to teach, Lind hosted her students at her home in Moreton Gardens. She was remembered by students as intimidating, exacting, and kind.
Lind died on November 2, 1887, and is buried in the Great Malvern cemetery in Worcestershire. In 1894 she was honored with the installation of a marble plaque in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey, just below Handel's monument. The Westminster Abbey website notes that the location was chosen by Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, distinguished Dean of Westminster, who was the son of Lind's confidantes, Norwich Bishop Edward Stanley and his wife, Catherine.
For further reading
Bechtold, Rebeccah. "'She Sings a Stamp of Originality': Sentimental Mimicry in Jenny Lind’s American Tour." ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance 58, no. 4 (2012)
Dunsmure, Sarah Jenny. Jenny Lind : The Story of the Swedish Nightingale. [Horsham, West Sussex]: RedDoor Press, 2015. Dunsmure (1938-2019) was Lind's great-great granddaughter.
Lukes, Timothy J., "Hats off to Jenny Lind." In Politics and Beauty in America: The Liberal Aesthetics of P. T. Barnum, John Muir, and Harley Earl. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
Wilson, Robert. Barnum: An American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2019. Contains an insightful recounting of Lind's American tour and her relationship with Barnum.
The author wishes to thank the following individuals for their kind assistance in making this online exhibit possible:
Adriana Bianchi, Claire Bonnepart, David Brock, Doris Cheung Wu, Katharine Dimitruk, Ulla Emanuelsson, Arcadia Falcone, Micaela Go, Dinah Handel, Kevin Kishimoto, Sarah Newton, Tim Noakes, Michael Olson, John Pearson, Kenny Rapaport, Kasia Robinson, Beth Ryan, Tati Scutelnic, Astrid Smith, and Wayne Vanderkuil.