Scope and Contents
The papers consist of loose leaf songs and poems, letters, notes, 10 stitched booklets and a manuscript notebook all relating to, or produced by, Louisa Matilda Jane Crawford (1789-1857) a songwriter. There is both professional correspondence relating to the publication of her work and personal love letters between herself and her husband. Most of the records date from the latter half of Louisa’s life, when she was married, living in London and earning an income through her songwriting. Notes and letters written by her husband Matthew are also included in the collection.
The papers also include several items that are seemingly unrelated to Louisa and make no reference to her, grouped into separate series. This includes a 17th century indenture recording a transaction between Thomas W Watson and Josiah Ripley of Stockton-on-Tees. Many of these miscellaneous items reference Bayley and Newby, a firm of solicitors also operating out of Stockton-on-Tees in the 19th century, which may explain the presence of the indenture. Matthew Crawford’s first cousin, William Crawford Newby, worked for the firm and it seems that, since the couple had no children, their papers passed to him upon their death, and thence on to his heirs. The latest item in the collection is a 1930 letter by William’s son, who is planning to sell the manuscript notebook (Coll-1839/1/3/16). This provenance would account for the few items relating to the Newby’s present in the collection.
- Correspondence, (1796-1930)
- Personal Papers of Matthew Crawford, (19th century)
- Songs and Poems, (1791-1857)
- Miscellaneous Items, (1675-late 19th century)
- Stitched Booklets, (1791-1857)
- Manuscript notebook, (1820-1857)
Biographical / Historical
Louisa Matilda Jane Crawford (27th September 1789 – 29th December 1857) was a 19th century professional songwriter. She was the daughter of Ann Courtenay (d. 1816) and George Montagu (1753-1815) of Lackham House in Wiltshire, an English army officer and naturalist known for his pioneering Ornithological Dictionary of 1802. She married Matthew Crawford of Middle Temple, a barrister who spent much of their marriage working in the North of the country, in 1822. She earned an income through songwriting and poetry but, despite this, the couple always struggled financially.
Louisa was related to nobility on both sides of the family; her father was a descendent of Henry Montagu, the 1st Earl of Manchester, whilst her maternal grandmother, Lady Jane Stuart, was the sister of Scottish nobleman John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute and Prime Minister to George III. It is clear from her correspondence that she frequently appealed to her wealthier relatives for financial aid. In a letter to Matthew she references a visit from the Duke of Manchester, whilst she also received promises of money from J. A. Stuart and Lady Bute.
Much of her work appeared, often anonymously, in magazines and journals, was sold to publishers and set to music by Samuel Wesley, Sidney Nelson, Edward Clare and others. She frequently both prose and poems, including several "autobiographical sketches", to London literary journal The Metropolitan Magazine, (which has subsequently been digitised by the HathiTrust). Her most successful song, “Kathleen Mavourneen,” was set to music by composer Frederick Crouch. It enjoyed wide success in America where it was popularised by Irish Soprano Catherine Hayes on her international tours, but was frequently attributed solely to Crouch, or erroneously to Annie, Julia, Louise or Marion Crawford. An examination of her archive shows that she gained great pleasure through her work. She died in 1857, the cause unknown, although Matthew refers to a long affliction of heart disease supplemented by attacks of Bronchitis in an 1846 letter (Coll-1839/2/6).