The Stately Homes Of England

Album: Operette (1928)
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  • On page 392 of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine for April 1827, appears a poem, The Homes Of England. It begins:

    THE stately Homes of England,
    How beautiful they stand!
    Amidst their tall ancestral trees,
    O'er all the pleasant land!

    Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) wrote these words, which one hundred and two years later were appropriated by Noël Coward thus for a humorous ditty:

    The Stately Homes of England,
    How beautiful they stand,
    To prove the upper classes
    Have still the upper hand

    "The Stately Homes Of England" features in Operette, which opened at the Manchester Opera House on February 17 the following year, and ran for 132 performances, closing at His Majesty's Theatre, London, on July 9. For Coward, this was fairly disappointing. In the original show, it was performed by Kenneth Carten, Ross Landon, John Gatrell and Hugh French as four lords, but Coward himself recorded the song.

    The day after its premiere, an advertisement on page 19 of the Times read:

    Noel Coward sings songs from his new musical play - "Operette" Dearest Love and Gipsy Melody The Stately Homes of England and Where are the songs we sung.

    Although foreigners, especially Americans, considered Coward to be the epitome of the (upper class) English gentleman, he was by his own admission born into "genteel poverty", and this song, which he recorded with the His Majesty's Theatre Orchestra conducted by Francis M. Collinson, might be seen as his taking a gentle swipe at Britain's landed gentry, and more particularly its ruling class (not necessarily the same thing), hence its reference to the playing fields of Eton, on which, according to the Duke of Wellington, the Battle of Waterloo was won. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England


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