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Coleridge-Taylor in private

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Christmas card   Jessie and the two Coleridge-Taylor children
Christmas card: Samuel, Jesse, Gwendolyn (Avril) and Hiawatha, 1906
Copyright © Royal College of Music, London
  Jessie and the Coleridge-Taylor children
Copyright © Royal College of Music, London
     
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Samuel Coleridge-Taylor   Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, wife and children
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
British Library Add. MS 54316, f.319

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  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, wife and children
Copyright © Royal College of Music, London

On 30 December 1899 Coleridge-Taylor married Jessie Sarah Fleetwood Walmisley (1869-1962), who had been a fellow student at the RCM. They had a son, Hiawatha (1900-1980), and a daughter, Gwendolyn (later Avril, 1903-1998), who were both to have musical careers.

It would not have been surprising if Coleridge-Taylor's private and domestic life had suffered under the pressure of work, but there is plenty of evidence about the value he placed on his family life. The composer Havergal Brian bumped into the couple in Hanley and wrote about them as "...strikingly winsome, and with Hiawatha in mind, I pictured them as journeying to the wedding feast". According to Havergal Brian's account, the man himself seemed to be self-confident and at ease in his environment: "Coleridge-Taylor spoke in short, swift sentences, linked to many pleasantries. When he mounted the platform, he was confronted with seventy players of the Hallé orchestra and a chorus of eighty only. At the first entry of the chorus, he stopped suddenly and, addressing the orchestra, said rather dryly 'Gentlemen, half marks throughout!’".

But Coleridge-Taylor's success and fame did not exempt him from racial harassment. Most painful was the fact that his wife Jessie was also a target of abuse. His daughter records his response to the groups of local youths who would repeatedly shower him with insulting comments about the colour of his skin: “When he saw them approaching along the street he held my hand more tightly, gripping it until it almost hurt.”

Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips

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Introduction Introduction
Alexander Pushkin Alexander Pushkin
Alexander Dumas Alexandre Dumas
George Polgreen Bridgetower George Polgreen Bridgetower
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor John Archer
 
 
 
Discover more:
Introduction
Introduction
Alexander Pushkin
Alexander Pushkin
Alexandre Dumas
Alexandre Dumas
George Polgreen Bridgetower
George Polgreen Bridgetower
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Background and early life
Background and early life
Early days at the RCM
Early days at the RCM
First successes.... and Hiawatha
First successes... and Hiawatha
After Hiawatha
After Hiawatha
Coleridge-Taylor in private
Pan Africanism, race and the USA
Pan-Africanism, race and the USA
The music ends
The music ends
John Archer
John Archer
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