HARLAND, Julia [WALLACK, Julia Susannah] (b. Washington, USA c.1819; d. 8 Hanover Street, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia 19 August 1872)
Tracing the ‘who were they’ of so many Victorian singers can be an enormous (and not always successful) kind of ‘treasure hunt’. But with ‘Julia Harland’, there is very little problem. Why? Because her parents, her siblings, her cousins and, perhaps, even her aunts, were all much more celebrated members of the theatrical profession than she. Once you know that ‘Julia Harland’ was, for much of her career, a stage-name for the young lady born ‘Julia Wallack’ all is easy. Or should be. In fact, there are a couple of annoying odd details which don’t pop out as smoothly as I would like, plus the usual amount of reprinted third-hand rubbish, so there is still digging (and a cleaning of the internet stables) left to do here, for someone.
The Wallack dynasty of players descends from actor William Wallack (1760-1850) and his actress wife, Mrs Elizabeth Granger née Field (m. St Paul’s Covent Garden 8 July 1787), apparently formerly the wife of one Dr John Granger (m. Ayr 17 August 1776). Thanks to their descendants, they have been much written about over the years, and as usual the writers don’t seem quite to have been able to agree on the facts and figures. Mr William Winter, the dubiously correct biographer of Richard Mansfield, in Brander Matthews’s work on British Actors and Actresses, has gone about things in a precise way, but since he falls into error in his first few lines one clearly cannot trust him.
He states categorically that the couple had four children, two sons and two daughters, all of whom would go on the stage. Mary (‘Mrs Stanley’, ‘Mrs Hill’) and Elizabeth (Mrs Pincott) both have a place in historical recountings, but it was the two sons who were the stars of their generation, the sons known, on both sides of the Atlantic, as James William Wallack and Henry Wallack. Both sons were said to have been born in Lambeth, London. In Hercules Buildings, so it is recounted. James William is variously cited as being born 14 August 1794 and ('estimated' on his gravestone) 24 August 1795. Henry, who is the one who interests us, if he is Henry John Wallack, by William out of Elizabeth, was born 22 October 1792. And he was christened a month later, at the Nonconformist Church in Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Now, the acting Wallacks made numerous trips across the Atlantic during their busy theatrical careers, so they declared with great regularity their origins and their ages. Not, of course, being theatricals, that one expects them to have necessarily told the truth. Or even to be consistent. After all, James made one voyage out describing himself as ‘tragedian’ and came back labelled as ‘comedian’. But …
The trip that interests me is the voyage of the William, out of Hull, in 1821. It includes amongst its passengers one William Henry Wallack, comedian, aged 28, his wife (no name seemingly given) aged 24, a son James W. aged 3 and a daughter, Julia, aged 2. Our Julia. But ‘William Henry’? Yes, I have looked very closely to see if it could be ‘Mr’ Henry, but it isn’t. The William Henry Wallack who married Frances Jones 20 November 1814? That would fit, for the list looks like Frs rather than Mrs. So, they are the William Henry and Frances (m. 20 November 1814) who gave birth to James William who was christened at Hull 16 March 1818 …? William Henry, not Henry John. But it has to be the same person … so was Henry just assuming the name of William? It is very curious.
And it seems to run in the family. When James William (the first) married [Georgiana] Susannah Johnstone, 12 March 1818 at St Paul’s Covent Garden, he registered himself as James Richard Wallack. Susannah eh? Oh, what a load of Wallacks!
Julia Susannah Wallack was, so she said, born in Washington. That means that we have no way of finding out what her birth certificate says. But she is evidently (to me) the daughter of Henry Wallack (by whichever name he then chose) and Frances ka Fanny née Jones, who appear to have tarried a few years after their marriage before launching into children. But in 1819, Henry Wallack and his wife were indeed in America, having clearly popped across there with baby James in arms, and Henry was making his first appearances on the stage in Philadelphia and Baltimore ('a new star in our dramatic firmament'). And, thus, Julia Wallack first saw the light of day in America, as did her younger sister Fanny (b. ?1822; d. Edinburgh, 12 October 1856).
The Wallack marriage, however, was a distinct failure. The ‘graceful and delicate’ Fanny began to fall apart, the couple were divorced in 1833 and, a few years later (10 April 1836), she died, in New Orleans. In 1839, Wallack—as Henry John this time—remarried, his second wife being the vocalist Maria Turpin (b. Hawk St, Liverpool 18 June 1807; d. London 19 June 1860), and fathered further children, George (b. Kennington 1840; d. ?1873), William Henry James (b. Prince’s Place 21 April 1841; d. Brookwood February 1861) and Augustus Charles (b. Covent Garden, x. Norwich 15 November 1844; d. Brookwood February 1861).
Brother James was put on the stage as a child, but apparently Julia and Fanny were given more time. When they appeared at their father’s Benefit at the New Chatham Theatre on 23 December 1839, playing The Hunchback, with Julia as Julia and Fanny as Helen, it was announced as their first appearance on the stage. On 31 December, they took a Benefit of their own at which The Honeymoon was placed, with Julia as Juliana and Fanny as Violante.
During 1840, the ‘Misses Wallack’ were ‘walking ladies’ for Burton at the new National Theatre, where Julia appeared in supporting roles in opera (Zaida in Il Turco in Italia), and Fanny went on from there to make herself a considerable career as an actress, up till her marriage with comedian Charles H. Moorhouse and her subsequent early death. Julia, however, had inherited her mother’s talent for music and, on 13 April 1841, she made what seems to be a first operatic appearance, playing the part of Donna Elvira with the Seguin opera company, at the Park Theatre, alongside Miss Poole and Manvers. Later the same year, she was seen at Niblo’s, singing ‘Queen of the flowers’ and ‘Zephyr spread thy pinions high’ in the burletta Flora and Zephyr, playing with Chippendale in The Ladder of Love, and taking the role of Aldegonda, with the same company, in Horn’s short-lived opera Ahmed el Kamel, the Pilgrim of Love (‘Mild as the moonlight’). When Niblo’s staged ‘the laughable burletta’ The Valet de Sham, she interpolated the song, which she had made the hit of the opera, into the role of Miss Marchmont.
During 1842, the Wallack family was in England, where Henry played at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. James was at the Haymarket. I think that Julia must have been engaged at Norwich—for William Hoskins of the Theatre Royal company and his brother, lawyer Horatio Huntley Hoskins had written a play, De Valencourt, which was produced there and at Lynn, and Julia is listed in the printed copy as having played ‘Florinda, a waiting woman’. On 24 August 1842, Julia became the wife of the handsome Mr W. Hoskins.
William Hoskins hailed from Newton Solney in Derbyshire and was a son of a family of note. His grandfather, Abraham Hoskins (d. 1805) had been a solicitor in Burton-upon-Trent, and also a land speculator who had purchased the Newton Solney estate and, there, built Newton Park. He had had Sir Geoffrey Wyatville develop the so-called Bladon Castle, which his father, another Abraham, had converted into a home. Abraham junior produced nine children, spent his money liberally, constructed freely, but ‘through lavish hospitality, the breeding of greyhounds and, above all, by building Bladon Castle, found himself by 1836 unable to maintain either house and sold them and the estate to the Earl of Chesterfield ...’ His sister did better. She married the head of the Bass brewing firm.
William (b. 17 February 1816), having passed by Cambridge University and a legal career, was already on the stage, where his good looks more than any great acting ability would give him a respectable career in Britain before he headed to less competitive pastures in the southern hemisphere.
The couple crossed to America soon after their marriage, and on 21 October they appeared at the Park Theatre, Hoskins playing Felix in The Wonder, and Julia performing The Loan of a Lover. She was better liked than he was, but the experience evidently didn’t please and, quoting a ‘financial panic’ in New York, they quickly reversed back to England and the Theatre Royal, Norwich. Julia was seen in the protean role of Jenny Transit in Love’s Sacrifice, in which she ‘sang two new popular American songs’, as Gertrude in Loan of a Lover et al.
In August 1843, Henry Wallack took on the management of the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, and he opened there 2 October with a company including son James and Mr Hoskins (‘a provincial actor’). However, the season was a quick failure. Although she was not apparently billed, I wonder if Julia had, in fact, also done something at Covent Garden. For when she went on to her next job, with the Bath and Bristol Theatre company she was billed as being ‘from Covent Garden’. She was not, by the way, the ‘Miss Wallack’ who appeared as Lisa in La Sonnambula at Southampton in October. That was Fanny ('we have not for years seen such a good Juliet').
In the last part of 1843 and the first months of 1844, she played at Bristol and at Bath mostly in drama and comedy (Flora in The Wonder, Chonchon in Linda the Pearl of Savoy, Abigail Holdforth in My Poll and Partner Joe, Kate Plowden in The Pilot, Nancy Spigot in The Double-Bedded Room, Christine in Stella Rittersdorf, Liska in Timour the Tartar, Miss Arlington (with songs) in The Hundred Pound Note etc), after which she and Hoskins turn up at Taunton in plays (Richelieu, Money &c), at Swansea and, in September, at Brighton where The Barber of Seville was amongst the pieces mounted. Julia sang Rosina to the Figaro of George Horncastle.
During 1845 and 1846, I spot the couple rarely. At Bath with the Keans, and husband and father are billed at the Manchester Theatre Royal in Shakespeare, but I finally catch up with them in late 1846, playing at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, where Julia is playing Loan of a Lover (‘very young, very pretty, and full of arch vivacity and rustic humour’). When she gave ‘Bid me discourse’ at a Benefit, the press wrote: ‘This young lady is in possession of a rich and melodious voice … her voice is clear, powerful and harmonious, but requires tuition..’. It was apparently what needed to be said. And it was the end of Julia Wallack. I spot her in February 1847, playing Pauline in The Lady of Lyons at the Newcastle Theatre Royal, back at Sadler’s Wells in March and April, playing in a musical interlude, The Rival Sergeants, with Mr Scharf and Mr H. Mellon (‘several incidental songs’), in Is He Jealous? with Hoskins and in Shocking Events and, in July, down at Gravesend for the season, but what she was mainly doing was taking singing lessons.
Henry Wallack had now moved his sphere of operations to the Princess’s Theatre, where a mixture of plays and operas was the bill of fare. The principal tenor of the establishment was a very fine vocalist, Henry Allen, and it was to him that Julia and her voice were entrusted.
Come November 1847, Allen was not to be seen in his accustomed place at the Princess’s. He was in Dublin, where he had engaged to sing a season of opera with a new soprano, ‘Miss Julia Harland’. Exit Miss Wallack, enter Miss Harland. On 30 October 1847 Julia Harland played her ‘first performance in the lyric drama’ as Amina in La Sonnambula, with Allen as her Elvino and locals Henry Corri (sic) and Miss Mason in support. The next morning the Dublin press reported: ‘The debutante possesses most of the requisites for success on the stage. Without being strictly beautiful, she has a fine expressive face, a graceful figure, and an easy and elegant movement. Her voice is a mezzo-soprano, the range not very extensive; she is a little defective in the florid ornament of the Italian school, but she sings conscientiously and well. In the finale, ‘Do not mingle’, she was rapturously applauded and had to sing it three times. Her acting is particularly pleasing; she seems instinctively to have attained that familiarity with stage business which others gain by long study; every movement is easy, graceful, natural; in fact, as far as acting is concerned, we have seldom seen a gentler or more prepossessing Amina’.
Perhaps the reviewer was genuinely unaware that ‘Miss Harland’ had been more than half a dozen years on the dramatic stage, but his comment was one that would be often repeated during Julia’s operatic career. Whatever you thought of the voice, she was one of the country’s very best acting sopranos.
Suffice it, her Dublin debut was a success, and Sonnambula was duly followed by The Night Dancers, Lucia di Lammermoor and Maritana, before they headed off to Carlisle and dates beyond (‘the intention of Mr Allen is to perfect Miss Harland in the provinces previous to her making her appearance on the London boards…’), returning in March to Dublin, now with another pupil of Allen’s, a basso rejoicing in the noble name of Henry Percy, in tow. La Sonnambula, The Night Dancers and Lucia di Lammermoor were given again (even though Dublin had just had Miss Rainforth singing the repertoire), and I Puritani, Anna Bolena and The Young Guard, from the Anna Thillon repertoire at the Princess’s Theatre were added. 6 April 1848 they visited Cork, and at Easter Manchester, before, come 3 October and the opening of the new season at the Princess’s, Julia Harland made her London debut, at five pounds a week, alongside Allen, Weiss and John Gregg, in Lucia di Lammermoor. The debut was taken very seriously, and discussed at length in the press:
’as far as acting went, the best first appearance we have ever seen on the English stage’ voted one paper, but found nevertheless that she had perhaps been too ambitious in starting off with Lucia, ‘not without considerable promise … an uncertain singer, but she acts with some cleverness and has spirit and energy’.
The Era summed up: ‘her debut was highly satisfactory ... her voice is of considerable compass and good quality excepting in some few notes which require more management … Miss Harland displayed great ability, judgement and good taste … an agreeable countenance and a good figure...’.
It seemed that Miss Harland would be a useful member of the company at the Princess’s, but something went wrong. If the press liked her, manager John Medex Maddox soon decided he did not. Mlle de Roissi was sent on as Lucia, Captain Rafter’s The Heart of Midlothian, in which she had been cast, seemingly adeptly, to play Madge Wildfire, was postponed, and a fairly feeble piece called Marie or The Foundling of the Lake, with a ground up score of Hérold and Loder, substituted. Miss Poole played the title role, Miss Harland the second role of Emilie. Marie was a flop. Mr Maddox tried to trick her into missing a performance of The Waterman, but an actress working with her husband noticed her name up for the night’s bill, and so Julia turned up, only to be told that certainly she could go on as Wilhelmina, but her songs were all cut. Julia, in consequence, refused to go on, and Maddox gleefully sacked her. The Hoskinses promptly sued, the whole mucky affair (in which Allen’s name, noticeably, did not appear) was spilled out in court, and the affair cost Maddox—who claimed that the performer’s ‘incapability’ had caused the postponement of The Heart of Midlothian and been responsible for the failure of Marie—36 pounds 13 shillings plus his dignity. When The Heart of Midlothian did get on, Madge Wildfire was most oddly cast with the Americo-French soprano Dolores Nau, and it too was not a success. Julia couldn’t be blamed for that one.
Engraving depicting the Eagle Tavern, venue for the Grecian Saloon, London; published by T. Bowyer, London, 1841
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Relations with Allen, who remained at the Princess’s seem to have been now severed, and Julia went off to take lessons with Emmanuel Garcia instead. At the same time it was announced that she had been engaged as ’leading singer at the Eagle Tavern’! From Lucia di Lammermoor to the Eagle Tavern? In fact, this was to be the best possible engagement for Julia Harland, and during it she would do some of the best and most appreciated work of her career. The Eagle Tavern was not just a hostelry or a beer garden: it had an ambitious and well-run theatre, known as the Grecian Saloon, attached to it, and the Grecian Saloon, manager Mr John Rouse, ambitioned productions of grand opera.
And thus it was, 3 November 1849, that Julia Harland opened once again as La Sonnambula, with an Elvino of the first rank—John Frazer—singing opposite her. The production was a full-blown success and she was a success in it. ‘Miss Harland is young, of good figure with well formed and striking features capable of much expression without having recourse to the ‘trick of face’. She has a good voice, something of a mezzo-soprano of excellent quality and more than ordinary compass and flexibility. Her execution is excellent, so also her musical education. From the beginning to the end of the opera she was not once out of tune’. Her acting was praised again as ‘graceful and natural, void of all attempts at point-making or straining after effect…’
Julia Harland and Mr Frazer (who also directed the productions), supported by the baritone Baldwin, a long-time employee of the place, Charles Horn, Eaton O’Donnell, Misses Crisp, Mary Ann Atkinson, and later Pat Corri, E.L. Hime and others, maintained the Grecian Saloon as a popular operatic house, through a long run of performances and productions. La Sonnambula was followed by The Syren (‘she did not lose a jot of the triumph she achieved as Amina’), Boisselot’s Touch not the Queen, The Crown Brilliants (sic), La gazza ladra, John of Paris, The Bohemian Girl (‘she has become an immense favourite’), Cinderella, Fra Diavolo, Don Pasquale, The Elixir of Love, Boieldieu’s Little Red Riding Hood, The Maid of Judah, The Daughter of the Regiment, Ma Part, Amilie, and, following Frazer’s departure, some less demanding pieces such as Clari the Maid of Milan, Brother and Sister, Guy Mannering, Midas, The Fairy Lake, The Duc d’Olonne, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Julia played Oberon), before changing to the extravaganza with Nobody in London (‘she ‘looked Venus admirably and sang as bewitchingly’), Planché’s The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood and Jason and Medea. By the time Julia Harland closed her association with the Grecian (which had, in the meanwhile, changed manager as well as fare), she had been there for two full years.
At Christmas she returned to Dublin, playing a mixture of traditional touring star’s musical playlets and burlesque extravaganza, during 1852 she was seen at Sadler’s Wells and at the Surrey in burlesque (Sir Lionel of the Silver Shield in The Three Perils of Man, or the Knights of the Round Table) and drama (Lestelle in The Flying Dutchman ‘with the original song’), and in June she joined Sims Reeves for a series of operatic performances at Drury Lane. When Reeves did La Sonnambula, Clara Novello sang Amina, and she was Lisa, and extremely well liked (‘Miss Julia Harland proved quite a card by the effectiveness of her Lisa. This young lady has histrionic powers of no common order, we are satisfied that she is not known at present in proportion to her merits’), when The Beggar’s Opera was done, Mrs Sims Reeves was Polly Peachum, and she scored again as Lucy Lockit. Over the next two years, Reeves would call regularly on the services of Miss Harland, to play alongside him in everything from La Sonnambula and Fra Diavolo (Lady Allcash) to The Waterman, Guy Mannering and Rob Roy, both in London and in his provincial and touring dates.
In between times, Julia appeared in London concerts (at Hoskins’ Benefit at Sadler’s Wells she delivered Rode’s fearsome ‘Air and Variations’), in an entertainment with Hoskins entitled Leaves from the Life and Lays from the Lyre of William Shakespeare, she sang at Drury Lane in a balletic piece entitled The Spirit of the Valley and in an ‘insipid’ role in a drama entitled St Marc, and played The Swiss Cottage at the Lyceum, The Beggar’s Opera at the Marylebone with Harriet Gordon as Macheath, and Lucy Bertram in Guy Mannering at the Haymarket, proving herself yet again a thoroughly attractive all-round artist.
Playbill for The Grand Annual Concert, Theatre Royal, Sadler’s Wells, London, 5 April 1852, for which Julia Harland contributed two songs
The Newberry, Chicago
In April 1854, she revisited Dublin to play a season with Harry Webb at the Queen’s Theatre playing mostly the standard provincial repertoire (A Roland for an Oliver, Giralda or the Miller’s Wife, The Camp at Queen’s, The Young Guard, The Foundling in the Forest, No!, The Swiss Cottage, The King’s Gardener, Midas, The King’s Wager, Villikind and his Dinah, The Water Man, Bluejackets, Loan of a Lover, Twas I, Ganem etc), and continued on to the Prince’s, Glasgow, where the repertoire was varied with the inevitable Rob Roy, before being recalled to London and some more Sims Reeves performances, including this time, The Bohemian Girl, in which she played the Gipsy Queen.
In 1855, Julia Harland went out to the provinces as the leading lady of Henri Corri’s English Opera Company, playing the standard repertoire alongside Corri, Eliot Galer, Fanny Reeves and Oliver Summers. Once again she gave her Lucia, her Sonnambula, The Bohemian Girl (now as Arline), Maritana, Cinderella and Norma, as the company toured lengthily through the year and into 1856.
And then Mr John Hall Wilton came into the Hoskins’s lives. Mr Wilton was a worldwide wanderer cum Mr Fixit who claimed, amongst many other things, to have negotiated P.T. Barnum’s famous deal with Jenny Lind. He had ended up in Australia, having apparently brokered the trip of Gustavus Brooke to the colonies and, his agency with Brooke ended, he advertised his return to Europe in the Australian papers, seeking commissions. Amongst the references he cited, apart from Barnum, Brooke and Miss Lind, were Tissaud, Charlotte Cushman, the Distins, Professor Anderson, Jullien, E.T. Smith and Mr J.W. Wallack.
So Mr Wilton and Mr John Black of the Melbourne theatres headed for England, and in England they engaged the backbone of an English Opera Company for the colonies. The prima donna was Julia Harland. It would later be said that it was Hoskins, whose career as a supporting actor in London had somewhat stalled, who was anxious for the opportunities that Australia offered, but whatever the truth of that tale, on 7 April 1856, Mr and Mrs Hoskins sailed for Australia on the ship James Baines in the company of Messrs Wilton and Black, Walter Sherwin, a music-hall tenor, the skilled bass Robert Farquharson and musical director Linley Norman.
The four musicians made their first appearance in Australia at Sydney’s English Opera House (ex-Prince of Wales Theatre) on 8 July in the inevitable La Sonnambula, and followed up with Lucia di Lammermoor. The performances went down well.
‘Miss Harland’s voice is a soprano of great power; she is a good musician and her execution is brilliant and correct. In the celebrated mad scene in Lucia she received the well merited applause of the audience and her rendering of the character was throughout given with excellent effect…’
Queen’s Theatre, Melbourne, 1845 (drawn in 1920s). When Julia Harland performed there in 1856 it had been renamed Our Lyceum.
State Library Victoria, Melbourne
They gave The Bohemian Girl ‘in its entirety for the first time in the colonies’, scenes from Don Pasquale, The Mountain Sylph, Maritana and in between times they gave concerts, but they did not draw, and panicky management did not help. They advertised ‘last performances’ when they had barely started, pretended they were closing and then stayed on, but still the public did not come. On 1 September they opened at ‘Our Lyceum’ (ex-Queen’s Theatre) in Melbourne, and John Gregg formerly of the Princess’s Theatre and Mrs Fiddes once Harriet Cawse joined to play supporting roles. Julia was liked ‘[her voice is] is superior certainly as regards freshness to that of any of her predecessors on the Melbourne boards’, ‘an actress of extraordinary calibre..’. The most recent soprano visitor to Melbourne had been the ageing Anna Bishop.
They traipsed on to the Victoria Theatre in Adelaide, returned for the official opera season in Melbourne during which they gave Masaniello … but the word was around ‘the opera troupe is a dead failure everywhere’.
But William Hoskins and Julia Harland stayed in Australia. Julia sang opera when there was opera to be sung, sang in concerts and in the occasional oratorio, trouped the diggings in every kind of entertainment and, generally, made do. ‘Making do’ was often what it was, and casting was not quite what it had been at the Eagle. When Mme Carandini sang Leonora in Trovatore, Julia was cast as Azucena (they later swapped), when Fra Diavolo was done ‘for the first time in the colonies (21 September 1858), she got to sing Zerlina, but the brigand was played not by Sherwin, but by Mme Carandini. When Eugenio and Giovannina Bianchi visited Australia and played Italian opera, Julia sang Adalgisa, Maffeo Orsini, Lisa and Flora in La Traviata, behind Mme Bianchi, as well as the leading roles in Lucia and L’Elisir d’amore.
After the Bianchi season in 1861, Julia seems to have slid from the operatic scene, and she was seen for a while in burlesque (King Thrushbeard, The Bride of Abydos) and, often alongside her husband, in comedy (Lady Teazle was a favourite) and in Shakespeare (Ophelia, Tempest vocals). She also put on a great deal of weight. I last spot Julia Harland on the stage in a burlesque of the same La Sonnambula which had, so many times, been her ‘debut’ piece, at Sydney’s Prince of Wales Theatre in 1868. In burlesque fashion, of course, she played the boy part.
From 1869, Julia settled down as a vocal teacher in Fitzroy, Melbourne, advertising herself as ‘a pupil of Garcia’, but three years later, at the age of 51, she died ‘of dropsy’.
Hoskins remarried, his second wife being the Tasmanian actress known as Florence Colville (Mary Florence Rice, m. Christchurch, New Zealand, 27 January 1874). He was involved with theatre management on both sides of the Tasman and did not quit the stage until 1884. Two years later, he died (29 September 1886), at the age of seventy-one. He had been right to come to the colonies, for he had established himself there as one of the great characters of the Australian and New Zealand stage. Whether the relocation had been equally as good a move for Mrs Hoskins, is less certain.
With thanks to Allister Hardiman for his help with the photographs of Julia Harland and William Hoskins