Jarnovic Bicentenary 1804-2004 St Petersburg Russia
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by David Morris

NB: The article below has been expanded and revised. A fully referenced and illustrated version appears in the musicology journal Arti Musices (Zagreb, 2005). The version below is not to be cited. Please consult the author.


But first: a note on the Bicentary events in St Petersburg:


Jarnovic Bicentenary : 1804-2004 : St Petersburg Russia


A conference to mark the Ivan Jarnovic Bicentenary was convened in St Petersburg Russia on 23-24 November 2004.


Members of the extended Hull family, descendants of Jarnovic, very generously pooled contributions which allowed me to attend the conference and represent the family. Special thanks to Peggy Shimwell and her daughters Kate and Jeanette, and my wife Noeleen, who did so much in so short a space of time to make this all a reality! I am indebted to many family members whose generosity has been overwhelming, particularly my brother Michael Morris and my aunt Elizabeth Shier.


Several musicological papers were presented at the conference, while there was a concert with works by Jarnovic and his contemporaries. We visited St Catherine’s Cathedral from which Jarnovic had been buried in Nov 1804. The Benedictus from the Kozlowski Requiem Mass sung on that occasion was performed during the conference.


Amongst the principal delegates were: Prof. Dr. Vladimir Gurevich (St Petersburg: conference organiser), Dr. Stanislav Tuksar (Zagreb), Dr.Vjera Katalinic (Zagreb), Miss Anna Gromykhova (Moscow), Dr. Natalie Ogarkova (St Petersburg), Dr. Galina Petrova (St Petersburg), Dr. Anna Porfirieva (St Petersburg), Mr David Morris (Kimberley).


One of the key papers was that given by Stanislav Tuksar, who proposed the following resolutions:


  • That the name Ivan Jarnovic be used as the standard form (there is no evidence that he himself used the middle name ‘Mane’).
  • That pending evidence to the contrary, the most likely birth year is 1747, based on a baptismal certificate in Palermo.
  • That Jarnovic, who traveled the length and breadth of the continent, be characterized as a European virtuoso violinist and composer: there is no evidence that he considered himself a national of any one country.

An account of my bicentenary visit to St Petersburg is at:





This is the paper on Jarnovic and his family: a preliminary note:


Mystery still surrounds aspects of the life of the virtuoso violinist-composer Jarnovic (otherwise known as Giornovichi). Whole periods of his life - his youth and other interludes - remain unaccounted for, while details as to his origins and identity have proven to be remarkably elusive.1 He was baptised, apparently, at Palermo, Sicily, in 17472 (having been born at sea, according to one reliable source3), but there are plausible arguments to suggest that his family was from Croatia, possibly from the Karlovac-Delnice region.4 Highlighting a further riddle concerning his identity, Schneider and Tuksar both point out that Jarnovic's (or Giornovichi's) first names, Giovanni Mane, do not appear in any literature about him until 36 years after his death, namely in Schilling's Enzyclopadie of 1840.5 These names become the form most usually cited in encyclopaedic and biographical works from then onwards, often rendered today in their Croatian form as Ivan Mane Jarnovic. But what evidence is there that these names were used in his lifetime? It is "quite incredible," Tuksar has remarked, "that one of the leading musicians of 18th century Europe could have lived for 64 years without his name and surname ever being given anywhere, not even in his printed works, in their full and proper form."

At least one source does exist, however, which indicates his first and last names, namely a register entry recording the baptism of Jarnovic's daughter Sophia, in London, in 1795. The same document throws new light on yet another area of uncertainty; that of Jarnovic's family. Whereas little was previously known of the fate of his daughters "Mimi" and "Sofie", something of their lives and subsequent history can now be told.

Jarnovic's family

Some sources (e.g. Webster's Biographical Dictionary 1971) still refer to the violoncellist Pierre Louis Hus-Desforges (1773-1838), "also known as Jarnowick", as being the grandson of the violin virtuoso Jarnovic.7 The suggestion was originally made by Vidal, von Wasielevski and Boyer,8 but was easily dismissed by Schneider: it is impossible in terms of the dates alone.9 The limited information passed down amongst the descendants of Jarnovic's daughter Sophia makes no mention of this matter whatsoever, and there is no need to pursue it further here.10 Also dismissed as fictitious by Schneider are the details given in Desnoiresterres' novel, Jarnowick, of his marriage to a certain Diane, and of a son who died in 1800 as a member of the Russian army.11

But that Jarnovic did have a family whom he supported as best he could was clear from a surviving letter of the 1790s which he wrote from London to a daughter, named "Mimi", who was of a responsible age, and who resided in Paris at the time. The letter was published by Pincherle, and again by Schneider.12 Schneider remarked that part of its interest lay in its phonetic spelling: Jarnovic knew the French language well, but was not good at spelling (hence Pincherle's reference to "the illiterate Jarnovick"); and, because of this, the letter provides "a faithful, almost phonographic record" of the way he spoke. What is important here, however, is the information it gives, or implies, concerning his family. To Pincherle and Schneider it raised more questions in this respect than answers. Happily, some of the answers can now be given; and avenues for future enquiry may be suggested.

Jarnovic's letter revisited

In this letter Jarnovic signs himself "your affectionate father Giornovichi" [votre afecsione pere Giornovichi], having addressed "Mimi" as "my dear daughter" [Ma chiere filie]. The letter then also refers to a younger daughter named Sophie [petite Sofie] who was evidently of such young age that she was still in need of a nurse. These revelations, for long the only "known" evidence of Jarnovic's family, prompted Pincherle to characterise the violinist as the "malheureux errant" - the "unhappy wanderer" - having left a family in tow on the continent, and whom he was scarcely able to support. From the available sources, remarked Schneider, nothing further was known "of the fate of Jarnovic's daughters Mimi and Sophie."

Descendants of Jarnovic's family know the two daughters as Maria Wilhelmina Giornovichi, who was clearly Jarnovic's "Mimi" (she anglicised her name latterly as Mary Giornovichi), born in 1779 or 1780, and who died, a spinster, in London in 1855; and Sophia Sarah Giornovichi, identified in the letter as "Sofie" (her sister addressed her as Sophy), who married Henry Hull in London in 1819, and who emigrated with her family to the Cape of Good Hope in 1834, where she died in 1872.14

None of this quite made sense, however, given that Pincherle (and, later, Schneider) had quoted the date of Jarnovic's letter as 6 March 1791. Sophia was only born in 1794.15 Moreover, "Mimi" would only have been about eleven years old, and rather too young for the scale of responsibility she was then evidently carrying. In fact other statements in the letter by Jarnovic did not appear to tally either. Schneider, for instance, was puzzled at his mention of "Dr" Clarke, in Dublin (the letter describes, inter alia, Jarnovic's visit there), when actually Clarke was awarded his doctorate only in 1795.16 The Duke of Portland, who was to be approached, Jarnovic hoped, in connection with a passport, was not in a position to authorise any such matter until after becoming Home Secretary in England in 1794.17 Furthermore, Pleyel, who by implication was in Paris at the time that the letter was written, had not gone to that city before 1795.18 It should have been apparent that there might be an error regarding the date of the letter, but this possibility was not appreciated until Vjera Katalinic (pers. comm.) discovered that actually it was not in 1791 that Jarnovic performed in Dublin, but rather in 1797. When one realises that the date of the letter must have been 6 March 1797 (the last digit of the date simply having been misread), all else falls into place. "Mimi" was about 17 years old, and evidently looking after the young child, "petite Sofie". France and England were at war, and Jarnovic's anxiety over passports and possible arrests becomes all the more understandable: it was perhaps even for this reason that the family had become separated.


What is known of Maria Wilhelmina Giornovichi is that she was born (by her own testimony) in about 1779/1780.19 Her middle name may well be significant. For the years 1779-1782 her father had accepted the prestigious position of first violin in the orchestra of the musical Prussian Crown Prince, Frederic Wilhelm.20 In terms of the dates, it would have been while Jarnovic was in the prince's service that Maria Wilhelmina was born, the princely patronage being commemorated (one might suggest) in her name. The identity of her mother is not known, but the story passed down in the family, that she was an English woman,21 would seem unlikely, not least because Jarnovic's command of the English language - even towards the end of his stay in Britain - is known to have been nearly non-existent.22 Rather, some clue as to who she was is provided by the Archives of the Imperial Theatre at the Court of Catherine II in St Petersburg, as cited by Mooser.23 Jarnovic was appointed in 1783 to a select ensemble which played at the imperial palace, and at the same time, it is stated, his wife was hired as an actress. Mooser suggests that she must have been "an actress of worth" (actrice de valeur), given that she received an annual salary of 200 Roubles, as a member of the French Company, taking the leading parts in dramas and comedies.24

Maria Giornovichi very likely accompanied her father and mother as they travelled across Europe: in 1782 Jarnovic was in Warsaw prior to going to St Petersburg; and afterwards, in 1786, he was again in Warsaw, and in Vienna; in 1789 back in Russia, in Moscow; and in England, as well as The Hague, in 1790.25 They possibly also resided in Paris at some point in this period.26 Maria was certainly in London, aged 15, when her baby sister was baptised there in 1795. In the interim, family lore suggests, her mother had died, and Jarnovic had remarried.27

"Petite Sofie"

A most valuable piece of documentary evidence is a 1795 baptism entry from the Capella Gallico in London, presenting several points of interest besides recording the birth and baptism of the child, Sophia Sarah Giornovichi, whom Jarnovic would call "petite Sofie".28

The full entry reads as follows:

Anno Dni 1795 dievero 1 Jany baptizavi, Sophiam, Saraham, filiam Joannis Giornovichi, et Maria du Basta la Coste, natam 25 Novembris 1794, susceptores fuere Joshua Platt, Sarah Platt, et Maria Giornovichi. Richardus Smith, Capella Gallico, Londine.

To start with, there is proof of Jarnovic's first name, as used by his immediate family in the period when he resided in England in the mid 1790s. "Joannis" of course is the Latin equivalent of Giovanni, and of Ivan, and provides support for a name which otherwise first appeared in the biographical literature nearly four decades after Jarnovic's death.

Important here, as well, is evidence as to the identity of Jarnovic's second wife, Maria du Basta la Coste. (The degree of matrimonial formality that some accounts suggest is off-set by the notoriety associated with Jarnovic's supposed romantic attachments: Zorawska-Witkowska29 recently cited Prince Oginsky's reliable testimony that Jarnovic was possessed of "une eccessiva inclinazione per le donne...). Little is known of Maria du Basta la Coste, family legend merely relating that she was French (though the name in fact appears more Italian); and that when Sophia Sarah Giornovichi was six years old, her mother had died. "Her father, Giornovichi, then sent her to England to be brought up by her half sister, Maria Wilhelmina."

"Mimi", who appears to have been looking after "petite Sofie" in Paris two years after the baptism, was not only present but also listed as one of the god-parents: as noted, she was by then 15 years old. Of the other two god-parents, namely, Joshua and Sarah Platt, nothing is as yet known.

Significant are the French connections: in the person of Maria du Basta la Coste (going by family tradition that she was French), and in the venue, which was London's Capella Gallico. It is to be remembered that France and England were, from February 1793, at war; and the anxiety Jarnovic expresses in the 1797 letter concerning a passport for the woman named Merote (was this a familiar name for Maria du Basta la Coste?31), who had at one stage been imprisoned in England, suggests the possibility that his family had been forced to leave the country. War fever in England had been intensifying through 1794 (Habeas Corpus was suspended in May), while popular disaffection was bubbling over in public disturbances that also coincided with famine and war-time economic stress the following year. By 1797 external threats of a French invasion were compounded by internal Jacobin conspiracies, and the authorities were clamping down on the latter by way of arrests and expulsions. The violinist Viotti was banished along with other foreigners in 1798, on suspicion of having revolutionary leanings.32 There is no record of when and why Maria and Sophia left for Paris, but for whatever reason, there they were; and their father was doing all he could to support them. (Jarnovic's concern for his family's well-being shines through the 1797 letter. It is also clear from his daughters' subsequent accomplishments that they had benefited by a good education; their letters suggesting a command of the English language that was certainly above average).33 Meanwhile, the musical boom of the early 1790s had dipped in unison with the economy and the mood of the country. One measure of this is the number of concerto performances in London, which dropped to their lowest for the decade in 1797. Jarnovic would not have been the only violinist feeling the squeeze.34 He appealed to "Mimi" to be "very economical, for God knows how things will turn out in moments as critical as these."

As already indicated, family legend suggests that Sophia was sent to England after her mother died in about 1800, to live with her elder sister Maria. No details are known. By that time Jarnovic was back on the continent: in Hamburg in 1799; in Berlin in 1802; and returning then to St Petersburg, where he died in 1804.36

Their subsequent history

Maria was said to be "very musical" (Jarnovic had written in the 1797 letter, "I am sure you must be very busy with your clavecin"). Later, she became "a favourite pupil of the Cramers in London", and Sophia presently also studied the pianoforte under this "great teacher". It is said that J.B. Cramer gave Sophia a ring, amongst other gifts. Subsequently, according to family records, Sophia Giornovichi worked for a time as "music governess" to the Cathcarts in Scotland, prior to her marrying Henry Hull in London in 1819. Henry Hull's sisters were known to Sophia's sister Maria, and they were apparently fellow pupils of J.B. Cramer.37

Sophia Sarah Giornovichi was married at St Mary's Lambeth on 23 September 1819.38 Witnesses at the wedding were T.H. Hull and C. Hull. In 1834 the Hull family emigrated to the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, with letters of introduction to the Cape Governor Sir Benjamin D'Urban and Chief Justice Sir John Wylde. In Cape Town, Sophia Sarah set up a succession of private music schools, and gathered together "all the musical talent at the Cape" for evenings of music-making. The Cape Directory for 1837 lists "Mrs Hull, professor of the piano forte and ladies seminary, 60 Bree Street", while in the 1840s Mrs Hull was conducting a "Musical Academy" in Adderley Street, Cape Town. At least two of her daughters are known to have been accomplished pianists; and a granddaughter, Mary Sophia Bourhill Hull, taught music at Cape Town's Diocesan College from 1888 to 1912. Another granddaughter, Margaret Hull, married a Bohemian violinist named Ferdinand Bilek, who was a member of a Viennese military orchestra that travelled to South Africa in 1892. After they were married they went to live in Austro-Hungary (contact with them and their family was lost in 1914). Many other members of the family (Sophia Sarah Hull had ten children) have contributed to the musical life of their adopted country, down to the present day.39

Maria Wilhelmina Giornovichi never married, but lived on in England, where she died, in Kensington, London, in 1855. She evidently had founded a school,40 possibly one on which her sister's, in Cape Town, was modelled; but by 1843 she was only taking private pupils, writing that "we are overstocked with masters of every description in London" and her "business" (as she called it) was reduced to one pupil per week.41 These activities gave her the means to live in moderate comfort, in lodgings inter alia at No. 14 and No. 43 Great Marlborough Street. Her circle of friends included the Cramers (with whom she met regularly for whist and card games), the Hardesty family (two of whom were in the legal profession, and one a school master at Eton), and a Col Kennedy who lived at Bath.42 Maria Giornovichi's niece, Gertrude Hull, visited her in 1854, and was in France when her aunt died unexpectedly: "she returned to London immediately to attend her funeral, and was able to collect her personal effects and send them out to the Cape to her sister, Sophia Sarah."43 Amongst the beneficiaries in Mary Giornovichi's will44 (to refer to the name she was latterly using for herself) were Mrs J.B. Cramer and Mrs Latour. Mrs Latour might possibly have been the wife of Cramer's one-time business partner, Francis Tatton Latour.45 Mary Giornovichi left her "piano music", along with her "furniture and plate", to her "sister, Mrs Henry Hull at the Cape of Good Hope, to be by her divided amongst her children." The music books were dispersed and some probably lost in the intervening period. Amongst those that have survived are: Cramer's "Concerto da Camera for piano forte with accompaniments for two violins, flute, viola and violoncello", inscribed "With best regards from the author to Miss Giornovichi"; and "Six variations sur hymne national autrichien (Gott erhalte den Kaiser) pour le piano-forte" inscribed "Offert a Mademoiselle Giornovichi par son ami, J.B. Cramer", dated 1841.46 In addition there are photocopies47 of arrangements of Jarnovic works: "Giornovichi's Concerto Expresly [sic] composed for the Opera Concert, 1796, arranged for the piano forte, with accompaniments for violins, altos, flutes, horns and bass, by J.B. Cramer";48 "A favorite [sic] duet for a violin and violoncello or two violins composed by M. Garnovik";49 "Mr Jarnovichi's Reel composed by himself and four favourite tunes";50 and "A Rondeau for the harpsichord or piano forte composed at the desire of several ladies by Domenico Corri, the subject being taken from the last movement of the much admired Concerto of the celebrated Mr Jarnovick".51

Not a great deal of substance has been added by this note to our knowledge of Jarnovic himself, but, where previously almost nothing was widely known of his family, this aspect of his life has been fleshed out to some extent.

I thank Vjera Katalinic, Stanislav Tuksar, Shirley Mason, Thomas Milligan, Philip Olleson, Kim Malan.


Mostly excluded here - available in the published version

1. Tuksar, S. 1980. The question of Jarnovic's identity: archive work in progress. In Tuksar, S. (ed) Ivan Mane Jarnovic: a Croatian composer II. Zagreb, 1980, pp. 119-130; Schneider, A. 1944. Ivan Mane Jarnovic: a Croatian violin virtuoso and composer of the 18th century. Published as an offprint from Sv Cecilija XXXVII, 1943, edited by Hrvatski glazbeni zavod, Zagreb 1944; reprinted in English translation (by Andriana Hewitt) in Tuksar, S. (ed) Ivan Mane Jarnovic: a Croatian composer. Zagreb, 1978, pp. 127-191; Djuric-Klajn, S. 1958. Mozart's contemporary Ivan-Mane Jarnovic: new biographical information - first published in French in Berichte uber den internationalen musikwissenschaftlichen Kongress Wien, Mozartjahr 1956 (Graz-Wien); reprinted in English translation (by Andriana Hewitt) in Tuksar, S. (ed) Ivan Mane Jarnovic: a Croatian composer. Zagreb, 1978, pp. 193-199; White, C. 2001. Entry for Giornovichi in Grove's Encyclopaedia.
2. ...

....24. Mooser, op. cit., p. 204-205. In a footnote Mooser shows that Madame Jarnowick's contract expired in 1786, at the same time as her husband's. He makes further observations based on the so-called "1791" [i.e. 1797] letter, which seemed to indicate that "the actress then lived a life that was extremely miserable". Mooser assumes that the person named Merote in the letter was the wife employed along with Jarnovic in St Petersburg: plausible as this might have seemed, there are no grounds for certainty, and indeed there is some cause for doubt (see note 27). The supposedly fantastic accounts of Desnoiresterres le Brisois and Monnais, alias Paul Smith (Schneider, op. cit., pp. 154-158), including reference to a certain actress named Rose, who, so the tale is told, left with Jarnovic when he went from Paris to Berlin, may well be worth treating as a challenge rather than simply as a fiction for immediate dismissal. As Schneider admits, these authors may well have had access to material since lost or hidden from view. A similar point is made by Audbourg-Popin, M-D. 1998. Le vrai faux Jarnovic, in Tuksar, S. (ed) Zagreb 1094-1994: Zagreb and Croatian lands as a bridge between Central-European and Mediterranean musical cultures: 187-194.

28. HULL 400, in the possession of David Morris in Kimberley, South Africa, is what appears to be a nineteenth century hand-written copy of this entry in the baptismal register of the Capella Gallico, London. It is reproduced in Currie's book, op. cit., p. 18.

31. If so, we learn also (from the 1797 letter) that her mother lived, probably, in Paris - see Schneider op. cit., p. 173. However, at present, there is no certainty as to the identity of Merote, and her relationship to Jarnovic.
38. A copy of the marriage certificate (HULL 373) is in the possession of David Morris, Kimberley, South Africa; see also Currie, op. cit., p. 17.
39. Currie, op. cit.; 26; MacSymon, R.M. 1990. Fairbridge Arderne and Lawton: a history of a Cape law firm. Cape Town: Juta & Co Ltd, p. 28; Morris, D. 2001 Ferdinand Bilek and Margaret Hull: a tale of music and romance from the South African Diamond Fields. A Hull Family History Newsletter 2:7-12.
40. ...51....



David Morris
March 2001

Ferdinand Bilek, violinist with a Viennese orchestra, and Miss Margaret Hull, originally from Caledon in the Cape, became acquainted amidst the excitement of the 1892 South African and International Exhibition which opened in the spring of that year in the Cape Colony's diamond town, Kimberley.1

Music played no small part in the proceedings, and Herr Eberlein of Kimberley had overall responsibility as principal musical director for the Exhibition.1 Local input, including grand compositions by Franz Adolph Wustmann2 and the controversial anti- imperialist newspaperman Francis Reginald Statham,3 figured prominently in the programme. But it was a military orchestra of brass and strings from Vienna, under the baton of Herr Josef Kopetzky, which in many ways stole the show. Kopetzky himself had composed the "Exhibition March",4,15 while at least one other of the orchestra members (Bilek himself) composed pieces for the occasion. Socially, these "charming musicians", with their exotic speech and "unspellable" names,5 were feted wherever they went.

Two of the bandsmen, a drummer named Doucher,6 and Carl Rybnikar, a violinist, stayed on in Kimberley afterwards. Rybnikar in particular contributed significantly to Kimberley's musical life through the 1890s and the early part of the twentieth century, as teacher, conductor-performer, and as composer, inter alia, of local school songs and pieces for the Kimberley Regiment Band - of which he was appointed bandmaster. He presented regular and highly popular Sunday afternoon concerts in the gardens of the Alexandersfontein Hotel. He married a local young woman named Edith Kearns, daughter of Bryan and Agnes Kearns of Villiers Street, Kimberley.7

Ferdinand Bilek, too, took a liking to one of "the beautiful ladies of Kimberley"; only, he was to return with her to Bohemia following their wedding in Kimberley on 17 January 1893. Bilek was born on 9 Oct 1868 in the town of Jaromeritz, near Znaim [Znojmo], Moravia, in what was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His bride, Margaret Hull, had lived with her family on the Diamond Fields from the 1870s, having been born in the Caledon District in about 1862. Regular contact between Bohemia and South Africa was kept up for two decades, but according to Margaret's niece, Olive McIntyre, correspondence ceased abruptly in 1914, and it was feared the Bilek family had all perished in the early stages of the Great War.8

Recently a clutch of pieces composed by Bilek - all scored for piano - came to light amongst papers possessed by Hull descendants in Kimberley:

Opus 56 'Rhodes Waltz'. Dedicated to the honourable Cecil John Rhodes. Ms not dated - presumably Kimberley 1892.9

Opus 57 'Rhodes March'. Dedicated to the honourable Cecil John Rhodes. Ms not dated - presumably Kimberley 1892.10

No Opus Number 'May I trouble you' Polka. Dedicated to Miss Edith Hull. Ms not dated - probably late 1892.11

No Opus No 'The flower pictures' Waltz. Composed and dedicated to Miss Mary Carson. Inscribed to 'Miss Edith Hull, from composer, December 1892'. Johannesburg, 16 December 1892.12

No Opus Number 'My Ideal' Waltz. Composed at Pretoria 23-24 December 1892. Completed, Johannesburg 27 December 1892. 'H.M. Hull Dec 1892'.13

No Opus Number 'To the beautiful ladies of Kimberley' Mazurka. Composed and dedicated to Miss Margaret Hull. Ms dated Prague, 19 September 1893.14

Miss Margaret Hull was, of course, by then, Mrs Bilek. A manuscript copy of the Mazurka was sent from Prague to her family, the Hulls of Kimberley. Of the others mentioned in these dedications, Edith Hull was Margie's step-sister, and H.M. Hull - Henrietta Mary (nee Vigne) - her step-mother; while Mary Carson was Margie and Edith's first cousin.

The Kimberley Hulls were a branch of a family who had come from London to the Cape in 1834. They themselves had some musical background, apart from being accomplished - many of them - at the keyboard: Mrs Henry Hull of Cape Town was the daughter of the eighteenth century virtuoso violinist Giovanni Mane Giornovichi (or Jarnovic). Born in Palermo, but seemingly of Croatian descent, Giornovichi came to prominence as a violinist in Paris in the 1770s, travelling extensively thereafter. He lived in England for most of the 1790s, and died in Russia in 1804. At least six CDs featuring his works have appeared in the 1990s, which note Giornovichi's contribution to the development of the violin concerto form (including his use of the romance and rondo movements, and the introduction of dance forms from eastern Europe).16 On his death, the orphaned Sophia Sarah (who later married Hull and was to be the grandmother of Margie Hull) and her elder sister, Maria Wilhelmina, were both pupils of the London pianist, composer and music publisher J.B. Cramer. A miniature portrait of J.B. Cramer's daughter Fanny, and a music score inscribed by Cramer to "Miss Giornovichi", are preserved by the family in Kimberley. It was Sophia and Henry Hull's son, George Henry Hull, who went up from the Cape to the Diamond Fields in 1870. His family - particularly his daughters, it would seem, and his sister's daughter, Mary Carson - were befriended by members of the Viennese orchestra.

In early January 1893 Janet Bourhill (another of the Hull cousins) wrote from Johannesburg, asking,17

How are you all getting on without any exhibition? Edith must find some solace in the thought that the dear drummer, Herr Doucher, and the other Herr with the unspellable name [presumably Rybnikar], are not leaving Kimberley for good. Two or three of them are staying on here too, so South Africa has been decidedly enriched by their visit.

The orchestra toured to Bloemfontein18 and then on to Johannesburg19 and Pretoria20 for the Christmas and New Year season following their stay in Kimberley. Janet Bourhill describes meeting them at a tea garden called Sans Souci near Johannesburg.17 Within a few weeks she had received further word from Kimberley, including news of Margie's engagement to Ferdinand:

Your news was thrilling - quite a page out of a romance ! To think that Margie should have captivated one of those charming musicians, and be able to have sweet music whenever she pleases for the rest of her life...This little episode will cast a sort of halo of glory round Gladstone [the name of G.H. Hull's house, in the suburb which came to be called Gladstone] for many a day. It only needed that Edith should have gone off with Soukup22 or Voditchka to complete the romance.21

(That Anton Soukup, or "Tono", had indeed regarded Edith with some affection is shown by hints of a correspondence with the Hulls for a few years afterwards - and by his sending her a beautiful manuscript copy of a waltz by Czibulka, from Bohemia, in 189423).

Bilek's letters to his beloved Margie through December 1892 to January 1893 - sometimes more than one epistle in a day! - declare his feelings plainly, the more so given his decidedly broken English. George Hull was ultimately prompted to address the young musician - who was by then with the orchestra down in Cape Town: "I cannot help judging from your letters that you are very much in earnest with regard to Margaret and as she is of the same mind as yourself it would perhaps be well that you should obtain permission to come up here at once and arrange matters".24

The marriage took place on Saturday 17 January 1893, at St Cyprian's Church in Kimberley - a wood and iron building in Jones Street, and the principal Anglican place of worship in the town. The ceremony was conducted by Archdeacon W.T. Gaul, Rector and Rural Dean of Griqualand West - the man who later, as Bishop of Mashonaland, would return to lay the foundation stone of Kimberley's St Cyprian's Cathedral. Margaret's father, George Henry Hull, and step-mother, Henrietta Mary Hull, signed the marriage certificate as witnesses.25

The young couple set off immediately for the Cape before embarking for Europe. "Ferda" (as he was familiarly known) was to write perhaps sooner than expected - from Modder River, less than 40 km down the track, on 18 January 1893: he'd accidentally left all his music with Rybnikar in Kimberley and wished to have it sent on. Krauss - the "little drummer" - would arrange to get it to the Hulls. Margie contributed a footnote: "You will all be glad to hear that I am still alive" !26

The next word we have (of the letters preserved) is again from Ferdinand, from Cape Town (24 Jan 1893), his English as yet but little improved!27

I hope you have got Margarita's letter...I can only thank more for my wife, which I know first now. Have I loved miss Hull, than I do love my wife many times more. It is not to write, not to say. I believe, if I write: "Too Much Happiness", that you will know all, what the words are not able to say.

You should be pleased to hear, how Margarita learns Bohemian speach. I teach her not, but if I speak with Mr Christ Bohemian, she hear always and ask.

[Mr Christ, with whom they stayed in Cape Town, appears to have been associated with an orchestra or operatic society in that city]

I many times cant believe it, that I have got her, and I am quite sure that I have taken the "bests" from Kimberley...

I hope after a not long time come back to Africa, to stay here in Cape Town by theatre; shall we not come, than I hope to see you on our main-land - Europe.

I believe, that I will before leaving Cape Town understand plenty English, but I am not able, first on the ship I will again begin under a good teacher, and you can sure wait for second time a better letter...

Your thankfully and faithfully

Ferdinand Bilek

In Margie's letter of 25 Jan 1893 she writes:28

Ferdinand is writing to you, and will not let me help him, so I suppose it is all about me; you ask if I am alright? I can only say that if ever love made anyone happy! I ought to be the happiest girl alive, for I have got love enough and a good husband. Please excuse a short and very shaky looking note but this is my last day in my own country and I can't trust myself to say any more now, when I think that I may never see you again, it is very hard but I must be strong for Ferd is looking at me.

Thank you very much for all that you have done for me, all my life and now. I hope you will think of me sometimes and write to us. Good bye my father.

Ever you loving

G.H. Hull's sister, Gertrude Hull (25 Jan 1893), saw the couple off on board the Grantully Castle, bound for London that day:29

She seemed happy, but felt leaving, and said if she had not cared for her husband very much would never have made up her mind to go far away...she will make a good wife and housekeeper, she looked so nice, quite pretty with a beautiful rose in her belt and a bunch of beautiful flowers which she took great care of. He seems a down right good fellow - I would like to have heard him speak Bohemian, which I do not understand. He seemed to get on with his knowledge of English and German. What a curious romance it is. It must be like a dream to you all...you will all have to go to Europe now.

Gertrude Hull refers in the same letter to the hope that Mr Christ "may be the means of getting them back here if the new opera should be searching for musicians".

The voyage to Europe was not a very enjoyable one for Margie who was sea sick (and probably not a little homesick as well).30 Ferdinand had written as they approached Europe. Correspondence received in Kimberley was duly shared amongst the family, and Gertrude responded saying:31

I must thank you for your kind and interesting letter enclosing the two delicious Austrian productions which I return herewith. Young Ferdinand is certainly a genius in music and composition, and some of the thoughts are charmingly put. Mary Carson had a read and thoroughly enjoyed it...those letters were very touching, particularly Bilek's - let me know the next news and remember me to them.

Janet Bourhill's letter of 30 January 1893 32 had referred to a planned excursion across the Atlantic sometime following the Bileks' return to Austria: "Fancy their going off to Chicago, I could gnaw my nails off with envy". But of this we have no further word. Nor is there any reference again - in the surviving letters - to Mr Christ and the Cape Town Opera.

Instead, in August 1893, from Bohemia, Ferdinand writes of being conscripted for military duties. Gone is his earlier optimism about publishing his compositions in London. Life is not easy and the possibility of a return to Africa has evidently been considered. Meanwhile, the young couple hope to settle in Pilsen.33 By September, we learn, they are in Prague,14 and in Pilzen by February 1894.37

By March 1895 Ferdinand and Margie are living in Bielitz, at Rothenthurmstrasse 11.34Bielitz, which was a duchy in the mid eighteenth century and has a history stretching back to the Middle Ages, was at the time one of the northern towns of the Austro- Hungarian Empire. It passed into Polish hands, however, following the First World War.

Margie begins her charming letter to her father, dated 17 March 1895, addressing him playfully as "Hochguhrter Herr!" It is clear that there has been some intermediate correspondence, now lost, for she refers to a Hull family visit from Kimberley to the sea- side. Ferda has been ill:35

There is a great deal of sickness in the town just now and they say it is on account of the weather being so changeable; one day it is cold and freezing and the next it is so warm that the snow is all melting on the roofs and when one is walking along the pavements, great pieces slip down onto one's head, which is anything but pleasant. I wish we could exchange some of our cold and snow for some of your heat and drought. I think a little African sunshine would do Ferda good; he says that in all his life he never felt better or stronger than during the 5 months he was in Africa.

Margie tells with some excitement of meeting another English woman in Bielitz, named Llewellyn, who gives English lessons; and of what a treat it was "to speak to a real English person again. Ferda always speaks English to me now, but as I tell him, there is a great difference between English English and German English."

Two further Bilek letters, both written by Ferdinand, are dated 1897.36

With this mail we are sending you that long promised pipe and 'Speise-Puloer' which as Mrs Hull has written, helped your indigestion so much. For Mrs McIntyre are enclosed: an Austrian baby ( - pardon, a doll; for a baby she will certainly not care), an apron, a churn and a pair of shoes for Mavis.

Again it is obvious that there has been other correspondence between Kimberley and Bielitz, which has not survived. Edith Hull married Kenneth McIntyre (1895), and their first daughter, Mavis, had been born on 3 March 1896. We learn that the Bileks have a daughter named Irma, probably born in 1894/5, for they write that:

[she] is walking all by herself and walks all round the room without any support...she has...a good musical ear and by hearing a song or music, strikes at once the same key. She plays violin and helps me to write, what she will do always as soon as she sees me sitting down to it. She got two front teeth without our knowing it.

It appears that continued military obligations are proving irksome:

If you remember that I ought to have been set free from military, I have got no papers yet, which does not please me, the less, as our government is mixing itself into those Armenian affairs and has sent some warships to Creta. Further it is expected that other military, will be sent there.

Ferdinand concludes this letter of early March 1897 wishing his father-in-law well, and with the hope that "all danger of Rinderpest is past". By May he has received a response from Kimberley, and writes again. News regarding the Rinderpest is not good:

We were so sorry that so many heads of cattle have been shot. As I heard last year that rinderpest was all round you, I was quite sure that you were saved and might have never believed that it would come back again. What is the total loss of yours ? Will you get any compensation from the government ? After all the misfortune that you had for last years I dont think there is even possible to come still something else. Now it ought to (and is also the highest time) come a good turn for better. Or has Miss Fortuna no more "smiles" for you? Than she might be no Miss, but an old spiteful woman...

I think Dr Koch's remedys will be just as much of use for rinderpest as they were for people, and as he failed...for human beings, he believes he will have more luck with the beasts.

Of course, Ferdinand was wrong about Koch, who devised an inoculation against the Rinderpest; his work leading to the formation of the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute.

The bulk of this last surviving letter from Ferdinand concerns the political upheavals in the Austro-Hungarian Empire:

As for our empire, I don't know how it will look when Francis Joseph is once gone. For he succeeded the throne at a very troublesome time.

Dubbed 'the last monarch of the old school', Franz Josef had been crowned Emperor of Austria in 1848 (aged just 18) and King of Hungary in 1867. Enjoying some popularity, his Dual Monarchy in fact endured until his death in 1916. But all was then indeed changed.

Sundry photographs37 and postcards38 make up the balance of the surviving Bilek collection, including two cards sent in 1900, one referring to "the children", and the other signed "Irma Bilek" and "[?Rita] Bilek" - the name of the second child is unclear. An undated note from Irma Bilek wishes her cousin Mavis a happy birthday.39

Correspondence is said to have been kept up until 1914 - although nothing post-1900/1 survives.

Of the eventual fate of this happy couple in the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, following a romance growing out of the 1892 Exhibition in Kimberley - and of their young family - sadly, not another thing is known.


My late father, Roger Morris, compiled preliminary notes on Margie and Ferdinand. I thank Mrs Kokkie Duminy and her staff at the Africana Library and Mrs Vida Allen at the McGregor Museum for assistance with aspects of this research. The Revd Canon Oswald P.P. Swarts, Diocesan Secretary, and Ms Sylvia Mabija, of the Diocese Kimberley and Kuruman, traced the marriage register entry. I am indebted to Mrs Felicity Jervis, a descendant of Carl Rybnikar, for help and insights respecting the Viennese bandsmen.

References and notes

1. Morris, D. 1992. Musical contributions to the South African and International Exhibition. Facsimile of 1892 Exhibition catalogue. Kimberley: McGregor Museum.
2. Franz Adolph Wustmann, "Kimberley Exhibition Waltz and March". He was a German from Dresden who settled in Kimberley and died there in 1904.
3. Frank Reginald Statham, Editor of the Daily Independent, a critic of British imperialism, author and poet, who composed anthems for the Natal and Cape Colonies as well as national music for the Boer Republics. He composed a "Sacred Cantata" for the Exhibition, published by Novello.
4. Kopetzky (Bilek spells it Kopetsky) - the Exhibition March was published by G.A. Ettling of Kimberley.
5. HULL 117F, 117G Letters of Janet Bourhill to George Hull, Johannesburg, 1893.
6. HULL 117F Doucher and Rybnikar. Letter Janet Bourhill to George Hull, Johannesburg, 9 Jan 1893.
7. HULL 395 Comments by Felicity Jervis on a draft of "Ferdinand Bilek and Miss Margaret Hull".
8. MCIN 551 Reminiscences of Olive Grant Vigne McIntyre: transcription from tape recordings, Kimberley, 1982.
9. HULL 387 Bilek, F. Opus 56 `Rhodes Waltz'. Dedicated to the honourable Cecil John Rhodes. Ms not dated - presumably Kimberley 1892.
10. HULL 388 Bilek, F. Opus 57 `Rhodes March'. Dedicated to the honourable Cecil John Rhodes. Ms not dated - presumably Kimberley 1892.
11. HULL 389 Bilek, F. No Opus Number `May I trouble you' Polka. Dedicated to Miss Edith Hull. Ms not dated - probably late 1892.
12. HULL 390 Bilek, F. No Opus No `The flower pictures' Waltz. Composed and dedicated to Miss Mary Carson. Inscribed to `Miss Edith Hull, from composer, December 1892'. Johannesburg, 16 December 1892.
13. HULL 391 Bilek, F. No Opus Number `My Ideal' Waltz. Composed at Pretoria 23-24 December 1892. Completed, Johannesburg 27 December 1892. `H.M. Hull Dec 1892'.
14. HULL 392 Bilek, F. No Opus Number `To the beautiful ladies of Kimberley' Mazurka. Composed and dedicated to Miss Margaret Hull. Ms dated Prague, 19 September 1893.
15. HULL 393 Kopetzky March ms sent by Bilek.
16. Notes on Giovanni Mane Giornovichi by David Morris; CDs by Kurt Sassmannshaus, Biljana Pelic, Zagreback Kvartet & Tonko Ninic, and Vladimir Krpan.
17. HULL 117F Letter Janet Bourhill to George Hull, Johannesburg, 9 Jan 1893.
18. HULL 396 Letter from Ferdinand Bilek, Bloemfontein, 12 Dec 1892.
19. HULL 397, 400-404 Letters from Ferdinand Bilek.
20 HULL 398, 399 Letters from Ferdinand Bilek; HULL 412 Letter from Soukup.
21. HULL 117G Letter from Janet Bourhill, 30 Jan 1893.
22. HULL 412 Letter from Soukup to G.H. Hull - indicates that George Hull had written to the Viennese bandsmen with Christmas cards from the Hull family, Dec 1892.
23. HULL 394 Czibulka waltz inscribed to Edith Hull from Soukup, 1894.
24. Ferdinand Bilek to G.H. Hull: HULL 396 (12 Dec 1892, Bloemfontein), HULL 299 (23 Dec, Pretoria); Ferdinand Bilek to Margie Hull: HULL 397 (22 Dec 1892, Johannesburg), HULL 398 (22 Dec 1892, Pretoria), HULL 400 (27 Dec 1892, Johannesburg), HULL 401 (29 Dec 1892, Johannesburg), HULL 402 (1 Jan 1893, Johannesburg), HULL 403 (2 Jan 1893, Johannesburg), HULL 404 (Telegraph 2 Jan 1893, Johannesburg), HULL 405 (Telegraph 6 Jan 1893, Cape Town), HULL 406 (Telegraph 6 Jan 1893, Cape Town), HULL 407 (Telegraph 8 Jan 1893, Cape Town); George Henry Hull to Ferdinand Bilek: HULL 411, from Gladstone, Kimberley.
25. Copy of marriage register entry, 17 Jan 1893, St Cyprian's Church, Kimberley.
26. HULL 114a Ferdinand Bilek to George Hull, Modder River, 18 Jan 1893.
27. HULL 114b Ferdinand Bilek to George Hull, Cape Town, 24 Jan 1893.
28. HULL 408 Margie Bilek to George Hull, Cape Town, 25 Jan 1893.
29. HULL 127B Gertrude Hull to G.H. Hull, Cape Town, 25 Jan 1893.
30. HULL 409 Ferdinand Bilek to G.H. Hull, Grantully Castle, 7 Feb 1893.
21. HULL 127C Gertrude Hull to G.H. Hull, Cape Town, 16 Mar 1893.
32. HULL 117G Janet Bourhill, Johannesburg, 30 Jan 1893.
33. HULL 410 Ferdinand Bilek to G.H. Hull. Smichov, 30 Aug 1893.
34. HULL 114C Margie Bilek to G.H. Hull, Bielitz, 17 Mar 1895.
35. HULL 114C Margie Bilek to G.H. Hull, Bielitz, 17 Mar 1895.
36. HULL 114D Ferdinand Bilek, Bielitz, 2 Mar 1897 to G.H. Hull; HULL 114E Ferdinand Bilek, Bielitz, 4 May1897 to G.H. Hull.
37. Photograph Album 15: 40 (Middlebrook, Kimberley); 80 (Bielitz); 130,131 (Pilzen Feb 1894).
38. HULL 426 Postcard posted 8 May 1900, rec. Kimberley 31 May 1900; HULL 427 posted 18 Dec 1900, rec. Kimberley 11 Jan 1901.
39. HULL 425 Undated birthday message Irma Bilek for Mavis McIntyre.

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