William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), famous for his novel Vanity Fair, wrote a number of Christmas books under the pseudonym Michael Angelo Titmarsh. The first one to be published was Mrs Perkins’s Ball in 1847 and it achieved a great success. Thackeray himself drew the colorful illustrations for the short stories and one of these was used for the cover of this piece of contemporary sheet music, The Ballymulligan Polka. As Thackeray was fond of inventing new funny names, the name of the composer Herr Kleinknochen could well be a pseudonym invented by the author.
For the lovers of Thackeray’s prose, we have included Thackeray’s short story:
Though a quadrille seems to me as dreary as a funeral, yet to look at a polka, I own, is pleasant. See! Brown and Emily Bustleton are whirling round as light as two pigeons over a dovecot; Tozer, with that wicked whisking little Jones, spins along as merrily as a May-day sweep; Miss Joy is the partner of the happy Fred Sparks; and even Miss Ranville is pleased, for the faultless Captain Grig is toe and heel with her. Beaumoris, with rather a nonchalant air, takes a turn with Miss Trotter, at which Lord Methuseleh’s wrinkled chops quiver uneasily. See! how the big Baron de Bobwitz spins lightly, and gravely, and gracefully round; and lo! the Frenchman staggering under the weight of Miss Bunion, who tramps and kicks like a young cart-horse.
But the most awful sight which met my view in this dance was the unfortunate Miss Little, to whom fate had assigned the Mulligan as a partner. Like a pavid kid in the talons of an eagle, that young creature trembled in his huge Milesian grasp. Disdaining the recognized form of the dance, the Irish chieftain accommodated the music to the dance of his own green land, and performed a double shuffle jig, carrying Miss Little along with him. Miss Ranville and her Captain shrank back amazed; Miss Trotter skirried out of his way into the protection of the astonished Lord Methuselah; Fred Sparks could hardly move for laughing; while, on the contrary, Miss Joy was quite in pain for poor Sophy Little. As Canaillard and the Poetess came up, The Mulligan, in the height of his enthusiasm, lunged out a kick which sent Miss Bunion howling; and concluded with a tremendous Hurroo! — a war-cry which caused every Saxon heart to shudder and quail.
“Oh that the earth would open and kindly take me in!” I exclaimed mentally; and slunk off into the lower regions, where by this time half the company were at supper.
The lovely lady on the cover is enjoying a glass of asti spumante, a sparkling white Italian wine from Piemonte. The sheet music was published around 1914.
Thanks to Michael Hölters, an art history student at the university of Vienna we were able to identify the monogram of the artist as belonging to Marianne Hitschmann-Steinberger. She was an Austrian Jewish artist who studied with Adolf Böhm and Friedrich König (both members of the Vienna Secession). She is mainly known as bookplate (ex libris) artist and illustrator of children’s books and postcards. In 1919 she died at the age of 32 of pneumonia in the flu pandemic, followed three days later by the death of her husband.
In the ex libris, she created for her husband, you can clearly see the typical emphasis of Jugendstil on two-dimensional linear design. And she was influenced by Japonism as made clear by this drawing and by the beautiful picture of her in a kimono-style dress.