William Vincent Wallace

Wallace, William Vincent, musical composer, was born in Waterford, 1st June 1814. He early evinced musical talents, and before he was eighteen had held the situations of organist of Thurles Cathedral and violinist in the Theatre Royal, Dublin, and conducted concerts in the same city. Advised to take a sea voyage on account of weak eyes, he left Dublin about 1833, went to Australia, and for a lengthened period laid music aside, and led an adventurous and chequered life in the bush. Accident at last brought him to Sydney and within reach of good music. The dormant taste re-asserted itself, and he resumed the bow, and gave concerts-first in Australia, and afterwards in India, South America, Mexico, and the United States. At New York, about 1844, he married Miss Helen Stepel, a pianist. "His own performance was only a little less excellent on the pianoforte than on the violin, and as a concert giver and music director he was in much repute." In 1845 he went to London, but could not hold his own against the great instrumentalists always to be heard there, and turned his attention to composition. His opera of Maritana proved a brilliant success. He again gave concerts in America, lost his savings in a pianoforte factory, returned to England in 1853, and for the rest of his life devoted his talents to composition. Lurline, produced in 1859, soon became popular. The Amber Witch followed in 1861, and the Desert Flower in 1863. He contributed numerous pieces to Chappel's Musical Magazine, and other publications. In 1864, being attacked by an incurable malady, he removed to France, and died at the Chateau de Bagen, Haute Garonne, 12th October 1865, aged 51. His remains were interred in Kensal-green Cemetery, London. Wallace was a pleasing and facile composer, but by no means one of the first ability, though many of his airs have held their place in public estimation.


40. Biographical Division of English Cyclopaedia, with Supplement: Charles Knight, 7 vols. London, 1856-'72.