The Lost Museum Archive

Jenny Lind--The Secret of Her Popularity--Her Movements Yesterday, New York Herald, September 6, 1850

This newspaper article about Jenny Lind provides readers with new information about the singer's tour almost as an afterthought. Instead it offers a lengthy and breathless tribute to "her high moral character," which, according to the Herald, more than beauty or talent was the source of her fame. With hints of racialist logic, acknowledgement of the essentially commercial enterprise of the sainted Nightingale's tour, and a self-congratulatory aside on the importance of the press in creating Lind's celebrity, this article reflects several of the themes and contradictions that marked the Lind phenomenon.

The most popular woman in the world, at this moment--perhaps the most popular that ever was in it--is Jenny Lind. Other women have been favorites with a portion, and even a majority, of the public: she appears to be a favorite with all. Way is this! It is not for her beauty; for in this respect she does not equal many other women who have been before the people; and we know that beauty, at best, is only admired, and that not by all--it is never a source of respect or esteem. To give the reader an idea of the way in which some people regard her looks, we may mention that, at the serenade, one of the crowd, an American, who half adored her, said she was just like a Dutch woman. A lady observed when she was at the Art Union, on Wednesday, that her face closely resembled that of a Scotch woman. Neither German nor Scotch women are remarkable for what we call beauty. Jenny Lind has not a classical face, but, on the contrary, has a good deal both of the Scotch and northern German outline of features; while she possesses, at the same time, all of their sense, prudence, and high order of intellect. The southern Germans are more like the Italians--fiery, passionate, enthusiastic, and impulsive. These southern Europeans fall into errors from which the calculating caution of the northerns protects them. Jenny Lind has the enthusiasm of genius, but it is regulated by a cool judgment. It is not, then, for her beauty that she is so popular, though she possesses a fair share of personal attractions, and has a remarkably fine pair of blue eyes, revealing a bright intelligence within. It is not for her musical genius alone that she is so popular throughout the world, though it might account for the admiration with which she is regarded in her own country, where great musical artists are "like angels' visits, few and far between." Women of vast powers of song have arisen before her--some of them her superiors as general artists, who yet have never obtained a tithe of her popularity. What, then, is the secret of her success in addition to her unique and original warbling, which she spins out from her throat like the attenuated fibre from the silk worm, dying away so sweetly and so gradually till it seems melting into the song of the seraphim, and is lost in eternity? It is her high moral character--her spotless name, which the breath of slander has never tainted--her benevolence--her charity--her amiable temper--the religious sentiment which she so carefully cultivates. Thousands upon thousands of religious and moral people go to hear her concerts who would not be found under the same roof with some of the best Italian singers who have not been equally chary of their reputation. It is this moral and religious feeling that is her trump card, which has won and will win golden opinions for her, and gold itself for Barnum, in a community remarkable for the universal prevalence of piety and churches. Why, the very concerts she gives for charitable objects, are returned fourfold in an increased harvest of popularity. We do not mean to insinuate--far be it from us--that such is the intent of her beautiful charity; but we are very confident that it is the inevitable result to which it leads. Barnum need not, therefore, feel alarmed for the dollars, if she gives a concert to Bishop Hughes, for an orphan society, or to Rev. Dr. Cummings, for a school, or for the Blind Asylum, or any other public charity, should she have health and strength to do so. It will come back to him with interest upon interest. A Swede in this city said, a few days ago, that Jenny Lind was the greatest woman Sweden ever produced; and we believe his assertion is perfectly true. Take her moral and intellectual qualities, with her originality of vocal power, and we shall probably "never look upon her like again."

But there is one little secret of her success yet untold, and without which her virtues and her talents would be alike unknown--it is the press. This is the lever that moves the world--the wings upon which her fame is wafted over the earth. We are informed she never reads what is said of her in the newspapers, lest it should make her too proud. But the effect is the same, whether she does or does not--the press echoes and multiplies the strains of the Nightingale, till they are heard from pole to pole.

Since the above was written, we have learned that Mr. Barnum has voluntarily proposed to Jenny Lind that the former contract be set aside, and a new one made, and she has agreed to that arrangement. The new arrangement is that in addition tot he $1,000 per concert for one hundred and fifty nights, she receive half of the net profits of Mr. Barnum, on condition that she sing for him, not only in the United States, but in any other part of the world, and more particularly at the London fair. Both parties seem pleased with the change, and it appears to be about the fairest arrangement that can be made.