Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hume, Alexander (1811-1859)

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HUME, ALEXANDER (1811–1859), Scottish poet and musical composer, was born in Edinburgh, 7 Feb. 1811. After receiving an elementary education he worked for a time at cabinet-making. Early recognised as a singer, he became tenor in St. Paul's episcopal church, and chorus-master in the Theatre Royal. He devoted much of his leisure to reading. While still young he was associated with the Glassites, and it is likely that the arrangement of their musical manual was his earliest work as a musician.

About 1855 Hume settled in Glasgow, where he worked at his trade, and increased his poetical and musical reputation. He frequently contributed lyrics to the Edinburgh 'Scottish Press,' and in 1856 he edited the 'Lyric Gems of Scotland' (Glasgow), to which he made over fifty contributions of his own, providing in several cases both words and music, while in others he merely supplied the music or arranged previous compositions. It is not certain that the valuable annotations in the work are Hume's, but it is probable that he had a share in them. Hume married, in 1829, Margaret Leys, who bore him seven children, and predeceased him in 1848. He died 4 Feb. 1859, and was buried in Glasgow necropolis.

Although self-taught in musical theory, Hume was very successful in setting tunes both to standard Scottish lyrics and songs of his own. He has composed an appropriate melody to Burns's 'Afton Water;' his own pathetic lyric, 'My ain dear Nell,' has simple emotional fervour and tuneful grace. In concerted pieces he likewise earned distinction, his glees 'We Fairies come,' `Tell me where my Love reposes,' and others, evincing excellent taste and harmonious effect. There is no collected edition of his works, but several of the songs and glees included in the 'Lyric Gems' maintain their popularity.

[Information from Hume's son, Mr. William Hume, Pollokshields; Irving's Eminent Scotsmen.]

T. B.