London tavern ballad singer and obsession of sea captain Valentine Jernam from the 1868 novel Run to Earth by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. The novel was originally serialized from 1866-1867 in the London Journal as Diavola under a pseudonym, and then in the New York Sunday Mercury in 1867 as Nobody's Daughter, or the Ballad-Singer of Wapping under her own name. This led to some accusations of literary theft and other carping, detailed here.
There was a pause in the concert just now. The girl had finished her song, and sat by the old square piano, waiting till she should be required to sing again. There were only two performers in this primitive species of concert — the girl who sang, and an old blind man, who accompanied her on the piano ; but such entertainment was quite sufficient for the patrons of the "Jolly Tar," seven-and-twenty years ago, before the splendours of modern music-halls had arisen in the land.
Valentine Jernam's dark eyes wandered round the room, till they lighted on the face of the girl sitting by the piano. There they fixed themselves all at once, and seemed as if rooted to the face on which they looked. It was a pale, oval face, framed in bands of smooth black hair, and lighted by splendid black eyes ; the face of a Roman empress rather than a singing-girl at a public-house in Shadwell. Never before had Valentine Jernam looked on so fair a woman. He had never been a student or admirer of the weaker sex. He had a vague kind of idea that there were women, and mermaids, and other dangerous creatures, lurking somewhere in this world, for the destruction of honest men; but beyond this he had very few ideas on the subject.
Other people were taking very little notice of the singer. The regular patrons of the "Jolly Tar" were accustomed to her beauty and her singing, and thought very little about her. The girl was very quiet, very modest. She came and went under the care of the old blind pianist, whom she called her grandfather, and she seemed to shrink alike from observation or admiration.
She began to sing again presently.
She stood by the piano, facing the audience, calm as a statue, with her large black eyes looking straight before her. The old man listened to her eagerly, as he played, and nodded fond approval every now and then, as the full, rich notes fell upon his ear. The poor blind face was illuminated with the musician's rapture. It seemed as if the noisy, disreputable audience had no existence for these two people.
"What a lovely creature!" exclaimed the captain, in a tone of subdued intensity.
The novel was adapted to the stage by Chandos Fulton and Fred G. Maeder under the title Nobody's Daughter, or the Ballad-Singer of Wapping. It ran at the Worrell Sisters' New York Theatre for a few weeks in August 1867; Kate Reignolds played Milsom.