Madame Elise de Neuville


Madame Elise de Neuville was a popular singer, pianist and harpist.

Contributor Gwenda Yeomans gives the following notes on Mme de Neuville

Elise was almost certainly born in about 1800, probably in Kennington Surrey, just possibly in Paris. With these details, as with others, she had a tendency to change her mind.

Her parentage and maiden name are unknown, as is the name of her husband with any certainty; in 1841, he was named firstly as James de Neuville, soldier, on her daughter's marriage certificate and then as Robert de Neuville, Gentleman, on her son's death certificate.

She had at least three children:

Amongst their children was my Great Grandfather Herbert Brownhill and Bernard Brownhill, later known professionally as Bernard de Neuville.

His musical career was launched by his grandmother Elise.

The first reliable news we have of Elise de Neuville comes from newspaper cuttings.

On Tuesday 24th February 1829 the Morning Post advertised that Madame De Neuville was to appear as one of the principal characters in Rossini's Opera Buffa entitled L'Italiana in Algeri at the King's Theatre in London.

In the mid-1830s, she was involved with M. Scherman's Leipzig Fancy Fairs at various venues, sometimes alongside Signor Magnelli.

She is referred to as

Madame de Neuville from the Italian Operas of Paris and London

It has to be said that Scherman's enterprise appears to have come to less than a glorious end, despite royal patronage.

In April 1838, Elise advertised in the Sheffield Independent for a post as a daily governess or as teacher of French and Italian languages, harp, pianoforte and singing.

She had decided to live in Sheffield.

For many years after settling in Sheffield she taught languages, singing, the piano and the harp.

In addition she performed at concerts, soirées and teaparties alongside, for example, Miss Grobecker, Mr Ryalls, Mrs Sunderland, Mr Flint and Mr Gilbert.

Who knows what stories lie behind the stark facts we glean from newspapers?

Elise De Neuville was declared bankrupt in 1843, but she appears to have been resilient.

In 1852, she performed in a concert in aid of the Polish and Hungarian Refugee Fund.

Mrs Newton was the vocalist and Elise's grandson "Master Bernard de Neuville Brownhill" at nine years of age made his first public appearance.

In the 1860s, Elise and Bernard De Neuville were performing in Sheffield and other cities with Mr Freemantle and Mr J C Walker.

In 1862, Elise was again declared bankrupt, her debts standing at £78, but once again she bounced back, and by 1870, was advertising her services as

Professor of the Harp, Pianoforte, Singing and the French and Italian Languages

By 1881, Elise had left Sheffield and moved to Margate, where she died on 15th March 1886 leaving her estate of £21 to the wealthy local grocer.

The reasons for her move to Kent and the bequest to the grocer are unknown.

Her daughter Caroline was a widow with a large family trying to make ends meet in a mill in Yorkshire.

As far as is known, Bernard remained in Sheffield with his wife and children.

He appears to have been trading both as Newsagent Bernard Brownhill and as Professor of Music Bernard De Neuville in Ecclesall Road in 1871.

It is difficult to believe that such a remarkable woman as Elise can have left so scant a record

© Malcolm Bull 2023
Revised 12:58 / 12th April 2023 / 6340

Page Ref: MMN2960

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