LAST MODIFIED Monday 7 August 2017 13:05

Edmund Leffler and family

Dr GRAEME SKINNER (University of Sydney)


To cite this:

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney), "Edmund Leffler and family", Australharmony (an online resource toward the history of music and musicians in colonial and early Federation Australia):; accessed 24 October 2017

LEFFLER, Edmund Ironsides

Professor of Music, violinist, pianist, organist

Born 21 January 1809; baptised Lambeth, England, 5 March 1809
Arrived Hobart, TAS, 21 September 1834 (per Ellen, from London, 20 March)
Died Fitzroy, Melbourne, VIC, 13 March 1873, aged 67 (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)

LEFFLER, Madeline (Elizabeth Madeline; ELizabeth LEFFLER)


Born 17 October 1847




Edmund Leffler was the fourth surviving son of James Henry Leffler (1761-1819) and his wife Elizabeth Shiel/Sheil (1767-1837); though their marriage was not registered until 1791, Elizabeth was probably the singer Mrs. Leffler who was billed at the Royal Circus in 1789 theatrical singer James was bassoon player and organist of St. Katherine's Hospital by the Tower, London, the German Lutheran Church in the Savoy, and Streatham Chapel, who died suddenly in the street in 1819; and a younger brother of the popular baritone vocalist Adam Leffler (1808-1857) (see,_Adam; Adam's daughter Lucy Leffler was also a professional singer (Miss Leffler; Mrs. Henry Edmund Harper; Madame Leffler)

At Hastings, England, on 6 September 1833 a bastardy order was issue citing Edmund Leffler of Hastings All Saints, musician, as father of Mary Ann Harman's son, born at the house of Benjamin Harman on 6 Aug 1833. This was followed on 14 October 1834 with a warrant for Leffler's arrest for failing to obey a maintenance order (East Sussex Record Office; Parish of Hastings St Clements, PAR367/34/5/71; PAR367/34/4/51).

Perhaps having fled Hastings and England to avoid arrest, or at least ignominy, Leffler arrived in Hobart on 21 September 1834, and a few days later was leader of the orchestra for William Russell's farewell benefit (prior to him visiting England). Leffler advertised as a music teacher ("late of the King's Theatre, Opera House") and piano tuner in Launceston in September 1835, and in Hobart, jointly with William Russell (evidently returned), in December, but by April 1836 had settled permanently in Launceston. On 28 December 1837 he announced in the Sydney press that he intended to take up residence in Maitland, NSW, at the end of that week. Nevertheless, it was not until the following September that he announced his intention to leave Launceston, and, recently married, he and his wife sailed for Sydney in October.

In Sydney (not in Maitland; he appears never to have got there) he advertised as a teacher in November and was billed to play a violin solo in John Philip Deane's concert late that month. However, the concert was postponed until 9 December, and on 14 December Leffler's wife Emma died, aged 25. Having perhaps met the Gautrots in Sydney, Leffler failed to appear, as expected, as pianist at their Hobart concert May 1839, and was replaced by Maria Logan. However, he appeared regularly in concert notices thereafter. In April 1841 he was leader of the "small but select" theatre orchestra (including the Messrs. Duly, senior and junior, and Joseph Reichenberg). He announced his return to Launceston in December 1842. He appears to have visited Melbourne briefly in May-June 1843, and was thereafter back at the Hobart theatre.

He married Elizabeth Coglin at St. Joseph's, Hobart, on 22 June 1844, and the couple returned to settle again in Launceston the following May. Leffler sailed for London alone in April 1848, while his wife carried on a millinery business in Launceston during 1849. He was reported to have arrived back in Adelaide in July 1850, but not until September was he finally back in Launceston. There he remained for the rest of the decade, appearing with visiting artists such as Ali-Ben Sou-Alle, though also making occasional appearances elsewhere, as in January 1857 when he reportedly assisted at Anna Bishop's first Hobart concert. From 1857, there were frequent references to the "Leffler Family". His (? eldest) son was a cellist, and his daughter Madeline, a pianist, who, at the reported age of 8 (nearer 10) in October 1857 "played on the pianoforte several of the most difficult pieces with great brilliancy and effect".

In April 1862 they gave their farewell concert at Longford. Advertisements next place Leffler in Ballarat between November 1862 and March 1864.


Leffler, Mr. E.; per Ellen, from London, 21 September 1834; Tasmanian names index, NAME_INDEXES:1469072; MB2/39/1/2 p135$init=MB2-39-1-2p077j2k 

[Advertisement], Colonial Times (23 September 1834), 3

"Van Diemen's Land News", The Sydney Herald (20 October 1834), 1s

[Advertisement], Launceston Advertiser (10 September 1835), 2

[Advertisement], The Hobart Town Courier (25 December 1835), 3

[Advertisement], Launceston Advertiser (14 April 1836), 2

[Advertisement], The Sydney Herald (28 December 1837), 3s

[Advertisement], Launceston Advertiser (13 September 1838), 2

Marriages solemnized in the Parish of Longford ... in the year 1838; Tasmanian names index; NAME_INDEXES:824705; RGD36/1/3 no 4342 

"VAN DIEMEN'S LAND. MARRIAGE", The Asiatic Journal and monthly miscellany 27 (September 1838), 40

"LAUNCESTON SHIP NEWS", Colonial Times (6 November 1838), 4

[Advertisement], The Sydney Herald (9 November 1838), 1

[Advertisement], The Australian (22 November 1838), 1

"DEATHS", The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (20 December 1838), 3

"CONCERT", The Hobart Town Courier (31 May 1839), 2

"ROYAL VICTORIA THEATRE", The Courier (16 April 1841), 2

"THEATRE", Colonial Times (27 April 1841), 2

"THE ALBERT THEATRE", The Courier (18 March 1842), 2

... The orchestra has, of late, been effectively strengthened, and execute the favourite overtures which have been selected, with taste and precision. Would, however, that we could instil into the veins of Mr. Leffler, the leader, a little of that nerve without which no one is fit to conduct in a musical theme! We do him justice in the accuracy of his fingering and the truth of his shifts; but what would the immortal Paganini say were he to hear a leading violin glancing over its passages with unchanged expression, and with as little energy as might be elicited near the bed of an expiring patient? Preferring (when such can with propriety be done) to preserve silence rather than bestow vituperation, we should have withheld the foregoing remarks as far as Mr. Leffler is concerned, but that we have felt ourselves bound, in justice to the public, to say still more on the subject of his piano accompaniments, which have of late been gone through in so careless a manner as to lead not a few to the belief that his blunders, causing, as they have evidently done, much inconvenience to the singers, and palpable injustice to the exertions of the dancers, have arisen rather through negligence than a want of ability to perform his task in a more creditable manner. If such be the case, we think that so glaring an insult to the audience ought not, on his part, to be allowed to recur; and we, ourselves, can hardly credit that an artist, whom we believe to have had a certain share of experience, can be ignorant of the almost ridiculous effect of sitting on the piano stool and wading through an accompaniment without either emphasis or regard to the ad libitum passages to be gone through by the singer. More monotony could not be aimed at by a "young miss" just let loose from a boarding school.

[Advertisement], Launceston Advertiser (15 December 1842), 2

"MUSICAL PROFESSION", Launceston Examiner (4 June 1845), 3

"SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE", The Courier (9 June 1843), 2

"MARRIED", Launceston Examiner (26 June 1844), 4

[Advertisement], The Cornwall Chronicle (24 May 1845), 3

"ST. JOHN'S CHURCH ORGANIST", The Cornwall Chronicle (12 July 1845), 2

"SHIPPING NEWS", The Courier (3 May 1848), 2

"MUSICAL", Launceston Examiner (21 August 1850), 5

"ARRIVALS", Launceston Examiner (7 September 1850), 6

[Advertisement], The Cornwall Chronicle (7 September 1850), 589

"MADAME ANNA BISHOP", Colonial Times (31 January 1857), 3

"MUSICAL ENTERTAINMENT", The Courier (7 October 1857), 3

"MECHANICS' INSTITUTE BAZAAR", Launceston Examiner (20 February 1858), 5

"CONCERT", The Courier (19 May 1858), 3

[George Loder], "RECOLLECTIONS OF CALIFORNIA & AUSTRALIA" [continued], The Musical World (28 August 1858), 548

Our destination was to be Launceston, which lies at the head of the beautiful River Tamar. The sail up this fine stream was perfectly enchanting, being a continuous succession of panoramas of mountain, vale, and cultivated land, dotted here and there with snug farm-houses and suburban villas, and with an atmosphere and temperature strongly resembling the mild and healthy coast of Devonshire in the summer time; and at Launceston I had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Leffler, a brother of the late Adam Leffler. This gentleman is one of the first professors in the thriving city of Launceston, and his presence seemed to link me nearer home than I had been for many a long year.

"THE LONGFORD PHILHARMONIC SOCIETY", Launceston Examiner (5 January 1860), 2

"CONCERT AT LONGFORD", Launceston Examiner (15 July 1862), 5

[Advertisement], The Star (1 November 1862), 3

[Advertisement], The Star (21 March 1864), 1

"DEATHS", The Argus (15 March 1873), 4

"PERSONAL", The Advertiser (8 November 1915), 6


[James Henry Leffler], The Leffler manuscript (London: British Institute of Organ Studies, 2010)

Paul F. Rice, British music and the French Revolution, 96-98 (PREVIEW)

© Graeme Skinner 2014 - 2017