LAST MODIFIED Monday 16 December 2019 15:45

Charles Nagel

Dr GRAEME SKINNER (University of Sydney)


To cite this:

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney), "Charles Nagel", Australharmony (an online resource toward the history of music and musicians in colonial and early Federation Australia):; accessed 21 February 2020

NAGEL, Charles (Charles NAGEL; Captain NAGEL; NAGLE)

Song writer, composer, playwright

Born ?, c.1806; ? Cold Harbour, Cork, Ireland, baptised 1 November 1802
Arrived NSW, by May 1835
Died Liverpool Asylum, NSW, 17 April 1870, aged 64 (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)


Charles Nagel, "gentleman", became an ensign in the 97th Regiment in June 1826, and a lieutenant in December 1829. He arrived in NSW in time to be present at the King's Birthday celebrations in May 1837 and became a grazier in the Upper Hunter region (his name sometimes spelt "Nagle" in the press).

Impending insolvency perhaps brought him back to Sydney by May 1842 and spurred him toward literary work. His first production, that month, was initially called Sham Catalani, then Mock Catalani in Little Puddleton, a "Musical Burletta" or "Musical Extravaganza" premiered at the Royal Victoria Theatre on 4 May, including songs composed by him, four of which were advertised as published, A sensitive plant (aria), It was but a dream (song), The pretty bark hut in the bush (song), and Wellington (song) (Sydney: T. Rolfe, [1842]). A copy of the printed libretto survives (Sydney: James Tegg, 1842) at British Library, HSS 1344.k.8., digitised here: (DIGITISED)

Two more songs were advertised for a revival at the City Theatre in May 1843, Maid of Castile ("sung by Mrs. Wallace and composed expressly for her by C. Nagle, Esq.") and Little girls and boys (for Mrs. Ximenes), but in the event were reportedly not performed. See also Nagel's Farewell address to the 28th Regiment (on their departure to India; spoken at the Royal Victoria Theatre, Sydney, New South Wales on the evening of the 14th June 1842), delivered before a performance of the Catalani.

His next work, Shaksperi conglommorofunnidogammoniae ("a musical extravaganza in one act by Charles Nagel") was published by W. A. Duncan in October 1853, and staged in 1844, however it contained no original music, his songs being set to standard airs. Nagel also indicated that the tune Oh dear, what can the matter be? was to be used for an instrumental piece; there was to be a "fight to the tune of a gavotte"; Hamlet's Ghost would rise "to the Tune of Paddy Carey"; there was a song to the tune Here's to the maiden of bashful fifteen; and a finale to Yankee Doodle.

Nagel also wrote the libretto for Isaac Nathan's first Australian opera, Merry freaks in troublous times (1843; published edition later; libretto published separately).

Dating from August 1855, is his only other surviving song setting The banner of old England ("A Song dedicated to the Blue and Red Jackets, by an Old Soldier"; "New Zealand 1845 Tahiti"; "Words and Music by Chas. Nagel, Esq.").


Register of Baptisms, St. Finbarr's South, Cork, November 1802, page 416; CR-RC-BA-54216; p4778.00376; National Library of Ireland 

[November] 1 Charles Maximillian [son] of Asoplhus Nagel, Lieut't Adjut. . . . 20th reg't & Elizabeth nee Mullane . . .

"97th [Regiment]", The London gazette (10 June 1826), 1400

Charles Nagel, Gent., to be Ensign, by purchase, vice Travers. Dated 10th June 1826.

A list of the officers of the Army and of the Corps of Royal Marines ([London: War Office], 1827), 279

[1827] 97th (or the Earl of Ulster's) Regt. of Foot . . . Ensign . . . Charles Nagel 10 June [1826] . . .

"War Office, 17th December, 1829", The London gazette (18 December 1829), 2350 

97th Foot . . . Ensign Charles Nagel to be Lieutenant, by purchase, vice Barlow. Dated 18th December 1829.

"HIS MAJESTY'S BIRTHDAY", The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (30 May 1835), 2

"UNCLAIMED LETTERS", The Colonist (12 October 1839), 4

"Colonial Secretary's Office", The Sydney Monitor (2 November 1840), 2

"In the Insolvent Estate of CHARLES NAGEL, of Murton, Upper Hunter, Settler", New South Wales Government Gazette (25 February 1842), 315

[Advertisement], The Sydney Herald (4 May 1842), 2

[Advertisement], The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (7 May 1842), 2 [with list of numbers in Mock Catalani]

"Theatricals", The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (12 May 1842), 3

"THE THEATRICAL EXAMINER", The New South Wales Examiner (11 May 1842), [3]

[Advertisement], "MUSIC", Australasian Chronicle (10 May 1842), 3

[Advertisement], The Sydney Herald (19 May 1842), 3

This day is published ... All the Songs

"NEW MUSIC", Australasian Chronicle (12 May 1842), 2

"NEW MUSIC", Australasian Chronicle (14 May 1842), 2

 "CHARLES NAGEL, ESQ. AND THE MOCK CATALANI", Australasian Chronicle (21 May 1842), 2

[Advertisement], The Sydney Herald (6 June 1842), 3

"LITERATURE", Australasian Chronicle (9 June 1842), 3

"IMPOUNDINGS. MUSWELLBROOK", The Sydney Herald (15 March 1842), 3

[Advertising], The Australian (30 June 1842), 3

"CITIZEN LIST", Australasian Chronicle (8 September 1842), 4

E. H. Malcolm, "THEATRES IN THE BRITISH COLONIES", Fisher's colonial magazine (May to August 1843), 202 

The Syndey Gazette, the Monitor, and the Australian are morning papers published at Sydney, in which the theatre meets with admiring critics. The force of their criticism has, in fact, produced the desiderated effect of shaming the community of Sydney into doing something in behalf of a colonial drama, and the call has been cleverly responded to by the production of home-made or indigenous tragedy, melodrame, and opera. The Australian (1842) writes - "It is indeed pleasing to recount the success which the excellent colonial-written piece, 'A Mock Catalani,' meets, on every successive night of its representation." - The music of this little opera is above par, judging from a song belonging to it which we have heard, accompanied at the piano-forte. It is a ballad in the Haynes Bayley style; sentimental, with a dash of the genteelly-comic. The prettiness and originality of this song will carry it beyond the limits of the Sydney theatre and a private drawing-room in this country . . .

[Advertisement]: "ROYAL CITY THEATRE", The Sydney Morning Herald (29 May 1843), 2

"THEATRICALS", The Australian (2 June 1843), 2

"LITERARY REGISTER: Merry Freaks in Troublous Times", The Weekly Register 1/9 (23 September, 1843), 132-34

"MUSICAL REGISTER: The New Opera", The Weekly Register 1/12 (14 October 1843), 171

"INSOLVENCY PROCEEDINGS", The Sydney Morning Herald (9 October 1844), 2

[Advertisement], The Sydney Morning Herald (7 June 1845), 1

[Advertisement], The Sydney Morning Herald (10 June 1845), 1

[Advertisement]: "JUST PUBLISHED", The Sydney Morning Herald (9 August 1845), 1

"NEW MUSIC", Morning Chronicle (9 August 1845), 3

"NEW MUSIC", The Weekly Register (9 August 1845), 62

"THE BANNER OF OLD ENGLAND", The Australian (30 August 1845), 3

[Advertisement]: "Just Published", The Examiner (6 September 1845), 39

"PETTY SESSIONS", Sydney Chronicle (9 January 1847), 1

[Advertisement], The Sydney Morning Herald (4 March 1847), 4



Pelosi 2003, Colonial drama revealed, or plays submitted for approval 

© Graeme Skinner 2014 - 2020