"Be It Ever So Humble, There's No Place Like Home"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Payne was an itinerant actor and dramatist; he left his home in Easthampton, Long Island, at the age of fifteen and spent several years in New York City, where he worked for a counting-house by day and edited a theatrical paper at night. After two years of college he made his first appearance on the stage (1809). He then went to London and spent a number of years there, writing several dramas and adapting others; all are forgotten now. He wrote a highly successful tragedy, Brutus, in which he had intended to play the leading role; however, Kean took the part and was made famous by it. In addition to producing several other popular works, Payne wrote a number of critical reviews. He returned to the United States in 1832 and in spite of a substantial income from his plays was in financial difficulties most of the time. He was United States Consul at Tunis, Algeria, from 1841 to 1845 and again in 1851 to 1852, dying there. While in London in 1823, Payne had written the lyric for an operatic aria; it is for this that he is still remembered. Henry R. Bishop, on a commission by the manager of Covent Garden Theatre, adapted a French play into an opera. Its title is Clari, or, The Maid of Milan. The song, "Home, Sweet Home," is presented several times in the course of the opera–in the overture, as an aria by Clari during the first act, as a song by peasants in the third act, and finally as a chorus. According to Bishop, the melody is partly founded on a Sicilian air. In the lyrics Payne, a homeless wanderer himself, expresses all the heartfelt longing for home that strikes us–either with pain or with nostalgia–at some time in the course of our lives. This yearning for a stability he could never have has touched the sentiments of millions over nearly a century and a half of time. The first and last stanzas are given below:

'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home;
A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere.
Home, Home, sweet, sweet Home!
There's no place like Home! there's no place like Home!
. . .
To thee I'll return, overburdened with care;
The heart's dearest solace will smile on me there;
No more from that cottage again will I roam;
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
Home! Home! sweet, sweet, Home!
There's no place like Home! there's no place like Home!