Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight

Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight
Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight, cover.PNG

Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight is a narrative poem by Rose Hartwick Thorpe, written in 1867 and set in the 17th century. It was written when she was 16 years old and first published in Detroit Commercial Advertiser.[1]


The story involves Bessie, a young woman whose lover, Basil Underwood, has been arrested, thrown in prison by the Puritans and sentenced to die that night when the curfew bell rings. Knowing that Oliver Cromwell will be late in arriving, the young woman begs the old sexton to prevent the ringing of the curfew bell. When he refuses, she climbs to the top of the bell tower and heroically risks her life by manually stopping the bell from ringing. Cromwell hears of her deed and is so moved that he issues a pardon for Underwood.

Related matters

The poem, a favorite of Queen Victoria's, was one of the most popular of the 19th century, but later faded into obscurity.[2]

The poem was set to music in 1895, by Stanley Hawley and published as sheet music by Robert Cooks and Co.[3] Despite this, three silent films based on the poem were made. In two of the films, the title was modified to Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight. No sound version has been made; however, the poem is quoted at length by Katharine Hepburn (for comedic effect) in the film Desk Set (1957).

A later Victorian poem, "Chertsey Curfew" by Montgomerie Ranking, is on a similar theme.[4]

The material upon which Rose Hartwick Thorpe based her poem is Lydia Sigourney's article "Love and Loyalty", which appeared posthumously in Peterson's Magazine in September 1865[5] and which in turn is very likely to have been based on the earlier work "Blanche Heriot. A legend of old Chertsey Church", which was published by Albert Richard Smith in The Wassail-Bowl, Vol. II., in 1843.[6] In this account, the young woman, Blanche Heriot, has a lover known as Neville Audley, and the action takes place during the Wars of the Roses in 1471.

An illustrated version of this poem is contained in Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated.


  1. ^ [1] Rose Hartwick Thorpe and the Story of "Curfew Must Not Ring-Tonight", by George Wharton James.
  2. ^ Curfew Must Not Ring
  3. ^ [2] Sheet Music of 'Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight' in PDF format.
  4. ^ "Chertsey Curfew" by Montgomerie Ranking
  6. ^ The Wassail-Bowl@Google Books

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