Pretty to Me, 1864. Septimus Winner, 1827-1902. Music Division, Library of Congress. Call number: M1621.W
Winner published Pretty to Me under the pseudonym Alice Hawthorne, his mother's maiden name. It has been argued that American society's refusal to accept women in certain roles was the primary reason that there were not more known female composers in America. Though there was likely some truth to such assertions, Winner's songs published under a female pseudonym, suggest that the statement was not entirely well founded. His song Listen to the Mockingbird, also published under the name Alice Hawthorne, became one of the most popular songs of the nineteenth century.
William Studwell, in the Americana Song Reader, postulated that using a female composer's name for such songs might have provided a commercial advantage due to the nature of the texts. Other historians have attributed the practice to social attitudes toward gender roles during the Victorian era. A simpler explanation was published in a December 25, 1900, column in the Hopkinsville Kentuckian titled "Noted Song Maker Septimus Winner . . . Hale and Hearty at 74." It reads, "Most of his songs have been written over names other than his own, which is proof of the fact that modesty is one of Mr. Winner's most marked characteristics."
Pretty to Me is lyrical, gentle, soft, and sentimental. Its melody is limited to an octave and consists of four verses. The melody for the second two stanzas of the verse nearly mirrors that of the first two stanzas. Each verse is followed by a homophonic choral refrain on the words "pretty to me."