[individual volume numbers]



Printed for T. PAYNE and SON, at the Mews-Gate.


[title page]




[...] Attempts also have been made to imitate motion by musical sounds; and some have undertaken in like manner to relate histories, and to describe the various seasons of the year. [...] And Mr. Handel himself, in his Israel in Egypt, has undertaken to represent two of the ten plagues of Egypt by notes, intended to imitate the buzzing of flies and the hopping of frogs.

[1:iii, note (continues from ii)]


Mr. Addison, in those singularly humorous papers in the Spectator, intended to ridicule the Italian opera, is necessitated to speak of music, but he does it in such terms, as plainly indicate that he had no judgment of his own to direct him.  In the paper, Numb. 18, the highest encomium he can vouchsafe music is, that it is an agreeable entertainment; and a little after he complains of our fondness for the foreign music, not caring whether it be Italian, French, or High Dutch, by which latter we may suppose the author meant the music of Mynheer Hendel, as he calls him.



A late writer [i.e. Daniel Webb], in a strain of criticism not less erroneous than affectedly refined, forgetting the energy of harmony, independent of the adventitious circumstances of loudness or softness that accompany the utterance of it; or perhaps not knowing that certain modulations or combinations of sounds have a necessary tendency to inspire grand and sublime sentiments, such, for instance, as we hear in the Exaltabo of Palestrina, the Hosanna of Gibbons, the opening of the first [ix] concerto of Corelli, and many of Mr. Handel’s anthems, ascribes to the bursts, as he calls them, of Boranello*, and the symphonies of Yeomelli the power of dilating, agitating, and rouzing the soul like the paintings of Timomachus and Aristides, [...]



[...] the powers of music will be found inadequate to the expression of many of those sentiments in poetry which are comprehended in the ideas of the beautiful and the sublime; [...]

Nor will it be found that the melody or the cadence of sounds are either of them so peculiarly appropriated to particular passions or descriptions, as to rank the faculty of expression among the principal excellencies of music.  And in proof of this assertion some examples might be given that would stagger an infidel in these matters.  The late Dr. Brown, when he had wrote his ode entitled the Cure of Saul, for the music to it made a selection from the works of the most celebrated composers, of such favourite movements as he thought would best express the sense of the words; in particular he took the saraband in the eighth sonata of Corelli’s second opera for a solo air; and that most divine movement in Purcell’s ‘O give thanks,’ ‘Remember me O Lord,’ for a chorus; and any stranger would have thought that the music had been originally composed to the words: The music to that admired [xxviii] song in Samson, ‘Return O God of hosts,’ was taken from an Italian cantata of Mr. Handel, composed in his youth; as was also the music to the other, ‘Then long eternity,’ in the same oratorio: Farther, the chorus in Alexander’s Feast, ‘Let old Timotheus yield the prize,’ saving the addition of one of the interior parts, was originally an Italian trio; as was also that in the Il Penseroso, ‘These pleasures melancholy give.’  Finally, a great part of the music to Mr. Dryden’s lesser ode for St. Cecilia’s Day was originally composed by Mr. Handel for an opera entitled Alceste, written by Dr. Smollet, but never performed.

[1:xxvii-xxviii, note (continues)]


[...] In Roubiliac’s statue of Mr. Handel at Vauxhall, few are struck with the ease and gracefulness of the attitude, the dignity of the figure, the artful disposition of the drapery, or the manly plumpness and rotundity of the limbs, but all admire how naturally the slipper depends from the left foot. [...]



[...] The same may be said of Mr. Handel, who, to go no farther, has given a specimen of the style he most affected in a volume of lessons for the harpsichord, with which no one will say that any modern compositions of the kind can stand in competition.  These, as they were made for the practice of an illustrious personage, as happy in an exquisite taste and correct judgment as a fine hand, may be supposed to be, and were in fact compositions con amore.  In other instances this great musician compounded the matter with the public, alternately pursuing the suggestions of his fancy, and gratifying a taste which he held in contempt.

            Whoever is curious to know what that taste could be, to which so great a master as Mr. Handel was compelled occasionally to conform, in prejudice to his own, will find it to have been no other than that which is common to every promiscuous auditory, with whom it is a notion that the right, and as some may think, the ability to judge, to applaud and condemn is purchased by the price of admittance; a taste that leads all [lxxvi] who possess it to prefer light and trivial airs, and such as are easily retained in memory, to the finest harmony and modulation; and to be better pleased with the licentious excesses of a singer, than the true and just intonation of the sweetest and most pathetic melodies, adorned with all the graces and elegancies that art can suggest. [...]



[...] The improvement of melody is undoubtedly owing to the drama; and its union with harmony and an assemblage of all the graces and elegancies of both we may behold in the madrigals of Stradella and Bononcini, and the chorusses and anthems of Handel; and among the compositions for private practice in the duets of Steffani and Handel. [...]

[note] [...]

The lessons for the harpsichord of Mr. Handel, abounding with fugues of the finest contexture, and the most pathetic airs, are an inexhaustible fund of delight; [...]



[...] To speak of music for instruments, the modern refinements in practice, and the late improvements in the powers of execution have placed it beyond the reach of view: and it affords but small satisfaction to a lover of the art to reflect that the world is in possession of such instrumental compositions as those of Corelli, Bononcini, Geminiani, and Handel, when not one principal performer in ten has any relish of their excellencies, or can be prevailed on to execute them but with such a degree of unfeeling rapidity, as to destroy their effect, and utterly to defeat the intention of the author. [...]





[...] [It is] difficult to account for [the following fact;] Mr. Handel made no secret of declaring himself totally insensible to the excellences of Purcell’s compositions.

[2:105, note (continues from 104).]


[on the significance of metrical differentiation in music]

[...] the offspring of the Cantus Mensurabilis, an invention so much the more to be valued, as it has rendered that fund of harmonical and metrical combination almost infinite in its extent, which else must long ago have been exhausted.

            If we take a view of music in the state in which Guido left it, it will be found to have derived all its power and efficacy from the coincidence of sounds, and that those sounds being regulated by even and uniform measures, though they might be grateful [sic] to the ear, which is delighted with harmony even in cases where it refers to nothing beyond itself, must necessarily fail of producing those effects which follow from their being subjected to metrical regulations.

            Proofs abundant of these effects might be adduced from the compositions of the last century, as namely, Carissimi, Stradella, Gasparini, and others of the Italians, and our own Purcell, but were these wanting, and no evidence subsisted of the benefits which have resulted to music from the union of harmony and metre, those of Handel are an irrefragable testimony of the fact, the force and energy of whose most studied works is resolvable into a judicious selection of measures calculated to sooth or animate, to attemper or inflame, in short to do with the human mind whatever he meant to do.





[...] the Lutherans retained the Mass, and sundry less exceptionable parts of the Romish service, as namely, the hymns and other ancient offices; a few of the more modern hymns are said to have been written by Luther himself, [...] as to the music, it is by no means so strict as that to which the Romish offices are sung, nor does it seem in any degree framed according to the tonic laws; and it is highly probable that in the composition of it the ablest of the German musicians of the time were employed.  Nay, there is reason to conjecture that even the musical notes to some of the hymns were composed by Luther himself, for that he was deeply skilled in the science is certain. [...] And the late Mr. Handel was used to speak of a tradition, which all Germany acquiesced in, that Luther composed that well-known melody, which is given to the hundredth Psalm in the earliest editions of our English version, and continues to be sung to it even at this day.



[...] Some remarkable instances of blind persons who have been excellent in music, might lead to an opinion that the privation of that sense was favourable to the study of it: [...] and it is well known that the famous Sebastian Bach and Handel, perhaps the two best organists in the world, retained the power both of study and practice many years after they were severally deprived of the sense of seeing.



* At the time when Farinelli was in England, viz. about the year 1735, an exclamation of the like kind, and applied to that celebrated singer, gave great offence; he was singing in the opera, and as soon as he had finished a favourite song, a lady from the boxes cried out aloud, ‘One God, one Farinelli.’  Mr. Hogarth has recorded this egregious instance of musical enthusiasm in his Rake’s Progress, plate II. by representing Farinelli as seated on a pedestal, before which is an altar, at which a number of ladies are kneeling and offering to him, each a flaming heart; from the mouth of the foremost of these enraptured devotees issues a label with the words ‘One G—d, one Farinelli.’

[3:252, note]



THERE is very little doubt but that the Cantata Spiritual, or what we now call the Oratorio, took its rise from the Opera. [...]



[...] there is a tradition among the German Protestants that he [i.e. Luther] was the [447] author of many of the melodies to which the Psalms are now usually sung in their churches*; [...]





[...] and here it may be noted that the chorus in Mr. Handel’s oratorio of Samson, ‘Hear Jacob’s God,’ is taken from that in [Carissimi’s] Jephtha ‘Plorate filiae Israel.’



[...] and this abuse [i.e. “the practice of assimilating the music of the church to that of the theatre”] has so prevailed, that the Kyrie Eleison is now frequently set to a movement in jig-time.  In a mass of Pergolesi, one of the most pathetic of modern composers, the Gloria Patri is a fugue in chorus, and the Amen a minuet.  Graun’s celebrated Te Deum is of lighter cast than any opera of Lully, Bononcini, or Handel: [...]

[4:203, note]


JOHANN THEIL, of Naumburg, [...] among many others, had for his pupils Dietrich Buxtehude, [...] and Zachau, the first preceptor of Handel. [...]



[...] His [i.e Zachau’s] eminence in his faculty occasioned a great resort of young persons to him for instruction; and it is no small addition to his reputation that he was the master of Mr. Handel.



‡ It is said that the overtures of Lully were in such esteem, that they are to be found prefixed to many manuscript copies of Italian operas; and Mattheson asserts that Mr. Handel in the composition of his overtures professed to imitate those of Lully.  And indeed whoever will make the comparison, will find good reason to be of that opinion.  Those to the operas of Theseus, Alexander, Muzio Scaevola, and Ariodante are much in his cast; and this may be remarked of the fugues in the overtures of Lully, that they are generally in the time of six crotchets in a bar, equally divided by the Tactus or beat.

[4:245, note]


[...] He [i.e. Giovanni Bononcini] spent some years of his life in England; [...] having been for a time composer to the opera at London, and the rival of Mr. Handel, [...]



[...] Mr. Handel, who knew him [i.e. Agostino Steffani] intimately, and furnished most of the particulars contained in this memoir, gave the author the above account of the place of his nativity [i.e. “at Castello Franco, a small frontier town in the territory of Venice”].

[4:287, note]


[...] this last named person [i.e. Abbate Hortensio Mauro] wrote also the words for twelve duets, which Mr. Handel composed for the practice of the late queen Caroline when she was princess of Wales, who greatly admired this kind of composition.

[4:289, note]


Of these compositions [i.e. vocal duets] it is their least praise that Mr. Handel professed but to imitate them, in twelve duets which he composed for the practice of the late queen Caroline. [...]



He [i.e. Agostino Steffani] was now considered as a statesman, and was besides a dignitary of the church; and having a character to sustain, with which he imagined the public profession of his art not properly consistent, he forbore the setting his name to his future compositions, and adopted that of his secretary or copyist, Gregorio Piua.  Influenced perhaps by the same motives, in the year 1708 he resigned his employment of chapel-master in favour of Mr. Handel.



[...] Mr. Handel, who was well acquainted with him [i.e. Andreas Werckmeister], was used to speak of him in terms of great respect; [...]



While [...] at Rome, Corelli was highly favoured by that great patron of poetry and music, Cardinal Ottoboni.  Crescembini says that he regulated the musical academy held at the palace of his eminence every Monday afternoon.  Here it was that Mr. Handel became acquainted with him; and in this academy a Serenata of Mr. Handel, entitled Il Trionfo del Tempo, was performed, the overture to which was in a style so new and singular, that Corelli was confounded in his first attempt to play it.



            For many years after his decease, this excellent musician [i.e. Corelli] was commemorated by a solemn musical performance in the Pantheon, on the anniversary of his death.  In the year 1730 an eminent master, now living, was present at that solemnity, who relates that at it the third and the eighth of his Concertos were performed by a numerous band, among whom were many who had been the pupils of the author. [...]

            He died possessed of a sum of money equal to about six thousand pounds sterling.  He was a passionate admirer of pictures*, [.../]


[...] He was censured by some who were acquainted with him, for his parsimony, upon no better ground than the accustomed plainness of his garb, and his disinclination to the use of a coach or other carriage.  Mr. Handel had remarked these two little particulars in his conduct, and would sometimes, when he spoke of him, add, but without a view to depreciate his character, that his ordinary dress was black, and his outer garment a plain blue cloak.



[...] In his minuets alone he [i.e. Corelli] seems to fail; Bononcini, Mr. Handel, and Giuseppe Martini have excelled him in this kind of air.



[...] In Mr. Handel’s lessons for the harpsichord, Suite Septieme is an air of the sort last above described [i.e. Chacone].



[...] In the fourth of Mr. Handel’s Concertos for the organ is an example of a jig movement interwoven with one in andante time, and the contrast has a remarkably fine effect.

[4:389, note *]


[...] those Gavots only have a pleasing effect in which the middle and final closes are suspended by a varied and eloquent modulation, of which the Gavot in the overture of Semele, and the last movement in the third of Mr. Handel’s Concertos for the organ, are remarkable instances.

[4:389, note ‡]


[...] Those who can recollect Mr. Philip Hart, organist of the church of St. Mary Undershaft, and Mr. Bernard Gates, master of the children of the chapel royal, must have remarked in the playing of one and the singing of the other, such a frequent iteration of the shake, as destroyed the melody: and that even the last set of boys educated by the latter, sung in the manner their great grandfathers must be supposed to have done.

[4:471, note]


[...] about the year 1713, [...] they [i.e. Purcel’s Te Deum and Jubilate] gave way to the Te Deum and Jubilate of Mr. Handel, which had been composed for the thanksgiving on the peace of Utrecht, [...]



A Song for St. Cecilia’s day, 1687.  By Mr. Dryden, part IV. page 331.  Set to music by Mr. Handel many years after it was written.

[4:504, note *]


It is said that Dryden wrote his Alexander’s Feast with a view to its being set by Purcell, but that Purcell declined the task, as thinking it beyond the power of music to express sentiments so superlatively energetic as that ode abounds with.  The truth of this assertion may well be questioned, seeing that he composed the Te Deum, and scrupled not to set to music some of the most sublime passages in the Psalms, the Prophecy of Isaiah, and other parts of holy scripture; not to [523] mention that Mr. Thomas Clayton, he that set Mr. Addison’s opera of Rosamond, who was the last in the lowest class of musicians, saw nothing in Alexander’s Feast to deter him from setting and performing it at the great room in Villiers street, York Buildings, in 1711, Sir Richard Steele and he being then engaged in an undertaking to perform concerts at that place for their mutual benefit.  But Clayton’s composition met with the contempt it deserved; and the injury done by him to this admirable poem was amply repaired by Mr. Handel.



[...] In France Lully invented that energetic style which distinguishes his overtures, and which Handel himself disdained not to adopt; [...]





* In Villiers-street York-buildings was formerly a great room used for concerts and other public exhibitions.  In the Spectator are sundry advertisements from thence.  About the year 1711 Sir Richard Steele and Clayton were engaged in a concert performed there; and since their time it has been used for the like purposes. [...]

[5:4, note *]


[...] Dr. Pepusch, and frequently Mr. Handel, played the harpsichord [at the music club concerts of Thomas Britton, known as “Musical Small-Coal Man”], [...]



[...] Some years after [the publication of Mattheson’s lessons by Richard Mears], Mr. Handel, having composed for the practice of the princess Anne, sundry suits of lessons for the harpsichord, made a collection of them, and gave it to Mears to print; but, properly speaking, it was published by the author’s amanuensis Christopher Smith, who then lived at the sign of the Hand and Music-book in Coventry-street, the upper end of the Hay-market.  Mears also printed Mr. Handel’s opera of Radamistus, [...]



There were two other persons, namely J. Cluer and Benjamin Creake, copartners; the former dwelt in Bow-church-yard, and besides being a printer, was a vender of quack medicines; the latter lived in Jermyn-street: These men undertook to stamp music, and printed many of Handel’s operas, that is to say, Admetus, Siroe, Scipio, Rodelinda, Julius Caesar, Tamerlane, Alexander, and some others, but generally in a character singularly coarse and difficult to read. [...]



Mr. Needler was one of that association which gave rise to the establishment of the Academy of Ancient Music, and being a zealous friend to the institution, attended constantly on the nights of performance, and played the principal violin part. [...]

He dwelt for the greatest part of his life in an old-fashioned house in Clement’s-lane, behind St. Clement’s church in the Strand, and was there frequently visited by Mr. Handel, and other [sic] the most eminent masters of his time. [...]



[...] The performance [at Mr. Caslon’s house] consisted mostly of Corelli’s music, intermixed with the overtures of the old English and Italian operas [...] and the more modern ones of Mr. Handel. [...]



[...] Performance of this kind [i.e. public concerts with ticket admission] had been exhibited from about the year 1700, at the great room in York-buildings and other places, but these were discontinued about the year 1720, [...]



FRANCESCA VANINI BOSCHI and her husband were in England in 1710, and sung in Mr. Handel’s opera of Rinaldo: [...] Signor Giuseppe Boschi had a fine bass voice.  He sung here in the opera of Hydaspes after his wife left England.  Mr. Handel composed songs on purpose for him, and among many others, those two fine ones, ‘Del minnacciar in vento,’ in Otho, and ‘Deh Cupido,’ in Rodelinda.



[…] And with these [i.e. early operas, such as Camilla, Pyrrhus and Demetrius, Clotilda, and Almahide] the town were in general pleased till the arrival of Mr. Handel in England, whose coming announced the production of operas, such as were performed at the theatres in Italy; that is to say, the drama being in the Italian language, and the music in the modern Italian style.

            At this time Mr. Aaron Hill was in the direction of the Haymarket theatre.  Mr. Handel, then a very young man, had received pressing invitations from some of the principal nobility to come and settle in England; to these he yielded, and arrived in the winter of 1710.  Mr. Hill received him with open arms; he immediately concerted with him the plan of an opera entitled Rinaldo, and in a very short time wrought it into form; in short, he wrote the whole drama, and got it translated into Italian by a Signor Rossi, and Mr. Handel set it; an extract from the preface is inserted in the Spectator, No. 5, in which we are told that Mr. Handel composed this opera in a fortnight.  It is needless to point out the beauties of this excellent composition, as the overture and the airs are in print; the applause it met with was greater than had given to any musical [147] performance in this kingdom: In a word, it established Mr. Handel’s character on a firm and solid basis.

            The success of Rinaldo was in some measure injurious to the interests of those whose employment it had been to furnish out operas by collections from various Italian masters, and torturing music to a sense that it never was intended to bear; for in the Spectator, No. 258, for 26 Dec. 1711, and in another of the same papers, No. 278, Clayton, Haym, and Charles Dieupart, in a letter signed by them all, complain of their dismission, and solicit the public to favour a musical performance for their joint benefit at the house of Mr. Clayton in York-buildings*.

            The principal performers before this time were Valentini and Nicolini, Signora Margarita de l’Epine, and Mrs. Tofts, singers: In the band of instrumental performers were Dieupart abovementioned, Mr. Pepusch, and Mr. Loeillet, masters of the harpsichord; Mr. John Banister, a son of him of that name, formerly mentioned; Mr. William Corbet, and Signor Claudio, violin masters; Haym for the violoncello, and Saggioni for the double bass.  The alteration that immediately followed Mr. Handel’s coming to the Haymarket is no otherwise noticed than by the above letter, notwithstanding which, and the applause given to Rinaldo, other operas of the like kind with the former, particularly in 1711, Hydaspes, composed by Francesco Mancini, was represented at the Haymarket: The decorations of this opera were very splendid; the scenes were painted by Marco Ricci, and the words of the songs were all Italian.

            From this time the opera was conducted in a manner less liable to exception than at first; and to this reformation it is probable the ridicule of Mr. Addison, and the censures of critics less humourously disposed than himself, might not a little contribute; for though in Rinaldo we are told that Sparrows were introduced, and in Hydaspes a lion, which part was performed by a man, and gave occasion to some of the most diverting papers in the Spectator, we hear no [148] more of these absurdities after the performance of Hydaspes, and the opera was freed from all objections, save only those to which the entertainment itself was at all times obnoxious.



[...] He [i.e. Haym] continued thus employed [i.e. adapting Italian music to English words], sharing with his colleagues the profits arising from these and other representations of the like kind, till the year 1710, when Mr. Handel arrived in England, and performed the opera of Rinaldo at the Hay-market.  The superior merit of Rinaldo over every representation of this nature, that till then had been exhibited on the English stage, had such an effect as to silence all the attempts of Clayton and his associates to entertain the town with dramatic music; and of this they heavily complain in a joint letter, printed in the Spectator, No. 258, for Wednesday, December 26, 1711, and also in another, printed in No. 278, of the same paper, for January 8, in the following year, wherein they claim the merit of having introduced Italian music into England, and solicit the encouragement of the public to a musical entertainment for their joint benefit at the house of Mr. Clayton, in York-buildings: [...]



[...] About the year 1725, an organ having been [177] erected in the new church of St. George, Hanover-square, [Thomas] Roseingrave offered himself for the place.  The parish being determined to choose the person best qualified, required that each of the candidates should give a specimen of his abilities by a performance, of which Mr. Handel and Geminiani were requested to be judges; the test of which was by them settled to be a point or subject of a fugue, which the performer was to conduct at his pleasure: This kind of trial was so suited to the talents of Roseingrave, that he far exceeded his competitors, and obtained the place, with a salary of fifty pounds a year. [...]



[...] His [i.e. William Babell’s] first essay in composition was to make the favourite airs in the operas of Pyrrhus and Demetrius, Hydaspes, and some others, into lessons for the harpsichord.  After that he did the same by Mr. Handel’s opera of Rinaldo, and succeeded so well in the attempt, as to make from it a book of lessons, which few could play but himself, and which has long been deservedly celebrated. [...] Babell died a young man, about the year 1722; having shortened his days by intemperance.  It seems the same of Babell’s abilities had reached Hamburgh, for Mattheson says he was a pupil of Handel; but in this he is mistaken, for Handel disdained to teach his art to any but princes.



[...] He [i.e. John Robinson, organist at Westminster-Abbey] had a daughter, who sung for Mr. Handel in Hercules, and some other of his oratorios. [...]



The merits of Mr. [John Ernest] Galliard, together with his interest at court, afforded reason at one time to suppose that he would have had the direction of the musical performances in this kingdom; but he was not able to stand in competition with either Bononcini or Handel, and wisely declined it. [...]



From the time of Mr. Handel’s final settlement in this kingdom, he [i.e. Galliard] was occasionally the author of many elegant compositions, particularly six Cantatas, five of them written by Mr. John Hughes, and the sixth by Mr. Congreve; [...]



The abilities of Pepusch as a practical composer were not likely to become a source of wealth to him; his music was correct, but it wanted variety of modulation; besides which Mr. Handel had gotten possession of the public ear, and the whole kingdom were forming their taste for harmony and melody by the standard of his [197] compositions. [...]



About the year 1712, the duke of Chandois [...] determined on having divine service performed in his [199] chapel [at Cannons], with all the aids that could be derived from vocal and instrumental music: To this end he retained some of the most celebrated performers of both kinds, and engaged the greatest masters of the time to compose anthems and services with instrumental accompanyments, after the manner of those performed in the churches of Italy.  It is well known that Mr. Handel’s anthems, to the number of near twenty, were made for the duke’s chapel. [...]



[...] In the year 1716 he [i.e. Geminiani] published and dedicated to that nobleman [Baron Kilmansegge] twelve Sonatas, a Violino Violone e Cembalo: [...]

[...] the publication of his book impressed his patron with such a sense of his abilities, as moved him to endeavour to procure for him a more beneficial patronage than his own; to this end he mentioned Geminiani to the king as an exquisite performer, and the author of a work, which at the same time he produced and the king had no sooner looked over, than he expressed a desire to hear some of the compositions contained in it performed by the author.  The Baron immediately communicated the king’s pleasure to Geminiani, who, though he was gladly disposed to obey such a command, intimated to the Baron a wish that he might be accompanied on the harpsichord by Mr. Handel, which being signified to the king, both masters had notice to attend at St. James’s, and Geminiani acquitted himself in a manner worthy of the expectations that had been formed of him.



[...] He [i.e. Reinhard Keiser] had the direction of the opera at Hamburg from the time when it was first established, till, being a man of gaiety and expence, he was necessitated to quit it; after which the composers for that theatre were successively Steffani, Mattheson, and Mr. Handel.



            Mattheson was very well acquainted with Handel.  Before the latter came to settle in England they were in some sort rivals, and solicited with equal ardour the favour of the public.  Mattheson relates that he had often vied with him on the organ both at Hamburg and Lubec.  The terms upon which these two great men lived when they were together, must appear very strange.  Handel approved so highly of the compositions of Mattheson, particularly his lessons, that he was used to play them for his private amusement*; and Mattheson had so great a regard for Handel, that he at one time entertained thoughts of writing his life.  In the years 1735 and 1737 he published a work entitled Die wol-klingende Finger-Sprache, i.e. ‘The well-founding Finger Language,’ consisting of twelve fugues for the organ, on two and three subjects, and dedicated it to Handel, who, upon the publication of it, wrote him a letter, in which is the following passage:

‘——à present je viens de receivoir votre dernier letter avec votre ouvrage, je vous en remercie Monsieur, & je vous assure que j’ai toute l’estime pour votre merite.—L’ouvrage est digne de l’attention des connoisseurs,—& quant a moi je vous rends justice.’

            And yet these two men were in one moment of their lives at so great enmity, that each had the other opposed to the point of his sword: In short, they, upon a dispute about the seat at the harpsichord at the performance of one of Mattheson’s operas, fought a duel in the market-place of Hamburg, which a mere accident prevented from being mortal to one or both of them. […]



This person [i.e. J. S. Bach] was celebrated for his skill in the composition of canon, as also for his performance on the organ, especially in the use of the pedals.  Mattheson says that on this instrument he was even superior to Handel. [...]



[portrait of Handel; caption “GEORGE FREDERIC HANDEL.”]

            GEORGE FREDERIC HANDEL, or, if we would recur to the original spelling of his name, HENDEL, was a native of Halle, a city in the circle of Upper Saxony, and born on the twenty-fourth day of February, 1684.  His mother was the second wife of his father, then a man advanced in years, being upwards of sixty; a physician, and also a surgeon in that city.

            From the time that Handel began to speak he was able to sing, or at least to articulate musical sounds; and as he grew up, his father, who almost from the time of his birth had determined him for the [263] profession of the law, was very much concerned to find in the child such a strong propensity to music, as was at one time or other likely to thwart his endeavours for his welfare.  To prevent the effects of this growing inclination, he banished from his house all musical instruments, and by every method in his power endeavoured to check it.  As yet Handel, an infant under seven years of age, having never been sent, as most of the German children are, to the public schools, where they learn music as they do grammar, had no idea of the notes or the method of playing on any instrument: He had perhaps seen a harpsichord or clavichord, and, with the innocent curiosity of a child, may be supposed to have pressed down a key, which producing a sound, affected him with pleasure; be this as it may, by the exercise of that cunning, which is discoverable very early in children, Handel found means to get a little clavichord conveyed into a room at the top of his father’s house, to which he constantly resorted as soon as the family retired to rest; and, astonishing to say! without any rules to direct his finger, or any instructor than his own era, he found means to produce from the instrument both melody and harmony.

            The father of Handel had a son by his former wife, who was valet de chambre to the duke of Saxe-Weissenfells, and by the time that Handel had nearly attained the age of seven years, he had determined on a journey to see him: His intention was to have gone alone, but Handel having a strong desire to see his half-brother, pressed to be taken with him; his father refused, and accordingly set out by himself; the boy however contrived to watch when the chaise set off, and followed it with such resolution and spirit, as to overtake it; and begging with tears to be taken up, the tenderness of a father prevailed, and Handel was made a companion in the journey.  Being arrived at the court of the duke, Handel being suffered to go about the apartments, could not resist the temptation to sit down to a harpsichord wherever he met with one.  One morning he found means, when the service was just over, to steal to the organ in the duke’s chapel, and began to touch it before the people were departed; the duke himself was not gone, and hearing the organ touched in an unusual manner, upon his return to his apartments enquired of his valet what stranger was at it, and was answered his brother; the duke immediately commanded him to be sent for, as also his father: It is needless to repeat the conversation between them, [264] for it terminated in a resolution in the father to yield to the impulse of nature, and give up his son to the profession of music; and accordingly on his return to Halle he placed him under the care of Frederic William Zachau, a sound musician, and organist of the cathedral church of that city*.  After having taught him the principles of the science, Zachau put into the hands of his young pupil the works of the greatest among the Italian and German composers, and, without directing his attention to any of them, left him to form a style of his own.  Handel had now been under the tuition of Zachau about two years, during which time he had frequently supplied his place, and performed the cathedral duty; the exercises which he had been accustomed to were the composition of fugues and airs upon points or subjects delivered to him from time to time by his master.  At the age of nine he actually composed motets for the service of the church, and continued to make one every week for three years, with scarce any intermission.  By the time he was arrived at the age of thirteen, Handel began to look upon Halle as a place not likely to afford him opportunities of much farther improvement; he determined to visit Berlin, and arriving in that city in the year 1698, found the opera there in a flourishing condition, under the direction of Bononcini and Attilio; the former of these, a most admirable musician, was yet a haughty and insolent man; the other, his inferior, was of a modest and placid disposition, a proof whereof he gave in the affection shewn by him to this young stranger, whom he would frequently set upon his knee, and listen to with delight while he played on the harpsichord.

            Handel had been but a short time at Berlin before the king, the grandfather of the present king of Prussia, took notice of him, and signified to him an intention to send him to Italy; but by the advice of his friends, Handel declined the offer, and returned home to Halle; soon after which he had the misfortune to be deprived of his father.  Being by this accident less attached to the city of his nativity than before, Handel began to think of another place of residence. [265] There was at that time an opera at Hamburg, little inferior to that at Berlin: Steffani had composed for it, and Conradina and Mattheson were the principal singers; the former of these was the daughter of a barber at Dresden, named Conradine, but, according to custom, she had given her name an Italian termination*.  Mattheson was an indifferent singer, but he was a very good composer, and played finely on the harpsichord and organ.



            UPON Handel’s arrival at Hamburg he found the opera under the direction of a great master, Reinhard Keiser, a native of Weissenfels, and chapel-master to the duke of Mecklenburgh, who being a man of gaiety and expence, was reduced to the necessity of absconding, to avoid the demands of his creditors.  Upon occasion of his absence the person who had played the second harpsichord thought he had a good title to the first, and accordingly placed himself at it; but Handel, who had hitherto played the violin in the orchestra, and, as it is said, only a Ripieno part, with a promptitude, which his inexperience of the world will hardly excuse, put in his claim to Keiser’s place, and urged his ability to fill it.  The arguments of Handel were seconded by the clamours of a numerous audience, who constrained the substitute of Keiser to yield to his competitor.  For the name of this person we are to seek; it is said he was a German; he was deeply affected with the indignity that had been shewn him: His honour had sustained an injury, but he comforted himself with the thought that it was in his power to repair it by killing his adversary, a youth but rising to manhood, and who had never worn, nor knew the use of a weapon; and at a time too when none were near to assist him.  Accordingly one evening, when the opera was over, this assassin followed Handel out of the orchestra, and at a convenient place made a pass at him with his sword; and, had it not been for the score of the opera which Handel was taking home with him, and had placed in his bosom, under his coat, there is little doubt but that the thrust would have proved mortal. [266]

            The absence of Keiser, the merits of Handel, and the baseness of this attempt to deprive him of life, operated so strongly, that those who had the management of the opera looked upon Handel as the only fit person to compose for it: He was then somewhat above fourteen years of age, and being furnished with a drama, he in a very few weeks brought upon the stage his first opera, namely Almeria, which was performed thirty nights without intermission.

            Handel having continued at Hamburg about three years, during which time he composed and performed two other operas, namely, Florinda and Nerone, resolved to visit Italy.  The prince of Tuscany, brother to the grand duke John Gaston de Medicis, had been present at the performance of the operas of Almeria and Florinda, and had given Handel an invitation to Florence; as soon therefore as he found himself in a situation to accept it, he went thither, and composed the opera of Roderigo, being then in his eighteenth year, for which he was honoured by the grand duke with a present of one hundred sequins and a service of plate.  The grand duke’s mistress, Vittoria,[1] sung the principal part in it; and, if fame says true, conceived such a passion for Handel, as, if he had been disposed to encourage it, might have proved the ruin of them both.  After about a year’s stay at Florence, Handel went to Venice, and there composed the opera of Agrippina, which was performed twenty-seven nights successively; from thence he went to Rome, where being introduced to Cardinal Ottoboni, he became acquainted with Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti; the first of these had apartments in the cardinal’s palace, and played the first violin in a concert which the cardinal had there on Monday in every week.  From Rome he went to Naples, and after some stay there, having seen as much of Italy as he thought necessary, he determined to return to Germany.  He had no particular attachment to any city, but having never seen Hanover, he bent his way thither.  Upon his arrival he found Steffani in possession of the place of musician to the court; he might perhaps be styled chapel-master, a title which the foreign musicians are very ambitious of; but he could not be so in fact, for the service in the electoral chapel was according to the Lutheran ritual, and Steffani was a dignitary in the Romish church.  The reception which Handel met with from Steffani was such as made a lasting impression upon his mind: The following is the [267] manner in which he related it to the author of this work.  “When I first arrived at Hanover I was a young man, under twenty; I was acquainted with the merits of Steffani, and he had heard of me.  I understood somewhat of music, and,” putting forth both his broad hands, and extending his fingers, “could play pretty well on the organ; he received me with great kindness, and took an early opportunity to introduce me to the princess Sophia and the elector’s son, giving them to understand that I was what he was pleased to call a virtuoso in music; he obliged me with instructions for my conduct and behaviour during my residence at Hanover; and being called from the city to attend to matters of a public concern, he left me in possession of that favour and patronage which himself had enjoyed for a series of years.”

            The connection between the court of Hanover and that of London at this time was growing every day more close, and Handel, prompted perhaps by curiosity to see a city which was likely one time or other to become the place of his residence, determined to visit London.  At the time that he was preparing for his departure, a nobleman at the court of Hanover, Baron Kilmansegge, was actually soliciting with the elector the grant of a pension to Handel of fifteen hundred crowns per annum, which he having obtained, Handel hesitated to accept, being conscious of the resolution he had taken to visit England.  Upon this objection the Baron consulted his highness’s pleasure, and Handel was then acquainted that he should not be disappointed in his design by the acceptance of the pension proposed, for that he had permission to be absent for a twelvemonth or more, if he chose it, and to go whithersoever he pleased.  On these easy conditions he thankfully accepted the elector’s bounty.  Before he left Germany he made a visit to his mother at Halle, whom he found labouring under the accumulated burthen of old age and blindness; he visited also his preceptor Zachau, and some other of his friends; and passing through Dusseldorp [sic] to Holland, embarked for England, and arrived at London in the winter of the year 1710.

            The state of the opera in England at this time has already been spoken of; Mr. Aaron Hill was concerned in the management of it; he gave to Rossi, an Italian poet, the story of Rinaldo from Tasso’s Gierusalemme; and Rossi having wrought it into the form of an opera, Mr. Handel set the music to it, and Hill published it with an English translation. [268]

            As to the poem itself, it is neither better nor worse than most compositions of the kind; Mr. Addison, in the Spectator, No. 5, is very arch on it, and has extracted from the preface the following curious passage: “Eccoti, benigno Lettore, un Parto di poche Sere, che se ben nato di Notte, non e’ [sic] però aborto di Tenebre, mà si farà conoscere Figliolo d’ Apollo con qualche Raggio di Parnasse;” that is, “Behold, gentle reader, the birth of a few Evenings, which though it be the offspring of the Night, is not the abortive of darkness, but will make itself known to be the son of Apollo, with a certain ray of Parnassus.”  The following is the author’s apology for the imperfections of the work.—“Gradisci, ti prego, discretto lettore, questa mia rapida fatica, e se non merita le tue lodi, almeno non privarla del tuo compatimento, chi dirò più tosto giustizia per un tempo così ristretto, poiche il Signor Hendel, Orfeo del nostro secolo, nel porla in musica, a pena mi diede tempo di scrivere; e viddi con mio grande stupore, in due sole settimane armonizata al maggior grado di perfezzione un opera intiera.”  Mr. Handel is said to have composed the opera of Rinaldo in the short space of a fortnight; in it is an air, “Cara sposa,” sung by Nicolini, which the author would frequently say was one of the best he ever made.  The success of this opera was greater than can be imagined; Walsh got fifteen hundred pounds by the printing it.

            After this specimen of his abilities, the lovers of music here, used every motive to prevail on Handel to make London the place of his residence; but, after a twelvemonth’s stay in England, he determined to return to Hanover.  He took leave of the queen, and, upon expressing his sense of the obligations which he had to the English nation, and her majesty in particular, she made him some valuable presents, and intimated a wish to see him again.  Upon his return to Hanover he composed for the electoral princess, Caroline, afterwards queen of England, twelve chamber duets, in imitation, as he professed, of those of Steffani, but in a style less simple, and in other respects different from those of that author.  The words of these compositions abound with all the beauties of poetry, and were written by Abbate Hortensio Mauro.

            After two years stay at Hanover, Mr. Handel obtained leave of the elector to revisit England, upon condition of his returning within a reasonable time.  He arrived at London about the latter end of the [269] year 1712, at which time the negociations [sic] of the peace of Utrecht were in great forwardness.  In the following year the treaty was concluded; a public thanksgiving was ordered for the occasion, and Mr. Handel received from the queen a command to compose a Te Deum and Jubilate, which were performed at St. Paul’s cathedral, her majesty herself attending the service.  The queen died in 1714, and the elector of Hanover immediately came over.  On his arrival here, he had two grounds of resentment against Handel, the one the breach of his engagement to return to Hanover after a reasonable stay here; the other his having lent the assistance of his art towards the celebrating as happy and glorious, an event which by many was looked upon as detrimental to the interests, not only of this kingdom, but of all the protestant powers of Europe.  To avert the king’s displeasure, Baron Kilmansegge contrived an expedient, which nothing but his sincere friendship for Handel could have suggested; the Baron formed a party, who were to take the pleasure of a fine summer’s day on the Thames, and the king condescended to be of it: Handel had an intimation of the design, and was advised by the Baron to prepare music for the occasion; and he composed for it that work, consisting of an overture and a variety of airs and other movements, which we know by the name of the Water Music.  It was performed in a barge, attendant on that in which the king and his company were, and Handel himself conducted it.  The king being little at a loss to guess who was the composer of music so grand and original as this appeared to be, anticipated the relation that Mr. Handel was the author of it.  From this time the Baron waited with impatience for an intimation from the king of his desire to see Handel; at length an opportunity offered, which he with the utmost eagerness embraced; Geminiani had been in England a short time, during which he had published and dedicated to Baron Kilmansegge his Opera prima, consisting of those twelve Solos for the violin, which will be admired as long as the love of melody shall exist, and the king was desirous of hearing them performed by the author, who was the greatest master of the instrument then living; Geminiani was extremely pleased with the thought of being heard, but was fearful of being accompanied on the harpsichord by some performer, who might fail to do justice both to the compositions and the performance of them: In short, he suggested to the Baron a wish that Mr. [270] Handel might be the person appointed to meet him in the king’s apartment; and upon mentioning it to his majesty, the Baron was told that Handel would be admitted for the purpose, and he attended accordingly; and upon expressing his desire to atone for his former misbehaviour, by the utmost efforts of duty and gratitude, he was reinstated in the king’s favour; and soon after, as a token of it, received a grant of a pension of 200l. a year, over and above one for the same sum which had been settled on him by queen Anne.

            Being now determined to make England the country of his residence, Handel began to yield to the invitations of such persons of rank and fortune as were desirous of his acquaintance, and accepted an invitation from one Mr. Andrews, of Barn-Elms, in Surrey, but who had also a town residence, to apartments in his house.  After some months stay with Mr. Andrews, Handel received a pressing invitation from the earl of Burlington, whose love of music was equal to his skill in architecture and his passion for other liberal studies, to make his house in Piccadilly the place of his abode.  Into this hospitable mansion was Handel received, and left at liberty to follow the dictates of his genius and invention, assisting frequently at evening concerts, in which his own music made the most considerable part.  The course of his studies during three years residence at Burlington-house, was very regular and uniform: His mornings were employed in study, and at dinner he sat down with men of the first eminence for genius and abilities of any in the kingdom.  Here he frequently met Pope, Gay, Dr. Arbuthnot*, and others of that class: The latter was able to converse with him on his art, but Pope understood not, neither had he the least ear or relish for music; and he was honest enough to confess it.  When Handel had no particular engagements, he frequently went in the afternoon to St. Paul’s church, where Mr. Greene, though he was not then organist, was very assiduous in his civilities to him: By him he was introduced to, and made acquainted with the principal performers in the choir.  The truth is, that Handel was very fond of St. Paul’s organ, built by father Smith, and which was then almost a new instrument; Brind [271] was then the organist, and no very celebrated performer: The tone of the instrument delighted Handel; and a little intreaty was at any time sufficient to prevail on him to touch it, but after he had ascended the organ-loft, it was with reluctance that he left it; and he has been known, after evening service, to play to an audience as great as ever filled the choir.  After his performance was over it was his practice to adjourn with the principal persons of the choir to the Queen’s Arms tavern in St. Paul’s church-yard, where was a great room, with a harpsichord in it; and oftentimes an evening was there spent in music and musical conversation*.

            After three years residence at Burlington-house, during which time he composed three operas, namely, Amadis, Theseus, and Pastor Fido, Mr. Handel received a pressing invitation from the duke of Chandois to undertake the direction of the chapel at his superb mansion, Cannons.  Pepusch had had for some years the direction of it, and had composed services and anthems for it to a great number; but, like most other of his compositions, they were merely correct harmony, without either melody or energy; and it suited but ill with the duke’s ideas of magnificence, and the immense expence he had been at in building such a house, and furnishing his chapel, to have any other than the greatest musician in the kingdom for his chapel-master.  We may suppose that the offers made to induce Handel to exchange the patronage of one nobleman for another, and to enter into engagements that rendered him somewhat less than master of himself and his time, were proportioned as well to the munificence of his new patron as his own merits: Whatever they were, he complied with the invitation, and in the year 1718 went to reside with the duke at Cannons, where he was no sooner settled, than he sat himself to compose a suite of anthems for the duke’s chapel.  In the course of these his studies, he seems to have disdained all imitation, and to have looked with contempt on those pure and elegant models for the church style, the motets of Palestrina, Allegri, and Foggia, and for that of the chamber the cantatas of Cesti and Pier Simone Agostino; for these he thought, and would sometimes say, were stiff, and void of that sweetness of melody, which he looked upon to be essential as [272] well to choral as theatrical music; much less would he vouchsafe an imitation of those milder beauties which shine so conspicuously in the anthems of the English composers for the church, namely, Tallis, Bird, Gibbons, and others; or, to come near to his own time, those of Wise, Humphrey, Blow, and Purcell: In short, such was the sublimity of his genius, and the copiousness of his invention, that he was persuaded of his ability to form a style of his own: He made the experiment, and it succeeded.

            The establishment of the chapel at Cannons consisted in a sufficient number of voices of various pitches, including those of boys, for the performance of any composition merely vocal; but, in imitation of the practice in the chapels of foreign countries, the duke retained a band of the best instrumental performers; the anthems composed by Mr. Handel were made for voices and instruments, and in number are supposed to be little short of twenty: As they have never been printed, it may be some satisfaction to the curious to be told that in the library of the Academy of ancient Music in London, are the following: “O praise the Lord,” “As pants the hart,” “O sing unto the Lord,” “Have mercy upon me,” “O come let us sing,” “I will magnify thee,” “The Lord is my light,” “My song shall be alway [sic],” “In the Lord put I my trust,” “The king shall rejoice,” and “Let God arise.”

            The Academy have also an anthem of his, “Sing unto God,” performed at the marriage of Frederic, prince of Wales.

            He also composed for the duke of Chandois, his serenata of Acis and Galatea, the words whereof are said to have been written by Mr. Gay.  Handel while at Napes had composed and performed a serenata entitled Acige and Galatea; and it is probable that he might have adapted many parts of the original composition to the English words; however this particular is to be remarked in the Acis and Galatea, that the fine chorus, “Behold the monster Polypheme,” so much admired for expressing horror and affright, is taken from one of his duets, in which the self-same notes are set to words of a very different import.

            During the last year of his residence with the duke of Chandois, the principal nobility and gentry of the kingdom formed themselves into a musical academy for the performance of operas at the theatre in the Haymarket, to be composed by Mr. Handel, and performed [273] under his direction.  To this end a subscription was raised, amounting to 50,000l.  The king subscribed 1000l. and permitted the society thus formed to be dignified with the title of the Royal Academy.  It consisted of a governor, deputy governor, and twenty directors, whose names were as follow: Thomas, duke of Newcastle, governor; lord Bingley, deputy governor; directors, the dukes of Portland and Queensberry, the earls of Burlington, Stair, and Waldegrave, lord Chetwynd, lord Stanhope, James Bruce, Esq. colonel Blathwayt*, Thomas Coke, of Norfolk, Esq. Conyers D’Arcy, Esq. brigadier-general Dormer, Bryan Fairfax, Esq. Colonel O’Hara, George Harrison, Esq. brigadier-general Hunter, William Pulteney, Esq. Sir John Vanbrugh, major-general Wade, and Francis Whitworth, Esq.

            Handel being thus engaged, found it necessary to seek abroad for the best singers that could be procured.  Accordingly he went to Dresden; and, having secured Senesino and Signora Margarita Durastanti, returned with them to England. […]

[275 ...] In the year abovementioned [i.e. 1710] Mr. Handel arrived in England, and soon after gave to the English the opera of Rinaldo, and thereby laid the foundation for that fame which he afterwards acquired, and so long enjoyed in this country, and indeed throughout Europe; but his connexions at Hanover did not allow of his making London his residence, wherefore, after a twelvemonth’s stay here, he returned.

            The nobility and gentry, who were now become sensible of the charms of dramatic music, began to associate in its behalf, and themselves became conductors of the opera.  Mr. Handel returned again to England; but having entered into engagements with the earl of Burlington and the duke of Chandois, he was for some years but an occasional composer of operas: As soon as these were determined, the foundation of a royal academy was laid in the manner above related; Bononcini was then at Rome, and, as he himself asserts, was called from thence to the service of the Royal Academy [… 276 …]

            It was hardly possible that men possessed of talents so different as were those of Handel and Bononcini, should be equally admired and patronized by the same persons: The style of Bononcini was tender, elegant, and pathetic; Handel’s possessed all these qualities, and numberless others, and his invention was inexhaustible.  For some or other of these considerations, and perhaps others of a very different kind, two parties were formed among the nobility, the one professing to patronize Handel, and the other Bononcini: As to Attilio, he was an ingenious and modest man, and was therefore left to make his way as he could.  Handel was honoured with the favour of the electoral family; and this might be one, among other reasons, that induced the Marlborough family, as it stood affected at that time, to take his rival under their protection; and yet, so strange and capricious are the motives of party opposition, Handel was espoused by the Tories, and Bononcini by the Whigs.  Upon the death of John, duke of Marlborough, in1722, Bononcini was employed by the family to compose an anthem, which was performed at his internment in Henry the Seventh’s chapel, Westminster-abbey, and published in score […]; and soon after the countess of Godolphin, who upon the decease of her father, by a peculiar limitation of that title, was now become duchess of Marlborough, took him into her family, and settled on him a pension of five hundred pounds a year. [… 277 …]

            That subscription of the nobility and gentry, which has been already mentioned, and which laid the foundation of what was called the Royal Academy of Music, was calculated with a view to the improvement of the science; but, unluckily for Bononcini, the views of this association were chiefly directed towards Handel, and accordingly he was the first retained in their service, and this notwithstanding that Bononcini had for his friend the governor of the academy, the late duke of Newcastle, who had married the daughter of the countess of Godolphin, his patroness.

            The academy was no sooner established, than a contest began between the friends of Handel on the one part, and those of Bononcini on the other, which was brought to a crisis by the performance of the opera of Muzio Scaevola, of which Handel, Bononcini, and Attilio composed each an act: The judgment of the public in favour of Handel put an end to the competition, and left him without a rival for the public favour.  This dispute, although it determined the point of precedence between Handel and Bononcini, did not operate in the total exclusion of the latter from the academy.  He continued to perform operas there till the year 1727; after which he retired, and pursued a life of study and ease in that noble family which had so long afforded him protection;




THE merits of Bononcini as a musician were very great; and it must be thought no diminution of his character to say that he had no superior but Handel; though, as the talents which each possessed were very different in kind, it is almost a question whether any comparison can justly be made between them.  Handel’s excellence consisted in the grandeur and the sublimity of his conceptions, of which he gave the first proofs in his Te Deum and Jubilate; Bononcini’s genius was adapted to the expression of tender and pathetic sentiments.  His melodies, the richest and sweetest that we know of, are in a style peculiarly his own; his harmonies are original, and at the same time natural: In his recitatives, those manifold inflexions of the voice, which accompany common speech, with the several interjections, exclamations, and pauses proper thereto, are marked with great exactness and propriety.

            Whoever reflects on the divisions and animosities occasioned by the competition between the two great masters Handel and Bononcini, must wonder at the infatuation of the parties that severally espoused them, in that they were not able to discern in the compositions of both beauties, of different kinds it is true, but such as every soul susceptible of the charms of music must feel and acknowledge.  This animosity may seem to have been owing to the determination of an over refined judgment; but such as have a true idea of the ridiculous character of an opera connoisseur, or are sensible of the extravagant length, to which the affectation of a musical taste will carry silly people of both sexes, will justly impute it to ignorance, and an utter inability to form any judgment or well grounded opinion about the matter.

            But where was the reason for competition?  Is it not with music as in poetry and painting, where the different degrees of merit are not estimated by an approximation to any one particular style or manner as a standard, and where different styles are allowed to possess peculiar powers of delighting?  And, to apply the question to the present [282] case, why was it to be assumed as a principle, that to an ear capable of being affected with the sublimity and dignity of Handel’s music, the sweetness and elegance of Bononcini’s must necessarily be intolerable? and, vice versa.  Milton and Spenser were not contemporaries; but had they been so, could the admirers of one have had any reason for denying praise to the other?  In this view of the controversy, the conduct of the parties who severally espoused Handel and Bononcini can be resolved only into egregious folly and invincible prejudice; and that mutual animosity, which, men when they are least in the right, are most disposed to entertain.

            The long residence of Handel in this country, the great number of his compositions, and the frequent performance of them, enable us to form a competent judgment of his abilities; but the merits of Bononcini are little known and less attended to.  Such as form their opinion of him by his early operas, such as Camilla, and those others from which the airs in Thomyris were taken, will greatly err in the estimation of his talents, these being but puerile essays, while he was under twenty years of age.  The works of his riper years carry in them the evidences of a mature judgment; and though his characteristic be elegance, softness, and a fine, easy, flowing fancy, there are compositions of his extant in manuscript, particularly a mass for eight voices, with instruments, a Laudate Pueri, and sundry madrigals for five voices, from which we must conclude that his learning and skill were not inferior to those powers of invention, which in an eminent degree he was allowed to possess.



[...] The residence of Attilio at Berlin in the year 1698, the time when Handel, then but a child, arrived at that city, gave him an opportunity of knowing him, and laid the foundation of a friendship, which, notwithstanding a competition of interests, subsisted for many years after.  The occasion of his leaving Berlin was an invitation from the directors of the opera here to come and settle at London; upon his arrival he joined with Bononcini: the consequences of that association are related in the account herein before given of his colleague and his rival Handel, [...]



The success of Mr. Handel in the composition of operas, and the applause with which his productions were received, not only silenced all competition against him, but drove his opponents to the necessity of relinquishing their claim to the public favour. [...]



            While the proposal for an academy was under consideration, and to accelerate the carrying of it into execution, Mr. Handel set himself to compose the opera of Radamistus, and caused it to be represented at the Haymarket theatre in the winter of the year 1720: The applause with which it was received cannot be better related than in the words of the anonymous author of Memoirs of the Life [296] of Mr. Handel, published in the year 1760, which are as follow: “If persons who are now living, and who were present at that performance, may be credited, the applause it received was almost as extravagant as his Agrippina had excited; the crouds and tumults of the house at Venice were hardly equal to those at London.  In so splendid and fashionable an assembly of ladies, to the excellence of their taste we must impute it, there was no shadow of form or ceremony, scarce indeed any appearance of order or regularity, politeness or decency: Many, who had forced their way into the house with an impetuosity but ill suited to their rank and sex, actually fainted through the excessive heat and closeness of it; several gentlemen were turned back who had offered forty shillings for a seat in the gallery, after having despaired of getting any in the pit or boxes.”

            The performance of the opera of Radamistus had impressed upon the friends of Handel, and indeed upon the public in general, a deep sense of his abilities.  It received great advantages from the performance; for Senesino sung in it that admirable air, “Ombra Cara,” and Durastanti others; but, to remove all suspicion that the applause of the public was paid to the representation, and not to the intrinsic merit of the work, Handel published it himself, having previously obtained a licence under the sign manual, dated 14 June, 1720, for securing to him the property in that, and such other of his works as he should afterwards publish*.

            Whoever peruses the opera of Radamistus, will find abundant reason to acquiesce in the high opinion that was entertained of it.  The airs in it are all excellent, but those of chief note are, “Deh suggi un traditore,” “Son contenta di moire,” “Doppo torbide procelle,” “Ombra Cara,” “Spero placare,” “La sorte il ciel amor,” and “Vanne sorella ingrata.”  The performance and the publication jointly operated in bringing the interests of the three rivals to a crisis: [297] Neither was disposed to yield, and the friends of each concurred in a proposal that Handel, Bononcini, and Attilio should in conjunction compose an opera, that is to say, each of them an act, as also an overture: The opera was Mutius Scaevola; Bononcini set the first act, Attilio the second, and Handel the third, the songs and the overture in the first and third are in print, and we are enabled to make a comparison between Handel and Bononcini, but of Attilio’s part of the work we can say nothing.

            The issue of this contest determined the point of precedence between Handel and his competitors: His act in Mutius Scaevola was pronounced superior to the others, and Bononcini’s next in merit.  This victory however was not productive of those consequences that some might hope for; it did not reduce the adversaries of Handel to the necessity of a precipitate retreat, nor even leave the conqueror in possession of the field of battle, for both Bononcini and Attilio continued to compose for the opera after the dispute; and indeed the finest compositions of each, as namely, Astartus, Crispus, Griselda, Pharnaces, Calphurnia, Erminia, Astyanax, by the former; and Coriolanus, Vespasian, Artaxerxes, Darius, and Lucius Verus, by the latter, were composed and performed with the applause severally due to them, between the years 1721 and 1727*.

            Of the singers in the Royal Academy […] Senesino and Durastanti […] had the greatest share in the performance: There were others however of such distinguished merit, as to deserve to be noticed, as namely, Signor Gaetano Berenstadt, whom Mr. Handel had brought from Dresden with the two former, and Boschi, for whom were composed those two celebrated bass songs, “Del minacciar del vento,” in Otho, and “Deh Cupido,” in Rodelinda; [… 298 …] Soon after the establishment of the Royal Academy Mr. Handel had engaged Signora Cuzzoni, who sung with unrivalled applause till the year 1726, when Signora Faustina came hither, and became a competitor with her for the public favour, and succeeded so well in her endeavours to obtain it, as to divide the musical world into two parties, not less violent in their enmity to each other than any that we read of in history.

[…] the establishment of the opera gave a new turn to the sentiments and manners of the young nobility and gentry of this kingdom: Most of these were great frequenters of the opera; they professed to admire the music, and next to that the language in which they were written; many of them became the scholars of the instrumental performers, and by them were taught the practice of the violin, the violoncello, and the harpsichord.  Others, who were ambitious of being able to converse with the singers, especially with the females; to utter with a grace the exclamations used to testify applause, and to be expert in the use of all the cant phrases which musical connoisseurs affect, set themselves to learn the Italian language; and in proportion to their progress in it were more or less busy behind the scenes, and in other respects troublesome and impertinent.



BOOK IV.      CHAP. I.

MR. Handel continued to fulfil his engagements with the directors, until the year 1726, when, having composed a new opera, entitled Alessandro, and engaged a new singer, namely Signora Faustina, he laid the foundation of a dispute, that terminated in the ruin of the whole undertaking.

But before we proceed to relate the circumstances of this event, it may be observed that it seemed to be no more than the necessary consequence of that extravagant applause which the opera audience had shewn itself ever ready to bestow on their favourites among the singers.  Senesino was one of the first that discovered this benevolent propensity in the English, and he laboured by a vigorous exertion of all his powers, to cultivate and improve that good opinion which had been conceived of him on his first appearance among us; and it was not long before he began to feel his own importance.  Handel was not a proud man, but he was capricious: In his comparison of the merits of a composer and those of a singer, he estimated the latter at a very low rate, and affected to treat Senesino with a degree of indifference that the other could but ill brook; in short, they were upon very ill terms almost from the time of their first coming together; but in a year or two after Faustina’s arrival, [301] the flame of civil discord burst forth, and all was disorder and confusion.  The two women were soon sensible, from the applause bestowed upon Senesino, that the favour of an English audience was worth courting; and in proportion as it appeared desirable, each of them began to grow jealous of the other: Senesino had no rival, but each of the women was possessed of talents sufficient to engage a very strong party.




[Senesino’s portrait]

FRANCESCO BERNARDO SENESINO, a native of Sienna, as his surname imports, was a singer in the opera at Dresden in the year 1719, at the same time with Signora Margarita Durastanti.  In consequence of his engagement with the directors of the academy, Mr. Handel went to Dresden, and entered into a contract with both these persons, as also with Berenstadt, to sing in the opera at [307] London, the former at a salary of fifteen hundred pounds for the season.  Senesino had a very fine even-toned voice, but of rather a narrow compass; some called it a mezzo soprano, others a contralto, it was nevertheless wonderfully flexible: Besides this he was a graceful actor, and in the pronunciation of recitative had not his fellow in Europe.  His first appearance was in the opera of Mutius Scaevola, represented in the year 1721.

            It has been already mentioned, that notwithstanding Senesino was so excellent and useful a singer, as to be in a great measure the support of the opera, Handel and he agreed but ill together; and that a short time after the arrival of Faustina, the disputes among the singers rose to such a height, as threatened the ruin of the opera.  Handel suspected that the example of Senesino had given encouragement to that refractory spirit which he found rising in the two contending females; and being determined to strike at the root of the evil, he proposed to the directors to discard Senesino; but they refusing to consent, Handel refused also to compose for him any longer, or indeed to have any further concern with him.  A year or two afterwards the academy broke up, after having flourished for more than nine years.

            The academy being thus dissolved, some of the nobility raised a new subscription for an opera at Lincoln’s-Inn fields, in which Porpora was engaged to compose, and Senesino to sing.  The success of this undertaking will be the subject of a future page; Senesino continued in the service of the nobility, singing at Lincoln’s Inn fields theatre, and afterwards at the Haymarket, which Handel had quitted, till about the year 1735, when, having acquired the sum of fifteen thousand pounds, he retired to Sienna, the place of his nativity, and built a handsome house, which, upon his decease, he bequeathed, together with the whole of his fortune, to his relations.

            Signora MARGARITA DURASTANTI was engaged by Mr. Handel at the same time with Senesino, and came with him into England.  She sung in the operas composed by Handel, Bononcini, and Attilio, till the year 1723. […]



[…] For the circumstances of this [i.e. the Cuzzoni-Faustina] famous dispute recourse has been had to some persons of distinguished rank, leaders of the two parties which it gave rise to; and as all animosity between them is now subsided, the relation of each appears to be such as may safely be relied on.

            Till the time of Faustina’s arrival, Cuzzoni as a female singer was in full possession of the public favour; the songs which Mr. Handel gave her were composed with the utmost solicitude to display her talents to advantage, as appears by the songs “Affanni del pensier,” in Otho, “Da tanti affanni oppressa,” “Sen vola lo sparvier,” and “E per monti e per piano,” in Admetus, and others.  She had driven Durastanti out of the kingdom; Mrs. Robinson quitted the stage about the same time, so that for three seasons she remained without a rival.  The consciousness of her great abilities, and the stubborn resistance of Senesino to Handel, had no small effect on the behaviour of Cuzzoni: She too could at times be refractory; for some slight objection that she had to the song “Falsa imagine,” in Otho, she at the practice of it refused to sing it; when Mr. Handel referring to other instances of her stubbornness, took her round the waist, and swore, if she persisted, to throw her out of the window.  It was high time therefore to look out for the means of quieting this rebellious spirit, and, to effect his purpose, nothing seemed to bid so fair as the engagement of Faustina.

            As Handel had taken the pains to compose songs peculiarly adapted to the powers and excellencies of Cuzzoni, he was not less solicitous to display those of Faustina; accordingly he made for her the airs “Alla sua gabbia d’oro,” in Alexander, in the performance whereof she emulated the liquid articulation of the nightingale, and charmed the unprejudiced part of her hearers into extasy; as also “Vedeste mai sul prato,” in Siroe, “Gelosia spietato alletto,” in Admetus, and many others.

            From the account above given of Cuzzoni and Faustina, it appears that they were possessed of very different talents.  The design of the directors in producing them both on the same stage, was to form a pleasing contrast between the powers of expression and execution, that of Handel was to get rid of Cuzzoni; [...]



[...] She [i.e. Faustina] remained in England a short time after Cuzzoni, and in 1728 sung in the operas of Admetus and Siroe; but, upon the disagreement between Handel and the directors of the opera, which terminated in the dissolution of the Royal Academy, she too left England, [...]



It has been already mentioned that the consequence of the dispute between the nobility and Mr. Handel, and the determination of the former to support Senesino, was the utter dissolution of the academy; but the nobility raised a new subscription for an opera to be represented at the theatre in Lincoln’s-Inn Fields, and established a direction of twelve of their own body, who in the conduct thereof [318] resolved to act without the controul of such as should be retained to assist in it, whether composers or singers; although of these latter, Senesino was one, and indeed the chief.  Seeing this formidable association, Handel had nothing left but to enter into an agreement with Heidegger, who, though old, was yet living, for carrying on an opera in conjunction, for the short term of three years, at the Haymarket.  Upon the conclusion of this agreement, Handel found himself under a necessity of going to Italy for the purpose of engaging singers.  After a short stay abroad, he returned with Fabri, and another Castrato; Strada, surnamed del Po, and Bertolli; the two last were women, and the former of them a very fine singer.  He also engaged a German named Reimschneider, a bass singer, and some other persons of less account.  The winter after his arrival Handel began his contest with the nobility by the representation of his opera of Lotharius, on the sixteenth of November, 1729.  This was succeeded by Parthenope, with which he closed the season.

Handel continued at the Haymarket till the expiration of the term for which he stood engaged with Heidegger, during which he composed and performed successively the operas of Porus, Sosarmes, Orlando, and AEtius: At the end thereof he, together with old Mr. Smith, went abroad in quest of singers: In Italy he heard Farinelli, a young man of astonishing talents, and also Carestini, and, which is very strange, preferring the latter, he engaged with him, and returned to England.  With this assistance he ventured to undertake an opera at the Haymarket on his own bottom.

During all this time the adversaries of Handel went on with but little better success; they performed a variety of operas, composed by sundry authors whose names are now forgotten, but to audiences that were seldom numerous enough to defray the ordinary expences of the representation.  At length they entered into engagements with Porpora, a musician who had distinguished himself abroad, and Farinelli, and, took possession of the Haymarket theatre, which Handel at the end of the season had abandoned.  Of the success of this new association there will be farther occasion to speak: at present it may suffice to say, that, having two such singers as Farinelli and Senesino at their command, the nobility had greatly the advantage,[2] and for one season at least were great gainers.  It is true they were losers in the end, for Cibber, who was living at the time, and kept a [319] watchful eye on the theatres, asserts that Farinelli during his stay here had been known to sing to an audience of five and thirty pounds.



            The operas of Porpora, as musical compositions, had little to recommend them: That of Ariadne was looked upon as inferior to the Ariadne of Handel, in which, excepting the minuet at the end of the overture, there is scarce a good air.  Dr. Arbuthnot however, in a humourous [sic] pamphlet written on occasion of the disputes about the opera, entitled Harmony in an Uproar, calls that of Handel the Nightingale, the other the Cuckoo*.

            In the year 1735 Porpora published and dedicated to Frederic, prince of Wales, who taken part with him in the dispute with Handel, Twelve Italian Cantatas, which at this day are greatly esteemed. […]

            GIOVANNI ADOLFO HASSE was born near Hamburg, and received his first instructions in that city. […] In the composition of operas he was esteemed abroad the first of the German masters; and the fame of his abilities reaching England at the time of the rupture between Handel and the English nobility, he was employed by them, and composed the opera Artaxerxes, written by Metastasio, and [324] some others, which were represented here, and received great advantage from the performance of Farinelli.  He married Faustina soon after her return from England: It does not appear that he was ever here himself; it seems he was strongly pressed at the time above-mentioned to come to London, but Mr. Handel being then living, he declined the invitation, not choosing to become a competitor with one so greatly his superior.


            The contest between Handel and the nobility was carried on with so much disadvantage to the former, that he found himself under the necessity of quitting the Haymarket theatre at the time when his opponents were wishing to get possession of it; and in the issue each party shifted its ground by an exchange of situations.  The nobility removed[3] with Farinelli, Senesino, and Montagnana, a bass singer, who had sung for Handel in Sosarmes and other of his operas; and Handel, with Strada, Bertolli, and Waltz, a bass singer, who had been his cook, went to Lincoln’s-Inn fields.  Here he continued but for a short time; for, finding himself unable singly to continue the opposition, he removed to Covent Garden, and entered into some engagements with Rich, the particulars of which are not known; save that in discharge of a debt that he had contracted with him in consequence thereof, he some years after set to music an English opera entitled Alceste, written by Dr. Smollett, and for which Rich was at great expence in a set of scenes painted by Servandoni; but it was never performed.  Handel afterwards adapted this music to Dryden’s Song for St. Cecilia’s Day, 1687, printed in the fourth part of his Miscellaneous Poems, and performed it together with Alexander’s Feast.

            Such as are not acquainted with the personal character of Handel, [325] will wonder at his seeming temerity, in continuing so long, an opposition which tended but to impoverish him; but he was a man of a firm and intrepid spirit, no way a slave to the passion of avarice, and would have gone greater lengths than he did, rather than submit to those whom he had ever looked on as his inferiors: But though his ill success for a series of years had not affected his spirit, there is reason to believe that his genius was in some degree damped by it; for whereas of his earlier operas, that is to say, those composed by him between the year 1710 and 1728, the merits are so great, that few are able to say which is to be preferred; those composed after that period have so little to recommend them, that few would take them for the work of the same author.  In the former class are Radamistus, Otho, Tamerlane, Rodelinda, Alexander, and Admetus, in either of which scarcely an indifferent air occurs; whereas in Parthenope, Porus, Sosarmes, Orlando, Aetius, Ariadne, and the rest down to 1736, it is a matter of some difficulty to find a good one.

            The nobility were no sooner settled at the Haymarket, than Farinelli appeared in the meridian of his glory; all the world resorted thither, even aldermen and other citizens, with their wives and daughters, to so great a degree, that in the city it became a proverbial expression, that those who had not heard Farinelli sing and Foster preach, were not qualified to appear in genteel company*. [326]

            But it fared far otherwise with Handel, who, after his engagement with Rich, performed to almost empty houses; and, after a contest, which lasted about three years, during which time he was obliged to draw out of the funds almost the whole of what in his prosperous days he had there invested, he gave out; and discovered to the world that in this dreadful conflict he had not only suffered in his fortune but his health*.  To get rid of that dejection of mind, which his repeated disappointments had brought on him, he was advised to the use of the waters at Tunbridge, and a regimen calculated to assist their operation; but his disorder was so deeply rooted, that by several particulars in his behaviour, which it would give the reader no pleasure to be informed of, he discovered that his mental powers were affected; and, to complete his distress, one of those hands, which had frequently administered such delight to others, was now become useless to himself; in a word, the palsy had seized his right arm, and the whole of the limb was by a sudden stroke rendered incapable of performing its natural functions.

            Medicines having been found ineffectual to remove his disorder, he was prevailed on, but with great difficulty, to resort to Aix la Chapelle; accordingly he went thither, and submitted to such sweats, excited by the vapour baths there, as astonished every one.  After a few essays of this kind, during which his spirits seemed to rise rather than sink under an excessive perspiration, his disorder left him; and in a few hours after the last operation he went to the great church of the city, and got to the organ, on which he played in such a manner that men imputed his cure to a miracle.  Having received so much benefit from the baths, he prudently determined to stay at Aix la Chapelle, till the end of six weeks from the time of his arrival there, and at the end thereof returned to London in perfect health.



It is now necessary to recur to a former period, and in an orderly course of narration to relate such other particulars respecting the [328] subject of this history, as were necessarily postponed to make way for the above account of Mr. Handel.

Greene, who already has been mentioned as an ingenious young man, was got to be organist of St. Paul’s; and having, upon the decease of Dr. Croft, in 1727, been appointed organist and composer to the royal chapel in his room, was thereby placed at the head of his profession in England.  He courted the friendship of Mr. Handel with a degree of assiduity that, to say the truth, bordered upon servility; and in his visits to him at Burlington-house, and at the duke of Chadois’s, was rather more frequent than welcome.  At length Mr. Handel discovering that he was paying the same court to his rival, Bononcini, as to himself, would have nothing more to say to him, and gave orders to be denied whenever Greene came to visit him.

Some particulars respecting Greene and his first appearance in the world have been given in the foregoing part of this volume.  The busy part he acted at this time, his attachment to Bononcini, and his opposition to Mr. Handel, make it necessary in this place to resume his history.



In the disputes between Handel and Bononcini, Greene had acted with such duplicity, as induced the former to renounce all intercourse with him; and from that time no one was so industrious as he in decrying the compositions of Handel, or applauding those of his rival.  He was a member of the Academy of ancient Music, and, with a view to exalt the character of Bononcini, produced in the year 1728 the madrigal ‘In una siepe ombrosa,’ which gave rise to a dispute that terminated in the disgrace of his friend.  Not able to endure the slights of those who had marked and remembered his pertinacious behaviour in this business, Dr. Greene left the academy, and drew off with him the boys of St. Paul’s cathedral, and some other persons his immediate dependents; and fixing on the great room called the Apollo at the Devil tavern, for the performance of a concert, under his sole management, gave occasion to a saying not so witty as sarcastical, viz. that Dr. Greene was gone to the Devil.




THe conduct of Pepusch was very different from that of Greene.  Upon Mr. Handel’s arrival in England, he acquiesced in the opinion of his superior merit, and chose a track for himself in which he was sure to meet with no obstruction, and in which none could disturb him without going out of their way to do it.  He had been retained by the duke of Chandois, and assisted as composer to his chapel, till he gave place to Handel; after that he professed the teaching of the principles of musical science, [...]



            And here it may not be improper to mention an anecdote in musical history, which reflects some credit on this institution [i.e. Academy of Ancient Music].  In the interval between the secession of Dr. Greene and Mr. Gates, viz. in the month of February, 1732, when the conflict between Mr. Handel and the nobility had rendered the situation of the former almost desperate, the Academy being in possession of a copy of the oratorio of Esther, originally composed for the duke of Chandois by Mr. Handel, performed it by their own members and the children of the chapel royal; and the applause with which it was there received, suggested to the author the thought of performing it himself, and of exhibiting in future during the Lent season, that species of musical [349] entertainment.  So that to this accident it may be said to be in a great measure owing, that the public for a series of years past have not only been delighted with hearing, but are now in possession of, some of the most valuable compositions of that great master.



[...] The taste of [John] Immyns [a member of the Academy of Ancient Music] was altogether for old music, which he had been taught to admire by Dr. Pepusch; and this he indulged to such a degree, that he looked upon Mr. Handel and Bononcini as the great corrupters of the science. [...]



[…] Mr. Tyers opened it [i.e. Vauxhall Gardens] with an advertisement of a Ridotto al Fresco, a term which the people of this country had till that time been strangers to.  These entertainments were several times repeated in the course of the summer, and numbers resorted to partake of them; and this encouraged the proprietor to make his garden a place of musical entertainment for every evening during the summer season; to this end he was at great expence in decorating the gardens with paintings; he engaged a band of excellent musicians; he issued silver tickets for admission at a guinea each; and, receiving great encouragement, he set up an organ in the orchestra, and in a conspicuous part of the garden erected a fine statue of Mr. Handel, the work of Mr. Roubiliac.


The account given of Mr. Handel in the preceding pages, has been continued down to the year 1736, at which time the restoration of his health, which had suffered greatly in the contest with the nobility, engrossed his whole attention.  Having happily got the better of that disorder, which boded little less than a privation of his mental faculties, he returned to England, and at Covent-Garden made an effort to regain the public favour by the performance of the operas of Atalanta*, Justin, Arminius, and Berenice; these succeeded but ill; and the indifference of the town towards him may be judged of by the fruitless endeavours of his friends to render the publication of the above compositions beneficial to him, evidenced by a subscription to them severally, that hardly defrayed the expence of printing. [354]

            In the composition of the two subsequent operas of Faramond and Alexander Severus, performed in 1737, he was indemnified against all risque [sic] of loss by an engagement with the late duke of Dorset, then earl of Middlesex, in virtue whereof he composed them both, and was paid by his lordship the sum of one thousand pounds.  Three other operas, namely Xerxes, Hymen, and Deidamia, of his composition, were represented between the years 1737 and 1740, after which Handel gave another direction to his studies, better suited, as he himself used to declare, to the circumstances of a man advancing in years, than that of adapting music to such vain and trivial poetry as the musical drama is generally made to consist of.  This resolution led him to reflect on that kind of representation, the Concerto Spirituale, so frequent in the Romish countries, and which, by the name of the Oratorio is nearly of as great antiquity as the opera itself, and determined him to the choice of sacred subjects for the exercise of his genius.  He was well acquainted with the Holy Scriptures, and was sensible that the sublime sentiments with which they abound would give opportunities of displaying his greatest talents: He had made the experiment in the anthems which he had composed for the duke of Chandos, and in four others performed at the coronation of the late king; and as to the risque [sic] that an entertainment so little known in this country as the oratorio would be disrelished, of that too he was able to form some judgment, for in the year 1733, upon occasion of the solemnization of a public act in the university of Oxford, he performed the oratorio of Athaliah, and the profits thereof were so considerable as in some degree to repair the damage his fortunes had sustained in that dreadful conflict in which he was then engaged.

            Other considerations suggested to him the almost certain benefit of such an undertaking: The performance of a sacred drama would consist with the solemnity of the Lent season, during which stage representations in this as in other Christian countries are in general forbidden; but, above all, this served to recommend it, that it could be conducted at a small expence: No costly scenery was required, nor dresses for the performers, other than a suit of black, with which all persons that appeared in public were supposed to be provided*.  Instead of airs that required the delicacy of Cuzzoni, or the [355] volubility of Faustina to execute, he hoped to please by songs, the beauties whereof were within the comprehension of less fastidious hearers than in general frequent the opera, namely, such as were adapted to a tenor voice, from the natural firmness and inflexibility whereof little more is ever expected than an articulate utterance of the words, and a just expression of the melody; and he was happy in the assistance of a singer* possessed of these and many other valuable qualities.  He knew also that he could attach to him the real lovers and judges of music by those original beauties, which he was able to display in the composition of fugue and chorus; and these being once gained, the taste of the town was likely to fall in, as it frequently does, with the opinion of those who are best qualified to give a direction to it.  To such a performance the talents of a second-rate singer, and persons used to choir service were adequate.  Signora Francesina, and afterwards Signora Frasi, and some others in succession, were engaged on terms comparatively easy; and the chapel royal and the choir of St. Paul’s furnished boys and chorus singers sufficient in abilities and number to answer his purpose.

            The former performances of the oratorios of Athaliah, Deborah, and Esther, were but essays towards the introduction of this kind of entertainment; and it is upon very good authority asserted, that Mr. Handel was induced to this attempt by the performance of Esther at the Academy of ancient Music in the month of February, 1731, which was so greatly applauded, that in the following year, in the Lent season, he performed it, as also Deborah, at Covent-Garden theatre.  Upon this occasion he also gratified the public with a species of music of which he may be said to be the inventor, namely, the organ-concerto.  Few but his intimate friends were sensible that on this instrument he had scarce his equal in the world; and he could not but be conscious that he professed a style of performing on it that at least had the charm of novelty to recommend it.  From the third of his Sonatas for two violins or hautboys, which he had composed some years before, he had made an overture to Esther; and of [356] the last movement in the same composition inserting in it sundry solo passages adapted to the instrument, and adding to it a prelude and an air singularly elegant; he now formed a concerto, the beauties whereof he displayed by his own masterly performance.  It must be confessed that this was not that true organ-style which a profound judge of music would admire, and of which Handel had shewn himself a complete master in the voluntaries and fugues for the organ published by him; but the full harmony of the instrumental parts in this composition, contrasted with those eloquent solo passages interspersed in it, protracting the cadences, and detaining the ear in a delightful suspence [sic], had a wonderful effect.

            Having thus made an experiment of the disposition of the town towards these entertainments, Handel determined to rest his future fortunes on the success of them; accordingly, on his return to London from Aix la Chapelle, he set to music Mr. Dryden’s ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, entitled Alexander’s Feast, and therein introduced a trio, which he had formerly set to the words ‘Quel fior che al alba ride,’ which, with the addition of another part, he adapted so well to the chorus ‘Let old Timotheus yield the prize,’ that most men took it for an original composition.  The success of this performance determined him in his resolution to addict himself for the future to this species of composition, and accordingly he persisted in it with a few occasional deviations for the remainder of his life.  And finding that his own performance on the organ never failed to command the attention of his hearers, he set himself to compose, or rather make up, concertos for that instrument*, and uniformly interposed one in the course of the evening’s performance.

The applause bestowed on the oratorios of Handel, was at least equal to that of the best of his operas; but, such was the taste of the town, that he was constrained to give these entertainments a dramatic form; for he was used to say, that, to an English audience, music joined to poetry was not an entertainment for an evening, and that something that had the appearance of a plot or fable was necessary to keep their attention awake.  Perhaps he might be mistaken in this opinion; and the success of Israel in Egypt, L’Allegro ed Il Penseroso, [357] and Messiah, seem to indicate the contrary; nevertheless it determined his conduct with respect to these entertainments, and frequently induced him to have recourse to some small poet for his assistance in forming a drama, which, without regard to sentiment or language, or indeed any thing [sic] but the conduct of the drama, was to be the mere vehicle of his music; and such, for instance, are the oratorios of Esther,[4] Saul, Susanna, and many others.  Some of the pretended admirers of music were for carrying the illusion still farther, and offered many reasons, such as they were, in favour of a real representation of the history which was the subject of the entertainment; and would have had to give one instance as an example of the rest, Jacob and Joseph and his brethren personated on the stage, with all the aids of action and scenic decoration.  In some of his performances, included under the general denomination of oratorios, such as Alexander’s Feast, Israel in Egypt, and L’Allegro ed Il Penseroso, and others equally unsusceptible of a dramatic form, the idea of personal representation would have been absurd, and therefore the audience acquiesced in that disposition of words and sentiments, which in the judgment of the musical composer was best [358] calculated to display the powers of his art; and these never appeared to so great advantage as when he made use of passages selected from Holy Writ for the subjects of his compositions; of this there needs no other evidence than his Israel in Egypt and the Messiah, concerning which latter work there are some particulars, which for his honour deserve to be remembered.  It was performed for the first time at Covent Garden in the year 1741, by the name of a Sacred Oratorio.  As it consisted chiefly of chorus, and the airs contained in it were greatly inferior to most of his operas and former oratorios, it was but coldly received by the audience; the consciousness whereof, and a suspicion that the public were growing indifferent towards these entertainments, determined him to try the temper of the people of Ireland; accordingly he went to Dublin in the year 1741, and gave a performance of the Messiah for the benefit of the prisoners in that city.  He returned to London in the year 1741-2, and performed an oratorio, consisting of passages selected from the Samson Agonistes of Milton, which was received with such applause, as seemed to insure him success in his future attempts of that kind.

            About this time he published by subscription twelve grand Concertos.  To this undertaking Handel was probably encouraged by the good success of a former publication of the like kind, namely, Six Concertos composed on occasion of the marriage of the prince of Orange with the princess royal, and distinguished by the name of his Hautboy Concertos, which being made up of fugues taken from his lessons, and from six fugues for the organ, composed by him as studies, had great merit.  But as to these twelve Concertos, they appear to have been made in a hurry, and in the issue fell very short of answering the expectations that were formed of them, and inclined men to think that the composition of music merely instrumental, and of many parts, was not Handel’s greatest excellence.

            In the succeeding year he had a flight return of that disorder which had driven him to seek relief from the baths of Aix la Chapelle; and, to add to this misfortune, an opposition to him and his entertainment was set on foot by some persons of distinction, who by card assemblies, and other amusements, at that time not usual in the Lent season, endeavoured to make his audiences as thin as possible.  The effects of this association he felt for a season or two, in the course whereof he frequently performed to houses that would not [359] his expences; but at length a change of sentiment in the public began to manifest itself; the Messiah was received with universal applause, and has ever since been considered as one of the most sublime of his compositions.  In gratitude for the favour shewn him by the public, and actuated by motives of benevolence, he performed the Messiah for the benefit of an institution, which then stood in need of every assistance, the Foundling-hospital; and this he not only continued to do for several years, but, by presenting the charity with a copy of the score and parts of this composition, gave them such a title to it as seemed to import an exclusive right to the performance of it.  This act of bounty was so ill understood by some of the governors of that foundation, that they formed a resolution for an application to parliament to establish their supposed right; in short, to prohibit, under penalties, the performance of the Messiah by any others than Mr. Handel and themselves.  To facilitate the passing of a law for the purpose, Mr. Handel’s concurrence was asked, but he was so little sensible of the propriety of it, that upon the bare mention of it he broke out into a furious passion, which he vented in the following terms: ‘For vat sal de Fondlings put mein oratorio in de Parlement?  Te Teuffel! mein musick sal nat go to de Parlement.’

            The retreat of Handel to Ireland, and the favourable reception he met with at Dublin, awakened the people of this country to a sense of his merit, and was a kind of reproach on those who had necessitated him to seek protection in that kingdom; so that his return hither was facilitated with every testimony of esteem and respect, and the strongest assurances of future encouragement.  His Messiah was frequently performed to such audiences, as he could no otherwise accommodate than by erecting seats on the stage, to such a number as scarcely left room for the performers.  In this prosperous state did his affairs go on, till he was afflicted with the misfortune of blindness, which, great as it was, did not totally incapacitate him from study, or the power of entertaining the public.  The circumstances of this misfortune, as also of his death, are reserved for that which is meant to be the last period of the memoir here given of him.



[...] After continuing a few years at Drury-lane, [violinist Stefano] Carbonelli quitted his station there in favour of Mr. Richard Jones, and attached himself to Mr. Handel at the time when he began to perform oratorios. [...]



[...] He [i.e. Pietro Castrucci] succeeded Corbett as first violin at the opera-house, and led the opera for many years; but growing old, Handel had a mind to place a young man, named John Clegg, a scholar of Dubourg, at the head of his orchestra: Castrucci being in very necessitous circumstances, and not in the least conscious of any failure in his hand, was unwilling to quit his post; upon which Handel, in order to convince him of his inability to fill it, composed a concerto, in which the second concertino was so contrived, as to require an equal degree of execution with the first*; this he gave to Clegg, who in the performance of it gave such proofs of his superiority, as reduced Castrucci to the necessity of yielding the palm to his rival. [...]

Clegg succeeded to the favour of Handel, and under his patronage enjoyed the applause of the town. [...]



JOHN RAVENSCROFT [although a ripieno violin,] was able to do justice to a concerto of Corelli, or an overture of Handel. [...]



[...] The first of these works [i.e. Concertos and sonatas for flute by Giuseppe San Martini] was published in the year 1738, when the concertos of Corelli and Geminiani, and the overtures of Mr. Handel were become familiar, there being scarce any concert in which the compositions of these two masters did not make a considerable part of the evening’s entertainment; and with respect to Corelli, this had been the case for almost years. [...]



[...] He [i.e. organist John James] left behind him a son, baptized by the name of Handel, who now rows a sculler on the Thames.



As a theorist, the character of Rameau stands very high; and as a testimony to his merit in this particular, it is here mentioned as a fact, that Mr. Handel was ever used to speak of him in terms of great respect. [...]




THE termination of the dispute between Handel and his adversaries, as it left him in the quiet possession of that empire, in which it seems to have been his fixed resolution never to admit a rival, though it totally extinguished emulation, was in general favourable to music.  Covent-Garden theatre was an excellent seminary; and by the performance of the oratorio there, the practice of music was greatly improved throughout the kingdom.  As to its precepts, the general opinion was that they needed no farther cultivation: Dr. Pepusch had prescribed to the students in harmony a set of rules, which no one was hardy enough to transgress; the consequence thereof was a disgusting uniformity of style in the musical productions of the time; while these were adhered to, fancy laboured under the severest restrictions, and all improvement in the science of composition was at a stand.



The contests, which had long divided the votaries of harmony into factions, had in some measure subsided upon the retreat of Cuzzoni and the departure of Bononcini; but the ill success of the opera after the dissolution of the Royal Academy, and the shipwreck of some fortunes engaged in the support of it, induced the people to turn their eyes towards Mr. Handel, and to look on him as the only person from whom, in the way of musical performance, they were to expect any solid and rational entertainment.  Greene was sensible of this; and there being in England no competitor of Mr. Handel to whom he could attach himself, he pursued his own track, and endeavoured as a cathedral musician to exalt his character to the utmost.  With this view he published in score forty anthems, in a style of composition that furnishes occasion for some remarks. [...]



            We are now arrived at that which may be considered as the last period of Mr. Handel’s life, commencing at that happy conjunction of events, which left him without a competitor, and disposed the public to receive with the utmost approbation whatever he should in future produce for their entertainment.

            The oratorio of Sampson, performed in 1743, was followed in the succeeding year by Semele, written by Mr. Congreve, which, though not a sacred composition, but an opera founded on a poetical fiction, was suffered to be performed in that season, during which theatrical representations are forbidden.  He had now given a permanent direction to this studies, and composed in succession the entertainments of Susanna, Belshazzar, Hercules, the Occasional [408] Oratorio, Judas Maccabaeus, Joseph, Alexander Balus, Joshua, Solomon, Theodora*, the Choice of Hercules, Jephtha, and an entertainment called the Triumph of Time and Truth, most of which were received with general applause.  In these he took an ample scope for the exercise of that which was his greatest talent, the sublime in music, and this he displayed to the astonishment of every one in the choruses to these entertainments.

            In the beginning of the year 1751 he was alarmed by a disorder in his eyes, which, upon consulting with the surgeons, he was told was an incipient Gutta serena.  From the moment this opinion of his case was communicated to him, his spirits forsook him; and that fortitude which had supported him under afflictions of another kind, deserted him in this, scarce leaving him patience to wait for that crisis of his disorder in which he might hope for relief.  He had been prepared to expect a total privation of the sense of seeing, yet with hopes that it might prove only temporary, and that by the help of manual operation he might be restored to sight.  He therefore, when the loss of it was confirmed, the more readily submitted to the hand of Mr. Samuel Sharp, of Guy’s hospital; but the repeated attempts to relieve him were fruitless, and he was given to expect that a freedom from pain in the visual organs was all that he had to hope, for the remainder of his days.[5]  In this forlorn state, reflecting on his inability to conduct his entertainments, he called to his aid Mr. Smith, a son of him who had for many years been his copyist and faithful friend; and with this assistance oratorios continued to be performed even to that Lent season in which he died, and this with no other abatement in his own performance than the accompaniment by the harpsichord; the rich vein of his fancy ever supplying him with subjects for extempore voluntaries on the organ, and his hand retaining the power of executing whatever his invention suggested.

            The loss of his sight, and the prospect of his approaching dissolution, wrought a great change in his temper and general behaviour.  He was a man of blameless morals, and throughout his life manifested a deep sense of religion.  In conversation he would frequently [409] declare the pleasure he felt in setting the Scriptures to music; and how much the contemplating the many sublime passages in the Psalms had contributed to his edification; and now that he found himself near his end, these sentiments were improved into solid and rational piety, attended with a calm and even temper of mind.  For the last two or three years of his life he was used to attend divine service in his own parish church of St. George, Hanover-square, where, during the prayers, the eyes that at this instant are employed in a faint portrait of his excellencies, have seen him on his knees, expressing by his looks and gesticulations the utmost fervour of devotion.

            Towards the beginning of the year 1758 he began to find himself decline apace; and that general debility which was coming on him was rendered still more alarming by a total loss of appetite.  When that symptom appeared he considered his recovery as hopeless, and, resigning himself to his fate, expired on the fourteenth day of April, 1759.  He was buried in Westminster-abbey, the dean, Dr. Pearce, bishop of Rochester, assisted by the choir, performing the funeral solemnity.  Over the place of his interment is a monument, designed and executed by Roubiliac, representing him as full length, in an erect posture, with a music paper in his hand, inscribed ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth,’ with the notes to which those words re set in his Messiah.  He died worth about twenty thousand pounds, almost the whole whereof he bequeathed to his relations abroad.

            Such as were but little acquainted with Handel are unable to characterize him otherwise than by his excellencies in his art, and certain foibles in his behaviour, which he was never studious to conceal: Accordingly we are told that he had a great appetite, and that when he was provoked he would break out into profane expressions.  These are facts that cannot be denied; but there are sundry particulars that tend to mark his character but little known, and which may possibly be remembered, when those that serve only to shew that he was subject to human passions are forgotten.  In his religion he was of the Lutheran profession; in which he was not such a bigot as to decline a general conformity with that of the country which he had chosen for his residence; at the same time that he entertained very serious notions touching its importance.  These he would frequently express in his remarks on the constitution of the English [410] government; and he would often speak of it as one of the great felicities of his life that he was settled in a country where no man suffers of molestation or inconvenience on account of his religious principles.

            His attainments in literature cannot be supposed to have been very great, seeing that the studies of his profession absorbed him; and the prodigious number of his compositions will account for a much greater portion of time than any man could well be supposed able to spare from sleep and the necessary recruits of nature; and yet he was well acquainted with the Latin and Italian languages; the latter he had rendered so familiar to him, that few natives seemed to understand it better.  Of the English also he had such a degree of knowledge, as to be susceptible of the beauties of our best poets; so that in the multiplicity of his compositions to English words, he very seldom stood in need of assistance in the explanation of a passage for the purpose of suiting the sense with correspondent sounds.  The style of his discourse was very singular; he pronounced the English as the Germans do, but his phrase was exotic, and partook of the idiom of the different countries in which he had resided, a circumstance that rendered his conversation exceedingly entertaining*.

            The course of his life was regular and uniform.  For some years after his arrival in England his time was divided between study and practice, that is to say, in composing for the opera, and in conducting concerts at the duke of Rutland’s, the earl of Burlington’s, and the houses of others of the nobility who were patrons of music, and his friends.  There were also frequent concerts for the royal family at [411] the queen’s library in the green Park, in which the princess royal, the duke of Rutland, lord Cowper, and other persons of distinction performed; of these Handel had the direction*.  As these connections dissolved, he gradually retreated into a state of privacy and retirement, and shewed no solicitude to form new ones.  His dwelling was on the south side of Brooke-street, near Hanover-square, in a house now in the occupation of Sir James Wright, four doors from Bond-street, and two from the passage to the stable-yard.  His stated income was six hundred pounds, granted him by queen Anne, another of two hundred pounds, granted by Geo. I. and another of the same amount, for teaching the princesses.  The rest was precarious; for some time it depended upon his engagements with the directors of the Academy, and afterwards upon the profits arising from the musical performances carried on by him on his own account.  However he had at all times the prudence to regulate his expence by his income.  At the time of his contest with the nobility he had ten thousand pounds in the funds, and of this he sold out the last shilling, and lived upon his pensions, which, by an interest that he had with the minister, were punctually paid him.  Some years after, when he found himself in a state of affluence, and the produce of his oratorios amounted to more than two thousand pounds a season, he continued his wonted course of living, which was equally distant from the extremes of parsimony and profusion.  In the latter part of his life he forbore yielding to a temptation, which few in such circumstances as he was then in would, in these times be able to resist, that of keeping a carriage.  Indeed, when his sight failed him, he was necessitated occasionally to hire a chariot and horses, especially in his visits to the city for the purpose of investing his money, which he constantly disposed of at the end of the Lent season, under the direction of Mr. Gael Morris, a broker of the first eminence, whom he used to meet and confer with a Garraway’s or Batson’s coffee-house.

            His social affections were not very strong; and to this it may be imputed that he spent his whole life in a state of celibacy; that he [412] had no female attachment of another kind may be ascribed to a better reason.  His intimate friends were but few; those that seemed to possess most of his confidence were Goupy, the painter, and one Hunter, a scarlet-dyer at Old Ford, near Bow, who pretended a taste for music, and at a great expence had copies made for him of all the music of Handel that he could procure.  He had others in the city; but he seemed to think that the honour of his acquaintance was a reward sufficient for the kindness they expressed for him.

            A temper and conduct like this, was in every view of it favourable to his pursuits; no impertinent visits, no idle engagements to card parties, or other expedients to kill time, were suffered to interrupt the course of his studies.  His invention was for ever teeming with new ideas, and his impatience to be delivered of them kept him closely employed.  He had a favourite Rucker harpsichord, the keys whereof, by incessant practice, were hollowed like the bowl of a spoon.  He wrote very fast, but with a degree of impatience proportioned to the eagerness that possesses men of genius, of seeing their conceptions reduced into form.  And here it may not be impertinent to observe, what every person conversant in his works will be inclined to believe, viz. that his style was original and self-formed; and were evidence of the fact wanting, it is capable of proof by his own testimony, for in a conversation with a very intelligent person now living, on the course of his studies, Mr. Handel declared that, after he became master of the rudiments of his art, he forbore to study the works of others, and ever made it a rule to follow the suggestions of his own fancy.

            Like many others of his profession, he had a great love for painting; and, till his sight failed him, among the few amusements he gave into, the going to view collections of pictures upon sale was the chief.

            He was in his person a large made and very portly man.  His gait, which was ever sauntering, was rather ungraceful, as it had in it somewhat of that rocking motion, which distinguishes those whose legs are bowed.  His features were finely marked, and the general cast of his countenance placid, bespeaking dignity attempered with benevolence, and every quality of the heart that has a tendency to beget confidence and insure esteem.  Few of the pictures extant of him are to any tolerable degree likenesses, except one painted abroad, [413] from a print whereof the engraving given of him in this volume is taken: In the print of him by Houbraken, the features are too prominent; and in the mezzotinto after Hudson there is a harshness of aspects to which his countenance was a stranger; the most perfect resemblance of him is the statue on his monument, and in that the true lineaments of his face are apparent.

            As to his performance on the organ, the powers of speech are so limited, that it is almost a vain attempt to describe it otherwise than by its effects.  A fine and delicate touch, a Volant finger, and a ready delivery of passages the most difficult, are the praise of inferior artists: they were not noticed in Handel, whose excellences were of a far superior kind; and his amazing command of the instrument, the fullness of his harmony, the grandeur and dignity of his style, the copiousness of his imagination, and the fertility of his invention were qualities that absorbed every inferior attainment.  When he gave a concerto, his method in general was to introduce it with a voluntary movement on the diapason, which stole on the ear in a slow and solemn progression; the harmony close wrought, and as full as could possibly be expressed; the passages concatenated with stupendous art, the whole at the same time being perfectly intelligible, and carrying the appearance of great simplicity.  This kind of prelude was succeeded by the concerto itself, which he executed with a degree of spirit and firmness that no one ever pretended to equal.

            Such in general was the manner of his performance; but who shall describe its effects on his enraptured auditory! Silence, the truest applause, succeeded the instant that he addressed himself to the instrument, and that so profound, that it checked respiration, and seemed to controul the functions of nature, while the magic of his touch kept the attention of his hearers awake only to those enchanting sounds to which it gave utterance.

            Wonderful as it may seem, this command over the human passions is the known attribute of music; and by effects like these the poets have ever described it, always supposing in the hearers a mind susceptible of its charms.  But how are we to account for the influence of that harmony, of which we are now speaking, on those who, so far as regards music, may be said to have no passions, no affections on which it could operate?  In all theatrical representations a part only of the audience are judges of the merit of what they see and [414] hear, the rest are drawn together by motives in which neither taste nor judgment have any share: And, with respect to music, it is notorious that the greater number of mankind are destitute, though not of hearing, yet of that sense, which, superadded to the hearing, renders us susceptible of the harmony of musical sounds*; and in times when music was less fashionable than it is now, many of both sexes were ingenuous enough to confess that they wanted this sense, by saying, ‘I have no ear for music:’ Persons such as these, who, had they been left to themselves, would have interrupted the hearing of others by their talking, were by the performance of Handel not only charmed into silence, but were generally the loudest in their acclamations.  This, though it could be said to be genuine applause, was a much stronger proof of the power of harmony, than the like effect on an audience composed only of judges and rational admirers of his art.

            There seems to be no necessary connection between those faculties that constitute a composer of music, and the powers of instrumental performance; on the contrary, the union of them in the same person, seems [415] as extraordinary as if a poet should be able to write a fine hand; nevertheless in the person of Handel all the perfections of the musical art seemed to concenter.  He had never been a master of the violin, and had discontinued the practice of it from the time he took to the harpsichord at Hamburg; yet, whenever he had a mind to try the effect of any of his compositions for that instrument, his manner of touching it was such as the ablest masters would have been glad to imitate.  But what is more extraordinary, without a voice he was an excellent singer of such music as required more of the pathos of melody than a quick and voluble expression.  In a conversation with the author of this work he once gave a proof that a fine voice is not the principal requisite in vocal performance; the discourse was upon psalmody, when Mr. Handel asserted that some of the finest melodies used in the German churches were composed by Luther, particularly that which in England is sung to the hundredth psalm, and another, which himself sung at the time, and thereby gave occasion to this remark.  At a concert at the house of lady Rich he was prevailed on to sing a slow song, which he did in such a manner, that Farinelli, who was present, could hardly be persuaded to sing after him.

            The works of Handel come next to be considered; they have been judiciously classed by the author of his life, published in 1760, but are so multifarious, that they elude all but general criticism.  This may be remarked of his compositions, that the disparity among them is no way to be accounted for but upon the supposition that he wrote to two sorts of persons, the judicious and the vulgar; and this solicitude to please both seems to have been pretty nearly equal: The former he meant to delight by such airs as the following, viz. ‘Cara Sposa,’ in Rinaldo, ‘Ombra Cara,’ in Radamistus, ‘Affanni del pensier,’ in Otho, ‘Da tempestre,’ in Julius Caesar, ‘Di notte il Pellegrino,’ in Richard I. and ‘Spera si,’ in Admetus*; and the latter to fascinate by such as ‘Si caro,’ in Admetus, ‘See the conquering [416] hero comes,’ in Joshua, ‘Powerful Guardians,’ and ‘Come ever smiling Liberty,’ in Judas Maccabaeus, and very many others*.

            At the same time that he laboured to please his hearers, he seems not to have been unmindful of his own gratification; and if it be said, and of necessity it must be admitted, that many of his compositions were formed in haste, and without any attention to those critical moments, in which the powers of genius are at their spring tide, it is no less true that there are others which must be supposed to have been produced under the influence of the strongest enthusiasm, when the brightest illuminations irradiated his fancy, and he himself felt all that rapture which he meant to excite in others.

            In the first and highest class of Handel’s works no competent judge of their merits would hesitate to rank his first Te Deum, and the Jubilate, his coronation and other anthems, the Dettingen Te Deum, as it is called, and the choruses in his oratorios.  In many of these compositions, especially those choruses in his anthems in which the praises of God are celebrated, the power of his harmony is beyond conception; there is one in the anthem ‘O come let us sing unto the Lord,’ to the words ‘Rejoice in the Lord O ye righteous,’ in which nothing less is suggested to the imagination of the hearer than all the powers of the universe associated in the worship of its creator.  On the other hand, the music to those passages in the Psalms and in his Oratorios which breathe a spirit of humiliation and contrition, is [417] to the last degree soothing and pathetic; and, unassociated with the words, could scarce fail to excite sentiments corresponding with those of the poetry*.

            In the composition of music merely instrumental it seems that Handel regarded nothing more than the general effect.  Of all his productions of this class, scarce any appear to have been real studies, his lessons and fugues for the organ always excepted.  His overtures, excellent as they are, were composed as fast as he could write; and the most elaborate of them seldom cost him more than a morning’s labour.  His concertos for violins are in general wanting in that which is the chief excellence of instrumental music in many parts, harmony and fine modulation: In these respects they will stand no comparison with the concertos of Corelli, Geminiani, and Martini; they seem to indicate that the author attended to little else than the melody of the extreme parts, and that he trusted for their success to the effect that results from the clash of many instruments; and to this only it can be imputed that in the tenor arts of his concertos there are none of those fine binding passages that occur in the music of the authors abovementioned, and that in general they are destitute of art and contrivance.

            His duets and his lessons are of a far more elaborate texture; the former, as also two trios, were composed for the practice of queen Caroline, and are professed imitations of those of Steffani, but their [418] merits are of a different kind; they are thirteen in number, and, although they are all excellent, a preference seems to be due to ‘Che vai pensando,’ ‘Conservate raddoppiate avvivate amante cori,’ ‘Tacete ohime tacete,’ and ‘Tanti strali al sen mi scocchi*.’

            The lessons of Handel for the harpsichord were composed for the practice of the princess Anne, and consist of suites of airs, with fugues intermixed; the latter perhaps are more proper for the organ, and, because they require a masterly hand, are but little practiced.  Of the airs, the Allemandes in the third, fifth, and eighth sets are, for the sweetness of the melody, and the rich vein of fancy that runs through them, inimitable; as are the fugues in the second, fourth, and sixth, for the closeness of the harmony, and skilful iteration of their respective subjects.  In short, without the hazard of contradiction, or the necessity of an exception, it may be asserted of these compositions, that they are the most masterly productions of the kind that we know of in the world.

            The character of an author is but the necessary result of his works, and as the compositions of Handel are many and various, it is but justice to point out such of them as seem the most likely to be the foundation of his future fame.  Many of the excellencies, which as a musician recommended him to the favour and patronage of the public during a residence of fifty years in this country he might perhaps possess in common with a few of the most eminent of his contemporaries; but, till they were taught the contrary by Handel, none were aware of that dignity and grandeur of sentiment which music is capable of conveying, or that there is a sublime in music as there is in poetry.  This is a discovery which we owe to the genius and inventive faculty of this great man; and there is little reason to doubt that the many examples of this kind with which his works abound, will continue to engage the admiration of judicious hearers as long as the love of harmony shall exist.



[...] Throughout his book [i.e. An Essay on Musical Expression] he [i.e. Avison] celebrates Marcello and Geminiani; the latter frequently in prejudice to Mr. Handel, of whose music he vouchsafes no better a character than that ‘we often find in it the noblest harmonies, and these enlivened with such a variety of modulation, as could hardly be expected from one who had supplied the town with musical entertainments of every kind for thirty years together.’



[description of a concerto spirituale for Geminiani’s benefit in 1748...] then followed a very grand chorus, which, being performed by persons accustomed to sing in Mr. Handel’s oratorios, had justice done to it; [...]



There can be no better test of the comparative merits of the music of the present day, and that which it has taken place of, than the different effects of each.  The impression of the former was deep and is lasting: the compositions of Corelli, Handel, Geminiani, yet live in our memories; and those of Purcell, though familiarized by the lapse of near a century, still retain their charms; but who now remembers, or rather does not affect to forget the music that pleased him last year? [...]



[John Hawkins, A General History of the Science and Practice of Music, 5 vols. (London: T. Payne, 1776).]



* i. e. Buranello, a disciple of Lotti.

Nicola Iomelli, a celebrated composer now living at Naples.

See an Inquiry into the Beauties of Painting by Daniel Webb, Esq. 8vo. 1769, page 167.

An intimate friend of Mr. Handel, looking over the score of an opera newly composed by him, observed of some of the songs that they were excellent: You may think so, says Mr. Handel, but it is not to them, but to these, turning to others of a vulgar cast, that I trust for the success of the opera.

* Mr. Handel has been many times heard to say that the melody of our hundredth psalm, which by the way is that of the hundred and thirty-fourth both of Goudimel and Claude le Jeune’s Psalms, and certain other Psalm-tunes, were of Luther’s composition.

This Serenata, translated into English, and entitled The Triumph of Time and Truth was performed at London in 1751.  The overture is in the printed collection of Mr. Handel’s overtures., [sic] and it is conjectured, that the first movement was what appeared difficult to Corelli.

* It may serve as an argument to prove the affinity of the sister arts of music and painting, that the love of each to an equal degree has in many instances centered in the same person.  Mr. Handel, though not a collector, was a lover of pictures, and for many years before his death frequented, for the purpose of viewing them, all collections exposed to sale: [...]

* In the preface to the poems of Mr. John Hughes is a letter from Sir Richard Steele, in the name of himself and Mr. Clayton, requesting him to alter Dryden’s Alexander’s Feast for music, in order to its being performed in York-buildings.  He complied, and Clayton had the courage to attempt it, but failed, as Mr. Hughes relates in a letter to Sir Richard Steele, mentioned in the preface above cited.  It is printed as altered, in Mr. Hughes’s poems, and was performed in 1711.

Spectator, No. 5.

The humour of these papers is so strong and pointed, that it is said the Pope, on reading them, laughed till his sides shook.  Mr. Addison, perhaps from the bad success [148] of Rosamond, was led to think that only nonsense was fit to be set to music; and this error is farther to be accounted for by that want of taste, not to say of skill, in music, which he manifests in his preference of the French to the Italian composers, and in his general sentiments of music and musicians, in which he is ever wrong.

* Mattheson had sent over to England, in order to their being published here, two collections of lessons for the harpsichord, and they were accordingly engraved on copper, and printed for Richard Meares, in St. Paul’s church-yard, and published in the year 1714.  Handel was at this time in London, and in the afternoon was used to frequent St. Paul’s church for the sake of hearing the service, and of playing on the organ after it was over; from whence he and some of the gentlemen of the choir would frequently adjourn to the Queen’s Arms tavern in St. Paul’s church-yard, where was a harpsichord: It happened one afternoon, when they were thus met together, Mr. Weely, a gentleman of the choir, came in and informed them that Mr. Mattheson’s lessons were then to be had at Mr. Meares’s shop; upon which Mr. Handel ordered the immediately to be sent for, and upon their being brought, played them all over without rising from the instrument.

* See an account of him in vol. IV. page 234.

This in Germany is the model of exercise for young proficients in music, and is also the test of a master.  When an organist was to be chosen for the new church of St. George, Hanover-square, Mr. Handel, who lived in the parish, Geminiani, Dr. Pepusch, and Dr. Croft were the judges to determine of the pretensions of the candidates; they gave them each the same subject for a fugue; and Roseingrave, who acquitted himself the best in the discussion of it, was elected.

* She was both a fine singer and an excellent actress.  She sung in the opera at Berlin in 1708, and in 1711 was married to Count Gruzewska.

[1] [annotation in Horace Walpole’s personal copy, Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University:] She might be mistress of the Prince, elder Brother of John Gatone, but their Father C[?a]simo 3d. was remarkably devout, & hurt at the debaucheries of his Sons.

* Dr. Arbuthnot was not only a passionate lover of music, but was well skilled in the science: An anthem of his composition, “As pants the hart,” is to be found in the books of the chapel royal.  See Divine Harmony, or a new Collection of select Anthems.  Lond. octavo, 1712.

* At one of these meetings, word being brought that Mattheson’s lessons, which had been engraved and printed in London, were just come from the press; the book was immediately sent for, and Handel, without hesitation, played it through.

* This gentleman, an officer in the army, had when a child been a pupil of Alessandro Scarlatti.  His proficiency on the harpsichord at twelve years of age astonished every one.  There is a picture of him by Kneller, painted when he was about that age, in the music-school, Oxon.

This circumstance is mentioned by Rolli in the notes on his translation of the comedy of the Conscious Lovers, and is confirmed by a lady of high rank, the daughter of the duchess, now living, who communicated many of the particulars contained in this memoir.

* It was in the title-page said to be published by the author, and printed and sold by Richard Meares, musical instrument maker, and music printer in St. Paul’s church-yard, and by Christopher Smith, at the Hand and Music-book in Coventry street, near the Haymarket, and no where [sic] else in England.

There is in this opera a short air, “Cara Sposa,” in the key of A, with the greater third, which is to be distinguished from one with the same beginning in the opera of Rinaldo in E, with the lesser third, which is a studied composition, for this reason that Mr. Handel looked upon the two airs, “Cara Sposa,” and “Ombra Cara,” as the two finest he ever made, and declared this his opinion to the author of this work.

* Elpidia and Elisa were performed in the year 1725, but by whom they were composed is not known.

[2] [annotation in Horace Walpole’s personal copy:] tho they gained the first year of Farinelli, they lost the second.

* Miscellaneous Works of the late Dr. Arbuthnot, vol. II. page 21.

[3] [annotation in Horace Walpole’s personal copy:] George 2d & Q. Caroline continued to attend Handel in the Haymarket, which made the Anti-court party espouse that at Lincoln’s Inn fields. one night Lord Chesterfield, then in opposition, going from the haymarket to the latter theatre, & being asked whom he had left at the former, he replied “Nobody but the King & Queen, & as I concluded they were talking on business, I thought it more respectfull to retire.”

* Mr. James Foster was a dissenting minister of the Anabaptist denomination. [...]

* Upon occasion of this his distress, Strada and others of the singers were content to accept of bonds for the payment of their arrears, and left the kingdom upon Mr. Handel’s assurances that they should be discharged; and he paid a due regard to his engagement by remitting them the money.

* Originally performed on occasion of the marriage of the prince of Orange with our princess royal.

* It is a trivial circumstance to remark upon, but it serves to shew a great change of manners, and the little regard to the decencies of religion in this country of liberty: [355] Neither the singers in the oratorio, nor their hearers, make any distinction in their dress between Lent and a season of festivity.

* Mr. Beard.

The choruses of Mr. Handel’s oratorios are of a cast very different from those in his operas; the latter are simply counterpoint, and are destitute of all art and contrivance; the former answer to the sublime in poetry; they are of his own invention, and are the very basis of his reputation.

* Of his first six organ concertos, only the first and fourth are original compositions; both the second and third are taken from his Sonatas; the fifth was a lesson for the harp, composed for the younger Powel, a fine performer on that instrument; and the sixth is a [357] solo for the flute, as is apparent from the compass of it, and was made for the practice of a gentleman, one of Handel’s friends.  The second set of organ concertos is evidently made out of his grand concertos.

                There were two persons of the name of Powel, father and son, who played finely on the harp; the elder was patronized by the duke of Portland, and when that nobleman was appointed governor of Jamaica, went with him thither.  The younger stayed in England, and Mr. Handel being desirous to make him known, composed for him the lesson abovementioned, and introduced it in one or two of his oratorios; as also the song in Esther, ‘Tune your harps to cheerful strains,’ which has an accompaniment for the harp.

Besides the Powels there was at the same time in London a performer on the harp, who merits to be had in remembrance: his name was Jones, a Welchman, and blind; the old duchess of Marlborough would have retained him with a pension, but he would not endure confinement, and was engaged by one Evans, who kept a home-brewed alehouse of great resort, the sign of the Hercules Pillars, opposite Clifford’s-Inn passage in Fleet-street, and performed in a great room up-stairs during the winter season.  He played extempore voluntaries, the fugues in the Sonatas and Concertos of Corelli, as also most of his Solos, and many of Mr. Handel’s opera songs with exquisite neatness and elegance.  He also played on the violin, and on that instrument imitated so exactly the irregular intonation, mixed with sobs and pauses, of a quaker’s sermon, that none could hear him and refrain from immoderate laughter.  The man of the house dying, his widow took Cuper’s Garden, in Surrey, opposite Somerset-house, and erected therein an orchestra and an organ, intending it as a place of entertainment for the summer evenings, like Vauxhall, with the addition of fireworks.  It subsisted for four or five summers, but, failing at length, Jones, who was supported by her all the time, was turned adrift, and, about the year 1738, died. He was buried in Lambeth church-yard, and his funeral, which was celebrated with a dead march, was attended by a great number of the musical people.

[4] [annotation in Horace Walpole’s personal copy:] Esther, I believe, was written by Hughes, & has poetic merit.

* It is printed in the fourth collection of Concertos, entitled Select Harmony, published by Walsh.

* Founded on the story of the martyrdom of Theodora and Didymus, related by Mr. Boyle in a little book with that title.

Mostly taken from Il Trionfo del Tempo, composed by Handel at Rome, and there performed.

[5] [annotation in Hawkins’s personal copy:] This Relation because it seems to indicate that he underwent the Operation of Couching which affords Relief in the Case of a Cataract but not in a Gutta Serena was animadverted upon in a Letter in one of the Daily Papers signed T.T. soon after the Publication.  I was led into the Assertion by seeing Mr. Sharp in the Room above Stairs at Batson’s Coffee House examine Mr. Handel’s Eyes with a View as I thought to an Operation which as the Disorder was not removed I concluded had been tried and failed.  The Passage however is not to be defended. [reprinted in Bertram H. Davis, A Proof of Eminence: The Life of Sir John Hawkins (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1973), 137.]

* Among other particulars in his character, that rendered his conversation very pleasing, one was a talent that enabled him to tell a story with all the circumstances that tend to enliven it.  Being one Sunday at court, he was seen engaged with the late Dr. Thomas, bishop of Peterborough, and afterwards of Lincoln: their discourse was in the German language; and as soon as it was over, and they were parted, a friend of Mr. Handel went up to him, and remarked on the facility with which the bishop spoke High Dutch; upon which Mr. Handel answered, that, having been chaplain to the English factory at Hamburg, he had made himself master of it; and that therefore whenever the king went to visit his German dominions, he chose that Dr. Thomas should attend him thither; and this, says Mr. Handel, brings to my mind a pleasant story, which I will now tell you, and accordingly he related it to this effect.  In one of the king’s visits to Hanover, the Doctor walking upon deck, a squall of wind blew his hat overboard; this loss made some diversion among the sailors, and the rumour of it coming to the king’s ears, he, the next time they met, affected to condole him upon it; upon which the Doctor seemed to make light of the accident, by remarking that it was in his majesty’s power to repair the loss of his hat by a covering for the head of another kind.  The king conceiving that he meant a mitre, answered him only with a smile; but soon after his return to England nominated him to the vacant see of Peterborough.

* It is here to be remarked that the king, the queen, and the princesses were the constant patrons of Handel: At the breaking up of the Royal Academy, they continued to favour him, but the prince of Wales took part with the nobility.

* Swift remarks of poetry, eloquence, and music, that it is certain that very few have a taste of judgment of the excellencies of the two former; and that if a man succeed in either, it is upon the authority of those few judges that lend their taste to the bulk of readers that have none of their own.  And further, that there are as few good judges in music, and that among those that croud the operas, nine in ten go thither merely out of curiosity, fashion, or affectation.  Intelligencer, No 3, Faulkner’s edition of Swift works, vol. I. page 278.  To these observations we may add, that of all that profess to admire the works of our great dramatic poet, and who talk of nature as if they were privy to her secrets, and judges of her operations upon occasion that do not present themselves in a long course of life to one in a million, few can be supposed to have more than a general sense of the author’s meaning; the style of the dialogue being familiar only to those who are well skilled in the English language; these people, in the phrase of Swift, borrow the taste of others, and applaud the sentiment and the action as they are taught, being left to themselves, they are insensible to all that passes, and secretly prefer a ballad opera to the noblest productions of genius.

                As to music, there are instances of persons who have entertained a love of the other polite arts, and yet have had no taste for this; and of others with whom it was an object of aversion.  Pope once expressed his sentiments of music to a person now living in these words: ‘My friend Dr. Arbuthnot speaks strongly of the effect that music has on his mind, and I believe him; but I own myself incapable of any pleasure from it.’  The author of a well-known law book, entitled ‘The Office of an Executor’ by Thomas Wentworth, but in fact written by Sir John Dodderidge, a judge of the court of King’s Bench, temp. Jac. I. prefers a cry of hounds to any other music.  Dr. Ralph Bathurst is by Mr. Warton, in his life of him, page 201, said to have had a strong aversion to music; and among the peculiarities of the famous John Philip Barretier,it is in particular noted by Dr. Johnson, in his life of that extraordinary young man, that he could not bear music.

* Of this air the late Mr. John Lockman relates the following story, assuring his reader that himself was an eye-witness of it, viz. That being at the house of Mr. Lee, a gentleman in Cheshire, whose daughter was a very fine performer on the harpsichord, he saw a pigeon, which, whenever the young lady played this song, and this only, would fly from an adjacent dove-house to the window in the parlour, where she sat, and listen to it with the most pleasing emotions, and the instant the song was over would return to the dove-house.  Some Reflexions concerning Operas, &c. prefixed to Roselinda, a Musical Drama by Mr. Lockman, 4to. 1740.

* Most of the songs in the opera of Ariadne are calculated to please the many; and for this deviation from his general conduct, Mr. Handel gave to one of his friends as a reason, that he meant by it to recover the favour of the nobility, whom he was sensible he had displeased in some of his most elaborate compositions for the stage; but this attempt failed of its end, except that the minuet at the end of the Overture became the most popular air ever known: From those who professed a taste for music, the admiration of it descended to the lowest of the people, insomuch that for some years after its publication it was played by the common fidlers [sic] about the streets.  The modulation of this air seems to suit but ill with unlearned ears, there being in it some transitions to which they are but little accustomed; but the circumstance that struck the vulgar was its great compass, extending to two octaves, and this they took for a peculiar excellence.

In the composition of the funeral anthem for queen Caroline he gave an amazing proof of the fecundity of his invention.  It was on a Wednesday that he received orders from the king to compose it, the words having been previously selected for the purpose, and approved.  On the Saturday se’ennight after it was rehearsed in the morning, and on the evening of the same day it was performed at the solemnity in the chapel of king Hen. VII.  The entertainment L’Allegro ed il Penseroso, and a senseless adjunct to it, Il Moderato, were begun and completed in fifteen days.

* To point out the various excellencies in the choruses of Handel would be an endless task.  In general it may be observed that they are fugues, in which the grandest subjects are introduced, and conducted with such art, as only himself possessed: Some are in the solemn style of the church, as that at the end of the first act in Saul; others have the natural and easy elegance of madrigals, as ‘Then shall they know that he whose name Jehovah is,’ in Samson; some again are full of exultation, as that in the anthem ‘Have mercy upon me,’ ‘Thou shalt make me to hear of joy and gladness;’ and that other in Israel in Egypt, ‘I will sing unto the Lord;’ and these in the Messiah, ‘For unto us a child is born,’ and ‘For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth;’ and, lastly, there are others in a style peculiar to himself, and calculated to excite terror, as these, ‘He gave them hailstones for rain,’ ‘But the waters overwhelmed their enemies,’ and ‘Thy right hand O Lord hath dashed in pieces the enemy,’ in Israel in Egypt.  And though it may be said that Handel, agreeable to the practice of his countrymen, has too much affected imitation, particularly in the latter of the abovementioned productions, by passages broken in the time to express the hopping of frogs, and others calculated to resemble the buzzing of swarms of flies; and that in Joshua he has endeavoured, by the harmony of one long-extended note, to impress upon the imagination of his hearers the idea of the great luminary of the universe arrested in its course, or, in other words, to make them hear the sun stand still, it may be said that they abound with examples of the true sublime in music, and that they far surpass in majesty and dignity the productions of every other dead or living author.

* These compositions have never been printed, and are in the hands of only the curious.  We may suppose that the author set a value on them, he having borrowed largely from them in his subsequent compositions: For instance, the overture to Judas Maccabeus is taken from the last movement in the first of the Duets: the chorus in Acis and Galatea, ‘Behold the monster Polypheme,’ from another; and the chorus in Alexander’s Feats, ‘Let old Timotheus yield the prize,’ and that in the Il Penseroso, ‘These pleasures melancholy give,’ from one of the Trios.