Feb 11

For the Public Advertiser. / ORATORIAL INTELLIGENCE. / THE Oratorio of Alexander’s Feast, and Dryden’s little Ode, were performed, by Command of their Majesties, last Night, at Drury Lane Theatre, with great Ap[p]lause, and to a great Audience. / The Performers were the same as last Year.  Miss Linley sung charm[i]ngly, and with that Improvement which every Year must add, till she arrives at the full Strength of her Voice. / The Performers in general acqui[t]ted themselves much to the Satisfaction of the Auditors, and their own Honour; and the Performance is supported by a numerous and excellent Band and Chorus.  And from the Appearance and Applause of last Night, the Managers have Reason to hope for a successful Season.[1]




Feb 15




In the CITY-ROAD, near Old-Street.


At Free-Masons Hall,


Great Queen-Street, Lincoln’s Inn-Fields,


Will be performed the ORATORIO of




Composed by Dr. FISHER.

The Principal VOCAL PARTS by





End of PART the FIRST

A Concerto on the Hautboy


End of PART the SECOND

A Concerto on the Violin


To begin at TWELVE o’Clock at NOON precisely


Tickets Half a Guinea each, to be had at the Hospital and at the following Places,

viz. Batson’s Coffee-House, in Cornhill; Chapter Coffee-House, Pater-Noster-Row;

Richards Coffee-House, Temple-Bar; Bedford Coffee-House, Covent-Garden;

Mount Coffee-House, Mount-Stret, Grosvenor-Square.

Books of the ORATORIO to be had at the Place of Performance.[2]




For the Benefit of the City of London Lying-in Hospital, in the City Road, near Old Street. / THIS DAY the 15th Inst[.] will be performed at the Free-masons Hall, Great Queen-street, the Oratorio of / PROVIDENCE. / Composed by Dr. FISHER. / The principal Vocal Parts by Mr. Vernon, Mr. Reinhold, Mrs. Kennedy, and a young Lady. / End of Part the First, A Concerto on the Hautboy by Mr. Sharpe. / End of Part the Second, A Concerto on the Violin by Dr. Fisher. / To begin at Twelve at Noon precisely. / Tickets, Half a Guinea each, to be had at the Hospital, and at the following Places, viz. Batson’s Coffee-house, Cornhill; Chapter Coffee-house, in Paternoster Row; Richard’s Coffee-house, Temple-bar; Bedford Coffee-house, Covent Garden; Mount Coffee-house, Mount-street, Grosvenor-square; and at Freemason’s Hall. / Such Ladies and Gentlemen who not Time to send for Tickets, will be admitted paying 10s. 6d. at the Door. / Books of the Oratorio to be had at the Place of Performance.[3]





A vacancy having occurred in the lesseeship of the theatre, a proposal was made to the proprietors by Mr. John Palmer, the manager of the Bath house […] Palmer having undertaken to make important alterations in the building, the proprietors, in April, granted him a lease for twenty years, at £200 per annum, and gave him up the first three years’ rent as a contribution towards his intended outlay.  “The future plan,” says Felix Farley’s Journal, “is to play once a week in the winter, three times a week part of the summer, and to have oratorios in Lent.”  The chief feature of the alterations was the erection over the center of the dress circle of a second tier of boxes.  The theatre was reopened in October, 1779, but Palmer’s name does not re-appear, as he had confided the property to Messrs. Dimond and Keasberry, who held the management for several years.  Six oratorios were produced during Lent, 1780, a guinea being charged for admission to the series.[4]




Mar 22

For the Benefit of the CHARITY. / AT the Lock Hospital Chapel, near Hyde-park Corner, This Day will be performed / RUTH, / An Oratorio.  Set to Music by Mr. Giardini.  The Vocal Parts by Miss Linley, Mrs. Wrighten, Signor Tenducci, Mr. Norris, Mr. Champnes, and others.  At the End of the First Part, a Concerto Hautboy by Mr. Parke.  And after the Second Part, a Quartetto by Mess. Giardini, Bulckley, Wilton and Crosdill.  No Persons to be admitted without Tickets, which may be had at the following Places, at Half a Guinea each: St. James’s Coffee-house, St. James’s-street; the Mount Coffee-house, Grosvenor-street; George’s Coffee-house, Temple-bar; Rainbow Coffee-house, Cornhill; and at the Hospital.  To begin at Twelve o’Clock at noon precisely.[5]




ante Apr 13

[Mrs Henry Bates to her sister-in-law, Grace Furey, before 13 April 1780]


Miss Harrop sings tomorrow evening at the

Opera house for the benefit of the four first

musicians in the Kingdom, that is Cervetto,

Cramer, Crosdill and Fischer.  Lord Exeter has

taken the Kings box and we are to be of his party

... This will be very convenient to Miss Harrop

just to go out into the Orchestra to sing her two

Songs.  There are five ancient Concerts and four

of Bach’s to come yet they will not be over till

the 15 of May ... Miss Harrop will clear twelve

hundred and thirty pounds by her benefit, with

that, Bach’s, the Ancient Concert and the meetings

at Hereford and Cambridge.  She will not

clear much less than two thousand pounds this

year.  Probably she may not like to have the exact

sum she cleared by her benefit known, so you

need not mention it.[6]




May 23

[Mary Delany to Mrs Port, 24 May 1780]


Last night I was at Mrs. Walsingham’s concert on her opening her new house, [...]

                  The concert was splendid; rows above rows of fine ladies with towering tops. [... 525 ...]

                  The D[uche]ss D[owage]r of Portland carried me to Mrs. Wals at a little before 8; I had a comfortable seat on a sofa by her Grace and Lady Bute, and we were the only flat caps in the room!  The musick was charming; Miss Harrop sang in perfection some of Handel’s fine opera songs.  I staid till near eleven, and was less fatigued than I expected.[7]




July 8

[Sir Horace Mann in Florence to Horace Walpole, Saturday 8 July 1780]


{...} In this situation {false information on Clinton’s death circulated by the French} I remained till the evening, when lo! your comfortable letter was brought to me with a circular congratulatory letter from Lord Hillsborough on the success of Sir Henry Clinton, whose disgrace and death I had bewailed.  My house and garden were then full of company (Saturday night).  The news was soon spread, but the blockhead French horns could not play ‘Long Live George the King’!15 [8]





[excerpt form Memoirs of the Life of David Garrick, Esq., vol. 2, p. 116.]


It has been said, that many years since, when she [Mrs. Cibber] sung in the oratorio of the Messiah at Dublin, a certain bishop was so affected with the extreme sensibility of her manner, that he could not refrain from saying, Woman! thy sins be forgiven thee!  It should also be remembered, that Mrs. Cibber’s voice being so low that she despaired of succeeding as a singer on the stage, Handel said he would set an air on the purpose, which he did in the Messiah, to her own surprise and the delight of the audience.[9]




Sep 24

[Sunday 24 September]


[funeral of Mr. Ald. Kirkman:]

[...] Band of musick on horseback playing the dead march in Saul [...][10]




Nov 18

                  HANDEL and Capt. JOHNSON; or a Blunder rectified. – When Handel was last in Dublin, in order to conduct his Concert with Eclat, and with the greatest Number of Instrumental and Musical Performers, he begged the Assistance of several Noblemen and Gentlemen; who very generously consented to form his Band, and play for him.  Amongst the rest was a Captain Johnson, who played so egregiously out of Tune, that Handel, forgetting all Respect to the Gentleman and the Company, roared out as loud as he could, “For Shame, Capt. Johnson, you spoil my Concert; you are quite out of Tune.”  Upon this, Duberry said to Handel, “Now, Sir, you have done for yourself in Ireland, just as you did in England; your Pride and Impatience are intolerable; if you do not immediately ask Pardon of the Gentleman you have affronted, not an Irish Nobleman, Lady, or Gentleman will speak to you.”  This was a bitter Pill to Handel; however, he was obliged to swallow it, and submitted to follow his Friend’s Advice; and in the next Concert he was determined to make ample Amends for his Blunder; for the same Captain Johnson playing as inharmoniously and barbarously as before.  Handel cried out, so as to be heard by all the Performers, “Bravo!  Capt. Johnson!  Bravo!  Bravo!”  This put all the Company into a loud Fit of Laughter, and Captain Johnson heartily wished that Handel had spared his Compliment as well as his Reproof.[11]




[Fashionable Lady D. expresses her despondency at the impeding visit to London of her country relatives, whom she compares with the Goths.]



What’s worse than sitting in the boxes

With grocers’ wives and oilmen’s doxies?

What’s worse than lonely country houses?

What’s worse than tête à tête with spouses?

Worse than a puny infant’s cries,

Long sermons, dismal tragedies? [4]

What’s worse than bells on birth-day ringing?

Worse than a cough when HARROP’s singing?

Or lovers dear in duels slain;

Or guardians rais’d to life again?

Or rural hops at country fairs?

Or ancient virgins muttering prayers?

What’s worse than solemn strains of HANDEL;

Want of money; dearth of scandal;

Or jealous husbands’ fond orations?——

What can be worse—but vile relations!

Relations, stirrers up of strife,

Shame of fashion! plague of life![12]






Son of the late Doctor [...] As a composer, if he did not croud his parts, and run so much into the fugeing manner of the late Handel, we think he would be more successful.



[…] Although he has had frequent opportunities as a composer to disclose his abilities, he has not produced any remarkable work, unless we should point out his pretty rondo “If ’tis joy to wound a lover” […]

He has composed two Oratorio’s.—We can’t sufficiently express our astonishment that any person, who was bred up in the King’s Chapel, should cause the “Prodigal Son” to be laughed at, or place the “Resurrection” in a ridiculous point of view.



An Englishman—the GOLIAH of Music.  As an Achitect, we do not mean to discuss his merit; [9] but, as a Composer, we vehemently recommend it to him rather to study plans and proportions, than spend his time in raising such a BABEL as his Oratorio and the rest of his grotesque musical edifices.



An Italian, a composer of distinguished fame in Italy many years ago.  His style is that of the old school in which Handel was bred; but more Italic or expressive.



Handel was asked why he did not take his degree:—he replied “Vat de dyfil I trow my money avay for dat de BLOCKHEAD wish,—I [17] no vant.”  Far be it from us to apply that epithet to Doctor C—ke; but, as he has taken his degree, we wish he had given us an opportunity to judge either of his compositions or his performance.




He has composed an Oratorio.  But, as perfection (like the longitude) has never yet been found, we are constrained to speak of it (after those of the immortal Handel) as a pretty Italian lustring compared with English brocade.


It would have been inexcusable to have forgotten his ability as a leader.  He is the only person who, to attain the same kind of expression in a passage, obliges all those who play from one part to bow alike; and these strong proofs of his feelings and judgment, he extends to the tenor and violoncello.  His commands are so absolute, yet convincing, that it would be as criminal to neglect his motions, as for a Prussian soldier to step out of his rank.



An English lady, a singer.  She is possessed of one of the finest sostenuto voices that ever was heard in this country.  Her knowledge of musick she derives from Joah Bates, esq. Formerly Secretary to Lord Sandwich, and now Commissioner of the Victualling-office; a gentleman of great abilities as a performer on the harpsichord, particularly in playing the chorusses of Handel; and of very extensive knowledge of musick.



Harpsichord Master Extraordinary to the Queen.  Some lessons of his composition, which fell under our inspection some years ago, shewed a peculiar knowledge of arpeggio and modulation.  But his extempore playing on the organ at St. Martin’s in the fields, baffles all description.  Such exquisite flights, fancies, and execution, adapted to the instrument, which few know or practise, have not been exceeded, we may say attempted, even by Handel, though the fuge, the meer fuge of the latter was greater.



Organist of St. George’s, Hanover-square, which place he got by the decision of Handel in his favour, in preference to one Matthison, who was a very great player in the chromatic style, but a madman.



[…] The Doctor is the composer of an oratorio, which was performed once, and was in such a sublime style, as to be above all comprehension: and a sett of lessons also, at the beginning of which there is a Nota Bene, that, “Whereas there are divers errors and violations of air and harmony in these lessons, the performer is desired to excuse them, on account of their effect.”  Bravo, bravissimo, Coglionissimo Dottore! […][13]




[on Aaron Hill, ca 1709]


Mr. Hill followed Elfrida with the opera of Rinaldo, [134] which occasionally introduced the music of the great Handel to this nation.[14]




[on playwright Cumberland, who seemed to overvalue his talents]

I should not forget to inform my readers that Mr. Cumberland is very conversant in the polite arts, and particularly in painting and music [...]

The airs to Calypso, and the Widow of Delphi, must be a test of his proficiency in music; thought I cannot help saying, that I am sorry to hear that he prefers Butler to Handel, whom, perhaps, through ignorance, I esteemed to be the Shakespeare of musicians; he hopes, it seems, that in a very short time no oratorio of that great man will be performed in this country. [284] Mr. Cumberland is unquestionably a man of very considerable abilities; ’tis his misfortune to rate them greatly above their value, and to suppose that he has no equal.[15]




Dec 27

[first performance: 27 December 1780.]



[…] I have no hesitation in pronouncing an opinion, that the adopting what is called recitative into a language, to which it is totally incongruous, is the cause of failure in an English serious Opera much oftener than the want of musical powers in the performers.  In countries where the inflection of voice in recitative upon the stage is little more than what the ear is used to in common discourse, the dialogue of the drama is sustained and strengthened by a great compass of tones; but in our northern climates, in proportion [xii] as the ordinary expression comes nearer monotony, recitative, or musical dialogue, will seem the more preposterous.*

I will not contend (though I have my doubts) that it is impossible for genius to invent, and for voice to deliver, a sort of recitative that the English language will bear.  But it must be widely different from the Italian.  If any specimens can yet be produced of it’s [sic] having been effected, they will be found to consist only of a few lines introductive of the air which is to follow, and as such received by the ear just as symphony would be.  Very few serious pieces, except Artaxerxes, can be recollected upon our Theatre where it has not entirely failed, even when assisted by action: in Oratorios it is, with a few exceptions, and those sustained by accompaniment, a soporific that even the thunder of Handel’s chorusses are hardly loud enough to overcome.

                  There may be enthusiasts in music who will treat the disrelish I have described to want of ear.  Let ear be understood merely as the organ by which the mind is to receive more or less delight from sublime English verse, and I should be happy to see the dispute brought to public issue---the test should be the performance of Alexander’s Feast as [xiii] now set to music throughout; and the performance of that inimitable ode, with the songs alone preserved in music, and the rest delivered by Mrs. Yates without accompaniment, or other melody, than her emphatic elocution.

[… xiv …]  But surely no man can be so void of discernment as not to see clearly the difference between recitative and music thus applied [underscoring a scene or theatrical tableau]: the one diverts the attention from sense to sound, breaks the propriety and very nerve of our language, and by giving to the expression of the passions cadences of which we never heard an example, nor can form a conception in real life, destroys that delusion and charm of fancy which makes the situations before us our own, and is the essence of dramatic representation: the other, upon the principle of the chorus of the antients, serves to excite and to combine attention and emotion, and to improve and to continue upon the mind the impressions most worthy to be retained.[16]




In regard to the choice of proper Music for a Lady to sing, I need only observe, how many most delightful Airs are to be found in the compositions of the immortal Handel, of so simple and exquisite construction, as to excite every degree of pleasure and delight the mind is capable of receiving: I need not mention many others of our own countrymen, Purcel, Jackson, Boyce, Arne, &c. and with respect to the excellence of our Church Music, no country has ever produced so chaste, or so pure and affecting compositions of this kind in either one or more parts.[17]



[1] The Public Advertiser, Saturday 12 February 1780, [2].

[2] “Playbills from the Harvard Theatre Collection,” TS Film 4, part 3.

[3] The Public Advertiser, Tuesday 15 February 1780, [1].

[4] John Latimer, The Annals of Bristol in the Eighteenth Century (Bristol: the author, 1893; reprinted, Bath: Kingsmead Reprints, 1970), 439.

[5] The Public Advertiser, Wednesday 22 March 1780, [1].

[6] Betty Matthews, “Joah Bates: A remarkable amateur,” The Musical Times 126 ([no. 1714, December] 1985), 749–53: 750.

[7] The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary Granville, Mrs. Delany, edited by Lady Llanover, second series, 3 vols. (London: Richard Bentley, 1862), 2:524–25.

15 Probably an allusion to the chorus [71] God save the King, {...} from Handel’s coronation anthem, ‘Zadok the Priest’ {...}

[8] Horace Walpole’s Correspondence with Sir Horace Mann and Sir Horace Mann the Younger IX (“The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, Vol. 25”), edited by W. S. Lewis, Warren Hunting Smith and George L. Lam (New Haven: Yale University Press / London: Oxford University Press, 1971), 70–71.

[9] The Gentleman’s Magazine 50 (1780): 330.

[10] The Gentleman’s Magazine 50 (1780): 444.

[11] The Public Advertiser, no. 14387, Saturday 18 November 1780, [3].

[12] [Samuel Hoole], Modern Manners: In a Series of Poetical Epistles, (London: R. Faulder, 1781), 3–4.

[13] ABC Dario Musico (Bath: the authors, 1780), 6, 7, 8–9, 12, 16–17, 23, 26, 30, 31, 50.

[14] Thomas Davies, Memoirs of the Life of David Garrick, Esq., 2 vols. (London: the author, 1780), 1:133–34.

[15] Thomas Davies, Memoirs of the Life of David Garrick, Esq., 2 vols. (London: the author, 1780), 2:281.

* See Mr. Addison upon this subject, Spectator No. 29, and others of his papers upon the Opera.

[16] [John Burgoyne], The Lord of the Manor, A Comic Opera (London: T. Evans, 1781), xi–xiv.

[17] Euterpe; Or, Remarks on the Use and Abuse of Music, As a Part of Modern Education (London: J. Dodsley, [?1780]), 12.