Feb 2

[Kew Palace, Monday 2 February 1789]


[a fearful encounter with the mentally troubled king]

                  He [i.e. George III] next talked to me a great deal of my dear father, and made a thousand inquiries concerning his “History of Music.”  This brought him to his favorite theme, Handel; [117] and he told me innumerable anecdotes of him, and particularly that celebrated tale of Handel’s saying of himself, when a boy, “While that boy lives, my music will never want a protector.”  And this, he said, I might relate to my father.  Then he ran over most of his oratorios, attempting to sing the subjects of several airs and choruses, but so dreadfully hoarse that the sound was terrible.  Dr. Willis, quite alarmed at this exertion, feared he would do himself harm, and again proposed a separation.  “No! no! no!” he exclaimed, “not yet; I have something I must just mention first.”  Dr. Willis, delighted to comply, even when uneasy at compliance, again gave way.[1]




May 22

[Anna Seward to Dr Darwin, 22 May 1789.]


When nature gives to a human being that strong propensity to some one art or science, which produces a Colossus in that line, his other faculties are not always proportionally strong.  Poetry, indeed, seems to have this superiority over [277] painting and music, that, while we sometimes see a stupid man a fine performer on instruments, or a fine painter, we never see him a fine poet.  We may venture to believe, that Sir Isaac Newton would not have shone as a musician, a painter, or a poet; and we know that Handel’s father, who professed medicine, terrified by the propensity which enabled his son to play beautiful voluntaries at five years old, without knowing a note of music, forcibly excluded him from access to instruments and musical society during a year or two; that he had at length the good sense to withdraw this restraint, upon the remonstrance of a friend: “Your son will disgrace you as a physician, a lawyer, a divine; but he will probably acquire distinguished fame as a musician, if you indulge and cultivate his native bias.”[2]




May 29

[Anna Seward to Dr Darwin, 29 May 1789.]


                  Most of your theories in the interludes, are as satisfactory to me, as I feel them to be ingenious; but I differ from you about the analogy between music and her sister sciences, poetry and painting.  The mathematical relationship between poetic syllables and musical sounds, has little to do with their congenial powers over the human mind.  The real sources of the picturesque, and the stimulative effects of musical sounds, result from the judicious intermixture of discords, hurrying and clashing in descriptive or in animating harshness.  The changes into the flat keys express, according to their different combinations, grief, complaint, patience, sullenness, despair; while indignation, terror, or horror are expressed, or excited by what are called the extreme sharps.  When the pleasanter keys are resumed, the mind seems relumined; and this is what professors mean when they talk of the light and shade of a concerto or a song.  The soft slow tones, avoiding all violent transitions, and sliding into those agreeable changes of [266] key, which naturally present themselves, banish the painful sympathies, and sooth the spirits in people who, from certain corporal organization, have a native sensibility of musical combinations.  Without that conformation, which enables them easily to catch and to express melodies, no strength of understanding, no philosophic research, will empower them to become acquainted with the real effects of music upon the passions.  Even where this favourable conformation exists, it is yet necessary to acquire some practical knowledge of the sciece, at least to live in habits of attending to the ideas and feelings excited by the artful mixtures and transitions of harmony, ere we can justly appreciate its powers.

                  I may, without presumption, speak upon this subject, who have studied the science of music with some assiduity, nearly twenty years.

                  Upon Dr R. Darwin’s theory, we find that there are concords and disocrds in colours.  If I understand him right, his discovery leads him to suppose that it might be eligible, instead of listening to the Allegro and Il Penseroso, exquisitely heightened by Handel’s music, to procure the professors to set the landscapes, and history groups of our best painters; that is, to compose music, which may be performed while they are exhibited, and that shall express or desrcibe their [267] characteristic features.  But those who have felt the enchatning result of music united, as from the earlier ages, with poetry, will never endure the divorce of this connexion, coeval with the birth of both, in favour of the third science, Painting—no, not even those who had rather see a fine picture than read a fine poem.[3]




ART. LXXI.  Marchesi’s favourite Song, by Handel, as sung at the Pantheon 1788, from Julius Caesar; now first set with the poetry from Thomson’s Seasons.  Price 1s.  Wright.

We are prepared for this air by a recitative, preceded by part of the accompaniment of the song as its introductory symphony, which happily suits the words to which it is applied: the poetry of the air is also chosen with equal judgment, since the music produces an effect perfectly consonant with the sense of the author.[4]




ART. LXXII.  Handel’s Posthumous Trios for a Violin, Tenor, and Violoncello, 3d set.  Arranged by Lorenzo Moser.  Price 10s. 6d.  Birchall.

The first of these trios, which opens with the air of “How vain is man,” in Judas Maccabeus, displays much judgment in its arrangement.  The second movement is succeeded by that charming air ‘To fleeting pleasure make your court,’ in Samson; which is as well relieved by ‘The leafy honors of the field.’  The second piece commences with ‘Fly from the threatening vengeance,’ in the Occasional Oratorio, followed by ‘Total eclipse,’ in Samson, which, in our judgment, forms a fine contrast, and happily introduces the air of ‘Constant lovers,’ from Hercules.  The third presents us with ‘Thro’ the land,’ from Athalia, by which we are led to ‘Thais led the way,’ in Alexander’s Feast; which after finely relieving the preceding movement, introduces ‘Orpheus could lead,’ from Dryden’s Ode.  The fourth trio begins with ‘Prophetic visions,’ from the Occasional Oratorio, after which we proceed to ‘Oft on a plat of rising ground,’ the effect of which, after what has gone before, is truly charming, and exhibits ‘O beauteous queen,’ by which it is succeeded, in the finest light.  The fifth piece opens with ‘Our fears are now,’ from Deborah, and gives an excellent occasion to the introduction of ‘He was despised,’ from Messiah, which is spiritedly contrasted by ‘Place danger around me,’ in Joshua.  The sixth trio introduces to us that fine air ‘Capricious man,’ from Saul, followed by ‘No longer fate,’ from Hercules; which, after the former, brings with it an additional effect, and charmingly prepares us for ‘Endless pleasure,’ from Semele, with which this, the last trio, concludes.

Upon the whole, we are so much pleased with the new effects of this, and the former sets of Mr. Moser’s trios, (as we may venture to call them, since they owe their present form to his ingenuity and judgment,) that we hope there are many sets to come, and that their reception with the public will do that justice to the compiler which the success of his present attempt deserves.[5]




ARTICLE XXXVI.  The Village Curate.  A Poem.  Crown 8vo. P. 144. 2s. 6d. sewed. Johnson. 1788.

…[113]…In rather a trite indiscriminate manner, he [author] animadverts on the merits of our distinguished authors; very frequently we differ in opinion; but shall not now assume the tone of a hypercritic, convinced that his ripening taste will soon blush for having echoed sentiments his bettr judgment must disclaim.

  The Poet silent, long with rapture heard.

The Shakespear of another art succeeds.

Swett Music wakes, and with transporting air

Handel begins.  What mortal is not rapt

To hear his tender wildly-warbled song [114]

Where’er he strays; but chiefly when he sings

Messiah come, and with amazing shout

Proclaims him King of Kings, and Lord of Lords,

For ever and for ever, Hallelujah.

The above comparison appears to us particularly erroneous; it is not Handel’s tender-wildly-warbled song, with a few exceptions, which demand our praise; but the grand combinations that force us to applaud his exquisite judgment – his harmony rather than his melody.[6]




ART. LV.  Six Lessons for the Harpsichord or Piano-Forte, composed and humbly dedicated to the Right Hon. The Earl of Plymouth: by Jacob Kirkman.  Price 7s. 6d.  Bland.

These lessons […] afford us the pleasure of praising to a high degree […] If any thing objectionable presents itself , it is the organic stile, and affectation of learning prevalent in some of the pieces, which renders them more fit for church voluntaries than harpsichord sonatas: fugues in general, however well imagined, or artfully continued, lose much of their responsive effect on the instruments for which these lessons are professedly composed, and not coming within the practice of common performers, exclude or disappoint many purchasers. […] The third movement [of the second sonata] is an allemande, succeeded by a courante, both which are excellent in their kind, and with the two preceding parts form a lesson directly after the style of Handel. [… 237 …] The last piece contains no less than five movements […] each of which contain evident marks of good natural talents, much aided by the study of the best composers, particularly Handel and Corelli, whose styles are both imitated, and very successfully, in this and in the second and fourth pieces.[7]




Burney, A General History of Music...Volume the Third.


Indeed, musical criticism has been so little cultivated in our country, that its first elements are hardly known.  In justice to the late Mr. Avison, it must be owned, that he was the first, and almost the only writer, who attempted it.  But his judgment was warped by many prejudices.  He exalted Rameau and Geminiani at the expence of Handel, and was a declared foe to modern German symphonies. [...] A critic should have none of the contractions and narrow partialities of such as can see but a small angle of the art; of whom there are some so bewildered in fugues and complicated contrivances that they can receive pleasure from nothing but canonical answers, imitations, inversions, and counter-subjects; while others are equally partial to light, simple, frivolous melody, regarding every species of artificial composition as mere pedantry and jargon.  A chorus of Handel and a graceful opera song should not preclude each other: each has its peculiar merit; and no one musical production can comprise the beauties of every species of composition.



And the same melody which we sing to the 100th Psalm, is not only given to the 134th, in all the Lutheran Psalm-books, but by Goudimel and Claude Le Jeune, in those of the Calvinists; which [35] nearly amounts to a proof that this favourite melody was not produced in England.  It is said to have been the opinion of Handel, that Luther himself was its author;[8] but of this I have been able to procure no authentic proof.



(z) If ever any other compositions than those of Handel were to be performed in Westminster-Abbey, during the stupendous Annual Congress of Musicians, it seems as if this [Tallis’s “SONG OF FORTY PARTS,” with eight parts for each of five voices], and others of Tallis, Bird, Gibbons, and Purcel, should have the advantage of such a correct and numerous choral band.

[3:75, note]


[...] and it appears as if the attentive examination of good modern compositions, in score, would be of infinitely more service to a student, than the perusal of all the books on the subject of Music that were written during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Corelli, Handel, and Geminiani, for Fugues; [...] Pergolesi, Hasse, Jomelli, Galuppi, Piccini, Sacchini, Paesiello, and Sarti, for vocal compositions; and, above all, Handel for organ and choral Music: all easy to be found in our own country, and all models of perfection in correctness of composition, knowledge of instruments, rhythm, modulation, new effects, pathos, fire, invention, and grace.

[3:100, note (continues from previous page)]


[...] we should suppose that the pieces of Bull were composed to be tried, not played; for private practice, not public use; as they surpass every idea of difficulty than can be formed from the lessons of Handel, Scarlatti, Sebastian Bach; or, in more modern times, Emanuel Bach, Müthel, and Clementi.



(m) [...] this admirable musician [i.e. Frescobaldi], whose fugues upon marked and pleasing subjects, were treated with such genius and learning, as have never been surpassed, unless by those of Sebastian Bach and Handel, which seem to include every perfection of which this ingenious and elaborate species of composition is capable.

[3:112, note]


[lack of originality in early English madrigalists]

[...] “If,” says a worthy Nobleman, and enthusiastic admirer of Handel, “some of that great master’s oratorio choruses were well performed, by voices only, in the manner of madrigals, how superior would their effect be to the productions of your Bennets, Kirbys, Weelkes’s, and Wilbye’s!”  The idea was so just, that I wish to hear it put into execution: as there is doubtless more nerve, more science, and fire, in the worst of Handel’s choruses, than in the greatest efforts of these old madrigalists.

[3:131, note]


Whoever is accustomed to the vocal fugues of Palestrina, Carissimi, or Handel, will be fastidious with respect to those of other composers of equal learning. [...] Fire, genius, and harmonical resources are discoverable in fugues, as well as in modern songs, solos, or concertos: a musical student, therefore, unacquainted with the laws of fugue, is advanced but a little way in composition; as the hearer who receives no pleasure from ingenious contrivance and complicated harmony, is but a superficial judge.



(u) [...] In a collection of his [i.e. Marenzio’s] madrigals for six voices, published at Antwerp, 1594, some of the movements are gay and spirited, and contain passages that continued in fashion more than a hundred years after publication, as appears by the use that Purcel and Handel have made of them;

[3:203, note]


                  Salinas is said to have been an admirable performer on the organ; an instrument which seems peculiarly happy in its construction for the display of great musical talents, after the privation of sight: for not only Salinas, but Francesco Cieco, the first great organist upon record; Pothoff, the late excellent organist at Amsterdam; and our own Stanley who delighted the lovers of that instrument more than fifty years, seem, with respect to their performance, rather to have gained than lost by this calamity.  Milton, we are told, could amuse himself, and Handel, we know, had the power of delighting others upon this instrument, after total blindness, though it came on late in life.



                  It is sometimes fortunate for hyperbolical panegyrists of the Music of ancient times, when the particular pieces they celebrate cannot be found.  If the productions and performance of Orpheus, Linus, Amphion, Terpander, or Timotheus, could now be realized and compared with those of Handel, Corelli, Leo, Pergolesi, or of many other musicians now living, would they be able to keep their ground, and fulfil our ideas of their excellence, founded on poetical exaggeration?

[3:477{1}, duplicate pagination]


[...] the passion of this prince [i.e. Charles II] for French Music changed the national taste: happy for the art, when a sovereign’s favour is founded on so firm a basis as the works of Handel!

[3:483{1}, duplicate pagination]


His [i.e. Purcell’s] songs seem to contain whatever the ear could then wish, or heart could feel.  My father, who was nineteen years of age when Purcell died, remembered his person very well, and the effect his anthems had on himself and the public at the time that many of them were first heard; and used to say, that “no other vocal Music was listened to with pleasure, for near thirty years after Purcell’s death; when they gave way only to the favorite opera songs of Handel.”

[3:479{2}, duplicate pagination]


                  The custom, since the death of Purcell, of opening this magnificent hymn [Te Deum and Jubilate] with an overture or symphony, which Handel and Graun have done so powerfully, renders the beginning of our countryman’s composition somewhat abrupt, meagre, and inferior in dignity to the subject; [...]

[...] it seems to me as if all the composers of this hymn had mistaken the cry of joy for that of sorrow, in setting To thee all angels cry aloud.  Here Purcell, as well as Handel, has changed his key from major to minor, and in admirable modulation in itself, has given the movement a pathetic expression, which in reading and considering the idea of that eternal laud and praise which the hierarchies and heavenly hosts offer up to the throne of God, it seems not to require.

[3:484{2}, duplicate pagination]


                  This admirable composition [i.e. Purcell’s Te Deum and Jubilate] was constantly performed at St. Paul’s Church on the feast of the sons of the clergy, from the decease of the author, 1695, till the year 1713, when Handel’s Te Deum for the peace of Utrecht, was produced by order of Queen Anne.  From this period till 1743, when his second Te Deum, for the battle of Dettingen, was composed, they seem to have been alternately performed.  But since that time, Purcell’s composition has been but seldom executed, even at the triennial meetings of the three choirs of Hereford, Worcester, and Gloucester.  Handel’s superior knowledge and use of instruments, and more polished [487] melody, and, indeed, the novelty of his productions, which, caeteris paribus, will always turn the public scale, took such full possession of the nation’s favour, that Purcell’s Te Deum is only now performed occasionally, as an antique curiosity, even in the country.



(m) The review of this work [i.e. Purcell’s Te Deum and Jubilate] has not been undertaken with the least spirit of comparison, in order to exalt our great countryman at the expence of our great foreigner [i.e. Handel].  Some years have passed since these remarks were made, and I purposely avoided looking critically at Handel’s Te Deum, till the time came, not only for a careful and candid examination of that production, but of such of the other works of that truly great musician, as were performed at his Commemoration, in 1784.

[3:486{2} multiple pagination]


(n) These airs [“A Collection of Ayres composed for the Theatre and on other Occasions, by the late Mr. Henry Purcell” (1697)] are in four parts, for two violins, tenor, and base, and were played as overtures and act-tunes in my own memory, till they were superceded by Handel’s hautbois concertos, and those, by his overtures, while Boyce’s sonatas, and Arne’s compositions, served as act-tunes. [...]

[3:487, note]


Indian Queen.  The first movement of this overture is equal to any of Handel’s. [...]

                  Dioclesian, or the Prophetess, 1690.  The instrumental Music of this English opera given here, consists of an overture of two movements, the first excellent in the style of Lulli, and afterwards of Handel with better fugues; [...]



[...] Instrumental Music, therefore, has never gained much by our own abilities; for though some natives of England have had hands sufficient to execute the productions of the greatest masters on the continent, they have produced but little of their own that has been much esteemed.  Handel’s compositions for the organ and harpsichord, with those of Scarlatti and Alberti, were our chief practice and delight, for more than fifty years; [...]



                  Handel, who flourished in a less barbarous age for his art, has been acknowledged his superior in many particulars (c); but in none more than the art and grandeur of his choruses, the harmony and texture of his organ fugues, as well as his great style of playing that instrument; the majesty of his hautbois and grand concertos, the ingenuity of the accompaniments to his songs and choruses, and even in the general melody of the airs themselves; yet in the accent, passion, and expression of English words, the vocal Music of Purcell is, sometimes to my feelings, as superior to Handel’s as an original poem to a translation.



                  In this work [i.e. Francesco Turini’s mass for four voices (1643)] there is a canon, upon the subject of which Handel has composed one of his finest instrumental fugues; but, according to his usual practice, whenever he adopted another’s thought, he has enlivened and embellished this theme, like a man of true genius, with a counter subject, and shewn that he saw farther into its latent fertility than the original inventor (n).



                  Near the latter end of the last century a species of learned and elaborate Chamber Duets for voices began to be in favour.  The first that I have found, of this kind, were composed by JOHN BONONCINI, and published at Bologna in 1691.  Soon after, those of the admirable ABATE STEFFANI were dispesred in manuscript throughout Europe.  These were followed by the duets of CLARI, HANDEL, MARCELLO, GASPARINI, LOTTI, HASSE, and DURANTE.



Though Walther and most of the Germans, who wish to rank him [i.e. Steffani] among their countrymen, say that Lepsing was the place of his birth, yet Handel and the Italians make him a native of Castello Franco, in the Venetian state.



About the year 1724, after he [i.e. Steffani] had quitted the court of Hanover, where he is said to have resigned his office as maestro di capella, in favour of Handel, he was elected president of the Academy of Ancient Music in London.



Handel is supposed to have availed himself of [Carlo Maria] Clari’s subjects, and sometimes more, in the choruses of Theodora.



It has been said (t), without authority, that Corelli went to Paris in the year 1672, but was soon driven thence by the jealousy and violence [351] of Lulli.



[...] I well remember my pleasure and astonishment in hearing Giardini, in a solo that [559] he performed at the oratorio, 1769, play an air at the end of it with variations, in which, by repeating each strain with different bowing, without changing a single note in the melody, he gave it all the effect and novelty of a new variation of the passages.



                  The thanksgiving anthem: “Rejoice in the Lord,” page 33, page 143 (in Crofts’s Musica Sacra (1724)), is a very elaborate composition, accompanied with instruments; and if it be remembered, that it was produced about the middle of Queen Anne’s reign, before the arrival of Handel, our great model for Music richly accompanied, the symphony or introduction, with a solo part for the hautbois, and two violins, tenor, and base, must shew Crofts in the light of a man of genius, [...]



                  The productions of Weldon appear flimsy after those of Crofts; and Dr. Green’s after Handel’s; yet Green compared with Weldon is a giant: that is, a Handel.



[Maurice] Greene was an [615] intelligent man, a constant attendant at the opera, and an acute observer of the improvements in composition and performance, which Handel, and the Italian singers employed in his dramas, had introduced into this country.  His melody is therefore more elegant, and harmony more pure, than those of his predecessors, though less nervous and original.  Greene had the misfortune to live in the age and neighbourhood of a musical giant, with whom he was utterly unable to contend, but by cabal and alliance with his enemies.  Handel was but too prone to treat inferior artists with contempt; what provocation he had received from Greene, after their first acquaintance, when our countryman had a due sense of his great powers, I know not; but for many years of his life, he never spoke of him without some injurious epithet.  Greene’s figure was below the common size, and he had the misfortune to be very much deformed; yet his address and exterior manners were those of a man of the world, mild, attentive, and well-bred.  History has little to do with the infirmities of artists; who being men, in spite of uncommon gifts and inspirations, are subject to human frailties, which enthusiasm, praise, and the love of fame, more  frequently augment than diminish.



                  The two-part anthem: “Thou, O God, art praised,” has repeatedly a passage on the word praised, which has to my ear the disagreeable effect of two fifths; and there is a point at “unto thee shall my vow be performed,” for which he was manifestly obliged to the second movement of Handel’s fourth organ concerto.



The solo anthem [by Greene]: “Hear, O Lord,” for a base voice, is grave and pathetic, on the model of Handel’s best oratorio songs.  The same may be said of the next, for two voices: “I will seek unto God.” [...] “O give thanks,” is wholly built with Corelli’s and Handel’s materials, though somewhat differently disposed; [...]



The collection of harpsichord lessons, which he published late in his life, though they discovered no great powers of invention, or hand, had its day of favour, as a boarding-school book; for being neither so elaborate as those of Handel, nor difficult as Scarlatti or Alberti’s, they gave but little trouble either to the master or scholar.  Indeed, as all the passages are so familiar and temporary, they seem to have been occasionally produced for idle pupils at different times, with whom facility was the first recommendation.



Upon the death of Handel he [i.e. Stanley] and Mr. Smith undertook to superintend the performance of oratorios, during Lent; and after Mr. Smith retired, he carried them on, in conjunction with Mr. Linley, till within two years of his death, in 1786.





ARTICLE I.  A General History of Music, from the earliest Ages, to the present Period.  To which is prefixed, A Dissertation on the Music of the Ancients.  By Charles Burney, Mus. D.F.R.S..  In Four Volumes.  4to.  2426 pages.  Pr. 6l. 6s. in boards.  Robson and Robinsons.  1789.

[… 211 …]

The patience, the candour and humility conspicuous in this history, must interest every reader in favour of the amiable author, though some may not coincide with him respecting the niches, in which he places their favourite composers.  When poetry or music rises above mediocrity, a preference frequently depends on the particular temperature of each mind, on a delicacy of feeling and individuality of taste, scarcely to be defined.  Thus we see Shakspear often laid aside, by those who wish to listen to the lulling strain of Pope’s pastorals, as the melody of many composers of genius is, but too frequently, overlooked by the admirers of Handel’s grand instrumental accompaniments, or some modern artificial harmony.  These feats tickle the ear and wonder is mistaken for admiration.

[… 221 …]

The review of Handel’s operas [in Vol. 4, Ch. VI] is elaborate, and points out many fine compositions to his admirers; besides many just sentiments and pertinent remarks are scattered through it.

[… 222 …]

To have completed the history, Dr B. should, we think, have given an account of the commemoration of Handel, instead of referring his readers to another publication.  And after having inserted so many biographical anecdotes, he should not have sent us disappointed from the national history of music to a temporary work, to seek for a more particular account of the life and death of a man, who makes such a conspicuous figure in it:—more ought to have been said of Handel after he was placed on his throne.[10]




Letters upon the Poetry and Music of the Italian Opera…

In the foregoing example, the image of the oak itself on the high cliffs, the raging of the winds, and the dignity of the sentiment in the speaker, all conspire to produce the same effect of grandeur.  But I have seen airs, in which the subject of the passionate part was different from that of the imitative, so contrived, as to keep each most distinctly separate from the other, whilst, [134] at the same time, the union of both made one beautiful whole.  Handel, in his Oratorio of Acis and Galatea, has produced a master-stroke of this kind.—Galatea, addressing herself to the birds that are supposed to be singing around her, says,

Hush, hush, ye little warbling quire,

Your thrilling strains

Awake my pains,

And kindle fierce desire.

In this example, there is no comparison made; the imitative part is only suggested by the sense, and the composer has taken the hint in adapting the music to it, and has indeed done [135] it with the utmost propriety as well as ingenuity.  It is plain, in this air, that, if the imitation of any thing is to be at all attempted, it must be that of the warbling quire: And it is as plain, that the passionate expression of the speaker has not even the most distant relation to the singing of birds;—to have set the voice a singing, in imitation of the birds, or, whilst the voice sang the passionate part, to have made the birds sing either in unison, or in direct harmony, with the voice, would have been each equally absurd.  It would seem, indeed, at first sight, almost impossible to reconcile two things so different; yet this great genius, by confining each part to its [136] proper province, has so artfully managed the composition, that, whilst the vocal part most feelingly speaks the passion, a little flagellet from the orchestra carries on, throughout, the delightful warbling of the quire, and though perfectly different in sound, melody, and rhythm [sic], from the notes sung by the voice, instead of distracting the attention from it, or confounding the expression, serves to add new beauty and grace to the effect; just as your Lordship may conceive a naked figure so veiled with some light and transparent vestment floating to the wind, as at once completely to reveal the figure, and, by its undulating folds, add new charms both to the motion and the [137] form.  Nothing can put in a stronger light the discrimination which I before made to your Lordship, of the passionate and imitative powers of music, than the above mentioned air, or more clearly evince the propriety of assigning the first to the voice alone, and of confing the instruments to the other only.  This principle, indeed, long before it was perhaps ever thought of, either by philosophers or composers, must have been generally felt; and even the powers of the great Handel could not compensate its violation in composition; for, in the very same opera, a little after, when Galatea is made to convert Acis into a stream, and, after the symphony has made a [138] fine imitation of the winding of the stream through the vale, he makes Galatea repeat it with her voice; and, though the music of the air be, in other respects, beautiful in the extreme, yet I do not believe it was ever performed without appearing tedious, even to those who never dreamed of this principle; and, to those who were acquainted with it, at once tedious and absurd.[11]




The word [logos] is, plainly, used by Aristotle, in his first enumeration of the means of imitation, […] in the general sense, of language, discourse, or words, whether with, or without metre; as we say, “the words of a song,” &c. as opposed to the music; and that, whether those words are verse, as in general they are, or prose, as in the songs of the Messiah, and in the anthems of our church.


Choral recitative, indeed, judiciously introduced, and not continued too long, I have often thought, might occasionally be so managed as to produce a striking effect.  An example of it, and a very fine one, is to be found in an Oratorio of that admirable composer, Eman. Bach, of which the title, in English, is, The Israelites in the Wilderness.[12]



[1] The Diary and Letters of Frances Burney, Madame D’Arblay, revised and edited by Sarah Chauncey Woolsey, 2 vols. (Boston: Little, Boston, and Company, 1902,), 2:116–17.

[2] Letters of Anna Seward: written between the Years 1784 and 1807, 6 vols. (Edinburgh: A. Constable, 1811), 2:276–77.

[3] Letters of Anna Seward: written between the Years 1784 and 1807, 6 vols. (Edinburgh: A. Constable, 1811), 2:265–67.

[4] The Analytical Review 3 (1789): 369.

[5] The Analytical Review 3 (1789): 369.

[6] The Analytical Review 4 (June 1789): 206; reprinted, Mary Wollstonecraft, On Poetry Contributions to the Analytical Review, 1788–1797, Vol. 7 in “The Works of Mary Wollstonecraft,” edited by Janet Todd & Marilyn Butler (New York: New York University Press, 1989), 112–14.

[7] The Analytical Review 5 (1789): 236–37.]

[8] This information appears more than once in Hawkins’s History (1776); one of many instances where Burney sacrifices the critic in him to personal enmity.

(c) See account of his Commemoration, p. 39.

(n) The tenor leads off the subject, and is answered at the second bar by the soprano in the octave; at the third bar the base begins a fifth below the tenor, and is answered at the fourth bar by the countertenor an octave above the base.

(t) Life of Handel, 1760, p. 46.

[9] Charles Burney, A General History of Music, from the Earliest Ages to the Present Period...Volume the Third (London: the author, 1789).

[10] The Analytical Review 6 (February 1789): 130, 144, 146;reprinted, Mary Wollstonecraft, On Poetry Contributions to the Analytical Review, 1788–1797, Vol. 7 in “The Works of Mary Wollstonecraft,” edited by Janet Todd & Marilyn Butler (New York: New York University Press, 1989), 210–11, 221–22.

[11] John Brown, Letters upon the Poetry and Music of the Italian Opera… (Edinburgh: Bell and Bradfute and C. Elliot and T. Kay, 1789; reprinted, London: sold by T. Cadell, 1791), 133–38.

[12] Thomas Twining (editor), Aristotle’s Treatise on Poetry, Translated: With Notes on the Translation, and on the Original; And Two Dissertations, on Poetical, and Musical, Imitation  (London: Payne and Son...,1789), 155, 294.