Dec 11

[Anna Seward to F. Evans, 11 December 1794.]


            Last night was our Cecilian anniversary. [… 32 …] One of the present candidates for the choral stall in our cathedral, vacant by the death of poor young Spray, a Mr Claburn of Cambridge, sung a lovely song of Handel’s, with elegance and expression; and Birch, with his noble bass tones, gave us the sublime strain of that great master—”He layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters.” […][1]




Dec 21

[George III’s reply to an inquiry of the Marquess of Salisbury regarding the marriage ceremony of the Prince of Wales with Princess Caroline of Brunswick.  Windsor, 21 December, 1794.]

The marriage ceremony is to be performed in the Chapel at St. James’ in the evening; the attendants will all be directed to be there, as on the occasion of my late father’s marriage, at seven. [...]

            The Archbishop of Canterbury will perform the ceremony.  I wish the same anthem of Handel, compos’d for my late father’s marriage, may be performed on the occasion.[2]




FRIEND of the Muse, (a) by every muse rever’d,

In Europe honour’d and by India fear’d, [2]

Around whose throne, in freedom’s chosen land,

In stern defence a guardian people stand,

Who feel for Britain, feel their sacred cause,

THY just prerogative and equal laws;

Hear, BRUNSWICK, thy Imperial Brother’s song,

Firm on the base of friendship deep and strong,

E’en in my eightieth winter fancy-free,

I build the rhyme to Royalty and THEE.

[… 30 …]

    I hail thy favour’d Island, that can boast

Fostered by THEE those arts which Athens lost:

Apelles in thy Reynolds shall revive,

And in a Bacon great Lysippus live:

Thine too the poet’s care; nor Cowper’s strain,

Nor Scotland’s Doric Minstrel sounds in vain;

But chief that care shall Johnson’s virtue prove,

Led by the day-star beaming from above.

A nation’s taste to rouse and to refine,

Handel by THEE was raised to strength divine; (r)

The monumental marble breathed: from high

His wondering spirit stoop’d, and own’d the harmony. [31]

Such the instruction, such the grace, secur’d

By balanc’d rights, and policy matur’d.[3]




[Chapter VIII.]


Previous to my uncle’s departure, I had found another mode of obtaining knowledge, and applause.  He was musical, and a few persons of the like turn, scattered through the neighbouring hamlets, used occasionally to meet at his house; where they exercised themselves in singing, from the works of Croft, Green, Boyce, Purcel, Handel, and such authors as they possessed.  One of them played the bassoon, another the flute, and a third the violin.  I had a quick ear, was attracted by their harmony, and began to join in their concerts.  A treble voice was a great acquisition; I was apt and they encouraged me, by frequent praise and admiration.  My uncle gave me Arnold’s Psalmody, in which I eagerly studied the rudiments of the science: but this book, with the rest, was swept away in the general wreck; and I, after having had a glimpse of the enchanted land of knowledge, [88] was cast back, apparently to perish in the gloomy deserts of ignorance.  I had no source of information, except my mother; and her stores, at the best, were scanty: at present, labour left her but little leisure, and the little she had was spent in complaint.



[Chapter X.]


Among my other acquirements, I became a practical musician.  The rector could strum the bass tolerably, and his [134] friend the lawyer could play the violin, in which however he was excelled by the clerk of the parish.  I retained some remembrance of what I had formerly studied, and felt a great desire to learn; the rector encouraged it, and as the clerk is always the very humble servant and slave of the parson, he was inducted my music master.  I loved the art, so that in less than twelve months I had made a sufficient progress to join in Corelli’s and even Handel’s trios, and thus to strengthen the parsonage-house band.





The most enlightened judge, both of his own art and of all that relates to it, is a painter of a liberal and comprehensive [185] mind, who has added extensive observation and reflection to practical execution; and if to that he adds also the power of expressing his ideas clearly and forcibly in words, the most capable of enlightening others. [example Reynold’s discourses] On the other hand, nothing so contracts the mind as a little practical dexterity, unassisted and uncorrected by general knowledge and observation, and by a study of the great masters of the art.  An artist, whose mind has been so contracted, refers every thing to his own narrow circle of ideas and execution*, and wishes to confine within that circle all the rest of mankind.[5]




    Thine also was the art, to touch with skill

And various feeling the persuasive stop [36]

Of organ mellow-ton’d, slow movement first

And solemn fingering, till the lapt soul

With sweet indulgence satiated ’gan doze

As if by opium lull’d, and ill perceiv’d

The melting lapse of diapason sounds,

Harmonious combination falling slow

Into a tremulous expiring close.

Then the brisk fugue with captivating air,

Expressive pause, and tone distinct and loud,

Led like some active hero to the field,

Led and was followed by battalions firm,

’Till universal uproar fill’d the ear.

Then follow’d tender air, that stole along

Like softest poetry, whose dying fall

Might ravish Heav’n itself.  Then solemn march,

Impulse scarce needing of the pow’rful trump

And loud reverberating drum, to wake

Reposing valour to gigantic deeds.

Then air accompanied by verse and voice,

Haply of Handel’s muse, for some sweet grace [37]

Selected and esteem’d, haply deriv’d

From genius less improv’d, from living art

Which seldom to the judgment dares appeal

Her song compiling for the ear alone.

Religious anthem then thy spreading hand

With its full concord swell’d, whether it breath’d

Melodious solo or harmonious verse,

Or shouted chorus awfully devout

Enrich’d with all the mysteries of tone.[6]



[1] Letters of Anna Seward: written between the Years 1784 and 1807, 6 vols. (Edinburgh: A. Constable, 1811), 4:31–32.

[2] The Later Correspondence of George III, edited by A. Aspinall, 5 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), 2:284.

(a) The institution of the Academy for painting and sculpture, the patronage of poetical and learned merit in Cowper, Beattie, the late Dr. Johnson and other writers of eminence whom it is unnecessary to mention, and the restoration of national taste for the sublime of music by his persevering and undeviating regard for Handel, are fully sufficient to entitle his present majesty George III. “The Friend of the muse.”—The Emperor notices this in a future part of his Epistle.

Note by the Translator.

(r) The Emperor alludes to the grand musical Performances in Westminster Abbey in commemoration of Handel, in 1784, &c.  They are recorded very properly on a tablet on the monument of Handel.

[3] [Thomas James Mathias], The Imperial Epistle from Kien Long.  Emperor of China, to George the Third, King of Great Britain, &c. &c. &c. in the Year 1794.  transmitted from his Imperial Majesty in a Box made of Beautiful Black Wood, carved curiously and of Great Value, and presented to His Britannic Majesty by His Excellency the Right Honourable George Earl Macartney of the Kingdom of Ireland, K. B. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Emperor of china in the Years 1792, 1793, and 1794.  Translated into English Verse from the Original Chinese Poetry (London: R. White, 1796), 1–2, 30–31.

[4] Thomas Holcroft, The Adventures of Hugh Trevor, 6 vols. (London: Shepperson and Reynolds, 1794), 1:87–88, 133–34.

* I remember a gentleman, who played very prettily on the flute, abusing all Handel’s music, and to give me every advantage, like a generous adversary, he defied me to name one good chorus of his writing.  It may well be supposed that I did not accept the challenge; c’étoit [/186] bien l’embarras des richesses; and indeed he was right in his own way of considering them, for there is not one that would do well for his instrument.

[5] [Uvedale Price, An Essay on the Picturesque, as compared with the Sublime and the Beautiful; and, on The Use of Studying Pictures, for the Purpose of Improving Real Landscape (London: J. Robson, 1794), 184-86.]

[6] [James Hurdis, Tears of Affection, A Poem, Occasioned by the Death of a Sister Tenderly Beloved (London: J. Johnson, 1794), 35-37.]