April 20, 1799.






IN submitting to the Public, Anecdotes of Handel, some apology may be expected, as his Life has been already given in numerous productions.  The motives which gave rise to this attempt, must plead an excuse.  The profits of this Publication being appropriated to the use of the Relations of Mr. Smith, whose Memoirs are now first presented to the world.

                  For the Memoirs of Handel, the best printed accounts have been consulted.  “The Memoirs of the Life of George Frederick Handel, 8vo. 1760,” which were written under the inspection of Mr. Smith;” “Sir John Hawkins’s History of Music:” — “an Account of the Musical Performances in Commemoration of Handel;” “the present State of Music in Germany and the Netherlands;” and, “the History of Music;” all by Dr. Burney.  Some original Anecdotes are interspersed, derived from unquestionable authority.

                  The Portrait of Handel is engraven from an original picture painted by Denner, in 1736 or 1737, which Handel gave to Mr. Smith; who left it to his son-in-law, the Rev. William Coxe, in whose possession it now remains.  The Portrait of Mr. Smith is engraven from a picture by Zoffani, now in the possession of Mr. Peter Coxe.


[the following note appears in certain copies of the book]


*** Only Sixty Copies of this Impression on Imperial Paper were printed, for the sole use of the Subscribers.




[list of subscribers]














IT has been a long received opinion, that the offspring of persons advanced in years are generally weak in frame as well as intellect, and evidently show the languor of the stock from which they sprung; but George Frederick Handel, the subject of the present Memoirs, is a strong instance that such conclusions are not founded in truth: for though his father at the time of his birth was sixty-one years of age, his son astonished the world as an uncommon example of early approach to excellence, great strength of constitution, and continued abilities.


                  Handel was born on the 24th of February, 1686, at Hall, a city in the dutchy of Magdeburg, in the circle of Upper Saxony, where his father resided as a physician.  He was the child of a second marriage.  His father destined him to the profession of the civil law; but Handel discovered in his early childhood a strong passion for music. [4]


                  Few instances occur of a more early, decided, or fortunate propensity to a particular science.  Pope said of himself that


“He lisp’d in numbers, and the numbers came;”


Handel, though he never possessed a fine voice, could sing as soon as he could speak, and evinced such a predilection for music, that the father carefully kept out of his reach all instruments, with the hopes of weaning his mind from what he deemed a degrading attachment.  But the child contrived to obtain possession of a clavicord, which he secreted in the garret, and at night, when he was supposed to be asleep, the young enthusiast was awake; and the imagination may fondly view him striking the strings of his lyre, – that lyre which was to charm all Europe with its energy.


                  It is the property of Genius to possess that inflexible spirit, and unalterable adherence to a resolution once formed, which defies opposition, diminishes danger, and surmounts impediment: this disposition tyrannically checked, preys on the temper, and settles into gloominess and misanthropy; but if cherished, and warmed with moderate success, it produces the noblest and most expansive efforts of human energy.  This disposition was the characteristic of Handel; and his inflexible spirit of perseverance is marked by a trivial occurrence, which took place in the seventh year of his age.  His father, purposing to visit one of his sons, who was valet de chambre to the Duke of Saxe Weisenfeld, Handel earnestly intreated that he might be allowed to accompany him; but his request was peremptorily rejected.  The father set off in a chaise; and when he had travelled a few miles, he was surprised at the sight of his son, who, with a strength [5] greatly surpassing his years, had set out on foot and overtaken the carriage, the progress of which had been retarded by the badness of the roads.  After a sharp animadversion, and some reluctance, the little suppliant was permitted to take his seat, and gratify his earnest desire of visiting his brother.


                  At the Duke’s court, Handel was not so closely watched by his father, as at home.  He enjoyed many opportunities of indulging his natural propensity; and he contrived, occasionally, to play upon the organ in the Duke’s chapel at the conclusion of divine service.  One morning the Duke hearing the organ touched in an unusual manner, inquired of his valet who was the performer.  The valet replied that it was his brother; and mentioning at the same time his wonderful talents and predilection for music, and his father’s repugnance, the Duke sent for them both.  After other inquiries, the Duke was so much pleased with the spirit and talents of the boy, that he pleaded the cause of nature: he represented it as a crime against the public and posterity, to rob the world of such a genius; and, finally, persuaded the father to sacrifice his own scruples, and to permit his son to be instructed in the profession for which he had evinced so strong an inclination.  A more interesting scene can hardly be conceived, than Handel listening to the arguments of his powerful advocate, and marking his final triumph over the reluctant prejudices of his parent.  The Duke became so much interested in his success, that, at his departure, he made him a present, and promised his protection if he zealously applied to his studies.


                  At his return to Hall, his father placed him under the tuition of William Zackau, organist to the cathedral; a man of science and [6] judgment.  Zackau carefully instilled into his scholar, a thorough knowledge of the principles of harmony, and by explaining to him the different styles of Italian and German composition, he laid the foundation of that fame, which was to claim so distinguished a place in the annals of music.  Handel made so rapid a progress, that before he had completed his seventh year, he was able to officiate on the organ for his master; and at the age of nine, he began to study composition.  At this early period of his life he is said to have composed, every week, during three successive years, a spiritual cantata, or church service for voices, with instrumenta1 accompaniments.*


                  Having exhausted his source of improvement at Hall, he became desirous of enlarging his knowledge, and was eager to obtain applause on a more distinguished theatre.  He made choice of Berlin as the [7] spot, where the Opera, under the patronage of Frederick the First, was in a flourishing state, and boasted the aid of the most distinguished musicians of Italy; among whom Buononcini and Attilio were not the least conspicuous.  The fame of Handel had preceded him; but these two musicians considered him a mere child, whose abilities had been greatly exaggerated: Buononcini, therefore, in order to try his skill, composed a cantata in the chromatic style, in which he comprized difficulties sufficient to puzzle an experienced master.  Handel, however, treated this formidable composition as a mere trifle; he executed it at sight, with a degree of accuracy, truth, and expression, hardly to be expected from repeated practice, and from an aged performer.


                  But the display of congenial powers, did not impress Buononcini with one sentiment of friendship, or draw from him any symptom of kindness; though civil, he behaved to Handel with such reserve, as seemed to imply, that the foundation of future animosity was laid at that moment.  Attilio, on the contrary, shewed him a partiality; the result of a generous and honourable disposition.  He would place him for hours at his harpsichord, and was anxious to aid his progress in composition, or facilitate his readiness in execution. [8] Proud

to patronize so promising a genius, Frederick frequently invited him to court, made him considerable presents, and, finally, proposed to send him to Italy at his own charge.  This proposal Handel was eager to accept; but his father, foreseeing that it would impose a restraint on his son, declined; alleging as an excuse, that his very advanced age required his son’s presence.  In compliance with his father’s injunctions Handel left Berlin, unwilling to expose himself to further solicitation.


                  Though Handel perfectly acquiesced in the propriety of the motives which induced his father to reject the proposal of Frederick, yet the flattering reception he had met with in his two excursions from home, opened to his view the fairest prospects of profit and celebrity.  His father dying, a diminution in his mother’s income induced him to repair to Hamburgh, where the Opera was next in repute to that of Berlin.  On his arrival he secured an engagement at the opera-house, not as a principal performer on the harpsichord, but as second ripieno violin.  So extraordinary a step of voluntary self-abasement will appear singular; but it was the effect of a principle unbecoming the dignity of a great mind, which led him to affect a simplicity, or rather humility of conduct, founded on vanity, and which his youth only could excuse, that he might enjoy the surprise excited by an unexpected display of his powers.  Such an opportunity soon occurred.  Reinhard Keiser, the leader of the band, encumbered with debts, was obliged to absent himself; and to the general astonishment, the unobserved performer on the violin took his seat before the harpsichord, and soon convinced his audience, and the band, that they had no reason to regret, but ought to exult in the change. [9]


                  There is a received account of a contest for this enviable precedence, and an attempt to assassinate Handel, which was founded on a misrepresentation of the following occurrence.  Matheson, who was afterwards Secretary to the English Resident, and wrote several books on the subject of Music, was at that time a principal singer, and occasional composer.  He had set to music the opera of Cleopatra, in which he himself performed Antony; but his part being over in an early period of the piece, it was his custom to take his seat at the harpsichord, and conduct the band during the rest of the performance.  This had been submitted to by Keiser; but Handel was not of a disposition so accommodating.  He refused to resign his seat; and Matheson, in a rage, as they were going down the steps of the orchestra at the close of the opera, gave him a blow.  Their swords were instantly drawn; but Matheson’s weapon fortunately breaking against his antagonist’s button, put an end to the rencounter.  They had been in habits of intimacy, which they soon resumed; and were rejoiced at the lucky conclusion of so serious an incident, arising from so trifling a cause.


                  In addition to the profits of his engagement, Handel had scholars sufficient to render all assistance from his mother unnecessary; and he returned the first remittance she sent him, with a supply from his savings.  Before his quarrel with Matheson, he had travelled with him to Lubeck, where there was a vacancy for the organist’s place.  They performed this journey in the public caravan, with all the thoughtless hilarity of youth, singing extempore duets, and amusing themselves with all imaginable frolics on the road; to which the affected simplicity and archness of Handel gave an exquisite zest.  Finding the [10] acceptance of the place coupled with a condition, that the organist was to take a wife, who was to be chosen for him by the magistrates, they each of them declined offering themselves on such conditions, and returned together to Hamburgh.


                  During his residence at Hamburgh, he composed his first Italian opera of Almira (1704).  It met with great and flattering success, and ran thirty nights without intermission.  The next year he produced Nerone; and the two succeeding years Florindo, and Dafne; all which were eminently successful.  But he was at this time so much engaged with his scholars, and in the production of lessons for the harpsichord, that he did not give to the public so many operas as the fertility of his genius would have enabled him.


                  At this period the Prince of Tuscany, brother to the Grand Duke, came to Hamburgh, and engaged Handel’s attention, by introducing to his notice a considerable variety of Italian music; dwelling with patriotic enthusiasm on the pre-eminence of his countrymen.  He lamented that Handel had not visited a region, where every branch of the musical science was carried to the highest perfection, and offered his patronage if he would accompany him to Florence.  Though Handel had been long desirous of going to Italy, he politely declined this offer, from a noble spirit of independence, which was never known to forsake him, even in the most distressful seasons of his life.  But his visit was only postponed.


                  Having acquired a sufficient sum to defray his expences, he left Hamburgh in 1708, and repaired to Florence; where his reception was [11] such as might be expected from the countenance of the exalted personage who introduced him.  At Florence he composed the opera of Rodrigo, for which the Grand Duke presented him an hundred sequins, and a service of plate.  From Florence he proceeded to Venice, where he arrived incognito at the Carnival, and was immediately discovered by Scarlatti, who, listening to him as he sat at the harpsichord in his visor, exclaimed, that the performer must be either the famous Saxon, or the devil.


                  (1709.) He was soon prevailed upon to compose the opera of Agrippina, and he effected it in three weeks, to the astonishment of Venice; and, as the author of so excellent and unexpected a performance, he was almost idolized.  Agrippina was brought out at a theatre which had been shut up for a considerable time, but which was now crowded every night; and all the first singers from the other theatres offered to perform in the opera of Il caro Sassone.  The audience knew no bounds in testifying their admiration.  Vittoria, an excellent actress, singer, and favourite mistress of’ the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who had conceived an affection for Handel at Florence, came to Venice, and bore a principal part in the new opera.  His youth and comeliness, joined to his musical fame, had made an impression on her heart; but Handel was too prudent to encourage an attachment, which might have occasioned the ruin of both.


                  From Venice he went to Rome, preceded by his illustrious reputation, which procured him the immediate patronage of Cardinal Ottoboni; for whom he composed several pieces in so masterly a style, as astonished, and even confounded the oldest proficients.  He had [12] trials of skill with eminent musicians, particularly with Dominico Scarlatti, who had the honour, in some measure, to divide the laurel with him; for though Handel was allowed a distinguished superiority on the organ, yet, on the harpsichord, the contest remained doubtful.  Handel was also courted by Cardinals Pamfilio and Colonna.  For Cardinal Pamfilio, who possessed the talent of making extempore poetry, Handel composed extempore music.  Among these were Il Trionfo del Tempo, and a poem in praise of the Musician, wherein Pamfilio compared him to Orpheus.


                  From Rome he proceeded to Naples, where he was no less the object of esteem and admiration; and at the request of Donna Laura, a Spanish princess, he composed Acige e Galatea.*  He then made a second visit to Florence, Rome, and Venice, and at length resolved to quit Italy, where his reputation had acquired a lustre exceeding his most sanguine expectations.  He was distinguished, according to the custom of the country, by the appellation of Il Sassone; and had he remained in Italy, that distinction would have superseded his patronimic.  Though his productions at the time were numerous, few are now extant, except the pieces which have been alluded to.


                  After his return to Germany, (1710) he visited Hanover.  Steffani, a learned and elegant composer, whom be had known at Venice, and who was a great favourite at the Electoral court, introduced him to the notice of the Princess Sophia, and her grandson the Electoral [13] Prince, afterwards George the Second.  Baron Kilmanseg, who had been acquainted with him in Italy, recommended him to the attention of the Elector, afterwards George the First; who, struck with his merit, proposed to retain him in his service, with a salary of fifteen hundred crowns per annum.  This liberal offer Handel accepted; but on condition, that he should be permitted to visit England, whither he had been invited by many persons of high rank, whom he had seen in Italy, and at Hanover.  The Elector agreed to these conditions; and afterwards, by the friendly interference of Steffani, appointed him master of the chapel.  In his way to England he visited his native city, where he paid his duty to his mother, who was blind and infirm, and renewed his intimacy with his relations and friends, amongst whom Zackau was not forgotten.  At Dusseldorf he had a flattering reception from the Elector Palatine, who presented him with a service of plate, and wished to retain him in his Court.


                  In England, (1710) observes Dr. Burney, his reception was as flattering to himself, as honourable to the nation; at this time no less successful in war than in the cultivation of the arts of peace.  To the wit, poetry, literature, and science, which marked this period of our history, Handel added all the blandishments of a nervous and learned music, which he first brought hither, planted, and lived to see grow to a very flourishing state.  The impatience of the public was so great, that Handel was immediately employed in setting to music the opera of Rinaldo, which was prepared and finished with unparalleled haste.  Aaron Hill, who was manager or the opera, sketched the plan from Tasso’s Gierusalemme Liberata, and Rossi, the Italian poet, composed the drama.  In his Preface, Rossi commends Handel’s musical talents [14] in the highest strain of panegyric, and calls him the Orpheus of the age.  He observes, that Handel scarcely allowed him time to write the words; and that, to his great astonishment, he set the whole to music in the short space of a fortnight.  The principal part was written for Nicolini, whose graceful and expressive action was praised by Steele, in the Tatler.*  Rinaldo was received with the greatest applause, not only on its first appearance, but on three subsequent revivals; and Walsh, the music seller, is reputed to have gained fifteen hundred pounds by printing the scores.


                  Having staid in England near a twelvemonth, during which his execution was no less admired than his compositions, Handel took leave of Queen Anne, who accompanied several valuable presents with expressions of regret at his departure, and wishes for his speedy return; which he respectfully promised should take place as soon as he could obtain permission of the Elector.


                  On his arrival at Hanover, Handel composed twelve chamber duets, and a few other pieces of little importance; and soon obtained permission to return to England, on the positive assurance that he would not long absent himself from the Electoral dominions.  His return to London was hailed by the musical world as a national acquisition, and every measure was adopted to render his abode pleasant and permanent.  An eminent occasion was not long wanting for the full exercise of his great talents.  He was called upon to compose the Grand Jubilate, and Te Deum, for the conclusion of the peace of Utrecht.  In that composition he acquitted himself with all that wonderful effect [15] of sublimity and judgment, for which he was remarkable.  He also composed for the Opera-house, Teseo, and Il Pastor Fido; and both operas were well received.  The Queen was so captivated with his performances, that she settled on him an annual pension of two hundred pounds, and the nobility vied with each other in proving their esteem for so distinguished a musician; who, thus rewarded, courted, and patronized, forgot his promise of returning to Germany.


                  In 1714 Queen Anne died.  The accession of his liberal patron, who, under the title of George the First, succeeded to the throne, under other circumstances would have been the moment of exultation; but instead of appearing in the foremost rank of congratulators, Handel did not venture to present himself at Court.  From this embarrassment, however, he was happily relieved by the kindness of Baron Kilmanseg, Master of the Horse to George the First as Elector of Hanover.  Apprized that his Majesty had projected a party on the Thames, he informed Handel of the King’s intention: Handel immediately produced that celebrated composition, known by the title of the Water Music.  Having procured a band, he followed the barge, and watching his opportunity, unexpectedly charmed the Royal party by melodies of singular effect and sweetness.  The King inquiring who was the composer of that exquisite harmony, Baron Kilmanseg said that it was Handel; stated his contrition, and sued for his restoration to favour.  This respectful attempt at reconciliation, and atonement for his conduct, mollified the Sovereign.  Soon afterwards, Geminiani was commanded to play, in the King’s closet, twelve solos which he had recently composed: fearful that their proper effect would be lost by an indifferent accompaniment, he expressed a wish that Handel [16] might be permitted to preside at the harpsichord.  This request was conveyed to the King, and enforced by the friendly solicitation of the Baron.  Handel was restored to favour; and the King increased the pension granted by Queen Anne to four hundred pounds a year.


                  In the course of the summer, Handel passed several months at Barn Elms, in Surrey, with Mr. Andrews; and in the winter, at that gentleman’s house in town.  He was also invited (1715) to the mansion of the Earl of Burlington, where he composed Amadige, or Amadis de Gaul; the only opera of his which appeared (May 15,) on the boards of the King’s Theatre for five years.  He remained three years with Lord Burlington, during which time he became acquainted with Pope, Gay, and Arbuthnot.  Pope not only had no knowledge of the science of music, but received no gratification from “the concord of sweet sounds.”  He heard the performances of Handel with perfect indifference, if not impatience.  Gay was pleased with music without understanding it, but forgot the performance when the notes ceased to vibrate.  Arbuthnot, on the contrary, who was a judge of music, and a composer, felt the merits of Handel, and conceived an esteem for him, which he afterwards displayed under the most trying circumstances.  From the Earl of Burlington’s, Handel went to Cannons, the seat of the Duke of Chandos, where he remained two years as composer for the chapel; producing numerous anthems and other sacred pieces, and the English serenata of Acis and Galatea.


                  During the last year (1720) of his residence at Cannons, the principal nobility and gentry resolved to establish an Academy of Music.  The King was the patron, and subscribed one thousand pounds; and [17] the whole subscription amounted to fifty thousand pounds.  Application being made to Handel to assume the management, he consented; and, having set off for Dresden to procure singers, returned with Senesino, and several other performers, prepared to open the Opera-house in a style of superior splendour.  He first produced for the Academy the Opera of Radamisto; the great success of which evinced his talents as a composer, and a happy power of adapting airs to the abilities of the respective singers.  Radamisto proved as great a favourite in London, as Agrippina had proved at Venice; and disappointed crowds went every night from the house, unable to obtain seats.  The great success of Handel did not, however, exempt him from the rivalship of Buononcini and Attilio.  They had been invited to England by the former managers of the Opera; and as they were composers of acknowledged merit, their admirers refused to concede the precedence to Handel.  Hence arose those musical feuds, which Swift has ridiculed as a dispute,

“’Twixt Tweedle-dum, and Tweedle-dee,”

and which were brought to a crisis in the succeeding winter.  It was agreed by the friends of the three rivals, that each of them should compose an act of the Opera of Mutius Scaevola, and an overture.  Buononcini set the first act, Attilio the second, and Handel the third.  The preference was given to Handel; he was appointed composer; the Academy was finally established, and the Opera prosperously conducted during nine years.


                  During this period he composed fifteen Operas, all of which possessed extraordinary merit, and were highly successful; but either from mismanagement in the pecuniary concerns of the house, or from [18] the impossibility of supporting an Opera in London, without constant contributions, the condition of the treasury became so unprosperous, that the whole sum subscribed, was in this short and brilliant period entirely exhausted, and the Academy dissolved.  This is the real cause of the termination of this splendid undertaking, though it has been ignorantly ascribed to the irritability of Handel.  It is true, indeed, that the composer was not of a temper to treat singers with great respect; he considered them, perhaps too much, as mere instruments, which gave utterance to that harmony, of which he was so distinguished an Author.  He possessed the impetuosity and inflexibility of genius.  On the contrary, Senesino, intoxicated with popular applause, which his talents well merited, did not bend with implicit submission to the wishes of the manager.  Disputes certainly ran high between Handel and Senesino, before the dissolution of the Academy; but it is not true, that their irreconcilable antipathy was the occasion of that event.  Senesino sung in operas composed by Handel, and under his management, two years after the dissolution had taken place.


                  If Handel was little disposed to submit to the caprice of the male performers, he was not of a temper patiently to endure the disturbance arising from female squabbles for precedence; and still less, to have his views thwarted by their peevishness, or non-compliance with rules which he had thought necessary to prescribe.  His choler on such occasions surmounted all bounds of discretion.  When Cuzzoni had refused to sing an air which he had composed for her, he exclaimed in a rage, that he well knew that she had the spirit of a devil; but that he would convince her whom she had to deal with, in dealing [19] with him, for that he was Beelzebub, the Prince of the Devils; and seizing her by the waist, threatened to throw her from the window, if she persisted in her refusal.  The pride and haughtiness of Cuzzoni, and Faustina, was of that description, that neither of them would sing when the other was present; and persons of the first distinction humoured this insolence, by enlisting in parties, and degrading themselves by the most unworthy condescensions.  But their quarrels with Handel had little effect to the prejudice of the Academy, for Cuzzoni sung for him at the same time with Senesino.


                  At the close of the last season (1728) of the Academy, the singers dispersed, and during a whole year there was no Italian Opera in London.  In this interval, Handel being determined, in conjunction with Heidegger, to establish Operas on their private account, went to Italy in search of performers.  He returned (1729) with a respectable band, and opened the house (29th December) with Lotario; which, together with Parthenope, were sufficient attractions for the season.  The following year, Senesino sung for him in various Operas, and continued to perform till Handel’s dissensions with him and Cuzzoni became so violent, that they could no longer remain united.


                  An opposition was immediately excited by many persons of distinction, who had taken umbrage that they were excluded from their subscription boxes; and that the price of admission was raised to a guinea when Oratorios were performed.  These imprudent measures gave birth to a rival Opera, at the theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields; which was patronized by many persons of quality, and to which several of the singers and instrumental performers, whom Handel had engaged, [20] deserted.  Senesino complained that Handel no longer composed for him in his usual style; he therefore quitted his theatre, and Cuzzoni accompanied him.


                  Handel, however, was not to be intimidated.  Carestini, Strada, the Negri family, Durastanti, and Scalzi, still remained; and he possessed that powerful resource which never failed him, his own immeasurable abilities.  It is not intended to describe the progress of this contest, which ruined Handel’s finances, impaired his health, and even affected his understanding.  He fought manfully, changed alternately to the Haymarket, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and Covent Garden Theatre, varying his performers, and even his style of music.  Yet such was the inveteracy of the opposing party, that though his Operas were most admirable compositions, and those of his adversaries far inferior in merit, the tide of fashion set decidedly against him.


                  In this arduous situation, which lasted near eleven years, he displayed great superiority and force of mind.  He did not condescend to conciliate favour by degrading concession, or to reduce the expence, by engaging inferior performers, or diminishing the salaries of those whom he employed.  On the contrary, his band was always numerous, well selected, and liberally paid; but so long a contest, with such expensive exertions, and such unfavourable consequences, could not fail alike to injure the body and the mind.  Handel evinced, in the course of the struggle, occasional symptoms of mental derangement, and lost the use of his right arm by a stroke of the palsy.  Suffering under this affliction, he went immediately to Tunbridge, and from thence to Aix-la-Chapelle. [21]


                  In the days of his prosperity he had invested a considerable sum in the funds; but at the end of this pertinacious opposition he had lost ten thousand pounds, the produce of his youthful exertions, and was besides so greatly in debt, that he was in daily fear of being arrested for the salaries of his performers; with whom, however, he contrived to settle by bonds, which were afterwards duly discharged.  It is not the least astonishing part of his character, that his promptitude of invention, and brilliancy of ideas, in all this time did not forsake him.  At the moment of his recovery (1737) from a violent illness, and even attended with fits of lunacy, his faculties were exerted with their full vigour in bringing forward the Opera of Faramond; and in composing the funeral anthem on the death of his lamented patroness, Queen Caroline, equal in pathos and sublimity to his best compositions.


                  Nor had his enemies any cause to exult.  Though Handel gave up the contest, no victory was gained by them; though he was impoverished, they were not enriched.  It is clearly ascertained, that without considerable subscriptions, great abilities in the composers, excellence in the singers, and strenuous exertions, an Opera can never be advantageously maintained in London.  When all the patronage and the best singers were enlisted on one side, and the best composers on the other, it was easy to suppose that both undertakings would fail.  The public always sided with Handel; but the public, except of the higher class of society, are not sufficiently attached to the Italian Opera, to give celebrity and profit to the undertaking.  To be sensible of the beauties of Italian music, requires an intimacy with the science, and a knowledge of the language.  Few possess those advantages.  The language [22] of Nature is open to all, whether in expression or action; but the grace of expression and action is not sufficient to engage the attention of mankind, where sense is concealed by an unknown idiom, and the understanding is not gratified by a perception of appropriate harmony.


                  Handel could not complain of neglect.  Though Farinelli and the nobility at that time opposed him; though he had no capital singer except Strada, and laboured under other disadvantages, his Alexander’s Feast (19th February, 1736) was attended by an audience uncommonly numerous.  Thirteen hundred persons were assembled at the Theatre of Covent Garden, and the receipt of the house amounted to four hundred and fifty pounds.  His benefit at the Haymarket, in the following month (28th March, 1738), was equally well attended; the pit was laid into boxes, and the house crowded in every part.  He received an honourable mark of distinction from the liberality of an individual, seldom conferred on any man during his life.  His statue, admirably sculptured by Roubillac, was placed by Mr. Jonathan Tyers in the gardens at Vauxhall (1738); and the public coincided in the justice and propriety of the compliment paid to his merit.


                  It may be alleged, in contradiction to Handel’s popularity, that several of his Operas, published in this interval by subscription, barely defrayed the expences; but it is to be observed, that the most important and beneficial class of subscribers, were adverse to his interests; and that the number of rival composers who advanced their claims to the patronage of the public, though they could not contest the palm, interfered and lessened his profits. [23]


                  At length (1741) Handel determined to abandon Opera compositions.  He had already produced thirty-nine Operas for the English stage; all excellent, and possessing that infinite variety, which his musical talents were capable of producing.  His last Opera was Deidamia; which, though abounding in beauties, was received with indifference, and performed but three nights.  The flattering reception which Handel had met with when he visited Oxford, where he was offered the degree of Doctor in Music, but declined accepting it, induced him to try the event of a journey to Ireland.  He was received at Dublin with such strong marks of approbation, as did no less honour to him, than to the taste of the nation.  His Messiah, which was reported to have been coldly received in London,* was applauded with all the enthusiasm due to claims of such uncommon excellence.  He remained in Ireland about nine months, and acquired every advantage which health, fame, and profit, could bestow.  The public in his absence had become fully sensible of his merits; Arbuthnot had ever been his friend, and written pamphlets in his favour, while the opposition against him was in its full force; Pope, more economical of praise, now ventured that compliment in the Dunciad, which acknowledges his title to musical fame; and Handel no longer had to contend with prejudices, or combat the malignancy of inveterate opposition.


                  As from this period Handel must be considered as the composer of Oratorios, it will be proper to give a short account of their rise and progress.  His first Oratorio was Esther; which was composed [24] in 1720, for the Duke of Chandos, at Cannons; but was not given to the public till eleven years after, when it was performed by the children of the King’s chapel.  The chorus was sung after the manner of the ancients, and the singers were placed between the stage and the orchestra.  The instrumental performers were, principally, gentlemen belonging to the Philharmonic Society.  This novel species of entertainment was so greatly approved, that the representation was repeated at the Crown and Anchor.  Their success inspired Handel with new hopes.  Esther was again performed at the Haymarket, in 1733: it ran ten nights; and with the addition of Handel’s concertos on the organ, then new to the public, proved sufficiently attractive.  He next produced Deborah: and in his journey to Oxford in the same year, Athalia.  In the succeeding year he revived Acis and Galatea, set to music Alexander’s Feast, Israel in Egypt, L’Allegro ed il Penseroso, Saul, and the Messiah.


                  After his return from Ireland, he continued every year the same style of composition, and generally with the greatest success; though with occasional failures, owing to the latent seeds of former animosity.  His merit and perseverance were amply rewarded; he retained a firm hold of the public favour and patronage to the end of his life; and he was not only enabled to clear himself from all incumbrances, but to realize a fortune of twenty thousand pounds.


                  Some years before his death (1751 [sic]), he was afflicted with a gutta serena, which, as he justly apprehended, in the end deprived him of sight; though he underwent the operation of couching.  His spirits for a short time sunk under this affliction; but when he found the [25] evil incurable, he submitted with resignation.  Unable without assistance to conduct the Oratorios, he applied to his pupil and long-tried friend Mr. Smith, and by his assistance they were continued.


                  It was a most affecting spectacle to see the venerable musician, whose efforts had charmed the ear of a discerning public, led by the hand of friendship to the front of the stage, to make an obeisance of acknowledgment to his enraptured audience.


                  When Handel became blind, though he no longer presided over the Oratorios, he still introduced concertos on the organ between the acts.  At first he relied on his memory, but the exertion becoming painful to him, he had recourse to the inexhaustible stores of his rich and fertile imagination.  He gave to the band, only such parts of his intended composition, as were to be filled up by their accompaniment; and relied on his own powers of invention to produce, at the impulse of the moment, those captivating passages, which arrested attention, and enchanted his auditors.


                  It is curious, though painful to a thinking mind, to trace the comparison between Homer, Milton, and Handel; all of them deprived of sight, and each exerting his faculties under that severe visitation, to the wonder of an admiring world.  The singular and sublime talents of Milton, displayed in his Paradise Lost, were better known indeed to posterity, than to his contemporaries.  The merits of that animated composition, were gradually unfolded; but the Grecian Bard sang his Iliad and Odyssey amidst the praises of his admiring countrymen.  Handel though a foreigner, yet with talents equally sublime, and [26] melody not inferior, heard his own fame resounded in the loud tribute of deserved commendation.


                  Nature at last became exhausted, he exhibited evident symptoms of decay; his appetite failed him, and he saw without dismay his dissolution approaching.  But his extraordinary faculties continued to the end of his life: his last public performance (6th April, 1759) took place only a week before he died (14th April); and that great event happened, as he had often expressed his earnest wish, on Good Friday.  He was buried in Westminster Abbey; his funeral sermon was preached by Dr. Pearce, Bishop of Rochester; and at his own expence a marble monument was erected to his memory, by the sculpture of Roubillac.  His figure is represented standing before the organ, and listening to the harp of an Angel.  On a scroll are recorded his own divine notes, set to those emphatical words, comprising the sum of Christian hope, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”


                  George Frederick Handel, was seventy-three years of age when he died.  He was large in person, and his natural corpulency, which increased as he advanced in life, rendered his whole appearance of that bulky proportion, as to give rise to Quin’s inelegant, but forcible expression; that his hands were feet, and his fingers toes.  From a sedentary life, he had contracted a stiffness in his joints, which in addition to his great weight and weakness of body, rendered his gait awkward; still his countenance was open, manly, and animated; expressive of all that grandeur and benevolence, which were the prominent features of his character.  In temper he was irascible, impatient of contradiction, but not vindictive; jealous of his musical [27] pre-eminence, and tenacious in all points, which regarded his professional honour.


                  He was averse to all restraint on his freedom.  Being informed at the Spa, that the King of Prussia was expected, and purposed to be witness of his musical powers, to the great disappointment of the monarch, he quitted the place some days before his arrival; unwilling to expose himself to solicitations he had determined not to comply with, or to commands which he could not resist.  In England he was always well received and warmly patronized; but his general aversion to subscription engagements, and the resolute inflexibility of his temper, prevented the accession of some friends, and alienated others.  With conscious pride, he was unwilling to be indebted but to his own abilities for his advancement, and they finally triumphed over all his opposers.


                  His chief foible was a culpable indulgence in the sensual gratification of the table; but this foible was amply compensated by a sedulous attention to every religious duty, and moral obligation.  His understanding was excellent, and his knowledge extensive.  Besides the German, his native tongue, he was intimate with the English, and master of the Latin, French, and Italian languages: he had acquired a taste for painting, which he improved during his residence in Italy, and felt great pleasure in contemplating the works of art.  His great delight was derived from his attachment to his own science, and he experienced particular satisfaction from religious principles, in presiding at the organ in the cathedral church of St. Paul.  He frequently declared in conversation, the high gratification he enjoyed in setting the [28] Scriptures to music, and how greatly he was edified by contemplating the sublime passages abounding in the sacred writings.


                  From the same motive he was regular in his attendance on divine service, at his parish church near Hanover Square, where his devout posture of humility, and earnestness of voice and gesture, avowing his faith, acknowledging his errors, and appealing to his Maker for mercy, were strongly impressive.


                  Handel contracted few intimacies, and when his early friends died, he was not solicitous of acquiring new ones.  He was never married; but his celibacy must not be attributed to any deficiency of personal attractions, or to the source which Sir John Hawkins unjustly supposes, the want of social affection.  On the contrary, it was owing to the independency of his disposition, which feared degradation, and dreaded confinement.  For when he was young, two of his scholars, ladies of considerable fortune, were so much enamoured of him, that each was desirous of a matrimonial alliance.  The first is said to have fallen a victim to her attachment.  Handel would have married her; but his pride was stung by the coarse declaration of her mother, that she never would consent to the marriage of her daughter with a fiddler; and, indignant at the expression, he declined all further intercourse.  After the death of the mother, the father renewed the acquaintance, and informed him that all obstacles were removed; but he replied, that the time was now past; and the young lady fell into a decline, which soon terminated her existence.  The second attachment, was a lady splendidly related, whose hand he might have obtained by renouncing his profession.  That condition he resolutely refused, and laudably [29] declined the connection which was to prove a restriction on the great faculties of his mind.


                  Handel’s religious disposition was not a mere display, it was amply productive of religion’s best fruit, charity; and this liberal sentiment not only influenced him in the day of prosperity, but even when standing on the very brink of ruin.  He performed Acis and Galatea (1740), for the benefit of the musical fund: the next year he gave them his Epithalamium, called Parnasso in Festa, and further extended his kindness by a legacy of one thousand pounds.  He was no less bountiful to the Foundling Hospital; his early exertions in its favour were the principal support of that respectable establishment.  He gave an organ to the chapel; and an annual benefit, by which seven thousand pounds was cleared in the course of a few years.  He also presented the governors with the original score of the Messiah.  His charity was by no means restricted to public donations, he was equally attentive to the claims of friendship, affection, and gratitude.  The widow of his master Zackau, being old and poor, received from him frequent remittances; and her son would have enjoyed the benefits of his liberality; but for his profligacy, and incurable drunkenness.  The bulk of Handel’s fortune was bequeathed to his relations.  All his music he left to Mr. Smith.


                  There is not any circumstance more delightful to the eye of contemplation, than to observe great talents exerted in the cause of benevolence and humanity.  Mason has most beautifully described its effects upon the mind. — [30]


                  “Humanity, thy awful strain shall greet the ear

                                    “Sonorous, sweet, and clear.

                  “And as amidst the dulcet notes that breathe

                                    “From flute or lyre,

                  “The deep base rolls its manly melody,

                                    “Guiding the tuneful choir:

                                    “So thou, Humanity, shalt lead along

                                    “The accordant passions in this moral song,

                  “And give one mental concert, truest harmony.”


                  To the literary world he owed little obligation.  Arbuthnot, indeed, was his friend.  Pope, notwithstanding his high compliment, slighted, and Swift ridiculed him: but that patronage, which had first reflected favour, and conferred honour on him, was the countenance shewn to him by the illustrious house of Brunswick.  George the First had settled on him a pension of £200. a year, in addition to that already granted by Anne; George the Second added a pension of equal amount, in reward for teaching the Royal Children; these munificent donations formed his support in the hour of his adversity, and the habit of confining his expences adhered to him through life.  He frequently presided at those concerts which were held in the royal library, and was remarkable for enforcing decorum and attention; though the performers, and the audience, were persons of the first distinction.  The King, and Prince and Princess of Wales, were ever fond of his music, and attended his Oratorios, even when they were so much deserted, that Lord Chesterfield wittily, but ill naturedly called attending an oratorio, “an intrusion on his Majesty’s privacy.” [31]


                  His own death deprived him of the patronage which would have resulted from the acknowledged taste of the present Sovereign.  But it ought not, in the life of Handel, to be omitted, that, though that gratification was denied, the British Monarch presided at the Commemoration of Handel; the most splendid tribute ever paid to posthumous fame.


                  In the same Abbey where his body lies interred, those anthems which he had composed for the funeral service of Queen Caroline, together with the most celebrated pieces of his compositions, were judiciously selected for the celebration of his own memory; and performed in the highest style of instrumental perfection and vocal excellence.  It was an honour to the profession, to the nation, and to the Sovereign.


                  The genius and abilities of Handel, were truly gigantic, and Pope justly said of him,

                  “Strong in new arms the giant Handel stands,

                  “Like bold Briareus with a hundred hands.”

No species of composition escaped him; the wonderful force of his execution was as astonishing as the vast efforts of his mind.  He made the organ his own instrument; and Scarlatti declared, that, till he heard Handel, he had no conception of his powers.  Akenside, in delineating the character of Shakspeare remarks, that


                                                                        “Different minds

                  “Incline to different objects: – one pursues [32]

                  “The vast alone, the wonderful, the wild:

                  “Another sighs for harmony and grace,

                  “And gentlest beauty.  Hence, when lightning flies

                  “The arch of heaven, and thunders rock the ground;

                  “When furious whirlwinds rend the howling air,

                  “And ocean groaning from the lowest bed,

                  “Heaves his tempestuous billows to the sky,

                  “Amid the mighty uproar, while below,

                  “The nations tremble, Shakspeare looks abroad

                  “From some high cliff superior, and enjoys

                  “The elemental war.” —— Pleasures of Imag.  Book iii.


                  The distinction due to Shakspeare in energy of poetry, to Michael Angelo in sculpture and painting, Handel may justly claim in the sister art; to him belongs the Majesty of Music.  The merit of Handel is not confined: it is of that universal cast, that he may be styled the great musician of nature.  Though he was not able to pronounce the English with correctness, he thoroughly comprehended its nature and effects.  In the funeral anthems, and the oratorios selected from the Scriptures, the words were principally chosen by himself; and the devotion of sounds, if the expression may be allowed, is in unison with the dignity, simple piety, and grandeur of the sacred writings.  An English audience should estimate his abilities, by English compositions; and in beauty of expression and strong sense, he had there the greatest advantage: for what drama can be compared among all his Italian music, to the Acis and Galatea of Gay, L’Allegro and Penseroso of Milton, Dryden’s unrivalled Ode to St. Cecilia, and Handel’s great master-piece, the Messiah? [33]


                  Words are, in relation to music, too frequently neglected, and considered as the mere vehicle for sounds; but sounds should be analogous to thoughts.


                  “To make the soul mount on a jig to heaven,”


is as absurd as to compose anthem music to ludicrous language.  When sound and sense are judiciously united, in a fortunate illustration of each other; then articulation, the first principle in music, like light thrown upon a picture, discovers all the beauty of the subject, as well as merit of the execution.


                  The prejudice of fashion, and paucity of soprano voices in our own country, has too often occasioned an inadequate performance of Handel’s music.  Miss Linley proved to Handel, what Garrick was to Shakspeare; and those who recollect her captivating voice, feel the full merit of the great master’s mind.  A new light was thrown upon his compositions, and those who attended the Commemoration in Westminster Abbey, that spring-tide of harmony, have heard him in all his glory.


                  To specify Handel’s claims to professional pre-eminence, would be a voluminous task; it would be no less than to select a variety of passages from each of his works, vocal as well as instrumental.  Few men composed more; no man better.  Handel was in music all things to all persons; considered generally he was irresistible, and master of the passions; the audience feel it, and in the language of that poetry, which he himself so happily made the strong example of his art,

                  “The list’ning crowd admire the lofty sound.” [34]


                  Such is the force and effect of his productions; — but he has the highest claim for moral and religious excellence.  His pen was never debased to the disgraceful practice of an effeminate or seductive style of composition: it is entitled to the first attribute of praise. – It is sublime, affecting, animated, and devoted, without the gloom of superstition, to the service of God.



* It has long been a matter of curious research among the admirers of Handel, to discover any traces of his early studies.  Among Mr. Smith’s collection of music, now in the possession of his daughter-in-law, Lady Rivers, is a book of manuscript music, dated 1698, and inscribed with the initials G. F. H.  It was evidently a common-place book belonging to Handel in the fourteenth year of his age.  The greater part is in his own hand, and the notes are characterized by a peculiar manner of forming the crotchets.

                  It contains various airs, choruses, capricios, fugues, and other pieces of music, with the names of contemporary musicians, such as Zackau, Alberti, Frobergher, Krieger, Kerl, Ebner, Strunch.  They were probably exercises adopted at pleasure, or dictated for him to work upon, by his master.  The composition is uncommonly scientific, and contains the seeds of many of his subsequent performances.

                  Sir John Hawkins says, that at the age of nine, Handel composed motetts for the service of the church, and continued to make one every week for three years.  Hist. of [7] Music.  Dr. Burney observes, that when only ten years old, Handel composed a set of Sonatas in three parts.  It seems as if they were published.  He adds, that “Lord Marchmont picked them up in his travels, and that they are now in the King’s Collection.”  The exercises to which Handel was accustomed, observes Sir John Hawkins, were compositions and fugues upon airs, or subjects delivered to him from time to time by his master.  He adds, this is the mode of exercise for young proficients in music, and is also the test of a master.

* This was totally different from the serenata written by Gay, and so well known in England.  The Italian names of Handel’s operas are generally preserved in his Life, to distinguish them from his English compositions.

* No. 115.

* Dr. Burney has been at the laudable pains to disprove the fact, and has succeeded in rendering it doubtful.