1800

 

 

May 31

A musical festival took place at the Assembly Rooms on the 31st May, when Handel’s “Messiah” was performed.  Incledon, the greatest singer of the time, was engaged for the occasion.  This appears to have been the tenth local performance of the oratorio, though Mr. Nicholls’ history infers that the work was not attempted here until 1803.[1]

 

 

 

This [i.e. digressing from the main topic] puts me in mind of a droll story of Handell, who in temper was hasty and passionate.  A charming female singer who was in his employ, coming to a cadence in a song, warbled and wandered from the original key, twisting, turning, and twining her voice through all the keys that music was capable of affording, during all which time Mr. Handell was stamping and staring, till, at the close, she returned to the original key; as the Sky Lark, warbling and fluttering, [19] descends to the place beneath, which a little while before it had taken its departure from, Handell recovered his temper, and making a bow, sa[i]d, “Oh madam I be very glad you be come home again.”

[an evident paraphrase of the popular Dubourg anecdote][2]

 

 

 

1801

 

 

Feb 23

[Anna Seward to Edward Jerningham, 23 February 1801.]

 

A few words more on the subject of music.—[…]  Probably you have never heard the beautiful passages in Ossian, which are set as glees by Calcot, since you say you have not heard, at the fine people’s concerts, these ten years, a single glee composed by an Englishman.  O folly and affectation, how wide is your dominion! […]  I would answer for [364] producing an hundred glees from my own recollection, all by Englishmen, and all of original melody and correct harmony.

When I was a girl, it was the fashion for the fine people to abuse Handel as heavy, coarse, and tiresome.  Our king, by instituting the commemorations, rescued his fame.  If I was Prince of Wales, I would give concerts, from which every foreign composition should be interdicted; and glees should be performed there, that must awaken the cold dead ear of prejudice itself into life and enthusiasm.[3]

 

 

 

1802

 

 

January

[Richard Brinsley Sheridan to the editor of The Courier, [January 1802]]

 

[...]

N.B. as Mr. Haydn, the foreign Representative of Literature and the fine Arts of Europe in the national institute of France supposes[?] [sic] himself to be only a very eminent composer of Musick it would be extremely unjust in any of our readers to be hypercritical with respect to a few trifling errors which may occur in the metre or rhythm of this his first attempt at Literary composition indeed we have ourselves taken the Liberty of correcting in many Places the Grammar and Spelling of this little practical jeu d’esprit both in the original German of Mr. Haydn and in the Translation which his English Correspondent Mr. Florio has so obligingly furnish’d us with.

 

Haydn to Florio a distinguish’d Performer

on the German Flute

 

The wond’ring World has heard with admiration

my Fine English Oratorio call’d Creation  Indeed

it succeeded greatly beyond my expectation. [169]

And since the Days of Handel

I may say it without Scandal

No such Piece of Messiah has been heard in this their Nation

But now the national institute of France

have thought proper this humble Servant to advance

And member of that Institute created me

in spite of Sheridan’s presumptuous Claim

To all that Genious can derive from Fame

For Wit and Eloquence and Poetry.

I be only fearful in my new Station,

that this the Institutes Creation

if it be not in truth a Blunder

may cause more admiration

And create more wonder

Than did my said delightful Oratorio.

—Pray tell me what you hear dear Florio

                                                                        yours Haydn

 

Foreign Representative of the Literature and fine arts of Europe—[4]

 

 

 

Jul 26

[Thomas Twining to Richard Twining, Junior, Passenham, 26 July 1802]

 

I found him [Dr Crotch] also a very pleasant, amiable man, & I had particular satisfaction in conversing with him, & comparing notes with him, about the merit of different composers.  We generally agreed pretty well in our notions; only I wish he was a little less prejudiced in favour of Handel & the old school, & against modern music – against it in general, though a great admirer of Haydn. […] With Miss Sharp & Miss M. we made a little choir of six voices, &, among other things, sung some of Handel’s choruses with more effect than I could have conceived, Crotch giving the pianoforte almost the fulness & effect of an orchestra by his powerful manner of playing.[5]

 

 

 

Sep 27

[Anna Seward to Thomas Park, 27 September 1802.]

 

                  I came home for one day on Sunday se’ennight, but took wing on the next, allured by a grand harmonic festival at Birmingham;—by the opportunity it afforded me of observing how Haydn had shot in the strong bow of Handel; in being able to compare his emulative powers closely, by listening to the Creation one morning, the [46] Messiah the next.  Shall I presume to speak to you of my resulting conviction?

                  By the overture to the Creation I was charmed.  The subject is so happy; the imitative harmony so inevitably suggested itself, that a very inferior composer to Haydn must, if possessing any genius, have made a grand affair of it.  No wonder than that his genius and science should have produced, in succession, effects so awful, and so exhilarating in this harmonic exordium.  First, by that wild and complex dissonance which sublimely represents the tumult of chaos; next, by the low, soft, tremulous, sweet sounds, which arise when that tumult has gradually subsided; instrument after instrument stealing in, and exquisitely picturing on the ear the dawning, expanding, and gradually strengthening light, till suddenly the sun blazes out by the instant fortissimo of the whole orchestra, and by the burst and cannon-exultation of the double drums.

                  Not one of Handel’s overtures suggested, or could properly allow of so picturesque, so dazzling an overture.

                  But there ended, in this emulative attempt, all approach to the excellence of that peerless master.  The recitatives, and their accompaniments, are almost entirely imitative of other sounds, and of motion, and are without sentiment; while to [47] those instrumental imitations all which Handel has given us in that style are infinitely superior.  How poor, in the Creation, are the strains which imitate the lark and nightingale, compared to those of similar aim in L’Allegro and Il Penseroso!  How inferior Haydn’s plumy concert to that given in the prelude and accompaniments to “Hush ye pretty warbling choir,” in Acis and Galatea!

                  We find an attempt in Haydn’s oratorio to represent the soaring of the majestic eagle; but the strains more resemble the darting evolutions of the swallow.

                  The songs are opera-airs, sweet and ornamented; but they breathe no devotion; they excite no sympathy; they have nothing to do with the passions.

                  The choruses are all impetuous, swift, and similar; bursts of harmony, skilful as to science, but, compared to Handel’s, unmeaning, with little discriminated melody, and no contrast.

                  It is little wonder that the words translated from the German almost literally into English, should be neither sense nor grammar, nor that they should make wicked work with Milton; yet we meet poetic beauty in two of the lines, thus, [48]

                                    “With softer beams, and milder light, steps on

                                    “The silver moon through silent night;”

and the corresponding air is one of the happiest efforts in the composition.

                  It was with increased veneration for the powers of Handel that we listened, on the ensuing day, to the sublimities of the Messiah; expressing, in turn, every varied passion of the human soul; that we observed the contrasted pathos and energy, sweetnes[s] and dignity, serenity and scorn, supplication and triumph, in the recitatives and songs, in the duet and choruses of that stupendous work; to the decided air that winds through the fugues of every separate chorus lingering on the ear, and haunting the fancy through successive days; to the hallelujah and amen, that ravish the spirit, and seem to pierce the vault of heaven by their sonorous grandeur.  Haydn, great master though he be, sinks eclipsed, like Dryden, when, in his alteration of the play of the Tempest, he puts on the armour of Shakespeare.

                  It will gratify me if the ideas I have ventured to express meet those of Mrs Park, who is a mistress, where I am so shallow a student.  Such as they are, I have not borrowed them.  No stricture on Haydn’s Creation ever met my eye, or my ear.[6]

 

 

 

1803

 

 

Mar 7

[Anna Seward to William Hayley, 7 March 1803.]

 

                  Now, you forgive Cowper for all this negative injustice to yourself and others.  I own I [63] cannot; and that, as a literary character, it costs him my esteem.  His own works are his eternal and nearly exclusive subject.  He confesses his earnest desire of public praise, yet satirizes, in the Task, its administration to others, even to the memory of Shakespeare and Handel. […]

[… 67 …]

                  The Night Thoughts must be forgotten when Cowper is held up as the leading instance of Christian devotion, united, with fine effect, to the poetic effervescence of the human mind; and surely Mr Hayley lost sight of all the great English poets, with Shakespeare and Milton at the head of them, when he calls the Muse of Cowper pre-eminent, incomparable, transcendent, unrivalled, unequalled; epithets which are profusely lavished upon her through the course of these volumes; epithets which can only be applied [68] with truth to three men of genius in the known world; to Shakespeare, as a dramatic poet, Newton, as a philosopher, and Handel, as a musician; […][7]

 

 

 

Jul 10

[Charles Wesley’s note book, 1803]

 

Perfd. the San[ctus] in St George’s Chapel {at Windsor} in the Morng.  In

the evg. H. M. had Handel’s Ora[torio] of Athalia.

We had the San[ctus] with the full Band.  I perfd.

many Ch[oice] Se[lections] at Their Majesties and

ye Royals Party[cular] desire and Command —

Lady U[xbridge] was there[8]

 

 

 

Sep 27

[Charles Wesley’s note book, 1803]

 

Spent the morning with Sir Adam & her Ladyp. [in Kent] who

entertained me by Performing many of Handel &

Marcello, very well for a dilletante.  We came to Town

by the Boat[9]

 

 

 

Sep 28

[Anna Seward to the Rev. T. S. Whalley, 28 September 1803.]

 

the following were the last [words] I heard my dear friend speak: “Look at this beautiful engraving of a design for a monument to Handel.  I know you dislike writing epitaphs after having written so many; but you must write one more for me, to occupy the blank space here left for an inscription.”

                  I replied, “We will talk of that hereafter—but now play a concerto with me.”  He did so till the evening prayer bell rang, and he went cheerfully away—to return no more!

                  Alas!  I have written one more epitaph—obeying the injunction of those almost latest words, though their meaning applied to his adored [117] Handel.  O Heaven, that they prove an unconscious prophecy of his own impending fate!—so nearly impending![10]

 

 

 

1804

 

 

Feb 1

[Charles Wesley’s note book, 1804]

 

During His R. H. The Duke of

Cambridge’s Breakfast I Perfd. HANDEL on Ld.

Uxbridges fine Organ for near two Hours. {...} His

Royal H: accom. many of the Cho[ruses] with his

voice.[11]

 

 

 

Jul 11

[Charles Wesley’s note book, 1804]

 

Mr Pilgrim, Hampstead at 12 when I op’nd his

New Organ.  much company there {...} The young

Blind Musical Genius fm. Ld. M: call’d I lent him

the 2d Vol: of Handel’s Cor[onation] An[them]

Drydens Ode and the Funeral An[them] till this day

Month[12]

 

 

 

Oct 4

[Charles Wesley’s note book, 1804]

 

I went to good Lady

Huntingdon’s Chapel {in Bath}.  They perfd. Handel’s Cho:[13]

 

 

 

Oct 13

[Charles Wesley’s note book, 1804]

 

I Perfd. at the Octagon {in Bath}.  We drank Tea with Dr

Harrington who shew’d me M. S. of Handel[14]

 

 

 

1807

 

 

Jun 30

[Lord Byron to Elizabeth Bridget Pigot; Cambridge, 30 June 1807]

 

[…] I am almost superannuated here, my old friends (with the exception of a very few) all departed, & I am preparing to follow them, but remain till monday to be present at 3 Oratorios, 2 Concerts, a fair, a boxing match, & a Ball. [… 123 …] I get awkward in my academic habiliments, for want of pracice, got up in a [124] Window to hear the Oratorio at St. Mary’s, popped down in the middle of the Messiah, tore a woeful rent in the Back of my best black Silk gown, & damaged an egregious pair of Breeches, mem.—never tumble from a church window, during Service. […][15]

 

 

 

[Racket has an irritatingly accurate memory that compels him to digress.]

 

Rack.  High seasoning, faith, for a summer’s day.  By the bye, talking of high seasoning, puts me in mind of Handel—great composer—pardon digression.  George Frederick Handel, born at Hall, in Saxony, February 24th, 1684—great genius—little boy; threw his pupils out of the window; open’d [12] the eyes of all the world; eat himself blind, and DIED April 14, 1759.*[16]

 

 

 

1814

 

 

May 30

[Fanny Burney D’Arblay to M. D’Arblay, 30 May 1814]

 

The Picture of Handel [his portrait by Wolfgang at Hanover in 1710], also, is to go to the Musical sale—[17]

 

 

 

1816

 

 

Oct 11

[Charles Burney, Jr to Fanny Burney d’Arblay, 11 October 1816]

 

[regarding Charles Burney’s tomb]

[...] the Dean & Chapter [of Westminster Abbey] must have the place pointed out [...] Near Handel, I do not remember, that there is any room; but near Purcell’s, there is I think a good place [...][18]

 

 

 

1817

 

 

Mar 28, Boston

                  We observe that the Handel and Haydn Society have announced their intention to present to the public next week, the whole of the celebrated Oratorios of the Messiah and the Creation.  The music of these pieces is so difficult to read, and its performance requires such uncommon power of voice, that neither of the pieces was ever attempted entire in any part of the continent of America.  The attempt is bold to perform them both at the same time, and must deeply interest the feelings of every lover of sacred music.  We are informed the Society have had them in rehearsal for the greater part of the last year, and for sometime past have rehearsed every evening.  They have engaged a celebrated Organist from New-York to aid them.  We sincerely with them success.[19]

 

 

 

1818

 

 

Dec 24, Boston

ORATORIO.

THE celebrated Oratorio of the MESSIAH, will be performed by the Handel and Haydn Society,

To-morrow (Christmas) Evening,

The 25th inst. at Boylston-Hall.

                  This Grand Oratorio has never been performed as an entire Piece in this town, or, it is believed in America[.]

                  Pamphlets containing all the words of the piece, will be delivered at the door of the Hall.

                  The performance will commence precisely at six o’clock.

                  Tickets may be had at Parker’s Circulating Library, the Franklin Music Warehouse, and at the door on the evening of performance.

                  dec 24[20]

 

 

 

1824

 

 

Jun 7

[Charles Wesley’s notebook, 1824]

 

Rehearsal of the MESSIAH at Noon For the

Royal Fund of musicians ... I took Jane Jeffreys to

the Han[over] Sqre. musick heard the Oro[tori]o

charmingly done, only one Air they brought in

Mozarts accompts. wch. is better left out.[21]

 

 

 

Jul 5

The[y] informed me Her

R. H. the Duchess of Kent & the Princess Alexandrina

[the five-year-old future Queen Victoria and

her mother] were at the Church and very attentive

to the Doctor’s Discourse [Dr Busfield] I perfd.

the Overtures and Hallelujah in the MESSIAH[22]

 

 



[1] John Latimer, The Annals of Bristol in the Eighteenth Century (Bristol: the author, 1893; reprinted, Bath: Kingsmead Reprints, 1970), 532.

[2] Edward Teare, A Treatise on the Use and Abuse of Tobacco, tending to shew why this Plant is Hurtful to the Nervous System in particular, and of course to the whole Human Frame in general; the beneficial Use of Tobacco is also considered (Doncaster: W. Sheardown, [?1800]), 18–19.

[3] Letters of Anna Seward: written between the Years 1784 and 1807, 6 vols. (Edinburgh: A. Constable, 1811), 5:363–64.

[4] The Courier, 14 January 1802: The Letters of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, edited by Cecil Price, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), 2:168–69.

[5] A Selection of Thomas Twining’s Letters, 1734–1804: The Record of a Tranquil Life, edited by Ralph S. Walker, 2 vols. (Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1991), 2:619.

[6] Letters of Anna Seward: written between the Years 1784 and 1807, 6 vols. (Edinburgh: A. Constable, 1811), 6:45–48.

[7] Letters of Anna Seward: written between the Years 1784 and 1807, 6 vols. (Edinburgh: A. Constable, 1811), 6:62–63, 67–68.

[8] Betty Matthews, “Charles Wesley on Organs,” The Musical Times 112 ([no. 1544, October] 1971), 1007–10: 1007.

[9] Betty Matthews, “Charles Wesley on Organs,” The Musical Times 112 ([no. 1544, October] 1971), 1007–10: 1009.

[10] Letters of Anna Seward: written between the Years 1784 and 1807, 6 vols. (Edinburgh: A. Constable, 1811), 6:116–17.

[11] Betty Matthews, “Charles Wesley on Organs,” The Musical Times 112 ([no. 1544, October] 1971), 1007–10: 1009.

[12] Betty Matthews, “Charles Wesley on Organs,” The Musical Times 112 ([no. 1544, October] 1971), 1007–10: 1010.

[13] Betty Matthews, “Charles Wesley on Organs,” The Musical Times 112 ([no. 1544, October] 1971), 1007–10: 1010.

[14] Betty Matthews, “Charles Wesley on Organs,” The Musical Times 112 ([no. 1544, October] 1971), 1007–10: 1010.

[15] “In my hot youth”: Byron’s Letters and Journals.  Volume 1: 1798–1810, edited by Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray, 1973) 122–24.

* It is, perhaps, necessary to remark, that all the anecdotes introduced into any of the biography throughout the piece, are strictly true.

[16] [Theodore Edward] Hook, The Soldier’s Return; or, What can Beauty Do (Philadelphia: Mathew Carey, 1807), 11–12.

[17] The Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney (Madame D’Arblay).  Volume VII: 1812–1814, edited by Edward A. Bloom and Lillian D. Bloom (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 347.

[18] The Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney (Madame D’Arblay).  Volume IX: Bath 1815–1817, edited by Warren Derry (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 271, note 1.

[19] Boston Daily Advertiser, no. 1257 (vol. 16, no. 75), Friday 28 March 1817, [2].

[20] Boston Commercial Gazette, no. 2314 (vol. 51, no. 3), Thursday 24 December 1818, [3].

[21] Betty Matthews, “Charles Wesley on Organs: 2,” The Musical Times 112 ([no. 1545, November] 1971), 1111–12: 1111.

[22] Betty Matthews, “Charles Wesley on Organs: 2,” The Musical Times 112 ([no. 1545, November] 1971), 1111–12: 1111.