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Title: Purcell
Author: Runciman, John F., 1866-1916
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Purcell" ***

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PURCELL

BY JOHN F. RUNCIMAN

Bell's Miniature Series of Musicians


LONDON
GEORGE BELL & SONS
1909



TABLE OF CONTENTS



CHAPTER I
CHAPTER II
CHAPTER III
CHAPTER IV
CHAPTER V
LIST OF WORKS



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



HENRY PURCELL
_(From the portrait by Kneller, in the possession of
Henry Littleton, Esq.)_

PURCELL
_(From a portrait by Clostermann, in the National
Portrait Gallery.)_

PURCELL SEATED AT THE HARPSICHORD
_(From a portrait by Clostermann, in the National
Portrait Gallery.)_

PURCELL
_(From an engraving after a portrait by Clostermann
in the possession of the Royal Society of Musicians.)_

PART OF THE AUTOGRAPH SCORE OF
PURCELL'S ANTHEM "BEHOLD, NOW PRAISE THE LORD"
_(In the British Museum.)_



CHAPTER I


We once had a glorious school of composers. It departed, with no sunset
splendour on it, nor even the comfortable ripe tints of autumn. The sun
of the young morning shone on its close; the dews of dawn gleam for ever
on the last music; the freshness and purity of the air of early morning
linger about it. It closed with Purcell, and it is no hyperbole to say
the note that distinguishes Purcell's music from all other music in the
world is the note of spring freshness. The dewy sweetness of the morning
air is in it, and the fragrance of spring flowers. The brown sheets on
which the notes are printed have lain amongst the dust for a couple of
centuries; they are musty and mildewed. Set the sheets on a piano and
play: the music starts to life in full youthful vigour, as music from
the soul of a young god should. It cannot and never will grow old; the
everlasting life is in it that makes the green buds shoot. To realise
the immortal youth of Purcell's music, let us make a comparison.
Consider Mozart, divine Mozart. Mixed with the ineffable beauty of his
music there is sadness, apart and different from the sadness that was of
the man's own soul. It is the sadness that clings to forlorn things of
an order that is dead and past: it tinkles in the harpsichord
figurations and cadences; it makes one think of lavender scent and of
the days when our great-grandmothers danced minuets. Purcell's music,
too, is sad at times, but the human note reaches us blended with the
gaiety of robust health and the clean young life that is renewed each
year with the lengthening days.

The beauty of sanity, strength, and joyousness--this pervades all he
wrote. It was modern when he wrote; it is modern to-day; it will be
modern to-morrow and a hundred years hence. In it the old modes of his
mighty predecessors Byrde and Tallis are left an eternity behind; they
belong to a forgotten order. Of the crabbedness of Harry Lawes there is
scarcely a trace: that belonged to an era of experiments. The strongest
and most original of his immediate predecessors, Pelham Humphries,
influenced him chiefly by showing him the possibility of throwing off
the shackles of the dead and done with. The contrapuntal formulas and
prosaic melodic contours, to be used so magnificently by Handel, were
never allowed to harden and fossilise in Purcell's music. Even where a
phrase threatens us with the dry and commonplace, he gives it a
miraculous twist, or adds a touch of harmony that transforms it from a
dead into a living thing, from something prosaic into something poetic,
rare and enchanting. Let me instance at once how he could do this in the
smallest things. This is ordinary enough; it might be a bit of
eighteenth-century counterpoint:

[Illustration]

But play it with the second part:

[Illustration]

The magic of the simple thirds, marked with asterisks, is pure Purcell.
And it is pure magic: there is no explaining the effect. He got into his
music the inner essence that makes the external beauty of the
picturesque England he knew. That essence was in him; he made it his own
and gave it to us. He did not use much of the folk-songs born of our
fields and waters, woods and mountains, and the hearts of our
forefathers who lived free and did not dream of smoky cities and
stinking slums; though folk-song shaped and modified his melodies. In
himself he had the spirit of Nature, and it made his music come forth as
it makes the flowers blow. The very spirit of the earth seemed to find
its voice through him, the spirit of storm and the spirit of fair
weather that sports when sweet rains make a musical clatter among the
leaves. The music in which he found a voice for Nature cannot grow old
while the earth renews its youth with each returning spring. In its
pathos and in its joy the soul of seventeenth-century England is in his
music in perennial health.

This is not a fanciful description: it is the plainest, most
matter-of-fact description. Purcell's music has the same effect on the
mind as a crowd of young leaves shooting from a branch in spring; it has
a quality of what I risk calling green picturesqueness, sweet and pure,
and fresh and vigorous. It is music that has grown and was not made.
That Purcell knew perfectly well what he was doing we realise easily
when we turn to the music he set to particular words. Take _The Tempest_
music, and turn to the song "Arise, ye subterranean winds." See how the
accompaniment surges up in imperious, impetuous strength. Turn to "See,
the heavens smile": note how the resonant swinging chords and that
lovely figure playing on the top give one an instant vision of vast,
translucent sea-depths and the ripples lapping above. Look at "Come unto
these yellow sands" and "Full fathom five": he almost gives us the
colour of the sea and the shore. These things did not come by accident,
nor do they exist only in an enthusiastic fancy. They were meant; they
are there; and only the deaf and the stupid, or those over-steeped in
the later classical music, can help feeling them.

Purcell, then, was the last of the English musicians. So fair and sweet
a morning saw the end that many good folk have regarded the end as the
beginning, as only the promise of an opulent summer day. How glorious
the day might have been had Purcell lived, no one can say; but he died,
and no great genius has arisen since. As for the cathedral organists who
followed him chronologically, the less said about them the better. What
kind of composers they were we can with sorrow see in the music they
wrote; what skill as executants they possessed we may judge from the
music they played and the beggarly organs they played on. We read of our
"great Church musicians"--but these men were not musicians; and of the
rich stores of Church music--but, however vast its quantity, it is not,
properly speaking, music. The great English musicians who wrote for the
Church before Purcell's time were Tallis, Byrde, Whyte, Orlando Gibbons,
and they composed not for the English, but for the Roman Church. When I
say that Pelham Humphries and Purcell were not religious at all, but
purely secular composers, thoroughly pagan in spirit, I imply--or, if
you like, exply--that the Church of England has had no religious
musicians worth mentioning. Far be it from me to doubt the honest piety
of the men who grubbed through life in dusty organ-lofts. Their
intentions may have been of the noblest, and they may have had, for all
I or anyone can know, sincere religious feeling. But they got no feeling
whatever into their intolerably dreary anthems and services; and as for
their intentions, the cathedrals of England might be paved with them.

Tallis has often been called "the father of English Church music." If
his ghost ever wanders into our cathedral libraries, let us hope he is
proud of his progeny. He, like his contemporaries, was a Catholic, and
he dissembled. About his birth it has only been conjectured that he was
born in the earlier part of the sixteenth century. He was organist of
Waltham Abbey in 1540, and remained there till the dissolution of the
monasteries, when he became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. He and
Byrde in 1575 got a patent giving them a monopoly of the printing of
music and of music paper, and they printed their own works, which it is
a good thing publishers abstain from doing nowadays. In 1585 he died. He
was a fine master of polyphony, and as a genuine composer is second only
to Byrde. William Byrde, however, stands high above him and all other
composers of the time. He was born about 1538, and died in 1623. His
later life would have been full of trouble, and the noose or the flames
at the stake might have terminated it, if powerful patrons had not
sheltered him. The Nonconformist conscience was developing its passion
for interfering in other people's private concerns. Byrde, to worship as
he thought fit, and to avoid the consequences of doing it, had often to
lie in hiding. But he got safely through, and composed a large quantity
of splendid Church music, besides some quite unimportant secular music.
His masses have a character of their own, and in his motets one finds
not only a high degree of technical skill, power and sheer beauty, but
also a positive white heat of passion curiously kept from breaking out.
There were many others of smaller or greater importance, and the school
of English religious composers, properly so called--the men who wrote
true devotional music--ended with Orlando Gibbons in 1625. Since then we
have had no religious musicians. The Catholic Church brought them forth,
and when that Church suffered eclipse we got no more of them.

Not that music was at all eclipsed. The last great English musician was
not born till more than a hundred years after the Reformation. Between
Gibbons and Purcell came, amongst others, John Jenkins, Henry Lawes,
Matthew Locke, Pelham Humphries, Dr. Blow, Captain Cooke and the
madrigal writers. These last, however, mainly used contrivances adapted
from sacred music. Some really beautiful madrigals exist, but Purcell
could have done almost if not quite as well without them. During this
period the old style of polyphonic music went out and the new came in.
To understand the change, I beg the reader to refrain from impatience
under the infliction of a few technicalities; they are a regrettable
but inexorable necessity.

The old polyphonic music differed from the newer harmonic music in three
respects:

1. _Form and Structure_.--Nearly all the important old music, the music
that counts, was for voices--for chorus--with or without accompaniment.
"Forms," in the modern sense of the word--cyclical forms with recurring
themes arranged in regular sequence, and with development passages,
etc.--of these there were none. Some composers were groping blindly
after a something they wanted, but they did not hit on it.
Self-sustaining musical structures, independent of words, were poor and
flimsy. The form of the music that matters was determined by the words.
From beginning to end of each composition voice followed voice, one
singing, higher or lower, what had been sung by the others, while those
others added melodies that made correct harmony. Thus a web of music was
spun which has to be listened to, so to speak, horizontally and
vertically--horizontally for the melodies that are sung simultaneously,
and vertically for the chords that are produced by the sounding together
of the notes of those melodies. When the words were used up the
composition came to an end. Often the words were repeated, and repeated
often; but there should be reason in all things, and the finest
composers stopped when they had finished.

The tendency in the new music was to abandon the horizontal aspect.
Purcell, in his additions to Playford's "Brief Introduction to the
Skill of Musick," remarks on the fact that musicians now composed "to
the treble, when they make counterpoint or basses to tunes or songs."
Music became, broadly speaking, tunes with an accompaniment. The fugue
was no contradiction of this. Even in its heyday, though the parts were
ever so independent of one another, the mass of tone forms a great
melody, or _melos_, moving on a firm harmonic foundation in the lowest
part. The great choral fugues of Bach and Handel have often in the
accompaniment a bass moving independently of the bass voice part, and
this instrumental bass was figured so that the harmonies could be filled
in, on the organ.

2. _Melody_.--There was fine melody enough in the old music, but its
rhythm was very subtle, and there was no suggestion of catchiness in it.
Melody of a familiar folk-song or dance type now came in, divided into
regular periods with strongly-marked rhythms. This may be seen clearly
in, for example, Morley's "ballets"--part-songs that could be danced to.
Clear, easily understood, when once it came in it, never went out again.
Its shaping power may be felt in the fugue subjects of Bach and Handel,
as well as in their songs. This folk-song type of melody was modified
during the search after expressive declamation. The ideal was to get
tunes which were beautiful as tunes, and at the same time did full
justice to the composer's words, to preserve the accent and full meaning
of the poetry. Henry Lawes won Milton's approbation by his success in
doing this, and Milton wrote:

   "Harry, whose tuneful and well-measured notes First taught our
    English music how to span Words with just note and accent."

Lawes was not always successful: when his tunes do not disregard the
words they are apt to be angular.

3. _Harmony_.--- When a modern person first hears a piece of accompanied
plainsong sung, he is generally bewildered. The beginning may trouble
him and the middle worry him--the ending invariably confounds him. The
thing ends in no key recognised by the modern ear. In the old days there
were no keys, but modes, each with its dominant, its tonic, and proper
and appropriate ending. Until comparatively recent times musicians
understood this quite well; to Purcell, and to composers much later than
him, the old endings were perfectly satisfactory. This, for instance,
left no sense of the unfinished:

[Illustration]

Gradually two keys swamped and swept away the modes--our major and
minor; then our modern feeling for key relationships was born. Here is
the major scale of C with a satisfactory harmonic ending:

[Illustration]

It will be noticed that the top note of the chord marked with a star,
the last note but one of the scale, is a semitone below the last note of
the scale and rises to the last note. That is a proper ending or full
close; what was called a half-close was:

[Illustration]

As a termination to a piece of music made up of the notes of the scale
of C, and therefore said to be in the key of C, this was not
satisfactory. To set the ear and the mind at ease, to get a feeling that
the music has settled down on a secure resting-place, the first chord
had to be repeated. And in these chords

[Illustration]

lies the germ of the whole of the later music. Only two more steps were
needed. By adding an F, or writing an F instead of the upper G in the
middle chord, the chord of the dominant seventh was obtained:

[Illustration]

And anyone can try for himself on a piano, and find out that this chord
makes the longing for the tonic chord--the chord of C--more imperious
and the feeling of rest satisfying in proportion when the last chord is
reached. That was one step: the next was to convert the dominant, G, of
the key of C into a tonic for the time being, to get a sense of having
reached the key of G. That was done by regarding G as a tonic, and on
_its_ dominant, D, writing a chord, either a dominant seventh or a
simple major common chord, leading to a chord of G--thus:

[Illustration]

But if after this a seventh on the dominant is played, followed by the
original key-chord

[Illustration]

then we are home once more in the original key. If the reader will
imagine, instead of a few simple chords, a passage of music in the key
of C, followed by a passage in the dominant key of G, and ending with a
passage in the key of C, he will perceive that here is the deep
underlying principle of modern music: that after a certain length of
time spent in one key the ear wearies, and the modulation to the new key
is grateful; but after a time the ear craves for the original key again,
so after getting to that, and spending a certain time there, a piece
closes with perfectly satisfying effect. Haydn was the first to get that
principle in an iron grasp and use it, with numberless other devices, to
get unity in variety. Not till nearly a hundred years after Purcell's
day did that come to pass; but the music of Purcell and of others in his
period, showing a sense of key relationships and key values, is a vast
step from the music written in the old modes. Let me beg everyone not to
be so foolish as to believe the nonsense of the academic text-books when
they speak of the new type and structure of the newer music as an
"improvement" on the old. The older were perfect for the things that had
to be expressed; the newer became necessary only when other things had
to be expressed. By the substitution of the two scales, the major and
the minor, with the dominant always on the same degree of the scale, the
fifth, and the order of the tones and semitones fixed immovably, for the
numerous modes with the dominants and the order of the tones and
semitones here, there and everywhere, the problems of harmony could be
grappled with, and its resources exploited in a methodical way that had
been impossible. But melodically the loss was enormous. We of this
generation have by study to win back some small sense of the value and
beauty of the intervals of the ancient scales, varying in each scale, a
sense that was once free and common to everyone who knew anything of
music at all.

Purcell and his immediate predecessors and contemporaries came into what
Hullah rightly called the "transition period." Purcell is now to be
considered, and of the others it need only be said that we see in their
music the old modes losing their hold and the new key sense growing
stronger. Their music compared with the old is modern, though compared
with all music later than Handel it is archaic.



CHAPTER II


What we know of Purcell's life is nothing, or next to nothing; what is
written as his life is conjecture, more or less ingenious inference, or
pure fiction. In that we know so little of him he is blessed, but the
blessedness has not as yet extended to his biographers. At one time a
biographer's task was easy: he simply took the hearsay and inventions of
Hawkins, and accepted them as gospel truth whenever they could not be
tested. The fact that whenever they could by any means be tested they
were found to be false--even this did not dismay the biographer.
Hawkins's favourite pastime was libelling the dead. He libelled Dr.
Johnson, and Boswell promptly and most vigorously dealt with him; he
libelled Purcell grossly--he deliberately devised slanderous tales of
him. The biographers, with simple, childlike credulity, went on whenever
possible repeating his statements, for the obvious reason that this
course was the easiest. Hawkins knew nothing of Purcell. He can be
proved to be wrong, not merely about this or that detail, but about
everything. He is said to have known one Henry Needler, a pupil of
Purcell, and also Gostling, the son of the singer of the same name for
whom Purcell wrote; but neither acquaintance seems to have profited him
aught. His anecdotes are the product of inborn wickedness and an
uncouth, boorish imagination. When we have cleared away his garbage,
there remains only a skeleton life, but at any rate we have the
satisfaction of knowing that is pure fact.

Henry Purcell was born (probably) about the end of 1658, and (probably
also) in Westminster. Some of his family were musicians before him. His
father, Henry Purcell the elder, was a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal
(that is, a singer in the choir, and in many cases organist as well),
and was master of the choristers at Westminster Abbey for three years.
He held various posts in the "King's Musick," sharing the duties of
"lute and voyce" for a time with one Angelo Notari. The latter appears
to have died in 1663; but strangely enough after his death he asked for
arrears of salary for 1661 and 1664. However, in 1663 Henry Purcell the
elder seemed to have taken over the whole duties of their joint post;
and he, Purcell, died in 1664. If Henry the younger was six years old at
the time of his father's death, then he must have been born in 1658 or,
at latest, the early part of 1659; if he was born in 1658 or the early
part of 1659, then he must have been six years old at the time of his
father's death. So much we know positively; anything more is
supposition--that is, the whole affair is supposition; but this
supposition has one merit: it cannot be very widely wrong. Pepys knew
Henry the elder, and refers to him in his Diary; and it may be remarked
in passing that those who wish to grow familiar with the atmosphere in
which Purcell was brought up, and lived and worked, must go to Pepys,
who knew all the musicians of the period, and the life of Church, Court,
and theatre. Thomas Purcell, brother of Henry the elder, was also a
Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. He succeeded Henry Lawes as Court
lutanist, and held other positions, and evidently stood high in favour.
This Thomas certainly adopted Henry the younger at the death of Henry
the elder, and afterwards he wrote of him as "my sonne." Young Henry
seems to have become a choir-boy as a mere matter of family custom. He
joined as one of "the children" of the Chapel Royal, with Captain Cooke
as his master. Cooke must have been a clever musician in spite of the
military title he had gained while fighting on the Royalist side in the
Civil War. He had an extraordinarily gifted set of boys under him, and
he seems to have trained them well. When some of them tried their
infantile hands at composition he encouraged them. Pepys heard at least
one of their achievements, and records his pleasure. And it must be
remembered that Pepys was a composer and connoisseur--he would go many
miles to hear a piece of music. Cooke died in 1672, and Pelham Humphries
became master of "the children." He was born in 1647, and therefore was
eleven years older than Purcell; he, too, had been a child of the
Chapel Royal. In 1664 Charles sent him abroad to study foreign methods.
In the accounts of the secret-service money for 1664, 1665, and 1666
stand sums of money paid him to defray his expenses; yet in 1665 the
accounts of the "King's Musick" show that Cooke received £40 "for the
maintenance of Pelham Humphryes." In less than a year's time he was
appointed musician for the lute--in the "King's Musick"--in the place of
Nicholas Lanier, deceased. Two months after this entry the appointment
is confirmed by warrant. He undoubtedly did go abroad. He got, at any
rate, as far as Paris, and came back, says Pepys, "an absolute
monsieur"--very vain, loquacious, and "mighty great" with the King. Most
of the musicians of the time were vain. Cooke must have been
intolerable. Perhaps they learnt it from the actors with whom they
associated--many of them, in fact, were actors as well as musicians.
Humphries had worked under Lulli. It is not known that he had any other
master in Paris or in Italy, or whether he ever got as far as Italy. Up
to that date no opera of Lulli's seems to have been produced, but he was
none the less a master of music, and he could hand on what he had learnt
of Carissimi's technique. Humphries, highly gifted, swift, returned to
England knowing all Lulli could teach him. He had not Purcell's rich
imagination, nor his passion, nor that torrential flow of ever-fresh
melody; but it cannot be doubted that he was of immense service in
indicating new paths and new ways of doing things. He had--at second
hand we must admit--Carissimi's methods and new impulse; and, at the
very least, he saved Purcell the trouble of a journey to Paris. It was a
misfortune for English music that he died so early. These Restoration
geniuses had a way of dying early. He distinctly had genius, a very
different thing from the plodding industry of Dr. John Blow, who
succeeded him in 1674. Dr. Blow afterwards claimed to have been
Purcell's master, and, as Purcell was certainly his pupil, there seems
no reason for doubting him. Purcell was, of course, sixteen years of age
when Humphries died, and no longer a mere choir-boy; but he remained
attached to Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal. According to the
records of the "King's Musick," on June 10, 1673, there is a "warrant to
admit Henry Purcell in the place of keeper, maker, mender, repayrer and
tuner of the regalls, organs, virginalls, flutes and recorders and all
other kind of wind instruments whatsoever, in ordinary, without fee, to
his Majesty, and assistant to John Hingston, and upon the death or other
avoydance of the latter, to come in ordinary with fee." So late as 1683,
when Purcell had been organist of Westminster Abbey for about three
years, he was appointed to be "organ-maker and keeper in the place of
Mr. Hingston, deceased." The conjecture of Rev. Henry Cart de
Lafontaine, editor of these records (published by Novello) seems to be
correct: Purcell must have been apprenticed to Hingston and afterwards
succeeded him. In later warrants he is authorised to buy wood, metal and
Heaven knows what else--he can buy what he likes as long as he keeps the
instruments in order and in tune. Charles II. had a good ear. In 1676
Purcell was appointed "copyist" of Westminster Abbey, whatever post that
may have been. In 1677 "Henry Purcell" is "appointed composer in
ordinary with fee for the violin to his Majesty, in the place of Matthew
Lock, deceased." I fancy that his tuition from Dr. Blow must have been
mainly in organ-playing, in which art Dr. Blow was an esteemed master.
At the same time, we must not forget that we have Purcell's own word for
it that Blow was one of the greatest masters of composition in the
world. Purcell spoke of Dr. Blow's technical mastery of the tricks of
canon-writing, which Purcell himself was much addicted to, and greatly
enjoyed. Dr. Blow may have taught Purcell something of the older
technique; that of Lulli and the Italians he must have learnt from
Humphries, for Dr. Blow knew next to nothing about it. Dr. Blow was born
in 1648, and was one year younger than Humphries, and ten older than
Purcell. In 1669 he became organist of Westminster Abbey. He, like
Humphries, and, indeed, all the foremost musicians of the period, was a
bloated pluralist, and held other positions. It is said that he resigned
Westminster Abbey in 1680 in Purcell's favour. Whether the resignation
was voluntary or not, Purcell assuredly took his place at that date.
After Purcell's death in 1695 Dr. Blow took the position again, and
retained it until his own death, in 1708. It is also said that he
resigned another place to make way for another pupil, Jeremiah Clarke.
This apparent passion or mania for resigning posts in favour of gifted
pupils might easily have led to a pernicious custom amongst organists.
However, since Dr. Blow's time the organist of Westminster Abbey has
always been a more business-like person, though rarely, if ever, a fine
artist. Dr. Blow, living amongst men of such genius, caught a little--a
very little--of Humphries' and Purcell's lordly manner in the writing of
music; but no sweet breath of inspiration ever blew his way. Burney,
unfortunate creature, found fault with his harmonies, and these have
been defended as "spots on the sun." As a matter of fact, the harmonies
are good enough. There are no spots--only there is no sun. His claim to
have taught Purcell is a claim for such immortality as books give.
Purcell's teacher will be remembered long after the composer of anthems
has been crowded out of biographical dictionaries.

I have said that our knowledge of Purcell consists very largely of
speculations, hypotheses and inferences. These have led the biographers
into wasting some highly moral reflections on Purcell's early doings. We
are told, for example, that he composed music for the theatre until he
became organist of Westminster Abbey, after which date he applied his
energies wholly to the service of the Church. Had the biographers not
kindly followed the blind Hawkins and Burney, and hearsay generally,
those reflections might have been saved for a more fitting occasion. It
was long held that Purcell wrote the incidental music for _Aureng-Zebe_,
_Epsom Wells_, and _The Libertine_ about 1676, when he was eighteen,
because those plays were performed or published at that time. It used to
be said that the music, though immature, showed promise, and was indeed
marvellous for so young a man. But unless one possesses the touchstone
of a true critical faculty and an intimate acquaintance with Purcell's
music and all the music of the time, one should be cautious--one cannot
be too cautious. The music for these plays was not composed till at
least fifteen years later. The biographers had also a craze for proving
Purcell's precocity. They would have it that _Dido and Aeneas_ dated
from his twenty-second year. If they had boldly stuck to their plan of
attributing the music to the year of the first performance of the play
to which it is attached, they might easily have shown him to have been a
prolific composer before he was born. The prosaic truth is that Purcell
came before the world as a composer for the theatre in the very year of
his appointment to Westminster Abbey, and during the last five years of
his life he turned out huge quantities of music for the theatre. It is
easy to believe that his first experiments were for the Church. He was
brought up in the Church, and sang there; when his voice broke he went
on as organist. Some of his relatives and most of his friends were
Church musicians. But Church and stage were not far apart at the Court
of Charles, and, moreover, the more nearly the music of the Church
resembled that of the stage, the better the royal ears were pleased.
Pepys' soul was filled with delighted approval when he noticed the royal
hand beating the time during the anthem, and, in fact, Charles insisted
on anthems he could beat time to. Whilst "on his travels" he had
doubtless observed how much better, from his point of view, they did
these things in France. There was nothing vague or undecided in that
curious mind. He knew perfectly well what he liked, and insisted on
having it. He disliked the old Catholic music; he disliked quite as much
Puritan psalm-singing--that abominable cacophony which to-day is called
"hearty congregational singing." He wanted jolly Church music, sung in
time and in tune; he wanted secular, not sacred, music in church. But
his taste, though secular, was not corrupt--the music-hall Church music
and Salvation Army tunes of to-day would probably have outraged his
feelings. His taste coincided with Purcell's own. Along with some of the
old-fashioned genuine devotional music, Purcell must have heard from
childhood a good deal of the stamp he was destined to write; he must
often have taken his part in Church music that might, with perfect
propriety, have been given in a theatre. All things were ripe for a
secular composer; the mood that found utterance in the old devotional
music was a dead thing, and in England Humphries had pointed the new
way. Purcell was that secular composer.

One spirit, the secular, pagan spirit, breathes in every bar of
Purcell's music. Mid-Victorian critics and historians deplored the
resemblance between the profane style of the stage pieces and the sacred
style of the anthems and services. Not resemblance, but identity, is the
word to use. There is no distinguishing between the two styles. There
are not two styles: there is one style--the secular style, Purcell's
style. Let us pause a moment, and ask ourselves if any great composer
has ever had more than one style. Put aside the fifth-rate imitators who
now copied Mozart, and now Palestrina, and could therefore write in as
many styles as there were styles to copy, and not one of them their own.
There is no difference between the sacred motets and the secular
madrigals of the early polyphonists. Bach did not use dance-measures in
his Church music, but in the absence of these lies the entire
distinction between his Church and his secular compositions; the
structure, manner and outlines of his songs are precisely alike--indeed,
he dished up secular airs for sacred cantatas. The style of Handel's
"Semele" and that of his "Samson" are the same; there is no
dissimilarity between Haydn's symphonies and the "Creation"; Mozart's
symphonies and his masses (though the masses are a little breezier, on
the whole); Schubert's symphonies or songs and his masses or "The Song
of Miriam"; Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and the great Mass in D.

Purcell's style is largely a sort of fusion of all the styles in vogue
in his lifetime. The old polyphonic music he knew, and he was a master
of polyphonic writing; but with him it was only a means to the carrying
out of a scheme very unlike any the old writers ever thought of--the
interest of each separate part is not greater than the general harmonic
interest. Then, as he admitted, he learnt a great deal from the
Italians. From Lulli, through Humphries, he got declamatory freedom in
the bonds of definite forms, not letting the poet's or the Bible words
warp his music out of all reasonable shape. The outlines of his tunes
show unmistakably the influence of English folk-song and folk-dance.
There was an immense amount of household music in those days--catches,
ballads, songs and dances. The folk-songs, even if they were invented
before the birth of the modern key-sense, were soon modified by it: very
few indications can be found of their having originated in the epoch
when the modes had the domination; and the same is true of the dances.
The sum of these influences, plus Purcell's innate tendencies, was a
style "apt" (in the phraseology of the day) either for Church, Court,
theatre, or tavern--a style whose combined loftiness, directness, and
simplicity passed unobserved for generations while the big "bow-wow"
manner of Handel was held to be the only manner tolerable in great
music.

By 1680 Purcell's apprenticeship was at end. Early compositions by him
had been published in Playford's "Choice Ayres" in 1676 and 1679; in
1677 he had been appointed "composer (to the King) in ordinary for the
violin, in the place of Matthew Lock, deceased"; but none of the highest
official posts were his. And we must remember that official position was
a very different thing in Restoration times from what it is to-day.
Nowadays the world is bigger and more thickly populated, and men of
intellect and genius scorn Court appointments and official appointments
generally. These are picked up by Court toadies, business-headed
persons, men belonging to well-connected families--the Tite Barnacles of
the generation. The men of power appeal to the vast public direct. In
Purcell's day there was no vast public to appeal to. Concerts had
scarcely been devised; no composer could live by publishing his works.
The Court, the theatre, the Church--he had to win a position in one or
other or all of these if he wished to live at all. So in 1680 Purcell
the master passed over the head of his teacher, Dr. John Blow, to the
organistship of Westminster Abbey--that is, he was recognised as the
first organist living. In the same year he composed the first theatre
pieces he is known to have composed--those for Lee's _Theodosius_. (I
disregard as fatuous the supposition that in his boyhood he wrote the
_Macbeth_ music attributed, perhaps wrongly, to Locke.) It was not for
some time that he gained the supremacy at the theatre which he now held
in the Church. That very trustworthy weathercock John Dryden, Poet
Laureate, continued to flatter others for many long days to come. In
this same year he composed the first of a long series of odes of
welcome, congratulation or condolence for royal or great personages, and
about this year he married.



CHAPTER III


During the first ten years of his mastership Purcell composed
much--precisely how much we can only guess. It was not until 1690 that
he began the huge string of incidental theatre sets which were for so
long spoken of as his operas. Mr. Barclay Squire, to whom all who are
interested in Purcell are deeply indebted, has clearly established that
by 1690, though not more than two years earlier, his one opera, _Dido
and Aeneas_, was written. If we take this as belonging to the period
which began in 1690, we have for these first ten years only ten plays to
which he provided music, and of these several are very doubtful, and the
rest not very important. During the remaining six years of his life he
wrote music for forty-two plays. Several sets are of the greatest
importance, amongst them _Dioclesian, King Arthur, The Fairy Queen_ and
_The Tempest_.

We cannot tell how many of the anthems belong to this period. One might
surmise that most of them do, as his activity at the theatre later on
must have occupied most of his time. But if we had no dates for Mozart's
three greater symphonies, we might readily fall into the mistake of
attributing them to another year than that of their composition, and
the mistake would be natural, if not inevitable, when we consider the
enormous amount of music we know Mozart to have written in 1788. In
Purcell we find the same terrific, superhuman energy manifested as the
day of his death drew near, and perhaps we may be wrong in imagining
that the theatre wholly absorbed him. A few of the anthems may with
great probability be ascribed to certain dates because of the royal
events with which they are connected. For example, two ("I was Glad,"
and "My Heart is Inditing") must have been written for the coronation of
James II. in 1685. For "the Queen's pregnancy" in 1688 another ("Blessed
are They that Fear the Lord") was certainly composed. The anthems for
the Queen's funeral--and, as it turned out, for Purcell's own--can also
be dated in the same way, but they fall into a later period.

During these ten years fifteen odes were set, including the notable
_Yorkshire Feast Song_, also the music for "the Lord Mayor's show of
1682," and the _Quickstep_, which afterwards became famous when the
words "Lillibulero" were adapted to it. It was sung as a sort of
war-song against James II. In 1687 Purcell wrote an elegy on John
Playford, the son of the publisher of the same name.

It would be utterly impossible to determine the dates of upwards of 200
songs, duets, trios, and catches, nor does it greatly matter. In a
little book such as this we have little enough space without going into
these questions. The first sonatas in three parts are more important.
They were published in 1683, with a portrait of the composer at the age
of twenty-four. Some pieces for strings in from three to eight parts may
be attributed to 1680. Some of the many harpsichord things may also
belong to this period.

We cannot follow Purcell's development step by step, year by year, as we
can, for instance, Beethoven's. When we come to survey his work as a
whole, we shall be able to compare the three-part sonatas issued in 1683
with the sonatas in four parts published in the year after his death. We
shall learn that towards the end of his life he was a more magnificent
master, than he was when twenty-four years old. That is the most we can
see. We may observe ode after ode, it is true, but with regard to them
we ought to be able to take into account conditions and limitations of
which nothing is recorded nor can be known. This holds, also, with
regard to the theatre music. We can merely guess at what his employers
asked him to provide. We can never know the means they placed at his
disposal. One significant thing must be noted here: the music
itself--its style, spirit, even mannerism--affords us no trustworthy
clue as to when any particular piece may have been written. For ages the
biographical copyists have not ceased to marvel at a boy of fourteen
writing the _Macbeth_ music. It is silly rubbish, with which I believe
Purcell had nothing whatever to do. They marvelled at the immature
power latent in the music to _The Libertine_, which they supposed he
wrote in 1676. Alas! the date is 1692. They marvelled still more over
_Dido and Aeneas_, attributed to 1680. Alas! again its date is much
later--1688 to 1690. The evidence of style counts for little. The truth
is that in Purcell's music there are no marked stages of development, no
great changes in style. Undoubtedly he gradually grew in power, richness
of invention, fecundity of resource; but the change was one of degree,
not of kind. He never, as Beethoven did, went out to "take a new road."
He struck what he knew to be _his_ right road at the very beginning, and
he never left it. His nature and the point in history at which he
appeared forbade that the content of his music should burst the form.
The forms he began with served him to the end.

I shall first deal with such of Purcell's compositions as may fairly be
considered as having been written before 1690. The music for the dramas
is not of an ambitious character. It consists mainly of songs, dances,
and "curtain tunes." In many cases half a dozen items are all that are
attached to one play, and many of the pieces are brief. Therefore that
formidable-looking list of what used to be called Purcell's "operas"
does not represent anything like the quantity of music we might suppose.
Purcell wrote only one opera--_Dido_. The word "opera" had not in his
day acquired a special meaning. Spectacular plays, with songs, duets,
choruses, dances, etc., were called entertainments or operas
indiscriminately. Until a few daring inquirers investigated, the world
supposed Purcell to have collaborated with the playwrights. In a few
later shows it is true that he did, but some of the plays were written
before he was born, some while he was a boy, and others--later ones--are
known to have been first given without the aid of his music. _The Indian
Emperour_ was first played in 1665; Purcell added music in 1692.
_Tyrannic Love_ was produced in 1668 or 1669; the music was added in
1694. _The Indian Queen_ was produced before _The Emperour_; the music
was done in the last year of Purcell's life. If the _Circe_ music is
indeed Purcell's, it cannot have been written until the author,
Davenant, had been in his grave seventeen years. If only the estimable
ladies and gentlemen whose passion for writing about Purcell has wrapped
the real man in a haze of fairy tales had taken the preliminary trouble
of learning a little of the literature and drama of Purcell's day! Nay,
had they only looked at the scores of Purcell's "operas"! Most of these
plays undoubtedly had some music from the beginning. It will be
remembered that during the Puritan, joyless reign of dunderheadedness
the playhouses were closed; but Cromwell, who loved music and gave State
concerts, licensed Davenant to give "entertainments"--plays in which
plot, acting, and everything else were neglected in favour of songs,
dances, and such spectacles as the genius and machinery of the stage
managers enabled them to devise. When the Puritan rule faded, the taste
for these shows still persisted. Dryden took full advantage of this
taste, and after 1668 threw songs wholesale into his plays. Further, it
would seem to have been the custom of theatre managers, when "reviving"
forgotten or half-forgotten plays, to put in new songs and dances and
gorgeous scenes, in the very spirit of Mr. Vincent Crummles, as the
extra attractions. As Purcell's fame spread, his help would be more and
more sought. At first Mr. Crummles would be content with a few simple
things, but later, finding these "a draw," he would rely more on
Purcell's aid. This is pure speculation, but it is fact that the earlier
plays embellished by Purcell have nothing like the quantity of music we
find in the later ones. One venturesome biographer, by the way, not only
insists on Purcell's authorship of the _Macbeth_ music, but suggests
that "probably the recognition of the excellence and effectiveness" of
such dull stuff "induced the managers of theatres to give him further
employment." They were certainly a long time about it, for Lee's
_Theodosius_, the first play for which Purcell is known to have composed
incidental music, was not produced till 1680, eight years after the
latest possible date of the _Macbeth_ music; and, apart from _Dido_,
which is not a play, but an opera, it was eighteen years till these same
astute managers were "induced" by "the excellence and effectiveness" of
the _Macbeth_ or any other music to give Purcell something serious to do
in the theatre. It was in 1690 that _Dioclesian_ appeared, the first and
one of the most important of a long string of works for the stage. The
hypotheses, the "wild surmises" and the daring defiance of mere facts
indulged in by biographers are indeed wonderful, as they strive and
strain to read and to fill in the nearly obliterated, dim and distant
record of Purcell's life. Yet it is risky for a biographer to laugh;
perhaps it is utterly wrong to conjecture that towards the end of his
life Purcell had become indispensable, and was engaged to supply the
music for _all_ the plays as they were given, big or little, as they
came along. Nor do we know how much more music may have been written for
the first plays, nor how much of what has been preserved is genuine
Purcell.

On one point we may be quite certain. It is the greatest pity that
Purcell wasted so much time on these Restoration shows. When the English
people revolted against Puritanism, and gave the incorrigible Stuarts
another chance, Charles the Wanderer returned to find them in a May-Day
humour. They thrust away from them for a little while the ghastly
spiritual hypochondria of which Puritanism was a manifestation, and
determined to make merry. But, heigh-ho! the day of Maypoles was over
and gone. From the beginning the jollity and laughter were forced, and
the new era of perpetual spring festival soon became an era of brainless
indecency. Even the wit of the Restoration was bitter, acid, sardonic
(as Charles's own death-bed apology for being an unconscionable time
a-dying). Generally it was ill-tempered, and employed to inflict pain.
And there was not even wit in most of the plays. It is hard to see what
even the worst age could discover to laugh at in Shadwell's _Libertine_,
the story of Don Juan told in English, and, in a sense, made the most
of.

Because of their nastiness, often combined with stupidity, the
Restoration dramas will never be resurrected. There is another reason.
The glorious Elizabethan era and spirit were gone; the eighteenth
century was coming on fast. Dryden and his fellows had noble rules for
the construction of plays, and nobler ones for the language that might
or might not be used. They derived all their rules, if you please, from
"the ancients." Like Voltaire, they reckoned Shakespeare a barbarian
with native wood-notes wild. They took his plays and "made them into
plays." They improved _The Tempest_, _Timon of Athens_, _The Midsummer
Night's Dream_, and goodness knows how many more. Davenant, in search of
material for entertainments, began it; Dryden continued it; even
Shadwell had his dirty fingers in it. And this matters to us, for some
of Purcell's most glorious songs, choruses and instrumental pieces were
composed for these desecrations, and can never again be listened to
under the conditions he had in his mind.

According to some authorities ("The Dictionary of National Biography"
amongst them), the first play handled by Purcell was Lee's _Sophonisba;
or, The Overthrow of Hannibal_; according to others, the first was
_Theodosius; or, The Force of Love_. Both, however, date not later than
1685, which is near enough for either when there is nothing like
conclusive evidence as to which had the priority. The music for the
first plays is in no way bound up with the plays. It consists of
instrumental pieces and songs literally interpolated. It is likely
enough that tunes written for one play were often enough used for
another. The pieces were brief, but the unmistakable Purcellian mingling
of strength and sweetness is to be found even in such trifles. In 1690
and later Purcell took full advantage of masques which were inserted,
the interpolations being sometimes as long as the rest of the play, and
artistically of infinitely greater value. For the present he confined
himself to less imposing forms, which was certainly what he was engaged
to do.

The finest example of the odes of the period is the so-called _Yorkshire
Feast Song_ (1689). Many of the others are not, for Purcell,
extraordinary. They were written for such special occasions, for
instance, as the King's return all the way to London from Windsor, or
even Newmarket, or the birthday of a Queen, and in one case the birthday
of a six-year-old Duke. They consist of overtures, songs, choruses,
etc. With one or two exceptions, the structure is Purcell's ordinary.
What that structure was we shall see (once for all) in examining some of
the later compositions, the only difference observable in the later
works being, on the whole, an increased richness and greater breadth of
scheme. They are nearly always brilliant, often incisive; there are most
lovely melodies; and there are numerous specimens of Purcell's power of
writing music, endless in its variety of outline and colour and changing
sentiment, on a ground-bass--_i.e._, a bass passage repeated over and
over again until the piece is finished. The instrumentation must have
been largely dictated by the instruments placed at his disposal, though
we must remember that in days when it was an everyday occurrence for,
say, an oboist to play from the violin part save in certain passages,
even an apparently complete score is no secure guide as to what the
composer meant, and as to how the piece was given under his direction.
This remark applies to the scoring of much of the theatre music. The
_Theatre Ayres_ contain only string parts, and it is nonsense to suppose
that in the theatre of that time Purcell had only strings to write for.
Purcell wrote in all twenty-two sonatas--twelve in three parts, ten in
four. So far as the number of parts is concerned, there is little real
difference. In the three-part works one stave serves for both the string
bass-player and the harpsichordist; in the four-part ones there are two
separate staves, with trifling variations in the two parts. The twelve
three-part sonatas were issued, as has been said, in 1683. They are
pure, self-sustaining music, detached from words and scenic
arrangements; nothing approaching them had been written by an
Englishman, nor anything so fine by an Italian. Indeed, in their own
particular way they are matched only by the composer's own four-part
sonatas published after his death. We must not look for anything like
form in the sense that word conveys nowadays; there is no unalterable
scheme of movements such as there is in the Haydn symphony, and within
each movement there is no first subject, second subject, development and
recapitulation. All that had to be worked out nearly a century later.
The set forms of Purcell's day were the dances. The principle of
Purcell's sonata form is alternate fast and slow movements. Nothing more
can be perceived; there is nothing more to perceive. Sometimes he
commences with a quick piece; then we have an adagio or some slow dance;
then another quick piece. In other cases the order is reversed: a slow
movement may be followed by a slower movement. He makes great use of
fugue, more or less free, and of imitation, and, of course, he employs
ground-basses. The masculine strength and energy, the harsh clashing
discords, are not less remarkable than the constant sweetness; and if
there is rollicking spring jollity, there are also moments of deepest
pathos. There is scarcely such a thing as a dry page. It is true that
Purcell avowed that he copied the best Italian masters, but the most the
copying amounts to is taking suggestions for the external scheme of his
sonatas and for the manner of writing for strings. He poured copiously
his streams of fresh and strong melody into forms which, in the hands of
those he professed to imitate, were barren, lifeless things. Many of
these sonatas might almost be called rhapsodies; certainly a great many
movements are rhapsodical. In set forms one has learnt from experience
what to expect. In the dance measures and fugues, after a few bars, one
has a premonition (begotten of oft-repeated and sometimes wearisome
experience) of what is coming, of the kind of thing that is coming; just
as in a Haydn or Mozart sonata one knows so well what to expect that one
often expects a surprise, and may be surprised if there is nothing to
surprise one. But in many of Purcell's largos, for example, the music
flows out from him shaped and directed by no precedent, no rule; it
flows and wanders on, but is never aimlessly errant; there is a quality
in it that holds passage to passage, gives the whole coherence and a
satisfying order. Emerson speaks of Swedenborg's faculties working with
astronomic punctuality, and this would apply to Purcell's musical
faculties. Take a scrappy composer, a short-breathed one such as Grieg:
he wrote within concise and very definite forms; yet the order of many
passages might be reversed, and no one--not knowing the original--would
be a penny the wiser or the worse. There is no development. With Purcell
there is always development, though the laws of it lie too deep for us.
Hence his rhapsodies, whether choral or instrumental, are satisfying,
knit together by some inner force of cohesion.

       *       *       *       *       *

During these ten years several children were born to Purcell. He had six
children altogether. Four died while still babies; two, Edward and
Frances, survived him. Edward lived till 1740, leaving a son; Frances
married one Welsted, or Welstead, and died in 1724. Her daughter died
two years later. Before the end of the eighteenth century the line of
Purcell's descendants seems to have terminated. In 1682 Purcell became
an organist of the Chapel Royal, whilst remaining organist of
Westminster Abbey. As has already been said, the musicians of this age
were pluralists--they had to be in order to earn a decent living, for
the salaries were anything but large, and punctuality in payment was not
a feature. In 1684 there was a competition at the Temple Church, not
between organists, but between organ-builders. The authorities got two
builders to set up each an organ, and decided which was the better by
the simple plan of hearing them played by different organists and
deciding which sounded the better. To any but a legal mind the affair
would seem to have resolved itself mainly into a competition between
organ-players; but we know how absolutely lost to all sense of justice,
fairness, reason and common sense the legal mind is. So Purcell played
for Father Smith, and inevitably the organ built by Father Smith was
thought the finer. This easy way of solving a difficult problem, though
it has so much to recommend it to the legal mind, has fallen into
desuetude, and is abandoned nowadays, even in that home of absurdities,
the Temple. For the coronation of James II., Purcell superintended the
setting-up of an extra or special organ in the Abbey; and for this he
was granted £34 12s. out of the secret-service money. In 1689, at the
coronation of the lucky gentleman who superseded James, no such
allowance appears to have been made; and Purcell admitted the curious to
the organ-loft, making a charge and putting it in his pocket. This was
too much for the clergy. They regarded the money as theirs, and as Mr.
Gladstone, that stout Churchman, said, the Church will give up rather
its faith than its money. The Abbey authorities never thought of giving
up either, but they threatened Purcell with terrible penalties unless he
gave up the money. Almost with a pistol at his head they asked him to
give up his money or his post. How the squabble ended no man knows; the
conjecture that he 'refunded' the money--_i.e._, gave it to those it did
not belong to--is unsupported.

These are the only scraps of veracious history that come down to us; the
other choice bits I take to be exercises in prosaic romance.



CHAPTER IV


During the last portion of his life (1690-5) Purcell composed a large
amount of music, and that is nearly all we know. Of course, he went on
playing the organ--that is indubitable. Of course, also, he gave
lessons; but it is a remarkable fact that few musicians after his death
claimed to have been his favourite pupils or his pupils at all. That he
became, as we should say nowadays, conductor at Drury Lane or any other
theatre cannot be asserted with certitude, though it is probable. He
wrote incidental music for about forty-two dramas, some of the sets of
pieces being gorgeously planned on a large scale. He had composed
complimentary odes for three Kings; in the last year of his life he was
to write the funeral music for a Queen, and the music was to serve at
his own funeral. During this last period he wrote his greatest ode,
"Hail, Bright Cecilia"; his greatest pieces of Church music, the _Te
Deum_ and _Jubilate_; and in all likelihood his greatest sonatas, those
in four parts. He also rewrote a part of Playford's _Brief Introduction
to the Skill of Music_.

It is not my intention to analyse the dramas. No more can be done in the
narrow space than give the reader a notion of Purcell's general
procedure of filling his space, and the salient characteristics of the
filling. Although _Dido_ differs from the other plays in containing no
spoken dialogue, and may not strictly fall into this period, I shall for
convenience' sake treat it with them. After dealing with the dramatic
work there will remain the odes, the anthems and services, and the
instrumental music.


THE THEATRE MUSIC.

We can scarcely hope to hear the bulk of the music for the theatre, as
has been remarked, because of the worthlessness of the plays to which it
is attached. Even _King Arthur, The Tempest, The Fairy Queen_ and
_Dioclesian_ pieces are too fragmentary, disconnected, to be performed
with any effect without scenery, costume, and some explanation in the
way of dialogue. In _King Arthur_ there are instrumental numbers to
accompany action on the stage: without that action these numbers are
meaningless. _King Arthur_ was given at Birmingham some years ago, but
it proved to be even more incoherent than the festival cantatas which
our composers write to order: if the masque from _Timon_ or _Dioclesian_
had been inserted, few would have noticed the interpolation.

_Dido and Aeneas_ is a different matter. It was very well performed by
students some years since, and there is no reason why such an opera
company as the Moody-Manners should not devote half an evening to it
now and then. It is not long; excepting the solo parts, it is not
difficult; it is entrancingly beautiful; properly staged, the dances of
witches, etc., are fantastic and full of interest. For two hundred years
every musician has admired Dido's lament, "When I am laid in Earth"; and
indeed it is one of the most poignantly sorrowful and exquisitely
beautiful songs ever composed. There are plenty of rollicking tunes,
too, and the dance-pieces--_with the dancers_--are exhilarating and
admirable for their purpose. The musicianship is as masterly as Purcell
ever displayed. If Purcell composed the work before he was twenty-two he
worked a miracle; and even if the date is ten years later it stands as a
wonderful achievement. If we ask why he did not produce more real
operas, there can be only one answer: the town did not care for them.
The town went crazy over spectacular shows; even Dryden yielded to the
town's taste; and there is no sign that Purcell cherished any particular
private passion for opera as opera. He did his best for his paymaster.
If there is no evidence hinting at his despising posterity, like Charles
Lamb, or at any determination, also like Lamb, to write for antiquity,
there is in his anthems and odes very considerable evidence that he was
ready to write what his paymaster wanted written. We must bear in mind
that downright bad taste, such as our present-day taste for such
artistic infamies as the "Girls of This" and the "Belles of That," had
not come into existence in Purcell's time. Purcell's contemporaries
preferred his music to all other for the same reason that we prefer it
to all other of his time--it was the best.

_Dido_, in pianoforte score, is generally accessible; only a few of the
spoken play sets are as yet published, and they are ridiculously
expensive. Let us not repine and give up hope. Some day that unheard-of
thing an intelligent music publisher may be born into the world, and he
may give Englishmen a trustworthy edition, at a fair price, of the works
of England's greatest musician. Meantime, the reader must do as the
writer did for some years--he must grub and laboriously copy in the
British Museum, buying, when he can, the seventeenth-century edition of
_Dioclesian_ and the eighteenth-century editions of such works as _The
Tempest_ and _The Indian Queen_, and also the _Orpheus Britannicus_. To
penetrate to Purcell's intention, to understand with what skill and
force the intention is carried out, a knowledge of the music alone
hardly suffices. I would not advise anything so terrible as an endeavour
to read the whole of the plays, but at least _Boadicca, The Indian
Queen, The Tempest, The Fairy Queen, Dioclesian_ and _King Arthur_ must
be read; and it is worth while making an effort especially to grasp all
the details of the masques. For themselves, few of the plays are worth
reading; and, unluckily, the best of them have the least significant
music. The others are neither serious plays nor good honest comedy; and
a malicious fate willed that the very versions for which Purcell's aid
was required were the worst of all--what little sense there was in the
bad plays was destroyed when they were made into "operas" or
"entertainments"--spectacular shows. Dryden was the best of the
playwrights he was doomed to work with, and in _King Arthur_ Dryden
forgot about the aim and purpose of high drama, and concocted a
hobgoblin pantomime interlarded with bravado concerning the greatness of
Britain and Britons. _Dioclesian_, the first of Purcell's great theatre
achievements, is even more stupid. The original play was _The
Prophetess_ of Beaumont and Fletcher, straightforward Elizabethan stodge
and fustian: and if Betterton, who chose to maltreat it, was bent on
making the very worst play ever written, it must be conceded that his
success was nearly complete. It gets down to the plane of pure and
sparkling idiocy that the world admires in, say, "The Merry Widow." Yet
the masque afforded him opportunities of which he made splendid use. The
overture is a noble piece of workmanship. There is a Handelian dignity
without any bow-wow or stiffness, and the freshness and freedom are of a
kind that Handel never attained to. Of course, it has no connection with
the drama: it would serve for many another play just as well. What the
theatre manager demanded of Purcell was a piece of music to occupy the
audience before the curtain went up; and Purcell wrote it. There are
songs and dances of a rare quality, and the biggest thing of all is the
chorus, "Let all rehearse," which rivals Handel's "Fixed in his
everlasting seat," a plain copy of it, down to many small points. Those
who say Purcell had no influence upon his successors evidently know
little either of Purcell's music or Handel's. Handel owed much to
Purcell, and not least was the massive, direct way of dealing with the
chorus, the very characteristic which has kept his oratorios so popular
here and so unpopular abroad. Handel's mighty choral effects are
English: he learnt from Purcell how to make them. It is true enough that
Purcell learnt something from Carissimi; but Carissimi's effects are
very often of that kind that look better on paper than they sound in
performance. The variations over ground-basses are marvellously
ingenious, but more marvellous than the ingenuity are the charming
delicacy and expressiveness of the melodies woven in the upper parts.
They are music which appeals direct to listeners who care nothing for
technical problems. Some of the discords may sound a little odd to those
who have been trained to regard the harmonic usages of the Viennese
school as the standard of perfection. Dr. Burney thought them blunders
resulting from an imperfect technique. Later a few words must be said on
the subject, but let me for the present point out that Purcell was a
master of the theory as well as of the practice of composition. He loved
these discords, and deliberately wrote them; he could have justified
them, and there is hardly one that we cannot justify. Purcell could
write intricate fugues and canons without any "harsh progressions"; that
he liked these for their own sake is obvious in numberless pieces where
no laws of counterpoint compelled him to write this note rather than
that. And though in the eyes of the theorists they are harsh, in the
ears of all men they are sweet. The works of Purcell and of Mozart are
the sweetest music ever composed, yet both composers filled their music
with discords--"that give delight and hurt not."

In 1691 Purcell and Dryden did _King Arthur_ together. The poet had by
this time forsaken Monsieur Grabut, who had in his eyes at one time
stood for all that was commendable in music. Grabut was more ingenious
as a business man than as a musician, but not all his ingenuity served
to prevent the English discovering that he could not write pleasing
tunes and that Purcell could.[1] Whether Dryden felt any difference
whatever between good and bad music I cannot say: he may have been like
many of the poets, music-deaf (analogous to colour-blind). They are said
to have been good friends, which I can well believe; and Dryden, when
pursued by duns and men with writs and such implements of torture, is
said to have stowed himself secretly in Purcell's room in the
clock-tower of St. James's Palace, which one may believe or not,
according to the mood of the moment. Anyhow, he seems to have been happy
to work with Purcell, and for the spectacles in _King Arthur_ they laid
their two heads together and arranged some dazzling things which no one
would care to see nowadays. _King Arthur_ is almost as brilliant as
_Dioclesian_, and contains some exceedingly patriotic songs. The stage
in England always threatens most bloodshed to England's foes when those
foes might seem to an impartial observer to be having the better of it.
Only a few years ago the heroes of the music-hall menaced the Boers with
unspeakable castigations when only they could be persuaded to leave off
unaccountably thrashing our generals; and when Purcell wrote "Come if
you Dare," and many another martial ditty, the time had not long passed
when Van Tromp sailed up the Thames with a broom at his mast-head. All
the same, "Come if you Dare" is a fine song; "Fairest Isles, all Isles
excelling," is one of Purcell's loveliest thoughts, and the words are
more boastful than ferocious; "Saint George, the Patron of our Isle," is
brilliant and the words are innocuous. The masque element is not dumped
into _King Arthur_ altogether so shamelessly as in other cases; the
whole play is a masque. Although there is a plot, the supernatural is
largely employed, and nymphs, sirens, magicians, and what not, gave the
composer notable chances. In the first act, the scene where the Saxons
sacrifice to Woden and other of their gods, is the occasion for a chain
of choruses, each short but charged with the true energy divine; then
comes a "battle symphony," noisy but mild--a sham fight with blank
cartridge; and after the battle the Britons sing a "song of victory,"
our acquaintance "Come if you Dare, the Trumpets Sound." The rest of the
work is mainly enchantments and the like. More fairy-like music has
never entered a musician's dreams than Philidel's "Hither this way," and
the chorus which alternates with the solo part is as elfin,
will-o'-th'-wispish, as anything of Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn is
Purcell's only rival in such pictures. At the beginning of the
celebrated Frost Scene, where Cupid calls up "thou genius of the clime"
(the clime being Arctic), we get a specimen of Purcell's
"word-painting":

[Illustration]

This "word-painting," it must be noted, is of the very essence of
Purcell's art, at any rate in vocal music. Suggestions came to him from
the lines he was setting and determined the contours of his melody. He
always does it, and never with ridiculous effect. Either the effect is
dramatically right, as here; or impressive, as in "They that go down to
the sea in ships"; or sublime as in "Full fathom five"; and whatever
else it may be, it is always picturesque. The shivering chorus was an
old idea in Purcell's time, but the sheer power of Purcell's music sets
his use of it far above any other. It should be observed that none of
the principals sing in these "operas": they couldn't. It is true that
many singers, thorough musicians--Matthew Locke, for instance, and
Purcell's own father--were also actors, or at least spoken of as actors.
But it is evident they must have been engaged only for the singing
parts, which were insignificant as far as the plots of the plays were
concerned, though prominent enough in the spectacle or show, and
therefore in the public gaze. When all the enchanters and genies, good
and bad, have done their best or worst in _King Arthur_, the speaking
characters finish up their share and the real play in spoken lines; then
the singers and band wind up the whole entertainment in a style that was
probably thought highly effective in the seventeenth century. After the
last chorus--which begins as though the gathering were a Scotch one and
we were going to have "Auld Lang Syne"--there is a final "grand dance,"
one of the composer's vigorous and elaborately worked displays on a
ground-bass.

[1] Poor Grabut's fall was most lamentable. (His name, by the way, is
spelt Grabu, or Grabut, or Grebus.) Pepys records that when "little
Pelham Humfreys" returned from France he was bent on giving "Grebus" a
lift out of his place. He most certainly did; and the case ought to be a
warning to humbugs not to set their faith in princes. He had jockeyed
competent men out of their places, and by 1674 he was himself ousted. He
sank into miserable circumstances; and by the end of 1687 was dead.
James II.--who was a much more honest paymaster than his
brother--apparently paid up all arrears the Court owed him. His
impudence must have been boundless; for he dared to measure himself not
only against thorough workmen like Banister, but even men of genius like
Humphries and Purcell. His audacity carried him in the end no further
than a debtor's prison; and had he been paid only the value of his
services, he might have died there.

Before making some general observations on the stage music, I wish to
give a few instances of Purcell's power of drawing pictures and creating
the very atmosphere of nature as he felt her. Let me begin with _The
Tempest_. The music is of Purcell's very richest. Not even Handel in
_Israel in Egypt_ has given us the feeling of the sea with finer
fidelity. Unluckily, to make this show Shakespeare's play was ruthlessly
mangled, else Shakespeare's _Tempest_ would never be given without
Purcell's music. Many of the most delicate and exquisite songs are for
personages who are not in the original at all, and no place can be found
for their songs.

Two of Ariel's songs are of course known to everybody--"Full fathom
five" and "Come unto these yellow sands," both great immortal melodies
(in the second Shakespeare's words are doctored and improved). The
first I have mentioned as a specimen of Purcell's "word-painting":
there, at one stroke of immense imaginative power, we have the depths of
the sea as vividly painted as in Handel's "And with the blast," or "The
depths have covered them." Another exquisite bit of painting--mentioned
in my first chapter--is repeated several times: the rippling sea on a
calm day. It occurs first in Neptune's song, "While these pass o'er the
deep"--

[Illustration]

Next in Amphitrite's song, "Halcyon Days," a serenely lovely melody, we
have

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

which is a variant. Then follows "See, the heavens smile," the opening
of the vocal part of which I will quote for its elastic energy:

[Illustration]

In the instrumental introduction to the song this (and more) is first
played by the viols a couple of octaves above, and after it we get our
phrase:

[Illustration]

--similarly harmonized (but major instead of minor) to the first
example, and more fully worked out. In spite of incongruous masque or
rather pantomime scenes the pervading atmosphere is sustained. One would
say that Purcell got his inspiration by reading of Prospero's magic
island, and never thought of Shadwell's stupid and boorish travesty.

The atmosphere of _The Fairy Queen_ is not, to my mind, so richly
odorous, so charged with the mystery and colour of pure nature, as that
of _The Tempest_; but Purcell has certainly caught the patter of fairy
footsteps and woven gossamer textures of melody. The score was lost for
a couple of centuries, and turned up in the library of the Royal Academy
of Music. In spite of being old-fashioned, it was not sufficiently out
of date to remain there; so Mr. Shedlock edited it, and it has been
published. _The Indian Queen_ and _Bonduca_ stand badly in need of
careful editing--not in the spirit of one editor of _King Arthur_ who,
while declaring that he had altered nothing, stated that he had altered
some passages to make them sound better. _The Indian Queen_ contains the
recitative "Ye twice ten hundred deities" and the song "By the croaking
of the toad."

Purcell's forms are not highly organised. There are fugues, canons,
exercises on a ground-bass, and many numbers are dances planned in much
the same way as other people's dances, and songs differing only in their
quality from folk-songs. Of form, as we use the word--meaning the
clean-cut form perfected by Haydn--I have already asserted that there is
none. This absence of form is held to be a defect by those who regard
the Haydn form as an ideal--an ideal which had to be realised before
there could be any music at all, properly speaking. But those of us who
are not antediluvian academics know that form (in that sense) is not an
end, but a means of managing and holding together one's material. In
Purcell's music it is not needed. The torrent of music flowing from his
brain made its own bed and banks as it went. Without modern form he
wrote beautiful, perfectly satisfying music, which remains everlastingly
modern. Neither did he feel the want of the mode of thematic development
which we find at its ripest in Beethoven. As I have described in
discussing the three-part sonatas, in movements that are not dances his
invention is its own guide, though we may note that he employed
imitation pretty constantly to knit the texture of the music close and
tight. Many of the slow openings of the overture are antiphonal,
passages sometimes being echoed, and sometimes a passage is continued by
being repeated with the ups and downs of the melody inverted. Dozens of
devices may be observed, but all are servants of an endless invention.

The variety of the songs and recitatives is wondrous. Purcell was one of
the very greatest masters of declamation. In his recitative we are
leagues removed from the "just accent" of Harry Lawes. It is
passionate, or pathetic, or powerfully dramatic, or simply descriptive
(in a way), or dignified, as the situation requires. "Let the dreadful
engines" and "Ye twice ten hundred deities" have, strange to say, long
been famous, in spite of their real splendour; and another great
specimen is the command of Aeolus to the winds (in _King Arthur_)--"Ye
blustering breezes ... retire, and let Britannia rise." The occasion is
a pantomime, but Purcell used it for a master-stroke. He wrote every
kind of recitative as it had never been written before in any language,
and as it has not been written in English since. In the songs the words
often suggest the melodic outline, as well as dictate the informing
spirit. Many are rollicking, jolly; some touchingly expressive; most are
purely English; a few rather Italian (old school) in manner. One can see
what Purcell had gained by his study of Italian part-writing for
strings, but he could not help penning picturesque phrases.

The dances are, of course, simple in structure. When they are in the
form of passacaglias they may be huge in design and effect. The grandest
pieces are the overtures and choruses. The overtures are often very
noble, but without pomposity or grandiloquence; indeed, they move as if
unconscious of their own tremendous strength. One may hear half a dozen
bars before a stroke reveals, as by a flash of lightning, the artistic
purpose with which the parts are moving, and the enormous heat and
energy that move them. When strength and sinew are wanted in the
themes, they are there, and contrapuntal adaptability is there; but they
are real living themes, not ossified or petrified formulas. Themes,
part-writing and harmony are closely bound up in one another, and
harmony is not the least important. Purcell liked daring harmonies, and
they arise organically out of the firm march of individual parts.
Excepting sometimes for a special purpose, he does not dump them down as
accompaniment to an upper part. The "false relations" and "harsh
progressions" of which the theorists prate do not exist for an
unprejudiced ear. In writing the flattened leading note in one part
against the sharpened in another he was merely following the
polyphonists, and it sounds as well--nay, as beautiful--as any other
discord, or the same discord on another degree of the scale.[2] This
discord and his other favourites are beautiful in Purcell, and his
determination to let them arise in an apparently unavoidable way from
the collisions of parts, each going its defined road to its goal, must
have determined the character of his part-writing. In spite of his
remarks in Playford's book, it is plain that he looked at music
horizontally as well as vertically, and constructed it so that it is
good no matter which way it is considered. His counterpoint has a
freedom and spontaneity not to be found in the music of the later
contrapuntal, fugal, arithmetical school. Though he was pleased with
musical ingenuities and worked plenty of them, he thought more of
producing beautiful, expressive music than of mathematical skill. Handel
frequently adopted his free contrapuntal style. Handel (and Bach, too)
raised stupendous structures of ossified formulas, building
architectural splendours of the materials that came to hand; but when
Handel was picture-painting (as in _Israel_) and had a brush loaded with
colour, he cared less for phrases that would "work" smoothly at the
octave or twelfth than for subjects of the Purcell type.

[2] Since the above was written and in type I have read Mr. Ernest
Walker's most interesting book, "Music in England," which contains a
valuable chapter on the discords found in the music of Purcell and of
earlier men.


THE ODES AND CHURCH MUSIC.

Some of the later odes are notable works. Perhaps the St. Cecilia ode of
1692 is, on the whole, the finest. Like the earlier works of the same
class, in scheme the odes resemble the theatre sets, though, of course,
there are neither dances nor curtain tunes. All that has been said about
the stage music applies to them. The choruses are often very
exhilarating in their go and sparkle and force, but I doubt whether
Purcell had a larger number of singers for what we might call his
concert-room works than in the theatre. The day of overgrown, or even
fairly large, choruses and choral societies was not yet; many years
afterwards Handel was content with a choir of from twenty to thirty.
Had Purcell enjoyed another ten years of life, there is no saying how
far he might have developed the power of devising massive choral
designs, for we see him steadily growing, and there was no reason why
the St. Cecilia ode of 1692 and the _Te Deum_ and _Jubilate_ should have
remained as the culminating points. The overture to the 1692 ode is
unusually fragmentary. I see no indication of any superior artistic
aspiration in the fact that it consists of six short movements; rather,
it seems to me that Purcell was, as ever, bent on pleasing his
patrons--in this case with plenty of variety. Still, one movement leads
naturally into the next, and scrappiness is avoided, and the music is of
a high quality and full of vitality. Purcell frequently set a double bar
at the end of a section, and makes two or more numbers where a modern
composer would simply change the tempo and key-signature and go straight
on, so that the scrappiness is only apparent. In this ode an instance
occurs. There are fourteen numbers, but the last three are in reality
one--a chorus, a quartet and a chorus repeating the opening bars of the
first chorus. In a modern composition all would have run on with never a
double bar. Purcell seems to have had no opportunity of designing
another ode on the same broad scale as this. At any rate, he never did
so, and the ode which did more than any other of his achievements, save,
perhaps, the _Yorkshire Feast-Song_ of 1689, to convince his
contemporaries of his greatness, abides as his noblest monument in this
department of music.

Just as by writing music for plays which will never be acted again
Purcell cut off his appeal to after generations of play-goers, so by
writing anthems on a model sadly out of place in a sacred service he hid
himself from future church-goers. King Charles liked his Church music as
good as you like, but lively at all costs, and the royal mind speedily
wearying of all things in turn, he wished the numbers that made up an
anthem to be short. So Purcell wasted his time and magnificent thematic
material on mere strings of scrappy, jerky sections. The true Purcell
touch is on them all, but no sooner has one entered fairly into the
spirit of a passage than it is finished. Instrumental interludes--if,
indeed, they can be called interludes, for they are as important as the
vocal sections--abound, and might almost be curtain-tunes from the
plays. Nothing can be done to make these anthems of any use in church.
Eighteenth and nineteenth century editors have laid clumsy fingers on
them, curtailing the instrumental bits; but nothing is gained by this
rough-and-ready process, as no Purcell has ever appeared to lengthen the
vocal portions. As Purcell left the anthems, so we must leave
them--exquisite fragments that we may delight in, but that are of no use
in the service for which they were composed. Still, this does not apply
to them all; at least twenty of the finest are splendidly schemed,
largely designed, and will come into our service lists more frequently
when English Church musicians climb out of the bog in which they are now
floundering. They are full, if I may use the phrase, of pagan-religious
feeling. Purcell's age was not a devotional age, and Purcell himself,
though he wrote Church music in a serious, reverential spirit, could not
detach himself from his age and get back to the sublime religious
ecstasy of Byrde. He seizes upon the texts to paint vivid descriptive
pieces; he thrills you with lovely passages or splendours of choral
writing; but he did not try to express devotional moods that he never
felt. A mood very close to that of religious ecstasy finds a voice in
"Thou knowest, Lord, the Secrets of our Hearts"--the mood of a man clean
rapt away from all earthly affairs, and standing face to face, alone,
with the awful mystery of "the infinite and eternal energy from which
all things proceed." It is plain, direct four-part choral writing, but
the accent is terrible in its distinctness. At Queen Mary's funeral (we
can judge from Tudway's written reflections) the audience was
overwhelmed, and we may believe it. A more elaborately wrought and
longer piece of work is the setting of the Latin Psalm, "Jehova, quam
multi sunt." It is the high-water mark of all Church music after the
polyphonists. By Church music I mean music written for the Church, not
necessarily religious music. The passage at "Ego cubui et dormivi" is
sublime, Purcell's discords creating an atmosphere of strange beauty,
almost unearthly, and that yields to the unspeakable tenderness of the
naïve phrase at the words, "Quia Jehovah sustentat me." The _Te Deum_
was until recently known only by Dr. Boyce's perversion. Dr. Boyce is
reputed to have been an estimable moral character, and it is to be hoped
he was, for that is the best we can say of him. He was a dunderheaded
worshipper and imitator of Handel. Thinking that Purcell had tried to
write in the Handelian bow-wow, and for want of learning had not
succeeded; thinking also that he, Dr. Boyce, being a musical doctor, had
that learning, he took Purcell's music in hand, and soon put it all
right--turned it, that is, into a clumsy, forcible-feeble copy of
Handel. One could scarcely recognise Purcell so blunderingly disguised.
However, we now know better, and the _Te Deum_ stands before us, pure
Purcell, in all its beauty, freshness, sheer strength, and, above all,
naïve direct mode of utterance. It looks broken, but does not sound
broken. Purcell simply went steadily through the canticle, setting each
verse as he came to it to the finest music possible. The song
"Vouchsafe, O Lord," is an unmatched setting of the words for the solo
alto, full of very human pathos; and some of the choral parts are even
more brilliant than the odes. The _Jubilate_ is almost as fine; but we
must take both, not as premature endeavours to work Handelian wonders,
but as the full realisations of a very different ideal. THE FOUR-PART
SONATAS.

In the last sonatas (of four parts, published 1697) the Italian
influence is even more marked than in the earlier ones. The general plan
is the same, but more effect is got out of the strings without the
management of the parts ceasing to be Purcellian. We get slow and quick
movements in alternation, or if two slow ones are placed together they
differ in character. Variety was the main conscious aim. The notion of
getting a unity of the different movements of a sonata occurred to no
one until long after. We learn nothing by comparing the various
sequences of the movements in the different sonatas, for the simple
reason that there is nothing to learn, and it may be remarked that for
the same reason elaborate analysis of the arrangement of the sections
which make up the overtures is wasted labour. The essential unity of
Purcell's different sets of pieces is due to something that lies deep
below the surface of things--he was guided only by his unfailing
intuition.

In these ten sonatas we have Purcell, the composer of pure music,
independent of words and stage-scenes, at his ripest and fullest. The
subjects are full of sinew, energy, colour; the technique of the fugues
is impeccable; the intensity of feeling in some of these slow movements
of his is sometimes almost startling when one of his strokes suddenly
proclaims it. There are sunny, joyous numbers, too, robust, jolly
tunes, as healthy and fresh as anything in the theatre pieces. The
"Golden" sonata is, after all, a fair representative. If the last
movement seems--as most of the finales of all the composers until
Beethoven do seem--a trifle light and insignificant after the almost
tragic seriousness of the largo, we must bear in mind that it was very
frequently part of Purcell's design to have a cheerful ending.
Unfortunately, there is no good edition of the sonatas. They are chamber
music, and never were intended to be played in a large room. They should
be played in a small room, and the pianist--for harpsichords are
woefully scarce to-day--should fill in his part from the figured bars
simply with moving figurations, neither plumping down thunderous chords
nor (as one editor lately proposed) indulging in dazzling show passages
modelled on Moscheles and Thalberg. Properly played, no music is more
delightful.



CHAPTER V


It is impossible to touch on more than a few characteristic examples of
Purcell's achievement. There are many charming detached songs; the
_Harpsichord Lessons_ contain exquisite things. There is also a quantity
of unpublished sacred and secular music of high value.

When Purcell died, on November 21, 1695, he was busy with the music for
Tom d'Urfey's _Don Quixote_ (part iii.), being helped by one Eccles, who
enjoyed a certain mild fame in his day. The last song, "set in his
sicknesse," was a song supposed to be sung by a mad woman, "From rosy
bowers." The recitative is magnificent; two of the sections in tempo are
fine, especially the second; the last portion is meant to depict raving
lunacy, and does so. It is by no means one of Purcell's greatest
efforts, and he apparently had no notion of making a dramatic exit from
this world. If the doctors knew what disease killed him, they never
told. The professional libeller of the dead, Hawkins, speaks of
dissipations and late hours: and he would have us believe that he left
his family in poverty. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Purcell was left quite
well off, and was able to give her son Edward a good education. She had
also property to bequeath when she died in 1706. Purcell worked so hard
that he cannot have had time for the life of tavern-rioting that Hawkins
invented. All we know is that he died, and that his death was a tragic
loss to England. A few days later he was buried in Westminster Abbey, to
the sound of his own most solemn music. A tablet to his memory was
placed near the grave, and the inscription on it is said to have been
written by the wife of Sir Robert Howard, author of the _Indian Queen_
and other forgotten master-works. The light of English music had gone
out, though few at the moment realised it, for Dr. Blow and Eccles and
others went on composing music which was thought very good. But the
light had gone, and it was not Handel who extinguished it. Handel did
not come to England for fifteen years, and during that fifteen years not
a single composition worthy of being placed within measurable distance
of Purcell's average work fell from an English pen. Purcell was by no
means forgotten all at once. The four-part sonatas were issued in 1697,
the _Harpsichord Lessons_ in 1696; the _Choice Ayres for the
Theatre_--selections from the stage music--came out in 1697; the first
book of the _Orpheus Britannicus_ appeared in 1698, and a second edition
of it in 1706; the second book of the same appeared in 1702, and a
second edition in 1711; while a third edition of both books was
published as late as 1721, when Handel had been settled in England some
years. The fame of our last great musician survived him for quite a
long time, as things go. That the re-issue of his works was not due
alone to the energy of his widow is clear, for she died in 1706.

It is indeed mournful to contemplate the havoc disease and death play
with the might-have-beens of men and of causes. Pelham Humphries, an
unmistakable genius, was carried away at twenty-seven; Henry Purcell,
one of the mightiest of the world's masters of music, died at the age of
thirty-seven, only two years older than his peer in genius, Mozart. Yet
he left a glorious record, and his days must have been glorious. Men
like Purcell do not create music such as theirs by blind instinct, as a
cat catches mice. A mighty brain and mightier heart must have worked
with passionate energy, the fires must have burnt at an unbroken white
heat, to produce so much unsurpassable music in so short a time. The
qualities we find in the music were in him before they got into the
music; all that we can enjoy he enjoyed first. He had, too, a high
destiny to work out, and he knew it. Thomas Tudway said he was ambitious
to exceed everyone of his time. To the last he laboured unceasingly, and
if he died, as has been suspected, of consumption, there is no trace of
the fever of ill-health nor any morbidness in his creations. They are
charged with energy--often elemental, volcanic energy that nothing can
resist; and at its lowest, the energy is the energy of robust health and
a keen appetite. That energy carried him far beyond the modest goal he
thought of, exceeding his fellows. He won the topmost heights within the
reach of man. The old polyphonists he never tried to rival, but in the
style of music he wrote no composer has gone or can go higher than he. A
wiseacre has said that he left a sterile monument. It may be that
monuments in the British Museum blow and blossom and reproduce their
kind: outside they do not. If the wiseacre meant that Purcell did not
leave, as Haydn and Mozart undoubtedly did, a form in which dullards may
compose until the world is sick, then the wiseacre is right But the
inventors and perfecters of forms have not always wrought an unmitigated
good. If Haydn left a fruitful monument in the symphony, and Handel in
his particular form of oratorio, and if we thankfully praise Haydn and
Handel for these their benefits, must we not also blame Haydn for the
dull symphonies that nearly drove Schumann and Wagner mad, and Handel
for the countless copies of his oratorios that rendered stupid, dull,
and insensible to the beauty of music those generations that have
attended our great musical festivals? The spirit of Purcell's work and
its technique did not die with Purcell: the spirit of much of Handel's
music, and certainly of his masterpiece, _Israel in Egypt_, is
Purcell's; and eighteenth-century contrapuntist though Handel was, much
of his technique came from Purcell. Rightly regarded, Purcell's monument
is anything but sterile. Felix Mottl, worried to exasperation by stale
laments for Mozart's premature death, once lifted up his voice and
thanked God for Mozart, the Heaven-sent man. In the same spirit we may
be thankful for Purcell. In his music we have the full and perfect
expression of all that was fair and sweet and healthy in this England of
ours; "all thoughts, all passions, all delights," that our English
nature is capable of find a voice in his music--if only we will take the
trouble to listen to it. He is neglected, it is true, but he is
immortal: time is nothing: he can wait. If our age neglects him, his age
neglected Shakespeare. Shakespeare's time came; Purcell's cannot be for
ever delayed.



LIST OF WORKS.


Music for over fifty dramas, including _Dioclesian_ (1690), _King
Arthur_ (1692), _Bonduca_, _The Indian Queen_, and _The Tempest_ (1695).

Over two hundred songs, duets, catches, etc.

Twelve sonatas of three parts (1683), ten of four parts (published
1697). _Harpsichord Lessons_ (published 1696). A number of fantasias for
strings.

About one hundred anthems; a quantity of sacred music apparently not for
Church use; _Te Deum_ and _Jubilate in D_; complete service in B flat;
evening service in G minor.



BELL'S MINIATURE SERIES OF MUSICIANS



COMPANION SERIES TO
Bell's Miniature Series of Painters

_Each volume 6-1/4 X 4 inches, price 1s. net; or in limp leather,
with photogravure frontispiece, 2s. net_.

EDITED BY
G.C. WILLIAMSON. LITT.D.

_NOW READY_.

BACH.        By E.H. THORNE.
BEETHOVEN.   By J.S. SHEDLOCK, B.A.
BRAHMS.      By HERBERT ANTCLIFFE.
CHOPIN.      By E.J. OLDMEADOW.
GOUNOD.      By HENRY TOLHURST.
GRIEG.       By E. MARKHAM LEE, M.A., MUS.D.
HANDEL.      By W.H. CUMMINGS, MUS.D., F.S.A.,
             Principal of the Guildhall School of Music.
HAYDN.       By JOHN F. RUNCIMAN.
MENDELSSOHN. By the late VERNON BLACKBURN.
MOZART.      By EBENEZER PROUT, Professor of
             Music, Dublin University, B.A., Mus.D.
PURCELL.     By JOHN F. RUNCIMAN.
ROSSINI.     By W. ARMINE BEVAN.
SCHUMANN.    By E.J. OLDMEADOW.
SULLIVAN.    By H. SAXE WYNDHAM, Secretary
             of the Guildhall School of Music.
TCHAIKOVSKI. By E. MARKHAM LEE, M.A., Mus.D.
VERDI.       By ALBERT VISETTI.
WAGNER.      By JOHN F. RUNCIMAN.

_Others to follow_.

LONDON: GEORGE BELL & SONS.





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